If the Mental Disorder Fits, Wear it.

When a cult leader has a mental disorder

When a cult leader has a mental disorder, (Anti-social Personality Disorder (psychopathy) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder are comon ones), devotees will find all kinds of ways to downplay it or call it something else. And when the leader abuses his or her students, devotees may even justify the abuse as being for the benefit of the student – certainly this is the case in the Tibetan Buddhist sangha of Rigpa. A devotee in a cult cannot be convinced that there is anything wrong with their leader. On the contrary, they spiritualise their damaging behaviour as ‘crazy wisdom’ or ‘beyond the ability of ordinary beings to discern’ and so forth.
A Bagwan Shee Rashneesh follower told me back in the 80s that Bagwan had 100 Rolls Royces because he was free of attachment, and the fact that this was an illogical stance since the very opposite appeared to be true – he appeared to be very attached to Rolls Royces – made no difference to the devotees conviction. In the same way, you cannot convince those in Rigpa and other Tibetan Buddhist communities who think that assaulting students, coercing people into sex, and emotionally abusing them is enlightened behaviour that it is in fact trauma-inducing abuse delivered by a person with a mental disorder. And yet, maintaining this stance that there is nothing wrong with the perpetrator of the abuse, which they do as a mark of their devotion and allegiance to their leader, does not help the leader at all. What such leaders need is to be made aware of their disorder and encouraged to seek help, for the leader’s sake and the sake of those who are devoted to him or her.

Where psychology beats Buddhism

The Buddha had some profound insights into the nature of the human mind and its role in human happiness. When I found Buddhism, I, like many others, thought I’d hit the spiritual jackpot. This is it! I thought. Here is the truth. Encouraged by a teacher who put down psychology at every opportunity, I thought vajrayana Buddhism was way ahead of psychology, but it’s very clear to me now that in the area of personality and mental disorders Buddhism is lagging far behind psychology.
There is nothing in Buddhism about mental disorders. The system of thought is designed for people who are already mentally healthy, so there is no way for someone relying on that system of thought for their understanding of the mind to recognise a mental disorder when it’s staring them in the face. This is a problem when a teacher or instructor is faced with trying to help a student with such a disorder,  but it is even more of a problem when the guru themselves is exhibiting signs of a mental disorder. Not only does Tibetan Buddhism not recognise a mental disorder in a guru for what it is, the religion mistakes it for a special kind of spiritual achievement – crazy wisdom!
Talk about the snake and the rope! (In joke for Rigpa Dzogchen students: the rope is not only not seen as what it is, it is also mistaken for a snake. This is an analogy for how we don’t recognise reality for what it is, empty of essence, and instead mistake it for something solid.)
In a fuedal society and a religion with a fuedal power structure this turning an issue with a leader into something that adds to his or her power isn’t surprising. Keeping the power of the guy at the top is of vital importance in a fuedal system, so rather than admit that the guru has mental issues, the religion makes him out to be especially gifted.  It happens once, and then the concept of ‘crazy’ as a mark of great realisation is enshrined within the religion. How much of the stories told to back up the benefits of a crazy wisdom master are true? Did such behaviour really benefit the student or was it a white wash from the start? We will never know. I suspect that Tibetan Buddhism has been gaslighting devotees for centuries.
And even if Marpa really did assist Milarepa on his journey to enlightenment through ‘unconventional’ means, then we still have to ask how much has this story been used in service to a lineage of lamas who, generation after generation, suffered from the trauma of being abused as children.  They were brought up to believe, as Orgyen Tobgyal said in Paris last year, that ‘beating increases wisdom’ and that pain will wash away bad karma. This is awfully like what the Christian flagellents believed in the fourtheenth century. And guess what? We’ve come a long way since then, but some sects of Tibetan Buddhism are still stuck in that antiquated and unhealthy belief system.
Modern psychology recognises trauma and mental disorders and knows how to treat them, and the best thing students can do for their lamas and their sangha is to recognise the signs when they see them and help their lama to see that they need help. Easier said than done, I know. Some tried with Sogyal, but he never actually made it to a psyciatrist. What a shame!
Why am I talking about lamas as if they have mental disorders? Well, obviously some are quite sane, but others? If the cap fits, wear it, I say. Denying the issue does no one any good, and any student who gives unquestioning obedience to someone with a mental disorder, (even if he is not physically present with them) is not in a healthy situation.
I leave you to decide how much of the following applies to Sogyal Rinpoche and Chogyan Trungpa. Oh and maybe you should also consider Orgyen Tobyal and Dzongsar Khyentse while you read.  It’s from an Integrative Psychology article on institutional abuse.  https://integrativepsychology.net.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/institutional-abuse.pdf

Characteristics of Abusive Group Leaders

“One type of abusive group leader is the charismatic leader, common in cults. Such a leader possesses strong talent for self-expression coupled with the ability to sense and read the needs of followers. These needs are then normally converted into the form of seductive promises that slowly lure the individual into the personalised ideology of the leader. Cult leaders are often incredibly manipulative and whilst they spend a great deal of time creating an image for their followers the essence of their personality is predatory. Therefore, charismatic leaders exhibit many of the features required for formal diagnoses under the DSM ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ) category of personality disorders. Two personality disorders in particular- Anti-social Personality Disorder (psychopathy) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder- share many of the characteristics of abusive group leaders (APA, 2014; Aron, 2011; Edelstein, 2011; Shaw, 2003).
In the text “Take your Life Back” by Lalich and Tobias (2006) they suggest a checklist to help individuals identify and demystify the traits of a psychopathic/sociopathic, charismatic leader.

  • Glibness and Superficial Charm: The charismatic leader is able to beguile and confuse and convince through the use of language; they are able to disarm and persuade with incredible proficiency. Tilgner, L., Dowie, T.K (Ph.D)., & Denning, N. (2015). 15
  • Manipulative: The inability to recognise the rights and needs of others enabling any self-serving behaviour to be permissible. They divide the world into (1) those who can be manipulated, (2) those who are one’s enemies, and (3) themselves. Many people involved in a cult have been allocated to the category of those who can be manipulated and anyone who objects to behaviours quickly finds themselves in the position of the enemy.
  • A Grandiose Sense of Self: Leaders have a tremendous feeling of entitlement, they by nature believe that they are owed and have the right to whatever behaviour they wish hence nothing is immoral or out of reach if it is in the quest to quench their insatiable desire.
  • Pathological Lying: The leader is able to lie and be untruthful without any sense of impropriety. The cult leader will often construct complex self-aggrandizing narratives, which will represent them as having special or unique powers. This kind of lying is connected to something called pseudologica fantastica, which is the term given to the complex belief systems and traditions which they themselves develop (eg., they are the manifestation of some supreme power).
  • Lack of Remorse, Shame and Guilt: The leader exhibiting sociopathic tendencies is unable to experience shame or guilt for their hurtful and damaging behaviours thus they see others as mere objects for the gratification of their needs. These needs are often carefully hidden and concealed within the subtext of some system of thought, which condones the lack of care and concern. They also tend to lack the capacity for genuine empathy but may disguise this with false displays of care and understanding.
  • Lack of Emotional Depth: The leader who is unable to express remorse is also likely to have difficulty with anything but shallow displays of emotion. Due to the power imbalance the emotional lack on behalf of the leader is often mistaken for some kind of profound equipoise gained through diligent adherence to the group values and practices. Much of the emotional display is designed simply to manipulate the followers.
  • Impulse Control: Leaders can exhibit problems with impulse control (otherwise referred to as acting out). This acting out normally takes a number of forms, the most common of which are sexual and physical abuse. This behaviour is often known only to a select few yet when it is publicly known complex explanations are offered. Usually this involves the leader behaving in ways that are simply beyond the understanding of their “less enlightened” followers. Thus there is often a claim to a special kind of teaching; this is particularly the case in sexual exploitation within spiritual cults. Spiritual cult Tilgner, L., Dowie, T.K (Ph.D)., & Denning, N. (2015). 16 leaders may claim they are passing on or helping their victim’s consciousness or spirituality. In the history of cultic studies it is usually the case that the sexual behaviour of the cult leader towards the followers is never truly consensual as it has arisen through sustained and deliberate degradation of personal will via threats of violence, control, and slow and surreptitious psychological manipulation over extended periods of time.

Conclusions and Key Recommendations: Profile of Abusive Leaders

  • Psychological abuse, a powerful weapon of abusive leaders, is usually insidious and highly corrosive of identity and sense of self. Being harder to detect than physical abuse, the victim may find themselves caught on the receiving end of a destructive cycle of “crazy-making”.
  • Authoritarian style personality is linked to abuse of power and control. Authoritarian personality characteristics: organise through hierarchy, move towards acquisitions of power and wealth, tendency to use people and see others as inferior or wrong, have a tendency towards sado-masochism, incapacity to be fulfilled and satisfied, suffer from feelings of paranoia and persecution.
  • Two personality disorders in particular- Anti-social Personality Disorder (psychopathy/sociopathy) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder- are found in abusive group leaders.
  • Characteristics of sociopathic group leaders: glibness and superficial charm, manipulativeness, a grandiose sense of self, pathological lying, lack of remorse, lack of emotional depth and impulse control.
  • We may expect such sociopathic characteristics in cult leaders but consider leaders of new age movements, that proclaim a superior way of life; and survivors of clergy abuse who have frequently described a process of “grooming”, whereby their dependency and powerlessness was used to abuse and threaten them into silence. People in power who abuse others may share some if not all of the characteristics of authoritarian personality, charismatic, sociopathic and narcissistic personality styles.
  • We recommend when dealing with individuals exiting an abusive group to appreciate the impacts of exposure to authoritarian and personality disordered group leaders and fellow members who may have emulated the behaviour of the leader.
  • We recommend fully recognising the extent to which psychological control and influence have been used to disempower the individual. Working with exmembers of abusive groups is a process of rehabilitation; the supporting and rebuilding of a person that has been violated psychologically and possibly physically, sexually, and financially.
  • Greater awareness, prevention and intervention of psychological abuse is required. Prevalence and impacts of psychological abuse across all levels of interpersonal relationship (ie., intimate relationships, schools, sporting, community and church) requires investigation and appropriate intervention.”

There’s a lot here to think about, not just about the teacher who may have a mental disorder, but also those who may have emulated the behaviour, and those of us in the process of recovery after exiting an abusve cult.
What jumps out of this article for you?


Private discussion on this and other related topics can be had on our Secret  What Now Facebook Group. It is only for current and previous students of Rigpa, however, and we do moderate it closely. If you’re interested in joining, please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
People from other sanghas can join the Dharma Friends Beyond the Temple Facebook Group . It’s a support group for anyone who has left their Buddhist sangha after hearing revelations of abuse by their teacher or after experiencing such abuse. It’s for people who see ethical behaviour, love, compassion and introspection as the core of their spiritual path. The aim of the group is to support each other in our spiritual journey wherever it takes us. Click here and request to join.
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.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page.

53 Replies to “If the Mental Disorder Fits, Wear it.”

  1. Very thoughtful post.
    I. Quote from the post : “There is nothing in Buddhism about mental disorders.”
    I never find anything about mental disorders in the teachings but :
    – They may fall within the subsidiary disturbances (in the Abidharma), a strong combination of envy, hypocrisy, and pretense (phra dog, g.yo sgyu ) with other disturbances.
    “Pretense is to deceive others through what is untrue, pretending to possess virtuous qualities which one is not endowed with for the sake of such things as honor and gain. It belongs to the category of delusion and attachment, and forms the support for disturbing emotions and subsidiary disturbing emotions, as well as for leading a perverted life.” (from the Khejug).
    – They might also be demons. Especially in the case of teachers : Gyalpos.
    “Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche (1920–1996) wrote that as very often gyalpos manifest as masters, spiritual teachers and enlightened beings, several highly realised practitioners of the past fell for their tricks.” (from wikipedia – gyalpo spirits).
    – Tibetan Buddhist is also strongly mingled with black magic. There are interesting thought in this article in Tricycle magazine obsession-and-madness-path-enlightenment, by Scott Carney : “…I and other journalists were targets of spiritual warfare… So I agreed to buy tsampa—a sort of barley flour—for the monks at Sera Mey as an offering. In return they would conduct a powerful ceremony… “

  2. Very good article with many pithy points!
    Yesterday I said that I should have studied psychology before becoming a Buddhist, then I‘d understood the narcissist disorder of Sogyal and would have recognized the psychological manipulation (gaslighting) straight away.
    I am yet relieved that there are other healthy Tibetan lamas, but I do not know if I can ever turn to one again and ask advice for my practice or studies. I came to appreciate secular teachers.

  3. Unfortunately, studying psychology doesn’t seem to help arm people against falling for abusive lamas. In fact, Tibetan Buddhism is full of psychologists and therapists who are deeply involved and duped. I don’t know why, but it is a big phenomena. You’d think that people who have studied psychology would have a heads up when they meet people like Sogyal, but the opposite seems to be true. Psychologists and therapists tend to be more likely to get involved with lama groups, not the other way around.

    1. Yes. As we know Rigpa Therapy was good in Gaslighting (psychological manipulation to tell you what problem you have). So studying psychology might have made an even worse complicit out of me.

  4. @catlover, I think it may be the case that many of those people calling themselves therapists or counsellors are not qualified psychologists but have other more airy-fairy qualifications.

    1. Therapy really went downhill when it “merged” with airy fairy religious philosophy. I don’t know why anyone thinks merging psychology/therapy with “Buddhism” is a very good idea, (Dalai Lama notwithstanding). I don’t want to get into a discussion about Mind and Life, or the efforts from psychologists to partner up with “Buddhism” and New Age “self help” to find ways for people to be “happy.” I think the powers that be just want to create a numbed society where people work hard as virtual slaves and never complain. What better way to do this than to teach them to be “content” with their miserable lives? It works well in India, it worked well in China, and other parts of Asia, so Western leaders are trying to create the same thing here. It’s easier to control “contented” masses than to control people who are awake and defending their human rights. I think most of these Buddhists/psychologists mean well in their efforts to help people (from their point of view), and Christians mean well too when they are trying to save everyone from hell. But you know what they always say about “the road to hell being paved with good intentions.”

    2. @ Matilda, I know a number of therapists who are bona fide who remain in rigpa despite knowing that the testimonies in the letter were all true. In fact, one of them ran a department in Kaiser, she called us malicious cry babies…[insert eye roll].
      As to the rigpa therapists who gave ‘rigpa therapy’, they were fully licensed and certified, all except for one dutch woman, I think she’d been certified at one point.
      My observation is that the true believers who are therapists do one of two things
      1. go through all kinds of mental gymnastics to make exceptions for the abuse
      2. (and this one is my very favorite) Turn it back on the victim. I actually had someone who I thought was a good friend tell me that I should really look at my part in it all, what did I do to provoke him…[insert throw up icon here]

      1. @notsohopeful,
        Also they spread out all over the country (and the world) not just in Rigpa and SCAMbhala.
        “I actually had someone who I thought was a good friend tell me that I should really look at my part in it all, what did I do to provoke him…”
        Yeah, this is so typical. What’s really bizarre about it is that if the “provoked” lama was truly a buddha, he wouldn’t ever be provoked in the first place, lol! 😀

      2. @notsohopeful, when you say ‘bona fide thereapists’, i’m not quite clear what you mean in terms of qualifications. My point was that those calling themselves counsellors/therapists may be entitled to do so but may not have undergone the rigorous study required to become a registered psychologist. In Australia a Masters Degree in Psychology is required, with all the attendant supervision requirements.
        Those calling themselves therapists or counsellors may have undergone various Diplomas and Degrees but in my view they are less likely to be across relevant behavioural research and may be less bound by stringent ethics, giving them leeway to excuse the spiritual teacher’s predatory behaviour if that suited their personal agenda and role within the Dharma organisation. This is just my proposition though, i’m not claiming evidence for it – so i’m just wondering about the quals of these therapists/counsellors who populate Rigpa?
        A pamphlet i picked up recently down my local shopping strip advertises the services of Robyn, as ‘Counselling, Psychotherapy and Hypnotherapy’. She has a Bachelor of Social Science in Counselling/Psychotherapy, a Diploma of Health Science in Holistic Counseling and a Diploma of Clinical Hypnotherapy. Very impressive, she’s probably a great counsellor but as a traditionalist in these matters i just have the most confidence in those who’ve done the years of hard slog it takes to become a Psychologist, with all the tedious research design projects that entails.
        Personally, if i was part of Rigpa, or any Dharma org, where therapists were gaslighting students and ignoring or spiritually bypassing a teacher’s predatory or abusive behaviour i’d firstly find out what their quals were, then if they were a Psychologist i’d probably report them given they were harnessing their professional background to ignore or justify abuse (even though such gaslighting might be outside their business hours). Counsellors – other than Psychologists – also have professional organisations to monitor the conduct of practitioners.
        There’s also the issue of mandatory reporting which i guess varies from country to country and i can’t recall whether it applies to victims other than minors.

        1. @Matilda,
          Unfortunately, the whole, entire therapeutic/psychology profession has been infiltrated by lama cults and pseudo-Buddhists who have been trying (and succeeding) to merge Buddhism with psychology and therapy for years. It doesn’t matter anymore how many years a person has studied psychology or whether they call themselves a psychologist or a therapist. There are duped people in both professions. There are still skeptics, but I wonder if the skeptics outnumber the converts.

          1. @Catlover, “the whole, entire therapeutic/psychology profession has been infiltrated by lama cults and pseudo-Buddhists who have been trying (and succeeding) to merge Buddhism with psychology and therapy for years.”
            That strikes me as a sweeping generalisation. There are synergies between the Buddhist teachings on the mind and contemporary psychology. So despite the abuse-enabling therapists that inhabit Rigpa, and possibly Shambhala, i don’t think it’s reasonable or accurate to diss the entire cross-fertilisation of ideas between the two disciplines.
            For a start, look at all the references on cult behaviour that have been cited on this & other blogs exploring Lama abuse – haven’t they been written by professionals in the fields of psychology & psychotherapy? Buddhist practitioners like Matthieu Ricard & Mingyur Rinpoche have shared their direct insights with neuro-scientists etc. So generally the exchange of ideas has been a positive one – indeed, people here (if i recall correctly) have been arguing that Lamas need to spend more time understanding the nature of mental health problems to help with their own self-diagnosis & that of students. Broadly speaking, I don’t see strong grounds to dismiss the sharing of perspectives and insights as an “infiltration” that will harm students and clients. Baby out with bathwater much?

            1. @Matilda7,
              I used to think it was a good idea to have this “exchange of ideas” between Buddhism and psychology, but more recently I have begun to rethink that, and I question whether that is a wise move. That’s my opinion and we don’t have to agree.
              “…indeed, people here (if i recall correctly) have been arguing that Lamas need to spend more time understanding the nature of mental health problems to help with their own self-diagnosis & that of students.”
              Lamas doing self diagnosis, LOL! 😀 😀 😀 😀 That is really funny! As if these abusive lama types were capable of any sort of self introspection and self diagnosis, let alone diagnosing their students. We’ve all seen what THAT looks like when they try to diagnose someone, (ie; being possessed by spirits, lol!) Lamas are never going to learn to self diagnose and the very idea of it is laughable, or should I be crying?
              “Broadly speaking, I don’t see strong grounds to dismiss the sharing of perspectives and insights as an “infiltration” that will harm students and clients. Baby out with bathwater much?”
              I don’t think Buddhist “psychology” has much insight into human nature (especially the darker side of human nature) and it’s very limited in in scope. I think it’s very foolish to throw the Western psychology “baby” out with the “bathwater” so to speak, in order to replace it with a kind of soft New Age psuedo-Buddhist fromula that psychology has become. I’m not saying that Buddhism is nonsense AS BUDDHISM, but Buddhism merged with psychology isn’t even Buddhism anymore, and it’s no longer psychology either. It has become something else and NO I no longer think it is good or beneficial to the West to merge them together.

              1. I think merging them together actually weakens them both, and it dilutes the strength of both paths, which suit different people’s needs.

              2. Yes catlover, we don’t have to agree but maybe you can offer some examples to illustrate that this cross-fertilisation of Buddhism & Psychology has become “a kind of soft New Age psuedo-Buddhist fromula”, beyond Rigpa & Shambhala which i agree are corrupting both disciplines.

                1. @matilda7,
                  Sorry, but I don’t have time to go digging up *proof* to satisfy everyone who doesn’t agree with me. The best “example” I can give is my own personal experience with my own therapists, who are not part of Rigpa. They try to peddle the New Age, pseudo Buddhist stuff to me. They have even made up special names for the stuff they took from Buddhism, such as mindfulness. They now call it something else, with a fancy psych name, but they aren’t fooling me into thinking it’s not from Buddhism. It would be lovely to be able to go to a therapist who is not involved with any of this, but it’s not possible anymore, at least not in my area. That’s why I say they have infiltrated everything. You can’t even find a therapist anymore who isn’t influenced by it in some way. i

                  1. Thanks catlover, i wasn’t intending to pressure you but experiential evidence helps to corroborate the views we express here. And yep, when i read your description above, my first thought was it sounds very ‘California-esque’. I’ve had a different experience with a psychologist so i do wonder whether these trends of re-hashing Buddhist techniques are more prevalent in some places than others – not implying your location but just the influences brought to bear on psycho-therapy aren’t globally uniform.

                    1. @matilda7,
                      I’m actually not in California, but your point is well taken. It’s possible that it is more prevalent in some areas than others. I actually hope that there are some areas that aren’t as influenced, but I am afraid that it is becoming a trend all over.

            2. @mathilda7, @Catlover,
              I was asking myself, what will happen if a therapeutic/psychology professional who merges Buddhism with psychology and therapy, has a patient who is atheist, Christian, Muslim or from an other religion ?
              Or vice versa, what will happen if a therapeutic/psychology professional who merges Christianity with psychology and therapy, has a patient who is Buddhist etc ?
              Imagine a Christian psychotherapist using psycho-spiritual therapy to dismantle a patient’s Buddhism faith, the cause of his problems for a Christian believer ! I witness it, the result was disastrous. The patient became highly depressive and anxious.
              I also saw several times Buddhist masters using psycho-spirituality (merging of Buddhism and psychology in this case) to manipulate their disciples. It happens also in the Church. I knew a priest doing it. He was like a psychic vampire.
              I think it’s abusive for a psychotherapist or a Teacher to merge a believe (Philosophy or Religion) with western psychology. In fact it’s against religious pluralism and secularism.
              However (for me), it doesn’t mean that a teacher or a disciple can’t use some psychology to enhance his understanding of his practice, situation and behavior etc. but not as a systematic tool.
              Concerning neuroscience and Buddhism, I think that it’s a different matter.

              1. @Julia Lovert,
                Very good points, Julia!
                A lot of what you said is exactly why this is so wrong, (mixing any religion with the helping professions). There needs to be separation between church and state, between religion and schools, and between religion and medical doctors, and religion and therapy as well. As soon as we start mixing church with all of those other things, problems develop, even if the psuedo- Buddhist techniques in psychology/therapy are supposedly “secular” in nature. They are really not because a lot of the Buddhist philosophy leaks in with the mediation techniques, and a lot of the therapists are Buddhist themselves, or at least Buddhist fans, so it isn’t really totally secular. (Don’t tell me that Buddhism is just a “philosophy” and “not a religion.” I don’t buy that for a minute. It’s definitely a religion.) Also, when you have a lot of Buddhists teaching those methods in a supposedly “secular” setting, it becomes Buddhist (or at least psuedo-Buddhist), and no longer neutral at all. This would apply to any religion, not just Buddhism, so I’m not singling Buddhism out for discrimination. You can’t really have separation of church and state if all the lawmakers and judges are religious and want to pass laws that reflect their religious beliefs and impose them on the rest of society. (But I don’t want to get into politics. I am just saying that when everyone is a convert, then there can be no real separation. That would apply to lawmakers, as well as the helping professions. If all the therapists are Buddhist, then they are going to be putting Buddhism into therapy, just as Christians put their own religious ideals into lawmaking. I’m not saying that ALL Buddhists and Christians operate this way, but we need to have enough neutral people and moderates around to help minimize the damage that the extremists and “true believers” cause from ANY religion, whether it’s Buddhism or something else. I hope people can see where I’m coming from.

                1. It was nice sharing thoughts with you and other people on this blog. I go back to meditation retreat tomorrow for an indefinite period. I keep you in my best wishes.

                  1. @Julia Lovert,
                    Okay, we’ll miss you, Julia.
                    I hope my posts aren’t making you want to go into retreat. 😀

    3. @Matilda7,
      A lot of these Lama cult therapists are “qualified” at least on paper. That’s one of the things that’s so scary about it.

  5. I just have to say this.It’s my confession.
    I was at Rigpa (UK, London) – I was there for some years. I was even in the (at the end) Dzogchen group.
    But, the only reason I was there was part of my P.h.d studies in Psychology.
    I left once my P.h.d was complete, in 2013.
    The place was a gold mine for in-group / out group, availability error, halo effect studies.
    But I was sure glad to leave!

  6. The psychology profession has been infiltrated to such a large extent by Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhists and New Agers that it’s hard to find a therapist these days who does NOT spout off some sort of New Age or pseudo-Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for Tibetan Buddhism, (for those who find true benefit in it), but not in psychology. I think it should be separate. After all, who can you go to for therapy when lamas abuse you if all the therapists are either closet lama worshippers, involved in a lama cult, or lama fans from afar, who know nothing about lama abuses and think all lamas are saints?

  7. Oh, totally agree Catlover. So great to hear someone else say it!
    Also the same goes for science – especially ‘neuroscience’ when they mean neurology.

  8. There are plenty of Vajrayana therapists that deeply disapprove of Sogyal Rinpoche’s predatory behavior from an ethical perspective. But, from a transcendent (absolute) or creative perspective they might be more accepting of his “Craziness.”
    It really depends on the therapist in question.

  9. I managed to throw my critical thinking faculties out the door because I trusted that since most of what he said sounded true that it was all true, stupid when I look back now, but that can happen to anyone with stars in their eyes regardless of their profession. He said it wasn’t a cult and I believed him. (Facepalm!)

    1. @Moonfire,
      Of course, I am quite sure that he honestly believed it wasn’t a cult. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a cult, but he didn’t THINK it was a cult.

  10. “There is nothing in Buddhism about mental disorders”
    They may fall within “demons” in Tibetan Buddhism, in particular Gyalpo spirits concerning the Teachers.

    1. ….Except that the Teachers are never possessed Gyalpo spirits, (since the Teachers are perfect), only the students who aren’t worshiping the guru correctly are possessed. 😀

      1. 😺 … Except that :
        “gyalpo spirits as “king-spirits” who are “the spirits of evil kings or of high lamas who have failed their vows”. 😵
        ” Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche (1920–1996) wrote that as very often gyalpos manifest as masters, spiritual teachers and enlightened beings, several highly realised practitioners of the past fell for their tricks.” (from wikipedia and other sources).

  11. 😺 … Except that :
    “gyalpo spirits as “king-spirits” who are “the spirits of evil kings or of high lamas who have failed their vows”. 😵
    ” Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche (1920–1996) wrote that as very often gyalpos manifest as masters, spiritual teachers and enlightened beings, several highly realised practitioners of the past fell for their tricks.” (from wikipedia and other sources).

    1. Reply to Catlover : “….Except that the Teachers are never possessed Gyalpo spirits, (since the Teachers are perfect), only the students who aren’t worshiping the guru correctly are possessed. 😀”

      1. All the talk of Gyalpo spirits are related to cultural beliefs and probably not part of Buddhism per se; each time dharma is rooted in another culture it seems to be mixed with it and either absorbs the other. Here in West you can see this with dharma mixing with New Age/Hippy/Alternative/’Green’ movements, just look at the Buddhafield festivals that have started 20 years ago.

    2. Julia; ‘gyalpos manifest as masters, ‘
      this is actually terrifying. I think I have seen this recently….too afraid to say more.

  12. @Julia Lovert,
    I hope you realize I was being sarcastic.
    “gyalpo spirits as “king-spirits” who are “the spirits of evil kings or of high lamas who have failed their vows”.
    Wasn’t Shugden one of those spirits said to have manifested from such a lama?

    1. Yes, I understood! this is why I added an emoticon to my reply : a laughing cat. But thanks to check, it’s not always obvious on the web.
      I heard about Shugden a long time ago, but I hadn’t much knowledge about it/him (?). It’s just recently that I made some research. I think it’s something like this, even so not every body agree on the story behind the legend.
      I believe that all these similar stories are related to what is said in this post :
      ” I suspect that Tibetan Buddhism has been gaslighting devotees for centuries.”
      When some TB teachers want westerners to think that the current issues are something new, and special to us, this is a diversion. Thus we should not be disheartened : “Nothing new under the sun”.

  13. @Julia Lovert,
    ” I suspect that Tibetan Buddhism has been gaslighting devotees for centuries.”
    “When some TB teachers want westerners to think that the current issues are something new, and special to us, this is a diversion. Thus we should not be disheartened : “Nothing new under the sun”.
    I totally agree with this. It’s so refreshing to hear someone else say it.

  14. I think we’d all like to know the answer to these basic questions for the sake of dharma in the west:
    1. Did SR do these acts deliberately in belief they were part of dzogchen/vajrayana training?
    2. Was the anger he dealt out as a result of his unknown ill health that turned out to be cancer?
    3. Was he aware of the consequences & that it may put the whole TB &Dharma under the spotlight?
    4. Was it to keep him grounded in Samsara; a claim we’ve see before about the 1st Kalu Rinpoche?
    5. Was it to establish a strong karmic link with an individual in belief it will help them in a future life?
    6. Did his 4 major masters who were said as Buddhas in the flesh know of this aspect of him?
    7. Has SR fully apologised unreservedly, does he accept full responsibility for decades of this habit?
    8. Did his master reincarnate in form of DzongsarKhyenste address these point in his long talks to the Rigpa group.

    1. It’s similar to that old joke about corporal punishment:
      “The beatings will continue until suffering ends.”

  15. @KDD,
    I think I can answer these questions without even having to think much about it. (Of course, I can’t see into Sogyal’s head, or into any other lama’s head, but based on the way they act, and what they say when they are not being very sly and careful to say what’s popular, I can pretty much guess what they are thinking.)
    I think we’d all like to know the answer to these basic questions for the sake of dharma in the west:
    1. Did SR do these acts deliberately in belief they were part of dzogchen/vajrayana training?
    YES, he did. Why is that so hard for people to believe that? He believes it’s all part of Dzogchen/Vajrayana mind training. Not only does he believe that, but he also believes that if students are unhappy with the results, it’s their lack of merit and good karma. Unfortunately, most lamas have the same sort of view, so it’s not even unusual for him to believe it. This is what they are taught to believe since they were tiny children, so it is actually unusual when they can think for themselves and NOT think this way.
    2. Was the anger he dealt out as a result of his unknown ill health that turned out to be cancer?
    NO, it wasn’t just the illness making him act that way. He was always a spoiled brat, and he got worse and worse as he got older, as people kept on enabling him. The cancer may have contributed to his overall disposition, but it is not the only reason for his bad behavior, and it’s not a good excuse.
    3. Was he aware of the consequences & that it may put the whole TB &Dharma under the spotlight?
    He wasn’t/isn’t self aware enough to even think that what he was doing could be wrong and that it could backfire on Tibetan Buddhism itself. He didn’t think about that because he never had any reason to think what he was doing was wrong in the first place. Everyone around him told him what a saint he was, thus reinforcing his egotistical belief about himself and his buddhahood.
    4. Was it to keep him grounded in Samsara; a claim we’ve see before about the 1st Kalu Rinpoche?
    NO. The “grounded in Samsara” business is a lame excuse for men to indulge in their every sexual/power fantasy and be able to live with themselves afterward, and tell themselves they are so holy.
    5. Was it to establish a strong karmic link with an individual in belief it will help them in a future life?
    That is another lame excuse to indulge in every sexual desire and excess without having to admit they are just human males with an overgrown sex drive and lots of greed for money and power.
    6. Did his 4 major masters who were said as Buddhas in the flesh know of this aspect of him?
    YES, they did know, only too well. Whether they approved of his actions or not, who knows? I think the only way to be able to tell what someone REALLY thinks it’s through their actions. Did they disassociate themselves from him, while expressing disapproval of his behavior?
    7. Has SR fully apologised unreservedly, does he accept full responsibility for decades of this habit?
    NO, he didn’t apologize. He did not accept full responsibility. He gave a non-apology where he basically says to the eight…”sorry you FEEL that way” but he doesn’t take any of the blame on himself. If he does feel any shame at all, he is too cowardly to man up and admit it publically.
    8. Did his master reincarnate in form of DzongsarKhyenste address these point in his long talks to the Rigpa group.
    Yes, (a little bit), and mostly NO, he didn’t. DKR waffled around so much about it that it’s hard to know what he was really saying. I think when it comes right down to it, his first talks were more honest than the talks that came later. It’s more likely that he initially expressed how he REALLY feels, before he began censoring himself due to the backlash he got. Based on his first talks, he believes Sogyal can do no wrong, and that if a student took a high level empowerment from him, they shouldn’t ever criticize. He also felt that Sogyal should have “prepared” his students better for Vajrayana and that was his main mistake. He also believes that Western students are not qualified for Vajrayana if they ever complain about the methods of a Vajrayana teacher. To be pc and popular, he sometimes changed his tune (later on) to say what people wanted to hear, but I don’t believe for one minute that DKR was actually changing his mind and siding with the abused victims. He was just being popular, like a politician.

    1. @Catlover
      Yes from the face of it you are spot on and those answers align largely with my thoughts and what a crying shame for the whole dharma implanting to the west; it makes me think he really knew it’s all bit baloney (isn’t he supposed to be a 1/3rd of Terton Sogyal reincarnation line) and had fun along the way and to emulate Trungpa; how could such a high incarnate go so awry.
      Mind you wasn’t the Sharmapa incarnation line before the recent one was banned by Dalai Lamas, then the 2 Karmapas. The Tibetan Buddhist lineages all seem full of problems; why?

  16. @KDD,
    “The Tibetan Buddhist lineages all seem full of problems; why?”
    Because people are people. They always have these kinds of problems, especially in religion (and politics). It’s very similar the world over.

    1. Going back to Gyalpos as aforementioned previous:
      if people (sanghas or lama/teachers) are supposedly possessed by such spirits if they do in fact exist (for me personally this is very doubtful and just an excuse to denigrate some), then that persons had no choice about it then and it is not their fault.
      Dalai Lama, whose teacher was a SR previously incarnation, consults an state oracle possessed in times of need however; but the outcome for Tibet was not assisted well; he used to pray for D.Sugden help I’ve read once.
      Persecutors in middle age/medieval times had the excuse to berate, beat, torture, even muder such poor individuals who were supposed to be possessed.
      Maybe TB has too much fell behind modern time and there is a gap between was was accepted and nowaday.
      [just some randim thoughts; excuse my poor English alsos]

  17. @KDD<
    Oh, there's a gap, alright, lo! 😀
    Another thing I wanna know. If the lamas are so enlightened, how do they possessed by Gyalpos in the first place? There's no excuse. Perfect beings are perfect, so they can't be tricked or controlled by unenlightened beings. 😀
    In the case of the Oracle, he deliberately invites the spirit to take him over, and then the spirit leaves after he is done delivering the messages. (It seems risky, since the spirit could just possess him forever.) My question: if lamas are so enlightened and all-knowing, why do they even need to consult oracles, lol? Aren't their psychic powers good enough to be able to see into the future without "lesser" beings telling them the future? 😀
    The Dalai Lama gave up Shugden practice because he felt it was a sectarian practice that restricted his own religious freedom to practice in other lineages. (It's ironic that Shugdenites are now saying that the Dalai lama is restricting their "freedom of religion" since the practice itself is restrictive.)

  18. @Catlover
    Yes thank you for your responce, relieved I’m not the only one then to be confused why even such a highly respected world leader would do this, a living embodiment of compassionate Bodhisattwa Avalokieshiva or he accepts as expected of his position; following no.13DL protocols.
    I reckon most people just see his public compassionate persona and accept he’s like the pope (who has direct link to the big G himself!).
    The other TB leader of {Black-Hat} Kagyu-pa lineage escape China Communist about 2000 called Karma-pa 17th who was apparently in ‘conflict’ for this position with another version of his incarnation (recently got married) and the other of the pair was a Red-Hat Sharma-pa died recently (but his reincarnation line were banned by Dalai Lama lineage; but now lifted off the restriction).
    Another is Sakya Trindzen who passes line through sons of Grey school.
    The 4th most ancient group had different way of picking leader after death that SR belong to?
    I wonder if the original Bonpo group do the same method of copying incarnates.
    Some Lamas come back as multiples (2, 3, 4 or 5), why not Dalai & his ‘paired’ Panchen Lama?
    I find fascinating these systems seem so different to Buddhists in Thailand, China, HK, Cambodia etc., all with own culture slant on the original Sakyamuni prince; who some say was 4th of 1002 Buddhas in this Aeon.

    1. @KDD,
      “Yes thank you for your responce, relieved I’m not the only one then to be confused why even such a highly respected world leader would do this, a living embodiment of compassionate Bodhisattwa Avalokieshiva or he accepts as expected of his position; following no.13DL protocols.”
      Just for the record, in my last post I didn’t say that the Dalai Lama is necessarily restricting the so-called “religious freedom” of Shugdenpas. It’s a whole lot more complicated than that. I don’t want to get into a long discussion about the Shugden issue, as it tends to just go around in circles. The point I was making in my previous post was that it’s really *ironic* that Shugdenpas say their religious freedom is being restricted when the practice itself restricts religious freedom. So there is the irony of that.
      Personally, the whole Shugden issue just shows how backward and medieval Tibetan Buddhists can be, arguing and squabbling over spirit beings, who probably don’t even exist. Neither side looks totally pretty in this controversy, but I tend to side more with the Dalai Lama’s position.
      Based on the information I have learned over the years, I think the Dalai Lama’s argument about the practice being harmful makes sense and is valid. Of all the Tibetan Buddhist sects, the Shgdenpas are one of the weirdest and they are known to be cult-like and sectarian, (and there are many “survivors” websites devoted to New Kadampa Tradition) which support exes who have left the group. While the Shugden issue goes back way further than New Kadampa Tradition, the NKT is a good example of how crazy people get when they worship Shugden, and it adds more weight to the Dalai Lama’s concerns about the practice being harmful.

    2. @Tenpel, if you’re around, you can always take it from here, if you have anything to add about the Shugden issue. You probably know more about it than I do.

  19. I was going to comment on the ‘Is Rigpa a cult’ great embedded video on the collapse of Andrew Cohen Cult.
    People (maybe not all), or it’s said nowaday ‘shepple’, need some parent figure in the lonely Universe we awoken into & part off, without being asked to be born except the love, lust, habit etc. of parents and their parents all the way back to life starting.
    So Moses, Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, Krishna etc. our projection as ‘god’ figures to tell us what to do in this brief time we are alive – it remind me of Monty Pithoon that John Cleese, an early supporter of SR who saw in London once or twice, had this line from his angry Mamma say:
    “He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”.
    Is that what we say of the cult leaders now; are they these leaders so blind to not realise it all crash down one days and what of the traditional approach he bring to West, all now shattered.
    Short-sighted if that the case.
    I’m totally saddened by the revelation all bring this site; and anyone can presume view this or come up on search engine; and of the main people left now in Rigpa whose world pulled rug under them, will thay slip away gradual as did a few top notch presenters:
    French Maths teacher one called Oliver R, the USA lady Kimberley & partner, John from Yorshire; all great proponents of teachings and gave people confident the organisation was sound.
    And of course the Patrick himself with his humour and low-key demeanour will remain as with Dom S.
    There must be so much cognitive dissonance among peoples staying and maybe that is said to be dozgchen lesson for them.

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