Silencing Inquiring Minds: Justifying Abuse with Scripture

Below are two short posts from the 

Tibetan Buddhism :: Struggling With Difficult Issues blog. British Buddhism's editor decided to  reproduce these, with the author's permission, because they demonstrate how Sogyal Rinpoche's PR team have apparently decided the best way to deal with their teacher's serial sexual abuse of disciples is through censorship, information control and scriptural justification. 

Astoundingly, the PR team do not seem to realise that, in justifying Sogyal's behaviour by reliance on scripture, they give overwhelming creedence to the theory that their leader has repeatedly engaged in adult, ritualised sexual abuse, as was asserted here, in a previous blogpost. 

Unbelievably,  and in a clear case of 'confirmation bias', they seem to think that, because there is a consensus among long standing, senior disciples that the behaviour was scripturally justifiable, this therefore negates any alternative perspective  that the behaviour might constitute sexual abuse.

 So, if enough of Sogyal's close students say down is up, then down is up for everybody else, and woe betide anyone who suggests differently.(Editor's note It's about arrogance, money, power and prestige-Is that really what the Buddha taught?)

The behaviour to which both posts refer was highlighted in this television documentary

The first post, from a young Rigpa member, demonstrates how questioning over Sogyal's sexual ethics is being dealt with by those chosen to guide young converts. The second, as the post indicates, is from an ex-follower who studied with Sogyal for ten years and who also trained as a Rigpa instructor for four.

It should be noted that, while Sogyal's behaviour and the attempts to address it (or not) are reprehensible, this should not detract from the fact that Rigpa have brought many great teachers to a Western audience. Moreover, while the power-profit behaviour of the chosen few is clearly not in accord with the Buddha's teaching, the fact remains that many of those drawn to the Nyingma Dharma taught by Sogyal are sincere, kind-hearted  adherents to a genuine meditative tradition Important points are italicised.


I was thrown out of the Rigpa Youth facebook group because I posted this link and asked about it.

 When I was younger I met the young woman in the video and her father at Rigpa’s main centre, Lerab Ling. I can’t believe they made up stories about Sogyal Rinpoche. We are not allowed to discuss this in the Rigpa Youth facebook group. We can only speak to an ‘administrator’ or ‘instructor’ privately. Something is being hidden from us.

"Careful, the Thought Police may be listening"

Comment Two

I was a Rigpa student for ten years and trainee instructor for the last four. For the first few years I was very much moved and inspired by the teachings and by the work done by students of Rigpa as there are a lot of good, genuine, well intentioned people who are working for this organisation.
Then in the last few years some of the allegations about Sogyal started appearing once again in the press, up till this point I had been in complete ignorance that there was anything like this in his past. 

As trainee instructors we were informed about the Janice Do case and sent on a training retreat on how to manage this if asked about it by the general public or by students. If not voiced officially the general understanding was that this woman had misunderstood the teachings of the lama and was one of the uninitiated. We were given material to read on the student – teacher relationship, the nature of devotion, and the unconventional way of teaching that a ‘Crazy Wisdom’ teacher might use with his students. However when it came to Sogyal Lakar’s relationship with the young girls who served him and all the other allegations about him, I found that it was all very much kept hidden and unspoken even to long term students like myself.
I did question to myself over the years just why all the students who served Sogyal (Lama care) were beautiful girls in their twenties, but there is such a focus on teachings on devotion, (i.e, seeing his every action as a teaching, never questioning that he can do any wrong and seeing him as an incarnate Buddha,)  that I just told myself there must be some good reason for it which was beyond my understanding as an ordinary being, There is very much a sense that those who are in the inner circle and are in close proximity to Rinpoche are especially privileged to be taught in this manner.

I am now a student of another teacher for the last few years and it was only by being on retreat with him that I realised it wasn’t the normal thing to always be hearing about these teachings on devotion, on the guru – student relationship and the unconventional nature of a crazy wisdom master (which is what Sogyal Lakar considers himself to be). I now feel that these teachings were used to justify his behaviour and to discourage the questioning of such. 

There are also teachings that to criticise and cause discord about a Bodhisattva (i.e Sogyal) will cause you to be reborn in the Vajra hells, so that was quite a strong factor in repressing this questioning of him let alone voicing my misgivings publicly. I noticed in the last few years that as more of these allegations came to light there was more and more focus put on these kind of teachings and once I was more aware of all the accusations I became frustrated by it as I wanted to go and hear the Dharma and not be constantly confronted with what I felt was Sogyal defending his behaviour.
Mimi-One  of Sogyal's 'consorts'/victims (Delete depending on level of credulousness) who has finally chosen to speak out to protect others

Eventually I ended up reading Mimi’s report and questioned a senior instructor on the truth it. He confirmed that every bit of it was true which I appreciated because when I had previously asked another senior instructor what was the truth of Rinpoche’s relationship with some female students I had been told that he believed that  ‘Rinpoche’s private life was his own business’and that was the end of the story. Still I felt the understanding was that she was another poor unfortunate who did not understand the nature of the blessing of the Lama, and all the other girls didn’t seem to mind so therefore this was her ignorance, that she was an isolated case and had become deluded and lost her way.

I am no longer a student of Rigpa and feel strongly that the teachings should not be used to justify this sort of behaviour. As has been stated there is too much of a power differential where his students are expected to obey absolutely his every command. I know there are people who are new to the teachings who have ended up hurt and confused by his behaviour and I do not think it is right to view these people dismissively as the uninitiated who did not understand the nature of Sogyal’s teaching. I believe that it is a huge betrayal of the trust that we put in the teacher and the teachings. The basic tenet of Buddhism is non harming and this applies to all beings, not just the initiated.  Luckily I have seen other  teachers who always behave with absolute integrity towards all of their students which has allowed me to have some sort of perspective that this is just the behaviour of one man and that the group consensus to ignore it and justify his behaviour among his students to preserve the status quo doesn’t represent Buddhism or the Dharma.

I now have a wonderful teacher who is the embodiment of the teachings in wisdom, compassion, integrity and patience and I trust him completely,  it really is amazing what can be achieved when someone does genuinely try to live the teachings with humility. However we really need to take our time and use our discernment when it comes to who we pick to be our teacher.

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