Have you broken Samaya? If so, what does that mean?

Sogyal Rinpoche is not well. He hasn’t been well for many years, but now it’s known that he has colon cancer, has had an operation and is facing chemotherapy. Orgyen Tobgyal, a lama who often taught at Lerab Ling recently gave a message to the Rigpa sangha asking students not to break any more samaya as it affects Sogyal Rinpoche’s health. It’s a simple statement, but it’s loaded with assumptions and ammunition for those who hold the kind of fundamentalist views that have polarised the sangha. He could have called for a healing of the rift in the sangha, something that would have a positive effect on the situation, but no, he had to call out the ‘samaya breakers’, an angle that only fosters the view point of those who blame their personal distress on those who have spoken out. Now they may blame their lama’s poor health on those who speak out – conveniently ignoring the fact that the cancer will have been there long before the end of July 2017. On top of that, he could also be seen as ‘laying a guilt trip’ on those who have spoken up and spoken out. This shows how little this lama understands the situation and the Western mind with its tendency for carrying guilt – something that is highly damaging for one’s psychological health. He seems to only be able to see the situation through the lens of Tibetan superstition. Either that or he simply lacks compassion for those who have been harmed.
For those of you who saw something helpful in Orgyen Tobgyal’s words, before you jump on the samaya breaker bandwagon and repeat the phrase like a war cry, consider that a better way of contributing to Sogyal Rinpoche’s recovery would be to heal the rift in the sangha, to reach out to those you may have maligned and offer them love and compassion instead of judgement and blame. Love and compassion sounds like dharma to me; blame doesn’t sound like dharma at all.
But rather than dwell on this man’s words, I’d like to reassure students that they have nothing to fear, that they don’t have to buy into a guilt trip.
First understand that this is just a belief system, one that you do not need to subscribe to. It is just a bunch of beliefs with no inherent reality, and you can choose to believe them or not. Even if their aim is to help you on your spiritual path, when used as a method of control (as in “shut up or go to hell”) they are not being used in a dharmic way, so have no qualms about ditching the whole lot. If beliefs have no meaning for you, then they will have no effect on you. Beliefs are only relevant to you if you believe in them. Do not confuse reality with beliefs about reality.
However, if the idea of samaya is not one you can’t or don’t want to simply discard (and I’m not saying you should, just that it is an option) then remember that samaya only applies to you if you have received empowerments from a lama, if you had a choice, and if you understood the commitment BEFORE you had the empowerment. (See Erick Pema Kunsang’s article.) For this lama, his speciality was giving the ultimate empowerment of the nature of mind, and that was often given before a student heard any mention of the concept of samaya. Also there was never any ‘if you don’t want samaya, leave now option’. If you never ‘got’ an introduction by not becoming certain of the nature of your mind, or you don’t have any idea of what samaya is all about, then you have no samaya with Sr. Many of us do, however, and many of us who maybe aren’t sure do ‘feel’ as if we have samaya, so let’s look a bit further into what this means for us.
Samaya is one of those concepts in Vajrayana Buddhism that can be quite complex and so easy to get confused about, but SR taught it quite simply. He said that in the context of Dzogchen it is simply your heart connection with your lama, and that for so long as we kept that connection pure, we were keeping our samaya. If you are a student of SR concerned about your samaya with him, I suggest that this is the meaning you should take, because this is how he would have explained it to you.
Under this interpretation, no one can say what your heart connection with your lama is, no one except you. Only you know whether or not you still appreciate what you received from him. On the matter of breaking samaya when speaking out about a lama’s unethical behaviour, His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the conference for Western Buddhist teachers in 1993 said:

“It is essential to distinguish between two things: the person and their action. We criticize the action, not the person. The person is neutral: he or she wants to be happy and overcome suffering, and once their negative action stops, they will become a friend. The troublemaker is the afflictions and actions. Speaking out against the action does not mean that we hate the person. For example, we Tibetans fight Chinese injustice, but it doesn’t mean we are against the Chinese as human beings, even those who are ruthless. In meditation, I try to develop genuine compassion for these people while still opposing their actions. Thus, we may criticize a teacher’s abusive actions or negative qualities while we respect them as a person at the same time. There are still some beneficial aspects of the guru. A mistaken action doesn’t destroy their good qualities. If you criticize in this way, there is no danger of hellish rebirth as a result. Motivation is the key: speaking out of hatred or desire for revenge is wrong. However, if we know that by not speaking out, their bad behavior will continue and will harm the Buddhadharma, and we still remain silent, that is wrong.”

That’s how you keep your samaya pure. It’s quite simple. It’s not speaking out that breaks samaya; it’s speaking out of hatred or a desire for revenge; it’s rejecting the good along with the bad. The instruction to keep samaya shouldn’t be a way to stop us speaking up about a lama’s bad behaviour, surely it’s supposed to help us to remember to value what is valuable, because that is beneficial for us. So even while we discard some aspect of the lama that is not valuable, if we still value what is valuable from our time with them, then we have not broken samaya. All it really means is that we are walking away with a balanced view, one that, surely, is healthiest for our sanity.
You can examine his lack of qualifications for teaching madyamika (which would be why he never taught it) at the same time as recognising that he did an excellent job of teaching Dzogchen, and at the very least introduce you to dharma. Separating the man’s Buddha nature from his confused nature, also helps. The benefit you received came when he was in the nature of his mind, the bad behaviour came when he was in his confused mind.  We can respect the Buddha nature in everyone, even in the perpetrators of abuse. That is the dharmic way.
What is this vajra hell we’re supposed to end up in if we break samaya, anyway? Surely it is merely the anguish of being in the mental state of hatred. Worse would be rejecting your experience of the nature of your own mind. That would probably set your spiritual path back a bit.
If you look at yourself and admit that you hate Sr through and through and can see nothing good about anything he has done at all, then you could simply drop the whole belief system, and move on with your life, unsubscribe from the belief that samaya exists or has relevance in your life. But if you keep picking at the wound over and over again, it’s not healthy for you; it simply hurts you over and over again. (This is not just dharma, it’s basic psychology.) If you can’t manage to unsubscribe completely, then remember that samaya can be repaired. Reparation does not require shutting up or apologising for speaking out, it simply requires accepting whatever benefit you got as still being valid. Perhaps you might also learn one day to see him as a victim of his own upbringing and circumstances and learn to forgive.
Though some Tibetan lamas seem to use the idea of samaya in an unhealthy way, I doubt that control was the original intention. I certainly aren’t buying into any guilt trip!
If you scholarly types are looking for references for this understanding, try putting aside what you think you know, look into your heart and ask yourself if this perspective makes sense, or if it is not in accord with what His Holiness says. Do we need a reference for everything we believe, anyway? Can we, many of us after 20 or more years in the dharma, not look at things as they are for us directly and have some trust in that?


126 Replies to “Have you broken Samaya? If so, what does that mean?”

  1. Thank you so much for these important clarifications concerning „samaya“ , which I regard as very crucial, especially in these difficult times. I would like to recommend your article to all interested in Vajrayana Buddhism, especially students of SR and people who are concerned about RIGPA. I should mention that I regard myself as a student of Sogyal Rinpoche and active member of the RIGPA sangha since 2002.
    I would like to add some few more thoughts:
    According to Rigpa Shedra Wiki (www.rigpawiki.org) „Samaya“ (tib. damtsik) is defined as:
    „dam means sublime, and tsik is a statement. Thus samaya is a statement that is true, genuine, pure, real. To apply oneself in a way that is in harmony with how the truth is, is called keeping the samaya.“
    By following the ongoing discussions within RIGPA it seems to me that an important concern for many of us students of SR is how to show thankfulness towards our teacher, especially in this difficult times. In this regard I remembered an advice given by Patrul Rinpoche in his „Words of my perfect Teacher“. In the chapter „How to follow a spiritual friend“ (page 145) we can find that the best way to please the teacher and serve him „is known as the offering of practice, and consists of putting whatever he teaches into practice with determination, disregarding all hardship“.
    To make it even clearer how the buddhist teachings, in other words that what SR so soroughly and tirelessly taught us, could be essentialised, I would like to remind us to the following „Four Reliances“:
    1. Rely on the message of the teacher, not on his personality (gang zag la mi rton/ chos la rton);
    2. Rely on the meaning, not just on the words (tshig la mi rton/ don la rton);
    3. Rely on the real meaning, not on the provisional one (drang don la mi rton/ nges don la rton);
    4. Rely on your wisdom mind, not on your ordinary, judgemental mind (rnam shes la mi rton/ ye shes la rton).
    The „Four Reliances“ are quoted here from Rigpa Shedra Wiki, where we can also find a whole commentary from Miphan Rinpoche, who explains in deteail their actual meaning.

    1. And roast in vajra hell if you don’t manage this and instead fool yourself about your supposed accomplishments and get reckless on imagined realisation.
      Wow, that’s a stupid comment….
      If it was that easy, there was no need for something like samaya, or following a teacher or practicing meditation etc. Just listen to the tacher, get liberated and that’s it, just as Garab Dorje did. If you can do that, of course be my guest and forget samaya.

      1. Solenodon, I don’t think that calling someone’s comment “stupid” is appropriate. We are talking about our spiritual and personal experiences– surely kind language is called for?
        Also, rape is defined as “nonconsensual sex.” Defining what consent means, and fighting the rape culture that exists in societies around the world, is an ongoing struggle. Many still intimidate survivors with their claims such as “she asked for it” or “she wanted it” or “why did she dress that way if she wasn’t looking for sex?” However, it is commonly believed– and laws now support this– that when the power differential is too great, then consent cannot be given. Just as minors cannot give consent, so those in relationships of unequal power cannot give consent. When a powerful lama, who claims to know the way to your liberation tells you that sex will bring the result more swiftly, then this is not a consensual situation. It is rape.

      2. Solenodon- Correct. I think Lama Worship is a grosser (lower) level of Samaya compare to taking refuge in the Nature of Mind.
        We each need to know our own capacities and what works best for us. (This is what my Root Lamas taught me.)

  2. @ Moonfire
    Thanks, this is a timely and very helpful article indeed.
    It’s encouraging to see that most people recognize that the situation is being thoroughly exploited to try and shift blame and deflect criticism, a crude technique that can only backfire.
    One issue it highlights is cognitive dissonance, a method of trying to retain dearly held beliefs when confronted by overwhelming evidence that these beliefs are false.
    Naturally, in this situation, the honest and healthy reaction would be to have the courage to change our beliefs . This is living our lives according to evidence-based understanding, a process that has given us every single advantage we have as humans and every day our very lives depend on it.
    For example: absolutely every aspect of SR’s medical treatment and thus his life, depends on this, yet when it comes to uncomfortable issues, such as his systematic abuse, many of his students hypocritically, retreat into a soothing world of unquantifiable religious mysticism.
    In this parallel universe, conveniently, his ‘personality’ is no longer important and even his words have several increasingly vague levels of meaning where the ‘ordinary judgemental mind’ should be ignored in favour of the ‘wisdom mind’….a nebulous and intangible concept based on entirely subjective, individual mental experience……which luckily, for all of us, as far as I know, isn’t used in modern medicine.
    Ironically it’s precisely this kind of irrational attitude of selectively abandoning common sense for magical thinking that allowed the abuse to continue unchecked for so long and it’s now being used again to try and compartmentalize and diminish the significance of it.
    Common sense and rationality have always been a big problem for religious institutions, and there’s nothing new about them ruthlessly using guilt and fear to try and persuade people to ignore what’s staring them in the face.
    Inevitably, it comes back to the same questions:
    Is it realistic or wise in the long term, to invoke a dubious kind of dualism where two distinct and mutually contradictory modes of being exist simultaneously in the same person?
    Could a wise, compassionate teacher who has realized the nature of mind also be an abusive, violent, gluttonous and exploitative sexual predator at the same time?
    Can he really transmit the nature of mind one moment and then suddenly lapse into ‘confusion’ that drives him to rape and humiliate an emotionally vulnerable woman the next?
    If this actually is the case, then what possible benefit could there be in striving to attain this ‘nature of mind’ if like SR, understanding it has no effect on our egotistic, destructive behaviour towards others?
    Is this dangerous double vision really ‘the dharmic way’, can this duality even exist within Buddhism, or is it just a convenient fiction to protect us from facing a disturbing truth?
    For years these questions have been postponed, but times have changed, and if they aren’t faced courageously and answered honestly, does Tibetan Buddhism as it is, even have a future in the west?

    1. Erm, nobody was raped in Rigpa.
      The “luxury lifestyle” is a fabrication, from my first hand witnessing SR’s lifestyle was always materially normal middle class. And gluttony, I mean, I like to eat well and I am the absolutely last person to deny that little guilty pleasure to anyone else.
      Problem is, the accusations consist of some true problems (like SR initiating sexual relationships with partners totally unsuited to what he offers in a relationship), some legitimate problems with his leadership style (using “Tibetan style” harsh treatment of disciples and pressure on disciples not ready for this and in front of an audience not ready for this) the very individual interpretations of these behaviours and total fabrications.
      It’s telling that as far as I know it none of the “8 signatories” is a direct victim of any of SR’s behaviours. These 8 are talking for “victims” they haven’t even personally asked what they themselves think about what has happened.
      So please leave accusations to those people who have been directly the recipient of SR’s behaviour. Everything else has to be treated as assumptions.

        1. No underaged victims have been reliably reported. This isn’t to say it never happened. But it can’t be alleged unless a victim goes on record or allows it to be reported for them.

      1. Most of the 8 letter signers either experienced firsthand abuse or saw it directly. You can reread the letter to clarify this.

      2. @solenodon
        No, you’re wrong, he’s definitely a rapist.
        How can I be so confident?
        Simple: the difference between us is that I know and have talked to his victims whereas you’re merely an apologist for the use of violence of one kind or another in Tibetan Buddhism citing ‘cultural differences’ as an excuse.
        However, you don’t need to have the information that I do to form a balanced opinion: whatever country you live in, just spend a little time reading about sexual abuse and the legal definition of rape and the issues related to it such as consent, freedom to give consent, consent obtained by duress, threat and or deception and so on.
        If you think a rapist has to be a knife-wielding maniac who jumps out of the bushes, then your view is simplistic and very uninformed indeed.

      3. I can testify that at least one of the eight was a direct victim of SR – I saw it first hand. So you’re wrong in that aspect.
        I can testify that his lifestyle was more than “materially middle class” – I saw it and was part of the team that helped maintain it. I’m materially middle class and I don’t have people polishing grapes for me and having a staff on 24/7 call.
        I can testify that he physically assaulted me twice – under the guise of training. Stop making excuses for hurting people, under the guise that ‘we weren’t ready’.
        I can’t speak for rape but as he was in a position of trust/power there is a real valid question of consent and whether consent could be freely given.

        1. Now this is someone Solenodon who was close in, the grape polishing brings back so many memories, all bad… We used to have to budget $1,000/day for food and entertainment for him and a few attendants.
          Middle class, that’s just completely inaccurate. Do you call rental houses that cost between $500-$1,000/day middle class? How about flying first class, most middle class can’t even afford business class and first class is often twice as expensive.

      4. Where in the world did you get your information??? You were either never close enough to see how he lives or you’re lying.

        1. Sorry, this comment was intended for Solenoden not Sarah, who is completely accurate in everything she’s said!

    2. It’s also ‘magical thinking’ that kept sl from following his doctors orders and getting a colonoscopy which could have revealed this condition years before it became cancerous…it’s shocking that people think that the power of the letter writers is so strong that they were able to cause a very slow growing cancer to manifest fully in two months! I wonder if these people realize that when he was in a coma for 5 days the entire sangha was blamed, but since more level headed people were in charge (some of the letter writers) this lovely tidbit wasn’t shared with the sangha. It’s really frightening to think about how many hours, days, weeks, months I spent with these people never suspecting how incredibly unstable they are.

    3. Well said @MichelDM. I think the message from Orgyen Tobgyal shows a real lack of understanding of how this situation is going to impact Tibetan Buddhism in the west as it plays out. The behaviour of a small number of individuals, no matter how bad, by itself would not undermine the whole tradition. But the cover-up certainly could. We’ve seen this happen with Catholicism. People understand that abusers can be difficult to identify or confront. But I seriously doubt that many people in the west will be so understanding of attempts to shut down those who call out abuse.
      I think the question you raise about dualism is really interesting. It’s difficult to accept that someone who looks to me like an abuser can be a great teacher for someone else. But I think if you look at if from the perspective of the student it can make sense. If a student can use their situation with a particular guru to develop their own understanding then they can see this guru as a great teacher, even if this person hurts others, or themselves. As to whether the guru themself is actually highly realised, this is obviously hard to judge but I think we can use Mingyur Rinpoche’s advice:
      “The most basic way to measure our practice, therefore, is the degree to which we are moving closer to the simple ideals of kindness, humility, honesty, and wisdom… If, as students of the Buddha’s teachings, we strive to be kind, humble, and devoted to practice, then it only makes sense that our guides should embody these qualities. They should inspire us with their kindness and devotion. They should instill trust by the care and concern they show for others. Of course, we should not expect perfection, but it should go without saying that people who are guiding others should practice what they preach.”
      Because human beings are so complicated, and the ego and our habits so difficult to overcome, I can see how someone who is mired in their own ego and desires can still also have many positive attributes and so be seen by some as a great teacher. But you would expect this to be a rare exception and that the majority of Tibetan Buddhist lamas would in fact practice what they preach. So what I find most disconcerting about the situation is that so few lamas have publicly supported the 8 signatories, and some like Orgyen Tobgyal have tried hard to stop them talking.
      It’s easy to talk about loving kindness and compassion – every religion does that. Where Tibetan Buddhism appeared to have an edge was that many of its teachers seemed to actually live these values. I think we will see in the responses to the situation at Ripga whether this is really true or not.

      1. @Jillian,
        Your comment is really refreshing, because among other things, it deals with the issues of honesty and kindness head on, without any attempt to avoid the problems by hiding behind vague and magical thinking. It’s exactly what’s needed here.
        And you’re right: the institutional cover-up usually makes the situation worse, and in this case that’s already happening, but I think the truth that some of us are seeing, is that despite their status, many lamas are actually quite unsophisticated and after years of treating students as effectively inferior in terms of traditional learning ( fair enough ) they also assumed us to be inferior in terms of intelligence and culture.
        This patronizing illusion lasted as long as we retained our passivity and deference, but I think for many of us that’s over for good once the price becomes too high and the contradictions too much to brush aside.
        However we do differ on this : SR deteriorated over time, and for my part I stopped seeing him as any kind of teacher, let alone a great one, the moment I fully understood just how much he was hurting others.
        Even if others were able to ignore it, and have done since, I couldn’t use a situation like that to develop any kind of understanding, because I believed it was morally wrong and inhumane to ignore or profit from others suffering.
        Also I thought the students’ deliberate complicity with his abuse would eventually coarsen and corrupt both them and him, so after fifteen years, I walked away.
        Sadly, from my perspective, years on, It seems as if I was right.

        1. Yes @MichelDM I totally agree – love and compassion have to be the most fundamental motivations, and any kind of faith comes after them. If your faith allows you to stay silent when speaking out could prevent others being hurt, then it’s not worth anything. And I can’t see how it could bring any benefit from a karmic point of view. If your ultimate motivation is to become enlightened to benefit all beings, but you set aside benefiting beings in the short term to get some teachings, how could this not affect your ultimate aim?
          I can see how being open to having your customary ways of thinking challenged is useful if you’re dealing with a genuine teacher who is trying to help you overcome your tricky ego and its deeply ingrained habits. But this is so open to abuse. And despite all the advice about how to examine a guru before accepting them as your teacher, it’s always possible to make a mistake. If we could judge someone with 100% clarity before making a commitment to them, then there would be no divorce. So we have no option but to keep that wisdom of discernment and try to separate resistance to our teacher’s words that comes from our ego and that which comes from our wisdom. No easy task. But it does feel more honest to me, and more true to myself, than thinking that I should ignore my own deeply held beliefs. So in a way I’m glad for all the recent debate which has clarified this for me.

        1. @RH
          Many thanks for that,
          I have absolutely no idea who this person is. This blog is quite serious but this really made me laugh.
          It’s like the Tibetan Buddhist equivalent of your weird uncle who does a few lines of coke and some weed, then launches into a long, semi-incomprehensible stream-of-consciousness rant.
          Shame most lamas aren’t as much fun as that……

        2. Thanks @RH I hadn’t seen that or ever heard of this lama but I absolutely loved it. Priceless.
          “When you die, who is going to die? You are going to die. Who is going to experience that?
          You are going to experience that. At that time if you have terrible experiences, where did they come from? They didn’t come from anybody else. They are your own. They came from you. They are your own phenomena, your own craziness. You might say, “I don’t want that!” Well, it looks like you don’t want to recognize that! Shut up, and practice the opposite.”

        3. Coincidentally, and somewhat ironically, Gyatrul Rinpoche’s former partner, Sangye Khandro, has been identified as the translator of the Khenpo’s recent controversial talk at Lerab Ling.

          1. @Moonfire, I could not see who it was addressed to, but the letter was dated August 6th, just a few days before SR announced his retirement.

    4. @Michel DM It’s a really good question and there is no doubt that this kind of thing badly damages the future of the religion. I personally find that if you accept that the teacher is not enlightened then there isn’t so much of a problem. It’s like people can be Math’s geniuses and be hopeless at human interactions. In fact often the more genius someone is in one area, the more deficient they can be in other areas. Someone can have a powerful glimpse of the nature of mind, but not be able to integrate it into their life, (I figure quite a lot of us fall into this category) so I figure that someone can introduce people to the nature of mind and also not be able to integrate it into their daliy life. Experiencing it while teaching is one thing, integrating it all the time requires a much deeper level of practice. Sr used to say that the students attention/devotion when he was teaching brought out the best in him, and that’s clearly true.
      In this case we also have health issues. There is such a thing as diabetic rage (google it) and he is a diabetic, and apparently wasn’t great at managing his diabetes, so this is also something to take into account. I’m not using it as an excuse, it’s just one factor that can help us understand these vastly different sides of the same person.
      If we hadn’t thrown out our discernment with our devotion, this wouldn’t have gone on so long. Westerners need to be educated so that they understand that devotion does not mean leaving your common sense behind. Luckily some lamas do teach it that way. Clearly those lamas have nothing to hide. I suggest that we leave big warning signs all over the internet warning students away from any lama who is not very clear about the need to maintain one’s discernment. Those are the lamas that can carry the religion into the future.

    1. Susanne – many of us have considered that he has become the way he is for a reason. For now lets just focus on accepting that he is in need of deep reforms and to admit what he has done and make reconciliation. Not victim blame and lean on all his friends to become his defenders and deflectors of reality.

    2. He grew up in a culture where physically violent behaviour like corporeal punishment was rather the norm than the exception and was acceptable and seen as useful.
      But no, Tibetans as a people are of the rather rough kind.
      And my experience is, that Tibetan lamas are not always good at reading and interpreting westerners emotionally. So, a lot of room for misunderstanding, miscommunication and inadvertently harming somebody who is vulnerable
      Putting serious students through the wringer, if not physically then emotionally is normal, I’ve witnessed this and heard it from many different lamas, of teachers who are the most peaceful and gentle characters when you meet them.
      Getting “the harsh treatment” by a lama is in Tibetan culture generally seen as a sign that he or she is taking you seriously as a student.
      Deliberately sending students on an emotional rollercoaster ride by pushing all their buttons rather without much mercy is something that will likely happen. Lamas have 29287 ways to make you totally uncomfortable, even without saying or doing much just by letting you deliberately run aground with your expectations.
      There is a healing aspect to vajrayana but this is definitely not the main emphasis with Tibetan teachers.
      If you get involved with Vajrayana with a Tibetan lama, expect some type of thumbscrews and/or totally deliberate letdowns of your expectations to be happening. The lama will eventually start to provoke you, even if it’s just by what he doesn’t do.
      One hears that kindly HHDL can be quite prickly with the people he considers his personal students.

      1. @Solendon
        It’s not fair to cast aspersions on a whole culture by saying most Tibetans are of a rather rough nature.
        It’s best not to become one-sided like this. It borders on xenophobia.
        The rest of your points I find interesting.

        1. In Tibet, they had plenty of petty tribal warfare until the Chinese invaded, behaviour that had ended in Europe in the middle ages.
          Nonviolent communication is certainly not a Tibetan inveniton.
          By the way, the shunning of corporeal punishment of children and adults in Europe is a pretty new development. So, I’ll not point fingers at the TIbetans.

      2. Yes, I experienced this kind of treatment first hand many times and benefited from it because I chose to work with my mind, it crosses a line when it’s used on vulnerable young women, some underage, purely for sexual titillation or to increase the lifespan of the master. It crosses a line when people who work their whole lives for an org can’t afford to buy clothing while his girlfriends spend thousands of dollars a month on designer clothing and beauty treatments. It crosses a line when people are pushed over the edge, to the point of hospitalization for both physical and psychological breakdown, over and over again, and the methods remain the same.

  3. @ Susanne Horning
    Yes, it’s a good point and I think this has already been mentioned in another thread.
    It’s a real possibility and he certainly needs therapy, but given the context this is unlikely to happen, because this particular kind of dynamic is never mentioned in TB, it’s not even acknowledged and lamas (and some of their students) don’t see themselves as ordinary vulnerable humans like the rest of us.
    So much talk of ‘the mind’ and ‘negative emotions’ but sadly so little effective understanding of basic psychology. This problem is getting more obvious by the day.

  4. @ Susanne Hornig
    I have worked for many years in contexts where people have been survivors of abuse. I offer these observations with that history, and in general terms. Ethically, I cannot comment or speculate on someone’s abuse history without knowing them.
    It is true that many abusers have been abused themselves. However, the overwhelming majority of abuse survivors do not go on to abuse others. Many fall into patterns of addictive behaviour as a way of coping with their pain, but cannot bring themselves to visit harm on others, as they know only too well the pain that it causes.
    It’s an issue that I have thought long and hard about and puzzled over, and I have provisionally concluded that an experience of abuse may contribute *in part* to an acting out of abuse, but it does not fully explain it, and it certainly does not excuse it. It might well be argued that an experience of abuse should – and usually does – make one less likely to commit similar acts.
    Ultimately we are responsible for our actions, particularly if we have been repeatedly told those actions are harmful and we should stop.

    1. My experience of working with abuse in families is the opposite of yours, I’ve never met an abuser that wasn’t abused themselves. Yes, addiction is also an outcome, sl is addicted to tv, sex and food, that’s all very clear, he’s basically addicted to distraction (which is incredibly ironic). Unfortunately some of his behaviors would not have been considered abuse in Tibet. The fact that he didn’t care that behaving that way doesn’t work for westerners shows a cultural insensitivity that is hard to fathom.

  5. “It might well be argued that an experience of abuse should – and usually does – make one less likely to commit similar acts.”
    Yes I agree, up to the point that one is able to recognize what has happened and is capable to “process” the trauma person will certainly do all they can to not repeat the harm and abuse.
    That implies that some people are not able to recognise what happened to them and therefore are not capable to process the trauma and the harm aka psychological and mental damage. Consequently they might “only” be able to act out and repeat the trauma in another way.
    Of course they are still responsible for not being able to take their responsability.

  6. edit: …up to the point that one is able to recognize what has happened and is capable to “process” the trauma, a person will certainly do all they can to not repeat the harm and abuse.

  7. “First understand that this is just a belief system, one that you do not need to subscribe to. It is just a bunch of beliefs with no inherent reality, and you can choose to believe them or not.”
    Erm, but you do agree that all schools of buddhism “believe” in the existence of the 6 realms, which includes various types of hells and hungry ghost realms and that you are reborn there if you accumulate sufficiently destructive karma.
    If you declare the hells a myth and bunch of beliefs, then technically you are no longer following the buddhist path because you deny the law of cause and effect.

    1. There is, however, much disagreement as to how samaya is created, and how violations of it may be expunged. It’s not a neutral concept at all, but varies according to the lama. The article might as well ask “Have you sinned?”

    2. Many authors take pains to explain the 6 realms in psychological terms. That’s how it’s referred to in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.
      What they really are isn’t quite clear and has been interpreted by individual practitioners differently, especially in Rigpa classes and the long Rigpa Home Intensive Retreat.

    3. Yes, Solendon, that’s the choice we have, to abandon the whole belief system, and for some people that may be the healthiest thing to do. Then, yes, if we throw the whole belief system out, we are no longer Buddhists, but even if we decide we want to stick with the belief system, it’s good to know that it is still a bunch of beliefs. The beliefs are supposed to be ones that point us towards an understanding of reality, of course, and it’s good to remember that, to make sure that we understand them in a way that clarifies things, not muddies them or causes more confusion. For example, I have to not take the belief in the 6 realms at face value; I see those hell states as psycological states not actual physical realms, because I can relate to them in those terms. I can see that operating in my own life, so it makes sense.

  8. “What is this vajra hell we’re supposed to end up in if we break samaya, anyway? Surely it is merely the anguish of being in the mental state of hatred. Worse would be rejecting your experience of the nature of your own mind. That would probably set your spiritual path back a bit.”
    Set back a bit? Erm. That’s the understatement of the millenium….. It’s more like a Tchernobyl type core melt accident.
    No, it’s much more than that. Though to my knowledge it only becomes seriously dangerous once you have reached a bit of realisation of what you have been taught.
    If you got an insight out of the vajrayana or dzogchen teachings and then you go against the teacher, you not only go against the teacher but along with it automatically also against yourself, the realisation part that you have attained that is directly linked to the teacher. You basically destroy your own mind, cut yourself off from your true nature that you have begun to rely on for your identity and will eventually go on a subtle level more and more mentally insane and dharma can no longer help you. If you die in that state it will manifest as the vajra hell.
    One can only hope that the people now rallying against SR have attended some events, maybe heard some tsik sum ne dek but never gotten a true experience out of it.

    1. “If you got an insight out of the vajrayana or dzogchen teachings and then you go against the teacher, you not only go against the teacher but along with it automatically also against yourself, the realisation part that you have attained that is directly linked to the teacher. You basically destroy your own mind…”
      Why would anyone think that? Let me guess–the teacher said so?

    2. Moonfire points out that there is a difference between “going against the teacher”, and separating what is good that the teacher has done, and what ethical violations the human teacher has committed.
      This is really the crux of the matter. Seeing the teacher has buddha nature (as all sentient beings do), should not mean seeing all words and actions they do as perfect. HHDL made this very clear – if even he says something that is against dharma, or has been demonstrated to be wrong by science, than it should be rejected.
      We are seeing now what happens when a very fundamentalist view clashes with reality, and it’s not pretty.

    3. “You basically destroy your own mind, cut yourself off from your true nature that you have begun to rely on for your identity and will eventually go on a subtle level more and more mentally insane and dharma can no longer help you. If you die in that state it will manifest as the vajra hell.
      ‘Mentally insane” eh?……woah,…..spooky!

    4. @Solendodon. I think you’re saying the same kind of thing, but it’s got a bit distorted when you’ve assumed that speaking out about abuse or seeing the teacher’s behaviour as abusive is the same as rejecting the teacher, his teachings and your experience of the nature of mind. It’s not. Keeping samaya in this situation is a matter of retaining appreciation and respect for the good you received and for your experience of the nature of mind, and that can be done while speaking out about something you see as wrong. The mistake is assuming that one automatically means the other. It doesn’t.
      You erroneously assume that people who speak up or question are ‘against’ Sr, but that is not necesarily true and is certainly not the case for all the moderators here and for the 8 as they express themselves in the letter. It’s as His Holiness says, you can love the person and still take them to task for their behaviour, and in that way, if the love is still there, so is the samaya.
      You also hope that they have no true experience, presumably because that would enable you to comfortably dismiss them, but perhaps they do have true experience, one so true that they see as His Holiness does. Sr told us to never assume, and that is very good advice.

  9. Oh, forgot, exposing true wrongdoings out of compassion and concern for beings, without anger doesn’t consist of going against the teacher, some form of aversion has to be involved.
    Like with all karma, to get a full effect you need the destructive intention, you have to do the deed, the deed needs to succeed and you need to enjoy your success.

    1. Exactly. Don’t assume a distructive intention. I can assure you that the 8 take no joy from any of this. And also don’t assume that pointing out something in the teacher’s behaviour that seems wrong to you is ‘going against the teacher’. Remember the Dalai lama’s distinction between the person and his actions? Some of us are very clear about this. Personally, I feel my samaya like a tangible thing in my heart, and I know it aint broke.

      1. The interesting thing is though, that these 8 have spent DECADES in Rigpa and to my knowledge have not made any serious attempts to bring their problems and concerns to other sangha member’s attention while they were there.
        And, these 8 have not been “victims” of any the behaviours that they blame on SR. They haven’t even asked the specifically mentioned victim (the nun) they name in the letter if their perception of what was going on was right and if that nun wants to be mentioned.

        1. @Solenodon – that’s quite a lot of unsupported (unfounded) claims you just spouted. I am surprised at you.
          Sangye is quite open about describing the abuse he endured, what he saw first hand, and why it took him so long. Befriend him on Facebook and read his posts.
          Other writers were also on the receiving end – join the What Now Facebook group to see more testimonies. Hopefully these will become public as part of the investigation.
          Also please read this post:

          1. Sorry, I will not discuss a matter like this on a platform like facebook, where a US company logs everything every user is posting linked to the real name to store it and exploit it for business purposes (and who knows what else in the future) and where the whole world can watch your private life.
            Are you all crazy to use that platform to discuss anything private or personal?????

            1. You use a fake name here.
              You can use a fake name there.
              Nothing should be said that people would not be willing to testify under oath anyway.

              1. And what’s that good for? They just link it to my IP address and via that to my real name.
                Man, you are naive when it comes to privacy on the internet….

        2. @Solenodon The reasons why they stayed have to do with the dynamics of the abusive relationship. It’s known as trauma bonding. Reading this article will fill you in on how it is that people stay in abusive relationships for long periods. If you are a student of Sr you will recognise the dynamic especially if you were close to him. https://pro.psychcentral.com/recovery-expert/2015/10/what-is-trauma-bonding/
          As to your other statements here, they are not true. All of the eight were victims and all of them tried to speak about their concerns within the organisation before writing the letter. Don’t forget also that the letter was not intended to be made public. The authors had hoped that the issue would be solved within the sangha.

  10. Thank you so much Moonfire for your article addressing the statement by OT. I was disheartened to read his statement implying that SL’s ill health is a result of the brave actions of those students who have recently spoken out to address his inappropriate behaviour(s). The implication that it is somehow ‘our’ fault because those of us who have been uncomfortable with his actions for a while (I am referring to the many members of the sangha who have now raised concerns), are discussing them as a group instead of feeling alone and isolated. OT’s statement appeared to me as ‘victim blaming’ at its worst…
    I am saddened to hear of SL’s ill health and I wish him a speedy recovery, but I will not accept blame for his current situation. I have always been a ‘fringe’ member of Rigpa because I always struggled with his actions. I had hoped that since the letter, issues would be addressed and things would change. My wish was that this new, open dialogue would lead to a more open and supportive organisation where everyone’s feelings and opinions were valued. I had hoped that SL would get the support that he needed to reconnect with the Dharma/his own practice so that he could continue to share his teachings (in some supervised capacity).
    OT’s statement has made it clear that this will (sadly) not be the case. I do not see how we can come together as an organisation when there is no responsibility being taken and people who have been hurt are now being blamed for the health issues of SL. There seems to be no compassion being shown for members of the Sangha who have been harmed, as usual it is all just about SL…

    1. @watching and waiting There is some change. Certainly more openess and acceptance of different views as a policy, but just how far this goes, I really don’t know. I see some enthusiasm for change, but it may all be window dressing, not necessarily because of some nefarious intent, more likely just a lack of courage to look deeply enough for real change, because such deep change is rather threatening to an ego that defines itself by how it holds certain beliefs.
      The hopeful in me is looking to the capacity we all have to act in an enlightened fashion and hoping that the teachings have penetrated deeply enough that the majority of students can find the courage and openess required to act for the benefit of the future of the dharma in the West, the unhopeful in me is very aware of just how strong are the habits and perceptions that allowed this to happen in the first place. Truly for those at the centre of the organisation to change the perceptions they’ve held for 40 years is a big ask, and for so long as they are at the top, my hope must be tempered by this fact. And so we watch and wait, and also from my part I try to spread a wide range of information, so students are not limited to one viewpoint.

  11. If the letter had not forced SR into a retreat from his busy schedule, then he would not have had the time and opportunity to receive full medical tests, and treatment.
    Therefore, the 8 letter writers should be thanked for saving his life, and extending it also.

  12. I am so grateful for your efforts and for the clear and measured response(s) that you have made throughout this process. I too am hopeful for brighter and better days to come…

  13. I find it rather hard to believe or trust that Sogyal really has cancer. It’s just too convenient coming at just this time. IF he really does have cancer, then I agree with those who say that he has had it for a long time. Cancer doesn’t just magically pop up out of nowhere, (as soon as someone breaks samaya, lol), especially when it is in an advanced stage. Also, I don’t think he is just now receiving treatment. IF he had cancer, I am quite certain that he has been secretly receiving treatment for sometime now, and only NOW do they make it public as a new way to control his students and make them feel guilty about “samaya” issues, etc. The whole thing is totally disgusting, imo. It’s revolting to use this cancer business, (whether real or fake), as a way to guilt-trip and control people. If anyone is going to Vajra hell it would be Sogyal himself.

  14. One interesting thing about Sogyal. I read that he is believed to be the reincarnation of the 5th Dalai Lama’s regent. The regent was much younger, so he was like a son to the 5th, and it was rumored that he actually WAS the 5th’s secret son, (although that was just a rumor). Interestingly, he was also the 6th Dalai Lama’s regent as well. He was kind of like a father figure (or maybe an older brother) to the 6th, because the 6th was much younger than him. The regent was known to be a bad influence on the 6th and often blamed for the 6th’s behavior. (It is very interesting to note that the regent’s behavior was scandalous, very much like Sogyal’s behavior.) Another interesting aspect of this whole story is that the regent apparently had a daughter, and this was the woman that the 6th DL wanted to marry, but that didn’t work out. She married a ruler from a neighboring kingdom.
    I just thought it was interesting to note how much like Sogyal the regent was, so it seems plausible that he really is his reincarnation. Also, if it is true, the past life connection to both the 5th and 6th DLs might also kind of explain why the 14th DL feels close to Sogyal, despite his behavior. Sogyal is kind of like that relative who is a big problem, but you have to deal with them anyway, lol! 😀

  15. Catlover WHERE do you get your information? Can you please cite the source? This is totally inaccurate about the regent. Sogyal is NOT connected to the Dalai Lamas. Not good to spread rumors about these things. If you want to check the facts, check with HHDL himself on that one.

    1. Catlover just has a vivid fantasy. It’s just dumb conspiracy theory.
      You know, like 9/11 was an inside job, NASA astronauts were never on the moon, Chemtrails “secretly” sprayed to achieve who know what etc…..
      Beware the sprouting of conspiracy garbage…..

  16. Why do you think Rigpa would disband when SR is dead. I mean, he is going to die anyway, impermanence and all. Nobody expects him to still be around in the year 2050 or something
    What difference would it make for the people who were satisfied with Rigpa as their spiritual service provider and SR as their teacher.

      1. I dunno, it fits with the general flavor of Tibetan Buddhism. Extra points if you lick the knife afterwards and make some kind of mudra.

    1. @Bei Please pause before you post. Some things are better not spoken. Remember that this blog is primarily for people who still care about Sr and they will find these comments upsetting.

  17. What conspiracy theory?!?!? I just thought it was an interesting story. It may or may not be true. Anyway, the 14th Dalai Lama has always called Sogyal his “good friend” so I am not making that up. If Sogyal really is the reincarnation of the regent, it would explain why Sogyal is such a “good friend.” This is the last time I share any kind of in formation or story if you’re just going to nitpick and accuse me of spreading conspiracies. I am not wasting my time here anymore. Goodbye.

  18. To be honest, Solendon, you seem like you are purposely sharing misinformation about the letter and the writers. They ALL experienced direct abuse and assault and six of them tried to address it from within the org for many years. One of them began a very open line of questioning in 2011 that SL involved all the inner circle that went nowhere, that resulted in sl honing his skill to spin the story around his dysfunctional way of life and abusive behavior towards everyone around him. Please stop the disinformation campaign lest we assume you are applying a well known rigpa tactic of discrediting those who speak out.

    1. Ah, so a different view is immediately a “disinformation campaign” and “rigpa tactic”.
      Very well, then good luck spewing your propaganda, along with “costructive types like the conspiracy monger Catlover and hatemongers like Bei Dawei….. Because what you are doing is just the same as the denial crowd.

      1. You have declared that none of the letter writers experienced abuse which is untrue, they ALL did, some for years, you said that the letter was based on a story about a nun that has been disproven, this is directly from the rigpa propaganda machine, all I’ve done is observe what you are saying and reflect it back. If you find that offensive perhaps you should think twice before you post…

        1. “You have declared that none of the letter writers experienced abuse which is untrue”
          The claim of the luxury lifestlye is definitely a lie. Most probably the complaints of the 8 are a mixture of truth, own interpretation and lies.
          So nope, I believe neither the 8 nor the deniers that anything harmful has happened. The truth is most likely somewhere inbetween.

            1. So why haven’t they left when this became obvious to them?
              I have known plenty of people who spent some time with Rigpa and eventually decided for a different teacher/spiritual path or have just phased out Rigpa and became remaining somewhere at the fringes.
              Nobody is prevented from leaving. Rigpa even invites tons of guest teachers. Anybody not satisfied can at any time switch allegiences to one of those or decide against buddhism and leave. As tantric samaya goes, most initiations were given by teachers like Trulshik Rinpoche so tantric samaya connections were not even with SR.
              Leaving Rigpa is a lot easier than leaving an abusive husband, where you have to find a new living situation, file a divorce, risk stalking or repressions etc.

    2. So then why were several of these people ORDAINED for a long period of time?
      I have known Rigpa for more than 20 years. BECAUSE how SR sometimes treated students that I personally could not handle for myself (due to trauma background I have problems handling pressure) I kept at a distance.
      So SR’s rather short tempered and rough treatment of closer disciples has always been very much visible. It’s not like he has hidden this, coaxed people to work at LL, seek ordination etc and then suddenly and totally unexpectedly they were confronted with his way of running things.
      This is a typical case of “bought as seen”. Nobody can complain afterwards if what they got was not what they were expecting when it was clearly visible from the beginning.
      That’s like marrying a guy that you know drinks more, and more often than you like. Then you can not suddenly 20 years later complain about your husband that he is an alcoholic and you don’t like it and start a vendetta because of his alcohol consumption.
      And if they had complained for years, then why did they stay in LL? The ordained complainers could have turned to their ordination masters and looked for another monastic institution to continue that way of life early and their dharma education when they noticed that LL/SR was not benefitting them long term. The other complainers could at any time have switched their allegience to one of the other renowned lamas that have been teaching in LL, like Garchen Rinpoche or Chokyi Nyima or something.
      In my 20 years I have met plenty of people who started dharma in Rigpa, spent some years there and then decided that another teacher and organisation was a better fit. No problem there, no bad feelings, no grudges on either side.

      1. @Solenodon The full answer to your questions cannot be given in a comment, because they have to do with the dynamics of the relationships and belief systems involved which are complex, but we will endeavour to post an article sometime to answer the question of why they stayed so long. In the meantime look at that article on trauma bonding I mentioned in another comment. It will also help you understand the woman who finds herself married to an alchoholic. One simple point there is that it’s not easy to see where the line from heavy drinker to acoholic is crossed for either those watching and for the alcoholic, just as here it’s not easy to see exactly where unconventional teaching methods become abuse. Only after you have admitted that it is alcoholism or abuse do you start to see it differently.
        As a long term student, one thing you may be able to understand though is that the Eight tried very hard to see their experience as a teaching. We were all taught to see his ‘rough manner’ as a teaching, so they tried very hard to use it that way, then gradually it dawned on them that their treatment was not having a beneficial effect, that in fact it was having a detrimental affect on their physical and psychological health.
        As a student of 20 years myself, I saw his rough ways, but I had no idea that he regularly hit people – hard too – and I had no idea that the ‘dressing downs’ we saw went on day after day after day for those close to him. I thought it was an occaisonal thing (for National teams it only went on for the number of weeks he was in their country, but for his international team/inner circle it was constant). I knew he had sex with students, but I hadn’t considered the dynamics around it that made it very hard for girls to say no. And I didn’t realise how girls were led/lured/groomed to enter the ‘inner circle’ and be presented to him. When asked if I wanted to take a role in a National team, I declined because I saw how hard people worked for no money and I saw how many of them became ill, but had I accepted, I would have not expected to have been hit, so saying that they knew what they were getting into is simply not true.
        Knowing two of the letter signers personally and two others via the internet, I know how hard it has been for them to come forward, I also know that they have never said anything that they haven’t actually experienced or seen someone else experience. They are not making it up. Why on earth would they? They are not vindictive or wanting revenge, nothing like that. They are all very decent people. And since this broke I have personally heard around 30 other stories by people who have seen or experienced similar behaviour, so the truth is not somehwere in between. The truth is as the 8 have stated it.

  19. I am not a part of Rigpa, but I would like to make a comment. Sorry if it sounds a little bit terse…
    In my opinion, four things should happen:
    1. Make a firm distiction between the actions of SR and the person. I met him around 1993, and he impressed me as a very friendly person. He was the first one to introduce me to the Dzogchen teachings and I will forever be grateful for that. Yet he has done the things that are described in the letter, I have no doubt. I have worked as a psychotherapist with the worst criminals, and I have learned to respect and even love these people that had done terrible things. The things they had done brought them to prison, and rightly so. The person is fundamentally OK, even the Buddha himself, we have learned. I feel that is true.
    2. SR should be brought before a court of law. I am convinced that this would be good for him, for the victims, to stop him doing more harm, and for the Buddhist community in general.
    3. Rigpa should use this opportunity to morph itself into a real democratic modern Buddhist sangha. They could start by asking “the seven” to run the worldwide enterprise, and then after some time hold elections.
    4. The victims should have good therapy, which is not easy to find. It’s a jungle. My advice: visit 3 different therapists, and chose the one that you like, that you would not be able to fool, and who has an open, respectful and supportive attitude towards you. For up-to-date information about effective therapies for trauma-survivors I warmly recommend: “The body keeps the score” by Bessel van de Kolk. I wish you all the best!

    1. 2. Unfortunately, it is unclear whether he actually broke any law. At least, it would be difficult to bring a case against him.

  20. As a survivor of OKC / Spatz decades of sexual abuses, harsh physical abuse, mental and spiritual abuse, watching the conversation enfold on this blog and others, but also on facebook & other social media I can’t but feel shame, shame for all the comments that are completely out of touch with reality, shame for falling on the exact same manipulation that got used on the OKC sangha, shame for the conversation for months now are more about the abuser than the survivors, shame for all these good willing “Buddhist” or shall I say cultist that prefer to talk about so called breach of Samaya instead of considering just a few seconds the suffering and the abuse felt by the brave Rigpa 8 that opened or continued this long time discussion that for many started 2 decades ago.
    I feel shame for Buddhism being used to discourage talking, discourage open state of mind, discourage coming forward, discourage getting out of the closet of awful abuses.
    it shows the “level” of all these so called buddhists way faster to praise Sogyal and his new found sickness than the actual survivors of these abuses. and then just the notion that speaking out is creating a disease and stating that this is a direct result of the victims speaking is horrendous, it’s exactly, almost word for words the ones used by Robert Spatz aka Lama Kunzang / OKC to discredit, stigmatize and vilify those that found the inner courage to speak out.
    it shows once again the “level”, the state of mind, the complete lack of discernment, the cultist group thinking, that has nothing to do with the original teachings of the Buddha.
    It shows that pretty much like the Catholic Church long story of abuse, Buddhism is now a fully organized religions that use insider logic of thinkings to target those that speak out. Those that dare to use their brain and decolonize from this absurd drift that Buddhism find itself in.
    it’s disgusting. I can’t just imagine the impact on all the survivors, either the 8th, or others from other groups, others drifts watching this story enfold, observing in advance how a so called community, sangha, is mis-treating victims and cheering for the “master” lost in theoretical myths regarding the authenticity of a serial abuser, portraying it as a Vajrayana master when in fact either Sogyal or Spatz are just upstarts, parvenus, skilled manipulators, liers that sold an image that the West wanted or needed to abide to try to find an exit to his own emptiness and lack of spiritual connection with their inner world.
    by the accounts I have here, there has been 1200+ comments on the 3 main blogs following these issues, 1200 comments to turn around the real issue, 1200 comments trying to explain things that can’t be explained but only acknowledged and perfect occasion to apply COMPASSION, LISTENING and other qualities Buddhism is supposed to put forward.
    You all lot can do as much retreats and high level empowerments that you all wish, in the end you should all have stayed with the Ngondrö.
    Vain bavardage !

  21. I meant to say something on the order of “Neener-neener!” Now apologize to me. I was right about the reincarnation bit, so take it back about conspiracy theories.

  22. I meant to say “Nyah-Nyah-Nyah-Nyah-Nyah!” in my earlier post.
    “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah” is the lexigraphic representation of a common children’s chant. It is a rendering of one common vocalization for a six-note musical figure [note 1] which is associated with children, is found in many European-derived cultures and is often used in taunting. (Wikipedia)

    1. Also rendered “nanny nanny boo-boo,” depending on region and generation. (My brother would follow it with “Stick your head in doo-doo.”) Oh well, at least you didn’t say “attercop.” (Tolkien reference)

  23. The conspiracy accusation wasn’t for that bit, it was for the whole incoherent rambling mess you spewed about the cancer having been held secret to use it now and that HHDS is supposedly protecting SR despite his behaviour because of previous life connections, throwing dirt at HHDS subsequently.
    “IF he had cancer, I am quite certain that he has been secretly receiving treatment for sometime now, and only NOW do they make it public as a new way to control his students and make them feel guilty about “samaya” issues, etc. The whole thing is totally disgusting”
    “might also kind of explain why the 14th DL feels close to Sogyal, despite his behavior. ”
    Go and smoke something else.

  24. @Bei Dawei
    That’s not a helpful statement. It’s the last thing that the holders of this blog would wish. We hope for a recovery and well-being for Sogyal.
    We also hope for resolution and reconciliation within the sangha.
    Please refrain from making statements that may be extremely offensive to others.
    The essence of Buddhism is kindness.

      1. That’s a misunderstanding of Buddhist teachings. Often used. But completely wrong. It’s confusing the relative with the absolute. So yes, we do care about right and wrong. Not to is extremely harmful to oneself and others.

      2. “Although my view is higher than the sky,
        My respect for the cause and effect of actions is as fine as grains of flour.”
        That one translation of what Padmasambhava said.
        Even Buddha himself was subject to the laws of cause and effect, and he was very clear about ethics and which actions were right, which were wrong.
        Logically, of course, there can be complications in applying that. The trolley problem is a classic in moral reasoning:
        Now for one who has the highest view, their goal is the goal of the Bodhichitta. No sentient being is foresaken, and the goal is complete liberation from samsaric existence for all beings. It is from this basis, that right or wrong can be considered, even with incomplete knowledge.

  25. This conversation has devolved. Can commenters please refrain from calling names and making accusations?
    If you don’t have anything helpful to add, since this blog is about trying to heal and grow as well as find some justice and resolution, please don’t post. Or if you do, think about how you’re saying something.
    If you continue to post for awhile in an argument against someone else’s comments, it’s a misuse of the space and sets a bad tone for others to come forward with comments.
    That said, many of the points here are both interesting and relevant. It’s just how they’re being said that is the problem.

  26. It seems like a very strange contradiction to have unethical behaviors (e.g. “crazy wisdom”) defended through fundamentalist pronouncements. On one hand, SR is pushing/crossing every ethical boundary to the point of criminal behaviors, all in the name of his unique “skillful means”, “crazy wisdom” etc.– and then on the other hand, rigid, fundamentalist views about the “ethics” of samaya and sangha schisms are being proclaimed by lamas who defend him. Am I missing something?
    It seems that if you create an environment where ethical norms are broken on a regular basis, then you can’t have it one way surely?

    1. Yes this is an astute observation by you Joanne. A couple of parallel contradictions that have occurred to me: while Dzongsar Khyentse manifests as the hip poster child of contemporary and accessible Tib Buddhism, being approachable, comfortable in the English idiom, with a big vision for Buddhism (Deer Park, Khyentse Foundation) along with a flair for self-expression through his film work, yet he too seems to insist on a dogmatic application of the Dharma – it’s only for Liberation, not for society.
      Likewise, some of these Lamas who enjoy the material benefits the West has to offer: shiny gadgets, delicious food and, ahem, pleasures of the flesh, don’t get democracy and don’t see the benefit of open, transparent Dharma centres, (genuine Vajrayana secrets notwithstanding). Just do the practices, increase devotion, and shut the hell up. No wonder we’re confused! I know i am!

  27. I don’t think that the very traditional lamas who react as if Rigpa was a monastery in Tibet because that’s the only reference of social behaviour they have see that what they say is causing further dispute and schism potential among the followers who are western lay people.
    It’s totally that cultural divide.

  28. @Solenodon,
    I wasn’t connecting the Dalai Lama with Sogyal’s cancer, nor was I saying the DL was “protecting” him. You made that up and are now attributing that to me. Maybe it looked to you like I was connecting HHDL with Sogyal’s cancer, but I wasn’t. The only connection I made between the DL and Sogyal was the “very good friend” business. HHDL says Sogyal is his good friend, and it’s obvious that they have some sort of close, personal connection. Otherwise, HHDL wouldn’t refer to him as a close friend, which he always does. That doesn’t mean HHDL approves of Sogyal, which is why I mentioned relatives that we care for, but they are hard to deal with at the same time. My remark wasn’t meant to disparage HHDL at all. In fact, I was trying to find a reasonable explanation for their closeness on a personal level, which would make sense. I hope this clears up any misunderstanding about my earlier comments. If it doesn’t, that’s too bad. I am not going to argue and go around and around defending myself on deaf ears. If my explanation isn’t good enough, then so be it. This is the last thing I am going to say on that subject, so either accept it or don’t.
    A lot of people here are coming across as emotionally immature, so I don’t think I am any more immature than a lot of people here, especially those who jump on me with false accusations about what they *think* I said.
    @everyone else
    Everyone is totally free to disagree with me on things I actually say, as far as I am concerned. It’s fine to have a different opinion, but I expect an apology for any accusations that I was spreading false rumors about the reincarnation thing and making up conspiracy theories. I am still waiting for an apology from those who jumped down my throat. As for the cancer thing, I explained that above.

  29. Just for further clarification…As for Sogyal’s cancer, I will not take back my comment that I am quite sure the Rigpa insiders and Sogyals’ staff had been keeping it a secret for some time. It’s only NOW that they drag it out into the open for the purpose of guilt-tripping students about “samaya.” I find this totally revolting, but I didn’t say HHDL had anything to do with that. I followed up the cancer post with a post about HHDL and Sogyal’s past life incarnations, but I didn’t mean for the two comments to be connected.

  30. @catlover, concerning claims about SR’s previous incarnations, the thing is that usually such recognitions are written down, so there can be no dispute about it. Yes Rigpa wiki makes some surprising statements about Sogyal’s past lives but offers no specific sources http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Sogyal_Rinpoche_Incarnation_Line
    I know the page you linked to has a couple of references but they appear more general in content.
    Earlier on in this blog we had this discussion concerning the evidence, or lack of it, confirming SR as the incarnation of Terton Sogyal.

    1. I never go by Rigpa wiki -as you say they don’t cite their sources and frankly I feel SL just tells the Rigpa wiki writers what to put in there. Seems so dubious. It’s better to ask a Tibetologist not affiliated with Rigpa to research if there’s any evidence of previous incarnations. Doubtful.

  31. I question your sources. About the website globalresearch.ca, run by the Centre for Research on Globalization:
    Michel Chossudovsky (born 1946) is a Canadian economist and author. He is a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Ottawa.[1][2] Since 2001, he has been the president and director of the Centre for Research on Globalization, which publishes conspiracy theories.[3][4][5] Chossudovsky is himself a proponent of 9/11 conspiracy theories.[6][7]

  32. Michael Parenti also has his own agenda, a Marxist one. His “research” is used to prop up this article on the “Marxist Leninist Communist Revolutionary” website. It is one of many examples where these groups cite Michael and his work on Tibet, to whitewash China’s activities there as a “Peaceful Liberation”.
    Liberation and People’s Democracy in Tibet: A Study Guide

    1. @conspracytheories
      Thanks, I’m not familiar with Parenti, but I don’t think just agreeing with Marx makes someone a conspiracy theorist or necessarily not worthy of being taken seriously.
      I am familiar with Global Research, it’s never struck me as a conspiracy site at all, although I can understand why it would get a negative write up in Wikipedia …….not such an unbiased and reliable source itself after all.
      For anyone who’s interested here’s the link, check the content, it’s interesting, see if you think it’s a conspiracy site. https://www.globalresearch.ca/
      You say that “Chossudovsky is himself a proponent of 9/11 conspiracy theories.”…..No, he isn’t, that’s just more Wikipedia. Here’s the actual article itself: https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-911-reader-the-september-11-2001-terror-attacks/5303012
      Anyway, there’s a great deal of historical information available about Tibet, much of it documentary photographic evidence, so I don’t think anyone, (including the DL himself apparently) would argue about it being a backward theocratic feudal society, which by definition involves serfdom, slavery, injustice and gross inequality maintained by brutality.
      So in that respect I don’t understand your point.

    2. @conspracytheories
      Thanks, I’m not familiar with Parenti, but I don’t think just agreeing with Marx makes someone a conspiracy theorist and so not worthy of being taken seriously.
      I am familiar with Global Research, it’s never struck me as a conspiracy site at all, although I can understand why it would get a negative write up in Wikipedia
      Rather than quibble about that, I would point out that there’s a great deal of historical information available about Tibet, much of it documentary photographic evidence, so I don’t think anyone, (including the DL himself apparently) would argue about it being a backward theocratic feudal society, which by definition involves serfdom, slavery, injustice and gross inequality maintained by brutality.
      So in that respect I don’t understand your point.

  33. @ Adamo/ globetrotter
    Many thanks for this very interesting article that everyone who is, or ever has been involved with TB should read.
    Not all new material, but it’s detailed, and provides a historical context for the origin of the current problems in TB and explains a lot about the clumsy way many lamas are trying to censor the open discussion by using threats, emotional blackmail and victim-blaming. (There’s yet another awful one posted recently on FB by someone who calls himself the Venerable Chagkhung Tsewang…….? )
    Apparently violence was often the preferred traditional response to threats and disobedience, so perhaps we’re getting off lightly.
    So, it seems that in some cases, despite all the soft-sell, just below the sanitized surface, this basic feudal and predatory mentality hasn’t changed at all, even if the ethnicity of the prey has.
    It’s taken a while, but with the increasing success of TB the in the West and the generally uncritical reaction to past scandals so far, students’ complacency and lamas over-confidence has bred arrogance and the problem has now become too obvious to ignore.
    Finally the new western ‘serfs’ with their troublesome ideas of equality and morality have reached saturation-point and are starting to revolt.
    Quite a few lamas and organisations such as Rigpa are suddenly waking up to the potential threat this poses to their status and their comfortable lives and the damage it can do to the current favourable perception and reputation of TB itself. Hence the desperate attempts to shut down criticism.
    There might be an explanation as to why this has taken so long and it may lie in the difference between lamas and students: a difference in background and personality.
    Westerners who are attracted to what they think is a mystical religion of peace, compassion and kindness are likely to be adults who are intelligent, thoughtful and non-assertive, disillusioned with or uninterested by materialism and lacking in worldly ambition. Self-selected Buddhists….the prey.
    No such filtering selection process applies to lamas, especially those designated as tulkus, in fact it’s quite the reverse: their indoctrination and transformation into assertive, manipulative and dominant individuals begins in early childhood.
    It’s well understood from studies of primates that if a male offspring is taken away from it’s mother early, the lack of maternal love and physical contact will predispose it to sociopathy. Combine this with the possibility of abuse within the monastic system and release that individual, (who already has an instilled belief in his own superiority) into a modern liberal society where these type of passive and possibly credulous individuals are ignorant of the real nature of his background….and you have an SR…..the predator.
    This dangerous imbalance and inequality has been there from the outset, it’s inherent, and it would be naive to think the problems will stop with SR.
    It’s difficult to imagine any of the older students having the charisma to keep pulling in the crowds, so it has to be a trained Tibetan lama and the obvious contender to take over from SR at Rigpa is OTR, who is obviously staking out a claim already in a roundabout way and whose appallingly crude, authoritarian attempt at silencing criticism clearly indicates what sort of person he is and how Rigpa under him will continue on the same lines as before.
    Sadly, these problems are long-standing and structural and there are no signs as yet that they are even being honestly acknowledged or will be dealt with intelligently.

  34. @Michel DM
    A thoughtful and erudite post once more, thank you.
    You wrote: “Finally the new western ‘serfs’ with their troublesome ideas of equality and morality have reached saturation-point and are starting to revolt. Quite a few lamas and organisations such as Rigpa are suddenly waking up to the potential threat this poses to their status and their comfortable lives and the damage it can do to the current favourable perception and reputation of TB itself.”
    I have become very interested why Tibetan Buddhism is so reliant on Tibetan ex-pats to lead it in the west. I can’t help but contrast it with the situation in Theravadan communities in the west which appear, on the whole, to be lead by westerners. I wonder what this comparative history tells us?

  35. @Joseph
    for me
    I’ve often wondered about that too: why I was attracted to TB rather than Theravadin or Zen, both of which I encountered first. Difficult to say for others but they looked to austere, hard work, not cool enough.
    So perhaps it’s the sheer visual and ethnic exoticism of TB that draws people: the psychedelic colours, weird deities and magical subtext, the mysterious land of Shangri-la…….so much uninformed romanticism and wishful thinking…..on my part at least.
    Looking back, it seems that a lot of what fascinated and fooled me was really a kind of elaborate theatrical performance that even we the audience took part in, and maintaining the illusion was essential.
    We react to people differently according to how they appear: a doctor’s white coat, a policeman’s uniform, they could be crooks, but that’s not our instinctive response.
    SR in Tibetan robes, high on a throne in front of huge thangkas and flanked by ornate shrines, glittering with lights, wreathed by incense…..it worked because in that context he looked the part.
    But when he occasionally taught outdoors, away from and unsupported by all the paraphenalia of TB, it seemed flat and uninteresting, people got visibly bored and fidgeted, looking forward to the end. Just a fat, bad-tempered little Asian guy sitting on a rock.
    It puzzled me then but it seems obvious now: it’s about the extraordinary power of context and expectation, and maybe that’s the reason westerners always look faintly ridiculous and self-conscious when they shave their heads and wear robes. Like they’re in fancy dress, or that Japanese guy in a bowler hat in James Bond….comedy value.
    If you bumped into SR in bar or a nightclub in Soho, he’d creep you out, because you’d just think he was a sleazy mid-ranking Triad boss.

  36. Michel DM, you forgot an important dimension to all of this, of why you were attracted to Tibetan Buddhism and not Zen nor Theravada– which is Tibetan Buddhism itself. For me, it wasn’t until I left all the trappings, not until I turned my back on my last Dharma center twelve years ago that I gained a real respect and admiration for the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and for the great masters, past and present, who have worked hard to keep it alive and authentic. I made a pact with myself that I was damned if I was going to let some negative experiences with lamas ruin my chances to explore this path– and I am so glad I stuck with it– it is a rich treasure imo.
    And now I have a quote from HHDL on the door to my shrine room:
    This is my simple religion.
    No need for temples.
    No need for elaborate philosophy.
    You own mind, your own heart is the temple.
    Your philosophy is simple kindness.

    1. @Joanne Clarke
      I understand what you’re saying but my experience was different.
      I had a vague idea what TB was before I joined, but basically like most people, I expected the emphasis to be on finding happiness and contentment through understanding the mind, with kindness and compassion to oneself and others.
      I didn’t bargain on being drawn into the ever expanding commitment to repeat hundreds of thousands of mantras, prostrations, mandala offerings and a thick pile of sadhanas and prayers, that took up hours every day plus regular very long tsok practices and so on. It occurred to me that if you lived in a monastery and had nothing else to do, it might be manageable, but it was impossible with a full time job and a normal life……something which no lamas ever have.
      It started to seem like an oddly obsessive, macho kind of activity, a cross between suffering from self-inflicted OCD and trying to get into the Guinness Book of Records. Like most students, I put up with it and did what I could, often without much enthusiasm.
      Eventually the sheer artificiality of it began to wear me down and when I eventually realised exactly how dangerously dysfunctional and dishonest SR was, giving it all up came very naturally, and happened quite rapidly…. and it was an intense relief to get my life and my freedom back.
      I learned a lot of valuable lessons, just not the ones I had expected and certainly not the ones I was intended to.
      For me TB was a bit like Jenga: removing one part brought the lot down. I think perhaps many people know this instinctively, but it makes them fearful of questioning anything at all, so the get trapped.
      It’s good that you’ve been able to salvage something useful and meaningful to you and as you don’t go near dharma centres you’re free……and safe. More and more students may need to adopt your approach soon.

  37. The notion of Samaya is a superstition that perpetuates a cult. If you look at all cults they will impose some sort of samaya bond that comes with threats.
    If you have genuine confidence in a teacher then that should be enough to walk your spiritual path. If you no longer trust your teacher then there is no bond and nothing can be broken. You might actually advance on the spiritual path by recognising that this is a fiction which petpetuates a heirarchy which traps you. Samaya doesn’t have any more reality than any other thought. It’s simply the mind.
    If SL has broken your trust, then you are completely free to take your mind elsewhere. It’s your mind. The whole Samaya notion in Tibetan Buddhism is a superstitious social construct that, in my opinion, is outdated, exagerrated and clouds the dharma. And I say that as a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism.
    My Tibetan teacher died suddenly a few years ago from health complications. One of the most profound experiences that I think is helping me to grow up as a practitioner. There was no talk of this being due to the conduct of us students. He simply died. Now we have to find the inner strength to make the most of his teachings.
    Please, Rigpa friends, don’t believe this utter nonsense that SL’s poor health has anything to do with you. He is a man. He can get sick just like anyone else.
    I think many people are disappointed to discover that the teacher to whom they feel such devotion and about whom they worry constantly about a samaya bond, actually doesn’t have a clue who they are, knows absolutely nothing about them and their struggles, and unfortunately might not particularly care either. Realising this is the first step to being independent in your practice and focussing more on the teachings and less on the person.

    1. “I think many people are disappointed to discover that the teacher to whom they feel such devotion and about whom they worry constantly about a samaya bond, actually doesn’t have a clue who they are, knows absolutely nothing about them and their struggles, and unfortunately might not particularly care either. Realising this is the first step to being independent in your practice and focussing more on the teachings and less on the person.”
      Thats too true. I found out Sogyal had really no clue about his students, he didnt know even people quite near to him, just second line people. Sogyal had a management system around him that made possible followers had a impression he might know them.
      Like a con artist.
      Bullshit. 99% of all people had been always just “people” to him. Everything else was just a show.
      Truth and reality is not always what I did expect, thats includes very much Sogyals little tricks.
      Sorry to say it so directly.

  38. @Brad
    A very good comment indeed, this is exactly the kind of clear, down-to-earth understanding that can help people at the moment.
    If more T Buddhist practitioners can find the courage to give up superstition and start looking at things in this way, the tradition might be able to emerge from the middle ages and adapt itself to our time.
    If impermanence is a fundamental of TB teaching, why be so afraid of change?

  39. Slightly off topic but in response to an earlier comment re the phenomena of persistent contrails, as a longtime Tibetan Buddhist student, I implore people to do their own research on the topic as there is overwhelming documented evidence coming from the military, corporations, whistleblowers and other environmental experts on the issue as well of course as from observant citizens.
    Look up geoengineeringwatch.org or Rosalind Peterson or watch the numerous documentaries that have been made in the US and Europe including What in the World are they Spraying. This is an environmental crime and catastrophe that we as spiritual practitioners should be educated on and take action on. Don’t be put off by the ‘conspiracy theory’ label or the trolls!

    1. Sorry, but this is a forum for discussing the Rigpa crisis, not for conspiracy theory mongering.
      As a “long term student” of Tibetan buddhism, you should not buy into every stupid, invented delusion that is spread on the internet and other mass media.

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