Wake up Tibetan Lamas: Are You Destroying Your Religion?

The Chinese tried to destroy Tibetan Buddhism inside Tibet. They failed, but outside of Tibet some Tibetan lamas (not all) are destroying it all by themselves. No help needed. Ignorance parading as wisdom will do it all by itself. Just take a person brought up to believe they are some kind of god, feed them ‘teachings’ designed to support the power structure that sets them up at the top of their own little kingdom, and let them loose on the Western world where there are plenty of naive students willing to turn to them as their saviour and do everything they say without question and you have a situation ripe for abuse. Unless they are good monks or their own teacher has made it clear to them that being a Vajrayana master doesn’t give them licence to ignore basic Buddhist ethics, there is nothing to stop them, no governing body. And the attempts of some lamas to cling to their cozy little kingdoms in the guise of maintaining authentic teachings may bring about the end of Westerners respect for Tibetan Buddhism.

What destroys the religion

  1. A lama physically, sexually and emotionally abuses some of his students and uses others as slaves who do his bidding without question or concern for their own health. Lamas who destroy Western respect for them and their religion will say that:
    • It isn’t abuse, it’s crazy wisdom. This makes it look like they think their lamas are above the law.
    • It’s only a worldly perspective and not a dharmic perspective. This makes it look as if Tibetan Buddhism is not at all concerned with ethics or compassion. It also appears arrogant and condescending, and again as if they think they are above the law of the land in which they teach.
    • Once you accept a teacher as your teacher you have to obey them in all things and if you have correct perception, you would not see it as abuse but as a blessing. This makes Tibetan Buddhism look like a cult and lamas more interested in maintaining power than benefiting their students. Why? Because students are being asked to set aside their right to say no, and their right to use their discernment as to what is best for their own health. That is a very unhealthy situation for the student.The important thing for lamas to realise here is that, regardless of the truth of these ideas from a religious point of view, they are teaching in the West which is full of Westerners, therefore they would be unwise to disregard or demean Western perceptions and values. Also they are subject to the law of the land in which they teach.
  2. Other lamas and students support the lama who has been exposed as indulging in abusive behaviour. This invariably takes the form of:
    • Victim blaming – the students aren’t ‘right’ for Vajrayana, they don’t understand it or the true importance of their lama’s behaviour, they should have checked the lama thoroughly before committing themselves to him, or they should be practicing a ‘lower’ yana which is not quite so risky. This appears very condescending. It also sidesteps the issue of the teacher’s poor behaviour by denigrating the victim.
      Victim blaming is a ruse that has been used for years to keep women from speaking up about rape and to turn juries against them in trials. All it does is contribute further to the suffering of those who have been harmed, which adds to the perception by Westerners that these lamas have no compassion.
    • Superstition and fear tactics – the students are at fault for speaking out and will be punished for it. One said they have been possessed by evil spirits or maras (negative forces). Another well-known denigrator of those who speak out says that they have broken their samaya (or sacred bond with their teacher) and will go to hell. Again these stances shows a complete lack of compassion for those harmed, says nothing about the actual problem, which is the abusive behaviour, terrifies people into silence, and maintains the power structure of the religion which keeps the lama at the top of his feudal kingdom. Where, a normal Westerner wonders, is the benefit in this for the student?
    • Support for physical abuse as a genuine spiritual teaching tool – In the Paris Rigpa centre recently one lama said that beating was a means to increase the student’s wisdom and realization. This is simply incredibly backward thinking to any normal Westerner. Thinking like this belongs in the dark ages. He also suggested that a lama killing someone was acceptable if the murderer is a Mahasiddha (a self-appointed title in this case). That idea is extremely dangerous particularly in those with delusions. Again this man thinks some lamas are above the law.  This is simply not acceptable in the West.
  3. Some lamas while not overtly supporting the abusive lama still support the ‘do as I say or go to hell’ idea, and go even further to belittle Westerners and trivialise the attestations of abuse with illconceived ‘humour’ that expose their misogyny and arrogance. Lamas that don’t respect the culture in which they teach have no business teaching here.
  4. Many lamas say nothing, thus making it look as if they condone the behaviour.
  5. The lamas (His Holiness Dalai Lama and Mingyur Rinpoche) who do speak out against abusive behaviour are few, but it is them that will save Tibetan Buddhism, not those who cling to literal understandings of teachings designed for uneducated people in the feudal system of the 8th Only those with a deep understanding of the absolute meaning of the teachings have the ability to apply them effectively to the present. These two lamas have this ability, others clearly don’t.

General perception

All this leaves any ordinary intelligent Westerner with the perception that the Tibetan lamas care more about maintaining their power structures than their students, and that their religion doesn’t work because the lamas appear to have no compassion and no ability to apply the wisdom of their tradition to a modern situation, or to actually live by it – either that or the religion is as decadent as the lamas who abuse their power.
Lamas need to understand that what destroys the religion in the eyes of the West are lamas who behave unethically and the lamas who defend them, not those who point out their bad behaviour.

Why it doesn’t have to be this way

Many lamas and Western scholars make it clear that students do not have to give up their discernment for Vajrayana to ‘work’, that the idea that complete obedience is required is an interpretation not an absolute. They speak of samaya as a way of seeing the world, of something we aspire to, rather than a series of rules that if broken lead to punishment in hell. These lamas appear to have a deeper understanding, one that goes beyond the Tibetan cultural bias. And yet, the lamas who are destroying their religion’s credibility will try to say that their interpretation does not apply. This makes it look further as if they are merely trying to maintain their positions of power.
Since it’s clearly a matter of interpretation, then why not choose the interpretation that has the least opportunity for harm, where a student maintains the right to ascertain whether a situation is healthy for them or not and where they feel free to say ‘No,’ and leave without fear of hell?  Such an interpretation still allows those who want to give complete obedience and give up their discernment the right to do so if they wish, but it doesn’t demand complete obedience from the thousands of students these lamas bind with samaya when they give empowerments.
Lamas who root for the ‘shut up and do as I say or go to hell’ team think that only they have the correct interpretation of the teachings, and they fear that Vajrayana will lose its power if their interpretation is not maintained, but this is not true. All they have to do is allow the student to choose for themselves just how far they are prepared to take their obedience. How is allowing the student to determine this for themselves an issue?
And how is insisting that the student give up their right of self-determination in accord with the Buddha’s teachings?
Even an S&M contract between a submissive and a dominant has a safe word, a get-out-of-jail-free card (as used in a board game called Monopoly), which allows the submissive the right to say when they have had enough. For Tibetan Buddhism to survive in the West that proviso must be given.

How to not destroy your religion

  • Talk to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Mingyur Rinpoche on how you should view the issue of abusive behaviour in a lama and take their advice, particularly on the topics of samaya and devotion. They have got it right. Westerners respect them. Follow their lead.
  • Show some respect for the humanitarian values that underpin Western law. They are in accord with the Buddha’s teaching, abuse of power is not.
  • Understand that you are not above Western law and must obey the law like everyone else.
  • Make a committment to ethical behaviour.
  • If you must demand complete obedience in all things from your students, then be very clear about that and tell them so in your advertising for empowerments – e.g. If you take this empowerment, you are accepting that you must obey me in all things and never criticise or complain, otherwise you will go to hell. If having sex with students, hitting them and emotionally abusing them are all acceptable to you, then make sure you tell your students that that’s what you’re offering.

149 Replies to “Wake up Tibetan Lamas: Are You Destroying Your Religion?”

  1. Sounds like it might be better for you to stick with Gelugpa Lamas that teach a gradual Lam Rim path.
    As for me, I’m staying with the Crazy Wisdom Dzogchen and Mahamudra masters.
    We all need to find the teachers and teachings that speak to us.

    1. Gold Star, it would be good not to turn this into a sectarian issue– does Rigpa still uphold Rime? And of course you know that authentic,highest yoga tantra is practiced in the Gelug school, as well as every other Tibetan Buddhist lineage. Why do you make such statements?
      And as Gold Star’s ignorant comment indicates, I would only add to this timely writing that I think it is the Vajrayana that is at most risk right now, not necessarily Tibetan Buddhism as a whole. Vajrayana was never meant to be practiced so widely because of dangers just like those we are now seeing. Vajrayana spread without a sound ethical base and without proper and full education of students is a lethal weapon. I myself feel so polluted by reading some recent statements by lamas that I have determined to spend some time on tantra study, just to reassure myself and remove the stench.

    2. When will people get it through their heads that most Tibetan lamas are Rimé, with NKT being the exception, rather than the rule? That means that a LOT of Gelug lamas are also Nyingma/Dzogchen, etc. What’s your point?

    3. @Gold Star, please confirm that your Crazy Wisdom Dzogchen and Mahamudra masters are flying directly to you and not taking the plane.
      You seem to ignore the meaning of Crazy Wisdom. We could say that any lama claiming to apply crazy wisdom while not showing any sign of realization of a Mahāsiddha is a fake. Test your teachers as did Naropa.
      I don’t see any living teacher with the type of realization of a Tilopa. And which students have the same level of practice and knowledge than Naropa? I just see Crazy Teachers and Crazy followers…
      Honestly, this lack of respect for our lineage and misuse of the tradition. When is it going to stop?

    4. @Goldstar.
      The issue here is not that you are not free to choose a teacher that speaks to you. Of cause you are. We live in a democracy here.
      The problem is this requirement of total obedience by some of the lamas. (BTW: We had a simular situation already as a society about 80 years ago im Germany… )
      – Just a question:
      How far would you take this before you say NO? If the lama asks of you to kill another human being (because he thinks he is possessed by negative forces or for some other reasons), would you do that also??

    5. @goldstar Do I detect a condescending tone? Some defensiveness perhaps? Certainly there is sectarianism there. Exactly the attitudes we don’t need transplanted into the West. If you picked them up from your lama, perhaps you shoud look for a lama who has gone beyond such pettiness. It’s not a matter of choosing one system above another, but of choosing a lama who has his students best interests at heart, not his own, and who has enough realisation to deliver authentic dharma in a way most suitable for modern times. Such lamas are not necessarily the the ones with the biggest voices, just the purest voices.

  2. Another great post with some sound advice.
    Many thanks for all the work people have put into this blog – it is helping so many I’m sure and not just (former) Rigpa students either.
    It has helped me personally to see more and more clearly my own harmful (and ongoing) experience and that my actions thereafter have been valid and justified – I was not at fault for calling for open dialogue, transparency or in questioning the motivation and outcomes of an approach to a big issue within the organisation that has physically harmed many (and continues to do so)- not to mention the psychoogical and spiritual fallout either.
    To remember where we as modern Westerners stand in regard to ethics and morality and to validate that, is empowering and awakens one to the slippery nature of misapplied ‘pure perception’ and empiness teachings not to mention the crazy wisdom wildcard.
    This is truly a kind of revolution for many of us who have been immersed for so long in Tibetan Buddhism, within the structure of a sangha all whilst under the ‘benevolent’ dictatorship of a ‘guru’.
    I wish all who have been harmed – clarity, insight, strength and perseverance. We don’t need to doubt ourselves anymore – our Buddhanature is the same as any Buddha’s Buddhanature and remains untouched and whole!

  3. This article pretty much sums up EXACTLY why I am losing my faith in the whole tradition, despite one or two lamas speaking out. It feels like even the ones who spoke out, (really late in the whole situation, which has been going on for DECADES), might be doing so in order to maintain respect from the West, rather than out of a genuine sense of outrage that this has been going on. I wonder, would even they have said anything if it had not been for the public explosion in the media about this case? Anyway, this article is SPOT ON about the way Tibetan Buddhism looks to someone like me, who was never really an insider, but who has seen (and heard) enough to be really disgusted by the lack of ethics, compassion, and integrity that goes on behind the scenes.

    1. @catlover. The reason I care is that the tradition has so much wisdom to share and so much power to actually transform our minds. If I thought it was all garbage, I would not bother even talking about it. It’s only some lamas (the most vocal perhaps) who are making it look bad. I recommend Mingyur Rinpoche. He is the real deal. His teachings have an amazing clarity and his words on devotion are the most sensible I have ever read. He does not demand that you leave your discernment behind. He says you must keep that. And he does not demand complete obedience. For such a lama there is no danger of abuse. And his every teaching, even the most basic, is imbued with the power of the nature of his mind.

      1. @Tahlia,
        Thanks for the suggestion, but I am not looking for a new guru right now, even though I think that Mingmar is a better teacher than many, and he does seem to at least speak out against corruption and abuse.

          1. Yeah. I got who you meant. No worries. I don’t want another guru either, but with MR I feel I can listen to his teachings without this demand that I ‘be his student’. There’s none of that pressure to committ yourself that we had in Rigpa, so that feels okay to me. My point in mentioning him was just reassurance that for so long as there are teachers like him around, the Tibetan Tradition is not entirely lost.

  4. The problem is on BOTH sides. The (only certain) lamas and their students following blindly are equally the problem. The dharma itself is not the problem.

    1. In my personal opinion, the prayers are not written in a way that helps the student to see *everything* as sacred. There is too much stress on the guru in ALL of the prayers and practices, (at least in Vajrayana). If a person recites these every day, along with a practice commitment, it is bound to have an effect on ones attitude toward the guru, etc. I am not trying to discourage people from doing their practices, if they find it helpful, but I am simply pointing out that the whole guru worship attitude is built into the whole philosophy, and it’s also in all of the prayers and supplications. One would pretty much have to re-write the prayers to avoid people developing a “guru worship” attitude. Also, most people don’t have the time to become scholars and dig very deep into the philosophy in order to develop a more balanced attitude, so how do you solve that problem?

      1. You need to go deep into the philosophy and take the time, otherwise it will just be superficial understanding. The guru is much deeper than the one on the throne- outer/inner/secret guru. So take the time – it is worth it. Prayers don’t need to be rewritten.

        1. That is totally true, Concerned. There is no other approach to the dharma than thorough understanding. If you don’t have the time for that, then your practice should be that of a complete beginner. The prayers of the Vajrayana are said in the context of that thorough understanding or they are meaningless.

          1. I am just saying that for the average person, who works an 8 hour job every weekday, and then has to spend time with family every day with whatever time is left over, and on weekends when there are chores, errands, and social obligations, there isn’t much time left for deep digging into esoteric philosophies. That’s why a person pretty much has to be ordained, or be a lay, full-time yogi like Milerepa, in order to get to the deeper teachings and truly understand them. Otherwise, for the average person, I don’t see how they would be able to go digging deep enough. I didn’t really say that the prayers have to be re-written, nor was I suggesting that they should be. It just seems like it sometimes because they are all filled to the brim with supplications and paying homage to the guru, etc. It’s not practical to expect the average person to even begin to understand the more subtle meanings behind some of the practices.

            1. Then just let it go. This is not a blog where we can solve each other’s personal problems. You did suggest the dharma needs to be rewritten. If it doesn’t work for your life then leave it. This is a very profound path and requires time, commitment for this and future lives, renunciation, dedication, discipline, and courage.

              1. I am speaking more generally here, not just about my own, personal life. Yes, it does require a great deal of renunciation, which is why it doesn’t work for everybody who lives in the mundane world. Those who take on this path who don’t have the time, or they have families, it just doesn’t work too well. Even if one takes on tantra as a lay person, it still involves a LOT of time and commitment. You’re right about that and I totally agree. That’s why it doesn’t work for a lot of people. That’s all I am saying.
                I made that comment about the prayers being re-written because at the moment, it seemed like they should be. On thinking about it more carefully, I realized that I didn’t really mean it that literally, so that’s why I said later on that I am not suggesting that they should be re-written. I don’t really know what should be done. I’ll leave it up to the lamas to decide if they want to re-write the prayers, which could only be done with their permission anyway.

                1. Concerned I agree with many of your points. This is why Dzogchen is meant to be for our time, even SR in the TBLD said that. And I don’t think you need to fully understand and be immersed in Vajrayana to get the benefit of Dzogchen teachings.

                  1. Correct me if I am wrong, but it has always been my impression that Dzogchen is part of Vajrayana in the Nyingma tradition. They don’t give you Dzogchen until you have completed Vajrayana, or are at least half way through the Ngondro, or something like that. There is a new, so-called “Dzogchen” lineage, which claims that Dzogchen is separate from Vajrayana, but I don’t trust what they say. They are not considered part of the *official* Tibetan tradition. Within the real Tibetan tradition, you can’t just jump into Dzogchen without Vajrayana first, and I think very few lamas teach it to people who aren’t already immersed in Vajrayana. In fact, I don’t think Dzogchen is really separate from Vajrayana, is it? I always thought of it as the highest level of Vajrayana in the Nyingma tradition. Kind of like “graduation” level Tantra.

                    1. I also understand that Bonpo has Dzogchen too, so I guess in that sense, you could say it is separate from Nyingma. But I suspect the Bon version would be different from the Nyingma version, even if there were some similarities.

                    2. It’s true that there are some lamas who are more open and generous about teaching Dzogchen to people who aren’t immersed in lower level Tantra, but I always thought of Dzogchen as being highest level Tantra. Just as Mahamudra is also part of esoteric/tantric teachings as well.

                    3. Yes Catlover I totally agree. Dzogchen has been unfortunately utilized as a remarkably successful $ marketing tool in the west… a surefire catchword to attract students and charge big $…a money grabber. Some lamas put the term Dzogchen on any book title = instant success in the west. you are right that it was traditionally not readily handed out until a disciple had gone through the practices and reached a certain level… given to 1-2 or very small groups. It was very sacred… once upon a time. Students love to boast they are practicing dzogchen. These are degenerate times.
                      HHDL made note that SL did not have the necessary training and experience.

    2. I agree. The dharma is not the problem. It is the dharma, the truth, that must be protected from those that would abuse it and distort it by not teaching it properly.

  5. Excellent.
    Most of the articles have been good, but this is by far the best yet; clear and unambiguous, it’s exactly what’s needed at this stage.
    I’m going to repeat these contact details from my last posting, just for anyone who missed them.
    Here are the contact details for the judicial processes that are now ongoing and gathering information from anyone who has been affected and wishes to contribute, testify or lodge a formal complaint and obtain redress. This is primarily for French nationals but will also include anyone who has experienced abuse on French territory. ( This information is provided with the active consent of the parties concerned and needs to be passed on freely and disseminated as widely as possible )
    Commandant Carbonneaux, Head of the police department in charge of the investigation, who is in liaison with the Procureur of Montpellier;
    Email address : Laurent.carbonneaux@gendarmerie.interieur.gouv.fr
    Phone number : (0033) – 01 57 44 11 64
    A specialist lawyer is working on the case with ADFI of Montpellier :
    Phone number: 04 67 79 70 68

    1. @Michel DM, do you know if the police is aware of the nice speech from OTC last week at Rigpa Levallois?
      Best extracts, I don’t know if it has been recorded:
      “- How to leave a master?
      You need a master to reach enlightenment. We don’t have this teaching on how to abandon a teacher in the Tibetan tradition.
      – About beating. Is it appropriate or not?
      There is no Tibetan, European or Indian vajrayana. Vajrayana is vajrayana. Inconceivable trust and wisdom of the great masters. When a lama has mastered a great primordial wisdom, everything he does is for the benefit of sentient beings. Such great beings, whether it corresponds to western ideas or not, if they kill someone, no problem. The back scratcher? I don’t find anything extraordinary. There are countless stories of students who gained realization for being beaten. cf: the benefit of being cut with knives. Some masters fired, used their rifles to teach. Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö has beaten a lot of people. He did that to remove obstacles, to bring blessings. They had immense devotion and pure samaya.
      Penor Rinpoche walked into a room and beat all the people who had come to receive empowerment. Blood flooded from their heads. After taking 6 steps, there was no blood left.
      – Why did he strike her on that day?
      Ask Sogyal Rinpoche. Beating hard increases wisdom. It seems you don’t have that tradition in Europe.”

      1. @French Observer
        Yes, a transcript of the main points of OTR’s harangue at Rigpa Levallois has been passed on already and it will be included again in further information to be transmitted to them later this week.

        1. This is good. I think that if all of this is planted securely in legal proceedings, then the rest will be a lot easier. A firm boundary will have been placed and then hopefully, people can begin to move on with their spiritual lives. Sadly, in OKC, the court case took a long time and even when it was finalized, there are still appeals and recriminations. But I think for both, there is a lot of power in focusing on being heard and also, clarifying what the Dharma really says. For example, while OTR’s statement about beating is clearly against Western laws, I expect it is also a mis-interpretation of the stories of the mahasiddhas– so we need clarity there. OTR was not clear on a lot of detail in his little talk with insiders, such as his claim that the 50 verses is a sutra text, when it is actually a tantra text. So I think for those of us who maintain faith in the Dharma, there is value in clarifying as much as possible Vajrayana points etc. because this situation, and the damaging statements of lams, should not be the guiding force behind decisions imo.

          1. I agree with your perspective Joanne. In fact, whatever say any lama, if we don’t recognize him as one of our teacher we don’t need to consider at all what he is saying. You will find always fools everywhere, this is more a question of defending the ethics of this religion and protect potential victims.
            Our decisions should be based on the teachings we have accepted.

          2. I agree, Joanne.You are right to say that OT is not clear.He is very gifted for being ambiguous.For instance, in his letter to Sangye, he says something like”I’m not saying that you were wrong in writing the letter…but it was too late”.etc.Always shrewd, cunning.
            Same thing in LLing during the drupchen.He is an old man, he is sick , he had heart surgery for 7 hours, he will never have students, he is not a lama, he is not learned, other lamas are able to conduct drupchens as well as he does, etc.bla bla bla
            So, I thought maybe I’ll never see him again. What happened:he invited himself to the Rigpa center in Paris to talk about samaya and send me to vajra hell and he was on his way to Mexico which is one of the most unhealty cities in the world for someone who is already in bad health!Does he take me for a fool?

    2. I would also suggest auditors carefully go through the Rigpa booked based on concerns from the 8 letter holders and other students who have reported misuse of funds.

  6. Very well said Moonfire. This is the most articulate and pertinent reflection of the current state of Western Tibetan Buddhism I have yet read. The points you raise are clear guidelines for continuing discussions and necessary actions that will need to be taken to remove all that is rotten in a profoundly beautiful spiritual tradition.

    1. Corruption is a universal problem and Tibet had it’s own corruption long before Tibetan Buddhism ever came West. In fact, I would say that Western culture is LESS tolerant of abuse than Eastern culture, so I would like to ask everybody to stop blaming the West for everything and realize that this is a UNIVERSAL, human problem.

      1. Put people on thrones and worship them as gods and you’re gonna have corruption and abuse is ANY culture. The bottom line is that when humans are worshiped and adored, they start thinking they can do anything because they are above normal ethics. It takes a very special kind of person to resist getting their head turned by that kind of atmosphere. It is sad to note that they are far and few between.

        1. Very true. But, of course, we tend to think that spiritual teachers should really be above such corruption. Our Christian pedophiles make it clear that that is an unrealistic expectation, but in the end they, too, face court.

          1. If it’s unrealistic to expect teachers, who are supposed to guide us spiritually, to behave like decent human beings, then I wonder what is the point of any religion? Isn’t that like saying that spiritual teachings don’t really work to make us better, so we shouldn’t expect them to work? So then what’s the point? I would expect that if the teachings really work as they are supposed to when they are practiced, then those who teach it and who are considered great masters of those teachings, should be able to at least behave like decent human beings, and it shouldn’t be unrealistic to expect a minimum of decency from those teachers. That’s why I feel disillusioned when teachers can’t even observe basic ethical standards, and they are the ones who have been practicing and meditating for years.

            1. This is pretty much the conclusion I have come to too.
              And so, my new religion is: meditate daily, be kind, be compassionate, work hard at meaningful activity, nourish the body and mind, and forget the overstretched claims of organised religions.

              1. You are wise, Joseph, like HHDL!No religion, no religious organisations…all rotten…manipulation!Being compassionate, meditating, helping others, etc.makes a man happy!ù

                1. This is my simple religion
                  No need for temples
                  No need for complicated philosophy
                  Your own mind, your own heart is the temple
                  Your philosophy is simple kindness.

                  1. I realize you’re quoting from HHDL’s famous quote, but he is very religious, despite how he may sound sometimes. He is very much a part of the Tibetan Buddhist belief system, was brought up in it, and believes in it. That is not a criticism against HHDL, It is totally understandable that he is religious because of his background, but one can’t say that he is a freelance practitioner without any religion, despite that quote, which is probably taken out of context.
                    So then, why is there even a need for Rigpa reform? Why not just close down all of these corrupt institutions, meditate daily and focus on being kind, and forget all the gurus and churches?

                    1. HHDL clarifies his understanding of the difference between religion and religious institutions here:

                  2. Honestly I think it’s safer for students to just follow this advice from HHDL and stay away from large organizations until they are checked and rechecked and rechecked again. But don’t give up the dharma!

    2. @Toria Selwyn
      Hi Toria,
      I agree, it’s certainly the best one to date.
      The solutions put forward are practical and quite viable but whether there’s any real possibility of them being widely adopted and meaningful change taking place is another matter altogether.
      I’m not very optimistic, simply because in addition to individual lamas such as SR being corrupt, there are much deeper problems in Tibetan Buddhism itself and dealing with them effectively would present such a threat to the status quo that I can’t see it happening.
      SR’s abusive behaviour was tolerated for well over twenty years after it was first known and made public.
      His behaviour deteriorated to the extent of being openly displayed and yet it was still tolerated, both by his students who witnessed it and the many other lamas who were already fully aware of it, up to and including the DL himself. Until, because of just eight brave students, it became too widely publicized to ignore.
      Not even one lama had either the courage or integrity to make any kind of attempt to stop this abuse during all that time. That’s perhaps the most serious aspect and the most telling one.
      It’s an indication of a type of corruption much larger and more pervasive than the dysfunctional personality of SR himself.
      It points to a very large number of people at all levels, having so much invested in terms of status, energy, money, belief and emotion, that they were prepared to put their morality and integrity to one side and look the other way while people suffered, purely out of self-interest.
      Many are evidently still doing this and will undoubtedly continue to do so, until it either becomes intolerable on a personal level or is no longer expedient because reality in the form of the Law is finally intruding into their self-absorbed cultish world.
      That SR himself is currently out of the picture and unlikely to make a comeback, is good, but not any kind of solution at all to what is, in terms of ordinary humanity, decency, common sense and real compassion, a huge moral void at the heart of Tibetan Buddhism.
      Both you and I left many years back when the first scandal broke, but many didn’t and, despite the severity of the situation, business as usual resumed almost immediately because of this collective need to preserve the status quo at all costs. And those costs became much greater over time.
      Those of us who spoke out at the time were generally ignored at best or vilified as ‘samaya breakers’…..sounds familiar doesn’t it?
      Of course, it’s good to try and analyse it now, after the fact, and ask: ‘How could this happen?’
      But most people already know the answer: a never ending parade of uncritically supportive lamas, encouraging students’ naivety, collective indifference, self-interest and de facto complicity, all comfortably shrouded in a dense fog of mystical obscurantism called ‘crazy wisdom.’
      So unless this process is understood and honestly acknowledged by every student and every lama involved, then even if SR is gone and Rigpa were to be disbanded, the same problem or something very like it will inevitably happen again.
      On the positive side, this is now giving us all a good opportunity to evolve and be honest about the realities of our lives, to recover our sanity by freeing ourselves from our childish addiction to magical and wishful thinking, and walk away from the lure of a medieval, religious fantasy world.
      We live in a modern society, that is so much more advanced and has far more intellectual and moral sophistication than the backward feudal one that produced Tibetan Buddhism, so either it and those who run it, adapt and conform unconditionally and fully to our values or it will keep stumbling from one crisis to another, each one of it’s own making, and eventually at some time in the future, just atrophy and cease to exist.
      Since our modern society itself is still rife with injustice, inequality, abuse, misogyny and exploitation of all kinds, we have to ask ourselves this very important question: Does the religion of Tibetan Buddhism in it’s current form really do anything whatsoever to reduce that……or does it just add even more?
      So far the answer is not encouraging.

      1. @ Pete Cowell,
        You summed up exactly how I am feeling about it, but in a more eloquent way. This really jumped out at me in particular:
        “Not even one lama had either the courage or integrity to make any kind of attempt to stop this abuse during all that time. That’s perhaps the most serious aspect and the most telling one. It’s an indication of a type of corruption much larger and more pervasive than the dysfunctional personality of SR himself.”
        I couldn’t have said it better myself! (Although the Dalai Lama has been talking about the problem of corrupt lamas for years.)
        This also jumped out at me:
        “Since our modern society itself is still rife with injustice, inequality, abuse, misogyny and exploitation of all kinds, we have to ask ourselves this very important question: Does the religion of Tibetan Buddhism in it’s current form really do anything whatsoever to reduce that……or does it just add even more?
        So far the answer is not encouraging.”
        You expressed exactly what I am asking myself. Your whole post was extremely well put and it’s good to know I am not the only one who has these questions. Sometimes it seems like it to me.

        1. Peter, I agree up to a point. You said, “So unless this process is understood and honestly acknowledged by every student and every lama involved, then even if SR is gone and Rigpa were to be disbanded, the same problem or something very like it will inevitably happen again.”
          I totally agree with that– the only way that change can happen is from the ground up– from the students themselves, with support from the lamas–as you have said. From what is happening right here and now. At risk of being accused of being a Dalai Lama apologist, I really believe that that is the exact approach His Holiness has taken. Back in the nineties he was clear and open that students needed to speak out– and he waited twenty years for them to speak out– and now he supports them– and believe me, it is not looking very easy for him to be speaking out. He’s pretty much alone. Do you hear HH Karmapa speak out? Sakya Trizin? And even now we are seeing some hints of the Gelug-Nyingma troubles. If His Holiness had been the only one speaking out twenty years ago, without the backing of Rigpa students, and breaking with Tibetan culture and tradition to blame SR based on one court case, then there would have been big trouble both with confused students and angry Nyingma lamas. Only with the movement coming from the students themselves, students who are placing clear Western values as a boundary on lama behavior, can real reform takes place.
          This is what I am seeing happen. And people forget that the eight letter writers quoted from His Holiness, from a statement he made twenty years ago about what needed to be done for lama abuses to be properly addressed. In my mind that was the wise thing for him to do and now that students have spoken out, he speaks out as well. You can see this as political or as the most effective approach to real resolve. I see it as the only effective approach. The strong voices of Rigpa students right now is very powerful imo. This would not have been the case previously.

          1. I mean really, people have to give His Holiness some credit. For years, twenty years, he has been the only lama speaking out to even acknowledge that lama abuse is occurring and advising students about what to do. He has been the only lama to warn that the teaching on seeing the lama as a Buddha is dangerous. He is the only lama to talk about how the tulku system has corruption, the only lama to talk about how Tibetans are too interested in ceremony and that understanding is low. Not just once, but almost every time he teaches he makes these warnings. And now, he is the only lama giving Rigpa students support and criticizing SL. Even Mingyur Rinpoche has only spoken out once– and not directly criticizing SL. So please, acknowledge that HH is sincerely on the side of reform.

            1. @Joanne,
              I do understand your position in some respects, but I think it’s important to point out something else.
              A lot of people are feeling bewildered and adrift at the moment, so the DL’s personality and his teachings seem to provide a kind of reliable fixed point that they can transfer their allegiance to and focus on, and this is could have a very important psychological function for them at this stage.
              He’s always been the acceptable face of Tibetan Buddhism, but even more so now because of the contrast between him and other lamas. He’s safely remote, because outside the context of large gatherings most students will never encounter him personally for any length of time, but he’s not aloof either. He seems to enthusiastically adopt some modern ideas, and certainly, no one is at any risk of abuse or exploitation by him, and that’s all in his favour.
              We might even think: ‘He’s on our side,’ but I don’t think it’s that straightforward.
              What we definitely don’t need is selective amnesia nor any attempt to re-write history to make it more comfortable by ignoring those parts that don’t conform to our current hopes and beliefs.
              Yes, the DL is speaking out publicly…..but only now; he didn’t do that previously, except non-specifically and in a very limited context. I can’t recall him ever mentioning SR by name or talking about the subject of abuse publicly during the past twenty years…..maybe I missed it. I could be wrong, and if anyone can explain exactly where and when he did, and cite any media links, I’d be interested, so please do.
              What I do remember is a very detailed conversation I had with Martine and Stephen Bachelor who were part of that delegation of Western teachers who met the DL to discuss abuse. At a later stage SR actually turned up unexpectedly and harangued them for their lack of faith while the DL just looked on passively. They also drew up a document that the DL agreed to sign but he deliberately left without doing so. He was trying to play a double game.
              Then he subsequently not only wrote the preface to the TBLD but also gave SR the most unequivocal and effective personal endorsement possible, by inaugurating Lerab Ling in the presence of celebrities, politicians and the media.
              This publicly confirmed his approval of an unqualified ( but wealthy and influential ) lama, a mentally ill man who subjected vulnerable women to sexual abuse, and bullied, humiliated and exploited his students for his own gratification. The DL had been fully informed about this long before.
              So how were those the actions of a man who was even remotely really concerned about abuse?
              Why should we believe a few bland statements about abuse were sincere when his very public endorsement of SR proved precisely the opposite?
              Yes, then as now, from an institutional point of view by speaking out he risked exacerbating internal political conflict and old rivalries between schools, but to put it politely: thinking that diplomacy should even be a consideration in deciding whether to denounce abuse or remain silent and then go on to publicly endorse the abuser depends on a moral outlook that many of us don’t share.
              Criticising an abuser publicly much later and only after you’re sure that the tide of opinion has turned irrevocably against him might help, but it still doesn’t alter the fact that your condemnation is twenty years too late and during that period a lot of innocent people have suffered, many of them specifically because they trusted your endorsement in the first place.
              It’s simply unconvincing this late in the day.
              I’m afraid I can’t accept the idea of his waiting twenty years for students to speak out, because many of us did just that and have continued to since. He could have used his considerable credibility and authority to help us, but instead totally failed to provide any real support whatsoever. He could have had a stern talk with SR in private but obviously from subsequent events it’s likely that he didn’t even do that.
              To enjoy such status and reverence but refuse the moral responsibility that goes with whether out of fear of offending others, self-interest or indifference is cowardice.
              Historically he hasn’t even shown much common sense, let alone wisdom, so why should any of us make excuses for him? What has he actually done that entitles him to such deference? Given his previous endorsement of SR, can we really be sure he’s sincerely on the side of reform or is he still just taking care of business?
              What insight into or concern about sexual abuse or exploitation could be expected from a monk who has no superiors, is treated with absolute deference and has never had an intimate emotional relationship with anyone other than his own mother?
              Yes, he is almost the only lama to say anything at all, but is it really so impressive? Because let’s face it, that particular bar has been set very low indeed.
              If the DL is useful to some people in a symbolic way, that’s fine, but along with his apparently modern discourse he also still talks about hellish rebirth and maintains a totally traditional perspective in parallel. That’s intellectually and morally inconsistent.
              So perhaps it might be wiser not to blindly ignore these contradictions and his past actions and naïvely assume he’s not still capable of playing a double game.
              The only concession that can be made is that the risks of that kind of naivety are minimal providing it’s just confined to someone’s attitude to the very distant DL.
              As we’ve seen, naivety, ignoring the obvious and wishful thinking can and usually do create problems for us, but that said, it’s a personal choice that for some people at a particular time, might still be much better than other alternatives. I’ve been through that myself and so I understand it nevertheless.

              1. Another awe-inspiring and convincing comment, Pete.Of course, I agree that HHDL’s attitude is double sided.He actually plays a double game and that makes me uneasy.(cf:”My very good friend…he is disgraced”)
                Anyway I remember that on the day he inaugurated the temple in Lerab Ling, SR was “scared stiff”.Why was he so afraid of HHDL?
                Is it true that HHDL didn’t want to go to Lerab Ling but he did so because Trulshik Rinpoche had asked him to do so?Did he obey his master’s orders?

                1. @Ladybird,
                  Thanks but I can’t take any credit simply because I’ve had a very long time indeed to think about this and even things this complex naturally become much clearer with time. At least that’s something positive to look forward to.
                  Knowing SR, I think he would have just been extremely nervous that the protocol and ceremonies would screw up and embarrass him; concern for his own image was always his first priority and paranoia his main reaction, part of what made him so cruel to those around him and so obsequious to other lamas.
                  Difficult to imagine the DL doing something as significant as that against his own better judgement isn’t it?

              2. @Pete Cowell,
                I am so relieved when you post because it validates how I am feeling lately. I have always trusted HHDL the most, but when I think about the contradictions and double standards of some of his actions vs. his statements, it really bothers me. I will say that he has spoken out about lama abuse in the past, although he didn’t name any names. I don’t really think the problems are limited to Sogyal either, so if he had named the abusers, the list might have been very long, lol! But in any case, he did speak out about it over the years. It still bothers me that he didn’t sign the agreement at the conference and it bothers me even MORE if he promised he would sign it and then just left without signing it. Wow! Are you sure that happened?!?!? Did you witness that?

                1. @Catlover
                  I repeated exactly what I was told by the Batchelors, from my experience they’re people with a lot of integrity so I’ve no reason to doubt their word. They and others were extremely disappointed by the DL’s response.
                  I sincerely hope my posts may help some people and I suppose they may upset others, which isn’t my intention, but I don’t think anything should be ignored and not discussed just because it’s problematic to some…..that’s how abuse flourishes.
                  Everyone can feel isolated at times, so this blog has a very important function for many people whether they comment or not, and I’m grateful to the organizers for taking the time to run it.

          2. Joanne, if “real reform” is to occur, it has to involve significant Nyingma lamas as well. So overtures need to be made in that direction. I’m sure HHDL realises it simply isn’t up to him alone.

            1. Absolutely, yes. I was responding to people’s comments about how HH has been slow to act. And I think the absence of Nyingma lamas is telling and a big problem and shows up how little power HH actually has. HH has authority in Tibetan government and Gelug monasteries and in both of those, that authority is in an advisory role.

              1. A couple of things: Personally i don’t think we can just expect Lamas, Nyingmapa or otherwise, to just spontaneously issue public decrees either about Sogyal specifically, or on the need for lineage teachers to behave morally at all times. Senior Lamas would need to be approached, the situation explained and advice requested. Then it would be up to those individual Lamas as to whether they wish their advice to be reported in a public context. Though ideally, we need some kind of collective statement.
                Sometimes it seems that people commenting on this controversy aren’t aware of the etiquette – that Lamas just don’t go around publicly bagging each other, even when there may be cause to do so. Hence, didn’t it take until now for HHDL to actually ‘out’ Sogyal’s behaviour, even though he’s known about it, to some extent, for 20 years? And HHDL is a spiritual figurehead, outside the network of sects, so he has some distance and authority which accords him a unique role and greater leverage to tackle these thorny matters.
                FYI, being completely out of the loop myself,, i’m not even sure whether there is currently a head of the Nyingmapa lineage since Taklung Tsetrul died in 2015. I just read something about how the Nyingmas have historically been ‘uniquely disorganized’, and aint that the truth!
                Also, i don’t think the Dalai Lama would want to be seen as ‘laying down the law’, so i can’t agree that it’s up to him alone. Obviously if he over-reaches that would invite accusations of sectarianism and of dictator-like behaviour. I certainly feel that overtures need to be made to Nyingma lamas, the question is by whom, and to whom (perhaps some of the 8 have already tried this?).
                When the OKC matter is taken into consideration, i certainly concur with those who maintain that many lamas, mainly Nyingma, haven’t covered themselves with glory and that is depressing.
                I do find it really frustrating that while social media enables us all to communicate, we can’t just teleport into a face-to-face meeting where we could thrash out some initiatives. While i’m sure the Rigpa 8 have ways and means of collaborating, i’m referring to the need to take this beyond Rigpa and implore senior Lamas, particularly Nyingma, to set some standards and understand that there is something of a crisis of faith amongst Western practitioners who see the support for Sogyal from certain quarters – couched in scary terms – as counter-productive to their faith in Tibetan Buddhism as a tool for this modern age. Students are disheartened and are hoping that Sogyal is an aberation but they need their faith to be restored by wiser heads, notwithstanding the helpful advice from HHDL, Mingyur Rinpoche & Matthieu Ricard. More is needed.

                1. @matilda7,
                  I agree that lamas don’t generally go around publicly denouncing each other, especially when no formal charges are made against them in court, but shunning is generally the way they handle it. If lamas just didn’t visit or associate with abusers, it would send a clear message, without them having to publicly denounce anyone by name. There is no reason that I can see why a lama couldn’t simply avoid associating and endorsing abusers.

                  1. @ Catlover, it’s not just about shunning SR. People are looking for guidance and value the advice of wise Lamas who’ve spoken out against the abuse. Though personally i think the demands for the Tibetans – which seems to refer to the broader diasporic community – to do something is absurd. As is the whingeing about how long it took HHDL to call out Sogyal’s behaviour. For me, taking personal responsibility for one’s problems and initiating action, as the What Now crew have done, is essential to Buddhist practice. Playing the blame game and expecting others to fix your problem is not where it’s at.
                    I hope i’m not being cryptic but if i am, please refer to my longer post of last night.

                    1. I don’t expect the lamas to go around policing the other lamas and their behavior, BUT I would expect them to do their part, and not just pass ALL the responsibility onto the students, refusing to take any of the blame for what goes on. It is up to EVERYBODY to do their part in ending abuse and corruption, including the students AND lamas, and if I don’t see the lamas contributing their fair share to that effort, it really bothers me and makes me feel like they really don’t care much.
                      As for the Tibetan community as a whole, I don’t feel that the average, lay Tibetan is all that interested in lamas in general, (except for the Dalai Lama, and maybe a few other really important ones), so of course it’s absurd to expect anything from them, lol! That is not to say they don’t respect their own tradition, but they aren’t as deeply immersed in it as one might think.

                2. Pete, the fact that you aren’t aware that HH has spoken out many many times about the problem of lama abuse indicates that you are judging him based on outside gossip and opinions rather than investigating for yourself. He has spoken out constantly, he is a constant critic of where Tibetan Buddhists have gone wrong. He has spoken frequently about lamas seeking only money and sex. For decades. And you will not find anywhere a statement from HH endorsing the qualifications of SL. He was invited to inaugurate the temple and as I have mentioned previously you will not find that lamas refuse invitations very often. That is both a cultural and religious behavior. However, HH has not visited a Rigpa center since then– and certainly not since publication of Behind The Thangkhas.
                  I have personal experience with this because when I stumbled away from my last lama, the fact that HH spoke frequently about lama abuse was very healing for me and allowed me to see the abuse of my lamas outside of Tibetan Buddhism in general. He has frequently told the story of a man from China who came to him complaining about Tibetan lamas coming to China seeking money and sex. His Holiness’s response to this was to tell the man to make it public etc. and also, he said, “What can I do, from India? The students must make clear” etc.
                  I think your attitude towards what HH should have done is a little childish. You want him to do what Rigpa students weren’t ready to do? I was in conversations with Rigpa students six years ago and their denial was very deep. You expect HH to run around the world investigating and accusing lamas? Because let’s be real, SL is not the only lama committing abuses! Pointing fingers at this lama and that lama is simply not HH’s job.. His job is spiritual leadership and I think he’s provided that, as the letter writers have demonstrated, by quoting from his advice. He’s realistic. Leaders look at what will bear the best fruit and I think his slow approach has been the best possible approach. And it’s not even clear that it will bear fruit at this late date!
                  And I am surprised that you think it’s politically expedient for him to speak out now. I believe he’s getting a lot of flak. I remember during my time at a Kagyu monastery a student asked the abbot why it was so difficult to work and study at the monastery. Instead of addressing her very honest question (because there was a lot of conflict at the monastery), he replied, “you are like someone sitting beside a pristine lake, complaining of thirst.” This is the attitude we are seeing from most lamas right now. They think we’re whining. So HH is standing very much alone right now. For example, what was HH Karmapa’s response to Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche leaving his monastery? Prayers for removal of obstacles. Only HHDL is ready to address the hard issues. So please give him some credit.
                  If you want links to his statements on abuse I can provide them, but I question if you really want them.

                  1. The very foundation of spiritual leadership is to teach what students can benefit from hearing– so they can do the work themselves. The Buddhist approach is to give students tools, because enlightenment can only happen through the students’ own efforts. So HHDL approach has been totally in line with that, with empowering them to act, to do the work, rather than turning students into children and blind followers. That is the Buddhist way.

                  2. Hi Joanne,
                    Thanks for your detailed reply.
                    Yes, actually I would be very interested to see any documented evidence of the DL’s criticism of abuse, I hope that’s not too much trouble, but if as you say he’s spoken out ‘many times’, ‘constantly’ and ‘frequently’ over the past 20 years, then you should have plenty to choose from.
                    I have a few questions related to your reply:
                    If writing a preface to the TLBD isn’t a de facto endorsement of SR’s qualifications, then could you please tell me what you think it’s purpose was?
                    Similarly the inauguration: do you seriously think something of that importance wasn’t interpreted by most people as precisely as an endorsement? Don’t you think describing it as only of ‘cultural and religious’ significance is a rather weak, disingenuous excuse?
                    And those victims of SR who had faith in those endorsements specifically because they came from the DL, you honestly don’t see any connection there or acknowledge his responsibility?
                    He was told about SR’s abuse long before ‘Behind the Thangkhas’ but he went to LL anyway so what’s the difference afterwards? An unacceptable level of embarrassing publicity perhaps?
                    His wriggling out of signing a document about abuse and actually allowing SR to harangue decent, sincere people, that’s just cultural or religious too?
                    Why do you talk about him running round investigating lamas when many students wrote to him and some people even went to see him in India and gave him the information….that he basically then ignored?
                    Can you please explain why you credit him with such wisdom, morality and authority, but don’t believe he should or even could use it to prevent abuse?
                    You say: “ You want him to do what Rigpa students weren’t ready to do?” Did you read my last comment thoroughly?, because I made it clear that many of us did speak out but at no point did he support us.
                    Do you think that his being concerned about ‘getting flak’ should even be a consideration for a spiritual leader of his stature, when abuse is involved?
                    To be honest, I think our views are so far apart as to be irreconcilable because you will defend the DL no matter what information is presented to you, since you obviously have a lot personally invested in seeing him as a wise, infallible and important teacher.
                    On the other hand I see him as a highly intelligent, adaptable but morally and intellectually confused and inconsistent man trapped by his past into trying to prop up a dying, obscurantist, patriarchal, religious monastic tradition that is rife with institutional abuse, superstition, corruption and largely irrelevant and certainly impotent in dealing with the real problems we face.
                    His life of being worshipped and pampered, and his celibate monasticism makes him incapable of experiencing and so understanding the lives of ordinary people, or giving them advice about how to live lives he knows nothing about.
                    His appropriation of modern thought and psychology is so in conflict with his traditional beliefs; (he still talks about hellish rebirth, demons and so on,) that I doubt his sincerity in using modernity other than as a selling point to westerners. The many inherent contradictions are just too obvious to ignore.
                    I won’t bother to list the bad decisions he’s made that have cost lives or the sheer number of idiotic pronouncements he’s made about prostitution, racism, homosexuality, India’s nuclear weapons and much else, because you’d just call it gossip.
                    I suppose you’d also dismiss his glowing endorsement of the Japanese guru who masterminded the Tokyo subway gas attacks as a cultural or religious difference too.
                    I’m glad that you personally have found his teachings helped you, but that’s just your experience which is limited to you, it doesn’t automatically absolve him of responsibility for the consequences his actions have on everybody else, nor the moral obligations to them his considerable status entails.
                    This is similar to the Rigpa problem itself: SR does an extraordinary amount of damage to so many people that no one individual could understand the scale of it…..but still individuals defend him by petulantly saying: “Yes, but he helped me so much, I had these wonderful experiences”
                    Now, that, to my mind is being, as you say: ‘childish.’
                    And frankly, with the environmental, economic and political threats to the planet we now face, it’s also childish and indulgent to waste so much of our precious time, energy and resources on a system of self-absorption that supports a useless, mafia-like, religious elite who live in an elaborate fantasy world they’ve inherited from primitive, theocratic and feudal societies. They do this by being financially and psychologically parasitic on the credulous. To us it’s religion, for them it’s business.
                    Buddhism insists that sentient beings have an endless succession of lives, but outside in the real world time is running out for us.

                    1. Your points are probably very good, Peter. But His Holiness is one of the few allies that people criticizing and leaving Rigpa upon hearing of SR’s abuse have.
                      Not only that, but as Joanne Clark has said, he’s in a position where he may have to be very careful. The fact that he gave teachings over 20 years ago that are the main backbone of the critique against SR and that recently he has publically backed it up, even mentioning SR’s name, is admirable to me.
                      Finally, and nobody likes
                      it when someone says this, but can we please keep comments on the specific topics of the Rigpa situation? There are plenty of other places to discuss HHDL and Tib Buddhism in general.

                3. @Matilda My understanding is that the 8 have done their bit and we cannot expect them to do more than they have. They have all suffered a lot of abuse for their stand. If people want to see this through to some conclusion where lamas are involved in making ethical stands it would take a group of people a great deal of work in writing letters and so forth, and flying across the world for meetings. If it’s to come to that, then money would need to be raised to pay a group of people to undertake the work, or at least someone to set up and coordinate such a group. Is there the collective will for that? If there were then maybe something could be achieved, but it would be a long, slow process.
                  Other than that, considering the number of people still in RIgpa, still content to ‘get on with their spiritual lives’ without any concern that reparation or even an apology has not been made to people harmed, the only way to get the message across to the lamas in general is by legal action. That won’t change the way they interperpret the teachings, but it would make them realise that they do have to obey the law. It looks to me as if the present investigation is only into finances. To get the message across that abuse is not acceptable, someone who has been abused will need to go to the police, but this is not something that we can expect or demand of anyone.

                  1. @Jellybean. Yes i certainly agree that we can’t expect the 8 letter-writers to keep sticking their necks out. Though that’s the thing with activism, when you lob a grenade in order to bring about change, it’s most effective if you can be part of the group that directs and oversees the transformation. That’s obviously tricky when you’re no longer part of the inside group.
                    In my longer post from yesterday i did take pains to suggest that any further overtures to Lamas shouldn’t just be left to the What now crew, that attempts to communicate with senior Nyingmapa teachers could be done as part of a broader consensus of concerned students. And yes, as i wrote, it’s tricky when we’re all in different countries.

              2. How come HHDL isn’t acknowledged as a Nyingma lama? That’s one thing I don’t get, since he studies and practices Nyingma/Dzogchen. I don’t get why Nyingma lamas don’t see him as a Nyingma lama, as well as a Gelug lama.
                Yes, I think HHDL should get some credit, since he was pretty much the ONLY lama speaking out about abuse. But I wonder why he spoke out about abuse and still continued to associate himself with Sogyal, as well as other abusive lamas as well. That is something I cannot understand. Maybe someone else here has an answer. I’m not accusing him of anything, but it would be nice to hear a rational explanation for some of his behavior regarding abusive lamas, since we can’t see into his head and know what his motives are.

                1. I suspect that when HHDL was both the head of the Tibetan Government in Exile and the head of the Gelugpa School, everything he said and did had political ramifications. My personal opinion, based on nothing but observation, is that now that HHDL feels like he’s retired he’s able to speak more freely, I suspect he’s been disgusted by sl’s behavior for many years but had to put a good face on it in public. I know that when he went to LL in 2008 ostensibly to consecrate the temple, he was there for hardly more than 24 hours and he spent almost the entire private time meeting with all the lamas that sl had gathered to talk about what to do about dorje shugden. DS had been staging massive protests at HHDL’s teachings at that time, sl delivered a hard to gather audience for HHDL’s agenda so he threw some rice and listened to sl’s dreams of greatness. There was no cozy teete a teete between HHDL and sl, I was there helping to take care of HHDL, sl was desperate for attention, he even jumped into the photo that HHDL granted to the team that took care of him, he shoved Yeshe in for another one…so many signs of his sickness…

                  1. @Not so hopeful anymore
                    I had no idea……that’s an interesting take on it :
                    The DL outwardly endorsing a known serial abuser just so he could talk privately to one group of people about his problems with another group of people protesting about his criticism of them for believing in an imaginary demon…..very medieval.

                  2. I don’t find it very heartening that politics is more important than the suffering of sentient being, but I guess that’s how it is in religious institutions. It is disappointing that HHDL puts DS politics first.

                  3. Yes, I remember another occasion when I saw SL push in front at a HHDL teaching. It was pretty clear and Catlover, HH has not visited a Rigpa center since that 2008 visit.

              3. Um…the Dalai Lama IS Nyingma. He is Rime, and while it’s true that he has limited powers in terms of who can be “fired” as a lama, so to speak, he has a LOT of clout and influence, because there are so many people who respect him and listen to what to has to say. His status as a Nobel Prize winner and the moral authority he has around the world, gives him the immense ability to act as a guide and an influence for millions of people.

                1. So this is why it doesn’t make sense when people act like he is just Gelug and has nothing to do with the Nyingma tradition. He is a holder of the Nyingma lineage, just as much as any other Nyingma lama, and his Nyingma teachers were prominent Nyingma lamas. Also, contrary to what a lot of people seem to believe HHDL isn’t the head of the Gelug lineage, so he isn’t limited to that lineage. That position is held by the Ganden Tripa.

                  1. @catlover, you may feel that the 14th HHDL is a Nyingma Lama, i think most people wouldn’t hold that view. Sure, he occasionally might give a Nyingma-based teaching but he wasn’t raised in that tradition, he’s not part of the Nyingma school. He may hold some Nyingma lineages – i wouldn’t know. Certainly he took teachings from Dilgo Khyentse but that was after his rabidly Gelugpa teachers had both died. It’s only in recent times that the tensions between him, representing the Gelugpas, and the Nyingmas & Kagyus have lifted. These days we can read of HHDL visiting various Nyingma gonpas & settlements but 30 years ago that was not the case.

                    1. Maybe a lot of people don’t think of the Dalai Lama as Nyingma, but the lamas certainly know about who he is and what he practices. Also, just because people don’t think of him a certain way, that doesn’t change who he really is. His involvement with Nyingma goes way beyond just visiting Nyingma centers and taking a few teachings from Nyingma lamas. He has been very much involved with Nyingma for a long time, even if he wasn’t in his youth. His youth was a LONG time ago, and he is very old now. The 5th Dalai Lama was a strong Nyingma practitioner and the 14th DL has often talked about his connection with the 5th and how he follows the 5th. He secretly practices the 5th’s practices and they are a BIG part of who he is, even if he doesn’t usually teach those practices publicly. One reason for the Shugden controversy was because HHDL wanted to do Nyingma practice and DS restricted him from doing so. (I don’t want to start talking about Shugden now, so please don’t.) I just bring it up because it was a factor in why he is against the DS practice, (because of its sectarian nature), and it was one of the big reasons why he personally gave DS up. He wanted to be like the 5th DL and he has been deeply immersed in Nyingma, at least since the 1970s, (or whenever he renounced DS practice). If you read the very, very long articles about the process through which he decided to give up DS, you can see how deeply immersed he is with esoteric thinking, and how important dreams and visions are to him, etc. It is actually a very interesting read. In any case, he is a Nyingma practitioner, and while he is also Gelug too, that doesn’t lessen his involvement with Nyingma/Dzogchen.

                    2. Yes, the DL IS part of the Nyingma school as much as the 5th DL was. (The 6th DL was also Nyingma as well.) One thing people need to understand about the 14th DL is his connection with the 5th. Read about the 5th and you’ll get some insight into the 14th. The 5th even had some special, esoteric teachings, related to Dzogchen, which the 14th hopes to revive someday. There is no question that the 14th DL practices and studies these special practices of the 5th, and there is no question that the 14th also studies and practices Nyingma, the same as the 5th did. In the 1970s, (when he gave up DS), he started receiving all of the Nyingma empowerments and transmissions, so he has been a Nyingma practitioner since then. (He came out publicly about DS in the mid 1990s, but secretly gave it up LONG before then.) That’s at least 40 years ago, lol! That’s a LONG time! That’s longer than a lot of the younger Nyingma lamas have been studying/practicing! (See my longer post on the subject.)

                    3. matilda7,
                      There is no direct reply to your reply, so I am replying here to your last response to me.
                      I believe that you can find the articles about how HHDL gave up DS on Tenpel’s blog, but I am not certain where they are and I can’t find them in my links. They are transcripts from talks he gave to a group of monks and lamas way back in 1978, or somewhere around that time. He explains the process through which he decided to give up the DS practice, and why, etc. I don’t have the link(s) now, so you have to do a bit of digging. As for the rest, I have followed HHDL closely for many years, so the information I am stating I have learned over a long time. Some of it is based on what he himself has said about the 5th and about DS, etc. Some of it is based on things I read and things other people have said. For example, if you read the first interview with Khadro-la (Tseringma) from 2009, she reveals some things about this as well. I can’t *prove* all I have said because I picked it up from bits and pieces here and there, but when you put it together, it is very obvious. I suggest you also read about the 5th DL in Alexander Berzin’s biography of the 14 DLs, which is an interesting book.

                    4. Also, there is a book called ‘The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple’ with pictures of Tantric and Dzogchen paintings related to the 5th’s secret practices. The temple was built around the time of the 6th DL (who was also Nyingma), and he spent time there. I don’t know how much proof people need.

                    5. Okay, I found the link to the talks HHDL gave long ago about giving up DS and the process he went through. It is in three very long parts, so you would have to have time to read it. He goes into great detail, and it’s very interesting to read, regardless of what one thinks about DS. He touches on how he wanted to practice in other traditions, and about being non-sectarian, etc. He has also mentioned this other times as well.

                    6. @ catlover, we’re not discussing how HHDL gave up DS, nor are we discussing the life of the 5th DL, we’re discussing your claims of the current 14th being a Nyingma lama.

                    7. I am not saying that HHDL belongs exclusively to the Nyingma lineage, but he is Nyingma as much as the 5th DL was. HHDL is also Gelug, but that doesn’t change that his involvement with Nyingma runs deep, especially related to the 5th DL. I don’t want to make it sound like he doesn’t practice in Sakya and other lineages too, but I think his connection with Nyingma is especially strong because of the 5th DL.
                      My point is that it is incorrect for people to say he is not qualified to comment on Nyingma because he is Gelug. Giving up DS has everything to do with his desire to practice in other lineages. I don’t want to discuss DS now, and I didn’t post that link to start a discussion on it, (and I am not a NKT/DS supporter). Since this is getting off topic, I think we should just end this sub-discussion, but the reason I thought it was relevant was because people in Rigpa and other Nyingma centers dismiss HHDL’s advice because they think he is not a Nyingma practitioner. I argue that he is a Nyingma practitioner. Sure, it’s correct to say he does Nyingma practices, but that’s what a Nyingma practitioner is, right?

                  2. @catlover i may appear to be nit-picking from your perspective but an awful lot goes into calling someone a Lama belonging to a particular lineage. It would be more accurate to state that you believe HHDL does Nyingmapa practices.

                    1. I once heard it said that HHDL holds all four lineages– I think that just means he has been given the transmissions etc.– but what’s your point Catlover? What on earth does any of this have to do with the DS controversy?

                    2. @Joanne, i think Catlover mentioned that the DS practice, which Trijang R. had instructed him to do, would clash with his wish to do certain Nyingma practices. Though clearly, without having read her link, HHDL had dreams, signs, that DS was destructive to Tib Buddhism overall and the Tibetan people.

                    3. OK, I see the connection. And Catlover is correct that HHDL turned away from DS practice in part because of his desire to receive Nyingma transmissions and promote nonsectarianism. He is certainly qualified to comment on Nyingma teachers and teachings– he has published two texts on Dzogchen. However, that is from the Rime/nonsectarian viewpoint that he and others (SL?) have been working to move the Tibetan Buddhist tradition towards. And that viewpoint very quickly shows fissures when challenging situations such as those we are now encountering arise.

  7. yes indeed it takes a special person to resist and not let it get to their head. but there are still good lamas out there so don’t let it defeat you. students also need to be careful about worship and tending toward lamaism rather than following the dharma.

  8. that said I feel great relief that students who have been abused in any way including witnessing abuse of finances are speaking out and not putting up with it. this needs to stop and needs to change for dharma to be transmitted and practiced in an authentic and healthy manner by all involved, lamas and students alike. I applaud the courage, care, compassion, and strength that students are showing here. this compassion and care has been lacking as far as I can tell with the lamas involved with Rigpa.

  9. Thank you for your support, everyone. Even without names attached, it is not easy to put yourself out there by making these bold statements, but they are only a reflection of what many are saying.

  10. Great, Moonfire. Especially the point about Western values being in accord with the Buddha’s teachings, while abuse of power isn’t. I haven’t heard anyone say that. It really makes me think! What would Buddha do, or say in all this!
    I’m also starting to think more and more that we in the West don’t value the ethics and vast views in our own culture.

    1. One thing I think we have to keep in mind though is that there are plenty of Tibetans watching these disclosures with horror, particularly Tibetans in India. We don’t want to go too far and start believing that Tibetan culture condones rape and physical and emotional abuse.

        1. Here’s one I’m aware of:
          There is another blog by a Tibetan that was posted earlier, where he was very critical and incredulous about the lack of response by other Tibetans. I’ll try to find it again… but maybe Joanne knows it?
          It seems quite difficult for Tibetans to speak out, particularly against someone they were very proud of. But some are, publicly. And obviously HHDL.

          1. As far as I understand, Tibetans were not proud of SL and kept a distance. You did not see them flocking to see him, lining the roads, pushing to get blessings. Their distance speaks volumes. He was not popular with them. Likely they questioned his authenticity and knew about the family background and politics.

                1. That’s true! The lamas didn’t keep their distance…and why I wonder? Was it because of the monetary perks? The women? The fine dining to get anything you want at any time? I was referring to the Tibetan community in general. But you certainly are right about the lamas.

          2. RH my comment was mainly based on hearsay, from conversations with people who are in India in Tibetan communities, Facebook as well. I don’t think you will find Tibetans speaking out too publicly.

        2. @ Ladybug. Which Tibetans in particular, Ladybug? What makes you think that the average Tibetan in the street even knows who Sogyal is, let alone his problematic reputation? And how is it their problem to resolve? It’s an issue for concerned Western practioners (obviously mainly Rigpa or ex) and the Lamas that continue to associate with him. As I wrote last night, it is to be hoped that guidance can be sought and received from senior Nyingmapa Lamas.

          1. @Ladybug. Apologies if you were specifically referring to a post where Joanne has stated that some Tibetans in India are watching all this in horror. Was reading the thread on my phone, so I wasn’t taking it in properly. I’m just becoming a bit wary of the finger-pointing, that it’s everyone else’s job to fix this shit. I’m curious to know whether this issue is indeed popping up on the radar of the Tibetan community, be it in India, USA, or anywhere.

    1. Although there is a reply on these comments. I’ve noticed that other people don’t always have a “reply” option either. it is something that happens only once in a while, so I am thinking it might be a tech glitch?

      1. Ok, you can click reply on the original comment – but not on the one which is an actual reply (as opposed to a new comment, if that makes sense). So if you want to reply and there’s no option, you return to the original comment THAT STARTED THE THREAD. There you will be able to click on reply and your comment will be the last in the chain.

        1. matilda7,
          That’s what I did, so you have to scroll up a bit to read my reply to you and Joanne.
          I’m not trying to take this thread off-topic. I brought up the HHDL-Nyingma issue because Rigpa people say that the Dalai Lama isn’t qualified to give advice on Nyingma, but I argue that since he practices Nyingma, he is qualified to give advice on it. He is actually Rimé, so why do people argue about his status as a Rimé practitioner?

  11. Now after 40 years of tibetan Buddhism in north hemisphere people is starting to discover that they are unable to practice tibetan Vajrayanaas it and now these puritan westerns want change it???? LOL!!! What arrogant delusion.
    That’s why Tantrayana was secret, very few can tolerate Guru Yoga and tantric practices in its purest form. Which are design to expose you and break you not “protect and healing.”
    As another commentator said, I stay with crazy wisdom and and the higest Mahasandi and Kordeyerme from the wild Virupa

    1. Yee ha, the days of the Wild West returning! Annie get your gun….
      But it’s not funny Yogini, not at all. There is no way the Vajrayana can survive without ethics and compassion– and your statement is completely without compassion.

          1. Yes so an authentic guru would no sooner harm another than they would themself. Realisation of non duality would preclude harming the student. This is the foundation of morality/ethics.
            Tragically this seems to be lacking amongst many Lamas nowadays….

          2. By non dualism, are you referring to the non-duality between absolute and relative reality, or the nondualism of the absolute state itself?
            When choosing to discard ethics and compassion, it is worth considering the words of the yogi Milarepa:
            “Though everything is actually void,
            Insistence on mere nominal “voidness”
            Without actual voidness realization
            Leads to denial of action and result,
            The great cause of hell and loss of freedom.
            Therefore, of good and bad actions and results
            Avoid the sinful in the slightest degree,
            And cultivate virtue to its greatest extent.”

  12. @ Wild Yogui
    Thanks, this wins the prize for the funniest comment so far: it made me laugh out loud…..it’s like the psychological equivalent of one of those really gruesome pictures they put on cigarette packets:
    Warning: ‘ Smoking Tibetan Buddhism can seriously damage your mental health ‘
    It’s a joke, right?

      1. I’m sure you’re right and I bow to your great wisdom……but at least I don’t venerate a drunk who was too cheap to pay his bar tab.

  13. Again from Mingyur Rinpoche in Hong Kong: “It is important to speak up. But normally, teacher to teacher, we don’t say too much. Like [a] doctor doesn’t talk about another doctor.”
    However, the downfall in recent months of one of Mingyur’s contemporaries, Sogyal Rinpoche – whose violent outbursts included assaulting a nun in public – cast a dark shadow on the community. In an article in response to the event, “Treat Everyone as the Buddha”, Mingyur might not have named the fallen teacher, but suggested the students were right to speak out.
    In a meeting before the Hong Kong leadership workshop, Mingyur echoed this point. “Buddha said if [a] teacher is not following these three things [morality, meditation and wisdom] there are two groups of people who can try to control him: one, the teacher of the teacher; two, the student of the teacher … It is important to speak up. But normally, teacher to teacher, we don’t say too much. Like [a] doctor doesn’t talk about another doctor.”

    1. @French Observer
      Yes, and it’s a very great pity that more lamas don’t understand that.
      Except that in the West at least, most good doctors, including therapists and psychiatrists, because of their Hippocratic oath, understand that they have an ethical obligation to report malpractice and have professional bodies that they can refer to who have the power to strike doctors from the register and stop them practising, and even then the courts often have to intervene for victims to get justice.
      As things stand, the morality of many Tibetan lamas seems much closer to the worst of Hollywood than the medical profession: somewhere between entertainment, celebrity and predatory capitalism.
      Like the ridiculous idea of Rigpa setting up an inquiry to investigate itself, effective regulation has to be legally imposed from the outside.

      1. I think given the situation in Hollywood, in the Catholic Church, in Buddhist communities, there will hopefully be a call for regulatory bodies. It is the only approach. One outcome of that approach in medicine has been that doctors then don’t spend time calling each other out or pointing fingers. There is a reporting process that everyone has agreed on. Of course, it isn’t a complete fix, that doesn’t exist, but the culture has to be addressed.

  14. Is it just my odd sense of humour, or does anyone else get the strange impression that “Wild Yogui” is really Dzongsar Khyentse pretending to be someone who can’t write English properly?
    The mistakes seem artificial and it actually expresses his position quite succinctly: quietly outraged that mere westerners should dare to question Tibetan lamas and secretly fuming because he knows playtime’s over now.
    “Hello, is that you Norbu? Ok, now go to your gompa and don’t come out until you can behave yourself.”

    1. Pete, am loving your comments; succinct, take no prisoners and funny!
      I hope it is DK. From personal experience, he can get things wrong but worse, refuses to front up to his mistakes. Really think now he’s not liking empowered Westerners/students – perhaps a turning of the tables will help him – you know – feel a bit exposed, a bit broken?

    2. We can chat in spanish whenever you want….because you are so funny and sarcastic (not very ethical after all) I’m sure you won’t have any problem.
      It seems that you and all these people commenting here got stuck with the Sogyal issue. Your problem not mine.

      1. Hola. What a charmer you are! Well as Dzongsar loves to be sarcastic, according to you then he has not ethics!?!
        Btw, some Lamas really don’t deserve more than sarcasm after the physical and spiritual harm they have brought to the lives of so many.

  15. @Pete Cowell,
    Please don’t ever leave this forum, lol! We need your comments here. I love them!
    If “Wild Yogui” is Dzongsar Khyentse, it wouldn’t surprise me, lol! Especially with a
    nickname” like that, lol! 😀

    1. Me either 🙂
      To any narcissistic Lama who may peruse these pages, please remember,
      ‘Ultimately, I am the same as the guru in essence,
      For the nature of the student is the same as that of all the buddhas.’

  16. @Wild Yogui/Dzongsar?
    I’m not “stuck” on the Sogyal issue at all. I’ve known about Sogyal for a long time, although with the new revelations coming out, it is even worse than I thought. I am fed up with the whole “lama/guru/tulku” system.

  17. The people here is absolute hostile to our tibetan Lamas and tibetan culture including shameful comments against a great Bodhisattva as Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. So, I have nothing to do here.

    1. Lo siento WildYogui – no habla espanol pero some Tibetan lamas have caused real harm for many people. It is upsetting to hear this and understand this.
      Please remember the Vajrayana grows out of the Hinayana and Mahayana so the bodhisattva vows of compassion and ethics/morality are important!
      I wish you well on your spiritual journey x

  18. Don’t worry Rose. WildYogui is probably just Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in disguise, coming here to defend himself. I guess Dzongsar’s feelings were hurt when he didn’t get enough praise for his article about the 8 letter writers, as well as the flack he got for that tasteless follow-up “lover’s contract” that he wrote because he just had to say more, even though he already had said more than enough.

  19. At first glance I thought that yellow and green emoticon at the end of his comment was Bhutanese.
    I really must put my reading specs on……..

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