We have just heard that the Lerab Ling community is going ahead with the lawsuit for defamation of the French Lawyer Jean-Baptiste Cesbron who was assembling testimonies from people harmed by their time in Rigpa for statements he said about Lerab Ling in the local newspaper, the Midi Libre, in December 2017.
According to those bringing the legal action, he made accusations that characterise Rigpa as a cult, namely:
– abuse of power, breach of trust and fraud
– cutting people off from their families
– rendering people incapable of integrating into society
– taking away people’s bearings.
Both sides are now wanting attestations from people of their experience in Rigpa. Lerab Lings wants information to help prove that the above points are not true and Jean-Baptiste wants information to help prove that they are true.
If you want to support Lerab Ling’s case, you are presumably still a Rigpa student so check your emails for details of where you can send your attestation. They want them by the end of the month.
If you feel you have information on these points that might help the lawyer Jean-Baptiste Cesbron to fight this case from his side, please fill in this form and send by post to the following address: Maitre Jean-Baptiste Cesbron, 849 rue Favre de Saint Castor, 34080 Montpellier, France. You can also contact him via email firstname.lastname@example.org You also need to attach a copy of your carte d’identity or passport to the form.
Though experiences at Lerab Ling are most relevant, any experiences with Rigpa anywhere will assist the court in getting a clear picture of the organisation.
English Translation of the Form
Place of Birth:
On the section reading : « lien de parenté …avec les parties » :
Family tie, close links with, subordinate relationship (submitted to an authority, dependency on somebody), in collaboration with or community of interests)
Bear in mind that the Attestation will be used in a court of justice, in taking into account the provision of the article 441-7 which carries the following penalties for making false or misleading statements:
“…is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 1 year and a fine of 15000 euros as a result of making a an attestation or a certificate containing inaccurate facts or incorrect information.”
(This phrase must be written out by hand below)
Please give details of events that you have been present for or witnessed personally:
Date : day month year
Element to add :
– an original or a copy of an official document justifyng of your identity and your signature.
Are they or aren’t they?
I think it is terribly sad that it has come to this. To think that former sangha members are now taking sides to defend either their beloved Lerab Ling or the lawyer who spoke publically about what he had discovered from his investigations.
But that is how it is. So be it.
I suspect that those in Rigpa – both management and students – may not have a very good idea of just where they cross the line from genuine Vajrayana community into cult territory. It’s certainly a question that is long overdue for discussion within Rigpa. Sogyal saying, “We aren’t a cult,” is not sufficient.
There is no precise legal definition of ‘cult’ that I am aware of and so there are bound to be arguments about what the word means, but the more Rigpa tries to argue it should not be considered a cult the more it might persuade people of the opposite.
In 2010 Rigpa was intending to organise a training for instructors to enable them to answer questions from students who might think Rigpa is a cult. One Senior Instructor at the time was asked to contribute some ideas. He looked up various cult checklists and based on those drew up a list of what he thought might be some of the most challenging questions for Rigpa to answer. The questions are below (with the name of the originator of the checklist in brackets).
The instructor didn’t hear if any action was taken on his suggestions, nor did he receive an acknowledgment until he wrote and asked if his contribution had been received.
I’m just posting these for your consideration, not making any judgement either way, but obviously, there are problems if the answer to any of these questions is judged to be ‘yes.’ This is not a complete list, just the ones the instructor felt Rigpa needed to look at.
The Challenging Questions
– Does SR claim divine authority for his deeds and for his orders to followers? (cf Eileen Barker)
– Is there any deception in the recruitment of new members? (cf Shirley Harrison)
– Are members used for fundraising or missionary activities for little or no pay to line the leader’s pockets? (cf Shirley Harrison)
– Does Rigpa have an authority figure that everyone seems to acknowledge as having some special skill or awareness? (cf Steve Eichel)
– Does SR set forth ethical guidelines members must follow but from which he is exempt? (cf James R. Lewis).
– Does SR make public assertions that he knows are false and/or does Rigpa have a policy of routinely deceiving outsiders? (cf James R. Lewis).
– Is there any sexual manipulation of members? (cf Isaac Bonewits)
– Is there a major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals? (cf Steven Hassan)
– Is there any deliberate holding back of information, distorting information to make it more acceptable, or outright lying? (cf Steven Hassan)
– Is there a buddy system to monitor and control, reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership and individual behavior monitored by whole group? (cf Steven Hassan)
So what do you think? Do these apply to Rigpa?
Current and previous students of Rigpa wanting private support are welcome to join the What Now? Facebook group. Please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.
Ex-Rigpa students and their dharma friends who want to move on from the discussion of abuse in Rigpa can stay in touch through the Dharma Companions Facebook Group.
The What Now? Reference Material page has 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.
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