BAD KARMA by Gabrielle Monaghan Sunday Times June 12, 2011 – Rigpa’s Sogyal


THE Tibetan spiritual director of a Buddhist Centre in Cork, has been accused of sexual exploitation by two women in a new documentary. Sogyal Rinpoche, who is in Ireland this week to lead a nine-day retreat, is the founder of the Rigpa movement, which has 130 centres worldwide. Its Dzogchen Beara centre in west Cork is listed as a tourist destination by Tourism Ireland and was visited by President Mary McAleese in 2007.

Sunday Times pdf

Bad karma

Complaints against the Buddhist master were raised in In The Name Of Enlightenment, part of a documentary series broadcast on Canadian television last month. The allegations of physical and sexual assault follow a $10m (€7m) US lawsuit filed against Rinpoche in 1994 for alleged physical, mental and sexual abuse. In the case, which was settled out of court, an anonymous woman claimed she was “coerced into an intimate relationship” having visited Rinpoche on a Connecticut retreat following the death of her father. No details of the settlement have emerged. Rinpoche is the author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. He also played a starring role alongside Keanu Reeves in the 1993 film Little Buddha.

A woman identified as “Mimi” in the documentary said she met Rinpoche at the age of 22 when she began working at a Rigpa centre in France in 2000 to be near her father. She became an “attendant” to Rinpoche after passing what she took to be a “test of devotion” to join a group of women close to the spiritual teacher. “Women close to Rinpoche were considered to have good karma,” she said in the documentary. “After working at the centre for two months, I was invited into his room. He ordered me to undress, which I thought was a test of devotion. “Some Buddhist masters have this crazy wisdom where they use beatings as a way to open your chakras and open your way to enlightenment.

If he beats you or has sex with you, he’s actually opening your path to enlightenment.

“He asked me to swear never to speak about it to any one. I f I talked about it, it would sever this connection. I feel very sad because I lost myself and I was in a group of girls who had lost themselves even more.”

A London spokeswoman for Rigpa said Rinpoche has been aware of the allegations in the documentary and take s them “very seriously.” “Consistent with the Buddhist values that Sogyal Rinpoche up holds, Rinpoche respects and cares for all of his students past and present, without exception,” she said. “Rinpoche is deeply saddened to learn of anyone who has less than good memories of their time as a student even if they are only few in number. “We do not consider it helpful to enter into a public debate via a television programme about the experiences of any individual. We have full confidence in the sincerity, authenticity and conduct of Sogyal Rinpoche as a Buddhist teacher. We have only ever seen him act for the benefit of other people, and with their best interests at heart. None the less any allegations of inappropriate behaviour are taken seriously by the organisation.”

In a Sunday Times article in 2009, a spokesman for Rigpa described allegations of sexual exploitation against Rinpoche as “uncorroborated and without evidence”.

Victoria Barlow, who has spoken to newspapers of her experiences with Rinpoche, also featured in the documentary. Speaking from her home in Manhattan, she said she began a sexual relationship with Rinpoche in America in 1976. She met him in New York City after studying Buddhism in Dharamsala, the Indian home of the Dalai Lama. She said she sought out spiritual guidance after encountering sexual abuse as a child and was invited to his apartment. “He sat really close to me and started stroking my cheek. Then he was lying on me. I was stunned…fool that I was, I thought that it must be a blessing. But it was not remotely tantric or meaningful. He conned me.”

Mary Finnigan, a British journalist and Buddhist, said she has been compiling a dossier on Rinpoche for 16 years because she regrets helping him to launch his career in London. “Sogyal’s promiscuity was obvious to every one in the mid-1970s in the Buddhist community and that’s what he has been doing systematically ever since,” she said. “But he puts on a good show. He offers people a dumbed-down version o Buddhism  which appeals to people who want a quick fix.”

For those interested in purchasing the DVD featured in the Sunday Times article please follow the instructions below.

“The Sex Scandals in Religion,” is NOT for commercial sale form our website, especially because we have a distribution with Looking Glass International to sell DVD to the European market and European broadcasters.

Jennifer DiCresce

Cogent/Benger Productions

1352 Bathurst St, Unit 201

Toronto ON    M5R 3H7

Ph: 416-535-5394

Further requests for this DVD can be place to Looking Glass International:

Nha-Uyen Chau  at  Telephone (Australia) +61 3 9415 6884,

 For further information on Sogyal and Rigpa please follow these links:

* Sunday Times Article 2009

11 Responses

  1. clearly
    may not be found



  2. “Lunatics and cult members let other lunatics and cult members look after their kids.”

    Sorry: my brother is an atheist.

    Tell me abc, who are you?


  3. Lunatics and cult members let other lunatics and cult members look after their kids.

    I also think its excellent we see Mary Pema Finnigan for who she is-she has never tried to conceal this. What about bellab-Isnt it also a good idea that we see her for who she is? So why the pseudonym? Why hide your identity when youve supposedle got nothing to hide?
    If honesty is the best policy, both in the world and in the dharma, how come you dont practice it?


  4. I have my opinion on Pema. Mimi I have never met nor seen the documentary, so I have no opinion on that.

    I’m not sent by anyone.

    I was taking care of my brother’s child, who is so super cute and funny! It’s better to spend time with her! If I was a lunatic and a cult member, do you think my brother let me near that child! (I’m expecting to hear a few nasty comments about this too, so don’t disappoint me!)

    But I think it’s excellent that people also see Pema for who she is.


  5. Its of note that bellab is no longer posting here-One wonders if, in light of increasing publicity, she has been told to keep quiet since her obviously fanatical self-deluding opinions clearly demonstrate a cultish mentality? What will they try next-somehow I dont think RIGPA will sue Canadian TV for libel. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, eh? Ah well, back tot the ostrich mentality I guess.


  6. Pema, why not stop diverting attention from Sogyal by appearing to be an obsessive one-man show with an axe to grind. This is a sure way of undermining your position. People need to be aware that this is no longer MF v Sogyal but rather that there are a significant and growing number of people who are affected and concerned. By continually and so obviously sticking your head above the parapet, you create the image of an obsessive, thus distracting from the important issue, namely Sogyal’s long term exploitation of Buddhism, his status and disciples. We dont need another hero, let the facts speak for themselves. The truth is out here.


  7. Pema — why are you so aggressive? Relax.


  8. Anonymous — you are off your trolley. And I am out of here.


  9. If you dont stop going on about Sogyal as the devil incarnate, whingeing about how shit everything is and demanding apologies from all and sundry, you are in danger of appearing as mad as bellab.


  10. Both the S. Times item and the TV documentary are extremely timid in their approach. They steer a very careful line, terrified of litigation. Fortunately one can be a great deal more outspoken on the internet. There are factual errors in both the documentary and the newspaper item — the latter printed a picture of Denise St Jean with a caption saying it is me. I have asked for an apology to both of us in next week’s edition — plus a genuine photo of me. Soggy maintains a harem ( with a bit on the side whenever he can get it) which he upgrades from time to time on a “recruit and discard” basis. Women are groomed by being worked to a frazzle, with no time to eat or sleep properly. They lose a substantial amount of body weight during this process and most of them stop having periods. This form of torture is sold as “a teaching” or “training”. When they are thoroughly zombified they move on to the next stage as one of Soggy’s attendants. Eventually he has sex with them — after playing cat and mouse for as long as it amuses him.


  11. Oh Dear Soggy
    Looks like the Buddha was right-The cause of suffering is uncotrolled desire


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