Sogyal Rinpoche and the Silence of the Tibetan Buddhist Community and the Dalai Lama

Many of the problems Buddhism is currently facing in the West have arisen because this is an early stage of the transmission of the Dharma to Western countries, and there is the opportunity for charlatans and unqualified people to teach. However, as Buddhism becomes more rooted in the culture and people understand it better, they will know how to judge teachers’ qualities and will protect themselves. This is part of a natural process as Dharma takes root. – HH the Dalai Lama in an interview in 1993

A person doesn’t come to a Buddhist community to grow through a sexual relationship with a teacher. They come to a Buddhist community to study Buddhism. So in a teacher-student sexual relationship, the primary purpose of that relationship has been subverted. – Grace Schireson in Tricyle “Sex in the Sangha … Again

»Hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing.«

“Hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing.” (Melong XXVI, 1, June 1959, 6. See also Tharchin’s One Man War with Mao [PDF], p. 197.)

Some days ago I received an email from Mary Finnigan, a journalist, who sent two links “for your website”:

Since I had watched the video by the young tulku of Kalu Rinpoche (YouTube) and linked it already together with a forceful statement by the Dalai Lama[1] given during the concluding ceremony at the Global Buddhist Congregation in India in December 2011, and because I had no time to read the suggested blog “Behind the Thankas”, and also because the blog is anonymous, I hesitated to read it. However, these two videos, together with In the name of enlightenment: Stephen Batchelor interview were linked. I had also sent the documentary Sex Scandals In Religion – In The Name Of Enlightenment by Cogent/Benger to some people, including some journalists, Tibetologists and the German Buddhist Union, a congregation of Buddhist organisations in Germany which understands itself as an umbrella organisation for Buddhists in Germany.

In April, 2011, based on scandals with respect to power and sexual abuse within Buddhism, the members of the German Buddhist Union voted unequivocally to create a Buddhist Council or authority within the German Buddhist Union. This body would provide people with support, advice, information or a listening ear, and would offer qualified support in cases of emotional, financial or sexual abuses and abuses of power. Based on this vote, there formed a group within the German Buddhist Union to work out an Ethical Charter and an Ethics’ Council. There have already been two working meetings. The meeting for working out the Ethical Charter (16.–18 March 2012) was very inspiring, and I found the contribution of the people who participated very differentiated and clear. I felt it to be a meeting “in the spirit of the Dharma”. We had also the shared conviction that sexual relationships between teachers and students lead to harm and that it is a must to avoid that. (In Germany it is illegal and chargeable if psychologists, medical doctors or therapists have sexual relations with their patients, and Rutter has shown the devastating harm sexual relationships in unbalanced power situations can create for both sides. So why should Buddhist teachers, who preach compassion, non-violence, the faults of desire and not harming others, engage in such relationships? Some claim it would be for “the student’s benefit” and a “practice” but why then are people damaged, and why do they experience pain and suffering after this “benefit” [through often highly manipulative methods] of having sex with their teachers? Even if there is an extremely rare case of no harm or even benefit, one could expect that there also wouldn’t be someone who would report about the sorrow, lamentation, suffering, distress, and agitation they have gone through.)[2]

This Sunday I found time to read the summery of the Sogyal saga “Behind the Thankas” by Mary Finnigan. It made me utterly sad.

I find it also questionable that the Tibetan Community, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, just don’t speak up and allow, by their silence, that what appears to be an egomaniac, damaging behaviour[3] can continue. It could be that Rigpa and their officials have been successful in spreading the pacifying image that Sogyal has “settled, having a woman and a child now.” It could be that this led towards a spiritless state of mind where Buddhists and Buddhist leaders alike started to relax, thinking the old stories are past and the issue was resolved by a change in Sogyal. But it appears that it has not settled and that the abuse continues. I think, it is not the time to further support this by continuing the silence. A collective silence is an action, and such an action allows the continuation of these harming actions. That’s why I would like to encourage everybody to read the report by Mary FinniganBehind the Thankas” and to watch the documentary Sex Scandals In Religion – In The Name Of Enlightenment by Cogent/Benger. If there is awareness that such behaviour is unacceptable and highly damaging, this could create a shift so that the continuation of it is halted and finally stopped. Another possibility is that further court cases against Sogyal could be a means to stop him.

It is unacceptable for me that the spiritual friend (Kalyanamitra) who has been described by the Buddha of having the function to release the disciple “from being subject to aging, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, suffering, distress, and agitation” could do the opposite, and burden the disciple with “aging, sickness, death[4], sorrow, lamentation, suffering, distress, and agitation” in the name of Buddhism.

Having heard from what I believe to be reliable sources, I am struck by the fact that Sogyal has even had sexual relationships with the partners of some of his students.

It is difficult not to fall pray to the idea that Sogyal’s behaviour is accepted widely in Tibetan exile and Western Buddhist communities alike also because his organisation is financially a highly successful money machine and many people have benefited from that money or are captivated by their awe of Rigpa’s success. (Of course these cannot be the only reasons, and there are other reasons and also genuinely well motivated reasons too but …) Similar tendencies seem to have been present when Geshe Michael Roach received supportive letters from Sera monastery authorities (which approved his “pure ethical discipline”) when it later came out that he as a fully ordained monk had a female consort and he had announced being a yogi, having realized emptiness etc, and being beyond worldly conventions. A fully ordained nun, whom I appreciate highly for her wisdom and clarity, commented that this is a sign of corruption. And I think it is. Also the Geshe title of Michael Roach is questionable because he received the Geshe title mainly as a tribute for his very generous money donations. He studied altogether only for four years at Sera. Similar tendencies to ignore certain destructive aspects or developments can be observed in other cases of abuse like in the case of the Pagode Path Hue in Frankfurt, Germany (Thich Thien Son) or within the NKT leadership (Kelsang Gyatso with respect to Neil Elliott and Steven Wass). However, in the case of Michael Roach, at least some higher Buddhist authorities like Lama Zopa Rinpoche (see page 16-18 in Lama Replies) or His Holiness the Dalai Lama dealt straightforwardly and skilfully with the issue and I would be happy if there is a straightforward and skillful response also with respect to Sogyal’s behaviour from other Buddhist masters or authorities.

For neutral academic information, I recommend that readers write to INFORM, a renowned research institution at the London School of Economics.

See also

New books, articles or further sources


[1] It’s note worthy to see that while the video gives a full account of what His Holiness said the manuscript of his speech at the Official website of HH the Dalai Lama has been “cleared” of his frank and critical statements.

[2] Usually at this point most Tibetan Buddhists or persons who have some knowledge about Tibetan Buddhism have in mind that there is a secret tantric rite which involves the unification of the two sexual organs. However, though a qualified Vajaryana practitioner can rely on a qualified action-mudra at the path of accumulation when he/she is practising the generation stage, it is unsafe to do so.

“The purpose of a seal is to generate bliss and the realization of emptiness of the generation stage, thereby acting as the special ripener of the roots of virtue that generate the realization of the completion stage. When meditating on the methods for penetrating the vital points of the body of the completion stage, there are many purposes such as that of easily gathering the winds, however a fully qualified supporting object is very rare. Because of this, if one does not unite with a consort properly, it will become a cause of falling into the lower realms. For example, there are people who think that they are tantric practitioners and engage in this conduct inappropriately, as a result of which they are later reborn in the lower realms. Due to breaking the tantra vows and pledges, one can take rebirth even in the hell of Unrelenting Torment (Avichi). Therefore, it is better to culminate the coarse and subtle generation stages by relying on a wisdom seal rather than an action seal, whereby one can penetrate the vital points of the body. In other words, there is no danger when relying on a wisdom seal, that is, on an imaginary consort. By relying on an wisdom seal one can generate the isolation of mind, after which one can rely on an action seal without any risk of faults. This is because, having achieved the isolation of mind, even if one kills, steals, and so forth, one will do so free of faults. […] In short, relying on a real woman while on the stages of the isolation of body and the isolation of speech can bring problems, whereas when one reaches the isolation of mind there is no longer any such risk.

In short, by relying on a wisdom seal one can culminate the coarse and subtle generation stages but not the completion stage. On the completion stage one progresses through the isolation of body and isolation of speech, and when one reaches the isolation of mind one can rely on an action seal and achieve the all-empty that is clear light.” (Geshe Jampa Gyatso)

John Powers, a university professor and Buddhist practitioner, states:

Tantric texts stress that practice with consorts is not a form of sexual indulgence, but rather a form of controlled visualization that uses the special bliss of sexual union. It is restricted to very advanced practitioners, yogins who have gained control over the emanation of a subtle body and have awakened the mystical heat energy, or “dumo” (gtum mo, candali). Those who have not advanced to this level are not qualified to practice with an actual consort; people without the necessary prerequisites who mimic tantric sexual practices thinking that they are practicing tantra are simply deluded, and may do themselves great harm. Sexual union is only appropriate to advanced levels of the stage of completion, and so those who have not developed sufficient realization and control over subtle energies are unable to generate the blissful wisdom consciousness realizing emptiness that is the basis for this practice. They may succeed in fooling others—or even themselves—but they will be utterly unable to use sexual energy in accordance with the practices of highest yoga tantra.

According to the Dalai Lama, only a person who views all the phenomena of cyclic existence with complete impartiality is qualified to engage in tantric sexual practices:

“Truthfully, you can only do such practice if there is no sexual desire whatsoever. The kind of realization that is required is like this: If someone gives you a goblet of wine and a glass of urine, or a plate of wonderful food and a piece of excrement, you must be in such a state that you can eat and drink from all four and it makes no difference to you what they are. Then maybe you can do this practice.”

When asked to name any lamas who he thought were at this level, he admitted that he could not. He mentioned that there are well-known stories of great teachers like Tilopa who had transcended all attachment to conventional thinking and so were able to engage in sexual practices without harming themselves or their students, but he added that such exceptional individuals are very rare.

(John Powers, “Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism”, Snow Lion Publications, 1995, p. 252.)

Then there is another common response by Tibetan Buddhists to accusations of alleged sexual abuse: the women reporting this are said to be jealous, telling lies, only imagined this or act out of a feeling of revenge or are somewhat disturbed. The point is, this can actual be the case. One finds similar wrong accusations in the story of Angulimala, and also nowadays such wrong accusations exist. Also personally I had contact with a woman who claimed wrongly for a long time of having been abused by a renown Tibetan Gelug Lama living in Swiss. (I didn’t believe her, the story was too inconsistent, and some years later she admitted that the story was untrue.) Therefore one should be careful and one should take time to check the case thoroughly – and of course there is always the danger of being deceived or getting and judging the things wrongly. However, such a careful approach shouldn’t lead one to close the eyes if there are multiple accounts of such stories with respect to the same person which show a similar pattern and one should be open to investigate into all directions. Actual this should be the task of an independent institution or experts or the legal laws, but the problem is, although the legal laws in most countries are clear in the case of educated psychologists and medical doctors (professionals in the health sector) and their patients or university professors and their students and school teachers and their pupils, these laws mostly do not consider the situation of spiritual teachers and their spiritual students or in Germany even the relation between non-medical practitioners and their patients. So there is a legal gap or legal loophole although the situation is quite similar. Another problem is in Tibetan Buddhism that there is no higher authority or council one can approach in case one has been abused or spiritual damaged. The victims are left alone, nobody cares of feels in charge to help them. I think it is really time that this changes.

Another argument I heard in that context is, that the Tibetan Buddhist lama would have been properly qualified for the tantric sexual rite but they only realised later that their western consort was not, and that they had too high expectations with respect to their capacities for Tantra. If this were true it follows the lama was also not qualified because of being unable to see what is right and what is wrong. And I think then it would be the practice of a Bodhisattva to honestly excuse oneself in order to limit the harm one has done unintentionally.

Some people also claim since the women are adults and the lama is an adult it would involve only free will for having sex with the lama (or the proper tantric rite) and it would be their choice. However, I find this approach ignorant because it neglects the dynamics and power difference in such a relationship. I would like to suggest first to get some knowledge about the dynamics of abuse and manipulation which undermine a person’s freedom of choice and which bring persons into a situation where they do something they didn’t want to do. There are reasons why there are laws that prohibit educated psychologists and medical doctors and their patients or university professors and their students and school teachers and their pupils to have sexual relationships with each other. Rutter’s text Sex in the forbidden Zone or Scott’s Sex and the Spiritual Teacher, as well as to listen to persons who report abuse could be useful as a start. Also The Guardian article about the FWBO founder Shantarakshita shows the dynamics and devastating effects of these manipulations. Some people had to experience the same pattern as reported in this The Guardian article under the Frankfurt abbot Thich Thien Son in Germany. (At least he was expelled from the head organisations of Buddhist monks and nuns in Germany and they published an official statement.)

[3] Of course this is my personal judgement. But all the reports summarised by Mary Finnigan in “Behind the Thankas” and documented by Cogent/Benger in the documentary Sex Scandals In Religion – In The Name Of Enlightenment suggest to see it that way. So far neither Rigpa nor Sogyal have contributed with a substantial refutation. And it might be really difficult to explain what type of Dharma (Buddhist teaching) it is to order a young and pretty female assistant to “Undress!”. Due to the strict libel laws in UK Mary Finnigan could be easily sued for what she has been reporting if she wouldn’t have evidence; and Rigpa has good lawyers who could do that. Also the patterns and signs one can observe from an outside perspective do not really disapprove any of the things which are reported there. So far three women reported personally to me that they experienced strange things with respect to Sogyal, and what they reported fits well in what Mary and the documentary report. It should be also noted that Sogyal starts these relationships with young women who are new to the Dharma therefore the women will quite likely not have the necessary spiritual experience and qualifications to be qualified spiritual consorts. Even if, from his side, he was engaging in ‘tantrically correct’ behaviour …

On the other hand, as a Buddhist “it is important to keep in mind that if one does not have clairvoyance then there is never completely certainty about what another person intends. Even if somebody has a loud voice and says something harsh, we can’t be certain that they really have a nasty motivation. The best we can do is to have a correct assumption about the other person’s motivation. So even when we have a correct assumption we can never establish the pervasion in order to have an actual inferential cognition. This is the case because we can never establish the pervasions that would allow us to generate an incontrovertible inferential cognition. For example, there is no pervasion that everybody who says harsh words with a loud voice and a red face is necessarily angry.” (quote taken from Ven. Birgit’s Abidharmakosha teachings at the ILTK; Pomaia/Italy) There are a lot of cases in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist history where Buddhist masters and practitioners alike judged the behaviour of someone wrongly. However, if the person they judged wrongly had really exceptional qualities, this person corrected their wrong assumptions by the performance of extraordinary actions of body, speech or mind, which led to the collapse of these wrong assumptions, and the critics were able to develop faith in that wrongly judged person’s (really existing) qualities. (See for example Atisha who expelled a yogi-monk from a monastery or the monks who tried to get rid off Shantideva, even trying to deprecate him, and other stories like Drugpa Künleg, the nun Gelongma Palmo etc.)

If in the past a capable Lama performed questionable actions based on so called “crazy wisdom” it led finally to a tremendous benefit for the individual towards it was directed and it was a teaching to the public showing them a mirror of their limited minds. However, if a person who claims to act out of “crazy wisdom” leaves the individual and the public in a state of hurt, suffering, confusion, distrust and anger this is clearly not a sign that this person has realized a level of spiritual attainment that allows him to act out of “crazy wisdom”. (For more see also: Questioning the Advice of the Guru by H.H. the XIV. Dalai Lama)

[4] Harsh, aggressive or hurtful speech which makes others unhappy weakens their life power and can be seen as a type of killing.

[5] Here it is note worthy to see that the article starts with an image of a faithfully prostrating nun and an image capture “An exiled Tibetan Buddhist nun prostrates around the main temple and the residence of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.” In the light of the headline I feel this to be manipulative. First of all the Dalai Lama is not abusing anybody and also there is no report that nuns are abused. I wonder what drove The Guardian to follow such an tabloid approach …

[6] The note and email address were added with kind permission from the author.

Last edited by tenpel on September 23, 2014 at 10:53 am

Update March 28, 2012

I added documents related to the Geshe Michael Roach controversy. Though Roach was ordained as a fully ordained monk and Sogyal Rinpoche is a lay person and not a monk, in the glorious past of Tibet masters who shook the faith of people restored it my performing extraordinary powers and miracles which proved their tantric realizations. This is the advice Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave to Geshe Michael Roach. (see page 16-18 in Lama Replies) A more recent example is the story of a Gelug lama at the time of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, he felt he can do the sexual tantric rites and asked the Dalai Lama for permission. The Dalai Lama answered him to prove his powers, and it is transmitted that this lama did it by making knots into Yak horns. Of course these are examples from the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism but even if one looks on the root example of the Nyingma school: Padmasambhava is said to have performed a lot of miracles and his tantric consorts, e.g. the famous Yeshe Tsogyal, were also female tantric teachers who composed tantric texts. However, this seems to be quite dissimilar to a situation where a lama has “a host of ‘Dakinis'” who are all very new to the Dharma, who have not similar qualities to those female tantric practitioners and who quite likely have neither the necessary spiritual experience nor the necessary conditions (except of being young) to be qualified tantric consorts.

Also according to the tantric rituals usually a qualified tantric consort is either pointed out by a qualified lama or by dreams with special signs at a certain point of one’s spiritual development. Such a case is usually treated with great care. A Nyingma lama I know who meditated for 17 years in retreat with one meal a day and two hours sleep a day attained higher realizations including clairvoyance. He was just skin and bones after he had accomplished his retreat, and most people who saw him were thinking ‘he is going to die’. After he had attained high realizations his female tantric consort was pointed out to him by his master H.H. Dujom Rinpoche, and she had herself high realizations (including being able to cure very sick people). This Nyingma lama spoke of her with greatest respect and in awe. (This is very different to what Mary Finnigan reports about how violently and disrespectfully Sogyal treats his Western ‘Dakinis’.) Also, so far I didn’t hear that the lama who is qualified to rely on a tantric consort chooses tantric consorts himself and has a host of them (of course Ole Nydahl does this but I don’t think he is the right example). As far as I know in the case of the great Nyingma sage H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche he had to be forced to rely on a qualified tantric consort, and it were his masters who pointed out the right person. In the Vajrayogini rite it is utter complex to find the right tantric consort and one has really to do a lot of rituals and prayers to find her after having accomplished extended practices. All of this seems to be very dissimilar to what Sogyal Rinpoche is doing.

It is said that Milarepa relied on the goddess Tseringma as his consort.

Update June 29, 2012

The German Buddhist magazine “Tibet & Buddhismus” has started to address the topic of abuse in Buddhist communities in his new issue (3/2012) asking “Abuse: Not An Issue In Buddhist Communities?”. The editorial mentions explicitly the Guardian article about the video statement of Kalu Rinpoche, the Guardian article about Sogyal Rinpoche (both written by Mary Finnigan), and the expulsion of the Frankfurt Pagode abbot from the DBO. They offer the respective articles also online and free of charge (all in German language):

Update September 23, 2012

The documentary has been made available on YouTube: recently. It has been included now in the post.

Update November 02, 2012

Sadly, the German Buddhist Union is in a sleeping mode. No further meetings to work out an Ethical Charter and an Ethics Council have been announced or organized – although there was an unequivocal vote my the members that this should be done. I assume it is due to an overload of work and that this issue is not seen to be very important compared to other tasks. I updated also the post above: a qualified tantric consort must be young. For the sake of clarity I might list later this year the minimum qualifications of a qualified tantric consort.

Update March 18, 2016

A paper by Marion Dapsance about Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa, “When fraud is part of a spiritual path: a Tibetan lama’s plays on reality and illusion”, was published in “Minority Religions and Fraud – In Good Faith” by Ashgate. The German Buddhist Union’s magazine, Buddhismus Aktuell, published a brief article by me about sexual abuse. At the end I call again for the installation of an Ethical Charter and an Ethics Council. How important it is that individuals, groups and Buddhist umbrella organisations take responsibility show cases of sexual abuse in the Netherlands: Buddhist Monk’s Sexual Abuse Revealed. The magazine of Tibethaus Frankfurt, Chökor, published an interview with me about “Buddhist cults”. The French magazine “Marianna” made an article about Sogyal Rinpoche, Bouddhisme: l’imposture Sogyal Rinpoché. The English translation of their interview with Olivier Raurich can be read here: Sogyal Rinpoche & Rigpa – An interview with the former director of Rigpa France Olivier Raurich.

Update November 4th, 2016

Rigpa gave a Response & Press Statement to Marion Dapsance’s book, Les dévots du bouddhisme: Essais – documents (Max Milo Editions, preface Charles Ramble).

Rigpa depicts her book as an “extremely prejudiced book”. Being “shocked”  “at the way Lerab Ling and our spiritual director, Sogyal Rinpoche, have been depicted”, Rigpa strongly denies, assertions made in the book: “Both Rigpa and Sogyal Rinpoche categorically reject the assertions of abuse and cult-like behaviour that have been made in this book. Unfortunately, this book merely recycles old, unfounded rumours and accusations that have been posted on the internet since the past fifteen years which, in fact, always originate from the same sources.”

Update December 1st, 2016

The French, Dutch and English version of two articles by Julia Mourri on le Plus de l’Obs were added to the post. These articles are interviews with Marion Dapsance and Mimi. Also a podcast by the journalist Mary Finnigan who first met Sogyal Lakar aka Rinpoche in 1973. Mary recounts how she helped him during his early years as a  teacher — and how she subsequently investigated his “corrupt activities”.


  1. Bodhinama says:

    The full episode of “In the Name of Enlightenment” can be downloaded here:


    You can use the “slower download” option. Takes around 10-12 mins.

    * I had to delete this link. Someone who used it reported to have caught a trojan infection at this site. (Admin / Tenpel)

  2. There is a fallacy in the above I wish to clarify:” [1] It’s note worthy to see that while the video gives a full account of what His Holiness said the manuscript of his speech at the Official website of HH the Dalai Lama has been “cleared” of his frank and critical statements.”

    This statement is wrong. The written statement published on the Offical website of HH the Dalai Lama is a separate, written statement to the Global Buddhist Community, not a manuscript of his speech. It was written before his speech and he did not read from it (as many know, he never reads from a script). So to clarify, there were two statements made by HH Dalai Lama to the global Buddhist community: one was written and one was spoken. They differ. There was no “clearing of his frank and critical statements.” Indeed, in his speech, he strongly spoke out that there were Tibetan tulkus today who were misbehaving. His written statement is milder. He did mention in his speech that because all the positive things had been said already, he, in his position as last speaker, would have to talk about the negative things. There is no cover up here, or laundering of his speech, as was implied above.

    • Dear Drolma,
      thank you very much for pointing out this mistake of mine and for clarifying this point. I appreciate this very much. I struck that footnote.

  3. Thank you, Tenpel, for striking that out. I also would like to make one further observation. The inference you make above with such statements as “A collective silence is an action, and such an action allows the continuation of these harming actions.” is that His Holiness Dalai Lama has been silent. It seems by that statement you are inferring that his strong statements to the Global Buddhist Congregation are unique. In fact, he made much stronger statements in his introductory teachings at the Washington DC Kalachakra, in July, 2011, where he made specific reference to lamas being motivated by sex and money. In fact, HH Dalai Lama has been making quite strong statements against lama abuses frequently for decades. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard him talk about this trouble. In fact, as far as I can see, his voice is a LONE voice, not part of a collective silence. Even Dzongsar Kyentse Rinponche ended up stating that we shouldn’t judge lamas, we don’t know what they’re really doing. Even HH Karmapa, (though I haven’t followed his teachings closely since July, 2011) is not speaking out strongly against lama abuse, but instead quoting the story of Milarepa as an explanation for questionable behavior by lamas.

    So it seems to me that there is a collective silence and then there is the lone voice of HH Dalai Lama. That’s my impression.

    • Thank you Drolma for your contribution. It is true that His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaks out these things frankly but on the other hand though he has withdrawn in the past to support Sogyal when he organized a dying conference in the US (see Finnigan) it appears to me that nowadays he does not actively rebuke him or at least he does not officially express his disapproval of what Sogyal is doing. (Due to whatever reasons.) (Actual HH is on the one hand very clear and speaks out faults forcefully, like also with the Shugden issue, on the other hand he does usually not say anything bad about others; an attitude I appreciate, and which I think comes from his practice. But I wonder if it helps those beings being irritated about the behaviour of certain Buddhist teachers, and if it does not supports indirectly the continuation of their actions?)

      According to the information I received Dzongsar Kyentse Rinponche judges lamas, and he is also interested that others hear these judgements. I think as the master of Sogyal Rinpoche he can say something, like HH Dujom RInpoche had done it. But so far it seems there is no official statement or any thing which expresses concern.

      To quote Dzongsar Kyentse Rinponche:

      “It would be better if we could discover all these downfalls of the Tibetans sooner rather than later. Because otherwise we might become disillusioned and that might be a reason for giving up the Dharma. But detecting these downfalls is no easy task. Generations of experience in being hypocritical have left lamas rather subtle and sophisticated. One example is how many westerners fall for the almost annoying theatre of the lamas’ humility, little seeing that behind the curtain is a fierce fight for who gets the highest throne. It has gone to the extent of some lamas being willing to sit at the same level or higher than their own teachers. This manoeuvring becomes especially dramatic when the occasion involves a large crowd, and even more so if there are potential big donors present, especially those from Taiwan who seem to judge the value of lamas solely by their rank or how many letters “H” precede their name.”


      “Buddhism’s fundamental view of non-theism, the rule of the more narrow- minded lamas could be as tyrannical as that of the Taliban.

      Despite their emphasis on an ecumenical attitude, many lamas encourage sectarianism by guarding their Tibetan disciples possessively and discouraging them from studying teachings from other traditions. Of course, they have a convenient excuse: their students will become too confused if they do this. Thus many Tibetan students from one school have absolutely no idea of the other traditions; but that doesn’t seem to stop them slandering the others. As if it were not enough that they are doing this with Tibetans, the lamas have also coached westerners in this sectarian game and they have been shockingly successful. They have also jealously guarded their Dharma centres in the west, although many are merely vehicles to generate financial support for the lamas and their Monasteries back home. Supporting those westerners who are genuinely pursuing the Dharma, or facilitating their studies, is not their primary interest.
      So, is Tibetan Buddhism ever going to “work” in the “barbaric” west? Of course it will. The fact that Buddhism could be imported and flourish in then – barbaric Tibet proves that despite the many misdemeanours of its personalities and its alien culture, Buddhism can and does still work for all kinds of nationalities, genders and cultural backgrounds. Discarding Buddhism, as the author seems to have done, merely because of the misbehaviour of a few Tibetans or their seemingly “complex and colourful way of life” does not seem wise.

      It is important to remember that it took many decades and generations of courage and devotion to firmly establish Buddhism among Tibetans. Why should we expect that it would be any different in the west?”

  4. Yes, Tenpel, certainly DKR has been outspoken. However, I would observe two things about what he has said over the years: 1. I have seen nothing published which criticizes any lama specifically. In this way, he is no different from HH Dalai Lama, speaking out in general terms about lama misbehavior and 2. I have some questions as to his consistency over the years. I appears to me that DKR has been struggling with these issues over the years and his position has not been consistent. For example, on Dialogue Ireland, he was quoted as saying, in 2002:

    “Given this, we should not condemn the few lamas or practitioners who are seemingly worldly, if when it comes to benefitting beings, they display little or no selfishness. We should venerate and emulate such lamas’ absolute indifference towards others’ opinions – such as praise for their simplicity or condemnation of their worldliness – and venerate, too, their lack of concern about gaining disciples by being humble or losing them from their behaviour. At least we should admire them for not being hypocritical.
    Unlike them, I feel that I am far from overcoming this hypocrisy of false humility and attaining a genuine indifference. For me, renunciation, humility and non-worldliness are still the guiding principles for my path, but not because I have seen the futility of worldly life. It is only because I am a Tibetan Buddhist lama, and this is what the masses think it is right for a lama to do. And what people think still seems to matter to me.
    Yet, no matter how often we judge, it is always in vain. This is not to say that being judgmental is morally or politically incorrect, but simply that subjectivity is at the very core of all judgment.”

    On the other hand, HH Dalai Lama’s position regarding misbehaviors by Tibetan lamas has been consistent for decades. Like DKR, he doesn’t name lamas specifically. However, his approach is to empower students to be critical, to have “long noses” and snoop around the lama before fully committing to him/her. For me personally, in the gutter after years of lama abuse, this was life saving– just to be given permission to criticize. The culture in Dharma Centers in the West, supported by the fact that students begin vajrayana practice far too quickly, is all about the samaya of seeing the lama as perfect, never criticizing. Instead, we need a culture where years are spent investigating the lamas actions and words, weighing them alongside the words of the Buddha and only then committing to the lama and beginning vajrayana practice. This is my opinion but is consonant with the approach His Holiness has been taking over the years.

    I would also like to observe that His Holiness is in a very difficult position regarding Sogyal Rinpoche and any other misbehaving lamas. Because SR is not the only perpetrator, for His Holiness to make an example of him could be problematic for him and a slippery slope as well. His Holiness might refuse an invitation to teach at Rigpa, but then SR might point out that this lama and that lama are also having sex with students– why don’t you refuse their invitations? And so His Holiness might end up spending most of his valuable time unravelling the allegations made against lamas– like any other allegations, some are probably true and some are probably false. So instead of embroiling himself in all of it, His Holiness empowers us to take strong measures. It’s our job as students and victims to sort all this out, not his.

    I would like to quote from a statement he made in 1982 about this, a commentary on a lamrim text– the book incorporates informal responses to questions as well as a more formal teaching. The quote is lengthy, but I believe in the light of allegations being made about His Holiness’s silence, it is important that a thorough response be made. It is one thing for His Holiness to be the object of accusations made by the Chinese, which he constantly must field, but if accusations come from us in the sangha, it is only right that he be given adequate time and space for a thorough reply. I also advise people to listen to his introductory teachings to the Kalachakra in July, 2011 (the same time that the documentary re SR was being widely heard and discussed). However the following exerpt is certainly the most thorough handling of the subject I have seen by His Holiness:
    “The practice of guru-yoga means that one ignores any negative traits that the guru might seem to have, and that one meditates upon his positive qualities. If we can develop the habit of always seeing him through his good qualities, our confidence in him naturally grows, and eventually we become able to take our preconceptions about faults he seems to display and transform them into spritually useful tools. Perception of faults in the guru should not cause us to feel disrespect for him, for by demonstrating faults to us he is actually showing us what we should abandon. At least, this is the most useful attitude for us to take. An important point here is that the disciple must have a spirit of sincere inquiry and must have clear, rather than blind, faith.
    “It is frequently said that the essence of the training in guru-yoga is to cultivate the art of seeing everything the guru does as perfect; but personally I myself do not like this to be taken too far. Often we see written in the scriptures, “Every action seen as perfect,” but this phrase must be seen in the light of Buddha Shakyamuni’s own words: ‘Accept my teachings only after examining them as an analyst buys gold. Accept nothing out of mere faith for me.’ The problem with the practice of seeing everything the guru does as perfect is that it very easily turns to poison for both the guru and the disciple. Therefore, whenever I teach this practice, I always advocate that the tradition of ‘every action seen as perfect’ not be stressed. Whenever the guru manifests un-Dharmic qualities or gives teachings contradicting Dhrama, the instruction on seeing him as perfect must give way to reason and Dharma wisdom. Take myself, for example. Because many of the previous Dalai Lamas were great sages and I am said to be their reincarnation, and also because in this lifetime I give frequent religious discourses, many people place much faith in me, and in their guru-yoga practice visualize me as being a Buddha. I am also regarded by these people as their secular leader. Therefore, this teaching of ‘every action seen as perfect’ can easily become poison for me in my relationship with my people and in my effective administration. I could think to myself, ‘They all see me as a Buddha and therefore will accept anything I tell them.’ Too much faith and imputed purity of perception can quite easily turn things rotten. I always recommend that the teaching on seeing the guru’s actions as perfect should not be stressed in the lives of ordinary practitioners. It would be an unfortunate affair if the Buddhadharma. which is established by profound reasoning, were to have to take second place to it.
    “Perhaps you will think: ‘The Dalai Lama has not read any Lam Rim scriptures. He does not know that there is no practice of Dharma without the guru.’ I am not being disrespectful of the Lam Rim teachings. A student of the spiritual path should rely upon a teacher and should meditate on his kindness and good qualities; but the teaching on seeing his actions as perfect can only be applied within the context of the Dharma as a whole and the rational approach to knowledge that it advocates. As the teachings on seeing the guru’s actions as perfect is borrowed from highest tantra and appears in the Lam Rim mainly to prepare the trainee for tantric practice, beginners must treat it with caution. As for the guru, if he misrepresents this precept of guru-yoga in order to take advantage of his naive disciples, his actions are like pouring the liquid fires of hell directly into his stomach.
    “The disciple must always keep his reason and his knowledge of Dharma as principal guidelines. Without this approach it is difficult to digest one’s Dharma experiences. Make a thorough examination before accepting someone as a guru, and even then follow him within the conventions of reason as presented by the Buddha. The teachings on seeing the guru’s actions as perfect should largely be left for the practice of highest tantra, wherein they take on a new meaning. One of the principal yogas in the tantric vehicle is to see oneself and all others as Buddhas. Under these circumstances it becomes absurd to think that you and everyone else are Buddhas, but your guru is not!
    “In Tibet, due to the Dharma being so widespread, and due to the kindness of many past masters, the people were inspired by a great deal of faith. Even a small patch of red cloth was regarded as true Sangha. They had no difficulty in practicing ‘every action seen as perfect.’ Therefore, responsibility for the purity of the tradition rested in the hands of the lamas, and unfortunately, it is very easy for a lama to become spoiled by the teaching ‘every action seen as perfect.’ Actually the more respect one is given the more humble one should become, but sometimes this principle becomes reversed. A spiritual teacher must guard himself carefully and should remember the words of Lama Drom Tonpa, ‘Use respect shown to you as a cause for humility.’ This is the teacher’s responsibility. The student has the responsibility of using wisdom in his demonstration of faith and respect.
    “Faith generated is a virtue, but if it is not guided by wisdom it can get us into trouble. We Tibetans generally have so much faith that we take Dharma practice for granted. A monk who lives from the offerings of patrons, but does not abide within the practices, creates a negative karma equal to stealing from a temple. Someone who has spiritual qualities or who is engaged in intensive study or practice fulfills the qulifications of receivingt offerings and his acceptance is meaningful. But a bad monk would be better off to swallow a hot iron ball. A problem is that we usually only observe those teachings that feed our delusions and ignore those that would overcome them. This leniency can easily lead to one’s downfall. This is why I call the teaching on seeing all the guru’s actions as perfect, a poison. Many sectarian problems in Tibet were born and nourished by it.
    “The First Dalai Lama wrote, ‘The true spiritual master looks upon all living beings with thoughts of love and shows respect to teachers of all traditions alike. He only harms delusion, the enemy within.’ The different traditions have arisen principally as branches of skillful methods for trainees of varying capacities. If we take an aspect of their teachings, such as the precept of “all actions seen as perfect,’ and use it for sectarian purposes, how have we repaid the past masters for their kindness in giving and transmitting Dharma? Have we not disgraced them? If we misunderstand and mispractice their teachings, it will hardly please them. Similarly, it is meritorious for a lama to perform rituals or give initiations to benefit people, but if his motivation is only material benefit, he would be better off to become a businessman. Using the mask of Dharma to exploit people is a great harm. What the Chinese did to us was bad, but not as bad as the effects we would create by taking Dharma and using it for sectarian purposes or to exploit people. This rots the foundation. In this context the great yogi Milarepa said, ‘When Dharma practitioners do not abide within their practices, all they do is harm the teachings.’ Just as intestinal worms can kill a lion, using the teachings for sectarianism and exploitation can easily destroy the Dharma. We erect elaborate altars and make extensive pilgrimages, but better than to do so is to remember Buddha’s teachings: “Never create any evil; always create goodness; aim all practices at cultivating the mind.’ When our practice increases delusion, negativity and disturbed states of mind, we know that something is wrong.
    “It is sometimes said that a major cause of the decline of Buddhism in India eight hundred years ago was the practice of vajrayana by unqualified people, and sectarianism caused by corruption within the sangha. Anyone teaching Tibetan Buddhism should keep this in mind when they refer to the precept, ‘every action of the guru is to be see as perfect.’ This is an extremely dangerous teaching, particularly for beginners.”

    (Essence of Refined Gold Commentary by Tenzin Gyatso, The fourteenth Dalai Lama, 1982; pp 54-57)
    His Holiness made these statements 30 years ago and I have never seen him vary it or compromise it. What more is he supposed to do?

    • Thank you Drolma.

      We had a teaching by Alex Berzin today about the teacher-student relationship, and among the many useful things he said, is, that the Bodhisattva vows clearly state that a Bodhisattva must act in a way that people don’t loose faith. Another commitment is, that it is against his vows when he (or she) out of like to a person does not show that person his or her own wrongdoings in order to help him (or her) to overcome it.

      Given the first vow, if a teacher ignores it and thinks he can behave as he likes thereby destroying the faith of others, it is against the teachings. If it is against the teachings, then how can he be said to be a qualified teacher? (This would also be my response to DKR’s quote from DI blog. However, it appears to me that this quote has been taken out of context and it might therefore be misleading to quote it in a context where we speak about (alleged) power, emotional, financial or sexual abuse. It appears to me that DKR is really speaking about something else and is referring to something in another context, and it also appears to me that he makes this statement for a temporary sake of a certain assembly or individual with a certain (destructive) mental attitude, he wants to help them to overcome it. So I am a bit sceptical if this quote proves inconsistency.)

      With respect to HH the Dalai Lama and lineage holders in general. Alex said today that we Westerners tend towards to project a Christian or the Abrahamic religious background onto Tibetan Buddhism. Which means among others there would be an authority like the pope, and a structure like in the Vatican/catholic church. But this is not how Indian traditions (Jain, Hindu, Buddhism) are functioning. The lineage holder’s main function is to keep and to transmit a lineage. Also how lineageholders relate to their lineages and the monasteries relate to them is dissimilar than in the catholic church; it is an issue which he thinks is less (if at all) investigated. The Tibetan lineage holders (he said) cannot do too much. So actual our expectations for actions could be unrealistic …

      I think a summery of the quote you gave from HH is also here on my website:

      Another key point of this article and what Alex Berzin said is the qualification of the student, and what they think who they are and if the could compare with such examples like Milarepa or Naropa to be able to have a relationship like they had with their properly qualified gurus. For most Westerners the actual Vajrayana approach is not the level of practice where they are … and one must be honest to understand on what level one really is.

      Its really worth to listen of what he was teaching. I put these files temporary online. In the second session we had a discussion which picked up the issue of abuse and responsibility in a community if there is abuse. I asked that question based on the reported SR story, and his answer was very helpful. If you are interested here is the link to download the 2 files:

      So far for today. I will read your other posts soon …

  5. Thank you Drolma. I will read it soon and reply to it. At the moment I am very busy with other things. One thing which came to my mind since we started the discussion: HH the Dalai Lama in general does not speak bad about others and sometimes if all the world condemns a person (or nowadays Islam) he deliberately speaks also good about that person or group. Based on this practice the Western Shugden Society tried to “prove” that he would sympathize with the ideology of Mao, the Nazis, Shoko Ashahara, Bush, dictators or also bad behaving Buddhists etc. But actual WSS and most critics don’t see that it is his main practice to be kind to everybody. (I remember it was said to me that HH Dujom Rinpoche had also such a practice: he never spoke bad about anybody. Therefore, it was said to me, not even in his history treatise about Nyingma school he spoke bad about Gelugpas and the harm they have done to Nyingmas in the past.) HH the Dalai Lama also did not speak bad about Kelsang Gyatso or NKT or the WSS. He said he enjoys their freedom of speech they have. Though of course he says clearly that the Shugden practice is misleading “spirit worship” etc., and one should abandon it. So usually he carefully discriminates between the human being and certain destructive actions, and while he is forceful towards wrong actions he is very moderate and gentle with respect to the person. At least this seem to be the general pattern of his behaviour. There might be exceptions … Maybe we expect too much from outer authorities’ judgements and it is expected to empower ourselves to come to conclusion? On the other hand Tibetans had their system to point out wrong lamas, either they ridiculed them in the public or they just went silent when their name was spoken or made a slight head/speech move which expressed their negative judgement. We Westerns might need another system to communicate lamas gone astray … and it seems to me that the Tibetan Lamas prefer not to speak directly about a Lama who is misleading students … it appears to me, that they expect that we judge ourselves the lamas and their behaviour. Maybe this is also the best way, because also an high authority can err (see the catholic church and the pope for instance) but the problem is, it leaves the searcher of a path a bit alone and their silence contributes that a searcher of a path with less wisdom, less self esteem etc. falls pray to beguilers. A difficult situation …

  6. Very good points, Tenpel. It seems we expect His Holiness to be quite the superman. We expect him (to use American termonology) to be president, congress, supreme court, judicial court, and police department all at the same time. We want hime to be both judge and jury. This in addition to his tireless schedule of travelling the world, teaching his messages of universal love and compassion– in addition to his frequent audiences with Tibetan exiles and meetings with Western Scientists. It’s a little unfair I think– and quite impossible.

    Even the action of inviting Sogyal Rinpoche to his interview with Mary Finnigan, when she came with her complaints to Dharamsala, had merits and is consistent with his approach to all difficulties (e.g. dialogue, dialogue, dialogue)– surely, face to face dialogue between SR and Mary Finnigan was a valid approach towards getting to the bottom of these troubles.

    Yet His Holiness has not been silent either. He has taken on the role of supreme court in a way, to use the analogy above, the role of interpreting the Buddha’s instructions in strong and definitive terms for modern ears. For decades, he has been strongly speaking out against the system which supports lama abuse. We can’t expect him then to be the enforcer of the Buddha’s instructions, nor can we ask him to judge every transgression. It’s unfair.

  7. I want to commend this website for its consistently balanced and transparent approach to these difficult problems. In the interests of continuing that complete transparency, I want to express my concerns over the fact that Mary Finnigan, author of “Behind the Thangkas” has not always been completely credible in her reporting of situations within the Tibetan Buddhist community. Two opinion pieces she wrote in the Guardian last year contained inaccuracies which I found troubling.

    The first was a piece written last November entitled “The Buddhist Organizations that are Thriving During the Debt Crisis.”
    In this, she talks of the large amounts of money being taken in by Buddhist teachers and centers. In one instance, she speaks of HH Karmapa’s first visit to the US in 2008: “About 2,000 people gathered at a monastery in Woodstock to catch a glimpse of him. They paid $200 each. Roughly $400,000 (£250,000) hit the coffers and after expenses, the monastery had enough left over to embark on an extensive building project.”

    This statement is incorrect. I know for a fact that the extensive building project of this monastery (KTD monastery) had actually begun several years before the arrival of HH Karmapa and was funded by wealthy donors and monastery debt.

    In this article, Mary then lists several Buddhists organizations that ask little or nothing for teachings. She leaves out one of the largest of these, the Office of HH Dalai Lama, who charge nothing for teachings in Dharamsala and even pass out tea and bread to all the attendees.

    Then in an article entitled “No Role For the Karmapa”
    Mary writes, “The Dalai Lama has acted shrewdly in giving up his political position and removing the need for a regency” She states that by stepping down from his position, this “also means that the 26-year-old 17th Karmapa, Urgyen Trinley Dorje, will not now be become a regent – despite the fact that he has been groomed for this role since his dramatic escape from Tibet in 2000”

    I see no evidence for this, as a Kagyu student myself for some years, and I am still not convinced of it when Mary then cites a video clip as corroboration: “In 2008 the Dalai Lama was filmed telling the Karmapa and Ling Rinpoche, another young senior lama, that they would inherit his responsibilities when he died. “You will be the ones to continue my work,” he said.”
    She then says, “It now seems that this work will be confined to spiritual matters connected with the stewardship of Tibetan Buddhism…”

    No, this statement by HH Dalai Lama to HH Karmapa and Ling Rinpoche was a statement only ever made in reference to HH’s work with western scientists; this was the work he was referring to. It had nothing to do with either politics or spiritual matters– or any “responsibility”.

    The slant of Mary’s article is a somewhat cynical view of the Tibetan community still angling for political power within its ranks– instead of the fact that HH Dalai Lama has been working openly and cleanly towards complete Democratic reforms within the Tibetan government in exile for decades and HH Karmapa has never been active politically and has stated numerous times that his intentions are not political.

    Indeed, both articles were opinion pieces and Mary expressed opinions. However, as a journalist, she surely needs to be careful of her credibility. Certainly, my observations here are not an exoneration of Sogyal and his questionable behaviors– nor do they discredit Mary’s hard work exposing these behaviors, much of which I still suspect to be true. However, if we are to expect and enlist the support and help of Tibetan Buddhist leaders in dealing with these grave problems, we need to make sure that we remain honest, transparent and dignified ourselves. Making wild and unfounded statements about situations within the Tibetan Buddhist communities will only hinder progress in these matters.

    • Thank you Drolma.

      I agree. It is important to work in a proper way and to also mark opinions as opinions and not to state them as facts. If one does not do this it undermines one’s creditability, not only this it also harms others and if one aims for a constructive outcome of one’s actions, it harms also the good purpose.. T

      Again, thank you for your comments!

    • Mary Finnigan says:

      Thank you Drolma for pointing out my faults. I am sure ithis is beneficial to my spiritual development. However, the points your make are interpretations, rather than facts. The Guardian has a team of legal experts who vet every word that goes onto their web site and into the paper. They rejected some sections of my copy a couple of times. Since then I have learned to be very careful.

  8. And we must be aware that this page on your site, Behind the Thangkas and In the Name of Enlightenment will all be used by Shugden people to undermine His Holiness in particular and Tibetan lamas in general. I know from discussions on forums that Mary Finnigan does not take the Sugden controversy seriously, once referring to it as a matter of “Tibetan superstition” and on another occasion saying that she had friends in the NKT who were badly offended by HH Dalai Lama’s stance against Sugden. It is easy for Westerners to view the Shugden trouble from the outside as not so serious, as political, as Tibetan business. Unfortunately, as you have shown on this site, the reality is much more serious. We must remember that in the name of Shugden, it is almost certain that multiple and vicious murders have been committed and it is certain that there is an ongoing campaign by WSS and NKT to discredit the Tibet government in exile and that this is most likely funded by the Chinese. These are in addition to the troubles inflicted on students of the NKT.

    This is serious and I believe that it complicates our business of exposing lama abuses and underlines the need for great care in how we proceed.

    • Of course everything can be used by everybody. I agree great care is needed too. In certain situations to be silent might be more destructive than to be frank or vice versa.

      We can learn from the Christian church’s dealing with abuse in their system that to put things under the carpet is not good for anybody. But of course one shoulnd’t be masochistic either by inviting others to put one down. To quote HH the Dalai Lama: “Openness and honesty are the basis of faith.”

  9. Oh dear, I hope I wasn’t advocating that we leave anything out of this discussion–! My thinking has been to see things from as many angles as I can and try to open things up, break some of the polarity. Things are complicated and never as black and white as we want them to be. It seems to me that the discussions on this topic (e.g. Dialogue Ireland) fall into two, polarized camps– the Rigpa/Sogyal Rinpoche supporters who deny any wrongdoing at all and those that believe the totality, or most of the totality, of the allegations put forward in the documentary and Mary’s piece. It seems we need a third, more objective camp, one that accepts that Sogyal Rinpoche has positive qualities as a teacher despite the abuses and maybe Mary has gone too far in her allegations by trying to dismiss him completely. This camp also would take the line you have stated so well above, which is that it is Never OK for a teacher to have sex with students. Full stop.

    It is possible that from this stance we would stand a better chance of breaking the silence of Tibetan Buddhist leaders. I know from my time working in a monastery that we Westerners complain a lot and many of our complaints are silly and endless. I believe that many Tibetan lamas in the West are probably a little deaf to complaints from students. This stuff about SR could just sound like more of the same taken too far. Certainly the debate needs to be honed down to just the one, essential issue– sex between teachers and students.

    I only just noticed your comments on my longer piece. I will download that talk with Alex. Also, the exerpt I included from DKR was the end of a longer piece on Tibetan lama abuses very similar to the ones you quoted from. I didn’t include all of it because my comment was already quite long.

    • Thank you Drolma. I can only agree with:

      My thinking has been to see things from as many angles as I can and try to open things up, break some of the polarity. Things are complicated and never as black and white as we want them to be.

      Usually things turn into black and white discussions and lack differentiation but what helps is just that: differentiating things and looking onto a subject from different angles without whitewashing things or without making them fuzzy. Alex Berzin also said this Saturday in Berlin, that the problem with abuse (or sexual abuse) and addressing it in the public is, that it easily turns into a witch hunt. There is always the risk of hysteria.

      As you said, things are complex. They are dependent arising and it is the best to try to see the arisal of things from the understanding of dependent arising.
      Looking from the side of the students of Dharma (or Sogyal Rinpoche) they also have responsibility. As Alex Berzin has put it in the past in another context: ‘There is no Cleopatra without people who make her to Cleopatra.’, or as a Tibetan saying goes: ‘Even the most gifted master can get corrupted by too devotional students.’

      Actual I think it would be ok for a teacher to have a tantric sexual relationship with a person who is really benefited by it from a spiritual, emotional point of view. So far, there are some examples which worked in the past, like Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal. But since naive and young Western women are not Yeshe Tsogyals nor might be the majority of masters be on the level of Padmasambhava, and because there has been so much harm in the West with this issue, it would be better to keep an ethic which does not allow sexual relationships between masters and students. If in extremely rare cases there is no harm from that, then also there will be no complaints, not only this, the students won’t even talk about this, because it has been a part of their agreement without that any type of power abuse has been involved.

      Actual, I don’t have anything against promiscuity (and found it a too Victorian or Christian when Mary spoke in the docu so vehemently against SR’s alleged promiscuity), as long as it is not damaging for others. The Tibetans have/had their own way with sexual relationships but Westerners have theirs. Given that most of the Buddhist ethics (especially in Vinaya and Bodhisattva vows) aim towards that people don’t loose faith in the Sangha, because the good example of the Sangha and people’s faith in them (their good qualities) forms a bridge to them to develop faith in the transforming power of the Dharma, there shouldn’t be a problem to accept in Western context a rule “it is never OK for a teacher to have sex with students.” because (1) it is damaging in almost all the cases, (2) most female Westerners find promiscuity hurting and unbearable, and (3) also the Buddhist ethics include as one of the primary ethics*:

      A disciple of the Buddha must not engage in licentious acts or encourage others to do so. [As a monk] he should not have sexual relations with any female — be she a human, animal, deity or spirit — nor create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of such misconduct. Indeed, he must not engage in improper sexual conduct with anyone.

      A Buddha’s disciple ought to have a mind of filial piety — rescuing all sentient beings and instructing them in the Dharma of purity and chastity. If instead, he lacks compassion and encourages others to engage in sexual relations promiscuously, including with animals and even their mothers, daughters, sisters, or other close relatives, he commits a Parajika offense.

      Thank you very much for your thoughts, time and quotes!
      If you find time maybe it would be nice if you can add a reference from where this quote by DKR has been taken from.

      * The Brahma Net Sutra quote stands just for an example of Sexual Ethics as taught in Buddhism. For another account:

  10. Thanks for the constructive reply, Tenpel. Here’s the link referencing DKR’s statement:

    Yes, I do so agree with all you say, essentially that the severe harm to many women far outweighs the benefit to maybe one or two women– certainly for Buddhists, the ethics around promiscuity are important in this, but for Western psychology the issue is simply the imbalance of power between teacher and student as I believe you mentioned above. So it can be viewed from so many different perspectives and then there are also several reports of SR having sex with married women, so there we have a very straightforward case of “sexual misconduct,” clearly a breach of Buddhist ethics on every level.

    • Yes, for Western psychology the issue is simply the imbalance of power between teacher and student … and it seems to be really a power abuse … I wonder what is the “benefit” for the student (a story reported to me), if Sogyal does not like the food a woman has faithfully cooked for him gets utter angry and throws the food against her? What is the use if the woman after having gone through this experience is utter confused and finally leaves him, and later, at another time, another place, breaks down (in tears – when I remember correctly) in front of another Buddhist teacher because this verbal and physical violence she experienced has been just too much for her? … In Western psychology all of these reports indicate rather a personality disorder and from Buddhist point of view there is no story of the Buddha or in one of his former lives, when he trained as a Bodhisattva, that he acted like this. Contentment, gratitude, kindness? Now, I assume most Tibetan Buddhists are tempted at this point to hint to the Vajrayana, and “crazy wisdom” etc. but, since what cooking food a lama does not like justifies to “tame a student” by applying “wrathful means”? What is the benefit, if there is only confusion for a long time and distrust? A woman who was asked by Sogyal many many years ago to have sex with him (she refused) said by today she has no faith in Tibetan Rinpoches. I would like to ask the “defenders” of “crazy wisdom” what sort of “help” is this if her faith in Tibetan lamas is undermined for two decades? (And this was ‘just’ a request for sexual activity …)

      Sadly not only Tibetan Buddhists justify wrong doings by “crazy wisdom”. A Zen Master and Abbot in Frankfurt (Germany) does the same. He claims to apply “extreme methods [which would be part of his tradition] to show his students their mind”. Of course he shows (some of) them their mind by having sex with them (but only with the young monks he feels attracted to, the others seem not to “need” this “special method”). The misled ordained Sangha, after having been confronted with the wrong doings of the Abbot by the abused monks, replied to the abused monks: “… but this is only a part of your therapy, he just wants to help you!”. Puhh.

      Thank you for the link to the quote, I will read it in the next days.

  11. Absolutely, it is horrid, all of it, truly horrid. I agree, Tenpel! My own experiences were mainly just emotional, with unkind lamas, but I have been dealing with the fallout for many years. But it seems like we could get into a tailspin if we become too inclusive and try to tell all the horror stories; we’d never get to the end of it. So we need to be methodical and find what we can definitively address, such as the very specific abuse of sexual relations between teacher and student.

    For example, is it OK for a lama to have affairs outside of his/her spiritual community? Too complicated to sort out. Is it OK for a lama to act rudely to a student in an attempt to cut through some ego clinging? Too complicated to sort out– when does simple, compassionate rudeness becomes cruel torture? Where do you draw the line? And so on.

    So it seems to me if there can be a consensus about the one question of sexual relations, as they’ve done in Germany, this might just start the process of saying that there are boundaries to how a spiritual teacher can treat his/her students. It would start a new culture.

    I have just begun quite a good book about this written last year by a Zen teacher/practitioner Scott Edelstein, “Sex and the Spiritual Teacher.” His take is that if a spiritual teacher cannot absolutely insure the safety of his/her spiritual community then he/she cannot be a spiritual teacher. Full stop. That is, if we cannot send our daughters and sons to the community in full confidence that they will not be sexually molested, the spiritual teacher must stop teaching. This is similar to the perspective HH Dalai Lama has taken, saying if you cannot behave in accord with Dharma, then it is better to stop your practice of Dharma and do something else. (preliminary teachings to Kalachakra, July 2011, Day 1).

    From Edelstein’s perspective and I think this is becoming a growing perspective in Buddhist communities, sexual relations between spiritual teachers and their students tear the fabric of the spiritual community and make it an unsafe place– there is nothing more to say about it. It isn’t open for debate.

    Edelstein has some suggestions about how we can create these safe places– unfortunately, I haven’t gotten there yet in my reading! The bad news that he gives is that in the vast majority of instances of sexual abuse with spiritual teachers, we cannot trust that they will or can stop. Certainly it looks that way with SR.

    • I agree.

      We can start where we are now. We can make commitments and rules which make spiritual communities to a safer place. We can announce our commitments and restraints (Community Ethical Charter) to others, so that this helps us to train ourselves and to act accordingly and being an object that can be scrutinized by others. Its a type of transparency which allows that people’s faith can grow based on their valid investigations or which helps them to protect themselves from harm. If a community openly says: ‘we think that our teacher can have sexual relationships with his or her students’, then at least people know what they can expect and they can make an informed decision. And if a community says ‘we commit ourselves not to engage in sexual relationships between teacher and students’, then others have clear and safe boundries, and this commitment is a basis to allow others to judge and to draw consequences if this commitment is transgressed. Excluding sexual relationships between teacher and student in Western Dharma communities is a start, and I think since even our laws prohibit sexual relations between therapist and patient, it will be easy to follow the laws the society has set in this area and which is in line with the Buddha’s intention.

  12. A brief thought … isn’t insisting on an ethics charter which includes some kind of promise to not engage in sexual activity rather like including a line that says the teacher “promises not to physically strike a student?”

    Doesn’t the whole approach generate an unfairly negative atmosphere and expectation?

    I remember at school orientation this year, held a week after school began, a very young (first year teaching) teacher greeted us with, “Oh, yes, you’re so-and-so’s parents–no, everything’s fine with them, no problems so far!”

    I was so mad ;) If the expectation is merely “we strive to not have any serious problems,” I just don’t feel that’s setting the bar very high. It’s not the intended spirit of any organization to be defined by a list of crimes one promises not to commit.

    • I think to have a commitment that Buddhist teachers do not engage in sexual relationship with their students is not setting the bar too high, nor does it lead to generate an unfairly negative atmosphere. It makes things clear. Also nobody is insisting on an Ethical Charter. To establish it is a wish and suggestion of the member organisations. Finally the organisations have to vote for or against it. So it is based on free will, investigation and insight about its need or non-need.

  13. Absolutely, Tenpel. And I just had a thought. I remember being told once that there is a Tibetan tradition wherein a woman who marries a Tibetan lama keeps a separate lama for her own spiritual practice. Have you heard that? Perhaps there has been a tradition even in Tibet that the two relationships– sexual and spiritual– need to be kept separate. Perhaps there is no need even to be convincing lamas of that.

  14. And Sheila, I think there is a distinct difference between sexual abuse and other abuses. Sexual abuse so often masquerades as love, caring, intimacy, bliss, exultation etc. When the power differential is big, students are much less capable of thinking clearly and assessing the situation in sexual abuse before getting into trouble– whereas, when the teacher is waving a club, ready to strike, the student has a better context in which to judge the situation (though not always.)

  15. In the interests of continuing my refutation of the header on this page, I have transcribed statements His Holiness Dalai Lama made in the introductory teachings to the Kalachakra given July, 2011 in Washington DC. The link is The exerpts are taken from Day 2, one at 27 minutes, the other at 2:24. I have transcribed them directly, in His Holiness’s broken English.

    With the first quote, he began by discussing historical work by HG Wells.

    Regarding HG Wells’ historical account written in 1930, His Holiness says, “In his book he praised Buddha… but then later… he mentioned Tibetan Buddhism is something different. [He mentioned] If Buddha appears in Tibet today, he may [be] shocked. I think [HG Wells] information [is] based on those ignorant people writing about Tibetan Lamaism. And then also Tibetans ourselves– of course there are good Buddhists, good practitioners, knowledgeable Buddhists there, but overall, [in Tibet] Buddhism [has] become like fashion…[with] too much ritual, without knowing the meaning and not much serious.

    Then also the tulku lama institution, unfortunately eventually it [has] become something like social status. Totally wrong! I think it is worthwhile [to be] criticized by Dalai Lama, who [is] also [part of this institution]…since 6th century, [there has been the] high lama institution. So that is self criticism. Really, we must be careful, we must be realistic, [we] should not follow our traditional way of– something like blind faith. That [is] out of date. So therefore, I cannot blame those people who describe Tibetan Buddhism as Lamaism. Because you see in this society, so much importance [is] about lama.

    That [is] also due to lack of knowledge. Buddha made very clear: in order to be lama, what qualifications [are needed]. Tibetans usually, generally, [say] high seat, high throne, that’s big lama. Silly! (Translator: So in Kham, people say the way to judge the highness of the lama is by judging the size of the caravan, the number of horses and the more horses in the caravan, that’s the higher lama.

    [Then two hours later in the teaching, His Holiness returns to the subject.]

    Thubten Jingpa (translating for His Holiness)…The Buddha himself spoke extensively about the qualifications that are necessary on the part of the spiritual teacher—in different contexts, for example in the context of monastic discipline practice, he spoke specifically of the qualities that are necessary for someone to act as a spiritual mentor and teacher in those kind of contexts. With relation to Mahayana teachings, particularly the sutra level teachings, the Buddha spoke of ten primary qualities, the ten key qualities that are necessarily required on the part of the spiritual teacher and in the context of vajrayana, he spoke of different kind of qualities that are essential for someone to serve and act as a spiritual teacher. And this is to really underline the importance of insuring that the person who’s going to be your teacher is a qualified one.

    His Holiness in English: Many years ago, I think 15 years ago, one day, one Chinese from mainland China came to see me, a Buddhist, very serious. He told me [that] nowadays some false lamas from Tibet [have come] to mainland China and claimed themselves to be Dharma-raja (translator- Dharma Kings). Then a number of Chinese devotees very much… respected [them] and were devoted. Then eventually, those [who] claimed [to be] Dharma-rajas, their main purpose was: seeking money, seeking sex.

    Then he asked me, I should do something. Then I told him, I cannot do anything. The important [thing] is those devotees must learn the qualities of lama which [are] mentioned in Buddha’s teaching. Then when you meet someone who claims [to be a] Dharma-raja, then test, examine; you must spy on such person. Then, not one day, one week, but months months [you must examine]. Then eventually you find something, all those at least minimum qualification [are] there and [he/she is a] reliable person, then you consider [him/her] as your teacher and receive teaching.

    So that’s the only way. I told him, like that. So therefore, in the West—and in Mongolia, also, sometimes it happens. The person who claims something very special, sort of teacher, but actually, as I mentioned earlier, seeking wealth, and seeking sex. So, [you] must be careful—and examine, or spying, including myself; you must spy on me. That’s important. And also, you should judge, my today’s talk, what differences [between that and] ten years ago, [between that and] fifteen, twenty years ago. And whether it’s consistent. And my talks, whether go well with Nagarjuna’s text or Shantideva’s text and Buddha’s own text. That way you must examine. That’s important.

    • Thank you Drolma for your kindness to share this.

      It comes back to that His Holiness stresses that we as the students have the responsibility. This is the way how the Indian traditions seem to stress this point.

      But the problem I see is, that in Western context where people lack knowledge of Dharma and Buddhism, and have often an naive or naive-positive approach to Buddhism even if you approach a lama in a sceptical, scrutinizing manner in the beginning, a manipulative lama is able to use that opportunity of your openness and search for a valid spiritual path to undermine your critical faculties and your intuition, so that one might be caught nevertheless in a “cult” or under the guidance of a teacher who has gone astray.

      I experienced that myself. I was even deliberately looking for advice from the Berlin state’s “cult official”. My problem was rather, that there was no criticism or critical information available at that time and Buddhists didn’t communicate what they knew, who is seen as controversial and so on and why. Hence there was a good chance to step into a trap which had the façade of “Buddhism”. That’s why at least this is what I learned, beginners might need both: the qualities of a properly qualified student (which does not exist at the beginning of the path, one is is rather in a vulnerable state), and also knowledge about criticism which has been brought forward to a certain group or teacher. Of course to insist on the qualities of the student is by far more safe than to go onto the slippery ice to make known criticism, allegations etc. with respect to a certain group or teacher.

      BTW. A teaching about the qualities of a proper vessel of the Mahayana according to Tsong Kha pa can be found in this post:

      He is clear that such a student must be able to discriminate correct from wrong teachings. Surely this quality does most often not exist in the mind of a Buddhist beginner in the West. So the difficulties to judge a lama correctly are somewhat ingrained in a beginner’s situation. How to deal with this? A Geshe said: in the first five years don’t see anybody as your Dharma teacher but rather as spiritual friends on the way, decide only to accept someone as your teacher, when you have enough Dharma knowledge. Before that just see Buddhist teachers as spriitual friends who provide you Dharma information. That’s wise advice, I think. But then in the Tibetan Dharma centers many newcomers are made crazy with questions “Who is your root lama?” “You don’t have a root lama?” “You need a root lama!” etc, thereby undermining for themselves or others a relaxed, analytical approach. Manipulative teachers will like this, other teachers might ignore this, only few lamas actively stress to not hurry and to take time and to relax with this guru issue … until one has developed inner qualities in order to be able to judge teachers correctly.

  16. That is all so so true, Tenpel. Like you, I am not sure how I could have been more skeptical when I started on the path. To begin with, it was a vulnerable time in my life– and the first few months hit me hard, the way spiritual paths sometimes can in the beginning and I was flamoxed with all sorts of wild experiences. So then, there was Sogyal Rinpoche and I was just overwhelmed by the entire experience and my critical faculty was out the door, just like that.

    My daughter, on the other hand, more cautious because of what she saw her mother go through, did a wonderful 10 day “Introduction to Buddhism” retreat in Dharamsala after attending a teaching with His Holiness. The retreat was run by the Tushita Center and was very very grounding in the ways you described above. They taught meditation and the basics of Buddhism and they repeated over and over to students about the importance of taking years to find a teacher– and to explore all the traditions, all the centers. I have often thought it would be a good thing to have such retreats in the West. For example, if Rigpa was less lama-centered, if it wasn’t all about the lama, then my wild experiences could have settled down into some serious study and practice instead of a crazy submission to the lama.

    Another problem that makes this slow process of finding a teacher difficult is the speed with which students are given initiations and start vajrayana practices. Students often have their first initiation at the same time that they take refuge– all within a few months of stepping foot into a Dharma Center. Then, of course, as soon as you’re in that realm of practice, you’ve committed to the teacher on a much more serious level and you’re in a culture of non-criticism.

    I think you’ve really highlighted where work needs to be done! I’ll read the Tsongkhapa quote, though if it’s from Lamrim Chenmo, I’ve read it–

    • Yes, the Vajrayana initiations in the West given to vessels which are just not fit for Vajrayana is another condition for unhealthy relationships. When one thinks of that Vajrayana should be a secret practice, difficult even to be received, only being granted to those who honestly and sincerely long for it and ready to take upon themselves tremendous hardships, proper student being ready to offer all their wealth to receive Tantric initiations, and meant for highly trained and capable Bodhisattvas … so, as you say “the speed with which students are given initiations and start vajrayana practices”, I think too, is another piece in the development of unhealthy relationships and confusion. One could say that as long as the teacher is qualified and the student not it might be ok but actually both should be qualified and the wide spread of tantric initiations makes a newcomer believe it would be a common practice for everybody.

      What I like with the Lam Rim Chen Mo quote is, how Tsong Kha Pa shows that if a student cannot discriminate Dharma from non-Dharma, and if he has the fault of being partisan (having attachment to one’s own school and being hostile towards other schools), and if he also lacks diligence towards the aim of enlightenment, he is not qualified and not only this he will see qualities, where there are no qualities, he will see faults where there are no faults. So the deception a student undergoes is based on the lack of those qualities, hence one should strive to develop them. I found this really good advice.

  17. The trouble comes with that word “intelligent” Aryadeva (translator) uses. We all think we are so much more intelligent and knowledgeable about life and the Dharma than we are. Twenty years ago, I thought I was smart, but I know now I wasn’t very smart. Ten years ago, I thought I was smart– and a very adept student of Dharma– but I know now I was pretty stupid. Even now, I say I have read the passages in Lamrim Chenmo about the qualities of being a good student, but you point out a perspective on the passages that I have never looked at or thought about before. It was as if I had never read them. So when do we know we are smart enough to judge a lama?

    Also, today in my Dharma study I was reminded about how special– precious in fact– the bond is between teacher and student/disciple. Most of us who are serious students have experienced this. Many times I have experienced very strong gratitude, even to teachers who later treated me quite badly. It’s very difficult to know how to move forward in this discussion without treading on that very precious bond– could that be one reason why Tibetan lamas are so quiet? The bond is really quite sacred, in fact.

    • ha ha, yes we Westerners think we are so “intelligent” … (the word actual refers to discriminating awareness=wisdom …)
      Tsong Ka Pa also says that we have to look into our minds if we have those qualities, if not “strive to develop them in this life” – which for me implies that it can be the spiritual task of one human life to develop the qualities of suitable vessel for the Mahayana. However, we Westerners might have a more lofty look onto ourselves (or we put us too much down, which is just the another type of pride)

      yes, many lamas don’t want to interfere with relations students have with their teachers. Maybe this is a reason too that they are silent …

  18. But then, why is SR himself silent? Why does he continue travelling the world, teaching as if nothing has ever happened? At almost every teaching which HH Dalai Lama gives, he will give time to address the issue of Shugden. He addresses it again and again and again. This is a sign that he takes his public position in the world very seriously. It’s a sign of deep respect to his students as well because he doesn’t leave any of us floundering in the dark about what is true– as I believe SR has left his students today.

    What are SR’s students to think about his silence?

    Like HHDL, SR has a very public persona– he is known throughout the world, has thousands of students. Surely, that entails a responsibility to address any issues that come up, any allegations???? Instead, he travels the world and teaches and leaves the allegations to his lawyers and top Rigpa personel. Except for that one, official statement from Rigpa, nothing has been said that I have seen. There’s a brutality and coldness to this that I find deeply disturbing. It seems to me that Rigpa students have two choices: blind faith or dismissal. There is no third option. He leaves no other option for the intelligent student but to turn away and leave Rigpa.

    • I leave it to the reader to judge this.

      Personally I think, according to the Bodhisattva ethics, if he is a Bodhisattva, he should act in a way that people don’t loose faith, if he has harmed others he should honestly excuse, if he is alleged wrongly he should clarify this for the sake of others’ faith.

    • Mary Finnigan says:

      Very good points Drolma. I have asked Sogyal for interviews many times. He ignores all my requests.

      • Also people from Rigpa have tried to communicate with you since you’ve lead the campaign for decades now. They were not successful in their attempts.

        I don’t think SR has any reason to trust you with interviews knowing your other colorful posts and writings.

  19. And I also still have lots of questions about the experience of devotion itself. I don’t know if my experiences are common, but in the past, I had frequent, strong emotional experiences of devotion towards lamas and these experiences whitewashed any hope I had of sane, objective reasoning. They caused me to view the lama as much bigger than human.

    Oddly, I have been practicing and studying with HH Dalai Lama as my primary teacher for the past seven years and I have not had those experiences when I am in his pressence. My confidence in him has grown slowly over the years based on the teachings themselves and not on any ephemeral emotional experience. This makes me wonder more about the lama’s part in helping/allowing us to remain grounded in reason?

    • Drolma,
      thank you this is a very interesting point.

      The lamas whom I found to be genuine my faith grows gradually by observing their qualities over a long time and seeing that they have a continuity of those qualities. My little faith is not pushed and excited …

      It could be that in the dynamics of unhealthy relationships delusions carry away the student and the teacher (or one of them) and this gives strong emotions but is not stable.

      However, it could also be due to having been dubed now we are more restraint to open ourselves up to others?

      I don’t know. But I felt the rushy busy and expectation attitude as I found it in NKT and among Shugden Lamas I met is something that can give elevated feelings but does not change the mind, it rather deludes the mind and one is easily caught in pride … whereas those teachers I found to be genuine ones, things are grounded, less spectacular, less elevated, yet there is something more grounded one can rely on.*


      BTW, I just saw a bio of pope Johannes Paul II, I liked it and glanced through some images of him. Then I found also this: It reminded me a bit on this SR issue …

      * another interesting point. I remember having talked some years ago with a translator of a great Sakya Lama, he said that it is said if someone practices Shugden, in the beginning he brings to maturity much of the person’s good Karma, so that persons practising Shugden have in the beginning good experiences of the Dharma, but are also bound to those experiences, and finally captivated by them and carried away. Later those experiences are not that strong any more and the negative Karma also ripens but one still clings to those experiences and is in a type of trap, because one misses to transform the mind while trying to get those experiences again … (something like this) I felt it reflected my situation and those of others quite well. Later (outside of the Shugden circle) things were not that excited, spectacular and “hype” even a bit boring compared with the “elevated times”, but I found it by far more grounded and healthy …

  20. Yes, there are so many angles to this. I certainly have seen many who are more skeptical and resistant to lamas as a result of being abused; however, this skepticism has an edge and cynicism to it that can be an obstacle to Buddhist practice I think. It’s a closed approach. So there are dangers to that approach as well. Whereas in my case, I was too open. I skidded from lama to lama, searching for a continuation of that emotional high. Probably, if you had asked those lamas, they might say that I was too intense, too emotionally unstable from the start. That would have been correct certainly, but only one half of the story– from their side, why didn’t they harness that great enthusiasm I had and put it to good work? I would have done anything they asked. If they had directed me towards several years of intensive study, that would have grounded me definitely, as it did years later when I began working with His Holiness. It would have been much more effective than years of Ngondro.

    And this brings up an interesting similarity between SR and NKT. In both traditions, they emphasize the teachings of the lama (e.g. SR and GKG) over the great Buddhist scholars and practitioners of the past. They water down the teachings. In SR’s case, if you look at the study program Rigpa lays out, the foundation courses are primarily based on SR’s own teachings and students study Shantideva, Nagarjuna etc. when they are more advanced. Of course, in NKT, they only ever study from GKG. I think this contributes to making students not students but followers.

    So I do wonder if these problems of abuse and cultist activities could all be addressed that way, through the Dharma itself. E.G. with some basic guidelines, discouraging the early practice of vajrayana and encouraging much early study. As HHDL says frequently: Read more books. I don’t think this can be called a uniquely Gelug approach anymore– For those of us coming from a Judo-Christian culture, it is an essential grounding and for those Asians from Buddhist cultures, who have slipped into a blind faith approach to Buddhism, it is also an essential grounding.

    • In general the approach HH the Dalai Lama is stressing (and some others too) for the West — 1) being careful not to easily change a religion 2) first to read and study Buddhist basics without any commitment towards teachers, centres or a tradition 3) checking all of this out and taking time for this checking — might be one of the best working approaches for the West, though there are exceptions and there should be space for them too. When Je Tsong Kha pa says that a properly qualified vessel of the Mahayana (not to speak of Vajrayana) needs as one of the three main characteristics a wisdom that is able to discriminate Dharma from non-Dharma, the careful development of such discriminating awareness in the beginning, together with the second quality of learning to be unbiased as a basis for valid discrimination, seems to fit well in His Holiness’ advice. A good grounded basic knowledge and these basic qualities which have to be developed in the first years (or one has them already from past lives) form a good basis for later mature decisions. Then there shouldn’t be a problem to commit wholeheartedly because one has a valid properly checked basis of one’s faith and the outcome will be good.

      This approach empowers the student.

  21. Yes, very nice summary, Tenpel. I would only add that the wisdom from a past life should not be a given, not an indication that a practitioner needs less study, less grounding in the beginning. I think that the strong tradition in Tibet of educating even the most high of tulkus for years and years is an example of this. Even HH Dalai Lama took his geshe exams after many years of study. I myself felt that I had a certain quick and easy understanding of Dharma in the beginning– and this feeling was my biggest downfall, thinking I could immediately jump into advanced practices, without starting at the very beginning with my studies. There’s a danger of that in the west I think. A lot of Westerners think they’re advanced after hearing a few teachings. Totally wrong and dangerous attitude.

    • btw (with respect to your former comment), there is also another thing which seems to be quite common in so called cults: there is intensity. Intensity of feelings, contact, belief, experiences, and this intensity is accompanied with a certain type of excitement and all of this is the opposite of a “boring world”. I think people also look for this. Contrary to this excited intensity, there is a calm, relaxed lightness and feeling at ease Dharma practice brings. I remember when Alex Berzin talked about his feelings to his teacher, Serkong Rinpoche, he said, his feelings are very deep, very warm and calm. Nothing excited. I saw him once in 2002 interacting with his teacher, it was a sheer delight to see how natural, calm, light, warm yet respectful their interacting was. There was no hype, no excitement …


      I would only add that the wisdom from a past life should not be a given, not an indication that a practitioner needs less study, less grounding in the beginning.


      There’s a danger of that in the west I think. A lot of Westerners think they’re advanced after hearing a few teachings. Totally wrong and dangerous attitude.

      yes, this is pride.

      As Alex said, we should check the self-images we have. We easily think we could emulate or follow the examples of Milarepa, Naropa etc. without having even a fraction of their qualities and merit. Our self-images are most often not realistic and this pride is a major factor while we are captivated (or caught) by Buddhist teachers who suffer themselves from pride and make propaganda with “enlightenment in one life time” etc. Not even Buddha Shakyamuni himself attained enlightenment in one lifetime, he had to train over three countless aeons to achieve this aim. But for us it is appealing to think – contrary to the Buddha’s struggle – WE ARE able to achieve “enlightenment in one life time” and some lamas who stress their traditon’s supposed “quickest and easiest enlightenment” (like Ole Nydahl / Diamondway or Kelsang Gyatso / NKT) attract those students who have an inclination for “quick”, “easy” and “being proud” (or a lack of self-esteem, which is just another type of pride, the “pride of self-deprecation”) … as NKT puts it in NKT you can achieve “Enlightenment in an armchair” ;-)

      When Milarepa met a teacher who claimed to have a path which brings enlightenment in one day, Milarepa requested the practice. After some weeks the lama asked about his practice. Then Mila said, that he didn’t practice because there would be no need to hurry because just practising one night would be sufficient for him to achieve his aim, according to what the lama said. Then the Lama said to Mila, that he wouldn’t be a good teacher for him and Mila should go to Marpa.

      This story is quite interesting because it has a certain sense of humour towards Buddhist propaganda as it has been common in Tibet, and also because the lama confesses not to be able to teach/train Mila and sends him to another teacher. However, in NKT it would be only the disciple’s fault if one didn’t attain “Enlightenment in an armchair”. It is claimed that the student’s problem were “a lack of faith”. So instead of seeing interdependency one blames a supposed student’s “lack of faith”. In the example above, the teacher saw clearly that HE is not the right person to train/guide Mila, and without putting the blame onto himself or Mila, he just send him to a more capable teacher (or a lama with whom Mila had a closer karmic relationship).

  22. I do however question your comments on intensity. If I were a lama and there was a student with intensity, I would view it as great raw material for the cultivation of enthusiasm, the third paramita, and penetrative wisdom. Doesn’t that seem right? There’s a lot of energy and drive and motivation in intensity. One of the great tragedies of cults to my mind is the fact that the people who beome members are frequently people with driving (and yes, intense) desires to find meaning and purpose and to make a difference in the world.

    • yes. good points. i think, its that desire that makes a seeker of a path very vulnerable and to an object that can be easily exploited by an unqualified teacher.

  23. Surely Milarepa, turning green in his cave from eating nothing but nettle, would have been described as intense? Surely all those great masters of the past, the ones we revere, would be described as intense in modern day terms? It’s not cool is it, to behave as they did?

    • maybe one should discriminate between an intensity that is healthy and an intensity that is unhealthy?

      the difference between healthy intensity and unhealthy intensity lies in the underlying motivation. if the motivation is rather based on attachment/desire or aversion/anger/hate it leads to an unhealthy intensity, like in the case of a person who is hating the world, is hating the beings, who then develops the desire to go into solitude out of his dislike (and thinks this would be renunciation) … and if the motivation is based on genuine spiritual motivations, like Milarepa had them (he had fear to go to hell, he had renunciation and he also had great compassion before he even met Marpa) it leads to a “healthy intensity”.

  24. Thank you Tenpel, for providing the space to look at these issues calmly and respectfully. On other threads, the emotions are running very raw about SR in particular and it is hard to have a sane dialogue. I firmly believe that whatever the truth of the allegations against SR turn out to be, the problem of abusive relations between teacher and student in Tibetan Buddhism is a real one and we need to be having lots of conversations like this one. We need to look at the situation from as many angles as we can, without anger or blame, because that’s how possibilities and solutions show themselves. So I do appreciate your efforts– this is a wonderful website and addresses a real need!

    • Thank you Drolma. Yes we need a save atmosphere for open discussion. Often the discussion is very heated. Sometimes it is deliberately heated up by trolls or persons who run personal attacks. (For instance I saw at Dialog Ireland how Mary Finnigan was trashed by some. I assume the same was done with respect to Sogyal Rinpoche.) Instead of using arguments persons are attacked. However, we can try to do that better. If you feel here is a calmer place, I am very happy about that, lets stick to this approach. :-)

  25. I’ve just recognized this blog post by a person who had gone through abuse by her therapist. She compares what she read at Dialog Ireland with her own experiences:

    There were several similarities I found between the stories of the devotees’ spiritual/sexual abuse and my own experience with Dr. T.—how the sex was supposed to be both strengthening and healing and have great spiritual value, how it fueled a sense of being special, chosen, that it was in some way a gift, something to be grateful for.

    I think it gives some good food for thoughts: “Silence Is Not the Answer

  26. Good point raised by the quote above. In some ways, discussing the troubles with SR in terms of cult are a little distracting. Though Rigpa does have characteristics of a cult in its workings, so does the US Republican party (e.g. both use psychological manipulative tools to maintain ignorant adherence to their organization). The deeper and essential issue really is the relationship between spiritual teacher and student. Like the relationship between therapist and client, this relationship is very intimate and vulnerable. It is probable that if that relationship is cultivated within healthy bounds, then there will be less of a need for the teacher to protect his/her power base. In turn, there will be less tendency on the students’ side to form cliques and inner circles. The need for a cult is circumvented. So the discussion really is about those healthy boundaries in the teacher-student relationship and from that we can certainly find wisdom and direction from Western pscyotherapeutic practices.

  27. I’d like to thank Drolma and tenpel for this much needed and open discussion.

    However I think there are some points in regards to the Dalai Lama’s response to the SR sexual abuse cases that have not adequately been emphasized.

    It’s great that the DL encourages his students to be critical and have long noses, but then what are we to make of his continued support of Sogyal Rinpoche. A student would think that he could trust those, who the very person that is asking him to engage his critical faculties, approve of. I think that by continuing to be involved with SR, attend his events, give major teachings at his monastery, give quotes of recommendation, the Dalai Lama is very complicit in the corruption that Tenpel alludes to in her article and for perpetuating SR’s actions.

    The first thing we see on the Lerab Ling (Sogyal’s Main Buddhist centre) page of Rigpa’s website is a glowing reference from the Dalai Lama.

    “I am very happy that here, at Lerab Ling, a centre has been born which is destined to make Buddhist culture, as developed in Tibet, known in an authentic manner. For what counts is that it is an authentic representation of Tibetan Buddhist culture, and so can provide an example, and bring about intercultural exchanges in France and in other places. I am convinced that this centre at Lerab Ling is already making a contribution and will continue to do so, more and more, towards a greater knowledge of the rich culture of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition…” His Holiness The Dalai Lama.

    He has also continued to respond to SR’s invations to give teachings at Lerab Ling, and in September 2000 gave a five day teaching on “the Path to Enlightenment” and in 2008 again played a key role in a consecration ceremony at Lerab Ling. Rigpa’s website is full of references to the DL’s involvement with the organization.

    If you argue that the DL cannot openly denounce SR for fear of opening a can of worms of sexual abuse cases, then that implies he is acting very duplicitly in all of these actions and all of his support is just politics. If so, what words should we trust and which words shouldn’t we? What other political obfuscation’s may he be making? It seems entirely against the principle of a Buddhist teacher being a voice for truth for the Dalai Lama to do such things.

    Would it also not be a worthwhile use of his time to clean up the Vajrayana. At what point would it reach a critical mass, where there are enough abusive Lama’s to warrant the Dalai Lama’s time. Don’t we risk the damage already been done if we wait till this point.

    As the leader of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, this should absolutley be his responsibility. I can’t imagine any other organization where it would be acceptable for the head of the organization to not remove abusive and corrupt individuals. If he chooses not act, think of how many people may, and probably already have lost their faith in the Dharma. Even worse, how many people continue to have their path to awakening obscured by learning from dodgy teachers like SR? If the Dalai Lama really had the awakening of all sentient beings as his primary concern there is no way he could let tens of thousands of students continue to learn from SR. We wouldn’t accept the Pope not denouncing priests accused of sexual abuse so why should we allow the Dalai Lama to.

    Is it not the role of a living Buddha to point out ‘Suffering’, ‘The Cause of Suffering’ and there-by lead to ‘The end of Suffering’. There’s no two ways about it; you can’t be a part-time living Buddha, and a part time head of state.

    Even the Dalai Lama has stated that people should openly speak out against Lama’s like SR. In an article by Stephen Bachelor covering the meeting between the Dalai Lama and notable Western Buddhist leaders in 1993 (in response to poorly behaved Lama’s), Bachelor recalls the strong words of advice the Dalai Lama gave to the western Buddhist; ‘When there is incontrovertible evidence of wrong-doing, then it is one’s responsibility to take action. “Make voice!” he insisted. “Give warning! We no longer tolerate !” The Dalai Lama encouraged us repeatedly to criticise such behaviour openly, even, when all else fails to “name names in newspapers.”

    So why is the Dalai Lama not doing this?

    • Thank you.

      There is an apparent contradiction in what must have been reported to the Dalai Lama about Sogyal Rinpoche’s actions, his stance on abusive teachers and of accepting invitations from Rigpa up to saying “I am very happy that here, at Lerab Ling, a centre has been born which is destined to make Buddhist culture, as developed in Tibet, known in an authentic manner. […]” If it is the “authentic manner” of “Buddhist culture” to shout, insult, and to beat students and to have sex with the young female students, I am not interested in this culture, nor in “intercultural exchanges in France and in other places.” Then I would like to say “With all respect, please keep this culture among your people, don’t export it to us.”

      But of course, His Holiness was focusing on the good things of Buddhism and Tibetan culture when he spoke so, while we are focussing on an unacceptable behaviour of an apparent questionable person. However, if I imagine I had been insulted, screamed, beaten and sexually used by Sogyal Rinpoche reading those words from the Lerab Ling Centre website by HH the Dalai Lama, I would have the impression that he ridicules me. I would pack my things and say: “Good bye Tibetan Buddhism, good bye.”

      Sadly, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is not the only one who does not draw consequences.

      It is also good to know, that the Dalai Lama can in no way be compared with the pope. So he and no other lama, not even a head of a lineage, can remove a lama from their respective centre(s). The head of a lineage is in charge for the transmission of the lineage and he is not in charge for the behaviours of the adherents to that lineage. However, maybe, they could at least keep a distance.

      As far as I can see, supported by an example I witnessed, some of the lamas might think: ‘what is more useful going there to teach the Dharma or not going there?’ Actual this is hard to say. I remember when we informed the Jade Buddha Project that their project is invited by an abusive ordained teacher who leads his students astray, and has sex with some of them, giving to the persons in charge of the project also affidavits which approved this, they decided still to go there because they were thinking: ‘… the majority will be benefited. If we don’t go there, they won’t have these benefits.’ Though most were unhappy with that decision, I accepted it, because it is indeed very hard to say what brings more benefit / harm, going there or not going there? I am not in the position to judge this. Still, I would wish some clear words and actions, and His Holiness has shown he can, when he rejected invitations in the past to the US by Sogyal when there was this court case.

      To end the suffering, I think there is no way than more and more women and men go to court and newspapers report about it until finally we all feel publicly ashamed, and change our mode to deal with such developments and suffering. This present silence is unacceptable for me. From a perspective of an abused person it must be unbearable.

      However, these are only my thoughts, I wonder how a highly developed lama, who sees the situation clearly, and with compassion and wisdom, would think about this?

  28. I’d like to thank Drolma and tenpel for this much needed and open discussion.

    However I think there are some points in regards to the Dalai Lama’s response to the SR sexual abuse cases that have not adequately been emphasized.

    It’s great that the DL encourages his students to be critical and have long noses, but then what are we to make of his continued support of Sogyal Rinpoche. A student would think that he could trust those, who the very person that is asking him to engage his critical faculties, approve of. I think that by continuing to be involved with SR, attend his events, give major teachings at his monastery, give quotes of recommendation, the Dalai Lama is very complicit in the corruption that Tenpel alludes to in her article and for perpetuating SR’s actions.

    The first thing we see on the Lerab Ling (Sogyal’s Main Buddhist centre) page of Rigpa’s website is a glowing reference from the Dalai Lama.
    “I am very happy that here, at Lerab Ling, a centre has been born which is destined to make Buddhist culture, as developed in Tibet, known in an authentic manner. For what counts is that it is an authentic representation of Tibetan Buddhist culture, and so can provide an example, and bring about intercultural exchanges in France and in other places. I am convinced that this centre at Lerab Ling is already making a contribution and will continue to do so, more and more, towards a greater knowledge of the rich culture of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition…” His Holiness The Dalai Lama.

    He has also continued to respond to SR’s invations to give teachings at Lerab Ling, and in September 2000 gave a five day teaching on “the Path to Enlightenment” and in 2008 again played a key role in a consecration ceremony at Lerab Ling. Rigpa’s website is full of references to the DL’s involvement with the organization.

    If you argue that the DL cannot openly denounce SR for fear of opening a can of worms of sexual abuse cases, then that implies he is acting very duplicitly in all of these actions and all of his support is just politics. If so, what words should we trust and which words shouldn’t we? What other political obfuscation’s may he be making? It seems entirely against the principle of a Buddhist teacher being a voice for truth for the Dalai Lama to do such things.
    Would it also not be a worthwhile use of his time to clean up the Vajrayana. At what point would it reach a critical mass, where there are enough abusive Lama’s to warrant the Dalai Lama’s time. Don’t we risk the damage already been done if we wait till this point.

    As the leader of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, this should absolutley be his responsibility. I can’t imagine any other organization where it would be acceptable for the head of the organization to not remove abusive and corrupt individuals. If he chooses not act, think of how many people may, and probably already have lost their faith in the Dharma. Even worse, how many people continue to have their path to awakening obscured by learning from dodgy teachers like SR? If the Dalai Lama really had the awakening of all sentient beings as his primary concern there is no way he could let tens of thousands of students continue to learn from SR. We wouldn’t accept the Pope not denouncing priests accused of sexual abuse so why should we allow the Dalai Lama to.

    Is it not the role of a living Buddha to point out ‘Suffering’, ‘The Cause of Suffering’ and there-by lead to ‘The end of Suffering’. There’s no two ways about it; you can’t be a part-time living Buddha, and a part time head of state.

    Even the Dalai Lama has stated that people should openly speak out against Lama’s like SR. In the Same article by Stephen Bachelor noted earlier, Bachelor recalls the strong words of advice the Dalai Lama gave to the western Buddhist; “When there is incontrovertible evidence of wrong-doing, then it is one’s responsibility to take action. “Make voice!” he insisted. “Give warning! We no longer tolerate !” The Dalai Lama encouraged us repeatedly to criticise such behaviour openly, even, when all else fails to “name names in newspapers.”

    So why is the Dalai Lama not doing this?

  29. I had some discussion off the blog with a Rigpa follower. For the sake to clarify some points, I wish to stress temporarily some testimonies.

    It appears to me, that SR followers tend towards to claim, that what Mary Finnigan is reporting would be incorrect, and that her “mission” would be “to destroy Sogyal Rinpoche”, as if the only problem for Sogyal Rinpoche and the persons being harmed were Mary Finnigan. But, I am convinced, this is a misleading approach. First of all: There are many women and ex-Rigpa reporting about the same things again and again; secondly: according to a reliable source I trust, Mary was portrayed as “a careful journalist” who “will not be caught out making claims for which she does not have documented evidence.” And also what Mary is reporting is similar to that what ex-Rigpa reported already. Thirdly: I collected more testimonies than those I had already and they all approve these accusations (of an apparent rough, aggressive, demanding behaviour and his sexual relationships with or sexual abuse of (even very new) students) in one way or another. All of these testimonies show a similar pattern of behaviour continuing within Rigpa.

    For those not familiar with this matter, here two comments at DI which can be used as a basis for further investigation. I might add more in the future if I find time to go through what I received recently.

    —-1st testimony —–
    ex-Dakini, who has “never spoken with Mary Finnigan” writes to BelaB (a Rigpa senior student who has been posting on DI for years, loyally defending SR from all attackers):

    —-2nd testimony —–
    Then there is a personal testimony of one of Sogyal’s close personal assistants who ran one of Riga’s European centres for several years, and who is also a professional counsellor / therapist. You’ll find it here:

    I quote it here, because it is difficult to find it there at the blog:

    In the mid 80’s, during my seven years with Rigpa and 4 years as founding director of a national Rigpa branch, I had slowly discovered that Sogyal Rinpoche had sex with very many disciples. Even though I was very close to SR, it took me some time to notice the obvious. Even though I am a professional counsellor, it took me quite some time to notice it at all, and then it took me even more time to take action. First, at the same time I was shocked and kind of amused, I had mixed feelings about it, because in the beginning I saw that some women tried to get him. First I thought, they are mature woman, they know what they are doing, and I simply am too inexperienced in the exotic ways of Tibetan Lamas to be able to judge. It was much later that I heard stories and saw things which were not based on consent, and saw that he was cheating all the time on the women. Also I noticed that he had sex with young students who just had come to Rigpa retreats for the first time.

    There was the harem, and the women seemed to be able and ok with their role in the game. At least I wanted to believe this, still trying to see SR as a holy man. On the other hand, I always found obstacles to consider SR as my guru. I considered myself at that time more like a Buddhist manager and some kind of assistant to SR, rather than as a disciple of his. I could see Dilgo Khyentse or the Dalai Lama as true masters, but SR appeared to me to be just a teacher who teaches Buddhism, or more likely a salesman who sells Buddhism. When I was in charge of my national Rigpa branch, I always exaggerated his qualities in the flyers I produced. I said to SR: either you are true and good and people will find out themselves, or if not they will also find out. So don’t tell them what they should think or how good they should think about you. True quality will speak for itself. With me, he accepted such words, but I heard my successors had to write up his qualities.

    I confronted Sogyal first jokingly, then half-heartedly, with my concerns about his behaviour, and I said to him that as a therapist I knew about the transference phenomenon: students see the teacher as kind of a father figure, so sex with the student is psychologically seen as incest. Also, that in the West, the relationship between teacher and student, or priest and the parishioner, must be kept pure, and does not allow for intimate relationships involving sex in any way. He was not amused, and tried to avoid the subject, but he first tried to justify his sexual behaviour spiritually.

    First he said that because he is one of the incarnations of Padmasambhava, and that Padmasambhava had many “spiritual consorts”, he would be somehow entitled to do so. Then he played the cultural card: in Tibetan culture women are seen as Dakinis, and they would happily serve the Lamas for enhancing their spiritual power and so on. I am ashamed, but first I wanted to believe all this. I was brought up in a prudish, bourgeois Catholic environment. I was used to playing roughshod with the truth, and to idealize and respect people of position even more than supposedly “holy” men. My spiritual and emotional hunger made be blind to my own values and my professional standards – at least where the standards of the Lama were concerned, however, fortunately not in my own work.

    For some years I was blinded by my position of power. I felt that I was establishing a very well-run organisation together with other dear friends which was benefiting many people. I was happy. I was in a very special position. I honestly tried to use my position to the best of my ability. I felt I was chosen, and because of karmic connections with Sogyal, I was finally realising my full potential.

    The bitter irony is that because other students saw me as a rather independent, seemingly critical, and reasonable person and because of my professional status as a psychotherapist, some people viewed me as endorsing Sogyal. In fact they envied my special access to SR. I could no longer ignore what was happening. On one occasion Sogyal wanted me to lie on the phone to a woman, who wanted to contact him after having had sex with him but had found that he was in bed with another woman. I refused to be a party to his affairs. He became very angry and yelled at me, but I was not impressed. Basically, he always treated me very well. He seemingly respected me, but now I think he was clever enough not to treat me badly like some of the other students so I would remain loyal. He gave me the feeling that he appreciated my views at least as long I helped him to please the audience and the students. But he never was open to criticism concerning his personal behaviour. Also, he never answered any of my personal spiritual questions. I got more and more the impression that he simply could not answer them. Also, when I attended sessions where he should answer questions from his students, he often gave very stupid answers, and showed that he had not much understanding of what people were really asking. Sometimes he ridiculed people to cover this up.

    One of the worst things I experienced was at a winter retreat in Germany. A long term student of his was in emotional distress and asked in obvious pain, vulnerability and confusion for his help, and he forced her to speak louder and then to come forward to the stage where he put her down completely. In my view, he was totally afraid of her, and could not deal with the situation at all. But instead of putting her into safe hands, he tried to save himself by putting her down and ridiculing her, and then played the strong teacher who can deal with everything. That same night, we had to rush her to the emergency ward of the nearest psychiatric hospital with a nervous breakdown and a psychotic seizure.

    As a therapist and as a student, I was horrified by his behaviour and his complete lack of compassion and skill. Before I left Rigpa, an American woman told me confidentially and in great distress that she had just lost her husband and had come from US to France to SR to get help, and that SR, during a private audience, had tried to violently force her to have sex with him. Fortunately, she managed to escape being raped. She left the retreat in even greater despair and completely shocked. This was the worst incident which I heard at first hand.

    SR did not respect any limits: he had sex with most of the wives of the leading students at Rigpa. I tried to keep myself and my private life out of his. I tried not to get mixed up with his affairs. Sogyal had a classical harem, and he knew all the tricks to make the obvious invisible, or if that did not work, to change the context of the students’ values, giving the whole thing a spiritual excuse, and abuse fears and naivety, or the good belief of his students to get what he wanted. It’s 12 years ago since I quit Rigpa, so I have no first-hand information of SR’s activities now, but I must say I have little doubt that everything is the same today, because I consider him an addict. He is hooked on sex and power.

    When I have more time I will write more professionally on the psychology of the guru-student relationship and of abuse. What interests me most is why people “allow themselves” to be abused and what hinders them to see the truth. And how to help others to discover their own truth, and how to stop people like SR from going on.

    • “BelaB (a Rigpa senior student who has been posting on DI for years, loyally defending SR from all attackers)”

      I’m not a senior student. I’m bringing out my view and understanding of the situations that are discussed there. I’m not trying to color things or lie (for anybody).

      I also consider the psychotherapist’s story a lie. I also know a person who has traveled with SR for years – and she has told me he is not having sex with people. It has been claimed that Rigpa would feed SR newcomers. That is completely a false view. Hardly anybody is allowed to talk with him alone, privately. I know it since I have asked to talk with him too about important matters. Nobody gets private audiences with him, except senior students who are working there and have been working there for decades.

      • Hi BellaB, Thank you for your clarification that you are not a senior student. Of course you can consider other people’s testimonies a lie, and you can believe the Rigpa person who claims “he is not having sex with people” but what about the women and insiders who are exactly reporting this? For instance, what about the woman in the documentary, she wanted to be closer to her father because he was so absorbed in Rigpa and after two months of being his assistant Sogyal ordered her to “Undress!”. According to her father, when he confronted Sogyal with what his daughter had told to him (that Sogyal had sex with her) in the beginning Sogyal tried to escape this fact but he finally approved it. So if I compare just these statements of a former Rigpa follower, a generous sponsor of Rigpa, and his daughter, a former assistant of Sogyal, with the claim of another person “who has travelled with SR for years – and she has told me he is not having sex with people”, and your belief in what she said, who do you think I believe?

        Not only this I spoke also with present Rigpa (or befriended with Rigpa), they do not deny that SR had/has sex with his students but defend it either as being his private issue or it would be a benefit to others or finally the woman’s mind changed because in the beginning it was good for her. So your portray of others testimonies as being lies doesn’t convince me. Even present Rigpa followers’ statements disapprove the claim “he is not having sex with people”.

      • I was commenting on the account of this psychotherapist.

        She claimed Rigpa feeds newcomers to SR. That is not true, but a lie. You can go and test yourself, if you can get a private audience with him.

        The story about SR asking the attendant to undress, is a matter I have not commented here. I only think her story is heavily colored in Behind the Thankas blog. She was working in Rigpa for 3 years. That is also a bit odd when she claims ‘she didn’t expect’ when in other part of the text describing her situation read: ‘it went with the job’. Resting against the daddy’s back are chosen words to describe her fairytale type of innocence against the monster. It’s purposefully colored in an extreme way. Just pay attention to this side too, when you read BTT. Thank you for publishing my response.

        • I was commenting on the account of this psychotherapist.


          She claimed Rigpa feeds newcomers to SR. That is not true, but a lie.

          I see. Yes, actual I would have to check this. But if you watch the documentary »In the Name of Enlightenment« it becomes clear that it is likely that there is a system which brings young, pretty women closer to Sogyal. Because the woman only wanted to be closer to her father but finally she was closer to Sogyal, and he commanding her to “Undress!”. For me, who knows a bit about group dynamics, I wonder how this could come so?

          You can go and test yourself, if you can get a private audience with him.

          I am not a young and pretty woman, otherwise I might test it myself. It was offered to me by Rigpa to meet Sogyal but I wonder what this would bring, and also I would have to meet with persons who said they have been harmed by him. Better for me than diving into this is to rely on INFORM.

          The story about SR asking the attendant to undress, is a matter I have not commented here. I only think her story is heavily colored in Behind the Thankas blog.

          I saw the documentary and heard the witness accounts of her and her father in this docu. I am referring to this documentary and not to Behind the Thankas.
          Maybe you should watch it.

          She was working in Rigpa for 3 years. That is also a bit odd when she claims ‘she didn’t expect’ when in other part of the text describing her situation read: ‘it went with the job’. Resting against the daddy’s back are chosen words to describe her fairytale type of innocence against the monster. It’s purposefully colored in an extreme way. Just pay attention to this side too, when you read BTT. Thank you for publishing my response.

          Even if it is true, that Mary uses extreme words to “purposefully color[…] in an extreme way” the stories, this doesn’t make the basis of the stories—women reporting of having been harmed by Sogyal—invalid.

      • “But if you watch the documentary »In the Name of Enlightenment« it becomes clear that it is likely that there is a system which brings young, pretty women closer to Sogyal.”

        There isn’t any such system. It’s pure slander. People work there. If some young woman is fortunate enough to have financial support from her parents so that she can throw herself to become a full time Dharma practitioner – or she didn’t yet have commitments in life that would prevent her from taking a part time job in Rigpa, it is her individual choice. Very practical and very boring system. Nobody is invited or asked to work.

        • BellaB, recently you said “I also know a person who has traveled with SR for years – and she has told me he is not having sex with people.” what is the intention of saying this, when it is even confirmed by high Rigpa and Sogyal himself that he has / had sex with certain students? It appears to me you could be one of the semi-officials who are mainly appearing on blogs to spin the facts and to confuse the reader. (I could observe this for years with NKT posters al la “Lineageholder” “truthsayer” “emptymountains” etc., what they actual do is to spin the facts to make it congruent with the group’s point of views). I allowed them to post here from time to time because I know the NKT stuff good enough to deal with that. However, my understanding of Rigpa and its dynamics are limited. You say “I also consider the psychotherapist’s story a lie.”, a story which rings true and is well reflected, not aggressive, which has an internal logic, and fits right into other testimonies, [e.g. that of ex-dakini who is reporting about herself and 15(!) women having had sexual relationships with Sogyal]. You reject the therapist testimony as a lie, you ignore the testimony of ex-Dakini (directly addressed to you), you do not consider the statements made in the documentary (by the woman, her father, and that Sogyal agreed to have had sex with her) and instead you spin off these by applying a pseudo-proof “I also know a person who has travelled with SR for years – and she has told me he is not having sex with people.”, ignoring that even Rigpas accept that Sogyal has sexual relationships with some of his female students and consider it to be ok. Further you stated before these two sentences (of the ‘therapist story lie’ and the ‘proof of the person who travels with Sogyal for years’) “I’m not trying to color things or lie (for anybody).”

          But you are doing this. This is exactly what you are doing. Just go through your posts and see it for yourself.

          Now you respond to my fairly issued doubt:

          How did it come that a young pretty woman who (according to herself) wanted to be closer to her father and therefore came to Rigpa, finally ended up being ordered to “Undress!” and having sex with him. I wondered what are these for dynamics in a group that make this possible? So I said: “But if you watch the documentary »In the Name of Enlightenment« it becomes clear that it is likely that there is a system which brings young, pretty women closer to Sogyal.”

          by stating, “There isn’t any such system. It’s pure slander.”; then you portray that every thing is based on free will etc … could be, couldn’t be. How much can I trust you, based on your own actions here at the blog to inform me correctly? I rather would prefer to have honest testimonies than spins. It could be that I don’t allow any further post by you, for the sake to create a space where people can discuss these issues with out being involved in spins, and finally attacks. I don’t want an atmosphere how I found it at DI.

        • dharmaanarchist says:

          “There isn’t any such system. It’s pure slander.”

          Frankly, you are quite naive. Actually, there could be. The workings of the innermost circles of Rigpa are way too obsure for anybody not involved in them to really tell.

          There is no way for an “ordinary” member to determine what is really going on behind those closed doors. I’m rather sure that if things like that are going on not even the main national people will know it. Also SR does not only interact with people in Rigpa events. He could pick up young girls outside of these, too.

          Because he isn’t meeting you in private and doesn’t do so with your friend who you claim to be an “insider” doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Now again, of course that is no proof that there is something happening.

          It’s like with the friendly paedophile in your neighbourhood. Nobody would even guess that this friendly man is behind closed doors molesting his daughter. Don’t be so naive that people who engage in such potentially unethical activities do it so openly that everyone around him will know.

  30. Thank you Bazu8Blog8, you raise many valid points. Ultimately, only His Holiness can address them fully. However, I do have some opinions myself. I have followed His Holiness closely for some years and failing to speak out when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing anywhere is out of character for him, so I have given it some thought myself.

    In addition to the sound and valid points that Tenpel makes above, I suspect there is a deeper trouble here as well. I believe that Mary Finnigan went too far in Behind the Thangkas and undermined her chances of gaining support from the Tibetan Buddhist community. She did not simply report on cases of sexual abuse. She sought to completely invalidate SR’s authenticity as a teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, garnering questionable evidence from his earliest days to prove that he was. and is, incompetent. This is not something that His Holiness would EVER participate in. That much I know. This goes very deep.

    I also want to observe that His Holiness’s statements and teachings at Lerab Ling that you cite above were all given before publication of BTT and airing of the documentary. He has not attended any Rigpa events since then that I know of, though I do know that Dzogchen Beara has put out an invitation for next year.

    As I have said before on this blog, I believe that a much more conservative and careful approach is essential if we want to enlist support from His Holiness and other Tibetan Buddhist leaders– such as the approach being taken on this website. We need to address this trouble with openness and flexibility and a sound motivation. My personal instinct is that some of the allegations in BTT are true and some of them aren’t– but there’s enough truth in the sheer volume of reports of sexual abuse at the hands of SR to warrant stubbornness on our part not to give up on those women.

    • Mary Finnigan says:

      Drolma — ALL: the evidence in BTT is true, accurate and comes from at least two sources. If some of it is not true, why has Sogyal never sued for libel? Either against me or many publications and media organisations which have aired the same evidence for more than 20 years? And en passant — i don’t care a hoot if the Tib Budh establishment is shocked by BTT. The private office of HDL has been on the receiving end of letters and emails highlighting Sogyal’s abuses for many years. HHDL himself does not see these communications. He receives sanitised summaries prepared by the arisocrats who control the Central Tibetan Administration. Above all other considerations, they do their utmost to ensure that the cash flow from donors to the Tibetan cause is not affected. I had several email exchanges with one apartchik in the HHDL’s office who, to put it mildly, was anodyne and disingenuous. To his credit HHDL has publicly admitted that “some tulkus” have gone off the rails — but the cultural mores of Tibetan society prohibit him from naming names. To do that would cause loss of face — a heinous crime which would discredit HHDL with all Tibetans.

      • Mary, how do we know the reason HHDL hasn’t named names is because cultural mores prohibit him?

        You could allege that my sister committed theft, and that since I haven’t accused her by name, it must be that I am prohibited by family loyalty from doing so. However, the mere absence of my statement on an allegation doesn’t have anything to do with the truth of whether a crime was committed. Couldn’t it be that HHDL doesn’t feel Sogyal Rinpoche is guilty of anything?

        I find it disturbing that we’re speaking about a man (Sogyal Rinpoche) who isn’t in jail, and who has never had a criminal charge filed against him, as if he were a criminal. I have zero idea whether he is or isn’t a criminal, but I cannot possibly accept that jumping to these conclusions is an honorable path.

        This is not a problem specific to this issue–so often in the news media these days, it seems, allegations (particularly US allegations against Muslim men) are immediately spoken about as if they’re already proven fact.

        The purpose of democratic law in this matter is twofold: it protects innocent people from false testimony, but it also (I strongly believe) protects victims by making it harder to cloud genuine issues with ingenuine ones. It may feel good in the moment to talk about Sogyal Rinpoche as if he’s guilty, but I think if you examine closely, you can see how this doesn’t help anyone in the long term. Taking the high road makes your allegations more believable, not less, in my opinion.

  31. In fact, Mary’s approach of seeing SR as completely irredeemable is not one that HH Dalai Lama would ever endorse, not even towards the Chinese. The Buddhist concept of interdependence would never support such a solid, concrete, one-sided view of any individual. Mary has stated many times that her intention is to put SR out of action as a teacher. I think we would better serve the Dharma and its students if we kept purely to the motivation of insuring safety in our Dharma Centers. While it is possible that only through stepping down from his role as spiritual teacher can SR guarantee such safety, it is also possible that other solutions could equally achieve that goal. With so much at stake, with so many students at risk, there is no one, single, narrow solution, nor should we limit ourselves.

    • Tiger Lily says:

      With a view to collating testimonies of Rigpa ex-students in a safe and confidential place, might we call upon the above mentioned Buddhist Union to act as a shielding umbrella?
      Forums really are not the best place to reveal deep-seated painful experiences, and as we have seen at DI, just go round and round in circles.
      I think both you Tenpel and Drolma are approaching this subject matter in a sensible and practical way and there are others who share the same objectives and concerns. I think it is high time we form an International network, with perhaps ourselves acting as contacts in our respective countries to start with. Which I guess is Germany, UK and USA.
      My own perspective is not against Sogyal Rinpoche personally. It’s based upon my experience of realizing how degenerate the precious spiritual lineage of the genuine Tibetan Masters is becoming in its transition to the West. Unfortunately Rigpa stands out as being a debased cultish form of Lamaism where Sogyal Rinpoche is taking every advantage of Padmasambhava’s reputation for practising with consorts. There is prevalent a very unhealthy group dynamic at the core of the Sangha.
      However there exists a paradox. Students like BellaB who are not in that inner circle, do genuinely find their lives being benefited by Sogyal Rinpoche and the Rigpa organisation, simply because they do not know what is going on behind locked doors. There are hundreds of others like her around the world. There are also those who suspect what is taking place behind closed doors, but turn a blind eye because there is too much to lose. And there are those who just don’t want to know, because that knowledge would puncture their bliss bubble.
      It’s all those people who do know and are trying to do something about it who are the courageous ones, because it is that knowing which brings one of the greatest emotional pains of feeling that your spiritual trust has been betrayed.
      Tenpel would it be possible to organise a way we can communicate privately using our real identities?
      In the safe harbour of the German Buddhist Union, ex-students could be invited to communicate using their pseudonyms for as long as they felt they needed to remain anonymous.
      What do you think, Tenpel and Drolma?

      • Thank you. I utter agree, that forums are not the right place for such deep-seated painful experiences, and that it needs another safe place for this.

        Yes please email me: tenzin a t gmx org.

        We are back to topic now. (I went into this side track of testimonies because I had a discussion with a Rigpa official, and had to re-check what I learned already.)

        It is a good idea and would be the first challenge of the yet to be installed ethics council of the German Buddhist Union to be the safe harbour for those having gone through suffering and pain and are wishing to find a proper way to address it and to find solutions. And it is a good idea that ex-students could be invited to communicate using their pseudonyms for as long as they felt they needed to remain anonymous.

        I will forward this suggestion to the present person in charge. Please contact me off the blog.
        Thank you very much.

  32. Mary said:

    To his credit HHDL has publicly admitted that “some tulkus” have gone off the rails — but the cultural mores of Tibetan society prohibit him from naming names. To do that would cause loss of face — a heinous crime which would discredit HHDL with all Tibetans.

    This brings in another topic which is important to consider. Alex Berzin stressed it too: The Asian society is group orientated while the Westerner society is induvidual orientated. On top of this one of the worst things in Asia is to loose face, that’s why (unlike Westerners) Asian people have a high degree of shame to say anything bad in public which would harm their group or clan. So their value system is different hence their actions are different too. It’s a Western approach to address things in this way directly but its not an Asian approach. A person being frank would embarrass the own group or clan, and they don’t do it to avoid for them to publicly loose face and being humiliated.

    So if His Holiness goes off the common accepted social norms among Tibetans he might weaken his creditability and power to be of benefit which is based on the peoples’ faith in him. This means if he would fulfil too much Westerners’ needs or follows their approach he might risk the effectiveness of his good deeds in the Tibetan society, and among his Asian followers. He must be careful not to act that people loose faith, and this is what the Bodhisattva vows are saying. So he must take a middle stance in all of this, and it is unlikely that he can make with such a middle way approach everybody happy.

  33. Do those alleging abuse feel it is systematic, throughout Rigpa? There are several Rigpa centers (or many?), and at any given time, Sogyal Rinpoche is not at most of them. Are we saying that other teachers in Rigpa, as well as Sogyal Rinpoche, are abusive?

    Despite what many may think, I do not have a personal opinion yet on whether abuse has taken place within Rigpa–I am not a member. In any criminal allegation, I firmly support innocent until proven guilty, but that does not mean I don’t take the abuse allegations seriously. I also believe it is necessary to examine all testimonies, from all sides, very critically, and to be able to do so with out being drowned out by shouts of, “You support abuse.” I do not support abuse, but I do support truth, and it can be very hard to get to.

    • Thank you. With respect to the second part of your comment, I agree. With respect to the first part of your comment: If you know a bit about international organisations and how they can function, there is no contradiction. For instance, an attractive young lady in Germany attending the teachings, being interested in the Dharma might be ‘skilfully’ led closer to Sogyal by his devotees, being encouraged to follow him to a retreat in another country or in the same country cooking for him, working as his assistant, finally ending up in a situation which she didn’t intended to be in, as it is evident from seeing the documentary »In the Name of Enlightenment«.

      With respect to the second part of your comment, as far as my understanding goes the dilemma is, that

      a) there is no independent higher Buddhist authority which people can approach in case of having experienced harm in the name of Buddhism

      b) that though there are legal laws that prohibit sexual relationships between therapist and client (at least in Germany) because there is an awareness about the harm it creates in almost all cases due to the power differential, these laws don’t apply for spiritual teachers and self-proclaimed therapists, so that there is a legal loophole or gray area

      c) while medical doctors undergo strict education and examination, swear to follow the Hippocratic oath, and their accreditation can be withdrawn by a higher authority at any time if they go against the ethics they have committed to and swore to follow, there is not any mechanism which protects people from spiritual charlatanry, abuse and fraud.

      So in the name of Buddhism you can do almost anything as long as it fits into the gray zone of legal laws. You can call yourself and others Rinpoche, Holiness, master, Lama etc. There are so many open doors that invite abuse of power, and it is utter left to the student to find his or her way through the jungle of offers in the name of Buddhism.

      Compared with the legal system of accreditation of medical doctors, and the work they are doing, and how standards are kept there and the work of Buddhist spiritual teachers; I think it is save to say, that to follow the latter is by far more dangerous ;-) because there is no quality control and every body can do almost everything in the name of Buddhism.

      I think its time for a change though it would be an illusion to believe that a change would be easy and the problems involved were easy to deal with. However, I think the present state does not work very good and it produces too much suffering. Every change can improve the present situation. That’s why I support the direction of an Ethical Charter and Ethics Council following Jack Kornfield’s example, that Buddhist teachers commit themselves to the five lay precepts.

      • I think it’s very difficult to apply such a thing equitably, because there are such vast differences in the relationships between “teacher” and “student.” In some cases, the teacher is someone to whom a students devotes him/herself entirely, day in and day out, and experiences both the benefits and potential drawbacks that relationship brings.

        In others, the “teacher” is just a colleague, with whom we sit down to study–he/she may be a monk/nun, may be a layperson, may be older or younger than ourselves, may already be our own husband or wife.

        The spectrum of both “teachers” and “students” in Buddhism is exceptionally wide–at spans age, race, marital status, sexual orientation, and more. I just feel, personally, that in the modern age it is impossible to make a blanket rule that sex is wrong. I think that, in its attempt to modernize and Westernize Buddhism, this proposal does not take into account the extent to which Buddhism has already been modernized and Westernized. Many people in the “teacher” and “student” relationship are already married, with children, for example.

  34. “in the modern age it is impossible to make a blanket rule that sex is wrong”

    very interesting, but this is not the point we are talking about here. we do not speak about “that sex is wrong”. We speak about abuse of power and teachers who are accused to have sex with their students, some of them – so it is claimed – being even married.

    If we call ourselves Buddhist and if we act as Buddhist teachers in the name of Buddhism, I think, we have to follow or train at least in the ethics of the five precepts Buddha has given, shouldn’t we?

    since the five ethics are explained as the utter first training to achieve Nirvana, as the basis for any progress or any good attainment, and their transgressions being called “natural misdeeds” because they lead to suffering, and the five ethics’ purpose is to avoid suffering for oneself and others, I wonder for what reason one should ignore them and justify their transgression? Of course there is the Bodhisattva ethic that allows for highest Bodhisattvas to commit the seven negative actions of body and speech, if this is for the benefit of others and such a Bodhisattva must have extraordinary powers. But such a rule (or tantric ethics) can invite to justify harming actions.

    Since the basis precept of refuge with respect to the Dharma Jewel is, that one must give up harming others, a Bodhisattva who hears that his actions harmed and hurt others, will change his behaviour and he will honestly apologize, if he sees that he couldn’t benefit the person but instead contributed to a long term harm. Just see the “light” example of a Western woman having been asked by Sogyal many years ago to have sex with him, by today she says, she cannot trust any Rinpoche. Just this action by Sogyal contributed to the blocking of a person’s way to enlightenment. Now imagine what women might have gone through who were not strong enough or were manipulated to be able to say “No!” …

    I think, with respect to the ethics in general, the difficulty lies in the balance of sticking to precepts without being fanatical and not to be too loose so that transgression of precepts can be justified and wrong modes of behaviour can be white washed.

    I think that, in its attempt to modernize and Westernize Buddhism, this proposal does not take into account the extent to which Buddhism has already been modernized and Westernized. Many people in the “teacher” and “student” relationship are already married, with children, for example.

    If it is true that “Buddhism has already been modernized and Westernized” then it would be also natural to accept and to incorporate the Western ethical standard (which is in most countries also part of the legal laws), that it is not allowed for a therapist, priest, medical doctor, school teacher to have sexual relationships with his or her clients or students because in almost all cases there is too much harm for both sides due to the power differential.

    Its also a “natural misdeed” to have sex with a person who is married or in a relation. If Buddhist teachers don’t stick to the basic ethics where do we go from here? If people are married and have children though there is a teacher-student-relationship, it might work and it would be up to the couple to cope with this. Rutter considers this case too in his work. However, we are speaking here of quite a different case than this ;-)

    BTW, Ole Nydahl has another justification for having sexual relationships with some of his students: at that time, he says, their relation of student-teacher is not existent. So it exists before having sex, then it ceases and then it comes into existence again. This is also an interesting approach. It might be appealing for some men to follow that example …

    Another account reported to me says that a certain male Rigpa follower would be jealous with Sogyal because he can have all the beautiful girls and he expressed that his wish would be to be like Sogyal so that he could be with beautiful girls too. Sorry this is Buddhism gone astray.

    • I’m not advocating for precept violation by those who have taken a particular precept – just saying in the age of modern Buddhism, in the West, especially, the historical, traditional definition of teacher and student has broadened, and greatly. Teacher and student may, in fact, already be married with a family. Buddhist teaching isn’t (and in fact, never has been) limited to those in robes who have taken abstinence vows. Some of the most precious and publicly beneficial unions, have in fact been relationships such as Khandro Tsering Chödrön and Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö’s.

      “Power differential” is a function of the individual personalities far more than their vocational status, I feel. I know what you are saying about doctors, priests and so forth; however if you look at that issue closely, you can see ways in which it is too broad a presumption. Sometimes very young doctors are seduced by older patients–what does it matter, if both are happy? Depending on the individual, the patient may be the one with the power–the patient, for example, is in a far better position to ruin the doctor, financially.

      I just see quite a few problems in rules which don’t allow for the individual realities; rules which presume a doctor or lecturer is always the one in power, for example, may unfairly endanger the doctor or lecturer. The doctor or lecturer may actually be the victim, and not the bad guy, in a power imbalance.

      • I should have added that it would at least be beneficial to encourage centers to draw up Chartas based on their individual school and needs; it would for example not be, I think, fruitful to place Gelug prohibitions on Nyingma, given that Nyingma do not have the same prohibitions against sexual activity.

        At the same time, a Gelug center would likely have no problem with a Charta against sexual activity, since the teachers already feel compelled by their vows to abide by this lifestyle. But I would be extremely hesitant to apply it to any situation where there are non-celibate or lay teachers involved. It is hard enough to find good partners in this life, especially if you are hoping to find a Buddhist mate; to limit potential relationships, many of which have under these circumstances proven to be beautiful and healthy, would be I think a negative move in the end.

  35. Dear Sheila and BellaB, I won’t approve more posts by you. You both made your points and I think any further engagement is fruitless. For women who wanted to discuss their experience at DI both of you have made DI an unsafe place for people to disclose difficult experiences because both of you pounced on them with insensitive and unintelligible rebuttals – though from time to time you issued a valid point.

    “The doctor or lecturer may actually be the victim, and not the bad guy, in a power imbalance.”

    Yeah, this is how adults justify their abuse of children. It was it who seduced me, I am the victim. Sorry, this is turning the things up side down, and it downplays the responsibility of a supposed more mature, elder person—an adult or teacher.

    The Ethics have nothing to do with Gelug or Nyingma they are taught by the Buddha for sentient beings in order to help them to find happiness and peace, and freedom from suffering and the sources of suffering. By downplaying the ethics taught by the Buddha into a Gelug/Nyingma difference or lay/monastic conflict for me you only reveal your intention to blur the facts and the modes of ethical behaviour. I am not going to support this here.

    You and BellaB can use your blog to discuss into such a direction, here at this place I won’t support such discussions. Thank you for your contributions, all the best and Good Bye!

  36. Tiger Lily and Tenpel, I was so heartened to read your previous comments! Thank you both! I feel a true sense of light, a sense that there is a way forward through this, a productive way that will truly insure safety in our Dharma Centers. Tenpel, I was also very glad of your observations about Asian vs Western culture and the strong loyalties in group-oriented cultures. You gave me something of an “Aha” moment. On one hand, I have felt critical of what I thought was excessive loyalty in the relationships between the Tibetans I worked with at a certain monastery. On the other hand, I have learned about this group-centered cultural mentality in my training as a therapist, I have seen it in the African village I visited when my daughter was in the Peace Corps and I’ve always thought that it is a very GOOD thing– that we in the West should learn from it. The mentality of certain poitical parties in my country (which I won’t name) shows me the dangers in supporting too much the Western, individualistic approach to problems.

    In therapy training, we are taught to understand such cultural differences as these because that is the only way we can help clients find solutions to their own problems. I believe that Tenpel is so very right about this. Unless we from the West can pause and understand this situation from the viewpoint of a group- oriented culture, then we will have difficulties starting a dialogue with the Tibetan Buddhist community.

    Tiger Lily, thank you so much for summarizing the situation so well. I particularly like your perspective regarding Rigpa students themselves. I would be very happy to participate in the networking you are suggesting. My only trouble is– I don’t speak German! (E.G. the link you provided above, Tenpel, is all in German.)

    Sheila, I don’t believe that it is in your domain to decide on whether or not sexual relations between spiritual teachers and students cause psychological harm. That is for those experienced in the field of psychology to conclude on (and I believe that there is already prettty much of a consensus in the West). In the network that Tiger Lily is proposing, there would certainly be close consultation with reputable and experienced psychologists and psychiatrists as part of the decision making process, so you don’t need to worry about that.

    • Thank you Drolma. Both of you can write your testimonies or approach the present person in charge of the German Buddhist Union also in English. I think also the idea of Tiger Lily “I think it is high time we form an International network, with perhaps ourselves acting as contacts in our respective countries to start with. Which I guess is Germany, UK and USA.” is a good one, it has my support.

      I think our shared aims are what we can do to protect others from harm and how to make Dharma centres a safer place. Two days ago a lady said to me, it were not sufficient to have a person in charge in the German Buddhist Union or in the centres themselves, actually what it needs are open, sensible, approachable people in the communities themselves. I think this could be a direction which might work.

  37. Tiger Lily, I agree that we should communicate off forum as ourselves– in fact, towards that purpose, I did write an email to the address which Vera provided on DI, don’t know if she received it or not. Perhaps we should set up a separate email account for this purpose? And then talk about how to proceed.

    Meanwhile, I think continuing the discussion here is also terribly important as well. Tenpel, in response to your last comment, I am thinking that not just “open, sensible people” are needed, but more equalitarian structures in the Dharma Centers, so that those open people are accessible and not hidden inside some threatening hierarchy.

  38. I have been thinking a little about what a “safe” Dharma center would look like. I watched the Canadian documentary, In the Name of Enlightenment, today. In it, Stephen Batchelor spoke about how the Buddha would be surprised to come and see how we’re making so much of the guru these days, at the expense of essential Buddhist practice. It reminded me of how HH Dalai Lama speaks so often about the dangers of what he calls “Lamaism.”

    Actually, the Buddha spoke very highly of the spiritual teacher– because without him/her, it is difficult to go very far with Buddhist practice. However, it’s only in tantric practice that the spiritual teacher starts to actually become the practice itself. What I have seen in my small experience of monasteries in the US is that there has been a scramble to import a replica of Tibetan Buddhism to the West– without looking carefully at the needs of Western students, as well as some of the weaknesses in Buddhist practices amongst Tibetans. (such as Tibetan’s tendency to practice tantra without sufficient understanding).

    In the monastery where I practiced and worked for several years, I was chanting pujas within a few days of first entering the monastery. The general idea was that Chenrezig practice was for beginners and one could practice it without initiations or much understanding. We chanted in Tibetan and the melody was lovely and of course, Chenrezig himself, with all that he stands for, is lovely, so in itself, the practice was harmless. In itself the visualizations were pleasant and the aspirations were good ones. However, if one read the instructions for this practice, taught by the abbot of the monastery, they were tantric instructions. There was talk of emptiness and there was talk of pure perception. I remember this clearly because in my enthusiasm, I read those instructions very early on and then was going around the place seeing everything as pure– without a blessed understanding of what the purpose of such a practice could be. And of course, I decided that the lamas were perfect and pure right away as well.

    The other tendency that I have seen in this country, in the quest to import Tibetan Buddhism, is to build monasteries. It’s sort of the reverse of throwing the baby out with the bath water. In this case, the bath is being filled before the baby has even been born. There’s the lovely building, the thangkas, the drums and bells and tapestries– but inside, everyone is squabbling and gossiping and miserable. Let’s face it: Buddhism in the West is still prenatal. It appears to me that in too many cases, the building itself does not come out of the aspirations of a Dharma community, but out of the aspirations of the lamas in charge. The result of that in my experience at the monastery was that sangha members felt disenfranchized. We didn’t feel supported, appreciated or nurtured. We were not a part of the monastery; we had no say in its workings; we were patrons and dishwashers and registrars. We squabbled and gossiped and finally ran away. Our understanding of the basics of Buddhism was generally quite low. There was really only one thing that bound everyone together and that was the lamas. It would have been much better if we had been bound together by each other and interest in the Dharma.

    I don’t think these features make for safe Dharma centers– primarily because the understanding of Buddhism amongst practitioners in the West is low and the power and standing of the lamas is high. That combination is dangerous.

    So to create safe Dharma centers, those two elements need to be addressed. Centers need to be developed through the aspirations of sangha members themselves and run in a democratic, equalitarian fashion. Instead of a top heavy power structure, starting with the lamas and working down through various levels of senior students, these centers would be bottom heavy. They would be a network of study and practice groups, where respect for even the least senior of students would be a central tenet, where Buddha’s teachings on morality and goodheartedness would be upheld (imagine that). Students would be taught from the start to take a long time before committing to a spiritual teacher. They would be taught to listen, reflect and meditate– in other words, to be skeptical and not afraid to voice their skepticism. They would read the essential Buddhist texts, in a nonsectarian fashion. They would all take part in the decision making and running of the center.

    Lamas would be invited to these centers to teach. Because they would have no part in the power structure of the center, there would be no danger in treating them with the upmost respect, no danger in respect being mistaken for lamaism. So complete respect for the lama would be upheld that way and we don’t then run the risk of going too far the other way, the risk of treating our precious Buddhist teachers with disrespect in our efforts to be more equalitarian and democratic.

    As our refuge prayers acknowledge, students on the Buddhist path are seeking guidance and example, as well as a strong supportive spiritual community. We need Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Dharma Centers that are not democratic, where the power structure is too top heavy, threaten the spiritual community– cult elements enter too easily as students jockey for seniority and community support is lost.

    As HH Dalai Lama has moved towards greater and greater democratic reforms for secular Tibet, perhaps the same reforms are needed with regards to religious Tibet.

    So these are some impressions I have had today thinking about the current situation in Rigpa, where the power structure is quite entrenched. Perhaps Rigpa is a glaring example of the dangers we face in not addressing these issues. Perhaps this is a canary.

  39. I just wanted to add my voice here, and thank you Tenpel, for your blog and your considered responses to the posts and issues raised. I wholeheartedly agree with what you wrote:

    ” I think also the idea of Tiger Lily “I think it is high time we form an International network, with perhaps ourselves acting as contacts in our respective countries to start with. Which I guess is Germany, UK and USA.” is a good one, it has my support.I think our shared aims are what we can do to protect others from harm and how to make Dharma centres a safer place. Two days ago a lady said to me, it were not sufficient to have a person in charge in the German Buddhist Union or in the centres themselves, actually what it needs are open, sensible, approachable people in the communities themselves. I think this could be a direction which might work.”

    Also, I like that your group in Germany has Union in the title. It is a Union that we need to form, much as workers once formed unions in their workplaces, to stand up for workers rights and speak truth to power.
    I realize vajrayana buddhism holds the master as the supreme ruler, but if the master abuses that power (though I know some would say it is only the ego that gets abused) and people are left lost and isolated, and leave the spiritual path more wounded than when they entered it, then either the teachers need to be looking for a smaller more select and sturdy following (and less income) or the students need to start voicing their concerns, and remember that doing harm to oneself or others is not in alignment with buddhist teachings.

    • Thank you both Drolma & Vera. I lack time to read Drolma’s reply at the moment … Just as a short remark to your comment, Vera: The problem is not only in Tibetan Buddhism, also Zen Buddhism and Theravada have these or similar problems …

  40. Yes, Vera, I think we underestimate the “and less income” you mention above, the financial side of this trouble. From the start in the West, TB teachers are in conflict with this. On one hand, you can’t live in the west without earning a living. On the other hand, teaching Buddhism for money is a transgression. So from the very start, TB teachers in the West are frequently compromising their ethical standards.

  41. Dear Tenpel, Drolma et al,

    Below is a post I made over on the DI forum. You maybe interested in contacting the French organisation mentioned on “les 3 Mondes” forum. Hope this is of some help.


    “This may also be of Interest, again from Les 3 Mondes. It seems that the french are now starting to take things very seroiusly and appears they have a legal avenue, described in the post below:

    Contact Unadfi

    The best to get things done is to contact Unadfi. Catherine Picard, and their president responsible for the About Picard is very concerned by what happens to Rigpa and particularly by the occurrence of abuse mentioned by all the testimonies and articles she has read. It suggeste to all those who have suffered all forms of abuse at the hands of SR and Rigpa, to send without delay their testimony. It guarantees to protect your anonimité, and the advantage will be that there will not be justified, nor be judged like this blog, where we lose a lot of time having to argue with that / those who use it site for their tendencies indulger narcicistiques! The time has come for action and a single state organization can support this battle is its role, its mission. Unadfi is equipped to fight against SR and Rigpa, this organization needs therefore to make it your testimony and, therefore, consider this as a call for them somehow. To give you an example of work done Unadfi read Subsequently, better still go to their site where you can enjoy for yourself the extent of their commitment to the fight against cults and gurus like SR: “After a week of trial court to make history the jurors of the assize court of Ariège sentenced Robert Le Dinh, said Tang, 15 years’ imprisonment for acts of rape and sexual assault. Unusually, the verdict was harsher than the prosecution’s submissions. For the plaintiffs, which UNADFI, the sectarian nature of the group of Tang’s no doubt. The strength of the argument of the parties was to prove the civil sectarian concrete and not limitation. ” “Characteristics of sects according UNADFI: Indoctrination. control of thought. Turning dependence Pressures destruction Triple A destruction of the person, on the plans: Physical: poor diet, lack of sleep, hard work, dangerous medical treatments … Psychic: personality change, behavior and critical thinking, intellectual: narrowing of fields of knowledge outside the sect, Relational : Regression of communication skills, with close cuts, Social: break with society, this manipulation techniques using three registers: the cognitive technique: a message from seductive but simplistic, the follower is subjected to a real jam Skull, (multiple meetings, lectures, courses, seminars, studies, readings, auditions tapes, prayer) that will gradually make him lose his critical with respect to the theories, methods and practices of the sect. the behavioral technique, well known to psychologists or psychiatrists, who is to perform acts harmless at first, but increasingly time-consuming, causing a submission and dependence, resulting in loss of free will. emotional technique: the followers go through three phases – the seduction by the message, the leader, the group – the psychological destruction, – the reconstruction according to group norms. “Text from the site Unadfi If you acknowledge that you have lived some, or all three areas, please to contact them in writing to the address below and quickly show your experience, do not wait. They can help you with your speech, stop all these abuses. UNADFI: 130 rue de Clignancourt, 75018 Paris 01 44 92 35 92 Office hours: Tuesday to Friday 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. 2:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

    This maybe of interest to Drolma et al, as they are gathering testimonies also, to make contact with UNADFI. It could be an important way to share information and see what the state of play is with the French. Just some suggestions that maybe well worth following-up on.”

    • Hi sankappa, I lack time to read the recent comments just glanced quickly a bit through them.

      Of course it appears that something must be done and things have to been stopped. But it is not my intention to “fight against” anybody or any organisation. This sounds all too hostile for me, and this is not my way. I am not in a battle nor would I encourage anybody to go into a battle. So sentences like “Unadfi is equipped to fight against SR and Rigpa, this organization needs therefore to make it your testimony and, therefore, consider this as a call for them somehow.” are not inviting for me. Things turn easily into hysteria and witch hunt. I think we should be careful not to follow down that road.

      However, a reliable institution might be needed to work through this properly. I don’t know Unadfi and their work.

      According to my experiences, I would recommend to write and send testimonies to INFORM: or to make an direct announcement to the police – or as Mimi has indicated in the video, women having gone through this or who have evidence support each other and go to public with this …

      Ciao Tenzin

      • sankappa says:

        Hi tenpel,

        I gather you are busy, so thank you for your reply and I very much understand and respect the non-confrontational stance that you outline. However, I do not agree that a well-considered legal approach amounts to a “witch hunt” in fact quite the opposite – witch hunts remind me more of lynch mobs working outside of the legal system. Having said that though, ultimately any legal response lies with the victims of the abuse, and this I understand will take a great deal of courage.

        My opinion though, having followed this debate for around 3 years and being a former Rigpa student, is that in reality I cannot see any other option to prevent further abuse and suffering from Sogyal Rinpoche’s actions, other than to have him face some sort of legal action. Let’s remember it has been close to 20 years since he was last brought to task and still now he continues his abusive behaviour, creating further suffering.

        Having given a considerable amount of thought to this, the legal approach is the only way that I can see that the abuse will be stopped given the character of Sogyal Rinpoche. But maybe I am misguided in this conclusion. So tenpel, I would like to ask you, if I may, what does your approach entail, and how do you envisage it will stop the abuse and hence further suffering?


      • Tiger Lily says:

        Thanks Sankappa for your info on UNADFI, and Tenpel for recommending Inform. MF has told me about a possible future closed conference at Inform which I am hoping to attend. I think it is excellent that both these organisations are taking the matter of SR and Rigpa seriously.
        I agree with you Tenpel that we need well-respected, professional organisations to deal with issues of cultism and abuse, because sometimes we Buddhists actually don’t see the plain facts of life!
        I think women who have suffered in such Sanghas will feel more comfortable approaching a reputable organisation that has been purposefully set up for such matters to be taken care of, than going to the police.
        Mimi is exceptional in that she has so courageously taken her own action and opened a path for others to gain strength and follow.
        And what will we learn from all of this? I hope, to be able to discern the difference between a cultish pseudo Tantra and the genuine secret process of the Dharma awakening our hearts through our own Practice. This has certainly been the lesson of my life!!

  42. Money is a necessary evil, isn’t it? I know some teachers who undertake enormous amounts of very worthwhile projects and raise money for these purposes. I support that 100 %. There are others though, who seem more interested in raising money for their centres and building grand places to attract more students and so on. I guess all religion is the same as they all attract wealth and build places of worship. When money becomes too important then something is going wrong. Students are then suspected of being hung up on money and not practicing generosity and so on. It’s a fine line.
    Yes, buddhist teachings aren’t what students pay for, it’s the centres and transportation and food and heating and so on of these places, and the building projects of the future that people pay for. All above board, and it’s up to each person to make up their mind on it.

  43. When my kids were young, we sent them to a parent-run cooperative school. It was small, with one paid teacher, and we parents ran the school by consensus. The teacher had a lot of say at our weekly meetings– but decisions were made by consensus. It was robust and time consuming but the wonderful reward of such a structure was that everyone had ownership– everyone participated and worked hard. Every family had a key to the doors. And the kids thrived because it was a vibrant, wholesome, nurturing community, with their parents deeply committed and involved. It was a true place to learn and grow– a safe place because there weren’t any secrets.

    I was wondering if structures such as these would work towards making safe Dharma centers– “dharma cooperatives” you could call them. You would have to charge fees for membership and out of those you would hire the one teacher who would have his/her say in the meetings– but the entire community would be directly involved in the decision making and running of the center. The teacher is hired to be “resident teacher” and would have duties in that regard, but would not be paid directly for teachings– and teachings would be free to all attendees, open to the public as well.

    It seems that if we start looking at the meaning of the word “teacher” we can start looking more realistically at what is required of a Dharma Center. It must be as much a school as a place of worship. Buddha himself was the first to recognize that individuals only learned when all their faculties are involved– critical, intellectual, emotional, physical, personal, social… Dharma centers should reflect that surely. Top heavy organizations such as Rigpa encourage a “sit down, shut up or leave” attitude. However, with a more open, democratic structure, with a complete lack of secrecy and mystique throughout, risk for abuse is lessened considerably.

    • Tiger Lily says:

      I am so heartened that other people also are searching for the most suitable means to incorporate precious Tibetan Teachings into our modern Western society. In a way that will allow Lamas and Westerners to respect the best and most noble qualities of one another’s cultures.
      I hope that in the days to come Rigpa, will transform itself along the lines suggested by Drolma. Before that happens there will be a collapse of its present structure as the glare of outside publicity encroaches further into SR’s grim secrets and demands some kind of reform.
      It is to be hoped then that an International body of older students who value transparency, democracy and accountability will be in place to aid the inevitable casualities of such a critical intervention.

  44. Yes, Vera, I know that generally teachers are very cautious about where the money goes for teachings– but I have seen subtle transgressions, such as the wife of a lama checking out what donations are going to be made before accepting a teaching invitation. In Tibet, there was an awareness of and committment to the financial wellbeing of monasteries and teachers– this has yet to be developed in the West. Lamas just like the rest of us, particularly if they have families, need some sense of an ongoing financial security. So it’s a little complicated as you observed in your comment, isn’t it– e.g. if a teacher earns a living from his books, as SR does, how does that fit in with ethics?

  45. Dear Sankappa,
    thank you for your answer and comments. Again only very short (I just came back from other towns and lack time to go through the comments but I read your recent one.) I utter agree with taking legal action and I fully support to clarify this at court.

    In general “cult leaders” were in most cases only stopped by being sent to prison based on being convicted of crime. I think only strong and powerful legal actions can stop SR. So THIS has my full support. (Usually “cult leaders” are so much led astray by their power trip and pride so that they easily trespass the boundaries of legal laws. And in many cases, as far as my understanding goes, it mainly needs strong and courageous people, insiderknowledge and some evidence to stop them by being sent to prison. I had that opportunity in two cases too but in the first case I didn’t use it, and I think nowadays this was a fault, in the second case I used it but sadly the victim–still in the hand of the abusive teachers–denied everything…)

    So, what I wanted to distance myself from is a language and thinking based upon “fighting against” a group or teacher. I think as Buddhists first of all we “fight against” our mind poisons and if there is a need for it and if possible we help others to stop their destructive actions–also by very powerful means. So if there is a “fight against” something it should be destructive and damaging behaviour, and it should be done out of compassion for both sides–at least we should strive for this. Maybe I am wrong or my understanding of English is too misleading but for me “fighting against a group or teacher” is based on hostility. There is no need to fight against someone or a group but there might be a need to forcefully stop harming and destructive actions. The latter has my full support.

    In this case of SR I think, possible actions could be:

    1) writing testimonies and entrusting them to authorities like INFORM, Buddhist representatives (e.g. German Buddhist Union) or other groups which are powerful and can help
    2) all legal actions, including announcement to police
    3) abused women collaborating together to issue forth their points based on shared power together with lawyers
    4) Newspaper articles, TV reports and documentaries, public statements by powerful authorities who have checked the details

    Though the latter is a very strong and less controllable point, it might be the most powerful one together with legal actions if all other possible means fail, and the abuse continues.

    So from this pov, I support also UNADFI’s initiative but I would be cautious not to be led by hostility or aversion, and “fighting against” someone sounds for me as being based on hostility or aversion.

    Regards tenpel

  46. Thanks, Tiger Lily, Sankappa and Tenpel for your observations. (I have to learn to look inside this thread because so often I miss comments as they await moderation). It is heartening to hear of actions being taken, because all of us are experiencing, on different levels perhaps, the frustration that Sankappa writes about above. For those of you, like MF, who have been following these events for 20 years, my deepest sympathy! I like Tenpel’s approach of outlining lots of alternative approaches and Tiger Lily’s positive vision of changes occurring within Rigpa, of the sangha rewriting a new vision of Rigpa. Like Tenpel, I am wary of hostility because it tends to create rigid responses and of course, can be harmful to others. Openness to all possibilities is a very powerful approach to difficulties in my opinion.

    • Thanks you all for your honest comments and thoughts!

      Good to know that INFORM might organize a future closed conference where you, Tiger Lily, are hoping to attend. I agree that it is more comfortable to go to such an organisation than to the police, and that Mimi is exceptional in her approach.

      I think one of the key elements for establishing a type of Pseudo-Tantra with slavish Guru devotion is that there is no proper study of the tantras and the tantric texts + their meanings and that most students lack also the basis to be proper vessels for the tantras, which would be a profound understanding of the Four Noble Truths, Samsara, renunciation, Bodhichitta and emptiness. Khandro Rinpoche said recently at Rigpa that none of the listeners have really taken refuge (in the deepest sense.) If based on these conditions misleading gurus become the sole source of information they can establish easily Pseudo-Tantra with slavish Guru devotion and lead their students astray.

      A point which I find good with Rigpa is, that they invite highly qualified lamas, and students are able to gather information from other qualified sources, this is very dissimilar to NKT.

  47. sankappa says:

    Dear tenpel,

    Sorry I didn’t respond earlier. Thank you tenpel, I really appreciate that you have taken the time to explain your position so clearly. I feel heartened by the reason and balance to your approach, and that you have obviously taken time to think through a realistic strategy by which to act. You are right; there is great deal of merit in not acting in an adversarial manner, as it’s the only way to achieve a just outcome for all parties, without having punishment as its ultimate goal. Maybe I appeared a bit too gung-ho in my original post, but in reality I think we are both on the same page, particularly now, as I see that you are advocating the less palatable, but likely necessary option of taking a legal approach, should it arise.

    I also feel most encouraged by the constructive and positive group that is assembling on this forum. I think only good outcomes will be achieved through the equanimous attitude that is apparent in the words of Tiger Lily and Drolma. I would also like to take this opportunity to speak about a point that Joanne touched on. That is, that indeed Mary Finnigan has not just been following the events, but leading the campaign with tenacity and dedication, sometimes in the face of adversity and criticism (most of it unwarranted) for all this time. Although I have come to follow these events at a much later stage, I can clearly see that Mary has done almost all the heavy hitting and without her, the ground would not have been prepared. I do not know Mary but would like to acknowledge this and thank her. I think we should all recognise and be grateful for her efforts and ultimately her obvoius care and concern for the abused.

    From my brief research, I feel it is pretty evident that UNADFI is a reputable organisation, as is INFORM and no doubt many others. My initial intuitive feeling about UNADFI (and now that I have analysed it further) is that it could have some obvious advantages, in that it is a French organisation. Sogyal Rinpoche is a French citizen. Also, as he is based at Lerab Ling, it’s possible that more abuses have been committed there, with a higher proportion of French citizens and perhaps UNADFI have some of these testimonies and the wherewithal to act? Just some thoughts.

    Indeed tenpel, Mimi is an exceptional and courageous young lady.


  48. So, may I clarify, incase there are people with personal experiences that want to give their testimony anonymously to an organization; is it INFORM if they are UK citizens and UNADFI if French citizens, or is it best UK citizens also go to UNADFI?

    I think it might be confusing to people who are reading this as to where to go with testimony and whether they remain anonymous or not?

    I also applaud Mimi who seems to be fearless and I hope that there are enough of us out here able to support women like MImi if they decide to come forward.

    Thanks Tenpel for this site, your approach is very much needed and admired

    • Since, as it was said by Sankappa, Rigpa is mainly based in France, it seems to be reasonable to send testimonies to UNADFI.

      But because INFORM is the most acknowledged research institution with respect to New Religious Movements on which not only international researchers but also the UK government and UK journalists rely, it would be good if they receive the testimonies too. Since I don’t know how UNADFI is working but I know how INFORM is working, and I have contact and talked with researchers there, personally I recommend and stress INFORM.

      If one sends a testimony to INFORM one can put restrictions on its use, like that it is only to be shown to researchers or only for INFORM, that its content can or cannot not be quoted and so on. And of course testimonies remain anonymous if they were sent anonymous. If they were sent with the real name one can ask INFORM to use it only anonymous. The material they have is used according to the wishes of the person who gave it and they are very cautious in this. To be sure the best would be to contact INFORM (or UNADFI) and ask them those questions directly.

      I will ask a research officer from INFORM to explain how their procedure is. What I know from the treatment of NKT: NKT ex-members sent their testimonies and the base statements were incorporated in the official / public INFORM NKT flyer in a neutral and anonymous form like “Former members have stated that …” etc. These testimonies are very important to inform the public about these things. But the testimonies themselves are not publicly available.

      • People with personal experience that they wish to report anonymously on any religious movement such as Rigpa can provide their stories in confidence to Inform, wherever they are located within the world. This may be useful considering the multi-national nature of many contemporary religious movements and the fact that we provide information to a variety of enquirers, including governmental organisations, and concerned individuals.

        All enquiries to Inform are kept strictly confidential. There is a statement of our policy on confidentiality here: We use the information given to us by enquirers to make statements about general trends in concerns about a specific group and contextualise this information based on the nature of the questions we are asked. So for example, if someone asked about information about a particular group, we might include the information that: ‘Inform has received some reports from former members that they experienced pressure to attend expensive retreats.’ For this example, we may also contextualise this information with the actual price of the retreats in question and a comparison with similar groups’ retreat prices.

        Although our primary working language is English, we have staff members fluent in Dutch, French and German, so we can accept testimonies in these languages as well. If you have any concerns about how your information may be used, please feel free to clarify and discuss these before deciding what you would like to report. You can also request information about a religious movement to better understand the type of information we provide.

        You could email at:, use the contact form here: or telephone us on: +44 7955 7677 (working hours 10am-4pm GMT).

  49. I also wish to commend you, Tenpel, for the speed in which this conversation has become so proactive. There was sound discussion by all and now there’s specific directions being mapped out. Indeed, this is very encouraging!

    I also want to comment that it is good to keep the bigger picture in mind– I do have concerns that as allegations become more forceful, the Tibetan Buddhist community and Rigpa will wish to write off the entire affair as 1. A few sexual transgressions by a virulent teacher (e.g. boys will be boys) and 2. A vendetta by Mary Finnigan. The discussion here is a way to keep alive concerns about everyday malpractices and cult tendencies within Rigpa.

  50. It appears to me that those controversial Lamas, like Sogyal Rinpoche, Lama Ole Nydahl and Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, have mainly or exclusively Western disciples and almost no Tibetan disciples or disciples from Buddhist countries. If this is true it might indicate that Westerners have fallen pray to their charisma and propaganda based on their naivety and lack of knowledge of Buddhism …

  51. Whilst I think it worthwhile to question why HHDL has remained silent, it also seems to be a distraction from the main topic, and once again, takes the power out of our hands, as we stand around waiting for word from HH or other prominent Lamas. I think it fairly obvious that no Lama, is going to speak out against SR, or anyone else. We can guess at their reasons, and speculate forever, but it is not going to result in any action.
    I think we need to decide what action we can take, and like you, Tenpel and your group, lay down guidelines for what we find acceptable and unacceptable. It would be great if a lama did speak out, but I think it’s very unlikely. I took action by stopping payments to Rigpa. My firm belief is that Rigpa will only sit up and listen when they find their bank balance is drying up.

  52. Drolma says:

    And along those lines, I want to address your last comment, Tenpel, about how few Tibetans seem to get sucked into cult groups. First, I want to ask if that’s true entirely? I thought there was a significant number of Tibetans still involved with Shugden?

    But you’ve still made an important point and so I was wondering if westerners aren’t more vulnerable to cult groups because of having a more fractured sense of community. Tibetans are known for their strong community-based culture. Many attribute this, along with their Buddhist outlook, as being core reasons they typically show so few symptoms of PTSD in reaction to Chinese torture.

    Cults start off appearing as if they can offer a strong sense of belonging and common purpose. We westerners generally are pretty vulnerable to that; I think we are pretty starved for community and usually too busy and commodity driven to do much about it in a healthy way. Perhaps this isn’t such a big deal in Europe as it is in the US and Australia, however.

  53. What I meant was, that almost no Tibetan is following Geshe Kelsang Gyatso / New Kadampa Tradition, Ole Nydahl / Diamond Way, Shantarakshita / FWBO or Triratna, and (as far as I can see) Sogyal Rinpoche / Rigpa. Why then are they so successful in the West?

    Shugden worship has got “cult like”, indeed, but this is rather a “worship cult” which circles around a “deity”. This “Shugden cult” is different from a “cult” that circles around a living teacher or their group. There are different teachers/groups that worship Shugden. What they have in common is that they usually place utmost importance on the guru calling for obedience to him. However, in the centre there is not one teacher around which everything circles. So I think this Shugden topic is rather related to Tibetan culture and history, while the absence of Tibetans in the above four groups and their wide spreading in the West is a Western phenomenon.

    I think there are many reasons for the success of the groups mentioned above, and among the questionable reasons there is also the one you mentioned: “I think we are pretty starved for community”.

    Taken NKT’s success as an example, which is also similar with Diamond Way: they offer an identity for Westerners which replaces Westerners’ weak selves or low self-esteem with spiritual pride: “now I am a good person, I follow a pure tradition, a pure teacher, only few can have such a chance, I must have so much merit etc.” In Diamond Way it would be their claims that only in Diamond Way you can reach enlightenment in one lifetime. A teacher from Diamond Way even taught, Gelugpas cannot attain enlightenment in one life because they would only study. According to my observations, both groups have a tendency to elite thinking and pride. Diamond Way seems to have also a strong tendency to competition. (We are better, we have the fastest path etc.) And in both groups either directly or indirectly the leaders put down other Tibetan Buddhists or – in the case of Diamond Way – even other religious traditions or the Theravada. So both group offer something like a “pseudo-healing” for a weak self. You are something better if you follow them.

    And both groups also offer a somewhat synchronized community and this leads to cohesion. They offer a family closeness feeling (though this is not reliable) which seems to compensates the broken familiy structures many experience in the West, or which compensates the lack of support from the own family. Both, NKT and DW, offer in a way an ersatz family around an ersatz father. Tibetans and Asians, generally speaking, have rather intact family structures, Westerners generally speaking seem to lack these.

    There are more points to consider but these two might be some basic, shared points for the attractiveness of NKT & DW in the West. Then there are individual points, like Kelsang Gyatso stressing “ethics” (which gives orientation for Westerners), and Ole Nydahl being “authentic” in his way of behaving and speaking because he says what he thinks, which seems to attract a lot of academics which grew up in a way that them were not allowed to say what they think due to social norms … And while Kelsang Gyatso stresses a type of The World is Going Down way (everything is so “degenerated”) and attracts a lot people who think in this way, Ole preaches “joy” as the key element of Vajrayana Buddhism—but for me (and others too) Nydahl’s approach appears to be a type of Hedonism which embraces the peaks of happiness you can find in Samsara (like sexual union, bungee jumping, fast motor-bike driving …), and he “sells” these samsaric happiness peaks as a way to recognize the “nature of your mind” … Another feature what makes Kelsang Gyatso attractive for Westerners is his obvious rebellion against the Tibetan clergy, many Westerner seem to like this David-against-Goliath pattern. And Ole Nydahl usually says things like that his controversial speech would lead towards that “exotics, who have problems with their sexual live, and those who cannot think clearly” would not become part of Diamond Way making his followers thereby believe, they wouldn’t be exotics with a distorted sexual life and that the would be among those who could think clearly … so the “losers” won’t follow Nydahl, those who follow him are somewhat better … and his hostile Anti-Islam attacks are hip in the middle class (as recent research has shown) which again brings him followers – besides many other reasons of course.

    So I think you are right in

    Cults start off appearing as if they can offer a strong sense of belonging and common purpose. We westerners generally are pretty vulnerable to that; I think we are pretty starved for community and usually too busy and commodity driven to do much about it in a healthy way. Perhaps this isn’t such a big deal in Europe as it is in the US and Australia, however.

    Though I think its the same problem in Europe + also religion in general (not only so called “cults”) offer a strong sense of belonging and common purpose …

    And as another point which make NKT or DW attractive: they give you the feeling it is easy, you have only to follow them, and nothing but them is needed for you. For busy Westerners this fits well into their tight schedules and livelihood, but sadly its an illusion … but a nice illusion ;-)

    I wonder what the attractiveness of SR/Rigpa would be. Any idea?

  54. When I read your comment, Tenpel, I agreed with your two points, especially the point about low self-esteem. I then thought of another, related aspect that might be relevant, which occurs frequently in this country, which is the evangelical, born-again phenomena. I’ve seen this in every dharma center I’ve visited and it transfers very well to cult manipulation and to (false) tantric practices, the idea that you’ve found the quickest, easiest path to enlightenment– you’re saved. What I’ve noticed is a very subtle but strong faith-based approach to the dharma in many western centers. I had it myself: I was born again and swallowed the whole deal in one swallow. Discretion and caution were out the door. It was a born-again moment. This approach lacks confidence in contrast to the Tibetan approach, which also borders on being faith-based. Tibetans, however, are born into the culture and have that strong confidence– we are born-again into it, which is much less stable. I know that HHDL constantly recommends that it is safer for us to keep our own spiritual traditions in the west. Even though we become Buddhist, we do it in a Christian, evangelical way. This is unstable and leaves us vulnerable to abuse and cults.

    As for SR/Rigpa, I would suggest that a distinction can be made between a full blown cult, such as Diamond Way or NKT, which isolates itself and then breeds a very insular and dangerous identity and a group with a lama who practices misconduct, using cult techniques to manipulate students and gain power and sex– but yet stays within some outer structure, not isolating itself completely. As you pointed out earlier, the fact that Rigpa has regular, visiting teachers is different than a normal cult. I think it’s a matter of degree, but also, once a teacher severs accountability completely to others outside of the group, then that’s when a full fledged and more dangerous cult is born. SR appears to still be accountable in some degree to other lamas– so there are perhaps some boundaries on his behavior.

    • Only very short (its late), also Nydahl, DW, have guest teachers, and the term cult is controversial, I would rather like to avoid that term, maybe we could speak of “unhealthy structures” or so. There are a lot of differences between NKT and DW, and I would hesitate to apply the term “cult” to DW. They have some unhealthy patterns, and Nyhahl has a controversial personality. Now, with respect to Sogyal Rinpoche, and I hope I don’t offend anybody, aren’t men in power also very attractive and might it not be a temptation to “heal” a weak self by identifying or even sleeping with men in power, couldn’t this be a (pseudo) way to uplift a weak self-esteem?

  55. T, I am encouraged by how easy you’ve made it for people to contact INFORM and give them testimony– thank you for that. In the future, would they be able to post a result of their findings on this site? Or could they provide us with a link to that?

    • Dear Drolma, INFORM will publish the results on their site or in leaflets or academic papers or so, and you can contact them also and ask them to receive their present flyer on Rigpa. They must make sure to be neutral to all sides. So I don’t think that they will publish anything on this site (blog). If I get a link I will post it on and here on the blog. If all things work well I might get a short academic paper with respect to SR/Rigpa too. Lets see … There is an upcoming research on Rigpa and SR but it is still in process …

      • Have you visited Rigpa? I recommend that before you publish anything based on slander or gossip in the internet. Reality check is quite essential for Academic papers, don’t you think?

        • Sorry; I was a bit of hurrying with other things. I deleted the reply it was just given too quickly …
          Yes, I have visited Rigpa. I won’t publish things based on slander and gossip. It is a fact that women and men had been harmed by Sogyal’s actions. To report about these harmful actions is neither slander nor gossip if done with a good motivation. I made my reality check in that case.

      • Thank you for your reply. Did you talk to any woman who has been helped by him, maybe an older student, who has been around long enough to know people and their background stories? You could also contact the Care Team in Lerab Ling. I found an older female student from amongst them whom with I have had extensive talks. There is also the psychologist, who lives in Lerab Ling. It could be helpful to make contact with her too.

        • Hi BellaB, I am not sure if I should continue to approve your posts. Actual I have already banned you and Sheila because at the Dialogue Ireland blog both of you have mmainly contributed to whitewash this issue and to distract from the topic. I am not consequent. On the other hand, I could see that Sheila started to use the blog to make up her own mind. I have to see how I handle this.

          Bella, did you see the documentary? Mimi was a woman who wanted to be close to her father because he was too absorbed in Rigpa, and while approaching Rigpa to be close to her father the dynamics within Rigpa–which I assume included also the Care team–contributed that she found herself ‘in bed with Sogyal’. He ordered her to “undress!” after two months being his assistant. What is there more to say? Why should I contact a Care team that seems to be involved in this, involved in something that I think is an inappropriate manipulation? I checked other sources (including academic ones) and I met also a Rigpa official. It is very clear that Sogyal has harmed women. Full stop. He should honestly apologize and stop this behaviour.

          From my own experience of groups with destructive or abusive patterns I know that it doesn’t bring much to ask those involved. They will always defend what the leader is doing. If one wants a reality check one must read and hear testimonies of people who were in the group. From this one can see common patterns that are repeatedly reported, and from this one can infer about the validity of claims. To contact present group members is interesting in so far to learn their point of view, and what justifications they use. I know another case of abuse where there is a psychologist working at the place. His presence does not prove much, he can be blind for what is going on or happy to earn money … Besides the testimonies I read, I met also women and received emails reporting me about experiences or observations with SR and Rigpa. Though there are many good sides and I have a lot of respect and appreciation, there are these short comings as reported by Mimi, Mary Finnigan and others.

          With respect to Rigpa, in my presence no Rigpa member has ever disagreed that Sogyal has sexual relationships with his female students. It is either ‘ignored’ as a “private matter” or it is justified as a means “to help them”. It is also claimed that Sogyal does not engage a lawyer or refutes what you called “slander” and “rumours” because he would practice “tonglen”, “accepting the negativities thrown onto him”. The justification goes so far to declare the only problem SR had would be Mary Finnigan, which is quite narrow minded and incorrect ;-) If the accusations are untrue, SR must dispel them. Why? It is a bodhisattva vow to counteract wrong accusations that makes people loosing faith. I fear he cannot counteract them.

  56. Simple question, with regard to all the “slander or gossip” that has appeared over the last fifteen years about Sogyal on the web, in the press, on the television etc etc, If it is slander, then why no lawsuit? Surely, if there is no basis in reality, Rigpa would want to clear Sogyals good name? So why have Sogyals lawyers remained silent?
    PS Thank you Tenzin, one, for asking us to be careful about using the pejorative term ‘cult’, and, two, for differentiating between the sometimes bizarre behaviour of DWs founder and devotees and the sinister behaviour of the NKTs founder and his followers-while both groups have ‘issues’ they should not be mentioned in the same breath.
    (Former Rigpa visitor and critic of both DW and the NKT)

  57. “Did you talk to any woman who has been helped by him”, It is the teachings that help, the teacher is only a vehicle. Recognition of the teacher as the saviour is not a Buddhist concept

    “You could also contact the Care Team in Lerab Ling”
    Indeed the palliative care team at Lerab Ling have done some great work over the years and it is certianly the case that the project has done much to enhance Sogyals reputation in the West (despite the fact that is the careworkers doing the overwhelming majority of the work) Can you please explain why it is then that, while Rigpa can find millions to buidl huge temples in France, Lerab Lings care centre is on the verge of finacial collapse? Obviously this is a well guarde secret but I am sure you will be able to confirm this with your connections. Problem is,this makes it look as if the whole set up up was primarily a reputation enhancer, but has now become something of a finacial burden

    “I found an older female student from amongst them whom with I have had extensive talks”
    Yes she would definitely have given a neutral perspective

    “There is also the psychologist”
    Most New Religious Movements and cults have psychologists supporting their perspective. The title does not make the organization valid

  58. Ooops-I confused the care team for Sogyal with the care team at Dzogchen beara (which is for the dying and IS going under financially) So the question remains-How can Rigpa afford to build big temples on the back of money they got through their reputation for, amongst other things, caring for the dying, when they arent putting enough money into the Dzogchen beara caring for the dying set up? It looks suspiciously like using care for the dying just to make money

    • Setting up Tibetan Buddhism permanently to the West requires also buildings. The Temple got a huge donation from an anonymous American person, but also smaller amounts from people world wide. It happened.

      I heard that they have also built many buildings to Dzogchen Beara. My intuition says that people want rather to die at home than in a hospital or in some other center however nice that center is. I guess Buddhists might be different since the dying process has a special meaning in the faith.

      No Tibetan Buddhist organization is rich, especially in the times of financial insecurity – and Rigpa is not a rich organization.

  59. “Rigpa is not a rich organization”

    Are you really sure about that? I wonder if Sogyals personal bank account is open to public scrutiny-I doubt it. I would remind you that in some groups that cry poor, the leaders often turn out to be extremely wealthy. I dont see Sogyal living the lifestyle of a pauper, do you?

    • No. He lives a life of a busy worker. He has earned the money in his bank account. People give donations to him. He doesn’t receive a salary from Rigpa. He does however get his housing, food and travel costs covered. There are people in Rigpa financial department who can tell how much money is needed for all the events they plan. Constantly living on the edge, costs have to be cut down and use creativity in order to find ways to make money. The salaries they afford to pay for the workers are below normal, often just enough to cover the rent of the apartment and they get food in LL. The nuns and rest of the staff do not live life of a luxury.

  60. As I said, is his personal wealth an object of public scrutiny?

    • I don’t work in Rigpa, so I wouldn’t know. Usually donations to lama are donations, in a similar way with every Tibetan Buddhist lama. I think people’s bank accounts are private matter both for you, me and him? In different countries there must different laws: how much can one person give another without having to pay taxes.

      What do you think he does with the money he has? He works almost 365 days a year. I think he has some holiday in Australia, where he makes his retreat.

  61. Those who rely on the public funding them are therefore publicly accountable, indeed they have a moral responsibility to maintain openness with regard to all of their financial issues, as does the Dalai Lama. Could you please find out if this is the case with Sogyal? I am assuming that, as a Rigpa senior, involved in the running of one of their communities, you would be privy to such information. If not, this raises some serious concerns.
    In other Buddhist communities that are of charitable status, their accounts are a matter of public scrutiny and their leaders, being conscious of their moral responsibility and financial obligation to the public, also maintain a policy of openness in this regard. Does Sogyal Rinpoche do the same?

    • I’m not a senior student and I am not running anything in Rigpa. But I could ask someone if they knows, but I have zero interest myself in the matter. That man works more than most of us.

  62. Tara Ling says:

    I was thrown out of the Rigpa Youth facebook group because I posted this link and asked about it. When I was younger I met the young woman in the video and her father at Rigpa’s main centre, Lerab Ling. I can’t believe they made up stories about Sogyal Rinpoche. We are not allowed to discuss this in the Rigpa Youth facebook group. We can only speak to an ‘administrator’ or ‘instructor’ privately. Something is being hidden from us.

    • Thank you for this note. It helps to make up one’s own mind about it.

    • You are straight and tough !! Espiacially Dala Lama says not to believe things without asking questions and searchung the trouth.
      This behaviour of Ripa students shows, There is a big problem inside!
      I am not in facebook,because this is another bad story!(Daten Misbrauch)
      I am sorry also for you to be confronted by such a reaction,but you are not alone to carry this things!
      By Irma

  63. Tara Ling, my impression is that this shows a very low opinion of youth. Do those who are censuring the facebook page believe that the youth aren’t capable of researching these issues themselves? Do they think that they control what youth discover and think? Do they think that today’s youth aren’t savy of such matters? Wouldn’t it be more respectiful of these “administrators” and “instructors” to discuss these matters openly and cleanly and transparently with the youth? It seems that Rigpa youth have a choice: contact these “instructors” and arrange for an indoctrination session or make up their own versions of the truth, as best they can. If the allegations are nothing but lies, then why the censureship? Why not an open discussion?

  64. Could be interesting to watch this documentary about Trungpa’s life:

    Crazy Wisdom: The Life & Times of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

    It deals with many of these issues here but with another view.

  65. Ah yes Bella. the crazy wisdom defence, along with its implicit assertion that Sogyal is Buddha, his female victims are actually consorts and the whole Rigpa mandala is a pure land where sexual exploitation is myth

    This was the first line of defence when Sogyal was first outed some time back-It failed,nobody bought it and mainly it revealed how deeply ingrained misconceptions about how the guru should relate to disciples are at Rigpa. I like to think of it as Rigpa.s Maginot line.

    Even the barbarians scriptures tell us that we should adhere to the laws of the land of the infidel if we come to dwell there. Not quite sure where that places Rigpa’s inner sangha on the evolutionary scale. Maybe at the same level: destroyers of the Dharma

    And BTW, having spoken to the late Gyalwa Karmapa’s secretary on the issue, I can assure you he was deeply disturbed and saddened by Trungpa’s methods.Two wrongs dont make a right. I’ll stick with Ranjung Rigpay Dorje on this one rather than follow your advice, enlightening though it may be

    • I rather follow Pema Chodron.

      • I rather follow common sense and the Buddhist ethics (I do not say that Pema Chodron doesn’t do this.)
        The basic Buddhist ethical principal is not to harm others, the golden rule says Treat all creatures as you would like to be treated.

        Woman and men have reported to be harmed to whitewash this by applying fuzziness or means to blur this fact, I think is a type of self-deception or “self-brainwashing”.
        I imagine Sogyal happens what happened to those who have reported to be harmed by him: he is shouted at to be an idiot, he is commanded to undress to have sex (maybe with a man), the food he has faithfully prepared is thrown onto him … I wonder if he would like that.

      • Thank you bellaB for this interview.

        I like this interview and what she is saying. For me it does also not contradict to be able to discriminate what is right and wrong. She mainly got benefit from him. So she can be grateful. The situation is very different for someone who was harmed by him and has a hard time to recover and to develop trust in Buddhist teachers or Buddhism in general. I think it is good not to over stress that what she is saying is applicable to everybody and every situation nor that one should be too tight to see things only through one perspective. So thank you for this.

        A bit funny that the question about safe centres and safe places is asked there too. Her reply in this is also clear: the place is safe but the teachings make people uneasy (and push them into a learning process.) I think this is a good thing. Very interesting interview!

  66. Tiger Lily says:

    Thankyou Tenpel for your voice of reason which is in keeping with your excellent website. Here is a comment I have just posted on Dialogue Ireland.
    Tiger Lily, on June 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm said:

    Re: Pema Chodron interview above. It is not clear from how much you’ve copied and pasted, when this interview took place. If it is referring to the well-accounted meeting several years ago now between the group of Western Teachers and HHDL, then it is old news. BellaB please clarify.
    Pema Chodron is holding an idealized view which can be correct in so far as it goes, when it is relevant to an authentic Master, who will see the student through thick and thin of the journey to fruition. ie in a personal one-to-one relationship.
    I’ve never heard her qualify her statements though by admitting that such a view would be harmful in the case of unskilled Teachers who no matter that they have realized a certain degree of enlightenment by experiencing levels of emptiness and wide-open mind states, are still confused in other areas of their lives.
    I am disappointed by her one-sided point of view.
    I do agree though that when Life with all its unpredictabilities is forcing one to change and to take the Dharma as a skilful route toward achieving that change, the mind can begin to operate outside of the box and discover its true spacious nature and freedom.
    I cannot question that that is what she has discovered in her own personal journey working with her Teachers. But it will not be the same for everybody. The risks are too high to avoid failure and psychological damage both for student and Teacher.
    There have to be safeguards for new students and students who are not in a mutually agreed upon one-to-one relationship, though they may imagine they are.
    She needs to concede to that as she gains recognition as a popular Teacher. She is in danger of leading inexperienced students into the trap of seeing their imperfect Teacher as perfect and becoming stuck in cults

    Having just clicked on BellaB’s link above I can see that the part she posted of it on DI is from the 1993
    Tricycle interview. How much worse have things got since then? My goodness. Pema Chodron has alot of responsibility to face up to.

    • i think pema choedroen would say different things in different situations and I think also she would agree, that, as you say, that it is dangerous to rely on a unqualified teacher. In a way she has to say this even because in Nyingma and Kagyue school it is clearly stated that one has to leave misleading teachers. Jamgon Kongtrul writes:

      Therefore, as it has been said in The Sutra of the True Dharma of Clear Recollection (mDo dran-pa nyer-bzhag; Saddharmanusmriti-upasthana):

      “As the chief among the obstructors (bar-du gcod-pa) of all virtuous qualities is the sinful teacher, one should abandon being associated with him, speaking with him, or even being touched by his shadow.”

      In every aspect one should be diligent in rejecting the sinful teacher.

      now, if someone argues (as NKT and followers of abusive teacher tend to do) one cannot discriminate if it is wrong or right what the teacher is doing, then the teachings and call to examine teachers and teachings, as it has been taught and stressed by the Buddha and so many masters, would become redundant. Such a person is in a way claiming indirectly that such teachings with the call to examine teachers and teachings should be neglected because one is per se unable to discriminate right from wrong. So did the Buddha and masters waste their and our time and energy when they stressed we should examine teachers and teachings?

      The point is that right and wrong are not inherent existent independent entities, they are dependent. What appears to be right from one perspective can be wrong from another, therefore it is wise not to be too fixed with clinging to truths. However, right and wrong are labelled to actions according to their outcome, if the outcome of an action is long term harm, or short term harm and no benefit in the future, they are wrong because they are contrary to what beings wish: no suffering. if the actions bring short term harm but long term benefit or if they bring short term benefit and a long term neutral effect or short term and long term benefit, etc., they are right. This is the way how a Bodhisattva is supposed to act. Another issue is that one must consider positive and negative actions also from point of view of a minority and majority etc.

      I remember also that (was it Pema Choedroen or Tenzin Palmo?) someone told me when Chogyam Trungpa tried to approach the nun in an inappropriate manner, the nun did not only push him away but also kicked his feet forcefully so that he understood he should stay away. So the nun was very clear and had no harm because of being strong and able to defend herself.

  67. Actually, having just skim read that interview, she says
    : “From my view, it doesn’t matter what is happening as long as it is all out in the open and we are not feeding into the fundamental source of suffering which is ignorance. As long as there is a lot of dialogue and all the different feelings and views are being presented and are in debate, then it doesn’t become some sort of McCarthyism where you have to hold a particular point of view-or watch out. It would be very unfortunate to think that we can smooth out all the rough edges. It would kill the spirit of Buddhism if it became uncomfortable or dangerous for people to hold opposing views.”

    I think part of the problem is that it isn’t out in the open, the stuff going on at Rigpa is very hidden, it’s been leaked out. People have left because they’ve felt sexually used or accosted. The majority of students don’t even think it goes on. There is a lot of deception involved, a lot of secrets. It isn’t being discussed, except in a very limited and restrictive way. There is an enormous amount of denial within Rigpa and they are very keen to maintain a totally respectable front and control the way they are seen as an organization.
    It is important to realize Pema C is talking about a different ball game within Shambala.

    • It was also different times, in the 70’s. No HIV, not too many sexually transmitted diseases among people that have since then spread around the Continents. Because of HIV sex has become somewhat a tabu issue again, even though porn gives another perspective. There’s so much ugliness in relation to sex these days. I believe it’s another world, without the innocence that sexual liberation had at the beginning.

      It could have something to do with the ‘secrecy’ or better say lack of transparency. His actions have been known since the 70’s, so I’m not at all sure about the secrecy. Nobody in Rigpa has ever denied that he is having sexual relationships to some students. His teachings are also a bit different from Trungpa Rinpoche. I don’t know but I think SR has a wider or different audience, but I can’t be sure. I can’t see hippies around too much, but, like I said: it’s not the 70’s anymore.

  68. Tiger Lily says:

    I’ve tried to read through the entire Tricycle/Pema Chodron interview again and i’m afraid to say I have lost patience with her…..(Thankyou PC for teaching me patience!) Taking into account that it’s stuff she said in 1993, I’m determined nevertheless to keep an open mind and assume she’s come to her senses by now.
    It really does show the viewpoint of someone who is clinging to their own subjective experience and is entirely unable to tell the difference between a healthy ego’s aptitude to accustom to groundlessness and that of someone who is trying to recover from a trauma. A shortcoming some Lamas have too.
    Despite Tricycle asking pointed and relevant questions she trots out her replies that all is fine from her perspective because her sometimes challenging relationship with Trungpa turned out all right for her in the end.
    I am speaking in response to this particular interview and am in no position to criticize her for her subsequent present day work about which I know very little except that she is apparently a much-loved Teacher.
    Those very questions that Tricycle asked nearly 20 years ago are still being asked today, with even more urgency. She should ask herself why that is the case and not seek to devalue them with her “trump card” of groundlessness.

    • As far as I can see she explains it mainly from her own perspective and thoughts. For her it was ok, for her it was helpful. However, this does not invalidate the harm others experienced nor is it applicable to everybody … If one were to generalize this personal experience, I think this would be misleading.

  69. FYI. I corrected and added the following to footnote 2 in the post above:

    However, though a qualified Vajaryana practitioner can rely on a qualified action-mudra at the path of accumulation when he/she is practising the generation stage, it is unsafe to do so.

    “The purpose of a seal is to generate bliss and the realization of emptiness of the generation stage, thereby acting as the special ripener of the roots of virtue that generate the realization of the completion stage. When meditating on the methods for penetrating the vital points of the body of the completion stage, there are many purposes such as that of easily gathering the winds, however a fully qualified supporting object is very rare. Because of this, if one does not unite with a consort properly, it will become a cause of falling into the lower realms. For example, there are people who think that they are tantric practitioners and engage in this conduct inappropriately, as a result of which they are later reborn in the lower realms. Due to breaking the tantra vows and pledges, one can take rebirth even in the hell of Unrelenting Torment (Avichi). Therefore, it is better to culminate the coarse and subtle generation stages by relying on a wisdom seal rather than an action seal, whereby one can penetrate the vital points of the body. In other words, there is no danger when relying on a wisdom seal, that is, on an imaginary consort. By relying on an wisdom seal one can generate the isolation of mind, after which one can rely on an action seal without any risk of faults. This is because, having achieved the isolation of mind, even if one kills, steals, and so forth, one will do so free of faults. […] In short, relying on a real woman while on the stages of the isolation of body and the isolation of speech can bring problems, whereas when one reaches the isolation of mind there is no longer any such risk.

    In short, by relying on a wisdom seal one can culminate the coarse and subtle generation stages but not the completion stage. On the completion stage one progresses through the isolation of body and isolation of speech, and when one reaches the isolation of mind one can rely on an action seal and achieve the all-empty that is clear light.” (Geshe Jampa Gyatso)

  70. As for the Pema Chodron interview, I agree with what everyone has said– there are certainly many angles to view the interview– but ultimately I, like TL, have lost patience with her. While I see that she is speaking from her own personal experience, as a leader in Tibetan Buddhism– and one of the few women leaders– I think she has a responsibility to protect women. She sounds too close to the party line for my comfort, too close to the culture of denial and elitism that is helping to perpetuate this trouble. Hopefully as others have said, she has moderated her position since 1993. I also totally concur with Vera’s observations (and Pema Chodron’s) about the need to talk talk talk about these matters– secrecy and deceit are definitely the elephants in the room! Informed students are safe students.

    Also, I would like to make a few observations about what she said: 1. She made no scriptural references, while saying several times that Buddhism is this or that. I particularly objected to her statement that Buddhism was “all about” “relaxing into the fundamental groundlessness, the fundamental nonsubstantial nature.” Buddhism is certainly much more than that and for a woman dealing with sexual abuse, this instruction would not be at all helpful, could be harmful in fact, while other Buddhist practices, ones that are more grounding, would be much more helpful; 2. She also says that it is important for students to see that “dharma teachers have tempers or aggression or passion” when in fact the scriptures tell students to look for teachers who have tamed their minds and have at least shown some progress at overcoming aggression and passion (as in lust).

    I also think Tenpel’s idea that we judge the actions of lamas based on the outcomes has some limitations– because once the harm has been caused, then it’s too late! So as Tenpel says, there are many scriptures written on the qualities we have to look for in a teacher and it seems that those Buddhist masters of the past were concerned about preventing harm and that it is safer to encourage students to look for those qualities. Crazy wisdom is a popular and famous term in dharma centers these days, while full knowledge of the dharma seems to be less popular– this seems a dangerous mix in my mind. How many crazy wisdom lamas of the past do we have as references? Marpa? If you look at the entirety of the Marpa-Milarepa story as an example, it has little resemblance to current day crazy wisdom lamas. It is much much more. How can you compare Milarepa and Marpa to Sogyal or Trungpa????? So, students need to be informed!

    I suspect that Pema Chodron has a degree of discomfort with her defense of her teacher, as she says in this line: “My personal teacher did not keep ethical norms and my devotion to him is unshakable so I’m left with a koan.”

    Koan might be helpful at cutting through conceptual mind, but I worry when it’s used to justify a logical contradiction. I would be curious to see how she has matured or not with her shaky position.

    • “How many crazy wisdom lamas of the past do we have as references? Marpa?”

      There are many more, but not equally famous. Just because you don’t know Tibetan tradition very well and all those lamas living in the East in hundreds of monasteries, doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Not every lama wants to come to West to teach.

      • Bella please leave those attacks “Just because you don’t know Tibetan tradition very well”! If you don’t leave such attacks, I will block further comments by you.

  71. I would like to quote from HH Dalai Lama during an interview regarding “crazy wisdom”–

    The Lord Buddha himself has made it quite clear in both the Vinaya Sutras and the Mahayana Scriptures, and even in the Tantrayana, in a very detailed fashion, what the qualities of a teacher should be. This is why I often criticize the Tibetan attitude of seeing whatever the Guru does as good, of respecting everything that [he] does as good right from the start, without the initial period of examination. Of course, if the Guru is really qualified, then to have such an attitude is really worthwhile. . . .

    Take the cases of Naropa and Marpa, for example. Sometimes it appears as though some of the things Tilopa asked of Naropa, or Naropa asked of Marpa, were unreasonable. Deep down however these requests had good meaning. Because of their great faith in their Gurus, Naropa and Marpa did as intended. Despite the fact that they appeared to be unreasonable, because the teachers were qualified, their actions had some meaning. In such situations it is necessary from the disciple’s side that all of the actions of the teacher be respected. But this cannot be compared to the case of ordinary people. Broadly speaking, I feel the Buddha gave us complete freedom of choice to thoroughly examine the person who is to be our Guru. This is very important. Unless one is definite, one should not take someone as a Guru. This preliminary examination is a kind of precautionary measure.”

    Bella, I believe that he has summed up the situation quite well. (And Naropa/Tilopa are really a primary scriptural source for this “crazy wisdom”)These crazy wisdom techniques can be helpful for the student if the teacher has the qualities of an authentic teacher described by the Lord Buddha himself– and if the techniques have “good meaning.” I think His Holiness has given us a framework for judging whether what we call “crazy wisdom” is actually the actions of an authentic teacher– he has not given teachers free license.

    Over and over, it all comes back to two things: 1. Students should be informed, meaning that lamas need to be more transparent and not secretive; and 2. Students have the right to judge the lama and should judge the lama through a vast knowledge of the Buddhist scriptures. If you look at the story of Tilopa and Naropa, for example, Naropa spent many years at Nalanda University and was a top Buddhist scholar before meeting Tilopa. So even though he spent no time snooping on Tilopa, his knowledge of Buddhism was vast and deep. This is VERY different from your typical western student.

  72. Regarding “crazy wisdom” really the question is quite simple: Is the lama using crazy wisdom as a cover for indulging in misconduct? That’s the only relevant question and that can only be ascertained with a careful examination of the teacher beforehand– and only in the context of a full knowledge of the entire Buddhist path, including particularly those qualifications of an authentic teacher outlined by the Buddha himself. So we are back where we began at the beginning of this thread. It always comes back to those two points– better education and better caution before commiting to a teacher. Doesn’t it? It can’t be said enough!

    Certainly, Naropa and Tilopa are the forefathers of this idea of crazy wisdom. What people forget is that Naropa spent many years at Nalanda University studying and debating and he was a top scholar before ever meeting Tilopa. I don’t believe that this criteria exists very often in modern situations of crazy wisdom– how educated are the students of these crazy wisdom lamas today? How strong is their understanding of the fuller picture of the Buddhist path?

    • I couldn’t agree more. Well said. Well said.

      Not only was Naropa an excellent scholar, abbot and highly knowledgeable Buddhist practitioner, he was one of the few beings said to be able to discriminate Dharma from non-Dharma. Naropa also didn’t just meet Tilopa because Tilopa was somewhat famous—having written a bestseller or so—but because a Dakini appeared during Naropa’s studies to Naropa and said that he didn’t understand the tantras and the teacher he needs to understand their profound meaning is Tilopa. Naropa had then to search for Tilopa. Tilopa wasn’t advertised on glossy posters and flyers … On top of this Tilopa was properly qualified. When Naropa finally found Tilopa, seeing him killing and eating fish, Naropa immediately had doubts but Tilopa read his doubts by his clairvoyance and answered him directly to his thoughts. Tilopa showed him also that he was able to bring the fish back to life. He didn’t say: “you must believe me” or so, Tilopa dispelled the doubts of Naropa by performing extra ordinary spiritual powers, and this is what a teacher who is really able to perform “crazy wisdom” is supposed to do if their students loose faith due to the teacher’s controversial behaviour. Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave a similar advice to Michael Roach …

  73. A teacher can also use “sane wisdom” as a cover for ineffective teachings.

    I think you really have to look at not only the teacher, but the effectiveness of the teachings (for oneself, personally, as well as for their other students) when judging a teacher. One sane teacher may be ineffective for a particular student, compared to a less-orthodox teacher, or visa versa. Misconduct can be present in either, and doesn’t really depend on teaching style (i.e. teachers can be very different from one another and still be very ethical).

    I guess a shorter way of putting it is that neither “sane” nor “crazy” automatically translate to “effective/ineffective” or “ethical/unethical.”

  74. The point is, Sheila, that until we have reached Naropa’s level of insight, described so well by Tenpel, we are not capable of making such judgments about sane, crazy, ethical, unethical, effective, ineffective. We are not safe in jumping off the cliff when our lama says jump. Perhaps that one rare student who is born with amazing qualities, then has studied for many years and passed his/her khenpo/geshe degree and worked closely with a lama for many more years could possibly be ready to jump. But for us beginners, we need to rely on scriptural descriptions of the qualities of an authentic teacher; we need to rely on ethical discipline and orthodox teachings.

    Today in my study with HH Dalai Lama, he was speaking about the doha teachings of the Kagyu lineage, (experiential teachings for instant enlightenment). He said that such specific, profound teachings can be poison for beginners, for students who are not fully ripened. He said that students need the full picture of the entire Buddhist path before they can receive such profound teachings. He then said this is also true of the Nyingma terma teachings, saying that they too needed to be practiced within full understanding of the entire Buddhist path, as taught by the Nalanda masters. Otherwise, he said that they could also just become mere ritual.

    • A Rinpoche once said: “Why are we stressing so much the examples of Milarepa and Naropa? Because they were exceptions, almost nobody could live like them, including me.”

      Milarepa was another extraordinary being. He had strong imprints from Dharma practice in past lives. When he searched for a teacher to purify his negative Karma accumulated by his black-magic-killings, he had a clear understanding of Karma (that these actions will result in a hell rebirth), he had fear to be born in hell, he had strong renunciation and compassion for all beings and wanted to reach enlightenment. (What Westerner has these qualities?) Not only this, he had also common sense. When he met a teacher who claimed: “if you practice the highest teachings I have, you attain enlightenment in one night.” After some weeks the teacher asked Mila about his meditation experience. Mila replied, “I didn’t start. Why should I start now? I only need one night to attain my goal.” (A funny example to respond to “exaggerated propaganda” that also some Tibetan Buddhist teachers offer to their Western students.) When the teacher realised that he cannot really help Milarepe he sent him away (I think to Marpa). From a Tibetan teacher I also heard a story how Mila examined Marpa before he accepted him as a teacher: He asked all who criticise Marpa about their opinion and why they are saying this, he asked all those who were neutral with respect to him, what their knowledge and opinion is. He also asked those who were followers of Marpa but didn’t give too much on their opinion, because followers natural tend to see things in a good light. After having heard the opinion of these three groups of people he made up his mind. Contrary to this Rigpa is rather telling their followers not to read what critics say ;-) Ha ha.

      • “When the teacher realised that he cannot really help Milarepa he sent him away (I think to Marpa).”
        There is another good teaching in this: The teacher didn’t send away Mila putting him down like: “you are so stupid and ignorant, you don’t deserve my teachings” but the teacher realised he has not the capacity to help Milarepa and therefore send him away, and he protected Mila and himself from an unhealthy relation. Which is contrary to the example some lamas show now in the West who are very possessive, binding disciples in very manipulative way, abusing the Dharma, to themselves.

    • Today in my study with HH Dalai Lama, he was speaking about the doha teachings of the Kagyu lineage, (experiential teachings for instant enlightenment). He said that such specific, profound teachings can be poison for beginners, for students who are not fully ripened. He said that students need the full picture of the entire Buddhist path before they can receive such profound teachings. He then said this is also true of the Nyingma terma teachings, saying that they too needed to be practiced within full understanding of the entire Buddhist path, as taught by the Nalanda masters. Otherwise, he said that they could also just become mere ritual.

      Thank you very much for this Drolma!

  75. I guess I have a deep trust in the student, in general – I feel that students, despite being students, are intelligent beings with a deep sense of self-preservation, certainly, but also a deep sense of adventure, and a burning desire to quest for knowledge and achievement. I do not see the student as a helpless figure, but rather as a motivated figure.

    • It would be good if it were so but that is not necessarily the case. The longing for spiritual achievements or progress, the longing for a lama can block tremendously the discriminating faculties of a student. This longing has the potential for a tunnel vision. More over if a structure/teachings/approaches of a group induce fear in the students to question what appears to be wrong doings combined with the students longing for spiritual progress it is very likely that the student fails to protect himself and others, and that he starts to not listen any more to the own intuition. There is a reason why also very intelligent persons with strong mundane achievements can “end up in a ‘cult’.” Students can be very motivated and very dedicated (and in general one finds this a lot in so called ‘cults’) but this doesn’t mean that such a person is not caught in a destructive group structure which enables different types of abuse, like emotional abuse, financial abuse, power abuse, spiritual abuse or sexual abuse. Also motivated and dedicated teachers and abuse can go together. Its not black and white.

  76. Yes, and Sheila, when we talk about students and education within the dharma, it must be hand in hand with the right to question and criticize. It is only within practices of highest tantra that this right is ever compromised– and even there, I very much admire the story of HH Dalai Lama who criticized his regent/tutor quite strongly in public, while still meditating on his perfections in private practice. This is a very profound outlook and not one that we beginners are comfortable with. As you say, Tenpel, things are not black and white. His Holiness was only able to practice in that way because he had a very extensive education in the fuller picture of Buddhism.

    As we have said here and His Holiness has said many times, there are numerous tantric instructions to do with how we view our lamas that could be very damaging for a poorly educated student, one who has not read all the great texts from Nalanda. So yes, Sheila, a fuller education is the answer to all of these troubles– and that means the student must nurture what His Holiness calls “open skepticism.” That is the key. Full knowledge of the key texts plus a questioning mind, one free to question even the highest lama.

    • exactly.

      I back this discussion up with some quotes from the scriptures. These quotes might serve also as a background for further inquiry. For more see the file linked at the end of the comment, there especially see the brief excerpt from Jamgon Kongtrul’s commentary. His commentary on how to rely properly on a teacher and what to do if the teacher is not really suitable to be taken as a guru I can highly recommend. Who is interested, please see the book at Amazon. I added a brief review there and you can also read into the book: Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaya: The Teacher-Student Relationship.

      Dza Patrul Rinpoche in “Words of my perfect teacher”:


The Great Master of Oddiyana warns:

      Not to examine the teacher
Is like drinking poison;

      Not to examine the disciple

      Is like leaping from a precipice.

      You place your trust in your spiritual teacher for all your future lives. It is he who will teach you what to do and what not to do. If you encounter a false spiritual friend without examining him properly, you will be throwing away the possibility a person with faith has to accumulate merits for a whole lifetime, and the freedoms and advantages of the human existence, you have now obtained will be wasted. It is like being killed by a venomous serpent coiled beneath a tree that you approached, thinking what you saw was just the tree’s cool shadow.

      By not examining a teacher with great care

      The faithful waste their gathered merit.

      Like taking for the shadow of a tree a vicious snake,

      Beg, uiled, they lose the freedom they at last had found.

      Je Tsongkhapa citing the Ornament for the Essence said:


Distance yourself from Vajra Masters who are not keeping the three vows, who keep on with a root downfall, who are miserly with the Dharma, and who engage in actions that should be forsaken. Those who worship them go to hell and so on as a result.

 (Tantric Ethics: An Explanation of the Precepts for Buddhist Vajrayana Practice by Tsongkhapa, ISBN 0861712900) – page 46

      and in his commentary on Guru devotion Tsongkhapa makes clear that:

      one should not follow “if it is an improper and irreligious command”, which is based on the Vinaya Sutra: “If someone suggests something which is not consistent with the Dharma, avoid it.” The Fulfillment of All Hopes: Guru Devotion in Tibetan Buddhism, Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-153-X, page 64

      He adds there that an improper and irreligious command should not lead one towards to loose faith. — Which isn’t that easy but the correct practice if the teacher has more qualities than faults. However, there are cases where the teacher has equal qualities as faults or more faults than qualities. Or where it turns out that one has entrusted oneself to quickly to a not so qualified teacher. In such a case Jamgon Kongtrul advises to make a neutral distance. For details see: The Teacher-Student Relationship, Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye.

      From The Kalachakra Tantra:

      Ornament of Stainless Light – An Exposition of the Kalachakra Tantra by Khedrup Norsang Gyatso, pp. 214–216, translated by Gavin Kilty

      Characteristics of those unsuitable to be gurus

      The third verse of the Initiations chapter says:

      Proud, ruled by anger, and lacking vows,
      greedy, without knowledge, working to deceive disciples,
      a mind that has fallen from great bliss,
      without initiation, totally attached to wealth,
      unaware, of harsh and coarse words, filled with carnal desire,
      the wise disciples should abandon taking such people
      as causes of complete enlightenment
      as they would abandon hell.

      People with such faults are not fit to be relied upon as gurus in the Vajra Vehicle. Even if one takes such a person as a guru and requests initiations and so forth, there can be no meaningful receiving of the initiation. Moreover one will become infected by a measure of his faults and fall from all elevated status in this and future lives. Most of the above verse is easy to Understand. “Without knowledge” means to be without the essential teachings on the six-branched yoga, for example. “Working to deceive his disciple” means to delude disciples by telling lies. “A mind that has fallen from the great bliss, without initiation” means that without having received the initiation he is bestowing, he nevertheless teaches it to others. “Filled with carnal desire” means working only for the pleasure gained from the sexual union of the two organs.

      Therefore the way to rely upon a guru is firstly to know the characteristics worthy and unworthy of devotion and then to examine thoroughly who is and who is not fit to be a guru. The Great Commentary says on the second verse of the Initiations chapter:

      Disciples who wish to gain worldly and nonworldly powers by way of mantra should first devote themselves to a guru. Furthermore one should examine the vajra master thoroughly. One should thoroughly examine his words. Otherwise, relying upon a guru unexamined, the disciples’ dharma will be perverse, and perverse dharma will send them to hell.

      Also the Paramarthaseva says:

      He, omniscient in the complete Vajra Vehicle,
      has said that very wished-for siddhi follows the master.
      If perfect disciples examine the master, therefore, as they would gold,
      they will not accrue even the tiniest of faults.

      However what should one do if one already regards as a guru someone endowed with those unworthy characteristics? The Great Commentary says:

      In mantra, even though one has taken as a guru a person with the faults of pride and so forth, wise disciples, meaning those of intelligence, will abandon him as a cause of complete enlightenment as they would abandon hell.


      Because of these words, even though he has been taken as a guru, if he does these wrong deeds, disciples who strive for freedom should leave him.

      A passage quoted in the Great Commentary says:

      Without compassion, angry and malicious,
      arrogant, grasping, uncontrolled, and boastful,
      the intelligent disciple will not take such a one as guru.

      Therefore, if one has taken someone with these faults as a guru, then this disciple who is seeking freedom should part company with him and not associate with him again. These quotes from the Great Commentary teach just this point and this point only. They do not teach that one should loose one’s faith due to seeing faults because, as it is so rightly said:

      Once that is used as a reason and one casts off the undertaking of holding him as a guru and as a field of reverence, one opens up the opportunity for a root downfall to occur. One must learn, therefore, to distinguish what is to be developed from what is to be discarded.

      Some explain the two instances of the phrase “taken as a guru” in the two Great Commentary passages above as applying to gurus taken by others.

  77. Thank you very much for that overview, Tenpel. It is very needed! I am wondering (because I am sure that you have extra time on your hands!) if your comment, plus the piece you wrote in 2010 for NKT students, could be placed as a separate post for Rigpa (and other) students in 2012? I know from my own experience that it took me many years to lose my fear over turning away from my lamas. I had to go over it and over it and over it in my mind to gain confidence that I had absolutely no choice than to act as I had. So it might be useful to keep placing these scriptural references in front of students– your research is extensive and impressive.

    There are two points I am interested in. One– I believe sometimes there is a third scenario in the guru/student relationship that rarely gets addressed. This is a situation where a guru might be otherwise qualified, but the relationship with a particular student might be flawed. This is a little more along the lines of the story you told with Milarepa. While it seems that it should be the responsibility of the lama to recognize the trouble and redirect the student, sometimes I think it might fall on the student to do this. It might be the student’s responsiblity to understand him/herself well enough to recognize that the relationship is detrimental rather than beneficial.

    The other point is the fact that Jamgon Kongtrul, whom you quoted above, also wrote, in reference to the practice of Ngondro Guru Yoga:

    “How can a Buddha have faults? Whatever he does, let him do it! Even if you see your guru having sexual relations, telling lies and so on, calmly meditate as follows:

    “These are my guru’s unsurpassed skillful methods of training disciples. Through these methods he has brought many sentient beings to spiritual maturity and liberation. This is a hundred, a thousand times more wonderful than preserving a pure moral code! This is not deception or hypocrisy but the highest mode of conduct!”

    This of course comes back to discussions we’ve had in the past, but I think western students need constant clarification about the fact that the same teacher can teach so differently depending on context. In other words, your scriptural references above are not being contradicted by teachings such as this one– a teaching which HH Dalai Lama says is very dangerous for beginners such as ourselves. Unfortunately, when I studied at a Kagyu monastery, it was this latter approach to the guru which was emphasized at the expense of the attitude– from Jamgon Kongtrul as well!– which you quoted above. This Ngondro quote then, followed by quotes from His Holiness on its dangers, could be very useful for students who are struggling with these issues and have been taught as I was taught.

    I also think that such teachings as this one on Ngondro by Jamgon Kongtrul can easily be placed as central instructions for those trying to justify abusive behaviors by lamas. So clarification is always needed.

    All of this information is available on your website, but perhaps it might be time to gather it all together in one place again?

    • I am wondering (because I am sure that you have extra time on your hands!) if your comment, plus the piece you wrote in 2010 for NKT students, could be placed as a separate post for Rigpa (and other) students in 2012? I know from my own experience that it took me many years to lose my fear over turning away from my lamas. I had to go over it and over it and over it in my mind to gain confidence that I had absolutely no choice than to act as I had.

      Dear Drolma, thank you. I can utter understand this wish. It seems to be also a common experience after a type of “indoctrination” (or one-sidedness in Dharma teachings) that one has to go through the reasons why it was/is correct to do a certain action, like leaving a group or a teacher, again and again. For this process proper reasons, scriptures, common sense, former members’ testimonies and good Dharma information by reliable teachers are highly supportive. Sometimes just reliable information is good enough. (I remember a person who wrote me in an email, that he was able to leave NKT after having read again and again the Wikipedia article about NKT from 2008. The information offered there–and I think they were presented neutral and correctly at that time–served as a counter means for that person to clear up the groups’ history “indoctrination”. Of course, NKT was not fond of it and then from April 2008 onwards removed all unwelcomed material … Since then mainly NKT editors edit it.)

      My request and suggestion is: can you prepare such a post based on the material summed in the file? The material there is often redundant, there are errors etc. What would be also good is to include the exact advice given in the book “The Teacher Student Relationship” by Jamgon Kontrul. On page 53 (see the Amazon Insight function) you can find:

      Sometimes a student examines the characteristics of the lama after
 taking him as a teacher. Kongtrul suggests that in the case of subse
quently discovering that the lama is not qualified, the student should
 quietly distance himself from that lama. This should be done without
 criticism or generating negativity in any way. Obviously it is prefer
able for the student to examine the lama before taking him as a teacher,
 based upon the qualifications previously listed.

      As we have seen, although it is important to find a lama who has the qualifications previously described, and to avoid a lama who lacks them, it is difficult to find someone who possesses all these qualities. Therefore, one must discern wisely when selecting a wisdom teacher.

      You could add also a quote by Alex Berzin from “Fear of A Breach of Guru Devotion” (or so), and links to newer articles like Question of the Advice of the Guru by HHDL or Tenzin Palmo’s text in such a post. I lack time to do that and also my English isn’t that good. Every writing in English consumes a lot of time and re-editing when I see the faults later.

      There are two points I am interested in. One– I believe sometimes there is a third scenario in the guru/student relationship that rarely gets addressed. This is a situation where a guru might be otherwise qualified, but the relationship with a particular student might be flawed. This is a little more along the lines of the story you told with Milarepa. While it seems that it should be the responsibility of the lama to recognize the trouble and redirect the student, sometimes I think it might fall on the student to do this. It might be the student’s responsiblity to understand him/herself well enough to recognize that the relationship is detrimental rather than beneficial.

      A good guru will see this and because he has only the benefit of the student in mind he will suggest another teacher to him. Alex Berzin told the story of a Western Dharma student, approaching Serkong Rinpoche for advise. Serkong Rinpoche said, ‘sorry, we don’t have a karmic link, better you go to this … teacher, whith whom you have a strong karmic link.’ Good teachers will neither be possessiv nor grasp to students. Also due to the reduction of their mind poisons, the level of equanimity they have attained, they will practice the generosity of “giving fearlessness” which means; neither do they cling to students, grasping to them out of attachment, nor ignoring them out of insecurity, pride or delusion, nor rejecting them out of attachment or hate. (Of course if a teacher has these qualities he can use means of displaying dislike, ignoring students in order to help them to work on their ego but this comes out of a teacher’s freedom of mind and his genuine wish to help the student …) However, it is better to be wise as a student too and not to allow others to take power or control over oneself, and so I agree with you that “It might be the student’s responsiblity to understand him/herself well enough to recognize that the relationship is detrimental rather than beneficial.” However, with real wisdom teachers: there will be no real long lasting problems, there will be more and more freedom the longer you work with him. (Which doesn’t mean that there won’t be short term problems deriving from the own ego grasping, as author also has correctly pointed out!) With faulty teachers, the longer you work with them the more you will loose your freedom. (the term freedom has to be questioned but I mean it mainly in in the sense of having mental space and mental peace, but also in the sense of not being the “possession of the guru” or feeling as his or her “slave”.)

      BTW, there is not only this case where the guru is qualified but the student is flawed, there is also the case where the student has more qualities and knows the subject to be taught better than the teacher. A real wisdom teacher will recognize this and without any envy acknowledge this. So both, a qualified student and a qualified guru can deal with a situation where the student has (particular) more knowledge or understanding than the own guru. To give you some examples (copied and pasted from a past discussion and another context but maybe helpful here too):

      HH the Dalai Lama says in his Commentary on the Heart Sutra:

      Earlier we observed that one of the principal features of the Buddha’s teachings is that they were spoken to accord with the varying spiritual and mental needs and dispositions of the listeners. The tenets of the various schools can similarly be viewed as fulfilling these diverse needs. We have just seen how the Mind-only School distinguishes definitive from provisional teachings, and in fact each school has its own criteria for determining whether a teaching of the Buddha is definitive or provisional. In each case, the process is similar: first, one uses analysis to determine the Buddha’s ultimate intention in making a particular statement; second, one determines the Buddha’s contextual rationale for making a particular statement; and third, one demonstrates the logical inconsistency, if any, that arises when the particular statement is taken literally. The need for such an approach is found in the Buddha’s own sutras. There is a verse in which Buddha urges his followers to take his words as they might accept from a’jeweler a metal that appears to be gold: only after seeing that the metal does not tarnish when burned, can be easily cut, and can be polished to a bright shine should the metal be accepted as gold. Thus, the Buddha gives us his permission to critically examine even his own teachings. Buddha suggests we make a thorough inquiry into the truth of his words and verify them for ourselves, and only then “accept them, but not out of reverenced”. Taking direction from statements such as these, ancient Indian monastic universities, such as Nalanda, developed a tradition whereby students would critically subject their own teachers’ scholastic work to analysis. Such critical analysis was seen in no way to go against the great admiration and reverence the students had for their teachers. The famous Indian master Vasubandhu, for example, had a disciple known as Vimuktisena, who was said to excel Vasubandhu in his understanding of the Perfection of Wisdom sutras. He questioned Vasubandhu’s Mind-only interpretation and instead developed his own understanding of the sutras in accord with the Middle Way School. An example of this in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition is Alak Damchoe Tsang, who was one of the disciples of the great nineteenth-century Nyingma master Ju Mipham. Although Alak Damchoe Tsang had tremendous admiration and reverence for his teacher, he voiced his objections to some of Miphams writings. Once a student of Alak DamchoeTsang is said to have asked if it was appropriate to critically object to the writings of his own teacher. Alak Damchoe Tsang’s immediate response was, “If one’s great teacher says things that are not correct, one must take even ones lama to task!” There is a Tibetan saying, “Retain your reverence and admiration for the person, but subject the writing to thorough critical analysis.” This demonstrates a healthy attitude and illustrates the Buddhist tradition known as the approach of the four reliances:

      Do not rely merely on the person, but on the words;
      Do not rely merely on the words, but on their meaning;
      Do not rely merely on the provisional meaning, but on the definitive meaning; and
      Do not rely merely on intellectual understanding, but on direct experience.

      On his website the Dalai Lama states:

      Therefore, Arya Vimuktisena, whose teacher was Vasubhandu, saw that Vasubhandu’s manner of explanation of the Abhisamayalankara had been more affected by his own personal bias towards a particular position than being a true reflection of the author’s ultimate intent. He therefore composed a commentary refuting that view, displacing it with a Madhyamaka interpretation. Now was this a case of a corruption of the spiritual guide – disciple relationship on Arya Vimuktisena’s part or of him showing disrespect for Vasubhandu? It was neither of these things.

      Then we could look at accounts of the relationship between Jowo Je Atisha and his teacher Serlingpa. Serlingpa was the teacher who Atisha himself accredited as the one who helped him most in his quest to generate bodhicitta. In this area, he was like his root Lama. Despite this, on the philosophical level they were at variance. Serlingpa held the Cittamatra view. Accounts have it that Serlingpa congratulated Atisha for his practise of bodhicitta, whilst informing him that as far as his philosophical view was concerned he was incorrect. Atisha said though that Serlingpa’s instructions only served to boost his confidence in the correctness of the middle way view.

      Likewise, we have the case of Dharmakirti. Vasubhandu had many students, one of whom was Dignaga. He was said to have been the one who surpassed even his own master in terms of his understanding of Pramana. Dignaga then had a disciple called Ishvarasena. He in turn had Dharmakirti as a student. Dharmakirti heard explanation of Dignaga’s Pramanasamuccaya text from Ishvarasena, but rejected Ishvarasena’s interpretation. He then incorporated Ishvarasena’s views as the objects of attack in sections of his Pramanavarttika. Thus, when it comes to helping to clarify the doctrine, creating, and rectifying mistakes, even one’s own teacher may come under criticism. One can see it in terms of one’s teacher having given certain instructions directed at a few specific individuals (when there is a need to give a different message). Whilst this might generally work though, it would be difficult to square in the above-mentioned case of Vasubhandu. At least in the way that Haribhadra has put it, it sounds as though it was Vasubhandu’s own bias (as opposed to consideration of any particular disciple) that led him to interpret things in the way that he did. Anyway, whether the original reasons for certain interpretations were due to individual students, other considerations or plain misunderstanding, it may prove necessary for later individuals to clarify things. Rectifying, clarifying and the like are generally accepted approaches for the learned and completely in step with the correct general approach to the teachings. This is way to proceed and help to guard against decline. (see


      The other point is the fact that Jamgon Kongtrul, whom you quoted above, also wrote, in reference to the practice of Ngondro Guru Yoga:

      “How can a Buddha have faults? Whatever he does, let him do it! Even if you see your guru having sexual relations, telling lies and so on, calmly meditate as follows:

      “These are my guru’s unsurpassed skillful methods of training disciples. Through these methods he has brought many sentient beings to spiritual maturity and liberation. This is a hundred, a thousand times more wonderful than preserving a pure moral code! This is not deception or hypocrisy but the highest mode of conduct!”

      The point is, that this advise is given for a student who has carefully examined a teacher and has decided to entrust himself to his or her guidance. Such a guru has more qualities than faults, is properly qualified, and such a teacher shouldn’t have been taken as one’s teacher too quickly or in an erroneous manner. However, the quoted advise is wrong to be applied by a person who is following a wrong guru, a misleading teacher, a teacher who has gone astray or a teacher who has became crazy or when one has accepted the teacher too quickly without properly having examined him or her. (see quote above from “The Teacher Student Relationship” by Jamgon Kontrul, page 53) So the point is to see the context of the advise being given. In certain contexts this advise is correct in other contexts it is not correct.


      This of course comes back to discussions we’ve had in the past, but I think western students need constant clarification about the fact that the same teacher can teach so differently depending on context. In other words, your scriptural references above are not being contradicted by teachings such as this one– a teaching which HH Dalai Lama says is very dangerous for beginners such as ourselves. Unfortunately, when I studied at a Kagyu monastery, it was this latter approach to the guru which was emphasized at the expense of the attitude– from Jamgon Kongtrul as well!– which you quoted above. This Ngondro quote then, followed by quotes from His Holiness on its dangers, could be very useful for students who are struggling with these issues and have been taught as I was taught.

      I think it is a matter of understanding the contexts of Dharma advise being given. Advise being given for a properly qualified student relying on a properly qualified guru which has not gone mad but is really wise will be very different to advise given to a student who is led astray by a crazy teacher etc. However, Westerners seem to fall in two traps: either being too sceptical or being to naive. In the latter case they tend to think, maybe I am not too much qualified but my teacher must be qualified because he says so, he knows more than me, I had some good experiences, many follow him, the wise say good words about him. So everything is ok. Mhm. sadly such a thinking is also applicable to Shoko Ashara and his AUM cult: His followers might have also thought: ‘he must be qualified because he says so, he knows more than me, I had some good experiences, many follow him, the wise say good words about him (here it was the Dalai Lama who said some nice words about him and Shoko added later more than the Dalai Lama has ever said). So therefore it is good to study the scriptures about the qualifications of a student (which is most important because if the student is not able to judge correctly he will see a wrong guru as a genuine guru and a genuine guru as a wrong guru), and the qualifications of a teacher (according to the level, Vinaya, Mahayana, Vajrayana teacher).


      I also think that such teachings as this one on Ngondro by Jamgon Kongtrul can easily be placed as central instructions for those trying to justify abusive behaviors by lamas. So clarification is always needed.

      All of this information is available on your website, but perhaps it might be time to gather it all together in one place again?

      Yes, in groups with destructive patterns there is a tendency to use the teachings to oppress or suppress critical thinking, then they will quote the examples of Milarepa, Naropa, that one must see the teacher as a Buddha to receive the blessings of a Buddha, if you see him ordinary then you will get no blessings etc., they will come up with the dog tooth’s story etc. And all those things are true in certain contexts and they are misplaced advise in another context. Therefore it is good to study the scriptures and to take time to reflect about their meaning. In the Abhisamayalamkara by Maitraya/Asanga for instance it is recommended that students who like brief explanations should not take teachers who like long explanations etc (there is a whole list of occasions one should consider), because the students’ needs and the teacher’s approach will naturally bring some conflicts if they are divergent.

      If you have time you could gather them and prepare everything, then we could post it as a separate post. I lack time to do that.

      A last thought: My Kagyue teacher said: When it comes to the teachings about reliance on the Guru listen what the Dalai Lama says. He has a flawless understanding.

      • Excellent advice, and I agree completely that Westerners (any student really) must end up striking a balance between being too skeptical and too naive. In our fear, or reaction to fear, we are likely to overcorrect towards being too skeptical–whipping up a frenzy of fear and doubt which also makes it hard to find (or easy to pass up) an excellent teacher. I totally agree with you and Drolma that HHDL’s advice on the subject is priceless, for Westerns students especially.

        I do feel that in our many conversations on the subject of danger in dharma, we have also gone too far in loosely criticizing “teachers,” without specifics, and however unintentionally, causing many innocent teachers to come under suspicion of being “dirty.” It shouldn’t be a quest which results in this — I think it’s the frenzy level that bothers me. Somehow we should be able to examine teachers in a measured fashion–not presuming them to be criminals, not presuming them to be angels.

        • Yes there is a danger to loosely criticising teachers as there is to turn a blind eye on wrong developments. Therefore the final analysis, investigation and decision about a teacher is a very personal one. But to be able to do this a certain amount of information and reflection is needed. If the discussion here is giving a broader background, opens new doors, I am happy as it is.

        • I’m trying to find the comment I found on the Skin Deep Cosmetics website – it was very interesting, and I think relevant to our topic.

          Skin Deep lists all cosmetic ingredients, and whether or not they are hazardous. The problem is that they do not (or haven’t in the past) factored in “risk,” i.e. how likely one is to experience the hazardous nature of the ingredient. Lavender essential oil is listed as a hazardous ingredient, for example, because if for example you ingested a spoonful, it would be hazardous; however, lavender is not used in these quantities in cosmetics, and the likelihood of ingesting it is low (even though, technically, a child *could* ingest lavender, not knowing any better).

          But the point is that risk–likelihood of being hurt–should be calculated as well, in addition to whether or not hurt is technically possible. Unfortunately in this life, harm is *always* technically possible–every man could be a Jeffrey Dahmer–but we would end up neurotic if we treated every man as if he were Jeffrey Dahmer.

          • I’m afraid my summary was very clunky – I’ll try to find the other person’s comment, which was much more astute!

            • yeah. i was wondering what you wanted to say;-)

              • Maybe the Dahmer (a mass murderer from my state) is appropriate: sometimes when someone says, “Not all men are dangerous,” another will respond, “Well, any one of them could be a Jeffrey Dahmer!”

                This prompts people to unfairly view men with a sort of frenzied suspicion, which is based on fear, rather than a balanced awareness, which is based on statistical likelihood (actual risk).

                Approaching life with a more measured sense of risk doesn’t mean we don’t keep awareness, but it does mean we should be very kind to others, including teachers, as well as ourselves; we should be able to live and study safely without hinting that teachers are under suspicion of being bad people. Teachers are no more likely to be bad people than are our fellow students; to be honest, we probably face more danger, at any given moment, from a fellow student as we do from any particular person giving teachings that day. (The very safest dharma center would be one which did not allow walk-in students and guests, but I think we generally agree that a closed-door policy would be really unfortunate, even though it would technically be safer.)

                Somehow I hope we can educate people to maintain awareness without maintaining suspicion–mainly because the statistics don’t support viewing teachers with suspicion. Awareness is fine, but suspicion goes too far, because it implies that the bulk of teachers are dangerous, when in fact the bulk of teachers are not dangerous.

                The message to me comes across so far as something like, “Any teacher could be a very, very bad guy, so be extremely careful!” In reality I feel the message should be, “Most teachers are wonderful–study them carefully to see who’s right for you (and be aware that there is the occasional charlatan).”

                • As my teacher once said: “There are good teachers, there are medium teachers, and there are bad teachers.”
                  This is a fact one has to accept. According to scriptures in so called “degenerate times” (which is believed is our time) good teachers are rare.
                  I think it is better to face reality than to whitewash it.

                  To say that something is wrong is not unkind, it can be extremely kind. It depends.

                  As Hamlet might say: To be superstitious or suspicious, this is the question!”

                  Why not taking the advice of Dza Patrul Rinpoche seriously?

                  You place your trust in your spiritual teacher for all your future lives. It is he who will teach you what to do and what not to do. If you encounter a false spiritual friend without examining him properly, you will be throwing away the possibility a person with faith has to accumulate merits for a whole lifetime, and the freedoms and advantages of the human existence, you have now obtained will be wasted. It is like being killed by a venomous serpent coiled beneath a tree that you approached, thinking what you saw was just the tree’s cool shadow.


                  The message to me comes across so far as something like, “Any teacher could be a very, very bad guy, so be extremely careful!” In reality I feel the message should be, “Most teachers are wonderful–study them carefully to see who’s right for you (and be aware that there is the occasional charlatan).”

                  Ok this is not the message I want to deliver, actual, I don’t have a message, we are discussing some points with respect to relying on the teacher. If there is any message it would be as given by Patrul Rinpoche. On the positive side if you place your trust in a qualified teacher, you will reach your spiritual goals. The discussion here focuses on the negative sides of relying on a wrong or misleading teacher. Why? Because these teachings, which exist, are rarely given in Tibetan Buddhist groups with a somewhat unhealthy culture. Also NKT criticised me for stressing these points. What they don’t see is: in NKT access to such precious teachings has never been given, they were utter missed. Now stressing them gives the possibility to see the fuller picture and to put everything into perspective. If someone were saying what I stress here is one-sided, I agree, but what I stress must be seen in context. The explanations of that “if you see your guru as a Buddha, you receive the blessings of a Buddha, … if you see your guru as an ordinary being you receive nothing” exist in both groups, NKT and Rigpa, the explanations of the masters that I stress here are absent for sure in NKT and I assume they are not much present in Rigpa either, aren’t they? (Maybe I am wrong.) Therefore the one-sidedness of what I stress must be seen as a trial to balance what has been already heard so far within both groups.

                  However, I would agree with: there are many extraordinary (and also ordinary) excellent teachers, Its good to meet them, to be with them, and to learn from them. However, there are charlatans too. So learn the qualifications of a student and the teacher and take time to develop the qualities of a properly qualified student and take time to examine the teacher, once you have attained the qualities of a properly qualified student. If there are more charlatans than qualified teachers or vice versa cannot really be said by a person who lacks a statistic backup or clairvoyance. It will be an unverified claim. However, the Tibetan scriptures stress that in degenerate times there are more wrong teachers and that good teachers are rare. According to Tibetan Buddhism we live in such an age. According to a Theravadin friend we live in a golden age ;-) Ha there is some choice for what to believe …

  78. Thank you, Tenpel, for your hard work there. I have just returned to read everyone’s posts and I would be happy to collate all the material on your site, in addition to those sources you’ve directed me to and write up a post. It will be a productive dharma practice for me. So thank you for the opportunity!

    And in response to Sheila about why we’re all concerned about the dangers of an unqualified lama, Tenpel’s point about these degenerate times is very true I believe. Also, for myself personally, there is the fact that these dangers are extremely serious ones. if I met a fellow dharma student who was full of ill will and deceit and aggression, I might get bumped about a bit, I might get offended and have my feelings hurt, but I could use the situation to practice dharma and I could get past it. I could move on. The same is not true with one’s lama. If one is working closely with an unqualified teacher, then, as Patrul Rinpoche stated in Tenpel’s quote, the damage could last for many lifetimes– and it’s a deep wound. There is absolutely no comparison between a mundane relationship– even one as intimate as marriage– and one with a lama who is leading us on the path to buddhahood. If the lama leads us wrongly, this has a serious and sometimes catastrophic outcome– particularly if tantric practices are involved, such as in my case.

    So that’s why I am taking these issues so seriously. I take the dharma seriously as well.

    • Great if you could do that.

      The Buddha taught five types of wrong teachers, I have it only in German:
      Another problem is that successful charlatans or deceivers come in the guise of wonderful charm, that’s why Sakya Pandita is warning:

      • Examination of Bad Conduct

      Deceivers, well-mannered and smooth talking;
      Should not be trusted until scrutinized.
      Peacocks have lovely forms and pleasing calls,
      But their food is extremely poisonous.

      • Commentary: The beautiful, well-groomed appearance of those who deceive others is pleasing simply to behold. One is enchanted upon hearing their suave words.

      But they are not to be trusted until they have been thoroughly investigated; they must be identified as cunning, bad-natured people, always sizing up others.

      The peacock possesses a beautiful rainbow-hued body and a very sweet voice, but its food is a powerful poison found in dangerous, precipitous places.

      Sakya Pandita

      Verse 152 • Ordinary Wisdom • Sakya Pandita’s Treasury of Good Advice • Translated by John T. Davenport • Foreword by His Holiness Sakya Trizin • Wisdom Publications • 2000 • Boston

      This quote was given at the now closed forum E-Sangha. There I found also this helpful quote by Sakya Pandita:

      Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen Pal Zangpo wrote in his »Dom gsum rab dbye«:

      »I have love for all beings
      and I do not speak ill of anyone.

      If, perchance, I have lost my composure
      and disparaged another, I renounce and confess that misdeed.

      Whether the Noble Doctrine
      has been misunderstood or correctly understood
      is a theme that affects our long-term future destinations,
      so if someone calls the positive and negative assessment of these
      ›hostility‹, he is himself at fault.

      Does one label as ›hostily‹
      all the refutations of all false doctrines –
      held by non-Buddhists and Buddhists alike –
      that were made by all the wise men such Nagarjuna,
      Vasubandhu, Dignaga and Dharmakirti?

      Were all the Fully Enlightened Ones
      merely jealous when they refuted
      demons and non-Buddhist sectarians?

      The wise are guides for blind fools,
      and if you call it ›hostily‹ to lead them
      well in matters of correct or mistaken teachings,
      how, then, is Buddhism to be henceforth preserved?

      A guide holds back the blind
      from stepping over precipices
      and leads them along a safe path.
      Is that jealousy? If so, then how else
      are the blind to be led?

      If you say that it is due to a physician’s hostility
      or jealousy that he urges,
      ‘Stop eating the foods that hurt your body
      and eat only those that help’
      then how else are the ill to be healed?

      If to distinguish between true
      and false teachings is to be called
      ›hostility‹ and ›jealousy‹, then just how else are beings to be rescued
      from the ocean of Samsara?«

      However, of course there are great lamas who don’t deceive their students and are perfectly qualified to be taken as teachers.

  79. Good, Tenpel, glad that you have a Sakya source– if you can give me the name of the text where the Buddha identified the five types of wrong teachers, I’m sure I could find an English translation. And if anyone else has a scriptural passage on this topic that they think should be included, let me know. I have plenty from HH Dalai Lama because he speaks on this topic frequently.

  80. an old friend says:

    Sakya Pandita Discriminating the Three Vows

  81. I think the sangha is exceptionally important — there is a reason the sangha is one of the three jewels. I consider fellow dharma students to be of paramount relevance in my pursuit of the dharma. In fact, if you look at our current discussion, it is not gurus/teachers involved in these current discussions, but fellow dharma students.

    Namo Gurubhya, namo Buddhaya, namo Dharmaya, namo Sanghaya – it’s not a hierarchy, but four, vital pillars of Buddhist spirituality. Especially in the West, where we are so susceptible to peer pressure and influence, perhaps because this tradition is new to our culture, the sangha absolutely has a massive (potential) influence on our path.

    Take NKT, by way of example–it was not teachers who led the charge in having the courage to break away, but students. Likewise, in my center, it is the sangha who provide the most immediate day-to-day support in attending to guests and new students, helping them figure out whether this path is right for them. I don’t really know of a center where the sangha sits mute, as the teacher wields some kind of absolute control and people helplessly follow. It’s much more of a community effort than that.

    • Dear Sheila,
      the Sangha is important but the ordinary Sangha is not an object of refuge. An object of refuge, the Sangha Jewel, are those beings who have attained at least the path of seeing because all other beings have too many delusions and are therefore deceptive, not really reliable. The nominal Sangha Jewel are at least four fully ordained – but even they are only “nominal” a Sangha Jewel, only those who have True Cessations in their continuum are the actual Sangha Jewel. So a group (be they misled or not) who follow the Buddha is not necessarily the Sangha Jewel. In cultish Buddhist groups it are the deluded Sangha members who lead themselves and others astray, they are no object of refuge. They are led astray by a deceptive or led-astray-guru. They are part of a deceptive system. This can be also ordained Sangha, for instance in the New Kadampa Tradition or in Germany Thich Thien Son (Frankfurt / Main, Pagode Path Hue) or Lama Dechen Lobsang Chöme (Päwesin. Ganden Tashi Choeling). Dechen has one of the biggest ordained Sangha in Germany.

      We take refuge in those who have attained True Cessations or that which leads us to True Cessations.

      Whether the teacher has absolutely control or not is another matter. The ordinary Sangha can have a positive, a negative or a mixed influence. In cultish Buddhist groups they are part of the abusive system it it is by them that the leader has a form of total power.

      • I really treasure Chögyam Trungpa’s comment:

        “The sangha is the community of people who have the perfect right to cut through your trips and feed you with their wisdom, as well as the perfect right to demonstrate their own neurosis and be seen through by you. The companionship within the sangha is a kind of clean friendship-—without expectation, without demand, but at the same time, fulfilling.”

        • This might be an advise for his community, however, one should also understand the deeper sense of the Three Jewels and taking refuge (which means to have a safe direction to achieve one’s goal). One can see every person with qualities as sangha, as an inspiration, a temporary refuge, but when it comes to what is a reliable object of refuge, only those who have attained the path of seeing at least are counted as such. This means all other objects of refuge are not reliable, and I think it is important to know this. In destructive cult-like Buddhist groups one is encouraged to take refuge in the teacher gone mad and the followers of him or her (referred to as “sangha” in those groups*). This is a perfect means in such groups to keep the person in the group and under the influence of the gone-astray teacher. But since this teacher and the group are misleading those who have faith in them this type of refuge in them, who are not objects of refuge in the deeper sense, is not a path to liberation but a path to increase confusion and delusions, and such a path is a path to be abandoned.

          *There is another confusion in general, the people who follow a teacher, a group, or people who live in a Buddhist centre, are not THE Sangha. In the broadest sense one should see all followers of Buddha as THE Sangha.

          • HH Dalai Lama often refers to sentient beings as a superior field of merit. This means that it is only due to the kindness of sentient beings that we can practice generousity, patience, ethical discipline, love and compassion– that we can accumulate much merit. With the exception of generousity, we cannot practice these in relation to the Buddhas or spiritual teachers.

            So that’s perhaps a more profound way of looking at how our spiritual brothers and sisters can help us on the path I think. In fact, they do help us a lot on the spiritual path, as Chogyam Trungpa says– e.g. sometimes we have to be very patient with them! However, as Tenpel says, they are NOT a source of refuge, not one of the three jewels, not the jewel of the sangha.

  82. Also, Sheila, as regards the power we give our lamas, it is easy to forget in these discussions that in Buddhism, deep faith in one’s lama is a very profound means for progressing on the spiritual path. This is not the faith one would have towards an ordinary being, but the faith one cultivates towards a manifestation of the Buddha himself. So as Buddhists, we are actually aspiring to reach a place of deep trust in our lamas; we are aspiring to reach a safe place where we can admit to our own helplessness and ignorance and our need for the guidance of a qualified guru. As HH Dalai Lama says in his commentary on delam, a lamrim practice with tantric elements: “Without faith, even though you might have a very clear visualization and image of the spiritual master, it will not be very effective– it is almost like having a clear image of a good painting. So develop single-pointed faith and respect for the spiritual master.” (The Path to Bliss, p. 88)

    It is actually because of the importance in cultivating faith towards one’s lama and the importance of entrusting him totally with one’s spiritual wellbeing that there are so many discussions about making sure beforehand that the lama can be trusted. In the commentary on delam quoted above, His Holiness then goes on to clarify how we must cultivate this faith: “Such a faith in the guru, firmly based on the realization of him as a true Buddha, can come about only when you have first developed a general understanding of the entire framework of the Buddhist path. For a person who possesses such knowledge, the recitation of even a short guru yoga text can become a profound guru devotion practice. It is for this reason that I always emphasize the importance of study for Buddhist practitioners.” (p.88-89)

    He also says in the same commentary, “Your faith should be reasoned faith, not just blind faith, based on proper intelligence so that when people question and attempt to refute your belief and practice, you will be able to withstand their arguments. Therefore, your faith should be properly based on a firm foundation.”

    So we need to proceed in the proper sequence.

  83. FYI all– HH Dalai Lama’s teachings in Milan will be webcast live, as were his teachings in Manchester. Here’s the link:

    • Argh, I don’t check here often enough. Wish I’d known I could watch the rest of the manchester ones live. I don’t suppose there’s anywhere to download them from after the fact?

  84. What is Sexual Misconduct? A Tricycle Talk with Nancy Baker:
    “Last week I spoke with Zen teacher and frequent Tricycle contributor Nancy Baker about her most recent article “Sexual Misconduct: The Third Zen Precept.” During our interview we discussed the differences between “sexual misconduct” and “misuse of sex,” how the precept—which comes out of a monastic culture of celibacy—is still relevant in our lives today, and why it’s so difficult for us to be present with our pleasure. ”

  85. Question: Are there any other modern day Tibetan lamas (e.g. lineage holders) who have written/spoken on the subject of problematic lama/student relations or lama qualifications or lama misconduct other than HH Dalai Lama? I am not in the loop and would like to add other persepctives if, indeed, they exist. If they don’t exist, then that is a perspective as well.

  86. Update: The German Buddhist magazine “Tibet & Buddhismus” has started to address the topic of abuse in Buddhist communities in his new issue:

    They offer all articles related to this topic online and free of charge.

    • I wrote a brief feedback here:

      It is also interesting to read and to contemplate about the account of the Tibetan, Tashi Tsering, who has been (from a Western persective) “sexually abused” by a monk, Wangdu. He has not been traumatized by it. His approach gives some insights into Tibetan society and thinking. One can find it in “The Struggle for Modern Tibet – The Autobiography of Tashi Tsering” by Melvin Goldstein, William Siebenschuh, and Tashi Tsering. Here some extracts, pp. 26-28, from the third chapter as food for thoughts for our present discussion:

      … There I met another monk named Wangdu, who worked as the major-domo of that official. He was extremely cordial, talking with me in a gentle and friendly manner, and I could tell he liked me. It was a pleasant change from the distance usually maintained between superiors and inferiors in Lhasa. I genuinely enjoyed meeting him, but soon forgot about it-until, that is, a few days later when Pockmarks called me to his presence and announced:

      “I have been asked to send you to Wangdula …, the monk steward you met last week.”

      That was all he said, but I knew immediately what was meant. Wangdu was asking for me to become his homosexual partner. In the manner customary to monks and monk officials in Lhasa, he had asked my superior for permission to invite me, and now I was being asked.

      After all the problems I had in Lhasa, I wasn’t sure if placing myself in a relationship with Wangdu would bring new difficulties or be the start of an era of success. I could have refused. I had no sexual feelings for him or for men in general. But I had liked him and also understood that having an intimate relationship with someone aligned with power and authority was an opportunity not to be lightly dismissed. So I decided to agree, and hesitantly said I would accept the invitation. It was the start of some of the best years of my life.

      My decision and some of its ramifications have often seemed shocking or confusing—or both—when I have tried to explain them to foreign friends whose cultures and assumptions are so different from mine. But I didn’t find the invitation strange at all. To see it in proper perspective, you have to understand how the old Tibetan society was structured and what our customs were. For most of its history, Tibet has been a theocratic state. The bureaucracy that ran the government consisted of two kinds of officials—lay officials and monk officials. The original logic behind the creation of a class of monk officials was that as Tibet was a theocracy, monks should participate in administering the country. However, over the years, these monk officials became token monks in the sense that they neither lived in monasteries nor engaged in religious rites and prayer ceremonies. They were really bureaucrats who took religious vows. They wore a version of monks’ robes but worked as full-time government officials. Living in houses in the city like other officials, they wielded equal power and status with their lay aristocratic counterparts and were jointly in charge of government administration and its day-to-day operations. However, though they were “token” monks in most senses, they were required to. obey the monks’ vow of celibacy.

      In traditional Tibetan society, celibacy was defined specifically to mean abstaining from sexual acts with a female or, in a more general sense, from any sexual act that involved penetration of an orifice whether with a female or male. Consequently, anal sex with a male was as strictly prohibited as vaginal sex with a woman, and if discovered would mean expulsion from the monk rolls.

      However, human nature being what it is, monks over the years developed a way to circumvent the iron law of celibacy. Monastic rules, it turned out, said nothing about other forms of sexual activity, and it became common for monks and monk officials to satisfy themselves sexually with men or boys by performing the sex act without penetrating an orifice. They used a version of the “missionary position” in which the monk official (the active, male-role player) moved his penis between the crossed thighs of a partner beneath him. Since no monastic disciplinary rule was technically violated, this behavior was condoned and rationalized as a pleasurable release of little significance.

      The typical relationship was between monks—-an adult monk (the male role) and a younger, boy monk—but there were several types of lay boys who were particularly desirable. One was the boys or young men who performed in the Tibetan opera, many of whom played women’s roles. Another was the young gadrugba dancers. Thus Wangdula’s request was not really unusual.

      Obvious similarities aside, this “homosexuality” is quite different from homosexuality in Western terms. First, it was restricted almost exclusively to monks and monk officials and has always been looked on simply as a traditional way to get around a rule. The monks are not considered “gay” in the Western sense, because Tibetans don’t see this kind of behavior as the result of gender identity that is somehow biologically or culturally determined. Indeed, as a rule, in Tibet non-heterosexual activity by ordinary people is frowned on. Lay people seldom if ever have same-sex lovers. The monks’ behavior is just a fact of the way our culture has evolved. Thus, when the head of the gadrugba made his request, I was not shocked. It did not affect my sense of my own sexual identity, and I knew it would not affect anybody else’s opinion of me in that sense.

      Agreeing to become Wangdula’ s lover turned out to be a good decision for me. …

      • dominique says:

        This is called dissociation, a coping mechanism well known by psychiatrists when the victim can’t escape sexual abuse.
        And sexual abuse is what we are talking about in the case of the perverted teachers quoted on this blog, not sexual relationships.There is a huge difference.
        A psychological hold is exerted on their victims by predators who are very skilled at manipulating their preys, using well trained techniques of mind and body control.
        SR is indeed a master at it.It has nothing to do with Buddhism.
        It has to do with sick people who perpetuate sexual abuse/addiction under the cover up of religion.

        • dear dominiquie. thank you for your contribution. Personally I try to be open for different views on this issue. There seem to be cases where people didn’t suffer too much on what we call sexual abuse. Similar to what Tashi Tsering stated, there was a writer in Austria* who said that (against all voices of the press and public opinion) that for him it wasn’t a trauma what he experienced. When I say this here in this context, I don’t want to white wash bad modes of behaviour nor in any way do I wish to downplay the tremendous harm sexual abuse usually brings to to the person abused. However, I think it is important to have different views on this issue.

          * I mentioned him earlier and have this article offline.

  87. Tiger Lily says:
    Here is a link to Gavin Kilty’s article “Sex and the Lama” which he has put up on his blog Mahayana Dharma. Also click on the heading
    “who is this site for?” for an excellent introduction to the purpose of the site.

    • Thank you Tiger Lily.

      The tantra practice of relying on an actual karma mudra (consort) is to bring the winds into the central channel in order to manifest the most subtle clear light mind and to meditate with that on emptiness. In such a scenario it is a utter fault to loose semen. I think only the “consorts” of SR can tell if any type of practice such as this was involved or if it was just a samsaric encounter …

      I agree with Gavin when he writes:

      In short, the transmission of Buddhism in the West is still in its infancy. Like a fragile shoot in the ground, it needs care and protection. The damage that would be inflicted on its growth if our rapacious media got hold of these salacious stories does not bear thinking about. Within the confines of the Dharma community too it is our responsibility to ensure that the teachings of the Buddha are not sullied by misunderstanding, and that we do not stray from their independently minded and altruistic message, and sink into a spiritual world ruled by personality cult alone

      BTW, Gavin Kilty will be my teacher for Lorig from 3rd September onwards in Italy … I inserted the link into the post above.

      • an old friend says:

        Gavin is both highly educated and highly conservative (traditionally educated in the Gelug dialectic tradition as he is). With the greatest respect for his extensive Dharma knowledge, his assertion that we should fear “the damage that would be inflicted on its (the Dharma’s) growth if our rapacious media got hold of these salacious stories” is actually in contradiction of HHDLs advice to ‘name names in newspapers’ and mirrors the response of the Catholic Church to their problems, namely, deal with them ‘in house’. Concealment of abuse is oft considered more worthy of condemnation than abuse itself

        As for Sogyals semen, his nickname of ‘the squirter’ among some of his victims would seem to preclude him from the more advanced practices of HYT and gives new significance to the term ‘It was all over in a flash’.

        • I agree that our fear should not be that the media pick up these things (they started already to a certain degree) but rather what damage it causes to the beings abused and their friends/relatives or to the faithful. I agree also that it is in contradiction with the agreement found at a past conference with HHDL in 1993.

    • This is also well said by Gavin Kilty:

      It is necessary to conform to the sensible prevailing attitudes that rule the society we live in. It is true that there are teachings that say we should not judge or condemn the misdeeds of others because they may be bodhisattvas using skilful means to benefit others. But this does not mean that, for example, there should be no criminal justice system, that offenders should not be arrested and tried, or that there should not be reprimand and censure. In the eyes of the world there is right and wrong; professionally, morally and legally. If a lama sleeps with a student it is wrong on that basis, and should be dealt with on that basis. The great Indian master Atiśa, when he was disciplinarian at his monastery, saw a breach of the rules in a monk. He had no choice but to expel that monk, even though in the back of his mind he felt it was not right. Sure enough, the monk turned out to be a great yogi with supernatural powers. However, he followed the norms of the monastic society he lived in. Dharma Centre managers have no choice but to do likewise. It may be that the conduct of the lama has some hidden nature we are not privy to, but that is not the level on which the world operates.

  88. Download the whole of the Sex Scandals in Religion documentary about Sogyal Rinpoche here:
    [video src="" /]

  89. Here is a direct link to the entire episode of In the Name of Enlightenment which has recently been posted on youtube.

  90. suzanne o'meara says:

    please is there any contcts or info for dharma students wishing to find info – dharma centres & lamas who do not have any evil or witchcraft or bullies tolerated at all ? & sympathetic to help victims of psycho-&other abuse in & out dharma? most centres seem to have a lot of dangerous evil going on & spies mind rape etc.

  91. suzanne o'meara says:

    i have suffered mind abuse & extreme occult abuses & discrimination & threats from a few tibetan centres & ned helpv to find the right one for me.who may one email to ask ?

    • Dear Suzanne, I think you could ask INFORM: You could also contact me offline: In general its good to look a bit around and ask others about their experiences. In what town do you live? Do you need counselling? If yes, INFORM can help you. There are a lot of genuine places and people. Its also very helpful to understand the own motivation: What I am looking for in the Dharma or a Buddhist centre? If something is helpful or not is always a dependent arising. As Anon correctly pointed out Dharma practice needs a basic mental health and a basic mental strength. If this is not given, a therapy would be the best start.

  92. Dear Suzanne
    I think you should see a secular counsellor first, just in case you have any unresolved personal issues-Buddhism is a religion for, at minimum. seeking a better rebirth (ie its not designed for solving this lifes problems). It is not a twenty first century psychotherapeutic technique and could cause you problems if not approached properly, despite the current trend among medical professionals to recommend it as a complementary therapy

  93. Suzanne are you the same person posting here ?

  94. “A crucial point to remember when ethical breaches cause profound heartache is that governing boards must reach out to those directly harmed and alienated. Deep healing is not possible unless those harmed feel comfortable enough to return. They may decide not to, but every effort should be made to ameliorate the damage, including, when appropriate, organizational apologies and financial support for counseling for those in need.”

    Someone sent me a link to the article “Get Ready for Conflict” by Genjo Marinello which discusses practical solutions to conflict in the Sangha or misbehaviour, incl. misbehaviour of the leader of the Sangha. You might find this helpful/interesting:

    “Get Ready for Conflict” by Genjo Marinello

  95. A befriended long term Buddhist commented with respect to this article by Mary Finnigan: “It is good that negative things are not suppressed as much any more.”

  96. I updated the post above. Mainly I added in the Update section, that the DBU is in a sleeping mode and I deleted the sentences / arguments about an old tantric consort in the post because this was a fallacious argument.

  97. Beware
    Marte-Micaela Riepe, a prolific poster of anti tantric distortions is prowling and hoping to hijack the Sogyal debate for her anti tantra, anti Dalai Lama campaign. She posted repeatedly at Dialogue Irelands pages on Sogyal as Giulia until she was banned for her mix of hatred and madness and now shes posting on youtube as ThePuenktli1

    Heres a sample

    Giulia, on January 21, 2012 at 11:01 am said:
    How untrue. I told that already many times K-clique has tried to kill me (even though many of them have knocked on my door again and again for sex or help or both). Two weeks ago two cars with Tibetan thugs in it have tried to overrun me and a fifth Tibetan downtown tried to steal my handbag. It is an international police case now.
    I would call “try to murder all the time” definitely “stop from participating in the dharma”. India, Nepal, Bhutan, it are all danger zones for me. Even my own city and house have become dangerous. It seems that it is because I know about NP not being a sister at all and because of their drug addiction?

  98. or…..
    “My life has been utterly destroyed from the beginning I met Tibetan lamas: they do their puja and wave their flags and then my whole life fell apart again and again: job, bf, family, everything. They have pulled this stunt on me many times. Instead of writing a letter or asking for a conversation face to face they do their mala-work and think this is communication. They have destroyed my life again and again and now I am exhausted and can no longer think of ways to start over with my life again, I am just totally beaten and broken.
    I am nOt paranoia. They just KEEP stalking me. Talk to my garagist and listen to how they have sabotaged my car. I have pictures of the Tibetan crooks and the license plates of the cars that have recently either tried to overrun me or come racing towards me and keep stalking me. I AM FED UP and have no longer a life!”

    • There are always some who project their own mental illness onto Tibetan Buddhism. The problem is, its quite impossible to do any thing for them – except praying. One time a woman I tried to help wrote some years later, that everything was made up and she excused. (A rare exception.) I didn’t believe her from the beginning, there were to many inconsistencies and … however, I tried … Sadly Prof. Schmid from believed her and offered her even to write about “her experiences” on his website. To my own emails based on non-fiction Schmid never replied … This tells a lot about some of the religious embedded Anti-Cult websites. Schmid is a catholic priest when I got it right.

  99. ” … Buddhist teacher Joshu Sasaki, who is 105 years old, has taught thousands of Americans at his two Zen centers in the area and one in New Mexico. He has influenced thousands more enlightenment seekers through a chain of some 30 affiliated Zen centers from the Puget Sound to Princeton to Berlin. And he is known as a Buddhist teacher of Leonard Cohen, the poet and songwriter. …

    Mr. Sasaki has also, according to an investigation by an independent council of Buddhist leaders, released in January, groped and sexually harassed female students for decades, taking advantage of their loyalty to a famously charismatic roshi, or master.”

    Women say they were encouraged to believe that being touched by Mr. Sasaki was part of their Zen training.

    The Zen group, or sangha, can become one’s close family, and that aspect of Zen may account for why women and men have been reluctant to speak out for so long. The Zen group, or sangha, can become one’s close family, and that aspect of Zen may account for why women and men have been reluctant to speak out for so long.

    Many women whom Mr. Sasaki touched were resident monks at his centers. One woman who confronted Mr. Sasaki in the 1980s found herself an outcast afterward. The woman, who asked that her name not be used to protect her privacy, said that afterward “hardly anyone in the sangha, whom I had grown up with for 20 years, would have anything to do with us.”

    Obviously an independent council of Buddhist leaders can do some things, and patterns of abuse are somewhat “universal” …

  100. I added the sentence:

    “Having heard from what I believe to be reliable sources, I am struck by the fact that Sogyal has even had sexual relationships with the partners of some of his students.” to the post above.

    You might be also interested in the Blog Stats for 2012:

    Here’s an excerpt:
    This blog had 50,000 views in 2012. And the post above was the year’s most-viewed post.

    Click here to see the complete report.

    More Stats:

    120 Posts
    4 Pages
    15 Categories
    291 Tags

    3,086 Approved

  101. john swainson says:

    The above article, although not related to Buddhism, has its parallels. The abuse within some Buddhist and Catholic communities opens up debate on many fronts but a common factor appears to be the emphasis placed on the reputation of the ‘church’ above the safety of its members.

  102. For some it might be useful to see how in Theravada tradition in UK a case of child abuse has been addressed by Luang Por Khemadhammo. I quote here from their newsletter:

    Duty of Lay People
    Luang Por Khemadhammo who chairs the Theravada Buddhist Sangha of the UK (TBSUK) writes this:
    ‘While we don’t want to jeopardize his appeal, nevertheless the Head Monk of the Thames Vihara has been found guilty of molesting a child and is in prison and we cannot ignore it. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular case we felt it important that we reassure our lay followers and supporters that behaviour of the kind of which he has been accused and convicted is totally unacceptable to us and as well as being against the law is a very serious breach of monastic discipline (Vinaya) from which neither age, seniority nor alleged attainment can absolve any bhikkhu.’

    Such a conviction of one of the Theravada Buddhist monks came as a shock to all the monks, especially in the light of what has happened within other religions.

    There was an occasion at Kosambi when the monks got into a dispute. The Buddha came to sort it out, but they would not listen to him. He went off. The lay people were disgusted with the monks behaviour and would not offer food (dana) until they had accepted the Buddha’s guidance. The monks duly went off to reconcile themselves to the Buddha.

    It is the duty of the lay people to make known any inappropriate behaviour they see amongst monks and nuns or lay teachers and people who are involved in a Buddhist organisation. And you should know who to lodge your complaint with where it will be taken seriously.

    As far as Satipanya goes, any improriety by anyone should be reported to the Trustees – Ernie Gunesekera and /or Dea Paradisos See Contact . It will then be forwarded to all the Trustees and you should recieve a reply within a few days.

    I feel this approach much inspiring: honesty and taking responsibility, as well as creating structures which enable to prevent future abuse.

  103. dharmaanarchist says:

    This is an interesting blog!

    As someone who was involved in Rigpa for nearly 20 years I find these “revelations” in a sense shocking but in another sense also quite possible.

    In Rigpa there is a policy to keep that “Lama household” strictly off limits to “merely mortal” normal members/participants. There is this “the close students and attendants” and “all the rest” attitude, something that always struck me as quite odd, compared to other Tibetan teachers I know. And these inner circle people don’t mingle with “ordinary” followers either.
    My other reference would be Tulku Pema Wangyal where such a stange circus is frankly unthinkable.

    In Rigpa there is no way for an ordinary member to do what the buddha has suggested, verify for him/herself whether there are unhealthy things going on around the teacher or not. Simply because there is not the slightest way to gain access to these circles or the people there. Again, I don’t know what happens there, but the scenario SR created around himself is certainly perfectly suited to hiding stuff like discussed in this blog. Now of course that doesn’t mean there has to be.

    Another thing that I witnessed for a longer period (which changed over the last few years, since there are plenty of monks and nuns in the sangha) is that in the 1990/earlier 2000 decades there were usually seats in the front reserved for all those “important people”. Now for years there were young, pretty women sitting there who were for a dharma event rather inappropriately revealingly dressed (in winter in Germany, where it’s COLD and noone in his right mind dresses that way) I found it rather odd (and frankly disgusting, which is of course my ego clinging biased thinking) but did not expect that this might be the result of some really unhealthy stuff going on with SR. Now of course some women’s inappropriate dress sense is not proof for any sexual misbehaviour, but in hindsight it is food for thoughts.

    I honestly don’t believe what is written in “Behind the Thangkas”. It sounds very much like a smear campaign of someone who has a bone to pick with SR and now merrlily jumps on the abuse band wagon to wreak havoc. Sorry, but a person who cites “Ngakpa” Chögyam as a witness in this case, one of the worst fraudsand cult leaders at the fringes of Tibetan buddhism can’t be taken seriously.

    Frankly, I also don’t believe in outright sex slavery and orgies and SR as a sex-manic. But from what I have seen I consider it entirely possible that SR is engaging in sexual relationships with young female followers that are potentially psychologically damaging for the woman.

    • It’s a matter of fact that SR has sexual relationships with young female students of him. Sogyal has even had sexual relationships with the partners of some of his students. Nobody even high in Rigpa hierarchy denies this but they claim this were of benefit for the women. Women (and at least a man too) reported to have been harmed by SR, some of them are in therapy now. (SR also exerts violent / aggressive speech over his students.)

      You can just consider the story of Mimi reported in the documentary: this young woman missed her father – who was utterly absorbed in Rigpa – and to be closer to her father Mimi, a pretty woman, entered Rigpa. It didn’t take too long that she ended up in a room alone with Sogyal who ordered her to “Undress!”. The case of Mimi is also not denied by Rigpa. She is in therapy now. Ask yourself what dynamics must exist that a young woman ends up in the bed of SR who only wanted to be closer to her father.

      I spoke with a Rigpa person higher up in the hierarchy, she didn’t deny that women have been harmed by SR. I suggested SR should excuse for his behaviour. A Bodhisattva is really sorry if he harmed others. But SR just continues and his followers brainwash themselves that what has been said by victims were not true or only for their benefit. It appears to me that Rigoa and SR also induce feelings of guilt in those who speak up.

      • dharmaanarchist says:

        Honestly, the normal members don’t even know that a controversary around their teacher exists. Not because there is a conspiracy to keep is a secret but because you have to actively search the internet for the material and then you have to work through masses of accusations very much varying in credibility.

        In Rigpa there are several “layers” of hierarchy. There are the main national people and then the so called lama houshold, the people working for teaching communications, the leading Lerab Ling staff etc.

        I doubt that the “hight up in the hierarchy” that are not lama houshold and personal atttendants have any reliable information on what is or is not going on in terms of SR’s “love life”. Unlike a lot of other Nyingma lay lamas, which are mostly married, SR has always been quite secretive about his relationship life.

        • Sorry, here a correction of my comment. I was unaware that you posted it here at the thread …

          A Rigpa woman recently claimed at a public panel discussion that this controversy would be “openly discussed in Rigpa” and it were clear for them “that these internet things are not true” etc. At another occasion SR let even discuss his students about his sexual relationships during the lunch time … I assume there are local differences according to country, place and history of a certain group at such a place + how his own students relate to him or confront him with the facts.

          Rigpa does not deny that the Mimi-case exist. Rigpa does not deny that SR has sexual relationships with students.
          People within Rigpa could just ask their “senior instructors” ;-)

          However, I agree it is pretty hard to come to terms and to get clarity in this issue. I also had to invest time and research to get some clarity in this. But before I started I heard already three first hand accounts by three different women and so it was more easy to get into it for me.

          In Rigpa there are several “layers” of hierarchy. There are the main national people and then the so called lama houshold, the people working for teaching communications, the leading Lerab Ling staff etc.

          Yes this inner circle, inner layer issue, is perfect for all types of cover ups … there are social-cultural studies that deal with this issue. INFORM at the London School of Economics could give you examples of other groups where there have been examples of the social dynamic you describe. Having layers closer to the leader like this does open up the potential for various kinds of abuse – with those on the outer edges of the movement having very little knowledge or experience of what it is like to be part of the privileged ‘inner circle’ but perhaps envying those with access to the leader.

          I doubt that the “hight up in the hierarchy” that are not lama houshold and personal atttendants have any reliable information on what is or is not going on in terms of SR’s “love life”. Unlike a lot of other Nyingma lay lamas, which are mostly married, SR has always been quite secretive about his relationship life.

          You might doubt it but you don’t know that people “hight up in the hierarchy” have also personal experience or witnessed things and some confronted SR. For them the relationship life is not that secret ;-)

          • dharmaanarchist says:

            What I really wonder is why some of the highly realized teachers of SR’s have never influenced him to stop behaviour like that.

            Teachers like Nyoshul Khenpo and Trulshik Rinpoche were surely clarivoiant enough to see through these kind of thing in their disciple. Or Alak Zenkar Rinpoche. Or Mingyur Rinpoche, who is a monk, still quite young, currently in his third three year retreat and is by SR groomed to look after Rigpa when he passed away.

            I understand that other lamas don’t speak up publicly. But none of these lamas ever distanced themselves.

            • True, I don’t understand this either very much. One high lama, however, didn’t come any more according to a Rigpa student, and SR was unhappy about this. I forgot what lama it was. (I cannot keep all those information in mind.)

              One understanding I have is, that Asian Lamas usually don’t interfere with another lama – who (kindly) invites them to teach the Dharma – nor this lama’s students. They are much restrained not to create disharmony, schism or turmoil and treat the relations between the inviting lama and his students as rather sacred, and as “their business” which they have to respect. However, there are high lamas who say something with respect to SR but only out of the public and only to close trustworthy students and it is expected that they keep this for themselves.

              Another issue is a cultural one: Asian societies hardly address these things. Loosing face or shaming a person or even a group in public is somewhat of a major crime while Westerner rather see silence and covering up as wrong … As far as I understand it in Asian societies community and harmony are more important than the individual.

              • dharmaanarchist says:

                Of course Asians are extremely discrete about such matters.

                But in the case of SR it’s also a matter about who is holding the lineage. And someone who commits such deeds is just not qualified to do that.

                So actually it is the responsibility of the senior lineage holders to ensure the purity and future survival of their precious heritage.

                • I think we had this discussion already else where here on the blog:

                  The lineage holders, like the late HH Mindrolling Trichen Rinpoche or HH Penor Rinpoche, are in charge for upholding lineages this means to practice, transmit them etc. to give empowerment, commitments etc … However, upholding a lineage does not include to guard the actions of other masters. This is regarded as their business and it is far more regarded as the responsibility of the student to discriminate wrong from genuine teachers. I heard that HH Dujom Rinpoche has become famous for never ever saying something bad about others. I heard his Nyingma history would include not even any bad things against Gelugpas (who often treated Nyingmas badly).

                  I think you mix up different issues: holding of a lineage does not include to guard the ethical behaviour of masters of such a lineage, lineage holders have also their personal practice which might exclude criticism about others, unethical behaviour is treated as the responsibility of the person doing it, and its the responsibility of the student to check or distance themselves from teachers …

                  SR might hold some lineages but he is not the head of the Nyingma lineage or so … I think your idea:

                  So actually it is the responsibility of the senior lineage holders to ensure the purity and future survival of their precious heritage.

                  is of a typical Westerner origin, a bit like the pope is supervising his bishops etc. but as far as I understand it, this is not the way how Tibetans see it.

                  The senior lineage holders ensure the purity and future survival of their precious heritage by acting free of faults, giving a perfect example, and being in all ways reliable, and based on this (which is based on their realisations) they teach, transmit and practice the Dharma, they give empowerments and do retreats + guide students skilfully without exploiting them.

              • I have to correct myself, there is one high lama who said something very clear to a close student, and there is another lama (not a high one) who did this too.

            • and publicly “distancing oneself” is – as far as I understand it – an utter Western idea, don’t expect this from Asian lamas …

              • dharmaanarchist says:

                I consider not coming to teach at Rigpa when invited as properly distancing.

                • Yes, but what if the lama who comes to teach the precious Dharma sees that the students have so much benefit from the teachings, and that this benefit by far outweighs other possible harm?

                  A Bodhisattva mainly considers the long term benefits of his actions and it is very likely of a long term benefit for the students if genuine lamas teach the precious Dharma … I think they cannot think ‘I must distance myself and don’t go there any more to teach the faithful ones the Dharma’ …

                    • If a lama or teacher from the east comes to teach in the west, is he or she free to continue upholding eastern cultural values?

                      ‘Asian societies hardly address these things. Loosing face or shaming a person or even a group in public is somewhat of a major crime while Westerner rather see silence and covering up as wrong … As far as I understand it in Asian societies community and harmony are more important than the individual.’


                      ‘… but what if the lama who comes to teach the precious Dharma sees that the students have so much benefit from the teachings, and that this benefit by far outweighs other possible harm? ‘

                      Students and contemporaries may claim their teacher is ‘highly realised’, has ‘great insight’, etc.

                      Difficult to reconcile common sense with such claims.

                    • a corrected comment …

                      There is a book about tulkus. In it there is a female tulku born in the USA. She hasn’t been recognized as a tulku until she was something around 20 years old or so. Now she is seen as the rebirth of a Dakini (accomplished yogini) that spent her whole life in the past in a cave, meditating there. HH Penor Rinpoche recognized her based on a hint he received. This US born tulku said in that book that she wishes that more tulkus take rebirth in the West because no matter how high the realisations of a lama are he (or she) won’t understand the depths of cultural differences really.

                      My own teacher agreed that Tibetan lamas are not the right address to be asked about self-hate, lack of self-esteem or how compassion can increase neuroses etc it is not within their realm of knowledge or experience.

                      A group of EX-NKT had the good luck to live for 1 month with a Nyingma yogi in a our flat together. This yogi spent 17 years in retreat, 1 meal a day, 2 hours sleep a day. When he was at our place he healed people and gave advice. I translated for him. I personally witnessed his qualities (siddhis) of clairvoyance and healing power. What I can see directly with my own mind (as long as I am not deceived) is not a matter of lacking common sense, it’s a matter of facts. Clairvoyance is also explainable: the clearer and calmer the mind is, the more you can grasp/see, the more distorted it is the less you can grasp and see.

                      Now, this Nyingma yogi was excellent with respect to karma, sickness, healing and other things. But he utterly failed when it came to psychological problems. He just didn’t grasp nor understand them. One morning when we had breakfast, he started to cry, tears fell off his face and he looked to me and said: ‘Tenzin, you must help me, I don’t understand these people, what problems they are talking about. In India I know. I know when I have to be wrathful, when I have be kind. I know exactly what to do. Here I don’t know …’

                      Social relations have different levels and subtleties. If you didn’t grow up in such a social system and got used to it, you feel out of it and won’t get all the points. This naturally makes you an outsider even when you have clairvoyance. (Try to be a member of the British queen’s society level, it’s hard if you didn’t grow up in such a aristocratic culture with all its subtleties, and unspoken goes and don’t goes.)

                      So for me, personally, based on my observations and experience, there is no problem to reconcile common sense with claims of ‘highly realised’, has ‘great insight’ because I could witness directly that cultural blindness and realisations can coexist.

  104. ‘So for me, personally, based on my observations and experience, there is no problem to reconcile common sense with claims of ‘highly realised’, has ‘great insight’ because I could witness directly that cultural blindness and realisations can coexist.’

    Yes, but what is this stuff called realisations? Are we talking about understanding teachings which have their basis in observable facts, or is it something magical that only those with enough merit can observe?

    Common sense is usually described as, “sound and prudent judgement based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.”

    How am I to judge whether a teacher is ‘highly realised’ or ‘has great insight’

    ‘Yes, but what if the lama who comes to teach the precious Dharma sees that the students have so much benefit from the teachings, and that this benefit by far outweighs other possible harm?’

    The lama may see this, but common sense on the part of the student may say otherwise as all they can see is harm.

    There is ‘an elephant in the room’.

    • Good points, thank you.

      Yes, but what is this stuff called realisations? Are we talking about understanding teachings which have their basis in observable facts, or is it something magical that only those with enough merit can observe?

      My understanding is that realisations in Buddhist context refer to attained, rather stable qualities of the mind based on the practice of the teachings. Real realisation are only True Cessations, a quality of the mind that has incontrovertibly abandon a cause of suffering in a manner that it can never arise again. So in a deeper sense ‘realisation’ refers to something incontrovertible, like the direct realisation of emptiness at the Path of Seeing. It is by far more than an understanding of the teachings, it is a quality in the mind that has been attained through the practice of the teachings (or through insight). Also the attainment of Calm Abiding can be called a realisation. If one attains a First Concentration this can go along with attaining clairvoyance, these two things too can be called realisations.

      When I speak of a person who is realised like in the case of the Yogi, I could directly observe that he had ‘realisations’ like healing power and clairvoyance that other people don’t possess usually. Based on this direct seeing I call him realised or highly realised. There are masters who obviously have a great stability of mind (but never show something like healing power or clairvoyance – and maybe they don’t possess these qualities) BUT they never get angry, are always relaxed, loving, kind and compassionate and act only in the interest of others or openly admit any fault, you can never push such masters in a corner and they develop something like panic or so. Such stable emotional + body, speech behaviour is (so do I understand it) also based on realisations. Because ordinary beings would sooner or later develop destructive emotions that determine their actions, and the destructive emotions would carry them away. Masters who have such a stable, mature nature which expresses in their body, speech and mind behaviour must have a realisation that is the basis of this stable behaviour.

      So although realisations are qualities of the mind which can not directly be seen, they can be inferred based on observation or seeing the actions of body, and speech.

      To observe these masters and their actions, I think you must have created the causes, and then your judgement depends of course also on your own mind. It also needs time. For instance in one case of my lamas, I know him since 2002, and I saw him in many many situations and in very difficult ones too: he always had the same nature of loving kindness, wisdom and clarity. No change. He is always relaxed and joyful, even when sick. He has always a positive mood … ; in another case I was present when a lama met some youngsters in the subway and one of the young men tried to hit the lama suddenly right into the face, the lama solved the situation by skilfully leading the boys fist besides his face and by smiling in such a kind and warm hearted way to the young man that the young man was suddenly totally perplex, he was so perplex that all his aggression in the literally sense fell off him. The lama was during this situation totally relaxed and didn’t show at the occasion or later any sign of excitement. He didn’t even talk about it, it was just natural. Everything was natural peaceful what he did – all of the time. I was with this lama for twelve days, around the clock, I observed him in so many situations and he always was in utter peace, and gentle and extremely compassionate … I could tell you one story after the other … Just a short one with respect to myself: This lama also realised that I had a deeper problem. So at one point he started to ask me, what I did in the past. I hesitated to talk about NKT and my NKT teacher and the Shugden lamas, because I feared I create negative karma when I speak of my experience. So, I gave a brief answer. Then he insisted: “And what happened then?” Then I told another bit. Then he asked again “And what happened then?”, I told a bit more, and he was utter present, aware, interested and started to laugh about what I said, he asked again and again “And what happened then?”, “And what happened then?” until I told my whole story, the more I told, the more he laughed, the more he laughed the more I felt healed, cured, lighter, it was like he was helping me to get rid of my NKT past, and to release me from my burden. It was great. The way he spoke, and listened, it was like a soft breeze of water touching your heart … what a kindness, what a compassion …

      Because you don’t find ordinary persons like this, I infer from this, that such lamas must have stable qualities of mind – realisations – that form the basis for this extraordinary behaviour.

      Common sense is usually described as, “sound and prudent judgement based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.”

      Do you think my judgement above is common sense or not? I think it is obvious from what I observed that these two lamas are distinct different from myself and every other human being I met so far. And what makes the difference? Extraordinary qualities of stable kindness, love, compassion, wisdom, skill, and peace which you can observe and feel. Where do these qualities come from? From the mind. So they must have something special in their mind that allows them to function that way.

      How am I to judge whether a teacher is ‘highly realised’ or ‘has great insight’

      Through observation and being on the presence of such persons for a long time and at best in extreme situations.

      ‘Yes, but what if the lama who comes to teach the precious Dharma sees that the students have so much benefit from the teachings, and that this benefit by far outweighs other possible harm?’

      The lama may see this, but common sense on the part of the student may say otherwise as all they can see is harm.

      There is ‘an elephant in the room’.

      Yes, the student’s perspective will be different of a realised lama’s perspective. I think this is just the way how it is.

  105. ‘When I speak of a person who is realised like in the case of the Yogi, I could directly observe that he had ‘realisations’ like healing power and clairvoyance that other people don’t possess usually.’

    My question here is about your definition of clairvoyance. Do you understand it to be related to precognition or is it to do with clear vision which is the literal meaning.
    If you refer to precognition, would that not violate the principle that an effect cannot occur before its cause.
    If you refer to clairvoyance as clear vision then predictions can be made based on experience but to what degree of certainty?

    • dharmaanarchist says:

      “so why not making effort and accepting hardships to get connected to the best? The Tibetans travelled for months(!) to see an excellent teacher, they invested and gave all of their money for such purposes.”

      You forget karma. A person with a realisation of emptiness is able to perceive the workings of cause and effect directly. And along with it the future results of this or that karma that will inevitably happen, that might be averted or things that won’t work no matter how much effort is put into it..

      It’s not so much some kind of miraculous clairvoiance but a more acute perception of the workings of the world. Like I can see the avalanche rushing down a mountain slope. And from the direction of that avalanche I can determine that the village in the valley is in it’s way and will be destroyed even before it actually happened.

    • I reply at the weekend – too busy …

    • Thank you John.

      My question here is about your definition of clairvoyance. Do you understand it to be related to precognition or is it to do with clear vision which is the literal meaning.
      If you refer to precognition, would that not violate the principle that an effect cannot occur before its cause.
      If you refer to clairvoyance as clear vision then predictions can be made based on experience but to what degree of certainty?

      it is related with a clear vision, seeing. It’s the mental consciousness which is able to do that usually within the frame of an concentration or at least Calm Abiding. I will insert you a summery on this from “Mind in Tibetan Buddhism” by Lati Rinpoche/ E. Napper.

      If you refer to clairvoyance as clear vision then predictions can be made based on experience but to what degree of certainty?

      As far as I understand it, the certainty is only relative because causes and conditions can changed very quickly (there is a story about this related to the 7th[?] Dalai Lama) and what is true now based on causes and conditions is not true later.

      Here the excerpt, pp. 54-55:

      Sutra says, ‘Consciousnesses of forms are of two types, those depending on the eye and those depending on the mind.’ ‘Those depending on the eye’ refers to sense consciousnesses, that is, consciousnesseses whose uncommon empowering condition is a physical sense power, in this case the eye; ‘those depending on the mind’ refers to mental consciousnesses, that is, to mental direct perceivers whose uncommon empowering condition is a mental sense power, in this case a former moment of sense direct perception which induces it. The basis for the division of mental direct perceivers into those that are and are not ‘indicated on this occasion’ is the portion of the sutra statement, ‘those depending on the mind’, and thus, mental direct perceiver indicated on this occasion are those induced by sense direct perceivers apprehending any of the five sense objects – forms, sounds, odours, tastes, or tangible objects.

      Examples of mental direct perceivers that are not indicated on this occasion are mental direct perceivers induced by states arisen from medtation such as the five clairvoyances. These five, which can be generated in the continuum of an ordinary being, are:
      1 the clairvoyance of magical emanation
      2 the clairvoyance of divine eye
      3 the clairvoyance of divine ear
      4 the clairvoyance of memory of former lifetimes
      5 the clairvoyance of knowing others’ minds

      The power of magical emanation is the ability to display various emanations and to increase or decrease their number. That of the divine eye is the ability to see the coarse and subtle forms of the one billion worlds of this world system. Coarse forms are ordinary forms whereas subtle forms are beyond the capacities of an ordinary eye or ear but are perceivable by those with such clairvoyance. The clairvoyance of divine ear is the ability to hear the coarse and subtle sounds of this world system. The clairvoyance of memory of former life¬times is the ability to remember one’s own and others’ former lifetimes.

      These five are induced by states arisen from meditation, and thus the clairvoyances of divine eye and ear should not be understood as eye or ear consciousnesses. They are mental consciousnesses even though the names eye and ear are imputed to them.

      Other mental direct perceivers not indicated on this occasion – that is, not induced by sense direct perceivers – and also not induced by states arisen from meditation are self-knowers and also the karmic clairvoyance of a being in the intermediate state [after death and before taking rebirth]. The latter is a clairvoyance that one has due to the power of previous actions (karma, las) from merely being born in the intermediate state (bar do) and is a contaminated clairvoyance enabling one to know coarse objects but not subtle qualities.

      • In the Vaibhashika system the clairvoyances are sense consciousness, whereas in the higher sutra systems they are mental consciousnesses. In Highest Yoga Tantra, the clairvoyances can be sense consciousnesses – but only the eye and ear sense consciousness.

  106. The Devils Advocate says:

    I knew youd ask that
    “If you refer to precognition, would that not violate the principle that an effect cannot occur before its cause” Doesnt this imply that we cant predict that we will get up in the morning before we go to bed at night?
    “If you refer to clairvoyance as clear vision then predictions can be made based on experience but to what degree of certainty?” Balance of probability is reliable, isnt it?
    I think you might be trying to rationalize things that are beyond the rational mind
    Ever read ‘Challenge from the logicians’ in the 100000 songs of Milarepa? In it, Je Mila shatters the preconceptions of scholars and demonstrates that the enlightened state is beyond intellect, beyond the reach of the rational mind

    ‘Beyond word, thought, and expression, the perfection of transcendental wisdom
    unborn, unceasing, the very essence of space,
    The experienced only by self-cognizanf primal awareness:
    To the Mother of the Buddhas of the Three Times I bow down’

    • John Swainson says:

      What! By jove, you have astounded us all by knowing that.

      “If you refer to precognition, would that not violate the principle that an effect cannot occur before its cause”

      ‘Doesnt this imply that we can’t predict that we will get up in the morning before we go to bed at

      We can predict this but we cannot be certain. I may die during the nght.

      ‘Balance of probability is reliable, isnt it? ‘

      Not reliable enough for certainty.

      ‘Ever read ‘Challenge from the logicians’ in the 100000 songs of Milarepa? In it, Je Mila shatters the preconceptions of scholars and demonstrates that the enlightened state is beyond intellect, beyond the reach of the rational mind,’

      No, never read it but that is quite some claim,

      Please define rational mind.

      Probability does allow for generalisation after studying a population. But when there is a population of only one, then no generalisation can be made.

      • Intellect- enlightenment is not an object of the thInkIng mind
        Shantideva says the same thing-you can’t work it out gate gate para gate etc etc

        • better to not have the itch than to have the pleasure of scratching it

          • 29 years ago I asked Lama Yeshe “Lama, everyone says that if I want to get enlightened I have to study tenets and the major philosophical texts. But you have done all this and your conclusion? Just let go. Do I really have to study all these different texts or can I simply leap forward to the main practice that you suggest?” His answer? “Just let go!”

  107. since then, I tried to make letting go central and studied the tenets and texts as support-the advice was entirely personal but I think you are a bit intellectual sometimes John daaaahling

  108. That is the second time you have called me daaaahling.

  109. I have not forgotten karma.

    As I understand it karma is action and we experience the results of those actions in the form of suffering or otherwise according to the positive, neutral or negative qualities of those actions. The ways these results manifest depends upon the qualities within our minds.

    I have not read anywhere that anyone has the ability to say, directly what misfortune may occur. Yes,, suffering comes from an ordinary mind, but not particularly as a result of a specific event. There are a myriad of causes and conditions which come together. Retrospectively, it is possible to say this happened because of that but that it just making up reasons.

    It does not take an ‘acute perception of the workings of the world’ to predict the result of an ‘avalanche rushing down a mountain slope’ toward a village if we know the geography. However, if the position from which I observe the landslide and the village were such that I do not see a gully in between them, which halts the landslide, then my prediction would be wrong.

    If the village were to be swept away it would be a disaster. However, it may be found later that it was the Feast of Saint Rumplestiltskin and all the villagers were up in the hills having a cheese rolling competition. The result may be that the villagers would attribute their good luck to observing the said Feast.

  110. The Devils Advocate says:

    Once I was travelling on a slightly dodgy passport so i asked a well known lama if I would get through the border OK.He answered that I would be fine but that I should be careful on the journey as I might lose something. I got through fine but some of my belongings were stolen by a fellow passenger

    I recall in the 70s and 80s when people used to carry illegal goods from the East to support their travels. a group of 7 Westerners asked another lama I lived close to if they would ‘get through’ He toldl 3 they would be fine and 4 they would not.The first 3 got through. Of the 4 who were advised against ‘importing goods’ 3 decided to ignore his advice. All 3 were arrested

    A nun friend of mine had her Tibetan astrological chart done; it said she was an elephant in her previous life. Some days later she traveled to Nepal and met with her teacher. “Guess what I was in my last life” she suggested to him. “An elephant” he replied.

    I was due to travel in a dangerous S American country. I asked for a divination concerning a journey i was to make and if it was safe. I was told it was safe to travel but not on a certain date.On the date in question, a party of 19 people including 8 westerners was kidnapped by guerillas on my proposed route

    Ii dont understand the logic either But I dont base all my faith on logic If a man tells me 10 things are true and 8 of them turn out so, I expect the other 2 will probably be so too-I would have faith AND logical reasoning as my support

    • ‘Once I was travelling on a slightly dodgy passport so i asked a well known lama if I would get through the border OK.He answered that I would be fine but that I should be careful on the journey as I might lose something. I got through fine but some of my belongings were stolen by a fellow passenger’

      What were the risks of someone pinching stuff in your region of travel?

      ‘I recall in the 70s and 80s when people used to carry illegal goods from the East to support their travels. a group of 7 Westerners asked another lama I lived close to if they would ‘get through’ He toldl 3 they would be fine and 4 they would not.The first 3 got through. Of the 4 who were advised against ‘importing goods’ 3 decided to ignore his advice. All 3 were arrested’

      The first three did not attempt to smuggle. The second three did attempt to smuggle. The last one decided not to smuggle and got through. However, four got through and not three.

      ‘A nun friend of mine had her Tibetan astrological chart done; it said she was an elephant in her previous life. Some days later she traveled to Nepal and met with her teacher. “Guess what I was in my last life” she suggested to him. “An elephant” he replied.’

      He guessed and was lucky.

      ‘I was due to travel in a dangerous S American country. I asked for a divination concerning a journey i was to make and if it was safe. I was told it was safe to travel but not on a certain date. On the date in question, a party of 19 people including 8 westerners was kidnapped by guerillas on my proposed route’

      I was in Assam bird watching. A message came through to say the Communists were kicking off at election time and we should not travel on a certain day. So we left early and avoided any problem.

      • The Devils Advocate says:

        Guru Rinpoche’s footprint in solid rock at Tsopema (or wet plaster according to John)

        • The Devils Advocate says:

          And the Buddhas crown protuberance was a prosthesis

          • Surely you can appreciate that if someone has direct insight into the nature of reality, he or she can perceive the process of dependent arising that gives rise to individual appearances? Remember how the Buddha, on the night of his enlightenment saw all of his previous lives and how they had arisen? Based on this perception, would it not be possible to accurately predict certain outcomes?
            This is not faith based jumbo jumbo; it is logical. Even ordinary men who have achieved extraordinary things can have extraordinary perceptions.

            • PS nice to see you relying so heavily on Wikipedia for your sources-at least we can be sure that no one who posts there has an agenda
              NB it does state that some of the Buddhas footprints werenot representations but were natural occurrences-although I referred specifically to one of the numerous imprints left behind by Padmasambhava, not Gautama

            • ‘Surely you can appreciate that if someone has direct insight into the nature of reality, he or she can perceive the process of dependent arising that gives rise to individual appearances?’


              ‘Remember how the Buddha, on the night of his enlightenment saw all of his previous lives and how they had arisen?’


              ‘Based on this perception, would it not be possible to accurately predict certain outcomes?’

              Yes, but not all outcomes.

              • A man asked a clairvoyant Lama for his lucky number. He was told it was five. On the 5th day of the 5th month, he placed $5000 on the number 5 horse, in the 5th race of the day, which just happened to be taking place at 5 past 5 in the afternoon. The horse came 5th

  111. Agenda, bias, whatever. It is within us all.

    • Devotional agit-prop … ;-)

      “Geshe Kelsang had a very close relationship with his own Spiritual Guide, Trijang Rinpoche, who requested him to come to the West and approved of his adapting the presentation of the teachings for an entirely new audience.”

      What was this relationship like? There were about 30,000 monks in India and they had their own teachers. Kelsang Gyatso’s teacher was Geshe Lhundup Sopa. Of course he can choose Trijang Rinpoche as his root guru but this doesn’t mean he had a close relationship with him. Maybe KG attended some teachings and met Trijang Rinpoche 3-4 times. It’s completely unclear how “close” this relationship was. There are Tulkus and Rinpoches who were by far more close to Trijang Rinpoche than KG – e.g. the Dalai Lama or Dagyab Rinpoche. It is highly likely that this “close relationship” is fabricated. Also, it were Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa who invited KG to the West, and they sought the advice of the Dalai Lama – according to Kay. NKT rewrites their history until it fits the own imagination … I also wonder when and how Trijang Rinpoche “approved of his adapting the presentation of the teachings for an entirely new audience”?

      In one sentence you can find three spin of the facts … quite of an accomplishment …

      (I didn’t know that KG and I have at the same day birthday ;-) My teacher here, who is really a Geshe – a Lharampa Geshe – also has birthday on the 4th June.)

      • The Dalai Lama and I share the same birthdate!

        • Cool!

          • The Devils Advocate says:

            KG admits that he received very little direct instruction on tantra and that most of his purported experience came from studying texts.
            Sorry but implicitly this means he and Trijang were not close from a traditional perspective Maybe close means something else nowadays

            • As far as I can see KG just uses Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche to justify his actions. Trijang Rinpoche cannot disagree with him while his real teacher, Geshe Lhundup Sopa – whom he never mentions – is still alive ;-) If everything was so proper why should KG see a need to hide the name of his real teacher under the carpet?

              BTW, this is a thread about SR not KG!

              • Tenpel, I think you became an object of interest at dialogue irland. Congretulations….

                • actual, that’s too time consuming … i rather “fear” to invest more time there. a mind caught in conspiracy theory and projections based on a thorough lack of knowledge and context is an endless spinning wheel. did they start a thread about me now? (mike suggested it) in that case they can collaborate with NKT ;-) the anti-cultists collaborate with the cultists.

                  • Yes, their ‘expert’ seems rather damaged (burned by expectations about which guru one wonders? He is reluctant to say???), very, very bitter and is quite clearly an autodidact with lots of time on his hands to waste at the keyboard-perhaps bella b has finally met her nemesis? I wouldnt waste my time, particularly considering admonishments about the dangers of communicating with those who bear malice towards ones teachers-the views expressed are 100% poisonous
                    Sad that a site that once championed all that was good has fallen so low
                    As you say, how long before “anti-cultists collaborate with the cultists” Maybe that is already what we have at DI??

                    • Chris restrains to say something about Kelsang Gyatso / NKT. I speculate a bit what drives her to do that. Highly speculative: is she using DI for NKT to denounce the DL/TibBu or is her background NKT? However, she has to take care for her mental health, as well as Mike. I am extremely sorry to see this, and wish both all the best, and a clear mind ;-)

                    • I notice that, despite your having made public details of your own background, Mike Garde states “we need to know who you are as you are a public person”, because “your personal blog.. is in the public domain”

                      By this same measure, Chris Chandler, DI’s ‘Buddhist consultant’ is a ‘public person’ and yet appears extremely reluctant to answer any questions on personal details

                      I wonder if , in light of this, DI will be publishing details of Chris Chandlers own journey, psychiatric history, qualifications,, allegiances during the ‘Tibetan’ period and reasons, if any, for becoming disaffected? I think it only right that we be told these details since Chandler expresses some very strong opinions, from a position that seemingly grants some authority. Surely these need to be backed up by such information if they are not to be seen as the rantings of an imbalanced and disaffected ex cult member (which, at times, they very much appear to be)

  112. nb-‘psychiatric history’ will no doubt upset some. However, since you have been very open about difficult times you have endured in the past as a result of your mistakes, I think it only fair to expect the same from your critics

  113. ANONYMOUS says: – very interesting!

    search ‘chris chandler’

    it seems she was a student in ‘CRAZY WISDOM’ Trungpas mandala, cared for his autistic
    son, Taggie, and then followed the disgusting Sakyong Mipham circus-no wonder she is so
    disillusioned and angry-she has seen the worst side of TB for years-in fact, almost all she has seen has been a gross distortion-wonder how she feels qualified to comment?

    Sadly, while she is still vulnerable she has fallen in with an ‘All tibetan buddhists are nazis’ campaigner-not the best recipe for growth. i wont visit DI again, it has lost all credibility and more and more appears to be the rantings of a hate filled mad man-i advise all to stay away-its just poison

    • This demonstrates also again, how important it is to have compassion for persons who claim such things.

      Thank you for this information. It is really sad to see what this had done to her. What a harm! Very sad.
      Two days ago, I heard the story (from a reliable source) that a Tibetan Tulku stole 600.000€ from the sick father of his Western wife. The family naturally doesn’t have a positive look onto Tibetan tulkus / TB any more. In a way I can understand Chris that she gets utterly disillusioned if you have to see / experience such things. On the other hand, this is not the rule.

      • Well Tenpel, if your not disillusioned with samsara then you need to try harder :)

        The issue with Chris as I see it is not only about her disillusionment with TB, it is rather her lack of disillusionment with the alternatives. I think someone on that thread compared her to being “born again”, but it is like she has reverted to her pre-Buddhist days of being an idealistic and rebellious teenager who thinks they can solve the problems of the whole world.

        I notice that she repeatedly fails to give any specific details of her experiences, which would probably not only have the effect of making her grand theory fall apart, but also make her actually confront her own personal issues.

        • Thank you.

        • Chris’s dharma career started with Chogyam Trungpa in the mid 80s, shortly before his death. As such, she entered into a relationship wth Buddhism and her guru in a charisma riddled environment, where the gurus personality was a big factor.In fact, one coould question whether she entered into a true Tibetan Buddhist mandala as the teachings given by CTR were a hybrid of his own Shambala ideas mixed with dharma.

          After his death, as that community and its teachings grew ever more corrupted via Osel Tenzin and then the forcing into a position of power CTRs 2nd son the Sakyong Mipham, into a position of power which should have been occupied by his true dharma heir, the Trungpa Tulku, Chris worked hard at maintaining her faith and showed incredible devotion by caring for Trungpas 1st, autistic son on a 24/7 basis for several years.

          Nevertheless the disonance between her professed object of faith and the Sakyong Mipham ‘buddhist’ circus gradually took its toll until she could no longer tolerate the power games hypocrisy (quite rightly) so she parted with that community.

          Clearly, after having given so much of herself to what she thought was genuine and having received so little to show for it, she has become deeply embittered by her experience and has now, in her deep seated and thoroughly justifiable anger vented this anger in her anti ‘Lamaism’ campaign.

          IMO the problem is that she is in a transitory phase at a juncture between abandoning the dharma and a point where she has just begun to realise that its not about community or guru charisma or position but that really, its down to you to get your ass on the cushion and work on yourself.

          She was at this critical juncture when she fell in with the Dialogue Ireland campaign to paint a picture of the Dalai Lama as Hitlers natural successor and the whole of Tibetan Buddhism as a secretly Nazi, abusive personality cult. Via DIs influence,she has grasped her own outward facing hatred as valid so that she can no longer hear the messsage of self reliance her inner voice is telling her

          Her suggestion that our faith is becoming a personality cult driven affair [as it always has been in its initial phase] is a valid one but, instead of making that adjustment within herself and focusing inwardly, she has been given a platform where that same opinion is externalised and has become the basis of a highly negative and critical campaign-just as the folk at DI have been working on for some time, [alongside their providing some excellent exposes of abuse in Buddhism] in the FWBO, NKT and at Rigpa]

          It is therefore a really sad phase in her development, where instead of moving out of a deluded way of practice into panoramic awareness, she has fallen back into delusion at the deepest end.

          Many of we older students have had to cope with this difficult phase but have used it to deepen our practice and awareness. For some however, the pain is so great that they are blinded to the message life is screaming at them and instead interpret everything as an abusive conspiracy. I know, Ive been there, and it certainly brought out the rogue elephant in me for a long time. Now I keep myself to myself,staying away from the politics and just push beads

          “Politics and religious activities
          Are only for gentlemen.
          That’s not for you my dear boy.
          Remember the example of an old cow:
          Shes content to sleep in a barn.

          You have to eat, sleep and shit
          That’s unavoidable anything
          Beyond that is none of your business.
          Do what you have to do
          And keep yourself to yourself.”
          —–Patrul Rinpoche

          • ANONYMOUS says:


            I just went through these lists of characteristics and suddenly realised how many of them apply to Dialogue Ireland itself

            The group is elitist, claiming a special, status for itself, or its leader
            The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality
            The group’s leader is not accountable to any authorities, is dogmatic, on a special mission, and always right
            The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify means that members would have considered unethical before joining the group
            Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group.
            It Exploits Personal Crisis
            Skilled in ‘Crisis’ Creation
            All The Answers
            Divine Commission
            Motive Questioning- When sound evidence against the group is presented, members are taught to question the motivation of the presenter.
            Finger Pointing
            Creating a false sense of righteousness by pointing to the shortcomings of the outside world
            Pyramid structure
            Appear exclusive and innovative
            Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh
            Group think prevails
            Need to internalize the group’s doctrine as “Truth”
            Don’t want high overheads. Members in cult enterprises may be underpaid or unpaid,

            All of these can VERY easily be applied to DIalog Ireland- One wonders if they have ever stopped to look at how this has happened.Perhaps their leader has become so drunk on power he has lost sight of his original intent?
            Its a shame that a group like this, which clearly did a lot of good work in the past, has fallen so low

            • ANONYMOUS says:

              It is easy to understand why the people at DI see Tibetan Buddhism as a cult (though they use semantics to claim that their attacks are against ‘lamaism’) Firstly, in many cases of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, the nature of the groups IS totally cult like (I would go so far as to say, for instance, that Chris Chandlers ONLY experience of ”Buddhism’ is with such groups).

              Secondly DI s constantly on the look out for dubious groups and therefore sees everything through the filter of its own cult characteristic expectations and as soon as there is even a hint of being able to append such labels the naive, who are driven and determined to find what they seek, immediately cry ‘cult’ -as they say,’A cobbler sees only a mans shoes’.

              It is also VERY important to remember that many of the labels that we use to define cults can equally be applied to any of the major established world religious traditions and their sub divisions.

              Perhaps it might do the critics of Tibetan Buddhism at DI and elsewhere some good to stand back and examine their own and others traditions [and I include here, the anti cult movement] before casting aspersions towards others:who appointed Jesus for example, and who was he answerable to? Was not Jesus’ message a newly invented one, put forth by an elite group of followers? What about Mohammed or Guru Nanak-were these cult leaders too?
              As they say, ‘Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone’.

            • Anonymous, all you say is very true. I spent some time engaged in battle with Chris on DI and when I asked her to clarify how this huge Lamaist cult she was describing fit the criteria of a cult, she was all over the map with no answers and Mike simply told her not to answer the question, saying it was unnecessary, that it was clear this was a cult. However, as you say, DI’s thinking and Chris’s own thinking is very cultish, very us/them, very black and white, very restrictive in terms of her sources (millieu control). For example as soon as Kate and I disagreed with her, we called us cult followers and members of a pr machine, we were a “them” and she often confused us. And DI supported her all the way. However, the uncomfortable fact they are both living with is Chris’s mysterious refusal to mention GKG’s role in her Lamaist cult conspiracy– and DI’s removal of any comments I made which were critical of GKG or NKT. So much for DI’s commitment to free speech!

              At one point, Chris said that it was ok to consult with the Western Shugden Society for information on Tibet, even though they are a cult, just as it would be OK to consult with fundamentalist Christians for information on Islam. When I called this into question, I was shot down quite strongly by both DI and Chris.

              My feeling is that Chris herself is very troubled and conflicted– whereas Mike is on a clear, vendetta of hatred and willing to sacrifice his principals, such as freedom of speech, for this. One big DI rule is that religion is never to be part of the discussion. However, DI has decided that it is OK to analyze the Kalachakra tantra at length both in major posts and in comments. Another deep compromise to his principles and dangerous to be discussing a tantra like that.

              The whole situation is both sad and worrisome, I think, because DI is getting attention for this and it has quite a lot of energy.

              • And just to demonstrate how strongly DI is feeling about all of this, when I made a comment saying that Chris’s continued refusal to mention GKG makes it more and more likely that she is an NKT follower, Mike threatened me with defamation. Very heated.

                • Someone wrote me an email and sent this link:

                  I replied ‘neither do I read this nor do I reply to it. What ever you say it makes them more crazy. It just feeds their delusions. So better to be silent.’

                  I hope their mind can settle rather sooner than later. lets have compassion with them and focus on more positive things. It’s time to let go DI. It’s their life, don’t let it rule our lives.

                  • dharmaanarchist says:

                    Plus on DI it’s the ever same 4 people commenting. Plus their claims about the “evilness” of “lamaism” lack so visibly any foundation and is so obviously similar to your typical conspiracy theory that I doubt that any people seriously interested in real information will take it seriously anyway.

                  • Oh dear, I just read that horrible post. Very childish. Fortunately, only two short responses. Yes, Tenzin, you’re certainly right about giving DI a wide berth and no attention– they are sounding more like NKT all the time, aren’t they?

                    However, I was thinking more along the lines of starting a new post on this subject, on the subject of Lamaism. The trouble might be that for non discerning Buddhists, it could be easy to jump from allegations of sexual and other abuses by a few lamas to the possibility of a massive cult conspiracy led by all lamas. The pain of disillusionment caused by allegations such as those against Sogyal, coupled with the realization that Tibetan history is no better than any of our histories, makes people vulnerable to such theories possibly? So do you think it would be helpful to add a more balanced view? Just an idea…..

                    • I think DI is also a good example that if we focus too much and too long on wrong developments our mind might be carried away by our own fault finding attitude. I think if you are a police man who investigates only against cyber criminals, at the end you might distrust everybody and you might see every person as a potential wrong doer. The same might happen for terrorist hunters etc. You can see this also on the collective level within the USA who are totally carried away by their total surveillance attitude …

                      My teacher asked me to consider that focusing on negative things cannot help people and people is more helped by focusing on positive things; that there are too many negative things in the world and that people focus too much on them.

                      I think, I and we ourselves have to be careful in not becoming like those we criticize.

                      (Which doesn’t mean for me to explore things in a sane, factual based manner.)

                    • The pain of disillusionment caused by allegations such as those against Sogyal, coupled with the realization that Tibetan history is no better than any of our histories, makes people vulnerable to such theories possibly? So do you think it would be helpful to add a more balanced view? Just an idea…..

                      It is more complex, I think. The best is to address things in their complexity, and leave it open for others to check what has been said. In my opinion we might have said enough and there are not more posts regarding this needed. We might risk to circle in our own attachments and aversions without any inner progress.

                  • For me , it looks like DI destroys a sincere discussion about cult and abuse in tibetan buddhism. In the future, I wont take them serious anymore. Just for my own sake.

                    • Yes, Tenzin, that is wise advice from your teacher about focussing on the positive. Surely the best weapon against perverted views is non-perverted views, like Manjushri’s sword. Even in cult terms, it is helpful to demonstrate the positive, true aspects of the religion involved so that cult members can better judge for themselves.

                    • I hope the information on this blog is useful in letting go the cults, abuse etc and to have a rather smooth transition to genuine Buddhism or any other religion or secular tradition that helps to transform oneself, to be a kinder, more ethical and compassionate human being. To let go or to separate from something harmful – like Samsara (or cults) – one contemplates the faults of the object one wants to get rid of / to let go. However, after having understood the faults the contemplation should really lead to let go and to find a genuine way in a positive direction, an environment that gives proper teachings that really form the basis for transforming oneself. The key point is to move on, based on having understood one’s experiences and learned from it. (which might take time, some years …)

                      If former cult members are stuck in mourning and miss to move on, it would just be sad and the purpose of this blog would be missed. The blog is not been set up to bath in suffering, fault finding or negativity but to understand the complex background of something, to allow oneself based on understanding (the cults, meaning of Buddhist teachings, oneself, group dynamics etc) to let go the past and negative experiences and then to move on.

                      We might be in a danger to miss to move on.

                      Yesterday, btw, I saw the first 28 minutes of the documentary earthlings, a must watch according to Dzongzar Khyentse Rinpoche. I would like to recommend it to any suffering human being who is stable enough to watch it: seeing the suffering of those beings, puts one’s own suffering really into perspective, and gives space for gratitude for the freedom we still have, and which we should use right now.

          • dharmaanarchist says:

            Nah, for some people it’s just easier to bame someone else for one’s own mistakes instead of taking them as a lesson from life to learn form.

            In a world where you have the choice what you want to do, what religion you want to follow, whom you want to marry, what carreer you want, where you want to live, what drugs you want to try etc you have to be responsible for yourself.

            Hanging out with a weird cult is still one’s own responsibility. You can’t blame it on the cult if YOU YOURSELF hung around there for x years.

            Mistakes are a chance to learn. Yeah, you can be angry. Preferrably at yourself for being stupid enough to waste too much time on it. But if you get stuck moping about for the rest of your life, blaming others for your own previous erroneous views and the following suffering, that’s really a big big trap and a sure way to loonyland.

            If people buy cars they read everything they can get on an interesting model, they try it out, they compare it with other brands before buying. With tibetan buddhism and tibetan buddhist groups it seems people just jump into it without thinking because it’s so exotic and they expect some sort of salvation form the “enlightened” lamas, or, in case of a lot of women it seems because they project a daddy deficit on the lama.
            Needless to say that the chance that this is not going to work as expected and no liberation from anything is archieved is rather big. I mean, getting rid of a few neurotic expectations is the first step to liberation.

  114. dharmaanarchist says:

    I guess that the dialugue ireland website was put up by a fanatic on a crusade againt tantric buddhism and also just attracts people who for various reasons already have a personal agenda against tantric buddhism.

    It’s a bit like the awful slander and propaganda that some anti islam campaigers try to spread on the internet to discredit any and all muslims, clergy and believers and the ridiculous anti judaic propaganda that has been spread for centuries.

    It’s really a pity because it does such a disservice to all (potential) victims of cults and sexual abuse in religious groups

    Fortunately I am under the impression it’s not taken all that seriously because it seems it’s the ever same hand full of people posting their ever same rather paper thing hate spam against tantric buddhism.

    But since in emptiness everything can arise equelly I honestly don’t mind if someone feels he or she needs to rant that way to vent off their emotional problems. If it makes them feel better….

    By the way, not all “memories” of sexual abuse have to be neccessarily true or fully true. A “skilled” therapist can produce remarkable stuff in a client when applying the “right” suggestive techniques.

    • True not all claimed abuse is true. About 2 months ago I received the email from a woman who claimed sexual abuse by a Tibetan Lama and whom I met different times and listened to a lot. I never believed her due to different reasons but I tried to be open and to listen and to understand. Now, 8 years later she wrote this email, that it was not true what she said and that she was in a weak and distorted situation where she misinterpreted own experiences based on the influence of certain other women, June Campbell’s book and also benevolent and critically thinking persons (who encouraged her thinking) etc. And this cocktail created deeper distortions which misled her totally, and made her believe it were true what she believed. She was able now to settle these mental distortions and to let them go and she also has now a good relation to this Tibetan lama.

      With respect to DI, I don’t want to use this forum to discuss about DI too much (except if reasonable). Nor do I wish to slander any group or person or to give a place/space for such attacks. DI have to take care of themselves in what route they take.

      DI didn’t start with “a crusade against tantric buddhism” as far as I know. I don’t like that people are called fanatics either without proper reasoning. As the saying goes: if you don’t have arguments, slander your opponent. So please stick to reasoning, good arguments and a good motivation. As far as I understand it DI started with Scientology. The hostility and distorted view to Tibetan Buddhism is a new development. So it could be that they actual started with a good motivation but were carried away by a lack of discrimination, knowledge, misunderstandings, wrong information, hostility, black-and-white thinking, change of motivation, excessive fault finding etc.

      I wrote recently to a friend:

      The Anti Cultists come often from cults hence are used to black and white thinking. They have sadly not transformed their experiences or got rid of negative mental patterns.
      That’s why they are fighting the cults but are not different to cult followers which is actual very sad and tragic.

      To discuss with them needs a lot of time, expertise and source knowledge. It will be very time consuming and I would only do that if there is a real need for it like that such a movement becomes very strong.

      So in a way one gets carried away by distortions of the mind if one is following any anti-agenda, and this is what I feel sad for. Because in the beginning, and at the middle they might have had really good intentions. But later the negative mental events started to prevail.

      • That is so very true, Tenpel. Which is why I sometimes worry about this new word “cult” we have come up with– Buddha probably had a better idea when he came up with 84,000 different ways we can get into trouble!

        I do wonder if there isn’t a need for this discussion about DI, however (while, of course, managing to watch our own speech). If we can assist in presenting alternate views to the ones being put up on DI, then that could be useful could it not? And also, if DI is indeed moving towards cult-like activities itself, then that might be useful to expose perhaps? Also, in Chris’s speech, I noticed quite a lot of cultural hate speech which I found very concerning– such as calling HHDL’s family “hillbilly aristocrats” and calling mainstream Tibetans “ignorant peasants” etc. and saying, “They [all Tibetan lamas] will never change” etc. I firmly believe that such activities do need to be confronted. If there is any danger that DI is beginning to resemble a white supremacist site, then it is incumbent upon us to speak out about that.

        I speak today with particular feeling about all this, because we in the US have just passed the first anniversary of the shooting in the Sikkh mosque in Wisconsin.

        • ANONYMOUS says:

          My own feeling is that DI is not worth talking to because they have already decided on what is truth. Even logical evidence based statements, for example the well researched academic article by a well known and highly respected Tibetologist pointing to clear non involvement of the Nazis expedition, was rejected out of hand, in favor of a piece of totally misinformed sensationalist, propagandist journalism. Why? Because the latter supported DIs anti TB/DL agenda whereas the former did not.
          Mike Garde is ‘driven’ and has made a life out of aggressively taking on anything he declares to be a ‘cult’ He is not open to change and considers his opponents silence as an admission of guilt. What is the point in debating with someone whose opinions are written in stone and with whom you cannot win, either way?
          The last two pieces of TB criticism posted there attracted all of 6 comments, 3 of them from DI.I prefer to keep it that way-despite what Mr Garde might think, I dont think the whole world hangs on his every word and, amazingly, I find myself agreeing with the infamous bellaB who suggested to him that he “Continue this, and you will make all Tibetan Buddhists laugh at you in disbelief!” Quite right-the nonsense on DI is risible.

  115. And Tenzin, I would like to conclude by saying that I am very sad and sorry that you have been subjected to DI’s abuse. Even though it only reflects poorly on DI’s own character and not on yours, even though we all can see that fact clearly, it is still very unkind. It is is still not easy for you and I wish it had not happened. Shame on DI.

    • its perfectly fine for me. i feel sorry for Mike and Chris. i have not any problem with this.

    • I feel sure that the responsibility for all the harm that befalls Tenzin lies with karma, of which Mike and Chris are merely puppets. As the great Kadampas taught, if you don’t set up targets, you don’t get hit by arrows:)

      • dharmaanarchist says:

        I would say as long as we are living in a samsaric place there will always be enough crazy archers that eventually a few arrows will got stuck. It’s just the condiciton of this place, therefor better don’t take it too seriously or personal.

        It’s like when you visit a psychiatric ward. There will be people that behave strangely or hostile for their own personal reasons.

        It would probably be easier to remember if this planet had a big sign, also visible for all possible alien visitors “caution, madhouse” :-))

  116. That is certainly true, TDA, but I will still acknowledge cruelty and unkindness for what it is, still express my sadness for its occurrence. There’s a need for all the perspectives described here I believe. We don’t want to mope or dwell on DI’s actions– or ignore the role of karma either– but neither can we ignore DI’s actions completely or harden our hearts.

  117. I hope the truth about SR comes to light so that the Dharma can spread around the world without all these abuses(emotinal. physical & sexual), my heart goes to all the victims, it will take a long, long time for RIGPA to even acknowledge as SR has big influences on high levels and also he has alot of money, and most of his instructor’s and close circle women are all dependent on him financially, so Money is still doing the talking. Anyway Karma is around the bend. I was a student of SR for 15 yrs and also did the three yr retreat, so all these allegations are true.

    • Thank you Sherab.

      Sometimes I have still doubts if I did the right thing to discuss this here on the blog – although I really carefully checked it. Maybe my insecurity comes from going against mainstream Buddhist opinion and main stream lama opinion.

      Voices as yours reaffirm my former decision to do so.

      • Mainstream Buddhist opinion does not exist(it’s just a label on the thoughts of tens of thousands of individuals) and as for lamas opinions, they tend to have one set for public consumption and one for private, as well as one set for Injis and another set for Tibetans. Best let truth be your guide, rather than the transitory whims of the politically minded and the naive

        • TJ Versace says:

          Whether one there is “one set for public consumption and one for private” these are human beings we are talking about and the sooner people get this through their heads the better.I find it the elevation of the previous Trijang Rinpoche (who passed away in 1981) to be extremely odd. His image has become a superhero replete with powers and an exemplar of ‘papal infallibility’ among the cultists most of whom clearly did not know him in person and only heard about him since the spread of the Internet. Most of the modern day Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo rGyalpo cult’s ‘logical’ arguments hinge on Trijang’s legendary infallibility, if one does not accept this premise, the veracity of their arguments fall apart rather rapidly.
          Trijang Rinpoche never took the short trip from Switzerland to Manjusri in England…why? Perhaps he wasn’t invited by Kelsang Gyatso or was invited and declined. If Trijang is so central to their ‘pure lineage’ why then does NKT deliberately not recognise Trijang Chocktrul? With all due respect, the previous Trijang incarnation was in fact human, it is well known that the previous Trijang had sexual relations with a woman in Lhasa, who later lived in Ghoom, near Darjeeling. She is no longer alive. Hey, every one of our parents had sex, otherwise none of us would be here!
          Nevetheless, I expect this fact of life would fact rock the world of the cultists if it was widely known.

          • There is a strong tendency to Buddhaize the lamas as being utterly infallible in the most conservative branch of Gelug Buddhism. What you say “Most of the modern day Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo rGyalpo cult’s ‘logical’ arguments hinge on Trijang’s legendary infallibility, if one does not accept this premise, the veracity of their arguments fall apart rather rapidly.” seems to hit the nail on it’s head.

            Due to this “logic” many of the Shugden practitioners are so upset, sad or outraged about the Dalai Lama because HHDL didn’t accept Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche’s stance on Shugden. If Trijang Rinpoche is infallible how can the Dalai Lama not agree with him? Ergo, either Trijang Rinpoche must be wrong (which is impossible because of believing in his legendary infallibility) or the Dalai Lama must be wrong.

            The assumption that Trijang Rinpoche is infallible was expressed by themselves:

            Gonsar Rinpoche: “I have spent many years in exile and have a great reverence for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, but now he is abusing our freedom by banning Shugden. It makes me very sad … We are not doing anything wrong; we are just keeping on with this practice, which we have received through great masters. I respect His Holiness very much, hoping he may change his opinion … I cannot accept this ban on Shugden. If I accept this, then I accept that all of my masters, wise great masters, are wrong. If I accept that they are demon worshippers, then the teachings are wrong, everything we believe in is wrong. That is not possible.”

            Geshe Kelsang Gystso: “If the practice of Dorje Shugden is bad, then definitely we have to say that Trijang Rinpoche is bad, and that all Gelugpa lamas in the Dalai Lama’s own lineage would be bad.”

            The Dalai Lama has (as usually) a far more differentiated stance: “I am of the opinion that Phabongkha and Trijang Rinpoche’s promotion of the worship of Dholgyal was a mistake. But their worship represents merely a fraction of what they did in their lives. Their contributions in the areas of Stages of the Path, Mind Training and Tantra teachings were considerable. Their contribution in these areas was unquestionable and in no way invalidated by involvement with Dholgyal … My approach to this issue (i.e. differing on one point, whilst retaining respect for the person in question) is completely in line with how such great beings from the past have acted.”

            Many of the Shugden followers or followers of Pabongkha Rinpoche gave in a way up the need for critical investigation the student must cultivate and apply to the teachings of one’s teacher and that a student has to reject false tenets even from their own teachers (as for instance also Atisha did also with Serlingpa, whose Chittamatra tenets on the ultimate reality Atisha did not accept). So Shugden adherents’ belief in an unfailing Pabongkha Rinpoche and an unfailing Trijang Rinpoche collapsed with reality, when the Dalai Lama rejected Pabongkha Rinpoche’s and Trijang Rinpoche’s stance / tenet on Shugden. In a way from their pov HHDL is something like an heretic. I think they have taken the teaching of seeing the guru as a Buddha to an unhealthy extreme. Consequently, the Dorje Shugden Devotees Religious and Charitable Society in New Delhi wrote in November 1996 a ‘Letter to all Tibet Support Groups’ that expresses ‘a great ideal of anguish among a large number of Tibetans and the followers of several prominent Lamas who spread the Dharma to thousands of non-Tibetans around the world’, for the ‘prohibition’ of the Shugden practice ‘is forcing almost all of the Gelugpa Lamas who have spread the Dharma to the West to break their vow and commitments to either His Holiness or to their root Guru, who is also the root Guru of His Holiness, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche.’

            I think Michael von Brück expresses it well in the conclusion of his paper:

            That is to say, the present controversy clearly reveals the clash between the need to critically establish canonicity and obedience to the Lama.

            Shugden proponents overwrote the need of critical thinking and investigation by a claimed need of total and uncritically obedience to the guru, and Kelsang Gyatso has developed this uncritical obedience to further extremes – and naive Westerners have helped him with this. However, such extremes MUST clash with reality. Disappointment will be the result.

          • If Trijang is so central to their ‘pure lineage’ why then does NKT deliberately not recognise Trijang Chocktrul?

            Kelsang Gyatso tells to his followers that Trijang Rinpoche had told him that he won’t take rebirth. Tulkus are also forbidden in NKT. I think KG says this to keep his total power. No Trijang Rinpoche, no higher authority, so he can do as he pleases ;-)

            • TJ Versace says:

              I still do not understand: If your precious ‘father’ was across the channel, a short train trip or flight away, why would you not invite him? Maybe they weren’t that close after all.

              • I think KG just (ab)used his name for his own purposes. His real teacher was Geshe Lhundup Sopa, a fact Kelsang Gyatso never mentioned. By saying that Trijang Rinpoche is his root guru he could also indicate to others that he had an excellent source and lineage. Also Trijang Rinpoche passed away in 1981 (four years after the foundation of NKT) by referring to Trijang Rinpoche as somewhat his ‘main teacher’ (which he was not but Geshe Lhundup Sopa was his main teacher – who btw is still alive!) he could make sure that no living authority can interfere with what ever he claims. Now if Trijang Rinpoche is dead and if Trijang Rinpoche does not take rebirth, KG was able to establish himself as the final authority of NKT because there is none higher in the lineage (who is alive) than him. Why should he invite Trijang Chogtrul Rinpoche if he risks that Trijang Chogtrul Rinpoche might object him here or there or corrects him here or there? KG sees himself as the final authority who carries out the legacy of Tsongkhapa, Pabongkha and Trijang Rinpoche. Once you believe in having the very special duty to be the “pure upholder” of their legacy, every living higher authority is a serious threat to this self-importance view and your very important mission which makes yourself also very special and of utmost importance. Another factor is pride that cannot bear people who are either equal or higher (accept the higher authority beautifies the own ego or reputation).

                All in all, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso might have received an empowerment and a commentary on a Highest Yoga Deity from Trijang Rinpoche, however, as far as I understand it, he did not study under him as HH the Dalai Lama or HE Dagyab Rinpoche did … Kelsang Gyatso was just a common monk as there are thousands. I think it is as you say: “Maybe they weren’t that close after all.” I think, Kelsang Gyatso is rather a myth builder, who claims a lot that has not much basis in reality, e.g. 1) retreat while he was in the hospital or 2) that his students have highest realizations (as other lamas had pointed out to him, as he says) or 3) NKT ordination lineage coming from Geshe Potowa or the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras or 4) the Dalai Lama as an evil and cruel dictator … while his NKT (and therefore he himself) are so “pure” …

                • TJ Versace says:

                  I sometimes wonder were he alive today, what the junior tutor Trijang Rinpoche would make of the defamation campaign since 1990 against his student the 14th Dalai Lama. A skilled grammarian, he wrote the Tibetan national anthem and was absolutely a patriot and staunch supporter of Ganden Phodrang. He would not betray his relationships and certainly not go running to the Chinese Communists for filthy lucre like the cultists. It is possible he might even abandon the minor practice that is causing trouble, so as not ‘throw out the baby with the bathwater’, as they say.
                  I find it both distasteful and inappropriate that Asian and European youngsters with false or stolen identities dictate to us what Khyabje Rinpoche’s reaction to the current toxic atmosphere on the fringes might be. His Holiness the Dalai Lama still considers Trijang Rinpoche one of his important early teachers and has a profound respect for him, same as Ling Rinpoche, Taktra Rinpoche and the Reting Regent. I believe Trijang Rinpoche would not support the online campaign that uses his name for prestige–in fact it is the cultists who disrespect him with their rude and ignorant babbling and in the process make a mockery of the dharma.

                  • I think you are very right here.

                    One can infer how he might have responded by checking what Trijang Chogtrul Rinpoche did: he left Shugden followers after they planned to murder his assistant Tharchin in order to put the blame for the murder on the Dalai Lama and the TGIE. Bultrini, quoting TCR:

                    ” … With my own ears I heard this person discussing on the telephone a plan to assassinate Tharchin. It is really a matter of great sadness and surprise, especially since the person involved in this ploy has been very close to me as well. If he succeeds in his plan, it would be a cause of great trouble for the Labrang, as well as a cause of disgrace to the Tibetan government and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. These are not lies, but true facts which I want everyone to know. That is why I made this statement.”

                    Trijang concluded his message urging the followers of the Protector to stop seeking him. “I do not wish to be in touch with you,” he said.

                    Imagine, the Shugden followers’ icon the incarnation of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche asking them to stop seeking him, saying “I do not wish to be in touch with you”. But it falls all on mute ears.

                • Thats actually not concerning SRs RigpaFellowsheep. Eventually NKT and Company are mixed with it.
                  But nevertheless: I found some of there Homepage similar to Rigpas, in term of use of language.

                  • Thank you, true.

                    I just replied where the comment appeared while recognizing that we are here on the SR thread.
                    Let’s continue (if needed) this discussion in one of the NKT threads.

                    • TJ Versace says:

                      My fault! It relates to the present topic inasmuch as I made the statement that “it is well known that the previous Trijang had sexual relations with a woman in Lhasa”

    • I just looked into the new Buddhismus aktuell, the Buddhist magazine of the German Buddhist Union (DBU), there Sogyal Rinpoche is explicitly mentioned two times on page 92 in the context of sexual abuse by Peter Gäng and Dr. Adelheid Hermann Pfand (both academics and Buddhists). Sogyal Rinpoche had been mentioned also in such context in Tibet und Buddhismus in an earlier issue (102), 3/2012.

      So there seems to be a gradual change and a slowly growing awareness within the German Buddhist community where more and people speak about it.

      • @Sherab: I understand what you mean, but for someone of the “Non-Rigpa-World” it might appear just as allegations without backing, just “you” talking someone down.
        @ Tenpel: I really went through most of your textual contributions here, and for me, your motivation is very pure and your action very considerated. You give just space to a process, which is very much needed: to start looking deeper into what is Dharma and what is not, in terms of us non-enlighted beings. Please, dont give up.

        Fruits will come, and beings will gain from what happens here, and@ Rigpa_fellowship: Gold will survive, dust just is blown away.

        Sorry, I had a hard day, so my writing is eventually not clear.

    • Dear Sherab

      I met today with a few friends, most are Ex-Rigpas.

      Usually we dont talk much about Rigpa, since its just the past.

      But it happened that 2 have read your post here as well, I didnt know the read this blog here.

      So we talked about your post. One mentioned, that there was the german nun Sherab, I think she gave back the robe. So it might be just the same name you are using here, as there are many “Sherab” worldwide.

      Others one might think the name was choosen with care, give your post more solid foundation.
      Or its just nothing of it all.

      If you could kindly clarify what allegations you say are true would be of great help to us, and prevent much possible misunderstanding.

      Thanks for your contribution here


  118. Maha Mani says:

    The Prophecy of Guru Rinpoche (in the Dharma Ending Era – “When Iron Birds flies”):

    Thanks to the power of all Buddha of the past, present and future, in the Dharma Ending Era, human beings may enjoy a short period of time of gay and pleasure. However, those so-called gurus and tulkus have intensive greed for wealth and fame. They travel all over the world to cheat on their followers, sweet talk them into giving offerings, and tightly hold onto these offerings. Instead of using all these donations by making offerings to Buddha and giving to the poor, they make these offerings their own private properties.

    Monks and nuns are more interested in chanting in rituals of repentance (for offerings – They should spend most time on reading, reflecting and meditating in solitaire for attaining Buddhahood). Many indulge in music, dance and entertainment (which are forbidden by precepts). They covet other people’s precious possessions, accumulate wealth (monks and nuns must not own wealth) and refuse to provide financial assistance to those (public) in need.

    Many ordained monks take off monk’s robes to sneak into places forbidden by Buddha. Many nuns break root precept(s) without feeling ashamed. They pretend to conform to the Buddha’s teaching and can teach Dharma proficiently. However they do not do real good deeds but rather make themselves look and smell more attractive.

    Translated by Khenpo Tzai-do (from Tibetan to Chinese)
    from Serthar Buddhist Institute in Si-Chuan, China
    The largest Buddhist Institute in the world,
    established by Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok – teacher of Dalai Lama

    Source: (Chinese translation by Khenpo Tzai-do)

    • Sorry, the source seems to be in chinese letters. Do you have a source for this in a western language?



      • Good that you question/investigate the source.
        However, there are quotes from the Sutras which says similar things (I can say you exactly where you can find this if you are interested). In these the Buddha says that there will be a time where the monks speak about ethical discipline without having it, they will praise the benefit of concentration without having it and this is similar to praising sandelwood incense in all details without having it. There are also statements that the declining of the dharma is gradually first people having realization, later only they still understand but it is hard to get realizations, and even later they do not really understand any more but wear the signs of practice (e.g. robes) without understanding the meanings.

        • I am especially interested about the source, since the Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok might be late Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche, another incarnation of Lerap Lingpa, the Tertön, and Dzogchen teacher of. H.H Dalai lama 13. The “parallel” Incarnation of Lerab Lingpa is Sogyal Rinpoche, by the way.

          • Maha Mani says:

            Yes, Adamo, you’re right, the Institute was established by the late Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche who just passed away in2004. I could not find any English translation of that Prophecy on line. Been thinking of checking it with people in Serthar Buddhist Institute. Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche has passed highest Dzogchen teaching to more than a hundred of his best disciples. Many of his Khenpo disciples are real Buddhist practitioner that I can trust with my life – I can tell that from the thousands of articles they wrote. Any of them is good enough to be a root guru of mine (a root guru usually means the one that help you realize Emptiness, for you to reach Boddhisattva Level One). I wonder if I can find any lama or rinpoche reached that level in western countries, because, you see, when you reach Level One Boddhisattva, you are no longer interested in food, drink, sleep, lust, money, fame, praise, etc., and you will never lose that sense of detachment. If a lama or tulku who come to the West is lured by sex, alcohol, entertainment or luxury lifestyle, and claim himself demonstrating “crazy wisdom”, trust me, he lied.

  119. Sam Hoff says:

    Its is perfectly acceptable for a non-monk lama to engage in consensual sex with his students, especially when it is encouraged in the tantras.

    It is Gelug propaganda that one has to be at a high spiritual level before engaging in sexual yoga. It is propaganda to keep monks as monks.

    In academia, college students sleep with their professors all the time.

    Please focus on Shugden sir, instead of noncontroversies such as Sogyal Rinpoche.

    • The tantras explain sexual activity as a part of practice only if both are qualified tantric adepts and have realisations. For the tantras the basis is ethical conduct, just as Khandro Rinpoche explained:

      “Study the Vinaya!” Though the Vinaya is traditionally the codex for the ordained, Khandro Rinpoche insists that it is crucial study material for lay people as well. “It provides a very strict and clear code of conduct, what is allowed and not allowed. If you study it, you can identify when someone manipulates and misuses the teachings, and then students can ask questions. There is a lot of goodness in questioning. If it does not make sense, question it! When we find careless ethical conduct, we need to ask, why is this happening?”

      Breaking monastic vows obviously constitutes a serious offense for ordained teachers, but how can we define sexual misconduct for teachers who have not taken vows?

      “Every teacher has at least taken the lay vows and the bodhisattva vows.” Khandro Rinpoche retorts. “Apart from the obvious misconduct of using force, taking advantage of your own position and the naivete of a student is abuse and very painful to see. Abuse is when there is pretense, conceit, or lying. Pretending someone has more realization than they actually have and thus misleading the student is very, very harmful. There is no shortcut to enlightenment,” she states, “and anyone who offers one should be treated with suspicion.”

      Women who were involved in sexual activities said or wrote that not even SR claimed these would have been ‘tantric activities’. So the discussion boils down to: where it tantric rituals and were both adepts qualified – not loosing semen, the female partner properly qualified and instructed for instance ;-) – or mere sexual activities. The latter is what the women said with whom I was in contact.

      So don’t blur this topic by turning it into different school views. You seem to be quite uninformed even about mundane matters.

      In academia, college students sleep with their professors all the time.

      To my knowledge in the USA this leads to the expulsion of the professor.

      Please focus on Shugden sir, instead of noncontroversies such as Sogyal Rinpoche.

      I focus on what seems to be necessary to protect or to give a better basis of information for those who seek this.

    • dharmaanarchist says:

      That’s complete nonsense. Vajrayana students of sufficient qualification (whether they are called “lamas” or not doesn’t matter) are encouraged to take a consort for union practice. They are absolutely nowhere encouraged to sleep around with random women of the lay sangha.

      • Sam’s mission is to blur the facts and to make them fuzzy. This is also one of the common approaches and defence strategies of cults and their defenders. If all is the same and if there are no differences then there is no basis of criticism. If there is no there is no basis of criticism the critic is wrong, if the critic is wrong what he says has no substance and no basis hence it can be ignored.

        This is what Sam wants to establish here by all means …

        Another approach would be: the lama only sleeps with them out of great compassion and love. It is only for their benefit. He has a pure motivation. You cannot know his motivation, hence, we cannot criticize this. This and the other fallacious logic all ignore that women have reported to have been harmed, and that the basic Buddhist ethical conduct includes not to engage in adultery and by no means to harm others or if one harms others one should apologize, correct oneself and avoid such actions in the future.

  120. Sam Hoff says:

    There is no difference for the requirements for casual sex vs sexual yogas.

    Either way a Vajrayana practitioner cannot have sex with someone who has not received the proper tantric empowerments.

    Other than the correct empowerments, there is no requirement to be at some sort of high realization. This is just Gelug propaganda to keep monks as monks.

    Most lamas get married and have children at a young age. Most lamas are not monks.

    The above are the views of Sakya loppons etc., who have explained this to me.

    I went to college and graduate school in America. You clearly have no idea what you are talking about on that subject.

    • as i said, when i remember correctly, sex between professor and students is not allowed in the US but it could be wrong or no general law. I only read an article a while ago which had this as an issue. it seems that consensual sexual activities are allowed. however, sex between therapist and client, priest and community member etc are usually not allowed and create a lot of problems. For the reasons and hows see Ruther Sex in the forbidden zone.

      in the kalachakra tantra you even have a vow not to loose semen in order to be able to staple the drops in the central channel. you use your comments and what you write to justify SR’s behaviour as tantric, though not even he himself claims this.

      Since it is not tantric, there is no need to go into arguments about qualifications. Hence what he does is an ordinary activity. Since it is an ordinary activity, ethical conduct is the measurement to judge actions, and this is what is been done here, although you seem not to like it, which is very ok.

      • Sam Hoff says:

        That means the huge masses of lay men who attend the Kalachakra empowerments by the Dalai Lama cannot ejaculate.

        According to your logic, anyone who has received HYT (including Kalachakra), Mahayoga and Anuyoga empowerments cannot ejaculate.

        That means Dudjom Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse, Sakya Trizin etc. had children without ejaculating.

        What nonsense.

        I don’t need to justify SR, because you don’t make any sense from any perspective, western, Tibetan or Vajrayana.

        You are knowledgeable about Shugden, but in this area you need to study more.

        • I am sorry for calling you “quite uninformed even about mundane matters” my example was also wrong.

          That means the huge masses of lay men who attend the Kalachakra empowerments by the Dalai Lama cannot ejaculate.

          It means for a yogi, who is qualified to engage in tantric practices of unification, he has this pledge.

          According to your logic, anyone who has received HYT (including Kalachakra), Mahayoga and Anuyoga empowerments cannot ejaculate.

          No, as you might remember, I argued about the qualification of a tantric practitioner. You tried to counter this by saying that no qualification would be needed. Then I said if this is so why there is such a vow in the Kalachakra tantra?

          That means Dudjom Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse, Sakya Trizin etc. had children without ejaculating.

          I assume when they were engaged they didn’t claim it to be a tantric practice in which you don’t loose semen and bring the winds into certain points in the central channel.

          I don’t need to justify SR, because you don’t make any sense from any perspective, western, Tibetan or Vajrayana.

          It seems to me that maybe you are still somewhat uninformed. 1) In Western culture it is in many countries a punishable crime if a therapist abuses his power to have sex with his or her client. 2) There is enough literature and evidence about the damage such sexual relationships based on the power differential usually create for the student (I mentioned already Rutter, a book I’ve really carefully studied) 3) SR has harmed women as the women say themselves and as even Rigpa acknowledges 4) to have sex with the wife of one’s student is sexual misconduct in Buddhism and ethically wrong 5) such wrong doings should be addressed and if the teacher doesn’t change, and if there is evidence, they should be made public no matter how beneficial the activity of the Lama is or might be.

          If SR is a Bodhisattva his main concern should be the welfare of others, because he damaged others, he should excuse to allow healing and harmony. If he is a genuine Bodhisattva and he sees the harm he has done to some women, then there is not the slightest problem to excuse and to change the behavior.

          You are knowledgeable about Shugden, but in this area you need to study more.

          I think I have done my work with SR as I have done it with Shugden ;-)

          • Sam Hoff says:

            So do you admit that Dudjom Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse, Sakya Trizin, and all the other minor lamas ejaculate to have their children?

            • is there any other way to produce children?

              • Sam Hoff says:

                Answer the question

                • dharmaanarchist says:

                  Hey, those lamas were married. They can engage in whatever sort of sexual activity they want. And if they chose to ejaculate and have kids or not is none of your or our business.

                  Plus, tantric union practices are just that, PRACTICE. As with every practice, once you attained a stable realisation of the practice you don’t necessarily have to do it anymore.

                  Those teachers you mention do heavily lean on dzogchen practice and here the rules for sexual acitivites are different.

                  • Sam Hoff says:

                    Sogyal Rinpoche is also a Dzogchenpa.

                  • Sam Hoff says:

                    Not that Dzogchen has to do with anything.

                  • @dharmaanarchist: Please, what are the rules for the Lama who teaches Dzogchen as SR.

                    • dharmaanarchist says:

                      In dzogchen there is no union yoga practice with channels and energies. You rest in the state of meditation and then while in that state you can do whatever activity you want to do or have to do. At least that’s what I have heard.

                    • Sam Hoff says:

                      Sogyal Rinpoche is a Dzogchenpa.

                      But ALL lay lamas and practitioners ejaculate, whether they follow Lamdre, Mahamudra or Dzogchen.

                    • Sam Hoff says:

                      In Dzogchen’s Khandro Nyingthig sexual yogas, one is completely free to ejaculate just like in the original Indian root tantras,. Semen is called “cows saliva”. Completely neutral.

    • Hi Sam,and all the other readers here.

      From my point of view: I see the sexual behaviour of SR so far as a ” problem”, since he abuses the power he he has about his disciples.

      Look, I care for elderly people. The depend on me. They trust me, after a certain time. I could easily abuse the trust to make money or something else. I dont do it, because…. why?

      I know a person (male) well, who cares for young people age between 12 an 18 years. Especially some young women show after a certain time of common activities “certain” interest in him.
      He could take advantage of this, sexual and otherwise. He just would never do it. The girls even provoke him, sometimes he needs help from his wife to tell them something.

      So, within SRs western lay sangha, young “promising” women had been “lead” the ride way to please the Lama, without being mature enough to oversee the possible consequences.

      And the fact, that they dont overlook theis situation, it was made use of them.

      And the western lay community had been manipulated permanently, not to take notice of it, or to “see it the right way”.

      So, if a human being doesnt have control oh his/her libido, its nothing unusual.

      But, if its sold as “wise and compassionate enlightened action” one might consider both persons involved in the intercourse story as not exactly responsible, so to say.
      Not to think of the whole story as “enlightened”

      Once jumped into learning and applying the holy Dharma to ones life is very good, and mistakes and mishaps will happen always, but to make it into something different, a “Buddhas activity” looks quite odd to me.

      And there or much more stories to tell, but I think they point I want to make is clear?

      I feel that as soon sectarian behaviour in buddhist communities occurs, there is mostly two main players on the stage:

      The crowd, existing of different peoples with a hang for all kind of sectarian tendencies, and a Lama, handling it as wise as possible, or a Lama fallen prey for seeking his own advantage.

      Looks simple, put simple, but for those victims it wont feel so easy.

      Anyway, I think its a honest undertaking to defend SR, as some here a trying to d here from time to time.

      So, the long and short of it, we all are very honest with our motivations here, and goodbye for today.

    • Sam, speaking as someone who has been involved in tantric buddhism longer than you’ve been alive, and then some, I would advise you that statements that others have no idea what they are talking about usually emanate from the mouths of those filled with hubris and who have no idea what they are talking about ps, it’s usually transliterated as Khenpo -but I guess you knew that

      • Ps you say non ordained lamas are encouraged in the tantras to have sex with student- in which text, where? Sounds like self serving nonsense dreamt up to justify inappropriate behaviour

  121. Sam, you don’t have to go far in psychological literature to find out that sexual relations between a spiritual teacher and his/her student is damaging to the student in most cases. The power differential is simply too large. In addition, the spiritual teacher is in a position of fiduciary care and sexual relations damages that relationship.

    Further, in this case, we are not talking about one or two sexual relationships– we are discussing claims of alleged promiscuity. This makes the situation one even more likely to cause harm.

    And Tenzin is right– this is not Buddhism. This is not tantra. You’re out in left field with that theory.

    • Contrary to what Tenzin claims, there is no differentiation between casual sex, sexual yoga, ejaculatory sex or nonejaculatory sex.

      For Vajrayana pracitioners, even casual ejaculatory sex requires empowerments for both people.

      • if there is no difference between ordinary sex and tantric practice of union in order to bring the winds into certain points at the central channel and if there is no difference between loosing and not loosing semen, why do tantric texts explain all of this and are meant to be secret and not been shown or revealed to the uninitiated, unqualified student? why do the tantras explain the qualifications of master and student at all?

        • Sam Hoff says:

          You don’t understand what I’m saying.

          If Dudjom Rinpoche wanted to have sex (of ANY type) with a Christian, he wouldn’t be able to do it.

          You can only have sex with properly qualified Vajrayana practitioners.

          That means that many the western practitioners who are married to nonpractitioners are actually breaking samaya.

          • john6747 says:

            The question of sexual contact with a non-qualified practitioner arose and I asked Samden of NKT fame for an opinion. His reply was to imagine that I was engaging with, say, Vajrayogini.
            That may be fine, but if word got out, that I was not thinking of my spouse at the time, there would be hell to pay.

            • Sam Hoff says:

              Having sex of ANY type with a nonqualified person would be breaking samaya.

              • dharmaanarchist says:

                Nope, trying to do union practice with an unqualified person (which probably wouldn’t really work as a practice anyway ) would be breaking the samaya.

                Having normal sex with anyone, regardless the person’s religion wouldn’t break any kind of spiritual commitment if the lama is not a monk (or nun). Because vajrayana commitments are not about celibacy and therefor you are officially allowed to have “normal” sex. You know, that’s the point about being a lay practitioner.

      • Jeez Sam, where do you get this stuff-youre way off. The tantra were talking about is Buddhist, not as practiced by Sting
        “there is no differentiation between casual sex, sexual yoga, ejaculatory sex or nonejaculatory sex”.is just utter nonsense and you only show extreme ignorance by making such risible suggestions. If you are going to say this stuff, at least be prepared to back it up with a valid scriptural reference.Otherwise you just look like a hot headed fool-im sure youre a lovely person but you clearly know NOTHING about the stuff youre blurting out these opinions on

        • Sam Hoff says:

          Says the guy who claims that Dudjom Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse, Sakya Trizin and the thousands of lay lamas break samaya by ejaculating and having children.

          • Sam, I think you had your say. If you want to troll do it at other places.

            • Yeah Sam, if youre looking for an argument, go to a bar. Bear in mind that if anyone was really qualified to discuss these points, let alone practice them, they wouldnt be posting here. Blabbering on about the subtleties of the completion stage practices like this is exactly what DKR was condemning when he gave his students guidelines for posting on social media. If youre such a great expert who doesnt need such advice, youre far better than anyone else here and dont need to waste your precious time. If youre not, then maybe you should stop breaking your samaya/ root tantric vows by blabbering on about tantra on public forums. Claiming knowledge of the tantra while behaving like an oaf only makes you look like another loud mouthed inji know all without any genuine experience

  122. Sam Hoff says:

    Its illogical and incorrect to claim that lay people who received HYT, Mahayoga and Anuyoga empowerments cannot have sex and ejaculate.

    Its as simple as that.

  123. Sam Hoff says:

    I think I pretty much exposed the nonsensical and fallacious arguments here against Sogyal Rinpoche.

    Ironically, it reminded me of Shugden nonsense :)

  124. @dharmaanarchist: so no rules for Dzogchen-Lamas, as long as they rest in their state. Do you think SR was in that state, when taking care of this young woman to come into his bedroom?

    • dharmaanarchist says:

      Where did i say no rules? Of course a dzogchen practitioner who is not yet fully enlightened (that the person is not enlightened is implied if he or she still has to do practice) is of course still bound to the conventional hinayana and mahayana rules of conduct.

      Now I have no clue in what state of mind SR has sex with women because I have not been there and I am not omniscient or clairvoiant, but if someone comes to harm in the process then it’s very likely that it’s a state of ignorance of some kind.

  125. We all knew the Tsongkhapa cult is weird, but Tenpel and “noname” are even weirder.

    Tenpel and “noname”, please explain why having children breaks samaya.

    That would mean most lamas and practitioners break samaya.

    The irony is that “noname” posted a PDF by Dudjom Rinpoche’s grandson.

    • nobody said that having children breaks samaya.

      what i stress is basic Buddhist ethical conduct which is the root for the tantras too, and in that context adultery is breaking this conduct. the second point is if lamas have ordinary sex with their students this is on the one hand free choice if there is mutual consent on the other hand it is highly controversial due to the danger of power abuse and the power differential between teacher and student. however, your examples point to producing children of married lamas. no adultery is involved in that context. the third point is that women have reported to have been harmed by SR and not even Rigpa denies this. Harming others violates basic Buddhist principle. As the Buddha said to Angulimala: “I abstain from violence toward all living beings, but you have no restrain toward things that live; that is why I said I have stopped but you have not.” For a true Bodhisattva it is unbearable to harm others …

      Actual its not too much of a big deal (at least I don’t want to make it bigger or exaggerated). Many just ask SR to excuse and to stop harming women and to change his behavior. That’s perfectly fine in my eyes. Also to be silent about this matter and to give space for its continuation I consider to be wrong (and I am not the only one who sees it that way), that’s why I wrote this post. Even from his own students SR was asked to stop his behavior. So just accept that there are concerned people.

    • Never said those things-straw man argument-it was the Hoff who said that I said those things
      Unlike him, i have no wish to discuss the completion stage on a public blog
      that being said, Whether or not SR is qualified, the ubiquitous complaints from female victims indicate they werent
      =power imbalance
      =abuse-even if he does have pure view
      remember, view like the sky, actions like grains of sand
      vehement defence of charismatic gurus=personality cult
      twisting the words of others to fit ones defensive arguments=devious manipulation
      bandying around of tantric secrets on the web=unqualified to discuss such things-in public or in private

  126. Steppenwolf says:


    There is something shallow, disturbing and depressing in the way you use teachings of Lord Buddha or His Holliness Dalai Lama to support your opinions.

    You should not give yourself permission to give public talks like you did here where you quote Buddhist teachings without due respect. Did your root teacher allowed your blog? This blog? The harm you are doing here is immense.

    You are absolutely free to express your opinions, whatever they are, but DO NOT mix in that Buddhist teachings: you have too little understanding of the teachings and apparently no respect for them. Do not use holly pictures or pictures of people, for that you also have too little respect.

    PLEASE SHOW SOME BASIC RESPECT and remove all the quotes of Buddhist teachings and Buddhist stories – they are not yours and their deep purpose is to teach and inspire and NOT to support your opinions in your angry quest. The fact you are doing so is disgraceful, shameless and ignorant.

    If you want to be disrespectful to Buddhist teachings, then you should not be a Buddhist monk – after that you can write anything you want wherever you want. The responsibility will be yours, but you will not give a false impression that you are a Buddhist.


    • Are you aware of what you are doing here?

      • Steppenwolf says:

        Making you aware of your responsibilities.

        • Khedrup says:

          What makes you an authority on whether or not someone is qualified to include Buddhist quotes or teachings in their writings? Did your teacher bestow you with such authority?

          • Steppenwolf says:

            This page uses teachings as means of fight with opponents. For 20 years it is the first such encounter for me. Congratulations, for you it is your daily fight, for me it is completely new and unexpected.

            Khedrup et al., use any quotes Buddhist or not, as much as or as little as you want, I am not limiting your freedom – I have no authority to limit you in any way.

            Maybe you will even have a proper quote for me to make me understand how minor, unimportant, unskilled, untrained and inappropriate, and even “dangerous” in “terms of Dharma” I am? And how superior, compassionate, loving, caring, knowledgeable and pure are you? That is the point of every fight, to prove that you are right and I am wrong, is it not? Let it be so if it pleases you.

  127. john6747 says:

    Tenzin Peljor, the ‘fake’ Buddhist.

    • Thank you. You put it neatly. I accept to be a fake Buddhist. Since I am a fake Buddhist, I cannot put into practice what Steppenwolf is recommending me to do.

  128. john6747 says:

    Courtesy of Wikipedia….Steppenwolf.

    ‘As the story begins, the hero is beset by reflections on his being ill-suited for the world of everyday, regular people, specifically for frivolous bourgeois society. In his aimless wanderings about the city he encounters a person carrying an advertisement for a magic theatre who gives him a small book, Treatise on the Steppenwolf. This treatise, cited in full in the novel’s text as Harry reads it, addresses Harry by name and strikes him as describing himself uncannily. It is a discourse on a man who believes himself to be of two natures: one high, the spiritual nature of man; the other is low and animalistic, a “wolf of the steppes”. This man is entangled in an irresolvable struggle, never content with either nature because he cannot see beyond this self-made concept. The pamphlet gives an explanation of the multifaceted and indefinable nature of every man’s soul, but Harry is either unable or unwilling to recognize this’.

  129. So many guardians to protect their own projections, claiming to keep the Dharma pure.

    Please, keep in mind to check your motivation, why you are writing here, very thouroughly.

    I could quote Tibets great saint, Milarepa……….


  130. Steppenwolf, are you just trying to raise the temperature? Just bored? In terms of dharma, your words are very dangerous, very afflictive and ignorant– harmful to yourself. I recommend that you take HH Dalai Lama’s advice and study study study. Then reconsider your ability to judge another Buddhist in this way. Your words feel fundamentalist to me.

  131. Does anyone remember the “five precepts” ? No killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct…? You are supposed to take all these five vows at the time you take refugee of the Three Jewels, which is the moment you are offically recognized as a Buddhist.

    Only after that, you start to practice renunciation (no interest in any money, fame, sex, longivety…). Most people who think they are Buddhists have not even achieved this.

    Once you are renunciated, you start to work on arising Bodhicitta (other people’s interest is more important than mine) , and vow to give all you future lives to benefit all sentient beings (and sacrifice yourself).

    Only when you have done all these, can you move on to Emptiness (you no longer care about losing all your money, or your reputation, you no longer want anyone’s praise, recognize). After that, you may start to learn a bit about Vajrayana teaching. Tantra is a very risky practice on an advanced level and most Tibetan masters had never learned (because they chose not to).

    No sexual misconduct means you are not supposted to have sex with anyone that is not your legal spouse!!! That applies to all Buddhists! Lay or ordained.

    A qualified Vajra teacher has absolutely NO interest in sex at all. He certainly wants to keep a distance with his female students to avoid any troubles! If he is still interested in just thinking of it, he is NOT qualified yet!

    Please read. All these basic knowledge are in Dharma books in all languages in all countries, not just Tibetan Buddhism.

    • The lay precepts can be taken individually. Taking refuge and taking lay vows are two different ceremonies they do not have to go together.

      However using the own students for own gratification is not a big realization. As far as I know, Dudjom Rinpoche distanced himself from SR.

      • dharmaanarchist says:

        The only thing I have heard here is that there was a squabble between SR and one of his sons concerning some dharma texts that both claimed ownership to and that he is rather not so fond of him for this reason.

        But that’s just rumours that I picked up. You might want to verify what really went on between SR and Dudjom Rinpoche with Shenpen Dawa Rinpoche’s (his son’s) group. They might be able to give definitive info here.

        Because the only place where I found the “Dudjom R. distanced himself from SR claim is on the dialogue ireland site, and on the same page it claims fraud and self proclaimed tertön “Ngakpa” Chogyam as a valid source for information and that SR is “barely literate” which is complete nonsense (he has very poor eye sight and can hardly read without his glasses and has otherwise no problems reading at all).

        I’m in general not sure about the sincere motivation of this Mary Finnegan person. Sounds suspicioulsy like she is not only interested in informing the public about a potential danger for young women, but is for some personal reason on an outright smear campaign and vendetta, additionally making stuff up to make SR look as horrible and incompetent as possible. I think here we have to be careful to discern fact from fiction.

        • Its really a problem, when people critizice with wrong motivation, but with an obviously right case.
          So a smear campaign might look good, but is not really , except it stirs some things of that otherwise are kept under the carpet.

          But its readers job to learn to discriminate, for many reasons, otherwise any path lead to nothing else than walking the same steps again and again…..
          So I consider it my job to be critical, but in a fair and considering way, and to be honest with myself about my motivation.
          I am still pissed of, how extremely we all had been manipulated within Rigpa, but I keep a good part of responsibility to myself.
          So for the future, Rigpa might serve as a very good example, what traps could be avoided.

          • dharmaanarchist says:

            But in terms of the dharma teachings Rigpa is not as rotten an apple as for example NKT is. If you go there and attend some courses or seminars, the teachings that are given are valid. No problem here, you can take them and build on that basic dharma information when you go to another group.

            It’s getting problematic if you take SR as your root guru and then detect this mess and decide you can no longer live with that (which I have never done, SR was never my root guru, I am more inclined to the Khyentse lineage)

        • I’m in general not sure about the sincere motivation of this Mary Finnegan person.

          It is always hard to understand the motivation of others. But as far as I got it from her writings, it appears to me that Mary Finnigan’s motivation is based on a type of shock that she helped to settle Sogyal Rinpoche in the West initially, contributing thereby indirectly to the harm others had or are still experiencing. To correct the past and the wish to inform the public or to prevent further harm can go along with good motivations, bad motivations and a mixture of both. It depends how one works with it and with the Dharma.

          The NKT try to invalidate all criticism by attributing a bad motivation to their critics. They do this also by calling their ex members (the strongest critics of NKT) angry or disgruntled. By this they want to tell: if they have a bad motivation, and are angry, disgruntled etc. they cannot be taken seriously. But this argument is misleading. If you tell based on an angry mind or a motivation of revenge that you have been abused, this does not deny the fact of being abused. So the motivation is negative but the fact is correct. However, for all sides it would be better to combine a good motivation (at least trying it) with the facts, then your message and the results will be more positive in the long run and also stronger.

    • dharmaanarchist says:

      Sorry, to break this to you, but there are quite a few qualified Nyingma (and also Kagyu and Sakya) lamas that are married and have children.

      Hard to do without sex, isn’t it…. ;-)

  132. I was at a Rigpa Easter retreat, in Haileybury College in the UK, when Sogyal Rinpoche was dealing with two of his students egos/humiliating them (you have to decide which one it is). I don’t know what they had done to displease him, but he asked them both to recite from memory these two verses (one for each student).

    Both verses are from Sogyal Rinpoche’s translation of the Longchen Nyingtik Ngondro, which is the preliminary Vajrayana practice all serious Rigpa students are supposed to complete.

    “Through true renunciation and disgust for samsara,
    May I rely upon my vajra lama meaningfully, as though he were my very eyes,
    Following his instructions to the letter, and taking to heart the profound practices he gives,
    Not just now and then, but with diligent and constant application,
    May I become worthy of the transmission of his profound wisdom mind!”

    “Towards the lifestyle and activity of the lama,
    May wrong view not arise for even an instant, and
    May I see whatever he does as a teaching for me.
    Through such devotion, may his blessing inspire and fill my mind!”

    It was clear that they were both supposed to have memorised these verses.

    Later when I saw the video about Sogyal Rinpoche (In the Name of Enlightenment) I wondered how being made to memorise such verses and practise in this way might affect students such as the young woman who said she was ordered to undress by Sogyal Rinpoche.

    It must be quite difficult to say no in that culture with its heavy indoctrination.

    • It seems that you are right in your analysis with this “indoctrination”.

      There is an academic paper coming out this month about SR/Rigpa in “Minority Religions and Fraud – In Good Faith” called “When fraud is part of a spiritual path: a Tibetan lama’s plays on reality and illusion” by Marion Dapsance. I hope to be able to offer soon more information about this.

      The quote above is useful if teacher and student are properly qualified, if not, it will be like poison and a perfect basis for all types of abuse.

      • I would be very interested to read the paper by Marion Dapsance, however the book it is being published in retails at £60 in the UK, which is a really steep price, particularly if you are mainly interested in only one chapter. Is the paper going to be published or disseminated in any other way? From the introduction to Minority Religions and Fraud, which can be read on the publisher’s web-site, it appears that the paper by Marion Dapsance will be a thoughtful contribution to the debate about Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa which those like me who are concerned about the organisation should be able to read.

        • To read the paper you can write privately to the author, Marion Dapsance:
          mdapsance [at] gmail [dot] com
          She gave permission for this note and to post her email address here.

          • The contribution of Marion Dapsance is about 4 pages. Fine if there is access, without buying the book first.

            Thanks a lot to Madame Dapsance,

            • It are 12 DIN A4 pages, and its worth but also shocking, to read it. Yes, indeed very kind that she is offers her research for those who just ask her without having to buy a book for about 60 pounds or so. However, for me its even worth that money for the single article.

              • This is really worth reading. It’s a substantial 6,500 word article and although based mainly on the author’s experience in Rigpa in France the descriptions of Rigpa courses and ‘retreats’ with Sogyal Rinpoche will be recognised worldwide. Marion Dapstance’s description and analysis of the explanations students are given for Sogyal Rinpoche’s ‘crazy wisdom’ behaviour is especially insightful.

            • Sorry, I meant 4-6 sheet, each one two pages. I better write in italian language.

    • If the women of Sogyal Rinpoche were Tibetan ethnicity, we wouldn’t even be discussing it.

      Attacking SR has a bit of a racist element to it.

      I can post many accounts where lamas were advised to take up a young consort.

      And like I said before, even according to western standards, it is perfectly acceptable to sleep with professors.

      • Sam, maybe you better read the chapter and try to understand the set up or indoctrination a newcomer undergoes. It’s simply brainwashing and its not for the benefit of the student as far as I can see. Moreover, you cannot ignore that women and men have been harmed by his actions.

        • Regarding brainwashing, Dr. Hill said at the Shugden conference that many such claims against the NKT were just standard Tibetan Buddhism.

          Regarding harm, everyone is harmed by all their Ex girlfriends, boyfriends and religions.

          • Dr. Hill in my eyes missed the point Carol made that is, that the protests happened after internal sexual scandals and could be seen as a means to keep the NKT together by uniting them in a fight against an outer enemy.

            What you are diligently doing is to defend SR. This is very ok but in my eyes you go too far in whitewashing the actions and the harm.

            To have a sexual scandal or sexual abuse in one or two cases is already bad enough and maybe there is no need to discuss this in public but to have a (brainwashing) structure that enables such exploitation multiple times is something, I think, that has to be addressed because it produces to many people that are finally harmed. There is a deeper harm here, that is that your spiritual path is undermined by the exploitation of faith and manipulations that has bad effects also for future lives and that can block your path to enlightenment. I remember one woman, she was asked around 30 years ago to have sex with SR. Although she refused and he accepted until today she cannot trust a Tibetan lama. I see this already as a damage, not to speak about those who were manipulated and finally gave in …

            • You are going by the assumption there is sexual misconduct or abuse.

              I have watched the youtube video on this SR sex stuff, and found it highly problematic just like the Al Jazeera Shugden video.

              • I had enough discussions with former Rigpa and current Rigpa followers, including long term instructors and sexual partners of SR and people whose live has been messed up. Then I have my own experience with cults; so, the film documentary is not my only source. But, hey Sam, to command a young lady “undress” is really beyond my imaginations. Mimi went to Rigpa to be closer to her father and at the end she ended up in the bed with SR being of his sexual service. Tell me how this can be without having a structure that manipulates young attractive ladies to end up in his bed?

                I think you have to accept that people don’t accept that these things are whitewashed. However, the more you insist that this would be ok, the more you force me to respond and to go into details. I would like to avoid that because I have Rigpa friends who are dear to me and I also have a good opinion about their dedication and motivations. So I would like to avoid to repeat these things again and again. Maybe you just accept that there are those who defend this and those who don’t.

                • Tenpel,

                  Every romantic relationship is manipulative.

                  You must know that good looking women seek out rich men and vice versa.

                  That is just one example.

                  • Sam,
                    Every romantic relationship with a power hungry guru who is more interested to fulfill his own desires is manipulative.

                    You must know that old looking but rich men seek out pretty young women and that not necessarily the pretty young women sought the old man and his body.

                    That is just one example.

                    • You think that good looking women don’t seek out rich men?

                      I personally have heard many attractive women say they want to be a “trophy wife” or something to that effect.

                      Tenpel, you are simply living in another reality than me.

                    • Some might seek old men for security, for their money or protection but not for sex.

                      SR doesn’t offer money nor security to these women he even treats them worse than Berlusconi (who paid the ladies well, gave them jobs in the government, jewelry etc.). You continue to ignore that there is an alleged abusive structure that manipulates women and that SR allegedly abuses his power.

                      Yes, I don’t share your world view. Now it is enough. You made your points, I made mine. Good night.

                  • dharmaanarchist says:

                    “I can post many accounts where lamas were advised to take up a young consort. ”

                    Yes, indeed. For example Nyoshul Khenpo, when he was very sick. Some lama suggested a lay yogini/retreatant from Bhutan. They married and became a happy long time couple. After his death she is running a long term retreat center in Bhutan.

                    Anyway, if it’s about consort practice, the woman, no matter what age, has to be actually able to do consort practice. Which is at a pretty high level.

      • There is a Rigpa member only known as BellaB. She made over 1,000 postings defending Sogyal Rinpoche, mainly saying that there couldn’t be any truth in what was alleged about him. Someone only known as ex-dakini posted several replies to her. From the detail in the replies anyone who is familiar with how Sogyal Rinpoche organises his household can recognise that ex-dakini has really been there. I have posted her replies below together with the url for the original discussion. It’s a powerful and moving account, which deserves to be recognised, of the suffering that can be caused by such sexual relationships.

        ‘Ex-Dakini’ posts on Dialogue Ireland

        ex-Dakini, on January 9, 2012 at 8:09 am said: 

        For BellaB – though have a feeling there is not point in talking to you – I will respond. I did post on DI once before when the briefing document first came up. I have a hard time reading your drivel. 

        My handful of years in Rigpa led me to witness first hand that Sogyal Rinpoche was a compulsive seducer of women. I knew more than several women who were seduced after their first teaching or at their first retreat. I knew women who were seduced when they were in distress. Others like myself had been involved in the organization for a while before he communicated his desire for sex. I am not including in this summary by the way anything that has been published by DI, these are things individuals told me personally some years ago. 

        I can count the names of 15 women who I knew that SR was sexually involved with. And I wasn’t around for all that long. I suggest that those of you still involved in Rigpa who care about this to simply ask your lama how many of his students he has had sex with. I think its a fair question to ask a spiritual leader. These women – myself included – were his students. Not women who he met in other circumstances. 

        Now to address your points specifically, my experience was that not all women who attend to SR sleep with him. But quite a few do. And many more who care for him had previously been a sexual partner of his. And yes, my experience was harem-like in that it was clear to me and other women that we were among a certain number that attended to his sexual needs. We discussed it among ourselves though not always explicitly. And many of those women had husbands and boyfriends. 

        I don’t think that it is appropriate in this time and place for a spiritual leader to have sex with his students. Others agree with me for many reasons. I especially don’t think it is appropriate when it happens frequently and for many years. It was not a positive experience for me. Other women would not say this, and I am happy that they do not experience the suffering I did. But the fact that all women do not complain does not make his actions correct. 

        Now there is also a lot to say about the actual experience of those of us who ended up in SR’s bed. And there are things to say about the validity of his education and teachings. If pressed I can add thoughts on both of those topics. But as important as those are, I think that the basic issue here is the inappropriateness of sexual relations between teacher and student. The risk of the abuse of power is too great. So while shocking, it should be no surprise that the women’s voices in these pages recount abusive experiences. Abuse is what is most likely to happen when there is such a power differential. I learned that the hard way. 

        Now BellaB, if people from Rigpa could identify me, which I’m sure they are frantically trying to do, they would tell you many things about how unbalanced I am. I know that they did so when I left Rigpa, and I know that many prayers were recited for me in Penor Rinpoche’s monastery. But I am quite sane, I assure you. 

        My years in Rigpa and leaving it taught me that people will do amazing things in order to protect their own belief system. Good people will lie to themselves and others rather than question their own spiritual beliefs. To do so is too threatening to themselves. I am truly sorry for you that your attachment to your own teacher cannot allow you to see things that are truthful. I am so grateful that I am free from that one particular limitation.

ex-Dakini, on January 9, 2012 at 8:11 am said: 
Oh, and just to be clear – I have never spoken with Mary Finnegan.

        ex-Dakini, on January 10, 2012 at 10:12 am said:
        My dear Bella,
        Well, I’m glad we agree that a teacher ought not to sleep with students. That is a start. As to your other points, lets leave them for now.
        So you say:
        (BellaB) I do not believe this to happen. People can’t even talk to him privately, if they are not working in Rigpa – and even then quite rarely. People can see him addressing questions to working people in public and we may wonder why he doesn’t ask them in some other room. Why is he asking them here in the beginning of a teaching? Probably, because he hasn’t talked to them nor seen them the whole day.
        (ex-Dakini) SR is constantly giving instructions to people, and much of it is during his teaching time. When he’s not teaching he’s in his private quarters wherever they are. What does he do when he’s not teaching? He’s eating, talking on the phone, watching TV and interacting with the women who take care of him and a few of his senior students. Yes, the vast majority of people he only sees when he’s walking into the teaching podium or when he’s leaving it. But there is a constant flow of people in and out of his private room who see him for different reasons. Outside of his room most people are in the kitchen cooking or waiting to be seen – they go in and out. And it is not unusual for someone to turn up and say “Rinpoche told me to come and visit him.” They are welcomed in like everyone else and have their tea and are announced and then are called in for their turn.
        Now people can’t necessarily talk to him privately if they want, but if he wants I saw him invite all kinds of people to talk with him. Of course not all are women who he wants to have sex with. But some might be. And years ago he would invite people to visit him after a public talk, some of them people he had just met. At a retreat you might get that invitation as well – “come and see me after the teaching.” In my case I was doing prostrations and later that morning at breakfast a woman who was one of SR’s attendants came to me and said “Rinpoche saw you practicing and was so impressed with your dedication. He wants you to come by and say hello some time.” But Bella, even before this happened I had experienced a few very short times with SR privately in that after a public talk or during a retreat he would ask me to see him – I thought he had a fatherly interest in me, – and I would show up at his quarters, get invited into the kitchen, be announced and go in like everyone else. It seems ridiculous to explain all this here and publicly at that so I apologize for boring everyone else but Bella seems to need everything spelled out.
        Now Bella, your reaction to what I wrote does not incline me to tell you much about my story, especially when you write about how women are hunters…. but I can put that aside for a moment. But I am even more loath to disclose details about other women’s stories which could in any way compromise them. But a woman I knew simply was invited back after a public talk. As I said, this wasn’t all that unusual. She showed up, she was shown into SR’s apartment, the door closed and they were alone together. It was the first night they had met, and the sexual relationship began there. Another woman was at her first retreat. Same thing, she gets invited to his quarters, etc.
        You ask me to explain my point
        “I knew women who were seduced when they were in distress.”
        OK I can talk about my own story here. So I am on the point of a nervous breakdown. I had been in a sexual relationship with SR for some time and knew that it wasn’t right for me. It caused me a tremendous amount of confusion. I did more and more practice, but it didn’t help. I had confided in senior students and their advice – which was to stop seeing the teacher with my judgmental mind and use pure perception – wasn’t helping. I had told SR about this several times, and finally told him that I couldn’t be with him anymore.
        He left me alone for a while, but then after an absence, called me in and presented me with a divination from a senior lama that being with him would help him and his teachings. He gave me gifts and was actually a little bit tender (which was quite unusual.) I slept with him and regretted it immediately, but also was confused about this hint of some kind of special role I was supposed to play in his destiny. I told him again that I couldn’t be with him, that it caused me too many risings, and I tried to stay away from him physically. But I kept getting scheduled for “lama care” and that means dressing him and undressing him and running him baths and giving him massages. He kept trying to touch me, and I would push him away in a gentle way and try to joke, he kept at it and I would move away physically.
        Imagine please, he was my root lama and I saw him as the source of great benefit and this way he was behaving was making me sick, but I kept up my practice and just prayed that one day I would understand all of this, but almost every time I would see him he would harass me. And please factor in the lack of sleep that happens when you care for a man who is up at all hours and who doesn’t know how to make a cup of tea or butter a piece of toast. Now other things start to heat up in my life because I’m starting to act out with addictions because I just can’t contain this stress. I had dedicated my life to SR and I couldn’t understand what I was supposed to do.
        I reach a very low point, a very low point. I decide that the problem is me. That if I wasn’t who I was, that SR wouldn’t be attracted to me and that I need to go away from everyone. We are on retreat. There is a break for lunch. I go to find him where I knew he would be eating. I knock on the door and go in, by chance no one else is there. I come to him and I start to cry and I kneel in front of him and I say “Rinpoche, I feel so terrible, I think something is wrong with me, can you please send me into retreat somewhere.” and he stands up, walks to the door and locks it. He comes back to me pulls me to him and starts to kiss me and take my clothes off and fondle me. At that point I pretty much leave my body and watch myself from above while he does to me what he will. It was at that point something in me broke.
        Does that qualify Bella? I’m not going to tell you other women’s stories. But some I heard were just as bad as mine. And I might not post much more because I have said plenty- though I’ve only told you a little bit of my experience, I can tell you all about the harem part – but if you can’t see that there is a problem here, then you have a problem. Yes, there are people running around with all kinds of agendas. But you would have to be crazy to deny that SR has slept with many many of his students. And please everyone else I apologize for the length of this post. I hope that in some way this has been helpful, though I do question whether or not it was right for me to disclose so much, so if there was wrong in it I apologize.

        ex-Dakini, on January 12, 2012 at 9:16 am said:
        Hello all,
        Thank you all for your warm and supportive comments. And yes, don’t worry Marte I am OK. I have and continue to receive support and though it would be exaggerating to say that I have “worked through” this experience completely, I have processed things enough so that recounting a part of it doesn’t trigger me anymore. That doesn’t mean that writing here didn’t bring a few things up for me – but watching the documentary and reading this articles provoked many more feelings for me.
        I am outraged that Tibetan Buddhists will not stand up and be clear that sexual involvement between a teacher and his students is unacceptable. You may argue that details are exaggerated about stories that are recounted (I won’t) you may argue about people’s motives- but no one can possibly deny that Sogyal Rinpoche has had sex with many of his students in the past and that he continues to do so.
        Then there is the level of abuse, which I think comes from a few different places. One is the set up of the teachings where the women around him, like I was, are striving to efface themselves completely. I was trying to get rid of my “self,” and as such I ignored any messages from my unconscious that told me that the situation was wrong. I gladly accepted being ordered around, being yelled at, being treated like an object, the constant useless work, the lack of any of my needs even being considered. Bella, you ask why I wasn’t comfortable in the relationship with SR. That is because even though I practiced and practiced letting go of my feelings at the end of the day part of me cried out against having sex with a man who treated me like an object – who said only “take off your clothes” or “go have a shower” or who told me to move this way or that, even if he was my teacher. SR literally only gave me orders for the first six months that I was having sex with him. Maybe he was “testing” my devotion.
        The other tragic thing I sense from Mimi and other stories is that Sogyal Rinpoche’s addiction to sex, which is in opposition to a lawsuit and people speaking out and common sense has created a situation ruled by secrecy, paranoia, and isolation. I think he has become so isolated and it has been so long since he has experienced women as equals that his behavior has become even more twisted and sick. I saw him becoming more paranoid and reactive the longer I was with him, and when I left his rage at me was so intense that I was not surprised to hear about things that Janice Doe was subjected to. He had started to do a few of them to me too. And now it seems that it has become even worse.
        Just one last point – I’m not sure people can appreciate how difficult speaking out about this for women can be. I have many advantages – a loving family who supported me though this, many years to have processed this, and though Rigpa was my life for some time I never lost my base of support outside. But although you may think that what I recounted previously was shattering, what is more shattering is to hear and begin to suspect that something that you have considered to be sacred and beautiful is actually abusive and ugly. Serving Sogyal Rinpoche thought I was sacrificing myself to a sacred task. I thought that I was getting rid of my ego to be a better person. I thought I was devoting my life to a man who was helping many people and who was compassionate and wise. What I did was largely fed by a great love before the pain and confusion that always lurked in the background broke through and took over.
        When I left Rigpa and people from the therapeutic community told me that I had been abused, for years it felt like they were the ones abusing me. Although I knew that my teacher had done things that weren’t right, I could not talk to people who I felt labeled my experience and made me a victim. Me? A victim? Abused? How could my feelings and experiences be reduced to something so ugly? Can you imagine the confusion? And then the shame? The gap between these two versions – on one hand the crazy wisdom master awakening the devoted student to enlightenment, on the other the addicted egomaniac manipulating his victim for sex – is so huge it almost swallowed up my sanity. To ask a woman – or any Rigpa student – to move from one version to the other is to ask them to give up a part of themselves.
        So as much as I appreciate DI’s article here, and as much as I think Sogyal Rinpoche’s own behavior creates this situation entirely, it makes me very sad. There are so many good people involved. And many who will never be able to understand something they label – as Bella has – lurid and attacking. Yet at this point there seem to be no other way to get the truth across. There’s more to say but I’ve said enough.
        Thank you again for your support, it is meaningful to me, and I hope that again what I have said can be useful in some way –
        Ex D

  133. UPDATE
    You can download Marion Dapsance’s paper about Rigpa France/SR:
    When fraud is part of a spiritual path: a Tibetan lama’s plays on reality and illusion” by Marion Dapsance in “Minority Religions and Fraud – In Good Faith

    • I never heard that Dzogchen is based on Yogacara, like this paper claims. And I’ve read pretty much every academic work from Germano, Schaik etc.

    • Who the heck is “Dilgo Dudjom”?

    • dharmaanarchist says:

      “Sogyal Rinpoche reportedly also oers a moderni1ed version o
      to the most advanced o his students.
      is a Tibetan mystical tradition traditionally directed to an elite group o ascetics, specialists in tantric rituals. Their practices are still not )ell (no)n, butTibetologists indicate that they involve physical e&ercises 5such as breathing or pressing the eyes7, )hich have physiological eects 5notably apparition o lights7.
      is based on the /ndian philosophical doctrine
      53mind only27, according to )hich all phenomena, including the sel, are pro9ections o the mind. Similar to dreams, these illusions should be identiied as such, allo)ing the practitioner to 3)a(e2. As Gogacara0based Tibetan te&ts precise, this a)a(ening rom the apparent solidity o all phenomena leads to the sudden recognition o the eternal basis o the mind, called
      . This 3innermost nature o the mind2 is described as pure and al)ays accessible to any living being, though it is generally concealed by the innumerable pro9ections the mind produces because it ails to recogni1e its 3true nature2. The goal o
      practice is thus to 3recogni1e2 it. /n Tibetan
      communities, this 3recognition2 actually designates the moment, in the ritual, )hen the master grants to his student a ormal authori1ation to practice rituals, thus ac(no)ledging his ne) status as 3master2 himsel.”

      Sorry, but what she writes about Dzogchen is just plain wrong. And if that part is wrong, how accurately researched is the rest…..

      Dzogchen was never aimed at an elite. In Tibet illiterate shepherds and farmers have attained realisation through Dzogchen just as highly learned Khenpos. And particularly you don’t have to be a specialist in tantric ritual to be able to practice it. Nonsense number one.

      Sogyal Rinpoche doesn’t teach a modernized version of it. Actually you can’t modernize Dzogchen. Either you get the transmission across, then it’s valid Dzogchen, or you don’t. The transmission methods are the same as ever as are the texts used. Nonsense number two.

      The dream stuff, actually Dzogchen is very much in accordance with Madhyamaka and is very much based on the two truths. In dzogchen it’s called one ground (buddhanature), two paths (samsara and nirvana as mental attitudes). Nonsense number three.

      Nonsense number four is that dzogchen is granted via the authorisation to practice rituals. Nothing could be more wrong. If the pointing out instructions are given the disciple either “gets it”, then he or she can use this to practice, which involves hardly any rituals at all, just a series of techniques to actualize that state, or he or she doesn’t, then the disciple has no basis for true dzogchen practice.

      By the way, I have heard teachings on Dzogchen and other subjects by Sogyal Rinpoche as well as from other renowned teachers. Technically nothing in what ‘SR teaches is inadequate or wrong. The problem with Rigpa is NOT on the technical dharma teachings level.

      “All visitors )ho )ish to become Rigpa members must register as 3students2 and ollo) )ee(ly sessions called 3)hat meditation really is2. This course is a prereBuisite or the participation in Sogyal Rinpoche2s retreats and so needs to be described here.”

      Not true. The public retreats and courses with SR are open to anyone. Everyone can go to Lerab Ling and take part in the summer meditation retreat for example, even someone who has not had any contact with the organisaton. Everyone can book a place via the online site. If you don’t believe me, go to the Lerab Ling website or any of the national websites and see which events with Sogyal Rinpoche you, as a complete outsider can book.
      Nobody who becomes a member has to take courses. Some instructors seem to be more eager to get newbies into the course system than others, but from the center where I live it’s never more than a suggestion. People are NOT pressured. You have to have participated in this “what meditation really is” course if you want to take part in further study groups, that’s all. The material used in the “what meditation really is” course is not in any way of an indoctrination nature, nor does it try to pressure people into a guru-disciple relationship. It’s really just very basic meditation techniques that can be used by everyone, not something in any way cultish.

      “Dilgo Dud9om”
      Again, there is not lama named Dilgo Dudjom. It’s Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

      Sorry, but after those I am so turned off that I won’t continue this farce of a wannabe sicentific work. Because the research is obvioulsy lousy.

      • Thank you for your reply and input.

        I am not familiar with Dzogchen, hence I cannot judge this. But I think that Dzogchen is based on Chittamatra view might be incorrect. I also cannot judge if his teachings about Dzogchen are in line with that of Dzogchen masters or not.

        When I remember correctly Marion D. repeated claims of Rigpa that SR would teach a modernized version of Dzogchen.

        I wondered too when recently a woman asked me she wanted to join a retreat with SR in Germany and said to her – based on MD’s paper – that she must have prerequisites to attend but she said such prerequisites are not mentioned.

        To judge the other point “what meditation really is” maybe I have to attend myself to see what is being taught there. Can you describe what happens in that course?

        Though there seem to be some problems in the paper, I felt the dynamics are well explained.

    • dharmaanarchist says:


      This level of lousy research is not doing the case against the inappropriate activities by SR any good.

    • dharmaanarchist says:

      Oh and by the way, the use of video taped teachings, it’s not used for worship or something, it’s simply that they use the best and most on the point teachings on a specific subject, so SR doesn’t have to give the same teaching twice. But carry on on the basis of what he thinks was the best possible teaching on a certain subject he has given somewhere else.

      The “sit with the video” approach is very much in accordance with what other teachers do, for example Garchen Rinpoche, namely they say that transmission is also possible through teachings via video because it’s based on the faith and openness of the student, not necessarily on the physical presence of the teacher. Garchen R. just explained this in a teaching I attended a few days ago.

      There is nothing wrong with that approach, this book author is working herself into a hysteria about something that isn’t a problem or cultish in the first place. It’s a typical case of someone’s samsaric mind going ballistic over something it it sees and doesn’t like and then finding 29388 justification why it must be evil.

      If someone doesn’t like the style how the teachings are presented in Rigpa, you are not forced to stay. Nowhere does Rigpa claim it’s the only viable source for them.

      And frankly, THIS is not helping the case of what’t REALLY going wrong.
      Rigpa was never and is not a potentially harmful place for anyone but the compared to the ordinary members very few women who get involved and agree to something they might later regret.

      • There must be a structure that brings very young women to SR who consumes these. Just some days ago a women told me – who served with food for an Rigpa event – how SR choses an attractive young lady who attends his courses and with whom he wants to have sex. Then his students approach the lady and try to get her into his bed. She also told me how two Rigpa organizers freaked out because the weather was so bad that the food came too late, they got so harsh and hard in her scolding her as if she had done a basic crime and threatened her that they bring her in front of SR.

        It appeared to me – based on the emails and reports I got and what people told to me – that the dynamics are well explained.

        • The point is, Dignance or whatever her name is appears to be pointing to Dzogchen, videos and the Rigpa way of doing things as the culprits in this scandal, as if they were responsible for the abuse. What it actually boils down to is a spoilt Tibetan rich kid telling innocent and vulnerable young women that they can be his consorts and have tantric experiences, just so he can get laid. Dignances paper misdiagnoses the root cause of the problem and points the finger everywhere except the right place its like blaming the secondary, symptoms of an illness for causing it. ‘OUT VILE SPOT’! as they say-the problem is not rigpa or dzogchen or students or video tapes-the problem is Sogyal Lhakar and his ‘little boy left alone in a sweet shop’ mentality!The sooner someone jumps on the current abuse litigation bandwagon and widens the minds of the public into realising adults can be victims too, especially in a spiritusl context, the sooner the world will realise that this greedy little man ids the buddhist equivalent of JIMMY sAVILE

        • dharmaanarchist says:

          “There must be a structure that brings very young women to SR who consumes these”

          They simply exist around the inner circle, as far as I see it they seem to get involved via knowing someone who is already in and getting introduced. There definitely is a big demand to belong to these circles and in most of the cases you definitely don’t get in unless you have connections. The case of the daughter of that Frenchman seems the very typical case.

          The same way young, pretty women exist in the Garchen Sangha, where I currently hear teachings. Two young, pretty women I would say in their mid 20ies are helping with the Tsok and the ritual aspect of the vajrayana practice there. Minus being molested of course. The exactly same “occasions” for the lamas exist in pretty much every Tibetan buddhist center/group that I know of. Even Kalu Rinpoche seems to have produced a sex scandal.

          With Sogyal Rinpoche the most likely scenario seems to be that he actually believes the “crazy wisdom, being a blessing for these women” BS. At one point he must somehow really lost touch with reality. And he is subconsciously protecting that bubble with this strict inner circle mentality (again a strong innner circle/outsider mentality exists in another group I know where there is no abuse going on whatsoever, so again not a clear indicator for abuse or cultish behaviour), again I am not convinced that this is deliberate doing but more some kind of underlying mentality.

          Another abuse scenario that is going on there, that has probably never been spoken about is that SR has the habit of puttingt really unsuitable people to tasks like “sangha care”, that’s basically the people that are supposed to look after people in the sangha that develop emotional troubles.
          One such person he particularly approved for the job in public and that I was sent to when I broke down crying has told me horrible things, like that I will go to psychiatriy etc. This woman is really one of the most narcissistic and incompetent to care for other people that I have ever met. I met a few more people who had quite horrible experiences with that woman. As far as I know she (she is older, not sex material) got into “inner circle” by donating a lot of money. And she was practicing emotional abuse on people in crisis in the name of SR for quite some time. Not really funny. Fortunately she seemed to have been pretty much removed from that position after much too long because of the complaints.

  134. Dzogchen, including all the 7 or so streams, developed from tantra.

    Yogacara is sutra.


  135. Marion Dapsance may not know much about Dzogchen, I am not qualified to judge that and I think any judgement of her view of Dzogchen is debatable, but what she says about Rigpa courses is factually accurate in my experience. In the Rigpa centre I went to students attending the What meditation really is course were told to sit with Rinpoche while watching videos and were regularly told to listen with your whole being and to listen with your eyes. There are several videos shown where Sogyal Rinpoche is just sitting for extended periods of time. I agree with dharmaanarchist that this might be a valid path for some people, but it is not surprising if others find it cultish.

    Although there are open Rigpa retreats, there are many that are just for sangha and if you want to be part of the sangha you have to join one of three mandalas, beginning with the meditat