Minding our own business – and Rigpa’s unfinished business…

Despite the recommendations of The Lewis Silkin independent investigation into Sogyal Rinpoche’s abuse and the ruling of the UK Charity Commission, Patrick Gaffney is teaching an online retreat for Rigpa.

The event is, perhaps aptly, called ‘Minding our own business’.

It’s a relevant question for us: why do we, who stepped away from Rigpa, still mind Rigpa’s business? Why not let them do their thing and get on with our lives?

The answer is simple: because Rigpa is still passing on the harmful beliefs that enabled the abuse that took place during decades in Rigpa. That’s the bottom line. If your belief is harmless and only concerns yourself, there’s no problem. However, if it could harm or endanger others, then there is a big problem.

How is it that Patrick Gaffney is teaching again? He – or Rigpa for that matter – never expressed any apologies for covering up the abuse. Nor did he or Rigpa International show any sign of understanding that covering it up was wrong. As far as I’m aware, Patrick never said something like: ‘I realise now that I have harmed people by letting Rinpoche carry on with his abusive behaviour, even though I was  aware of it – multiple times people came up to me and shared their experiences and concerns and sometimes I was present while the abuse took place. I was blinded by the belief in a ‘perfect’ teacher. I now realise that real harm has happened and that I have dodged my responsibility – not only as a Buddhist, but as a human being – to care for and protect my fellow human beings.’

No. He has not done that.

And yet he teaches Buddhism, a religion that has the doctrine of non-harming at its core.

The finding of the Charity Commission for England and Wales

The Charity Commission for England and Wales found that, “Mr Gaffney had knowledge of instances and allegations of improper acts and sexual and physical abuse against students at the charity. Mr Gaffney failed to take appropriate action in response to this information and is therefore responsible for misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity.” 

As a consequence, Patrick Gaffney has been disqualified from being a trustee or senior manager of any charity in England and Wales. 

The Lewis-Silkin report’s findings and recommendations

The Lewis-Silkin report on the abuse mentions Patrick’s name (‘witness P.’) over a hundred times. Pages 25, 36, 43, and 45 give a good impression of his role in relation to Sogyal Rinpoche’s abuse. Here Karen Baxter, who conducted the research, speaks of manipulation of students, telling others that complainants should not be believed and pro-active covering up by Patrick.

The Lewis-Silkin report recommends, among other things:

“Rigpa leadership in each country (being the trustees or equivalent) and the Vision Board should, as necessary, be refreshed in order to ensure that its members are unconnected with the harmful events referred to in this report and so can credibly lead the programme of changes required”

Rigpa’s highest leadership role

In Rigpa the most senior role is that of teacher. By continuing to have Patrick Gaffney in such a high profile position – as one of the organisation’s main teachers – Rigpa is ignoring the Lewis Silkin report’s recommendations. This is despite a statement at the very top of the ‘Moving Forward’ page on the Rigpa website that says, ‘We acknowledge the gravity of the independent report and have committed to act on its recommendations.’ This, and the rest of the words on the page, suggest that they are following the recommendations, but Rigpa is clearly saying one thing and doing another.

Patrick Gaffney taking a teaching role in Rigpa seems like a complete denial of the seriousness and extremity of the abuse that took place. It is hard to take seriously their stated desire for ‘learning’, ‘healing’ and ‘reconciliation’ when there is such a blatant disregard for the report’s very-well-considered recommendations.

Another nail in the coffin of restorative justice

A few months ago, someone from Rigpa contacted Karen Baxter of Lewis Silkin, who did the independent investigation into Sogyal Rinpoche’s abuse and wrote the report, and asked her to invite all those who participated in the investigation to participate in a Restorative Justice program.

Restorative Justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behaviour.’ Sogyal Rinpoche is dead and so cannot repair the harm he did to his victims, but Patrick and the other senior Rigpa people mentioned in the Lewis Silkin Report as actively covering up the abuse are still alive. But they and Rigpa international have never admitted their and Sogyal Rinpoche’s criminal behaviour.

Requesting our participation in a program based on repairing the damage done by a crime without admitting that any crime occurred heaped further hurt on Sogyal Rinpoche’s victims. It appeared that – like with most of Rigpa’s actions since Sogyal Rinpoche’s abuse was revealed – the initiative was designed merely to make them look good. Patrick Gaffney’s teaching with blatant disregard for the LS report’s recommendations that Rigpa professes to be ‘implementing’ is a further insult. Especially with the chosen title suggesting that people (who might be inclined to comment) ‘mind their own business’.

A restorative justice program aims to get offenders to take responsibility for their actions, to understand the harm they have caused, to give them an opportunity to redeem themselves and to discourage them from causing further harm. For victims, its goal is to give them an active role in the process and to reduce feelings of anxiety and powerlessness.

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restorative_justice

There can be no restorative justice without admission that a crime has been committed or while Patrick Gaffney or any of the others implicated in the cover up of Sogyal Rinpoche’s abuse has a teaching role in Rigpa.

Minding our own business

Some of the What Now? group wrote a letter to the Vision Board explaining all this. Fifteen (mostly ex-) Rigpa members signed it. The problem in getting more signatures wasn’t finding people who agreed with the content of the letter, it was finding co-signers who wanted to engage with Rigpa. Most people now have come to the conclusion that Rigpa isn’t really listening and isn’t really changing, and so it’s futile to engage with them anymore. People are stepping back.

The only thing left for us to do is warn others to stay away from Rigpa.

So now we’ll mind our own business again…until Rigpa’s unfinished business needs calling out again. 

Article by Sel Verhoeven and Tahlia Newland

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

44 Replies to “Minding our own business – and Rigpa’s unfinished business…”

  1. Patrick Gaffney was shown in the Lewis Silkin report to be the number one person who covered up the abuse in Rigpa going back decades. Many 1,000’s of students have come into Rigpa since Sogyal Rinpoche became famous with the 1992 publication of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, all of whom were kept in the dark about what went on behind the scenes due to the deception of Patrick Gaffney and others. How many of those went on to be abused after being sucked into the Rigpa inner circle? The abuse should have been prevented by the leaders who were responsible for Rigpa. That is why the Charity Commission has, so far, banned Patrick Gaffney and another Rigpa UK trustee, Susan (Bunny) Burrows, from being trustees of any charity. Patrick Gaffney should be at a minimum retired from public life to reflect on his wrongdoing.

  2. It’s good to make this known, but it’s just who they are and what they do.

    Anyone remaining in Rigpa is a hypocrite with that particular kind of moral indifference, a sort of putrid psychological glue that holds religious organizations together…..if individual members don’t have it they leave, but as long as enough do have it the whole sticky mess endures.

    And like almost every other dysfunctional group, every cult, every parasitic corporation, every destructive political or religious ideology…..it will probably bounce back, because our societies are primarily capitalist and predatory rather than humane, they’re acquisitive and competitive rather than cooperative.

    Rigpa, for all it’s so-called timeless wisdom and ancient tradition is just another ruthless commercial enterprise, a product of it’s time. To expect it to behave otherwise is naive.

    Governments are not really interested in seriously policing commerce or much concerned by abuse so there’s no point waiting for any kind of sanction to be applied to limit the damage or provide redress.

    The proof of this is the total indifference of the french authorities over many years: no amount of testimony from victims of sexual abuse had any effect, but once several people provided credible information about financial irregularities to french version of the Special Branch, Lerab Ling was finally raided.

    The means exist to stop this but unless it’s about money nobody in power gives a shit so there’s no need to waste time and energy on it now.

    1. I totally agree, but we keep calling them out, not because we expect Rigpa to change or because we’re pissed off at them (we don’t expect any better at this stage). The reason I post articles on Rigpa’s continuing unethical behaviour is so the topic remains current on this website so that search engines will keep finding it when someone searches for Rigpa or Sogyal Rinpoche. My aim is to keep people away from Rigpa. As Joanne says, had I known all this back in 1997, I would never have gone near Sogyal or Rigpa. The more people we can keep away from this organisation that lacks moral integrity and is founded on lies, the less income they get. Yes, it’s all about money for them, so I hope that those willing to pay to be educated in Buddhadharma read our blogposts and look elsewhere for their teachings. It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of alternative options.

  3. Well said Sel and Tahlia. And you’re right, it just simply has to be out there so that un-suspecting people don’t stumble into a Rigpa teaching with their eyes closed. If I had known even half of what was going on in Rigpa 20 years ago, I never would have attended my first teaching.

    1. @ Tahlia

      Yes, from that perspective I can understand your wish to keep it flagged, although keeping search engines current isn’t something I’ve ever given any consideration to, but if you or anyone has the time and energy to back their wishes and motivation, then of course it’s to their credit.

      After flogging away at this intermittently, in one way and another for quite a long time…..almost 25 years and to what lasting effect I can’t say….. I’ve lost count of the number of times various people, charity commissioners,writers, journalists, police, anti-cult organizations, lawyers and so on, have been very keen to make use of both my wife’s and my time and ‘mine’ our experience and opinions as a resource. We had a call last week in fact from someone with yet another book in the works.

      Interestingly, there’s never been much reciprocity in evidence …..not even a free copy.

      Anyway, complaining aside, the most significant thing, as Joanne rightly says, is that had the information always been there a lot of us wouldn’t have even dreamed of going near Tibetan Buddhism.

      Well now it is there, in fact it’s unavoidable and it’s there because of considerable effort by a lot of people……but……

      I know it may sound harsh, but given the above, I don’t now feel any further obligation to people who still can’t or don’t want to do what is after all only a modicum of very easy research before surrendering their entire lives, their world-view, time, energy, money ( and possibly more ) to something as weird as a religion of guru-worship that has recently and so spectacularly shat the ethical bed.

      I think their mindset might indicate that they’re effectively on their own trajectory anyway, perhaps even beyond your help and good intentions.

      I might be wrong of course, but anyway, I sincerely wish you good luck with that.

      1. Yeah. Some won’t look. I started before the internet was in existence, so the option wasn’t there for me, but I could have looked later. It was too late for me then. I look back at it all now and just feel very disappointed in the whole thing. The teacher, the organisation, the failed promises, and my own failures. Keeping these articles happening is my service to those who want to know and bother to look. I don’t concern myself with those who don’t.

        1. Tahlia, that seems a good and well balanced way to look at it, I hope you won’t become too disheartened if the results are intangible and Rigpa just carries on as usual.

          I’m sure the knowledge that there are many people you already have helped and more people you undoubtedly will, even if you don’t know them or how many there are, will be enough to sustain you for a while yet. “Known unknowns” as they say.

          Dominique has a similar attitude to you, but for me the whole subject has faded into the background to quite an extent now. I suppose it’s been naturally eclipsed by other more salient things and I prefer that.

          1. Oh yes. I’m much more interested in my chooks and permaculture food forest I’m planting these days. And my editing and publishing work. I don’t care whether they change or not, or whether anyone in Rigpa reads this, and I have no expectations that they will, so there’ll be no disappointment. But I feel it’s important to call out these things and have them available for people to find if it’s their path to do so.

            1. @Tahlia
              I had to look up “chooks” although I’ve seen it in the First Dog on the Moon cartoons. I’d assumed it was some kind of small cute marsupial like a quoll, apparently they make good pets….chickens that is.
              We grow organic vegetables but not full-on permaculture, although a lot of people around here are. I imagine anything edible growing in a forest here would get eaten by deer, boar, badgers, pine martens and so on, I wonder how you cope with your local fauna.

              Of course it was wrong of me to say that there’s no need to waste time and energy on maintaining public awareness of all this, when what I should have said is that I no longer see much point in doing that myself. Generalizing from individual experience and the resulting personal preference. I really must stop doing that, probably a bloke thing isn’t it ?

              I suppose once you’ve been through an experience like we all have with Rigpa, the ramifications in terms of psychology and world-view last a lifetime in certain respects, so it’s there anyway and it seems to surface regularly perhaps because it’s such a common dynamic.

              Even if I haven’t given it any thought for ages, I can be reading a description of the way Trump and the Republicans function or the British or French Governments, and the similarities jump out.

              I was recently reading Hannah Arendts analysis of how ordinary people were complicit with the Nazis and the comments about Patrick Gaffney tied in with that. This might seem like a flippant invocation of Godwin’s law, but my reasoning is this:

              I knew him over many years, he seemed maybe a bit emotionally cut off but otherwise a decent, kindly and intelligent person with a typically British reserve and slightly cynical sense of humour. But on the other hand, even at the start, Sogyal always had something gross and extreme about him; his agression, greed, indifference, arrogance, irrationality and preening vanity. With hindsight he had the makings of a monster ( even if we naive westerners took it for crazy wisdom )

              Gaffney was his polar opposite in every respect. He wasn’t a monster like Sogyal then and I don’t think he is now, I imagine his personality is basically much the same as it always was.

              So how did such a seemingly ordinary person become someone who devoted his entire adult life and energy to a sociopathic abuser, someone who did more than any other individual to enable and support a man he witnessed turning into a violent rapist? How and why do people who aren’t monsters do so much to help create them?

              How did a decent person like him come to do administration, ghost-writing, PR, propaganda and become such an energetic apologist for an increasingly obviously deranged criminal who led what evolved into such an ideologically twisted and dangerous organization?

              Is the grip and distortive power of ideology really that strong ? Or like the millions of ordinary germans during the holocaust, did he just become too good at “Minding his own business?”

              I’d be interested to hear some views on this.

              1. He became very good at minding his own business for sure! That title suits him very much, I think. Other than that, it’s called brainswashing. He was in a cult, and cults brainwash people such that they no longer use their own critical thinking faculties. He was so invested in the idea that Sogyal was a crazy wisdom master that he didn’t see the abuse as a bad thing. He saw it as a good thing. That’s what the Rigpa culture did. It twisted people’s thinking. In my book I explain exactly how they achieved it, and how we were all manipulated so that over time we came to subscribe to that view more and more. I’m just lucky that I didn’t give up my common sense entirely.

                Also, people at the top of cult hierarchies can’t give up their beliefs without giving up all their prestige and power, so they don’t want to examine them in case they come to some inconvenient conclusion. People tend to cling onto power and prestige – even Buddhists.

                1. In the cases of Sogyal ( and Trungpa/Sakyong) with the “blind ” collusion of the highest throne holders of TB…
                  It’s a real fall in decay.

                2. @ Tahlia
                  Yes, I’m somewhat familiar with what you describe having been in the same cult…..although despite everything I know now, it still sounds weird……as a good friend of mine said in the final stages of our membership: “Ok, if I’m in a cult, I need to know what colour underpants to wear.”

                  One question that occurs to me is this:

                  We can say that people who have been indoctrinated no longer use their critical intelligence but is that an adequate explanation? is it even true or provable in any real way? If having critical intelligence disabled really is a prerequisite for a cultish complicity in crime because, well, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to be in a cult, then how does that explain for example Werner von Braun? who was one. Or the millions of highly intelligent people like him with critical faculties that functioned extraordinarily well, who have not just participated in atrocities but literally designed and engineered them?

                  Did you ever feel your critical intelligence wasn’t working normally? I can’t say I did.

                  In the case of all of us who left, might this not be rather a matter of accumulated experience and information over time being processed by our critical faculties, actually enhancing them and changing our perception and understanding?

                  1. Of course it is much more complicated than just giving up our critical thinking faculties. No one does that willingly or at the start of a cult experience. It takes time and brainwashing – like endless repetition of the teachings on not questioning your teacher delivered when you’re in an open meditative state – to draw someone in to such a degree that they’re no longer examining what’s before them, or only examining some things and ignoring others – which is what many of us did.

                    Because the manipulation is mixed up with helpful aspects of the teachings, the cult member doesn’t see how they’re being manipulated, especially if it’s subtle (and probably more powerful for it), and especially if they are otherwise getting what they want out the cult experience.

                    For instance, on one hand Sogyal told us to examine the teachings, as the Buddha said we should, but on the other hand we were told that if we wanted the highest teachings, we had to never criticise our teacher. The question for the individual was what are you willing to give up to get those ‘highest’ teachings? I was willing to at least appear to play the game. I didn’t buy into all of it – otherwise I’d still be there – but I did what I had to to get what I wanted.

                    I go into more detail on how we get trapped in my book. But it has a lot to do with what we’re looking for and how much of our critical thinking ability we’re willing to give up to get it. We don’t know that’s what we’re doing, but that’s what it comes down to.

                    Often cult members look for things like approval, love of a father figure, and membership of a community. If you want a community, and the community requires you not to question in order to be considered valuable to it and if the result of questioning is exclusion, will you give up questioning? I didn’t, and they no longer wanted me instructing others. No discussion about it. Just like when they decided I couldn’t attend a retreat. I was a destabilising influence they couldn’t afford to keep in the fold, so I was excluded bit by bit, and yet it took me learning about cult dynamics before I could see exactly what was going on.

                    And then there’s the self-perception payoff.
                    Some people love Trumps irreverence, for instance, so they ignore the content and form of his irreverence. They like to feel that they’re backing the wild horse, thinking of themselves as being a renegade, someone who says what they think and doesn’t give a damn about political correctness etc. It gives them a sense that they can do what they want and say what they want – and that’s a kind of freedom that appeals to a lot of people. And because supporting Trump allows them to identify with that kind of image for themselves, they ignore the harm he causes. He’s also very good at pitting his followers against others and turning ‘other’ into enemy.

                    That’s what cult leaders do. They turn those who criticise into the enemy. Sogyal said of those who criticised him that they have ‘gone off’ or are ‘mentally unstable’ or ‘turned against us’, that kind of thing. He turned the rest of the cult against people who left and didn’t stay silent.

                    Sogyal was good at saying what we wanted to hear (DZK is the same) while peppering his teachings (especially for older students) with the hard truths, such as our expected servitude. We would be more critical of if we weren’t also hearing what we wanted to hear, if we weren’t also getting some rewards – usually it’s things like attention, feeling special or ‘spiritual’ or better than others because we have the ‘real’ teachings, and simply feeling a part of something we’ve been told has the potential to make the world a better place. Our desire to help was so grossly manipulated in Rigpa that some, such as Patrick, eventually came to see beatings as helpful to a person’s spiritual path.

                    All these kinds of elements come together to create a web that can ensnare even the brightest and normally logical-thinking people.

                    1. Thanks, that’s a very thorough analysis and I’m sure your book should be essential reading for anyone considering Tibetan Buddhism.

                      There’s some similarity to my own experience, except that I left before anyone had the chance to exclude me…..it happened very fast…..I didn’t hold any teaching or other position and I didn’t signal my discontent in advance…….nobody important in Rigpa paid much attention to the help until they realised we were leaving.

                      I think your comments on the trade- offs are pivotal to understanding how the process works.

                      The reason I’m increasingly tending to think in this case, that cult-conditioning may not be as efficient or even essential as I used to assume is that the transactions that you refer to are going on all the time, there’s always a kind of self-interested mental cost-benefit assessment running in the background and while people are getting what they want or what ( they think ) they need, perhaps any great degree of mind-control isn’t even needed.

                      This might go some way to explain why some people leave and others
                      seem to be able to accomodate the abuse, inconsistencies and general madness indefinitely……because their self-interest and ambition is fulfilled and it outweighs their morality and humanity.

                      It’s certainly a dark view, but considering that those who have stayed on are almost inevitably those who craved, sought and achieved the financial security and social or spiritual status the most, I’m comfortable with it.

                      After all, we’re not talking about the well-understood military behavioural techniques for turning large groups of ordinary humans into torturers, rapists and killers, none of us were either crusaders or jihadiis, not exactly the Manson family on acid either.

                      However, that’s certainly not in any way to diminish the horror of what Sogyal did and what he was, but in terms of his ability to really control minds and profoundly transform personality in any lasting way, perhaps brain-washing is too strong a term and credits him with much more skill and intelligence than he had.

                      Much of his behaviour was instinctive to sociopathic individuals with narcissistic personality disorder rather than a series of consciously developed techniques and he displayed much the same behaviour from the outset, it just got worse as his fame increased and nothing challenged it.

                      We might ask who and what damaged him so severely to produce such a disturbed individual.
                      who seemed more like the real effect of actual brainwashing or mental conditioning.

                      In support of this theory and in response I’d also ask the question: how many people would have been taken in if he’d been an isolated individual who invented his own weird doctrine, encountered in a bar at random rather than someone groomed by his family to posture as a representative of an ancient established world religion fronted by the world-famous and revered Dalai Lama and backed by almost the entire hierarchy who all went out of their way to endorse him at every opportunity?

                      Not so many I think.

                      Were we, his students, really brainwashed or just naive and conned by a very effective and well-oiled religious machine riding on a recent history of uncritical praise and sympathy for being violently displaced refugees ?

                      Also, perhaps the many people like Gaffney aren’t now so much brainwashed as having become callously indifferent to the suffering inflicted on others when it threatened their situation by calling into question their carefully constructed posture as good spiritually advanced people who ‘just happen’ to derive all their income and status from it at the same time.

                      I admit my view doesn’t concede much room for any motivation that was ever really wholesome or selfless about it all….maybe that’s just a reflection on myself.

                      Interestingly I’ve been trying to recall anything after all this time that I might still refer to as: “helpful aspects of the teachings,” but there’s nothing left now that I can think of.

  4. Rigpa is a corrupt association of self-seekers who enable each other to control the minds and fortunes of those still mired in Sogyal’s malignant influence. Keep shining the light on Gaffney’s corruption. Persistence in these matters is everything.

    1. Yes, it’s the only way we can stop their just-wait-until-it-all-dies-down policy on dealing with criticism from working this time.

  5. Well said. All true. I can hardly believe that PG is teaching so blatantly. The title of the course ‘Minding Our Own Business’ reads like a very bad joke. Is he thumbing his nose at SR’s victims? Looks like it? Really, I wouldn’t have believed it.

    1. Yes, it smacks of arrogance, doesn’t it. Like he’s saying, ‘I’m doing this, now get off my back and mind your own business.’ It’s a really weird title for a teaching on meditation at any level. ‘Mind your own mind’ would be a much better title. Arrogant spiritual teachers are bad news. The title also pretty much sums up Rigpa’s I-don’t-care-about-anyone-else attitude as if there’s something spiritual in not helping others. If we minded our own business, we would do no community service.

  6. Moral integrity in TB….hard to find indeed.
    Cash, sex and politics ; quite easy to manipulate sincere and blind people , especialy when the highest authorities have been so close from the abusers for decades.
    Not a word for the victims of Trungpa, Sogyal, Spatz, etc..as usual coming from the golden throne holders…maybe they see us as if we were ants…through their “crazy wisdom” glasses.
    Go on Thalia, and many thanks for your courage.

    1. I’ve been so busy ‘minding my own business’ lately that it was hard to find time to write this, so we have to thank Sel for getting the majority of the article together. I only added the part about the restorative justice initiative.
      But thanks for your support. It helps.

  7. Rigpa UK is claiming Patrick Gaffney’s course is nothing to do with them. They write that, “Rigpa UK has not been and will not be involved with this teaching.” Then they tell us, “Mr Gaffney resigned from Rigpa UK in 2018 and is no longer associated with Rigpa UK. In 2019, the Charity Commission disqualified him from being a charity trustee for eight years.” Finally they say, “Rigpa UK is an independent charity registered in England and Wales with the Charity Commission and not legally part of Rigpa International.” You can read the full press statement on Rigpa UK web-site https://rigpa.org.uk/home/about/press/

    Obviously they are in deep trouble with the regulators, the Charity Commission. It’s pretty laughable trying to imply that because Rigpa UK is not legally part of Rigpa International, it’s nothing to do with them.

    The Lewis Silkin investigation was carried out on behalf of the whole of Rigpa and commissioned by Rigpa UK and Rigpa USA. If Rigpa International was nothing to do with Rigpa UK, why would Rigpa UK pay for that?

    The Rigpa UK accounts are public, you can find them on the Charity Commission web-site. They show that Rigpa UK supports Rigpa International financially. Why would they do that if Rigpa International was nothing to do with them?

    The Rigpa UK National Director, Paul Brusa is a member of the Rigpa International Coordination Group, you can see that on the Rigpa Management Teams web-site https://www.rigpa.org/rigpa-teams. Why would he be a member of that if Rigpa UK was nothing to do with Rigpa International?

    The Rigpa International Mandala mailings go to everyone in a Rigpa Mandala in the UK, because there is one database for Rigpa Mandala members internationally. It’s called ‘The Rigpa Admin and Care System.’ Why is there one database for Rigpa Mandala members internationally if Rigpa UK is nothing to do with Rigpa International?

    There are many different Rigpa organisations in the world, not all of them having ‘Rigpa’ in their title. They have all been founded on behalf of Sogyal Rinpoche and in practice are all part of one federated entity. It is nonsense to imply that Rigpa UK is nothing to do with Rigpa International. I hope the Charity Commission sees through that deception.

    1. They are trying to cover their asses, but they’re not fooling anyone. They have the same name for heaven’s sake. But I think there was likely a bit of disagreement in the ranks over whether he should do it or not. I expect his arrogance and sense of entitlement as Sogyal’s right-hand man would steamroller over anyone’s protests.

      1. I think its only fair to say that Rigpa refuses to come clear with their past. Nobody wants to take responsibility for abuse.

        Its a kind of being fossilized alive. When I think likewise, that in Germany former director Doris Wolter still holds positions within DBU (German Buddhist Union), and is titled, i try to translate: buddhist lecturer for teachers of ethics in Berlin”

        It doesnt seem to matter to DBU that the she must have known of the abuse within Rigpa. Its just only one example of how much covering abuse within buddhist subculture is still crucial part of the network.

        1. Sogyal-devotee and -translator Michael Ritman is the chairman of the Dutch Buddhist Union (BUN).

          Since 2015, Ritman has consistently used his position to shield Sogyal Lakar and the Dutch Rigpa foundation from unwanted media attention. The other BUN-members, however, refused to intervene—even now.

          No small wonder: 50 percent of the members are (or were, some teachers have passed away) led by Buddhist teachers who have been discredited by public allegations of sexual abuse.

          Read this and the following articles, to see how Ritman abused his position to bar Oane Bijlsma from participating in a symposium on sexual abuse by Buddhists held by the Free University in Amsterdam:


          Footnote 20 of the first article presents a BUN member list. The organizations and/or teachers printed in bold had or have a spiritual leader or teacher printed in bold who has been discredited by public allegations of sexual abuse. On February 10, 2020 the count was 23 of the 46 members (50 percent).

          Mind you, allegations of sexual abuse against Buddhist teachers of organizations that are not BUN-members, are not included in this list. So in reality, the picture is more sobering still.

          1. I have read this already 5 month ago. I feel that most of the functionaries within buddhist organisations have no understanding of examining discerningly what they are doing, how the are doing it, what their motivation is behind ” doing good”.

            They seem more serving their own interests then practicing buddhist training.

            As a consequence remain most of buddhist networks permeated by people with a wrong understanding of emptiness likewise, as this was the main excuse within Rigpa, for all kind of abuse. Indeed, I think the main abuse is even to use buddhist philosophy to feed one owns ignorance again and again.

            Its very human, but its human too to have the capacity to learn.

            1. I agree. I think a misunderstanding of emptiness is a big problem in Rigpa and likely in the other abusive cults as well. The ‘concept’ of emptiness was certainly misused to support the abuse. That is such a total distortion of the teachings. And yet, they blithely continue teaching in the same way because they have never examined what went wrong, not even admitted anything was wrong.

          2. It’s sad, but I have come to realise that abuse is every bit as entrenched in Buddhism as it is in the Christian church. Spirituality seems to provide an excellent cover for predators, narcissists and so on.

    2. Rigpa has edited its management teams list and taken the UK National Director, Paul Brusa, off the list of members of the Rigpa International Coordination Group. His name was still there on June 19 when I wrote my original post. This looks like another futile attempt to distance Rigpa UK from Rigpa International. The two organisations may be legally separate, but it is beyond belief that they have nothing to do with each other.

  8. Tahlia amd Sel you have done us such a great service in writing this article and making it clear what the Silkin Report and the Charity Commissioners have said re Patrick Gaffney. For me there is something particularly shocking about his part in this abusive saga. I attended teachings in the 80’s and 90’s. always on the outside of the sangha, but there were signs which disturbed me. He appeared to be oneof the steady ones, how wrong was I. I remember SL refuting Crazy Wisdom at that time, so where did it all start?
    I do think that however hard we try to use our discrimination, there will always be moments on the spiritual path when we are duped, – if we are lucky it is short-lived, if not and it becomes entrenched in a group then it takes much longer. That doesnt excuse those who perpetrate the abuse.

    1. Unfortunately, it is easy to be duped when you’re looking for something. I feel now that seeking itself is a problem in this respect. We rush to teachers who tell us that our wisdom is within, but we don’t look within, we keep looking outside to the teachers. For so long as we look to others for wisdom, we are vulnerable to being duped.

  9. Great article and comments everyone. It’s good to fight the good fight!

    I’ve had at least a 6-month hiatus from reading/commenting here, but really appreciate the good work.

    Yes not surprised Rigpa hasn’t budged. They can look to Trungpa’s organisation for the model of keeping the zombies marching after the Supreme Leader has died. It really is quite sad how people stay brainwashed and Tahlia sounds like she’s plumbed the depths of how and why that happens in her book, which is invaluable for deprogramming yourself and escaping a cult.

    I left in 2005 and about the only big thing around on the internet was American Buddha, so thanks to Charles and Tara Carreon for that.

    I feel one thing that wasn’t emphasised in the conversations/comments above is the spiritual need that drives people to these teachers and organisations, although I’m sure Tahlia covers that in her book. I think we have neglected a spiritual dimension to our lives so much in the modern West that when we get the urge, we rush off and throw caution to the wind. Also because our culture is spiritually naive we are easily manipulated. I’m a big fan of Huston Smith and have used his writings to re-educate myself spiritually/religiously sans dogma. Once you understand a religion without excess dogma it is much harder to be manipulated or drawn into a cult.

    It’ interesting to discover the things the Buddha said that directly contradict Sogyal and interesting how few sutras or even tantras we read in Rigpa (those two facts might be related!). Like in the Mahaparinibban Sutra (Pali Cannon), close to death, the Buddha says he hasn’t given any teachings that were hidden to an inner circle etc (something like that) – he gave all the teachings to all the people.

  10. I am thoroughly disgusted to learn Patrick Gaffney is still teaching. I have attended many Rigpa retreats in the past. I appreciated the opportunity to receive the Buddhist teachings in a supposedly authentic environment. Part of the benefit of receiving the teachings in this auspicious environment is the hope that your master has the ability to impart the nature of mind directly to you. Which would be impossible with a master/teacher such as profoundly frightening psychopath Patrick Gaffney. For all the good listening to Patrick will do, you might as well stay home and read a Buddhist book written by someone with empathy.

  11. I am saddened that a so called ‘Buddhist teacher’ abused and used his status purely for his own gain . Even sadder is the steps The Rigpa organisation has taken to move forward without properly acknowledging the damage inflicted upon the victims. My heart goes out to all the people who have suffered as a result.

  12. Have written to Rigpa Aust Friday 4 Dec to request they remove comment
    Sogyal R ‘gone to Paranirvana ‘ To compare him with the real Siddhartha Gautama is like saying other despots are Buddhas. An insult. You actually need true human connections (called love) plus large doses of humility (putting yourself last) to even start to understand the path. Keep going, guys, we need the message to reach all people.
    Buyer Beware. Keep your money (and so-called merit) on a short leash.

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