When the truth came out about Sogyal Rinpoche’s behind-the-scenes behaviour (I’m so polite!) the general Rigpa student was pretty shocked. What shocked us even more was the way Rigpa handled the revelations. They lost of a lot of students who would have stayed had management come clean and admitted the truth instead of just finding more subtle ways to continue the cover-up tactics they have honed over decades. The lama may have removed himself (publically), but the beliefs that caused abuse to be enshrined at the very core of the Rigpa organisation still remain, supported by comments by OT, NR and Dzongsar Khyentse, who, though he may have stimulated some deeper thinking about the abuse, still affirmed the necessity of obedience and non-criticism for anyone who has accepted a teacher as their vajramaster. At Rigpa it’s business as usual.
Upcoming talk topic
Khandro Rinpoche will be teaching at Rigpa soon and her topic is ‘Is Vajrayana Right for You.” I expect it will be aimed at getting rid of anyone who might complain in the future, and make sure that those who remain are the ones who are okay with anything their guru dishes out for them. It’s likely to be full of words that say how Vajrayana is ‘not for everyone’, is only for those of the ‘highest faculties’ and how the ‘lower yanas’ or ‘basic yanas’ have other paths for those who ‘don’t like’ the vajrayana. Core message: If you don’t like it, piss off and leave us tough Kham warriors to get on with it.
What about those who are committed to the vajrayana path but want to see it cleaned up so abuse can’t happen again? The message there will be that we don’t understand the vajryana. Hmm, I wonder what I was studying and practicing for the last twenty years then?
Allowing my sarcasm free reign I’d expect the sublte message beneath the talks will be something like: If you have a strong moral compass, are committed to the idea of human rights, feel you should speak up about abuse, and want to retain your critical thinking faculties, then the Rigpa version (perhaps it’s the Nyingma version) of Vajrayana is not for you.
Apologies to Khandro Rinpoche if this is not her underlying message. I’m extrapolating from the title in light of Dzongsar Khyentse’s talks.
Sidestepping the issue
If, like me, you think this approach of getting rid of anyone who might complain is sidestepping the issue, that it leaves a major problem with the religion unresolved, then the question is; what can we do about it? We cannot let the issue fade from sight. We must make sure that students and lamas remain aware of just how easily vajrayana sanghas can become a destructive cult and that the issue must at some point be dealt with both in the individual sanghas and in the religion as a whole.
For the sake of the future of the Vajrayana and to avoid other sanghas falling into destructive cult mode where they are at the mercy of lamas who abuse their power, the beliefs that do not permit criticism of even the most dire behaviour and that insist that the student must obey without question and see a teacher as a buddha even when he behaves worse than a normal human being, must be eradicated. If Mingyur Rinpoche, the Dalai Lama and others can teach Vajrayana without such injunctions, then, clearly, there is no need for them.
The importance of speaking out
Hiding the dirty truth of some Buddhist teacher’s behaviour does not protect the dharma or Tibetan Buddhism. It only worsens the problem. Students looking for enlightenment fall for glossy facades and impressive-sounding lineages, not knowing whether or not the lama is even a decent human being let alone if they are someone who embodies compassion and wisdom. The ony way to help students to choose authentic ethical lamas is by speaking the truth about them. We need to know who we can rely on and who we need to avoid.
So if you experienced abuse at the hands of a Tibetan Lama, or have seen something that indicates there is a misuse of power going on, please speak out. How else will we know who to avoid? How else will we be able to evaluate the teachers available to us? Only with many voices will we be able to get the full picture. Only with many voices will students come to realise that sharing the truth is not some plot, not a bunch of people out to get anyone, but a real problem that needs to be eradicated once and for all.
If it’s time for you to tell your story, contact me and we can talk about the best way to do it.
Why the truth is important
Susana Maria Montero Gaudino posted the following much longer video on Facebook recently. She adds her voice to the request for people to speak up.
Let us know of any Lama of whom you have personal experience who is beyond reproach, and, of course, let us know your experience of the lamas we should avoid. Share only what you know yourself from your own experience or what you’ve been told directly by the person who experienced what you’re sharing. Please do not share hearsay, conjecture, gossip or rumours.
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.
Those of you who are interested in ‘keeping Buddhism clean’ could ‘Like’ the Dharma Protectors Facebook page.
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