Trust, Communication and an invitation from An Olive Branch

Ordinary people

It must be frustrating for those in Rigpa who organise the initiatives and write the communications to have everything they do viewed critically, and publically. Of course, if I and those I speak for had a voice inside Rigpa, I wouldn’t have to do it publically, but for the moment, this is the only voice many of us have.
It’s easy to forget that those doing all the work are ordinary people with jobs and families who are doing their Rigpa work for free in their spare time, so things move more slowly than people like me would like. I don’t doubt that they are doing their best, as we all are. I also suspect that most of the people engaged in this debate over unacceptable lama behaviour are working to protect the dharma. We just have different ideas of what that protection entails; for some it means sticking rigidly to every instruction ever passed down, even if it’s potentially damaging to student’s health, and for others it’s stepping outside of the provisional meaning of instructions on things like samaya and pure perception, examining the definitive meaning and, with that understanding, interpreting it for the modern world. Luckily His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other lamas have done that already, so no one has to make it up.

Working together?

Wouldn’t it be great if those working for the protection of the dharma and the future of the vajrayana in the West could work together rather than in opposition? Couldn’t we find a solution that is true to vajrayana and also healthy for students? Certainly it’s what I want. No one has to impose their views on others, we just have to be willing to find a solution that has a place for all views and is a healthy environment for everyone. Together we could re-brand Rigpa into an organisation with many options for how students interpret certain teachings rather than a one view, one lama organisation it is at present.


Sogyal Rinpoche has often said that the cultural aspects of Tibetan Buddhism must be stripped away if it is to flourish in the West, but that it isn’t something that can be done quickly, so to assume that those running Rigpa are not aware of the necessity of real change is likely a misperception, but until we see action that indicates a willingness to change on a deep level – like having discussions with Mingyur Rinpoche and His Holiness the Dalai Lama or making a statement that individual lamas’ points of views, even those advising the Vision Board, do not reflect any ‘Rigpa policy’– we have no indication that any deep discussion on interpretations of samaya, pure perception, and so on are taking place or will take place in the future. From outside and from the point of view of an ordinary student all we see is what Rigpa does, not what they think or what they are discussing. If there was more communication misperceptions as to their motives and thinking would be avoided.
Negative perceptions may also be solidified, of course—that’s the risk of communication—but if one is speaking face to face or via video call, then people can clarify and discuss points of conflict in a way that, simply because they are being discussed, will garner greater understanding from all sides. Those who have managed to speak to people in management in Australia and the USA have discovered a greater openness than expected, but frustration continues when the openness is not reflected in action or initiatives fall short of expectations. Such falling short could be avoided if people like those in the What Now? Facebook group were consulted as part of the process. The criticism could then happen privately, and those involved, even if they don’t like the results, would at least understand the reasons for the outcome.

Why is such communication not happening?

Some time ago I suggested instituting a liaison person between the What Now? Group and Rigpa international management, but the suggestion was ignored, and yet, a greater understanding of the issues and discussions behind decisions would most likely result in less of a negative view. I would find it hard to be negative about someone who is actually bothering to talk to me, and, after all, we are all vajra brothers and sisters with a shared past and experience of the teachings.
I suspect that one of the reasons why that suggestion was not taken up, and why I was not allowed to go to the Australian Retreat, was fear that such communication or attendance would result in terrible things being said on the blog, a fear that comes from a lack of trust, which (if the lack of trust is unwarranted) comes from a lack of personal knowledge of the individual involved. If you don’t know a person, if you haven’t spoken to them personally, you don’t know if you can trust them to view your actions in an unbiased way or not. If you speak to them, the trust issue can be discussed and resolved. At the very least you can decide after such discussion whether they are trustworthy or not.
Lack of trust is at the core of the lack of communication and consultation, and reconciliation cannot happen without trust being established first.
The lack of trust, of course, goes both ways.
People who, for good reason, do not trust those running Rigpa view them very critically, and the only way for Rigpa management to change that is to talk to them, to hear what they say and take it into account.  And they must behave in a trustworthy way and understand just why they have lost people’s trust.
Acknowledgment of the harm done, an apology and a promise not to continue in the same way would do the trick!

Can we trust again?

Establishing trust is the challenge, because without trust communication either won’t begin or it will fail, and reconciliation cannot happen without communication based on trust.
Lack of trust of Rigpa management, of the people who, by their indifference, added to the trauma of abuse victims, is the core reason why every communication is dissected so critically here, and would explain to a large degree why some of the 8 may not participate in the investigation. I’ve personally seen some of Rigpa’s initiatives a lot more positively than it would appear from my blog posts, but I am the voice of those who have experienced abuse first hand, who have born the trauma of betrayal by their lama and of not being cared for by those running Rigpa. They have shared the reasons for their traumatisation, and they tell me how they feel about what they see and read. I hear their voice and speak for them because they have no voice inside Rigpa. Since I only write about what I know about and reflect the opinions of those who talk to me, if Rigpa wants more balanced articles here, they need to share their process with me.
As for trusting me, the primary writer and editor of this blog, I would never share anything divulged in a private conversation without permission.
Openness can only come after trust is established, and in this instance Rigpa is dealing with people whose trust in the lama and the organisation has been completely blown. How can they re-establish trust and institute real communication? An Olive Branch should help with that. And I see no reason why what happens in the USA would not become the model for a similar process in other countries.
Rigpa US employing An Olive Branch for healing and reconciliation is the best chance we have for restoring trust. They have a big job ahead of them, and I wish them well. But what is required to even get it started? Trust. Those harmed will need to find it within themselves to trust An Olive Branch enough to participate.
For some it will be quite a leap of faith to trust anything arranged by Rigpa, but I hope they will set aside any reservations they may have and be part of what, by the very fact that it is being run by An Olive Branch, I see as a genuine attempt at reconciliation.
Of course if you want Rigpa to disappear from the face of the earth, then you will have no interest in healing and reconciliation, in which case, the following is not for you.
Post by Tahlia Newland, editor & author

An Olive Branch Invitation to participate in reconciliation and healing

Here is the letter sent to the US sangha inviting past and present students to be involved. It’s restricted to the US because AOB is not an international organisation, but what happens in the US will have an effect elsewhere and will likely be used as a model for other national management teams to follow.
Please share this invitation with anyone in the US who has left Rigpa and is interested in participating in the healing and reconciliation lead by An Olive Branch.
January 15, 2018
Dear Current and Former Members of the Rigpa US Sangha:
We are writing this letter to introduce ourselves and announce that the Rigpa US Board of Directors has engaged the services of An Olive Branch to support the sangha’s reconciliation and healing in the wake of complaints that have been raised about ethical misconduct on the part of Sogyal Rinpoche. We also want you to know about the ways you can be involved in our work, if you so choose.
On December 19, 2017 a letter from us — similar to this one — was sent to the eight former and current Rigpa members who wrote to Sogyal Rinpoche in July 2017 to share their concerns about his harmful behavior. Portions of our December letter have been shared via social media so you may have already read about our work with your sangha. Our intent in this letter is to provide more detail and also to inform everyone equally.

About An Olive Branch

An Olive Branch was formed in 2011 as a project of the Zen Center of Pittsburgh. Growing out of the need for greater understanding and reduction of ethical misconduct on the part of religious leaders, we provide services to organizations in conflict after a beloved teacher has been accused of misconduct. We promote understanding and healing and work to strengthen organizations’ boards and policies to reduce the likelihood of future misconduct. We have expertise, knowledge of best practices, and standards of excellence for our services. Our consultants have complementary skills related to training, facilitation, governance, and intervention.
Questions about this project or about An Olive Branch may be directed to me, Katheryn Wiedman, Co- Director of An Olive Branch and Project Director for the Rigpa US effort:


On October 18, 2017 Richard Snow, Treasurer of the Rigpa US Board of Directors, contacted An Olive Branch on behalf of the board. He inquired about our services and asked how we could help with the situation precipitated by the July 14, 2017 letter to Sogyal Rinpoche from eight former and current Rigpa members. The letter detailed four abusive behaviors: 1) “physical, emotional, and psychological abuse of students,” 2) “sexual abuse of students,” 3) “lavish, gluttonous, and sybaritic lifestyle,” and 4) undermining the letter writers’ “appreciation for the practice of the Dharma.”
In Ventura, CA on November 29, 2017 the Rigpa US Board of Directors met with Co-directors of An Olive Branch: Rev. Kyoki Roberts, Dr. Katheryn Wiedman, and Leslie Hospodar. The purpose of the meeting was two-fold: 1) for the Rigpa US board to describe the needs of the US sangha and to ask questions about our services and 2) for An Olive Branch to learn more about the situation within Rigpa and to determine the appropriate services to include in a proposal.
During December, we developed a proposal that includes six elements:
Collaborating with the Rigpa US board to communicate with the sangha regarding our work together
Making recommendations regarding the forthcoming Code of Conduct and Grievance Procedure
Providing a “Listening Post” for individuals who have been harmed
Leading a Community Reconciliation and Healing meeting
Strengthening the organizational structure and board governance

Managing the project.

The proposal was accepted by the Rigpa US board and our two organizations have been working together since December 17, 2017. The scope of this project is limited to current and former members of the Rigpa US sangha as well as the eight individuals who wrote of their concerns in July 2017; the project is designed to respond to the needs of this specific group. Other Rigpa sanghas are continuing to hold their own sangha processes, and look forward to learning from the work of An Olive Branch in the US through the investigation and reconciliation committee.
Three of the elements listed above are of importance to individual current and former members of the US sangha because they involve your participation and thus are the subject of the remainder of this letter:

  • Code of Conduct and Grievance Procedure
  • Listening Post
  • Community Reconciliation and Healing Meeting
  • Code of Conduct and Grievance Procedure

Since August, an international task group has been working to develop a code of conduct and grievance procedure. Rigpa members world-wide have been informed about the process and input has been solicited. The group working on these documents hopes to share a draft with the world-wide sangha in February, 2018.
An Olive Branch is reviewing and providing recommendations on Rigpa US’s draft ethics policy and grievance procedure. Our advice is based on best practices for organizational ethics policies that define acceptable/unacceptable behavior for teachers and students and specifies fair grievance procedures. In the US, boards have a fiduciary responsibility to develop and enforce policies that define clear boundaries that protect both teachers and students in the sangha.

Listening Post

An Olive Branch offers a Listening Post for individuals who have been harmed, providing a way for them to tell their story to a neutral third party and to be heard in a safe, compassionate, and confidential manner. The Listening Post is available to receive the experiences of any current or former Rigpa US sangha member, as well as the individuals who wrote the July 14, 2017 letter, who experienced harm as a result of the actions of Sogyal Rinpoche or other Rigpa teacher(s). The harm may have been direct – such as physical, emotional, sexual, psychological abuse – or indirect – such as guilt from witnessing abuse but not stopping or reporting it, or severe stress related to the situation. Any current or former Rigpa US sangha member who has been harmed may participate in the Listening Post along with letter writers who are not / were not members of Rigpa US.
It is important to us that people who have left the Rigpa US sangha receive the information in this letter so they may participate in the project if they want to. If you know of such individuals, will you please forward this letter to them?
The Listening Post has three objectives: first, and most important, is to provide some measure of relief to people who are hurting; second, is to help respondents formulate any requests they would like to make to Rigpa; and third is to expose the full extent of damage to the fabric of the sangha.
To accomplish the third objective, above, a summary of the information collected via the Listening Post will be reported to the Rigpa US board and later to the sangha during the Community Reconciliation and Healing meeting, described below.
Reporters of harm have the right to remain anonymous; both An Olive Branch and the Rigpa US board respect this right. Names and identifying details of the participants in the Listening Post will be carefully omitted from all reporting, unless requested by an individual reporter.
Current and former Rigpa US sangha members and letter writers who want to participate in the Listening Post should contact Dr. Barbara Gray via email: You may request a private, confidential telephone interview or submit your personal experience via email message and make any requests you may have of the Rigpa US board.

Community Reconciliation and Healing

The Rigpa US board and An Olive Branch will collaborate on the design of a two-day, face-to-face Community Reconciliation and Healing meeting at a date and time to be determined. Members of the Rigpa US sangha and leaders of Rigpa sanghas in other nations will be invited. We currently envision the following components:
Led by An Olive Branch, there will be opportunities at the meeting for attendees to:
Hear the summarized information gathered in the Listening Post
Process the events (raise additional concerns, share residual feelings, etc.)
Learn about the new US sangha’s Ethics Policy and Grievance Procedure
Receive training on the misuse of power in spiritual relationships.
Led by Rigpa, there will be components such as:
Spiritually-based opening and closing ceremonies
Traditional ceremonies of reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace-making.
Underlying our proposal is the intent to help return the Rigpa US sangha to health and balance. We believe that through working together with open hearts and minds everyone can learn from this situation, strengthen the sangha, and restore peace and stability to the Rigpa community.
Katheryn D. Wiedman, Ph.D. Project Director
Co-director of An Olive Branch

Current and previous students of Rigpa wanting private support are welcome to join the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their dharma friends who want to move on from the discussion of abuse in Rigpa can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.  
The What Now? Reference Material page has links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page. 
Please consider sponsoring our editor for the many hours of work involved in keeping this blog running and the information up to date.

110 Replies to “Trust, Communication and an invitation from An Olive Branch”

  1. Good article, thanks. Honestly? I don’t like it when “Trust” is being asked for. It asks an investment from those who require evidence of change. It is not their move to come up with anything, let alone trust. Behaviour in the past is the best predictor for behaviour in the future. So, how can Rigpa use this. First there has to be “behaviour in the past” that predicts “behaviour in future”. They have to act by demonstrating in abondance that things have changed, not just that they will change. So what can be done in order to demonstrate that things have changed and are those changes such changes that will convince that all is done to prevent the re-occurring of the problems at hand? That should be question number one for Rigpa.

    1. Thanks, GlückaufRezept.
      How do you feel communication might exhibit these changes. How do you think one knows if they are being heard?

      1. I don’t know if I understand your question completely. My pint was that first of all Rigpa and/or S will have to built up facts that document change, after that, and only after that has happenned, one can start to talk about trust again. Personnally I think that S can no longer be an element in the recoverry of Rigpa, so we are let with the upper management of Rigpa to built a track record of change. That track record is most likely to start with organisational changes e.g. Change of staff where required, change of transparancy in rules and regulations of gouvernment and conduct, the hire of external consultants to clean up the mess etc. All of this can be very well documented and communicated.
        All of this concerns individual healing only indirectly, but is, to my opinion, a critical successfactor for individual healing since it creates a fundament for it. Without clear visible changes within Rigpa, Rigpa cannot contribute to individual healing, meaning that in such a situation individual healing would have to take place outside any influence of Rigpa, because as long as Rigpa does not show aboundantly to “clean up the mess” , they share the “role” of “animal of prey”.
        Does this answer your question?

        1. @ GlückaufRezept
          > Without clear visible changes within Rigpa [Organization], Rigpa [Organization] cannot contribute to individual healing, meaning that in such a situation individual healing would have to take place outside any influence of Rigpa [Organization]
          > Does this answer your question?
          Thanks for your reply. Yes, I was asking for your take on what healing would look like. I think you are on to something; if the organization can’t listen or change, we must take the task among ourselves.
          For me, healing and listening are closely related as are trauma and not being heard. I think we hold the power for both. The power of listening has not been tapped and we have not yet taken responsibility for the destructive way we don’t listen to one another.
          My meeting with Olive Branch and the Listening Post was a good one for me. Being heard (even by someone I didn’t know and that was outside the organization) still make a big impact. Something shifted and my sense if that momentum of listening is sustained, shifts could continue to take place.

  2. This article is thoughtful and very well-intentioned. But it doesn’t seem to take into account the nature of Rigpa as a cult-like organisation, the structure of Tibetan Buddhism itself or the way that Tibetan lamas function within that structure.
    It also seems to locate the problem entirely outside the wider context of what has become an international business with an annual turn-over of hundreds of millions of dollars and the imperatives that this creates for everyone who profits directly from it in terms of income and status.
    After everything that’s happened , I’m puzzled by this kind of dissociation.
    The English saying that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” doesn’t quite apply here, but nevertheless, I think this particular road will lead nowhere.

  3. Thanks, Thalia.
    “Why is such communication not happening?”
    “Negative perceptions may also be solidified, of course—that’s the risk of communication—but if one is speaking face to face or via video call, then people can clarify and discuss points of conflict in a way that, simply because they are being discussed, will garner greater understanding from all sides.”
    Why haven’t we set up an environment for face-to-face communication? Why is there silence about creating such an environment? Are we really so different in the way we treat one another than we are being treated? Might there be something universal about this situation that we can see the seeds of right here?
    What is taking place here? Haven’t we have split into camps of varying points of view? Aren’t many of us convinced about our own point of view, mocking, ignoring or arguing with those who feel differently, rather than setting up an environment to more deeply listen and understand? Haven’t a few left this dialog, feeling hurt and disillusioned?
    Perhaps, we could set an example for the Rigpa Organization and ask of ourselves what we are asking of them. If we made such an effort here, the challenges to communication might become clearer. As these challenges were seen clearly, we might find more we have much in common with those in the Rigpa Organization.
    Why is such communication not happening here?

    The Association for the Defence of Families and Individuals, ADFI of Monpellier, an organisation accredited and funded by the French Government, is asking for testimonies related to Sogyal Lakar, Lerab Ling and Rigpa in relation to abuse that has either been experienced or witnessed at any time in Lerab Ling or any Rigpa centres.
    Please note: This is in addition to the testimony being gathered by Maitre Cesbron, the lawyer being taken to court for defamation.
    The address is :
    Many thanks.

    1. @Pete,
      Finally! People outside of Rigpa and Tibetan Buddhism getting involved with the investigation. That’s what is needed. But more law enforcement needs to be investigating, not just private groups and lawyers.

  5. I suggest you give some details, Pete.This is so new.Our friends may be at a loss what to report exactly.Does it mean, for example, that American students having experienced or witnessed abuse in the USA or in Australia, Great Britain, The Netherlands or Spain in 1980 or 1990 can send their testimonies?

    1. @Ladybird
      Thanks, that’s a good point.
      Because this will be dealt with under French jurisdiction, then testimony concerning events that have taken place in France, personally experienced or witnessed by students, regardless of their country of origin, will be the most important, but testimony of similar events that have occurred in any other countries will also be very useful to provide additional evidence of a widespread and consistent pattern of behaviour.
      This can include :
      Sexual, physical, or psychological, abuse, including public or private humiliation and bullying.
      Psychological coercion or manipulation of any kind, whether by Sogyal, other lamas or students acting on their behalf, targeted at groups or individuals.
      The dishonest use of traditional teachings to persuade students to accept or condone behaviour that they would normally consider abusive under any other circumstances.
      Invoking traditional doctrine to negatively characterize students who are speaking out against abuse or to threaten them with dire consequences as a result of doing so.
      Financial impropriety; such as soliciting or pressurizing students to contribute or donate beyond their means or wishes by telling them it’s their spiritual duty.
      There is no retrospective time limit for any of this.
      Identity and personal information will be protected of course, as would be the case in any other organisation that is accredited and funded by the French government and operating under defined legal terms.
      From my personal experience, I’d add that the process of describing troubling or traumatic events in writing, even if those events took place a long time ago, is very beneficial and can give you a clearer and fuller picture of what happened to you and just how much you may have pushed to the back of your mind in order to help you get on with life.
      I was surprised at just how much I’d tolerated and accepted and how much effort I’d made for absolutely no positive result at all.
      It’s definitely time well spent.

      1. I forgot to add: if you’d like to help by putting your text for UNADFI Montpellier through Google Translate and sending both versions, it would be very useful. The Google system English to French seems to have improved a lot recently and it produces a reasonably accurate result with only a few errors. It’s easily checked by the recipient.
        At this stage you might not get an acknowledgement immediately from either the lawyer or UNADFI due to pressure of work and time constraints, but that doesn’t mean your contrbution hasn’t been gratefully received.
        If you have any other questions at all, please ask here, or on the private Facebook page of ‘Michelle Desmoulins’ ( the one with a picture of a white wolf-dog ) and they’ll be passed on as soon as possible.

  6. “Of course if you want Rigpa to disappear from the face of the earth, then you will have no interest in healing and reconciliation, in which case, the following is not for you.”
    Rigpa is in no danger of disappearing, no matter what any of us do or wish.
    Talk of “healing” and “reconciliation” assumes a therapeutic approach which is not always helpful. (“When all you have is a hammer…”) An organization cannot be reasoned with like a human being, especially when it is being advised by lawyers and PR specialists. For that matter, many human beings cannot be reasoned with either, and are more usefully dealt with on the basis of “punishment” or “protest” or “resistance.” Go after their money, attack them in court, encourage defections and revelations. Hunt down Sogyal in Nepal.

  7. If Rigpa folded as an organization, there are plenty of better places to go. It’s not like Rigpa is the only Dharma organization out there and without it, Tibetan Buddhism will be wiped from the face of the earth, lol! Wuite the contrary, it will be spread out more. If Rigpa shut down, new organizations would take its place and lamas would go there instead.

  8. The first clear sentence I read from Rigpa regarding the harm and abuse been done: »to share their concerns about his harmful behavior«. At least the harmful behavior is acknowledged. This is something I appreciate.
    In the letter from Rigpa Berlin inviting to a teaching with Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche on Feb 25th 2018, they speak still of »allegations«.
    DKR wants to teach on that day in Berlin if Vajrayana is still an appropriate spiritual path in our times.
    The problem I find with this is, that this topic has never been the question by anybody at any time for most of us. The question is rather how we interprete or understand or apply Vajrayana without harming others or ourselves and for the sole benefit of others and what traps there are for potential misunderstandings, abuse or harm etc in Vajrayana. These or similar real issues should be addressed and not an irrelevant topic.
    These two points, »allegations« & »if VY is still appropriate«, combined with the teaching on the guru he gives there too, »The Role of the Teacher in Vajrayana«, make all my alarm bells ring. I find this highly manipulative. The issues are side tracked, denial is uphold (speaking of »allegations« though Rigpa Berlin knows that these »allegations« are true), the power of the guru will be assumedly be re-established.
    In times of crises the NKT / Geshe Kelsang Gyatso did the same: a hand picked NKT teacher high up in NKT hierarchy and loyal to him or the organisation is asked by Kelsang Gyatso to talk on the importance of the role of the guru (himself)… This has been always the start to get back the power and keep the people in the NKT fold.
    In light of this, I see more honesty and clarity here in the Rigpa US Letter, speaking of »his harmful behavior«. Also AOB is clear »Any current or former Rigpa US sangha member who has been harmed «.
    Yes, there has been harm. Some years ago, 2013 or so, a national Rigpa director spoke with me who wanted me to reconsider my criticism on the basis of »we are good friends, aren’t we?« My reply was simple: »Have women been harmed, yes of no?« NRD: »Yes.« »If Sogyal Rinpoche is a true Bodhisattva, then according to the Bodhisattva vows, if he has harmed women, he should honestly excuse to enable a process of healing for them.« NRD: »Yes, true, I will tell him.«

    1. @ Tenpel
      “…..get back the power and keep the people in the…… fold. »
      You’ve summed up exactly what Rigpa is trying to do, and all the talk of reconcilliation and healing is only aimed at that.
      From the How did it happen, blog, January 16th:
      ‘On January 3, 2018, Sogyal Rinpoche wrote a letter to his students and friends announcing the creation of a new Vision Board to guide Rigpa forward.
      The members include Valerie Baker, Mauro de March, Seth Dye, Patrick Gaffney, Verena Pfeiffer, Philip Philippou and Vinciane Rycroft. These individuals were selected to serve on the Vision Board a few months ago as a result of meetings with Sogyal Rinpoche, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche and Gyari Rinpoche and the four male members of the board.’
      So, the most blindly devoted of Sogyal’s closest students have been selected to run Rigpa and decide how to manage the fall-out from Sogyal’s abuse, they’ve chosen the Olive Branch and they’ll also be the ones deciding how the results of this ‘Healing and reconcilliation’ exercise are processed.
      Chosen by:……… Sogyal himself, the four male members, Orgyen( it’s ok if your lama kills you) Topgyal, and Gyari Rinpoche.
      Interestingly, Gyari Rnpoche is none other than the Dalai Lama’s ambassador to Washington and until 2014 was executive director of the International campaign for Tibet, an NGO publicly criticized in 2012 by a US congresswoman and others for diverting funds meant for ordinary Tibetans.
      (His son-in-law Pakchok Rinpoche has been accused of embezzling money destined for the 2015 earthquake victims in Nepal, where the goverment seized in excess of one million dollars sent to his account from the US.)
      An entirely trustworthy, impartial, and upstanding group of individuals.

  9. I remember HHDL saying »Transparency and honesty are the basis of faith«. Faith or trust must have a basis. It cannot be demanded and there is no need to have faith or trust, if there is no basis.
    HHDL gives a perfect example in how transparency and honesty invite people’s faith in him…

  10. Honestly speaking, our highest “moral authority” is not what HHDL says.
    It is what we see and hear, from our own eyes and ears, and what we understand from following the response to a very reasonable letter, asking very reasonable questions.
    HHDL is surely not exempt from examination. But at least it is very clear what training he has actually had. SR has not had the training he needs, to perform at the level he claims to be. That is quite clear.
    And HHDL is also surely one of the most examined teachers – he has the entire Chinese government continually pointing out his faults.
    I was wondering when the devotees of Sogyal would eventually get around to a discrediting of HHDL.
    The irony, of course, is that much of Sogyal’s reputation was built up around his relationship with HHDL.
    Now it is time to remove any reference of HHDL from the Rigpa websites.

  11. @ Karma Tshering
    Some fascinating information, you seem to know a lot more about Tibetan history than most of us.
    Undermining Buddhism with a modernist discourse isn’t something to be criticized surely? Although his also talking about hell realms as if they are literally real might induce some suspicion about his degree of commitment to modernizing. He seems to present different faces to different audiences.
    The remark about people ‘swallowing’ his comments about Sogyal are ambivalent: I can’t understand whether you mean that his criticism of Sogyal is unjustified or just insincere and opportunistic.

    1. @Pete,
      What the “swallowing” comment probably means, (from the NKT’s point of view), is that people swallow the Dalai Lama’s moral stance on Sogyal, accepting him as a moral authority on the issue, while overlooking the other not-so-moral things HHDL is supposed to have done. I think that’s what they mean.

      1. @ Catlover
        Thanks seems logical….sort of. I can’t say I’ve ever taken any notice of that Shugden stuff or taken it seriously seriously, basically a lot of people at war over an imaginary being, that’s the height of stupidity. The proverbial two bald men fighting over a comb.
        I suspect there are other more worldly reasons beneath it all.
        But that and the fact that so many people have been murdered and persecuted in the name of Buddhism proves that it’s basically just politics and capitalism masquerading as spirituality.

  12. This is a very LONG New Kadampa Tradition rant!!! I was suspicious that it was an NKT post, even before it got to the part about Shugden. Something about the way it was written sounded so NKT that I knew almost right away.

  13. @Pete,
    It’s a NKT rant, designed to sneak in commentary about the Shugden controversy, and anything else they can scrape up that is anti-Dalai Lama. Some of the stuff in there is just ridiculous, like expecting a twelve year old kid to know what to do when one adult teacher wants to kill the other? The Dalai Lama probably didn’t even feel he had so much power to do anything about his teachers’ squabbles. He was only twelve, for gosh sake!

  14. @ Catlover
    Yes, it reads like a fragmented incoherent mess. I think that HHDL declaring that you can and should question your teacher is incredibly healthy, whether he means it or not, whether he’s trying to justify his own actions or not is 1. not something we can know 2. doesn’t change the effect it has on people hearing it.
    A position that I’ve heard HHDL’s repeat over and over again is that the Tibetan feudal structure creates problems at all levels, and that politics between lamas is just that and not the dharma.

    1. It’s certainly incoherent. In one sentence he claims the 17th Karmapa’s escape from Tibet was orchestrated by the Dalai Lama, then in the next he’s claiming Karmapa had significant Chinese support!
      The relatively factual statements concerning Phabongka’s sectarianism & Trijang’s Shugden faith are hardly news to anyone here. Such vanity in thinking that no-one is versed in this history.
      I hope the moderator will remove this NKT rant before the poster starts feeling at home. His agenda is completely irrelevant to the purpose of this blog.

  15. Just to let our regular commentors know that I have deleted a comment that appeared to have been posted purely for the purpose of denigrating His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It had no relevance to this blog post and as such was highly suspect and of no contstuctive purpose for the conversation. A reminder that those running this blog and those for whom the blog is written have the greatest respect for His Holiness and for the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and we appreciate people being respectful to these sensitivities in their comments. Though people are welcome to their views, we will not allow this to be a place for whipping up negative sentiment against those we hold in respect.

    1. @Moonfire,
      Thanks for deleting the post. If you left it there, then this forum could quickly degenerate into an NKT platform! Regardless of what anyone personally thinks of HHDL, NKT ranting is not acceptable and is getting way off topic. Thanks for keeping control of the situation, which could easily get out of control.

  16. I’m sorry I can’t reply to your individual comments, I don’t have time to check them all, but I did want to assure you that I am doing my best to rectify the communication problem.

    1. @ Tahlia Newland
      “rectify the communication problem” ?
      what do you mean ?
      do you mean instances when the moderators and/or moonfire did not reply to comments or did not seem to be able to moderate former blog posts with very heated controversial threads?
      and what do you intend to rectify ?
      if i were sarcastic i would recommend an “investigation”, but honestly, i am out of here.

  17. Here’s the link to a TV news item produced on the 24th of January 2018 by the Regional branch of the National TV network FR 3 Occitanie, which covers the area of Lerab Ling.

    For those who don’t speak French, this is the transcript:
    FR 3 Narrator: “The weather was so bad you wouldn’t even get a Buddha outside that day. In Roqueredonde, situated above Lodève, the Buddhist temple is caught in a storm. For several years, the lama Sogyal Rinpoche, founder of this temple and of the teaching network Rigpa, has been accused by former disciples of psychological abuse, physical violence and rape.”
    “Guy Durand with his daughter Mimi, was, during many years, a faithful disciple of this Tibetan teacher. Today he’s also denouncing the practices which, from his point of view, have nothing to do with the principles of Buddhist teachings.”
    Guy Durand speaking: “The thing is that one can always find all kinds of explanations in Tibetan Buddhism and Sogyal Rinpoche obviously, has been exploiting Tibetan Buddhism for his own benefit. It’s just that! And in particular, the business of Samaya, that is to say, this so-called “sacred commitment” that we’re supposed to have with a spiritual master, this sacred commitment, if we break it, we can have, or so they say, it can have serious consequences, for oneself or our family. And I did feel that the dialogue between my daughter and me stopped, it stopped because she didn’t want those consequences for her family, therefore for me.”
    FR 3 Narrator: “ Mimi was part of the intimate circle of Sogyal Rinpoche, called the Dakinis, all young women totally devoted to Sogyal Rinpoche. In 2011- she testified in a Canadian documentary called: In the Name of Enlightenment. There she reveals the practices of her guru and the abuses she endured under the pretext of “crazy wisdom. Having left the Rigpa community, she no longer sees her father, whom she reproaches with not having “protected her from the grip of this predator.”
    “Dominique Cowell, also knew Sogyal Rinpoche well, at the very beginning, when this guru had come from India to recruit Western disciples. Already his conception of Buddhism was apparently very peculiar.”
    Dominique Cowell: “There was a woman, undressed, in a room, who was with Sogyal, she was unwell, you know, psychologically, I think that she had severe mental health problems and he was leading her around by a rope around her neck, he was laughing and making braying sounds as if she was a donkey. The humiliation was unbearable and yet we were unable to react. I was a feminist, I wasn’t the kind of person who could be pushed around and yet here I was in a situation of great psychological violence, of humiliation for that woman and also of humiliation for us as well, because we didn’t have the means to react normally anymore. His way of operating is to rape. He does it because he can, because people are under his control. Therefore people don’t run out of rooms shouting: “I’ve been raped !” it’s traumatic, therefore for those women or men, because I don’t know they might have been men also, those people, like for me for instance, it took me a long time to recognise that I had been abused.”
    FR 3 Narrator: “These extremely serious accusations are being expressed several years after the facts and many of them fall under the statute of limitation. It’s still the case that in Lodève, even if the guru is no longer physically present, that if he’s proven guilty of those crimes and offences, it will seriously discredit the association of Lerab Ling which has seen a big drop in the amount of people going there.”
    Jean-Robert Phung, lawyer for Lerab Ling: “I am Lerab Ling’s lawyer, for the entire community, the people who live here, those who come and pray and practise and apply their faith, and in their name, I’m simply saying to all of those who have expressed themselves recently and in a scandalous way; I shall call upon the tribunal of my country, the justice of my country so that it decides whether or not the people who live here belong to a sect.”
    FR 3 Narrator: “So the word has been pronounced. Even though at the moment there is no legal definition of what a sect is , there is the law About-Picard that defines the concept of ‘abuse of vulnerable persons and mind control’. As far as the lawyer Jean-Baptiste Cesbron is concerned, it’s not about putting Buddhism on trial, but about the perverted practice attributed to a single man, Sogyal Rinpoche.”
    Lawyer for the victims of Sogyal Rinpoche, Maitre Cesbron : “Sogyal Rinpoche, According to the information I received, it seems to me, performed the function of the spiritual master who directed the spiritual community of Lerab Ling. In this respect, Lerab Ling, at the very least, has not denounced the facts that took place over a period of many years at the heart of the community, whereas I have testimonies going back 8 to 10 years. So we have a repeated pattern of behaviour going back many years and no one from the management of Lerab Ling, has spoken out against it.”
    FR 3 Narrator: “Although people are starting to speak out, the government body Miviludes, even though they have been alerted, hasn’t yet reacted. Sogyal Rinpoche continues a spiritual retreat somewhere in Asia, until one day maybe, he will be ordered to face French Justice”

    1. @Pete Cowell
      What do you know about what happened to the naked woman who “had severe mental health problems and he was leading her around by a rope around her neck, he was laughing and making braying sounds as if she was a donkey”?
      Do her family know how she was treated?

        1. Wow! I’m sorry to hear that she met such a tragic end. I was hoping she got better and maybe got some help. He is (at least partially) responsible for her suicide….the way he treated her! It’s disgusting! Really, that story makes me feel like throwing up, it’s just so sick. That anybody would want to hang around a “guru” after witnessing him acting like that is beyond me!

          1. @Catlover,
            Indeed a very sad story, but I am afraid not the only one.
            In the early days of Dzogchen Beara there was also an incident during a retreat where someone committed suicide. I red that somewhere.

  18. “Dominique Cowell: “There was a woman, undressed, in a room, who was with Sogyal, she was unwell, you know, psychologically, I think that she had severe mental health problems and he was leading her around by a rope around her neck, he was laughing and making braying sounds as if she was a donkey. The humiliation was unbearable and yet we were unable to react.”
    THIS IS JUST SICK!!! That people never tried to put a stop to this is just disgusting, imo! It just shows what brainwashing can do.

  19. I think there’s something very important to understand here, which perhaps not everyone grasps fully, so I’ll explain it in detail.
    Obviously we can only see events that have happened to other people from our point of view, but if this point of view lacks a precise understanding of the context, then it can only ever be a limited one.
    It’s also easy to think that we would have acted very differently under similar circumstances, but if we don’t know exactly what those circumstances were, that idea is superficial and we should acknowledge our lack of understanding before rushing to make a judgement.
    Now the situation is that Sogyal’s history of cruelty and abuse has been common knowledge for well over twenty years and no-one can now claim to be ignorant about that. But this wasn’t the case at all when many of us became his students when he was first starting out.
    The first sangha was entirely made up of people whose knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism was limited and shaped by the information available at the time, and this was negligible compared to what is known today; the prevailing popular view was that Tibet was a kind of Shangri-La and Tibetan Buddhism had presided over a kind and gentle society that had been brutally destroyed by the Chinese and these wise and benevolent teachers were now in our midst and prepared to teach us their mystical religion selflessly, so they could help their struggling diaspora and spread their wisdom.
    There was no internet, no hint of scandal or corruption of any kind, no dissenting voices and at that time, anyone who had the title of ‘lama’ was automatically accorded the unimpeachable status of a realized teacher.
    Sogyal himself had this status firmly fixed in place and repeatedly boosted by a series of high-profile visits from the heads of all the schools: the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa, Trijang Rinpoche, Sakya Trinzin, Dudjom Rinpoche, Dingo Khyentse and a continuous stream of other famous lamas, whose unconditional endorsement of him continued uninterrupted, significantly, up until only a few months ago.
    Most of us were of a generation heavily influenced by the drug-culture and the initial inroads of Eastern mysticism, we were disillusioned by contemporary society, alienated and directionless to varying degrees. Our view of Tibetan lamas had been pre-conditioned by reading seductive, fantastical tales of wild mahasiddhas and ‘Crazy Wisdom’ gurus who used outrageous behaviour to enable students to progress rapidly towards enlightenment.
    In this respect Trungpa’s autobiography was published in 1969 and in 1970 and 1971 he gave the lectures that formed the basis of ‘Cutting through Spiritual Materialism’, published in 1973, the same year that the Dalai lama visited the West, with Sogyal as his translator. Sogyal’s first centre opened after this in London in 1977. By then, all of us had read Trungpa’s books and internalized the message about the ‘Crazy Wisdom’ guru, and Sogyal lost no time in using them as his main teaching material and modelling himself on Trungpa, although initially a diluted version to suit European sensibilities.
    Sogyal understood the vulnerability of Western students well, and quickly grasped the opportunity to exploit us from the very beginning, he began the process of indoctrination immediately, given absolute authority by every text on guru-yoga in the Vajrayana and fully endorsed by the entire establishment of Tibetan Buddhism.
    We knew nothing about his background apart from the inflated, self-promoting version he gave us and we had no reason to suspect that he was in any way unqualified. At the time, he was one of the very few lamas who spoke English.
    As his first unsuspecting students; very young, naïve, ignorant of history, unprepared to deal with a sociopathic opportunist and desperate for Buddhist teachings to alleviate our unease, you could say that in spiritual terms, we were the proverbial sitting ducks.
    Forty years later with the pseudo-wisdom of hindsight, it’s easy to ignore this.
    I won’t go too much into the use of the classic double-bind as a means of control and cult indoctrination, but disturbingly, it’s the most commonly used technique in Vajrayana Buddhism: a series of conflicting messages that negate each other, used by a powerful authority figure, that forces the victim into complete disorientation and passivity. They lose their instinctive self-protection, their critical and moral judgement is neutralized and they become easy to control.
    Most importantly, they gradually stop reacting normally to whatever behaviour he decides to adopt, no matter how irrational, cruel or outrageous. This feeds back into the process and the behaviour degenerates as the abuser’s confidence and psychological hold over his victims increases.
    This is precisely what Sogyal did and has continued to do for decades, with all his students to different degrees, in private, in public, and during teachings, and it’s often just a matter of degree between actual physical abuse, the psychological abuse of humiliation, and forcing the whole audience to witness abuse, so making them complicit, guilty and thus ensuring their silence and acceptance of his authority.
    The reason it’s been so effective is quite simple: it presents only two choices: accept it or walk away.
    And by walking away, abandon the guru and by implication the teachings entirely.
    In most cases people are not even aware of what he’s doing to them or that they are being manipulated in the first place. By the time they finally do become fully aware, ( some never do ) the weight of all the religious injunctions about pure perception, samaya, devotion and negative karma, are already so great as to make walking away extremely hard to do. For a committed Buddhist practitioner this act goes against everything they have learnt and internalized since they attended their very first teaching, completely unaware of the kind of psychological trap they had walked into.
    Nor should it be thought that anyone escapes this entirely, even from a safe seat in the audience, the morally and intellectually corrosive effect of this manipulation is present whether consciously acknowledged or not.
    Perhaps it’s this, more than anything else, that makes Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism so potentially dangerous and arguably impossible to reform. And for those who have become actual victims, healing can’t take place until this mechanism has been completely understood and every last trace of acceptance of it rejected.
    For those whose involvement is more remote as spectators, expressing an unconsidered opinion about something that has much less direct effect on them is all too easy.
    Whereas publicly relating your personal experience of something traumatic that highlights your own distorted psychological state at the time, in order to help other victims free themselves, takes an extraordinary amount of honesty, courage and unflinching self-awareness, and is deserving of our understanding and respect.
    It shouldn’t be forgotten that the purpose of speaking out is to encourage others to express themselves in whatever format they feel comfortable with, but more importantly to prevent more abuse in the future by actively doing something, such as supplying testimony to lawyer for the victims and UNADFI.
    In some ways, all of us who have ever encountered Sogyal and accepted him as our teacher could be said to be victims and none of us has been able to avoid complicity entirely. The difference is to what degree we have understood and are now free from it.

    1. @Pete,
      I agree with much of what you said here. It’s true that people back in the day did not know the truth about Sogyal, and they often had a romanticized illusion about Tibetan culture in general, (and still do). Maybe I didn’t express myself earlier when I said it was “disgusting” that people followed a guru like this. I’m not blaming anyone for being taken in, nor am I saying all his students were/are bad people. But it’s still hard for me to understand the process of brainwashing. I was not Sogyal’s student, and I only saw him just once. I can say that he has quite a powerful presence, so I can understand why people could be taken in if they aren’t on their guard, (which I was). So, I’m sorry for making comments which sounded like I was being insensitive to the people who were abused. I was horrified by the story about the poor woman and trying to imagine how people could witness something so cruel and not do anything. I get it that they were brainwashed, but it’s still hard for me to process. I’m just glad that people are now finally breaking free and speaking out. That is an important step in the right direction.

    2. @ Pete Cowell
      Thank you for your post, it’s a very good description of how/why otherwise empathetic people accepted his behavior.
      One additional reason was the reinforcement from our peers that he was actually benefitting them, and testimonies from trusted friends that they were there when various things supposedly happened and sl did nothing wrong. The Jane Doe case is a perfect example. I was at my second retreat, the first time I stayed for the whole retreat and a very unstable woman told me that SL had raped a woman in the 90’s and then stayed out of the US for five years to avoid charges. She then went on, later in the conversation, to say that she was a witch and has vivid memories of being burned at the stake.
      I was very shaken by the encounter and skipped the next session, one of my roommates came back to the room to grab a snack and asked me what was wrong. I told him and he explained the actual facts of the case, that it was settled out of court and said that he was very close to the women who were around sl at the time and they all said that Jane Doe was very fragile and all sl ever wanted to do was help her. One of them was sharing our suite with us, she was clearly a feminist and clearly very close to sl. That was my first taste of cognitive dissonance. Here were two sangha members who had been the essence of kindness to me, they were older students, around since the 80’s, I was brand new, I trusted them and their kindness. It left me feeling unsettled but I trusted them.

      1. @ Not so hopeful
        Yes, I forgot about that, ( my comment was already very long.)
        Peer pressure is very important because it carries skeptical people along while they’re getting assimilated into the group way of thinking. It works well too, if the people doing it are kind and sympathetic, as in your case. The lama may be remote, but they’re accessible and you can trust and identify with them.
        They’re also reassuring themselves while reassuring you and unwittingly using the same double-bind technique by asking you to ignore your concerns to be accepted into the group.
        The strange thing about the cognitive dissonance you mention, is that it can be very soothing once it becomes a habit, because it removes anxiety and the need to think about disturbing inconsistencies, both in the teachings and the teacher’s behaviour…… and eventually your own doubts themselves.
        It’s like a regular dose of Buddhist Valium. Because whatever Vajrayana Buddhism does, it certainly doesn’t sharpen either critical intelligence or moral clarity.
        All of us, students and teachers, have been and some still are, the living proof of that.

      2. “…the reinforcement from our peers that he was actually benefitting them”
        Thanks for your open words.
        After all I have read and researched I am more than convinced that Sogyal Rinpoche actually benefitted many people.
        In their professional career as well as in their personal relationships, way of life and in general to keep a higher spiritual mindset.
        In fact I even believe that he boosted the careers and lifestyle of some of his closest students in a way that they feel they could not have accomplished it themselves.
        But actually it was THEM who achieved all these things, he was just mediating or chanelling some spiritual power to them which would be available for EVERYone for free, as it is part of the universal spiritual forces in power. Some other buddhist teachers make these teachings available for their students without trauma-bonding them in a way that reminds of “selling your soul to the devil”.
        But Sogyal kept this secret well and made it a part of his secret ingredients, although spiritual enlightenment should not be something that a company can hold as kind of patent and “sell” it to their “clients”.

    3. Yours is a stunning piece, thank you. So you are saying the baby has to go with the bathwater? That the paradigm can’t and won’t change, that the only option is to stay in (and be tortured) or walk away (and be tortured)? It certainly feels like that for those who have negative and extremely painful associations with practices they’ve received, thanks to denied or dismissed distortions, confusion, double bind, grotesque abuses of power in the name of the (of course) “highest teachings.” How far did these things have to go to show us our own incredible shadows?
      Even those centers and leaders (in all institutions actually) not involved in scandal have their own forms of suppressing any form of dissent, inquiry, or discontent: how dare you question the way it is being done because that’s how it’s been done for x number of years (as if things and people and cultures and languages don’t change and require more nuanced and timely approaches). While structures and ethics (I think baby boomers and products of the 60s have by now realized, let’s hope) are vital for psychological and spiritual health, the irrepressible impulse to truth and its seeking and expression cannot be crushed for long without pushback among courageous and undeceived individuals.
      The use of “emptiness” and “it’s your karma” and “don’t generate a moment of anger” are increasingly chilling ideologies. The canaries in the coal mine who saw this coming and warned and were marginalized and no doubt agonizingly tormented in the boxing ring with the truth emerge as true bodhisattvas though the status quo would curl at that, turning, as one of the Lojong precepts says: “a god into a demon.”
      Buddha Dharma without deepest bravest inquiry, is it in alignment with the Buddha’s teaching? Read the Kalama sutta. Has any Tibetan Buddhist ever received a teaching on it by a Tibetan Buddhist teacher? Why not? Because the oral “transmission” broke? So then it’s not worth reading? We have to question down to the subatomic strings. When that is not allowed, the blind spots are revealed. And the spins on the story grow stale and moldy.
      What think you? Buddhist ideology is better than non-Buddhist ideology? It’s possible that thanks to more and more people wanting to think less and less, we will see a mushrooming of the very paradigms that program people instead of awaken them.
      Whatever path we practice, we have comandeered the tyrannical armies of darkness if we do not think and stand for our truth as individuals. Thus the Dharma is not the problem, we are. When did we start taking a dump on the truth as if it’s on the end of a rope ridden by a braying entity?
      Consider for a long while how pathetic and cruel interpersonal relations often are in (at least many contemporary) Dharma centers, thanks to frighteningly unsocialized and psychologically unsound people who are admonished to place the Guru above all else such that on the ground that plays out too often as finely honed, insidious, petty, testy, gamey, and dysfunctional power struggles shot through by what Jung identified as the repressed or denied shadow. Now, there are also wonderful and kind and very mature people in such places too, make no mistake. But do they remain so when you voice a question, a concern? Or do you get the chilly remove, also called shunning?
      I found the story about the “psychologically unhealthy” woman at the end of her rope (literally and metaphorically) with the braying rider and unresponsive heartless zombie witnesses utterly and completely indefensible, regardless of what her or his or their past karma may have been. Forget karma, what is right in that moment to do? What is wrong with us? Wait! It’s all a dream you say! It’s empty! Mere appearances! And while we sit by in our dream castle how dare we pronounce a single word like “compassion”? Do we not see how that gross mishandling of the teachings, far worse than a biting snake, destroys our respect and justified terror of both the conventional and the ultimate? That’s dissociation, not realization.
      I would appreciate, out of respect for that woman’s journey and challenges, to see a thorough investigation done about that incident. I would like to see amends made with her family if such was not done. Did anyone reach out to her family? Or was she conveniently dismissed as crazy?
      If karma trumps actual love and compassion and goodness when we know nothing whatsoever about karma except as the construction we apply to interpret appearances…then what?
      Buddha’s actual teachings are not the problem. The problem lies in how we use powerful ideas and practices to further completely wrongheaded and extremely deeply embedded ideologies. The minute the search for truth, tracked by careful observation of one’s own embodied experience, is subordinated to blind allegiance, game over, just look around you. So choose (or don’t) your bondage.
      Those who refuse to think and tell the truth create tyrants and are forced to live under tyranny by whatever name.
      Look at entailments for society more broadly: destruction of the family unit (consider marriages that have been destroyed because of distorted ideas about the Guru (or in non-Guru contexts “freedom at all costs” being paramount; children whose psychological and material wellbeing came second to the Guru). Look at Tibetan families. Do they blow off their families and lives and *will* to function in western society and run to the Guru to decide what car they should buy?
      Of course, nowadays we have plenty of research about the causes of psychological and social health or disease, not that most Tibetans (and even westerners) care to educate themselves about this, preferring a Mo and a prescription so far removed from their own contextual inner situation which demands understanding not facile prescriptions.
      The destruction of the will to truth (yeah sorry, but the lies that people utter without flinching was my first red flag decades ago, especially when I was then told it was “my karma”).
      And then we have the western reformers, jet set teachers who are neither truly accepted or encouraged by the Tibetan establishment, nor are they honest about what the tradition requires and where they fit into it. But since they need the traditions to authorize them, they will actually lead you to believe they are maintaining and upholding a lineage, which behind closed doors is riddled with all manner of upmanship and infighting. Anyone hear the story about the emperor and his clothes? Are they being honest with themselves and others?
      It’s thanks to postmodern western value-stripped ideologues (on both the left and right as played out in the horrific regimes that slaughtered millions in the 20th century) that we enjoy the freedom to thus destroy ourselves by choice and by refusal to claim and live, personally, by truths whose violation only always brings chaos.
      Did all of this have to happen for us to wake up to what we are doing with our incredible privileges? When Buddhism becomes another ideology it could produce (seems it’s already happening) the same horrific fate that met with Tibet. Perhaps had we tried valuing human relationships horizontally as well as the Guru paradigm vertically some actual integration and advancement could have occurred within our Dharma communities.
      That it didn’t go this way is our fault for not thinking carefully, much less applying the actual teachings. Until we start demanding to know more and in detail before we jump in and drown, we will continue to see the same problems.
      To understand the crisis (which btw pervades every level of society not just our Dharma centers) we have to better understand both Tibetan and western history, culture, language. You have to understand how to navigate tradition and structure, because if you destroy all of them you should prepare for chaos and destruction, while if you maintain structures that cannot and do not work to produce flourishing individuals, you’re in a vain dream.
      And unthinking, unschooled though educated, often well to do and sometimes not, and fearless (thanks to our safe societies) westerners accepted dispensing with the hard work that questioning or adopting profound strategies requires. And then there’s our own unacknowledged shadow, because well, we’re Buddhists we would never do what those other fundamentalists (who just don’t get it) over there would do…
      Often also the amount of labor being poured into Lamas and Dharma centers by the sacrificial lambs in part derailed or distracted from this paramount inner work, with the promise of collecting good karma, being part of a cool special club, all well and good as long as you could no longer deny what you were seeing and lodged in the heart like an iron spike.
      Being disillusioned with traditional structures (which is always required for personal and societal evolution), only to walk straight into another more insidious and mind-bending form of the same should really be a wake up call. The moral of the story. Good rules are freedom as long as they’re not totalitarian. Closed systems die as well as closed minds. When they don’t die you have an ideology, and not a path to liberation.

      1. “Perhaps had we tried valuing human relationships horizontally as well as the Guru paradigm vertically some actual integration and advancement could have occurred within our Dharma communities.”
        This is so crucial and perhaps so difficult for each of us. Thanks for saying it. It isn’t too late!

      2. “Buddha Dharma without deepest bravest inquiry….”
        I agree with most points Nan elucidated here.
        As myself is simple minded, I break it down to a sentence like this: “: As long you cant be honest with yourself, whatever you do is not: Practice ofBuddhadharma !
        Its our job to “clean up” the mess that is there called “Tibetan Buddhism”.
        If we like or dont like…….

    4. I agree with most what you said in this comment, also that there might be a risk in trusting Vajrayana or Tibetan Buddhism, but I think that this risk or danger is limited to the teacher who is educating and conveying the teaching. It is not Vajrayana itself, but the teacher who is transmissing it that is the “risk factor” here.

  20. Hallo,
    I remember a quite weird and bewildering incident.
    Some years ago I attended a retreat of Sogyal Rinpoche in Berlin at a place called Brotfabrik, it was before the Center in Soorstraße had been established and one had to pay a fee for several days of teachings.
    At the end of one teaching session Sogyal asked some people, if they want to sit next to him on the podium for a special meditation, I don’t remember the name oft he ritual anymore.
    Some women, six or seven, took a seat in front of him on the podium and he instructed them to meditate a certain mantra, he asked them to recite it fullheartedly and extensively.
    At the same time a row of people waited in front oft he podium, obviously students with questions, one had a paper in her hands and looked at Sogyal in a begging way, it seemed like she had an urgent question.
    I noticed that his face became very red, dark red and he looked as if he was under pressure o ras if he had high blood pressure, it was a bit worrying.
    The women in front of him on the podium seemed a bit irritated, but he instructed them to continue with the mantras. They did.
    The people in front oft he podium were still looking at him and longing for his reaction, some even asking him to please take a minute for their matter.
    It seemed to me that he was getting angry and nobody in the audience seemed to have a clue what was going on. It was a very strange atmosphere. Everyone was staring in a frozen manner.
    At one point Sogyal said loudly, we could hear it clearly in the audience „What shall we do with these people? Maybe we have to slaughter them!“, he looked upset, it was not intended tob e a joke. Nobody laughed. People were kind of frozen.
    I still remember that I felt very uncomfortable watching that strange scene and I could not make sense o fit, but that was the last time that I ever attended a session with Sogyal Rinpoche and I had forgotten that incident – until I came across the revelations about his abusive behaviour.
    So I apologize if this is not the right place to share my memory about that strange moment, but I felt that I want to share it, as in hindsight it feels like a kind of emotional abuse oft he people around him, talking about „maybe having to slaughter them“. What went on in his mind? Did not look normal or sane at that time and still doesn’t.

  21. @Stefanie Gast,
    No, you’re in totally the right place to share your story. Thanks for sharing. it just underscores the truth about this man and how he acted. That “slaughter” comment of his does sound extreme….the sort of thing we would expect from Hitler, but not an “enlightened man of peace.” Assuming that it wasn’t just a joke, it is quite extreme. Even if the woman was bothering him with a lot of questions, (which could have been the case), a comment like that is quite extreme. An true enlightened being should be able to remain calm and compassionate, even when someone is being annoying, (if that’s what she was doing), and not lose their cool and get mad, etc. There must have been a LOT of drama around Sogyal every day.

    1. Thank you Catlover. Yes, and even more since he not only considered slaughtering only one woman, but a whole group of people. And nobody seemed to be alarmed at that point, so I guess people have already been used to such behaviour of his. And so I think that you are probably right, by saying that there might have been a lot of drama around him. Almost Unbelieable that people around him stayed that calm and patient.

      1. And by the way the woman that wanted to ask him something did not appear to be annoying, in fact she waited very patiently, but persistently.
        Something about the whole situation seemed to have been upsetting for Sogyal, but nobody else showed some strong emotions as far as I remember.

        1. Well, I didn’t say she was really being annoying. In fact, from what I have heard about Sogyal and his temper, I am pretty sure that he was the one with the problem. My point was that even IF she had been making a pest of herself, his Hitlerian, “slaughter” comment is totally inappropriate and wrong, regardless of whether she was making a pest of herself or not.

            1. Okay Catlover, maybe. What I am asking myself today is, why did he seem to be under such horrendous pressure (signs were his dark red face, sweating and nervous gestures) that day (or on other occasions?) Or have I been the only person in the audience who noticed that?
              There must have been a hundred people around, what did they think about it?
              When he talked about slaughtering people, people held their breath, but it was shortly after a teaching, so it could not have been part of the teaching. I don’t think, that nobody else was wondering about his behaviour.
              I know that you cannot answer my question, it’s just directed to anyone reading here.

              1. @Stefanie Gast,
                Well, I don’t have any answers either, but I think I can answer the first 2 questions.
                “Why did he seem to be under such horrendous pressure (signs were his dark red face, sweating and nervous gestures) that day (or on other occasions?)”
                Answer: I think the answer to you first question has two parts. First of all, I get the sense that there was some private, emotional drama between the woman and Sogyal. Just what that drama was, who knows? She probably wanted to talk to him about something serious, and I suspect she may have approached him more than once about it in the past, possibly in private, and now she was desperately trying to reach him in public because he probably brushed her off before. It was probably her last attempt to get her message to him, which is why she was so emotional and anxious. He got upset with her because he knew darn well what she wanted to talk to him about and he was uncomfortable. It could have been something personal about her life, between them, or maybe it had to do with some abusive thing he was doing to her, and he did not want whatever it was to be public. Or maybe he was just sick of her problems, because after all, he wasn’t so compassionate, so he probably had a very short patience level. His face turned red because he was nervous, and getting upset. That is my theory. The second part of the answer is that his face probably turned red often when he lost his temper. 😀
                Also, I am sure other people noticed, but didn’t dare say anything, since the climate at Rigpa wasn’t conducive for anyone to say anything about Sogyal’s temper tantrums and red faces. I am also sure people noticed the “Slaughter” comment and were probably trying very hard to believe he was kidding, but they weren’t able to laugh. Or they were in shock.

                1. Thanks, Catlover.
                  You wrote ” I get the sense that there was some private, emotional drama between the woman and Sogyal….”
                  I never saw things from that angle, but of course, after all, that might be possible. That he wanted to evade a personal situation which was uncomfortable for him, although the woman had a legitimacy to be heard.
                  It would explain the situation at least a little bit. But still I remember that I was really worried about his blood pressure, he looked like he might need help or it was kind of emergency!
                  And the slaughter thing, yes, you are probably right, people must have heard it, but tried to deny that he “meant it that way”.
                  After all, I got the impression that by “these people” he did not mean the woman who tried to talk to him, but rather the people sitting next to him on the podium and trying to recite the mantras. But that does not make things better, it was all very uncomfortable to watch.
                  How could people live with that on a daily basis.

  22. Since we are being encouraged to speak-up, I’d like to say that feel little difference in the environment here and the one within Rigpa Organization over 30 years ago. It seems we are only encouraged to speak here if we follow the program, just as then. Even the word environment is denigrated if it isn’t the right environment (attacking the teacher.)
    Then it was pro-Rigpa Organization, Sogyal Rinpoche and Tibetan Buddhism, and now it is negative-Rigpa Organization, Sogyal Rinpoche and Tibetan Buddhism. Does this not seem out of balance somehow?
    The flip side of the coin seems to be a necessary step, an important part of the process, but if we remain stuck here or further entrench, then it seems to me we risk repeating a similar cycle that got us here over the course of last 40 years.

    1. “Since we are being encouraged to speak-up, I’d like to say that feel little difference in the environment here and the one within Rigpa Organization over 30 years ago.”
      That’s the same point you try to make in every post, Rick. It gets old, particularly since it doesn’t actually make sense.

      1. @ RH
        As Nan wrote:
        “Perhaps had we tried valuing human relationships horizontally as well as the Guru paradigm vertically some actual integration and advancement could have occurred within our Dharma communities.”
        By focusing on the teacher, we continue to reinforce the vertical paradigm.It doesn’t matter that much if it is positive or negative, the movement is similar.
        Does that make more sense?

    2. @ Rick New, you seem to constantly be finding fault with everyone else. Yet the people here who were directly involved with Rigpa took the initiative to speak out in the first place. That takes courage – and they’ve held their ground.
      I don’t know what your problem is but i do read a constant refrain from you. How about some self-reflection? That’s one skill we’ve learnt from all our years of TB practice right? How to introspect.
      Please look within. We get that you have a problem with this site and the letter-writers (presumably) but actually things are probably working out as best as could be expected, given what they’re dealing with. Whatever your issues are, you need to work on them and to stop blaming others. That’s Buddhism 101!

      1. @ matilda7
        Thanks, for your reply. I appreciate it!
        > the people here who were directly involved with Rigpa took the initiative to speak out in the first place. That takes courage – and they’ve held their ground.
        Yes, couldn’t agree more.
        > i do read a constant refrain from you.
        Yes, I agree.
        > you need to work on them and to stop blaming others.
        I agree, blaming others is not usually productive and it is important to question ourselves.
        > Whatever your issues are…
        I’ve no problem with anything taking place here. Like you, I think it is admirable that folks are questioning their beliefs and raising long withheld questions.
        > We get that you have a problem with this site and the letter-writers (presumably)
        I think this site is great, amazing, for me it is like “finally!” we are talking about this. I think it is fantastic the letter writers came out.
        This doesn’t mean to me that we have it all figured out. When folks first come out as “whatever problem” they often have to work quite hard not to repeat the same patterns.
        Many of the questions here are about what is *not* taking place within the Rigpa Organization and with Sogyal Rinpoche, my questions are pretty much the same, they are just asking it of us.
        Is it OK to ask the questions we are asking others, but not OK to ask the same questions of ourselves? (Myself included, of course.)
        Does this help clarify?

  23. @RH
    Yes, you are right, it is the same post each time. Thanks.
    It is the same door I’ve been trying to ask others to peek through since being a part of the Rigpa Organization. When questioning our beliefs in the Lama and the Dharma back then, it was the same response. “Geez Rick, you just keep bringing this up over and over.” Why are you questioning the teacher and the dharma? Why are you challenging my beliefs? Go back and work on yourself, it is just your delusion operating here.
    I understand it may not make sense (for many or most here)
    Perhaps there are some possibilities when we arrive at the place where it doesn’t make sense? Maybe this edge is a great place to start!
    1) Wow this guy keeps bringing this up over and over, how can I shut him up?
    2) Wow this guy keeps bringing this up over and over, I’ll ask him for more information so I can prove him wrong.
    3) Wow this guy keeps bringing this up over and over, might there be something important there? I wonder what questions I might ask to better understand what he is saying?
    There is a lot in Nan’s post above (not that I agree with all of it) but the spirit is exactly what I’m saying, so perhaps the way she? is writing makes more sense to you. “Buddha Dharma without deepest bravest inquiry….”
    To me, brave inquiry is facing one another, we didn’t do it in Rigpa and we aren’t doing it now. I’m suggesting we are now reaping the costs and consequences of that approach.
    Nan does a good job in expressing that in more detail.

  24. @Rick, please I welcome your feedback about what you disagree with as I want to learn. I hope I have not misrepresented myself. I have a great, great, love for the Buddha Dharma.

  25. @ Nan
    Thanks for this and your previous post. I think I’ve heard the spirit of your post and greatly appreciate it.
    “The minute the search for truth, tracked by careful observation of one’s own embodied experience..”
    Yes and the…” valuing human relationships horizontally as well as the Guru paradigm vertically..” is so important.
    That simple reorientation is possible and you have expressed it quite beautifully. In some ways, just resting there, together in that horizontality, heals so much. It is an act of affirmation. For me, within that lies the heart of sangha of community, within or without Buddhism.
    The points I disagree with are not important in relation to this.
    I was trying to be clear that it isn’t about us all having the same point of view, but the same spirit of friendship. With that, diversity of thought can flourish and be encouraged.
    As a footnote, just to touch upon one point, David Michael Levin has some great books on postmodernism. The Opening of Vision being one I’ve enjoyed and read much of.

  26. Thank you Rick. And also for the book recommendations. Yes, Steven Hicks’ book on postmodernism worth it too. For those who say it’s all a dream, that there are no hierarchies of value, once you’ve let go of the First Noble Truth as an ongoingly active principle in committed Dharma practice, how can you be truly honest? In solidarity, and in remembrance of Indra’s net…I extend this battered deathless heart to all.

  27. @ Nan
    There’s so much in our post that’s thought provoking, it would be impossible to do it justice in a short reply, but just to address a few points:
    Certainly, if you stay you’re tortured, but many of us walked away and the torture stopped then and there. So from my experience, it’s easy and preferable to live entirely without Tibetan Buddhism or religion of any kind.
    I suppose if Tibetan Buddhism wasn’t built entirely around worshiping a guru and practices specifically designed to neutralize rational judgment, then it might be less problematic, but that’s the reality, so as far as the baby and the bath water goes…..that’s not a baby it’s a gremlin, and it will shit in your bath, so I’d call pest control straight away.

    1. @ Pete
      Sweeping generalities, that negate other people’s experience, are not helpful. We get it Pete, your experience with TB has soured you on all religions, what I don’t understand is why you feel the need to convince everyone that your point of view is the only valid one? Isn’t that kind of behavior also totalitarian and oppressive?
      I went through absolute hell with sl, and I will never be able to trust a spiritual teacher in the same way ever again. That’s a good thing in my mind, BUT there are many teachers that don’t want that kind of trust, there are many teachers who strongly discourage wholesale adoption of dogma.
      Being able to keep an open mind and give respect and space to other people’s experience and belief, allowing that people’s heartfelt connection to TB could actually be beneficial, allowing that there might be some good even if you don’t understand how it’s possible, would make your other information more credible. Instead you are coming off a bit unhinged, on a mission to take down a whole religion shuts down the conversation.

      1. @ Not so hopeful
        I suppose you think I’m extreme, but that’s normal for many people who are Buddhist.
        And I really don’t mind being called ‘unhinged’ because despite what you might think I don’t take myself that seriously. Of course I wouldn’t dream of being rude to you or anyone else in that way.
        The other more important difference is this: I express my views and use factual examples and I’m happy to debate ( and impossible to offend.) On the other hand I notice that many people don’t want to debate in any real sense, they don’t say: “You’re wrong because of such and such……” instead they prefer say I’m wrong because I’m offending their sensibilities by daring to questioning the validity of the religion they hold dear. That’s not actually debate at all, it’s just a self-protective emotional reaction.
        If you think I’m making ‘sweeping generalities’, then why not explain the specifics that you think disprove that? If you believe I’m ‘negating’ your experience then why not try and negate my argument with facts or logic rather than calling me ‘totalitarian and oppressive’?
        Debate is exactly that: trying to convince others that your point of view is valid…..why be so squeamish about it?
        For example, you say : “ I went through absolute hell with sl, and I will never be able to trust a spiritual teacher in the same way ever again. That’s a good thing in my mind,”…… you won’t trust a spiritual teacher but you object to my saying the same thing.
        You say: “BUT there are many teachers that don’t want that kind of trust, there are many teachers who strongly discourage wholesale adoption of dogma.”……so I can ask you: Who they are? How do you know they strongly discourage it? I can point out that a Vajrayana Buddhist teacher who doesn’t want trust and would reject traditional dogma wouldn’t be a Vajrayana teacher.
        I could also tell you that I’ve never encountered a Vajrayana teacher even remotely like that.
        Do you see the difference between my approach and yours? I’m not the one trying to shut down the conversation, I’m challenging people to disprove what I say by using evidence rather than emotional ad hominem attacks.
        And when you say: “……would make your other information more credible” you’re effectively threatening to only believe me if I don’t challenge your beliefs too much. Now that is negating my experience isn’t it ? ( I don’t mind either way.)
        Actually I’m probably much worse than you think: I’m not concerned if some people don’t believe my experience because I know it to be true and it’ll only resonate with those who have similar experience.
        I’m hoping that the conclusions I draw from that experience may help others but I can only express myself honestly, and beyond that individual reactions aren’t my problem.
        I don’t feel any obligation to respect people’s ‘beliefs’ at all , because why should I, if those beliefs are faith-based rather than evidence- based? To me an adult ‘believing’ in religion is worse than a child believing in fairy tales. It would be harmless if it didn’t make them so irrational and vulnerable to exploitation.
        And why is it that religious people automatically claim respect for their particular beliefs that they hold without proof ? Would you respect me if I insisted the earth was flat? I don’t think you would.
        So much of everything that makes life manageable has come about through rationality, whereas religious faith has been the enemy of human progress for millennia, because it’s just an artificial system designed by men to persuade other people to obey them. I’d like to hear why that deserves respect.
        So we actually do have the space here to debate, but it’s a pity to waste that space by retreating behind your sensibilities whenever your views are challenged.

        1. @ Pete Cowell
          > Debate is exactly that: trying to convince others that your point of view is valid…
          Perhaps, but it may require more than jumping to point 4 below, either in your own head (deciding before you’ve fully understood point 1) or externally.
          Otherwise, there is a good chance the debate is about two different topics. Accomplishing point 1 requires an extraordinary effort to listen and a capacity to hear difference.
          If one of the parties isn’t willing to make that effort, their goal of convincing others is likely to fail and they may be perceived in ways they don’t intend.
          Your perceived extremism may not be about content, it might be about jumping to point 4 without either having understood what is the other is saying or just not wanting to allow another position to exist for long enough to understand it.
          Not letting the other view be heard (in its nuances and subtleties) without being triggered, mocking, satirizing, calling names, etc. Asserting your own views as facts and other’s views as foolish and irrational.
          Rapoport’s Rules
          1) You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”
          2) You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
          3) You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
          4) Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

  28. @notsohopeful I agree with you completely that a wholesale dismissal of religion and well qualified Gurus is not necessary. Of course there are degrees and I am not a great fan of institutions, but to say all of them are flawed is naive and arrogant. Look around you. Guessing you have functional electricity, internet, water, access to food and shelter yes? Gratitude. All these issue from institutions.
    Not only not necessary to dispense with all things religious, but not necessarily wise or constructive for one’s own flourishing. I at least will never willingly locate the locus of transcendence in the State or in Science/technology because it is the inner science structures manifested in the awakened awareness of courageous luminaries and ancient stories of wisdom traditions that help us to cultivate our deepest dimension. @Pete By walking away and being tortured I meant in the sense of having taken distance from a dysfunctional situation, then willfully and stubbornly cutting myself off from teachers, truths, practices, and sources of deepest inspiration it would be extremely hubristic and misguided to deny the benefits of for my continued human evolution.
    The worst would be for me to campaign on that platform (dispensing with all deeper exploration re: spirituality) and disturb or impede others in their quest for understanding, wholeness, and depth. I think these situations are asking us to go deeper in how we conceive of not only ourselves but also the role and purpose of religious practices, and that’s a good, not a bad thing.
    Religions evolve too, as long as the followers are willing to rise to the challenge in the service of all beings.
    Challenge and question the views you hold to absolutistically, dogmatically: “no religion for me” could be likened to: no blood transfusion for me. What if you’ve been in an accident and your life depends on it? Have some nuance. Gain some depth. There’s nothing but space that comes with depth. As the bumper sticker says: Think, it’s not illegal yet.

    1. @ Nan
      ‘Religions evolve too, as long as the followers are willing to rise to the challenge in the service of all beings. ‘
      This is spot on, it’s up to us, are we off seeking experiences or are we engaged Buddhist’s with a deeply held commitment to live, to the best of our ability, in service to others.
      Or if that’s too big of an ask at least giving space to others to hold a different point of view:)

    2. @ Nan
      I didn’t say actually say all institutions are flawed….just religious ones. Have religious organisations started supplying services and life’s necessities now? I must have missed that.
      How exactly do religions serve all beings ?
      If my life depends on it I’d go for a doctor rather than a priest.
      Thanks for the advice, but if having nuance, depth and space means blindly accepting something without proof, then I’ll definitely stay shallow.

      1. @ Pete Cowell
        “having nuance, depth and space means blindly accepting something without proof, then I’ll definitely stay shallow.”
        Nuance, depth and space does not mean blindly accepting something without proof. It is paying attention to what is actually happening and not resorting to (fixed) beliefs or meanings.
        It may allow the fantasy space of our demand to say “how things are” be a little less fixed and assertive/defensive. Paying sensitive attention can perhaps help return one to the world, the body, the movement of thought and relations with others.

  29. @ notsohopeful
    “giving space to others to hold a different point of view…”
    Thanks, notesohopeful. If I could add one thing here is that the above approach seems to be extremely challenging, even if one is really making an effort in that way. At least it is for me much of the time. This approach may also be similar to “valuing human relationships horizontally” that Nan writes of.

    1. @ Rick New
      I think it’s probably challenging for everyone, I know it is for me! But isn’t it an important component of being mindful of not becoming entrenched in a new ideology, same tendency different window dressing? Isn’t it part of what you are often mentioning about self reflection?
      If we’re always right, if anyone who believes … is wrong, then we’re probably no more aware than rigbots who are just relying on different absolutes.

      1. @ notsohopeful
        Yes, exactly. We can easily feel switching absolute positions is a change, but it becomes more of the same. As you said, “same tendency different window dressing?”
        The capacity to listen can act as a doorway.
        However, it seems to be tricky to get there together because the emphasis on this approach can also seem like another absolute until you try it.
        DML has a very nice book on listening.

  30. Yes, though we don’t have a choice but to give space to others to hold different views. However, it should be known that many prevailing views that are not being rationally or rigorously challenged and/or resisted when necessary are gaining traction very quickly, and very treacherously in our part of the world where it’s fashionable not to admit to the very real problem of malevolence which involves the imposition of very harmful absolutistic beliefs as embodied in actions of extreme devastation and destruction.
    Look outside of the Buddhist context for a moment and contemplate the reality of that. Where do you most want to be on this planet and why? What do you have that others don’t and why? Familiarize yourself with the operative, functional, dearly cherished beliefs and conceptual frameworks that make way for that freedom, because once it’s gone, clawing up the bottom of the well is not so easy.
    When it comes to religion, most Westerners these days loathe the fear often instilled by religious leaders, loathe feeling it, because for millennia after we evolved past grosser forms of predation, fear has been used to assert power and dominance.
    But there is another kind of fear that is involved with epistemic humility and the facts of our own existential condition. This is a fear that does not need to refer to anything but our own lived experience, which comes from investigating and understanding how exactly our beliefs form our lived, moment to moment experience.
    Some think that most religious teachings depend too much on the imposition of fear as a way to manipulate others. But we have to separate blind allegiance within religious institutions from wisdom, and investigate fear rigorously, and, well, fearlessly.
    A working hypothesis is that experiencing and investigating fear, terror, deeply; knowing it well in body and mind, can guide us to the revelations yielded by true insight into the First Noble Truth. If for those involved in it, Vajrayana practice hasn’t got that as part of its deepest internal infrastructure, who knows what it is we’re doing or what it has to do with Buddha Dharma, assuming it’s actually Buddha Dharma people want and not just some higher position in the sorcerers’ dominance hierarchy.

    1. That’s an interesting thought, Nan: “experiencing and investigating fear, terror, deeply; knowing it well in body and mind, can guide us to the revelations yielded by true insight into the First Noble Truth.”
      So, knowing what dukkha is and having expierienced fear and terror could lead us to deeper sources of wisdom and compassion within ourselves or are the sources rather external and depending on an outer teacher?
      Again, interesting question addressed to everyone who is interested to contemplate about it, for me it seems to be a universal law: suffering can make us more aware of the suffering of others and could lead to develop a more friendly human nature.

  31. @everyone,
    This is not directed at anyone personally, but at everyone in general.
    Regardless of one’s opinion on religion, I think this whole conversation has gone WAY off track and turned into a philosophy debate, which is not helpful for anyone, imho. Religion is a subject that NO one will be able to agree on, no matter how many “points” one brings up, so it just leads to an ENDLESS debate between the “believers” and “non-believers.” It is a waste of time and energy, and doesn’t help the victims of Sogyal’s abuse. The religious debates are getting to the point where this forum is no longer about Sogyal or Rigpa, or even Tibetan Buddhism. It’s becoming a philosophy discussion board, and it’s not appropriate, imho.

  32. Religion is important to discuss, so I’m not saying it should never be discussed, but for crying out loud, let’s get back on topic. Thanks.

    1. Hm, I don’t fully agree with your statement ” It is a waste of time and energy, and doesn’t help the victims of Sogyal’s abuse.”
      If following a discussion or reading a discussion would be a waste of time, I would not read it. As long as people engage in it, it might be interesting for them.
      The question about what might help the victims of Sogyals abuse seems to be the most essential one.
      What exactly is helpful for them? Who decides that? If they cannot speak for themselves, who could decide for them, what is best for them?
      I know that you probably cannot answer that questions, so it is addressed to everyone interested or reading here.

      1. @Stefanie Gast,
        I meant that it was a waste of time to try and come to anything conclusive in that particular discussion (about religion) because no one would ever agree on the subject. You’re right that I can’t speak for the victims and what would be helpful for them. Perhaps I should have said that I don’t believe it would be helpful for them, in my personal opinion. Of course, I don’t really know for sure. I can only state what I *believe* might be helpful.

  33. In case I would be the victim I would need that the offender plus the enablers and cover up experts ackknowledge their doing for what it means to me. Straightforward, no chicanery.
    Second I would need to learn to accept I was victimized and what I can learn from it, even in case the offender refuses any insight.
    This includes taking responsibiltiy for my own share on what had happened.
    Third I would try to take care to make sure : no more victims !
    My basics.

  34. @Stefanie, yes, go deep into what that fear is inviting you to explore. It forms the cornerstone of all systems of religiosity that acknowledge our suffering condition. Thank you for considering and responding to my post.
    @Catlover Without understanding “philosophy” or the underpinnings of the beliefs that drive and determine our actions, good luck finding ways to “help” the “victim’s” of “Sogyal’s” “abuse”. The seemingly undying delusion, fertilized by assuming that we will forever enjoy and exercise the freedoms we have, is that we can control the external reality without mastering the internal one, that we can legislate others’ behavior with regard to deluded human nature, without mastering our own minds, experience, behavior, and without studying the ways it can and should be done.
    For those who swallowed the kool-aid that says that all ideas, values, and behaviors are created equal, are equally valid and equally true, that there are no value hierarchies, think again, or don’t, and deal with the consequences.
    There are not only dominance (or oppressive) hierarchies. There are also value (liberating) hierarchies. And within each of those two categories there are those who have done more work than you and I and therefore have the standing to be listened to as worthy guides, such as the Buddha, Socrates, etc.
    In case you all haven’t noticed, while we desperately try to create “safe spaces”, guess what, nowhere is safe. And the least safe places are *our own minds* not just because we suffer but because our unquestioned and undeveloped ideas, get us into trouble, so why should we demand others provide us with safety when we can do that for ourselves if we are willing to make the necessary sacrifices? Shantideva. Leather on feet. Right now when we don’t have it as bad as others we should do everything possible to understand what’s going on.
    The consistent message on these forums in our terabyte culture of outrage for decades is: the ideas being expressed by some posters here are mere “philosophy” “way off topic”, “conceptual elaboration” (my personal favorite), and that philosophy has nothing to do with abuse.
    If this is what you insist on, you are as big a part of the problem because you have no ammunition, no moral standing, to address “abuse” because there is no substance to complaints of abuse, no substance to the endless re-iterations of outrage, no light that shines on one’s own responsibility in creating or reducing the problem, no effort at getting at the actual mechanisms involved in the problem in any comprehensive way. Like we all want to just check out and call that Dzogchen practice. Much easier and cheaper to be a stone.
    I am sure my thinking is way off in places, and I have invited feedback but few were forthcoming because it’s really not an inquiring contender you want, it’s the easy way out.
    There is no worse trauma than ignorance. There is no worse oppressor than the one who reinforces ignorance and silences truth. So if you’d rather that those who think and ask hard questions leave, believe me I have plenty on my plate while Rome burns. If you weren’t addressing me, no problem, my mistake.
    If you continue to demonize “philosophy” and careful reflection and study (something we can still do as humans), checking carefully and repeatedly, be prepared to never stand upright with a spine, and worse, to join the snakes that bite.
    Someone said here in a comment that Buddhism 101 is about not projecting onto others. But this has been taken to mean that we can’t challenge each other, and that’s at the root of deadly groupthink.
    Buddhism 101 is also about taking responsibility for one’s actions, instead of playing the victim card as an excuse not to think and exert effort. If you want to “empower” “victims”, you won’t do so by encouraging self-pity and outrage but by providing or reminding about tools for deepest actual self-knowledge which will prevent you from standing by while someone abuses you.
    Do you think your motives are in in your view? They are mostly not. To understand your motives and your intentions you have to understand yourself, your behavior, your society, your culture, your preconditioning, your narratives, and your situation very very clearly. That’s “philosophy”. And anyway there is no self-existent victim, but pardon, my philosophical underskirt seems to be showing, again.
    Refusal to admit of those that threaten and challenge dearly held dogmas (yes, progressives definitely have as many totalitarian dogmas as the fascists on the right do; don’t forget Hitler identified as a socialist) about what constitutes “helping victims” is part of what produced this abuse.
    And denigration of “philosophy” reveals how deeply ignorant we choose to remain to be, while easily dismissing those that have the standing to articulate just a little bit the architecture of the problem, which as long as *we are pained by it* that is to say, as long as we are suffering and conceiving of our experience as “abuse” cannot appropriate words like “pure view.”
    So, complaints that this blog has gotten off topic is more or less the same as: off with her head!! And what does that mean? We don’t want your thoughts. That’s how totalitarianism begins.
    I have seen many in all kinds of clubs whose loyal members marginalize, mock, put down and sometimes even drive out deep thinkers as “mere” scholars (not really practitioners). This is as old as humanity. Well, look at the results yielded by unthinking “practice.”

    1. Thanks @ Nan
      Yes, I am on my way to face the fears…
      To reflect on the other things that you brought up would take some more time for me, so please don’t perceive as ignorance if I fail to find suitable answers or comments. I really appreciate most of what you said and find it quite inspiring.

  35. @ Nan
    “Without understanding … the underpinnings of the beliefs that drive and determine our actions, good luck finding ways to “help””
    “On the whole, you could say that if you are defending your opinions, you are not serious. Likewise, if you are trying to avoid something unpleasant inside of yourself, that is also not being serious. A great deal of our whole life is not serious. And society teaches you that. It teaches you not to be very serious – that there are all sorts of incoherent things, and there is nothing that can be done about it, and that you will only stir yourself up uselessly by being serious.”
    “But in dialogue you have to be serious. It is not a dialogue if you are not – not in the way I’m using the word…..As we said, you can also have a dialogue in a more limited way – perhaps with a purpose or a goal in mind. It would be best to accept the principle of letting it be open, because when you limit it, you are accepting assumptions on the basis of which you limit it – assumptions that may actually be getting in the way of free communication. So you are not looking at those assumptions.”
    “However, if people are not ready to be completely open in their communication, they should do whatever they can.”

  36. @ Nan
    Thanks for your reply. Yes, I am on my way to face the fears that concern me the most.
    Your thoughts go quite deep and cover wide ranges of philosophy, human condition, belief-systems and limitations of human understanding, religions, traditions. It’s a lot of input for me 😉
    If you feel a bit frustrated, because people did not resonate with your thoughts that much so far, I can understand that, but please don’t give up on it, just because we (I can only talk for myself actually) were not able to reflect on all that you have been saying here and find approprate answers.
    If I do not reply to a comment, it could also be because I can not think of any intelligent answer or because you have laid it down really well and comprehensible, so there is nothing to add.
    Really, I have the impression that most readers here appreciate your contributions, although I can understand that comments like “this is off-topic” seem to be discourageing, but I do not think that they are representative for the visitors here.
    I agree, trying to silence people with challenging opinions or thoughts is a step in the wrong direction, the easy solution that will only bring short term outcome. It reminds a bit of the mob-law atmosphere which someone else also mentioned in another blogpost.
    To reflect on the other things that you brought up would take some more time for me, so please don’t perceive as ignorance if I fail to find suitable answers or comments. I really appreciate most of what you said and find it quite inspiring.

  37. @Rick Thank you. I know this is the age of bashing the classics but I find this an amazing articulation of the first Noble Truth by Victor Hugo in Les Misérables, translated from the French by Julie Rose.
    “Look closely at life. It is so made that you can sense punishment everywhere. Are you what is known as a lucky man? Well, you are sad every day. Every day has its great chagrin or its small worry. Yesterday you were trembling for the health of someone dear to you; today you fear for your own; tomorrow it will be anxiety over money, the day after tomorrow the vicious attack of some slanderer, the day after that, the misfortune of a friend; then the weather, then something broken or lost, then some pleasure that both your conscience and your spinal column hold against you; another time, the course of public affairs. Without counting all the heartaches. And on it goes. One cloud disperses, another forms. Scarcely one day in a hundred of unbounded joy and unbounded sunshine. And you are among the happy few! As for other men, stagnant night is upon them. Thoughtful people rarely use the terms, the happy and the unhappy. In this world, antechamber of another, evidently, there are no happy people. The true division of humanity is this: those filled with light and those filled with darkness. To reduce the number of those filled with darkness, to increase the number of those filled with light, that is the goal. That is why we cry: education! knowledge! science! To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable spelled out sparkles. But when we say light we do not necessarily say joy. We suffer in the light; too much of it burns. Flames are inimical to wings. To burn without ceasing to fly, that is the miracle of genius. When you learn finally to know and when you learn finally to love, you will suffer still. The day begins in tears. Those filled with light weep, if only over those filled with darkness.”
    or as the Buddha declared in the Tamonata Sutta (translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu): “There are these four types of people to be found existing in the world. Which four? One in darkness who is headed for darkness, one in darkness who is headed for light, one in light who is headed for darkness, and one in light who is headed for light.” He then gives examples of how each comes to be…

  38. @Stefanie Thank you for your words. I wish you every strength on your journey. I am glad you have found something useful in my words. Like others here I have experienced my fair share of Dhrama (sic) center trauma and the fallout of not paying attention to, or respecting, my body and mind’s cues, assuming the core of ultimate wisdom and authority could exist outside of my own pleading conscience and thirst for truth, which for me is more important than any quest for “happiness.”

    1. Thanks @ Nan, and best wishes for your journey, too. Sometimes it even continues after we thought we had already reached the destination. Hope that the Dhrama center trauma can be processed and relieved at least to some extent. When it comes to truth – I really hope and pray that truth and happiness can exist together in some unknown way.
      It seems that in a forum like this much pain, trauma and anger accumulates and is confronted with the (unprocessed) emotions of others.
      So seen from that angle, it might be understandable, that without guidance or caring supervision some people seem to lose their way here.

  39. @Nan,
    Is it too much to ask that people could just stick to a topic, without getting totally LOST in philosophical debates that go nowhere? I’m not against philosophy, so don’t you dare imply that I am saying that! Philosophy is fine, but OVERTHINKING philosophy just goes around in circles and it’s like getting lost in the woods. I have nothing against the woods, but I do not wish to get LOST in the woods. See the difference? Hopefully that metaphor will help to clarify my position.

  40. @Catlover What philosophical debates are you referring to? I have not offered a single syllogism, anything about the tetralemma, nothing about a proposed subject of debate, nothing about the object of negation, or the definition of perfect wisdom. To which philosophical debates in my posts do you refer? And if you could help me out with your position which I haven’t heard substantively articulated or clarified, perhaps an adult dialogue can ensue? Who or what is lost in the woods? And whose nowhere are you referring to? Why are you demonizing my posts, refusing to engage with the ideas, and using predictably reductive labels to dismiss and distort their content, which was mined from something more than fight or flight? That is a dirty game I know too well and which I see through perfectly. Do you think triggered defenses, offering no considered response should silence me? Do you think that offers “victims” anything but more delusion? I should cower in the corner and defer to devouring darkness? Why do you get to legislate what I can and cannot share? What gives you the right? If you want to be protected from being offended, keep lapping up lies and wrapping the comforter more tightly around you; it’s a free country (for a while). I will decide when to walk away. And if you are not saying that, why are you acting like it?

    1. @Nan,
      Just STOP accusing me and attacking me! I am not demonizing your posts, but you aren’t going to believe me anyway, so there is no use trying to convince you. I see in another thread that you say you’re leaving this blog. Good luck, but I don’t think that’s necessary. In any case, debating philosophy isn’t just something YOU are doing. I clarified that I was addressing everyone in general, and my post wasn’t directed at any particular individual. I just felt that people were being pulled into an unnecessary debate that was going nowhere because no one is ever going to agree about it. While I have no control, over people who are in the habit of going around in circles with discussions like this, and I can’t “legislate” what people say, it does drive me crazy!

    2. @Nan,
      The only reason you got singled out later by me was because you replied to my post and I felt you were saying I was against discussing philosophy, which I am not. I just don’t want to get lost in overthinking with people, and I have a right to express my feelings about it . While you may not have intended to start a debate, it was turning into one because it feels like you are arguing and twisting what I say. I don’t have the energy to clarify and clarify, so I am not going to.

    3. @ Nan, i’m not sure why you are feeling so defensive about Catlover’s post. She has expressed frustration with overthinking of philosophy which occurs on this blog sometimes, now quite frequently. Ok, you have a different view, or see the debates in a different way. Ok, fine, move on.

      1. “Ok fine, move on” ?
        In another article of this blogpost you found more harsh words (for a commentator that was not on the track that you preferred). Wasn’t it you who wrote “Get with the programme – or get out of the way!” ?
        I appreciate that you changed your behaviour into some more tolerate, morderate attitude.

  41. @Nan,
    My last post to you. The philosophical debates I was referring to were not JUST what you were saying. Most everyone here was deep in a discussion about whether religion is “good” or “bad,” etc. I feel it was going nowhere because it was turning into a debate between “believers” and “non-believers.” I have said myself that it’s important to discuss the wider issues within Tibetan Buddhism (especially Vajrayana) that lead to abuse, so I am not saying we shouldn’t discuss it. But it was getting so FAR off-track that I felt the train was about to derail, so to speak. That was just MY opinion, and maybe I should have expressed it more diplomatically, so I’m sorry for ticking people off. It wasn’t just directed at YOU though, until you responded to me and got all defensive. If you want to hang around and be friendly, I’m totally fine with that. If you decide to stay and not leave, I’m okay with that too. Just don’t accuse me of stuff, and if you do, I will not respond.

  42. @ Catlover
    “a debate between “believers” and “non-believers.””
    It seems to me that a big part of the situation that led to problems within the Rigpa Organization is about “believers and non-believers”. Those that A) believe in Sogyal Rinpoche and the Rigpa Organization and B) those that feel it is an abusive organization and teacher.
    The former are still participating in the Rigpa Organization, some of the latter are here. Out of this group, many feel that Buddhism can be “redeemed” others don’t. It seem inevitable for that discussion to come up.
    Perhaps there are ways beyond this impasse?

  43. @Rick,
    I totally agree that whether Buddhism can be “redeemed” or not is important to discuss in the context of the situation with Rigpa and other lama institutions. I don’t want to see an end to that discussion. There is no “impasse” as far as I’m concerned. Perhaps it’s more of a misunderstanding. I didn’t mean we shouldn’t discuss those things you mentioned. I just felt that the whole religious discussion, in THIS particular thread, was going way off track, and it got to a point where it was going nowhere, and turning into a much larger debate about religion in general, and it was even getting into other religions and stuff that had nothing to do with Tibetan Buddhism at all. Also, if people really want to discuss religion in the wider context, I can’t stop it anyway. I am not one of the mods. 😀

    1. @ Catlover
      Thanks, Catlover.
      At some point, the way this conversation is structured will break down. We can only go so far in a public forum and the owners of the blog may have a book in mind which further complicates dialog.
      I wish we could all come together in a more direct way, but alas, that doesn’t seem like a possible transition from this blog. I do think it is a missed opportunity.
      If this experience demonstrates the need to some for deeper, more open dialogue then that’s pretty good in my mind. It certainly has furthered my commitment to encouraging that approach to the best of my ability. The best book I know on the subject is from David Bohm, but there are many others, too.
      I so appreciate everyone’s participation here.

      1. “Bohm made note of the fact that, in spite of claims to pursue “truth,” scientific endeavor was often infected with personal ambition, a rigid defense of theory, and the weight of tradition-all at the expense of creative participation toward the common goals of science.”
        “Based in part on such observations, he frequently remarked that the general lot of mankind was caught in a similar web of contradictory intentions and actions.”
        “These contradictions, he felt, led not only to bad science, but to all variety of social and personal fragmentation.”
        “In Bohm’s view, such fragmentation cuts across cultural and geographical distinctions, pervading the whole of humanity to such an extent that we have become fundamentally acclimated to it.”

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