Is Vajrayana Buddhism a Cult Religion? Part 2

 

In the last post on this topic, I looked at the general markers of a cult and how they relate to vajrayana and examined devotion to the teacher in vajrayana in terms of whether we were devoted to a person or to an abstract principle—the first being the marker of a cult and the second of a religion.

Today I look at the role of unquestioning obedience, removal of the right to criticise and worldly law in vajrayana, then I provide a conclusion to the two posts.

Feudalism

The following points of contention in Tibetan Buddhism are all aspects of a feudal culture and in the modern world are markers of cults where power can easily be abused. Though those who resist change will cite teachings that give reasons why obedience, not criticising and being a law unto themselves have spiritual relevance, one should question whether those teachings are definitive or provisional, whether they are in accord with the Buddha’s teachings, whether they were given with the welfare of the student or of maintaining the lamas’ power in mind, and given the ease with which lamas abuse their power these days, whether the results of reinterpreting them in line with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Minguyr Rinpoche’s points of view would not be more beneficial than harmful.

Complete obedience

Though some teachers insist on it, others don’t, so clearly complete obedience to the teacher is not necessary for Vajrayana practice. It’s a matter of interpretation.

“According to Vajrayana (or Tantrayana), if a guru gives an instruction that is not in accord with the Dharma, the student should not follow it and should go to the teacher to clarify and explain why they cannot. This advice comes directly from the Buddha and is found in the scriptures. The same applies if you think the advice of your teacher is unskillful or unwise, even though it may be ethical. The purity of the teacher’s motivation is not enough: the instruction must be appropriate for the situation and the culture of the place.” HH Dalai Lama, Dharamsala 1993.

“Ancient texts take the authenticity of the guru for granted. Yet in our degenerate times, we cannot find perfect teachers. If the teacher has obscurations, then we risk taking bad advice, so how can we apply devotion and pure perception? My father (Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche) told me never to go against my own intuitive wisdom in order to follow the guru’s advice. Of course, if the advice concerns dharma, we think about it very carefully. If the advice concerns worldly things then, my father told me, we definitely have no obligation to follow it.” Mingyur Rinpoche, Turning Confusion into Clarity, pp 300-301.

To avoid a vajrayana cult, avoid teachers who insist on complete obedience, no matter what the reasoning. There is nothing detrimental to the transformative power of vajrayana if a student retains the right to say, “No.” If they feel they have to obey when they don’t want to for any reason, they are likely to end up feeling abused rather than transformed. S&M devotees have a safe word, why not vajrayana students? Some students will obey without question, some will not, but the power to choose should remain in their hands.

The Words of My Perfect Teacher was presumably written about a perfect teacher, so we should be careful not to apply its teachings on obedience rigidly to our modern world. There is a big difference between a teacher demanding obedience and a student giving it willingly and always retaining the right to say “No.” If a vajrayana teacher wants to avoid being labelled a cult leader, he or she needs to understand this point.

 

Silencing dissent

A Cultwatch article on how cults work states, “Cult members are usually very fearful of disobeying or disagreeing with leadership. Healthy organisations, however, are not threatened by debating issues.”

The traditional view on not criticising one’s teacher for fear of going to hell is definitely a mark of a cult, and this is another area that Tibetan Buddhism needs to look at closely. It’s also an area where different teachers have different views, which means that vajrayana itself does not demand one doesn’t ever criticise one’s teacher, only some teachers do—apparently those who haven’t adjusted to the fact that some lamas abuse their position and so need to be criticised for the safety of their students. For the more flexible lamas, whether or not one breaks one sacred relationship with one’s teacher has to do with the circumstances and the student’s motivation.

Dzongsar Khyentse puts the hard line view succinctly, “Frankly, for a student of Sogyal Rinpoche who has consciously received abhisheka and therefore entered or stepped onto the Vajrayana path, to think of labelling Sogyal Rinpoche’s actions as ‘abusive’, or to criticize a Vajrayana master even privately, let alone publicly and in print, or simply to reveal that such methods exist, is a breakage of samaya.”

In the vajrayana belief system a breakage of samaya results in rebirth in hells, hence the fear factor.

In terms of what constitutes a cult, the reasoning behind such demands is irrelevant, it’s the result of the belief that is looked at, and the result of such a belief is that people fear to raise issues that should be raised, and if they do raise them, they are shut down as they were in Rigpa. In an era when lamas cannot be trusted not to abuse their power, insisting on no criticism under any circumstance is unhealthy at best and at worst can lead to students being harmed and the issue covered up for decades.

But it doesn’t have to be that way in Vajrayana. HHDL says,” Even though I have deep faith and respect for my teachers and consider them high spiritual beings, I did not hesitate to criticize their behavior because those actions were wrong no matter who did them. I didn’t speak out of hatred or disrespect, but because I love the Buddhadharma and their actions went against it.

“It is essential to distinguish between two things: the person and their action. We criticize the action, not the person. The person is neutral: he or she has the wish to be happy and overcome suffering, and once their negative action stops, they will become a friend. The troublemaker is the disturbing attitudes and actions. Speaking out against the action does not mean that we hate the person. In meditation, I try to develop genuine compassion for these people while still opposing their actions. Thus, we may criticize a teacher’s abusive actions or negative qualities while we respect them as a person at the same time. There are still some beneficial aspects of the guru. A mistaken action doesn’t destroy their good qualities. If you criticize in this way, there is no danger of hellish rebirth as a result. Motivation is the key: speaking out of hatred or desire for revenge is wrong. However, if we know that by not speaking out, their negative behavior will continue and will harm the Buddhadharma, and we still remain silent, that is wrong.”

Were it not for His Holiness and Mingyur Rinpoche, I might have come to a different conclusion to the question of whether or not vajrayana is a cult religion. They and other teachers like them prove that these cultish aspects are not intrinsic to vajrayana itself. They show the way for modern lamas to teach, a way that will ensure their community does not become a cult in the negative sense of the word.

As regards criticising a teacher, Mingyur Rinpoche in his Lion’s Roar article says, “The appropriate response depends on the situation. In some cases, if a teacher has acted inappropriately or harmfully but acknowledges the wrongdoing and commits to avoiding it in the future, then dealing with the matter internally may be adequate. But if there is a long-standing pattern of ethical violations, or if the abuse is extreme, or if the teacher is unwilling to take responsibility, it is appropriate to bring the behavior out into the open.

“In these circumstances, it is not a breach of samaya to bring painful information to light. Naming destructive behaviors is a necessary step to protect those who are being harmed or who are in danger of being harmed in the future, and to safeguard the health of the community.”

This is the view that teachers of Tibetan Buddhism and students of vajrayana need to adopt for the health of their community, to avoid the harmful cult label and for Tibetan Buddhism to find a respected place in Western society.

The ultimate red flag cult indicator for vajrayana

In his book Cults in America, a scholar named James R. Lewis explains a number of properties he would expect a dangerous sect to have. He says that probably the most important characteristic is that “The organization is willing to place itself above the law.” (See http://abuse.wikia.com/wiki/Cult_checklist)

Unfortunately some lamas do place vajrayana above the law, and this belief that vajrayana has its own rules separate to the rule of law is the single most dangerous aspect of vajrayana for both students and society.

Vajrayana as a whole does not do this, however, because lamas like HH Dalai Lama, Mingyur Rinpoche and others make it clear that society’s norms must be obeyed.

Again from his Lion’s Roar article, MR says, “It should go without saying that when schools, businesses, and other public institutions are expected to adhere to a code of conduct and the laws of the land, then spiritual organizations should be role models of ethical behavior. And teachers even more so.”

Those who declare, for any reason, that there is nothing wrong with Sogyal’s behaviour as outlined in the July letter by the 8 close students or that there is nothing wrong with a great lama killing someone (Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, Rigpa Paris 2017) have put vajrayana above the law and as such have stepped into cult territory. Such extreme views are similar in their danger to society as those of fundamentalist Muslims who believe that blowing up a bus full of innocent people is spiritually beneficial. Such ideas are simply not acceptable in a society where cults are considered harmful to members and dangerous to society as a whole.

Conclusion

Based on the above thinking, I believe that vajrayana is not a cult religion in itself. Some vajrayana communities are cults, however, or have the potential to become one very easily. Where a particular community falls in terms of the label ‘cult’ depends on how the lama teaches devotion (do they demand that you give up your discernment) and pure perception (do they demand that you see their questionable actions as beneficial), and whether or not they demand complete obedience and consider that Vajrayana beliefs place lamas above the law of the land in which they teach.  All this brings us back to the importance of checking out what a lama actually believes, how he or she behaves, and what they will demand of us if we become his or her student.

In this lama-centred, feudal-structured religion if Tibetan Buddhism as a whole wants the respect of Western society, then the lamas need to come together and examine their interpretations of the above teachings and adapt them to modern circumstances under the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama who is respected and trusted by most people in the West.

The bottom line is that healthy religious organisations (healthy meaning not a cult) allow open criticism and the free flow of information. They do not demand obedience or devotion, or reward them with desirable teachings or attention, or punish their lack with fear tactics. They do not isolate and condemn anyone who does criticise, do not manipulate their members to gain money or servitude, do not think themselves above the law, and make it quite clear what is expected of the member at each stage of their path. Vajrayana teachers and those running their communities need to be aware of just where they may be stepping over the line from a healthy organisation to an unhealthy one.

I hope that those running Rigpa can see where they have stepped over this line so they know what they have to discard for the sake of the people they profess to serve—the student.


 

On the matter of the blog, I apologise for not being able to comment on people’s comments. My inability to find the time to both write the articles and read and reply to comments, and people’s criticism of that and the moderation that I do manage to do, is one of the reasons why there will be only one more post after this.  Yes, apart from updates on any major developments, this blog is coming to an end. The Facebook group for Rigpa students and ex-Rigpa students will still operate and you can request to join it via the contact page here.

Tahlia.

 

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43 thoughts on “Is Vajrayana Buddhism a Cult Religion? Part 2

  1. Tahlia gets nothing out of this other than clarifying questions and contemplative conclusions … I see a good motivation. I do my best to have my motive pure too. As for Rigpa the most simple way I can put it is to – please – find out why cult tactics, cult methods are harmful – then once you understand don’t do that. Then nobody will be under pressure to point out that you are harming, not helping and then the question of cult won’t come up. If you are going to have to do something that cults all do – explain why you need to, and that you understand that other cults do that but why it will be ok. At least accept what other cults do … and accept why this is known to be risky or harmful and then talk from there. Staying ignorant is no defense – Rigpa, Sogyal, DJK – i’m talking at you!

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  2. I agree Vajrayana itself is not a cult religion, but I do think Sogyal created a cult. And his ring of lamas around him that support him- the Bir lamas and KN- in my mind are like a mafia. If there was not the money flowing and power trips they would not be around. Sogyal gave them the 5 star treatment at the cost of western students. The fact that Sogyal sent one of his female attendants to sleep with OT rings of slavery. Who’s to say the other lamas did not receive the same ‘offerings’. Disgusting. I suspect Sogyal showed the photo collages of his naked inner circle students to these lamas to brag. They knew what was going on yet they still supported a perpetrator. Shame on them. One student who did the 3 year wrote in that Sogyal asked the 3 year retreatants to line up and strip while he watched after they completed their retreats. WTF? Re: the incident in which Sogyal pulled around a naked woman by a rope while he was braying and laughing: horrific. Does the family of that woman know what a psychopath Sogyal was and what he did to their daughter? How did this not get public attention especially since she committed suicide? This is not a dharma place or dharma people. It is a twisted cult.

    What is going on with the lawsuit? A jury of normal adjusted working class people need to hear the happenings at this place. They would be horrified. Sogyal needs to face himself and those he abused and take accountability before he dies. I don’t feel an ounce of sorrow for him. I find him a coward, a psychopath, a narcissist, a lier, a bully, and a generally horrible man. He needs to personally and publicly apologize to all that he harmed, and especially to that family of the woman who committed suicide.

    I personally feel Rigpa should be transformed into a non religious, public place for all people who have been abused. The profits should go to helping the abused (ALL people- not just Rigpa victims) get back on their feet. And the ring of lamas should be at the helm followed by the ring of Rigpa administrators who were complicit to the abuses doing hardcore community service— the lamas donating the $1000s upon $1000s back that they took and rolling up their sleeves to get in there and help people in a practical way. I know I know, I’m dreaming.

    A good lama does not demand anything. He tells you to make your own decisions and not to listen to other people. He does not ask for money (whereas Sogyal asked people to fill envelopes and put their name on the envelope so he can see who offered how much). In fact he will give you money without your asking. He always asks after your welfare. He only wants your own enlightenment and freedom from suffering. He does not want a high seat or to be at the helm. For him high/low is the same. He only speaks when it is necessary. He does not want many students, nor does he self promote or look for students who can serve him. He does not give preferential treatment based on what he thinks a person can offer him. He does not harm or abuse or so much as touch you other than touch you on the head or gently pat your hand or cheek. He is an example of pure compassion and gentle kindness.
    There are such lamas who practice vajrayana in a pure way and who are such examples. I personally know. You don’t have to join an organization, you don’t have to be part of a social club/group as this is not a requirement of dharma- it is rather a strange western phenomenon (SI, RIgpa).
    Don’t throw out the dharma. Take care of yourselves. With love to all the students who suffered and with gratitude to the 8 brave students who spoke up with integrity.

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    1. Thanks for this “concerned”. You may know that I’ve been going public along these lines for 25+ years. I have been vilified, ostracised, bullied, demonised — by not just Sogyal, his cronies and zombies, but by a wide spectrum of vajra kin. I have lost friends, I have been shunned by lamas and their “attendants”. And somehow I have kept going. The 8′ signatories letter finally caused the dam burst. It made http://behindthethangkas.wordpress.com seem tame in comparison. I will not consider my work done until Rigpa unravels and a compensation fund is set up for Sogyal’s victims. Rigpa owns considerable assets worldwide, both real estate and liquidity. `These should be realised as available cash and transferred into a Trust Fund administered by independent ( genuinely independent) people with no connections past or present to Rigpa and Sogyal. At the moment Rigpa is conducting a damage limitation exercise and spending a lot of money on lawyers and spin doctors. The red robes mafia is ring fencing the Rigpa cash flow. This plus the utter disgrace of suing the lawyer Jean-Baptiste Cebron needs to stop NOW. Rigpa cannot be allowed to continue in its present form.Rob Hogendoorn and I are trying to find out the name of the woman who took her own life. We hope to speak to her family to offer whatever we can to ease their suffering.

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      1. Mary your kind is rare. I value your holding truth, ethics, and morality as most important without care for protecting your own ego. It is people like you who fearlessly bring things to light in an effort to straighten out the twisted mess. I bow down to your strength and fearlessness. This is what I would expect from leaders in the dharma. Practitioners should not be meek, unquestioning, and subservient- quite the contrary.

        The trust fund is a marvelous idea to transform dirty money into something beneficial.

        Re: the abused woman who committed suicide: was she just a no name, a nobody, a useless donkey that briefly gave Sogyal a laugh and temporary thrill? I would not be surprised if he raped her. Did her great master and Rigpa members hold a vigil for her or attend her funeral? Or did they dismiss her in death as they did in life? If so, that is truly telling that she went without any care or attention. Mary I do hope you find out the name of this woman. Please people, if you have any heart, write in with her name and contact info. Her family needs to be helped.

        Where is he now? His public confession of the many many specific and individual abuses needs to happen quickly.

        One cannot make an apple clean again after it is seen to be rotten (Sogyal and his ‘organization’ and IMO his ring of complicit lamas). HH is right to use the word rotten.

        It is telling that Sogyal and his ring of lamas are not observing the law of cause and effect. Red meat= colon cancer. It’s all rotting shit in his inner and outer system.

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        1. Thank you for your kind endorsement “concerned”. Thankfully voices like yours and mine are proliferating. Have you checked out Open Buddhism? Its an FB echo chamber of course, but it also sheds light on abusive behaviour in various sanghas — not just Rigpa. And there’s a clique of Buddhist intellectuals as well– debating abstruse dharmic topics in detail. The group is firmly moderated so mostly the headbangers have either been removed or have fled elsewhere.

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  3. @Thalia and Moonfire
    It’s funny. This morning, before I even read this post of yours, I had the same thought, that this blog is about to or should come to a close, because I felt, that everything that is necessary to say has been said by now.
    You all have done a great work to illuminate all the important aspects aroud this topic in a very clear, thorough and structured way. So that all who are interested or concerned can get a clear, differenciated and complete picture and therefore can make an informed decision for themselves.
    Thank you all very much for this great work together with all the commentaries.
    And also the way you are managing the ending of this blog with still updating important news, seems very skillful and appropirate to me.
    Great thanks!

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  4. Even if Rigpa does ever reform, which is currently looking highly unlikely, it is impossible to separate Rigpa from Sogyal, as it was all of the way back in 1979 that he himself chose the name “Rigpa” for his work. Therefore, after forty years of his work, everybody will always see Rigpa to be synonymous with his activities, even if he does ever fully retire.

    We all know that Rigpa is currently engaging in a massive damage limitation exercise, but no matter how much time and money they spend, it is like sticking a superficial plaster on a gaping wound. The only way that Rigpa can truly heal from deep within, is for Sogyal to come forward, admit, and sincerely apologise for all of the abuse.

    If Rigpa’s new advisors, such as Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, had any understanding whatsoever about the above, and if they truly care about the future of Rigpa, they will advise Sogyal to come clean. There literally is no other option.

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  5. I wish to read a transcript of DKR’s upcoming teachings – could someone please attend and post it? I and I’m sure many others are very interested to know where exactly the ‘challenges and misunderstandings’ lie here.

    Also could someone who attends please have him verbally state what that FB posting was all about with the near naked underaged woman and him saying #me too?
    He needs to clearly state his message.

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    1. Why do we have to demand so much from him, or place him so high? I would really like to like DJKR, but he continually disappoints, and if you look deeper, it’s not great what you find.

      He wants to elevate Chogram Trungpa’s view of “crazy wisdom” (without highlighting the disastrous consequences, see The Reagent knowing transmitting AIDS, and of course, Sogyal).

      He considers “New York Times reading liberals” to be distasteful, and maybe some people consider his role as a teacher (Vajrayana teacher for everyone?) is to be a troll, but maybe he’s just being himself.

      https://m.facebook.com/djkhyentse/photos/a.167448616613961.44202.158696727489150/1284765494882262?__tn__=R

      Yes, he has the power and beauty of the dharma behind him, and I respect his 84000 project. But he’s not an enlightened being, and it remains to be seen if he can even have a real public conversation with Western students, that doesn’t involve treating them like children, or cash-cows.

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      1. With regard to DJK: I appreciated him and his work for years and tried to support with money.

        And now: I cannot take him serious anymore. I dont read his stuff anymore. When people are excited he comes to visit a center, I just laugh about it.

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      2. @RH,

        A lot of lamas revere Trungpa, so DKR’s attitude toward him isn’t unusual. I’m not saying they should revere Trungpa, but if you’re gonna be annoyed at DKR for idolizing Trungpa, then you’ll have to ask yourself why practically every single lama thinks Trungpa is so great. You won’t find many lamas who don’t look to Trungpa as a genuine “crazy wisdom” master, no matter what he did, or told his regent to do/not do, etc.

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        1. There’s a world of a difference between acknowledging Trungpa’s accomplishments, and looking to him as a “crazy wisdom” master.

          His accomplishments in making Tibetan Buddhism more accessible are acknowledged by even HHDL:

          https://www.chronicleproject.com/his-holiness-the-dalai-lama/

          But beyond the Nyingma clique of lamas, you won’t find many who sing the praises of his “crazy” approach.

          Instead, they explicitly describe that “crazy” wisdom just refers to being non-conventional to help specific students, rather than actually having mental health problems.

          And they insist, if it harms rather than benefits, it most definitely isn’t wise.

          The modern “crazy” lamas, Trungpa and Sogyal, most definitely are not Padmasambhava or Milarepa – but are invited to display clear miracles if they want to claim they are mahasiddhas.

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          1. The Kagyu lamas love Trungpa too. Maybe some of the more conservative Gelugpas are skeptical, but I’ll bet that if the also practice Nyingma, they also think he’s great. Sakyas are often Rime and practice Nyingma and Dzogchen too, so I don’t really see a separation between Nyingmas and other lineages.

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            1. To make it simple – if you find a lama who praises Trungpa style “crazy wisdom”, ask them directly, about the advice given to the Board of Directors by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, when it was discovered that the Reagent was deliberately spreading HIV.

              Would they also allow that kind of behavior, just call for prayers and spending more time together without criticism, or do they think something went horribly wrong?

              https://www.chronicleproject.com/letters-of-the-current-situation/

              You can decide for yourself then, what to do with the answer.

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              1. @RH
                DKR did not talk about aids in his letters, nether didnhe comment on the sexual behaviour of the regent. I find this difficult to understand, is there an explanation for ?

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                1. I read those letters on the Chronicles Project years ago. My understanding, and recollection, was that having received the first letter from Dilgo Khyentse, the Trungpa people had to spell out the scandal around the Regent. Once they did, they then got a satisfactory response from Rinpoche.

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                  1. @matilda7 You should read them again.

                    There’s nothing “satisfactory” about the situation, or any of the responses, in my opinion, even to this day, beyond that made everything available. Read the very last letter, about the man who died, and how his mother was treated. “Criminally negligent” is a better description.

                    After receiving further information about the conflict, His Holiness suggests very strongly that the Vajra Regent go into strict retreat. He also implores the sangha to gather together to practice the Sadhana of Mahamudra for seven days. He goes on to say, “By all means, out of this meeting, a constructive solution must be found to resolve the current conflicts.” This gathering never occurred.

                    @Jan de Vries

                    The only non-criminally-negligent response, in my opinion, would have been to get the police involved. At the same time, there is also the credible allegation of a (male) student being held down by the Vajra Guard, while the Reagent raped him.

                    Vajradhatu eventually rebranded itself to Shambahala.

                    Here’s some news however: Shambhala’s Kalapa Council published this statement yesterday.

                    “In our complex history there have been instances of sexual harm and inappropriate relations between members and between teachers and students. We are still emerging from a time in which such cases were not always addressed with care and skill….

                    We want to be clear that we, as a leadership body, stand firmly against all forms of abuse and discrimination and any efforts to suppress reports of wrongdoing or shame victims. Yet our ignorance or uncertainty as to how to address the systemic nature of these harms has made us a part of the problem. We must do better.”

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                    1. @RH
                      So DKR did not condem the awfull actions of the regent, is that the message?
                      Not that I am surprised anymore, and it fits with the biography of YKCL were its mentioned that DKR is afraid of YKCL.
                      And it is easier to understand why Dzogar KR also said that there was nothing wrong with Sogyal Lakar his strange sexual actions.
                      These people perferted vajrayana, and it was normal for them, a tradition a perferted one and they are not able to see how it became perferted during the transition from India to Tibet. There is a long way to go. With respect to this, the westerners who adapt this perferted vision are even more sillier, because they are rised otherwise.

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          2. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was widely known to employ skilful teaching methods during an extremely radical time in history of the Western world. His ‘crazy wisdom’ approach was very pertinent for the wayward culture of that time, when many of its dharma students simply would not listen to any other ‘traditional’ method.

            Sogyal, on the other hand, showed no skilful means, no “crazy wisdom”, when he continually commited sexual, physical, emotional and financial abuse.

            Many of us have continually heard Sogyal’s small number of supporters at Rigpa trying to justify his abuse by saying that it was crazy wisdom, and then trying to liken him to the great Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

            Somebody recently said that trying to liken Sogyal to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche is like trying to liken the squeak of a mouse to the roar of a lion. Sogyal’s actions were premeditated and fuelled by his disturbing emotions. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, however, quite simply showed the most spontaneous, creative and effortless display of wisdom and compassion that was pertinent for the people of that time and place.

            It is worth pointing out that anybody who knew Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, saw him effortlessly teach each individual student quite differently from the next. Moreover, as each student matured with practice, his teaching methods changed accordingly, and it often ended up being much more traditional. He was a true master.

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              1. @RH

                Having met Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche many times throughout the late 60’s to the early 80’s, and having known many of his long-term students, whom I’m still in touch with today, I never once witnessed or heard about any form of abuse whatsoever… and these were all from firsthand accounts. Any gossip about any controversy that I ever heard about was always from a thirdhand report, and when looked into, it was always found to be embellished with the preconceptions of people who were never there.

                I’ve heard many stories in the past, including the one that you had alluded to, and for me, the above still stands.

                My radar of what constitutes abuse has always been set at the very highest frequency, and never once did I have the slightest concern about Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s behaviour. He arrived at just the right time during the most radical cultural shift in the Western world, when very few teachers could tame these wild, wayward people… many of whom went on to become inspirational practitioners. Moreover, if it wasn’t for Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, many of those people at that time would have turned their back on the Dharma. He knew exactly what to do and when to do it. He was a true master.

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            1. Your post reflects what the majority of lamas say about Trungpa, as well as students, (including Pema Chodron), who studied with him. It seems to me that many lamas, teachers, and students can sound very sane and rational when they are judging other lama’s abuses, and they can clearly articulate the difference between “crazy wisdom” and actual abuse, but when it comes to their own lamas and teachers, love is blind…..or should I say devotion is blind. This is why the whole “crazy wisdom” business is very dangerous, imo. I wouldn’t go so far as to say there has NEVER been such a thing, anywhere at any time, but I suspect that most of the fantastical stories about “crazy wisdom” we hear about are mostly fantasies or exaggerations. In modern times, it’s clear to see that “crazy wisdom” tactics generally seem to bring harm, at least for many individuals, regardless of who the lama is.

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              1. (This post was @Marge.)

                Disclaimer: when I say “regardless of who the lama is,” I mean the lamas who use “crazy wisdom” as a teaching tactic, not necessarily ALL lamas. Some lamas don’t use those tactics, at least not with the majority of their students….I hope.)

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                1. @Catlover

                  Having met Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche many times throughout the late 60’s to the early 80’s, and having known many of his long-term students, whom I’m still in touch with today, I never once witnessed or heard about any form of abuse whatsoever… and these were all from firsthand accounts. Any gossip about any controversy that I ever heard about was always from a thirdhand report, and when looked into, it was always found to be embellished with the preconceptions of people who were never there.

                  I’ve heard many stories in the past, including the one that you had alluded to, and for me, the above still stands.

                  My radar of what constitutes abuse has always been set at the very highest frequency, and never once did I have the slightest concern about Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s behaviour. He arrived at just the right time during the most radical cultural shift in the Western world, when very few teachers could tame these wild, wayward people… many of whom went on to become inspirational practitioners. Moreover, if it wasn’t for Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, many of those people at that time would have turned their back on the Dharma. He knew exactly what to do and when to do it. He was a true master.

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                  1. @Catlover

                    One thing that I must say, is that there are a number of “wannabe” Trungpas out there, who “try” to emulate him, but their attempts often turn out to be a load of contrived nonsense, or sometimes even abuse. And what is terrible, is that they hide behind the term “crazy wisdom”, as if it gives them carte blanche to do what they like.

                    Genuine Trungpa-like teachers are very rare to come by, but they do exist. Anyway, nowadays most of the time this style of teaching is not necessary…. but back then, during that radical cultural shift with all its wild and wayward people, it often was.

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  6. @RH,

    He doesn’t mention whether he thinks Trungpa is genuine “crazy wisdom” or not. So, how does this prove he doesn’t think Trungpa is great?

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        1. @RH,

          I know what “crazy wisdom’ is (supposed to be), and I know all about Trungpa and his controversies. What I am saying is that despite the controversy around Trungpa, many lamas revere him anyway and *think* he is genuine “crazy wisdom.” No matter what you might tell them about what Trugnpa did to harm others, they would find a way to rationalize how his actions were “crazy wisdom.” It doesn’t matter if he is REALLY “crazy wisdom” because MANY of the lamas believe he is, regardless of whether that’s true or not.

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          1. @RH,

            True believers aren’t always rational. The true believers in Trungpa (lamas and students alike) believe he is “crazy wisdom” not matter what he did.

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              1. @Catlover and @RH

                Having met Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche many times throughout the late 60’s to the early 80’s, and having known many of his long-term students, whom I’m still in touch with today, I never once witnessed or heard about any form of abuse whatsoever… and these were all from firsthand accounts. Any gossip about any controversy that I ever heard about was always from a thirdhand report, and when looked into, it was always found to be embellished with the preconceptions of people who were never there.

                I’ve heard many stories in the past, including the one that you had alluded to, and for me, the above still stands.

                My radar of what constitutes abuse has always been set at the very highest frequency, and never once did I have the slightest concern about Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s behaviour. He arrived at just the right time during the most radical cultural shift in the Western world, when very few teachers could tame these wild, wayward people… many of whom went on to become inspirational practitioners. Moreover, if it wasn’t for Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, many of those people at that time would have turned their back on the Dharma. He knew exactly what to do and when to do it. He was a true master.

                Like

                1. @Catlover and @RH

                  One thing that I must say, is that there are a number of “wannabe” Trungpas out there, who “try” to emulate him, but their attempts often turn out to be a load of contrived nonsense, or sometimes even abuse. And what is terrible, is that they hide behind the term “crazy wisdom”, as if it gives them carte blanche to do what they like.

                  Genuine Trungpa-like teachers are very rare to come by, but they do exist. Anyway, nowadays most of the time this style of teaching is not necessary…. but back then, during that radical cultural shift with all its wild and wayward people, it often was.

                  Like

  7. There is some news about Rigpa Lerab Ling on their web-site explaining why they have taken action for defamation against a lawyer in Montpellier. It is not dated and I don’t know how long it has been there.

    https://lerabling.org/lang-en/about-us/lerab-ling-and-rigpa-news-and-press-releases

    Rigpa Lerab Ling is taking particular issue with a statement made in Midi Libre in December. The item on the Rigpa Lerab Ling web-site reads, in part.

    “Following defamatory remarks against Lerab Ling by a lawyer in Montpellier that were published in the regional newspaper Midi Libre in December 2017, we have decided to take legal action to clear our name. The lawyer accused Lerab Ling of being a cult and said it is better not to close the centre down because “that would force those who frequent the centre to re-integrate into society when they have lost their bearings. As in all cult movements, people are deprived of their identity and are cut off from their family.” Such allegations are grossly untrue…”

    Have they read the letter sent by eight long term students last July in which there is the following sentence?

    “Some of us, who chose to depart abruptly Lerab Ling, left all of our possessions, because we were desperate to break away from your abuse and the community that supported it.”

    Is Rigpa Lerab Ling saying that in fact these students were free to leave at any time?

    How about these couple of passages from the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

    “Following one teaching is not a way of confining you or jealously monopolizing you. It’s a compassionate and skillful of keeping you centered and always on the path, despite the obstacles that you and the world will inevitably present. So when you have explored the mystical traditions, choose one master and follow him or her”
    TBLD revised ed. Chapter Nine pp 135-136

    And then later in the same chapter.

    “This most intimate relationship between disciple and master becomes a mirror, a living analogy for the disciple’s relationship to life and the world in general. The master becomes the pivotal figure in a sustained practice of “pure vision,” which culminates when the disciple sees directly and beyond any doubt: the master as the living buddha, his or her every word as buddha speech, his or her mind the wisdom mind of all the buddhas, his or her every action an expression of buddha activity, the place where he or she lives as nothing less than a buddha realm, and even those around the master as a luminous display of his or her wisdom.”
    TBLD revised ed. Chapter Nine page 142

    The chapter is full of such stuff. Will students who are taking this on board really feel free to leave?

    The Rigpa Lerab Ling web-site goes on to say.

    “All members of the Lerab Ling community enjoy full freedom of thought, we are responsible and intelligent and deeply sincere; we dedicate our lives to making the Buddha’s teachings available to as many people as possible. We simply wish to practise our faith freely.”

    Read the whole of Chapter Nine of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and ask yourself if it is compatible with the Rigpa Lerab Ling statement.

    Rigpa Lerab Ling then goes on to complain that.

    “…the description given by this lawyer has tangible harmful effects on our families and our professional lives, especially in a country where cults are judged very severely. Many members of our community live in nearby towns and villages, we have children who go to school and some of us work in the health sector or in professions that are built on trust. This repeated defamation of Lerab Ling in the press has given rise to feelings of considerable insecurity and anxiety.”

    I realise it is tough, but people are naturally concerned. Would you want your daughter going for a sleepover at Rigpa Lerab Ling if you read as well as Midi Libre, Marianne or the Union Nationale des Associations de Défense des Familles et de l’Individu victimes de Sectes (UNADFI, National Union of Associations for the Protection of Families and Individual victims of Cults) in France, and in the UK the Telegraph or The Guardian, in Holland De Telegraaf, in Germany Süddeutsche Zeitung, in China the South China Morning Post, in Australia the Sydney Morning Herald, in the US The Lion’s Roar or Tricycle, or watch the Cogent Benger documentary from Canada? All the sources here are available on the internet. What would you think if you made the most basic internet search about Rigpa and Sogyal Rinpoche?

    Would you conclude that this organisation is absolutely definitely not a cult? Would you think that everything that has appeared in the above publications and in many other places must be malicious and false? Would you think all these individuals must be lying about Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa?

    This is a shameful lawsuit targeting a lawyer who has only tried to help everyone, including those at Rigpa Lerab Ling who have now taken action against him.

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  8. The tragedy is that most of the LL community members are wonderful people who are just misguided. My guess is that they have been getting bad advice from some of the highest level students who have an ulterior motive and know exactly what they are doing.

    I believe that there are people at the highest levels of rigpa that want LL to fail, it costs millions of euros a year to operate, they hate the place, they are in a phase of consolidation which of course they would never be transparent about. I’ve seen the disdain that they have for the LL community members, it’s horrifying. They are the same ones who fired everyone and gave them one week to vacate their housing when they realized that they had lost 800,000 euro in 2009 (the firing came in summer 2010). They have never cared about any of them, they think they are saps who deserve whatever they get. They lost the money, the community had to pay the price, the same thing is happening now!

    WAKE UP LL COMMUNITY! Look at who stands to gain from the diverted donations when LL is forced to close.

    You can still save LL, just publicly admit that you had no idea how bad it had gotten behind the scenes, it’s been hard for you to take in. Clearly your beloved teacher is ill, of course beating people, sex with married and underage women is against the layman precepts that sl is bound to along along with everyone else. Using your donations to support a sybaritic lifestyle was a violation of your trust.

    Have some moral fortitude, show the strength of your commitment to the dharma, not a person, remember the four reliance’s that sl taught about, that are in the TBLD!

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    1. @notsohopeful

      I saw so much contempt from the handful top people of Rigpa towards all those lower ranks, especially in LL. Disgusting, how they look down on the naive fools.
      The more qualified ones got a better treatment, but the less qualified got “what they deserved”.

      There was such a big gap in LL between that “reality” that was produced in order to get new people in, like pretending and leading to believe a story of “friendship, warm atmosphere, mutual supporting, kindness and so on, and the reality of competition, power games, intrigues and so on.

      Behind the scenery: Buddhiwood ! Show !

      But on the other side: It might be realistic to see that LL was a melting pot of all kind of people, including a lot of freaked out people. (Warning: I dont mean people that look freaky or so but are really freaked out).
      This included a quite a lot of people who hanged out in LL for the rest of their life if not from timne to time a broom sweeps them out.
      Some of them even as salary women and men, even with that low salaries of LL.

      When I look back: Just a sick story.

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  9. PS If you think that you’ll go to hell if you admit that you don’t approve of sl’s behavior. If you think that it really is OK for a teacher to go so far as to kill a student if it’s for their own good, then you are in a cult and the sooner you’re shut down the better for everyone, especially your lovely children, they don’t deserve to be the victims of your ignorant superstition.

    Step back for a minute, what if the imam of the Lodeve Mosque was accused of the same crimes, how would you feel about your neighbors who belonged to the Mosque who rallied behind him. What would you think if they said that it’s his right to beat members of the mosque for their own good, that it is his right to use their money for a lavish lifestyle, to surround himself with an entourage of young woman and male servants?

    My guess is that it would make you very uncomfortable…WAKE UP!

    If you don’t want to be called a cult THEN STOP ACTING LIKE ONE!

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    1. Dear friends,

      The defamation lawsuit against Jean Baptiste CESBRON, the volunteer lawyer who defends the victims of Sogyal, has just been launched by the Lerab Ling community’s lawyer.

      Love.

      Like

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