Response to Sogyal Lakar (Sogyal Rinpoche)

Typewriter

Sogyal Lakar,

Thank you for your response to our letter of July 14. We have since met and are of one mind in what follows.

We are encouraged by your willingness to engage in a dialogue with us and that you are taking very seriously the harm your actions have caused. We agree with you that you should seek advice and guidance from the masters who have a genuine care and concern for R, such as DKR and MR. We too have confidence in a number of well respected lamas, whose support and concern have been extended to us.

We are confused that you did not mention that you will seek advice from HHDL, your eldest and senior most teacher. You have always spoken of him with such deep devotion. Certainly at this critical moment his guidance would be precious. Will you seek counsel from His Holiness the Dalai Lama?

As you know, it was out of deep concern for our companions on the path, and the Buddha Dharma in general, that we felt compelled to write to you. Over the last two decades many close students have voiced their concerns to you about your behavior, but their efforts have been to no avail.In your response to us, you wrote, “… it was never, ever, my intention to hurt you or any other person, and if this is how it appears, then I am deeply shocked.” We did not question your motivation, nor did we write about the “appearance” of harm. What we said is that we clearly observe your actions and the consequences. You also repeatedly mentioned the manner in which your actions have been “perceived.” Again, the critical issue here is not about our and others’ perception; it is about how your actions have caused actual harm to many people.

The few examples in our first letter provided a small glimpse behind your public persona and represent just a fraction of the harm caused. You have not, in your response to us, nor has anyone within Rigpa, denied that you have done the things that we asserted.

While we have brought to light your actions, in accordance with HHs’ advice, we also want to say that we do not deny that you have benefited us and many other students with your teachings, and that you are a very skilled communicator. Still, at the same time, you have created very deep pain for many students. Knowing what we know, we could not remain silent any longer or else we would be complicit in any future harm you cause.

You said in your letter that we should all keep in mind “the greater vision” of Rigpas work and that Buddha Dharma should not be affected negatively. We could not agree more. If anything we said in our first letter, or this communication, is untrue, then, being one of the most prominent Tibetan Buddhist lamas in the world, you are obliged to clearly and compellingly refute our assertions. If you do not refute them, are you not risking the Buddha Dharma being harmed? If, however, our assertions are true, they must be acknowledged and fundamental corrections of behavior must be made.

Or, there is another way. You could say to the entire Sangha, “This is who I am and how I act. I can use violence how I want. I can coerce students to have sex. I will have sex with any young woman I meet, even your daughters who you proudly offer to me in service. I can live and act as I wish. You make the choice if you want to study with me or not.” We consulted with a number of Chogyam Trungpa students and it seems he was 100% out in the open with his less than conventional behavior; students could then make their own choice after knowing this behavior.

We have been heartened in recent days by the support from and discussion with senior Dharma teachers around the world, including Tibetan lamas. We will continue to follow their counsel in our communication with you and in our actions. We are following the advice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in bringing the behavior of our teacher into the light of day. We harbor no ill-will toward you. And, we want to be clear; we do not feel that we have broken samaya, trust, or our heart connection with you and others. We are clear that it is your actions towards us that have broken that trust. In your response to us, we had hoped that you would take responsibility and begin to try to repair this. However, instead of moving towards repairing, you ask for forgiveness for our misunderstanding, not for your actions. What kind of forgiveness is this?

We have not made public your response to us, or any of our communication with other Tibetan Buddhist lamas, or senior Western Dharma teachers. We have also received many requests for media interviews and we have not spoken to anyone yet. We have considered this an internal matter from the outset and because of the gravity of the situation, we hope that you will act with a sense of urgency in the coming days and either explain to everybody how your behavior, that we elucidated in the first letter, is acceptable, or else immediately refrain from such harmful actions.

The letter that was sent to you a few days ago by a group of Australian Ngöndro and Dzogchen mandala students offered specific suggestions to you, and a way forward for the R leadership and Sangha. We support their suggestions completely.

We look forward to hearing from you.

In the Dharma

-0-

If you have any thoughts to share, let us know in the comments. Please use initials rather than full names when referring to teachers and organizations.


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39 thoughts on “Response to Sogyal Lakar (Sogyal Rinpoche)

    1. I understand, Susanne. I’m so sorry your sister couldn’t stop. It’s not easy to deal with addiction. Some people are able to do so with support, but not everyone.

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      1. My sister stopped till today. But asking whouldn’t have helped. What I want to say:
        Additcion is what may be with SL, in this case it’s diffrent to handle.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow, what a clear, measured and precise response! I applaud you for keeping the focus on the harmful actions that have occurred and what should be an appropriate response from SL and R, rather than being distracted by superfluous issues (as seems to be their standard way of addressing concerns/issues).

    I am waiting and watching carefully to see how SL and R respond to this and whether REAL change will actually occur. If not, I will be leaving R. I believe that I am not alone in this position and that there are a lot of students in the same situation who are watching their response and actions very closely. This will not simply ‘go away’ or ‘be easily managed’ (as they probably hope) and things absolutely cannot continue the way that they were.

    I have been one of those students with concerns about SL for quite a while. While I do not doubt his realisation and the true nature of the teachings, I have never felt that his methods were compassionate and without ego. In fact, I feel that his poor behaviour has become more transparent over the years as it escalated and went unchecked. I truly hope that he is able to see the problem with his conduct and that R will change the structure so that these things can never happen again. My connection (and I am sure many other’s connections) with them depends on it…

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    1. Thank you, Watch and Waiting. On the positive side, there is a first-round listening process happening at the Rigpa Centers and in the Rigpa Groups in the U. S. Each person is allowed to say whatever they wish without interruption. That seems like a good start for healing and resolution. Let’s see how it unfolds.

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    2. You could have prevented this! If you saw signs you should have called the authorities. What is wrong with all of you? You let a mad man become a criminal! You are lucky he didn’t kill someone

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  2. Dear People, this unfolding simultaneously saddened and brought light to those who have been, and currently are in connection with SLR. The revelations have taken great courage to share. May all the issues be responded to with courageous honesty and clarity. May you all go forward in the future embraced by the heart of your practice and remaining within the profundity of compassion that has so far served well. May this current passage of time bring learning and transformation to all those who have collectively gathered via social media. May you all be held in the heart of concerned practitioners throughout the world and find good resolutions to the issues. ‘To err is human, to forgive Divine’ and may all your worthy practices remain steadfast.

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  3. I think from S’s actions stated by his students, it is sensible to conclude that S does not have a high level of realisation and he does not understand Dzogchen or the teachings of Guru Rinpoche. His actions are contrary to the basic principle of boddhichitta. Does he believe in something as simple as karma? I think it is best for S to give up being a vajrayana teacher for the rest of his life and atone for his sins through self-reflection and humble service to others, such as cleaning the toilets in sacred sites like Bodhgaya (much needed). One can find certain accomplished masters in history like Tilopa, who may have used occasional violence or harsh attitudes as a means to awaken the students who are ready. But these masters are mahasiddhas and they do it out of the sole wish to awaken the student, and not for any personal gain, clearly contrary to what S has been doing. And these great siddhas are able to repair any damage to the students just by their spiritual faculties. Has S demonstrated such quality? Not that I know of. As HHDL stated, when facing abuse, the best solution is to criticise openly. This is the only way to prevent unwitting future students from meeting such tragedy. There are over 233,000 likes on S’s FB site. These allegations should be publicised widely so that more people can be protected. Thank you for the honest and very courageous step that all of you took. May all be healed.

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    1. Thank you, Pema. People who were present saw and heard what occurred differently, so we need to take that into account as well.

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  4. You say that it’s not matter of perception, yet at least in one instance that is reported in the Letter to SL,, the fact ( gut punching a nun) has been perceived in a certain way by the nun involved and she replied at lenght on the meaning of that fact.

    “Hello this is Chökyi, I have been away from the internet for a while and discovering this now, since you have been writing about me without asking my opinion, I want to respond to this directly.
    The interaction between my teacher and myself has been widely referred to and shared on social media in an attempt to prove non-ethical behavior of my teacher Sogyal Rinpoche. It is very obvious that the whole incident is taken out of a greater context and was closely connected to many other circumstances which are not brought into the picture and therefore the incident brought to discussion has a very limited view of what really happened that day.
    I am a student of Sogyal Rinpoche, who is a master of Tibetan Buddhism, which is the path of Vajrayana and I have agreed to the skillful means of my master to purify and transform my delusions into clarity and uproot my attachments. Sometimes these means can be wrathful and not always a pleasant experience, but that is what I need to be able to see through all the layers of ignorance that keep me blinded and stuck.
    Recently I had an operation where I had my wisdom teeth removed, that was a very lengthy process and rather painful and full of complication. I agreed to the operation even I knew it would be a painful experience and not without risk, but finally the result was pretty good. My experience from life is that it is difficult to have good result without any effort, struggle, pain or difficulties. Flowers and peace do not automatically fall down from the sky.
    Rinpoche’s teachings during the August retreat last summer were rather amazing, loving beyond any ordinary description, I think we can find quite many witnesses to verify that, as there were approximately 1000 people present.
    Did anybody mentioned the very long and loving hug Rinpoche gave me in front of these 1000 people on the 15th of August or was that forgotten in the mist of trying to prove abuse and did anybody mention how many people actually felt the unconditioned love flowing from Rinpoche to all of us when he hugged me. Quite a number of people approached me afterwards with warm hearts and deeply touched.
    The day of the incident, the 25th of August, there was a smaller mishap, but Rinpoche was definitely not in a fit rage, there was just a single moment of wrath, which manifested in a soft punch, but it was neither violent or abusive, at least not to my feelings. Even though I was in tears and crying afterward and the situation easily could have appeared and seen as me being punched very hard, the fact is that I cried because of a complete different reason, which had nothing to do with the actual situation. The incident just sparked open an inflammation of a mental wound I was in the middle of experiencing.
    I think it is very important not to make any statements on abuse, violence, cult and so forth from anonymous tellers or anonymous witnesses on my experience or Sogyal Rinpoche’s behavior by pulling incidents out of their context. I am witness number one and the only one who truly know what happen with me that day.
    Much Love Ane Chökyi”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Pema. People who were present saw and heard what occurred differently, so we need to take that into account as well.

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    2. A. Chokyi- that is disguisting. She could have prevented so much harm by simply doing the right thing and contacting the authorities. All this Rigpa center sangha- are you all on drugs? Why would you let this hope ? Have you no respect? You need to do something about all of this. Your teacher is not a Buddhist. He is the antithesis of a Buddhist he needs to go to jail.

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    1. I’m sorry but it seems really inappropriate to undermine and in effect totally disregard Ane Chökyi’s experience, which is exactly what is being done here by labeling it “trauma bonding”. It is an attempt to implicitly invalidate her experience by pathologizing it.

      In doing so it is not only patronizing to Ane Chökyi, as it discredits her perception and judgment, but it infantilizes her as it suggests that you know her state better than she and knows what is best for her better than she.

      Are you a licensed psychologist? If not how is it appropriate for you to trot this stuff about? If you were it would be double inappropriate to do so from afar.

      Furthermore, like it or not, psychiatry pathologies many aspects of non-Western cultures and spirituality, which are predicated on particular notions of mind, sanity and wellbeing that Buddhism fundamentally rejects.

      My point is that there is a fine line between appropriate inquiry, legal or within the Sangha, and hysteria predicated on Western supremacy, cultural colonialism, and outright adharma.

      In short, please show more respect for Ane Chökyi, both as a human being and as a nun.

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      1. Thanks for saying this, and of course you have very good points, Consider This. I know from my own experience that when Rinpoche hits you, it hurts. He’s very strong. Separate from the accounts of people who were present and Ane Chokyi’s description, more than a year after the event, is the fact that what took place also impacted many others who were present.

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  5. Victims and Survivors of Psychopaths

    from victim to survivor
    Traumatic Bonding

    Traumatic bonding is “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” (Dutton & Painter, 1981). Several conditions have been identified that must be present for a traumatic bond to occur.

    –(1). There must be an imbalance of power, with one person more in control of key aspects of the relationship, such as setting themselves up as the “authority” through such things as controlling the finances, or making most of the relationship decisions, or using threats and intimidations, so the relationship has become lopsided.

    –(2). The abusive behavior is sporadic in nature. It is characterized by intermittent reinforcement, which means there is the alternating of highly intense positives (such as intense kindness or affection) and the negatives of the abusive behavior.

    –(3). The victim engages in denial of the abuse for emotional self- protection. In severe abuse (this can be psychological or physical), one form of psychological protection strategy is dissociation, where the victim experiences the abuse as if it is not happening to them, but as if they are outside their body watching the scene unfold (like watching a movie). Dissociative states allow the victim to compartmentalize the abusive aspects of the relationship in order to focus on the positive aspects.

    The use of denial and distancing oneself from the abuse are forms of what is called cognitive dissonance. In abusive relationships this means that what is happening to the victim is so horrible, so far removed from their thoughts and expectations of the world, that it is “dissonant” or “out of tune” or “at odds” with their pre-existing expectations and reality. Since the victim feels powerless to change the situation, they rely on emotional strategies to try to make it less dissonant, to try to somehow make it fit. To cope with the contradicting behaviors of the abuser, and to survive the abuse, the person literally has to change how they perceive reality. Studies also show a person is more loyal and committed to a person or situation that is difficult, uncomfortable, or even humiliating, and the more the victim has invested in the relationship, the more they need to justify their position. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful “self-preservation” mechanism which can completely distort and override the truth, with the victim developing a tolerance for the abuse and “normalizing” the abusers behavior, despite evidence to the contrary.

    –(4). The victim masks that the abuse is happening, may not have admitted it to anyone, not even themselves.

    Trauma bonding makes it easier for a victim to survive within the relationship, but it severely undermines the victims self-structures, undermining their ability to accurately evaluate danger, and impairs their ability to perceive of alternatives to the situation.

    Once a trauma bond is established it becomes extremely difficult for the victim to break free of the relationship. The way humans respond to trauma is thought to have a biological basis and reactions to trauma was first described a century ago, with the term “railroad spine” being used. Another term used has been “shell shocked”.

    Victims overwhelmed with terror suffer from an overload of their system, and to be able to function they must distort reality. They often shut down emotionally, and sometimes later describe themselves as having felt “robotic”, intellectually knowing what happened, but feeling frozen or numb and unable to take action. A victim must feel safe and out of “survival mode” before they will be able to make cognitive changes.

    Many victims feel the compulsion to tell and retell the events of the trauma in an attempt to come to terms with what happened to them and to try to integrate it, reaching out to others for contact, safety, and stability. Other victims react in an opposite manner, withdrawing into a shell of self-imposed isolation. The trauma bond can persist even after the victim leaves the relationship, with it sometimes taking months, or even years, for them to completely break the bond.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Perfect response here Hopeful. It is tragic and frightening to witness this clearly taking place with SL victims…. Just shocking. May they find the support and mental and physical space to begin to see the situation lucidly and recover.

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    2. I’m sorry but it seems really inappropriate to undermine and in effect totally disregard Ane Chökyi’s experience, which is exactly what is being done here by labeling it “trauma bonding”. It is an attempt to implicitly invalidate her experience by pathologizing it.

      In doing so it is not only patronizing to Ane Chökyi, as it discredits her perception and judgment, but it infantilizes her as it suggests that you know her state better than she and knows what is best for her better than she.

      Are you a licensed psychologist? If not how is it appropriate for you to trot this stuff about? If you were it would be double inappropriate to do so from afar.

      Furthermore, like it or not, psychiatry pathologies many aspects of non-Western cultures and spirituality, which are predicated on particular notions of mind, sanity and wellbeing that Buddhism fundamentally rejects.

      My point is that there is a fine line between appropriate inquiry, legal or within the Sangha, and hysteria predicated on Western supremacy, cultural colonialism, and outright adharma.

      In short, please show more respect for Ane Chökyi, both as a human being and as a nun.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “which is* predicated”

        To clarify my typo, I mean to say that this pathologizing itself is predicated on notions of mind, sanity, and wellbeing that Buddhism fundamentally rejects. For example, sanity here is a harmonious adaptation to a deluded society while in Buddhism it is the maximal uprooting of delusion. There is no middle ground here.

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  6. “However, instead of moving towards repairing, you ask for forgiveness for our misunderstanding, not for your actions. What kind of forgiveness is this?”

    This is what you write in this reply to SL reply which is in another page on this blog.
    I’ve read and re-read SL response and could not find what you say he said.
    To what part of his response are you referring?

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  7. In your original letter is written: “Sogyal Lakar gut-punched a nun in front of an assembly of more than 1,000 students at Lerab Ling in France, August 2016” [footnote 1], and you filed this episode under “Physical, emotional and psychological abuse”. Now, the nun herself has given a completely different version of the episode (it’s posted here: https://whatnow727.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/response-to-sl/#comment-358) in a comment. If — as you say — this is not a witch-hunt, you should *at least* make a post with Ane Chökyi’s version of the episode. She clearly states: “Rinpoche was definitely not in a fit rage, there was just a single moment of wrath, which manifested in a soft punch, but it was neither violent or abusive, at least not to my feelings”. I do understand some of you may feel abused and I’m praying for you all, but she doesn’t feel abused, and her version should be emphasized as much as the versions of others.

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    1. Who in the world even softly punches a nun? That’s totally insane. You guys have a ridiculous clown for a teacher. Bad karma for you

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  8. Can we all at least agree that Sogyal should be wearing a condom, for the physical health of the women he’s involved with?

    Maybe even just ask him to do that?

    I’m sex positive (although consent with such a power imbalance is definitely arguable) but some basic hygiene is just good manners.

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  9. With research using highly regarded texts and quotes from within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition one can establish that SL is not a great Mahasiddha. Therefore hitting/punching/shoving ones student as witnessed and experienced by many, reveals entirely innappropriate/sick behaviour on his part that is damaging to the psyche for recipients and to the reputation of the teachings and teachers in general.

    Also from within the Buddhist teachings on the two truths, relative truth is a conventional, consensual reality based on conventions, general agreements or consenus. In society today, physical aggression is not considered by the majority of people to be a reasonable, acceptable or desireable or beneficial modus operandi.

    Modern research and insight into areas of mental health including ‘trauma bonding’ are also entirely relevant in these circumstances and for the potential benefit of all involved should not be perfunctorily dismissed.

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  10. Hi Pema,
    When I was in L.L, long ago, there was a natural little pool. Well, I found myself there in the water with a lot of other males, and I saw many guys pulling out, very carefully tinny little insects out of the water. This, somehow enforced my bodhicitta and i thought, yes, this is the world I want to live in.
    Later on I saw S.L throwing a book to a member of the shanga during a teaching. I wished I had stayed in the pool. If I had saw him punching you, even softly, I would have lost my faith already, it’s just the opposite of the Bouddha’s teachings. ( Or did I miss something? ) And for the crazy wisdom ( I know, you didn’t mention ) have a look at the comments of H.H.D.L.L about this subject.

    Wish you the best, sincerly

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  11. Hi pema again,

    I just went for a walk ….had to breath a little, and I wanted to add, we live in the West and this is the 21st century. In France , actually, it is forbidden by law to punch or slab any person, children included. In the relative as well in the absolute ….

    Article R624-1 du code pénal

    Hors les cas prévus par les articles 222-13 et 222-14 , les violences volontaires n’ayant entraîné aucune incapacité totale de travail sont punies de l’amende prévue pour les contraventions de la 4e classe.

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    1. Soygal needs to go to jail. I am in the USA and don’t know who to contact in France. Someone needs to at least tip off the authorities to this before Soygal slinks away into retreat. He is a terrible criminal and if a person did this in America and was caught, would go to jail, probation, and have to pay compensation and any money stolen. Please do the right thing and contact the authorities. He is no good in retreat contemplating! What is going to contemplate? He had hat choice before and look how he acted. Retreat to him a place to run away to. Terrible use of retreat. Shameful. He is a common thug and someone needs to put him in jail.

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  12. This seems like in the long run it might be a good thing, as people are waking up. Similar, dare I say, to the response to the US President…

    I am not a student of S. He never appealed to me. I am however a student of Tibetan Buddhism and have been for nearly 45 years.

    In the early 2000’s I was duped by monks in a monastery in Nepal who were the focus of my non-profit. After a few trips there that left me with a sick feeling in my gut, I confronted them. Yes, the money I had raised to help the young monks had gone to new motorcycles and cell phones for their family members. Yes, they were duping the sponsors of the monks as well by continuing the ruse that their monk was still at the monastery (so they would keep sending money) long after the monk was gone.

    I took this to the abbot. It blew up. It took another 4 years to get to the bottom of it and to dissolve the non-profit. Luckily by then I had a Board consisting of former monks from that same monastery.

    A great deal of truth telling happened. A lot of hurt and anger from the former monks, too.

    The abbot ended up thanking me profusely.

    At first I thought my faith in the Dharma was shattered, but really it was the death of all my assumptions and projections on those men who wore red robes. It took a while for me to heal-like years, but I recommitted to the teachings, not the teachers, and found my footing again.

    I wish everyone involved the best wrap around healing possible.

    Now when I take Refuge in the Buddha, I take Refuge in the growing revelations of my own Buddhanature, and the growing cultivation of awareness and understanding of the great teachings.

    Blessings to everyone.
    So very, very painful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is bad karma! Now you know how it feels why let it go on. Someone needs to call the French authorities and have Soygal jailed and have him face a criminal proceeding by the people of France. Someone call the authorities.

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  13. Soygal is a dirty criminal and needs to go to jail. Why haven’t any of you called the authorities you treat him like a normal human in correspondence- he is not a normal human! He is evil. What are you all doing? Call the authorities and our him in jail.

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  14. I have wondered this myself. It seems like soft-pedaling on legal consequences of immoral behavior while focusing on the dharmic consequences such as creating bad karma etc.

    Both have a place.

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