A small group of Australian students is attempting to get this letter, which expresses their concerns, requests, and constructive suggestions, to SL. 22 more student voices from the What Now? Facebook Group agree with the sentiments expressed in this letter.
This group of 13 Australian Dz and Ng mandala students had 2 weeks warning of the contents of the recent email from long term students on the issue of abuse in our sangha. We have met twice in this period to process our mutual pain and concerns, and to begin a dialogue on what this means for the sangha.
In the first meeting we shared feelings of shock, confusion, anger, betrayal of trust, bitter disappointment and sadness. All stated vehemently their continuing faith in the teachings, love for R, and gratitude for all he has done for us, but made a clear distinction between the teacher and the behaviour. We feel strongly that no one is above the law.
What follows are notes from the second meeting of the points that we all agreed on. As a small group, we were able to mobilise quickly, and we hope that the results of our discussion will help in the process of healing for all concerned:
Reaction to email
- No one doubted the truth of the testimonies. They recognised that these were all long term dedicated and respected students.
- There was agreement that those who wrote the email and those who support their stand should not be seen as troublemakers. We greatly appreciate that they have the courage to break the silence and feel that the sangha needs this kind of openness.
- Some feel that this is the purification we have to have, that it is a direct result of Vajrasattva practice, and that facing this and dealing with it will ultimately be beneficial for R’s health and the strength of the sangha.
Reaction to contents of the email
- All students have zero tolerance of abuse, no matter who the perpetrator is. They believe that this level of abuse simply cannot be condoned or hidden away.
- They were quite clear that damage has been done and that it must never happen again.
- After 2 weeks consideration, 4 plan to leave R, others say their decision will depend on how R and the senior students handle the situation.
- Students feel that if nothing substantial is done within R to address this issue their staying will make them complicit in the abuse (which would presumably continue), and their ethics will not allow them to stay under those circumstances.
- They agreed that this behaviour is damaging for the dharma, as well as for the students abused and for every student in the sangha.
- We feel that samaya goes both ways. We have the responsibility to help SR make a break from this negative pattern for both the sake of our samaya and his.
Feedback for national and international role holders and students close to Rinpoche.
- Our trust in those who run the organization has been shattered. It is difficult to trust anything that comes from those closest to R because they have allowed the abuse to go on, their ethical standards to be compromised, and have not given support to those who felt abused. We don’t want to see those who have been terribly hurt by SRs actions further damaged by “victim blaming”.
- We have seen, and in some cases experienced, verbal abuse by older students, and this concerns us greatly. This modelling of abusive behaviour also must stop.
- Though some aspects of communication sent out as support for this challenging time do support an open approach, the attachments some of us received are either irrelevant or sound like a public relations exercise of damage control. (One student called it ‘circling the wagons’ as if against attack.) Advice from ‘spin doctors’ is not helpful.
- We don’t want R’s behaviour explained away, we want it addressed. Teachings on Crazy Wisdom and Pure Perception do not help. We may be poor students with little capacity, but we will not compromise our ethical standards and we want an organisation that supports this.
- We want those running the organisation to listen to us, not the other way around.
- We want access to R in future. At present those around him keep him in a bubble where it is almost impossible to meet with him, ask questions or have our concerns heard.
What we want to see happen.
- We want a code of ethical behaviour drawn up that applies to everyone in R, including R, and structures put in place for any future abuses of those ethical standards to be heard and addressed. We took heart from the story of how Lama Norlha Rinpoche’s sangha handled this same situation. We feel that this is the way to move on from this situation with dignity.
- We want R to speak to us directly in a situation where any student can ask a question, but what he says must be based on his understanding that his behaviour is not acceptable in the Western world and cannot be excused with ideas of ‘seeing the master purely’ or following the crazy wisdom tradition.
- He should acknowledge that he has behaved wrongly and hurt us. We pray that he can genuinely state that he regrets this, and that he will not repeat such actions in future.
- To complete the four powers of purification, we consider that a period of personal retreat without an entourage, but with support from his peers such as Mingyur Rinpoche and professionals who can help him to manage his urges, would be beneficial for him and allow us all a fresh start on his return.
We offer our feedback along with our sincere gratitude for everything you, both R and the Senior students, have done for us over the many years of our devotion. We pray that you will hear the words of we simple and very concerned students and take the appropriate action to heal this situation with integrity for all our sakes and particularly for the sake of the future of the buddadharma in the West
Perhaps our modest contribution could help show the way.
What are your thoughts about these concerns and suggestions? Please let us know in the comments. Please use initials rather than full names when referring to teachers and organizations.
More personal and private support can be found in the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite. Include a link to your Facebook profile or the email address you use with Facebook.