What a Third Party Investigation Should Do

A What Now? group member spoke to An Olive Branch (an American Buddhism-based organisation that provides organizations with processes for healing and restoring harmony) and was informed that they have not been contacted by Rigpa to provide a neutral third party intervention. Nevertheless their experience in working with ethical violations in Buddhist communities makes them a valuable resource for whoever takes on the investigation.

What a Third Party Investigation Should Do

The following dot points come from one of the slides in the video below. It gives a comprehensive and insightful presentation on the essentials required by any organization taking on this task. Let’s hope that whoever does the investigation for Rigpa does achieve this:

  • Bring process to a difficult, messy situation
  • Allow everyone to be heard
  • Prevent personal attacks
  • Ensure harmful behaviour be stopped
  • Remediate anyone harmed Or restore good name of teacher
  • Return organisation to its mission

The video is set to play at the most relevant point for this discussion, but if you go back to the beginning, you will find out the presenters qualifications and a section on what a healthy sangha should have in place to prevent scandals before they start.

17 Replies to “What a Third Party Investigation Should Do”

  1. to involve a mediator or organisation that’s based on buddhist ethics sounds like a gratifying approach to me. much relief from tension could come from such a step. the points that you listed are probably what’s needed most. It could be a healthy way to remedy a sick situation. rigpa could be rehabilitated if they have the courage to face the fact that they need such help. and it means no shortcoming and it is no shame to reach out for help which might serve as soothing assistance.
    and what would be their alternative anyway? pretending that everything is alright? that won’t do any good for their reputation and coherence.

    1. I agree. And I would only add that if those ethics are honestly addressed, then there isn’t so much a need to resort to Western psychological principles such as transference. Even within Western psychology, transference being a problem is not agreed on (Carl Rogers didn’t see it as a problem). And in Rigpa, Western psychology was hijacked along with the Dharma to abuse students. And really, the Dharma is a highly advanced psychology. Problems in Western Dharma centers always center around two issues imo, a lack of ethical standard and cultural misunderstandings. Trying to integrate Western psychological approaches simply confuses things in my mind.

  2. There is also this advice: (for those who have realized they were in a relationship with someone who was not taking advantage of their power and highly self absorbed). I’ve come to recognize what so many other psychologists told me over the last years – that Sogyal is a Narcissist Personality Disorder. There are others, typically those who want to continue as his students, who don’t like these labels but this is as if they want to keep the knowledge of what someone with this kind of mental illness is capable of to themselves while people are obviously quite damaged from their dealings with this man.
    First things I recommend to do:
    1. Gain control over your thoughts and thinking. Trust that what you are experiencing is not in your imagination, that the relationship is unidirectional and is unhealthy, abusive, and that you are important and deserve happiness and peace.
    2. Spend some time reading about this subject and familiarize yourself with the psychology and games these types play.
    3. Do not isolate yourself.
    Start with these.
    Then you will eventually become able to speak out, without fear and see that there Sogyal is just an ordinary human being – which he himself has often pointed out.

  3. As the activity on this blog begins to (understandably) slow down, and Rigpa centres across the world crank into operation after the quiet summer period, it seems as though it’s business as usual.
    Having only been involved in the last two years, I was baffled as to how the allegations that surfaced years and years ago didn’t have more of an impact. Now I see. The banality of routine kicks in, and nothing much changes.
    How chilling.

    1. Excellent observation.
      Might we need to take up the energy ourselves rather than continue to rely on others? Is the chill in the mirror?

      1. Absolutely, students need to do what will bring them benefit.
        And as you mentioned before, maybe there needs to be a better place for ex-Rigpa students to find a community.
        Of course, there are also students who care a lot about Rigpa and those who attend Rigpa courses, and want to honor the investments, in time, money and other commitments, that others have made in the past, and seek reforms as have been laid out in this blog. That intention can also be based on upholding bodhisattva vows.
        This article sums up the situation quite well I think.

        1. Thanks for the excellent link.
          A multiple approach is important. The Rigpa organization facing the situation more directly and inclusively as well as the ex-Rigpa students doing the same and not just targeting the organization, but also taking their own responsibility as well. This seems like a chance for deeper insights and taking care not to stop too soon in our exploration of “how did it happen?” and “what now?”
          The chilling aspect for me is those making the accusations aren’t taking their own advice very seriously, but are also looking for a way to regroup and begin again without understanding their own role then and now.

          1. Rick, I think people have and are taking responsibility. Criticism has been aimed at the organization and the teacher but everyone has been talking about their own assumptions and how we all let things happen. That doesn’t in any way excuse the abusive behavior or the cover up and enabling. But everything bad was so well hidden.
            I hope that you can find some of this dialogue and understand.
            It’s easy not to see the big picture. I just want to reassure you that there are many layers to people’s inner and outer investigations. This is not a shallow or unilateral, polarized effort at change.
            There are many people involved. This one blog represents a common voice, but hundreds are going through deep inner processes.

            1. HI Starshine,
              Thanks for your response, I appreciate it, though I think we are referring to different aspects.
              I’m at a loss of how to communicate this difference, especially via online on a blog. Attempts so far have been met with similar responses as when raising the same issues 35 years ago.

              1. Yes you’re probably right. I don’t get the full gist of what you’re asking for in the last comment.
                You may have spelled it out before, I was just responding to your last comment in my comment above.
                I actually feel pretty good about how communication goes in written form, even online.
                I’ll be reading what you reply even if I don’t comment. I just wanted you to know earlier that I hear what you’re saying. And give a little extra information about there being a deep process.

  4. My sense from your comments is that you are part of the group setting up this blog and perhaps were part of the previous administration? Is this accurate?

  5. Ah, thanks, Starshine.
    — Part of the difficulty of online communication concerning topics this subtle and powerful is not knowing who you are writing back and forth with.
    — The folks running the blog set the agenda by being in charge of the blog posts.
    — The folks running this blog are related in some way to the folks running the How did it happen? blog. This is a strong alignment.
    — Decisions are already made by the owners of the blogs, this is not a transparent process.
    — This is far from a circle, which may be an crucial setting to help support stepping out of old patterns.

    1. Keeping people’s names out of this blog is important while some of us are still in Rigpa or associated with people inside Rigpa. As one of our posts mentioned, there has been some nasty behaviour against those who wrote and those who support those who wrote the letter and we don’t want to open ourselves up for more of it. Doing this is hard enough as it is.
      What you say about setting the ‘agenda’ of the blog applies to any blog and I see no problem with that. Every newspaper has an editor and what is published is not a democratic process. We state what we’re about pretty clearly in our About page. That’s the best we can do for you on that matter. I don’t know what you expect to see here, but we are not an activist group.

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