The Question Dzongsar Khyentse is Not Asking

Many people are noticing that DZK avoids answering some very pertinent and important questions directly in his Rigpa talks, but one student noticed the question he is not asking, and sent me the following to post:

Listening to the way that Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche [DJKR] has been publicly answering the questions he’s been sent, I get the feeling that he has no idea of what lies BEHIND the questions, and that is the bit that interests me.

One would do well to ask WHY are so many people [in this case, longstanding dharma students many of whom have done years of intensive practice, study and/or Rigpa work] asking such questions all of a sudden?

If you traced them back I suspect that you will invariably find that the common root is the confusion that arises when doubt is thrown on the very heart of one’s view and relationship with one’s teacher.

From that confusion come all the questions about vajrayana, questions which in fact have nothing to do with the real issue. Because whichever way we look at it, at the heart of all this sorry situation is a dysfunctional dynamic that centres around Narcissistic Personality Disorder-like behaviours [NPD].

And anything and everything that radiates out from such a heart cannot help but create confusion. The fact that it is disseminated through the medium of dharma teachings might easily mask that underlying confusion but it does not negate it.

Reliable information about genuine NPD is relatively recent and judging from what I see about it on social media it is also quite poorly understood. It is nothing to do with people worrying about how they look, and everything to do with manipulating and controlling the behaviour of others to invest their attention in you, at any cost. Anyone who is aware of having been around that NPD-like dynamic will know just how devastating that can be.

So, I genuinely think DJKR [and not only DJKR] doesn’t yet have the knowledge or  capacity to understand people when it comes to group dysfunctionality.

From the way he is responding, it seems he is only looking at the questions themselves, and not asking himself why they are suddenly being raised by people who had no such doubts previously. And he certainly doesn’t look as if he understands that this is not at all just about teacher/student relationships but it is the result of a very real, very deliberate, longstanding, manipulative, controlling, dysfunctional dynamic at inner-organisational level.

I can understand that completely, and really sympathise with him, and with anyone beginning to learn about the effects of being around NPD,  because until you begin to question and to see through the lie/s yourself you just don’t, and can’t, consider that as a possibility. Yet it is crucial to address such painful questions in order to move through and forward and then begin to thrive again.

DJKR himself states that he has never received teachings from SR, and therefore can’t have the students’ perspective as he was never exposed to what  was going on in teaching situations.

Nor has he really been around SR himself long enough  to have seen what was going on at close quarters, or behind closed doors.

It’s even possible that he himself is being manipulated by that same NPD-like dynamic, but is blissfully unaware. That dynamic thrives on appearing as many things to many different people in order to maintain itself as being the centre of attention at all times.

Having been very adeptly manipulated by narcissists myself, I know just how expert and convincing they can be at painting a world they know you want to believe in in order to keep you hooked in to their attention-giving supply. It took decades to unravel what was going on.

I think that one way to educate lamas and teachers, as well as ourselves, about what has happened in Rigpa (and other organisations) would be to invite all of us to study in some depth about the kind of dangerous and  damaging situations that can and do occur around people with potential NPD (or any other abusive  personality), and to really learn about and understand the kind of manipulative distortions that arise and, in particular, how EASY it is for others to be sucked into it, how dangerous it can become, and how DIFFICULT it is to get out of it.

I do sincerely hope that someone will therefore get to discuss this with DJKR directly, because until he is really aware of the heart of the problem himself I don’t see how he can ever address the problem meaningfully.

Until that happens then a lot of  the talk about Vajrayana etc just becomes another distraction away from the main issue, which is:

How to avoid Buddhist teachers, students and organisations developing NPD-like traits and behaviours?

What to look out for?

And what to do about it when it happens?

I would also like to appreciate all the efforts that DJKR and many many other people are making in being willing to be open to, and to discuss, these painful but necessary subjects.

May it be of great benefit to all beings.

Concerned dharma practitioner

In case you haven’t seen the Paris talks yet, here it is:

We’ll post something on the repercussions of his talks after people have had time to digest them.


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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16 thoughts on “The Question Dzongsar Khyentse is Not Asking

  1. From my perspective, the core of the problem is another. Some Vajra masters (not all) are requesting total control over their students.
    My gut feeling tells me that the Vajra masters are supposed to follow the boddhisattva path. So THEIR ROLE IS TO SERVE THEIR STUDENTS AND NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.

    I don’t think we should look for references in psychology when everything is already within the Dharma. Now, which type of personality would request total control over others? You don’t need a PhD in psychology to figure this one out…

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    1. I agree. The role of the Lama is the key, as one follows the path in Vajrayana. Since the role is not particularly and precisley defined is there more then enough space for “everything” to happen.

      Enough space for abuse and all kind of behaviour that doesnt have do anything with Dharma.

      From my point of view: as soon as a Lama violates the interest of a student he breaks his Samaya.

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  2. When Dzongsar was a bit younger, he made noises about reforming the system, speaking out, renouncing his title. etc. I guess what changed was that only one of his movies was a success, so he could never afford to quit the guru game. (Something similar happened to “Lama Osel,” who left the FPMT to be a film-maker, but ultimately went back to the gravy train.) He knows he’s a fraud, and that the whole system is a fraud. He just has to manage his PR enough to keep the money coming in for awhile longer.

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  3. I have noticed that Dzongsar K. has become the really hot topic of conversation in all of the Buddhist forums lately, even more than Sogyal has been. If his motive is to keep people’s attention on him, he has certainly succeeded, lol!

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  4. When I read the article The Distortions We Bring To The Study of Buddhism, by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, April 2, 2014, I have a better understanding why DJKR doesn’t know and will not feel concerned about “group dysfunctionality.”. This is not his problem. He has already a strong opinion about westerners and the distortions of the Dharma in the West, and he is very defensive. He certainly find that NPD is a westerner concept.

    However, I think that it’s a very pertinent one. Psychology should not replace the Dharma, but it’s an help. When I cook I use a cooking book, not a Dharma book. And when I analyzed what went wrong in my story, I found that, among others, I had been the scapegoat of a controlling, dysfunctional Buddhist group with NPD-like dynamic (and that I was incredibly ignorant about social psychology).

    After the talks DJKR gave in my country and in Europe, I feel that the Buddhist dysfunctional groups will not change from inside willingly, and that it’s a lost of time to try, or at least that it requires a strong concern and involvement I don’t have.

    Since many years now, I took the decision to :
    – never accept a feudal relation with Buddhist masters or Dharma friends, which brings so much misery.

    – never think that a tulku or a rinpoche is somebody special, it’s just a title or a position. I respect the teacher for what he says and do, even if he or her seems to be an insignificant man or woman.

    – never take for granted that a teaching or a statement is true, but always search for it’s source, ponder it and meditate on it.

    – never practice a ritual or bend to a rule just because it’s the tradition, it should mean something for me and according to the Dharma. In Buddhist centers there are often too many rituals and initiations, and not enough basic teachings.

    – never accept to be involved or to support Dharma business, which is overly present and kills the true Dharma.

    In my opinion, and experience, this is a good way to not fall prey to NPD-like dynamic, and also to not fuel it. It’s not disparaging the Buddha Dharma, the Tibetan Buddhism per se and the gurus, but it’s criticizing what, I think, is harmful in their institutionalized forms.

    I wish also to make clear that I don’t have any dislike or ill will against DJKR, Rigpa or any Buddhist group alike. However, their way of seeing things and behaving jeopardized my life, and my path to Enlightenment, and harmed other Buddhists, thus I took time to give my opinion and share my experience, especially during the time of DJKR’s talks (highly public ideed).

    DJKR article :
    https://www.lionsroar.com/the-distortions-we-bring-to-the-study-of-buddhism/

    Like

  5. When I read the article The Distortions We Bring To The Study of Buddhism, by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, April 2, 2014, I have a better understanding why DJKR doesn’t know and will not feel concerned about “group dysfunctionality.”. This is not his problem. He has already a strong opinion about westerners and the distortions of the Dharma in the West, and he is very defensive. He certainly find that NPD is a westerner concept.

    However, I think that it’s a very pertinent one. Psychology should not replace the Dharma, but it’s an help. When I cook I use a cooking book, not a Dharma book. And when I analyzed what went wrong in my story, I found that, among others, I had been the scapegoat of a controlling, dysfunctional Buddhist group with NPD-like dynamic (and that I was incredibly ignorant about social psychology).

    After the talks DJKR gave in my country and in Europe, I feel that the Buddhist dysfunctional groups will not change from inside willingly, and that it’s a lost of time to try, or at least that it requires a strong concern and involvement I don’t have.

    Since many years now, I took the decision to :
    – never accept a feudal relation with Buddhist masters or Dharma friends, which brings so much misery.

    – never think that a tulku or a rinpoche is somebody special, it’s just a title or a position. I respect the teacher for what he says and do, even if he or her seems to be an insignificant man or woman.

    – never take for granted that a teaching or a statement is true, but always search for it’s source, ponder it and meditate on it.

    – never practice a ritual or bend to a rule just because it’s the tradition, it should mean something for me and according to the Dharma. In Buddhist centers there are often too many rituals and initiations, and not enough basic teachings.

    – never accept to be involved or to support Dharma business, which is overly present and kills the true Dharma.

    In my opinion, and experience, this is a good way to not fall prey to NPD-like dynamic, and also to not fuel it. It’s not disparaging the Buddha Dharma, the Tibetan Buddhism per se and the gurus, but it’s criticizing what, I think, is harmful in their institutionalized forms.

    I wish also to make clear that I don’t have any dislike or ill will against DJKR, Rigpa or any Buddhist group alike. However, their way of seeing things and behaving jeopardized my life, and my path to Enlightenment, and harmed other Buddhists, thus I took time to give my opinion and share my experience, especially during the time of DJKR’s talks (highly public indeed).

    Like

    1. Perhaps NPD is equivalent to a hell realm? If this is the case the west and the east could be talking about the same phenomenon.

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      1. In fact, I said that according to what I read, DJKR “certainly find that NPD is a westerner concept.” I just guess. It’s a fact that he is also avoiding the subject, and that he makes a big difference between the Est and the West, which I think is artificial.

        From my side, I don’t think that there is a big difference in the psychological understanding of social interactions between the Est and the West. There is a high understanding too in the Est, quite similar (even if I’m quite ignorant on the subject).

        Concerning the Dharma, the Buddha taught the different realms, I understand them as experiences of suffering and fear per se, or worlds existing in the same way than the human world exist (even if beyond existing or non existing). A country during a war is a taste of it.

        If we consider NPD, maybe the closest ideas to it are to be found in the sutras, even if it”d an other angle of understanding :

        For example :
        “Greed, hatred, and delusion of every kind are unwholesome. Whatever action a greedy, hating, and deluded person heaps up—by deeds, words, or thoughts—that too is unwholesome. Whatever suffering such a person, overpowered by greed, hatred, and delusion, his thoughts controlled by them, inflicts under false pretexts upon another—by killing, imprisonment, confiscation of property, false accusations, or expulsion—being prompted in this by the thought, I have power and I want power/ all this is unwholesome too.”
        (from AN 3:69; I 201-2)

        Abstract from “In the Buddha’s words” :

        “the Buddha did not agitate for the abolition of the Indian class system and attempt to establish a classless society. Within the Sahgha, however, all caste distinctions were abrogated from the moment of ordination. People from any of the four social classes who went forth under the Buddha renounced their class titles and prerogatives, becoming known simply as disciples of the
        Sakyan son (that is, of the Buddha, who was from the Sakyan clan). Whenever the Buddha and his disciples confronted the brahmins’ claim to superiority, they argued vigorously against them.”.

        … I won’t go further, you certainly know the Dharma as well as me, if not better. It’s just to express an opinion.

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        1. I agree with you, I raised this possability instead of saying DKR is artificial.
          You can also see it in the biography of Jamyang Khyentse Choki Lodro, the first chapter. You find examples of very neurotic behavior by JKCL, sorry to say. But there is I big difference between the first chapter of this biography and the way SR/SL talked about him during his teachings. I was astonished by the discrepancy between this book and the teachings of Sl/SR.
          SR/SL has said on several occasions he had to learn what neurotic behavior was and how it felt.
          Neurotic behavior was right under his nose. The humor is that OTR was greatly involved in writing this chapter.

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          1. This is really quite an extraordinary conversation in a lot of ways. I mean, surely we choose a lama because he/she demonstrates qualities we aspire to ourselves? One of my previous lamas has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disease and last I heard he was on medications and could not commit to teaching too far in advance because of his moods, particularly his depression. Yet he has a big Dharma Center and a big group of followers. Do all these followers aspire to becoming bipolar? Or is it just being treated as some sort of physical disease, separate from the Dharma?

            For myself, I was forced to leave this lama behind because of his fierce temper. Yet, I had spiritual experiences in his presence that evoked devotion in me. In the same way, whether you explain SL’s behaviors the manifestation of a personality disorder– or just old-fashioned, 3,000 year old kleshas, how is it that someone with such extraordinary failings can nonetheless have those Dharma qualities? I also felt moved in SL’s presence. After some time attending his teachings, I was committed to the dharma for life.

            I think these paradoxes are a little difficult for Westerners. And for myself at least, I have made a commitment that I won’t follow a teacher anymore who fails to fully demonstrate qualities that I admire and aspire to myself.

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            1. Thank you Joanne, perhaps we are now getting somewhere.

              The paradoxex are important to understand. What I expected to read in JKCL his biography was that Dzochgen training worked. SL always used The Dalai Lama as an example, DL is always the same.
              I thought nearoses could be overcome by Dzogchen training, but is in not the case in JKCL.
              The first chapter of JKCL doesnT sell buddhism very well.

              Perhaps this is somthing Dzongar Khyentse could adress in future talks, let us ask it him by now,
              He is reading this blog.

              If we are able to understand this, perhaps the so called east and west are comming somewhere.
              We need to know if we are talking about the same phenomena to understand each other.

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              1. Thanks, Joanne and Jan.

                Joanne wrote: ” I mean, surely we choose a lama because he/she demonstrates qualities we aspire to ourselves? ”

                It seems important to hear the different ways we enter into the teachings and understand the range of approaches.

                For me, I’ve never attended teachings because I think the teacher demonstrates qualities I aspire to. Something else is at work, some kind of opening to the potential for disruption, for a shift in my ordinary way of thinking, a relief from the conventions I carry around like a sack of rocks.

                Jan wrote: “We need to know if we are talking about the same phenomena to understand each other.”

                Yes, and we may never be talking about the same phenomena, it may always be difference, even when we think we “agree”.

                Hearing and supporting difference between ourselves may take pressure off to conform and reduce the possibility of cult like behavior and pressures.

                Rick

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            2. @Joanne and the difficult paradox.
              I donnot know, but could it be that it has something to do that we all have a buddha nature and even when it is obscured buddha nature communicates wth buddha nature, wisdom communicates with wisdom. From working with paradoxes comes magic as we have heard in the latest talk of DKR.
              Perhaps we should give this a consideration or think about and reflect on this. It is magic that you were moved. It is only a suggestion that. I now make.

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  6. “Something else is at work, some kind of opening to the potential for disruption, for a shift in my ordinary way of thinking, a relief from the conventions I carry around like a sack of rocks.”

    That’s how it’s been in my experience too. Thank you,
    John

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