What Those Harmed by Sogyal Rinpoche Experienced & How to Help Them Heal

What those harmed actually experienced from their trusted teacher.

Let’s look at the attestations of abuse in the letter written by 8 people who experienced or witnessed apparently abusive behaviour at the hands of Sogyal Rinpoche. If you did not personally experience these things, imagine how you would feel if you had experienced them, and not just occasionally, but for those in his household, continuously for many years.

“You have punched and kicked us, pulled hair, torn ears, as well as hit us and others with various objects such as your back-scratcher, wooden hangers, phones, cups, and any other objects that happened to be close at hand. … Your physical abuse — which constitutes a crime under the laws of the lands where you have done these acts — have left monks, nuns, and lay students of yours with bloody injuries and permanent scars. This is not second hand information; we have experienced and witnessed your behavior for years. …

“Your shaming and threatening have led some of your closest students and attendants to emotional breakdowns. … it was done in such a way that was harmful to us rather than helpful, a method of control, a blatant means of subjugation and undue influence that removed our liberty. You have threatened us and others saying, if we do not follow you absolutely, we will die “spitting up blood like Ian Maxwell”. … You have told us that our loved ones are at risk of ill-health, or have died, because we displeased you in some way.” At public teachings, you have regularly criticized, manipulated and shamed us and those working to run your retreats. …

“Some of us have been subjected to sexual harassment in the form of being told to strip, to show you our genitals (both men and women), to give you oral sex, being groped, asked to give you photos of our genitals, to have sex in your bed with our partners, and to describe to you our sexual relations with our partners. You’ve ordered your students to photograph your attendants and girlfriends naked, and then forced other students to make photographic collages for you, which you have shown to others. You have offered one of your female attendants to another lama (who is well known in Rigpa) for sex. You have had for decades, and continue to have, sexual relationships with a number of your student attendants, some who are married. You have told us to lie on your behalf, to hide your sexual relationships from your other girlfriends. …

“With impatience, you have made demands for this entertainment and decadent sensory indulgences. When these are not made available at the snap of a finger, or exactly as you wished, we were insulted, humiliated, made to feel worthless, stupid and incompetent, and often hit or slapped. Your behavior did not cultivate our mindfulness or awareness, but rather it made us terrified of making a mistake.”

The kind of effect their experiences may have had on them

Remember that we are talking here about students who have been abused or seen abuse occur regularly, often for more than a decade, so in addition to the injuries they sustained at the time, the trauma created by being in an abusive situation runs deep. Their trust in their teacher is similar in a fashion to the trust a child has for a parent, and the sense of betrayal almost as deep.

“Some common emotional symptoms of trauma include denial, anger, sadness and emotional outbursts. Victim of trauma may redirect the overwhelming emotions they experience toward other sources, such as friends or family members.”

“Physical effects can be such things as: “paleness, lethargy, fatigue, poor concentration and a racing heartbeat. The victim may have anxiety or panic attacks and be unable to cope in certain circumstances.”

“Depression and trauma have high comorbidity rates, and feelings of despair, malaise and sadness can last longer than a few days or even weeks. When a trauma occurs, post-traumatic stress disorder often occurs.”

“The sooner the trauma is addressed, the better chance a victim has of recovering successfully and fully.” https://www.psychguides.com/guides/trauma-symptoms-causes-and-effects/

However, the only attempt at helping anyone who felt harmed not blessed by the behaviour outlined above was by a ‘Rigpa Therapist’ where, as the 8 declare, “our very tangible and clear discernment of seeing you as an abuser was blocked and instead we were blamed and made to feel inadequate.”

The cost

Their trauma has cost them not only pain and suffering but also their faith in their teacher and spiritual path as well as the considerable amounts of money they needed for therapy. Unsurprisingly, few remain Tibetan Buddhists, though some remain Buddhists in other forms, others have given up the spiritual path entirely.

For those of us traumatised simply by the knowledge of the harm our teacher caused in the name of crazy wisdom, consider how much worse it must be for those who were regularly beaten, belittled and generally treated like slaves, while they tried for years to work with the abuse in a positive way, and consider now all those who were treated the same way and yet still defend their teacher’s actions. Are they more deluded than the rest of the Western world, or are they more enlightened? Those who spoke out know how hard it is to escape the delusion. Those harmed but still in denial need our compassion as well, and so does the man who is still unwilling to take responsibility for his actions.

What can Rigpa students do to help those harmed?

Every student can put themselves in the shoes of the students harmed. They can imagine what it was like for them to experience such behaviour from someone they trusted to bring them benefit not to harm. Even if someone doesn’t believe that a punch from Sogyal Rinpoche consitutes harm, a punch still hurts, and they can imagine how it felt for those who could no longer see it as crazy wisdom. Students can open their hearts, actually feel the pain of their fellow students and then act appropriately to alleviate it.

Simply sitting and doing loving kindness or tonglen is not enough when your actions can help relieve someone’s suffering. And if you can’t do anything personally, you can still encourage those who can — your management teams — to step up and walk their talk. To take their bodhicitta vow seriously, to stop thinking about themselves and their own spiritual path and to consider actually helping those harmed by their teacher and organisation.

You can reach out to your friends that have left the community, apologise for not supporting them before and tell them how sorry you are that they experienced what they did. You can listen to their story of pain without judgement, without diminishing it, without trying to make them see it a different way, instead you can not only listen but also hear them, truly hear them and believe them.

And don’t be surprised if it’s too late and they don’t want to talk to you —they may feel that speaking to you will only re-open old wounds — even so, your reaching out will be appreciated so long as you do it out of true concern for them and with no agenda on your part.

The power of apology

“Though receiving an apology is not necessary for a victim to heal from trauma, it helps enormously, and quickens the process of healing. ‘Receiving an apology from their attacker that acknowledges responsibility and remorse for the assault can help to combat the effects of the trauma,’ said Dr. Suvercha Pasricha, lead psychiatrist at the women’s inpatient service at Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. …

“Pasricha also added that there are certain criteria an apology must fit in order to be beneficial. The perpetrator must accept responsibility for the incident, show remorse and validate the victim’s experience.

‘“For (the accused) to take ownership and responsibility for their actions is very powerful for the victim,’ she said.” http://www.victimjusticenetwork.ca/resource/736-sexual-assault-trauma-can-be-combatted-by-receiving-an-apology

Legal implications are often brought up as an excuse for not apologising. While concern in that direction is understandable, we are talking about a ‘spiritual’ organisation here, and regardless of what happens on a worldly level, according to the religion they supposedly practice, those who have caused harm (and to a lesser degree even those who have supported someone who has caused harm) have created negative karma that they will carry until it ripens unless they purify it through confession practice (which includes regret, apology/restitution and a commitment not to repeat the negative actions). Add the bodhisattva vow that all older students and, supposedly, all lamas take that commit them to undertaking activity for the benefit of others and one wonders how not giving an apology could possibly fit with that world view.

The problem is that Sogyal and his devoted students think that, despite clear evidence to the contrary, the behaviour outlined above does not constitute harm, and their clinging to that belief re-traumatises those already traumatised by facing this group denial of their suffering.

A lack of acceptance of responsibility, rather than helping Sogyal and Rigpa to avoid legal action may only bring them closer to such action since those who bring legal action do so because they need closure on traumatic events in order to help alleviate their suffering and help them move on with their lives. Closure comes from knowing that the perpetrator has accepted they’ve done wrong, is genuinely remorseful and willing to make some kind of restitution or compensation. If a perpetrator of a crime does not take responsibility for his or her crimes, the only way to make sure that person sees that what they have done is wrong is to take them to court.

Help alleviate the suffering of victims by accepting responsibility for your role in it, by apologising and giving some compensation, and people have no need of legal action. Our courts recognise the value of this as perpetrators that show no remorse and no understanding that what they have done is wrong get longer sentences than those who show remorse and apologise.

Wouldn’t a fund for reparation for the victims be a better use of the money of a spiritual organisation than spending it on a PR firm and lawyers?

But given the unlikelihood of Sogyal or Rigpa management of taking this kind of bold action, a private apology may avoid legal implications. Management could ask those who have been harmed to contact them, and Sogyal Rinpoche and someone from management could phone them individually and apologise.

Individual students who contributed to the trauma of those harmed could apologise to individuals on the telephone. You don’t need to wait for management, you can assist in the healing of those who are suffering, and you would assist in your own healing as well

If Rigpa management and Sogyal Rinpoche were truly practicing what they preach, they would do that.

But first they have to recognise that some of Sogyal Rinpoche’s actions have actually caused harm.

How hard is it to say sorry?

It can be done, even after all this time. In this video, I show how such an apology might sound.

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40 Replies to “What Those Harmed by Sogyal Rinpoche Experienced & How to Help Them Heal”

    1. excuse me, that’s not what I meant. what I said is, that, repeating articles like this and including suggestions how the opposite party should apologise looks a little bit like someone banging his head on a brick wall again and again and then waiting for the wall to answer.
      after being hurt by someone and then having expressed one’s pain that should be enough. it’s enough and the other person who hurted you has now the opportunity to apologise.you ask them for an apology once, that should be enough.

      1. Your analogy does not work because the cause of the harm in this instance is not a brick wall, it is people who have the ability to respond – or should have. Since clearly they have not understood how an apology can help heal, they obviously need to be told again. There is nothing wrong with this, just as there is nothing wrong with repeated calls for peace in the Middle East. Such calls cannot and should not end until there is some resolution.
        Consider the purpose behind your comment, because it is a very ‘Rigpa’ kind of comment in that it makes it seem that there is something wrong with the person who keeps pointing out issues. The idea of ‘letting go’ can be used to shut up a voice you don’t want to hear, and Rigpa is very good at using teachings to shut people up.

  1. @ chrillerloungeXX “after being hurt by someone and then having expressed one’s pain that should be enough. it’s enough and the other person who hurt you has now the opportunity to apologise.you ask them for an apology once, that should be enough.”
    This boundary is one I certainly question. Repeatedly asking seems somewhat harmful to one’s self, on the other hand there is the possibility someone might listen.
    I’ve been repeating (ad nauseum) the possibility that we can heal by facing how we (on this blog) fully participated in creating the situation in question.
    By maintaining focus on the teacher and organization, we continue the same mistake of energizing and empowering the teacher and organization while disempowering one another (except those also keeping the focus on the teacher.)
    By coming together in a supportive way, perhaps we could gain a deeper understanding of our role and heal our reliance on authority. This could have benefits far beyond this particular situation.
    Yet, this plea goes unheeded by the very folks who are asking the same of others. The response to this plea is the same as the Rigpa organization’s response to this blog, yet we seem unable to see how tightly bound we are to those we are in conflict with.
    It feels like by bringing the same issue up in different ways someone might be able to hear what is being said. Alas, perhaps nothing more than Don Quixote rising. (I’m critiquing myself here)

    1. I think you misunderstand what power is, and how it works Rick.
      When students realize what SR is, they tend to just leave. Sometimes in large bunches, like after the Jane Doe lawsuit.
      And that have every right to do that, and should do what is most healthy for them.
      But did leaving dis-empower Rigpa and SR? Did they become weak and disappear? And if not, why not?
      Rigpa recruits from “The Tibetan Book of Living And Dying”. It’s one of the best selling books on Buddhism, particularly Tibetan Buddhism.
      That is power.
      And you can see from recent newsletters, the very strong repression of any hint of scandal or misbehaviour, the strong need to “get back to normal”, and just carry on with their practice in peace.
      What kind of practitioner can find peace in the Rigpa organization now?
      Rigpa has weathered many scandals, but it’s only recently that social media has made it possible for people to gather more effectively, and make their point publicly. Spaces like here.
      So if nothing else happens, this place will be a record to future students of Rigpa, of what happened, and how it played out.

      1. “Revolutionaries do not make revolutions. The revolutionaries are those who know when power is lying in the street and then they can pick it up.”
        — Hannah Arendt

  2. If we have a closer look the Sogyal Rinpoche’s answer to the letter of the 8, we can read that he did apologize. But whether we are ready to accept his apology or not only depends on us.

      1. He didn’t say that SR apologized. He said that “we can read that he did apologize”.
        Just like, if we open our minds enough, we can read into the letter that SR is fully enlightened. Or that pigs can fly, that kind of thing.

        1. @RH
          Well spotted there. I completely missed the semantic subtlety embedded in his comment. I really must pay attention…..
          I’ve even seen flying pigs writing vapour-trail messages in the sky: “Time for your medication….”

      2. Unfortunately I can’t find the English version, but it says in the French one: “Par conséquent, du plus profond de mon coeur, et en toute humilité, je vous demande pardon.” Which means in English: “Therefore, from the bottom of my heart and in total humility, I ask for your forgiveness.”

    1. Apology?!?!? it was what is called a NON-apology. Look up “non-apology” on the Internet for the meaning, if you are not aware of what a non-apology is. He did not apologize.

      1. That would fit the definition of a non-apology: “I’m sorry you feel that way,” or “I’m sorry there was a misunderstanding,” are good examples. A real apology is more like: “I’m sorry I screwed up. It will never happen again. What can I do to redeem myself?”

        1. Yes, that was my point. Someone mentioned that he apologized, he didn’t. He actually calls the letter writers his enemies at the end in reference to may my enemies become my best teachers. The word is victims and the content of the letter is their testimony to the truth not allegations, bearing witness to abuse received at his hands.

  3. Thanks for your reply, RH.
    As your focus remains on Sogyal Rinpoche and the Rigpa Organization, it seems we may be trying to communicate with one another on different levels. On the level you are presenting it, I’ve no argument with anything you are saying and hope that the kinds of efforts you are working on can produce positive change.
    However, it seems to me we might have the opportunity to create deeper, more lasting change by understanding our role in creating this situation, then and now.
    This would require focusing on ourselves, which we can do without external obstacles as we are the ones interested in this problem and we are free to look at our own participation without demanding anything of anyone else.
    The resistance to looking at ourselves and reclaiming the power we’ve given away is an obstacle, but not an external one. If we don’t take the opportunity of this moment, my sense is this cycle will continue over and over, in myriad forms and institutions.
    If we were take the time and effort that we are demanding of the Rigpa Organization on ourselves, we might move toward freeing ourselves from repeating this situation again. This could prove an inspiration to others and go far beyond helping heal the Rigpa Organization, but also provide a version of hope to other groups.
    Keeping the focus on critiquing the Rigpa Organization and Sogyal Rinpoche seems to be the consensus here, just as keeping the positive focus on the teacher and organization was the consensus in the early days of forming the Rigpa Organization. Perhaps this is a mistake, an error?
    I think we have the capacity to do better, but we may have to be open to thinking differently. Thinking differently, i.e., not “getting back to normal” in terms of a Rigpa Group, but not “getting back to normal” here, too.

    1. There’s a lot that could be said really, but maybe this isn’t the best forum. We could do better, for sure, but it’s not simple. It depends what goals you want to achieve.
      To do better than Rigpa, it is perhaps thinking in terms of meeting needs, and there are existing models worth discussing around. I no expert, but I like Max Neef’s model of Human Scale Development, described here:
      You can see how, for many people, Rigpa ostensibly tried to fill several of the needs, over multiple dimensions, except perhaps the “Freedom” needs were not even attempted.
      It arguably is a “violator” of the “Understanding” ones, which was maybe the most important one it should have worked at, and the root cause of many of the problems we see now.
      The longterm people in Rigpa, who really dedicated their lives to the enterprise, will be concerned about the Having Protection and Subsistence.
      The “Affection” need is actually the one that is the most important for many people. Maybe this is true for all cults. Research has shown that loneliness is as bigger health risk than smoking or obesity, so it’s not a weakness to acknowledge that need.
      Ultimately, I think people do need to be part of some kind of community (don’t you think?). Even if it is their job, family and neighborhood.
      The community people are born into can be insufficient for many reasons, so it’s hardly their fault if they seek out new, or better, ones.
      For people who just want to learn more about Buddhism, the good news is that there are actually many excellent resources available now. It is not necessary to rely on teachings being filtered through an organization like Rigpa.

      1. @RH Thanks for your reply.
        “There’s a lot that could be said really, but maybe this isn’t the best forum.”
        Yes, it is a difficult place and environment for deeper, more open conversations. My questions are all asking the same question:
        Are we continuing the same environment as in the old days with different content? Is this environment what flowered in our current situation? If so, can we work together to create a different environment?
        I think the answer to all 3 questions above is “yes”, but a different environment would also provide a space to re-ask those questions in a more open way.

    2. Why not consider the possiblity that we have looked at ourselves and our roles in this? Why assume that continuing to raise awareness of an issue means that we have not accepted something in ourselves? The two do not go hand in hand, and the idea that they do is a very Rigpa distortion, a way to make those who are still speaking out appear somehow deficient. A hope that if we ‘look at ourselves’ we’ll become nice and calm and compliant and drop our concerns. But action can come after dropping. In fact it is more effective as it comes from response not reaction.
      Consider action without agenda, action from non-action, without grasping. It is quite possible, I assure you. Don’t project onto others.
      And ask yourself what you want to achieve by saying this kind of thing?
      Those still inside the organisation certainly do need to look at their role in all this, but those who have left the organisation (as all our authors have) have probably already done their soul searching. Perhaps some have not, but don’t make the assumption that writing and comments on this blog comes from people who haven’t. And don’t assume that once you are aware of your role in the big picture that it means that you will shut up and go away. On the contrary, it may make you more aware of just how important your voice is.
      So once again, as a little fat man pretending to be a mahasidda said, “Never assume.”

      1. Hi Moonfire,
        Thanks for your reply.
        You wrote:
        > Why not consider the possibility that we have looked at ourselves and our roles in this?
        I don’t know if the folks writing the posts have looked into themselves or not. I’m assuming they have, to make a decision to leave the Rigpa Sangha implies a lot of “soul-searching” so I lean toward thinking the folks have looked inward deeply.
        >> Why assume that continuing to raise awareness of an issue means that we have not accepted something in ourselves?
        I don’t know about whether or not you’ve accepted something in yourself or not. My sense is we all have aspects of ourselves we haven’t faced, but those who spend time on the cushion have probably faced more aspects of themselves than other.
        >> Perhaps some have not, but don’t make the assumption that writing and comments on this blog comes from people who haven’t. And don’t assume that once you are aware of your role in the big picture that it means that you will shut up and go away. On the contrary, it may make you more aware of just how important your voice is.
        Could not agree any more. I do think the people writing and commenting on this blog have looked deeply at themselves, and I do think that once one is aware of one’s role in the big picture that one realizes how important their voice is. That’s is the reason I’m speaking and persisting.
        I’m not interested in arguing here, I think what you are doing is a good thing.
        However I get shut down here just like I was shut down in the late 80s for raising many of the issues you are raising on this blog today. I’m encouraging us to talk more, not shut up and go away, I think we should have deeper conversations and I think if we only talk about the Rigpa Organization and Sogyal Rinpoche all we have is projections–they aren’t here, but we are. We can face one another and talk about ourselves together, this is quite a different experience than looking at ourselves individually.
        I think most folks on this blog have deeply considered everything they are writing. It is because of this that I think we have tremendous power and possibilities. In addition to critiquing the Rigpa Organization, it seems to me our deep understandings, capacities in meditation, and other understandings might find a deeper healing.
        Basing our coherence on agreement is what we are critiquing about the Rigpa Organization (group think, cult behavior, etc). If we do the same thing here (even if our agreement is based on critiquing the Rigpa Organization) what has really deeply changed?
        To me, this is a unique opportunity that doesn’t come along every day and if we could listen deeply to one another we might stop cancelling one another’s differences out and from there might come a powerful coherence (not based on agreement.)
        So, you asked what “I want to achieve?”, that would be a place where we could deeply hear difference.
        “And perhaps in dialogue, when we have this very high energy of coherence, it might bring us beyond just being a group that could solve social problems. Possibly it could make a new change in the individual and a change in the relation to the cosmic.” — David Bohm

        1. I don’t understand what you’re looking for in terrms of a blog specifically created to look at the Rigpa situation. I get that you want something that’s more looking at ourselves than out at Rigpa but I don’t see how that comes within the scope of this blog. But for sure, the moderators aren’t trying to shut you down.
          You’re welcome to submit a guest post, of course, and we’d vote on whether or not we consider it ‘on topic’. The topic being ‘in the wake of the revelations of abuse in Rigpa’.

          1. Thanks, Moonfire.
            Imagine when issues were first brought up within the Rigpa Sangha.
            Perhaps prior to any actual allegations of abuse, looking into the ground that was already created for abuses to occur.
            The Sangha members had given up power, they treated one another in terms of their relationship to Sogyal Rinpoche.
            They spoke in rote teachings to relate to one another.
            They didn’t listen or take one another seriously.
            Those mocked by the teacher were mocked by the sangha.
            Folks outside the inner circle wanted to get in and would do anything, those inside excluded those outside and protected the teacher.
            The unfolding of this environment proceeded, soon the polished demands for money started, then further and further demands. Those trying to raise alarms were shut down, not just by the teacher, but by one another.
            Anything outside the norm was answered by “I’m not sure what you want.” or “don’t wait around for something different” or “maybe you could start your own group”, or “what’s wrong with that?”, etc. Difference was discouraged.
            As one Zen group responded to allegations about their teacher:
            “We couldn’t do anything until he was no longer holding all the power. People tried many times. In the seventies, many of us left because there was no way to make any change happen. When I came back in the nineties, it seemed changes had occurred for the better. But really, he still had all the power.”
            When all the power in a community is in one person’s hands and that person is supported unconditionally by others, including board members and senior students, there’s no way you can say, “Hey! This is wrong. We have to make some changes here.””
            “In 2010, when the revelation of a new relationship came to light, one of the first things we did was ask [him] to step down as a member of the board. He was the head of the board as well as abbot. With both secular and spiritual dimensions held by the same person, there was no balance of power.”
            Now that Olive Branch has stepped in, I’m glad to have a chance to speak and hope it will make a difference. I thank you on this blog for whatever influence you had in getting that going and I’m glad to see the Rigpa Organization has taken this quite seriously. .
            My hope is we can get to the structure of relationships that allowed this to happen and take back the power we given. I hope this structure of relationships can extend to all voices, not just those participating in the hierarchy and that our relationships with one another can be based on dialogue, rather than the structures. I feel hopeful Olive Branch will take this kind of dialogue seriously and the voices in the “listening post” will be allowed to ripple through and have effect.

  4. @ Tahlia
    Another good article. It’s good to keep reminding people, especially those who didn’t suffer it directly, of the severity and duration of Sogyal’s abuse and its very damaging effects.
    Personally, I don’t think there’s much possibility of any kind of apology and there never has been, simply because the admission that it was abuse would destroy the last remaining shreds of Sogyal’s credibility in the eyes of many of those students who still see him in a positive light…..and then who’s going to pay his bills and for the upkeep of all those centres ?
    Even if some sort of apology were forthcoming it should be obvious by now that it would be just insincere PR and it’s much too late to prevent the legal processes which have already begun. I don’t think “sorry” will be enough for the UK Charities Commission or the Procureur de Montpellier.
    I’m not in any position to say what the psychological effects of an apology would be, because as far as I know, not a single older student who was a victim, ever got one from Sogyal or Rigpa.
    My only comparable, relevant experience is this:
    in other areas I’ve taken successful legal action to seek redress a couple of times and I can confirm that it’s very satisfying indeed to see individuals who have tried to exploit you or rip you off, sweating and cringing in front of a judge and then wincing when they get judgement against them and are told to pay up. ( If my use of the word ‘satisfying’ is disturbing, then please substitue ‘healing’ instead )
    I’ve no idea whether it made them understand their mistakes, but I think it was probably a deterrent for the future. In clear-cut circumstances, I think concern for crooks or abusers by their victims is a waste of valuable mental energy.
    Rich New, says above: ” how tightly bound we are to those we are in conflict with.” and it’s true that seeking redress might risk prolonging that in some people, but where abuse is sufficient the victim is bound to their trauma anyway, so it could work the other way.
    It’s said that ‘forgiveness’ heals trauma, it may for some, but I think if you feel up to it, seeking justice is a much better bet, and in societal terms, in consideration for other potential victims, it could also be said to be a moral responsibility.
    At the very least: speaking out in whatever way you can, does definitely help, both yourself and others……suffering in silence and feeling isolated certainly won’t.
    Similarly, I have no idea if focusing on your own part in creating what is in this case such an incredibly one-sided experience of abuse, will actually help ‘heal’ at all….I’m far from convinced and I suspect that may be well-meaning, idealistic speculation.
    I appreciate from the point of view of many people who read or comment here, it may seem as if I’m advocating something very un-Buddhist, namely that people consider seeking redress or as a healing therapy.
    I am doing exactly that.

  5. @ Pete Cowell
    Thanks for your reply, Pete and for adding to the range of options and approaches.
    “Similarly, I have no idea if focusing on your own part in creating what is in this case such an incredibly one-sided experience of abuse”
    I’d like to note that the above is not what I’m suggesting.

    1. @ Rick New
      Sorry, I seem to have mis-interpreted: ” the possibility that we can heal by facing how we (on this blog) fully participated in creating the situation in question. ”
      I’m not sure quite how you meant that sentence to be taken.

      1. @ Pete Cowell
        Thanks, Pete.
        Yes, communicating via online is difficult.
        “Similarly, I have no idea if focusing on your own part in creating what is in this case such an incredibly one-sided experience of abuse”
        I wasn’t trying to refer to “parts” or “sides” of the situation or just focusing on the “abuse”. Those are 3 distinctions in what you said that I wasn’t trying to say. I could have been clearer in my first response.
        This misunderstanding could be a doorway to deeper conversation. If this blog was seen as a spark to ignite more in-person conversation (skype, hangouts, phone, meeting, etc) perhaps there could be some shifts? Would be great to say “hello” to folks here and hear each other’s voices and perhaps see one another’s face.

        1. yes, hi Rick, I remember you from so many years ago. Always wondered why people sort of vanished from Rigpa,Of course, I too, moved away to Canada in 98. I still maintain a practice and refer to TBLD. However I have not been to a retreat for about 10 years and not because of experiencing abuse, simply not able to keep up with membership, travel etc…life happens! I do recall the few times there were questions raised about S.R.’s behavior and I asked older students, who assured me it was not a problem. Turned out that it was a problem after all. Somehow I attended retreats and enjoyed the meditation sessions without getting steeped in serving the Lama. Maybe that was a good thing for me. I always so appreciated all the work Sangha did in preparation for the retreats and how devoted they were toward S.R. I noted some of his actions, so-called teaching moments, and cringed a bit on behalf of those under his guise, ha, such a thin line it seems. Yet, obviously, very serious accusations have arisen over the years.

          1. Hi Richard,
            Nice to hear from you, interesting context to catch up.
            We saw Rinpoche in Seattle a couple of years ago, it was a moving weekend for me. I met a friend who introduced me to a wider range of approaches (see David Michael Levin for example) and now I see Buddhism in more context, sort of a horizontality of place and a verticality of practice.
            Susan and I have just left Seattle (living in Mexico) and the Rigpa Sangha there, Steve Johnson, Ruth Yeomans, Debbie & Bob Kinton, Diane Exeride, Diane Berger. The bonds that persisted, seemed to do so outside of the relationship to the dharma, being with the troubles together opened up something.
            More recently, we’ve been looking into Time, Space, and Knowledge, which has given yet another angle on practice.
            Really nice to hear from you. You can reach me at ricknew AT gmail.com if you want to touch base further or if you are ever coming to Mexico for the winter. Lots of folks from Canada here!

    1. An excerpt from above that that may be relevant to some here, “dialogue explores the manner in which thought …. is generated and sustained at the collective level.”
      Isn’t the above what we are trying to understand?

  6. FWIW:
    WHEN THE NEW SUFI MASTER came to Baghdad from his native Nishapur, in Khorasan, his fame had long preceded him. He had, the story goes, quite a reputation for his high spirituality and unique approach to ihsan (“perfection”), but also a reputation for his unorthodox ways. Some had heard fantastic rumors about him, outrageous things, but when pressed for details they professed ignorance. Be it as it may, on that February morning, not only a small group of aspiring disciples — all well dressed and well behaved, their manner appropriately pious, if perhaps a trifle too theatrically so — had gathered at the inn to welcome him, but city folk of all stripes: shopkeepers and passing peddlers, jewelers and perfume-makers from across the street, even teachers and students from the nearby university. As time passed, the crowd was growing impatient. The sheik certainly took his time.
    As always on such occasions, among the expectant crowd there were also beggars and bums and other good-for-nothings. One of them turned out to be particularly annoying. All in rags, unkempt beyond description, and smelling badly of wine (he must have strayed from the Jewish or Christian quarters, some whispered), the bum was drawing closer and closer to the pious-looking, anxiety-ridden disciples. Taking his time, between hiccups, he examined them intently, one by one, which made the boys even more nervous: the last thing they wanted was to be found out by the great master in such unholy proximity.
    Thank goodness, it now appeared that the bum was drifting away. As he was doing so, however, he addressed himself to the embarrassed youth, in such sober, educated Persian that their prayer beads suddenly froze in the palms of their hands: I’ve come for nothing, methinks. What am I to teach you? By the looks of you, you’ve all reached a state of purity compared to which I am nothing. My ways are messy, my teachings tentative, and my quest, far from pure, always gets entangled with my flesh, with my earthiness and my complicated commerce with the world. I am a failure, whereas you — just look at you! — you seem to dwell with the angels already! Now, if you will excuse me … And, with that, he slipped out of the inn. It was then, the story adds, that people at the inn realized that the sheik they had been waiting for had just left them.

  7. @Pete I agree that an apology from S and management is extremely unlikely, but since this was a post on healing, it had to be a part of the coverage of the topic. (The video was done as a separate thing ages ago, but it seemed like a relevant place to slot it in) And it is still possble for individuals to contact their old friends and apologise for not listening, for not supporting them at the time of their abuse, for not contacting them sooner and so on. It’s not just something for S and management to consider. I perhaps should also have mentioned apologising to oneself since there might be some regret or guilt over choices made in the past.
    @Rick New The point of this post was to remind people of what some students actually experienced and the results of that for them. The focus is supposed to be on them and their healing, not on S and R management, but it is impossible to speak of the harm and healing and not bring in those who harmed and can help heal. It’s interesting that you saw it as being focused on R; perhaps you should look at your role in that. I’m pretty sure that it says there that an apology is not necessary for healing, just that it helps. And as Pete says, for some, only a legal conviction will bring them the closure they need, especially if it’s the only way that the perpetrator will accept that they have actually done wrong.
    That’s just how it is for some, and we should not think or pressurise them into feeling that they should approach the situation a different way. It’s got nothing to do with being a Buddhist or not, it’s simply different people with different needs and perceptions and we should respect them all.
    There are a list of healing resources here to help people heal but I’m pretty sure that even inward-looking healing can’t be done without reference to the perpetrator. No matter how much a victim works on themselves, the fact still remains that someone else harmed them. The abuse was not something the victims did to themselves.
    Since the focus of this blog as mentioned in the About page is to “hold him[SR] and the organisation accountable for any questionable actions,” don’t hang out for a different approach.

    1. @ Tahlia
      That’s a really good point, I must admit I’ve never even considered the idea of individuals contacting one another to apologize. I’d like to think it’s not because of my hardened cynical outlook that it never occurred to me, but I’m probably just flattering myself there.
      Those of us who left years ago had the very instructive experience of all our previous ‘ vajra brothers and sisters’ actively shunning us immediately, as if we had some spiritual version of the Black Death.
      So apologies weren’t even a possibility, because we were, and still are, the unmentionable samaya-breakers bound for hell and so on. It’s nice to know that rather a lot of people have recently joined what used to be an exclusive club.
      I’d never apologize to myself because I’d only suspect it wasn’t sincerely meant. I’ve never felt guilty because I was the one who paid the price for my own credulity, so I accepted my stupidity, without too much trouble, put it down to youthful naivety and got on with life. My loyalty had been betrayed so it turned into revulsion and the hope that Sogyal would eventually make the almost inevitable transition from Hubris to Nemesis.
      In that respect only, he hasn’t disappointed me.
      It’s like watching a horrific Greek tragedy, but performed by the cast of one of those awful crass British comedies from the 60’s….’Carry on up the gompa’. scripted by Aeschylus.
      It’s a great pity that the play ran for so many years and that other people’s credulity and self-interest allowed him a couple more decades to harm so many more victims.
      But at least they can carve on his gravestone ( sorry….that should be ‘stupa ‘ ) “He couldn’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

    2. >> Since the focus of this blog as mentioned in the About page is to “hold him[SR] and the organisation accountable for any questionable actions,” don’t hang out for a different approach.
      “Our mission statement: education on issues raised by the attestations of abuse in Rigpa through the dissemination of information and intelligent opinion, and to hold Rigpa to account.”
      I guess you are right, a top down, education and dissemination of information with no room for exploring different approaches, i.e. “don’t hang around for something different.”
      Does this not sound at all familiar to you?

      1. The difficulty is that when we don’t allow and encourage difference (as in the early and current days of Rigpa) we face unanticipated problems down the road that we don’t feel belong to us.
        To me, it seems like the sangha’s role to encourage and validate this difference by deep listening and responsive change.
        Hence, my efforts here feel as one poster said, “At the very least: speaking out in whatever way you can, does definitely help, both yourself and others……suffering in silence and feeling isolated certainly won’t.”
        When we participate in suppressing difference we also participate in the outcome of this suppression, however far down the road. We do this with all the best intentions, but maybe it is a technical mistake and one that because the result is far off, we fail to see the connections to the abuse of power that follows.
        “it’s easy to protest against the State (and also against corporations [and institutions]), but it’s more difficult to recognize that we tend to reaffirm the same repressive power in our intimate relationships, communities, our languages, our habits, our casual interactions and the infinitesimal negotiations of power that accompany them–in our micropolitics.” — anon

  8. @ Tahlia
    Yes. I’ve no argument that you post was about those who have been harmed and I think it is a wonderful post.
    However, when I bring up focusing on one another, talking about others as “those who have been hurt” isn’t exactly what I mean. Implied in “those who have been hurt” is the hurter. S.R. seems to always be there. The post begins with the letter from the 8 which is all about SR. I’m not critiquing this approach in any way, just suggesting other possibilities and saying this isn’t what I mean about coming together and communicating and not focusing on the teacher or organization.
    We may have much in common, even though the Rigpa Organization and Sogyal Rinpoche isn’t responding, you persist. I can only think you do so because you think some good might come from it, that some in the Organization might hear and those who were hurt might find community, etc. I appreciate your efforts!

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