IS SEX BETWEEN A SPIRITUAL TEACHER AND STUDENTS HARMFUL?

What Is A Rigpa Student To Think?  BY Joanne Clark

Sorting Out the Blogs and Posts on the Dialogue Ireland site ……………………………..

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/category/rigpa/

I begin with a story which I believe to be from a  Zen center:

“Our Saturday morning meditation group usually starts with hugs, smiles, and jokes. But today it begins with Sarah’s tears.

Sarah is group’s matriarch. She speaks four languages, has lived in four countries, and survived multiple wars. The rest of us often ask her spiritual questions, and she often gives wonderfully clear, yet deeply mystical answers. She laughs easily, often at her own mistakes.

“Yet as we take our seats on this gorgeous spring morning, Sarah suddenly begins to weep.

“I touch her arm and offer her a tissue. “What’s wrong?”

“She dabs at her eyes for some time before she is able to talk. Eventually she mentions the name of a well-known spiritual teacher. “I was his student; he was my guru, my rebbe. For years I felt a special connection with him. He was always so wise, so mesmerizing, so inspiring. When I was in the room with him, I felt something shift and deepen inside me. Wherever he went, he packed the house.” She takes a long, sobbing breath. “Yesterday, I found out he sexually abused women. Dozens of women, many of them his students. Some of them young girls. For over twenty-five years. Twenty-five years. He just admitted all of it.” She shakes her head and blows her nose noisily.

I start to speak, but she touches my hand and shakes her head. She needs to say more.

“I don’t understand how he could be so wise and inspiring, yet so abusive.”

 (Edelstein, Scott, Sex and the Spiritual Teacher, Introduction)

I suspect that this story might resound with Rigpa students. There might be many Rigpa students right now who have read the blogs and allegations against Sogyal Lakar and are questioning.

Wikipedia SR

Many might be confused or upset. What might appear a clear conclusion to those outside of Rigpa is not so clear to those with strong, spiritual ties to Sogyal and his organization, those who have experiences of kindness and true guidance from him. This point is often lacking in our debates. We discuss the allegations as if resolution of them is as simple as moving from A to B, as saying yay or nay. However, for a Rigpa student, resolution means a radical reorientation of their lives on many different levels. Spiritual reorientation, in particular, is a difficult and often painful challenge. This takes time and it is not simple.

Recently, I counted the number of comments that have been made on Dialogue Ireland in response to allegations of sexual abuse by Sogyal Lakar and I reached 4, 277. Even though these comments span over three years of discussion, the number is still staggering. As Mike of DI says, we Buddhists “have a lot of fuel in our tanks.” I personally believe that this is a strength we have. It means that this situation is not going to just fade away without some definitive resolution.

While it is a good thing that issues such as this are being taken seriously enough to spark debate, the length of the comment line can sometimes interfere with meaningful debate. It can sometimes be quite daunting for newcomers to step in and join discussions. It can also become difficult for questioning Rigpa students to find answers. Long time bloggers on these threads have long standing arguments going and a sort of insider language has been developed alongside that which make the thread sometimes just seem like an incomprehensible, great, snaking tirade.

However, for any who dare spend the hours of reading, the comment thread on Dialogue Ireland has some illuminating moments. There are jewels of comments that allow the reader to gain better insight into the troubles within Rigpa. There are poignant testimonies. There are coherent arguments and incoherent arguments. I suggest that it could be useful at this time to step back for a moment and explore what can be made of the comment line and the main posts, perhaps try to sum up the arguments and highlight some of the more illuminating testimonies. I will also go a little further and draw on aspects of Buddhist doctrine that have not been properly clarified.

There seem to be two primary debates occurring throughout these discussions. One is the question of whether or not the allegations are true. In line with that is the question of degree, of how true they might be, whether they are “as bad” as they are described in BTT. The other debate is the question of whether sexual relations between a Buddhist lama and his student should be condemned at all. This question also entails consideration of the degree of sexual involvements.

HH Dalai Lama says frequently that we need to “know the reality” when faced with problems. We have to be “realistic” in our approaches. He talks about knowing reality from many different angles and having the courage of an open skepticism as we analyze and investigate. Such an approach is invaluable in situations such as this one, where emotions run very strong. The temptation is either to cling to the safety of blind faith or rage with (equally blind) impulsive anger and reactivity. I suggest that neither approach will help the practitioner move forward.

Indeed, this is a journey of conscience for every Rigpa student. An informed conscience is a strong conscience. Only through viewing what we know and don’t know through many different lenses and logics can we inform our conscience and have the courage and self-confidence to act accordingly and move forward with our practice.

HOW STRONG IS THE CASE AGAINST SOGYAL LAKAR?

There is an understanding within Rigpa that these allegations of sexual abuse are primarily due to Mary Finnigan and her vendetta against Sogyal Lakar. In A Response To the Blog Behind The Thangkas, https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/a-response-to-the-blog-behind-the-thankas/    a senior Rigpa student argues that the allegations are the result of 30 individuals who have become angry with Sogyal because of his sometimes harsh techniques. Within the comment lines, this is a main thrust of the arguments of BellaB and Sheila as well. The tone of Mary Finnigan’s own comments on DI can appear to justify this. She has never disguised the fact that she wants to “put Sogyal out of business.” She calls him names. In addition, Behind the Thangkas (BTT) does reach well beyond allegations of sexual abuse and condemns Sogyal’s qualifications as a teacher as well.

Indeed, the debates on the comment line are very polarized and very emotional. This could easily turn off questioning Rigpa students and leave them feeling that these allegations are part of a hostile world that has nothing to do with their own Buddhist practice and relationship with Sogyal.

However, several facts support the allegations in BTT. The first is the fact that Mary herself is an established journalist, with a sound knowledge of litigation and the responsibilities of journalism. It is presumed that she would have taken extra care with verifying her evidence in BTT, knowing that it would be challenged and that Sogyal had the money for good lawyers. BellaB, when confronted with these facts in a comment, stated that Mary published BTT anonymously in order to escape litigation. In fact, this is not true. While the original online version of BTT is anonymously published, as well as the version on DI, she gave permission for the use of her name on the website

http://thedorjeshugdengroup.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/sogyal-rinpoche-and-the-silence-of-the-tibetan-buddhist-community-and-the-dalai-lama/

.. where a discussion of BTT and sexual allegations against Sogyal has been active for some months. She has used her own name on other websites as well. Further facts also support Mary’s credibility. One is the fact that Cogent/Benger are highly reputable and their primary source, “Mimi” has gone public with her allegations.

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/bad-karma-by-gabrielle-monaghan-sunday-times-june-12-2011-rigpas-sogyal/

Mimi is also central to BTT. Her allegations do not concern only herself, but what she has observed as the abuse of others as well. In a conversation between the Dorjeshugdengroup blogsite and the Rigpa director of another country, the Rigpa official said that Sogyal had tried to contact Mimi, but her therapist advised against this. The Rigpa official also said that Sogyal would not object to the allegations because he would practice tonglen (mind training), accepting the “negativity” and say nothing against the allegations. The blog edito replied that if the accusations were wrong he must correct them as this was part of the bodhisattva vow. It could be surmised by this that Sogyal takes Mimi’s allegations and suffering seriously—however not seriously enough to address them directly.

While Rigpa officials will blame Mary’s ill will for the trouble BTT has caused, I have not seen any statements from them that Sogyal is not having sex with multiple women. This is the main concern. In fact, in Response to the Blog Behind the Thangkas, the writer does not question the existence of a group of “Dakinis” who surround Sogyal, nor does she question that they are in sexual relations with him—she questions only the allegations that they are not happy, self-confident women who have lives of their own and are free to leave whenever they wish. She questions whether these women are treated poorly and then cast off:

“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.”

This fact leads to one of the most convincing arguments supporting the truth of the allegations, which is the fact that multiple sexual relations between a renowned teacher, such as Sogyal, and his students is not seen as a problem amongst either mainstream Buddhist teachers or Rigpa officials themselves. A major argument in Response to the Blog Behind the Thangkas is that these relationships do no harm to the students and are not practiced in extreme ways, such as in the orgy described with pictures of naked women behind the thangkas.

I will address the issue of whether sexual relations between spiritual teachers and their students do cause harm more deeply later on, but I suggest that it is a central reason why the allegations are probably true.

Sogyal simply does not believe that his behavior is wrong and he is supported by a culture that doesn’t believe it is wrong either. The question then is not whether or not he has had sexual relations with his students, but rather, why shouldn’t he have had sexual relations with his students? He is not a monk and he is a healthy male with a healthy appetite.

Certainly, the assumption that it is an “honor” for a woman to have sexual relations with a great Buddhist teacher is prevalent within mainstream Tibetan Buddhism. I recall very clearly Shyalpa Rinpoche saying during a teaching retreat that in the past, Tibetan men used to pray that they would be reborn as women so that they could practice as consorts. Particularly in the Dzogchen traditions, founded by Padmasambhava, who himself practiced with consorts, this is a central assumption. Any Rigpa student with a sincere wish to probe more deeply into the allegations against Sogyal must acknowledge that this attitude is central to all considerations. This attitude makes the allegations extremely probable. Later, I will discuss the validity of this attitude.

The veracity of the second victim who appears in the Cogent/Benger documentary, Victoria Barlow, is also questioned quite strongly and brutally in Response to the Blog Behind the Thangkas as well as in the comment threads. The response post questions Barlow’s mental health when speaking of her claims that she has suffered as a result of her sexual relationship with Sogyal:

“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… 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.”

Sheila echoes this brutal attitude in her comment of Dec. 16, 2011:

“As to the embattled Victoria Barlow, her original supporters state, “…she [was] too one dimensional, too driven, too inclined towards defining her life by incidents which she herself SURELY participated in willingly a lot of years ago…she herself realizes that it was NOT regular behavior, not a part of the teachings, not endorsed by anyone in authority.” (Evelyn Ruut, alt-philosophy-zen, 5/11/05)

“It may seem cruel to call someone out like this; however, it is only necessary because that person is herself working to destroy the lives of good and kind people. Why? That’s the question of the day.”

This argument is quite brutal in the face of the fact that Victoria Barlow has clearly suffered. It reminds me forcibly of a comment made on DI by ex-Dakini. After giving a clear, lucid description of her experiences of sexual abuse at the hands of Sogyal, she then concludes:

“Now BellaB, if people from Rigpa could identify me, which I’m sure they are frantically trying to do, they would tell you many things about how unbalanced I am. I know that they did so when I left Rigpa, and I know that many prayers were recited for me in Penor Rinpoche’s monastery. But I am quite sane, I assure you.”

As a therapist and as a Buddhist, I find it extremely disturbing to see any suffering being disparaged on the grounds that he/she is not mentally stable. I find it disturbing to see non-professionals diagnosing individuals simply in order to undermine their voice and testimony. Not only is it ignorant, but it is quite cruel and unfeeling. Whatever one’s opinion of Victoria Barlow’s character or mental health, she was a courageous woman to sit in front of a camera and speak of her suffering and her mistakes. The inference made by Sheila above, to justify her cruel remarks was that the gloves are off now, warfare has begun.

To be fair, this attitude has also been upheld in the comment line from those on the other side, those who advocate hostility and strong actions against Sogyal. As I have mentioned, the comment line is very polarized. However, when the hostility is directed towards those few women who have had the courage to come forward and reveal vulnerable parts of themselves in order to move this situation forward then I object very strongly.

It appears to me that those who wish to refute the allegations have simply sought a vulnerable target and used her for their ends. Unfortunately, their argument does not hold up. In fact, their argument is an argument for the other side. I state strongly and clearly that if a lama is a high bodhisattva, then he would not take a woman as a mistress if doing so would cause her harm. He would be capable and desirous of refusing her advances. If he is not a bodhisattva on such a high level, if he is just a man who has been tempted by an attractive woman, then he has no business having any sexual affairs in the name of dharma. He has no business using his authority and spiritual power in order to have affairs. In fact, he has no business having sex with his students.

BellaB argues frequently that Victoria Barlow was a “girlfriend” of Sogyal’s and cannot be called a victim of abuse. Victoria Barlow claims that she was a student as well. If she was never a student, then her case is not relevant here.

This discussion is about teacher-student sexual relations.

Another convincing case supporting the credibility of BTT can be made from further testimonies in the comment line. In 2009, DI presented a briefing document in which Mary Finnigan presents a testimony from a former close personal assistant to Sogya., who describes the situation within Rigpa while he was there:

“In the mid 80′s, during my seven years with Rigpa and 4 years as founding director of a national Rigpa branch, I had slowly discovered that Sogyal Rinpoche had sex with very many disciples. Even though I was very close to SR, it took me some time to notice the obvious. Even though I am a professional counsellor, it took me quite some time to notice it at all, and then it took me even more time to take action. First, at the same time I was shocked and kind of amused, I had mixed feelings about it, because in the beginning I saw that some women tried to get him. First I thought, they are mature woman, they know what they are doing, and I simply am too inexperienced in the exotic ways of Tibetan Lamas to be able to judge. It was much later that I heard stories and saw things which were not based on consent, and saw that he was cheating all the time on the women. Also I noticed that he had sex with young students who just had come to Rigpa retreats for the first time…”

“I confronted Sogyal first jokingly, then half-heartedly, with my concerns about his behaviour, and I said to him that as a therapist I knew about the transference phenomenon: students see the teacher as kind of a father figure, so sex with the student is psychologically seen as incest. Also, that in the West, the relationship between teacher and student, or priest and the parishioner, must be kept pure, and does not allow for intimate relationships involving sex in any way. He was not amused, and tried to avoid the subject, but he first tried to justify his sexual behaviour spiritually…

“I could no longer ignore what was happening. On one occasion Sogyal wanted me to lie on the phone to a woman, who wanted to contact him after having had sex with him but had found that he was in bed with another woman. I refused to be a party to his affairs. He became very angry and yelled at me, but I was not impressed…

“One of the worst things I experienced was at a winter retreat in Germany. A long term student of his was in emotional distress and asked in obvious pain, vulnerability and confusion for his help, and he forced her to speak louder and then to come forward to the stage where he put her down completely. In my view, he was totally afraid of her, and could not deal with the situation at all. But instead of putting her into safe hands, he tried to save himself by putting her down and ridiculing her, and then played the strong teacher who can deal with everything. That same night, we had to rush her to the emergency ward of the nearest psychiatric hospital with a nervous breakdown and a psychotic seizure.

As a therapist and as a student, I was horrified by his behaviour and his complete lack of compassion and skill. Before I left Rigpa, an American woman told me confidentially and in great distress that she had just lost her husband and had come from US to France to SR to get help, and that SR, during a private audience, had tried to violently force her to have sex with him. Fortunately, she managed to escape being raped. She left the retreat in even greater despair and completely shocked. This was the worst incident which I heard at first hand.

SR did not respect any limits: he had sex with most of the wives of the leading students at Rigpa. I tried to keep myself and my private life out of his. I tried not to get mixed up with his affairs. Sogyal had a classical harem, and he knew all the tricks to make the obvious invisible, or if that did not work, to change the context of the students’ values, giving the whole thing a spiritual excuse, and abuse fears and naivety, or the good belief of his students to get what he wanted. It’s 12 years ago since I quit Rigpa, so I have no first-hand information of SR’s activities now, but I must say I have little doubt that everything is the same today, because I consider him an addict. He is hooked on sex and power.

“There was the harem, and the women seemed to be able and ok with their role in the game. At least I wanted to believe this, still trying to see SR as a holy man. On the other hand, I always found obstacles to consider SR as my guru. I considered myself at that time more like a Buddhist manager and some kind of assistant to SR, rather than as a disciple of his. I could see Dilgo Khyentse or the Dalai Lama as true masters, but SR appeared to me to be just a teacher who teaches Buddhism, or more likely a salesman who sells Buddhism. When I was in charge of my national Rigpa branch, I always exaggerated his qualities in the flyers I produced. I said to SR: either you are true and good and people will find out themselves, or if not they will also find out. So don’t tell them what they should think or how good they should think about you. True quality will speak for itself. With me, he accepted such words, but I heard my successors had to write up his qualities.

First he said that because he is one of the incarnations of Padmasambhava, and that Padmasambhava had many ‘spiritual consorts’, he would be somehow entitled to do so. Then he played the cultural card: in Tibetan culture women are seen as Dakinis, and they would happily serve the Lamas for enhancing their spiritual power and so on. I am ashamed, but first I wanted to believe all this. I was brought up in a prudish, bourgeois Catholic environment. I was used to playing roughshod with the truth, and to idealize and respect people of position even more than supposedly “holy” men. My spiritual and emotional hunger made be blind to my own values and my professional standards – at least where the standards of the Lama were concerned, however, fortunately not in my own work.

For some years I was blinded by my position of power. I felt that I was establishing a very well-run organisation together with other dear friends which was benefiting many people. I was happy. I was in a very special position. I honestly tried to use my position to the best of my ability. I felt I was chosen, and because of karmic connections with Sogyal, I was finally realising my full potential.

The bitter irony is that because other students saw me as a rather independent, seemingly critical, and reasonable person and because of my professional status as a psychotherapist, some people viewed me as endorsing Sogyal. In fact they envied my special access to SR. Basically, he always treated me very well. He seemingly respected me, but now I think he was clever enough not to treat me badly like some of the other students so I would remain loyal. He gave me the feeling that he appreciated my views at least as long I helped him to please the audience and the students. But he never was open to criticism concerning his personal behaviour. Also, he never answered any of my personal spiritual questions. I got more and more the impression that he simply could not answer them. Also, when I attended sessions where he should answer questions from his students, he often gave very stupid answers, and showed that he had not much understanding of what people were really asking. Sometimes he ridiculed people to cover this up.

When I have more time I will write more professionally on the psychology of the guru-student relationship and of abuse. What interests me most is why people “allow themselves” to be abused and what hinders them to see the truth. And how to help others to discover their own truth, and how to stop people like SR from going on.”

Mary says that she has more testimonies like this one. Of course, it is totally possible that this story is fabricated and a complete lie, but it is hard for me to conclude that anyone would fabricate such a story as this one. It is just plain too lucid and introspective. In addition, Mary has allowed her own name to be used in citing this source, so this adds veracity to the testimony.

Of course, we cannot know for certain that this is from a real person. Indeed, Mary could have written it herself. However, in that case, surely there would have been a strong refutation from Rigpa officials? Surely, they could have stated that no such person has existed that they know of?  Again, it is clear that refuting the existence of multiple affairs and Sogyal’s harsh, sometimes harmful techniques during teachings is not something that Rigpa is capable of doing.

Another lucid description of Sogyal’s sexual affairs is given in the comment line of Behind The Thangkas ~ Sogyal Rimpoche ~ The imbalance of power and abuse of spiritual authority. On several dates, Jan. 9, 10 and 12, ex-Dakini describes her experiences of sexual abuse from Sogyal. This is a testimony from a woman who has clearly done the difficult work of healing from her experiences. In respect to this woman’s healing, I will not post her personal disclosures here, but I advise anyone who wishes to gain a clear picture of the allegations to view her comments.

Of particular significance, ex-Dakini states:

“My handful of years in Rigpa led me to witness first hand that Sogyal Rinpoche was a compulsive seducer of women. I knew more than several women who were seduced after their first teaching or at their first retreat. I knew women who were seduced when they were in distress. Others like myself had been involved in the organization for a while before he communicated his desire for sex. I am not including in this summary by the way anything that has been published by DI, these are things individuals told me personally some years ago.

“I can count the names of 15 women who I knew that SR was sexually involved with. And I wasn’t around for all that long. I suggest that those of you still involved in Rigpa who care about this to simply ask your lama how many of his students he has had sex with. I think it’s a fair question to ask a spiritual leader. These women – myself included – were his students. Not women who he met in other circumstances.”

Even BellaB acknowledges that ex-Dakini’s story rings true. This is odd, because after admitting that, BellaB then continues for months to refute the truth of allegations of sexual abuse by Sogyal. It seems she is either forgetful or can hold two contradictory truths in her mind at the same time.

I have been in personal contact with Tiger Lily, who comments during that time both in response to ex-Dakini and with her own testimony. I assure the reader that Tiger Lily is a real person with no vendetta towards Sogyal. She writes in Jan. 2012 of a meeting that she had with Mimi prior to the publication of BTT:

Suffice to say she echoes ex-d’s testimony in that during the time she was Sogyal’s attendant she received so little sleep that she couldn’t think straight. Sex with Sogyal “went with the job of being a female attendant.”  It was not about love. When she began to have doubts, she was faced with the answer that whatever Sogyal did would be a teaching for her good. She was encouraged by him to see herself as a consort and when she went in tears to Dzigar Kongtrul to ask him what it meant to be a consort he replied that it was very good.

She also told me that she was regularly struck by Sogyal with his backscratcher as were his other female attendants.

Tiger Lily was also involved with Sogyal as a girlfriend and writes of her own experiences:

“You asked me if Sogyal had ever treated me in the way Mimi has claimed he did her. First of all I was never encouraged to see myself as a consort. It never entered my head. I was a girl-friend. Neither did he ever hit me. I would have hit him back. Sogyal didn’t claim to be a great Master…that came after I’d left. He was usually called Sogyal Tulku by the Tibetans. The whole dynamic at Rigpa was more normal then. Much more low key, not the empire it’s become. He could be a pain in the arse though and we let him get away with it too much.

I did try to work with unpleasant emotions by letting my relationship with Sogyal and Rigpa be a catalyst for my practice. Perhaps not a waste of time after all as I have learned by default. I just gave up with being deceived by his philanderings and by being kept in the dark and the general deterioration of a friendship which I had once valued. I never saw him as my Guru but rather someone I wanted to be close to because Tibetan Buddhism was the most important part of my life.

I did notice a difference in his behaviour though and judging from other women’s comments it became more intense with each successive decade as Rigpa grew and grew and grew and the best of Sogyal (and there could be a sweet side to him) seemed to become swallowed up by Terton Sogyal. I am shocked and saddened by Mimi’s and Ex-d’s experiences but not surprised.”

Probably the strongest case made against BTT’s credibility in Response to the Blog Behind the Thangkas is the writer’s own positive experiences as a student of Sogyal. Certainly, this is the main theme of arguments raised by both BellaB and Sheila in the comment line. Sheila is concerned that by raising concerns over Sogyal’s behavior, we are undermining all Tibetan Buddhist teachers and her experiences have been completely positive. She wants no stain on Tibetan Buddhist leaders. Bella is concerned because her experiences with Sogyal have been all positive and she therefore disagrees with any allegation that his behavior is not perfect (except for those made by ex-Dakini).

Indeed, I would guess that there are many more students of Sogyal who have had only positive experiences than there are those who have had negative experiences. However, such black and white thinking is not helpful and such rationale can never justify misconduct or harm inflicted on even one woman. We are not talking about numbers. For example, a murderer might be wonderful to his children, his mother, his wife and friends, but his misconduct is still misconduct.

However, I acknowledge that the greatest challenge for any sincere Rigpa student is to equate the allegations of sexual abuse with the teacher that they know. Scott Edelstein, author of the story that I cited at the beginning of this writing, speaks eloquently of this dilemma:

It is entirely possible for a spiritual teacher to be wise, compassionate, empathetic, and inspiring, and at the same time sexually exploitive. This may seem entirely contradictory, but spiritual teachers have proven it true time after time. For better or worse, we humans are often contradictory creatures—especially when it comes to sex, power and vocation.” (Sex and the Spiritual Teacher, Chapter 1.)

It is therefore not my intention here to dispute Sogyal’s worth as a spiritual mentor for many. Nor is it my intention to hold him high as an exemplary spiritual teacher either. My intention is to ask readers to hold both possibilities in their hearts, to neither revert to blind faith, nor succumb to blind reactive emotions as you sort through the allegations and your own experience and analysis.

Those of you who have never experienced anything but kindness during your time as a Rigpa student are nonetheless encouraged to take the Buddha’s teachings to heart and try to experience compassion and feel how difficult coming forward with these stories must be for women who have suffered sexual abuse. Try perhaps to avoid seeing their reluctance to give their names as evidence that their stories and suffering are not real. See instead that this reluctance comes from fear.

Indeed, I can tell you as a therapist that coming forward with testimony of sexual abuse causes the victim great suffering. It triggers experiences of pain that victims want to put in the past. This is why so few rape victims bring their cases to court. I believe that this is why there are so few women with the courage of Mimi and Victoria, the courage to expose their vulnerability and their pain. Cruel comments, such as those made by BellaB and Sheila, do not help them find the courage either.

I have one further comment to quote from the comment line. This comment is not about sexual abuse explicitly. However, I suggest that it exposes the fact that Sogyal might be lacking in some boundaries around issues of sexuality.

Here is the story:

lalatee, on July 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm said:

http://www.dzogchenbeara.org

“I recently attended the recent 10 day retreat at Dzogchen Beara in County Cork, Ireland. I knew nothing about Sogyal Rinpoche when I arrived, beyond the fact that he was the author of the wonderful book: The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. SR arrived at the retreat he was supposed to be leading 4 days late. As soon as he came into the tent where 250 attendees were gathered, I knew I had made a mistake. His personality was egocentric and his manner imperious. It did not fit in with my idea of a holy or ascetic monk at all. During the course of the next few days I experienced what at best could be termed disrespect, at worst abuse of his colleagues and disciples. He was regularly late and often over-ran the sessions by several hours, on one occasion keeping us from lunch. He was insulting about the Irish people, about his assistants and to individual course participants. He refused to let one woman leave who had just heard that her house had been burgled, but made her sit down on the floor in front of him for 2 hours, saying it was too late to do anything about it now, she should have gone home before it was burgled not afterwards!

“The last straw for me, and which made me leave the retreat 2 days early, was when he called one of the senior assistants from the Centre for the sick and dying to come up to the podium. This lady is a very respected professional in her 60s doing amazing caring work with the bereaved and dying. She was forced to kneel down beside SR while he embraced her closely and put his hand on her chest. I could see her face and she was clearly deeply embarrassed and uncomfortable. SR proceeded to stroke her face, looking deeply into her eyes. When she pulled back slightly he turned to the 250 people in the audience and said: ‘This is none of your business, turn away.’ So 250 people (except me) twisted around in their seats and looked the other way. If that is not crowd manipulation and audience abuse, I don’t know what is. At the very least it shows complete ignorance or disregard for Western social mores ethical behaviour.

“I will not go back and I will not have anything further to do with Rigpa. I am very very sad that the wonderful people amongst the instructors and pupils that I met are being seriously duped. They do not deserve this sort of treatment. I wish them all well.”

This comment is also unique because it is about something that can be verified. I personally was not at the retreat the commenter is referring to, but hundreds of people were. No refutation of that story has appeared. In fact, in the Response to the Blog on Behind the Thangkas, the writer’s only comment about this story is quite cynical and misses the point completely. She writes coldly,

“It’s a new line in the story, because the old stories repeat that he is only after young women.”

Most Rigpa students reading the comment from lalatee, even those who did not attend the Dzogchen Beara retreat, will identify this experience with those they have experienced themselves. Defenders of Sogyal will say that he works with people’s egos in ways that reflect his genius and realization. Indeed, the writer of the response piece reports experiences of realization she has experienced as a result of Sogyal’s harsh methods. This same student suggests strongly that BTT was motivated by the ire of x-Rigpa students who became disenfranchised with Sogyal’s teaching methods:

“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.”

I personally find such an attitude deeply disturbing and cold. It is one based on a very self-centered approach to the dharma. The writer is applauding her own advanced state in being able to work with Sogyal’s harsh methods, while disregarding any harm caused to others. Whether those others are suffering or simply mad and discouraged with the Buddhist path, I suggest that the methods which Sogyal uses are not benefitting them and are instead causing obstacles to their practice of dharma. I also question a practice said to be diminishing ego if that same practice causes one to denigrate others. It was my own impression from my year with Rigpa that the harsh methods were for the initiation of a few chosen students, while the rest of us, such as lalatee and myself sat in horror, dejection and confusion, watching on.

Indeed, the core purpose of all the Buddha’s teaching is for the diminishing of ego. HH Dalai Lama outlines these teachings as ones that either diminish self-cherishing or diminish self-grasping. Practices that diminish self-cherishing are practices of method, such as cultivating love, compassion, tolerance, charity, warmheartedness, kindness etc. Practices that diminish self-grasping are practices of wisdom, such as studying, reflecting and meditating on impermanence and emptiness. This is a huge canon of teaching, all aimed at diminishing ego. Yet, instead of those approaches, Sogyal has decided that he has a better, more effective approach. Nowhere do I see such approaches in the main scriptural sources, though I agree that they are described in biographies of the great masters, as in Tilopa’s treatment of Marpa and Marpa’s treatment of Milarepa. My only question there is how many Milarepas do we believe have been born in the West? Are these approaches really suitable for all or even for many or are they approaches only for highly advanced students? Sometimes it seems that perhaps Rigpa students who have experienced these harsh techniques might think they are special, like Milarepa. They might become more arrogant instead of less!

Perhaps I would not object to this so forcibly if I didn’t question whether Sogyal’s Dzogchen teachings and methodology was backed by a strong education program. Without this, harsh Dzogchen methods have no context in which to become a true practice of dharma. I once asked the Dzogchen teacher Shyalpa Rinpoche if it was important to have a good understanding of the Madyamaka teachings in order to practice Dzogchen. He replied that practicing Dzogchen without a full understanding of Madyamaka would be like climbing a rock cliff without hands.

In the same vein, HH Dalai Lama said during Dzogchen teachings he gave in 1989,

“So that the special features of Dzogchen can be pointed out and you can recognize them, you must have a thorough, overall understanding of the principles of all the different vehicles of the Buddhadharma. This is the only basis on which you can truly appreciate the uniqueness and depth of Dzogchen. Without such an overview, it will be difficult for your mind to feel any certainty as to why these teachings are so special. That is why you need to understand the whole spectrum of the Buddhadharma, from the lower yanas to the higher yanas.” (p.127; Dzogchen: The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection, Teachings Given in the West by His Holiness the Dalai Lama)

In the forward to this same text, Sogyal gives a brief description of his first meeting with HH Dalai Lama: “His Holiness asked me my name and my age. He then held me in a piercing gaze and told me pointedly to make sure I studied hard. It was a moment I have always remembered, for it was probably one of the most important of my life.” (p. 9)

This indicates that within mainstream Tibetan Buddhism, education is considered to be important for both student and spiritual teacher. While I do not have Mary’s courage to question the level of Sogyal’s dharma education, I do question whether that advice is central to the approach taken within the Rigpa program itself. Are Sogyal’s harsh methods used on students who haven’t studied the Four Noble Truths? On students who have never studied the madyamaka teachings? On students who have no understanding of lojong or never meditated on compassion or emptiness? I question the efficacy of harsh methods when a foundation of understanding core Buddhist concepts and practices is not laid.

These are questions that I suggest every Rigpa student needs to find answers for, in order to assess the current situation fully. In Mahayana Buddhism, the primary goal of practice is to cultivate a state of mind where concern for others’ welfare is more important than concern for oneself. Justifying Sogyal’s behaviors on the basis that one’s own practice has benefitted and others who have been harmed are in some way deficient is a very disturbing attitude in this context. This attitude has prevailed throughout much of the comment line.

IS SEX BETWEEN A SPIRITUAL TEACHER AND STUDENTS HARMFUL?

I wish to question three underlying assumptions evident throughout the comment line, in A Response to the Blog BTT and within mainstream Tibetan Buddhism. The first is that sex between a spiritual teacher and his/her student is not wrong in itself and does not harm nor constitute abuse in itself. Only if it resembles the sort of abuse that would occur in an everyday relationship should it be called abuse. The second is that women are free to say yes or no to Sogyal; they are free agents. The third is that it is an honor and spiritual practice to have sex with a renowned Dzogchen master such as Sogyal.

Immediately, I will point out that there is a contradiction between the last two assumptions. If it is an honor and a spiritual practice to have sex with your “master” then immediately there is less free will. Saying no entails refusing to practice as your lama has instructed—this is a much more difficult act than simply turning down sex, as one would with an ordinary person. So we can’t have it both ways. Either having sex with Sogyal is no big deal, no more than sex with the everyday Joe on the street, or it entails a power differential, with women being less free to refuse.

Certainly, the Buddha himself has given us permission to say no to our teachers if they ask us to do something which is incorrect. The difficulty here, however, lies squarely with my earlier points about the lack of education within Rigpa programs. If a woman is not well read on the scriptures and Sogyal tells her that having sex will help her progress on the spiritual path, then how is she to have the resources to question this view? How can she know her rights of refusal, if she has no thorough knowledge of the Buddha’s instructions in this regard? If she has no knowledge of what tantric sex is even about?

Indeed, the first several education courses offered at Rigpa are not courses in fundamental texts such as Words of My Perfect Teacher, Bodhicaharyavatara, Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment or any of Longchenpa’s teachings. They are Sogyal’s book and Sogyal’s teachings. New students at Rigpa study the dharma from Sogyal’s point of view.

 I would suggest that most of the students who first enter into sexual relations with him have very little further grounding in the Buddhadharma than Sogyal’s viewpoint.

 In this respect, they have absolutely no tools with which to question him if he tells them that sex will help their spiritual progress. They have few tools with which to say no.

In fact, it is a contradiction in terms to say no to any “master,” is it not? In fact, this is a key, central tenet of Dzogchen, the role of the master. Dzogchen is about the “master” leading the student into unknown territory; it is about the student having complete trust that where the master leads is a safe territory. This is central to many Dzogchen techniques. From the outside, we shudder to hear of such practices. From inside Rigpa, such an outlook is common and not questioned. I personally believe that the true Dzogchen lies somewhere in between. The true Dzogchen can only be practiced after the student has spent years investigating the teacher and the primary texts of Buddhism. These years have to be years where the Dzogchen teacher is not seen as a “master” but is seen as a lecturer who is put on trial. I fear that many of the stories of sexual abuse that one hears in regard to Sogyal have occurred with students who have never spent anywhere near that requisite time.

Add to this trouble the outlook of tantra, where one is required to see the lama as perfect and you have further trouble. Indeed, HH Dalai Lama speaks very strongly about the dangers inherent in seeing everything that the lama does as perfect:

“The offering of practice means always to live by the teachings of one’s guru. But what happens when the guru gives us advice that we do not wish to follow or that contradicts Dharma and reason? The yardstick must always be logical reasoning and Dharma reason. Any advice that contradicts these is to be rejected. This was said by Buddha himself. If one doubts the validity of what is being said, one should gently push the point and clear all doubts. This task becomes somewhat more sensitive in Highest Tantra, where total surrender to the guru is a prerequisite; but even here this surrender must be made only in a particular sense. If the guru points to the east and tells you to go west, there is little alternative for the student but to make a complaint. This should be done with respect and humility, however, for to show any negativity towards a teacher is not a noble way of repaying his or her kindness.

Perception of faults in the guru should not cause us to feel disrespect, for by demonstrating faults to us the guru is actually showing us what we should abandon. At least, this is the most useful attitude for us to take. An important point here is that the disciple must have a spirit of sincere inquiry and must have clear, rather than blind, devotion.

It is frequently said that the essence of the training in guru yoga is to cultivate the art of seeing everything the guru does as perfect. Personally I myself do not like this to be taken too far. Often we see written in the scriptures, “Every action seen as perfect..” However, this phrase must be seen in the light of Buddha Shakyamuni’s own words: “Accept my teachings only after examining them as an analyst buys gold. Accept nothing out of mere faith in me.” The problem with the practice of seeing everything the guru does as perfect is that it very easily turns to poison for both the guru and the disciple. Therefore, whenever I teach this practice, I always advocate that the tradition of ‘every action seen as perfect’ not be stressed. Should the guru manifest unDharmic qualities or give teachings contradicting Dharma, the instruction on seeing the spiritual master as perfect must give way to reason and Dharma wisdom.

Take myself, for example. Because many of the previous Dalai Lamas were great sages and I am said to be their reincarnation, and also because in this lifetime I give frequent religious discourses, many people place much faith in me, and in their guru yoga practice they visualize me as being a Buddha – I am also regarded by these people as their secular leader. Therefore, this teaching of ‘every action seen as perfect,’ can easily become poison for me in my relationship with my people and in my effective administration. I could think to myself, ‘They all see me as a buddha, and therefore will accept anything I tell them.’ Too much faith and imputed purity of perception can quite easily turn things rotten. I always recommend that the teaching on seeing the guru’s actions as perfect should not be stressed in the lives of ordinary practitioners. It would be an unfortunate affair if the Buddhadharma, which is established by profound reasoning, were to have to take second place to it.

Perhaps you will think: ‘he Dalai Lama has not read the Lam Rim scriptures. He does not know that there is no practice of Dharma without the guru.’ I am not being disrespectful of the Lam Rim teachings. A student of the spiritual path should rely upon a teacher and should meditate on that teacher’s kindness and good qualities; but the teaching on seeing his or her actions as perfect can only be applied within the context of the Dharma as a whole and the rational approach to knowledge that it advocates. As the teachings on seeing the guru’s actions as perfect is borrowed from Highest Tantra and appears in the Lam Rim mainly to prepare the trainee for tantric practice, beginners must treat it with caution. As for spiritual teachers, if they misrepresent this precept of guru yoga in order to take advantage of naive disciples, their actions are like pouring the liquid fires of hell directly into their stomachs.

The disciple must always keep reason and knowledge of Dharma as principal guidelines. Without this approach it is difficult to digest one’s Dharma experiences. Make a thorough examination before accepting someone as a guru, and even then follow that teacher within the conventions of reason as presented by Buddha. The teachings on seeing the guru’s actions as perfect should largely be left for the practice of Highest Tantra, wherein they take on a new meaning. One of the principal yogas in the tantric vehicle is to see the world as a mandala of great bliss and to see oneself and all others as Buddhas. Under these circumstances it becomes absurd to think that you and everyone else are Buddhas, but your guru is not!

Actually, the more respect one is given the more humble one should become, but sometimes this principle becomes reversed. A spiritual teacher must guard himself or herself carefully and should remember the words of Lama Drom Tonpa, ‘Use respect shown to you as a cause for humility.’ This is the teacher’s responsibility. The student has the responsibility of using wisdom in his or her demonstration of faith and respect.

A problem is that we usually only observe those teachings that feed our delusions and ignore those that would overcome them. This leniency can easily lead to one’s downfall. This is why I say that the teaching on seeing all the guru’s actions as perfect can be a poison. Many sectarian problems in Tibet were born and nourished by it.

The First Dalai Lama wrote, ‘The true spiritual master looks upon all living beings with thoughts of love and shows respect to teachers of all traditions alike. Such a one only harms delusion, the enemy within.’ The different traditions have arisen principally as branches of skilful methods for trainees of varying capacities. If we take an aspect of their teachings, such as the precept of ‘all actions seen as perfect,’ and use it for sectarian purposes, how have we repaid the past masters for their kindness in giving and transmitting Dharma? Have we not disgraced them? If we misunderstand and mispractice their teachings, it will hardly please them. Similarly, it is meritorious for a lama to perform rituals or give initiations to benefit people, but if his or her motivation is only material benefit, that person would be better off going into business instead. Using the mask of Dharma to exploit people is a great harm.

We erect elaborate altars and make extensive pilgrimages, but better than these is to remember Buddha’s teachings: ‘Never create any negative action; always create goodness; aim all practices at cultivating the mind.’ When our practice increases delusion, negativity and disturbed states of mind, we know that something is wrong.

It is sometimes said that a major cause of the decline of Buddhism in India eight hundred years ago was the practice of Vajrayana by unqualified people, and sectarianism caused by corruption within the Sangha. Anyone teaching Tibetan Buddhism should keep this in mind when they refer to the precept, ‘every action of the guru is to be seen as perfect.’ This is an extremely dangerous teaching, particularly for beginners. (Essence of Refined Gold; Commentary by Tenzin Gyatso The Fourteenth Dalai Lama; 1982, Translated &b Edited by Glenn H Mullin; pp55-57)

I suggest that most of us in the West are beginners who are ignorant of the dharma and ignorant even of our own ignorance. We are being faced with a culture of seeing the actions of the guru as perfectly wise and we have no tools with which to question that. It is for this reason that I further suggest that there is no situation by which sex between a Tibetan Buddhist lama and his/her student is safe from harm. None. The power differential is simply too huge.

This is not merely my opinion, but a reality supported by western psychotherapists. It is known in the west, for example, that sexual relations between doctors and patients, therapists and clients and teachers and students are all relationships that cause harm. This is because the power differential is too large. It is accepted among therapists that this same trouble exists in the relationship between spiritual teachers and their students. However, I have not studied this matter thoroughly and I don’t work with sexual abuse victim, so I refer readers to two books written on this subject matter. The first is Sex in the Forbidden Zone by Peter Rutter and the second is Sex and the Spiritual Teacher, by Scott Edelstein. I beg Rigpa students who question this to study and investigate.

Discussions on the comment line about this matter in particular have been disturbing because individuals comment as if they have professional knowledge of this, when in fact, they are simply giving unsubstantiated opinion. BellaB frequently speaks of women who are victims of sexual abuse with Sogyal in the same context that she might judge a woman in a relationship with any man on the street or her past boyfriends. Sheila frequently states that if there is a crime, then women should go to the police and if there is no crime, then there is nothing to complain about. She completely dismisses the fact accepted among western therapists that any sexual relationship between a spiritual teacher and his student, even one that is legal, is going to cause psychological damage to the student. She also dismisses the fact that women statistically are reluctant to file charges and endure the ordeal of being grilled over their experiences.

I encourage any Rigpa student who doubts western psychological evidence indicating that sex between spiritual teachers and students is harmful to investigate further and make certain of this. While Scott Edelstein is not a psychologist himself, he has investigated these problems extensively and is a longtime Buddhist student who has relationships with many teachers and students alike. He writes:

“Interpersonal boundaries are not the creation of modern-day psychologists or business consultants; they have existed for as long as humans have lived in groups. The age-old taboo against incest exists in part because our ancestors realized long ago that sex between parents and children is, among other things, one of the most psychologically damaging boundary violations. A similar dynamic exists between mental health professionals and their clients; as a result professional organizations consider sex between clinicians and their clients to be unethical, and state governments [in the US] have declared it illegal.

“Likewise, extensive (and often painful) experience has shown that when sex occurs between a spiritual teacher and a student, the teacher-student relationship is often damaged, sometimes irrevocably. In some cases, the student’s own sense of spirituality is similarly broken.

“Any relationship potent enough to promote growth and healing is also powerful enough to harm. This is especially so with the relationship between a spiritual teacher and a student hungry for spiritual knowledge and growth.”(Sex and the Spiritual Teacher, Scott Edelstein, Introduction).

This brings the discussion to the final point, which is the Tibetan Buddhist perspective of sexual relations between teacher and student. I would like to address this from two perspectives, one being the Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist definition of sexual misconduct and the other being consideration of tantric sex.

The following excerpt is from Gampopa, who is an 11th century kadampa and Mahamudra practitioner and the founder of the Dakpo Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. It is written for male practitioners. For female practitioners, the genders need to be reversed. What is of significance in this code of conduct is the ethnic and historical orientation, as the reader will immediately notice. Already there has been an outcry from gay and lesbian Buddhists about this code and HH Dalai Lama has stated that the code can only be changed through a careful collective effort, not by a decree from him or any other Buddhist leader. Indeed, current troubles with sexual misconduct by TB lamas could well be the catalyst needed for careful reform of the code to begin.

“Sexual Misconduct

Classification of Sexual Misconduct. There are three types of sexual misconduct: protected by the family, protected by the owner, and protected by the Dharma. The first one means sexual misconduct with one’s mother, sister and so forth. The second one means sexual misconduct with someone owned by a husband or king, and so forth. The third one has five subcategories: even with one’s own wife, sexual misconduct refers to improper parts of the body, improper place, improper time, improper number, and improper behavior. Improper parts of body are the mouth and anus. Improper places are close to the spiritual master, monastery or stupa, or in a gathering of people. Improper times are during a special retreat [such as a Nyungne, when vows of celibacy are taken], when pregnant, while nursing a child, or when there is light. An improper number is more than five times. Improper behavior refers to beating or having intercourse with a male or hermaphrodite in the mouth or anus.”

(Gampopa, The Jewel Ornament of Liberation; Snow Lion Publications, 1998).

Certainly when one reads this description of sexual misconduct, one’s immediate reaction will be that reform is needed! It is outdated and irrelevant to our troubles! Women are not “owned” any more! I myself question the efficacy of such an outdated code at restraining the behavior of Buddhists. However, while Buddhists are not encouraged to follow any stricture blindly, once we allow for easy exceptions to any code of conduct, then flagrant abuses will occur. I suggest that this fact is very alarming. It appears that Tibetan Buddhists have a choice: They can either follow this code blindly, which speaks of such things as a woman being owned by her husband or they can update it in their own ways, which then allows for a dangerous crack to form in ethical discipline. This is a serious concern, I believe, that could lie at the center of the current trouble. Of central concern to this discussion is the fact that there is no mention made of sexual relations between lama and student.

Of course, this code of sexual conduct must be viewed within the context of the Buddha’s main tenet, which is: commit no harm.  And here we are, back at the beginning.  Certainly, proving that these relationships have caused harm and will cause harm is central to our discussions over and over again.  Western psychological communities have given their voice to this.  I wonder if Tibetan Buddhist leaders too could give their voice?  
As for the tantric perspective on sexual relations between a spiritual teacher and his/her teacher, the practice of a consort, I will again refer to those more knowledgeable than myself.

John Powers, a university professor and Buddhist practitioner, states:

“Tantric texts stress that practice with consorts is not a form of sexual indulgence, but rather a form of controlled visualization that uses the special bliss of sexual union. It is restricted to very advanced practitioners, yogins who have gained control over the emanation of a subtle body and have awakened the mystical heat energy, or “dumo” (gtum mo, candali). Those who have not advanced to this level are not qualified to practice with an actual consort; people without the necessary prerequisites who mimic tantric sexual practices thinking that they are practicing tantra are simply deluded, and may do themselves great harm. Sexual union is only appropriate to advanced levels of the stage of completion, and so those who have not developed sufficient realization and control over subtle energies are unable to generate the blissful wisdom consciousness realizing emptiness that is the basis for this practice. They may succeed in fooling others—or even themselves—but they will be utterly unable to use sexual energy in accordance with the practices of highest yoga tantra.”

According to the Dalai Lama, only a person who views all the phenomena of cyclic existence with complete impartiality is qualified to engage in tantric sexual practices:

“Truthfully, you can only do such practice if there is no sexual desire whatsoever. The kind of realization that is required is like this: If someone gives you a goblet of wine and a glass of urine, or a plate of wonderful food and a piece of excrement, you must be in such a state that you can eat and drink from all four and it makes no difference to you what they are. Then maybe you can do this practice.”

When asked to name any lamas who he thought were at this level, he admitted that he could not. He mentioned that there are well-known stories of great teachers like Tilopa who had transcended all attachment to conventional thinking and so were able to engage in sexual practices without harming themselves or their students, but he added that such exceptional individuals are very rare.”

(John Powers, Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, Snow Lion Publications, 1995, p. 252.)

I am certain that there might be other stories about the purpose of a lama taking a consort other than tantra, but I know of no scriptural sources for this. I know that in Dzogchen, the famous relationship of Yeshe Tsogyal and Padmasambhava is often referred to, with an inference that being a consort is a common highly honored practice. However, I will remind the reader that Yeshe Tsogyal herself was a highly realized woman, who had no other desire, from an early age, than to practice dharma.

I am no expert and stand to be corrected, but I know of no authentic practice of sexual union in Buddhism outside of advanced tantric practices. From this viewpoint alone, I question whether it is indeed an honor for any woman to have sexual relations with her teacher, Sogyal Lakar. Though I would never presume to state that none of these women are bodhisattvas on the 10th bhumi, my impression is rather the opposite. These women are tender newcomers to Buddhism who are vulnerable to harm.

* Added Sat June 2, 2012

The following is a clarification and correction:  As I have said, I am no expert (nor am I a practitioner of Dzogchen).  I have recently uncovered references to practices of sexual union in Dzogchen which are separate from tantra.  In a recent translation of teachings of Padmasambhava on this topic, it is stated:

 

            “But in the Dzogchen teachings there are special channels and potencies not discussed in Tantricism, related to the experiences of ‘lamps’ and ‘vajra-chains’ mentioned here.  These are direct manifestations of buddhahood, associated with the thogal practices of the Upadesha.”

 

Also, in the same text:

“Dzogchen, the way of self-liberation is a non gradual path.  This means that its principle, the understanding of the reality of self-liberation, can be applied right from the start of the path.”

 

And in the same text:

 

“At the time of intercourse when passionate attachment and the concepts associated with it arise, this is experienced as the creative energy of pristine awareness.  If one does not know this, it is just attachment.  Transforming this into pristine awareness means that by working with passionate attachment itself, passionate attachment is purified.” 

 And in the same text:
 

 “If we deeply know that our body is an open dimension, like space, with porous boundaries, then there is no attachment to the body, because we experience a brilliant clarity (salwa) by means of our body that is also ungraspable.  If we deeply know that our body is like a field that unifies all dualities, then all sexual energies are unified in an experience of pure pleasure (dewa) that overwhelms the grasping mind.”

(Secret Teachings of Padmasambhava: Essential Instructoins on Mastering the Energies of Life, Edited and Translated by Kennard Lipman, PHD)

 

Indeed, I have very little personal understanding of Dzogchen.  However, there are several distinctive features of this description of the Dzogchen approach to sexual union which are significant to this discussion.  One is the assertion that the Dzogchen form of sexual union can be practised outside of tantra.  I presume this means it is therefore also outside of the boundaries of tantric vows and commitments.  Next is the reference to Dzogchen being a “non gradual” path.  The inference is that practices such as sexual union, which in tantra can only be practised by very advanced practitioners, could conceivably be allowed for more beginning practitioners of Dzogchen.  There is also no emphasis in this text by Padmasambhava on the need to withhold semen during practices of union. 

 I suggest that these features make Dzogchen practices of sexual union more prone to misconduct.   In tantra, because of the vow prohibiting practitioners from ejaculating, immediately the practice is one that entails a large degree of self-discipline.  It is difficult to imagine that an individual with such control could be engaged in the activity for mere, mundane sexual pleasure.  My impression of Dzogchen, however, is that the student only has the lama’s word for it that the practice is different from any other mundane sexual intercourse—because outwardly, it might appear to be the same.  In addition, because Dzogchen teachings do stress a non gradual path, then this situation can presumably cause more risks to a beginning student, who is told that sex with the master will help her realize Dzogchen.  It is more difficult to establish that essential boundary of safety, which is cultivating the understanding that only a very advanced practitioner can use sexual union on the path.  More significant still is the fact that presumably a woman does not need to spend the requisite years of study and critical reflection before finding herself committed to her lama through sexual union.  Though many great teachers of Dzogchen would presumably require those prerequisites of their students, there appears to be room for leniency too. Of course, in my ignorance I could be misinterpreting these passages as well as others.  Nothing would please me more than for a great master of Dzogchen to enter into these discussions and resolve our concerns about the risks posed by sexual relations between a lama and his students.

Nonetheless, tantra or no tantra, there does seem to be a large permissiveness within Buddhist canon for a non-monastic teacher to have sex with his/her students. Does anyone know of a scriptural source for this being harmful to the relationship? I have found none. I suggest that if this is true, if this is the perspective from which mainstream Tibetan Buddhist leaders are exonerating the sexual behaviors of lamas such as Sogyal, then that fact needs to be made known. Students who walk in the door of any Tibetan Buddhist dharma center need to be informed from the very beginning that: 1. sexual relationships between this teacher and his/her students are considered ok; 2. Only students on a very high level of spiritual attainment can use this sexual relationship for spiritual progress; and 3. It is ok for any woman to refuse to have sex with the “master.” It does not break any samaya or commitment she has to her spiritual practice.

This is the protocol and educational program that needs to be instigated within our dharma centers. With those three clear guidelines, then at least the playing field would be more level. Students could judge before their judgment became impaired whether they even wanted to enter that door again—whether they could tolerate practicing in such a permissive community. Women would stand a better chance of being able to say no and understand the boundaries of the relationship. Surely, making these issues clear is the least that Sogyal and the Rigpa establishment could do. In the west, there are certain expectations and assumptions about conduct. Tibetans also have certain expectations and assumptions about conduct. At the very least, these current troubles should be a call for better communication on all sides. At least they call for some honesty. If it’s considered ok for Sogyal to have sex with his students, this needs to be broadcast aloud—it needs to be put on Rigpa websites. It needs to be put on fliers. It needs to be made known.

So after all this discussion, what is a Rigpa student to think? The answer to this must come from the conscience of each and every student. Even those of us who are Buddhist practitioners but not Rigpa students need to explore our own consciences and our own attitudes towards our teachers. The answers will come one by one, from students themselves. This can be painful and slow, but it is the ground for real change.

In summary, my main points are:

  1. There is enough evidence of probable sexual misconduct by Sogyal to warrant alarm, and at the very least interest, on the part of Rigpa students. This evidence is not simply being provided by Mary Finnigan.
  2. There is strong evidence that Sogyal is, at the very least, engaging in sexual relations with multiple numbers of his students. This fact has never been directly refuted by either Sogyal or Rigpa officials.
  3. On the contrary, there have been statements by Rigpa officials in the past that Sogyal is not a monastic and therefore has a right to engage in sexual relations.
  4. There is also an indication that mainstream Tibetan Buddhist thought does not consider Sogyal’s behavior to be a problem, which adds further weight to the likelihood that it is occurring. If it isn’t wrong, why then should Sogyal refrain from multiple sexual relations with his students?
  5. Mainstream western psychological evidence has shown that sexual relations between a spiritual teacher and his/her student does cause harm.
  6. Women themselves have reported suffering as a result of sexual relations with Sogyal.
  7. It is not uncommon for spiritual teachers, who have crossed sexual boundaries to also be highly inspiring and kind teachers.
  8. There is no evidence within Buddhist canon to justify sexual relations as a spiritual practice on the level that Sogyal engages in them.
  9. However, except for the strictures against having sex with married women and beating women, there is little in the allegations against Sogyal that is even banned in the Buddhist canon regarding sexual misconduct. It appears that if Sogyal can disprove those two allegations and disagree with women’s reports of suffering, then he is free from the viewpoint of Buddhist ethical conduct. I suggest that this needs to be reviewed!

 

[For every Rigpa student who feels that there is simply too much smoke to sit quietly while the fire burns, we advise you to contact Dialogue Ireland as we have been collecting testimony from victims and can give you information, albeit anonymously. Ways to contact Dialogue Ireland include email,  info@dialogueireland.org  or telephone us on, +353 1 8309384 or 353 872396229 or Skype mikergarde

We offer free advice and information, and will publish testimonies either with your full name or anonymously of those still in a process of healing. We do not personally offer therapy but have a list of those that do. We also would recommend those seriously affected by their involvement to consider a visit to this location for in depth support.

Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center is a residential treatment center for those who have been abused in relationships, cults, situations of trauma, and by destructive therapeutic alliances resulting in emotional betrayal and/or physical harm. We offer hope and help through a program of counseling, education, and retreat.

http://wellspringretreat.org/

Also in the USA and the UK there is help provided by RETIRN (Re-Entry Therapy, Information & Referral  Network http://www.dreichel.com/About_RETIRN.htm ]

131 Responses

  1. I just think we have never defined “spiritual teacher.” My own mom and dad have taken turns at the podium, for example, with the other in the audience, for spiritual teachings. “Spiritual teacher” is far too wide a term to even begin assigning a religion-wide code of conduct to.

    However, codes of conduct (such as Buddhism and Christianity) which have, in their foundation, a “no harm” code, already address the central issue of treating others kindly.

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  2. …public talk at the Royal Albert Hall… :)

    …send your questions…

    Edited due to personal attack: Bella you are obsessed by MF. Stick her views not her person please.

    I wonder if there is only one question and the Hall is filled with desperate women xxxxxxxx in the front line?

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  3. “You don’t get B. I am not suggesting sarcasm, but you reply to those who use it in a literal way. It could be because your first language is not English?”

    I do get it, but ignore it and reply anyway.

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  4. When are you going to get married in your centre Sheila? Are you not telling us something?

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  5. Sing sing praise and sing thank God for everything including diversion on a grand scale

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  6. You don’t get B. I am not suggesting sarcasm, but you reply to those who use it in a literal way. It could be because your first language is not English?

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  7. Shall I walk on the beach should I eat a peach, should I comb my hair behind?….Sheila you did not reply to my call off line option. Why are you not replying!?

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  8. Drolma, I don’t understand where you stand here?

    At first you told us that you were leaving – and left – your husband because you thought you will become a partner for SR.

    When it didn’t go as you planned, you accuse him and other teachers for having sexual relationships with other women?

    On the other hand you were very open and willing for such a relationship, but then you got disappointed – and now you reject such an idea 100% and also reject the idea that sometimes it might even be good. You have gone from one extreme to another.

    Maybe at some point – I hope – you will begin to feel safe enough to see the colours in between.

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  9. Meaning, they’re old enough to know what’s going on in their own sangha.

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  10. You know, Drolma, when you imply that teachers all over the country are abusing their students, and that it happens a lot, you are really insulting the thousands of intelligent Buddhists who take teachings every week from these people and wouldn’t tolerate such a thing if it were really happening. What you are implying is that thousands upon thousands of people are completely ignorant, completely unobservant, simply don’t care, or are looking the other way, or don’t give a hoot about ethics. I think that’s what bugs me the most. I think the average practitioner in my dharma center is around 50 years of age, lol.

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  11. “It is for this reason that I further suggest that there is no situation by which sex between a Tibetan Buddhist lama and his/her student is safe from harm. None. The power differential is simply too huge.”

    “A happy marriage is about as far as one can get from the allegations of sexual abuse we are discussing here. There is no comparison.”

    This doesn’t make sense; you acknowledge in the second statement that there is a situation where (apparently) a teacher and student are happily married.

    The suggestion that sex and marriage between people who teach class and people who take class should be forbidden is invasive, unfair and inaccurate.

    If my celibate teachers were having sexual relations with their students, no one would come to class. No one would continue to take teachings from someone who visibly continues to violate a precept; that teacher simply wouldn’t wield moral authority, and most students who come to class expect a high level of ethics. A ban on sex and marriage would only hurt our non-celibate community.

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  12. In fact, Sheila, I can give you one quote from my post, where I write: “It is for this reason that I further suggest that there is no situation by which sex between a Tibetan Buddhist lama and his/her student is safe from harm. None. The power differential is simply too huge.”

    So yes you can take that line and extrapolate it and say that Drolma says that a happy marriage between a Tibetan lama and his student is abusive. In fact, when I sent the same post to Tenzin on the other site, I did mitigate that line a little and wrote: “It is for this reason that I further suggest that there are few situations by which sex between a Tibetan Buddhist lama and his/her student is safe from harm. Much fewer than we think. The power differential is simply too huge. ”

    And if you read my comment of a few days ago, I also state that the jury is still out about whether there is harm in legitimite lama/student relationships. There are some writers, such as the author Scott Edelstein, who believe that there is no situation that is safe from harm– and there are those working in clergy abuse who would definitely support a healthy clergy/parishioner marriage.

    Personally, I haven’t given it much thought because there are victims suffering right now and that is my primary concern. What I do know about your current diversion into discussions of marital bliss, however, is that it is TOTALLY IRRELEVANT to this current discussion. A happy marriage is about as far as one can get from the allegations of sexual abuse we are discussing here. There is no comparison.

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  13. Drolma, I’ll use an example from your article above:

    ” I know of no authentic practice of sexual union in Buddhism outside of advanced tantric practices.”

    Obviously marriage between two loving people is an authentic part of Buddhist life for many people.

    It’s mentioned above that any students walking in the door of a Rigpa center should be informed that sex with the teacher is considered okay. Should big signs or flyers also be present at all Lutheran churches, then, saying such a thing? Do you think for a minute a Lutheran church or congregation would want these signs and flyers, and do you think that by rejecting such an idea, that means Lutherans want to lure unsuspecting ex-Catholics into abusive sex?

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  14. Sheila,

    “Drolma, by your definition of harm, my married friend is committing the same violation you say Sogyal Rinpoche is”

    1. Where is that “definition of harm” that you are quoting me as saying? Where? Quote it and I will discuss it.
    2. Where have I suggested banning marriage between spiritual teachers and students? Quote me.
    3. Have I ever written up a code of ethics? A set of rules? Quote me.
    4. Where have I stated that the man in a happily married couple is guilty of abuse? Quote me.

    I cannot discuss a thing with you while you persist in putting words in my mouth. You are simply creating sock puppets and calling them Drolma so you can argue with them and waste our time.

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  15. I didn’t mean to sound snippy with the “guessing you’d pick him as the perpetrator,” just that the general assumption in these conversations is that the teacher would be male–I think that’s actually a shame, since there are many female teachers. But at any rate, that’s what I meant by that phrasing–wasn’t trying to be cynical.

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  16. “Let’s arrive at an admission of misconduct and harm first!”

    Drolma, by your definition of harm, my married friend is committing the same violation you say Sogyal Rinpoche is. That, at least, ought to trouble you. By your equation, the man (I’m guessing you’d pick him as the perpetrator) in a happily married couple is guilty of abuse in the same way you say Sogyal Rinpoche is: both have had a child or children with someone who used to sit in their dharma classes.

    I’m not just raving about this for no reason. I have direct knowledge of someone who would be personally harmed by the ban you are suggesting on relationships between teachers and students.

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  17. “this website is about the harm caused through sexual misconduct by powerful lamas”

    But the title of this piece refers to teachers and sex, not “powerful lamas” and sex.

    I absolutely to not agree that it is anyone’s business to regulate other people’s marriages. Many powerful lamas are married, and undoubtedly throughout history, spouses (either before or after becoming spouses) at some point have received teachings from their spouse.

    So again to answer the question posed in the piece here, no, sex between “teacher” and “student” can not be said to be inherently wrong, because not even sex by “powerful lamas” can be said to be inherently wrong.

    Any act which causes harm is wrong, period. It doesn’t need to be further categorized by type of harm in order to count, in order to incur karma, nor in order to be prosecuted. Harping about sex in particular just perpetuates the idea that sex itself is inherently harmful, which it is not. Only harm is inherently harmful, which is why the most basic tenet of Buddhism is “do no harm.”

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  18. Drolma, how can we do that if we don’t define it?

    I don’t agree that sex between people is inherently misconduct or harm, regardless of whether one of them is currently teaching a class or has in the past.

    When Ani Choying Drolma came to town, in the morning classes it was Geshe Lhundup Sopa and Yangsi Rinpoche teaching; at her evening session, she was the one sitting on the raised seat while these Geshes sat low.

    I really believe firmly that some of the imagery we are using of “teacher” and “student” is mired in specters of an imagined past which either wasn’t as we keep describing it, or at the very least is less and less applicable to the modern shape of dharma teachings, especially as those teachings are manifesting in the west.

    I absolutely will not stand by any “regulation” of conduct which serves to artificially distance from each other people who have every right to marry.

    It’s kind of ironic–this specter of all-powerful, male, older teachers somehow ruling over young, innocent females is allegedly intended to “shape” a Western dharma that is more equitable, when in fact it promotes imagery that is often no longer true, and in some cases never was. My teachers range from celibate monks and nuns, to monks and nuns with spiritual partners, to fully married couples, as well as formerly-married people who have taken up robes, and formerly-robed teachers who have taken up marriage. I really don’t care about their personal, (un)married life; I care about the teachings.

    Marriage status should not have any bearing on either abuse or dharma; both abuse and dharma can be addressed without trying to somehow rule who can marry.

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  19. HH Dalai Lama is in the UK teaching this weekend and through until Tuesday next week (June 16 – 19). I think he should be asked about this issue, at least in general terms (eg ‘Is it acceptable for Tibetan Lamas to ask their female students to have sex with them?’) if he is unlikely to speak about an individual Lama

    There will be opportunities to ask questions. I have pasted below what the event organisers have sent out about questions.

    QUESTIONS TO HIS HOLINESS: His Holiness the Dalai Lama is often prepared to answer questions from members of the audience at his talks. If you are attending 16th June youth event in Manchester or 19th June public talk at the Royal Albert Hall and would like the opportunity to submit a question to be answered during the event, please send it by e-mail to info@tibethouse.co.uk, with QUESTION as the subject, along with your name and age (only list age for the youth event). For the other events at Manchester Arena, you will be able to hand in written questions on the day.

    Full details of the events are here http://www.dalailama2012uk.org/

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  20. SHEILA, WHO SAID ANYTHING ABOUT RULES??? Let’s arrive at an admission of misconduct and harm first!

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  21. “Bella do a word search on sarcasm and irony please?”

    Why should I? My sarcastic and ironic father has taught me since I was born.

    I’m not yet crying – and he is not yet dead! :)

    And still.. you have never met ANY of these high Tibetan lamas, so what could you understand… about opening the heart?

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  22. Bella do a word search on sarcasm and irony please?

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  23. Could you send me your address to send you some handkerchiefs? If not just use Lotus tissues!

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  24. Tricycle: Would you say that the intention behind this unconventional behavior, including his sexual exploits and his drinking, was to help others?

    Pema Chodron: As the years went on, I felt everything he did was to help others. But I would also say now that maybe my understanding has gone even deeper, and it feels more to the point to say I don’t know. I don’t know what he was doing. I know he changed my life. I know I love him. But I don”t know who he was. And maybe he wasn’t doing things to help everyone, but he sure helped me. I learned something from him. But who was that masked man?

    Tricycle: In recent years women have become more articulate about sexism. And we know more today about the prevalence of child abuse and about how many people come into dharma really hurting. If you knew ten years ago what you know today, would you have been so optimistic about Trungpa Rinpoche and his sexuality? Would you have wanted some of the women you’ve been working with to study with him, given their histories of sexual abuse?

    Pema Chodron: I would have said, You know he loves women, he’s very passionate, and has a lot of relationships with women, and that might be part of it if you get involved with him, and you should read all his books, go to all his talks, and actually see if you can get close to him. And you should do that knowing you might get an invitation to sleep with him, so don’t be naive about that, and don’t think you have to do it, or don’t have to do it. But you have to decide for yourself who you think this guy is.

    Tricycle: Were there women who turned down his sexual invitations and maintained close relationships as students? Was that an option?

    Pema Chodron: Yes. Definitely. The other students were often the ones who made people feel like they were square and uptight if they didn’t want to sleep with Rinpoche, but Rinpoche’s teaching was to throw out the party line. However, we’re always up against human nature. The teacher says something, then everybody does it. There was a time when he smoked cigarettes and everybody started smoking. Then he stopped and they stopped and it was ridiculous. But we’re just people with human habitual patterns, and you can count on the fact that the students are going to make everything into a party line, and we did. The one predictable thing about him was that he would continually pull the rug out no matter what. That’s how he was.

    http://www.purifymind.com/RightWrong.htm

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  25. Anonymous, distraction? I’m trying to get SOMEONE, anyone, to explain clearly just what these rules would be. It’s really not possible to do much but go round in circles after a point, if further clarification an details are not forthcoming from the people wanting a code of ethics. No one in their right mind will give blanket approval to the idea without even knowing how it would be worded.

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  26. bellaB, on June 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm said:

    “I begun worrying, if I am actually wasting my life here…”

    You could be onto something here Bella. You know, sometimes you just have to stop to make a start and allow the greater understanding to unfold…as in: “chu ma nyok na dang, sem ma chö na de”

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  27. Well, since I’ve been participating here for 2-3 years, I think this matter is also personally significant to me, so I have to accept the ‘wasted time’. My other Rigpa friends wouldn’t bother to write here, no way.

    I don’t know if finishing the Ngondro is crazy wisdom…

    Trungpa R as his role model?

    Well, I have never seen his picture in Rigpa. I have seen HH Dalai Lama’s, Lerab Lingpa Tertön Sogyal’s, Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö’s, Dilgo Khyentse’s, Dudjom Rinpoche’s, Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche’s, Khandro Tséring Chödrön’s, Kalu Rinpoche’s, Trulshik Rinpoche’s, Penor Rinpoche’s, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche’s and other lamas’ pictures.

    Before teaching SR always prays to Guru Rinpoche and his lineage lamas – and not to Trungpa Rinpoche. Sometimes he also mentions Trungpa Rinpoche, but very rarely.

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  28. That wasn’t me being rude to you Bella – it’s just crazy wisdom…

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  29. bellaB, on June 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm said:

    “But I guess this conversation here is part of my path and I have to accept it.”

    From that comment, looks like your Dharma practice at Rigpa is reaching it’s full potential, but perhaps some more crazy wisdom might be in order to correct that fatalistic view of karma you’ve got going there Bella

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  30. Sankappa, I and many of those who know SR long term, disagree with you. I also would have wanted to know Trungpa Rinpoche in person. His wife, according to the documentary, didn’t seem bitter – and many students cried in remembering TR.

    I’m sure such a video is one day done of SR – and I’m sure there are people crying remembering his good qualities. I begun worrying, if I am actually wasting my life here in discussing my lamas terrifying aspects with you instead of doing what he is teaching while he is alive. Then when he is gone, I would regret about having wasted all this time and energy. But I guess this conversation here is part of my path and I have to accept it.

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  31. Ah, Trungpa Rinpoche, Sogyal’s role model. As much as Trungpa was controversial and just plain abusive (Sogyal certainly nailed that part of the emulation) he had more intelligence and insight in his little finger, that Sogyal Rinpoche has in his whole being.

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  32. And Sheila, just a reminder: the vinaya is the foundation of all Buddhist practices. The precepts are not vague. They are definitive, but also very complex. Before you continue disparaging the deep moral code that makes up the very root of dharma, you should read two texts:
    1. Shantideva, Siksa Samuccaya: A Compendium of Buddhist Doctrine.
    2. Asanga’s Chapter on Ethics With the Commentary by Tsongkhapa.

    Then you can actually present yourself as a sholar who understands Buddhist ethics in the Mahayana. FYI, I have struggled through both those texts twice and still would never presume to be such a scholar!

    Also, FYI I have never heard it said that rules would be the destruction of Buddhism, but many times I have heard that when there is no longer a strong community of monastics, then Buddhism would die out. I have heard this from HH Dalai Lama. Just a few minutes ago, in my daily study with His Holiness, I have listened while he reminded us that morality is the very basis of Buddhism. He would be very surprised indeed by your strange interpretation of Buddhist ethics as a means to justify sexual misconduct.

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  33. Sheila, I am glad that you are enjoying your monologue and description of “Buddhism According to Sheila.” However, what does this discussion have to do with prohibiting lamas from marrying? What does it have to do with rules?
    Also, FYI, monastic vows list hundreds of precepts, which are very specific such as exactly how the robes are to be worn and not eating an evening meal. They’re called precepts, but they sound very much like what you would call rules. According to you, Michael Roach has done nothing wrong. He just decided, ho hum, as a monk he could engage in sex anyway– he had lots of reasons for doing it, he meant no harm and he really loved Christie– so you should go on his website and comment with him and his followers. YOu might like that better.
    But please, try to stay just a little on track here– this website is about the harm caused through sexual misconduct by powerful lamas. It isn’t about destroying sweet wedding bells– or Buddhism either.

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  34. The Trailer for Chogyam Trungpa film. I recommend watching the whole film.

    Crazy Wisdom: The Life & Times of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

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  35. What is the medicine for suffering?

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  36. I was tempted to suggest that DI could be renamed Dialogue SB&S! Fortunately DI has made some contribution to the conversation again. I am appalled by the lack of concern of some towards others, really! I am very grateful that sites like DI exist to give a voice to ALL! So hopefully the debate will be fed by all and not only but few who’s opinions distract from what the debate is really about.
    And thank you very much DI to give a voice to those who have suffered…

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  37. The understanding between Buddhism and Christian or Western views are so different. It’s not easy to grasp what all this in Buddhism means. One should study Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism, more in order to grasp what is meant. It’s another matter if one is able to accept that view as his or her, or something worthwhile aspiring towards.

    Not identifying with the judgmental mind, but leaving ALL reference points aside (without grasping), is a state of mind that might be very scary to most of us, who have no cultural background for the practice – and I believe it’s also frightening to most Tibetans. It is for me too, but I also know that with a GOOD teacher and the blessings of the lineage it’s achievable and also safe. It does require trust, faith and also skilled mentors. That is why the presence of the teacher is important in Buddhism. One needs a guide, a reference point in the beginning (and also in the middle – and at the end?).

    As one can see: Buddhism is not about mind control, but about letting go. Maybe one should not waste time here arguing, grasping onto definitions, judgments, but to follow a teacher and open up. At least I was quite inspired by the movie about Trungpa Rinpoche (2011).

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  38. I don’t think the Buddha’s perspective constitutes muddying the waters. As often happens, it seems (to me) to have cleared something up – the difference between rules and tenets.

    A properly applied tenet in elementary education, for example, would allow for a teacher hugging a kindergartner who needs a hug; unfortunately, a clunkily-applied rule leaves the kid hug-less.

    A big problem here is that there is no clarification I can see as to what these “rules” would be – how they would account, for example, for the drastic differences in Buddhist orders (Nyingma teachers often marry, Gelug often do not).

    We could have a far more constructive investigation of proposed rules if the actual rule were spelled out. The hitch is that the Buddhist system of ethics is already so intricate, with “no harm” at its core, that it’s probably not possible to establish an overarching rule which would not violate an existing tenet in varied circumstances.

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  39. This is such touching evasion. Boundary maintenance and your normalisation and confusing of categories. Do you get a high from muddying the waters? Get a grip Sheila.
    When are we going to have that private conversation to get rid of this textual complexity and lack of context? Talk soon or do you really not exist in Madison? By the way what is it that you have learnt from women’s studies there?

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  40. I think what’s affecting our conversation on this matters may include a misapplication of the concept of “power imbalance.” In Buddhism, you can have children teaching their parents, for example–I just rewatched the Seattle Television piece on Asanga Sakya Rinpoche, and at the end his father says how proud he is of him, and how he can’t wait to take teachings from him, because he thinks he’ll become a great scholar with a gift for teaching.

    In that situation, is there a power imbalance? Certainly when it comes time to learn to drive a car, the father will be the one with power and knowledge, yet the father feels the son’s spiritual education will surpass his own, and then the son will be the teacher.

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  41. One reason it would be hard or impossible to apply simple, rigid rules, is that there are so many ways that rule could go against a tenet, due to shifting individual needs.

    Say a young Nyingma lecturer is giving a summer course, and over the summer she and someone attending her class fall in love, and want to get married. According to a strict “no marriage” rule, she would have to do what would genuinely cause harm to herself and her mate, working in opposition of both their feelings. Or, if she quit teaching the summer course that year or in subsequent years, she could cause harm to students who are benefiting greatly from her particular style and want to keep studying with her. It would also be a cause of harm to her to have to abandon those students.

    All of this pain or harm would be for what purpose? Why on earth should two people not get married, if they want to?

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  42. “Imagine telling a lama that he’s not allowed to sexually abuse his students. Frightful.”

    I guess one doesn’t need to tell them that: they already know.

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  43. Or I should say, Buddhism is a system wherein it is much harder to make a case for any particular “loophole,” because the no-harm tenet is so powerful and pervasive.

    Now we can come up with cynical examples that we feel show people exercising loopholes, but it’s very unlikely there’s actually a loophole there–rather, just someone claiming there is.

    Buddhism is simply one of the most intricate systems of ethics in existence; “rules” would do well to follow Buddhism’s lead, instead of the other way around, finding ways to make them fairer, and apply more logically and individually.

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  44. Actually, reducing Buddhism to a “set of rules” would be to give it a weaker ethical framework than it currently has. Buddhism is brilliantly evolved to be a system which allows for no loopholes…this is something that’s very hard in a much smaller set of rules.

    The Buddha didn’t say “no rules,” he said don’t reduce Buddhism to a [mere] set of rules.

    In order to be powerful, rules have to apply to each individual case; it’s very hard to make “rules” do that. It’s possible, though, to have tenets which achieve that.

    In other words, a “no harm” tenet would not prevent my friends from having gotten married, whereas a “no marriage” rule would have, and could have caused harm to them both, given their love for one another. In a different case where the woman teacher wanted, say, to force the male student into a marriage he didn’t want, the “no harm” tenet would still apply.

    A “no harm” tenet applies with flexibility to each individual case, whereas “no marriage” is blind to the potential for harm in varied circumstances.

    When Buddha said not to “reduce” Buddhism to rules, he meant that rules are not as powerful as tenets. In other words, I feel that your thought is we need more rules, whereas according to the Buddha’s prediction, that is actually a reduction in ethics, not an expansion.

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  45. Yes indeed, Sheila, civilization started going downhill back when we first outlawed rape. There’s no hope for us now. Such rules will be the end of Buddhism for sure. Imagine telling a lama that he’s not allowed to sexually abuse his students. Frightful.

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  46. Here Patrick Gaffney talks about the process of writing:

    http://living-and-dying.org/finding-the-voice/

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  47. Here the ‘abusive’ (sarcasm) lama thanks his co-editors or writers in 1992:

    http://living-and-dying.org/living-up-to-death/

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  48. Here’s for Finnigan and Drolma about Bodhicitta by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche:

    Bodhicitta without nonduality is not really bodhicitta.

    Bodhisattva is not necessarily a gentle person.

    For the Christian fans of this page: Jesus was not a gentle person. Did Jesus sent his mother away or not?

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  49. In fear of being considered a cult member, I still have to say that one has to give up a lot of all kinds of things (fears, projections, hopes) in relation to these lamas.

    Facing Trungpa was also feared, like facing SR is today.

    Was Trungpa criticized for his sexual relationships to his students at his time? He was even married, so I guess he should be considered even ‘more guilty’ in our Western Christian based standards. Or do we forgive him something what we don’t forgive to SR? We don’t criticize him today, because he died young. Do I have to wait for SR to die in order to see a kind documentary like this one about him?

    Do we think they have different motivation?

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  50. Very interesting – from Usenet poster “The Mad Hatter,” December 19, 1994:

    “For those unfamiliar with this conference, I am referring to a
    series of conferences begining with one held in Dharmsala, and in
    particular to a letter which emerged from the first such conference
    attempting to propose — one could say impose — one-size-fits-all rules
    of behavior upon all Buddhist teachers. In retrospect, it seems more
    and more that there was – and is – an attempt by some part of the Buddhist community to impose its rules of behavior on everyone else. Now, with this suit against Sogyal Rinpoche and the tone of some of the postings here, it seems this agenda is what is being taken to a new, and much nastier, level.

    The Buddha himself prophisied that in the “final 500 year period” there
    would be an attempt to reduce Buddhism to a set of rules, and if that
    attempt were to succeed it would be the end of the Buddhadharma in this era…”

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  51. I just watched a documentary:

    Crazy Wisdom: The Life & Times of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1172047/

    Trungpa Rinpoche also taught students in speaking the English language. He did it because in his opinion speech could join the body and mind. Sometimes Sogyal Rinpoche also asks his students the same question again and again. This might sound as public humiliation to some, but there is a purpose for doing it. Being present: body, speech & mind.

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  52. My last comment was based on your post, Joanne.

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  53. Sheila, this is what I said in my last post:
    “As for marriage between a spiritual teacher and his/her students, I believe that the jury is still out about that. Scott Edelstein claims that even in that situation the student-teacher relationship is compromised and so the student would be better served to find another teacher. However, in Christian congregations, this is never a problem.

    At any rate, using the example of an apparently healthy marriage between a lama and his Tibetan wife as being at all relevant in the case against Sogyal is just an example that you need training in logic. This training would also help you avoid the pitfall of “all or nothing thinking”– as evidenced by your last statement above regarding HHDL.”

    Do you ever read the posts that you reply to?

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  54. I’m curious what you’d think of Chagdud Khadro. From her bio:

    “Chagdud Khadro met Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche in March 1978, married him in November 1979, and remained his devoted student for twenty-three years. At the time of her ordination as a lama in 1997, Rinpoche invested her as the future Spiritual Director of Chagdud Gonpa Brasil. After Rinpoche’s transition, as head lama, she has focused on maintaining the high calibre of Vajrayana training he had established.

    She was among the collaborators for his autobiography Lord of the Dance and with his guidance, she compiled commentaries of his teachings on the Dudjom Tersar Ngöndro, Longsal Nyingpo Phowa—the tradition she teaches according to—and the concise version of Apang Tertön’s Red Tara practice.

    She has been invited to Rigpa centres on many occasions, mainly granting teachings and transmissions for the practices of the Longsal Nyingpo Phowa and Red Tara.”

    This sounds to me like a very realized, accomplished woman, rather than victim. Yet if we instituted the code of conduct you propose, their marriage and spiritual journey as husband and wife would have been prevented.

    I just don’t see how it’s our business to regulate other’s marriages. I understand the instinct driving the desire for a code of conduct, but every time I’ve looked at the proposed code, it includes things I consider (ironically) dangerously unethical and just plain nosy.

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  55. Please keep in mind when I say “you” (as in, “if your goal is to hunt deer”) I mean it in the sense of “one,” not you personally.

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  56. “At any rate, using the example of an apparently healthy marriage between a lama and his Tibetan wife as being at all relevant in the case against Sogyal is just an example that you need training in logic.”

    The title of this thread is a question, “Is sex between a spiritual teacher and students harmful?” not “Is sex between Sogyal Rinpoche and students harmful?”

    Many Christian pastors are married, too, to women who sit in the congregation as they preach (and sometimes those roles are reversed as well).

    I absolutely stand by my belief that it is wrong and draconian to somehow “outlaw” relations between speakers and audience members, regardless of whether the institution is religious in nature.

    This has very little to do with Sogyal Rinpoche and whether his particular behavior is or has been abusive.

    And it’s not possible to relax about the term Rigpa, as it is used as the header for 35 threads which deal almost exclusively with a single man, and do not address whatsoever the thousands and thousands of students, most of whom at any given time are at Rigpa centers receiving teachings from other people. Impuning Rigpa absolutely and clearly impunes, unfairly, a large number of other teachers who, unless you have evidence I’ve never heard of, are *not* nor have ever been accused of impropriety.

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  57. Joanne – your most recent message came in as I was typing–I’ll read it now.

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  58. Actually it’s probably even more accurate to say there’s no indication there exists any clergy in Rigpa whatsoever, lol. From everything I have seen, Rigpa is a network of centers offering venues for teachers from multiple schools of Buddhism, not a religious organization staffed with clergy from its own (or any) particular sect.

    Rigpa says in its mission statement it is “open to all schools and traditions of Buddhist wisdom,” and I’ve seen no evidence to the contrary.

    This really isn’t the stuff of cults. It doesn’t mean one can’t or shouldn’t examine other issues, but I see a real problem consigning Rigpa to the “cult” category. When you try to call something a cult which doesn’t seem to be, that contradiction may (and I think we can see it has) become distracting.

    It’s like hunting deer with a fishing pole – there may be something to hunt, but your tool won’t serve you.

    If your goal is simply to be paid to hunt deer and no one realizes you’re using a fishing pole, I suppose it will work until people realize you’re bringing home neither venison nor fish.

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  59. My point, Sheila, was simply that your logic of concluding that sex between a spiritual teacher and his/her student is no more harmful than sharing a meal together, based on the fact that you know of a lama happily married to his Tibetan wife, is like saying that A=F, without ever looking into b, c, d, e. If you are wanting to practice the great Tibetan Buddhism handed down to us from the Nalanda tradition, your logic needs to be much stronger than that!

    Your logic in this case is no stronger than saying that there is no global warming because it is quite cool and comfortable in Wisconsin. Or saying that you have met some nice Germans, so therefore the holocaust never happened.

    As for marriage between a spiritual teacher and his/her students, I believe that the jury is still out about that. Scott Edelstein claims that even in that situation the student-teacher relationship is compromised and so the student would be better served to find another teacher. However, in Christian congregations, this is never a problem.

    At any rate, using the example of an apparently healthy marriage between a lama and his Tibetan wife as being at all relevant in the case against Sogyal is just an example that you need training in logic. This training would also help you avoid the pitfall of “all or nothing thinking”– as evidenced by your last statement above regarding HHDL.

    And just for your information and clarity, so you can hop off that diversion, when we refer to Rigpa on this blog, we are referring to the institution run by Sogyal. Other Tibetan Buddhist teachers who teach Rigpa students do so as guests. They are not part of the term “Rigpa”. So please, relax about that word– it is totally irrlevant and just adds to your paranoa that we are conspiring to bring down all of Tibetan Buddhism. Believe me, my motives are the complete opposite.

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  60. I would say you are correct about the “split down the middle” thing. I don’t know the actual numbers, but it always seemed to us that the church divided quickly into two camps. Without question, the body supporting the denounced prophetess was larger than the body which accepted the allegations, but there were enough people believing the story, that you could generally find people arguing regularly. I remember sitting in the banyan tree with my sister and two little friends after Sabbath potluck, vigorously continuing the argument we’d heard the adults having, lol.

    I don’t see evidence of Rigpa being “split down the middle” over anything at the moment. I can’t find anyone talking about the lawsuit in general, for the most part, and when I do, they aren’t Rigpa people.

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  61. Pretty unfair, Joanne. For what it’s worth, I am an avid holocaust researcher, and am currently working on several projects in which Jewish historians and scholars can mentor Tibetans towards raising awareness of the Tibetan holocaust.

    The problem with continuing to refer to “clergy misconduct” is that there is not currently any indication that clergy in Rigpa are guilty of misconduct.

    I really have a huge problem with DI’s portrayal of this as a Rigpa issue, when it’s quite clear from talking to you all this past year, and reading through the countless posts from the late 1990s when all this began, that no other teacher in Rigpa has ever been implicated in a misconduct scandal (not that I can find, anyway).

    The next step is telling people not to read HH Dalai Lama’s books because of “clergy misconduct,” you know? Unfair generalization is so destructive.

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  62. But of course, Sheila, these facts are irrelevant to you because you have your own personal observations that are scientifically compiled, tested and accurate. In your observation, all the gardens are in perfect bloom and there is no global warming, nor was there ever a holocaust.

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  63. Actually, Sheila, in the psychological literature on clergy sexual misconduct, it is said that congregations typically split down the middle. About half the congregation deny the allegations outright, while the other half believe it and are outraged. Rigpa’s behavior and the typical behavior of congregations in these situations are remarkably similar. Statistics in the literature also indicate that the prevalence of clergy sexual misconduct is high enough for grave concern– and reach well beyond the Catholic church.

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  64. BellaB if you’ll forgive me, I’m going to use you as an example for a minute.

    DI, I’m curious–after all your contact with cult victims, surely you can see that BellaB doesn’t actually behave as one?

    That thought struck me this morning–in my experience, cult “victims” do not defend their cult with nuance or subtlety, much less the outright open-mindedness I’ve seen time and again from BellaB. A real cult victim’s response to allegations against Sogyal Rinpoche would be to deny absolutely everything, outright. I can tell you that if a single (and therefore celibate) young Adventist pastor were accused of sleeping with a woman, his congregation would likely defend him out of hand. There’d be zero nuance, simply, “He didn’t sleep with anyone, period.”

    BellaB, on the other hand, has said time and again that she doesn’t know if Sogyal Rinpoche slept with anyone, and that it doesn’t really matter. This kind of easy-going nonchalance is not characteristic of cult behavior–surely you know that.

    At the same time, you haven’t really decided where you feel BellaB sits–sometimes she’s accused of being a sophisticated Rigpa plotter working for headquarters, and other times she’s accused of being a naive, brainwashed follower. Never in my experience with cults have those two populations been the same. There is indeed the sophisticated cult management, followed blindly by the naive cult member. In the case of the Adventist church, and in other cults I have had experience with, once the naive cult member becomes aware of the activities of the sophisticated cult management, the “naive” person is often shocked, becomes disillusioned and depressed, or denies it all to him/herself and digs in deeper. This was the case when Adventists discovered the church knew all along that the main prophetess of the church had plagiarized her writings.

    Naive cultists do not say, “Well, maybe E.G. White did plagiarize, but the writings are good, so it doesn’t matter too much.” That attitude, which is clearly BellaB’s in Rigpa’s situation, does *not* characterize a typical cultist response to allegations against his/her cult.

    You say BellaB is typical of a cultist, and I think that’s an irresponsible statement to make, given your obvious experience to the contrary (unless you deal with cults unlike any I have seen/been a member of).

    I suppose the alternative is that you really believe BellaB is a typical cult member of this particular cult, in which case I’d ask whether an organization who’s “naive followers” show a great deal of flexibility and easy admission of a leader’s potential faults can genuinely be considered a cult.

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  65. “Because of this, many of us have reluctantly concluded that this thread has now irreversibly descended into something predictably tedious and in many respects rather sordid. It’s become a kind of low-grade entertainment like mud-wrestling. Sadly it really has run its course.”

    It’s course? The purpose was to do what? Join forces gathered in another blog and change the view?

    If you have so many professionals and holders of stories from victims, I can’t believe you are not able to defend your case. Either you have not enough ‘case materials’ or you also see that you have fallen into the trap of BTT, which is complete nonsense.

    I addressed my questions also to the psychologist who wrote this combination of different posters and drew her own conclusions. I would really like to see, how a professional deals with issues such as sexual abuse in teacher/student context – and especially in Tibetan Buddhism. I’d also like to know how they deal with dishonesty in a patient, if they have one? Patiently wait until she is able to lose her stories and talk about reality? It’s good, but VB and some other women have known SR in the 70’s, not yesterday.

    Player A, the ‘victim’ or the partner, her motivation

    Player B, the abuser/teacher, his motivation

    Player C, the general circumstances that effect the situation.

    I know it’s not easy to see the whole picture, especially when you don’t know B personally and you lack general understanding of C.

    It’s easy to shout ‘guilty’, ‘I was abused’ and get really angry (for some time it’s good as a defense, if you want to get rid of things, but after 10 years…?), it’s easy to feel sorry for some other fellow woman, since no doubt every woman knows how their bodies can be used and have had at least a small experience regarding this. Maybe even with the same man one lives with. Why else women lost interest in sex after a few years in marriage? Bad sex where her needs are not met – and after some time it begins to feel like offering your body as a service to the father of your children. We could all be that woman. We are not all SR’s girlfriends, sexual partners and so on. I’m sure a woman who wants to stop having sex with SR is by all means allowed. Rigpa is no prison and women are not fed to him.

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  66. I say that, by the way, as someone who does *not* believe it is necessary or desirable to achieve some shared Canon; but the tendency on this forum seems to lean toward standardization as some kind of ideal.

    I am almost never a fan of enforced homogeneity; the world is too diverse a place for that to be ethical, even in the hands of the most benign central authority; and most central authority is far from benign.

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  67. Mike, when you can convince the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leaders of all Lutheran synods, and myriad other heads of Christian sects to agree on a common Canon law, you can expect the Buddhists to do the same.

    At the current time, however, the Anglicans and Episcopalians cannot even agree on a Canon, and any attempt to force that would result in nothing less than an uprising, lol.

    The real answer is that the existing Buddhist code of ethics, i.e. Buddhism itself, is itself a defacto Canon, more tenets of which are shared between Buddhist sects than equivalent tenets are shared between Christian denominations.

    It is actually the Christians, to be honest, who could learn from Buddhism, how to more widely achieve consensus within a shared Canon.

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  68. Yes we will be addressing other teachers who teach at that organisation. We will publish any reports which we have processed in this case for over 3 months.
    We will also be addressing the the presence of SR in West Cork shortly. This will include the fact that the former President of Ireland continues to allow her photographs to be allowed on their site http://www.dzogchenbeara.org/programme/DB_programme_2012_screen.pdf
    When in office she withdrew from SR in 2009 but now is not concerned. It might interest you know that she is studying Canon law in Rome for another doctorate.
    She is a well known international jurist. Canon law is something you seem to suggest is not necessary. I believe your views on the need for protocols are for the birds
    http://www.dzogchenbeara.org/index.php?pid=98&aid=267

    I think I have suggested to you that the Rigpa structure is not a set of semi autonomous Republics but very much come under his domination. So for the 3 time our main focus is on him but he can’t be understood without the structure called Rigpa.

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  69. DI, I’m curious why another topic has been added in the Rigpa thread which seems to not address Rigpa as an organization?

    Are there multiple teachers in Rigpa whom you consider abusive?

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  70. Good bye then Helen. You came back and wanted us to simply agree with your presuppositions which would result in a party line not a dialogue. I detest everything Bella stands for but will defend her right to say it.
    What we say is not that Bella has to agree with our view of cultism to leave a comment, rather that is the framework from which we view those that comment. She is in my humble opinion a good example of a cultist mind set. She is the North Korea of Rigpa.

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  71. You know, I think one thing that’s overlooked here is that Tibetans have what seems to me a very nonsensational approach to differences in “level” of practitioner. I think we in the west are very sensitive about “level,” and almost carried away with the idea that someone who’s practiced longer is more “powerful” in some way. In fact someone here once challenged me to reveal “where I was in my ngondro,” and I found that really offputting. Definitely never heard that one before.

    In my experience when Tibetans get together, there are some lay practitioners who are extremely long-practiced even at a younger age, and some older people who, due to China’s suppression, are only now getting a chance to practice fully.

    This difference in “spiritual level” is just accepted calmly; there isn’t some, extra, “power” component that I can see, other than that the person with more experience is extremely appreciated and listened to in that particular situation. It’s almost like food – you’re grateful for the generosity of those giving it, and it’s not about “power.” Lord knows the younger, more-practiced person does not in any way condescend to the elderly student, or in any way use his/her more advanced study status as some kind of weapon.

    I think we have almost totally misapplied the sense of “power imbalance” (which may be true enough in other teacher-student situations, say, university, where money and grades are at stake) to the Buddhist situation which is in fact more like a “knowledge differential” or something to that effect.

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  72. Joanne, one of the most happily-married couples in my community is a student-teacher pair.

    A recurring problem is that we rarely attempt to define “student” and “teacher,” and leave it up to the reader to imagine an ageing, celibacy-bound Tibetan man preying on a fragile western woman.

    The happily-married pair I’m referring to are both Tibetan, and of the same age; I’ve never asked Nyima if she felt uncomfortable or preyed-upon at any point, but they seem for all practical purposes like a normal couple with two kids.

    There is a relatively high percentage of medical professionals in our community, social workers, etc., and I’ve never heard anyone speak negatively about this particular pair’s marriage.

    That said, I would have to respectfully disagree that people aren’t qualified to discuss issues that affect themselves and their community.

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  73. Sheila, regarding the harm from sexual relations between spiritual teachers and students, you are completely unqualified to judge that and you are wrong. It isn’t up for debate amongst professionals.

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  74. I would have to respectfully disagree that Bella’s overall effect is to stifle debate, lol :)

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  75. “So there is no benefit whatsoever, at least to serious contributors, in DI moderation continuing to allow Bella to contribute, so why is she? The obvious conclusion is that she is seen rather perversely as an asset who sparks continuous debate.”

    The thing is, in a free society devoted to free speech, it wouldn’t be possible to tell the difference between what you’re suggesting DI is doing, versus what DI has always said it is doing–allowing people to see for themselves what conversations people have, and then decide for themselves.

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  76. Basically the issue is quite simple: the argument about censorship is sophistry and rather feeble sophistry at that. In reality, moderation is another term for censorship. It doesn’t necessarily have any negative connotations at all if the sole intent is to prevent abuse.

    To suggest that Bella has any other purpose other than abuse, basically to harangue and intimidate any contributors that are not pro-Sogyal, is completely disingenuous and the fact that many people with very worthwhile opinions and valid experience have given up on this thread demonstrates this. It isn’t really possible to ignore her completely since new contributors inevitably get distracted by her tactics and more seasoned ones find it tedious and dispiriting.

    So there is no benefit whatsoever, at least to serious contributors, in DI moderation continuing to allow Bella to contribute, so why is she? The obvious conclusion is that she is seen rather perversely as an asset who sparks continuous debate.

    To quote DI: ‘All we require is that those working with us share a common understanding of cultism.’

    Even on this basis alone, as she manifestly has no understanding of cult behaviour whatsoever, in fact she seems to be a particularly good example of a deluded cult-supporter herself, then the logical question is: what exactly is the purpose of allowing her to continually poison the discussion, (which to her credit she does with remarkably and indeed obsessive energy.)
    Her attitude is diametrically opposed to D I’s own requirements, so why this obvious ambiguity? She’s been blocked on other sites, why not here?

    The purpose of trolls such as Bella is to drown out and stifle debate, the purpose of moderation should be to block persistent trolls, otherwise it isn’t moderation, and it effectively enables them. In this instance it’s a very obvious and deliberate choice.

    Because of this, many of us have reluctantly concluded that this thread has now irreversibly descended into something predictably tedious and in many respects rather sordid. It’s become a kind of low-grade entertainment like mud-wrestling. Sadly it really has run its course.

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  77. Don’t mistake vigorous defence of neutrality for vigorous defence of a person. Democracy, and the rule of law, matter.

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  78. As ever, Sheila and Bella, in denial-and the beat goes on, and the beat goes on.

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  79. If you read Behind the Thankas blog you see a dark picture you wouldn’t maybe even want to read. At least some people already at the beginning want to stop reading such story.

    There Mimi says men in Rigpa call women whores. Do YOU believe it, if you know Rigpa people?

    Victoria Barlow has lied about Sogyal Rinpoche and Sakya Trizin. She is the other person in the ‘documentary’ who has been ‘victim’, which isn’t even true.

    I have really very hard time to believe any of these women in their ‘details’ that they give out in public.

    Still I don’t claim that he doesn’t have sex with anyone. I’m just not convinced abuse is his intention, even though someone may experience it abusive. That feeling may come from many factors – and since I am no clairvoyant, I can’t see where it comes from. In Barlow’s case the worst pain most likely comes from her childhood.

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  80. This is my understanding:

    People haven’t denied that SR wouldn’t have sexual relationship/s to woman/women or students at any point.

    I think SR has had girlfriends – and may still have – who are, or who are not, his students. For most people it’s his private matter and he himself doesn’t announce to the audience anybody as his woman. I have seen one woman there whom I could guess to be his girlfriend, but I really wouldn’t go talking to her asking: “Hi, are you….?”

    When this kind of relationship feels abusive to someone, it becomes a problem, and doesn’t belong to the private sphere anymore, because there is this group of people who want to
    a) support a victim or somebody who feels bad (which in principal is good and I bet also Rigpa people would do the same thing for her) or b) make everything look ugly – even uglier than what it actually is, what ever it is.
    Some women do not consider it abusive to be in a relationship with him (obviously, since not even the front stairs of Royal Albert Hall are filled up with victims).

    For someone who has entered in a relationship with him – and has been unaware of what she engages herself with, is potentially becoming a victim in her own experience. Disappointment lurks around any corner. I don’t think SR has sent any woman away, since he is loyal to his students, until the end.

    It was said SR wanted to have contact with Mimi, but her shrink told her not to. I don’t know what is the true story, but I surely wish she, at some point, is able to make that journey there, even after 10 years, if he is still alive.

    I don’t need to know names of people SR has had sex with. I really don’t. People who work in Rigpa close enough, might know who is his girlfriend.

    If you think that his relationship to some woman has been harmful or seems like it, you may think he had evil intentions. I’m not convinced harming is his intention.

    It could take a long time for Mimi to put all pieces together. It could be that her present day view about things gets more solidified in time – or she may see more nuances in her experience. Who knows?

    I only know that my best male friend knows a lot of people in Rigpa, who also know a lot of people. It’s mostly a friendly place where people work for shared goals and while working try to work with their own minds.

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  81. Dear BellaB, thank you for replying to me. From your reply it appears that you have never been given any factual information about Sogyal Rinpoche’s sexual relationships with students.

    I have also had the experience of being given misleading and irrelevant information similar to that which you were given. I think we need to know the facts about this issue.

    I do not understand why you have asked me if I think Patrick Gaffney or other men in Rigpa have called women ‘whores.’

    I do not understand the relevance of your comments about HH Sakya Trizin.

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  82. “Therefore sex between and adult male and a consenting female juvenile is acceptable according to this logic”

    Incorrect, because the question, as phrased, “Is sex between a spiritual teacher and students harmful” does not limit sex to illegal sex crimes, but is so broad that it prohibit legal sex as well.

    That is, in fact, the central problem with the concept of a code of conduct–there are too many variations within Buddhism for such a code to be ethically implemented, and further, there is no authority (thank God) with the power to implement it.

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  83. “sex is generally–but not always–more intimate and memorable than dinner”

    Think before you speak

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  84. “Any unlikely event in which one person would be somehow magically protected from a bad sexual relationship by a piece of paper, would be completely overshadowed by the effects of perpetuating the ridiculous, outdated, and destructive notion that sex is bad”

    Therefore since sexual abuse is sex and sex is not bad, sexual abuse is not bad
    Think before you speak.

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  85. “In answer to the title of the article, “Is sex between a spiritual teacher and students harmful?” my answer is a definitive “No,” for the simple reason that I do not consider sex, nor people who participate in it, bad”
    Therefore sex between and adult male and a consenting female juvenile is acceptable according to this logic
    Think before yo speak

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  86. Any unlikely event in which one person would be somehow magically protected from a bad sexual relationship by a piece of paper, would be completely overshadowed by the effects of perpetuating the ridiculous, outdated, and destructive notion that sex is bad.

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  87. In answer to the title of the article, “Is sex between a spiritual teacher and students harmful?” my answer is a definitive “No,” for the simple reason that I do not consider sex, nor people who participate in it, bad.

    It is little different than asking, “Is dinner between a spiritual teacher and students harmful?”

    But since sex is generally–but not always–more intimate and memorable than dinner, compounded by our Puritan hangover which sees sex as inherently dirty, it’s very easy to think at first glance that it would be healthy to declare sex between teachers and students “bad.”

    Again, I strongly disagree, for additional reasons too numerous to list, but including that such a “standard” is inherently unethical. It is absolutely disgraceful, nosy and authoritarian for “some adults” to suggest that “some other adults” should not have a sexual relationship. It would be a useless “standard” as well, since applying it would involve following people around, spying, and gathering evidence.

    The vast majority of teachers of Buddhism are constrained by other tenets from having sex with students (or anyone). In every case, a contractual “standard” applied by some, nebulous organization on top of the existing tenets would 1) not really matter to anyone and 2) be completely overshadowed by the seriousness of having violated the existing Buddhist tenets.

    In other words, in cases where such a “standard” would ethically apply (meaning, it is redundant with that school’s existing tenets), it would matter least, and in cases where such a “standard” would NOT apply (meaning, in non-celibate schools), it would be the most unethically destructive–unfairly and unnecessarily preventing beautiful relationships and marriages.

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  88. “This argument is quite brutal in the face of the fact that Victoria Barlow has clearly suffered.”

    As you likely know Evelyn, you know her intent would not ever be brutal, or is mine. Her point was clearly that in her own opinion, the person in question participated willingly (Evelyn’s words). I find that perspective worth considering, because Evelyn had great familiarity with the story and the people in it.

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  89. Sakya Trizin’s assistants reply to Nicky Skye /Vitoria Barlow:

    Search in Google groups:

    nickyskye sogyal

    This is a reply and clarification to all the people who have read and
    contributed to the discussion thread that has been going on for the last
    few months on this message board. It was very perturbing for me to come
    to know and to read such fabricated and malicious stories about His
    Holiness Sakya Trizin who is not only my root guru and but also the one
    whom I have a very precious opportunity to serve as a secretary, is
    circulated on the Internet. It is indeed very sad to learn that instead
    of using this very good means of communication for better and speedier
    exchange of good and fruitful views on Dharma, some people are using it
    for harmful purposes and generation of bad karma.

    It was shocking to learn that someone has accused His Holiness of such an
    unthinkable act. Many of us who know His Holiness will not only be deeply
    shocked but also be highly overwhelmed with the atrociousness of this
    preposterous accusation.

    I feel pity and compassion for Nicky Skye if she is mentally unstable.
    There are many who are that way and dream up various fantastic stories
    and live in them. If she is one of them then we must not take these
    allegations seriously and feel pity for her and have compassion for her.
    I have myself met many people like her during my tenure as a secretary
    here. A lot of people who have unstable mind are recommended for His
    Holiness’ advice and help by many high lamas, both foreigners and Indians
    alike.

    But, if she is in the correct frame of mind, then I must indeed warn her
    of the bad karma generated by the malicious and false accusations that
    she has made and publicized. She must be aware that this false allegation
    would not only hurt the feelings and belief of many sincere followers of
    His Holiness and Dharma but also dishearten the master whose compassion
    has been boundless and efforts for Dharma beyond human comprehension.

    This is probably why I have decided not to present these discussions to
    His Holiness after I came to know of it through Ngawang Geleg as it would
    not only disturb him a great deal but also dishearten him from his Dharma
    work. So I would deem it best if this rumor and false allegation stops
    after this message. In fact there would be no more need to hover over
    this matter then when truth is told.

    It will be very easy to refute the false charge that Nicky Skye has made.
    But before it all, I would very much like to ask how people like Evelyn
    Ruut who do not even know His Holiness, have reached a conclusion that
    Nicky Skye is telling the truth? By talking over the phone with her? And
    because it was a woman-to-woman conversation!!!!

    Madam, it is often easy to believe things as they seem and are told,
    though the truth may be miles away. It is very important for a person who
    reaches a decision that before doing so and saying that it is true one
    should check it out with the other person too and also look on one’s own
    before making a judgment and publishing it. Every man should have a
    chance to defend himself. Do you know Nicky Skye and Mary Finnigan
    personally? Have you checked their antecedents? Are they both people with
    reliable characters? How do these two people know each other? How do we
    know that they are not conspirators trying not only to dent the image of
    His Holiness but also Dharma in general? In fact, how is news reader to
    believe that all three of you are party to the same plot unless they are
    so gullible as you?

    In fact, I am posting this message only because it is people like Evelyn
    whom I am very worried about. It is gullible people like her who are
    aimed at when such vicious allegations are circulated. And it is they who
    then pass it on to large number of people believing it to be true.
    Otherwise as in this case, for those of us who hold His Holiness as our
    root guru and know him very well, this is just a ludicrous story from a
    woman with unstable mind or evil intent to which we would turn a blind
    eye.

    I will not make any mention or reference to other allegation made in the
    message towards other lamas, as they are no business of mine. They do not
    by or large matter much to me. I will write only thing that I know and
    know well enough to be true.

    If we read very well from the very first letter s posted by her or her
    friend Mary, from it itself we can very much learn that either she is
    psychologically unstable or is telling us a very badly construed tale.

    · The first thing I would like to make clear is that I have been
    private secretary to His Holiness Sakya Trizin for almost the last three
    years.

    · During these years, I have never ever heard of or seen either
    Nicky Skye or Mary Finnigan.

    · I haven’t even heard their names mentioned by anyone in our circle
    of people or other Dharma fellows.

    · There are no apartments or whatsoever near the Phodrang where the
    accuser Nicky Skye purports that this incident took place.

    · The nearest place where a disciple of His Holiness could lodge is
    some rooms at the Sai Temple, which is adjacent to the Sakya Center and a
    place called Krishna Lodge, which is on the opposite direction.

    · We have only one guest room at the Palace and in all the adjacent
    three rooms attendants of His Holiness live.

    · Moreover, if anyone who has been to and has stayed at His Holiness
    residence would surely know that it is five o’ clock in the morning when
    His Holiness goes for his usual five or six rounds of the palace (after
    which he has his breakfast) and not 9 o’ Clock as Nicky says in her
    allegation (and that too if the weather is good).

    · And if anyone visits us at Rajpur, it would become very evident
    that His Holiness has absolutely no time during the days when he is here
    at the palace that someone could privately study and meditate with him as
    Nicky says she has done.

    · In fact, even those of us who life with him hardly have a few
    moments with him each day as his prayers, meditation, daily audience from
    10 – 12 a. m. and other religious duties take up so much of his time.

    · It would also be very pleasant to note that only time His Holiness
    goes out of the palace is when he goes to the Sakya Center to attend
    ceremonies or when is on a tour or visit to other cities or towns. Once
    in a blue moon he goes to the market to shop.

    · And incidentally, it is around nine o’clock in the morning that
    His Holiness almost finishes his morning session of prayers and
    meditation and prepares to come down from his shrine room to the audience
    room to grant audience to devotees.

    · For a clever person, it is very obvious from the beginning that
    her story is based on and is meant to grow on various other stories and
    rumors that are floating in the Dharma world (whether they are true or
    lies).

    · The message makes many references to other lamas or lama with whom
    she says she has had negative experiences and abusive relationship. It is
    and would be very silly of her if she wants us to believe that we are so
    gullible that we will believe that she is so innocent or stupid that
    after all the sadness she says she experienced with other lamas or lama,
    she will again jumps into the same pit.

    · Again, it would be very big hearted of her when she purports that
    what some lamas to have done to her were nothing and it was what she says
    His Holiness did that destroyed her faith in Dharma.

    · And finally, how are we to believe that after all this we have to
    believe that she returned to Rajpur for the next four years!!!

    Indeed it would either require gullible people like Evelyn to believe
    everything a fellow woman in the same age group to tells her or a very
    very stupid person.

    At the end, I sincerely urge all Dharma brothers and sisters to turn a
    blind eye to these allegation or even better advise and discourage these
    people so that this thing ends. If any more clarification is needed do
    email me. I am at wangy…@hotmail.com

    Tsering Wangyal

    25th October, 99

    Like

  90. Tara Ling, it was confirmed that a person called Mimi worked there and her father left the 3 year retreat during the first months. It didn’t affect the retreat in any way. The person who spoke to me couldn’t say if Mimi has had sex with SR. It’s difficult to spy his bedroom, which is pretty understandable. I know people who have visited his apartment, where there are constantly people discussing matters with him.

    I spoke to his older student (over 30 years lived near him) who worked as his masseur and knew his girlfriends: they never expressed anything like having been harmed by SR. SR never approached her sexually even though she was his masseur for a long time.

    Patrick has brains and a good, kind heart – like you may know? He nor any of those men working in Rigpa calls women whores (like it was said in the BTT), or do you think they do?

    Most of the women mentioned in the BTT blog have husbands and boyfriends of their own, some have children of their own and live elsewhere: completely different scene from the description of the BTT.

    My best friend works with those people in LL. In Rigpa people gossip, like everywhere else. There is no harem, and no girlfriends of senior students are abused. During the ten years I’ve been there I have seen the main people mostly a) being single, b) being gay or c) in a relationship which is a known for everybody. My friend knows those people pretty well.

    Victoria Barlow’s stories you can read in the internet, if you look them up: Nicky Skye is her pseudonym and she has claimed to have been abused also by Sakya Trizin. Search: American Buddha and Google groups. Use words like: Pema / Blue Dakini for Mary Finnigan and Nicky Skye / Lucy for V. Barlow and Sogyal or Sakya Trizin in your search.

    You can start here. Finnigan posted this in behalf of Victoria Barlow (who now, after many decades calls herself SR’s ex-girlfriend, when in the past internet postings she was a victim of rape or an unknowing student who lent her phone card to him):
    http://www.american-buddha.com/finneg.1.htm

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  91. I think Mike and the DI team needs to take a good look at what is going on here and ask themselves what is the real aim of this blog.

    This is our mission statement:

    Mission Statement

    Explanatory note: Whenever we use the words ‘cult’, ‘cultism’ or ‘cultist’ we are referring solely to the phenomenon where troubling levels of undue psychological influence may exist. This phenomenon can occur in almost any group or organisation.

    Motivated by the inalienable right to religious freedom, Dialogue Ireland is an independent Trust that seeks to promote people’s freedom to make informed choices about religious, spiritual and philosophical beliefs. Though Dialogue Ireland has its origins as a Christian organisation it is now open to all belief systems and none. All we require is that those working with us share a common understanding of cultism*.

    We fully accept the CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION as giving expression to our work:

    Fundamental Rights Platform

    *We acknowledge that “cultist” tendencies can creep into any organisation, including even mainstream movements. We do receive calls from people who perceive themselves or a family member as being victims of “cultist” activity on the part of a wide variety of sources. These people turn to Dialogue Ireland for guidance and support. Such situations can be very painful for the people involved. Some have compared it to the death of a loved one without the funeral. Fortunately, the experiences of most people joining movements/groups are much less dramatic than this.

    What you are crudely calling for us to do is to censor people. You have formulated your strategy and arrive back here after you could not handle Bella and want us to dump her. Would it not make my job so much easier!

    DI is funded to fight, help victims of abuse and is not doing such a great job anymore.

    Funded by who? We are a charity dependent on donations.

    Donations & Fees

    Dialogue Ireland is a unique organization that deals with a very specialised, if almost esoteric, subject. Most people rarely think about this subject, and only do so when a major event hits the media or when they, or a loved one close to them, become involved in a group that leads to a family crisis.

    As a charity we do not charge for advice and information on the phone or through email anywhere in the world. We charge for private consultations in person or with organisations, and terms will be worked out prior to commencement of the work. We also charge for specific research projects on behalf of families, individuals or organisations.

    However, as a charity, we will provide a service to those who have an inability to pay. We rely upon volunteer work (which can add up to hundreds of hours) and upon the financial support of donors such as you who make it possible for us to continue offering services to the community.
    Supporting Dialogue Ireland

    If you have found our work, or our website, helpful please know that a donation that YOU make WILL help us to continue providing this service.
    For the rest let them do it the way they wish. We can only do what we can. We are grateful for those who assist us, but we can’t be what you want us to be. so I suggest you go where you can find the solutions you are suggesting!

    Our bank details for making a donation are:
    Charity #: CHY 14004
    Bank code: 93-10-55
    Account: 20918 199
    Address: AIB
    37/38 O’Connell Street
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    You can also use our standing order form to make regular donations.

    Alternatively you can donate through PayPal by using this donate button:

    A standing order form for the UK is available on request. Cheques from Ireland, USA, South Africa and the UK can be received without bank charges.

    MIKE GARDE
    DIRECTOR DIALOGUE IRELAND
    Phone: 353 -1- 8309384 or mobile 353 – 87 2396229
    Address: 7/8 Lr Abbey St, Dublin 1, Ireland
    Web site: http://www.dialogueireland.org
    Email address: info@dialogueireland.org
    Charity number: CHY 14004
    IRELAND and IRISH representative on the General Assembly of the European of Centres for Research and Education on Sects (FECRIS).

    What are we not doing any more? Please elaborate, but do have a look beyond your narrow Rigpa concern. We are dealing with a massive load, with few resources.
    We are a charity and I can tell you without contradiction that we have received not one single donation from any one since we started our concern in 1997 supporting our actions from this Buddhist concerned grouping. In other words we are putting in thousands of hours without a single penny support.

    In allowing Bella b and others to attack genuine victims in such an open ended way, it has allowed the victims to be victimised all over again and sabotage the original intention to expose Sogyal as the pervert, narcissist and abuser that he is.

    This is grandstanding. When Bella comments you have two possibilities to be drawn in by her and react or to ignore her attempts to divert. You either are not able to answer her responses or you do not know how to avoid the temptation to get in there and react to her strategy. Do not blame us. We will remove offensive personal attacks. But not at the time you may be writing, we do have other lives!

    I propose that Di stop allowing on this site the way it does, deniers of crimes like Bella B who is definitively an agent imagined or real of Sogyal, she has very clearly become an abuser in my book. Every one knows what her purpose is and it’s to deny, deflect and push abused people away so that they get silenced and she in turn feel fulfilled?! She’s getting off on it. How sick is that s……..?!

    Thank you for your advice but we will run our site and will not support your clear censorship proposal. NO!

    Now is the time for action, everyone here who’s been abused by Sogyal and his gang and want to get together and decide on a strategy need to go somewhere else to do it, clearly. Some options are being discussed, the legal route is definitely the main route.

    This is just totally utopian thinking. You can’t get everyone together. We are on different continents, involving different legal jurisdictions. Each abused person is at a different stage of development. I have had one Irish case of abuse brought to my attention. I am however, not in touch with the person. We are dealing with people ready to bring their story here, but it can take years for them to be ready. In other words we are a forum not the United Nations and not the International War crimes Tribunals. We are not the solution to the SR issue, but we are doing our little bit. So please give us a break!

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  92. TaraLing, in China, they have a policy of “re-educating” Tibetans. It sounds very similar to what you are describing at Rigpa, similar to what “instructors” do when youth question this situation.

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  93. Dear BellaB, did the person you were addressed to or any of the others you spoke to give you any factual information about Sogyal Rinpoche’s sexual relationships with his students? I have been unable to get any factual information about this from the ‘official’ channels.

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  94. covert hypnosis…

    Give me a brake.

    How does your own lama give transmissions? I guess you have become a non-Buddhist person and you should stop claiming to be one.

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  95. Tara Ling, I had a very personal and deep discussion (which I’m not going to write here) with the person I was addressed to. I also asked around independently from other people, over the ten years I’ve been there.

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  96. I think that this is something that has to be honestly discussed inside Rigpa, but if it’s is raised you are told to see an instructor who is asked to help you deal with your problem and perceptions. The ‘instructors’ say that they have only ever seen Sogyal Rinpoche act to help others. They say that they don’t know anything about what are described as ‘allegations.’ There is no open discussion.

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  97. I almost forgot — another dubious
    aspect of Sogyal’s activities is that he appears to deploy a technique in his public utterances known as covert hypnosis. This almost certainly accounts for the delusions experienced by many of his students that they are receiving some form of mind to mind transmission. Also one of his sex victims described his seduction ploy as “look into my eyes, you are receiving transmission…”

    Like

  98. Finnigan,

    I guess the court case happened in 1995, since Sheila has found it somewhere and it has been published by other journalists too and Rigpa doesn’t deny it.

    The rest is mostly based on your story telling skills.

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  99. Tara Ling, welcome to the real world! Do you think that Siemens would publish on their Facebook page gossips about their leader? You should talk with someone in person, in real life.

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  100. It was me who was thrown out of the Rigpa Youth group for asking about the Sex Scandals in Religion documentary about Sogyal Rinpoche. The full episode of ‘In the name of enlightenment’ can be found here: https://rapidshare.com/files/3247462639/Sex_Scandals_In_Religion_-_Full_Episode-_In_the_Name_of_Enlightenment.flv

    Like

  101. Perhaps we have all got it wrong — everything that has been written about Sogyal and Rigpa here, in the Telegraph Magazine, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, Les 3 Mondes, Tenpel’s blog, In the Name of Enlightenment, the BBC, Marianne etc etc is sohisticated disinformation. Maybe there’s a multi national journalistic conspiracy,
    set up with the sole purpose of libeling poor old Sogyal — the good guy who leads an austere, exemplary life — who is the equal of saints and siddhas through the ages. If we are going to disgorge total tosh we might as well go the distance…..

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  102. DI, we might be living in different cultures, but since when calling a lie a lie is an offence? I have already showed you – obviously – in many ways how certain journalist’s stories are unreliable. Marianne’s article is just an easy pick, where anyone, who can read, can see it it. The rest of the stories can only be clearly seen as false if you know the people who are talked about in the story line.

    I don’t know why you watch elsewhere when the main story teller here is not okay. People jumping into her wagon… are you blind: you are being manipulated.

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  103. Helen,

    “I’m referring to the case where a father in France called for help because his under-aged daughter was being taken in by S as one of his “dakinis” with the consequences one can only dread. He had to release her because of the public concern and the publicity the dad managed to”

    I’m sorry but this story is a fantasy story. You STILL shouldn’t believe all what you read!

    Release her… like someone was in prison! Don’t go crazy now, please!

    Behind the Thankas blog is simply nonsense. I try to avoid using the strong words.

    Are you in some kind of group trance of victim hood that you can’t think to yourselves anymore?!

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  104. To be clear I am not offended when I am referred by bellaB as an ‘anyone’. I take the ‘anyone’ to be the representative of all the women who have been abused and still are. So thank you bellaB for acknowledging all women victim of a spiritually and psychologically deranged human being.

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  105. Bella how many times have you to be told to get off the stage. The very basic reason we have this comment section is to give people the space to make a statement in a confidential and anonymous way. Your problem is you have commentitis a very serious condition. Do not go there in regard to that issue. Deal with the points of the comment and do not attack the person or the identity of people on this site.

    Anonymous, you could be anyone.

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  106. Its pretty much against my better judgement Helen. …but am attracted by the quality of recent comments inc yours. I agree that the time for discussion has passed. Have been calling for action for ages. When these pleas fell on English language deaf ears I decided to allow http://www.behindthethangkas.wordpress.com to be published as a blog. That certainly stirred things up a bit.

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  107. Also the bit missing:’ the dad managed to attract’.
    Sorry about that, not much sleep last night.

    Great responses from every one, glad to hear Mary’s strong voice again. Great clarity of mind, anonymous, my friend, what a big heart you’ve got. But as B will discover not a push-over. Watch this space.

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  108. When I added the mention (very few) regarding SR’s victims here I meant very few spoke out on this site, victims of Sogyal are many.
    So that we’re clear.

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  109. Yeah, except that she is not anyone, she’s very real indeed, an old friend of mine I met years ago at one of rigpa’s summer retreats. She’s been a victim of Sogyal like sadly a lot more. Fact!

    She deserves all the respect and support that we owe to victims who have the courage to speak out.

    In insulting her you insult all of us and therefore will have to deal with the consequences. Of course you think you can get away with abuse, following on the footsteps of your master and role model and being massively indulged on this site but time is changing and there should be no more tolerance towards people like you considering you’re attitude is so obvious and abject.

    I think Mike and the DI team needs to take a good look at what is going on here and ask themselves what is the real aim of this blog.

    DI is funded to fight, help victims of abuse and is not doing such a great job anymore.

    It has been helpful in publishing the crucial material it has, and allowing victims (very few really) to try to speak up and for that we’re grateful to a point; but is not clear, for want of another word, about its aims and objectives.

    In allowing Bella b and others to attack genuine victims in such an open ended way, it has allowed the victims to be victimised all over again and sabotage the original intention to expose Sogyal as the pervert, narcissist and abuser that he is.

    I propose that Di stop allowing on this site the way it does, deniers of crimes like Bella B who is definitively an agent imagined or real of Sogyal, she has very clearly become an abuser in my book. Every one knows what her purpose is and it’s to deny, deflect and push abused people away so that they get silenced and she in turn feel fulfilled?! She’s getting off on it. How sick is that s……..?!

    Now is the time for action, everyone here who’s been abused by Sogyal and his gang and want to get together and decide on a strategy need to go somewhere else to do it, clearly. Some options are being discussed, the legal route is definitely the main route.

    I think it is not time to debate anymore like people in the French website: ‘les trois mondes’, are saying, there are tons of evidence all over the place about Sogyal horrible, abusive behaviour and his organisation backing him up.

    People who seek advice or help in that French website are getting support and warnings from everyone not to go to him. They are very moving and caring and there is no way the guys running that particular site will let this happen the way Mike is allowing it here.

    Those guys are very protective and decent; they’ve made up their mind after years of reading all the arguments and have met with some of the victims I think.

    As soon as a rigpa troll appears it get what it deserves, in a genuine and kind but firm way, no messing there, the aim of the site has become clear, congrats to the editors. No one can terrorize the site like this BB does or tries hard to do here.

    Sogyal is an abuser and therefore must be dealt with, like any abuser should. His little helpers should be treated with the unambiguous attitude. The consequences are too serious. People’s lives are at stake.

    I hear what’s going on in Rigpa and it is not good. How can it be!
    He has become even more sadistic, aggressive and abusive.
    The mistake on some level is to keep the information about the sexual abuse, it’s on the scale to 10 pretty high for sure, but the mental and psychological manipulations that are being used there are what makes it all possible and that need some serious attention too.
    To me this is an extra evidence that people are really unwell, lost and very vulnerable and therefore are prepare to put up with this level of abuse, just like I was years back and naturally with my huge experience of the all thing I feel for them. This is even more reason to raise the alarm about the nature of what is going on in there.

    Yes, on some level he has appeared to be more difficult to approach but do not be fooled, it’s just a show. I’m referring to the case where a father in France called for help because his under-aged daughter was being taken in by S as one of his “dakinis” with the consequences one can only dread. He had to release her because of the public concern and the publicity the dad managed to
    He’s always wanted to behave like Trungpa who suffered from narcissistic tendencies too with a taste for CIA -style methods :).

    Madness I tell you!

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  110. Very foolish and very scared — the latter with good reason. Wise advice Joanne, but absolutely nothing gets through to bellaB. He/she/it is designed as a spoiler and has been robotic for some time — as many who have come and gone here have testified. The robot ran out of responses and now endlessly repeats the same drivel — which as you say does nothing to enhance Rigpa’s reputation. Not that this matters in fact, because its already in tatters.

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  111. This comment has been edited to remove personal attacks DI Moderation.
    “my story is similar to that of others who had the courage to tell it ‘ a long time ago”

    yes – and which was a false one:

    http://www.american-buddha.com/finneg.1.htm

    by the famous V. Barlow.

    Finnigan, you should simply stop coloring things xxxxxxx: one might want to listen to you in that case. Nothing has convinced me of your ‘reliability’. NOTHING. The whole BTT is worse c*** I’ve ever read – even from you.

    It is said that by talking truthfully, people will listen to you. xxxxxxxxxxxxx to believe you, even if you spoke the truth. It’s karma.

    You will conquer the xxxx with the truth.

    If someone is offended that I call them xxxx, then I would also like to ask: Do you think that people are so stupid that they believe your xxxx? Don’t underestimate the readers. Journalists are no gods. Present day readers are already taught at school to be critical.

    “Education for media literacy often uses an inquiry-based pedagogic model that encourages people to ask questions about what they watch, hear, and read. Media literacy education provides tools to help people critically analyze messages, offers opportunities for learners to broaden their experience of media, and helps them develop creative skills in making their own media messages. Critical analysis can include identifying author, purpose and point of view, examining construction techniques and genres, examining patterns of media representation, and detecting propaganda, censorship, and bias in news and public affairs programming (and the reasons for these). Media literacy education may explore how structural features—such as media ownership, or its funding mode — affect the information presented.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_literacy

    One last thing: you’ve hunted SR for decades now – and now getting the same treatment back. Nice, isn’t it? You think SR is strong enough to handle it. He is, no doubt about that. I’m not participating in this in order to censor reality, but what I know about your stories, they are a pile of slander. Others have tried to give you true stories (google groups), but you always pick the ones that you can use in your slander campaign. Creating a story, editing the story to suit your nightmarish view on SR and getting also paid in propagating that creation. Nothing wrong with that if it was under the title “fiction”.

    When searching for articles about Buddhism in the Guardian, it’s difficult to find any positive ones from you. Sex, money, religion & power.

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  112. Thank you, Anonymous, for your contributions. What I ask readers to do always is look at the coherence of comments as a means to judge their credibility. Your comments have been very coherent and credible. BellaB, you go on and on and in the end, you simply make a case for the other side.
    I also thank an old friend. His/her story makes me think of the communist Chinese. Rigpa should know that only open, transparent discussion is effective for resolving any trouble– even with our youth! Censureship is just plain silly in the end, makes them look very foolish.

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  113. Quote: “prefer the force of the argument to the argument of force, this should be the motto of all corporations.”

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  114. Anonymous — there is a lot that has been said on several strands here over an extended period of time. The reason so few people (inc me) with authentic information and experiences to share comment now is because of the insanity, aggression and absurdity of many responses. These are designed to discredit the strands in their entirety — and to cast doubt on the truths expressed by people who have had the courage to speak out about Sogyal’s sex addiction, brutality and bully-boy teaching methods.

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  115. Of course I could be anyone but I am real. I hide my identity as at this stage I feel the need to protect myself and those closed to me. If, at any point, it is necessary to reveal it then I will do so. But at this time I use a ‘mask’, the same way as you do bellaB.
    I do not try to convince anyone, I just tell my story as it was. If my testimony can help in anyway for the truth to be revealed then I feel it is worth the ‘pain’!
    I do not dismiss the value of the Buddhist’s teaching but I do condemn those people who use it to use and abuse others.
    I wish other people would come on this site and join the debate. As you mentioned, my story is similar to that of others who had the courage to tell it ‘ a long time ago’ (your words). I have just been made aware of this site quite recently so sorry to ‘bore’ with my story but a reminder is always, in my mind, helpful if we want things to change.
    On a different note does anyone else have something to contribute to the comment of ‘an old friend’, on June 5, 2012 at 1:19 pm?

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  116. Anonymous, you could be anyone. VB told almost the same story long ago. Doesn’t convince me, but you can try, if you can convince others.

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  117. “Former close personal assistant to Sogyal: “Also I noticed that he had sex with young students who just had come to Rigpa retreats for the first time…””
    This sentence proves me that the story is invented. That is NOT happening – and there is no structure in Rigpa that would allow first time student to have any private meeting with SR. Figure it out for yourself and don’t believe all BS you find in the internet. You don’t know who has written that story.” (Extract from bellaB, on June 2, 2012 at 6:47 am)
    I can say that the story is true as I have had sex with SR on the first retreat I went to years ago. At the time of the ‘incident’ it was fairly easy to talk to him directly i:e during a break after a teaching. I must admit that few years back he was more accessible than he is now.
    SR would send one of his close entourage to come and get you as he wanted to meet you in private. When it happened to me I felt very privileged and went to his apartment without any second thought. And before I could realize what was happening to me, I was lying on his bed him on the top of me. The moment of copulation was brief and, again, before I knew it I was outside not really understanding what just happened to me.
    As I just wanted to clarify that point I won’t go further. But I have more to say as I have been there! So dear bellaB, before ‘accusing’ someone of lying, start to listen to what others have to say and then may be we could engage in a more constructive conversation.

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  118. Posted todsy 5 July on wordpress site

    I was thrown out of the Rigpa Youth facebook group because I posted this link and asked about it. http://cogentbenger.com/sexscandalsinreligion/in-the-name-of-enlightenment/ When I was younger I met the young woman in the video and her father at Rigpa’s main centre, Lerab Ling. I can’t believe they made up stories about Sogyal Rinpoche. We are not allowed to discuss this in the Rigpa Youth facebook group. We can only speak to an ‘administrator’ or ‘instructor’ privately. Something is being hidden from us.

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  119. I know many people, women and men, who work in Rigpa. Should I call all of them dakas and dakinis? Maybe in tsok I should at least make an effort to see them so.

    There is a line of chairs where 3-4 women sit whom I think SR considers as dakinis, who give him advice or whatever that is. The rest of the people are workers, instructors, care people and so on. Not every worker is sitting during the teachings in this special row. So that is why I don’t consider Mimi as a Dakini, since I can’t remember her sitting there during the teachings. I remember a few times Rinpoche calling her name just like he has called some other workers who are working ‘somewhere’. Just to clarify that I don’t use the term dakini in the same manner as you, a sexual consort

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  120. “It is known how Sogyal slept with the partners of his senior students.”

    Is it? I don’t know such things to happen, neither my friend who works with those people.

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  121. “I met on Retreat a young woman who told me she knew nothing about Buddhism. She had been on a cycling holiday in the South of France and decided to come to the Retreat. Shortly afterwards she told me she had had sex with SR. She came out with the usual story of going to his room to give him a massage.”

    I doubt anybody who is not working in Rigpa long term, is giving SR massages. It is VERY DIFFICULT even to have a chat with him.

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  122. “Indeed, the first several education courses offered at Rigpa are not courses in fundamental texts such as Words of My Perfect Teacher, Bodhicaharyavatara, Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment or any of Longchenpa’s teachings. They are Sogyal’s book and Sogyal’s teachings. New students at Rigpa study the dharma from Sogyal’s point of view.”

    They teach meditation because that is what people are usually interested in Buddhism. They don’t offer Tibetan Buddhist texts and strange practices for beginners in Buddhism. I’ve heard them say so. I don’t feel like criticizing them for doing that. I understand it completely.

    Here you can find texts that have been taught or will be taught in Rigpa. It’s not too bad if you compare with other groups.

    http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Category:Prayers_and_Practices

    http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Category:Texts

    This page is what they are working on at this very moment.
    http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Main_Page

    Mimi said that she and other workers have been tested – and when they have shown that they are willing or able to take on the responsibility of holding the teachings, they are being accepted into the inner circle. It also requires karma, if you believe in karma.

    Teachers do test their students. I have no idea why a young girl like Mimi was accepted in the inner circle. Maybe it is assumed that through her father she would have strong connection to SR. I have no idea. Obviously it wasn’t so, or? Why was she there in the first place? I bet it wasn’t only because of her father.

    “the stories of sexual abuse that one hears in regard to Sogyal have occurred with students who have never spent anywhere near that requisite time.”

    Obviously in Mimi’s case it isn’t so. I wonder if it was so with Yeshe Tsogyal? Did she or Princess Mandarava wait 12 years before they had sex with Guru Rinpoche? I think it was considered that Yeshe Tsogyal had a special place as a student and a holder of Guru Rinpoche’s teachings. Did Machig Labdron wait until her consort was ready? Perhaps her male consort wasn’t even her student. I can’t remember. I’m not referring Mimi being like Yeshe Tsogyal, far from it, nor SR as GR. I’m just wondering if there really is a rule for the time period?

    Did Mimi consider her a student? She said she begun working almost immediately when she met SR. She said she knew sex went with the job. She remained 3 years, working. I have no knowledge if she studied with SR or was she just his servant or a lover? What was her motivation for the work? Only her father? I doubt it, if she didn’t tell her father about the sexual relationship for three years. What did she study? Was she a Buddhist practitioner? One would assume so, but I don’t know.

    SR has never said in public that he is going to marry and be celibate. I think people already know that an ordinary relationship (in Western standards) is out of the question. I have sympathy for (non-lying) young females who are not aware of what they are doing. Power or attention seeking people are another matter. Their clouded egos can be blown off – or?

    [Many men in present day society are suffering because of young self-centered, egoistical girls/women. Those women exists too. Young women are not always good willed, kind and concerned for others. But I doubt SR would chose those women to spend intimate moments with, so I guess I’m side tracking….]

    “It is sometimes said that a major cause of the decline of Buddhism in India eight hundred years ago was the practice of Vajrayana by unqualified people, and sectarianism caused by corruption within the Sangha. Anyone teaching Tibetan Buddhism should keep this in mind when they refer to the precept, ‘every action of the guru is to be seen as perfect.’ This is an extremely dangerous teaching, particularly for beginners.”

    At least sectarianism is no threat in Rigpa.

    I believe Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche who taught SR Dzogchen, and Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche as well as Minguyr Rinpoche considers SR as qualified. Nyoshul Khen, Dzongsar Khyentse… http://www.trettin-tv.de/videogalerie.html

    About beginners in Dharma… I believe in karma and in past lives. Many present day Buddhists may have past life experiences with Buddhism, may have been practitioners, monks, nuns in past lives. For some people all makes sense immediately and for others it takes time. One cannot judge people simply by looking at their present life. Some are beginners in Buddhism in this life at the age of 40, but have made huge advances in past lives. You cannot know.

    My friend in Rigpa has extreme connection to Buddhism and SR. When Trulshik Rinpoche visited Rigpa and saw him in a private audience, TR burst out laughing as if recognizing him or knowing something about my friend. TR never said anything, but was just really pleased with my friend. You can’t know what they see in you, maybe your past lives or whatever.

    “She completely dismisses the fact accepted among western therapists that any sexual relationship between a spiritual teacher and his student, even one that is legal, is going to cause psychological damage to the student. She also dismisses the fact that women statistically are reluctant to file charges and endure the ordeal of being grilled over their experiences.”
    I don’t think Sheila misses anything. She is in fact right that women should go to police and not to Internet pages talking about their experience. Women can find support from many places, rape centers and so forth in order make a police report.
    The problem is that women may not know if they were abused or if they did it voluntarily. In many cases they were probably strongly drawn by the teacher (alpha male?) and admitting to that makes them probably feel ashamed, when they realize that the teacher is not going to fit into their fantasized image about him, but the opposite.
    I wish you, as a therapist, are having an extended view about situations:
    player A (the victim, patient and their intentions)
    player B (the other side, the teacher and his intentions)
    player C (any other things that could have any value in the situation)
    I’m sorry if I sound arrogant again, but I think nothing is more tiresome as a therapist who locks their patients into victimhood and neediness of their help and doesn’t try to make the patient see the whole picture. I have a friend who was lured by her therapist for 10 years into being in their therapeutic relationship. Her father had schizophrenia but she didn’t. The therapist kept my friend sitting in the damned chair – illegally – for 10 years. My friend paid her and the therapist didn’t pay the taxes for the money she received. Anyway: maybe the therapist’s intention was to help her, but I think – and my friend thinks – that the therapist was herself somehow depending on her, the patient. So, what are the moral limits of therapists?
    What can a victim of a therapist do when they are making people feel that they are victims and always feeling pity for them (and at the same time feeling themselves needed and superior to the poor patients)? Not every therapist is ‘qualified’ (except on paper) and many also choose to study psychology because they have problems of their own. Sorry to bring this other side of ‘healing’ here, but I’d also like to question the endless – so called – ‘empathy’ of the therapist and the sustained victimhood of the patient – in contrast with getting truly over things, making the inner transformation and feeling empowered. One should not end their own healing process with the label ‘victim’ but really move on, learn new things about themselves.
    Do the psychologists think that every human being on this earth are in need of therapy and are somehow weak or incapable of taking care of themselves? If some woman thinks that she is ready for a sexual relationship with SR and still see him as her teacher, I think it is her business. I’m not liberal in general, but I see that there are different people with different capacities – maybe even beyond a therapist may see?
    I myself am not such a person. I am aware of my capacity of jealousness and possessiveness (not very Buddhist attitude) that I know well in advance that I am not able to share my sexual partner with other women. For me it is too intimate, too wholesome act – and I’m too (?) childlike and needy emotionally, so I feel the need to feel safe, like perhaps with a mother. I have different sexual experiences: I have swum in the ocean of love, I have felt used. What I think is important – for me – is that you trust the other person (and yourself), then you can open up, emotionally, physically.
    I have experienced sex also in another terms with an ex-boyfriend of mine, who was more like a friend to me than a sexually interesting person. We had really nice sex, without possessiveness – and I felt very free afterwards. I felt like I wanted to laugh from the bottom of my existence – and I did. I didn’t feel any clinging to him at all. He gave me a gift: freedom. We are still friends, after 20 years.
    If I think about my own personal experience, I never felt strong sexual urge toward my partner, but still it is one of the best sexual experiences that I had. It involved breathing and the opening of the whole body. Therefore I can’t say that sex without ‘true commitment’ is always harmful. It is not. Likewise I would say that sex with a teacher can’t be always harmful.
    Sex and sexuality is not simple. One can’t place stamps on people and declare that they know what is good for them. There are many personal factors involved.
    Did you ever have good sex? What were the factors involved?

    “If it’s considered ok for Sogyal to have sex with his students, this needs to be broadcast aloud—it needs to be put on Rigpa websites. It needs to be put on fliers. It needs to be made known.”

    Are you really serious? And if the lama wants to practice sexual practices only with a few – and not every woman who wants, what then? I think this message at the doorstep would be misguiding, since Rigpa is so much more than sex and what SR does with women. If today I wanted to have sex with him, he would probably kick me out of the door. Like he himself said a few years ago in the teaching: “So, do you think I will abuse you? Do you think that you are so special that I would use you?” He said it so that women would stop the inner dialogue that stems from the gossip: “am I safe? will he abuse me at some point?”
    He said that they should make a life size teddy bear about him, so that people could cuddle up with that. That rang true, since the audience was saying: “yes” to the idea. I also said, “yes” in my mind: “I want one”. Just to show you another side of him: the cuddly bear with all his round stomach. Very different view from the one MF holds in her visualization practice.

    1. There is enough evidence of probable sexual misconduct by Sogyal to warrant alarm, and at the very least interest, on the part of Rigpa students. This evidence is not simply being provided by Mary Finnigan.
    “What sexual misconduct?“
    2. There is strong evidence that Sogyal is, at the very least, engaging in sexual relations with multiple numbers of his students. This fact has never been directly refuted by either Sogyal or Rigpa officials.
    “Could be. That is no my business if some woman has sex with him or not. I don’t have her experiences. If some person came to talk to me in person saying she doesn’t like it, I would recommend her to stop it – and I would even help her saying it on his face if she didn’t dare to do it herself.”
    3. On the contrary, there have been statements by Rigpa officials in the past that Sogyal is not a monastic and therefore has a right to engage in sexual relations.
    “It is a fact.”
    4. There is also an indication that mainstream Tibetan Buddhist thought does not consider Sogyal’s behavior to be a problem, which adds further weight to the likelihood that it is occurring. If it isn’t wrong, why then should Sogyal refrain from multiple sexual relations with his students?
    “There might be many factors involved, which have nothing to do with sex. “
    5. Mainstream western psychological evidence has shown that sexual relations between a spiritual teacher and his/her student does cause harm.
    “I believe it’s not as simple, but with young people it’s more likely to be that way. “
    6. Women themselves have reported suffering as a result of sexual relations with Sogyal.
    “All of them? If one or two feels bad but others don’t? I also have tendency to blame men, but then I notice that those ‘bastards’ are able to make some other woman happy.”
    7. It is not uncommon for spiritual teachers, who have crossed sexual boundaries to also be highly inspiring and kind teachers.
    “ Crossed whose sexual boundaries, one may ask, again. It has personal dimension.”
    8. There is no evidence within Buddhist canon to justify sexual relations as a spiritual practice on the level that Sogyal engages in them.
    “But there is always a difference between books and real life, somehow. Do the authors of the books that were written by a certain person, in a certain time, know people who are involved here? Did Padmasambhava refrain for 12 years in waiting for Mandarava or Y. Tsogyel to mature by te book? Obviously Mimi was NOT mature in any way, but can one draw conclusions from her to some other individuals?”
    9. However, except for the strictures against having sex with married women and beating women, there is little in the allegations against Sogyal that is even banned in the Buddhist canon regarding sexual misconduct. It appears that if Sogyal can disprove those two allegations and disagree with women’s reports of suffering, then he is free from the viewpoint of Buddhist ethical conduct. I suggest that this needs to be reviewed!
    “Could be. First we must also change the abusive Western culture and it’s pornographic view on women, terrible violent pollution that has landed on this earth. Tantric view on sex is pure and innocent compared to this s***. SR is a minor player in this mess we live in.

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  123. Thankyou bellaB for your point of view from a different perspective with which we are all familiar now. First of all I want to make it clear that my involvement in all of this is more widespread than just SR and Rigpa.
    I am interested in the development of Tibetan Buddhism in the West in the 21st century for which I have grave concerns.
    I think you are justified in your defence of SR and Rigpa in as much as, yes it is true there are indeed good aspects about his work and the activities of Rigpa from which many people have benefited in some way or other.
    However in this modern day and age we need to be careful that a truly workable method of training the mind is incorporated into the curriculum of Dharma Centres that could become regarded as Universities.
    Do we really need a system which speaks of:
    ….”Buddhist teachers can be categorized into four types:

    1. peaceful
    2. enriching: glorious, wisdom, compassion, generous
    3. magnetizing(?): a role model, an inspiration
    4. powerful: wrathful, direct”

    To me this smacks of a Lama game in which interestingly it is the Lamas in SR’s circle who indulge and are indulged by their students.
    In my experience the Lamas who really want to help set their students on the path to Liberation and independence from them, give their students the tools and firmly put them on their own two feet to go and get on with the job. I don’t think they waste their time in wondering if they are any of the above.
    I’m sorry to say, I think Rigpa’s indulgence of SR’s tactics are bringing the worst out in him.
    I shall illustrate this.
    Unfortunately if a Lama is not sufficiently evolved on the Bodhisattva path, then conversely a female partners attempts to live within the empty nature of the Mandala will only result in him taking licence to indulge in many more partners for sexual gratification.
    There is no doubt that they are enjoying their own pleasure. That was my experience of being with Sogyal.
    I met on Retreat a young woman who told me she knew nothing about Buddhism. She had been on a cycling holiday in the South of France and decided to come to the Retreat. Shortly afterwards she told me she had had sex with SR. She came out with the usual story of going to his room to give him a massage.
    My eyes were certainly opened during that retreat. I shall refrain from recounting other rather sordid details which are known to my friends and people I trust. I will say though that one occasion was when his Aunt Khandro was sleeping in the room next door.
    I accept that SR utterly believes the myth that having sex with a Tibetan Lama benefits the female student. This rather macho cavalier attitude is followed by other Lamas. Very convenient for them.
    It is total poppycock on the level in which they are operating.
    I do think however that Lamas and female Buddhist have much they can teach one another. The Lama’s forte is the subject of emptiness and the female will have the heart of natural compassion. This is something several Lamas need to develop.
    An important point made by a friend of mine and fellow commentator is that when Tilopa or Marpa mistreated Naropa or Milarepa they themselves were getting nothing out of it. Present day rogue Lamas however are getting huge benefits of money gifts and sex and their paths are littered with casualities.
    Actually you made me laugh bellaB when you announced that in your opinion Mimi was not a Dakini but a worker. Is that the fate of women at Rigpa to become skivvies? Having met her and read ex-Dakini’s testimony, they strike me as having real dignity and showing Dakini energy.
    It is known how Sogyal slept with the partners of his senior students.
    Is that an environment conducive to the respect of women?
    The psychotherapist living at Lerab Ling with a “dakini” daughter really should know better. How could that person not recognize the
    distress that women like Mimi endured. Their daughter’s a Dakini so everything is ok????
    Is it no wonder that people on the outside regard Rigpa as being cultish? To my mind it is caught up in worldly Dharma, so that the sizzling, scintillating pure Dakini energy is reduced to a tangible female form of the Rigpa elite.
    No, I want to see a radically different form of Tibetan Buddhism triumphing in the West. One that is pared down from the prevailing
    Lamaism to such a degree and in such a way that will free up people’s minds from cultural baggage. Thankfully, already some Lamas have recognized that need and are addressing it. They are the exceptional ones.
    Joanne your essay is a remarkable piece of work which I hope will receive widespread interest with a result that women in the Dharma will learn to have more self-respect and confidence in their own ability to awake to Liberation. I have a heart-felt prayer that those Lamas who are not worth their weight in gold, pack up their bags
    and head off into the sunset to a long overdue Retreat!

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  124. I’d also like to point that whenever you meet a person from Rigpa, who is like me, who hasn’t done their homework = tamed their minds, please don’t make the mistake of calling them senior students.

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  125. “Mimi is also central to BTT. Her allegations do not concern only herself, but what she has observed as the abuse of others as well.”

    As soon as you stop considering BTT as an image of reality, you are on the safe side. How come a professional psychologist can be so one sided and blind to take such a writing from hell at a face value? Did you yourself ever visited Rigpa and see how things really are? 95% of BTT is a lie. Begin with that fact and move on in your research.

    “the writer does not question the existence of a group of “Dakinis” who surround Sogyal, nor does she question that they are in sexual relations with him—she questions only the allegations that they are not happy, self-confident women who have lives of their own and are free to leave whenever they wish. She questions whether these women are treated poorly and then cast off”

    Didn’t I? You may understand the meaning of a dakini as a sexual consort. I don’t. Even the late Khandro Rinpoche, who was probably in her 80’s, was called an important dakini. You should study the concept of dakini in Tibetan Buddhism. It’s very complex and rich aspect of wisdom.

    Therefore I do not imply that any of those dakinis is having sex with SR. Like I also mentioned the daughter of the therapist is considered a dakini. Mimi is not in my view a dakini, but a worker. I also mentioned that those women have their own relationships, children – and do not belong to a harem. Not all of them live in LL, but outside. One of the ‘oldest dakinis’ (over 40 years) doesn’t even live in France.

    Mimi said in the BTT that men in Rigpa are calling women whores. Aready that is a clear sign of lying – for anybody who knows men in Rigpa . If she has really said so and it’s not part of the collected fantasies of the author of the BTT, then I also begin to seriously doubt her honesty in all that she has said.

    “This argument is quite brutal in the face of the fact that Victoria Barlow has clearly suffered”. Yes she has, but she spreads her suffering to others – and that is wrong. I can feel sympathy for her about her youth. I don’t feel any sympathy for her for the lies she has propagated over the decades.

    Lies:
    – Sakya Trixin
    – -SR raping her when she went to discuss her matters with him alone and her becoming pregnant – and miscarried
    – her being a random student (think: after he raped her she became a student!) who lent her mother’s phone card to him…

    Victoria Barlow has suffered, but long before she met SR. Any experiences after that were colored by her trauma. As a psychologist you should be aware of this.

    Calling someone a rapist is a revengeful act and a criminal offence when it is unfounded, like it is here, – and I don’t really like people who lie.

    I have know a victim of childhood sexual abuse – and by the age of 30 she had become a similar person to her abusers – despite therapy that she had attended for 4 years. When she was 20 she went to study theology, but couldn’t finish her studies. She was never able to protect her daughter – and invited men, lots of strange men, into her apartment for sex. She was quite intelligent and had psychological understanding of many things, but at the same time she was unable to heal and things just got worse over the years. I had to contact the rape center to get help in trying to find help for the daughter. That led to more lies.

    “ “Now BellaB, if people from Rigpa could identify me, which I’m sure they are frantically trying to do, they would tell you many things about how unbalanced I am. I know that they did so when I left Rigpa, and I know that many prayers were recited for me in Penor Rinpoche’s monastery. But I am quite sane, I assure you.”
    As a therapist and as a Buddhist, I find it extremely disturbing to see any suffering being disparaged on the grounds that he/she is not mentally stable.”
    And you are sure people reacted to her in such a way? You can’t know. It might be just a fear of her own.

    “Whatever one’s opinion of Victoria Barlow’s character or mental health, she was a courageous woman to sit in front of a camera and speak of her suffering and her mistakes.”

    Or she is an attention seeking person? She has suffered in her childhood – and everybody should know it. Her sex with SR and Sakya T has been terrible, they grunted – and everybody should know it? She is special – and all the Tibetan lamas want her? The whole world should suffer, because she has suffered? She should get a cosmic size apology – and she deserves it, I admit it. But should she also apologize for the lies she has propagated for decades now? Or should we just feel pity for her, in silence? Pity doesn’t help, at the end – or how do you feel as a therapist? I know you have to have another approach with people who have had great suffering in childhood: nurture them. Barlow has already said she has received therapy, so you don’t (maybe?) have to do the nurturing anymore. Just look at the facts.

    Former close personal assistant to Sogyal: “Also I noticed that he had sex with young students who just had come to Rigpa retreats for the first time…””

    This sentence proves me that the story is invented. That is NOT happening – and there is no structure in Rigpa that would allow first time student to have any private meeting with SR. Figure it out for yourself and don’t believe all BS you find in the internet. You don’t know who has written that story.

    “In addition, Mary has allowed her own name to be used in citing this source, so this adds veracity to the testimony.”

    Yes, you could see it that way, if you believe Finnigan in the first place. I don’t believe her. I also spoke to a friend of mine in Rigpa who also said BTT must be mad person’s writing: a few facts and the rest is complete BS.

    EZ-dakini story. “Even BellaB acknowledges that ex-Dakini’s story rings true. This is odd, because after admitting that, BellaB then continues for months to refute the truth of allegations of sexual abuse by Sogyal. It seems she is either forgetful or can hold two contradictory truths in her mind at the same time.”

    Yes, I said it is more detailed than the other vague stories. I had also asked for the detailed stories for 2 years before this one appeared – and after I got one, I’m not going to say: it’s not true. I can also see the way pain is described there and it sounds like it’s coming from a real experience. I also said that SR in the story seemed like trying to help her but was unable to do so. He was not trying to abuse her but tried to create a connection between them. One can see things in many ways. What is SR’s intention and what is the experience of a woman in some given moment? They are two different things. If the intention is abuse or not, is also a valid question in judging things. I don’t make any final judgment on SR based on these stories in the Internet. I have real life experiences and I know real people who tell a different story of having been helped.

    Being hit by a back scratch or being bunched in the face are a bit different things. I guess teachers in the Buddhist tradition do that: lightly or hard hit the students with something. One lama throws things – even today – at his monks.

    “However, I acknowledge that the greatest challenge for any sincere Rigpa student is to equate the allegations of sexual abuse with the teacher that they know.” I agree. Does writing BTT blogs help in that process? Not at all. People who know SR just laugh at the blog – or cry, because the feel sorry for the author, once again.

    “Indeed, I can tell you as a therapist that coming forward with testimony of sexual abuse causes the victim great suffering. It triggers experiences of pain that victims want to put in the past.”

    I agree. Making your pain public makes the pain bigger. Therefore one should combine forces with a psychologist in Rigpa and a therapist of their own. Try to find what is real and what is to be done.

    “I believe that this is why there are so few women with the courage of Mimi and Victoria, the courage to expose their vulnerability and their pain.” Except that VB lives her life partly through the public eye and has done it for decades.

    “Cruel comments, such as those made by BellaB and Sheila, do not help them find the courage either.” I have also suffered in my life, but do I call my ex boyfriends rapists if they are not that? Do I publish false testimonies about my ex-boyfriends in the Internet, looking for revenge?
    Lalatee: “His personality was egocentric and his manner imperious. It did not fit in with my idea of a holy or ascetic monk at all.”

    Yes he is not like that – and that is the reason why I like him. I don’t expect him to be that. Buddhist teachers can be categorized into four types:

    1. peaceful
    2. enriching: glorious, wisdom, compassion, generous
    3. magnetizing(?): a role model, an inspiration
    4. powerful: wrathful, direct
    One is also encoraged to see different aspects in one teacher – and at least I’ve been there long enough to see many aspects – and wrathful he is only occasionally.

    “This comment (Lalatee) is also unique because it is about something that can be verified. I personally was not at the retreat the commenter is referring to, but hundreds of people were.”

    So, who do you verify it from? Did you meet someone in real life who could verify this event? I see no Irish people writing in this blog at all. Although I don’t know the people who write here, but I didn’t see any writing here commenting on Rigpa retreats or teachings in Ireland (other than Lalatee’s).

    “The writer is applauding her own advanced state in being able to work with Sogyal’s harsh methods, while disregarding any harm caused to others.”

    I am not on an advanced state, nor I’m a senior student – nor I am practitioner at the moment. I have my experience. He has never been personally directing anything at me. I haven’t been on the front line, since I’m not his worker.

    “Madyamaka teachings in order to practice Dzogchen. He replied that practicing Dzogchen without a full understanding of Madyamaka would be like climbing a rock cliff without hands.”

    Madhyamika is also taught in Rigpa. SR teaches many things. He has a Dzogchen flavor in his teachings from early on. That is just the way it is. Take it or leave it, it’s up to you. If you want to criticize teachings that are given, you could ask Finnigan for her English lama friend’s contact info and ask why beginners are taught Chod and not given the background of the practice nor original texts. There’s more work to be done in that direction. But I guess it’s each individual’s karma to find certain teachers and not some other, to feel connection to some teacher and not to some other. SR is not teaching the whole universe, so people can choose some other teacher, if they wish. SR didn’t come knocking at my door to give teachings. It was a series of complicated events that led me to find him.

    “This indicates that within mainstream Tibetan Buddhism, education is considered to be important for both student and spiritual teacher. While I do not have Mary’s courage to question the level of Sogyal’s dharma education, I do question whether that advice is central to the approach taken within the Rigpa program itself.”

    Yes, it is. We study, all the time, on different levels.

    “Are Sogyal’s harsh methods used on students who haven’t studied the Four Noble Truths? On students who have never studied the madyamaka teachings? On students who have no understanding of lojong or never meditated on compassion or emptiness? I question the efficacy of harsh methods when a foundation of understanding core Buddhist concepts and practices is not laid.”

    I think Lojong teachings are taught again and again. The ‘harsh’ or direct methods are used on workers, not on some beginner. Ask Mimi what teachings she received?

    One point I would also like to make is that SR is not a therapist. He is not educated in your field and no one is asking him to be their therapist. Do not expect him to behave like you would in a therapeutic scene.

    I have to rush now – and still couldn’t finish your writing.

    I am harsh at VB because of the lies she has propagated in the past. One is not only a victim but has a responsibility too. Because of the lying people I met as a blue eyed young girl, I have become very allergic to people who do that, what ever is their excuse. I can’t simply stand it – and it makes me really angry. I also tell those people – in their face – what I think, because I’m not going to participate in any games. If my attitude offends someone, I’m not sorry, because I’m also offended, seriously.

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  126. Finnigan, you clearly understand English better than I do, so I wonder why you summarize Marianne’s article in a false way:

    “his ruthlessly cruel treatment of one participant, who was stumbling towards an agonised confession in front of 500 retreatants”.

    Is silence cruel in such a situation? I don’t think so. What would you have done?

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  127. Mary you are welcome at any time to send us a post to publish. You are right t avoid abuse here, unfortunately I have to read it to make sure it is not for the trash can.
    However, there are some people who gain a lot from commenting it is part of their recovery.

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  128. Snide as always — and you seem to know a lot about me bella “composite”B. How much of your time have you devoted to cyber-stalking me? You and Sheila, as Joanne points out, appear to have cornered the Buddhist vitriol market — speaks volumes for your compassion and bodhicitta practice. Small inaccuracies here though — I am 74 and I still work as a journalist (you know this), copywriter and domestic goddess. The Marianne feature was translated by Ana Pellus. Check her on Facebook. So — having dealt with the predictable noises off, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Joanne. You must have spent many hours on this analysis.– taking up the cause of transparency, accountability and common sense from your own depth of vision and experience. It is mightily useful and I hope will reinvigorate the global campiagn to remove the odious Sogyal Lakar from circulation as a “teacher”. As regulars here know, I do not participate in the verbal violence that passes for comment on this board. I am posting this as a one-off, to show appreciation for Joanne’s contributions here and on other forums.

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  129. I’d also like to add that xxxxx is over 70 years old, retired and she has nothing to lose, except her name.

    Ageist, condescending guff.

    Bella you are obsessed with her. We will be deleting personal attacks. Please make comments on her positions not her person. This will not just get into the spillover but to hell!

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  130. “The first is the fact that Mary herself is an established journalist, with a sound knowledge of litigation and the responsibilities of journalism. It is presumed that she would have taken extra care with verifying her evidence in BTT, knowing that it would be challenged and that Sogyal
    had the money for good lawyers. BellaB, when confronted with these facts in a comment, stated that Mary published BTT anonymously in order to escape litigation.”

    That confession happened months after the BTT had been published in the web. And it wasn’t even a real confession, but just a burst, a sideline.

    When I wrote my response to BTT I was told NOT to mention her as the author like I did in my first version. I had to use his/her and try to avoid pointing my response at her. She translated Marianne’s article from French into English. Then she summarized her own translation completely false. There goes her journalistic ethics!

    Like I wrote in my response to BTT blog:

    ——–In the Behind the Thankas blog the long Marianne 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.”

    Finnigan just can’t keep to the facts – not even in a text that has been already translated from French into English by HERSELF! This is a textual example of the her methods of constructing stories. Unbelievable!————

    It’s in front of your own eyes – and if you choose to ignore it, I don’t know what to think of your own reliability.

    What I know about the present day journalistic ethics world wide, is that world has lost it’s innocence – and papers publish scandalous rubbish just to gain money from buyers. If you haven’t noticed this, you are quite an innocent. That is misuse of freedom of speech and also misuse of power. Talking BS is also not recommended by the Buddha – and one can reap the karma in the future for these actions. Unless one is deluded enough to think one is a Bodhisattva and the end justifies the means.

    Finnigan has said she doesn’t want to be involved herself making a law suit against SR, because her payment as a journalist is low. Since her fight against him hasn’t succeed through internet posting, she has resorted to use stronger weapons. It doesn’t matter to her if the stories are inaccurate. It’s enough if they create an emotional shock in people so they would begin doubting what they have learned about SR in real life.

    Finnigan’s sources: She believes Victoria Barlow who has accused Sakya Trizin of abuse and SR for raping her (even though she was his girlfriend and not some random student as she has presented herself for decades). I would say Victoria Barlow is one ‘realiable source’ for her where she checks her ‘facts’.

    This is my ‘fierce immediate response’ now. I didn’t have time to finish your long post, so I’ll return to it later.

    Like

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