DI would like to direct readers to two very insightful testimonies, which have recently been posted on another site:
Indeed, the news is trickling out of Rigpa that all is not well, something like the way news trickles out of Tibet. A couple of brave, courageous individuals step forward to speak out about what they have observed while being insiders at Rigpa. The glimpses we receive show us a reality that any decent Rigpa student must deny in order to continue within the ranks. It seems to be a closed reality now, a world of deceit and repression unto itself, something like communist China.
However, unlike the brave Tibetans who make the journey to leave China or who risk arrest and torture within China by speaking out, these brave individuals from Rigpa have no support from the Tibetan Buddhist community, no acknowledgement of their pain or of their right to leave an intolerable situation and speak out. Of the two who recently posted, one has found a new lama who is good and decent and has treated her well and re-instated her trust in the dharma. The other hasn’t said. However, there is a concerted effort by Rigpa to bring people back. And there is always that samaya threat being made at Rigpa, the threat of hell if you speak out against the lama. Above all else, students need clarity about that.
Our informed understanding was always that samaya was a protection of the precious bond existent between a lama and his/her disciple, which is particularly necessary in the vajrayana. It is a bond based on trust and confidence and honesty. When I’ve inquired further about its meaning and scriptural sources, however, I find everyone has a different idea and there are few scriptural sources.
“When our informant wrote to Alexander Berzin, asking him what samaya means, he wrote back:
“I don’t know of any specific sources, but the word comes from the Sanskrit verb sam+i, which means to come together in the sense of making an agreement. Samaya, the noun derivative from it, then, is an agreement, sometimes in a legal sense, sometimes in a general sense. That is why I translate it as a close bond. It is a close bond or mutual agreement between a teacher and disciple, or it is a set of practices that make a close bond between a practitioner and a spiritual practice.”
Q: How can a “close bond” or “mutual agreement” look so much like a threat? How can a bond based on the precious relationship between a teacher and his/her disciple become a corrupted tool in the maintaining of a cult? According to one woman who posted, there has been an increase in teachings on devotion and samaya at Rigpa lately. Both women have expressed fear that by leaving Rigpa and speaking out about their concerns that they risk breaking samaya. I fear that this is why there isn’t a greater exodus.
Our informant is no expert in dharma, but is strongly repelled by the idea of samaya being used in the ways that it seems to be used in Rigpa. They used to say that at least SR is not giving initiation, at least he allows students dharmic freedom to turn away and criticize him. However, it appears that this is not the case. It appears that in Rigpa, samaya is being used to control, repress, dumb down and imprison—while the Buddha himself instructed us to question, use our critical faculties, cultivate wisdom and gain freedom. There is a huge discrepancy happening and students are suffering, desperate for clarity. It is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Our informant is ignorant and has no authority and authority is what is needed. I believe that we Westerners now are out of our depth with this trouble in Rigpa, that we need help badly from the Tibetan Buddhist community. We need someone to stand out and help students navigate their way out of confusion and repression. The trouble over samaya is just one example of how complex and confused and dangerous the situation has become and how poorly equipped we in the West are to deal with it.
Over the past fifty years, the Tibetan community has been appealing to the world for help against the atrocities committed by the communist Chinese. Some of us have answered that appeal, contributing funds, putting bumper stickers on our cars, signing petitions, writing letters to our politicians, joining organizations and staging demonstrations. We’ve done what we could. I wonder today if we could ask the same of the Tibetan Buddhist community, if they could do what they can to help?
The situation that is being described by X-Rigpa students is not contained to a few illicit sexual affairs. It is no longer about one man’s sex life, nor is it just about the women who are in these affairs, some of whom feel abused and some of whom don’t. It is a situation where secondary abuse is occurring, probably on a large scale, and where people are confused and wounded and losing faith in the dharma, in humanity and in themselves. The dharma is being twisted and contorted in order to maintain an empire and good, sincere practitioners will suffer—and are suffering—as a result.
We need help from every corner. So my question to all who read this is: How can we elicit the help of the Tibetan Buddhist community? How can we penetrate their loyal silence?
DI has no expertise in Buddhism and this site is not about Buddhism per se rather it is about the cultist practices, tendencies and attitudes which can emerge in any group. As our correspondent has suggested it is now beyond the sexual peccadilloes of Sogyal and is now about the cultist nature of Rigpa.