Good News – An Olive Branch

A letter arrived from the Rigpa International Investigation & Reconciliation Committee to all the sangha providing details of the investigation. They have  chosen a UK law firm, Lewis Silkin, to act as a neutral, third-party investigator conducting fact-finding interviews. The letter came with two attachments, one the agreement with Lewis Silken and the other – and this is the good news – an agreement with An Olive Branch.
We are told:
“In addition, the Rigpa US Board has concurrently engaged An Olive Branch, a Zen-based reconciliation organisation, to help support the US and Rigpa Sanghas in all countries with healing and reconciliation. We consider this to be a crucially important part of the process we need to go through together as sangha. We will provide a more detailed report on the work with An Olive Branch and continue to update you in the Sangha Connection newsletter.”
This is something we asked for in this blog many times in the months immediately following the revelations of abuse, and in one post we looked at what An Olive Branch does. So, of course, we are delighted at this news, because we see in their approach and expertise in this area hope for genuine healing.
What will An Olive Branch do in this situation?

Community Reconciliation and Healing

This is an except from the An_Olive_Branch_Agreement.
“Rigpa US board and An Olive Branch will collaborate on the design of a two-day, face-to-face Community Reconciliation and Healing meeting. Members of the US sangha and leaders of Rigpa sanghas in other nations will be invited. We currently envision the following components:
Led by An Olive Branch, there will be opportunities at the meeting for attendees to:
 Hear the summarized information gathered in the Listening Post, (a way for individuals who have been harmed to tell their story to a neutral third party and to be heard in a safe, confidential manner).
 Process the events (raise additional concerns, share residual feelings, etc.)
 Learn about the new Code of Conduct and Grievance Procedure
 Receive training on sexualized spiritual relationships and misuse of power.
Led by Rigpa, there will be essential components such as:
 Spiritually-based opening and closing ceremonies
 Traditional ceremonies of reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace-making.”
An Olive Branch is a US organisation so they will be working primarly with the US sangha, but since the letter to sangha states that aim is to also help “Rigpa Sanghas in all countries”, I expect that those who go to the US for the 2 day meeting will return to their countries and repeat the process there.

Is it too late?

Is it too late to repair the damage done in the last few months? I hope not, but we shall have to wait and see. It depends on who management includes in the word ‘sangha’. For healing and reconciliation to be effective it needs to include all those who have left Rigpa because of this debacle. It may be too late for some to want to have anything to do with Rigpa in any way at all, but they need to be invited, personally, to whatever sessions are run based on advice from An Olive Branch. This is vital. Real healing cannot occur without inclusion of those who have left, especially considering that those who have been harmed are not the ones that have remained in Rigpa.

What about the investigation?

I’m not going to comment further on the letter to the sangha or provide details of the investigation in this post because the 8 students need time to look at it and make their response before the details are subjected to public scrutiny. Also there is much to consider in digesting the agreement with the law firm.
If you have access to the details privately, please do not discuss it here yet. A post on the topic of the investigation will follow in a few days.
Here, let’s just rejoice that something we asked for has finally happened, and let’s do our best to make it work for the benefit of all.

Current and previous students of Rigpa wanting private support are welcome to join the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their dharma friends can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.  
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
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33 Replies to “Good News – An Olive Branch”

  1. hmm, they are spending tens of thousands of lb, or euro or dollars…I wonder why…follow the money it will lead you right back to the people who allowed Khenpo Namdral’s ‘teachings’ from lerab ling saying that the 8 were possessed by demons to be ‘leaked’…it’s the same people who hosted OT in Paris who said that a mahasiddha like sl can even kill people and be following the dharma. Reconciliation, how about just admitting that every single thing in the letter is true, that might be a start, not siccing a high profile international law firm on the 8.
    smoke and mirrors, look beneath the surface.

    1. Where there are lawyers there is the dung of the bull – I have written to Sogyal Lakar publicly and you can read it here – I was his student for 30 years – I practice free speech and equality before the law – I will speak my mind on this topic wherever free speech proliferates – I send loving wishes to all – particularly those hurt by this sex-offender – Buddhism will flourish in the west when we all become honest and stop fearing any authority that can-t pass the test of our own autonomous evaluation and discrimination – knowwaddamean

  2. “Receive training on sexualized spiritual relationships and misuse of power.
    Led by Rigpa, there will be essential components…..”.
    “Led by Rigpa” is a bit of a worry. How can Rigpa provide training on “sexualised spiritual relationships”? Surely Rigpa leaders should be receiving that training, not providing it! Particularly the guy at the top.
    No doubt the affected people and their supporters want to keep an open mind about this opportunity for mediation and healing. But that particular aspect does send out a bit of an alarm bell.

    1. The sexualised spiritual relationships and misuse of power isn’t let by Rigpa, but by An Olive Branch. My mistake, it was bad formating that made it look that way. Take a look now.

  3. “Receive training on sexualized spiritual relationships and misuse of power. Led by……Rigpa
    This turned my stomach, it’s just sick.
    I can’t decide which is worse: the cynicism of the people behind this or the credulity and moral dishonesty of the people who refuse to see it for what it is.
    There’s so much that could be said about this ‘Good News’, but frankly if after everything that’s happened, some people are still so willfully naive as to believe that even a word of it is sincere, then perhaps it’s better to let them find out for themselves…….
    Not so much ‘What Now?’ as ‘What the Fuck?’

    1. That part of the letter is misread, and badly formatted here.
      The training on sexualized spiritual relationships and misuse of power is in under the title “Led by An Olive Branch”.
      A new section begins then,
      “Led by Rigpa: …”

  4. As necessary as a critical mind has to be kept and expressed facing this new turn of events – to me it still sounds like a potential first step into the right direction,
    But if you want to move the “action” into the direction that YOU want it to go then make sure that arrangements for these particular steps are articulated and implemented. Make your points clear and insist on them, they are prerequisite. Express your goals clearly, if possible.
    It’s probably not possible to change anything overnight and especially not a whole system.
    If you want to be the driver, then arrange the situation accordingly (for example establish your own organisation to back you up), so that you will not be “driven” somewhere you don’t want to go.
    But if it is actually a kind of mutual interaction a “dance”… a negotiation? this is something that no “outsider” could know. Only you can decide about that. Good luck!

  5. What ever the actual wording may be, the point here is that we’re dealing with Sogyal’s serial abuse, and the enabling of that abuse by Rigpa as an organization; this is criminality, and as such needs to be dealt with accordingly by the proper authorities.
    The continuing talk of ‘mediation’ ‘healing’ and ‘reconciliation’ and so on, imply that this is just a dispute that got out of hand, like a bitter argument between neighbours over a garden fence, rather than a serial perpetrator and enablers of sexual and physical abuse being brought to justice and redress being obtained for the victims.
    It’s not the same thing and pretending otherwise is a waste of time.
    Whether it’s a law firm or another Buddhist organization paid by Rigpa, neither are neutral nor do they have any authority, and the only feeble outcome will be that they can come to ‘conclusions’ and make ‘recommendations’ which is totally useless.
    What is so pernicious about it, is that if anyone co-operates, then Sogyal and Rigpa as the perpetrators retain the authority, the imbalance of power is maintained by stealth and the victim’s trauma will worsen.
    It’s so obviously a self-protecting strategy of control, mis-direction and distraction that I’m beginning to wonder about the real motivation of people who even consider it.
    If people are serious about helping themselves and others, then their testimony to the authorities in France or the UK about how they’ve been abused, mentally controlled and manipulated would be something tangible and positive.

    1. Pete I agree that the approach could be much more robust – I invite you to read my letter to Sogyal Lakar – it seems to me there is too much fear in directly addressing this phenomenon – however I am interested to hear your views on Rigpa organization-s alleged collusion with Sogyal – and review any evidence you have – I speak as a Buddhist and also a human rights and free speech activist who likes to speak his mind – If you glance at some of my other blog titles you-ll see where I am coming from –

  6. Incidentally:
    Rigpa has recently been promoting the idea that an internal inquiry or mediation by a law firm is a legal obligation, imposed on them by the Charities Commission in the UK.
    There appears to be no reference to this in the Commission’s own guidance for charities under investigation on their website, so it’s almost certainly another lie.
    I’m contacting the Commission soon to confirm this.

  7. In general, I see it as a good step forward, and I place especially my faith in An Olive Branche who hopefully cannot easily be manipulated.
    However, certain aspects of the quotes make me also a bit sceptical if Rigpa has really understood or if this is part of damage control tactics for the sake of keeping or restoring a good public face.
    For instance, this part:
    “Spiritually-based opening and closing ceremonies
    Traditional ceremonies of reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace-making.”
    How about confession and acknowledging the harm been done in the very first place? There can’t be healing or to ask the survivors of abuse for “reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace-making” as long as the harm has not been acknowledged, deeply regretted and sincerely apologised for.
    My alarm bell rings when I read this passage because it shifts the burden on the survivors to “reconcile, forgive, making peace”, while the very first step – the open, honest confession, and acknowledging of the harm been done by SL and Rigpa and sincere apologies are not mentioned.
    But maybe they see this as part of “reconciliation”?
    However, its the most important part. Its the first Noble Truth: THERE IS SUFFERING. The second Noble Truth says SUFFERING HAS CAUSES. Before there is healing from suffering and a path for healing these very two steps have to be made first.
    I truly miss these steps in the description quoted above. This makes me a bit sceptical besides the hope and trust I have in An Olive Branch.

    1. Yes, the precondition would be to acknowledge that harm has been done and severe suffering caused.
      I can only speculate about this, but maybe Rigpa “thinks” that offering the agreement with olive branch, which they assumed was a suggestion seriously desired by the eight students, would already imply the acknowledgement of pain and damage done.

      1. “maybe Rigpa ‘thinks’…”
        Let’s be frank, Rigpa leadership has demonstrated a high amount of dishonesty and manipulation if not criminal behaviour, this won’t change suddenly over night.
        Their whole phrasing and all what I read of what they have wrote so far shows no open, honest admittance of wrong doing.
        All what is said here could still spin another damage control narrative which is: Pure being Sogyal Rinpoche with the purest intention and not even a trace of a violent or greedy, self serving mind, wanted only the goodness of others. Sadly, some of them didn’t have the capacity to see and experience that he only acted for their own good. So his mistake was not to see their limited capacities (weaknesses), and so accidentally these low capacity students experienced harm. (Insuniating, the harm is their own fault because of their own weaknesses but not his – a perverse subtle way of victim blaming.) Therefore now, the great hero SL and the great organisation Rigpa, basically being innocent, out of sheer kindness and compassion offer grievance ceremonies etc to give comfort to those weak people who totally misunderstood great master Sogyal Rinpoche, to kindly help them out of their misery.
        This is the narrative I smack or feel behind Rigpa’s and SL’s writings. Maybe I am wrong. Let’s see.

        1. I don’t know what to answer. You write “All what is said here could still spin another damage control narrative which is…”
          And what you describe in the following is a (worst-case) szenario that could enroll – but does not necessarily have to.
          We know the saying “the best predictor of future behaviour is past behavior” – which is very true…
          But an intelligent person (therpeutic professional) once added:…”best predictor of future behavior is past behavior – without intervention!”
          So in case of an intervention (mediation+ legal counseling+public interest+etc.pp.) there might be a gap in which some kind of change (I can not imagine it myself at this moment, to be honest) COULD be sowed (I mean like a seed) and develop further.
          But in any case some determined position is necessary. I assume that you mean “Let’s see” probably in a general casual way.
          But nothing about this matter from now on can be viewed as “let’s hope”, “let’s see”, or even “let*s pray” (just trying to be funny a bit here).
          A very determined and clear position, attitude and mindset would be necessary (as far as I see it) to enter any discussion or negotiation whatsoever. The 8 students might probably need some competent impartial professional counseling before they decide about entering into ANY negotiation.
          I remember that on your or another website some professional “resources” were mentioned who might have the capacity.
          I would not take things lightly now.

          1. And when I said “good luck” above it could also be seen as a kind of sarcastic casual phrase. I mean “luck” is necessary, but moreover some strong professional back-up. Hope that you understand what I mean. If we or you are dealing with a case of criminal behaviour rather than a therapeutic one – then both aspects have to be dealt with. I can not decide that. Some professionals in legal area, cult, crime etc. plus mediation… might. Looks like some very hard and difficult task.

        1. I can’t speak for Jan, but I think I understand the comment. Jan is referring to the incident where Sogyal ripped someone’s ear. The comment is sarcastic. Basically, Jan is saying is that it’s not such a great deal to get an “olive branch” for a ripped ear. In other words, it’s not enough.

    2. Who dares to tell another to forgive – it is for each to decide in their own heart – who sets the agenda – who is gonna call the cops! Have Rigpa Inc gone to the old bill ~ if not why not ~ attempts to cover ones ass usually backfire badly in such circumstances!

  8. The ‘teacher’ (ha) and the organization are rotten. I stand behind HHDL. There is no fixing something so rotten with an olive branch this late in the game. If they admitted wrong, apologized and immediately gotten an Olive Branch involved then it could have played differently. At this point the law of the land needs to decide the fate of this very sick man and his cult followers. Not a buddhist place, not followers of the dharma. It’s all a load of rotting shit.

    1. Not only is the Rigpa organization a corrupt mess, but how objective can a Zen “mediation” group really be? They aren’t “neutral” at all, imo.

  9. And what can I do: I write down what I know about abuse and abusive pattern os Sogyals club and send that to Olivebranche, with my real name on it. They can asknsome more real questions to Rigpa that way.
    Whoever might consider this to be a help towards bringing light into dark corners might join in informing Olivebranche with detailed information.
    Its my Christmas gift for my former friends.

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