Confessions of a Devoted Student – Part 3

Part 3- Telling it like it is.

When Mimi’s story came out several years ago, senior students in R led me to believe that the online activity was all masterminded by one disgruntled Irish student with the ability to mobilise others to her cause. The methods of some who have a clear agenda to ‘bring him down’ are indeed cyber-bullying tactics, and the anger behind the campaign just makes any truth that may be in it easy to dismiss.
But this ‘big reveal’ email was communication from within the sangha to the sangha, this simple ‘telling it like it is’, is not an angry campaign aimed at bringing anyone down. It is a clear statement that reveals the teacher’s abusive behaviour and its damaging results. It is a request for SR to see his abusive behaviour, to admit that it caused harm, to fully regret his action and to never repeat such behaviour again.
This is Vajrayana in action. A result of all the 100 syllable mantras the Rigpa sangha has been accumulating for SR’s health. It is the dirt coming out. As it must for SR’s karma to be purified so that he can live long. The only thing that can purify this karma is the Four Powers of Purification: Confession. Regret. Reparation; and a vow never to repeat the negative action.
The courageous ‘gang of 8’ is not the cause of the negative karma, SR’s actions are. The gang of 8 could be seen as emanations of Vajrasattva, agents of purification sent by Ekazati to defend the Dzogchen teachings. Why not? Many positive things have come from their actions already.
Now I question whether any religion is a wise choice for me. And yet when I practice, it is Vajrayana that comes most easily, and I cannot deny its transformative power. I figure that Vajrayana just needs to get rid of this poisonous idea that everything that a teacher does while in a human body—and so subject to its desires to some extent—is acceptable behaviour. We must not deny our own pure knowing, and surely anything that does that is contrary to the whole point of the dharma which is to realise our true nature.
Can we have Vajrayana without this poisonous belief that “Your outlook should be so broad that you can accept whatever your teacher and spiritual companions may do.”? (From Words of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche) There are still some students who refuse to accept that anyone has been harmed. Their blindness is staggering, and scary. Unfortunately, the word brainwashing does come to mind,
SR introduced me to the nature of my mind on my first retreat. I didn’t have a chance to examine him in the way Patrul Rinpoche says is vital before committing yourself. Had I done that, I would not have followed him, for upon examination he does not meet the criteria Patrul Rinpoche elucidates, and yet I benefited greatly by following SR for twenty years. I do not regret that, just as I do not doubt my experience and the understanding I gained. I do regret my blindness, however. And I have little faith left in ‘the system’ that allowed this to happen.
In the letter from SR in response to the email from the ‘Courageous 8’, which came to everyone in the sangha, he said, “Please know that I take this very seriously and I will not ignore it”. Though some were disappointed in what wasn’t stated in that letter (like an apology), most seemed to take it as a positive step in the right direction, and my conversations with someone in management indicate that there is a feeling of relief and almost excitement that this is finally in the open and things can change. She assured me that change has already occured. There is a new openess.  R groups are meeting all across the world to discuss what these revelations about their lama means personally and for the sangha. Feedback will go from the groups, through national coordinators and then to the international management.
Showing the wisdom and compassion that we ordinary students know and respect him for, he has asked that those holding the sessions to listen with compassion and tolerance, that no one is to be ostracised, and that we should not speak out of anger.
I feel very good about that. Those words are what every R student needs to hear, because there has been an unfortunate polarisation within the sangha in some circles. Some are still wary of my positivity but only time will tell. In the end it comes down to every single sangha member to make sure that their voice is heard; that is all any of us simple students can do.
This abuse by my spiritual teacher has made me question everything, except that which cannot be questioned, not because someone says it is bad to, but because in surety, in Vajra confidence, it simply is: indescribable, indestructible, the true nature of my mind and the nature of everything. To the man who allowed me to recognise that and who confirmed that I had indeed recognised it, and to the man that brought me in contact with a bunch of wonderful people, I prostrate. But the man who abuses his students is not my teacher. My samaya is with his wisdom mind, because it is his wisdom mind that introduced me, not the confused mind of a man that cannot follow the most basic vows.
His wisdom mind is always pure, as is ours; his behaviour cannot stain that, but his behaviour must be purified or the Dzogchen teachings will bear the taint in public perception, and that would be a great disservice to the very dharma he aims to spread.
SR is still teaching me. This has taught me to rely not on the outer lama, but on the ultimate lama, the inner lama, the nature of my own mind, my own clarity, openness and compassion. And that is a very good teaching indeed. Thank you SR.
My advice for SR is: Do 100,000 recitations of Vajrasattva and clean up this shit. If you are anything like the master you led us to believe you are, then you can change your behaviour it in an instant. This is not criticism, by the way, it’s simply how it is, what is needed now.
My advice for students who are still struggling with (or ignoring) the cognitive dissonance—the struggle to accept that such a wonderful man can also behave so badly—is : It is possible to hold both at the same time, your devotion and your disgust. Just be aware that if the abuse continues and you remain his student, you will be tainted by it. As the Buddha said: “Just as the clean kusha grass that wraps a rotten fish will also start to rot, so too will those devoted to an evil person.” You can already see the truth of this in the abuse-enabling behaviour of his ‘most devoted’ students.
Please understand, however, that I am not meaning here that he is an evil person. He is a good person who has behaved badly and needs help to get out of a negative cycle of abuse in which he is as much trapped as those around him. I am also not suggesting that you leave the sangha. I am suggesting, however, that if you want to stay that you make sure this whole situation is completely purified so that such abuse can never happen again in the Rigpa sangha, not by any lama. If you can do that, Rigpa sangha, I shall prostrate to you all.
How are other students managing the cognitive dissonance?
This is the final part of Confessions of a Devoted Student. Part one can be seen HERE,
 This is my story. If you wish to tell yours here or share your deep reflections on this matter, please contact us and let us know what you’d like to offer. If you are or have been a student of SR and you’d like a more private discussion, you can make request on the contact page to join our Facebook group.

13 Replies to “Confessions of a Devoted Student – Part 3”

  1. “This is Vajrayana in action. A result of all the 100 syllable mantras the Rigpa sangha has been accumulating for SR’s health. It is the dirt coming out.”
    LOL, I like this, like he talks about washing socks in the sink right?
    Bet he’s not happy about it now though!
    The problem you’ve got here is religion. It doesn’t matter which one you pick there all the same, and just cause problems.
    Einstein said – “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
    I suggest you try something new.
    Like atheism.

  2. I don’t think any of us know what Sogyal Lakar is thinking right now. I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he is turning to his peers for advice and reflecting deeply on his actions.
    IF this is handled in an open and compassionate way, in which students can be assured of transparency, it could strengthen rigpa. Imagine the teachings that could come from this experience if it’s not white washed and swept under the rug.

  3. Oh come on. 30+ years of getting away with it.
    I doubt he’s gonna change now.
    He may say is going too – but only when the cash flow starts to slow.
    This guy is sick, abuse is abuse full stop.
    What’s he done? Gone of to sulk (he’s not teaching at the Ngondro retreat).
    And this is not just a R / SL all these Lama’s think they are better and beyond.

    1. I doubt it too.
      Part of the letter said that “You have offered one of your female attendants to
      another lama (who is well known in Rigpa) for sex”.
      Which lama was that? Can we know who it is please?

  4. Dear precious composer of this beautiful testimony, may i share with all my respect for your primordial Buddha-being some spontaneous thoughts, that came up in my mind…
    To me, this sounds still a little bit too dualistic, offcause we have to use words to express ourselves, especially when we communicate in a way like that here, and words are just tools, always imperfect… I think, we should be careful not to exult too early, because SL is able to cheat us all, and as i see he’s doing… All this seems to be going from the very beginning in the early 70s, i do not believe at all, that a man of almost 70 years of age will change fundamentally, particulary not when he is indeed beyond good and evil, and that is what SL is… SL is defintitely not a normal person, he is, let me say “kind of a tulku” and he’s got tremendous power and very special qualities, BUT, he’s human. As i see it, there is a strong aspect in his being, that represents a traumatized refugee who has lost quite something and has been shatterd to the core(i’m sorry, i’m not a native english speaker, it might sound strange what i’m writing, i could do much better in my mother-language…), that and several other facts of his life have constituted a narcisstic personality, which is blown up by nature through his “spiritual genealogy”. This was not quite lessened by his success over the years… A narcisstig personality is not able at all to reflct itself, even when it’s about a so called spiritual master… There is that subtle kink in his mind, he just can not see, because he’s not enlightened… To be able to read minds means not, that youre enlightened, that’s just “ordinary Siddhis”… I’m saying that, because many of you have experiences, that he can or could read your mind, but that is not a proof for enlightenment at all!(offcause, there could be said much more here…) It is all quite complicate, because it is all mingled… And that is also, because he is not really pure, there is always this element of self display, the show effects… And that actually spoils the whole thing, not to say the whole sangha… Until now, as fare as i know, he hasn’t confessed anything, he did not show any regret, he was just expressing some compassion for those, who are and were suffering, but without adressing the real causes! I would say, this teacher is not longer bearable as a teacher; in the light of his merits the sangha should find a way to be in comfort with him for the rest of his life, i personaly don’t see how he could take on the role of the undisputed master again…
    …it should be love…

  5. I have to say that I really don’t care if my way of practicing and thinking about this fits anyone else’s idea of what I ‘should’ be doing or whether my way is actually in accord with the Vajrayana teachings or not. I’m not an instructor for Rigpa anymore, so I can use whatever language is most evocative for me, and this is not a teaching, just a sharing of how I processed the realisation that my teacher is not who I thought he was.
    One of the things that has led to this nasty situation in the R sangha is people’s inability to hear others’ viewpoints and an insistence that if the correct language wasn’t used then the person’s understanding was somehow flawed. What Now? is about honouring people’s experiences and encouraging them to express themselves openly and honestly, and that is what this series of posts is modelling.
    This comment is not specifically for comments on this post but also for those on prior pages.

    1. You’re right, thank you! I’m sorry, i didn’t want to criticize you at all… (you are the author, aren’t you?)
      …it should be love…

  6. Hello all. My own experience of R was mainly during the late nineties but as my heart teacher was head of another organisation, I slowly stopped attending R practise days. Later I was to learn of a lawsuit against SL and other numerous allegations of which we are all now aware. My husband who at that time was still very involved with Rigpa decided to withdraw then also.
    Unfortunately I have since also experienced unethical, deceptive and harmful behaviour within my own sangha which has sadly led me to withdraw from the organisation and ‘break’ with my Lama who is held in very high regard within Tibetan Buddhist circles. I have had to abide by my own ethical standards and for that appear to have ‘lost’ everything. However, I could not have responded any other way and still remain true to the Dharma as I understood it. I could not live with the conflict or hypocrisy.
    I have been adrift really since then, questioning the apparent chasm between what Tibetan lamas preach and what they appear to practise. I also do not understand the apparent complicity of the lamas in each others misdemeanours and harmful actions. They seem not to answer to anyone really…
    How much suffering would have been averted, had a sincere, transparent and workable approach been taken at the outset of these serious issues?
    As horrific as the situation is now for all involved, I am hoping that one outcome may be a ripple affect, bringing into the light the abuse and hypocrasies within other Tibetan Buddist groups so healing may occur there also.
    One last comment; whilst it is appropriate to question, point out and hold accountable ones teacher as per HHDL advice, I don’t see it as the student’s responsibility to help heal their teacher. After all, we seek them out because their experience and manifestation of wisdom and compassion and therefore, refinement in behaviour is far beyond our own. They are there (or should be there!) to guide and care for us as we traverse the spiritual path.
    Personally, I don’t believe SL should ever be in a leadership or teaching role again after thirty plus years of abuse and deception. It is my opinion that he needs highly experienced professional help – perhaps for the remainder of his days.
    I deeply feel for the confusion, pain and despair of R students some of whom are my dearest friends. I pray that our experiences with teachers and within sanghas may yet be a beneficial, safe and auspicious one.

    1. I’m so sorry for all the suffering that you have gone through with all this, DKBlue. I hope healing can occur for all of us too and a positive way forward. Thank you for this beautiful prayer.

      1. Thankyou Serenity. It is certainly a very challenging time on so many levels for people everywhere right now. I am starting to question many things including the teaching that one must have a ‘master’…..

  7. Some days ago RH asked who this lama was:
    “Part of the letter said that “You have offered one of your female attendants to
    another lama (who is well known in Rigpa) for sex”.
    He/she did not get an answer. I also think this should be made public. I read somewhere else that the lady definetely did not want to have sex with that lama but finally gave in to SL pressure.
    If this is true that in itself is a scandal that cannot just be swept under the carpet and this lama goes on teaching in R.

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