Seeing the Master as a Buddha, an Examination

This week we have a post by Joanne Clark.
One belief on Tahlia’s list of “Beliefs We Need to Examine” has spoken particularly strongly to me:
You must see your master as the Buddha if you want the blessings of the Buddha;
 This belief pervades Tibetan Buddhist culture. I had received that instruction myself, first from Sogyal Lakhar and later in a Kagyu monastery, years before I had even received a teaching on the Four Noble Truths. I had also heard the story of the woman who achieved realization as a result of praying to a dog’s tooth while believing that it was the tooth of the Buddha. Both teachings convey the idea that faith alone is sufficient to attain blessings and even realizations, that Buddha has that power through faith alone, like the power of Jesus Christ.
But this does not seem consistent with the Buddha’a  teachings. In Vajrayana, seeing the master as a Buddha has a specific meaning and purpose, one that is profound and never divorced from discerning wisdom. However, when it is practiced without the necessary understanding and wisdom of discernment, then all of that meaning and purpose are lost—and dangerous abuses can easily occur.
About ten years ago, there was a big earthquake in Tibet. Some monasteries were destroyed and lives were lost. It was a terrible tragedy. During a broadcast interview of a Tibetan woman at the scene, she repeated several times the idea that they were waiting for the “living Buddha” to arrive and help. In her grief, that anticipation seemed to be the one thing that mattered to her. “The living Buddha is coming,” she said.
Shortly after, I heard that a teacher I knew had travelled to the scene. He was a renowned lama connected to one of the monasteries. Here in the West, some thought he was a crazy wisdom lama. There were stories about his unusual antics. The first time I met him, he smelled of smoke and alcohol and he could be pretty brutal to some of us as well. I wondered if he was the living Buddha?
Certainly, in the midst of tragedy, faith is a tremendous help, so I would never want to suggest that this woman’s faith was misguided. Nor can I judge who is and who isn’t a living Buddha. Faith gives us hope. I also have prayed simple prayers of faith to the Buddhas during my journey through trauma. But how far do we let simple faith go?
Some years ago, I visited a website of a well-known lama. There was a banner running across his homepage which read “If you see the lama as a Buddha, you will receive the blessings of a Buddha. If you see the lama as an ordinary being, you will receive the blessings of an ordinary being.” In light of the fact that this was the first page someone would find who might be just exploring the dharma for the first time, this was strange. It seemed no different than visiting the homepage of a Christian leader, with a banner that instructed followers to take Jesus Christ as their savior—except that Jesus Christ isn’t a man who could enter one’s bedroom some night.
When Milarepa was giving parting advice to his chief disciple Gampopa, he had this to say about seeing the lama as a Buddha:
“You can start to teach and spread the Dharma when you behold and stabilize the realization of Mind-Essence. In time you will see it more clearly, which will be quite a different experience from those you are having now. Then you will see me as the perfect Buddha Himself. This deep and unshakable conviction will grow in you. Then you may start to teach.” (The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa; translated by Garma Chang; p. 490-491)
In Milarepa’s perspective here, the experience of seeing the guru as a Buddha is the result of advanced realization and wisdom—not as something taken on as an early, naïve belief, not something separate from practice and wisdom—Milarepa doesn’t even present it as an instruction, but as a realization. This is an important distinction.
In Precious Garland, Nagarjuna wrote:
“4. High status is considered to be happiness,
Definite goodness is liberation.
The quintessence of their means
Is briefly faith and wisdom.
 
“5. Due to having faith one relies on the practices,
Due to having wisdom one truly knows.
Of these two wisdom is the chief,
Faith is its prerequisite.” (Precious Garland, First Chapter)
 
Nagarjuna is clear. We cannot have faith in the absence of wisdom and it helps to know the purpose for having faith. We can have beliefs and they are necessary, as long as they do not compromise our discernment, wisdom and practice, as long as we aren’t blinded by them and led astray by them. Simple, yes, but I think in practice it is not so simple, especially in the Vajrayana and for those of us who come from Judeo-Christian cultures. There is very little space between the instruction of seeing the master as a Buddha and the born-again experience of a Christian.
In a recent publication, HH Dalai Lama referred to the story of the woman who prayed to the dog’s tooth in a discussion on excessive faith. He wrote:
“It is easy to conclude from this story that blind faith is necessary on this path. This is clearly contrary to the Buddha’s emphasis on developing discriminating wisdom. I do not see much point in this story and propose, replacing it with the following, a more suitable account to illustrate the benefit of having confidence in the Three Jewels.
“Two or three centuries ago, a great teacher and sincere practitioner named Togyen Lama Rinpoche lived in Tibet. He had a small clay image of Tsongkhapa on his carefully tended altar. One day, due to Togyen Lama’s genuine practice and heartfelt aspirational prayers, that image of Tsongkhapa actually spoke and gave teachings to him. This came about not from the side of the statue but mainly due to Togyen Lama’s excellent practice. Due to his spiritual experiences and confidence in Tsongkhapa, this clay image became the real Tsongkhapa and spoke to him. However, for ordinary people who lack that kind of spiritual experience and faith, the statue just looked like clay.” (The Dalai Lama and Thubten Chodron, Approaching the Buddhist Path; p. 140).
Once again, in this story of strong faith, it is not separated from practice or discernment. Faith strengthens the practitioner’s wisdom—the statue is perceived to give teachings, not just blessings.
Thirty years ago, HH the Dalai Lama made a strong statement about the dangers of instructing students to see the guru as a perfect Buddha and sacrificing discernment to do so. These words are still relevant:
“It is frequently said that the essence of the training in guru-yoga is to cultivate the art of seeing everything the guru does as perfect; but personally, I myself do not like this to be taken too far. Often we see written in the scriptures, ‘Every action seen as perfect,’ but this phrase must be seen in the light of Buddha Shakyamuni’s own words: ‘Accept my teachings only after examining them as an analyst buys gold. Accept nothing out of mere faith for me.’ The problem with the practice of seeing everything the guru does as perfect is that it very easily turns to poison for both the guru and the disciple…” (Essence of Refined Gold, Commentary by Tenzin Gyatso; p.54).
And later, he made an ominous warning:
“As for the guru, if he misrepresents this precept of guru-yoga in order to take advantage of his naïve disciples, his actions are like pouring the liquid fires of hell directly into his stomach.” (p.55)
And he spoke about pure perception:
“The disciple must always keep reason and his knowledge of the Dharma as principal guidelines. Without this approach it is difficult to digest one’s Dharma experiences. Make a thorough examination before accepting someone as a guru and even then follow him within the conventions of reason as presented by Buddha. The teachings on seeing the guru’s actions as perfect should largely be left for the practice of highest tantra, wherein they take on a new meaning. One of the principal yogas in the tantric vehicle is to see the world as a mandala of great bliss and to see oneself and all others as Buddhas. Under these circumstances it becomes absurd to think that you and everyone else are Buddhas, but your guru is not!” (Essence of Refined Gold; Commentary by pp. 55-56)
So these beliefs do serve a purpose, as with the woman after the earthquake described above, but more particularly in the Vajrayana and even more so in Dzogchen. When we sit on the cushion, there is a purpose to viewing the lama as the Buddha, a purpose that increases the power of devotion and does not skew our critical awareness. There is a purpose to pure perception off the cushion for the practice of highest yoga tantra. There are many statements from Dzogchen masters about the importance of strong devotion in order to practice Dzogchen. It is essential for the introduction to the mind’s nature.
The vital point being made in all of these statements is that the practice of seeing the lama as a Buddha is an advanced Vajrayana practice and it does not mean that we give away our capability of seeing truth clearly as a result of that practice. It is not a blinker. If the lama is abusing students, then these are not the practices of a Buddha. To say that they are the practices of a Buddha—because we are training to see the lama as Buddha—is to sacrifice our discernment and decency. That is blind faith and never a Buddhist practice.
Blind faith is a linear perspective, which sees reality in black and white, simplistic terms. Blind faith cannot allow for troublesome conflicts of interest or complicated realities. For example, how can Rigpa students account for the fact that the lama they perceive as Buddha himself, the lama who has brought them teachings and profound experiences, is behaving like a cruel criminal? Blind faith would say to simply deny reality, blinker the truth.
But Rigpa students can only truly account for the situation through a discerning wisdom capable of seeing a many dimensioned, complex and murky reality—difficult as that is. The challenge of balancing the perception of Sogyal Lakhar, a deeply flawed man who has abused students and must account for his misdeeds in courts of law, with the perception of Sogyal Rinpoche, the lama who brought the Dharma into their lives and whom they have perceived as a Buddha, is huge.  Certainly, to acknowledge these two realities in one mind is difficult or impossible for most. But for Rigpa students who have been practicing Vajrayana for many years with Sogyal Lakhar, discounting those years of practice is not tenable either—but nor is it tenable to ignore the harm being caused to themselves and others. I think everyone is seeking their own way of moving forward through this murkiness. For myself, like many other ex-Rigpa, cautions about devotion and viewing the lama as a Buddha are burned into me after years of struggle. In my opinion, teachers and students of Vajrayana in the West must acknowledge the murky terrain we are on if Vajrayana is to survive in the West.
Thanks for your thoughts Joanne.
Another post on the topic of seeing one’s teacher as a Buddha  can be read here https://whatnow727.wordpress.com/2017/10/04/are-vajrayana-teachers-really-buddhas/  
In that post I draw on Alexander Berzin’s writing on the matter, writing that I highly recommend.https://studybuddhism.com/en/advanced-studies/lam-rim/student-teacher-relationship/seeing-the-spiritual-teacher-as-a-buddha/is-the-guru-really-a-buddha

“The sole purpose of viewing the teacher as a buddha is so we can see these same awakened qualities in ourselves, in others, and in the world around us. It is a tool that helps us to gain confidence in the purity of our true nature.” Minguyr Rinpoche. Lions Roar, Sept 24th 2017

The instruction that we should see our teacher as a buddha if we want the blessings of a buddha is clearly problematic in a world where teachers cannot be trusted to behave as decent human beings, so how are we to practice this under these cricumstances?


Private discussion on this and other related topics can be had on our Secret  What Now Facebook Group. It is only for current and previous students of Rigpa, however, and we do moderate it closely. If you’re interested in joining, please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
People from other sanghas can join the Dharma Friends Beyond the Temple Facebook Group . It’s a support group for anyone who has left their Buddhist sangha after hearing revelations of abuse by their teacher or after experiencing such abuse. It’s for people who see ethical behaviour, love, compassion and introspection as the core of their spiritual path. The aim of the group is to support each other in our spiritual journey wherever it takes us. Click here and request to join.
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page.
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Project Sunshine's Final Report and the Importance of Sharing Your Story

The Buddhist_Project_Sunshine_Phase_2_Final_Report is out and is something that anyone concerned about abuse in Tibetan Buddhist communities should read as it relates not only to the Shambala community but to any Tibetan Buddhist community where abuse, such as we saw in Rigpa, is perpetrated by those in power, facilitated by the way certain teachings are interpreted, and covered up by the inner circle.
If you were abused, particularly if you had sexual relations with Sogyal Rinpoche/Lakar that you were uncomfortable with, this report is a ‘must read’.
The report is well considered, well written, and has contributions by professionals working in relevant fields as well as stories by students who were abused.
The Buddhist Project Sunshine is a grass roots independent healing initiative started by second-generation Shambhalian, Andrea Winn, in February 2017 for the Shambhala Buddhist community and people who were forced to leave this community. She wrote the Phase 1 Final Report at the end of the first year of the project, and this caused the Shambhala leadership to publicly acknowledge the widespread sexualized violence in the community.

Chogyam Trungpa

This caused people to look more closely at the teacher many of us respected for his books. Most of us knew he was a womaniser and a drunk, but we didn’t know details of his behaviour until the stories of abuse started coming out.
Here’s one: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1881730772127723&id=100008724543238&hc_location=ufi
And here’s the story about him torturing a cat. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1866927776941356&id=100008724543238&hc_location=ufi
By now, you’ve probably all read the story of the couple at the party being stripped and beaten.  (https://boulderbuddhistscam.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/the-party.pdf and http://www.litkicks.com/MerwinNaropa.)  It’s horrific behaviour from someone who has set himself up as a spiritual teacher, and like Sogyal Lakar/Rinpoche it’s the kind of harmful behaviour that, despite the attempts of those who consider these teachers enlightened, cannot be justified  by religious philosophy.  There is no justification for causing harm. None. Especially for a Buddhist who’s first vow is to do no harm.
If these teachers were enlightened, they would realise the results of their behaviour. The fact that their behaviour did cause harm, indicates that they are not enlightened. I’m not buying the ‘I’m a lesser being so how can I tell’ line. I have discernment, and the Buddha encouraged his disciples to use their intelligence, not follow in blind faith.
Sogyal Rinpoche and Dzongsar Kyentse and who knows who else in the Tibetan Buddhist religion look up to this guy!

Sogyal the disgrace

Sogyal Rinpoche is also mentioned in the report, along with a list of other Buddhist teachers who have also behaved in abusive ways:

“Sogyal Rinpoche has been among the ranks of the most famous Tibetan lamas in the world and his Rigpa community has been one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist communities in the world for many years. The first public revelations regarding Sogyal’s abusive behavior arose during the early 1990’s when Sogyal was sued by one of his female American students and settled out of court.
Over twenty years later, a group of eight of his senior students published an open letter decrying his “unethical and immoral,” “abusive and violent behavior,” “physical, emotional, and psychological abuse of students,” “sexual abuse of students,” and “lavish, gluttonous, and sybaritic lifestyle,” concluding that Sogyal’s “actions have tainted our appreciation for the practice.”nSogyal would be one of the first of several Tibetan lamas exposed for clergy sexual misconduct, including Lama Norlha, Thomas Rich, and others.
Although Rigpa attempted to do damage control, when an audience of thousands witnessed Sogyal punching a nun in the belly, a global public condemnation ensued. Sogyal and Rigpa became the paradigm case for abusive gurus and their circles of complicity and collusion, a model of disgraced dharma. The Dalai Lama himself has publicly denounced Sogyal as a disgrace, and vehemently criticized the conditions, beliefs, and behaviors which allow Sogyal-like behavior to fester and damage sentient beings.”

Why sharing stories is important

The report includes two anonymous survivor impact statements and a story submission that are people’s experiences.  These are very powerful because they show exactly how the teachings are used to facilitate abuse, how the inner circle students facilitated it, and how the power difference plays out to negate any idea that there is consent involved.
The stories tell the same kind of tale as those told by women abused by Sogyal. The pattern is the same.
These impact statements are very powerful. They cut through any preconceived notions you may have about the abuse, because the person’s own words as they describe their actual experience. It takes us from the realm of hearing into the realm of experiencing as our empathy kicks in and we identify with the survivor. That, were circumstances different, could have been us.
And we need to hear more of them. Why? Because the pattern is virtually the same regardless of the guru, and the more such stories that we hear, the more we are unable to ignore the fact that these stories tell us the truth. And once we have accepted the truth, we can no longer sit by and allow it to continue. Our sanghas may be reticent to look at the beliefs that allowed this kind of thing to happen, but the voices of truth will remain and the power of their truth will eventually result in change.
Project Sunshine would never have happened had Andrea M. Winn, MEd, MCS not been prepared to break the silence, and the Rigpa sangha would still be in ignorance of the true nature of their lama had 8 people not spoken up. And there are many, many more with similar stories to tell. Stories that people must hear if something is to change at a fundamental level: the level of behaviour of those in power and the power structures that give them total control.
I encourage anyone who has been abused to contact me and share their story anonymously on this blog. Doing so will be a healing process for you and for others with similar stories who read it, a great service to the development of a Vajrayana Buddhism relevant to the modern day, one where such abuses can never happen again.  When women know how they may be manipulated into a guru’s bed, they will be more likely to avoid it. Speaking up will save other women from the same trauma.
The #metoo movement showed the extent of sexual abuse in society in general, and only the same kind of unreserved breaking of the silence will show the extent in Tibetan Buddhism as well. And only once the full extent of it is known will the lamas be moved to do something about it from their end, so please, do speak up. Contact me now.
The report is dedicated to the women who have been abused by their guru. I know you have struggled alone, some of you for decades, and I hope you have found a way to come to terms with your experience. I also hope that our efforts in breaking the silence now will help you be able to finally finish with the repercussions of that phase of your life.

This report is dedicated with honour to the brave women who each found her own way to survive sexual abuse by her guru.
May each of these women find a true and lasting peace and benefit from the deep healing of the truth coming to light.”

An analysis of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s essay on Sogyal Rinpoche & Rigpa

One of the appendices is an analysis of DZK’s essay on Sogyal and Rigpa and it is  brilliant. Andrea Winn states, with great clarity, what most everyone I have spoken to about that essay have observed as regards to it. It’s another reason to read this report.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s pseudo-apology”

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s ‘apology’ is included in this report, but, like Sogyal’s attempts at apology,  it is another pseudo-apology. I read the whole thing and at the end, I said to myself, ” Where is the apology?”
He says: “I have recently learned that some of these women have shared experiences of feeling harmed as a result of these relationships. I am now making a public apology.”
That’s it. He says some women have felt harmed and that he is making an apology, but there is nothing that says, “I’m sorry I hurt you. I really regret my actions. I feel ashamed that I behaved like that, and I will refrain from behaving like that again.” Why do lamas find this so hard to do?
Have they ever actually engaged in the practice of vajrasattva? If they had,  they would have internalised the importance for purifying negative karma of accepting responsibility for their negative actions, feeling regret that they caused harm (not just a feeling of harm) and vowing never to repeat the action.
Either they don’t practice or understand the teachings they give or they really don’t think they have accumulated any negative karma. If that’s the case, given all that we know now, their arrogance is incredible.

From page 266 of The Words of my Perfect Teacher.
Confessing without regret cannot purify them, for past misdeeds are like poison within; so confess them with shame, trepidation and great remorse. … Without resolve for the future there is no purification.

What kind of Buddhism do we want in the West?

The report also includes steps for the future on a personal and organisational level. It truly is a ray of sunshine in that respect. Some of us these days find it very hard to feel positive about the future of such organisations. I hope that Shambala has better results than Rigpa, but I can see from the report that similar dynamics are playing out. What they do have is the benefit of Project Sunshine. Well done, Andrea and the other contributors.
I found the section titled ‘Ahimsa: Envisioning A New Buddhism In The West’ by Dr. Elizabeth Monson inspiring. She basically asks what kind of Buddhism do we want in the West, and makes it clear that it is up to us to not settle for anything less. I include here an excerpts for your reflection:

It is important to bring our own misunderstandings and naivete, as well as the abusive behaviors perpetrated by teachers, into the light and out of the darkness of collusion and secrecy. This is not only to prompt teachers to take responsibility and stand accountable for their actions, but also to encourage all the practitioners who put their faith and love in a teacher who has triggered experiences of profound pain and suffering to participate in the processes of change that must take place. Whether we love and respect a teacher or not, we should recognize that anyone who serves as a Buddhist teacher and role model is responsible for upholding a standard of moral behavior and a vision of what true liberation, true compassion, and true wisdom really look like on a practical, daily level. Whether the teacher’s teachings are brilliant or not, his or her actions must be in accord with the view. As Padmasambhava taught back in the eighth century, “Though the view should be as vast as the sky, keep your conduct as fine as barley flour.” Ahimsa: Envisioning A New Buddhism In The West – Dr. Elizabeth Monson By Lopon Eli

We welcome Shambala students and other Buddhist students disenchanted with their teacher and their organisation to join our Dharma Friends  Beyond the Temple Facebook Group.  See description below.
What did you think of the report?


Private discussion on this and other related topics can be had on our Secret  What Now Facebook Group. It is only for current and previous students of Rigpa, however, and we do moderate it closely. If you’re interested in joining, please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
People from other sanghas can join the Dharma Friends Beyond the Temple Facebook Group . It’s a support group for anyone who has left their Buddhist sangha after hearing revelations of abuse by their teacher or after experiencing such abuse. It’s for people who see ethical behaviour, love, compassion and introspection as the core of their spiritual path. The aim of the group is to support each other in our spiritual journey wherever it takes us. Click here and request to join.
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page.

Is a Master Needed in Order to Recognise the Nature of Mind?

Today’s post has two videos in it, one by me, Tahlia, and the other by Sangye, but we’re both talking about the same topic. We are examining whether or not a master is needed in order to recognise the nature of mind. The videos compliment each other, and I hope you will watch both and that they will encourage you to examine the question for yourselves. The literature on recovering from a cult says that it is important for cult survivors to examine the beliefs they held, and so this is what we’re doing.
We are not trying to teach anything or convince anyone of anything, or even suggest that we have some definitive answer to the question, these vlogs are simply how we see the situation from our present viewpoint.
As Sangye says in the description of his video:
“A personal investigation, applying critical intelligence to the topic. Looking at the broader truth in and around all the constituent elements and implications of this belief that “The master is needed to recognize the nature of mind”. Beliefs are risky formations that often masquerade as knowledge and proven truths. Investigation can benefit one to improve, confirm or disprove part or the whole of the belief.”
In this video (it’s about 19 mins) I try to use logic to evaluate the belief that you need a master to introduce you to the nature of your mind, and I make a clear distinction between experiencing the nature of mind and being introduced to it.
Warning: possible Dzogchen blasphemy. Don’t watch if you’re inflexible in your beliefs.
 
 

Sangye goes into the topic in more depth and makes some points I didn’t, for example that once you have recognised the nature of mind, you don’t need to be close to a master anymore. You just need to work on stabilising what you’ve recognised.
In Rigpa we became dependent on the ‘master’ continuing to go to retreats in the constant hope of ‘getting it’, even if we’d already got it. We became like junkies hooked on having the kind of spiritual experience we experienced with Sogyal which actually may have been nothing more than a trance state.
Sangye raises doubt as to the real nature of the introductions we were given. Staring without a focus as we were taught as part of our meditation instructions in Rigpa creates an experience recognised by psychologists as the Ganzfield effect, something that induces altered states and even hallucinations. Sogyal also asked us to stare into this eyes when introducing us to the nature of mind, and Giovanni Caputo from the University of Urbino did an experiment in which he discovered that staring into someone’s eyes for ten minutes induces an altered state of consciousness. None of the people in that study were masters, and yet “The participants in the eye-staring group said they’d had a compelling experience unlike anything they’d felt before,” Christian Jarrett wrote for the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest at the time.
Sangye’s examination is broader than mine and compliments it nicely. It’s about 40 mins long.
 
 

What are your thoughts on this? Can you step outside of the Tibetan Buddhist belief system and examine it from a different perspective?


Private discussion on this and other related topics can be had on our Secret Facebook Group. It is only for current and previous students of Rigpa, however, and we do moderate it closely. If you’re interested in joining, please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their Rigpa dharma friends who want to move on from the discussion of abuse in Rigpa can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page.

What it's like to be in the line of Sogyal's fire: a personal testimony.

Later on in this post I share a video interview I did with ex-monk Sangye Nawang in which he tells us just what it was like to be in the firing line of Sogyal Rinpoche’s temper, but first some introduction to help explain why students entered into a close relationship with their guru.

The fire analogy

One of the teachings that I remember on a student’s relationship to a lama is the fire analogy. It goes something like this: If you’re too far from the lama you won’t feel the heat; it you’re too close, you’ll get burned. I presumed that the aim of this teaching was to make the the student aware that they needed to find a distance that was neither too close nor too far away from the lama, but it was also a warning that if you did dedicate yourself to working closely with a lama, you might  get burned, or maybe even will get burned.
Being burned, however, meant that your ego got burned, and that was seen as a good thing. Once again we see a word being used that means harm. If we’re burned, we’re harmed. The bit being harmed is supposed to be your ego (grasping at a false sense of self), but these ideas of burning, attacking, crushing, and destroying ego are problematic in a world where students may be lacking in a basic healthy self-esteem, and that problem is compounded one-hundred fold if the lama has narcissistic personality disorder. In these cases, as I’ve seen with Rigpa inner circle survivors, an aggressive approach is more likely to cause harm than benefit. Instead of having their ego dissolved, they tend to end up having physical and/or mental breakdowns, and their basic sense of self is crushed, so that they see themselves as worthless and useless, and so on. This is in fact strengthening ego, because now the student associates him or herself with negative attributes.

Why put yourself in the line of fire?

In Rigpa, the idea of being close to the fire meant that you had the guts to commit yourself fully to a relationship with a person that, though most of us didn’t know was abusive, we all knew was highly demanding, but the pay off for being close was a better shot at enlightenment, the opportunity to be fast tracked along the path. The route was dangerous, and it took guts to take it, but the potential benefit was huge – at least that’s what we were told. This romanticised ideal of a spiritual warrior willing to take the blows coupled with a genuine desire to help spread the dharma teachings in the West drew people close to the raging inferno of Sogyal Rinpoche/Lakar.
But being close to the fire meant that you put yourself directly in Sogyal’s firing line.
I doubt that those who entered the inner circle knew the degree of his ‘burn’ before they took up their roles – did they know they would be hit, asked for sexual favours and be always found lacking? – but we all knew that working closely with him would be highly challenging. That was the point. We believed it was a kind of ‘trial by fire’ that if survived would be a great purification, a furnace in which to burn away your obscurations, in reality, however, a large number of people simply got third degree burns.
I sometimes used to wonder how I would handle the intensity of that level of ‘Rigpa work’, and all I knew in that regard was that I never wanted to find out. When I was offered the role of National Director for Rigpa Australia a decade or so ago, I said, “No way, I don’t want to get that close to the fire.” I feel for those who did.

A personal testimony

In August 2017, I interviewed Sangye Nawang, and ex-Rigpa monk and a good friend of mine. We didn’t release the video at the time, feeling that the time wasn’t right. Now, however, we feel it is time for the world to see Sangye tell it as it was, and I challenge those who think this is somehow made up, or some plot or campaign to deny the truth that comes through this interview. This is just someone who has been burned telling us about the fire he fell into through no fault of his own.
May sharing his story, told openly and honestly, be of service to others.

 

What being in a narcistic relationship does to you

This next video is long, but it’s well worth watching if you want to get an idea of the true cost to those in Rigpa’s inner circle who were or still are close to Sogyal Rinpoche/Lakar.  If you were one of those people then you’ll find it immensely helpful to realise that other people experience this kind of thing in domestic and work relationships; it’s not something restricted to the guru/student relationship, and, in fact, it has no place in that environment at all. In this video you’ll hear just how crushing being in a narcissistic relationship is.
Please note that I am not making a diagnosis on Sogyal’s personality, just sharing the experience of people who were in a similar relationship because fits with the results I’ve heard from and seen in Rigpa inner-circle survivors. You’ll see the correlations with Sangye’s experience. As Dana mentions in the video, survivors of cults and abusive relationships will also find it very helpful to find language they can use to describe their experience. 
NB: CPTSD  is Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In this video Dana of Narcissist Support says, “In a narcistic relationship it’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s all a lie.”
Which leaves me wondering: was the love I thought I experienced from Sogyal real or just my projection? Dana talks about how her narcissistic boyfriends fed off her need for love that came from a sense of lack of love in her life; how many of us saw in Sogyal what we wanted to see? Did our projections blind us to the red flags that screamed, “Fire. Fire. Danger. Do not enter!”?


Private discussion on this and other related topics can be had on our Secret Facebook Group. It is only for current and previous students of Rigpa, however, and we do moderate it closely. If you’re interested in joining, please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their Rigpa dharma friends who want to move on from the discussion of abuse in Rigpa can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page.
 
 
 

Should a Spiritual Teacher Attack Your Hidden Faults?

Finally we’ve got to our examination of the beliefs we held without question. The first is one that we often heard from Sogyal Rinpoche, “A Spiritual teacher should attack your hidden faults” or other versions of that same idea. Looking back now, it seems like an attempt to justify abusive behaviour! And he did use it to calm people down if they’d just witnessed some form of abuse, and all of us who went to a retreat did see emotional abuse; we called it “training”. Ouch. Just what exactly was he training us to do? Witness abuse without reacting? How healthy is that? Is this what the Buddha would want his disciples to learn in the name of Buddhism?
So many questions arise when you start examining, but it’s very important that we ask them and consider the answers because this is what we didn’t do in Rigpa. We never questioned anything, and accepting everything I was told is why I remained in a cult for 20 years. I trusted that everything I was taught to belief was for the benefit of the students. Now I know just how badly many students were hurt, how these beliefs were used to justify and cover up abuse.
Anyway, the idea of our belief examination posts is for you to discuss what you think about the belief. Sogyal didn’t make it up. It comes from the introduction to The Words of My Perfect Teacher as something Patrul Rinpoche said.
This video is my contemplation on this one and it includes Sangye’s thoughts on the matter as well. Please share your thoughts on this belief in the comments. I look forward to a lively discussion.


Private discussion on this and other related topics can be had on our Secret Facebook Group. It is only for current and previous students of Rigpa, however, and we do moderate it closely. If you’re interested in joining, please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their Rigpa dharma friends who want to move on from the discussion of abuse in Rigpa can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page.

Is Rigpa a Cult?

Today I’m asking the hard question, and I’d love to hear what you think. My reflection is at the end in vlog form, but I include some salient points from a Huffington Post article for those who aren’t into listening to vlogs.
The quotes are all from Jayanti Tamm, author of Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult (Three Rivers Press). She is a Visiting Professor in the MFA Program at Queens College, CUNY. Reference 


Nobody sets out to join a cult! And here we’re talking about harmful cults, not the benign meaning of cult as it refers to non-mainstream religious organisations.
The word ‘cult’ is loaded with negative connotations. It makes us think of brainwashing, lunatics, and mass suicide, so cults are careful to maintain a positive image in all their marketing. Their websites look good; they offer solutions to our problems, happiness and ultimately enlightenment.

“What isn’t included is the reality beneath the surface, the leader’s demands for obedience from its members, the psychological pressure, the ability to subordinate all activities to the leader’s will.”

Excessive devotion to a charismatic leader and the leader’s vision brings about a willingness to surrender control to the person who is seen as having the answer to all our problems, both personal and global. This willingness to give up control and to believe everything the leader says because he or she appears to have the answers we seek, makes members easy to manipulate.
Devotees who please the leader and work to fulfill his or her vision, ascend the ranks and gain special status and privileges. Pleasing the leader means doing whatever he or she asks of them, and so he or she comes to dictate followers’ actions and thoughts. Conformity is enforced through public shaming or rewarding by the leader and by other members judgements.
Once you’ve given up your critical thinking faculty and given obedience to your leader, you’ve opened yourself up to the kinds of abuses we associate with cults—emotional, physical and sexual.

 “When hyper devotion is the expected behaviour, for acceptance new recruits tend to rapidly thrust themselves into the prescribed lifestyle. … [Devotees can] “plunge into belief, into faith so deeply, so forcefully that critical and analytical red flags, even if they once appeared, are snapped off. Belief and faith are such intoxicants that logical reason and facts become blurry and nonsensical.”

“A narcissist with insatiable needs for power, control, and, very often fame, the leader seeks affirmation of supreme authority through alignment with public figures and celebrities, achieving large numbers of recruits, and amassing private fiefdoms.”

“Those who violate the rules are punished and eventually, to maintain the coherent group unity, expelled.”

The boundary between cults and religion is not always easy to ascertain. There is a continuum between positive and negative, but one point is very clear, if there is abuse in a ‘religious’ organisation and a code of secrecy and enabling, that organisation is harmful to its members and therefore can be considered a harmful cult.

“With the right ambitious and charismatic leader, any group easily could morph into a cult. What prevents that from occurring is that most established religions and groups have accountability mechanisms that restrain that from happening.”

10 marks of a cult:

  1. The leader and group are always correct and anything the leader does can be justified.
  2. Questions, suggestions, or critical inquiry are forbidden.
  3. Members incessantly scramble with cramped schedules and activities full of largely meaningless work based on the leader’s agenda
  4. Followers are meant to believe that they are never good enough.
  5. Required dependency upon the leader and group for even the most basic problem-solving.
  6. Reporting on members for disobedient actions or thoughts is mandated and rewarded.
  7. Monetary, sexual, or servile labor is expected to gain promotion.
  8. The ‘outside’ world — often including family and friends — is presented as rife with impending catastrophe, evil, and temptations.
  9. Recruitment of new members is designed to be purposefully upbeat and vague about the actual operations of the leader and group.
  10. Former members are shunned and perceived as hostile.

In less points (from the Christian Courier https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/250-how-to-identify-a-cult) :

  • Unquestioning commitment to a domineering leader;
  • Dissent and discussion discouraged;
  • Cult members lavish the leader in luxury;
  • Polarization of members – us against them mentality and secretive inner circles;
  • Rebellion against other sources of authority – our rules are above the rules of society, law and so on;
  • Alteration of personality – one becomes compliant and obedient.

Here’s my take on these points:

In the video I also talk about the continuim between the destructive cult on one hand and the healthy organisation on the other hand. This graphic will help you get an idea of what I’m talking about.
BEST-QUALITY-Influence-Continuum-9-12-16.pptx-pdf
So what do you think? Where does Rigpa fit on this continuim. Is it a cult? Oh, and a warning: Given the legal proceedings in France, Rigpa is not above suing people who call them a cult, so think about your words before posting, and make it clear that anything you say is just your subjective opinion.
Private discussion on this and other related topics can be had on our Secret Facebook Group. Is is only for current and previous students of Rigpa, however, and we do moderate it closely.  If you’re interested in joining, please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their Rigpa dharma friends who want to move on from the discussion of abuse in Rigpa can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.  
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page. 
Want to keep this blog running? Support the editor;  Become a Patron!

Progressive stages of Meditation … on Cults

Today Sangye Ngawang shares the thought processs he went through to come to the conclusion that he had to get out of Rigpa. It’s a process that will be familiar to many. We are proabably all reticent to use the cult word initially, but using that term can also be helpful, something I talk about in the vlog that follows Sangye’s post.
1.There are cults, glad I’m not in one.
2. We are not a cult.
3. Who said we are a cult? Why would they say that?
4. What is a cult?
5. Okay, maybe we are a little cultish but that is to be expected with anything esoteric or counter-intuitive, Eastern. Cults ruined it for groups like us … only brave, open-minded people like me can benefit by taking a chance.
6. Hmm, I’m seeing more cultish evidence … it’s a bit challenging. When I try to talk to anyone I get mixed results, some quite scary.
7. There is a lot of double standards and suspicious stuff, and the group is training me to explain this to new people. Problem is … I’m not satisfied with the explanations. There doesn’t seem to be anyone above the people training me how to “represent Rigpa”. This “who is Rinpoche” stuff is a bit rich too.
8. I’m seeing disturbed people and they aren’t being really taken care of. They seem to be seeing psychologists and counsellors so there is that.
9. Okay – I thought people were supposed to be getting better, but some have run away and left with no explanation. It’s a little upsetting
10. Given what’s happening I’ll ask about some of these stories and allegations from people on the outside who are criticizing my teacher.
11. Nobody has really given me any proof, and now I can see that in the past this has come before the Dalai Lama for advice.
12. Okay, now I’m seeing things directly from my teacher that are just plain wrong. Why would he do that in front of me? Is this some kind of test? He keeps saying, “You only like it when your teacher is nice to you,” Well yeah, I kind of do. Nobody likes a shit sandwich.
13. Is there some kind of secret Lama school that is about putting disciples through all this crap? I’m getting unwell and so are others.
14. There are a lot of red flags. I’m back to reading a document on cult tactics … OMG, this is very much like my life.
15. I think I might stop listening to all these audio and video files for a while, just to decompress and observe my mind. I’m getting a little suspicious that this is a kind of cult programming – the language is off too. Words don’t mean what they should.
16. I don’t see how I can cope with all this work and people are telling me to take care of my health. I think I’d better start finding ways to get some holidays.
17. Okay, now I’ve seen another person come out and tell a story about being sexually harassed. There are photos – this looks terrible. It’s time to walk away.
18. I keep trying to walk away and getting commanded back – people tell me I might be mentally ill. I’ve always considered myself quite mentally healthy, but I have to agree – something isn’t right with me. Physical, emotional …
19. Hmm, apparently cults do all this overwork and people get sick and the symptoms I have are common. Nobody worries too much about nutrition either – it’s a bit of a grab what food you can. You have to beg to be well fed at times.
20. My interactions with the teacher are making me physically ill. He seems to be treating me like some kind of sub-human.
21. I’ve decided to leave – for real this time, but I’m going to take my time getting really prepared for a solid break away.
22. They aren’t happy about me leaving … it really is looking bad, like this is a cult. At least at the core.
23. Now I’m going to start talking to friends about this.
24. Jeez, some people who are leaving are telling me unbelievable things. How could I miss this for so long?
25. People on the inside are being used to try and love bomb, threaten, bribe and demand that I come see the teacher in person. I’m not going to comply.
26. Its clear people are talking about me now; they are saying bad things. So this is what cults really do, all this is written down.
27. Okay, so it’s definitely a cult, but how will I get others to see it?
28. Some people are super grateful to me for sharing what I know and they’re leaving. There’s talk about making some kind of group to help others who wonder “what now?”
Nice ending, Sangye! And we’re still asking What Now? Why are we still asking? Because unfortunately, this isn’t over. It won’t be over until there’s no possibility of abuse occuring in Tibetan Buddhism again. It won’t be over until the lamas realise that we won’t stand for it, that saying that silence and obedience is vajrayana isn’t justification for abuse and cover-ups.
Lerab Ling is trying to prove that Rigpa is not a cult, but whatever is decided legally doesn’t change the experience of people. It doesn’t change what some of us know, what those of us who have educated ourselves on the matter now realise. 

Do you think the cult word is a helpful term in the dicussion around abuse in Rigpa?


 
Current and previous students of Rigpa wanting private support are welcome to join the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their dharma friends who want to move on from the discussion of abuse in Rigpa can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.  
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page. 
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DJKR: THE ELEPHANT, THE MOUSE AND THE SCARY WORDS.

I received this guest post from someone who was at Dzongsar Khyentse’s second London talk. It’s well written and engaging, so I hope you enjoy it. At the end I’ve also posted a vlog that sums up my feelings at the end of DJKR’s 2018 European tour – Tahlia.


“Read my lips” as Ronald Reagan would have said, if he was a Vajrayana guru. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche says what he means and may even mean what he says, so don’t let his style of presentation distract you from his message.
Let me begin by saying that I find Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche a very engaging speaker. He explains ideas well, thinks carefully about his words, uses humour very effectively, enjoys being provocative and has a disarming combination of being both arrogantly opinionated and surprisingly frank about his own shortcomings. It’s easy to see why he is such a popular teacher.
I have now watched every minute of every one of the public teachings he gave on his recent tour of Rigpa in Europe – except for the carefully excised part where a man burst into the first London session screaming that Sogyal Rinpoche was a rapist and DJKR was covering up for him. The man was jumped and the story was disseminated that he was mentally ill (I can’t verify that).
I was able to attend the final session in person and it was good to look DJKR in the face when he spoke, not just at a screen. I’m not here to get into deep discussions of the Vajrayana – that’s for others, far better informed. I’m here to talk about what I saw of the man and some significant things I heard and did not hear.
First of all, there needs to be some kind of special oratory prize for a person who can go on a speaking tour of Rigpa, prompted by the scandal around the abuse that was committed by its leader, several of these talks taking place in the actual locations where physical, sexual and psychological abuse occurred, and talk for over TWELVE HOURS without ever using the “A” word. It really is not an easy thing. It’s got to be in your mind, tickling your tongue. You really have to check yourself to make sure it doesn’t slip out in an unguarded moment. So I’m going to stand up right now and give DJKR a round of applause for this remarkable achievement. Please join me.
In fairness to him, he did, just once, in his first talk, utter the word “victim”, as part of the phrase “alleged victims”. Somebody must have got on his case afterwards because in London he mentioned that he had been told that “alleged” was the wrong word to use. He blamed his poor English, although I was impressed by what a good mastery of the language he has. It was a very odd moment indeed. He apologised for his use of the word “alleged” but clearly could not bring himself to utter the word that had previously been linked to it, so many in the audience were left a bit bemused as to where this had come from or what the purpose of the comment was. It was as if putting the word “victim” out there without the protective cocoon of “alleged” was simply too intimidating for him to deal with.
Every place he talked you could see the same thing; when he was in full flow about Vajrayana he appeared confident and spoke eloquently. Every time he approached the nitty-gritty reality of what the consequences of Vajrayana being misused were, he would stumble, trail off into long pauses or simply change the subject. The maker of the pointed but amusing spoof video, which re-edits his Berlin talk, did put his finger on something, triggering a tirade of insults.
During his travels, DJKR did, apparently, reach out to some of the victims of abuse. Certainly, several of the eight letter writers were known to him personally and were people he trusted. One might have hoped he would have done this research in advance, but it is welcome that he did it at all. By the time he got to Paris, then London, there was a distinct change of tone. He repeated again and again and again “Do no harm”, which is rather astonishing. Although he is talking to an audience of people who have spent many, many years in Vajrayana Buddhist study and practice, he is having to remind them of the most basic principle of all. I mean, even someone with the most superficial knowledge of Buddhism, who never once meditated, would know about the principle of not doing harm. This was like an eminent English Literature Professor doing the keynote address at an international conference, finding it necessary to repeatedly remind his academic audience that to fully appreciate the work of Dickens, you first need to learn your ABC.
The fact DJKR felt the need to do this speaks volumes. He had been reading many people’s comments about their confusions and opinions, and hearing accounts of wrongdoing and abuse, and it had become clear to him that the most basic tenet of Buddhism was being completely ignored. What a terrible indictment of where group thinking in Rigpa has led them.
In his final talks he spoke far more plainly than at the start, perhaps more plainly than he has ever spoken on such matters. It is NEVER acceptable for a guru to harm somebody. YES, you MUST respect the laws of the land. You CAN’T deny that people have suffered. There HAS been pain – it is NOT a story or an illusion. [Sogyal] Rinpoche HAS TO address this.
All these things were good to hear. But it feels like they had to be shocked and shaken out of him. As he made plain in his first talk, he has his “agendas” and over the course of the tour he had realised that trying to wave some of these issues away with mystical ambiguity was simply reinforcing the narrative of Vajrayana as a cult. His mission was to save Vajrayana and if that meant being more explicit than he liked to be, then he would do it. As long as it didn’t involve mentioning rape, beatings, theft or using the word “abuse”, that is.
In many ways he was extremely honest, even if it didn’t necessarily show him in the best light. He admitted that when the letter came out, his first instinct as a tulku was to protect the teachings (rather than people). I think he very much sees himself in the role of Defender of the True Faith. In all the hours he spoke I never discerned a hint of compassion for the victims of Sogyal Rinpoche. With well-practiced phraseology, DJKR made plain that he cared for them only in the sense of their spiritual futures. But it didn’t occur to him that if someone like Sogyal Rinpoche has, as he put it, “burned the seed of the Bodhichitta” in these victims of abuse, they are not likely to be won back to Buddhism by a person who appears terrified of the words “victim” and “abuse”.
In fact it seemed profoundly ironic that whilst DJKR spent hours selling the audiences on how radical and fearless Vajrayana is and stressing that relative and absolute truth are of equal value, this fearlessness did not stretch to acknowledging the truth of the elephant in the room, let alone confronting it. The best that can be said is that, by the end of his speaking tour, he was occasionally gesturing in the general direction of the elephant, without actually looking at it directly – or calling it an elephant.
When asked “What do you think about the Rigpa inner circle covering up Sogyal Rinpoche’s misdeeds?” he dismissed it with “I already answered this question”. He hadn’t. When asked “What is meant by crazy wisdom?” he abruptly called for a break. On his return, when the question was eventually put again, he reluctantly gave a brief reply, saying that all Vajrayana was Crazy Wisdom, which he knew perfectly well was not what was being asked.
His discomfort in dealing with any of the nitty-gritty of the consequences of Sogyal Rinpoche’s misdeeds, and those of the people who covered up for him, was sometimes displaced with humour to take the sting out. When acknowledging that “there has been pain” he made the point that if it’s lunchtime and you’re hungry, you can try repeating “fulness is emptiness and emptiness is fulness” but you’ll still have a pain in your stomach. People laughed.
But there were also warnings hidden inside his jokes. More than once he said “I’m a Gemini: we can sell ice cubes to Eskimos.” Everybody laughed heartily, but he’s serious. He knows a lot of his followers will swallow whatever he says, if he presents it the right way. He’s probably Vajrayana’s top-ranking salesman right now (assuming there’s a leader board somewhere in Bhutan). He even refers freely to some of his followers – quite correctly – as sycophants, but they still follow him, like good Eskimos.
Likewise, he doesn’t hide where he’s coming from, ethically. When asked about bad behaviour by gurus he twice made his approach clear: he personally wouldn’t mistreat anyone – not because he’s a great guy but because he would be worried about what people would think of him and what they would say on social media, plus he wouldn’t want to lose students. Again, everyone laughed, but he didn’t repeat this without reason. We should listen. This is absolutely not about ethics for him – he never even used the word – it is about trying to protect reputation; his personal one and that of the Vajrayana.
He used stories and metaphors about magic and magicians many times, where the teacher is the magician who knows it’s a trick, but presents it convincingly. “I think you want magic, don’t you?” he asked his attentive London audience, who noisily expressed their enthusiasm. David Blaine may have a new rival.
After the final teaching, I was talking to a member of the new “Vision Board”. He raved about how great the teachings were, so I asked him – as he had been present at all of DJKR’s recent teachings, both public and to the sangha, and had doubtless had the benefit of private discussions too – what did he feel about everything he had heard? With the careful tones of a politician who has weighed up whether being wishy or being washy would be the best approach, he replied “I’d have to re-listen to it. I had a lot on my mind.” He had come to realise that the problems stemmed from the transition from Asia, he said. The one thing that felt meaningful was when he added, “I wish someone had told me this 30 years ago.”
But of course, there was not a flicker of acknowledgement of the meat of what had been said. DJKR himself talked about how, as a younger student, he had been forbidden from taking notes and had to simply remember what had been taught. Here was a senior leader who was claiming that, having heard the same messages repeated and repeated for a fortnight, they had not sunk in. If I was Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche I would be deeply disheartened by this. If nobody in leadership is really listening and nobody is ever going to start talking about the elephant in the room, the outcome for Rigpa, and possibly Vajrayana in general, is pretty obvious.
DJKR several times used the classic image of Ganesh as an illustration of Vajrayana concepts: the elephant is depicted standing upon a mouse, as his vehicle, and the mouse is magically unharmed. In the less magical world in which most of us live, we know that any mouse that chooses to disregard the fact that an elephant is about to stand on him, doesn’t have much of a future.


 DJKR’s talks may have repercussions for my vlogs for a while, I expect, but my main feeling at present is one of relief and gratitude. I also remembered an analogy for the spiritual path that Chogyan Trungpa gave that seems pertinent to remember in these circumstances.

 

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Current and previous students of Rigpa wanting private support are welcome to join the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their dharma friends who want to move on from the discussion of abuse in Rigpa can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.  
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page. 
Want to keep this blog running?  Become a Patron!
 
 

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9 thoughts on “Rigpa Progress?”

  1. Brilliant article Moonfire! Thank you so much for articulating so clearly what many people, including myself must be feeling.
    Didn’t the Buddha say that “Words have the power to create or destroy.”
    I can only say that Sogyal needs to name, accept and apologise for his own behaviour before any apology will be truly genuine. This is certainly a start but it’s a “conditional” apology. And wasn’t he trying to teach us about “unconditional” love, compassion, joy and equanimity?
    I still find it sickening that none of the senior managers who were complicit by shrugging off their responsibilities towards vulnerable students are still in charge. A line from the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying comes to mind! In the chapter on Compassion there is a description of Western busy-style laziness and Eastern-style languid laziness…..
    “…. perhaps it was their karma to find a way to help!”
    While in Ireland at the weekend, I went to mass in a Catholic church with my father. Alongside all the other prayers, I heard prayers offered “for those who were injured within the church, let us pray for God’s mercy for all concerned”….
    Then in my hands in the mass booklet and among the general notices was a notice about the meeting times of the group that met to support survivors of clerical abuse….. and there was a poster about this meeting in the entrance hall outside.
    Alongside this poster was a big fat report and a review of safeguarding children and adults within that very parish!
    My God if the Catholic church can do that, then why can’t Rigpa? If only they had listened to their advisers back then in the early 1990s after that American court case.
    Such arrogance and folly to think that they were above the law back then and now.
    The Rigpa brand is forever tainted in my mind!

    Liked by you

  2. Agreed that until there is REAL acceptance of the problems, ranging from emotional abuse – public humiliation, threats and open favouritism, along with what amounts to fraud by any other name, misrepresentation of what the lama is doing (ie not meditating as claimed but other activities including watching inappropriate tv programmes) – all the sexual stuff – nothing will change, no excuses and apologies accepted and for the chief perpetrator – no change either. What of the advice from other lamas – those named, one at least, is highly suspect. 3-year retreat to reflect? Should happen but pretty sure it won’t.

    Like

  3. The March 2018 draft of the Code of Conduct was quite disappointing in a number of respects, but especially regarding the simple mechanics of filing a complaint.
    Note that an aggrieved individual cannot go directly to the (as yet unspecified) ethics board. One must first go through “steps” of seeking resolution through dialog and informal grievance via instructor, support person, or local/national team members. Even then, a formal complaint must go to a National/Retreat Director without any guarantee that the complaint will ever reach an ethics board member. It seems to me, the whole point of an ethics board is that complaints be moved to a venue outside the regular Rigpa structure.
    My comment to Rigpa was that “an aggrieved party should have the right to go directly to an ethics board as their first option, should they so choose. It is naive, impractical, and unfair to require an aggrieved, possibly traumatized party to go through multiple hoops of Rigpa position holders, likely of limited experience in addressing abuse issues and placed in the difficult position of judging friends. … Indeed, in some circumstances the oversight and advice of an ethics board member may be required to make the “steps” work at all.”
    Ethical codes for Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist groups are not new, so it is not clear why the Rigpa panel is having such difficulty in drafting a realistic Code. Is there more concern with protecting the organization than in supporting an aggrieved and/or troubled individual?

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  4. Indeed. Other vajrayana groups manage the kind of clarity people expect in a code of conduct. No sex is allowed between student and teacher in this code.http://www.kagyu.com/introduction/ethics-policy
    Apparently that group learned from their own abuse debacle. Rigpa has yet to learn that they cannot continue as they have done in the past. Their draft code seems to be an attempt to write down the very structures they used to prevent complaints ever being taken seriously in the past. It’s very sad that on the one hand they say how much they’ve changed and then they cannot see just how much this draft code shows that they have no intention of truly changing at all.

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