Sogyal Rinpoche’s Last Tour

Rigpa has sent an email to their devotees sharing their plans ‘for the ceremonies that will be performed for Sogyal Rinpoche over the next few months’. These plans show a stark difference in cultural attitudes between Tibet and the West as to the respectful way to treat a corpse, and we can respect that. But Rigpa could have been culturally appropriate without the elaborate charade they have planned, and in their communications, they could have been respectful to those Sogyal abused rather than painting them as enemies.

Parading his corpse around as if he were an enlightened master just continues the lie that damaged so many and disillusioned many more. It’s nothing more than their usual manipulation of the faithful. The actions of a cult. They’re essentially repeating the ‘Rigpa party line’ in a big display, saying, ‘Sogyal is a great master; it was crazy wisdom, not abuse; the 8 and their supporters got it wrong. We can be safe in the knowledge that we are right; we can go on with our worship as if nothing happened. ‘

The anger arising now is not that of people clinging to anger about the abuse; it’s fresh anger arising from what Rigpa is saying by this display. Sel Verhoeven talks about this in this guest post.

Note the meaning of Kundung according to Rigpa Wiki: ‘kudung’ refers to ‘the sacred body of a great master who has passed away, or to their relics, such as ringsel, or a stupa housing relics’

Rinpoche’s last tour

Thanks to Sel Verhoeven for the following:

First of all, I would like to say my heart is with anyone who is truly mourning the passing of Sogyal Rinpoche. It is a shattering experience to lose someone you love. If you are feeling very raw about this, you might not want to read this blog – even though it is not about Rinpoche’s passing away, but about what Rigpa is making out of it.

A man has died who has done a lot of bad and a lot of good. He still has thousands of devotees, but he has seriously harmed dozens of people and around a thousand students have left Rigpa, feeling completely disillusioned because their trust has been so badly broken.

What kind of a goodbye should be chosen? That is a difficult decision. Of course family and close ones should have the opportunity to say their goodbyes. And an opportunity for the devotees to pay their respects should be created. But, one would think that, given the circumstances, it would be wise (and compassionate to his victims) to try to keep it as small and discrete as possible.

Not Rigpa. No; let’s fly his body from Thailand to France, then to Bodhgaya in India, then to Sikkim and then to West-Sikkim on a 3 month tour:

Sogyal Rinpoche’s kudung will be taken firstly to the Buddhist temple of Wat Thong Nopakhun in Bangkok, Thailand. From 17th-22nd September [the temple] will be open to visitors daily between 5am-10pm. The kudung will then be taken to Lerab Ling in France where a private ceremony will be held for Sogyal Rinpoche’s family and community of close students. The kudung will remain at Lerab Ling from 24th-29th September, before being taken to India.

In India, Sogyal Rinpoche’s kudung will be taken to Bodhgaya, the seat of Buddha Shakyamuni’s enlightenment. The kudung will remain there for approximately one month, from 1st-31st October, at the Shechen Gompa. Lamas and monks from the Shechen Monastery and other Dharma communities will be invited to perform various practices and rituals in its presence.

From Bodhgaya, the kudung will be taken to Chorten Gompa, Kyabjé Dodrupchen Rinpoche’s monastery in Gangtok, Sikkim, where further practices will be performed by the Lamas and monks there throughout the month of November. Finally, the dungshyu (cremation ceremony) will take place on 2nd December at Tashiding in west Sikkim, a most sacred site and one of the Eight Great Charnel Grounds, blessed by Guru Rinpoche.’

Rigpa email

In other words: let’s do as many ceremonies as we can over a 3 month period of time and let’s involve as many lama’s and monks as possible. Let’s just bombard everyone into believing he is a saint by making a flying circus out of it.

Turning the victim into the offender

Let’s look at this in terms of the DARVO technique commonly used by individuals and organisations when their unethical behaviour is exposed. (Deny it, Attack the whistle blower, and Reverse the Victim and Offender – make the abuser/offender appear to be the victim, and the victim appear to be the abuser/offender ). Again in the email they sent out: 

‘But now that Rinpoche is deceased, we pray that, for the sake of his family, loved ones and close Dharma brothers and sisters, our plans to offer the traditional ceremonies and rituals will unfold peacefully and harmoniously. We simply ask, in all humility, for your respect and understanding at such a time.’

This would make you think that we (the community of victims of spiritual abuse, their supporters, and advocates for ethical behaviour) are a bunch of barbarians that would try to bomb the temples where the ceremonies are being held. When all we have ever asked for is to stop the denial, to acknowledge the abuse, for Rigpa to take responsibility for its part in it, and if possible, for them to really apologize. (On a side note, humility is a trait I have never seen in Rigpa …)

Dismissing the abuse

They also write:

‘Sadly, unresolved controversies in Sogyal Rinpoche’s life have elicited strong feelings in many people.’

So abuse that has been confirmed by an independent investigation is now just an ‘unresolved controversy’. It sounds a whole lot better than abuse, doesn’t it?

I don’t think there will be any protest at any of the ceremonies that are to be held in the next three months. There is no need to protest against this charade, because any sensible person will see it as a cult-warning sign when someone accused of abuse is sent off in such a grandiose way. So let them have their flying circus.

As someone in the What Now group worded it: 

‘Strange maybe, but I feel compassion for Sogyal’s dead body being dragged around for so many days, through so many countries. To me, that doesn’t sound respectful at all. And this ‘traveling circus’ is even worse than all the eulogies we’ve read on the Rigpa home page … it’s about officially, and with lots of pomp, promoting a lie to a ‘truth’ that will be spread for decades to come…’

What Now group member

The repercussions for Tibetan Buddhism

What saddens me most of all is that what started out as the harmful behaviour of one person and the denial and whitewashing of one cult-like group has now, through the endorsement of so many lamas (by way of writing homages and participating in ceremonies) and the remaining silence of so many other lamas, become a reason to seriously doubt all of Tibetan Buddhism.

It has a treasure to offer. But so much seems to be rotten that I’m not sure whether the treasure can be saved. A lot of Sogyal Rinpoche’s ex-students have left Tibetan Buddhism, and I can’t blame them.  I’m ever so grateful for HHDL, Mingyur Rinpoche, Tsultrim Allione, Ato Rinpoche, Dagpo Rinpoche, Thubten Chodron, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Matthieu Ricard, Namgay Dawa Rinpoche and Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo who have spoken up against the abuse*. That’s ten teachers that can be trusted. Unfortunately around twenty teachers have endorsed Sogyal Rinpoche’s behaviour and contributed to his aggrandisement by writing a homage for him. One of them, Ringu Tulku, even turns out to be the champ of reversing abuser/victim roles by writing that ‘some of his trusted students attacked him with most serious accusations’.

Sel Verhoeven

28 Replies to “Sogyal Rinpoche’s Last Tour”

  1. How do I feel? Outrage doesn’t touch the sides. I have passed on the information to some media. I have emphsised that funeral rites of this magnitude are unprecedented in diaspora Tibetan Buddhism. I headlined my commu nications The Beatification of a Rapist. Nuff said.

    1. Great post .Thank you Sel .All very sad .. and absurd ..I expect to see the “Sogyal” episode of the Simpsons mirroring the unfolding of these mawkish events ….

  2. Preposterous and grotesque funerals for a sexual abuser !!!!
    We wait for the “usual” rainbows and flower shower display…
    Better give all that cash for healing his victims!
    Rigpa is truly a cult where abuses and lies are seen as wisdom : what a shame for tibetan buddhism.

    1. Go to enough places, spend enough time and you can gather miracles , rainbows (aka water and light refracting), showers of blessings (aka rain storms) and attribute any good experiences to this “dogs tooth” which Sogyal said of himself as the constant appeal to worship him as something he was not. I wonder how some of these places will feel about world tour, will that have been their understanding of bringing him to their palaces … err monasteries. Maybe it’s just a service you buy … then use the name to plug an association with these bastions of orthodoxy.

  3. Great post .Thank you Sel .All very sad .. and absurd ..I expect to see the “Sogyal” episode of the Simpsons mirroring the unfolding of these mawkish events ….

  4. According to one of my sources Rigpa are thrashing around like headless chickens. First they say the pantomime at LL will be for family and close students only. Then they say all present and former members are welcome (along with their wallets presumably).
    And these allegedly high level devotees recommend doing Xitro for the late unlamented. I think its generally accepted that the late Chogyal Namkhai Norbu was an authoritative Dzogchen master. He was very clear that you do not do Xitro for an accomplished yogi. They don’t need it because they can recognise the peaceful and wrathful manifestations in the after death state for themselves.

  5. Dear Mary: I’m curious about Chogyal Namkhai Norbu. I’ve seen a photo of him looking very chummy with Sogyal. They were holding hands like old friends, and appeared to be laughing together at a shared joke. Were his feelings in regards to Sogyal ever really clear?

    1. Been There…
      I don;t think anyone knows for sure. In the early days of the Dzogchen Community he certainly wasn’t chummy with Sogyal. Quite the contrary in fact. S wheedled one “teaching”visit to the Dzcom HQ Merigar in Italy. Made such a fool of himself he was banned for many years. Then something changed and all of a sudden S was invited to Merigar and ChNN visited Lerab Ling. Apparently S never gave up trying to get back into favour with ChNN. I suspect the latter gave in for the sake of peace and quiet. There’s a photo of them lunching together in London. I queried the new found cosy relationship. ChNN responed in typical Tibetan fashion — “we are vajra brothers”.

  6. What is particularly disgusting about this whole charade is that it speaks for itself how the lamas involved will do anything for money and position and that they simply don’t care how or from where they get it. They have no inkling about decency and integrity and will arrogantly respond to anyone objecting to such a gross and foolish display as not understanding their culture. Correct me if I am wrong, but were the 16th Karmapa’s and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s bodies paraded around in this obscene fashion? To my ignorant mind Sogyal and Rigpa aided and abetted by a corrupt parody of the sublime sacredness of the Dharma are steering Tibetan Buddhism through the sewer into oblivion. I imagine that for many teetering ex-Tibetan Buddhists this final proof of the madness that such a corruption of the pure Teachings has descended into will be the last nail in the coffin. For me however it is a great lesson to separate the teaching from the so-called teachers. If I come across genuine teachers who I can respect it will be a bonus. Sogyal of course is entitled to a proper cremation conducted by lamas of his faith and those who loved him allowed the opportunity to be present and mourn, but really only Rigpa organization could conceive of such a preposterous grandiose series of ceremonies. I very much hope that any remaining decent lamas will recoil in bewilderment at the way Sogyal’s corpse is being wheeled around as a symbol of Tibetan culture and enlightened wisdom!

    1. @ Toria,
      “steering Tibetan Buddhism through the sewer into oblivion.” and
      “final proof of the madness”…..that sums it up nicely Toria.

      But wait, can this really be the end? What about his…….(dramatic music )……reincarnation?

      And all that money, all that real estate, plus a cushy job for life, financial security for you, your family and endless freebies for all your friends…………which lucky lama ( and his monastery ) among all those that have been circling like vultures just waiting for this opportunity, is going to be first off the block to get control of all that?

      They’ll be at it like rabbits soon, then they’re going to pick a bright Tibetan toddler with a suitably fat face…..( this time he’ll be traditionally educated too )…… and bingo! they’ve got the franchise.

  7. Sel, thank so much you for your article: this news on a gloomy Sunday morning of torrential rain, has really cheered me up… fact it took me a while to stop laughing.

    I appreciate that for some people this may be depressing and I can understand Mary’s feeling of outrage, because in a way it’s an extra insult from Rigpa to all his victims, more abuse in fact.

    There are high financial stakes here, the rising tide of criticism and disgust at Sogyal, Rigpa and the doubt about Tibetan Buddhism itself present a growing threat to business and power, so these morbid theatricals, like the court case are calculated push-back.

    Psychologically many in Rigpa will be grappling with a host of conflicting emotions, grief ( perhaps ) but mostly relief that he’s dead and he can’t torment them any more and maybe a sense of loss tempered by the opportunity to idealize him: they can retrospectively project anything they want now and try to forget the inconvenient reality.

    But what’s really left? Another large cult of a dead abusive guru, run by a group of corrupt greedy enablers who are feeling threatened, they’ll probably be fighting for control now, trying to secure their futures…. they’re not Tibetan lamas so they know they won’t have Sogyal’s advantages, but they have to maintain authority and control over a dwindling sangha in dissarray so this bizarre extended ‘farewell tour’ by what is actually a rotting corpse in a box of salt, smacks of extreme desperation.

    But, as they say: “You’ve got to spend money to make money.”

    Obviously much of this was probably arranged by Sogyal, who, when certain of his end and terrified of the karmic consequences of his actions, the terrors of the bardo, the revenge of the wrathful mamos for his mistreatment of women ( one of the most serious crimes for a so-called Vajrayana practitioner ) stepped up his life-long strategy of doling out vast amounts of cash to as many lamas and as many monasteries as he could, for as many rituals as his considerable wealth could buy.

    And of course, as always, they jumped at the chance to cash in on his fear and superstition. No lama in history, not even Dalai lamas have ever been treated to such a lavish degree of respect. This speaks of great wealth and intense fear, curiously it’s a kind of admission of guilt.

    But for me the discrepancy between what he was…..a deranged, violent serial rapist…… and how his corpse is being treated…..with more honour than the Buddha himself…….is so great that the only response is to laugh out loud, because let’s face it, this is self-satire taken to an extreme degree, it’s so grotesquely surreal it’s almost a comedy art form.

    “Flying Circus” indeed. I expected something like this but it’s exceeded even my expectations for the sheer inventiveness of it’s bad taste and hubris, what Dudjom Rinpoche called ” Dog shit dressed in brocade.”

    But it’s not all bad because it reminded me of a classic British comedy film called ‘The wrong box’, from the 60’s with Peter Sellers, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. It involves a huge contested inheritance, greed, deception, mistaken identity, ‘The Bournemouth Strangler’, a train crash and a body being repeatedly transported in various undignified ways including in a barrel, a crate, being hidden in a piano, and incompetent undertakers, accidents and several coffins.

    I’d definitely recommend it.

    So, in honour of Sogyal’s…..err…….”parinirvana,” and in response to Rigpa’s ( humble) request for my “respect and understanding at such a time,” I’m posting this link as an appropriate memorial.
    I’m going to watch it myself this afternoon.

    I’m sure it’s what he would have wanted…….

    1. Oh fabulous. Peter Sellers, Peter Cooke, Dudley Moore, Nanette Newman, Michael Caine, John Mills, and more !!! It looks great and yes looks highly suitable as a ‘memorial’ !! Especially as Rinpoche did enjoy a good movie, and he did tell us that some movies were great teachings. I think he would have liked this movie, by the looks of it, so really really appropriate. And looks like a farce, so like his funerary arrangements. Well done! I too will watch this ‘memorial’ today.. Thanks.

  8. Such madness, farcical. So far from the truth that the dharma is supposed to be. As one of the commenters points out, the corpses of HE the Karmapa and HH Dilgo Khyentse weren’t paraded around in this way (and no one else’s as far as i am aware.) And I too wait to be informed, in due course, about how his body ‘miraculously’ retained in its appearance of glowing health for many months etc etc with no mention of packing salts or, indeed, replacing the blood with formaldehyde etc. It’s so strange the way we human beings can get sucked into these weird belief-states. I can see that the weird and wonderful things the Scientologists, for example, believe in, are just nonsense. But all those things weren’t thrust on them on their first visit to their centres. We get slowly sucked in, and we see the jewels and then we mistakenly take the accompanying rubbish to be also valuable and true. I’m done with tibetan buddhism, the mixed up bon and hindu fairy stories from a faraway land where abuse and violence was commonplace. And this is just another confirmation for me. One of the most shocking things for me, actually, is seeing just how few other tibetan lamas make any public stand at all about the reality of what has happened. And how none at all has made any (public) negative comment about this farce of the Holy Enlightened Master being wheeled around the globe, packed in salt and full of formaldehyde no doubt, in this weird, grotesque, way. They think we are daft. Well, we are not. But we are human, with human vulnerabilities which too many so-called masters just take advantage of. And SR was the worst in recent times.

  9. Pete you are on peak form. Toria and I are having a cuppa together in her sitting room and chortling with glee! Its sick, farcical and glaringly obviously Sogyal’s last laugh. As you say Ekajati and friends will be having a go at him so he needs something to cheer him up

    1. @ Mary & Toria
      Ladies, I’m with you in spirit, if not in person…..I’d eat all the biscuits anyway…….you’ve got to laugh though, haven’t you?
      Dominique sends her love.

  10. Perhaps Sogyal himself needs all these different ritual prayers so that he can purify the confusion and distress he’s created…!

  11. Meanwhile the Charity Commission is doing its job:

    Abuse enabling trustees and administrators aren’t above the law either.

    Sogyal’s organizations and their administrators are still here, not matter what spectacle they make of the disposal of his mortal remains.

    Accountability is a bitch that way.

    1. “the pure everything is pure” Bible, Titus 1,1,5

      In terms of talking and writing, yes, in terms of walking the talk would I rather ascribe the tibetan traditionalist the term ” the blind lead the lame”.

  12. Is Marcia Binder Schmidt a victim of “tibetan voodoo” ?

    When i read this introduction to OTR’s new book, “Straight Talk” i wonder…:

    “How do you describe a sublime being like Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, the simile of a diamond and its’ different qualities come closest to fulfilling that difficult task. As is stated, “the quality and value of a diamond is judged on five fundamental criteria: Carat, color, clarity, cut, and confidence.” Confidence here is having a certificate of value, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, has several of these: A recognized, incarnate Lama, the son of a great Master and a powerful dakini in human form, and a widely experienced Vajra Master in his own right. In these troubled times sincere guidance is needed as a support for the spiritual practitioner disturbed by recent exposes. Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche offers a fresh, yet traditional way to enter the teachings, guiding the student on how to choose a qualified teacher, examine oneself, and proceed on the genuine path of practice. Such advice is more than precious, it is timely and necessary to make sure that sidetracks and wrong views do not derail one’s practice. His unique quality of clarity is evident in his teachings and conduct, he cuts through all misconceptions and doubts and clearly explains all aspects of practice and ritual with a precision to detail that is almost unequalled by any living master today. Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche never waters it down or makes the dharma more palatable for any audience. He clearly tells it like it is, straight and unfiltered with full knowledge that this will not gather disciples or sponsors, which he cares little about. He is someone almost born in the wrong age, a character from the Eastern Tibetan past, an old Kharmapa Lama born anew in the modern world. However, he is able to give the most relevant, current advice, all the while adhering to tradition with scriptural resources. Please, sit back and read these precious teachings and make the aspiration to meet him in this present life, even though when you do, you may be completely scared and afraid, it will be unforgettable experience. I guarantee it. Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche is a reincarnation of a Jetson Tulku, a reincarnation of Taksham Nuden Dorje, ‘Powerful Tiger-skirted Vajra’ born in the late part of the 17th century who was Atsara Sale at the time of Padmasambhava in Tibet. Jetson Tulku was really an accomplished siddha, a fully realized being, and OT Rinpoche is similar to that. Jigmey Kongtrul Rinpoche I am not sure that Western people see samsara as ocean of suffering but you do know that it is not a very satisfying place and that samsara is something to be free from. You go from worldly life to the Dharma, some see that worldly work never ends; some see that worldly work has no benefit, after thinking about this, you can determine the qualities of samsara as well as its faults, and then you come to the Dharma that is really extraordinary. Orgyen Topgyal Rinpoche

  13. OTs new book:

    The publishing company is Manjugosha, a company made to provide service for Dzongsar Khyentse.
    One of the main responsibles is Doris Wolter, student of Dzongsar and Sogyal.

    Those tibetan”masters” are more or less all intertwined, related, commited and owing each other to return some favours .

    And frankly, like in case of Sogyal, they dont want to know what could disturb their weave and peace of mind.

    As Ringu Tulku said, that he do not believe what was told about Sogyal; everybody make his own worldview that must fit to ones wishes. This includes especially tibetan Lamas and their pupils.
    Thats ordinary human being level.

    It should not be advertised as if this Lamas would be different to other human beings.

    1. OTR was ( if we trust Marcia Binder Scmidt) recognized by Dzongsar Khientse Chöky Lodreu…
      Is this a guarantee of something real and serious or only a clan promotion like SL?

      OTR threatening response to the eight signatories about samaya breaking and vajra hells…and roaring silence for SL victims shows a total lack of compassion and wisdom in that sad case of gaslighting abuses for decades…

  14. The funeral circus for SL will end soon :

    So many honors for a violent sex abuser and charlatan for decades : shame for all those who benefited from his cash and legitimated his “rinpoche” position by their presence and high rank in TB… we won’t forget that their lineages are quite polluted by their lasting and repeated association with such a samaya breaker and violent deceiver .

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