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.