Response to Bernie from Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

Yesterday Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche sent a letter to Bernie S in reply to a letter Bernie sent to him last August. The August letter was published on the How Did it Happen Blog and a link to it was posted here. Rinpoche requested that we also post a link to his reply. It begins with ….
Dear Bernie,
I am sorry for not responding much sooner to your letter of 23rd August. The main reason is that I’m just so lazy but also pretend to be busy – a pretence that ends up actually making me busy. In fact, I had started to respond to your letter months ago but somehow never got around to finishing this return letter till now.
However, I want to assure you that, because the Buddhadharma and especially the Vajrayana are dear to my heart, I do pay attention as much as time allows to what you and others write. So, from my heart, I want to offer my sincere appreciation for the great effort and thoughtfulness you and many others have been putting into the dialogue of the past seven months. …
Read the rest of the letter here.

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

29 Replies to “Response to Bernie from Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche”

  1. Thanks Tahlia. It’s good to read what he says. Sounds like he understands. Does he know how damaged people have been by the term “Samaya breaker” being used at them? And to be told that people were guided by “unseen” spirits? And to be told we’d go to vajra hell for speaking up?
    It does not help Dharma in the West. This condemnation should be fought at the highest level. I believe he can help by breaking down this concept used against Rigpa students with doubts.

  2. I have some issues with his letter. For example, the Q & A on pure perception. It seems DKR is encouraging Bernie to view this present scandal as something SR consciously produced as a “teaching” opportunity? Am I getting that correctly? And yet, in the following paragraph, he suggests that SR’s “manifestation” (? as someone who consciously created this scenario with himself as an abuser?) may have permanently damaged the B’dharma and the V’yana in the eyes of some people.
    So, if SR has engineered this whole thing, is that just one unfortunate aspect of this “teaching,” i.e., that some of his students wind up rejecting the entirety of the B’dharma? Moreover, I question his description of this damage as “permanent.” Does that mean in all future lifetimes the B’dharma as a path is closed to them?
    Sorry, but I find this whole notion that SL consciously created this scandal with intended purpose of using it as a teaching device for his students. That just sounds preposterously insane. If true, to take just one example, then what can be made of HHDL calling him out as “disgraced?”

    1. It was clearly not conscious. One only has to speak to those directly harmed to know just how unconscious and reactive his behaviour was. I think if there is any truth to that idea, then it is on a level that is very far beyond any single person’s conscious intent. We must not forget that seeing purely means that we are all seen as pure, including those who criticise, yet DZK does not qualify his statement at all. If DZK forgets that essential point he will not help the situation at all. And if he forgets to mention that seeing as pure a beating that causes trauma does not mean that harm did not occur, he will have fallen into nihilsim and only be cementing people’s disgust with the religion. He must acknowledge when he speaks from an absoute viewpoint and when it’s from a relative viewpoint, and remember that saying (or even knowing) something is a dream does not make the dream any less distressing for those within it, and it does not mean that somone who knows it is a dream ignores or wantonly causes distress for those in it. Seeing the dream arouses compassion not disregard.
      I think a nihilist view is rife in the way teachings are applied in the nyingma tradition and to expect someone from within that tradition to see that is probably expecting too much. I mean we are supposed to simply listen and believe he’s right, and just accept it because he is a lama and we aren’t, but the time for that kind of blanket acceptance of what someone says is past – look where it got us in Rigpa. He has to actually make his view make sense and make it fit with what MR says because what he said did make sense, and if DZK insinuates again that what SR did is somehow acceptable in any way at all, then I want no part of that version of Vajrayana.

      1. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche said in Berlin , on the explanation aout Kunzang Monlam /Wish – granting prayer of Samantabhadra : ” It is so easy for us lamas to cheat you !…” And all people who were listening we laughing . This was in 1994 (its recorded on video tape which we have) , 24 years ago ! People still allow to be cheated . Incredible double ignorance /dellussion .

  3. i wonder what will happen to certain meditators- intelligent or not -who have one problem or another – but want to move on – but have no teacher perhaps . what if i get excommunicated or physical damaged & harmed by psycho abuse in dharma or wherever? so such people have nothing . they should get permission to go immortal in fact.

  4. Ik Ben t met mn vriendin Mira eens. Via het super intelligente antwoord van DK zie ik na tweede keer lezen dat t super patriarciaal is. En dat zie ik waarop nul over de slachtoffers gepraat wordt, nee, wordt vermeden. Dit almaar voortdurende praising van de toegewijden en -als afsluiter- dat het de leiders hoop geeft dat uiteindelijk the dharma root zal krijgen in t westen, is de menselijkheid negeren. Geen woord over trauma. Wel heeft DK zich relatief strakker geuit over Rinpoche’s mogelijke gebrek aan verantwoordelijkheid. Dat heb ik weinig gehoord , dat niveau van he mening durven uiten als lineage holder.
    Wat voor mij tot het hart gaat is de laatste foto van Rinpoche waarin ik zijn menselijkheid diep voelde. Hij heeft het niet makkelijk en als zodanig heeft hij mijn mededogen. No one should have to suffer unnecessarily, neither does he.
    2018 is in full swing. Hier veel moeite gehad met slaap. Ging me opbreken. Nieuwe fase met veel release van layers of old wounds. Humility, be gentle with (y)ourself

    1. sl has never let a photo be published that he hasn’t spent hours obsessing over to make sure it projects the image he’s after. I was almost taken in by the pathetic look too, it’s all meant to mess with your mind, he doesn’t know how to be any other way.
      If he was actually sorry then he could contact the letter writers for a start…which he hasn’t done. A simple call with an ‘I’m sorry’, nothing formal, nothing that could get him in trouble in court.
      Portraying a pathetic image is sure to pull on everyone’s heart strings, YES he would stoop that low.

  5. OM SVASTI If too much importance is projected into Buddhist teacher , it can easily became a cult . We can respect and venerate Buddha Shakyamuni, Garab Dorje , Padmasambhava , Vimalamitra and few others, especially Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche and Khenchen Pentse Rinpoche . Nowdays in this degenerate age many misuse Buddhist teachings for self-promotion , like merchandise or a franchise selling the Dharma , selling statues, Dharma books … In such degenerate age Guru Padmasambhava advised anyone who respects his words, to perform ten enlightened activities . First of these is : printing Dharma books for free distribution . Yes, how many who have high Buddhist titles do this ?! Tibetan book of living and dying was sold as bestseller ! Its really naive toi expect from well informed “Westerners” that they will bow down to feudalistic style of Buddhism , be it called Vajeayana, Dzogchen or whatever . Buddhist Dharma is in the qualities , not in empty words and debates . If its only debates and empthy words , its similar to politicians 🙂 Garabd Dorje taught in the Three testaments : Discover your true nature … Everyone has innate Buddha nature and we can hear and contemplate it through the Natural Sound of Dharmata (Chonyid kyi rangdra) . No need to sell us anything , we already “got it ” ! Tashi Delek .

  6. Dzongsar Khyentse you disappoint me beyond words. This is too weak. You can do better if you truly want to see proper dharma planted in the west. Stop stroking egos. Point out abuse. Point out complicity. Turn this ship around.

  7. It looks like Dzongsar’s letter to Bernie could well be connected to Rigpa’s ongoing damage limitation exercise – after all, Dzongsar is their advisor.
    The clock has been ticking since Dzongsar’s last announcement regarding Sogyal and Rigpa. He knew that he had to write something sooner or later, and I believe that he chose to do it in a form of this reply to Bernie, as he knew that it would get widespread publication. Anyway, Dzongsar’s worded his response in a deliberately soft and ambiguous way – he’s continuing to protect the reputation of Sogyal and Rigpa as much as he can.
    Let us not forget that in August last year, Dzongsar came forward and issued an unusual response in which he did not state whether or not he believed that Sogyal had committed sex abuse. But he did shockingly state, “On balance, I would argue that Sogyal Rinpoche has contributed far more benefit to this world and Buddhadharma than harm.”
    It is absolutely incumbent upon any Buddhist teacher to be responsible for a safe environment for students to study. However, I believe that Dzongsar is still not showing enough consideration towards Sogyal’s victims, some of whom are young women, who are emotionally and physically scarred, and who are still having to receive therapy.
    Also, let us not forget that Dzongsar posted that most shocking “Sex Contract” on his Facebook page last year, deliberately coinciding with the controversy surrounding Sogyal and Rigpa. For those of you who didn’t see it, it was the most inappropriate joke in the form of a legal “Sex Contract”. This sex contract listed numerous things that any rinpoche and student signed mutual consent for, such as – the student would allow the rinpoche to give them anal sex, vaginal sex, and battery, and the student would also accept being urinated and defacated upon. Moreover, it also stated that if the student got pregnant by the rinpoche, she must have an abortion. This “Sex Contract” deeply upset many people, particulalry as Dzongsar posted it on his public Facebook page where many young Buddhists saw it, some of whom were minors. As a result of the uproar, within 24 hours the post was taken down. However, despite receiving many complaints, Dzongsar failed to issue an apology to the many people who were not only insulted during such a sensitive time, but who were deeply concerned about the damage that it did to the image of Buddhism.
    After all of this, and his most recent letter, it is no surprise that Rigpa want Dzongsar to be its advisor to its governing board, which consists of a small group of Sogyal’s closest supporters.
    Each to their own, but I for one will always listen to Holiness the Dalai Lama, who publicly criticised Sogyal, saying that he is disgraced.

    1. Excellent comment Marge! Very well stated and with clarity of mind! I am in agreement with you 100%! Thank you for weighing in.

    2. The purpose of DKR’s sleazy, misogynistic social media posts has finally dawned on me. The ‘sex contract’; the lingerie ad featuring a barely adult model which ridicules the #metoo movement and the post mocking certain allegations made against him – they’re all designed to weed out unsuitable disciples.
      Anyone who finds those posts offensive and wholly out of place for a Vajrayana master is clearly not cut out to be a student of his. If you support women’s rights and possess progressive attitudes along the lines of sexual equality and if you believe that spiritual teachers shouldn’t exploit or mistreat their students then out you go! Those posts were the equivalent of Graham Norton’s red chair! Job done!

  8. It feels as if he’s doing more to harm Tibetan Buddhism than sl. At least SL has gone into hiding and is mostly keeping his mouth shut.
    khentse norbu is trying to normalize unacceptable behavior, he continues to support the actions of a sad deluded old man. His only critique is that sl should have prepared his students better, this means, for all intents and purposes that he is OK with everything else sl did.
    Zero respect to you kn, you are in a privileged position, you could have done so much good, instead you’ve sharply illustrated the perverted way tb can manifest in arrogant unstable assholes.

    1. See why I am totally jack of all this? Discussion goes round and round and really any religion that allowed this to happen in the first place is somewhat twisted and dangerous. For a ‘minister’ of such a religion to defend abusive behaviour in any way at all, just makes that point even clearer. Christian ministers covered up, but I don’t think they ever tried to actually defend the indifensible.

  9. Lest PRAY FOR DZONGSAR KHYENTSE RINPOCHE to develop true prajna (intelligence) and primordial WISDOM , not trying to sit on two chairs and protecting abusers ! May he awakens his innate Buddha nature and have compassion to all who suffer because they were just “narcissistic supply” for egomanics who pretend to be lamas . May true Buddhist Dharma prosper and benefit all . OM MUNE MUNE MAHA MUNAYE SVAHA oṃ a ra pa tsa na dhīḥ ༀ་ཨ་ར་པ་ཙ་ན་དྷཱི༔ Wénshū 文殊 or 文殊菩薩
    oṃ a ra pa tsa na dhīḥ ༀ་ཨ་ར་པ་ཙ་ན་དྷཱི༔
    Wénshū 文殊 or 文殊菩薩
    oṃ a ra pa tsa na dhīḥ ༀ་ཨ་ར་པ་ཙ་ན་དྷཱི༔ Wénshū 文殊 or 文殊菩薩
    oṃ a ra pa tsa na dhīḥ ༀ་ཨ་ར་པ་ཙ་ན་དྷཱི༔
    Wénshū 文殊 or 文殊菩薩

  10. I’ve been wondering why any of us care what KN (aka djkr) or SL think and I realized that we all want someone to look up to, someone who we can aspire to be like.
    These men have shown that they don’t deserve our admiration or respect and definitely don’t warrant veneration.
    At the same time they do warrant our compassion. As Thich Nhat Han has said, if we’d been brought up in the same way we might be very similar to them, so instead of blame I have decided to give thanks for this precious human body without their baggage. Sure, I’ve got my own baggage, but at least it hasn’t resulted in tarnishing an entire spiritual tradition.
    I’ll pray for you guys, wish you well, and avoid you like the plague until you come to terms with your delusion. That’s goes for BOTH sl and kn.
    PS I’ll refer to you as Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche when you stop acting like the spoiled arrogant asshole Khyentse Norbu.

  11. I care because he carries the name Khyentse which is a big responsibility and he’s guiding 100s of unquestioning disciples and because his own postings and writings give me pause. He has a responsibility and he needs to be clear and mature here, let all the Tibetan politics go and call out abuse. Remember sponsors in Tibet basically get a free pass to do what they like and the politics continue through lifetimes. That needs to cease.
    This is not a vajrayana matter and I’m so tired of him being on his vajrayana pulpit where he seems to think students have no right to question once they commit. That is wrong. And I have not had a lama spell out all the warnings so I don’t know what that’s all about. Rather, let’s get out of the clouds here- this is a matter of human decency, morality, ethics, and criminal acts that need to be dealt with.
    A bodhisattva is meant to be fearless and stop suffering of all kinds or at least try to. Did he even try? He of all people had the ability to stop it carrying his name. So I wonder does this man have any balls at all or is he feeling trapped in his position – is OT guiding him here?
    Certainly a dialogue needs to happen where people question these lamas pointedly, directly, not dancing and sidestepping around issues. DKR says he is so committed to the future of dharma in the west, and I care how he handles this, because I too care about the future of dharma in the west and I don’t see him acting as a leader with integrity. I have lost trust in DKR and OT over this. So for that I feel deep heartbreak and disappointment.
    So Dzongsar Khyentse, I’m asking you to turn this ship around. Stop pussy footing around and call out what is right and wrong on a very basic human level. Did Guru Rinpoche not say ‘Though the view should be as vast as the sky, keep your conduct as fine as barley flour.’

  12. It sounds like you care about what he does because of the impact he has. I agree but my question was more like a rhetorical question, more general in nature, how did he get his power and influence to begin with?
    Why do we care what a bunch of backwards mysogonistic assholes, who weren’t even bathing regularly less than a century ago, think or do?
    What is it about us that makes it possible for people like trump to get into power? For fat old perverts like sl to command such loyalty, for superstitious arrogant fools like KN to command our undivided attention?

  13. In the 3 hour meeting between DJKR and Rigpa students and management, someone asked Rinpoche this question: “What the Dalai Lama and Mingyur Rinpoche are saying and what you and Orgyen Topgyal Rinpoche and Khenpo Namdrohl are saying are two different things. Can you please clarify?”
    He didn’t seem to know anything about Mingyur Rinpoche’s advice to students, but his essential message in reply was that the advice from His Holiness was “mis-information” or a “mis-translation.”
    Here is the end of his lengthy response to the question:
    “And you know, I’m sorry, you know I can’t, you can’t change that [rules of samaya]. People seem to think that some lamas can change– because [mocking voice] now the time is modern and, you know, you can’t because you know what? If you ask a lama to change that rule, you are making him into a cult leader. Can you see the logic? Because a cult leader doesn’t do this– they don’t go by the book. They do whatever they want. OK, what do people want to hear? Ahhh. That’s what people want to hear. Then they make up. You can’t do that. You know, as I said right at the beginning, I’m not an enlightened being, I’m a sentient being. I have desire, I have anger, I have ambition. I have– what do you call it? agendas. I’m very ambitious. And in this day and age, if I follow my ambition, I should say, oh yeah yeah yeah, whatever people want to hear. I make it up. Mindfulness–breathe out–breathe in. You know and then, after a week later you read maybe a magazine and see what is the current trend, current fashion, and then change the meditation method a little bit. I would make millions .But if you want to follow by the book, it’s not possible.
    “So what I’m saying is– there must be a misinformation or mis-translation.”

    1. Yes, I was looking for that statement about cult leaders from DKR, but I couldn’t remember where I saw it. He makes it sound WORSE than a cult because he doesn’t even allow for the rules to be changed or to adapt to society!!! How can Tibetan Buddhism fit in with modern society if it isn’t allowed to change. ALL living traditions change and evolve, so what is he trying to say?!?!?

      1. I’m not saying cults are good, but he is saying that a Tibetan lama can’t change the rules and cult leaders can change the rules. So, wouldn’t that make Tibetan lamas worse than cult leaders, lol?

  14. I personally know HHDL’s translator and highly doubt there was misinformation or mistranslation. Not only that, HHDL is a totally realized being. Rather, I questioned if KN and OTR got the full translation of the letter from the students who spoke up- I imagine it was summarized and ‘edited’.

  15. So he’s effectively defending Sogyal’s behaviour as being within the bounds of a guru-disciple relationship whilst questioning or not agreeing with people’s interpretation of what the Dalai Lama said?
    It seems he hasn’t listened to what the Dalai Lama said?
    He claims that it would be incorrect and opportunistic to interpret samaya differently, yet we regard his actions, in terms of largely defending Sogyal’s reputation & covering up bad behaviour, as examples of protecting the lineage and the role of Dharma centres at all costs, as opportunistic and not authentic.

  16. I had interpreted DKR’s comment as HH received ‘misinformation’ or a ‘mistranslation’ of the letter writers experiences. Would like clarity on that. For a Manjushri emanation he seems to leave a lot of confusion vs clarity. Where HH is very clear!
    The positives are that for the first time I know of, hard questions are being asked on a public platform. This is a big step forward. I hope there are regular such platforms where people can write in their questions. We need to have opportunities such as this to get questions answered. Such as why did he post the #metoo posting, what did he wish to communicate with that? Is he a sex addict like Sogyal? Why is he deferring away from the abusive behaviors only calling what happened ‘a problem’, and referring to the abuses as ‘alleged’ abuses? Does he not believe these things happened? Does he think students are lying?

    1. Yes concerned, I think we need to do an open letter to DKR, asking him to account for his social media excesses. Others might say we need to just get over it – I’m not buying that. We are all judged by the way we conduct ourselves in public, and the company we keep.

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