Dzongsar Khyentse wrote a letter that went to the Rigpa sangha and that I think needs some attention given to it because people tend to think – just as they did with Sogyal – that because he appears wise when teaching dharma that he is always wise. This is simply not true. A series of ill-conceived, inappropriate and arrogant Facebook posts prove that. (Sorry, Dzongsar, but you posted them, not me. I’m just telling it like it is.)
‘Buddhadharma actively encourages its followers to apply critical thinking to everything it teaches’ DZK says in this letter, and this is exactly where we as students have fallen down. We have left our critical thinking behind in the service of devotion. We have swallowed everything our lamas tell us as truth. Why? Because they teach us that we must not criticise them, and so we do not criticise what they say for fear of hell. And yet, what they say is exactly what we must apply our critical thinking to if we are to avoid what happened in Rigpa from happening again. Hence this post.
I honour DZK for being one of the few lamas willing to actually talk about the abuse in Rigpa, and he has been helpful in some respects, but sometimes he does more damage than good with his words, and I don’t think he realises, or cares, how he falls into the manipulative kinds of tactics used by leaders of destructive cults.
He complains in the letter that he ‘can’t help but feel frustrated’ when he hears that ‘Buddhadharma is being labelled a “cult”.’ I have not heard anyone call Buddhadharma a cult, but people have called Rigpa and even DZK’s sangha a cult—and with good reason since this stating a specific allegation (Rigpa is a cult) as a general one (Buddhadharma is a cult) so it’s clearly absurd and so can be easily disregarded in its entirety is an example of cult leader tactics to manipulate their followers into not examining something they don’t want examined.
I wrote a blog post (in 2 parts) showing how Vajrayana is NOT a cult, UNLESS the lama steps over the line into cult territory, and that’s a line that all lamas need to be aware of if they are to avoid doing more harm than good to their students. I have never called Buddhism or Vajrayana a cult. But I do draw attention to the cult tactics used in Rigpa. How else can we avoid such tactics in future?
Listening, hearing, and deep examination
He says of the Rigpa sangha: ‘It would be silly to dwell on the difficulties. Instead, we must look at what we can learn from this situation, correct the misunderstandings and errors, and make Rigpa even better.” I totally agree, and that’s why it’s vital that those who ‘criticise’ are listened to and heard, because we have a role in helping Rigpa to look very deeply at the causes of their problems, something which must be done before they can be corrected. Is DZK willing to look deeply at how his cherished beliefs were misused to enable the abuse? Is he willing to learn about cult dynamics so he can avoid them? They are not inherent in vajrayana as I state clearly in the blog post mentioned above.
Don’t forget the importance of critical thinking
You can read DZK’s full letter to the Rigpa sangha by clicking here but when you read it, note that the contents may manipulate you into wanting to return to Rigpa. It’s basically heaping praise on those who have stayed with Rigpa, and most of the letter is perfectly reasonable and makes valid points, which is why you have to be careful not to also think that the last paragraph is perfectly reasonable. It isn’t. It’s misinformed and divisive, and is using cult tactics to set those inside the group against those outside the group. Don’t fall for it! It’s designed to make you think that those who have stayed are better, wiser, more enlightened etc than those who have left, and that the only possible path to spiritual development is in Rigpa. This is cult tactics 101.
‘There have been, are, and always will be people whose sense of personal dissatisfaction leads them to oppose, slander and, I dare say, even thirst for Rigpa’s ultimate destruction. Instead of wishing such people ill, we must always remember that we are followers of the Buddha. We must therefore feel compassion for all those who stand against us and try to understand the cause of their pain – especially if they were once our Dharma brothers and sisters. Try to embrace them with compassion and pure perception. And rest assured, if their pursuit of the Dharma is genuine, sooner or later they will see the truth and find a path back.’
There are some who do want to see Sogyal in prison and who do want Rigpa’s destruction, but possibly only because Sogyal has not admitted that he behaved wrongly and because Rigpa management has not denounced his behaviour, but I personally know of only a few such people, whereas I know hundreds of people who have left, who see Sogyal and those still stuck in a belief system that enabled abuse, not with ill-will but with compassion and understanding, and who would love to see Rigpa truly reform—not just make some half-hearted attempts that don’t get to the crux of the matter.
Raising up, not bringing down
Our complaints are not designed to bring Rigpa down, but to raise Rigpa student’s awareness of what Rigpa management still has to change. To lump everyone who has left into the extreme category is ignorant and divisive and typical of the black and white thinking attributed to cults, words designed to make members think that only the cult has the answers they seek and that anyone who leaves cuts themselves off from their only chance at spiritual progress. Don’t fall for it. It’s not true. There are many other sanghas and teachers to choose from who study and practice genuine dharma.
I and others like me do not ‘stand against’ Rigpa. My aim has only ever been to assist Rigpa to do the right thing and to genuinely change for the better. The fact that Rigpa management consistently makes poor choices is the only reason I write anything that may seem ‘against’ them. But actually all I’m doing is trying to help them to see the depth of change required. Why? For the sake of the future of genuine dharma.
Slander or truth?
And slander? Is it slander when you all you’re doing is revealing the truth? No. It’s not. I do not write about things that have no basis in truth.
The majority of those who speak publically about the issue of abuse in Tibetan Buddhism do it only for the sake of dharma, to raise awareness of the issue so organisations and individuals will be motivated to deal with the issues fully and intelligently. They speak out because they cannot bear to see the Buddha’s intention that his teachings help beings lessen their suffering be so misused as to cause harm, and until the actual harm (not the feelings of harm) has been admitted to, taken responsibility for, and apologised for, genuine deep change cannot occur, and those who point it out will have to keep pointing it out until they are heard.
Sogyal, Rigpa and their critics are interdependent. Our voices arise only in dependence on some action on which something needs to be said to provide a larger perspective to help students and their teachers understand what exactly is going on—like this letter.
And ‘if their pursuit of the dharma is genuine’? Those I am regularly in contact with who have left Rigpa are the most genuine dharma practitioners I’ve ever met. Why? Because they are highly ethical and compassionate people, they know what is dharma and what is not, and they will not stay with a corrupt lama and an organisation who misuses the teachings for their own gain, because that is not authentic dharma. They know that to advance on the path, you have to do more than claim to study and practice authentic dharma, you must live it authentically.
I have seen students completely shattered by their experience in Rigpa, but still they follow the Buddhadharma in one form or another, many even remain in Tibetan Buddhism just with a different teacher or no specific teacher. To assume that because they have left Rigpa they are not genuine dharma practitioners is quite simply mistaken, especially when the very reason many left is that they are committed to living a life that is authentically dharmic. The depth of wisdom and compassion, and the genuine desire to live a dharmic life that I constantly see in the ex-Rigpa sangha is a constant inspiration to me. These people deserve to be honoured for their courage, honesty, integrity and diligence in living by the dharma, not denounced as slanderers, and their suffering passed off as ‘personal dissatisfaction’.
Don’t be Fooled
To heap praise on those who remain in Rigpa while demonising those who have left is neither wise nor helpful. If Rigpa is to truly change, and I still hope they can, management must learn how they have used, and are still using, cult tactics and give them up. Unfortunately, DZK is only reinforcing some of those tactics here. A great deal of education is required on this matter, as well as honest examination of the real motivations behind our communications.
‘These [kinds of] letters are expecting people to go quietly back to sleep,’ Sangye said in a recent Facebook post on this letter. ‘They are layering ignorance upon the wounds, and it doesn’t heal; it doesn’t help. Of course they are trying to protect their income stream, the number of students in their lineage and the powerful land holdings and bootlickers to maintain them. … It may be full of half-truths or say nice things, but it masks an approval of Vajrayana lamas who abuse.’
Let’s not be fooled into returning to an organisation that has not denounced their lama’s abusive behaviour, and who has chosen spiritual advisors who blame the abuse survivors for their ‘feelings’ of abuse because they ‘don’t understanding vajrayana’ or were ‘possessed by demons’.
DZK asks Rigpa members to ‘feel compassion for all those who stand against us and try to understand the cause of their pain.’ But labelling those who have left as ‘those who stand against us’ shows a lack of understanding of the true situation; it’s lumping us all together under one extremist view so we can be more easily dismissed and ignored.
To try to understand we must do more than listen; we must also hear what people are communicating, and acknowledge their pain. Only then can there be any chance of true compassion. Listen to Sangye:
‘People who are traumatized – it replays over and over. They get worse, not better, and if they are stuck in a circumstance where the person keeps re-traumatizing, they even get beyond PTSD. They get CPTSD [complex post-traumatic stress disorder] as they start to be scared of more and more things. It never really goes away – their life, their precious human birth is made less precious by the abuser.’
And yet DZK, in minimising this kind of suffering as ‘personal dissatisfaction’, shows a lack of the very compassion, he is asking from in students.
I’ll let Sangye have the last word:
‘Love and kindness is about listening, believing the weak, supporting those who are alone. Not further isolating them and shaming them because they couldn’t bring joy to a narcissist. Seriously, it’s so embarrassing for you that you can’t get this. That you can’t even watch HHDL spell it out and understand basic obvious compassion and kindness.’
103 thoughts on “On Dzongsar Khyentse’s Letter to the Rigpa Sangha”
Thanks Tahlia (and Sangye). I realized reading this that I was going into a place of deep discouragement after reading DJKR’s letter– and his latest silly Facebook post–wondering what was left to say in response. But we have to keep speaking truth and compassion or they become eroded– so good work!
I’m surprised you left out a comment on this statement in the letter by Dzongsar K.:
“Sogyal Rinpoche appears to have mishandled, mismanaged and misread a number of events”.
If you read the Lewis-Silkin report, it’s quite absurd to call SR’s actions ‘mishandling or misreading events’…
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True. Thanks for adding that.
You wrote: “students dont criticise the lama cause for fear of hell…” No one…even a lama can not force a person into hell (or push them into lower rams…what sangye wrote)! This is all hokuspokus, spooky and surreal… There is a much higher dimension than a lama, knowing the true motivation in all of our, his, her doing, acting a.s.o. / I am still surprised…what kind of old gone concepts are in peoples minds in Buddhism. Do not fear at all. And do not demonise like OT and KN did. We decide which kind of world we experience and no one will ever give us, what is already given. And, no one is alone…never ever…doesnt matter if you are Buddhist or not.
The fear card never worked for me, but it does for others unfortunately. And some take all the superstition on board as well
With the good wishes for this year, I would like to thank you for your ongoing dialogue on the issue of abuse by Tibetan Buddhist teachers.
I did comment before on this and encounter in the Netherlands some sort of ignorance, as someone announced at facebook a lecture on Lama Sogyal Rinpoches book on Death and Dying, as if nothing had happened in the past years around his person and teachings. So I posted a comment on this announcement saying, that a corrupted teacher can not give true teachings, though the book was even never written by the alledged author.
The letter of DZK, you comment on is as tough.
Of course Buddhism, or the Buddhist doctrine is not questioned, but the teachers that say that they represent it. As we know, misbehaviour is not limited to any religion or teaching, and it may have been of all times, as the representants are just human, and make serious mistakes.
That is what we hold them accountable for.
I wished that Buddhist teachers and scholars would join this quest instead of undermining this.
The more important it is, that we hold together and do not give up!
Just ask yourself: What did Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse know, and when? Other time-honoured principles might come in handy too: Follow the money. Who benefits? Buyer beware. Ignorance of the law does not excuse.
I’m just curious: What has Khandro Rinpoche had to say about all these things? Isn’t she an advisor to Rigpa now in some way, or am I mistaken about this?
Thanks for the link Richard. Yes, Been there, she is an advisor, and she still has not replied to the letter we sent to all the lamas asking if they thought Sogyal’s behaviour was acceptable or not
Well, that’s very revealing — I think that tells me everything about Khandro Rinpoche that I need to know.
Meanwhile, on another platform: http://matthewremski.com/wordpress/dzongsar-jamyang-khyentse-minimizes-clerical-and-institutional-abuse-in-christmas-message-to-rigpa-students/
I don’t know why anyone is surprised that Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse is never on the side of women or victims. he is always on his own “side” and will always promote either those who are just like him, or those he wishes he could be like. he is either just like Sogyal, or he admires him. DKR will NEVER say anything different, which would be a support to women, and if he did, I wouldn’t even trust that he is telling the truth.
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Like many other lamas, DKR is stuck back in the Middle Ages, and even though he tries to be modern, (to get more recruits) it’s as if he came from a culture that is somehow stuck in a time capsule. To understand this culture better, it would be good to study the Middle Ages, and imagine that these lamas have come forward in time. They don’t know what to do in the 21st Century, and they probably never will, because their whole philosophy hasn’t been updated since the Middle Ages.
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(Especially their philosophy toward women.)
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I don’t believe Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse is stuck in the Middle Ages. Some medieval Tibetan notions definitely suit his purposes, but I think he’s a blasé post-modern aristocrat rather than an authentic true believer.
To me, Dzongsar stands out as the Buddshitter par excellence. (Owen Flanagan and I defined Buddshit as ‘self-serving Buddhist bullshit’—it’s the same bullshit, mind you, Buddhists are just lucky to have their own word for it.)
This recent observation by Roger Cohen about Donald Trump’s bull strikes me as particularly apt and acute: “But his essential intuition was into the readiness of Americans, suspended between the real and the virtual, for a post-truth presidency.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/11/opinion/donald-trump-illegal-immigration-border-wall.html)
I’ve come to think that Dzongsar, likewise, is a ‘confidence man’ exploiting Westerners’ susceptibility to the post-truth spirituality he’s peddling. It might explain why Dzongsar’s so fascinated by Donald Trump: they’re kindred spirits, engaged in similar botch jobs.
We poloraize at our own risk. At some point, we need to emphasize communication above all.
“Latour does not scorn these so-called “reactionaries” but seeks to understand the new politics they are building.
Just before the 2016 election, I heard a colleague make the argument that American cities should in effect secede as a kind of progressive archipelago and leave the country’s rural hinterlands to languish in all their anti-modernism — an audacious (or simply oblivious?) vision of liberal gerrymandering.
Then Ubu Roi led the revolt of the archaic against the modern, the local against the global, bending time’s arrow.
Latour’s analysis urges us to grasp why populism now appears most vibrant, or at least most effective, on the far right. Many of us may prefer walled democratic cities — in our own way, we are staycationers too — but we all would be affected by the lack of democratic grassroots beyond those walls.
We may not agree with those people, but to regard them as somehow beyond the polity is a fatal mistake.
Can’t we just get back to the Third Way or Air Miles and the acceptably unequal world we inhabited under the Bloombergs and Obamas? But this is exactly what brought us to the bait-and-switch of grievance and reaction that built up in the long aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.”
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DKR jumps right to the heart of our current situation and, if we heed the criticism, perhaps helps build an immunity for what may come. At least that is his impact on me.
For the first time in generations, observes Latour, we don’t know where we’re going. “the direction of travel has suddenly and mysteriously changed. The long arc of history no longer bends toward progress; at least for now, time’s arrow is bent or twisted or even reversed.”
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I don’t think anyone is interested in how Rigpa/lama cults relate to American politics.
That’s why I was responding just to Rob who brought up American politics.
It’s true that Rob did bring up the subject of American politics, and it could have also ended with his post.
Your point Rob about DKR and his knowledge of Sogyal’s sick behaviour is an excellent one as he was indeed aware for years and years and he did nothing to really help the victims or prevent future harm of countless others. This transgresses the very heart of the Bodhisattva vows. In fact he has mocked and criticised the 8 letter writers, waved the samaya banner and made seriously innapropriate social media postings. This behaviour also obviously harms the reputation of the Buddhadharma itself and only strengthens the argument that Rigpa is in fact a cult.
In all his responses to the outing of Sogyal one needs only to ask Cui bono?
“Your point Rob about DKR and his knowledge of Sogyal’s sick behaviour is an excellent one as he was indeed aware for years and years and he did nothing to really help the victims or prevent future harm of countless others.”
ALL the lamas knew about the abuse for years and continued to prop up Sogyal (and other abusive creeps). That’s why I no longer trust any of them.
I think to say that ‘all’ of them knew is an overstatement. Plenty of teachers did not involve themselves in Rigpa. And all the lamas who taught in Rigpa simply rolled up to Lerab Ling, did their teaching and went away again. They didn’t stay long. And it’s unlikely that S showed his worst behaviour in front of them.
However, some lamas would have seen a few things. Those that came every year perhaps, but culturally they simply would never criticise another teacher. It isn’t done. Anyway some would have known, particularly OT who was offered, and took, women from S’s harem. S offered a woman to at least one other lama that I know of, too, but the person who told me this didn’t know if they accepted. They were appalled that the lama, who was married, didn’t reject the whole notion, but since in the book Karmamudra: The Yoga of Bliss, Sexuality in Tibetan Medicine and Buddhism the author Dr Nida Chenagtsang says, ‘Sexual misconduct is very common amongst high level lamas,’ my guess is that they wouldn’t see anything wrong with it.
So there is a problem with attitude that is a hang over from fuedal times for sure, particularly for women, but I don’t think we can say that ‘all’ the lamas knew about the abuse.
BTW DZK also shows symptoms of narcisistic personality dissorder.
“I don’t believe Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse is stuck in the Middle Ages. Some medieval Tibetan notions definitely suit his purposes, but I think he’s a blasé post-modern aristocrat rather than an authentic true believer.”
I’m not saying DKR isn’t full of Buddshit. (Love the word, lol!) I still think he is full of medieval ideas. He pretends to be modern so he can look “hip” to Westerners. Lamas only look modernist so they can sell their “product” to the masses.
FWIW, I actually think he’s developed mental health issues.
It seems to me that some tibetan Lamas develop strong tendencies towards megalomania due to the uncritical adoration and monetarian donation of mainly western and chinese devotees.
Even once sincere Lamas can go astray that way.
Dharma which human construct in itself is subject to logical fallacies as we all does; so many causes und conditions that led to the events and all of us within this group had are parts to play, most in very small ways; even SL has his prior causes und conditions, his teachers before that und all the ways backwords.
Just maybe SL felt he did things to guide others in way he was deluded by stories of other crazy likes Do Khyentse, other masters said he was unique, cheery pickled to craft a good storyline und thought it help as any interaction was considered good – like breaking a masters cup story.
To be victim one assuming a level of perfection, only we saw the correct ways.
The seven points Mind training come to mind in alls this. Viel Glück.
@ Catlover, matilda7 & Adamo: these observations may all be true, any such (mental health) issues may derive from similar causes to those of cross-cultural (mental health) problems that kick up a row amongst refugees from (ultra-)orthodox Muslim or Hindu communities trying to assimilate Western norms and values—or demonstrate the perceived lack thereof.
And yet, first and foremost, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse strikes me as a bored scion from a privileged background, coasting along on the waves of adulation from sycophants who he doesn’t even respect—all expenses paid, of course.
Dzongsar poses as a well-read intellectual, but based on what I’ve seen I’d conclude he’s a dilettante peddling cheap, well-worn cliché’s. Dzongsar wouldn’t be able to hold his own in a debate among the senior faculty and students of most Western institutions of higher education, I think, nor among true scholars of any other religious denomination. Take a look at the transcript of Bob Thurman ‘debating’ Daniel Dennett (http://web.archive.org/web/20060503091655/http://blog.mindandreality.org/files/den_raft_transcript.html) or listen to the audio (https://www.dropbox.com/s/3t15zd216427ix5/Dennet-Thurman%20Debate%20%2813-2-2006%29.mp3?dl=0), or imagine a debate between Dzongsar and Charles Taylor and you’ll see what I mean.
I tend to compare Dzongsar to the Dalai Lama’s interpreter Thupten Jinpa (1958), who’s used his exposure to the Western history of ideas and Science and opportunity to critically engage the Tibetan tradition in a much more sophisticated, creative, constructive and enduring fashion. If I imagine a discussion between these two Tibetan contemporaries on the (de)merits of Western culture and society, Dzongsar would look like a complete and utter twit, I’m afraid.
I am not sure that DKR is any crazier than a lot of lamas, lol! 😀
I’ve posted this quote and these links on Matthew Remski’s site also, but they might come in handy here. Martine Batchelor said:
“But, what is dangerous is the fact that the student need their teacher to be amazing. They think the teacher is totally, completely awakened. And then, after that everything the teacher does they read as awakened. But it’s not. They are just human beings. They may have read a bit. They may have done some things. They may have been born. They may have been discovered. The idea of the rinpoche: This is the total luck of the draw! Some turn out good, like the Dalai Lama, some turn don’t turn out good, like Sogyal Rinpoche. But they all have the same title: they are rinpoche. As soon as you hear the name ‘rinpoche’, you think that person must be great. But it is just an accident, the fact that they think this person must be the reincarnation of that person. But you have no idea: They are two or three years old, how are they going to turn out?”
She spoke some other words well worth listening to about Buddhist teachers deemed to be so ‘vast’ that they are ‘beyond ethics’. Because Martine speaks English with a heavy accent, I made a verbatim transcript:
It’s a mindf*ck of epic proportions to be declared ‘enlightened’ as a kid. It’s quite like believing that twentysomethings like John Lennon and Eric Clapton are God, or that Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Bob Geldof, and Bono are ‘saints’. Besides, it’s one thing to be called that, it’s another thing altogether to have to (dis)believe and (dis)prove it yourself. Just ask Brian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHbzSif78qQ
@ robhogendoorn Thanks for posting that, Rob.
“But, what is dangerous is the fact that the student need their teacher to be amazing. They think the teacher is totally, completely awakened. And then, after that everything the teacher does they read as awakened.”
Here it seems Martine puts much of the responsibility with the students and I’m glad to hear that.
However, there is also a strawman argument she makes, “they say ethics is just relative, if you are awakened you can basically do whatever you want.”
I never heard Sogyal Rinpoche make such a statement (generally he warned against that kind of thinking, at least publically) but I did hear senior and regular students make these kind of comments when the teacher was questioned. The pressure to conform was very strong from the students side.
Martine’s criticisms of the teacher raised similar questions I tried to raise 20 years ago with hopes for further dialogue. Unfortunately there wasn’t an environment within the Rigpa Organization to have such a conversation.
Now, our main thrust is reversed. We criticise the teachers and teachings, but there still isn’t an environment for conversation among current and former students. We’ve toggled positions while the pressure to conform remains. All requests for deepening our listening with one another are ignored, rejected or even attacked. It seems to me that we activate similar attitudes toward those with a different view as we did back then.
Our primary focus remains on the teachers, yet it seems to me that we are the ones in need of healing. By turning toward one another (even if we have differing views) perhaps we might reverse the past course of events and encourage one another to keep questioning and inquiring in all directions. This is what brought me to the dharma in the first place and the emergence of these difficult events seem like all the more reason to continue with this attitude.
I certainly appreciate your investigations in the particular direction you’ve chosen. As you wrote, that we need to include both the “beautiful and ugly,” in ourselves and others. I hope that one day we can talk with one another about these issues and perhaps discover in one another the passion for life, healing and non-violence that might bring us together in solidarity.
“In our global age of competing religions, incommensurate value systems, and widely divergent cultures all bumping up against one another, the capacity for sympathetic understanding might well emerge from being something barely mentioned in any tradition to being a primary virtue and a characteristic of a mature consciousness. This ability to relate to what is alien on its own terms and in its own framework—and to navigate a multiplicity of contexts with a kind of multilingual fluency—is consistent with a Buddhist outlook and with Buddhist values like compassion, sympathetic joy, dependent origination, and nonattachment to views. But there is something new about it as well, something that is called forth by the world we find ourselves in. It is both a demand and an opening.”
‘G.K. Chesterton remarked somewhere that if a person is schooled in classical (or any of the other great religions) the danger is not that he will believe in nothing but that he will believe in anything. The truth of that is horrifically demonstrated in “The Spiritual Supermarket: An Account of Gurus Gone Public in America,” by Robert Greenfield, which is a kind of antic comparative religion, or varieties of manic religious experience in the “now” world.’ (Edmund Fuller, ‘Seeking Salvation in Houston’s Astrodome’, The Wall Street Journal, Monday, August 11, 1975).
Those horrific demonstrations were recorded nearly 45 years ago. Just ask yourself: who were these people who ‘knew’ that the likes of Chögyam Trungpa and Sogyal Lakar were ‘enlightened’. What was their schooling in classical religion, really? What did they know, really? Why should they be authorities on anything? Why would anyone believe anyone believing anything?
I have completely lost respect and time for these lamas. DJK needs to come out of his smug and arrogant little orifice and see the real light of day.
As a former member of Rigpa who was sexually harrassed by SR, as well as having witnessed first hand his abuse to others, to summarise SR’s behaviour as ‘mismanagement’ is so wide of the mark it beggars belief. The letter has also implied that somehow poor Rigpa members who have stayed on are the victims, it’s completely turned the tables around, a perverse inversion, even though many of them were complicit and colluded in the knowledge that the abuse was taking place. It’s like Rigpa has become the martyr, as if christians being thrown to the lions, again it’s such a twisted avoidance and denial with no acknowledgment and a flat refusal to look at the crimes, and DJK has even gone as far as to honour their devotion. That makes sense doesn’t it, honour and reward someone for following an abuser. How sick can you get. Now Rigpa is using the letter to make themselves feel exonerated and all virtuous, they always seem to need somone or something outside of themselves to tell them what’s right, talk about ‘sheeple’. These lamas, because of the Dharma seem to have impunity, and Rigpa seems incapable of calling it out as it is and reclaiming self soveignty. Unbelievable.
Hi Sarah – excellent comment – DKR is extremely manipulative.
Btw, as a very young neophyte student of DJK I was groomed for sex by him from the start. Fortunately I eventually made it clear I wouldn’t go there with him – thank goodness!
Like Matilda, I think he has lost his way and is manifesting something unhealthy. He is only compounding the harmful situation with former and current students of Sogyal and is part of the problem not the solution in my view.
“I have completely lost respect and time for these lamas.”
You can say that again! Me too! Can we start a “Me Too” movement for those who are sick of Buddshit from these lamas?
“That makes sense doesn’t it, honour and reward someone for following an abuser. How sick can you get.”
Unfortunately, this seems to often be the case. Students are honored for following abusers because the abusive teachers are seen as Marpas in action, and the students are seen as mini Milarepas for staying devoted to the abusive gurus.
DKR is just repeating the fundamentalist Vajrayana view and he is really just a mirror for the whole tradition. I’m not condoning him, and I agree with you that he is not helpful, and that he is part of the problem. However, if you listen to just about ANY traditionalist, when they are speaking to a Vajrayana audience and not the general public, you’ll find that they all say pretty much the same thing, with possible FEW exceptions.
In 2010, Sogyal gave a keynote speech during a conference at Emory University: http://dalailama.emory.edu/previous/2010.html
An edited version of that speech (along with a brief text by Philip Philippou) was published in Kathryn Goldman Schuyler’s ‘Inner Peace—Global Impact: Tibetan Buddhism, Leadership, and Work’ (2012).
You can read these two brief texts through this link:
I invite you to read the text and ponder the list of attendees of this conference and of the contributors to this book.
Mary Finnigan’s essay ‘Behind the Thangka’s’ about Sogyal Lakar appeared the same year that the conference was held. The Canadian documentary ‘In the Name of Enlightenment’ about Sogyal Lakar was broadcast and appeared on the internet before the book was published.
Rob, I was at that conference. I have a good memory of my own empowerment, of standing up and walking out in the middle of Sogyal’s speech and not returning until he was gone. His speech was about his “Dalai Lama center” in upstate New York– an enterprise that never came to fruition and had nothing to do with the topic of the conference which was the Emory -program. It was not what I would call a “keynote” speech (thought perhaps Rigpa would want to present it as such)– it couldn’t have lasted more than ten minutes, fifteen max– the Dalai Lama’s talk would have been the keynote speech. And there were some great talks from the Emory people on their research.
Over the years, I have seen Sogyal push in to be part of the Dalai Lama’s fame. I have seen him push others out of the way in order to be one of the first to offer a khata etc. This looked the same to me. Sogyal did not appear at any point with the Dalai Lama during that conference. There was a luncheon given for donors with His Holiness. I saw Sogyal at the entrance to this luncheon, but not at the luncheon itself.
I don’t think it wise to read too much into this.
Here we have it, don’t we, Joanne? Sogyal Lakar and Philip Philippou upgrade a sideshow to a ‘keynote speech’, with the kind cooperation of the (perhaps naive) editor, Kathryn Goldman Schuyler, who ran no background check whatsoever.
You sell yourself short, I think: your observations are very worthwhile, and I’d encourage you to document them in writing as much as you can. Sogyal and his entourage have been at this game for decades, and I believe it’s very worthwhile to investigate their modus operandi by examining examples such as these thoroughly.
Part of the conclusion of the paper I presented during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion was:
“The process by which Sogyal Lakar’s authority as a Tibetan lama was construed, and from which the power over his followers derived, might be dubbed ‘enlightenment by association’. Even though he was clearly out of his depth among the distinguished exponents of Tibetan Buddhism he mingled with, Sogyal came to be seen as one of their own. (…) The responsibility for Sogyal’s prêt-à-porter Tibetan Buddhist image is his, but not his alone: the agency in the making of a lama comes with responsibility and accountability for all involved.”
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one. To gain insight into the ongoing (re-)construction of Sogyal’s ‘authority’ by thoroughly examining episodes such as these, is vitally important, I think. Not just for historical reasons, but because making cases such as these fully transparent serves a warning and has a preventive effect.
Some evils self-organize. Their catalyst is ignorance—not malice or evil genius. They involve bystanders, willing executioners, profiteers, and outside observers who know better but remain silent. Without losing sight of Sogyal’s personal responsibility and accountability, I believe it’s important to minutely examine their role as well.
The content of these two texts goes to show the almost schizophrenic disconnect between Sogyal’s and Philippou’s self-presentation and self-promotion and others’ traumatic experience of Sogyal’s ‘experiential’ guidance at the time.
One striking quote that stands out for me, is this:
“Every student had a carer, who was like a counselor and looked after their emotional and practical needs. We had some very experienced therapists who were also very good Dharma practitioners. Whenever students needed, the carers were on hand to help them, and through this experience they gained new insights. What I hope will emerge from this is a new kind of therapy—one that combines Western experience with deep Dharmic understanding.”
This ‘new kind of therapy’ was dubbed ‘Rigpa Therapy’, a traumatizing perversion of Dharma and (psycho-)therapy administered by dilettantes, given allure by its presentation in the company of distinguished experts in their fields on the podium of Emory University and in Goldman Schuyler’s book.
Just ask yourself: how was this even possible?
Meanwhile, I’ve found an editing error in the text, here’s the corrected version: https://www.dropbox.com/s/w4u8x827ss12ylm/Sogyal%20Lakar%20-%20Tibetan%20Buddhism%20in%20Modern%20Western%20Culture%20%282012%29.pdf?dl=0
Yes Rob and even in regard to HHDL’s visits to Rigpa Centers, we only know what happened and what was said from Rigpa officials. They frame visits in heavily edited books and neither video nor audio are available. In the video and audio, the overall tone of the meetings and teachings — and many important interchanges and teachings from HH might have shown some surprising elements.
For example, I have a video of a teaching given by HH in Denmark in 2003. Sogyal is present at this teaching, sitting in the front row and looking rather more overweight than usual. At one point, HH makes a joke about a lama who was so overweight that when he tried to get up from a chair, the chair came with him. His Holiness laughed and laughed over this joke.
And in the publication from his 2000 visit to Lerab Ling, edited by Patrick Gaffney, they do a plug for Rigpa at the end, giving the addresses and phone numbers to all the centers and extolling Sogyal’s qualifications and listing all the great teachers who have visited Rigpa centers. I have never seen anything like that in all the Dalai lama texts I have read.
Sogyal is not listed in the 2010 conference programme: http://dalailama.emory.edu/TheVisit2010-PROGRAM.pdf.
He can be seen sitting in the audience on the front row, next to Lodi Gyari and Richard Gere, during the opening session of the International Conference on Tibetan Buddhism (at 21:15, 36:1739:38 53:17, 1:00:07, for instance): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9IB_Lr3SiA
At the time, Sogyal was still a board member of the International Campaign for Tibet, so it figures that he would be seated next to Gyari and Gere. Apparently, Sogyal’s talk wasn’t filmed or published on line. It’s hard to believe his talk would have been billed as a ‘keynote speech’.
Here Sogyal is during his talk on the panel ‘Tibetan Buddhism in Modern Western Culture’, retrieved through Archive.org and Vimeo.com: https://vimeo.com/17958774
@ Rob Hogendoorn re the vimeo discussion on “Tibetan Buddhism in Modern Western Culture’. – Sogyal = hypocrisy or wishful-thinking. It is a tragi-comedy when we hear him say about Rigpa that…. “The most important thing is the loving care, both the care within the sangha and with the therapy in emotional work. The teacher’s personal attention and care is also crucial for the student.”… He portrays a dream that was ardently shared by so many in Rigpa until they saw it turning into a nightmare. I look forward to a conference where these same western panelists discuss why that was the case. I have come across many ex-Rigpa students who are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives and recover from the trauma of being deceived by both Sogyal, his senior students and in particular the so-called Rigpa Care program of therapists who were practising gas-lighting. The man may have had the dream, but was totally ill-suited to bring it to fruition and has caused immense suffering to many people.
Rob, I’m a little confused about this Emory conference– I found a video clip of S looking very important as a main speaker at Emory in 2010– but it wasn’t the Emory conference that I attended– nor is the transcript what I heard him say.
The conference I attended was on compassion– the video I saw S talking in was a conference on “Tibetan Buddhism in Modern Culture.” I attended a three day event, but maybe it included another day, a separate thing on TB.
Anyway, I think he was a keynote speaker in Emory at some point, but not the conference I attended. So I’m sorry for the confusion!
I think you may be reading too much into the interactions between the Dalai lama and Sogyal over the years. It’s clear that they were buddy, buddy for many years and that the Dalai Lama never shunned him. It’s tempting to try and read micro interactions and try to find “evidence” that the Dalai Lama and Sogyal were not closely associated, but I think the fact that Sogyal was sitting next to Richard Gere and Gyari speaks for itself.
@Catlover, you are following the Rigpa script perfectly– the “buddy buddy” relationship between Sogyal and HHDL is exactly what they have wanted to portray and orchestrate over the years. I am only pointing out that they have controlled most of the information we have about this– as the “keynote address” silliness demonstrates. Sitting next to Richard Gere fits that script of Sogyal pushing to the front perfectly.
I am not reading anything into it, not concluding anything in this case– I think you are doing that.
I used to be where you are right now, so I can understand why you are trying so hard to look for anything that will support what you want to believe. As for myself, reality has already smacked me in the face, and I am slowly still coming out of my trance and back to cold, hard reality.
Catlover, I don’t think I’m in a trance. In my “reality” I would never judge an entire situation based on who sat next to who. My reality is one where there are no black and white solid conclusions. Things are complicated and never all one thing or the other. Even Sogyal has redeeming qualities and has helped some people– which of course can never atone for the fact that he has committed crimes and harmed many, including myself.
As for the Dalai Lama, my point was only that we don’t have access to the full reality of his actions. Rigpa has always spun his relationship with S in a certain way that we can never rely on as being the full truth. My perspective is that His Holiness is a very famous leader who is aging and is swarmed by media and famous and infamous people wherever he goes– but has to be conscious every moment that millions of Tibetans inside Tibet and in India rely on him to lead them through their darkest time and that his every word might be conveyed to them. He said some things in his recent visit to The Netherlands that were not accurate (such as the date that he relinquished his position as political leader of Tibet), demonstrating that he found the trip challenging and probably won’t return to Europe.
As a leader His Holiness makes some decisions we might agree with and some we might disagree with, but judging his motivations is an entirely different matter and this is where you and I differ. And I don’t think it is realistic to judge my motivations either!
I was talking about my own trance when I said I was coming out of it. I honestly think the lamas have the ability to put people into a trance and I believe I’ve been under one for many years, and so are many other people.
All those things you mentioned about HHDL’s interactions with Sogyal may or may not have any meaning, like when HHDL made a joke about fat lamas. You can say I’m reading stuff into what HHDL does, but aren’t you doing the same thing in your own way? Do you really know any more than I do about a celebrity that neither one of us knows personally?
Maybe Sogyal grabbed a seat next to Richard Gere and L. Gyari in order to look good, but it’s highly more likely that where he was sitting actually meant he is together with them. Tibetans always take seating and placement very seriously. I have to think that Sogyal wouldn’t be sitting next to them if he wasn’t close with them. The Dalai Lama himself said that Sogyal was his “dear friend” so why shouldn’t his closest associates be with him? You might want to believe that Sogyal grabbed a seat near them, but it happens way too often for it to be just a coincidence. They wouldn’t let him sit near them all the time if they didn’t regard him as one of their own.
“He said some things in his recent visit to The Netherlands that were not accurate (such as the date that he relinquished his position as political leader of Tibet), demonstrating that he found the trip challenging and probably won’t return to Europe.”
I agree HHDL probably won’t be returning to Europe, or anywhere outside of India, for that matter. In fact, I noticed on his schedule that he will be staying close to Dharamsala, and traveling very little, even within India. I also noticed that various groups are now going to be doing a LOT of long life ceremonies for him. It is obvious that something is really VERY wrong with HHDL’s health, and people are starting to know about, or at least suspect that something is wrong.
@Catover, I think you’re reading too much Chris Chandler and Indy Hack lol. So rather than believe those two, I believe HH when he says that his health is good and he will be with us for quite a while longer. I actually find Indy Hack’s stuff to be very offensive in that way.
I’m not saying that “Indy Hack” is reliable, but I don’t trust what the Tibetan government in exile says about HHDL either. I think the truth is somewhere in between what “Indy hack” says and what the Tibetan governments says. I think HHDL will certainly not die before the year is out, (something “Indy hack” claims), but I don’t think he is doing all that well either and there is a lot the Tibetan government isn’t telling us.
Personally, I think it’s possible that they might “pull another 5th Dalai Lama” on us and try to conceal it when HHDL actually passes on.They might gradually have HHDL fade out of public view, have him go into retreat, and when he actually dies, they won’t admit he already died. They would say he is still in retreat. I’m not saying they will do this for sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they did. In fact, Wouldn’t it be strange if his next incarnation is like the 6th Dalai Lama, lol? 😀 It’s history repeating all over again. HHDL has often says he “follows in the footsteps of the 5th” so why wouldn’t he die in the same way….in total secret? Also, why wouldn’t his next incarnation be like the 6tth, lol? 🙂 He has already set the stage for that by resigning from politics. Now he is free to be a poet/songwriter in his next life, lol! 😀
Please @CAtlover, try to refrain from participating in that conspiracy rubbish– for no other reason than it is highly offensive and hurtful to the Tibetan people, both inside Tibet and in India. Just let it be, for goodness sake. Please. Tibetans have suffered enough.
And as for all your predictions, I suspect they will go the way of years of Indy Hack predictions, into the never never. Indy reminds me a little of Trump, who lies incessantly, but when his lie is caught out, he just continues on unfazed.
I am not “participating in that conspiracy rubbish” and I am going by the Tibetan’s own history. History tends to repeat itself, so why wouldn’t it be possible they could pull the same stunt again? I no longer wish to argue with you. Bye.
One last follow up…
Also, I’m not going by Indy Hack. I am going by the Dalai Lama’s own actions. He is no longer traveling, and he is staying in Dharamsala. He barely has ANY travels scheduled even within India anymore. I see an increasing number of long life ceremonies coming up for him. You yourself said the European trip had taken a toll on him and he would no longer be traveling in Europe. You yourself seem to be sensing something is wrong, or you wouldn’t have said that. I guess you just don’t want to believe that HHDL is sick, and I can’t blame you for that, since anyone who cares about him would want to believe he is healthy. But I think everyone needs to start preparing by realizing that he really isn’t well or he would be traveling. Age has nothing to do with it. You can be old and still travel. He would not stay at home if he felt good.
Can you stick to statements that are hard facts and would be beneficial to survivors of abuse? Perhaps you feel the need to be heard for whatever reason, but for some readers here it feels like when you post it is just more of the same unfounded tabloid junk with no credibility. What is your agenda exactly? Your statements have dissuaded dharma students I know from posting and feeling comfortable and safe joining in.
This blog should aim to be beneficial to others and statements should be mindful and accurate. Let’s keep the integrity that it should have.
@all in response to the recent @catlover posting:
HH the Dalai Lama is quite well! He is getting older and with age (in his 80s) understandably cutting back on his unbelievable schedule which does not just involve stepping on a plane. So let’s set the record straight and not buy into these ridiculous gossipy unfounded statements. There is no problem with HH’s health.
This blog should aim to be beneficial to others and statements should be mindful and accurate. Let’s keep the integrity that it should have.”
to clarify, the postings from moonfire have been absolutely excellent and thoughtful. This statement above is in regards to monitoring gossip and nonsense.
@stick to the facts,
In other words, you want to have my comments censored because you don’t like what I say. I would like to know who you “know” who feels uncomfortable posting here just because of my comments. I think you’re some regular poster who is going by a new alias, and the “people” you know is probably just one friend you have griped with in private about me. Whatever. I don’t care.
Frankly I feel uncomfortable here because of some of the fundamentalists who try to shoot down my comments every time I say something that doesn’t fit with their world view. My so-called ‘agenda’ is nothing more than speaking out about what I believe is a corrupt, morally bankrupt institution of (mostly) men who want nothing but power and control, who are dangerous to others, and who lie and cover up the truth.
Frankly, I no longer wish to post on a forum where people think they can “reform” either Rigpa or Tibetan Buddhism in general. The whole thing is rotten to the core. Maybe it started out as a valid spiritual path, and there are some good aspects to it, but it quickly got poisoned by lamas who think they are mini gods incarnate.
So, Joanne, or whoever you really are, there is really no need to try and kick me out. I am done here, and this blog is closing soon anyway, so why all the fuss? Apparently, Moonfire didn’t think I should be censored or banned, so your attempt to get me censored is totally useless.
@stick to the facts (or Joanne),
And in terms of the Dalai Lama, I wasn’t even criticizing him. it’s ironic that when I am not really criticizing anyone, people get offended and touchy. Why is that? I am merely stating what I believe to be the truth about his state of health. I am basing it on my observations of his behavior, and no way do I believe the lame excuse from his handlers about his age preventing him from travel. Just because you don’t like my opinion, that doesn’t give you the right to say I should be censored.
This is not Joanne– she is not the only one who takes issue with your unfounded statement(s). I hardly think we are fundamentalists.
As for your antibuddhist agenda, I am glad it is now clear to all and totally out in the open.
Now let’s move on and lift the integrity of this blog to keep it beneficial.
What I should say is that I have no use for this forum because I am attacked by people who don’t share my point of view. Differing views would be okay with me if the people with different views could have a rational discussion, without trying to shut down any opinion or conversation they don’t agree with.
@stick to the facts,
Who are you really? I am sure you’re a regular poster here, so why not just come out in the open?
As for my “antibuddhist agenda”….yes I am now an EX Buddhist. I have decided it is no longer my path because certain parts of the Buddhist doctrine really have started to bother me, and because the lamas practice left hand path tantra and cannot be trusted. I started out as a devotee of certain lamas, then I was on the fence for a long while, then I was becoming an ex, and now I have finally reached the point where I can say I am an EX. I have always been honest here about where I am at in regard to Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism in particular, so don’t make it look like I was trying to be sneaky. If I sound more harsh now than I used to it’s because I have finally made up my mind about what I truly believe.
I have no more use for this forum, since it is populated with people who do not share my point of view. I need to find more like-minded people to talk to, so goodbye. I wish you all luck trying to sort out all this mess and confusion.
@Catlover please don’t fall into conjecture here. We like to stick to facts. My apologies to @stick to the facts that I didn’t get here sooner, and my thanks to you and @joanneclark7 for picking up on this.
The integrity of the blog is compromised if we start making assumptions and conjectures. Had I got here sooner I would have deleted your comment Catlover, not because you don’t have a right to your opinon, but simply because it is conjecture and what can happen when we allow conjecture is that some people pick up on it and take it as truth and it can be the beginning of all sorts of false rumours, which we certainly don’t want to be responsible for.
I have left the comment because the responses to it are helpful and show a mature response by commenters, which is something I really need here since I can’t get to check the comments often.
I am leaving, so don’t bother to try and censor me. I am disappointed and thought you accepted me here, but I can see that you are just like all the rest. I was being honest about the Dalai Lama and I was merely expressing what I truly believe. other people can say it’s wrong, and maybe it is, but do you really know? Not trying to “start rumors” but the “rumor” is already floating all over about whether he is ill or not, so what difference does it make if I say something?
I am going through a rough time, so I’m sorry for being prickly with you, and with Joanne, and others here. I can understand why you don’t want rumors started and I certainly don’t want to start false rumors either. Also, my opinion was based on HHDL’s lack of travel lately, and other things he is doing/not doing, rather than because of rumors from ‘Indy Hack’ or others.
So I will add the disclaimer that I am just stating things as I see it, and I have no info to prove or disprove anything I think about that particular issue. I only brought it up because Joanne herself said that the trip to Europe was too much for him and I was merely agreeing with her. I added something about his health and she jumped on me and said I was listening to ‘Indy Hack’ and then I responded and so on, and so on.
Hi, I’m very sorry to hear you’re going through a rough time, I hope you get past it soon.
I enjoy your comments and I think it would be a great shame if you stopped posting. If some people find your contributions provocative or annoying then that’s good because it stimulates debate, without which this blog would have fizzled out long ago.
I can understand why you would want to stop, but remember the wise words of Lao Tzu: “…….if they were not pissed off, it would not be the Tao.”
I certainly support your right to “conjecture” and everyone else’s for that matter……because let’s face it: a very large part of Buddhism itself, life in general and much of what we all express here, is precisely that isn’t it?
If this discussion only involved sticking exclusively to proven facts it would something else entirely, and about as much fun as reading a train timetable. *
* No offense intended to Buddhist train spotters.
“I certainly support your right to “conjecture” and everyone else’s for that matter……because let’s face it: a very large part of Buddhism itself, life in general and much of what we all express here, is precisely that isn’t it?”
I mean that could be used as a general excuse for everything and anybody, for any desired reason.
It could be applied as a tool to escape responsibility.
@catlover You know why you writing here, I hope so. Checking other peoples motivation ?
Thanks, Pete, I’ve enjoyed your comments too. (I am surprised you’re still here, since comments like ours aren’t encouraged.) However, there are too many people here who can’t carry on an objective conversation, so what’s the point? Also, I thought this blog was closing, but I guess every time DKR says some new, controversial thing, there will be a new post (and discussion) about him.
@Catlover – I agree with Pete and didn’t have a problem with your comments. Can’t honestly see why people would be put off posting because of them either – seems extreme to me. If someone would like to comment on a blog article or converse via comments I think the basic rules of respect apply here and no-ones been ‘run outa town’ by other commenters have they?! Well – until now maybe….
“Can’t honestly see why people would be put off posting because of them either – seems extreme to me.”
Me too, lol! 😀 That’s why I no longer wish to post here. Too much extremism for me.
Besides, the mod has spoken. She said she would have deleted my comment, but decided to leave it there because of the other “mature” responses. That is the last straw for me. I don’t wish to be made an example out of by the mods just because my I couldn’t *prove* that everything I said was accurate. (Sometimes things are obvious and don’t need to be proven, but that’s neither here nor there.) This is not a courtroom, and I don’t see why everything I say has to be backed up with evidence in order to be considered a legitimate comment.
@Richard New In furtuer when you post videos and links to other articles, could you also say what about them is relevant to the discussion please. Thanks.
Thanks for your comment.
The David Brooks article points out the danger of callout culture and the danger of the undertaking taking place here. The Venerable W is a continuation of that theme carried to the extremes Brooks refers to.
I didn’t comment because I don’t have a particular take on these examples, but thought they might encourage discussion as they are powerful explorations of the topics we are bringing up here.
Hope that helps,
The Dalai Lama and the Mayo Clinic in the United States have confirmed that he is suffering from prostate cancer, and has been treated with radiation therapy:
“The Dalai Lama is at the Mayo Clinic in the United States for treatment of a prostate condition. The clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said in a statement Wednesday that the 80-year-old Tibetan Buddhist leader is being treated for a prostate condition “that is common for men of his age. The statement says his doctors report no major concerns and expect he will “respond well to treatment and make a full recovery.” (20 January 2016, source: https://www.kansascity.com/latest-news/article55743355.html)
“His Holiness mentioned that in 2015 his physicians found indications of prostate cancer and decided to give him focused radiation treatment instead of surgery last year. This year his recent check-up at the Mayo Clinic has revealed all traces have gone. His Holiness declared that he’s physically healthy, mentally sharp and sleeps well.” (25 June 2017, source: https://www.dalailama.com/news/2017/addressing-2000-tibetans-in-boston)
“A few days ago I visited the Mayo Clinic for a check-up and the doctors gave me the all clear. They judge the prostate treatment I received last year to have been a success. (18 June 2017, source: https://www.dalailama.com/news/2017/visit-to-san-diego-zoo-and-meetings-with-indians-and-tibetans)
Prostate cancer is very common among men in the Dalai Lama’s age bracket. Treatment may indeed reduce it to a chronic disease without much additional symptoms or discomfort, even if the cancer has metastasized into the bones, for instance. At this age, it’s quite common to die *with* it from other causes, rather than *from* the prostate cancer itself.
I’ve had a one on one conversation with the Dalai Lama on the philosophy of law for thirty minutes in his residence. I’ve personally attended several teaching cycles in the Netherlands from start to finish. I’ve watched and listened to many more teaching cycles. I’ve spent countless hours closely watching raw footage of the Dalai Lama’s interactions with scientists in his residence and elsewhere from the late 1980s through the 2010s. I’d say I’ve become highly familiar with the Dalai Lama’s actual presence, habits of speech, mannerisms, et cetera.
I’ve attended all public events during the Dalai Lama’s latest visit to the Netherlands (14-17 September 2018), and I’ve observed him up close during a press conference in Amsterdam. So, for what they’re worth, here are my personal observations.
I’ve relatives and friends in their early eighties who are full of vitality, considering their age. The last time I saw him, the Dalai Lama appeared to be much less so. He’s visibly aged, and he now strikes me as very old. During his visit to the Netherlands, he needed physical assistance while walking, sitting down, and standing up. He was scooped in and out of his seat by a person standing behind it. To me personally, the Dalai lama seemed less alert, quick-witted and sharp during onstage interactions with interlocutors, and his contributions to the conversations seemed somewhat routinely and repetitive. The only moments I felt that the Dalai Lama was ‘his usual self’—that is, how I like to remember him from previous occasions—occurred during his Buddhist teaching in Rotterdam.
The thing is: that’s only natural.
The Dalai Lama is as prone to old age, sickness, and death as we are. If the Buddha was, why wouldn’t he? Why should we assume that the Dalai Lama is less repetitive, more vital than so many other octogenarians? There are many exceptions to the rule, sure, but why would it be a given that he is among them? The simple truth is that most people over 80 would become exhausted fast while traveling through time zones, interacting onstage with complete strangers in front of large expecting audiences, and answering a constant barrage of questions by reporters less than half their age.
I distinctly remember thinking that it’s time that the Dalai Lama’s entourage should simply stop the spectacle. I also think his well-wishers everywhere—those who are serious about wishing him well, that is—should stop inviting the Dalai Lama for the same reason, and grant him peace. It may be presumptuous of me, but that’s how I truly feel.
Rob my impression is that he was less alert at the Netherlands, as you say, and his arthritis was really bothering him (I’m almost twenty years younger and I can hobble like him sometimes with my arthritis, it’s a nuisance that way)– however, when he is home in Dharmsala, he is much sharper, vibrant and youthful. It is my impression that he simply is ready to stop the travel. Bodhgaya is also exhausting for anyone.
The other day I came across a cartoon in ‘Tibetan Review’ (29 (7), July 1994, p. 7) that seems appropriate in this context.
It addresses the discomfort some people feel while confronting the prospect of the Dalai Lama’s eventual demise:
Thank you for your direct observations @Rob and @Joanne.
The schedule HH’s staff had been previously allowing for was entirely too demanding for someone of his age- and for someone only 1/4 of his age for that matter. In order to live as long as HH intends to, this cutting down of HH schedule is imperative. It is a relief to see this. He’s only showing the natural signs of aging so accommodations are being made.
Sorry to put my reply out of sequence here, but there’s no individual reply function under your comment.
Yes, I agree with you, conjecture can be used as a tool……because it is just that. Tools are useful but essentially neutral, not bad per se, and we don’t prohibit them just because they can also be used to harm, so it seems rather odd and inconsistent to be censorious about an essential and unavoidable activity that we all do constantly.
After all, conjecture is just a working hypothesis made on the basis of incomplete information, where some facts are uncertain or not yet available. This could describe our reaction to many situations that we encounter every day, such as when we make very broad but often useful and valid generalizations where it’s obviously impossible to know all the specifics in all circumstances.
Like your comment for instance.
I can’t say I ever met anyone who didn’t use conjecture, although I’ve met quite a few people who were convinced they only ever stated the ‘facts’.
It must be wonderful to have that degree of certainty.
If you would be a lawyer I would hire you instantly to talk me out of the shit…… really.
I admire such a functional eloquence, even if its not helpful in terms of buddhism.
It’s very kind of you to say so, and I’ll take it as a compliment rather than an inference that I’m a slippery bastard who could sell ice to Eskimos.
Sadly, in my case, a moderate degree of eloquence isn’t any guarantee of intelligence; I know this because I was dim enough to spend 15 years in a cult believing it was ( in others at least ) I also thought it was a guarantee of sincerity and honesty, but it’s not that either.
So I think you’re right: many things might be helpful in terms of Buddhism, but eloquence isn’t necessarily one of them.
“because I was dim enough to spend 15 years in a cult believing it was ( in others at least ) I also thought it was a guarantee of sincerity and honesty, but it’s not that either. ”
I think that happened to almost all of us writing here, we seems to have this in common.
“So I think you’re right: many things might be helpful in terms of Buddhism, but eloquence isn’t necessarily one of them.”
In tibetan buddhism is, as far as I know at least from differnt good sources, eloquency higly admired and seems to to be a sign of being blessed, being wise and so on.
In fact, some gifted talkers of tb could sell ice to eskimos but are helpless towards their own slyness.
I understood you gave up buddhism completely but you keep on fighting against it worst ecxcesses and “unhealthy products”.
In opposite do I still consider tibetan buddhist practice worth to be practiced, but I want it be freed of cultural stuff, traditional misbeliefs, feudal habits and fundamental misunderstandings and more , so as believes as widely practiced within Rigpa that “emptiness” means one could whatever one desires free of consequences is a good example of gross misunderstanding.
I would really know if you still have interest to see how much Nagarjuna – as an example of buddhist philosophy- could matter – free of stupid or all to smart interpretations.
Really, I am interested what you and your wife think of true buddhism.
That’s a very interesting question because maybe the main concern for many people now seems to be: what in Buddhism is really useful and what needs to be discarded?
I left Rigpa a long time ago but even for me on a personal level it’s a rather complicated question, so I’m going to think about this and reply as best I can in a while, when I have more time and can do it justice.
Student and teacher always mirrior each other. Be carful of every demonizing, both sides, responsibilty always. Not to get influenced, manipulated…
The more I thought about your question, the greater the implications seemed, it probably needs a book written about it by someone erudite with a positive view of Buddhism; obviously I’m not that person on either account.
That said, I’ll try to answer as well as I can, not having much in-depth knowledge of Buddhist philosophy. I’m not a Buddhist intellectual or a practitioner so limited as my understanding is, my attitude to Buddhism in general and particularly the Madyhamika, which I think you’re referring to, is quite simple and pragmatic:
“Is this of any practical use to me or anyone else? ”
I’ve commented so much on what I see as the main problems of Buddhism, that I won’t say anything about them except that, as you said, encouragingly, the negative institutional and cultural baggage such as medieval superstition and feudalism is something many people seem to be rejecting.
As to Nagarjuna’s works on ‘emptiness’ and the vast complexity of Buddhist philosophy that springs from it…..well, it’s fascinating but I’m not qualified to say much other than to do just this, ask whether it has any practical use.
I’ve never studied it in depth but I can’t imagine anyone would disagree with the assertion that nothing has a permanent, independent essence because everything is dependent on causes and conditions. I believe this can be found in other ancient philosophical systems in Greece and China, I imagine there was a flow of ideas even back then. Nothing to dispute there.
But I have a reaction of: “Yes, so what? Ok, it’s perceptive, but what can you actually do with that understanding? How does it help me in my day-to-day life as a human being?”
For instance: I know a table has no independent existence or essence and is impermanent because I’ve made quite a few and dismantled them, so it doesn’t seem to me to be a particularly controversial or radical observation. I know I’m impermanent too, but why would I want to focus on anything so depressing? Life is extraordinary, so why not try to enjoy it rather than obsessing about its inevitable brevity and fragility?
The idea that ‘emptiness’ is some kind of fantastically important and useful, even ‘absolute’ truth strikes me as odd and of much less use than an actual table.
I’m not being flippant, but because that idea itself is also devoid of essence, then if there is an ultimate truth it’s that there is no ultimate truth, and it seems a circular and rather pointless activity to dwell on this.
I know that it’s traditionally taught that you can strive and you’ll ‘realize emptiness’ completely
( whatever that might mean) which will result in magical abilities and an end to belief in the self, attachment and aversion and so suffering itself. To which my response is: “No, you can’t and no, it wont’.”
No one I ever met has, and I believe that absolutely no human being has ever done it either, except in the mythical Buddhist past. Do any high lamas have no sense of self? Any of them manage to walk or even see through walls? If they transcend suffering, why all the medical treatment?
One form of losing the sense of self that does exist is called ‘depersonalization’ and it’s not that uncommon as a temporary spiritual experience, in certain extreme situations and via powerful psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psylocibin and so on. I had it briefly in my late teens through smoking high potency cannabis mixed with Datura: the legendary ‘Congolese Bush’. It can be a disturbing experience in certain contexts: ( I found it uncomfortable to say the least. )
In Rigpa some people seem to have had these kind of episodes or something similar to varying degrees…..some felt elated, others freaked out. The danger being duration, context and mind-set.
Having ‘mystical’ experiences that seem to relate to this, such as ordinary seeing objects as insubstantial and glowing with internal light are common with LSD…..but as far as I’ve experienced, when the drug wears off so do the experiences, because it’s only the direct result of neuro-chemical disturbance.
I’d guess that Buddhists in the past in common with other religions, had these experiences as a result of disrupting the brain function in various ways. Samatha will reduce cortisol and so calm the mind, but 48 days in total darkness and you’re going to hallucinate even if you’re not trying to.
Permanent experience of it is basically a serious psychological dysfunction. We and everything around us may well be described as not permanently existing, but there are good evolutionary reasons why we don’t perceive them as such under normal circumstances.
Similarly with attachment and aversion: lose them as a hominid on the veld and you’re going to end up being part of the food chain very quickly. These days you wouldn’t make it across a busy street.
Understanding and constantly perceiving it may be the central aim of Buddhism, but even if possible on an integrated basis, that’s not going to help deal with the real problems of being human or the challenges facing us.
So that’s a brief answer, and my question in turn is : “What use do you feel it has for you?”
Pete, my experience is that the concept of dependent origination, even at my minimal level of understanding, has had a direct effect on reducing my anger and other strong emotions such as despair and fear etc. It does this because it encourages me to look at every problem from many different causal perspectives– and that broadens my viewpoint. That isn’t anything magical or mystic or even religious. Anger and other strong emotions such as craving and lust are very black and white and solid– dependent origination is a multi-faceted way of looking at situations and emotional states, and it diminishes that solid, permanent outlook. So it helps.
Lately, the Dalai Lama has been asking quantum physicists if they have noticed any change in their emotional states through their discoveries of relativity etc. I don’t know what they’ve answered….. 🙂
I can definitely understand how that would help. I suppose I do a similar kind of thing, which is to try and analyse how and why a mental state has arisen and if for example, it’s one I’d rather not experience, I try to
avoid what I think may be the causes. I started doing this before I was a Buddhist, but I’ve never identified as dependent origination before.
So I should especially thank dependent origination for permanently liberating me from television; during the Iraq War I caught myself swearing at Tony Blair and I suddenly realized I was actually shouting at some electronics sandwiched between a sheet of glass and plastic. It definitely works.
It may sound strange, but I suppose that due to my character, I never made much effort to get to grips with what I thought was the dry analytical side of Dharma. ( another mistake among many….)
In retrospect my attitude was almost childishly simplistic: “Ok, I suffer a bit, I’m bored, so what’s the quickest way to stop it and get high into the bargain, with the minimum amount of effort?…….Ah, the powerful esoteric practices of Vajrayana and Dzogchen you say? Right, where do I sign?”
Yes, I know: how can anyone be so naive? Well,as I explained, I already had a history of using chemical shortcuts which I could no longer use because it eventually backfired psychologically and although I was smart enough to analyse what happened ( dependent origination again ) I basically never went far enough to change that quick-fix, instant-hit mind-set.
Although ironically I ended up making a lot of effort for a long time for very little result and towards the end I started to realise that the cost-benefit ratio was getting too much, the teachings began to sound like so much recycled waffle and the promised results just weren’t materializing.
I know that there are plenty of techniques, Buddhist and otherwise, to deal with human problems, and the most effective seem to involve this kind of logical analysis. Of course my negative experiences with Buddhism have coloured my attitude and I question why an entire religious establishment steeped in rigorous analysis of the mind and phenomena as dependently arising, was blithely capable of ignoring the dependently arising origins of systematic abuse and corruption for so long. This is one of the ( many ) reasons I’ve never reconsidered institutional Buddhism as a possibility.
I’m sure there are many sincere people such as yourself that can use Madhyamika philosophy to help themselves, but my concern is that as part of a religious system it can be quite superficial or even as Adamo mentioned above, used spuriously as a cover for abuse.
I suppose what many people are working towards is a way back to this philosophy before it was co-opted by power structures.
I forgot to ask; how would you distinguish what you do from ordinary rational analysis and how could it be used to deal with suffering caused by external circumstances such as hunger, violence and so on?
Yes, Pete, I think all the promises of quick fixes and quick realizations and all the abuses have made a real garble of what could be some honest investigations we could all be making. I used to find the Dalai Lama’s teachings a little boring– not exciting like S and my Kagyu lamas. I would sleep sometimes. So it took me standing on the edge of an abyss to appreciate the solidity of that analytical, slow approach. I think this is a real problem in the West.
I still hold on to a lot of faith, which helps give me hope, and I pray to the Buddhas– but because my family and friends are all non-Buddhist, I find myself more and more appreciating the parts of the Dharma that aren’t reliant on any religious belief. So I hold onto both sides and it isn’t so hard, which is what makes the Dharma pretty special I think.
And as for those sufferings you mentioned that are due to causes beyond my own immediate control (and I do have my share), I do rely on some religious practices, such as bodhicitta, views on karma and even mantra. But even some of those practices can be seen outside of the religious. For example, if I’m in arthritic pain or suffering an anxiety attack, if I grip onto my own reality and my own self-cherishing too hard then it only gets worse. However, if I stretch a little and pray for those who have similar suffering, take on their suffering a little, then my own suffering loosens. These practices are what the Dalai Lama calls “wise selfishness.”
Anyway, like you, I just try to make some good sense of it all and try to be a better person.
It’s remarkable that you’ve been able to retain so much of value to you personally. I used to think that everyone would be better off rejecting Buddhist practice completely, but I’ve gradually understood that was just me being dogmatic and imposing my experience on other people indiscriminately when in fact it’s a very individual issue.
I realize practising doesn’t necessarily equate with actively belonging to and supporting corrupt institutions or individuals, so I suppose it’s just a case of: whatever it may be, if it works for you, providing there’s no negative impact on others, who could find fault with it?
Sogyal is look well for someone with cancer……
(Photo dated 25th of September 2018)
Ah, won’t let you put a link in the text? do’h.
Search for Precious Master on face book (HH Dodrupchen Rinpoche’s page), check out the pictures from September 2018….
That photo on facebook could be interpreted in any direction.
Some people think that the message of Sogyals cancer is manipulative as far as those people laying open his abuse and cone artistics are responsible for his cancer because samaya is broken.
Some people might think that the news of his cancer are much overaggerated. Few people know proper facts.
Dodrubchen Rinpoche lives in Sikkim at least Sogyal can travel.
Whta I know from the past is that Dodrubchen Rinpoche cut the relations to Rigpa and Sogyal short, and mentioned, I remember only vague, that he – Dodrubchen Rinpoche – keeps out of relations that are based on mutual obligations because of donations of money and so on.
I heard that he was not willing that his name was used to create a certain closedness to great masters in order to shine in those masters light.
Sogyal was all to clever to use measures like this to build up reputation.
Sogyal could support with money and logistical help many tibetan buddhist figures and as a consequence are those who received support obliged to return favours for the rest of their life, according to tibetan buddhist hidden rules.
I wish Sogyal a full recovery and a long life, and add my wish that he could clean up his abuse of Dharma for the sake of all sentient beings.
Its never to late to understand one ones shortcomings and to confess and correct.
One brief comment…
I don’t think a picture of Sogyal looking reasonably well is necessarily proof that his cancer is fake, (although he COULD be faking it). I’m not defending Sogyal, but people can live with cancer, be active, and “look good” for quite a while (even at stage 4) before it shows, especially with proper treatments.
What a shitstorm!
Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche says: “I have therefore started talking about this today in order to clarify the situation. If this does not work and the situation doesn’t calm down – if the gossip and lies continue – then I will sue. Definitely! I will have meetings, I will take out law suits and I will do whatever is necessary to resolve this situation. I will take full responsibility for it. No matter how many years it takes, I will continue working until it is cleared up.”
Wow! What legal authority does Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche have to sue? He can’t sue people for saying something about the Karmapa or DKR, lol! What a joke! 😀
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Although I’m not aware of the details of this story, smoke and fire come to mind….because of some famous, verbose lamas’ behaviour, the pall of smoke hanging around can be seen from afar now.
If protecting the dharma had been paramount and the heart of the issue, the sleaze and unethical even criminal actions of such ‘lamas’ would have been dealt with decades ago. Guess the potential damage to future income is now real and growing – karma is a bummer eh?
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Wow – am not on facebook but read the comments via someone elses account and it is jawdropping the responses – along the lines of lets not give this energy/waste our precious time on such rumours, this person is mentally ill, the precious teachers know best and so on. Best 2 comments from Matilda and Sangye!
Whilst sad to see such infantilisation and psychophancy, it made me realise how much sanity I have personally regained the past few years since leaving the DKR circus.
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Thanks for the link, reading that gave me an instant attack of the mixed metaphors: “A shitstorm;….. in a teacup……..on a mountain he made out of a molehill”
I expected him to end by saying: ” An’ if I don’t get my way mam-ma, I”m going to thcream and thcream until I’m thick!”
Ah, the profound path of Tantrum.
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