Should a Spiritual Teacher Attack Your Hidden Faults?

Finally we’ve got to our examination of the beliefs we held without question. The first is one that we often heard from Sogyal Rinpoche, “A Spiritual teacher should attack your hidden faults” or other versions of that same idea. Looking back now, it seems like an attempt to justify abusive behaviour! And he did use it to calm people down if they’d just witnessed some form of abuse, and all of us who went to a retreat did see emotional abuse; we called it “training”. Ouch. Just what exactly was he training us to do? Witness abuse without reacting? How healthy is that? Is this what the Buddha would want his disciples to learn in the name of Buddhism?

So many questions arise when you start examining, but it’s very important that we ask them and consider the answers because this is what we didn’t do in Rigpa. We never questioned anything, and accepting everything I was told is why I remained in a cult for 20 years. I trusted that everything I was taught to belief was for the benefit of the students. Now I know just how badly many students were hurt, how these beliefs were used to justify and cover up abuse.

Anyway, the idea of our belief examination posts is for you to discuss what you think about the belief. Sogyal didn’t make it up. It comes from the introduction to The Words of My Perfect Teacher as something Patrul Rinpoche said.

This video is my contemplation on this one and it includes Sangye’s thoughts on the matter as well. Please share your thoughts on this belief in the comments. I look forward to a lively discussion.


Private discussion on this and other related topics can be had on our Secret Facebook Group. It is only for current and previous students of Rigpa, however, and we do moderate it closely. If you’re interested in joining, please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.

Ex-Rigpa students and their Rigpa 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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96 thoughts on “Should a Spiritual Teacher Attack Your Hidden Faults?

  1. after talking about abusive cults in buddhism, and seeing some first hand, what i really notice is the self obsession of the students. is this the result of the abusive teachers actions?

    my teachers, with whom i had close contact didn’t point out any “hidden faults”, they taught me how to recognize your mind, and how to enter rigpa, or in the case of burmese lineage, how to cultivate insight, and left everything else to be sorted out later. this obsession with hidden faults seems totally narcissistic to me, and seems to have been used as a control mechanism by cultleaders and not for any introduction to enlightened mind.

    now as a non anglo i gotta say this fits very well with narcissistic anglo culture. and the fact that most people and most buddhists in anglo culture have very low levels of insight. it looks to me like people , including teachers, would rather play in the muck than see the light.

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  2. Any mature adult knows that the idea of attacking other faults is complete non-sense. Without knowing much about psychology, the need to attack just shows a strong sense of insecurity.

    I can’t see how someone with a tamed mind could act in such a way. Conclusion: this teacher should go back to samatha practice until he tames his mind. It is never too late…

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  3. Thank you Tahlia and Sangye for the work you’ve put into this. I think this is a very important aspect of the abusive Rigpa culture. In my own experience, I was never directly criticized by SL, but I took on personally every public lashing that he did. I justified it at the time (even to my sixteen year old daughter!)– but now I view it as a type of “hazing,” an initiation into the inner circle.

    Given that he could not possibly account for the mental health of everyone watching these tantrums, the public bashings were truly abhorrent and irresponsible. For example, I myself had a very low self-esteem at that time and was prone to beating myself up over the smallest thing. His approach made that problem for me much more severe. So what use would such approaches have for those issues? By doing them publicly, in the presence of many people with all sorts of mental dispositions and weaknesses, he can’t even pretend that he is doing anything even remotely skillful.

    So from what I saw, I don’t think it had anything to do with “finding hidden” faults, or, as Tahlia points out, it would have been done in a less brutal and conspicuous way. I think, because of his habit of beating people up in public, it was all about power. If you can get a large group of people to justify such behaviors, then you are truly in charge.

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  4. And anyway, why “attack” someone’s hidden faults? Why not just point them out in a way and in a setting (not necessarily public) that acknowledges the student’s buddha nature and allows them to grow without tearing them down? Whatever happened to simple kindness and respect?

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  5. Sogyal was subjected to harsh and cruel treatment during his childhood. The shadow of this experience manifested in his treatment of other people as an adult. I am not making excuses for him..more like pointing up the fact that severely damaged individuals should never be in a position of power..especially spiritual power which is so fragile and so easily abused.

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    1. Mary, I’m intrigued. I live in Kalimpong, where everyone knows that he went to the poshest school in town, then off to Delhi, and then Cambridge. When do you think he was subjected to harsh and cruel treatment in his childhood?

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      1. Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro was a cruel and violent man. He was Sogyal’s mentor/guardian during his early years in Tibet. Sogyal traveled with him for a year across Tibet and then into exile in Sikkim. JKCY was himself subjected to physical violence as a child — so it passes on through the generations. We know this in western society and these days are less likely to beat up our kids. But in old Tibet (and probably modern Tibet too) physical violence was/is an aspect of many people’s experience.

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        1. Mary, I think we are on the same page. For sure, abuse breeds abuse. I get that. But Soggy spent very little time with JKLC, according to my sources,( although no time is needed to abuse, for sure). However, the trip over the border was not such a big deal, lots of merchants, friends of mine, did it regularly, before the shit hit the fan and the border was closed. I guess I am just not wanting to pin the disgusting behaviour of SL on the abuse he had suffered. I do not believe that he suffered much during his childhood,

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          1. In one retreat in Myall lakes S told us that he was regularly beaten as a child, I had the impression that it was daily, because he said it was for every little mistake he made . He was saying to the parents that we were too soft on our children and that Tibetans beat their children because they know they have buddha nature and so their mistakes are only mistakes and underneath it they are good. I guess it’s a bit like the old Christian idea of beating the devil out of someone.

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        2. I don’t know about the case of SL but Dagyab Kyabgön Rinpoche has described the violence executed on him as a kid and how harmful it was. Among others he told that to escape the pain of the beatings – which he was deeply fearful of – he jumped onto his teacher and hugged him because then the teacher found it more difficult to beat him in ways that it was really hurtful.

          On my German website are two critical accounts by him on the tulku system (in German only):

          1) We were like puppet marionettes: https://info-buddhismus.de/Wir_waren_wie_Marionetten_Dagyab_LS.html

          2) The Tulku Sytem: A Critical Perspective: https://info-buddhismus.de/Tulku-System_Dagyab-Rinpoche.html

          So, yes, I think we must assume that there was a lot of violence in the early years of some tulkus.

          Dagyab Rinpoche later told that he got another teacher who didn’t beat him but treated him with love and kindness. I remember a monk who had many many dents on his head (it looked more like the moon). He told these dents were all from beating him as a child. Though, he used to say the beatings helped him (because of course, it was told to him that it was meant to help him…)

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  6. I have noticed that some senior disciples of these abusive gurus also feel free to “attack our hidden faults”, using something they have read or heard to justify their abuse. And so the abuse is perpetuated.

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    1. True, the bad behaviour is copied by the students. They will apply the same harshness and aggression to those lower in hierarchy and will think this is a good thing.

      I witnessed an example of that myself. Being invited as an official to a Rigpa centre, I ordered a coffee in their Cafe. There was a Rigpa caretaker who checked if we were treated well. The waitress of Cafe was obviously in a stressful situation and had a lot to do. When I saw this and she asked me if she should bring the coffee outside of the building in the garden (where I came from and where there was a nice sun etc.) I said “No, thank you.” and smiled on her to spare her the extra way. When the women moved away leaving me with the coffee alone the Rigpa caretaker screamed aggressively and loudly to the waitress why she doesn’t bring my coffee in the garden. I was quite shocked and later concluded that this must be their way to deal with each other based on the bad example of their spiritual leader. There was just no need to attack the waitress so badly AND in public. However, it was the only experience I made but I expect it is and was not an exception.

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      1. It wasn’t an exception. A friend of mind, who has remained in Rigpa, has a superior in her role as seamstress in retreats and every year she screams at my friend. Every year my friend gets upset by that then manages to accept it as a challenge for her to work with herself and her reactions. Every year she comes back for more and never is that superior challenged over her behaviour. So yes, the learned behaviour is throughout.

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        1. This is what I assumed. As the Buddha warned:

          (11) The devotee acquires the same faults
          As the person not worthy of devotion,
          Like an untainted arrow smeared
          With the poison of a tainted sheath.

          (12) Steadfast ones who fear the taint of faults,
          Do not befriend bad people.
          By close reliance and devotion
          To one’s companion,
          Soon one becomes just like
          The object of one’s devotion.

          https://info-buddhism.com/IntimateFriends-Mitra-vargha.html

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    2. Indeed the so called local hot shots in a sangha do the same thing. That why there is little hope for a change in rigpa, the elite thrives on their status. People are used by them.

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  7. Thank you for this. I have a problem with the generalisation of “a teacher should attack a student’s hidden faults”. The problems with it are:

    If you read the life stories of certain masters / students you can see that teachers were skilful in addressing faults. They didn’t go about it with a sledgehammer.

    Remember for instance the example how Milarepa tamed the pride of Rechungpa? (When I remember correctly it was Rechungpa, and he tamed his pride by hiding during rain in a mussel shell or horn on the way and asked him to come in to be protected also from the rain which Rechungpa couldn’t do [correct me if I distort some parts or details of the story]). Or do you remember how the Buddha tamed the pride of the musician playing a lute (or so) so heavenly? The Buddha just played it better.

    So, you see in these two examples wisdom, skill and compassion – a SOFT way of addressing faults not a sledgehammer, violent way!

    While the stories of Sogyal’s “taming” are full of (as it appears) aggression, violence and harshness.

    Also, as Mingyur Rinpoche says, real “crazy wisdom” can never harm because its based on wisdom and compassion and if it harms one or both of it are lacking. Very clear, very true, isn’t it?!

    So, yes, I think this sledgehammer method of SL is just a means of justifying uncontrolled violence and abuse.

    I want to share another examples of how a good teacher tamed a student’s pride:

    A teacher had a fanatical student who was also full of pride, nobody liked him and he was difficult to deal with. Students complained a lot about him but the teacher said, he cannot do anything at the moment, he is just too full of pride. The teacher treated the student with kindness for about 7 years. The student opened more and more and had increasing faith in the teacher. Then the teacher asked the student: Oh could you do my a favour? I have a text which I would like you to copy for me by writing it down. The student agreed. The text was about the demerits of pride. After the student had written down the copy (having also read and understood its meaning) he started to change …

    This story btw is from a Hindu background.

    These are three stories of taming pride: no physical violence, sexual abuse, harsh words, humiliation etc were applied.

    The point is any more forceful means can only be applied if it is 1) based on compassion, and 2) the outcome will be of long term benefit for the student (not harming him or her), and 3) if the means is appropriate to the time and the student’s capacity. Obviously, these conditions were often not fulfilled that’s why students of SL were harmed by SL very badly.

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    1. Good points Tenpel. And with Rechungpa, Milarepa finally threw himself off a cliff and it wasn’t until then, until Rechungpa realized that through his bad behavior he might have lost his precious guru, that he totally reformed and lost his pride. Milarepa’s story is often cited as a justification for abusive crazy wisdom these days (because of Marpa and the towers). But two elements were always evident in stories about how he treated his own students: 1. His realization/miracles and 2. His immense patience and kindness. He never lost his temper in any stories I have read and Rechungpa was very nasty and rebellious on occasions.

      Also, as Sangye pointed out, SL was not even accurate when he “pointed out faults”– which really points to abusive behavior, behavior more about power. Of course, then the justification is about crushing ego and attachment etc…..

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  8. Having spent 3 decades with Sogyal Rinpoche on retreats and with him staying on our small apartment, I also experienced his more wrathful side on many occasions. He was generally accurate in pointing out my faults (only hidden to me.) As painful as these experiences were at the time, over the years their helpful effects continue to unfold.

    This experience and posting isn’t meant to compare with someone else’s experience, positive or negative.

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    1. Sorry, I have never been in Rigpa and I wonder what are those hidden faults you are talking about? Looks to me like a christian idea. From my perspective there is no inherent fault in any being, only ignorance. Why do you talk about faults? Does this concept apply with dzogchen?

      I wonder also how can someone on the same time recognize Rigpa and attack willfully someone? Doesn’t seem possible to me.

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      1. Hi French Observer,

        Thanks for your reply.

        I’m using the term “hidden faults” because it is what the blog post used. Ignorance is fine, or many other terms. Ignorance, faults, etc., to me means I don’t recognize the movements of my thoughts.

        It means I think the problems in the world are “out there”, something other people create, so other people have to change. My wife, people writing this blog, you, Sogyal Rinpoche, the Rigpa Organization, whomever, whatever.

        This isn’t some personal failing, some sin I carry, rather it is a moment-to-moment cognition or non-cognition of the movement of thought.

        When I’m projecting, becoming aware I’m projecting. When I’m thinking of location or time, aware that I’m thinking of location and time, when I’m angry, being aware of the movement of anger. When I believe in ‘something’, noticing the movement of that belief, sensing it from start to finish, seeing how it consolidates.

        Noticing the effect of thoughts and the affect, too.

        “We do things and all sorts of things occur, emotions occur and we don’t see that our thinking has produced them. Nations are built. All of society is produced. Endless consequences are produced and the next thought abstracts them as independent. That’s an inappropriate abstraction. Then later it makes the wrong abstraction of the unity in order to compensate. It goes on and on.” D.B.

        So, “wrong abstraction”, could be another term, too.

        Like your good questions, you become the teacher, waking me up to be attentive and not get too lost in the drama.

        Thanks,

        Rick

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        1. Thanks Rick New, I am still wondering about the whole approach (just trying to understand). If it is just a lama telling me that I am not aware, well I can perfectly realize this by myself.
          I heard those stories of crushing the ego, attacking the hidden faults… Honestly, I don’t see what there is to crush or to attack. It is kind of a mystery. For me, there is nothing to crush, just be aware and rest in Rigpa.

          Now I have tried to stay in Rigpa and to make some critical attacks on someone behaviour (in my mind of course). It just doesn’t work, I can’t do that. Can someone do that?
          I am really wondering about this whole approach. Does it come from the Nyingma tradition? What are the classical texts to support this approach?

          I have recently read the story of Nagarjuna with the thief, he was definitely playing in a different ballpark:
          <>

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        2. Here is Nagarjuna approach after having given his teaching to the thief:

          And after fifteen days the thief was back, but he was a totally different man. He fell at the feet of Nagarjuna and he said, “You trapped me, and you trapped me so beautifully that I was not even able to suspect. I tried for these fifteen days — it is impossible. If I watch my breath, I cannot steal. If I steal, I cannot watch my breath. Watching the breath, I become so silent, so alert, so aware, so conscious, that even diamonds look like pebbles. You have created a difficulty for me, a dilemma. Now what am I supposed to do?”
          Nagarjuna said, “Get lost! — whatsoever you want to do. If you want that silence, that peace, that bliss, that arises in you when you watch your breath, then choose that. If you think all those diamonds and gold and silver is more valuable, then choose that. That is for you to choose! Who am I to interfere in your life?”
          The man said, “I cannot choose to be unconscious again. I have never known such moments. Accept me as one of your disciples, initiate me.”
          Nagarjuna said, “I have initiated you already.”

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          1. Hi French Observer,

            Right, we are completely independent.

            However, for some reason, we’ve put ourselves in a particular relationship with a guru. Now, something happens, maybe the teacher yells at you, or maybe he is sweet or whatever, or your husband or wife yells at your, or the thief steals from you… how are we going to relate to these situations?

            Do we have expectations of how that situation should be based on a story we’ve read or some other ideas we have? Do we relate to the guru like an individual or parent figure? What is it we do? How are we? By choosing a teacher, we’ve created a dynamic in our lives, how do we relate to that.

            It has nothing to do with the guru, we’ve set the dynamic situation into play, just as your story has little to do with Nagarjuna, but more to do with the thief’s own choices and possibilities.

            Thanks,

            Rick

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            1. Rick New, interesting conversation! I can tell you how I relate today with the subject: I relate with the essence of the guru and our minds are one. You can’t separate one from the other. This is not at all a wordly relation. But I don’t need to be physically close to the guru and I have no other expectation than to receive the teachings. I am just looking for the teachings and transmission from the lineage. I don’t need much physical contact with the guru.

              Certainly according to the particular profile of the student, all this dynamic can be very different. I like the story with the thief. And the traditions seem very different according to the lineages. But a lot of what I have read in the Whatnow blog about this relation seems so wordly. This is also what I felt reading the Bourbon book of DJKR, this is so wordly, so materialistic…

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              1. HI French Observer,

                There is a lot to talk about in what you say, but my sense is we are getting to subtleties that require deep listening and openness on both our parts.

                If you (or anyone else) is interested, I think there could be a lot of benefit in a Skype/Hangouts/Phone session where we set the environment for deeply listening to one another. Just hearing a voice or seeing a face adds so much to the dialogue.

                Some of the questions that come up are that you seem to be saying that the worldly, or materialistic are different from the relationship with the guru. Am I hearing you correctly? When trying to communicate, I’m not interested in proving what you say right or wrong, but hearing how that boundary works for you. How others may work with that boundary, how it functions, etc? Those are some of the questions we could explore together.

                What do you think?

                Thanks,

                Rick

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                1. Yes Rick, this is what I meant. Could be fun to exchange on skype but I don’t think my english is good enough (I am not really fluent). In fact a blog format allows only to exchange some informations but not a real dialog.
                  Basically, on your question about how do we relate to the guru, my personal answer would be today: I relate to the guru the same way I relate to my mind and there is no boundary. I don’t see the relation at the level of he has done this, he has said that… This is much deeper.

                  Ok, I shut up now but I am always interested to learn and consider others’ perspective.

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                  1. Yes, me too, thanks for this conversation.

                    Let me know if you want to try Skype. If we can’t communicate via words, we can just say “Hello!” My Skype email is ricknew at outlook.com.

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      2. @French Observer,

        “Hidden faults” is not a Christian idea, (although I suppose anyone of any faith could use it). “Original sin” is a Christian idea. “Hidden faults” just means those things we are not aware of or “mindful” about within ourselves which are leading us astray from the path to enlightenment. In theory, it’s good to have someone who can make us aware of our faults that are getting in the way of Dharmic insight, but in practice it’s like a game to most of the lamas I have ever seen or heard about. Often, they won’t actually attack like Sogyal does, but they do seem to enjoy laughing at people as they watch how their “egos” are being crushed. It seems kind of mean to me because it often just destroys anything a person feels a little bit good about. It’s as if these teachers are afraid that if a person is allowed to feel happy and confident about something, they will become prideful and conceited, so they have to smash down any self confidence. At least that’s the impression I get. In Sogyal’s case, he took it to a whole new level, so I am not saying all lamas are going as far as he does. However, I have noticed that they enjoy “crushing people’s egos” and I suspect it’s because it makes them feel powerful and superior.

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          1. @French Observer,

            It doesn’t matter which lineage it is. Gurus just do it because they can. Sogyal is supposedly Dzogchen/Nyingma, but I think it’s just a power trip.

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            1. Good points Catlover. When you damage someone’s self-confidence, it can also be very damaging to their ability to progress on the path, which requires great self-confidence. Sangye’s story about being criticized for things that he knew he did well is a good example of behavior that can damage self-confidence– and confuse a student!

              I think lack of education is part of what makes a lama use these techniques. If they had a proper foundation in the Dharma, then they would use those methods to diminish ego. Because there are plenty of gentler and safer ways to diminish ego!

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              1. @French Observer,

                Um, why are you saying I’m “not authentic” just because I point out the typical lama games I have noticed throughout the years?!?!? It’s one of the reasons why I have withdrawn from lamas, Tibetan Buddhism, and religion in general. I am sick of mind games, psychological torture, and the justification for it. I am not trying to palm myself off as some sort of teacher or someone who is so wise and special. I am just one disillusioned student who has seen and heard too much disgusting stuff. There is some good in Tibetan Buddhist teachings. I’m not saying it’s all b.s. and I’m not even saying all lamas are jerks, BUT I do believe that most of them probably are (unfortunately). That’s because they are raised in conditions which ruin them psychologically and they are given too much POWER. Power corrupts, and that’s a fact. Humans who are in positions of power show just how UN-enlightened most of them are. Sorry to offend, but I am just expressing how I truly feel. I think I would be unauthentic if I didn’t tell it as I see it.

                When did I say that power trips were Dharma? When did I say that we should follow lamas who play these mind games? I am staying far, far away from any lama who shows signs of this kind of behavior, (and unfortunately I haven’t met any who didn’t display at least some of these traits.) I totally agree that it’s NOT Dharma, but when did I say it was? I don’t get your point, but if you’re trying to say I am justifying this kind of behavior than NO I did not say that at all. I am just explaining my own observations about the way they behave in order to shed some insights into their possible motives for acting in these strange ways.

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                1. @Catlover, sorry but certainly my english is not up to task. When I said: “I don’t think you are authentic and you’d better go in retreat…”, I was talking to the lama in the situation, not you! I think the lama is not authentic in this type of situation of power trip included in the teachings.

                  I never wrote also that you said or thought that power trips were Dharma. I wrote: “I agree with your consideration about the power trip but this is not dharma to me.” stating only my position and without any assumption about yours. Anyway some people may consider those situations as a dharma teaching and I am also open to examine this.

                  Basically I was just saying “we should not overgeneralize about gurus” and from my perspective “this is not even dharma”. The point I was trying to make is not about you at all but just sharing my perspective and own experience. Sorry if my reply wasn’t clear.

                  To be clearer: it is not because I have not seen directly those situations that I pretend that they don’t exist and I have no problem with stating facts as they are. My personal feeling about lamas is that most of them are fake. It has always been the case in Tibet and it will be always the case. This is just coming from the difficulty to reach a certain level of realization and that we are in samsara. The only problem is that potential students are not aware of this simple fact and are very naive so many are misled. Very important to keep the eyes and the mind open!

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                  1. @French Observer,

                    Okay, I understand now. 🙂 Sorry I misunderstood you and got on the defensive. I’ve been attacked before, so I guess I was expecting to be attacked again. but I totally understand about the language thing. No problem. I’m glad you weren’t attacking me. No hard feelings. 🙂

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                  2. @French Observer,

                    Btw, I’m not saying you attacked me before. I’m just saying I had been attacked before by people in general.

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                  3. I think gurus are all human with normal human faults, and that’s the important thing for us to remember. We must not deify them and if we see them as a buddha we should also see their human faults and not pretend they don’t exist, that’s our task. But if they know dharma then they have something to teach us, and so I don’t consider them ‘fake’ unless they don’t actually have the education that they need to be teaching what they’re teaching or if they don’t act according to their own teaching or if they are saying they are enlightened and they aren’t.

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            2. @Catlover, “Gurus just do it because they can”: maybe we should be careful with some overgeneralization because I have never seen the situations you describe. Now I don’t live with or serve gurus and I have no intention to do so. That’s why I asked about the lineages to know if it is a classical dharmic method and I would be interested to learn from some references from classical texts.

              Personally, I would rather follow someone pointing to my inner goodness than my “hidden faults”. Not saying that the other approach wouldn’t maybe work (as there are at least 84’000 methods). But it’s well known in psychology that picking at someone’s fault is a form projection (the projection of Jung). So it doesn’t seem sane to me.

              I agree with your consideration about the power trip but this is not dharma to me. It’s just an expression of the delusion of this particular lama, personally I don’t care. I don’t expect him to be perfect in the normal life. But if he introduces this dimension in his dharma teachings I will not just follow him. Why follow someone who has not realized that we have all buddha nature and are all equals? Bye, bye: I don’t think you are authentic and you’d better go in retreat…

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              1. I replied, but my post appeared just above your post to me. If you want to read my answer, you have to look above your post.

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              2. @French Observer,

                Maybe I shouldn’t over generalize about lamas, but it really does seem to me that most of them at least do the mind game stuff with their close students. It’s not really part of any particular lineage, (they behave this way in all the lineages), and there are plenty of justifications for (bad) lama behavior written into many texts, which they conveniently pull out if somebody complains. (“See the teacher as perfect no matter what he does….” etc.) But the behavior I’m talking about is just unenlightened human behavior from powerful men on power trips. That’s all.

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                1. (I should also say that some women teachers have also acted this way too, although it’s usually the men.)

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              3. As a teacher, I know that pointing out what a child does well works much better in terms of encouraging them in their work than pointing out their faults does, so I think you are right, this is just a bad way of teaching. Maybe it worked in a feudal society where the head of clan treated their subjects this way so it was the way things were, but it is just not appropriate in the modern world and cannot be justified as a teaching method.

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  9. Abusive lamas can always find “hidden faults” in others because they look for faults, (even where none exist), and they love to torture people psychologically and watch them squirm when they point out these so-called faults. Even if they don’t find made up faults, they seem to delight in finding trivial faults they can point out just because they can and it is a way to assert their power and influence over others, by showing how superior the guru is. It is a game to them because they enjoy watching people’s reactions and the whole “fun” in the game is to disturb people and “crush” their egos. The more disturbed and insecure people get, the more amused these abusive lamas are. (I’ve seen lamas enjoying watching people squirm, so I know what I’m talking about.) It is something that gives them great pleasure. The more abusive they are, the more they enjoy and the more they criticize. Most lamas seem to criticize up to a point, (and it appears to be part of the nature of being a guru), but some are more abusive about it than others. However, I get the feeling that they all appear to enjoy it, which really makes me feel like they lack compassion and I find it irritating. Of course, they would say it’s “just my ego” talking, but for me, I think it is more about how much they enjoy disturbing people, rather than an issue of my pride being hurt. I find it distasteful to enjoy poking at people and deliberately trying to disturb their peace of mind just for the fun of it.

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  10. In brief, psychologists know that positive reinforcement is far more powerful than negative, punitive measures. That is simply true. Given that many in the West suffer from problems to do with low self-esteem, and given that traversing the bodhisattva path requires a huge degree of self-confidence, it would be much more skillful for a teacher to encourage and support the good qualities in students and not focus too much on their faults. So even as a simple question of what is most skillful in a teacher, SL has it all wrong.

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  11. It seems we move from balance one way (only adoring the teacher) to a balance the other way (only criticising the teacher.)

    Then and now, perhaps if we related directly to one another (without the filter of the teacher adoring or criticising) I feel we could together discover a way out of this dilemma.

    I’ve appreciated the opportunity to try and contribute here and hope for a deeper understanding to come from our explorations.

    If anyone wishes to contact me, I’m at ricknew at untye.com

    Many regards to all.

    Rick

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    1. I find it a very interesting fact that from the side of this particular “teacher” Sogyal never came just one honest and straight and related answer. That seems to provoke a more thorough view on its actions and therefore more and more faults are discovered and made public.

      Its interesting in the same way how reluctant most of the tibetan “teacher” reply and answer to the situation and how many refuse to have a look on the situation, some in a quite arrogant manner.

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  12. I’m glad to have discovered this website and grateful for the genuineness and bravery of its contributors. I was also deeply saddened to read the open letter about SR and the Rigpa community some months ago. My own experience was in another Tibetan sangha — almost entirely with senior Western teachers within it (along with less senior ones, and a great many students) — and yet I recognize so well the dynamics I have read about in Rigpa. A dozen years after finally leaving my community, I am still trying to regain basic self-esteem and a workable life. Many of the prime years of said life seem to have simply vanished in paralysis, waste, appalling depression, self-condemnation. Some progress has been made, but I wonder if certain deep wounds will ever heal.

    One can reach the point of seeing clearly all that is dysfunctional in a community without necessarily being able to simply “snap out of it.” There is a level of psychological abusiveness which can cut to the bone. Especially if the person so affected entered that community already vulnerable.

    This can occur in so many ways, and I could easily turn this post into a short book. But regarding the topic of “hidden faults” in particular, I might mention a single example. We are all familiar with the phrase “story line.” It points to a genuine Buddhist teaching. But in the hands of immature/ignorant practitioners (especially those with ambitions to rise within the organization) it can easily become a way to simply shut someone up. That person might really need to speak about something — perhaps prior mistreatment, or a misunderstanding — but it is deemed threatening to the centre or the individual. Easy solution: just tell them to drop the “story line.” Then it’s not your responsibility at all (even if it might actually be).

    “Idiot compassion” is another one. The more of these kinds of cutting phrases you can drop into your speech, the more you might feel as if you’re an advanced student or teacher — and the more you might appear that way to others. If those above you in the pecking order have been perennially acting this way, then this is no surprise: they are your models. It was astonishing to me to discover how easily simple cruelty can try to justify itself as being “really” kindness underneath.

    I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that Tibetan Buddhism in the West really is a mess. I say “reluctantly” because there are some golden teachings there which I know will always be at the core of the way I “see.” But over the years it has become clear to me that too, too many people are not being trained properly, and that vajrayana is turning too many into deluded egomaniacs causing too much harm to themselves and others. No doubt many are being helped too. More of the latter than the former? Very sadly, I don’t think I can say.

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  13. @Jacob B,

    I can empathize with most of what you said in your post. The only part where I kind of disagree is when you say that Tibetan Buddhism is a mess **in the West** which implies it’s only a mess in the West and not in the East as well. I think it was always a mess, and old Tibet was really not a Shagrila paradise. That doesn’t mean I support Chinese oppression, but there was plenty of Tibetan oppression before Chinese oppression, and this is where a lot of people seem to lack knowledge. One doesn’t need Chinese propaganda to get a sense that all was not well in old Tibet. Just read the story of the Sixth Dalai Lama’s life, which is a very sad example of how things were. Mixing religion and politics is never a good idea, and putting too much power in the hands of humans is also never a good idea. Whether it’s just a small group, recreating a mini Tibetan society, or a whole nation under the control of lamas, it doesn’t work in either system. I think Tibetan Buddhism might work for someone as a solitary practice, but when people come together as a group, I don’t think it works too well. That’s just my opinion, but Rigpa is an example, (perhaps an extreme example), of what happens when practitioners come together as a group.

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    1. Thanks for your perspective. I really just don’t know much about that subject so can’t comment. Of course, dharma itself explains why these things happen, how all the wisdoms coexist with their corresponding kleshas, how and why power corrupts. That’s both the good news and the sad news. Sad because, as you point out, it seems we have always had to deal with this corruption on some level or another.

      I would say the Western context creates greater risks but at the same time certain potentials are present. The risks, as we’ve seen, have to do with a certain credulousness towards Eastern gurus and I think a corresponding willingness to shut down discriminating awareness in order to, well, get to the inner circle. On the other hand … we are having this conversation. Something is percolating which is hard to imagine having happened in Old Tibet.

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      1. And Jacob, I think the issues you are talking about really are unique to Western Dharma centers– and I disagree with Catlover’s statement condemning all of Tibetan culture and Buddhism– there are problems there just as there are problems in European and American cultures and history. We have to be really careful of racist statements in my opinion.

        Also, Jacob, I’m sorry for the years you’ve struggled with this. I also have struggled– and also from another Western Dharma center as well as from my time in Rigpa. Something toxic has happened in too many Dharma centers. As you say, a mixture of events, mis-steps and misunderstandings. I think there will be many books written sadly. But I also still revere the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. But I stay clear of the rest– there’s lots to study and practice without the mess.

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        1. @Joanne,

          Excuse me, but my statement about old Tibet and their culture wasn’t racist. It was simply the truth. Just because I point out that Tibetan culture wasn’t pretty has nothing to do with racism. Also, isn’t it reverse racism to condemn all white, European culture as well? Maybe this is just a HUMAN problem involving too much power in too few hands, and too many people worshiping human beings who can’t live up to those standards. It has nothing to do with race, so don’t twist my comments.

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        2. @Joanne,

          Also, I didn’t say that Western Dharma centers didn’t have problems. However, I think we need to be careful about making reverse racist comments about how bad the West is and saying that these problems are just “Western” problems. I was simply pointing out that these problems are not new or unique to the West. These problems have existed in Tibetan culture too and were transplanted to the West when the Tibetan lamas came here to teach. I’m not saying the West doiesn’t have it’s own unique, Western problems too, but we are talking about Tibetan Buddhism now, so it’s important to keep in mind that the problems in Tibetan Buddhism are not unique to the West. I will never agree that this is only a “Western” problem, so blaming the West isn’t helpful, imo.

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          1. Catlover, I only warned against racism because I have seen the tendency in some of the conversations, particularly those on Facebook. Tibetans are generally a warmhearted, generous, courageous people and it’s very easy in this trouble to lose track of that.

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            1. @Joanne,

              One could also say that white Europeans/Americans “are generally a warmhearted, generous, courageous people” as well. Yet look at the mess of the Catholic church and other Western religions, etc. You can see the same old issues in any culture, so the issue is beliefs, ideas, and the way societies are structured around those beliefs. It has nothing to do with color or ethnicity. It seems to be a human phenomena.

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        3. Thanks Joanne.

          Yes, throwing Vajrayana Buddhism into the crazy cultural mix that is America has certainly produced some wild chemical reactions… A number of people have said that the postmodern, postindustrial etc etc world is just ripe for the tantric view. I’m only half-convinced by this. I see what is meant by it, but I also think American culture is actually pretty immature in certain ways, and ungrounded. Personally I would like to see us spending a lot more time taming our minds and opening our hearts. Embodying deep compassion.

          It’s always shocking to me to realize, again and again, that the cruelest human beings I have known are pretty much all Tibetan Buddhists. Shocking and sad. Every now and again I’ll come across someone and discover that they are a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, and my first reaction is always: uh-oh, keep your distance. This shouldn’t be, but alas it is.

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          1. @Jacob “It’s always shocking to me to realize, again and again, that the cruelest human beings I have known are pretty much all Tibetan Buddhists.”

            Yes Jacob, that has been my experience. It’s phenomenal isn’t it? When I finally closed the door on that chapter in my life, becoming a Buddhist in exile, and returned to my old friendships, I was continually amazed at the kindness and generosity and wisdom of my non-Buddhist friends. One of the things I have treasured the most in HH Dalai Lama’s teachings is that he really gets that. Recently he mentioned that he thought it was understandable that people would become atheists, because of corruptions in religion.

            And yes, tantra and the West have made quite a chemical reaction! A wiser approach from Tibetan Buddhist lamas might have been something along the lines of Lamrim– but even that can become a little too faith-based in the hands of some lamas. His Holiness is now in the process of writing a series of books on the Buddhist path, with the help of Thubten Chodron. The first is an overview of all the Buddhist paths within Theravada and Mahayana. The second looks to me like a sort of lam rim, but with particular emphases away from blind faith and towards cultivating critical awareness. It’s my impression that tantra without cultivating a critical awareness is no different than Christianity or Islam, except that more power is given to human beings, which is so dangerous.

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            1. I’m glad to hear about the books. Buddhism that is not faith based is what we need. I think the Buddha would be appalled at how power hungry individuals have used his name to justify their abuse.

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            2. I came across a passage transcribed from a talk by Khandro Rinpoche which speaks to this too:

              ‘A common thing is that, where we are in buddhism, when we talk about non-duality we have a roomful of people. You talk about something else, fantastic as, you know … oh “the dot” or something like that – you can just come up with anything [laughter]. If you want to really get many people you say “the blazing dot” [laughter] ….

              But then if you say “ethics,” two people turn up [laughter]. But it reflects a lot about ourselves…. That usually is not because you don’t like ethics. Everyone likes it, everyone knows it’s important. But we don’t cultivate that. Because it talks about training yourself.

              …All the great teachers from our generation, if you look into their lives and say “how come they were able to do it, how come they’re so enlightened, how come their bodhisattva activities are able to benefit so many sentient beings? What is it that we don’t do?” And the main thing is: there is no discrepancy between their view and action. In ourselves, it is there. View: there’s not much of a problem, everyone has quite profound views. But in terms of actions that would enrich your life, to be able to personify that view, that we don’t do. …

              For example, living with these great teachers, their one instruction to us was: the door of the house should never be closed, to anyone. My father his Holiness’s principle in life has been: never to say no. To anyone. And so: a sense of opening up to anyone, any moment, whatever way you can be helpful. So when you say: my philosophy, my dharma teaches me to be kind, [then] … period, no more arguing about that.

              …If this is dharma, then yes I need to practice genuine kindness, and whatever I can say or do that can be of best use at this moment, then I will do it. No strategy, no planning. Flexible, pliable, and very very much present, at every moment. So that it can evolve as best as it can be taken advantage of by the other person, so that it can benefit the other person.’

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            3. Jacob said: “It’s always shocking to me to realize, again and again, that the cruelest human beings I have known are pretty much all Tibetan Buddhists.”

              Joanne said: “Yes Jacob, that has been my experience. It’s phenomenal isn’t it? When I finally closed the door on that chapter in my life, becoming a Buddhist in exile, and returned to my old friendships, I was continually amazed at the kindness and generosity and wisdom of my non-Buddhist friends.”

              Doesn’t anyone ask themselves WHY a lot of Buddhists are this way and many other non-Buddhist people are not? I have been asking myself this question and I have come to the conclusion that there is something about Buddhism that makes many people this way. It is the only logical conclusion. One can’t say that the teachings have no effect on how people behave. I’m not saying everything in Buddhism is bad, so don’t misquote me, but there are obviously some unhealthy teachings within it that influence people.

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              1. @catlover “Doesn’t anyone ask themselves WHY a lot of Buddhists are this way and many other non-Buddhist people are not?”

                My own feeling is that the teachings are being distorted (at times perverted), rather than that the teachings themselves are at fault. Not harming others is central to the dharma. Loving-kindness and compassion are central. When we see individuals or sanghas deviating from this, then we can say they are deviating from the dharma.

                I would point to a few different factors. Firstly, a lot of people are intellectualizing too much, especially in Tibetan traditions. There are an awful lot of concepts there to cling to, be transfixed by. Far more than in other spiritual traditions. Doing so, rather than relating at an immediate, direct, heart level with others, has the effect of creating a cold environment in which the humanity of those others can too easily be forgotten. Collective psychology/peer pressure heightens this tendency of course.

                Relatedly, I think many like to demonstrate they are an advanced student. They would like others to know how long they have been practicing/studying, and behaving out of the ordinary is a dramatic way of doing this. So they are harsh — or worse — rather than simply kind, because they believe they are really helping the other person in an advanced way. They tend to believe that “skillful means” looks like that. They put on an inscrutable manner and can never be pinned down. More often than not this means that they are rarely genuine. Thus, others cannot trust them as well.

                I think too that Tibetan Buddhism still needs to go through some kind of a feminist transformation in the broad sense. Feudal Tibetan culture was patriarchal of course, and despite the transformations its dharma tradition has undergone since coming to the West, I still see it as a bit unbalanced as between yin and yang, shall we say. It’s a little macho, is it not? That’s my perception anyway. The Seventeenth Karmapa has addressed this, which has been nice to see. So perhaps things are slowly changing.

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                1. @Jacob B,

                  “My own feeling is that the teachings are being distorted (at times perverted), rather than that the teachings themselves are at fault.”

                  One could say the same thing about Christian teachings or any other type of religion. The teachings always get distorted and perverted. That doesn’t erase the fact that (most) Buddhists act the way Buddhists act and other people act different. Why is that?

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                  1. Well, as I say, Buddhism can be very concept-heavy, as we know. Even though the teachings are all about dropping attachment to concepts, there’s such a profusion of them that, in my experience, it’s fairly easy to get caught. One can lose touch with one’s heart that way (and body) all too readily.

                    In my experience it’s Tibetan Buddhists who fall into this the most. And then also the coldness and unkindness is a product of all the things that everyone has been talking about here regarding power and the guru, inner circles, and so on.

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                    1. @Jacob B,

                      “And then also the coldness and unkindness is a product of all the things that everyone has been talking about here regarding power and the guru, inner circles, and so on.”

                      You’ve sure got that part right!

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                2. Most of the people come to Buddhism in the West because they are suffering deeply. Most of this suffering comes from psychological problems. So they are not representative of the population in general. There is a problem in their behavior from the start.

                  Meng, the meditation google teacher says that practically everybody who meditates in the West had some kind of trauma or deep suffering initially.

                  My friends non-buddhists are gentle and normal happy people! They don’t feel the need to sit on a cushion for hours, they are not that desperate!

                  There is also another population: the intellectuals who are attracted by the complexity of buddhism, not really the practice in the real world…

                  Finally, others are attracted by an exotic culture.

                  The Dharma can do its job, but if there is a twisted teacher in the middle then it becomes very messy: a bunch of dysfonctional people together…

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                  1. Catlover, you cannot conclude that “most Buddhists act” any particular way because there are millions of Buddhists in non-Western cultures that we cannot make judgments about. Even many of the problems Western Buddhists have experienced aren’t problems you see within Tibetan cultures. It’s easy to look from outside and say “feudal”etc. — but everyday Tibetans have created a culture around their lamas that is very different from ours, one that maintains a healthy community. There are feudal problems, but feudal is only one dimension of a complex and evolving culture.

                    My impression with the problems that we are having in the West come from two sources: 1. Corrupt lamas and 2. Cultural mis-communication. I don’t think we have to look further. There’s nothing wrong with approaching the Dharma in an academic, study-based way– in fact, I think with a solid foundation in the traditional texts, problems can be averted– such as too much faith based practice etc.

                    Also, it is my impression that generally the lamas who choose to settle in the West and build empires for themselves already are placing too much emphasis on the eight worldly concerns and so the trouble has already begun. In the West, there is no structure of giving to the local monastery the way there is in Tibetan culture or even in Christian churches. From the very beginning, lamas have to scramble to earn a living. And every Tibetan lama I have seen has been driven by the need to build a big Dharma center or monastery. So from the start, the energy and focus is too much on non-Dharma. One of my previous lamas started a fund drive to build his new temple by selling statues of himself!

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                    1. When I say”every Tibetan lama I have seen” I am meaning those I have studied with in the West.

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                    2. @Joanne,

                      OMG! Are you serious when you say “everyday Tibetans have created a culture around their lamas that is very different from ours, one that maintains a healthy community?” I just don’t even have the energy to respond to that. I think there is one big problem that really is unique to the West and that is the romantic notions about Tibet and their culture, along with the idea that somehow their culture is more “pure” than ours. I’m not saying Tibetan culture doesn’t have things about which are good, but it is obvious that Westerners have a lot of romantic notions. Tibetans are HUMAN and like all humans they have the same old corruption that any society has that is ruled by powerful priests. Their history is full of bloodshed, wars, and corruption, which was probably worse than what is going on in the West now. In fact, I would say they have toned it down in the West. It was even worse in Tibet. Do you think this stuff isn’t going on in India and Nepal too at an even greater level? What we’re seeing now in the West is just the tip of the iceberg.

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                    3. @Joanne,
                      “Even many of the problems Western Buddhists have experienced aren’t problems you see within Tibetan cultures.”

                      Really?!?!? You think they didn’t have physical abuse, women used as consorts, infighting, money issues, and everything else you see the lamas do in the West..and even more?

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                    4. I will say this much. Tibetans certainly don’t have all the romantic notions about themselves that Westerners do. Also, the average Tibetan probably has a lot more skepticism about a lot of lamas. That doesn’t stop them from worshiping some of them, but they are at least more skeptical about some of the lesser known ones. (I would say this applies to modern Tibetans more so than Tibetans in the past.)

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        1. @Catlover

          “What is ‘percolating’ in the West that is different from old Tibet?”

          Well, just the fact that we’re talking about all these things. The skeptical spirit is strong in the West, and this is a great strength. It can go too far and end up in cynicism of course. Too many Westerners are convinced that there is nothing good to be found in any religion, anywhere, for instance. But yes, lots of people are discussing these issues, and it is shining a light into the previously opaque structures of Tibetan Buddhism. If we can stay balanced, something productive could (should) emerge.

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    2. I am very glad that I did all my practice in solitary semi retreat. I never found group practice to have the power I felt when doing the practices alone.

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  14. Just to clarify that I am not blaming the Dalai Lama, or the Sixth Dalai Lama, for the way things were. The 14th Dalai Lama was very young when he fled Tibet, (so he didn’t have a chance to change much), and the Sixth was just a poor victim of circumstances. But reading about the Sixth’s life shows how entrenched the dirty politics were in Tibet, even at that time. His life was tragic and what they did to him was horrible. The regents wanted power and so they conspired against him with the help of one side of the Mongol civil war and the Chinese(!) leaders who replaced the Sixth with their own puppet ruler, just as they did with the Panchen Lama in this life. (Things have not changed much.) There has always been squabbling and in fighting between sects and plenty or wars and bloodshed with monasteries attacking each other and sects oppressing rival sects. It was not peaceful by any stretch. There were also young women being used as consorts and monks being abused, so things haven’t really changed all that much. The only thing that has really changed is that it’s now coming out into the open, as the lamas try (and fail) to recreate their empire in the West.

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  15. I am heartened by this conversation. It’s wonderful that you are all here and talking about these issues. I’ll encourage people to read the comments because there are a lot of good points here. It’s hard to know what will happen down the track, but I think we have a shift of consciousness, a new awareness of the reality of this tradition, one that honors the good and recognizes the bad, so we can take the good and reject the bad and come to a cleaner version of the best in the tradition, vajrayana without the abuse and feudal power structures.

    Every comment you make shows you care and has an effect even if we don’t see it right now. It’s the hundredth monkey syndrome. This is from a study of monkeys where scientists discovered that when a learned behaviour was adopted by 100 monkeys it suddenly spontaneously appeared in other monkey communities even though they had never interacted.

    So the more people use their critical thinking faculties in regard to Tibetan Buddhism, the more people will do so even if they never read a word here, and that’s what is needed. I think it would be a fine result of What Now if people stopped taking everything their lamas say on blind faith and kept their critical thinking faculties, not give them up in return for what they are told is a greater shot at enlightenment than you’d get if you give it up. That idea is in complete opposition to what the Buddha taught, and yet we fell for it.

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  16. When pride becomes involved in your practice, then you get a lot of the problems described above.
    In groups like a sangha it will lead to status differences and all the related problems. Do your practice without expectation to become enlightent was the motto of many masters, who practised in solitary retreats. Perhaps these masters wanted to with draw from the group processes of the monastries.
    The writer of the words of my perfect teacher is such an example.

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    1. Yes, Jan, Patrul Rinpoche ran away from his monastery once and his disciples finally found him in a hut serving an elderly woman. When they arrived, he was taking the woman’s chamber pot out. And Milarepa was begged by his sister to just behave like the other lamas so he could have comforts and adulations etc.– she was horrified to find him naked and green from eating only nettles. And there was that long tirade that Guru Rinpoche made before leaving Tibet, complaining of all the bad habits Tibetans had. And there is that great story about Atisha when he arrived in Tibet and a great stream of lamas came to meet him, riding horses in all their pomp and ceremony– Atisha screened his eyes and said, “Oh no, the Tibetan ghosts are coming…”

      So in some ways, this conflict is nothing new.

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      1. I’ll never forget being at a centre once when the lama, the head of the sangha, was about to visit. A woman was giving some instructions to the whole group regarding preparations, and at one point she happened to tell a story about someone spilling something on the table in front of Rinpoche, and Rinpoche … helped her clean it up! Oh my god! That’s the sort of tone she used, as if this was some astounding act of generosity…

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        1. @Jacob B,

          Well, considering that many of these high lamas are virtually kings in exile and are considered royalty, it is rather amazing to think of royalty helping the peasants clean up, lol! It would have been unheard of in old Tibet. So from that perspective, it is a generous and rather humble act, (as long as they are doing it sincerely and not just to impress Westerners, lol!)

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          1. @Catlover, I don’t know what you mean by “old Tibet” but Patrul Rinpoche lived in the 19th century– and Milarepa lived in the twelfth century.

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            1. @Joanne,

              To me, “Old” Tibet is pre-Chinese Tibet.

              I suppose that some of the teachers helped people clean up, but the high lamas (the ones who sit on thrones) wouldn’t have been doing that (usually). I was really talking about that type of lama. They were the kings and princes of “Old Tibet” so it would be unlikely that most of them would help clean, unless they were making a point. For example, the 6th DL poured tea for his guests himself, and did other things that most high lamas wouldn’t have done, but that would have been considered very unusual, since he was the king of Tibet, and kings (and high lamas) generally didn’t serve (or mingle with common people), in that way. Gurus like Milarepa weren’t kings on thrones, (I think of him more as a solitary practitioner), so I wasn’t talking about that type of teacher. Was Patrul Rinpoche a tulku on a throne type of teacher, or was he more like Milarepa? I don’t know.

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  17. Can you imagine DKR doing as Patrul Rinpoche did in the above? I can’t – unless there was a camera there to capture his quirky act of compassion.

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  18. I doubt it if this kind of discussion will change something in the end in Rigpa. Why don’t we take a spritual responsibility by creating favourable circumstances for a positive change in rigpa.
    Why don’t we add a page to this site where everyone who wishes to donate his practice for a positive change in Rigpa, wether he/she left Rigpa or not. In this we all parties involved can see a positive involvement and it releases tension. Iti is clear now things go very slowly at all. why wait for others like olive brache, this page makes it wordwide possible.

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  19. I think even the Dalai Lama would say prayers are not enough. There has to be some practical action too. Personally, in my opinion, I think Rigpa should close. Let other Dharma centers fill the void. It’s not like Rigpa is all there is.

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  20. I want to add an experience to the topic, after having read Rick New’s and French Observer’s conversation above.

    As far as I got, when the teacher is qualified and when the student is qualified and when there is a deep karmic relationship, a relation with a teacher can have a great changing impact on you.

    The object of discussion and also the just newly posted testimony by Sangye here on the What Now Blog is however, how people have been harmed by physical, emotional and sexual violence, and how this could have happened and in that context what the meaning of “pointing out hidden faults” is / might be / justifies etc.

    I want to share only briefly a personal experience to add to our discussions another perspective with one of my teachers, Minygur Rinpoche. He is a Mahamudra and Dzogchen master. His temper and being is soft, soft and clear, wise and compassionate, kind. No violent outbursts, no boastings, no ego games.
    Having had the luck to be with him almost day and night for 12 days in 2004 (or 2006?), his very being and behaviour, his compassion, teaching and good example, the awe for him I developed gradually while applying his teachings in his presence (because he lives them with every pore of his being and inspires you thereby to do the same), created sth like a magnifying glass in me to see more deeply into the patterns of my mind. I was ashamed becoming more aware of my negative thoughts while being in his presence. This shame combined with a genuine feeling of awe or deep respect created an effort to work on the negative patterns I got aware of. I did that as good as possible and applied the methods he taught. Due to the dynamics of his kind, accepting presence, his compassion and teachings, his skilful and compassionate ways to talk with me (or others) and my becoming more aware or mindful what was going on in my mind, combined with this feeling of shame awakened a powerful dynamic in me to work on myself using the methods he taught.
    For this process neither violence, beatings, pulling hair, hitting the face, hitting the body, crushing a cup on my head, humiliation or stripping naked, nor making images of my genitals etc was needed. Nor do I feel this would have helped me in any way accept making me a fearful, subordinating, self-denegegrating follower.

    Those people who found the methods of SL helpful, I don’t deny this experience. This is possible based on the Buddha nature, positive attitude, the limited time duration or intensity you’ve experienced it or the strength of mind. However, there are a lot of people who have been clearly harmed by these methods and so the methods – and this includes the (justifying) concept “the teacher has to point out your hidden faults” – must be questioned and re-examined.

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  21. @tenpel,

    I agree that extreme abuse is not needed. Some people really do need to be called out for their egotistical self-centered attitude, but that can be done with kindness, no physical violence, and not in a humiliating way like in public, etc. Usually, the best teachers are those who teach in the way you described, just as an inspiring, living example. Also, as Mingyur Rinpoche himself said, if it’s harmful, then it is not skillful means.

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  22. And violent, cruel methods are NOT crazy wisdom, unless they result in the student becoming enlightened, (such as in the case of Marpa/Milarepa).

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    1. I reflected and doubted a bit my own comment which leads me to the following additions:

      1) Tilopa who applied more drastic means to Naropa: Naropa was a great scholar and experienced Buddhist. He was mature and Tilopa was pointed out to him as his teacher by a Dakini who appeared while he read tantric texts. Moreover, after the temporary harm Naropa experienced, Tilopa fully recovered his body. There was just no long term harm!!!!
      There are two women in Germany who are in the psychiatry because of the sexual violence done to them by Sogyal Lakar. To compare the long term deeply damaging harm done to them and others with Tilopa / Naropa or Marpa / Milarepa is IMO totally ignorant and shows a lack of understanding of both the dharma and the reading or interpretation of hagiographic accounts and their details + backgrounds.
      2) there seems to have been and still might be a competitions who can take the hardest assaults, violence or humiliation executed by Sogyal Lakar. Those who can seem to be praised as advanced or gifted practitioners and might be looked up or raise in power, influence and position within Rigpa. But such a competitive, spiritual materialistic attitude can form highly self manipulative patterns, denying the harm experienced and re-interpreting harmful experiences as healing experiences. This competitive mind is even more enforcec or sustained by our culture and we bring it into the dharma. These dynamics (which you can also find in Triratna where there are reports of sexual abused men who claim sex against their will with Sangharakshita “helped” them “spiritually”) might lead to a bunch of narratives where Rigpa people tell you that beating and sex against their initial will “helped” them.

      I know one ex Rigpa. The person couldn’t bear the humiliation anymore and moved to another Lama. But the person insists that beating helped and “removes some parts of the ego”. The person even helps now Rigpa to deal with the allegation by supporting their defence and playing the abuse down.

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  23. According to Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, a teacher putting down others is a characteristic of a false teacher. He emphasizes the importance of rejecting such a teacher called a “non-spiritual teacher” or a “harmful spiritual teacher”.

    From “THE TEACHER-STUDENT RELATIONSHIP”, A Translation of “The Explanation of the Master and Student Relationship, How to Follow the Master, and How to Teach and Listen to the Dharma” by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye:

    TAKING AN UNQUALIFIED PERSON AS YOUR TEACHER

    Kongtrul strongly re-emphasizes the importance of rejecting a teacher who pretends to be a lama but is unqualified and inauthentic. In the scriptures such a person is called a “non-spiritual teacher” or a “harmful spiritual teacher”.

    Kongtrul defines the non-spiritual teacher as:
    … a lama, teacher, dharma brother [or sister] and so forth, all those who are attached to the phenomena of this life and who get involved in unvirtuous activity.

    To be “attached to appearances” means to relate to oneself, others, and the world while being motivated and controlled by the three poisons of attachment, aversion, and an unqualified teacher’s motivation is primarily to benefit himself, contradicting the bodhisattva’s vow to benefit others. Some of the additional characteristics listed by Kongtrul to aid the student in recognizing a false teacher are: the teacher is involved in unvirtuous activity; he has a bad temperament, glorifies himself, puts down others, or speaks negatively about authentic teachers.

    Kongtrul emphasizes the importance of rejecting such a teacher because, in addition to obstructing the student’s progress towards enlightenment, mere association with him causes the development of negative qualities in the student. He emphasizes this point by quoting from the Sutra of the True Dharma of Clear Recollection: As the chief among the obstructors of all virtuous qualities is the sinful teacher, one should abandon being associated with him, speaking with him, or even being touched by his shadow.

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  24. Another Advice from Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye in “Ethics” from The Treasury of Knowledge:

    THE TEACHER TO IGNORE AND THE ONE TO FAVOR

    A teacher whose traits are discordant with the characteristics of the [true] master stands outside of the Buddhist doctrine and cannot be taken as a spiritual teacher. Consequently, even though the teacher may be very famous, active, etc., the discriminating student should be aware [of these shortcomings] and detach himself or herself [from the teacher]. This should be done even if a teacher-student relationship has already been formed. If one has not yet formed such a relationship, one should avoid doing so, right from the beginning. Sakya Pandita states:
    Detach yourself from the spiritual teacher
    Who does not conform to the Buddha’s teaching.

    We should learn how to recognize [bad teachers] from the many descriptions given in the scriptures and then shun them. For example, the Condensed Tantra [of the Wheel of Time] states:
    Proud, subject to uncontrollable anger, defiant of pledges,
    guilty of misappropriation, ignorant [of the doctrine],
    Willfully deceptive of students, having failed to enter the state of supreme bliss, uninitiated,
    A slave to wealth and enjoyments, careless, RUDE IN SPEECH, AND OBSESSED WITH SEXUAL DESIRE:
    Wise students who wish full awakening should shun such a teacher as they would hell.

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