Today in this post by an ex-student and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist, we examine what might, in psychological terms, be the basis of the extreme behaviour of SR as attested to in the letter written by the 8 students.
Note that this is not an attempt at a diagnosis and should not be read as such. We merely aim to present an alternative framework through which to view the situation.
Understanding attachment theory (a strand from within psychoanalytic theory) is I feel helpful in understanding some of the dynamics between Sogyal Rinpoche and his students.
Attachment theory shows us that people re-enact their childhood attachment patterns, whether these patterns are ‘insecure, anxious, avoidant or disorganised and chaotic’ ( the four basic attachment patterns). Attachment trauma presents in a variety of ways: fear of intimacy and attachment; fear of separation and inability to hold onto healthy power and autonomy; difficulties having and maintaining stable relationships, and co-dependent relationships. Generally speaking, the chronic insecurities faced by those with unhappy attachment histories results in lack of confidence, an impoverished capacity to love, a lack of a healthy self-esteem, and, most particularly, emotional dysregulation. Freud’s notion of ‘repetition compulsion’ is painfully evident as we see re-enactments of traumatic relational patterns repeat and repeat. Underpinning all of this is a lack of what John Bowlby termed a ‘secure base’, which has major implications for our capacity to evolve and hinders our capacity to grow up and Individuate (Jung).
Learning how to regulate our emotions relies on the existence of a consistent loving care-giver, so inability to regulate one’s emotions generally comes directly from early childhood trauma. All this points back to the fact that, assuming that he does lack this ability, Sogyal Rinpoche may not have had healthy attachments to his parents or caregivers. If he had, he would not have created such apparently unhealthy dynamics with his students.
It is my view that we can understand the constellation of SR’s ‘psychology’, i.e., the apparently disturbed nature of his ego, a number of different ways.
‘Dependent Personality Disorder’ – this originates from various forms of attachment traumas and / or abandonment in childhood. Being taken away from his mother as he was at 6 months old would not have helped Sogyal Rinpoche. It is the mother who helps the child learn to regulate their emotions in infancy, and an early abandonment such as this may be one of the reasons why SR’s emotions appear to be completely ‘all over the place’, compounded by the abandonment when Jamyang Khyentse Chokid Lodro died when SR was around 10. In many ways SR suffered from the extremes of being both neglected and, at the same time, perhaps being made to feel overly ‘special’ – something which he also appears to enact with his students. Apparently, his unchecked temper tantrums are legion, like a child who regularly ‘loses’ it. Such incapacity to regulate emotions is a significant factor in abusive behaviours – sex addiction, addiction to violence, food and so on are all ways of ‘acting out’ that which cannot be contained and processed internally. Perhaps if SR had been required to undergo more retreats and been more of a practitioner, he might have been able to learn how to regulate his emotions through the practice, but his early childhood experiences would mean that he started out with some significant vulnerabilities.
The upbringing of tulkus is part of the picture and a matter for concern since most Tulkus do not grow up in normal ways. In “Dragon Thunder” a book by Dianna Mukpo, Trungpa’s son Taggie was described as being agitated, out-of-control, hyperactive and couldn’t talk. However he was given no help or psychological treatment. Changling Rinpoche at Sechen monastery, spoke of the difficulties in educating Tulkus. He said they often had quite ‘wild’ natures, and when they ran wild, they were difficult to control, like ‘herding cats’. Jamyang Khyentse Choki Lodro was said to be highly sensitive and superstitious, and Sogyal Rinpoche, who was close to him, would have grown up in an environment where he may well have witnessed JKCL’s own disturbances. (He was known to hit people, and in various biographies, Dilgo Khyenste and others describes his psychological vulnerabilities and pre-occupations.)
Given the complexity of Rinpoche’s own traumatic history and culture, he may find it hard to see and acknowledge any damage and harm he may have done in the name of Vajrayana. His psychological structure may be so wounded, and he may be so defended, that he believes his own ‘story’. If that is the case, to let that go would have overwhelming implication on a range of levels, and in particular, his psychological structures and defences.
Addiction and attachment
Attachment theory also shows how abuse creates habits of addiction. People prefer to remain stuck in negative attachments to known, familiar, and therefore seemingly ‘safe’ relationships (‘attachment to the bad object’ – Fairbairn) while struggling with internalised self-attacking voices of shame and lack of self-esteem. In such circumstances, self-hatred is often prevalent, and to soothe the anxiety-ridden emotions, self-soothing and comfort is sought through addictive behaviours – such as sex, alcohol, eating disorders and binge TV watching – or whatever other addictive behaviours.
A difficulty with entrenched attachment patterns is the strong resistance to change and difficulties in letting go. This is especially true in treating addiction.
People with traumatic backgrounds, such as that experienced by SR, often find it difficult to control their addictive tendencies and dependency behaviours. Their adaptive child within need constant stimulation to keep at bay their overwhelming experiences of pain and anxiety (some of which may not be fully conscious). In this case, he may unconsciously justify and believe that his shocking behaviour is in the service of helping people develop pure perception. This in no way excuses the pain that he has possibly inflicted on others, but it might help in our understanding of why this might come about. Simply speaking, it is possible that SR is acting out his own pain, pain which he has never learned to process in a healthy way.
In addition to the genuine aspects of SR’s gifts (he has shared with many students his ability to transmit the experience of the nature of mind), I feel that his psychological aspects are very much disintegrated. We could say, in light of the recent allegations, that he displays an alarming number of conditions diagnosed within psychiatry, which in contemporary psychotherapy would be subsumed under the more compassionate ‘label’ of ‘complex trauma’.
Many have mentioned that SR appears to have what in the mental health world might be termed a ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ (determined by an excessive concern with power and a desire to be in complete control, to defend against helplessness). He could also be perceived to have ‘psychopathic’ tendencies since he appears to have no real capacity to reflect on the traumas he inflicts on others, nor to genuinely feel compunction for what he is done. He could also be seen to fit the ‘old’ label which used to be termed ‘borderline personality disorder’ which ranges from emotional dysregulation and constant triggering, to being on the borders/ edges of psychosis. Chogyam Trungpa spoke of realisation as being like licking honey off the edge of a razor blade – i.e., this is the ‘border’ where we can go ‘either way’ into wisdom or madness.
Part two of this exploration will be posted tomorrow.
Again, please note that this is not a diagnosis, just a sharing of a modern psychological perspective.
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106 Replies to “Crazy Wisdom or Mental Imbalance? A psychological perspective: Part 1”
You write that “people re-enact their childhood attachment patterns, whether these patterns are ‘insecure, anxious, avoidant or disorganised and chaotic’ ( the four basic attachment patterns).”
However, other resources on this topic say the four attachment patterns are
anxious-avoidant attachment, and
When you wrote “insecure” perhaps that was a typo?
There is also, importantly I think, a functional attachment style – think it’s secure attachment?
You mention “healthy attachment” in your second para, but in the initial one, i just think by only mentioning the dysfunctional attachments, it could be a little misleading for the uninitiated.
Wow. Thanks for opening my eyes. I hadn’t realised how neurotic Sogyal Rinpoche was so far and how much he was suffering inside. This is terrific! I really don’t wish that to anyone. May I take upon myself all of his suffering, traumas and bad karma so that he may find true healing and never harm anybody again!
Such a funny thing, when psychiatrist (or psychoanalytics) look at the world. They explain everything so logically in their system, but could explain the opposite as eloquently with the same theories.
What do you really know about SR life?
Read the letter written by the 8 students who worked closely with him. It makes his lifestyle very clear. https://www.lionsroar.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Letter-to-Sogyal-Lakar-14-06-2017-.pdf
I found this very interesting and plenty to consider here in our own psychological makeups as well as giving insight into Sogyal’s.
One thing that does puzzle me though is how someone with so many mental and emotional afflictions could be seen to be able to to successfully realise and transmit the nature of mind.
Looking forward to reading part 2.
@Adrian C. – Robert Thurman addresses this exact point in a recent podcast.
“Using the Zen Chan metaphor of the “Demon Ghost Cave” of a misunderstood enlightening experience, in which individuals—who absolutize a personal moment of emptiness (shūnyatā) as a state of disappearance—can become entrapped, by failing to understand that the voidness is void of itself, and so only guarantees the absolute relativity of themselves and all things, Professor Thurman explains how the Buddhist Centrist scientific philosophy can free the essentially psychotic, unenlightened person from suffering and the mental, verbal, and physical misbehavior that makes it worse.”
Thurman is talking about the clear light of mind which realises nirvana, and which Longchenpa clearly distinguishes from the absolute.
Bob makes exactly the mistake he warns against in taking the infinite as an object, bandying about concepts like voidness, nothingness, disappearance, etc. which allow him to assert infinite relativity (which is a veiled form of nihilism), when in fact nothing of the sort appears to experience and which has no connection whatever to the transmission of the nature of mind.
In charging at windmills in this way, Thurman misses the real issue here, which in Dzogchen teachings is called ‘integration’.
It is very easy to conceptualise a view of mind as an object from an imagined position outside of mind itself, but what is thereby overlooked is that a position outside mind can have no perception nor any claim to knowledge whatsoever – that is why the third noble truth is about cessation.
As such, the decision to take on students is a compromise – it is said that the Buddha despaired at the idea of trying to transmit this idea – and so the karmic debts will accrue. Sogyal is clearly not mature enough to take that upon himself without seeking some kind of recompense, and neither is he really prepared to persevere with his students in working through their own karma.
It makes me wonder if he received similar impatience at the hands of his own teacher. I know for sure that if Sogyal was a student of mine I would be sorely tempted to beat the absolute living crap out of him.
Good point – about the conceptualisation, that is.
Plus, of course, who is to say, that the nature of mind was actually transmitted?
Was it ‘checked’, in the accepted traditional way of doing so?
Is this guy transmitting the nature of mind? Or it some other psychological process happening?
I realize that just asking that question even, will make people uncomfortable.
But it has to be asked…
I agree that people should ask this question and be aware of how easy it is to interpret a hypnotic trance state engendered by looking into someone’s eyes (definitely a factor) as ‘the real thing’, but the answer as to whether someone received an introduction or not is always going to be different for different people because we come to the dharma with very different propesities. Even if he had no realisation himself, if the story of the dog’s tooth has any truth (which he loved to tell – perhaps in his defence), then someone with devotion supposedly could still have recognised the nature of their mind in his presence even if all he was actually transmitting was a trance state. Maybe. And then you have the power of suggestion and shared belief coming into play as well. The natural state is in us, after all. We don’t need a lama to give it to us. I do feel that Sogyal’s devotion to his masters brought out the best in him. Perhaps he ‘channeled’ their realisation in some way.
Either way, I think it’s good to examine what we think we realised, and I find the Mahamudra examinations of the mind very helpful in that respect. I also found it important and very helpful, in light of the revelations about S, to drop my belief about and investment in what I may or may not have experience in his presence and allow the possiblity that I got it all completely wrong. After all, for so long as we cling to any belief about anything, we’re not truly seeing the natural state.
Thank you for your comment.
I feel like you, that beside the things we have expored here, he was really passionate about the Dharma, his masters, and his mission to bring the Dharma in the West. And that to my opinion contributed to his stress, esp. when he probably felt, that he did not quite meet the requirements from his personality – beside the gifts that he undoubtedly had. I remember that in one teaching sesson O.T. monitored him to relax more, take care of his health and also nutrition, exercise, etc. and then live longer and therefore have more time for bringing the Dharma to the west.
Excellent, I think this clip says it all…..a clever charlatan who does nothing but stare and a credulous, desperate audience that’s convinced he can perform miracles. This guy has taken it even further than Sogyal.
History is chock full of these phenomena, but it makes people very uncomfortable when it’s suggested that they might be victims of a fraud and their own need to believe and auto-suggestion.
I read an account of a guy who attended one of Hitler’s rallies out of curiosity, he hated Hitler and thought his ideas were ridiculous, but at the end he found himself on his feet applauding with everyone else, then he suddenly realized what he was doing and was quite confused and shocked. He later said: “To this day I still don’t know what happened to me.”
Strange things happen to humans in large groups…….
“Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur”, (“The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived.”)
Yes, it’s one of the most interesting articles to date, and your question is probably the most important too because it highlights the pivotal problem for people who believe that the nature of mind exists as something, an essence that can not only be experienced in its totality but also transmitted from one mind to another.
I’ve got my own opinion about this but I’m interested to hear how Tibetan Buddhist practitioners respond to it and how they solve the many logical inconsistencies it presents.
@ Adrian.C and Pete Cowell
According to modern science (Dr. Joe Dispenza et. al.) there are infinite potentials in the quantum field that one can tune in or download. And mind is empty in that sence that it becomes, whatever it choses to download or tune in at any given moment.
(S.R. compared mind in his teachings with a crystal, which assumes the colour of whatever you lay underneath. It’s the same thing.)
And you download whatever you direct you attention to. So if in one moment you focus on thought and emotions of sex p.e. then that’s what you are downloading and reinforcing. And if at another point of time you focus on the teachings, on compassion or tune in to the Nature of Mind, then that’s what you download and reinforce and what your reality in that moment is. And S.R. has in fact been trained by his masters to recognize and tune into the Nature of Mind and also practiced it, and therefore he is principally able to teach this to others.
Then when you download one potential again and again this downloading of thoughts of the same kind becomes like a software-programm (a habit). “Nerve cells that fire together, wire together.” (Dr. Joe Dispenza) And finally the links between those nervecells become more permanently established through the s.c. “neurogrowthfactors”.
Dr. Joe Dispenza explains this in a humerous way in his TED-talk and of cause in his books much better than I can.
So the problem is that there can be different competing thoughtpatterns side by side in the brain, if one downloaded those incompetible potentials equally often, but this situation is quite unstable and stressful, and leads to the experience of cognitive dissonance. (In a brain-scan one can see this as “diffused focus”.) This also happens when you learn two different languages at the same time or practice meditations from two different systems that you cannot integrate.
This is how I understand the inconsistancies.
I hope all this is halfway clear, what I wanted to say. Otherwise I want to apologize for any confusion that might accur through this.
@Lola Do you think the nature of mind can be classified as a thought or an emotion or a state of mind?
Yes I think, the experience of it is a state of mind, where you connect to the Quantum Field. (It also shows in the brain-scans, when people are in that connection.) Joe Dispenza calls it “the natural state of mind” when you go beyond yourself. And also Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said something like, that, when it is natural it’s the nature of mind, if it’s fabricated or contrived, it’s not.
What’s a quantum field ?
Thanks Lola, but not being a physicist, I’m afraid I don’t understand quantum physics and I can’t really understand what you’re saying either, but I’ll certainly check out the TED lecture you mention.
I don’t think you really address Adrian’s question about how someone with such an obviously dysfunctional personality and mental health problems could understand or transmit anything profound.
If Tibetan Buddhist practice is intended to benefit, then we have to ask why someone who spent his formative years like Sogyal, supposedly receiving teachings from an early age ( I’ve heard another version but let’s not get into that now) feels he is qualified to help others, but seems to be completely incapable and uninterested in helping himself, and lacks control of his sexual and violent impulses in a way that you’d only expect from a very mentally ill individual.
However, if you do accept that he understands and can transmit the ‘nature of mind’ but that it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever to his personality or behaviour, then it poses the obvious question: what exactly is the point of it in the first place?
It is not my conviction that it doesn’t matter how much someone integrated spiritual experiences and becomes an expression of what he teaches. I think that it is important to finally become what you teach. That’s called cohearence, different parts of the brain communicating with each other. And that’s also the meaning of becoming whole.
However I think that becoming whole is a process, and the brain has different parts, that to a different degree communicate with each other in harmony or not, just as a group of people does. So it is very well possible that one person is a genious in one field and a complete imbecile in others. The split can even go as far as having a “multiple personality disorder”.
Maybe it helps to see the mind not as a monolithic entity but more as a radio station that can download different programs on different frequencies. And maybe it is like that, that S.R. in those moments when he teaches is in fact able to at least partly “get out of the way” and transmit the realisations he receives or “downloads” from a greater intelligence.
Then these realisations don’t come from him, but rather through him.
It all depends on wether you believe, that we are the origin or the creator of of our insights and realisations or the recipients and vessels.
But I think the discussion on that topic would go very deep and take a long time. So I just did the best I could to explain my view, and I hope it is understandable.
Interestingly Dr Joe Dispenza isn’t a physicist either…..he’s a chiropractor.
Seems like a New Age/ motivational speaker / guru/holistic / natural medecine / self-healing advocate who claims to have cured himself following a severe spinal accident and believes people can heal their terminal illnesses themselves, he uses the intersection of ancient wisdom and science and …. he is driven by the conviction that each of us has the potential for greatness…..etc.,..
Here’s a link, decide for yourself: http://www.drjoedispenza.com/index.php?page_id=about
I am not a friend of bestowing any kind of labels and superficial judgements on other people, be it “New age”, “Guru” or whatever, because that kills any kind of discussion.
However I understand the point of Catlover, that you explicitly asked for a buddhist answer, so I apologize.
In my opinion, using New Age examples and teachers to explain Buddhist philosophy is rather pointless in this discussion, if this is a discussion about Buddhism and Buddhist teachers. While some elements of Buddhism are incorporated into New Age, (because New Age borrows from pretty much everything), their explanations are too mishmashed with other spiritual traditions to be reliable when one is looking for a purely “Buddhist” explanation. So, if someone asks a Buddhist question, then you really need to provide a Buddhist answer from a reputable Buddhist teacher. Other teachings may (or may NOT be) correct or reliable, (according to a Buddhist viewpoint), and may mislead someone into thinking they are receiving a Buddhist teaching when it is really only a partial Buddhist teaching, mixed up with invented stuff, a bit of pseudo-science, and a sprinkling of who knows what else. If people want to follow New Age teachers, that’s fine in of itself. I am not disparaging New Age spirituality. BUT but please don’t use New Age teachers to answer Buddhist questions, especially on topics, such as emptiness, which really should be answered with Buddhist teachings. Thanks.
You asked about gurus being able to transmit to their students through mind to mind transmission. I would suggest looking to traditional Tantric or Dzogchen sources for the answer because I am not sure what else would explain it. On a more mundane level, I think it has to do with mental telepathy, as well as simply being in a very strong presence. Real science has done very limited research into this subject. I am not sure how it works, Pete.
Supposedly, when a guru is enlightened enough, just being in their presence can transmit their realizations to the student. How often that really happens and how much is just in the student’s imagination, I don’t know. If the teacher is not enlightened, then I don’t see how he could transmit anything meaningful, although since we all are supposed to have that mind essence, I suppose anyone could tap into it. Of course, since everyone has it, then the question that begs to be asked is, why we would need some teacher to do it for us? Also, if a teacher is realized, then why would the teacher act neurotic and be so out of control? If a teacher is in such a sorry state, then what is the point of his realizations in the first place? You have a good point there.
It seems to me that someone can have true meditative experience in certain situations, like on the cushion or when on a teaching throne with a heart full of devotion and tasked with transmitting teachings you value, and the same person can be completely cut off from that realisation at other times. When anyone is in the nature of mind, even for a moment, there is a tangible presence there and that naturally transmits to others, just as a smile engenders more smiles. S often said that his students, through their devotion, brought out the best in him, and I don’t doubt that that’s true while he was teaching, but it seems that he couldn’t maintain that realisation out of the formal situation.
Look at ourselves. Do we carry the spacious compassionate mind we experience in our meditation out into our life all the time? I try and mostly fail, but I’m not deluded into thinking that I’m beyond the need to try. Perhaps that’s the only difference.
Good points, Catlover. Also, in terms of the discussion on identifying the nature of mind, I think it’s helpful to look into the tantric literature about this because there is a lot there. For example, we can talk about the “clear light” of the Gelugpa etc.
However, I think the important thing that’s being missed is that identifying the nature of mind has to be done in the context of a legitimate guru-disciple relationship. And such relationships do exist! That is what is going so badly wrong here in my opinion. We now have students who are floundering because they doubt their experiences in the context of SL’s abuses– and so they should. But this is really hard.
Many of us, myself included, who attended teachings with SL, experienced very strong, spiritual phenomena. To simply discard those experiences in the light of SL’s abuses– to disparage these experiences as simply the result of naive, attachment-deprived, and stupid followers meeting a power-hungry deranged guru– is simply not correct. So it’s hard.
I for one have spent the last twenty years trying to make sense of how individuals– and I have met more than one– who have much to offer in terms of teachings and palpable mental qualities, are nonetheless flawed in unacceptable ways. It is easy to say “flawed but I love him and appreciate all he’s given me”, like the way it’s being said here, like a mantra– but I think it is not so easy to integrate into our spiritual path. I personally like to see an example of what I am trying to attain in myself– or what’s the point? I certainly don’t want to end up like some of the lamas I have had– but I also don’t want to give up the Dharma.
I think for every single one of us caught up in this, this debate is important.
I got your point, that this is a buddhist forum and that pete asked a buddhist question wanting an answer from a buddhist teacher. I respect that.
But then this applies to you as well. No need to spread in length your opinions about what you call “New age”. I thought, this is a Buddhist forum??
How would you expect me to react? If I would say anything to correct the impression you and Pete created about Joe Dispenza, you would reproach me again, that I am obsessing about a New Age Teacher in a Buddhist forum.
And on top of that 2 persons against 1 arguing from different sides in such an arrogant way is unfair and hurtful.
But let’s end the discussion here. We are all humans and make mistakes. And I appreciate yours and Pete’s comments in other parts of the forum.
That’s a very good point about New Age, especially when it invokes science. There’s always a dishonest tendency when you need to give authority to something vague and unproven, to cite something that’s not even fully understood by the people who spend their whole lives studying it.
Richard Feynman was one of the greatest physicists of his time and he said: “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”
‘Quantum’ has now become a handy buzz-word by people who don’t seem to have even a basic grasp of logic. Dr Dispenza mentioned above, lectures at ‘Quantum University’ (possibly in India) where: “We believe in the reality of the field and subspace as the optimal source of healing.” They also teach homeopathy……
I don’t really think Buddhists and Buddhists teachings are reliable either, because they’re not exactly impartial are they? Quite a lot of teachers try to hijack science to support religious dogma too, claiming ‘Buddhism is a science of the mind’ while cheerfully ignoring that science works on rather more rigorous principles than a faith-based religion that is driven by wishful thinking rather than evidence.
Buddhism isn’t rational or evidence based, it has it’s own internal logic but that’s not the same thing at all, and it’s disingenuous to pretend otherwise. Two and a half thousand years and not a single word about the brain.
I’ve yet to hear about any evidence of this elusive ‘nature of mind’ or ‘enlightenment’ actually existing and being achievable or how it could be transmitted from one brain to another.
Saying: “well it’s quantum isn’t it?” simply isn’t convincing.
I certainly don’t doubt that with sufficient expectation and prompting, we can all have unusual subjective mental experiences under certain external and internal conditions and in response to certain stimuli, but to interpret them as having such profound, life-changing, cosmic significance is pretentious and grandiose.
And interestingly, many of those who are supposed to have had the most are not exactly role models for the rest of us.
There really isn’t any way to explain away the glaring contradiction of a man who is supposed to be able to understand this absolute nature of mind and transmit it to hundreds of people simultaneously while also displaying clear signs of mental instability, violence and cruelly abusing and exploiting many of those people sexually and emotionally.
I think there are too many experts in this field, (I don’t mean you, Pete, I mean gurus), and too many beliefs. We’re probably better off simply examining our own mind with uncompromising honesty than listening to an endless array of gurus – isn’t that what the Buddha came to? That he had to actually look at his own mind and find the truth for himself? I’d never want to be a guru, and I think it’s best not to hold a single belief about anything! I no longer care if enlightenment or the nature of mind ‘exists’ or is possible, and I don’t even want to use those words if I can avoid them, so tied up with concepts they’ve become; If I can manage to be a good person, that will be enough fo me.
If only most practitioners and teachers had your sane, healthy attitude, Tibetan Buddhism and buddhists would be very different. But sadly, I think you might be in a quite small minority.
When you think about the actual structure and the way it’s practised, it’s painfully male: obsessed with status, rank, competition, accumulation, ambition and above all…..achievement.
The achievement of enlightenment is the ultimate male fantasy of power and omniscience, the ‘unobstructed knowledge of the three times’: which, given even a moment’s consideration is quite ridiculous, because it would mean that the Buddha would have known exactly where in the bushes my cat will crap next Tuesday…..no human being can do that, even my cat doesn’t know yet.
Maybe it’s because of its very male nature that many aspects of Tibetan Buddhist practice resemble the repetitive compulsion of OCD and the dissociation and indifference exhibited by some practitioners is almost autistic.
Religion, capitalism, militarism…..basically boy’s stuff…..on a lighter note, that’s why I think our species is doomed.
“When you think about the actual structure and the way it’s practised, it’s painfully male: obsessed with status, rank, competition, accumulation, ambition and above all…..achievement.”
What I observed is as far: In TB-groups with mainly female members seems the same pattern to rule: rank, competiton, ambition, intrigues, need for recognition.
Its just a little more female coloured, but its the same stuff.
I wonder if people still consider women the much better part of menhood.
As soon women have same opportunities, same “male” behaviour follows.
Time to say goodbye to such stereotype thinking.
Sorry to be so straight.
No need to apologise….;’straight’ is fine, essential in fact.
You really don’t think TB is overwhelmingly a male-dominated business?
The hierarchical structure of TB is completely male, and the practices, which are in some ways introverted, accumulative, and obsessive-compulsive, appear to me to be somewhere on the spectrum of autism, which is more prevalent in males than females.
How many female Tibetan Teachers are there compared to male ? I know they exist but I never met any.
Historically Buddhism is very male, the Buddha had a wife, a child and many consorts whom he abandoned to go and live in the woods with a group of ascetic celibate men….. what was his problem ? Maybe he was gay or bi-sexual but didn’t have the courage to accept it.
The Tibetan word for woman means literally ‘inferior birth’…..you could dismiss this as cultural but Buddhism is purely a cultural product, so it’s attitudes are condtioned and almost impossible to change…..as we’re currently seeing.
Anyway, maybe it’s my personal bias, but unlike the Buddha I prefer the company of women because I think they’re nicer, more subtle and generally less competitive, agressive and none I’ve ever met are as mind-numbingly indifferent and self-absorbed as a lot of men are….. because I’ve yet to encounter a woman who will drone on endlessly about their pet subject without checking if you’re even vaguely interested. ( Let’s face it: a lot of traditional teachings are basically that.)
Women tend to cooperate where men conflict and seek domination, have conversations rather than deliver pompous monologues and more importantly, they’re much less prone to be violent and abusive. They may join religions and cults but they don’t start them or control them and they’re much more likely to be victims.
Yes, these are generalisations, to which there will be exceptions, but history is on my side here, because which gender is responsible for the endless violence, the wars, genocide, rape, torture and sheer inhumanity that is still plaguing the world ?
That’s not just ‘hippie stuff’ or stereotyped thinking is it ?
It’s true that Buddhism uses science to promote itself as well, I agree. But my point was that this is a Buddhist dialogue forum, so I just felt that a Buddhist explanation of mind to mind transmission would be more appropriate, rather than some New Age teacher, which isn’t really relevant to a Buddhist discussion, imo. Whether one finds Buddhism itself reliable is another matter altogether.
Yes, I agree that the mind to mind thing has to be handled in the context of a (proper) guru-disciple relationship. Good luck finding the right relationship though, lol! Some teachers who are better then most are mostly inaccessible to the common masses, and they aren’t able to take on personal students, (ie; the Dalai Lama). Teachers who make themselves readily available are less likely to have much quality or substance, so I am not even interested in those teachers. You bring up a valid point about spiritual experiences. This is one reason I haven’t been able to totally let go of Tibetan Buddhism because I know that my experiences were something real and tangible. I can’t explain them, but I know they weren’t just all in my head. Something real was happening, and I can’t simply can’t ignore that. But I sure don’t want to end up like some lama nut cases, as you say, lol! 😀
“Teachers who make themselves readily available are less likely to have much quality or substance.” I heard that Dilgo Khyense Rinpoche saw a steady stream of visitors from early morning till late in the day, that he made himself available to anyone who wanted to see him, and yet I haven’t heard anyone say that he had little quality or substance, so don’t let that idea stop you from seeing quality or substance in someone who actually has it just because they make time for people. Genuine humility might be a good quality to look out for these days.
“There really isn’t any way to explain away the glaring contradiction of a man who is supposed to be able to understand this absolute nature of mind and transmit it to hundreds of people simultaneously while also displaying clear signs of mental instability, violence and cruelly abusing and exploiting many of those people sexually and emotionally.”
It certainly is a glaring contradiction, lol! But it’s also hard to explain how someone like Hitler could hypnotize a crowd either. I’m not comparing Sogyal to Hitler, but I am saying there are some pretty strange people who have the ability to put many people into a trance, all the way up to some like Hitler. They don’t necessarily have to be *good* people to have that kind of effect on others.
Having seen Sogyal R. myself, (only once), I can say that he is very powerful, no matter what you might think of him personally. As for showing students the nature of mind, I am not sure if they are having a genuine enlightened experience, or if it is more of a trance or hypnotic state. But he does seem to have the ability to put people into a trance and hypnotize a crowd. (I can attest to that personally.) However, I don’t believe that having such an ability has anything to do with being enlightened. Someday science (real science, not New Age science), will be able to explain this kind of thing in rational terms. There is a lot we don’t understand about the human mind and how it works. A lot of things we think of as “supernatural” are just abilities that can be cultivated by ordinary humans. One could see them as “talents” much like playing an instrument, but they aren’t mythical or supernatural. They also don’t have anything to do with how “nice” or “enlightened” a person is, or isn’t.
Apologies if i’m inserting this in an off-topic context but i just came across DKR’s response to last Saturday’s Good Weekend article and would be interested to know what others make of it. It is the second last letter in today’s Age letters, will paste in full:
“Quotes in context
The article on Sogyal Rinpoche (Good Weekend, 1/12) included three quotes from something I wrote, and concluded that I “seemed to be having a bet both ways”. I certainly was not trying to have it “both ways” and have no interest in Sogyal Rinpoche’s rise and fall, or in being “pro” or “anti” him or his victims. My sole concern in what I wrote was to correct serious misinterpretations of Vajrayana Buddhism that were being voiced at the time. The quotes in your article can only be understood within that context.
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, Paro, Bhutan”
Thanks for posting that.
I’m sure this isn’t just another disingenuous attempt at self-exoneration by DKR, because it’s not as if any tulku ever ‘misinterpreted ‘ Vajrayana for their own selfish purposes after all…nope, that could simply never happen. Only we deluded folk do that.
Obviously he’s not at all interested in the rise and fall of a lama he once sat next to and fawningly praised as “Not an ordinary man “ in front of a few hundred students: it’s not as if any of it might reflect badly on him.
And because he’s not interested we can conclude that he certainly isn’t obsessively following it online either, he probably just came across the article by accident when he was looking for a package holiday in Australia.
Anyway it’s reassuring to hear that he’s indifferent to Sogyal’s victims too. Such inspiring equanimity.
@ Pete LOL! 🙂
DKR’s long-winded article about Sogyal has actually caused MORE confusion about Vajrayana, rather than less. If he was trying to straighten out the “misinterpretations of Vajrayana” then he should have just not written anything, especially something so long. He cannot expect that people won’t quote it, or talk about it, and the longer it is, the more there is for people to misunderstand. Now where is the article he is responding to? I can’t find it on that website.
The link was posted on this & Tenpel’s blog last weekend: http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/sogyal-rinpoche-and-the-abuse-accusations-rocking-the-buddhist-world-20171115-gzm7ra.html
Again it seems Pete has ‘the view’ when he writes that the nature of mind does not exist. In the same way we might say that it is the nature of a box to be empty, and so you can put things in it… which doesn’t change the nature of the box, and equally, you can search through the whole of existence and not find this ‘nature of the box’, it can’t really be said to exist as such.
All this talk of ‘spiritual experiences’ is merely examining the contents of the box, although unlike the mind, boxes can be viewed from outside.
Thanks, I did ask how practitioners understand these contradictions, and there’s a lot to consider in the replies that everyone has posted, which are very thoughtful and honest.
As I’ve said before, I’m not a Buddhist practitioner these days, so I can understand that my views might seem a bit shocking or at the very least provocative, which isn’t my intention, but I am genuinely interested in how people who choose to remain in the Dharma (…..or even Rigpa ) react to and make sense of this situation which after all, has been ongoing for decades now.
I was part of the first wave of students who walked away well over 20 years ago when the initial revelations of abuse broke, and because my revulsion for Sogyal’s behaviour was so strong, my opinion of him reversed very quickly.
Leaving immediately appeared to be the only option on all levels: moral, emotional and intellectual, but after so many years and so much effort I didn’t fully understand what had happened and I wanted to, so I went to a few more teachings as an observer, to see what my experience would be.
It was very revealing: after years of seeing him with devotion as a teacher, I suddenly found myself confronted by an aggressive, pompous bully, entirely puffed up with his own self-importance, but in all other respects an entirely ordinary man. His words sounded hollow: rambling feel-good New Age rhetoric scattered with Buddhist terminology and empty repetitive clichés. Mushy word salad.
Not only was there no transmission of mind, there wasn’t even much transmission of intelligible thought. He came to my home in person later on and the experience was even more underwhelming, he suspected I had become disillusioned and his behaviour was just creepy and embarrassing.
So this made things easier and I turned my back on him completely without any doubt or internal conflict, but I was left, like so many people still are I suppose, with the task of interpreting my spiritual ‘experiences’ that I’d viewed as so special.
Once I started reflecting unflinchingly on those experiences, and started reading non-Buddhist literature again, something became clear: they weren’t actually either uncommon or inexplicable at all…..it was only my expectation, subjective interpretation and post hoc analysis in strictly Buddhist terms that had supplied their illusory (and very fragile) significance.
There are so many ways in which an individual can manipulate a receptive and susceptible audience and prompt them to experience altered states:
It’s not that the individual has any extraordinary power, outside the normal range of human abilities, or that they are transmitting something paranormal, but that they trigger a collective response through inducing repetitive cycles of boredom, anxiety, fear, enthusiasm and expectation, using emotional trigger-words, gestures and facial expressions.
We can see from the strange clip of ‘Braco the Gazer’ that RH posted above, that sometimes not even all that is needed, in some circumstances you just have to show up…..
A kind of combination of hypnotism and auto-suggestion. Without the enthusiastic psychological complicity of a willing audience they are powerless.
Despite what many of them so desperately want to believe, ‘Sogyal’s the Scowler’s’ power’ has only ever existed within the minds of his students and this holds true for every ‘charismatic’ religious teacher.
Even after all this time, I’m still puzzled by some people’s ability to ignore or try to explain away all these obvious contradictions, or even be relatively unconcerned by the appalling suffering Sogyal has caused, just because it would mean re-evaluating a few short-lived mental experiences.
But I suppose that even when there are so many other logical down-to-earth explanations, we have a tendancy to choose a magical one that validates our wishful thinking and doesn’t threaten our comfortable world-view.
Attractive as that may be, I think it carries a real risk in the longer term.
“it was only my expectation, subjective interpretation… that had supplied their illusory (and very fragile) significance.”
in other words, you have understood and precisely explained the concept of non-duality here – that your mental content was entirely subjective and invested with significance purely due to the context you placed it in.
……err…..ok, if you say so…..
No, seriously, joking apart, that might be the case from a Buddhist point of view, but what I understood from my own uncomplicated human view, was my own projection, the way I’d distorted the experience and loaded it up with a significance that it simply didn’t have…..which is probably what you’re saying I suppose.
Anyway, the problem was the risk that it entailed, the unrealistic assessment of a dysfunctional and dangerous manipulator.
Not just you Pete, it would seem quite common for students to cling to the objects of Tibetan Buddhism and so block any advancement by which they would then be able to make some sort evaluation of the Lama, and this seems to be a group phenomenon whereby the older more advanced students, who should know better, instead encourage the newbies to join in, so it becomes a question of fixed identity without process or progress.
It sees that very basic madhyamaka philosophy, to abandon clinging to objects (mental contents), and abandon clinging to viewpoints, is being blocked in favour of membership to a sort of ‘Lama fan club’.
@Adrian I think this sums it up very nicely: ” that very basic madhyamaka philosophy, to abandon clinging to objects (mental contents), and abandon clinging to viewpoints, is being blocked in favour of membership to a sort of ‘Lama fan club’.”
@Pete Cowell I am genuinely interested in how people who choose to remain in the Dharma (…..or even Rigpa ) react to and make sense of this situation which after all, has been ongoing for decades now.
I’ve been a student of Sogyal Rinpoche since 1984. The last teaching I attended in Seattle was in Oct. 2015, I still remain in the Dharma, feel deeply connected to Rinpoche and the rigpa and wider Sangha of Buddhist and non-Buddhist practitioners, humans and non-human beings.
I don’t see a way to make sense of the situation, but on the other hand, I’ve never made sense of the situation with Sogyal Rinpoche and the Rigpa Organization. As things collapse to some degree, it also seems a bit more clear that nothing can be separated out from anything else.
I remember a retreat in Southern California, we were all in a rickety building and an earthquake started in the middle of a teaching, Rinpoche snapped his fingers and we all sat, completely calm during the shaking. I’m not saying this means anything or makes any sense, just that it happened.
As I’m sitting writing this post, the shadows of the trees are playing against the windows, the sound of birds calling from a distance, the blue sky goes on forever. I don’t know how to choose to either remain or separate myself from something.
I’m most interested in “making kin” (as D. Haraway says) in this messy, tangled web of those interested in opening up to our situation as fully as possible and perhaps coming together in ways we never dreamed possible. This may never happen, or may happen in unexpected ways and times.
“How not to search that space where, for a time span lasting from dusk to dawn, two beings have no other reason to exist than to expose themselves totally to each other- totally, integrally, absolutely- so that their common solitude may appear not in front of their own eyes but in front of ours, yes, how not to look there and how not to rediscover “the negative community, the community of those who have no community”?”
― Maurice Blanchot, Unavowable Community
Well, I never said that Sogyal gave me any special “spiritual experiences” (which I did have at other times, not with Sogyal) but I did feel that he had the ability to put people into a kind of trance, and I really had to fight to keep from falling under his “spell” myself. He had an effect on me, despite that fact that I had absolutely NO interest in him as a teacher whatsoever. I even knew about his bad reputation beforehand, even back then, and I only went to the event out of curiosity. It was mostly because I heard he was the reincarnation of the 5th/6th Dalai Lama’s regent. Actually, if he is the regent’s reincarnation, his personality fits perfectly. The regent was known for his flagrant, promiscuous sexual behavior, and was thought to be partially responsible for influencing the young 6th Dalai Lama’s behavior. 😀
is it possible that this kind of trance inducing phenomenon is actually due to the energy of the group as a whole rather than emanating solely from the Lama?
I’d agree with you there. I can’t recall who said it but it’s relevant: “When people go mad they do so in herds, when they come to their senses, if they ever do, it’s one by one and very slowly.”
@Adrian. Yes, it is a factor. The power of shared belief to create shared experiences.
You obviously had a bad feeling about him, ( which means you’re smarter than I was to start with.) I knew others who had the same initial reaction….and interestingly they were all women.
I had a VERY bad feeling about Sogyal! Actually, it doesn’t surprise me that most of the people who had a bad feeling were women. Since he preys on women, I guess some women can pick that up on an instinctive level. Men would be less likely to pick up on that aspect of him, although I guess some might.
I wanted to make a comment about the 6th Dalai Lama, as a follow up to my last post. For one thing, judging by his poems, he kept his vows when he was a monk and gave back the robes before taking consorts. That is the proper way to do it, so if that is true, then he did nothing wrong. Yet he gets criticized for that. (That is ironic because most monks take consorts in secret and then they lie and say they are celibate monks. The 6th was open and honest about it, without breaking vows.) Also, he was a serious tantric practitioner, who hung out with the common people, and had no interest in politics or power games. (The regent was very much involved with the politics.) The 6th wanted to marry this aristocratic lady (who was his main love, and she may have been the regent’s daughter), but she was married off to the ruler of a neighboring country. I think most of his songs/poems were dedicated to her, not hundreds of women. There were some others he wrote about, but I think most of his songs were about the same woman. He may not have been quite the wild playboy that he is painted up to be. I think his reputation may have been exaggerated by political players who wanted to see him ousted, and they deliberately spread exaggerated rumors to sully his reputation. I don’t mean to get off topic, but I feel the 6th DL’s reputation as a womanizing playboy is perhaps a bit unfair. I don’t really know, but I suspect.
When considering theories of narcissistic behaviour it should not be forgotten that relationship patterns are created by mutual effects, interdependence and dynamics. Without enablers, codependents, supporters and “addicts” no such harmful or even “self-destructive” relationship –
for both sides – would ever be possible.
The analytic view might have some grains of truth, but one of the most important factors has been forgotten: the partner(s) of such events who made it (adoration, blind faith, proactive submission, bullying, domination, subjugation, abuse, etc.) possible. It takes “two” to make it happen.
Sorry for having to say that.
And when I write “addicts” you can use your imagination and think of all kinds of addictions. One of them could be an addiction to “love”. A mutilated form of love that both – the adored person and the admirer – are addicted to, due to a lack of “true” love, maybe. Because what is true love anyway and where can you find it?
I agree, which is why the letter was written. Once you realize you’ve been complicit in a sick relationship it’s incumbent upon you to warn others. We all come to the path with our own baggage, if we hadn’t gone along with sl’s increasingly insane demands he never could have injured so many people (including himself).
Spiritual bypassing, and a sincere desire to overcome our own attachments, created a perfect petri dish within which his delusion went unchecked for 40 years.
I honestly believed that there was merit in ignoring my own need for safety and offering my well being for the sake of others. There are too many dysfunctional complexes that, that covers to list.
I get it, we were all enablers, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need help and doesn’t absolve him of responsibility for his actions.
Yes, the system “Rigpa” has been dysfunctional and the many merits and accomplisments have been achieved while some people had to pay a bitter painful devastating price. To ignore the abuse of other members clearly shows the sickness of the system… which still continues.
The “help” for him could have been more resistance and solidarity from co-members, but instead he has been surrounded by many people willingly obeying to commands and submissing to the hirarchy. And others who did not see nor understand what was going on. Like me. And this still goes on. No, I do not think of “absolution” – because that’s not possible. The damage can’t be “turned back”, we have to live with it. Obviously only the “perpetrator” is not able to live with the harmful truth. He might be too “weak” and needs to be protected from the blank terror of his own deeds. Who still can follow the meaning of my words here will probably notice, how twisted and sick this sounds.
It could be a fair “punishment” for him to become aware of all this and let it sink into conscience. To acknowledge “responsibility for his actions” would be possible – for a person who is not severely mentally ill. I am not sure about that. But I hope for the best, against all odds. Wish you well.
I think that might be looked at in part 2 of this article.
Ah I see. Very interesting.
I just posted part 2 and realised that it’s not in that post. At some point, though, I do intend to look at the culture in Rigpa and how it enabled the abuse.
@gendunblog: how fair is it to regard students as enablers? The TB path of Vajrayana is pivoted on guru devotion and the bond of samaya with one’s guru. Obviously the way the samaya bond is interpreted has been one of the major debate points of the Sogyal controversy.
Some students have broken away but by all accounts the problems and the enabling of the inner circle persist. All of that has been acknowledged but can you really blame past students for dutifully adhering to the requirements of guru devotion until it became too much to bear/bare?
The problem seems to be that you are talking about “blaming” students. I don’t do that. Therefore I could not reply to your question even if I wanted to.
@gendun blog: I marvel at your arrogance.
@matilda I don’t think he is blaming the victims. It seems to me that he’s talking about how the culture of Rigpa enabled the abuse, not caused it, so there’s no blaming. The cutlure is what stopped, and still stops, people from realising they were being abused. It’s what made people not help the victims but rather turn away after delivering platitudes like ‘You don’t have enough pure perception,’ and so on. It’s why people could look at him hitting people and not see it as abuse, and it’s why it’s so hard for someone who has experienced or witnessed the abuse to actually call it abuse now. For so long they believed it was acceptable. That’s not blaming, that’s just seeing how the culture supported the abuse. Nothing happens in a vacum. So the culture and the dynamics of S’s relationship with his students are not causes, but they are conditions.
Yes, I will stand to my convictions, opinions and values – even if some people don’t like that, even if anyone labels it “arrogant” or whatever. I will try to stand my ground despite of it and avoid wasting time and energy with useless, senseless bickering.
that last comment was a reply to @mathilda
And – before you call this victim blaming – please note that I will never ecxuse any form of sexual abuse done to people in an inferior position (like it is given in a teacher-student-relation) due to imbalance of power.
But before getting carried away by the impulse of misinterpreting as victim-blaming – please think about who contributed to an “imbalance of power” all the way, for a long time.
Who made that one person that “big”, that powerful and even bigger than life?
It must have been us, all the supporters, silent bystanders and followers (Mitläufer in german)… or who was it?
That does not mean that I would not want an abuser to apologize, change his behaviour or be stopped by all means. Yes, an abuser has to be stopped!
But please not wait until all damage has been done!
Although, again, better late than never.
And I want to add: insight or remorse can not be expected from people who followed a kind of doctrine for decades. It might take a long time, before anyone could recognise their denial.
Seing their leader now unmasked and punished could make him even more a hero for them.
Again, that said, does not mean that I endorse that denial. But I have to expect it.
wow, I see that my comment was finally published,..
edit: what I meant was “Obviously only the “perpetrator” and some of his most loyal supporters are not able to live with the painful truth (not harmful)
By the way, yesterday I published this, just in case you are interested:
I understand what you’re saying, but the problem with mentioning complicity is that unless you qualify that statement very thoroughly indeed, you’ll be accused of victim blaming, which I’m sure isn’t your intention at all.
Time and context are crucial here.
Firstly, most situations of abuse involve no complicity on the part of the victim whatsoever. There are so many instances where the victim is so powerless that complicity is a rare exception.
Complicity suggests choice and this simply doesn’t exist where there are significant inequalities in de facto power such as age, mental or emotional capacity, physical strength, coercive psychology, even societal and economic pressure….the list is very long and complex indeed.
Even in the case of Sogyal and his students the variables should make us very wary indeed about talking of complicity in the past tense:
How much information was available? How much close contact was there? What was witnessed? Was there a predisposing history of previous abuse? Was there mental or emotional instability? Was there any experiential template for what was encountered? To what degree were concerns deliberately allayed by other students or group pressure? How much manipulation occurred? Again, it’s a long list.
The process of slipping into an abusive relationship is often long and subtle, abusers like Sogyal are very skilled at choosing and manipulating their victims and concealing the abuse from others. Some people don’t immediately realise what’s really going on and when finally they do, the situation is not always easy to just walk away from. Even afterwards recovery and clarity is often a long process. This can apply to both victims and witnesses.
Let’s not forget that the entire institution of Tibetan Buddhism right up to all the lineage heads and the DaIai Lama were firmly behind him until just a few months ago……and many of them still are.
Only if and when a student clearly understands that abuse is taking place but doesn’t care because it doesn’t affect them, can it be called complicity, and even then in a Tibetan Buddhist context they may be still trapped by fear and superstition compounded by threats from what they consider to be unquestionable authority.
Nobody becomes a Tibetan Buddhist thinking: “Oh, it’s a bit abusive but I’m ok with that.” They can’t be blamed for not knowing beforehand how much abuse and the institutional techniques for defending it are woven into the tradition itself, because Buddhism has up until recently benefited from a very good public image.
Of course, there always have been a few and there are certainly by now, a lot more students who are very complicit indeed; basically the longer they’ve been there and the more they’ve seen and experienced, the more complicit and even ruthlessly self-interested they are.
Sogyal is a serial abuser and has been for a very long time, he knew exactly what he was doing and most lamas knew too, so the overwhelming burden of responsibility is his and theirs.
Compared to which, the previous naivety, ignorance and wishful thinking of the majority of students who fall into the categories above is almost so negligible as to not be worth mentioning.
That being said, times have changed and the days of being uninformed or pretending to be, are now over and so there’s really no excuse any more.
From here on, calling those who freely choose to remain his students ‘complicit’ is a sort of polite understatement.
Why the heck would anybody want to accuse somebody else – let it be me – of victim blaming while knowing exactly that this is not true??!! Very stupid to say the least… Please look somewhere else for a scapegoat. I will not swallow that shit.
Victim-blaming? people-bashing ? guilt-and-shame-game ? Yes, please give it to me. I will take it all upon me, I will carry the responsibility and the heavy burden for you – if it makes anyone feel better about themselves 🙂
I started out by saying that because I thought that you hadn’t qualified comment sufficiently you might be accused of victim blaming and I added that I didn’t think that was your intention at all…..so why the exaggerated reaction?
Before becoming so melodramatic and casting yourself as a ‘scapegoat’, ( I can’t figure that out at all…..) perhaps it might be an idea for you to re-read what you wrote and then re-read my reply carefully because you appear to have largely ignored some of the content.
This is what you wrote:
“When considering theories of narcissistic behaviour it should not be forgotten that relationship patterns are created by mutual effects, interdependence and dynamics. Without enablers, codependents, supporters and “addicts” no such harmful or even “self-destructive” relationship –
for both sides – would ever be possible.”
I thought that statement was wrong and this is a part of my rebuttal:
“Most situations of abuse involve no complicity on the part of the victim whatsoever. There are so many instances where the victim is so powerless that complicity is a rare exception.”
“Complicity suggests choice and this simply doesn’t exist where there are significant inequalities in de facto power such as age, mental or emotional capacity, physical strength, coercive psychology, even societal and economic pressure….the list is very long and complex indeed.”
So, I pointed out just a few of the many potential circumstances that prove why, contrary to your assertion, abuse is entirely possible in the complete absence of ‘enablers’, ‘supporters’, ‘co-dependents’ and so on.
Most of the time victims are just victims. Also ‘enabling’ is actively making abuse possible whereas ‘supporting’ an abuser can be a passive indifference, not necessarily the same thing. And both can be different from co-dependence. Addiction is also a another very complex issue that can exist separately from abuse. Haphazardly lumping them all together is simplistic and misleading.
Whether it offends you or not, I see nothing shocking in my disagreeing with you because I think your comment was wrong and not properly thought out and I would expect anyone to do the same if they thought my comments were too.
That’s no problem, Pete. You think that my comment or conclusion is wrong, but due to my own personal experiences (of course you cannot know them!) I am very convinced that there exists a mutual dynamic in relationships which might solidify certain “roles” of behavior in a harmful way (for example the dynamic between a person with “helper syndrome” and a person that does not act mature or needs support. But I am quite sure that I don’t have to explain that…:The more the person with helper syndrome decides for the other one, the more helpless and dependent the fosterling will become in the end, if none of them is able to adapt and embody aspects of the opposite “role”.) … I am also convinced (and know for sure) that a “victim” can regain control and power over their lives again. Of course, in order to achieve that, some drastic steps and decisions are necessary. (This is also a very complex topic and can barely be discussed in these few lines.)
But – maybe your impression is also right, based on the context or circumstances you experienced or consider – that for some “victims” (I prefer the term “targets of abuse”) there is no hope for change, no option to defend their gound and values, no possibility to stand up for themselves at all. This situation (no possibility to defend oneself) is most valid for children. They are utterly at the mercy of their grown ups. But that’s a completely different topic. Because I understand and assumed to be talking about adults. And my experiences have shown that no matter how bad and deep some trauma or violations have been, people (as adults) were able to work their way out of it. They did not have to stay “targets of abuse” forever, they became survivors instead, which – after a long time of agony – made them even stronger and quite determined not to let abusers get away with their actions.
For some folks like the Rohingya for example, the situation is also very bad, they possibly cannot fight for their rights all alone and need support, because they were robbed of their human rights and are treated like slaves. Or people in war zones. Again, very complex topics…
I did not intend to offend anybody by lumping together topics like “addiction”, but I have no problem at all to admit that I am a person prone to addiction myself. So I might know what I am talking about.
Again all this does not have to be valid for anybode else.
I am glad that you understand that my intention has never ever been to “blame a victim”. Just wanted to put that straight.
Ok, many thanks for your detailed reply, I’m much clearer about what you meant now that you’ve clarified it.
You’re right that the discussion here is mainly about adults, but without being too specific, I think quite a lot of Sogyal’s victims were adults, but not necessarily mature and their disposition or personal history made them every bit as vulnerable as children. This is what makes his behaviour all the more reprehensible. My concern was that this should be made clear.
I don’t think I’ve ever met many people who weren’t prone to addiction of one sort or another, sometimes I think it’s just another hazard of being human. Some addicts damage mainly themselves but others are more destructive to others. Sogyal is just as addicted to power, adulation, cruelty and humiliation as any addict to their drug….and arguably more destructive.
If by any chance you speak French, check out Jean-Pol Tassin, a neurologist who researches addiction.
Very clear response Pete.
There’s a group of folks who seem very keen to examine the psychology of the ones who were abused, as if stressing the vulnerabilities that people had, will help them not be vulnerable, or reduce the guilt of the abuser.
There is an educational effort required, of course, to identify and prevent such abuse in the future.
Yes, I think it’s exactly that and they seem to get upset if you point that out ……I wonder why……
@gendunblog Please contact us if your comments don’t post. Don’t assume that we’re trying to gag you. Comments should post immediately, so if they don’t it’s gone into the Spam folder – we haven’t stopped it being posted, our Spam filter has. Any comment with 2 or more links in it is seen as spam by our automatic spam filter and held aside, and I’ve noticed a couple that also weren’t posted for some unknown reason (including the one you posted about) that has nothing to do with human intervention. I try to keep an eye on the emails every day, but I don’t check Spam folders, so please use the contact form to let us know if there is a problem.
They are paving the way for his return. First sic a high powered international law firm on the 8 letter writers, while not once acknowledging that there was harm done, and make it seem like this was all a part of sl’s plan, he’s just scaling back a bit…
“Sogyal Rinpoche’s retirement and the spiritual body
Many people raised questions about Rinpoche’s retirement as spiritual director of Rigpa—what it means for us personally, as well as for Rigpa as an organisation. The following reminders about the role of the lama in Tibetan Buddhism and the role of the spiritual body may help to clarify things.
By retiring as spiritual director Sogyal Rinpoche is relinquishing overseeing the activity of Rigpa and will no longer direct Rigpa or guide its activity on a practical day-to-day level. But, he has not retired from being a spiritual teacher and guide. It is impossible for a lama to retire from being a teacher! Rinpoche has himself said, “I’ve never given up on my commitment to you. …I’ll never resign as your lama.”
Rinpoche has been planning to hand over the guidance of Rigpa to a ‘spiritual body’ for years. Many of us will recall Rinpoche talking about this. Details on the members and role of the spiritual body will be announced soon. The group will include a number of Rinpoche’s senior students, advised by eminent Nyingma lamas. ”
so disgusted, retraumatized and completely hopeless at this moment…
Don’t let them traumatize you… you know they were never going to just roll over.
Has a law firm been engaged already?
Yes, philip and patrick picked them out so you know they will be completely unbiased and have nothing but reconciliation on their minds…
HHDL says that what is rotten needs to be removed.
Have you talked with Jean-Baptiste Cesbron?
@ Not so hopeful
No need to worry, I’d be surprised if this was more than hearsay. There are several legal processes currently underway in Europe, but they’re all investigations directed at Sogyal and Rigpa.
Seriously? In the light of these and the current climate with Wienstein etc., they’d be stupid enough to risk even more publicity by taking legal action just on the basis of 8 people writing a polite, reasonable and even deferential (and private) letter asking Sogyal to stop being a violent pervert? What is this firm called? Have the 8 received notice of proceedings?
Over the past 20 years many of us have taken every opportunity to denounce him in severe terms in public forums, including the press in several countries. My wife has not only done this regularly but also spent hours speaking to, among others, the government minister responsible for the french anti-sect laws and the senior police officer who’s working with the procureur of Montpellier, and obviously this is making a formal legal deposition. More and more people are leaving Rigpa and the testimonies are constantly adding up.
Even my comments here might be construed as damaging to Sogyal’s reputation in a public arena.
But unfortunately for him, it’s all true and his appalling behaviour has been publicly known and the details freely circulated for over 2 decades, plus the witnesses to his publicly displayed violence and systematic humiliation probably run into the thousands by now.
No-one could possibly have done more damage to his reputation than he has himself.
Anyway the counterclaims and probable class action against him would be fun. I’m not an expert but as far as I know, ‘Crazy Wisdom’ is not recognized in any jurisdiction as a legitimate legal defence in cases of sexual abuse and violence.
We’re still waiting……. and indeed hoping for a letter from his lawyers…….
It’s not hearsay:(
@ Not so hopeful
Ok, well if possible, I’d be interested to know more details so we can pass them on to the lawyer who’s working for the procureur.
do you have a facebook profile that I can message?
Yes, please send a request to the page of ‘Michelle Desmoulins’ it’s the one with the head of a white dog that looks like a wolf.
“But, he has not retired from being a spiritual teacher and guide.” That bit is really quite worrying. It does indeed mean that he could plan to return to the West and teach again face to face, and carry on as before. A few videos is the first step. It defies common sense to think that he can just continue on as before but with someone else running the day to day stuff. But then all of this defies common sense! It’s probably the result of all that adoring support he’s been getting. He’s surrounded by people who think he did not wrong.
to clarify, the quote above is from a newsletter sent to the rigpa sangha today:(
Well that’s just bullshit.
It must stop.
To the letter writers: thank you. May the truth prevail.
Listen again and again to what HH the Dalai Lama said in his messages about Sogyal Lakar. He has the final say in this, and he said it loud and clear in but a few words.
You know what? I think the only reason he stepped down as director is because of his illness, not because of the scandal. He would have had to step down anyway for health reasons. I think nothing short of the police dragging him off to jail and shutting down Rigpa as an illegal cult ring will change anything. There’s no way that they will hire overseers who are any better than the people who run it now. Why be surprised? Nothing is gonna change unless the law gets involved.
Your comment is spot on…..but luckily all conditioned phenomena are impermanent….apparently.
He fled the country a few days after the letter was sent after consulting with attorneys. He knows what the letter writers have on him, they were some of his closer students for years.
Rigpa has carefully crafted this approach under the advice of experts. They are now gambling on the fact that the letter writers will be intimidated by the high profile International law firm they have hired and or don’t want to go through the trauma and farce of an incredibly expensive process probably paid for with sangha money, in which they will have to engage legal advice in order to participate.
He never would have stepped down due to illness. His involvement in running rigpa consisted of getting kindergarten level briefs, 18 pt palatino type, double spaced, colored. If it was more than one page it was unlikely he’d read it.
Then, if something caught his interest he’d call a meeting where even patrick had to say things in the most summary fashion or he’d rant about things like your pronunciation or diction, call your intelligence into question, start asking you about your sex life, basically any random thought that came to mind.
I could be wrong but I don’t think they knew about his cancer until he had a full physical after the letter was sent due to pressure from lamas who were advising him.
In terms of the article you link to, it has a good point to make, but the interesting thing about the Sogyal case, in comparison to the acusations of sexual harrasment coming out all over the media about men who may or may not be guilty, is that Sogyal hit many more people than he coerced into his bed, and hitting is clearly assault. Also hitting regularly is clearly physical abuse and would not be tolerated in any normal organisation. There is no grey area in that at all. When 8 people attest to physical abuse, particularly after previous similar allegations going back decades, it’s not the same as alleging sexual harrassment, which, as the article says is very hard to define. Sexual abuse get’s people all fired up, and it’s easy for the men involved to be treated unfairly. It’s too easy here, also, to focus on the sexual aspect and forget that the abuse was much more pervasive and widespread than just that aspect.
In Australia an actor was acused in a newspaper article and it was the first he’d heard of it. Apparently there was a complaint made against him by someone at the theatre company that he worked at, but he was not told about it. Nothing. He had no way of sorting it out before it got to the media. That is the kind of thing that is unfair and that the article refers to, (The actor is sueing the newspaper now) but here, the letter was a private letter (which someone leaked, not any of the 8) and the people involved (and many others) had spoken to him about the issue privately before but he’d done nothing. So this is not one of those situations where someone is being denounced by the media before he has had a chance to defend himself or deal with the situation privately. This blog was even private originally. The only reason we went public was because no apology came. And no concern was shown for those harmed.
@ Pete Cowell
Another example that might illustrate my point (about the mutual interdependence, the powerful dynamic and the important „role“ of the target in any relationship, but in dysfunctional relationships in particular) is the dynamic between a bully and his target, aka victim.
The more signs of intimidation, insecurity and fear the target shows, the more the bully will probably attack the person.
The less support the target gets and the more silent bystanders are watching this without intervening (which means support and acceptance for the bully as he feels assured and confirmed) the more the bully will attack the person. His attitude will get worse with time! We can watch this all around us, allover the world.
The less consense the people around him agreed upon regarding rejection and sanctioning bullying behaviour the more the bully feels „right“ and confirmed… The target will get weaker and weaker and might even show maladaptive behavior (like indirect symptoms of abuse) which leads to more abuse.
On the other hand the less impressed the target presents itself regarding the attacks and the more resistance it shows, for example by confronting the abuser with aggression itself, defending itself and fighting back or even ignoring the bully with contempt, the less the bully feels „invited“.
The more support the target gets, for example from other people confronting the bully verbally or protecting the target and the more consense about condemning bullying behavior exists, the more difficult it gets for the bully. At least he will not have the ground to follow his bad behavior, maybe he even suffers some sanctions and will learn from it.
I think that bullying is rather learned behavior than completely genetic – there might be cases where it is a rather genetic predisposition (or disease), but in most cases the bully has „learned“ the behavior from adults or caregivers. Or from peers.
In case that the aggressive bullying behavior has a genetic cause, then of course no measures could prevent it, except prison, I guess.
Again, I don’t think I have to explain it to you. It should only underpin what I said about mutual dynamics in relationships.
Sorry, I forgot to mention: of course there are many female “bullys” out there, too. It’s not limited to male persons. Of course not!
And many of those female bullies exist within the Rigpa group. They are some of the biggest enablers of Sogyal, with their pimping for lamas, etc.
What happens in this organisation could be attributed to a damaged and corrupted mind. At least that’s what it looks like to me and many others after all we’ ve heard and experienced.
So, even if supporters, enablers, followers and students may have contributed to the abuse – by their own passive or proactive behavior (mislead by doctrine or not) – this case of potential criminal acts needs to be called-out and examined.
Now if Rigpa as organisation did not act in order to solve any of the problems in favor of the targets of abuse they missed an important chance. I did not expect that turn of events.
After reading the comments here and remembering all the other events when people have been abused in this “buddhist” organisation, I would rather call it a realm of hell. What’s going on?