A paper on Sogyal Rinpoche’s abuse, its effect on students, and the future of Buddhism in the West for the 16th Sakyadhita Conference in 2019

By Joanne Clark

In early November, a group of 134 students signed a letter to forty Tibetan Buddhist lamas, asking for their opinions regarding the abusive behaviours recently disclosed by ex-Rigpa students. A month later, we have received only two responses.¹ We also wrote to HH Dalai Lama and the Kalon of Religion and Culture (of the Tibetan government in exile), asking that they bring this matter up at a planned meeting with Tibetan Buddhist leaders. This meeting has been cancelled.

As doors close, sometimes that just means that other doors are opening. It looks to me as if this is a moment when Western Buddhists have to take charge of their own destiny. It’s time to stop waiting for Tibetan culture to become Western culture, time to recognize that the Dharma itself is adaptable to every culture. H.H. the Dalai Lama has been pointing in that direction for decades. And recently, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo wrote a brilliant piece of advice about the responsibilities of both lama and student in the Vajrayana. Western leaders are emerging.

And now, another opportunity has come. Damcho Dyson and Tahlia Newland have been invited to present a paper at a conference with the Sakyadhita Association of Buddhist Women in June, 2019. Here is what Tahlia has to say about this:

We’ve been invited to speak at the Sakyadhita International Association’s 16th International Conference (23-28 June 2019) in the Blue Mountains near Sydney on Sogyal Rinpoche’s abuse, its effect on students, and on the future of Buddhism in the West.

Our paper has been selected as one of only 20 papers to be presented on the theme of New Horizons in Buddhism, so this is a great honour and opportunity to raise awareness of the issue of abuse in Buddhism in this large international community set up by Jetsun Tenzin Palmo.

We feel that participating in this conference will be a healing experience and that beneficial and productive discussions / ideas for ways forward might also come out of it. We’ll be extremely grateful for any assistance you can provide. In return for your support, we’ll share our conference experience with you through words, images and video.

Damcho Dyson (left) and Tahlia Newland (right)

If you want to support Tahlia and Damcho in this effort, there is a Go Fund me drive for that purpose. The cost of the conference for them both is AUD $2306. So far, we have raised enough for Damcho’s costs, which is very heartening in light of the many years that she devoted to caring for Sogyal Lakar’s mother.

There are many levels of symbolism, hope and inspiration when Buddhist women take lead roles. Damcho and Tahlia plan to keep those who donate involved in the conference by sharing daily updates. I do believe that this is an important door opening.

¹ Dagpo Rinpoche Replies to Our Letter and Ato Rinpoche Replies