Tsoknyi Rinpoche shows a way for other lamas

Rigpa would have asked all those lamas who left accolades to Sogyal to say something, and tradition dictates to them that it be nice. They are culturally bound not to criticise another lama, to only talk about the good. That’s why in Mingyur Rinpoche’s Lion’s Roar article on the abuse, he never actually mentioned Sogyal’s name.

Tsoknyi Rinpoche has shown the lamas a way to say something to satisfy any request from Rigpa (which it would be difficult for them to refuse, especially given that Tsoknyi still teaches there) without glorifying Sogyal.

He made a comment on Sogyal’s death that is not an accolade; it has no bullshit about what a wonderful guy he was. Just excellent instructions for his students, and these instructions also work for his ex students as well because it bypasses the nirmanakaya or embodied level of one’s relationship with a guru. His instructions suggest a way in which we can honour our deepest relationship with our root guru (as Sogyal actually is for many of us) without having to relate to the person we have come to see is a seriously flawed human being.

‘The essential link between student and teacher is the teaching. Now, the connection is no longer with the embodied Lama, but rather with the pure dharmakaya Lama.’

Tsoknyi Rinpoche

This is only part of what he says here

With these words he suggests a way even for ex-students to approach their relationship with Sogyal, to see him not as a man, but as a way to ‘the pure dharmakaya Lama’ and to see their essential link to him as through the teachings (suggesting that it isn’t via his personality). This is really helpful for those who no longer can take Sogyal as their teacher, but still acknowledge some deeper relationship with him – a link that can never be broken and is difficult to understand or explain for those who have rejected him as a person but still feel this link.

As I say in my book Fallout, my connection was always with the pure dharmakaya lama, never with the man. And that connection has never been broken, hence no samaya break with the ultimate lama – how could there be once you have that connection. The ‘pure dharmakaya Lama’ is just a metaphor for the nature of mind and reality.

He also acknowledges those who have left by saying ‘everyone has a right to choose their faith’ and that this advice is on a traditional practice of Tibetan Buddhism.

Everyone has the right to choose their faith, and based on that faith, there are many traditional practices we can do at this time—practices for ourselves and practices for the teacher.

Those of us who have left after years, sometimes decades, of training on what to do at the time of death of one’s root guru still have that knowledge with us. We know that merging our mind with the lama’s wisdom mind is the whole basis of dzogchen, so what do we do now? How do we do the dzogchen practice of merging our mind with a lama we no longer respect? I don’t know of anyone who can do guru yoga now, certainly not with Sogyal as the focus, and for most, the practice itself reminds them of Sogyal and so they cannot do it. Tsoknyi Rinpoche, though he is primarily speaking to those who are still Sogyal’s students, shows a way for even his ex-students to do this dzogchen practice. His advice speaks of the absolute meaning not the relative and so it bypasses personality.

It is a potent time to allow your own unborn nature and the Lama’s dharmakaya essence to mingle together and merge.

Merging our minds with Sogyal’s mind might be impossible for us – probably for many of us the very thought of it raises a host of feelings about his betrayal – but allowing our own unborn nature and the ‘lama’s dharmakaya essence to mingle together and merge’ might be something we could actually do. He’s chosen his words well because this sentence makes our unborn nature and the lama’s dhamakaya essence equal. We can do this, not to gain something for our self, but to help him.

For some of us, even those who have left Rigpa or even left the religion, this kind of merging of ‘minds’ would have been an automatic response to his death. It’s a merging of minds that has nothing to do with religion or with personalities. It’s merely using the idea of merging wisdom minds to help us enter a state of awakening where we actually see the true nature of reality. For some of us, this kind of ‘merging’ wisdom minds has never ceased, regardless of what we feel and what we say about the man. But since this state is beyond personalities, beyond any idea of a self to merge with, it transcends the whole debacle. Tsoknyi’s words remind me of this.

I appreciate the way he has handled this with sensitivity and given guidance that hits the essential points without the devotional garbage that is now such a turn off for those who have left Rigpa. Thank you Tsoknyi. You lighten my heart, shown me that some lamas can step outside their cultural conditioning and actually genuinely care about everyone, not just the party faithful.

Tsoknyi Rinpoche also was one of the few lamas who responded to our requests for a statement on the abuse. His response is here http://beyondthetemple.com/tsoknyi-rinpoche-responds/

We should also note the lamas who have said nothing about Sogyal at this time – Mingyur Rinpoche, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Dzongsar Khyentse. They haven’t joined in with the accolades. I expect Dzongsar will say something – he is one of Rigpa’s spiritual advisors after all. It looks like he’s taking time to think before he speaks.

61 Replies to “Tsoknyi Rinpoche shows a way for other lamas”

  1. Mingling your mind with the guru’s mind is also a fabrication by your mind, but one which protects you from clinging to your ego, in this way the dharmakaya aspect is very helpfull not to forget that you have also a buddha nature, especially in these time full of turmoil. But I think you have to be very quiet about it and don’t make a show of it.
    Therefore I don’t think that it is good to put all the reactions of the lama’s on a site by Rigpa. It is misleading, in the sense of white washing. I still find it very strange that after so many people have left Rigpa none of the remainers did make an attempt private and in public to ask SL to admitt he was wrong just for the sake of all the the teaching and all the work done by so many volunteers. If he had acknowledged that he let people suffer by his actions he would have left a healtier organisation. Just a month before the letter of the 8 came out, on a sangha day I had a discussion with someone,a dzogchen student ,who said to me that a lama could do everthing with her and she was not the only one. If everything means everything I thought ,wow, gas chamber, killing , torture etc. how ridiculous.
    I find these people so scary and they have a strange glow in their eyes when they say such things, for the sake of them SL had to say he was wrong, because these people are very proud about saying these things, which gives them a status, but it is wrong and contraproductive for Bhuddhism in general.

    1. It is not fabrication if you have experienced authentic Realization of Emptiness, as liberated? Is that not the objective of meditation practices, to reach your very very subtle mind as very, very supple? Dead or Alive – nobody experiences anything not arising in one that is also not in the other.

  2. Guru Yoga is about uniting your mind with the wisdom (not ordinary conceptual) mind of the lama with whom you have a karmic connection because they opened your mind to the meaning of the teachings. It is not easy to practise this. It requires an open heart-mind and strong aspiration. Sogyal Rinpoche devoted his whole life to being a translation of the teachings he received from all this masters, Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro until he was 12 years old, Dudjom Rinpoche when he was a young lama who made contact with fellow students at Cambridge University, like Patrick Gaffney and Dominique Side (who have remained by his side throughout), Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche when Sogyal Rinpoche began to find a way to share the Dzogchen teachings with his western students, and then all the many masters whom Sogyal Rinpoche brought to his centres and Lerab Ling, to teach his students. As all the masters of this tradition say, you cannot make contact with the dharmakaya lama other than through the vehicle of the human teacher. Sogyal Rinpoche showed this again and again in his devotion to his principal teachers and respect for all others. Devotion is not mindless adoration of the lama’s human personality. It is profound spiritual appreciation for how they, with all their foibles and vulnerabilities as a human being, have devoted their lives to bringing the teachings to you. Sogyal Rinpoche travelled tirelessly for 40 years around the world teaching his students, inspiring his sangha to create a vehicle to benefit others using modern technology. Running a global organisation, he was on duty 24/7 except for small moments of sleep, even though he struggled with diabetes and all that entrails. He did not make demands on his students to punish them or without thought, he was responding to situations as they arose. I know because I worked with him this way on the final edits of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. I saw the care he took, the extent to which he consulted. As for ethics, just because you have a teacher doesn’t mean abandoning all your moral responsibilities to yourself and others as a human being. This is such an infantile view of the Dzogchen path. The vision of Dzogchen and the Vajrayana is very vast and full of mythopoetic depth that challenges the modern mind shaped by mechanistic logical positivist philosophy, which is invisible to it. So sad to see many students trapped in opinionated judgmentalism that shows such an ignorance of the basic teachings of Shanti Deva on compassion.

    1. “Your Honour, as counsel for the defence I submit to the Court that my client is not guilty of the heinous crimes of sexual abuse and battery of which he is charged…..this is all just an unfortunate misunderstanding which has arisen simply because his trousers are full of mythopoetic depth that challenges the modern mind shaped by mechanistic logical positivist philosophy…….”

    2. @ Barbara Lepani. So sad to see students trapped in spiritual bypassing. The refusal to see facts that are staring them in the face. This error is what is destroying western Tibetan Buddhism. In fact what destroyed Sogyal. Several lamas seem to be misleading students along these lines. ie the end justifies the means. Very very dangerous and foolish, not at all the true Dharma. I have found that many critics of this thought and practice are open enough to see all aspects warts and all and still value the heart essence of the Vajrayana tradition in its pure authentic form. This is why we are challenging Lamas by means of healthy arguments. You see, one simply cannot overlook the stacks of corroborated evidence of Sogyal’s deeply disturbed personality that put so many of his student’s well-being at risk and in effect wrecked a good many peoples lives. I think that both he and Rigpa inner circle along with the coterie of Lamas who did not stop him deceived one another with a false belief system and created one hell of a dysfunctional group dynamic that I am thankful to be well out of. I wonder what you make of all the allegations against Sogyal, how informed you are and if you feel you can excuse or justify them? It would be interesting to hear your side. I think you are the first Rigpa devotee to speak up hear and I respect your courage!

  3. So Tsoknyi Rinpoche has an ‘infantile view of dzogchen’, does he? You know better than him, do you? And you have sufficient insight into what you say ‘isn’t easy to practice’ to evaluate someone else’s understanding, do you? Didn’t Sogyal himself say that it is very simple, but very profound? Isn’t that what we’re seeing in Tsoknyi’s words.

    For some it is not so hard, actually, but then they really do have the ‘open heart-mind and strong aspiration’, and the attitude of bodhicitta you seem unable to recognise in others. They are not stuck in ‘mechanistic logical positivist philosophy’ or any other kind of philosophy. Rather they are free from being confined by beliefs and concepts. It appears that you don’t recognise it, however, probably because it doesn’t fit your preconceived ideas of how these qualities look when not cloaked in religious terminology and supported by a position in a hierarchy. And if you think Sogyal has such qualities, as you appear to do, then that inability to respond to what is presented to you, rather than your idea of what is presented to you is not really surprising.

    You say that Sogyal ‘did not make demands on his students to punish them or without thought’? Really? You seem to have experienced a different Sogyal to the one who caused trauma to so many – all those people who shared their experience of abuse in the Lewis Silken report and also in the What Now support group. Perhaps you related to a projection or fantasy you created of the perfect guru?

    You say you worked closely with him, and here we all know that for most that meant suffering physical and emotional abuse at his hands, so I wonder, are you terrified of considering, with an open mind free of attachment and aversion, that perhaps you were abused not blessed? Confusion such as you’re displaying here is common for someone suffering from PTSD, so my heart goes out to you.

    It’s not easy to face the truth sometimes, especially when you have a lifetime invested in retaining your beliefs. This article in Psychology Today on The Guru Syndrome might give you food for contemplation of your own motives for sticking with your vision of your lama. https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/out-the-darkness/201904/the-guru-syndrome/

    And how does your following statement relate to this post at all when the post is celebrating the advice of a lama who appears sensitive to the full spectrum of experience here? You said, ‘As for ethics, just because you have a teacher doesn’t mean abandoning all your moral responsibilities to yourself and others as a human being’? Of course that’s correct. You don’t need to tell any of the readers here that. The same applies to someone without a teacher and it also applies to teacher himself, who in this case has clearly shown he abandoned his moral responsibilities. So I’m really not sure what your purpose was in saying this – unless you’re making some kind of personal judgement of the author. I suspect you have something against her that is colouring your ability to read what is written here. You seem to be reading into the post things that aren’t there.

    You say that ‘ Devotion is not mindless adoration of the lama’s human personality’ and that is very true, but here, the author seems to be someone whose ‘devotion’ clearly is not adoration of the lama’s human personality. She relates directly with his wisdom mind. So who is this statement for? A reminder for yourself perhaps? Even though those words were taught to us, (thank you, Sogyal for keeping the teachings untainted) mindless adoration is what many in Rigpa practised, and that’s what led to Sogyal having free reign to do whatever he wanted with and to his students. He never corrected the mindless devotion in his students because it suited him not to. In fact he encouraged it. This is the hypocrisy of not walking one’s talk, a hypocrisy engaged in by those who pretend that Sogyal – who clearly abandoned his moral responsibilities – did no wrong.

    And where is the ‘opinionated judgement’ in this post ? Only in your comment, I’m afraid. You seem to be acting in the way you are accusing others of acting.

  4. No Tsoknyi Rinpoche is one of my revered teachers and I think he would be appalled at the tone of your engagement with the dharma. But really, I should never have commented as it is impossible to engage with students who are on this path of righteous moral outrage. I should never have bothered.

    1. I think righteous moral outrage is necessary here to clean up what has become a very corrupt system. Luckily there are plenty of others (respected Buddhist teachers included) concerned enough about the future of Tibetan Buddhism to be brave enough to weather the vitriol of some in order to drive change towards a healthier communities.

    2. What is the ‘tone of engagement with the dharma’ that you think he’d be appalled at? People questioning? Being honest and open? Expecting some compassion for victims of abuse? Expecting lamas to walk their talk? He isn’t smothering the truth with false accolades, so why would he find it a problem that Sogyal’s ex-students aren’t either.

  5. Well as someone recently said to me – you can’t expect a reasonable, sane response from someone who is being neither sane nor reasonable. …
    (*Defintions as per the common consensus )

  6. I find Tsokny R. text in this “homage” quite appalling even and because if he does not say a word of SL… Whith whom he spent many time and knew very well.
    And i do agree 100% with Wonderling.

    Difficult for me to agree with how Thalia tries to give a true advice and signification of her understanding of Dzogchen in merging one’s own “mind” with the “guru”s (monstruous Sogyal in this case) mind at the Dharmakaya level…

    An other ultimate play to stay stuck in a cult created by SL and his famous “very good friends”.

    It makes me think to the guruyoga Mindroling Jetsun Khandro wrote for C.Trungpa’s bi-sexual vajra regent “Ösel Tenzin” who tansmited aids even when he knew he was infected…Awfull!!!!
    Good luck Thalia, i wish you will not go crazy this way. 😉

  7. The word unite and the meaning of unite is important here. Perhaps there are several meanings for it, unite in the sense of becoming similar or wanting becomming similar and not mixed like two cups of water into one. The Dharmakaya is an aspect , and what Thalia said is in accordance what the HH Dalai Lama said about SL, even if a person did very bad things and you want to criticize it, you have also to adress the good points of that person also how difficult that might be. Perhaps this is a possible line of thought?

    1. Try and see the results with SL guruyoga…in any form.
      You can see him like Padmasambha if you like.
      I wish you to have success, but i have many doubts when the guru did much more than little mistakes. In the case of SL, he ruined many lifes and harmed many victims in the name of Buddha. It’s very harmfull fot Buddhism image in general and especialyvajrayana in this case.
      And it splashes all the hierarchy of four schools too who did not stop him especially knowing the way he was acting for decades.
      HHDL speaks of his guru’s “errors” but not about some one “disgraced” like SL.
      Degenerate times indeed.
      No more ethics , just sexploitation, violence, cash and hipocrisy under an apparence of “crazy wisdom”, very clanish business in many cases under the cover of transmission of authentic deep teatchings written by past (supposed) high realised Lamas and Mahasiddhas. Mass manipulation.
      Empowerments …Samayas… Termas…yes , in apparence, but with no value when given by rotten Lamas working for their own comfort…Nightmare!

  8. There was a Dharma student named Tony L. in LA, a lawyer who was always pretty nice to me and my family when we moved there in the early eighties when I went to UCLA law school, and we ran the Santa Monica/LA Yeshe Nyingpo Center for around eight years. Tony was very opinionated, had a good, solid ego, but he often came to teachings and pujas, and gave offerings to the lamas. When he died a few years after we moved back up to be near Tashi Choling in Ashland, Oregon, somebody called me on the phone and said, “Tony L. just died. Go tell Rinpoche.” The assumption being that Rinpoche would do something for him in the Bardo. So I jumped in my car and drove up to the Temple, and Rinpoche opened the door, and I said, “Tony L. just died.” Rinpoche snapped, “Maybe in his next lifetime, he’ll do some practice.”

  9. Personally i could never take Sogyal Seriously.since the first time i encountered him in the late 1980 s i saw him as the second hand car dealer of Tibetan Buddhism .I witnessed him in 1990 at a retreat in Grenoble hosting Dilgo Khyentse . He was like a circus ring master .A somewhat baffoonish warm up act for the main event ..A friend of mine that was 19 at the time was having a fling with an an older women .He described to me one morning seeing sogyal sitting sulking like a 15 year old boy at the end of this woman s bed annoyed because one of his “dakini s” had strayed .. There may well be many thing s i don t understand about Vajrayana Buddhism but i certainly don t see the evidence provided by the 8 letter writers and other people i know personally as the work of people “trapped in opinionated judgmentalism” In the 80 s i practiced with Trungpa s sangha in london . In those days i drank too much and noticed there was a fairly intense drinking culture in the Sangha . Teachers often taught when quite drunk . I began to question what was going on . Also i was aware of the the vast quantities of Alcohol Trungpa himself consumed …. Infact it turns out he quite literally drank himself to death .The response from senior students was patronizing and dismissive .”Who was i to question the mind of a Mahasiddha ” etc Some of those same people have now changed there view and would now agree that he had a serious problem with alcohol and it had a disastrous effect on the community .The same,sadly, seems to be the case with his son Mipham Rinpoche .Who really understand s the Vajrayana ? teachings ,Pure perception etc are invoked to protect these behaviors and in effect bully people into believing they are ignorant . In fact they are just honest and prepared to called a spade a spade…… This business with the “Homages” points to problems in communication on a very basic level between teachers and students .No wonder so many people (including myself at times) have drifted into cult like magical thinking …… I once showed my old dad the film “Crazy Widom” (about Trungpa Rinpoche ) My Father is not a Buddhist .After about 20 minutes he blurted out ,”Good God what a creep” It was very funny . Long live the true Dharma ,whatever and wherever it is …

  10. I think what Tsoknyi is saying can also be expressed as:

    Cake is emptiness, emptiness is cake
    Emptiness is not separate from cake, cake is not separate from emptiness
    Whatever is cake is emptiness, whatever is emptiness is cake.

    Or to put it another way……

    The nonexistence of cake is indeed the existence of nonexistence; this is the definition of cake. It is neither existence, nor nonexistence, neither different nor identical.


  11. Flippancy aside, it must be quite difficult for them…..trying not to offend anyone who might be a potential source of income.

    It obviously requires a tricky blend of omission, avoiding a clear description of a huge amount of problems and not mentioning the person who caused them, yet simutaneously seeming to take a decent moral stance on those problems ( which you never really mention) thus implying you’re not entirely happy with the person ( who you don’t name except to praise them for all the wonderful things they’ve done ) and then coming out with a deluge of Buddhist terminology and citing the teachings until you have effectively drowned the issue of sexual abuse and violence, leaving students to desperately try to sift through your words to find a few moral or philosophical straws to clutch at.

    “Now, the connection is no longer with the embodied Lama, but rather with the pure dharmakaya Lama. It is a potent time to allow your own unborn nature and the Lama’s dharmakaya essence to mingle together and merge.”

    Seriously, who really has the faintest idea what that actually means?

    Ok, the ’embodied lama’ may be a violent rapist……but hey! his ‘dharmakaya essence is fine, so let’s mingle and merge……!

    The polite word for this is ‘sophistry’ or these days ‘gaslighting’.
    Mingyur is quite good at it, Tsoknyi less so, and so on through to Dzongsar Khyentse’s strangely incoherent tirades.

    Most lamas have a different style but however subtle or obvious, it’s basically hypocrisy; they knew but kept quiet, kept turning up, kept taking the cash and will continue to do just that, lending their support and endorsement to an organisation that obviously doesn’t have the courage or honesty face up to the horror of what happened.

    As a thought experiment: try to imagine a society without justice, where no one ever spoke honestly about abuse, violence and corruption, where people in authority ignored it for their own profit, until long after the fact when it became impossible to just say nothing and they finally came out with a few vague allusions to it, but failed to condemn or even name the perpetrators, except to posthumously praise their ‘good works’ and they advised victims:

    “The best way to leave is to do so without bad-mouthing the teacher or creating difficulties for those who may be benefiting from the teacher and the community. Leave on good terms, or at the very least, do not leave on bad terms. Simply move on with humility and do not feel bad about the fact that it did not work out”

    Sound familiar? Mingyur’s advice is the classic enabler’s injunction to silence victims in abusive families everywhere.

    How can anyone accept or even be associated with that and think themselves not morally complicit?

    1. Yes, I see that too, @Pete. I guess what I’m saying here is that Tsoknyi (and MR and HHDL) are managing probably the best they can given their cultural restrictions and religious conventions they are expected to follow. I’m sure it is very hard for them to walk a line that does not offend their student base, go against their religion or ignore all those who have left the religion (or at least the Rigpa sangha) but still have some concern for the future of the religion. I think these lamas have walked this line well, and I respect them for that, no matter what other failings they most certainly have.

      1. Yes Tahlia, it’s good to acknowledge the fine line between cultural conventions and slavish praise that is blind to the harm caused by SR’s behaviour over many years. I also felt that Chokyi Nyima’s ‘tribute’ stayed pretty close to the facts about Sogyal’s Dharmic activity and avoided slavish praise.

        Long live the sons of Tulku Urgyen!

  12. @ Tahlia and Matilda
    You may respect them for negotiating what you describe as the
    “cultural restrictions and religious conventions they are expected to follow. “…….but I don’t think they deserve your respect for doing that and I’ll try to explain why:

    Their ignominious history of silence about Sogyal’s abuse and their de facto indifference towards his victims’ suffering was motivated by sordid self-interest……hiding behind convention then or now and talking about it only long after the fact in vague ambivalent terms is proof of nothing except continued self-interest and given the magnitude of Sogyal’s criminality, that’s just not good enough, as it maintains the very same conditions that enabled him for years so the potential for more abuse in future is obvious.

    Their complicity certainly didn’t deserve respect during the decades Sogyal was abusing vulnerable women and brutalizing people, so why should it deserve respect now?

    This is part of a wider issue: the misogyny and exploitation that underlies not just Tibetan Buddhism, but most religious and many cultural traditions worldwide.

    There is a very wide and very horrific spectrum of repugnant cultural and religious conventions and practices that ranges from female mutilation of several kinds, devadasis, child marriage, women being imprisoned for reporting rape, stoned to death, sex trafficking….. it goes on and on, and all of it is based on the primitive belief that women are inferior to men and to be treated as commodities .

    Sogyal’s behaviour is unarguably located on this spectrum and it’s worth remembering that it too was firmly rooted in and sanctioned by a cultural and religious tradition, that for many people legitimized it and still does.

    I don’t agree that anything at all which goes against our current values of humanity, social justice and gender equality to whatever degree should ever be condoned, ignored or not called out unequivocally and condemned explicitly just because it might upset someone’s cultural or religious sensibilities. It’s a feeble and morally irresponsible excuse.

    If you have a position of respect and your guiding priority is just to avoid offending your peers or compromising your income and status, whether you’re religious leader, politician or an ordinary person you’re effectively complicit with that spectrum of abuse…….does that ever deserve respect?

    This quote from Beatrice Alba a research psychologist sums it up:

    “We need to ask ourselves what is really sacred: respecting the traditions of a bygone era, or basic principles of social justice. If religions get it so wrong on this basic issue of social justice and human rights, why would we owe them any deference?”

  13. @Pete, The deepest part of me agrees with your view on this. But one of several issues with this view is we are not dealing with free individuals but individuals who are part of an institution. As Huston Smith once said “religion is institutionalized spirituality”. Members of an institution are always mindful of the repercussions of being completely honest. If I am completely honest with myself I too have behaved this way in workplaces that I wasn’t totally happy with (i.e I didn’t just send an all staff email listing all the problems with the place). Then there are the not insignificant cultural issues of Asian cultures being more collectivist than the individualist West and yes more misogynistic, but we’ve only recently corrected that in the West. Not saying any of this justifies silence around abuse but it characterizes the response from good members of the institution. It did irk me how long it took HHDL to respond to various abuse outbreaks but he does respond. A bit like the wheels of justice turn slowly but they do turn. And you could say be damned with all religious institutions and let’s just have free individuals. But the Buddha quite methodically set one up and Christ always talked about his Church. They must have known all the evil that would invade it, but that’s samsara or living with the devil.

    1. @ Taxila
      Yours is a reasonable response, and please don’t think I’m advocating some kind of rigid obsessive morality here, because it would be ridiculous to think anyone can ever avoid moral compromises.

      Like you, I’ve been in plenty of situations when I refrained from expressing what I thought, either from self-interest, because it seemed futile or just to avoid conflict.

      Everybody does this, we weigh things up as best we can, including the consequences of speaking or doing nothing, the context and the degree of harm involved.

      But this isn’t about criticizing your employer because he’s a bigot and losing your job or starting a dangerous argument with a large drunken racist in a bar…….we’re talking about collective silent complicity by a lot of people in positions of trust and authority in a religion supposedly based on ethics and compassion, and that complicity has enabled untold suffering for countless victims of violence and sexual abuse for decades and it would be naive to think the exploitation is going to stop with the exile and death of one man.

      To be fair you’ve reminded me of something I missed in my response to Tahlia and Matilda which I think they were inferring, but I didn’t pick up on it and I should have.

      Your use of the word “institutionalized” also applies to all lamas.

      Even I must concede that they’re individuals who have been indoctrinated from a very early age in a medieval religion and mostly live in a third world society which, as you rightly point out, has somewhat different values to ours, so obviously we should expect their instinctual loyalties and behaviour to reflect this……most of us didn’t anticipate it of course but we’re certainly aware of it now. Better late than never.

      I’m going to be ( uncharacteristically ) charitable and say that we naive Westerners join cults and get brainwashed, usually as adults, but these unfortunate people are born into one that reaches into every aspect of their lives and society.

      Set against that is the considerable length of time Tibetan Buddhism has been in the West, the fact that most of these lamas are relatively young, speak European languages and are perfectly familiar with our values and claim to agree with and abide by them.

      Basically I’m saying that as they claim to be qualified to teach Westerners how to live they can’t pretend ignorance anymore nor hide behind cultural conventions, because I don’t believe any of them are that intellectually or morally unsophisticated these days.

      Religions may have internal moral codes but they rarely enforce them for their elites nor do they have any way of doing so by sanctions. I never heard of a Catholic pedophile priest being excommunicated or an abusive lama even being ostracized by his peers.

      Also, I don’t think anything in the Buddha’s teaching compels anyone to be part of a huge institution if they don’t like it, surely you can practice it freely as an autonomous individual?

      Finally, it seems to me that if you want to be a Buddhist these days you’re pretty much on your own anyway, you can’t expect much help from the lamas or the institution of Tibetan Buddhism with this, so it comes down to whether you as an individual, after considering the evidence, think they and their religion as it stands at the moment actually deserve your respect and trust.

      Apologies for yet another long response, I think I’ve exhausted this topic for myself at least.

      1. Could it also be another form of fundamentalism, muslims make bombs for who critize their relegion, TB do it this way by gaslighting.

      2. You are criticizing Mingyur Rinpoche but you don’t know whether he was aware of the extent of the abuses. I think generally people knew about this old US inquiry on sex abuse (which as far as I know was settled) and about some excessive inadequate use of money. But that was it.

        Mingyur Rinpoche and Sogyal Rinpoche had the same teacher: Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche. So they are vajra brothers and if you know a minimum about Vajrayana, it is a very delicate position…
        As a general rule, lamas never criticize other lamas actions. Of course any critic would upset a whole Sangha. So this is the role of the senior Sangha members to guarantee a proper functioning. Senior students of Sogyal Rinpoche lacked integrity in their practice. A dysfunctional personality attracts dysfunctional students: it is their karma and they are on the path.

        So at the end Pete, you are being very critical because you think you know better how this whole situation should be managed. But are you sure you are considering all the factors?

        1. @ French Observer
          I notice your comment consists of about a dozen very confident assertions, a forgone conclusion and one rhetorical question. I suspect any response I’d give you wouldn’t satisfy you or change your view in the slightest.

          You can imagine that in the past twenty five years I’ve already heard, many times, all the possible arguments attempting to mitigate the collective refusal to address Sogyal’s abuse…….and even excuse the abuse itself ; I’ve already written so frequently and in such detail about why I believe those arguments are inadequate that I’ve even started to bore myself………and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

          I’m so sorry you somehow missed all of this.

          But I feel I really must avoid repeating myself more than I already have done and I don’t want to further try the considerable patience of everyone else here, so I hope you don’t mind, but I’ll confine myself to just answering your question:


          Now I think it’s better for me to defer to someone far more articulate: the Russian poet
          Yevgeny Yevtushenko, who said:

          “When the truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.”

          1. @pete, that’s my last answer after I’ll keep quite (ahah, does it mean I will be lying…).
            I have read some of your comments and “from my perspective” what transpires is a lack of knowledge and understanding of the religions you are criticizing.
            For instance you wrote above: “I never heard of a Catholic pedophile priest being excommunicated”. Well of course, Merely committing a sin, even a grave one, is not normally dealt with through excommunication. What matters is advocating something that the Church considers sinful. Sexual abuse of children is utterly abhorrent, no doubt about it. But in the eyes of the Church, there is a difference between committing a sin and trying to justify or advocate that sin. Excommunication is for the latter, not the former.

            So you can see that you critic was unjustified on this theme. Only due to your ignorance, you misinterprete some situations.
            From what I have read, you have neither a deep understanding and knowledge of the Vajrayana religion. I was trying to give you some clear clues but you don’t seem to take them into consideration.

            Anyway as you affirm that you are sure that you are considering all the factors, the discussion is closed.

            1. @ French Observer
              You’re probably right we shouldn’t pursue this, but there’s one point that perhaps I didn’t explain properly.

              Ok, you might think it’s important to explain why child rape doesn’t result in excommunication from the Catholic Church in order to prove how ignorant about religion I am and how learned you are…..I’m fine with that, but you’re not only missing the point but also inadvertently backing up my argument.

              I’ll explain: Excommunication is the most severe penalty the Catholic Church has, but as far as I recall it doesn’t literally mean you’re thrown out, it just means you can’t physically receive the sacrament or hold office within the church and so on, it’s nothing much……. but the Catholic Church doesn’t think raping children deserves even that.

              As far as I recall, other things like heresy, apostasy, celebrating mass or hearing confession when not a priest, getting an abortion, slapping a pope and so on do apparently……. and yes, I”ll admit Catholicism isn’t something I know much about, but you don’t need to be a theologian or an expert on doctrine to understand corruption…… but it does help if you want to try and justify it.

              Catholics only have to appear to repent, say sorry….and all is forgiven. Tibetan Buddhists don’t even need to do that apparently.

              My point is that religions like Christianity and Buddhism have no effective deterrents or sanctions: their members and even their priests can sexually abuse women and even children without fear of any real punishment or even the threat of exclusion. In this they are incapable and unwilling to police themselves, so the tend to be institutionally corrupt.

              The widespread and unchecked pedophilia in Catholicism and the sexual abuse in Tibetan Buddhsim are examples that prove this.

              So it’s not important precisely why in doctrinal terms peddophilia doesn’t merit excommunication……..it should.

              I hope I’ve explained that clearly enough for you to see the difference..

      3. @Pete, no I didn’t think you were advocating an obsessive morality I just wanted to add to the debate. I really appreciate all your thinking. I should make it clear that my comment only related to Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche and HHDL, who have acknowledged and disapproved of the abuse however indirectly and belatedly! In relation to your last comment I don’t personally think I can accept the Tibetan Buddhist religion as it currently is and as has been examined and revealed on this blog. Stephen Batchelor wrote a very good book on Buddhism coming to West and if I remember one of the central themes was that every time Buddhism took root in another culture it adapted to that culture. So I’m not sure what will happen in long run with Tibetan Buddhism in the West but this blog has outlined many things from Tibetan culture that the West will never accept, at least on the scale of a fully established religion. In its current form it can only survive in isolated cults that are cut off from the rest of society. But this is the same process Buddhism has been through many times before.

        1. @ Taxila
          I’m really glad you find this blog helpful, all the credit should go to Tahlia for keeping it going.

          It’s encouraging and fascinating to see how the tide of opinion changes as people have more information. I suppose I’m an extreme case, being not just critical of Buddhism but vehemently anti-religion. ( almost everyone else here is reasonable and diplomatic.)

          I don’t know much about the way Buddhism has mutated and adapted from one culture to the next, it would be interesting to read up on that. I imagine previously it happened in a slow organic way between societies that weren’t at such dramatically different stages of development, but I suppose the recent encounter has been a pre-industrial, rigid medieval theocracy meeting the relatively free democratic societies of the modern world, the process being super-charged by technology, and distorted by an unimaginable disparity of resources and wealth…..more of a crash than an encounter really.

          I think because the dangers of that disparity have been so violently exposed now, I can’t see how trust can be regained, and maybe it shouldn’t be. Like all religions, Tibetan Buddhism seems stubbornly dogmatic and inflexible, it’s structure so patriarchal, elitist and ill- equipped to cope with our values, that it’s difficult to imagine how it could ever really integrate.

          It’s certainly not showing any signs of doing that with any enthusiasm or open mindedness yet.

          In the past religions probably became successful and dominant by allying themselves with the ruling classes, using fear and exploiting ignorance to bolster their power…..but it’s hard to imagine how Tibetan Buddhism could do that with today’s global corporate hegemony.
          ( Shambala seems to have tried but it’s not going so well…..)

          Today’s elites don’t need their help or what they’re selling: they’ve got lobbying and cash to control politicians directly. Anything that could be useful, like mindfulness for boosting corporate performance, can just be appropriated, copied. and commercialized.

          From the little I know of Christianity and Islam at least , it seems they were propagated and enforced by emperors and kings at sword and gun-point. Luckily it’s too late for that but religion still plays it’s part in keeps war going around the world.

          I think you’re probably right about it surviving in isolated cult form…..basically what it is now.

    1. @ Friend. I have just also read the latest addition to the homage page by the Central Tibetan Administration Dharamsala. It is just so utterly hypocritical. Now I have lost the last vestiges of hope that any sense of intelligence and honesty will ever be found within Tibetan organizations. They appear to have no idea of truth and integrity and clearly don’t give a damn about foolish westerners who criticize their degenerate lamas. I agree, does one weep or laugh? I had no idea that the corruption had got through to such a deep level.

    2. link provided does not work. It says “We couldn’t find the page you were looking for. This is either because:

      There is an error in the URL entered into your web browser. Please check the URL and try again.
      The page you are looking for has been moved or deleted.”

      1. It’s normal, du to Rob letter and other , they came out this homage page!!!
        And the Namkhai Norbu Dzogchen group too!!! 😉

  14. This is just tibetan business, they should have say thank you also for all the money their organizations have received from The Tertön Sogyal Foundations.
    By the way, how much was it and who is going to control the millions of The Tertön Sogyal Foundations?
    I wonder also how much is going to cost the recognition of the new Yangsi Sogyal Rinpoche. Are we talking hundreds thousands or millions of dollars?
    After all, this is one of the best brand for the Tibetan Dharma Market. Even if it has been a little been damaged by some unsatisfied customers…


      1. @Tahlia, I rejoice for you that you are following this so deep advice from Padmasambhava: “In the age of kaliyuga you find no perfect masters, so be like a swan who can separate milk and water.”

        That’s so important to remember always that we can’t find any perfect master on this earth…

        1. You cannot be a sexual predator for decades and a master even “unperfect”.
          People who think it’s allright so are crazy.

          I’m sure Padmasambhava was speaking of little wordly mistakes of the teatcher but not about abuses and violences by a criminal sociopath and his gaslighting activity like described in the letter of the 8 senior Rigpa members signatories about SL.
          I hope !!! 😉
          A swann can (not) separate milk and water, but sh….and water with no problem 🙂

          If a “master” has no realisation of what he teatches ( to behave like SL for exemple, ) , i wonder what type quality emanate in the Dzogchen Teatchings he gives or sell and what benefit you get in such causal connections with this type of monstruous charlatan…?

  15. Dixit Khandro Rinpoche: “All of our great teachers, and Sogyal Rinpoche particularly, is gathered within the mindstream of the great Mahaguru, Guru Rinpoche”.

    Let’s all vomit together… A little bit of purification never hurts! Should not be long before Matreya arrive to explain again what Dharma is all about…
    Those fat lamas are really pathetic…

    1. I let you read this wonderful guruyoga from a well known author and Rigpa advisor :

      Bliss and deep insight in action many years ago and still at work with SL! 🙁
      New age Khandro, for neo-buddhism maybe?
      Guruyoga for sexual predators is now available….waiting for SL one sson.

      I doubt things will change, even with internet, “too big to fail” as we say, but impermanence will do the job … if not the Dharmapalas blocked by the bad karma of our period of hard samaya breakings for sex, fame, politics and cash .
      Borgia incarnations could be recognized soon…here and in Tibet-China 😉

  16. It’s an hard call to know which organization will still be the most corrupt in 20 years: Rigpa or Shambhala?

    I had a vision this night, those two great founders are now giving teachings in the realm of Lalaland…
    Hurry up, due to low attendance there is currently an operation of promotion. 1’000/year (minimum until your death) if you want to get an access to this wonderful, crazy realm…
    As usual Young Virgins can enter for free for the first years as long as they’ll serve properly the new Regent…

  17. I have written to the Central Tibetan Administration

    Subject: Central Tibetan Administration’s statement on Sogyal Rinpoche’s web-site
    Cc: , ,

    Department of Religion and Culture,
    Central Tibetan Administration,
    Gangchen Kyishong, Dharamsala

    Dear Central Tibetan Administration,

    I was shocked and deeply upset by the statement from you that appeared on Sogyal Rinpoche’s web-site. https://sogyalrinpoche.org/paying-homage-blog/central-tibetan-administration-dharamsala

    I have been personally affected by Sogyal Rinpoche’s abusive behaviour, which has been described in the public domain on many occasions. He was found by an independent investigation to have subjected his students to “serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse,” and “there were senior individuals within Rigpa who were aware of at least some of these issues and failed to address them, leaving others at risk.” You can read that report here https://whatnow727.files.wordpress.com/2018/09/lewis-silkin-report.pdf

    Just search ‘Sogyal’ or ‘Rigpa’ on google.

    I know first hand how this teacher behaved. How do you think I and others like me feel when we read in your statement, “We are grateful for all the beneficial activities H.E. Sogyal Rinpoche has accomplished in terms of holding, preserving and spreading the dharma teachings and the Tibetan culture.”? You don’t mention the well documented physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

    HH Dalai Lama has described Sogyal Rinpoche as ‘disgraced.’ Sogyal Rinpoche has disgraced himself, Rigpa and the whole of Tibetan Buddhism. How can I let my teenage daughter be in a position where she might be locked in a room being ordered to undress and suck the teacher’s penis as a test of devotion? I know from my own experience that the students who experienced this are telling the truth.

    It reflects very badly on Tibetan Buddhism and also on HH Dalai Lama that you have put out this statement. For the benefit of everyone, please withdraw it and apologise.

    Thank you for reading this.

    Yours sincerely

  18. I’ve expressed my grave concern to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) yesterday: https://www.dropbox.com/s/awtlcyvioycdlyx/Hogendoorn%20-%20Re.%20Central%20Tibetan%20Administrations%20eulogy%20for%20Sogyal%20Lakar%20%285%20September%202019%29.pdf?dl=0

    I’ve asked the CTA to reconsider its position on Sogyal Lakar, and make amends for its eulogy by publicly acknowledging and deploring the traumas and suffering Sogyal, enablers like Patrick Gaffney, and Rigpa institutions have caused untold numbers of victims and survivors.

    Meanwhile I’ve sent copies of our book registered to the department of Religion & Culture and the Office of H.H. the fourteenth Dalai Lama.

    Because I think that the CTA’s stated position deserves wider attention, I’ve sent copies of my letter to ‘Tricycle’, ‘Lion’s Roar’, ‘Buddhist Door Global’, and Matthew Remski too.

    (Please note that I made a slight mistake: the title of our book should spell Sogyal Rinpoche rather than Sogyal Lakar.)

    1. @ Rob Hogendoorn
      A very thorough job, I’m looking forward to their response, …..assuming it isn’t similar to the other letters about Sogyal sent to the CTA and the Dalai Lama over the past years……to head straight for the recycling bin.

    2. @Rob Hogendoorn, thanks for this letter. I hope it will spread as far as possible and be studied. The respect of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is really the core of the problem. And who can object against this argument?
      Tibetan culture must evolve and fast. And we need really to contain its inherent corrupt practices. I don’t know if you have read the books from Alexandra David-Néel about her exploration of Tibet (for instance her 1923 expedition to Tibet). Fascinating accounts, today tibetans are just behaving like old ones and they succeed in tricking uniformed westerners believing in their Lalaland stories…

      We need smart and vigilant people like you to contain this system of corruption and domination which is spreading in the West. Let’s hope that at the end, this exchange between civilizations will be for the greater benefit of all humanity!

    3. Dear Rob and MS: This is excellent, really well done! You will probably never hear back from CTA, and I doubt that they will withdraw their statement, but if this makes them feel even a little bit uncomfortable and sleazy, it was well worth doing. It’s good to challenge them.

  19. @Pete, I kind of understand your point. But to talk really about excommunication, I do think you must know enough about catholic theology and doctrine. You clearly don’t know enough about this subject.
    Also it doesn’t seem like you have been following the pedophilia affair in Catholicism from very close (which is OK of course). If you have some interests on the subject, I think you will find the positions of the Church in the last Pope’s declarations. He has been pretty clear and the measures are in place. It is not accurate to say that pedophilia is unchecked today in Catholicism.

    At the end, what I meant with my message is to make proper critics, you need to know sufficiently about a religion. Of course you can take a moral stance as an outsider, but then don’t talk about excommunication (this is just one example). It doesn’t make any sense.
    We could have the same type of consideration with Tibetan Buddhism, but the subject is even way more complex. Note that I fully recognize that many tibetan lamas misbehave (especially according to the Tibetan Buddhist religion).

    Ok, no hard feeling. Interesting discussion anyway but we both know we could argue during years. From my understanding, you are against the structures of religions because of all their negative consequences. For my part, I consider that the mission of religion is to convey a spiritual message. Of course when you try to apply spiritual messages, mix it with men and material issues, it all becomes very messy and imperfect. That’s just the way it is.

    For my part, I always try to keep a safe distance from religions but still I appreciate the role they play and I have benefited greatly from them…

  20. This morning, I’ve received a reply dated September 9th, 2019 from the Department of Religion and Culture to my email message to the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala, India.

    You’ll find this ‘Clarification’ here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/b8dhp8uxwxjplc1/Department%20of%20Religion%20%26%20Culture%20-%20Clarification%20%28September%209th%2C%202019%29.pdf?dl=0

    Several other writers received it too, but I’ll leave it to themselves to disclose their identities.

    My original message to the Central Tibetan Administration can still be downloaded through the link that I posted here in my comment on September 6th.

  21. Karen Jensen of the magazine ‘Tricycle: The Buddhist Review’ wrote a fine article on the retroactive beatification of Sogyal Lakar as well as the retraction of eulogies posted on his website after protests by students and supporters of various Tibetan lamas and institutions: https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/sogyal-rinpoche-eulogies/

    Jensen makes mention of the Change.org petition ‘Dharma Teachers: Please Retract Your Homages to Sogyal’, which I hope you will sign too.

  22. No need to merge one’s mind with the dharmakaya mind of the guru.
    Do the guru yoga of Padmasambhava, ati guru yoga and tekcho.
    Remember that the view of ati yoga is the non duality of the three kaya’s.
    It appears, Tsoknyi Rinpoche still presumes Sonam Gyalten was a Nirmanakaya.

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