Public allegations of physical and sexual abuse by Sogyal Rinpoche have been made regularly over the course of his 40-year teaching career.
The following timeline cites the year an allegation was made public, although the incident may have taken place years prior to the time. For example, one of the first incidents took place in 1976, but I found the public testimony in a 1994 newspaper article.
The information provided in the timeline may not be all inclusive. Other public statements may have been made of which I have no knowledge. Also, it only includes publicly documented allegations.
The Western Buddhist Teachers Conference
As background information, the first 10-day Western Buddhist Teacher’s Conference took place in Dharmsala, India in March 1993. It included 4 days of meetings with the Dalai Lama, who actively interacted with and advised the 22 teachers representing various Tibetan, Zen and Theravadin traditions.
The issue of sexual improprieties on the part of Buddhist teachers received considerable attention during the 1993 Western Buddhist Teachers Conference. The Dalai Lama gave clear guidance on these matters, which he referenced again in his recent statement in Ladakh about the current allegations against Sogyal Rinpoche. [Watch the Western Buddhist Teachers Conference videos here].
At the time, Rigpa leaders, the same ones leading the organization today, were well aware of the concerns about ethical misconduct raised by Western Buddhist Teachers. Two representatives from Ripga attended the 1994 Western Buddhist Teachers Conference with the Dalai Lama, Dominique Side and I believe Patrick Gaffney, but it might have been Ian Maxwell. On more than one occasion, they were approached by Western Buddhist Teachers with questions about Sogyal Rinpoche’s alleged sexual liaisons with students.
This climate of concern prevailed when, unexpectedly, a major lawsuit against Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa was filed.
Timeline of Abuse Allegations in Rigpa
In November 1994, a $10 million civil lawsuit was filed against Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa by an anonymous plaintiff, who was given the name “Janice Doe” to protect her identity. The complaint alleged infliction of emotional distress, breach of fiduciary duty, and assault and battery. Source: Best-Selling Author Accused of Sexual Abuse
“The accusation states that in June 1993, the woman, ‘Janice Doe’ (a pseudonym used in American court cases), in a state of bereavement following the death of her father, attended a retreat conducted by Sogyal in Connecticut. In a private meeting, Sogyal is alleged to have told ‘Doe’ that through devotion and his spiritual instruction she could ‘purify her family’s karma’, and that she should realize that “he is a Buddha and that all his actions are Buddha activity.’
The next evening, Sogyal invited the woman to his room where, allegedly, he seduced her. He later told her that her family had been healed ‘by his love and kindness’ and that this blessing ‘could only be maintained through her unswerving devotion to him’.
Over a period of six months, the charge alleges, the woman was subjected to ‘systematic indoctrination’ designed to separate her from ‘normal support systems’, including her husband, family and friends, to make her completely dependent on Rinpoche and Rigpa for ‘all physical, mental, and emotional needs’. In that time, Sogyal allegedly ‘physically and mentally abused’ Doe, claiming that to be hit by a lama was ‘a blessing’ and requiring her to perform ‘degrading acts’ in order to ‘bring her closer to a state of enlightenment”. Source: The Precious One
What was Doe’s motivation for filing the lawsuit?
“Theodore Philips, the attorney for Janice Doe, says that his client’s motivation for bringing the case is not simply one of personal reparation, but to force the introduction of a code of conduct for teachers, ‘to prevent future abuse’”. Source: The Precious One
Sogyal Rinpoche avoided service by not publicly entering the U. S. and thus was never deposed. The lawsuit was settled out of court through mediation.
Buddhist teacher, Yvonne Rand, counseled a number of women who claimed to have had sexual relations with Sogyal Rinpoche, including Janice Doe. Rand said:
“‘I have spoken to Janice Doe. She was completely unfamiliar with Buddhism and with what it would mean to practise with a spiritual teacher. She was quite vulnerable and went to the retreat with great trust. She was very typical of women who come to spiritual practice with a certain amount of personal confusion and who are looking tor healing.’” Source: The Precious One
The 1994 article on the lawsuit cited above revealed complaints made by Victoria Barlow as well:
“Barlow, 40, said she first met Rinpoche in the mid-1970s, when she was 21, and that she was sexually exploited by him during meditation retreats in New York and Berkeley.” Source: Best-Selling Author Accused of Sexual Abuse Also watch Barlow’s interview in the television documentary “In the Name of Enlightenment” below.
Mick Brown’s 1995 article in the Telegraph Magazine, called “The Precious One,” looked at the abuse allegations against Sogyal Rinpoche from several different perspectives, including voices of those who questioned the allegations. However, it also shared anonymous allegations of sexual abuse from two additional women.
Brown also reported:
“In October 1992, a trustee [of Rigpa Fellowship, UK] resigned over Sogyal Rinoche’s sexual conduct, after suggesting to him that he should seek help, and writing to the Dalai Lama on the matter. She subsequently gave detailed information, maintaining the anonymity of those who had confided in her, at a meeting with Trustees and other members of the Rigpa community.”
The Canadian company Cogent/Benger produced a television documentary with new allegations of abuse against Sogyal Rinopche called “In the Name of Enlightenment.” It aired on Vision TV in Canada.
The documentary centers around the experience of a beautiful young woman named Mimi, during her 3-year period as a personal assistant to Sogyal Rinpoche. Mimi alleges physical and sexual abuse of both herself and other young women in the “inner circle.” Initially, she believed what others told her:
“If he beats you or has sex with you, he’s actually opening the way to enlightenment.”
After two months working exhaustively as his attendant, one day she was alone with Sogyal Rinpoche. She says he told her, “Undress.” She thought it was a test of her devotion and complied. Mimi reported that Sogyal Rinpoche swore her to secrecy, and told her that if she were to speak of their sexual relations it would sever the beneficial connection she had made with him.
Initially, Mimi found it hard to leave. She likened her experience in the inner circle to “Stockholm Syndrome” — a term used to describe feelings of attachment that can develop between a victim and her captor — because all your daily requirements like food, housing, and emotional needs are provided for by the teacher and others in the small inner circle. But eventually, she gradually extricated herself, by taking small steps toward greater separation and independence.
When her father, also interviewed in the documentary, learned of her plight in 2007, during the Rigpa three-year retreat, he confronted Sogyal Rinpoche. He says the spiritual teacher did not deny having sexual relations with his daughter, but confirmed it. Shortly thereafter, Mimi’s father left the retreat for good as did a number of other students, including a woman named Denise who was also interviewed in the documentary.
Victoria Barlow also appears in the documentary, describing her own experience of unrequested sexual relations with Sogyal Rinpoche in 1976. She said the betrayal by her spiritual master, “…hurt me to the core.”
Watch the full documentary here:
A Statement from Rigpa in response to “In the Name of Enlightenment”
Senior student, instructor, translator, and former director of Rigpa France, Olivier Raurich, left Rigpa in 2016. In an interview in the French magazine “Marianne,” Raurich spoke of secrecy in the Rigpa organization, manipulation of information, and rumors of sexual abuse. He said Sogyal Rinpoche’s dictatorial side and anger worsened after a 2011 exposé in “Marianne.” He also claimed that Sogyal Rinpoche brutally silences and ridicules people.
An English translation of the interview.
Sogyal Rinpoche hit a nun in the stomach in front of 1,000 students during a teaching session at his retreat center, Lerab Ling.
The nun did not herself make a complaint. More than a year later, following abuse allegations made by eight long-time students, which mentioned the incident, she issued a statement describing what happened as a soft punch. She says it was not abuse because she had agreed to let her teacher work with her in this way, and that it helped her move through a blockage.
However, several students sitting within a few feet of the incident perceived it differently. They heard the wind knocked out of her, saw her immediately double over, and witnessed her running off the stage in tears. They felt deeply disturbed by the incident.
Some of them sent letters of complaint to Sogyal Rinpoche via his feedback system. He responded in the teaching the next day by saying anyone questioning his teaching methods was probably not ready to receive the Dzogchen teachings.
This incident proved to be a turning point for a number of Rigpa students, who subsequently decided to leave the organization.
The Dutch current affairs program “Brandpunt” featured the testimony of former Rigpa student, Oane Bijlsma, in a program called Abuse in the Buddhist Community: This Victim Tells Her Story for the First Time.
Bujlsma made claims of abuse of power and sexual intimidation by Sogyal Rinpoche. Although Oane was not abused herself, she experienced sexual harassment and she said she witnessed other women being abused, intimidated, and exploited.
In the television program, she recounts,
“He is a real tyrant. He behaves as if he has a natural right to demand anything, anytime—no matter if it is in the middle of the night, or from the other side of the world. His will alone is the law.”
An English transcript of the Dutch program
At the end of the transcript, you’ll also find a translation of two emails sent to Rigpa members before the Brandpunt report was aired.
A 12-page letter signed by current and ex-members of Rigpa details abuse allegedly committed by Sogyal Rinpoche. It was sent to Sogyal Rinpoche, a small selection of his peers, and his closest students.
With regard to physical abuse, the letter stated:
“We have received directly from you, and witnessed others receiving, many different forms of physical abuse. 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, a wooden hanger, phones, cups, and any other objects that happened to be close at hand.”
It also spoke to emotional and psychological abuse:
“Your emotional and psychological abuse has been perhaps more damaging than the physical scars you have left on us. When we have worked for you while organizing and setting up the infrastructure for you to teach at different places around the world (Europe, North America, Australia, and India and Nepal), your shaming and threatening have led some of your closest students and attendants to emotional breakdowns.”
The letter also addressed sexual abuse:
You use your role as a teacher to gain access to young women, and to coerce, intimidate and manipulate them into giving you sexual favors.⁴ The ongoing controversies of your sexual abuse that we can read and watch on the internet are only a small window into your decades of this behavior.”
Lastly, it expressed concerned about improper use of finances:
“Your lavish lifestyle is kept hidden from your thousands of students. It is one thing for you to accept an offering of the best of everything (that we may have) as an acknowledgement of our gratitude for spiritual teachings. It is quite another to demand it from us. Much of the money that is used to fund your luxurious appetites comes from the donations of your students who believe their offering is being used to further wisdom and compassion in the world.”
The letter writers acknowledged the immense benefit Sogyal Rinpoche’s teachings have brought to so many people around the world. They asked to be corrected if they are wrong in what they have written, but if they are correct in their assessment, they would like to see these behaviors, which they feel are harmful, come to an end.
They concluded their letter by saying:
Our heartfelt wish is that you seek guidance from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, other reputable lamas of good heart, or anyone who can help to bring you back onto the true path of the Dharma.
Unlike rumors currently circulating in Rigpa, this letter was not written by a single individual and only signed by the others. The letter was composed through a consensual process and a fully collaborative effort that took many days of writing and rewriting by the entire group.
- Rigpa Press Release – Response to the Press Campaign 2017
- A Letter from Sogyal Rinpoche to the Sangha and a Letter from the Rigpa International Holding Company to the Sangha in response to the above allegations (one following the other)
Many people left Rigpa after the 1994 lawsuit was filed. Many others stayed. They may have believed rumors that the lawsuit was a conspiracy to undermine Asian teachers or retaliation after a failed love affair, like I did at the time.
But these arguments and others used to deny later allegations seem less convincing now in light of an entire timeline of incidents that occurred from 1976 through 2017.
I’ve personally heard other complaints as well, but as the individuals have not chosen to make their allegations public, I cannot share them here.
It’s not easy to come forward with allegations of abuse. People say you’re mentally unstable, angrily attack you, and question your motivation. Some women feel too much shame to come forward. Others hesitate to retrigger traumatic experiences or simply want to get on with their life. Still others fear retribution.
Rigpa’s official responses to the allegations have been remarkably similar, always a complete denial of abuse. The only significant difference this time is an agreement to launch an independent investigation. Some however, question the rationale for a two and a half month wait for a firm to be found to conduct the investigation.
What stuck you reading through the timeline? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. But please do not share rumors or anonymous stories. You can see our commenting guidelines here, which encourage open, but civilized discussion.
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What a wonderful job you have done, Sandra.Congratulations and all my love.Nicole
I have sent Bernie a mail for you. If you can’t read his mails, you will see it when he is back from retreat. I have a heart to heart connection with those who practise, they help me.
Thank you, Nicole. I’ll let Bernie know he has an email from you awaiting him when he returns. Practice has been essential for me during this sad, confusing, and chaotic period. I’m grateful for all the Buddhist teachings and practices I’ve received, which have helped me have more clarity and strength. Love to you.
Well done Sandra and Bernie. This must have been so painful for you both. I was hasty in my conclusion that you weren’t really facing up to it. I’m sorry. Let’s unite and somehow insist upon an independent investigation by a professional body who are experts in abuse. I think as many non-Rigpa Tibetan Buddhists as possible need to come together and call for a full scale enquiry into Rigpa’s leadership.
Thank you, Toria. Yes, it has been very painful. Thank you for understanding. I so agree, we need to unify – all those concerned in Rigpa and outside of Rigpa. Much love to you.
I agree with you, Toria.The problem is how to call for a full scale enquiry if nobody officially complains.
I begin by giving homage to my tsawe lama, Sogyal Rinpoche. I am eternally grateful for our connection, as well as the introductions he made to many other lamas who have had profound impacts on my life. He was always kind to me and my husband since we met him in 1985, and at his last weekend teaching in June, 2017 in New York I had yet another personal life-changing experience.
I’m writing this comment to bear witness to one aspect of the Janice Doe lawsuit. I had first contact with her, as I was one of the managers for a week-long retreat with SR in Kent Connecticut. One of my tasks was to evaluate scholarship applications. When I got the phone call from Janice Doe requesting a full scholarship I initially turned her down. She told me that she had no prior experience with Tibetan Buddhism and I explained that full scholarships were reserved for established students of Sogyal Rinpoche.
She explained how stopped working to take care of her sick father, who had recently passed, so she had no income. She sounded quite sad and in need of care. Near the end of registration for the retreat I saw that it was doing well, financially, and after a few phone calls of negotiations we agreed on a partial scholarship and a payment schedule.
Coincidentally, when she arrived by bus to the retreat, I was in the registration area. She looked fragile and frail. The morning teachings with SR were happening. I walked her up to the shrine room and sat her next to me, in the front row. I wrote a note to one of the facilitators to inform SR about Janice’s recent experiences of caring for her dying father.
I don’t know personally what happened next. Others know more about her experiences in California and Europe, but I did see her a few months later. She showed up at my NYC apartment where I was hosting a book talk by SR for Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. She sat next to me in the first row, looked at me with tears in her eyes, took my hand and asked, “Whey does he have so many girlfriends? He told me he loved me.”
I was stunned. I didn’t know she was traveling through Europe with him. I didn’t know what to say. I stumbled. I eventually answered with the standard, “Well, he’s not a monk. He has girlfriends.”
Later, when I heard about the lawsuit I was confused. Eventually, I bought onto the “he has girlfriends,” story.
Now? Now is different.
Thanks for sharing so honestly. That takes courage. And I know it’s not easy because of your deep connection with Sogyal Rinpoche.
Many of us only saw part of the picture. Because of that as well as the immense power of the teachings we received, we were easily swayed into believing what occurred was a misunderstanding or a conspiracy against Sogyal Rinpoche rather than an abuse of power. But now that many different pieces of the puzzle are coming, it who picture looks quite different, at least to me.
Much love to you, Linda.
Sandra, thanks for the timeline. It helps to put the abuse allegations into perspective. Hearing that you know of many more people’s experiences is very discouraging. I left Rigpa without our current knowledge of decades of student abuse and exploitation. I didn’t know the details of Janice Doe’s lawsuit and I bought the “party line” offered in Rigpa that discredited her as mentally ill. The reason I left SL, as my teacher of almost 20 years, was that I could see that devotion was more and more defined in Rigpa as “mindless adoration” no matter what. This is what I came to label a “cult of personality.” Whole groups of students rejected me when I left, as if I had betrayed them, Rigpa, SL, samaya vows, etc. I haven’t seen much discussion of how factors other than direct abuse influenced so many of us over the years to doubt our own perception, lose our ability to discriminate right from wrong and commit to enlightenment “at any cost.” When I examined my own mind I was disappointed to recognize spiritual materialism, trauma and loneliness as prominent causes of my denial -regarding the organizational dysfunction of Rigpa’s leadership and SL’s encouragement of blind obedience in the sangha. Now that I know about the disgusting behavior of SL throughout his tenure as our lama, I am chilled to the bone. I hope we can all engage in a productive discussion about denial, spiritual materialism and other causes for students to remain quiet for decades. I believe it will help us heal. I don’t know what the future holds for me regarding spiritual practice but for now I have stopped looking for teachers and am focusing on what I know to be true. I remain inspired by compassion teaches and practices. My primary goal is to live my life with kindness and integrity.
I’m sorry you have suffered so much through all this. Many people don’t realize how profoundly these realizations can impact a person’s spiritual practice.
This is so important: “I haven’t seen much discussion of how factors other than direct abuse influenced so many of us over the years to doubt our own perception, lose our ability to discriminate right from wrong and commit to enlightenment “at any cost.” When I examined my own mind I was disappointed to recognize spiritual materialism, trauma and loneliness as prominent causes of my denial -regarding the organizational dysfunction of Rigpa’s leadership and SL’s encouragement of blind obedience in the sangha.”
I feel Bernie’s last post addresses this somewhat, but there’s much more to say about how intelligent adults can lose their ability to discriminate. It’ mind-boggling. I personally still feel aligned with the Buddhist teachings, but I also recognize that I need to strengthen my ability to connect with my own inner wisdom rather than becoming dependent upon a teacher.
By the way, just to be clear, I didn’t say I know about “many more” allegations of abuse. Just some, but I only saw one part of the picture.
Thanks, Sandra. This timeline of abuse allegations reminds us that this is not an isolated incident, and that Rigpa and SR has wriggled out of it before. It is time to make sure that they do not wriggle out of it again, and that they face and erradicate the core of the problem, which is the mindless adoration. They need a better understanding of devotion. Without that fundamental change in their beliefs, any changes are just window dressing.
Dear Tahlia, Thanks for your clarity. We really need to get to the core of this, don’t we! Something deep needs to change so that people do not continue to feel harmed. It’s sad when devotion become an obstacle to bodhichitta. Ideally, they work together.
Thanks Sandra, this is valuable for many. I have just one question– do you want to include publication of “Behind the Thangkas” in 2010? I suspect that there might be a general negativity towards it from many within Rigpa because of Mary Finnigan’s harsh attitude towards SR and her stated desire to “put him out of business”. However, she is an established journalist and committed Buddhist who took the utmost care in verifying the story of every witness– stories that are now being verified by every account coming forward. And I believe her publication did inspire the Canadian documentary. So it seems that this very detailed publication might belong on your timeline?
Thank you Joanne — I wondered the same as a read through Sandra’s text. BTT was mentioned in the 8 signatories letter so it seems perverse to me that it is excluded here. Perhaps Sandra would like to explain? One or two corrections:
The Janice Doe lawsuit was not for $10 million. I interviewed “Janice” at length and in depth — in defiance of the gagging order imposed on her as a condition of the settlement. She would not disclose the exact amount she received but said that guesswork in the media was “wildly exaggerated”. This interview is included in http://behindthethangkas.wordpress.com Secondly why is there no mention of my series of articles for Comment Is Free — the online platform of The UK’s Guardian newspaper? Thirdly I object strongly to being demonised by Rigpa insiders. I think it is time that attitude is discarded — in view of the fact that my long campaign to deal effectively with Sogyal is now vindicated. I do not apologise for “harsh language”. Under the circumstances I think it is entirely appropriate. In addition to this I call to task the Rigpa management and all the insiders who knew for decades that he is a sadistic sexual predator. They covered up for him with a series of dishonest statements and press releases, they employed spin doctors to train senior people how to avoid awkward questions — they demonised whistle blowers and they encouraged the cult of “blind adoration”. In my view Rigpa should be disbanded — it is holed beneath the water line and not fit for purpose. Removing Sogyal’s name from web sites is window dressing and very few people are fooled by it. Finally the ethnic Tibetan Lamas and western teachers who closed ranks around Sogyal despite knowing the truth about him are also guilty of dereliction of duty.
I only included information that I could verify myself. As you point out on BTT yourself, much of the information is anonymous, and thus cannot be verified by others.
I wrote that a $10 million lawsuit was filed. I didn’t comment on the amount of the settlement. Those are two different things. Do you really want to reveal in your comment that Janice Doe broke the terms of her settlement?
I didn’t include every article written about the lawsuit.
Thank you for understanding. Wishing you well!
Sandra, I’ve been giving your non-inclusion of BTT a bit of thought overnight (Aussie time) particularly in the context of the recent post about rumors and misunderstandings in the Rigpa sangha. It seems to me that truth simply has to come out, with all its rough edges and brutal discomfort. In this post entitled “A Brief History of Abuse Allegations in Rigpa” to leave out BTT is dishonest Imo. I understand that you wanted only to include allegations you could verify yourself. I understand that you want to minimize criticisms of SR in order to navigate this chosen “middle way” path. However, then you need to change the title. In the history of allegations, BTT and Mary’s Guardian articles played a very big part. These were what began the process of exposure and introspection for many of us. These were what began the process of vital debate.
I am deeply disappointed in the Rigpa establishment and in SR. It is clear, they are hoping to cut their losses and turn the suffering of Rigpa students over to the courts, spending big money for big lawyers instead of doing the hard Buddhist work of introspection. I think in that context, there should be no room for any lack of transparency or incomplete truth from the side of those who want to see an end to abuse and deceit.
Hello Joanne, Thanks for thinking about this deeply and sharing your perspective. I’ll reflect on what you’ve said. I appreciate the depth of your appreciation for Mary’s courage. I know that BTT has helped you and others. At the same time, some sangha members have recoiled from it because it doesn’t match their experience of their teacher. Although some people have written me off, for sure, others have a certain level of trust and confidence in me and in Bernie, because we have chosen to present, as best we can, a balanced approach. That doesn’t mean we’re unbiased, but we are uniquely positioned to understand almost everyone’s perspective. I don’t want to jeopardize that. The fact remains that Mary has used pseudonyms for the most part on BTT and thus I can’t verify the stories. And there are a few things that are in conflict with my own experience in Rigpa. So again, I’ll take some time to reflect on what you’ve said. I just wanted to clarify a little further where I’m coming from. And thank you for sharing honestly and kindly.
Thanks for this suggestion. With all due respect to Mary, much of the information on her blog is anonymous and some is hearsay. I only included information on this timeline that I could validate for myself. Wishing you the best, Joanne.
None of the anecdotal evidence in Behind the Thangkas is anonymous. It took me 20 years to at least double source all the evidence. My breakthrough came when Mimi contacted me. I gave my witnesses pseudonyms in order to protect their privacy. One of them has commented on this thread. Initially I did not by-line BTT because I was wary of repercussions from the Rigpa elite. Later I owned up to it. I kept my word with Janice Doe until now. There’s a statute of limitations on legal agreements…in both the USA and the UK. And in the light of the 8 signatories letter I doubt very much if anyone is going to make a fuss about it now. Janice did not file for $10 million. She is not a greedy person. Not one word in BTT is hearsay. The interview material is direct evidence which I have on audio file. The description of the Lerab Ling temple inauguration was taken from the official Rigpa video.
Thanks for offering these clarifications, Mary. I know you’ve done so much to bring justice to this situation over many years. I don’t in anyway intend to diminish the work you’ve done. I was mistaken to use the word anonymous. I should have said pseudonyms, which make it difficult to verify the information for myself. In any case, I hope we can be at peace with one another.
Of course. Peaceful collaboration is de rigeur. It cheers me a lot to know that I am no longer demonised — well certainly not 100% but every little helps.
Mary, is it possible to make those tapes available for people to listen to?
That’s not asked out of disbelief, btw.
Where does Dialogue Ireland fit into this?
obvious logical oversight
Here’s an obvious question no one wants to ask:
If SR has withdrawn to ‘retreat’, won’t he still be supported by all the Rigpa finances [ie our money] and still be surrounded by all the entourage of blind-eye-turners who enable and feed his problem behaviours and still be surrounded by all the ‘dakinis’ who either source young women to ‘serve’ him or who give sexual ‘support’ personally… NOTHING will have changed at all, if you think about it. All the abuse and coverup will just continue ‘in private’, if you think about it. Think about it.
Yes, it’s so obvious that no one, but really no one want to ask. And nothing will ever change since no one want to ask. Now, I will think about it but not sure if I will ask.
Many people have asked this question. We don’t know what will happen in the future, whether change will happen or not. It’s not in our control, we will have to wait and see the result of the independent investigation.
Sorry, actually my ironic reply ( no one ..) was totally misunderstood.My fault.
Sorry, I didn’t catch the subtlety.
Yes, it’s obvious nothing will change. He may continue to be supported by Rigpa finances.
Nobody knows who pays for the cost of caring for and entertaining his mother in Lerab Ling either. He should be the one who supports his mother.Does he really love her and care for her?How does she feel about her son letting her down all of a sudden?
Last but not least, Patrick recently said that SR was having tests and he would accept whatever treatment proved necessary. What ‘s hidden behind the so-called medical tests and treatment?
Nicole, I don’t have a problem with Rinpoche being supported by Rigpa finances, although it would be better if he were given a specific salary or retirement amount. He’s tirelessly traveled the world and taught his students for forty years.
I also don’t have a problem with his mother being supported. Are we just going to abandon her in her old age? According to accounts in the biography of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, she is a great dakini.
As to the future, we don’t know whether things will change or not. We have no further control other than expressing our wishes to Rigpa International. We will have to wait and see the outcome of the independent investigation.
Many dharma organizations operate in the same way, taking care of the lamas extended family. I agree it would be better to have a clearer separation of finances and to ensure that there is not a misuse of funds.
Yes, it’s not uncommon for the sangha to take care of the extended family of a lama. But this is not the case with “all” lamas. I hear you have a problem with lamaism and I don’t question that there have been problems, but let’s not generalize to “all” lamas.
At his recent visit to Munich he had severe respiratory problems. To the extent that walking ten steps up got him wheezing and speaking in a hushed voice.
He evidently had some kind of medical condition.
And by the way, dragging the care for his elderly mother into this is really outrageous!
As outrageous as your apparently clairvoyant claims that after this nothing will change anyway. Fact is WE DON`T KNOW. We also don’t know the place and conditions of this retreat, so claiming that of course he has all the entourage and women with him to continue his previous lifestyle is purely speculation until proven differently.
Wow, it went through. Amazing. There must be some people actually waking up among the usual suspects.
This is something we have no control over at the present time. We will have to wait to see the outcome of the independent investigation.
Why did you censor my comment Sandra? It tackles some the questions being asked in comments here . Why is my view excluded while others are OK? Is this the same culture of denial we’ve seen since the mid 70s?
Your comment got caught in the spam filter because it contained a link. I was sleeping, which I hope I’m allowed to do. I only saw it this morning. Censorship is an act of a government so I’m not sure that term has relevance here.. You yourself make choices as to who to quote in your articles and on your blog. That’s not censorship. That’s your right as an author. Love to you, Mary.
Thanks Sandra. You are providing a much needed service here and I am sure many people are benefiting from it. I have aplogised for my paranoia further down the comment thread. Love reciprocated.
Thank you, Mary. Our approaches may be a bit different, but I think we both agree that we would like to see the harm come to an end.
Oh sorry over reaction on my part.
It’s okay, Mary. No one likes to be excluded.
Thank you for this well written and honest overview and the replies.
I just want to add, that it is / was a common strategy of the New Kadampa Tradition / NKT too to denounce ex-members who dared to speak up as mentally unstable (or disgruntled ex-members, people full of hate, an agenda etc). One of the NKT followers even worked on Wikipedia on medical articles and once she had a good reputation she denounced me there as being traumatised and unable to work properly for Wikipedia…
The denigration of whistle blowers, victims, ex-members who dare to speak up as mentally ill or somewhat crazy as being driven by hate or anger or bad intention is a common strategy of cults – sadly most members of the group believe those claims.
In the context of Rigpa an ex-Rigpa criticised that it are usually the more vulnerable women who end up to “give sexual service” to Sogyal. For instance, those who are looking for love, affection, being recognised or to get some attention or kindness, or who are genuinely open to try Buddhism, who might feel low or are looking for a kinder world or community. Those women who have a higher amount of such common human emotional needs are more vulnerable because their needs can be badly exploited. To harm such vulnerable women and later even denigrating or slander them is really worse than doing that with strong women who have a healthy samsaric ego and can easier say No!
Ah, the usual double messages from the master of the limited hang-out operation.
First: say that it is terrible about how these women are stereotyped and labeled and victim blamed, and then you blame the victim in the next sentences as :
“usually the more vulnerable women who end up to “give sexual service” to Sogyal. For instance, those who are looking for love, affection, being recognised or to get some attention or kindness, or who are genuinely open to try Buddhism, who might feel low or are looking for a kinder world or community. Those women who have a higher amount of such common human emotional needs are more vulnerable because their needs can be badly exploited.”
This double-messaging is all over this site. It is the usual way to paralyze the victims.
Knock it off. No one is buying this anymore. Once these tactics are seen through, they don’t work anymore. Are you running this site, too Tenpel?
Tenpel is right. I have interviewed many of Sogyal’s sex slaves. They fit his description and most of them would describe themselves in the same terms. I have also interviewed one or two who declined his advances. And guess what? They are women with strong personalities who were not willing to be seduced by a short fat, elderly bloke — even if he is the head honcho of a global organisation.
Thank you Mary. I try to be careful with my phrasing.
Recently one of the manipulated and harmed women – who openly spoke up about how she was mistreated and manipulated – agreed with that description. However, I can also understand how people can feel uneasy reading it…
To understand the dynamics and causes and conditions it might be useful to look at this point too.
And what is particularly egregious about these double messages, that are only to confuse the public and those still under Tibetan Lamaism’s spell, is how these double binds are embedded in saccharine “compassion” making this manipulation look “compassionate. ” Exactly what these lamas do to seduce these women into Tantra’s net of enslavement. I am most curious to see if this 40- year damage control campaign will still work, using the same well-worn tactics on a new generation of women.
Thank you, Tenzin. There are many vulnerable people coming to Dharma Centers. Teachers need to be aware of that and certainly some standards of behavior need to be in place so these individuals are not further harmed.
Just one thing Tenple : There’s this ice-cold phrase from a woman who felt she had to leave the three year retreat in L.L while she was not feeling well.
She said : ” Rigpa is not a cult , because when I left, nobody noticed”.
It’s somewhere on one of the blogs, didn’t find it back, so it’s not a quote but my words as I remember.
Maybe there has to be found an other word for this kind of sangha disfonctions.
Thanks for your work.
Mmh, if you expect that lamas are people who are leaving, contact you if you leave etc, a lot of other buddhist groups would also disappoint you…
I have also learned the hard way that Tibetan buddhism has some group aspects, but as Tibetans do it, your way in the dharma is your personal journey that you take personal responsibility for. Nobody will interfere if you can no longer come or don’t want to come.
I have very similar experiences with a Tibetan buddhist group/qualified teacher where there is not the slightest abuse going on. That’s quite in contrast with how kindly and interested in you they appear when you talk with certain lamas, but do not expect that they take personal interest in your whereabouts in your samsara life. They will pray for you, but they will not hold contact with you through samsaric means. That is true for lamas and I think this largely holds true for the groups they run.
Do you also mean all the emotionally needy women, the Dharma brat female children who in Trungpa’s and then Sogyal’s Rigpa groups were programmed to accept these lamas keeping female harems? Since they were toddlers? Like Warren Jefferies and his fundamentalist Christian group, that Tibetan Buddhist find abhorrent if done by a Christian cult leader. Those needy women, is that who you mean?
Gee, what happened to my comments. Too honest, to direct, too sane about actually dealing with the emotional neediness of these lamas, and their crazy, medieval primitive upbringing? That is the driving force of all this abuse? Oh, that’s right that would be over the top because your lamas are all perfect and you are determined to, once again, censor and control the conversation to make sure these ‘perfect teacher’s are never at fault .
I always forget, you absolutely cannot reach women, still inside these Tantric Lamaist groups. Even some of the women in these polygamous Mormon groups were more reachable. Not those still under the thrall of Lamaism.
It doesn’t matter, as usual, you won’t really know how the public now sees forty years of these cover-ups. The sexually abused women are not the emotionally needy ones. It’s the sexual abuse enabling women that surround them and keep them confused. They were always the most disturbed on my case load as a protective social worker .
It’s not one way or the other is it, every woman is an individual with her own unique identify and experience. These dynamics are complex. I’ve met many amazing women who got caught in the net of abuse.
I appreciate your efforts to reveal abuse in Buddhist communities and I’m sorry for any harm you’ve experienced. You have made numerous comments so far under “Chris” and “Gold Sun.” I deleted one of your comments which I feel did not follow our comment guidelines: http://howdidithappen.org/commenting-guidelines/ That’s my prerogative as the blog owner.
Yes, Chris has been busy for years trying to create and promote a paranoid conspiracy out of these troubles. It’s sad, taking advantage of people with an agenda as they struggle through this is not kind in my mind.
Also, regarding people coming to the Dharma in vulnerable states of mind, surely this is the ultimate test of the Dharma? Surely, this is when the depths of its benefit should be clear? Somehow, there is this survival of the fittest exercise going on in some Dharma centers that I find disturbing– this “can you take it” attitude. And giving Vajrayana to new and vulnerable students is simply irresponsible imo.
And I agree that there is this blame-the-victim-mentality that has been promoted in the context of women being vulnerable and running into trouble at Dharma centers. But surely, if a religion cannot provide some solace and hope in times of need, then something is wrong? In my mind, these situations are perfect examples of the teacher failing. It is the responsibility of a Dharma teacher to offer teachings that suit the temperament of each student. If he cannot do that for thousands at a time, then he shouldn’t teach to thousands at a time.
I came to the Dharma in a somewhat vulnerable state and five teachers, including SR, made me even more vulnerable until I was a psychotic, suicidal mess. Then I started studying and practicing solely under the guidance of HHDL’s teachings and talks and I discovered that the Dharma does provide hope, solace and the tools for healing and strengthening our psychological states.
Actually, I think traditionally tantric buddhism in India and Tibet hasn’t been used for caring for people in emotional need.
In those societies that was the job of the family. Tantric buddhism was used to attain liberation from samsara, by fairly stable individuals.
So if a lot of spiritual seekers in the west come to the dharma in a state of emotional need, the whole system has to adapt to cope with this.
excellent view !
I had a friend from the USA that developed an intimate relationship with Sogyal Rinpoche back in the early 1990s. She even moved to London for a year or so to be in the Inner Circle. And then she left…not a massive big deal.
Some women just want to have sex with a powerful man. If spirituality is your thing, then what could be more powerful than having sex with an Enlightened Guru?
Sometimes it’s as stark and simple as that.
This seems to
Not very often Matt. It is very hard– impossible?– to have consensual sex when the power differential is too great. In the vast majority of such cases, damage occurs. This is why there are laws in the west prohibiting/restricting sex in certain situations such as teachers, priests and psychotherapists.
People have different views about consensual relationships between Buddhist teachers and students. In this case, we’re not talking about consensual relationships. We’re talking about reports of feeling coerced, abused, and traumatized. Consensual relationships may have occurred in the past, but now, because there are been too many instances of abuse of power on the part of Buddhist teachers, many Buddhist organizations have prohibited them.
Plus, in the years after the millenium I went to the winter retreats in Kirchheim and what I found was the following.
SR was followed by an entourage of pretty 20something girl attendants and secretaries (there were a few attractive boys in those circles too) and despite being December in Germany (cold, often snowy) there was a contest among the pretty girls who had the shortest mini skirt and largest cleavage.
I mean, this looked like a very bizarre and crude competition for male attention. Something I would have expected at a discotheque but at a dharma event????
That stopped when the monastics were introduced and from then onward people dressed a bit more appropriately.
I found that particular feature repulsive even back then. Kind of instinctual reaction to something that I found not quite right in a spiritual environment.
And as the dancing in the temple with the young woman in that youtube video goes. I don’t have anything against it in principal, just the interesting feature here is, that this never happened with an elderly, fat, non-pretty woman. Now the teachings of vajrayana state that the person with pure perception will see the dakini in every woman, no matter who she is and how she looks, not only in the young, pretty ones.
I’ve just clocked Chris. She even wrote a long ramble in the comment section on Amazon about my book Psychedelic Suburbia –which does refer a couple of times to Tibetan Buddhism but is 99% about my experience as David Bowie’s landlady!
What do you mean, “I have just clocked Chris?” Not sure what “clocked” means in this case.
Catlover –Brit slang for realised who she is.
What did you realize about who she is?
This is a well done article. I have a problem with Brown’s remarks about the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, however. Brown says:
“But quite how much Sogyal himself had to do with it is debatable; according to those close to the project, most of the work was done by ghost-writers – Sogyal’s closest student, and now his right-hand man, Patrick Gaffney, and the author Andrew Harvey.”
I was someone close to the project. What I can tell you is that Sogyal Rinpoche poured over every word of the manuscript, again and again, careful to ensure every nuance perfectly reflected his intended meaning. He spent hours and hours and hours reviewing the manuscript. This was often done during retreat sessions, when many other students were present as well.
Few Tibetan teachers sit down and write a book. Usually, their teachings are transcribed as the basis for their books. An editor then shapes the transcribed material into manuscript format. The teacher is still credited as the author of the book. So why shouldn’t this be the case with Sogyal Rinpoche and The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying as well?
If you attended Sogyal Rinpoche’s teachings regularly over the years, it’s obvious they are the source of the teachings shared in TBLD. TBLD reflects the way Sogyal Rinpoche teaches about meditation, compassion, the nature of mind, and other related topics. Of course, it draws from other sources as well, as do all authors.
Both Patrick Gaffney and Andrew Harvey are fully credited as editors of TBLD, on the books title page and in the acknowledgements. Neither of them could be considered “ghostwriters,” in the most commonly used meaning of the word: someone who signs a confidentiality agreement and is never acknowledged by the author in any way.
This is how Andrew Harvey is acknowledged TBLD. “My thanks also go to my friend Andrew Harvey, a well-known and very gifted writer, for the dedicated, impassioned, and selfless way in which he has shaped this book and helped the majesty of the teachings to shine through the words with radiant simplicity and brilliance.” The paragraph goes on to describe how Andrew dedicates his work on the book.
There are valid complaints against Sogyal Rinpoche, but I find this one to be specious.
I totally agree with you, Sandra. Usually books by lamas are a compilation of various talks and teachings, and a team of translators work to transcribe them into book form. That doesn’t mean they wrote the book, or that the author is a fake. It’s likely that TBOLD was from Sogyals’ teachings. Personally, I think trying to discredit Sogyal as an authentic lama, or as the author of TBOLD is counterproductive. A person can be from an authentic lineage, write beautiful books, and speak eloquently on a lot of subjects, but that doesn’t mean they are a saint personally. I think this is a perfect example of someone who teaches well, but doesn’t “walk their talk.”
Yep. I’m definitely having a problem with this mixing up legitimate complaints (like harsh teaching methods for unsuitable disciples and totally irresponsible handling of his relationship life) with lies and half truths (like the supposed luxury lifestyle or that he didn’t write the book).
IF people go for public attention for this and not every word of what they say or write is true, it’s just another cheap smear campaign that says more about them than it does about SR or Rigpa.
Just look how objective average people out there are after a messy relationship breakup with tons of disappointed hopes and then think twice if you take every last word of the accusers as gospel.
Sorry, but in my life so many people have tried to sell me so much BS and very VERY subjective views of things as truth. And Rigpa has a record of having a ton of emotionally unstable students, that I know from 20 years of first hand experience.
Yes, that’s the truth, Rigpa has a fair share of, sorry to say, batshit crazy students. And some of those are not of the benign kind. I had some amount of pretty nasty experiences with other students in the Rigpa system. I had those on a fairly regular basis over a long time. Usually small things, but quite enlightening about what their state of mind and attitude is.
Do I believe some things in Rigpa and with SR’s behaviour are going wrong and that it need so be addressed and changed? Definitely.
Do I believe it can be changed? Yes, definitely.
Do I believe everything that every last ex Rigpa complains about? Definitely not. Too many people there with their very own samsara agenda and therefor very personal bones to pick in that organisation.
I think the real reason people try to discredit Sogyal as a legitimate lama is because they can’t face the fact that a legitimate lama would misbehave. Since he has been disgraced, it’s easier to pretend that he has no credentials than it is to look at the tradition as a whole, as well as the fact that many lamas misbehave, not just a few.
When I say “legitimate,” I mean a lama who has been officially recognized by a true lineage, (and not by a cult-fringe group). Also, a “legitimate” lama is someone who has had respected teachers from the lineage, etc. From what I have read about Sogyal, I would classify him as “legitimate,” and not some fringe cult leader. That doesn’t mean his behavior is right. But many lamas bring disgrace to Tibetan Buddhism, so this is a much wider issue than just Sogyal, imo.
I think a lot of people in the west have an identity problem that is closely related to the general epidemic lack of self conficence in our societies.
These people with an identity problem can use dharma groups (or political parties etc) and their belief as a surrogate identity. I think that’s something that falls under the spiritual bypassing that some psychotherapist created years ago.
Now if a spiritual bypasser leaves the organisaton and belief system he or she had used as “identity surrogate”, they have a problem, because as a replacement they need a new assumed identity, just like a hermit crab that has shed the old shell needs a new shell.
And here comes the brand new surrogate identity as “the valiant whistleblower” who exposes the evil deeds of cult guru SR to the world…..
Yeah, I am totally cynical about what motivates people to do what they do. Why? Having had to watch humans in my environment behave for several decades, I’ve had good reason to become very cautious about their motivation.
Sandra you make valid points about how a teacher’s teachings are transcribed and shaped into a manuscript for publication. The claim of Sogyal not being the legit author of TBLD is something i believe, from my reading, that Mary Finnigan has raised over the years. Perhaps it all comes down to what is meant by ‘authorship’. Anyhow, you might want to take it up with Mick Brown, Sandra. He has a fb page!
Thank you, buddhagirl. You’re right, it does depend on how we understand the word “author” and there are legal precedents for this as well. Sogayl Rinpoche didn’t literally sit down and write the book, but the greater part of it came from his teachings and he reviewed and corrected the manuscript again and again. He is a perfectionist. It’s said one of the chapters was revised 25 times.
I don’t want to diminish the tremendous amount of work that Harvey and Gaffney put into the book. Clearly, Harvey sees himself as a collaborator (in his bio), not an editor and perhaps he should have been credited as such. But that’s quite different than implying Sogyal Rinpoche had little to do with TBLD at all, as Mick Brown seems to imply.
In reference to the authorship of TBLD, Mary Finnegan has said that Sogyal Rinpoche was “barely literate, meaning barely able to write and read (in English). That might have been her impression at the time, but it’s not my experience at all. I’ve seen him read presentation notes (complicated material) at conferences on many occasions, and I’ve seen him read teaching notes many times in teaching sessions.
This is Patrick Gaffney’s 1994 account of how the book was written in case you’re interested:
It’s been around for many years it could be referenced by journalists.
I didn’t know Mick Brown has a Facebook page. I’ll check it out.
Yes and Melania appears powerless in the relationship. Her only way to assert herself is to deny him affection and physical contact (as the footage has captured), wear beautiful clothes and tend to their son.
Sorry, the above was supposed to go after Solenodon’s comment on Melania.
The Trump/Melania relationship benefits both in the way they want.
She gets the money, status and lifestyle she was looking for, he gets an eyecandy trophy wife and occasional f–toy.
If two adult people willingly agree to a contract like this, I personally don’t mind.
And honestly, if Melania goes on like that, in a decade or so she will be free of him and inherit his fortune. That’s good motivation for some people.
Yes, some women do marry strictly for the money.
Maybe I don’t know enough about the details surrounding Sogyal’s book, but it sounds to me like people just want to discredit him because they don’t ,like his behavior. it’s as if by discrediting Sogyal, the reputation of Tibetan Buddhism itself can be saved. Based on what I know, (which I admit is limited), I believe that TBLD can be considered Sogyal’s book, (regardless of how one feels about Sogyal’s abusive, personal behavior). Many of the Dalai Lama’s books are written ina similar way, and nobody says the DL didn’t write his books. The books are transcripts from teachings or talks, and translators and editors polish them , making them readable for book form. In a way you could say they helped write the Dalai Lama’s books, but technically, all they are doing is simply taking the essence of the talk, interview, lecture, or whatever, and putting it down in book form. The DL is still credited with the work and it is considered his book. I am sure that they take out errors in his sentences, (he doesn’t speak English perfectly), and they tighten up sentences and change a few words here and there. The essence of the talk is still there, and so is whatever he was trying to say. Of course, he would supervise what they do and make sure that his helpers get it right. In the same way, Sogyal’s book was taken from a series of talks he gave on death and dying and put down in book form. There was probably a lot of editing and polishing, but it is still from his own teachings. That makes it his book, just the same as HHDL’s books are his books. One could say they had help with writing their books, but since they were the ones giving the talks, and the books are basically transcribed from those talks, the books are still credited to the one giving the lecture(s). A lot of Dharma books are written that way, (especially when it is taken from teachings originally given in Tibetan, or by a Tibetan teacher who doesn’t speak English very well). Somebody has to take the teaching and reformulate it into English. But if you are going to say that Sogyal didn’t write his book, you may as well say that HHDL and other Tibetan lamas didn’t write their books either. I’m not here to defend Sogyal, by any means, but I think it’s counterproductive to say he didn’t write his book, just because one doesn’t like him personally. In fact, it really hurts and discredits other lamas and their works to set a precedent where someone can’t use translators/editors in order to be considered the author. So be careful. If you say Sogyal didn’t write his book, then other authors may also be called into question, if their books were written in a similar manner.
These are really good points, Cat Love. The Dalai Lama is a perfect example. Harvey seems to feel that he did more than an editor and he refers to himself as a “collaborator” on the book, which is similar to co-author. That may have been the case, it’s difficult to discern how much a contribution actually constitutes co-authorship. We may never know the answer to that, but I believe that the basis of the book is decidedly Sogyal Rinpoche’s teachings.
Sure, how would Harvey been able to write chapter 5 or the bardo chapters or SR’s experiences with his masters or in Tibet?
SR consulted with Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche on chapter 5 and the bardos etc.
Co-author just doesn’t even fit in when one considers this
I’ve heard that Harvey had studied the Tibetan Book of the Dead and had studied to some extent with a Tibetan master. So although I agree the vast majority of material came from Sogyal Rinpoche’s teachings, it seems Harvey wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with some of these topics. In addition, it’s likely he contributed many of the literary quotations. Co-authorship is usually agreed upon in advance and depends upon the amount of material one contributes to the work. But this question is really between Harvey and Sogyal Rinpoche. My main concern is that Sogyal Rinpoche is not discredited. And of course, both Gaffney and Harvey should receive due credit as well.
Muchas gracias. ?Como puedo iniciar sesion?
Or….maybe Harvey’s ego is as big as Sogyal’s, and he wants to think of himself as a “collaborator” when he was really just a helper and/or editor. We’ll just never know.
I donated a substantial sum to purchase the Rigpa North American retreat in New York State, only to later learn that Sogyal allegedly gave the property to the Dali Llama. Why have you not spoken of this? You and Bernie were at a prior Long Island retreat which I attended where money was solicited for this purpose. I also participated in a retreat at Clear Lake California where you and Bernie were present. Neither of you, nor any other members spoke of Sogyal’s sordid history, which you now finally admit you and other members knew about. Why did you and other members—particularly you in your leadership role__not speak up earlier? The summary of events in your article is a mere recapitulation of reports which appeared in various news media. It was through mere happenstance that I came across them, and, thus became aware of the Sogyal Lakar scandal. Indeed, I still do not see where you have taken a firm stance against Sogyal Lakar’s conduct. Surprisingly, few news accounts even mention Lakar’s fathering an illegitimate child with a Rigpa member. I thought it odd at a New York City lecture that Lakar gave, when responding to a question from a visitor about whether Buddhist teachers like Lakar had sexual relations, that Lakar responded in the negative. Still the deceit and secrecy continued about Lakar’s conduct. Would fewer men and women have been victimized by Lakar if you in the know had spoken up sooner? I certainly would not have contributed thousands of dollars to purchase a North American retreat had I known. My take from all of this, including my response to your comments here, is: too little, too late.
Thanks for your honesty. I fully understand that you may feel angry and betrayed after giving a substantial donation toward the purchase of the Rigpa North American Retreat Center. Let me clarify that the retreat center was never given to the Dalai Lama as you understand. From what I learned later, the property was sold in recent years, long after I worked in any capacity for Rigpa. If you are unhappy about the transaction, I suggest that you get in touch with the Rigpa US Board of Directors and discuss it with them. In any case, the problems that occurred with sale of the retreat center did not occur during my tenure.
There are many reasons why people don’t speak up. Students are told again and again that his aggressive behaviors are part of their spiritual training. Also, many people, even those in leadership positions, may not see anything at all or may see only one small part of the picture, which may not appear abusive to them at the time. And when people do speak up, they are often discredited, called liars, or given psychological labels. Or people attack them for other reasons. I’m speaking up now because I became aware of things I had previously known about.
Clearly, you did not know that Rinpoche had a child, but it was not a secret. His child has been present at many retreats. I’m not sure that the mother ever saw herself as a Rigpa member or student. You are making some assumptions that may not be true.
I’m deeply sorry that you feel misled and that your donation wasn’t reimbursed when the center was sold. I encourage you to take that up with the Rigpa Board of Directors.
Australia media informs about Sogyal and Rigpa:
I just wanted to chip in here I’m a buddhist, more or less, but several organisations I’ve been in contact with RIGPA and the FWBO namely have had similar issues with abuse. Isn’t it possible that these issues have been present for millenia, not just the last 50 years or so? Images of Dakini are prevelant and they fit the current pattern. Likely as not in more superstitous times disciples would have been easier to coerce.
As a teacher (classroom not spirituality) I’m aware that being ‘admired’ can have a powerful effect on self-image. Not getting carried away with your own inflated sense of self is one of the skills you learn. The evidence suggests that SR utterly failed in this regard. Not a brilliant advertisement for his enlightened nature. In fact despite his credentials and lineage this undermines any and all of his personal teaching IMO.
I understand this is a deeply troubling development, especially for those with a personal commitment to RIGPA and SR. I hope you have the strength and honesty to deal with the consequent turmoil. Doubt, denial and heart-ache will follow, but these emotions can be resolved.
After nearly 20 years I’m planning to resume meditation practice this year, but I’ll be doing so from a much more solid foundation. As Soledonon says I needed to grow a new shell, or rather develop a rock solid sense of identity.
As a final comment, when spiritual teachers fail, they fail big and the impact is huge. Most especially on those that they directly victimise. Compassion can be a useful key to understanding but despite this recovery is not guaranteed.
I wish I could have ended on a brighter note, but the material effects of SR’s behaviour really shouldn’t be devalued.
I have witnessed Sogyal Rinpoche’s behaviour ~ 1996 when attending one of his programs in Germany. First, he let us wait for a longer than an hour while his devoted students twisted his disrespect into a teaching for us. I would have left right then hadn’t I driven for a day into a another city and booked a hotel for the several days long program. When he finally arrived, I was shocked about the way he treated his very devoted attendees. He openly criticized them when they made mistakes by comparing them with the flawless service by his attendees he had back in Tibet .
A young woman burst out in tears when she was treated like that in front of 1000 people. He then cradled her in his lap like a baby and comforted her. I felt ashamed having to witness one after another inappropriate incident. In the light of his behavior I was having suspicions about all the beautiful women surrounding him and tending to him and I am not in the least surprised by all the allegations. I am shocked to hear that it took so long to get him out of his position. Why would people go to a teacher that openly shows disrespect and disregard right from the start of a teaching by letting them wait for hours???
Thay Tham Thien
I am a Buddhist Monk in Australia and very recently had my eyes opened to these kind of activities. It is beyond shameful and so I sat and watched some videos of this man talking -this so called Soygal. I cannot understand why it took so long for people to realize the poor quality of this man’s teachings and his lack of knowledge and compassion. He displayed no respect towards his audience or his students. He displays only arrogance and ignorance. His buddhism is not the Buddhism of Noble Ones. Indeed he will have a very bitter end.
Despite these flaws though, he is knowledgable regarding his lineage. Re-reading living and dying now. I notice that he doesn’t often speak from personal experience regarding Bardo states and such. Instead he sites other scholars. Nevertheless the book is perhaps one of the only works to describe Tibetan Buddhist cosmology in an accessable way.
I’m not offering excuses. If you see my earlier comments you’ll know that.
It actually makes me quite angry that anyone could behave as he has.
Back in the mid 1990’s I was briefly a devoted student of SR. While on retreat in France I heard a persistent voice in my head, ‘something’s rotten in the heart of Denmark’ (if this is not familliar to you,Shakespeare’s Hamlet says it when he realises his uncle who has assumed the throne is ‘rotten’.). I knew absolutely nothing about SR relationships or any allegations but I was deeply disturbed by this voice. Was I schizophrenic? And yet I felt such a clear sense that I had to leave RIGPA. I confided in a senior student who said ‘it was my resistance to surrendering my ego.’ It was either trust SR or trust myself and in the end I chose to trust myself.
Two weeks later, the Jane Doe case came to light. It was a deeply disturbing and difficult time and it took me many years to go near spiritual practise let alone a teacher again. (I have since written about it in a book, which I am happy to share if anyone is interested).
But mainly I want to say to everyone and anyone who has posted here, reading this all these years after my own painful exit from RIGPA, how my heart goes out to you. Your hurt and your courage and open hearts shine through every post and I have been very moved by all that I have read. Blessings and love to you all.
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Quick question: have other Rigpa leaders had accusations against them? Since very often, abuse relies on institutional dynamics. Thank you for the information!
Well done an excellent clear and concise account. You had done such a brave and important service. Thank-you.
As someone who left in 1994: my stomach still churns as I read this. I was completely devoted to the teachings but I knew Sogyal Rinpoche was not a safe presence. How did I know it wasn’t safe around him? Looking back I paid attention to the energies around Sogyal – I could feel that very subtle sexually insidious energy and it disturbed me. I trusted my senses and I am so so grateful that I did.
Watching Black Lives Matter unfold and the exposition of how racism is perpetrated has clarified for me how all abuse is perpetrated. It is in small subtle everyday denials small subtle infractions of power, those moment when the energy is ‘off’ but no-one says anything and we don’t even admit to ourselves what our senses are telling us; and which we all have unconsciously participated in. I can see how this is how abuse continues. Where we don’t want to feel the uncomfortable feeling so we dismiss it or excuse it.
There has been collusion on a vast scale and it is not for us to berate ourselves, but accept our vulnerable human selves have been brainwashed by a vast sweeping insidious system of power so embedded we couldn’t even see it. But now we do.
How do we change a deeply embedded culture of denial in human community that has allowed such abuse of power continue for so long? How can we be activists in change?
I believe it is by trusting the senses we have been gifted, by feeling our feelings we find the knowing that is our buddha nature, that knows what is right and good and what is not authentic. It’s about reclaiming the guru in us, trusting our perceptions and acting on them. For me its about coming into more embodied presence, so I am fully awake to the now, eyes open, heart open and trusting myself and my perceptions.
And trusting if I am wrong, I will be guided to the truth.
Love and blessings to all who bravely walk the path of enlightenment. May we hold each other’s hands and lift each other up and anchor a new era and confidence in our true nature and trust that the ignorance that has blighted our lifetimes is now being lit up to be healed.
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