We have discovered that some rumours have been presented as fact in some Rigpa centres. We don’t know where the misinformation came from or if it is just a case of misunderstanding, but we feel that it is in everyone’s interest to stick with facts rather than hearsay and rumour, so here are some clarifications to hopefully circumvent some of the misinformation that has been circulating.
A few facts you should be aware of:
- No single person wrote the email that exposed the abusive behaviour. It was a group effort made by all 8 students and worked on together over a period of time.One of the Eight said, “The eight of us spent many, many, days and hours carefully writing, suggesting edits, rewriting, discussing, rewriting, editing again, over and over and over until we felt it was done. It was a painful, exhausting process. The “response” we received from Sogyal Lakar was anticlimactic… we received an email that to my eyes appeared to have been carefully crafted by a lawyer, admitting to no wrong doing while vaguely “apologizing” for any “misunderstanding” that might have occurred. (Gary)Another said: “the letter was the result of many hours of collaborative effort and consensus. We worked diligently to make sure all our voices were heard, respected and included. We constantly checked our motivation and intent to be certain that we were on firm ground from an ethical point of view. This included not reporting anything that was not experienced personally and first hand.” (Michael)
- The Eight students did not scheme to discredit or overthrow SL and Rigpa. Their letter was sent only to SL himself, the Rigpa Dzogchen Mandala Students, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and some other lamas such as Mingyur Rinpoche and Dzongzar Kyentse Rinpoche. Had they wished to discredit or overthrow SL and Rigpa they would have sent the email to a mainstream newspaper, instead they purposefully kept it within the sangha, and carefully wrote only about things they had seen or experienced themselves. Later, someone unknown to them leaked the letter to a Buddhist magazine without their permission.
- Any action or words of an individual who may be part of the group, does not represent the group as a whole.
- Sogyal Rinpoche/Lakar (SL) has not written individually to the Eight signers of the letter that exposed the abusive behaviour. On the 18th July, he sent an email addressed to all of them that, though it was emailed to each of them, was not an individual response. They all received the same email. He has not contacted any of them since.
- No apology has been made by either SR or Rigpa, only an acknowledgement “that there are feelings of hurt”.
- Rigpa management have not contacted any of the Eight either individually or as a group. The only conversation occurred when one member of the Eight contacted one senior student in Lerab Ling to clarify his status after being refused entry to a Dzogchen Mandala study group.
- The seven of the Eight are not moderators of the What Now? group and blog. One of them is a moderator of the Facebook group only.
- The What Now? moderators have a policy of only permitting first-hand accounts of behaviour in Rigpa or accounts given to them directly by the person who experienced the behaviour. We wish to avoid hearsay, gossip and rampant negativity.
- The What Now? moderators also do not wish to ‘bring down’, ‘overthrow’ or ‘destroy’ Sogyal Rinpoche or Rigpa. We aim to educate students and help them process the situation, and we seek full transparency and positive change.
- It is not a Chinese plot. The attestations are true accounts of what people have actually experienced; they are backed up by many other similar complaints over the years, and many others who have since shared their testimonies in the What Now? Facebook Group or privately to one or other of the moderators.
One moderator counted 25 first hand accounts that she alone had received, and another student mentioned hearing many complaints in her time in Rigpa.
If in doubt as to the motivation of the Eight, re-read the original letter
Anyone who questions the intentions of the Eight should first ask themselves what could they possibly stand to gain from this and then re-read the original letter in which they state: “We write to you following the advice of the Dalai Lama, in which he has said that students of Tibetan Buddhist lamas are obliged to communicate their concerns about their teacher:
‘If one presents the teachings clearly, others benefit. But if someone is supposed to propagate the Dharma and their behavior is harmful, it is our responsibility to criticize this with a good motivation. This is constructive criticism, and you do not need to feel uncomfortable doing it. In “The Twenty Verses on the Bodhisattvas’ Vows,” it says that there is no fault in whatever action you engage in with pure motivation. Buddhist teachers who abuse sex, power, money, alcohol, or drugs, and who, when faced with legitimate complaints from their own students, do not correct their behavior, should be criticized openly and by name. This may embarrass them and cause them to regret and stop their abusive behavior. Exposing the negative allows space for the positive side to increase. When publicizing such misconduct, it should be made clear that such teachers have disregarded the Buddha’s advice. However, when making public the ethical misconduct of a Buddhist teacher, it is only fair to mention their good qualities as well.’ The Dalai Lama, Dharamsala, India March 1993”
Then they go on to say that “A number of us have raised with you privately, our concerns about your behavior in recent years, but you have not changed.”
In line with His Holiness’s advice, the What Now? blog aims to walk the middle way of honouring the good SL has done, while being clear that ethical misconduct has occurred.
How do the authors of the letter feel about the situation now?
“Personally, I am both astounded and saddened at the frantic efforts by so many to discredit our efforts to bring light to the dark underbelly of Rigpa’s inner circle. Our original intent was to effect positive change in order to save Rigpa, but to date, the official response seems to be obfuscation and the maintaining of the status quo. The “unofficial” response has been an outpouring of personal stories from many, many members and former members of instances of wrong-doing and abusive behavior by the Rigpa hierarchy and Sogyal Lakar.” (Gary)
Another (Michael) said: I find it sad that not one person from an official position has ever contacted me to ask me about the letter or any support I may need as I am still a Rigpa member. I feel that there is a conscious effort not to clarify or investigate so as to keep things cloudy and gray. Most of this innuendo can be cleared up in seconds.”
Another angle on motivation and intention
In a recent post on her Facebook timeline about an article by Martha Beck on freeing your heart, one of the moderators of the What Now? Facebook group said, “This article really resonated with me. This is why I do what I do; I follow my heart. And I know the sense of clarity of which Martha speaks. The desire to make people aware of the full picture in the Rigpa debacle comes directly from my heart.”
In the article Martha Beck says, “Our hearts are imprisoned for just one reason: The only language they can speak is truth. Unlike the mind, which can be persuaded to accept the most bizarre ideas (“Look, it’s the Hale-Bopp comet! Time to kill yourself!), your heart tells it like it is, without bothering to be tactful or socially appropriate. Free hearts rock boats, break rules, do things that disrupt the system—whether that system is a dysfunctional family, a bloated bureaucracy, or the whole wide world.”
“A heart is imprisoned not by being broken but by being silenced.”
Read the article here: http://marthabeck.com/2011/09/set-it-free/
BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE WHAT NOW? REFERENCES PAGE for links to a wealth of articles in the topics related to abuse in Buddhist communities. FOR LINKS TO PLACES TO ASSIST IN HEALING FROM ABUSE SEE THE SANGHA CARE RESOURCES PAGE.
More personal and private support for current and previous students of Rigpa can be found in THE WHAT NOW? FACEBOOK GROUP. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite. Please use the email address you use on Facebook.