Maybe Pure Perception Is To Never Look Away

Buddha_Flowers_800I would like to share the following, as food for thought:
Let me introduce myself: I am still and fully intend to remain, a student of SR. For maybe 20 years SR has been the absolute root of my spiritual path and the source of so much profound understanding and liberation that, even if I wanted to, I could not cut that sacred bond. I know the organization is not a sect, SR is not a fraud, and we’re neither brainwashed nor gullible, and that things can be different than they seem. I do not waver in my devotion. Yet that doesn’t mean that everything is fine, nor that I can understand or condone what has happened to people.
You probably don’t know me, because illness has kept me both from being able to work for the organization on a more than incidental basis or go to any other retreat but the Amsterdam ones. But let it be a demonstration of the power of his teachings and blessings that they are fully present in me! Because my illness also created an intense need to work with my mind, SR is vey close to my heart. I am fully ‘marinated in his teachings’ and have enough inner experiences to have no doubt at this point.
Yet not having experienced SR outside his teaching role, I have no means of ascertaining for myself what is true or not from either side of the fence, so I’ve just been trying to listen and understand. These are my personal thoughts for contemplation, from an insider outsider view. I apologize that at points I sure sound like a know-it-all. Unfortunately, I’m not… I’m an armchair warrior and have no idea of how it is to actually work for the organization and put your money where your mouth is. I must admit it’s all just theory and little actual realization, but this is what I would like to strive for.
I recognize the value of wrathful, crazy teaching. In my own life the greatest breakthroughs came in times of great despair, when something was painfully busted. But to find the courage and space to be able to open up in the pain also required feeling completely held by love and wisdom. Insights can’t be forced. If you experience abuse, and nothing is transformed or opened up besides fear and pain, wrathful teaching stops being skilful. You can’t be shocked into finding the deep unwavering strength of your true being if your mind is completely absorbed by panic, fear, and trauma, only wanting to be everywhere else but there. No matter how well the intention, it just can’t work. And it stops being right.
People have been hurt. We’re not talking about bruised ego’s, but actual trauma. However good the intentions, however great the efforts made, the sangha failed to hold, support and strengthen them. The care they received made them feel at fault for experiencing pain instead of liberation. It made them feel unseen. It made them try to push themselves even further and try to disavow their inner experiences because they did recognize the truth of the teachings, were committed to the lama, and were willing to try to hold their pain and remain open. Although there were three willing sources of love at work—the students themselves, SR, and sangha care—sadly enough it was this very love that made the trauma so much greater.
We are a family, and we failed in our care. They were our brothers and sisters who devoted their lives to the Dharma and worked to bring these precious teachings to all. We owe them our gratitude and respect, and all the love and support and patience that is needed—no matter how much anger and rage we need to accept, no matter how painful it is to see something that we know is so precious opened up to all sorts of forces of destruction. Now we will need to stretch ourselves beyond ourselves, in order to seek ways to hold and connect with that which hurts us at the very core. Out of love, out of wisdom and understanding, out of trusting there is a deeper wisdom right there that needs to be seen.
No matter how hard you try, you can’t “will” yourself into a pure perception. You can’t experience something other than you do, just because you want to. If it worked like that we’d probably all be enlightened now. Pure perception needs to come from within, from actual seeing, not from merely wanting or trying to see. Just like we shouldn’t use “it’s their karma” to justify non-action, we should never use ‘pure perception’ and ‘samaya’ to invalidate someone else’s truth. Maybe it’s our karma to help that unfortunate being. Maybe pure perception asks us to also look deeply into some one else’s reality, even when it’s unnerving and contradicting to our own deeply felt truths, with all the courage, openness and compassion that we can muster.
We need to remember that we all have our very own, very individual path to go—with all our very own individual knots and ties and stories unwinding, contracting and expanding in their own unique way, rhythm and order. Who can predict even for ourselves what will unfold next? Multiple, interdependent and impermanent as we are, we are an ever changing caleidoscope of all sorts of perceptions, openings, blockages, triggers, blind spots, wounds, strengths and weaknesses—fluctuating day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. How could any one ever presume to know for certain how some one else needs to relate to his or her experiences in order to heal and grow beyond them?
We will need to acknowledge and recognize that perhaps the same perfect teacher who just keeps blowing your mind and heart completely open and knows better than you what you need to confront is also the absolute worst teacher possible for some one else. How could we miss this? What is powerful medicine for one person, can be toxic for the next. Maybe this person needs to resist, feel anger, say no, say horrible things, leave partially or completely, temporary or permanent at this juncture in order to deal wisely with what is coming up. Continuing to follow a teacher is not the only way to receive and benefit from his teaching.
With our love and sincere intentions—having experienced the unexpected healing alchemy of crazy wisdom—we wanted to give the support of the view and devotion that was holding us. But in taking our own experiences as a blue print, we closed our eyes, ears and hearts for the very real pain and needs that were actually there. We had eyes, but did not see; ears, but did not hear. We thought: If they could just see with our eyes, have our insights, they would be able to get the same benefit and progress on the path. But what was needed was the courage to look through their eyes, to be courageous and unafraid to fully accept their negative experience of the teacher as their truth, unequivocally. Then we would have seen that devotion or pure perception was the last thing they needed.
Feeling that you must either accept that what you yourself can’t experience as anything else but abuse, is actually a blessing—or else be damned—is never a good way to relate to the teachings. It is devastating when your pain is invalidated, and your desperate efforts to express and explain it are again and again brushed aside as resistance, being misguided, a lack of understanding. It’s not a harm that is intended, but by not seeing our own blind spots the help we try to give can, in actuality, create great harm. Even when our hearts are sincere, our actions can be wrong. Did we consider the possibility that it could be our own erroneous identification of the problem and ill-guided response that led to the wrong result or did we just assume it was probably due to some deeply ingrained blindness in the other?
Pure perception that can only accept one vision is not true pure perception. A rigid pure perception that needs to ignore, avoid or explain away all that doesn’t fit the picture is rather like the ill-guided yogi yelling in anger at Patrul Rinpoche to stop disturbing his practice of patience. It looks good, but it misses the main point. If we truly have the refuge, the truth of the teachings inside us, and we are guided by genuine bodhichitta, we should have no fear for endangering our own path, practice, teacher and pure perception if that is what is called for. We should not let our wish to protect the organization or SR take priority over helping the ones who are suffering because of them. Is it not the essence of Dzogchen to be courageous?
Let truth take care of itself. If it’s genuine, it will hold. A wooden Buddha cannot withstand fire, a clay Buddha cannot withstand water. The only true Buddha is within you. Nothing can destroy it. It may be hidden from our view for quite a while but when the dust and turbulence settles it will still be there.
Out of the tragic destruction of Tibet, Buddhism emerged in the West. Foreign, strange and outlandish, the hidden Vajrayana teachings that the great Tibetan masters brought with them were planted here and slowly took root. Slowly we began to understand, recognize, experience, practice and embody these teachings, learning to rely on the precious teacher as the unfailing guide. We found the truth of the teachings in our own heart and cherished it, kept it safe, kept it sacred.
And now all is harshly broken open, its tender heart exposed, ridiculed, ripped apart by rash judgments, maligned. We are in the midst of a horribly destructive storm and we don’t know what will survive it. Yet, as aspiring Vajrayana students of a crazy wisdom master, we should know how sometimes destruction is needed for something deeper to be born. Dharma doesn’t mingle easy, it will create disruptions everywhere—including in our sangha and in ourselves. It’s unavoidable: We must deal with it. In today’s world, we no longer have the luxury to practice in hidden privacy. We will somehow need to find the courage to hold our seat in this storm, to not withdraw or respond emotionally but turn our minds inwards towards wisdom, to remain tender, compassionate, completely open and fearless.
We are the ones who need to translate the Dharma as we try to find our way and relate to a new reality. It’s up to us, the sangha, now. Maybe the eight are like the canaries in mines warning us that what may have brought great healing in Tibet, may have turned to a deadly gas in the West. We need to skillfully adapt Vajrayana to what it stirs up here, recognizing what works and what doesn’t—without too quickly saying ‘that’s just Tibetan,’ and without refitting Vajrayana to accommodate ‘the Western mind’ by taking out everything that sits uncomfortable. Dharma is not meant to mingle easy with our ordinary ways: it shouldn’t fit comfortably! Although a Disney-fied Dharma is sweet and easy to explain to all, it doesn’t liberate.
But Dharma is definitely not meant to be abusive either! Perhaps we should not change the inner transformative, shaking-up-your-world content, but we should alter the approach and method we use. Crazy wisdom may need to take on a very different shape in the West, to not fit our particular stubborn ways of being. For better or worse, in the West we really have issues with being confident in our own inner goodness, and that makes us vulnerable for becoming distrustful of our own experiences and blaming ourselves. In working with opening minds in unexpected ways, this is something that must to be taken into account.
I feel part of the problem is that we have not yet understood ‘devotion’ and ‘seeing the teacher purely’ deeply enough. We just try to adopt it exactly in the shape our Tibetan teachers do, thinking it should look more or less the same. This is what endangers us to mistake devotion with obedience, and to work with pure perception as something that is foreign to ourselves and takes a lot of effort to keep up. We need to remember that pure perception and Guru Devotion is a very personal practice. It’s actually about you! What is asked is not to try to see Buddhas and Buddhafields everywhere because you are supposed to. That would just be make belief. I feel the point of it is the ongoing process itself, and pure perception is foremost a practice that invites you to break up all your usual assumptions (which includes our assumptions about how Buddhas and Buddhafields should be) and see beyond them. It says: take time to look deeper and don’t limit your view. Stop the usual, and see from a different angle. What would I see if I recognize this horrible person as a Buddha? What teaching could be found in that hurtful remark?
For example: What if the Perfect Place, the Perfect Time, the Perfect Teaching, the Perfect Teacher, the Perfect Audience is not a heavenly celestial palace, but this right here: this whole painful, confused, sad, angry, treacherous and frightening situation taking place now, all over the internet. What could be the teaching that would invoke the coming together of all these causes? We are an essential part of a living Dharma in constant transition. Perhaps we’re not under attack, but just called upon to invoke our own wisdom minds. To listen, hear, feel, and think. Are these events themselves not a crazy wisdom teaching?
We should rejoice that there are genuine practitioners of many different opinions now talking openly, trying to sort things out across divides. Let’s take a page from the book of all the masters who had to overcome the destruction of Tibet. They showed that truth and compassion could simply be lived and relied upon, even when all else spins out of control and nothing is what was. They trusted that somehow, somewhere, the dirt would settle, and truth would be seen again, heard again. It was not a strategy, some great plan that brought Tibetan Buddhism where we are today. What emerged, emerged naturally out of their practice and way of being.
It seems that Western Dharma students have as much need to be personally empowered, as to be humbled. To take the leap of total trust in the teacher, we really need to be certain that we are truly and confidently connected with our own true nature. Only then we will not be swept away, no matter how much we are shaken. When instead we feel or are made to feel like a failure because we’re not feeling what we’re supposed to feel, we will only drift further and further from experiencing our own true being. We will miss the whole point. Devotion is not cookie cutter, and having a question or doubt is not a violation or fault. We’re not ‘Worshipping The Lama’ here, we are trying to wake up. Even though as a Buddha the lama is flawless, it doesn’t mean that he can’t make mistakes or misunderstand us. Teaching emerges out of interaction and openness, in response to us being as we are, where we are, how we are. It is the merging of relative and absolute, as alive and changing as we are.
We need a teaching that explains clearly ‘What Guru Devotion Is Not’, to let each student know that when a teacher asks you to take off your clothes and have sex with him, you are allowed to say no. Maybe you’re even obliged to say no! Would saying ‘yes’ when feeling ‘no’ not break your inner samaya? If a teacher asks you to kill someone or rob a bank, respectfully saying ‘no’ is a very appropriate response. To have that security from the start could help us to move forwards safely, as we find our way from superficial outer to deeper inner understanding. So that when you ‘re anxious, and it feels like everyone is pushing you to just tow the company line, and you think you need to just push yourself past your limits, you will have your Dharmic Bill of Rights to remember: I can say no, respectfully. I can ask why, and if then I still don’t understand or agree with it, it may actually be wisdom instead of stubbornness to not push forwards, but instead pause and take the space that is needed.
Someone said that he felt that people who expressed concern about their path seemed a bit selfish. At first I did not understand, and said: But my path is so much bigger than just me. But this morning I understood what he meant. We tend to give our individual path and awakening priority. When we feel truth in our own relation to our teacher, secure and comfortable in our devotion and perception, we’re okay with everyone else just having to adapt, and not get in the way of us receiving our teachings, not endanger our path.
Some one wrote: perhaps this is testing the strength of our devotion in order to sort out who is worthy for receiving the very highest teachings. But what about the path, struggle, and needs of the ones who get stuck? What if this is instead testing our compassion for the ones who do harm? What if it’s a test of our openness and generosity, our tolerance? What if this tests our hidden selfish motivation? I for one could immediately see my secret inner response of just wanting no interference with my path and my receiving the teachings, as well as my irritation at having difficulties to now having to hold such conflicting, incompatible streams of information and emotions.
I pray that what is happening now may inspire new teachings on how to work with severe doubts, without having our not quite mature devotion and pure perception block our clarity. Because whatever we just push down will eventually fester. Is ‘a bad thought about the teacher’ a break of samaya, or is ‘explaining away something bad as being something good, because you’re supposed to’ the greater samaya fault? Is not speaking up when you know your teacher’s actions are harming, rather than helping someone, not breaking our Bodhisattva vow? How can we find the courage to look into what confuses our path, with eyes wide open, and still be solidly secure in a confident inner ground of understanding of the teachings.
People need help to leave sanghas and teachers that are not good for them personally. We should have courageous exit counselors in the organization who are willing and able to hear everything without explaining it away, without wanting to defend. To help them sort out what is worthwhile for the,, so they can make a clean cut make and—if needed—sort of take SR out of that, in order to prevent whatever pain or anger is there will not pollute their spiritual path. Because it’s not about the organization, not about SR. It’s about relying on the wisdom of putting others’ needs above our own, courageously willing to “Give away the victory and take the loss upon yourself” on the spiritual path as well.”
Written by Lucia Kerns
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41 Replies to “Maybe Pure Perception Is To Never Look Away”

  1. Thank you so much for this amazing heart felt post! It makes me so hopeful to see this kind of deep introspection.
    You mention teachings about how to follow a master, HHDL has addressed this very clearly,
    “Based on Buddha quotations, I don’t care what lama says, this is my position, so therefore, now I think that for at least 20 years I’ve been talking about one point in many of my teachings to Tibetans commenting on a particular passage in which it states that ‘may I through receiving all the actions of the guru in a positive and pure light, be able to receive within my mental stream the blessings of the guru’.
    Although it’s very important from the perspective of one’s individual path to have great respect for the guru, THIS PARTICULAR OUTLOOK IS LIKE A POISON WHICH CAN BE MISUSED TO PERCEIVE EVERY ACTION OF THE LAMA AS POSITIVE AND IN PURE MIND
    This Attitude Spoils Our Whole Teaching, gives lama a free hand/license, that’s not good. If that’s the case, there’s no need for Buddha’s description of conduct. You see Buddha himself made such a precise description what qualities should be for lama for vinaya, for sutryana, for tantrayana, each one Buddha [gave] such precise qualifications he mentioned. If just yhe faith was enough there would no need for such qualifications. In fact I used to boast a little bit telling others that from my side I can never give anyone this perception of purity for every actions that the lamas perform.
    From my side, having had many teachers, I can not accept this outlook perceiving every actions of my lama in pure mind similarly, since I give teachings to other students and disciples, I will work hard so that I don’t have to rely or demand one such a license”.
    HHDL has also said that Tibetan’s lost their country through conflict within the Tibetan community.
    I think it’s super important to separate out the cultural baggage from the noble dharma. I am so encouraged that HHDL addresses this many places. He’s even said that he has no idea what the best way to bring the Buddha Dharma to the west is, that’s our responsibility.

    1. I agree that seeing the lama as the Buddha can indeed be easily abused and misunderstood, which is why it shouldn’t be emphasized. But the practice itself can really not be reduced to being merely Tibetan cultural baggage at all!
      For me Vajrayana/Dzogchen is an amazing path that makes no sense at all, yet makes more complete sense than anything you’d ever thought possible, when it finally drops. What is often overlooked in these discussions is that Vajrayana also invites you to see yourself and everybody else as a Buddha, and everything else as a teaching. It’s not about considering yourself low and inferior, and the teacher as almighty and superior. It’s not that dualistic.
      But it takes a lot of time, at least for me, before I could really relate to myself as also Buddha. Not just as a theoretical thing – oh sure, on the absolute – but also here, now, as imperfect as I am. That it is all-pervasive, all open. It’s impossible to explain.
      Maybe the best way is to take myself as an example. I, like unfortunately many others, suffer(ed) from a lot of self-hatred and self-disgust, at times to the point where I genuinely felt I’d do the world a real favor by stepping out of it (but darn, rebirth…). I got stuck in my mind, running in circles, without seeing a way out. And in frustration I unleashed a lot of inward cruelty. Even compassion teachings were something to attack myself with. Failure! Selfish! So from that, you may get an idea of how difficult it was for me to see myself as having Buddha nature.
      But whenever I was able to see Rinpoche teach (once a year) and take him as the object of my meditation, this completely-stuck-in-itself-mind that would not budge for anything for weeks/months on end, just simply got cut right through. Not in an immediate, struck by lightning, halleluja kind of way, but very simple, very natural, like slowly waking up out of a trance of deep sleep and regaining your footing as to where you actually are.
      I was just me. Just me. And whatever there was, it was all workable. No problem.
      This is a pretty big thing to feel when you struggle with severe depression. But at the same time it was also so ordinary, so logical. Of course this is me! I’ve been there all along. So I have no idea about whether or not I was in the ‘nature of mind’ or not at those times and the days following, but I knew SR introduced me to myself again, and that all those insolvable struggles were really just something that I got stuck in: Dreamlike in essence, ‘real’ in my experience.
      And over time, I began to figure out that what I thought was ‘Buddha’ and what was ‘me’ was loaded with all sorts of ideas and projections, and that in actual fact, it was all quite different. It’s not that the words were wrong, it’s more that I realized I didn’t quite understand what was actually meant by it. It’s a continuing process that just keeps unfolding deeper. The same goes for the ‘seeing the lama as the Buddha.’ It’s all very paradoxical. Because the lama is also human. He has to be. Otherwise how would we be able to recognize the Buddha within ourselves, mere human as we are too?
      I don’t know how to say it, but ‘seeing the lama as a Buddha’ is not about pulling yourself out of the equation, to just grin and bear whatever the lama says and does in order to proof to the lama that you are a good student and be granted whatever you think he can give. If that is how you understand it, it is very dangerous.
      Liberation needs to happen in YOUR mind. YOU have to see. YOU are the Buddha that needs to be seen, recognized! That’s the whole point of it all. It’s there inside us, not outside. First you may recognize it a bit in the lama, and then you begin to recognize it in yourself and others. ‘Seeing the lama as the Buddha’ is very, very skillful way to speed this process up, to allow the teachings to strike deeper, stronger, clearer by the power of his blessings. But here again: blessings are not something ‘granted’ by the almighty teacher to the lowly student if he behaves well. The Tibetan word ‘blessing’ means “transformation through inspiration” or “transforming you into your magnificent potential.” There is something here of standing proud, standing tall.
      But it’s kind of tough to stand proud when you feel so, so low. Trusting our ‘magnificent potential’ is not something that comes natural to the Western mind. The methods that aided Tibetan practitioners to remember and experience that their inner nature cannot be harmed by anything, works out differently here. Tibetans are a tough, strong, proud, weathered people. They are somehow able to take a hit on the nose proudly and not withdraw but instead appreciate it as a reminder to recognize and rely on their inner, unmovable truth that no insult or injury can touch.
      We are not like that, or I’m not (yet). We have all sorts of mental issues, traumas, all kinds of problems with not being able to stand up for ourselves, take care of ourselves. We hate ourselves and honestly think that’s a good thing that will lead to self-improvement.
      So when the lama attacks us (for most of us, at least initially) it doesn’t remind us AT ALL that we are a Buddha and should not be shaken by anything. It just makes us feel bad, unworthy. We think we’re doing something wrong. We think we’re failing. We are hurting bad because the one that we love and rely on doesn’t like us, doesn’t want us, hates us, and no matter how bad we try, we’re just never good enough.
      So I myself just feel that that this is the Tibetan part that we really need to adapt, because it’s not a skillful means in the West. We need to first make sure we really understand deeply, as well as learn to rely, rather than deny our own inner truth, so that we do not allow abuse to go on because we think we have to. And never again tell others that they should! That being said, there are many different paths for many different beings, and this is not the easiest or safest one. And even within R there are plenty paths to take where all this ‘seeing the lama as the Buddha’ can be completely dispensed with. Just being open is enough.
      I think most of us need a lot of reminding that we’re good enough exactly as we are, that we will not be abandoned no matter what, that we don’t have to make belief or try to please to be accepted as fully worthy. We already are worthy. But boy, how much love and care and patience and reminding do we need before we can actually see that and believe it…
      I personally feel that Rinpoche provided that sort of love and space for me. I can also appreciate how shaking up our concepts of how a Buddhist teacher should be helps to move away from superficial ideas into a deeper, true understanding. But I was never personally trained or ever witnessed real abuse taking place, so that’s easy for me to say. SR and R helped me find my way out of trauma, not cause it. It can’t be denied that this has not been the experience of others.
      So my heart really goes out to those who did suffer abuse, and I just can’t grasp how and why it was possible that no one was there for them to really listen and help, why it continued, why R didn’t see that it didn’t work. It’s horrible. It shouldn’t and should never happen again. I think really every one agrees. People are reflecting real hard on all sorts of levels to understand and find ways in which this can be prevented from ever happening again. And I personally feel both horrified and grateful for the suffering they were willing to go through for me, and all other sentient beings.
      I really feel that BECAUSE they were willing for so long to not give up no matter how hard it was, because of their bodhichitta motivation and their commitment, if only we are all able to muster the same willingness they once had to move past our own self-interests and look at the need of others as more important, something very, very, very good and precious may come from this, something that we could be forever grateful for to the ones who stood up and hit us on the nose so we would wake up and finally see what was there.

      1. Gosh, that really sounds like SL in direct quote! Does anybody know that person? To me, this is just unbearable, it’s the same brainwashing, that i experienced for so many years. Does anybody see the brainwashing quality in this? I’m sorry, i cant hold back. It’s the same old thing, the big ego-and the even bigger pure perception club. Eventhough “pure perception” might be a practice on a mahayana or vajrayana level, in Dzogchen it is definitely not, pure perception is just seeing things as they are. And in this sense, abuse is just abuse and violence is just violence. Here again the victims are made responsible for the abuse themselves. And in the main post, which is full of insinuations and assumptions, the 8 coreagous ones are diminished to “canaries in the mine”, i find this distastefull, because it implys, that they are going to be sacrificed to a “higher intention”. This is really SL-thinking… And why do “i” always refer to the Dzogchen level? Because SL claims to be a Dzogchen master, and that everything that he does has this special flavour of Dzogchen. Having had the real good fortune to receive some “real” Dzogchen teachings from some “real” Dzogchen masters, i do not believe in this any longer, rather seeing SL as having not so much knowledge about Dzogchen at all. SL himself may appear as “samanthabadra in the flesh”, i know that, i was also hooked on it, but what he teaches seems to be not so sustinable, at least for me… Other teachers might appear not so spectacular, but what they teach is immediately liberating and lasting, that is how it should be in “Dzogchen”. And a main problem within R is, that things are always mingled and mixed up, and therefore so many people in the sangha seem to have a severe lack of clarity. Guess why it is like that? Because it makes them stay on the scene and fund the whole thing, it’s part of the buisiness model…
        …it should be love…

        1. I understand how you feel. At the same time, I’m wondering can we leave space for people have a different experience of the teachings and the teacher?

          1. With all respect, i’m not sure wether you understand, how i feel. Saying something like this, depending on the context can also be encroaching. Getting such a huge “Teaching” by somebody who says she didn’t suffer abuse by SL or/and R makes me feel suffocate, it’s an abuse in itself, there seems to be much more reflection needed. To say: “i understand you BUT” means normaly: “I understand more than you, because i understand also you and even more”… Ok, you didn’t say BUT, it was more elegantly. See, i’ve studied these things out of my own experiences for decades, i know what i’m talking about, i just have difficulties to express myself, because i’m not a native english speaker and also very slow on the keyboard. I don’t want to attack you at all, to me it’s just about CLARITY. So please, have a look upwards and see, how much “space” Lucia TAKES. Thank you!
            …it should be love…

      2. the night before the letter i got a warning: i dreamt rinpoche had died. very vivid. the emphasis was on his body, which i saw very clear that night in every detail. next day: supernova. out of the blue it hit me like nothing before. within few hours i had to accept the new reality – no escape – had to learn that i have been sitting countless hours in front of a man who created miracles to convey the message of compassion – and after the teaching went backstage beating, abusing, humiliating his most devoted dharma followers. the rigpa system collapsing, exposed to be corrupt to a level unnokn to me since. i think it is a little bit like dying: within seconds the whole reality c o m p l e t e l y changes to its opposite. we get to see things in a complete and totally different way than just few moments before. new things. rinpoche 1.0, the great, has certainly died, rinpoche 2.0 is at current an elderly strange man on the run, leaving an even more strange legacy behind, and trying to retreat his way out of the most smeary and disgracing situation imaginable. what a spectacular thing to observe. well, it has never been really boring with him. and its always big show, grand in a way. so, my fellow dharma friends – what now? for my part, i can say that lucias jewel-like commentary here brought me back on track. it instantly delieverd back energy, compassion – actually new levels of compassion -, hope, sanity, connectedness and perspective. so what is interesting for me at the point we stand now? certainly not clearing the mess. helping to repair the vehicle, that has smashed because the driver used the opposite lane and the co pilots have been “practising” but didn’t look out of the window. the vehicle has crashed totally in my view. maybe there are parts here and there that can be used again. anyhow: my way to relate to the situation is leaving. stop fueling the abusive system with money at first. moreover i suddenly see pictures, images, temples as limitations – i dont need em any more. yet i feel more free. for me, the interesting part is seeing so many fantastic dharma friends working and processing the situation and especially a topic that has hunted me more or less all my life: cognitive dissonance. we see it in so many forms all over the world. now, i feel, i will get answers, that i have been longing for all my life. i can’t help, and more than understandibly at current it is hard to take for many: i love this guy

        1. It’s definitely a death, I just can’t comprehend the how and why myself either, so many of us are shocked, broken. But then, when I see so very many, sincere, authentic, loving people emerging, with eyes, heart, mind wide open, just trying to see, listen, and understand, I remember again, this is what I know. This is what embodies what I heard SR teach. This is real too.
          Maybe it’s what had to be done. As your dream – the teacher’s body being the Sangha – that had to be broken open to be born anew. From the ground, our ground. No one knows yet where, why or how. There are so many needs, so many voices, so many rights and wrongs, so many opposing truths, so much hurt, anger. What do I know?
          All I know is that I should try my best to be fearless in my compassion, the best I can. To keep opening up my heart and hold all that, and trust and pray that somehow the teachings and the teacher that is in me and all these good people, and our good heart will guide us to find the unseen road we need to carve out. Not for R, but for the truth of the teachings and the benefit of all sentient beings.

  2. Sorry, i can’t hold back: spontainously i would say that this is the most outstanding commentary i have read so far! Thank you so very much!

  3. I echo Frank…..thank you! a commentary that I will reflect on deeply, it really resonates. And I’m not feeling stung by the emotion in it, though it is surely full. I’ve been thinking that this is a deep deep karmic, nay seismic shift! that perhaps is exactly what we (?) I need.
    Which is not at all meant to negate anyone’s suffering………you are in my heart and my practice.

  4. I really appreciate this post. Yes, maybe pure perception and samaya involve more than we thought. It may be broader. It must be more than robotically following every demand. Students MUST think for themselves and have an ethical, Dharma Bill of Rights.

  5. It feels almost impossible to add something of relevance to that wonderful, outstanding and brilliant piece. I am still blown away by the deep understanding of compassion and by its strength and courage. It is just so wonderful to see how much of tremendous spiritual work obviously has been done. I find there is so much in it, to deeply reflect and it is such a healing way to look at it all. Thanks again Lucia.

    1. The thinking that’s coming out of this disaster is the most touching Dharma discussion I’ve ever read. So deep and real. Maybe there is a blessing in all of this. Let’s hope!

  6. To bring this back to some actual facts…
    SL physically abused his students
    SL sexually abused his students
    Please don’t allow the flowers of dharma language to distance yourself from these truths.
    Making excuses, explaining away, putting it on the perception of the student questioning behaviour only blames the victim.
    SL has abused a position of trust
    Please don’t make excuses for him. This allows the abuse to continue.
    I say this as someone that for a short time worked around him. Was physically assaulted by him twice. The consequences for me have been damaging. I felt at fault, that I was missing the point. That I was bad because of this.
    Please don’t forget the damage he has done to his students. (And ex-students)

    1. Dear Sarah,
      I’m sorry you’ve been harmed and have had to live with the damaging consequences. Thanks for having the courage to share your experience. What you’ve said is so important because often women blame themselves or feel at fault, when that’s not the case. I know it takes time to heal. My heart is with you.

    2. I am honestly trying to not cover up things. Abuse is abuse: It should never happen and everything needs to be done to make sure it never happens again. From everything I hear, there is really nobody who will accept abuse to continue. Nobody will forget the damage that is done to students and ex-students.
      I am not blaming it on their wrong perception, the only wrong perception that should have been pointed out to them is that to continue being and feeling abused is somehow the way how to deal with that. We are the ones that didn’t see clearly.
      I’m rather offering food for thought on where we, as practitioners, as a sangha, maybe need to adapt or deepen our understanding of the teachings, so that they can no longer be used to explain away abuse.
      I know it’s impossible to understand from the outside, but many students have benefited a lot from what seems like insane behavior from the outside. But too many who experienced it quite different have been left behind, not been heard, not been seen, not been understood. That’s on us.
      So we need to sort out, re-evaluate, research – so that is what I am trying to contribute to a little here.

      1. I fully get that you are not trying to cover things up, Lucia. Thanks for be so courageous to share your perspective.

    3. I’m sorry too, sarahliesel. If only the sangha had known ! Thank you for sharing and I hope this helps.

  7. Dear all, i’ve read this the third time now, and now i see it differently. I’ve misunderstood this a little, now i got it better… There are still some points i do not agree with so much, but all together, i find it quite good. So thank you for that Lucia, i would like to apologize for my somewhat rude behaviour… There are some points where you hit the nail on the head, particulary this pattern to “empty away others uncomfortable pains by so called pure perception”, so there seems to be indeed a problem in the sangha . This particular point was always very difficult for me, because i was somehow abused for allmost all my life. Acting in “compassion” out of such a state of “emptiness”, “explaining” and “understanding” problems and discomforts can become encroaching and hurting quite easily. The same with that “trauma bonding”, there is quite something to understand, this is not so easy… So when topics like these could be discussed more openly in future, very good… Let’s see…
    …it should be love…

    1. Thank you so much Yamaintaka for taking the space and time to reread something that stirred up so many painful emotions. I have deep respect for that! And I sincerely apologize for (silently) maybe having too rash a judgment about you as well. I’m sorry.
      Rest assure knowing that there are many voices in Rigpa as well that know exactly what you are talking about, and are horrified by what has been happening without them knowing, and very determined not to let that happen again. There will be change, deep change.
      This is my personal reflection, I do not work in Rigpa, but what is happening is that it is all opened up. We are brainstorming what needs to be done and how we can facilitate places to hear everyone in a open but safe environment. So I’m not sure how yet, but if you want to give your own input, in your own language, I’ll look around to see how I can make sure it is heard!

    2. Dear yamaintaka, i also really very much appreciate that you reread the post though it has triggered something in you. Thats really so beautiful. I totally understand that it is so easy to get triggered and outraged in this situation and that the emotions coming up are really so hard to stand. I think we should allow as much space as possible to anything that comes up. If i watch my mind processing the situation, with all those emotions ranging from sadness, shame, anger, insanity, clarity, confusion, i really have to struggle to keep balanced – and i have not even been abused. For my part, i don’t judge anybody for anything here – i think everybody simply needs to find a very personal way to relate to the situation.

      1. Thank you, thank you all very much, it’s so wonderful, when mind returns to sanity… It’s not so easy with abuse, because it’s common, it’s just a feature of samsara, and that makes it so heavy in a spiritual context… Abuse can be very subtle and it can appear very “nice”, to me personally the worst thing is, that there seems to be a kind of an abusive structure within the whole organisation which is largely because SL’s behaviour has seemingly been abusive since the very beginning, i mean there was allways this abusive aspect, and that spoiled the whole thing , at least to a certain extent. In this way wer’e all abused, and that is what we all are feeling now. Because this is brought to the light now by the 8 courageous ones, there is this opening happening, that could be a great chance for R. I think what the sangha should do now is to beginn from here to be on it’s own, i’m totaly sure that it’s possible. Recently i was on a weekend retreat of another big organization, were the master himself could not come, due to circumstances. There was not even webcast, the sangha was on it’s own, and it was wonderfull! I felt so encouraged with this few senior students running the retreat, it was such an inspiring atmosphere… And there were also some R retreats i participated without SL, and there was also a cozy, beautiful atmosphere, R is actually quite good… Biggest problem i see in those who were really complicit by covering the bad things happening… So as Lucia allready mentioned very beautifully, the sangha could now focus on everything that is and was positive and helpfull, and at the same time work on deeper compassion in a “trekchö sense”, what the described very accurate, and forgive the bad but not forget it… I really feel, that this is a great chance now, to create a kind of a “new basis” for the teachings, to florish in the west. The teachings themselves have to be transmitted very accurate and precise, but the setting must not be necessarily “old feudalistic tibetan style”. We have here a history of democracy, which is quite remarkable, and maybe the teaching of Dharma could become a little more democratic. Of course, those who introduce us to the nature of mind deserve veneration, but even more do the teachings… Maybe we can establish an own culture of teaching the Dharma with goodhearted, open people that are equally teaching and beeing tought… I’m in a disscussion group these days, were we study together the famous “Dorje Sempa Namkha Che”, it’s lead by a western senior student of a tibetan master. He’s a kind of a pundit, and hearing him explaining the text, to me it is a perfect introduction to the nature of mind, it functions perfectly! And for the ripening of that, we’re responsible ourselves anyway… …just a few thoughts…
        …it should be love…

        1. Thank you so much, Yamaintaka for sharing. It is my hope as well, that from all this may come new ways to ensure that the authentic Dharma will be deeply rooted in the West, and that together – masters and students – we’ll be able to develop all the skillful means and insight needed to respond to all the needs & suffering that are present here, now.
          There is so much goodness, willingness, love, compassion present in all of us: I say let’s pull all our inner and outer resources together across whatever voids there are: for the benefit of all beings and the precious Dharma! And I pray that, as we seek our way through all the confusion, the Buddhas may bless us with their wisdom minds, so that the wisdom of discernment may be born in us, and we’ll never again mistake our ignorance for wisdom and vice versa. And we may always remember the central importance of good heart.

  8. Thanks Lucia that definitely did make me think! I really appreciate your subtle depths of compassion and how you don’t deny that harm has been done and must be addressed and healed. The key question for me is: were SL’s apparently abusive actions compassionate crazy wisdom or not? This will always be a matter of personal perception. On reading the letter from the 8 and from my own more limited experience the signs are not good: his sexual behaviour is unrelenting and directed at his own sexual gratification; his luxurious lifestyle appears to be constant and he can’t go without it; his physical abuse seems to be always out of frustration of not getting what he wants; he doesn’t practice in his spare time but watches movies, TV etc; and he backs up his behaviour with deadly threats like “do you want to die spitting up blood like Ian Maxwell?”. There are many other points and subtle points in the letter that just don’t square up with a compassionate, adaptive crazy wisdom to me. He may well believe he is practising crazy wisdom, but the fact that so many sangha members have been damaged by his behaviour reflects a big failing on his part – if he is so skilful he should have seen or cared about this damage.

    1. Taxila, These are some clarifications on “crazy wisdom” from Mingyur Rinpoche:
      “In other words, the results of genuine “crazy wisdom” are always positive and visible. When a teacher uses an extreme approach that is rooted in compassion, the result is spiritual growth, not trauma. Trauma is a sure sign that the “crazy wisdom” behavior was missing the wisdom to see what would truly benefit the student, the compassion that puts the student’s interest first, or both.
      It is also worth noting that these extreme teaching styles we see in Vajrayana history took place in the context of a very mature spiritual bond between teacher and student. They were not all that common. Marpa didn’t make all of his students build stone towers. In fact, he treated his other students very differently from how he treated Milarepa. But he saw Milarepa’s potential and the approach that would benefit him most. The rest is history. Milarepa became enlightened and one of Tibet’s greatest adepts.
      Not only are these extreme teaching methods used only with very mature students and in the context of a relationship of stable trust and devotion, they are also a last resort. There are said to be four kinds of enlightened activity: peaceful, magnetizing, enriching, and wrathful. Wrathful activity is only used for those who are not receptive to more subtle approaches. So again, this style is not a norm, but something that is only employed in certain circumstances.”
      You can read his complete article on ethics and the student-teacher relationship here:

    2. Hi Taxlia,
      Sorry I took a bit to respond. The only answer I can give is: I don’t know.
      There are many, many people who would not want to change SR one bit. They have experienced nothing but kindness, and have experienced significant breakthroughs in unexpected ways. Sometimes it is a very, very skillful way to wake up and break through some stubborn concepts you’re holding onto. When you find that you’re buttons are being pushed, you can realize that they are just buttons being pushed, and begin to disconnect them. You recognize that your true self is much bigger than the one who is offended or disappointed or what have you.
      Maybe from SR side, his actions may have a compassionate intention (which I personally still believe, but of course don’t know to be true). His actions may also be compassionate on levels that we are not aware of. We all have a mixed bag of good and bad karma that we will have to exhaust or transmute somehow. Maybe the aggressive methods were a means to bring up the negative karma to be suffered in this situation, because in relation to the teacher you would have a better chance to remember to bring that suffering on your path and transmute it. Some really good practitioners can do that, it means they do not respond to these things habitually, they transform it.
      But I think it is safe to say that – as Mingyur Rinpoche also pointed out – when crazy wisdom results in trauma it can no longer be skillful. If I take myself as an example when I am in a turbulence of emotions and panicking, I become an idiot. I can turn on myself, and add to the pain. With all these buttons pushed there is almost no awareness left, only responding and scrambling, thrashing about, from one emotion to the other, and I can not see beyond that. Only when the mind is calm wisdom may come.
      When I heard about these things, I was deeply shocked. It sure feels wrong on all sides, and thus not represent at all the teacher and sangha that I know. But I’m not exactly ‘inner circle’. But other people who worked nearby SR say they don’t recognize that either and are deeply appreciative of his ‘crazy wisdom’. I don’t know how, but somehow they are both true.
      I do not have access to SR’s mind, so I don’t know if his sexual behavior is directed at his own sexual gratification, or his physical abuse stems from frustration, whether he doesn’t practice in his spare time but watches movies. I have not heard him using deadly threats or teach on the student/teacher relationship from that point. I don’t know of his extravagant life style. As far as I know, R is monitored for those things?
      So yes, all this is very worrisome for me too! But it is still very different from my experience. And all I have is ‘don’t know’. I have no doubt myself that SR is a genuine and powerful teacher. I have no doubt either that people got really hurt. I think many things were not skillful. They were not appropriate to the time, place and people.
      But it is not that SR’s methods are always like that, far from it! Even the letter signers remember there were also great efforts of love and kindness given. My best understanding is that instead of being helped to regain their inner confidence and awareness that it may be wisdom to say ‘no’ and just take proper care of all that is wounded, they were pushed to continue. Instead of being properly addressed and healed, their negative experiences were disavowed by pointing at their illusory nature. Which is the truth, but the opposite of what was needed.
      I may talk up a storm, but I really have no answers. Yes, it all seems unskillful and unkind. Yes, I have experienced something quite different that is really something else. Yes, I think it was wrong. No, I don’t know if it was wrong from a greater karmic vision. No, I can’t say anything about some one else experiences on either ‘side’. Yes, the teachings are so precious and amazing and always so much deeper than you think. Yes, great damage is being done to all. Yes, I pray that we may all be able to transcend it and learn from all this. And yes, my heart cries for my precious teacher, my vajra brothers and sisters, and all the ones being hurt or now turned away from the Dharma. I just have this. And I’m trying to stay with it, best I can.

  9. Thanks for your reply Lucia. You might have deduced from my other comments that I was quite angry when I left the Rigpa group back in 2005. I felt betrayed and duped to say the least. I frequented American Buddha Online which was a brilliant and labrynthine orgy of anger directed at dodgy Tibetan Buddhist lamas and any other authoritarian tyranny worthy of a spray. It was a lot of fun that website; indulging in one of the same poisons that I accuse SL of! But I think they threw the baby out with the bathwater. I now see that the teachings are true, very true, and I can slowly begin to forgive SL. I also believe that SL and his sub authors conveyed great blessing from the Dzogchen lineage in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. I just think that SL became lost early on in the piece (probably before the book). In my opinion he has likely fallen victim to what American Buddha coined “Tantra Induced Delusional Syndrome” (TIDS). Many gurus have fallen victim to this. There is guru-side TIDS and student-side TIDS, each one reinforces the other. I am slowly converting my anger to compassion. But I could not accept SL as my teacher again. Sorry to say this to you, as you probably have quite a different view of it. But I think your heartfelt introspection made me feel like sharing my experience with you. Best wishes to you on the path.

    1. Hi Taxlia,
      Thank you so much for your reply and sharing a bit of your path to me! I’m just very happy to hear that after letting out all the anger and betrayal you were able to remember again that the teachings are true! Isn’t that the only thing that really matters? Whether someone is the right teacher for you or not is something so very individual, why wouldn’t moving one be the better option. Only you knows!
      Honestly, if I hadn’t been benefiting so much from SR’s teachings and experienced some true blessing myself, I too would have thought twice to take him for my teacher! But as it happens, he just is. There is no denying! After all the questions and shock, that remained deep within me as the truth. So I will have to somehow work with all of this.
      I don’t know if I suffered from TIDS, but I definitely had to come to terms that my view was a bit too romantic… it was just blown to smithereens. But strangely enough, as I continue trying to understand and hear and apply the teachings, I actually gain a much deeper understanding, and from that an even deeper, more mature trust. In the teachings, in the teacher, and in myself.
      It’s hard to explain. I still don’t understand or am willing to condone these actions. I don’t know what is true and what not on both ‘sides’. And it’s all beyond my understanding. But it no longer crashes into my trust in the teachings and insights that SR awoke in me. And I take those as my guidelines, pretty much as MR lined out. Deciding I would also follow my own council, I found the inner security to not to recoil from the situation but engage in it completely.
      So yes, my pretty dreams were destroyed. But thankfully so, for it was just fantasy. It forced me to see and apply the truth of the teachings to an impossible and painful situation. Which is a lot closer to how the reality of samsara is. It was a good wake up. Dreams are not reality, and reality is always so much more messy.
      But this is my experience and I am very aware that it’s not that easy for people who got really hurt, in whatever way. I’m truly sorry that your experience was so painful, and just so happy that now you’re able to move beyond that pain and see value again in the bits that were true to you. That’s a pretty good place to arrive at. I’m all up for taking the good and leaving the bad!
      This is what has helped me to move on past some painful situations: skillfully dosed amnesia can go a long way! It probably sounds like crazy talk, but it has worked really good for me in many situations. You can just decide to remember only the good and helpful things and conveniently forget the rest. Not for the other person’s sake, but strictly for your own happiness! Because after a while going over shit situations just gives no new insights. It only repeats and solidifies the painful experience.
      The secret is that nobody is actually putting a gun to your head forcing you to play this painful situation over and over again in your mind, making you relive all the pains and wrongs and unkindness over and over again. So I decided to be the boss in my own mind. I just fake a mental ‘senior moment’ and sort of file the shit somewhere deep in my mental junk drawer. So much better than mentally polishing it up again and again!
      It helped me with other bad experiences, so I figured I’d share it in case it’s of some use. If it’s not, just file this shit in that junk drawer too 😀
      And luckily there are still so many good teachers in this world! I wish you all the best on your path <3

      1. Just for clarity, the last bit is just my silly method to get passed arguments and such, that no longer need any addressing or action. I do not in any way suggest that it should be used for abuse or anything!!!!! Absolutely not, worst thing yo do!!! It’s just for when there is no longer anything to be done, but you keep replaying it in your head. It was a spontaneous thought coming up and I was a bit too tired I guess, but I realize it sounds completely bonkers in this discussion. I couldn’t edit the post unfortunately 🙁

  10. Thanks again for sharing Lucia. I understood your “file in the junk drawer” method the first time and realise you didn’t mean file abuse in there 🙂

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