Thoughts on Leaving Rigpa


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.


  1. Mary Finnigan says:

    Tenpel — this item is by-lined by you. I know you did not write it because I have already seen it on another forum.

  2. i wrote it mary and tenpel asked if he could post it as a blog rather than a comment i made on another blog in this site and i was happy for that to be done.

    • and are the line breaks I inserted ok for you, violet? (I did it for a better reading but it could delude the flow of your writing.)

      • The freedom that you talk about. It’s wonderful. I feel it. It was a courageous post you did here. Thanks for your wisdom

  3. It’s perfect Tenpel, thanks for all you do – it feels good to have written this and posted it and it also makes me realise that it is possible to still have a profound faith in the Dharma and question structures when they are actually damaging some people.

    • good. i am happy to hear that you still have faith in the Dharma. many who left NKT sadly have lost it …
      it would just be excellent if Rigpa opens up and starts an honest discussion about this with those who have been harmed.

    • In fact, I think questioning and faith go hand in hand, don’t they?

      Buddha said, “O monks just as a goldsmith tests his gold
      By melting, cutting and rubbing,
      The wise accept my teachings after full examination
      And not just out of reference for me.”

  4. thank you for your open words to this really difficult issue.
    I also left Rigpa and the catholic church because i cannot live and breave with this structures of covering things normally everybody cry it out load.
    Women discrimination works here subtil.
    S. Rinpoche should speak openly about his position and what has happenened.
    I was so sad to hear this story about Rinpoche. I am hurtet and disappointed , Many teachings, I got ,i found so precious. Now there is a shadow on it and i cannot go back or believe anything.
    It is a tabu to speak about itinside and partly also outside of rigpa,but a getting it must be ! If there is nothing happened,i can`t understand that
    S.Rinpoche does not speak about it to stopp gossip,that damage his
    life and the trust of students to him.
    I don´t know all facts about it ,so i can`t take astrong position.

  5. Irmi, I am sorry to hear that you are suffering also over this horrible business with Rigpa. I agree with you totally that these things must be talked about and there shouldn’t be taboos about them. We need to talk and talk and talk about our experiences– thank you for commenting!

    • hello my name is casimir, i have begun writing on this forum to really understand what has gone on with me and many others, i have read your posts on Dialogue Ireland and was hoping to write you, if that is all right, i like the way you use your words to express very clearly your thoughts

      • Casimir, I haven’t been following this thread, but just wrote on the other thread that I would be happy to exchange emails with you. Just let Tenzin know and he will forward my email address to you.

  6. Irmi
    If a bad man says blue is blue, no matter how bad he is, blue is blue,
    If a morally imperfect Sogyal passed some perfect Dharma to you, the Dharma is perfect, despite his imperfections.
    The person who introduced me to Dharma is now a very nasty person but I havent given up on Dharma because he is evil- he and Dharma are two completely different things

    • Yes, that is certainly true, anon, but in the beginning, in the midst of all the pain and confusion, life just isn’t so simple. Personally, I think doubt and questioning and railing has to be part of an honest recovery.

  7. Ulrike Dischereit says:

    Hallo my name is Ulrike and i left Rigpa at the end of 2012 after 12 years.
    On one hand i am very grateful for all the teachings and study courses
    and all Dharma activities Sogyal Rinpoches gave and he was my teacher, i was the student, that was my personal history, but after reading all and having watched the film even when i am still very sad, on the other side i am very happy for what we all learn from it : the wisdom of decernment and that Dzogchen should come after a good training in fundamental dharmic ethical training. And to choose a teacher needs this discernment i guess. All this strange feelings, when not true Dharma was seen in Sogyal Rinpoches behaviour, i suppressed and now my true progress is, that i won´t do that anymore : to allow all the little feelings to be recognized, not to indulge in them, but to know them.
    So even if it is sad, my husband is still in Rigpa, somehow it is an enriching story in discriminating awareness and with this i want to encourage everybody to continue in the Dharma with that new jewel in hand. ..

    • Thank you very much Ulrike.

      Well said, well said:
      “i want to encourage everybody to continue in the Dharma with that new jewel in hand. ..”

  8. Tiger Lily says:

    Well said Ulrike. We have to turn a negative into a positive. The fact that we finally realize that and manage to do it, is a huge step along the path.
    It is so true that to choose a teacher needs discernment. An essential and difficult stage to go through or test to pass before we are worthy of the Teachings. Well i think we Ex-Rigpa ladies are doing pretty fine!
    So pats on the back all round and I raise my glass to you all! The more the merrier!

  9. As a former Rigpa-Student, I would like to add a few words. Many good statements and thoughts had been expressed here, and I the whole Rigpa story is just not easy to reflect on.

    When I decided to leave, that was not so much because of
    abuse of women by a Rinpoche, but I felt the Dharma was abused, by many people, who at the same time truly apply the teachings of the Buddha to their mind.

    Sound quite schizo…?

    Now, after some years of a new life ( still in Dharma, but a “new “teacher), I think it is very much the responsibility of all of us to protect the Dharma and all beings, of being corrupted and mislead by nothing else then ignorance, attachment and aversion.

    It is not just a teacher caught in his own trap, and some followers in the one or other way meet by some consequences, but it is many people responsible for likewise the Rigpa-happenings.

    From my side, I left Rigpa, since I felt strongly, that I couldnt do anything about the corruption, but still I feel a certain lack of courage on my side, to speak things clearly out ( not as general judgement, but how I perceive things happening in Rigpa).

    Then I decided to write a book about my point of view, but of fear to enable some antibuddhists to make unfair use of such an book, I stopped writing.

    So, now, I feel very much the need to say, that for everybody is a way out of a misery, even after abused by a Lama.
    There a so many good teachers, honest and straight, the give the teachings, the student applies….., just do it, step by step, maybe not starting with the highest teachings first…..
    and so many potholes we dont have to fall again in and in again now, learning from experiences.

    Still I appreciate SR for what I got, he is so excellent in getting you started, and bring you closer to the Dharma, and on the other side, I left the club for the good, to come never back. Leaving a corrupted “system”, maintaining its shortcomings and avoiding strictly any change.

    My point is: we all have the responsibility for the Dharma and for all the stuff happening in all kind of Sanghas, at least where we are involved, and can contribute, each of us in his own way, and we can try our best, and not to forget the abused beings, meaning not left them behind.

    One thing I would like to describe further: at Rigpa, many people including myself, opted for the so called Dzogchen-Mandala, mainly vowing never have another teacher in this lifetime as SR.

    So I started my new”career” with a broken samaya, as it could be considered.

    If some contributors could share their pont of view about this issue, I would appreciate very much.

    Sorry for the lousy english, I just wrote some words down in a spontane manner, otherwise I wouldnt have broke my silence.

    Best wishes to all, yours Adamo

    • Thank you Eva. I appreciate very much your comment and the sharing of your thoughts.
      Since I’ve never been a Rigpa/SR follower I cannot reply on the Dzocghen Mandala issue (though I heard about it).

      I hope other ex-Rigpa can reply to you.

    • Tiger Lily says:

      Hi Eva
      I’m very glad you did break your ‘silence’ to come and talk to us. You have raised some interesting and key points…..You say “I felt the Dharma was abused by many people who at the same time truly apply the Teachings of the Buddha to their mind.”
      I agree, I think they truly believe they are practising the Pure View of the Maha Ati level. They’ve experienced the essential pure nature of their Minds as opposed to the egocentric activity of their mental processes. They can tell the difference and rest intermittently within the pure nature of their Minds. I’m sure the elder students can do this. They have been receiving Teachings from numerous Dzogchen Teachers for a long time now.
      But that does not mean that the world is suddenly purified from all wrongdoing and harmful deeds. On the relative level a snake will still bite. It doesn’t necessarily follow that everything the Teacher does is purely motivated.
      It seems to me that along with the healthy brain washing of meditation practice, there has been a consistent unhealthy brainwashing of seeing SR as the perfect Guru whose crazy wisdom actions are purely for the benefit of the students. I’m sure SR has brainwashed himself into believing that is the case! Unfortunately I think the less than purely motivated students have become the core elite of that Sangha. The ‘group think’ that they have helped to engender and perpetuate keeps them safely in the inner circle. I imagine that whoever has tried to honestly confront the situation and bring about a change has been stopped dead in their tracks. They are the ones who deserve to hold the reins of power in the Rigpa Sangha. So who do hold the reins of power? I wonder.
      Sogyal has been encouraged to behave as he does by his devoted students. Does he hold the reins of power, or is it members of the inner circle? I would love to know the answer.
      But this whole corrupt business is contagious. Similar unwise explanations of Guru Yoga are being exploited in other Sanghas.
      Well done for not falling for it and seeking out a straight and honest Teacher. Could you discuss this with you Teacher Eva?
      I so agree with you that we have a responsibility to safeguard the Dharma from being taught and understood in the wrong way.
      Thankyou very much for contributing your thoughts to this discussion.

      • Dear Tiger Lily

        I would like to clarify that I am not Eva, I simply just used an private emailadress, not my professional one. I didnt consider thats the adress names will appear here.
        I am male and old enough to be out of gender issues.
        So I cant be eventually part of female solidarity group, just a former Rigpa member, seeing the points mentioned here.

        Yours Adamo

        • I started this mistake with the name by misapprehending that though the user name was Eva you signed with Adamo …
          You are one of the rare male persons who speak up. Thank you very much.

  10. john swainson says:

    I am male and old enough to know better but can I be part of a female solidarity group!

  11. Adamo, Tiger Lily didn’t mention gender issues in her post to you. Her reply answered your questions. There was nothing in her response to you about becoming part of a female solidarity group.
    As for your concerns re broken samaya, like she said, ask your present teacher, and see what they suggest to you. There are I am sure you know, purification practices for broken samaya.


    Several of the women described similar behaviour by the violin teacher – such as Ling asking them to play the violin naked or instigating a system of “punishment and reward” where the punishment would be anything from a smack on their bare bottom to serious sexual abuse.

    After Brewer and his wife were found guilty on Friday, one of Andrade’s (WHO COMMITTED SUICIDE DURING THE CASE) sons, Oliver, said of his mother: “One of her hopes was that the bravery she exhibited, and the other stories she knew would come out during the trial, would mean that other students who had also suffered abuse at Chetham’s would be able to receive justice. As always, she was fighting for others more than herself”

  13. Tiger Lily, “Sogyal has been encouraged to behave as he does by his devoted students. Does he hold the reins of power, or is it members of the inner circle? I would love to know the answer.”

    Dependent origination would suggest it’s a two-way street.

    As far as concerns about broken samaya, Vajrasattva and Tsok are both recommended. Really though, your primordial state cannot be affected or altered in this way. Broken samaya means not caring about your path.

    • Just to say – you can’t break samaya unless you have samaya in the first place. And that of course comes from your side, there is no way that a teacher can force samaya on you :). Either you take them, from your heart, as your teacher or you don’t. And normally I believe, you wouldn’t take on a teacher in this sense until you’ve received the teachings and meditated and practiced for many years. And of course many never do. It’s absolutely not required at all.

      Most of these so called “tantric initiations” and vows are really blessings. I mean for instance, how likely is it that the new meditators will be able to turn anger into pure open hearted loving kindness, with no sense of self involvement to limit it, in an instant? Or do the other things that the tantric practices should be connecting them to? Yet you get taught these practices that are really intended for meditators who have mediated for years, or with a remarkable instant connection to the practices, given out like sweeties to newbie meditators who have just begun to learn how to meditate.

      Maybe you got some blessing connection to the possibility of samaya for the future, something like that. But the very fact that you left him so easily – and felt that you were being forced into actions – to me that suggests that surely what you had was not true samaya??

      If so you might not have anything to purify. Best to ask your new teacher of course for help there.

      And – I think it is important to recognize and value the positive things. If this was your first connection to bodhicitta, to the teaching on non self, to the three refuges etc, if you took refuge and so on – all of those are positive things. To move forward, it is important to value those things. It doesn’t matter if your teacher you now think, for whatever reason, is a “bad teacher”, not practicing what he or she taught. That makes no difference to the teachings you received from him or her. The teachings are still the pure teaching of the Buddha and can’t be corrupted in this way.

      So value what you received. Also value them, as your first teacher. But that doesn’t mean at all that you have to follow them, or think of them as unflawed, perfect beings. The Buddha taught that we need to decide for ourselves and to listen to teachers in all traditions. And to investigate and find out for ourselves. As for this idea of devoting yourself to a single teacher exclusively, I haven’t heard of that. Most of the teachers themselves have many teachers. E.g. the Dalai Lama has teachers in all four of the main Tibetan schools. So whatever it means, surely it can’t mean that you are tied to a single teacher for life?

      You can have a principal teacher. But – probably not in the early stages like the first few years especially, and many will never have such. And I suspect myself that many Westerners who think they have “a guru” just have made some kind of a blessing connection to the possibility of maybe having a guru in that sense some time in the future. Because it is not something that happens so easily and instantly as that, and needs that connection from your heart between you and your teacher. And has to come from your side. Usually after a connection over many years, though sometimes, rarely, it happens more quickly. So I’ve understood it anyway.

  14. Might sound all so familiar for some Rigpas?

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

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

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

    In the council’s report on Jan. 11, the three members wrote of “Sasaki asking women to show him their breasts, as part of ‘answering’ a koan” — a Zen riddle — “or to demonstrate ‘non-attachment.’ ”

    When the report was posted to SweepingZen, Mr. Sasaki’s senior priests wrote in a post that their group “has struggled with our teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi’s sexual misconduct for a significant portion of his career in the United States” — their first such admission.

    Among those who spoke to the council and for this article was Nikki Stubbs, who now lives in Vancouver, and who studied and worked at Mount Baldy, Mr. Sasaki’s Zen center 50 miles east of Los Angeles, from 2003 to 2006. During that time, she said, Mr. Sasaki would fondle her breasts during sanzen, or private meeting; he also asked her to massage his penis. She would wonder, she said, “Was this teaching?”

    One monk, whom Ms. Stubbs said she told about the touching, was unsympathetic. “He believed in Roshi’s style, that sexualizing was teaching for particular women,” Ms. Stubbs said. The monk’s theory, common in Mr. Sasaki’s circle, was that such physicality could check a woman’s overly strong ego.

    A former student of Mr. Sasaki’s now living in the San Francisco area, who asked that her name be withheld to protect her privacy, said that at Mount Baldy in the late 1990s, “the monks confronted Roshi and said, ‘This behavior is unacceptable and has to stop.’ ” However, she said, “nothing changed.” After a time, Mr. Sasaki used Zen teaching to justify touching her, too.

    “He would say something like, ‘True love is giving yourself to everything,’ ” she explained. At Mount Baldy, the isolation could hamper one’s judgment. “It can sound trite, but you’re in this extreme state of consciousness,” she said — living at a monastery in the mountains, sitting in silence for many hours a day — “where boundaries fall away.”

  15. john swainson says:
  16. give lama lhakpa yeshe a call, hes in london at mo and just came home from seeing him and hearing him teach.
    funny enough he said today conduct and moral discipline most important and if not doing these things not good student!
    so if teacher not behaving what chance does student have.
    i had same problem in church when a teen, my role model was highly flawed and vowed never to accept teacher in buddhism unless he was 95 genuine leaving 5% for being human and misunderstandings.
    i cant be having any more false gurus in my life as they influence bad decisions and wasted time.
    google lama lhakpa yeshe, theres only him on uk web pages , living in liverpool and lincoln and traching in london on occasion like today.
    trust me he will guide u forward in practice as have know him intermatly( non gay;) ) for 6 years and he is solid minus the 5% :) ( has apple product attachment)
    dont loose heart as dharma is more powerfull then a couple of poor teachers and if you read words of my percect teacher buy patraul rinpoche he stresses about examing teacher for upto 12 years before following with devotion.
    it took me 5 and half years, lots of doubht and harsh speech before i realized that this lama is the real deal holyfield.(boxing term for kosher)
    hope this helps as i know what it feels like to be let down and wasting time.

  17. I am considering leaving rigpa. Not because of sr abuse stories but because at a time of serious crisis in my life I was not supported. Although I spoke of this no help or guidance was offered. The dharma has been a great help. But the sangha has not.I find no warmth or community in rigpa.I have spent 14 years with them and never found any is a sangha of individuals. Feeling it was my fault I put up with the rejections for is a difficult decision but one which seems to be happening despite any effort. As if meant to be. It feels like if you don’t want to play the game you are ejected. Has anyone experienced this? Grlp

    • Thank you Girlp for sharing your experiences.

      I cannot comment on Rigpa but most Western Dharma groups are club of individuals with rather less support for each other. This seems to have to do rather with our cultural burden/developments. An exception seems to be FWBO where there is a better and healthier support and community life.

      Maybe some Rigpa people can reply to you.

      • The Devils Advocate says:

        “An exception seems to be FWBO where there is a better and healthier support and community life.”
        Yes, and a long history of older members including the founder, ,a predatory homosexual and serial abuser,, using the FWBO as a cruising ground for procuring young males for sexual abuse-very ‘friendly’
        This abuse and the promotion of homosexuality as a path to enlightenment, a path superior to heterosexual married life and celibate monasticism, continued publicly until at least the late 90s-what goes on behind closed doors is now kept quiet
        As you suggested to another recent poster-GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT-you just advised someone to leap out of the frying pan into the fire!!!!

        • The Devils Advocate says:

          Wouldnt it be better to advise people not to go to dharma communities for emotional support? After all, arent they really places for learning the Buddhas teaching and not for supporting people at such times? Of course, there are caring people there but it is a BIG mistake to ID these communities as the place to go at such times, like sending someone who wants to buy shoes to a vegetable shop. There are certainly more appropriate places, indeed, many of the centres I have visited have a spoken but unwritten rule to discourage such people (sadly) On the other hand , there are plenty of dodgy buddhist groups (like the FWBO) that welcome the opportunity to love bomb the emotionally fragile and damaged (and to abuse them too, after taking their money and judgement)

          • Lets not turn the discussion into a FWBO topic so that Girlp gets an answer according to the initial request …
            I mainly mentioned that because I wanted to make clear: leaving Rigpa based on the reasoning that there was the experience of a lack of support might not solve this problem because Girlp might not find the support she/he wishes elsewhere / or only very rarely.

            Support is a good thing. It’s you who insinuate that Girlp were looking “for emotional support”. Girlp spoke of a “serious crisis in my life”. Why not supporting a member of a community in this? Support can include to listen, to give dharma advice and if needed to recommend maybe a good therapist. This is not on contradiction to the Bodhisattva attitude.

            The tricky points are around these things (I think):
            1) What do I expect from the community, and is this realistic? Is it accordant to the Dharma?
            2) Can the group offer what I expect from them? How important is this “feature” (what I expect they should do) for me, may spiritual life?
            3) Are there other ways / placed to address my needs?

            But these are questions Girlp didn’t asked. He/she asked:

            Has anyone experienced this? Grlp

            So I hope she/he gets an answer from someone who can answer this question.

            • Geraldine p says:

              The Buddha said “he who attends the sick tend me” I think it’s from the Pali cannon. In one story he berates monks who have neglected to do this. The story is well know but I won’t go into detail. What is strange is that at a time when I was left to almost die not one person contacted me. Even though I asked for help. Since I have left Rigpa they have started to contact me to the point of stalking. I want nothing more to do with this group of people and am glad I came to my senses. I have never felt so freed up. I don’t think it’s a mistake to expect a Buddhist group to care. I would see it as a basic human trait. If that’s missing it means narcissism has taken over the group or person. As only a narcissist would be missing empathy.

              • Thank you for your thoughts.

                I can only agree with you:

                … only a narcissist would be missing empathy.

                And what appears to be beneficial to the outside or what appears as altruism can be nothing more than the disguise of the ego.

                Even altruism and love itself can be nothing more than elaborate façades built to protect and disguise the ego. – François de La Rochefoucauld (17th century)

                Though I wonder if what you experienced was a local group issue or symptomatic for the organisation … ?!

              • Just for my proper understanding: is geraldine the same woman as girlp. I would like to answer my comment, but let know yes or no.


                • Yes. You can see this because the avatar has the same pattern. This is a sign that it was the same email address but different names.

        • I knew that you would object. But what I say “An exception seems to be FWBO where there is a better and healthier support and community life.” is what even former members of FWBO said. They compared their experiences with new experiences they made in Western Tibetan Buddhist Centres and found that the cohesion and support – from a genuine, kindness perspective – was by far better in FWBO!

          While in NKT there is cohesion and a group feeling this is rather based on elite group thinking and belonging to something “better” “higher” but the cohesion is unlike in FWBO not based on a strong genuine feeling of care and kindness. That’s why while in NKT people (all in all, there might be exceptions) are left alone – when they get sick or if they are not that useful for the organisation any more (neither with their work nor money) – such members are abandoned and neglected in NKT. However, I never heard something similar from FWBO and I met, listened and discussed with FWBO former members about this.

          All former FWBO members I met said consistently that they appreciate the genuine kindness and support for each other they experienced in FWBO, and that they miss this attitude in Western Tibetan Buddhist Centres. Of course those FWBO members who also went to other groups and teachers (while still in FWBO) were looked upon a bit with an unhappy feeling but not much pressure was put on them to not to go to other teachers and groups.

          Some years ago I discussed the FWBO case with two long term former members. The result of this extensive discussion was that there are mainly three things that shed some shadow on FWBO:

          1) The transmission lineage is unclear. Shantarakshita picked up from here and there and also invented things (like the refuge tree). He picked things up from here and there and left things aside he didn’t find useful. But what authority has he to do so? How can he savely say this is a lineage with that you can attain enlightenment?
          2) Shantarakshita’s sexual exploitation of some of his students and his attitude to establish homosexuality as a higher/puerer form of sexuality than heterosexuality and the interweaving of these beliefs into his teachings are questionable. His refusal to see that the sexual abuse of some of his students harmed them also demonstrates a degree of not seeing own shadow sides.
          3) The internal claim that all what is needed to attain enlightenment can be found in FWBO and no teaching, practice or teacher outside of FWBO would be needed only FWBO were sufficient might not only be wrong (attained Shantarakshita or anybody in FWBO enlightenment due to only follow the FWBO path?) and misleading, it neglects the individuality of students and their different needs and puts an undue pressure onto them to abide only in FWBO which might finally block their path.

          More than this we could not distillate from their long term experience. Other FWBO members I asked confirmed this. All in all there were more good than bad experiences. Except such cases as these of course:

          I found also this BBC report:

          • The Devils Advocate says:

            Its Sangharakshita BTW
            Also, you speak of FWBO members who have chosen to go elsewhere-is that not the sound of an alarm bell I hear?
            The spiritual community of the FWBO is not of Buddhist origin but rather comes from the Nietzschean idea of the New Society-It was set up to replicate Nietisches ideas in a Buddhist guise AND to procure young men for sex-of course it is welcoming-so was the Hitler youth movement!And the elitism you speak of is ont uniqur to the NKT-see the concepts of Higher and Lower evolutions (of which women are members apparently) that they peddled for years. Also there are abandonment issues, especially for those whose money ran out-people have lost houses!!!
            Of course people would find it welcoming since it was set up to perform that purpose, as did the may disaffected FWBO members who left having developed varying degrees of psychosis ( not to mention the well documented suicides)
            We both have a sound knowledge of the NKT but I think my understanding of the FWBO may trump yours. All I can say is, whether you seek dharma or solace in hard times, stay well away from the FWBO (or whatever they are called this week)

            • Ha ha. Shantarakshita vs Sangharakshita.
              Thank you for the correction.

              Indeed I am not much familiar with the FWBO but I have contacts and experience with FWBO members – most often ex-members.
              That people leave a group is not necessarily a bad sign. It could indicate something … to find out more it might be good to listen and to speak with them, which I have done.

              I think this is non-sense: “procure young men for sex-of course it is welcoming-so was the Hitler youth movement!” to my knowledge the Hitler people/Nazis were strict anti-homosexual though some were homosexual personally but all in all though the Nazis promoted a body cult (as a sign of ‘Aryan superiority’) they were strictly anti-homosexual and a lot of homosexual people were put and killed in the concentration camps.

              • the Devils Advocate says:

                You midpsunderstand me-that was not my point I was saying that most cultish groups are welcoming, not that Adolf promoted gay sex!

                • the Devils Advocate says:

                  PS Of course I am familiar with several ex FWBO -there are so many of them, like ex NKT

                  • the Devils Advocate says:

                    All I do is ask myself would I send my children? Not in a million years knowing what I di would you send your children to study buddhism in an organisation widely thought of as a cult and with a proven history of sexual abuse? So why recommend it to anyone else-everybody makes mistakes Tenzin- this time it was your turn

    • Welcome here, girlp. I can understand your experience very well. To all Non-Rigpa- experienced participants here, I would like to make clear that Rigpa-Fellowship always maintain the idea of a supportive and helpful lay-Sangha, loving and caring and so on. There is even something like “Sangha-Care”, a subdivision of lay-officials, to “serve” other needs. From my experience, sorry to say, its mainly a fake.
      So the Rigpa-fellowship sales promotion uses very well in this way, the endless game of hope and fear,to attract people, who wish a feeling of community and love and mutual respect, help and friendship and so on.

      Some can find what they are looking for, others not. The main issue in a dharmic organisation, to apply Dharma to oneself might be sometimes to come off badly. The groups and centers are serving the psycho-social needs of the members, on sub-conscious way, as I felt it.

      Thats why there is much disappointment within Rigpa-Fellowship.

      Is there much difference to other buddhist-organisations?

      I don”t think so, its as anywhere where we human beings try to find a way to a better life.
      So i cannot give any advise, but I feel that I understand girlp`s situation within Rigpa a little bit.

      Please, trust yourself, there is always a way out.


      • Irmgard Christ says:

        Hallo all writers all dissapointed people in and outside of Rigpa Imagine threre is no heaven, imagine there is no religion too no hell belove us……John Lennon

        my best wishes for you all struggeling with your hurted heart or soul. Life is precious and we are our own masters male or female



        • the Devils Advocate says:

          Imagine there’s no guru abusing his female disciples while claiming pure view-it’s easy if you try

          • Imagine no abuse
            I wonder if you can
            No need for greed or exploitation
            A brotherhood of man
            Imagine all the people sharing all the world

            You, you may say
            I’m a dreamer, and this is only true
            I hope some day we’ll change our mind
            And our world will be a better one.

      • Well I have had the best laugh I’ve had for a long time reading all the posts. Most nothing to do with my comment. But it cheered me to see that this forum makes Rigpa seem like the best place to be. So I shall leave you all to argue. Thanks so much for making me laugh.grlp

        • I am really very sorry!

          But at least if you had a good laugh – better than nothing.
          (I have no familiarity with Rigpa, so I cannot say what my experiences have been …)

  18. Girlp, if you’re still listening, I would like to say to you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with expecting support and kindness from a community of people that you have been involved with for 14 years. This is simply a fact of human decency. It has nothing to do with dharma itself, except in terms of how we each view our cultivation of qualities such as loving kindness and compassion. The troubles in Western dharma centers, the troubles that afflict many Western dharma communities, have nothing to do with dharma and much to do with such problems as exist in any large corporate enterprise– or any community with a strong power differential– and there are many other possible reasons for the troubles in western dharma communities– reasons that can be addressed. Those who want to put their heads in the sand and say that we shouldn’t expect kindness and support within dharma communities might just as well say we shouldn’t expect our schools to have less bullying and we shouldn’t expect our courts to be more decent and our politicians to be more honest. Surely when we no longer give ourselves permission to expect the best from all of our community resources, when we stop working towards those goals, calling them impossible, then this is a very dangerous defeat indeed.

    • And I would go further and say that if one finds a dharma community where many people are angry, squabbling and unkind, then one has every right to question the dharma that is being taught at that dharma center.

    • Beautifully put Joanne. Thanks. Gave me faith in humanity.

    • Adamo thanks for your reply. I’ve just re-read it .very helpful.

      • The Devils Advocate says:

        Adamo hits the nail on the head
        Remember all the yogis who left the monasteries behind-Shantideva, Naropa-Longchenpa even left because the worldly behavior of the monks disgusted him
        Surely there is a message here??
        IMO, like schools you go to centres to learn If you go for other things centres become dangerous places and can feed ones desire for emotional support, security and even status and power-All of these desires weaken our wisdom and self reliance
        We study the path together We travel the path alone

        • And studies show that neither children nor adults function or learn well within fractured, unharmonious communities/schools.

          • the Devils Advocate says:

            Welcome to samsara, where the search for its perfections was deemed futile by the wise ones!

  19. And Girlp, I would like to add a quote from HH Dalai Lama, given in a teaching to a large assembly of monks and lay people a month or so ago:

    “We make prayers to help all sentient beings, whereas praying to benefit all sentient beings, if we don’t take care of the world, just disregard whatever is going on, even letting the world rot, that is not good. So while we pray to help all sentient beings, we cannot just think of beings in other worlds, while thinking bad of the beings in this world. If we don’t think carefully, we might come to a point where we think these beings are not ones I should help. So we should make contribution to the world.”

  20. There are really two issues that come up with Girlp’s comment. On one hand, there is the issue of whether or not we should “expect” others to help us during times of need, whether we should be upset or mad if they don’t. And of course, the dharma has many teachings on being responsible for oneself, on not expecting the world to go our way etc.– Shantideva’s famous lines perfectly explain this– “Where would we find enough leather to cover the world? Yet, putting leather just on the soles of our feet is equivalent to covering the world.”

    The other issue– and the crux of what Girlp is talking about, I think– is whether we should expect dharma communities to reflect the Buddha’s teachings– and whether we should work towards making our dharma communities more hospitable, kind, nurturing and supportive– more reflective of the dharma. Even if no specific scriptural sources come to mind on this topic, this does not mean that we simply turn a blind eye to troubled dharma communities. No specific scriptural source tells us what to do about trouble in our schools– yet we still work towards making them positive environments for our children to learn in.

    It seems to me that out of respect to Buddha himself, and all the great teachers who followed, we should cultivate a positive and hopeful attitude about improving conditions within dharma communities– those communities charged with bringing his precious teachings to the West– instead of simply saying there is no use.

  21. There’s a huge difference between mistakenly viewing samsara as a place where perfection can occur and optimistically working to better our world. Failing to maintain a constructive attitude because bad things happen in samsara is a grave error.

    • Yes, there is, and there is a great difference in working for the welfare of others based on ego-clinging or being free of ego-clinging.

      A lot of Westerners seem to elevate their feeling of a weak or poor self by thinking to be better because now working for the welfare of others and being a Bodhisattva – or similar to one – which is nothing else than a great delusion. The outer attitude seems to be good but inwardly its based on feelings of a low self, pride and ego-clinging …

      That’s why Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said:

      If you genuinely want to help beings, you must first perfect yourself. If you make a lot of ambitious plans, doing business, collecting disciples, and setting yourself up as a teacher, you will end up like a spider caught in its own web. Spending your life spinning such webs, you won’t notice how fast time is passing until you suddenly realize that death is at hand. You will have used all your energy and gone through all sorts of hardships, but these hardships, unlike the trials of spiritual practice, will not have helped you in the least to improve yourself. (The Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones: The Practice of View, Meditation, and Action: A Discourse Virtuous in the Beginning, Middle, and End, page 34)

    • The Devils Advocate says:

      I have a feeling that the sense of tiredness and disgust with the dissatisfactory nature of samsara that all Bodhisattvas must feel in order to achieve both their own liberation and the wish to free all beings from suffering might be more important for we beginners than generating a sense of optimism. First Hinayanam then Mahayana, If this preliminary sense of disgust is not generated then subsequent practices may feed the spiritual ego rather than undermine it
      Shantideva even advises practitioners cultivating the advanced bodhisattva practice of joyous effort, to generate a firm ‘sense of disgust For the pain of the cycle of existence. (7.3)
      Thus, even those cultivating Buddhist ‘optimism’ are advised to cultivate disenchantment and disgust

      There is a great fault in picking and choosing ideas from the scriptures to support ones views inasmuch as this can reinforce ones egotism and opinionatedness about what is right for oneself and everyone else (we have been here before) Both disgust and joy are relevant for those who follow the sutra path, for the Dzogchenpa, for instance, both are equal, for the beginner, joy is often false hope. Which of these practices should be emphasized is the decision of a qualified teacher, not random autodidacts on the internet. Remember, one mans meat is another mans poison

      • In order of the path, I agree: first a real disgust and realistic view.
        However, on a personally level, some might feel too much down, hopeless, depressed and then an optimistic outlook is very useful.

        But I think this optimistic outlook should be based on an understanding of impermanence, dependent arising, lack of inherent existence, Buddha Nature … instead of too much unrealistic hope to change the world.

        • The Devils Advocate says:

          I agree-I tend to think of Atisha and the Kadampa Geshes as the best examples of how to practice, ie in a gradual fashion, taking each stage of the path in order while always advocating that beginners start at the beginning-it didn’t do me any harm!
          Once again we come to the issue of HHs emphasis on compassion which, while very appealing to some, is actually a relatively advanced practice in the stages of the path . I lost count of the number of times I heard my teachers say that death was by the most important practice for beginners and that without it, even seemingly Buddhist meditations could be transformed into ego reinforcing poisons

        • I corrected the phrasing / English of my comment. As an addition:

          Recently a title of a Dharma talk by a Buddhist professor was discussed: “Ethics for the 21st Century: how we can change the world by cultivating mindfulness and introspection”

          I think the title hits the problem on its head.

  22. And Shantideva in Siksamuchaya Samuccaya: “Thus indeed, is the Bodhisattva, giving himself for service, having a mind humble and attentive for those who ask, having a mind to rest on as upon a carpet, with attention fixed on supporting all unhappiness like the earth, with mind devoted to unwearied service for all creatures, firm amidst the evil acts of the foolish… Endowed with the root of good, unattached, the support of all the worlds…”

  23. Sorry, the title is Siksa Samuccaya (the iPad has its own ideas)– p. 25.

    • Tiger Lily says:

      Hi Girlp,
      I left Rigpa in 1986 so am not able to give you an uptodate answer to your question. But I do go along with what Adamo said about “Rigpa Care” from what I have heard from other people. It has amazed me that those people trained in psychotherapy, who have “qualified” to be part of Rigpa Care, can sit in the audience and watch SR’s techniques to belittle his students (using at times physical assault), and do nothing. Absolutely nothing. So no wonder that when a student is in crisis, what do they do? Nothing.
      I do think strong ties of friendship/loyalty have developed between the older students who have known one another for years. But my memory of Rigpa in the 80’s was that people were generally preoccupied with their own problems and kept working so hard on organizing everything that they just didn’t have enough time to think about others or really care. I imagine that little has changed.
      I do hope you have now managed to resolve your earlier difficulties.
      I think you are probably right in concluding that one is either in Rigpa, believing and toeing the party line, or you are out. That is a generalisation ofcourse, because Rigpa is massive now and presumably Rigpa groups vary.
      I don’t know which Rigpa Sangha you are closest to, but did you know that during the Easter retreat in the UK, there was a whole agenda given to openly discussing the allegations against SR,and his sexual relationships? I don’t know anymore than just that. There seems to have been a genuine intention towards transparency. How transparent and truthful I don’t know. But this could be heralding a change of policy within Rigpa management.
      I mention this because there is just a chance that things may change in Rigpa and it may not be necessary for you to leave. Perhaps you could stay and contribute towards that seachange?
      If you would like some support from a few ex-Rigpa women who have moved on by finding teachers/sanghas they feel more comfortable with, you could email me via Tenpel who will forward it.
      We have started a small closed group by invitation only. It is open to anyone seeking a safe place to speak about their Sangha. We are now tending towards being an independent women’s rime group,
      (At present we are only women, but were originally open to men as well. It is just possible that the other members may prefer to keep it for women). We are now happy to focus on how women can influence the dissemination of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, following the publication of “Dakini Power”.
      Let me know if this interests you. Good luck.

  24. I think I am being misunderstood. An example of what I am saying is this: even though the practice of generousity will never eleminate the world’s poverty, nonetheless we should never walk past a beggar and ignore his plight. That would be a fault. This is all I am saying, nothing very complicated, a very simple idea of human kindness– and I’m not quite sure how that point of view has anything to do with an inflated ego or lack of renunciation.

    Again, I quote from HHDL: “We make prayer to help all sentient beings whereas praying to benefit all sentient beings if we really don’t take care of the world, just disregard whatever is going on, letting the world rot, that is not good….”

    This is all I am saying.

    • I could be that I misunderstood you but it could also be that you don’t understand me.
      I corrected the phrasing of my previous comment so that it is more precise.

      When you say:

      even though the practice of generousity will never eleminate the world’s poverty, nonetheless we should never walk past a beggar and ignore his plight. That would be a fault.

      I semi-disagree. To ignore his plight would be wrong. Not to give to him is not necessarily wrong because giving should be based on wisdom. If the beggar is part of a mafia system, a child being mutilated and forced to become a beggar, if you give to this child you feed a violent system too, you make this system successful and you indirectly contribute to more children being mutilated in the future. It might be better to not to give to this child but to organisations who help people to get a good education etc.

      From a Dharma point of view, the key point is the motivation, the intention, if the motivation is there to give but wisdom says it’s not useful in the long run, then not giving is no fault.

      However, using one’s understanding of a beggar being a part of a mafia system and not giving out of hate or malice miserliness would be wrong. Giving is mental intention to give, and verbal and physical actions based on it. So actual the seeing of a beggar should invite for practice, and the practice can be to give physically or to restrain to give physically … however, mentally one should give and not ignore the beggar’s fate.

      Similar, the practice can be to socially engage or not to engage … it depends.

      • The Devils Advocate says:

        Interestingly, I was once walking in the West with my teacher when we encountered an obvious heroin addict begging i thought I should not give for various reasons. He on the other hand gave immediately. I later questioned this, citing my fear that she may use the money to buy drugs. “You have to give” was his response. And he has wisdom. (Apologies to all sincere practitioners for increasing their expenses on what can already sometimes be a costly path to freedom-title for a new book about Buddhism in the West?)

        • edited reply:

          It depends. I don’t follow just the teacher’s or Joanne’s view. I have to think myself and cultivate my own wisdom. Also a teacher has his / her own training and I might not be on that level …

          Let’s investigate:
          My thoughts are
          1) one should not give alcohol and one should not give weapons because it harms the person
          why then should I give money for drugs? Drugs are harmful like weapons and alcohol.
          2) a genuine Rinpoche who lives in the West for more than 50 years said: he does not give to teen-beggars in the West because “they can work and earn their own living”

          A counter argument for giving money to a person who might use it for drugs I accept is: some persons have so much of a deep suffering that at least the consumption of drugs can temporarily reduce the suffering and it’s up to the person to decide how to use the money.

          “You have to give” sounds Christian to me. Buddhism is not about you have to do this or that physical action but about what you cultivate. Giving is mental intention per definition. So, I cannot really accept what the teacher said as a general teaching which has to be applied under all circumstances … maybe it was just a specific teaching for you personally at that time, and a certain situation?!

          Of course I know the mental state which doesn’t want to give out of miserliness. If this is dominant, I would agree: the counter means is: give, give, give away at any occasion and especially when you hesitate because you risk to feed your miserliness with “sound reasoning” and this would just be wrong and a means to cultivate your miserliness!

          BTW, before I went to India my world view was easy: I had money and gave (almost) to everybody something who asked me and if I had nothing I said it and even showed my wallet. But when I came to India, I realised this general approach doesn’t work in all situations …

          • Tenpel, you say you don’t “follow the teacher’s or just Joanne’s view”– and I am not sure what you mean by my view. The story of the beggar was just an example of how we should not put our heads in the sand regarding negative things that happen in the world, saying oh that’s just samsara– if you notice, there was a lot of that sort of very negative talk in reply to Girlp. It was generally the attitude of “don’t bother to work at improving things because samsara will never be perfect.”

            Perhaps a better example than the beggar to make my view more clear would be this example: Let’s say there’s a monk who had a very negative experience in a dharma group that was like a cult. Finally he got free from that and found a healthier path. In order to help others also get free and find a healthier path, he set up a website where dharma practitioners could find resources and share their experiences. This monk did not say, “oh, that’s just samsara, you can’t expect perfection in samsara,” he worked to make things just a little better in the world for others. In fact, he probably sacrificed hours in which he could be meditating or studying in order to do that.

            That’s all I’m talking about, that’s my view– and I don’t think you really disagree with it. There’s also a story about Atisha’s cook complaining to a lama about how he was so busy cooking that he didn’t have time to meditate. The lama replied, “Yes I too am so busy translating that I don’t have time to meditate. But as long as Atisha is alive, there is no greater practice than serving him.” So there’s many ways to practice and serve and cultivating a negative attitude about any kind of service is unproductive in my mind.

            This is not to say that there aren’t times when we should refrain from serving– but that we should always have the spirit of serving alive in our hearts.

            • Tenpel, you say you don’t “follow the teacher’s or just Joanne’s view”– and I am not sure what you mean by my view.

              This was just a way of saying: I make up my own mind with this topic and don’t follow just what someone said …

              I think it’s all about a middle way in everything: on the one hand you cannot change the world really but you can only for sue change your mind and by this you change the world; on the other hand this ‘truth’ shouldn’t justify to do nothing for others or to ignore their fate. I didn’t notice that “there was a lot of that sort of very negative talk in reply to Girlp. It was generally the attitude of ‘don’t bother to work at improving things because samsara will never be perfect.’” How does Girlp feel/think about this?

              For me it’s all about a balanced approach. It’s not correct to ignore others’ suffering, its another extreme to feel overpowered by it and to become hyperactive to change the world. It is very correct to see and to say: “this is Samsara” but if this thinking is a ‘mere labelling of things’ that serves as a means to ignore others’ fate then it’s wrong because it doesn’t help the mind to increase wisdom and compassion but this stupid labelling of things increases ignorance. For instance in the NKT (and not only there) this type of labelling “this is Karma” “this is Samsara” “this is his negative mind” “this is because he lacks faith” etc is widespread and just a means to label appearances of a complex world – which one doesn’t really understand – to get control over it, to have the feeling you understand those things and you are not helpless with respect to them. So to get ease you label these appearances as “this is this” or “that is that”. But this labelling doesn’t increase any wisdom, understanding or compassion but is a intellectual conceptualization that even disconnects you from the world … but temporarily you feel more ease when you see the appearances of this life because you (deludedly) think “Now I understand!” and this offers some ease – but this ease is based not on a real but a pseudo-understanding. Such an approach would be utterly wrong for a good practice of the Dharma – it doesn’t function. I have gone through this approach myself for years. – I lack time to go into detail but hope what I want to say is clear enough …


              Perhaps a better example than the beggar to make my view more clear would be this example: Let’s say there’s a monk who had a very negative experience in a dharma group that was like a cult. Finally he got free from that and found a healthier path. In order to help others also get free and find a healthier path, he set up a website where dharma practitioners could find resources and share their experiences. This monk did not say, “oh, that’s just samsara, you can’t expect perfection in samsara,” he worked to make things just a little better in the world for others. In fact, he probably sacrificed hours in which he could be meditating or studying in order to do that.

              As long as such a guy is not carried away by it and full of hate, fine – hopefully (ha, ha, ha)
              But such a monk shouldn’t expect too much from his activity. The people will run like moths fly into the light into the cults no matter what he does. As long as he is satisfied by having contributed to the benefit of some few and as long as he sticks to mainly work on his own mind, such an activity might be somewhat ok. (We have to see what happens in the long run with this person.)

              That’s all I’m talking about, that’s my view– and I don’t think you really disagree with it. There’s also a story about Atisha’s cook complaining to a lama about how he was so busy cooking that he didn’t have time to meditate. The lama replied, “Yes I too am so busy translating that I don’t have time to meditate. But as long as Atisha is alive, there is no greater practice than serving him.” So there’s many ways to practice and serve and cultivating a negative attitude about any kind of service is unproductive in my mind.

              My ego is surely biased with an example with respect to myself …
              With respect to the example of Atisha’s cook: serving from his own side is not meritorious it’s the attitude behind it and the qualities of the person who is being served that makes it a powerful practice or not … but I agree totally: there are many ways to practice and just to serve one’s family and doing duties is practice. (There are many cases in the Buddhist canon – mainly Theravada – where people attained higher rebirth because they were genuine honest in their daily life matters, not getting indulged in adultery, getting up early and doing their duties etc.) So I also totally agree that it is wrong to have “a negative attitude about any kind of service”. But I don’t have such an attitude. I am doing myself service in different ways. As I said my point is the “right balance” and this is an issue, everybody can only answer individually by relying on mindfulness and introspection. That’s why there is no real utter right and wrong when it comes to practice.

              This is not to say that there aren’t times when we should refrain from serving– but that we should always have the spirit of serving alive in our hearts.

              I agree.

              • And I also agree. A good place to rest the conversation.

                • BTW Girlp did mention, “this forum makes Rigpa seem like the best place to be….” This was what I was referring to– and it looked harsh and negative to me.

                  • I understand. Sorry I misunderstood you.

                    I can understand Girlp. She asked others Rigpa to share their experiences but nobody replied initially, then I and Anon showed up discussing about FWBO, someone quotes John Lennon, and Anon and I tune into this too etc.; this comes across as quite strange. Though I initially replied only that Girlp gets an answer at all (after waiting for a while) the discussion wasn’t really about what she asked for. It only changed later when some ex-Rigpas showed up and commented to her comment. Then she was also fine with it. I am really sorry that the discussion unfolded in that way and I decided to be more restrained and to topic next time. I see this as my or our fault.

                    • the Devils Advocate says:

                      I remember the days when off topic comments were met with stark warnings of deletion- you’re becoming soft in your old age buddy ( and making a lot more work for yourself)

      • John Swainson says:

        In was in Leh, Jammu Kashmir and gave a 50 Rupee note to a beggar. He looked at it and handed it back. There was a slight tear in it and a couple of staple holes. Apparently, the shops will not accept damaged notes as the banks refuse them. Even charity has its rules.

        • The Devils Advocate says:

          Can anyone lend me a few grand-will pay back next life (Its for a noble cause-honest)

          • the Devils Advocate says:

            Actually, the decision to give or not seems often to be based on too short term considerations. If we give to the heroin addict thinking ‘By virtue of this act may this person be born as one of my disciples and quickly complete the path’ is that not virtue and benefit, despite short term considerations such as whether the person can work (in a world where unemployment is at an all time high) or may spend the money on drugs ( and achieve at least short term relief from the misery of their tragic existence) ?

            • I know it’s off topic, but…. Twice, while a (Buddhist) smoker, I gave a cigarette to someone who begged me for it. I have given this much (agonizing) thought over the years and still feel it was the right thing to do (e.g. I understand how it feels to want a smoke!). The only way I could ever find to stop giving cigarettes to beggars was to simply stop smoking myself ha ha.

  25. Today in my reading I came upon advice that I have been seeking for years now. As the advice is quite relevant to this thread and to the site in general I would like to share it. (Tenzin please, if you already have this quote posted somewhere and I have missed it, then perhaps you could just delete the following and provide the link– note that there are two important sections):


    “In some cases it happens that disciples do not examine a spiritual teacher very carefully before accepting him or her as their guru and committing themselves to a guru/disciple relationship. They may even have received tantric empowerments from this teacher. But then they find they were wrong. They see many flaws in this teacher and discover many serious mistakes he or she has made. They find that this teacher does not really suit them. Their minds are uneasy regarding this person and they are filled with doubts and possibly regret. What to do in such a circumstance?

    “The mistake, of course, is that originally the disciples did not examine this teacher very carefully before committing themselves to him or her. But this is something of the past that has already happened. No one can change that. In the future, of course, they must examine any potential guru much more thoroughly. But, as for what to do now in this particular situation with this particular guru, it is not productive or helpful to continue investigating and scrutinizing him or her in terms of suspicions or doubts. Rather, as The Kalachakra Tantra recommends, it is best to keep a respectful distance. They should just forget about him or her and not have anything further to do with this person.

    “It is not healthy, of course, for disciples to deny serious ethical flaws in their guru, if they are in fact true, or his or her involvement in Buddhist power-politics, if this is the case. To do so would be a total loss of discriminating awareness. But for disciples to dwell on these points with disrespect, self-recrimination, regret or other negative attitudes is not only unnecessary, unhelpful and unproductive, it is also improper. They distance themselves even further from achieving a peaceful state of mind and may seriously jeopardize their future spiritual progress. I think it best in this circumstance just to forget about this teacher.


    “It may also occur that disciples have taken tantric empowerments prematurely, thinking that since tantra is famous as being so high, it must be beneficial to take this initiation. They feel they are ready for this step and take the empowerment, thereby committing themselves to the master conferring it as now being their tantric guru. Moreover, they commit themselves as well to various sets of vows and a daily recitation meditation practice. Then later these disciples realize that this style of practice does not suit them at all, and again they are filled with doubts, regrets, and possibly fear. Again, what to do?

    “We can understand this with an analogy. Suppose, for instance, we go to a store, see some useful but exotic item that strikes our fancy and just buy it on impulse, even though it is costly. When we bring it home, we find, after examining the item more soberly now that we are out of the exciting, seductive atmosphere of the marketplace, that we have no particular use for it at the moment. In such situation, it is best not to throw the thing out in the garbage, but rather to put it aside. Later we might find it, in fact, very useful.

    “The same conclusion applies to the commitments disciples have taken prematurely at a tantric empowerment without sufficient examination to determine if they were ready for them. In such situations, rather than deciding that they are never going to use it at all and throwing the whole thing away, such disciples would do better to establish a neutral attitude toward it, putting tantra and their commitments aside and leaving it like that. This is because they may come back to them later and find them very precious and useful.

    “Suppose, however, disciples have taken an empowerment and have accepted the commitment to practice the meditations of a particular Buddha-form by reciting a sadhana, a method of actualization, to guide them through a complex sequence of visualization and mantra repetition. Although they still have faith in tantra, they find that their recitation commitment is too long and it has become a great burden and strain to maintain it as a daily practice. What to do then? Such disciples should abbreviate their practice. This is very different from the previous case in which certain disciples find that tantric practice in general does not suit them at the present stage of their spiritual life. Everyone has time each day to eat and to sleep. Likewise, no matter how busy they are, no matter how many family and business responsibilities they may have, such disciples can at least find a few minutes to maintain the daily continuity of generating themselves in their imagination in the aspect of a Buddha-form and reciting the appropriate mantra. They must make some effort. Disciples can never progress anywhere on the spiritual path if they do not make at least a minimal amount of effort.” (The Gelug/Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra; pp 209-211)

  26. Tiger lily thanks for your reply and invite. But at this moment in time I have taken a step back from everything. No practice or study. I have stripped everything back to just sitting and lighting a candle and learning to be with myself in a simple way. I have found this to be very beneficial and what was needed. I wonder if perhaps we underestimate our own wisdom thinking it is only our ego.

    • Tiger Lily says:

      Good for you, Girlp! I very much agree with you that we do underestimate our own wisdom, and doing the wrong kind of practices supposedly to realize Wisdom Mind, only takes us further from trusting our intuition. There seems to be a kind of “craze” for Tibetan Vajrayana practices and Tibetan Rinpoches and running Dharma Centres. Is that a phase of the pathless path, I wonder, we go through until we find the perfect simplicity of just Being?… a candle and being oneself in a simple way…..Going about one’s day, letting it be just as it is. If one has chosen to do a practice or practice study, just doing it for as long as it takes to do it and then letting go of fascination with it.
      I absolutely believe that we are guided from within. Unfortunately Rigpa is a place where I doubt you are able to live like that with all the emphasis being on having to follow the outer “guru”. One Sogyal Rinpoche and his cohort group of Lamas.

    • Yes, indeed, Girlp, I really admire your approach. For about a year, I also simply lit a candle each morning and sat and prayed a very simple prayer for a good and decent path to show itself. However, it took me years to gain your understanding about the importance of self-confidence. Shantideva talks beautifully about this– about the difference between egoistic, selfish pride and the strong self-confidence necessary to progress on the Buddhist path. I think it is impossible to understand this in an environment where people are denigrated on a regular basis.

      So good for you and I wish you all the best– if you change your mind and want to join up with our little group, that would be fine. We actually don’t talk much or ever debate. We simply share experiences and quotes when we feel like it and give each other support and otherwise most of us are just busy with our own healing, lives and spiritual journeys. Some say very little.

      • am so pleased someone has progressed , you have found your own group & getting along
        wish i could find similar here in cape town …but am just alone now with amybe once ayr to a sort of rime type group – chamtrul rinpoche ….

        • Chamtrul Rinpoche – excellent. I only heard good things about him.

          • thank-you so much – no ,it was someone in a class who hurt me & i thought maybe the lama should have stopped the psycho-abuse in my mouth …..that was what occured about 2 yrs ago…he is nice like you say… can have classes where the bullies are fully prevented i was hoping …

      • Thanks for your feedback. Much appreciated. Healing and time is needed before I join any group. But good to know other support is there.

      • Geraldine p says:

        It is now a year since I posted a few comments here. At the time I was struggling with leaving Rigpa etc. I appreciated everyone’s feedback. A year on I am in a much better space. The freedom of mind that has come from stepping away from Rigpa is good. I did not realise how much the organisation had affected me, I am no worse a person. I don’t miss it at all. I’m also better off now as not having to give vast amounts of money away for courses an visiting lamas.

        • Hi Geraldine.

          Good to hear you have managed your opt out from R. with an soft landing.

          From my point of view: I still wake up and feel happy I could manage to get out of it, without giving up the Dharma.

  27. Greetings everyone!

    I am so happy to have found this post and the comments to it. A couple of years ago I left Rigpa after 16 years in the organisation. I was an instructor and for a period of time the national director in Denmark.
    The holders in Denmark were informed about the Canadian documentary about to come out back then and the “offer” from senior students close to SR to come to each country and “help” us formulate answers to students’ questions that this documentary would probably give rise to.
    Luckily the people holding the danish sangha were intelligent people who were able to see through this. So we got hold of the documentary and watched it together. I also went online and was choked to read about all these allegations of abuse. A senior student very close to SR for decades then also told me about first hand witnessed abuse of numeous young women and other appaling behaviour I almost couldn’t believe (but he is a very trustworthy person).

    After watching the documentary it was clear to me that there was only one right thing to do…and that was to leave! This was clearly not an authentic teacher, not even a decent human being. He was not able to lead a decent life and avoid hurting other human beings. How on Earth could he think he would be able to guide others?!
    Unfortunately none of the other holders felt the same way and in a flash of a moment I lost not only my teacher, but also my sangha, friends and my practice.
    The sorrow and chok was too painful for me to be able to just find another teacher. SR destroyed my faith and trust in teachers and in the whole guru system. I believe it involves too much temptation for the teacher to abuse his position.
    So since then I have not been able to find a way to move forward with my practice or study.

    I wanted to tell somebody about what is actually going on in Rigpa, what this so called “teacher” is doing, how he is abusing precious human beings who open their hearts and give him their devotion and trust, a man who is also abusing the precious dharma and creating so much suffering for so many people, but is able to wrap it in nice pink paper and fool even the most intelligent people.
    I thought HHDL would want to know and might be able to do something about it. But was told from several people that he already is aware of this and that this is the reason why for some years he did not accept invitations from Rigpa. But he did visit Rigpa again and has not done anything about the situation as far as I am aware, not even warning people who are in Rigpa or considering taking on SR as their teacher.

    Initially after leaving I felt a big responsibility for the students in our sangha. That I should inform them and protect them. But again I was sure nobody would want to listen to me. The indoctrination and manipulation in Rigpa is just too overpowering for people to see through. So I did nothing and felt really ashamed about it and very helpless.

    Regarding breaching your samaya I say: if there is no genuine teacher, there can be no genuine bond, no samaya, so nothing to breach, because nothing was there in the first place. It was all one big illusion!

    I am wondering if there are other former Rigpa instructors or students who are struggling moving on from this spiritually? If you are also finding it difficult to continue your studies and practices on your own? And if any of your have found ways of doing it so to speak? How do you keep a daily practice? And how do you move forward on the path without a teacher? I do have plenty of practices I could probably spend the rest of my life doing and it would be more than enough. But being without a sangha as well as without a teacher is very difficult.

    • Thank you very much for your honest, straight forward and heart touching comment.

      There are former Rigpa members and there is also a former Rigpa instructor with whom I had contact. There was also a group of ex-Rigpa helping each other. Currently I am on retreat in Italy and I am online only partially if at all (the first part of the retreat is over today). When I am back in Berlin I could bring you in contact with another former instructor and ex-members who are willing to help.

      I think it would be good to set up a network of ex-Rigpa who help each other as we have it with the NKT. I am back in Berlin on 23rd August if you don’t hear anything from me until 31st August please contact me by email or here in the comment section again. I hope you get some replies from ex-Rigpa here.

      The damage of faith being abused is really devastating. The deep damage it brings is rarely understood by others whose faith has not been abused. I wish you deep healing and very good spiritual friends so that you can continue with your spiritual path.

      • Thank you very much for your reply, Tenpel. It would be great when you come back if you could find the time to get me in touch with people in a similar situation. I would really appreciate that.

        I agree that the damage is much greater than most people realise. Again thank you for your kindness. I wish you a wonderful retreat :-)

      • suzanne o'meara says:


    • dharmaanarchist says:

      Hello Malene,

      I have long term experience with Rigpa too, though I have always had other dharma connections besides it and I have never given myself singularily into it because I always found the “system rigpa” a bit offputting in how rigid and narrow minded it was.

      First of all, when it comes to religion, the buddha was the only founder of a religion who encouraged his followers to use their own intelligence, to think critically. That’s what made me decide for buddhism and against the theistic revelation based religions. In fact, if you are not able to think critically, to question things, I doubt that you will be able to realize emptiness nature. Why? Because you have to question all your samsaric beliefs, attitudes to be able to not fall prey to them. And in the end you will have to question your beliefs in reality itself. Without critical discernment no enlightenment. That’s why Manjushri, enlightened wisdom, is one of the three bodhisattva principles and he is depicted wielding a sword. To expose and cut through delusional thinking. What cuts through delusional thinking? Insight. Wisdom. The basic intelligence of the mind.

      So you need wisdom, compassion and strength to progress on a spiritual path, and you need them in equal quantities.

      Now about the Rigpa issue. You are not a victim or a first hand witness of what was/is going on. Your information, just as mine unfortunately is based solely on hearsay. Now of course there is more credible hearsay and less credible hearsay, but it still is hearsay (unless for example the acitivities of the Dholgyal cult members, that are plain to see for everyone). And interpreting the hearsay is very much up to every individual recipient of it.
      Now the rumours and accusations are solid enough to make your decision a valid one. But still, people like you and me can not base our decisions concerning SR on some definitive knowledge of what was going on. It’s highly likely, that SR is handling his relationship life in a way that not all women come out of it emotionally well, but I am also quite certain that this is shamelessly exploited by some people who have some personal grudge against him and jumped on the bandwagon with accusations. Can I say I know anything for certain? Nope. And since I can not say for certain I can not pass judgement. I can only guestimate what I think the truth may be and make a decision for myself to the best of my knowledge.
      A high lama gave me some very interesting advice once. He said “It’s not necessary to always have an opinion”. Thinking about it I find it really valuable, because indeed having strong opinions, particularly if you don’t really know, closes down the mind. First you were thinking “oooh, Rigpa is sooo great, I want it”. Now you are thinking “oooh, I am sooo disappointed, it’s disgusting, I was cheated, I hate it”. You see? Those are two equally extreme opinions, and both don’t do you any good equally. They are what the dharma warns about: Hope and fear. Grasping and aversion.

      By all means, get disentangled from something that you find morally questionable. But then drop those strong opinions. Partularly if you don’t know for sure what exactly was going on. They don’t do you any good.

      What I suggest, take a step back and try to untangle the dharma from your personal expectations and disappointed expectations.

      If you have a developed a problem with the guru principle, try to untangle your less than enlightened opinions and expectations into a guru from what the vajrayana teaches that it means. Because if you have now developed a problem with the guru principle, you very likely had wrong ideas about it before. (remember: In vajrayana, a guru is not a Jesus like saviour figure that you give give your responsibility for your spiritual life up to!)

      See this as what it is, a chance to get a healthier approach to dharma than you had before. Because, you know, that instructors system in Rigpa is a fairly limited, unenlightened thing. Frankly, I have never had much respect for it, I have seen enough neurosis going on in those circles of Rigpa. Don’t throw dharma away because some rather limited, worldly expectations into a tiny aspect of it were disappointed. You were on the spiritual honeymoon with dharma, and that is over now, that’s all. Now you can either divorce immediately, or put your relationship with it, with religion, on a more healthy basis.

      And there are plenty of lamas out there that live in a morally impeccable way. Both lay and ordained. For example if you want to stay in the same lineage, with similar practice you might want to enquire for lama disciples of Dilgo Khyentse or Nyoshul Khenpo and the like.

      You find a lot of teachings of Khandro Rinpoche and Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche on youtube, two teachers who encourage disciples to think for themselves and to apply dharma with intelligence.

      Of you might like Garchen Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche or Mingyur Rinpoche

      Those are all teachers who I have never heard any negative rumours about, some of them are impeccable monks/nuns. You would definitely be on the safe side if you follow their teachings. And, there is no need to rush into a vajrayana guru-disciple relationship with a teacher. After all, the buddha encouraged the disciples to test the teacher and the teachings like a goldsmith tests gold he plans to buy.

      And if you currently have problems trusting a human vajrayana teacher but still don’t want to give up your practice, you can always fall back on Guru Rinpoche, the founder of the lineage and directly pray to him instead of a living human masters, until you may find another living teacher you find you can trust. Your practice doesn’t have to be based on the person of Sogyal Rinpoche. It will work if you pray to Guru Rinpoche directly. Or you visualize HH Dalai Lama, he is a disciple of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, too, and part of the Nyingma lineage.

      But first of all, you have to trust yourself. That is even more important than trusting a teacher. If you don’t trust yourself, no amount of trust in a teacher can pull you out of samsara. A teacher will not be your saviour, you have to be your own saviour. Heal the trust in yourself, in your ability and dignity first. If you don’t have that and get involved in vayrajana, it will not work.

    • Dear Malene

      I found myself in a similar situation as you do. Its quite a lot one gives up, when leaving all companions back.

      For me it was more like loosening a big burden, since I never was so happy within Rigpa, but for a long time had I accepted and tolerated almost everything for the Dharma.

      But then, after leaving Rigpa, I feel its very hard to keep a good motivation alive to maintain the Buddhas Teachings within myself.

      I visited some other Tibetan teachers, learning many astonishing facts and making interesting experiences.

      Happily, I am part of small group of people, who try to recollect our experiences with Rigpa, in order to make tem available to others. This helps a lot.

      I realized soon after how important it is to be straight with myself, to accept my responsibiltiy for what is my own stuff, like for example my projections on a teacher and so on, and how important it was to have something like a family and friends and a “Dharmacareer” and so on.

      Actually I can say to be very critical with tibetan teachers and western lay practioners, probably what I was not critical enough before.

      But still I can keep all my understanding of Dharma alive and can nurture it, this most important to me, not to give up because of such an awful experience.

      And in general, I think, it would be helpful to exchange with others in a similar situation, and maintain basic practice as if nothing ever happened.

      What do you think? Would it help to exchange with other Ex-Rigpas?

      • Dear Adamo,
        Thank you for your reply. It sounds great to have a group of ex- Rigpas to talk to once in a while. Which country are you in? We are not enough people here to do that. But it could even be online, if some people from other countries would be interested in talking/emailing/chatting once in a while.
        If you know of anybody who might be open to it, please contact me. Maybe tenpel can give you my email address.
        Best wishes, Malene

        To the person calling himself dharmaanarchist:
        I spent several years checking him out in various ways before I accepted him as a teacher so I was in no way being naive about it. And I never saw him as my saviour as you suggested LOL It seems you are drawing a lot of conclusions about me without having the sligthest bit of knowledge of who I am.
        Also it was not all hearsay. One of the times he visited Denmark I was in charge of many of the arrangements: stage, green room, hotel room, places to have dinner etc. And he was extremely fussy and demanding regarding the stuff we had to provide for him during his stay! He continually called us up to his room and sent us on various tasks and during these occations I would sometimes see him walk around naked with just a towel wrapped around him and one of the two young girls, who were travelling with him, were in his bedroom – which was very small.

        I have to add, that I don’t really appreciate the tone in your post, dharmaanarchist. I was sharing something personal and painfull and your way of responding comes across as an attack on me and it seems you feel you are qualified to educate me about the dharma. I have still lots to learn but was not asking for a “teaching” here.

        • Dear Malene

          In case Tenpel gives me your E-mail adresse, I would write to what I think how to exchange.
          Premise: To let everybody reading here to participate as before, except for mor personal things not relevant here, or to find a way to bring more ex-rigpas together.

          Or Tenpel gives you my adress ( its the adress of my fiancee).

          Hope to hear from you


          • Thank you Adamo. This comment went into the spam queue. Just found it now because another user sent four comments that didn’t show up. This has never happend before. Maybe WordPress has now stricter rules … Anybody facing similar problems please contact me!

            I just sent you both an email bringing you in contact. Both of you agreed to share your email address. May it be fruitful and a great support for each other!

        • dharmaanarchist says:

          Well, if the only dharma you have ever met was the one in Rigpa, maybe, if you are still interested in Tibetan buddhism, some education in it outside of Rigpa doesn’t hurt.

          Because the teacher-student relationship that is transmitted there by the instructors and that is practiced as a “group-thinking” is in a lot of cases not a healthy one.

          But of course, if you don’t need any further education about it anyway, continue judging Tibetan buddhism by what you learned about it in Rigpa…..

          The fussy and demanding by the way can indeed be a valid teaching method of a vajrayana guru to a personal student. I just recently watched a video on youtube where ven. Mattieu Ricard was describing that Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche did that with him for a while. The public undress is not unheard of in some of the more legendary Tibetan teachers.
          The problem with Sogyal Rinpoche, or any teacher, is not necessarily that he displays this type of behaviour. The problem is, you don’t have the means to verify what is going on. Is that valid personal teaching and a person who has left behind concepts? Or is it an annoying person chasing aroung people who has no sense of dressing decently (you might find it disgusting that he is running around in a towel (for example after taking a shower) when at home, but that in itself not yet a proof that sexual abuse is going on right there and then)

          And what complicates it, SR is, besides his relationship behaviour, indeed qualified as a teacher of vajrayana and dzogchen. (yes, so called high lamas can be qualified teachers and at the same time behave less than enlightened in some aspects of their lives, see also the embarrassing political squabble around the two Karmapas)

          With Sogyal Rinpoche, there is simply no way of checking him out before you engage. Because everything except the reports of the women is within the norm of possible behaviour of a valid vajrayana teacher and you hardly have a chance to get up close and pesonal for long enough for an really informed own opinion.

          • Well, again you are making asumptions about me. That the only Dharma I have met was the Rigpa version. It is not. I have studied with two other teachers in the past as well, one of them was Tarab Tulku, who unfortunately passed away some years back.

            But I am wondering why you are defending Sogyal so much? And how you can call him a qualified teacher? Or anyone who behaves in a way which is harmfull to others? It seems very basic. If you can’t help, at least don’t harm.
            And it doesn’t take much empathy or intelligence to see that you are hurting other human beings by taking advantage of them sexually. So he must be aware of this and yet continues to do it. Ergo he puts his own needs first even when it means harming and inflicting suffering on others….his own students even!
            In my view there is no way a person can be enlightended in some areas and completely ignorant and primitive in other areas of his life. Yes, he might know the words of the Dharma, but if he doesn’t live by them, it is like a doctor who tells you that smoking is bad, while smoking himself and blowing the smoke in your face.
            And I am really fed up with the same old arguments stating that this is crazy wisdom or the like. That we are not able to comprehend it due to our limited understanding. This is just a tactic to get away with appauling behaviour.
            Yes, I am of limited understanding, but this is not rocket science. It is very simple. Behave in a way that is in accordance with what you teach. If you can’t even do this, then what comes out of your mouth is not trustworthy.
            If you believe these arguments about crazy wisdom you are acting like the crowd in H. C. Andersen’s story: The Emperor’s new clothes. They all marvelled at his outfit, when in fact he was naked. Only the child had the courage to speak the thruth.

            • Irmgard Christ says:

              HALLO you? Good to read your statement! Iagree with you, Thought the same thoughts? , The day before yesterday ithrew a lot of sciptures and old magazines of Rigpa away! It made me sad and the same time clear and free! I see there are a lot of good things i had to throw away to free my mind ! So i reset something and start again with what i do not know, but i feel good and courages! So! What say Dalai Lama to this cases of sexual abuse of buddhist leader especially Lamas, who should control their desires and behabiours and egoistic interests?! Not only the cathalic church has big problemes by misusing their power and abusing childrens and devoted people!

              I f you have comments of the buddhist teachers to this subject i would be happy to get informations! Thanks Inga

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