What Is A Rigpa Student To Think?


Sorting Out the Blogs and Posts in Regard to Allegations of Sexual Abuse Against Sogyal Rinpoche I begin with a story which I believe to be from a Zen center:

Our Saturday morning meditation group usually starts with hugs, smiles, and jokes.  Bud today it begins with Sarah’s tears.

Sarah is group’s matriarch.  She speaks four languages, has lived in four countries, and survived multiple wars.  The rest of us often ask her spiritual questions, and she often gives wonderfully clear, yet deeply mystical answers.  She laughs easily, often at her own mistakes.

Yet as we take our seats on this gorgeous spring morning, Sarah suddenly begins to weep.

I touch her arm and offer her a tissue.  “What’s wrong?”

She dabs at her eyes for some time before she is able to talk.  Eventually she mentions the name of a well-known spiritual teacher.  “I was his student; he was my guru, my rebbe.  For years I felt a special connection with him.  He was always so wise, so mesmerizing, so inspiring.  When I was in the room with him, I felt something shift and deepen inside me.  Wherever he went, he packed the house.”  She takes a long, sobbing breath.  “Yesterday, I found out he sexually abused women.  Dozens of women, many of  them his students.  Some of them young girls.  For over twenty-five years.  Twenty-five years.  He just admitted all of it.”  She shakes her head and blows her nose noisily.

I start to speak, but she touches my hand and shakes her head.  She needs to say more.

“I don’t understand how he could be so wise and inspiring, yet so abusive.”

(Edelstein, Scott, Sex and the Spiritual Teacher, Introduction)

I suspect that this story might resound with Rigpa students.  There might be many Rigpa students right now who have read the blogs and allegations against Sogyal Lakar and are questioning.  Many might be confused or upset.  What might appear a clear conclusion to those outside of Rigpa is not so clear to those with strong, spiritual ties to Sogyal and his organization, those who have experiences of kindness and true guidance from him.  This point is often lacking in our debates.  We discuss the allegations as if resolution of them is as simple as moving from A to B, as saying yay or nay.  However, for a Rigpa student, resolution means a radical reorientation of their lives on many different levels.  Spiritual reorientation, in particular, is a difficult and often painful challenge.  This takes time and it is not simple.

Recently, I counted the number of comments that have been made on Dialogue Ireland in response to allegations of sexual abuse by Sogyal Lakar and I reached 4, 277.  Even though these comments span over three years of discussion, the number is still staggering.   As Mike of DI says, we Buddhists “have a lot of fuel in our tanks.”  I personally believe that this is a strength we have. It means that this situation is not going to just fade away without some definitive resolution.

There seem to be two primary debates occurring throughout these discussions.  One is the question of whether or not the allegations are true.  In line with that is the question of degree, of how true they might be, whether they are “as bad” as they are described in Behind the Thangkas (BTT).  The other debate is the question of whether sexual relations between a Buddhist lama and his student should be condemned at all.  This question also entails consideration of the degree of sexual involvements.

HH Dalai Lama says frequently that we need to “know the reality” when faced with problems.  We have to be “realistic” in our approaches.  He talks about knowing reality from many different angles and having the courage of an open skepticism as we analyze and investigate.  Such an approach is invaluable in situations such as this one, where emotions run very strong.  The temptation is either to cling to the safety of blind faith or rage with (equally blind) impulsive anger and reactivity.  I suggest that neither approach will help the practitioner move forward.

Indeed, this is a journey of conscience for every Rigpa student.  An informed conscience is a strong conscience.  Only through viewing what we know and don’t know through many different lenses and logics can we inform our conscience and have the courage and self-confidence to act accordingly and move forward with our practice.


There is an understanding within Rigpa that these allegations of sexual abuse are primarily due to Mary Finnigan and her vendetta against Sogyal Lakar.  In A Response To the Blog Behind The Thangkas, http://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/a-response-to-the-blog-behind-the-thankas/  a senior Rigpa student argues that the allegations are the result of 30 individuals who have become angry with Sogyal because of his sometimes harsh techniques.   This appears to be the opinion of Rigpa officials as well.   The tone of Mary Finnigan’s own comments on blogsites can appear to justify this.  She has never disguised the fact that she wants to “put Sogyal out of business.”  She uses strong language.  In addition, BTT does reach well beyond allegations of sexual abuse and condemns Sogyal’s qualifications as a teacher as well.

However, several facts support the allegations in BTT.  The first is the fact that Mary herself is an established journalist, with a sound knowledge of litigation and the responsibilities of journalism.  It is presumed that she would have taken extra care with verifying her evidence in BTT, knowing that it would be challenged and that Sogyal had the money for good lawyers.  While the original online version of BTT is anonymously published, she gave permission for the use of her name on this website, so she is not seeking protection through anonymity.

Further facts also support Mary’s credibility.  One is the fact that Cogent/Benger are highly reputable and their primary source, “Mimi” has gone public with her allegations.  Mimi is also central to BTT.  Her allegations do not concern only herself, but what she has observed as the abuse of others as well.  In a conversation between the owner of this blogsite and the Rigpa director of another country, the Rigpa official said that Sogyal had tried to contact Mimi, but her therapist advised against this.  The Rigpa official also said that Sogyal would not object to the allegations because he would practice tonglen (mind training), accepting the “negativity” and say nothing against the allegations.  This blog owner replied that if the accusations were wrong, he must correct them as this was part of the bodhisattva vow.  It could be surmised by this that Sogyal takes Mimi’s allegations and suffering seriously—however not seriously enough to address them directly.

While Rigpa officials will blame Mary’s ill will for the trouble BTT has caused, I have not seen any statements from them that Sogyal is not having sex with multiple women.  This is the main concern.  In fact, in Response to the Blog Behind the Thangkas on Dialogue Ireland (DI), the writer does not question the existence of a group of “Dakinis” who surround Sogyal, nor does she question that they are in sexual relations with him—she questions only the allegations that they are not happy, self-confident women who have lives of their own and are free to leave whenever they wish.  She questions whether these women are treated poorly and then cast off:

Everybody in our culture knows about the teachers’ power over the students and they may be in position where they could use their power wrong. Many of us have personal experiences of such events or “invitations” by teachers in our Universities and so on. How many of those women who have been abused by their teacher have gained a permanent position in the teacher’s life? Some are abused and thrown away. If they haven’t been thrown away, they can’t say they were abused, if their relationship ended up in a marriage. The abuse happens, when the woman is told what to do and told that she will be rewarded somehow. These situations do not usually last for years, since the victims are thrown away, if they complain and do not obey. Soon enough they are being replaced by the next victim.

Many critics feel the need to show the foreign men their place and educate how women should be treated. I could join them eagerly since I have known a few men from non-Western cultures personally and through my friends. But then I must also say that I have never seen Sogyal Rinpoche treating his “dakinis” without respect. They are not thrown away, but have remained for years or decades. He usually doesn’t send anybody away.

This fact leads to one of the most convincing arguments supporting the truth of the allegations, which is the fact that multiple sexual relations between a renowned teacher, such as Sogyal, and his students is not seen as a problem amongst either mainstream Buddhist teachers or Rigpa officials themselves.  A major argument in Response to the Blog Behind the Thangkas is that these relationships do no harm to the students and are not practiced in extreme ways, such as in the orgy described in BTT, with pictures of naked women behind the thangkas.  I will address the issue of whether sexual relations between spiritual teachers and their students do cause harm more deeply later on, but I suggest that it is a central reason why the allegations are probably true.  Sogyal simply does not believe that his behavior is wrong and he is supported by a culture that doesn’t believe it is wrong either.  The question then is not whether or not he has had sexual relations with his students, but rather, why shouldn’t he have had sexual relations with his students?  He is not a monk and he is a healthy male with a healthy appetite.

Certainly, the assumption that it is an “honor” for a woman to have sexual relations with a great Buddhist teacher is prevalent within mainstream Tibetan Buddhism.  I recall very clearly Shyalpa Rinpoche saying during a teaching retreat that in the past, Tibetan men used to pray that they would be reborn as women so that they could practice as consorts.  Particularly in the Dzogchen traditions, founded by Padmasambhava, who himself practiced with consorts, this is a central assumption.  Any Rigpa student with a sincere wish to probe more deeply into the allegations against Sogyal must acknowledge that this attitude is central to all considerations.  This attitude makes the allegations extremely probable.  Later, I will discuss the validity of this attitude.
Further support for the credibility of BTT can be made from testimonies in the comment line of Dialogue Ireland.  In 2009, DI posted a briefing document in which Mary Finnigan presents a testimony from a former close personal assistant to Sogyal, who describes the situation within Rigpa while he was there:

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

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

I could no longer ignore what was happening. On one occasion Sogyal wanted me to lie on the phone to a woman, who wanted to contact him after having had sex with him but had found that he was in bed with another woman. I refused to be a party to his affairs. He became very angry and yelled at me, but I was not impressed …

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bitter irony is that because other students saw me as a rather independent, seemingly critical, and reasonable person and because of my professional status as a psychotherapist, some people viewed me as endorsing Sogyal. In fact they envied my special access to SRBasically, he always treated me very well. He seemingly respected me, but now I think he was clever enough not to treat me badly like some of the other students so I would remain loyal. He gave me the feeling that he appreciated my views at least as long I helped him to please the audience and the students. But he never was open to criticism concerning his personal behaviour. Also, he never answered any of my personal spiritual questions. I got more and more the impression that he simply could not answer them. Also, when I attended sessions where he should answer questions from his students, he often gave very stupid answers, and showed that he had not much understanding of what people were really asking. Sometimes he ridiculed people to cover this up.

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

Mary says that she has more testimonies like this one.  Of course, it is totally possible that this story is fabricated and a complete lie, but it is hard for me to conclude that anyone would fabricate such a story as this one.  It is just plain too lucid and introspective.  In addition, Mary has allowed her own name to be used in citing this source, so this adds veracity to the testimony.

Of course, we cannot know for certain that this is from a real person.  Indeed, Mary could have written it herself.  However, in that case, surely there would have been a strong refutation from Rigpa officials?  Surely, they could have stated that no such person has existed that they know of?   Again, it is clear that refuting the existence of multiple affairs and Sogyal’s harsh, sometimes harmful techniques during teachings is not something that Rigpa is capable of doing.

Another lucid description of Sogyal’s sexual affairs is given in another comment line of DI:  Behind The Thangkas ~ Sogyal Rimpoche ~ The imbalance of power and abuse of spiritual authority.  On several dates, Jan. 9, 10 and 12, ex-Dakini describes her experiences of sexual abuse from Sogyal.  This is a testimony from a woman who has clearly done the difficult work of healing from her experiences.  In respect to this woman’s healing, I will not post her personal disclosures here, but I advise anyone who wishes to gain a clear picture of the allegations to view her comments.

Of particular significance, ex-Dakini states:

My handful of years in Rigpa led me to witness first hand that Sogyal Rinpoche was a compulsive seducer of women. I knew more than several women who were seduced after their first teaching or at their first retreat. I knew women who were seduced when they were in distress. Others like myself had been involved in the organization for a while before he communicated his desire for sex. I am not including in this summary by the way anything that has been published by DI, these are things individuals told me personally some years ago.

I can count the names of 15 women who I knew that SR was sexually involved with. And I wasn’t around for all that long. I suggest that those of you still involved in Rigpa who care about this to simply ask your lama how many of his students he has had sex with. I think its a fair question to ask a spiritual leader. These women – myself included – were his students. Not women who he met in other circumstances.

Even BellaB, a senior Rigpa student who comments frequently on DI and sometimes on this website, acknowledges that ex-Dakini’s story rings true.  This is odd, because after admitting this, BellaB then continues for months to refute the truth of allegations of sexual abuse against Sogyal.  It seems she is either forgetful or can hold two contradictory truths in her mind at the same time.

I have been in personal contact with Tiger Lily, who comments on this website and commented on DI during that time both in response to ex-Dakini and with her own testimony.  I assure the reader that Tiger Lily is a real person with no vendetta towards Sogyal.  She writes in Jan. 2012 of a meeting that she had with Mimi prior to the publication of BTT (Mimi is called Mimi in the documentary film and Janine in BTT):

Suffice to say she [Mimi] echoes ex-d’s testimony in that during the time she was Sogyal’s attendant she received so little sleep that she couldn’t think straight. Sex with Sogyal “went with the job of being a female attendant”. It was not about love. When she began to have doubts, she was faced with the answer that whatever Sogyal did would be a teaching for her good. She was encouraged by him to see herself as a consort and when she went in tears to Dzigar Kongtrul to ask him what it meant to be a consort he replied that it was very good.
She also told me that she was regularly struck by Sogyal with his backscratcher as were his other female attendants.

Tiger Lily was also involved with Sogyal as a girlfriend and writes of her own experiences:

You asked me if Sogyal had ever treated me in the way Mimi has claimed he did her. First of all I was never encouraged to see myself as a consort. It never entered my head. I was a girl-friend. Neither did he ever hit me. I would have hit him back. Sogyal didn’t claim to be a great Master…that came after I’d left. He was usually called Sogyal Tulku by the Tibetans. The whole dynamic at Rigpa was more normal then. Much more low key, not the empire it’s become. He could be a pain in the arse though and we let him get away with it too much.
I did try to work with unpleasant emotions by letting my relationship with Sogyal and Rigpa be a catalyst for my practice. Perhaps not a waste of time after all as I have learned by default. I just gave up with being deceived by his philanderings and by being kept in the dark and the general deterioration of a friendship which I had once valued. I never saw him as my Guru but rather someone I wanted to be close to because Tibetan Buddhism was the most important part of my life.

I did notice a difference in his behaviour though and judging from other women’s comments it became more intense with each successive decade as Rigpa grew and grew and grew and the best of Sogyal (and there could be a sweet side to him) seemed to become swallowed up by Terton Sogyal. I am shocked and saddened by Mimi’s and Ex-d’s experiences but not surprised.

Probably the strongest case made against BTT’s credibility in Response to the Blog Behind the Thangkas is the writer’s own positive experiences as a student of Sogyal.  Certainly, this is the main theme of arguments raised by senior Rigpa students in the comment lines.  Sheila is concerned that by raising concerns over Sogyal’s behavior, we are undermining all Tibetan Buddhist teachers and her experiences have been completely positive.  She wants no stain on Tibetan Buddhist leaders.  Bella is concerned because her experiences with Sogyal have been all positive and she therefore disagrees with any allegation that his behavior is not perfect (except for those made by ex-Dakini).

Indeed, I would guess that there are many more students of Sogyal who have had only positive experiences than there are those who have had negative experiences.  However, such black and white thinking is not helpful and such rationale can never justify misconduct or harm inflicted on even one woman.  We are not talking about numbers.  For example, a murderer might be wonderful to his children, his mother, his wife and friends, but his misconduct is still misconduct.

However, I acknowledge that the greatest challenge for any sincere Rigpa student is to equate the allegations of sexual abuse with the teacher that they know.  Scott Edelstein, author of the story that I cited at the beginning of this writing, speaks eloquently of this dilemma:

It is entirely possible for a spiritual teacher to be wise, compassionate, empathetic, and inspiring, and at the same time sexually exploitive.  This may seem entirely contradictory, but spiritual teachers have proven it true time after time.  For better or worse, we humans are often contradictory creatures—especially when it comes to sex, power and vocation. (Sex and the Spiritual Teacher, Chapter 1).

It is therefore not my intention here to dispute Sogyal’s worth as a spiritual mentor for many.  Nor is it my intention to hold him high as an exemplary spiritual teacher either.   My intention is to ask readers to hold both possibilities in their hearts, to neither revert to blind faith, nor succumb to blind reactive emotions as you sort through the allegations and your own experience and analysis.

Those of you who have never experienced anything but kindness during your time as a Rigpa student are nonetheless encouraged to take the Buddha’s teachings to heart and try to experience compassion and feel how difficult coming forward with these stories must be for women who have suffered sexual abuse.  Try perhaps to avoid seeing their reluctance to give their names as evidence that their stories and suffering are not real.  See instead that this reluctance comes from fear.

Indeed, I can tell you as a therapist that coming forward with testimony of sexual abuse causes the victim great suffering.  It triggers experiences of pain that victims want to put in the past.  This is why so few rape victims bring their cases to court.  I believe that this is why there are so few women with the courage of Mimi and Victoria, the courage to expose their vulnerability and their pain.  Cruel comments, such as those made by some Rigpa students on the comment threads, do not help them find the courage either.

I have one further comment to quote from the comment line.  This comment is not about sexual abuse explicitly.  However, I suggest that it exposes the fact that Sogyal might be lacking in some boundaries around issues of sexuality.
Here is the story:

lalatee, on July 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm said:

I recently attended the recent 10 day retreat at Dzogchen Beara in County Cork, Ireland. I knew nothing about Sogyal Rinpoche when I arrived, beyond the fact that he was the author of the wonderful book: The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. SR arrived at the retreat he was supposed to be leading 4 days late. As soon as he came into the tent where 250 attendees were gathered, I knew I had made a mistake. His personality was egocentric and his manner imperious. It did not fit in with my idea of a holy or ascetic monk at all. During the course of the next few days I experienced what at best could be termed disrespect, at worst abuse of his colleagues and disciples. He was regularly late and often over-ran the sessions by several hours, on one occasion keeping us from lunch. He was insulting about the Irish people, about his assistants and to individual course participants. He refused to let one woman leave who had just heard that her house had been burgled, but made her sit down on the floor in front of him for 2 hours, saying it was too late to do anything about it now, she should have gone home before it was burgled not afterwards!

The last straw for me, and which made me leave the retreat 2 days early, was when he called one of the senior assistants from the Centre for the sick and dying to come up to the dias. This lady is a very respected professional in her 60s doing amazing caring work with the bereaved and dying. She was forced to kneel down beside SR while he embraced her closely and put his hand on her chest. I could see her face and she was clearly deeply embarrassed and uncomfortable. SR proceeded to stroke her face, looking deeply into her eyes. When she pulled back slightly he turned to the 250 people in the audience and said: ‘This is none of your business, turn away.’ So 250 people (except me) twisted around in their seats and looked the other way. If that is not crowd manipulation and audience abuse, I don’t know what is. At the very least it shows complete ignorance or disregard for Western social mores ethical behaviour.

I will not go back and I will not have anything further to do with Rigpa. I am very very sad that the wonderful people amongst the instructors and pupils that I met are being seriously duped. They do not deserve this sort of treatment. I wish them all well.

This comment is also unique because it is about something that can be verified.  I personally was not at the retreat the commenter is referring to, but hundreds of people were.  No refutation of that story has appeared.  In fact, in the Response to the Blog on Behind the Thangkas, the writer’s only comment about this story is quite cynical and misses the point completely.  She writes coldly,

It’s a new line in the story, because the old stories repeat that he is only after young women.

Most Rigpa students reading the comment from lalatee, even those who did not attend the Dzogchen Beara retreat, will identify this experience with those they have experienced themselves.  Defenders of Sogyal will say that he works with people’s egos in ways that reflect his genius and realization.  Indeed, the writer of the response piece reports experiences of realization she has experienced as a result of Sogyal’s harsh methods.  This same student suggests strongly that BTT was motivated by the ire of x-Rigpa students who became disenfranchised with Sogyal’s teaching methods:

This means that instead of the thick dossier of victims, there are 30 people who did not like Sogyal Rinpoche’s teaching and style. I bet there are many more since he is a very provocative teacher, too direct to many. That is part of being a Dzogchen Master. Can’t get away with that. Many people do not enjoy the rough ride when the Master places a mirror in front of them. It simply isn’t pleasurable to see one’s own hidden traits.

I personally find such an attitude deeply disturbing and cold.  It is one based on a very self-centered approach to the dharma.  The writer is applauding her own advanced state in being able to work with Sogyal’s harsh methods, while disregarding any harm caused to others.  Whether those others are suffering or simply mad and discouraged with the Buddhist path, I suggest that the methods which Sogyal uses are not benefitting them and are instead causing obstacles to their practice of dharma.  I also question a practice said to be diminishing ego if that same practice causes one to denigrate others.  It was my own impression from my year with Rigpa that the harsh methods were for the initiation of a few chosen students, while the rest of us, such as lalatee and myself sat in horror, dejection and confusion, watching on.

Indeed, the core purpose of all the Buddha’s teaching is for the diminishing of ego.  HH Dalai Lama outlines these teachings as ones that either diminish self-cherishing or diminish self-grasping.  Practices that diminish self-cherishing are practices of method, such as cultivating love, compassion, tolerance, charity, warmheartedness, kindness etc.  Practices that diminish self-grasping are practices of wisdom, such as studying, reflecting and meditating on impermanence and emptiness.  This is a huge canon of teaching, all aimed at diminishing ego.  Yet, instead of those approaches, Sogyal has decided that he has a better, more effective approach.  Nowhere do I see such approaches in the main scriptural sources, though I agree that they are described in biographies of the great masters, as in Tilopa’s treatment of Marpa and Marpa’s treatment of Milarepa.  My only question there is how many Milarepas do we believe have been born in the west?  Are these approaches really suitable for all or even for many or are they approaches only for highly advanced students?  Sometimes it seems that perhaps Rigpa students who have experienced these harsh techniques might think they are special, like Milarepa.  They might become more arrogant instead of less!

Perhaps I would not object to this so forcibly if I didn’t question whether Sogyal’s Dzogchen teachings and methodology was backed by a strong education program.  Without this, harsh Dzogchen methods have no context in which to become a true practice of dharma.  I once asked the Dzogchen teacher Shyalpa Rinpoche if it was important to have a good understanding of the Madyamaka teachings in order to practice Dzogchen.  He replied that practicing Dzogchen without a full understanding of Madyamaka would be like climbing a rock cliff without hands.

In the same vein, HH Dalai Lama said during Dzogchen teachings he gave in 1989,

So that the special features of Dzogchen can be pointed out and you can recognize them, you must have a thorough, overall understanding of the principles of all the different vehicles of the Buddhadharma.  This is the only basis on which you can truly appreciate the uniqueness and depth of Dzogchen.  Without such an overview, it will be difficult for your mind to feel any certainty as to why these teachings are so special.  That is why you need to understand the whole spectrum of the Buddhadharma, from the lower yanas to the higher yanas. (p.127; Dzogchen: The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection, Teachings Given in the West by His Holiness the Dalai Lama)

In the forward to this same text, Sogyal gives a brief description of his first meeting with HH Dalai Lama:

His Holiness asked me my name and my age.  He then held me in a piercing gaze and told me pointedly to make sure I studied hard.  It was a moment I have always remembered, for it was probably one of the most important of my life. (p. 9)

This indicates that within mainstream Tibetan Buddhism, education is considered to be important for both student and spiritual teacher.  While I do not have Mary’s courage to question the level of Sogyal’s dharma education, I do question whether that advice is central to the approach taken within the Rigpa program itself.  Are Sogyal’s harsh methods used on students who haven’t studied the Four Noble Truths?  On students who have never studied the madyamaka teachings?  On students who have no understanding of lojong or never meditated on compassion or emptiness?  I question the efficacy of harsh methods when a foundation of understanding core Buddhist concepts and practices is not laid.

These are questions that I suggest every Rigpa student needs to find answers for, in order to assess the current situation fully.  In Mahayana Buddhism, the primary goal of practice is to cultivate a state of mind where concern for others’ welfare is more important than concern for oneself.  Justifying Sogyal’s behaviors on the basis that one’s own practice has benefitted and others who have been harmed are in some way deficient is a very disturbing attitude in this context.  This attitude has prevailed throughout much of the comment line.


I wish to question three underlying assumptions evident throughout the comment threads, in A Response to the Blog BTT and within mainstream Tibetan Buddhism.  The first is that sex between a spiritual teacher and his/her student is not wrong in itself and does not harm nor constitute abuse in itself.  Only if it resembles the sort of abuse that would occur in an everyday relationship should it be called abuse.  The second is that women are free to say yes or no to Sogyal; they are free agents.  The third is that it is an honor and spiritual practice to have sex with a renowned Dzogchen master such as Sogyal.

Immediately, I will point out that there is a contradiction between the last two assumptions.  If it is an honor and a spiritual practice to have sex with your “master” then immediately there is less free will.  Saying no entails refusing to practice as your lama has instructed—this is a much more difficult act than simply turning down sex, as one would with an ordinary person.  So we can’t have it both ways.  Either having sex with Sogyal is no big deal, no more than sex with the everyday Joe on the street, or it entails a power differential, with women being less free to refuse.

Certainly, the Buddha himself has given us permission to say no to our teachers if they ask us to do something which is incorrect.  The difficulty here, however, lies squarely with my earlier points about the lack of education within Rigpa programs.  If a woman is not well read on the scriptures and Sogyal tells her that having sex will help her progress on the spiritual path, then how is she to have the resources to question?  How can she know her rights of refusal, if she has no thorough knowledge of the Buddha’s instructions in this regard?  If she has no knowledge of what tantric sex is even about?

Indeed, the first several education courses offered at Rigpa are not courses in fundamental texts such as Words of My Perfect Teacher, Bodhicaharyavatara, Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment or any of Longchenpa’s teachings.  They are Sogyal’s book and Sogyal’s teachings.  New students at Rigpa study the dharma from Sogyal’s point of view.  I would suggest that most of the students who first enter into sexual relations with him have very little further grounding in the Buddhadharma than Sogyal’s viewpoint.  In this respect, they have absolutely no tools with which to question him if he tells them that sex will help their spiritual progress.  They have few tools with which to say no.

In fact, it is a contradiction in terms to say no to any “master,” is it not?  In fact, this is a key, central tenet of Dzogchen, the role of the master.  Dzogchen is about the “master” leading the student into unknown territory; it is about the student having complete trust that where the master leads is a safe territory. This is central to many Dzogchen techniques.  From the outside, we shudder to hear of such practices.  From inside Rigpa, such an outlook is common and not questioned.  I personally believe that the true Dzogchen lies somewhere inbetween.  The true Dzogchen can only be practiced after the student has spent years investigating the teacher and the primary texts of Buddhism.  These years have to be years where the Dzogchen teacher is not seen as a “master” but is seen as a lecturer who is put on trial.  I fear that many of the stories of sexual abuse that one hears in regard to Sogyal have occurred with students who have never spent anywhere near that requisite time.

Add to this trouble the outlook of tantra, where one is required to see the lama as perfect and you have further trouble.  Indeed, HH Dalai Lama speaks very strongly about the dangers inherent in seeing everything that the lama does as perfect:

The offering of practice means always to live by the teachings of one’s guru. But what happens when the guru gives us advice that we do not wish to follow or that contradicts Dharma and reason? The yardstick must always be logical reasoning and Dharma reason. Any advice that contradicts these is to be rejected. This was said by Buddha himself. If one doubts the validity of what is being said, one should gently push the point and clear all doubts. This task becomes somewhat more sensitive in Highest Tantra, where total surrender to the guru is a prerequisite; but even here this surrender must be made only in a particular sense. If the guru points to the east and tells you to go west, there is little alternative for the student but to make a complaint. This should be done with respect and humility, however, for to show any negativity towards a teacher is not a noble way of repaying his or her kindness.

Perception of faults in the guru should not cause us to feel disrespect, for by demonstrating faults to us the guru is actually showing us what we should abandon. At least, this is the most useful attitude for us to take. An important point here is that the disciple must have a spirit of sincere inquiry and must have clear, rather than blind, devotion.

It is frequently said that the essence of the training in guru yoga is to cultivate the art of seeing everything the guru does as perfect. Personally I myself do not like this to be taken too far. Often we see written in the scriptures, »Every action seen as perfect.« However, this phrase must be seen in the light of Buddha Shakyamuni’s own words: »Accept my teachings only after examining them as an analyst buys gold. Accept nothing out of mere faith in me.« The problem with the practice of seeing everything the guru does as perfect is that it very easily turns to poison for both the guru and the disciple. Therefore, whenever I teach this practice, I always advocate that the tradition of »every action seen as perfect« not be stressed. Should the guru manifest unDharmic qualities or give teachings contradicting Dharma, the instruction on seeing the spiritual master as perfect must give way to reason and Dharma wisdom.

Take myself, for example. Because many of the previous Dalai Lamas were great sages and I am said to be their reincarnation, and also because in this lifetime I give frequent religious discourses, many people place much faith in me, and in their guru yoga practice they visualize me as being a Buddha – I am also regarded by these people as their secular leader. Therefore, this teaching of »every action seen as perfect« can easily become poison for me in my relationship with my people and in my effective administration. I could think to myself, »They all see me as a buddha, and therefore will accept anything I tell them.« Too much faith and imputed purity of perception can quite easily turn things rotten. I always recommend that the teaching on seeing the guru’s actions as perfect should not be stressed in the lives of ordinary practitioners. It would be an unfortunate affair if the Buddhadharma, which is established by profound reasoning, were to have to take second place to it.

Perhaps you will think: »The Dalai Lama has not read the Lam Rim scriptures. He does not know that there is no practice of Dharma without the guru.« I am not being disrespectful of the Lam Rim teachings. A student of the spiritual path should rely upon a teacher and should meditate on that teacher’s kindness and good qualities; but the teaching on seeing his or her actions as perfect can only be applied within the context of the Dharma as a whole and the rational approach to knowledge that it advocates. As the teachings on seeing the guru’s actions as perfect is borrowed from Highest Tantra and appears in the Lam Rim mainly to prepare the trainee for tantric practice, beginners must treat it with caution. As for spiritual teachers, if they misrepresent this precept of guru yoga in order to take advantage of naive disciples, their actions are like pouring the liquid fires of hell directly into their stomachs.

The disciple must always keep reason and knowledge of Dharma as principal guidelines. Without this approach it is difficult to digest one’s Dharma experiences. Make a thorough examination before accepting someone as a guru, and even then follow that teacher within the conventions of reason as presented by Buddha. The teachings on seeing the guru’s actions as perfect should largely be left for the practice of Highest Tantra, wherein they take on a new meaning. One of the principal yogas in the tantric vehicle is to see the world as a mandala of great bliss and to see oneself and all others as Buddhas. Under these circumstances it becomes absurd to think that you and everyone else are Buddhas, but your guru is not!

Actually, the more respect one is given the more humble one should become, but sometimes this principle becomes reversed. A spiritual teacher must guard himself or herself carefully and should remember the words of Lama Drom Tonpa, »Use respect shown to you as a cause for humility.« This is the teacher’s responsibility. The student has the responsibility of using wisdom in his or her demonstration of faith and respect.

A problem is that we usually only observe those teachings that feed our delusions and ignore those that would overcome them. This leniency can easily lead to one’s downfall. This is why I say that the teaching on seeing all the guru’s actions as perfect can be a poison. Many sectarian problems in Tibet were born and nourished by it.

The First Dalai Lama wrote, »The true spiritual master looks upon all living beings with thoughts of love and shows respect to teachers of all traditions alike. Such a one only harms delusion, the enemy within.« The different traditions have arisen principally as branches of skillful methods for trainees of varying capacities. If we take an aspect of their teachings, such as the precept of »all actions seen as perfect,« and use it for sectarian purposes, how have we repaid the past masters for their kindness in giving and transmitting Dharma? Have we not disgraced them? If we misunderstand and mispractice their teachings, it will hardly please them. Similarly, it is meritorious for a lama to perform rituals or give initiations to benefit people, but if his or her motivation is only material benefit, that person would be better off going into business instead. Using the mask of Dharma to exploit people is a great harm.

We erect elaborate altars and make extensive pilgrimages, but better than these is to remember Buddha’s teachings: »Never create any negative action; always create goodness; aim all practices at cultivating the mind.« When our practice increases delusion, negativity and disturbed states of mind, we know that something is wrong.

It is sometimes said that a major cause of the decline of Buddhism in India eight hundred years ago was the practice of Vajrayana by unqualified people, and sectarianism caused by corruption within the Sangha. Anyone teaching Tibetan Buddhism should keep this in mind when they refer to the precept, »every action of the guru is to be seen as perfect.« This is an extremely dangerous teaching, particularly for beginners.

(Essence of Refined Gold; Commentary by Tenzin Gyatso The Fourteenth Dalai Lama; 1982, Translated & Edited by Glenn H Mullin; pp. 55-57)

I suggest that most of us in the West are beginners who are ignorant of the dharma and ignorant even of our own ignorance.  We are being faced with a culture of seeing the actions of the guru as perfectly wise and we have no tools with which to question that.  It is for this reason that I further suggest that there are few situations by which sex between a Tibetan Buddhist lama and his/her student is safe from harm.  Much fewer than we think.  The power differential is simply too huge.

This is not merely my opinion, but a reality supported by western psychotherapists.  It is known in the west, for example, that sexual relations between doctors and patients, therapists and clients and teachers and students are all relationships that cause harm.  This is because the power differential is too large. It is accepted among therapists that this same trouble exists in the relationship between spiritual teachers and their students.  However, I have not studied this matter thoroughly and I don’t work with sexual abuse victim, so I refer readers to two books written on this subject matter.  The first is Sex in the Forbidden Zone by Peter Rutter and the second is Sex and the Spiritual Teacher, by Scott Edelstein.  I beg Rigpa students who question this to study and investigate.

Discussions on the comment line about this matter in particular have been disturbing because individuals comment as if they have professional knowledge of this, when in fact, they are simply giving unsubstantiated opinion.  BellaB frequently speaks of women who are victims of sexual abuse with Sogyal in the same context that she might judge a woman in a relationship with any man on the street or her past boyfriends.  Sheila frequently states that if there is a crime, then women should go to the police and if there is no crime, then there is nothing to complain about.  She completely dismisses the fact accepted among western therapists that any sexual relationship between a spiritual teacher and his student, even one that is legal, is going to cause psychological damage to the student.  She also dismisses the fact that women statistically are reluctant to file charges and endure the ordeal of being grilled over their experiences.

I encourage any Rigpa student who doubts western psychological evidence indicating that sex between spiritual teachers and students is harmful to investigate further and make certain of this.  While Scott Edelstein is not a psychologist himself, he has investigated these problems extensively and is a longtime Buddhist student who has relationships with many teachers and students alike.  He writes:

Interpersonal boundaries are not the creation of modern-day psychologists or business consultants; they have existed for as long as humans have lived in groups.  The age-old taboo against incest exists in part because our ancestors realized long ago that sex between parents and children is, among other things, one of the most psychologically damaging boundary violations.  A similar dynamic exists between mental health professionals and their clients; as a result professional organizations consider sex between clinicians and their clients to be unethical, and state governments [in the US] have declared it illegal.

Likewise, extensive (and often painful) experience has shown that when sex occurs between a spiritual teacher and a student, the teacher-student relationship is often damaged, sometimes irrevocably.  In some cases, the student’s own sense of spirituality is similarly broken.

Any relationship potent enough to promote growth and healing is also powerful enough to harm.  This is especially so with the relationship between a spiritual teacher and a student hungry for spiritual knowledge and growth.

(Sex and the Spiritual Teacher, Scott Edelstein, Introduction).

This brings the discussion to the final point, which is the Tibetan Buddhist perspective of sexual relations between teacher and student.  I would like to address this from two perspectives, one being the Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist definition of sexual misconduct and the other being consideration of tantric and Dzogchen sex.

The following excerpt is from Gampopa, the 11th century kadampa and Mahamudra master and the founder of the Dakpo Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.  It is written for male practitioners.  For female practitioners, the genders need to be reversed.  What is of significance in this code of conduct is the ethnic and historical orientation, as the reader will immediately notice.  Already there has been an outcry from gay and lesbian Buddhists about this code and HH Dalai Lama has stated that the code can only be changed through a careful collective effort, not by a decree from him or any other Buddhist leader.  Indeed, current troubles with sexual misconduct by TB lamas could well be the catalyst needed for careful reform of the code to begin.

Sexual Misconduct
Classification of Sexual Misconduct.  There are three types of sexual misconduct: protected by the family, protected by the owner, and protected by the Dharma.  The first one means sexual misconduct with one’s mother, sister and so forth.  The second one means sexual misconduct with someone owned by a husband or king, and so forth.  The third one has five subcategories: even with one’s own wife, sexual misconduct refers to improper parts of the body, improper place, improper time, improper number, and improper behavior.  Improper parts of body are the mouth and anus.  Improper places are close to the spiritual master, monastery or stupa, or in a gathering of people.  Improper times are during a special retreat [such as a Nyungne, when vows of celibacy are taken], when pregnant, while nursing a child, or when there is light.  An improper number is more than five times.  Improper behavior refers to beating or having intercourse with a male or hermaphrodite in the mouth or anus.
(Gampopa, The Jewel Ornament of Liberation; Snow Lion Publications, 1998).

Tsongkhapa, 14th century kadampa master and founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, describes this code in greater detail, citing from the scriptures, but the essential guidelines are the same.  Translators for his writings use the term “under the protection of” instead of “owned by.”  Tsongkhapa also speaks of sex with prostitutes not being a transgression, unless the prostitute has already been bought by another.  Tsongkhapa also quotes from Asvaghosa and adds to the list of situations whereby a woman should not be made to have intercourse:

In that case, inappropriate times are when
A woman is menstruating, pregnant,
Has an infant, is unwilling,
Is in pain or is unhappy and the like,
Or is maintaining the eight-part one-day vow.
(Lamrim Chenmo, Part One, p. 221)

Certainly when one reads these descriptions of sexual misconduct, one’s immediate reaction will be that reform is needed!  They fail to address current concerns.  Women are no longer “owned” nor even are they “under the protection” of husbands.  I also question if prostitution is an institution to be supported.  I question the efficacy of such an outdated code at assisting Buddhists in restraining their sexual behaviors in the 21st century.  Such a code appears to encourage “exceptions to the rule.” While Buddhists are not encouraged to follow any stricture blindly, once we allow for easy exceptions to any code of conduct, then flagrant abuses will occur.  I suggest that this fact is alarming.  It appears that Tibetan Buddhists have a choice: They can either follow this code blindly, which speaks of such things as a woman being owned by her husband and freely engaging in prostitution or they can update it in their own ways, which then allows for a dangerous crack to form in ethical discipline.  This is a serious concern, I believe, that could lie at the center of the current trouble.

Of central concern to this discussion is the fact that there is no mention made by Gampopa or Tsongkhapa of ethics in regard to sexual relations between lama and student.

Of course, these descriptions of sexual misconduct must be viewed within the context of the Buddha’s main tenet, which is: commit no harm.   And here we are, back at the beginning.  Certainly, proving that these relationships have caused harm and will cause harm is central to our discussions over and over again.  Western psychological communities have given voice to this.  I wonder if Tibetan Buddhist leaders too could give voice?

As for the tantric perspective on sexual relations between a spiritual teacher and his/her teacher, the practice of a consort, I will repeat from Tenpel’s quote on an earlier post on this website.  I believe that this is a matter which cannot be repeated enough because there is much misunderstanding about the role of consort in Tibetan Buddhism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

An essential point to this discussion is the fact that the taking of a consort in the context of highest yoga tantra, the practice of sexual union, is done within the context of strict observance of vows and commitments.  For example, such practitioners take a vow not to emit semen in the sexual act.  In fact, ejaculation is considered a root infraction.  In conclusion then, sexual relations between a lama and his student cannot be considered part of a tantric practice unless there are clear vows and commitments made—and unless both partners have clear realizations of emptiness.

What then of Dzogchen practices?  Are there differences?  In a recent translation of teachings on this topic by Padmasambhava, it is stated:

But in the Dzogchen teachings there are special channels and potencies not discussed in Tantricism, related to the experiences of ‘lamps’ and ‘vajra-chains’ mentioned here.  These are direct manifestations of buddhahood, associated with the thogal practices of the Upadesha.

Also, in the same text: “Dzogchen, the way of self-liberation is a nongradual path.  This means that its principle, the understanding of the reality of self-liberation, can be applied right from the start of the path.”

And in the same text:

At the time of intercourse when passionate attachment and the concepts associated with it arise, this is experienced as the creative energy of pristine awareness.  If one does not know this, it is just attachment.  Transforming this into pristine awareness means that by working with passionate attachment itself, passionate attachment is purified.

And in the same text:

If we deeply know that our body is an open dimension, like space, with porous boundaries, then there is no attachment to the body, because we experience a brilliant clarity (salwa) by means of our body that is also ungraspable.  If we deeply know that our body is like a field that unifies all dualities, then all sexual energies are unified in an experience of pure pleasure (dewa) that overwhelms the grasping mind.

(Secret Teachings of Padmasambhava: Essential Instructoins on Mastering the Energies of Life, Edited and Translated by Kennard Lipman, PHD)

Indeed, I have very little personal understanding of Dzogchen.  However, there are several distinctive features of this description of the Dzogchen approach to sexual union which are significant to this discussion.  One is the assertion that the Dzogchen form of sexual union can be practiced outside of tantra.  I presume this means it is therefore also outside of the boundaries of tantric vows and commitments.  Next is the reference to Dzogchen being a “nongradual” path.  The inference is that practices such as sexual union, which in tantra can only be practiced by very advanced practitioners, could conceivably be allowed for more beginning practitioners of Dzogchen.  There is also no emphasis in this text by Padmasambhava on the need to withhold semen during practices of union.

I suggest that these features make Dzogchen practices of sexual union more prone to misconduct.   In tantra, because of the vow prohibiting practitioners from ejaculating, immediately the practice is one that entails a large degree of self-discipline.  It is difficult to imagine that an individual with such control could be engaged in the activity for mere, mundane sexual pleasure.  My impression of Dzogchen, however, is that the student only has the lama’s word for it that the practice is different from any other mundane sexual intercourse—because outwardly, it might appear to be the same.  In addition, because Dzogchen teachings do stress a nongradual path, then this situation can presumably cause more risks to a beginning student, who is told that sex with the master will help her realize Dzogchen.  It is more difficult to establish that essential boundary of safety, which is cultivating the understanding that only a very advanced practitioner can use sexual union on the path.  More significant still is the fact that presumably a woman does not need to spend the requisite years of study and critical reflection before finding herself committed to her lama through sexual union.  Though many great teachers of Dzogchen would presumably require those prerequisites of their students, there appears to be room for avoidance of them as well.

Indeed, there does seem to be room for a large permissiveness within Buddhist canon for a non-monastic teacher to have sex with his/her students.  Unfortunately, I have found no scriptural sources which discuss the potential for harm in these relationships.  Nor do I know of protocols which insure safety for students in this regard.  I certainly have found no sources prohibiting sexual relations between a lama and his student.

I suggest that if this perspective is true, if this is the perspective from which mainstream Tibetan Buddhist leaders are exonerating the sexual behaviors of lamas such as Sogyal, then that fact needs to be made known.  Students who walk in the door of any Tibetan Buddhist dharma center need to be informed from the very beginning that: 1. sexual relationships between this teacher and his/her students are considered ok; 2. According to the Dalai Lama, only students on a very high level of spiritual attainment can use this sexual relationship for spiritual progress; and 3. It is ok for any woman to refuse to have sex with the “master.”  It does not break any samaya or commitment she has to her spiritual practice.

I suggest that this is the protocol and educational program that needs to be instigated within our dharma centers.  With those three clear guidelines, then at least the playing field would be more level.  Students could judge before their judgment became impaired whether they even wanted to enter that door again—whether they could tolerate practicing in such a permissive community.  Women would stand a better chance of being able to say no and understand the boundaries of the relationship.  Surely, making these issues clear is the least that Sogyal and the Rigpa establishment could do.  In the west, there are certain expectations and assumptions about conduct.  Tibetans also have certain expectations and assumptions about conduct.  At the very least, these current troubles should be a call for better communication on all sides.  At least they call for some honesty.  If it’s considered ok for Sogyal to have sex with his students, this needs to be broadcast aloud—it needs to be put on Rigpa websites.  It needs to be put on fliers.  It needs to be made known.

So after all this discussion, what is a Rigpa student to think?  The answer to this must come from the conscience of each and every student.  Even those of us who are Buddhist practitioners but not Rigpa students need to explore our own consciences and our own attitudes towards our teachers.  The answers will come one by one, from students themselves.  This can be painful and slow, but it is the ground for real change.

In summary, my main points are:

  1. There is enough evidence of probable sexual misconduct by Sogyal to warrant alarm, and at the very least interest, on the part of Rigpa students.  This evidence is not simply being provided by Mary Finnigan.
  2. There is strong evidence that Sogyal is, at the very least, engaging in sexual relations with multiple numbers of his students.  This fact has never been directly refuted by either Sogyal or Rigpa officials.
  3. On the contrary, there have been statements by Rigpa officials in the past that Sogyal is not a monastic and therefore has a right to engage in sexual relations.
  4. There is also an indication that mainstream Tibetan Buddhist thought does not consider Sogyal’s behavior to be a problem, which adds further weight to the likelihood that it is occurring.  If it isn’t wrong, why then should Sogyal refrain from multiple sexual relations with his students?
  5. Mainstream western psychological opinion is that sexual relations between a spiritual teacher and his/her student does cause harm.
  6. Women themselves have reported suffering as a result of sexual relations with Sogyal.
  7. It is not uncommon for spiritual teachers, who have crossed sexual boundaries to also be highly inspiring and kind teachers.
  8. Except for the strictures against having sex with married women and beating women, there is little in the allegations against Sogyal that is even banned in the Buddhist canon regarding sexual misconduct.  It appears that if Sogyal can disprove those two allegations and disagree with women’s reports of suffering, then he is free from the viewpoint of Buddhist ethical conduct.  I suggest that this needs to be reviewed!

Written by a former Rigpa student


  1. One day, everyone will face himself, Im sure you, writer and creator of this, will do too. At that moment, you can think of me and the master,
    saying “We wish you the best, whatever you did!” In this spirit: Good luck!

  2. Flippant dismissals of others pain seem simultaneously rude, uncaring and inappropriate. claiming we should let karma take its course and leave the perpetrators of abuse to experience their just desserts next life is to defer on our moral responsibility to act now and prevent further abuse. Again, to place the abuser and the commentators together is not differentiating between 2 very different sets of karmic consequences Abuse leads to suffering; preventing it leads to happiness. Serious issues like these should never be dismissed so flippantly-it only displays immaturity and a lack of caring

  3. ps there’s no such thing as ‘luck’ for Buddhists

    • No such thing as luck, but there are good actions and merit. I do find it hard to understand Tibetan buddhism and lama controversy too. found the link with crazy wisdom and scandal explanation here useful http://www.tibetan-lamas.com

      • Hi Alpha, on a quick glance …

        (The Gelugpas are celibate monks similar to the Catholic faith in Christianity – whereas the lamas in the Nyingma school are more like pastors in the Anglican faith who can marry or have a lifelong partner.)

        This is not correct. Gelugpas can be monks or nuns or householders (so called lay people), similarly, Nyingmas can be monks or nuns or householders. All Tibetan Buddhist traditions have monks and nuns and lay people. You cannot claim that (all) Gelugpas are celibate monks and (all) Nyingmas are householders who don’t live in celibacy. This is plain wrong.

        • On a second glance the website seems to be a PR site (damage control site) of (a) Sogyal Rinpoche devotee(s) who place SR among totally genuine and uncontroversial lamas such as HH the Dalai Lama and Mingyur Rinpoche, using only words such as “controversy” to attract people to the site and then wrongly informing them that a “Sogyal Rinpoche Controversies” exists because he

          shared many “secrets” of Tibetan Buddhism in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and some consider Sogyal Rinpoche as a Tibetan lama prone to scandal because he teaches Dzogchen publicly.


          He has also used the word “sh_t” in teachings to wake his western students up and make a point about what occupies their mind (crazy wisdom!).

          Well, this is a nice trial to distract potential readers of that site (a WordPress blog site where comments are disabled) from the real issues of alleged power, sexual and financial abuse. Of course on such a damage control site, it is important to offer wrong information like all Gelugpas are monks and all Nyingmas are non-celebate and then to frame Sogyal Rinpoche between teachers of highest respect and caliber.

          I can understand that from a PR point of view this is somewhat clever, but I don’t think it will convince people ;-)

          The site uses terms like scandal, controversy, crazy wisdom etc. only to generate traffic for people who search for “Sogayl Rinpoche controversy” or “Sogayl Rinpoche scandal” … how cheap on the one hand. On the other hand the site and its purpose is also highly disrespectful with respect to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche because these genuine lamas of highest calibre are abused for a cheap damage control campaign whose aim is to cover up controversial aspects of SR’s behaviour by way of manipulating the reader with irrelevant information or claims regarding “Controversy, Crazy Wisdom and Scandals”.

      • A nice try, this website to control public opinion.
        It was always strategy of Rigpa to have “Names” on their side.

        I remember the time when Dzogchen Rinpoche was the other spiritual director of Rigpa.
        ( A brother of Sogyal, he has a good reputation)

        When DR left Rigpa, silence about this was practiced, no questions allowed.

        DR critizised Rigpa and some of the students, as far as I remember. He seemed a little bit shocked to see how the whole was run.

        • dharmaanarchist says:

          Fact is, Dzogchen Rinpoche never had a big or important role in Rigpa. He certainly never acted as a spiritual director of it either and he gradually phased out his not very large presence around the time when the demands of his own projects grew more and more demanding.

          I’ve heard a lot of the visiting lamas heavily critisize the students of SR and critisize stuff going on in Rigpa and none of them was “expelled” for it.

          Sorry, but making a connection between DR’s lack of appearence in Rigpa lately and SR’s sexual escapades with young students is unproven hearsay. If there has been a dispute between the brothers about SR’s conduct it has happened behind the scene. It’s possible, but there is no evidence that it has to be the reason.

          • NO NAME says:

            Nobody said DR was ‘expelled’ ; the word was left. Perhaps before accusing others of spinning the facts, make sure you get your facts straight.
            As to whether he left because Sogyal is an arrogant abuser who thinks he stands above moral norms, I suggest you try the duck test. If you were a budding leader and saw a prominent associate being mired in his own excrement, would you hang around? Sometimes, when you put2 and 2 together and get 4, you’re right!

          • rigpafactchecker says:

            Dzogchen Rinpoche was the joint Spiritual Director of Rigpa with Sogyal Rinpoche in the 1980’s and 1990’s and this was stated on all official communications such as on Rigpa letterheads. At some point in the early 2000’s Dzogchen Rinpoche ceased to be joint Spiritual Director of Rigpa. There was no notification of this and no explanation offered to the membership. His name simply disappeared from official communications.

            Sogyal Rinpoche and Dzogchen Rinpoche are half brothers. They share the same mother, but have different fathers.

            There are no records of Dzogchen Rinpoche giving empowerments to the Rigpa Sangha after 2004. This is the Rigpa record of empowerments given to the Rigpa Sangha. http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Empowerments_Given_to_the_Rigpa_Sangha

            Dzogchen Rinpoche founded his own International Centre in France, the Gyalwa Dzogchenpa Institute. The Gyalwa Dzogchenpa Institute is at Le Piboul, 81250 Massals, France, less than 100 km from Rigpa’s Lerab Ling. The two Centres are independent of each other. There are currently no teachings being given by Dzogchen Rinpoche in Rigpa venues advertised by Rigpa or by Dzogchen Rinpoche’s organisation, Shenpen.

            For at least the last 10 years all the public teachings Dzogchen Rinpoche has given in London have been at rented venues, not at the Rigpa London Centre, despite all the events being of a scale which could be easily accommodated in the Rigpa London Centre.

            These are all facts. I don’t know what would be a correct interpretation or explanation for them.

            • Thank you for this clarification. I wonder what caused dharmaanarchist to attack Adamo?
              I apologise to Adamo for not having been aware of this attack. (I became only aware of it based on no names comment.)

              I would like to ask dharmaanarchist to avoid to attack any commentator and to be polite.
              I would like to ask everybody to be polite and to avoid any attack. Please feel free to remind each other – including me – to be polite and to avoid any personal attack.

              Its important to keep a sane, save and non-aggressive discussion atmosphere here on the blog.
              There is already too much hate and confusion out there and too often online discussion threads regarding this topic have been spoilt by hate, aggression and insanity or spite. I have no interest that this thread or this blog in general takes a similar direction.

          • Dear Dharmaanarchist, Adamo didn’t tell anything about being “expelled”. Adamo just shared what s/he knows.
            Is there anything factual wrong in what Adamo said? Do you know for sure that this is is wrong here?

            When DR left Rigpa, silence about this was practiced, no questions allowed.
            DR critizised Rigpa and some of the students, as far as I remember. He seemed a little bit shocked to see how the whole was run.

            What puts you into the position, what other knowledge do you have to be able to accuse Adamo to spread “unproven hearsay”? Adamo also didn’t make “a connection between DR’s lack of appearence in Rigpa lately and SR’s sexual escapades with young students”.

            So, my question for you is: why are you attacking Adamo accusing him/her of hearsay, creating wrong connections and the like?

            • NO NAME says:

              Another opportunity to apply the duck test. My conclusion? Dharmanarchist is a Rigpa diehard apologist, ( quack!)

  4. john swainson says:

    I had to object when told that if someone was experiencing a tough time that it was their karma. The people saying this were the ones who had made a decision, which was arguably, the immediate cause of the karma ripening. My case was, if they did not make this decision, then that person would not be having a tough time. Basically, their decisions were involved in the causes and conditions coming together for the karma to ripen. I was then told that to intervene was not good for them, in that if their negative karma was being ‘used up’ and it was to their benefit. I maintained they did not have to be the agents for that karma ripening. Or were they being ‘compassionate’? Or just being pillocks?

    I know where I stand but what is the general consensus?

    • The understanding in Buddhism is that all things are dependent arising.

      So the decision is first of all a dependent arising based on many causes and conditions, parts, imputations. Karma is how one experiences something in one’s own mind-body continuum. Actual its the mental factor “feeling” (skt. vedana, tib. tshor ba) that experiences the maturation of Karma. (Feeling in that context is one of the five omnipresent mental factors, and one of the five aggregates). Vasubandhu explains in his Abhidharmakosha (chapter IV) that among the divisions of feelings into bodily feelings (related to the sense consciousnesses, body) and mental feelings (related to the mental consciousness), karma ripens mainly as bodily feelings, it can ripen as mental feelings but [usually] not as unpleasant mental feelings. Unpleasant mental feelings are not necessarily the ripening of Karma because for instance a mental unhappy feeling of regret of a negative deed creates positive karma, and is not the maturation of Karma. However, due to the maturation of karma the elements (of fire, wind, water or earth) of the body can become unbalanced and from this unbalance of the elements mental disturbances can become manifest which are concomitant with unpleasant mental feelings. This mental unhappiness is then the ripening of karma. Then there can be disturbances of the mind going along with mental unhappiness which can be the maturation of Karma of having disturbed others’ mind. Vasubandhu lists in that way some exceptions where mental unhappiness [or unpleasant mental feelings respectively] is the ripening of karma. In short: bodily or mental feelings can be the maturation of karma but needn’t be the maturation of karma like in the case of an unpleasant mental feeling concomitant with regret or a pleasant mental feeling concomitant with love. Buddha lists different causes for sickness, e.g. eating too much. Eating too much and becoming sick from it, this sickness is not the ripening of karma but a dependent arising due to having eaten too much.

      (If you like I can give you exact quotes for this.) A happy mental feeling that goes along with love is not the ripening of karma, but comes from causes and conditions, is a dependent arising, and it is there because one developed a mind of love. Also an unhappy mental feeling that goes along with anger is not the ripening of karma, but comes from causes and conditions, it is a dependent arising, and is there because one developed a mind of anger.

      NKT (which seems to be the background of your experience) teach a very superficial understanding of Karma and most Westerners are quite confused about this. The key is that among complex dependent arising karma is only the factor that determines one’s experiences of phenomena as being pleasant, unpleasant or neutral and not all bodily or mental feelings are the maturation of karma, they can be the maturation of karma but needn’t be the maturation of karma.

      (comment was corrected at 4th Jan 2014)

      • Nice explanation, Tenpel, very clear.

      • Carol Dawson says:

        Thanks, Tenpel. You have confirmed my understanding of dependent arising as taught by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This was during his visit to Nottingham UK in 2008. Also that which I have learnt from meditation and personal experience. Very much appreciated.

        • Thank you. Reading it again I detected some faults in the explanation of karma and corrected the comment. Key point: bodily or mental feelings can be the maturation of karma but needn’t be the maturation of karma or in ‘debate language’: there is no pervasion that bodily or mental feelings are the maturation of karma. Despite what the comment said previously Karma can also ripen as mental feelings. (I checked and discussed the passage by Vasubandhu again in the last months.)

          • Carol Dawson says:

            Thanks for the update Tenpal. I am an ex NKT Nun. Took ordination in 2005. Disrobed with the help and kindness of Geshe Tashi Jamyang Buddhist centre Kennington London in 2007. In my heart I will always be a Nun, now in Northamptonshire and basically going it alone. Will always be a Buddhist, try my best to practise and follow the Dalai Lama’s teachings from his official website. My healing from NKT came when I went to His Holiness’s teachings in Nottingham 2008.
            We learn from our experiences, I have no malice towards the NKT, only compassion for their mistakes, and for the followers. Regrets, yes and no. Should have listened to my inner voice screaming at me on ordination day, telling me it was the wrong person to give such precious vows to. No regrets on experience, helped me to know true, sincere Geshe’s when I now meet them. Thank you for your site, I sometimes feel alone practising, it enables me to feel that I am part of a Sangha. As there is another Carol on here, May I use my refuge name? Given to me by Akong Rimpoche in 1987 which is ‘Yeshe Tsomo’..
            May you and all sentient beings have peace and happiness,

            • Thank you Yeshe Tsomo.
              I am happy to hear that you found your way and learned from your experiences; looking back in a healthy way.

              Actual many people in (Tibetan) Buddhism feel alone there are rarely healthy groups, and those groups that appear to give support are not really healthy but cult like or ego based/narcissistic. I try to find solace in the fact that we are all pioneers and nothing can be perfect but at times there are better conditions, and the only thing one can do is to make it better.

              May all your spiritual wishes be fulfilled. Wishing you all the best.

              • Once again, thank you. The words of wisdom are very much appreciated. Those of us that practice alone are like stars in a night sky, scattered, yet there for those who look to see. May we all shine until all sentient beings attain enlightenment.
                Om Mani Padme Hum
                Yeshe Tsomo

                • Hello, Yeshe Tsomo, I too practice alone, using only HH Dalai Lama’s website and reading books and sometimes attending teachings. There are advantages to this approach because I am not distracted anymore by the big popularity contest of dharma groups, all the pomp and ceremony and gossip– and disadvantages too because it gets a little lonely and I would love to have discussions on what I am reading. But as Tenpel says, ours is not a perfect world! So I am finding that all those nonBuddhist friends and family that I left behind during my years of lama madness are actually pretty good dharma friends too. They’ve stuck with me. They’re sincere, honest, kind, compassionate, humble and wise human beings– these qualities have become more important to me than whether or not someone believes in God or karma or rebirth etc.

                  • Hi Joanne, Thank you for communicating with me. Yes, I agree with you, Dharma groups at first appear wonderful. Until we realise that they are just like the society we are trying to leave behind. In many ways because they are smaller than society, all faults and failings become emphasised. The hardest thing to deal with for me, was the power games and jealousy.
                    We have detached ourselves from that, the down side is, is my practice correct? Am I understanding what I am studying? I know that we all have different levels of understanding, and the beauty of true Dharma is that it can be grasped by all at the level they are currently at. Sometimes I just wish to discuss and debate. Especially meditation practice, which I confess I do not do as much as I used to, due to not having someone to guide me through various experiences etc. Tenpel has my email address, please feel free to request it from him, that would enable us to communicate. As to friends and family sticking by us, yes I agree with you, I to have experienced this and believe that it does not matter what faith or not you are, but what you do and how you live is the key to spiritual growth. All sentient beings are on the path, and all sentient beings will attain enlightenment.They may not know it, and that does not matter. We are all brothers and sisters, and have all entered the stream, I am surrounded by much love, and support, which I appreciate and return to the best of my ability.
                    please do contact me if you wish. Keep your star shiny.
                    May you and all sentient beings have the causes for peace and happiness.
                    yeshe Tsomo

                    • Yes, Yeshe Tsomo, I agree with all that you say. It would be good to contact each other, so I will email Tenzin about that.

                      I too have faced the trouble about meditating without a teacher on hand, particularly in the context of vajrayana. But lately, I am trying to simply trust in my own karma, which isn’t the same as your karma or Tenzin’s karma or anyone else’s. I have a theory that if I look after my motivation and my vows, try to keep them honest and correct, then I can trust in what is in front of me to do. I think that when I need a teacher to talk to, then there will be a teacher to talk to. Meanwhile, there is plenty to do, there is study and helping others and a little daily practice. Maybe we in the West over-estimate having that one-on-one lama interview— it certainly did me no good in the past, though I had interviews with 4 lamas!

                  • Hello Joanne, thank you for replying. Sorry not to have replied earlier, I was working today. I try to practice right livelihood and train Nurses and carers, as a Nurse Tutor, which I really enjoy. I have also just registered as a Dementia champion. I believe we can practice by being an example and with correct motivation we can quietly change things to enable others to benefit. In many ways what we do becomes ‘meditation in practice’ which I believe is how it should be.
                    I to have had meetings with Lama’s and have benefited greatly by those meetings. Perhaps some decent Karma enabled this to happen. Kalu Rinpoche before he died, was a wonderful experience I will never forget. The Lama Panchen Rinpoche, and the Tulku Akong Rinpoche but most of all His Holiness the Dalai Lama. There truly are some wonderful beings here in Samsara, which keeps me plodding doggedly on the path, our rays of light in the darkness. I now believe like you, when our need is truly sincere they will answer, and appear in our lives. I also believe we need the bad ones to enable us to learn how not to be, and to appreciate the Bhodisattvas when they do appear.
                    I look forward to continuing communicating with you.
                    May you and all Sentient beings have peace and happiness. Yeshe Tsomo.

                    • Zopa Dechen says:

                      Hello Carol Yeshe Tsomo and Joanne.

                      I am also an ex NKT nun and I would very much like to talk with you both about the issues you discuss here but perhaps more off site than here! I left in 2006 but I see the same wanderings and yearnings in me as well as similar aspirations. I have found 2 sanghas that I view as reliable without serious ego trips – the way the groups are organised prevent this (perhaps because they are small). I don’t feel I am being too idealistic, it seems to depend on the way the ‘teachers’ act and react – one of those ‘teachers’ is Tenzin!!! I think so many of us are very, very grateful for his support – without him I could not have got through the ‘dark days’ when the feeling of betrayal and deception was so deep. And he has a very reliable understanding of Dharma. Generally the groups that I have found to be open and friendly at all levels are the Rime groups…Bodhicharya and Maitrikara, for instance. I judge them by the friendliness of the sangha more than anything else. That, to me, indicates their ‘view’! I have some issues in Maitrikara but we continue to discuss them – that, to me, is the moot issue – can you speak your mind openly? Express doubts properly? I have been able to do so with some of the teachers. Both groups have many, many teachers and more than anything try to help other people find the teachers/teaching lineage they are most comfortable with. That variety is so nourishing! And I am reading books from many traditions – what a relief and so exciting! I am seeing the need to ground myself in my own reality, my own ‘centre’ first, finding those places in the mind with no guilt, no anxiety, as my first step towards any practice commitments…

                      I have met many women in the UK who have tendencies towards ordination or who are trying to stay ordained but are quite alone. I think that the men are more supported in the ordination issue – or is it that the men just ‘leave’ and go and train elsewhere and there are more places for them? I am still having ‘itchy feet’ about ordination – in a few years I will be free to do so but I know there is no need to hurry any kind of decision like this! I potter! But I would very much like it if we could support each other in some way.

                      Like you both, I also find the Dalai Lama to be a deep source of inspiration.

                      I hope we can be in touch via email. My email is carolmcquire@hotmail.com

                      Best wishes,


    • My feeling is that it sounds very like these people were playing God, almost inflicting karma on people then telling them how to deal with it, like some kind of weird Dharma experiment (but using someone else as the guinea pig) Self appointed gurus have never impressed me and it seems to be a sad fact of Western Buddhist life that dharma communities are riddled with experts telling others how to practice It can take a long time for us to realize that the dharma is a mirror for examining our own imperfections rather than those of others-a problem made worse by the fact that most of those still reliant on their centre are inexperienced It takes decades to really kick in and until that point it’s better to keep ones opinions to oneself-that’s my opinion!

  5. PS they were pillocks

    • casimir niedzwiedz says:

      Dear Anon and Tenpel, and anyone else. I write to Anon, because you wrote in the comments for the “a former Rigpa student’s thoughts on cultivating discernment, that teachers like Mingyur, Dzigar Kongtrul, Ringu Tulku, khandro were teachers that you found to be great teachers. I write to Tenpel because you have this website and i really need some help in understanding the past 15 years of my life under a tibetan guru. I have been contemplating writing here or on dialogue ireland about my experience within my own sangha, not Rigpa. I guess i should start at the beginning. My mom was a student of Trungpa, and was at one point a consort of his. i grew up in the shambhala community, living my life as a young buddhist, wanting to devote my whole life to the dharma, reading the tales of Gesar, Milarepa, the buddha, were always places of extreme inspiration. I practiced since about the age of ten, trying to meditate or what i thought at the time was meditation, going to sun camp up at RMDC while my mom was in Seminary. We moved and followed Trungpa from Boulder up to Halifax, and to my young eyes everything was good. At the age of 16 i felt i had experienced my basic goodness, though fleeting. It was at this point that i started to look into finding a teacher for myself. My sister who is 10 years older than me left our home at 16 to follow a career in fashion modeling. sometime in there because of her boyfriend and later husband, she became a student of a new young teacher that was a receiving much praise. their teacher-student relationship had been ongoing for a few years until, when i was 13 my older brother died and this is when things started to go down hill. The same summer my brother died, my sister got married to her husband and this Guru, let’s call him Jamyang Guru, presided the whole thing. this lasted about a year before my sister, under the guidance of this teacher, decided to go into retreat for three years. I began to look up to my sister, someone that is intelligent and was truly striving for the dharma. I wanted nothing else but to go into retreat. After sometime within retreat, my sister decided to leave her husband to focus on the path that Jamyang Guru was setting out for her. It is the Longchin Nyingtik tradition, with emphasis on guru yoga, retreat, and service. This lead to her moving up in the sangha as a role model for the other students, a theme that will carry on. Now i should say that Jamyan Guru, was raised in India, his father was revered as a great teacher, i know his name but will leave it out. All of Jamyang Guru’s brothers are all high lamas and gurus. while studying in Nepal with his teachers, Jamyang guru met a western girl, she became his first student and were married in thailand, had a son and moved to america. So my sister has been in retreat now with her teacher for a good amount of time, i should also mention that Jamyang guru’s wife was also in this retreat setting, everyone having their own cabins. at this time my sister began her sexual relationship, all in secret, with this guru. my sister hadn’t even left her husband yet, but through meeting with Jamyang guru, my sister’s husband came to find out that she was leaving her, not to be with this teacher, but to practice dharma, as though your hair is on fire, which can be found in Words of My Perfect Teacher, by Patrul Rinpoche, this Text became the sanghas ngondro practice. I very fundamentalist text f you ask me now, so my sister is now with this teacher, but he is still with his wife, and they go about acting like they are together, but really not. Now this is just what was going on within this small circle. Within the sangha, there was much mental/ psychological abuse going on, not just with the woman, but anyone who questioned or deviated from the lineage and path, plainly not seeing the Guru as how they explain it in all the texts and a lot of what you guys have gotten out of these webpost. Double binds, extreme co-dependant relationships. The system became a close circuit, this went on. i had my doubts start coming in. but i was asked to go to india and set up a school there for students to come and study the tibetan language and texts. My family had money, not a lot, but more than most, and my sister donated over a $100,000 to our teacher, it was told that one should give 10% of their yearly earning to the sangha. The sangha is non-profit, but you could never tell. the money went into building this school in a small tibetan refugee colony in India, about 2 to 3 hours from Dharmasala. i went over there. I was there for the most part by myself for a couple years, meeting teachers and being an attendant. i was put into a marriage set up by my teacher and his brother, who was the uncle of my wife. My ex-wife’s father was actually King of a provence in Tibet known as Drongpa, in the Nangchen region. Her other uncle is Tenga Rinpoche, who helped Dilgo Khyentse establish Nepal. so with my ex-wife’s status i was able to see a lot more teachers and how they live on a day to day basis. My third year in India, my teacher Jamyang guru came, with my sister and about 10 more students. the following five years were torture. It is hard to put into words all of the horrible things i saw committed by these enlightened masters. all of them friends and get along great together. while the rest of the people in this refugee colony lived in poverty, these gurus, were building huge houses for themselves and families, all of these Men gurus had girlfriends on the side, except maybe Tai Situ, who was only 30 mins away. I saw a system set up by the “Rinpoches” that was really only there for power and of course telling people the dharma that they are suppose to live by, Many Tibetan people themselves were uneducated and referred to the Buddha as God, they had a much more relaxed look on buddhism in the form of practice, they really only do the mani, spin the prayer wheel, and give money to the monasteries for prayer. they are extremely superstitious in every way, Rigpa students can attest, by looking at the calendar that Riga puts out every year. I learned Tibetan and translated other texts, Politics were in every aspect. Just look at the video put out by the Yangsi Kalu recently. It was basically just politics with gold covering it. I was verbally abused, neglected, called names by my sangha and sister which all came from our teacher. I was called out many times in class, about how i hadn’t donated as much money as my sister even though i had donated, (my sister didn’t say anything even though she new it was untrue, but to go against the teacher was not allowed(i give you this example not so much as physical abuse but how everything became screwy and allowed for further abuse to be perpetrated. Everything had to be taken to the extreme. It became fundamentalistic in every way, and i would say that it was always based in that fundamentalist interpretation of the dharma, in Tibet. The relationship between my sister and Rinpoche was kept secret, This teacher was still with his wife, now his wife was becoming a teacher in her own right, somehow, writing books and giving teaching, Their son was also being groomed to take over the sangha. This dharma heir lived with us, but was treated like a tulku in every way, even though he was not. My teacher kept telling us that this was not nepotism because he had a letter from Dilgo Khyentse saying his son will become a dharma heir, this boy never studied while in school in India, he spent his time either playing World of warcraft or reading comic books while the rest of us built walls, landscaped, help build an addition to his house which was already huge but needed to be bigger. people started to question my teacher’s relationship with my sister, but was never openly talked about, my sister was seen as a model of the perfect teacher, giving all of her money away, not relating to her family at all, treating our teacher’s family as her own. (Two young beautiful girls became students and then were encouraged to come to India and be apart of the school, they have since become the attendants that my sister once was to this teacher and are being groomed to follow in my sister’s footsteps.) i was no longer her brother, Our Guru’s son was and needed to be treated with the upmost respect and care, while i was dying from my depression. Everything is and was still backwards and i can give you many more examples. My ex teacher, now has 6 houses in Colorado, one of which he is moving into with my sister shortly, one in Vermont, he ha multiple houses in India, along with his three other brothers, who have equally if not larger houses than most people. They go to Taiwan every year to get million dollar donations from their Taiwanese students, while charging an arm and a leg for teaching here in the west. They do not charge students over there. It is sad, it has left my family pennyless. My mom latched onto this Jamyang Guru early on, but giving him lots of money because my sister said it would be more benefit with him, all in an attempt to purify the karma of my families past. My mom, who has been to so many teachers, has not received any help at all and is really in a lot of suffering. I finally left the sangha two years ago, i do not speak to my mom or sister, because anything negative i have to say about this teacher, is seen as me being crazy. As the sangha knew i was leaving , they began their attack, calling me troubled and possessed by some negative being, that could only be remedied by sending money to the monastery for prayers. my family is destroyed, my family penyless, i do not trust these “Rinpoches”, I know i am throwing out the baby with the bath tub, but i see the tulku and guru yoga as something that came about in medieval Tibet, I was a religious studies major, i did not want to take the academic approach to buddhism, seeing how all the schools arose in Tibet and China, and the causes behind such schools arising being anthropologically clear to establish.But i do see it as a Buddhocracy. I think the Lamas/Rinpoches though they do and might care about the dharma, they are in a double bind themselves. they can bring the dharma to the west or they can preserve their culture, now both can be done together, but i think i have seen that the majority if not all rinpoches, care more about preserving their culture, which has pretty much only benefitted the tulkus and kings of Tibet, rather than the dharma. The tulku system itself was self realized by the person who came up with it, the first Karmapa, we give so much to these teachers and for what. all of teachers are friends, they all have taught together at Rigpa, i am not saying there is a conspiracy, not at all. more the system that was set up came about through its own causes and conditions, and those causes and conditions do not apply now. The buddhas teachings are like medicine, no? so how can you say there is one teaching greater than the other or one medicine better than the other, it depends on your sickness, like Ati yoga, or all the subtleties that these Rinpoches use to seduce young girls. Everyone doesn’t know what is going on in this world any better than anyone else, that goes for these teachers, i feel. they take on the role of teacher, and we give them that power, i like your notes on reform, but i think the problem is more systematic than reform will take care of. I think we are our own buddhas and this thought that someone else knows how to relate to that better than ourselves has nothing to do with buddhsim, in my simple opinion.

      I have so much more to say, i know this is a lot and i really only come from a place of needing help, i come asking for the people on this website for their thoughts and opinions on what i have written, i hope to add more, for i have been thinking about this for a long time, i know that it is not clear at all, but hopefully talking to you guys will help clear some things up. please tell me how crazy i am or when i lost you, feed back is key. i want to relate and see how things are grey, and i will try to do so and at the same time, question these roles. i see where BellaB, Mary, Dialogue Ireland, Tenpel, Anon, etc. are all coming from for i have been in all of those places, i get that, and that is my task to work on, but there is a imbalance going on, people are getting hurt, people’s lives are being destroyed, families torn apart, abuse in every way, double binds, group think, pure dysfunction, and it needs to be addressed in any way possible, even if it might not be to nice to hear.

      • Thank you Casimir. I have to think about this.

        There are things which you write about that sound very wrong. Some things could be seen from another angle in a different way. From a distance all of this is very hard to understand and to judge. Is there any body who made a similar experience and can confirm this?

        You write that you have depression, haven’t you? Some of your thoughts are not very convincing for me, e.g. “I think we are our own buddhas and this thought that someone else knows how to relate to that better than ourselves has nothing to do with buddhsim, in my simple opinion.”

        It is clear that you go through a very difficult and hard time. Do you have any personal support from close friends or your family?

        • casimir niedzwiedz says:

          i never meant to say that i have any grasp on buddhism, i do have depression but that shouldn’t be a cause of not hearing me out. What kind of proof do you need? i will try my best to get that for you.

          • casimir niedzwiedz says:

            also i was just trying to get the bulk of what happened with out all the detail, i can go into more, i just felt like that was a lot already. Anon bringing up the name of the teacher really got to me.

          • Of course, depression shouldn’t be a cause not to hear you. I asked because I want to try to understand better.

            • casimir niedzwiedz says:

              of course, that was me reacting to having so much trauma around people(my teacher and family), saying how he is just depressed and crazy, what not, do not take it personally, and it was my misunderstanding. I have been battling depression, we called it a disruption in one’s lung, I wanted help getting out of this depression and everything that was going on seemed to me, to be making my depressioon worse. It wasn’t until i left that i found the writings by Welwood and have some to realize how much i was practicing spiritual bypassing,

      • Yeshe Drolma says:

        Hi Casimir,

        Thank you for sharing your story with us, you have made so many points here would you consider posting as a blog in its own right. I think the more people who speak out about their own personal experience the better. I can relate to a lot of what you say as it sounds similar to the situation in Rigpa, I know the Lama you are talking about and had my reservations after hearing certain stories about him. I can also relate to you being labelled as crazy, I hit the same wall of resistance in Rigpa. When I said anything at all that goes against the group think, or was in any way critical towards the ‘perfect’ guru, it was seen as me being deluded by my impure perceptions and my egos reaction, karmic patterns etc etc.

        I will say for my own teacher that for one he is a monk which rules out a lot of the issues we have talked about, but also he has never tried to get money out of his students, in fact he does everything in his power to make it as accessible to us as possible. In Rigpa the same distortion of the teachings was used to press us into parting both with our money, and our time, ie – merit – purifying karma etc. If you didn’t have the money you would be encouraged to give by working yourself to the point of exhaustion. You must be familiar with the story of the three pots from The Words of my Perfect Teacher? Well I feel like the Dharma I got in Rigpa was mixed with poison and I am still trying to seperate the negative conditioning from the pure Dharma. The teacher I have now has helped me along this path by good example but I’ve a ways to go.

        I have been posting as Anon since writing ‘A former Rigpa student’s thoughts and cultivating discernment … ‘ but there seem to be a few Anons now so I will post in my refuge name of Yeshe Drolma

        • casimir niedzwiedz says:

          thank you, i do feel like i need to spend time separating the two, i am young in those regards. I love the work by John Welwood, and the term of spiritual bypassing, i see a lot of benefit in it and finding my own individuation from it. I lost that for a while and it seems like it will take some time to get back. thank you for responding

          • Tiger Lily says:

            Hello Casimir,
            Thankyou for your honest posting which I believe to be an accurate assessment of the situation. NO YOU ARE NOT CRAZY. I think I know which Lama and wife you are referring to and the refugee settlement near to Dharamsala. The only reason I don’t print their names in capital letters is to protect you. I don’t have time at the moment to respond more fully. But certainly will do. It’s a horrible state of affairs that you portray. Thank goodness you are depressed about it all! I take what you say very seriously and agree with your conclusion.
            Some of us who post here are also communicating with each other by private email. Tenpel knows my email address, so you are welcome to get in touch with me privately if you so wish. I really feel for your mom. It’s the old story of how the older students can become marginalized and disillusioned. Yes these same Teachers teach at Rigpa and a horrible sub-Buddhist culture is developing, all in their favour. There are massive dishonest cover-ups all round.

            • Tiger Lily says:

              @ dear Tenpel. We all appreciate your thorough carefulness in checking out stories. That is why your website is seen as being reliable and genuine people post here.
              @ dear Casimir. I am rejoicing that some young people like yourself exist who can see through all the crap, that this particular group of Tulkus are producing.
              None of them have the full realisation of HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and their other Teachers. Sure they have the View, but Meditation and Action, I very much doubt. Neither do they have the guts of the younger generation of Tulkus to speak out about the shadow side of Lamaism.
              I believe your story because I had heard about your ex-Teacher having an affair and the separation with his wife, from a devoted student of his in 2010. That student also said that there were plans to make the son the “Dharma Heir”. Since then it is made out that he and his wife are still in a marriage and she is now teaching on the strength of that, or at least as having been the wife of that Rinpoche. The student also said that Orgyen Topgyal (another one of that group based in that refugee centre, and who teaches at Rigpa) respects the wife more than the husband and thinks she should be put on a higher throne than him! Presumably that was her payoff. Ofcourse there is a chance that she had had enough of her husband by now and was relieved to get on with her own life, yet stay within the Dharma circle. Ofcourse there is a chance that they mutually agreed to have an “open” marriage, in which case that is their own private affair and we should respect that. But I really feel for her if it was all done behind her back, which I suspect is closer to the truth. If I was writing on Dialogue Ireland, I might just let out a few expletives!
              When I look at the state of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, I see an awful lot of spiritual materialism and craze for the outer forms. Especially in the USA. Everyone is getting terribly excited about the Dakini in a human form and unable to tap the Dakini energy within themselves. Few are linking to the true inner Wisdom Lineage, instead becoming caught up with the horrible distortion of Guru yoga, taken full advantage of by the 2nd or 3rd rate Rinpoches.
              It is vitally important that people like yourself have the courage to speak out about abuses (mental cruelty etc) taking place within these closed groups.
              You see I think the same abusive silence did exist in Tibet. I even question the way HH Dilgo Khyentse trained his students. What may not appear to Tibetans as abuse, does to Westerners. It does not work for us. People like your sister are getting some kind of payoff.
              It has happened like that in your Sangha because Sogyal set the low standards. All those Rinpoches in that Refugee centre have or have had close dealings with Sogyal.
              I know (because he told me) that one Rinpoche in that group suffered a great deal undergoing the moulding to be a Tulku.
              Now life is very good to them. Beautiful women and the world at their feet. They usually suffer from Narcissistic tendencies. And yes, the Tulku system works in their favour.
              My heart goes out to you Casimir for the way you have been treated.
              “It is the Emperor’s New Clothes” all based on a distorted belief system. Shame on your Teacher.

              • casimir niedzwiedz says:

                I know […]*, he is the brother of my ex-teacher and does teach at Rigpa, as well as their other brother, another Khyentse, and their other brother who was like my father in law. Many tibetans in the refugee settlement do not like […]*, his brother […]*, or my ex-teacher, for that manner, there are seen as philanderers and run the refugee colony like the mob. How did you ever trust again? It is even hard for me to believe in them at all anymore, and that goes towards most of these teachers, even most of the highly respected ones. Have you read the recent facebook post by Dzongsar Rinpoche? I can’t say it gave me hope. i can send it to you. The whole thing between my sister and our teacher was kept in total secrecy and only in the past 6 months have they finally started to relax, and there was no mention of an open marriage, my sister kept it secret until everyone started seeing them sleep in the same bed together, and now they are just coming out, since Elizabeth is her own teacher now. When i first started school in India, i took my sister’s phone, this was way before i even knew about it, but they were naked pictures of her in all types of posses, and they were all sent to our teacher. i don’t know how sexting has anything to do with the secret vajrayana path, but i would like to know. it seems like Dzongsar, in his facebook post is trying to do what Rigpa did when trouble was brewing for the sangha, but reiterating the text, as though that is going to help

                note by blogwowner
                […]* names deleted
                Allegations with real names whether these are true or not are not to posted unless they could at least be corroborated by alternative evidence.

                • Casimir, maybe you could be clearer about what has happened?

                  Personally I am not so sure if I want all the names on this blog. But it would be good if you could make clear what exactly happened.
                  There are lamas (they are not ordained) who have sexual relationships with women (plural), Tibetans have also a different custom in their relationships (Bell mentioned this too, they treat sexuality differently). Also a woman can have two men (e.g. two brothers). It’s not uncommon.

                  It’s more tricky if the teacher has a sexual relationship with a student from Western pov or if the woman is a Westerner. From the point of view of tantra that can be ok. Quite a tricky subject matter.

                  So there are, and there can be authentic teachers who have these relationships with women. As to how ‘abusive’ or ‘exploitative’ these relationships would be, that is the question.

                  Dzongzar Khyentse Rinpoche has written his pov here:

                  For an academic approach see here:

                  According to my information the “secret” companion in the case you mention is well known to the Sangha of the Lama as a “secret”. So in a way it’s no secret ;-)

                  • it is true that my teacher has taken his robes off, he puts them back on when teachings in India. I know and have had many Tibetan friends that have had polygamist marriages. This was not one. It was kept secret for a long time, it has come to people’s attention because of how weird it is and the lies that have gone with it. they don’t treat sexuality differently, all of the Tibetan lamas i know have many girlfriends on the side, treat their wives horribly, through cheating and beating. The woman have no voice in the matter, if that is what was being referred to.i was married to a prominent Tibetan that is related to my ex-teacher and many other high lamas. I will write up a detail list of all that has happened. But i feel like there are the people who believe in these teachers, the ones they respect, and there are people that do not, the ones hurt, and there doesn’t seem to be any place for discussion or trying to find a middle way for it all. in trying to resolve a lot of concerns from people that are suffering. and i thank you for the space to let me speak. I am not trying to get this guy in trouble. I do not like him and feel like he has hurt me and my family, and has kept them imprisoned with little to no benefit.

                    • This is Tibetan custom, that lay Rinpoches wear the monastic robes when teaching or at certain occasions. I spoke with a lay Rinpoche about this. He said it was just standard in Tibet, so obviously it continues still in the West and it needn’t be suspicious. (I saw also an image of Dzongzar Khyentse Rinpoche in monastic robes – except the yellow upper robes, chöyu und namjar, which only real monastics should wear).

                      Polygamy and Polyandry exist among Tibetans: They see these issues very light. They are not so fixed, possession-orientated and clinging as Westerners. (I know this from different occasions with a lay Nyingma Rinpoche, reports, and observation.)

                      It could be you apply too much Western ethical standards onto them, and combined with your own experiences you tend to see things too much in a negative light.

                      I cannot allow to make this forum into a place for allegations. On the other hand, it should offer people a place to speak up. Now whether the allegations are true or not is another issue (I dont think DKRs FB advice is a cover up at all eg). Therefore I would like to request you not to post allegations against real persons with their names unless you could at least be corroborated by alternative evidence. Because so far, there is no alternative evidence I will delete the names in your previous post. I hope you can understand and accept this.

                      For the sake of completeness I add a link to the FB guidelines of DKR:

                    • Yeshe Drolma says:

                      I have to admit, regarding the post by Dzongsar Khyentse I agree with Tenpel. I went to the Facebook page and read this post and I got more of a sense that he was cautioning students not to boast about the practices that they were doing or to speak badly of other traditions as being inferior. I know he added the sections on not speaking negatively or causing discord but in this context I didn’t feel that these teachings were being used in a way to stop us questioning bad behaviour and speaking out about it.

                    • Thank you.

                      Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s “recent FB message” does not aim to conceal sexual misconduct, or to make talking mouths silent, but it is aimed for teachers and students telling them that vajrayana content (initiations, teachings, thangkas) shouldn’t be shared in public on social medias.

                      I think his motivation is really genuine.

                    • Tiger Lily says:

                      You see Tenpel, it is inevitable that Lamas’ behaviour will and must be seen through western values and balanced with the essence of the Teachings. It is healthy. It is what the West can offer.
                      What about the Western or Asian women who have relationships with Lamas? Are their feelings to be discounted? It has been known for ages by elder students that TIBETAN WIVES DO NOT LIKE BEING CHEATED ON, and that Tibetan Lamas do not always treat women well.
                      I read DKR’s Facebook post, and actually came to similar conclusions as Casimir. I also read Casimir’s response to that post. It was sincere and reasonable and his question about spiritual bypassing is one the Lamas usually manage to wriggle out of ever answering.
                      We have to trust that DKR is coming from a pure place as he expounds the pure view of secrecy. But we all know that the sacred self-secrecy of the Vajrayana Teachings is quite a different matter from the kind of secrecy involving certain Lamas’ behaviour that is now becoming the set programme within certain (not by any means all) Sanghas.
                      DKR seemed to be conflating the two different levels.
                      I think it is wonderful that a sincere student of his is questioning what he is saying. I know that DKR will respect him for that and be glad for a breath of fresh air coming from a student than all the usual adulation he gets. Frankly he has only to pronounce “The Cat Sat on the Mat” and hundreds will rave on what a wonderful teaching that was.
                      DKR deserves better and so do questioning students.
                      I realise what a difficult position you are in Tenpel, because I am sure you do not wish to censor Casimir.
                      Somethings really need to come out in the open. But again we must check our motives. Because all of this is so personal to you Casimir and your family, it might be better to email any further info to Tenpel?
                      But don’t be shut up.
                      You have my support.

                  • Tenpel wrote: “Casimir, maybe you could be clearer about what has happened?” What I’ve taken from Casimir’s account is that firstly he was very uncomfortable with the adultery being practised by his guru, with his sister. It seems that the basic Buddhist vow against committing adultery is not adhered to by some of our teachers due to their Vajrayana practices which permit sexual congress with a variety of consorts. And this occurs within Tibetan culture which remains deeply patriarchal. As was western society until recently – western women have traditionally always got the rough end of the pineapple when it comes to adultery within marriage, just look at the british royal family, or JFK!

                    I’m not sure how helpful it is to cite other examples of Tibetan polygamous relationships. Remember it was the tradition for all the brothers in a family to marry the one woman, in order not to split up the land assets. I am aware that for all their tut-tuttings at casual sex engaged in by Westerners, some ppl in those Tibetan camps do have a pretty relaxed approach to their own relationships. But Casimir seems to have understandably been distressed by the blatant hypocrisy of the shenanigans he was exposed to, presumably because the behaviour flouted basic Buddhist teachings about how we treat each other.

                    As Westerners we do have justifiably high expectations when it comes to the conduct of our own Lamas. We often sacrifice quite a lot in pursuit of the Dharma and it can be a nightmare when our expectations crumble. Psychological turmoil can be part of the path, but sometimes it’s not.

                    It seems to me that in India Casimir’s experience of his Sangha catapulted into a swirling mess of political and sexual intrigues and financial exploitation that understandably drove him into a deep depression.

                    I do hope that he’s been able to have some sessions with a psychologist, it probably wouldn’t even need to be a Buddhist counsellor, though in his location I bet there’s a few who are.

                    I can imagine that he would like to talk to, or even become a student of, another Lama. I hope that has happened for him, but I do know that the kind of experiences he’s had can be problematic to explain to another teacher, for so many reasons. We want to tell them why we feel messed up, but it can be a bit awkward.

                    What really bothers me about his experiences is the financial extortion which seems to have been enacted chiefly by his sister. This emotional blackmail of other family members transgresses normal acts of generosity that we try to practice as Buddhists. I hope your mother is no longer living in a camper van Casimir, but if she is I would encourage you to write to the Lama in question. Perhaps he is not aware of the sacrifices made in his name and how they’ve impacted on your family?

                    It is time for some compensation for your mother. No doubt they are a fairly wealthy Buddhist community by now and can afford to pay back or chip in and buy her something comparable with her former accommodation before she gave it away or whatever happened to render her effectively homeless.

                    I got the impression that your sister extracted family assets in order to shore up her own credentials within the sangha. No doubt she has quite a high standing within that community but i get the impression that the teaching of Bodhicitta is not deeply embedded in her psyche, otherwise she would not have treated her family in that manner. For what it’s worth, western consorts of Lamas can often be pains in the butt! They develop such airs and graces!

                    Having said all of that I should also disclose that I do have pretty deep faith in a couple of the Lamas mentioned in Casimir’s saga. As far as the Tibetan settlement Casimir described goes, it was created through the vision of ‘their’ father. He was a strong leader in the face of Dharamsala contempt for Khampa settlements.

                    Due to his untimely death it was left to the oldest son to enact his father’s vision, building the monastery etc. And he did not shirk his responsibilities. So whatever they’ve created today has been through their hard work. In my time the town/village used to be a sleepy hollow but now thanks to the qualities of the Lamas residing there, it attracts Westerners who no doubt contribute to the income of the lay Tibetans running cafes etc.

                    So I just wanted to paint an alternative picture of that side of Casimir’s saga but I do hope that he is getting some professional help to alleviate his depression and emotional turmoil and that the passage of time along with his own practice is helping him to heal.

                    • Thank you.

                    • Tenpel, is my post of the other day at the end of this thread, where it should be, date-wise? it’s confusing, cos i found it in the middle of the thread instead of at the end, but when i hit reply, now i can see it here,above this comment. So i was going to say, you might want to move it to the end as it’s the most recent.

        • Yeshe Drolma says:

          Just to clarify, the ‘Anon’ that was posting on this thread is a different ‘Anon’ to the one that posted ‘A former Rigpa student’s thoughts and cultivating discernment’, that is why I have changed to Yeshe Drolma.

      • Yeshe Drolma says:

        Hi Casimir

        I don’t think you’re crazy and most of what you said is clear and made sense. When I first posted I was also just getting my thoughts out for the first time and have redrafted a few times since to make it clearer. I also think your depression is understandable and normal given the situation and circumstances. I was depressed for the last couple of years in Rigpa due to the internal conflicts of ignoring everything that my instincts were telling me and thinking it was just my ego’s obscurations and that I needed to purify my karma by practising more or working harder, the more I didn’t listen to my own inner knowing the more I despaired. Then when I read Mimi’s report I couldn’t continue to ignore my instincts any more which is why I think it is important that people can start sharing their experiences so it isn’t just isolated reports.

        Then I continued to be depressed when I left, due to the disillusionment that Tiger Lily mentioned and the fact that I now had to question everything I had believed in for the last ten years. Rigpa can become so all consuming that to step away from it meant that I lost the whole structure of what had given my life meaning and purpose. Also by this point all my friends were in Rigpa so I lost most of them too. I lost them in the sense that I was unable to have an open and honest conversation with them without hitting a wall of ‘Rigpa think’ party line, and they now saw me as deluded by my habitual karmic patterns and impure perceptions. Whereas I felt like I was finally seeing things clearly for the first time. You lost your family too so I’m not surprised you feel isolated and a bit crazy.

        I too have read the John Welwood article on spiritual bypassing and I could see that it had been true of my experience in Rigpa, of how the teachings at times were interpreted . I brought my own wounds with me and this was one of the reasons I got so invested and was so vulnerable to giving my power over to another. I also thought if I practised hard enough then I could purify all the ‘messy human emotions’ as just being appearances and empty in nature, however this didn’t really work and it just meant that it was all still there to be dealt with when I left and this added to the depression.

        In the article he says that we can use the teaching to ‘avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks’ and I really related to that, both for myself and for the culture in Rigpa. I think he is right in our need to healthily individuate as well as practising Dharma, and I can see that if we don’t do this it leaves us vulnerable to the sort of manipulation of the teachings that we have been discussing.

        I do hope for reform but I think you are right in that it is not going to be as easy as that as it is so systemic.

        I do think there are teachers out there who can be our spiritual guides though who aren’t interested in exploiting the teaching for their own gain though, they’re just not the ones with the most ‘bling’

      • Casimir.
        You and your family have been and still are the victim of a cult.
        I would consider suing them. Get in touch with human rights and then a lawyer.

        • thank you but, i do not want any money or need it, i have two jobs right now and really have no need to sue anyone. that is not why i came onto this forum. I do believe that my ex-teacher had the best intentions for me, but that doesn’t lesson what my experience has been. I feel blessed to be getting some help and talking with whoever wants to listen, but thank you for caring and i understand where you are coming from, but it is not where i am. I love the dharma, it has been a part of my life since i was born, i owe the experience of catching a glimpse into my own basic goodness and nature of mind to the dharma, and i hope that speaking with you and everyone one else that i can expand that tiny glimpse into something much larger and something of more benefit. I am confused about a lot of this, but even since writing on this post, i have been helped greatly and again, i thank you for your care.

  6. john swainson says:

    This was a view proposed by an ordained member of Losang Dragpa Centre regarding the situation a number of people found themselves in when rejected by the management.

  7. john swainson says:

    Hi Tenzin and Anon Thanks.
    I have to admit I railed against this view and have not gone any further than gut reaction to what I believe to be injustice in the furtherance of the main aim. I have already stated on other blogs my main criticism of the NKT lies in the administration. I do not have enough knowledge to say their canon is wrong.

    • Thank you for your comments.

      Personally I wouldn’t say their canon is wrong.

      My understanding is rather the presentation and the all in all approach within NKT is superficial (lacking depth, thorough analysis and critical thinking+inquiry) and very often the understanding and presentation of the Dharma is misleading – especially with respect to topics that are useful for power trips and manipulating oneself and others.

  8. It’s not about their canon-many of its teachings are genuine-what you spoke of is manipulation of its content by the unqualified
    Spiritual bullies, like all bullies, are usually qute iignorant of truth

    • both is is quite interwoven: power trips and misunderstandings of the teachings. one supports the other. this is a point I like to stress.

      many of its teachings are genuine, true, bot there are teachings that are misrepresented and distorted and they go hand in hand with manipulation. the overall presentation is rather superficial, lacking depth.

      these misrepresentations and misunderstandings within NKT combined with power trips start right from the top when Kelsang Gyatso wrongly claims that NKT would follow “the ordination of Geshe Potowa” and it would “derive from a different teaching of Buddha, a Mahayana Sutra called The Perfection of Wisdom Sutra”. This is just wrong, and not genuine, and it is a power trip because these claims and the NKT ordination undermine the democratic Vinaya rules, and bestow total power to Kelsang Gyatso.

      Similar also other teachings are not genuine and support power trips, e.g. when KG claims that spiritual progress (this is what people are looking for) depends on “unwavering faith and confidence” and “it is essential to eliminate those doubts that interfere with the development of pure faith.” Faith he explains is “a naturally virtuous mind that functions mainly to oppose the perception of faults in its observed object.” “In particular, our ability to rely completely upon our spiritual guide depends upon having faith based on conviction that our spiritual guide is a buddha.” and “We should be like a wise blind person who relies totally upon one trusted guide instead of attempting to follow a number of people at once.”

      Such teachings are not genuine, they are superficial and misleading and they serve to give total power to Kelsang Gyatso. So what you find on the basis of NKT is just the culture of the spiritual leadership which has been transmitted in that way to the basis.

      There are more distortions of the teachings which mainly serve to give KG and the leadership total power, and the money and hard work + commitment of the followers. e.g the abuse of teachings of “degenerated time” to put down Tibetan Buddhism (while elevating oneself) or to “inspire” people to work harder for NKT to “collect merit” even discouraging them to go through the struggle of meditation.

      So manipulation and distortion of the teachings go hand in hand.

  9. john swainson says:

    The above gives the text of Animal Farm a story which many of you will know. I listened to it on the radio yesterday afternoon.

  10. Hi Casimir, I’ve just finished reading your post, and found it utterly sane, lucid and want to thank you for contributing here. Your depression sounds an utterly normal state of mind considering your total disillusionment in the way the dharma and students were being manipulated. I think you are right, we give our power away to someone we hope knows better than us. The teachings themselves are pretty pure, but I guess, like any religion, it can become twisted. I will say more later, but would hate your post or you, to be written off, just because you said you suffered depression. You sound like you have been through a lot, and see clearly. Thanks for contributing. I hope your post might be given a page of it’s own, it deserves it. (hint, hint, Tenpel!)

    • (hint, hint, Tenpel!)

      I am sorry before I post something as an extra post (and give it thereby an extra attention/place) I need verification from different sources (e.g. testimonials) which can approve details. I need accounts from which similar patterns can be seen or derived from. For me it is important to be careful with all of this.

      For instance, I allowed and gave space with respect to Sogyal/Rigpa on this blog after I had different accounts which show a specific pattern. Three women who left Rigpa told to me personally about their experiences within Rigpa, and what they said was in line with those accounts. Also Rigpa leadership does not deny SR’s sexual relationships nor his harsh speech treatments of students. I contacted also two researchers, and different Buddhist authorities – all of them approved the patterns (or were not surprised about it). I relied also on accounts from different backgrounds of people I know personally and who are trusted sources. Two times I was also listening to teachings of Sogyal, and I got encouragement from long term Buddhists to write something about it.

      It was quite a hard work in the background which forms the basis for this engagement. I cannot just put a comment as a post about things I have no knowledge about. I must be careful.

      I don’t want to give space for wrong accusations. In the past there was a woman. Over many years she claimed that a certain lama has abused her. I met her, we had so many discussions, however, it didn’t rang true for me what she said. While listening I realised, she might have misunderstood the Lama’s kindness. While a Christian professor offered her space on his cult-website “to write about her experiences” I didn’t believe her. Finally after about five years, she wrote an email to me and excused herself. She said it were fantasies and she was mentally sick at that time.

      It’squite a tricky subject. I try to take people seriously but accusations must also be checked properly. I hope you can understand this and that also Casimir can understand my cautious approach, and doesn’t take it personally.

  11. Yes, Tenpel, I can. Thanks so much for explaining your process and vetting of allegations about teachers. You are doing a lot of work quietly in the background, and it’s good to be made aware of this. Very much appreciated, and very much needed it seems. I was just concerned that Casimir’s post was being questioned because he said he became depressed, but it sounded like a reactive depression to me. Again, thanks Tenpel.

    • It’s very trick and its very easy to do others injustice.
      To get clarity I exchange also emails privately with posters.
      Thank you for your understanding in both ways, for Casimir and myself.

      • i can’t help but thank you for exactly what Vera said about all of your hard work and understanding and hope that you can help people as you have helped me, i really like you blog

  12. This is a reply to Tiger Lily’s comment – put here due to that the columns get too narrow*:

    It’s a fine line between relationships being abuse / exploitive or being ok. It depends also much on the person looking at it. This doesn’t mean that things can’t be judged precisely. Only that it is risky without fully evaluating the full details and being aware of own projections.

    There are genuine authentic lamas (lay) who have sexual relationships and its fine for all parties. Westerners who have a problem with this might have to take an ordained lama / Rinpoche / geshe as one’s teacher.

    There are also lamas who abuse relationships and the dharma for personal gratification.

    I asked one of my trusted sources, with respect to the Lama Casimir is referring to the source replied:

    “I know the history […] was first married to E., but had separated, and then […] – initially without going into public (he wanted to give E. enough time to stand on her own feet as a Dharma teacher) – he let know others that his new partner is E. I know E. myself pretty well, she doesn’t make at all the impression to suffer … and in my opinion […] treats her very well and with respect. And as I said, she is publicly announced as his girlfriend / assistant.”


    I know a highly realised Tibetan lama, he had two Tibetan wives (one of them also highly realised) they lived together with their children in India. In the West the lama made two women pregnant. One of them aborted the child the other gave birth and demanded his support very much (which the lama finally refused because he couldn’t withstand these [‘feminist’] demands). When he came back to India the realised woman of him scolded him very much about his behaviour and left him. He then went into retreat.

    Recently I heard the story of a Tibetan woman who has two men, both brothers, and how they manage to live. Their livelihood is distinct different to ours.

    Taking this to mind, the following story might be understood better: When people came to the former lama (he was helping as a healer too) and asked advise about relationships, then his advice would be: “don’t worry, just take another man/woman, there are plenty on this earth. [laughs]. Look like me, I have two, one for the left, one for the right side” [laughs thoroughly]. But the [tight and troubled] Westerners didn’t laugh. They were just too fixed and attached to the person and their ideas/views about relationships. Tibetans are by far more relaxed and easy going …

    Nobody is forced to follow or to live with them. I think one can learn a lot from them with their common ease. However, this doesn’t mean that real manipulation, exploitation or abuse is acceptable. But not every relationship is necessarily based on manipulation, exploitation or abuse.

    a later addition to this comment.

    the lama with the two wives spoke of both of them – but especially of the one who is seen as a Dakini and who was named to him in the past by his master Dujom Rinpoche – always in highest respect.

    * another later addition to this comment.

    the narrow columns issue has been solved by installing a more user friendly and more professional theme on 13th February 2013.

  13. As the author of this piece on Rigpa, I would first like to respond to Rainee and comment that I do look into my motives as carefully and as honestly as I can before ever I write something to go up on the internet. I like to think that I wrote the above piece with no other motive than to help bring all the disparate information regarding SR together into something coherent for Rigpa students to consider. I guess the outcome of that is between myself and my karma (not my “master”).

    In response to Casimer, I would like to add my voice of support to the lucid comments made by Tiger Lily, Vera and Yeshe Drolma. Like them, I believe that depression is a healthy response to abuse. It can also be called mental distress, mental unease, mental upset…. simply a valid response from your healthy mind, informing you that all is not well! As many have commented on these posts, the depth of distress one experiences as a result of betrayal from a person in spiritual authority is hard to fathom if one hasn’t experienced it. As someone who has been to that particular hell myself, I certainly agree.

    The troubles you are describing are much much bigger and more endemic than anything we have addressed on these blogs before (which is why poor Tenzin must be feeling like he has his hands full at present!) However, some of us have believed for some time that the problem is very big. I personally bounced from lama to lama simply in a search for a stable, honest relationship and a simple dharma practice. Every dharma center I found myself in had its issues very similar to those you describe. Finally, after lama number five, I decided to simply study and practice on my own.

    This has worked for me– separating the dharma from the insanity of how some dharma centers are functioning these days was the best approach to moving forward and regaining my peace of mind. For others, it might be better to just simply turn away from mainstream dharma altogether– maybe even find another religion. It’s a free world. In my mind, the important thing is to keep the focus on those important, key, BUDDHIST values that motivate us to turn away in the first place– you know, like honesty, decency, kindness, tolerance, love, compassion….

    HH Dalai Lama writes: “A religious act is performed out of good motivation with sincere thought for the benefit of others. Religion is here and now in our daily lives. If we lead that life for the benefit of the world, this is the hallmark of a religious life.
    “This is my simple religion. No need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart, is the temple; your philosophy is simple kindness.”

  14. i understand completely, again my intention was not to rat out this teacher, it is not my place. i really only shared my experience and was genuinely looking for people that may or may not have dealt with similar issues. i am not hiding who i am, at all, i am Casimir and this is my experience and i want to talk about it. I can’t really talk to the sangha members, because if you say anything negative at all, they will shun you and use shame to keep you in line. I was the scapegoat in India, not just for my teacher but everyone else attending. As i said i have been working on depression or lung. that is why i searched out a teacher to help out, but through shame and dysfunction it only made it worse. I don’t want to be filled with hate and anger, i want to see how people have been able to separate the dharma from the dysfunction. I really can’t get to that place yet. There is truth in my experience and my ex-teacher’s. It is not just one or the other. I know that i am a individual, with my own needs and feelings, that only i can offer to myself and understand better, i would like to hear peoples’ experience, like the Yangsi Kalu’s youtube video., was very moving. Iam sure there are tow sides if not more to that story. With respect to Tenpel’s recent response to Tiger lily, and the source that was found. I know coming from my sister, she would never say it was a negative, i feel like she has been brainwashed, and the way she acts, to me and my family seems so, and these are people that have been buddhist for more than 30 yrs. It has helped her in what ever way she thinks will bring that, but ask our dad, my mom, my younger brother. Ask my sister’s ex husband. the people closest to her. It has really split my family, one being my sister doesn’t want to hear anything negative about this teacher, she forces my mother to give up her house and is now living out of a camper. she forced my mother to give rinpoche all of our families furniture and valuables, all explained by the fact that this will purify my grandparents negative karma and give them a better rebirth. I view the sangha as having some really strong fundamentalist view points and actions. I understand what you say about Tibetan culture, but i didn’t sign up to be taught how to be a Tibetan, i am an american, and my perception reflects some sort of consensus. We go to these teachers for help, we are told they can help us and we give them our trust, blindly and not, but they are the teachers and the larger amount of responsibility,(what that might be is not so clear) will fall on them. They have the most influence, not some bratty kid from america. If we are to be the blind person and the teacher the guide out of the jungle, what does it say when we find ourselves even more lost and hurt than when we entered the jungle, no?. i wish this was some fantasy or nightmare, like you said the other person who wrote to you said, but it is what i have to deal with everyday, not being able to spend time with my family, just because of my views, not being able to express myself, for fear of being shamed into thinking it was all my fault. I can’t live like that. It is hard for me to speak about these things. I know that my circumstances may be amplified in intensity, with the causes and conditions that have arisen. I think the position i was in really gave me a lot of different perspectives and am i am trying to sort that out.

    thank you all for the comments and i really appreciate it. I really like the dedication that Tenpel has shown in this forum and i wish i could learn from you on how to approach it in an appropriate way

    • Thank you Casimir.

      I think you find people here with similar experiences, and as far as I can see they expressed their understanding for you. You didn’t come here to “to rat out this teacher” but to share your experiences and to get clarity for yourself – and as you have put it so nicely – “to see the grey”. This is perfectly fine. You can talk about your experience.

      I am very much sorry for the experience you have to go through. The video by Kalu Rinpoche was also very moving for me – I think for all of us. (As you say, although there might be other perspectives, I think the rape and murder attempt is a fact and not fiction.)

      However, I know from other occasions of family members whose close people were absorbed into Buddhism (or the girlfriend) that they felt like you: they were thinking they are brainwashed, manipulated, they projected a lot onto the teacher (in one case the teacher was indeed controversial but not THAT bad), and those feelings had rather to do with the grieve of loss, separation etc. Also my own mother wasn’t very happy that I gave my heart to Buddhism, even recently she tried to seduce me to live a householder’s life – no chance ;-) So if one is feeling someone is getting lost into another thing the feelings of separation can overshadow events.

      On the other hand, it can be exactly as you say. I cannot judge this. I don’t know the details. I have no eye witness reports or verifying accounts, however, I have a very good friend and I can trust him (which doesn’t mean he is always right), and he gave me the account I quoted.

      It can be that they have “some really strong fundamentalist view points and actions” or they appear to you as such because they are just strange to you or even make you fear. I agree you “didn’t sign up to be taught how to be a Tibetan”, this is true for all of us here. And I have and still learn my lessons. But as a Buddhist I try to put myself as much as possible and when I remember into the shoes of others. And by understanding them, my conflict ceases. And even if there are shadow or dark sides, if I understand, I have no conflict because I understand why and how it is just so.

      When you say “We go to these teachers for help, we are told they can help us and we give them our trust, blindly and not, but they are the teachers and the larger amount of responsibility,(what that might be is not so clear) will fall on them.”

      Personally I would say here the problem starts. Tibetan teachers can rather not help in cases like depression. A Tibetan healer (Rinpoche) I know (he had also clairvoyance) was just utterly overwhelmed and incapable to deal with depression or similar symptoms like schizophrenia – except they were caused by spirits, then he was really good – he felt totally incapable to understand these Western psychological things and to deal with them. One morning he just started to weep because this (our) culture and our neurosis were just not understandable for him. He cried and begged me: “Tenzin you must help me.” (A Rinpoche, 17 years retreat, clairvoyance and healing powers …) This Rinpoche gave also wrong advice in such cases.

      Maybe some Rinpoche’s either over estimate their capacities with psychology or they are just too kind and a bit blind that they still try to help. Because of this we organized now discussions between a Psychiatrist and a Tibetan master in Germany. One of the topics was depression (I have the recordings but what the psychiatrist was saying is in German). However, the result was all in all that depression needs a proper therapeutic and also medical treatment to stabilize the person. Parallel one could check what could stabilize the person and be of benefit from Buddhist practice.

      So Tibetan teachers cannot be the guide for persons who have depression, borderline, schizophrenia etc. this is just not their field of activity (except when spirits are involved). Maybe you expect too much. And maybe they underestimate the situation and over estimate their capacities.

      So If you find yourselves even more lost and hurt than when you entered the jungle, maybe you have just turned to the wrong persons?

      It is not all your fault. Things are dependently arising, there is nobody who can be blamed, just so many causes and conditions that come together. But at the moment you suffer, and the solution to get out of it can only be found in yourself + I think by relying on capable persons who help you out of the jungle.

      Thank you for speaking out those things. Please just ignore what I say if it is not useful for you. I don’t want to hurt you. I hope we can all continue to learn from each other and help us to find healing – at least a bit and without making it worse.

      • I was recently informed that a certain senior Lama who shall remain nameless, but who has been giving initiations, teachings and advice for decades and presides over several monasteries has had a breakdown.
        apparently, he can’t even watch TV any more??!!-hard to believe but from a very trustworthy insider source-so don’t worry too much-we are all in excellent company!

        • Anonymous says:

          I am really sorry to hear that.
          I’ve been around long enough, to know that all is not always ok with the world
          but I do hope that he will be alright

    • Casimir, I want to say very definitively that you do not need to be justifying your experiences. They are legitimate. They have happened and you are suffering. Full stop. I don’t think it’s helpful for you to be having to justify anything– and there are many of us who find that your story rings true. So please remember that!

      Also, I would describe my own experiences of abuse differently today than I would have years ago. Each year, my perception of everything I’ve experienced changes a little. In the beginning it was hard to sort much out at all. Now I have more clarity, but I still don’t understand all of what I’ve experienced. And even today, I could never prove to visitors on this thread that I ever was abused, that my lamas did anything wrong.

      I have found your writing to be very forceful and clear and I believe that at some future time, you could write a convincing post. However, if you are wanting to step out of the fray for the time being, I and Tiger Lily and Vera would be happy to stay in touch by email. I think it is important to be able to process all this with supportive people. Just let Tenzin know if you’re interested.

      • so ,true, i am young and have a lot to learn about the world and myself. i don’t necessarily want to step out of the fray, i have two jobs now, so my time on the inter-webs is limited, but i will get back to your post when i can. I need time and space and people like yourself, Tenpel, Tiger Lily, and Vera and everyone else on this post and connected to the dharma, so that i can see what good the dharma has done for them and to talk about the more negative aspects and hopefully land somewhere in the middle. Again, i do not want to get my ex- teacher or anyone else in trouble, and being able to talk, really helps me understand my practice more and more, it is the rubber hitting the pavement for me.

    • Yeshe Drolma says:

      Hi Casimir
      We are discussing setting up another forum which wouldn’t be public like Tenpel’s page and where we could speak more openly. If we get it set up I hope you will join us as it will be a space where you can speak about everything you have experienced without having to censor yourself and with others who have experienced similar situations. Tenpel, how would we go about setting up the kind of private forum that you mentioned in the thread on my post?

    • Tiger Lily says:

      Going back to Dzongsar’s FB message. He clearly is saying when talking about secrecy “This includes secrecy about your guru.” He should have defined that statement more precisely. It can easily be misconstrued as implying that students should not voice their concerns about the guru’s behaviour.
      This was the last thing that Casimir needed to hear. No wonder he was confused even more. Dzongsar has a huge following of young students, he should be more careful. He is possibly unwittingly playing into the hands of less scrupulous Lamas.
      Casimir, I am concerned for you incase you are not getting the full support you need. I take very seriously what you have told us, which is yet another example of what can go wrong when Lamas try to teach in ways that are beyond them.
      They copy their own Teachers but are nowhere near their level of attainment. HH 16th Karmapa was an outstanding Master. Several western students witnessed him manifest in sambhogakaya form.
      I and three of my friends are in that number, on different occasions.
      I wondered Casimir if you know Gesar Mukpo? Could you talk things over with him? Or try and get in touch with John Welwood?
      It seems you have struggled all on your own half believing in yourself and your intuition and half being disempowered by the partyline of your Sangha. My dear it is something we have all gone through.
      Even though the majority of us here are in the EX-Rigpa Ladies Brigade I am sure I speak on behalf of all of us that you are very welcome to join us as a very special honorary lady! Actually just come as yourself!

      • Sorry but you are wrong about what DKR said re guru-read it again-he is very clearly saying stop ranting on about how your guru is some kind of god and advertising it, not don’t speak openly about his immoral behaviour

        • Actually, I see what you mean
          HOWEVER as a long term guru devotee I know what he means-it does seem a limitless ambiguous to the uninitiated (still, if you are in a guru disciple relationship, you would be initiated and know what he meant ie your discussions with the guru are between you and. The guru, not for general consumption

      • I think to be able to judge this properly needs – as it is always – the understanding of the background of when, to whom, based on what situation(s), thoughts, motivations something was said. I understand that it could be read as a trial to suppress criticism. But who knows him, this is clearly not his way. As far as I heard and got it, he gave this guideline for his students who are committed to him, in order to protect them to act too much according to their ego’s likes and dislikes.

        To get certainty, the best thing would be to ask DKR personally. Maybe you just write him or ask him directly? A friend of mine who was present understood that he gave these guidelines in order to help them to see what and what not are appropriate actions for supposed Vajrayana students who rely on him.

        Personally I would feel very uncomfortably to say on a facebook account “my guru has a girlfriend, she is supposed to be a Dakini” or so. This is nothing for the public. He also says that one should consider one’s motivation for writing like this. I would see such a relationship as a “secrecy”, however, to shout on women and men out of an untamed, and angry mind, having a club of girls who were looking for the Dharma or to be close to the father (Mimi) who then end up in the bed of the guru to have ordinary sexual activity is not a real “secrecy” for me. In such cases I would follow the advice of the Dalai Lama and Western Buddhist teachers: http://info-buddhism.com/open_letter.html

      • i know Gesar, he and my sister grew up together and i followed that documentary he made. I would really like to go and talk with Welwood, but i do not have the time or means to at this moment, but am aiming towards that. Thank you for the honor, it touches my heart greatly. it is so complex and with so many good people trying to help others, and sometimes i can’t understand the magnitude of it all. I would say that i didn’t even believe in myself for the time i was in the sangha, i really lost my individuation. I really like Rob Preece’s book on finding your individuation in the dharma, and have benefitted from his writings as well, and would lie to meet him as well, keep me posted

        • Tiger Lily says:

          I know Rob Preece. He lives near me. He is well aware of the kinds of issues you have been describing that can go on in Sanghas. May I tell him about you? He has a website and you can contact him yourself.
          His email address is there.
          You sound such a fine person. I loved how you wrote on Dzongsar Rinpoche’s FB. You are genuinely seeking and wanting the truth. It touched me very much.

          • yes please do and how might i reach you

            • Tiger Lily says:

              Hi Casimir,
              I’ve emailed Rob Preece and told him a little bit about you, mentioning what you have stated here. I’m sure he will want to help you.
              I’ve also sent an email to Tenpel asking him to forward it to you. You will have my email address then and please feel free to contact me anytime.
              Hi Tenpel, I hope that’s ok and you can forward my email. I’ve got two email addresses for you, can you please check both as I’m not too sure which is the one that you use most. Many thanks.

              • I forwarded your email address.
                i also wrote rob some days ago and made him aware that his book is highly appreciated by casimir. he was happy to hear this …

  15. also genuine Tertons such as Mingyur Dorje exhibited signs of mental illness early on in life so it’s no indication of weakness
    Jamyang khyentse.Chokyi Lodro was afraid of mice!

    • Thank you so much for mentioning this, Anon. Mingyur Rinpoche said he had a fully fledged fear disorder (I don’t know the right English term for this). He feared all the people although they were extremely kind to him. He was able to overcome this and later even taught how to use panic attacks for meditation.

  16. Carol McQuire says:

    I would like to say I appreciate how sensitive this discussion is. I am ex-NKT (a nun for 8 years, a teacher, in the group for 12 years, etc) and help to run NKT survivors. I was made homeless with my daughter when I complained to a more senior monk in the NKT that my teachers were taking a lot more money that the NKT suggested from centre funds. I had a breakdown after this…

    Now I am studying with a group that brings the teachers that Casimir is talking about (some of them) to Brighton, UK. I have some doubts that have led to an ambiguity in my practice (I do not feel I can completely commit myself to the practices) and Casimir seems to be expressing the other side of this – there is a very strong ethos in the group I am in of not criticising or even mentioning doubts to the group about the teachers. Very strong. I tried to discuss the Rigpa issue (Sogyal and the women, etc) and was immediately shut up with the line ‘He helped me personally very much so I don’t think there is anything to criticize’ from the person who runs the group. This made me very uncomfortable especially as various people in the local Rigpa group told me the Sogyal sexual activity was ‘good for the women involved and would lead them to enlightenment quicker’ and ‘I wish I could be reborn as one of Sogyal’s women…’. Westerners seem to take the Tibetan lamas as law-givers, utterly sacred and in control and powerful. As if it is very bad karma to even think something might be wrong.

    I think that Casimir (forgive me for stating something about him but it is a way to discuss this) is a family member suffering the fall out from a huge commitment, to the detriment of his family, to these lamas that the lamas do not contain or restrict. When the lamas are so powerful (and made even more so by the westerners’ extreme ‘obedience’) then at that level there are no options for any other kind of behaviour. Who has created this? Both the lamas and the students that have given them so much power over so many years…

    I think this issue of power needs to be discussed and this blog is a very good start. I would appreciate being able to discuss these things in private with you too.

    I find it so disheartening, after the NKT, to first have encountered Rigpa (which made me ill when Sogyal was giving a video ‘Crazy Wisdom’ teaching – which is when I asked Inform http://www.inform.ac/ about him and found out about the women) and then to feel qualms about these Nyingma teachers too. Deep and subtle qualms as so much of the teachings are superb compared to the NKT limitations…I find Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, for example, to be an excellent teacher, but I have my reserves about the intensity of the power of that whole group – OT, DJKR, DKR, the two Yangsi’s etc. But then the Sakya Trizin was absolutely terrifying – an extraordinary man!

    The Dalai Lama, however, shows a different, deeper kind of power…so difficult to understand all this…sorry…

    • I deeply appreciate your comment. Thank you very much.

      • i am sad to hear about your pain Carol and am glad you can share your experience . Power is an interesting thing, and something that has and will pervade human life and suffering. It is so difficult sometimes that all i can do is laugh and that gives me hope. there are times though, when i reach the deepest level of my depression and pain, that not matter how i look at it, with all of its complexity that i lose sight of why i even need to get up in the morning and practice. Definitely there is no one person to blame, even if i feel like it, i am no noble being and have a laundry list of people i have not treated so kindly. It is no excuse, but something i have to look at in a real way, that speaks to my heart and integrity, and i like how you have done so here.

        • Zopa Dechen says:

          Casimir – it has been a year and I have taken this long to reply to you. I am feeling much, much better and my depression is shifting. People here asked about this. I know I might be very out of place as this conversation is so old but we didn’t manage to connect off-site – was there a separate group set up? Did Tiger Lily write to me and I was unaware of it? If so, I’m sorry. Please, all of you, get in touch with me off site if you wish – carolmcquire@hotmail.com

          Re. depression – what I feel has lifted me out of it is kindness. I have experienced kindness, love and tolerance from dear friends and from various Dharma teachers including Tenzin. I talked and talked to three different teachers. They all listened. And what was so important, for me, was to start to validate my own previous practice and my own intuition. I think what Tenzin mentioned earlier as being the problem is my wanting others to ‘tell me the truth’ when all we need is the kindness and stable knowledge of the other, just to point us in a good direction. If I don’t speak out to these kind teachers, then how could they give their perspective? But it took me years to have the confidence to say, yes, my worries are valid, good, they need to be voiced. That was the confidence I needed. Also, I did several other things – I took a break from the survivors group, thanks to a wonderful new moderator. And I read, read, read other books – masses of Dharma books – someone gave me boxes and boxes from other traditions. It was as if I hadn’t given myself permission to explore before. In any way. I wanted ‘one path and one practice’ as if I was projecting the NKT methods onto everything else. And that confidence is also in myself as being the only arbiter, in the last instance, it is my path! Somehow I couldn’t feel that before, I was so confused.

          I should also mention I am doing a small practice that one lama recommended. I rebelled against it for years but now it is helpful in grounding me in myself! But without the kindness of simple friendship and trust and a lot of discussion I could not have surfaced!

          So, any of the people on this discussion, please let me know if there is another group set up. And you can write to me here – carolmcquire@hotmail.com Tiger Lily, Casimir, Joanne, Carol, anyone.

          Hugs to all,


          • Zopa Dechen says:

            Oh, and I also did two quite important things – I stopped spending time with people who, after seeing them, left me with a miserable feeling about myself and I also did very deep psychological analysis to find the ‘source’ of a lot of my confusion in the guilt based relationships I have with my family – that was a profound eye-opener – seeing how my family dynamics were being reflected so clearly in my Dharma projections. I feel guilt is a pervasive problem with us ‘western’ practitioners. Tenzin’s constant patience – ‘it takes a long time to heal’- gave the space for me to let my mind show me what I needed to look at. I think this aspect of ‘pushing’ and ‘searching for the right way to practice’ is the other side of the coin to my sense of guilt. I hope I am aware enough of this nowadays for it not to be so chronic – it is a great relief for that sense of guilt to be subsiding once I saw my internal patterns being so pervaded by this.

            Thank you – Tenzin, everyone who posts on this forum. Thank you.

  17. Follow your instincts Carol-you have a good BS meter and have encountered some genuine masters-now lead on!

    • my ‘German humour’ cannot understand this, is this a type of cynicism or meant honestly or humorous?

      • HONESTLY! In your words “At the end the student has to decide what’s genuine for him or not.” is what is meant-sometimes you think too much!

        • you think too much!

          What do you expect! “I am a Gelugpa!” Ha Ha.

          But since all problems start from clinging, it’s time to relax.

          • i know it wasn’t meant for me, but thank you for the reminder, i as well think WAY too much, in the not so helpful sort of way, Anon

  18. :: Suggestion ::

    I think we leave it with this.

    I fear I, and we go too much into ‘muddy waters’ and it’s not so clear for me how much my and other’s projections distort reality.

    I think it’s important to get clarity and it is also possible to get it. But to get clarity can be an extremely hard work and it might require some years of open investigation and acquiring knowledge – which includes on the one hand to develop discernment but also to question one’s judgement and opinions.

    However, I did my investigation with NKT for some years, there I have confidence. The discussions among EX-NKT as well as the deepening of my Buddhist studies and having met many genuine teachers (including excellent well mannered Dzogchen teachers) were of great benefit for me to improve my understanding and discernment. It was a long term process. Clarity can’t be get in an instant, I think.

    About the recently discussed subject matters (the power of OT, DJKR, DKR etc.) I lack knowledge and experiences. Therefore, I would like to suggest to discuss these things in a separate forum, like a Yahoo Group or so.

    So far what we have discussed can serve as a start for some to get more clarity. However, the time and energy it requires from me is demanding too much now.

    I can very much understand how much confusing these things can be (or how much they contribute to feel insecure), and how important it is to develop discernment. I hope everybody finds their way and trustworthy sources, and the needed help and support.

    At the end the student has to decide what’s genuine for him or not. Those who wish more security might have to search for an ordained Buddhist master who is properly keeping the ethics.

  19. Tiger Lily says:

    Dear Tenpel,
    I very much appreciate how all of this is taking up more time and energy than you can afford to continue to expend. Thankyou for being so generous for many months now. I think there is a need for us to open a new forum as you suggest which can deal with controversial issues for which there is as yet not ample evidence. A responsible place where people can be heard, gather information and make up their own minds.
    If Carol McQuire would like to get in touch with me, as we are in the same country, please could you pass my email address on to her? I’m happy to be a point of contact in the UK. Thankyou again Tenpel for your wise moderation.
    Carol, do get in touch if you need to speak further and thankyou for contributing to the discussion.

    • Dear Tiger Lily,
      thank you for your understanding. Yes, it would be good to have a more closed forum, where people can speak out without having to censor themselves or being pushed into any view, a secure place to openly speak. A public forum is quite likely not so useful for this. It needs a protected area. We all have to consider what we write is public.

      I pass your email to Carol, and I think she knows from another woman who wanted to run a separate forum/group.

      (I wouldn’t consider the moderation as wise I just try to keep a balance that all is somewhat common sense. However, if the moderation is somewhat constructive, I am happy.)

  20. Might be helpful: “The Bodhisattva & Sexuality – The Skill In Means Sutra” – it shows how a Bodhisattva uses sexuality to help others and how he restores faith of the faithful if they loose it due to his supposed wrong activities.

  21. Carol McQuire says:

    I find it very helpful to express doubts so that then we can look at them and share this together. Thank you very much Casimir and TIger Lily – I will be in touch – this weekend Taklung Makul Rinpoche is in Brighton so now there is another teacher to check out!

    i find it inspiring that the Dalai Lama did not come from a powerful family of ‘lineage holders’! ;)

    And at the same time I would wish to have, myself a ‘powerful’ spiritual practice – meaning that it is effective! I think one of the worries is that having gone through so much, that in some way I tend to distrust myself and my decisions as I have made so many mistakes already!!!

    One teacher I have a very deep trust for (and have met many times!) is dear Tenzin! [Big smile and very grateful sigh…]

    • Yes, after all of this there is a lot of distrust in oneself as well as in others. The faith (in oneself and others) has been too much shaken. Abusive relationships abuse the faith people have, and the harm goes very very deep and isn’t healed easily.

      I agree, it’s very good to express doubts openly. This opens up to search deeper and to come to a deeper understanding. The Tibetans have a saying: “If you have no doubts you are either a Buddha or a fool.”

      [Carol, please, I am just a monk, just a bridge …]

  22. I think you suck

  23. there is now so much activity over the Sogyal issue Can I remind everyone interested of Tenzins idea to set up a group like New Kadampa Survivors on Yahoo? Tenzin is a monk and has chosen the noble path of study and practice and I think his suggestion was because a) he is a little overloaded and b) the comments are now more personal and private Just a thought but we owe him the respect of allowing him to focus

  24. I am a student with Rigpa, now for some 17-odd years. I have never been able to become really active in the organization due to health issues, so I can’t claim any insider knowledge. Nor do I want or presume to sit in judgment about what is true or untrue, simply because I can not possibly know. But I am surprised by some of the things mentioned here that I do know to be different.

    At first: I have received very extensive teachings on Words of My Perfect Teacher, Bodhicaharyavatara, and many other important Mahayana and Lojong teachings and I am receiving a very thorough introduction on the Vajrayana path now. Rigpa has a great education program!

    I see nothing but great care and respect in making absolutely sure that the teachings are being transmitted completely and authentically. It’s not uncommon to be given many different translations of the Tibetan/Sanskrit original, just in order to be able to get the full taste, the full extent of the meaning of the word. And always included with the main commentaries of great masters and more current teachers. The transmissions of the teachings is incredibly complete and authentic! in fact, I think most people who are not as studious inclined like me would wish that it was a little less extensive, and they to are catered for, because Rinpoche always teaches the full, the intermediate, the main points and then of that too, again, the most crucial, essential.

    Teachings are given with such great care, so how can you possibly say there is something wrong with the educational program? Yes, introductory courses do not start with Word of My Perfect Teacher for the simple fact that many people are not necessarily interested in entering Vajrayana or even ngondro. The introductory classes focus on learning how to meditate, and the the 4 contemplations, introducing basic compassion. It’s a gradual path, and some, like my husband, are content with that, and that too is okay. Others like me, slowly develop the wish to continue. I am not rushed into anything.

    In fact, Rinpoche does a great job in teaching on what devotion truly is, what is the teacher’s job, what is the student’s, and it has absolutely nothing to do with some blind following of whatever the teacher says. It is not at all about mindless, blind obedience, it is a very intelligent, continuously aware decision to be willing to work with what holds you back. It should be accompanied by a very realistic awareness of where you truly are, and a genuine acceptance too. You need to know when you should not force the issue: not all resistance is ‘stupid’, and certainly not all ideas about ‘how I should be to be a perfect student’ have anything to do with wisdom. Taking the step to enter in the Vajrayana should be a matured decision, precisely because there is so much room for misunderstanding.

    But this is no judgment, I have experienced myself the enormous strength of transfer within a therapeutic environment. Which, by the way, is less about power difference and much more about subconscious projections that even you yourself don’t understand. Even though I brought it in the open and it never came to any fruition (not just because of codes, but just as much because I did NOT want it, I take my marriage very seriously), it still took me years to get over the emotions. Because I really did not understand on a deeper emotional level what was being touched. It was so hard. And this is me knowing rationally and nothing harmful happening… So I can completely understand how messed up things can become. Its not easy to truly know your own mind, even if it’s right in your face, it can really mess you up. And none of the professional therapists/psychiatrists truly understood what was happening to me either, because on the surface I was so rational about it.

    I myself have never experienced any pressure ‘to commit’ in Rigpa, and I have also given myself all the time to mature quietly and be content. Even though at times it is tough to remain on a ‘lower level’, because who wants to be ‘left behind’, at the same time I have always experienced that in the end Rinpoche gives us all the teachings anyway, even the highest, even to beginners. And that this whole ‘left behind’ issue is exactly the issue I have that I need to work with, not a thing that should drive my actions. Never have I met with any ‘requirement’ of complete surrender to Rinpoche. It is a choice to be made, whenever you are willing and ready, if you want to enter that path. It is always okay to say no, so I really do not understand why other people perceive that as different. I am not entering in any commitments until I am absolutely sure I fully understand and know my own weaknesses and fragilities and take care of them with kindness.

    And I have only seen Rinpoche as only being extremely kind, humble, caring, going out of his way to bring us the teachings. There is no difference in how he treats you, whether you’re old or young, male or female. Yes, he is challenging, can appear tough, act outragely, but its truly not what it seems. I have come to learn and understand things I would never figure I ever would. And a lot of attention is being giving to care in Rigpa. Of course it does not catch all, and people are volunteers doing it next to their regular jobs, but I have been cared for on so many occasions. So my experience is so completely different, but I can’t know some one else truth, so I simply can not know.

    I do know that this working with yourself at such a deep level creates all sorts of unexpected turmoils, uncovers the most tender spots. I have no such experiences in Rigpa, but I have been hurt, or more aptly allowed myself to be deeply hurt by various therapists in many ways in various degrees over many years. Its tender, its tricky. There are no guarantees. I think it is important not to be too eager to always get the highest teaching. There is so much shit to wade through first at the so-called ‘entrance’ levels, there really is no high or low, just confusions to be worked through, deeper and deeper, with increasing kindness, experience, skillfulness and wisdom. I am truly healing, to the point that I am truly becoming grateful to everyone, including illness and ‘enemies.’

    And that is what I wish to to all, that they may find healing for their pain, a safe place and supporting environment to do so, that they may find the love and compassion to hold them through all the pain, and be able to eventually transmute it for the good.

  25. Most, if not all of what I read on this blog is about the reflections in the mirror. Dzogchen is all about the (pure and luminous nature of the) mirror.

    Tantra is about transformation of the (dual) mind. Dzogchen is about recognizing the (non-dual) nature mind.

    To paraphrase Sogyal Rinpoche: this blog is about “me, me, me”, and about negative, neutral, positive experiences. Dzogchen is about the direct experience of “one taste”.

    Sutra and Tantra are for hapiness. Dzogchen is not for hapiness.

    Who is missing the point here? Nobody.
    Or put in Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s secret mantra: “Who cares? So what! Soha!”

    From a sutra point of view one is fortunate to meet a wise and compassionate lama. From a tantra point of view one is very fortunate to meet an abusive lama. From a dzogchen point of view you are very fortunate to meet your the pure, clear and energetic lama in yourself…

    So…. as I read this blog… Sogyal rinpoche is a perfect teacher! And this is a perfect blog!

    A fool.

    • So, you basically want to say that there is no problem, its all in the mind, and all problems come from thinking “me,me,me”. You locate those who think “me, me, me” here on the blog. Therefore its their problem and “Sogyal rinpoche is a perfect teacher!”

      So what you want to deliver here is: you students are at fault, its your ego where the problem is but “Sogyal rinpoche is a perfect teacher!” So you basically establish a black and white pattern of thinking, in which the guru is perfect but the student imperfect. This is quite typical for cults.

      Did you ever think or consider that also Sogyal Rinpoche could be one of those who think “me,me,me”, “I must have this and that and that pretty girl” – no matter if the pretty girl wants to have him? What proof (valid cognizer) do you have that he is perfect, infallible? Its mere (blind) belief.

      Where do the problems coming from that are described here and elsewhere? Are the problems solely coming from the student, the teacher, both, neither?

      Pain and suffering are dependent arising. You cannot whitewash the teacher, nor can you blame solely the student. You cannot solely blame the teacher and whitewash the students either. If a teacher has done harm to any of his students harm has been done and its a dependent arising. Of course it would be better the teacher hadn’t done the harm or the student had enough wisdom, compassion (including self-compassion) to protect himself or herself from harm.

      • Hello Tenpel, I know i haven’t posted in a while. I haven’t given up in trying to understand myself and everything that has gone on. I have been speaking to many followers of the many types of buddhism and other religions. I have been going over and over the texts i loved and still benefit from but in a much different light. I have been reading back over all of the comments here again recently. First i wanted to thank you and everyone that replied to my questions. I appreciate you and everyone that has been commenting. I am still looking for answers and clarity and i have been trying to speak with anyone that lends me an ear. I do not want to just talk and find things that fit into whatever narrative benefits me and so i try to listen to opposing views. It is all very helpful and also very confusing. I do not want to bring harm to anyone or put anyone down or their beliefs. I try to have an idea nowadays instead of a belief. You can change an idea but changing a belief is trickier. I have really tried to sit with it all. Things, in my opinion, have not gotten better for my family and that crushes my heart. In my opinion i have seen a lot of positive things that Buddhism has to offer and i also see a lot of negative things about Buddhism. I still have a lot to debate about and question. I guess i am not really adding anything to this discussion. i see how the dharma benefits others and even though i do not agree with all of it, i respects everyone’s right to have them. I hope i can add to the discussion more in the future.

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