Seeing the Master as a Buddha, an Examination

This week we have a post by Joanne Clark.

One belief on Tahlia’s list of “Beliefs We Need to Examine” has spoken particularly strongly to me:

You must see your master as the Buddha if you want the blessings of the Buddha;

 This belief pervades Tibetan Buddhist culture. I had received that instruction myself, first from Sogyal Lakhar and later in a Kagyu monastery, years before I had even received a teaching on the Four Noble Truths. I had also heard the story of the woman who achieved realization as a result of praying to a dog’s tooth while believing that it was the tooth of the Buddha. Both teachings convey the idea that faith alone is sufficient to attain blessings and even realizations, that Buddha has that power through faith alone, like the power of Jesus Christ.

But this does not seem consistent with the Buddha’a  teachings. In Vajrayana, seeing the master as a Buddha has a specific meaning and purpose, one that is profound and never divorced from discerning wisdom. However, when it is practiced without the necessary understanding and wisdom of discernment, then all of that meaning and purpose are lost—and dangerous abuses can easily occur.

About ten years ago, there was a big earthquake in Tibet. Some monasteries were destroyed and lives were lost. It was a terrible tragedy. During a broadcast interview of a Tibetan woman at the scene, she repeated several times the idea that they were waiting for the “living Buddha” to arrive and help. In her grief, that anticipation seemed to be the one thing that mattered to her. “The living Buddha is coming,” she said.

Shortly after, I heard that a teacher I knew had travelled to the scene. He was a renowned lama connected to one of the monasteries. Here in the West, some thought he was a crazy wisdom lama. There were stories about his unusual antics. The first time I met him, he smelled of smoke and alcohol and he could be pretty brutal to some of us as well. I wondered if he was the living Buddha?

Certainly, in the midst of tragedy, faith is a tremendous help, so I would never want to suggest that this woman’s faith was misguided. Nor can I judge who is and who isn’t a living Buddha. Faith gives us hope. I also have prayed simple prayers of faith to the Buddhas during my journey through trauma. But how far do we let simple faith go?

Some years ago, I visited a website of a well-known lama. There was a banner running across his homepage which read “If you see the lama as a Buddha, you will receive the blessings of a Buddha. If you see the lama as an ordinary being, you will receive the blessings of an ordinary being.” In light of the fact that this was the first page someone would find who might be just exploring the dharma for the first time, this was strange. It seemed no different than visiting the homepage of a Christian leader, with a banner that instructed followers to take Jesus Christ as their savior—except that Jesus Christ isn’t a man who could enter one’s bedroom some night.

When Milarepa was giving parting advice to his chief disciple Gampopa, he had this to say about seeing the lama as a Buddha:

“You can start to teach and spread the Dharma when you behold and stabilize the realization of Mind-Essence. In time you will see it more clearly, which will be quite a different experience from those you are having now. Then you will see me as the perfect Buddha Himself. This deep and unshakable conviction will grow in you. Then you may start to teach.” (The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa; translated by Garma Chang; p. 490-491)

In Milarepa’s perspective here, the experience of seeing the guru as a Buddha is the result of advanced realization and wisdom—not as something taken on as an early, naïve belief, not something separate from practice and wisdom—Milarepa doesn’t even present it as an instruction, but as a realization. This is an important distinction.

In Precious Garland, Nagarjuna wrote:

“4. High status is considered to be happiness,

Definite goodness is liberation.

The quintessence of their means

Is briefly faith and wisdom.


“5. Due to having faith one relies on the practices,

Due to having wisdom one truly knows.

Of these two wisdom is the chief,

Faith is its prerequisite.” (Precious Garland, First Chapter)


Nagarjuna is clear. We cannot have faith in the absence of wisdom and it helps to know the purpose for having faith. We can have beliefs and they are necessary, as long as they do not compromise our discernment, wisdom and practice, as long as we aren’t blinded by them and led astray by them. Simple, yes, but I think in practice it is not so simple, especially in the Vajrayana and for those of us who come from Judeo-Christian cultures. There is very little space between the instruction of seeing the master as a Buddha and the born-again experience of a Christian.

In a recent publication, HH Dalai Lama referred to the story of the woman who prayed to the dog’s tooth in a discussion on excessive faith. He wrote:

“It is easy to conclude from this story that blind faith is necessary on this path. This is clearly contrary to the Buddha’s emphasis on developing discriminating wisdom. I do not see much point in this story and propose, replacing it with the following, a more suitable account to illustrate the benefit of having confidence in the Three Jewels.

“Two or three centuries ago, a great teacher and sincere practitioner named Togyen Lama Rinpoche lived in Tibet. He had a small clay image of Tsongkhapa on his carefully tended altar. One day, due to Togyen Lama’s genuine practice and heartfelt aspirational prayers, that image of Tsongkhapa actually spoke and gave teachings to him. This came about not from the side of the statue but mainly due to Togyen Lama’s excellent practice. Due to his spiritual experiences and confidence in Tsongkhapa, this clay image became the real Tsongkhapa and spoke to him. However, for ordinary people who lack that kind of spiritual experience and faith, the statue just looked like clay.” (The Dalai Lama and Thubten Chodron, Approaching the Buddhist Path; p. 140).

Once again, in this story of strong faith, it is not separated from practice or discernment. Faith strengthens the practitioner’s wisdom—the statue is perceived to give teachings, not just blessings.

Thirty years ago, HH the Dalai Lama made a strong statement about the dangers of instructing students to see the guru as a perfect Buddha and sacrificing discernment to do so. These words are still relevant:

“It is frequently said that the essence of the training in guru-yoga is to cultivate the art of seeing everything the guru does as perfect; but personally, I myself do not like this to be taken too far. Often we see written in the scriptures, ‘Every action seen as perfect,’ but this phrase must be seen in the light of Buddha Shakyamuni’s own words: ‘Accept my teachings only after examining them as an analyst buys gold. Accept nothing out of mere faith for me.’ The problem with the practice of seeing everything the guru does as perfect is that it very easily turns to poison for both the guru and the disciple…” (Essence of Refined Gold, Commentary by Tenzin Gyatso; p.54).

And later, he made an ominous warning:

“As for the guru, if he misrepresents this precept of guru-yoga in order to take advantage of his naïve disciples, his actions are like pouring the liquid fires of hell directly into his stomach.” (p.55)

And he spoke about pure perception:

“The disciple must always keep reason and his knowledge of the Dharma as principal guidelines. Without this approach it is difficult to digest one’s Dharma experiences. Make a thorough examination before accepting someone as a guru and even then follow him within the conventions of reason as presented by Buddha. The teachings on seeing the guru’s actions as perfect should largely be left for the practice of highest tantra, wherein they take on a new meaning. One of the principal yogas in the tantric vehicle is to see the world as a mandala of great bliss and to see oneself and all others as Buddhas. Under these circumstances it becomes absurd to think that you and everyone else are Buddhas, but your guru is not!” (Essence of Refined Gold; Commentary by pp. 55-56)

So these beliefs do serve a purpose, as with the woman after the earthquake described above, but more particularly in the Vajrayana and even more so in Dzogchen. When we sit on the cushion, there is a purpose to viewing the lama as the Buddha, a purpose that increases the power of devotion and does not skew our critical awareness. There is a purpose to pure perception off the cushion for the practice of highest yoga tantra. There are many statements from Dzogchen masters about the importance of strong devotion in order to practice Dzogchen. It is essential for the introduction to the mind’s nature.

The vital point being made in all of these statements is that the practice of seeing the lama as a Buddha is an advanced Vajrayana practice and it does not mean that we give away our capability of seeing truth clearly as a result of that practice. It is not a blinker. If the lama is abusing students, then these are not the practices of a Buddha. To say that they are the practices of a Buddha—because we are training to see the lama as Buddha—is to sacrifice our discernment and decency. That is blind faith and never a Buddhist practice.

Blind faith is a linear perspective, which sees reality in black and white, simplistic terms. Blind faith cannot allow for troublesome conflicts of interest or complicated realities. For example, how can Rigpa students account for the fact that the lama they perceive as Buddha himself, the lama who has brought them teachings and profound experiences, is behaving like a cruel criminal? Blind faith would say to simply deny reality, blinker the truth.

But Rigpa students can only truly account for the situation through a discerning wisdom capable of seeing a many dimensioned, complex and murky reality—difficult as that is. The challenge of balancing the perception of Sogyal Lakhar, a deeply flawed man who has abused students and must account for his misdeeds in courts of law, with the perception of Sogyal Rinpoche, the lama who brought the Dharma into their lives and whom they have perceived as a Buddha, is huge.  Certainly, to acknowledge these two realities in one mind is difficult or impossible for most. But for Rigpa students who have been practicing Vajrayana for many years with Sogyal Lakhar, discounting those years of practice is not tenable either—but nor is it tenable to ignore the harm being caused to themselves and others. I think everyone is seeking their own way of moving forward through this murkiness. For myself, like many other ex-Rigpa, cautions about devotion and viewing the lama as a Buddha are burned into me after years of struggle. In my opinion, teachers and students of Vajrayana in the West must acknowledge the murky terrain we are on if Vajrayana is to survive in the West.

Thanks for your thoughts Joanne.

Another post on the topic of seeing one’s teacher as a Buddha  can be read here  

In that post I draw on Alexander Berzin’s writing on the matter, writing that I highly recommend.

“The sole purpose of viewing the teacher as a buddha is so we can see these same awakened qualities in ourselves, in others, and in the world around us. It is a tool that helps us to gain confidence in the purity of our true nature.” Minguyr Rinpoche. Lions Roar, Sept 24th 2017

The instruction that we should see our teacher as a buddha if we want the blessings of a buddha is clearly problematic in a world where teachers cannot be trusted to behave as decent human beings, so how are we to practice this under these cricumstances?

Private discussion on this and other related topics can be had on our Secret  What Now 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.

People from other sanghas can join the Dharma Friends Beyond the Temple Facebook Group . It’s a support group for anyone who has left their Buddhist sangha after hearing revelations of abuse by their teacher or after experiencing such abuse. It’s for people who see ethical behaviour, love, compassion and introspection as the core of their spiritual path. The aim of the group is to support each other in our spiritual journey wherever it takes us. Click here and request to join.

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.



32 thoughts on “Seeing the Master as a Buddha, an Examination

  1. While I greatly appreciate your well reasoned examples I can imagine how they will be explained away by saying you’re talking about ‘lower’ yanas. In the frutional path you ‘fake it till you make it’, so seeing the teacher as the Buddha could fit that way of thinking. The counter argument (sounding very neurotic arguing with myself here) is that they cherry pick what you should fake, something along the lines of Christians who bounce back and forth between the old and new testaments to ‘prove’ the will of god:) If you see your teacher as the Buddha then theoretically we should be ‘seeing’ ourselves as Buddha’s too which means our wisdom is equal to that of the teacher.

    In the end you can’t really prove anything because you can go in endless circular arguments. I’ve decided to follow one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies, “I would rather make the gravest of mistakes than surrender my own judgment.”

    Or we could revert to lojong, “Of the Two Witnesses, Hold the Principal One”.


  2. This was a serious and calm appraisal and I appreciate the writer’s approach.
    For myself- I was SR’s student ‘noticed’ by him – it was 30 years ago now. I swerved those initial early advances and managed to stay in the background at that time.
    Then I moved – with my husband who worked in the Aid world -away from the U.K. and the London sangha. In the following years I travelled to several long retreats, in France and at Dzongsar Monastery in India. I also met him in Bhutan and in Kathmandu. So I was not a member of a regular sangha. BUT I held him- in my mind – as a direct conduit to the Buddhas teachings and have to say I had many profound experiences, dreams etc around him and his direct presence.
    And this is one of the problems that takes this situation right outside the realms of daily reality – with trials, lawyers etc.
    For Vajrayana is magic – and those who want the magic must have a Vajrayana teacher. Sogyal – for all his faults- which became out of control – was in my experience – such a teacher.
    The same applies to Trungpa (and I had not heard about the cat until now) whose students experienced those things which lay outside normal everyday, or mundane, experience. Although at least one I spoke to recognised this, she felt the direct transmissions she experienced were so strong she wished to stay around him. (This was an older person who was not approached sexually but of course could witness all Trungpa’s behaviour).
    I distanced myself from Sogyal years ago, disillusioned by some his actions I witnessed. And I have known many lamas both during and after but none has brought what he brought to me.
    So – how you see the Lama IS crucial – but to me it’s more like a conduit – or a portal – and there’s plenty of room for discernment out in the ‘real’ world. I left him but he is still and always will be my Root Master. As someone said when I tried to explain my feelings with the ‘breaking of the samaya’ ‘You had that – you can’t change that’. That’s it, I had the introduction and it can’t be changed.
    As to his behaviour in the light of present circumstances – I use the concept Sogyal taught us – that of the Absolute and the Relative.
    What he showed me happened with his Absolute aspect, his physical behaviour – all of it- not just the sexual part – happens in the Relative.
    This must be dealt with and cease – but the teacher of Vajrayana – if he is a true one – speaks from a different place and our struggle is how to deal with that.


    1. I think that part of the puzzle might be that sl was extremely skilled at creating an almost hypnotic state, which has nothing to do with profound wisdom, BUT receiving teachings in that state is very powerful. I actively worked on recreating this state on my own by recalling the sensations and have been able to have similar experiences with other teachers. Try it, you might be very surprised at the results.


      1. I personally don’t regard the situation as a puzzle. I have been fortunate to have direct experience of many masters, including Dilgo Khyentse, Sakya Trizin, Namkai Norbu, Tulku Urgyen, Nyoshul Khen – and more. This is a result of having – through my husband’s work – lived in various Asian countries, and also my own travels. I have been and still am a great admirer of the writings of NN, Nyoshul Khen with his wisdom and humility left a lasting impression and to be one-on-one with Dilgo Khyentse was unforgettable.
        But with all these masters none has created for me the powerful experiences I had around Sogyal. The monks in Bhutan would say ‘Past lives’ as an explanation – and maybe it’s as straightforward as that.


        1. Or maybe there’s a much simpler explanation, sl is skilled at creating a receptive state of mind, one that we can learn to create on our own.

          I have also met many other teachers, and I was very close to sl. The way he behaved in the shrine room was akin to a performance, one that he had to psyche himself up for. In most recent years he had to have at least a few cigars before ‘performing’. No, he was not practicing or resting in the nature of mind, he was getting a massive nicotine hit. One full sized cigar has as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes and he definitely inhaled.

          I’m not saying this to cast doubt on your experiences (ones shared by many people), I’m just asking people to look at bit deeper and reject magical thinking because then we’re just one step away from validating bs like ot saying sl’s a mahasiddha and it would be OK for him to kill a student for their own good.

          It’s definitely a skill, I just don’t think it implies any kind of wisdom.


            1. Yep! He was obsessive about hiding it, my understanding is that smoking is a serious no no in Tibetan culture, something to do with smoke eaters. It started as a bit of a thrill, a way to be naughty in the early 2000’s but grew to a full blown addiction. People in ‘hospitality’ spent countless hours finding places for him to smoke out in nature, while retreats were going on, where no one would see him.

              There was a whole disgusting mouth rinsing ritual, gum chewing and changing clothes…definitely the actions of a fearless vajra master:(


          1. I think the issue here – the Vajrayana and it’s teachers – is in danger of being tainted with a giant brushstroke. Demonstrably there have been teachers who did not use abuse: Dudjom Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse, Nyoshul Khen ..and there are others whose names have not been associated with this kind of behaviour too.
            I had teachings from Sogyal in the mid-80’s. Regularly twice a week for 3 years and some long retreats during that time. His behaviour then was not what it became, but the signs were there. So I kept in the background. What I saw on two occasions much later led me to ‘leave’ him which was a situation I had to work through.
            His behaviour as it developed over the years is quite obviously appalling and absolutely needs to be addressed openly, not in the ‘secret society’ Rigpa has become.
            There’s no reason to ‘explain’ or ‘excuse’ abuse.
            But my point is that not all teachers of Vajrayana sink into depravity – HH the Dalai Lama is well-versed himself and as everyone knows is a beacon of light and tolerance in today’s world.


            1. I agree Barbara. And particularly, it is easy to drag the Dharma itself into the mud of these waters and that is sad. For example, the practice itself of seeing the teacher as a Buddha is not abusive and can be transformative. It can also be manipulated. I personally don’t want those two perspectives to become confused.


    2. I believe that Sogyal has hypnotic powers and siddhis, and so do many gurus, (such as Trungpa). They can put people into a trance state, but that doesn’t make them enlightened beings. In fact, it makes them all the more dangerous because people mistake the trance state for a glimpse into enlightened mind.


  3. Barbara, this is the most thoughtful contribution I’ve seen yet to the discussions on this group. It’s beautifully expressed. Thank you for writing it.


      1. @Joanne Clark … Let things fall into oblivion. Indeed they do, at present I am still wondered that a lot of people in my former Sangha Groningen with ,just as me, a christian background do these things.
        I still cannot understand it and that they get not their senses back.


  4. Most serial sex abusers are hypnotists. Hypnotism is easy, meditation is accessible by everyone, actors believe they are the role they create in their minds. Close your eyes imagine you are Superman, feel the energy as glowing warm light flying around through your body, feel your crown open and all your channels flowing, imagine a warm glowing healing light bathing you in a comfortable loving warmth


    1. @ Ed, Exactly! That’s why I call my time in rigpa my magical thinking period. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t have important and valuable experiences, BUT even if sl created the atmosphere for them that doesn’t mean he’s got the wisdom or ethics that we would hope people with this kind of power would hold. In fact his ability to open people up, and then fill them with a perverted version of the dharma, is what is most disturbing.

      He’s COMPLETELY deluded, he needs our compassion and care, not reverence. That kind of worship pushed him further and further into his delusion, which is very sad.


      1. @notsohopeful, that whole discussion is what I have been having with myself for twenty-five years now, ever since leaving Rigpa. I had powerful experiences at Rigpa and more powerful experiences with four other lamas– but I ended up a psychiatric mess. So what do those powerful experiences mean? They certainly don’t mean that the lamas are Buddhas or that my experiences were Buddhist experiences. However, some of those experiences have something to do with why I am still Buddhist and why I am not a psychiatric mess anymore. So figure that all out, I certainly can’t.

        However, I do know that the entire notion and religious orientation that a lama can “show” you something inside your own mind is problematic. There are two great risks to that– one is that students such as myself, with poor psychic boundaries, can be damaged and take things too far. The other is that a lama with poor ethical boundaries can use this power for his/her own gratification and to do harm.


        1. You might want to check out Willoughby Brittain’s project, Dark Night of the Soul. She had to change the name, but you can still find it by searching for that ( I always forget the PC name). It’s about people who have experiences of groundlessness that destabilize them. She is a professor at Brown, so her advice is based on psychology, neurobiology, and the Dharma. You can just Google her and watch any of for YouTube’s they’re all interesting to me anyway 😊. She basically says that when you work with people and they deeply open you’re really playing with fire and you have to be really careful and really ethical. So what I see is with these Tibetan Buddhist Masters many who were abused as children themselves or at the very least the diaspora has affected them, are playing with fire and they don’t know what the f*** they’re doing for the most part.


  5. Apparently, the tulku system (and the Rinpoche one) is one of the main factor that allows power-abuse in a relation between the guru and the disciple.
    I made some research to understand the trap into which I fell. I don’t think that the naivety of westerners, or their shortcomings explain all (as it is often said). Tibetans and the first Buddhist westerners established the environment -certainly with some good intentions-; and maintained it or reinforced it -with less good intentions-.


    In is Preface to The Mahamudra, Eliminating the Ignorance of Darkness (LTWA, 1978) – which also includes a commentary on the Gurupancashika – Alexander Berzin wrote :
    « Guru-devotion… is common to all traditions of Buddhism in Tibet and derives from India, most especially from Gurupancashika or Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion by Aśvaghosa of the first century B.C. » [ Tib: Lama Nga-chu-pa] .

    The Gelupa Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey (1921-1995) wrote a short commentary on the Gurupancashika from which an extract was translated into English around 1977. This text became the main source used by Lamas and senior Buddhists to teach westerners about the Guru-disciple relation.
    « This volume of Guru-devotion… forms a part of the LTWA’s programme to present representative translated works or the various Tibetan Buddhist lineages in order to preserve and further the wide diversity of teachings transmitted in Tibet. », Alexander Berzin.

    In the root text Aśvaghosa describes the qualities of a good Guru, then adds :
    « Having become the disciple of such a protecting (Guru), should you the despise him from your heart, you will reap continual suffering as if you had disparaged all the Buddas. ».

    Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey comments : “As your Guru is a Buddha, despising him is the same as hating all who are Enlightened… Despising or belittling such a state by disparaging your Guru, you cast yourself in the opposite direction from happiness and freedom… you gain instead… tormented states… as the various hells.», etc.

    If we apply logic, reasoning, “Valid cognition” to the commentary we can easily prove that it doesn’t stand to reason : “ As your Guru is a Buddha.” (a general statement) is not valid. It’s also very different than “seeing the Guru as a Buddha, under conditions”, etc.
    It’s clear that this commentary can be misused to obtain abusive power. Many Tibetan Lamas and communities also make a fallacious reasoning : for them and their followers complaining about Guru’s abuses, is despising and disparaging the Guru ! Which is untrue, reinforce abuses and isolate the victims… we know it, and this blog and others similar demonstrates it.


    Lamas who were/are helped and recognized by westerners and by the Tibetan Institutions were/are mainly tulkus (note1), who in turn come mainly from aristocratic families or were integrated in this cast.
    These are the Lamas sent to the west to teach, to build communities and also to collect money for the Tibetans in India. These are also the Lamas westerners can easily meet in Nepal or in India. Nowadays we call almost all of them “Rinpoches”, name which were not so widespread at the beginning.

    However, there are also high and humble yogis who are not recognized as tulkus, but very few came in the west, and they are not easy to meet, even for Tibetans. Guendun Rinpoche (France), for example, was one of them. Yet, many of his disciples were also under the spell of tulkus who were/are not behaving so wisely and so compassionately. Moreover some of Guendun Rinpoche main seniors had/have abusing behavior.

    Lets come back to the teachings above. Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey wrote : “A Tantric Master must have even more good qualities, as listed in the text. Most important is that he be an extremely stable person, with his body, is speech and mind totally under control. He should be someone in whose presence everyone feels calm, peaceful and relaxed. Even the mere sight of him brings great pleasure to the mind. And his compassion must be unsurpassable.”.
    But he also wrote : “ He (the Guru) always hide is good qualities… If you do not recognize such traits as indications of his perfection, humility and skillful means, you may make the serious mistake of belittling or seeing faults in him.”

    Alexander Berzin wrote also : “Gurus act as mirror of your mind. When you see them as having faults, these flaws are projections of cloudy delusions obscuring the pure nature of your own mind and mirror back to you what you must work on and learn in order to gain liberation.” (page xi).

    The trap is set. You can’t express doubts about tulkus, neither about Rinpoches. They are recognized by the Institution, they have a label ! “They are Buddhas”. You can’t disagree with them, you can’t speak out when they behave wrongly or harm somebody, there is almost no dialogue. Their seniors or westerners Lamas around them are also highly protected, because they are chosen by the tulkus, so they must be right.
    If the tulku is an ordinary person hiding behind titles and robes, the community can’t avoid power-abuse; no need to speak of abusive tulkus. If the tulku is an authentic practitioner, things are not so bad; but even so when there is a conflict, the lower in the hierarchy system is in most of the cases the one who is considered to be wrong.

    Note 1: For example the « Young Lamas Home School which » was a school established by the 14th Dalai Lama and Freda Bedi in 1960.
    According to « » the tulkus who studied there were :
    12 – Nyingmapa – among them : Tchogling Rinpoche, Tarthang Tulku, Chime Rinpoche, Tulkou Pema Tenzin, Orgyen Tobgyal, Kotchen Tulkou, Ringou Tulkou Rimpotche (a nyingma-kagyu), Bagan Tulkou Pema Tenzin, Bairo Tulkou, Bhakka Tulkou and Amdo Rinpoche.

    10 Sakyapa, among them : Sherab Gyaltsen Amipa, Tchiwang Tulkou and his brother Droubthob Tulkou and Khortchak Rinpoche.

    15 Kagyupa, among them : Chogyam Trungpa, Akong Rinpoche and his brother Yeshe Losal, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Djampa Gyaltsen Moutouktsang (a nephew of the 16 th karmapa). Dorzong Rinpoche and Tcheugyel Rinpoche were des drukpa-kagyu.

    Many Gelupa, among them : Sharpa Tulkou, Gala Rinpoche, Gelek Rinpoche, Rala Rinpoche, Langoeun Tulkou, Thubten Zopa Rinpoche,

    Tenzin Palmo and Robert Thurman were also teachers there.


    1. It should be noted that Guendun Rinpoche, was mainly called Lama Guendun before his death. People were not giving him the title of Rinpoche even those who highly loved and respected him.


  6. Thank you for sharing those teachings!

    The reason why I maintain that we are just as to blame as the teachers is because some of us swallowed this irrational thought process ‘hook line and sinker’, despite the benefit of a modern education. There are many people who trusted themselves enough to resist and leave after these ‘special’ teachings were shared, so those of us who stayed need to own our part in it.

    I don’t blame the Tibetans, they were thrust into the 21st century against their will, it’s going to take a minute for them to catch up to modern sensibilities. But my participation is tantamount to suddenly thinking Sharia law is a good idea.

    I do believe in the basic Buddhist teachings of interdependence, nothing happens in a vacuum. We as a society often times want to find one singular cause for misdeeds, unfortunately it’s never that simple.


  7. @notsohopeful,

    “The reason why I maintain that we are just as to blame as the teachers is because some of us swallowed this irrational thought process ‘hook line and sinker’, despite the benefit of a modern education.”

    “I don’t blame the Tibetans, they were thrust into the 21st century against their will, it’s going to take a minute for them to catch up to modern sensibilities.”

    I wouldn’t underestimate the modern Tibetans though. (I’m not talking about Tibetans who do not live and work in the West.) Those who have settled in Western countries and who have benefited from a modern education seem to be quite savvy compared to a lot of Western Dharma students I’ve met, who are often quite naive about Tibetan culture in general. I

    I don’t really agree with you that we (Westerners) are as much to blame as the abusive teachers. Anyone can be brainwashed, and saying that Westerners are to blame is not helpful for victims to hear, imo. I think that the philosophy behind the guru worship is to blame, and ANYONE can fall for it under the right circumstances. Also, I have said here before that I believe a lot of psychic manipulation takes place. The lamas know things about how to manipulate the psychic energies, and they take full advantage of the ignorance in the West about that kind of thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @notsohopeful @catlover

      Perhaps, it isn’t about blame on either side, but about increasing our capacity to listen to one another and activate responsibility.

      Responsibility isn’t about blame either, maybe more of a response-ability.

      We have the capacity to come together, discover our own part, and produce change. No one in any level of authority can prevent this. Perhaps we are the problem & the solution.


      “The difficulty here is that until individuals take responsibility for their own life experience, or at least their experience of their experience, little deep change is possible.”

      “The challenge, when you are dealing with larger-scale human systems, is that collectively people have to take some responsibility. I think it’s a perfect parallel to that therapeutic axiom that a person can see awful things that have happened to them in their life, but until they see their own part, they can never escape a victimology mindset, and a victim mind certainly cannot generate any real creative energies for change.”

      “De Maree used this term sociotherapy. From the standpoint of the purpose or intent or the theory of change, it is probably exactly right. It’s how we collectively learn to take responsibility for the conditions we have created.”

      — Peter Senge


  8. If you’re gonna blame anybody, the whole human race is to blame for not growing out of these antiquated, Medieval systems that keep everyone locked in the Dark Ages forever. We will never be truly out of the Dark Ages until people grow out of these systems, (which include both Western and Eastern), especially those systems which place human beings on thrones and worship them as gods. Humans on thrones are always bound to have clay feet, no matter who they are, or however good they believe their intentions are, and it doesn’t make sense to worship them. (If one MUST worship a human, it’s best to do so from FAR away so that one can maintain the fantasy of a totally PERFECT human being with no flaws.)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. @Catlover The Buddhist teachings agree with you.

    “The wrong way to take refuge involves seeking shelter — worshipping mountains, sun gods, moon gods, deities of any kind simply because they would seem to be greater than we.

    This kind of refuge-taking is similar to the response of the little child who says, “If you beat me, I’ll tell my mommy,” thinking that his mother is a great, archetypically powerful person. If he is attacked, his automatic recourse is to his mother, an invincible and all-knowing, all-powerful personality. The child believes his mother can protect him, in fact that she is the only person who can save him. Taking refuge in a mother or father-principle is truly self-defeating; the refuge-seeker has no real basic strength at all, no true inspiration.

    He is constantly busy assessing greater and smaller powers. If we are small, then someone greater can crush us. We seek refuge because we cannot afford to be small and without protection. We tend to be apologetic: “I am such a small thing, but I acknowledge your great quality. I would like to worship and join your greatness, so will you please protect me?”

    Surrendering is not a question of being low and stupid, nor of wanting to be elevated and profound. It has nothing to do with levels and evaluation. Instead, we surrender because we would like to communicate with the world “as it is.””

    C. Trungpa


    1. And how DARE Trungpa say anything about not taking “refuge” in parents, or teachers?!?!? He himself encouraged people to worship him and had more of a cult-like atmosphere than ANY of the recent teachers!!! He even had goons around him to enforce the worship! This quote makes me just FURIOUS because he is such a HUGE hypocrite!!! It’s just disgusting!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. @Rick New,

    You dare to quote Trungpa, who is the WORST hypocrite and the most sadistic, abusive “teacher” of any of them?!?!? It’s ironic that people who are so concerned about Sogyal and Sakyong are still willing to worship and quote this creep to make a point about Dharma! Find someone better to quote.


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