I received this letter to Sogyal Lakar today along with permission to post it on this blog.
“…true teachers are kind, compassionate, and tireless in their desire to share whatever wisdom they have acquired from their masters, never abuse or manipulate their students under any circumstances, never under any circumstances abandon them, serve not their own ends but the greatness of the teachings, and always remain humble. Real trust can and should only grow toward someone who you come to know, over time, embodies all these qualities.”
–The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, page 134
January 11, 2018
Dear Sogyal Lakar,
We join with many members of the Rigpa sangha, and the greater Buddhist world, who wish that you would explain your actions that we attested to in our July 14, 2017 letter, so that reconciliation and healing can begin.
Our original letter six months ago was to you, our Buddhist teacher, asking for clarification on a number of matters. First, are your sexual relations with many of your female students in accordance with the Dharma? Second, are your physical beatings and emotional abuse of us and other students in accordance with the Dharma? And third, is financing your sybaritic lifestyle by using donations from students in accordance with the Dharma? If those actions are not in accordance with the Dharma, we asked you to refrain from them now and in the future. We expected answers to our questions.
The teachings you have shared in the past thirty years, including writing the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, have benefitted us and so many people around the world. We do not believe that this benefit is an excuse for you to abuse students sexually, emotionally, physically, and financially. Should you choose to explain your actions to us, we will listen to you intently—not through your proxies or other Buddhist teachers. If you concur that your actions have harmed students, we believe the first step towards healing is for you to publicly admit, and apologize, to the many who you have harmed. We are waiting.
Instead of responding to our original questions, it seems that you and Rigpa are engaging in a massive public relations effort to deflect attention from your actions. First you replied to our letter by saying that you were very sorry for our having misunderstood your intentions. You did not deny your actions but deflected blame by implying it was due to our own ignorance. Rigpa has continued in this vein by promoting Orgyen Topgyal’s comments made in Lerab Ling, Rigpa Paris, and online that our attestations of your behavior guaranteed that we were samaya breakers and bound for the hell realms. Rigpa also released on September 23, 2017 the video of Khenpo Namdrol telling the gathering at Lerab Ling that the eight of us are agents of demonic forces, accused us of the heinous crime of causing schism in the sangha, which is morally equivalent to killing one’s parents, killing an arhat, or drawing the blood of a Buddha.
Then, on December 19, 2017 we received a packet of communication from Rigpa US, Rigpa UK, Rigpa’s law firm Lewis Silkin, and An Olive Branch, requesting our participation in an investigation into the veracity of our attestations, and to respond within 10 days (over the Christmas holiday). In our original letter to you, which is a matter between a teacher and students, we did not include our views on Rigpa, nor on the enablers who supported your abusive behavior. In fact, we took responsibility and apologized in our letter for our own support of you and how it may have harmed others. Our intention with the letter was solely focused on the issue of your behavior that harmed others. We did not expect, nor need any communication from Rigpa or their lawyers because you can speak for yourself.
Three days after we received the packet of communication, Rigpa announced publicly to the greater Rigpa Sangha that we would participate in the so-called investigation and speak to Rigpa’s lawyers. We were neither consulted as to whether we wished to participate with Rigpa’s law firm, nor did we give our consent to said participation. This suggested to us that Rigpa was not intent on truly listening, but instead, managing their public image and in fact saving themselves from scrutiny by legal authorities. Despite all of that, some of us still considered speaking to Rigpa’s lawyers with a hope that it might bring about some kind of healing for Sangha members.
Then, on January 2, 2018 you and Rigpa announced the establishment of a Vision Board to guide Rigpa’s future activity. You said that Orgyen Topgyal guided the decision making, and that Khenpo Namdrol was named as a principal advisor. Relying upon Orgyen Topgyal and Khenpo Namdrol, following their defamatory remarks about the eight of us, indicates what you and Rigpa think about our motivation and character and the content of the July 14th letter.
Our July 14, 2017 letter stands as an attestation to your sexual, mental, and physical abuse of students and misuse of donations for the Dharma.
We regret that neither you, nor Rigpa’s leaders, have acknowledged the abuse and trauma that you have caused, so that deep healing can begin. We hope that you and Rigpa will reconsider your approach and be truthful and act in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings.
In the spirit of transparency and to avoid confusion and misinformation, we will share this letter with various people who have expressed an interest regarding these matters. Regarding our communication with Rigpa, Lewis Silkin, and An Olive Branch, they will be receiving a letter shortly.
We deeply regret the necessity of our letters. We, like so many others, have seen greatness in you. We pray that you can live up to the level of integrity of which we know you are capable. Please take responsibility for your actions and begin the path to healing. Please seek the counsel of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and mend this stain on your reputation that is causing so many to lose faith in you, the lineage, and the noble Dharma.
We were sad to hear of your ill health and hope you recover completely so that you can fully enter your retreat.
Note that an Olive Branch has not reached out to any of the 8 as yet.
136 Replies to “True Teachers are Kind: A Second Letter to Sogyal Lakar”
I counted 7 signatures. Why no Damcho?
@Mary, if you read the letter, the only area there is a potential difference is with regards to communicating with Lewis Silkin.
I think, this is not the answer. She still could have signed the letter, because in the letter it was explicitly mentioned that “some of us to still considered speaking to Rigpa’s lawyers with a hope that it might bring about some kind of healing for Sangha members.” So to me it doesn’t seem, there is a dissens between the 8 with respect to this new letter.
I hope that Damcho takes really good care of herself, if she goes there…
I asked myself the same question.
Perhaps I am blind, but in the first letter a sentence closest to an apology is: “We are each taking a long and serious look at our own behaviors, trying to learn from them, and supporting each other on our journey.”
Where is the apology to the sangha for covering up all these events?
The reason for me to leave Rigpa was that everthing mentioned in the first letter was covered up as well as his deeds.
They ask Sl for an explanation, but everyone who covered things up,is also compliant.
The covering up for such a long period frightened me as well as SL his behaviour.
In the 5th paragraphe (Then, on December 19,)…: “In fact, we took responsibility and apologized in our letter for our own support of you and how it may have harmed others.”
Jan, I agree, the cover-up is in some ways more frightening than the abuse. It brings to mind Nazi Germany, why do some people stand by and let evil happen?
I think of those at the very top of the organization, I think of gas lighting and manipulation that so many have suffered at their hands for more than 40 years and wonder if some of the people on their vision board aren’t as guilty as sl. Did you know that people have actually tried to bring this to light many times over the years and have been threatened with lawsuits?
To be clear we’re not just talking about a handful of people, there are tens of thousands of people who sat by and remained silent in some cases jealous of those getting attention/being abused. sl was not shy about abusing people in public, think of the 1,000 who watched Chokyi get gut punch to the point of doubling over and running out crying who said nothing. He regularly berated people at public talks, why did thousands of people stay quiet in rapt attention hanging on his every word as he eviscerated people slurping his food like a pig?
Anyone who was a student and didn’t speak up was/is complicit. I have flashbacks to things I allowed to be done to me that are horrifying, things that he said to me publicly in the shrine room, no one ever stepped in to stop him. One time he hit me so hard before a teaching I couldn’t stop crying, I sat in the shrine room balling my eyes out, NO ONE asked if I was OK, I got multiple emails saying how happy people were to see how deeply sl was working with me, the asshole had just brutalized me in a small meeting, there were people who knew exactly why I was crying, why didn’t anyone say/do anything?
Personally, I think that it’s due to his perversion of the teachings, taking something whole and real and beautiful and warping it to suit his sickness. We all felt the power and authenticity of the teachings and somehow that got conflated with sl’s abuse. Many of us who stuck with it despite great personal cost did it because we had faith in the wrong thing.
I take comfort from something that CS Lewis wrote in The Last Battle. In essence, anything done with a good heart isn’t tarnished just because our object of reverence is flawed, just as someone who does evil, even in the name of good, is not actually doing good. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/1104698-then-i-fell-at-his-feet-and-thought-surely-this
I am very interested in the conversation about how to glean the wisdom of ancient traditions without getting sucked into the manipulation of those who use people’s faith in a perverted way. Maybe that’s more useful than berating each other?
@ Not so hopeful
Your comment is very moving, it takes a lot of courage to talk about what’s happened to you with so much honesty. I hope a lot of people read it very carefully.
From my own experience I’d say that you should always remember that like most of us, you may have been naive and credulous, but you had only good intentions, so there’s no need to reproach yourself…..we all make shit choices at some time during our lives.
Sogyal abused and exploited everyone he could in whatever way suited him, and even if we were all temporarily stupid enough to believe it was ‘Crazy Wisdom’…..we didn’t abuse or exploit anyone at all.
Most of us simply had no experience of the dark side of religion and didn’t have a clue about narcissists and psychological manipulation. We also started out with a very idealistic view of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan lamas. He had a big head-start on us, but a lot of us caught on eventually.
If you leave as soon as you come to your senses and fully understand what’s really happening, then that’s all you can do. You might be shaken up, but you’re safe, and that’s the most important thing. It can only get better from there.
It takes some people much longer to wake up than others…….and some never wake up at all, so we’re the lucky ones.
I’m not sure who you are, but I’m sending my love and hoping that your doing well now and that you’ve found a path more appropriate and healthy for you.
> I am very interested in the conversation about how to glean the wisdom of ancient traditions without getting sucked into the manipulation of those who use people’s faith in a perverted way. Maybe that’s more useful than berating each other?
This is one of Pete’s questions, too, as well as mine. How do we create an environment for this conversation?
@ Rick New
Perhaps a Facebook group, open to anyone from any tradition that is interested in the topic?
@ Not so hopeful anymore
Do you think it would it be possible just to start? Agree on a time and meet via hangouts or skype, etc. Then go further into the question of what an environment supporting that kind of questioning might look like?
I would be willing to join in if someone else is able to organize it😊
Since it is just the two of us, we could set up a time between us and go from there. I’m on U.S Central Time.
I’m west coast time 😊
We are just a couple of hours apart. My time is pretty flexible, is there a good day and time that would work for you?
I’m sorry it came to this for all affected and involved. Another very well written letter that again deserves an honest response.
I so fully agree with everything the 8 wrote – both with the first letter and now this one. I admire the even-handed way they communicate their misgivings whilst at the same tie acknowledging the ‘greatness’ of SR and the enormous helpful impact his book has had.
I wish, with them, that Rigpa would cease and desist their present conduct which does no service to SR in the long term.
To fully investigate and accept wrongdoing whilst keeping the effort to return to greatness – this is the hope I and many students, past and present, would hold.
I agree that this is again a very well written and to the point letter. And it shows the maturity and greatness that the 8 writers have risen to throughout all those painful events.
In the given situation which is very unfavourable and unjust (to say the least) towards the eight (or seven) this letter is still very open minded and clear about SL’s and the organisation’s (leading department’s) attitude.
It’s a call for a healthy change of mind or change of “heart” against all odds.
Of course, under these circumstances, the letter also seems to imply a position to defend their ground, repeat the causes for their initial letter and their leaving of Rigpa. Which is good and healthy.
In any case, to admit that my own behaviour has contributed to any given situation has always been the most helpful step in order to not get stuck in a “defense-offense” situation.
@gendunblog additional commentary:
The insight that my own behaviour contributed to any given situation does not necessarily mean that I have to “apologize” in public or “confess” all my sins. Not at all! It’s about acknowleding my own “role” in my own life.
It might be just the silent insight that is enough. Everything else might develop from that momentum.
We can see that this momentum is lacking entirely on the one side (SR and Rigpa organisation) and has started to develop on the other side (ex-Rigpa). That can be an impressive mental movement and could ignite even more insight.
Hope that makes my cryptic words more clear.
It is impossible for me to comment or sign in, the system just seems to send me round in circles whatever I try! Yours Gill
You have left a comment now, though, so you can comment.
maybe it’s the self-perpetuating cycle of offense and defense that’s blocking out everything else 😮
A very good letter, keeping the focus on Sogyal and his abusive behaviour.
As the writers point out: the only clear official response so far has been to attack them as agents of demonic forces, ( using the word “defamation” to describe that is a nice touch ) As well as the abuse, they’ve since been treated appallingly by Rigpa and got only an evasive, dishonest reply from Sogyal.
What puzzles me is that even after all that, they’re still asking for an apology in a very polite, even-handed way, and apparently, they even still hope for reconciliation and healing…..I’m not sure, but presumably they mean reconciliation with him and healing the rift within the sangha.
Certainly, the letter is very clear and the tone firm, but given the context, I’m not sure why they choose to remain in the position of supplicants like this: because as victims, they’re entitled to demand an explanation and an apology and use legal action to get them and seek redress, rather than requesting politely for the second time.
They still speak in deferential terms of his “benefit”, “greatness” and “Integrity” as if his actions that people found beneficial somehow reduce the severity of the extraordinary amount of damage he’s done and partially counterbalance the corruption and dishonesty that’s been an intrinsic part of his character since he started teaching.
It’s difficult to understand why anyone would seriously expect him change or apologize. As his lawyers have certainly explained: no matter where he is in the world, if he admits and apologizes for even one act of abuse, he’s publicly confessing to a crime in the country where it took place. He and the management of Rigpa know the implications of this.
I also can’t figure how anyone believes they can recover from abuse as long as they still expect or hope for anything at all from the abuser. Ambivalence about the abuser doesn’t seem like a good base for healing either.
Many of his victims over the years were ignored when they spoke out, had no support from anyone at all and no way of bringing him to justice to prevent more abuse.
The 8 now have very widespread support indeed and they have the means to bring Sogyal to justice and stop the abuse from ever happening again.
I hope they and others will be able to make use of the opportunity.
Otherwise, what is there to stop Sogyal making a comeback and just taking up where he left off ?
@Pete Cowell. I get that you don’t understand that as it’s clear in all your comments here, but some of us do actually want Rigpa and TB to reform and believe that it is still possible. And not all of those who have left Rigpa in disgust reject the whole religion because there are other lamas who have clearly stated that they do not require complete obedience and that they do not condone abuse. Certainly real change looks like a vain hope rather often these days, but one can keep prodding them. By continuing with this respectful, reform angle they take the moral high ground and in doing that expose just exactly what Rigpa hasn’t done but should have.
I do understand your position, and I sympathize with the fact that many people sincerely hope to salvage and preserve something that means a great deal to them personally.
But Sogyal’s behaviour is criminal and it needs to be dealt with as such, the priority is to prevent it continuing and seek redress.
That’s the way civil society works : not by “prodding”, “respectfully” asking for apologies or patiently waiting for reform.
Also, there is no question or contest as to who occupies the moral high ground between abusers and their victims. What Rigpa failed to do is obvious to everyone by now and at no stage have they shown the slightest commitment to change or reform…..quite the reverse in fact.
From their point of view, this deferential attitude is ideal, they see it as a weakness for them to exploit, and this is why they and Sogyal continue to show such contempt for everyone who tries to negotiate politely but they threaten a legal representative of the victims with a defamation suit…..simply because he’s a threat and he isn’t interested in negotiation.
Surely it’s obvious by now that they don’t think they have to take the rest of us seriously at all.
As for Tibetan Buddhism itself : the obstacle to real reform is that single-minded devotion to the guru is repeatedly said to be absolutely indispensible to spiritual progress, the guru-student relationship is one of authority and deference to authority, which is unequal by definition, and this is inevitably a fertile ground for abuse.
The Buddha said that authority should be questioned critically and everything he said should be examined carefully and rejected if necessary. That’s not exactly a popular principle in vajrayana is it?
Secular society has checks and balances on authority, Tibetan Buddhism has none at all, and it lacks any concept of equality, democracy or justice. ( apart from the evidence-free notion of karmic retribution)
So meaningful reform would involve removing the single most important element of Tibetan Buddhism in favour of modern secular egalitarian values. How could it survive that? Perhaps it might in some form, but despite the idea of reform being repeatedly mentioned, so far no-one has suggested how to begin actually doing it.
This goes far beyond just Sogyal and Rigpa: they are symptoms of much greater structural, moral flaws in what is now an international multi-billion dollar business and it’s impossible to imagine the majority of Tibetan lamas agreeing to the loss of status, income and power that real reform would entail.
Thanks for your post.
Respectfully, I’d like to offer another perspective, another possibility.
>> “…keeping the focus on Sogyal and his abusive behaviour.”
As you might know from our previous conversations, my sense that “What Happened?” is deeply connected to “keeping the focus on Sogyal Rinpoche and his ….” [whatever]
Due to this focus, it seems the letter writers are unable to take responsibility for their own actions other than how they “supported Rinpoche.”
>> “…we took responsibility and apologized in our letter for our own support of you and how it may have harmed others.”
It seems to me that we have, and have always had the power to be different in our relationship to Sogyal Rinpoche, all the Tibetan Buddhist teachers, and to one another. Pleas to consider and focus on this power went unheeded then and go unheeded now. If we don’t explore this potential together, it seems we lay the ground for further “abuse” with whatever authoritarian institution we find ourselves in. Since non-authoritarian institutions are rare, don’t we see a similar situation in many places?
I remember when students left Sogyal Rinpoche for Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche because he was “not corrupted.” Now we see the same response to Dzongsar Khyentse and those folks look for another Lama in which to hand over our responsibility. Then we keep the focus on this or that Lama for a while and the cycle continues.
Sooner or later, it seems to me that we must stop raging against history and take up to reconcile and empower one another. As long as the focus remains on the teacher, it seems to me we continue to give up our power, and along with it, our potential for a deeper response-ability.
If “Sogyal Rinpoche goes down” will all of us will just make a comeback and start up where we left off?
@ Rick New
You’re raising a very vast and complex issue there, and it’s one that I don’t feel I fully understand even after all these years.
When you start to ask why and how the process of seeking to alleviate our suffering, goes wrong and backfires, and how much of that is our responsibility and how much is down to external factors we can’t control, then it pretty much encompasses the entire human condition.
People have written books about it…..and even founded religions. But you’re right: it’s a question we can’t afford to ignore.
When it’s a matter of interaction with others, no matter how hard you try to resist analysis of their psychological motivation, inevitably you’re forced to, in order to make some sense of things and avoid getting caught in the same shit over and over again. It may be heuristic but that doesn’t mean you can do without it in life and function in a Buddhist state of uncritical judgement-free neutrality…….well, I suppose you can, but as we’ve seen, it has serious consequences.
I get reprimanded here for making speculative assumptions about other’s motivation, but that’s often an excuse people use when they don’t agree with your assumption because it contradicts the one they’ve already made themselves. I like Occam’s Razor for that, because it tends to work particularly well in terms of religion, especially the fantasy aspect of Tibetan Buddhism:
You might think that green amphibian is a handsome prince with magical powers, the heir to a fabulous realm beyond the sea, who’s been transformed by an evil witch he encountered in an enchanted forest and he just needs a kiss to change him back……but Occam’s razor says it’s more likely to be just an ordinary frog.
I won’t speculate too much about the way the writers view Sogyal but it gives me the impression it’s probably not quite at the “just an ordinary frog” stage. They have that in common with a lot of people. It might change….or not, but I do respect that it’s everyone’s prerogative to kiss frogs if it helps them. We’ve all done it at some point after all.
I think there’s a species in Asia whose skin contains a powerful toxic hallucinogen……sounds about right.
Unlike you, I’m not at all sure that we do or ever did have, the power to be different in our relationship with Sogyal because he’s a classic narcissist, and it’s understood that if you have a relationship with a narcissist it will be strictly on their terms…..their house, their rules, kind of thing. If they sense you’re not cooperating they’ll ignore you, if they realize you’re no longer potential prey, they’ll move onto someone who is.
As far as I know, it’s a one-way street and the only option to protect yourself from manipulation and abuse is to not have any kind of relationship at all by walking away and never going back.
As you say: otherwise it seems to be a repetitive, cyclical and problematic process, which is precisely what you’d expect when someone keeps looking for an authority figure who functions outside of societal checks and balances, to guide them in how to live their entire life, including how to think and how to perceive reality.
It’s not authority and expertise per se, but the unregulated spiritual sort that is so arrogant and pervasive that it wants to extend into every aspect of your life. The idea that another human being can do that effectively is a dangerous fantasy. Give someone like that power and they will abuse it.
So perhaps the question is not which lama ? but why do you really need one at all ?
(Apologies for the long-winded answer and the satirical frogs.)
@ Pete Cowell
Thanks for your thoughtful post. There is so much in there, that I will try and summarize what I’m hearing you say so I can make sure I’ve heard you and respond where it might be clarifying.. Please correct me where I err, I realize shortened summaries may not do justice to what you are saying, just trying to see if I get the main point.
Pete: “You’re raising a very vast and complex issue there, and it’s one that I don’t feel I fully understand even after all these years.When you start to ask why and how the process of seeking to alleviate our suffering, goes wrong and backfires, and how much of that is our responsibility and how much is down to external factors we can’t control, then it pretty much encompasses the entire human condition.People have written books about it…..and even founded religions. But you’re right: it’s a question we can’t afford to ignore.”
Summary: The question about “what goes wrong and backfires” among those seeking to alleviate our suffering is a difficult one, but one we can’t afford to ignore. *
Pete: “When it’s a matter of interaction with others, no matter how hard you try to resist analysis of their psychological motivation, inevitably you’re forced to, in order to make some sense of things and avoid getting caught in the same shit over and over again.”
Summary: Though it is difficult, we must try to understand our motivations, so we don’t get caught in the same mistakes over and over.
Pete: “It may be heuristic but that doesn’t mean you can do without it in life”
Summary: We must think for ourselves.
Pete: “and function in a Buddhist state of uncritical judgement-free neutrality…….well, I suppose you can, but as we’ve seen, it has serious consequences.”
Summary: Buddhism suggests we attain a state of “uncritical judgement-free neutrality”. This has serious consequences.
Pete: “I get reprimanded here for making speculative assumptions about others motivation, but that’s often an excuse people use when they don’t agree with your assumption because it contradicts the one they’ve already made themselves. I like Occam’s Razor for that, because it tends to work particularly well in terms of religion, especially the fantasy aspect of Tibetan Buddhism:You might think that green amphibian is a handsome prince with magical powers, the heir to a fabulous realm beyond the sea, who’s been transformed by an evil witch he encountered in an enchanted forest and he just needs a kiss to change him back……but Occam’s razor says it’s more likely to be just an ordinary frog.”
Pete: “I won’t speculate too much about the way the writers view Sogyal but it gives me the impression it’s probably not quite at the “just an ordinary frog” stage. They have that in common with a lot of people. It might change….or not, but I do respect that it’s everyone’s prerogative to kiss frogs if it helps them. We’ve all done it at some point after all I think there’s a species in Asia whose skin contains a powerful toxic hallucinogen……sounds about right.”
Summary: Most likely Lamas are ordinary people, perhaps with a capacity to produce hallucinations.
Pete: “Unlike you, I’m not at all sure that we do or ever did have, the power to be different in our relationship with Sogyal because he’s a classic narcissist, and it’s understood that if you have a relationship with a narcissist it will be strictly on their terms…..their house, their rules, kind of thing. If they sense you’re not cooperating they’ll ignore you, if they realize you’re no longer potential prey, they’ll move onto someone who is.”
Summary: Trying to be in a critical relationship with an authority like Sogyal Rinpoche is impossible, because they won’t allow it, they will leave instead.
Pete: “As far as I know, it’s a one-way street and the only option to protect yourself from manipulation and abuse is to not have any kind of relationship at all by walking away and never going back.”
Summary: The only way is to leave this kind of situation
Pete: “As you say: otherwise it seems to be a repetitive, cyclical and problematic process, which is precisely what you’d expect when someone keeps looking for an authority figure who functions outside of societal checks and balances, to guide them in how to live their entire life, including how to think and how to perceive reality.”
“It’s not authority and expertise per se, but the unregulated spiritual sort that is so arrogant and pervasive that it wants to extend into every aspect of your life. The idea that another human being can do that effectively is a dangerous fantasy. Give someone like that power and they will abuse it..”
Summary: The classic guru relationship is the environment for abuse.
Pete: “So perhaps the question is not which lama ? but why do you really need one at all ?”
Summary: Do we need a lama at all?
Thanks for the thoughtful response and the frogs.
@ Rick New
Since you’ve said ( approximately ) in 12 lines what took me 50, I should probably consider editing my comments drastically. I appreciate the subtle satire of my…..err…..’expansive’ writing style, my wife has told me exactly the same thing many times, with not much effect. The troubling thing is that I actually do try to simplify before posting. ( Apparently it’s’ a welsh thing.)
But it’s a complex subject that deserves careful thought and nuanced expression, so I try to express my views diplomatically, and that’s difficult to do with a very concise style. I figure it’s better to bore people slightly than offend them outright.
Bore away, Pete. You write well and it’s clear you put a lot of thought into what you say.
Btw your anecdote about the moving truck guy… I’m still laughing, but we all thought we were so much better, eh?
@ Pete Cowell
Thanks for your reply. I don’t feel what you wrote was too long or verbose.
What you’d previously written was included in my reply, so the reply is actually longer than the original.
It is because you said so much and said it so well, I want to try to make sure I’m not misunderstanding something in what you’ve written before replying. This is one of the limits of online conversation. Another approach might be to just pick one of the 11 or so areas you’ve written about and focus there. Another approach could be to Skype or Hangout.
Focusing on one of the areas you expressed:
“The question about “what goes wrong and backfires” among those seeking to alleviate our suffering is a difficult one, but one we can’t afford to ignore.”
What might ignoring this question look like? What might exploring this question together look like?
To expand a little on these questions:
What might ignoring this question look like?
What might exploring this question individually look like?
Will exploring this question individually create enough energy to produce change?
What might exploring this question together look like?
@ Rick New
I was specifically thinking in terms of my own attempts to deal with life, which didn’t work so well until I left Buddhism, it felt like finally growing up.
Now with hindsight, it looks to me as if what I thought were the lamas’ efforts to alleviate our suffering were actually intended to alleviate their own at our expense by getting access to power, sex and cash.
It’s not a comfortable conclusion, and a lot of people wouldn’t agree, but if you strip away all the wishful thinking and look at the tangible results of decades of Tibetan Buddhism in the West and the
way that abuse has been tacitly accepted by the entire establishment, I don’t see any other conclusion.
People talk a lot about the great benefit they’ve derived, but when you ask them to elaborate they almost always speak of subjective experiences, transient mental events and emotions.
On the other hand, many lamas have made accumulated a great deal of material wealth and assets, and live a very comfortable existence.
Apart from a small number of students that get paid jobs, the distribution of benefit is very unbalanced indeed.
@ Pete Cowell
You wrote: “I was specifically thinking in terms of my own attempts to deal with life, which didn’t work so well until I left Buddhism, it felt like finally growing up.”
Addressing such important questions on an individual level seems important and crucial. It is certainly something I’ve been doing for a while, too.
It seems that when you then bring up the Lamas, a lot of people, the entire establishment, paid students, etc., in other words all of us, it seems to me a crucial and subtle shift, a way of removing ourselves from the initial question and stopping the inquiry. Having worked with the question (to some degree) in ourselves, we now see a world in which others haven’t worked with that question. A kind of bottoming out that prevents further insight and forces us to surmise (however accurately) about others.
My sense is that there are further options, that we can’t discover these options by ourselves, and continuing the initial exploration remains a process “we can’t afford to ignore.”
My understanding of my own involvement is pretty much settled, after all, it came to an abrupt end a long time ago, so it would be odd if I hadn’t come to some definite conclusions by now.
I’m more interested in what’s been happening since and how other people who’ve either stayed on after I left, or joined more recently, interpret their experiences, and for that this blog has been very informative.
It’s a kind of collective work in progress and it’s a great pity that a lot more new people aren’t posting here with fresh perspectives. Personally I’d much prefer to stand back and watch different people debating for a change. At the moment it’s just a few of us ( especially me ) commenting repeatedly; I don’t know why that is, but at least it’s growing slowly.
Relating personal experiences is very useful and helps, some people manage it, but it isn’t always easy. I assume many more people read than actively post.
Everyone’s got an opinion, but the experience that led them there is important because it gives weight to the conclusions.
What was your experience of Rigpa like ?
> My understanding of my own involvement is pretty much settled.
When I hear that, it opens up a whole new subject about reaching a conclusion and what effect that type of movement has. Maybe it is something we could get back to? I also bring this up a little later on in this post.
> Everyone’s got an opinion, but the experience that led them there is important because it gives weight to the conclusions.
> What was your experience of Rigpa [Organization] like ?
That’s a large question and one that continues to unfold. While the process started much earlier, I first met Rinpoche in ’84 at a retreat in Seattle, WA.
Shortly after this encounter, I left my job and family in Arkansas and moved to Seattle. A bit later, my wife to be joined me. During the next decade, Rinpoche stayed with us a few times and also married Susan and I during a weekend retreat. We continued to go to retreats 2 or 3 times a year, mostly in the United States, but also in Switzerland, France and at the 3 month retreat. We were pretty committed, so to speak.
Our son was born in ’94 and that changed our capacity to travel and attend retreats. At the same time, I was looking into various western philosophers and practitioners with more emphasis on democracy and questioning institutional structures and thought.This led to interest in Bohm dialogue and exploring the nature conflict and how that might be uncovered in a group setting. David Michael Levin was also a big influence during that time, especially his focus on rage (as institutional failures are revealed) and “crying for a vision.”
Many of the authors were introduced to me by a friend who looks into these things somewhat deeply. His openness to a very broad range of approaches and explorations influences me quite a lot.
In 2015 there was a local Rigpa Organization meeting to talk about the situation with Rinpoche. I didn’t attend, but some of our friends did and were discouraged that it didn’t feel like a very open discussion. We decided to meetup and talk about the situation together which evolved over the next couple of years into a sort of Bohm style dialogue group. There were many unexpected moments and possibilities that emerged through those gatherings some members of the group are still meeting today. We moved to Mexico in May of last year.
My experience with Rinpoche was multifaceted, there were the teachings, experiences during the teachings, direct exchanges during the teachings, and everyday encounters when he stayed with us. During the latter times, I was usually off balance.
My encounters with many of the Sangha members (especially anyone with a role) were usually much more difficult. It felt the only thing that really mattered was Rinpoche. Any ideas, opinions, feelings, etc., that I had were all quickly dismissed or translated through a Rinpoche filter. It was as if no one was home. There were many of us that felt this way, and for the most part, this little group kept a good relationship with one another and while not part of the official sangha, felt (and still) feel connected to one another.
I recently attended a weekend with Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in Mexico City. I found him funny, precise, humorous, kind and fierce. He showed a film that weekend which was poetic and insightful.
Overall, my encounters with all the teachers I’ve met have left me more resilient, open and able to explore a wider variety of contrasting views and expressions.
I’m unable to understand or contextualize the level of violence the letter writers and other members of the sangha experienced. From my own experience with Rinpoche, I don’t doubt the situations they describe occurred. I read your take on the teachers and the feudal, patriarchal structure of Tibetan Buddhism and find no argument there (except as a final conclusion (regardless of content))
The experience I had with Rinpoche and the Sangha no longer feel separate from the situations in the rest of our environment. It doesn’t take much looking to see corruption, violence, disrespect, division, war, corruption and all kinds of abuse circling around us. But, I’m in the world, too. I can’t separate from those situations any longer, they are me, which brings me to asking our shared question. “The question about “what goes wrong and backfires” among those seeking to alleviate our suffering is a difficult one, but one we can’t afford to ignore.”
I can continue to ask this question for myself and try to reduce the violence in my interactions and encounters, but I’ve also felt the significance of taking up this question together, for we may not really see our violence until we encounter the other. It is my sense that we can’t afford to ignore this possibility or we will continue to be violent toward another, constantly looking to project this violence onto others (deserving as they may be.)
“It’s too easy to be anti-fascist on the molar level, and not even see the fascist inside you, the fascist you yourself sustain and nourish and cherish ” D&G
“Relativ personal experiences is very useful and helps, some people manage it, but it isn’t always easy. I assume many more people read than actively post.”
Yes, in deed, and for example in my case i read every post since start of wn727, and i understand the very most, but commenting clear and understandable and fluently in english is extremely difficult for me and takes sadly really a lot of time. Complicated stuff for not native english speakers. Advantage for SL.
And i often ask myself: whats wrong with the german rigpa-devotees, such a big sangha .i’m glad there were 6 good friends of mine who left the organisation, at different times, and meanwhile we have good contact furthermore, but whats up with the german elite, so many old names in leading positions, no rebellion there like in france, netherland. a little bit scary. Any germans here? is there any german rigpa-ex-group existing?
“And i often ask myself: whats wrong with the german rigpa-devotees, such a big sangha .i’m glad there were 6 good friends of mine who left the organisation, at different times, and meanwhile we have good contact furthermore, but whats up with the german elite, so many old names in leading positions, no rebellion there like in france, netherland. a little bit scary. Any germans here? is there any german rigpa-ex-group existing?”
I dont know all the reason why official german Rigpa keeps standing closed to the party line.
But what I believe to know:
– many people left already
-Probably 50-75% of the members are at the same time functionaries of Rigpa.
That starts with all the local jobs, like local care person, what is called chopön,
and so on.
All those people are lost without their job. Its everything: social life, social meaning, being part of a group, a slightly elevated position in the very important dharma ranking, being part of a undergroup of “meaningful” people, being part of a group of people that give each other feedback of how wonderful and spiritual matured they are.
– Germans love authority. Dutch and french people might be slightly different when it comes to submission. Stillgesessen ! Sitzenmachen!
– Recognition: It seems to be to my narrowminded view that german Rigpa people lack very much feelings of self-worth, self- empowerment, self-confidence, and therefore stick to a system that keeps them simply going and believing to be part of an elitarian club.
– Heroism. The real goodones stays till last bullet is shot. Only weak ones goes.
This gives a good group feeling.
– a rigid inertness. No need to read about that abuse issue until BOSS says otherwise.
Why being informed. If that “abuse story ” would be true, they would all recieve a letter of
world dharma authority to inform them properly and give them instructions how to behave.
– Truth is disgusting.Why confront yourself with something uncomfortable. This could lead to some more questions that could eventually shake the solid fundaments of ego. How unhealthy. One does not go to a dharma club for such stupid reasons. No !
– pseudoprofessional reasoning. All those psychologists, social workers,teachers, healing practicioners, and whatever, think to be a “Buddhist” might sooner or later boost their career.
– Psychological stuff: Many followers, especially women, seems to be related to an authoritan man in an unhealthy way.
– Substitute for “normal life”. Those who would like to be part of bigger social life in Germany but do fail compensate for it when become member of a Club” or sect or cult.
And even elevate themself about ordinary standard people in their underlying system of selfcreated values.
And not to forget: SHAME. When admitting now, individually, that one had been part of a abusive system, inevitably more questions are raised: Why took it so long, am I responsible for something, could I receive acusations, what could my family and friends when available say. How to say sorry to victims. How to cushion own urgent raised needs.
I met lately a Rigpalady who had told me once, after I explained to her my reasons to leave Rigpa years ago ( in short: abusive patterns, dysfunctinal family syndroms, manipulative relationships and so on ) that I would need immidiately psychological help, even had to see a psychiatrist, that I am very poor mentally and so on. Rigpa=healthy, Dissident= unhealthy.
She did not rally leave Rigpa but is not part of Rigpa anymore. She had completely forgot what she had told me. She refused to read what I suggested to her to read ( this blog and some more ) because that “is sick stuff anyway”.
Its in many cases just a full resistance to any thought that my be challenging. Opposite to what Buddha Shakymunis “ideas” requires. Sorry to say.
Wow! that’s an unflinchingly honest analysis.
I think what you describe is very accurate indeed but it can be applied equally to every nationality, with just a few different emphases.
I wonder if Germans, British and Dutch are influenced by their Protestant history, they’re similar in their attitude to authority and their morality. French and Latin people seem less rigid and more anarchic, but conformist and conventional about some things.
Perhaps cult-thinking takes on the salient nature of the country. In very general terms: the British are capable of being spectacularly insular and indifferent to others, Germans comply with authority, the French accept sexism easily and Americans can be enthusiastic without any trace of cynicism. Something for everyone.
It’s tempting but I suppose the real picture is so complex that it can’t be reduced to generalities, and luckily culture, ways of thinking and communication are becoming increasingly supra-national now. Hopefully this will make it more difficult for cults to flourish unhindered.
Nope, yes and no, I unflinchingly believe that dutch and french go much easier against authority compared to german.
The way german repress unpleasant occurrrences differs slightly to other countries, due to “nazi-past” and “german sincerity”.
But around a cult or sect gather in generally people with certain similarities, whereever coming from.
I am not going into details, since english is not my language and I feel my lack of eloquence could repel the readers who are sophisticated writers.
And what I would like to mention anyway: As far as I know: Rigpamember that I still know from Germany, Suisse, France and Austria do not read blogs like this or Tenpels blog. They hardly know about. Those I have asked about do not even know other members that read such Stuff”.
So it appears to me that this blog is more a club of ex-rigpas the everything else.
I don’t think your assessment of your own lack of eloquence is justified, but I understand the difficulty of trying to communicate in a foreign language.
People who are still faithful believers probably wouldn’t read this blog for fear of going to hell.
I recall Sogyal proudly saying that students of his teacher wouldn’t drink water in the same valley as people they considered samaya breakers. ( They must have had to travel miles every time they wanted a cup of tea )
That’s Tibetan Lamas: if students leave a teacher, they’ll condemn, ostracize and avoid them, but if a teacher sexually abuses, beats and exploits his students, they have no problem visiting him, accepting his hospitality and taking money.
This years line-up of all the lamas visiting Lerab Ling is a perfect example of that.
@ Rick New
So you’ve been in Rigpa since ’84……you deserve a long service medal and a pension, but I doubt that’ll happen.
When you say you were ”off balance” I assume you mean Sogyal’s visits made you feel uncomfortable, which is the effect he had on everyone in one way or another. It’s significant that the normal human reaction didn’t kick in…..usually when that happens we understand that there’s something out of balance in the other person and avoid them if possible.
I suppose it was because Tibetan Buddhism insists that in the Guru-student relationship, the student must never ‘externalize’ these feelings and attribute them to the Guru, which is a convenient way for an abusive individual to blame his victim’s perception and not take responsibility for himself at any stage.
What’s your take on it now, with some distance ?
When you talk about a meeting to discuss him in 2015, I interpret that as a group of people having had misgivings that finally became too strong to keep quiet about…..is this right ?
( sorry the reply tab has gone from below your comment )
@ Pete Cowell
I tried to express my current take in the previous thread, especially toward the end.
Someone hacked the Rigpa Organization’s mailing list in 2015 and sent out some allegations to everyone. The organization tried to do damage control which was the initial meeting advertised as an open forum. As it was primarily a publicity move, many of the folks attending wanted to talk further and more openly. That was the start of the group. However, after a few meetings we moved to wider issues and environments and eventually opened the group out to the general public. None of the Rigpa sangha is continuing in the group, only the folks that joined from outside.
You wrote: “I suppose it was because Tibetan Buddhism insists that in the Guru-student relationship, the student must never ‘externalize’ these feelings and attribute them to the Guru, which is a convenient way for an abusive individual to blame his victim’s perception and not take responsibility for himself at any stage.”
One way to rewrite the above could be: “the student must notice the movement of ‘externalizing’ feelings and attributing them to an external object. This is a way for a student to take response-ability for their own feelings and actions and develop a more skillful way of responding to life’s encounters.”
By primarily focussing on the teacher as a perfect savior, we end up with the first version, by realizing the teacher is none other than samsara/nirvana/light/dark/positive/negative/heaven/hell, ie. “our world”, we move toward the second. and our “spiritual friend is like passing a rock in the road, you do not even pay attention to it, you just pass by and walk away.” C. Trungpa
A great sadness for me is connected to the Sangha’s inability to deeply communicate with one another and our continued focus on the teacher. I think it is a great loss and missed opportunity for those asking our shared question, ““what goes wrong and backfires” among those seeking to alleviate our suffering” (all of us)
I think I now understand how we differ on something important : I don’t see this in Buddhist terms at all, because I think Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist thinking is the problem, so it can’t be part of the solution. It’s structurally flawed and those flaws create the environment for abuse, especially Guryoga…..without which Vajrayana couldn’t exist.
In this case, Sogyal”s abuse,violence and exploitation are criminal acts that were justified by religious magical thinking, so refering to them and trying to address them in a religious context is a mistake. It”s a matter to be understood in secular terms and dealt with by secular laws,
So for me:……
“the student must notice the movement of ‘externalizing’ feelings and attributing them to an external object. This is a way for a student to take response-ability for their own feelings and actions and develop a more skillful way of responding to life’s encounters.”
…….is a purely Buddhist statement that isn’t applicable to the dynamic of abuse because it focuses on the victim’s implied responsibility, this deflects attention from the abuser and whatever the intention may be, that’s a slippery slope to victim blaming.
The abuser is entirely responsible for abuse in almost every instance. The victims feelings….distress, pain and suffering of all kinds, are caused by the abuser, and it’s not because the victim needed to “develop a more skilful way of responding to life’s encounters” that they got abused.
Apart from being a coke-addled alcoholic abuser himself, Trungpa was also a massive hypocrite whose actions disqualify him from being taken seriously. But yes, the kind of person, like Sogyal, that I would certainly pass by like a rock in the road .
Unlike you, I don’t think focusing on the Guru, ( who is also the abuser ) is in the least wrong and after having this kind of bombshell dropped into their lives, it’s not surprising that the sangha is having trouble communicating, a lot of them are shell-shocked and emotionally devastated.
So from my strictly secular standpoint, the purpose of your train of thought eludes me for the moment.
My wife and I lived in Munich for a while and became involved in Rigpa 10 years ago, I left about 5 years ago. We found the “ holy” atmosphere unsustainable for us, we are Dutch of origin. It was so refresching talking to some dutch members at a LL retreat. Your analysis is astonishing and so true. More focus on insights like these could be the basis of a healthy Sangha. Creating something is not so difficult as to change something. I personnally would prefer to start from scratch with all those people who are willing to leave the past behind. It would be a far more positive experience. I wish all the sick Lama’s all the best, but to my opinion, they should play no role in a healthy Sanga. I fact I believe that SL was the first to leave the Sangha by his conduct. Everybody who stays a follower of SL is to my opinion someone who left the Sangha, simply because he/she has left the Dharma. But that is perhaps food for another thread….
Thanks for your reply.
“More focus on insights like these could be the basis of a healthy Sangha. Creating something is not so difficult as to change something. I personally would prefer to start from scratch with all those people who are willing to leave the past behind. It would be a far more positive experience. ”
Yes. In this vein,one approach I know of is Bohm Dialogue. It allows a coming together in the spirit of inquiry and insight, yet open to discovering the larger, more infinite capacities that drew many of us to Buddhism in the first place.
I’m not sure how to come together and talk about the possibilities, but am certainly open to starting with Skype or a Hangout and talking further. Maybe it won’t happen that way, but will emerge out of another effort. It may take a while, but who knows what could happen?
It’s a good book but was too hard for me to read because it’s very abstract and not specific. I like their videos though. They have excellent points about power and giving one’s power away and why.
A bit hard to read for me, too, but there is some food for thought in there. And the challenge to authority can also quickly become authoritarian, too. http://www.leavingsiddhayoga.net/personal_account.htm
@ Pete Cowell
The reply button was gone for me, too. So, here we are. 🙂 Thanks for your reply, Pete.
Pete: “The abuser is entirely responsible for abuse in almost every instance. The victims feelings….distress, pain and suffering of all kinds, are caused by the abuser, and it’s not because the victim needed to “develop a more skilful way of responding to life’s encounters” that they got abused.”
Yes, could not agree with you more.
Pete: “So from my strictly secular standpoint, the purpose of your train of thought eludes me for the moment.”
I join you in a secular standpoint, but as such I don’t reject anything out of hand because it belongs to science, Christianity, Buddhism or my next door neighbor. It depends on how it functions.
I’m interested in effects and capacities.
I wish for our shared capacities to be more powerful so we find the support we need with one another and never again make one another feel isolated and alone.
I wish us to have enough power together to be able to properly respond to authority much earlier on so we don’t end up in this situation. This isn’t about blaming anyone, it is about keeping our power.
Pete: “Unlike you, I don’t think focusing on the Guru, ( who is also the abuser ) is in the least wrong”
I agree and don’t think it is wrong, either. However, I do question its effect on our relationship to one another and it’s short and long term efficacy.
If you find you keep your power by focusing on the teacher and making sure they pay for the damage they’ve done, then that may be right. Let’s imagine S.R. is in prison and the Rigpa Organization has been disbanded.
What is the work now? Did we solve an instance of something, but not yet get to the source? Do we begin that work now, or has our energy dissipated and now we get back to our regularly scheduled programming until the next cycle of abuse starts somewhere else?
I’m not suggesting we don’t focus on the teacher. I’m suggesting we don’t primarily focus on the teacher, especially when we are relating to one another.
Increasing our individual capacities to respond and the capacities to respond together is what I’m interested in. From what you say, I think you are, too. So, how do we combine our energies and not cancel one another out? How do we deeply hear and respect one another despite our differences?
How do we “among those seeking to alleviate our suffering” discover “what goes wrong and backfires?”
Sogyal facing justice and prevented from harming anyone else; Rigpa disbanded; the inherently abusive nature of the Guru-student relationship and the primitive cult-like structure of Tibetan Buddhism exposed……for me there’s nothing beyond that and I’m not interested in perpetuating something I see as useless. All religion is iredeemably backward and socially destructive, we don’t need it anymore.
In ‘Guns, germs and Steel’, Jared Diamond gives an excellent description of how it was the formal organisation and co-opting of primitive beliefs and superstition to cement the power of an elite in the Neolithic transition to very large tribal communities.
Or as Voltaire quipped: “Religion was born the moment the first charlatan met the first idiot.”
@ Pete Cowell
To clean up pollution where it manifests (while ignoring the source) seems like a good and positive thing, but when the pollution returns, it could be seen as a waste of effort or even part of an effort that allowed the pollution to continue.
If all religions were gone, our questions about “what goes wrong and backfires among those seeking to alleviate our suffering” would remain.
My belief is that Sogyal is an abuser, by rights he should be facing criminal charges, yet people seem to be wanting him to just say sorry and all will be OK. Well it will not!
Sogyal and his spin doctors lay all the blame at other peoples feet; almost certainly wanting to maintain the status quo. Perhaps people should recognise all the abuse that has occurred “as it is”, isn’t that what rigpa is all about?
Exactly. I agree with your point that it’s not okay, even if he should say “sorry.”
How many letters have to be written? Even if Sogyal “apologized” it wouldn’t change the fact that he broke the law. Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. At this point, I believe he would only apologize if he thought it was the only way to save his neck. How many times to abusers apologize and apologize, but they never change? So what good would an “apology” from Sogyal be? He would apologize, and like most abusers, he would go back to all his old patterns. He didn’t even manage to make an apology yet!
No one has asked for an apology, the request is for to sl to admit that he’s done these things and then admit that he thinks they are OK, if he doesn’t think they are OK then go to HHDL ask for advice for how to remove the stain on his reputation. Legal consequences are the next step, the letter is just trying to establish whether he will try to deny what 8 people have attested to.
This is an expose, that has been very effective to date because it’s not full of histrionic ranting and raving, it’s a testament to fact and a request to explain or deny. At this point, this second letter is more of a rhetorical question. I don’t think anyone is naive enough to think sl didn’t do everything listed and more, otherwise, why did he flee the country and hide out?
The second letter was also a way to expose the timeline and what sl and rigpa have done. I’m not sure how or why anyone would read more into it and think they know what anyone personally wants to see happen.
@ Not so hopeful
Your take on the letters is interesting.
However the sentence: “we believe the first step towards healing is for you to publicly admit, and apologize, to the many who you have harmed.” is clearly asking for an both an admission…..and an apology. That’s a normal reaction.
Many people keep reminding us that we shouldn’t make assumptions about other’s motivation while doing exactly that themselves…….but coming to different conclusions. I think this might be a superfluous line of argument, because it’s impossible to even form an opinion without making assumptions, we all do this, it’s an indispensable process rather than a fault.
Anyway, as you say, the letters have been very effective….. whatever the intentions of the writer’s are.
If you express yourself publicly it’s surely in the understanding that no matter how precise your language, when it’s such a complex subject the reactions and interpretations will reflect the complexity and the diversity of the readers.
For example: the writers’ stance puzzles many of us because years ago we left abruptly after becoming aware of only a fraction of what they’ve experienced and witnessed. We were no longer even vaguely interested in what Sogyal had to say for himself and reconciliation of any kind with either him or anyone who continued to support him while being aware of the abuse was out of the question.
For us there was no place for any moral ambivalence towards or negotiation with an abuser.
We made assumptions about him and his motivations as an ordinary human being, based on what we knew, without any reference to the same spiritual concepts that he’d used to justify himself, and those assumptions turned out to be perfectly accurate.
So their reaction to abuse seems to have been slower than ours and their view of Sogyal less instantly polarized, but I’m sure their guiding priority is exactly the same: justice for themselves and other victims and an end to Sogyal’s abuse of his students.
Good point, I never liked the apologize part of the letter, but in group writing everyone has to compromise.
Now Steven Seagal has several women accusing him of rape and/or sexual assault. It’s true that these are just accusations, but when there is more than one, I tend to believe it.
What does this have to do with Tibetan Buddhism and the Sogyal case, one might ask? Well, Steven Seagal is a Vajrayana Buddhist, who was recognized as a tulku by Penor Rinpoche, (who was then head of the Nyingma school). What is it with these tulkus, (whether they are active in their role or not), that makes them feel so entitled that theythink they can assault women any time they feel like it?
I wonder what it was about the violent, dim-witted multi-millionaire benefactor Steven Seagal that made Penor Rinpoche recognize him as a reincarnation of the terton Chungdrag Dorje who lived in the 17th century ?
And the answer is …….
“Now with regard to Steven Seagal, he was born centuries after the death of Chungdrag Dorje. It is not uncommon for there to be a lengthy span of time between the death of a master and the appearance of his or her subsequent reincarnation……..It is believed that they can be reborn in other world systems where they continue their compassionate activities, returning only later to this world system. This is how such lapses in tulku lineages are understood in Tibet.”
“Some people think that because Steven Seagal is always acting in violent movies, how can he be a true Buddhist? ………Any life condition can be used to serve beings and thus, from this point of view, it is possible to be both a popular movie star and a tulku.”
( http://www.palyul.org/docs/statement.html )
Ok, right, Steven Seagai’s been benefiting beings in outer space…..wow!…..that’s cleared that up then.
I have a feeling that Steven Seagal’s $$$ had more to do with it (his recognition as a tulku) than some myth about outer space. 😀
Bizarre explanantions involving far away galaxies and aliens…..loads of cash…….mind control…….scandals and cover ups….
Doesn’t it remind you of Scientology?
Richard Gere’s behavior isn’t so great either. The way he groped Shilpa Shetty in India at an AIDS awareness event, because he just couldn’t control himself, and he nearly got banned from coming back to India as a result. The way he grabbed Renée Zellweger backstage during an awards event, (which I witnessed because it was shown on TV and there were cameras showing the whole thing, although he was probably not aware that the cameras were showing everything backstage at the time). The real reason his wife, Carey Lowell, divorced him was because of his womanizing behavior. One story, (which I don’t think is mere gossip because it fits in with his behavior pattern), claims that the last straw for Carey was when they were at a restaurant, and he he just walked up to a woman and began to sexually pursue her. Carey stormed out of the restaurant, and I don’t blame her. This is the kind of kind of behavior we get from the Dalai Lama’s dedicated, Vajrayana student?
I think there is a correlation between Tantra and this kind of behavior from men. I really do. It seems that most men who practice any form of Tantra, (Hindu or Buddhist), act this way. It can’t be a coincidence whe there are so many. Even if they show a moralistic face to the public, one often finds out that they are acting like jerks in private. In the case of Richard Gere, he doesn’t even bother to keep some of his creepy behavior private. His obnoxious behavior with Rene was on camera for everyone to see, (including his own wife, who was there at the event). His behavior with Shilpa Shetty in India was also in public. They have laws against PDA in public, and he has been in India often enough to realize that, yet he did it anyway. What is it with him and the rest of these guys? Now Steven Seagal is accused of rape. Why does this NOT surprise me?
With all respect, that definitely was gossipy. Not really to the point of this blog, but if you felt it needed to be said, I guess it did.
This is turning into a vast finger-pointing thread and I’m not sure it’s useful to do that here. The point is to focus on the matter of SR and Rigpa. But that’s just my take on it.
Starshine, if you’re referring to the recent posts on the sexual behaviour of Lamas, then i profoundly disagree. One contributor has stated how helpful it is to relate her experiences in a safe environment and several have expressed the wish to communicate verbally offline and i for one am happy to support them in this. Personal accounts have been integral to exposing the Rigpa scenario and i’m sorry if you think we’ve gone outside the blog’s purpose by extending the brief to a broader discussion which does include some colourful material.
I posed some questions in order to understand a bit more about what appears to be some fairly libertarian behaviour from Lamas. Given DKR’s most recent post, i think the musings and experiences offered here are legit in that they’re in context, not gratuitous.
Of course there’s other discussions occurring simultaneously on the blog which may be more to your liking. I guess the blog owner can let us know if/when she has a problem with the material.
Starshine was referring to my posts about Seagal and Richard Gere. I wouldn’t have brought itr up at all if both of them weren’t deeply involved with Tibetan Buddhism/Vajrayana. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all the men are acting this way. There are too many of them, which is my whole point. People are missing my point.
Not ALL the men, but many, many. TOO many!
Why is it gossipy just because I mention a couple of Hollywood stars? I feel that they have everything to do with the issue we’re discussing. Sogyal is NOT the only lama behaving this way, and many of the devoted senior students of lamas are also acting up as well. I mention Seagall and Richard Gere because I feel that their behavior directly correlates with the issues we are discussing. The problem is MUCH bigger than just Sogyal, so that’s why I bring it up.
That was directed at Starshine, not matilda7.
Personally, I see the outing of Sogyal and the uncovering of the issues within Rigpa not only as a mirror for what is going on globally in various spheres but also as an opportunity to explore and perhaps uncover similar forms of abuse existing in other TB teacher-sangha matrices….
Where do the boundaries exist separating Sogyal and his views and behaviour from some of these other lamas’ views and behaviour?
For me personally, as a former student of another prominent Lama – and perhaps for others – reading the contents of the Letter and learning of peoples’ experiences in Rigpa and how they’re handling it, has enabled me to reflect more deeply on my own experiences and clarify feelings, thoughts, beliefs and values. It has helped strengthen confidence that was severely damaged. It has helped break down the walls of secrecy and move beyond the fear of the threats of vajra hell and of being a ‘samaya breaker’. It is just so incredibly liberating to find a space to finally feel free to speak honestly – sometimes graphically, and to actually ask questions. We are making sense of it all together as a community of sorts – for better of for worse as students and former students of a closely knit group of lamas.
Then too, here in the comments, there is the occasional burst of an earthy irreverance and humour which I see as fantastically healthy given the conditioning many of us have struggled with – more please?!
I do respect that this blog was established because of the Sogyal-Rigpa experience and as a support to (former) members directly affected. However, this space has allowed others to bring forward similar issues from other sanghas/teachers in an organic, relevant process that from my perspective has been highly beneficial.
Who knows who else has been reading these comments and felt profound relief?
Anyway, I remain very grateful for the opportunity to participate in the conversations here and will post mindfully 😉
I’m not sure how that would work:
Just keeping focus solely on Sogyal and Rigpa would mean ignoring all the many lamas and celebrities like Gere who have kept on endorsing him explicitly and implicitly for over twenty years despite his systematic abuse of his students being publicly known.
It would also mean ignoring the doctrinal beliefs about unconditional devotion and crazy wisdom that they all share, and which have been used to justify that abuse.
Does sharing information about abuse and misogyny deserve the deprecating term “finger-pointing” ?
EXACTLY! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
I couldn’t have put it better myself and this is the EXACT reason WHY I posted those things about other lamas and Richard Gere, etc. For me it’s all interrelated. There is no separation for me. I consider all these people to be part of one big club. I see a very disturbing pattern emerging in the behavior of most of its members. But I’ve said enough for now.
Catlover I DO think this is going in the direction of entirely too much tabloid gossip. I could care less about Seagal- it is well known in Tibetan community that he bought a title of tulku but Penor Rinpoche made it clear he didn’t have experience and understanding to teach. In that sense we are all tulkus! And whatever you said about Richard Gere is flimsy at best, mainly gossipy and makes me want to leave this blog. And also I take the talk of ST with a grain of salt. I don’t think this speculation is at all helpful. I realize I too was sinking into gossip and coming to a point where it wasn’t helping others or myself. I had a dream the other night that SL tried to rape me and he was very violent and scary. I fought him off and he rolled away like an animal. The man is a menace and it’s creeped into my nighttime dreams. I’m out.
I’m sorry to hear the memory of Sogyal still gives you nightmares, that’s really not uncommon at all, it’s maybe slightly similar to PTSD. A lot of people only understand and start to admit to themselves the horror they’ve experienced or witnessed after they leave.
Personally, I’m not sure any kind of expression is a problem, even what might be called “gossip”. For some people it’s a good way of defusing and dissipating disturbing experiences…..like the ones that you’ve had for instance.
But I definitely think you’re wise to distance yourself if it’s all getting a bit much and stirring up memories. For some people who weren’t closely involved, or who, like me left years ago, it doesn’t have that effect now……although it used to, but the intensity does fade eventually..
I wasn’t addressing you, Pete, even though my reply come right under your comment. I forgot to say “@concerend” since that was who my comment was directed at.
You missed my point entirely. Seagal was recognized by a high, respected lama as a tulku. To me that’s crazy nonsense and there is no excuse, imo. Now he turns out to be a rapist. It just shows how crazy and screwed up the whole lama system is and I’ve totally lost respect for the whole bunch of them, with a few tentitive reservations about a FEW that I think SEEM better than most. Richard Gere’s behavior is disgusting, and it totally fits with this topic because it just shows how these lama’s “students” turn out and how this whole tantric stuff is making them behave. THAT was my point. As for Sakya Trizin, I don’t know what to think about that story, and I qualified it by saying I didn’t know. BUT it sounds TYPICAL! What does a nightmare about Sogyal have to do with what I said?!?!? It’s too bad you had a nightmare, but I will not accept you blaming me for it!
Call it gossip if you will, but I thought it was an important point to make. The way these “tantric” men behave absolutely DISGUSTS me!!!
This comment was directed at concerned.
And btw, I will not get into a fight with you about this. If you say any more about it, will NOT respond. Thank you. I am done with the topic. If you choose to go off in a huff, that’s your business.
Catlover I’m not blaming you for the dream. I should have stated that in a different paragraph. I am not going off in a ‘huff’ but I’m just not wanting to engage in gossip anymore and felt it wasn’t beneficial since much of it is speculative and not based on direct knowledge and facts I can check. As I said, I am putting myself in that lot, too- I was sinking into gossip. It doesn’t feel comfortable or good to me. It doesn’t have to do with buddhism- it is just me.
Pete I actually think I got PTSD from reading of the abuses- I am not a Rigpa or SL follower nor have I ever been- rather I just felt really sick by what people went through. Perhaps I took it to heart and it creeped into my dream life. I can only blame myself. But I do feel he is a menace and perhaps the French embassy in Nepal or wherever he is hiding out can be notified of the allegations and situation.
I hope truth, ethics, and justice prevails for all who were harmed.
I’m glad you don’t blame me for the dream. It isn’t my fault.
Just so you know that I am not going to be changing my comments or censoring myself here just to please you. I already told you why I made the comment about Richard Gere and Steven Seagal. (If you are a fan of Richard Gere, sorry to burst your bubble). I usually don’t gossip about movie stars, (nor could I care less about them in general), but I brought up this particular thing about them for the reasons stated above, (and Pete stated it well too in his comments). I will not explain it again, as I told you before. I will close by saying that If you don;t like my comments you can just skip over them, IF I post any more on this forum at all. I just wanted to reply to your last comment, but I may not be posting after today. I am still deciding.
Thanks for your contribution via your comments, sorry to see you go and wish you well!
I must say, that I am still worried about Damchö not having signed this second letter. To me the unity of the group – beside the clearity and equinimity in which the letters are written – is a basis as well as a symbol of their strength. So I think one should consider this very carefully before putting it at risk. And all other considerations – like trying to heal Rigpa – should at the present moment take a second seat.
Of cause I don’t know what is the right thing for anyone to do, and I don’t want to judge. Instead I just want to give a feedback of the impression I got.
It might be a strategy of Rigpa’s lawyers to devide the 8 and so break their strength.
And if some of the 8 go to the meeting – without this being clearly planed and communicated by the whole group – Rigpa’s lawyers seem one step ahead to be successful.
I intensly hope, I am wrong in my worry. May all be well at the end.
Maybe Damchö is away, like on retreat, and wasn’t available to sign. I don’t really know what happened, but I just think there could be other reasons she wouldn’t sign. Maybe she’s away.
Thank you, catlover, for your response. That could be a reason. I just wanted to emphasis the importance of unitiy, esp. in this phase of the process, because there is still this other issue, that some are going to the Rigpa-meeting and others are not. There is this saying: “divide et impera”.
I can see why you’re concerned, but I would advise you not to worry too much about one or two not being there to sign every letter, unless you notice an increasing number of absentees cropping up. 🙂
Has anyone had any experiences with Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche – good, bad, indifferent? How have you found his teachings?
I have no idea about this teacher.
I think I will leave this blog. People don’t like me anyway because I say stuff they don’t want to hear. Maybe some of it is just rumors, and sometimes it may be gossip, but sometimes gossip contains real information. Why not discuss it? The Buddhist paranoia about “not gossiping” is exactly why abuse and bad behavior continues in Buddhist communities and nothing is done about it. No one wants to “gossip” or say anything “bad” so nothing changes because no one is willing to talk openly about anything. That’s the reason why people remain silent, even when abuse and disgusting behavior is going on all around them.
This is the last comment I am making on this subject, so you can all relax now and breathe a sigh of relief. It might even be my last comment I’ll ever make here at all. I don’t like the atmosphere here. I’ll have to think about whether I will ever post again.
No, you’re wrong, I enjoy your comments, and I’m sure a lot of other people do as well, so there’s no need to leave and stop contributing your point of view, it’s as valid as everyone else’s.
You might piss some people off, but so what ? so do I…..some of my comments have even been blocked in the past……..in fact, by the law of averages, everybody must piss somebody else off sometime…. and that’s fine. Anyway “Gossip” is often what we call information we don’t want to hear. But ignoring it, if it makes us uncomfortable is not so difficult after all. No need for anyone to be over-sensitive or squeamish.
It’s just the inevitable nature of honest discussion and lively debate about a complex and serious subject, it’s not a forum for retired vegetable gardeners ( and I say that as a retired bloke with a vegetable garden, so I speak with some authority )
This blog is performing an amazing function, and none of us knows exactly how much good it’s doing but I suspect it to be a lot. ( Sometimes it even makes me laugh.)
Don’t abandon it.
Sorry to hear @catlover. These matters trigger emotional reactions that may clash.
@catlover, you have our email addresses from the other thread, hope you’re feeling ok.
Hope you are doing ok Catlover and please continue to post comments and participate if you feel moved to do so – I think we all bring a different flavour to the blog which makes it a more stimulating experience 🙂
Please comment, but don’t worry about “correct” English, it doesn’t really exist, and yours is perfectly easy to understand. Language is fluid and always evolving, and I don’t think anyone here cares about spelling, grammar and syntax anyway.
( Sorry this isn’t below your comment, there wasn’t a reply tag )
@pete Thank you very much. In this context i remember: Mr. Lakars english is really good, and he hardly ever could resist to redicule the non native english speaking persons in his retreats. He could imitate the different dialects ( especially German😉)behind your english spoken comment quite funny, but after many years looking from outside at the always intense “lama and his audience”- athmosphere i think, it was not only funny -it was also another skillfull tool to strenghten/to assure his power as the big chef on stage whenever he needed. surely for many people including me it felt like wearing an unvisible muzzle. If you wanted to say something what was not conform to dharmic rigpa party line you had to expect, that he redicules you in front of hundreds of people because of your inability speaking confident english. When you said fine emotional words of understanding and gratitude you had no need to worry, no matter how bad or broken your english was. In retrospect it feels a little bit like Pavlovian fear conditioning.
“Pavlovian fear conditioning”….that’s exactly what it was. Everything he did was to demonstrate his power and dominance……very primtive stuff.
His english was good, but not that good, and his vocabulary was limited. That’s why he needed two educated people to write the book, which doesn’t read in the same way as he speaks. Neither does any of his material from Rigpa, it’s all polished to make him seem far more sophisticated then he is. Part of the illusion.
Like most lamas, he was never particularly interested in European culture and was actively contemptuous about anything western he saw as vaguely intellectual. Probably he found it threatening.
The only newspaper I ever saw him read was ‘The Sun’…the very worst example of what we call “the gutter press”: a large picture of a half-naked woman on page 3, sexist, racist, nationalist and and bigoted, with no words above the reading age of a 7 year old.
He believed what he read as well, because he once told us that the British Peace movement campaigning against nuclear weapons was entirely controlled and financed by the Russian government.
When I think back about the respect I used to have for such an ignorant, nasty individual, it makes me realise exactly how stupid and naive religious belief made me.
@Pete Cowell and Yesnow
During the last retreat in Amsterdam (2017) he did the same to a Chinese lady who was one of the three, who were from Hong Kong, visiting the retreat in Amsterdam. They were studying here in the Netherlands.
This lady expressed her gratitude for meeting him as another incarnation of Terton Sogyal.
In some way she was linked to the incarnation of Terton Sogyal, who lived in Tibet.
She also expressed her hope that the two sangha’s could cooperate in future.
If was during this or a second conversation at the retreat, I don’t recall very well, that
SL took her by surprise by saying she should learn to speak better English; she was shocked but could reply him by saying she thought her English was pretty well, which was the case.
As Dutchman I could understand her but, but SL said he could not.
An hour later she fainted, if there is a causal relation I don’t know, but the lady showed respect and gratitude towards Tibetan Buddhism, while SL was behaving crude. His behaviour could have nothing to do with being her Vajra master, because he wasn’t her teacher. It was nasty to see, it is just group manipulation.
And not to forget: 10 and more years age did Sogyal already develop a increasing hearing difficulty, which he always ignored. Instead he insulted people of talking improper.
Had nobody the guts to tell him he was deaf? I find this so very strange?
Perhaps Rigpa even in the local sangha’s is not so safe as it looks like, wherne people don’t support each other when somen one is ” attacked”.
I am trying to answer my own question
@ Jan de Vries
For me, this is the key issue. If we create a safe space for one another, then things will change.
But how do you do that, when only a handfull of people control everything and have absolute power.
Years ago I adressed this problem in my local sangha as a result I was a sort of outcast. I always thought this was a local problem, but now I am aware it is structural from low to high.
@ Jan de Vries
> how do you do that, when only a handful of people control everything and have absolute power?
Maybe we start by asking that question together?
Just to know others are asking that question might give more confidence to those asking who don’t have support in their particular situation.
I think that it is done by using group psychological processes seen all over the world and even with animals. It is the game of power by favours and dependency. All totalitarian systems use them, all terrorist organisations etc. etc. Narcisists are masters of this game, they are the animals of prey, the others are lunch.
spot on…..Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ comes to mind.
Read the books of Frans de Waal about chimpansees, but I thought the buddhist path was needed to reduce our animal instincs.
By the way Gluck auf Recept is that wine, beer or marijnuana?
Within Rigpa, those people able to contradict the big leader: they all left soon.
When I left, I wanted to talk to Sogyal: No way he would talk in an open way with anyone.
From my point of view doesnt Rigpa attracts people with guts, I observed o n myself that I lost event the guts to open say something. It was like exhausted.
In general seems to me tibetan buddhism not attract people with guts. i heard some Lamas even complain about that.
A kind of predisposed obedience is favoured within western lay practitiones collectives.
This enables very much structures without transparency and open communication.
Power goes to the people that are skilled in verbal skills and able to manipulate.
People seems to desire membership in such groups.
> I observed o n myself that I lost event the guts to open say something. It was like exhausted.
Yes, it is tiring, especially when we feel alone with our questions. I think Stephen Batchelor went through a similar experience.
He could hear just fine when he wanted to…
My guts are okay, 22 years, still in Rigpa, still not blaming the sun for the shadow in this world!
congratulations. Do you feel lonesome, somehow….?
Sorry, that was not so much about you! No, it’s more about the intention of this site to point with the finger on others, or here on the teacher.Have you ever been abused within Rigpa or misstreated? Why blaming this wonderful organisation in such a populistic and manipulating way? Sometimes I think people feeling as victims are missused again for a personal motivated propaganda. That’s tragic to me. I feel happy in the Sangha, no better place in the world! Nice to
Obviously you feel frustrated that the Sangha is under pressure. And you’re absolutely right, this whole situation is a mess and if you feel fine in the Sangha, you feel that this is threatenned. And again, your feeling is correct. And do you know what caused all of that? If anything, it isn’ t this blog and it isn’t that accusations were being made. It is because of the actions of SR and his mangement, nothing else. Please don’t let yourself be blackmailed with the insecurity balckmail offerred by the same, the Sangha can very well continue to exist without SR and his managment. May I invite you to be confident in yourself and that part of the Sangha that is not enlslaved by SR?
This is so clear and simple but so few can see it. This is about one sad deluded man’s self destructive tendencies. If he hadn’t abused people so relentlessly none of this could have happened.
It’s like the Lerab Ling community objecting to being called a cult. Hmm, let me see, you all applauded when KN said that the letter writers were possessed by demons… don’t they understand that they are bringing this on themselves?
Nothing is impermanent, even for 22 tyears
Hi Rainee Sunshine
I test now how your guts are in answering a few simple questions.
Do you think, that the stories of likewise Mimi (her father the “captain), Ouane Biijsma, Victoria Barlow, of those who wrote the “letter” ( attention :Blowjob), which can easily proofed, are just fairy tales or lies, or proof of abuse.
And, yes I feel abused by Rigpa and Sogyal, I feel the Buddhadharma abused by Sogyal and Rigpa. I say I feel abused, because while when saying I was abused people change mentally immidiately to “a person feel abused”, making it just a temporary personal point of view and so reduce abuse to a personal feeling. In some cases might this be appropriate, but in case of Rigpa not.
I know personallly of a case when money assigned for the building of the temple in LL was abused to create a cornucopia of goods for sogyal. I know of more cases.
Once I learned to see abuse for what it is, I didnt want to play it down anymore. The more could I see the structure behind it.
And how much the followers had been talked and influenced and manipulated into crowd fixated on sogyal as guru, omniscient and wise, giving the introduction into whatever more often as anyone else.
So, please tell me kindly if you can see any abuse or still see nothing.
Good morning! Hope will pass the test! I think all the stories are true. Emotions are true and very real. It’s the same like every day thousand of people go for marriages, confessing their longlife relationships and love…and then, after a view years rose war starts, fighting and harming, they call lawyers which earning a lot and showing off as saviors and heroes by pouring oil on the fire of conflicts. Kids are suffering and used to harm the spouse…and everybody says „the truth“… That’s ordinary life, won’t change things going on in this world! I am sure Rigpa Sangha will run very well without Rinpoche. But it’s his merit, and of all of us, no matter what has been offered with body speech and mind. Here I don’t see any support for finding the „true teacher“. This is about splitting the Sangha. So many lawyers and judges are active here, creating distrust. I have much respect for the Team hard working at Lerab Ling for this project „Rigpa“ to become better. I will work locally on it, too. My advice for everybody: Don’t get too close to a great Lama. Go for the teaching and practice, that’s enough!
But, if you are ready to give up all your ordinary concepts, then go closer.
Thank you for your openness and interest! I will stay for a while… although it smells like oil a lot here 🙂
“I am sure Rigpa Sangha will run very well without Rinpoche”
Do you really believe that Sogyal could keep his fingers off ? To loose control ? To be flexible enough to let Rigpa keep going without him ?
“I will stay for a while… although it smells like oil a lot here 🙂”
Oil ? Oil of Olaz ?
Thank you for your advice and may I say that you’re an outstanding example to all of us:
Someone who has practised Buddhism for 22 years and somehow succeeded in giving up those tiresome ordinary concepts……..such as humanity, kindness, compassion, empathy, intellectual and moral clarity, the refusal to tolerate abuse and violence and so on.
Well done! A truly unusual achievement.
I think you are a mole.
IMHO it’s not appropriate to compare the relationship with SR to a marriage, where things simply didn’t work out and now you divorce and this is it.
People have been abused emotionally, physically and financially. That has nothing to do with giving up concepts – to deny this abuse means living in a fantasy, at least that’s how I would perceive it.
It might be okay for you to justify why you stay with SR or in the sangha, but it’s only half of the truth in regards to the victims. If they ever gain faith again and continue working with other buddhist teachers is a different issue, but let’s hope they will.
To trivialise the abuse might be an effective strategy to justify one’s staying with it – but it’s complete abandonment and denial of the suffering and the evil karma that has been caused.
Good luck for you, namaste.
Have you considered sending details of your experience to the lawyer collecting testimony and also the Charity Commission in London ? It will be very helpful, thanks
Here’s their contacts : firstname.lastname@example.org
and for the Charity Commissioner addressed to David-hughes-Johns at :
To answer your question: Yes , I have considered, as well as I considered to give my input to Anolivebranch.
But thanks to remind me. Very educational.
@ Rainee Sunshine
I’m glad to hear your digestion is healthy, but I wonder if you would be so kind as to explain what the rest
means, because I have no idea.
I never actually heard anyone do that…..is it some kind of spiritual metaphor for people who complain about violence, sexual abuse, exploitation and so on? ( just a wild guess there)
I’m afraid I have to interrupt this thread for an important newsflash :
Rigpa has sent a formal request to all its members worldwide, soliciting glowing testimonials to use in the defamation suit against the french lawyer who is acting for the victims of Sogyal.
Supposedly it’s nothing to do with Sogyal ( he’s barely mentioned at all ) but apparently they are the victims and have no choice but to launch defamation proceedings because their income has dropped so much because of the media campaign and the lawyer calling them a cult.…….and local people are starting to look at them strangely etc etc .,
They insist they are just perfectly normal, ordinary humble people dedicated to bringing Buddhism to the world and definitely not in any way a cult or cult-like organisation.
( Apparently Lerab Ling being founded and run by a violent, depraved multi-millionaire who they see as a saintly buddhist teacher who mystically confers great spiritual benefit by sexually abusing, punching and publicly humiliating them doesn’t mean they’re a cult )
The letter comes with its own specific ‘guidelines’ about what to say and a heavy hint that if you don’t have anything positive to say then just don’t bother to send the form back.
It’s a fascinating read and a good example of ‘The Streisand effect’ ( no, me neither, I had to Google it ) and it’ll probably appear on line soon.
Pens at the ready please…….. “Lerab Ling is absolutely, definitely not a cult, no way, it’s simply the most wonderfulest place in the whole world…..and did I mention it’s not a cult ? “
@ Pete Cowell
I’m sorry to hear this. It is the Roy Moore defense which goes something like, ““we need to make it clear, there’s a group of non-accusers, that have not accused the judge of anything illegal.”
It might not go according to plan for them, firstly it’s a tactic straight out of the cult handbook, and if they do go ahead, then under French defamation law they’ll being forcing the lawyer they’re suing to prove it’s a cult.
Considering their stated belief that the violence and abuse they suffer is an acceptable teaching method, and this has been publicly repeated by visiting teachers who are also on their advisory board, that may not be so difficult to do. The French take a very serious view of cults and mind-control is recognised as a criminal activity.
Whatever the outcome, in addition to the main issue of abuse, the term “cult” will also now stick in people’s minds and that aspect will certainly gain traction that it might not have had if they’d just ignored it .
FWIW. The 3rd side…
It is appalling to read about the cases of abuse, and I appreciate that platforms like this one are informing and discussing about it.
And I really endorse that people stay on their way to support each other instead of getting lost in mental power struggles. IMHO I don’t think the issue is about who has the best arguments for an anti-lama-party, but finding ways to expose and prevent abuse TOGETHER and also support the victims, pooling together the energies.
As I see it, there are some fruitful exchanges here, namaste.
It is worth noting The Washington Post’s motto, “Democracy Dies in Darkness”. So to me I would rather people use this forum to air their views; sometimes which may be opposed to one’s own, even unpalatable at times. As long as respect is shown to and between contributors; it is only by dialog that any argument or conflict is ever resolved.
As I have just recently joined and contributed to the forum I thought it at least polite to share my history with Rigpa. I started to attend my first “teachings” when the house in Princess Road, Kilburn was the main London centre, Orgyen Chö Ling as it was known, this was around 1977 or 1978.
Over the years I attended numerous weekend teachings, attending Easter and summer retreats; while Rigpa first moved in to St Paul’s Crescent and eventually Caledonian Road, which is now the main London centre.
During a number of the UK based retreats I actually drove Sogyal around a fair bit, so was able to see certain workings of those around him on a more formal basis.
I maintained my connection with Rigpa up an to the first summer retreat held in Lerab Ling after which I decided that “that was it”, I felt personally disillusioned, however my opinion was that if those still involved with Rigpa wished to carry on, then so be it.
I look back at my involvement and reasons for first becoming involved with the Dharma. I had started to read books on Buddhism as I felt at the time a wish to make some sense of life, and a particular saying attributed to the Buddha, “You are your own refuge” particularly resonated with me, i.e. I could not blame others, but importantly, there was no “higher being” who could wave a magic wand for me either. It all started positively.
I think the best way to view my contact and involvement with Sogyal and the teachings, ceremony and ritual that he brought – was a seduction. Meaning I was drawn in to this magical world; that if I am totally honest I never really understood, but it seemed fine back then and I felt that I was really privileged to be part of it.
At the time I had some truly extraordinary experiences, or as I perceived them, you had to be there! And a lot would say that I was blessed to receive the teachings I did, especially from the venerated and respective teachers – I’ll not name drop!
However hindsight is a wonderful thing, with time certain clarity starts to materialise.
One of the things that I was always uneasy with around teachings was the inability of anyone involved with the organisation to deal with people who had issues, be they life, mental injury, etc.
I saw one member of the French Sangha being forcibly being ejected from St Paul’s Crescent, she was obviously distraught, yet that was it, how was she to return home? To be fair I believe that she was eventually accompanied back to France but it was pretty unpleasant at the time. It is my understanding that she had been “very close” to Sogyal, I know this from seeing her at prior teachings. I do remember that at the time, such episodes were dismissed as “Unfortunately the teachings attract Crazy People”. To me this was seeing someone who had been close suddenly being discarded, “their world” falling apart, just an “occupational hazard” of being one of the “inner circle”?
On retreats Sogyal would often have some “closed” teaching sessions for his older students, all part of the seduction in my opinion, making one feel special, while really appealing to one’s ego! So as another example I recall that during one of these sessions one of his older members of the UK Sangha, who had been with Sogyal right from the beginning, tried to question Sogyal about certain things and events that were happening around the organisation. The discomfort in the room was palpable, Sogyal remarked it wasn’t the appropriate time to air or discuss these views, offering to see the student later – a good term is “Off Line! I cannot place the exact retreat; however I believe it to be in the late 1980s, so disquiet was already being expressed then!
For me the seeds were sown and gradually I became more and more to see the veneer of Rigpa’s respectability and standing to crack and tarnish.
When I last talked to members of the Sangha, at Lerab Ling, who I’d known for years, the overwhelming feeling to me was a lack of compassion, ironic as one would supposedly generate Bodhicitta every day as part of one’s practice! I expressed to one of them my sadness due to family life, job, etc., that I could not contemplate going on a three month retreat, I was beginning to feel left out (my problem I hasten to add), however her response was very cold as she dismissed my quandary as just my decision, basically tough!
So as I said before, after the retreat at Lerab Ling I decided that “that was it”.
I have thought a lot about finishing doing Dharma practice, was “I throwing the baby out with the bathwater”?
I like to think back to the basics, I recall meeting one Lama who asked a small number of us as to whether our true nature was any different from his or the Buddha’s. This has stuck with me, so all I would say is that “One is one’s own refuge and that your true nature is no different, better or less than anyone else’s”. Go from there, our true Sangha is each and every sentient being on this planet!
If it helps to subscribe to a religion, faith system or whatever to help make some sense of it, fine. As long as doing so does not involve denigrating others, calling others heretics, oath-breakers, Sangha breakers; threatening them with some kind of hell, etc. That’s just plain bullying and tactics used by people who are nothing but despots.
I would urge all here to have confidence and belief in your own abilities and attributes. We can all look at our own behaviours, we all stray and do things we would be uncomfortable telling our own mothers about!
But in that vein, if I looked at myself to realise that I was a thief, criminal, abuser, etc., then I would without doubt expect to face the justice metered out by society as a whole. And this is what I expect for Sogyal.
I have read the Rigpa Statement, January 2018, on Spiritual Governance, Rigpa Investigation and Code of Conduct and Grievance Procedure
My take away is that I sincerely hope that the Rigpa Sangha can somehow survive all of this. However it has to be in such a form that it is only about true Dharma teachings, expounded by teachers trained, qualified and with the experience to do so. What concerns me, and I stress in my opinion, is that I see a number of older students who have been very close to Sogyal, are still heavily involved with the Rigpa organisation, who for whatever reason have remained silent and perpetuate the “Status Quo”. They need to look inside their own hearts; otherwise there will be no effective change.
I realise that I have rambled on, to all who read this, thanks for that. I look forward to any constructive discussion or criticism!
@ Graeme Morrison
Thanks very much for your post.
Inner fascism as a starting point. Starting with what we are doing wrong. Can we face ourselves together?