A former Rigpa student’s thoughts and cultivating discernment …

GUEST POST

I was a Rigpa student for ten years and trainee instructor for the last four. For most of this time I was very much moved and inspired by the teachings, the retreats I attended and by the work done by students of Rigpa, as there are a lot of good-hearted, genuine, dedicated, well intentioned people who are working for this organisation. Then in the last few years some of the allegations about Sogyal started appearing once again in the press, up till this point I had been in complete ignorance that there was anything like this in his past.

As trainee instructors we were informed about the Janice Doe case and sent on a training retreat on how to manage this if asked about it by the general public or by students. If not voiced officially I got the sense that the general understanding was that this woman had misunderstood the nature of Sogyal’s teachings and of his intentions. We were given material to read on the student – teacher relationship, the nature of devotion, and the unconventional way of teaching that a ‘Crazy Wisdom’ teacher might use with his students. None of the details of the nature of the allegations could be shared because this had been one of the clauses in the settlement of the lawsuit, so at the time I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.  I told myself that maybe he had been a bit wild in his youth along with other Lama’s such as Chogyam Trungpa, but that now he had settled down and was only interested in bringing the teachings to the West. However when it came to his relationship with the young girls who served him and all the other allegations about him, I found that it was all very much kept hidden and unspoken even to long term students like myself.

I did question to myself over the years why most of the students in ‘Lama care’ who served Rinpoche were beautiful girls in their twenties, but there is such a focus on teachings on devotion, (i.e, seeing his every action as a teaching, never questioning that he can do any wrong and seeing him as an incarnate Buddha,)  that I just told myself there must be some good reason for it which was beyond my understanding as an ordinary being.   It may sound naive to anyone outside of Rigpa who is reading material on it being a cult, but I would like to add that there is also lot of genuine Dharma being taught which has a positive transformative effect, and as I immersed myself in these teachings it was easy to lose the discernment, especially seeing as these types of teachings are also genuine when given within a certain context. On top of this I had a lot of respect for some of the senior students that I encountered who were rational, highly intelligent  people and full of wisdom and kindness, I looked at them as an example of what could be accomplished by really practising the teachings.

For the sake of balance I would also like to say of my time in Rigpa that  for the most part it was a positive experience. I disagree with the label of ‘cult’ that parties such as Dialogue Ireland have placed upon it who actually have no personal experience of the organisation  and who seem to have their own personal agenda in the matter.  Rinpoche is still a gifted teacher of Tibetan Buddhism who has inspired many in a positive way and Rigpa is a well organised structure for the transmission of the Dharma in the West. In my experience the courses and retreats I attended have enabled many to be able to connect with their own wisdom and kindness with the aim to then practise this more consistently in their lives. This is why it is such a shame that these other behaviours have not been addressed and have been allowed to continue, threatening all the good work that is being done. It is a spiritual organisation and for my part I am grieved that I had to leave because without fail everyone I met was genuinely motivated and many of them are still my friends. In hindsight I can see that my time in Rigpa has given me a thorough grounding in the practise of meditation and in the Buddhist teachings so there is a lot I have to be grateful for also. This is why initially before reading Mimi’s account I was willing to give Rinpoche the benefit of the doubt and tried to ignore my own misgivings. However once I had read her account I couldn’t ignore them any more and I am saddened that, for me, all the good in Rigpa is now tarnished by these actions.

When I eventually ended up reading Mimi’s report and questioned a senior instructor on the truth it he confirmed that her words were true and I appreciated his openness and honesty on the matter.  Still I felt the understanding was that she had misunderstood the nature of the blessing of the Lama. That all the other girls were doing well and didn’t seem to mind so therefore this was her ignorance, that she was an isolated case that had become deluded and lost her way. There is very much a sense that those who are in the inner circle and are in close proximity to Rinpoche are especially privileged.

For the last few years I have been a student of another teacher of Tibetan Buddhism and it was only by being on retreat with him that I realised it wasn’t the normal thing  for there to be such a focus on teachings on devotion,  the guru – student relationship and the unconventional nature of a crazy wisdom master. I feel that these teachings were used to justify Rinpoche’s behaviour and to discourage the questioning of such. There are also teachings that to criticise a Bodhisattva and to cause discord among the Sangha (the spiritual community) will cause you to be reborn in the Vajra hells, so that was quite a strong factor in repressing this questioning of him even in my own thoughts, let alone voicing my misgivings publicly. I noticed in the last few years that as more of these allegations came to light there was more and more focus put on these kind of teachings.

I am no longer a student of Rigpa and feel  that the teachings should not be used to justify this sort of behaviour. As has been stated there is too much of a power differential where his students are expected to obey absolutely his every command. After reading Mimi’s account of his behaviour I believe that it is a huge betrayal of the trust that we put in the teacher and the teachings. The basic tenet of Buddhism is non harming and this applies to all beings, not just the initiated.  Luckily I have seen other  teachers who always behave with absolute integrity towards all of their students which has allowed me to have some sort of perspective that this is just the behaviour of one man and that the group consensus to ignore it and justify his behaviour among his students to preserve the status quo doesn’t represent Buddhism or the Dharma.

I now have a teacher who is the embodiment of the teachings in wisdom, compassion, integrity and patience and I trust him completely, it has restored my faith to see what can be achieved when someone does genuinely try to live the teachings with humility. However we really need to take our time and use our discernment when it comes to who we pick to be our teacher.

I have just watched the video on youtube of Kalu Rinpoche where he confesses about his life as a tulku and warns us that teachers may be extraordinary human beings but they are still human beings. He talks about issues of greed, power, sexual misconduct and control that he experienced within the structure of Tibetan Buddhism. These are corruptions that we can all fall prey to, even teachers and Lamas. I think it is very dangerous to be encouraged to perceive a man as an enlightened Buddha who can do no wrong and to be discouraged to question or to trust in our own perceptive abilities. I admired Kalu Rinpoche’s honesty, humility and transparency and think that this is what is needed at this time which is why I appreciate that these issues are now being addressed by Buddhists in a rational and intelligent way.

Amendment

I feel the comments and discussions that have been triggered by this post have now far exceeded the original post in their depth, detail and understanding of the issues in question, therefore I would suggest taking the time to read them and to not just read my blog in isolation.

  Last edited on May 17, 2013 at 8:57 am

Comments

  1. thank-you – very interesting.

  2. Thank you for posting, Anon. The more clear sighted X-Rigpa students who speak out the better. It is so important to identify that Buddhism is never about blind faith, always about cultivating discernment and wisdom. Blind-siding students the way Rigpa students are blind-sided is criminal.

    Earlier on this site, a Rigpa youth posted to say that he had been censored for questioning the allegations on the Youth Rigpa Facebook page. He was told to come and talk to a Rigpa official about it (sounds like a re-education program, not unlike that practiced in China). This was very disturbing to me. Of course, as a parent, I don’t think I would have wanted my teens to listen very hard to the allegations– but then I would not want their fresh, inquisitive minds to be tampered with either! What a tangled web SR is making for himself to be sure.

  3. After almost 20 years in Rigpa, I have left with a heavy heart and a wounded soul. I still have huge faith and trust in the Dharma and have connected with my own wisdom in a real way. The allegations of abuse by Sogyal Rinpoche have been around for a long time and every now and again, they re-surface in the media and a whole new generation of Rigpa students become aware that all is not as it seems. For my first few years in Rigpa, I was not aware of these issues at all and when I did become aware in some way, my mind compartamentalised these issues. I was so confused, I tried to rationalise it – so many people benefit from the teachings, this surely can’t be true and so on but there was always a niggling doubt. Then people that I trusted in the Dharma assured me that this was all fine, it was allegations, it was crazy wisdom, this was my ego reacting and so on. However, this doubt got bigger and bigger and when I discussed the issues with senior students, some of whom were in blank denial and issued a party line, some of whom admitted the truth of the allegations but justified it by “crazy wisdom” approach. Both reactions only made my doubts bigger, I read as much as could, watched interviews and soon found myself connecting with other students who had left or were leaving. We were all fearful as this was a taboo subject and had been taught that to speak or think badly about the master would be a terrible corruption of samaya and would send you to the vajra hells. These teachings in recent years in Rigpa on devotion and samaya have become more numerous and explicit – I believe this is deliberate. Only after leaving Rigpa, did I realise how free I felt – no longer did I have to justify thoughts in my mind as bad or a corruption of samaya, I was recognising something wrong had happened. I had attended weekends where these issues were discussed in Rigpa but mostly how the issues could be managed in the face of questions from students or the public. It was effectively a re-education or PR training and it left me feeling deeply uncomfortable. Why should I put out a party line ? I remember how my skin crawled a little when one instructor referred to those making allegations as “these women”, it was how it was said, it was loaded with meaning – these woman who dare speak out, who make these allegations, these women who don’t know what they want. We were told Sogyal is not a monk, he is not celibate and is entitled to a private life and that many woman because he is a Rinpoche want to connect with him and have a relationship. This does not make it ok as many people project hugely onto Tibetan masters, in much the same way as those in psychotherapy in the West might do so with a therapist. A good therapist sees this immediately and uses it in the therapy in a healthy way to sort out real issues and the idea of a therapist sleeping with a client is seen as a huge betrayal of trust and breach of fiduciary duty. Since leaving Rigpa, I am clearer and happier – I feel sick that I stayed there so long and didn’t see the reality, that I listened to the lies and justification. I sometimes now meet people from Rigpa and I know that a lot of people have left in the past year or two and there is a concerted campaign to re-connect with those who have left, wanting to know their reasons why, wanting to talk to them. I want to have nothing to do with this as I believe the allegations against Sogyal Rinpoche should be dealt with openly and honesty. The complicity of many people in Rigpa in covering up these allegations, managing what can and can’t be said and so on is wrong and so sad. It is no different that the terrible behaviour of the Catholic Church in how they covered up abuses for years. This whole experience has left me deeply wounded in ways I cannot describe – Buddhism has brought huge benefit and meaning to my life but this experience with Rigpa about Rinpoche’s abuse and the cover-up of same means there is a dark shadow over my experience. I feel by participating in such an organisation for some time, I was also complicit as first I didn’t know and then I did and didn’t say anything about my questions or concerns. This isn’t surprisingly as a very strong and distinct culture of silence, group think and constant activity has built up in Rigpa. It means people are afraid to speak out, afraid to be different and the constant activity means people are so busy and tired they don’t question the norms. I am hopeful that in the coming year the issues in Rigpa will be exposed more and more and there will be a honest dialogue that benefit all those who have suffered at the hands of this organisation. The really sad thing is there are many kind and good people in Rigpa, who lead lives according to the Dharma but there is this huge blindspot about the issues of the allegations about Rinpoche. Rigpa has also provided students in the west with access to extraordinary lamas such as Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Garchen Rinpoche and so on but I also have questions why does no-one speak up. Surely these lamas also know about these allegations ? it is all so sad and confusing and disheartening and I commend those who have the bravery to speak out from the bottom of my heart.

    • Thank you Violet for your thoughts on this matter, you have expressed these issues better than I was able, perhaps you would think about publishing this as a guest blog on Tenzin’s page instead of as a comment?

    • Thank you violet for your comment. It is very moving and it makes me sad.
      Thank you for speaking so clearly.

      As Anon suggested, we could post your comment as a separate guest post.

      Wishing you all the best now and in the future,
      hopefully there will be an open and honest dialogue that can contribute to heal the wounds and to enable a real change,
      tenzin

  4. Thank you, Violet, for sharing your heartfelt thoughts and experiences. I believe that you will benefit many by your writing. This is what we need and momentum will build and quiet reform will occur. When I read what you wrote about being deeply wounded in ways that you cannot describe, I thought, “Yes, that’s exactly how it is.” Which is why it is so hard to break away, so easy to lie to ourselves and so hard to step forward and speak out as you and Anon have spoken out. I commend you.

    As regards the Dharma, I’ve always had the idea that if I stay strong in the Dharma, if I stay stubborn that way, then the deceit, hypocrisy, and abuse won’t win. One outcome of doing that is I then have lots of methods for dealing with my confusion and hurt. And as you and Anon both acknowledge, there are lots of good, kind, decent teachers out there. Thank you for your wise and courageous words.

  5. It seems that this happens a lot in Tibetan Buddhism ,we are expected to see our teacher as a Buddha from day one and we use this to excuse so much bad behaviours.I have had this experience myself,my teacher has not committed sexual abuses but he does abuse h is power, he will not tolerate any criticism from his students and he threatens anyone who tries to write a book about New Kadampa Tradition or anything experiences they have had and this is regardless of whether you are still in the tradition or not. I only recently escaped and am searching for a new Buddhist path but I feel that Guru devotion was used by many in Tibet and outside to control and abuse students. I don’t think I could ever follow a teacher in that way again. To check out my story go to webnode independent Buddhist. Good luck my friend on your new path.

  6. thanks for your comments – tenpel, i would be happy if you want to post it as a separate blog and glad some people found it helpful.

  7. thoughts on leaving rigpa would be fine as a title

  8. Thanks, everyone, such insightful conversation, so great to hear. Nice quote about spiritual bypasssing, Tiger Lily. It sums up something I am seeing more and more in dharma circles, even amongst quite senior students. The dharma about working with our anger, intolerance, greed, arrogance etc. and being mindful about our mental states, cultivating love and compassion and patience isn’t so fashionable these days– all of that seems to bore people very quickly, as if it’s just a beginners practice. On the other hand, a few meditational experiences seem to be valued very highly.

    HH Dalai Lama once talked about someone who told him that the earthquake in San Francisco last century was a “great opportunity to practice Dzogchen.” His Holiness said that he didn’t think this was really Dzogchen but more like an experience of zoning out reality.

    Then we see a lama such as Sogyal throwing a complete tantrum in public or publicly humiliating a student and we justify it because we think it must be a sign of some advanced teaching, that we have all somehow advanced past basic ethical norms of behavior. This crazy wisdom idea can easily just turn into an excuse not to be honest with ourselves, to pretend that we are these advanced students ready to become enlightened any minute.

    They say that the biggest flaw that can occur in dharma practice is to become jaded by the dharma itself. When we ask how a lama can be blind to his flaws, it could be because he uses the dharma itself to maintain his blindness and that’s pretty impenetrable.

    Hh Dalai Lama says that the altruistic conduct of non harming and the view of interdependence are the two essential principles that define Buddhism. When we justify leaving those two guiding principles aside, in the name of the dharma, we do just make a mess for ourselves– spiritual bypassing, what a great term!

    • I have to qualify my statement about spiritual bypassing– I read the interview and I don’t think John Welwood meant what I thought he meant. His understanding of the dharma is very different than mine. There are lots of Buddhist practices for working with our relative problems– he doesn’t mention those.

  9. Thanks everyone for your thoughts and comments, it is so helpful to hear from others who have been through similar experiences and your honest sharing is helping me to have more of an insight, come to a greater understanding and to learn from my experiences instead of falling into despair and resignation.

    I have avoided becoming involved in discussions about this topic before on forums on other internet pages because it seemed the discussion had turned into an undignified scrum which had polarised into two rather extreme opposing viewpoints and those involved had become more interested in defending their own positions and proving themselves right than actually having an open debate with the aim of understanding each other.

    This fanaticism didn’t ring true with my own experiences of being a student of Rigpa and all the different facets of such and I have found it refreshing to finally find a page where these issues were being addressed in a thoughtful and multifaceted way, with the intention to understand, have an open and honest discussion and to find solutions to the struggles we are facing without turning anyone into the enemy. I hope we can continue in this vein.

  10. Yes, Anon, I think we all want this to move forward without undue animosity. What I personally love most about the Dharma is that it helps me view problems from lots of different angles. There’s never any one solution or perspective. I do worry about all those good and decent Rigpa students. One thing that seems to be coming out is that there is a secondary abuse that occurs. People are wounded on all levels of involvement.

  11. Hi Joanne, I agree with you, the wounding that is happening on many levels worries me too.

    I can only speak from my own experience though and these are just my thoughts on the matter. I too started having niggling doubts a few years before I left Rigpa. I did a search on the internet when I heard about the Janice Doe allegations but the language used and nature of the discussions I came across on different forums was more in the nature of the kind of sensationalist scandalmongering that you would get in a tabloid newspaper. It completely put me off and undermined whatever factual information was there, if questioning Rigpa put me in that category I figured – then staying was preferable. I decided that I would ignore what was written because it bore no relation at all to my experience of Rigpa and the people I knew in Rigpa, many of whom were/are my friends. Because of this I stayed a couple more years and my confusion grew.

    It was only when I read Mimi’s account that I actually started taking some of the allegations seriously, and this is because it was her honest account and there was no sense that she was on a vendetta,bore a personal grudge or had an axe to grind, she just spoke openly and clearly about her experiences and how they affected her, I couldn’t ignore this, it was obviously genuine and sincere. That is why I have found this page and these conversations so refreshing and if I had come across this kind of discussion all those years ago there is no way I would have stayed blindsided for so long, It would have helped raise my awareness and led me to see that there were others who felt the way I did, and that it was okay to have these thoughts and questions in my mind. I guess the hope is that if the awareness is raised in enough peoples minds then these issues will have to be addressed and hopefully then a change will start to happen.

    I know for myself that I came to Rigpa with my own wounds which is why I was so easily blindsided, I’m not excusing Sogyal, his abuse of his power and how it has corrupted him needs to be addressed, but it is something I need to take into account.

    There are others in Rigpa who do read the different forums (including some of the senior students) but they also don’t get involved because of the nature of the discussion. As Tenpel stated, it would be excellent if Rigpa was able to open up and start an honest discussion about this with those who have been harmed and I think the only way there’s any hope of that is by approaching with openness, honesty and the spirit of understanding.

  12. Lots of thanks to all of you for this sane conversation on a very difficult and touchy matter. I am a fresh drop out of Rigpa after being a “student” for only one and a half year. It sounds relatively short but I was catapulted in at the speed of light because. After only half a year of courses in my local center I was so enthusiastic that I decided to go to Lerab Ling to participate in a retreat and work for a few weeks. I ended up staying for three full months, working full time, (and more). At the end I encountered someone very close to SR who has been in his inner circle for a long time. We began a relationship and what I saw, understood and experienced because of that closeness during the year that followed has confused me immensely and shook me to the core. No need to go into details. It has all been said and spelled out and I do not want to write about things in which someone so close to my heart is still completely involved in, and dedicated his life too. But it is all true and I found it very disturbing. In the beginning I too did not dare to trust my gut feelings. I was so new and the consensus was so strong that – of course – I thought I did not understand or had to stretch the boundaries of my flawed ego. Eventually though the tension inside became unbearable and the only solution for me was to break up with my boyfriend and to sever all my ties with Rigpa. Radically. Trying to deal with the emotions and confusing because of it has been really difficult and painful. In my search to clarify things a bit and understand what I encountered and how to deal with it your blog Tenpel and the contributions of your readers really help(ed) me. Although I too have been feeling betrayed and initially felt a lot of rage, the polarized and indeed all too sensational writings on other internet fora seemed to miss the intelligent discernment so necessary. I am happy to see such a recent post. May it be read by all those who are in what is called here “the borderline position” considering Rigpa and Sogyal Rinpoche. It is the only reason I am reacting.

    • Thank you very much for sharing your experiences and your openness and willingness to share some of the suffering you’ve experienced.

      I appreciate very much your comment because I think it will be a piece in the puzzle for those who are in a “’borderline position’ considering Rigpa and Sogyal Rinpoche”.

      I think only honesty, balance, and being brave, frank and clear can help. If there will be a change for the better in the future it depends all on those tiny steps. I am especially grateful and happy how people support each other in the discussions.

      Thank you for your comment.

  13. Hmmm I did some copy pasting and forgot to check before sending which makes the first sentences a bit strange. Sorry but I think what I am trying to say is still clear……

    • Tiger Lily says:

      Hello O,
      First of all I am so sorry to learn that you had to break up with your boyfriend. What a mess. How you must have suffered. If you feel you need support, there are at least 5 Ex-Rigpa women posting here who keep in touch privately. I wish you the very best of luck to move on with your life. You’ve had a lucky escape, painful as it has been.
      Yes you hit the nail on the head with the word “borderline”.

  14. Hello O, thanks for your post, it’s good you shared it, thank you. Sounds like you were thrown in the deep end, and managed to extricate yourself, which is good. You must have uncommon good sense. It sounds like it was painful and confusing. Am sure your post will also help someone out there get a bit of clarity. Again, thanks. Keep posting, it all helps.Tenpel hosts a safe space here. As Tiger L says, you are not alone.

  15. Yeshe Drolma says:

    Hi O
    I can relate to what you are saying because I was in a relationship with a senior student as well and it really highlighted for me the level of spiritual bypassing that was present, and because it was such a culture within Rigpa I saw my feelings as my ego’s obscurations and samsaric attachment. However, like you, I came to see after a while that there was a whole bigger picture going on. As Tiger Lily said we are in contact through emails as I don’t want to talk about something as personal as my relationship on a public forum, so you can get mine or Tiger Lily’s email from Tenpel if you wish. Thanks for sharing your experience too.

    I am now posting as ‘Yeshe Drolma’ and not ‘Anon’ to save any confusion.

  16. Thanks for your very kind replies and support Tenpel, Tiger Lilly, Vera and Yeshe Drolma. I would very much like to make use of the offers to get into contact through e-mail. (Tenpel, very kind if you will intermediate here :-)). I too do not want to share more personal stories here and feel a bit awkward about writing on a public forum since it’s all so fresh and I’m still trying to find some balance. Thank you all again!

  17. Well done, O– and great that there is such a strong email support group growing. I think it is good for us to keep sight of the two needs: 1. Setting up support for X-RIgpa students and 2. Providing sane conversations here to inform those borderline– and maybe not even borderline– students, to help them reconnect with their rational minds. I think both are equally important. Perhaps as people gain confidence talking with each other on email, they can in turn gain confidence in what they are able to disclose on line etc. etc. Both are so important!

    • If your group grows you could also start parallel a forum which is more closed to the public, like ex-NKT have done it. (They have now 1159 ‘members’.) People will hesitate to comment in a public forum, like this one, but maybe they are more brave and feel more secure if it is a closed forum.

  18. Thank you Joanne, it is so good for me to feel the understanding here. And yes I totally agree with your two points. Maybe Tenpel’s suggestion would be a good idea! It would save people the search I’ve been through and it could be a real save environment for people to tell their stories or their doubts. A few weeks ago I actually had the idea of setting up something myself and even started a wordpress blog but did not really go on since I felt I still lack the energy and confidence right now. Not even knowing if I wanted to take up a challenge like that. I also want to be sure to come from an ok motivation as I really don’t want to help to make things black and white or “fight against”. But maybe to do it as a group and be as conscious, careful and respectful as everybody is here, with whatever is trusted to it… It could be a great help for all those searching for information, illumination and discernment on this subject.

  19. Yeshe Drolma says:

    Hi O
    I had also suggested to Tiger Lily that we have an online forum which would be a bit more private than this where we could speak more openly without fear of being quoted or misrepresented out of context, it could be for ex Rigpa students, Rigpa students who are having difficulties and anyone else who is struggling with similar issues. It might also give the space for people to be able to share their experiences who are also still feeling very raw and in the process of sorting through their experiences and feelings.

    I agree with Joanne though that maybe then, when we have greater clarity and confidence, we can share our experiences more openly here on Tenpel’s forum. Then it can be a support to other Rigpa students who may be struggling, so they can see that there are other perspectives between the two extremes of the impenetrable shiny Rigpa PR image or the scandalmongering witchhunt.

  20. A few days later I feel I have to share a ps to my first post to be clear about where I come from. What I encountered in the inner circle was difficult to ME. My ex-boyfriend stated clearly that for him personally this wasn’t and is not the case. Nor have people there given me the impression that they suffer hugely in any way. The fact that I find that disturbing or that I suspect some “spiritual bypassing” is still my view and my perception of things. Of course I too came in with my own wounds, my own needs and my own conditioning. And my way of reacting was accordingly. I maybe got the lesson I needed and take full responsibility for this. Having said all that I still think it is very very important that “searching” people have access to more information so that they know they have a right to use their own wisdom and discernment and need not be willing to do “anything” to be worthy of “the truth”. That’s why I am – and I feel all of us are – here.

  21. Thank you, O. I totally agree with you. I am coming to believe, after struggling with all of this for years now, that the sane, quiet conversations we are having here are truly ends in themselves– they are the solution. These conversations empower people to think and judge for themselves about the situations they’re in– without threatening those others like your boyfriend who might be happy with the status quo. It is my personal belief that the status quo in some of these situations is both untenable and unable to withstand decency and reason– and thus our sanity here can rock the foundation of what must not continue. However, despite this personal belief, I have learned that I can never judge fully what is beneficial and harmful to someone else. So it’s complicated isn’t it? Yet we have to keep trying.

  22. What you say here, O and Joanne, made what Scott Edelstein said in ‘Sex and the Spiritual Teacher’ spring to mind.He writes:

    ‘People on spiritual paths tend to fall into three general groups: truth seekers, thrill seekers, and comfort seekers. To some degree, all of us have all three orientations-but in most of use, one of the three clearly predominates.

    Truth seekers want to get to the bottom of things…willing to experience difficulty, pain, despair, disappointment, exhaustion and boredom, if that’s where the scent of truth leads them. But they’re not masochists, ascetics, or prudes: if the smell of truth wafts through sex or gourmet cooking or running a business, they’ll follow it into those realms just as willingly.”
    Excuse me quoting at length, but it seemed relevant to what you were saying.

  23. And to Joanne. Complicated indeed but gosh I am I happy to have these conversations! As you say, ends in themselves. Thank you all again.

  24. Glad you enjoyed that O. Don’t know the Masters book but will check that out. Did you read the Welwood essay (Tiger Lily flagged it up) on the subject? Very relevant too.

  25. Hello everyone. I´m asking here because I feel a bit lost right now about my new spiritual interests. I´ve read the famous Sogyal Rimpoche´s book, Tibetan book of Life and death. It did its way to me by azar, but from the moment I read the first page, I totally felt I was reading something that will be important to me. More than read it, I stablished a conversation with it. The message in that book is so relevant and aligned with my own moral guide that I decided I wanted to learn more from the and go deeper within this path. When I googled Sogyal´s name, all this stories about sexual inapropiate behavior hit me on my head as a brik! Or may I say, hit me in my heart…I have got soooo despited by this…I have spend a week to come in terms with the issue, and to understand that I must separate the person from the teachings. So now I´m looking for my way to find the way to learn more about the middle path. I have found that a new school of tietan lamaism is quite near my home, and it has been founded by Gueshe Tenzing Tamding, who used to be HH Dalai Lama´s translater. I don´t wanna now anything with rigpa centers, as, for the information that I have found, they do not embody the idea of dharma that I have aprehended, and this style of “do not put in doubt your teacher as he is buda himself” has absolutly nothing to see with compasion and love. Soooooo, that´s my answer to you: Do you know Gueshe Tenzing Tamding? Does he have any link with rigpa? I have studied too to follow zen budism instead, but the mental imagen is a easier meditation method to me than respiration, I think. I will enormously thank any answer and help in order to find my way to the middle path. I ask you too to excuse my bad english language skills!

    • Thank you newhere.

      It is painful to realize that a new source of hope and confidence appears not to be reliable.
      On the other hand, better to see this in the beginning clearly than later, because later, once one had entrusted to a person, the pain when realizing the unreliability of one’s object of faith, is quite likely by far deeper and more confusing …

      I cannot comment on Geshe Tsering Tamding. What is helpful (but no guarantee) is to check with whom a Buddhist teacher is deeply connected (not what is on the website but with whom he or she really has relations). Who are the persons who appreciate a certain teacher, in what net of Sangha is he or she embedded? Has the teacher also known and excellent students among his own native background (Tibetans)? Those countries where a certain religion or Buddhism is stemming from have an own culture of discriminating wrong / misleading from genuine gurus – a discrimination Westerners have still to cultivate. Most likely famous fraudulent / misleading Buddhist teachers won’t have students from their own traditional background (e.g. Nydahl has no Tibetan disciples or “Nga Lama” Kundeling has no learned Tibetan follower – as far as I know) because those familiar with a Buddhist tradition based on their own knowledge and social heritage won’t fall easily pray to self-proclaimed teachers. Their culture has modes to see distortions …

      Really good lamas are praised by the high lamas and have a good relationship with them. Good lamas are also extremely humble (they praise others but not themselves), extremely compassionate and extremely knowledgeable without showing off any quality … This might give you some direction how to check Geshe Tsering Tamding.

    • Hi Newhere, thanks for sharing your experiences and I’m glad you’re searching for a teacher in such a sane, cautious way. I made the mistake of plunging in head first with my first teachers– and I paid the price! So I learned the hard way that it’s always good to be careful and take your time– I admire you for how you’re proceeding. Probably there are others here who can tell you something about Geshe Tenzing Tamding, whom I don’t know– but I would also say that you could probably just attend some teachings by him and see what you think, trust yourself and your intuition– as long as he’s not a charlatan or sexual predator, then that would be safe. HH Dalai Lama advises us to just view the teacher as a lecturer at first– and you can do that for years if you need to and give yourself lots of time to see first if he is honest and virtuous and next if his approach is suitable to you particularly. It’s only in the practice of tantra that the commitment to the teacher becomes really serious and risky– but you can give yourself lots of time before committing to any teacher as your tantric (or Vajrayana) master.

      Anyway, that’s how I would do it, if I had it to do again!

      And Tenzin, can we get Newhere’s comment at the end of the thread??? I think people could get very confused otherwise?

    • dharmaanarchist says:

      If you liked the message of Sogyal Rinpoche’s book and are interested in Tibetan buddhism because of it that does not mean that you have to end up with Rigpa as a student.

      There are many good teachers out there from all 4 Tibetan buddhist schools. There is even the reincarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodrö, the teacher SR. mentions in his book as the one who brought him up, that teacher would be Dzongsar Khyentse, I heard him teach and can say that he is really good and teaches in a way that is relevant to western disciples and is also quite funny at times..

      If you are interested in Tibetan buddhism then I would suggest that you go and see different teachers of the different traditions, have a good look at the teachers, the dynamic of the groups around them etc and then you decide what you feel really comfortable with.

      And about those rumours about Sogyal Rinpoche. It’s the internet, you know. It’s not neccessarily wise to believe anything and everything you find on the internet. Particularly that dialogue ireland blog (if you have seen that) is not a place for factual and objective information but one of slander and hate-spam and rather counter-productive to the clarification of what really did or did not happen with Sogyal Rinpoche. There are people out there that are more preoccupied with their own hate agenda than with the truth. So beware and don’t believe anything just because it’s spread in a particularly loud way. So take anything you find on the internet with a grain of salt.

      • I think you would agree that the story of Mimi is true and not a rumour? Not even Rigpa denies that SR has sex with some of his own female students. Rigpa argues it were their own private business, and Rigpa states that SR is not a monk. What they don’t say is that SR has a wife and kid too (as far as I know) – though I wonder if he is married with her? I don’t want to go into details but there are for sure more than rumours, there are facts that cannot be denied. For sure SR has harmed women, not even Rigpa would go so far to deny this.

        • dharmaanarchist says:

          My opinion is that the horrid stories about sex orgies with Sogyal Rinpoche in Australia and the claim that there is a whole flood of harmed women, that the inner circle around him is basically some sort of brothel sound way exaggerated.

          I personally believe that it’s entirely possible that SR’s way of handling intimate relationships with female disciples ended up emotionally harming some women.

          But I also know that I am not an eye witness of these events myself, nor am I personally close to any victims or reliable eye witnesses, so in the end of the day I can’t say for sure what was going on or what wasn’t because simply, what I get is all hearsay, no truely hard evidence.

          What I also know is that in Rigpa there are an incredible amount of people (women) with psychological issues and insecuriteis that they project onto the lama. Honestly in that sangha (and around other lamas too) I have seen so much neurotic behaviour that I wouldn’t be surprised if someone cried rape just to get attention or because she has to pick a bone with SR. I know of a case of an emotionally disturbed woman who attacked a lama with a knife because she felt rejected!

          As I wrote, I was not an eye witness so I can not know for certain what is the truth. The interview with Mimi sounds sincere, but again, it’s an interview spread on youtube with someone that I don’t personally know, so I would not jump to the conclusion that it neccessarily has to be the full truth. It can, yes, but it also might not be.

          The problem with Rigpa is that they they are playing dead, they don’t acknowledge or denie anything, they say nothing at all.

          SR is not married and never was. Nowadays he has a long term (main?) “girlfriend” as far as I can see, although that woman is never mentioned as such, it’s kind of implied when he talks about her, the thing with the mother of his son was only something temporary and more than 10 years ago.

          • Thank you.
            I think it is important to discriminate between hearsay and what first hand witnesses say – but even what they say has to be seen critically and sceptically.

            A measure to judge claims with respect to an figure of an organisation or an organisation is to check what former members report, how many times are there similar patterns being reported? Are there contradictions to those claims? How reliable are those people who report harmful events? What does the organisation say? Have these accusations been brought up again and again by former members? What overlapping and contradictory patterns can one find etc.? Are there reliable 3rd party sources like academic research or press articles that approve these claims? What could be the internal logic of the organisation/lama and the person accusing them?

            If one does such an investigation things become more clear.

            Now if you say: “what I get is all hearsay, no truely hard evidence” what about Mimi, who wanted to be close to her father and ended up being ordered to undress by SR? For you her voice and her father’s voice is hearsay?

            You say “The interview with Mimi sounds sincere, but again, it’s an interview spread on youtube with someone that I don’t personally know, so I would not jump to the conclusion that it neccessarily has to be the full truth. It can, yes, but it also might not be.” Why do you ignore the voice of her father who was a totally committed follower of SR and Rigpa? Why do you don’t take into account that Rigpa never ever denied that this happened as she reported?

            Now, if you argue women in Rigpa have emotional issues it follows it is even worse to have sex with the own students because the Lama is at risk of exploiting these women’s insecurities, and projections for his own sexual and emotional gratification.

            It is for sure that there are cases, that women wrongly accuse men to have raped or abused them. That’s why, indeed, great care is needed.

            But here we don’t speak of just one woman but women. Also men have approved such claims (e.g. in two cases reported to me by two sources which I judge as reliable) that SR had sex with the female partners of his male disciples. Also a man being harmed by SR had to take up a therapy. I did my own research and it approves the basics being addressed here in this post: https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2012/06/15/what-is-a-rigpa-student-to-think/

            Also Mary Finnigan, a journalist working for the Guardian with a high journalistic standard, has at least two sources for each of her claims.

            So, I think it is possible to get some clarity here.

            Some weeks ago I met two German Buddhists who run a Buddhist centre for many years now. A long time ago SR was invited to their centre but when they realized SR’s female entourage and the purpose of it they decided never ever to invite SR again: “this man won’t set never ever his foot again over this treshold”. There are so many accounts like this, if one just checks and asks people, that do not in any way suggest that the basic points the accusations make (having sexual relationships with his own students) are wrong.

            The problem with Rigpa is that they they are playing dead, they don’t acknowledge or denie anything, they say nothing at all.

            This is not true. It depends whom you ask within Rigpa. Me was confirmed (after a while) by a Rigpa official that SR harmed women, and it was not denied that he has sexual relationships with some of his female students but instead it was argued he were not a monk and therefore there is no prohibition to do so. Also the case and truth about what Mimi said was not denied or whitewashed. Instead it was said that SR would feel sorry for her, and tried to get in contact with Mimi but Mimi’s therapist refused any trial by SR to get into contact with her. (I assume because it would have seriously harmed her healing process.)

            There are similar statements (about SR not being a monk etc. indirectly affirming his sexual relations) been made to INFORM in the past (as far as I know) and I would encourage you to ask INFORM what Rigpa says and officially stated to them: http://inform.ac/

            SR is not married and never was. Nowadays he has a long term (main?) “girlfriend” as far as I can see, although that woman is never mentioned as such, it’s kind of implied when he talks about her, the thing with the mother of his son was only something temporary and more than 10 years ago.

            Thank you.

            • dharmaanarchist says:

              To make this more clear, about how many women exactly are we talking that have come forward? Not even that is getting clear from all the different sources on the internet.

              It would be really great to have a list (doesn’t have to give names, initials for example would do) and a (not too detailed) description of their experience to give a better overwiew.

              And here I don’t mean an article that is mixed up with blames and statements of female outrage, but just the bare facts that could (if neccessary) be verified by contacting the person behind it.

              Because there is this video on youtube with exactly one contemporary case (Mimi) and two cases from back in the 70ies. All the rest is a very small circle of people on blogs claiming to know people who complain about improper behaviour. Plus what looks like very loud people merrily jumping on the band wagon to use an extremely welcomed scandal for a smear camaign against Tibetan buddhism as a whole.
              And that for me is not hard enough evidence to be convinced that all the claims in those various blogs neccessarily have to be the truth/the full truth.

              So cut down on the emotional reactions, instead make a factual list with the people and claims that is backed up with an actual contact to the individuals behind it (not to make public but just in case someone really wants to verifie those claims) , that would give the whole thing an entirely new and more convincing side to it.

              Luckily for me, Dzogchen Pönlop Rinpoche is in my town this weekend and will teach today and tomorrow afternoon :-))

              • I agree that the Dialogue Ireland discussion is not very useful and that the hostility and aggression often expressed are not useful either to get clarity. However, one can just start with what there is and which rings true, e.g. the case with Mimi and the support to make it public by her father. You can take this and try to verify how true this is or is not, how much it is contrary to behavior known about SR or in line with it etc. So you can explore the internal logic and the patterns of SR’s behaviour and Rigpa as well as their responding to this issue: use common sense.

                For me it is already an unthinkable ethical transgression for a Buddhist teacher, who should have the welfare of his students in mind, to call a woman into the own room and to order her to “Undress!” as Mimi reported. If this is true, which is highly likely, it tells me a lot about the person. I don’t need much more information. However, there is more information, starting from putting down his students in public, screaming and shouting on them, throwing the lunch they made for him onto them, having sexual relationships with at least two partners of his male students etc. For me the whole of this behavior indicates a very distorted personality and naive Western students. Rigpa tries to sell this as crazy wisdom but crazy wisdom does not harm others but helps them really in the long run.

                It is up to the individual to discriminate and judge this. And each individual might come to a different judgement based on his background, knowledge, shortcomings and qualities. I think a list as you suggest won’t help much. People who cannot understand how wrong it is that a woman, Mimi – who joined Rigpa just for the purpose to be closer to her father (who was so deeply involved in Rigpa) – ended up to be ordered by SR to “Undress!” and to have sex with him and, Mimi, who is now in therapy and who is supported by her father to make her story public, …. People who don’t understand the wrongness of just this abuse of Mimi’s situation won’t understand any list either. It’s not up to me nor my agenda to convince anybody. Everybody has to use his or her own brain and common sense.

                Wishing you inspiring teachings by this great master, Dzogchen Pönlop Rinpoche.

    • Hello Newhere. Really kind to share your questions so openly.

      From my experience with Rigpa, about so 10-15 years, I think there is no danger from SR to new students.
      Usually one doesnt meet him personally, and there a so many students, so I cant see such a risk in terms of sexual abuse.
      I see more a danger in the behaviour of many SR followers, who behave cultlike.
      That is not necessarily the wish of the Lama.
      Actually, I write a book of my time with Rigpa, but the name Rigpa is kept out, as names in general.
      Otherwise, its only used for campaigns of people I have nothing to do with.

      Why do I so: from my point of view is it the students who make a cult or not. Even if a Lama would like to start a cult, he still needs the students to do so.

      But otherwise, to be abusive with students to satisfy sexual needs, or for other reasons, is not a good sign, a lot of trouble follows….

      Well, I started my way into tibetan buddhism without looking around, I just jumped into the water.

      Now, some years later, I travel now to see different lamas and check their western lay sanghas, which is very interesting.

      If to start again, I would do it the other way around, first to see what teachers are there, and then decide for one or more teachers, when more experienced.

      It seems to me quite wise to ask questions as you do, so rely eventually on your own common sense and sanity, as I may say so.

      @ dharmaanarchist: I agree that within Rigpa seems to be many women with certain problems, as in general the western lay sanghas show some mode of behaviour that could be interpreted as “strange”. But then are so many fantastic people active in Dharma , everywhere, really dedicated and helpful.
      So its both there, cockoo and wise.

      @Rigpa: I missed a little bit the willingness to be selfcritical, as an organisation. To say a few words. Dont play dead.

      @Tenpel: Your site is very helpful for me, and since I feel that the Cult problem and what is behind is not yet taken seriously enough, I want to say a word of appreciation to you.

      @myself: For the remainder of the day: I shall look rather for my own mistakes then for other misdeeds.

      • Thank you Adamo for your balanced comment.

        It is also HH the Dalai Lama’s advice for newly interested people in the Dharma / Buddhism:
        to look around and to meet and listen to different genuine teachers but viewing them at that time only as friends in the Dharma and not as one’s teacher.

        So what you say:

        If to start again, I would do it the other way around, first to see what teachers are there, and then decide for one or more teachers, when more experienced.

        is exactly in line with HH the Dalai Lama’s advice and I can agree with it also from my own experience.
        I can only recommend this approach.

        My own teacher recommended the same approach to me: go to all great lamas there are to listen to their teachings and make your own experience!
        I think based on the own experience one is able to discriminate more healthy groups and lamas from more unhealthy groups or lamas. This discrimination is the best protection and guide.

  26. What if you are a abuse woman ( not inside rigpa) but your Psychtherapist is a member of this institution, What if he said to you…sorry but that is your karma… It is disturbing… It disturbs my soul.. Love is the key….
    He treat me like all of this institution treats their member.. He don’t believe.
    It was my fault of getting abuse… I was a 7 year old child.
    I trust all the women, who talks about their abuse of sogyal ringpoche, that’s not their fault…It is the fault of those people who abuse a naive thinking human.
    (sorry for my english, i am from germany an not good in writing english.)
    Thank you all for sharing your expierences

    • Thank you. It is also the fault of those who support these things by being silent and by letting them happen, justifying it with strange “reasoning”.

      • Yes, Lou, thank you. It is also the fault of those who support the institution instead of seeking ways to reform it.

      • There is already a part here, the silence of the Dalai Lama, or so, it brings alot of aspects, why there is so much silence with regards to the abuse issue.

        I expect teachers as Ringu Tulku Rinpoche and other calibers like him to express their point of view towards this issue.
        But then, I see this pictures of those teachers with SR….
        I realized that there is a lot of things going on in many western lay practitioners communities that have a smell.
        It seems many teachers dont realize what is beyond that picture of peace and harmony, that is maintained everywhere, as long money is donated and goes to the east, where it is much more needed.

        Some teachers just come, teach and leave, leaving its to the participants responsibility how they handle what they got. To me, thats fine.

        Other teachers create big communities here, and I feel, they dont know how western people might be confused, and how to deal with it.

        My conclusion in short: its a big responsibility on both parts, teachers and students, and time now to adress this issue anew. A blog like here is a quite big help. I remember when women new in Rigpa asked about the abuse issue, and I told them not to worry, as I was made believe this are the right words to say. Naive enough to be easily manipulated, myself.

        All this manipulation create mistrust and so on, why not creating transparence. At the end, there is nothing to hide……

        • I think the point you address, why still so many teachers collaborate with SR is rooted in Tibetan society and Asian understanding of living together in a society. I think it is important to see the differences in Asian and Western culture and to see both the advantages and the disadvantages of the different approaches to forming a society and living as a society.

          As far as I understand it, while our culture is focused on the individual and its rights, Asian and Tibetan culture is focused on the group not individuals. And the value they treasure most is not individual rights but harmony in the group/society. (You can see the same clash of cultures in the Western/Tibetan Shugden conflict: the Dalai Lama speaks of non-sectarianism, unity and harmony, the NKT campaign of individual rights.)

          Now if there is a person who is in general useful, successful for the society in Asian countries and here especially among Tibetans, that person his highly regarded and what matters is the good benefit for the majority. If for some few people individual suffering arises that is considered as wrong but the over all benefit is regarded as higher and more important. In Western countries, people would focus on the individual sufferings of some victims and highlight that even at the cost that other beneficial activities might suffer.

          No, I don’t judge now what is better, the Western or the Asian approach to forming and maintaining a society. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. W

          With respect to the Tibetans there are more specific issues: 1) Tibetans are in general extremely pride, 2) they don’t take Westerners very seriously (and this looking down on Westerners has different reasons: strange Westerners, a racist and a pride attitude), 3) they usually never ever listen to any Westerner (except for some rare individuals among Tibetans) – to make it concise: most of the Tibetans (but not all) are extremely hard headed. Moreover, Tibetans have less understanding of Western culture, philosophy, and even art, law or history. 4) Tibetans seem to tend towards to make heroes out of those who are successful or who appear to live up to high ethical standards, pushing them to a holy person. You can see that with their stance on Mother Theresa who most of them portray as a Bodhisattva ignoring that she mainly suffered and had tremendous doubts that tortured her. Having doubts is a lack of wisdom, being joyful is the inner attitude of a Bodhisattva. I met no Tibetan who is well informed about the internal struggles of Mother Theresa and differentiates this matter … 5) Tibetans are tremendous grateful if someone helped them or was extremely kind to them. They are totally loyal to such a person, they tend to ignore their short comings (or don’t pay too much attention to it) stressing instead their kindness and good deeds and keeping harmony and friendship.

          These points give a fertile ground why Tibetans don’t take the complains about SR seriously, why they don’t believe what Westerners complain about him or even if they believe in those complaints, why Tibetans don’t think they should make a distance from such person which we in our Western society would condemn and isolate.* One high teacher who asked me to stop my activities regarding SR wrote to me, that he doesn’t believe what the people say about SR and that even if it were true they could go to court. The Tibetan teacher missed to understand the legal loopholes in our Western society where Therapists are punished because it is illegal for having sex with their clients (at least in Germany and some other countries) but Tibetan teachers who have more influence on their disciple than a therapist on his client can not be taken to court due to a lack of laws for such cases. Only child abuse or financial abuse would bring down such teachers in the Western legal system. I replied to that highly respected and beloved teacher (whom I also admire very much) that he is wrong, and I gave him reasons why. I never received an answer to that email.

          So it appears, we cannot count very much on Tibetans. And then then there is also a cross cultural confusion and a clash of cultures here that must be worked on and settled by us, the Westerners. Highly likely without relying on Tibetans.

          *You can see the same in the attitude of the Dalai Lama to George Bush, Mao etc: the Dalai Lama stressed their qualities and their friendship and he adds one sentence of criticism. It is a total different approach to what we Westerners do or would do.

        • BTW, yes Tibetan teachers treat their Western students very differently. I agree the way to deal with such issues is transparency. And as the Dalai Lama says faith comes from transparency and honesty, if Buddhists are not transparent, open, honest with such issues they undermine the faith of others, and there is no need to have faith in dishonest and in-transparent people or groups. Happily, the Dalai Lama lives what he teaches and gives an extremely good example in this. However, for cults, abusive teachers and for dictators or power hungry persons etc transparency and honesty are poison, they avoid it like the devil ;-)

          • If you see the buddha, shoot him!
            In order to cut through your attachment to buddhism, and a perfect buddhist teacher.
            Don’t search for a perfect Buddhist teacher. Be a perfect B….. spontaniously!

  27. “I am no longer a student of Rigpa and feel that the teachings should not be used to justify this sort of behaviour.”

    Stricly speaking THIS justifies a teacher’s behaviour inconsistent with his teachings… and that seems to be the criticism on this blog. Who is inconsistent here? The critics or the criticised teacher?

    When you look at someone else’s behaviour, what do you see? The other’s mind or your own mind?

    • When Buddha looked at Devadatta’s behaviour, what did he see? Devadatta’s mind or his own mind?

    • suzanne o'meara says:

      personally I would like to have concept at least of totally perfect teacher upheld somewhere & be informed where they do . because if every teacher is now currently not perfect & devious , this is not good for innocent beings especially at time of death or being born , serious ailments, occult ailments – there needs to be somewhere the perfect one for those who need to heal . imagine if the devious behaviour gets worse ? what would then happen ? maybe we need to go beg decent people to join dharma , have new members who normally would never even attend , or are stupid but honest . maybe some teachers pretend to be to be naughty , they are guarding higher gates , we can not see the truth , maybe these figures are immortal gods . but anyway , I am praying for more total well behaved & mind behaviour rules enforced , because in my town the animals & humble folk can not even die or sit or anything due to the new mind occult hunting violence , now if the religions had been more strict , they could have prevented this & actually they are supposed to control all mind power access , they are the 1st to know .

      • Dear Suzanne, there are rather rarely perfect teachers. All what is excellent is rare, all what is of medium quality is more and the least quality things are abundant. In one of the texts by Jamgon Kongtrul I read that we cannot expect to find a perfect teacher because “we live in very impure times” but we should take someone who has at least more qualities than faults.

        One of my teachers said: “There are good teachers, there are medium quality teachers and there are bad teachers.” Its not a matter of what we imagine or wish but a matter of facts.

  28. Tenpel, isn’t much of your and other people’s criticism based on ones own expectations of a (perfect) teacher? If we wouldn’t have a PRE-conception of what a perfect teacher is (for us), how could we judge?

    So… what the varja hell are we doing WHEN we judge (others’ behaviour)?

    But anyway… I think this is a great & perfect blog! Great rigpa promotion! And a good entrance to get a taste of rigpa, and thus getting more acquited with rigpa!

    Not the organisation “rigpa” but one’s own rigpa! … ofkoz…

    ;)

    • Hi Marc, I cannot speak for others. With respect to myself. I have no problem that teachers are in general not perfect. But I expect from a teacher that he does not have sex with the partner of his students. This is considered in Buddhism sexual misconduct and a negative action. If a teacher cannot follow this basic precept, for me this indicates an uncontrolled mind. Though I have that too, an uncontrolled mind, I just wouldn’t do that because 1) I respect that precept and the Buddha, 2) I have respect for other sentient beings who have a relationship and live as a couple. [and of course formost because I am a monk but this is no argument because SR is not a monk] As agree with Khandro Rinpoche:

      Study the Vinaya! It provides a very strict and clear code of conduct, what is allowed and not allowed. If you study it, you can identify when someone manipulates and misuses the teachings, and then students can ask questions. There is a lot of goodness in questioning. If it does not make sense, question it! When we find careless ethical conduct, we need to ask, why is this happening?

      Every teacher has at least taken the lay vows and the bodhisattva vows. Apart from the obvious misconduct of using force, taking advantage of your own position and the naivete of a student is abuse and very painful to see. Abuse is when there is pretense, conceit, or lying. Pretending someone has more realization than they actually have and thus misleading the student is very, very harmful.

  29. Thank you, I had read this blog and it helped me to understand the issues involved regarding HHDL.

  30. Tiger Lily says:

    Thankyou for so clearly outlining the systematic cover-up of Sogyal’s sexual activities at Rigpa. For that is what it was, though it was dressed up as Vajrayana Samaya. No doubt many sincere practitioners like yourself whether co-erced or not, believed the fabricated story they were fed. Either for the reasons you have given (which are understandable) or in the fashion of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, or by simply turning a blind eye.
    I have to say, that when I knew Sogyal back in the 80’s and was part of London Rigpa, Sogyal didn’t particularly deal the “Crazy Wisdom” card. He seemed a reasonable kind of guy, a minor Rinpoche, with good points and bad points. I felt then that the Senior students’ unquestioning obedience was going to multiply the bad points and that is what appears to have happened, leading to a kind of megolomania on his part and a gross misunderstanding by his Senior students of the true Nature of Dzogchen Teachings. From your description of the partyline mantra that was put around, it seems that there were too many payoffs for the senior students (The Illuminate; special chosen ones; THE INITIATED!) to follow their gut feelings that something didn’t add up.
    Well, you did and also a few others. I am so glad that you have now found a genuine Teacher who can truly help you and have not been turned off the Dharma like others sadly have.
    It is now known that senior students knowingly shared their girlfriends with Sogyal, or he deceived them and poached girlfriends from behind their backs. Ofcourse Janice Doe was married.
    The fact that he wasn’t hitting students (as far as I know) in the 80’s, leads me to believe he has developed a deluded belief in his Teaching abilities, fanned by the worldwide adulation he went on to receive and by the collusion of his senior students.
    Rigpa seems to be a unique organisation in that as you describe, the focus is upon one man – The MASTER SOGYAL RINPOCHE, re-incarnation of the great Terton Lingpa and presumably the manifestation of Guru Rinpoche. That attitude will lead to its downfall as more Westerners will follow their common sense and like yourself find other excellent Teachers who give them the pure Dharma.
    It does appear to be the case that those Lamas in Sogyal’s orbit have also followed his example. Not Good.

  31. There are many good things within Rigpa too.

    One of them is that people can meet and listen to highly accomplished, genuine masters, who are invited by Rigpa / SR regularly. This mode empowers the students to experience and check for themselves what appears to them as being authentic or not. Another good thing is that the highly dedicated people within Rigpa can be also very honest, like the guest poster experienced: that one honest instructor confirmed what Mimi said. (I also made good experiences with respect to mutually respectful individual discussions.)

    These are some of the qualities within Rigpa which don’t exist in that way within NKT. I think those qualities are very useful for a committed person to the Dharma to sort out the own situation, and to make a useful decision.

  32. Hi Tiger Lily
    Thank you for your comment and in time I will respond more fully to you by email. I would like to say, regarding gut feelings – for the last couple of years my gut was telling me something wasn’t right, and the phrase that kept jumping into my head was, ‘Emporer’s New Clothes’. However – and I feel this was also due to the teachings that we received – I kept telling myself this was my negativity and my ego and that I had to keep practising to purify this. This lead to a lot of internal struggle and conflict and I fell into a depression. I don’t know what the motivations are for the senior students but I genuinely believed at the time that this was something I needed to go through for my spiritual growth. One thing I have learnt through this journey is to trust my gut instincts, to use my own judgement and discernment, and to not blindly give my power over to another. The teacher I have now would never encourage this sort of behaviour and has always encouraged me to stand on my own feet and to think for myself.

  33. “He seemed a reasonable kind of guy, a minor Rinpoche, with good points and bad points.”

    Nope… only one point: one taste. the non-dual awareness of the baseless base. Or: the dynamic display, the energy of your nature mind, that is beyond good and bad. So… you are absoltely right! That merely seemed so… as in a dream.

    So your claim is baseless. Just like your naturemind. Perfect!

  34. Yes thank you Tenpel, this was something that I wanted to add just to balance things up. The majority of people that I have met in Rigpa are, honest well intentioned people, they are working hard with a good motivation and have helped many connect with the teachings and develop their good qualities, I am grateful to a lot of people in the organisation for their work.

    Also like you say, being in Rigpa gave me the opportunity to connect with other great teachers such as Mingyur Rinpoche, Dzigar Kontrul Rinpoche, Ringu Tulku Rinpoche and Khandro Rinpoche, which I most probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so otherwise.

    I have benefitted a great deal from retreats I have attended at Dzogchen Beara given by senior students and a lot of what Sogyal Rinpoche teaches is genuine Dharma. It is just a shame that this is undermined by his other actions and by the twist that is put upon some of the teachings. Rigpa is one of most well structured organisations for allowing people to connect with the teachings on a regular basis and I am saddened that I had to leave the organisation because of these other issues.

  35. Mary Finnigan says:

    Hi Tenpel,
    There is a downside to the ongoing relationship some authentic TB lamas have with Rigpa. Their acceptance of invitations to teach at Rigpa centres validates Sogyal’s abusive and corercive cult — especially to newcomers. Inexperienced seekers surfing the internet might well be impressed by the fact that all these important lamas are collaborating with Sogyal.

  36. Tenpel, using the NKT as a yard stick is starting from a very low base, by way of a comparison, don’t you think? Pretty much any organisation will scrub-up when compared to the NKT, maybe even Rigpa too, but then that’s debatable in my opinion. It really seems you are setting the bar quite low here. I believe we should instead be raising the standard for Dharma, after all this is the Dharma and peoples’ spiritual salvation may depend on it. I am reading this above comment by you as a kind of endorsement of the Rigpa status quo. I believe there should be less compromise in comments regarding Rigpa, after all there now seems to be a new phase with “re-education” (aka spin) within the organisation for damage control, which smacks of cultic tendencies. On one hand you are hosting the conduit for exposing the Rigpa machinations, and on the other hand the above comments seem to be in contradiction to this. This could send a confusing message, particularly to people who are in borderline situations regarding Rigpa. I know at several stages I vacillated wildly about staying or leaving.

    Metta to you, and appreciation for all the good work you do,
    sankappa

  37. And as an addition, I don’t think that with the older students it is all a conspiracy to cover up Sogya’s actions either or self interest in protecting their positions. I have personally known many students and instructors that have expended a lot of time and effort with the right motivation (and I have to say with immeasurable kindness and dedication) and they see how much good work is being done also. That there are many people are actually being helped and benefiting from their connection to the teachings. Also they see that the girls around Sogyal do not seem disturbed or unhappy and I think there is more of an attitude of turning a blind eye to it because they feel the good outweighs the bad. I have seen many people come to retreats and be completely transformed by the teachings and I know that this is what inspired me to give so much of my time and energy over the years. This is also why I kept quiet up till now and kept my thoughts to myself. However it was this quote by the Dalai Lama which decided me in speaking openly.
    “When teachers break the precepts,
    behaving in ways that are clearly damaging to themselves and others,
    students must face the situation,
    even though this can be challenging, criticize openly, that’s the only way.”

  38. Hi Mary, yes I can understand this. The lamas might judge the situation maybe also from the perspective that there is at the end more benefit than harm to go there and to teach the people. But newcomers and also the organisation might rather interpret the presence of genuine masters as an approval of an “uncontroversial background”.

  39. Yazz… collaborating… ofkoz, that was the word I was missng on this blog!
    Conspiracy? Evil spirits?

    How ad-hominem can you get Mary?!

  40. meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow”

  41. I meant to post this comment in reply to your comment above from Jan 14, if it’s possible to move it there, Tenpel?
    Thanks

  42. I tried but then it shows my avatar which might confuse the reader … to fix this I inserted now the link to my comment you are addressing in your comment.

    Sankappa, I agree with you. I am aware of this problem – and I have no idea how to cope with it.

    My motivation of posting this and to make this comparison is that discussions as these can easily turn into a witch hunt and into shivery discussions which are then pretty unfair. Therefore sometimes I try to balance some points but this can weaken valid criticism or points like the ‘re-education programme’/pattern. It’s a slippery slope.

    Do you think I should restrain more in commenting like this?

  43. Just as an addition: I understand fully that for people who are in borderline situations regarding Rigpa clear explanations according to the facts are by far more helpful than comparisons.

    On the other hand at Dialogue in Ireland the discussion is quite heated and not that helpful any more. This makes it difficult for Rigpa members with an open or borderline situation too. So my comment was for the sake of balance but it bears the danger of blurring the facts.

  44. Tenpel, I understand your position now more clearly. Thank you for helping to clarify this. Apologies for any over reaction.

    I don’t have any ultimate answers for what should be done. I just believe that in the broader perspective, that is, this blog as a form of mass media, that a clear, consistent and unambiguous message needs to be conveyed to try to avoid confusion or contradiction.

    Your voice as a Buddhist Monk carries a lot of weight.

    Kind regards,
    sankappa

  45. “I just believe that in the broader perspective, that is, this blog as a form of mass media, that a clear, consistent and unambiguous message needs to be conveyed to try to avoid confusion or contradiction.”

    As long as it is just a belief, it is allright with me.
    …but PSE don’t claim it is a valid cognizer.

  46. In other words: if you do not meet yourself in your “consistent and unambigous” perception and judgement of others’ behaviour, you will never meet yourself.

  47. Thank you.

    If you have a quick check and if you have some background knowledge and common sense you can easily see that the Dalai Lama chapter of this book is ridiculous and confused. I hope the other chapters have more substance than this one. The author writes a Dalai Lama chapter but mainly includes information that has not much or nothing at all to do with the Dalai Lama but is taken from other contexts – e.g. “choose a thirteen- or fourteen-year-old nun from the monastery to become his sexual consort” – and tries to attach by all means and in a completely unethical and unfair manner some “shadow sides” on the Dalai Lama which don’t exist in reality. It is just too obvious that the author has (quite likely) the mere intention to gather pieces from here and there that are sensationalist enough (though often not related at all to the Dalai Lama) to include it into the Dalai Lama chapter with the aim to put the Dalai Lama in a bad light.

    Check it yourself: what information is he passing?, what has this to do with the Dalai Lama?, why is Geoffrey D. Falk putting these unrelated information into the Dalai Lama chapter? what is really substantial information about the Dalai Lama in that chapter? what is really controversial about the Dalai Lama from all what he writes in that chapter?

    Though I found the Chogyam Trungpa chapter informative, I hesitate to take it too much seriously because seeing the poor work of Falk in the Dalai Lama chapter (a subject I am familiar with) I wonder what quality the other chapters of this book have with respect to topics I am not as familiar as with the Dalai Lama.

  48. I agree with. To many authors use sources, without checking them properly, quoting from here an there, without any deeper background. I found so many similarities with other writers stuff….

    There are so many possible motivations to relate to this issue, and my experience is to check thouroughly and again and again, and use common sense.

    But there is always a lot of hints why the author is writing his book/article.

    Finally, what remains for me is to learn to rely on the teachings, to be very honest with yourself and not to expect too much from others.

  49. Yes.

    There are a lot of people who seriously attack on certain fields of knowledges without understanding. This includes journalists and politicians, and sometimes academics as well who feel entitled to write something about Tibetan Buddhism or the Dalai Lama / Tibetans although they lack sober knowledge. see this example for instance (see the second half of the post) about Prof. Krueger: https://thedorjeshugdengroup.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/dangerous-cult-leaders-psychology-today )

    It is noticeable that Michael Parenti, who is such a strong critic of the Dalai Lama, does not have an institutional title and his research approach is, I think, all based on secondary materials, without any language knowledge.

  50. Tiger Lily says:

    Hi Anon and Tenpel,
    http://www.johnwelwood.com/articlesandinterviews.htm
    If you have not already read the Tricycle interview with John Welwood the Buddhist psychotherapist, “HUMAN NATURE,BUDDHA NATURE: On Spiritual Bypassing, Relationship, and the Dharma”, I think you both will find it most helpful. Here is a short excerpt:-
    ….When we are spiritually bypassing, we often use the goal of awakening or liberation to rationalize what I call premature transcendence: trying to rise above the raw and messy side of our humaness before we have fully faced and made peace with it. And then we tend to use absolute truth to disparage or dismiss relative human needs, feelings, psychological problems, relational difficulties and developmental deficits. I see this as an “occupational hazard” of the spiritual path, in that spirituality does involve a vision of going beyond our current karmic situation……
    This link takes you to a list of his articles and interviews, and then you scroll down to the Tricycle interview.
    He goes on to describe the difficulties of group dynamics that can arise within Sangha communities and the resulting confusions this can bring to Dharma students. These same problems I believe exist within Rigpa.
    I appreciate the way you have both taken a well-balanced view of Rigpa on the whole. There are indeed well-intentioned people there and one thing that Sogyal has always done is to connect Westerners with some of the great and the good of the Lama world.
    However a vicious circle is set in place when these Teachers visit and recognize the genuineness of the students but are met with earnest voices proclaiming what a great Master Sogyal is because basically they are Dharma Warriors and they see every miserable, gut-wrenching cruelty on his part as a blessing. Even if some of the Teachers have their doubts because of what they’ve heard on the outside, what can they do? Then because they do nothing, the students see this as being their approval of Sogyal’s methods. So continues the syndrome of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” which is based upon a lie. This lie is also upheld by the Tibetan way of not saying what they really think about one another.
    I really hope that some other senior students will accept the fact that there exists a shadow side to all the brilliance of the organisation and work together honestly and transparently to deal with it. To persist in tactics of coverups is extremely foolish and damaging not only to students but to the reputation of Vajrayana.
    I don’t think it’s too late to try and turn things round. Sogyal has himself got some important lessons to learn and it would be good if he could be helped in a positive way. I do think that if Rigpa came out into the open and admitted it has problems, that a world-wide community of Vajra brothers and sisters would want to reach out and help with sympathy, understanding and forgiveness.
    Anyway Anon, I hope you find the interview about Spiritual Bypassing as enlightening as I did. I think many of us who left Rigpa for similar reasons, were also left in an agonising dilemma regarding our spiritual path. I also think that for some of us this can be a crucial stage of maturation when we stop looking outwardly to a Guru and discover that the Teaching is our Teacher then what was such a struggle becomes simplified and yes we do follow our gut instinct or intuition, think for ourselves and stand on our own two feet!
    I look forward to communicating by email later. Tenpel I don’t know if you still have my email address, but I’ll send you an email and perhaps you can forward it to Anon. Or maybe my address is registered when I post. Not sure, so will email you just in case.

  51. These are also the lessons I took from my experiences with controversial teachers: I had to learn to trust my gut instincts again, and a Geshe directly said to me: ‘never ever allow others to have control over you.’ Another point was, I had to face my naivety which was one of the main driving forces that brought me into this situation.

    (@Tiger Lily, thank you also for your comment. There is a saying in Tibetan which goes essentially like this: “even the most gifted teacher can become totally corrupted by too devotional students.” I don’t know about SR but it’s true for Kelsang Gyatso/NKT.)

  52. Tiger Lily, I forwarded your email address.

    I agree with what you portray as a “vicious circle.”
    As far as I understand it, Tibetans have another perspective on these issues. For them there are two adults. Even if they think it is wrong, they wouldn’t say much because the adults have to make their own decisions. Moreover, they rather remember others’ kindness and qualities and in general Tibetan masters don’t speak out clearly about other misleading teachers (due to different reasons.). The Dalai Lama hasn’t said by today anything about Kelsang Gyatso either. As far as I understand it, the Tibetan way is rather: the student is mature to decide, they don’t have to interfere. It’s totally a student’s business and not theirs.

    If they think a teacher has gone astray or is misguiding others they express their disagreement only if asked directly and rather by being silent or with very small gestures (by body and speech) which express their disapproval.

  53. Thank you Tiger Lily this discussion is like a breath of fresh air because, as you know, open and honest dialogue like this is not encouraged in Rigpa and I have only recently allowed myself to think freely and trust my own perceptions of the situation without the guilt of feeling that I was breaking the samaya and would be punished for criticizing the Lama and causing discord in the Sangha, amazing at how well this form of control works that it can repress open questioning. I am still in the process of trying to figure all this out and to understand all of these disparate experiences in some kind of cohesive way.
    Thank you for mentioning the article on spiritual bypassing as I was discussing this with another x Rigpa student the other day and we were commenting on how it reminded us of the culture in Rigpa, and the manner in which some students interpreted the teachings.
    I have tried to find a balance but I have to be careful I don’t fall back in to the same trap of compartmentalisation, looking at all the good that is being done and weighing it up against the harm being caused because, as the article has reminded me, it doesn’t work like this. When the spiritual head of the organisation cannot face his own shadow issues of abuses of power, control, sexual misconduct, or to confront the harm he is causing and when the group is complicit in the denial of this and covers it up, then it pervades throughout every aspect of the whole organisation. It effects how the teachings are interpreted and taught, how people work with the teachings and deal with their own shadow issues (the messy human stuff that John Welwood talks about) and within the dynamics of the Sangha as a whole, leading to a culture of group think and following the party line.
    I have not come out of my experience in Rigpa unscathed as it has effected my faith in the teachings, I find myself questioning just how someone like Sogyal can grow up so immersed in the teachings and surrounded by teachers such as Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and yet can be so blind to his own failings and how his actions are harming others. How can he be teaching the Dharma all the time and not be applying the most basic tenets of it to himself?
    Kalu Rinpoche told us he was just a human, and if Sogyal could have the humility to do the same and face the very human failings in himself, and to use the teachings to confront and work with them, then Rigpa really could be a very powerful organisation for the transmission of the teachings in the West in a way that would be truly transformative and groundbreaking, he would be a living example of the teachings in a real way and I would really consider him to be a Rinpoche. I really hope you are right and that it is a process of maturation and that it is not too late for Rigpa to turn it around. Sogyal is such a figurehead of Tibetan Buddhism in the West and Rigpa is such a powerful organisation effecting so many peoples lives, that there is the power to do both great harm and great good depending on how these issues are going to be dealt with.

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