LIES, DAMNED LIES & LERAB LING – part 1

Today we have a guest post by Jo Green in which he takes a look at the latest video update from Lerab ling and unpacks the language used by Lerab Ling’s ‘Superior’ . (Ugh. I can’t write that word without rolling my eyes!) If you think Rigpa students aren’t being manipulated by the leaders of their organisation, you really should read this.

VIDEO NASTIES

Today I watched the latest video update from Rigpa’s epicentre, Lerab Ling. It was a mixture of the depressingly predictable with the truly reprehensible. By the end, my jaw had dropped so far that I may need reconstructive surgery to be able to eat again. But that’s not a worry: with this much nausea I have no appetite. I haven’t seen such a total failure of compassion, combined with complete rejection of the facts, since the last Trump rally.

What has caused this much distress is not just what was said but what was not said. Back in last August, when Patrick Gaffney and Dominique Side took to the stage at Lerab Ling to address the whole Rigpa sangha online, there were at least some miserably vague, morally equivocal acknowledgements that something had gone wrong, such as when Patrick said, “We have to take charge of this situation and do our best to resolve it in the best way possible for everybody concerned, including anybody who feels aggrieved or upset.” Obviously, words like “abuse” or “harm” or “victim” were strictly avoided, but at least there was a sense that something had happened.

That’s all gone now. In the edited 40 minutes that went out, the problems – as far as Dominique Side (the “Superior” of the Lerab Ling congregation) and Sam Truscott (the Director of Lerab Ling) were concerned – had nothing to do with people being physically injured, sexually abused, financially exploited or psychologically traumatised. No, the real problems are:

  • Because people said nasty things about Sogyal Rinpoche in a letter, students have left and the public are not coming as much. Attendance is down 50%.
  • Because people aren’t coming as much, Lerab Ling has financial problems. They have had to “let go of” 67 out of 170 workers (not all workers are paid).
  • Because people said nasty things about Sogyal and Lerab Ling in a newspaper, they had to start multiple legal actions.

I think that covers it. Apparently, none of these problems were caused in any way by Sogyal’s behaviour. It was all the result of other people causing trouble. But with the wonderful equanimity and good grace that years of study under “Rinpoche” have bestowed on them – and the advice of lawyers and financiers – they are seeing all this as “a blessing in disguise”.

Oh yes, and they told a pack of lies.

THE FICTION FACTORY

There is a really insidious fiction that Dominique Side has been elaborating for some time now, with others at Lerab Ling, and every time she comes back to it, we move further from the truth. In the video she traces their financial woes back to the latter part of 2016. She claims that because of “one media campaign” it was necessary to cancel a conference at the last moment, with a huge loss as a result. But is that what really happened?

In September 2016, Marion Dapsance’s book about Tibetan Buddhism – and more specifically, Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa – had been published: Les Dévots du Bouddhisme.  I read it. The book is, unquestionably, highly critical of the person and the organisation. It is also sober, academically thorough and definitely not sensationalist. It is the product of 7 years’ study for her PhD, put into a more readable form. It is also a story which begins with Dapsance sincerely wanting to explore Buddhism on a personal level.

The response of Rigpa was to issue a very angry Press Release. This was put up on the Lerab Ling website (not Rigpa.org) so one assumes that’s where it originated. Since the publication of The Letter, it has been removed.

The things it said included: “Both Rigpa and Sogyal Rinpoche categorically reject the assertions of abuse and cult-like behaviour that have been made in this book.” So, just to be clear, Sogyal HAS officially denied abusing anyone. It goes on, “this book merely recycles old, unfounded rumours and accusations that have been posted on the internet since the past fifteen years which, in fact, always originate from the same sources.” So, they are equating “heard it before” with “untrue”. Why? In fact, the vast majority of the book consists of completely original research carried out by Dapsance, plus a diary kept by a very faithful student whose view completely changed, leading him to abandon the 3-year retreat just days before the end. Dapsance wasn’t especially sneaky about researching – she even talked to Olivier Raurich, the then French National Director, about what she was doing.

Perhaps the reason they decided to take their response down is this ridiculous accusation they make against the author: “Marion Dapsance’s studies have been financed by Chinese benefactors”. They offer no evidence for this. In a public response, Dapsance made clear that her only benefactors during those seven years had been her parents. She added that she was now receiving support from Hong Kong for her research into the explorer Alexandra David-Neel: from the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation, which aims to promote Buddhist philosophy and “the application of Buddhist insights in today’s world”. Rigpa also characterise her as “with those who seem primarily motivated by their desire for fame and sensationalism”.  They did not issue a retraction or an apology.

They then point out that the same publishers put out a book that was critical of the Dalai Lama, claiming “This book presents a scathing and aggressive attack on the Dalai Lama, accusing him of being an agent of the CIA”. Even if this is the case (I haven’t read that book) what does that have to do with anything? Dapsance does not attack the Dalai Lama in the 39 references to him in her book, nor does she mention the CIA. Harper Collins publish “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”. They also publish books written by, and sympathetic to, Donald Trump. Is Sogyal therefore a Trump supporter?

FAKE NEWS ABOUT NEWS

 A few weeks later, a regional/local newspaper, Midi Libre – which had published many news stories about Lerab Ling, of various kinds – put out a feature on Lerab Ling and the accusations against Sogyal Rinpoche.

A few days after, the Press Release was re-issued, now with an explanatory letter from Sam Truscott and Judith Soussans, the Rigpa/Lerab Ling PR manager, which complained, “For several weeks, Rigpa and Sogyal Rinpoche have been the victims of a malicious media campaign based on the publication of a highly critical and extremely prejudiced book… We are deeply shocked and dismayed at the way Lerab Ling and our spiritual director, Sogyal Rinpoche, have been depicted. In no way does this picture correspond to reality.”

Let’s unpick that. First of all, most people would absolutely recognise the reality the book describes: how when you first go to Rigpa, knowing nothing, wanting an introduction to meditation, you find you are taught to fixate upon the image of Sogyal Rinpoche. You’d recognise him turning up late for teachings at retreats and then spending ages berating people. You may well have experienced being taken aside by instructors who then check your reactions to his strange behaviour and tell you to accept this as “crazy wisdom”, no matter how it may seem. As for the stories of abuse: they’re everywhere.

And what “malicious media campaign”? The book attracted some press coverage. It’s normal for publishers to send books out to newspapers – it’s how books get noticed, so people buy them. If the subject is newsworthy, that helps to get coverage. It’s not “malicious” and it’s not a campaign: it’s just some journalists and editors independently thinking, “This sound interesting”. Midi Libre were the only ones to do more extensive coverage and their articles were not taken up by the national press. Also, these articles were behind a paywall, so only people who bought the paper that day, or were subscribers, could see them.

Nonetheless, in this new video Dominique Side claims that these specific articles were the direct cause of the last-minute cancellation of “The 5th International Forum on Buddhism and Medicine” at Lerab Ling, due to take place two weeks after publication. The significant income loss that the centre took as a result was the beginning of all their current financial woes, she claims. It was all the fault of the “fake, fake, disgusting news,” in the words of Sogyal’s publishing companion, Donald Trump.

Really? I mean REALLY? Some articles behind a paywall, in a regional paper, in French, could bring this whole international event crashing down? So, what happened? All of the speakers heard about it and abandoned ship? Everybody asked for a refund? Dominique Side doesn’t say, nor has anybody given a coherent explanation. So, what might have happened?

Well, when the going gets tough, Sogyal has a habit of getting going. Around 1994, when the “Janice Doe” abuse case in the USA was in the news, Sogyal suddenly felt the need to go on retreat and thus, sadly, “could not be reached for comment”. Then, curiously enough, the next North American Retreat was moved to Canada, so Sogyal had no need to set foot in the USA and have his teaching interrupted by the serving of a writ. When The Letter came out last year, Sogyal was once again gripped by the sudden need to go into retreat (perhaps more in the military than religious sense), but this was stepped up to “retirement” after the Dalai Lama criticised him. His location has remained a Rigpa secret ever since (although it’s called “Thailand”).

So, it’s entirely possible, if he and Rigpa were feeling so much heat after the fallout from the publication of the book, that he had again speedily left the country and decided to cancel the event. Or they didn’t sell enough tickets. Or many of the international speakers felt uneasy about sharing a stage with him. Dominique skips over an incident that did attract a lot of attention: just a few weeks before the conference, Sogyal thought it would be OK to punch a nun painfully hard in the stomach, in front of 1000 people. Now, it doesn’t take a “media campaign” for that kind of thing to get around. 1000 shocked people will talk.

THE PERVERSION OF LANGUAGE

 The most hypocritical aspect of the repeated use of the phrase “media campaign”, by her and the rest of the Rigpa leadership, is that they know perfectly well which party in all this has mounted a media campaign: it’s them. Rigpa has, for years, hired PR companies to help “spin” stories about Sogyal’s bad behaviour. This was particularly so during the fallout from the “Mimi” story in a 2011 Canadian documentary, for which they used PR people in various countries. Amongst other things, senior Rigpa staff were given training in dealing with the media. Olivier Raurich, the former National Director in France said they were told to say, “‘The Dalai Lama is supporting Sogyal Rinpoche one hundred percent’, and repeat that, only that, without answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’.” Perhaps this is why the Dalai Lama recently felt it necessary to make so very clear that he was not.

Given their past record, it’s almost certain that Rigpa are currently using PR people to help manage the ongoing crisis. Indeed, it’s perfectly possible that they have been taught by them to use the phrase “media campaign” to refer to any negative press coverage, in order to make them sound like victims. If Dominique and Sam want to bring the sangha up to date with what they’ve been doing, why don’t they let them all know that it’s Rigpa policy to employ PR companies? After all, it is the students’ subscriptions, retreat fees and donations that pay their bill.

There is a word that their PR/legal advisors have advised them to deploy, which they must consider has served them well. In 1994, when Patrick Gaffney had to pen the first press release defending Sogyal Rinpoche in the wake of the accusations from ‘Janice Doe’, he wrote, “These allegations are unfounded.” Remember what they said about Marion Dapsance? “This book merely recycles old, unfounded rumours and accusations.” And what do we find Sam Truscott saying on French TV at Lerab Ling’s Open Day in May? “These accusations are completely unfounded.”

“Unfounded” is the pernicious little word behind which they pompously stand, but let’s be clear about what they are saying. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “not based on fact; untrue”. The Oxford English Dictionary says: “Having no foundation or basis in fact.” So what Sam Truscott did was call all the letter writers LIARS. He also called every woman brave enough to talk about being sexually abused by Sogyal Rinpoche a LIAR. Likewise, he branded every trustee or director who ever spoke up about abuse a LIAR.

Now, it’s one thing to say, as Sam did, that he never saw or heard anything bad occur (although perhaps he’s overdue for eye and ear tests) and he could even hide behind the lame old “nothing has been proved in court,” but to say all victims and witnesses are liars is simply disgraceful and profoundly morally perverted. This is a new low and he should be ashamed.

Addition 18th August 2018

Since this post was published, I have received new information around what happened at Lerab Ling during the Dzogchen retreat of 2016, after the publication of the Marion Dapsance book and before the conference. A French student told me that, during the retreat, French students were summoned, two or three times, to gather in the Guru Lakang room on the first floor, whilst the rest were invited to meditate in the temple below. Feeling like the bad guys, these French students were told to put up their hands if they had any doubts and these were then worked on.

Although this was about the effect the book might have had, the title of the book and the name of the author were never shared, presumably for fear of encouraging people to take a look. The Rigpa/Lerab Ling PR manager, Judith Soussans, led the sessions. She later advised people to Google The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying rather than the one by Marion Dapsance, in order to keep hers lower down searches.

Another instructor brought in was an academic from the Sorbonne who said that the (unnamed) book was badly written, of poor academic quality and was just gutter press sort of stuff, reporting gossip.

These are all classic Rigpa disinformation tactics to make sure nobody thinks for themselves:

Withhold details

Persuade people not to inform themselves

Denigrate the individual concerned

As far as the cancelled conference goes, some details of what was planned can still be found here. Its theme was “Living With Cancer”. Interestingly, on that web page they have a competition to win free places. A sign of difficulty in selling tickets? It should be pointed out that this was put out before Midi Libre published their reports.

Although some have confirmed that they were told the conference was cancelled as a result of what was said in the press, others have informed me that the reason they’d been given for cancellation was that it wasn’t possible to properly care for cancer sufferers on-site. This sounds very strange, given that the conference is clearly targeted at health care professionals, not patients. Not to mention that having cancer does not prevent you from going to Lerab Ling. It’s ironic to consider that, at that very moment, Sogyal Rinpoche himself was probably already experiencing symptoms of cancer.

If anybody can corroborate what happened at the 2016 Dzogchen Retreat – especially French students – or around the cancellation of the conference, please share your experiences.

Thanks Jo for your article. The second part will be posted next week.

What do our readers think about all this. Is this your perception of that video or do you see it differently?


Private discussion on this and other related topics can be had on our  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  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 focus is not on the abuses, but on ourselves and our spiritual life as we recover from our experience of spiritual abuse and look to the future. 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, which posts links to related articles as they come to hand.

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111 thoughts on “LIES, DAMNED LIES & LERAB LING – part 1

  1. Thanks for coherently presenting how and what is just dismissed by Rigpa spindoctors who own no allegiance to truth and honesty, What kind of organisation pays people to lie like that in public. You can see their bodies are in pain as they have to grit and keep using their special language to devalue anyone who speaks up about being harmed by their leader Sogyal Lakar.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Letse — thank you so much for your words here. I was vilified for years (not just by Rigpies). Now I am vindicated. Its a relief, but since 14 July last year also burdened with sadness because spiritual abuse is just as painful as any other form. And like you, probably 1,000s of former Soigyal devotees are suffering their way through disillusionment. Shedding illusions may hurt at the time — but I don’t need to emphasise the point that in the longer term it is beneficial.

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  2. Yes, Lerab Ling points out others for defamation, but actually they and Sogyal kept defaming people , the victims and all who stood up critically. That is called „gaslighting“(psychological manipulation) and is illegal in the UK.
    It is defamation also to say nasty things about a critical person to undermine her/his credibility.

    That happened with Janice Doe (a conspiracy of Western Lamas who are jeleous of Sogyal‘s success). No mention of sexual and physical assault and that Patrick Gaffney knows it all and yet keeps lying about conspiracy and jealousy and „compassion and bodhicitta“.

    It happened with Mary Finnigan (just a malicious journalist who wants to bring down
    Sogyal, no mention of her collections of emotional, physical and sexual abuse).

    It happened to Mimi Durand (just a big ego like a princess who found out that she is not the only dakini and got hurt / a man-eater / abusing Sogyal‘s trust, no mention of sexual and physical assault and power imbalance, no mention of psychological manipulation „you are a dakini“, „you are here for my long life“, „you get the seed of enlightenment from me“, „the consort is same as the master“ (implying she is realized- meaning no mention of the methods of a narcissist manipulating you in a way that you feel „good /special / blessed“ of being used for his advantage.

    It happened to Olivier Raurich ( a big ego who always wanted to be a guru himself and now goes against his own teacher. No mention of abuse of power)

    It happened with Damchoela (she did not want to be a nun anymore, because it is no conducive environment to be a fully ordained nun in LL. She got influenced by a nun from Taiwan. And then she escaped and dropped it all. Moody. No mention of abuse.)

    I had gone on distance before Madame Despance‘s book came out but the press release was very straight forward in its defamation of her.

    Each one of us who „attracted“ all the defamation, could sue them the same way they sew the lawyer of victims who stated that Rigpa and S behave like a cult. And they do, again and again and again behave like a cult.

    We can imagine how desperate the families and friends feel of those working in Lerab Ling and other positions in Rigpa worldwide. I am sure that they try to reach out to them and I really hope that not all get rejected with this kind of denial and defamation.

    It is when you put down the glasses of crazy wisdom, of compassion, of blessing, of training, that you start to see the manipulating eloquence, the illogical explanations, the unhealthy set-up. Then I started to see hitting as hitting, punching as punching, Rigpa Therapy as gaslighting, „hair cut, no skin cut“ as psychological defamation and undermining the victim‘s credibility, I can see the sexual advances as grooming and the sex with all attendants as power abuse and the violence within the relationships as sexual assault or rape. It is not what I was told: helping them. I saw so much chronic fatigue. To control so much is tiring, to witness abuse and get told that it is compassion is tiring. I experienced it. It is awful.

    So take down the glasses for just an hour and consider the perception of many being abused.
    Then suddenly it all makes sense and then suddenly you come to realize something horrific: Sogyal and the management is criminal.

    So they talk of compassion, love, liberation in front and act contrary to this behind. Sogyal even acted it out to be seen by many attending.

    This is called a contradiction.

    That is hard to digest.

    That is very painful to open up to.

    It means to realize that you are a victim, or acted complicit by knowing but not going to the police, it means that you disconnected with your ethical standards. It is tough to realize this.

    Not everyone is strong enough to do this, especially when having worked for Sogyal for 10,20
    Or 30 years. Where to go? What money to earn? How to feed the children?

    These concerns are valid concerns.

    And I really have to say: any of you putting down the glasses and coming to realize the abuse and horror, will meet a Sangha who will take care of you, not let you down.

    Then there is the Charity Comission in the UK or ADFI in France. Ask their help.
    There is a way out and there is a way back to life.
    And there is a way to heal trauma and integrate it into life.

    O really, we were blind. I was, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s on the dharmakosha where all the videos are for the sangha days and so forth. Not sure where exactly, probably it was shown last sangha day.

      Like

  3. Didn’t Sam Truscott have to appear before a French court in Montpellier for not reporting a pedophile in Lerab Ling some years ago?

    Like

  4. Well, if it truly takes a teacher and his/her students together to make a cult, Patrick, Dominique, and Sam seem to have done a good day’s work.

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  5. One critical point on this good piece. “when you first go to Rigpa, knowing nothing, wanting an introduction to meditation, you find you are taught to fixate upon the image of Sogyal Rinpoche”
    This is really not the case as far as I know. I was an instructor myself and we never taught this.

    Like

    1. I think he means Sogyal in the videos and live. We were all supposed to look at him all the time when he was teaching, and meditate while we listened, and use him as the focus of our mediation, but yes, this could be misleading as we weren’t taught to look at his photo in meditation practice. I remember telling students to ‘sit’ with a teaching and use S as the focus.

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  6. The video mentioned is on the dharmakosha site. The link to it was in August email from International Holding group.

    Watch it while it’s still available, there (as mentioned here) a history of self-censorship and erasing history within Rigpa after being called out.

    Like

    1. Its fine its to members only, so the others have just believe it.

      If to believe or not, the analysis above would fit to many others pieces already given in the theatre of Rigpa, had been waited for by the spectators to watch guileless and be happy everything is still fine and on place as a good half realized practioner does have the right to expect !

      Like

  7. I have archived the video and so has Rob Hogendoorn. It is excruciating to watch so steel yourself in advance if you do. But nothing like as gruesome as the Dutch hagiographic film about Sogyal broadcast in 2008, which I have only just caught up with. John Cleese makes himself look like a naive idiot –which is sad because he’s usually an intelligent bloke.The Sogyal stuff is emetic.

    Like

  8. Rick New — very sorry but I can’t do that. it is in my personal Dropbox account. I do not have permission to share it. I realise this is frustrating for you and others, but as a responsible journalist I protect my sources 100%

    Like

        1. The BOS truly awful hagiography video is not the same one. I may have caused some confusion by referring to both of them in one comment. Jo Green’s analysis refers to a recent video of the Lerab Ling troika spouting carefully crafted spin designed to obfuscate the fact that Rigpa in general and LL in particular have lost their cash flow generation capacity since 14 July last year. They own up to a 50% drop in attendances because they have no option. It is glaringly obvious from the way the programmes in various Rigpa locations have been drastically cut back. But the rest pf the blah blah pivots on how well they are coping under the circumstances. There are frequent references to “Rinpoche” — of course.

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          1. You mentioned John Cleese he is in the BOS video of 2008. But this one is still important to watch with the knowledge of today forma btter understanding of how or why things went wrong.

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  9. I saw a comment refuting what the writer had said about new students being asked, as was reported in Marion Dapsance’s book ‘Les dévots du bouddhisme,’ to “fixate upon the image of Sogyal Rinpoche” Sel En Sam says, “I was an instructor myself and we never taught this.” https://whatnow727.wordpress.com/2018/08/15/lies-damned-lies-lerab-ling-part-1/#comment-6241

    In Rigpa there is, or maybe was, a course called ‘What Meditation Really Is.’ In that course the majority of the videos are of Sogyal Rinpoche teaching. I have heard people being told to sit in meditation with the video, or to “sit with Rinpoche,” much as is described in Marion Dapsance’s book. Maybe this didn’t happen where Sel En Sam was an Instructor, but it definitely did happen in my Rigpa centre (which was a main national centre) as well as wherever Marion Dapsance attended Rigpa courses.

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  10. @ Jan de Vries: the video you link to seems to be the shortened version of a documentary made by German film maker Boris Penth back in 2008. The original doc is 30 mins longer, it presents quite a few more testimonies by students among other things. I remember how we were instructed in the temple how to move about when the film crew would be there and how we spent ages with Rinpoche (yes, really, I’m not there yet not to call him that) in the temple while he picked out who could be interviewed and who should not. Later on he didn’t like the result and told us during a teaching that he thought the it was absolutely terrible and sappy.

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    1. I paid the entrance fee to the cinema and brought familiy and friends.

      A boring product. Quite a bootlicking overpraising adulation. No wonder sogyal went completely mad.

      And me, with regards to that product: ” I want my money back, Boris “

      Like

    2. Left Lodeve — for once Soggy was right — it is “terrible and sappy” — even the shorter version I’ve seen

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  11. WHAT NOW?
    In the Wake of Revelations of Abuse in Rigpa

    “If Mara is a metaphor for death, then Buddha, as his twin, is a metaphor for life. The two are inseparable. You cannot have Buddha without Mara any more than you can have life without death. This was the insight I gained from writing Living with the Devil. Instead of perfection or transcendence, the goal of Gotama’s Dhamma was to embrace this suffering world without being overwhelmed by the attendant fear or attachment, craving or hatred, confusion or conceit, that come in its wake.”

    — Stephen Batchelor

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      1. Hi Moonfire,

        I’m not sure if that is a real question, or a rhetorical one, but since I can’t see or hear you, I’ll take it as a real interest.

        We are “in the wake of revelations about the Rigpa Organization”. “Instead of perfection or transcendence, the goal of Gotama’s Dhamma was to embrace this suffering world ” — SB

        It seems we wanted the purity of the teacher, but we didn’t want the samsaric side. We don’t want the greed, lust, lying and deceit of Mara. In the wake of these revelations, this suffering, the response is in our hands.

        There are so many options here, but to continue to only focus on the teacher, just as we did in the past, seems similar to repeating the pattern that got us here.

        We have the experience of deepened practice, we could not only keep the focus on the teacher, but we could turn toward one another in good faith.

        It is good to bring the darkness to light, but it also seems we could make the move we couldn’t make as part of the Rigpa Organization. We could just turn toward one another in all our diversity. I feel if we could Skype or Hangout just to say hello to one another, it could be quite positive.

        Regards,

        Rick

        Like

  12. Jo just sent me the following, and I added it to the end of the post. I post it here as a comment also, so that those who have already read the post will see it.

    Addition 18th August 2018

    Since this post was published, I have received new information around what happened at Lerab Ling during the Dzogchen retreat of 2016, after the publication of the Marion Dapsance book and before the conference. A French student told me that, during the retreat, French students were summoned, two or three times, to gather in the Guru Lakang room on the first floor, whilst the rest were invited to meditate in the temple below. Feeling like the bad guys, these French students were told to put up their hands if they had any doubts and these were then worked on.

    Although this was about the effect the book might have had, the title of the book and the name of the author were never shared, presumably for fear of encouraging people to take a look. The Rigpa/Lerab Ling PR manager, Judith Soussans, led the sessions. She later advised people to Google The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying rather than the one by Marion Dapsance, in order to keep hers lower down searches.

    Another instructor brought in was an academic from the Sorbonne who said that the (unnamed) book was badly written, of poor academic quality and was just gutter press sort of stuff, reporting gossip.

    These are all classic Rigpa disinformation tactics to make sure nobody thinks for themselves:

    Withhold details

    Persuade people not to inform themselves

    Denigrate the individual concerned

    As far as the cancelled conference goes, some details of what was planned can still be found here. Its theme was “Living With Cancer”. Interestingly, on that web page they have a competition to win free places. A sign of difficulty in selling tickets? It should be pointed out that this was put out before Midi Libre published their reports.

    Although some have confirmed that they were told the conference was cancelled as a result of what was said in the press, others have informed me that the reason they’d been given for cancellation was that it wasn’t possible to properly care for cancer sufferers on-site. This sounds very strange, given that the conference is clearly targeted at health care professionals, not patients. Not to mention that having cancer does not prevent you from going to Lerab Ling. It’s ironic to consider that, at that very moment, Sogyal Rinpoche himself was probably already experiencing symptoms of cancer.

    If anybody can corroborate what happened at the 2016 Dzogchen Retreat – especially French students – or around the cancellation of the conference, please share your experiences.

    Like

    1. When the book of Marion Dapsance “Les dévots du Bouddhisme” was published, I bought it and started to read it immediately. I was happy to see that she was denouncing what was happening in Rigpa and with SL. There were not much more revelations about the issue than what had already been published in French blogs since 2010 and even earlier, but it was a book and the revelations were gathered and deepened with good insights.

      However, it was a deception to discover that in the same time Dapsance was giving very wrong information on Buddhism and making unfair criticism (about the teaching and about facts. For example, she wrote that the Dalaï Lama is Kagyu !).

      Afterwards, I discovered that the intention of Marion Dapsance was clearly to denigrate Buddhism as a whole and she did it invariably. She gave talks at conferences; or private meetings, with the patronage of conservative Christians where she still spread wrong information on Buddhism. As a conclusion of an interview she also said that westerners must not practice an Asian religion but must stay in their own Christian tradition. Then she wrote a book about Western Buddhism “Qu’ont-ils fait du bouddhisme ?” supposedly to denounce the perversion of Buddhism in the West (in fact she also gives wrong information on Buddhism, both in the West and in Asia, and as a result denigrates it).

      What she did/does was harmful to all Buddhists in France. This is a reason why Buddhists in France don’t support her. She is mainly supported by conservative Christians, who publish her conference on Youtube and make disparaging comments on the Buddha under her books on the websites.

      Many people around Lerab Ling (all the department and those around) was already aware of what happened there and with SL before the book of Dapsance. The book of Dapsance was publicized in the French press, in september 2016. It revealed the abuses at a national level, but the information didn’t last. What really made the difference at a national and even international level was the letter of the height that was published in Midi Libre newspaper (30 July 2017), the statement of Matthieu Ricard (29 july 2017) and the one of the Dalaï Lama (august 2017).

      I wish to had that, for me, all what happen in Rigpa is not negative, I really appreciate some teachings in the Shedra on line for example. Good and bad is mingled in this issue.

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  13. I haven’t read Marion Dapsance’s book “Les dévots du bouddhisme”, but she wrote a chapter I thought was good in an earlier book, “Minority Religions and Fraud: In Good Faith”, (Routledge Inform Series on Minority Religions and Spiritual Movements) by Amanda van Eck Duymaer van Twist (Editor) published in the UK in 2014. The book is very expensive and I don’t think it was widely read.

    Marion Dapsance made a version of her chapter available for free. It’s called, “When Fraud is Part of a Spiritual Path: A Tibetan Lama’s Play on Reality and Illusion.” It is well worth reading as it provides a lot of background which helps understand some of the circumstances that led up to the open letter eight senior Rigpa students wrote in July 2017.

    You can download the chapter from academia.edu
    http://www.academia.edu/8283817/_When_Fraud_is_Part_of_a_Spiritual_Path_A_Tibetan_Lamas_Play_on_Reality_and_Illusion_

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    1. @Mary Finningan
      Thanks for the link and thank you, by the way, for all what you do.

      Concerning the chapter 1) Behind the thangka.

      Carla Sarkozy (the wife of French president Sarkozy) and other politicians and vip went at the opening of Lerab Ling in august 2008 not because of Sogyal or by special respect for him, but to support the Tibetan cause. It was after the uprising in Lhasa and other parts of Tibet in march 2018. Many Tibetan had been killed and 7000 were detained. The Dalai Lama had to find a political way to have them released quickly. It was also four months after pro-Tibetan demonstrators had disrupted the Olympic torch’s passage through Paris on route to Beijing.

      I am sure of this, I followed closely the Tibetan events this year, and was living with Tibetans with whom I spoke about what was happening.

      Carla Sarkosy went with the foreign minister Bernard Kouchner to Lerab Ling to meet the DalaÏ Lama , because his meeting with the French president, also president of EU at the time, had been canceled. (Beijing warned Mr Sarkozy of “serious consequences” if he met the DL). Therefore the French government found an other way to show to the world its support to the Dalai Lama.

      Why did they choose Lerab Ling ? one reason is that it is far from Paris, where French president Sarkozy was, so they took a physical distance from him. I don’t know all the other reasons of their choice.

      To summarize : The Dalai Lama and the French government wanted to encourage China to free some Tibetans from jail ! It worked according to what I know. I was in Nepal when they started to be released. It was a relief.

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      1. It’s worth reading the article on the website of the Dalaï Lama :
        https://www.dalailama.com/news/2008/dalai-lama-hosts-bruni-sarkozy-at-temple-in-france

        There is no mention of Sogyal.

        Excerpt :
        “the Chinese ambassador to France warned that there would be “serious consequences” if Sarkozy met the Dalai Lama. Sarkozy responded sharply that it was not for China to determine his agenda. Eventually he declined to meet the Dalai Lama and again this disappointed advocates of Tibet who said he had caved in to pressure from China. Bruni-Sarkozy’s presence at Lerab Ling on Friday, while drawing a huge media circus, is unlikely to put the issue to rest as she has no official role in the government.”

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      2. At this time (in 2008) I also sent a message to HH The Dalaï Lama telling him the he should take care of TB westerners students in the same way that he was taking care of Tibetans, because some Rinpoches were harming students.
        I also wrote that the money westerners were giving to the Rinpoches should be shared with the poorest Tibetan in Nepal and in India (I witnessed so unfair situations). It was a respectful message, but some Tibetan Lamas who knew that I did that became angry with me and spread the rumor that I was a Chinese spy and a Shugden practitioner.
        I’m not a pro-Tibetan, I respect Chinese people, but I had also almost no knowledge about Shugden and I was praying with Tibetans during the detention of the Tibetan prisoners.

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      3. “Why did they choose Lerab Ling?”

        Let me venture a guess. Because when Sogyal heard about how the French leader refused to meet with the Dalai Lama, he jumped at the chance to play “hero” and invited them to come to Lerab Ling. Of course he really just wanted the publicity and the endorsement. What a coup! Some politicians, (and the French first lady), couldn’t resist the glitzy glamour of being seen with the Dalai Lama, and the Hollywood glitterati who were also there, (including Richard Gere), so they came too. It was a big publicity event for many celebs and politicians. How could they stand to miss it, lol? 😀

        “To summarize : The Dalai Lama and the French government wanted to encourage China to free some Tibetans from jail ! It worked according to what I know. I was in Nepal when they started to be released. It was a relief.”

        How would the Dalai Lama and the French President visiting Sogyal help free Tibetan prisoners in China? I don’t see how meeting at Sogyal’s place would have anything to do with getting them released whatsoever. Even if that was their motivation, is it ethical to boost the image of someone you KNOW is abusive, even for the sake of freeing political prisoners? There certainly must be better ways to go about it. Also, couldn’t the Dalai Lama meet with French politicians to discuss it elsewhere? They could have met on a yacht, or at some private estate, or even at a hotel resort. There are endless places for politicians to meet with people that are FAR out of the way. They didn’t have to all make a spectacle of themselves at Lerab Ling. Frankly, I don’t buy that excuse, and if that’s what people told you, they were either just naive, or they were trying to make it sound like the DL had some “compassionate” agenda for prisoners, rather than what was probably the plain, simple truth: the Dalai Lama hadn’t visited his “very good friend” for a while and he felt it was time for a visit. The Dalai Lama admitted that Sogyal is a close friend of his, so obviously they are going to hang out together occasionally. People might not like it, but that’s the reality of friendship.

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        1. Correction: I didn’t meant o say that the french President went to Lerab Ling. I realize it was other politicians.

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        2. @Catlover,
          I don’t make speculations on the relation between the Dalaï Lama and SL, I just give facts about the events, because the political dimension has been discarded from the analyze of the situation. Lerab Ling for example never mentioned it. It is as if all these vip went to Lerab Ling in 2008 only for the ceremony, but it’s not true. It’s just a convenient lost of memory.

          Concerning the release of the prisoners, it’s not a “speculation” neither. We had reliable sources, and I was far to be naive at this time. Chinese government is not stupid, they have commercial goals to protect, and they don’t like international bad publicity : a “huge media circus” with the French Lady, in a big temple, not in private, or in secrecy !

          Remember that French president Sarkosy was also the president of the Europen Union.If you want to understand better how it works you can read this article :

          https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/nov/27/china-dalai-lama-nicholas-sarkozy

          However, I don’t make politics, therefore I don’t want to develop, because I don’t no more.

          Concerning the visit of the Dalaï Lama in France, I don’t remember that the planned to go to Lerab Ling in 2008, but I might be wrong. However it was not in is official program at this time :

          https://www.dalailama.com/news/2008/dalai-lama-begins-visit-to-france

          I’m not a protector of the Dalaï Lama (he has some already) and I don’t say he is right in all, but there are also facts which should not be discarded. Otherwise we are not better than those we criticize.

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          1. @Julia Lovert,

            I didn’t say you were “speculating’ about the Dalai Lama’s relationship with Sogyal, and I’m not speculating either. The DL has said publicly that Sogyal is his “very good friend” and he has said so more than once. If you’re saying I’m speculating about their relationship, I am not. I am going by what the DL says, and I’m not even going by what Sogyal says, since Sogyal might lie about their relationship. I don’t think the DL would lie and say they are friends if they weren’t though.

            Also, I could find nothing in the links you shared about China releasing political dissidents as a result of the Dalai Lama’s visit to Lerab Ling. I fail to see how visiting LL would help dissidents above and beyond visiting some other place in France that would generate just as much publicity, (without putting Sogyal into the spotlight). The Dalai Lama could have gone anywhere in France to have a ceremony and meet with French officials, and also to discuss dissidents. He did not have to go to Lerab Ling. That was my point. It doesn’t matter to this discussion what kind of political message the Dalai Lama wanted to send to China during a high profile visit. My point was that he could have found some other place to accomplish the SAME goal, and it didn’t have to be Lerab Ling. I fail to understand how Lerab Ling would be his only choice and if they told you that he only chose it because it was “out of the way” and far away from Paris, that sounds like an excuse to me. There are MANY places away from Paris.

            In my posts above, it’s true that I was speculating about how the event came to be, and I was also trying to put in a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor about what was going through Sogyal’s mind at the time, etc. However, in all seriousness, now that I really think about it, I do remember that the Dalai Lama was scheduled to visit Lerab Ling a few years prior to 2008. (There are a couple of posts below which refresh my memory about what happened.) I don’t remember why the DL cancelled at the time. It’s possible he cancelled in 2006 due to the negative publicity about Sogyal in the media, and he might have used illness as a polite excuse. It’s also possible that he was really having some health issues at the time. (It was all so long ago, so I really don’t remember the details about why he cancelled.) It seems to me that he promised to visit Lerab Ling in the future and it was scheduled for 2008 as part of a larger visit to France. During that trip, he also gave some Buddhist teachings, as well as a special empowerment related to the 5th Dalai Lama and Padmasambhava. (You can look at his schedule archive on his website for details. The archive goes back to 2008. It mentions the teachings and the empowerment, but it doesn’t mention Lerab Ling. Sometimes the archives aren’t complete and there are sometimes events missing from the list.) I don’t think he only visited France at the last minute because of some political situation with China. He was going to give teachings there anyway, which have to be planned and scheduled FAR in advance. His visit to Lerab Ling was probably also scheduled as part of his broader visit and the political stuff was happening at the same time. That doesn’t mean he only came to France because of politics. I think he had a number of things planned and Lerab Ling was part of a broader itinerary, which included other stuff, (including meeting with leaders).

            Btw, I don’t think anyone said the Dalai Lama planned to go to the Chinese Olympics. It might have been speculated about whether he would view the torch passing through on it’s international route, but I don’t think he ever planned to do that. It would have been too inflammatory politically, and also his security would be at risk. He wouldn’t have done that.

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            1. @Catlover
              You think that Lerab Ling was a bad choice, I agree, I never said it was a good one. A very bad choice indeed, this is one of the reasons why I sent a message to the Dalaï Lama (apparently you didn’t read my comment above).

              But don’t put words in my mouth, and give me intentions I don’t have. I don’ want to argue, I really don’t mind about all this stuff now. I just wanted to give some information, because in 2008 I was close to the Tibetans who were organizing and knew what was happening, but if you don’t want to believe me, it’s fine. I will not spend more time to try to convince you or anyone else. I’m an old woman, living peacefully in a remote place, why should I bother if people think that a first French Lady is a fan of Sogyal and Rigpa !

              Your arguments are strange also : you write “He (DL) was going to give teachings there anyway, which have to be planned and scheduled FAR in advance.
              Of course, in the same way the Olympics in China were planned and scheduled far in advance. For example : The 2020 Summer Olympics, known as Tokyo 2020, is already scheduled to take place from 24 July to 9 August 2020.

              You don’t analyze the information I gave here with an open and objective mind, and consequently you don’t focus on the implications for the victims of abuses in TB, who are unwillingly caught in high political interests.
              You often have good arguments and insights on this blog, but here you are stuck. It seems that you just try at all cost to prove that the Dalaï Lama is a bad and unskillful guy ! He is big enough to take care of himself, I don’t want to defend him.

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              1. @Julia Lovert,

                I didn’t say the Dalai Lama is a “bad guy” so you’re putting words in my mouth. Why are you doing that, Julia? I just don’t see how the Dalai lama going to Lerab Ling helped release political prisoners. The DL had promised to visit Lerab Ling a LONG time before 2008 and it was rescheduled for 2008. I don’t know if politics had anything to do with the timing of the 2008 visit. Maybe it did, but even if that is the case, what would be the point of meeting there for some political reason? What does Lerab Ling have anything to do with prisoners in Tibet?!?!? How would visiting LL secure their release in any way? That’s the part I just don’t get. In fact, it doesn’t make any sense to me at all. LL is far away from Paris, but so what? Other places are also far away from Paris. What difference would it make if the DL meets the French leaders in LL or any other remote location away from Paris?

                It’s true the Olympics were also scheduled far in advance, so I didn’t think about that. Still, what does that prove? It proves nothing and it doesn’t change what I said above. What is your point? that the DL rescued some political prisoners by meeting with Sogyal and French officials at Lerab Ling? Why did it have to be Lerab Ling in order to accomplish the goal? That’s the part I don’t get.

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              2. Also, I didn’t say that the French leader’s wife was a fan of Sogyal’s. I suppose she was there to represent her husband, who didn’t attend (because of China). I get that. I didn’t think she was necessarily a Sogyal fan. I realize that when politicians (or their spouses) show up at events, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are a fan of anybody, although it *could* mean that. But I would never assume that just because they show up. I always thought at the time that she was probably more likely to be a fan of the Dalai Lama and wanted to be photographed with him, not Sogyal.

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                1. In fact, I think most of the politicians wanted to be seen with the Dalai Lama because of his fame and status, etc. They also wanted to send a message to China. Politicians have political motives. Had they even heard of Sogyal? I don’t know.

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    2. I also don’t want to denigrate Marion Dapsance, if she is a fervent Christian, or a defender of western traditions, she is doing what she thinks is virtuous, she is protecting Christianity from Buddhism. I respect her, and I have even some sympathy for her bravery and skills but it doesn’t mean that I agree. I simply disagree without equivocation on her understanding of Buddhism, and on the fact that she spreads this obviously wrong information (it’s clearly obvious, no need to be an expert, and I dare to say that I did high Buddhist studies in India. ).

      Here is a Google translation of the advertisement on the conference she gave on 21 October 2017 :

      “Buddhism, an anti-Christian reinvention? ”

      Why do we always repeat that “Buddhism is not a religion”, that “the Buddha was a simple philosopher” and that “meditation is a secular technique”, “scientifically proven”, leading to “happiness” and “personal fulfillment”? This conference will show that these statements, all false, are actually coming from a very particular context and a particular mission : that of the de-Christianization of Europe in the second half of the 19th century.

      Marion Dapsance holds a doctorate in anthropology from Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris) and has taught two years at Columbia University in New York. She is the author of the Devotees of Buddhism (Max Mio 2016).

      After the conference, Terre et Famille invites you to extend the discussion around a buffet.

      https://terre-et-famille.fr/le-bouddhisme-une-invention-anti-chretienne/

      “Terre et Famille aims to increase the participants’ cultural background by restoring the medieval spirit inherited from Christian France.”

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  14. Actually, it seems to me that I remember hearing that the Dalai Lama had planned to visit Lerab Ling several years before, but his visit was postponed for 2008 instead. I don’t know what the reason was for the postponement. I could be mistaken, but I seem to remember hearing this at the time.

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    1. It were cancelled at short notice cause the HHDL health issues on 2006; many students disappoint as some went just for that event and couldn’t afford another trip few year later.
      In 2008 when did open LL the weather were bad and OTR did some/fire offerings to local deity to prevent, and said if he couldn’t postpone he give up TB; but it still rained, but some gap in it vindicate.

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  15. HHDL was due to visit LL in 2006 when the temple was finished, for the inaugeration and to give teachings. For some reason he had to cancel at short notice. In 2008 he could finally make it. Most everybody had to leave LL for him to stay there for 10 days. Close to LL facilities were set up on a rented field where HHDL gave teachings every day for 10 days straight on a commentary by Longchen Rabcham, which were published on audio and as a book. Most of us worked to complete exhaustion to make it happen, so whatever itinerary Julia Lovert refers to on the iternet, it is really hard to imagine how he would have found time to visit the Olympics let alone getting there from such a remote place.

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    1. @Left Lodeve

      The itinerary is not “whatever itinerary”, it’s the official website of the Dalaï Lama. And he didn’t program to visit the Olympics because the Olympics were in China ! it is just written in the program that the DL : “will spend most of the duration of the Olympics in France.” which was a political move.

      Apparently people prefer to think that all the French politicians and vip who went to Lerab Ling in 2008, did it just because they are big fan of Sogyal and of Rigpa, and wanted also some publicity, let it be ! (even if it is proven wrong by the facts)
      and that the Dalaï Lama didn’t care about the thousands of Tibetan detained in China, had no political agenda, and is a big supporter of Sogyal, and Rigpa, let it be also !

      Disinformation works well, and is persistent. The title of this post is correct : lies damned lies lerab ling.

      My intention was just to give information, not to fall into a partisan discussion.

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    2. No comments it speaks for itself :

      https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-france-dalailama/dalai-lama-hosts-bruni-sarkozy-at-temple-in-france-idUKLM64478820080822

      Excerpt :
      “The ceremony at the Lerab Ling temple, set in remote green hills in the Herault area and built according to traditional Tibetan design, came at the end of a visit to France during which the Dalai Lama repeatedly criticized Olympics host China.

      His presence in France during the Games caused a headache for President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been widely criticized for declining to meet the exiled Tibetan leader. The tacit aim of his wife’s presence on Friday was to appease the row.

      “I told him he was always welcome in France,” said Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who attended the inauguration and met the Dalai Lama briefly with Bruni-Sarkozy afterwards. “

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    3. @Left Lodeve,

      Yes, I do remember hearing something about planning for the DL’s visit. Were there any scandals in the media about Sogyal at that time? Could that be why he cancelled? I know he did have health issues. He had painful gallbladder issues at the time. (This was before his operation in 2008.)

      I think that the Dalai Lama was never going to visit the Olympics at all. the Olympics were in China. I think some people wanted the Dalai lama to view the Olympic torch as it was passing through on its international route, as a way to send a strong message to China, but he declined to do something that controversial and risky. However, I think there were some people who wanted him to do that. But he never planned to visit the Olymics itself.

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  16. The big difficulty for victims of abusers in Tibetan Buddhists is that they are caught between those who protect Tibetan Buddhism by denying all allegations, and those who hate Tibetan Buddhism and denigrate it at all cost.

    Therefore, if you are a victim and still want to keep your Buddhist faith, you won’t find help easily. This is what happened to me nine years ago. When I spoke up, I was threatened and harmed by fanatics who wanted to preserve the Teachers from my revelations. In the same time, I was approached by different kinds of anti-Buddhist : anti-Tibetan, anti-religious, conservative Christians, anti-cult movements, conspirationists, spiritual psychologists. As I didn’t want to adopt their opinions, in final I had only enemies.

    And there are all the others who don’t want to ear, to know anything.

    This is why I decided to stay alone and to find my way out of the mess alone.
    Ten years later, things didn’t change.

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    1. @Julia Lovert,

      Also, I agree that some of the people in the anti-Tibetan Buddhist camp are not objective either, lol! Some of them are downright crazy! 😀

      Like

    2. Julia, your experiences mirror my own. I also finally decided to stay alone and find my own way “out of this mess.” Though, as people know, I have found the Dalai Lama’s approach to Dharma and to life very empowering. It was his statement from a 1982 text, in which he advised against seeing the lama as a perfect Buddha that turned the corner for me from defeat to giving it all one more try. He has received a lot of flak for that statement, Tibetans telling him he doesn’t understand Lamrim.

      In that context, I just want to reply also to your comment above about the Dalai Lama’s visit to Lerab Ling despite your letter to him warning of Sogyal’s abuses. There are several points:

      1. In a recent publication, he had this to say about all the letters he receives from people about misbehaving lamas:

      “Because students are new to Buddhism, they may have blind devotion and obedience to spiritual mentors. Hearing about the great merit gained from making offerings to spiritual mentors, they may give them many donations and gifts– things that someone living in India would not have. The teacher becomes spoiled by the gifts and esteem of the students and if he is not careful, this could lead to his taking advantage of well-meaning students.

      “I have received many letters from people in other countries asking me to do something about this, but it is not in my control. Tibetan Buddhism is not organized like the Catholic Church with a pope and Vatican administration. I cannot make someone return to India or force him to stop wearing robes. When I teach, I give clear instructions about suitable behavior for teachers, both monastic and lay. If people do not listen to me then, it is doubtful that they will heed instructions from my office or the Department of Religious and Cultural Affairs…” (2018, The Dalai Lama and Thubten Chodron, The foundation of Buddhist Practice, p. 119)

      2. Also, it is an infraction of the Bodhisattva vow to refuse an invitation. He would have had to make a clear statement of why he felt he could make the visit to Lerab Ling an exception to this. Because publicly denouncing a person is a much bigger deal in Tibetan culture than in Western cultures, this was not something he could do without being completely certain that it would have a positive outcome.

      3. If you look at the response from the Tibetan Buddhist leadership to his recent comments regarding Sogyal, you see how very little they care about his opinion– as he said in the quote I just quoted. So I think he made his recent comments with the intention only to support the eight letter writers– because I think he sees clearly that this is the only way forward for the Dharma in the West. Westerners have to take ownership.

      4. Here is another quote from the Dalai Lama’s recent publication (a great one by the way), in which that theme of Westerners taking ownership can be clearly seen: “In the contemporary secular world, “teacher” connotes someone in an academic field who, after completing certain requirements, is certified as a teacher by an organization, whether or not that person has any students. Perhaps in the West that model would be better. That is for Westerners to decide. In that case, Buddhists could form an organization that certifies people as teachers after examining their Dharma understanding as well as their personal conduct. However, an organization cannot certify someone’s spiritual attainments, so issuing certificates attesting to attainment of spiritual realization or level of the path does not make sense. In any case, it is not necessary to be a realized master to teach at a Dharma center. A good education in Buddhism, personal integrity, and genuine care for the students’ well-being are sufficient.” ((p. 80)

      5. Because of his continued focus on advice that empowers students, and because of his decades long career of undermining Tibetan feudal systems on every level, I don’t conclude that he is more interested in protecting institutions over individuals. For example, he is one of only a handful of lamas who is willing to undercut the core power that allows lamas to abuse– the instruction of not criticizing one’s lama and of seeing all his/her actions as perfect. He is the ONLY Tibetan Buddhist leader to empower students in that way.

      I think he’s very invested in Tibetan Buddhism making a good transition to the West and very aware that this cannot occur without Westerners taking charge and without much of the feudal trappings of the Tibetan Buddhist culture being discarded. If he had stepped in in 2008, it might have just been another big power figure taking charge of an already top-heavy situation. The letter from the eight was really significant in that way– and it was his advice from 1993 that paved the way for that letter to happen.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes Joanne, your first two points above are the exact, correct response to westerners who, in these blogs, are forever asking: “why didn’t the Dalai Lama do something?” As the DL explains, TB is not organised like the Catholic church, and Lama etiquette does not sanction overt criticism of one’s colleagues.

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        1. Yes, Matilda. And I think it’s important to look from as many angles as possible when judging a leader’s decision. In the end, we are free to disagree with the decisions the Dalai Lama made, but now I see some people concluding that he he has been protecting an institution over human beings– and that’s taking things too far, in my opinion, particularly in the context of his life’s work.

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        2. @Matilda,

          What about extreme cases? Is there nothing a lama can’t do before being criticized by his peers?

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          1. @Catlover, well clearly, i would argue, that once the letter from the eight became public – and the issue of Sogyal’s behaviour was reported on in the media – the Dalai Lama figured it was high time to censure Sogyal publicly. As did Mingyur – and Dharma students were heartened by their statements.

            The lack of public criticism is also connected with the need to protect the revenue streams of these Buddhist corporations – i suspect that motivation is partly why Dzongsar refuses to call out Sogyal’s behaviour as abuse. He wants Rigpa to remain financially viable – but too bad, people are voting with their feet as described above.

            Likewise, disaffected Shambhala students are pretty much claiming that other Lamas would have been aware of Trungpa’s cocaine addiction & alcoholism in the years leading up to his death, and his multiple brides!

            This week i was struck by a couple of pretty interesting revelations about Trungpa’s body after he died, on Leslie Hays fb page.

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            1. @Matilda,

              Why did take a public media firestorm before the DL and Mingyur finally said something specific about Sogyal’s behavior? It’s good that they said something, but why couldn’t they have said something before it became widespread on the media? That’s my question.

              “The lack of public criticism is also connected with the need to protect the revenue streams of these Buddhist corporations…”

              Is that a good excuse? I guess $$$ is really what matters to most lamas, above and beyond any real compassion for sentient beings.

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              1. Of course it’s not an excuse! It’s just the reality of religion world-wide, like every formal organisation, religious institutions can’t really survive or prosper without financial support. And it corrupts them. In terms of purity of motivation that eschews growth for growth’s sake, maybe the Quakers are an exception – or the Bahai?

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            2. I get that the lamas need money, (we all do), but somehow in the process of collecting revenue, they lost their moral compass.

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      2. @Joanne,

        Well, as for the Boddhisattva vow regarding accepting invitations…..there is NO way that the Dalai Lama has accepted every invitation he was ever given. That would be impossible, since he receives hundreds and thousands. He would have to pick and choose which events he will attend and politely decline many other invitations. That is not a criticism, and I’m not saying he’s breaking his vows by not accepting them. I’m just saying that because he is such a big name, he gets more invitations than he could possibly accept. He would have to decline many of them. I think the Boddhisattva vow leaves room for cases where it isn’t humanly possible to keep a vow in extreme situations. That would certainly qualify as an extreme case, lol!

        I think teachers are just as spoiled in India as they are in the West. I’m sure the Dalai Lama knows that too. I agree with him that teachers get spoiled in the West, but they also got plenty spoiled in India and Tibet, etc.

        A degree for teachers might look good on paper, but there would still be violations, just as there are in therapy and other academic professions. No certification will stop humans from abusing power. Also, how would that work in Vajrayana, which is largely based on what empowerments you have received? Maybe one thing for Vajrayana that *might* possibly help clean things up a bit would be to limit who can receive and empowerment or get into Tantra. If they tested people first before letting them receive an empowerment, and if teachers had to undergo many other tests before they are allowed to teach Tantra, things might improve. (I don’t know if that would work, but it’s the only thing I can think of that MIGHT help change things for the better.)

        It’s true that the Dalai Lama isn’t the pope of Buddhism, and he can’t “fire” misbehaving lamas, especially in other lineages. I get that, but I still feel disturbed by some of the people he associates himself with. He certainly has a lot of questionable friends. Also, did he ever say anything about Trungpa? I get that Tibetans have a certain code of conduct when it comes to criticism, but some of the lamas are so extremely bad in their behavior that they cause a bad image for the whole group. In cases like that, I think it is very important for ethical lamas to let everyone know that they don’t condone the lamas who are especially abusive, and to actually name them by name, so that people realize they are not making a special “crazy wisdom” exception for that individual.

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      3. Thanks for laying this out like this, Joanne. These are all important points that many people don’t understand. HHDL is still the only lama has that actually outright said that Sogyal is disgraced. Even Mingyur Rinpoche did not mention Sogyal by name in his Lion’s Roar article. In terms of what I understand of Tibetan culture, him saying that was pretty radical.

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  17. @Julia Lovert,

    I’m sorry you have to go through this and I do understand. I realize it must be hard to be caught between people who are True Believers, and those who are on the other, anti-Tibetan Buddhist side. I realize that you probably want to talk to people who are still positive about Tibetan Buddhism as a spiritual path, yet supportive of victims of abuse, and who are not True Believers who think anything Sogyal does is great.

    Unfortunately, I am probably not one of those balanced people you are looking for. It’s nothing against you personally Julia, but I am not in a good place right now with Tibetan Buddhism. PERIOD. I used to be one of the most devoted people you can imagine, but I am really negative about the whole thing lately and I am finding it hard to trust any of the lamas or their motives because I see a big, wide gulf between what they say and what they actually DO. Maybe I will balance out more in the future and have a more nuanced attitude. It’s possible that I won’t ever feel better about it. I don’t know where my attitude will end up, but at this point I am in a very negative place about it, especially lately. I wish you luck finding people who are more what you’re looking for. I know there are people on this board who are more positive about TB in general, and I realize I am probably one of the most negative.

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    1. @Julia, I wouldn’t say I “hate” Tibetan Buddhism either. I just feel bitter, cynical and disillusioned at this point. Like you, I don’t want to adopt all the opinions of people who are in the other extreme camps either (especially the conspiracy theorists) because some of those ideas are downright crazy too, lol! It takes a while for me to sort it out. I am still in the sorting process.

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    2. Okay, no harm done. All this situation must not be easy for you either.
      I appreciate reading you most of the time. I will keep in mind that you are “finding it hard to trust any of the lamas or their motives”…🙂 I really understand it. It’s hard, for sure.

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    3. You write that you felt you were “most devoted” but I think you mistook emotional blind faith and dependency for real devotion. Which they are most definitely not.
      From a psychological pov, extreme emotional states tend to turn into their opposite if they are frustrated.
      In relationships, when they fail often passionate and attached love turns into raging hate,, and the more attached the person was, the more hate will turn up.

      I believe what you experience right now is nothing but the counterpiece of that unhealthy emotional state you “cultivated” while in Rigpa. It will probably help if you can try to see it not as some objective truth, but just as a psychological reaction that will settle down with time if you let it and stop feeding it by giving it more solid reality than it actually has.

      There is a truckload of frustrated expectation floating around in your mind now. A stong emotional reaction in an acute phase like this is normal. Until that emotional counterreaction has cooled down a bit, with your mind so usurped by strong emotion, you can not find out what you actually think about Tibetan buddhism, buddhism, or religion in general. But that WILL cool down eventually, if you allow it.

      Just as there are Catholic priests who would absolutely never molest or abuse anyone and who live what they preach there are Tibetan teachers who would never abuse a situation of power. So why throwing all those away along with the bad ones? That would be a bit like hating and discriminating against all oriental male immigrants just because some of them behave criminally.

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      1. @thewindhorse, I don’t think you can advise Catlover on her emotional state like that– making assumptions on how she was devoted and why she feels as she does right not. I don’t think she was seeing her feelings as “objective truth” but was totally acknowledging that her feelings were different than others and might change over time. I think it can be harmful to judge people’s feelings as you have just done. Better to simply stick to opinions about what the person is saying, rather than judging their state of mind.

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        1. I agree, Joanne.

          Perhaps @windhorse could try to accept that some people will come to the conclusion that all religions are suspect and best avoided, and that that belief is as valid a decision for an individual as is deciding to stick with an abusive lama against all logic. We can share our differing opinions, debate our points of view, share facts and concerns, but it’s ridiculous to expect everyone to come to the same conclusion.

          Also I think we need to be careful not to judge a passionate belief in a point of view as indication of a negative mental state. Without passion for their causes, the great movers and shakers of the world would never have changed society for the better. And it is perfectly possible for people to be passionate about a cause or belief without being at the mercy of their passion.

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          1. Thanks, Moonfire. I appreciate your post.

            “Perhaps @windhorse could try to accept that some people will come to the conclusion that all religions are suspect and best avoided, and that that belief is as valid a decision for an individual as is deciding to stick with an abusive lama against all logic.”

            THANKS for that too.

            This hasn’t been easy for me either. It is hard to lose faith in something one has been devoted to for many years.

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  18. The hole scenario is confusing to many who feel as those on here are expressing, similar to even one of the teachings which advise when the carpet rug is pull underneath you just to accept those moment and funny enough we can see reality quite clear with out all the many voice in head ring to gain control of you awareness.

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  19. @Joanne,

    Thank you.

    @thewindhorse,

    I don’t think you can see into my mind. Btw, I was not in Rigpa. I have told people before on this message board, but I guess they don’t remember. I will say it again: I was NOT in Rigpa. Also, I was not ‘devoted’ to Sogyal, or disappointed by him. I only saw Sogyal once in my life, (and even that was too much for me, lol!)

    What bothers me the very most about Tibetan Buddhism, (and it always bothered me), is that the really crazy lamas are not shunned and separated from the so-called “wise” ones. Anything goes in the name of “crazy wisdom.” There is always some excuse to justify bad behavior and there is always some rationalization or mystical story to prop up these justifications. It also seems like some people can see what’s wrong with one teacher, but then they blindly worship another teacher who isn’t much better, and they use the same rationalizations to excuse anything their teacher does. Because the crazy loonies aren’t separated and shunned, it makes me feel like the whole tradition accepts these clowns. If they were shunned, I would just shrug and say there are always bad apples in any barrel, but because they are NOT shunned, I feel like the whole barrel is rotten. It’s really as simple as that. I have lost trust in them because these loonies are included as respected representatives of their tradition, which sullies the whole tradition, as far as I’m concerned.

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    1. Catlover, buddhism, and Tibetan buddhism is not the Catholic church, where some central governing power can rule who is or is not a genuine priest.

      Just like in Islam, that also has no centralized governing structures, in buddhism it’s up to the individual followers to pick a suitable community or preacher/teacher.

      I know of plenty of Tibetan teachers who have absolutely nothing to do with this what you call “crazy wisdom”, which is obvioulsy only crazy, with no wisdom if it consistantly harms people. Because wisdom in a buddhist context means there is the insight into what a sentient being needs. If serial harm has happened, very obviously no wisdom was present.

      Secondly, I do not speak Tibetan but have taken a few classes years ago because I was curious. Probably the term that was translated into “crazy wisdom” in English has a vastly different meaning in Tibetan, dharma terminology is notoriously difficult to translate fully into western languages, without a loss or shift in meaning. Just like other terms, like devotion etc, the original term means something quite different as the English words used to translate them as best as possible.

      As I said, prejudging all Tibetan buddhist teachers based on some who misbehave is just as bad as prejudging all muslims because some of them have extremist views.

      Personal negative experience is a valid reason psychologically for you why have emotional resentments against the whole thing, but it is not an objective reason to judge the whole thing.

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      1. @thewindhorse,

        “I know of plenty of Tibetan teachers who have absolutely nothing to do with this what you call “crazy wisdom”, which is obvioulsy only crazy, with no wisdom if it consistantly harms people.”

        How do you know what the teachers you “know” do in secret? Do these teachers ever speak out against other abusive teachers? have you watched them through their private window all day to see what they are actually doing? I know the Dalai lama says to “spy” on your teacher, but is that really practically possible, lol? Does anyone REALLY know what their teacher is REALLY doing?

        “Personal negative experience is a valid reason psychologically for you why have emotional resentments against the whole thing, but it is not an objective reason to judge the whole thing.”

        I’ve already stated more than once why I am judging the whole thing. Go back and read my previous comments again if you didn’t understand. I feel the whole barrel of apples is rotten because the crazies and loonies seem to be honored and respected by ALL of them. As long as that’s the case, can one really say that any of them are any better when it comes right down to it? If they don’t condemn the “crazy wisdom” sadists, then how do I know that they don’t secretly condone it? THAT’S my biggest problem, and it always has been. My other big problem is the way people are only judged on whether they have received an empowerment or not in order to be qualified for Vajrayana. Even teacher bios just give a list of what initiations and teachings they received, rather than actual qualities of compassion and wisdom, and actual evidence of compassion and wisdom. Empowerments alone don’t really prove anything. You can receive a thousand initiations and go on many retreats and still be a jerk.

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  20. Another big problem I have with Tibetan Buddhism is the fact that anyone who has had an empowerment is considered eligible for practicing Tantra. It doesn’t matter how long the students have been studying the Dharma. It doesn’t matter how mentally stable the students are, and it doesn’t matter even if they even know what the tantric vows are beforehand, (I know people who took empowerments who were completely clueless about the vows and commitments that go with them. What really got me about that was that when I explained to them about the vows in detail, and gave them references to search through, they acted like they didn’t even totally believe me or read my references. I’m sure that’s because I’m not a lama, lol!) It seems like if you take an initiation, it is considered enough to go on to more advanced levels, ready or not. All you need is to have a magic initiation under your belt and suddenly you’re ready for Dzogchen, additional empowerments, such as Vajrayogini, or Chittimani Tara (which one can only take if they have had a major mandala empowerment). If you’ve had an empowerment, you’re suddenly ready for tantric sex, or anything else they might throw at you, lol! I have a BIG problem with that. The worst part is that almost none of the lamas are even considering that this may be an unwise strategy. I’m not against lamas giving empowerments or people receiving them, (if that’s what floats their boat), but I feel that empowerments given too loosely, and people jump into Tantra without being ready at all. The teachers never seem to check to see how qualified a student is before letting them into Tantra. The only thing they check is whether or not you have received certain initiations, which are like a magic passport to all of the higher level training and secret practices. If the lamas carefully screened students as they advanced to each level, I would feel much better about it. I’m not saying that Tantra should be shut off from people and that only the elites should practice it, but I think people need to show a certain amount of spiritual maturity before they are allowed to jump in. Also, why do they often jump right into the highest Tantra before even practicing the lower tantras? The students don’t even practice them in order. (First the sutras, then the lower tantras, and advancing upward toward the higher levels and Dzogchen, etc.) Instead of that, they take Dzogchen, or HYT first and THEN lower level practices, and they understand NONE of it. And then they might attend a class here and there on the sutric teachings or read a Dharma book. So how many people really understand things in depth? Of course, then we have the additional problem of the teachers themselves often not being qualified or keeping their vows either! So I guess we can’t expect them to know how to guide their students through the levels of the path as it was meant to be practiced. What a mess!

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    1. Are you involved in tibetan buddhism or not? did you do any practice or what? Did you encounter what it can do with you or not? Otherwise you talks are hollow, sorry to say.so how can you judge?
      Why do you call yourself catlover and give not you real name.

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      1. I can’t speak for Catlover’s reasons not to give her real name, but myself and others here use a pseudonym so clients in our businesses, when they research our name, will not find us spouting our opinons on a site unrelated to our business, particularly in an area of religion they likely don’t share. Some people are told by their employers not to comment on the web at all, so when they do so, they must be incognito.

        It may be worth noting as well, for those of you who may not come here often, that after a while, those commenting regularly here (like Catlover) get to ‘know’ each other and manage to have some quite good discussions despite our differing opinons on some important points. The important thing, I think, is to be able to listen to other people’s points of view and try to understand why someone might see things differently to us. And, of course, to keep a polite turn of phrase and not attack others for their beliefs or point of view. When things get heated and we forget this, I find that an apology works, as does not taking anything said to us too personally.

        It’s also helpful for all commenters to bear in mind that this blog is written primarily for those with some respect and concern for the religion.

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        1. Actually, I still struggled within Tibetan Buddhism for a few years after the 14 year period. During those first 14 years, I was a “pure” devotee who was loyal to TB. For about 3 or 4 years after that, I still wavered back and forth between having doubts and having faith. Within the past couple of years, my view of Tibetan Buddhism has grown increasingly negative. So I guess you could say I spent 14 years as a devout Tibetan Buddhist, and then several years as a struggling Tibetan Buddhist, and the last couple of years as a disillusioned, borderline EX Tibetan Buddhist. I’m not quite an ex yet, (because sometimes I still doubt my doubts), but almost.

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      2. @Jan de Vries,

        I used to be very much involved with Tibetan Buddhism for about 14 years. I went from studying sutra all the way up to the tantric teachings. I used to be greatly inspired by it. That’s a big chunk of my life that I am now afraid I wasted. I am certainly not an outsider who is just spouting opinions. And NO, I am not a Chinese spy, or a right-wing Christian trying to bring down Tibetan Buddhism.

        Why should I give my real name on the internet? A lot of people who come here go by pseudo names or initials, such as “M” or “T” and other names to make them anonymous. Last time I checked, there is no law against using a pseudo name online. Unless a website specifically demands that users use their real name, I can use any name I want. I prefer to keep my privacy. That doesn’t mean I’m a spy or a crook.

        If people are going to be so judge-y and suspicious, I’d rather not post here anymore. I can see that this is a site for Tibetan Buddhists trying to “reform” Tibetan Buddhism, and it’s not for EX Tibetan Buddhists. It is probably not the place for me because my opinions are not favorable enough to satisfy y’all. Moonfire is right that I am suspicious of all religions at this point. ALL religions seem to have the same money, power and sex scandal problems, and I am disappointed that Tibetan Buddhism has turned out to be as corrupt and fanatical as the rest of them. I used to naively believe that TB was different. I always knew there were some bad apples, and I didn’t let that bother me. It started to bother me when I realized that most (if not all) of the lamas are corrupted by the money/power thing, or the “speak no evil” thing, and what’s worse is they are all connected to each other. When I could no longer clearly separate the lamas I trusted, such as the Dalai Lama, from Trungpa, Sogyal, and DKR, and other loonies (because of their close ties, links, and “friendships” with each other), THAT’S when I started doubting the whole thing. Those doubts have grown huge and there’s no going back to the innocent, devoted student I used to be. Sorry.

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        1. Thanks for your reply, the reason I raised the name question is this: so many things were being kept secret for the ordinary rigpa students that I decided not to the same and therefore I use my real name.
          For you to know I left Rigpa afther 17 years a day afther I found the news is the dutch newspaper the telegraaf while I was shopping. From my start in Rigpa I always kept in mind that I would never be a member of a sect.
          But I realise more and more that you have to separte the teachings or tibetan buddhism from the teacher, finally it originated from. Nalanda in India. I totally disagree with the feudal part of it, and rigpa is a feudal organisation.
          There are also good things in it, so perhaps the task of the west is to get rid of the feudal part with all is negative aspects. That is what I still hope for, but I am getting impatient with what I see now happening, so that Is the reason that I became a little bit grumpy, sorry

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          1. @Jan de Vries,

            That’s okay. No hard feelings. Many of us are a little grumpy lately. 😀

            I am not sure how to “separate” the teachings from the teachers when many of the teachings (especially the “higher” teachings) are often about guru devotion. I can’t open a Dharma text or practice without reading a special homage prayer to the gurus and the lineage. How do you separate that? It’s all intertwined, but maybe some people have mastered a technique to separate some of the teachings from the rest. I find that really difficult to do personally.

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            1. @Catlover, I went through the process that you describe very well in your comment-6323 (an excellent and helpful description !). However during all this process, I never lost my faith in the Buddha and his teachings, like many of the disciples harmed or betrayed.

              I’m immensely grateful to the Buddha, because he answered the painful questions I had since my childhood. When I read his core teachings (very young) I was relieved, I knew that it was the answer without any doubt. Then, I found in TB even more profound answers which I really trust because of personal experience (humble and direct experiences).

              Therefore leaving Buddhism for a while (around 6-8 years) was a necessary process but a painful one, which left me spiritually hollow,. Nevertheless, I could rebuild my life in an acceptable manner (materially, socially, physically, psychologically). Then, slowly I came back to TB naturally attracted by my faith, and the strong idea that I will no more let anybody destroy my spiritual path.

              Now, I’m really careful to consider that the Buddha his my Teacher (so there is no problem to look the Teacher as the Buddha !). For me, all the teachers are just his disciples, with their qualities and their weaknesses. Guru yoga is no more a problem ! 🙂 I speak to the Buddha, ask him questions, and help.
              Also, I’m lucky to understand Tibetan enough well to read the Kangyur and Tengyur in Tibetan. Therefore, when I listen to teachings I check the source, and I simply put aside teachings which I consider (according to the source or simply according to common sens) as wrong or not adapted to the situation (provisional teachings etc).

              I avoid feudal communities (and there are many, more than most people believe). I listen to teachers who I trust like Mingyur Rinpoche, and even so I have a very light emotional involvement with the Teachers and their communities. In addition, I try to develop a “clear comprehension” (Sampajañña) in tandem with “mindfulness” (Sati ) (or awareness).

              I want to add, that according to what I studied, there is no need to be dependent on, committed to, or obedient to a teacher in order to practice Vajrayana; respect to the teacher and especially trust (for the teachings) are enough in the Nature of Mind path, for example. This trust arises and deepens when we analyze and apply the teachings.

              Please @Catlover go on posting here, because your experience, your insights, and the way you express them are very precious for the readers.

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              1. I wrote “However during all this process, I never lost my faith in the Buddha “, I don’t mean that you lost yours… maybe the word “however” is not the good one !

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                1. @Julia Lovert,

                  Thanks for your reply. No offense taken about “losing faith in the Buddha” regardless of what you meant. It doesn’t matter to me because I did lose faith in ALL of it, even the Buddha. I can’t help but suspect that even the Buddha was not really a perfect, enlightened being and he may have also been glorified by his followers, etc. That doesn’t mean I am disregarding everything in the Buddhist teachings. There are many things in the Buddhist teachings which are valid, so I’m not saying it’s all b.s. but I am not sure I can get the “faith” back, which made me embrace the whole religion as a spiritual path. The lamas and their corruption, as well as students and their attitudes, completely destroyed my faith in anything, and now I am starting to question even the teachings themselves. Everything that ever bothered me about the Buddhist teachings are now jumping out at me with vivid reinforcement. I do feel spiritually hollow, but I don’t know if I can go back to the way I was before. I’m not even trying at this point. Like you when you went through your own disillusionment, i am using this spiritually “hollow” time to get other aspects of my life in order. Maybe that’s a good thing for me right now because I neglected everything in favor of my spiritual pursuits.

                  It’s possible that I may be diagnosed with some fatal illness in the future, and somehow my spirituality will be renewed, but I would have to find some other way of approaching the path, other than I did before. I’m not sure how I would do that. I might find some other path altogether, or I might find some way to be truly spiritual without being religious at all, which is hard to do. I realize that even people who say they are “spiritual but not religious” are often religious when it comes right down to it. (It’s just New Age religion that they usually practice and they are often just as loony as True Believers from other religions. Not all of them, but many.)

                  I probably come across as disrespectful toward Tibetan Buddhism, or religion in general, on this blog. I apologize for offending anyone, or making others doubt their own faith. Tibetan Buddhism may be helpful for people, and perhaps I am not doing them a service by filling them with my own doubts. But I am really feeling very disturbed about the state of our planet and the future of humanity at this point. Look at the oceans and the environment. We are all living on a dying planet, and religion is often keeping people from saving their b*tts. I feel like humanity really needs to advance far enough to save themselves before it’s too late. I’m with Steven Hawking when he says that if we don’t start colonizing other worlds, we are basically going the way of the dinosaurs. It’s just a question of time before we destroy this planet, die of overpopulation and disease, or an asteroid will hit because everyone is so busy fighting religious wars, fighting over stem cells, and whether we should have birth control, that humanity is still
                  stuck in the Dark Ages, (which I don’t believe humanity is out of yet). I have noticed that secular education makes people a little less crazy (in general), and perhaps we can create a Star Trek kind of world and a more advanced civilization, if we could just let go of fairy tale beliefs and start getting to work cleaning up this planet and finding new places to live, before we’re all wiped out for good.

                  Well, I’ve rambled on enough now. You may think I’m a gloomy pessimist, but I can see very clearly where this world is headed, and a lot of it is thanks to religion. That’s another reason I am so negative about it right now.

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                  1. Thank you Catlover and Julie for a very meaningful conversation. Catlover, I totally agree, it’s hard these days not to be gloomy. But I also have had a similar experience to Julie, a strong feeling that I cannot fault the Buddha’s teachings and the reasons I was drawn to the Dharma in the first place. Years ago, when I was a born again Christian, I was frustrated because Christianity seemed so shallow, so simplistic. The Dharma, on the other hand, is rich and full and really addresses vast truths in ways that inspire me. I choose to study from the Dalai Lama because his teachings– his approach to the Dharma and to life– are empowering. They dramatically helped me crawl out of the gutter, look away from the pomp and ceremony and guru worship and instead try to understand the Buddha’s intent, as investigated by those Nalanda masters. As I watch all this horror unfold, I have a stronger sense of refuge in those parts of the Dharma that can be trusted, those sincere and inspired masters of the past, as well as the Buddha himself.

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                    1. @Joanne,

                      If that works for you, that’s great. I don’t find it as simple, but if other people are able to cherry pick what’s meaningful out of the teachings, and somehow ignore all the mumbo-jumbo, which is also part of the teachings, that’s fine. I don’t fault people for doing what works for them.

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                    2. @Joanne,

                      Also, be careful when you compare Buddhism to Christianity. When you say, “Years ago, when I was a born again Christian, I was frustrated because Christianity seemed so shallow, so simplistic,” you sound quite prejudiced. I totally understand why you were disillusioned with Christianity, but watch it that you don’t belittle it and compare it to Buddhism. The Dalai Lama himself would say that FOR HIM, “the Dharma, on the other hand, is rich and full and really addresses vast truths in ways that inspire me.” However, he would ALSO acknowledge that Christianity equally inspires others and that for THEM it is just as inspiring and meaningful as Buddhism is for Buddhists. If the Dalai Lama is your teacher, then you’ll want to follow his example fo being tolerant and appreciative of other faiths, even if they are not right for you. That even includes respecting those who decide to walk away from any religion, because that is just as valid as a spiritual belief or faith.

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            2. Guru devotion never sat well for me, especially since it was always clear to me that Sogyal was not enlightened. However, I did all my practice with the role of ‘the guru’ in the practice texts meaning the nature of reality, not any human being. Early on in my time with Rigpa, I asked Sogyal what kind of reality did Guru Rinpoche have in terms of how we experienced him in our practice. He said simply, ‘He is the nature of mind and everything.’ That was the basis on which I preceeded with practice, and it worked well for me. I could never have done it with a human being as the focus, especially not one so obviously flawed as Sogyal. (And that was before I realised just how flawed he actually was.)

              Done that way, the practice transcends the personal – and the nature of mind and everything is the ultimate meaning of guru in the practice anyway. As far as my devotion to Sogyal, I saw it as simple appreciation and openess (which is what he says it is in the TBLD anyway), and it was never to him as a human being but to him in his role as dharma teacher and more specifically to his Buddha nature, the part of him that introduced me to the nature of mind. The merging of minds that is central to the vajrayana is our ordinary mind opening up to the teacher’s Buddha nature and him or her resting in that nature inspiring us to do the same ourself.

              It has nothing to do with personality, and since we can all rest in our true nature there is no reason why Sogyal couldn’t even with all his faults when he’s not in it (or perhaps he was always a dog’s tooth, either way, something did work there). We invoke their Buddha nature which Envokes Our Buddha nature, that’s the process. All this can be done without the personality of the teacher being involved.

              As for the weeping and grasping prayers – I just left them out, after all in Calling the Lama it says “Since pure awareness of nowness is the real Buddha, in openess and contentment we find the lama in our heart. When we realise that this unending natural mind is the nature of the lama, there is no need for attached and grasping prayers …”

              The real truth is there in words such as these, and if you follow the words you find that are beyond the bullshit, then you can work out what is extraneous. It would be nice if we didn’t have to, of course.

              As far as fuedalism goes. Getting rid of that is a matter of remembering another real truth: that we all have Buddha nature and “our Buddha nature is as good as any Buddha’s Buddha nature” (to coin an often used phrase) and so the idea of seeing someone as a Buddha is for all of us, not just the lama. A realised lama would see the Buddha in his or her students as well and would run a community in partnership, not as a dictator. Buddha nature is the basis of real democracy actually. Pure perception is not about students just seeing the teacher as a Buddha. But for fuedalism to disappear, these points have to be emphasised, not the ‘attached and grasping prayers’ side of things and not the devotion to a person aspect, or the obey and shut up stuff – which clearly has to be chucked out before there is any hope at all.

              At the same time as I knew he was a flawed human being, I could see that on the level of his Buddha nature Sogyal was ‘pure’, but that perception could only occur when I also saw everyone and everything, including myself as ‘pure’ as well. Seeing the lama as a Buddha is not an instruction, it’s a description of an experience you have when you also see that you are a Buddha. For so long as it’s used as an instruction for something you have to try to do in terms of how you look at your teacher, there is a distortion of the teachings, a convenient forgetting that it doesn’t only apply to the teacher.

              Anyway, the point as far as fuedalism goes is that we can have respect for a teacher, as we would for a math teacher that teaches us well, but what we need to kick out is the idea that just because he might know more about the dharma or vajrayana than us, we need to treat him like a god or a king and be his slaves. The way to cut through the fuedalism is to run sanghas with a management group of which the lama is either only one part of a group of people voted into management by the students, or not part of management at all, just someone invited in to teach. And those in management are voted in because they are kind and compassionate and are good teachers who know their stuff, not selected by the lama because they are prepared to kiss his or her arse.

              Rigpa could do this if management truly had vision, but the old guard would have to resign first and the new management would need to denounce Sogyal and become a Buddhist community without a single lama – like that’s going to happen. Unfortunately, they appear to be more interested in maintaining their fundamentalist beliefs and manipulating people into thinking they’re doing something positive while secretly waiting for it all to die down so they can bring back Sogyal and carry on as usual.

              Personally, I’ve also given up on religion. Let’s face it, none of them are perfect. I don’t consider myself a Buddhist of any kind anymore. I’ve not given up the dharma though (it’s in me now), only the religion, and it’s not because I think Buddism is bad – it still has more going for it than other major religions from my point of view – I simply don’t want to be involved in a religion of any kind anymore. I do, however, still have an enormous appreciation for the power of genuine vajrayana practice to bring about real spiritual transformation (not the surface, ass-kissing, look-how-devoted-I-am kind that has no real understanding of what the practice is all about). And I still have good reason to believe that there are lamas who are not corrupt, and who are able to run their sanghas in a manner that is respectful of their students and Western traditions (Mingyur Rinpoche for instance).

              Vajrayana communities aren’t necessarily cults, but it’s pretty easy for them to become one. Yes, we don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, but just as not all Catholic priests are pedophiles, not all Tibetan lamas take advantage of their power. The ones to gravitate to for those who still want to be part of the religion are those who make their stance on the matter of abuse of power clear. I always say, ask if once you’ve taken an empowerment if you have to obey the lama and not criticise. If they give any other answer than a straight, ‘No that is not necessary’, then they’re a teacher to avoid.

              The tradition does have a lot of wisdom to share, but one should never give up one’s discernment and right to speak up in order to get it, and we should always remember that all these teachers are just human beings, just like us.

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              1. @Moonfire,

                If you still call yourself a Vajrayana practitioner then you are still practicing the religion and you’re still a follower. Vajrayana is a religion, not just a philosophy. Since Vajrayana is part of Buddhism, that means you are still a Buddhist. Vajrayana is built on the other lineages of Buddhism anyway. This isn’t a criticism of the Vajrayana path or your beliefs, by the way. I just don’t think a person can say they are no longer religious, or that they are no longer Buddhist, and then turn around and say they still practice the “dharma” and Vajrayana, etc. I think a person is either a Buddhist or they aren’t. In my case, I don’t feel much inspiration from Buddhism at all lately. Maybe you’re just a lot more virtuous and/or devoted than I am for sticking with it, despite all of the ugly stuff coming out about teachers, etc. I find that it’s hard for me to do that. I might come back to it later in life, but I don’t see how I can really do that either. It has been ruined for me.

                It’s good that you have found a way to to understand the meaning of guru devotion. In my case, there are too many texts that are bowing and scraping to the guru that I simply can’t ignore that are part of the whole philosophy, as far as I’m concerned. No matter how much I might *want* to believe that the “guru” is just symbolic for something greater, I can’t deny all of the guru worship texts, or the way every practice begins with supplications to the all-perfect “guru” and lineage, etc. It’s all in there in every text I set my eyes on. Also, talk to any lama about guru devotion and they will start their guru worship talk, whether it’s about their own guru, or about how a student should worship a guru, or even them personally. I just can’t bring myself to believe that guru devotion is just a symbolic thing. They take it quite literally, no matter how much they may deny it.

                I did go to one Dharma center that was (and still is) run much like the way you describe, and it was a lot less cult-like than a lot of Dharma groups. Regular people ran the center, and new board members were always getting elected, so people didn’t have a whole lot of power. It was just a small, little group that did meditation practice together and studied various Dharma books, etc. Teachers would be invited to give talks, and everyone listen to the talks, but there was no resident teacher. (There used to be, but the teacher left to do “bigger and better” things.) Then, after the teacher left, they appointed another teacher as spiritual director, but he was not local to the group. Because the group did not revolve around a particular teacher who lived nearby, it definitely was less cult-y. Despite that arrangement, there was a tendency among students to worship the visiting teachers anyway and be all gaga and starry eyed over them anyway. (It seems like people really want to belong to a cult.) But since the teachers did not stay around long, they didn’t have as much opportunity to exploit all of the devotion they got. (Of course, I did not work in as a board member of this group, so I don’t know if any of the visiting teachers ever took advantage of them, or ever made a pass at a pretty board member, etc.) But the group was certainly better than most. I don’t think Rigpa could ever be run that way though. They will always want to have some sort of guru around, and they wouldn’t even feel like a legitimate Vajrayana center without a guru. If it’s not Sogyal, they would find someone else to be their guru, most likely one of his close friends from the same lineage. I think we can guess how THAT would work out.

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          1. @ Moonfire,

            Thanks. it’s nice to know I’m welcome, even if my views might be a bit different, and I’m sure I annoy a lot of people. 😀

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  21. Just an FYI. I don’t mean to sound like DKR when he said the main problem with Sogyal was that people “weren’t ready” for Tantra. I am only speaking about the Vajrayana in general terms in my above post. In the case of Sogyal, there is no justification for his behavior, regardless of how “ready” for Tantra his students were. I don’t happen to believe that sadistic abuse belongs in a genuine spiritual path at all. PERIOD. So please don’t anyone think I am parroting what DKR said. I don’t mean it in the same context regarding abuse. I am just talking about being rwady to approach the Vajrayana in a mature way with a complete understanding about Pure View and all the other stuff that Vajrayana entails. I am NOT talking about being “ready” to accept abusive teachers, so I hope I have made that clear to everybody reading thins, (IF there is still anyone reading this, lol! 😀 )

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    1. Catlover, I don’t think I have any problem with appreciating other religions, truly. I was just relating my experience with Christianity. And also, there is so very much to learn in the Kangyur and Tengyur– cherry picking isn’t how I would describe the freedom I feel to agree or disagree with what I study and practice. If you aren’t part of a Dharma center or part of the superficial pomp and ceremony and power structure, there is little to fear and the Dharma becomes simply part of a meaningful, spiritual life. That’s been my experience.

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      1. @Joanne,

        There seems to be a hidden, and often not so hidden, attitude with many, many Buddhists against Western traditions and Western culture, and they may not even be aware of it. I think it comes from years and years of subtle indoctrination from lamas and other teachers who are really bigoted toward the West, but they don’t even have the introspection to realize it. Their attitude poisons the attitudes of their students and it really does come through in the way people express their attitudes about all things Western. I’m not trying to be negative toward you, so please don’t interpret it that way, but I think it needs to be pointed out because it’s important to keep in mind.

        If a people consider themselves to be true followers of any religion, then there is really no “freedom to disagree” with its core teachings. The vows themselves don’t give one freedom to disagree, so you’re still held by those vows, regardless of whether there is an outside person telling you what to think. The religion itself tells you what to think. At least, that’s the way I see it and that’s my own experience of it. We all have the freedom to agree or disagree. That’s fine. In my own case, I find it hard to practice religion “freely” because of all the rules, hell threats, and regulations within the religion itself. It’s worse with an outside guru telling you what to do, but one doesn’t even necessarily need that in order to be stuck in a sea of religious dogma. (This applies to all religions, not just Buddhism.)

        Here I am talking about people being biased, and I realize I am also biased too in my own way. I guess that’s just part of being human. It’s important to be honest about being biased because that’s better than being in denial. As for myself, I think some time and space between me and Tibetan Buddhism (and Buddhism in general) for quite a while might help me to gain some more balanced perspective later on. But I need a really long, long break from it.

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  22. Certainly, Catlover, you have every right to your position. I would just like to present a few perspectives I have and then we can certainly agree to disagree. First, I most admire the Dharma because of its history of students who have the courage to disagree with their teachers. Atisha for example, who followed Prasangika while his teacher followed Chittamatra. And the Buddha himself stating clearly that we should not accept any of his words out of faith alone, but like a goldsmith tests gold, we should also test his words thoroughly.

    I also admire the Dharma because there is a recognition of definitive and provisional teachings. Other religions present everything as definitive, even teachings that are grounded in the cultures of the time. And the Dharma goes further and delineates between evident truths, partially hidden truths (such as emptiness), and completely hidden truths (such as the law of karma). There is no requirement in the Dharma itself to accept anything whatsoever blindly. There is definitely a path for the skeptic who will not accept anything out of faith alone. These for me are the main causes for my confidence in the teachings.

    In that context, no one made me take my vows and I treasure them. I do not respect the lama who gave me the vows, however– and it has been a journey of self-respect and courage and victory not to let his faults interfere with my own commitment to myself, my own journey towards being a more compassionate and wise person, who can perhaps some day contribute to the happiness of others.

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