What Should be in Rigpa’s Next Communication

What they promised

The last communication from Rigpa international set out three initiaves in response to the attestations of abuse:

  1. An independent investigation of the allegations of abuse … [by] a neutral third party to fully respond to the concerns raised and to lay a foundation for restoring trust and confidence in the Rigpa community … fully international in scope and satisfy necessary requirements.
  2. An international consultation process to establish both a code of conduct and a grievance process for Rigpa … to develop codes and procedures that are appropriate for Rigpa.
  3. A new ‘spiritual body’ to guide and advise Rigpa.


The investigation

We want an update on how all their initiatives are progressing, and it needs to be in specific terms not general terms. What some members of What Now specifically want to know about the investigation is:

  1. Who are doing the investigation?
  2. What are their qualifications?
  3. Who chose the people undertaking the investigation? We hope it is not the old management, who, since they may be found complicit in the abuse, have a vested interest in a certain outcome.
  4. Are they truly neutral with no relationship to Rigpa and no investment in the outcome?
  5. What is the aim of the investigation?
  6. What are the terms and scope of the investigation?
  7. How will it be carried out?
  8. Will the process be completely transparent

We will post a more detailed look at what this investigation should be and how it should be carried out, either tomorrow or the next day.

Code of conduct and cultural change

We need an update on the process of developing the code of conduct and on the scope of the investigation into cultural change that we are aware is part of the process. In particular some members want to know:

  1. How far is the consultation process for the code of conduct and cultural change extending? Will they speak to the 8 letter writers? What about others who have left Rigpa in disgust, are they being included in the process?
  2. Have they consulted His Holiness the Dalai Lama or Mingyur Rinpoche, the two Lamas who have shown a modern understanding of the issue?
  3. Have they employed a professional specialist in cultural change within organisations to direct the process?
  4. An update on the development and implementation of a Rigpa complaint policy. Within the policy a requirement for management to regularly and publically report number, type of complaint and type of resolution.
  5. The big question is: How committed are they to true cultural change?
    If they are truly committed to the deep cultural change needed to establish Vajrayana as a realistic vehicle for Buddhism in the West, they need to show their commitment by addressing the cultic and abusive behaviour of some of their members that we outlined in a previous post.

    • We want the sangha provided with full information, which means sending them a link to the Reference Material page on this blog as that has links to all the relevant information that has so far not been shared within Rigpa.
    • Some attempt to make Rigpa’s finances transparent.

If they are to continue to show teachings/recordings/messages from SR then it is necessary for Rigpa International/management/spokespeople to address several public points that others have made. Namely:

  • Comment on HHDL’s recent statements on Sogyal Rinpoche OR announce that HHDL is not a Patron of Rigpa anymore.
  • Comment on the points DZKR made about SR’s qualifications as a vajra master, about how he warned, or failed to warn, students.
  • Address OT’s reasoning for the causes of SR’s health problems head-on. Does eating very rich food over many years lead to health problems, or is only ‘broken samaya’ a possible cause of health issues? If so, how exactly is what a student does cause such illness? This clarification would entail acknowledging that SR himself said he would not take the tests that were needed. Some student’s lives could be at stake if they believe that the causes of illness reside not in physical causes and conditions but purely spiritual ones.
  • Comment on the video of Khenchen Namdrol Rinpoche recorded at Lerab Ling in which he said that demonic forces are at play, insinuated that they had taken over the students who spoke out about SR’s behaviour, and threatened them with hell: does Rigpa share that same view about the letter writers, or reject it? Though the video has been removed from You Tube, the damage has been done.

We understand that ‘Rigpa’ is not of one mind on these matters, but just as we state on our About page that the opinions expressed in the blog and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of those who manage the blog, some similar statement could be made to indicate that these are not official views.

The ‘spiritual body’ to guide and advise.

  1. Who is on it?
  2. Who was invited? Who accepted and who declined? Did they ask His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Mingyur Rinpoche?
  3. What are their qualifications for being there?
  4. Is the ‘body’ balanced in views relating to this debacle or are they all fundamentalist Lamas like Orgyen Tobgyal?
  5. Rigpa students have already been told that two senior students will be on this body. The trouble is that these students by virtue of their position in the organisation must have enabled and have certainly covered up the abuse for decades, so how are they qualified to guide and advise anyone in spiritual matters when they have so clearly shown a lack of wisdom and compassion? Their being on the board is a farce unless they indicate through an apology that they have looked deeply and seen where they failed in their spiritual understanding and care.

And we want to see some true dharma, some compassion and wisdom

  1. We want an apology as the start of true spiritual healing. Senior management needs to apologise for their role in allowing and covering up the abuse, or they should resign. Even an apology limited by lawyers would go a long way towards restoring confidence and cutting through some of the cultic and abusive behaviours of members. It is also the first step in the healing practice of Vajrasattva. How can you heal anything without taking this first step? Did they learn nothing from their 100,000 recitations of Vajrasattva, or were they too busy filling Sogyal’s demands to actually do the practice? Not acting according to the four powers of purification (confession, regret, reparation and a vow not to repeat the negative action) indicates that the people running Rigpa have not understood the very dharma they have been teaching.
  2. We want to see some compassion for those who ‘felt’ harmed, some genuine human care and concern. This has been conspicuously missing from all communications so far. Perhaps some direction for students to practice Tonglen for all concerned especially for those who have been harmed, and a request that Vajrasattva practice to be undertaken with the aim of healing the rift sangha as well as all those harmed and, of course, Sogyal himself.
  3. A public statement of commitment to all for a zero tolerance of abuse, using the words ‘zero tolerance.’

Be sure to check out the What Now? Reference Material page for links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. For links to places to assist in healing from abuse see the sangha care resources page.
More personal and private support for current and previous students of Rigpa can be found in the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite. Please use the email address you use on Facebook.

10 Replies to “What Should be in Rigpa’s Next Communication”

  1. These are very balanced and reasonable expectations, but they will never be met.
    The reason is that most of the people they are being addressed to have beliefs that are far removed from those held by most members of modern society, whether religious or secular, and they’ve held these beliefs for a very long time. By now they’re no longer psychologically capable of abandoning them.
    Generally, even if people are members of a religious faith, if rational, they understand their obligation to live within the law, and observe a normal moral code. They may disagree in some areas and even be resentful, but since their faith probably has a code that isn’t too different, the conflicts are usually minimal.
    According to modern understanding and morality, the bizarre belief that an exploitative serial abuser like SR can also be enlightened and that his actions are motivated by wisdom and compassion for those he abuses, isn’t a religious one, it’s the serious delusion of a cult member.
    The abuser is a sociopath and a narcissist and the belief is a version of Stockholm Syndrome, a co-dependence between abuser and abused and a survival strategy by the victim. In this context it’s a means of dealing with the cognitive dissonance of being constantly treated cruelly by the person they believe can relieve their suffering and transmit wisdom.
    When this dynamic is also justified by scriptural references of any kind it means abuse has been integrated on a philosophical and institutional level and although such perverted reasoning, even if backed up by magical tales from the past, can be dismissed from a modern secular point of view, it’s hold over the minds of both abuser and abused shouldn’t be underestimated .
    So, what seems to be an ethical difference is in fact a psychological dysfunction that could be described as bordering on mental illness. A person may seem to be rational and fully functional but if they’ve lost the ability to tell the difference between cruelty and kindness, it’s no longer safe to assume they are.
    The fact that abuse has not only gone unchecked but also been actively enabled for so long and that various lamas are now being drafted in to provide scriptural justification and suppress criticism by talking about demonic possession and threatening critics with hell realms is confirmation that this is a very deep-seated, collective psychological problem among many of SR’s older students .
    Trying to deal with a collective psychological problem of this magnitude by presenting a set of rational moral requirements to a group of irrational people and waiting for them to comply is bound to be futile.
    Surely, before talking about ‘healing’ the obvious priority now should be to first prevent further harm.
    Judging by the way the Rigpa management is reacting, this will have to involve a degree of forced cooperation rather than negotiation and the only realistic way to do this is through the courts and financial authorities.
    Absent this, Rigpa will delay, but may make some token gestures, possibly in time, even present an entirely fabricated new ‘reformed’ face to the world, draft in compliant lamas such as OT and carry on as a money-making business with exactly the same dysfunctional mind-set as before.
    Then it’ll just be a matter of time before even more people get hurt.

      1. And I agree Michel DM that Rigpa is now displaying pure “cult” behaviors. The only difference is that SL has cast his net far and so Rigpa has involved the perspectives of the wider Tibetan Buddhist community, with lamas of different takes on these issues. Most cults are much more insular. So that dimension is yet to play out completely.

        1. @Joanne Thanks for that link. We were planning on doing a post on what HHDL said in Frankfurt, now we can simply share this one. HHDL is showing that he has a better understanding of Western sensibilities than any of the other Lamas. I think the Lamas who speak in support of Sr fall primarily into two categories: They have something to hide themselves or they are simply niave, probably both. They have not been taught to think for themselves but to faithfully regurgitate teachings from a world far different to this. But what people need here are Lamas who can apply the essence of the dharma intelligently and with an understanding of the big picture where the dharma is more important than any Lama or organisation. HHDL has that part very clear.
          I think that some of these Lamas live in a bubble remote from the real world of ordinary human beings, and they are so steeped in complex philosophy that it possibly obscures rather than enlightens. This is something I see in some of the hard core practictioners in Rigpa. It’s such a shame because it’s the very opposite of what it’s supposed to do.

          1. Good points Moonfire. Yes, for years I’ve been wondering why HHDL has been the only TB lama to even acknowledge that there exist problems with lamas misbehaving– the only lama to look at the full picture. When I see him working with Western scientists, I think I get a view of why he has the bigger picture. He practices it. He listens to scientists as if he is really interested in what they have to offer him, something he can learn. And he travels the world with that same openness to everyone he meets. The result is that he is willing to learn. And so he has a special wisdom and understanding. And of course, he is who he is, a special being for sure. I don’t think it’s an accident that he is around during Tibetans” darkest hour of need.
            But then there’s also Mingyur Rinpoche. I don’t think it’s an accident that he’s the other TB lama of standing to speak out and support your efforts. He’s a lama who followed Patrul Rinpoche and Milarepa’s example and spent time in true renunciation and retreat. In that way, I think he has kept the vision and courage and humility of the bodhisattva’s in order to stay true to what matters.
            There’s just been so much empire building and I really get it. These great lamas are homeless, what they lost is huge and what their people have experienced is horrible. So it’s totally understandable that they would get caught up in building temples and huge followings, instead of keeping their focus on what’s really needed. I mean, Milarepa never stopped living in caves even though he had many followers and disciples. (And he never treated his disciples in any manner but with the utmost kindness!). So I have little patience anymore with people who dare to use Milarepa’s name in the context of justifying abuse.

    1. Well said Michael. We do feel that we should give them a chance to behave intelligently, however. There are many students on the fringes of the organisation who are genuinely doing their best to push for change and some are reading this blog and seeing the bigger picture. We aim to give them some back up in their efforts inside the organisation. At least if it comes to the courts, we will have given them every chance to avoid it, and people will understand why it was necessary.
      As with all Vajrayana, the possibilities are great here but so are the dangers. How they set up the investigation is an opportunity for them to show us we’re wrong in our present pesimission, and tomorrow we will post some requests on that.
      By making what behaviour we expect clear, we make their failure to provide it even more clear.

  2. No one from Rigpa has reached out to any of the letter writers except for the odd personal attack from former friends. There has been no official communication at all, three months after the testament to truth, no response from anyone.
    This is how they plan to ‘manage’ the’ allegations’ this is their non response to the brave transparency long time students of soyal lakar have attempted to create in order to shed light on a very sick situation. The fact that people have turned on the victims is further proof (as if any was needed) that rigpa has sunken to the level of a cult.
    They haven’t responded because they know it’s all true, they haven’t responded because they were complicit for years, they haven’t responded because they are both victims themselves and victimizers.

  3. It’s interesting, that none of the lamas that speak for Rigpa, understands English. So it is reasonable to assume, that they do not know the content of the letter (exept for the version Rigpa has presented to them…), nor the statements of the Dalai Lama or Mingyur Rinpoche or Mattieu Richard.

    1. Yes @Lola. I think we can be pretty sure that they got a censored version of the truth. My conversations with several people who have been repeatedly hit by Sr is that they do not think they were abused. How could people with such a view possibly give an unbiased view of the contents of the letter? And even if the letter was faithfully translated for them, what context do you suppose they might be given for the ‘allegations’?

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