The Dalai Lama and Sogyal Rinpoche: A Roaring Silence?


One of the questions asked by many since the long running saga of Sogyal has once again gathered pace is why hasn’t the Dalai Lama spoken out? Why is it, if he knows about the many allegations against Sogyal, that His Holiness doesn’t voice an opinion and and publicly condemn the Tibetan playboy?

Certainly, there exists a relationship between the two men: The Dalai Lama wrote the foreword to Sogyal’s (or Patrick Gaffney’s, depending on who you believe) ‘Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’ and, in 2008, Lerab Ling, Sogyal’s huge temple at Montpelier in France was officially inaugurated by him, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy in attendance. Again, turn to the front of any of the Rgpa diaries of the past few years and you are greeted immediately by a picture of a smiling Dalai lama, along with prayers for his long life.

So why the roaring silence?

Actually, as anyone involved in Western Dharma politics over the last few decades will know, His Holiness HAS spoken out about this issue, making his own position very clear, and indeed has given clear and precise guidance on how we should act in response to Buddhist teachers in the West abusing their position of authority …

At a conference for Western Buddhist teachers held in Dharamsala n March 1993, at a time when rumours about Sogyal’s behaviour were reaching their first crescendo, the Dalai Lama repeatedly encouraged open criticism of such behaviour, even, when all else fails he said, to “name names in newspapers”. It was perhaps more than coincidence that, soon afterwards, in November 1994, an American woman known only as Janice Doe filed a $10m lawsuit against Sogyal charging him with inflicting emotional distress, breach of fiduciary duty and assault and battery; the lawsuit was ultimately settled out of court, allegedly for several millions of dollars.

The story didn’t end there however and,over the next few years more and more allegations of abuse emerged, leading to several articles in some of the most reputable UK broadsheets, numerous internet articles and websites, and even a television documentary. All of these went unchallenged: it seems that, by and large, Rigpa felt noble silence to be the best way to weather the continuing storm.Several commentators however interpreted Rigpa’s lack of a robust response as merely an admission of guilt.

As these allegations have spread and multiplied across the media, some have suggested it is not enough for the Dalai Lama to stand on the sidelines and issue instructions but that,rather, he should speak out specifically about Sogyal’s shenannigans, In other words, the Dalai Lama should take his own advice over the issue of Sogyal and abuse, and personally “Name names in newspapers’.

The ‘Innocent Until Proven Guilty’ Defence

Some have chastised Sogyal’s critics, pointing out that there is no actual proof abuse has taken place and that, until it is proven, he should be treated as innocent. Such an appeal to ethical principles is not without precedent:we are all familiar with the addage,’innocent until proven guilty’. However, issues of guilt and innocence are decided, in England and Wales at least, at two judicial levels,criminal and civil.

According to criminal law, for the defendant  to be found guilty, the veracity of allegations must be proven ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ According to civil law veracity and guilt must be established ‘on the balance of probability’. Proving abuse is always difficult; the crime rarely occurs in public and, because it is often a case of one persons word against another, proving it occurred ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ is almost impossible.

On the other hand, where there are multiple plaintiffs, a joint, or ‘class action’ can be instigated and the possibility of a guilty verdict becomes a realistic one. In Sogyal’s case, the universality of the internet has ensured that a number of alleged victims have begun to communicate and it would seem that the spectre of a class action looms ever closer.

More importantly, the fact that there are multiple allegations, means that a guilty verdict according to civil criteria seems thoroughly appropriate in Sogyal’s case. After all, if one person cries wolf then there can be reasonable doubt that such a wolf exists. But if the whole village starts screaming …

The point is that in Sogyal’s case, the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ argument is a thoroughly lame defence. The sheer number of allegations would certainly seem to indicate, ‘on the balance of probability’ that the alleged abuse did take place. It is of little surprise then that, apart from Sogyal’s supporters, the vast majority of those with a knowledge of the issue consider the allegations to be true. Why then has His Holiness not spoken out?

The Dalai Lama is Not the Pope

It has been argued in his defence that appeals to the Dalai Lama’s authority are misguided since, despite popular perceptions, he in fact holds no official role within his religious tradition: he is certainly ‘not the Pope of Buddhism’. In fact, there are numerous Buddhist traditions across the world and within these further divisions into schools and sects. The XIV Dalai Lama is a Tibetan Buddhist for instance. Within Tibetan Buddhism there are four main sects, Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug and within these, there are numerous further sub sects His Holiness is a follower of the Gelug tradition in particular and, significantly, not its head. Far from being the seniormost Buddhist in the world then, he is in reality, a follower within one sect of only one of a number of Buddhist traditions that grace this planet. From this perspective, and since he is not even a follower of the same sect as Sogyal, it seems quite appropriate for him to remain silent on the issue.

Nevertheless, despite his lack of official status, it is certainly the case that he is considered de facto leader of Tibetan Buddhism and even, in the eyes of some, the whole of the Buddhist faith. In such a situation, and where Sogyal has very publically relied on the Dalai Lama’s patronage to promote his own projects, it seems entirely appropriate for him to speak out. So why the continued silence?

The Issue of Tibetan Unity

Throughout Tibetan history, political control of the country fell, at various times, to leaders from each of the four sects. Since the seventeenth century, at the time of the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, this responsibility lay in the hands of the Gelug.

Unsurprisingly, the issue of which religious sect held political control of the region was a divisive one and there appear to have been a number of long running conflicts between sects and their monasteries right down to the time of the Chinese invasion. Indeed, in an interview with the current Dalai Lama for his book ‘The Dalai Lama and the Demon’ Roberto Bultrini reveals that His Holiness believes that the issue of disunity between the sects was a significant contributory factor to the downfall of Tibet and one which led to the Chinese entering the far eastern reaches of Tibet (which were only nominally under the control of the Gelug) without initially encountering significant resistance.

Subsequently, unity between the sects has been a concern for the Dalai Lama, as well as being a significant tool with which the Chinese have attempted to manipulate the image of Tibet and His Holiness internationally, most notably in the present with their open and covert support for activities of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT).

At an interview with Tibetans at Wembley in 1999, His Holiness chastised his kinsmen for referring to themselves as ‘Gelugpas’ or ‘Kagyupas’, followers of the different sects within Tibetan Buddhism. Rather, he emphasised that they should see themselves as Tibetans and as Buddhists, focusing on similarities rather than their differences. This was a matter, he declared, that lay at the very heart of the continued existence of Tibetan culture.

Perhaps the greatest animosity between followers of the different sects in pre diaspora Tibet was that between the Gelug and the Nyingma, an animosity that resulted in the destruction of Nyingma images and scriptures and even attacks on their monasteries in the 1930s and 40s, at the behest of the NKT forefather Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo.

Throughout his later life, the Dalai Lama has worked hard to reconcile these two traditions: promoting worship of Guru Rinpoche among all Tibetans, he being a patron saint of both Tibet and the Nyingma, while he himself has been seen to be studying and meditating on Nyingma doctrines, and even taking the great Nyingma master Dilgo Khyentse as one of his root gurus. All of these actions have done much to repair the damage that had been done to the relationship between the two sects down the centuries.

One Step Forwards, Two Steps Back

Sogyal is a follower of the Nyingma sect. As well as this, he is a member of one of Tibets most important families, the Lakar. The Lakar have been benefactors to all the major Tibetan sects for generations, in particular over recent generations, the Nyingma. Again, Sogyal also has close links with the family of  the Nyingma lama, Urgyen Tulku, descendants of the great Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa, one of the most important figures in the history of the Nyingma sect. Down the years, Sogyal’s work in the West has led to the sect as a whole’s revival. Without his influence, there can be little doubt that the Nyingma sect would not have achieved the status it today holds.

In such a situation, for the Dalai Lama to speak out and publicly condemn Sogyal would be disastrous at many different levels. Firstly, much of the work that he has done to repair relations between the Gelug and the Nyingma would be undone. Indeed, to disassociate himself from one of the Nyingma’s most prominent representatives in the West could potentially alienate thousands of followers of Tibetan Buddhism (many of whom are also supporters of the Tibetan cause) at a stroke.

As well as immediately causing divisions within Tibetan Buddhism, the impact of such a denunciation could have major repercussions among Western converts, repercussions which could lead to their losing faith, abandoning their new found faith or even at worst, assuming the mantle of footsoldiers in a revival of the internecine disputes which eventually brought about the downfall of Buddhism within Tibet.

Again, for the Dalai Lama to denounce such a senior Buddhist figure as Sogyal could have major repercussions for the whole of Buddhism internationally, causing both a loss of face and a loss of finance that could affect millions for many generations to come. One need only look at the situation the Roman Catholic Church now finds itself in, despite its vain attempts at openess.

While the Dalai Lama clearly condemns abuse then, to act in a way that would be to the detriment of innumerable beings and to Buddhism, for this generation and many generations to come, would be folly. To expect him to condemn Sogyals actions when the price could be so great for the future of Buddhism and mankind is a foolish expectation. Should the whole world really have to pay for the negative actions of one deviant Tibetan? Haven’t people already suffered enough?

The author of this essay wishes to be anonymous but is known to the blog owner.


  1. Well written and thoughtful. Thank you. I would only add two more possibilities, the first of which is: “All of the above.” The cumulative effect of all of the possibilities you raise is simply too great for His Holiness to ignore. On the other hand, if we the people, the students, do the heavy lifting in this, there might be a more positive and lasting outcome than if His Holiness did it for us. If we move forward with both litigation and sane discussion, then the benefit for Buddhism in the West could be great. We could place Western boundaries on our dharma centers, recreate sane, healthy dharma centers, ones that are reflective of democratic societies.

    And that brings me to my second addition to your piece and that is the possibility that His Holiness is silent because these problems are much bigger than SR and Rigpa. We all know that SR is not the only great lama sexually abusing students– and I personally have seen that Rigpa is not the only big, power-hungry, money-hungry dharma organization. So if we the people take charge now over this, then the solutions we find could have far reaching and beneficial results– Perhaps this is our moment to take charge. On the other hand, if His Holiness starts chastizing SR, he will have to start chastizing other lamas as well and it’s hard to find the line, it’s an infinite regress.

    I remember once at a teaching given by HH Karmapa, a student asked, what can we do about all the trouble in our dharma centers? His Holiness responded by saying that because of his restrictions on travel, he hadn’t been able to go and fix things up yet. Everyone cheered and I remember that attitude when I practiced out in mainstream Kagyu Buddhism: There was always this sense that we were just waiting for His Holiness or some other great lama to come and fix things up.

    Unfortunately, everyone had a different idea of what His Holiness was supposed to do– and that’s the democratic process we need to be enacting now, that’s the conversation. So I think there’s perhaps that issue happening with HH Dalai Lama’s silence as well. I do believe that we the people have to start taking charge and maybe that can be transformative and not all just a grim picture.

    • Mary Finnigan says:

      Right on Drolma! Power to the People! I have been bleating on about this for too long as a lone voice. It is truly uplifting for me to read an op-ed like yours above.

      • (mere) allegations+power to the people=populism.

        It’s quite depressing to hear people want the HHDL to be a populist and act on mere allegations. If HHDL opinion is held that high, why is the fact ignored that HHDL has spoken out in general but not in any specific case. Or to phrase it differentlly: if HHDL had known about any specific case, would he have spoken out? I think so. And he didn’t… so?!… judge for yourself.

        I’m missing an important question here: why hasn’t a criminal case been started but merely a civil case?

        And from a personal persewpctive: how would you want your friends to act towards you when merely allegations are made and merely a civil case is started against you. Do you want them to speak out against you, or stand by you? So what is being asked here to HHDL here by Tenpel and others?

        Sometimes acting merely “civil” can be a “crime”…

        • There were days the whole global village cried out that the world was flat…
          Just like we all in samsara hold that there is an external reality independent of our awareness…
          But is this true or mere hearsay?

        • Hi Marc, HHDL has spoken out in general but he has never spoken out in any specific case as far as I know. This is rather a common pattern and no indication that because he didn’t spoke out with respect to SR that there is nothing true in what women (or men) have reported.

          There was a legal case in the US but it was settled outside the court.

          The problem with power abuse in western legal systems is that in general sexual conduct between adults is acceptable. However, there are exceptions for instance with respect to therapist/client or priest/church member. In some countries like Germany it is illegal if a state certified therapist or psychologist has sex with his or her client(s), however, if you are a self-appointed therapist it is not illegal though the damage is the same. Similarly, it is not illegal if a Buddhist teacher, abbot or monk/nun abuses sexually any of his or her students though the damage is the same (and though it is morally wrong) as if a certified therapist has sexually abused his or her client. You could say there is a legal loophole regarding this. That’s why it is extremely difficult for victims and their supporters to fix these problems in a legal system or with legal ways.

          I know this from own experience how difficult this is. (I was not abused but tried to help victims of sexual abuse by a Buddhist “master” and “abbot”.) Though the “master” and “abbot” has totally misguided his young male students (offering a pseudo-therapy, claiming sex is part of the monk training etc.) and sexually abused at least five of his young male students (who were all over 18 years old), the state persecutor only got active when I announced the claimed sexual abuse of a 12 year old boy. And even then, though there are enough witnesses, the process is extremely slow and a lawsuit has not even started. At one point the state persecutor even claimed their is no evidence and tried to downplay it. Only because the victim is strong and determined and finally took an own lawyer the case is not closed and continues …

          Usually it is a very long way from abuse to a final civil case.

          And from a personal persewpctive: how would you want your friends to act towards you when merely allegations are made and merely a civil case is started against you. Do you want them to speak out against you, or stand by you? So what is being asked here to HHDL here by Tenpel and others?

          I want that people and my friends make up their own mind and I want that I speak truthfully in such a situation. If they find reasons that I acted wrongly they should speak out against me and not for me. There is no need to side with someone who deceives or manipulates people. However, if they found out that the allegations are wrong, they can of course stand with me.

          • MERELY allegations Tenpel. Your reply is obvious and kicking open an open door, since it is NOT what I asked you.

        • Mary Finnigan says:

          A criminal case was started — in France. I have no recent information on it and suspect that it has not proceeded to prosecution.

          • STARTED… let’s wait for a conviction before we judge.

            If you reply that this criminal case was settled (years ago) Then why do you ONLY mention here that it is was stated. Why give incomplete information Mary? This can serve no other function as creating a prejudicial mind in readers…

    • I have been following the previous Sogyal Rinpoche post with great interest and have been impressed with the level of the discussion by all. I have to agree with Drolma here; it’s time all of us take some responsibility for bringing about a much needed change. I think the same realization is also gaining steam in the U.S. regarding what is obviously a thoroughly broken political system.

    • ganzfield says:

      Actually , it is incumbent on the Dalai lama and whomsoever has knowledge of abuse of position/power by any lama or spiritual teacher TO SPEAK OUT ABOUT IT! Not to do so is not only immoral but implies sanction.

      • The role of the Dalai Lama within the Tibetan community is quite complex. The article here shows why it is not that easy as one would think it is:

        • “The Dalai Lama wrote the foreword to Sogyal’s (or Patrick Gaffney’s, depending on who you believe) ”

          Nice cross linking… to the same article with the same comments…that starts with the same ad hominem argument (and thus dismissing itself to be taken seriously!).

          META NAME=”robots” content=”noindex,nofollow”

          • The Dalai Lama met with Shōkō Asahara* so what does this tell about Shōkō Asahara, that he was morally a good man? It tells nothing about his actions just that both had a meeting. BTW, HHDL also met with the “abbot” and “master” I just mentioned, so what does this tell about the actions of this abbot and master, that he is morally a good man and didn’t sexually abuse and manipulated the monks who had faith in him? Rosalynn Carter, the wife of former US president carter, met with John Wayne Gacy, they made a picture and Rosalynn Carter signed it with a personal dedication and sent it back to John Wayne Gacy. So what does this tell about the actions of John Wayne Gacy, that he was morally a good man? (Later it was find out, similarly to Shoko Asahara, that John Wayne Gacy was a serial killer.) A foreword, a meeting etc. with any authoritative figure doesn’t make someone a good man or morally correct.

            BTW, many asked why SR has given teachings in the west at almost all places where His Holiness the Dalai Lama taught. The answer is, because he and his students organised it that way. It was not HHDL or his office who asked SR for this. SR just rode in the shadow of HHDL to establish himself better in the west. It appears this opportunity has been cut now by the Office of HHDL. This tells also something …

            * In all these cases it was not the Dalai Lama or the president Carter’s wife who sough the contact to those questionable (or criminal) people, it were them who sough the contact, just using the fame or good reputation of HHDL or R. Carter for their own ends.

            • Lets make it simple. Has sogyal rinpoche been convicted? Has any claim been (legally) established? Why settle a case when you can surely establish your (legal) side of the story? Compassion? Of whom?

              So… why do you want the HHDL to proclaim something that has not been established? Since that is the essence of this topic: HHDL’s “roaring” silence (on unestablished criminal case). If you inlude the bracketed text in the title of this topic is is clear to everyone why HHDL is silent.

              • dharmaanarchist says:

                Cases of sexual abuse are notoriously hard to win, because you need at least witnesses willing to testify. A lot of victims of rape for example don’t go to court simply because they can not prove what happened to them in a court proof way.

                Secondly, what SR does is in a grey area. He is not a psychotherapist or physician, where simply the fact of having a sexual relationship with a client in itself is a transgression. And for example there are catholic priests who have secretly relationships with women, there are prostestant priests that are married. So you can’t say, clergy automatically falls in the same category of abuse as psychotherapists and physicians do.
                Now I doubt, that he ever outright raped any of those women. But apart from being unethical a-hole behaviour, is emotionally pressuring a woman until she agrees to a sexual act sexual abuse in a legal sense? I mean, that’s something that happens tons of time without a religious background and women very often regret having given in to it afterward, but that’s nothing you can go to court with.

            • “SR just rode in the shadow of HHDL to establish himself better in the west.”

              Nice… Another “mere” claim on this blog. Dates and cities PSE. Otherwise this blog might become a legal basis for SR to start a criminal case of slander and harrasment against this blog… ;)

              Tenpel, should SR hire a worse marketing manager than he has? I find it hard to follow your line of thinking, sorry for that. :)

              • No, its not a mere claim. You can find this out by asking yourself how it came that he gave teachings always when HHDL gave teachings though he was not invited by the Office of HHDL to do so. He claims to be HHDL’s student but at the same time he gives teachings where HHDL teaches without being requested by him. How can this happen?

                SR did it similarly with Khandro Rinpoche at least at one occasion, one of his students told to me. When she gave teachings at one of SR’s places he didn’t attend but watched it in his room via video screen. After the teachings and after people felt tremendous gratitude to Khandro Rinpoche, SR appeared on the stage just to remind his students that Khandro Rinpoche came only due to his efforts.

                For me this is riding in the shadows of others – and in my eyes, it is very impolite and rude.

                • I am not trying to deny or repress conventional reality. As I see it a legal case has not been established. That is: SR has not been convicted. So the claims made on this blog are mere allegations and thus the claims do neither conventionally nor ultimately exist. That is my point.

                  • That SR has harmed women and has sex with some of his (young) female students is even acknowledged by Rigpa and Rigpa instructors – it was even discussed at a Rigpa retreat and SR himself stimulated the discussion (which makes it even more bizarre). Hence your point is wrong that “the claims do neither conventionally nor ultimately exist”. Obviously you have a problem to see and to accept things as they are. Why you have this need, this might be a good question you could ask yourself. BTW, no conventionally phenomenon has any ultimate existence, you repeat a senseless point again.

                • Just stating it is not a mere claim does not make it no mere claim. And for reifying this claim one needs to be clairvoyant and see SR’s mind and his intentions. Do you see SR’s mind Tenpel? Or do you merely see your own mind and your own prejudices when you start “selling” the outcome of your hermeneutic investigation into this case? A hermeneutic approach says more about oneself than about the investigated subject matter.

                  So this is another clear ad hominem argument from your side Tenpel. You do not play the ball, you attack the person. SR supposedly riding along on HHDL’s fame has nothing to do with HHDL “roaring” silence on SR’s supposed sexual abuse of women. So why bring it up? Since it is clearly an ad hominem argument there can be no other purpose than to damage SR reputation.

                  And you completely ignore the fact that HHDL silence is consitent with the fact that no legal claim has been established, and thus the fact that SR is not convicted.
                  You are right in saying that from HHDL’s silence one cannot infer SR’s innocence. But HHDL’s silence could well be consistent with the fact that SR is innocent (untill proven quilty). The fact that you completely ignore this consistency in your “analysis” is striking. Since strictly speaking, since you ignore this fact you are advocating to ignore the presumtion of “innocence untill proven guilty”. What kind of society do you get when the presumption of innocence is thrown away in a legal case? Do you want to life in such a society, since you are implicitly promoting this.

                  • Do I have to see SR’s mind to understand that he has harmed women? Isn’t it good enough that some of his “victims” state so and that even Rigpa officials have confirmed this?

                  • Hello Marc,
                    I’ve found your arguments concerning the Dalai Lama’s silence and the question of Sogyal Rinpoche’s innocence or guilt quite interesting, so I’d like to briefly share a few thoughts on them.
                    You say: “If HHDL had known about any specific case, would he have spoken out? I think so. And he didn’t… so?!… judge for yourself.” – This means you simply expect or assume that the Dalai Lama would definitely speak out if he knew of a proven case of sexual abuse among Tibetan Lamas. And then you mistake your own assumption as a matter of fact from which you draw the conclusion that the Dalai Lama’s silence means he either knows that Sogyal Rinpoche is innocent or that at least he isn’t convinced of Sogyal Rinpoche’s guilt. I think conclusions drawn from mere assumptions do not proof anything, and since there are various possible reasons for the Dalai Lama’s silence you simply can’t take it as a (or one) proof of Sogyal Rinpoche’s innocence. What’s more, there is yet another interpretation of the Dalai Lama’s silence I think you didn’t consider: If the Dalai Lama knew for certain that the accusations were false or if he seriously doubted them, wouldn’t you assume him to speak out in defence of the person in question? Well, I’d do. But then, doesn’t Sogyal Rinpoche always say “don’t assume”?! (This of course is an excellent advice for which I greatly thank him for)
                    I noted you seem to base your line of arguments on the “presumtion of “innocence untill proven guilty”” along with “the fact that HHDL silence is consitent with the fact that no legal claim has been established, and thus the fact that SR is not convicted.” – Now, I find this highly interesting. First, why are you so sure that there is a consistency between these two facts? There are at least four possible interpretations of the Dalai Lama’s silence and so far only one of them – Sogyal Rinpoche is not guilty – could be considered consistent with the Dalai Lama not speaking out. So once again, your argument is based on your assumptions, hence not valid. I also think you’re a little bit one-sided in your interpreation of the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”. Of course this is the most fundamental principle for any legal case, I absolutely agree with you in that; but it furthermore also means that you’re simply not allowed to call someone a murderer or an abuser until they have been convicted for this deed by a court of justice – even if you were the one to have caught them in the act. It does not mean, however, that you’re not allowed to talk about it at all or else violate the principle of innocence. You’re perfectly free to voice your personal assessments of certain claims, allegations, whatever, as long as you don’t present them as facts. Please stop using this argument as a means to shut people up in a discussion. And last, the sheer fact that so far no legal case has been made against Sogyal Rinpoche simply means exactly that – no legal case has been made so far, full stop. This doesn’t exclude at all that there is someone out there who has indeed been abused by him but who for whatever reasons decides not to press charges – it’s possible, isn’t it? So you can’t construe the non-existence of the deed just from the non-existence of legal proceedings concerning that deed.
                    And before I forget, in your post at 10/31 you asked Tenpel to provide you with dates and places, please. In case you’re still interested: I personally attended one public talk Sogyal Rinpoche gave during the Dalai Lama’s teaching on Kamalashila’s “Middle Stages of Meditation” in Frankfurt 2009.
                    Best wishes,

                    • Mary Finnigan says:

                      I am flabbergasted that people here are still chewing over this controversy — more than 20 years since I first started blowing the whistle on Sogyal. And the same old same old lame excuses from
                      Sogyal’s apologists. Tired, bored and despondent would best describe my mood when this hits my inbox. Nothing is proved say the Rigpa zombies. Of course nothing is proved with direct visual and audio evidence — ie someone in the room with a camera and a microphone while the odious slimeball who poses as a lama is in the process of debauching a young woman. But how many times do I have to repeat that there is an overwhelmingly convincing body of corroborated anecdotal evidence? That Sogyal’s depravity is well known across the Tibetan Buddhist and ethnic Tibetan diaspora? That HHDL has not mentioned him by name but has spoken publicly about tulkus who bring Tib Budh into disrepute. Several ex Rigpa members have spoken to me at length about their knowledge of the sexual. financial and power abuses that take place within this cult. One of them, a senior figure for many years, says that Rigpa will not change of its own accord. In order to deal effectively with the corruption within Rigpa an external force will be needed. Its a great pity that the criminal proceedings initiated in France a couple of years ago did not result in prosecution.

                    • Re-reading my post I became aware that maybe I didn’t express very clearly. I do apologize. I’m not a native speaker of English, so please bear with me.
                      My intention was to point out what in my opinion are the weak points in the logic and structure of Marc’s line of arguments. I did absolutely not want to imply that I was doubting the truth of a testimony like Mimi’s – I believe every word she says, and the same goes for a lot of other things I’ve read in this blog. So, I was a little fed up with Marc using the “not proven” argument which indeed is tiresomely lame and also quite annoying, and that is why I posted my thoughts. But I should have been more careful with my wording.

            • We are talking/writing to eachother? What does that say about us Tenpel? That we take eachother serious.

              The “roaring” in the title of this topic assumes a (legal) case against SR has been established. If there is no case established, the “roaring” suddenly becomes meaningless. And if something meaningless can serve a funtion, it can only serve a populist and pejorative function… isn’t it Tenpel?

              • I didn’t write this post. And there was a legal case in the US but it was settled outside the court.

                • So it was not established, because it was settled out of court. And thus you want HHDL to speak out on the basis of an unestablished (legal) case. QED.

                  • I think you miss the point, Marc. Sogyal is accused of (ab)using the faith of some of his students in order to have sex with them; including at least in two cases the wives of his male students. This might not be legally chargeable but is morally wrong. Abusing faith and power position for self-gratificating purposes, including what is clearly defined as sexual misconduct, is not recommended conduct for any one following Buddha’s footsteps.

            • Some hold that HHDL’s speech is roaring,
              some hold that HHDL’s silence is roaring,
              some hold both, some hold neither.
              They are mere concepts, and a magical display of our mind’s nature.
              All are pure and perfect, and of one taste in the baseless and open vast expanse of our nature mind.

              • Emptiness means dependent arising. If there is a fault there is a fault, if there is no fault there is no fault. However, both, faults and non-faults are not existing from their own side but arose dependent on causes & conditions, parts, and imputations by the mind. Phenomena are pure from the beginning in the sense that they never existed inherently.

                As far as I get it you try to deny or repress conventional reality by arguing from the pov of the ultimate. But this is an erroneous approach because what the mind finds by analysing the ultimate is different to what the mind finds when analysing the conventional. The mind that analyses or searches for if there is an inherent existence enlightenment, won’t find an inherent existence enlightenment. However, a mind that analyses the conventional and investigates if enlightenment exists conventionally, will find that enlightenment exists conventionally.

                A mind analysing the ultimate and a mind analysing the conventional have different objects.

              • dharmaanarchist says:

                Fine. Then I go and murder you to get your house. Shouldn’t bother you, because you are empty anyway.


                • Its interesting to see here the similarities with NKT. NKT argues in the same way, using the teachings on the ultimate to deny conventional reality …

              • Though my view is like the sky
                My actions are like grains of sand
                GURU RINPOCHE

            • Everything has the nature of being empty.
              When the empty looks at the empty,
              Who is there to look at something empty?
              As it is illusion looking at illusion
              And delusion watching delusion,
              What is the use of many classifications
              Such as `empty’ and `not empty?’

              Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche

              • What is the use of many classifications
                Such as the more than 200 rules for fully ordained monastics?

                Did the Buddha not understand that things are empty?

                What you do Marc is that you abuse the teachings of emptiness to deny conventional reality and analysis of it.

  2. Exactly Drolma
    For too long people have used the Dls inaction as a focal point and an excuse for their own inactivity. As he advised It is we who need to act since we are the inheritors of the faith. Im trying, youre trying, Marys trying and Tenpel too! The pressure is building and we will eventually reach a tipping point where public opinion has such weight as to be of influence.Lets hope the litigation and discussion you refer to soon take place and we can start having a role in the development of Dharma in the West-after all, it belongs to us now so why shouldnt we be listened to?

  3. Thank you all.

    What unites us is that we (and others) are striving for a change to the better, and the end of such a power abuse. We also love the Dharma and we don’t want others to suffer from an abuse of Dharma. Since the transition of the Dharma to the West is a difficult task we are faced with adversaries and have to find our way to address these. I hope we move forward ;-)

    • What divides us all is this this pseudo-dharma that is preached here. Where in sutra, tantra or dzogchen is a practitioner encouraged to be judgemental about others’ behaviour? So what is this blog about? I’m getting curious ;)

      With what master did you take refuge Tenpel? Can you tell something more about yourself Tenpel? It is claimed on this blog by others you are a monk. Are you a catholic monk? Clearly you are not a Tibetan Buddhist monk, seeing your encouragement to be judgemental and thus your flawed argumentation, that shows a lack of knowledge about sutra, tantra and especially dzogchen.

      Are you a NKT monk? … with a double agenda? PSE tell the world.

      • See About. I don’t hide myself. I even put my cv in the public domain to make my background more transparent.

      • Bristollad says:

        Marc, how about you answer your questions to Tenpel – as he says, his information is freely available for anyone to read.
        So which master did you take refuge from? Can you tell us more about yourself Marc? Are you just an interested onlooker or are you someone invested in Rigpa and Sogyal Rinpoche? You claim to dislike judgements but meanwhile seem to be practising a very judgemental mind. I’ve yet to see anything which shows you have anything more than a slight familiarity with Sutra, Tantra or Dzogchen. Are you a NKT monk…with a double agenda? Please tell us.

      • dharmaanarchist says:

        Others behaviour is insofar relevant as naive people out there need to be informed about possible dangers in dharma organisations.

        Just like people need to be informed about computer viruses and other unpleasant and harmful things lurking out there.

        Under what circumstances it is or isn’t reasonable to start a sexual relationship with a buddhist teacher is an issue.
        Because these things happen and it should be an informed decision on the basis of the actual facts, the person shouldn’t rush into it blindly because of some sort of guru worship.

  4. And just as we need boundaries in a personal relationship, in order to protect and respect both individuals, so we need boundaries in our student-lama relationships, in order to protect and respect both. This need for change is really in the interests of all (even though some lamas might not see that initially).

    And I do thank you, Mary, for your lone, heavy lifting so far with all of this– and for providing the goad behind these discussions.

    And Author, I much like your idea about the tipping point, when public opinion builds and can have real effect. We can remember that afterall, the Arab spring was led by conversations such as these.

  5. Its interesting that we often read of the admonition to disciples to examine a potential teacher for twelve years before entering into a relationship with him but we rarely hear of the admonition to teachers to check disciples before accepting them. I wonder if, with so many people literally throwing themselves at the feet of ubiquitous charismatic Tibetans, they have simply decided to dispense with that requirement-purely as a skilful means, of course.(Nothing to do with money ;)

    • It is not interesting, it shows a lack of knowlegde on your side.

      Though “sectret” almost always has a figurative meaning in Tibetan Buddhism: only to be dicoverd after thorough investigation, or only to be discovered by means of direct experience. It also has a literal meaning, and thus only to be taught by a master when a student shows he/she has a a deepened understanding. Therfor there are many oral traditions, and even oral traditions in which a master only transmits the teaching to one disciple. Needless to say that in such a one-on-one-transmission lineagae a teacher does not teach to the first best student without checking out that student.

      So this literal secrecy is at the heart of Tibetan Buddhism and Bön. So your claim that “we rarely hear of the admonition to teachers to check disciples before accepting them” is absurd and baseless. And therfor -SRY to say – utter nonsense.

      Not hindered by any knowledge it is easy to judge… (falsely).

  6. A response from an anti cult website-

    themadhair, on April 28, 2012 at 11:44 pm said:

    The following comments are based upon material I sent to the author in response to the above essay prior to the essay being published. I present this material here because I feel it is highly relevant to this ongoing discussion, and because it appears that no commenters on the other site which published the essay appear to have picked up on the rather disturbing premise at the essay’s heart:

    The context for the essay is the Dalai Lama’s silence regarding Sogyal Rinpoche. The key point that the essay is intended to explain is expressed in the essay as follows:

    “Nevertheless, despite his lack of official status, it is certainly the case that he is considered de facto leader of Tibetan Buddhism and even, in the eyes of some, the whole of the Buddhist faith. In such a situation, and where Sogyal has very publicly relied on the Dalai Lama’s patronage to promote his own projects, it seems entirely appropriate for him to speak out. So why the continued silence?”

    The following reason is the one offered in the essay to explain the above:

    “Again, for the Dalai Lama to denounce such a senior Buddhist figure as Sogyal could have major repercussions for the whole of Buddhism internationally, causing both a loss of face and a loss of finance that could affect millions for many generations to come. One need only look at the situation the Roman Catholic Church now finds itself in, despite its vain attempts at openness.”

    It was a puzzling choice to reference the RCC given that much of the current resentment against that institution is due to the perception that the institution placed both ‘the faith’ and the institution itself above the welfare of those harmed.

    The following questions are raised by the reasoning offered here:

    1. Is it reasonable to place ‘the faith’ of Buddhism ahead of the welfare of those harmed, and those who could potentially be harmed?
    2. Is it reasonable to protect the financial health of institutions ahead of the welfare of those harmed, and those who could potentially be harmed?
    3. Is it reasonable to adopt a culture of silence, knowing that such may lead to more people being harmed, if such a culture will help the growth (or at least prevent contraction) of your chosen religious views?

    At the very core of this essay is this simple and twisted calculation – that the harms being inflicted upon people are of secondary concern to protection of the Buddhist structures. That the exposition of moral truth in favour of those harmed is of secondary concern to political expedience. Is this the impression that the author wished to give of Buddhism and its structures, namely that such operate on this type of contorted tortured and askance logic?

    There seems to be an extraordinary disconnect between the Dalai Lama as an internationally highly respected spiritual leader and the Dalai Lama described here who, to paraphrase Ella Wheeler Wilcox, has made himself a morally-bankrupt coward by his sin of silence (assuming he is aware of these issues).
    At the very core of Dialogue Ireland’s mission is looking out for those who have suffered harms within the context of cultic environments. A common reason for the continued perpetuation of such harms involves situations where the institutionalisation of a given group or groups has led to such harms being minimised and/or ignored. In such cases protecting the group has become more important than speaking out and/or doing the right thing.

    If you look at any of the material we host on this site you will note that not a single exception to this basic principle is to be found – Dialogue Ireland’s very purpose concerns itself with those people who find themselves being wronged in these ways. That very material is collectively, in and of itself, an empirical argument demonstrating the toxicity of any reasoning that places group expediency above the welfare of those being harmed.

    The salient fact that cannot be ignored here is that, by virtue of the respect invested in him by so many, the Dalai Lama’s perceived endorsement of any person or group (including Sogyal Rinpoche) will lead to the perpetuation of any harms that may be committed by such persons or may be present within such groups. If, assuming the Dalai Lama is aware of such harms, the Dalai Lama is choosing to make a deliberate political-esque calculation to remain silent on such harms while allowing the continued perception of his endorsement for any wrong-doers then it raises serious questions.

    This essay is, in essence, placing this noxious virulent reasoning into the Dalai Lama’s mouth, and attributing such reasoning to his non-actions in this matter.

    • I write this comment now for the third time. Two times it was lost in wordpress. Obviously a good training in patience ;-)

      Thank you for this.
      I disagree with themadhair from DI.

      The author of the essay above broadens the subject and adds perspectives why the Dalai Lama might be silent. I appreciate such an approach. I prefer understanding. It is always easy to express the faint of anger—which is most often based on not being able to understand things—by condemning others with strong words or statements. To understand why the Dalai Lama might be silent and that he might have good reasons for it is of course in total contrast to an approach where one does not understand and reacts emotionally, judging him as a „morally-bankrupt coward.“ Now, if a person clings to the latter, then of course this would be his or her „truth“ and the person might get attached to this point of view as being the only valid one. An essay like the above won’t make such a person very happy.

      If one wishes to understand and to judge the actions of the Dalai Lama (including his silence in this case) correctly, one must consider his cultural and his social-religious background, as well as that of Westerners. This is what the author above has done, he puts the Dalai Lama’s silence into perspective. And, this seem to be a thorn in the eyes of those who lay back on simple judgements which condemn the Dalai Lama for his silence.

      Themadhair’s core argument in response to the essay above is that the silence of the Dalai Lama would be based on:
      —> the institutional’s welfare is placed over the individual’s welfare
      and that the silence of the Dalai Lama would contribute to:
      —> thereby supporting the continuation of harm and abuse

      So what he is mainly claiming is:
      –—> the institutional’s welfare is placed over the individual’s welfare thereby supporting the continuation of harm and abuse

      The problem with this thesis is, that it includes a presumption or a slight twist: themadhair depersonalises the „welfare of the majority“ as “institutional’s and faith welfare“. From this presumption (or slight twist) all his other arguments follow, up to his final conclusion that, „This essay is, in essence, placing this noxious virulent reasoning into the Dalai Lama’s mouth, and attributing such reasoning to his non-actions in this matter.“

      Lets look a bit closer onto this:
      I think in general it is save to say: In the Asian society the welfare of the group (which btw are people / human beings and not an inhuman abstract institution) is placed above the welfare of the individual. In Western society the welfare of the individual is placed above the welfare of the group. One of the worse actions in Asian society is to loose face and it is even worse to act in a way that a group looses face. Now in general if one speaks about harm, one must consider long term harm, short term harm, short term benefit, long term benefit + welfare and harm for the majority and welfare and harm for the individual. If one stresses the welfare of the majority on a long term perspective, actions and judgements of situations will be different than if one stresses the welfare of the individual based on a long or short term perspective. Now what the author has shown in the essay above is that if the Dalai Lama’s perspective is the long term benefit for his people and people in general, it might be better for him, and in his position, and according to the present situation to be silent because if HE takes actions now there might be long term harm for a majority of people, and the benefit for the individual might be weak or doesn’t justify a possible long term harm for the majority.

      I think these are valid arguments.

      For His Holiness the welfare of his people and the possible benefits for others from the Tibetan traditions are based on the harmony and unity of the Tibetan traditions, including Bön. Themadhair doesn’t consider such a perspective but rejects such a perspective indirectly when he speaks of the „welfare of the institution“ while for His Holiness the welfare of the majority of his people and others is not a matter of the „welfare of the institution“. For His Holiness the welfare of the majority of people depends on keeping good relations and harmony (and this has been always his policy). Given the overall underlying sectarianism in Tibetan Buddhism / Tibetan culture those wounds could easily open up again, so he might be careful to act in a way that HIS actions are most constructive for the majority, and this is what he is supposed to do, as a Bodhisattva and as a spiritual or secular leader who must have in mind the benefit of the majority.

      Though it might be wrong for him to break his silence (because there is too much long term harm for a majority), it might not be wrong for others. That’s why he encourages others to name the names of teachers who abuse others in newspapers—if there is evidence for this and the teacher doesn’t stop his actions by other means (like addressing it directly).

      So the overall discussion is rather circling around these issues:
      —placing the institutional’s welfare over the individual’s welfare
      —placing the welfare of the majority over the individual’s welfare
      + the respective long term, short term harm/benefits considerations

      In general, cult’s and inhuman perspectives are based on that an “abstract idea” is placed over the “welfare of the individual” or “welfare of the group”. Themadhair knows this of course. But he applies this understanding as a scheme onto the Dalai Lama without considering that the Dalai Lama might have another focus in mind than themadhair thinks he has. If one observes the over all compassion and actions of the Dalai Lama, I think, one should be open, that also here he might be led by a compassionate perspective based on a discrimination which is not very obvious for most people—at least, if one does not apply analysis and investigation based on an open, unbiased mental attitude which considers different perspectives.

  7. A lot of posts and a lot of things to consider, many different angles, which has to be helpful. I just want to make one point at this stage. It seems to me firstly, that Rigpa (and as a former Rigpa student I am as culpable as every other student) in thinking that the matter of SR’s behaviour and what he did out of sight of his main teaching arena was his business. However, when circumstances forced me to review this perspective, I had to leave the sangha, as it wasn’t permissable to stay within it and hold the opinions that I had formed. I could waffle on, but will try and get to the point. Rigpa students, must stop putting their heads in the sand and hoping that the desert storm will blow over if they just close their eyes. Not only that, but the whole buddhist community which is now substantial in the West also needs to come to terms with matter of abusive behaviour by teachers. If this had been dealt with back in 93 or 4 and SR’s behaviour had changed in the light of the substantial damages the sangha paid out on his behalf, then we wouldn’t all be here now chewing the cud. So now, HHDL is being held accountable and found lacking in some quarters. Dialogue Ireland an anti-cult busting blog’s comments are reasonable. It just feels that this is growing bigger by the minute. I am not sure I want to see a whole series of litigation cases coming to UK and the boundaries which are so sadly lacking now for students (but not for teachers) putting the growth of buddhism into a straight jacket.
    At the moment although lots of voices are coming through, we are not hearing from the lamas, teachers, gurus themselves. Although, Dzongsar Kyhentse Rinpoche’s new e book does touch on the thorny issue of hitting students and abusive lamas, and more or less saying students can’t judge them for it, or conclude that they lack bodhicitta, because of it. If we can’t judge it but we find students of both sexes leaving the dharma seriously damaged, then what are we to do? Just say, oh well, what a shame they didn’t get it? ie. those students lacked the nouse to understand the teachings. The blame the student culture has to end. Even if the abusive teacher does have bodhicitta and the students don’t get it, then surely, he has to change his teaching methods?

    Women also need to start watching out to protect younger women with rock bottom self-esteem and from dysfunctional backgrounds who may also have the looks to attract sexually predatory teachers. I think sometimes women are very harsh towards other women, and for those ensnared by a teacher, they will find little sympathy and nowhere to turn if they start to doubt the teacher.

    These changes have to come from within the sanghas, from within the dharma centres, from within the buddhist community. We have a voice, we have to use it. If Rigpa doesn’t change from within, then it will be changed from those who now stand outside it.The very people who need to talk remain silent.

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    (Yeats. The Second Coming)

    • Vera, thank you. I utter agree.

    • Although, Dzongsar Kyhentse Rinpoche’s new e book does touch on the thorny issue of hitting students and abusive lamas, and more or less saying students can’t judge them for it, or conclude that they lack bodhicitta, because of it. If we can’t judge it but we find students of both sexes leaving the dharma seriously damaged, then what are we to do? Just say, oh well, what a shame they didn’t get it? ie. those students lacked the nouse to understand the teachings. The blame the student culture has to end. Even if the abusive teacher does have bodhicitta and the students don’t get it, then surely, he has to change his teaching methods?

      Its not very empowering for a student to develop his or her discriminative intelligence (prajna; shes rab) by saying him or her “you cannot judge this.” If the student is not able to discriminate wrong from correct modes of conduct where do we go from here, and how can we discriminate wrong from genuine teachers? If we cannot judge the teachers actions then the Buddha’s or Mahayana / Vajrayana teachings on the quality of teachers and the need to check them would be redundant. I would prefer to say: “it is extremely difficult to judge these things, and one should be extremely cautious, because one never knows.” I can understand the argument by this great master. But it is not too helpful for me. Maybe due to such a point of view for many (but not all) Tibetans Kelsang Gyatso had been a valid teacher for a very long time, no matter how many complaints and suffering was reported from the NKT world. The confused and harmed were left alone by many Tibetan masters and even advised to go back to Kelsang Gyatso and to excuse to him …

      If the outcome of the Lama’s actions is a lot of harm, there is something wrong. The Buddha had never harmed others. And if a genuine Bodhisattva’s skilful actions do not work he or she will change the way of acting, skilfully, easily, without any selfishness or clinging to concepts and ideas, and there is not any problem for him or her to apologize, restoring the lost faith of the formerly faithful ones.

      Actual, a similar argument like “saying students can’t judge them for it, or conclude that they lack bodhicitta” was used also by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso to a good friend of mine. When this friend witnessed the wrong actions of the NKT representative of Germany and complained in detail about her in a letter sent to Kelsang Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang replied, that this friend cannot see the actions of the NKT representative as “pure” because he has no Bodhichitta and therefore cannot see the Bodhichitta in the NKT representative. Isn’t this a good argument which is based on reality? Maybe, maybe not … One year later Geshe Kelsang Gyatso expelled that NKT representative of Germany very forcefully from NKT and her position, stating that she would be utter selfish and misleading his students.

      I think this is an example that is worthwhile to be thought about. Now, focusing on the great scriptures rather than examples, I would like to stress the Rime master Jamgon Kongtrul at this point:

      Buddhist Ethics (Treasury of Knowledge)
Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye, Snow Lion Publications

      Avoiding Contrary, Harmful Companions

      8.1 Obstructions of a harmful friend

      “The harmful teacher is one of bad temperament, of little pure vision, great in dogmatism; he holds [his own view) as highest, praises himself, and denigrates others.”

      In general, the nonspiritual teacher (mi-dge-ba’i bshes-gnyen) is a lama, teacher (mkhan-slob), dharma brother [or sister] (grogs-mched), and so forth—all those who are attached to the phenomena (snang) of this life, and who get involved in unvirtuous activity. Therefore, one must abandon the nonspiritual friend. In particular, although they have the manner of goodness in appearance, they cause you to be obstructed in your liberation.

      The nonspiritual teacher has a bad temperament, little pure vision (dag-snang), is very dogmatic (phyogs-ris), holds as highest his view (lta-ba) as the only dharma, praises himself, slanders others, implicitly denigrates and rejects others’ systems (lugs) of dharma, and slanders the lama—the true wisdom teacher—who bears the burden of benefiting others. If you associate with those who are of this type, then, because one follows and gets accustomed to the nonspiritual teacher and his approach, his faults stain you by extension, and your mindstream (rgyud) gradually becomes negative. Illustrating this point, it has been said in the Vinaya Scripture:

      “A fish in front of a person is rotting and is tightly wrapped with kusha grass. If that [package] is not moved for a long time, the kusha itself also becomes like that. Like that [kusha grass], by following the sinful teacher, you will always become like him.”

      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.

      For more see:

  8. Just by way of a quick response…

    1. Is it reasonable to place ‘the faith’ of Buddhism ahead of the welfare of those harmed, and those who could potentially be harmed?

    IMO Yes, where those who are harmed are ‘the few’ and those who are benefitted are the infinitely greater ‘many’. Harsh, but realistic. And totally concordant with the idea of the greater good, a principle accepted by both the religious and the secular. This is not to deny the damage done, only to suggest that a large group of people is more important than one person

    2. Is it reasonable to protect the financial health of institutions ahead of the welfare of those harmed, and those who could potentially be harmed?

    Money, say some, is the root of all evil. Others argue that t depends on how you use it. If finance is used appropriately, it can be to the benefit of many, not just one or two, indeed it can lead to a significant reduction in the suffering of many. It seems worthwhile then to protect financial considerations, where its withdrawal would be to the detriment of the impoverished. Again, concern for the greater good lies at the heart of the issue

    3. Is it reasonable to adopt a culture of silence, knowing that such may lead to more people being harmed, if such a culture will help the growth (or at least prevent contraction) of your chosen religious views?

    There is no culture of silence here. The Dalai Lama has gone as far as he logically can at this point and has repeated his advice publicly on several occasions. The issue is currently under review and, in the meantime, large numbers of Buddhists are openly debating the issue publicly. if there were a culture of silence in place we would not be debating the issue at the moment

    You suggest “At the very core of this essay is this simple and twisted calculation – that the harms being inflicted upon people are of secondary concern to protection of the Buddhist structures. ”

    No, At the core of the essay is the consideration that the welfare of the many, throughout this and future generations, is more important than the welfare of the few, important though they are. The structures of any organised religion, the current bete noire of anti cult commentators everywhere, are insignificant in relation to the issue of the greater good, the real reason for the ‘silence’ you suggest and which I maintain does not exist.

    Not all senior organised religious figures are bitter twisted old men intent on maintaining their power and position by hook or by crook. Some think in the long term and consider what would benefit the majority,, while realiising that, sadly, there is always some suffering in the world

    • Thank you! I agree here too. It appears to me that themadhair is looking too much from a perspective that religious leaders are always greedy for power and wanting mainly to protect their religious institution at all costs. This might be true in some or many cases but not in all cases. Hence if this perspective is used where it does not fit it leads to wrong conclusions and wrong judgements.

  9. I read themadhair’s comment last night and have been thinking long and hard about it. Ultimately, only time and His Holiness can address these issues fully. My response this morning has been that this conversation should be had amongst Buddhists, those of us who treasure the dharma and can view the totality of a situation within that reverence.

    For me personally, the fact that SR had a close connection to HH Dalai Lama ultimately saved both my life and my sanity. The only gift of real value that SR gave me was his constant reference to HH the Dalai Lama. When I stumbled out of my last Rigpa teaching to a life of heavy drinking and suicidal ideation, I had one practice left. I had the picture of His Holiness on a table with a candle and a prayer: “May I find a good and decent life.” It took me many more years of stumbling from lama to lama before that prayer became a reality and I left mainstream Tibetan Buddhism completely– to study with His Holiness and find the self that I had lost.

    I believe that it is our duty, as Buddhists who are cultivating strong, discerning wisdom, to question His Holiness’s silence. However, those who condemn His Holiness for his silence, as did themadhair above, are those who know little about Buddhism and little about how he has devoted his time and energy over the past half century. I have studied from him daily for seven years now and I can make a few very definite and relevant points about his work:

    1. He is paving a new and courageous Buddhism in the world, one that demands a critical intelligence and uncompromising integrity from students. His perspective is quite extraordinary in its breadth and radical reform. He is moving away from many traditional, faith-based Tibetan approaches and back to original, critical Indian approaches (e.g. the Nalanda tradition);

    2. He is the only Tibetan Buddhist leader who speaks out at all about the misconduct of lamas. Even HH Karmapa, who stands poised to inherit HH Dalai Lama’s leadership standing, does not do this (that I have seen so far). And HH Dalai Lama does not speak out in meek or mild ways. He speaks out frequently and strongly. While other TB leaders are still telling us that the faults we see in the lama are faults in ourselves, HH Dalai Lama has given us permission to snoop, criticize and name names if needed. When I was in the gutter from my years of travesty searching for an honest lama, it was HH Dalai Lama who gave me permission to turn away from my lamas. It was his strong, uncompromising perspective which allowed me to step out of the shackles of ignorant “samaya” and start living my life again;

    3. Failing to speak out for any other reason than that of benefitting others is totally out of character for His Holiness. When the Tiananmin Square massacre occurred, HH Dalai Lama spoke out strongly against the Chinese, even though this was not politically expedient at the time and harmed negotiations between the Tibetan and Chinese leaderships. Recently, I saw an interview with a journalist asking His Holiness why he is not speaking out about the self-immolations of Tibetans. His face was both pained and angry as he replied that he couldn’t do this because anything he said would be simply manipulated by the Chinese. I thought of that interview when I first read the piece here written by Author. I wondered if His Holiness isn’t in a similar position here with Rigpa, where many would be harmed if he spoke out and some would be harmed (and perhaps only in the short term) if he didn’t. At this still early stage in the allegations, with Rigpa still denying all of them, to force Rigpa students to choose between SR and HH Dalai Lama could be quite damaging for them, particularly in the long run. I personally would like dissallusioned Rigpa students to have the same opportunity that I had to regain their ground in the dharma.

    Of course, only His Holiness and time will tell for sure. However, I want to speak strongly to those who know HH Dalai Lama only as a smiling favorite of the media– and yet feel confident about condemning him over his “silence.” I believe that he already stands alone and courageous; condemning SR publicly would be a great breach of Tibetan code of conduct– with questionable benefit to those women being abused and those x-Rigpa students like myself who might need his assistance to heal and rediscover themselves. As someone who has followed his teachings and actions closely for years, I want to concur wholeheartedly with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who says of His Holiness, “He’s good. He’s good. He’s genuine.” I think we should let time tell.

    • As a Buddhist your first two points above are chilling. You should be very aware of someone who is changing the dharma (destroying it). You are going (it sounds from what you wrote) from one abusive relationship to another. Please try to use your wisdom and not just go where you feel good. He wants you to snoop etc, because he wants to find more faults in others so he looks better. He says his spiritual guides are all wrong, this is un-Buddhist. Focus on accepting and loving others and other traditions.

  10. And when themadhair speaks of the welfare of many being more important than the welfare of a few, he is assuming that by speaking out, His Holiness will somehow be protecting women from further abuse. However, the women who are currently being sexually abused by SR are not even aware that they are being abused– so how can he help them? His Holiness is standing with us, on the outside, like a family member who is incapable of helping his/her loved one escape from a cult. This isn’t political at all.

    • exactly.

      I think themtheair really wants to end the abuse, and I think we all, including myself, we are with him and the victims.
      But unlike so many cult leaders, if one checks thoroughly, one can see that His Holiness is in general not driven by selfish perspectives, that he has so much compassion + discriminating awareness … , ignoring these facts one fails to get the full picture by not considering that the Dalai Lama’s actions might be based on a compassionate+wisdom perspective that looks from the angle of long term benefit for a majority and the right time and right situation to address things which are important for individuals and important to be addressed.

      And as you say in the other comment, Drolma, the Dalai Lama has strongly spoken about the Shugden issue in general as a topic, like he has spoken in general strongly about how to deal with / address absue. But his strong stance on Shugden didn’t really solve the issue, and one might wonder what a strong stance against Sogyal Rinpoche’s actions might bring … The difficulties described in the essay above by the author, I could observe partially also here at the blog: The defenders of SR used immediately potential sectarian ideas that the critics of SR’s behaviour wouldn’t understand the lay/monastic or Nyingma/Gelug distinctions …

  11. And Vera, thank you for your comments, (which I just scrolled back and noticed). I would like to add to those comments that it is solely due to HH Dalai Lama that we have a sound base on which to move forward with reforms in western Buddhist communities. It is due to him that we are not whirling around in a confusion of incriminations, but can actually talk about reform with confidence that we are staying within the bounds of legitimate dharma. I don’t see any other lama helping us very much in this task. Indeed, Vera, I wholeheartedly agree with you that it would be wonderful if other lamas could also start participating in this work.

    And Tenpel, what I thought of, while reading your thorough and very thoughtful examination of this subject, was how very complicated this issue is. People from the outside can see it as a simple thing, a simple matter of HHDL condemning SR with loud incriminations. However, there are just so many angles and perspectives to all of this. One only needs to remember the trouble that has insued in reaction to HHDL speaking out against Shugden practice– trouble that we are still dealing with and that students are still suffering from. It is no wonder at all that His Holiness feels the need for caution in this instance.

    • Mary Finnigan says:

      Hi Drolma — there are other lamas supporting the groundswell of opinion against power, sex and financial abuse by Tibetan Buddhist lamas. i add “Buddhist” because not all the lamas who have been accused of abuses are ethnic Tibetan. I know of a Canadian (deceased), a French national and an American. I am also in regular contact with two British and one American lamas who are vocal in their disgust at Sogyal’s and other corrupt lama’s behaviour. I have dicussed this with them at some length. All 3 were warned in unequivocal terms that if they wished to retain their positions within the Tib Budh hierachy and to remain within their lineage transmissions they should keep their heads well below the parapet. For them it is not a matter of personal survival. Rather,it concerns the pain they would inflict on their lineage holders — and the responsibilties they have towards their students. They say that to risk being cast into outer darkness by the TB establishment would cause so much distress to so many people it is simply not a viable option. I reserve judgement on this. I simply report what I have been told.

  12. Tiger Lily says:

    I posted this on DI earlier. Would just like to add on reflection of what has been written above, HHDL probably has weighed up the entire situation of pros and cons and seen the wisest answer lies in encouraging us Westerners as he alone has done, to take the matters in our own hands and decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.

    This essay is conjecture because we do not know if the DL is really aware of the extent of Sogyal’s abusive behaviour. I mean the absolute degradation of it. For sure he’s received many complaints. MF spelled it out to him in her letter to him. But is it likely his Tibetan advisors and secretaries who first read the letters, tell him the whole truth? I think not. I am not trying to defend HH but I think there are huge coverups within the feudal system still prevalent around the DL, and we would be shocked to discover who is really in control.
    I am fairly certain that if/when reputable Lamas broach the subject with Senior Rigpa students, just to check, they will be satisfied by the response that ‘no, they are not being harmed. They have learned to recognize the nature of their minds because of Sogyal’s compassionate actions.’ (Quite apart from the fact that there are different degrees of seeing the nature of mind which are not the true realisation of Rigpa). The women in the harem will vehemently deny that Sogyal is harming them.
    Themadhair picked up points I also queried, though overall I am glad the Author has posted this essay as it is a topic which needs to be looked at closely and discussed.
    I would like to add; these Lamas who are using abusive tactics for their own ends are hugely damaging Tibetan Buddhism and faith in Buddhism. Not just the “few” victims but ultimately all of their students who are following a debased form of Tantra, and the very worst of “Lamaism”.
    I would agree with the Author in as much that some Lamas and lay Tibetans (with business interests) go for the greater good which includes all the money rolling in, and probably despise the stupidity of Westerners to be taken in by it all, so tough titty to the western “consorts”.
    Secondly aren’t we all rejoicing that the RC Church is at last acknowledging the abuses perpetrated by its notorious priests?
    Wouldn’t Tibetan Teachings being promulgated here in the West also benefit from a huge clean up?
    There is a groundswell of opinion that enough is enough and we are joining voices in forums and private emails. We need to get together by organizing conferences and drawing up ethical charters.
    We need to take the reins in matters of establishing the kind of Western Tibetan Buddhism we want to see as mainstream.
    Students who like to be abused and humiliated by their “Masters” may continue to do so to their hearts content. They and their “Masters” will always find a way. But I think given the choice wouldn’t we prefer to accept methods of Teaching which unquestionably make our spirits soar and fill us with complete well-being so that we can simply get on with our everyday lives just brightening the world a little?

  13. I am a Monk in the Nyingma tradition, when I first attempted to enter Monastery I was told to go home, finally I was allowed entrance and had to sweep the courtyard for months before being taught. When I was taught meditation I would often fall asleep, my teacher put rocks around me so if I started to lean I would wind up on the rocks so to speak, I do also remember him throwing pebbles, some larger than others to keep me awake. I certainly got dinged a few times.

    He was a very stern man but also had a great heart for his students. The only time I saw him hit someone was a Monk that had committed a horrible offense, he struck him once across the face, it was more of a shame incident than hurtful. It was the sign that he was being asked to leave the Monastery, I remember my Master not saying any words to him after what occurred but he did make sure he had food, water and funds to leave the Monastery.

    Sexual or physical abuse were never tolerated by my Master, he often said those who were privileged to share the Dharma had to consider the Karma they would generate if they dared harm another. He often said the lower regions of hell were filled with the teachers who betrayed the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path.

    This is a very dark stench that is a shame on over 2500 years of Dharma teaching, the heart breaks.


    • Thank you for showing us a good example. It is lights my heart to read this.

    • Heartfelt thanks, for speaking out on this matter. It is very much appreciated, and helps bring clarification. It’s great that a few monks are sharing here.

    • The clarity of your example as well as the clarity (compassion and wisdom) of your teacher helps to further elucidate the sharp contrast between your teacher and those who have seriously lost their way.

      • Thank you Tenpel, Vera, Jigje and Drolma. My Master was a beautiful person, he taught the Dharma and always told his students “As the Blessed One taught, be a light unto yourself. Let no one lead with a light that has gone dark and cold.”

  14. Yes, TigerLily, and wouldn’t we want to walk into our dharma centers and feel loved, supported and safe? Wouldn’t we want a regular opportunity to make others feel loved, supported and safe?

    And Mary, I am glad to hear that there are lamas who disapprove and saddened that they have been silenced. And this is where the actions of HHDL need to be most appreciated. He has given us permission to act– permission that even your lama friends don’t have. He has unlocked the chain of blind samaya so that we can understand better how to speak out and make these necessary reforms without endangering our precious connection to the dharma, without endangering our real samaya. From the perspective of every other lama that I have had, this path was never clear.

  15. Mary Finnigan says:


  16. I would like to make the observation that on the Dzogchen Beara website, about a month ago, they announced that they were inviting HH Dalai Lama to visit Ireland in 2013. I have noticed that this announcement has been removed. That would have been the first visit by HHDL to a Rigpa event since the documentary aired and BTT was placed online.

    I would also like to thank the monk who has commented above for sharing his experiences. It is wonderful to have the addition of sangha in this discussion! In response to his comment on the “dark stench that is a shame on over 2500 years of Dharma” I agree, but would like to add a positive outlook as well. I believe that Tibetans themselves are in a very dark period of their history, with Chinese hearts so hardened and intractable. However, Tibetan Buddhism in the world, despite the actions of a few mischievous lamas, appears to me to be vibrant and alive. I personally view these times we are in as ones with a potential for great growth and optimism.

    • I would certainly concur with you.

      The Buddha said “Do not think a small sin will not return in your future lives. Just as falling drops of water will fill a large container, the little sins that steadfast accumulate will completely overwhelm you. Do not think a small virtue will not return in your future lives. Just as falling drops of water will fill a large container, the little virtues that steadfast accumulate will completely overwhelm you.”

      The little things can go either way. The Buddha also noted “The thought manifests as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit and the habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care and let it spring from love, born out of concern for all beings.”

      There is a great potential for Tibetan Buddhism however as you pointed out the hardened and intractable hearts of the Chinese, these types of hearts can not be found in the teachers of the blessed Dharma. People have suffered greatly in the name of religion and the backlash can be very severe.

      The Blessed Buddha taught the Dharma was above all else in importance, if the teachers lose sight of this, the students will have to regain composure and realize as the great Master said “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

      That is the hope of all Buddhism. May the Buddha bless you.

  17. I stand corrected. The invitation to Dzogchen Beara is still in the works– they are asking for 15, 000 students to participate in the invitation– a sort of petition.

    “Join the invitation today to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama to return to Ireland – with Cork AND Dzogchen Beara on the itinerary!

    We aim to gather 15,000 signatures before we make the invitation. So please sign up today!”

  18. Drolma check the DI page-the quote you thought I made actually came from Mike Garde of DI-the one where he describes himself as ‘attacking religion’ If he is serious, it speak reams about the anti cultist agenda

  19. Yes, my thoughts exactly, Author. However, it has helped me to understand better myself the importance of keeping this trouble within dharmic bounds. It might even be that this is where the deep correction will ultimately lie. I don’t know, but whenever we wander too far outside of dharmic perspectives in our discussions, it just gets crazy and hostile. Maybe there’s a need for it, I don’t know. I’ll leave that up to INFORM and UNADFI to show us.

  20. […] deleted by blog owner

  21. Drolma says:

    Yes, Vera, I wholeheartedly approve of your wishes. And thank you, Tenpel, for your discerning moderation. In this spirit, I want to confess that I too have, in fact, posted under two names, my western name Joanne and my dharma name, Drolma. I did this partly by accident– I wanted to be fully transparent when I told the story of my time at Rigpa– then as soon as I did that, I wanted to switch back to Drolma and keep the continuity of my comment identity. So I confess and apoligize and will be Drolma from now on!

  22. Author says:

    […] deleted by blog owner

  23. […] deleted by blog owner

  24. Dear All, I deleted the last comments. I am sorry that I only realized with a delay, that we’ve left a constructive approach, and that misunderstandings start to prevail. I apologize for my mistakes, I am very sorry.

    […] deleted by blog owner

    With respect to keeping a save environment here, its important to follow Right Speech and truthfulness otherwise chaos and distrust arise. Using different names or double accounts, I think, is not very helpful here though one might have reasons for it or it seems to be justifiable.

    […] deleted by blog owner

    Thank you very much. I am really sorry, and try to be more careful.
    Please feel free to point out my mistakes or to criticize me if I fail. You can do this also offline.
    Very best, Tenpel

  25. You have no need to apologise at all, Tenpel. Thanks for keeping this thread to the point. So easy to get distracted. Right speech, right on!

  26. Author says:

    I agree Tenzin,
    Right Speech is required, I think the question was raised in relation to the speaking truthfully aspect, though its manner of expression came across as the harsh speech aspect, Both are important-now,back to our normal programs!

  27. Drolma says:

    Yes, I agree and thank you, Tenpel for your close scrutiny. It is my observation that in the context of what we are trying to do, which is to move forward and resolve issues towards healthier and safer dharma centers, it then becomes imperative that we ourselves stay mindful. Because of the rough edge in such issues as sexual abuse, it is so easy to slip out of that– and then it’s just more of the same, hostility and a dead end. On the other hand, being mindful of our speech makes us mindful of our motivation and that’s when opportunities open up. At least, that’s where my faith in the dharma lies.

  28. author says:

    Recent questions over the identity of a poster caused a fair deal of discomfort here and had to be moved because they were deemed as somehow being ‘off topic’ The whole situation caused a fair deal of discomfort for some, a discomfort which arose IMO, because questioning others about their identity is somehow considered impolite. Now, I am not one for raking over the coals of a dead fire but it strikes me that the nature of the questioning was extremely relevant to this debate, and relevant to the whole debate of how to proceed in our role as those who help transplant Dharma to the West. it also has a lot to do with why people have wound up being in the past,’it’ being the tendency for we Westerners to accept things at face value and not to question.

    I have often thought it would be very easy in the West, particularly the US, to take an old Chinese man from the local store, preferably none-English speaking, teach him a few spiritual catch phrases such as ‘Ah so! and ‘Surely this is the blessing of the Noble One, and market him as His Eminence Fu Man Chu. I reckon within a few weeks, one could procure enough funds to run a small nunnery in Nepal (or indeed a penthouse flat in NYC)

    The reason for this is that as Westerners, it seems we have a tendency to consider asking others to show their credentials as impolite and rude-its just not done.

    In the East, on the other hand, such questioning has always been openly encouraged. Throughout the scriptures we find lists of qualifying characteristics fer, for different levels of spiritual teacher, from the Elder of the Theravada all the way up to the Vajrayana guru of the Tibetan Mahayana tantras.

    The reason for these lists is that it is entirely appropriate to question someone about their spiritual credentials, especially if they present themselves as a spiritual being. If not, for what other reason would these lists exist?

    The reason I point to this is because, AFAICS, one of the main reasons Westerners have been abused in Buddhism is that they have felt it impolite to question a teachers spiritual credentials, often even after they have entered into a relationship with them.

    The point is, this is a Western tendency, and one that is totally contradictory to the way the Buddha expected us to behave: ‘As if we were buying gold’ I think he said.

    In the West, there are numerous avenues open to us, avenues that can give us insights into the history and background of those who promote themselves as masters. The internet for example, though seen by many as the root of all evil, is an extremely useful tool if we want to find out the truth about a teacher or his ‘tradition’. One need only look at the effect the internet has had in publicising the misdemeanours of Kelsang Gyatso and the NKT, or Sogyal to see what a valuable tool it is in finding the truth behind the lies.
    Try googling FWBO and scandal, for instance, and a whole mountain of disturbing information about the reality behind what was once one of the UKs most powerful Buddhist groups immediately comes to light inglorious techncolor detail.

    My point is, as Westerners entrusted with the task of importing and implanting the Dharma in its new home, we should not shy away from asking questions about teachers and their organizations. Far from it, we have a duty to ourselves and future generations to do exactly that. Far from feeling guilty about asking such questions, we should see it as our moral duty, for buth ourselves and others. If we had done this in the past, perhaps we would noot now find ourselves in the mess that we are in

    • Dear Author.
      This leads us back to the old discussion, which I deleted. I pick it up shortly and try to bring this issue forward and back to topic–though of course this is not really off topic.

      I appreciate your approach to question things and enquire about them, not taking things for granted. However, the point is how it is done.

      Before one speaks or posts one has to see the context of the situation, if it fits well, if there is a real need for it or if there are other means to address and to clarify doubts. Then there is also a huge difference if one questions a person who is in front of oneself or who is part of a group process, and to ask just about a group, teacher or person who is not in front of oneself or not part of a group process/discussion. One could also check beforehand if certain things should be questioned in public or not. Why not clarifying it first off the public discussion? Then I would like to suggest to not state doubts as facts because, I think, this feels like “throwing these doubts like weapons onto others” and it forces others into the corner to justify themselves … I think it would be better to follow an polite approach if one directly addresses a person: “I am sorry, but I have doubts, please could you clarify these for me? … My doubts are based on the following observations and I cannot reconcile these things …” This approach leaves space for the other person and the discussion; not only this, it also leaves space for oneself, to investigate, to correct oneself or to get a better picture. This approach leaves the investigation open for both sides.

      As the Dalai Lama says: “My religion is kindness.” Kindness is not in contradiction with a discriminating mind, they both work excellent together. The problem is if speech turns into harsh speech, and others feel attacked by it, a kind attitude avoids that.

      Now with respect to the problem, which is very true, that Westerners easily fall pray to self-proclaimed lamas or charlatans, and that we have to learn to check before we rely on somebody, I can only agree. I am not so sure if the internet is a reliable source per se. For instance there is quite a lot of wrong information about the Dalai Lama. I think the better approach would be as HH the Dalai Lama suggested it (we discussed this here at the blog already) + that Buddhists try to develop the qualities as described by Aryadeva, Chandrakirti* and commented by Tsong Kha Pa: 1) discriminating wisdom that can differentiate between wrong and correct teachings of the Dharma 2) an unbiased / non-sectarian attitude 3) diligence towards the aim (enlightenment). If a student has them and he or she finds in bed with a teacher but instead of coming closer to enlightenment he or she develops more and more confusion and mind poisons or the own qualities degenerate, there is obvious something rotten in Denmark … The internet might be a help as a start, as long as there are reliable and creditable sources of information. But there is also a lot of trash there (see for instance the Western Shugden Society site).

      * see the explanation in the middle of this post : The defining characteristics of the student who relies upon the teacher

  29. On that issue, I thought the Anon question was phrased relatively benignly, although its gone now so I cant check- I certainly agree it would have been better if it had been asked privately.Problem is that, even seemingly innocent and inoffensive statements lead to a gradual build up in credibility-faith develops and then, before you know it, the truth outs and you have a crisis on your hands-

    I think its always good to sort things out-remember Sangharakshita, who came back telling everyone he was an ordained monk and procured hundreds for the purpose of sexual abuse. And ‘Geshe’ Kelsang Gyatso, who doesnt appear to be a geshe at all, and Geshe Michael Roach, who wears monks robes while playing tantra-the list is endless-If these people had been questioned at the start, things might well be different Anyway, I believe questioning is of primary importance,at the earliest convenience, along with saying it with flowers…………my dear friend;)

    I beleive all this is a problem of bringing Western sensibilities to Eastern Dharma. I read with interest the other day that Gandhis views on pacifism, which have greatly influenced HH for instance, were given to him during his early years in London, while training to be a barrister, The ideas came from Western orientalists, with a somewhat idealistic/ romantic view of India and the East in general., whereas Indian society reflected some pretty violent ideals with regard to how the warrior, kshatriya, class should behave. Indeed, in the Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that, rather than being kind to his enemies and behaving peacefully, he has a duty to kill them (Of course, Gandhi argued that the Gita was allegorical)

    My point is, both not questioning and behaving in a gentle peaceful manner are not necessarily the only Buddhist way. One need only seek out quotes from the Fifth Dalai Lama with regard to wiping out Kagyus directing the Mongol army to obliterate their male and female lines, and their offspring “like eggs smashed against rocks…. In short, annihilate any traces of them, even their names”,to see that previous Dalai Lamas didnt always ‘say it with flowers’ And remember, he was known as the ‘Great Fifth’! Buddhism isnt always what we think it is: it is a many faceted jewe, some of the faces of which offend Western sensibilites.

    • I think none of us is at the level of the Fifth Dalai Lama (but maybe Anon is?), and I don’t think that it was a good idea of the Fifth Dalai Lama to call for this type of violence

      And even if stronger means were needed Anon didn’t give a gentle approach nor a skilful approach a trial. And my point is the way how one is approaching someone directly or who is part of a group process. This is something different from questioning groups or teachers who are not part of a communication process.

      However, lets leave it now with this.
      I do apologize for not having seen that the discussion went into a destructive direction offending others, that I was not able to protect others from being offended, and I hope we learned something from it, otherwise we will have to experience this again ;-)

  30. Yes, I agree with Tenpel, and I would add that it is important to look into one’s motivation for questioning another’s credentials. For example, if the person is a teacher and you are wanting to know if you can trust his/her teachings, if you can trust your spiritual wellbeing to him/her, then by all means it is important to have a questioning attitude and look into the credentials and take your time etc. The motivation is quite sound in this case. However, with […], he was simply presenting himself as […] with comments to add to the discussion. It’s sort of silly in my mind to be subjecting him to a grueling background check when all he wanted to do was become part of the discussion. In that instance, I would question your motivation? None of the rest of us have to show ID before we take part in the conversation. It seemed a little unfair to me. Certainly we in the west could do with a little more caution in our approach to the dharma, as you say, but we could also all of us do with a lot more kindness as well.

    […] deleted by blogowner; I don’t want to go into this discussion again

  31. author says:

    IMO, seemingly innocuous interventions in important discussions by figures who may be using them as a platform to increase the image of authenticity should be challenged. I would point to the situations within the UK establishment, where groups widely recognised as deviant New Religious Movements such as the NKT, the FWBO and SGI have offered their services to government in areas such as education, community relations and so on, with the clear intent of enhancing their image of legitimacy.Subsequently, when questions were raised about the legitimacy of these groups, they pointed to their involvement in these bodies as an indicator of their legitimacy

    This doesnt have to be the sole domain of groups however. Individuals intent on promoting an image that is not truthful, or views that contradict the Dharma, can post their views on websites such as this and thus promote themselves as part of the solution, whereas they might easily be part of the problem. Hence I feel they should be questioned, if there is even the slightest suspicion of such. Why?In order to protect others and prevent manipulation of the honest.

    We may not agree on this. However, where we all agree is this is not the platform and such inquiries should first be made in the private and not the public domain.To that end, and since Tenzin has asked that we move on, I will not comment on this issue again. However, I would insist that the motive in asking such questions is the protection of others.

    With the greatest respect for all here and compassion for those trapped in such power games.

    • Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is a well respected Lama by all who meet him, hear his teachings and read his wonderful commentaries on the ancient teachings. He is a strict and serious teacher who ‘cuts the mustard’ in regard of giving detailed instructions on how to permanently end suffering for the disciplined practitioner. I’m sure the Buddhas are pleased with his devotion as well. Also those members of the NKT that I know strive accomplish the path. This has been my observation as a Canadian Buddhist.

      • Ha ha ha ;-) Dream on.

      • Clearly there are very few dharma alternatives in Canada’s vast expanse. Or perhaps you need to get out more. I wonder how many other teachers you have encountered before youu came to rely on this man, if you have ever even met him. Have you Zarcon?

  32. It is interesting and relevant, however, to see how there can be two angles on the current trouble. From one angle, there is a world of power-hungry, dishonest, mischevious people, posing as Buddhist only to manipulate and harm. These might need to be questioned and nipped in the bud. From another angle, however, there are vulnerable, harmed human beings, seeking to find fellow sufferers, seeking to find meaning out of betrayal, seeking to find decency, a world of trust and kindness. Of course, both are relevant. However, the second group is very sensitive to tone and rough talk generally.

    • Exactly, especially those who suffered from being betrayed or being misled, they need a kind and compassionate approach, understanding, new perspectives but not in any way a harsh or sharp speech.

      I found that people who did not experience spiritual, emotional, financial, power or sexual abuse often lack the sensitivity to communicate with people who experienced that. Often they don’t realise even slightest the hurt their speech is creating, open up new wounds, increasing confusion and distrust with their words. I’ve witnessed often that their urge to straightly forward their truth stirs up peoples’ mind (who have experienced abuse or being misled) to the worse and not to the better and also that there is a violent attitude behind it which is to force onto others the own truths or point of views without considering their perspective, situation or state of mind. Actual, what they are often doing could be described as to violently open the eyes of others while the eyes of others are not yet ready to see certain things one wants them to see, and while they violently try to open the eyes of others the unprepared eyes are damaged because of not being able to cope with what they see or what appears to them.

      I found it inspiring to read about old Christian priests who had the ethics that it is not correct to force onto other truths which the person is not ready to see. Because this person might not have the capacity or the emotional strength to see and to accept a certain fact or truth, and then to impose one’s or “the truth” onto others becomes an act of violence. The advice they are giving is (roughly translated and summerized) the following:

      “You should never act in a way that the person who seeks advice leaves you in sadness, because with this you didn’t help him to grow. Poimen therefore does not reveal his truths to others when he feels that the other is still not ready to face the truth.”

      Of course we could also consider Buddha’s approach to skilfully explain things according to the capacities and needs of others. He has never imposed his understanding onto others, he has never forced others to see as he sees things. Often he said also things which were not really correct but were helpful to others or he just was silent …

      People undergo usually a gradual process to see things more clearly and to come closer to reality, to see things more clearly can neither be imposed onto others nor should they be forced to see things they cannot see at the moment. And every gradual process into insight needs the support of a patient, compassionate and wise attitude. (Of course there are exceptions, but the difference is, that the person who is able to see facts also in an “instant manner” is ready to see it, and can cope with it in an inspiring manner and not getting depressed or upset by it … etc)

      So it all comes back to compassion and wisdom or ethics. If one is led by them one won’t say things that stir others mind except they are able to handle it finally and one is sure it has a long term benefit and (if at all) only short term harm.

  33. Author says:

    “I found that people who did not experience spiritual, emotional, financial, power or sexual abuse often lack the sensitivity to communicate with people who experienced that”

    .My own experiences of Buddhism have led to me experiencing what some would call extremes of emotional and financial abuse-I dont want to go into what where how and why-I regard the groups as genuine and sincere, no matter how power crazed they might have become
    Point is, I never viewed it as abuse, but rather treated it as if it were my karma. It took years to come to terms with and in some ways I still burn. But I havent called ‘abuse; I have seen it as the result of my own inadequaicies,
    While this has made me strong I suppose this must make it difficult for me to empathize. On the other hand, it makes me determined to protect others, fiercely if necessary.

    • Thank you, author. I think, if one can see it that way this is really the best and its also according to the teachings.

      The repeated use of the term “abuse” can be an abuse too, and in a long term perspective it might not be very helpful at all. Words like “victims”, “perpetrator” or “abuse” neglect or obscure all dependent arising. On the other hand, for most people it is not very helpful if for instance someone was raped or tortured or if a person suffers from a trauma or post traumatic stress syndrome, to say to that person, “it was your karma.” I think also here (except for strong persons) a gradual approach is needed: 1) accepting and acknowledging the facts “this happened to me … this is what I experienced … these are my feelings, I am so much disturbed / angry …” — to accept the experience is the most difficult point; and for the sake to learn to accept (and finally to let go) the experience, one must see also the suffering and this might be overwhelming, that’s why persons who support a “victim” or want to help a “victim” need a compassionate attitude that goes along with the state where they are at the moment, one cannot throw truths onto them which weaken them even more; therefore saying to such a person at this stage: ‘its your fault’, ‘its your Karma’ won’t be helpful in most cases 2) trying to understand what happened 3) seeing the interrelatedness which led to this situation; at the 3rd stage one might have the strength and courage, the clarity to ask: Why did I allow others to abuse me or to transpass my boundaries? What were my parts in this process? What drove me into this situation?

  34. And again, there is a ine that is crossed, a line between on the one hand, karma and guru devotion, and on the other unreasonable usage of these ideas to facilitate abuse. Where that line is will vary from person to person, and again, where that person is in temporal relationship to the event-What seemed like abuse ten years ago may just be seen as karma now, and conversely, what is seen as karma now, might be seen as abuse in ten years.
    Of course, for Buddhists, karma and abuse are synonymous.

    • Of course, for Buddhists, karma and abuse are synonymous.

      Not necessarily, my thesis for today is: they can coexist as valid entities.

      If one is speaking of dependent arising, Karma is one factor in that and it is mainly that which determines how one is experiencing something. The mental factor feeling (which can be neutral, pleasant [happiness] or unpleasant [suffering]) is the factor which determines personal experiences as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. And “what we experience is the individual maturation of any positive or negative action as its final result”. If one focuses on this complex connection one says that Karma determines the way we experience bodily feelings and mental disturbances. According to Abidharmakosha, mental happiness or mental unhappiness are not maturation of Karma, like being unhappy with a negative deed which is a positive action and that unhappiness is not maturation of Karma or if someone is happy about that an enemy has to suffer, this is not maturation of Karma but a negative deed …

      Now, with respect to looking from the perspective of a person that came due to a complex process of dependent arising (in which Karma is only one of many factors!) under the power of a teacher who exploits his or her students for sexual, material, emotional or power gratification, from a personal perspective one could still speak of “I have been used by this person (or allowed him to do so) in an inappropriate manner. He ab—used me.” There is nothing wrong for me here, because it explains the individual experience of having been overpowered by another person’s power and having experienced harm. Though, of course, “He ab—used me.” it is only part of a greater process which can only be explained finally on the basis of a correct understanding of dependent arising, in which one factor is karma that determines the mental factor feeling or the experience of the person who had to undergo suffering.

      It is interesting that Western Buddhists tend towards to throw Karma like a weapon onto others. Also Ole Nydahl seems to do this. Lets question this: 1) not everything is Karma, because how flowers arise is also due to the interrelatedness of the elements etc. only how I experience this flower is determined by Karma and this means precisely the feeling which goes along with the sense consciousnesses. But if I hate flowers and hate arises in my mental consciousness I have an unpleasant feeling which is not the ripening of Karma but, an mental action. If I learned to dissolve this hate and develop another view about the flower, mental happiness can arise. Like contemplating the kindness of the person who planted it. 2) When the Buddha was asked why a certain country was overpowered by war. What did he reply? Western Buddhists might tend to reply: it was their karma. But the Buddha said: This war came into existence because the rich didn’t share their wealth with the poor, therefore the poor got poorer by getting poorer, their suffering and dissatisfaction increased by this they got unhappy and quarrelled with each other, then the conflicts increased and finally there was war.

      I think there is a lot to contemplate about the answer the Buddha had given, and this rather complex issue.

  35. Yes, Tenpel, thank you– and it was also said that only the Buddha can fully understand the workings of karma. I certainly can’t!

    I think the issue really is about the usefulness in talking about karma instead of allowing ourselves the term, abuse. I very much liked your response, Tenzin, that it is not useful in the beginning to see one’s sufferings, which have resulted from the actions of another, as karma. It is actually quite threatening and condemning and does not assist with the critical need for cultivating wisdom and deeper understanding.

    I myself have only this past year been able to view my experiences in terms of my karma. This isn’t because I wasn’t tough enough or wise enough to see the karmic aspect of my suffering– but because it was vital in my healing to recognize and understand how my suffering was very much caused by the misdeeds of others. I needed this in order to move on with better understanding and personal growth– and not make the same mistakes again!

    If I had just taken the position that all my suffering was due to my karma, then this would have had two negative effects: 1. My habit of self-bashing, already a big problem for me, would have just worsened; and 2. I would have failed to understand fully what went wrong. Understanding the fuller picture when our lives go astray is critical– and that often entails understanding the faults and midsdeeds of others. Abuse is simply a term for those misdeeds which has meaning for us.

    Karma does not mean that we live in a vacumn and can never hold others accountable for harming us. It is an insult to our integrity not to fully acknowledge this particular aspect of the picture, even as we seek to better account for the role that karma might play. For example, nowadays, as I have gained in strength I am able to use my view of karma as a tool for rejoicing. When the mental pain is greatest, I can rejoice at the amount of purification that I must be achieving. It has also helped me get past the questions I cannot answer, such as why I have struggled so with my relations with lamas– I could not possibly be such a horrible person to account for all of it. Lately, it has helped me to say, “Wow, I must have done some pretty nasty things to lamas in a past life.” It actually lightens the load a little. However, it has taken me years to get to this point– and in the beginning, it would have been very damaging to take on such a view.

    As His Holiness once said in response to a question regarding whether compassion meant that we couldn’t judge others’ actions: “Bad is bad,” he said, “And we respond accordingly.”

    And I would say, karma or no karma, abuse is abuse.

    • Dear Drolma,
      only very short … (quite busy at the moment) …

      If one has a mental attitude of always blaming oneself and this self-blaming attributes to more suffering and unhappiness. Then this self-blaming isn’t useful.
      Like it might not be very useful for a person who is utter depressed to speak about suffering and death, because this could increase his depression. Such a person might rather need something uplifting, understanding or compassion (or medical / psychological treatment).

      If a (certain) understanding of Karma comes in, and it fuels the self-blaming which in turn fuels the suffering, then in such a situation the consideration of Karma in the sense of “I am responsible for my own experiences; I’ve created the causes for the suffering in the past by my actions AND because I am still in Samsara, and because I haven’t abandoned the root of suffering, I must undergo sufferings again and again, therefore I should blame my laziness and ignorance + mind poisons and abandon these.” might not be useful.

      But the problem is not the karma teaching or a proper understanding of it but the destructive pattern of self-blaming and belittling oneself which has become too strong and which weakens the strength of mind. The problem is the ego grasping. There is no real I or mine who has created this, there is no ego to be blamed, only the ignorance which wrongly creates the imagination of an inherent existent ego and the belief into its existence can be blamed. Karma does not punish, Karma is not a justice system, its just a natural law. If a farmer forgot to sow the seeds or planted the wrong seeds, he will experience the results of it. Who is to be blamed? Nobody, its just natural. When one looks for the root of this farmer’s “fault” it would be forgetfulness based on ignorance, so only these factors can be blamed but ultimately there is no I which can be blamed, the conventional I, that is merely labelled on the basis of the aggregates, is the conventional “victim” of forgetfulness and ignorance, one should have compassion with this “I”. Nothing but compassion for oneself is needed, without falling into the traps of self-pity.

      Now with respect to this:

      it was vital in my healing to recognize and understand how my suffering was very much caused by the misdeeds of others.

      Looking onto this from the truth of the Dharma, it is wrong. My suffering was created by my past negative actions, based on ignorance and the mind poisons which formed the basis of these negative actions, and even the suffering I experience at the moment is based on ignorance, those who have abandoned ignorance cannot experience harm, like the Buddhas or Arhats. Others only contributed as a condition for my suffering but the real causes are my past actions + ignorance.

      I think it is vital for Buddhist practice and spiritual growth to come to a correct understanding, though, as suggested, this might be possible only gradually.

  36. Author says:

    Here is how Tricycles agony aunt addressed the issue I dont necessarily agree, I just post it because she tries to help people make sense of their expeirence without asserting that experiences are anything other than karma

    If a person was sexually abused, does it mean that they were definitely a bad person? What are the various karmic reasons for abuse? Leading away from the idea of karma, couldn’t a person undergo certain experiences because it will shape their life in an ultimately positive way, i.e. they are meant to be a certain type of person to serve their own growth and society? In yoga, there are writings about the yoga of pain, the path of pain. There is not judgment put on this path, just acknowledgment that correctly handled, pain leads to compassion. Is abuse entirely explainable by karma, or is it just one of those things that happen in life? In other words, is everything under the umbrella of karma? Does anything ever just happen?

    Karma Queen says:

    Yes, everything that happens in samsara—ordinary, conditioned existence—is subject to karma. Karma is the natural law of cause-and-effect: For every action, there’s a reaction. Whatever we do and think has consequences, in other words. Karma does not imply, however, that there’s some cosmic force meting out judgment or life lessons. Karma is the result of many causes and conditions coming together. The way it works is too complex for us to say definitively this happened because of that in the past—or a past lifetime.

    Rather than speculating on whether or not someone who has been sexually abused was “bad” in the past, why not ask yourself why this issue is of concern to you now? If you are plagued by memories of abuse, how can you free yourself from the obsessive thoughts? There’s no need to continue suffering guilt or anguish about events that happened in the past over which you had no control. Of course, if the abuse is continuing in the present, you should take immediate steps to distance yourself from the abusive situation. But if you are dealing with the residual effects of past abuse, you need to break the chain of thinking that keeps you feeling like a victim. When negative thoughts arise, don’t dwell on them. Replace them with self-compassion. Loving-kindness meditation can help in this regard.

  37. Author says:

    You suggest that “I am responsible for my own experiences; I’ve created the causes for the suffering in the past by my actions AND because I am still in Samsara, and because I haven’t abandoned the root of suffering, I must undergo sufferings again and again, therefore I should blame my laziness and ignorance + mind poisons and abandon these.” might not be useful.

    Of course they are not because, as you know, that is never how the teaching on karma was meant to be understood. In fact, karma/ dependent arising is the very reason for not blaming oneself. One ‘blames’ karma and ignorance for suffering. ‘I’ was never part of the equation because ‘I’ doesnt exist. It is the ignorant belief in such an I, along with the process of dependant origination, that produced suffering and also the framework which allows us to experience suffering. When we created the karma, we were not this ‘I’, we thought we were someone else .And even they werent real.

    So the problem was caused by ignorance, perpetuated by dependant arising and then the result was experienced because of ignorance. No I was ever required in this process, only the mistaken belief in an inherently existent one

    So, if we want to experience freedom from suffering, we should never blame ourselves for our karma, only ignorance and karma itself! To think ‘I am responsible for my suffering’ is the total opposite of Dharma!!!!It also perpetuates the very thing that trapped us here since beginningless time!

    • Dear Drolma & Author,
      Yes I think the first part in the healing process of having experienced what we call abuse is, to clearly see that they what the other person did was wrong. It was his wrong deed, not my wrong deed, yes, and it harmed me. So as you say: „Bad is bad“ or as someone wrote offline for to me: a girl asking His Holiness what to do if a boy is bullying her, he replied: hit him, and laughed, Then he explained she must stand up (and we all must do this) to stop others to bully oneself or others. So the action of bullying or harming is wrong. Its the other person’s fault not my fault. But why had I to experience this, and not my best friend or sister/brother? Here it is were Karma comes in.

      I utter agree for a person who is used to bash oneself it might be very destructive to apply (a wrong, misleading or maybe even correct) understanding of Karma onto oneself, when it increases the pattern of self-bashing.

      It is also very important, when a lama’s or Rinpoche’s advice is contrary to the Dharma to not accept it. It is a correct practice to not accept advice or teachings discordant to the Dharma.

      @author, thank you for quote of Tricycle. I think it adds good points to the discussion. I agree that if one understands dependent arising there is not any possibility to blame oneself.The skilful means to blame temporarily the causes of suffering, ignorance and afflictions is one Shantideva suggested when he explains how to deal with anger. And of course, as the I does not exist inherently, also ignorance, karma and laziness / all afflictions don’t exist inherently. They can’t be found by ultimate analysis, yet they appear and are not utter non-existent. „So the problem was caused by ignorance, perpetuated by dependant arising and then the result was experienced because of ignorance. No I was ever required in this process, only the mistaken belief in an inherently existent one“, I agree.

      When I said. „“I am responsible for my own experiences; I’ve created the causes for the suffering in the past by my actions AND because I am still in Samsara, and because I haven’t abandoned the root of suffering, I must undergo sufferings again and again, therefore I should blame my laziness and ignorance + mind poisons and abandon these.” I didn’t refer to an inherent existent I but the „mere I“ that is solely labelled on the basis of the aggregates. Of course there is no ultimate I that is responsible for anything, but the deeds the dependent arising phenomena of the 5 aggregates have done are related to the continuity of these aggregates and will be experienced by the mental factor feeling within the continuity of these aggregates, and since we attach the word I to the 5 aggregates, conventional speaking „I am responsible“, which just means, hadn’t the five aggregates performed negative deeds in the past, the 5 aggregates of the present wouldn’t undergo this specific suffering, because it is obvious that though these aggregates undergo this specific suffering, others’ aggregates do not.

  38. Drolma says:

    Yes, Tenpel, you are certainly correct and I don’t think I explained myself very well in my last comment. I certainly was not saying that I needed an ignorant approach in order to heal, nor did I use an ignorant approach, nor did I ever fail to respect the role that interdependence or karma played in my troubles. Simply because I did not find it skillful to use recognition of karma as a central practice early on in my approaches to mental pain, did not mean, however, that I was practicing ignorance of them. In fact, as a student of HHDL, I was studying interdependence daily.

    What I have learned over and over and over about using the dharma to help myself through difficulties is that there is never one angle, never one practice. This is what I thought I was saying in my previous comment. To view my suffering as simply the results of karma– or even simply the results of my own ignorance– was neither helpful for me nor accurate. To approach any difficulty, it is crucial to understand the reality, the full picture. For my own healing, I needed to maintain and understand the fuller picture, which certainly involved misconduct on the part of others.

    The other aspect of this that I was hoping to convey is that I needed to be skillful with myself. I needed to know when it was appropriate to approach my difficulties from each angle. I needed to know when it was appropriate to focus on karma and when it was appropriate to focus on the misconduct of others and when it was appropriate to focus on love and compassion. Of course, all the other dharma practices were involved as well. All of them. Sometimes I was able to take on the suffering of others with my own suffering and pray that my suffering would dry up the sea of this particular suffering. Sometimes, such a practice was too difficult and all I could manage was repeating mantras. Sometimes I was in such trouble that I would return to a favorite teaching by HHDL on patience and find renewed courage there. Sometimes, in the beginning, all I could do was smoke– but I decided early on that smoking was better than going back to bed in defeat. My healing was a constant interweaving of the bare bones of dharma into my life in order to get back on my feet. There is no one single teaching– that was the point I hoped I was making above. Attributing my suffering to karma was only one aspect of my healing. Calling abuse abuse was another part– because we need to have a valid cognition about relative reality as well. We just need to know what’s what to become strong and discerning and capable of healing.

    In that regard, what has always been vital to my healing, from the very beginning of those dark days, has been education, daily study. I was very fortunate, (call it Karma) that HHDL began placing his Dharamsala teachings on webcast a few months after I left my last lama. Those teachings provided me with my lifeline. The most precious perspective His Holiness has given me over the years is the mandate to “know the reality” — for him, this means keeping sight of the wider perspective. In his view of interdependence, there is never one solid approach to any difficulty, but a multiplicity of angles and approaches and solutions. So that was all that I had hoped to convey in my last comment.

  39. Drolma says:

    Another example of what I’m trying to convey: Lately, I’ve been finding the teachings on no-self to be very helpful for my spiritual and emotional growth. However, in the beginning of my difficulties, seven years ago, they weren’t at all helpful because during this time, I needed to be building a strong sense of self confidence. I had to be allowing myself something of a solid self in order to move forward with that. I needed to ground myself and creating a more solid self was important in that. I personally don’t see any contradiction in those two experiences.

    In the same way, Buddha himself taught that there was a self to a certain group of people at a certain time and taught the wisdom of selflessness to another group at another time. Buddhism is so much about skillful means, I believe, and we need to apply those skillful means to ourselves as well as hope that we find them in our spiritual teacher.

  40. Drolma says:

    This issue is critically important to the discussion here, I believe, so at risk of being longwinded, I’d like to add another perspective, a western psychological perspective. In this perspective, the essential– and most difficult– first step in recovering from an abusive relationship is the recognition that abuse is actually occurring in the first place. Any psychotherapist will tell you that in an abusive relationship, the abused typically feels totally responsible for the abuse, feels that he or she deserves it. It is difficult to break out of that vicious cycle, but healing cannot occur until the cycle is broken, until the reality is known and seen.

    I believe that when the abusive relationship is a dharmic one, then it becomes even more difficult to acknowledge that abuse has occurred because added to that usual cycle, you also have committments of samaya and Buddhist teachings that tell us we are totally responsible for our suffering and that the faults we see in the lama are faults in ourselves etc, etc. This is what makes this situaton at Rigpa, where women are frightened to make that first step, frightened to say that there is, indeed, sexual abuse occurring, so difficult.

    • Well said Dromla. Thank you very much for your last comments.

      I think in the same direction as you state in the latter paragraph, that we might blur ourselves (our discriminative wisdom) from seeing reality by avoiding or rejecting to call a wrong, destructive action a wrong and destructive action. The Vajrayana works quite different to the Sutra approach, and what was meant to help a Tantrayana practitioner to progress can be easily ab—used as a means to annihilate reality or to twist it. There is a reason why it was said that this is a dangerous path too. I really wonder why it is taught to beginners so much. I appreciate Shamarpa’s approach for Westerners who said: “I think that nowadays the Bodhisattvayana with a high level of meditation is most suitable for the majority of people.” A situation where less educated (in terms of Buddhism) / young women, who lack knowledge about the three vehicles, and with a tendency of having less self-esteem or an unhealthy devotion are taught to see the Guru as enlightened and this Guru acts and can act as he pleases and then everybody defends the actions as enlightened and those who suffer are blamed or blame themselves for their suffering “its your/my karma”, as if it had nothing to do with the destructive actions of the Lama (which are interpreted as “enlightened”) + the Samaya not to criticize the guru or to even leave him + blaming oneself for the faults one is seeing in the Lama, I think there couldn’t be a better situation for the growth and flourish of abuse. I can not imagine a better setting for abuse. It’s quite perfect.

      The Issue of Submission

      Some Westerners enter relationships with spiritual teachers along the model of Catholic nuns who marry Jesus and vow total unquestioning obedience to higher authority. They feel that if they surrender, open their hearts, and let their mentors act through them, they will be able to serve the world. On a psychological level, this syndrome sometimes derives from low self-esteem and from feelings that self-worth comes from “belonging” to a spiritually superior being. Although the syndrome is more typical of women spiritual seekers in relation to male teachers, it often arises also in men.

      Voluntary submission to an idealized person and the wish to belong to someone greater than themselves may easily open spiritual seekers to various forms of abuse. If abused, either sexually or in less severe ways, the experience may reinforce low self-opinions: they may feel that they deserved the bad treatment. Alternatively, the abuse may cause them subsequently to close their hearts to anyone else. On the surface, submission may seem like a loss of ego and therefore a Buddhist virtue. However, if the submission is for unconsciously gaining a sense of self-worth and for self-affirmation through belonging to someone greater, it undermines rather than strengthens a healthy sense of self. A feeling of self-worth comes primarily from acknowledging one’s own potentials and from using them to benefit others as much as one can.

      Moreover, Western disciples who presume that Buddhism shares the Biblical approach to ethics may mistakenly imagine that Tibetan lamas morally judge them. This may lead to inappropriately introducing the concept of guilt into the dynamics of the relationship. If students fail to do everything their mentors ask, they feel guilty and unworthy. Therefore, fearing rejection because of being “bad disciples,” they feel they must submit without question and always obey.

      From a Buddhist standpoint, behavioral cause and effect function without a higher authority passing judgment. A person avoids destructive behavior not because of fear of punishment, but because of wishing to avoid the suffering that unhealthy behavior brings. As explained above, obedience to laws created by God or promulgated by an elected legislature is a culturally specific virtue, not a universal one.

      A healthy relationship with a spiritual mentor, then, does not entail submission or belonging to the mentor. Nor does it entail guilt-based obedience. One must differentiate clearly between being a mentor’s disciple and belonging to a mentor.

      • Tiger Lily says:

        Gender Prejudice

        ………The position of women in most traditional Asian societies is inferior to that of men. Prejudice was so rampant in ancient Indian society during Buddha’s time, for example, that to avoid disdain by a patriarchal society, Buddha and his followers even codified gender bias in the monastic rules of discipline. Thus, numerous traditional Tibetan mentors, particularly monks, share the legacy of this prejudice, either consciously or unconsciously, despite Buddha’s teaching that the mind has no inherent gender. Their overt or subtle denigration of women often humiliates and discourages Western female students. The situation frequently leads to major blocks in the spiritual progress of these women.

        Complaining about the prejudice and campaigning for traditional Tibetans to change their values often bring only more frustration, bitterness, and anger. As when dwelling on any conventional fault of a mentor, fixating on a teacher’s gender bias is counterproductive. Although making traditional Tibetan teachers aware of the suffering that their attitudes cause women disciples is extremely important, expecting sudden revolutionary change may be unrealistic. On the other hand, denying the prejudice or repressing feelings of humiliation and pain undermines the spiritual and emotional health of the disciple……..

        First thankyou both Drolma and Tenpel for your brilliantly clear reasoning. Now having read A. Berzin’s
        insightful understanding of how and why difficulties can arise in student/guru relationships, especially the above exerpt, I feel heartened to believe we are on the road to opening up discussions between Tibetan Lamas and Western students about how to establish more suitable methods of Teaching the precious Dharma here in the West, taking into consideration our Western values, and that both sides need to drop their bad habits. As Berzin remarks, sudden change is unlikely but we do need to persevere. He himself has taken seriously the dangers of students being damaged, even going to the extent of updating his book presumably as more testimonies have been made public.
        Reading his biography I noted that he presently lives in Berlin and Tenpel you have mentioned taking teachings from him. Do you think he might be prepared to propose to Tibetan Lamas that a conference where Westerners could speak with Tibetans present could be an enormously beneficial step forward for all concerned. I imagine that he may have already discussed these issues with his Teachers.
        What do you think Tenpel?

        • Dear Tiger Lily, I am very happy to see that our discussion moves forward …

          Alex Berzin was invited by the Dalai Lama to speak to monks at the three Gelug monastic main seats about confusion arising in Western Dharma Centres: The best is you contact him directly and ask him. He is very kind and clear. That he could speak there was possible because the three monastic Gelug main seats are under the guidance of HH the Dalai Lama (or as author might say: they belong to the Gaden Phodrang). I wonder if the real Rinpoches would come to such a conference, especially those who should come ;-) Those genuine Rinpoches I met are open and humble and they learn and change their behaviour. They see what Westerners helps and what not. One of my own teachers for instance does not emphasize tantra or guru topics at all but he stresses how to relax and to develop love and harmony and good relation to others, and of course he lives perfectly what he preaches! He is a real Mahamudra master but he emphasizes teachings which help Westerners, including Mahamudra but without overstressed “Guru devotion” or Samaya etc. Recently I told him, that I said to a women (who said to me that the teachings on compassion would increase her bad mental habits and that when she approached a high Tibetan lama and asked him about this problem he recommended her to practice Tonglen, and this only worsened the problem) she should forget this advice, because most Western women find self-esteem only in sacrificing themselves to others and with this self-destrcutive mental attitude the teachings on compassion increase the urge to run away from oneself, to sacrifice oneself for others while at the same time one doesn’t care enough for one’s own welfare, neglecting the own needs, feeling unhappy, finally guilty etc …, and that she must understand that most Tibetan lamas – even if they know Westerners very well and are highly realized – don’t really understand these issues. My teacher’s reply was: “Yes, Tibetan lamas should’t be asked about these points because they don’t understand it.” And this teacher is really a very compassionate and wise person who understands Westerners really well!

          So I think we Westerners must help each other, and Alex Berzin is surely one of the best addresses.

  41. Drolma says:

    Yes, thank you, Tenpel, well said– so why oh why oh why is tantra practiced so quickly in western dharma centers?????
    And yes, we could be here for months discussing the effects of Christian attitudes in western dharma centers! Very relevant to this discussion in the context of guilt and low self esteem. Complete submission was certainly where I went wrong.

    • Isn’t this excellent to see this “Complete submission was certainly where I went wrong.”? I think there are really many who misunderstand this, and the term “devotion” is not what the term suggests to us. If this concept of devotion or faith is not understood in its true meaning it is misunderstood as submission and giving oneself up for the guru … both totally wrong.

  42. author says:

    “ why oh why oh why is tantra practiced so quickly in western dharma centers?”

    This is a generalisation. In some Western centres, it seems such practice is encouraged to gather disciples, funds etc. However, there are reputable groups in the West who only practice very basic tantric meditations such as Tang Tong Gyalpos Chenrezig but do not permit higher practices until students have completed the ngondro.

    In Tibet, it was said that the Gelugs spread the Dharma, while the other traditions practiced it. Bigoted as it may sound, my own experience is that highest yoga tantra initiations were given in the 70s and 80s by many Gelug lamas in the West to complete beginners who were then told they should practice the deities alongside regular preliminaries. On the other hand, Kagyu, Sakya and Nyingma lamas were and are more concerned that foundations should be sewn as a preliminary, rather than simultaneously.

    If this is the case, it would seem that the old saying about the Gelug was right-sectarian though it may seem.
    Certainly. it concurs with my experience

    • True, this is a generalization. Also, in the centres of my main teacher Tantra is not emphasized, and also Shamarpa changed his approach for his centres … so there is diversity which can be explored. There seem to be also very genuine teachers emphasizing tantra like Garchen Rinpoche. I think there should be space for such diversity. But it seems also that in Tibetan Buddhist Centres with an unhealthy structure the Varjrayana and Guru issue is overly stressed and that there is not only the purpose of benefiting others behind it. For instance, Kelsang Gyatso got control over Manjushri Institute, which did not belong to him, and where he was only one of two main teachers — leading only the General Buddhist Program — by giving the students there tantric teachings (which were part of this program) and initiations (which were required for the tantric commentaries). By the tantric initiations the students were bound closer to him and he was able to influence them in a far more powerful manner than the other Geshe, who gave Sutra Teachings and taught the Geshe Study Programme … researcher Kay:

      Geshe Kelsang was already predisposed to support his students in their struggle with the FPMT administration because the organisation was inspired by a vision that he did not totally agree with. This indicates how practical and organisational conflicts can be exacerbated when communities contain Tibetan geshes, and especially when strong guru–student bonds have been established, such as at Manjushri Institute where Geshe Kelsang was the only resident teacher to bestow Tantric empowerments.

  43. author says:

    Also, lets not just blame the Tibetans and tantra, we also bought into the whole thing LONG before we knew what we were letting ourselves in for. Unfortunately, Tibetans and tantra dont come with a government health warning so we are left to stumble along and find things out, often the hard way-I guess thats where a lot of people get hurt.

    I dont want to upset people but its good to remember how these situations are dependantly arisen; Tibetans, tantra and ignorance being only some of the components.

  44. Tenpel, I wanted to ask a question about submission and devotion. I had very strong feelings around my devotion, they made me feel weak at the knees often when the lama would walk into the room. I do wonder how students can be helped with finding ways to stabilize these emotions if they arise. In the ancient texts, you get a lot of extreme stories of devotion, people prostrating for miles, people who can’t take their eyes off thier lamas, even for a minute. Those stories didn’t help me one bit.

    Author, I don’t think it’s a Gelug thing about the too quick practice of tantra. First, it is impossible to practice tantra without a basic foundational understanding of where it sits in the overall structure of dharma. We in the west are famously ignorant about that. At the centers where I practiced, students were reciting pujas before they had a clue what the dharma was about. They thought that pujas were the central point of dharma. They recited pujas such as Green Tara and Chenrezig as the first step in becoming a Buddhist. Then they did Ngondro. Often before knowing any of the basics of dharma. A woman friend of mine, when her husband showed interest in the dharma and asked her where to start, she directed him to Chenrezig practice (and she was a senior student). People receive initiation after initiation from the moment they walk in the door, never blinking an eye or understanding which tantra is which and how they fit and what the purpose of tantra is.

    This is widespread. Then students are bound by samaya before they have a clue what samaya is. Christian attitudes come into play and the deities become like gods, one for good health, one for compassion, one for wrathful protection. The dharma becomes like a menu of deities. This I have seen. Surely there should be some basic understanding of dharma required before one takes initiations or starts a tantric practice? A test or something? Surely even before starting Ngondro one should understand the overall framework of dharma? Surely, at least an understanding of the FNT and the three types of persons? An understanding of emptiness?

    • Hi Drolma, just read this comment. I wonder if the devotion you felt was really based on seeing the really existing qualities of the teacher/dharma or something like a longing to merge with something higher. I cannot say what it was, its up to the practitioner to learn to discriminate this. However, usually Westerners tend towards to long for a type of salvation, looking for a saviour, that is Christian but not Buddhist. (I don’t say that you are doing this, its just a suggestion to look also here from different angles.) In the NKT Kelsang Gyatso is the saviour, he knows, while his students don’t know. If you follow him, his protector and his books you are rescued other wise pain and confusion will befall you.

      Alex Berzin states about the term devotion:

      Rectifying the Term Devotion

      The Tibetan term tenpa (bsten-pa) sums up a healthy relationship with a spiritual mentor. The usual English translation is devotion, hence the term guru-devotion. Devotion, however, carries a misleading connotation. It conjures the picture of a devoted servant or a devotee of a god or a cult. It also implies a combination of emotional fervor and mindless obedience.

      Tenpa, however, is a verb that means to come close to someone in one’s thoughts and actions, and to rely on the person with confidence. It does not imply, however, coming close to a charlatan or a scoundrel, or relying neurotically on someone, even if the person is competent to help us. Thus, I have translated it here as building a healthy relationship. One builds such a relationship not only with a spiritual teacher, but also with a doctor.

      According to Difficult Points concerning Helping and Showing Respect to a Guru, tenpa also connotes pleasing one’s guru in the proper manner. The proper or healthy way for disciples to please their mentors is to come close in the sense of modeling themselves after their mentors and following their advice to transform their minds and help all beings. It does not mean to try to ingratiate themselves with lavish gifts or to practice the Dharma only to please their teachers. As Buddha explained in Special Verses Grouped by Topic: “One may be close to a spiritual mentor for one’s entire life. Yet, if one does not learn the Dharma taught by him or her, [one’s experience of the teachings] is [as meager] as the taste of stew on a ladle.”

      I agree with Author about that it seems that mainly Gelug lamas who came to the West gave a lot of Highest Yoga Tantra Empowerments, including all the samayas and the tantric vows + commitment of practising daily certain deity Sadhanas. Many couldn’t keep up their commitments nor did they have the preliminaries like an understanding and practice of renunciation, bodhichitta and emptiness. As far as I can see Lamas from other schools gave often empowerments of the lower tantra classes like Chenrezig or Tara which do not include tantric vows or a commitment to daily recitation. This (for me questionable) approach of many Gelug lamas is especially questionable in the light of that the Gelug’s main authoritative source, Je Tsong Khapa, restricted the tantras to long term experienced, and well educated monks. As far as I know it goes back to Pabongkha Rinpoche that tantric initiations were given to larger assemblies of lay people outside the monasteries. Usually (except Kalachakra Tantra) tantric initiations were given secretly and only to few people. I think it was also one of the factors why Pabongkha Rinpoche became so powerful because he became the Vajra master of so many. The Gelug teachers who came to the West seem in most cases have to emulated his approach. (Maybe I am wrong here, but this is my impression.)

      Though the approaches to practice are different in the Tibetan Buddhist schools, in Gelug school, according to Tsong Khapa, tantric practice needs a thorough foundation in one’s mind of the three principles: renunciation, bodhichitta and emptiness.

      Surely there should be some basic understanding of dharma required before one takes initiations or starts a tantric practice?

      Since the Vajrayana is meant as a vehicle for sharp faculty Bodhisattvas, and not all Bodhisattvas do practice Tantra, a thorough foundation for practising tantra is required. And this is not just my opinion. Also before one practices Ngöndro, especially prostrations and Mandala, I think one should really understand those practices’ meanings.

      • Lineageholder says:

        “Je Tsong Khapa, restricted the tantras to long term experienced, and well educated monks. As far as I know it goes back to Pabongkha Rinpoche that tantric initiations were given to larger assemblies of lay people outside the monasteries.”

        Times change. There’s a prediction that just before the Tantric teaching disappear from this world, there will be a brief flourishing, just as a candle grows brighter just before it goes out. Maybe the holy beings of this time realise that time is short and that some connection to Tantra is better than none. These teachings will not be given by Buddha Maitreya, the next Buddha of this Fortunate Aeon, therefore Tantric teachings are becoming more openly given and more widely spread. Living beings must have the karma for this to be happening, otherwise it wouldn’t.

        • Lineageholder, I assume you are one of those NKT forum posters which appeared here on the blog and elsewhere. So readers should understand your comment from pov of NKT “propaganda”. BTW in NKT Highest Yoga Tantra empowerments are a perfect means to bind people to NKT. Before people received empowerment them is told not to worry, afterwards them is told that “Geshe-la” is now their “root guru”, if they leave him or break their guru devotion the hell is waiting.

          For an excellent explanation on the threat of breaking one’s “guru devotion” see:

        • Times change. There’s a prediction that just before the Tantric teaching disappear from this world, there will be a brief flourishing, just as a candle grows brighter just before it goes out. Maybe the holy beings of this time realise that time is short and that some connection to Tantra is better than none. These teachings will not be given by Buddha Maitreya, the next Buddha of this Fortunate Aeon, therefore Tantric teachings are becoming more openly given and more widely spread. Living beings must have the karma for this to be happening, otherwise it wouldn’t.

          Can you give a trustworthy source, a sutra or tantra, part of the tengyur or kangyur that is approving such a claim? Looking from an analytical perspective on the situation, it is rather so as HH the Dalai Lama remarks:

          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 seen as perfect.« This is an extremely dangerous teaching, particularly for beginners.

          Look for example the “most gifted” and “first tantric teacher in the West” Neill E. aka Gen Thubten, appointed successor of Kelsang Gyatso who had as a monk a sexual relationship with a woman or the second appointed successor who had sexual relationships with many nuns and encouraged NKT monks to follow his example, and then the example of Geshe Michael Roach or here Sogyal, all these examples do not indicate “a brief flourishing” but rather what His Holiness the Dalai Lama remarked.

      • Lineageholder says:

        Hi Tenpel, I’m not going to argue with you. I was simply trying to give some context for the reason why Tantric teachings are generally more available these days than before. I know you have an axe to grind against NKT so anything I say will be reviled, taken out of context, and untruths quoted (“afterwards them is told that “Geshe-la” is now their “root guru”, if they leave him or break their guru devotion the hell is waiting”) so I don’t think we can have a reasonable discussion.

        • Hi LH,
          Why not using arguments? You claim this, you claim that and you don’t give sources or reasonings here. If you don’t have sources or reasonings for your claims you cannot validly put the blame on me, wrongly accusing me to

          anything [you] say will be reviled, taken out of context, and untruths quoted (“afterwards them is told that “Geshe-la” is now their “root guru”, if they leave him or break their guru devotion the hell is waiting”)

          In case I have “reviled, taken out of context, and untruths quoted” please show it, give precise examples where I have done this. The statement I made “afterwards them is told that “Geshe-la” is now their “root guru”, if they leave him or break their guru devotion the hell is waiting” is not a quote it’s my and others’ experience within NKT.

          so I don’t think we can have a reasonable discussion.

          We cannot have a reasonable discussion if you don’t use valid sources or arguments for your claims and if you issue forth baseless accusations. So maybe you have “an axe to grind against [me]”? ;-)

          However, we had our past here at the blog and this thread is not about NKT.

  45. Author says:

    Thank you for your response.
    As i said, ‘In my experience'(Not ‘In my opinion’) This tendency to engage students with tantra was common in the Gelug in the early days, thus bearinr out the truth of the Tibetan saying about the Gelug emphasis on spreading the DHarma.

    I agree, many centres of other traditions encourage students to practice deities such as Gren tara and Chenrezig at an early age as if this were central to Dharma. However, I feel you misunderstand some things in this regard.

    Firstly, Tibetan Buddhism IS about tantra, just as much as it is about sutra-It combines both They are practiced in unison by most Tibetans who still practice-for thenm, the Dharma IS ‘a menu of deities’-Thats what the collections of tantras are-menus of deities that provide different solutions to different problems: short life, poverty, lack of compassion etc etc Since compassion is a prerequiste for Mahayanists, they may well be encouraged early on to practice Chenrezig, so as to activate their tendencies from former live and open their hearts once again-I would suggest this is skilful means

    Second, you say that this practice binds students by samaya. There are very few samaya (if any) connected with these beginning tantric practices-In the Gelug centre I originally stayed in in the seventies, we didnt even have to take the inititation before we were alllowed to see the sadhana.I see people in some Gelug centres still doing this-reciting mantras without transmission etc As you say, this practice is not restircited tro the Gelug. However, there appears to be a much greater emphasis on receiving transmissions before using them in Red Hat centres in my expeirence

    You suggest that “Surely there should be some basic understanding of dharma required before one takes initiations or starts a tantric practice? “This is quite correct; there should. In fact, if one reads the initation texts, they are normally prefaced by an admonition to the Lama to ensure that the student has at least got an understanding of renunciation, Bodhicitta and emptiness.Problem is, people are left to estimate the level of understanding themselves

    Your references to the nature of your own devotion remind me of the big problem with guru devotion in the Wes-group charismatization of the teacher. I still see it when I visit centres nowadays: people talking about how wonderful thhe teacher is, telling miracle stories about ordinary events and transforming them into earth shattering experiences-even older students who havent sussed what guru devotion is about still do this. Tenzin posted agreat article by Tenzin Palmo on this issue. Perhaps, he can point you to it. I think it would be useful for most Westerners to read it so we can quickly get past this mass hysteria that people seem to think represents devotion here.

    For me, the teacher is the external manifestation of the Buddha nature. He/she is therefore nothing more and nothing less than the outer manifestation of the luminous clarity of my own mind. Adhering to this awareness is ‘guru devotion’. Putting someone on a pedastal and bowing down to them while bathing in the sunrays imagined to be emanating from their butts is not and, in fact, can be thebeginnings of transforming a god into a demon

  46. Drolma says:

    Along this line, though maybe we should be on the other thread, Tenpel, can you clarify for me and readers what you know of samaya, with sources? I realized this morning that I talk about samaya as if I know something about it– because it was a word often used at the monastery–However, I have never taken a commitment of samaya, I have never read anything about samaya in the texts (thought maybe I wasn’t careful enough with Lamrim Chenmo or Jewel Ornament of LIberation). What I do know is that I have never heard HH Dalai Lama speak of samaya. Odd– so where does it come from? How do we know we’re bound by it? Can we be bound by something without making a commitment?

    • We just started to study the Four Tantra Classes in Italy. And what I learned yesterday is that a samaya is a promise. It is not a vow. So a samaya is different to a vow. The two lower tantra classes, action tantra and performance tantra, don’t have vows. Only the Yoga Tantra and Highest Yoga Tantra have vows, like the 14 root vows, and only here one receives the vajra master empowerment.

      Now If one attends an empowerment and recites something the master is saying in Tibetan without understanding what one is doing, without deliberate intention to take samayas or vows one didn’t receive them. (source: Alex Berzin, oral teaching, + makes sense from analytical perspective)

      A samaya could be to promise to recite a Sadhana daily for the sake of accomplishing the specific deity or the results of this tantra. It is given in order to help the student to achieve his spiritual aims. However, such a promise to practice a Sadhana daily is not included in the tantric vows.

      —- some more thoughts —-

      In the past some people were threatened by few Tibetan masters to have broken their vows and Samayas and therefore would go to hell. In reply there were two masters I know, and who are also teachers of myself, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche and Dagyab Kyabgön Rinpoche, who say that most didn’t even receive an actual empowerment hence they do not have the vows and samayas really, so Westerners shouldn’t worry too much about them. Also HH Dalai Lama says, when he gives an empowerment maybe 3-4 people really receive an empowerment. Tenzin Palmo says we shouldn’t worry about breaking Samayas too much because if we strive to do as good as we can, there will also be a good results, the fear most Westerners have blocks them. The best explanation I found with respect to breaking root vows or how to keep is that of Alex Berzin / Je Tsong Khapa.

      I remember people having received Vajrayogini initiation within NKT but unable to continue. One of my teachers said: stop it, no problem. The other advised to receive the empowerment again by a qualified tantric master to purify past faults and then to stop the practice if one cannot continue. Alex Berzin referred to one master, who’s advice is: if you cannot continue your Sadhana practice or commitments, put the Sadhana respectfully on a shelf, thinking, ‘I cannot practice it now but in the future if I am able to practice it I will pick up this practice again.’

  47. And Author, there is nothing erudite about the Kadampa teachings– not sure where the quote “Gelugs spread the dharma while the other traditions practiced it” has come from. The Kadampa teachings are all about transforming the raw material of everyday experience into dharmic practice– every minute of our life is practice in the kadampa perspective. Very immediate.

  48. author says:

    With all due respect Drolma, if you need to enquire about the meaning of samaya, it is hardly surprising that you are not aware of the origins of the saying I mentioned I can assure you, it was a common saying in Tibet (particularly amongst no-Gelug teachers)
    As for the value of the Kadam teachings, you are quite right. Hence their teachings became incorporated into the teachings of all of the traditions after their demise. The Kagyu traditions father Gampopa for instance is often referred to as being responsible for ‘merging the two rivers (of Kadam and Mahamudra) And I didnt make that one up either! Again, the great Nyingmapa lama Paltrul Rinpoches Kunzang Lamai Zhelung is a classic representation of Kadam teachings, indeed his lifestyle exactly mirrored that of the great Kadampas.-“every minute of our life is practice in the kadampa perspective”, It would be possible inset the name of any of the traditions where you say Kadampa and it would still ring true!.

  49. Drolma says:

    Author, I don’t believe that strong experiences of devotion should be trivialized. They are legitimate. At their best, they open the heart and form deep bounds of trust. “Bathing in the sunrays imagined to be emanating from their butts” truly demeans something very precious. Very much like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. My question to Tenpel was how we can avoid some of the pitfalls in such strong feelings– the main pitfall I see is that one becomes attached to the feeling and then turns off his/her intelligence. I was speaking more along those lines, not demeaning or trashing the experience of devotion. In some ways, I think I’m answering the question myself.

  50. author says:

    Maybe- I suggest you read the article by Tenzin Palmo It really clarifies things. Devotion seems to be like marriage-it starts with a honeymoon period (when one experiences the opening of the heart and trust emerges as you put it) through to being torn to pieces psychologically, all the way through to the phase where you just accept one anothers presence and get on with ‘being’-Patrul wrote about it in his poem ‘Chase them away’ (see below)

    Of course, I meant to demean when I mentioned “Bathing in the sunrays imagined to be emanating from their butts” because, unless such a practice is accompanied by an understanding of absolute guru devotion (Understanding ones own mind nature as the guru) such a practice SHOULD be demeaned. Hero worship leads to disappointment and even abuse-hence my suggestion that putting a guru on a pedestal and acting in such a way, without recognition of ones inner guru has the potential to ‘turn a god into a demon’.

    On the other hand, if we DO visualise rays of light emanating from any part of his anatomy ALONG WITH PROPER UNDERSTANDING the practice becomes efficacious-even the naughty bits!

    In short, the ‘buzz’ has to wear off. Ultimately, we have to become totally self-reliant. Its ok to see the guru as special, after all, he/she has completed the path. But at the end of the day, we must travel the path alone, relying on no one but ourselves. The guru can provide a map and indeed provide wonderful advice on sidetracks and the like, but in the end the journey is our own and one we must travel ourselves.No guru can do that for us.

    When first I met my teacher supreme,

    I had the feeing of having found what I wanted

    Like a merchant having reached the golden isle:

    That’s what is meant by engaging oneself in the many topics and their

    When later I met my teacher supreme, I had the feeling of there being danger for

    Like a criminal facing the judge:

    That’s what is meant by getting a sound scolding.

    If now I meet my teacher supreme,

    I have the feeling of meeting with an equal

    Like pigeons sleeping in a temple:

    That’s what is meant by keeping one’s distance.

  51. author says:

    Q: If one has taken a teacher and then sees them behaving badly or in seemingly inappropriate ways, what advice do you give students who are interpreting this? Is it even acceptable to leave a teacher once you have made a commitment to him?

    Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo: Personally, I think that we should never completely surrender our own integrity. I think that it’s a big mistake to think that once you have taken on the teacher that’s it, and whatever he does you have to see it with pure perception. Of course, you know, one can point to Naropa and Tilopa and Marpa and Milarepa, but nonetheless I think that’s quite dangerous.

    The point is that the students are the children and the teacher is the parent. A good parent helps the child to mature properly, to not endlessly be a child. And if a parent is abusive, then just because they are the parent doesn’t mean that the child should be left in their care. If a teacher really acts inappropriately or requests inappropriate behavior on the part of the student, then the student has the right, also as a human being, to say, “No, I’m very sorry, I don’t accept that,” or, “Well, okay, explain why you’re doing this.” And if the teacher will not explain, or their explanation doesn’t ring true, then I think it’s perfectly appropriate to say with all due respect, “Well, I’m sorry, I am going to find someone else.” Because quite frankly, many teachers, even though they might be very charismatic and even have some genuine experience and realization, might also have a big shadow which they’re not facing and which their culture doesn’t encourage them to face. And in dealing with that shadow, we have to use our common sense. If the relationship creates a lot of inner distress and trauma, then this is spiritually not in the least bit helpful. So without creating a lot of publicity or difficulty, one can just simply say, “Thank you very much for all your teachings,” and leave.

    I don’t think the Tibetans themselves have really resolved this point. We see the teacher as the Buddha, first of all so that we don’t get attached to the personality and the appearance of the teacher. We’re not going for refuge to their personality; we’re going for refuge to their buddha nature, which they have realized and we have not, and to their ability to transmit that realization. So therefore one sees them in an idealized form. But at the same time, we have to realize that we are doing that for the sake of devotion and they are also human beings. If occasionally they act inappropriately—for example, they lose their temper over something about which there is no reason to lose your temper and they really are angry—then one can say, “Well, they are also human beings and it doesn’t matter; they have given so much through teaching and they have so many good qualities,” and leave that aside. But if they consistently are acting in questionable ways—like being very greedy, or wanting sexual relationships with their students, or accumulating a lot of money and then giving it to their family or building themselves great palaces and starving their monks, et cetera—then I think it is perfectly valid to question their conduct. Even in the ordinary world people don’t act like this.

    Q: The teacher/student relationship is fundamental in Tibetan Buddhism. In reality, in the West, only a few can be so lucky to have a traditional guru/student relationship. So, often it happens to a practitioner that after some years there is less enthusiasm and interest. What can you advise to those in such a situation?

    JTP: The important thing is to realize that even in a traditional guru/student relationship, it’s not really so necessary to always be around the guru. Once one has made a connection, even if one doesn’t see the guru very often and the guru is very far away, still one can keep the inner heart connection. For example, in the Tibetan tradition, there are very beautiful prayers for calling on the guru from afar. And especially if these are set to a melody and one can sing them from the heart—they create that connection with the guru, because it’s a mind-to-mind connection. Sometimes, even if the lama is sitting in front of you, you can feel there’s a thousand miles between you; likewise, you can be a thousand miles away and feel that the guru is right there, sitting in your heart. At the same time, one has to realize that the ultimate guru is one’s own buddha nature: it’s the nature of the mind, and one has to cultivate being able to be centered within one’s own innate awareness and not depend so much on an external relationship. Because when one is in the nature of the mind, then one is indeed one with the guru. This is why when we do guru yoga we absorb the guru into ourselves—to realize that his/her mind and our own mind have become one. This is very important to realize. The ultimate guru is our own innate wisdom, and if we can access and cultivate that, then the enthusiasm for the Dharma just bubbles up endlessly. It doesn’t depend on external shots of inspiration from an actual person.

    © Into the Heart of Life by Jetsünma Tenzin Palmo · Snow Lion Publications

  52. Drolma says:

    Author, I think it’s a good idea that we try not to demean people on this thread for asking questions. E.G. you wrote: “With all due respect Drolma, if you need to enquire about the meaning of samaya, it is hardly surprising that you are not aware of the origins of the saying I mentioned I can assure you, it was a common saying in Tibet (particularly amongst no-Gelug teachers)”

    I think we need to be supportive of people asking questions. There must be a spirit of questioning for any decent dialogue.

    As for the saying about Gelug, yes I certainly heard it often when I was practicing in Kagyu as well– my question was more rhetorical and also not sure of its origins.

  53. Drolma says:

    In fact, Author, I think for me the boundaries guarding respectful communication have been crossed a little too often by you and I’ll opt out of further conversation for now.

    • Dear Drolma & author. I approved all comments without reading them & I will be off-line for a while (moving back to Italy). You can write further comments but I will approve them only when I was able to read the last ones. I hope we are still on a constructive route. Very best, Tenpel

  54. Tiger Lily says:

    Wonderful exerpt above from “Into the Heart of Life” by Ani Tenzin Palmo. She is such a fine and reliable Teacher. When she speaks on the subject, people will sit up and take notice. I suppose part of the path is learning to distinguish between that troublesome shadow side of a Lama’s psychology which is so painful for a student when they encounter it and which they feel obliged to see as a manifestation of his/her Bodhicitta. Such a confused entanglement results. So dangerous when this becomes the basis of what holds a Sangha together and turns the group mentality (including the Lama’s perception) into a dysfunctional modus operandi.
    Really it is high time this subject is officially broached at conferences.
    Tenpel, bless you, you are obviously terribly busy, but when you are settled back in Italy and can find a moment to put your mind to it, how about starting a separate thread relating to the work of the German Buddhist Council? This would give a chance to people to get directly in touch with them and I think move the discussions along as we shall be focussed on joining up to take action like arranging conferences.
    I am hopeful that in time if it is all seen through with wisdom and sincerity that for sure Tibetan Lamas will begin to give it their backing.
    When people like Ani Tenzin Palmo and A. Berzin are taking these issues seriously then it gives a solid foundation and platform for Westerners and Tibetans to put their minds together to come up with resolutions.
    At that time Tibetan Buddhism can be said to have safely taken root in the West.

  55. author says:

    Dont forget though, sometimes the teacher IS Buddha and the beatings DO lead us along the path! Who is fit to distinguish??? I wouldnt leave such a decision to ‘the committee’! If you live in the UK, half the committee members are part of the problem, not the solution-really! So who decides? THIS IS A SERIOUS QUESTION

    • Only short, was still not able to read the last comments, and just arrived in Italy.

      Who is fit to distinguish??? I wouldnt leave such a decision to ‘the committee’!

      This is a good lead and an excellent argument to block the installation of an Ethical Council. Well done ;-)
      The point is, that those who were really benefited by beating or sexual intercourse won’t complain, but those who were harmed have no one they can approach for help or to clarify their experiences and to receive useful advice.

  56. Drolma says:

    Yes, Tiger Lily, conferences–thank you for your insightful thoughts and sense of direction. Agree with all your suggestions. Let’s move forward, happy to help and support.

  57. author says:

    “This is a good lead and an excellent argument to block the installation of an Ethical Council. Well done ;-)”
    I cant tell whether you are being sarchastic or not. Since you are German, I will assume you are not:-)

    “The point is, that those who were really benefited by beating or sexual intercourse won’t complain”

    As I said previously, one’s interpetation of ones experience changes over time. For example, Je Mila wept to Marpas wife and was pushed right to the edge of a nervous breakdown before he saw what was happening to him-While he reminded himself of his terrible karma, he still expressed his raw pain and grief,asking Dagmema why the lama ws so cruel to him. So, even Milarepa took time to work it out.

    My point about committees was totally serious. A couple of years back, the UK Network of Buddhist Organizations set up a ‘safety net’ to help advise those who had had a bad time. Trouble was, the UK NBO was run by the FWBO, the NKT and Soka Gakkai!!! It was clear that the so called safety net was actually a way to prevent the public from finding out about the various forms of abuse and corruption that have gone on in these groups for years.(Rigpa is an NBO member too)

    There is of course the example of the Theravadin Council of Elders but usually, these make judgements on the basis of admissions by vow breakers rather than complaints from the public.

    Which brings me back to the point of who is really morally qualifed to judge-wouldnt we need someone omniscient, since only the Buddha can geuinely perceive such things?

    So, the answer in the interim period IS conference. It may not be ideal (Who’s for ‘Death by Powepoint’? Not me!) But it is a step in the right direction. So where and when? Wouldnt Inform be interested? I am aware that they have already talked about the issue with certain commentators. Is there an equvalent body in the US? Maybe a bigger platform since the problem is an international one. I’d certainly attend (especially if they did free sandwiches-Thats a joke Tenzin ;-)

    • “This is a good lead and an excellent argument to block the installation of an Ethical Council. Well done ;-)”
      I cant tell whether you are being sarchastic or not. Since you are German, I will assume you are not:-)

      Only short: “German humour” ;-) though it is said it doesn’t exist.

  58. Thinking on, this already happened, with the Conference of Western Buddhist Teahers and the outcome? Mostly hot air IMO. So, if such a conference WERE to take place, it would clearly have to be populated by senior, senior figures from the differrenf countries and traditions plus Westerners (the inheritors of the faith). I suppose some might think such an idea to be rather grandiose but we are talking about the continued existence of the Dhamma here-We cant keep following the same path as the Catholics, burying our heads in the sand and hoping it will just go away-we can all see where that is going.
    But to be authoritative, it would have to be comprised of senior representatives, not solely Western ‘authorities’ Any such talking shop would be just more hot air otherwise

  59. author says:

    PS Lineage Holders explanation of the way in which Tzong Ka Pa restricted access to the tantras and that they were only opened up by Pabongka is totally NKT-centric. While it is true that TzongKaPa did this, this was not the case in the other traditions, where many of the senior practitioners were laypersons In fact, only one of the four traditions, the Gelug, was founded by a monastic, and even that was a synthesis of the three traditions which preceded it What Pabongka DID open up to the laity was Dolgyal worship, in a cynical attempt to curry favour for his demon and specifically against his given word to the 13th Dalai Lama Kelsang Gyatso continued this specifically against the wish of the 14th=If the roots are poisoned, the branches are poisonous.

    Also, ‘Holder’ of what lineage? Not the Gelug thats for sure.They say they are not political and yet even the name is a not very subtle attempt to establish the authenticity of K Gyatsos New Religious Movement (Or ‘cult, if you like)

    • It’s true that the restrictions to tantric practice is unique to Gelug school. However, it makes sense to say that one needs a strong foundation in the sutra or three principal aspects of the common Mahayana path in order to practice tantra properly. If you perceive the deity’s body as inherent existent, and if you develop “devine pride” into an inherent existent deity and on the basis of an inherent existent I of this deity as oneself, one won’t be liberated but tightens the bonds to Samsara. And there are lamas who said there were quite a lot of beings being born a type of powerful spirit because they practised the tantras wrongly (I don’t know if this is really the case.) So, I would like to know, and maybe this is also interesting to the context of the discussion, how Sakya, Gelug and Nyingma school treat the need or non-need for qualifiaction to practice tantra on the side of the disciple. It would be nice if you could give us some input. Thanks a lot.

  60. author says:

    In my experience, instructions given at the beginning of initiations at the beginning of initiations in each of the sects suggest the minimum requirement is an intellectual understanding of the three principal aspects-nothing more!

  61. author says:

    Of course, to even get into the initation, one must have taken refuge. This, along with the intellectual understanding of the three PAs gets you in the door Then, during the initation, one receives/revives refuge, the five precepts and the bodhisattva vow, then the initiation itself. One may receive a commitment to then perform the sadhana daily. In other groups, the lama then instructs his students to practice the extraordinary foundations for several years, and then perhaps, as a further preliminary, other subsidiary deities for purificatory purposes (eg Dorje Khadro, Samaya Vajra), removing obstacles (eg Kilaya) or gathering wealth or long life (Dzambhala, White Tara etc) Only then is one then allowed to practice ones yidam. Thats how its done the right way, traditionally.

    Lately I have seen teachers granting initiations and then telling disciples to practice the deity immediately, sometimes with ngondro, and, on occasion, to even practice certain deities without initiation. (Some of these lamas are otherwise reputable but to me such an idea really sucks-how can it possibly work?) Some masters, such as Shamar Rinpoche, suggest that Westerners are generally not ready for tantra-judging by recent insights, I am inclined to agree-not for a LONG time anyway!

    So there is a whole spectrum of views out there. I am so grateful that I was fortunate enough to travel the traditional path but wonder how long such an approach will remain palatable for Westerners who, as Lama Yeshe used to say, want instant enlightenment out of a toothpaste tube. IMO, a real master makes you wait and thinks only of your benefit and NOT the furtherance of the group/sect/tradition.

  62. The foundation I thought most important to the practice of tantra was bodhicitta.

  63. Its certainly essential as tantra is a Mahayana practice. But without, renunciation and realisation of some level of emptiness, such practice could never become the cause of liberation from cyclic existence or enlightenment-a bird always needs 2 wings to fly..

    I recall Lama Zopa recounting the story of one Lama saying that, at our level, it was more beneficial to visualize ourself in a hell realm than a pure land. With regard to this, for me, the starting point would be death meditation leading to the abandonment of attachment to the happiness of this life, the 8 worldly dharmas. Otherwise, so called tantric practice becomes only the cause of arrogance in this life and rebirth in the lower realms in the next So it looks like the best place to start is at the beginning!

    • for me it appears that–besides renunciation and bodhichitta–a correct understanding of emptiness is of paramount importance for the practice of tantra. otherwise it might be impossible to collect merit and wisdom at the same time, the reason why one can attain Buddhahood in a shorter period of time … and without a correct understanding of emptiness one is quite likely going to grasp to deities, visions and mandalas, just entering another samsaric realm of inherent existence. The example of “Lama Christie”, how she is misunderstanding Tantra, is really impressive:

      with a good level of renunciation it is possible to have a good level of bodhichitta too.

  64. Mary Finnigan says:

    “Lama” Christie’s misinterpretation reminds me to highlight another Sogyal phenomenon. Several people over several years have opined that Sogyal uses hypnosis techniques when he is teaching. Until now this has slipped past me, but has recently come into focus — so I’d like to know if Drolma and/or Tiger Lily have anything to say on this. I have 2 hypnosis apps on my cellphone — one for slimming and one for sleeping. There is no doubt that I fall into a trance when I listen to them without interruptions. So — I wonder if S uses hypnosis to deceive new recruits into believing they are experiencing some form of transmission? And also as a control mechanism?

  65. I see ‘lama’ Christie is ‘one of the first Western women to be recognised as a lama’! By whom, I wonder? Reading through her work, I detect classic symptoms of neurosis. No wonder everything around Michael Roach is bursting into flame-the perversions of Dharma emanating from him and his former consort would surely invoke the wrath of even the most patient of protectors, they must be haunted by a huge demonic entourage!

  66. I know nothing about hypnosis, Mary, but reading the sad story that unfolded in Arizona definitely rang true in the context of my own experiences. Personally, I believe that strong paranormal experiences do occur within most religions and that it is very important to ground those experiences in sound, ethical, tried and true cultures and practices. What SR and Michael Roach have in common is their flagrant belief that they can cross ethical boundaries and still be considered legitimate spiritual teachers. Roach goes so far as to create an entire new dharma on those grounds, a practice that he calls “spiritual unions” when the reality is that he simply broke his root monastic vow and continues to break it. I personally believe that each person’s ethical boundaries are a critical component of their mental health. When a teacher requires that they contort their mind and create virtue out of nonvirtue, then I believe that the person’s mental health is at risk.

    Add to that high tantric practices, such as those that Christie and Ian likely practiced, and the mix becomes even more lethal.

    And while I don’t know about hypnosis, I am also convinced through my own experiences that some of these spiritual leaders do in fact have some sort of power to effect our minds– a power quite separate from siddhis or spiritual attainment. I remember the moment I came upon a passage in a book on tantra written by HH Dalai Lama where he referred to practices on controlling the minds of others. I was stunned because much of my own experiences could only be explained in that context. This passage helped me enormously to understand my own experiences and subsequently find the confidence to move beyond them.

    • Mary Finnigan says:

      Hi Drolma,
      I make a thank you offering to the Buddhas of the 3 Times that I encountered teachers whose level of realisation gave them the capacity to transmit subtle, esoteric practices in a manner that is beneficial to their students. A manner that acknowledges the necessity for a functional moral and ethical compass — and a manner which is far removed from manipulative arrogance. Specifically the late Lama Thubten Yeshe, incomparable in his capacity to love and be loved — and Choegyal Namkhai Norbu who is an authentic Dzogchen master. Rare beings — I am very lucky. Nyams — signs of practice — can take one by surprise in the early stages of powerful Vajrayana/Dzogchen experience. How one reacts to them is of paramount importance. I used to go heavy on the wow! factor. I think I’ve learned to acknowledge with equanimity — well so far anyway, but I’m sure an unfamiliar energy manifestation could still rattle my cage. This all feeds into a debate about what are naturally arising features of the path of transformation/self realisation — and what do we have to look out for that could deceive us and lead us astray? There are many Sogyals, Catharine Burroughses and Michael Roaches around these days. I could run a list off the top of my head that would include app 20 names. Then of course we have to examine who makes the judgement calls and on what basis? What are criteria and do they differ from one cultural environment to another? Lots of questions and hopefully some food for refelection.

      • Thank you Mary.

        I heard that many former Sogyal disciples follow now Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, and I heard only good things about him. Lama Thubten Yeshe also was a great being as far as I heard. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to meet one of them – though I live in a place created by Lama Thubten Yeshe and close to Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche’s place in Italy. Its always good to remind also the good examples of genuine teachers. Thank you for that!

  67. And Mary, I could use one of those apps!

  68. And Tenpel, thank you for the clarity re tantra– renunciation, bodhicitta, emptiness as the key foundations. I mentioned bodhicitta on its own because I worry when I don’t see basic practices of altruism mentioned often enough.

  69. According to this article, Michael Roach, recognized her:

    Aaah, the old self referential system, answerable to no external authority. Do I hear cries of cult?? After all, isnt this one of the principal characteristics of such movements? No one to regulate you, no one to say, ‘this is wrong’ Since when was Michael Roach empowered to recognize ‘lamas’ anyway??Or did he recognize himself too?? Maybe I’ll start calling myself ‘Lama’ After all, it seems anyone can do it.

  70. Google ‘Covert hypnosis’

  71. More “Lamas” Geshe Michael Roach trained and recognized:

    There are actually more than 30 of them that he graduated from his Diamond Mountain University.

    • the site had been taken offline, no longer available …

      I looked a bit in the google history. The image alt text said “Holy Lama Christie” and the text claimed “She has taught millions worldwide in the authentic ancient texts of India and Tibet.would have taught millions of people.”

      Actual, this is really sad. Its important to have compassion for Christie and MR and those who follow them!

  72. ‘Graduated’? Is that a euphemism? How do you get to be a lady lama: attack your lover with a samurai sword?
    Seriously, this is an object lesson in how to destroy a relgion and undermine authority in a tradition in a single act.

    Yours sincerely

    HH the 1st Author Rinpoche, Supreme Head of the BS tradition

  73. Also, check out the questions on the home page of ‘Lady lamas’ (All of whom, entirely coincidentally,, appear to be attractive young women and several of whom feature, scantily clad, in a photo that looks more like an advert for hair products) The questions surround such topics as ‘How can I make myself more attractive’ ‘How can I make other people like me’, ‘How can I feel more contentment in my life’?

    Her’s a clue from the Sakyas

    ‘If you have attachment to the happiness of this life, you are not a Dharma practitioner’

    These people are simply preying on the ignorance of others concerning what is genuine Dharma.

    • Most of these “lady lamas” also teach hatha (physical) yoga asanas (postures) so they can wear clothing without much fabric. And, yes Author, ‘If you have attachment to the happiness of this life, you are not a Dharma practitioner’…Diamond Mountain and these “Lamas” including Geshe Michael teach you how to be happy in this life! Its “If you want to be happy, follow me!”

  74. Thanks, Tara– and the DMU study program isn’t small, is it, at least the women work for it! Along those lines, women who finish three year retreat are frequently given the title “lama” in the kagyu tradition in which I practiced. It’s not really a big deal, is it? Just means teacher, not like geshe or khenpo.

    And Tenpel et al, my previous question regarding samaya was a sincere one– and I think it’s very relevant to our discussions here. I have many times been told such things as “You can’t say that or it breaks samaya” or “That would be close to breaking samaya” or “because of samaya I do this or that” etc.– lots of scary comments like that, but I have never
    1. been given a teaching on or the scriptural sources of samaya or
    2. been asked to actually pledge a commitment of samaya.

    It seems that everyone feels that they know about samaya, but if you probe, you would probably find that 98% of that knowledge is based on fear, rumor and brief comments from lamas. Because I have been instructed to practice a high tantra, I feel bound by samaya; however, I have neither committed to such a contract nor have I been instructed in such a contract. How can I be bound by it? Is it like western law where “ignorance is no excuse”? Where are the scriptural sources for the word samaya? Where did it originate?

    I think this is so relevant here because the understanding of samaya which prevails in our dharma centers seems to be bred out of a culture of fear and if it’s not accurate, people need to know. Even right now, people are afraid to speak out about troubles within our dharma centers. A good antidote to fear is better knowledge and understanding. If people understood better, they might feel more comfortable coming forward, they might be able to overcome their fear. So this was my motive in asking my question about samaya.

    If there’s a link already existent on your website, Tenpel, or if, as Author suggests, my question is just too abyssmally ignorant, then forgive me– but perhaps it doesn’t hurt to bring these subjects forward and air them frequently as they are central issues that students might be struggling with– and we all tend to be a little lazy sometimes.

    • Mary Finnigan says:

      Lama Jampa Thaye gave me a detailed explanation of samaya. I can’t remember the nuances (I have it on disc) but the general principle is that a samaya bond only exists between a neophyte and a qualified guru when the former has taken Highest Tantra empowerments from him/her. Lama Jampa told me there are many ways to breach samaya, but that it can be repaired. The emphasis is on “qualified”. I too have encountered many absurd interpretations of samaya amoung western dharmites — most of them based in xtian-related fire and brimstone. We carry a hangover from our heritage which does not map onto Tibetan Buddhism.

    • Hello Drolma, to my knowledge, none of the lady lamas on that website has completed a three year retreat before except Lama Christine who did her retreat with Geshe Michael. I think whether Diamond Mountain’s program is extensive enough is up to debate as I have met some of the graduates and their knowledge of Buddhism was not impressive. Impressive to non-Buddhists and beginners though. Also, their interpretation of Geluk philosophy stray from standard teachings A LOT. If indeed giving out the title “Lama” in Kagyu lineage only require a three year retreat then that’s fine. But, remember, they call themselves Gelugpas, the “lineage holders” of the lineage of the Dalai Lama. And the main thing is, the title “Lama” also granted them permission to collect Tantric students and give empowerments.

  75. For example, in 1992, when I applied for Australian citizenship, I was told that I would have to relinquish my American citizenship first– so I decided not to continue with my application. Surely, the same information should be given to practitioners of dharma. We should know fully what rights we might be relinquishing before we commit to any practice or lama or dharma center?

  76. Dear Sweet Drolma
    Your putting words in my mouth and demeaning yourself! I didnt suggest your question was ‘too abysmally ignorant’, only that if you had not heard of the saying about Gelugs proselytizing and Kagyus practicin then it wasnt surprising that you didnt know what samaya was (or something like that??Vice versa?) However, you DID know the saying so so much for that!

    I think your estimate of 98% is a generalization. Samaya (Tib Dam tsig-‘sacred word’) are. clearly from the etymology of the Tibetan, the sacred precepts one vows to keep during the initation. Other than that, one is also expected to follow the teachings outlined in the Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion. There are further intepretations relating to the three aspects of bodt, speech and mind but generally, this is how the majority of practititoners I am familar with understand samaya-And I know quite a few.

  77. If you want a scriptural reference, take a look at the Dom Sum Rab Gye of Sa Pan, ‘Discrimnating the Three Vows’

  78. In the absence of an answer to my questions regarding samaya, I am going to attempt to answer them myself and then can stand to be corrected if necessary. From what I can gleam from wikepedia etc. one is not bound by samaya unless one has committed to it, e.g. through tantric vows or commitments. There is a practice now– at least within the Kagyu monastery I was part of– of givng initiations, even those of high tantra, without commitments or vows, and I believe that this is causing some confusion amongst students, because with those initiaions comes a culture of samaya without actual samaya. Clarity is lacking. There’s a culture of samaya without proper understanding, commitment or knowledge and that just breeds fear.

  79. For Discussion. From the Mahayana Brahmajala Sutra

    Sixth Major Precept

    On Broadcasting the Faults of the Assembly
    A disciple of the Buddha must not himself broadcast the misdeeds or infractions of Bodhisattva-clerics or Bodhisattva-laypersons, or of [ordinary] monks and nuns — nor encourage others to do so. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of discussing the offenses of the assembly.

    As a Buddha’s disciple, whenever he hears evil persons, externalists or followers of the Two Vehicles speak of practices contrary to the Dharma or contrary to the precepts within the Buddhist community, he should instruct them with a compassionate mind and lead them to develop wholesome faith in the Mahayana.

    If instead, he discusses the faults and misdeeds that occur within the assembly, he commits a Parajika offense. (31)

    And from a commentary based on several earlier commentaries:

    31. The Bodhisattva’s aim is to benefit sentient beings. Therefore, when someone commits an offense, the Bodhisattva does not advertise it but patiently finds ways to counsel him. Furthermore, a Bodhisattva should mention the good points of others so as to encourage them on the right path and help them develop their potential.

    The Lotus Sutra relates the story of a Bodhisattva named “Never Despise.” Whenever he encountered a layman or cleric, he would approach him, bow down to him, and say aloud, “I dare not look down on you because you will become a Buddha in the future.” This declaration angered some persons, who would insult and beat him. In response, Never Despise would simply run far away and repeat, “I dare not look down on you because you will become a Buddha.” Why did the Bodhisattva Never Despise act that way? It was because he cultivated the practice of seeing everything with eyes of equality, of respecting all sentient beings equally, as they all have the Buddha Nature and are all future Buddhas. Another explanation could be that many cultivators cannot conceive of themselves as future Buddhas. The Bodhisattva Never Despise was raising their sights, urging them to strive for the full Enlightenment of Buddhahood.

  80. I thank everyone for the responses regarding my question: what is samaya? It does seem that the word “samaya” covers a very broad spectrum of meanings, including vows, commitments and attitudes. This might explain what both Mary and I have observed, which is that it is a word often misused and misunderstood. Maybe students don’t really need to use the word samaya at all, which seems very vague. Maybe students need to stick to terms such as vows, precepts, commitments or “attitude of a bodhisattva” which have more specific and clear meanings and are less apt to be misunderstood.
    My main concern in the context of this discussion is the relationship between the ominous idea of “samaya” and the fear culture existent in many dharma centers. People are very afraid to speak out about even the smallest thing. Even I feel it, as I speak out here, a little fear, wondering if I’m going too far, if my karma’s ruined.

    And thank you, Tara, I hadn’t realized that lamas in DMU could give empowerments etc. Does seem like that’s taking things a bit far.

    • Again, what I learned in my class about the four classes of tantra is: A samaya is a promise it is not a vow. Other words for samayas are commitments, pledges, bindings. A vow is said to create a subtle form, a samaya does not.

      Different traditions see it quite likely differently. The best would be to ask a qualified teacher of the tradition where you received samayas. However, there is always some discussion and space. So there will be often different answers … However, unclear or fuzzy explanations, which lack precision, invite for misuse and speculation. A vow like that to a tantric teacher, explained as the first of the 14 root vows, exists only in the Yoga Tantra (if one received the Vajramaster empowerment), and in Highest Yoga Tantra.

      I don’t know if one can generalize that there would be a culture of fear in Dharma Centres. I know many centres who don’t have a culture of fear. A culture of fear is quite of an unhealthy sign. It might come either because people lack knowledge or because the spiritual leader has established it to control others or a mix of both. Precise knowledge overcomes fear, I think. So its wonderful if you explore this issue more deeply until you get a satisfying, reasonable answer or understanding.

  81. SInce Michael Roach is not a qualfied tantric master (pure moral conduct being an essential prerequisite qualification) and does not have permission to grant initations (or recogize ‘lamas’) then there can be no doubt that any such initations are totally invalid, as is the title ‘lama’ when flaunted by his ex-concubines. Any ‘samaya’ that followers of such charlatans believe they hold are actually as non existent as the horns of a rabbit

    • According to one of Geshe Michael senior close student, one of the new lamas, Geshe Michael claimed he is at least on the 8th Bhumi of Bodhisattva path. So, in a few year since he last claimed he was on the 1st Bhumi, he has progressed really fast on his path.
      The Sanskrit term bhūmi literally means “ground” or “foundation”, since each stage represents a level of attainment and serves as a basis for the next one. When one reaches the 1st Bhumi, one is already enlightened.

      The ten grounds of the bodhisattva are grouped within the three subsequent paths:

      Bhūmi 1: The path of seeing
      Bhūmi 2-7: The path of meditation
      Bhūmi 8-10: The path of no more learning (Here is where Geshe Michael claims he is at least at!!!)

      According to Avatamsaka Sutra, attaining bhumis 1-8 means GM rejoices at realizing a partial aspect of the truth (1st bhumi); GM is free from all defilement (2nd bhumi); GM radiates the light of wisdom (3rd bhumi); GM’s radiant flame of wisdom burns away earthly desires (4th bhumi); GM surmounts the illusions of darkness, or ignorance as the Middle Way (5th bhumi); GM’s supreme wisdom begins to manifest (6th bhumi); GM has rises above the states of the Two vehicles (7th bhumi); GM is Immovable as he dwells firmly in the truth of the Middle Way and cannot be perturbed by anything (8th bhumi).

      It is my opinion that GM and DM don’t really practice “humbleness” as most Buddhists do. The rest of us just don’t have enough “Divine Pride” to admit our level of attainments. This is another example how GM and DM mix up a wonderful way of practice “Divine Pride” to actual philosophy and reality. How can this kind of teaching not lead to magical thinking and delusions?

      • According to an oral commentary of one of my teachers, with Highest Yoga Tantra and the ability to manifest the subtle mind one can proceed “in 20 minutes” from the 1st to the eight bumi–once one has attained the first bumi. That’s why it is the “quick path”. Also to say I realized this or that is not necessarily wrong. Also the Buddha said, I realized this and that and it is one of the four fearlessnesses of a Buddha to be able to say this without that no one could validly argue he has not attained this.

        However, for me, the amount of self-created world and delusion, I can find in the interview here, having in mind two teachers who went astray in a similar way (disconnecting themselves from an healthy environment, not being accountable to peers and higher persons), makes me doubting in his proclamations of realizations.

        The advice of Lama Zopa Rinpoche he seems not having been followed ;-) (see page 16-18):

      • Thank you Tenpel for reminding me its a “quick path”. I guess I never believed his 1st Bhumi claim to begin with. Yes, I have read that delusional interview before. GM and his followers use Dharma teachings to self-justify their claims of attainment. I know can’t validly argue one has attained this or not so its just really hard to argue with his delusions. I am just so baffled by how his followers believe in every word he said.

        • Thank you for your thoughts and comments. I can only agree with what you are saying. The amount of delusion is impressing. On the other hand I was once a part of such a delusionary system too, so I know how it feels and how dynamic it is. It is like living in another realm others don’t share. You feel impelled and right to justify everything. I think the urge to justify the delusionary system comes because deep in your heart you know that there is something wrong but you lack the honesty and clarity to allow your self to open up for your own intuition. After having followed two misleading teachers already I was almost following Michael Roach too. Happily Alex Berzin gave me useful hints to be careful here … In case I hadn’t have him and a certain openness to be careful, I might have been now one of the followers of Michael Roach …

  82. Tenpel, thank you very much for your sound explanation of samaya– sorry that I missed your comment of May 9. Your clarity is very reassuring and what I have been seeking.

    I have also observed frequently with empowerments of all levels of tantra, that vows and commitments were not given– or if they were, I missed them in my confusion and your explanation of that was very helpful. I still question the value of empowerments being given so freely, but it’s a little less intimidating within the context you’ve described it. Samaya is not ominous at all in the way you describe.

  83. Thank you, Tenpel. I remember Thrangu Rinpoche reassuring us once before an empowerment, saying that we could never be harmed by an empowerment. I know that I was very ignorant about many things dharma in those days, but I took empowerments frequently. Now, I’m a little wiser but I don’t take any empowerments!

  84. If I ran the world, I would require that everyone complete an “Intro to Buddhism Course,” along with a 10 day meditation retreat, similar to that given at Toshita Center in Dharamsala, before they are permitted to take their first empowerment.

    • This sounds very good!
      If one should check one’s motivation and the monastery carefully before one becomes a nun or monk, considering what their vows are and that these vows last for this whole life, how much more one should take time and being careful to prepare to become a suitable vessel for the tantra, considering that a HYT initiation and its ordination (Bodhisattva and Tantra vows) are taken even for all futures lives.

  85. In the community I last practiced with (before realising I was a Buddhist 1st and a community member somewhere around 3rd or 4th!) people would attend beginners classes and become familiar with meditations on the breath, then death, karma, suffering and precious human rebirth. After a few months doing this, they were then allowed to take refuge if they wished and then the possibility of taking lower level tantric initiations became available.
    This seems to be an area people dont quite get so let me try and clarify-other than vowing to hold all ones vows of individual liberation and bodhicitta, most of the lower tantric initations do not necessarily come with any commitments as such-there are no ‘samaya’ at this point other than to have faith in the deity and keep ones vows.
    It is only when the initiations are from the highest yoga tantras that true samaya appear to be entered into, in the shape of the fourteen root downfalls. This is the point where talk of samaya becomes relevant.
    Another thing that struck me today is peoples lack of discernment when it comes to Dharma. This problem appears bigger in the US than the UK, perhaps because in the UK, theyve had their fingers burned with the NKT and the FWBO.In the States, we have ‘Geshe Michael Roach’ Lama Chrissie and all sorts of other crackpots selling themselves under the Buddhist moniker
    Anyway, my point….I was looking at Tricycle on the Michael Roach issue and the headline ‘Tragedy at American Buddhist Centre’ and it struck me that people seem to be willing to call anything ;Buddhism’ nowadays and how unhealthy that is. What Michael Roach teaches for example is a kind of wishy washy version of Middle Way philosophy, mixed with his own re telling/invention of the tantric view. Is this ‘Buddhism’? If I run a brothel and place a Buddha statue at the entrance, does the building become a Buddhist temple?
    This is a serious point. If the Buddhist media are going to portray cults as ‘Buddhist’ how can people be expected to be discerning? If the so called experts say its Buddhism then how can the man in the street be expected to know any different?
    Then again, how do we get past this problem? Who decides? Who is qualified to? is this a situation we can afford to just wash over and leave it down to the man in the street to decide for himself or, in doing so, do we not become complicit in abuse/cult recruitment??

    Again, the solution comes down to conference IMO-any other ideas?

    • Mary Finnigan says:

      Conference is best solution I think. This is in the wind but I get fed up with lobbing reminders.

  86. Yes, Author, I agree. I think you raise a serious question and one not confined to Buddhism. Every year, I am part of an interfaith panel for our local Hospice– we each give a very brief overview of our religion in the context of death and dying. I have been doing this for years and each time, all of us on the panel will agree that there will be many different interpretations of our religions– Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, there are many different interpretations. Perhaps this is an American thing as you say or perhaps it’s a global phenomena, because of the ready access to information. Those in the modern world like to pick and choose.

    However, I believe that in the context of tantra, such a situation can become dangerous. That seems to be where the trouble of too many loose interpretaions would lie in Buddhism. HH Dalai Lama writes:

    “The topics of Secret Mantra are not to be displayed like merchandise but practised secretly. If they are not, instead of helping, there is a danger of harming many people due to generating misunderstanding. For instance, some who are unable to practise the four tantras in general and Highest Yoga Tantra in particular merely wish to play with Mantra. Some, although they have faith, do not accurately know the Buddhist presentations of view, meditation and behaviour. Others know these topics accurately but do not have an ability to maintain vows, sustain faith, and be strong of mind. Without this knowledge and this ability, practice of the Mantra path is impossible.

    “In India, a fully qualified guru taught the doctrines of Secret Mantra to only a few students, whose karma and aspirations were suitable and whom he knew well. The gurus passed the doctrines directly to their students, and when the students were able to practice with great effort the teachings they received, the corresponding spiritual experiences and realizations were generated. In just that measure, the Conqueror’s teaching was furthered and the welfare of sentient beings was achieved. However, in the snowy country of Tibet, these factors were largely absent. Secret Mantra was disseminated too widely and people sought it because of its fame, without considering whether they had the capacity to practice it or not.

    “One is wise if, though wanting the best, one examines whether the best is fitting. The Tibetans wanted the best and assumed that they could practise the best. As a result of this, Secret Mantra became famous in Tibet, but the mode of practice was not like the proper hidden practice of the Indians and thus we were unable to achieve the feats of Secret Mantra as explained in the tantras: the imprint of Secret Mantra practice did not appear. As it is said in the Tibetan oral tradition, ‘An Indian practises one deity and achieves a hundred; a Tibetan practises a hundred deities and does not achieve even one.”

    His Holiness only decided to write his books on tantra because there was so much mis-information being published and he decided that there would be greater harm if he didn’t dispel inaccuracies than if he did speak openly about secret topics. So it seems that because tantra is so widely disseminated in the west, there is a greater urgency to establish a basic framework of understanding amongst Buddhist practitioners. So the problem you speak of, Author, becomes complicated and urgent. I think, in fact, that tantric practices are very enticing to members of a cult and practitioners with no understanding of the Buddhist path. Better education is the solution, but only if you have an agreed upon syllabus. And not all the lineages within mainstream TB can agree on many issues. Very difficult.

  87. Moreover, this is not just a TB issue-it goes much wider. Conference is certainly required but a talking shop of Westerners, no matter how senior they may be (or consider themselves to be) would bear little fruit, as the Conference of Western Buddhist teachers (attended by, in one case a least, a known sexual abuser) demonstrated.
    No, for proper resolution and meaningful outcomes, a meeting of the patriarchs of all the major trads strikes me as the only potentially efficacious solution. Impossible as such might seem, the crossing of international and traditional borders being prerequisite, surely, at this time where the Dharma passes from East to West, such a meeting is something we are obliged to suggest/pursue/instigate? Anything else would lack sufficient authority (at least while the authority of the traditions still remains intact-tick, tick, tick)

    • Tiger Lily says:

      I heartily agree Author. I am increasingly concerned, frustrated and annoyed when I read/hear comments advocating a Guru’s insulting/humiliating/beating of a student as being a necessary way to point out the clinging tendencies of ego without adding the proviso that such action in the hands of an unskilled Teacher with little realization can be counterproductive and harmful.
      All the Vajrayana spin which is coming out of the mouths of Lamas (and repeated by their devoted students) from the cocoon of their Dharma Organisations is imo irresponsible because it does not take into account the pressures of Western lifestyle and the individual psychology of Westerners.
      I want to hear more from Western Buddhist psychologists about this and for sure they should take a front seat at any conference.
      I wonder whether the only way a meaningful shift can ever take place will be following a court case or a group like Inform taking some kind of action.
      I think when the level-headed, practical humanitarian values we so cherish in the West challenge the Dharma Organisations in the form of legal action or investigation then an amazingly accurate and viable means of transmitting the Vajrayana experience will come out in the wash, bringing the best of the Western and Tibetan tradition together.

  88. Yes, Tiger Lily, I so agree with your comments. I have been thinking for some time that a conference is a good idea, but not until mainstream TB leaders start thinking that there’s even a problem that needs addressing. I myself suspect that their opinion is that it’s all about our complaining and there’s no problem. There are techniques– probably many of them– for reducing ego clinging that don’t require any beatings or sexual advances– that don’t require any crazy wisdom. I totally agree that it might take a few strong court settlements to wake up the establishment.

  89. TL&D — agreed. Where I differ is that I think the ethnic TB establishment is fully aware of the problems, but as a body of overwhelmingly male, deeply conservative lineage holders they are like rabbits in the headlights — frozen because they know that most of them are implicated one way or another in the abuses that have taken place since the late 1950s. I could rattle off a list of names of high ranking ethnic Tibetan lamas who have had and/or still do have sex with their female students — and in some rare cases male ones as well. Both Osel Hita and Yangsi Kalu have spoken out about the abuses they suffered in monasteries. We know about the hierarchical nature of Tibetan society where senior figures hold all the power and are not accountable to the majority. We know about the sexual abuse of young monks which was an integral aspect of monastic life in old Tibet. We know that droit de cuissage was endemic in pre-Chinese Tibetan society. So in the light of this knowledge we know that shifting a perspective of this breadth and depth is like moving Everest from one end of the Himalayas to another. It will happen — but I think probably not in our lifetimes.

  90. Yes Osel Hita, said that we certainly shouldnt believe everything we read in the press after those on the anti religious bandwagon latched onto the story. The ‘abuses’ (and I use that phrase reservedly, since it views the long standing experience of those who have been bullied and beaten down the centuries from a thoroughly contemporary perspective) were the beatings and bullyings that child prodigies have always experienced down the ages ,across faiths and outside them, and should not really be mentioned in the same breath as those experienced by Kalu Rinpoche

    I am also surpprised that commentators who are both Westerners AND Buddhists havent latched onto the point that Kalu RInpoches previous incarnation was accused of abuse. Doesnt anyone remember the teaching on karma here?

    I guess this is the most contentious point here, is it abuse or is it karma? It seems that one mans abuse is another mans karma, but we are all so ready to view it from the perspective of it being abuse.

    It could be argued that, either way, we have to prevent it from happening of course. However, I am reminded of the Buddhist arguments against suicide, namely that, if we do commit suicide to escape a particular suffering, we will just have to go through the same suffering elsewhere in a different form. So, we can perhaps address the problem of abuse and bullying in monasteries in the short term but, unless beings transcend karma, they will always experience the fruits of their acts-no conference will stop that!

    Interesting thing about Lama Yeshe/Osel Hita for me is the difficulties he experiences now, despite having done so much good previously> If we look at the experience of Zong Rinpoche and Pabongkas, we can determine a common thread.DS

  91. Yes, Mary, in some ways I think it will take time for these changes to occur because the problems are deep ones. However, until they do occur, Tibetan Buddhist teachings will not flourish in the west. That is my belief and so I think there is a sense of urgency, at least on the level of the Buddhas! I feel like what is needed now is a groundswell of testimony. For example, BTT is a large series of testimonies– and you have many more testimonies on file. You’ve laid a good foundation with your hard work, Mary. It seems that perhaps now is the time for people to start coming forward personally with their stories– online or in magazines or in the press.

    However, after saying that, I acknowledge that writing my two pieces of what are really insignificant testimony caused me much anx and fear– particularly my last piece. I have these moments still of panic, feeling as if I’ve crossed some sacred boundary and will be damned forever. It’s a very strong emotion, very hard to shake, despite my years in exile, regaining my independence and critical faculties– despite the fact that I know my motivations were not based on negativity or ill will. So I can only imagine how much more difficult it must be for women who have been sexually abused or for individuals who have witnessed much greater ethical infractions than I have to come forward and speak. I believe that we have to address that particular problem forcibly. We have to give ourselves back our democratic freedoms of protest and free speech. It sounds easy, but there is so much fear, so much silence.

    • Tara Ling says:

      HH Dalai Lama is in the UK teaching this weekend and through until Tuesday next week (June 16 – 19). I think he should be asked about this issue, at least in general terms (eg ‘Is it acceptable for Tibetan Lamas to ask their female students to have sex with them?’) if he is unlikely to speak about an individual Lama

      There will be opportunities to ask questions. I have pasted below what the event organisers have sent out about questions.

      QUESTIONS TO HIS HOLINESS: His Holiness the Dalai Lama is often prepared to answer questions from members of the audience at his talks. If you are attending 16th June youth event in Manchester or 19th June public talk at the Royal Albert Hall and would like the opportunity to submit a question to be answered during the event, please send it by e-mail to, with QUESTION as the subject, along with your name and age (only list age for the youth event). For the other events at Manchester Arena, you will be able to hand in written questions on the day.

      Full details of the events are here

  92. an old friend says:

    BTW if the Tibetans are ignorant, then that makes Tzongkapa and Kelsang Gyatso ignorant-so what does that make their followers?

  93. I see the Youtube video of the Sogyal expose, ‘In the Name of Enlightenment’ has been removed, after 3000 hits in just over six weeks and references to it in Youtube comments have been obliterated, labelled as spam. I wonder who is responsible?

  94. Big mistake-How does one find it to ask for an invite?

  95. I think author is missing the key point.. Every nation has its law and constitution, Instead of complaining to HH Dalai lama, i think they should take matter to the court, fight over it if victims are true, HH Dalai lama got no authority to criticize sogyal rinpochen unless he is proven guilty by court.. And i fully support HH Dalai Lama silence,,

  96. “HH Dalai lama got no authority to criticize sogyal rinpochen unless he is proven guilty by court.. And i fully support HH Dalai Lama silence”

    Kunga, if you read the article above, thats exactly what it says,,

  97. Also, HH has spoken out, on more than one occasion, without mentioning Sogyal by name, but nevertheless speaking very clearly about his abusive behavior

  98. Why doesn’t Dalai Lama’s office reply to hundreds of victims? Why, after they received complaint letters from victims, do they send higher ranking lamas to the Dharma Center run by the abusing/corrupted lama, to support their own people? Compassion? Where?

    • I think this is quite exaggerated to speak of “hundreds of victims”. He is also not the right address for this I fear because he is not the pope of Tibetan Buddhism. In Tibetan Buddhism it is understood to be the responsibility of the student to object abuse and if needed and if there is evidence to make it known. For many Tibetans it seems not to be clear if the allegations are true or not. I know one who said that he thinks that these are rumors and that if they were true, the victims could go to court. It’s not that easy.

  99. Westerners still look for a policeman, a god, or a pope to take care of matters that are the business of the person involved in said injunction/infractions. We ascribe magical powers to the major talking heads in business, politics, religion and science and look for all the best answers spewing out of their mouths. Then we can feel safe, the victims of the worlds problems are vindicated and we continue on the yellow brick road.
    There is enough to learn about buddhism in my lifetime to not be concerned at gossip or out and out silence. If we pay attention to this moment, to this meditation, to this compassion, to our own karma, to our own abiding, we will not have time to be concerned with what Dalai Lama is not saying.
    Personally i always try to pay attention to what Dalai Lama is not saying. He is a very intelligent man.
    I could learn something from him
    Thank You

  100. UPDATES

    “Lock the door.” – I was devoted to a great Buddhist master, and then I quit. – Julia Mourri (le Plus de l’Obs, interview with Mimi)

    Submission, devotion and sexual abuse: my investigation of Buddhism in France – Julia Mourri (le Plus de l’Obs, interview with Marion Dapsance)

    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”.

    Rob Hogendoorn about protest in the Netherlands:

    On YouTube:

    The description: »Before Tibetan teacher Sogyal Rinpoche’s (69) lecture in Amsterdam on November 16, 2016, a silent protest was held against the “emotional, sexual and mental abuse” of which he is accused. In front of the entrance of the Amsterdam RAI, a small group of participants held up a large banner, calling on Sogyal’s followers and Rigpa supporters to stop looking away. The silent protest in Amsterdam was filmed. This film shows participants holding up the banner and a sign with quotes, and handing out leaflets to the public. Because the city of Amsterdam had not been asked permission prior to the protest, after one hour the group was persuaded by a RAI Amsterdam employee to leave.«

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