Hollow words? An Analysis of Rigpa’s Statement on the Results of the Independent Investigation

Rigpa’s response to the Lewis Silkin report on the results of the independent investigation shows a continuation of their methods of operation to date. Once again we see the kind of response given by expensive PR firms and sneaky lawyers, words that appear to say the right things and appear to tell us what we want to hear – and many will read it at face value and go away content (which is what they want) – but what does it actually say? Or not say?

The words of the report are in the quote boxes. The analysis follows each section.

5 September 2018

We acknowledge the gravity of the independent report that Rigpa commissioned last year following allegations of misconduct by Rigpa’s Founder and former Spiritual Director Sogyal Rinpoche, and thank the investigator and the witnesses.

This does not say that Rigpa accepts the findings of the report.  This does not say that Rigpa thinks Sogyal Rinpoche or anyone in Rigpa has done anything wrong, even though the Report clearly concludes that there has been “serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse” by Sogyal Rinpoche and misconduct by Senior Rigpa Individuals “who were aware of at least some of these issues and failed to address them, leaving others at risk.”

We feel deeply sorry and apologise for the hurt experienced by past and present members of the Rigpa community. We are contemplating on our role as an organisation, and how we may have contributed to this situation. We will do everything we can to reach out to, and support everyone who has been affected, and take full responsibility for ensuring that Rigpa provides a safe environment for all. These are our heartfelt commitments.

This does not say that Rigpa accepts that Sogyal Rinpoche or anyone in Rigpa has actually harmed anyone, despite the conclusions of the Report and the evidence presented there.  They still only apologise for hurt “experienced” not for the hurt they and Sogyal caused.  The inclusion of the word “experience”  also reminds cult members of the subjective nature of the victims’ perception, something that reinforces the Rigpa ‘party line’ that the problem is with the victim, not with the perpetrator.

And they do not commit Rigpa to anything specific, instead they use the same vague soothing language they are so well known for – “reach out to”, “support”, “safe environment,” “heartfelt” – and they are only “contemplating on” their role, not admiting that they actually did have a role in the harm, and neither are they taking any actual responsiblity for it.

The only thing they are taking responsibility for is “ensuring that Rigpa provides a safe environment for all.” I seem to remember hearing something similar to this kind of committment from them in the past, all while the abuse continued. They will point to their code of conduct as one way they’re doing that, but there are serious loopholes in that code.

Their use of the words “taking responsibility” might lead people to think that they’re taking some responsiblity for the harm, but if you read carefully, you’ll see that they’re not.

The findings in the report will affect many people. It will take time for all of us to reflect on the report’s contents.

They have had the report since August 22nd and we have been told, via Rigpa streaming, that 30 individuals have been involved in developing this response. How much time do they need to come up with something more specific than this?

Rigpa commits to act upon the report’s recommendations. We will move forward in consultation with our community.

This is a key paragraph.  It does not commit Rigpa to implementing any of the recommendations in the report, although it gives that appearance. They commit only to “acting upon” the recommedations; they do not committ to implementing them. Acting upon can be as vague as considering whether or not they will actually implement them.

In the face of the allegations, last year Sogyal Rinpoche retired definitively as Spiritual Director of Rigpa, and now has no organisational role in Rigpa.

Sogyal Rinpoche’s main role in Rigpa is not and never has been “organisational”.  He resigned only as spiritual director. He has not resigned from his position as the community’s guru and has stated himself that he is still their teacher. He gave a teaching on devotion to the Dzogchen Mandala retreat recently, and has been giving “messages” to the sangha at all the retreats held since his stepping down as spiritual director.

Why use the word “definitively”? It’s completely unecessary. He has either retired or he hasn’t. The only reason why this word, which unecessarily emphasises the fact of his retirement, would be included is to make the reader think that this is the separation suggested in point 2 of the report recommendations – “Rigpa should take steps to disassociate itself from Sogyal Lakar as fully as is possible.”

Full dissociation is not him retiring, it’s Rigpa no longer taking him as their teacher. It’s them denouncing his behaviour and ceasing using his teachings as the core of their programs. It certainly isn’t having him give a streamed teaching to a retreat.

Rigpa has already undertaken a number of significant steps in the last twelve months:

  • A new Vision Board was appointed, guided by spiritual advisors, and Rigpa boards have agreed a new decision-making and governance structure;

The Vision Board was appointed in consultation with teachers, Khenpo Namdrol and Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, who have made it clear that they think Rigpa students who have spoken out are samaya breakers and possessed by demonic forces. The Vision Board was then approved by Sogyal Rinpoche himself.  It is contains students who knew about and enabled the abuse. It should be disbanded.

  • Our community has taken part in an international process to put in place a strong Code of Conduct published in June 2018. We have also just completed our grievance procedure, that includes an independent Grievance Council of senior western Buddhist teachers that will receive complaints brought by Rigpa members and the public;

The Code of Conduct is weak. Amongst other things, it allows sexual relationships between teachers and students and makes vague reference to a different unspecified code for Vajrayana and Dzogchen students which students will have to agree to if they want teachings at this level.  No grievance procedure has been published.

  • And we set up this independent investigation for complainants to come forward, and be listened to in an open, impartial and sensitive way.

Rigpa was forced to set up the investigation due to the seriousness of the complaints.  It was also forced to agree to make it public because witnesses refused to participate otherwise.  This was not a voluntary Rigpa initiative, and yet they list it as if it were an achievement on their part.

We are committed to continuing the process of healing, reconciliation and change. To acknowledge the importance of this process of healing and change, senior members of management are stepping down from their positions of governance.

This is another key paragraph.  It only refers to positions of governance.  Senior Rigpa Individuals identified in the report as having been, “aware of at least some of these issues and failed to address them, leaving others at risk”, have many roles in Rigpa, not just governance.  Rigpa received this report on August 22nd.  Witnesses P, N and O should have been removed from all their positions, or at the very least suspended, on August 23rd, at the latest. That is what would have happened in any properly run organisation.

Again it is vague. Who are these senior members of management? What positions are they stepping down from? And what ones will they retain?

Update from Sangha connection newsletter sent out 30 mins ago:
“Patrick, Philip and Dominique will no longer hold any position of governance in any Rigpa entity by the end of November. Patrick and Philip will also step down from the Vision Board. The next elections of the Chapter of the Lerab Ling Congregation are scheduled for November this year. Dominique Side has decided to retire as Superior of the Congregation so she will not be a candidate in these elections.

These steps will come into full effect by the end of November, 2018. All three remain committed to supporting the sangha and Rigpa’s vision in whatever way may be appropriate and helpful.

Patrick sent the following message to share with the sangha:

“I have read the report of the independent investigation and I am deeply troubled by its findings. I feel a real and genuine concern for anyone who feels hurt or damaged by their experience in Rigpa. For the last forty years, I have tried my hardest to serve the Rigpa community responsibly and with integrity, and the best interests of the Sangha and Rigpa’s work have always been foremost in my heart. I have done my best to help support anyone experiencing difficulties or problems of any kind. If there have been any failings on my part to understand the nature of complaints that were made, or to listen or to act, I am truly sorry… ” and there is more.

These three are not the only people that should be stepping down, however.

Now back to the statement:

Rigpa’s goal has always been, and continues to be, to offer a complete spiritual path, to invite many teachers, especially from the “Ancient” Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, and to offer the Buddhist teachings of meditation, compassion and wisdom to the modern world.

If Rigpa had addressed the problems, laid out clearly and forensically in this excellent Report, when issues were first brought to Senior Rigpa Individuals’ attention, as described in some detail in the Report, then Rigpa would still be in a position to achieve this goal.  Due to not addressing these problems in the past, Rigpa now has to consider, as stated in the Report’s recommendations, if it will be “possible for the organisation to move past these events and operate sustainably and successfully in the future.”

It may not be possible. Particulary when we have a conflict of values between this “Ancient” fuedal tradition and the modern world. Do they really think that reverting to a fuedal system of masters and slaves that we gave up in the West centuries ago is what’s best for the modern world?

Finally, the statement is from the “Vision Board, Rigpa Boards, and the boards of Lerab Ling and Dzogchen Beara.”  If any of you still trust the members of these boards to tell you the truth, to act with integrity, or to have your best interests at heart, remember this: these boards still include individuals who were identified in the Report as “senior individuals within Rigpa who were aware of at least some of these issues and failed to address them, leaving others at risk.”


Current and previous students of Rigpa can participate in private discussion on this and other related topics on our What Now? Facebook Group. If you’re interested in joining, please contact us via the contact page and ask for an invite.

Anyone who has left a Buddhist sangha that had an abusive teacher can join the  Beyond the Temple Facebook Group. The focus in this group is not on the abuse, but on ourselves and our spiritual life as we recover from our experience 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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40 thoughts on “Hollow words? An Analysis of Rigpa’s Statement on the Results of the Independent Investigation

  1. “They still only apologise for hurt “experienced” not for the hurt they and Sogyal caused. ”
    It’s called appeal to the 5th emendament: you have the right to not say things that might lead to an incrimination!
    Sort of…..

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  2. Well, carefully crafted weasel-words are probably all we could have expected from that crowd. A similar thing is happening in Shambhala, where the Sakyong’s lawyers are now calling everything that has been said about him “unfounded and speculative.” Fortunately, the Silkin report is out now, and people can read it, and decide for themselves whether to go or stay. It has really come down to that now.

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  3. As a further note, I hope that people will now take a long, hard look at the by-the-book ecclesiasts who have been supporting Sogyal Lakar all this time, even after the details of his abuses became public. Some of these guys seem to have no proper human feelings at all.

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  4. This is such an accurate assessment, and it’s applicable to more than just this last official Rigpa statement, because it’s got to the point now where this type of critical analysis has to be applied to everything coming from Rigpa, since almost everything they’ve done since the letter of the 8 seems to have undermined trust more and more.

    The optimistic belief in reconciliation has evaporated along with the hope that something might still be there to be salvaged. From all the string of lamas who have passed through over the years, there have been just a few who expressed sympathy with victims and offered advice, but after years of silence on their part even that sounds like belated, hollow platitudes and opportunism to many of us.

    Maybe some people pinned their hopes on Dzongsar Khyentse, but he only plumbed new depths of confusion with rambling, doublespeak and mixed messages. The ‘New’ Vision Board is the all usual suspects plus a sprinkling of “You’re all possessed by demons / bound for hell / be grateful if your teacher kills you-type of lamas.

    And if anyone hoped the report would bring some relief or prompt some honest self-evaluation and an intelligent response from Rigpa…….

    While I was reading the analysis above, it suddenly occurred to me that a long time ago I joined Tibetan Buddhism just to find a bit of peace of mind, a sane, simple life and to be happy……and here I am, reading horrific stories about a huge wealthy international organisation with decades of sexual abuse, violence, madness, criminality, institutional indifference, complicity, lying and corruption involving huge sums of money…… and now we’re here discussing PR techniques, court cases and justice.

    “Do no harm whatsoever, do good to perfection, tame the mind.” How on earth did we get from that to where we are now?

    Buddhism seemed so clear, simple and full of hope, but now there’s a kind of tired, resigned finality about all this, when you realize that no amount of utopian rhetoric ever has any lasting positive effect on our species.

    Perhaps there’s not much more to be said and no need to be sad or wistful: as the Greek stoic Heraclitus said: “No one can step in the same river twice, because it’s not the same river and they’re no longer the same person.”

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    1. Hi Lauren,

      Over the last fifteen months or so, since this scandal broke, this post by you, amongst the many thousands of pieces I have read, most closely mirrors my own feelings, and I thank you for articulating it so.

      I too came to Buddhism looking for the same things: simplicity, compassion, sanity – an oasis in a world of madness. To then discover the putrid state of matters within Buddhism has shaken me to the core. “Buddhism seemed so clear, simple and full of hope, but now there’s a kind of tired, resigned finality about all this, when you realize that no amount of utopian rhetoric ever has any lasting positive effect on our species.” Sadly, it appears this line of yours summarises the endeavour perfectly.

      In the wake of this scandal, I considered trying to re-house my desire for meaning in another branch of Buddhism. I have long been drawn to Theravada Buddhism, with my interest in it predating that of my connection to Rigpa, to whom I turned primarily because it was the most fully developed community within touching distance of where I live. But now, I shrug to myself and say, “what’s the point?, assured as I now am that only further disappointment and disillusionment awaits. This is the depth of the damage caused. It has destroyed the dharma for me. In time, perhaps this will feel like a liberation I should be thankful for, but at the moment it feels like a profound loss.

      Sadly yours,

      Joseph.

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  5. “Do no harm whatsoever, do good to perfection, tame the mind.” How on earth did we get from that to where we are now?”

    Perhaps that is exactly where we are now.

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  6. It’s important to realize, I think, that absolute devotion to Sogyal Lakar is Rigpa’s ‘raison d’être’, its very reason for being.

    The community he founded, Rigpa, was made in his image: it has always been a Western personality cult, never a Tibetan Buddhist sangha. Sogyal has always been unqualified to teach. No matter what his devotees think of themselves, they themselves are unqualified as well—Sogyal made them so.

    The above analysis misses an important recommendation of Karen Baxter, I think, as does Rigpa’s response:

    “Rigpa’s leadership should consider (taking further advice as necessary) the extent to which it is obliged to report any of the matters set out in this report to law enforcement authorities or relevant regulators in each applicable jurisdiction.”

    It’s not so long ago that the Vision Board’s acting leader, Dzongsar Khyentse, addressing the remaining Rigpa members, literally insisted that Vajrayana gurus are “above the law”.

    Unless and until Rigpa unequivocally states that it’ll abide by the rule of law and report criminal behaviour to the appropriate authorities and regulators every single time it occurs, and unless and until Rigpa publicly confirms that none of its members and none of its teachers are above the law—not even Dzongsar Khyentse—every other response is utterly meaningless.

    As long as such unequivocal statements remain forthcoming, Rigpa effectively, continually confirms it is and always has been a criminal organization, enabling criminal behaviour.

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  7. @ Rob Hogendoorn

    Thanks for posting the link to the Telegraph.

    Yes, definitely ‘absolute devotion’……and money.

    In fact recommendation 12 was mentioned in the previous thread. It might not be a mandatory legal obligation to report a crime, but people in positions of authority within an organisation do have an obligation where they have a duty of care to the victims, especially in serious matters such as cases of sexual abuse and violence. There’s also the issue of concealing a crime and shielding the perpetrator and so on.

    Of all Karen Baxter’s recommendations, number 12 is perhaps the least likely to be acted on by anyone in the Rigpa management. They might pretend to think they’re above the law, but it’s unlikely they’ll be in a hurry to put their posturing to the test and their guru certainly doesn’t seem keen to either.

    Admittedly, I don’t have any experience of exclusively Tibetan sanghas, but given the Vajrayana practice of Guryoga and the requirements of absolute unconditional devotion, I wonder what other result it produces except a series of personality cults, and what, apart from superficial cultural differences, would actually distinguish any given Tibetan Buddhist sangha from a western Tibetan Buddhist personality cult in psychological or behavioural terms.

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  8. Regarding the other lamas who were referred to on p 28-29 of the report: (I’m sure there are more instances than reported here but nonetheless it is a starting point):

    1. p 28 “Witness G also saw intimate sexual photographs of Student 3 in Sogyal’s possession and alleges that he saw Sogyal share these with another lama.”
    p 28-29 “Offering attendants to other lamas: It is alleged that Sogyal offered one of his female attendants to another lama for sex. I heard evidence that this happened on more than one occasion.Witness E told me that he had heard Sogyal Lakar on the telephone to another guru on two occasions and that during the phone calls Sogyal ‘offered’ a student to the guru. “

    For the sake of women’s safety and awareness it would be good for the lamas’ names to be made public. What other lamas participated and slept with the students upon Sogyal’s offering as a ‘perk’ for attending and/or teaching a Rigpa event. (not to mention they walked out with bags of likely unaccounted for cash). I previously read that OT Rinpoche was one of the lamas who was offered one of Sogyal’s women for sex and she did reluctantly go to him. I wonder of the other Bir lamas? This is one point we should not gloss over as these friends of Sogyal on p 28-29 are complicit and should be held accountable.

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    1. You bring up a good point, Concerned, because this action is not a criminal action– but it is one that is repellant to most in our culture, one that would be a total deal breaker for anyone considering Rigpa as a place of spiritual worship. Because it’s not criminal, it could get lost. And also, because it’s not criminal, it remains as a mere “allegation” that could easily be dismissed.

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    2. I was offered by DKR to Choling Rinpoche – both Bir lamas.
      This was not a comfortable experience and I made that clear. It was confusing and upsetting to me as a very young woman.

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  9. It might be easier to make a list of all the lamas who have taught at Lerab Ling during those years, assume the worst, and have nothing more to do with any of them. Or is that too harsh?

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    1. @Been there

      It’s really not harsh at all, just a very common-sense assumption called ‘The precautionary principle’.

      Sogyal’s behaviour has been common knowledge for decades, so unless they came out of a 30 year solitary retreat in a very remote cave, no lama can claim they didn’t know. It means they felt comfortable endorsing him because they didn’t have a problem with it.

      Let’s call it what it is: complicity with an abuser and indifference towards his victims. It’s repugnant in anyone, and in this case it had real far-reaching consequences.

      So yes, it seems a good enough reason to avoid all of them.

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  10. As a young woman of about 23, Dzongsar Khyentse behaved toward me in a manner which I now finally and clearly see as innappropriate and as grooming.

    Firstly he said things that made me feel very special and ‘chosen’ spiritually. He phoned, enquired after me and invited me to social events with small groups of favourites.

    Over time, we had many one on one conversations and in one he promised he would never leave me and gained my trust.

    In conversation, sex was discussed very early on – almost in my second ‘interview’. Later, he asked me my opinion of oral sex and went on to touch me. Confusingly he said the sexual stuff was a spiritual thing but then also purely for his own pleasure.
    I did eventually turn down a request for sex and am incredibly thankful I did as he later abandoned me, refused to talk and lied to me.

    I know of quite a number of female students he slept with and as far as I know those other relationships were consensual – power imbalance and all the other complex factors notwithstanding. However, in my case, introducing sex into our spiritual relationship was unnecessary and confusing – particularly as I had always made it clear my interest was in the dharma not in him. I was very young, trusting and I guess ripe for the picking. Also of course I was in awe of him, flattered and totally committed to a ‘pure view’. As I see it now, I was manipulated but was simply not experienced enough in life to understand that.

    Whether Dzongsar Khyentse is one of the lamas Sogyal offered women to I don’t know. He himself did actually offer me though to another Rinpoche (again which I declined) so perhaps it’s a common occurrence?!?

    Interestingly he publicly spoke against sexual relationships between teachers and students last year. Then he posted that graphic and very poorly timed Sex Contract.
    He praises Chogyam Trungpa highly and is very close to OT.

    With these things in mind, should he really be on the Vision Board for Rigpa??

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    1. Thankyou for acknowledging me Matilda. Since we spoke on the phone and after interracting with Rinpoche again, I was finally able to see things clearly. It took a really long time and is still hard to put out publicly but feel people are entitled to know an ‘insider’s’ experience.

      Just to clarify, I’m not saying he hasn’t done good things just that he has also caused harm and in my case, great harm.
      Hopefully my account may be of benefit by providing a more realistic, balanced view of these famous and magnetising lamas.

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      1. Thank you Rose for your courage. This is a very difficult subject but it is extremely beneficial that victims are coming forward and finding strength to expose the reality of what has been hidden and suppressed. There is nothing to lose. Extremely important to get the word out as the same patterns will happen/have been happening with other lamas and we need to stop it and speak out. Or it will continue.

        Regarding DKR I (and many others I suspect) felt like he was covering his ass with his strange responses to the Rigpa abuses through social media and in his talks. Not to mention his writings before the letter came out that said there is nothing wrong with women offering themselves to the guru. WTF. To be warned (in the face of abuse) of samaya and not to criticize and the rest is a huge red flag. He is extremely slippery and no I don’t think he should be on the vision board.

        Seems to me that Rigpa was like a candy store for lamas who could walk away with lots of cash and given women as they wished, massaged, treated like kings. This is an ideal time to put a complete stop to this, stop throwing money and lavishing attention and gratification on these lamas, turn the focus to the actual dharma teachings themselves and taking the power back to empower ourselves. But at the same time to stop the patterns people need to start identifying the lamas who participated.

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        1. Thanks RH and concerned.
          Yes agree completely. This seems to be a time of revealing what has been kept hidden on many levels.
          Frankly, if these lamas are promiscouous and acting out their lust with their own students, it should be in the open. I was told to keep it secret – of course!
          It must be through worldly hope and fear, gain and loss that these lamas are covering it all up. Well hello 8 Worldly Dharmas!
          If we can identify the lamas who are misbehaving, others will be forewarned and be able to make informed decisions regarding their involvement with these teachers.
          Also, young women won’t be fooled into thinking they are unique when they know there are just so many others.

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    2. Hey Rose, the above is a very brave and measured account of your experience as a young woman – a relationship which is etched indelibly on your psyche, for better or for worse.

      This practice of ‘sharing the women around’ is a further example of how consorts are objectified by the Lamas in question – the consent of the woman is never sought!

      I wonder whether other ‘tossed out’ consorts will speak up soon. You’re in a safe space here, ladies!

      I hope we can talk again sometime.

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      1. Thanks Matilda.
        I just commented above about my experience of being offered to Choling Rinpoche.
        DKR tried to hand me over a few times and it was so upsetting because I had just given my heart and trust to him. I didn’t understand at all and felt like he was giving me away….

        Be great to chat again sometime 🙂

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      2. Honestly, these girlfriends are not consorts. Consort refers to the partner you practice the sexual yoga of the completion stage tantric practice with. A practice where both participants need to be highly qualified, like having completed both, the generation stage practices as well as the other completion stage practices.

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        1. Exactly @Windhorse. They are not consorts. The lamas and sycophants use that term to somehow justify their misconduct and it makes the women feel special and better about being used… and discarded for the next soon after. If the lama worries for his reputation he will string each woman along in various ways so they don’t call him out. I saw quite a few women during DKR teachings who I suspect he slept with- one was in some sort of mental trance like state waving her arms around and rolling her head during a teaching while her friends were patting her back. It was truly bizarre and sad all at once. A lama once told me with delight that so and so was thought to be a khandro and he said “I will check!” meaning he would sleep with her and determine if she had special abilities in bed. He was laughing. It is really sick, this whole tradition and the role that women have had and have now. It is time to change and time to see more women standing strong against this kind of behavior and showing integrity and self respect. They have not been taken seriously by these lamas.

          So the pals of Sogyal need to be called out as they are carrying on in the same way.

          And the women who want to be called a ‘consort’ or whatever, the women who dress to please these women seemed to delight in being thought of as ‘special’ and appeared to be all in. I saw a whole throng of women dolled up at a Rigpa event -short skirts and sitting in a certain area close to the lamas that I was told was not for the ‘regular’ people- Sogyal called some of the women up to dance for him like puppets in front of the visiting monks and lamas which was totally appalling to me, I feel like these people who participate and put themselves in these places in the first place without using any common sense are a huge part of the problem. I don’t feel sorry for the sycophants or these lamas- none of them seem interested in the actual dharma and they are giving it a bad name. To me it seems like a big twisted circus which serves the lamas and that is not what dharma is about at all.

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            1. ontul rinpoche. not a rock star lama, just creepy, and I’ve no idea if he abused his power, but he did say that and I did not find it funny but rather offensive to women. if you reverse the scenario and have a female lama say she will ‘check’ a male to see if he has any realizations by sleeping with him… well I simply can’t even imagine that scenario. why would you even say that?

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            2. Oh that’s disappointing. I knew him & his lovely wife Tashi such a long time ago. What’s happened to these Lamas? It seems like they just regard casual sex as being a fringe benefit of teaching westerners – they probably kid themselves that these dalliances are part of the completion stage practices when in actual fact they are just ruled by their dicks, like so many other men.

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        2. @ Windhorse if I may shed some light on my experience of this distinction –

          I was approached as if it were to be a tantric, spiritual practise as a consort but also confusingly told that it was for his pleasure.

          I was only 24 at the time and despite my limited knowledge and being out of my depth, did manage to ask about the ‘qualification’ aspect. I was told a number of reasons why I was suitable for such practises.
          Now, many years later with the wisdom that comes with age, learning and suffering, I can critique these experiences far better and arrive at different conclusions; I think the waters were deliberately muddied in order to take advantage of my trust and spiritual aspirations – as being a ‘girlfriend’ and having mere sex was never my interest.

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          1. Rose that is a very good distinction. The situation has to be made crystal clear to students before they set foot into a Dharma center, at the time when all their critical faculties are intact. Rigpa used to defend Sogyal by saying “he’s not a monk.” Then ok, if there’s nothing wrong with lamas being promiscuous with students, this needs to be very clear from the start– but they won’t do that will they? I certainly would never have entered a Rigpa teaching if this had been made clear.

            And Rose, I add my thanks to you for sharing your experience. And I totally agree with you that DJK has no business on the Spiritual Advisory Board of Rigpa.

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          2. Rose you are a star in my book for your sleaze-ball radar detection abilities and for your sincerity in your quest for spiritual knowledge. Totally unacceptable to take advantage of new young students. And it IS confusing as is everything with DKR. A compassionate and skillful lama would never touch or seduce a student no matter what yana they are practicing. In fact, especially in vajrayana there is absolutely no need to touch a student if the lama is skilled.

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            1. Rose, i can only add to the appreciation of others here for your candid disclosures and your insights into how your experiences impacted on your psycho-spiritual growth. I’m wondering whether others might be interested in composing a group letter for this meeting of important lamas with the DL in November.

              As i see it, pressing issues are the failure of the majority of teachers to speak out and condemn sexual abuse perpetrated by their fellow Lamas. In particular, the failure of most Nyingma lamas to publicly condemn this behaviour is reprehensible as the conspicuous predators seem to most strongly identify as Nyingmapa (Sogyal, Sakyong).

              Female teachers have also failed to publicly condemn the behaviour, with the exception of Tenzin Palmo & Lama Tsultrim Allione.

              Secondly, surely this eminent gathering of Lamas needs to address the question of why casual sex, which can often lead to abuse, has become a routine indulgence for so many lamas. Young western women are being passed around like plates of mo-mos, to be devoured and then discarded once their allure has faded.

              As Tenzin Palmo told an audience, “it’s your Dharma”, most of us have practised over many years to the best of our abilities and in spite of numerous obstacles such as financial penury and isolation from our authentic teachers in the East. Haven’t we earned the right to question why Vajrayana has become corrupted? I can’t see much self-reflection from the offenders, including DKR yet surely self-awareness is a key fruit of meditation and the Bodhisattva path.

              I would be interested to know what other women here regard as the most crucial issues.

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              1. I think at least 2 of the letter writers should ask to attend directly so they can share their side- it will be a room full of only men I imagine- men that seem rather disengaged, disconnected, and closed mouthed IMO- so it is important to make them care. Sometimes having a face in front of them helps. I wonder how many of the men in that room have themselves abused their power.

                Though some buddhist schools debate as part of their traditions and education, the buddhist way is to question, to analyze, to challenge, to debate points. So why does debate seem to be limited to a scheduled time in the monastery amongst the younger monks and nuns, why does it not translate to greater issues? My vision is to give them quotes from certain lamas and have them debate if this is in alignment with the dharma or not. There is a lot of BS that westerners are fed, and it would be a great webcast to see the masters of the schools debating the BS. Thoughts?

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  11. @ Rose

    Thank you for speaking out Rose.

    You’re very brave, it takes a lot of courage to figure all this out and rebuild your life and even more courage to talk about it.

    For years we’ve all been psychologically manipulated and emotionally blackmailed with Samaya and threatened with Vajra Hell, but recently, following all the revelations of abuse, the emphasis has begun to change and we’ve now started hearing that apparently it can be traditionally acceptable to leave your teacher after all, but only providing you do it ‘respectfully’ and ‘quietly’.

    This advice is not only much too late but it’s also completely wrong. It says so much about what’s gone wrong with Tibetan Buddhism in the West, because in almost all cases, either being abused, witnessing it or finding out it’s going on, is the only reason students ever consider leaving a teacher in the first place.

    How is being respectful to abusers and remaining quiet about their abuse going to stop it? how could it possibly help their victims or prevent more from becoming victims?

    It’s the worst thing to do, but it’s exactly what many lamas have done and one of the main reasons things have been allowed deteriorate so much.

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  12. You nailed it Lauren. They want to save face. HHDL did say to speak out, make it public. It’s up to the western students if they are going to tolerate abuse and endorse a twisted version of buddhism that focuses on the lama and not the teachings. I recall HHDL also saying if something is opposed to the dharma then not to follow it. To question.

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  13. The big problem with Tibetan Buddhism is the emphasis on total devotion to the master. This goes against the Buddha’s own advice that we should be “a lamp unto ourselves”. I believe a true teacher should encourage and empower students to connect with and follow their own ‘inner guidance’ as well as be supported by the insights and learnings of the teacher. Guru devotion is a recipe for destruction in the West, I don’t believe it translates well culturally and that is the challenge of Buddhism in the West, how can it be adapted so that is is culturally appropriate, just like Zen in Japan, etc.

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  14. Just wanted to thank all of you who have responded so supportively and energetically to my posts – nice not to feel on my own with this 🙂

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