The Belief at the Root of Abuse in Tibetan Buddhism

I’m going to start writing some positive posts for those who are leaving Tibetan Buddhism behind, but before I do, I think it’s important to make the root cause of abuse in Tibetan Buddhism very clear. The purpose of this post is not to put people off Tibetan Buddhism, but to educate them so they can choose not to subscribe to the beliefs that are the root cause of the abuse and can avoid groups and teachers who teach such beliefs. For example, Rigpa, Shambala & NKT.

The root cause of the abuse in Tibetan Buddhism is usually hidden from view, particularly from beginners. By the time the beliefs that allow such teachers as Sogyal Rinpoche to physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially and sexually abuse students with impunity become stated overtly (if they ever are), the student is likely already indoctrinated to this view. By laying it out up front as I’m doing here – should any Tibetan Buddhist student bother to read this – students can be aware of when this kind of belief is being laid on them, and they can reject it.

Why some Tibetan Buddhists think basic Buddhist ethics don’t apply to the guru

This quote from p131 of the The Torch of Certainty, a revered text by Jamgon Kongtrul says it all. It’s the most extreme statement I’ve seen of the belief at the root of the abuse issue, but though I never saw this particular verse while in Rigpa, the belief it elucidates is at the core of the Rigpa, Shambala and TKT culture, a culture that permitted the abuse and still stops the Rigpa Vision Board from admitting that Sogyal’s behaviour was harmful and inappropriate.

“From the sayings of the great Kagyudpas:
Everything this precious perfect guru does,
No matter what it is, is good.
All his deeds are excellent.
In his hands a butcher’s evil work
Is good, and benefits the beasts,
Inspired by compassion for them all.
When he unites in sex improperly,
His qualities increase, and fresh arise,
A sign that means and insight have been joined.
His lies by which we are deceived
Are just the skilful signs with which
He guides us on the freedom path.
When he steals, the stolen goods
Are changed into necessities
To ease the poverty of all.
When such a guru scolds,
His words are forceful mantras
To remove distress and obstacles.
His beatings are blessings,
Which yield both siddhis,
And gladden all devout and reverent men.”

Jamgon Kongtrul, The Torch of Certainty

Is this Buddhism?

The Buddha seemed to see ethics as the basis of the spiritual path. The Vinaya Pitaka is all about ethics and is one third of the Tripitaka, the Buddhist canon – along with the Sutta Pitaka (on meditation) and the Abhidhamma Pitaka (on wisdom). He encouraged people to use their own wisdom in ascertaining what kind of ideas to follow and his criteria was whether something caused harm or benefit.

“Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher.’ Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,’ abandon them.’

The Buddha, Kalama Sutta

If the Buddha wouldn’t condone this idea that unethical behaviour by a guru is good, then how is it Buddhism?

Rigpa’s view on the belief that everything the guru does is good

I recently sent this quote to the national director of Rigpa Australia and asked, ‘How does Rigpa see the following teaching from the section on Guru yoga in The Torch of Certainty.’ I received no reply. My guess is that they don’t want to admit that they believe this nonsense. If they don’t believe it, then surely they would have had no reticence in telling me so. The fact that Rigpa management and senior students accepted Sogyal’s abusive behaviour is proof that they do follow this kind of teaching – and it’s the same for Shambala and other similar groups.

And the fact that the Rigpa Vision Board have never admitted that Sogyal did abuse his students – despite the results of the Lewis Silkin report – and the fact that they have not denounced his behaviour as harmful and inappropriate proves that they still believe that ‘Everything this precious perfect guru does, no matter what it is, is good.

Sogyal may be dead, but this damaging belief remains in place to define Rigpa students’ relationship with whatever guru they take vajrayana empowerments from – including dzogchen and mahamudra introductions to the nature of mind.

One of the core texts for the Rigpa sangha A Guide to The Words of My Perfect Teacher – a commentary on Patrul Rinpoche’s commentary on the Longchen Nyingtik Ngondro, the main Ngondro practice for Rigpa students and many other Tibetan Buddhist groups – tells students that:

‘His [the teacher’s] charisma may attract men and women alike, but even if he were to seduce a hundred girls daily, see it as the activity of bringing under control. And when he causes trouble, stirring up disputes and so on, even if he slaughters hundreds of animals every day, regard this as the activity of fierce subduing.’

Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang, page 261 A Guide to The Words of My Perfect Teacher

Here is the ‘scriptural authority’ that guides Rigpa students in the matter of their guru’s behaviour. When I read this during my studies, I never thought a lama would actually do such things. I assumed it was overstated for effect and that the aim of the words was simply to encourage students to open themselves up to their teachers, not to suggest it was okay for the lamas to behave in such a manner.

Those two quotes came from books written in the 19th Century, but Dzongsar Khyentse wrote his book The Guru Drinks Bourbon? this century, and on page 19 in a section headed ‘Liberation Through Imprisonment’, he admits that in the student teacher relationship as traditionally laid out in Tibetan Buddhism, ‘The potential for abuse of power exists.’ Then, in the very next sentence, he speaks of a fully submissive relationship in which if the student wants to be enlightened, they can’t even call abuse abuse. He says:

‘However, once you have completely and soberly sur-rendered, you may not interpret certain manifestations and activities of the guru as the abuse of power. If you want to be fully enlightened, you can’t worry about abuse.’

Dzongsar Khyentse, The Guru Drinks Bourbon?

Dzongsar Khyentse (DZK) is one of Rigpa’s spiritual advisers. At least he is being honest and open about his commitment to teaching this kind of thing. That honesty helps students make an informed decision about whether or not they want to enter into a student teacher relationship with him.

Just as those who take the bible literally are called Christian fundamentalists, so, too, DZK and the other Rigpa advisers who take these kinds of teachings literally fit the label of Tibetan Buddhist fundamentalists.

The fundamentalist view

The following quotes from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, written as part of his 10,000 word public Facebook opinion after the July 2017 letter state the fundamentalist version of Vajrayana. The whole thing can still be read here:

Recently, it was alleged by some of Sogyal Rinpoche’s students, who also consider themselves to be practitioners in the Vajrayana tradition, that Sogyal Rinpoche regarded abusive behaviour as the ‘skilful means’ of ‘wrathful compassion’ in the tradition of ‘crazy wisdom.’

However you describe Sogyal Rinpoche’s style of teaching, the key point here is that if his students had received a Vajrayana initiation, if at the time they received it they were fully aware that it was a Vajrayana initiation, and if Sogyal Rinpoche had made sure that all the necessary prerequisites has been adhered to and fulfilled, then from the Vajrayana point of view, there is nothing wrong with Sogyal Rinpoche’s subsequent actions. (By the way, ‘initiation’ includes the pointing out instruction which is the highest Vajrayana initiation, known as the fourth abhisheka.)

Frankly, for a student of Sogyal Rinpoche who has consciously received abhisheka and therefore entered or stepped onto the Vajrayana path, to think of labelling Sogyal Rinpoche’s actions as ‘abusive’, or to criticize a Vajrayana master even privately, let alone publicly and in print, or simply to reveal that such methods exist, is a breakage of samaya.

The bottom line here is: if both student and guru are consciously aware of Vajrayana theory and practice, I can’t see anything wrong in what Sogyal Rinpoche then does to his so-called Vajrayana students – especially those who have been with him for many years. Those students stepped onto the Vajrayana path voluntarily; it’s a journey that they chose to make. At least, I assume they did.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Facebook Post, Aug 15 2017.

In an age when teachers can’t be trusted to behave ethically or in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings, we need to re-evaluate the relevancy of these teachings/beliefs/ideas. And since we can’t make or trust the lamas to do it – especially not the fundamentalist lamas – the students must do this re-evaluation for themselves.

You don’t have to believe or follow such teachings

Just as plenty of Catholics don’t follow the Catholic Church’s teachings on not using birth control, and don’t believe everything in the bible, so people can follow Tibetan Buddhist teachings without believing the above. You don’t have to, or need to, take on board the superstition that pervades the Tibetan culture either, or buy into fear tactics such as ‘break samaya and you’ll go to hell’.

Sogyal had us believe that at a certain point, if we really wanted enlightenment, then we had to get rid of our doubts and follow the tradition to the letter. He said that picking and choosing was fine for beginners, but not for older students. This, however, is in direct contradiction the Buddha’s advice:

Do not accept any of my words on faith,
Believing them just because I said them.
Be like an analyst buying gold, who cuts, burns,
And critically examines his product for authenticity.
Only accept what passes the test
By proving useful and beneficial in your life.

The Buddha, from the Jnanasara-samuccaya

Should a Buddhist follow a Tibetan Lama or the Buddha as their primary source for authentic Buddhist teachings?

One thing is for sure, the idea that ‘everything this precious perfect guru does, no matter what it is, is good‘ has been proven to be not ‘useful or beneficial’. If you don’t believe me, read the Lewis Silkin Report into Rigpa.

Gurus don’t have to teach such ideas, either

 ‘The problem with the practice of seeing everything the guru does as perfect is that it very easily turns to poison for both the guru and the disciple. Therefore, whenever I teach this practice, I always advocate that the tradition of “every action be seen as perfect” not be stressed. Should the guru manifest un-dharmic qualities or give teachings contradicting dharma, the instruction on seeing the spiritual master as perfect must give way to reason and dharma wisdom. I could think to myself, “They all see me as a Buddha, and therefore will accept anything I tell them.” Too much faith and imputed purity of perception can quite easily turn things rotten.’

HH Dalai Lama, The Path to Enlightenment

I showed the above quote from Jamgong Kongtrul to someone who has been a student of Tsoknyi Rinpoche for 15 years. She said that she’d never heard him teach on anything like that in all that time. He and his brother Mingyur Rinpoche don’t talk about devotion much either, and never in relationship to students being required to have devotion for them. Contrast that with Sogyal’s insistence that without devotion to him no realisation was possible. And don’t forget Mingyur Rinpoche’s take on unethical behaviour published by Lion’s Roar that he wrote in response to the abuse allegations against Sogyal.

Tibetan Buddhist teachers won’t reject outright any teaching with scriptural authority behind it. It’s just not their way. The most we can hope for in terms of change is that they cease to teach such ideas.

The massive contradiction

The traditional advice for avoiding an abusive guru is to not choose them in the first place. The same book from which our first quote came from today also says this:

In particular, you should absolutely avoid [a master who commits the following misdeeds], for such a master can only confer the “blessing” of Mara:
1. Explaining or demonstrating to a crowd of common fold [such practices as] Tsa-Lung or Mahamudra meditation, those which employ mantras, or the essentials of the Fulfillment Stage;
2. [Boastfully claiming to possess] instructions others lack and spreading instructions in the profound philosophy and practice of the Mantrayana in the marketplace;
3. Behaving in an undisciplined manner;
4. Verbalizing the ultimate philosophical perspective (footnote: Since it is not subject to verbalization, any attempt to do so is pure distortion).
5. Greatly coveting money or property belonging to the Precious Ones;
6. Being highly deceitful and hypocritical;
7. Giving empowerments and instructions which do not belong in any tradition;
8. Indulging in the pleasures of liquor and sex;
9. Teaching a doctrine which conflicts with the Dharma, in words of his own invention, because he does not know how to teach the true path.

Jamgon Kongtrul, The Torch of Certainty p 134

If you follow those guidelines, you cut out all those self-styled dzogchen gurus that are popping up all over the place as well as all those lamas who indulge in sex. But note the conflicting teachings here. On the one hand we’re not to choose a teacher who ‘indulges in the pleasures of liquor or sex’ or ‘who behaves in an undisciplined manner’, but on the other hand if you do happen to choose someone who ‘unites in sex improperly,‘ lies, steals, scolds and beats you, you’re supposed to see ‘all his deeds’ as ‘excellent’.

In addition, given that gurus hide their ethical failings, it’s impossible for anyone to choose teachers with any confidence, especially when all you know about them is the nice stuff written on a glossy website. Clearly, you can’t trust any guru not to abuse their power; you can, however, not give away your power.

What does a student wanting Tibetan Buddhist teachings do?

‘The only way out of this mess, I think, is for students to vow to never compromise their personal integrity, to take responsibility for their own spiritual path rather than handing control over to another, and to keep their critical thinking faculties engaged at all levels of the path rather than blindly accepting every pronouncement by a lama as wisdom. To give any of that up in the name of devotion is neither wise nor in line with what the Buddha taught.’

Tahlia Newland. Fallout: Recovering from Abuse in Tibetan Buddhism

Image by ArtTower from Pixabay

57 Replies to “The Belief at the Root of Abuse in Tibetan Buddhism”

  1. It also says in the Guru Yoga chapter of Torch of Certainty quoted above: “In these times, it is impossible to find a guru who has rid himself of all defects and perfected positive qualities.” When Vajrayana is practiced by unqualified people it declines. So let’s not call the teachings nonsense.

    As said, a student who is ready for guru yoga would not choose a false guru. The main problem of those getting into difficulties seems to be that they are not willing to admit they are not ready, but should follow lower teachings of Mahayana and Hinayana. To stubbornly claim a criminal to be a perfect guru, just because one has chosen them to be one’s guru, is pathetic.

    The Dalai Lama has warned about this years ago: “It is sometimes said that a major cause of the decline of Buddhism in India eight hundred years ago was the practice of Vajrayana by unqualified people, and sectarianism caused by corruption within the Sangha. Anyone teaching Tibetan Buddhism should keep this in mind when they refer to the precept, ‘every action of the guru is to be seen as perfect.’ This is an extremely dangerous teaching, particularly for beginners.

    1. You seem unwilling to criticise vajrayana teachers or teachings and are taking a victim-blaming stance, something that we see a lot in those who don’t use their critical thinking when examining this religion’s beliefs – and most of us here were like that at one point, which is why we now realise how important it is to actually think logically about this stuff. But at least you are here, commenting, and so seem to be somewhat open to hearing from those who have stepped outside this belief system that fosters abuse.

      It appears to me from what you said that you’re blaming the victims of abusive teachers for their situation because they chose a teacher who is abusive, even though they didn’t know when they chose the teacher that he was abusive. To me, that is a highly illogical point of view, made even more so because it does not take the teacher’s behaviour into the equation at all.

      And it also seems that you’re saying that the abused students were practising vajrayana before they were ready. How do you know these students weren’t ready? Do you think their realising that they were abused is indication that they weren’t ready? Does accepting abuse prove that you are ‘ready’ for guru yoga? And if that were the case, shouldn’t the teacher have known they weren’t ready and not taught or abused them?

      Again, remember that the issue is actually the teacher’s behaviour. He is the one with all the power in this situation. He is the one with the responsibility to behave as a decent human being.

      You say: ‘The main problem of those getting into difficulties seems to be that they are not willing to admit they are not ready, but should follow lower teachings of Mahayana and Hinayana.’
      You’re blaming the victims here, this time for ‘getting into difficulties’, saying that it’s their fault because they’re ‘not willing to admit’ they weren’t ready. How does that view help anything? All it does is heap more pain on the victims and relieve the teacher from any responsibility for their harm. Where is the compassion in such a view?

      And you refer to Mahayana and Hinayana as ‘lower’ teachings? Seriously? Do you not see the arrogance in belittling non vajrayana forms of Buddhism and those who practice them? (They all lead to the same point.) By suggesting that those who realise they’re being abused should be studying these ‘lower’ forms, the unspoken suggestion in your words that anyone ‘ready’ for the ‘higher’ teaching of vajrayana should/would accept the abuse.

      ‘To stubbornly claim a criminal to be a perfect guru, just because one has chosen them to be one’s guru, is pathetic.’ I agree, but that’s what those running Rigpa are doing. That’s because they don’t recognise his abuse as abuse – they see it as all good because they are following this teaching.

      1. Yes, I think it’s important to discuss this. You can’t form a separate group from rest of the world under a headline “victims”. The group helps to heal, but when you talk publicly, you are open to conversation outside your group.

        You say: “It appears to me from what you said that you’re blaming the victims of abusive teachers for their situation because they chose a teacher who is abusive, even though they didn’t know when they chose the teacher that he was abusive”. No, I am not saying that. Those who went without knowledge and chosed to stay because the cult forced, are victims of a cult. I am saying that I know a number of people including some of my own students who praised and still praise bad teachers and consider going to study under them, no matter what information I or others have given to them about those places. They are not victims.

        Hinayana and Mahayana are not lower in a belittling way. They are like 1st and 2nd grade before 3rd class. No one in school thinks 1st class pupils are worse. Everyone has to go through all the grades and jumping directly to 3rd grade would be considered silly.

        1. Ani Sherab, I think it’s a bit egoistic to think that just because YOU have informed somebody about some group THAT should be enough to change people’s minds. Those people have had positive experiences in those groups, so it’s not black and white. I have heard something negative about your own group too. Should you then immediately leave your group? I think you would examine the situation first. Just like I did. Your namesake in Lerab Ling told me opposite story. Two Ani Sherabs tell a different story. Your story was backed up by Mary Finnigan’s various lies and extreme exaggerations, so I chose to look into it deeper. It really took the letter by the eight to convince me.

          Sarah Lionheart

        2. Nice job there infantilizing the other schools. No they are not like 1st and 2nd grade … you are not supposed to go inexorably through those ranks. Calling them first and second grade does look down on them as earlier, junior, or simplistic. Not lower in a “belittling way” … lower = belittling.
          Trying to call ethics simplistic so you can find ways to bypass them and this superiority of Vajryana or Mahayana is silly. I knew an old expert lama called Alak Zenkar Ripoche and he was associated with Rigpa. He was the expert they called upon, he was the walking dictionary. He became a friend, didn’t talk down to me, and I helped him practically. He said “Tibetan Buddhism is not the best – it is only one of many Buddhisms” and he was Tibetan! He was the scholar, he didn’t say you grow up to do Vajrayana … he just said it was “another way”. It was also a way he was kind of ignoring half the time but asked to teach on and participate he begrudingly did for his students sake because once you are in that system … well, its complicated. They are friends and pressure each other. He was genuinely non-sectarian. Rigpa is highly sectarian while playing at non-sectarianism. They say “ours is the best” but they bring visitors in to teach and make an act of sectarianism. Then say they will study and teach these things, then discard them immediately because its politics. They often steal whatever seems to impress to add to their marketing scripts. They use script writers to write Sogyal Lakars scripts before he had to run away … what kind of lama is full of fear and avoids the police when they get caught. Its child like. That is what that religion is simple infantilized but playing on the complexities of the great texts of Tibetan Buddhism which are mostly not taught.
          Yes they say you can’t find a teacher who is qualified in this day and age, but go ahead and take the role and commit atrocities. The only validity would be if they really did have supernatural perception and the ability to transmit wisdom mind-mind but its really a magical thinking con job.

          1. The Buddha taught many paths and we can use them all. I repeat: the 1st grade is not worse than the 3rd. The best teachers are needed in the lowest level in ordinary school, that is where the groundwork is done. The Hinayana result of renunciation is arhat, and for those who only use that path when they embark the bodhisattva path, they go through it quickly. I think the lama you are quoting is right in that matter.

            Not everyone who is called a lama is right, and some are totally misleading. Always use your own discrimination. People discussing in this group have been in a very bad place mislead by a bad teacher. It is very difficult to rely on the Buddha’s teachings after that.

            Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche has said that a high view and profound practice are for those advanced on the path. For beginners it is necessary to talk about the motivation of a beginner and the conduct of practicing virtue and giving up non-virtue. To speak only about high view and profound practice would not be as beneficial. This teaching was given in Namo Buddha, Nepal, and is published by Gompa Services. On the video I recognized many long time western students, his audience who had requested teachings on an advanced text.

      2. I believe some of the attitudes of a practitioner of vajrayana include: accepting physical, verbal, emotional, abuse as part of the bodhisattva path. Not clinging to self, and on an advanced level emptiness of all phenomena. Marpa beat milarepa ruthlessly, even to ther point of uncondciousness.
        That being David, I do believe it’s the teachers responsibility to know if the student is ready for such methods, otherwise it could be harmful for everyone involved. Om vajra sativa hung

        1. HHDL has said the experiences between the teacher and student of those early days of siddhas taking up other remarkable siddhas as students , such as Naropa/ Tilopa, were another time and place. That there are today no living siddhas as advanced as Marpa/Milarepa and the rest.

          While the ability for this advanced-as-mutually receptive relationship was once possible within a teacher/student bond, none exists today. No one is flying around through the sky.

    2. “So let’s not call the teachings nonsense.”

      Yes, thats true as so far as some of the tibetan Lamaship seems to be willing to apply only parts of the teaching the like or they see as an anvantage for them. ” Every action of the guru is to be seen as perfect”.

      If they would apply part two: ” It is sometimes said that a major cause of the decline of Buddhism in India eight hundred years ago was the practice of Vajrayana by unqualified people, and sectarianism caused by corruption within the Sangha. Anyone teaching Tibetan Buddhism should keep this in mind when they refer to the precept, ‘every action of the guru is to be seen as perfect.”

      Thats what I call taking the teachings for nonsense.

      It would have been better for all. Most of the teachings should not be taken all to literally but with a little grain of salt.

    3. @Ani Sherab,

      First of all, we have this quote: “In these times, it is impossible to find a guru who has rid himself of all defects and perfected positive qualities.” So, based on that so-called logic, why bother to look for a guru at all?!? Talking about “degenerate times” is an excuse for unqualified ‘gurus’ who shouldn’t be teaching Tantra in the first place. In fact, if the gurus are not qualified, then the lineage already died long ago because the point of a lineage is to pass on pure teachings and practices. If the teachers and students have sullied the lineage through many years of degeneration, then there isn’t any pure lineage to pass on anymore. Also, going by this logic, one would have to conclude that the teachings don’t work. If the teachings worked as promised the teachers WOULD have enlightened qualities after years of study and practice. So, isn’t this a very bad advertisement for this path?!?!?

      Then you said:
      “As said, a student who is ready for guru yoga would not choose a false guru. The main problem of those getting into difficulties seems to be that they are not willing to admit they are not ready, but should follow lower teachings of Mahayana and Hinayana.”

      One could also switch that around: “A teacher who is ready for guru yoga would not choose an unqualified student. The main problem of those getting into difficulties seems to be that they are not willing to admit their student wasn’t ready, so they should follow “lower” teachings of Mahayana and Hinayana.” If the teacher wasn’t wise enough to assess a student’s readiness, then what business does he/she have in passing on teachings to students who aren’t ready? That doesn’t say very much about a teacher’s wisdom and good judgement.

      For a religion that is supposed to be based on logic and reason, it sounds pretty messed up to me. This is why I am fed up.

      1. To my experience a responsible lama like Akong Rinpoche accepted only friends and no students. Good lamas know what kind of guidance to give to different individuals. A Vajrayana guru may thus appear as Mahayana spiritual friend, for example, when Mahayana teachings are what the students need.

        1. Akong Rimpoche had a sad death, stabed in china (Chengdu) with his nephew…
          Why? a cash fight with tibetans burglars he kew before in Europe, or something more dark an strange? Anyway, it’s very sad indeed.

      2. I do agree with you.

        Unspoiled lineages are hard to find today, unpolluted teatchers too.
        Usualy, the qualified teatcher has the lineage authorization of his own guru(s), did with signs of succes the retreats on the main yidams of his school ( and others sometimes), show moral qualities with love, compassion, awareness, no greed and nor pride and other selfish attitudes.
        Signs of succes must be kept secret for the public.
        The minimal sign of succes is to have recited the right number of mantras of a deity, and the highest signs are to dream of the deity and /or to meet the deity who gives direct blessings and prophecies to the practitioner. I don’t know for Dzogchen.
        You have many stories about this in famous lamas biographies ( more or less symbolic, hagiographic, when not mythical).

        Once , long time ago, i asked the late Pawo Rimpoché who gave me a short guru yoga of Milarepa with two friends in private, if it was possible to meet Milarepa with this short practice. He said it was causal.

        The causes and conditions of an harmonious and confident meeting between a qualified master and an able student is rare in Vajrayana…and it’s said that students who practice the teatchings in a proper way ( not like business men or parrots) with deep and sincere devotion for the master and thus developped an authentic experience of the blessings of the lineage, are rarest then stars in the blue sky…

        So, i’m waiting for the Dalai lama, Karmapa, Sakya trizin(s), to fly in the sky and not associate and/or getting cash from crazy violent charlatans and sexual abusers like Sogyal and Trungpa/sakyong and others…. What is the value of the teatching given by these holy characters despite their agreement with their “very good friends” ?

        A last point: if someone here can explain how to integrate the reality of the evolution of life and species on this planet with the vision of the world by buddhists.
        Human body, today, is the causal result of a long and painful evolution of primates in some biological environement impossible to reproduce .
        So how could the Buddhas, and gods of the desire realm, or pretas, have two arms and two legs and a head…like tetrapods , with a mouth and an anus, if they don’t have, as common ancesto,r a fish with muscled fins as we do???

        Let’s fly in the sky…. 🙂

        1. @Friend,

          “The minimal sign of success is to have recited the right number of mantras of a deity, and the highest signs are to dream of the deity and /or to meet the deity who gives direct blessings and prophecies to the practitioner.”

          Wow! Then **I** must be really speshul because I’ve had dreams where not only did I meet deities and/or teachers, but I actually transformed into deities/dakinis, etc. Does that mean I’m a lama too, lol? 😀 Oh, wait….Dagri Rinpoche had speshul dreams too! That’s why Dagri can get away with anything because Lama Zopa said Dagri’s dreams mean that Dagri is a holy being, so all his (Dagri’s) actions are holy no matter what he does. So, I guess that means I can do anything too, since I had some pretty speshul dreams! 😀 😀 😀

          Seriously, why do the lamas put such faith in dreams, which are so subjective? Dreams **can** mean something, but I would say that if one is meditating on deities all the time, the chances are pretty good that one is going to have all kinds of dreams about deities, since deities are on the brain. Also, if one is under the delusion that they are some kind of ‘holy’ being, wouldn’t the subconscious have dreams which seems to confirm it? Also, couldn’t someone lie about their dreams, since they know that lamas will think they are speshul, and maybe they’ll even get a title? This is just one more thing that’s wrong with Tibetan Buddhism. All these beliefs about “dreams” and “visions” can make **anyone** speshul, whether they deserve it or not.

          1. The very fact that a sectarian state – China – can attempt to threaten the Dalai Lama with chosing his reincarnated tulku demonstrates just how vulnerable this practice is. HHDL announced last autumn that the Gelug would nolonger participate in the practice of identifying tulkus.

  2. The close friendly and financial if not spiritual relationships the Dalai Lama ,Sakya trizin , and other high rank lamas,had with Sogyal Lakar and his clanic family for decades (even after his trial in 93 (USA) for violent sexual and financial abuses on a woman, and many rumors of debauchery since that time) did legitimate and conforted his “Rimpoche” position as Dzogchen teatcher….with the awfull and sad consequences we know…

    The same things occured with Trungpa and his famous supporters : Dilgo Khyentse and Karmapa ,late Djamgoeun Kongtrul.
    Late Penor with the actual Sakyong…Dzongsar Khyentse with Trungpa and Sogyal too… the list of very good friends is longer than this, including Mindroling Khandro, Tranghu and Sechen gyaltsap, OTR, etc..
    The present Dilgo Yangsi saying Trungpa was a saint ( on youtube)
    The present Dzongsar Khyense saying Trungpa was the lama who understood the best westeners…(when you know what happened with him and his american perverse vajra regent…).

    Karmapas controversy, problems and abuses in the centers, problems with the take over of Rumtek and the cash by Situ (his ban)and Gyaltsap, lonelyness of the late Shammar, succes of Ole Nydhal…
    Deadly car accident of the late Djamgoeun Kongtrul.
    Demission of the actual Djamgoeun Kongtrul…

    New system of the Sakya school :
    a new Sakya trizin each three years like in the Ngor school before the chinese invasion…this new system was inspired by an advice of the late Djamyang Khyentse Choky Lodrö ( revered Guru of Dilgo Khyentse, Sakya trizin, Sogyal , OTR,and many others, a feudal powerfull lama who could use whip on his monks with hundreds lashes , using prolonging life sex with quite a young sincere devoted wife , and even having strange necrophagous behaviours, as said in his biography by Orgyen Topgyal ).
    I don’t think this late Lama would have liked Sogyal version of crazy wisdom, neither Trungpa’s. Who knows…when you see his reincarnation as Dzongsar Khyenste was recognized by Sakya trizin.
    I hope the Sakya will survive to this long period of relation with Sogyal clan…

    All these situations put westener students in a difficult position where they were asked to loose their good sense and give their full consent whatever good or bad things occured in the name of Enlightment : Cults based on myths , cash, sex, and lies.

    I think that all those involved at the highest levels with such samaya breakers like Sogyal and Trungpa and his vajra regent will see their lineage quickly decline and disappear, maybe not for the form , but for the lost true compassionate essence.
    Things are gone too far with no consideration for victims of abuses.

    In a normal relationship with a real qualified Vajrayana master who gives an empowerment in a Mandala to the recomended number of students,(not a crowd), the most important samaya is not to
    show contempt for him and try to practice the teaching received as possible with the number of mantras required , and not separate the Lama and the Yidam when doing the sadhana for the good of all beings.
    This is still possible, happily 🙂

    It’s very hard to imagine that Dakinis will be able to manifest their activity with violent rapists, cash and sex abusers and their accomplices or students who are stuck in these cult slave situation.
    This is causal.

    I feel very sad for all of them and for Tibetan Buddhism who is not far from a long decline without the help of the chinese red guards but the evil behaviour of some of rottenTibetan lamas using their honorific titles without ethics for decades.
    Sad show.
    I have no hate for them, just sadness.
    Sorry to be long on this matter, i feel confused but tell me i’m wrong and i’ll be happy to wake up of this nightmare.

  3. At some point you have to cut through any process, any fixation, involving holding onto notions of good, any notions at all for that matter. This relates to Naropa’s challenge by the dakini teacher: ‘do you understand the words or the sense?’ Concept has to be utterly abandoned. The path for many is a concept, as is progress on the path, as is much of their meditation practice because it is all filtered and recorded by the thinking, egotistical mind, that mind which believes there is a path and progress along it, that mind which seeks, as Trungpa put it, to ‘witness its own funeral.’

    Tantric behaviors are folding the reality of ego deception inside out, turning good and bad into irrelevancies. They are secret for a reason, because such processes and insights happen in the secret mandala, the mandala of feelings, intuitions, inner visions. They are not for the world of business, of politics, of articles in public magazines any more than the personal, private relations between man and wife can be described by or to anyone at all, or any more than all the words in the universe can come close to accurately describing what it actually feels like to taste an orange.

    Some things are beyond words. Tantra is beyond words.

    That is why there is really nothing wrong with both sides of what were described above in Torch of Certainty.

    Ultimately, we are Westerners who live not only under rules of Law as set down in Statute, but also underlying Common Law, wherein Law is made between two parties consenting to be bound by it, either by formal agreement (usually written and signed) or tacitly, by going along with a proposition or offer, including refusing to reject one made with a condition. It all comes down to consent, tacit or overt.

    The guru-student relationship in vajrayana still exists within the universe of consent. If you consent to see all actions as the guru as perfect, that is ultimately your choice. Assuming that it is not is not only a violation of western norms of underlying Law, but is also false. Nobody can ever force anybody else to think or feel unless the other person consents to be so influenced. Ultimately, therefore, we are all responsible for our own experience.

    Sometimes things go pear-shaped and get ugly. The perception of ugliness, of pain, of discomfort, of wrong, of outrage, of hurt, of loss, of confusion, of anger, of grief, of despair, of callousness, of alarm, of fear, of resentment, of bitterness, of anguish (and so on ad infinitum) is ultimately the responsibility of the person feeling it. No guru can force upon another how to feel their own experience, how to take responsibility for it, and how to determine how to proceed in the light of any experience.

    The issue here is not so much whether or not various teachers have abused their authority. The issue is what various people do in terms of taking responsibility for their own experiences, which involves moment-by-moment choices of how to proceed. Blaming other people for one’s quandaries – which may include how to process injustice, harm, damage, insult, theft, bodily injury and so forth – is always to abnegate responsibility for whatever consent was involved in allowing such situations to arise in the first place, be they in the outer, inner or secret spheres of experience.

    “Drive all blames into one.”

    And that ‘one’ is never an other.

    1. Tantra is words … there is empowerment of the “WORD” … as well as mind. If it is beyond understanding – well then its a bit pointless to pursue. Often the end game of dodgy teachers is to make sure you can never get there. That is why following them is said to be quite dangerous. That is where Tahlia comes in.
      Ani Sherab, no offence but you are confused with circular logic – its laughable that you say a student who was ready for guru yoga would never made the wrong choice. That is like an insult to both the lamas and the students … who is responsible to get them ready? The teacher, if they choose their own teacher, they weren’t ready. So ultimately – they will never be ready unless they have the good fortune to meet an authentic teacher and if you want of find one all the better if the lineage itself is authentic. Yet we don’t really see that happening – one year everything is fine, things go bad the students change and have to cope with all the lies they were told to mislead them into feeling that way. So for me, if you have no ability to discern the danger to students other than to blame them then you are by my perception – quite a dangerous one to listen to. Quite unqualified to help people, quite lacking wisdom.
      So for this Tantric lineage the source is questionable at best and the results are to a great degree many very dangerous sociopaths or worse always finding the seat of power and taking advantage of marketing to gather more money and use that to get more fame, more students. The very antithesis of teachings of Buddha – which are not to become a “universal emporer” or some kind of “deity” who is divorced from reality but yet convinced they have actualized the practice.

      However, what is the source of your talk on Tantra because if you just feel you are some kind of expert then frankly – i just don’t believe you … ultimately you have to trust the transmission lineage. What I see is a lineage of cult tactics and these critics come here trying to perpetuate such tactics. If you perceive being raped … how can one say that has nothing to do with anyone but yourself. You make it sound like people are raped by imaginary ghosts … not “their lama”. So then we move on to the same boring old “oh it was a blessing”, “she asked for it”, “she took it too seriously” and “it was all just a bit of fun, get over yourself” to make out that the one who was “wise” and had a massive power imbalance yet again has to take sex from students as if they are not just yet another of 1000s of abusive fakes. Oh but I’m uniquely qualified they always claim, not so unique is it. We are talking about humans hurting humans and your spiritual prattling is not welcome.

      Tantra has to resort to words supposedly trying to be the finger that points to the moon … but it is words. More than that this “beyond words” comes out as vague cult teachings from the mouths of people who profess to know. Thus Mr BaronAsh is just spouting polemics. Tantra being beyond words is a convenient excuse to shut down people speaking about it – so why are you speaking so many words … why is Tantra written down. Why did it appear after Buddha but jump on the Buddhist bandwagon and try to rebrand non-tantra into tantra. It’s a nonsensical indefensible position. You say “… “The perception of … is ultimately the responsibility of the person feeling it.”

      As for consent – lamas completely lie about what is being consented too. They force lifetime (or more) contracts, where they were supposed to deliver their side and not abuse the relationship. So the consent is removable by the person when-ever they choose and its not governed by some samaya impossible contract that excuses the teacher always and the student never. If you consent to see all the actions of the guru as perfect that is merely a training and you can learn from it and learn how not to do it. You can grow from that experience, grow out of the double bind that it places upon the student. You really need to read Tahlia’s blogs and book because you really are a confused person who feels like they can enforce rules because someone in a certain time, place and with a fake set of promises is no permacontracted to see lies as true. That is the joke of this whole pure perception.
      My pure perception is that all beings have the same nature, that is in accord with Buddha. The nature is not the human being – the lamas are always quick to remind they are human when they get caught being criminals. They don’t really apologise they blame others for daring to question or when they are exposed they just downplay clear obvious failures on their part as a misunderstanding of their holy perfect intention. Their actions betray their true intentions. We have experts like HHDL to guide us in this and we have followed his advice … and he has said we did it well. He himself was used to validate a lot of these lamas but now they turn their back on their own supposed guide.

      Its just cult bunk this pathetic appeal “taking responsibility for their own experiences” – experiences are from a world of interdependent interactions. That means 2 or more people – if the experiences are imaginary and the other person was not present then sure, it was our own manufactured experience. That is why people get a stick to the head when they say this bullshit to any really educated Buddhist teacher. How would you like me sitting there saying “take responsibility mate” as I watched your teacher beating you down with a stick. In your twisted logic maybe we have to fight back to take responsibility or leave … who knows because you are just presenting a vague meaningless statement free of conditions, situations, motives.
      The basics of ethics and training of Buddhism, are not to harm people and to be able to discern harm to yourself and others and do your best to make wise choices. I believe you are not taking any responsibility for your strange education and are trying to make others see it your way because you doubt it yourself. You are confronted and unable to debate on fair terms using dharma, using logic. You just decided to make a rant. Where are your quotes, where is your reasoning? We have provided plenty of evidence, sutra, teachers of tantra explaining that no “abuse is not a teaching method” in the Vajryana. How do they say that if there is one ounce of truth to “students taking responsibility for their own experiences” we all take responsibility by suffering and looking for meaning, looking for healing and sharing warnings to prevent others getting the same mistreatment.
      The big trouble is that students do blame themselves for years and years and get harmed deeper and deeper. They leave and feel like fools, again blaming themselves. So it isn’t really until they find that there was merely a marketing scam going on with an unqualified teacher and various dodgy “inner circle” people financially blessed with the donation money that they can say what really happened. You’ve not even scratched the surface … when a person gets more and more ill by suppressing and taking on more blame eventually something gives way. That is what these amazing people are – survivors and they know your victim blaming game.
      You are kind of more like a hindu understanding of karma where its all the fault of the person and nobody should show compassion for other peoples past mistakes. Most of you cowards give up when I come at them with clear arguments. Maybe you’ll throw a few insults back but … I never get straight answers or logic coming back because you are devoid of the ability to justify it. You are merely grossly ignorant of the situation.

      1. Not only ‘tantra is beyond words’ but so is ordinary experience.
        The taste of an orange is beyond words.
        The shifting shapes of clouds, each and every one, is beyond words.
        Wisdom is beyond words.

        One of my favorite old quotes goes something like this:
        ‘a buddha sees the nature of confusion clearly whereas the confused sentient being does not.’

        Another good one:
        ‘the greater the obstacles, the greater the wisdom.’

        All these difficulties are sharp points of intense experience. Similar to the sharp points of intensity in the realisation territory, or in the bardo we all shall soon find ourselves navigating.

        Every minute of every day millions of murders take place in our world, perpetrated by both humans and animals, not to mention the veritable holocausts unfolding moment by moment in the microbial world. Death and pain are everywhere. Deception and confusion all-pervasive. (That’s why it’s called samsara!).

        One of the prime mistakes people on the spiritual path make – especially modern middle class types like most of us – is to believe our own fantasies. Like that all masters are superior super-good beings; that sanghas can create enlightened societies transcending the samsaric tendencies of conventional societies; that if we learn to meditate well we will no longer experience pain, disappointment, betrayal; that even when we make mistakes there will be less consequences somehow because, when all is said and done, we are the ‘good guys’ who mean well even if we lapse a little from time to time. In other words, we believe our fantasies about goodness, about creating utopias.

        Nobody forced us to buy into these fantasies. Humans have been fooled by them since time immemorial.

        Part of any authentic spiritual path involves exposing and then renouncing ‘primitive beliefs about reality’ (which includes such fantasies) and ‘conflicting emotions,’ (basically ignorant & harmful habitual patterns. Nobody can do this for us.

        Tantra is indeed ineffable, as are experiences of enlightenment and so forth. But ordinary reality is also ineffable (and fundamentally not different). Seeing confusion clearly is a very difficult and rare thing, which is why words are both needed and also misleading.

        But that fact that words cannot describe realisation any more than they can describe the taste or smell of an orange is really not a big deal or a big mystery. Our fantasising deluded minds make big deals of such things. Our fantasizing deluded minds put people on thrones and pedestals worshiping seemingly ‘higher’ or ‘magical’ powers beyond our ken. We are the ones who are ultimately responsible for such delusions. Yes, we may have been taken in by con men; but ultimately it is our own fantasizing minds which are responsible for that and at some point one has to own that.

        It’s like with alcohol (or any) addiction. You can go on and on in ‘meetings’ worshiping at the shrine of the deadly power of alcohol, but ultimately it’s not about the alcohol – or the object of addiction/harm/betrayal/etc., it’s about your own fixating mind, your own body and mind and what you choose to do. Alcohol in this example is the same as a word. You can make a big deal of it, or just deal with the issue and stop drinking for a while and don’t make a fuss about it. Similarly with a group gone bad (as most tend to do over time, just like most people): deal with it.

        I find personally – and also when considering other peoples’ expressions like on this blog or in Tahlia’s book – that the bad actions of the gurus are not nearly as interesting as how upsetting it is for their followers. What planet are they (we) living on? That delusion is what needs to be dealt with. I think much of the anger and hurt comes from feeling like a fool and rather than admitting that, it’s easier to blame the authority figure. Such righteous anger is just not enough, imo. We have to own up to having been weak and gullible, or, perhaps even worse, being too feeble and fickle to keep going when things get tough.

        Either way, it has little to do with how others have treated us. That’s mainly all just concept spinning around as part of ‘conflicted emotions,’ or habitual patterns.

        1. How did you completely skate by the fact that so many gurus are using deceit on their students? Did Dagri not tell the last nun to complain of him that sexual contact would improve her back?

          Students in Vajrayana are admonished to tell their guru if he requires them to do something that runs countrary to their good sense and respectfully refuse. If a student does so, and the guru sneaks something in on them anyway, all you get is a traumatized student.

          In 7th – 12th C.E. there was no fricking adult learning theory. This space of compassion between teacher and student in TB may be a fairly new development in comparison. The fact that you could hurt someone by thinking you were teaching them did not exist as a broadly held opinion either.

          There is a lot of western style science that has progressed Buddhist practice beyond a lot of the cultural superstitions that grew in diversity as the Silk Road served to expose others to many new ideas and those were blended as adopted. None of this occured in an empty setting. all was susceptible to times and conditions.

          Might the far-seeing have been mistaken and repulsed by an advanced future they could perceive but no comprehehnd, even as those of us can see far ago experience the ignorance of what we now know as harm?

    2. @BaronAsh,

      What about a teacher “driving all blames into one” and taking the blame on themselves for THEIR responsibility for the students they harmed?

      1. Basically a mind training slogan is used for personal development. Not for being spiritually bypassed as “oh you bad, you blame other” – the person saying it is obviously a totally shit practitioner who thinks they can make commands of what we “should be” doing. Shouldism = authoritarianism.
        A better example is to say how for example “yeah, i got harmed and I decided to work with the slogan drive all blames” but frankly, i did look at how it might be my fault and really, it wasn’t it was a whole set up and power play that crossed a boundary. I determined to say no thanks, or failing that – “hey, take no for an answer” and really I just voted with my feet to move away from this traumatizing shitbag of a human.

        Trauma – effectively they don’t have the courage to learn about something that doesn’t fit their model. Does it say drive trauma back upon yourself … trauma is a nervous condition, it is a mental reaction that is debilitating and its a sign you should relax, take stock – maybe even stop meditation. Just watch, observer, be honest with oneself. These cult leaders literally come out with “I don’t like you being honest with yourself if its not in accordance with my instruction” as an answer to “well if I’m honest with myself Vajrayana is not for everyone”. Vajrayana – by the time you realize you are not in an authentic group they claim you’ve gone irreversibly far. However, wait, now someone is bring up lojong as another trick to shut you down for merely putting a stop to someone assaulting you. I mean for petes sake.
        Obviously the lamas don’t give a shit about “driving all blames into one” unless that one is you. So you shouldn’t just call that a red flag, its a damn deal breaker – if a teacher can’t show by doing, if they are in a rush to get everyone under control with spiritual bypass twist on the purpose of the original teaching.
        If you search out various commentaries on this slogan “drive all blames into one” you’ll find this “It is true that if we are trying to solve a problem, we need to uncover its source, to discover who or what is responsible. That is pragmatic, and gives us a way to correct the problem. But our attempt to find someone to blame is often not all that straightforward and not very helpful, either. ” – sometimes its not helpful to blame, but sometimes its absolutely essential but you don’t have to blame … there are many courses of action. You might determine your future action based on learning from what kind of behaviour you have to deal with. Give them 2, 3 chances and then of course its time to never let them get another chance.
        What about the fact that I’m not even blaming what happened to me in this case – i’m sticking up for the victims and saying x harmed y – its obvious, they are harmed, they are distressed and x actions clearly caused that. x doesn’t even care and says its good for them – x is delusional. Which of x and y is the one that has to have the blames driven to … which is the “one” – when its 2 others? Or is it my fault for witnessing the harm and I should blame myself for x assaulting y? Really, what the actual &)$S do these victim blamers even think.

      2. I was not making the case that teachers haven’t messed up, and in some cases messed up badly (which means causing harm to others, causing them to lose faith in the dharma, in themselves, in common sense, in their jobs, their families, their societies, in ordinary decency, in respect for the law and so forth).

        However, we all entered into these things voluntarily.

        And whether or not one is the victim of fraud, theft, violence, one has to handle one’s own experience of that. It doesn’t mean that others aren’t responsible (or to blame if you prefer) for what they did to you. But ultimately each of us is responsible for how we handle what happens, nobody else is responsible for our experience.

        Put another way: you could be a Tibetan lama put in jail by the conquering Chinese and left to rot in a cell for thirty years and spend that time furious at the injustice. Or you can use it to better yourself through meditation and tong len.

        Put another way: ultimately it doesn’t matter if you were cheated and betrayed. You still have to get on with life, handle it. This does not mean deny it or cover it up. But you are responsible for your own experience and nobody else is.

        Going back to the more esoteric points around Realisation and the Buddha’s ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ before full illumination: realisation is sometimes called enlightenment because of the sense – or rather the experience – of intense luminosity involved. Just as light causes darkness to flee a darkened room, including in each and every corner or hidden angle, so realisation illumines all aspects of our natures. The Buddha spent quite a while with unsurpassably beautiful, luscious, willing and eager young maidens tempting him to all sorts of sensory delights; his mind dwelled on these things for quite some time. Then he got into anger scenarios. This is cute, old-fashioned story-telling about how he went through all his stuff, good and bad, all his aggression, pornography, greed, despair, you name it.

        Gurus who betray trust, who harm students, similarly provide powerful teachings, painful teachings, ghastly teachings, even criminal teachings, revealing our dark sides. The way in which we experience such betrayal, such despair, such anger, such disillusionment is a small taste of the intensity of dawning Realisation.

        Tantra is for bold adventurers who are willing to go into the cave to wrestle the bear within. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

        After one of our sangha members killed herself, that was it for me. I admitted that I wasn’t cut out of this stuff. I left. It has been a long, painful journey. But not for one second did I or do I waste time railing about the sins of the masters, about how I was betrayed or some such. I went into this with eyes wide open, knowing it was a bear pit. We all did. We wanted it. We wanted the challenge; we wanted to rival or even best Milarepa. We wanted to be tantrikas, to be part of an elite society handling magic, power, love, awareness, spiritual refinement and so on.

        It is very sad that many of us got hurt in the process. And those seriously hurt need help – though most likely from outside what for them has become a toxic container.

        I think it is good that warnings are being given on blogs like this. I don’t agree with everything Tahlia says, but I am reading her book and finding it worth of respect, even admiration. At the same time, I think it very important for each of us to consider that every pang of resentment, shock, horror – any type of related suffering in other words – is our own mind, our own experience, our own ongoing spiritual ‘object of meditation’ as it were, or food. Blaming others really doesn’t help anyone.

        The bad teachers have to deal with the consequences of their actions just like each and every one of us.

        Are we going to spend the next thirty years in a prison of our own making blaming those who put us there? Or are we going to use these experiences to go forward with more intelligence, sobriety and guts?

        I guess all I am saying really, is that the blame game only goes so far, no matter how justified it is. So it’s not about whether or not the gurus betrayed us with criminal behaviour etc., it’s about whether or not we handle it well, both for ourselves and others. And ultimately we cannot allow other people to dictate how we feel or think. For myself, I’ve found it best to just let go as much as possible. My time as a student (and teacher) was precious and mainly positive, but the whole world gradually turned into a nightmare and at a certain point it was best to walk away.

        Best to walk away without carrying too much baggage.

        1. BaronAsh,

          How do you know that former students/victims aren’t moving on and bettering themselves in their lives, as you put it? There is an assumption in your statements that they are not doing any inner work just because they criticize cult-like teachers and environments.

      3. PS: Absolutely they should drive all blames into themselves.

        But it is not anyone else’s responsibility to do so, or demand they do so. They, like we, are responsible for their own experience and path. In other words, it’s their business what they do with their experience, not ours.

        And if we allow anyone – or ’empower’ if you prefer – to interfere with our experience and path, we must also take responsibility for that as well – or ‘own’ it – both when it goes well, and when it goes badly.

        We are born alone and die alone.

        1. “But it is not anyone else’s responsibility to do so, or demand they do so. They, like we, are responsible for their own experience and path. In other words, it’s their business what they do with their experience, not ours.”

          No, it’s OUR business what they do with their experience if it results in them hurting their students. The teachers are the ones with all the power in a guru/student relationship. Also, it’s our business to know if someone we want to take as a spiritual guide can handle their inner feelings in a mature manner. Otherwise, what’s the point of learning from a teacher who has lost their own way?

    3. @ Baron Ash

      Your carefully constructed comment, ( strangely familiar in style and subject ) is, in terms of rationality, veracity, and intellectual and moral clarity, so full of holes you could strain tea with it.

      But I suspect you know that yourself, so I don’t see any need to go into detail.

      Except to say that since you cite the Law, I’m sure you’re also fully aware that in that and almost all other contexts ‘consent’ means a voluntary, free and fully informed agreement to engage in something…..without abuse or exploitation of trust, power or authority, and in the absence of coercion, threats or deception.

      No amount of Trungpa-esque, coke-addled mystical gibberish about cutting through, fixation, ego-deception and secret mandalas is going to work as an effective distraction anymore, simply because everybody already knows this.

      It’s so widely understood that even dim-witted zealots like the hard-core devotees of Sogyal still in Rigpa at least pay lip-service to it.

      You may feel it’s your duty to defend your religious tribe, your status and possibly your living too, but trying to use spin and sophistry to excuse fraud, deception, severely destructive psychological, emotional, sexual and physical abuse under the cover of religious dogma is dishonest and straight out of the Dzongsar Khyentse playbook…’s getting very old now and giving it a few tweaks won’t make it any more convincing or less sordid than all the other attempts. There’s really no point anymore.

      The contempt and arrogance needed to assume that this kind of obfuscation isn’t very obvious to most people must be considerable.

      I think it’s unlikely, but maybe I’m doing you a disservice, perhaps you really do believe all this nonsense….in which case you have my apologies and my commiseration too, because it reminds me of those fanatical Japanese soldiers who couldn’t accept that they’d been defeated, so they stayed trapped in the jungle long after the war was over.

      1. Totally with you on this @Pete. I’ve seen so much defensiveness parading as ‘wisdom’ and so much arrogance from those who think they have all the answers. Gee, I even see that kind of arrogance in things I wrote back before July 2017 (embarrassing to admit, but at lease I can see it), before I realised that Tibetan Buddhism had some major flaws – and that’s putting it nicely. How wonderful it is for people to think that they’re on the best path and everyone else is unfortunate for not meeting it or sticking with it, but also how incredibly narrow minded and self-limiting (the opposite of what the teachings are supposed to be teaching). Why is it that Tibetan Buddhism seems to foster that kind of arrogance?

        And what the verbose defenders don’t realise is that no amount of repetition of the words and concepts that kept me and others trapped in delusion will convince us to fall back into that way of thinking, and the more they talk about it, the less inclined I am to read it. The very language triggers the memory in me of all those people harmed due to the failings of a system that in practice simply doesn’t care a whit about genuine ethics, and all those gurus and Rigpa instructors who said similar pretty words all while enabling harm. Anyone who wants to have a conversation with me these days needs to be able to use their own words, not the lingo of Tibetan Buddhism.

        When it comes to genuine wisdom, words are completely irrelevant. It’s actions that count.

        Oh, and I can assure you that they totally believe it. All of it. One of things that blew me away when all the shit hit the fan in Rigpa was how many people did actually swallow the belief system whole.

        1. Seems to me that one of your positions, at this point, is that tantra is essentially rotten to the core. If so, say so.

          Or are you saying that genuine tantra is always uncontroversial and clear-cut?

          I think that tantra is not for mainstream, middle class public consumption. It is secret for a reason. I myself decided for myself that I don’t think western sanghas are capable of handling it, that my teacher’s (Trungpa) experiment with expanding the vajrayana perception of sacredness into large groups – and a permanent community of about 10,000 at one point – was a failure, albeit in many aspects a glorious one. Many of us were in over our heads and their were sins and omissions on all sides.

          I believe the consent issue goes deep. I personally never witnessed any violation of that although am quite open to being persuaded otherwise, i.e. that quite possibly it was violated. However, many of the anecdotes surfacing are sour grapes.

          I never met Sogyal – except briefly I did see him with HHDKR during a visit to CTR in Boulder around 1981. He was somewhat young and ‘up and coming’ at that point. But I am reading your book which includes the letters and suchlike. And I still feel – without IN ANY WAY being an apologist for Tibetan Buddhism – as you accuse me of – that people – including yourself – are fixated overmuch on the sins and omissions of the gurus.

          I quite understand that you can only see my remarks as party-line defense. This despite the fact that I left years ago and am no longer a Buddhist because of all this. I find often that if you are not willing to pile on with the ‘Tibetan Gurus Bad!’ approach that you are ipso facto regarded as an apologist.

          But I thought for myself before, during and after joining my sangha (which we never though of as ‘Tibetan Buddhist’ btw – because it wasn’t!). And I think for myself now.

          And I say again: the real issue isn’t so much the sins and omissions of the gurus but the sins and omissions (to use old-fashioned lingo) of each and every one of us in creating these deluded mandalas. Our desire for a perfect world free of suffering, evil, controversy, delusion, ignorance and so forth is the root cause of the disappointment. If you didn’t have this desire, how else would you be disappointed or feel betrayed? Do you feel betrayed every time there is a murder in the town you live in or every time a minor is abused? No. You feel betrayed because something you bought into for a while didn’t turn out the way you wanted.

          All of us were suckers.
          And all of us sold ourselves the BS we now project on others.

          None of this matters – to my mind – except insofar as all of us in arenas like this online – obviously including myself – still have something to work through about it all, not because it was all evil and worthless, but because it wasn’t. It seems to me that the first step to getting beyond the cult aspects is to let go of blaming others for one’s own fixations, or blaming others for anything at all.

          You may disagree. But rest assured that at least in my case it has nothing to do with representing or apologising for the official party lines.

          That said, I do think there is a genuine basis for tantra – which existed long before Tibetans started monkeying around with it. But tantra does not – nor will it ever – fit into conventional ‘middle class morality’ which is partly why it should be secret.

          Again, I think my teacher’s attempt to blow sacred perception open by creating a new Dzogchen vehicle called Shambhala failed. It might have succeeded and been a very good thing indeed, but instead it turned sour. I won’t get into why I think that might have happened except to say that I believe firmly this was as much a failure on the part of our modern, western sangha as it was our uber-intoxicated guru. He left a mess, for sure. But the mess was as much of our making as his.

          I don’t think most students sufficiently appreciate the degree to which the student-teacher relationship, both individual and sangha/group – is a mutual dance, a mutual creation. It takes two to tango. The level of fixation, hero-worship, attention, projection, fantasy, greed, desperation, passion (erotic and otherwise), ambition and so forth directed at a guru creates a dynamic that in most cases ends up being poisonous. This is why you see denouements like with Sogyal and Trungpa all over the place throughout history, and not just in vajrayana buddhist communities, but in all communities, which includes conventional business, educational, political, religious and so forth.

          This business around leaders and followers is very, very old and very, very common. The sense of betrayal and hurt when they go pear-shaped is deeply personal and as such seems unique, one-off. But it isn’t.

          And my contention – which is no more than a personally held conviction at this point – is that ALWAYS this is a mutual creation, and never that only one side is to blame.

          In short: methinks the ‘victims’ doth protest too much!

          1. BaronAsh,

            For someone who claims to be “out of it” and who has left Vajrayana, you certainly sound like someone deeply immersed in it to me. Your post reeks of anti-Western bias, Tibetan cultural superiority, lack of compassion for victims of lama abuses, preachy admonishments against people for daring to “blame” teachers for bad behavior, advice to “not blame others” and to turn all blame inward on oneself, etc. Just listen to yourself! I don’t mean to offend, but only to make you more self aware that you have not left the cult “group-think” that you think you left behind.

            1. Well, would be more interesting- and fun – if you brought up specifics with which you disagree instead of ad hominem. Let me just say that I am not anti-Western and dislike Tibetan culture pretty much entirely.

              The business about blame is not to benefit the Tibetan organisations (which I’ve never personally been interested in or had anything to do with – I was into Vajradhatu for a couple of decades and we took pride in NOT being Tibetan and I would never have gotten involved otherwise), or any other one. The point is that once you find yourself deceived, betrayed, disappointed and, yes, abused, what to you do?

              Do you blame the bottle or quit drinking from it?

              Once you have left – as most of us on boards like this have done – do you spend the rest of your life fixated on the teachers who you feel have harmed you or your peers? Do you accept no responsibility yourself for having gotten entangled in such things in the first place? In other words, how to you work with yourself after all this?

              Personally, I think one can only go forward with some sort of forgiveness of both self and other, and that includes taking responsibility for one’s own participation.

              Clearly you disagree. But all your projections about me are pretty inaccurate.

              Now I have tried to represent some aspects of tantra via the famous Buddha’s last night story, the point being that tantra really isn’t safe and it shouldn’t be. Realisation isn’t safe. Tantric mandalas won’t work in middle class respectable societies if for no other reason than that path of realisation involves uncovering and dancing with all one’s demons, both personal and societal.

              I think too many of us felt we could dance with that devil but never actually get bloodied, that somehow we were so gifted and blessed that it would all be smooth sailing.

              Well, it wasn’t.

              And it never is.

              But that doesn’t mean that I don’t think tantra isn’t valid or real (i.e. that the entire thing is a con). I just don’t think the current societal configurations that have been tried (public, outer mandala sanghas) is appropriate. Some teachers are working with small, intimate groups, or just one-on-one. That is the traditional way, and I suspect the best.

              In any case, these things are not simple and go far deeper than just whether or not Teacher A or B is a corrupt SOB. No doubt there are some of those, but much of what has been going on is a huge spiritual-societal experiment – similar to what happened in the 60’s in some sense. Much of it was very good, but then also it has turned into a nightmare. I don’t think this is because of a simple morality play dynamic. Put another way: the nasty stuff that has come up is basically just human nature playing out.

              You can go to bars and barrios and brothels all over the world and see far worse stuff every minute of every day. It’s not such a big deal that things got nasty and some people got hurt. It is a big deal for a while (I took about 20 years to work through it and am not done yet!) but it’s also not a big deal, really. Or at least making a big deal of it isn’t all that helpful.

              I guess my basic point is that the stuff that has come up in various mandalas of late is a mutual creation of all involved rather than solely the result of one or two corrupt lamas.

              So yes, I don’t buy into the victim narrative all that much unless you are talking about people using children as sex slaves of something. But if adults get into messes, all of those adults are mutually responsible, both leaders and followers. So I guess we’ll just have to disagree on that one.

              I don’t know about anyone else, but nobody ever forced me into anything. And I didn’t see it happening with anyone else, either. But that’s just my experience and I can’t speak for anyone else – nor would I. Each of us is on their own that way. Which is another reason why I find the blame game inappropriate. So again, I guess that’s where we’ll disagree.

              But I don’t have a problem with someone disagreeing. In fact, I find differing opinions interesting and want to understand more. Ad hominems, though, rarely solicit much of a dialogue, and usually just provoke hostility and aggression which unfortunately which is what far too many of these supposedly ‘higher’ or ‘spiritual’ mandalas have devolved into.

              Indeed, that’s why I left my sangha: it was more about pecking order, stress, loyalty tests and so forth, some sort of vajrayana high school. It wasn’t like that at first – well it was, but that was only a small, lively and rather cute part of a much more fascinating whole – but it became pretty much only that, along with huge swathes of systemic dysfunction organisationally, not to mention spiritual hypocrisy. In short, we were mistreating ourselves and those who came into our society. I wanted my son to have nothing to do with it, feeling it would spoil is life if he did. Once I saw that clearly, along with a few specific things which happened at the same time, that’s when I realised that even though I was still highly devoted to many aspects (and always will be, which is why it’s not easy to let go), I simply had to let go because to stay would have been rank hypocrisy.

              Indeed, you could argue that it was because I am Westerner that I felt honour-bound to leave, some sort of basic code of honour we all share that trumped any concerns about arcane samayas which the leadership (and most of us) were not following in any case, not in any bedrock, fundamental sense.

              These things are tricky. And deal with deep and personal issues. Maybe you’ve got it all figured out in a clarifying morality play in which the only issue is a few rotten apples. Or maybe you have decided that the whole business is entirely rotten from top to bottom and only the lower yanas work and the higher yanas – as the Thais believe – are corruptions of the Dharma (it’s a valid pov, imo, though I don’t share it).

              I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot work with any teachers or sangha dealing with secret mandala stuff in contemporary society. I am sure some people can, but not this individual whose journey I’m responsible for. But that doesn’t mean I think the Dharma is bad, or any of the yanas, just that I haven’t seen evidence that it can be handled properly by westerners within western society. One day, perhaps, yes, but not now. The Vajradhatu-Shambhala community had a shot at it once CTR died, and we blew it totally and completely. Instead, we got powerful teachings in impermanence, that everything that comes together falls apart, that any notion of progress on the path is highly suspect concept, that people who are like family end up separating in heart-breaking fashion, that all our dreams for a good and sane society, all the effort we put into making good schools for our children in many ways turned to dust and ashes. It is all very sad. And we were a great bunch of people.

              Now I know many here and elsewhere would disagree with that – that we were a bunch of alcoholic perverts, and certainly there is some truth to that as well, but I think we had a real shot at making a bona fide North American and Western modern buddhist sangha, both hip and grounded. We had a shot. We blew it and instead devolved into a minor cult with core members pursuing a progressively restrictive, ever-more-secret path.

              Not what I – nor not what most of us – signed up for. And yet we mutually created it.

              So I do feel responsible for some of that and I don’t blame my teachers for most of what went wrong. Of course, you and everyone else are free to think otherwise.

              But the reason I have posted here was just to – gently – make the point that the path of realisation involves encountering the dark side and in many ways the various horror stories which have come out of our mandalas has to do with such dark sides being exposed, which although painful, is not all bad. One thing it is not, though, is easy to process or understand.

              Anyway, thanks for your lecture! I hope you are wrong about ‘group-think.’ Considering I’ve been away from the group for over 20 years, that’s discouraging. But you might very well be right!!

              1. @BaronAsh,

                Your reply is just too long for me to unpack. I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time to go through a line by line response. You don’t even see your own anti-Western biased views showing through when you say things like; “But that doesn’t mean I think the Dharma is bad, or any of the yanas, just that I haven’t seen evidence that it can be handled properly by westerners within western society. One day, perhaps, yes, but not now.” So, in in other words…someday us poor, lowly Westerners will be realized enough to be able to practice Vajrayana, but right now we just aren’t ready yet, or have the proper merit, right? That’s what it sounds like you’re saying. With just about every comment you make, you prove again and again that your old views have stuck with you, even if you aren’t even aware of how they still influence your way of thinking. Please take some time to do some serious self reflection on what you’re saying and why you’re saying it.

      2. “so full of holes you could strain tea with it.
        But I suspect you know that yourself, so I don’t see any need to go into detail..”

        Assertions without making any precise point.
        Not good enough! If you have a precise objection to what I said, make it. We all might benefit. My statements were made out of personal experience and are sincere. I believe they offer something positive to the conversation.

        I am out of the tribe. Don’t ‘make a living from it.’ I left years ago but still value my experience as a student and practitioner even though have chosen to no longer continue with it. Am currently reading Thalia’s book and considering this stuff again.

        In that contest, I find too many people (aka ‘us’) generally unwilling to take responsibility for their own delusions and seem to want to blame others overmuch. That’s my main point.

        Forgive me for not indulging in blaming the corrupt gurus. I have no opinion about Sogyal having never met him directly, but my comment – if you didn’t get it – wasn’t about the gurus. It was about students.

        In any case, if it wasn’t clear, in several comments I have stated that clearly many gurus have behaved badly. That is stated as a given. My comments are not about whether or not they behaved badly, nor whether or not students should be loyal etc. My comments address how people deal with feeling they can no longer continue in that mandala.

        The suggestion is that people take responsibility for their own part in what is, ultimately, a mutually created delusion-fest.

        1. @ Baron Ash

          Another hole there:

          Despite what you say, I did make a very precise objection to your central argument about consent, by pointing out that your definition of it was inadequate, simplistic and conveniently one-sided……but you’ve chosen to ignore that response completely because it undermines your assertion that:

          “Nobody can ever force anybody else to think or feel unless the other person consents to be so influenced. Ultimately, therefore, we are all responsible for our own experience. ”

          So as you missed the first one, here’s a second precise objection ( which you can of course also ignore if it makes you uncomfortable: ) There won’t be a third.

          That statement is utter nonsense, pure guru-speak, the spurious belief that nothing is random, nothing unmerited, nobody entirely innocent and we can only get the results of what we ourselves create…..’karma’ as Buddhists call it.

          Basically victim-blaming as religious dogma, one part of Buddhist doctrine that I find quite obscene. It’s always been a common refrain by power to blame those it oppresses and then refuses to help……”the idle poor” “inferior races” “untermenschen” …….or in this case “samaya breakers”, “the deluded” and so on..….a very long and sickening list indeed, illustrating every dark instinct of human nature towards victims whose race, gender or lifestyle or just opinions are seen as different.

          I could make another long list of all the horrific experiences, thoughts and feelings entirely innocent people have forced on them by others because of this attitude, the genocide, torture, slavery, exploitation, rape and abuse of all kinds that disfigure our world and which is perpetrated entirely against their will let alone without their consent, but if you choose to wilfully ignore that stark reality because you prefer the soothing fantasy of universal personal responsibility, then I don’t think I’m going to be able to convince you otherwise.

          It’s more subtle but to me it’s on the same similar intellectual and moral path as holocaust denial.

          Anyway, I’ve read your other comments and I’ve got a clearer picture: I was wrong, it seems you sincerely do believe your assertion, mostly the result of Buddhist brainwashing though it is.… my apologies for inferring cynicism on your part.

          You do seem to have a lot on your mind, and a very strong compulsion to express it at length, which I hope is therapeutic for you in some way but I personally don’t wish to add to that or act as an audience for manipulative attempts to pass any responsibility on to those who have suffered abuse.

          I’ve seen too much of that in my life as it is. I hope one day you understand how dangerous a belief it is, both for you and others.

  4. People aren’t going to like to hear this, but I’m going to say it anyway because it really needs to be said. There is enough confusion already and it’s not helpful to keep adding to the confusion, imho. I believe that one cannot just cherry pick from their “favorite” religion of choice, rejecting fundamental precepts and beliefs of that religion that they may find uncomfortable. If someone calls themselves a Christian, then they have to accept what Christians teach, (morality, sin, heaven, hell, the resurrection, Jesus saving everyone from sin, etc.) People want to drop all the dogma that goes along with Christianity, yet they don’t want to drop the “Christian” label, or they try to ignore the uncomfortable things Jesus said about sin and only remember the touchy-feely stuff about loving one’s neighbor, etc. They try to burn the candle at both ends. You can’t take Jesus out of Christianity, (or the teachings on sin and morality), or claim Jesus is just ‘symbolic’, etc. Likewise, a Vajrayanist can’t take the ‘GURU’ out of Vajrayana because that’s just the same as taking GOD or Jesus out of Christianity. It just doesn’t work. People are deluding themselves if they think Vajrayana can truly exist without the whole “guru” element. The Guru is to Vajrayana what God is to Christianity and there is no separation.

    Let me say that I used to be a guru devotee, but after thinking long and hard and watching how other people behaved toward THEIR own gurus, (and I saw how unhealthy and disempowering it is), I lost my faith in super holy men gods. I have come to the conclusion that all religions have the same problems of dogma, fear based beliefs and control, etc. Spirituality is different from religion because it isn’t dogmatic and it seeks to empower the individual and help them grow, etc. Spirituality can draw on the true wisdom found in all traditions, including Vajrayana, (which does have some gold nuggets if you can pull them out of the guru worship rubble). However, if one really doesn’t believe in the fundamental dogma of a religion, maybe its time to DROP the label and admit that one simply can’t honestly follow that religion anymore, even if they still embrace part of the teachings.

    Btw, I don’t know any of the gurus personally that you mentioned above, so I can’t claim to speak for them. However, I am pretty suspicious that even though they may not teach the more heavy-duty tantric views to newbies in public, they still very likely believe in those views themselves and they have close students who also practice with them. I wouldn’t trust ANY of them not to engage in these kinds of secret “tantric” practices (gurus, sex, student obedience, guru worship, physical abuse, etc.) in private. It’s all there in the stories of Yeshe Sogyal and Milarepa and as long as they hold up these teachings as examples to follow, you can be very suspicious that they probably aren’t being honest when they say that you that you don’t have to worship a guru. Just because some smarter lamas choose not to teach these things to newbie Westerners in public, that doesn’t mean they don’t adhere to those believes or teach them in private.

    Frankly, if Vajrayana is disturbing, (now that the abusive, cult-like aspects of it are coming out into the open), the most “Buddhist” thing one can do is to drop the “Vajrayana” label and stop being attached to calling oneself “Vajrayanist” while trying to ignore the guru teachings at its core foundation. Vajrayana IS what it is and trying to change it only confuses people more, which isn’t helpful at all in the long run. My advise for people in general is as follows:

    1. Do an honest assessment of Vajrayana beliefs and practices (and not just getting information from teachings aimed at newbie/disillusioned Westerners from teachers who are in the process of doing extensive damage control). If you don’t like what’s in the real heavy-duty Vajrayana teachings, it’s time let go and move on. The problem with adopting a religious label is that you either have to accept a religion for what it is and follow it seriously, or be a “bad” whatever-it-is in order to cling on to your attachment to a religion that doesn’t really fit. It’s like trying to put on a pair of shoes that are two sizes too small and then pretending that they fit and don’t pinch. (When I say “you” I am addressing anyone, not any particular individual.)

    1. I think if you read your reply its fair … and many of us have decided against Vajrayana. It does have it’s unchanging proponents who use the “this is just how it is” as if that excuses everything. I don’t think they live up to their own rules and so why would you be part of that? For me its not just that but Vajrayana origins go back to mere kings who “said” a text fell on their roof. Or weird meetings on a mountain with the excellent beings representing their worlds … as if, its like a Naruto manga comic, but that would be more plausable than some of these origin stories. Then they of course have to cover it up by throwing other links to different masters and texts and say how it evolved from x into y. The fact that it evolved means it can change but it also means to me it was really an organized religion trying to divert Buddhist adherents over to it – with a lot of clever debating.

  5. After going through so many of these things myself, and always feeling somehow that something was fundamentally wrong, I’m amazed now by how many people are still willing to be abused, manipulated, lied to, and belittled as an assumed requirement of spiritual progress. This always reminds me of a quote I once saw attributed to L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology: “If you want to really enslave someone, promise them total freedom.” This is the clearest description of the cult dynamic that I’ve ever seen.

  6. The biggest joke is to still quote Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. Who cares about what he says. If you are still paying some attention, you are very far from finding a true guru or pure Dharma…

    Let’s face it, Vajrayana without an authentic teacher is simply not Vajrayana. You are wasting all this time commenting about meaningless stuff.
    Just look inside yourself, you know very well what a true guru would look like. In fact, it is already inside you. Until you find him under an external form, practice peacefully and joyfully Mahayana… This whole drama and actions full of wordly concerns is completely useless.

  7. The bible famously contradicts itself by having many contradictory teachings/statements within it. Therefore different people with differing beliefs are able to find bible quotes to support their various strong, though contradictory, stances and beliefs. In the same way we can find contradictory statements and teachings in buddhism, even within the same text e.g. within the “Jamgon Kongtrul, The Torch of Certainty” book which is quoted in the article above. At the end of the day, we have to make up our own minds and use our own common sense if we are to find where the truth (or ‘our truth’/our own belief) lies. I think this is a Very Good Thing, as it is always best to think for ourselves rather than blindly relying on the truth of something just because someone else does. So I say Hooray for contradictions in scriptures/teachings/even within one text, because it is an opportunity for us to see that ‘it ain’t necessarily so’ and, further, to find our own viewpoint for ourselves.

  8. @ quote pg 131
    To see things that are bad as good is strange. I always wandered if there is another possible meaning for this absurd text. To see things as…. does not mean they ARE what you see, they are still bad. Perhaps this quote is not for the deterioated teacher but for the student to prevent him from falling into hatred and anger, because hatred and anger give a set back of what you might have learned.
    The text does not say you have to behave like a deterioated teacher. You still can leave him, but do it in a save way that does not destroy the good things you have learned yourself. Perhaps this is the hidden aspect of the text.

  9. Keeps kicking this back. Trying again with altered text:

    “so full of holes you could strain tea with it.
    But I suspect you know that yourself, so I don’t see any need to go into detail..”

    Assertions without making any precise point.
    Not good enough! If you have a precise objection to what I said, make it. We all might benefit. My statements were made out of personal experience and are sincere. I believe they offer something positive to the conversation.

    I am out of the tribe. Don’t ‘make a living from it.’ I left years ago but still value my experience as a student and practitioner even though have chosen to no longer continue with it. Am currently reading Thalia’s book and considering this stuff again.

    In that contest, I find too many people (aka ‘us’) generally unwilling to take responsibility for their own delusions and seem to want to blame others overmuch. That’s my main point.

    Forgive me for not indulging in blaming the corrupt gurus. I have no opinion about Sogyal having never met him directly, but my comment – if you didn’t get it – wasn’t about the gurus. It was about students.

    In any case, if it wasn’t clear, in several comments I have stated that clearly many gurus have behaved badly. That is stated as a given. My comments are not about whether or not they behaved badly, nor whether or not students should be loyal etc. My comments address how people deal with feeling they can no longer continue in that mandala.

    The suggestion is that people take responsibility for their own part in what is, ultimately, a mutually created delusion-fest.

  10. @BaronAsh,

    You say you’ve left your “tribe” and you’re “out of it” now, and that you don’t follow the “party line” of Vajrayana, etc. Yet you still sound like a typical Varayanist to me because of the way you talk about spiritual bypassing of ones feelings and “not blaming others” for anything. You sound just like Pema Chodron to me. Please be self aware that you are not “out of it” yet, and your views are still very much in the “party line” of what most fundamentalist Vajrayanists say.

  11. @Sarah Lionheart. Horrendous. What a nest of vipers and yet you stuck it out for so long – it seems that’s what cults do to people: ‘you can check out but you can never leave’.

    That’s the first i’ve heard of SL being such a toxic environment. But i’m far away and i guess it’s only when the everyday cult bitchiness becomes full-on abuse that it becomes public news. Nevertheless, your story permeates with emotional abuse.

    This Mack guy is obviously not a genuine practitioner, but deceives everyone with his intellectual prowess.

    1. I just read Sarah Lionheart’s account. Any problems in Samye Ling should be talked about. I don’t live there since 1997 and had not heard about this. Things like this are not easy to discuss, but otherwise how can you solve anything? The account is mainly about Rob Nairn, called “Mack” by Sarah. There is not one bad word about Akong Rinpoche named “Ari” in this paper, on the contrary. He and many others, including the therapists and ladies’ retreat master, have been on Sarah’s side. Some weak people have gone after worldly values and they have won so far. This is what happens with people, they are not perfect. It does not mean Buddha’s teachings as such would not work, but people are not applying them properly here. There is critizism towards his brother, the old abbot Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, and that is serious. Had he informed the police, Akong Rinpoche might be alive. The lineage should be going from Akong Rinpoche to Lama Katen with help of Drupon Khen Karma Lhabu as wished by Akong Rinpoche. Individual opinions here do not solve anything, but it usually helps when things are open.

      I went to Samye Ling in 1988. In his compassion Aknog Rinpoche had taken many mentally unstable people to live there and was helping them with the help of his psychotherapist students. British health care was crumbling and those patients would have been on street otherwise. He helped many people in both east and west with his Buddhist understanding and kindness.

  12. Another reply by @pete to me but it’s not on the thread, only my email.

    Pete, you wrote: “It’s more subtle but to me it’s on the same similar intellectual and moral path as holocaust denial.”

    Well, once you drag that rubbish into it: end of discussion!

    We all have better things to do than listen to your insulting tone, aggressive pomposity and absurd, self-righteous, virtue-signalling platitudes.

    (There, that’s a vague, unsubstantiated ad hominem for you!! Your cup of tea seemingly!)

    I wrote another long commentary below, but clearly they are
    a) too long and
    b) not appropriate here so
    c) I wish you all well and hope this blog is helpful for you.

    All best….

  13. ( My reply is actually above on December 4, 2019 at 10:01 pm )

    Ok, I know….Godwin’s Law…..twice, or “Reductio ad Hitlerum” as we insulting, aggressive, pompous, absurd, self-righteous, virtue-signalling pedants prefer to call it.


    Mea culpa!…..mea maxima culpa! ( solemnly batters own head with dog-eared copy of ‘Apostates Guide to Annoying the Faithful Online. )

  14. Thanks Thalia for making this harmful belief so clear, using sutra references in the true tradition of the Buddha – uncompromising critical thinking. But boy it draws crabs!

    It’s reminiscent of the original purpose of Buddhism as a reform religion, according to Swami Vivekananda – Ramakrishna’s main disciple. He said in the time leading up to the Buddha, Hinduism had become horribly corrupted. Buddha came and deconstructed everything. He wouldn’t even affirm or deny the existence of God or the soul – some Hindus never got over that!

  15. I am a 15+ year Vajrayana student. I am appalled for those harmed and will do what I can to prevent it from happening again. Abuse isn’t Vajrayana…. it’s abuse.

    I don’t think Vajrayana needs to be gotten rid of, however. For some people, in some situations, it works.

    I used to think that I had to do XYZ to be a “good Buddhist,” and I thought that there was a prescriptive path to enlightenment. I’ve subsequently learned that I was wrong.

    In my experience, teachers are necessary to receive the dharma and to check in with from time to time. The nature of the relationship is entirely my choice. I’ve never been propositioned for sex or had someone abuse me in any way.

    For those who feel drawn to the Vajrayana path, I would say to explore it consciously and check the teachers as well as the students. If the Sangha atmosphere is cultish — don’t get involved. Trust your innate wisdom.

    Wishing all well.

  16. This is such a meaningful article, especially for the beginners who engage in Tibetan Buddhism. There are some pretty skewed people roaming around in robes. My experience with the person I chose as my teacher was in phases: phase 1 – closeness, communication, phase 2 – distancing and attempt to belittle and humiliate, phase 3 – asking for money, more specifically 10.000 USD. I completely cut off this person and any connection with this type of doctrine. Went for a more classical approach to the Buddha’s words and left everything Tibetan behind. Will I burn in fiery hells for doing so? Well, probably not. What I am right now is definitely more content, surrounded by a beautiful and humble sangha, and with my dignity strongly preserved.
    I hope that everyone reading this article will know that the true teaching of the Buddha is a teaching that liberates, that brings freedom and joy, that they don’t need to be abused in order to become enlightened and that everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

  17. Yes, stay away from all tibetan buddhism! Noone really wants to hear what else I hafe to say cause, among other things, I wont write tedious details about tibetan buddism, when critizicing. I know this buddism is way off, all they way from the bottom to the top.

  18. All true, I lived through it and escaped. Please save yourself and don’t learn from him – openly teaches TsaLung, Tummo and engages in “Tantric deity yoga” with anyone who shows an interest in him which are countless women. HH Dalai Lama has condemned him for teaching these secrets but the teachings continue. Rigpa is als being taught as the entry point hook along with mindfulness. Research Tulku Lobsang sexual abuse and the complaints from 2018 to HHDL – he’s named. It’s a shame because the Buddha’s teachings are beautiful and can truly help people but are being destroyed by this behavior. Dark practices are also being used along with mental abuse.

  19. i did some research but ican’t find anything , i m interested if you can give some link to know more about what the dalai lama say

      1. Ok because there’s nothing more than articles relating that his name was write in the dalaï lama letter. It’s a little bit light

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