How Did It Happen?

Understanding and Healing Abuse in Buddhist Communities

Shambhala & Rigpa Call Abuse Victims Liars

Bells

Buddhist Project Sunshine has released its Phase 3 Final Report on sexualized violence at the core of the Shambhala Buddhist Community.  You can download the report here. Be sure to read Carol Merchasin’s investigative report at the very end of the document.  It’s easy to miss, but it contains important details concerning the alleged sexual assaults and misconduct as well as a timeline.

The Phase 3 Buddhist Project Sunshine report contains:

  • New claims of sexual misconduct on the part of Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo (Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche), Shambhala’s spiritual head and main teacher.
  • The names of Shambhala leaders alleged to have been involved in group sexual assault, individual rape, present or serving as attendants during such assaults, or procuring women for Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo.
  • Pema Chödrön’s alleged response to a Shambhala rape victim.

Shambhala’s Denial Statement

In response, the outgoing governing council (called the Kalapa Council) has issued a denial on August 23 which says, in part:

We want to be clear to you, our community, that based on the information provided, Shambhala, the Sakyong and the four Board members named in these allegations categorically deny the substance of the allegations, which are not only unfounded, but are each based on speculative and unsubstantiated claims. The publication of such salacious and defamatory information is grossly irresponsible.

This statement seems in contradiction both in substance and in tone to previous statements from the Shambhala organization, which acknowledged that sexualized violence has occurred in the community.

Similarities Between Shambhala and Rigpa Denials

This statement from Shambhala uses language similar to that used in Rigpa statements issued in response to abuse allegations, beginning in 1994 going forward to the present.  Words like:

  • allegations
  • unfounded
  • defamatory
  • we take claims of misconduct extremely seriously
  • those who have felt harm (as opposed to those who have been harmed)
  • attempts to discredit (the independent investigation)
  • healing and rebuilding of our community

What Does Unfounded Really Mean?

In the article, Lies, Damned Lies, & Lerab Ling, Part 1, Jo Green points out what it actually means when you use the word “unfounded:”

‘Unfounded’ is the pernicious little word behind which they pompously stand, but let’s be clear about what they are saying. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as ‘not based on fact; untrue’. The Oxford English Dictionary says: ‘Having no foundation or basis in fact.’ So what Sam Truscott did was call all the letter writers LIARS. He also called every woman brave enough to talk about being sexually abused by Sogyal Rinpoche a LIAR. Likewise, he branded every trustee or director who ever spoke up about abuse a LIAR.

Rigpa has used the word “unfounded” in almost every response to abuse allegations beginning with the lawsuit filed by Janice Doe in 1984.

In essence Rigpa and Shambhala are calling every person who has alleged abuse a liar along with anyone who claims to have witnessed it.

You might wonder, what were Rigpa and Shambhala leaders talking about between sessions of the first datum ever held at Rigpa at the beginning of this year?  Prior to this Shambhala has completely ignored Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa.

Wait, What About the Public Apology?

In his public apology, Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo stated:

…there have been times when I have engaged in relationships with women in the Shambhala community. I have recently learned that some of these women have shared experiences of feeling harmed as a result of these relationships. I am now making a public apology.

And…

In addition, I would like you to know that over the years, I have apologized personally to people who have expressed feeling harmed by my conduct, including some of those who have recently shared their stories. I have also engaged in mediation and healing practices with those who have felt harmed. Thus I have been, and will continue to be, committed to healing these wounds.

In a second letter to the Shambhala community, he says

In a state of complete heartbreak, I write to you, humble, embarrassed, and thoroughly apologetic for disappointing you. I feel a tremendous amount of sorrow for the pain, confusion, and anger that our sangha is experiencing. I accept accountability for this pain, and want to express my commitment to personal growth.

He also spoke about “struggling with unhealthy power dynamics and alcohol.

But these statements are carefully crafted when they say ‘people or women who have expressed feeling harmed.’   This language implies that it was an individual’s perception that has no basis in objective reality.

Abuse victims need to hear apologies, not denial.  Honest confessions and genuine apologies can reduce the degree of traumatic stress experienced by victims.  The more organizations issue denials, the more harm they induce for victims.

But Didn’t Shambhala Acknowledge Sexual Misconduct?

On February 12, the leadership of the Shambhala community issued a statement acknowledging systemic sexual misconduct in the community.  They stated:

In our complex history there have been instances of sexual harm and inappropriate relations between members and between teachers and students.

And…

We are still emerging from a time in which such cases were not always addressed with care and skill. In particular, inappropriate or even abhorrent sexual behavior by some men in the community has caused some women to feel unsafe. Members have at times not felt heard or have been treated as though they are a problem when they tried to bring complaints forward. We are heartbroken that such pain and injustice still occurs.

So why now the sudden turn back into denial?  Is it only denial of the current allegations?

Michael Scott, attorney for Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo, has stated:

“…the Sakyong categorically denies assaulting anyone, sexually or otherwise, sexual contact with minors, or any other criminal offense.”

Too Many Reports of Abuse

It’s hard for me not to believe the allegations in the latest Project Sunshine report. I’ve seen the same kinds of serial non-monogamous sexual relationships with single and married students take place in Rigpa.  I’ve seen the same logistics occur vís-a-vís organizational leaders and attendants when it comes to setting up “dates” for the spiritual teacher.

These ways seem endemic to the feudal influence prevalent in some Buddhist organizations, which the Dalai Lama has said must stop.  So it doesn’t surprise me that they would occur in Shambhala too.

Some of these relationships have been consensual.  But other women say they were seduced into sexual activity through spiritual promises and told to keep vows of silence about the activity.  They report sexual harm.  Others have reported physical abuse.

At least Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo has acknowledged inappropriate behavior in some instances.

Leaders in Rigpa, on the other hand, continue in complete denial. They may feel they can deny the allegations because they see sexual activity with the teacher as a blessing and physical abuse as part of spiritual training.  That’s what I believed when I was a leader in Rigpa.  That’s what Rigpa students are told again and again.

At least for me, there have been too many reports of harm to believe the allegations are unfounded.  And I know what I’ve seen with my own eyes.

In their August 23, Shambhala’s outgoing governing body also says,

Our focus remains on the appropriate healing and rebuilding of our community, especially as we move through this leadership transition.

It would seem that healing and rebuilding the community takes precedence over the victims’ healing.  But how can healing in the community even begin if you call all the women and men who have come forward to report abuse and all those who say they have witnessed abuse liars?


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50 Comments

  1. I had hoped that Shambala would handle the revelations of sexual abuse better than Rigpa, but, unfortunately, they are making the same mistakes. As you point out, they are, just like the Catholoc Church was, more interested in keeping their community together than reaching out to victims and asking what they can do for them. Any healing they speak of is only for those still in the community, not for those who may have paid out thousands of dollars for therapy or who haven’t the funds to pay for therapy they need.

    And the idea of ‘mediation’ in a rape case is highly inappropriate as was indicated in the report. All it would do is increase the trauma of the victim.

    One part of the report I found particulary powerful was Andrea’s questioning of the importance of the lineage. Apparently people want to retain the Sakyong and expect him to return to his role. Rigpa is doing this too in hanging onto Sogyal as their lama, rather than denouncing him and becoming a truly rime organisation that brings all sorts of teachers in rather than follow just one master.

    Do both communities really want a lineage based on people who have proved themselves unfit for the role?

    As Andrea says, here is the opportunity to create a community based on equality and merit, rather than on fuedalism. Unfortunately, the outright denial indicates that they have already missed that opportunity.

    I suspect that in the end, as in Rigpa, if you don’t want to be part of a lineage where teachers see nothing wrong with watching or even participating in a rape, you will need to leave.

    Even if they suddenly feel remorse for unethical deeds done or covered up for someone else, it is a brave and rare person who is willing to give up power and priviledge.

    • ruth yeomans

      “One part of the report I found particulary powerful was Andrea’s questioning of the importance of the lineage…” I remember discussing long ago with some other Zen students (which I was at the time) the instances of sexual abuses by certain Zen “masters.” A phrase one of them used has stuck with me: “What is the lineage we are supposed to be protecting? It is the Profound Lineage of Sexual Abusers.”

    • Tahlia,

      In the end, like you, I don’t think either of these organizations will substantially change. I don’t see how they can provide a safe space for students as long as they subscribe to an authoritarian model that idolizes the teacher and puts him beyond reproach. Those are important questions to explore about lineage. I never took Rime to me that you don’t follow one teacher, but I see you understand it differently.

      • Barbara van Schaik

        Just about the Rime part: I too didn’t see it following one teacher – quite the reverse. That one does not belong to one of the TB sects, but accepts teachings from all. And in fairness, regarding this point only, S(R) did bring in teachers from all the denominations – at least when I was his student from ‘85 – ‘90. Just this only – I don’t know what happened re other teachers after that.

        • Joanne Clark

          I think the idea of “lineage” they were talking about in the report was more precise than the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, so it wasn’t really about Rime– it was about CTR’s lineage. I remember hearing an odd story about one of my former teachers, the abbott of Karmapa’s monastery in New York. He was just finishing an advanced teaching with a group of students who had finished three year retreat with him. As he was leaving, he became emotional and turned to face the group and proclaimed, “You, all of you, are holders of my lineage.”

          I never quite figured out what he meant by that because he was clearly a devoted follower of Karmapa’s, so he was a holder of that lineage, the Karma Kagyu– but I think he was talking about his own lineage. And I’ve seen it in other places, where Tibetans use the term “lineage” to describe a set of teachings by a renowned teacher. In the case of Shambhala, CTR was a Kagyu lama, so his “lineage” was Kagyu– but then he started this new thing and they have some new terms for everything and it’s a “lineage” that can be broken if his son is no longer in charge. A little strange.

          And you see it also in the New Kadampa Tradition– they now talk about the precious Kadampa lineage of Geshe-Kelsang-La.

          To give SL credit, he never did any of that. I think he was pretty Rime– but now Rigpa is holding fast to their loyal Nyingma leadership.

          I also felt a bit gutted reading the bit about Pema Chodron,

          • Petra

            Lineage in this context means the individual vajrayana transmissions the teacher practices, holds and is qualified to transmit, not the dharma tradition he is practicing in as a whole, like Nygingma or Kagyu.

            In the case of the Nyingma school that very often means a particular terma tradition, like the Longchen Nytingthik cycle of teachings and vajrayana transmissionjs revealed by Jigme Lingpa, that is one of the most wide spread Nyingma vajrayana lineages.

            In the case of Chogyam Trungpa, he apparently had some terma teachings revealed to him about Shambala. Apparently these termas have been confirmed by other, renowned teachers, so they are probably valid.
            Now Shambala, the organisation claims that Trunpa’s son is the only one who currently holds these Shambala terma teachings. Holding a teaching means, you got the vajrayana transmission from your teacher and practiced them to a level where you yourself are able to transmit them to a next generation of students, of whom again hopefully some practice them to a level where they can transmit them to the next generation. And so on. That’s how a vajrayana teaching is handed down through the generations, in an unbroken lineage. That’s the term lineage that is referred here.

  2. Henrietta

    In my view the law is the only way forward. As long as these men and their followers believe that spiritual blessings come with sexual abuse, women and most alarmingly children continue to be at risk. It is an imperfect process? Of course – but the alternative (they get away with it) is unacceptable and dangerous and makes Buddhism seem like a thoroughly corrupted religion – much like the abuse in the Catholic Church – which means it’s true and beautiful teachings will be never be heard by generations who might have others been drawn to it. Save the lineage? Keep the teachings alive? Bring charges.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective, Henrietta. It is so sad that Buddhism will no be tainted by the actions of teachers like these.

    • Petra

      The problem here is, most of these women were not physically assaulted but emotionally pressured to saying yes or coerced with false promises of a spiritual benefit.
      And just as with women in a worldly situation who are coerced with emotional pressure or made false promises by some a-hole, this behaviour is not punishable (I had my first time with an a-hole like that in a totally worldly context)

      The only thing that would help is if priests would by law subjected to the same restraining policy as are physicians and psychotherapists, which is justified because the psychological function of their profession towards the followers is quite similar so the potential for abuse is the same.

      • Sangye

        Petra, you have no idea what you are talking about. There is violence, subjegation, crimes of psychological deception with ill intent. Lineages of dodgy revelations abound and its oh so convenient for every teacher to hold se unique terma. please spare me your authoritative fallacies. There ate always cronies tp validate these con artists.

  3. Pam Rubin

    this is spot on! good work!

  4. Sangye

    Leadership transition where people with some moral or ethical strength leave and those who apparently want to rewrite history take their place. Speaking our truth … i just got a comment back at me today – I’m harming people by just standing up with the truth and naming people for who they are. People are actually renaming them all as Bodhisattva’s and saying I’m in deep trouble for “speaking against Bodhisattvas” and so I wonder where they heard this. That is a sign of the kind of dialogue that pervades on the inside.
    As for unfounded … it is founded by apologies for the very things – the basis is confirmed by Mipham and by Sogyal in the previous case with Rigpa. So yes, they call their own lamas a liar when they say unfounded.

    Rebuilding the community means replacing people who left with new victims to be exploited, trained and programmed into the group think of a cult.

    • Sangye,

      I’m so sorry people are using the teachings to criticize you for speaking up. Clearly, people are worlds apart on this topic. Personally, I think it will always be like this. Some people will continue to place their faith in the hands of abusive teachers believing their actions to be enlightened.

  5. Julia

    This is great–thank you. The lawyer for the leader of Shambhala is actually explicitly denying ALL allegations now. Their statement is in multiple places but here is part of one at the end of an article in TriCylce: Michael “Scott also noted that the Sakyong’s public apology to “anyone who feels they have been harmed” sent out on June 25 “should not be misinterpreted as a validation of the accusations being advanced by Ms. Winn and her associates. The Sakyong categorically denies that he has ever participated in any activity that could be construed as a “sexual assault”, attempted or otherwise, sexual contact with minors, or any other criminal offence.” Scott declined to comment further “out of respect for the independent investigation.”

    • Thank you for this update, Julia. You can see in his previous statements the way it was always carefully frame in language like women who have “felt” harmed, as if it was only their perception with no objective validity.

  6. Richard Sanders

    Hi. Consider this as a partial remedy for (spiritual) sex-based abuse.

    Public (spiritual) figures are not entitled to private lives. This radical notion seems necessary since it currently takes forever (and so many victims) for the public to find out what guru is a serial sleep around-er, closet physical/sexual/psychological abuser and so on. Would seem an economy of sorts to front-end load this personal information.

    I therefore suggest that, as the first step in public figures going transparent, public figures publish a complete log of all sexual activity.

    I realise this degree of exposure doesn’t do much for the plausible deniability cloaking sexual activity in social settings. However, beings gender-up as they leave the Bardo [of the Intermediate State], and, for many of these incarnation-bound beings, managing sexual desire is an on-going issue during much of the Bardo of Life.

    Although I doubt the radical transparency proposed here would mortally wound patriarchy, radical transparency might make the sexual component of patriarchy less compelling.

    • Thank you, Richard. Celibacy is another option, although that hasn’t worked so well for the Catholic Church. So yes, perhaps transparency would be the best option.

      • Joanne Clark

        You know, the scriptures aren’t too explicit about what is and isn’t sexual misconduct for laymen and women, especially the Tibetan commentaries. So it seems like the future has to hold some idea of putting things into writing in the West. Creating guidelines for qualifications of teachers, as well as ethical frameworks, which must at least be on the level of Western laws.

  7. Sunny

    I don’t believe the statement in the title is correct: “Shambhala & Rigpa Call Abuse Victims Liars”.

    Provided is a definition of the word ‘unfounded’ (which is used in the rebuttal by the two organizations) as ‘untrue, not based in fact’, but no definition of the word ‘lie’ – which is ‘an intentionally false statement’. To me, those are two different things.

    Maybe you think this is splitting hairs, but from my personal experience, it does make a difference if I say something intending to mislead or if I am saying something believing it to be true, when it is not.

    Regards

    • I see your point, Sunny. They didn’t literally call them liars, but it could be the meaning they intend because false allegations or unfounded allegations can come about through intentional lying or unintentional confabulation. I’ve heard enough people in Rigpa say the complainants are lying to know that some belief this to be the case. Thanks for sharing this perspective.

  8. Edmund Butler

    Thanks for this, Sandra.

    So while Michael Scott as the Sickone’s lawyer rejects every allegation against him, Alex Halpern as the organisation’s lawyer will soon, personally, be the first to receive Wickwire Holm’s report on their socalled independent investigation into them. The investigation is currently harrassing survivors, who in any case have no need for Wickwire to investigate what they have in most cases known for years, namely that their allegations are well founded.

    Upon receiving Wickwire’s Report, Halpern will then decide what information contained in it should be made publicly available. Any of the deluded remaining students of this sham buddhist fake lineage who are expecting transparency in this process need a reality check.

    Had these allegations been false, Sham would have denied them a year ago, when they first became aware of (most of) them. Clearly they know that there is no defence for them here and the organisation has been mismanaged into spiritual, moral and financial bankruptcy over decades. The systemic, abhorrent abuse has been criminal in many cases and the coverups, plentiful. Buddhism, everywhere is going to be well served by the demise of the charlatan leadership and administration of this Sangha. Their path to influence should be closely examined so that such abuse may be avoided in future, and with reporters like yourself, Sandra, I feel certain that it will.

    My own experience with this group is documented here:

    shambhalacrime.wordpress.com

    I encourage all survivors to publish their stories online as far as they feel comfortable. It seems that it is only via public protest that these people can be persuaded to feel any kind of shame for their immoral acts and misrepresentations as devout leaders in western buddhism.

    • Edward, Thanks for clarifying the process of the investigation. I was also confused why an investigation would be necessary in Rigpa because I know that some of those in leadership positions know the allegations to be true, they might just perceive them as appropriate enlightened activity.

  9. Petra

    Unfortunately in cases like this on top of people who have legitimate complaints about abuses they have suffered a situation like this attracts people with an ax to grind who jump on the bandwagon and fabricate something.

    And while, as in Rigpa, with so many independently made complaints that on top of it show a clear pattern, it’s clear that behaviour of this type has happened.

    But I would be very careful to in a reflex believe each and any accusation made in the wake of this, particularly if it doesn’t fit the pattern of the majority of victim’s reports.

    In dharma circles I have met the nicest, most honest, down to earth people, but also a fair share of total wackjobs, the delusional mentally ill and malicious people.

    So, as with all news, the grain of salt along with all that disgraceful news goes a long way. There is a truth in there somewhere, but in a reflex believing each and any complaint made will not necessarily be that truth.

    • Petra,

      Thank you, this is an important point to keep in mind too. What you’ve said is true too. At the end of the Project Sunshine Phase 3 report, you’ll find an investigator’s report, which I feel brings a measure of credibility to the claims.

  10. Rick New

    Tracing back, “How Did It Happen?”

    Peter Senge: Well, there’s obviously a much more profound way to say this, but we basically create organizations, which are like matter. They are manifest, right? Rules, regulations, structures. And then, we become prisoners of those organizations. So you can see how disintegrating this is.

    First off, we often don’t take any responsibility for what we have created, which is obviously patently absurd at some level. Organizations work the way they work because human beings create them that way! It isn’t the laws of physics. And then people’s baseline reality, what they often report, is that “the system is doing it to me.

    It’s always something external to me, some thing which is now imposing itself on me. So you might very well say, “Thought creates organizations, and then organizations hold human beings prisoner,” or as David Bohm used to say, “Thought creates the world and then says ‘I didn’t do it.'” One very simple way to think about everything we are doing is to just take that simple aphorism of Bohm’s and say, “Thought creates the world”; and then what if it says, “I did it”? That would be the reintegration of mind and matter. That would be like saying, “Oh! Our organizational systems are ridiculous. How did we create these?”

    To me, the essence of what systems thinking is all about is people beginning to consciously discover and conceptually explain and account for how their own patterns of thought and interaction, often very habitual and unaware patterns, patterns that we haven’t ever reflected on, manifest on a large scale, and create the very forces which the organization then ‘is doing it to me.’

    And then they complete that feedback loop, and the most profound experiences I’ve ever had in consulting have always been when people suddenly go, “Holy cow! Look what we are doing to ourselves!” And I have literally heard people say things like that. Look what we are doing to ourselves. Given the way we operate, no wonder we can’t win! And what is always significant to me, in those moments, is the we. Not “you,” not “them,” but we.

    How collectively to learn to take responsibility for the conditions we have created
    …..

    COS: I have been here for one and a half years, but it has never been so clear as in this moment when you described what systems thinking is really about, what your work is really addressing. That is, as I understood it, to provide a tool, a help or a vehicle for completing the circle from experience and behavior back to the cause.

    • Jan de Vries

      How could we became responsible if only a handfull of people in Rigpa had the power and do anything to remain it.
      Around 2005 or 2006 I wrote a letter to SR asking him for more democracy especial at the local level. My letter was intercepted and was later shown to him on a retreat in Amsterdam in such a way that he was not interested in it.

      • Rick New

        Hi Jan,

        Thanks for your reply.

        Exactly, a more democratic approach might have provided a safer, more empowered environment for the sangha. But somehow, we didn’t create it. In sharp contrast to democracy, we maintained an intense focus on the teacher.

        I made similar oral requests at both the local and national level. My requests were ignored at the national level and I was strongly criticised at the local level.

        The question, “How could we become responsible, if only a handful of people had the power…?” seems like a good one to ask.

        How we responded, demonstrates our responsibility. Did we listen to others, did we pay our dues, did we speak up at teachings, did we persist, did we connect to one another independently of the teacher, did we teach following the guidelines, did we think for ourselves, did we adopt the party line?

        Here are a few possibilities.

        Legal:
        If crimes were committed (like rape) support those who would file charges.

        Past:
        For anyone willing to participate, go into “How did it happen?” in terms of how we participated. Try to create a positive and open space (like the reconciliation project in Africa) so those who were in positions of power felt comfortable joining.

        If those in power don’t join, stay with “we”, don’t resort to “they”, it seems to go nowhere as “they” aren’t here.

        Present:
        See if any of the patterns or responses from the past are still present. Do we discount those with other views like we did in the past, or do we reach out to try and understand more deeply? Do we still control the narrative or are we exploring “How did it happen? and “What now?” Are we still primarily focused on the teacher and organization or can we also turn toward one another, perhaps especially those who think differently? Open direct lines of communication with one another in listening sessions. (Like Olive Branch provided)

        Future:
        Take note of the institutions we currently participate in. Are we wanting to keep the same structures but just hope those we put into power don’t abuse? Ask “What Now?” in relation to those participating here and try to communicate and support those that are still participating in the Rigpa Organization or Shambhala.

        Regards,

        Rick

        • Jan de Vries

          Hi Rick,
          In Rigpa there is no ‘we’ only a few with absolute power and they like it and grasp it. So change is impossible in this situation. Only leaving Rigpa and hit them in their finances could perhaps bring change, but they are subborn very stubborn. Look what we see now happening.

          • Rick New

            Hi Jan,

            Thanks for your reply.

            Yes, many here have stated “they [Rigpa Organization] won’t change.”

            So, here we are, the rag-tag group where folks that are a) participating in the Rigpa Organization and are reaching out b) those that felt they had to leave c) others who left and are trying to find teachers that don’t seem to abuse their power and d) perhaps many other ways folks arrive at this nexus point.

            Now that we have come together, the Rigpa Organization has little power here. What is our creative response to finding ourselves here, together? Isn’t this our responsibility?

            Many regards and thanks for writing.

            Rick

            • Jan de Vries

              The only creative response would be a spiritual response in addition to all the critics we have.
              Donate what ever practice you would do for a good outcome of this proces, perhaps on the the what now rigpa site to show that a lot of people outside and inside rigpa care for the sitaution. A page with a counter(s) formthe practices.

              • Rick New

                Hi Jan,

                Thanks for your reply.

                Practicing could be one such response, there are countless others.

                Many regards,

                Rick

          • Petra

            The problem is, the different levels are intransparent because the higher levels are not where ordinary members have access to it.
            There is the local centers, then there are the national offices and there is international, where the programs are made that are distributed to the centers via streaming and materials.

            For the ordinary member at a center somewhere, what national and international does is totally intransparent. Most of the time you don’t even know the people working there personally. It’s intransparent because it’s physically far away and the people working at the higher levels have no personal contact to the ordinary members.

            • Rick New

              Hi Petra,

              Thanks for your reply. Yes, it seems these levels are in force.

              In terms of within the Rigpa Organization:
              However, the local chapters could respond differently to the pressures from the international or regional groups. Small groups could respond differently. Individuals could, too. We need not follow orders. The fact that most folks are not part of the structure gives them more freedom to respond, they haven’t agreed to a working contract.

              In terms of where we are now:
              The Rigpa Organization isn’t here. We can creatively look at how we respond to one another now. Do we cancel one another out? Do we carry the Rigpa Organization with us, even if we’ve left it? What options are available to us? Might the seeds of “How Did it Happen? be something we carry with us? If so, might this be an amazing opportunity to shift and discover something new?

              Many regards,

              Thanks,

              Rick

              • Petra

                “However, the local chapters could respond differently to the pressures from the international or regional groups. ”

                Not really, because the responsible people at the local level are usually instructors or higher mandala disciples and you only end up in those if you are already fairly positive towards what national and international does.

                There isn’t much in terms of pressure from national and international. The study programs are all pre produced in Lerab Ling and distributed via streaming, the instructors are educated at national level.
                So the instructors are holding programs pre produced by international, that’s the main body of what’s going on locally. Beyond that they don’t see or hear much from national and international. It’s a bit like a franchise, like McDonalds, wherever you go in the world, you get the same product presented by the locals.

                And these pre produced courses and materials for sangha days etc always came with a feedback function and that feedback was taken into account in future products (like please more of this, less of that, that kind of thing)

                So, either you like this type of study situation or you don’t. Where the dissatisfaction factor came in was more financial transparency, where national events like lama visits are held etc.
                I have never heard of any abusive behaviour going on at local groups, for the simple reason that Rigpa handles the distribution of dharma teachings mostly with video sessions presented by the instructors, without “charismatic disciple teachers” that could exploit their special position. That’s a plus that in my opinion makes Rigpa safer on the abuse front than some other organisations (for example Shambala, where high level student teachers exploited their privileged position)
                So in this sense Rigpa is safer than organisations that hand out outright teacher positions to a lot of older disciples.

              • Rick New

                Thanks, Petra.

                Interesting readout of the situation.

                It seems as if you are saying that it isn’t the Rigpa Organization culture that is leading to the abuse of power, but just a small inner circle and that for most of the organization, everything is fine? Am I hearing you correctly?

                Now that Sogyal Rinpoche has stepped down, do you think there will be further problems?

                Rick

              • Petra

                The problem was/is the inner circle and the people around the inner circle who were first hand witnessing what’s going on but not being directly in it.

                Imagine Rigpa like an onion with many layers that don’t interact with each other that much. I have bought onions and when cutting one open the inner two, three layers were rotten but the outer portion totally intact. I have also cut open onions where some outside layers were rotten but the inner part totally okay.

                The outer layers of Rigpa have no abuse problem, also no direct enabler problem but definitely other problems. The problem the outer layer Rigpa followers have is no personal contact to anyone who has actually realized what they attempt to learn. So there is a big, fertile field of “own interpretations” of what is delivered that are of course always tainted by what’s going on in the psyche of that individual.
                I compare using dharma methodology a bit to learning how to ride dressage. Sure videos and textbooks on the technique are great. Without personally observing how someone really good does it, getting personal correction and input on your own riding the moment you do it and the ability to question that qualified person to clarify your understanding you won’t really get that far.
                That doesn’t mean that someone has to constantly hang out with a lama, becoming kind of a groupie, being a groupie is rather what doesn’t help spiritually, in my opinion, but you need some opportunity to watch how a bodhisattva conducts everyday life and contact with other beings and you need that person to point out where your personal hangups are and what you personally need to change to improve (which from person to person can be very different, there is no one fits all in dressage riding and there is no one fits all in developing ones mind towards being a bodhisattva)

                As the so called “enablers” go, this is rather a psychological mind set problem. You will find this type of person in any group, political, religious, hobby club etc. Just observe how the conservative party in the USA, a party that is supposed to stand for law and order suddenly enables a mafia style crook like Trump.

                So, potential enablers of unsavoury behaviour exist everywhere. They lay dormant and can get active when the conditions are right. I am not particularly outraged about them in Rigpa because I know that in groups where no activating circumstances have happened they exist just as much as in organisations like Rigpa. We have to live with those types wherevery we commune with other humans. That’s a fact of life.

            • Adamo

              Rigpa has been completely intransparent and undemocratic from the beginning.

              Only a few have power and those few are controlled absolutely by Sogyal Lakar, till now.

              Many other “Sanghas” are working the same way, no transparency and no chance for members to become co-responsible.

              One can only deliver money, work and devotion in return for pieces of tibetan Dharma.

              In Rigpa are the main enabler of abuse supported of less main enabler who count then on average enabler, there is hierarchy.
              As at any place where human beings are involved one wants to climb to higher ranking.

              Higher ranking=higher understanding !

              To become part of the “Sangha” one has to become a kind of enabler, otherwise one is not really part of it.

              The wish to become part of a “Sangha” makes one a enabler before one even had an idea what this could mean.

              Its more happening on an unconscious level.

              As soon as one requests transparency or democratic control one becomes on outsider with many consequences, and people think this is real Dharma, its feared transparency might “pollute” Dharma.

              As soon as one becomes a victim one either leaves soon or one struggle through because the general explanation- easy to believe- is that this happens due to the “Ego”.

              Every subculture seems to need the victims, the victims can be used for example as a target of negative projections.
              I observed how followers had been fanatical followers till the day they became victims too. Some followers just left then.

              So finally almost everybody was involved as enabler and as victim,
              and no chance for an easy exit any more.

              Who would like to steer up such ugly unconscious stuff, it would life make more unpleasant and thats not what we want.

              It would require to have a realistic truth based approach on what one is doing and what one is doing not and why this is so.

              To be honest with oneself seems to be creating radically obstacles along the path to enlightenment, one has to face unpleasant stuff and so on, so if one follows the path to awakening its better to avoid honesty. It distracts only from practicing tantra.

              • Rick New

                Thanks, Adamo.

                Perhaps we have tremendous power, both ‘in’ and ‘out’ of the Rigpa Organization.

                Within, we can withhold pledges and work, we can speak up, we can work together and bring in those with alternative voices, etc.

                Without, we can communicate openly with one another, be honest when cliques develop behind the scenes, support and encourage a wider range of views, open more direct lines of communication, etc.

                As Rose McGowan said to Asia Argento, “Be the person you wish Harvey could have been.” We can be the group we wish the Rigpa Organization could have been (and can be.)

                Thanks,

                Rick

              • Petra

                If you become part of the sangha locally you don’t enable anything.
                There is no abuse going on at the local or even national level. The abuse is not even going on in the wider community of Lerab Ling, it’s only going on in the core group around SR.

                If you enter a local sangha, and go to national events, you won’t see any abuse happen because there is none on these levels. So why should you be weary?

                Until a few years ago the only thing you could see was the Janice Doe rumours and SR’s behaviour at public teachings, the vast majority of students have never had any personal interaction with SR at all.

                Going to courses in a local Rigpa center doesn’t enable SR’s behaviour because not going there wouldn’t prevent it. The size of the organisation very clearly had nothing to do with his behaviour or the number of victimized disciples because the victimized inner circle has always been and still is small and never grew in porportion to the size of his organisation.

              • Adamo

                Dear Petra

                That whole exchange of arguments was done already, but nevertheless would I like to explain what i mean with enable.

                Sexual abuse happened only in the inner circle around Sogyal, thats true, and I dont think that someone said different. The newbies had been screened for promising new slender women with a tendency to become a dharmagroupie on the national events with Sogyal as a marketplace.
                And those national events created the income for the body of Sogyals lifestyle, what do you think the money came from that had dutch woman Oane was given to buy the most expensive meat for the extra house or hotel with the “inner circle girls ” ?

                Local enabler: People trained within Rigpa, instructors and other titles, that tell newer people when they ask about rumour of Sogyal that its all rumours spread by cockoo people, I was one of them !

                Those enabling group holder on the events telling all the people in the groups about ” crazy wisdom” on order to prepare them the right way to “understand”what could be read or heard about Sogyal.

                Those enabler who make people that dare to ask critical questions ridicolous and talk them down, set them under peer pressure and so on, can you imagine.

                Those enabler that tell lies to people in Lerab Ling asking critical questions and try to discourage them

                All those who help spreading a kind of Dharma where wrong attitudes like blind faith are propagated

                All those that help spread a kind of naive guru devotion towards Sogyal as proper Dharmapractice

                All those that help to produce images of Sogyal as hard working Lama that cares night and days for his followers

                Those who helped and still help to produce a reputation of Sogyal that doesnt fit reality and keep things still under the carpet

                Those who give people that dare to ask or dare to critize bad names

                Those who had been in lerab Ling often enough and long time enough to know about Mimi, likewise, and still keep the mouth shut and still play the game of Rigpa being a sincere buddhist organisation

                List could be endless continued…..

              • Rick New

                Interesting Adamo.

                Doesn’t this endless list show how much power many of us have and how many situations in which we could choose to respond differently? Doesn’t your list include pretty much all of us?

                Might coming to understand how we participate very early on lead to some insight, some new ways of being together?

                What does it mean just to follow orders? What would it look like to deeply listen to those who might speak up?

                Thanks,

                Rick

              • Adamo

                I think still long time that everybody has responsibility for such a situation as visible now in Rigpa and sham in the good and in the bad. That is according to buddhist philosophy, as I understand. Simply said nothing pops up without proper reasons for it.

                So responsibility even for naivity, avoidance of clear seing, for being so wrongly lamacentered instead of being of help to others, for not applying the words of real buddhist teachers accordingly but following a mix Dharma and manulative words instead, and so on.

                Yes their lies power in it, but power comes together with responsibility, and it seems that we are a little bit undernourished with that feeling of responsibility.

                It needs a healthy and sane “ego” to do so.

              • Rick New

                Thanks Adamo.

                Yes, a lot could move forward, right here, taking off from what you’ve written.

                Rick

              • Petra

                For me enablers are exclusively people who are first hand witnesses of abusive behaviour or have otherwise definitive insider knowledge about what exactly is going on that choose to stay silent and not do anything about the problem.

              • Petra

                “Those enabler who make people that dare to ask critical questions ridicolous and talk them down, set them under peer pressure and so on, can you imagine.”

                Again, depends on the person doing that. If that person had no first hand knowledge and genuinely doesn’t believe in the allegations it’s not enabling. Then it’s just stupidity and unbodhisattvalike a-hole behaviour.

                Enabling means, I have first hand knowledge but I choose to cover it up and manipulate others into not believing it.

                It’s liky lying. For something to be a lie, you need to have definitive knowledge that something is not true. Telling something untrue out of ignorance, because it’s your personal subjective opinion doesn’t qualify as lying.

                A really important question about the “enablers” here is, who knew what, when. And here I mean knowing, having seen it personally, or directly hearing complaints of a victim or another reliable first hand source.

                Each of the inner circle people should be questioned about these and any who had definitive knowledge of abuse and improper behaviour and did nothing should step down from any positions, in my opinion.

    • Thank you, Rick. Some good points here!

      • Coral Clark

        Trauma is so difficult to heal even when fully exposed. Sadly so many in Rigpa were exposed and conditioned for so long it take a lot of work and time to identify and work with the trauma . I was dealing with trauma within my family when I recognized the vehavior patterns in Rigpa. Also sadly I did see the behavior repeated in the teams cunducting the US retreats. In fact I was struck by a Sr student sitting between 2” carers” . No one spoke to me about the incident and when I spoke to them they said they didn’t see it! By the wAy it left a bruise that my son saw when I was home 6 days later. One student did ask me if I was ok . I did personally witness in a meeting with Rinpoche him emotionally and mentally barter students systematically until one broke down in tears. This is what we were told was training. It is not . This is abusive battering . The statistics of recovering from this are very poor. Terribly sad for the whole Sangha to be in this situation. Understanding and healing trauma can only happen when one is open to it. Praying for the Sangha. Coral

  11. Alex S.

    Well, well, seems like we have another collapsing branch of”religion” here! Only to mention the word “meditation” in a context that also relates to “rape” is sad, is absolutely ridiculuous. This whole case demonstrates perfectly how even the “holiest” positions in these days are taken over by demons. Demons is what those sad persons are who rape and go on pretending being a “teacher”, and nothing else they are. This only confirms me in my path, never to take full trust in a human person. I do not follow any path concretely, but I bet I made more progress than most of the persons that do. What progress I mean? Well, if you can enlarge your vital power and canalize fiery electric streams out of the ether, you know you been doing right. Sincerely, Alex S.

  12. I just found this site , I don’t even know how ? I am not even a follower of
    This practice . But I know one or two things about spiritual abuse .
    I was searching for a teacher & I found Guru Desai in Philadelphia . I did not
    Like him from the beginning & I did not know why . So I thought it is my mind
    Trying to refuse surrendering . And after a couple of years I became a disciple .
    But that did not change my feeling about him . Even thought I never thought of him being sextually involve with anyone at least in my subconscious . But
    I had a dream that we were in very large room with a small bed just on one side , just like in the military . And there he was , I knew he wanted to sleep with me . And that furiated me , so I asked him , if you want to have sex with me , then how can I follow you as a teacher . He was a Hendo & was married with a few kids that lived on the same premises . I can’t understand how the women bought into the idea or the lies that sleeping with their teacher , which suppose to have been somewhat Enlightened & celebit , can progress them on the path . Didn’t the very act of wanting or worse yet forcing her or them to have sex , shows that he is not enlightened & is not privileged at all compare to his followers ? He is even worse because he is bad man a rapist .
    And I don’t know why you are talking about keeping the sangat to getter still .
    Any spiritual cominune with a male leader eventually falls down because of namely sex & power . You don’t need to have ashram or a sangat . I met Amrit desai just for two years & in the end of my first year of discipleship I got letter that the Guru has resigned due to being sextually involve with few of the Ashram resident . Then I knew why I had such bad feelings about him when I saw him & had those dreams . But I think it was consensual ,not forced or rape. I am glad that he was gone before I wasted my time with following him .
    When a teacher or guru or what you may call him , is in a place of teaching , he will not abuse his power in any way whether physically or sextually . I think something that has corrupt foundation , you matter whom you put in his place would have the same result . But I have not walked in your shoes ,so I can’t say what you think or feel . I just hope that you don’t follow an abuser .

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