How Did It Happen?

Understanding and Healing Abuse in Buddhist Communities

Where Are We At? The Complaints, The Cost, and the Future of Vajrayana

Prayer FlagsWhere are things at with the complaints against Sogyal Rinpoche?

It has been more than three months since eight long-time students sent a letter to Sogyal Rinpoche alleging abuse. I thought it would be good to take a step back and look at what the letter has achieved so far and how the issues are becoming clearer.

Let’s remember what the grievances are about: inappropriate and harmful behaviors that have caused injuries and have tainted the appreciation of Dharma for the concerned students.

The letter alleged:

  • Physical beating and verbal and psychological abuse, often in response to trivial mistakes.
  • Sexual misconduct.
  • A lavish lifestyle.
  • Unreasonable demands to be served.
  • A culture of secrecy that covers up inappropriate behavior and complaints about it.

The intent of the letter was to break the veil of secrecy, ask for accountability, stop unethical and immoral behavior, prevent further harm, and bring about sincere and long lasting changes. The letter writers expressed a heartfelt wish for Sogyal Rinpoche to seek guidance from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, other reputable lamas of good heart, or anyone who can help bring him back onto the true path of the Dharma.

What Has the Letter Achieved?

In one sense, the letter has accomplished a great deal:

  • Sogyal Rinpoche has taken the complaints seriously enough to retire as Spiritual Director of Rigpa.
  • Rigpa has clearly said there is no place for abuse in our community and the organization is aware of its responsibility to provide a safe, welcoming and supportive environment for its members and the public.
  • An independent investigation into the complaints will likely begin in November.
  • Rigpa is developing a code of conduct and grievance procedures, and expects them to be in place by the end of 2017.
  • Rigpa organizations across the globe have held open discussions in which people could share their questions and concerns in response to the letter. Although the discussions are sometimes limited in scope and some of the letter writers have not been allowed to participate, at least some level of discussion has occurred.

On the other hand, there has been no acknowledgement of harm and no apologies.

Although Rigpa has not made official statements on the topic, it distributes or allows the distribution of advice from other teachers that condone the kinds of behaviors described in the letter of complaint. These teachings validate the use of extreme teaching methods in the Vajrayana. As such, there is ‘no big problem’ with Sogyal Rinpoche’s behavior.

Although some positive steps have been taken, it remains unclear whether significant long lasting changes will take place.

Beating Hard Increases Wisdom

Most people in the modern would find it hard to believe that we’re even debating whether beating is an appropriate teaching method and that some hold the view there’s nothing wrong when a woman feels pressured into sexual relations by her spiritual teacher.

But some Buddhist teachers find these behaviors acceptable and even see them as an expression of wisdom. Understandably, many of those in the Rigpa sangha with concerns about abuse feel sad, disappointed, frustrated, and sometimes angry when they hear these teachers excuse such behaviors.

For example, two traditional Vajrayana teachers, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche and Khenpo Namdrol, have recently and vigorously expressed their perspectives, absolving Sogyal Rinpoche of harm and placing the blame squarely on the students who have complained. Both of their teachings were given at Rigpa centers.

In his lengthy teaching on samaya, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche said things like:

  • Beating removes obstacles and brings blessings.
  • Beating hard increases wisdom.
  • When a lama has mastered great primordial wisdom, everything he does is for the benefit of sentient beings; whether it corresponds to Western ideas or not, if he kills someone, no problem.
  • When you feel hurt, there is no point to turn against the teacher because the real reason is that you don’t have enough merit.
  • The people who wrote the letter had wrong views and have broken their samaya with their teacher, who loved and cared for them.

Khenpo Namdrol also spoke at length in response to what he knew of the letter.  He concluded:

‘To have written such a letter maras and samaya breaking demons must possess the authors.’

Does Rigpa Support These Views?

Although Rigpa has not made an official statement on these topics, it has not distanced itself from these views either.

On the contrary, the October 2017 Rigpa International Sangha Connection Newsletter reported main Rigpa students and organizational leaders, including Patrick Gaffney and Philip Philipou, had recently met with Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche to seek advice, during their travels to the East.

They discussed some of the issues relating to Sogyal Rinpoche’s retirement and putting in place the new spiritual body that will help guide Rigpa forward into the future.

The views stated by these two Vajrayana teachers could explain why Sogyal Rinpoche has stated he has never acted with impure intention without disputing that the behaviors have happened.

Many people were upset when they heard these statements. I personally think it’s good that Orgyen Topgyal and Khenpo Namdrol gave honest answers and explained their perspectives. It helps to see the issues more clearly. To know these views are unmistakably part of the Vajrayana tradition in their eyes can help us understand the root of the controversy.

The Root of the Controversy:  Feudalism

When you look closely, most of the issues raised by the 8 letter writers are about customs and behaviors that were accepted or at least tolerated in Tibetan society. For example, supporting a teacher’s lavish lifestyle through offerings was a way of expressing respect and reverence for the tradition. Beating monks and verbal abuse was seen as an appropriate way of training and maintaining order. Having sexual relations with a teacher was considered spiritually beneficial.

Teachers had unquestioned authority in their centers and were entitled to respect and obedience. Enjoying sense pleasures and acting out negative emotions was considered part of the Vajryayana path because wrath was seen as a skillful way to teach. Traditionally, it is said that dakinis (female tantric consorts) inspire teachers to reveal teachings.

[To learn more about the impact of feudalism on modern Buddhist organizations and the Dalai Lama’s advice about it read:  What Did the Dalai Lama Really Say?]

The teachings are understood to mean there’s no fault on the part of the teacher as long as his or her motivation is pure.  While the impacts of the teacher’s actions may seem harmful from a worldly relative perspective, from a spiritual point of view they are beneficial.

It sounds good, however there is a problem.

A significant number of people in Rigpa have not had positive experiences of growth and learning after receiving ‘personal training’ that involved harsh methods like hitting, slapping, and verbal denigration.  On the contrary, they felt abused and harmed.

Sogyal Rinpoche seems confident he has the necessary realization to use extreme teaching methods. But it seems that some, perhaps many, of his students don’t have the capacity to process their resulting experiences. They lose their faith, withdraw from the community, and after reflecting on what occurred, feel they experienced abuse.

What it boils down to is this: Sogyal Rinpoche and other traditional teachers consider customs and behaviors that were accepted or at least tolerated in Tibetan society an authentic part of their lineage of Vajrayana.

Extreme Teaching Methods Necessary in Vajrayana?

We’re not going to change their minds about these beliefs. They believe their spiritual view is superior. They seem to see concerns about the harmful impact of their behaviors as worldly concerns, which they are not required to consider. The complaints are seen as an attack against what they consider the most sacred in their lives and their tradition.

Let’s remember that while these Vajrayana teachers present their perspective as the ultimate spiritual view, other well-respected teachers do not agree with them.

The Dalai Lama has spoken several times now about the complaints against Sogyal Rinpoche. He considers these customs and behaviors negative influences of the feudal system that need to be abandoned. He said it’s the responsibility of the students to speak up when they see inappropriate and harmful behavior and encourages them to go public. He said very clearly this is not breaking your samaya. The idea that you must do everything your guru says is wrong, according to the Dalai Lama.

Mingyur Rinpoche was told by his father and guru to never do anything that does not feel right to him.

Ancient texts take the authenticity of the guru for granted. Yet in our degenerate times, we cannot find perfect teachers. If the teacher has obscurations, then we risk taking bad advice, so how can we apply devotion and pure perception? My father (Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche) told me never to go against my own intuitive wisdom in order to follow the guru’s advice. Of course, if the advice concerns dharma, we think about it very carefully. If the advice concerns worldly things then, my father told me, we definitely have no obligation to follow it. – – From Turning Confusion Into Clarity, pp 300-301

Does Vajrayana Need Checks and Balances?

Sometimes, it seems Vajrayana lacks checks and balances entirely. It can seem like the teacher holds no responsibility for the impact of his or her actions on students.

However, there were some checks and balances in Tibet, as Katy Butler described in Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America:

The results are particularly troublesome when communities import Asian devotional traditions without importing corresponding Asian social controls. Chogyam Trungpa, for instance, came from a society where the sense of “self” and the social controls on that self were very different from those in the West. Raised from infancy in Eastern Tibet as an incarnate lama, he headed a huge institutional monastery at 19. He was granted tremendous devotion and power, but his freedom was rigidly circumscribed by monastic vows of chastity and abstinence, and by obligations to his monastery and the surrounding Community.

Community standards were based on an intricate system of reciprocal obligation. They were clear and often unspoken. Almost everyone’s behavior–serf, lama or landowner– was closely but subtly controlled by a strong and often unspoken need to save face.

But these social controls did not exist in the society to which Trungpa Rin­poche came in the freewheeling 1970s. His American students’ behavior was loosely governed by contractual relationships; by frank, open discussions, and by individual choices rather than by shared social ethics and mutual obligation. His ancestors had lived in the same valley for generations; when he first arrived in America, he flew from city to city like a rock star. While America removed all social limits from Trungpa Rinpoche’s behavior, his students became his household servants, chauffeured his car and showed him a deference appropriate to a Tibetan lama or feudal lord.

Now, the practice of Vajrayana, as described by the traditional lamas earlier in this article, faces the checks and balances of the modern world:

  • Laws provide protection from physical and psychological harm,
  • Everyone is accountable for their actions in terms of the law.
  • Freedom of speech allows people who feel harmed to speak up.
  • Free press counteracts the culture of secrecy.

Most people feel that spiritual traditions need to respect the human and societal values set forth in the modern world. As Mingyur Rinpoche wrote in his article Treat Everyone as the Buddha:

Vajrayana practice is rooted in the ideals of nonviolence and great compassion …. Buddhist teachers are role models and guides for the communities they lead, and they represent the Buddhist tradition to the non-Buddhist world.

Everyone has the freedom to choose their spiritual views, but in our actions, we are accountable to the human values and the laws of the land in which we live. It is our responsibility to speak up when we see harm and the human suffering it causes.

What Is the Cost?

Sadly, many attempts to privately raise concerns in Rigpa, made over the last three decades, have gone unheeded. It took going public vís-a-vís the letter to finally get Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa to take a serious look at how the spiritual methods they consider authentic may effect some people in detrimental ways.

Their intractability has resulted in a huge cost to Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa. Concern from both students and the public over the growing number of complaints has become an obstacle to enacting the organization’s vision for bringing benefit to the world. The actual toll goes much further because the disputed behaviors also create a negative image of Buddhism in general.

Granted it has taken a long time, but after having given the benefit of the doubt for decades, a critical mass of students now seem clear that the suspect behavior needs to be addressed. Even if the letter writers do not get an acknowledgement of harm or an apology, some checks and balances are now in place.

For example, given the number of complaints that have been made over the past thirty years, any future complaints will likely result in severe interventions by the authorities. And, anyone who experiences physical, psychological, or sexual abuse in the future will have a much better chance to make their case.  Although still not easy, perhaps it is now a bit easier to speak up about abuse. People who felt harmed realize they are not alone, there are communities who support them.

More information is available so future students will hear about this controversy and as a result, be able to make more conscious decisions on their spiritual path. They will more likely ask about the commitment involved in following a particular teacher.

Overall, there is more awareness of abuse in Buddhist communities.

Vajrayana and the Modern World

Seeing the unwanted effects of aggressive behaviors on the part of a spiritual teacher brings up many questions for me:

  • Why do some Vajrayana teachers so adamantly defend these behaviors?
  • Is this violent approach to teaching really working?
  • Are students showing progress towards enlightenment?
  • Is the cost—sincere, devoted students losing faith and a soiled reputation for the teacher, organization and Buddhism in general —really worth it?
  • Are these behaviors and customs indispensable in the Vajrayana? Are they in integrity with spiritual values? Would it be detrimental and endanger the authenticity of the path to consider methods of training and purification of obscurations that are accepted in the modern world?
  • Do we find ourselves in the midst of controversy once again due to a failure to understand Western culture and the psyche of Western students? Does the belief in the superiority of their view prevent some teachers from seeing their own shortcomings? Is there an inability to change harmful behavior?  Or an unwillingness to give up “perks” like rights to pleasures and power? Can using sense pleasures as a path lead to becoming addicted to them?
  • Does a conviction that the dubious behaviors are not negative influences of the feudal system but intrinsic parts of the tradition lie at the root of this controversy? Does a belief that the authenticity of the tradition needs to be preserved at all costs and a sense of responsibility to do so make them unable to see better ways to adapt Tibetan Buddhism in the West?

It seems obvious that unless some learning and change happens, the Vajrayana guru-disciple model based on feudal customs will continue to clash with modern society. As a result, the remaining practitioners may be forced to withdraw to small isolated communities. We might see small bastions that uphold a way of spiritual practice they believe to represent the highest truth though aspects of it are seen as harmful by the rest of the world.

Many people have questioned the motivation and character of Sogyal Rinpoche. The reported behaviors seem to point this way, but we cannot really know his motivation. Only Sogyal Rinpoche can know his motivation.

Perhaps, a better way of looking at this situation is that of a doctor who uses a treatment that is not socially accepted or aligned with basic human values. If the treatment works well, there would be no complaints. But if it has severe, harmful side effects in a significant number of patients, it becomes a problem. Since he keeps administering this treatment, even after being told over and over about the harm to some of his patients, society must now intervene to prevent further suffering.

Speaking Up Against Abuse Is Not Easy

Speaking up against abuse is not easy. People blame you for causing harm by speaking out, instead of putting responsibility for this controversy on those who caused it by their actions. They will tell you to just go away, get on with it and stop playing the victim. They will minimize your experiences and even try to discredit your character and motivation. They will pressure you with their version of samaya. They will discredit any teacher who has a critical view through rumours and innuendo.

It is painful to experience this. I find it important to take care of my own psychological and spiritual health during this controversy. What I find helpful is to name these actions when I notice them. And stay confident in my integrity and alignment with basic human and spiritual values. To remember and make it clear that I am criticizing behaviors not people.

When tempers flare, I find it helpful to keep in mind that the community is full of good hearted and devoted students. This is a very painful situation for everyone because there is a deep sacred bond between teacher and student. The issues raised bring up deep questions on how to follow the spiritual path. It takes time to process these questions.

The letter of complaint represents a huge intervention. The establishment always opposes reformation. Some people say going public with these complaints was damaging. Although it’s not clear how much lasting change will come from the letter of complaint, in my view, this intervention was necessary. I believe it will help Buddhism address some of its outdated aspects. I believe it will help us become more mature and authentic spiritual practitioners.

Where are we at?  What do you think has been achieved by the letter?  Can Vajrayana flourish without extreme teaching methods?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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91 Comments

  1. Edward Dickey

    Thank you Bernie, for such a thoughtful assessment of where we are. What worries me is not the possibility of further physical and sexual abuse in Rigpa. We need to be vigilant, but all that is probably in the past, (except of course that the victims will continue to suffer from trauma). My greatest concern is that the views expressed so honestly by Khenpo Namdrol and Orgyen Tobgyal will prevail, and Rigpa will become a fundamentalist sect, estranged from the Dalai Lama and existing on the fringes of Tibetan Buddhism.

    • Bernie Schreck

      Hi Edward, thanks for comment. I share your concerns that Rigpa will continue to align itself with the views expressed by Orgyen Topgyal and Khenpo Namdrol. And the thought of Rigpa being estranged from the Dalai Lama is very saddening.

    • Solenodon

      It’s not a fundamentalist view, it’s the traditional Tibetan view as practiced in their monastic institutions and communities. And, as such they have a right to those views as they have a right to practicing their beliefs in their community as they see fit.

      I think that the Tibetans have to work on the question of how spiritual disciples/monastics are treated in their culture independently from what we in the west decide to set as standard.

      Like for example traditionally hunter/gatherer and early style farming societies have a tradition of tribal warfare. That may be accepted custom in their society, but in our society it’s not acceptable that my city goes to war against the neighboring city, sack it and enslave the women.

      What we have to do is drawing a line: What is dharma teaching and what is cultural custom.

      For example, we here in the west can satisfactorily explain human behaviour and misbehaviour with (clinical) psychology. Why would anyone here except the die hard superstitious crowd here believe that any kind of behaviour is caused by demons? That’s a culturally caused concept of pre modern societies. We don’t need to import those, just because we import a religion from such a culture.

      • Catlover

        People believe all kinds of crazy things. For example, a lot of fundamentalist Christian type do believe in things like demon possession and they think all religions, except for Christianity are “false” and somehow planted by the Devil. (I’m talking about fundies now, not all Christians.) If that’s not superstitious belief, I don’t know what is. There are plenty of fruitcakes in the West, so why wouldn’t people believe in the Tibetan Buddhist superstitions too?

        • Catlover

          That is not to say that I think we should import those beliefs along with Buddhism, lol! But my point is that people are always going to believe that stuff, and the West isn’t all just rational, scientific people, especially out in the country areas, and not in the big cities, where people tend to be more secular in general.

          • Marc

            No, we should only take what suits us. Just as in the sicties. Just like John Lenon. We are free secular thinkers. Nobody fools us! Except we fool ourselves with our quasi rational supremacy over rednecks, gooks and all other hunter-gatherers natives of the world.

            Are we western chauvinists? Nohohooooo, we are just being scientific. Our words are based on substantial and objective facts! Scientific realism and materialism rules!

      • Lucia

        Thank you Solenodol. I think there is a lot of work to be done to neither import cultural aspects that can become harmful in this cultural settings, yet neither rush our own assumptions and judgments too soon and risk throwing out the baby with the bath water.

  2. Diane Morgan

    Thank you once again Bernie for your thoughtful insights. This blog has been so helpful.

    Edward Dickey, I too share your concerns.

    • Bernie Schreck

      Hi Diane, you are welcome and also thank you to you for sharing your concerns. I think it is very important that we share our concerns and continue to do so.

  3. Toria Selwyn

    Very well said Bernie. Time will tell. Intervention by outside authorities is highly likely as evidence stacks up.

    • Bernie Schreck

      Hi Toria, thanks for your comment. You are right time will tell. I pray for positive changes.

  4. Europa

    Thanks for yet another wonderful article Bernie. You sum up the situation really well and point out the absurdities in such beautifully diplomatic language!

    I’ve just asked to leave Rigpa after about 15 years and will be watching from the sidelines going forward. I’ll always love TBLD but I can’t watch video or hear audio of SR at the moment and am completely turned off the lama-student principle for a while. I still love the Dharma, and will always be grateful that I was introduced to it by SR, but zazen in a nearby Zen centre, is my path for now, rather than the intoxication of SR nature of mind teachings (which just turn my stomach now!).

    Makes me think that all that video just created a kind of dependence on him, and what was I really doing anyway? Where was the self reliance? Need to work on that again! Oh and listen to lots of HHDL, Mingyur Rinpoche and Matthieu Ricard who are the only teachers I trust right now because of the straightforward way they called a spade a spade early on. Feeling a huge sense of relief now I’ve actually made the decision and done the deed!!!

    • Bernie Schreck

      Hi Europa, thanks for sharing how this abuse scandal has impacted you. I think it is very mature how you are not allowing it to diminish your love for the dharma and have turned to teachers and centers you feel you can trust. I really resonate with what you are said about that this is making you question how you related to the teachings and the teacher. I personally can see that I had naive ideas of enlightenment and how it could come about by unquestioned following of a teacher. I have heard the Dalai Lama call some of the promises of quick enlightenment Vajrayana propaganda! And I remember him saying that whether you become enlightened more quickly or not the job (of helping sentient beings) is the same. I find his perspective wise, practical and down to earth. The path might take a little longer than I thought, but in a way that feels right to me.

  5. Maria

    Thank you for this clear and well written article. But i do have to say one time in all of this that I am also a litle sad about is the fact that I do understand a litle bit the true beauty of Vajrajana crazy wisdom, that in some situations it can create a spontaneus painful or joyeus crack in the self-clinging dualistic mind of f.i. what the mind thinks is right and what is wrong and therefor it can ignite true liberation (when there is a crack, that is were the light gets in, isn’t ?) So from now on this part of vahrajana has to go secretly underground, and/or it can only be performed if the student is really really grounded in long trained spiritual practice and if the teacher is truely qualified. Otherwise it will only lead to again more destruction like we are experiencing now.

    • Bernie Schreck

      Hi Maria, thanks sharing your concern. I can attest myself that crazy wisdom can lead to positive experiences of spiritual growth, learning, awakening. And I like you I hope that both teachers and students will be more responsible in ensuring that students have the capacity to process what they receive.

  6. Serenegirl

    Thank you, Bernie, for such thoughtful and thorough writing. It is important to keep this in the open and talk about it. Precepts like doing no harm are not just platitudes; they must be lived.

    • Bernie Schreck

      Hi Serenegirl, thanks for your comment and highlighting the fundamental human value and spiritual principle of non-harming.

  7. Rick New

    https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/time-for-radical-change-in-how-we-raise-our-tulkus/

    We are the container for one another. When might we to take such a critical look at ourselves and how we relate toward one another as a sangha, then and now?

  8. French observer

    Let’s not forget that Rigpa even if it is a large organization in the West is not representative of the whole Vajrayana. The majority of Vajra masters don’t hurt their students and hold their bodhisattva vows.

    There are always some bad apples in any religion.

  9. Mary Finnigan

    Thanks Bernie. A little too far along the diplomatic scale for my taste, but the analysis is spot on. I can confirm from 40 years of experience that the many TB lamas I have engaged with during this time do not rape, beat and humiliate their students. Some of them can be very dark and wrathful at times, but mostly they are scholar- practitioners who have mastered the arts of equilibrium and equanimity. Most of them do not suffer fools gladly, most of them have strong personalities but are very much aware of the needs of individual students. Not easy when you are head honcho of a global organisation with 1,000s of adherents.The fact that Sogyal has made such a mess of his career is, in my view, rooted in his lack of training as a lama. If you research his life story in detail you will see that he makes a lot of claims but that the facts contradict them.

    • Bernie Schreck

      Hi Mary, like you I agree that that we need to be clear that this is an indiviudal’s behavior and not representative of many in the tradition.

  10. Ceri

    Thanks for formulating all this, Bernie, in a clear, compassionate way so that I don’t have to! I particularly appreciate your reminder about the many truly good hearted sangha members that feel attacked by these far reaching criticisms and aren’t yet ready to really take on the implications. I’m still struggling and started this process 8 years ago! ( I know, I’m slow to digest).

  11. remember me?

    Thanks for keeping this alive. I have 3 concerns about where we’re at right now:
    1. Presumably the abuse continues wherever SR and his entourage are ‘retreating’. Whistleblowing about the past was not the only focus of the 8 but to prevent present/future crimes from occurring [even if the victim is a willing adult, a crime is a crime].
    2. The longer the whole thing drags on the less likely it is any radical change will be achieved.
    3. People who left for this and other reasons have rarely if ever been contacted by Rigpa or their former friends. This shows further evidence of culty behaviour and a genuine lack of wisdom or compassion across the board.

    • Solenodon

      Erm, I would see contacting members who left cultish behaviours. After all, it’s cults that pester people willing to leave or who have left, making leaving hard. The fact that you can leave Rigpa without any problems is evidence that it’s not a cult.

      SR is currently undergoing cancer treatment/chemotherapy. An acquaitance of mine told me that takes about half a year. Now chemotherapy is not exactly a nice holiday where people think about sex.

      And no, sex between two adults is not a crime, even if one participant was coerced into it in a rather unfair way.

      • Catlover

        @Solenodon,
        There are different levels of “cult” and you can’t say something isn’t a cult just because they didn’t keep people prisoner, and hunt them down when they tried to leave. Also, if it was just that Sogyal had been having affairs with adult women, that wouldn’t be such a big issue. But he assaulted people, hit them, emotionally abused them, and went way beyond just a little mischief in the bedroom. Why do people trivialize violence and assault as mere sexual escapades?

        • Catlover

          Frankly, even though it’s not illegal for adults to have sex, I think teachers who show a big attachment for sex are not really teachers I would want to follow anyway. If a teacher had a wife, or a steady partner, that’s fine, but multiple partners, one after another, shows an addiction to sex that I simply cannot respect.

        • Catlover

          I think when people have been reporting abuse form Sogyal and Rigpa management for DECADES and multiple people, have come forward time and time again, it’s enough for me to avoid Rigpa like the plague. When there is THAT much smoke, there has to be fire, no matter how much in denial people are in.

          • Catlover

            Even if some people aren’t telling the truth, I don’t believe they are ALL lying about what is going on. If it was just one or two people, I would say, who knows? But there are MANY people over many years! How could they ALL be lying?!?!?

            • Solenodon

              No, neither do I believe that all is lying or pure projection. It’s a total muddle.

              That’s why I hope for a competent, objective commission.

        • Joanne Clark

          Solenodon, I observed his abuse of students with my own eyes– twelve years ago and I wasn’t an insider. What he called “working” with them, I call abuse. Not calling it what it is caused me– and I think it causes others– to stop my critical faculty. So it’s important to be careful imo.

          Also, in response to this very well written and astute article, I want to add that throughout Tibetan Buddhist history, there was no situation like this one. There have been individual instances of a lama using extreme methods such as hitting etc. towards an individual, highly gifted student, but such behavior was never a mainstream Buddhist teaching method in my understanding. In fact, HHDL has made this point on several occasions.

          For example, if you look at the history of Milarepa, yes he did undergo extreme hardships under the directive of Marpa, but then he himself was never anything but kind and gentle with his own students. His main heart son, Rechungpa, was often very rebellious and even rude towards him, but Milarepa’s response was always patient and kind throughout.

          Yet Milarepa is often quoted as being some holder of the so-called “crazy wisdom” lineage. If he had been, he would have behaved towards his students the way Marpa behaved towards him– but that is not the case.

          So I think it would be useful to find sources for the claims made by Orgyen Tobgyal and investigate if they really can be used to justify SL’s behaviors. I that it might miss the point to blame what is a complete misunderstanding of the Vajrayana onto Tibetan culture or Tibetan feudalism. On the other hand, it doesn’t miss the point to blame it on a complete mis-use of the Vajrayana and a complete abuse of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

          • Catlover

            @Joanne,

            I am afraid I have to respectfully disagree with you that Sogyal is the “only” case like this. I think there are plenty of lamas who have, (and always have), abused their positions of power and they are really good at hiding it from the public. You don’t see what goes on in the monasteries, or in secret, where abuse is rampant and common. it happens here in the West, and probably even more often in places like Tibte, India and Nepal, where they don’t come under as much scrutiny. I am not saying everyone is abusive, but the problem is not confined to just Sogyal. I would say that Sogyal is an extreme example, but he is definitely not the only one who has been abusive. Look at Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche’s testimony, for example. While this wasn’t a “tantric” situation, it illustrates that abuse does happen and the way his teachers reacted and handled it, (laughing and blowing it off, and being violent against him), was horrible, imo! There are many kinds of abuses going on. Some of it is disguised under a mask of so-called “tantric” practices, but a lot of it is just plain, old, mundane style abuse, no different from any other type of abuse found in ordinary relationships. (I would say that most of it falls under the latter category actually.)

            • Joanne Clark

              Catlover, you missed my point completely. I wasn’t talking about abuse.

          • Solenodon

            The mark of a vajradhara using violent means ona student for spiritual advancement is that a, none of the people treated so subjectively feels hurt and b, they indeed quickly advance on the path.

            I personally believe most western disciples are not suited recipients for this type of treatment. But if someone is, and the teacher is qualified, I don’t mind. Just as I don’t mind if 2 people live SM and one “hurts” the other. If it’s 100% by mutual, informed agreement and both parties know what they are doing, by all means, do it.

        • Lucia

          I am waiting for that one too. And I really wish that there had been a little less relying on PR expertise and so on. We are not a company, we are supposed to be a sangha. Image control is no priority, limiting the damage to each person’s spiritual path is. Business strategies has done every one a great disservice. It should have been brought out and dealt with so many years ago. I too want truth, not BS. From either side. And at the same time, I have not a single doubt about the preciousness of the teachings I received. Yes, these two can and do co-exist. In a great many people.

          • Lucia

            “That one” is the results of the commission. I was replying to Solenodon, not Catlover/Joanne Clark’s discussion.

        • Joanne Clark

          Solenodon, I don’t think that the eight lied about the incident with the nun. All they said (in a footnote) was “Sogyal Lakar gut-punched a nun in front of an assembly of more than 1,000 students at Lerab Ling in France, August 2016.” They made no statement about her response or how injured she was. And very few deny that he punched her– and there was a large sangha response objecting to the action, so that also indicates that it was more than a “playful nudge.”

          So while you can claim that some perceive the situation differently, I think accusing the eight of “lying” in this case is not fair– and certainly their statement about the nun does not throw everything else they have said into question.

      • Sangye

        It depends who you are, Solenodon, if you can leave Rigpa without any problems. I was not able to leave that way AT ALL – they fought very hard to keep me because of my place, usefulness and what I know of the terrible abuse of students. They loved bombed, bribed, threatened and shamed me for months on end and now they threaten me with some legal investigation that is disguised as an “independent investigation” to reform their organisation. They are basically using the Scientology playbook to a lesser level but still ticking all the cult boxes!

        So you assume wrong – in cults people who are not in deep can leave easily. There are many people who told me how they tried to leave over the years but got pulled back in over and over – that was well before I even wanted to leave.

  12. matilda

    @solenodon, it is a crime if women have been coerced into sexual activity against their will. NO means NO! Haven’t you been reading the numerous media reports of Harvey Weinstein’s predatory, sleazy behaviour? Many women on these blogs have compared him with Sogyal.

    • Solenodon

      When I was 16 I was coerced into having sex by a young man. I mean, I was young an naive and believed what he had been telling me. That he wasn’t loving and adoring me but just wanted sex only dawned on me afterwards. I felt pretty used and bad afterwards.

      Was that unethical? Yes.

      Was it a criminal offense? I had agreed to the sex, if I had said no, he wouldn’t have raped me. So, no.

      • Sangye

        You are a very naive person to put it this way. So you had sex, were not forced as a child. There is no comparison to some old man telling women they have to obey his every wish as they become his attendents. Selling them the idea that sex is for their spiritual benefit – bribing, threatening them to secrecy and demanding their loyalty with spiritual threats on top. I was told by one very close attendant that it was psychological torture – she spent a long time recovering and is now outside. She is not openly critical but it is very obvious she is a survivor of abuse. One of many women.

  13. Rick New

    Dear all,

    It seems to me that members of HowDidItHappen and “WhatHappened” are both falling into the following traps (listed below.)

    These traps were evident in Rigpa decades ago and are the same traps that participants here feel they encounter when communicating with Rigpa authorities.

    Raising the same issues then was met with the same resistance as now. Early stages are more subtle, but if dealt with earlier might help to avoid repeating the same cycles.

    Can we go deeper than surface explorations of the symptoms (as outlined by the 8) and seek the deeper causes in ourselves and relations to one another?

    As participants here are pleading with Rigpa, in the same way I’m pleading for us to take a look at ourselves more critically. How did we, and how are we, participating in what happened? Might WE be starting the cycle over again?

    Thanks,

    Rick

    (P.S. Can the response to this bypass the usual hedging and pushback? To spot this, just think of the responses you get from Rigpa and don’t respond that way.)

    *****
    Groupthink:

    Collective rationalization:
    Members discredit and explain away warning contrary to group thinking.

    Belief in inherent morality:
    Members discredit and explain away warning contrary to group thinking.

    Stereotyped views of out-groups:
    The group constructs negative stereotypes of rivals outside the group.

    Direct pressure on dissenters:
    Members pressure any in the group who expresses arguments against the group’s stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, viewing such opposition as disloyalty.

    Self-censorship:
    Members withhold their dissenting views and counter-arguments.

    Illusion of unanimity:
    Members perceive falsely that everyone agrees with the group’s decision; silence is seen as consent.

    “Mind guards” are appointed:
    Some members appoint themselves to the role of protecting the group from adverse information that might threaten group complacency.

    • Lucia

      I see that too. Thank you for pointing it out!

    • Rick New

      Thanks, Solenodon.

      > Some of the claims in that letter are a blatant lie. Some of the very real problems within the organisation structure aren’t even mentioned.

      So, how do we create an environment to look into all aspects of “how it happened”?

      As we can’t really say “how it happened” for someone else, how might we keep the focus on ourselves?

      It seems like there are plenty of folks here that participated in Rigpa in various ways. How did we create an environment for individuals to feel so vulnerable and not have a place to turn?

      Are we still creating divisions and fragmentations? Do we need to look further than ourselves for the answers and solutions we seek? Can we demonstrate to the Rigpa Organization what a caring, listening community might look like, or do we carry on the problems, just now on a different ‘side’?

      • Solenodon

        There is no “the Rigpa organisation”, there are just individuals of varying caringness, of varying bigotry etc.

        Really it’s a big organisation, within Rigpa it totally depends who you are involved with. There are unhealthy microcosms, but there are equally very healthy and supporting microcosms within Rigpa.

        • Rick New

          Hi Solendon,

          Yes, agreed, there is no such thing as the “Rigpa Organization”.

          In this case the use of “Rigpa Organization” is referring to those people who hold power in the organization that this blog refers to, such as “Does Rigpa Support These Views?” I generally try to add “organization” to “Rigpa” since calling a group “Rigpa” feels a bit odd.

          My plea is that the folks behind THIS “organization” and sister blog to make an effort to practice (together) what we are requesting of the “Rigpa organization” or at least to raise and encourage that possibility through words and actions.

          My decades in Rigpa (with S.R staying at our apartment a few times) was the sangha’s way of treating one another made us more vulnerable and less able to relate to the teacher properly. I’m not blaming anyone, this seems to be the condition for many of us and may be accentuated when a dynamic figure is around.

          Perhaps we, as the third jewel, can be the “checks and balances” and support for one another we are asking for? For this to happen, it seems to me we must find a way to be with one another that doesn’t continue to focus on the teacher when we are together.

          This situation isn’t someone else’s fault (neither is it ours) but to have any hopes of preventing it from recurring, I think we need to take a deeper look at ourselves and relationship to one another.

          Everyone here is my vajra brother and sister, getting in the dharma to clear away confusion and be helpful toward one another. For some reason, we have a hard time doing that, despite our best intentions. Perhaps we could come together and try to discover what is happening?

          “Suppose we were able to share meanings freely without a compulsive urge to impose our view or conform to those of others and without distortion and self-deception. Would this not constitute a real revolution in culture. ” – DB

          Regards,

          Rick

        • Sangye

          I disagree – centralized power and authoritarian structure. That is the head of “the organisation” your analysis is weak. If there is no organisation then why does it have a charter, legal requirements, role holders, salaries and project force against it’s critics with legal actions.
          I worked for the organisation, attended organisational meetings.

          Sure on a philosophical deconstruction the name is a label applied to a changing interdependent group of people and conditions. Yet it appears – that is what emptiness – empty in nature, yet it appears and functions.
          Rigpa uses it’s label, it’s brand and it’s reputation and acts as if it believes in it’s own reality and importance. So maybe you should talk to them about that since they seem hell bent on refusing to change or admit anything due to their idea of importance and as holders of the dharma.

          • Rick New

            Hi Sangye,

            >> Sure on a philosophical deconstruction the name is a label applied to a changing interdependent group of people and conditions. Yet it appears – that is what emptiness – empty in nature, yet it appears and functions.

            The above is how I took Solendon’s comment.

            Which doesn’t discount or negate the fact that:
            “Rigpa uses it’s label, it’s brand and it’s reputation and acts as if it believes in it’s own reality and importance. ”

            But WHO uses its label? At some point a specific person has to do this. Patrick or Yvonne have to say something, if they said something different things would change.

            We can’t make anyone at the Rigpa organization change or admit anything, but we can change and take response-ability for our roles and how we participated with one another during these years.

            Perhaps there is a turning point here? Maybe we can continue to rage or we maybe we can turn toward one another and let our tears of sadness flow.

            We hold the power for change, we hold the capacity to listen and respond to one another, here and now. We can inspire our compassion to the best of our ability, embrace one another in this deeply sad time, finally turn toward one another instead of the teacher and embrace our brothers and sisters trying to take the journey of becoming fully human.

            Rick

            “There are so many unsung heroines and heroes at this broken moment in our collective story, so many courageous persons who, unbeknownst to themselves, are holding together the world by their resolute love or contagious joy. Although I do not know your names, I can feel you out there.”
            ― David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology

  14. Lucia

    Where are we at now? I agree with HH Dalai Lama in that these concerns need to be addressed, and I have no doubt that the letter writers did a great deal of soul searching before Yet I feel there is little heed being paid anymore to the importance of Right Speech and avoiding the three negative actions of speech anymore in the ensuing discussion. The subtleties get hosed out by all sorts of anger and blame on all sides. I hope that there can be true engagement and deep change, but we can never get there if at the same time we are still continuously fanning distrust and anger and dragging in all sorts of things to prove a point. I really hope that we can come back to listening. I think genuine efforts are being made. There are knockle heads on each side but luckily also level minded ones who see the greater complexity. Let’s ignore the shouters and just trust each other to start talking instead. I bet we are a majority and closer than it seems.

    • Rick New

      Thanks, Lucia.

      > The subtleties get hosed out by all sorts of anger and blame on all sides.
      Yes, the subtleties are the hardest to attend to, yet perhaps the most powerful.

      >I hope that there can be true engagement and deep change.
      Myself as well.

      > we can never get there if at the same time we are still continuously fanning distrust and anger and dragging in all sorts of things to prove a point.
      Yes, but this could be part of the process if the right environment was setup.

      > Let’s ignore the shouters and just trust each other to start talking instead.
      Might we take care here and not set up another exclusionary setting? Don’t we need all the voices, the full range of expression?

      > I really hope that we can come back to listening… trust each other to start talking instead.
      How do we set up an environment for this to occur? Is an online forum the right setting? This is an enormous task, but we are asking it of the Rigpa organization, might those here ask it of ourselves?

      There was group in Seattle that started with dialogue about SR and within a few sessions moved to deeper listening and exploration about the division between us. It lasted for a few years and is still going on in another form.

      It is easier to complain about others, but when we try and do the work ourselves, we see the difficulties right in front of us. We can see that it isn’t so easy, for ourselves or others. So, perhaps we just keep our focus on others and expect them to change. We hold the power here (as does any group in conversation with one another.)

      Thanks again,

      Rick

      • Lucia

        Hi Rick, I am trying to do the work myself too, trust me! I am also saying that we need the right environment to do that together. And patience and time, but also trust, is needed to establish that. I am not blaming others, just inviting people to not circle the wagons on any opinion but engage instead. But maybe you misread what I was saying.

        • Rick New

          > I am also saying that we need the right environment to do that together. And patience and time, but also trust, is needed to establish that. I am not blaming others, just inviting people to not circle the wagons on any opinion but engage instead. But maybe you misread what I was saying.

          Thanks, Lucia.

          Yes, when we trust (or distrust) only the teacher, somehow it seems like trust between the sangha can be eroded more easily.

          Do you see any possible next steps?

          Can we do this online or do we need to see if folks are interested in meeting face -to-face?

          P.S. Despite little response, I’ll post here again about Bohm Dialogue

          “There is a difficulty with only one person changing. People call that person a great saint or a great mystic or a great leader, and they say, ‘Well, he’s different from me – I could never do it.’ What’s wrong with most people is that they have this block – they feel they could never make a difference, and therefore, they never face the possibility, because it is too disturbing, too frightening.”
          ― David Bohm

          “If each one of us can give full attention to what is actually ‘blocking’ communication while he is also attending properly to the content of what is communicated, then we may be able to create something new between us, something of very great significance for bringing to an end the at present insoluble problems of the individual and of society.”
          ― David Bohm

    • Lucia, Thanks for reminding us to come back to right speech and that there are many level-headed people in the sangha who see the complexity of all this.

    • Bernie Schreck

      Hi Lucia, I also hope there will be sincere open communication and listening.

  15. Diane

    This is from Ken McLeod:
    Vajrayana is not a path of safety. It is not a path for everyone. Where before, out of my own enthusiasm, I would encourage people to pursue this path, now I would encourage them to think deeply before doing so. It is not safe. There are real risks. A good outcome is not guaranteed.

    • Rick New

      Thanks, Diane.

      That’s a good quote and a good reminder for us individually and a reminder that we (the sangha and container for one another) aren’t necessarily here to be vajrayana teachers to one another. Perhaps we can discover for ourselves a fresh way of relating to one another the truly supports those who jump in.

      I don’t think we can do this by constantly putting the teacher and teachings between us (positive or negative). It seems to me perhaps we need a more direct way of relating to one another.

      (P.S. Could you kindly give a reference for that quote? I’d like to see the context if possible)

      Thank you,

      Rick

    • Rick New

      Also from Ken McLeod:
      “I don’t think we should be looking for any particular model, because I don’t think there is one.”

    • Solenodon

      Since I am not clearvoiant myself and need to rely on observing behaviour, most probably a person with good intention but not clearvoiant enough to see all the time what is needed and with some personal attachments and habits not solved.

  16. Marc

    Did anyone ever study lorig? (i.e. buddhist epistemology/psychology).

    “The root of the controversy: feudalism”… SIC.

    The root of any form experienced is ones own mind. This is fundamental to Buddhism. From that perspective I hope the members of the rigpa sangha will remain “fundamentalists”. That would be a great thing… and fundamental to vajrayana.

    😉

  17. Marc

    It was Jan Paul Kool – one of the founders of Maitreya Institute in The Netherlands – who taught me: If you realy enter the path your life will not become easier, but harder.

    It is easy to practice compassion when all is going smoothly in your life, anyone can do that. But only the yogis will be able to continue to practice compassion when things get rough.

    Be a yogi. Or at least aspire to be one.

    • Joanne Clark

      Marc, HH Dalai Lama often tells the story of being chased by a mad dog– he says, if you’re being chased by a mad dog, you don’t say “emptiness emptiness.” Neither do you say “compassion compassion.” You run away!

      If your understanding of emptiness/nature of mind clouds your discernment so that you cannot see the danger being caused by the mad dog, then something is wrong with your practice. In the same way, you seem to be using a strange idea of emptiness to cloud your discernment of events that are occurring in conventional reality, events that need to be addressed — e.g. harm to Rigpa students.

      Would you tell Tibetans that the atrocities inflicted by the Chinese are only projections of their own minds and they should stop asking for help? Would you tell them that they have to “act like yogis” and stop whining about their suffering? Would you tell them that the suffering of their fellow countrymen is not valid and not real? Would you disparage their campaigns to end these troubles?

      If your understanding of emptiness or the nature of mind causes you to dismiss harm being done to another or to devalue virtue, then it sounds like nihilism to me.

      • Marc

        Joanne, HHDL example is made often in PUBLIC talks with eventually many people that do not even consider themselves a buudhist…
        What would he advise an individual student of him who practices tantra (the path of transformation)? And what would he advise and individual who practices dzogchen (path of resting in the naturemind)? And would he advise a yogi practicing dream yoga (path of illusionary reality)?

        There are three wheels in Buddhism. There as many wheels and paths as practitioners in Vajrayana. I am acquinted with the “one size fits all” reasoning on this blog by you and yours now. It doesn’t hold up! Most of it is inconsistent and thus self defeating.
        You don’t hold a secular argument like “science proofs god the creator does not exist”. You woun’t get any further with that. You have to adress a religious person’s position in his own terms, as prasangika madhyamakas (consequence school) do: they use the opponents terms, definitions, dogmas and axiomas, and show the consequence of these ultimately.

        If you criticise Vajrayana, use the terms, definitions, dogmas and axiomas of Vajrayana…

        That is how you debate, Joanne. And not by holding onto your own truth, and by reiterating your argument in your own (secular) terms. And not by selectively dharma shopping in public articles and speaches that support your wordly arguments in a vajrayana context. That would be… whazzewordagain… SPIRITUAL MATERIALIM.
        Go study debate, go study prasangika, Joanne! All Buddhist schools hold Prasangika Madhyamika as the greatest view. In all monasteries debate is part of the cirriculum. If you want to act as a Tibetan Buddhist, act like a Tibetan Buddhist.

        And if you want to force your truth onto another sentient being, go get a dog Joanne…

        😉

      • Marc

        The use of the term “nihilism” on many buddhist (controversy) blogs is erroding it’s true meaning. It is now mainly used as an ad hominem argument. And that is not an argument in debate at all!

  18. Jan de Vries

    Marc,
    Show me a sutra were the buddha is raping women as a teaching.
    If you cannot then we have the right to stand up against abuse.

    • Marc

      You don’t understand me Jan, just like Joanne. 😉

      It is not so much the teaching, it is how you experience it. Your mind is the primary cause for the experience of any object. The object “outside” us is “just” a supporting condition. (dreams show this clearly). That is what Tibetan lorig teaches us.
      It is amazing and surprising that the larger part of the Buddhist communinity lacks this knowledge of Lorig teachings. See: “The mind and it’s Functions” (Geshe Rabten). A very important and crucial teaching. For people who want to work with their mind, it is necessary to know how the mind functions. That is trivial, isn’t it?

      We do not see the world as it is, we see it as we are. Since we do not see the world directly, but by means of concepts. Probably you know the picture with an old womand and a young woman within one drawing. You cannot see both the old and the young woman at the same time. If you see the old woman, you cannot see the young woman. This is because the concepts are mutually exclusive. So you have to switch to the concept of a young woman in order to see her. Or as the famous Dutch Bodhisattva Johan Cruyff put it: “Als je het niet begrijpt, dan zie je het niet”. If you don’t get it, you don’t see it.

      Your enemy is your greatest teacher in compassion. Someone who fucks up your mind, is your master in equanimity. Someone who makes you mad, is you master in patience. If and only if you realy practice lojong (mind training).
      So from this perspective it is irrelevant who the teacher is. It can be your neighbour. And more important: it is strictly speaking also irrelevant if any act of that teacher is a bad action or a good action, SINCE it is how you take it that determines the effect of the teaching, as the lorig teaching teaches us. And the lojong teaching teaches us to see good and bad actions BOTH as an opportunity to practice.

      That was what I was saying. 😉

      And Jan, though the sutras might be the words of the Buddha. And Vajrayana accepts the Sutrayana teachings, Sutrayana is not Vajrayana. So holding a Sutrayana argument against Vajrayana is itself inconsistent. And thus it is obvious and to be expected that from that perspective actions by a Vajrayana master looks like being inconsistent with what the Buddha said. So this reasoning of yours doesn’t give you “the right to stand upagainst abause” in Vajrayana. It is selfdefeating since inconsistent.
      And Sutrayana itself might be seen as not “consistent”, since it knows three turnings of the wheel. What was taught in the third turning might be seen as contradicting the first two turnings…
      In a way, the same holds for holding worldly arguments against Vajrayana, or legal claims against a vajramaster.

      And if all who think that this abuse is outrageous and illegal: sue SR immediatly! Just making accusations in the media without holding them up in court, as on this blog, doesn’t win a beauty-contest of civility. If you take a wordly and legal term as “abuse” in your mouth, you should honour legal standards in order to not be inconsistent. So please respect the presumtion of innocence: “ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat”.

      Please, please, please do not see my writing as supporting abuse. As many on this blog erronously do. Please see it as an alternative way to look at this “controversy”. A way to take suffering on your path when suffering occurs. Doing so will completely dissolve the so called “controversy”… from ones own “spiritual” perspective. So if you want to handle a trauma as a buddhist, practice lojong!

      • Marc

        So if a master beats up his student, this is not in itself a purification of karma, it is how the student takes it, uses it in his practice that makes it a purifycation of karma.

        The sillyness of the interpretation that the action of the master is in itself beneficial for the student’s karma! What a laugh for someone who has practiced for decades! It would imply that a master can change your karma! Absurd!

        But the eight wrote something along this line:
        “We no longer believe that your acts of crazy wisom is beneficial for us”. Indeed! If you look at it thát way, then it is no longer beneficial for you.

      • Catlover

        @Marc,

        I don’t claim to be an expert on Buddhism, but the teachings you describe here are actually (for a change) standard Buddhist teachings. I have heard them before, many times, about thinking that your enemy is your greatest teacher, etc. These teaching aren’t really separate from “sutirc” teachings because I have heard them givenin a “sutric” context, as well as a “tantric” one. Where people go wrong is to think that Sutra isn’t Tantra, and Tantra isn’t Sutra. Tantra is built on Sutra and is not separate from it. To understand Tantra properly, one must realize this and not make the mistake of thinking Sutra doesn’t matter in the context of Tantra. Sutra is like the foundation of the house, (or the mandala, if you prefer), and without that foundation, it falls to the ground. Tantra is supposed to be built on a solid foundation of Sutra and be grounded in basic, fundamental Buddhist teachings. Otherwise it is no longer BUDDHIST Tantra, but something else. While the teachings you mention here are absolutely legitimate Buddhist teachings, they are NOT meant o give license to teachers, or anyone else, to just do anything they please to anyone with no regard for anyone’s well being. You’re supposed to take suffering onto the path, BUT it is generally understood that the suffering comes about naturally. It is not deliberately inflicted on others, just for the sake of showing them how to take suffering onto the path. For teachers to just lash out at their students, who aren’t even all that advanced, and expect them to take their abuses as “suffering on the path” is a twisted way to use (and abuse) those teachings. If the teachings were meant to be used that way, there would be no point in being compassionate to anyone. After all, why wouldn’t it be better to just inflict pain on others so that they can “purify” their karma? So why be nice to anybody? Taking these teachings to the extreme isn’t helpful to anyone, imo. It is one thing to graciously take whatever suffering arises NATURALLY in ones life and bring them onto the path, and work with difficult circumstances and people, etc. But for a spiritual teacher to inflict suffering on others just because he is throwing a temper tantrum, and he thinks he can do no wrong, that is just unacceptable! Spiritual teachers should be held to higher standards. Even tantric teachers need to understand the CONTEXT where secret “crazy wisdom” teachings are actually beneficial, or when a student would not be ready for that kind of teaching. If you’re not supporting and endorsing abuse with your posts, then what ARE you trying to say? Yes, we GET it that you are saying we should take suffering onto thew path and work with our minds, etc. There is nothing wrong with saying that, but what has that got to do with acknowledging when a teacher has gone off the deep end? For Sogyal’s own sake, something needs to be done about it. You’re right that legal action should be taken, but before that can happen, people need to be talking about it and establishing clear boundaries about what is right or wrong in the context of a Vajrayana teacher/student relationship. There is so much confusion around this issue, that it really needs to be clarified once and for all. only then can one decide what is or is not appropriate.

        • Catlover

          Also, people have tried to sue Sogyal, and it never went very far yet. So, are we not supposed to talk about it at all until people are finally able to successfully sue him? What about in the meantime? Are people just supposed to ignore the abuses of Sogyal, and other lamas who are like him?

          • Marc

            What about in the meantime? Trial by media! Hang ‘m high! it saves in the legal costs. But it will make civil society into a jungle. And it is the nail on the coffin of secret tantrayana.

            Please spare me the reiteration of your wordly arguments, Catlover. Reiteration doesn’t make it stronger. Jump out of your comfort zone please. Or stick with the cats and sutrayana.

        • Marc

          Catlover wrote in her opening sentence:
          “I don’t claim to be an expert on Buddhism, but the teachings you describe here are actually (for a change) standard Buddhist teachings. ”

          Starting with an ad hominem: “Marc is talking rubbish, don’t listen to him.” is what is written here. Just like the “nihilism” by Joanne. Don’t ever learn how to respect your discussion partner? Don’t just claim I am in error. Substantiate it!

          I know well what tantra and sutra is. Tantra might very well contradict the Sutrayana teachings. Sutrayana is the path of renunciation. Tantra is the path of transformation. So the METHOD differs!!! So it is obvious that methodology differs between sutric and tantric masters.

          You are mixing things up by throwing them all together on one heap. You will probaby also think there is one buddhist philosophy that is the “right” and “only”. Probably you will think it is Madhyamaka. Not realizing that there are four schools in Buddhist philosophy according Tibetans: Vaibashika, Sautrantika, Cittamatra nd Madhymaka. They differ all four on their definitions of relative and ultimate reality. But they are all considered buddhist by Tibetan Buddhist scholars. Why? Becasue this distinction is only made by the Tibetans…

          Your worldview is, as many of this blog, that lamas are babysitters. They are not. Especially not in tantra and dzogchen. You want a smooth and happy path. So Sutrayana is your way to go Catlover, like all of the (guest) authors of this blog. You are either not ready for tantra, or you jumped in head over heels. Acknowledge thát too, before you start pointing at the methodolgy of a tantric master.

          Your (cultural) prejudice about the meaning of what “compassion” is, and what a “compasionate teacher” is, is like fairytale. You can only see actions that are accepted as compassionate from a western secular perspective, as the “true and right and thus only compassion”. While it is so obvious that when a teacher sees that breaking your heart, or stealing your IPhone, is the way to make you break through your habitual patterns, thát is the most wise and compassionate thing to do. But the innocent bystander will say: what a blunt and harsh guy that is.

          Ask yourself Catlover. Who is going to decide FROM A TANTRIC POINT OF VIEW if “a teacher has gone off the deep end”? A bunch of sutrayana teachers? A bunch of spritual materialist buddhists? A bunch of Western ethical Buddhists? A western court? The pope? The isalamic state?
          Nobody decides BUT your matser! The result ON THE LONG RUN will decide what was the good or bad thing to do.

          If your teacher steels or wrecks your IPhone. Sue him! 😉

          • Catlover

            @Marc,

            Wow, you are so far out in outer space that I am not going to respond to all your comments. It’s just not worth it. All I can say is that I don’t think you really know as much about Buddhism as you think you do. As you yourself have said, you study Bon, so are you sure you understand Buddhism from a Buddhist perspective and not a Bon one? I am not disparaging Bon, but it sounds like you are speaking from another kind of viewpoint that is not strictly Buddhist. I realize that Tantra is different from Sutra, but it is BUILT on Sutra and that is what makes BUDDHIST Tantra different from Hindu Tantra, or Bon tantra. Get it?

            As for your accusation that I started out by insulting you, I did not. I said you were actually talking about a correct teaching in Buddhism, but the way you were twisting it is the problem. I am not discussing this any further. If Tantra is really as you describe, then I guess Sutra is the path for me, if any. I am wondering if ANY Buddhism is the right path for me at this point, and I am still trying to sort out what is really Buddhism, and what is just b.s. from people who don’t understand the teachings. or maybe I don’t understand the teachings and they really are as bad as people are twisting them, and I am the one who is making them better than they really are. It’s not an easy task to sort it out, especially with some of the the people here. I can say that I don’t like what Buddhism seems to do to people. It doesn’t really give me more faith in the teachings and I start to wonder if Buddhism just makes people crazy or cold hearted, because it seems like that’s how a lot of Buddhist come across.

            IF I ever wanted to come back to Tantra, I would definitely NOT choose a teacher like Sogyal or DKR, so I don’t care what they say about it! I think the Dalai Lama’s views sound much more sane, and you can’t say he’s not a Tantric teacher because he is. Fortunately, there are OTHER teachers to choose from besides Sogyal and DKR, and they do NOT all say the same b.s. stuff, thank heavens! So, just because I don’t agree with someone like Sogyal, that does not mean I can’t have another teacher, or follow a more sane version of Tantra. YOU are doing the exact same thing you accuse me of. You are saying; “MY path is the ONLY right way, and if you disagree with me, you’re wrong.” I am signing out of this discussion for now.

            • Catlover

              And in answer to your question about who should decide….it should be a combination, but mostly the STUDENTS who should decide who they are going to choose as a guru. it is NOT up to the master. You have it switched around.

              • Catlover

                It’s up to STUDENTS to decide when a teacher has gone off the deep end, based on STUDY of the proper teachings. The Dalai Lama keeps telling people to study more, and boy is he right about that!!!! And by the way, studying is not just a “sutric” thing.

              • Catlover

                If a master is not appropriate, then it is up to the STUDENTS to LEAVE the lama. It says so in the Kalachakra TANTRA. Yes, the Kalachakra Tantra, not Sutra! I am so annoyed now, that I will sign off for now!

              • Marc

                The tantras say that a student should check the master for twelve years… to prevent impulsive behaviour based on unrealistic exotic fantasies. Tantra is not a candybar, or a disposable cigarettelighter Catlover. And a guru is not a pet.

                Lorig teaches that it is not that what is “outside”us , that makes us annoyed. That is “just” the object condition. So when annoyed, it shows ourselves our own level of practice.
                Run away from that what annoys you, don’t even bother “to sit with it” and let it self-liberate. That is yogis. Go jump to another webpage… with beautiful malas and prayer flags for sale. Or with beautiful pics of monasteries in the Himalaya. And have a quick look at facebook in the Western Ethical Buddhist Group,and give some likes to my friends. Maybe meet a new master to join our friends list. Hi Lama! You are my 328 friend and 3rd guru, all for one mouseclick.

              • Marc

                Yazz I have it switched around. Ofkoz, Catlover! Now I see it!

                It is up to the student what and how the guru teaches. The only thing a teacher should do is to meet the students needs and wants. The spiritual path is a kinda teacher and teaching shopping. Customer is king, the teacher better deliver. If not he is fired, and we get another guru. The guru has absolutely no say whom he takes as student.

                SRY Catlover, I forgot we are in the West… 😉

                Boy oh boy, have I got it wrong. I completely lost face in front of all the long term practitioners on this highly sophisticated blog. I have made a fool of myself.

            • Marc

              Catlover. I met Sogyal Rinpoche in 1986. And I studied the bodhicaryavatara, the madhyamakavatara, the abhisamayaalankara, drub tha, lorig, lojong and lam rim at a gelug center with a geshe for over a decade starting in 1991. I first met Bön masters in 2007 and took refuge in 2015…

              Spare me your silly preconceptions Catlover. You disgrace yourself with it, and the underhand ad hominems. Realzie yourself that like-minded people woun’t bring you any further. And self-pity is bad therapy for trauma. It makes it worse.

              • Catlover

                @Marc,

                I had to laugh at some of your comments, LOL! Thanks for making my day funny.

                Did I say Tantra was some disposable thing, or that one would just causally go find another guru if they didn’t happen to like their teacher? I didn’t say that, so quit twisting what I say. But I did say that students need to have the wisdom to see when their teacher has gone off the deep end. If the teachings don’t give students at least that much perception, then what is the point of the teachings? A good teacher would be the kind that promotes self sufficancy, study, knowledge and the tools for using their OWN wisdom. I’m not saying the teacher doesn’t have a role, but a GOOD teacher doesn’t make the student too dependent on him/her. Self pity? Really, lol?

                I’ve got to stop responding to your posts. Where did everyone else go, btw? Did we chase them all away? 😀 I will let other people comment now.

  19. Catlover

    P.S. I didn’t say that the student dictates what the teacher teaches, but the student needs the wisdom to a) see that a teacher is a good teacher, after checking them out, and b) if that teacher goes crazy down the road, the student needs the wisdom to know when to say bye, bye. Anyone with common sense will understand what I mean….I hope. Any other people want to comment?

    • Catlover

      Clarification…
      “Did I say Tantra was some disposable thing, or that one would just causally go find another guru if they didn’t happen to like their teacher?” I shouldn’t word it that way. Of course, if one really doesn’t like the teacher for a good reason, (like if he comes along with something sharp and hits you (causing scars and serious injuries), or pulls your ear and causes blood, one should find a teacher that doesn’t do those things. 😀

    • Marc

      Kicking open an open door Catlover…

      But it exactly shows where it lacked the eight:
      – not taking the time to check the guru, and jumping into tantra based on exotic preconceptions .
      – being entangled in ones own web of “spiritual habits” and therefor lacking the courage to free oneself from ones guru. Not realizing we all have to free ourselves from Buddhism. Paraphrased as: “When you meet the Buddha kill him!”

      • Catlover

        Did you see this yet? One of the Dalai Lama’s more recent statements against corruption and abuse in religious institutions. He mentions Sogyal and Rigpa during this statement. If this website doesn’t accept my link, it is posted on the ‘What Now’ board.

        • Catlover

          And here is the most obvious, clear statement of all, where he specifically mentions Sogyal and says he abused and deceived his students. A very brief mention, but you can’t say he isn’t talking about Sogyal specifically. It was during a long talk, so he mentions Sogyal at 2:24:30.

          His Holiness says:

          “So, Sogyal Rinpoche was disgraced recently in America and so he may be learned but without any practice and experience of the teaching. Therefore being… abusing disciples… deceiving them. And so there were people in Taiwan and other places, in Tibet also this happens.”

          • Catlover

            Here is the link.

            • Marc

              Yazz… reiterate your position Catlover… it makes it stronger. 😉

              “Abuse” in a tantric student-teacher relation cannot be compared one on one to ordinary abuse, for example on the working place. Secondly it cannot be judged without looking at it from a spiritual perspective. These points are missing on this blog. And therefor it is necessary for the the long term practitioners to frame themselves as “ordinary practitioners” that were uninformed about tantra in order to make their position more credible.

              So what is left is the following unanswered questions that should be adressed by the authors:
              Did the eight authors of the letter investigate the teacher thoroughly or was their choice based on impulses , exotic preconceptions and fantasies? And why did it take so long to protest? And why did it take so long to leave? And why does it take so long to go to court? And why is the presumption of innocence not honoured when the authors emphasize the legal side of this issue so much, and downplay the spiritual and tantric side as only for yogis. Why are the authors so afraid of breaking samaya as a consquence of all this? And why are the consequences for the master and Buddhism in general almost ignored? And why is it necessary to frame oneself as ordinary practitioner in order to make the case as a victim? Why is the silly interpretation -by long term practitioners- of purification of karma presented in the letter where an action (in itself!!!) by another(!!!) is presented as beneficial for oneself!!!? And why are these questions not answered on this blog? For the eventual negative consequences in court? For not loosing face in public? For worldly concerns?

              Why are Bernie and Sandra, and guest author Joanne so awfully quiet on these questions that were raised before? And why are only supportive articles presented on this blog, and not a single critical article? Why are the supporters shopping selectively in public articles with general statements on the teacher-student relation that support their case? Why do they ignore the personal level?
              Why are critics commanded: “You have to leave this blog”. Why are critics called nihilists? Why is their understanding of Buddhism called into question, without any substantiation? Why are critics attacked with ad hominem arguments? Why are the authors only seeking confirmation with like-minded friends?

              And again you come up with a minimal remark by HHDL in a PUBLIC TALK in which there may be many non-buddhist listeners. What would HHDL have advised someone who practices tantra or dzogchen when they would personally adress him? They woud get a spiritual advice instead of a worldly adive I am sure.

          • Marc

            “SR was disgraced” versus “SR disgraced himself”….
            Tsja, HHDL and Marc are not native speakers. Is there any difference in meaning) So what did HHDL actually say? 😉

            You all are blind for the real meaning of the words of HHDL. You only want to hear in his words what you want to hear. And thís is the pivotal point on this ophrah-winfry-self-help-blog: selective perception. WYSIWYG.

            • Catlover

              It’s true that this is a public talk, so HHDL’s advice might be different. But he did say in the second video that Sogyal was “learned but without any practice and experience of the teaching. Therefore being… abusing disciples… deceiving them.” It doesn’t matter if we are talking about Sutra or Tantra, because those words are critical, regardless of the context. Or are you saying HHDL is lying in public, but at a Tantric teaching, he would say something more like what DKR said? He may not talk about Tantra in public, but do you think he would actually lie and say that Sogyal was “abusing disciples… deceiving them” and then in private, he would say the 8 are breaking their samaya?

              So, what is HHDL really saying then? I am open to listening to a new perspective on what you think the ‘real meaning’ behind his words might be. So far, you seem to be reading into what he said, rather than looking at what he actually said, (which is what you think I’m doing.) So is there any way to determine what he *actually* said, personal wishes aside?

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