Preface: In publishing the Behind the Thankas materials, Dialogue Ireland offered a right-of-reply to the Rigpa organisation. This offer has so far not being taken up. We have, however, received the following material from a current Rigpa member which we are publishing in lieu of an official response.
A View from a Parallel Universe
The story in the blog Behind the Thankas begins with the description of the inauguration day in Lerab Ling in August 2008. His Holiness of the Dalai Lama was coming to inaugurate the newly built Tibetan Buddhist temple and many guests were invited. My own memories of those days begin earlier, when there was a drastic weather change: on the evening before His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s arrival the clouds were “storming away”. The day of his arrival to Lerab Ling was a completely cloudless day, which was a miracle by itself in the region. We lined up with our khataks to receive him. Everything in nature and in humans was at peace.
The next day hundreds of guests arrived. There was a massive security operation with policemen all over the mountains to secure the guests’ arrival. Some French politicians, many human rights activists, Tibet supporters, many religious leaders of different faiths and friends were invited. Since there were 2000 attendants many of us had to stay outside the temple. The author was nowhere near the inauguration, but writes like he/she had been there. The “reality show” has been watched on YouTube and the author’s description follows the TV camera’s point of view. That is not the view of anybody who was present in the event.
When HH Dalai Lama spoke in the event he was moved into tears while talking about the situation in Tibet. The event was heart warming, even though the sad situation of the Tibetan people was the background of it all.
The next day the special guests were gone and I had the chance to join in the temple. There were present many Tibetan government authorities and many Tibetan Buddhist teachers like Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, Sechen Rabjam Rinpoche, Ringu Tulku Rinpoche and Rigdzin Namkha Gyatso Rinpoche. After the opening Sogyal Rinpoche invited all of them to say something. The atmosphere was great, like being in one big family: everybody was deeply touched and happy. Many stories were told about how the teachers had ended up in the West and many memories were told about Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche said that the earlier demonstrations against HH Dalai Lama in Nantes were organized by the Chinese. The Chinese were in the frontline with their swords shouting (like the Dorje Shugden himself) and some Tibetans at the back joined in shamefully. Orgyen Tobgyal was sad that some of the teachers demanded their students oppose HH Dalai Lama, even though some have even received initiations from him. The students are in difficult position he said.
The idea of the Temple was to be in the spirit of rimé, so that different schools could come together and even different faiths. That was the view of HH Dalai Lama and his wish. All present were worried about the situation in Tibet and agreed that all schools should work together, supporting each other.
Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche had a strong effect on the design of the Temple and he helped acquiring relics, statues and so on. During the visit he had asked HH Dalai Lamas’ opinion on the Temple. Many times he had heard HH commenting that a certain temple was too small or too big, but not this time: he was very pleased and said he would come back again, before anybody even had had a chance to invite him.
The author of the blog continues:
“So how did a 63 year old man in poor health…”
Finally it has been admitted that there are health problems that could be the cause for his weight. Sogyal Rinpoche’s health problems caused him to gain weight at an early age. He had an operation in his stomach that was unsuccessful. He is repeatedly called “fat, sleazy, balding, little man” by his critics. How would somebody react if I called him/her “thin, dry, gray, old harp”? The author continues to claim Sogyal Rinpoche “had only a basic education in India” and again he/she forgets that Rinpoche studied Comparative Religion in the Trinity College in Cambridge University. In India he had attended Catholic School in Kalimbong, and then university in Delhi before coming to the west.
“How did he become to be the head of a multi-national organization with tentacles in five continents?”
One explanation in which the Tibetans believe: it has been predicted that Sogyal Rinpoche will achieve a lot in this life as the reincarnated master Terton Sogyal, who was a teacher of the 13th Dalai Lama. The author should be also aware of the concept ‘karma’.
“How did he manage to raise 10 million Euros to build a huge temple in southern France?”
It was an American private donor who thought that the Temple was an important project and, among other people, donated the funds. Have a vision and make it happen! Just choose carefully what kind of vision you’re after!
Finding Sogyal Rinpoche through his book
The author believes that the students feel devotion toward Sogyal Rinpoche because of his charisma and his humour – or because he is famous. That is a very superficial look reflecting more the author’s own agendas: maybe the person likes to follow celebrities around. It shows clearly that he/she hasn’t spoken to anyone. Which spiritual seeker would say: “I’m here because that man is charismatic and funny!” At least I wouldn’t. I would say: I looked for a spiritual path, but I didn’t want to settle with anything I already knew, since I couldn’t relate to the teachings. I wasn’t looking for a cult or a hippie gang that I would fit into and feel at home among my kind. No. Sogyal Rinpoche has commented at times that his students are “so individualistic and stubborn”. That is probably the reason why I am not first one to not buy into the critics’ stories. Of course I have the benefit that I can compare things with my own experiences. I read Sogyal Rinpoche’s book and I thought: this is a truthful book. That is why I wanted to meet him and by chance it happened. The timing was perfect.
Other people who have been inspired by the book have lost a relative, have been faced with terminal cancer or other health problems and found comfort in the book. The author wants to make everything look bad, even Rinpoche’s book, claiming it was made with a motivation to gain riches and not to help people, even though in reality it wouldn’t have touched thousands if it was a shallow book. Many Tibetan Buddhists in the West today have become Buddhists after reading his book. The critics are constantly trying to dishonor the people who wrote the book. Sogyal Rinpoche gave the content and others edited it. Even with the straight forward response Harvey gave, the meaning had to be twisted into something bizarre, ‘an inconclusive response’:
“Sogyal participated totally in every level of the creation of the book and as the representative of his tradition was the indispensable transmitter of its wisdom. The process was a totally mutual collaboration in which Sogyal gave everything and had the final word on every word. It is a very hard process to describe. Any suggestion that Sogyal did not write this book is -I think, absurd and dishonouring of his genius and passion. Both Patrick and I worked tirelessly and I hope, selflessly to honour Sogyal’s brilliance and the wisdom of the tradition. And the book could not exist without the transcripts of Sogyal’s talks that were it’s foundation.”
“…but Harvey’s words do not confirm Sogyal as the author” the author insists. He/she thinks that when he/she edits other people’s stories that he/she is actually the “author”, but he/she is an editor. In his/her case it is of course so that he/she becomes the “author” since he/she changes the story line to suit his/her own agenda best. Therefore he/she can’t understand that the more important person – especially in this TBLD case – is the authentic informer. In TBLD Sogyal Rinpoche’s life story is told and is told by him, with his language and voice. It’s not Harvey’s life story: it’s not about his life and he didn’t give the teachings contained in the book.
According to the Blog, Grant, a former Rigpa member, recalls spending time with Harvey “when he was writing the book”. Grant adds: “Could anyone who knows Sogyal imagine him being able to quote the German mystical poet Rainer Maria Rilke? Or the Sufi sage Jalaluddin Rumi? He simply doesn’t have that level of education.” Yes, I can. I have heard him quoting even many more mystics. He did study in Catholic School and Comparative religion in UK. He might even discuss things with Western people like Patrick, Andrew or a Christian priest friend. He happens to meet a lot of people all the time. Is that forbidden? Should he live in a vacuum and all knowledge should just drop down from the sky?
Ngakpa Chogyam: “The book was cobbled together from more than a decade of Sogyal’s teachings,” he says, “I worked for a while on transcribing the tapes. There were a fair few mistakes which I corrected as I went along – particularly about Dzogchen and precise definitions of Buddhist doctrine.” Chogyam is an English speaker, Sogyal Rinpoche is not. Buddhist terminology is still in the process of being translated and corrected. Now Chogyam has corrected some spelling mistakes and he thinks that correcting some definitions of Dzogchen in English puts him up as a transmitter of Dzogchen. Why then are his books are only circulating among their group? Why have I never seen – and, as I believe, will never see – a Tibetan lama quoting him? I don’t know how Ngakpa sees himself, but sounds a bit self-important to me.
The author seems to have found writings on the Internet that she/he refers to. Quite a few are posts written during the past two years on the Dialogue Ireland blog. These people are referred to as authentic informants, so I might as well refer to other anonymous persons on Internet forums. The ones who have given their names or faces in the documentary “In the name of Enlightenment Sex Scandal in Religion”, I do not consider reliable.
Mary Finnigan is mentioned in the blog as a source, and she was also one of the main speakers in the documentary “In the Name of Enlightenment”. She is also the main critic of Sogyal Rinpoche and holds importance in this discussion. Let’s establish some facts: she was drawn to famous people like David Bowie and other stars, and met Sogyal Rinpoche in his youth during the 70’s (she is herself about 10 years older than Rinpoche). After that she has had no contact with him at all. She has claimed to have tried contacting Sogyal Rinpoche several times for an interview. This can’t be verified, but I have spoken with some of the main people in Rigpa and they have told me they have tried to communicate with her many times, although unsuccessfully. Since I know the style she writes, I wouldn’t wonder if Sogyal Rinpoche refuses to give her an interview.
How can one form an opinion about somebody when one hasn’t met the person for four decades, like she hasn’t? She has heard hearsay by people who have written to her or she has met them. How have I formed my opinion about her, whom I have never met in my life? I have read her writings in the newspapers and in different blogs and forums. These are my conclusions.
Finnigan is very sure about her view on Sogyal Rinpoche and his motivation. But can one really say they know somebody well when they haven’t met the person for four decades and probably even in the 70’s they were not very close? Is it possible? At least I can say about myself that I was quite different when I was 10, 20, 30 and 40 years of age. She has said on the Dialogue Ireland that she holds a thick dossier of people who have been sexually abused by Sogyal Rinpoche. She states her goal and shares her ideals with 30 people.
“There are now more than 30 people willing to join forces to make sure that Sogyal is taken out of circulation as a teacher effectively and permanently.” Mary Finnigan, May 18, 2009
This means that instead of the thick dossier of victims, there are 30 people who did not like Sogyal Rinpoche’s teaching and style. I bet there are many more since he is a very provocative teacher, too direct to many. That is part of being a Dzogchen Master. Can’t get away with that. Many people do not enjoy the rough ride when the Master places a mirror in front of them. It simply isn’t pleasurable to see one’s own hidden traits. How a Dzogchen teacher should approach people? Tapping them on the shoulder and saying: “please continue to grow your ego’s defense mechanisms: arrogance, pride, aggression, evasion, denial and so forth”? I have understood that ego’s task is to make us feel unique and separate from the fellow beings and the universe – and the Buddhist teachings are about countering that ‘false view’.
Even the said victims do not hold special meaning in Finnigan’s mind. Even though she has claimed to hold a dossier of personal stories by sexually abused victims, she can still say things like this:
“Hi Kapasi, If all the women came forward they’d fill the Royal Albert Hall…
And imagine what will happen to S in the bardos…all those screeching harpies….” Pema, August 27th, 2009
This is meant as a joke but on the other hand reveals her thinking. For me it seems this is almost as entertainment to her, not at all serious. I think it is also an indication that she doesn’t know any of those claimed victims, because they are too abstract for her and she can jokingly call them “harpies”.
“Sogyal could not have scaled the giddy heights without the help of his long-term right-hand man Patrick Gaffney”, writes the author of the blog: “Some former insiders, like the journalist Mary Finnigan, go further: “Patrick is the real brains behind Rigpa,” she says, “Sogyal is merely the public persona.” Finnigan surely is an old former “insider”. Now she is an outsider who has no idea of what is going on. Patrick respects Sogyal Rinpoche deeply and he knows a lot better than the Finnigan the reasons for this respect. Sogyal Rinpoche is not just a public persona – he is the holder and the leader of it all. If you arrived in a strange country wouldn’t it be best to seek advice from the locals, how to manage there?
“In the winter of 1973 Sogyal turned up in London, announcing that he wanted to set up a centre where teachings could be given by some of the great Tibetan meditating yogis. Around this time he met Patrick Gaffney and another faithful acolyte, Dominique Side.”
These people, Patrick Gaffney, the “brains” as Finnigan calls him, and Dominique Side, a published author, have deep devotion toward Sogyal Rinpoche. Since they stuck around they have reaped the benefits of knowing such master and received the blessings of the lineage.
“According to Mary Finnigan, Sogyal already had a reputation as a playboy with a penchant for pretty girls when he arrived in London.”
Which young man wouldn’t have sexual appetite and also an adventurous nature? At least I had, when I was young – and I’m a Western woman. I also heard that women practically threw themselves at him, if they had a chance. One of these women was Victoria Barlow, who is constantly referred to and who is one of the main speakers for the cause.
“Yet in 1994 an American woman known as Janice Doe sued Sogyal for sexual assault and battery.”
This case has been settled. No one knows what has happened. We have only Victoria Barlow’s words echoing the story, but are her words trustworthy? The lawyer of the Janice Doe was the husband of the Zen priestess, who wanted to pursue the court case for Janice Doe. Many think she had an agenda: Tibetan Buddhism attracted more followers than her Zen Buddhist courses. Even in this conversation there are Theravada Buddhism supporters demonising Dzogchen and Tantric methods.
“Professors Thurman and Simmer-Brown depicted them as western teachers with dubious motivation who are jealous of the Asian teachers. I have never heard of any mainstream Tibetan Master claiming that Sogyal Rinpoche was a fraud or otherwise unqualified.” Let’s Be Fair, July 9, 2009
“The glorification of Sogyal suffered a serious setback and in order to silence Janice Doe, Rigpa was forced to part with a large sum of money. Just how much money was involved in the out-of-court settlement is a closely guarded secret, but it is alleged to run into millions of dollars.”
Here the author goes again. Alleged by whom? Where can we verify that ANY amount has been paid – and to whom? If it was written 50$ was paid, we would think the harm done was very small, but since the amount “MILLIONS of dollars” is repeatedly written by the critics we are truly convinced a great tragedy had occurred. They keep coming up with “millions” because there’s an agenda: removing Sogyal Rinpoche out of circulation. But it’s not the critics, fortunately, who determine if Sogyal Rinpoche teaches. There are the dedicated students who ask him to teach.
Many have justified their view on Sogyal Rinpoche for a long time through the testimony of Victoria Barlow. Victoria has not only claimed of having had sexual relationship with Sogyal Rinpoche, but also with His Holiness Sakya Trizin. According to her writings on Internet forums she wasn’t satisfied with either of them, since she ended up talking about her private life in public. Both of the teachers were “grounting” during sex, she says. Many critics have denied her stories about HH Sakya Trizin, but continue to believe her stories about Sogyal Rinpoche. Talking about one’s private life in public might be an indicator of a person without boundaries, which is quite common trait among those that have been sexually abused as children. Victoria has claimed innocence in her story: she as a student came to talk about Buddhism with a lama.
“I went to an apartment to see a highly esteemed lama to discuss religion”, she said, “he opened the door without a shirt on and with a can of beer in his hand.” Once they were on the sofa, Barlow continued, “Sogyal lunged at me with sloppy kisses and groping. I thought I should take it as a compliment so I surrendered to him – but it had a horrible effect on me and caused a lot of depression.”
Depression is the aftermath of sexually abused children, and as adults some seek new partners in order to find acceptance and get rid of the depression – but in fact it leads to more depression and in some cases to sexual addiction if the person doesn’t seek treatment. On the other hand sex in general might feel abusive to them, no matter what were the circumstances, because of the past memories.
I have serious doubts about that particular view on the events described by Barlow, since she also claims that Sogyal Rinpoche was borrowing her mother’s phone card. A regular student doesn’t lend one’s phone card to Sogyal Rinpoche. I also believe the following comment is Victoria describing how she met one other informant, Deidre or Janine. It clearly indicates she considers herself a girlfriend and not a student. Their relationship happened (if it happened at all) when Sogyal Rinpoche was under 30 years of age, in the 70’s. I also wonder if she told him she has been abused as a child? This kind of information would cause a difference in any man.
“I have been in contact with Mary Finnigan for a number of years now and have given my permission for her to use my statement of my experience of Rigpa and Sogyal under a pseudonym, Last year she brought to my house the young woman mentioned above who told me of her own time as an attendant “dakini” to Sogyal. I was profoundly shocked. Her account rang true because I had been a girlfriend of Sogyal’s many years ago and knew what he could be like and how the devoted students of Sogyal would cover up his behaviour.” Tiger Lily, July 6, 2009
In the documentary “In the name of Enlightenment Sex Scandal in Religion” there are the journalist Finnigan and two of her female friends there: Victoria Barlow and a young woman who uses pseudonyms “Mimi” on the video and “Janine” in the Behind the Thankas blog. I haven’t seen the whole documentary, which has only been broadcasted on Christian based TV stations. On the video Barlow shows the innocent face of “an unsuspecting student” visiting her lama. I don’t know if her motivation is caused by disappointment that the relationship didn’t last or anger from childhood traumas.
Before I discuss “Janine”, let’s continue with “Deidre”. Deidre claims that Sogyal Rinpoche was begging her to have sex with him for six hours – and he was lying in his bed all the time! Which one of you, who have met Sogyal Rinpoche, believes he would act in this way: begging for sex for six hours?
“He ground me down”, she says, “it was the same thing over and over – Do you love me? Do you trust me? It must have gone on for about six hours. Eventually I was exhausted and gave up resisting. The whole thing revolved around surrender to him and I was scared of losing the opportunity to heal my family.”
I think a woman who lasted in resisting sex for six hours, could have as well walked away. Unbelievable story, I must say. During the six hours there must have been gaps where Diedre would have heard her inner voice and summoned her strength to say: “No!” If she didn’t act in this way, I think she was open to the idea of sex. I still must say I can’t imagine Rinpoche with his busy life would waste six hours begging a woman. It doesn’t sound like him.
“Dierdre was told by Rigpa devotees that if you have negative feelings, you destroy your relationship with the guru.”
I have NEVER heard anybody telling me anything like that in Rigpa. And gosh, I have had my fair share of projections towards him! I can feel what ever I feel in Rigpa. That is part of the whole package: tantric methods are about transforming the emotions, not rejecting them! If you were not allowed to feel and think what you want, then how can you heal and how can you evolve spiritually? Where is all the understanding? What ‘Buddhist’ invents these stories?
“I only left the house to go to the teachings, where I saw 500 people prostrating themselves to the lama. The rest of the time I listened to him on tape, saying things like ‘pray to me, see me as the Buddha, love me, trust me, be obedient to me’“
That doesn’t sound like a Rigpa tape! Rigpa tapes are teachings – not some “guru” begging people to worship himself… I don’t know who still believes these stories? This is ridiculous – and I’m not afraid to say it. This is so ridiculous that I don’t believe this woman even exists.
“Mimi” is a name that the young woman “Janine” uses on a documentary. There is in reality a real Mimi working in Rigpa, so I think it was an intentional choice of pseudonym. Now in the blog her name has been changed into “Janine”, which is close to Janice Doe – a clever choice again. We might be fooled into thinking there are more than one young female. When reading her description of events one can notice many things that are not a facts but invented stories. I won’t even bother to repeat the Harlequin stories.
“Indoctrination into the inner circle is designed as a life sentence. A young, vulnerable woman is programmed to accept Sogyal’s god-like status and to be compliant with his wishes and whims, slave-like in her willingness to accept a punishing workload and available for sex on demand. She is separated from her family and friends, discouraged from contact with the outside world and persuaded to see Rigpa as her family, with Sogyal (confusingly as father-lover) in absolute power and control.”
“In the majority of cases, it works.” Do you believe it works? Are you a bit naive? A life-sentence? Someone, who has this sort of ideas, must be a bit imbalanced. People work in Rigpa, some stay and some don’t. Some find their true calling outside Rigpa helping people. That was one of the things Rinpoche said in 3-year retreat: first we mature the Sangha and then we can benefit beings in the outside world. I have seen many family members of workers and nuns visiting Rigpa. It’s not a closed world of it’s own.
“By the time these women realise they are being abused and exploited and are deeply embedded in a coercive cult, it is too late for them to extricate themselves. Their investment is total and their chances of making lives for themselves beyond Rigpa have dwindled into non-existence.”
I am aware that ‘battered, abused women’ are often suffering from low self-esteem that comes from the subjugation. Their self-respect is taken away and it’s hard for them to reveal their situation to anybody. There’s fear, shame and quilt: how come this is happening to me, am I to be blamed? They begin to identify themselves with their experiences and become depressed, which could cause them to be unable to seek help. I know a few women in my life outside Rigpa who have been or are in a violent relationship. I know it’s very difficult for them to seek changes, if their lives are under a threat or they feel they need the abuser in some way in their lives: to avoid loneliness or something else. I also know a woman who chose not to continue a violent relationship. Different women have different responses to violent men. I guess it has something to do with overall circumstances around the relationship and timing. According to my own experience through friends some of the women who stay in abusive relationships may have mental or emotional problems already prior to their present relationship. By saying this I don’t mean to blame anyone, but there are many factors involved.
I do not believe all of the ‘claimed victims’ are weak. Especially when I’ve seen those “Mad Harem” women, who are radiant and strong. They do not look fearful, evasive, beaten and bruised: that would be so obvious and people would eventually notice it. On the contrary I find many of those women empowered and joyful. At times some of them are reading out teaching notes and their voices are beautiful and confident – not shaking in fear and pain. These women have their own children and husbands or boyfriends. They are not socially isolated. They don’t all live in Lerab Ling, but outside and also abroad. They do not fit into the category of domestic violence victims, where abused, bruised house wives with kids have no one to turn to.
If a woman was so much in pain she would run away, eventually. People are mostly kind and caring in Rigpa. There are psychologists who work in Rigpa who would help someone wanting to escape! There would be many ‘Janines’ every year! Remember the circulation of women is constant. As the critics claim: filling The Royal Albert Hall.
May I also remind you that Europe is not America, where social security is practically non-existent and people end up in the street once they loose their homes or jobs. Here we have social security, social networks for helping people starting a new, if they didn’t have relatives and friends they could seek help from. One can always start a new life.
Janine, 22 years old, was
“Determined to take every opportunity to be close to him (her father!), Janine started attending Sogyal’s teachings with her father – usually falling asleep against his back. Inevitably Sogyal’s lasciviously roving eye alighted on Janine and in due course she was lured into the brainwashing process that leads to his bedroom.”
This description of a girl falling to sleep on her father’s back sounds like someone under 12 years old! Which 22-year old is not leading her own life with studies, friends and boyfriends and so on – but sleeping against her daddy’s back in Buddhist teachings! But then later she takes her distance to her father (must be the approaching puberty) as she takes her place in the Mad Harem – and the father has no clue! Amazing.
Fortunately one of those young women – in real life – who work in the lama kitchen today has her mother living and working in Lerab Ling. The mother is a therapist in Rigpa, and I doubt she would be as blind to her daughter’s destiny as Janine’s father was. The mother has been around for decades and she knows all secrets in and out since she treats quite many people.
The Behind the Thankas episode is just really madly inventive. I think Sogyal Rinpoche prefers Thankas better than girlie pictures. Why would he need girlie pictures if he had “an orgy with his harem consisting of eight women”? Don’t you think the workers who are constantly arranging the Thanka paintings in Lerab Ling wouldn’t notice those ridiculous images?
“Dakinis who were in the harem (eight female names, known persons in Rigpa) before Janine’s arrival gradually came to accept her as a team member. Eventually they announced that she should join them in an orgy. Janine was not keen.”
They announced it to Janine? Only Janine was not keen. Is it a Harlequin book or what she has been reading? These people are really not a group, you know? They have their own busy lives, different working areas and men in their lives. Did these eight women inform their male friends that they couldn’t come home today, because there’s an orgy at Rinpoche’s? Instead of drawing pictures I think Janine should write Harlequin books: the terrible dark Beast kept us Princesses in a chamber of evils….
What about the times when Rinpoche is not in Lerab Ling? He is travelling all the time, at times spending moths in a row in different countries, like US and Australia. Maybe the “victims” could use these long periods of his absence planning their escape route? Sogyal Rinpoche is not and cannot control “his claimed victims” in a way that a husband at home could: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – since he is simply not there and he is too busy with other matters in the Universe.
One might in all decency ask themselves: how many women like orgies in general? It’s mostly a male fantasy. At least I wouldn’t like to share my sex life and partner with other women. It’s an amazing co-incidence that those few women are Buddhists and also workers in Rigpa.
My best friend, whom I have known longer than I have spent in Rigpa, works in Lerab Ling many months a year. Knowing him has made me trust men again after my youth. He knows these claimed ‘harem women’. He told me the background stories of these women – and they do not belong to any harem.
The thing about writing anonymously about people you mention (as your co-victims) by their name is that it is cowardice. Who would do such a thing? I think it’s valid to question the moral character of a person who claims to have been part of a harem (even if she claims she didn’t want to), and she puts out publicly the names of similar people in similar positions that she herself claims to have been in, while not mentioning her own name. Why do that? Why not to leave the names of the “victims” out? To show the readers she knows the names of those people and making it look like she knows them personally? Or to practice public humiliation which they criticize others of? Anybody who opens their ears during the teachings would have known – and in the future will know – the names of these people. They will think these people have something to do with a mad harem.
Janine is revealing:
“After this a lot of important Rigpa people called me. There were all sorts of threats and I heard that men were claiming I’d slept with them and were calling me a whore. But they should know that Sogyal is very possessive about the women he likes – he only lets the ones he wants to get rid off sleep with other men. I know now that many of the things he does are punishable by law. I am not afraid of him”.
Men in Rigpa are the kindest gentlemen one can find on this Earth. Nobody is calling women “whores”. People have their own relationships and they are not offered “left overs” from Sogyal Rinpoche.
Sogyal Rinpoche’s child’s mother:
“It was window dressing,” says one former Sogyal dakini, “the Dalai Lama blessed the relationship, but Sogyal was never monogamous. One of his other women – (name removed) — saw herself as the ‘wife’ and she would not have allowed him to stop having sex with her.”
In this episode it’s not Sogyal Rinpoche who is forcing women to have sex with him, but it’s one of the Dakinis who is demanding Sogyal Rinpoche to have sex with her? Interesting. How many of those Dakinis are victims and how many are in a position of making demands on Sogyal Rinpoche? Sometimes abusive relationships of course are binding both parties in some strange way. Since most of the “harem victims” have male friends of their own, are they seriously after an elderly man? Aren’t their own younger partners enough? How often women principally want sex from their human relationships? According to my limited experience it’s quite often so that men are after sex, but women are after other things too. What about the mentioned “dakini’s” long term boyfriend? How did he feel about these events? She and the younger man seemed so close together and everybody in Rigpa knew them: they were an item. They don’t even live in the same country as Sogyal Rinpoche. Their relationship began and lasted during and after Rinpoche’s relationship to his child’s mother. Now the young man has a new relationship and a child that he brought to be blessed by Rinpoche a few years ago. Sogyal Rinpoche’s child’s mother has been visiting Lerab Ling during the past years. She also lives in another country.
Dakinis are considered to represent wisdom – and I have seen Sogyal Rinpoche asking advice from the so called “dakinis” many times during the teachings. He asks their opinion sometimes, if he should teach something or not, if he should reveal some information or not. Sometimes he also asks similar questions from the audience. It’s communication between the students and the teacher – not dominance.
Once Sogyal Rinpoche asked one of the women to say something and she said: “I remember I had some (negative) patterns of thinking in the past, but somehow they are gone. I just can relate to them anymore, because they seem like gone.” I think she has evolved as a person, her experience has changed regarding some things in her past, so that also speaks against victim hood. Victims of abuse do not evolve, they are stuck in emotions, in the prison of their situation.
Everybody in our culture knows about the teachers’ power over the students and they may be in position where they could use their power wrong. Many of us have personal experiences of such events or “invitations” by teachers in our Universities and so on. How many of those women who have been abused by their teacher have gained a permanent position in the teacher’s life? Some are abused and thrown away. If they haven’t been thrown away, they can’t say they were abused, if their relationship ended up in a marriage. The abuse happens, when the woman is told what to do and told that she will be rewarded somehow. These situations do not usually last for years, since the victims are thrown away, if they complain and do not obey. Soon enough they are being replaced by the next victim.
Many critics feel the need to show the foreign men their place and educate how women should be treated. I could join them eagerly since I have known a few men from non-Western cultures personally and through my friends. But then I must also say that I have never seen Sogyal Rinpoche treating his “dakinis” without respect. They are not thrown away, but have remained for years or decades. He usually doesn’t send anybody away. He accepts followers and doesn’t pick and choose like some teachers do. He wants to help sentient beings regardless of their faults and failures. Like we all know, most of the interaction between Sogyal Rinpoche and his students happens publicly – and not behind some doors. Sometimes the students complain publicly about things, they resist and so on. Sogyal Rinpoche then shows how to do things, explains until they and us, the audience, understand what he is up to.
The last story is picked up from an anonymous poster ‘lalatee’ on the Dialogue Ireland blog:
“The last straw for me was when he called a senior assistant to come to the dais. She’s a respected professional in her 60s doing amazing work with the bereaved and the dying. She was forced to kneel beside Sogyal, while he embraced her closely and put his hand on her chest.” (lalatee, July , 2011)
It’s a new line in the story, because the old stories repeat that he is only after young women.
The old story was the sexual abuse, but since there seems not to be too many victims (that would fill the Royal Albert Hall) the critics have gone for something else. Now it’s mental abuse or financial abuse. Two years ago he was still “an alcoholic, porn viewer, over eating fat sleazeball” according to critics.
Sogyal Rinpoche has many skills. He is not only a great teacher who can reach many people, which means having a lot of experience and psychological understanding. He is also skilled in visual arts and calligraphy. What puzzles people mostly is that he is not a monk – he doesn’t look like a fragile saint and he has management skills that saintly beings usually do not. It seems like people have gotten used to dividing different skills between different people, and it’s somehow incomprehensible when there are multitalented people. There was Leonardo da Vinci, but such multitalented people can’t exist today can they? How many people at the top of the business world are just single talented? How come Dzongsar Khyentse is able to make movies? He is supposed to be a Buddhist teacher.
“He was a slave driver”, says one squatter, Jack, “he had us working flat out, restoring the house, building a shrine, putting up shelves and so on – while he sat around directing operations.”
In no Buddhist organization is the teacher, and in no Christian church is the priest, doing the brickwork. It’s obvious that he is not ‘hands on’ in everything. He is the teacher and he is teaching and travelling around the world. There were paid construction workers, Bhutanese and Western artists, gardeners and the rest, who had somebody responsible as a head of each team. Sogyal Rinpoche was not there telling people to lift the bricks! People worked voluntarily and they were paid.
An anonymous poster, who visited Rigpa and afterwards wrote about her experience on the Dialogue Ireland, is alarmed:
“I couldn’t help thinking that if he’s really a Vajra Master why does he need to follow a precise order of events? Why are the prepared readings and video excerpts so important? I really think there’s something else going on.”
There is something else going on. Well noticed. It’s a shame the person didn’t stay long enough to know what it is all about.
Sogyal Rinpoche has an overall vision about situations, he is able to see very quickly to the point of things. He has also been teaching business people how to work more efficiently. I guess it has to do with being present and being able to cut to the point. If one’s mind is all over the place one is blurry and can’t be present in the moment. It’s not a conducive state for anything. Being strict with students and demanding presence is part of the training where he points out the weakness in a practical manner. Remember, that he knows his workers quite well. There are people who have made a life choice: they have left ordinary Samsaric working life and they have decided to be in the presence of the Master. If he allowed them to sit back and continue as they were, what would be the use of that life change?
Buddhist teachings are about getting rid of the ego. There are different methods for removing that self so that the nature of mind can dawn from within. One could practice the Theravadan method, meditation, but the Tantric and especially Dzogchen are considered faster methods. If one has tried Tantric visualization and it has worked, the person is convinced of the effect. If one hasn’t tried then there’s nothing much to argue there. People seem to know a lot about Dzogchen methods, and claim to have authority to criticize Dzogchen Masters. At the end of the day there has to be devotion – and if there isn’t a connection between teacher and the student it just doesn’t work. There will always be a block, a lack of understanding that can’t be explained away. It’s almost like somebody trying to explain to a cat that they should become vegetarians. People, based on their own standards, criticize others who have a deep connection, a deep devotion and have a path ahead of them. It just doesn’t make sense to criticize others, but of course people are entitled to their own experiences and opinions.
This one is my own experience of the so called “mental abuse”, which I consider the Dzogchen Master pressing the student’s buttons. It happened on a retreat where we did strong group practice for 10 days. One night I saw two strong dreams and I woke into them at 2am. In the first one I received instructions how to dive very deep, 20-30 meters, into a pool. After I surfaced again I flew on a boat above the ocean to the infinite sky (just like the view in Dzogchen Beara). In the other dream I asked a question about a certain practice which is not practiced in Rigpa, after which SR turned into a wrathful form with big eyes, trying to kill me, I thought (trying to kill my ego, I guess). In the dream he chased me around and tried to hit me with something. I noticed that it was an umbrella (symbol of refuge and protection). Then I turned around and I told him that I’m not doing the practice I asked questions about. Then he calmed down in my dream and said: “At least you understand.”
The next day in real life SR was really pressing all my feminist buttons, and I was boiling inside. I wanted to give him a private message where I would tell him how I felt about him. I also spoke to a worker. In the evening I went outside to eat in a restaurant and when I sat down on the chair I thought: “Oh, never mind. Now I just want to let go of my anger and relax.” What happened next was that I just felt this incredible all-pervasive feeling of love. It was so extraordinary that I thought: “where is this coming from?” Then I remembered the teachings that it is inside oneself, the abyss of love. That love was so wide it had no borders and had no object to grasp onto. It just went right through me.
One could consider like me, that the pressing of people’s buttons might have a deeper purpose than what meets the eye? Maybe I was so bull-headed that I needed all my feminist protective cover removed? Maybe he used it in order to crack me (and my self-preserving ego) open? At least I’m truly happy about my experience which lasted for about five minutes. I was in the presence of my best friend and I told him about my experience in wonder.
My own experience reminds me of the old Buddhist story:
One great master in the nineteenth century had a disciple who was very thick-headed. The master had taught him again and again, trying to introduce him to the nature of his mind. Still he did not get it. Finally, the master became furious and told him: “Look, I want you to carry this bag full of barley up to the top of that mountain over there. But you mustn’t stop and rest. Just keep on going until you reach the top.”
The disciple was a simple man, but he had unshakable devotion and trust in his master, and he did exactly as he had been told. The bag was heavy and it took him a long time.
At last, when he reached the top, he dropped the bag. He slumped to the ground, overcome with exhaustion, but deeply relaxed. All his resistance had dissolved, and with it his ordinary mind. At that instant he suddenly realized the nature of his mind. He ran back down the mountain, and, against all convention, burst into his master’s room.
“I think I’ve got it now . . . I’ve really got it!”
His master smiled at him knowingly. “So you had an interesting climb up the mountain, did you?”
Critics blocking away the other side, the reality
The author of the blog bases his/her opinions about Sogyal Rinpoche’s skills to teach Dzogchen: a friend of theirs who has been in Rigpa didn’t have any experience of the nature of mind. Having an experience is not an automatic event, nor a guaranteed service you will receive after you’ve paid the retreat fee. Having an experience requires devotion and other circumstances in order to happen. One can’t naively blame the teacher for their own lack of practice, devotion and so forth. I think it is quite self-important to claim to know the level of any lama’s realization – especially when they haven’t obviously even been in the presence of the lama in question. Some critics haven’t even seen him for four decades.
The critics have shown many times insensitivity towards other people with differing views. They block away information that disturbs the image they are fighting hard to paint. For example Finnigan said after ThomasKent had cleared her mistakes in various matters that she claims as facts: “You and I must be inhabiting parallel universes.” That is how I chose the title for my response.
ThomasKent (Nov 6th, 2011) corrected Finnigan about the author of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. In the Blog it is also claimed Sogyal Rinpoche didn’t write the book, rather that Andrew Harwey and Patrick Gaffney were the authors even though in reality they merely edited the public teachings that the book was based on. It is also claimed that Sogyal Rinpoche is unable to read Tibetan. The fact is that his reading is perfect and he works as a head of the translation team Lotsawa House that is working with many Tibetan Buddhist texts. The widely sold Rigpa Calendar has his eloquent calligraphy all over the place. The Tibetan font used in the Calendar is designed and written by him. He has said he learnt painting calligraphy in his childhood. Calligraphy is part of his esthetic skills that can be seen influencing the many Rigpa publications.
“Ever since then, allegations around his private life, financial affairs and credentials as a lama have surfaced from disillusioned former disciples.”
Fortunately we have practicing Buddhists who disagree with the author and whoever those people are. The people who work in the administration and are in the highest positions in the Rigpa organization have been there for decades. The critic’s friends never worked in the management department of Rigpa. How could they know a thing? They can’t. In Rigpa there are Western people working – and those people know where the money is going. It goes to bills, salaries, as offerings to very poor monasteries in India and elsewhere and to visiting lamas, like Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. Of course a person with a poverty mentality would feel deprived when some poor nunnery in Manali gets a little support. The Chinese especially would be happy if the Tibetans were poor and helpless.
Finnigan claims such events have taken place:
“Sogyal was at Merigar some years ago. I hear that this visit went down like a lead balloon. Apparently he had about 5 people at his *teachings* (plagiarised from ChNN and other lamas) and they were so banal he was laughed off the premises. I don’t have feedback on this latest one yet — but it will happen in due course. When it does I will post again here.” Pema, September 22nd, 2009
Plagiarized from ChNN? I thought that Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche and Sogyal Rinpoche didn’t spend much time together in the early days. Somebody also taught Dzogchen to Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. Others, like Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, taught Sogyal Rinpoche. That is how the lineage is formed, or did they also skip that particular point about Tibetan Buddhism? Teachings originate from past and continue from one generation to another.
“She makes the claim that Chögyal Namkhai Norbu knows everything about the allegations around Sogyal Rinpoche and therefore shuns him” Let’s be fair, July 10th, 2009
Obviously it wasn’t so bad since Sogyal Rinpoche was invited to teach at the Dzogchen Community again. This August (2011) Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche taught in Rigpa.
“Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche has said more than once in my presence that Sogyal Rinpoche is a fully qualified Dzogchen master.” TomasKent, 6th November 2011
This picture of Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche and Sogyal Rinpoche doesn’t need explanation:
“I am confident that the journalistic treatment I am currently undertaking, together with a book project, will be effective in taking Sogyal out of circulation as a teacher and denying him access to his sexual hunting grounds.” Mary Finnigan, July 6th, 2009
She thinks that Sogyal Rinpoche teaches for the purpose of getting laid. He has a vast vision, not limited to what Finnigan is able to comprehend – unfortunately she takes herself too seriously. Students ask the teacher to teach and not the other way around, remember? Buddhism is not an obligatory subject at school.
Now Western Buddhist lama Ngakpa Chogyam has been dragged into the filth in the Blog. His own group has been criticized for inauthentic lineage and teachings, but it seems like they have settled into their own practice and they are not going to change. It still seems easy to start siding with someone who criticizes Ethnic Tibetan Buddhist teachers, but quite unwise unless the comment was made decades ago. Recently a Tibetan lama said that one mark of an authentic teacher is the fact that they don’t talk badly about other teachers.
“Ngakpa Chogyam also became aware of gaps in Sogyal’s knowledge: “He asked me a lot of questions about Dzogchen”, he says, “and I was surprised by the way he’d enquire – almost, I thought at the time, as if he didn’t know the answers. I ended up talking a lot when we were alone together – but it occurred to me later that he never asked questions like this when anyone else was around.”
It didn’t occur to Ngakpa Chogyam, who is not Ethnic Tibetan, that the lamas question students on their knowledge? It is a common way of checking the students. Did Ngakpa Chogyam already then state that he is a teacher himself, authorized by Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche? Authorization was a false claim and for the claim he has been widely criticized. Today they no longer make the claim so there’s no reason to debate it, but I want to bring it to people’s attention, so they can consider Ngakpa’s reasons for siding with such a Blog.
“You have some silly stuff about Sogyal Rinpoche’s teacher Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche allegedly “suggesting he give up teaching for a while and return to India to ‘ripen his practice’.” Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche would never make public his personal practice advice to any of his students let alone one of his close Tulku disciples like Sogyal Rinpoche. It isn’t even a cultural probability. This story is just someone’s fabricated spin. Sogyal Rinpoche remained one of Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche’s close disciples and continued to serve him even after Rigpa was established. To this day Rinpoche receives frequent counsel from Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche’s Sangyum (wife) and enjoys close relations with other members of the family. They would laugh if they heard this ridiculous claim.” Sogyal Rinpoche is Amazing’, July 5th, 2009
Now in the Thanka Blog the girl called Janine, Mimi in the ‘documentary’, obviously, reveals that she is part of Sogyal Rinpoche’s harem. Girls are said to have been sexually harassed and strange games are being played. They are supposedly washing him and wiping his ass. The whole story is like from a cheap movie. So cheap that I wouldn’t bother to look.
The author said the “brains” behind Rigpa is Patrick, but in this new sequence written by Janine (must be the 4th season in the series) he is the dumb “cuckold” boyfriend whose woman is abused. This series is getting more interesting as the seasons develop.
The Three Year Retreat. Gerard claims:
“We were not allowed to talk” he says,“but we found ways to communicate.” “As a result some of the 200 people present also left the retreat – some shocked at the revelation, others realising that their pre-existing doubts were well founded.“
In reality NOBODY left the retreat, except him. There were only 300 people in the first place.
There are many workers in Rigpa – and I doubt they all are wearing a blind-fold. There is the office with the administration, the reception, the ordinary kitchen for retreat food. There are the people who work with the teachings and texts. There’s also the documentation team: the people who transcribe the teachings and the people who film the teachings on video. There’s a huge archive. There’s a translation team, which works with ancient Buddhist texts. There are people who plan retreats and events. There are people who do graphic design. There are people responsible for the buildings, the Temple and the garden. There are dozens of positions and areas where people work, not only the lama kitchen.
Lerab Ling is a calm place and there’s no way any parties and Harem Orgies are happening. In the past, at times, there were parties where retreatants could socialize, but not so much anymore. In one of those parties I recall Sogyal Rinpoche coming to stop the party because of the noise at late night (before 1 am).
During the summertime the retreats are happening non-stop. Sogyal Rinpoche teaches during 99% of the days, and retreat programs require a lot of work from everybody. There are also other events and projects that Rinpoche needs to take care of, like the Tenzin Gyatso Institute and visiting Lamas and Buddhist events outside Rigpa. I wonder how he could have time for the extra-curriculum activities described.
Other testimonies from people he has helped
For me personally it seems contradictory and hard to put the two pictures together. I have met only people Sogyal Rinpoche has helped. I met Sogyal Rinpoche for the first time on a weekend teaching. I was quite active from the beginning and wanted to find out about the nature of this ‘religion’. I had read Rinpoche’s book and it alone convinced me, but I still was not open to become part of some weird cult if this happened to be one. I talked with one woman who had had suffered from depression and she told me that “he has shown me who I really am, and for that I’m really grateful”. My first contact with a Rigpa person was with someone who had suffered and who had found help and hope in her life. I thought: “Maybe the teachings in the book talk about real things.”
I have been visiting Rigpa every year for the past 10 years. At times I have spent weeks or over a month there. I have been in Ireland too, which is my favorite retreat place. Mostly I visit Lerab Ling where the Temple is and where Sogyal Rinpoche lives. Since I’ve been there so many times I have become familiar with all those main workers and have spoken with some of them. My best friend works there for many months a year. He knows those people quite well and, as I have said before, Rigpa is no gossip-free zone.
In the article Janine mostly talks about lama kitchen. There are many more working areas in Rigpa – not just a lama kitchen like I stated before. There is the kitchen, which has many functions: food for retreats is prepared. Then there is the lama kitchen, which makes food not only for Sogyal Rinpoche but also for his elderly mother, his son, the past Khandro Rinpoche, visiting lamas and many other people who permanently live in Lerab Ling.
There is also a Care Program, which includes many therapists who work with people. During the Three Year Retreat there were many who shared the work with 300 retreatants. Not every retreatant needs therapy and Rigpa is not fundamentally offering therapy as its main focus, but there is certainly quite strong emphasis towards healing. We practice Ngöndro and especially Vajrasattva, the healing and purification practice, has a strong emphasis in Sogyal Rinpoche’s teachings. Many might think Guru Yoga (and misunderstand it as lama worship) and Mandala Offering (and again misunderstand that gaining riches is the reason for it) would be central Rigpa practices. I really want to emphasize that healing is in the front line. Many Tibetan Buddhist lamas notice that people are not feeling mentally well in the West, with worries and stress, so they recommend psychological work first before one hires the “assassin for their ego”.
I heard about the accusations during my first or second year in Rigpa. I was shocked of course, like many people here, when they come across these kind of rumors. Then I decided to speak with one of the attendants who I felt I could relate to. She said she had heard about the accusations too, some years ago. She hadn’t confronted him about those things, but she said what she had done was to “check out the lama”. She decided to keep her eyes open. At some point she had the experience of the nature of the mind, which confirmed to her that she was dealing with an authentic lama. After that she decided to go ahead with the path and committed herself to work for Sogyal Rinpoche. She had suffered from abuse when she was young, so she was also really careful about those matters. Ever since then she has worked closely with Sogyal Rinpoche and never faced issues regarding abuse of females. Sogyal Rinpoche of course knows her past and is very fatherly with her, like he is with others too, and protects her from fear by comforting her and explaining things as they are, in public so I have seen it happen. Since I have spoken with her I pay attention to her treatment by Sogyal Rinpoche.
I have spoken to other women too. Someone who has been there for 30 years told me she used to work as his masseur. Sogyal Rinpoche never harassed her in any way and she is still working in Rigpa in different fields. She knew Sogyal Rinpoche’s girlfriends too – and she has never seen them treated badly or heard them complaining.
In Dialogue Ireland two courageous female students have written their posts (‘Sogyal Rinoche is Amazing’, July 5th 2009 and ‘Survivor’, July 6th, 2009). In the stories one can also sense the protective fatherly attitude Sogyal Rinpoche has shown towards his students. Of course there are more positive statements, but since people in Rigpa know Finnigan’s agenda they consider it a wasted effort to write here. I’m the only fool trying to bring another side of the story here. I’m not doing it in order to change Finnigan’s mind, I can see that is a complete waste of human resources. Let’s see in the future if her mind changes.
‘Sogyal Rinpoche is Amazing’ has known Sogyal Rinpoche for 25 years.
“On occasion I have travelled with him, he has frequently stayed in my home and to this day I consider him one of the most compassionate, wise and amazing buddhist masters I have ever met. I have had the unbelievable good fortune to have studied with many of the greatest masters including masters such as Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Kyabjé Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, and of course His Holiness the Dalai Lama. All of them spoke very highly of Sogyal Rinpoche and encouraged me to study with him. In all the time I have known him I have never seen him do anything to anyone for vulgar, selfish gain. However, I have seen him perform inspiring, selfless acts of kindness and charity helping people and showing them how to live better, healthier and more productive lives.”
“When I began to study with Sogyal Rinpoche about 17 years ago, I was a young woman who had been considered especially attractive since being a young girl. It’s a bit awkward to say something like that about oneself – but here I just want you to know where I was coming from: being a beautiful young woman also meant to constantly have predators around and having to be on guard.
And I was especially on guard, because I had been badly traumatized. As a child – actually I had been brutally gang-raped at age 8. Needless to say that I had grown extra sensitive antennas to any sexual vibes coming towards me and always erring on the side of feeling threatened. On top of that, my father had been quite abusive and I grew up with a constant fear of abusive males in general.
So At the age of 23 I had already had one mixed experience with a Buddhist group. But after attending a talk by Sogyal Rinpoche in Berlin I knew I wanted to study further with him. In a short time I became quite close to him, often spending periods of time alone with him in my home and other places. If Sogyal Rinpoche had even remotely resembled an abusive sexual predator, I would have smelled that right away and left feeling sorry for his students.
But instead I haven’t felt unsafe around him for a single instant. No one has ever shown such profound respect for me nor treated me with more love and kindness. Just through this, Rinpoche disarmed my patterns of shame and self-hate again and again. Having a keen sense of what each individual needs, he has always been especially gentle with me, allowing me to heal in my own time. And – just in case you were wondering I was never his lover.
Sogyal Rinpoche saved and healed my life with his wisdom and kindness. He constantly inquired about why I was so fearful and in pain all the time – and then he didn’t get tired of showing me ways to heal, until I truly got it.”
In real life I have only encountered similar stories of healing and hope.
Ethics of the Blog – ‘Buddhists’ who don’t respect anyone
If the author calls him/herself a Buddhist then they clearly do not hold respect for anyone in the Tibetan Buddhist world. The article begins with description how HH Dalai Lama enters the ‘temple of evils’. They criticize the judgment of HHDL and other teachers who associate with Sogyal Rinpoche. Some critics are said to be students of Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, who actually supports Sogyal Rinpoche. If they were able to ask advice from Namkhai Norbu I wonder what kind of response they would get.
The author looks at Tibetan Buddhism from an exceptionally critical and one-eyed view. I don’t mean people should be blind and expect a miracle world – the Shangri-la that some have experienced in their youth in the 60’s and 70’s – to appear. People are people, even the Tibetans, and we should have patience with each other and ourselves. But there is another view about the human condition that Tibetan Buddhism can reveal to us which we do not have in the Western culture. Sogyal Rinpoche himself doesn’t support new age hippie stuff, he wants to ground people and doesn’t want them to “go off” to shangri-la and other la-la-lands.
“In October 2011 the French news magazine Marianne carried a six page feature on one of Sogyal’s teaching retreats at Lerab Ling. It was compiled from material gathered by an undercover journalist, Elodie Emery. The tone of the reportage alternates from coy to sarcastic to ‘shock horror’ and contains allegations which would not get past legal scrutiny at mainstream British media.”
It almost sounds as if Emery was told in advance how to see things. Now in the Behind the Thankas blog the long article is summarized into one sentence: “his ruthlessly cruel treatment of one participant, who was stumbling towards an agonised confession in front of 500 retreatants”.
The real story in Marianne goes like this:
“The people present in the room choke with laughter at these tips illuminated with wisdom. But the session takes an expected turn when the man starts talking about what provokes his wife’s wrath: “I have worked for 25 years with mentally handicapped children. One day, I abused my position with one of them.” The audience squirms with embarrassment. “I told my wife, and that’s why she puts terrible pressure on me, she is terrified about the possibility of me abusing our 4 year old daughter.” In answer to this the master chooses to remain silent. He has run out of jokes.”
The author just can’t keep to the facts – not even in a text that has been already translated from French into English! This is a textual example of the author’s methods of constructing stories. Unbelievable!
“In 2011 Sogyal’s sex life came under mainstream media scrutiny again” the author writes. I wished they were a bit more honest and added: “…because of our own writings.”
The Big Question
The important question when we evaluate the work of Sogyal Rinpoche is to ask whether he is working for personal gain, like the author claims, or whether he is here to help other beings. Is it possible, that someone who is able to see, recognize and identify people’s suffering, someone who is able to help and support abused women could also be completely blind to himself and be abusive? I believe my own eyes and the people around me. Even at this very moment (I heard from my friend) Sogyal Rinpoche has decided to help and work with a woman, who is suffering and can’t be reached and helped by anyone else in her surroundings. I believe the encouragement of various lamas who happen to know Sogyal Rinpoche personally. I have heard them saying that Sogyal Rinpoche has strong Bodhicitta, compassion. I do believe there are many different people and we are all humans at the end of the day. What has brought us all into Buddhism is the recognition of suffering, wanting to remove suffering and help sentient beings to gain liberation. I’m confident Sogyal Rinpoche is aware of this basic Buddhist principle and that it is the motivation behind his actions.
Pseudonyms are used to protect some individuals. Their words are on record and their identities are known.
Filed under: RIGPA