Sogyal Rinpoche do you think the Irish are suckers for sex?

Dutch investigative reporter Dirk Mostert of Brandpunt (KRO-NCRV) investigated sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers, with a specific focus on Sogyal Lakar (aka Sogyal Rinpoche of ’The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’) and his international organization Rigpa.

It is clear that Sogyal is coming under increasing scrutiny and I was able to have a very fruitful discussion with a Dutch researcher Rob Hogendoorn who is currently researching up to 18 cases of abuse by Buddhist teachers. We will return to look at the Irish situation as we are approaching the Retreat in Beara.

https://www.dzogchenbeara.org/sponsor-unique-features-of-the-temple/

 

https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2017/06/21/abuse-in-the-buddhist-community-this-victim-tells-her-story-for-the-first-time/

Please find the English text here for the video.

Sogyal and Rigpa on Dutch TV (Brandpunt 13-06-2017)

Sacha de Boer
00:00:00.00
And now: abuse within the Buddhist community. A peaceful, cuddly religion. Incense, meditation, monks that are fond of laughing, and, above all, very ‘zen’: that is our idea of Buddhism. But it has a very different side as well, which is hardly ever discussed. A world of abuse of power, sexual abuse, and violence. How is it possible that a religion that is thought to be so peaceful, enables monks and gurus with wrong ideas?

Rob Hogendoorn
00:00:28.17
People assume that any person from Asia wearing yellow ochre robes is respectable. And that is just not true.

Oane Bijlsma
00:00:28.60
He said: “Look! Look!”, as he showed an image of a Tibetan deity with an enormous erection, a fat, veined erection, forcing me to watch.

Rob Hogendoorn
00:00:41.00
This is Sogyal. Sogyal abuses a number of young female members in his entourage.

Olivier Raurich
00:00:51.56
The system is such that the bad Lama can do anything: he can ask money, sex, he can ask anything.

Ron Sinnige
00:00:55.40
Over here, it’s very easy to pose as a teacher. Nobody knows what you did in Tibet or Japan: perhaps you were a butcher on the next corner.

Rob Hogendoorn
00:01:09.60
There’s a lot of dead wood.

Oane Bijlsma
00:01:10.39
Indeed, a gross abuse of power.

Voice-over
00:01:13.28
At thirty, Oane Bijlsma is not quite sure what to do with the rest of her life. A friend suggests that she might join a meditation course.

Oane Bijlsma
00:01:22.04
At first, it did not mean much. But I was looking for something, and the idea of learning more about meditation and practicing meditation appealed to me. I thought the first night was really good.

Voice-over
00:01:42.88
Very quickly, Oane immerses herself completely in the practice of meditation. She starts here, at the Buddhist organization Rigpa in Amsterdam. Because she wants to intensify her meditation practice, she spends time at Lerab Ling, Rigpa’s headquarters in the South of France. There, she meets Rigpa’s great spiritual leader: Sogyal Rinpoche.

Oane Bijlsma
00:02:02.20
He is a Tibetan Lama with a portly build, who has certain mannerisms and a quaint accent, which suggest that he is somehow different.

Dirk Mostert
00:02:21.68
And that is thought of as inspiring?

Oane Bijlsma
00:02:23.40
Yes. At first, you might believe him to be wise because of the one-liners and stock phrases he uses. His stories suggest much of what is thought of in the West as being Buddhist wisdom.

Voice-over
00:02:44.63
In France, Oane is inspired by her spiritual leader. She is not alone. Sogyal has thousands of followers worldwide, some of whom come from the Netherlands. At the end of May, they gather in this venue near Amsterdam. Sogyal is leading the yearly Amsterdam City Retreat.

Dirk Mostert
00:02:55.98
Good morning madam, can I ask you a question?

Passer-by 1
00:02:56.96
That depends.

Dirk Mostert
00:03:01.41
Why are you here?

Passer-by 1
00:03:05.64
Sogyal Rinpoche, the retreat.

Dirk Mostert
00:03:07.91
What does he mean to you?

Passer-by 1
00:03:08.36
Very much. Good advice, and wisdom.

Passer-by 2
00:03:13.96
To me he is a spiritual teacher who is very great help in day to day life.

Passer-by 3
00:03:22.60
He is a very inspiring man.

Passer-by 4
00:03:24.32
It makes me glad and happy, and he has a great part in that.

Dirk Mostert
00:03:28.54
Enjoy yourself, bye.

Voice-over
00:03:28.64
Back to Oane: She enjoys life in Lerab Ling a lot. She starts to volunteer. Moreover, she has a relationship with one of Sogyal’s confidants. This gives her direct access to the spiritual leader, so that she can observe him behind the scenes.

Dirk Mostert
00:03:48.02
How does he behave?

Oane Bijlsma
00:03:48.12
He is a real tyrant. He behaves as if he has a natural right to demand anything, anytime—no matter if it is in the middle of the night, or from the other side of the world. His will alone is the law.

Voice-over
00:04:09.80
Who is this Sogyal Rinpoche? Why does he behave like a tyrant? The answer comes from researcher and publicist Rob Hogendoorn. He is a practicing Buddhist, and he has been researching Buddhism and spiritual leaders for years. Sogyal Rinpoche is one of them.

Rob Hogendoorn
00:04:28.08
Sometimes Sogyal takes some food in his mouth, chews on it, and hands that bite to a follower who is expected to chew on it some more. It has been documented that Sogyal gathers members of his entourage around him while he is taking a crap.

Voice-over
00:04:50.13
Sogyal has been active in Europe since the 1970s. Dozens of lectures are available on the internet.

Sogyal
00:04:55.44
Then the trouble with us, is that we have so many stories. Stories, stories, stories.

Rob Hogendoorn
00:04:56.80
There are two Sogyals. According to Sogyal himself, he is a highly realized Tibetan master, who has been spoonfed on enlightenment, so to speak, which is supposedly why he behaves as enlightened as he does. The Sogyal of the facts on the ground, however, is a son of a family of traders.¹ After his flight from Tibet, this Sogyal was first trained by French friars, and later by English Anglicans. He does not know the Tibetan tradition from the inside out at all.

Voice-over
00:05:40.98
According to Hogendoorn, Sogyal is nothing but a merchant’s son from Tibet who has set himself up as a spiritual leader with a YouTube channel and meditation centers in 40 countries.

Rob Hogendoorn
00:05:45.52
Apparently, some day he found that he could launch himself as a Lama, and he did just that.

Sogyal
00:05:52.64
It is there when you are happy. It is there when you are sad. It is there when you are lonely.

Rob Hogendoorn
00:06:06.86
He is not a monk, but he is wearing a garb that hints at a monk’s robe. This appeals to the perception and appreciation of all things Asian and exotic. Because this film offfers no journalistic perspective, viewers would never surmise that something is wrong.

Voice-over
00:06:23.00
But there is definitely something wrong. Clearly, Sogyal likes to surround himself with attractive young women. They are called ‘dakini’s’ and form an inner circle. Here, they appear during a ceremony in Lerab Ling.

Rob Hogendoorn
00:06:44.11
Sogyal surrounds himself with an entourage of followers and he abuses young women that belong to that entourage.

Oane Bijlsma
00:06:52.56
At the time, several people told me that Sogyal enters into a ‘contract’ with members of the inner circle. Whoever asks him ‘work with me’, allows him to demonstrate unacceptable behaviour towards him or her. From then on, Sogyal has ‘permission’, so to speak, to beat you, have sex with you.

Dirk Mostert
00:07:27.00
Whenever and however he likes?

Oane Bijlsma
00:07:27.10
Exactly.

Rob Hogendoorn
00:07:27.24
Supposedly, his sexual relations with these young women fall within the scope of ‘tantra’. Another excuse would be ‘guru devotion’, a submission to the teacher that is supposed to accept anything he does, without protest. And his behaviour is also legitimized with the notion of ‘crazy wisdom’. This would be a form of wisdom that is beyond the ken of ordinary mortals, looks crazy, and is supposed to assist Sogyals followers on their spiritual path. This then would turn beating a student from being downright crazy into wise.

Voice-over
00:08:06.91
During our investigation, we receive rather risqué photographs from an anonymous source. These photographs, that were never shown in public before, show ‘dakini’s’ in provocative clothing and partly nude. They also show Sogyal in a way that is unfamiliar to most people. We showed the photographs to Oane.

Oane Bijlsma
00:08:29.12
I know both of these girls. They belonged to the inner circle at the time when I met them first in 2011, and still do. To be frank, these photographs confirm the image of Sogyal having a harem and actually living this way.

Voice-over
00:08:55.48
As far as we can see, what is shown in these photographs is not illegal. But according to Oane, all of this is miles way from Buddhism as she understands it.

Oane Bijlsma
00:09:02.52
I have always considered it to be perverse. It does not feel healthy. It does not look healthy. He might as well be a wealthy little business man with a prediliction for certain women and cigars. He is not alone in that, but if that is the case do not call yourself a Buddhist organization.

Voice-over
00:09:24.44
Shortly after the photographs were taken, one of the ‘dakini’s’ accuses Sogyal openly of sexual abuse. She has left Rigpa and tells her story in a Canadese documentary.

Mimi
00:09:32.96
So there was this moment when I was alone in his room with him, and then he said: ‘undress’. And having been for only two months working as an attendant for him, I just considered it to be another test of devotion.

Voice-over
00:09:56.84
Before that, Sogyal had already been discredited. In the 90s, a woman files a complaint for damages caused by sexual harassment. By reaching a settlement , Sogyal does not have to appear in court.

Dirk Mostert
00:10:09.40
Did his organization or Sogyal argue against the charges being made?

Rob Hogendoorn
00:10:11.05
No, and that is typical: Sogyal and his organization do not deny that he does these things, they merely deny that he brings harm to others.

Voice-over
00:10:24.62
Meanwhile, in Lerab Ling, things become clearer to Oane: this is not right. During breakfast, she herself is confronted with the perverse behaviour of her spiritual leader.

Oane Bijlsma
00:10:43.98
At that time, he asked me: ‘Did you have a good fuck?’

Dirk Mostert
00:10:49.32
This is what he asked, this Tibetan Buddhist teacher?

Oane Bijlsma
00:10:50.71
Yes, in front of everybody. He asked this during breakfast in the morning, with everyone present. People giggled and laughed, finding it hilarious, waiting to see how I would respond.

Dirk Mostert
00:11:04.14
Did you find it degrading?

Oane Bijlsma
00:11:04.24
Yes. It is shocking and gripping, to say the least, because it hurts people’s integrity.

Dirk Mostert
00:11:10.48
Yours as well?

Oane Bijlsma
00:11:14.40
Yes, mine as well.

Voice-over
00:11:14.40
By this time, we would like to hear what Sogyal and Rigpa have to say about this. We ask the spiritual leader for an interview. The retreat in Amsterdam seems to be a good occasion to speak with him, and we await his response to our request. Within the Netherlands there are more than 50.000 practicing Buddhists and some 350 persons who call themselves Buddhist teacher. One of them is Ron Sinnige.

Dirk Mostert
00:11:27.38
Where could I check if you are any good?

Ron Sinnige
00:11:46.44
Nowhere. I cannot tell you that.

Dirk Mostert
00:11:53.26
There is no register, for instance?

Ron Sinnige
00:11:53.36
No.

Dirk Mostert
00:12:02.05
Sinnige, who works for the trades union FNV, gives guidance to a small group of Zen Buddhists in Utrecht. He regularly witnesses charlatans and fake-guru’s popping up around him.

Ron Sinnige
00:12:10.60
Over here, it is very easy to pose as a teacher. Nobody knows what you did in Tibet or Japan: perhaps you were a butcher on the next corner. And people will in fact join you. When you say things that seems deep or wise, people will find it wonderful.

Dirk Mostert
00:12:32.12
Before you know it, you have a class of your own?

Ron Sinnige
00:12:32.12
Before you know it you will have a class of your own, yes.

Dirk Mostert
00:12:36.96
While drivelling on a bit?

Ron Sinnige
00:12:36.96
Yes, I do know a few of those.

Dirk Mostert
00:12:38.36
Does this worry you?

Ron Sinnige
00:12:44.52
Well, it is not good PR, of course. In fact, it is very bad. I think people still believe that Buddhism is a fairy tale, an island of uniqueness and quiet, and of immaculacy and purity: these kind of things, these kind of things! It is not like that! We are all human! We are all human! And those who pronounce most loudly that they are a ‘teacher’ or a ‘master’: well, look again. I would look again, if I were you.

Dirk Mostert
00:13:22.38
Those, you would have to mistrust them?

Ron Sinnige
00:13:22.48
I would be careful, to be sure.

Voice-over
00:13:25.62
According to researcher Hogendoorn, many people in the Netherlands have no clue as to what might be expected of a Buddhist teacher—and what not.

Rob Hogendoorn
00:13:32.60
Once, I got a telephone call by a man whose wife had visited a small Buddhist temple in some town. During the first visit, she was asked to undress. She did, upon which the teacher undressed himself and began stroking and touching her, ever more intimately. This man called me, feeling completely insecure, and asked: ‘Is this normal? Does this go with it?’

Dirk Mostert
00:14:10.30
Apparently, he thought it did.

Rob Hogendoorn
00:14:14.20
So, it was left to me to say: ‘What you are telling me is not normal, and it does not go with Buddhism.’

Rob Trip
00:14:19.27
Good night. Abuse cases: usually, this makes us think of the Catholic Church. But now victims of sexual abuse within Buddhist circles step forward. The past months, the NOS spoke to several victims. At least eight Buddhist teachers are said to have been responsible for dozens of sexual abuse cases. This is the first time that victims speak out openly.

Voice-over
00:14:41.56
In 2015, research by Hogendoorn brings to light a large abuse case within the Buddhist community of Waalwijk. It was reported first by the NOS Eight O’Clock News.

Anonymous
00:14:52.00
At some moment, he reaches over and pulls your pants down, telling you: ‘I am doing this for you. Do not think of girls. Try to just feel it.’

Rob Hogendoorn
00:15:04.38
There was publicity in 2015, but at that time the exact nature and scale of the abuse was not brought out fully into the open. One of the reasons I know this, is because after that I have been approached by new sources, new victims, and new bystanders.

Voice-over
00:15:19.64
According to Hogendoorn, he is working on 17 files on Buddhist teachers who are or were active in the Netherlands and went too far, for example in Middelburg.

Rob Hogendoorn
00:15:23.94
This is footage shot by Omroep Zeeland of the community of ‘Lama Kelsang Chöpel’,  who had previously been known as the Austrian Gerhard Mattioli. He used to be a skipper writing books on pleasure cruising.

Dirk Mostert
00:15:48.04
And he abused people?

Rob Hogendoorn
00:15:48.40
Yes. He has abused several women in his community. The wounds are very deep. It has cost people their marriage. It has cost children the marriage of their parents.

Dirk Mostert
00:16:06.33
Did the police or judicature intervene?

Rob Hogendoorn
00:16:06.39
Some of the victims in Middelburg have talked to the police, but so far they did not report a crime.

Dirk Mostert
00:16:09.08
Why did they not do that?

Rob Hogendoorn
00:16:13.20
They were very afraid of this Lama. He had them believe that he was capable of performing ‘black magic’, so that he could harm them from a distance with certain ailments, etcetera.

Dirk Mostert
00:16:28.48
Did they really believe that he could?

Rob Hogendoorn
00:16:28.48
Some did. I have spoken to people who still believe that this man posesses such powers, even though they have known for some time now that he was a charlatan.

Voice-over
00:16:39.76
After he was accused, Mattioly flees the Netherlands. Reportedly, he is working in Germany now. Shortly after the first incident, Oane, once again, is confronted with Sogyal’s unacceptable behaviour. She was working in Sogyal’s appartment at the time.

Oane Bijlsma
00:16:52.68
He grabbed my head from behind, and pushed me towards an image he held in his hand, saying: ‘Look! Look!’. It was a drawing of a deity with a very huge, fat, veined, larger than life erection in his hands. And I thought: ‘OK?’

Voice-over
00:16:54.33
Right before the retreat, Rigpa let us know that there would be no interview with Sogyal. Supposedly, he did not have the time. In an attempt to get some response, we visit the retreat.

Dirk Mostert
00:16:56.52
We cannot film here?

Daan Meerburg
00:17:39.12
This is a private retreat. You have not been invited and you have to leave.

Dirk Mostert
00:17:44.68
And you are not willing to answer my questions?

Daan Meerburg
00:17:45.20
We are busy doing other things. We are busy with a retreat, not with a television programme. So, once again, I request you to leave.

Dirk Mostert
00:17:54.38
And if I remain here?

Daan Meerburg
00:17:56.64
Than I will in fact have you removed.

Voice-over
00:18:09.48
Rigpa and Sogyal refuse to answer direct questions about the abuse. We get in touch with Olivier Raurich, former director of Rigpa France. He tell us that this has been a deliberate strategy for years.

Olivier Raurich
00:18:10.04
Rigpa paid quite a lot of money to train some of the main people, including myself, because I was really one of his main spokesmen in France, to learn how to answer questions like: ‘Your guru is accused of sexual abuse, what is your answer?’ So, I began to be trained in that. They told me not to answer at all, and instead to say things like ‘The Dalai Lama is supporting Sogyal Rinpoche one hundred pecent’, and repeat that, only that, without answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’. And at that time, I began to understand that there really was something fishy about this, so I decided to quit.

Voice-over
00:19:03.52
Raurich leaves, as does Oane. By that time, she has spent almost a year within Rigpa. She visits Rigpa’s headquarters in Amsterdam to talk about the abuse.

Oane Bijlsma
00:19:12.36
I got no answers.

Dirk Mostert
00:19:14.54
Answers that go to the question why and how?

Oane Bijlsma
00:19:14.64
I got answers like: ‘This is beyond your ken. It is tantra. People ask for it. They want to be worked with,’ these types of answers. Like: ‘Nobody is unhappy. Nobody considers this abuse.’

Voice-over
00:19:31.92
In the end, Rigpa sends us a statement. The organization writes that any form of abuse is thought to be ‘unacceptable’, and that complaints are taken ‘seriously’. Supposedly, Oane had every opportunity to share her story. Rigpa writes: ‘We are not familiar with the facts that Oane reported, so we can not respond to them.’ The full statement is on our website. In 2015, Oane also reports to the complaints office for sexual abuse in Buddhist circles, which had just been founded.

Oane Bijlsma
00:19:58.76
I reported to the complaints office.

Dirk Mostert
00:20:05.00
What did that get you?

Oane Bijlsma
00:20:05.74
So far, it got me nothing, because they do nothing beyond registring stories.

Dirk Mostert
00:20:11.40
What use does that have to us?

Oane Bijlsma
00:20:14.80
No use at all: that is why I share my story with you.

Voice-over
00:20:17.96
Last Saturday: Oane meets former Rigpa members who have turned their back on the organization because of the continuing reports on sexual abuse.

Eremita Zekaite
00:20:29.96
Hey hello, I’m Eremita!

Oane Bijlsma
00:20:32.08
I did not know it was you!

Odette Groenheide
00:20:38.00
A teacher having sex with someone who is his student, is unacceptable to me. It involves so much power. You cannot say: ‘Well, it is up to them. It is their own responsibility.’

Voice-over
00:20:53.32
What do these two ex-members make of the photographs?

Eremita Zekaite
00:20:53.78
Are these connected to Sogyal?

Odette Groenheide
00:20:59.12
These were probably taken during one of his yearly visits to Australia. Apparently, anything goes while he is there. This is not normal.

Eremita Zekaite
00:21:08.60
This is horrible. It is very confronting that this is possible.

Odette Groenheide
00:21:09.03
This blond woman looks very unhappy.

Eremita Zekaite
00:21:23.95
Rigpa must stop! Such a club should not exist. But they are very powerful.

Rob Hogendoorn
00:21:30.76
In the West, Buddhist teachers are often soloists, with no oversight. There is no central organization or hierarchy. When a Catholic priest abuses a child or an adult parishioner, everyone knows that that is not right. Within Buddhism, powerful voices say about sexual relations between teacher and student : ‘That depends.’

Oane Bijlsma
00:21:53.87
This is the mysterious, unique and wise Buddhism from Shangri-la, which is so very beautiful. The idea that there is no abuse of power or sexual abuse because it is Buddhism, is naive.

Rob Hogendoorn
00:22:17.91
I support the unambiguous standard: sexual relations between teacher and student are taboo, full stop.

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¹ To clarify and be precise: Sogyal is a member of the Lakartsang, or Lakar family. Lakartsang was a family of traders in the Rongpatsa valley in Kham. Sogyal still carries their name. His personal name is a contraction of Sonam Gyaltsen.

From around 1932 until 1954 the family lived in territory controlled by the Kuo Mintang and the People’s Liberation Army of the Chinese communistst, some 200 kms. away from the Tibetan border.

Witness her family history, Sogyal’s mother takes great pride in her family’s business acumen. Before Sogyal launched himself as a ‘Lama’ and ‘Rinpoche’, he went by the name Sogyal Lakar, which, like his brother Thigyal Lakar, he took from his mother.

Sogyal himself has a son: Yeshe Gyaltsen, who’s mother is Marianne Jurgaitis.

Many contemporaries who knew Sogyal in Tibet simply referred to him as Sogyal Lakar. According to the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, Sogyal still used that name in 2011, when he was last registered as a board member of the International Campaign for Tibet in Amsterdam.

So, my reference to him being a son of a family of traders is factual. The remark about him being ‘a merchant’s son’ wasn’t mine, but does allow for the fact that female members of a Tibetan traders family can be reckoned to be merchants too.

Sogyal’s mother, Tsering Wangmo, is the sister of Khandro Tsering Chödron, who, by complete surprise, wed Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lödro when she was around eighteen years old, to ‘prolong his life’. He was around 56 years old at the time.

Sogyal’s biological father’s name is Jamga. Besides this name, little else is known about him. Tsering Wangmo later (re)married with Tsewang Paljor, secretary of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lödro.

Matrimonial alliances such as these were very common at the time. Since time immemorial, Tibetan clans in Kham sought to be associated with royal or aristocratic lineages, with incarnation lines or monastic sects, and other wealthy or powerful families.

Such relationships served as a means of political and religious legitimation, evoking the desired historical associations and bestowing prestige.

– Rob Hogendoorn, June 25, 2017

 

 

 

 

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