Hollywood and Rigpa: a comparison. Part 2 – Culture

The cultural aspects of a comparison between the alleged abuses of Harvey Weinstein and Sogyal Rinpoche are in some respects quite different, but in others very similar. The idea behind doing this comparison is to examine Sogyal Rinpoche’s behaviour and the reactions to it against the cultural sensibilities of the Western world. We must remember that Sogyal has been accused not only of sexual abuse, but also, and to a greater degree, to emotional and physical abuse. The comparison holds for all forms of abuse, however, because if the world heard that Weinstein also hit and publically humiliated his employees, the reaction would also be of condemnation – but then who would accept that kind of behaviour from their boss in a corporate world? And this is where the cultural examination becomes most telling.

High-powered, entitled men

In terms of power there is no difference between a high-powered, entitled man like Weinstein who was in charge of millions of dollars and made a series of very good movies and a high-powered, privileged man who controlled a large spiritual group and disseminated spiritual teachings. If the allegations are true in both cases, then both Weinstein and Sogyal abused the huge amount of power that they held.

However, reactions in the press make it clear that no Westerner in their right mind would consider the corporate boss’s sexual abuse acceptable, and yet many in the Tibetan Buddhist world, particularly within Rigpa, consider that similar behaviour by a Tibetan Buddhist ‘spiritual’ teacher does not constitute abuse but a blessing, a fast-track to enlightenment.

Many Tibetan Buddhist teachers remain silent on the issue, and others, rather than condemn the alleged abuses, go in for a particularly Tibetan form of victim blaming where they use the idea of samaya (the sacred bond between a student and teacher) as a way to instil fear of hell in students for daring to criticise. The assumption is that the student is at fault for not seeing their teacher as a perfect Buddha. This is like blaming the women Weinstein abused for the abuse, saying they are responsible simply because they didn’t see Weinstein as young, handsome and desirable, that the issue is not with the behaviour, but with the perception of the behaviour by the victim. We wouldn’t accept that line for Weinstein, so why accept it for Sogyal? The fact that these lamas even talk like this indicates how out of touch they are with the prevailing Western attitudes.

Note that other Tibetan teachers like His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Mingyur Rinpoche are quite clear on their condemnation of this kind of behaviour, as are many Western teachers of Vajrayana (the Tibetan form of Buddhism).

Does the fact that one man is ‘spiritual’ of a brand called ‘Tibetan’ and ‘Vajrayana’ and the other man is a ‘worldly’ man with a Hollywood brand mean that we should treat them differently in terms of permitting them to abuse those they hold power over? Isn’t it more reasonable to expect a spiritual teacher to behave more ethically in the first place and, when he slips up, more readily apologise? Does a spiritual teacher not have an even greater responsibility to treat people decently due to the trust they place in him or her to guide them on a spiritual (and supposedly ethical) path?

Erik Jampa made this point in an article where he examines Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s reaction to Sogyal Rinpoche’s alleged abuses:

“In an era when Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and countless other powerful men (not to mention the president) are being called out and publicly exposed for their blatant abuse of others, I am baffled why so many Vajrayana practitioners are seeking to defend these same trends in our precious spiritual tradition. Are we really prepared to draw a moral line protecting these “tantric masters” from identical behaviors, ignoring the fact that the perceived authority over their students transcends literally all mundane moral dynamics? Vajrayana gurus are not just teachers, bosses, or community leaders. Their power and influence over the minds of others vastly surpasses that of a Hollywood producer or head of state.”

A teacher in a Tibetan Buddhist community is the object of students’ respect and devotion, and in the same way that Weinstein was admired for his achievements in Hollywood, the Tibetan Buddhist community as a whole admired Sogyal Rinpoche for his vast activity that brought beneficial teachings to a large number of students. Being the recipient of this level of admiration means that you have a great deal of power over people, and along with such power comes a necessity to wield it responsibility.

Consensual sex and power imbalance

As a student of Sogyal Rinpoche myself, I was aware that he had girlfriends, but since he isn’t a monk, I found what I was told about this by senior instructors reasonable.  The line was that the relationships were consensual.

According to the RASASC organisation in the UK, “Consent, legally, is defined as agreeing by choice and having the freedom and capacity to make that choice. … Someone is free to make a choice if there isn’t anything bad that would happen to them if they said no – for example if they were being threatened with violence or if they felt forced into making a decision because they didn’t feel they could do anything else. Freedom is also affected if there is a power imbalance between two people, because of age, status or some kind of dependency. Having the freedom to consent means doing something because you WANT to, not because something or someone is pressuring you one way or the other.”

A spokesperson for Weinstein in the US told the Guardian: “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr Weinstein. Mr Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”

Nevertheless they might have been scared that they might not get that role they desperately wanted or needed. He probably wouldn’t fire them, but he might feel less inclined to send roles their way, and due to the very fact that he had that power, the women may not have felt that they had the freedom to say no. Certainly his advacnes were unwanted. They wouldn’t have complained otherwise.

There is also a similar power imbalance between Sogyal (or any Tibetan lama) and his student; though the culture of beliefs is different, the effect is the similar in that the woman might not feel that she could say no without some repercussions. The repercussions in Rigpa were that you would be seen as lacking devotion, pure perception, and the courage to give up your ego and accept Sogyal’s demands as a spiritual practice. This sense that you had failed came as much, if not more, from other students close to Sogyal as from Sogyal himself. It’s a subtle pressure, but a pressure nevertheless.

However, I have been told that he had many truly consensual relationships with women over the years. Many dated him, enjoyed their time with him, and felt no pressure to accept his advances. Of course, that is likely true of Harvey as well. We must not make assumptions about the nature of any one relationship.

We should also not forget when making these comparisons that Sogyal Rinpoche’s alleged abuse was more widely emotional and physical than sexual and experienced by men as well as women. The nature of the relationship he has with his ‘inner circle’ who are dependent on him financially, apparently goes into the area usually covered by the term ‘domestic violence’. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), domestic violence is the “willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetuated by one intimate partner against another.” This can include physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional violence and abuse. [http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/sexinfo/article/different-types-sexual-assault]

As Colin Firth said of Weinstein: “He was a powerful and frightening man to stand up to.”

Excuses and support

“George Clooney said that people had tolerated Weinstein’s notoriously abrasive personality because ‘he was making films that everybody loved … if he yells and screams but he gets Pulp Fiction made, who cares if he yells and screams? But it’s a very different conversation when you say, it’s not that he yells and screams but that he’s cornering a young, scared lady in a restaurant and telling her to stand there and be quiet while he jerks off,’ he said.”  [https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/10/george-clooney-says-alleged-weinstein-behaviour-was-indefensible]

 

Saying that SR is excused of his conduct because he is a good teacher is like saying that Bill Cosby should be excused because he is a good comedian or Weinstein because he makes great movies. And yet many teachers and students of Tibetan Buddhism use the good he has done or their positive personal experience of him to excuse his allegedly abusive behaviour with others. Westerners in general wouldn’t excuse Weinstein on these grounds, nor would they excuse Sogyal Rinpoche on similar grounds. Tibetan lamas and students who do think that the good Sogyal has done excuses any abusive behaviour he may be responsible for need to consider this point.

 

Enablers

On Oct 6th, the NYT published an article on how the Weinstein story didn’t surface because too many people had too much to gain from supporting him. He “built his empire on a pile of positive press clippings,” just as Sogyal Rinpoche built his empire on the support of other eminent lamas when they accepted his invitation to teach at Lerab Ling. We don’t know how much they knew, if anything, but when Rigpa became a source of income for them, staying away or speaking out would have become harder, and speaking out about someone so apparently well-respected is just not a Tibetan thing to do—it’s hard enough for a Westerner who knows the behaviour is wrong, let alone for someone unwilling to bet against the possibility that Sogyal is an enlightened being. Criticising such a being is considered a very bad thing to do in Tibetan Buddhism.

The article in the NYT mentions agents who dispatched starlets to Weinstein’s Hotel Suit likely knowing what the cost would be for them. This relates to those in SR’s inner circle who ‘encouraged’ new students to get close to him, who turned a blind eye to abuses, who shamed and blamed those who complained, and then employed a PR firm to help them cover up the testimonies that did make it into the public arena. These people are still running Rigpa International at management level.

In both situations people with something to gain from remaining silent do so because they lack a strong moral compass, something that is perhaps not surprising in Hollywood, but one would expect better in a ‘spiritual’ organisation.

 

Karen Brady in an article for The Sun in the UK said the following about the Weinstein accusations: “One of the most shocking parts of this story is the suggestion that what apparently went on was an “open secret” in the film industry.

In fact, by the sound of it, just about everyone in the business knew there could allegedly be a sordid price to pay to work with the great Harvey Weinstein.

It’s almost as if women wanting to succeed in movies had come to accept that progress came with a sort of sex-pest tax.

… The whole concept of the “casting couch” was far more rife in the Seventies than it is today.

But even if that kind of behaviour was acceptable a few decades ago you’d think that a clever man like him would be able to grasp the pretty basic notion that — Times. Have. Changed.

… He struck me then as a rude little man luxuriating in his position of power. Unfortunately, all too often it is men like that who run the show.

… So the bravery of the women who have decided to put their careers and reputations on the line by speaking up is phenomenal.”

Just to make it clear how closely these two situations coincide, I’m going to use Karen’s words with just a few changes so you can see how they equally apply to Sogyal Rinpoche’s accusations.

One of the most shocking parts of this story is the suggestion that what apparently went on was an “open secret” at the higher levels of Rigpa.

In fact, by the sound of it, just about everyone in Rigpa International management and many in Rigpa National management teams knew there could allegedly be a sordid price to pay to ‘be trained’ by the great Sogyal Rinpoche.

It’s almost as if students wanting a fast track to enlightenment (the supposed pay-off from having your ego squashed through the alleged behaviour) had come to accept that progress came with a sort of abuse-pest tax.”

… The whole concept of “crazy wisdom” (unconventional teaching methods) was far more rife in Tibet and India in previous centuries than it is today in the West.

But even if that kind of behaviour was acceptable a few decades/centuries ago you’d think that a clever man like him would be able to grasp the pretty basic notion that — Times. Have. Changed.

 … He struck me then as a rude little man luxuriating in his position of power. Unfortunately, all too often it is men like that who run the show.

… So the bravery of the people who have decided to put their reputations on the line by speaking up is phenomenal.

You said it, Karen!

Article by Tahlia Newland


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24 thoughts on “Hollywood and Rigpa: a comparison. Part 2 – Culture

  1. Thanks for another excellent article Tahlia.

    The juxtaposition of Sogyal and Weinstein is very effective because it reminds everyone that SL’s abusive and violent behaviour is an everyday occurrence when predatory men hold power. There’s nothing mystical or transcendant about it, it’s just sordid and it certainly hasn’t taken place in some sort of parallel ‘Vajrayana’ world where normal considerations no longer apply. That world is just a fantasy and however temporarily comforting it may be for some, it has no reality and so can hold no lasting solutions, just mental and moral confusion.

    The problem for those trying to justify SL’s behaviour with this kind of exceptionalism is that no matter how much they try to maintain their artificial world view, it’s very fragile, and the real world will always intrude and must eventually break through.

    This is happening more and more now, and despite their unconvincing attempts to retain control with ‘mediation’, the management of Rigpa must by now, have understood that they’ve already failed to do that.

    Most reasonable people know that the idea of an internally initiated and directed process such as they are proposing is a dishonest distraction designed to deflect attention, delay and exonerate SL and Rigpa as an organisation. Also there’s an element of intimidation present.

    To extend the comparison: it’s as if Weinstein’s own company decided it was the best placed to ‘investigate’ or ‘mediate’ or that it even had the right to.

    Apparently Rigpa even hopes the 8 and other critics will permit themselves to be interviewed formally in a similar way to witnesses being deposed. This indicates they’re actively trying to collect information that could be used to their advantage ahead of the judicial process. Nothing at all to do with healing and reconcilliation, just more self-serving dishonesty at the victim’s expense…..more abuse in fact.

    It’s difficult to imagine anyone would still be naive enough to agree to participate in such an obvious set-up organised by the enablers of abuse themselves and after their months of denial, prevarication, and blatant victim-blaming and threats by their tame lamas.

    This is now exclusively a matter for the Police and the French lawyer working with the Procureur de Montpellier.

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  2. Those are good points Pete. And I do repeat what I said at the last post, the comparison with Weinstein reminds us that this is a wider trouble than Rigpa, with everyday, another woman speaking out, so the time is very ripe imo for real reforms to finally occur.

    That’s my optimism talking. But I have also, like Pete, been worried about R management asking for people to come forward with their stories, in other words co-opting witnesses, building their case based on what the charges might be. It’s clear that Weinstein’s lawyer’s are advising him to come clean and I wonder why Rigpa’s lawyers aren’t advising the same thing? I think that’s where the difference between someone like Angelina Joley, with a strong position of power in the entertainment industry vs. the standing of a group of mere Western practitioners is relevant. Sadly, it’s always about power and until there is more involvement with other powerful TB lamas and establishment figures, things will revolve without resolve.

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  3. I appreciate the sharp intellect you bring to these comparison articles. I’ve certainly gained new insights from them.

    I understand that some Buddhists believe that any sexual relationship between a student and a teacher is non-consensual. And we may indeed need to base a code of ethics on that premise because of all the abuses of power that have occurred in Buddhist communities over the decades.

    However, I don’t believe that all of SR’s relationships have been non-consensual. I’ve known several women who entered into consensual sexual relationships with SR, found them to be very special, and had no regrets whatsoever. Problems have indeed occurred and they need to be addressed. But let’s not make everything black and white.

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    1. I agree, Serenity. It doesn’t excuse any abuse, but there are people who were close and who were not abused. Things are bad enough—let’s remember that good exists in everyone. Including this master who lost his way but made a very real impact in sharing tools many people used for good.

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    2. @Serenity

      I take your point that it would be wrong to dismiss the….possibility…..of someone having a consensual relationship with SL.

      But as you say, it’s well understood, (and not just confined to Buddhists) that no student-teacher relationship should ever be considered truly consensual because of the imbalance of power.

      Of course, exactly how applicable that is depends on the context: if for instance we were talking about an example where there was no appreciable age difference and the context was a weekly recreational pottery class, then yes, you could argue that it was irrelevant and the relationship was completely consensual.

      Here the context is very specific and very relevant indeed: we’re talking about a guru-disciple relationship in Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, and all that it entails. Any sexual activity within that, by definition, can never be considered consensual in any way whatsoever, simply because the imbalance of power isn’t just present to some degree, from the disciple’s point of view it’s total and absolute.

      So with all due respect: considering the context, if any young women Buddhist practitioners tell you that their sexual relationship with an elderly, obese, sleazy, balding, foul-tempered, openly promiscuous, spiritual teacher with serious health problems, who regularly bullies everyone around him both emotionally and physically, is in any way ‘consensual’ and ‘special’ then they’re lying to you, or themselves or both.

      Their denial might help them cope temporarily but that still doesn’t make it consensual.

      Naturally, if the young women who told you that weren’t at all interested in Buddhism, met him by chance in a bar, had absolutely no idea who he was and were just overwhelmed by his irresistible good looks and wholesome charm, then in those circumstances I’ll concede you could be right and it probably was consensual.

      But otherwise, it actually is black and white and I can’t see how trying to cloud the issue with shades of grey is going to help anyone in the long term. .

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    3. @Serenity. Another person has contacted me privately and given me similar information, so I have altered the story to include that point. Thanks for pointing it out.

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  4. “It’s well understood, (and not just confined to Buddhists) that no student-teacher relationship should ever be considered truly consensual because of the imbalance of power”.

    Among all the western countries, there are no differences about the definition of a consensual relationship? Just asking, because local laws and cultures are different.

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  5. As much as I loathe Sogyal’s behavior, and the behavior of other Tibetan lamas who also act in a similar manner, I think we need to be careful not to create a new kind of caste system, where people are limited to only those in their class and status for sexual relationships. If we say that ANY relationship between a teacher and student, or ANY person who is of higher status, older age, or class, is non-consensual, then we might end up with a system where it is illegal to have sex with anyone who is not within the same age bracket, economic, or job/social status, etc. Where do we draw the line? How do we define “power imbalance” so that we don’t exclude practically all relationship choices? Also, would this apply to anyone with any sort of mental disability? Could we say that anyone who has a mental condition cannot give their consent? Should we deprive them of sex based on their disability? Could we say that anyone who has any power or influence over society, such as a cop, or a judge, could not have sex, since a cop could potentially have “power” over just about anybody? You see the point I am trying to make here? Where does it stop?

    I am not trying to justify abuse between teachers and students, such as the Sogyal situation, but I wonder if laws to protect students could have unintended consequences that might go too far? I think victims of abuse in sanghas need to have some neutral place where people can go to report abuse and get help, (similar to the system we now have in place to protect spouses), but marrigae isn’t outlawed, just because there are abusive spouses. So likewise, should we outlaw ANY relationship between a teacher and student? There may be cases where a student and a lama could marry and have a sincere, loving relationship, so should we outlaw all of these relationships? If we start outlawing ALL these kinds of relationships, does this mean that eventually a poor person couldn’t marry a powerful rich person? Does it mean that a celebrity couldn’t marry a fan? Don’t all these relationships have some kind of potential power imbalance? So how does one define a “non-consensual” relationship? Also, Tibetan culture has absolutely NO frame of reference for these kinds of rules and restrictions.

    Having said that, a relationship with Sogyal specifically could never be consensual because he is a demanding, little tyrant who wouldn’t know how to have a healthy relationship with any woman. I can’t imagine it ever being healthy or consensual with him.

    Pete Cowell, you cracked me up when you said, “Naturally, if the young women who told you that weren’t at all interested in Buddhism, met him by chance in a bar, had absolutely no idea who he was and were just overwhelmed by his irresistible good looks and wholesome charm, then in those circumstances I’ll concede you could be right and it probably was consensual.” His irresistible good looks and wholesome charm, LOL! 😀

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    1. @Catlover

      That’s quite a formidable sequence of arguments you’ve lined up there. I don’t think we’re in danger of suggesting such a rigid system, but I see your concern.

      At the risk of semantic hair-splitting: perhaps it’s useful to make a distinction between ‘difference’ and ‘imbalance’; relationships can function perfectly well with differences of age, status, capabilities or wealth, for instance, but if there’s love and mutual respect then there’s not a problem and in some cases these differences can be complimentary.

      ‘Imbalance’ implies there’s something wrong or dysfunctional because the cumulative weight of differences taken together is overwhelming to one partner and conducive to control by the other.

      But you’re quite right, it’s not always as straightforward as one simple phrase.

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      1. How does one define the difference between ‘difference’ and ‘imbalance’ though? Couldn’t one say that a severely handicapped person cannot give their consent because there is a severe difference between them and a “normal” person? Also, couldn’t one say that a celebrity couldn’t marry a fan because fans tend to worship celebrities? (Celebrities don’t marry fans often, but it sometimes happens.)

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  6. @ French Observer

    I’m not really sure why you think that might be important here; the legal age of consent varies slightly in modern democracies, but I’m not aware that there’s any significant argument about what consent itself is.

    I’d refer you to the very good definition in Tahlia’s article above, which perhaps you missed.

    Logically we should use the definition that applies in law of whatever country we’re in, plus, perhaps even more importantly, our common sense, empathy and humanity.

    As for cultural differences, if they differ substantially from that then they should be ignored because they’re almost certainly going to be an justification for abuse aren’t they?

    The problem with any kind of cultural relativism is that once you decide that nothing is inherently right or wrong and that you shouldn’t judge another culture by your own standards, then your basic humanity and critical moral judgement are neutralized. Believing in the old Tibetan cultural acceptance of theocratic feudalism or ‘crazy wisdom’ being good examples.

    Burning supposed ‘heretics’ and ‘witches’ was done all across Europe a few hundred years ago, and the last lynching in the US was only in 1981, both generally culturally accepted by many people in those times and places…..but wrong is wrong, irrespective of time, geography and culture.

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  7. I agree with the French Observer wrong is wrong. But why?
    Can’t we beat SL with his own words. The treasury of dharma or mengak study pack.
    In the chapter and tracks on inner peace and contentment, he stated something like if you have one, you want two, because of your insecurity.
    Walk your talk SL. So why so ….many for SL?
    How can we learn from him if he doesn’t walk his talk

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  8. @Pete Cowell, in fact the definition given by Tahlia is from UK. I was just watching yesterday night a french show and the whole debate was about how to define consent. You have to imagine that last month in France, a supposed adult rapist has been found not guilty because it couldn’t be proved that the eleven years old girl wasn’t consenting!
    I am pretty sure that in France, there is no mention of power imbalance in the law. In fact, I heard that many women are attracted by men of power (don’t know from experience whether it is true). We have a long tradition of flirting here.

    Just to say that we have to be careful about generalizing and there are still significant cultural differences in the west. We share some values but have significant differences, the gap between the anglo-saxon world and the latin world is still there for instance.

    So, I would say from a french perspective, it is not shocking to see an adult student flirting with her teacher. Ok, according to principles they shouldn’t do it but we are in a permissive environment. Also, don’t expect that a code of ethics would be followed to the letter…

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    1. @French observer,

      Isn’t eleven below the age of consent in France? If so, I don’t understand why it was even an issue whether or not she gave “consent” because she would be below the legal age anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I am not a reliable source because I just watched this TV show.

        In France for an act to be qualified as a rape, some form of violence, constraint, threat or surprise must be proved. The victim must prove that she has been raped. Apparently in the US it is the other way around: the defendant needs to prove that he didn’t rape the victim.

        So bottom line, as it couldn’t be prove that the 11 years old girl was not consenting, the crime has been qualified as “atteinte sexuelle” and not rape. In this case, the sentence is 5 years in jail instead of 20 years and often the agressor can get out within 3 years.

        Now, they are planning to change the law next year so that in the future if the victim is under the age of 13-15, the act will automatically be qualified as a rape.

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  9. @ French observer

    You’re right, some anglo saxon and latin attitudes are certainly different…… but only as far as some people are concerned and then only in certain circumstances.

    In fact there have been two such cases in France recently…… and also very widespread public outrage as a result too. (The legal age of consent in France is 15, and 16 in the UK below which consent can never be deemed to have been given.)

    Yes, France is in some respects still a very patriarchal country, but that just means that the very small minority who form the establishment (mostly men) are happy to leave the status quo as it is because it suits them. It’s a backward and reactionary attitude that’s not shared by most people, especially most french women ( I’m married to one and we live there by the way)

    And it certainly doesn’t mean it’s right or that it should ever be used as an excuse to shrug and accept abuse in any form.

    Frankly I don’t think that any vague peripheral considerations such as ‘flirting’ or a ‘permissive environment’ are relevant when there’s a clear issue, as with SL, of serial sexual abuse and so many women have been traumatised. It’s simply beyond a matter of cultural differences and much too serious for any ambivalence.

    So while I agree with you that these differences may exist, I disagree that they are ‘significant.’

    By the way: you might also be interested to look up La Loi About-Picard and it’s concept of ‘Emprise sectaire’.

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  10. @Pete Cowell, glad that you enjoy the french culture with all its particularities! You seem to place much trust in the french judicial system. We will see, but Sogyal Rinpoche is already 73 and I wouldn’t be surprised that the procedure lasts more than 10 years.

    Foreign commentators should well consider the “french dimension” of the current situation: Lerab Ling is in France and I found a lot of french people in Rigpa boards, especially to manage the finances.

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  11. @French observer,

    If the procedure lasts more than 10 years, and Sogyal is 73 years old, and already has cancer, isn’t it very unlikely he would still be around by the time the “proceedings” are finished? That means he would never be brought to trial. (It actually wouldn’t surprise me at all!)

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  12. @French observer

    In fact I think your skepticism is quite justified and I share it: I hope he’ll face justice here, but I think it unlikely that he’d ever have the integrity or honesty to return to face the consequences of his actions any more than he did in the US. Like a lot of bullies, when he has to deal with people who aren’t impressed by him, he’s a coward. But he could be tried and judged in absentia, that would be a good result in itself.

    Even if sexual abuse won’t be the highest priority for the French judicial system when, to be fair, they’ve got so much to deal with already, things are changing slowly: 20 years ago there wasn’t any kind of official reaction at all to revelations about his abusive behaviour, but now cults and abuse are much better understood. The financial side will be of interest too.

    The fact is that the French government and judicial system are well ahead of the UK when it comes to dealing with cultic abuse and quite severe sentences have been handed out recently for just that kind of behaviour. Other than an inquiry by the Charities Commission, I don’t know how things stand in the UK.

    The most important thing is that he’s thoroughly exposed, his reputation is in shreds so he’s no longer in a position to abuse his students as he has been for the past decades.

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    1. @ Pete Cowell, re “The fact is that the French government and judicial system are well ahead of the UK when it comes to dealing with cultic abuse and quite severe sentences have been handed out recently for just that kind of behaviour”.

      Are you referring to OKC or some other cult? I wasn’t so sure that the penalty was severe in the OKC case.

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      1. @Matilda7

        I wasn’t referring to the OKC case which was tried in Belgium.

        If you go on the UNADFI website, there are details ( in French ) about Gabriel Loison who recently had his prison sentence for sexual abuse extended last October from 10 to 15 years by the Cour d’Appel de Rennes.

        ‘Gabriel Loison avait pour habitude de voir des blocages chez les femmes de son groupe et de prescrire des rapports sexuels, avec lui, pour les lever.

        ……’Gabriel Loison perceived that some of the women in his group had ‘blockages’ and prescribed sex with him as a way of removing them.’

        And an Australian called Sean O’Neil whose sentence for sexual abuse was also extended in 2015 from 15 to 20 years on appeal by la Cour d’assise du Var the recommended maximum was requested by l’Avocat General.

        ‘Sean O’Neil clame son innocence affirmant que les jeunes filles étaient consentantes. Cependant, des expertises psychologiques ont mis en évidence leur vulnérabilité et leur fragilité au moment des faits. Un expert évoque l’emprise que le gourou exerçait sur l’une d’elle et ajoute qu’elle était dans un « état proche de l’hypnose qui la rendait dépendante psychologiquement et affectivement ‘

        ……..’O’Neil protested his innocence and insisted the girls consented but expert testimony presented evidence of their vulnerability and fragile state at the time and cited the strong psychological hold that the Guru had:, “a state close to hypnosis that induced psychological and emotional dependence.’

        Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

        If you can read French the UNADFI website is very interesting, or use Google Translate, which isn’t always accurate but gives the general sense.

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        1. Thanks Pete, yeah, the old “let me heal your blockages” line. That monk of HHDL’s, Tenzin Dhonden, who’s now been accused of bribery has also been connected to that branding cult, if i can call it that, indirectly through his romantic liaisons. But i couldn’t really follow all the connections and it seemed too sleazy to be bothered with.

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  13. @Moonfire,

    Personally I am not convinced that the best solution is to bring Rigpa organization down. But if someone is trying, I know a sure way to do it. You need a Rigpa leaks. If you can find some records of financial mishandling, tax evasion, illegal cash transfers, non declared jobs… That will be enough. In France, the justice takes maybe 10 years to proceed, but the tax department (service des Impots) will proceed and recover its money in a couple of years. Plus, if the amounts involved are important, they will launch an investigation on the whole institution.

    So for those wanting to bring Rigpa down, you should try to find those data.

    A bon entendeur,

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