Evidencias del Caso “Rigpa & Sogyal Rinpoche”

CASO 41: Secta RIGPA & SOGYAL RINPOCHE

 

Presentado por la Fiscal Maestra Yan Maitri-Shi

 

HONORABLE JURADO DEL COMITÉ INTERNACIONAL DE ETICA BUDISTA (CIEB) y TRIBUNAL BUDISTA DE DERECHOS HUMANOS (TBDH)

Tras la Legitimación y Validación de las Pruebas, Evidencias y Cargos por parte del Maestro Maitreya, Presidente y Juez Espiritual del CIEB-TBDH, se aborda el caso frente al acusado,Secta RIGPA & SOGYAL RINPOCHE. Esta investigación fue iniciada por el Comité Internacional de Ética Budista a partir del Caso Lama Lobzang.

A continuación se enumeran los Cargos por los cuales el Comité Internacional de Ética Budista enjuicia a Secta RIGPA & SOGYAL RINPOCHE:

  • Torturas y Esclavitud
  • Fraude y Crimen Organizado
  • Violación a los Derechos de la mujer
  • Violación al Derecho Budista

 

Por lo tanto, se detallan una serie de EVIDENCIAS que fundamentan los Cargos aludidos para que los miembros del Jurado decidan acerca de la posible “Responsabilidad”, “Inocencia” o “Insania” del acusado. Dichas evidencias han sido reunidas, ordenadas y confirmadas en su orden y contexto como Medios Probatorios para efecto de conocer, establecer, dictaminar y determinar la Responsabilidad del Acusado por la comisión de los Cargos anteriormente mencionados.

El Procedimiento establecido en los Estatutos del COMITÉ INTERNACIONAL DE ETICA BUDISTA & TRIBUNAL BUDISTA DE DERECHOS HUMANOS da la ostentación a ambos Órganos de gozar de independencia y libertad de la regulación y control estatal y nacional, además de poseer la legalidad y actuación como Pueblo Budista para hacer valer sus costumbres, tradiciones, prácticas, procedimientos, juicios y derechos, así como el actuar en pos del desarrollo de la Espiritualidad y la Ética Budista, así como de la defensa de los Derechos Humanos Internacionales. Este procedimiento tiene la particularidad, singularidad y distinción de tener: “Jurisdicción Especial del Derecho Tribal” y ”Jurisdicción Universal del Derecho Internacional”, teniendo así el Carácter, la validez Jurídica, las Facultades Legales, la infraestructura, la Capacidad y Formación necesaria para ser Actor, Administrador y Ejecutor de Justicia en este rubro y ejercicio, juzgando al Acusado por medio de un Juicio Ético que tiene como Propósito la Verdad, la Reconciliación y el Aprendizaje.-

 

 

EVIDENCIAS

Don Lattin: (Nov 10 1994) “Best-selling Buddhist author accused of sexual abuse. $10 million civil suit filed in Santa Cruz by a woman who says Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, “coerced” her into an intimate relationship (…), is accused of “physical, mental and sexual abuse” in a $10 million civil suit filed last week in Santa Cruz County Superior Court. According to the lawsuit, an anonymous woman identified only as Janice Doe came to Rinpoche for spiritual guidance last year at a retreat sponsored by the Rigpa Fellowship meditation center in Santa Cruz, but was “coerced into an intimate relationship” with the Tibetan guru. “Sogyal claimed (she) would be strengthened and healed by having sex with him and that to be hit by a lama was a blessing,” the lawsuit states. The suit — which accuses Rinpoche of fraud, assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress and breach of fiduciary duty — also charges that the Tibetan lama has “seduced many other female students for his own sexual gratification.” Sandra Pawula, spokeswoman for the Rigpa Fellowship of Santa Cruz, one of many meditation centers in the United States, Europe and Australia, declined to comment about the allegations, but said that Rinpoche is not married and does not claim to be a celibate monk. (…) The lawsuit follows a letter-writing campaign to the Dalai Lama by American women concerned about alleged sexual exploitation by Rinpoche and several lesser-known Tibetan lamas. “What some of these students have experienced is terrible and most unfortunate,” said Tenzin Geyche Tethong, the Dharamsala-based secretary to the Dalai Lama. In a letter sent earlier this year to one of the women, Tethong said Tibetan Buddhist leaders “have been aware of these (allegations) for some years now.” (…) Another woman allegedly abused by Rinpoche, Victoria Barlow of New York City, said she is “disgusted by the way the Tibetans have manipulated the reverence Westerners have for the Buddhist path.” Barlow, 40, said she first met Rinpoche in the mid-1970s, when she was 21, and that she was sexually exploited by him during meditation retreats in New York and Berkeley. “I went to an apartment to see a highly esteemed lama and discuss religion,” she said in an interview with the Free Press. “He opened the door without a shirt on and with a beer in his hand.” Once they were on the sofa, Barlow said, the Tibetan “lunged at me with sloppy kisses and groping.”  “I thought I should take it as the deepest compliment that he was interested and basically surrender to him,” she said. (…) “The Dalai Lama has known about this for years and done nothing. There is a real code of secrecy and silence,” said Barlow.”[1]

Mary Finnigan: “Rigpa Fellowship in London has issued a letter informing its members that a suit has been brought against Sogyal Rimpoche. Although he is not a monk, and has not taken vows of celibacy, he is accused of using his position to obtain sexual favours. Allegations like these threaten to blow a hole in the aura of asceticism and austerity surrounding Buddhism in the West. (…) Last year, an American woman and former pupil of Sogyal decided to bring a civil case anonymously, and were allowed by the court in Santa Cruz, California, to use the pseudonym Janice Doe. She says in her suit that she approached Sogyal at a time of a time of confusion, shortly after her father’s death. According to the suit, Sogyal told her that “through devotion and his spiritual instruction, she could purify her family’s karma”. The woman alleges he seduced her the next day, claiming that she would be “strengthened and healed by having sex with him”. (…)  Another woman speaks of the confusion that arose from being first a humble devotee, then an exalted sexual partner, then back in the ranks again. “I felt used,” she says “He put his needs above mine.” More recently, a young English woman attended a residential retreat. She thought she had been singled out for special attention only to discover that she was being invited to join a harem. “At first I was flattered, and very open and trusting. He encouraged me to fall in love with him – but I realised that he was toying with me. I noticed several other young, pretty women going in and out of his apartment, when I confronted him with this; he dropped me for the rest of the time I was there.” (…) I am left with a hangover of pain and confusion. I also have doubts about Buddhism. If anything, I have learnt to be more cautious. (…) This potential for adulation makes it vital that teachers accept responsibility for the well being of their students. Responsibility must include, if not celibacy, then extreme care with sex. According to psychologist Deborah Clarke, everyone who enters into a spiritual or therapeutic relationship is vulnerable to exploitation. “I’d be furious if a guru made a pass at me,” she says. “They should all know by now that people with that sort of power have a moral and ethical duty not to abuse it.”[2]

Sogyal’s close personal assistants: “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. (…)Sogyal Rinpoche 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. (…)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. (…)For some years I was blinded by my position of power.  I felt that I was establishing a very well-run organisation (…)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. (…)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. (…)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 Sogyal Rinpoche to get help, and that Sogyal Rinpoche, 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. Sogyal Rinpoche did not respect any limits: he had sex with most of the wives of the leading students at Rigpa. (…)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 Sogyal Rinpoche’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.”[3]

Dialogue Ireland: “Sexual assault, abuse, an imbalance of power and abuse of spiritual authority concerning Sogyal Rimpoche are all features of this article. (…) How did he manage to raise 10 million Euros to build a huge temple in southern France? And then persuade the wife of the President to provide the media focus for the opening day? (…)Victoria Barlow, recalls meeting Sogyal in Boulder, Colorado in 1976: “Sogyal was enthralled by Trungpa’s sexual conquests,” she says, “he told me outright that he wanted what Trungpa had and aimed to achieve a rock star lifestyle. (…) Back in the 1970s, the man who now insisted on being called Rinpoche exhorted his flock to focus their attention on attracting money and on improving the style, content and comfort levels of the Chatsworth Road house. (…)  People who have now left Sogyal’s entourage speak about a “sense of pollution” — how the succession of females in and out of the guru’s bedroom made them feel ill at ease. No-one at this time identified Sogyal’s behaviour as a personality disorder, but more recently health professionals have stated that he is a sex addict – an obsession as powerful as drugsalcohol and gambling. There was also a dawning awareness within Sogyal’s community that he was not up to scratch as a Buddhist teacher. A very reticent Englishman was an early Buddhist scholar who visited the Himalayan regions in the 1950s, searching for texts on an arcane aspect of Tibetan teachings known as Dzogchen. Sogyal proclaims himself as a Dzogchen master – but his followers noticed he played “carrot and donkey” with them – holding out the promise of genuine instructions, but never actually delivering. The reticent Englishman confirmed their suspicions (…). Victoria Barlow encountered Sogyal on his first visit to the West Coast. According to Victoria, he aired views which are diametrically opposed to his present role as a champion of the Dalai Lamao belongs to the monastic Gelug school. Sogyal is a Nyingmapa– an older, largely non-celibate tradition. “Sogyal loathed the Gelugpas and the Dalai Lama,“ she says, “ I heard him in Berkeley being a staggering sectarian hater — he expressed real rage to all who would listen, trashing the Dalai Lama.” Despite his politically incorrect outbursts, Sogyal’s style went down well with Californian audiences. This probably had something to do with the fact that Tibetan Buddhism was virgin territory for most Americans, so the lack of substance in his teachings was not immediately apparent. (…) When The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying was published in 1992, it ticked every box on Sogyal’s wish list. Almost overnight he became an international celebrity and to top it all, accepted an invitation from Bernardo Bertolucci to star in his movie Little Buddha. Some time later, worldwide sales turned him into a personal millionaire. (…) In June 1993, (…) a young and beautiful woman in a state of acute distress over the death of her father went to a Rigpa retreat in Connecticut, USA. After one of Sogyal’s lectures she sent him a written question: “How can I help my father now that he’s dead?” Sogyal’s response was to invite her to his room. The woman, Dierdre Smith, says she was ‘completely vulnerable’. I might as well have had a notice round my neck saying Abuse Me!” She wept as she recounted the circumstances of her father’s death from a drug overdose. “He asked me to massage him — I was in awe of him as the important guru, so I did as he wished. Then he told me he was my personal teacher and was going to help me. I was very excited about this and called my husband to tell him that everything was going to be OK. “Sogyal asked me to come back the following day, with a picture of myself and of my father. It was all very paternal and he kept saying I should trust him.” “It was about 10.30 at night when I arrived. He took his clothes off and got into bed. I was embarrassed and didn’t know where to look – but he said I should feel safe because we were in a shrine. The room was lit with candles and there were pictures of Buddhas all around.” A long seduction followed, that lasted into the small hours. The reluctant, grief-stricken Dierdre protested that she did not want to cheat on her husband — but Sogyal persisted, insisting that having sex with him would benefit her father’s karmae ground me down, she says, “it was the same thing over and over – Do you love me? Do you trust me? It must have gone on for about six hours. Eventually I was exhausted and gave up resisting. The whole thing revolved around surrender to him and I was scared of losing the opportunity to heal my family.” Dierdre was told by Rigpa devotees that if you have negative feelings, you destroy your relationship with the guru. With hindsight, she sees this as a cultist manoeuvre designed to smother dissent, but at the time she did not question this and other injunctions – including one from Sogyal swearing her to secrecy about the seduction. Sogyal insisted that he loved her, wanted to take care of her and that she should see him as her family. He phoned her every day until they met again six months later. Dierdre flew to France at her own expense, expecting to be a normal student. Instead, she was isolated in a separate house and told not to talk to anyone: “I only left the house to go to the teachings, where I saw 500 people prostrating themselves to the lama. The rest of the time I listened to him on tape, saying things like ‘pray to me, see me as the Buddhalove me, trust me, be obedient to me’ For several months Dierdre put her everyday life on hold and travelled with Sogyal as his servant, sex partner and arm candy. She recounts how the smile on Sogyal’s face and the unctuous charm of his of his public presentation vanished the moment they were hidden from view: “There must have been about 10 women in his inner circle,” she says, and it was our job to attend to his every need. We bathed him, dressed him, cooked for him, carried his suitcases, ironed his clothes and were available for sex. He was a tyrant. Nothing we did was ever good enough. He went into screaming rages and beat us. If I tried to question the way he treated us, he became angry. The only way to avoid this was to stay silent and submissive.”  (…) According to former Rigpa insiders, Sogyal’s team of regular sex partner-attendants were the core group of a sub-sect of Rigpa known as Lama Care. This was set up specifically to make sure that women were available for sex with Sogyal wherever he travelled. In common with other women who have spoken about their experiences with Sogyal, Dierdre recounts how she hardly ever slept, had no time to eat properly and lost 15 pounds during the first two weeks of her time with him. “I looked pretty sickly”, she recalls. Yet despite the brainwashing and the abuse, the women in Sogyal’s harem regarded themselves as highly privileged: “They kept on saying how lucky we were to be close to the guru, how we had special teachings and how much he loved us.” Indoctrination into the inner circle is designed as a life sentence. A young, vulnerable woman is programmed to accept Sogyal’s god-like status and to be compliant with his wishes and whims, slave-like in her willingness to accept a punishing workload and available for sex on demand. She is separated from her family and friends, discouraged from contact with the outside world and persuaded to see Rigpa as her family, with Sogyal (confusingly as father-lover) in absolute power and control. In the majority of cases, it works. By the time these women realise they are being abused and exploited and are deeply embedded in a coercive cult, it is too late for them to extricate themselves. Their investment is total and their chances of making lives for themselves beyond Rigpa have dwindled into non-existence. But in some instances, Sogyal’s choices backfired on him. Back in 1994, it slowly dawned on Dierdre that she was being exploited. “At first”, she says, “I was willing to give up everything for the promise of healing my family, saving the world and being useful, but as these illusions started to melt away I realised I had caused a lot of harm – I’d made myself sick and I’d hurt my husband.” (…) “I was terrified I’d given my husband HIV” she says, “so I told Sogyal I wanted to leave. He was very angry, probably because I knew too much about his promiscuity and his lies. I remember sitting on his bed with him and he shouted at me ‘get these crazy ideas out of your head’ and at the same time he was hitting me hard on the head, one side and then the other.” So what finally drove Dierdre away? “Mostly it was the beatings and because Sogyal kept on telling me I was a burden to him. It was bewildering, because at the same time he tried to persuade me to stay – saying that by serving him I was serving the world. But there he was with all these people attending to everything he demanded and there was my husband who was alone and ill at the time, begging me not to leave him.” Regardless of Sogyal’s threats (including aeons in the hell realms), protestations and persuasions Dierdre left. But after returning to her long-suffering husband, she discovered that leaving was not as easy as physically walking out. Like many others who detach themselves from abusive relationships and coercive cults, she found herself dealing with a psycho-emotional hangover. (…)  Around the same time, one of Sogyal’s victims who became known as Janice Doe, consulted a San Francisco lawyer and on 2 November 1994 a suit was filed in The Superior Court of California seeking reparations from Sogyal Rinpoche aka Sogyal Lakar and The Spiritual Care for Living and Dying Network for assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress and breach of fiduciary duty. (…) At first the Rigpa hierarchy appeared to be caught like rabbits in headlights – frozen and incapable of anything other than whimpers of denial. Later, when the shock waves had subsided, a letter was despatched to some students, acknowledging the existence of the lawsuit and containing a feeble attempt at damage limitation: “….allegations are only allegations. As far as we know they have no foundation”. (…)Another (victim) spoke about her distress at discovering that Sogyal was having sex with three other students, shortly after he initiated a relationship with her: “I came to the conclusion that Sogyal Rinpoche has used the teachings to attempt to keep me in a sexual relationship with him –one that I did not want to be in.” In common with other former Sogyal consorts, this woman “recognised that I was emotionally wounded and that my self-esteem was low, and that I no longer trusted myself or the spiritual path I had chosen.” According to one former Rigpa insider, “An unsavoury witch hunt was launched to find out the identity of the women who spoke to Mick Brown.” (…) Rigpa was forced to part with a large sum of money. Just how much money was involved in the out-of-court settlement is a closely guarded secret, but it is alleged to run into millions of dollars. (…)People left in droves” says one former Rigpa devotee. “I remember noticing there was no-one around who had been there when I first got involved, except for Patrick and Dominique Side.” (…)  As the reinvention of Sogyal’s credibility gathered momentum, leaks from within Rigpa indicated that he had no intention of changing his ways. Quite the contrary in fact, because in 1996 western Buddhist teachers met for the third time with the Dalai Lama and to the dismay of most of them, Sogyal was a high profile presence at the conference, holding forth vehemently about the perils of teaching Vajrayana without ‘authenticity, credentials and training’. (…) When asked why Sogyal was allowed to take part, the Dalai Lama’s private office came up with the lame excuse that they had to let all lamas know about the conference so they could attend if they wished. (…) At the turn of the 21st century the Dalai Lama had probably received hundreds of letters complaining about sexual and financial misbehaviour by Sogyal and other exiled lamas. While some letters are acknowledged with anodyne expressions of regret, to date there has been no action on the part of the exiled Tibetan authorities to deal effectively with the alleged offenders. Apart from withdrawing from the Living and Dying Conference, the Dalai Lama has never publicly criticised individual lamas. When asked by Mary Finnigan why Sogyal is usually a guest speaker at events with the Dalai Lama like the Kalachakra Initiation, Chhimed Rigdzin, an official in the Dalai Lama’s private office, responded “we don’t invite him”. Mary Finnigan pointed out that they don’t refuse him either. (…)  Determined to take every opportunity to be close to him, Janine started attending Sogyal’s teachings with her father – usually falling asleep against his back. Inevitably Sogyal’s lasciviously roving eye alighted on Janine and in due course she was lured into the brainwashing process that leads to his bedroom. In 2009 Janine spoke at length about her experiences with Sogyal in a series of recorded interviews. The way she was treated is identical in most respects to what happened to Dierdre Smith. “We were at a retreat in Germany. He sent for me during his rest period and asked me to massage his hands and feet,” she says (…)  “There was Sogyal surrounded by five or six young pretty girls and there were no other men,” she says. “it was quite fun actually, we had nice drinks and we danced for him. Then at a certain point he asked me to go upstairs with him and massage his head. I made some sort of smart reply and he became angry. He said I was too proud and he would have to break my pride.” A few months later Janine got a phone call asking her if she would like to take part in a special training. “I accepted because it seemed to clarify my relationship with him. It turned out that the people involved were all women. We were put to work in the “lama kitchen.” We called it hell, because it was an underground bunker – a horrible place. A Swiss woman (Renata) was in charge of us and the first three weeks were pure slavery – we worked non-stop doing the cleaning. “We never saw Sogyal, but they gave us documents listing all the instructions he has given about caring for him around the world. There was nothing about Buddhism, but we were told the whole process was a teaching. They made us work so hard we didn’t have time for proper meals. We had to grab food and eat standing up. (…) He says he wants something and you have 50 people panicking to get it in five minutes. As Janine’s induction into the inner circle unfolded, she was assigned work inside Sogyal’s compound at Lerab Ling – two chalets and a garden surrounded by a high fence. The next stage involved being Sogyal’s personal servant – bringing his food and looking after him in minute detail – in the same manner described by Dierdre Smith. (…) Sogyal is pampered like a medieval monarch – with a clique of women trained to respond to his slightest whim – day and night, 24/7. He is never alone and never lifts a finger to do anything for himself. (…) Sogyal and Janine were alone in his chalet: He ordered me to take my clothes off. I thought it was another test, so I did as I was told. He told me to get onto the bed and we had sex. As this was happening he said ‘look into my eyes, this is the moment you connect with your master.’ There were no preliminaries, he did not use a condom, my pleasure was not in the picture and it was all over in about three minutes. Afterwards he made me swear to keep it a secret, even from the other girls, and said if I did not keep the samaya it would be very bad for my karma and for the karma of my family. (…) He is very selfish – he never asks what you would like, it’s always him giving orders. Sometimes there is some petting afterwards and he reminds you how lucky you are. Its not comfortable being in the same bed with Sogyal because he’s an anxious character  (…) Things started to go wrong with my body. My periods stopped. I was in shock. I had to sneak out of Lerab Ling to do the test because I was scared I was pregnant. (…) Dakinis who were in the harem (Alison, Anna, Minou, Nee, Lillie, Jackie, Renata, Lorraine) before Janine’s arrival gradually came to accept her as a team member. Eventually they announced that she should join them in an orgy. Janine was not keen. The other women pressurised her, insisting that they had to do whatever ‘Rinpoche’ wanted: “They were terrified of being beaten” says Janine. “During the time I was with him continuously, one of us would be beaten every day – because you forgot something or did something wrong. For one girl it was because the way she walked was too proud. I got a little less than the others – some would get a serious, really bad beating. He got irritated with me because when I did something wrong I would hand him something to hit me with and that would spoil the fun.” (…) Janine recalls that setting up the space for an orgy involved taking down the thangkas from the chalet walls to reveal girlie pictures concealed behind them. A meeting took place during the summer of 2009, between Janine and a former Sogyal girlfriend Flora Sinclair — who was with him for a while during the 1980s. During this encounter, both of them recalled their problems with Sexually Transmitted Infections: “He gave me a yellow bottle of disinfectant and told me to wash with it after we had sex”, says Flora. “I knew of four other women who were sleeping with him at the time – then one day I saw a different woman coming out of his room carrying a yellow bottle” Janine said that all the girls during her sojourn in the harem were constantly having to deal with Sexually Transmitted Infections:He never uses condoms”, she says, “my gynaecological record during that time was a disaster zone.” Ask Janine how she dealt with her situation and she says the only way she could cope was to close down into denial: “I didn’t think about it – I have a capacity to leave my body – I’m just not there”, she says, “but I felt so ashamed because I allowed it to happen. We were constantly humiliated. I was the only one who did not have to ask him for money and was not obliged to wear Barbie Doll clothes that he paid for.One of the most humiliating things happened to Anna. Sogyal always has diarrhoea – his diabetes and his diarrhoea make him extremely irritable. We had to wipe his arse each time he took a crap. He also has haemorrhoids. Someone wiped his arse, then he asked her to stick a finger in and it hurt — so he went into a total fit and called in all the girls. He asked each of us to wipe him to see who was the best. (…)I’d been distancing myself from Sogyal for some time. I could do this because I was not dependent on him like the other girls. I’d always kept up my singing lessons and had friends outside Rigpa. There I was in the tunnel and the defences I’d built up started to collapse. I remembered things. I realised I’d been raped and from that point onwards the more I remembered, the sicker I got.” (…)  “I was really ill – I kept getting infections and I had a fever for about three weeks. I had nightmares every night – I was an empty carcass and I thought I was going crazy. (…)know now that many of the things he does are punishable by law. I am not afraid of him”. (…) In comparison with the way other lamas present Tibetan Buddhism, Sogyal’s programme could be equated with studying for primary school exams. (…) Gerard demanded an interview with Sogyal, who was initially wary but then admitted he had had sex with Janine. He tried to shift the blame onto her – claiming that she had seduced him and that he was at first resistant, but later gave in to her demands. Gerard was inclined to believe his daughter’s version of what happened and this, coupled with his disillusionment with Tibetan spiritual practice, made him decide to leave the retreat (…)“I was in his apartment all day. Most of the time Sogyal was with his two dakinis Janine and Anna. I saw him furious and yelling insults at Janine, saying things like ‘she’s such a stupid woman’. He ran after her trying to hit her as she ran away, crying. When he noticed me there, he became very uneasy and tried to explain that he had to act like this because she had made a mistake. “When he was taking a bath he used to shout for Janine. I asked Anna what was wrong with him. She replied that he needed Janine to wash him. I was astonished at this – coming from a lama who claims to be as powerful as Padmasambhava. I left Rigpa because in my view the way Sogyal acts is autocratic and abusive and Rigpa was becoming increasingly like a cult. Sogyal orders people around without any respect for their personal needs. Although I am still interested in Buddhism, I do not have confidence in Sogyal.” The abuse witnessed by Louella and experienced by Dierdre and Janine begs the question – why do Sogyal’s Dakinis tolerate his behaviour? There is a core group who have been in this role for a long time, as well as a steady input of new recruits. Considering that beatings and other forms of abuse have been happening for many years, why have so few women felt motivated to speak out? In answer to the first question – members of Sogyal’s harem have very high status within Rigpa. They are the closest to the guru and the propaganda line is that they are chosen for their spiritual qualities. On the second question, most of them are indoctrinated into keeping silent in order to ‘protect the dharma’. (…)In 2011 a woman who wishes to remain anonymous wrote about her experiences with Sogyal: “It’s all so subtle and manipulative you just don’t realise what’s happening and you get ensnared in the dogma web. Fear and suspicion play a big part in controlling you. (…)He also started to court another young girl who is married. She’s his consort now. “The following summer I was called into his chalet with Alison and Lorraine when he took Alison’s breasts out and kissed them and took mine out (…)That same summer he called me on my own into his chalet and said he wanted to open me up a little. I felt very trapped and frozen. I just stood there. He kissed me than told me to lift my skirt because he wanted to look at my bottom. Then he asked me if I thought he was a good kisser – how pathetic is that? I eventually said I didn’t want anything and I left. After that I was ignored by Sogyal and his entourage were horrible to me. Marie Lefevre had a salaried job with Rigpa Paris, working for 8 to 12 hours a day. She witnessed a number of circumstances and events which aroused grave doubts and caused her to leave. I noticed that people are brainwashed and that Rigpa is run more like a business mafia than a spiritual organisation. They are obsessed with appearances – Sogyal urges his peopleto buy expensive clothes and products and to look smart. Money given by devout students is used to buy luxuries for Sogyal – and people who have outlived their usefulness are discarded in a very cruel manner.  After 36 years of high profile activity as a spiritual mentor, it was inevitable that the dichotomy between the man and his message would become known. (…) In 2011 Sogyal’s sex life came under mainstream media scrutiny again. The Canadian production company Cogent Benger made a half hour investigative television documentary called In the Name of Enlightenment. It was broadcast on Vision TV in Canada on 27 May as an item in a four part series on sexual abuse in religions. It featured among others, Victoria Barlow, Mary Finnigan, a Canadian former Rigpa student Denise and the Buddhist teachers Stephen and Martine Batchelor. Reports based on this documentary appeared in The Irish Sunday Times and The Guardian newspapers. (…) Emery also reported that Sogyal’s display of self-importance included claims that people has been cured of cancer and blindness as a result of their devotion to him. Most of the thousands of spiritual seekers worldwide who still revere Sogyal choose to remain in denial. They have probably been advised against doing internet searches, on the basis that awareness of his hidden agenda would adversely affect their Buddhist practice. (…) Sogyal and his cohorts have built an empire on the basis of that tradition, but they have turned their version of it into a cult around a celebrity guru – losing sight of core principles in their quest for ever-expanding powerinfluence and cash flow.”[4]

Mary Finnigan: “Sogyal denies allegations of abuse, but fresh evidence against him was recently aired in an investigative documentary called In the Name of Enlightenment, broadcast on Vision TV in Canada. A beautiful young woman identified as Mimi described an abusive sexual relationship. She was the first person claiming direct experience of Sogyal’s exploitative attentions to go public since the 1994 lawsuit. (…) The allegations raise a wider question: why are victims of sexual exploitation by charismatic religious leaders reluctant to denounce their abusers? In the Canadian documentary, Mimi highlights the Stockholm syndrome – a term used to describe the paradoxical reactions of individuals who bond with their abusers. (…) Tibetans outside Tibet are refugees who feel constantly under threat from forces beyond their control. Their social conventions include a taboo against criticising lamas. The Dalai Lama is constrained by this and so too are the majority of other lamas teaching in the west. They have closed ranks around Sogyal, regardless of their misgivings about the allegations against him. A more cynical view of this apparent conspiracy of silence hinges on the fact that Sogyal pulls in a lot of money – some of which is channelled into Tibetan worthy causes.”[5]

Buddhism Controversy: “SOGYAL RINPOCHE AND THE SILENCE OF THE TIBETAN BUDDHIST COMMUNITY AND THE DALAI LAMA. (…)I find it also questionable that the Tibetan Community, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, just don’t speak up and allow, by their silence, that what appears to be an egomaniac, damaging behaviour can continue. (…) But it appears that it has not settled and that the abuse continues. I think, it is not the time to further support this by continuing the silence. A collective silence is an action, and such an action allows the continuation of these harming actions. (…)If there is awareness that such behaviour is unacceptable and highly damaging, this could create a shift so that the continuation of it is halted and finally stopped. Another possibility is that further court cases against Sogyal could be a means to stop him. It is unacceptable for me that the spiritual friend (Kalyanamitra) who has (…) the function to release the disciple “from being subject to aging, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, suffering, distress, and agitation” could do the opposite, and burden the disciple with “aging, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, suffering, distress, and agitation” in the name of Buddhism. (…) It is difficult not to fall pray to the idea that Sogyal’s behaviour is accepted widely in Tibetan exile and Western Buddhist communities alike also because his organisation is financially a highly successful money machine and many people have benefited from that money or are captivated by their awe of Rigpa’s success.”[6]

Former Rigpa female student: “Experiences with Rigpa were soon to put a stop to all of that, however– the marriage, the homeschooling, the goats, the poetry were all on short leave. Sogyal Rinpoche was to enter my life like an atomic bomb. I only attended teachings at Rigpa for a year. By the end of that year, I was smoking cigarettes, drinking heavily and planning suicides. But in the beginning, I was enthusiastic. (…) For me, this was an ominous and dangerous encouragement to look to the paranormal, to believe in Sogyal Rinpoche’s psychic powers. (…) This made for a dangerous cocktail of confusion, nothing like the great sanity of Buddha’s own teachings. Absolutely, I would have hopped into bed with Sogyal Rinpoche in an instant—regardless of my marriage, my children, my life. I would have done almost anything he asked. (…)As any Rigpa student knows, Sogyal Rinpoche makes a common practice of publicly humiliating students. (…) However, when he shouts and insults students, where are we to hold the contradiction of his behaviors except in confusion and ignorance? (…) He behaves as a master who might consider himself above simple ethical norms. (…)If a teacher gives himself permission to shout and humiliate people in public, I imagine it would become easier for him to give way to his anger whenever he pleases. I imagine it would become easy to give way to his lust when he pleases as well. (…) What I say, as a psychotherapist, as a Buddhist student who has built her own sanity from the gutter up through the Buddha’s precious teachings, is that I see in Sogyal Rinpoche’s approach serious risks to the safety of students.”[7]

Buddhism Controversy – Tempel: (2012) “THE DALAI LAMA AND SOGYAL RINPOCHE: A ROARING SILENCE? (…) why hasn’t the Dalai Lama spoken out? Why is it, if he knows about the many allegations against Sogyal, that His Holiness doesn’t voice an opinion and and publicly condemn the Tibetan playboy? Certainly, there exists a relationship between the two men: The Dalai Lama wrote the foreword to Sogyal’s (or Patrick Gaffney’s, depending on who you believe) ‘Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’ and, in 2008, Lerab Ling, Sogyal’s huge temple at Montpelier in France was officially inaugurated by him, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy in attendance. Again, turn to the front of any of the Rigpa diaries of the past few years and you are greeted immediately by a picture of a smiling Dalai lama, along with prayers for his long life. (…) Rigpa felt noble silence to be the best way to weather the continuing storm. Several commentators however interpreted Rigpa’s lack of a robust response as merely an admission of guilt. As these allegations have spread and multiplied across the media, some have suggested it is not enough for the Dalai Lama to stand on the sidelines and issue instructions but that, rather, he should speak out specifically about Sogyal’s shenannigans, In other words, the Dalai Lama should take his own advice over the issue of Sogyal and abuse, (…)More importantly, the fact that there are multiple allegations, means that a guilty verdict according to civil criteria seems thoroughly appropriate in Sogyal’s case. After all, if one person cries wolf then there can be reasonable doubt that such a wolf exists. But if the whole village starts screaming … The point is that in Sogyal’s case, the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ argument is a thoroughly lame defence. The sheer number of allegations would certainly seem to indicate, ‘on the balance of probability’ that the alleged abuse did take place. It is of little surprise then that, apart from Sogyal’s supporters, the vast majority of those with a knowledge of the issue consider the allegations to be true. Why then has His Holiness not spoken out? It has been argued in his defence that appeals to the Dalai Lama’s authority are misguided since, despite popular perceptions, he in fact holds no official role within his religious tradition: he is certainly ‘not the Pope of Buddhism’. (…) Nevertheless, despite his lack of official status, it is certainly the case that he is considered de facto leader of Tibetan Buddhism and even, in the eyes of some, the whole of the Buddhist faith. In such a situation, and where Sogyal has very publically relied on the Dalai Lama’s patronage to promote his own projects, it seems entirely appropriate for him to speak out. So why the continued silence? (…)(Dalai Lama) being a patron saint of both Tibet and the Nyingma, while he himself has been seen to be studying and meditating on Nyingma doctrines, and even taking the great Nyingma master Dilgo Khyentse as one of his root gurus. (…) Sogyal is a follower of the Nyingma sect. As well as this, he is a member of one of Tibets most important families, the Lakar. The Lakar have been benefactors to all the major Tibetan sects for generations, in particular over recent generations, the Nyingma. Again, Sogyal also has close links with the family of the Nyingma lama, Urgyen Tulku, descendants of the great Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa, one of the most important figures in the history of the Nyingma sect. Down the years, Sogyal’s work in the West has led to the sect as a whole’s revival. Without his influence, there can be little doubt that the Nyingma sect would not have achieved the status it today holds. In such a situation, for the Dalai Lama to speak out and publicly condemn Sogyal would be disastrous at many different levels. Firstly, much of the work that he has done to repair relations between the Gelug and the Nyingma would be undone. Indeed, to disassociate himself from one of the Nyingma’s most prominent representatives in the West could potentially alienate thousands of followers of Tibetan Buddhism (many of whom are also supporters of the Tibetan cause) at a stroke. As well as immediately causing divisions within Tibetan Buddhism, the impact of such a denunciation could have major repercussions among Western converts, repercussions which could lead to their losing faith, abandoning their new found faith or even at worst, assuming the mantle of footsoldiers in a revival of the internecine disputes which eventually brought about the downfall of Buddhism within Tibet. Again, for the Dalai Lama to denounce such a senior Buddhist figure as Sogyal could have major repercussions for the whole of Buddhism internationally, causing both a loss of face and a loss of finance that could affect millions for many generations to come. (…) To expect him to condemn Sogyals actions when the price could be so great for the future of Buddhism and mankind is a foolish expectation.”[8]

Former Rigpa student: “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; 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; 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; 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?; Mainstream western psychological opinion is that sexual relations between a spiritual teacher and his/her student does cause harm; Women themselves have reported suffering as a result of sexual relations with Sogyal”[9]

Former Rigpa Student: (2013) “I believe the allegations against Sogyal Rinpoche should be dealt with openly and honesty.  The complicity of many people in Rigpa in covering up these allegations, managing what can and can’t be said and so on is wrong and so sad. It is no different that the terrible behaviour of the Catholic Church in how they covered up abuses for years. This whole experience has left me deeply wounded in ways I cannot describe – Buddhism has brought huge benefit and meaning to my life but this experience with Rigpa about Rinpoche’s abuse and the cover-up of same means there is a dark shadow over my experience. I feel by participating in such an organisation for some time, I was also complicit as first I didn’t know and then I did and didn’t say anything about my questions or concerns. This isn’t surprisingly as a very strong and distinct culture of silence, group think and constant activity has built up in Rigpa. It means people are afraid to speak out, afraid to be different and the constant activity means people are so busy and tired they don’t question the norms. I am hopeful that in the coming year the issues in Rigpa will be exposed more and more and there will be a honest dialogue that benefit all those who have suffered at the hands of this organisation.”[10]

Joanne Clark: (2013) “I suggest that it would be helpful to consider the strong similarities between troubles within Rigpa and those within the Catholic Church.  One similarity is the fact that the Rigpa troubles are an example of misbehavior by a spiritual leader and subsequent, shoddy attempts at cover-up.  Students are leaving Rigpa, just as Catholics are leaving the church and though it is difficult for them to do so, though it causes them emotional pain and spiritual trauma, they would rather leave than remain part of such an operation. This becomes a mandate for reform in Rigpa, just as it is for the Catholic Church.  (…) The second similarity between troubles within Rigpa and those within the Catholic Church is the antiquated, feudal hierarchies that they both expose. Just as the misbehaviors of priests are a symptom and exposure of even bigger troubles higher up, so many of us believe that Sogyal Rinpoche’s mischief is a symptom of a bigger trouble within Tibetan Buddhist society. This fact, added to recent troubles with young tulkus and lamas, charges the mandate for reform within Tibetan Buddhism with new urgency.”[11]

Anthropologist Marion Dapsance: (2014) “There have been many complaints recently about the Tibetan lama Sogyal Rinpoche, both in the UK and in France. After a first charge brought against him in 1994 in California for “physical, psychological and sexual abuse” by a female disciple known as “Janice Doe” – a case which was settled out of court and covered by the media in various Western countries –, a second sex scandal broke out in the French press in late 2011. In a left-wing weekly magazine, a young attractive French woman explained how she spent several years at Sogyal Rinpoche’s ‘service’, in every sense of the term. The words used are crude and express a painful personal experience. (…) A Canadian TV documentary, in a series about scandals in religions, also made allegations about Sogyal Rinpoche having a pattern of bullying and sexually using female disciples. (…)When analyzing the narratives of ex members of Rigpa, and the media discussing these cases, it becomes clear that ‘fraud’ is considered to be a selfish abuse of authority, the distorted use of a venerable Buddhist tradition in order for the teacher to indulge in his own materialistic and sensual pleasures, at the expense of naïve and trusting disciples. However, all attempts to discredit the lama failed, and his organization is more influential than ever. (…) as several authors have shown (Bishop 1993, Lopez 1999, Dodin and Rather 2001), Tibetan lamas are surrounded by an aura of moral perfection, making the case of an abusive lama almost inconceivable and rarely taken seriously. (…) Sogyal Rinpoche’s televised image is the object of contemplation and prayers before being replaced by the physical manifestation of the lama on stage. Because of this continuity with the tantric model, I will call Sogyal Rinpoche’s image on the screen an ‘icon’ and will describe the ways in which the progressive animation of this icon gives rise to various interpretations of the master’s deeds, including the accusation of ‘fraud’. (…)Introductory courses are thus built around this central moment of visualizing the master, materialized as an animated icon. Unlike other Western places of acculturation to Buddhism, which offer teachings based on tantric rituals, on the study of texts, the recitation of mantras, a focalization on the breath, visualization exercises or pilgrimages to Asian sacred places, Rigpa proposes a special focus on Sogyal Rinpoche – a master whose most common mode of presence is the animated picture. (…)Everything Sogyal Rinpoche says or does, the organizers announce, is charged with meaning that lay beyond his physical manifestation. This hidden meaning must be associated with Sogyal Rinpoche’s awakened nature: what he does on stage must be ‘seen’ as an ‘expression of his compassion’, an example of his ‘unconventional way’ to teach. (…) Sogyal Rinpoche’s entrance is thus dramatized in the same way as for celebrities: the instructors are no longer teachers, but presenters, who repeatedly announce the master’s imminent arrival, highlight the extraordinary nature of the event, indefinitely repeat and comment on his greatness and originality. (…) People sitting at the forefront receive instructions to perform material tasks (typing teachings, calling someone, cleaning or reorganizing the shrine-room, etc.). They are very strongly criticized, even ridiculed in public. Verbal violence is not uncommon. Now, the audience may well wonder whether this so-called ‘authentic and modern master’ is not, in fact, a ‘cult guru’. (…) ‘Crazy wisdom’ and ‘spontaneity’ displayed on stage by Sogyal Rinpoche are depicted, not as his real petulance or aggressiveness, but as an artificial trick, a gimmick he is wisely using to awaken his audience. (…)One should also conclude on a positive note, such as “Rinpoche is so impressive”, “I felt so much peace inside when I saw him”, “he’s so free”, “Rinpoche has an incredible love for us”… In case of a failure or refusal to adopt these linguistic patterns, the participant is stigmatized by the group: the other participants demonstrate animosity against them, (…)If they think the teachings are not ‘authentic’, such participants silently leave the group. Rarely do they publicly denounce them as a ‘fraud’: they might have wasted a few hundred euros for the retreat, but they generally do not feel they have been personally deceived; they do not portray themselves as ‘victims’ and so have no interest in launching a public crusade against Sogyal Rinpoche. (…)During teaching retreats in Rigpa centres, one can usually notice four or five, rather pretty young women, sitting next to the throne, sometimes pouring Sogyal Rinpoche tea and disappearing behind the curtain separating the shrine-room and the lama’s private apartments, and reappearing later to bring food, drinks or papers. Their apparitions are neither commented on, nor even mentioned, although they do contribute to the master’s theatrical show, emphasizing yet another image: that of a feudal lord being served by servants and surrounded by a female entourage. (…)real female servants really serving a really powerful and authoritarian master. (…)If he is pure compassion, why is he behaving violently? (…)  ‘Dakinis’ apply the prescribed exegesis to their own conduct until a series of incidents happen (for example, they discover they are not the only ‘dakini’, they feel disgust towards the sexual services demanded, they meet another man outside of the group, their husband asks for a divorce, they get a sexually transmitted disease, they experience depression…), which makes them lose their faith in the pedagogical dimension of their personal relationship with Sogyal Rinpoche. The very few women who started talking about their experience to friends, relatives, lawyers and journalists, identifying their relationship to Sogyal Rinpoche as ‘fraudulent’, are women who could not reduce this relationship to one defined situation (either a love affair or a master-consort relationship), and who could no longer, at the same time, accept the ‘crazy wisdom’ exegesis, because their relationship with the lama went far beyond the usual intellectual play on words, as it dealt with their private, daily life and sexuality. (…)these women seem compelled to identify themselves as victims of a betrayal. They then reinterpret their whole learning path within Rigpa – which was at first enthusiastically embraced – as a ‘mental manipulation’, from the contemplation of the animated icons to the ‘crazy wisdom’ theatrical plays to their own work as ‘dakinis’. They then conclude they have been fooled from the very beginning, and that the practices taught within Rigpa were nothing else than a ‘cultish personality cult’. (…)Leaving apart the possible damages the relationships may produce on the women involved (the harmfulness or illegality of which can only be decided through psychotherapeutic and judicial means), the apparition of ‘fraud’ to describe Sogyal Rinpoche’ behavior towards his students can be explained by the breach of an implicit norm, rather than by a ‘breach of trust’ – since the key value to relate to Sogyal Rinpoche was never ‘trust’, ‘confidence’, ‘transparence’ or ‘sincerity’ but precisely ritualized and institutionalized trickery. (…) According to Rigpa’s ideological and ritual rules, they are not ‘teachings’ but ‘reality as it seems at first sight’: female students acting as domestic and sexual servants.”[12]

Anthropologist Marion Dapsance: (2016) “What I discovered at this centre was the opposite of what we Westerners think of Buddhism, as practiced for the purposes of personal development. The Asian masters propose rituals that are very complex and also in Tibetan. They summon deities and demand absolute devotion to the master. I realised that I was being confronted with a culture shock that could give rise to misunderstandings and disillusionment. (…) In addition to telling low-brow jokes, the lama can occasionally be violent. (…)Finally, a whole organisation is dedicated to the master’s personal well-being. I had access to the guidelines containing the procedures to be followed to satisfy Sogyal Rinpoche. Among other recommendations, he needs to have a heated pool nearby, a double bed, a special brand of tea, beef-based meals, and a chauffered Mercedes. He also needs access to CNN wherever he goes, and have a cook and masseuse on call 24 hours a day. Rather surprising for a spirituality that rejects materialism. (…) In 1994, Sogyal Rinpoche was involved in a legal dispute in the United States. A young woman had filed suit for sexual abuse and violence at a Rigpa centre. But the US justice system allows out-of-court settlements, and the master put up a large sum of money for the former dakini to drop the allegations. The Tibetan term dakini refers to female deities, who allegedly have secret teachings that they transmit to the lama in coded language. But it seems that in these centres, the dakinis were nothing more than sexual partners. I met a number of them during the course of my investigation, in particular a Franco-Japanese woman who had succeeded in leaving the group. (…) The more violent, unexpected, aggressive and disrespectful his behavior (of Sogyal), the more it proved that he was awakened, omniscient, and beyond social constraints. If you saw him as nothing more than some guy behaving badly and abusing his power, that was because your spirit was “obscured.” You then had two options: either you finally understood that your master was acting with compassion, or you were excluded from the group. It was a closed system, based on total and absolute faith in Sogyal Rinpoche, in which criticism was impossible. THE DALAI LAMA CLOSES HIS EYES. (…) Regardless of whether they had already gone too far or were able to stop in time, in both cases their disillusionment is great. I of course went to “Miviludes” – the governmental anti-cult authority Mission interministérielle de vigilance et de lutte contre les dérives sectaires – to inform them of my research. They admitted that they were already aware of what was going on at the Rigpa centres … but to this day they still have not reacted, despite the very questionable nature of these practices. As for the Dalai Lama, he is also aware of Sogyal Rinpoche’s behaviour. However, after the 1994 scandal, he still refused to sign a charter of good conduct for the lamas working in the West. And since then he has kept his eyes closed. Presumably to avoid giving Tibetan Buddhism a bad name.”[13]

International Buddhist Ethics Committee: In the following link is the video “In the Name of Enlightenment – Sex Scandal in Religion”, in which there are several testimonies of the victims of sexual abuse performed by Sogyal Rinpoche: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWhIivvmMnk

Former director of Rigpa France – Olivier Raurich: (2016) “Sogyal Rinpoche immediately imposes absolute dominance in relationships. He was the master, inaccessible and irritable (…) Over the years, I actually became increasingly active in Rigpa, as a meditation teacher and president of Rigpa France. (…) He’s a charismatic communicator, but what shocked me immediately was the disconnect between his rhetoric and his character. He loves luxury, fashion and violent American films. Ecology and social issues do not interest him at all. He is not at all shy about singing his own praises — to excess and in front of everyone. He stays in luxury hotels, surrounded by the most expensive electronic gadgets. I struggled to accept this behaviour, because at the same time some people in Rigpa were very poor. He preached that he had the same contentment, simplicity and renunciation in this life, without needing to practice. For a long time, I thought his behaviour it was related to cultural conditioning from his origins as a Tibetan aristocrat. He blew hot and cold with me (…) and sometimes he humiliated me in public. He was always very authoritarian. There were consistent rumours that he abused young women — not by physical violence, but by a huge psychological hold over them. This was officially justified by the concept of “crazy wisdom,” which maintains that great masters can commit acts which are incomprehensible to ordinary mortals. (…)Several crises have occurred. There was the lawsuit for sexual harassment in 1993 in the United States. Subsequently, some former students have told their stories and a lot of people left Rigpa on those occasions, particularly in 2000 and 2007. Then in 2011, an article appeared in “Marianne” — after this Sogyal Rinpoche decided not to appear at the meditation retreats for newcomers at Lerab Ling. Many people left. Rigpa paid a very expensive professional agency in Paris, specialising in crisis communication, to train a few spokesmen, including myself, to respond to the allegations of sexual harassment and financial abuse. We were advised not to answer questions, but rather to endlessly repeat certain key phrases – and to quote the Dalai Lama as much as possible for moral support. (…) My hypothesis is that (Dalai Lama) cannot discredit Sogyal publicly, because it would undermine Tibetan Buddhism. Sogyal Rinpoche has managed to make himself indispensable in the Tibetan community. (…) I stayed all these years despite my reservations, because I hoped Rigpa would be able to share profound wisdom with the greatest number of people, which would benefit society as a whole. But it became more and more difficult to invite people to his teachings, because his behaviour became impossible at times — pretentious, even in public. I had begun to write my first book, to illustrate how authentic Buddhist wisdom can be open to the world, adapted to the west, and conforming to humanist ideals. Beginning with the article in “Marianne,” I felt the tension ratchet up a notch within the Rigpa leadership. All the secrecy and manipulation of information weighed heavily on me. I had come for teachings on humility, love, truth, and trust, and I found myself in a quasi-Stalinist environment and permanent double-talk. His dictatorial side and anger worsened and I was increasingly disturbed by it. He did not hesitate to brutally silence and ridicule people in meetings. Critical thinking is prohibited around him — the door is locked. Negative feedback never reaches him — only praise is reported because people in the close circle are afraid of him. It can make him angry or he would humiliate those close to him. He can also be friendly and full of humour if everything conforms to his wishes. In the summer of 2014, during a retreat for the older students I made my decision to leave because I saw through him clearly — I saw his falsity. He demanded abundant offerings, specifically in cash, in front of 800 students.”[14]

Mimi, former Dakini: (2016) “After a few years, during a retreat in Germany, Sogyal Rinpoche noticed me and asked me to come see him. He declared that I had good karma and that I could get intimate access to him directly. Every night for a week, he invited me into his room to massage his hands while he watched TV. (…) I was 22 years old at the time. I met up with him and was received like a princess. (…)His demands became more and more excessive, but I didn’t say anything. The rule was that one had to be devoted in order to achieve enlightenment. (…)But in fact I was extinguishing myself. The first time we touched sexually, I was cut off from a certain consciousness of myself. He told me to lock the door. (…)I had been sleeping very little for two months. I had gotten used to being abused by demands and words. We accepted everything. I no longer listened. I did what I had to do, no longer asking any questions. I was running on the adrenaline of constant desperation and fatigue. After the first sexual relations, he made very explicit threats, prohibiting me from talking about it to anyone. All the dakinis knew about it, but we were not allowed to bring it up. (…)For several years I had been incapable of admitting what had happened. It took the fact that my dreams and my health were being taken over for me to react. I was having nightmares every night, and I started getting asthma and fevers. I thought I would die if I kept all of this to myself. On a whim, I went to London at the master’s invitation. One of his chauffeurs came to pick me up, and I asked him, You know very well that all the girls sleep with him. Do you think that’s normal? He replied, You would all be prostitutes and drug addicts if you hadn’t found this master. Consider yourself lucky, you have nothing to be angry at him for. This reaction reassured me that I was making the right decision. When I arrived, I offered the master a drawing that I had made the night before. I had drawn him in the centre, with me on top of him in the lotus position. All around us, in a circle, I had written the names of each of the dakinis. He understood right away and asked me if I wanted money. I left. THE REAL RAGE BEHIND THE FALSE COMPASSION. My departure started a panic.  (…) Sogyal Rinpoche is neither cultured nor particularly intelligent. What he does have is hundreds of thousands of people who allow him to assert his sovereignty. I am not even sure that he himself believes what he says. He repeats what the people need to hear. All of sudden the group was afraid of being called into question, of revealing itself. That the world might realise that these disciples spend all day prostrating themselves and kissing the feet of a master who never went to school, and who strolls around with a bunch of glamour girls that he humiliates. That people might notice all the rage that actually drives this community – behind a front of compassion. For a long time, I thought that I was alone in being crazy. How was it possible that so many people around the world so adored Sogyal Rinpoche, and that I was the only one disgusted by his presence? The threats that I received after leaving reassured me: I was doing the right thing. PUBLIC HUMILIATION. (…)I think he can get attached, because he is extremely isolated emotionally. In any case, he was able to establish a form of confidence and emotional rapport with us, which enabled him to constantly abuse us, both physically and psychologically. Sogyal Rinpoche beats the dakinis and proudly shows off their scars. The humiliations always occurred in public. I remember one time when we were grouped around him in his private garden. One of the girls was raking leaves. She was moving slowly, a bit like a Brazilian girl. He grabbed her by the hair and dragged her along the ground, before throwing her against the wall to punish her for having “too much ego”. (…)I didn’t want to attack Sogyal Rinpoche through the courts. (…) I also have no faith in the justice system. My testimony never sparked any legal proceedings. (…)If Sogyal Rinpoche no longer existed, someone else would take his place. This face of Buddhism seems really difficult for some people to accept. Many will continue not to believe it. They will think that it was I who betrayed the master, that I can be bought. (…)A former centre director (who also, like many other top Rigpa officials and stars, benefitted from numerous privileges during his tenure, including, for some, rights to sex) (…) explicitly admitted the effects of the psychological control and violence that the latter subjected his entourage to, most notably the women. He also denounced the sexual favours and a type of domination that uses infantilisation. CRUEL, BAD, TORTUROUS. The most important thing for me, today, is not having betrayed myself.”[15]

The Dalai Lama: “If one presents the teachings clearly, others benefit. But if someone is supposed to propagate the Dharma and their behavior is harmful, it is our responsibility to criticize this with a good motivation. This is constructive criticism, and you do not need to feel uncomfortable doing it. In “The Twenty Verses on the Bodhisattvas’ Vows,” it says that there is no fault in whatever action you engage in with pure motivation. Buddhist teachers who abuse sex, power, money, alcohol, or drugs, and who, when faced with legitimate complaints from their own students, do not correct their behavior, should be criticized openly and by name. This may embarrass them and cause them to regret and stop their abusive behavior. Exposing the negative allows space for the positive side to increase. When publicizing such misconduct, it should be made clear that such teachers have disregarded the Buddha’s advice. However, when making public the ethical misconduct of a Buddhist teacher, it is only fair to mention their good qualities as well.” [16]

LETTER TO SOGYAL RINPOCHE FROM LONG TERM RIGPA STUDENTS (Mark Standlee, Sangye, Damcho, Matteo Pistono, Joanne Standlee, Graham Price, Michael Condon, Gary Goldman): “July 14, 2017. Sogyal Lakar, The Rigpa Sangha is in crisis. Long-simmering issues with your behavior can no longer be ignored or denied. As long-time committed and devoted students we feel compelled to share our deep concern regarding your violent and abusive behavior. Your actions have hurt us individually, harmed our fellow sisters and brothers within Rigpa the organization, and by extension Buddhism in the West. We write to you following the advice of the Dalai Lama, in which he has said that students of Tibetan Buddhist lamas are obliged to communicate their concerns about their teacher (…) This letter is our request to you to stop your unethical and immoral behavior. Your public face is one of wisdom, kindness, humor, warmth and compassion, but your private behavior, the way you conduct yourself behind the scenes, is deeply disturbing and unsettling. A number of us have raised with you privately, our concerns about your behavior in recent years, but you have not changed. Those of us who write to you today have firsthand experience of your abusive behaviors, as well as the massive efforts not to allow others to know about them. Our concerns are deepened with the organizational culture you have created around you that maintains absolute secrecy of your actions, which is in sharp contrast with your stated directive of openness and transparency within the Sangha. Our wish is to break this veil of secrecy, deception, and deceit. We can no longer remain silent. Our deep and heartfelt hope is that this collective note might yield a more tangible result than any of our individual discussions with you have. We hope that long lasting and sincere changes may come about rather than short-lived pledges. Our primary concerns are: 1. Your physical, emotional and psychological abuse of students. 2. Your sexual abuse of students. 3. Your lavish, gluttonous, and sybaritic lifestyle. 4. Your actions have tainted our appreciation for the practice of the Dharma. 1. Physical, emotional and psychological abuse. We have received directly from you, and witnessed others receiving, many different forms of physical abuse. You have punched and kicked us, pulled hair, torn ears, as well as hit us and others with various objects such as your back-scratcher, wooden hangers, phones, cups, and any other objects that happened to be close at hand. We trusted for many years that this physical and emotional treatment of students – what you assert to be your “skillful means” of “wrathful compassion” in the tradition of “crazy wisdom”– was done with our best interest at heart in order to free us from our “habitual patterns”. We no longer believe this to be so. We feel that we and others have been harmed because your actions were not compassionate; rather they demonstrated your lack of discipline and your own frustration. Your physical abuse – which constitutes a crime under the laws of the lands where you have done these acts – have left monks, nuns, and lay students of yours with bloody injuries and permanent scars. This is not second hand information; we have experienced and witnessed your behavior for years. Why did you inflict violence upon us and our fellow Dharma brothers and sisters? Why did you punch, slap, kick, and pull our hair? Your food was not hot enough; you were awakened from your nap a half hour late; the phone list was missing a name or the font was the wrong size; the internet connection was slow; the television movie guide was confusing; technology failed to work; your assistant wasn’t attentive enough; (Sogyal Lakar gut-punched a nun in front of an assembly of more than 1,000 students at Lerab Ling in France, August 2016.) we failed to “tune into your mind” and predict what you wanted; or you were moody because you were upset with one of your girlfriends. There are hundreds of examples of trivial incidents that have set you off and your response has been to strike us violently. Your emotional and psychological abuse has been perhaps more damaging than the physical scars you have left on us. When we have worked for you while organizing and setting up the infrastructure for you to teach at different places around the world (Europe, North America, Australia, and India and Nepal), your shaming and threatening have led some of your closest students and attendants to emotional breakdowns. You have always told us to be appreciative of the personal attention that you give, that you were “pointing out our hidden faults” in our character, and freeing us from “our self-cherishing ego.” We no longer believe this to be so. It was done in such a way that was harmful to us rather than helpful, a method of control, a blatant means of subjugation and undue influence that removed our liberty. You have threatened us and others saying, if we do not follow you absolutely, we will die “spitting up blood like Ian Maxwell.” In December 2005, in a live streamed teachings from the unfinished temple, Sogyal Lakar said that Ian Maxwell, one of his oldest students, was “an asshole”, as Ian lay dying in the hospital in Paris. After Ian’s death Sogyal Lakar said that Ian, “died spitting up blood” because he had defied him in the past. Sogyal Lakar regularly used this incident, saying, “Do you want to end up dying spitting up blood like Ian for defying me?” as an example to other students when he threatened them with dire consequences if they did not obey his commands) You have told us that our loved ones are at risk of ill-health, or have died, because we displeased you in some way.” At public teachings, you have regularly criticized, manipulated and shamed us and those working to run your retreats. You have told us for years that this is part of your unique style of “training” students and that this shaming is part of the guru-disciple relationship. We no longer believe this to be so. As more students verged close to emotional breakdowns because of your “trainings”, you introduced “Rigpa Therapy” for your closest students. Trained, practising therapists (who are also your students) were given the task of dealing with the pain that was being stirred up in the minds of those who you were abusing physically, emotionally and psychologically. During oneto-one sessions, the therapist heard from the student of your “crazy wisdom” methods and the trauma that it caused the individual. One such “Rigpa Therapy” method for processing the trauma was to negate the validity of seeing you, the teacher and instigator, as the source of the trauma. Instead, we were instructed to see old family relationship histories as the issue. In effect, our very tangible and clear discernment of seeing you as an abuser was blocked and instead we were blamed and made to feel inadequate. On the occasions when the “therapy” did not result in a student changing their view of you, you shamed the therapist into feeling that they weren’t doing their job properly and were not skilled. 2. Sexual Abuse. You use your role as a teacher to gain access to young women, and to coerce, intimidate and manipulate them into giving you sexual favors. The ongoing controversies of your sexual abuse that we can read and watch on the Internet are only a small window into your decades of this behavior. Some of us have been subjected to sexual harassment in the form of being told to strip, to show you our genitals (both men and women), to give you oral sex, being groped, asked to give you photos of our genitals, to have sex in your bed with our partners, and to describe to you our sexual relations with our partners. You’ve ordered your students to photograph your attendants and girlfriends naked, and then forced other students to make photographic collages for you, which you have shown to others. You have offered one of your female attendants to another lama (who is well known in Rigpa) for sex. You have had for decades, and continue to have, sexual relationships with a number of your student attendants, some who are married. You have told us to lie on your behalf, to hide your sexual relationships from your other girlfriends. Publically you claim that your relationships are ordinary, consensual, and proper because you are not a monk. You deny any wrongdoing and have even claimed on occasion that you were seduced. You and others in your organization claim this is how a Buddhist master of “crazy wisdom” behaves, just like the tantric adepts of the past. We do not believe this to be so and see such claims as attempts to explain away egregious behaviors. 3. Gluttonous lifestyle. Your lavish lifestyle is kept hidden from your thousands of students. It is one thing for you to accept an offering of the best of everything (that we may have) as an acknowledgement of our gratitude for spiritual teachings. It is quite another to demand it from us. Much of the money that is used to fund your luxurious appetites comes from the donations of your students who believe their offering is being used to further wisdom and compassion in the world. As attendants, drivers, and organizers for you, most of our time and energy is taken up providing a steady supply of sensual pleasures. You demand all kinds of food be prepared for you—at all hours of the night and day—by your personal chefs and attendants (who Rigpa pays for) who travel the world with you. You demand all forms of entertainment; this includes having detailed TV guide schedules for the shows that you often watch for hours on end each day; elaborate movie lists so you know what’s playing in theaters near you at all times; continual supply of take-out restaurant food; drivers and masseuses on call 24-hours a day to serve you and deliver you and your companions to theaters, expensive restaurants, venues to shop and secretive places where you can smoke your expensive cigars. With impatience, you have made demands for this entertainment and decadent sensory indulgences. When these are not made available at the snap of a finger, or exactly as you wished, we were insulted, humiliated, made to feel worthless, stupid and incompetent, and often hit or slapped. Your behavior did not cultivate our mindfulness or awareness, but rather it made us terrified of making a mistake. You tell your students that you spend most of your time engaging in Buddhist study and practice, but those of us who have attended you in private for years know this is not the reality. We feel it is unethical that ours and others’ financial contributions to you—believed to be furthering the Dharma—are used to support this lavish lifestyle. Please stop living a duplicitous life. If you have no shame about your behavior then let it see the light of day. Allow the rest of your students to see who you really are, and let them make their own informed decision about whether you are the teacher for them. 4. Tainted our appreciation for the practice of the Dharma. Please understand the harm that you have inflicted on us has also tainted our appreciation for and practice of the Dharma. In our decades of study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism with you, we trained our minds to view you as the “all embodied jewel” and the “source of all the teachings and blessings” of the Buddha-Dharma. We trusted you completely. Yet, we struggled for years because your actions did not square with the teachings. Today, for many of us who have left you, the Lerab Ling community, and Rigpa the organization, our ground of confidence in the BuddhaDharma has been compromised. Some of us, who chose to depart abruptly Lerab Ling, left all of our possessions, because we were desperate to break away from your abuse and the community that supported it. Whether we departed abruptly or have faded away from you and Rigpa, we struggle to rekindle an appreciation for the transformative teachings and teachers we encountered. Often when we sit down to meditate and practice, we feel polluted with trauma from our experience with you; some of us relate to the Vajrayana with deep suspicion; and some of us are at work rebuilding from scratch the foundations of our study and practice recognising that your manipulation was intermingled with all that we were taught. Others of us seek conventional therapy as a means for processing. So quite contrary to your aspiration to bring the true Dharma to beings, the effect of your methods is that our relationship to the Dharma has been tainted. We now see clearly the many ways that you betrayed our trust, manipulated and abused us and our Dharma brothers and sisters. We are not showing a lack of trust and respect, being a “trouble-maker” with “negative talk” as you often assert when anyone has dared to object to your methods. In fact, we have trusted you too long, given you the benefit of the doubt over and over again. When we’ve attempted to raise these concerns you’ve shamed us, and threatened to withhold the teachings from all the students because we had “doubts.” You have encouraged us to defame others, in particular in France, who have spoken out against you in recent years. We have seen how you hold the teachings “hostage” and demand that students show their devotion through continuous “offerings” in the form of money and free labor. You tell us this is how to become an authentic Dharma practitioner. We do not believe this to be the path of the Dharma. With regards to your abusive behavior, your sexual misconduct, and your lavish lifestyle, we see no clear or identifiable ethical standards or guidelines to which you are held. There is a vacuum of accountability. We hope that sending you this letter, sharing it with your peers, and the Rigpa Dzogchen mandala students, will serve to fill that vacuum. (…) If your striking and punching us and others, and having sex with your students and married women, and funding your sybaritic lifestyle with students’ donations, is actually the ethical and compassionate behavior of a Buddhist teacher, please explain to us how it is. If, however, we are correct in our assessment, please stop your behaviors that we believe to be harmful to others. In closing we want to acknowledge that most of the public critique of you that is found on the Internet is factual. Some of us, who have held positions of responsibility within Rigpa, struggle with our own part in having covered for you and “explained” away your behavior, while not caring for those with traumatic experiences. Our past motivation to see all the actions of our tantric teacher as pure obscured us from seeing the very real harm that you are inflicting. We are each taking a long and serious look at our own behaviors, trying to learn from them, and supporting each other on our journey. We can no longer stay silent while you harm others in the name of Buddhism. Our deepest wish is to see Buddhism flourish in the West. We no longer want to indulge in the stupidity of seeing the Guru as perfect at any cost. The path does not require us to sacrifice our wisdom to discern, our ethics and morality, or our integrity, on the altar of “Guru Yoga.” Our heartfelt wish is that you seek guidance from the Dalai Lama, other reputable lamas of good heart, or anyone who can help to bring you back onto the true path of the Dharma.”[17]

REPLY By SOGYAL RINPOCHE: “this news has given rise to a certain amount of pain and confusion within our community. I cannot begin to express to you just how much all of this saddens and distresses me.”,”a number of people do feel very disappointed and hurt”, “according to astrological predictions, this year and the next two years are a period when obstacles can arise for my health and for my life in general”[18]

Tricycle Editors: (July 2017) “New Allegations of Sexual Abuse Raise Old Questions. Students of Tibetan Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche have accused him of improper conduct. In a July 14 detailed letter to Tibetan teacher Sogyal Rinpoche, eight of the famed lama’s longtime students accused their teacher of a decades-long pattern of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse. According to a July 21 press release issued by his community in response to the charges, Sogyal Rinpoche, the 70-year-old author of the bestselling Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and founder of Rigpa, an international network of practice centers, has made a decision “to step back and to enter a period of retreat and reflection.” “We respect Sogyal Rinpoche’s decision to enter a period of retreat and reflection,” Ringpa said in a statement. “During this time Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa will seek professional and spiritual advice and look into whatever steps might be necessary. We have already initiated open discussion within our community about the letter and the issues it raises.” The accusations are not new. They have been known for years not only to many of Sogyal Rinpoche’s students but also to ranking lamas in the Tibetan community. (…) Similar reports about Sogyal Rinpoche have appeared in the press, particularly with regard to the Lerab Ling practice center in France. How does abuse in a community continue unchecked for so long? And what makes it possible in the first place?”[19]

ROD MEADE SPERRY: JULY 21, 2017 “Following the release of a letter recently issued by current and ex-Rigpa members, which details alleged abuses by Rigpa founder and spiritual director Sogyal Rinpoche, we have now received from Rigpa the following press release, which acknowledges the letter and indicates that Sogyal Rinpoche will “step back” as the community looks into next steps: (…) We are deeply concerned and saddened to learn of the letter sent by a small group of students to our spiritual director, Sogyal Rinpoche. We would like to state clearly that there is no place for abuse in our community and we are conscious of our responsibility to provide a safe, welcoming and supportive environment for our members and the public. We respect Sogyal Rinpoche’s decision to step back and to enter a period of retreat and reflection, and find it wise. During this time we will seek external professional and spiritual advice and look into whatever steps might be necessary. We have already initiated open discussion within our community about the letter and the issues it raises. We intend to bring clarity to this situation as soon as possible.”[20]

Matthieu Ricard: July 29, 2017. “Following the recent letter sent by some of Sogyal Rinpoche’s students about his behavior (…). I did not intend to intervene, considering that I have no qualification to be a judge in this matter. (…) Regarding the recent letter concerning the behaviour of Sogyal Rinpoche written by some of his close disciples, I cannot judge the intentions of Sogyal Rinpoche or say whether he actually meant to harm his students. But I have also no reason to doubt the truth of these facts and testimonies, which describe the abuse that various people have suffered at his hands. I know two of the authors of the letter and I consider them honest and trustworthy. The behavior described in this letter and in the other past testimonies is obviously unacceptable—from the point of view of ordinary morality and especially from that of Buddhist ethics.”[21]

Michaela Haas: August 13th, 2017 “Eventually, because Bijlsma had previously worked in a Five-Star-Hotel, Rigpa recruited her for the “Hospitality Team“ that looks after the needs of Sogyal Lakar and his inner circle. Soon Bijlsma came to understand that her new job had little to do with the Buddhist principles of humbleness, honesty, and altruism. ”For his visit in Amsterdam we rented a suite in a Five-Star-Hotel, plus a house for him, plus another house for his girlfriends and cooks,“ Oane Bijlsma recounts. “I was running around with huge swaths of cash to scout for the best and most expensive meats. It was bizarre.“ Slowly, she realized that servicing the master included more than just scouting steaks. Bijlsma is athletic, slender, blue-eyed and blonde. “I was his type”. She recalls a time in London, “We were alone for a moment. He grabbed me by the back of my head, quite forcefully, and pushed a drawing in my face of a Tibetan deity with a fat erection. I saw the look in his face. There was no kindness, just a man trying something perverted.” He asked her if her boyfriend “could get it up” and if they “had a good fuck” last night. “It was very offensive.” The Rigpa organization sells compassion, meditation, and wisdom. Rigpa`s opulent main headquarters is one of the world’s largest Tibetan Buddhist temples outside of Asia. It is tucked away on a mountain plateau in French Languedoc, less than an hour from the buzzing beaches of the Mediterranean. On summer weekends, buses unload hundreds of curious tourists who check out the elaborate, hand-painted details of the gilded three-story-temple. Thousands have participated and thrived in Rigpa programs learning profound Buddhist philosophy and meditation. But peak behind the golden veneer of this very successful enterprise, and it’s an extreme departure from Buddha’s teachings of love and compassion. Inner circle students have had a very different experience of this particular Tibetan teacher. They are now coming forward with complaints they have been beaten bloody by their stout boss, young women testify that they have been pressured to render sexual services to speed up their path to enlightenment, they work incredibly long hours of free labor and members ache under the ever increasing pressure to drive in more donations. Rumors about sexual misconduct have plagued Sogyal Lakar for decades. In 1994 an American sued him for sexual misconduct and battery, but Rigpa settled the case out of court for an undisclosed sum. In 2011 a young French woman, Mireille Durand, who had been brought to Lerab Ling by her Buddhist father, disclosed publicly that Sogyal had pressured her to have sex with him. She was 22 at the time: “He made very explicit threats, prohibiting me from talking about it to anyone.” Rigpa was able to downplay the charges as the unproven allegations of a few disgruntled students. But now eight senior students have published an extensive letter with accusations so severe that Sogyal announced his immediate retirement this Friday. (…) The authors testify that they have been beaten so forcefully by Sogyal Lakar “with phones, cups, and any other objects that happened to be close at hand“ they were left “with bloody injuries and permanent scars.” Their crimes were that his “food was not hot enough“ or that he was “awakened from a nap a half hour late.“ Matteo Pistono, former board member of Rigpa America and author of a biography about Sogyal’s predecessor Terton Sogyal (“Fearless in Tibet“), testifies that Sogyal knocked him unconscious with a broken wooden hanger. Michael Condon, an American contractor who repeatedly hosted Sogyal Lakar at his home in Los Angeles, observed Sogyal punching a nun so forcefully in the stomach that she left the temple in tears. Joanne Standlee, the former director of Rigpa America, says, Sogyal repeatedly asked her to strip or give him a blow job when she was a brand new student (she refused). A professional photographer reports being told to take lewd pictures of Sogyal’s girlfriends. Damcho Drolma, an Australian artist who was so inspired by Sogyal’s teachings that she shaved her head and became an ordained nun living for ten years at his main seat in France, said she was beaten or kicked almost daily until she could no longer stand to be around Sogyal and escaped. The Australian IT-expert Michael Nolan, who lived as a monk in the same center, says that the sleep deprivation, work demands and violence left him with posttraumatic stress disorder. The accusations have rocked the Buddhist world at large as its authors are well known and respected former senior students and leaders in the community. They have abandoned their Rigpa jobs, apologized to the community for remaining silent for so long, and attest that they tried to discuss their complaints repeatedly with Sogyal and the Rigpa management to stop further abuse, but all in vain. “When we’ve attempted to raise these concerned, you`ve shamed us,” the letter reads. They very hesitantly agreed to now speak to the media for the first time, after their initial hopes that reforms and ethical guidelines could be established within the organisation were shattered. (…) Some of them struggle with an existential crisis after having given years, even decades of their lives to a cause they believed in. They were told that a special kind of hell was reserved for students who criticize and speak out against their teacher. (…)The Dalai Lama, a pious monk and the most prominent face of Tibetan Buddhism in the West goes out of his way to be transparent including never taking fees for speaking engagements, disclosing a full accounting of event funds and donating any surplus to legitimate charities. And yet, he wrote the foreword to Sogyal Lakar’s bestselling book and repeatedly graced his centers with personal visits, even though several ex-Rigpa students shared their negative experiences with him. The support of an eminent Peace Nobel Prize winner such as the Dalai Lama and numerous prominent actors such as John Cleese or Richard Gere surely contributed to the impression that Sogyal Lakar was a trustworthy teacher and Rigpa was a safe organisation. Rigpa does not answer detailed questions about the accusations and acknowledges no wrongdoing, but rather refers to an “independent investigation“ (…). Many students have requested a more decisive statement by the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama’s Secretary, Tseten Samdup Chhoekyapa, responds to the request for comment by the Süddeutsche Zeitung: “His Holiness said it was totally wrong to blindly follow everything ones teacher says. He said one must examine if the teacher’s teachings are in line with Buddha’s teaching.” (…) His advice: “So, the only thing is to make it public, through newspapers, through the radio. Make it public!“  To this day the Rigpa websites claim that their centers and programs are “under the guidance and patronage of the Dalai Lama”. Many students have requested a more decisive statement by the Dalai Lama. Though the Dalai Lama officially retired from his political posts, his words still hold tremendous weight in the Tibetan Buddhist community. (…) “This culture of silence has to be broken,“ comments Dutch journalist Rob Hogendoorn, who has been documenting abuse in Buddhist centers for years. He even questions Sogyal Lakar’s credentials as a Buddhist teacher. Hogendoorn calls him a complete fraud. He’s a charlatan, posing as a guru. Has anybody found any proof that he was truly recognized as an incarnation before he fled Tibet as a child? Where is the proof that he really did the traditional religious training or that he actually studied comparative religion in Cambridge for more than a semester? There are huge holes in his personal history. In the 70s, Tibetan Buddhism was brand new in the West, we didn’t have the internet to check things, and I think Sogyal saw the opportunity and launched himself as a master.“  Battery and misuse of funds are punishable by law in the countries where Rigpa operates, and some students have taken the first steps toward legal action. The French Buddhist Union just suspended Rigpa`s membership. But the core of the sexual abuse allegations touches a problem that can hardly be dealt with by lawyers: sexual relations between very young women who often seek out Buddhist centers to find healing from past traumas, and a master who is revered as quasi-enlightened. (…) The Dalai Lama mentioned in his Ladakh speech that “some of these guru institutions” have “some influence of the feudal system. That is outdated and must end.” “We have been blinded by this romantic idea of a Shangri-La,” acknowledges Joanne Standlee, the former director. In her recent university studies to become a social worker, she was shocked to discover “parallels between the grooming process of sexual predators and what I saw in Rigpa, this mix of attention and abuse.” Among German Buddhists, suggestions to establish a board of ethical advisors that abuse victims could turn to for support, went nowhere. But the problem is far bigger than Rigpa. Rob Hogendoorn is currently investigating abuse allegations against the male leaders of 19 out of the 39 registered Buddhist organisations in Holland. The number of allegations alone – most recently the arrest of a Zen priest near Augsburg, who was sentenced to nearly eight years in prison for abusing young boys – makes it evident that the problem is so widespread that it needs to be taken more seriously. While some argue that sexual relations between teachers and students are not always problematic, Hogendoorn thinks that the “imbalance of power points into one direction only, and that is the direction of abuse. When a school teacher or a psychotherapist seduces a pupil or a client, we have laws against that, because the power is on one side only.“  Some of the Rigpa students who have simply attended meditation courses, seem honestly surprised about the reports of abusive and cult-like behavior in the inner circle. But since the open letter circulated, more than a dozen other students have come forward to report disturbing experiences. The sheer number of testimonies makes it impossible to swipe them aside as irrelevant, so Rigpa recently announced the plan to establish a code of conduct and a new spiritual advisory group to guide the Rigpa organization. Sogyal Lakar has promised to go into retreat “to reflect deeply about myself, about how best to support students, and about the future of Rigpa.” But most recently he was spotted as the keynote speaker in front of hundreds of attendees on the stage of the World Youth Buddhist Symposium in Thailand. Its slogan: “The path to happiness.“   Buddha’s path might lead to happiness but will Sogyal Lakar acknowledge that for some of his closest students his abuse of power lead to anything but?”[22]

RIGPA: 11 August, “After internal consultation, Sogyal Rinpoche has decided, with immediate effect, to retire as spiritual director from all the organizations that bear the name of Rigpa in different countries around the world.” [23]

SAM LITTLEFAIR: AUGUST 8, 2017 “The Buddhist Union of France also commented on the allegations against Sogyal Rinpoche this week, saying that Sogyal’s alleged actions are unjustifiable and not in accord with Buddhist ethics. The union suspended the memberships of Sogyal’s organization Rigpa France and center Lerab Ling.”[24]

Mick Brown: 23 September 2017  “At Lerab Ling, more than 1000 students were gathered in the temple as he walked on stage, accompanied by his attendant, a Danish nun named Ani Chokyi. Sogyal, who is 70, is a portly, bespectacled man who requires a footstool to mount the throne from which he customarily teaches. Approaching the throne, he paused, then turned suddenly and punched the nun hard in the stomach. ‘I guess the footstool wasn’t in exactly the right position,’ says Gary Goldman, an American student of more than 20 years standing, who was seated in one of the front rows. ‘He had this flash of anger, and he just punched her – a short gut punch. It just stunned me. I thought, what the hell’s that about? Everybody around me kind of sucked their breath in. She started crying, and he told her to leave, get out, and then he started to talk.’ (…)Goldman says. ‘People were very upset.’ (…)As a young man, Goldman was a US Army Ranger who served in Vietnam. ‘We all wrote something up,’ he says. ‘I said, I understood his methods were unconventional but punching Ani Chökyi was knocking the ball out of the park. ‘I’ve seen this kind of thing in the military and we don’t do that anymore – at least not legally. (…)The next day, one of the Rigpa hierarchy addressed the doubters. Sogyal, he said, was upset that people should be questioning his methods. If people didn’t understand what had actually happened, then they probably weren’t ready for the promised higher-level teachings, and Sogyal would not teach again during the retreat. ‘This is what he does,’ Goldman says, ‘when something comes up  he’ll very skillfully manipulate his students to get them back in line. I just thought, I’m done with this…’ (…)More than just a sordid story of an errant spiritual teacher, the case of Sogyal Rinpoche is a symptom of the perils that may arise when Westerners fall in thrall to esoteric spiritual teachings they may not fully understand, and when Eastern teachers are exposed to the glamour and temptations of celebrity worship. (…)Sogyal Lakar was born in Kham, in the east of Tibet, into a family of traders. Among his followers, he is believed to be the reincarnation of Sogyal Terton, a Tibetan lama who was a teacher of the 13th Dalai Lama (the present Dalai Lama is the 14th). But according to Rob Hogendoorn, a Dutch academic and Buddhist who has researched Sogyal’s background, the only authority for that claim appears to be Sogyal’s own mother. Sogyal had little formal Buddhist training, and it is notable that few in the Tibetan community have ever attended his teachings. When he was six months old, his mother put him in the care of her sister, Khandro Tsering Chodron, who was the young consort – or spiritual wife – of an eminent Tibetan lama, Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, who became Sogyal’s effective guardian. In 1954 the family fled from the invading Chinese army to Kalimpong in West Bengal, where Sogyal was educated at a Catholic primary school, St Augustine’s. Jamyang Khyentse died when Sogyal was around 10 or 11, and his education continued at an Anglican school, St Stephen’s College in Delhi. In 1971 he arrived at Trinity College Cambridge, taking a course in theological and religious studies, although he never graduated. (…)In 1976, Sogyal visited America to meet with another Tibetan lama, Chogyam Trungpa, who was regarded as the most extreme exemplar of ‘crazy wisdom’ teachings. Trungpa drank like a fish (he would die in 1987 from complications arising due to alcoholism), openly slept with his students and ran his organisation like a feudal court, surrounding himself with an elite bodyguard, sometimes amusing himself by dressing as a Grenadier guard. ‘The real function of the guru,’ he once said, ‘is to insult you.’ ‘Sogyal looked at what Trungpa had,’ says Mary Finnigan, ‘and said “That’s what I want.”’ (…)incidents of violence and abuse were common for those closest to Sogyal, explained away by senior instructors within Rigpa as the lama employing ‘skillful methods’. ‘There was definitely a very well thought-out structure within the Rigpa system that would block the perception of abuse, either by using those historical stories, or making you feel really special if this was the attention you were getting,’ Drolma says. (…) The Telegraph has been given numerous accounts of similar abuse meted out to Sogyal’s closest students: a woman being beaten violently around the head with a backscratcher. A man being kicked, punched in the face, pinned against the wall by Sogyal with his hands around his throat, and hit so hard on the head with a hardbound practice book that he fell to the floor. (…)‘These are criminal acts. But the problem is we’ve been complicit, we’ve allowed it, and he keeps doing it.’ In this environment, everything would be rationalised and accepted as ‘a teaching’. Several people told the Telegraph how Sogyal would sometimes address his closest students while defecating – like a Tudor monarch, ordering his ‘dakinis’ to perform the appropriate ablutions as a demonstration of ‘service’. The analogy with a monarch is not misplaced. It is further alleged that among his inner circle, Sogyal frequently practiced a sort of droit de seigneur, taking the wives or girlfriends of his most loyal male followers as his sexual partners, either openly or covertly. Men were expected to accept this is as part of the teaching. When one complained, Sogyal told his partner the man was ‘possessed by demons’. (…) The offerings expected from followers maintained Sogyal in a lifestyle of profligate extravagance. (…)For some within Rigpa, the paradox between being beaten and abused while being told it was for their benefit was causing predictable problems. ‘It creates split personalities in people,’ one student told told me. ‘People feel a loyalty to the teachings which is constantly being contradicted by Sogyal’s behaviour; their hearts are split in two.’ In 2007, Sogyal introduced a programme that he called ‘Rigpa Therapy’, in which a number of qualified psychotherapists, who were also Rigpa students, were assigned to treat those entertaining doubts about the teachings. Drolma was among them.  ‘The crux of every session,’ she says, ‘was exploring how what Sogyal did related to other past relationships in my life. It was all about that, and how my difficulties were nothing to do with Sogyal, and how his blessing was letting me go back to that time and work through it. Basically, the therapists had been been brought in to stop people leaving.’ If he became anxious about his mother, or over a relationship with a girlfriend or some financial thing, he would slap me across the face, or hit me over the head with his backscratcher. (…)‘I was in nun’s robes and still keeping my precepts. ‘Wearing robes you have one arm bare, and he touched me there, as if I were sexual object. It made my skin crawl. I saw that the way he related to me could change completely.’ The cremation over, she returned to Australia, and gave up her robes. ‘Looking back,’ she says, ‘I think I’d lost all faculty of being able to discern clearly what was going on. He absolutely ground me down. I’m generally someone that’s very trusting of people. And he really took advantage of that. ‘And I felt ashamed to leave my friends, ashamed to go back to my family and say I’d made a mistake.’ She pauses. ‘There’s so much shame in all of this.’  Within Rigpa, a culture of secrecy and denial prevailed among Sogyal’s inner circle, the worst excesses of his behaviour kept hidden from the thousands of more casual followers who would attend retreats and teachings. (…) In 2015 the President of Rigpa France, Olivier Raurich, resigned, explaining in an interview to the French magazine Marianne that ‘I had come for teachings on humility, love, truth, and trust, and I found myself in a quasi-Stalinist environment and permanent double-talk’. Sogyal, he said, ‘did not hesitate to brutally silence and ridicule people in meetings. Critical thinking is prohibited around him. Negative feedback never reaches him – only praise is reported because people in the close circle are afraid of him.’ Within Rigpa, students were allegedly instructed to kneel before Sogyal and swear they would not listen to Raurich’s accusations. He was denounced as an opportunist who was simply seeking publicity for his own career as a meditation teacher. The following year, a French academic Marion Dapsance published a book, Les Dévots du Bouddhisme, containing further allegations of abuse, and the ‘cult-like’ behaviour of Sogyal’s inner circle. (…)Sogyal’s large following and considerable wealth made him a powerful figure within the Tibetan Buddhist community. Over the years he has been generous in his donations to monasteries in Nepal and India, and other lamas have frequently given teachings at Lerab Ling, their visits lending authority to Sogyal’s credentials. ‘Tibetan culture is such that it will never criticise another lama, especially one within your own group,’ Stephen Batchelor says. ‘But the root of the problem lies in the tantric, aristocratic structure of old Tibetan society that they are seeking to preserve in exile. They’re in the business of holding on to their traditions, not reforming them. ‘The problem facing other lamas is that if they accept these criticisms they are basically accepting criticism of the whole system that in a way underpins their own authority; and if they say nothing they know they will be perceived as turning a blind eye to what looks, quite blatantly, like abusive behaviour. ‘It’s a terrible thing if this discredits Tibetan Buddhism, because Vajrayana is a very rich part of Buddhist heritage. But at the same time these abuses have to be addressed.  And the Tibetan tradition has to come to terms with that.’ (…)  Just a few days after the Dalai Lama’s speech, Sogyal announced that he was ‘retiring’ as spiritual director of Rigpa, citing the ‘turbulence’ the allegations around him had caused. There was no acknowledgment of abuse, and no expression of apology or regret. While no longer spiritual director, he said, he would continue as their teacher. ‘Please understand that I am not and never will abandon you! I have a solemn commitment to help bring you to enlightenment and I will never renege on that!’ The Telegraph magazine contacted Rigpa with a detailed list of the allegations contained in this article, asking for a response. The organisation replied saying they had no comment to make on the allegations. (…)Rigpa would be setting up an investigation by ‘a neutral third party’  into the various allegations; launching a consultation process to establish ‘a code of conduct and ‘grievance process’ for Rigpa members; and establishing a new ‘spiritual advisory group’ to guide the organisation. (…) Sogyal’s last public appearance was on July 30, in Thailand, speaking at the Seventh World Youth Buddhist Symposium. His speech, on the subject of meditation and peace of mind, made no mention of the scandal that had engulfed him. ‘If your mind is relaxed and at ease,’ he told his young audience, ‘no matter what crises you are facing you will not be disturbed. Even when difficulties come you will be able to turn them to your own advantage.’ (…)  Following submissions from former Rigpa members, The Charity Commission has opened a case on The Rigpa Fellowship to assess whether a full investigation into the affairs and governance of Sogyal’s organisation is required. At the same time former students are exploring pressing criminal charges.  One leaves a spiritual organisation, Drolma says, with a mixture of feelings – relief, shame, guilt for those left behind. ‘I haven’t turned my back on the Buddhist teachings,’ she says, ‘but it was important to let people know what was going on. Sogyal is an abuser, he’s delusional, and he has created real, deep harm for people, and that’s not right in any place at all.’ [25]

David Leser: 1 December 2017 “According to Drolma, his former personal assistant, that was because the abuse only ever happened behind closed doors (…) when the humiliation and abuse didn’t stop, that’s when I started thinking, ‘This is just an abusive man, it’s not an enlightened person working on my spiritual wellbeing.’  (…) While no charges had been laid at the time of writing, a number of complaints have reportedly been filed with police in various countries, including France and England, and the Charity Commission in the UK has begun a preliminary investigation.”[26]

BERNIE S.: AUGUST 27, 2017  “Why is the Dalai Lama’s recent advice so important for the Rigpa sangha? The Dalai Lama has spoken before about misconduct on the part of Buddhist teachers and how to address it. (…) In brief, the Dalai Lama made four points: The root of the problem may lie in the outdated influence of feudalism in some Buddhist communities. He insists this must change; When a teacher engages in harmful behaviors that do not reflect the basic Buddhist values of non-violence and compassion, it needs to be made clear these are the actions of one individual. The teacher needs to take responsibility for them. Otherwise, people get a bad impression of Buddhism; The Buddha encouraged his followers to question and examine the teachings. Thus, it’s wrong to think you must do everything a teacher says without examining whether his instructions are in accord with the dharma, in particular the principles of non-harming and compassion. If they’re not, the student should respectfully refuse to comply; (…) Sogyal Rinpoche may see offering sense pleasures to himself, in ways similar to the customs of feudal systems (…) But the Dalai Lama clearly says the customs of the feudal system are not appropriate for this time. They won’t be understood or tolerated by Western society. Sogyal Rinpoche himself has also spoken about the need for cultural adaption to occur. (…)  Buddha was egalitarian. He encouraged his students to test and examine every aspect of the teaching before adopting it, like a goldsmith would test the purity of gold before purchasing it. To follow blindly is wrong, according to the Dalai Lama. He encourages students to take personal responsibility, understand the basic principles of non-harming and compassion, and embody them in their words and actions. The Dalai Lamas says the practice of Vajrayana needs to include the principles of non-harming and compassion from the previous vehicles. Mingyur Rinpoche supports this view. He says, In Tibetan Buddhism we practice the three yanas together, and that includes the practice of ethics. When a student practices like this, integrating the three yanas, to think “I must do everything my guru says” is wrong. Instead a student should examine what the teacher requests and check that it’s in accord with the dharma. If it’s not, the student should question it and refuse to comply. And, it’s permissible to leave a teacher if your questions and warnings go unheeded and harmful behavior continues. (…)The Dalai Lama said clearly you don’t need to follow his advice if something he says is not in accord with the teachings. You are free to follow your own understanding if you feel his recommendation go against the Vajrayana teachings. (…) Some have raised questions about Sogyal Rinpoche’s authenticity as a teacher. But, the Dalai Lama does not question Rinpoche’s authenticity in his statement. He simply addresses harmful behavior.”[27]

 

[1]https://web.archive.org/web/20150415050959/http://www.well.com/conf/media/SF_Free_Press/nov11/guru.html

[2] http://www.lamatruth.com/articles/?type=detail&id=626

[3] http://www.lamatruth.com/articles/?type=detail&id=626

[4] https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/behind-the-thangkas-sogyal-rimpoche-the-imbalance-of-power-and-abuse-of-spiritual-authority/

http://www.chinabuddhismencyclopedia.com/en/index.php/Behind_The_Thangkas_~_Sogyal_Rimpoche_~_The_imbalance_of_power_and_abuse_of_spiritual_authority

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/jul/01/lama-sex-abuse-sogyal-rinpoche-buddhist

[6] https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2012/03/27/sogyal-rinpoche-and-the-silence-of-the-tibetan-buddhist-community-and-the-dalai-lama/

[7] https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2012/04/23/one-year-with-rigpa-a-testimony/

[8] https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2012/04/28/the-dalai-lama-and-sogyal-rinpoche-a-roaring-silence/

[9] https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2012/06/15/what-is-a-rigpa-student-to-think/

[10] https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2013/01/16/thoughts-on-leaving-rigpa/

[11] https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2013/03/17/rigpa-cults-the-catholic-church-and-hh-dalai-lama-a-pep-talk/

[12] https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2014/09/27/when-fraud-is-part-of-a-spiritual-path-a-tibetan-lamas-plays-on-reality-and-illusion-by-marion-dapsance/

[13] https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2016/12/01/submission-devotion-and-sexual-abuse-my-investigation-of-buddhism-in-france/

[14] https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2016/03/09/sogyal-rinpoche-rigpa-an-interview-with-the-former-director-of-rigpa-france-olivier-raurich/

[15] https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2016/12/01/lock-the-door-i-was-devoted-to-a-great-buddhist-master-and-then-i-quit-by-mimi-former-dakini/

[16] https://www.lionsroar.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Letter-to-Sogyal-Lakar-14-06-2017-.pdf

[17] https://www.lionsroar.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Letter-to-Sogyal-Lakar-14-06-2017-.pdf

[18] https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2017/07/22/abuse-letter-to-sogyal-rinpoche-from-long-term-rigpa-students/

[19] https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/new-allegations-sexual-abuse-raise-old-questions/

[20] https://www.lionsroar.com/rigpa-press-release-responds-to-allegations-of-abuses-by-sogyal-rinpoche/

[21] http://www.matthieuricard.org/en/blog/posts/a-point-of-view–2

[22] http://international.sueddeutsche.de/post/164130948510/the-tibetan-book-of-living-and-lying

[23] https://www.tibetsun.com/news/2017/08/15/sogyal-rinpoche-steps-down-as-head-of-rigpa-after-allegations

[24] https://www.lionsroar.com/dalai-lama-denounce-ethical-misconduct-by-buddhist-teachers/

[25] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/sexual-assaults-violent-rages-inside-dark-world-buddhist-teacher/

 

[26] https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/sogyal-rinpoche-and-the-abuse-accusations-rocking-the-buddhist-world-20171115-gzm7ra.html

[27] http://howdidithappen.org/dalai-lama-sogyal-rinpoche-abuse-allegations/

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