Randy Sogyal Rinpoche, Best-Selling Lecher

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

Re: Randy Sogyal Rinpoche, Best-Selling Lecher

Postby admin » Wed Dec 20, 2017 4:54 am

Part 1 of 2

Sexual assaults and violent rages... Inside the dark world of Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche
by Mick Brown
The Telegraph
September 21, 2017



Sogyal Rinpoche as a guest speaker at a healing seminar in Melbourne in 2004 CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

In August last year, Sogyal Rinpoche, the Tibetan lama whose book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying has sold more than three million copies around the world, and made him probably the best known Tibetan Buddhist teacher after the Dalai Lama, gave his annual teaching at his French centre Lerab Ling.

Sogyal’s organisation Rigpa - a Tibetan word meaning the essential nature of mind - has more than 100 centres in 40 countries around the world, but Lerab Ling, situated in rolling countryside in L’Hérault is the jewel in the crown. Boasting what is said to be the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple in the West, it was formally opened in 2008 by the Dalai Lama, with Carla Bruni Sarkozy, then France’s first lady, and a host of other dignitaries in attendance.

Sogyal is regarded by his students as a living embodiment of the Buddhist teachings of wisdom and compassion, but a man who teaches in a highly unorthodox way, known as ‘crazy wisdom’.

Sogyal Rinpoche

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.'

‘To see the master not as a human being but as the Buddha himself,’ Sogyal has often told his students, ‘is the source of the highest blessing.’ Those attending his teachings are cautioned not to be surprised or to draw ‘the wrong conclusions’ about the way he might behave. Apparently irrational, even violent conduct, it is said, should be viewed as ‘mere appearance’.

But punching a nun in the stomach... ‘Afterwards, everybody was trying to make sense of what had happened,’ Goldman says. ‘People were very upset.’ It was customary for students at the retreat to email any thoughts or questions they might have on the day’s teachings to Sogyal’s senior instructors.

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. But on the other hand, if this was another part of his ‘crazy wisdom’ teaching, we seriously needed to talk about it...’

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...’

A catalogue of damning allegations

Largely thanks to the benign, smiling example of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism has grown enormously in popularity in the West over the past thirty years, largely escaping the scandal that has dogged other religious institutions - at least publicly.

Within the Buddhist community, however, Sogyal Rinpoche has long been a controversial figure. For years, rumours have circulated on the internet about his behaviour, and in the 1990s a lawsuit alleging sexual and physical abuse was settled out of court.

Yet his position as one of the foremost Buddhist teachers in the West has remained remarkably intact - until now. In July, eight senior and long-standing current and former students sent a 12-page letter to Sogyal. ‘Long simmering issues with your behaviour,’ it began, ‘can no longer be ignored or denied’, going on to list a catalogue of damning allegations against him.

The Dalai Lama and Sogyal Rinpoche, talks with French Foreign Affairs minister Bernard Kouchner during the inauguration of the Buddhist Lerab Ling temple CREDIT: PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Sogyal’s habitual physical abuse, the letter alleged, had ‘left monks, nuns, and lay people students of yours with bloody injuries and permanent scars.’ He had used his role as a teacher ‘to gain access to young women, and to coerce, intimidate and manipulate them into giving you sexual favours’. Students had been ordered to strip, ‘to show you our genitals’, ‘to give you oral sex,’ and ‘to have sex in your bed with our partners’.

Sogyal, it went on, had led a ‘lavish, gluttonous and sybaritic lifestyle’, which had been kept secret from the large body of his followers, and financed by donations by students ‘who believe their offering is being used to further wisdom and compassion in the world.’

‘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 behaviour of a Buddhist teacher, please explain to us how it is.’

Copied to the Dalai Lama, and Sogyal’s most senior students, the letter quickly went viral, shaking the foundation of Rigpa to the core. For Sogyal Rinpoche himself it was the prelude to the most spectacular fall from grace.

From Tibet to Cambridge

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.

Sogyal Rinpoche pictured with Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax and Richard Gere in Switzerland, 1985 CREDIT: JOAN HALIFAX

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.

It was in Cambridge that he met Mary Finnigan, then a young Buddhist student, now an author and Sogyal’s fiercest critic, who has been assiduous in her chronicling of his alleged misdemeanours.

At that time there were only four Tibetan lamas living in Britain. ‘There was nobody teaching in London and there were no centres,’ Finnigan says. She arranged Sogyal’s first teachings, in the squat where she was living in London, and would remain his student until 1979.

Approaching the throne, Sogyal Rinpoche paused, then turned suddenly and punched the nun hard in the stomach.

Sogyal was an exotic presence; a Tibetan who could speak fluent English and seemed to know what he was talking about. His following rapidly grew, and with a £100,000 donation from a well-known English comedy actor he was able establish his first centre in London.

Assuming the honorific Rinpoche (it means ‘precious one’) Sogyal set himself up as a teacher in the Vajrayana
, or tantric, tradition - a deeply esoteric aspect of Tibetan Buddhism, through which, it is believed, a student can unshackle the chains of ego and attain enlightenment in a single lifetime - ‘the helicopter to the top of the mountain’, as Sogyal has put it.

It involves the student giving total obedience to the lama in the belief that whatever the lama does, no matter how irrational or incomprehensible it may seem, is for the student’s benefit. Whatever doubts might arise in the mind of the student about these methods is due to ‘impure perception.’


Tibetan Buddhist lore is filled with stories of great masters - or mahasiddhas - bringing their pupils to enlightenment by methods that appear to verge on madness. One of the most famous involves the 9th century mahasiddha Naropa, whose teacher Tilopa subjected him to a series of ordeals including leaping from the top of a temple and breaking his bones, jumping into fire and freezing water, and giving his wife to Tilopa as an offering.

According to these stories every time Naropa was broken or near death, Tilopa would heal him with the wave of a hand, giving him an instruction that would bring Naropa’s mind to a more advanced level.

Fundamental to this relationship between master and disciple is the bond of samaya, or trust, in which the pupil not only vows total obedience to the guru, but the guru vows to act only for the benefit of the pupil. Breaking samaya is held to have the most grave consequences, including banishment to ‘vajra hell’ and an infinity of unfortunate rebirths.

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

‘Once you enter into the hermetic world of Tibetan Buddhism, you somehow burn your bridges to Western rationality,’ says Stephen Batchelor, an English Buddhist teacher and academic who was himself a Tibetan Buddhist monk for eight years. ‘You enter a world that appears to be entirely consistent internally; everything makes sense; the structures of power seem to be in the service of these high ideals of enlightenment, and the relationship with the guru is the key element in your capacity to follow this path in the most effective way.’

But the Vajrayana is recognised as a particularly hazardous path, particularly to Western students without the deep grounding in Tibetan culture.

In characteristically light-hearted style, the Dalai Lama has spoken of his own caution in discussing the Vajrayana path. ‘I have to be careful what I say in teaching, as there are some seekers who might take the Naropa story literally and jump off a cliff, thinking the guru was hinting about it. Not only do I not have the ability to heal the broken body with a wave of my hand, but here in Dharamsala we don’t even have a proper ambulance service!’

The Dalai Lama has cautioned putative students that a good test of a teacher who is beyond attachments and the temptations of self-gratification is whether they can eat a piece of excrement with the same equanimity as a piece of food. Asked which Tibetan teachers were of a sufficiently high level of self-realisation to do this, he replied ‘Zero.’

In… Christianity and Buddhism terror and nausea are a prelude to bursts of burning spiritual activity… ecstasy begins where horror is sloughed off. A sense of union with the irresistible powers that bear all things before them is frequently more acute in those religions where the pangs of terror and nausea are felt most deeply. [28]

“St Catherine of Sienna, when she felt revulsion from the wounds she was tending, is said to have bitterly reproached herself. Sound hygiene was incompatible with charity, so she deliberately drank a bowl of pus.” [29] The self-proscribed magical ordeals that were Crowley’s focus in the summer of 1920 were motivated by a similar impulse, and were designed to have a similar effect. Bataille notes that “the underlying affinity between sanctity and transgression has never ceased to be felt. Even in the eyes of believers, the libertine is nearer to the saint than the man without desire.” As flagellation, starvation and the dark night of the soul are the mystic’s prelude to the experience of God, so Crowley’s experiences at Cefalù, including the proliferous sickness, his coprophagy, the affair with the goat, his daughter’s death, and the extreme financial trouble he found himself in, were the prelude to his attaining the grade Ipsissimus (the highest possible Grade in the Great White Brotherhood of Light) and experiencing Samadhi. [30] There is a relationship between the lowest physical degradation and the highest spiritual attainment. The horror must be experienced that one may rise above it; indeed the horrific and nauseating are the most potent ways of accessing the divine. Crowley himself saw the process as parallel to psychoanalysis. In the tourist brochure he produced for the Abbey at Cefalù, Crowley wrote the following description for La Chambre des Cauchemars, the very room in which he performed his night of coprophagy, and many of the other sex magical acts in which he engaged in the summer of 1920.

Those who have come successfully through the trial say that they have become immunized from all possible infection by those ideas of evil which interfere between the soul and its divine Self… they have attained permanent mastery of their minds. The process is similar to that of “Psycho-analysis”; it releases the subject from fear of reality and the phantasms and neuroses thereby caused... [31]

The experiments in the chamber were thus an attempt to free his soul of all the last vestiges of fears and inhibitions – the ones he had “sunk so deep,” for he believed that only through this process could one actualize the divine self.

For Crowley, the excesses and abysses into which he plunged himself served in particular one key process; the mastery of mind over matter. Crowley wished to free himself from natural physiological reactions to physical matter, to prove that his will was stronger than his animal self. Crowley, the paradigmatic figure of libertine excess, was in fact pursuing the ascetic ideal. “Thou strives ever; even in thy yielding thou strives to yield and lo! Thou yieldest not. Go thou unto the outermost places and subdue all things, subdue thy fear and thy disgust. Then – yield!” [32] Crowley felt himself flawed by the sense of sin and disgust, so did all he could to evoke these feelings that he might overcome them. He thus describes how playing Leah’s lesbian slave “revolted even my own body, and made me free forever of my preference for matter, made me Pure Spirit.” [33] The summer’s magical ordeals were Crowley’s experiments with different ways of bringing to the surface that which had been repressed, laying bare the most insidious of his negative emotions, the deepest of his hidden weaknesses. They also represented his attempts to cross the line of the animal, and prove his will stronger than his own physicality; to uncover the places where instinct and physiology were still stronger than his theology, faith or will. Although Crowley is popularly portrayed as the poster-boy of physical excess, his description of the coprophagic act does not suggest a celebration of the physical world but a refusal to acknowledge its power and further shows a resentment of humanity as a physiological existence. Crowley understood that the thin air at high altitudes imposed physical restrictions upon the mountaineer; however he refused to accept that coprophagy similarly imposes physiological conditions upon the body. Although disgust at feces is a learnt (or rather taught) reaction, it is not an arbitrary one, and when one does force oneself to break this taboo there will be physiological consequences.

Crowley believed that it was his doubt and his spiritual failure that caused the coprophagic act, about which he had fantasized so lengthily and waxed so eloquently, to remain so horrific. He refused to recognize the naturalness – and practical necessity – of the physiological reaction to coprophagy. He conceived of the coprophagic act as a sacrament; thus the consuming of feces would be an outward sign of his elevated inward grace. In his Magical Record of the Beast, in an entry for 5 July 1920, Crowley declares “In my Mass the Host is of excrement, that I can consume in awe and adoration.” [34] It would be easy to declare such statements simply the ultimate form of sacrilege, but Crowley’s concept of the excremental host has far more significance than this. It is not, in fact, a matter of taboo or sacrilege, but the taking to its logical end The Gnostic Mass’s claim that ‘There is no part of me that is not of the gods.’ The Eucharistic host is the body of god; excrement may bear this title as much as any other physical thing.Thus we can understand Crowley’s frustration when his non-divinity was proven; he was unable to understand why that which appeared to be ambrosia to Leah’s tongue burnt and ulcered his. It could only be through the failure of his will.

-- Aleister Crowley and Coprophagy: The Limits of Transgression, by Georgia van Raalte

A guru who drank like a fish

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.”’

Tibetan lama, Chogyam Trungpa, who was regarded as the most extreme exemplar of ‘crazy wisdom’ teachings CREDIT: REXFEATURES

Like Trungpa, he adopted an unorthodox, often jokey, teaching style, but he was a compelling orator, with an ability to hold an audience in the palm of his hand and convey the Buddhist teachings in a clear and understandable way. ‘There are three kinds of people who show up for spiritual practice or information,’ Gary Goldman says.

‘You get the intellectuals who are curious and want to learn something about it; you get the people who are actively seeking truth, and looking to figure out what life and the world is about; and then you get the people who are totally psychologically f-d up; they’ve been abused; terrible things have happened to them. Sogyal was able to satisfy all three groups, very well and very compassionately.’

The book that made Sogyal a celebrity

In 1992 he published The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, a book that presented traditional Tibetan teachings on a happy life and good death for a Western audience. Clinicians, hospice workers and psychologists applauded it for the comfort it brought to the terminally ill. John Cleese, an early supporter, described it as ‘one of the most helpful books I have ever read.’

It was a runaway success. But quite how much Sogyal himself had to do with it is debatable; according to those close to the project, most of the work was done by ghost-writers - Sogyal’s closest student, and now his right-hand man, Patrick Gaffney, and the author Andrew Harvey.

What used to be called simply, "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" is now a trumpet being blown by a Narcissist: "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: A New Spiritual Classic from One of the Foremost Interpreters of Tibetan Buddhism to the West," by Patrick Gaffney (Editor), Andrew Harvey (Editor), Sogyal Rinpoche (Author)

Oh puleeeez, what hogwash! It should be called, "The Tibetan Art of Lies and Lying."

As far as I know from "Jane Doe" and others who contacted me in 1993, and 1994, Andrew Harvey wrote most of the book and Sogyal put his name on it. Andrew is an ex-cult devotee of Sogyal's who opted OUT.

-- Letter to Tiger Lily by AmLearning [Victoria Barlow], January 13, 2004

The book made Sogyal a celebrity. He appeared in Bernardo Bertolucci’s film Little Buddha, and he travelled the world, establishing new centres. The combination of Sogyal’s charisma - a purveyor of ancient wisdom in touch with the modern world - and the mystique of Tibetan Buddhism proved a potent lure for new followers. Those signing up for his courses had little idea that, as one former follower puts it, Sogyal was ‘using meditation as a gateway drug into a cult of personality.’

But the first storm clouds were already gathering. Sogyal is not a monk, and there is theoretically no prohibition on him marrying or having sexual relations. But his sexual conduct was becoming a cause of increasing controversy in Buddhist circles - not least his surrounding himself with an effective harem of young women, whom Sogyal described as his ‘dakinis’ - a Tibetan term meaning spiritual muse.

In 1994, an American student using the legal pseudonym Janice Doe brought a suit against Sogyal, alleging that using the justification of his spiritual status he had sexually and physically abused her, turning her against her husband and family.

By sleeping with the teacher you get a closeness to him which everyone is hankering after

This, the charge alleged, was merely one example of a pattern of abuse against a number of women. The Telegraph Magazine published a cover story on the case in which two English women spoke about their own sexual encounters with Sogyal.

‘You’re chosen, which makes you feel special,’ said one woman. ‘Because he was my spiritual teacher I trusted that whatever he asked was in my best interests… You want to progress on the spiritual path, and by sleeping with the teacher you get a closeness to him which everyone is hankering after. I saw it as part of the teachings on the illusory nature of experience and emotions. But in fact it caused me a lot of pain that I wasn’t able to dissolve.’

Another spoke of her distress at discovering, shortly after he initiated a relationship with her, that Sogyal was also having sex with three other students. Sogyal, she said, had ‘used the teachings to attempt to keep me in a sexual relationship with him - one that I did not want to be in.’

Physical abuse and verbal humiliation

The Janice Doe case was settled quietly out of court. And in an age before the internet, most readers of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying remained happily oblivious to any hint of scandal. Rather, the book was to prove a powerful medium in bringing him new followers.

Among them was a young Australian woman, who would later become a Buddhist nun, taking the name Drolma.

Drolma first read Sogyal’s book as a 21-year-old. ‘I thought that’s all very nice, but I don’t need this, and put it back on my bookshelf.’ Two years later, with her life ‘falling apart’ following an abortion and the break-up of a difficult relationship, she attended a retreat where Sogyal was teaching in New South Wales..

‘My life was at a point where I had no understanding of the suffering I was going through, and this provided some answers, and some practical steps, like meditation.’

The Lerab Ling temple in Roqueredonde, Hérault, in southern France CREDIT: PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

She became more involved in Rigpa, travelling to Lerab Ling for retreats and facilitating study groups. In 2002 she turned her back on a flourishing career as an artist to become a nun. ‘There was this aspect of devotion for the teacher that I felt very strongly. I felt it as the fire of the love of God. And I chose Buddhism because I felt I’d met an authentic example, someone I could follow.’

Even before taking monastic vows, she had witnessed an example of Sogyal’s ‘crazy wisdom’ when he publicly humiliated a male attendant during a teaching session. ‘He’d forgotten to put a full stop on the travel plans or something; Sogyal got him to kneel at the foot of the podium and then run backwards and forwards across the tent. And he did it with his tail between his legs. I felt terribly uncomfortable but I also thought he was very fortunate to have such close attention from the teacher.’

Sogyal made Drolma his personal assistant, handling his schedule. She would later become responsible for caring for his mother and aunt, Khandro, when they came to live at Lerab Ling. Her duties entailed maintaining a careful rapprochement with the inner-circle of Sogyal’s dakinis.

‘Their lives were incredibly pressurised,’ she says, ‘There was lots of jealousy, lots of secrets. If one of them was unhappy or in a mood, then all of us would feel the repercussions, so we also had to do our best to keep them supported.’

Sogyal Rinpoche and Lama Yonten conduct a ceremony at the opening of the Sukhavati Spiritual Care Center in Bad Saarow, Germany, May 2016 CREDIT: ALAMY

The first time Sogyal hit her hard on the head with the backscratcher that he carries everywhere, Drolma says, she accepted it as part of his ‘wrathful’ training. ‘I thought, wow, he really trusts me...’

It was the beginning of years of physical abuse and verbal humiliation. ‘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.’ On one occasion he pulled her by the ear so violently hard that it drew blood.

The first time he punched her in the stomach was in the ante-room of the temple at Lerab Ling, where Drolma was preparing his ritual objects prior to an important ceremony for a visiting lama and his retinue of monks.

Like Trungpa, he adopted an unorthodox, often jokey, teaching style, but he was a compelling orator, with an ability to hold an audience in the palm of his hand and convey the Buddhist teachings in a clear and understandable way

‘He got out of the car, furious for some reason, slammed the door and just punched me. Then he got dressed in his robes and we went in. I was walking behind him in tears, feeling completely humiliated, with these Tibetan monks there, thinking “Flakey Western nun…”’

Such 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. ‘People would say “please train me, Rinpoche.”’

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.

‘One goes back to one’s room at the end of a day of it, thinking what the hell was that about, but still hanging on to the trust that this is part and parcel of the purification of negative karma,’ said one man, who was a student for 20 years.

The thought of reporting Sogyal to the police, he said, never crossed his mind. ‘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 eight-signatory letter further alleges that on at least one occasion, Sogyal had offered one of his female attendants to another lama for sex.

For a woman to be chosen by Sogyal as a sexual partner was regarded as ‘an honour,’ Drolma says. ‘It meant they had dakini qualities, and you’re said to be prolonging the life of the master.’

Travel, excess spending and 'a modest life'

The offerings expected from followers maintained Sogyal in a lifestyle of profligate extravagance. At Lerab Ling, he lived in a chalet, decorated with cedar wood panels, which overlooked his own heated swimming pool. There was a giant television on which he enjoyed watching his favourite American action movies. In the ‘lama kitchen’ attendants were available day and night to provide his favourite dishes at a moment’s notice.

Attendants and his inner circle were worked to a point of physical exhaustion serving him. In the months that Sogyal was at Lerab Ling, or whenever she travelled with him, Drolma worked 14 hour days, six days a week. ‘It was always about survival and addressing his most immediate needs for fear of the repercussions if you didn’t.’

On foreign trips, he travelled first class, his retinue with him. Oane Bijlsma, a Dutch woman who joined Rigpa in 2011 going on to become one of Sogyal’s attendants, describes how for an Easter teaching in Britain in 2012, Rigpa took over Haileybury, the public school in Hertfordshire. Sogyal was installed in the music teacher’s house.

The Dalai Lama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy with Sogyal Rinpoche, at the inauguration of Lerab Ling temple, 2008 CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

On his instruction, his students carefully photographed each room, then moved every stick of furniture into storage, replacing it with furnishings more suited to Sogyal’s tastes, including a large flat-screen tv with satellite connection. At the end of the six day teaching, the rooms were restored to their original state. Oane, who was in charge of provisions, was instructed to visit local butchers, taking photographs of the best joints of meat, which she had to submit for Sogyal’s approval, before buying them.

‘I was shopping for groceries with hundreds of pounds in my pocket in cash. I was buying ridiculous amounts of the best meats I could get. And the wine and the roses and the chocolates... And then people in the inner-circle would be on stage at the teachings talking about Sogyal living a modest life, and keeping nothing for himself. It was totally obscene.’

'In Tibet a lama would have been under much more control,’ one former follower told me. ‘The system would have curbed his excesses. But Sogyal has been surrounded by Western followers who believe that everything he says and does is perfect. It’s a disaster for him, and a disaster for everybody else. He completely lost touch with reality.’

Reaching saturation point

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.’

MKUltra used numerous methods to manipulate people's mental states and alter brain functions, including the surreptitious administration of drugs (especially LSD) and other chemicals, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation and verbal abuse, as well as other forms of psychological torture....

Another MKUltra effort, Subproject 54, was the Navy's top secret "Perfect Concussion" program, which was supposed to use sub-aural frequency blasts to erase memory....

Physical methods of producing shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use....

-- MKUltra, by Wikipedia

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.

Meanwhile Dr Lawrence had been given highly unusual instructions by Gabriel to attend all of the appointments of community members whenever they were able to see any doctors outside the community. While this would give him a needed education regarding these various medical practices, he would also know exactly what was going on with each patient/community member, which would be reported, like everything else, to Gabriel Niann, and the community psychologist, giving them a considerable advantage over the individual, and greatly contributing to their ability to be in control. I was always disturbed by the fact that there was never a "doctor-patient confidentiality agreement", since all medical records are shared by Lawrence and Cunningham, (the psychologist), with Gabriel and Niann. (It reminds me of the required detailed 'confessions', sometimes requested in writing a comprised list of all the negative things that the member thinks they may have done, not only in this life, but how they may have offended Gabriel, or others, in past ones. This compounded information places the subject-member in a compromising and susceptible situation, and gives those who have placed themselves in a position over them further control. Blackmail, would not be an inappropriate definition.)

-- Follow-Up Article Re Question 10, by John Thurstin
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Re: Randy Sogyal Rinpoche, Best-Selling Lecher

Postby admin » Wed Dec 20, 2017 8:32 am

Part 2 of 2

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

-- Drolma

At around the same time, Drolma appeared in a German film about Sogyal, Ancient Wisdom For the Modern World, discussing her relationship with him. ‘Sometimes he’ll be like my father, like my mother, like my boss, like my friend - like my enemy, because he pushes my buttons,’ she said. ‘But I know always his heart and his motivation is so pure.

'He’s always showing me who I am and who I’m not. The buttons he presses are not who I truly am. The buttons he presses are what needs to be removed. Sometimes there’s a joy when they’re pressed, because it’s showing what needs to be peeled away. Whenever there’s any pain that’s not the real me hurting; that’s the ego that Rinpoche is trying to eradicate.’

Senior instructors congratulated her on her appearance. But her doubts were hardening. ‘I’d reached saturation point.’ She confided her feelings to a visiting Spanish nun. ‘I’d always been trained to keep everything secret from anyone outside; but I ended up telling her everything. She said, “that’s straight out abuse. You’ve got to leave.”’

Dechen borrowed her mother's white minivan the next morning and drove to the town house in Darnestown where the Monk was living with five other monks. She parked on the street and went inside. "I'm going to see Khenpo," she told the Monk, "and I think you should come, too."

On the drive together there were long periods of silence. When directly confronted on the phone, Dechen had told Alana about the affair. And when Dechen insisted that she had not "broken her vows"--meaning her root vows--Alana had accused her of obnoxious hairsplitting. "You were together alone on a bed in a hotel, and you say you didn't break your vows?" There were several rounds of this until Alana simply said, "I can't talk to you anymore," and hung up. Dechen then called the Monk and told him what happened.

"You told Alana?" he said, in horror.

But later that night Alana called again to say that a meeting with Khenpo Tsewang Gyatso had been scheduled for noon the following day and that Jetsunma would see her in the evening. Nobody had suggested that Dechen bring the Monk along. That was her idea.

The drive to the temple seemed very long, and dreadful. Now she saw that it was a mistake not to have confessed. This was the worst possible outcome -- to be found out by Alana and dragged before Khenpo, the venerable Tibetan scholar. She had memories of India, of having gone before the very same man once before with news like this. The irony staggered her.

Dechen and the Monk walked inside the temple together and found Khenpo upstairs, in a suite of rooms he always used when visiting. He ushered them inside and sat down on a purple sofa in his bedroom. Khenpo was a short man with a small mustache and a perfectly round head. He was younger than most Tibetan scholars -- still in his fifties -- and while he seemed easygoing and simple, he was also known for having one of the best minds in the Nyingma school. There didn't seem to be an esoteric point that he couldn't elucidate or a question he didn't have an answer for. More than anyone, the Monk had been awestruck by Khenpo's intellect and wisdom, by his subtlety and clarity. The Monk had hoped to stay by Khenpo's side and keep working on translations with the scholar. As a teacher he was revered in both the United States and India, where he ran the monastery in Bylakuppe and the large university as well. For the last couple of years he'd been coming with greater frequency to Poolesville to give teachings and instruction. For a while now the Monk had suspected that Khenpo's trips to KPC were designed to keep Penor Rinpoche informed of the students' progress there, and--in light of some of the New Age overtones to Jetsunma's teachings--make sure that her students were also offered something more traditional.

Dechen sat at Khenpo's feet. The Monk sat farther behind, in a display of great humility and modesty. Khenpo seemed to want no further details--he'd already heard enough from either Jetsunma or Alana--and launched immediately into an angry diatribe. His face looked pained.

"How could you do this?" he said to the Monk. "You've been a monk for twelve years! . . . You may have some realization, but without moral discipline you have nothing."

"And you!" he said to Dechen. "You knew! You knew you needed to confess!" She looked back at the Monk. He said nothing.

Khenpo explained that it was true: their root vows had not been broken. They had broken a branch vow, which would now remain forever broken. But he was clearly appalled. "The hiding! The secrecy!" If they had come forward and confessed, the negative karma could have been purified. But because they didn't come forward and were found out after a confrontation, the vow would forever be broken, and forever unpurified.

Dechen listened very hard for instructions and advice from Khenpo during the twenty-minute meeting. "Do Vajrasattva practices," he finally said, but he didn't suggest an amount. They could try to purify the karma, but, basically, "Nothing can be done at this point."

Driving home, Dechen said, "I won't say I told you so."

"Good, " said the Monk. They said nothing else.

Dechen didn't mention the meeting she had scheduled that evening with Jetsunma. She assumed it would be one on one, and assumed she'd be reamed out. The Monk came from another school of Tibetan Buddhism, and it wasn't really Jetsunma's place to reprimand him. He had already pondered this himself. Technically, Khenpo was the only person in Poolesville--besides perhaps Alana-who should ever know what had happened between the Monk and Dechen. When vows were broken it was a private matter. If it became public it would be an insult to Khenpo, suggesting that his advice alone wasn't enough--and showing a lack of respect for his ability to handle the situation properly.

Still, the Monk had a bad feeling about this vow breakage. He had a feeling it wasn't going to remain a private matter. Jetsunma didn't seem to care about doing things in a traditional way. And Poolesville wasn't like the other Dharma centers; it didn't feel like the other Dharma centers. It was the kind of place where anything could happen.


After she dropped the Monk at the town house, Dechen began the drive back to her mother's. She felt small behind the wheel of the lumbering minivan, and the burgundy robes felt heavy on her skin, a demanding weight that engulfed her small body. She drove on Quince Orchard Road and began thinking about whether she should remain in Poolesville. But she worried. If she couldn't make it as a nun at Kunzang Palyul Choling, the largest concentration of Tibetan Buddhist nuns in America, where could she?

The sky was dark, the color of fresh wet concrete. It was about two o'clock on the afternoon of February 9, 1996. She made the left-hand turn onto Longdraft Road and never noticed the small beige car in the oncoming lane. It was going fifty miles per hour. When the two vehicles collided, the minivan was totaled. So was the other car -- its front end was flattened up to the windshield.

Dechen was dizzy when she squeezed out of the minivan, and she brushed the broken glass off her robes. She stepped over to the small beige car. "Are you okay? Are you okay?" she asked. The driver was a middle-aged blond woman in a business suit. She looked dazed. "I can't really feel my leg," the driver said. Dechen stood next to the car and worried--until other cars began to stop and their drivers told Dechen to get back into the minivan. Her face was covered in blood. When the paramedics came, they put her in a neck brace and carried her to the ambulance, where the driver of the other car was already stretched out. Together they were taken to Shady Grove Hospital in Gaithersburg. The driver of the car had a sprained leg and a bruise on her shoulder. Dechen had lacerations of the face and head from the broken windshield glass--she had forgotten to wear a seat belt--and after receiving fourteen stitches and being given Vicodin for pain, she was told that she was still in shock and needed to rest.

Sherab and Dawa arrived at the hospital--they'd driven by Quince Orchard Road and recognized the crushed white minivan as Ayla Meurer's. At first the two nuns assumed that Ayla had been in an accident, but once they realized that it was Dechen who'd been driving -- and that she was going to be okay -- both nuns turned critical. "How could you get in a car accident?" they asked her. It was more evidence of the negative karma that Dechen had been accumulating lately. They immediately called Alana from Dawa's cell phone. Dawa spoke with Alana for a moment, then handed the phone to Dechen.

Alana's voice was cold and stern. "Don't think that this means you can get out of tonight's meeting," she said quickly. "Jetsunma says you aren't hurt that badly."

By the time Ayla arrived at the hospital, her daughter was being released. As they drove, Dechen felt her shame and despair drifting into numbness. Scattered around her face and short, dark hair were shaved marks and cuts, and the thread of the stitches. " I already heard that you're fine," Ayla said, "so I can say that I'm really mad at you. How could you break your vows?"

Ayla handed Dechen a folded bundle of yellow robes -- the robes the ordained wore for ceremonial and special occasions. She'd been called by Alana and instructed to get her daughter out of the hospital, give her the yellow robes, and take her directly to Ani Estates. There was going to be a meeting. In the car with her mother, Dechen stared straight ahead at the road. A meeting. She felt nothing. She never got hysterical when unexpected things happened like this. Her reaction was always delayed. And, anyway, the last thing she was going to do was cry.

"You know," Ayla said as she dropped Dechen off, "you're in serious trouble."

It was about four-thirty when Dechen arrived at Ani Estates, the large, beige stucco-and-wood tract house on Spates Hill Road where five nuns--Dawa, Dara, Aileen, Alana, and Dorje--lived. Dechen walked into the house alone and saw that activity had already begun. Several nuns were in the kitchen washing large offering bowls. Atara was standing in the middle of the living room, repeating Jetsunma's instructions. "Jetsunma says there should be chairs lined up in here, like this," she was saying. "And Jetsunma says there should be an offering out for the ordained" -- so pretzels and chips and other refreshments were to be set out. The table in the dining room was to be removed, "and under here," where the dining room table was, "Jetsunma says there should be two chairs."

Dechen had been inside the house many times, for all kinds of reasons. She'd come frequently to borrow movies there from Aileen's video library. She'd exercised on the Health Rider. She'd helped with some Tibetan translations there. She'd even lived there for a week once, when she had no other place to live--and she had cleaned the house to make money. When Jetsunma and Sangye got together, their Consort Engagement Party had been there. And over the summer Dechen had attended the meeting of the ordained at Ani Estates where everyone was asked to sign a paper relieving the temple of any responsibility for taking care of them. But never had Dechen--one of the mousiest of the nuns -- been the center of any attention like this. She sat on the floor in the corner and watched the preparations. She watched Atara stage- direct and everybody follow her orders. She noticed that the vertical blinds were drawn.

The house grew darker as night fell. As the monks and nuns began to trickle in, it was clear most of them had very little idea of why they had been called to Ani Estates. The meeting was mandatory for all ordained. Only Sangye Dorje--later admitting that he had a sense of what might transpire--quickly volunteered to take the prayer shift and remain at the temple. As the rest of the nuns and monks arrived, they saw a table of food and began picking at the snacks. Dechen had moved to a spot on the carpeted stairs that overlooked the room and tried to keep her head down. She was feeling a bit woozy. She kept touching the stitches on the top of her head, and it was weird that they didn't hurt. One cut on the left side of her face kept tickling her. She overheard whispers among the monks--they were always the most clueless. "What's going on? Do you know?"

The Monk was among the last to arrive. He came with Konchog and was told to sit away from Dechen until the meeting began and not to speak with her. He sat on the floor in the front hallway and furtively looked up to the stairs, trying to catch Dechen's eye. She only looked away.

Then Atara led them to the dining room and told them to sit on the chairs under the lights. Dechen found herself looking around the room, and at the monks and nuns in the chairs lined up facing her. One by one she looked at their faces. She had known many of them a decade, since she was seventeen. She had sat beside them, prayed beside them, learned to prostrate beside them, been ordained beside them. It felt like they'd been through the wars together. They'd followed the voice of Jeremiah, made the move to Poolesville, enthroned their lama, watched Michael's leaving, built the stupa garden, and seen Jetsunma marry Karl. They'd done all-night prayer rounders together, floated through the exquisitely beautiful White Tara retreat and the amazing Rinchen Ter Dzod, and sat together through last summer's Nam Chu empowerments. They'd kept a twenty-four-hour prayer vigil going, without a break, since it started in the dark basement of the little brick house in Kensington ten years before.

Here was the largest collection of Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns in America. They were kind people, good people. Dechen admired so many of them, for wanting to dedicate their lives to something good, for building such a beautiful Dharma center. For trying to live by their ideals.

A broken vow wasn't a small matter. The results would be profound and long-lasting. The bad karma would spill inevitably into the path of everyone in Poolesville and create obstacles. It would cause ripples that would produce more suffering. Dechen and the Monk had not just betrayed themselves and their own Buddha nature but defied the guru and hurt the entire sangha. Why hadn't Dechen been able to see that all along? Why hadn't she come forward months ago?

Most of the lights in the house were dimmed. And the lights in the living room were shut off. Only the lights over Dechen and the Monk were kept brightly lit. Alana was wearing burgundy robes and stood in the dining room before her fellow ordained.

"There has been a vow breakage," she said.

The room became utterly quiet. "Nobody is ever to speak of what happens here tonight. And remember, everything you see is compassionate activity." Alana looked squarely at the Monk. "You are not to speak--either of you--or defend yourselves in any way."

Some headlights flashed behind the windowpane in the front door. Dechen saw that Jetsunma had arrived. The front door flew open, and the room of ordained rose to their feet. Jetsunma quickly pulled off her black overcoat in the foyer and tossed it to Atara. Underneath she was dressed entirely in black, too-black wool and black leather.

"You fool!" she shouted at the Monk, as she ran toward him, then struck him hard on the head with her open hand. The Monk lost his footing and staggered momentarily. When his balance was regained, he realized that his wire-rimmed glasses had been knocked to the floor and he couldn't see.

Jetsunma studied him briefly. With his glasses off the Monk looked like a mole-soft and blind. "Sit down!" she yelled. The Monk and Dechen began to drop onto the seats of their chairs, and Jetsunma yelled again. "No! Sit on the floor! You don't deserve to sit on the same level as these other ordained!"

Dechen sat on her knees. The Monk sat cross-legged on the ground, with the large lights swinging overhead. "I brought you into our hearts!" Jetsunma yelled at him, then bent down to punch the Monk again hard on the side of the face. "We took you into our homes! And this is how you repay our kindness? I should throw you through that sliding glass door but you don't have the merit."

The ordained were quiet, barely moving in their chairs. Dechen looked out into the living room; in the shadows she could see the outlines of a few nuns who were holding their stomachs. One monk had his hand over his mouth.

"This is a stain on all of us--and has harmed all ordained forever." Jetsunma yelled, continuing to punctuate her comments with blows to the Monk's head. "This has shortened my life, the lives of our sangha, and made it harder for all future ordained to keep their vows. And it's shortened their lives as well. They worked so hard to keep their vows purely, and now you've made it so hard!"

Dechen looked up again and heard Tashi sobbing.

Jetsunma turned to face the little nun. Dechen stared up at her. "And you!" she yelled. She struck Dechen across the side of her head with the heel of her hand, not far from a few stitches. "I've taken you into my heart! I've done everything I could for you!" She slapped her again on the forehead." There are words for women like you, but I won't use them!" she yelled. "It disgusts me to see you in those robes. It disgusts me to see your face!"

Dechen looked up into Jetsunma's face and never broke her gaze. Jetsunma had a look that Dechen never remembered seeing before. She was almost. . . smiling. But it wasn't a smirk as much as a leer. "What you said happened to you in India before, what you told me," Jetsunma shouted, "that isn't what really happened, is it? You lied to me." She backhanded Dechen again.

Jetsunma began listing instructions for Dechen to follow. The young nun felt herself focusing on all of Jetsunma 's words, all her advice and instructions, hoping to remember every moment. Dechen was never to look at or speak to the Monk again. She was to put her yellow robes on her altar and prostrate to them every day. She needed to get a job and payoff all of her debts. She had to stop "leaning on" the other ordained. She needed to do one hundred thousand Vajrasattva practices, but Jetsunma wasn't sure that was enough. As a punishment, she and the Monk were going to clean the temple every day--the bathrooms, the floors, the kitchen. And every moment that Dechen wasn't either cleaning or working to pay off her debts, she was to be practicing. As for reading or TV or any other "enjoyments," there were to be no more than four hours per week. She talked about how little remorse Dechen had. "You have never done a single thing that I have ever told you to do," Jetsunma yelled angrily, "so I have no confidence that you'll do it now."

Dechen followed her lama's eyes. She soaked up her lama's words. These were blessings, she told herself. Each word was a great blessing. Each slap and slug, a great, great blessing. Dechen tried to be as submissive as she could be and tried to find a posture of accepting all the blessings as they came her way. This wrathful display--as it was called--would only help to purify any negative karma that had been created by her contact with the Monk.

The Monk had been very still, but he turned slightly to see if Dechen was okay. She was cowering. She was humiliating herself: He wanted to yell at her, "Get up! Get up!"

Jetsunma turned to him again. "You may keep your robes but not wear them," she said, "and if you were in better health, I'd make you clean every toilet at the temple eighteen times a day with a toothbrush." She pointed to the crowd in the chairs. "Their toilets!"

Dechen was to clean toilets, too, she said. "I can't tell you not to come to teachings, but if you do, sit behind an umbrella or something. I don't want to see your face. . . . And I've talked to Khenpo Tsewang Gyatso about this--you may not keep your robes!"

At this Jetsunma walked out.
The room remained perfectly still. Alana returned to center stage. She announced that Jetsunma wanted the ordained to tell Dechen and the Monk how this evening had made them feel--sharing their anger and outrage would help Dechen and the Monk "with their remorse."

Ani Rene spoke first and addressed her comments to the Monk, with whom she had studied. "Driving in the car with you one time," she said, "you criticized some lamas and poisoned my mind with gossip!" she said, shaking with rage. "I felt sick for an hour, and I could have just ripped you apart. " Tashi was so overcome with emotion that he could barely get the words out. He was horrified by what had happened, particularly by the fact that Jetsunma's life would now be shortened. Then came Konchog, the young monk who did press relations for the temple and who was a scholar. He also addressed his remarks to his friend, his housemate, his fellow monk. "I had so much faith in you, " he said, fighting back tears. "You kept your vows for so long. And you talked about how the Dharma texts were more important than Jetsunma, and you almost turned my mind away from my teacher."

The nuns of Ani Farms each spoke to Dechen. Palchen said that Dechen needed to face her total irresponsibility and lack of thought for anyone but herself. Alexandra mentioned Dechen's thoughtlessness. She had never contemplated how her breakages would affect anybody but herself. Sherab was the angriest. "You're always rebellious, and everything has to be Dechen's way!" she yelled. Another nun talked about how she'd helped Dechen out when she broke her vows last time, how supportive she'd felt. This was different. "Countless sentient beings," she said, "will be hurt because of this."

But most of the comments were directed at the Monk, and they continued for forty-five minutes after Jetsunma's departure. In the following ten days there were two more meetings--where Dechen and the Monk were required to confess the details of their affair to the entire ordained sangha. At one point, as Dechen tried to give an account of exactly what had transpired between them sexually, the Monk began shouting; "Shut up! Shut up! It's none of their fucking business!" And it was this attitude, his indignation and pride, which seemed to fuel the anger of his peers. One by one in all three meetings, the ordained told the Monk how they really felt about him, how egotistical he was, how deluded, how he lorded his knowledge of Tibetan and all his studies and retreats and expertise in Tibetan Buddhism over everybody and made them feel bad, how he'd tried, with all his talk of tradition and other teachers and other Dharma centers, to turn them against their lama. He had taken many empowerments, but he'd somehow missed the boat.

The Monk didn't know these people well--he had been in Poolesville only eight months--and it shocked him that they would have such intense hatred for him. It also surprised him that Jetsunma should feel so strongly--to scream at him, and slug him, to threaten to throw him through the sliding glass door. He had refused to give her instruction in some high teachings, and he'd ignored what he felt had been her romantic advances: was that the explanation for her rage? But what had he done to the rest of these people to make them so angry? The attacks on his character were personal, and brutal. This is like something out of the Spanish Inquisition, he was thinking. He knew what Jetsunma would say, of course, that to strike a student was to give him a great blessing. There was a long tradition of teachers hitting students in Tibetan Buddhism. He had heard that in Tibet students were sometimes beaten unconscious with logs and clubs. Penor Rinpoche himself, the legend went, had cured one of his students of cancer by beating him to a bloody pulp--then collapsed outside on the grass and sobbed. But hitting a student in this country, wasn't that a great risk? Was this monastery life in Tibetan Buddhist America?

-- The Buddha From Brooklyn: The Great Blessing, by Martha Sherrill


In 2010 she travelled to Taiwan with three other nuns from Lerab Ling for monastic training. She returned to France, but not to Lerab Ling, hiding out in Paris, ignoring Sogyal’s telephone calls, ‘ranging from “Dear Drolma, I love you, we can talk about this”, to “where the f-k are you and you’re making me really angry, and you’d better come back otherwise you’re going to hell...”’

She fled to India, living in a nunnery, before finally going home to Australia. In 2011, she summoned her nerve to go back to Lerab Ling, for the cremation of Sogyal’s aunt, Khandro. ‘It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,’ she says. ‘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.’

Secrecy, denial and further allegations

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.

‘It’s like an incestuous family, where you keep the secret in the family,’ one woman who claims she was sexually abused by Sogyal told me. But, inevitably, allegations of impropriety began to leak out on the internet.

In 2011 Mary Finnigan, the English author and former student, published a document Behind The Thankas, charting Sogyal’s history of alleged sexual abuse, and claiming that there was a sub-sect within Rigpa known as Lama Care, set up specifically to make sure that women were available for sex with him wherever he travelled, and that ‘dakinis’ had been pressurised against their will to take part in orgies.

Tibetan culture is such that it will never criticise another lama, especially one within your own group
-- Stephen Batchelor

In the same year, a Canadian documentary called In The Name of Enlightenment was broadcast with more allegations of sexual abuse by former devotees.'

-- In the Name of Enlightenment

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.

A response posted on the Lerab Ling website described her portrayal as ‘extremely prejudiced’ and ‘unrecognizable’, invoking the Tibetan teaching of training the mind in compassion, called lojong, with its core principle of ‘give all profit and gain to others. Take all loss and defeat upon yourself.’

In this context, the letter went on, Sogyal, following the example of ‘great saints of the past’ would never respond to such allegations.

Sogyal Rinpoche visits Paris CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Ignoring the scandal altogether, in November 2016, Patrick Gaffney instead wrote to members of Rigpa, explaining that another lama, and close friend of Sogyal’s, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, believing that the next few years represented ‘a critical period in [Sogyal’s] life’ had consulted ‘a unique clairvoyant master’ in Tibet for advice on what should be done to avert ‘any obstacles to Rinpoche’s life, health and work.’

The ‘clairvoyant lama’ had recommended a number of different ritual practices to remove these obstacles. The most important was for Sogyal’s followers to ‘repair any impairments of the samaya’ - their vow of trust between guru and student - by embarking on an intensive practice of reciting mantras. The goal, Gaffney wrote, was to accumulate 100 million 100 syllable mantras every year - a practice that would require 3,000 students chanting for 40 minutes a day.

‘If the practices he recommends are done,’ Gaffney went on, ‘then there is every chance that Rinpoche will live until at least the age of eighty-five.’

Some saw it as a subtle way of dampening the growing scandal, and coercing doubting students back in line. ‘It was shifting the responsibility for the consequences of Sogyal’s actions onto the students,’ one former student told me.
‘To turn your back on the guru is the worst thing you can do. No-one wants to go to Vajra hell.’

Sogyal's open response

In July, as the eight-signatory letter spread like wildfire, Sogyal wrote an open response to members of Rigpa. He had spent his whole life, he wrote, ‘trying my best’ to serve the Buddha’ teachings, ‘and not a day goes by when I am not thinking about the welfare of my students.’ But in light of the controversy, and following the advice from his own masters about the obstacles arising for his health and life in general, he now intended to enter into retreat ‘as soon as possible.’

He would also, he went on, ‘pray and practice for healing and understanding to prevail, and in the spirit of the great...masters of the past, take the suffering upon myself and give happiness and love to others.’

Through all the years of rumours and revelations about Sogyal’s behaviour, one group maintained a conspicuous silence. His fellow Tibetan lamas. 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.’

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy And The Dalai Lama Inaugurate The Lerab Ling Temple On August 22, 2008 CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

The Dalai Lama has frequently condemned unethical behaviour among Buddhist teachers, and urged students to speak out against it - ‘through the newspaper, through the radio. Make public’ - while never specifically commenting on Sogyal by name. But last month, speaking in Ladakh, he talked of the need to reform the ‘influence of the feudal system’ in Tibetan institutions. Followers, he said, ‘must not say, “this is my guru, whatever my guru says I must follow.” That’s totally wrong.’ If a teacher is behaving unethically there was a duty to make their behaviour public.

‘Now recently,’ he went on, ‘Sogyal Rinpoche, my very good friend, but he is disgraced....’

To the outsider it might have seemed a fleetingly incidental reference; to the Buddhist community it was tantamount to excommunication.

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!’

Everybody wants to be happy in life. So you join an organisation; you feel good, people are nice, you start to participate more; you invest a lot of time, perhaps a lot of money

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. Instead, they referred The Telegraph to the press release announcing Sogyal’s retirement as spiritual director.

Having sought ‘professional and spiritual advice’, that statement went on, 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.

Rigpa declined to specify what form this independent investigation will take, and also whom the ‘spiritual advisory group’ is likely to be comprised of, saying only that ‘independent professionals will be engaged to lead the internal investigation and this will probably commence mid-autumn.’

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.’

Quite how he could that now do that is open to question. 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.

Recognising 'this is abuse'

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.’

‘It’s like the Buddha said,’ Gary Goldman says, ‘everybody wants to be happy in life. So you join an organisation; you feel good, people are nice, you start to participate more; you invest a lot of time, perhaps a lot of money. At some point it becomes interwoven into your psyche. It’s a part of who you are. And to give that up is incredibly difficult and painful. I saw [Sogyal] as a friend, and on some level I still admire him as an accomplished teacher; but he’s lost his way, and it’s very sad.

‘Right now, I’m very unhappy. There’s a hole in my heart. But a lot of people just can’t give it up; they’re tied to him; they’d be giving up an authority figure, probably a father figure; psychologically, it would be a huge loss.’

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy with Sogyal at the opening of the Lerab Ling Temple On August 22, 2008 CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

In July, as the furore over the damning letter from the eight students gathered pace, stories circulated on Buddhist sites of the incident in 2016 when the nun, Ane Chokyi, was punched in the stomach. In response, Ani Chokyi posted a reply on a closed Facebook page, saying that Sogyal’s teachings at the retreat had been ‘loving beyond any ordinary description,’ and the punch to the stomach was ‘taken out of a greater context.

‘I have agreed to the skillful means of my master to purify and transform my delusions into clarity and uproot my attachments,’ she wrote. ‘Sometimes these means can be wrathful and not always a pleasant experience, but that is what I need to be able to see through all the layers of ignorance that keep me blinded and stuck.’ Sogyal, she went on, ‘was definitely not in a fit of rage, there was just a single moment of wrath, which manifested in a soft punch, but it was neither violent or abusive, at least not to my feelings.’

Drolma posted a reply. She could understand Ani Chokyi’s perspective completely, she wrote, because that was how she had once justified Sogyal’s behaviour to herself. ‘If the student getting this kind of “special training” has a history of abuse in other relationships in their life (as seems to be the case of many of us, including myself), then it is so much more natural, even comforting to receive wrathful attention from someone who is also telling us they love us deeply.’

But then, she wrote, ‘just like the flick of a switch, I recognised that “this is abuse”. And with that, I started to reflect on all the ways in which I had allowed it to happen. It was like in The Wizard of Oz, when the curtain is finally pulled back and you realise there is no “all-mighty Oz”, there is just a little man shouting into a microphone…’

A history of abuse allegations Sogyal Rinpoche


November 1994
A $10 million civil lawsuit was filed against Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa by an anonymous plaintiff, who was given the name “Janice Doe” to protect her identity. The complaint alleged infliction of emotional distress, breach of fiduciary duty, and assault and battery.

Mick Brown’s 1995 article in the Telegraph Magazine, called “The Precious One,” looked at the abuse allegations against Sogyal Rinpoche and shared anonymous allegations of sexual abuse from two additional women.

The Canadian company Cogent/Benger produced a television documentary with new allegations of abuse against Sogyal Rinopche called “In the Name of Enlightenment.” It aired on Vision TV in Canada.

Senior student, instructor, translator, and former director of Rigpa France, Olivier Raurich, left Rigpa in 2016. In an interview in the French magazine “Marianne,” Raurich spoke of secrecy in the Rigpa organization, manipulation of information, and rumors of sexual abuse. He said Sogyal Rinpoche’s dictatorial side and anger worsened after a 2011 exposé in “Marianne.” He also claimed that Sogyal Rinpoche brutally silences and ridicules people.

August 2016
Sogyal Rinpoche hit a nun in the stomach in front of 1,000 students during a teaching session at his retreat center, Lerab Ling. More than a year later, following abuse allegations made by eight long-time students, which mentioned the incident, she issued a statement describing what happened as a soft punch. She says it was not abuse because she had agreed to let her teacher work with her in this way, and that it helped her move through a blockage.

However, several students sitting within a few feet of the incident perceived it differently. They heard the wind knocked out of her, saw her immediately double over, and witnessed her running off the stage in tears. They felt deeply disturbed by the incident.

Some of them sent letters of complaint to Sogyal Rinpoche via his feedback system. He responded in the teaching the next day by saying anyone questioning his teaching methods was probably not ready to receive the Dzogchen teachings.

June 2017
The Dutch current affairs program “Brandpunt” featured the testimony of former Rigpa student, Oane Bijlsma, in a program called Abuse in the Buddhist Community: This Victim Tells Her Story for the First Time.

Bujlsma made claims of abuse of power and sexual intimidation by Sogyal Rinpoche. Although Oane was not abused herself, she experienced sexual harassment and she said she witnessed other women being abused, intimidated, and exploited.

July 2017
A 12-page letter signed by current and ex-members of Rigpa details abuse allegedly committed by Sogyal Rinpoche. It was sent to Sogyal Rinpoche, a small selection of his peers, and his closest students.
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Re: Randy Sogyal Rinpoche, Best-Selling Lecher

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The Precious One
by Mick Brown
Telegraph Magazine
February 2, 1995






When, in 1992, a Tibetan Buddhist lama named Sogyal Rinpoche launched his book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, in London, a celebratory party was held in a chic Kensington flat. The part was couture bohemian – thronged with the alternative intelligentsia, writers, teachers and doctors, drawn by the promise of the exotic and the wise held out by a venerated teacher speaking from a centuries-old tradition. As the lama offered a few well chosen words on the subject of compassionate living, the multitude of thirty- and fortysomethings dutifully sat cross-legged and cramped on the floor, limbs creaking and aching.

It was a small but portentous symbol of the discomforts that can arise when East meets West.

Few among the gathering, perhaps, would have predicted that the book, a contemporary interpretation of traditional Tibetan Buddhist ideas of dying, would go on to become an international bestseller. Yet three years on, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying has sold more than 250,000 copies around the world, 50,000 in Britain alone.

The book, to which the Dalai Lama wrote a foreword, struck a resonant chord in the growing Western debate about the nature of consciousness and our attitude to death.

It has been widely adopted by hospice organizations and doctors working with the dying, psychologists and philosophers have queued to commend it not simply for its insights into death, but as a complete blueprint for an ethical and compassionate life. John Cleese described it as ‘one of the most helpful books I have ever read,’ and, introducing a talk in London by the Rinpoche, hailed his own first appearance as ‘warm-up man for an incarnate lama.’

But while The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying has brought Sogyal Rinpoche international celebrity, the twinges of discomfort evident in that Kensington party have now blown up into controversy and scandal. Sogyal Rinpoche is presently on a meditative retreat, which is why he has so far been unable personally to respond to a lawsuit which has been laid in a Californian court, seeking $10 million damages on a sexual harassment charge.

The suit – which includes counts of fraud, assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress and breach of fiduciary duty – alleges that, using the justification of his spiritual status, the lama sexually and physically abused a female student, turning her against her husband and family. This, the charge alleges, was merely one example in a pattern of abuse against a number of women over the past 19 years.

It is hard to convey the gravity of the accusations. Sogyal Rinpoche is widely regarded as one of the most gifted and enlightened teachers of Tibetan Buddhism in the West and, since the publication of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, he is certainly one of the best known.

Rinpoche means ‘precious one.’ Sogyal is believed to be the incarnation of Terton Sogyal, a Tibetan lama who was the teacher of the 13th Dalai Lama (the present one is the 14th) and who died in 1926.

Now in his late 40s, Sogyal Rinpoche was brought up in a monastery in Tibet. He left for India in 1958, a year before the popular Tibetan uprising against Chinese occupation that led to the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile. He was educated by Jesuits at a Catholic School, then at university in Delhi, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied comparative religion, although he did not graduate.

He arrived in London in the late Seventies and began gathering a small group of students around him, and in 1981 the Rigpa Fellowship (Rigpa means “innermost nature of mind”) was founded to propagate his teachings. Rigpa now has several thousand followers, offices throughout Europe and North America, and teaching centres in Ireland, France and California. Sogyal Rinpoche – known as ‘the laughing lama’ because of his permanently cheery disposition – lectures around the world, and has even found fame as a film actor, appearing in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha.

Soygal Rinpoche in France, 1993, before charges of sexual harassment were filed.

Sogyal Rinpoche appearing in Bertolucci’s ‘Little Buddha.’

One of Sogyal’s predecessors, the eccentric Chogyam Trungpa, with his pupil, the beat poet Allen Ginsberg

The case against Sogyal is believed to be the first time that a Buddhist lama has ever faced public trial on sexual harassment charges. But it is merely one in a growing number of problems facing the lama’s organization. In Britain, the lawsuit has brought to a head growing concerns among some members of his organization about the lama’s sexual conduct, which have already resulted in a number of departures. In October 1992, a trustee resigned over Sogyal’s sexual conduct, after suggesting to him that he should seek help, and writing to the Dalai Lama on the matter. She subsequently gave detailed information, maintaining the anonymity of those who had confided in her, at a meeting with trustees and other members of the Rigpa community.

In America, the case has prompted a fierce debate, not only about the role of Tibetan teachers in the West, and the conflicts between an ancient spiritual tradition and contemporary standards of secular behavior, but also about the growing prevalence of sexual harassment cases in a society where people are increasingly encouraged to perceive themselves as victims of ‘abuse’ – whether by their parents, their teacher, their employees, or their religious leaders – and to seek redress in the newspapers or the courts.

On paper, the charge against Sogyal Rinpoche is a devastating one.

The accusation states that in June 1993, the woman, ‘Janice Doe’ (a pseudonym used in American court cases), in a state of bereavement following the death of her father, attended a retreat conducted by Sogyal in Connecticut. In a private meeting, Sogyal is alleged to have told ‘Doe’ that through devotion and his spiritual instruction she could ‘purify her family’s karma,’ and that she should realize that ‘he is Buddha and that all his actions are Buddha activity.’

The next evening, Sogyal invited the woman to his room where, allegedly, he seduced her. He later told her that her family had been healed ‘by his love and kindness’ and that this blessing ‘could only be maintained through her unswerving devotion to him.’

Over a period of six months, the charge alleges, the woman was subjected to ‘systematic indoctrination’ designed to separate her from ‘normal support systems,’ including her husband, family and friends, to make her completely dependent on Rinpoche and Rigpa for ‘all physical, mental and emotional needs.’ In that time, Sogyal allegedly ‘physically and mentally abused’ Doe, claiming that to be hit by a lama was ‘a blessing’ and requiring her to perform ‘degrading acts’ in order to ‘bring her closer to a state of enlightenment.’

Sogyal Rinpoche has made no comment on the allegations, although the Rigpa Fellowship says that ‘as far as we’re aware, they have no foundation.’ ‘The charge portrays Sogyal’s conduct in a light that is truly distorted,’ says Jack Friedman, the California attorney for Rigpa. ‘What we have here,’ he says, ‘is someone attempting to bring about changes in the way a religious organization conducts itself, and the religious practice itself, through the law courts.’

Among some Buddhists there is a feeling that there is more to the case than meets the eye; that Rinpoche is the victim of a campaign in which allegations of sexual impropriety and the weapon of political correctness are being used to discredit him. Furthermore, they suggest that the lawsuit is part of a concerted attack on Tibetan Buddhist teaching in a tangled internecine dispute about who has the authority in Buddhism in the West – the oriental teachers who have promulgated the teachings over the past 30 years, or their erstwhile Western pupils who have now become teachers themselves.

Accusations of the misuse of power, of sexual or financial scandal, have become a commonplace in virtually every religion. The temptations of what is known in American evangelical circles as the ‘Three Gs’ – ‘girls, gold and glory’ – have brought down religious figures as various as the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart and Catholic priests (for whom the problem is as often boys as girls).

Eastern religious teachers have been no more immune to temptation. The past three decades have been littered with accounts of self-styled gurus and swamis who have risen in a blaze of glory – and such in disgrace.

Until now, however, Buddhism has been untainted by any major public scandal.

Sogyal Rinpoche is a lama, but not a celibate monk. He is unmarried, and there are, theoretically, no constraints on his private behavior other than the third Buddhist precept not to engage in sexual misconduct.

The cornerstone of all Tibetan Buddhist practice is the relationship between an individual and a teacher. Within the Vajrayana, or tantric, tradition, to which Sogyal Rinpoche belongs, this relationship can often be one of extreme emotional and, in some cases, even physical intimacy, demanding the total trust of the pupil in the teacher’s selfless motives – and total integrity on the part of the teacher not to abuse that trust.

It is on the complicated nature of this relationship that the charge against Sogyal Rinpoche partly hinges. Was he, a teacher, taking advantage of the trust placed in him by a student? At what point does individual responsibility in any sexual relationship and end? Is any relationship between a teacher – particularly a spiritual one – and a student by definition abusive? Or was this, more simply, a relationship between a man and a woman that ended not only in tears, but, in the vexed climate of sexual politics in America, in a lawsuit?

Vajrayana is sometimes characterized as the ‘expressway to enlightenment’ – a system of teachings by which the student can attain enlightenment within a single lifetime. Questions about the merits of this teaching and its appropriateness to Western students have been a source of contention in America for more than 25 years – ever since the arrival in the west of a lama called Chogyam Trungpa, known as ‘the roaring tiger of crazy wisdom,’ and the first man to establish Tibetan Buddhist centres in Britain and America.

Trungpa, too, taught in the Vajrayana tradition. A venerated lama in Tibet, he followed the Dalai Lama into exile in 1959. He made his way to Britain, and founded the Samye-Ling meditation centre in Scotland (nowadays dignified by visits from the likes of Lolicia Aitken), and became the first Tibetan to receive British citizenship. He married an 18-year-old English girl and then, in the late Sixties, moved to America, where he founded that country’s first Tibetan meditation centre, in Colorado, and the Naropa teaching institute.

Trungpa was nobody’s idea of the ascetic and saintly holy man. He walked with a pronounced limp, the result of a car accident when he drove into the window of a joke and novelty shop in Newcastle. Explaining to his pupil, the poet Allen Ginsberg, that ‘I come from a long line of eccentric Buddhists,’ he ran his organization like a medieval court, surrounding himself with an elite bodyguard and sometimes amusing himself by dressing as a Grenadier Guard. He drank like a fish, and is said to have exercised virtual droit de seigneur over his female students – one of whom would later describe him as ‘a spiritual stud.’

Trungpa died in 1987, from complications arising from alcoholism. Before his death he appointed an American, Osel Tenzin, as his successor. Osel died of Aids, after allegedly passing the HIV virus on to several of his students.

Among many Buddhists, Chogyam Trungpa was regarded as a wayward embarrassment – a symptom of the dangers that can arise when Eastern teachers are exposed to the glamour of Western personality worship.

To his followers, however, he remains an exemplar of the tradition of ‘crazy wisdom,’ where a teacher frequently acts with an apparently cavalier disregard for any moral, ethical or social propriety – ‘completely shaking your programme’ as one former pupil of Trungpa puts it – in order to force the pupil to realize the true nature of self.

‘The real function of the guru,’ Trungpa once said, ‘is to insult you.’

Not all Trungpa’s students followed his bidding with an easy conscience. ‘A lot of people at Naropa would do anything that Trungpa told them to do without question,’ one former student remembers, ‘but they didn’t always like it.’

But if some women did feel coerced into sexual relations for fear of incurring his disapproval, their disgruntlement was never expressed in the courts; in the Seventies, the legal concept of sexual harassment was yet to come.

In the years since Trungpa’s death, there have been a number of scandals within the Buddhist community about teachers’ sexual behavior. These have almost never made the press. But they have provoked an increasingly heated debate among Western Buddhists about how Buddhism should be taught in the West in general, and about the sexual ethics of teachers in particular.

In recent years the Dalai Lama is known to have received a stream of complaints from Western women students alleging misbehavior among teachers, both Western and Tibetan, and to have grown increasingly concerned that errant teachers were bringing Buddhism into disrepute. Sogyal Rinpoche is said to have been the subject of several complaints in the past; and it is claimed that the Dalai Lama has warned him privately about his conduct.

When, in 1993, an organization called the Network for Western Buddhist Teachers met with the Dalai Lama at his home in Dharamsala, India, to discuss Buddhist teaching in the West, the sexual ethics of teachers was high on the agenda.

In the court of that meeting the Dalai Lama agreed that miscreant teachers threatened to bring the whole teaching of Buddhism into disrepute. Misbehaviour should be publicized, he said, and errant teachers made ‘regretful and embarrassed’ about their conduct.

‘As the expression goes,’ he added, ‘someone who has already fallen down cannot help someone else stand up.’

Following the meeting in Dharamsala, the Network issued an ‘open letter’ to the Western Buddhist community, laying down a ‘code of conduct’ for teachers in the West. This stated that ‘students should not hesitate to publicise any unethical behavior of which there is irrefutable evidence… irrespective of other beneficial aspects of [the teacher’s] work.’

No matter what level of spiritual attainment a teacher has attained, tkhe letter went on, ‘no person can stand above the norms of ethical conduct.’

Despite his pronouncement in Dharamsala, however, the Dalai Lama declined to give his official imprimatur to the new code.

‘I think the Dalai Lama felt any kind of code was premature,’ says Robert Thurman, professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, who was an observer at the conference. ‘And the teachers were not representative of the Buddhist community as a whole.’

The new code has driven a wedge of disagreement through the Buddhist community in the West. Sogyal Rinpoche’s Rigpa Fellowship and Vajradhatu, the organization founded by Chogyam Trungpa, are among several Buddhist groups who have not been signatories to the code. They argue that they represent a Buddhist teaching stretching back hundreds of years, and do not need a self-appointed group of ‘moral police’ dictating how they should practice.

‘I doubt the motivation of those who drew up the code,’ says Judith Simmer-Brown of Vajradhatu. ‘I think there is a power struggle going on to undermine Asian teachers and put them down, and I don’t want to be part of that.’

Supporters of Sogyal Rinpoche say that in attempting to make Buddhism ‘politically correct,’ the code is actually challenging the ‘special relationship’ between teacher and student that is the very basis of Vajrayana practice; that the code is, in effect, an open invitation to a McCarthyite witch-hunt of Tibetan teachers.

This idea of a code of practice has become a central part of the court case against Sogyal Rinpoche. Theodore Philips, the attorney for Janice Doe, says that his client’s motivation for bringing the case is not simply one of personal reparation, but to force the introduction of a code of conduct for teachers, ‘to prevent future abuse.’

In Vajrayana Buddhism the relationship between the pupil and teacher demands a surrender of self that can seem anathema to Western ideas of individuality, equality and free will.


Yet as one authority, Stephen Butterfield, has written in his book on Vajrayana, The Double Mirror: ‘Without the guru, enlightenment is impossible. The guru is the Buddha. Anything that happens to you, whether good or bad, is the guru’s blessing and compassion. If it is good, be grateful to the guru; if it is bad, then it helps to wake you up and so you should also be grateful to the guru.’

It is a relationship of ‘no boundaries,’ in which sex may sometimes, but by no means necessarily, play a part.

Judith Simmer-Brown of Vajradhatu, and a lecturer at the Naropa Institute, describes the teacher-student relationship as ‘profound, groundless, and naked, whether or not it is a sexual relationship. It can be insulting, intimidating, gratifying, but it is always intimate.’

Imposing any kind of external code of ethics on such a relationship, says Simmer-Brown, is as ‘inappropriate as imposing a code on marriage.’

‘A genuine teacher-student relationship always has an element of passion in it, in the sense that it is a totally encompassing relationship,’ says Rita Gross, Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin.

‘There is a way in which one falls in love with one’s teacher if it really is on a deep level of connection. Therefore it is not surprising that sometimes these relationships become erotic and sexual.

‘I don’t believe the guru-student relationship is so inegalitarian that it will always be exploitative,’ she adds. ‘The question is whether a student has the wisdom to know how to handle it and for the teacher to know when the student is not capable of that level of involvement.’

According to Tibetan teachings, students should not enter lightly into such a relationship. The Dalai Lama has suggested it can take as long as 15 years for a student to determine the right teacher.

Private warning: the Dalai Lama

‘There are certain safeguards that are built into Asian cultures that have been lost in Buddhism coming to the West,’ says Yvonne Rand, a California-based teacher of Buddhism for 20 years. ‘American “seekers” often have a capacity to give themselves away to a spiritual teacher or guide almost without question. People from Japan and from Tibet are amazed that we can be so gullible.’

The Dalai Lama has been quite specific on the subject of tantric teachings. Historically, he says, there have been teachers who may have engaged in conduct ‘which appears disgraceful, but which may have had some kind of deep realization or knowledge of the long-term benefit to the person involved.’

He has suggested that a good test of the qualifications of a tantric master who is beyond attachment and the temptations of self-gratification is whether the master can drink alcohol and urine with equal indifference. Asked recently which Tibetan teachers were of a sufficiently high level to do this, the Dalai Lama replied, ‘As far as I know – zero.’

Central to the allegations against Sogyal Rinpoche is a complex argument about the conflict between two disparate cultures. How does a religion dating back hundreds of years, and coming from a country rooted in feudalism, adapt itself to modern society where political correctness is high on the agenda?

Some Western Buddhists believe that Tibetan teachers, coming from a society which is ‘patriarchal, feudal and misogynistic,’ are inevitably so burdened by the baggage of their own cultural traditions that they cannot be trusted to be sensitive to the nuances of politically-correct America.

Others suggest that the lawsuit is evidence that nothing is sacred: that in America today everything – even religious practice – must measure up to the requirements of political correctness, in a climate where there is always ambiguity over whether sexual harassment suits are instruments of justice, or simply of revenge.

Few are surprised that in a climate where the whole question of ‘power abuse’ has galvanized America at every level of public life, and where debate rages about what sort of controls should be placed on putative ‘authority’ figures – from psychotherapists to attorneys – it should not be a Tibetan lama who is facing a sexual harassment charge. Nor does it come as any surprise to many within the Buddhist community that the charge should have been directed against Sogyal Rinpoche.

‘Rinpoche is a bachelor, and he’s free to indulge his desires to date girls,’ says Robert Thurman. ‘People knew about that, but until this incident it didn’t create any huge stink. Nobody was that concerned about it, although people were nervous it could lead to some problem, because it’s kind of careless.’

In the wake of the American lawsuit, however, women in Britain who have hitherto remained silent have now begun to talk about their experiences: ‘Sogyal Rinpoche’s need for a partner is not in question,’ says one former student. ‘Rather, the issue concerns the inappropriateness of sexual relationships with his students. In the West, it is not considered ethical to engage in sex within the confines of a pastoral or teacher-student relationship where there are clear power imbalances.

‘Within the practice, you are encouraged to view everything the lama does as a sacred act, as the actions of a Buddha, beyond good and bad. And this creates potential ground for abuse of trust, and sexual abuse, particularly when no one is quite clear what “the rules” are, because of the differing Tibetan and Western cultural norms, and where the philosophy of ‘no boundaries” is being advocated. It is questionable how far women were able to exercise free will in the matter when they felt obligated by Sogyal Rinpoche’s entreaties that he needed the inspiration of women to help with his teachings.

‘There is little room for a student to dissent, because to question the master is considered to indicate a lack of faith. In a Western context it becomes very close to a relationship of dominance and submission.’

One student told the Telegraph Magazine that when Sogyal initiated a sexual relationship with her, she felt she had no choice but to comply.

‘It’s a relationship that you haven’t chosen, agreed to or discussed,’ she says. ‘Because he was my spiritual teacher, I trusted that whatever he asked was in my best interests. You’re chosen, which makes you feel special. You want to help the teachings, you want to progress on the spiritual path. By sleeping with the teacher you get a closeness to him which everyone is hankering after. You want to be a “good student”. It’s a sort of submission.

‘I saw it as part of the teachings about the illusory nature of experience and emotions. But in fact it caused me a lot of pain that I wasn’t able to dissolve.’

Another woman described how Rinpoche would single her out for special attention at retreats and teachings over a period of some two years: ‘While I knew that he had relationships with women, I never thought that he was interested in me in any more than a fatherly way,’ she says. When, at length, Rinpoche made a sexual advance to her, she says that she felt ‘confused – surprised but flattered. I thought that somehow I was special, and that he was choosing me because of my special qualities.

‘The few women practitioners that Rinpoche had held up as a model were the wives or consorts of great and famous teachers. He made me feel that I had been chosen as his consort. Besides, I had taken him as my guru, and according to the teachings I aspired to see all his actions as those of an enlightened being. I trusted him completely, and trusted that if we had a sexual relationship it should ultimately benefit me.’

Shortly after the relationship began, however, she was distressed to hear from a friend about three other students with whom Sogyal was having relations at the same time.

‘I was surprised and hurt. But then I decided that I had to let go of such “negative emotions” and accept whatever Rinpoche was doing, since he was my teacher.’

Her understandings of the teachings, she says, did not help her resolve her confusion. But while her doubts grew, she did not feel ‘justified’ in expressing them to Sogyal.

‘I told myself that on an absolute level Rinpoche was helping beings and that what I felt was not important. Buddhist practice was the most important and wonderful thing in my life and being this close to a master was said to be an incredible blessing.’

If the teachings could not help her with her confusion, neither, she says, did the community of practitioners. ‘All of the older students, the people I went to for advice, told me repeatedly that I must “abandon my discriminating mind and use my wisdom mind” in dealing with Rinpoche,’ she says. ‘Every time I tried to do that I ended up dong what he wanted and feeling bad about it later.’

She says that although she believed in the teachings and wished to continue with her Buddhist practice, she eventually came to a point where she was unable to continue her sexual relationship with Sogyal. On several occasions, she made her feelings known, ‘but I began to see that however much he tried, he was incapable of controlling himself. The only way that I could remain in his presence was constantly to refuse to allow him to touch me – which was exhausting and demeaning.’

Eventually she felt she had no option but to leave Rinpoche and the community altogether: ‘I came to the conclusion that, in effect, Sogyal Rinpoche had used the teachings to attempt to keep me in a sexual relationship with him – one that I did not want to be in. I recognized that I was emotionally wounded, that my self-esteem was low, and that I no longer trusted myself or the spiritual path I had chosen.’

Another former student talks of the ‘deep distress and confusion’ felt by women students who have had relations with Sogyal Rinpoche. ‘The worst thing you can do is to go against the lama, or speak ill of him. The traditional teachings say that if you disobey the Vajra master’s commands, then you are breaking your spiritual link, harming the master and shortening his life which would result in endless suffering.

‘But within the Vajrayana tradition as it is taught in the West, the master is not accountable to his students, and there is no court of appeal for the students. Some people told me they were too scared to speak out within the organization about this, and those who attempted to were told it was “their problem.”’

June Campbell, a lecturer at the Open University at Napier University, Edinburgh and the author of a forthcoming book about the female identity in Tibetan Buddhism, says that the feeling of distress and confusion experienced by students who have had sexual relations with spiritual teachers can be analogous to incest.

‘Women may not speak out because they are fearful. They are scared they will undermine the community – which of course they will – like a child who fears it will destroy the family. There is the fear of not being believed; the fear of putting down a wonderful system of beliefs; the fear of being the sole voice.’

Women who find themselves in this situation, adds one former Rigpa member, ‘stop knowing how to perceive things, how to behave or how to respond; they lose their sense of reality and of personal integrity. They no longer know what the truth is. The community response to disclosure is shock and denial, because they cannot tolerate the shattering of their idealized picture of the perpetrator.

‘I know women who have had to undergo therapy because nobody inside the community would take their distress seriously. They feel an enormous sense of betrayal, both by the teacher and the community.’

One woman who spoke to the Telegraph Magazine said: ‘This is not a question of criticizing the Buddhist teachings, which have enormous depth, wisdom and compassion, not of attacking spirituality. The Dalai Lama says we should “respect the common perspective of what is right and wrong.” This is taking issue with the actions of a teacher which have brought harm to others and himself.’

Trustees of the Rigpa Fellowship in London have declined to make any comment, in light of the American court case. However, one member of Rigpa said that Sogyal ‘does not use sexual relations as part of his teachings at all. He is not married. He’s not a monk. And in many ways he lives just like an ordinary person.’ The member declined to comment on any allegations about Sogyal’s sexual relationships. ‘The Vajrayana teachings say that following a teacher closely is very important. But practically speaking, nobody is ever compelled to do anything they don’t want to do as part of the teaching.’

The member added that in the light of rumours and allegations about sexual misconduct, the Rigpa Fellowship in London was ‘actively involved in looking into these matters closely, so that people who are upset can talk about these issues and air their concerns.’

This initiative, the member said, is to help Rigpa students who may be concerned about allegations against the lama. Asked whether the initiative included people who themselves had suffered distress as a result of a sexual relationship with Rinpoche, the source replied that Rigpa was trying to find ‘the right pathway to engage the confidence of people who may feel distressed for whatever reason and encourage the process of healing.’

Sogyal Rinpoche, the member said, ‘is fully aware of everything that’s involved.

‘This whole teaching is about compassion, and I’m sure the thing Rinpoche really wants to see is for anybody who may feel upset to be able to come to resolve their feelings. His only desire would be that people find the resolution and happiness that is evading them at the moment.’

Senior students of Sogyal Rinpoche say that they fear that Janice Doe’s lawsuit in America may be part of a deliberate campaign to undermine the lama and his organization.

‘Sogyal is a very successful, very charismatic teacher,’ says one Rigpa member. ‘He’s attracted a large following – which could, in itself, be a cause of jealousy.’

They say that in recent months the lama has been the subject of an apparently orchestrated campaign of whispers spread throughout the Buddhist community, by letter and on the Internet, going so far as to allege that Sogyal is an imposter, and that the ‘real’ Sogyal Rinpoche is still in Tibet; even that he is not a Tibetan at all but an American Indian.

‘There is a group of Western Buddhist teachers who feel they should now be honoured and respected themselves as teachers, and who represent a very puritanical tendency,’ says Bob Thurman. ‘I think they’re envious of the Asian teachers, who maybe misbehave a little bit around the edges, but who are more respected than they are. I’m not saying there is a conspiracy. But there are certainly people who have been abetting this attack.’

Yvonne Rand is one teacher who has been most outspoken on the subject of Vajrayana teachings. Rand says that in her capacity as a Buddhist teacher, she has couselled ‘a number’ of women who claim to have had sexual relationships with Sogyal. While acknowledging that ‘Janice Doe’ has had the support of an informal network of Buddhist teachers in bringing her lawsuit, Rand denies that there is any conspiracy against Sogyal:

‘I would be extremely upset if that was the case. I think that the well-being of him and the community is as important as the well-being of the practitioner. But at the same time, this is a clear case of the abuse of trust by a student in a teacher.

‘I have spoken to Janice Doe. She was completely unfamiliar with Buddhism and with what it would mean to practice with a spiritual teacher. She was quite vulnerable and went to the retreat with great trust. She was very typical of women who come to spiritual practice with a certain amount of personal confusion and who are looking for healing.’

So what actually occurred between Sogyal Rinpoche and Janice Doe? Was it all a terrible misunderstanding: a religious teacher doing what he felt was necessary for the pupil, and a pupil failing to understand a relationship of ‘no boundaries’? Was it an unscrupulous man taking advantage of a naïve and trusting woman’s emotional vulnerability? Or was it simply a love affair which has ended in a bitter recrimination?

‘A lot of the behavior we see from male Asian teachers clearly comes out of a patriarchal society,’ says Helen Twokorv, the editor of the American Buddhist quarterly magazine, Tricycle. ‘It is the same behavior that women see in our own society and we don’t like it.

‘But at the same time, I do think that women over 18 are old enough to know what they’re doing. I think it is a disaster in America the way we treat grown-up people as if they are children. This thing of the “abused child within” is a bunch of bull. People have to take responsibility for their own behavior.’

Yvonne Rand disagrees. Women speaking out is not a symptom of a victim mentality, she argues. ‘A victim mentality is one where the person who feels abused remains silent.’

‘Entering into a polemic about “victims” and “abusers” can be yet another subtle way of denying the reality of harm that takes place,’ says one former Rigpa member. ‘The danger is that the people who are most likely to be forgotten in the debate are the women themselves who have experienced suffering and distress.

‘This is not about political correctness, it’s about spiritual and personal integrity. Sadly, I’m not at all surprised that Janice Doe’s only recourse for a fair hearing is the law courts.’

It is likely to be some months before an American court must rise to the complicated challenge of deciding exactly how esoteric Tibetan traditions are to be interpreted in the light of contemporary American sexual politics. ‘In the climate of American morality today, where even the Catholic church is being humiliated over sexual abuse charges, it is going to be extremely hard for a jury to buy a religious justification for sexual activity,’ says Ram Dass, an American spiritual teacher of many years’ standing. ‘In America today, there is only lust or family values.’ And the Janice Doe case, Ram Dass suggests, is about neither of these things.

In an article in a recent edition of View, the magazine of the Rigpa Fellowship, written before the Janic Doe charge was laid, Sogyal Rinpoche warns his readers how, in grasping the wrong view of things, it is easy to lose sight of where ignorance ends and truth begins. ‘Once we are wrongly convinced then we find no end of doubts, distortions and misconceptions to feed our wrong convictions,’ he writes.

‘Like a demented lawyer we obsessively marshal our arguments, weighing all the evidence in our favour and suppressing any other explanations, especially the truth… Our memory becomes selective, choosing to recall only the darkness, pain and confusion and erasing anything that …. could point towards happiness and truth. By now, our wrong views and convictions have a power and energy entirely of their own. We can no longer recognize the truth if it stares us in the face or hammers on our door.’

The truth of Janie Doe’s allegations remains for a court to decide in black and white. ‘The problem is, as one Buddhist teacher says, ‘In Buddhism, there are only shades of grey.’

Additional reporting by Claire Stobir


330 Caledonian Road, London N1 1BB
Telephone (071) 700 0185 Fax (071) 609-6068


In California, a lawsuit has recently been brought against Rigpa Fellowship USA, and its spiritual director Sogyal Rinpoche, who is author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. The suit alleges that Rigpa is a cult, and that Sogyal Rinpoche is guilty of fraud, assault and battery.

Rigpa is unable to comment on the allegations, as we would have wished, due to legal proceedings. However we would like to point out that Sogyal Rinpoche and his teachings have moved many thousands of people, women and men, and there are many people who can say how he has helped them transform their lives in a very positive way. Many of the most eminent lamas of Tibetan Buddhism have recognized Sogyal Rinpoche as an authentic master, and we have every confidence that this is so.

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Re: Randy Sogyal Rinpoche, Best-Selling Lecher

Postby admin » Wed Jan 17, 2018 1:07 am

Sogyal Rinpoche and the abuse accusations rocking the Buddhist world: Punching. Emotional abuse. Eye-popping sexual misdeeds. The accusations made against Sogyal Rinpoche – a key lama in the uptake of Buddhist principles by the West – have rocked devotees, including many in the top echelons of Australian business
by David Leser
The Sydney Morning Herald
December 1, 2017



On a late September evening this year, a group of leading Australian business figures gathered in a Sydney boardroom to discuss a series of allegations that had scandalised the Buddhist world, and shaken their own to the core. The meeting was called by David White, chairman of business strategy advisers Port Jackson and Partners; Ian Buchanan, former lead partner with management consultants Booz Allen Hamilton; Diane Grady, non-executive director of Macquarie Bank and chair of Ascham School; and Gordon Cairns, chairman of Origin Energy and Woolworths.

What these four had in common was a long-standing involvement in Practical Wisdom, a series of business retreats held in Sydney over the past 15 years with Sogyal Rinpoche
, the Tibetan Buddhist teacher and author of the 1992 international bestseller The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

Sogyal Rinpoche: “Harvey Weinstein has nothing on this person,” says one of his former students. Photo: JOEL ROBINE/AFP

These retreats were now up for review, as Rinpoche stood accused by eight of his former senior students of decades of physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

"There is such a deep sadness over what has happened," Buchanan tells Good Weekend. "Whatever the facts turn out to be post investigation, this will inevitably be a tragedy. That this should come from an organisation that has done so much good, and from an individual who has done so much good, is very sad."

The Practical Wisdom group had formed in 2002 as a way of making available to leaders in Australian business, public health, government and defence "authentic Buddhist teachings on meditation, compassion and wisdom"
from arguably the most famous Tibetan in the world after the Dalai Lama.

Sogyal Rinpoche had first started visiting Australia in the mid-1980s, nearly a decade before his book was to become a spiritual classic. Regarded as a master of the great Tibetan oral traditions, Rinpoche's book had managed to lay out in simple, eloquent terms various Buddhist concepts on impermanence, karma, rebirth, compassion for the dying, and the benefits of training the mind through meditation. In so doing, he slaked a spiritual thirst and inspired millions.

Comedian John Cleese described the book as the most important he'd ever read, while the San Francisco Chronicle called it a "magnificent achievement" and an "inestimable gift". Around the world, hospitals, health institutions and palliative care centres began adopting the book as an invaluable aid in dealing with the sick and dying.

But on July 14 this year, Rinpoche's world came crashing down, and soon thereafter the faith of thousands of his devotees and admirers. That was the day he received a 12-page letter from the eight former senior students accusing him of years of violent and abusive behaviour.

"This letter is our request to you to stop your unethical and immoral behaviour," they wrote. "Your public face is one of wisdom, kindness, humour, warmth and compassion, but your private behaviour, the way you conduct yourself behind the scenes, is deeply disturbing and unsettling."

The letter then laid out in spectacular and shocking detail the nature of the Tibetan master's alleged 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 many other objects that happened to be close at hand."

"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 behaviour for years."

Among the letter's co-authors: his Australian IT expert Ngawang Sangye, and his personal assistant, an Australian artist turned Buddhist nun known as Drolma, who fled Rigpa – the organisation Rinpoche founded – in 2010 after what she claims was nearly eight years of 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 favours.

-- Excerpt from letter written to Rinpoche from eight former students

"His behaviour was often wildly unpredictable and irrational," Drolma tells Good Weekend in a Skype interview from London, where she now lives. "If anything went wrong and his anxiety got the better of him, he would take it out on me. One of those times he grabbed me by the ear and it was torn all the way along the back. There was blood pouring down my neck."

Sogyal Rinpoche lectures to a captivated audience in Sydney in 2011. Photo: Mayu Kanamori

According to his accusers, the mistreatment went far beyond the physical. "Your emotional and psychological abuse has been perhaps more damaging than the physical scars you have left on us," they wrote. "You have threatened us and others, saying if we do not follow you absolutely, we will die 'spitting up blood'. You have told us that our loved ones are at risk of ill-health, or have died, because we displeased you in some way."

Then came a range of alleged eye-popping sexual misdeeds. "You use your role as a teacher to gain access to young women, and to coerce, intimidate and manipulate them into giving you sexual favours."

"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 have 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.
Publicly you claim that your relationships are ordinary, consensual and proper because you are not a monk. You deny any wrongdoing and have claimed on occasion that you were seduced."

The letter was an incendiary device dropped in the heart of one of the world's major religions. It was sent not just to Rinpoche, but also copied to the Dalai Lama, a select group of Tibetan Buddhist teachers, and a number of Rinpoche's senior students.

It was leaked almost immediately, going viral on social media and creating the kind of uproar we've become accustomed to seeing lately in Hollywood, or indeed the Catholic Church, but seldom in the serene, do-no-harm world of Buddhism.

Here was the spiritual director of a global organisation, Rigpa – the name is a Tibetan word meaning an awareness of the innermost nature of mind – being accused not just of physical, psychological and sexual misconduct, but also of maintaining a "gluttonous" lifestyle that had been funded by – and kept hidden from – his thousands of students for decades. And this from a man who had taught so masterfully on how to find inner peace and contentment.

"I have a complex PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] that comes from long-term devaluation, neglect and assault," Ngawang Sangye tells Good Weekend.

"I was a monk for 14 years and that's why I had very close access and saw things like Sogyal punching women, men, slapping, hitting with objects. There is an element of shame in how long it took me to break [away] because I thought it wasn't as bad as it looked. "It was much worse than it looked. Harvey Weinstein has nothing on this person."

Sogyal Rinpoche was six months old when he entered the monastery of his spiritual master Jamyang Khyentse in the wild, mountainous Kham province of eastern Tibet known as the "Land of Snows". For centuries monasteries had provided Tibetan children with their main source of education, occasionally finding among their young charges the reincarnations of great masters who had passed away.

By his own account, Rinpoche was one of these select children. Although born into a family of traders known as the Lakars, he was given the name Sogyal by his master, who recognised him as the incarnation of the great 19th-century visionary saint, Tertön Sogyal, a teacher to the 13th Dalai Lama, predecessor to the current Dalai Lama.

At the time of Sogyal Lakar's birth in 1947, Tibet was under the nominal protection of India, but soon to become one of the world's most troubled countries following the Chinese invasion in 1950. In 1954, Sogyal escaped with his family over the mountains to India, five years before the Dalai Lama fled the country and more than a decade before the full horrors of the Chinese genocide began to reveal themselves.

As American author John Avedon describes in his celebrated book, In Exile from the Land of Snows: "The obliteration of entire [Tibetan] villages was compounded by hundreds of public executions, carried out to intimidate the surviving population. The methods employed included crucifixion, dismemberment, vivisection, beheading, burying, burning and scalding alive, dragging the victims to death behind galloping horses and pushing them from airplanes; children were forced to shoot their parents, disciples their religious teachers. Everywhere monasteries were prime targets. Monks were compelled to publicly copulate with nuns and desecrate sacred images before being sent to a growing string of labour camps."

Like all Tibetans of his generation, Sogyal Lakar almost certainly carried the traumas of his ravaged country into exile. After being schooled in India and attending university in Delhi, he arrived in London in the early 1970s to study comparative religion at Cambridge University's Trinity College. He soon assumed the honorific of Rinpoche (meaning "Precious One") and began establishing himself as a teacher, finding a receptive audience among young Westerners searching for the kind of spiritual enlightenment Buddhism seemed to offer.

Sogyal Rinpoche became a Buddhist superstar after the release of his book, which has sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. Photo: Mayu Kanamori MKZ

Buddhism's appeals were manifold. It taught that true happiness could never be achieved while humans were governed by negative emotions such as attachment, pride, jealousy, hatred and ignorance. This ignorance related to the ego's perception that reality was solid and permanent when – according to Buddhist precepts – the opposite was true. Everything was impermanent – thoughts, feelings, judgements, opinions, life itself – and it was only through training the mind that the true nature of reality could be discovered and suffering ended.

Buddhism had first come to Tibet in the seventh century as a complex philosophical and ritual system known as Vajrayana Buddhism. This form of Buddhism emphasised transforming the mind through "skilful methods"; and this was what Sogyal studied from childhood.

Vajrayana Buddhism was no easy path. In order to slip the shackles of the ego, a student needed to give total obedience to the teacher, no matter how unreasonable or irrational the teacher's behaviour might seem. "Crazy Wisdom" was the name given to this form of instruction, where a guru could employ all sorts of outlandish methods to challenge a student's ego.

Tibetan Buddhism is filled with such stories and Sogyal Rinpoche cited a perfect example of one in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. He described how a Tibetan master, Patrul Rinpoche, was introduced to the nature of mind by being knocked unconscious by his own master, Do Khyentse:

"As Patrul Rinpoche approached, prostrating all the time, Do Khyentse hurled pebbles and then larger rocks and stones at him. When he finally came within reach, Do Khyentse started punching him and knocked him out altogether."

"When Patrul Rinpoche came to, he was in an entirely different state of consciousness. Each of Do Khyentse's curses and insults had destroyed the last remnants of Patrul Rinpoche's ordinary conceptual mind, and each stone that hit him opened up the energy centres and subtle channels in his body."

In Sogyal Rinpoche's case, the "channels in his body" were less than subtle, according to British journalist Mary Finnigan, who was to spend nearly two decades trying to expose him. "I'm one of the people who launched Sogyal on his career as a teacher in London in 1973, when he was very young and very inexperienced," she told a Canadian documentary team in 2011. "There was just this continuous stream of seductions. He didn't even hide it in those days. He was absolutely flagrantly promiscuous. He would pick girls up – usually vulnerable, needy – and entertain them for a short while and then dump them."

One of those young women, American Victoria Barlow, first met Rinpoche in New York in 1976 after grappling for years with her own childhood sexual abuse. Rinpoche was visiting Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the pioneer of Tibetan Buddhism in the US, and Barlow wanted Sogyal Rinpoche's advice on the dharma, or Buddhist teachings.

"He opened the apartment door without a shirt, holding a bottle of beer," Barlow recalls now in a written response to Good Weekend. "I [had] just turned 22 and I arrived in an almost floor-length dark brown tent dress that I had made a few months before in Calcutta.

"I thanked him for taking the time to see me and was in the process of asking him my question when he reached over and touched my cheek. He said, 'I think we have a special connection.'"

"My face flushed. I had just been touched by a lama. This was such a blessing … but as I spoke, he reached toward me and literally mashed my face with his face. He was literally slobbering all over me.

"He roughly put his hand up my long dress, groped my privates, unzipped himself and lay on top of me, literally grunting for the minute or two until he released. Immediately, he got up, said he had things to do, that he was getting ready to travel across America."

Barlow was mortified, but still willing to believe that – in the spirit of "Crazy Wisdom" – Rinpoche had just transmitted a powerful "source of enlightenment".

In the following months, she received several calls from him, including one from Trungpa's spiritual centre in Boulder, Colorado, where Rinpoche "spoke with amazement about how Trungpa had girls lined up outside his door like a rock star and that he wanted that, too. I thought he was joking and only later realised that was his actual aspiration, to have a conveyor belt of groupies."

Despite growing doubts, Barlow allowed her spiritual mentor to convince her to fly to Berkeley, California to receive teachings from another Buddhist master. She was invited to stay with an American couple, both Tibetan Buddhist students who showed her a room with two beds. "They said, 'That's Sogyal's bed next to yours. He told [us] to put you in here.' I felt a combination of shock, shame, humiliation, defeat and anger."

"Within a minute of his arriving in the room, Sogyal said he'd had a fight with his girlfriend in London. He made it apparent that he wanted sex with me, so that made me just some lay he'd arranged to use in Berkeley." Barlow concluded then that Rinpoche was a "charlatan"; that she needed to get away as soon as possible. "Eight weeks later," she says, "I miscarried his child."

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying became a spiritual cause célèbre almost from the moment it was published, eventually selling more than three million copies worldwide and being translated into 34 languages in 80 countries. In a world dominated by greed, cynicism and personal grandstanding, the 1992 book presented a compelling philosophy for modern life, drawing deeply from ancient Buddhist teachings.

Rinpoche was suddenly a Buddhist superstar, soon appearing in Bernardo Bertolucci's 1993 film Little Buddha, and travelling the world establishing new centres for Rigpa, the organisation he'd set up under the patronage of the Dalai Lama.

After starting out in a London squat in the early 1970s, he was on his way to building a global organisation with 130 centres in 41 countries, including Australia, relying mainly on the generous donations of his growing legion of students.

In 2007, the then Irish president Mary McAleese opened his spiritual care centre in south-west Ireland. The following year the Dalai Lama, together with France's first lady at the time, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, attended the inauguration of his $12 million temple, named Lerab Ling, in Roqueredonde in southern France.

Sogyal Rinpoche (right) in 2008 with the Dalai Lama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Photo: AFP

Through his efforts, millions of people were becoming exposed to the wise and gentle teachings of Buddhism; hospitals, palliative care centres and healthcare practitioners were beginning to adopt Buddhist methods in tending to the dying and their families; international conferences were being held on ways of creating more compassionate societies.

"Mindfulness" was becoming the new buzzword, in no small thanks to this Tibetan son of traders.

In 1989, Rigpa established itself in Australia, with hundreds of people flocking to the first of its annual retreats on the shores of Myall Lakes, north of Sydney. (Rigpa would later spend more than $1 million having a Glenn Murcutt-designed home built for Rinpoche at nearby Blueys Beach.)

The Tibetan lama's appeal was self-evident. Not only did he have a great command of English and a mischievous sense of humour, his teachings were lucid and accessible. "If you really know how to take the teachings to heart, happiness is in ourselves," he told his rapt audience during one retreat.

"It's the way we think. And there we can think of what Buddha said: 'We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.' "

For the purposes of disclosure, I attended a few of his retreats in the early 2000s. I wanted to learn how to meditate, but also to understand better how Buddhism could be integrated into modern life. In 2001, I reported on a historic meeting at the Commonwealth Bank's Sydney headquarters where 200 Australian business leaders – chief executives, bankers, brokers, management consultants, investment advisers and fund managers – met with Rinpoche to explore ways of bringing "wisdom" and "compassion" into their businesses.

Two days later, the Tibetan teacher spoke to leaders of the future at the Australian Graduate School of Management about "values-based leadership". Rinpoche had been urged to do so by Ian Buchanan, one of Australia's leading management consultants, who, in turn, had been asked to become involved by Sue Pieters-Hawke, the eldest child of former prime minister Bob Hawke and his wife Hazel. Both Buchanan and Pieters-Hawke were students of Tibetan Buddhism.

Buchanan had been introduced to The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying nearly a decade earlier after being told he was dying from an incurable illness. (He underwent three years of treatment for what he describes as "a cross between tuberculosis and leprosy".) Based in Singapore, Buchanan flew to Sydney to attend a Myall Lakes retreat and then, after, relocating to Sydney in 2000, visited the retreat on a regular basis to receive more of Rinpoche's teachings. The two men developed an instant rapport.

"I'd been advising government and business for many years," he explains now, "and so I started to talk to Rinpoche about what I thought was a desperate need of business leaders to get into meditation, given that they had few ways of letting go of their stress. Rinpoche said, 'I don't know anything about business. Will you teach me?' And so we pulled together a small group and we became his business coaches."

From this initiative, the "Practical Wisdom" leaders' retreat was born in 2002. It was the business offshoot to Rigpa and, uniquely, it involved a select group of Australian business figures meeting annually with the Tibetan teacher to learn how to apply Buddhist principles to their personal and professional lives.

Gordon Cairns, currently the chairman of both Origin Energy and Woolworths, became one of the organisers while serving as chief executive of Lion Nathan Breweries. He'd just finished reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and was attracted to its themes of interconnectedness and the requirements of acting with compassion.

"I've always believed we have to find the answers to the big questions: Why are we here? and What's the meaning of life?" he tells Good Weekend. "It was more than running a beer company or being the chairman of Woolies. To me it was the whole [Buddhist] principle of bodhicitta – which is loving-kindness.

"I think [these teachings] helped me change in ways for the better: from being a tough perfectionist, internally competitive, nothing-is-ever-good-enough chief executive, to one who is humanistic, encouraging, inspiring."

Over the 15 years that Buchanan and Cairns helped convene the "Practical Wisdom" retreats, there was nothing in Rinpoche's behaviour to suggest scandal. Yes, there had often been questions about his inner circle of beautiful young women, and how it was that a teacher of loving-kindness could so often publicly humiliate his senior students. But never a hint of physical or sexual abuse.

According to Drolma, his former personal assistant, that was because the abuse only ever happened behind closed doors. "Sometimes he would just lay into me in the stomach and I'd be winded and he'd bring me to tears," she recalls now. "Then he would sometimes follow up with a slap … but I had to help him put on his ceremonial robes and get ready to put him on stage with all the other Tibetan lamas and monks. Sogyal would then walk on and be part of the ceremony and I would have to follow him, holding his ritual objects, with tears streaming down my face. Nobody else had seen it.

"I'd always thought it was due to my imperfections, that this was my fast-track to enlightenment … but 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.' "

Barbara Lepani, a senior policy officer with the federal Department of Communications and the Arts, poses a different view. As a senior student of Rinpoche for nearly 35 years, she knows what it's like to be on the receiving end of his "crazy wisdom".

She remembers once being whacked over the head with a wooden umbrella after failing to distil his teachings. "My first reaction was anger: 'How dare you?' But then the story of Do Khyentse knocking Patrul Rinpoche unconscious came to mind, and I thought, 'Hang on, is this what's going on here?' Because Rinpoche didn't do such things with just anyone. He always checked to see whether you were 'with him' and could take him on as a Vajrayana master."

This was the point that another Buddhist master, the filmmaker and writer Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, tried to make recently after being asked to comment on the scandal. "Frankly," he said, "for a student of Sogyal Rinpoche who has consciously received abhisheka [initiation into any Vajrayana teaching] – and therefore stepped onto the Vajrayana path – to think of labelling Sogyal Rinpoche's actions as 'abusive', or to criticise a Vajrayana master even privately, let alone publicly and in print, or simply to reveal that such methods exist, is a breakage of samaya [the sacred spiritual bond between student and teacher].

"[But] if no proper warnings and no fundamental training were given prior to the Vajrayana teachings, then Sogyal Rinpoche is even more in the wrong than his critical students."

Dzongsar Khyentse seemed to be having a bet each way. He also expressed puzzlement that "intelligent" students hadn't better analysed their teacher before signing up. "I really don't understand why they waited 10 or even 30 years before saying anything. How come they didn't see all these problems in the first or second year of their relationship with Sogyal?"

For those who wanted to look, the signs had been on the public record for more than two decades. In 1994, an American student – using the pseudonym Janice Doe – filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of California seeking $US10 million in reparations from Rinpoche for sexually and physically abusing her. The case was settled out of court and, in those pre-internet days, the matter quietly faded, although not without a number of outraged devotees deserting ship.

The following year, the UK's Telegraph magazine published new allegations of sexual abuse by two more women. In 2011, a Canadian documentary In the Name of Enlightenment aired, with Victoria Barlow going public, as well as a young Frenchwoman, "Mimi", who described years of Stockholm Syndrome-like abuse. "You are locked up in this tiny environment," she said, "where someone is beating you up every day, but he's also the person who's giving you [your] only emotional attention."

The dam finally burst last year at Lerab Ling in France, when Rinpoche punched Ani Chökyi, a Danish nun, in the stomach in front of 1000 students.

Ani Chökyi later issued a statement insisting that Rinpoche had been "loving beyond any ordinary description" and that the blow was a "soft punch". Not according to Gary Goldman, a former US army ranger and long-term Buddhism student seated up the front. "I guess the footstool wasn't in exactly the right position," he told the UK Telegraph. "He had this flash of anger and he just punched her – a short gut punch."

That was enough for Goldman to leave Rigpa and put his name to the letter accusing Rinpoche of abuse. Four days after receiving their letter, Rinpoche replied, expressing his sadness and distress, but claiming his conscience was clear.

"From the bottom of my heart I humbly ask your forgiveness," he wrote. "Since reading your letter I have been thrown into deep reflection and I'm finally resolved that if this is the way that my actions are perceived, then I do need to take real action. If I am the problem, that can be solved. There's no need to bring everything down. I implore you to keep this bigger picture in mind."

Less than four weeks later – on August 11 – Rinpoche announced his decision to retire as spiritual director of Rigpa, while also reaffirming his decision to enter a three-year retreat. That same day, the international Rigpa board announced the establishment of an independent investigation by a "neutral third party" and a new "code of conduct and grievance process".

The Dalai Lama himself made it clear he was in no mood for equivocation. At a Buddhist seminar in northern India's Ladakh, he declared emphatically – and not for the first time – that ethical misconduct was often caused by Tibet's traditional feudal system and that students should never follow their guru unquestioningly.

He then said his "very good friend Sogyal Rinpoche" was "disgraced" and he encouraged all such misconduct to be made public. It was a devastating rebuke from Buddhism's most revered figure.

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. Sogyal Rinpoche has also been diagnosed with colon cancer and undergone surgery on two tumours.

On that late September evening in the Sydney boardroom of Port Jackson and Partners, 10 weeks after the abuse allegations were first made public, 22 business leaders convened to vent feelings ranging from "shock and anger to dismay and confusion". Some were so visibly moved, they cried.

As Ian Buchanan recalls now: "A number of them said, 'I will never be able to watch the videos of him teaching again.' And I said, 'Well, I will.' It's not that he might not have let us down very badly, but the teachings and the way he teaches them are invaluable and precious, and for me have been of incalculable value in having a relatively peaceful, stable life in the face of some near-death experiences."

While not defending the alleged abuses, Buchanan voices his sorrow at Rinpoche's stunning fall from grace – a man who has given his life to bringing Buddhism to the West after fleeing his country as a child refugee. "He's done a wonderful job of sharing the teachings, but that does not preclude him having that damage as a human being."

Jillian Broadbent, a former member of the Reserve Bank board and currently chancellor of the University of Wollongong, agrees with Buchanan. "I have found the teachings of mindfulness most valuable, both in difficult times and in my daily living," she tells Good Weekend.

"They have similarly brought value and contentment to many others for more than two millennia. I certainly see merit and increased effectiveness in a wider adoption of Buddhist ethics across the Australian business community. I am aware of the allegations against Sogyal Rinpoche [but] I remain appreciative of my own learnings and benefit from the teachings, and respectful of their long lineage. It would be really disappointing if these allegations damaged the teachings and the benefits their adoption can bring."

Gordon Cairns echoes these sentiments, acknowledging how deeply he has been influenced by Buddhism and how important it is now not to conflate the teachings with the teacher. At the same time, he urges his colleagues to separate from Rigpa and find another Buddhist master (a position the group has since adopted).

"This teaching has had a wonderfully profound effect on the West," he tells Good Weekend. "It's had a wonderfully profound effect on business leaders here in Australia, and a wonderfully profound effect on me."

The chairman of Woolworths then offers a Buddhist parable to sum up his sympathy, not just for Rinpoche's alleged victims but for Rinpoche himself: "When you see a man beating a dog, you feel as sorry for the man as you do for the dog."

In a perfect world, that is a wonderful testament to forgiveness
, but for Sogyal Rinpoche's strongest critics, perhaps not in this lifetime.
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Re: Randy Sogyal Rinpoche, Best-Selling Lecher

Postby admin » Wed Mar 20, 2019 12:52 am

One Year With Rigpa: A Testimony
by Tenpel
April 23, 2012




Thirteen years ago, I left a bookshop with two books under my arm. One was The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche (SR). The other was a commentary on lamrim by HH Dalai Lama. In a daze, I got in the car and drove several times around the block. The next few nights I had very lucid sleep, as if I were aware of myself sleeping. There was no doubt in my mind that I was heading in some spiritual direction that would be significant for me.

However, I read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying instead of the lamrim text and I am still suffering today with the psychological fallout. I still wish from the depths of my heart that I had never read it, that I had begun my Buddhist path with the lamrim text, with the sane teachings of the gradual path instead of SR’s Dzogchen. Sometimes we can say that difficulties are important because of what they teach us. Certainly I have learned much from my experiences of what I call “lama madness”—but I believe that the damage has far out-surpassed this. Definitely, the damage to others, particularly my family, has far outweighed any benefit.

I was living a pretty wholesome life when all of this started, busy homeschooling two of our five daughters, milking goats, making bread and cheese, driving my kids to music lessons and sporting events. My husband and I had made a good job of combining our two families and I believe that our marriage had a good chance at survival. Certainly, if I had started with lamrim, I would have had a wealth of tools to deal with any problems we might have encountered as our children grew up and moved away. Our two oldest had already left home to start university and the third was applying that year for schools. For myself, I believe that as my mothering roles decreased, my own spiritual needs increased. I had already begun writing some soul-searching poetry and had just started publishing those. 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. SR 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. There was a great air of mystique and secrecy surrounding SR that drew me in very quickly. Very quickly, my enthusiasm for Buddhism became an enthusiasm for SR. He was funny, he was aloof, you felt his presence, you felt that he noticed you. You never knew when he was going to appear or disappear– he could be an hour late for a teaching or an hour early. This kept your emotions very acute, very vigilant. There were no interviews and no question and answer sessions in the teachings. We were told to “hold our questions in our hearts,” told that we might be surprised to find them (magically) answered during the teaching. For me, this was an ominous and dangerous encouragement to look to the paranormal, to believe in SR’s psychic powers. A central theme to SR’s teaching was the theme of “master.” He frequently spoke of his past teachers not as teachers, but as “masters.” With this theme was the theme of instant enlightenment. This was how he taught Dzogchen, as a very quick and easy path to enlightenment, a path of devotion. Frequently, he taught about students suddenly seeing the nature of their own minds in a swoon of devotion.

For me, a beginner, this approach was disastrous. My initial, huge enthusiasm for Buddhism became channeled into one perspective—the lama. Though I travelled weekly the 90 miles to New York City to attend study groups, the study was all about SR, all about his book and his teachings. This approach was very harmful for me; what I needed badly at that vulnerable time in my spiritual development, was a strong grounding in the dharma itself—certainly not a grounding in SR! Such was the shallowness of these study groups that I remember once asking a senior student about a verse which referred to emptiness. Instead of giving me an introduction to emptiness, she missed that the verse was even about emptiness and gave me an obscure, convoluted explanation, indicating that she had no basic knowledge of Buddhism at all.

I attended Rigpa events regularly—and they were given frequently in the New York area during that year because it was the year SR’s son was born in Pennsylvania. Very early, I was experiencing strong paranormal experiences to do with SR. I believed that I could communicate with him psychically. Because I never had a single opportunity to speak with SR, because I could never check in with him about any of my experiences, they became my entire relationship with him. I expected, because of the strength of these experiences, and because of SR’s teachings, to become enlightened at any moment. 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 SR in an instant—regardless of my marriage, my children, my life. I would have done almost anything he asked. As it was, I started to believe that SR wanted me to become his spiritual wife and live with him in France. This delusion was so strong and convincing that I acted on it. I told my husband I was leaving him to go to France. I sent my two youngest daughters back overseas to live with their father. My family not only had to deal with my actions, but they had to deal with losing the woman I had been, with having a crazy woman in place of me. In my mind, however, I was not harming anyone. I was involved with the greater picture. I was going to become enlightened really fast and then I would send for my children, I would repair my relationship with my husband. I really believed that I was in the midst of a greater purpose.

My mental state was not aided by life in Rigpa teachings. As any Rigpa student knows, SR makes a common practice of publicly humiliating students. He will rant and rave at them during teachings and have them running like wild chickens trying to fulfill his many impossible demands. He will severely criticize and berate them in front of all attendees. Rigpa devotees say that this is a practice to diminish ego. On one blog, a Rigpa student wrote that it shows students their “better selves.”

The effect that these displays had on me as an observer is that I lost my better self—at a time when I needed it most. On one occasion, I brought my 16 year old daughter to a teaching. Afterwards, she objected quite strongly to SR’s public harsh treatment of a student. To my shame, I defended him. I said that he had a higher purpose that we could not fully understand. I had raised my daughters to be respectful, caring individuals and suddenly I was defending the public humiliation of a human being—I was calling it the behavior of a higher being! How could I expect to practice the Buddha’s Dharma with such an outlook? How could devotion make me so debased? It was no wonder that I could entertain delusions—such blind devotion was fertile ground for confusion and madness.

It is possible that in a private setting, such rough techniques could function to benefit a close student, could function something like a Zen koen at diminishing ego clinging. However, to display them publicly is shameful at best, psychologically damaging at worst. I remember passing a senior student in the restroom shortly after she had been subjected to public humiliation at a teaching. She had a cold, dark, closed expression as she passed me. There was no warmth or greeting, nothing that would resemble the Buddha’s teachings on warm heartedness. From my current perspective, these public humiliations look more like hazing—an initiation rite into the inner circle of Rigpa.

I attended a retreat at Lerab Ling towards the end of my time with Rigpa. By then, I was a mess. I was very internally focused and very much in need of help. As the time for my children’s departure neared and the reality of SR’s intentions started to become clearer, I had much mental torment. In fact, the voice of the lama inside my head had become very brutal and cruel, placing impossible demands on me. One morning, during our break from the teaching at Lerab Ling, the alarm was raised that we all needed to quickly gather in the tent. When I arrived there, SR had arrived in his singlet/undershirt and he was in a temper. He started yelling at us all for some offense that we had committed, though he was never specific about what it was. He had all his aids running around fetching his sun glasses, fetching something for him to eat, doing this and that, as if there was some great emergency, as if the place had caught fire. He sat in his undershirt, eating yogurt and blaming us for the fact that he had had no opportunity to have lunch and I sat in an abject slump, just taking it all in, all the negativity and blame, both inside and out. Indeed, it did me no good at all.

At that same retreat, I met SR once walking along a path. I was filled with a sense that this was to be our moment, he would talk to me finally and resolve all the mess, tell me what I was to do. I looked up at him with a face full of expectation ready to speak with him. However, he merely shook his head and walked past. That was about the closest I came to the great master.

When we talk of safe dharma centers, I think we are not only talking about dharma centers where the teachers don’t sexually molest students; we are talking about dharma centers that are psychologically wholesome and nurturing. In such environments, sexual abuse is less apt to occur. If we are serious about the Buddha’s teachings on patience, tolerance and loving kindness, surely the teacher’s behavior needs to reflect that. I believe that SR’s close students feel much love and compassion from him—and certainly I had experiences of warm compassion coming from him as well. However, when he shouts and insults students, where are we to hold the contradiction of his behaviors except in confusion and ignorance?

Buddha says that the root cause of all our suffering is ignorance. Modern Western psychology as well is discovering that techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which use human intelligence to heal from mental afflictions, are very effective. I believe that when the lama becomes more important than the cultivation of wisdom in the students’ own minds, then there is great risk of trouble of all sorts. There’s a dumbing down that happens which causes the student to be vulnerable to all sorts of experiences. The student then becomes less capable of making sound decisions and abuse and mental illness can result.

From the perspective of SR’s behavior during teachings, it was no leap of my imagination to picture him sexually abusing women. I am not one to jump on bandwagons and witch hunts—nor would I ever simply believe these stories without verification. However, the stories are not far-fetched in the context of SR’s everyday behavior. He behaves as a master who might consider himself above simple ethical norms. There is a Tibetan saying that if you give enough room for a small needle, it will gradually make more and more room for itself. The saying is given in reference to 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.

From my viewpoint, I am curious still about how I could have discovered the sanest religion in the world only to become nearly insane. I had discovered the religion with the strongest, greatest teachings on altruism only to bring harm to those whom I loved the most. Rigpa students are very quick to say that SR cannot be held responsible for mental illness in those who attend his teachings. Indeed, it is not my intention here to prove that SR caused my paranormal experiences, nor is it my intention to prove my sanity. I could explain to a professional how my delusions were markedly different from those in traditional Schizophrenia, but those discussions are beyond the scope of this writing. I am certainly interested in that fine line between psychotic and spiritual, however, because it appears that I have gained control over my delusions without the use of meds or therapy. I have done this by leaving behind the confused religion of Lamaism and turning instead to the great wisdom of Buddhism.

Rigpa will say—and I have had Rigpa insiders say this to me on blogs—that SR cannot be held accountable for my suffering. These same students say that women can simply say no about having sex with him. These are the words of an organization, a system with lawyers and strategies. I am more concerned with the future of Buddhism in the west and the unnecessary suffering of Western students. 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 SR’s approach serious risks to the safety of students.

There are two basic approaches to teaching Buddhism. There is a general approach, applicable to all students, and there is a specific approach, applicable to specific students at a specific point in their spiritual development. HH Dalai Lama, who, like SR, teaches to large numbers of students, uses the first approach. SR appears to use the second. I believe—from painful experience—that if he is going to use this specific approach, if he is going to teach a “master”- centered approach, if he is going to “work” with students publicly, then perhaps he should be more available to speak with every student in a close, meaningful, stable way—perhaps he should be more transparent and accessible as well. Perhaps there should be less of a power base to Rigpa, that impenetrable and scary face of the organization. Certainly, for myself, if SR had just taken notice that I was in trouble, if he had been available for interviews, if he had taken a little time to work with me, to speak with me and steer me clear of my confusions, much suffering for myself and my family could have been avoided. Of this, I am quite certain.

This is a testimony of a former Rigpa student together with her current perspectives on safe dharma centers.
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Re: Randy Sogyal Rinpoche, Best-Selling Lecher

Postby admin » Sat Jun 15, 2019 7:21 pm

Patrick Gaffney (Buddhist)
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 6/15/19

Patrick Gaffney
Religion Tibetan Buddhism
School Nyingma
Education Cambridge University
Occupation translator, and teacher
Senior posting
Teacher Sogyal Rinpoche

Patrick John Gaffney (born 6 February 1949) is an English author, editor, translator, and teacher of Tibetan Buddhism who studied at the University of Cambridge. He was one of the main directors and teachers of Rigpa—the international network of Buddhist centres and groups founded by Sogyal Rinpoche.[1][2] As of April 2019, Gaffney has been disqualified by the UK Charity Commission from acting as a trustee in all charities for a period of 8 years[3].

Writing and editing

Together with Andrew Harvey, Gaffney was the co-editor of Sogyal Rinpoche's book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.[4] He has also edited two of the Dalai Lama's books, Dzogchen: The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection and Mind in Comfort and Ease: The Vision of Enlightenment in the Great Perfection.


Also a written translator of teachings from Tibetan into English, he translated the Bodhichitta chapter of A Guide to the Words of My Perfect Teacher by Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang under the auspices of the Dipamkara and Padmakara Translation Groups. He is also the senior editor of the Rigpa Translation group.[5]


Gaffney teaches regularly at retreats and public events in Rigpa centres around the world and assisted Sogyal Rinpoche in guiding students during the three-year retreat at Rigpa's main international retreat centre, Lerab Ling, in France, which concluded in November 2009. As a teacher, he mainly focuses on compassion and bodhichitta.[1] He is considered the senior-most teacher amongst Sogyal Rinpoche's students. Regarding Gaffney, Rinpoche has said: “He is one of my oldest and closest students; and if anyone were to understand my mind or my work, it is him.” [2]

He is also an adviser on a number of Rigpa's major international projects such as the Tenzin Gyatso Institute of which he is the President and Chairperson.[6] He was a speaker at the Empathy and Compassion in Society conference held in London in November 2012.[7]


Following an independent report into sexual abuse in Rigpa, the Charity Commission for England and Wales conducted their own investigation and issued a statement in June 2019 that included[8]

Evidence uncovered by the Commission shows Mr Gaffney had knowledge of instances and allegations of improper acts and sexual and physical abuse against students at the charity.

Mr Gaffney failed to take appropriate action in response to this information and is therefore responsible for misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity.


• The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: A New Spiritual Classic from One of the Foremost Interpreters of Tibetan Buddhism to the West (co-editor), 1992


1. "Patrick Gaffney". Rigpa Wiki.
2. "Patrick Gaffney". Dzogchen Beara.
3. Register of Removed Trustees". apps.charitycommission.gov.uk. Retrieved 2019-05-07.
4. "Tibetan Book of Living and Dying". Amazon. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
5. "About Us". Rigpa Translations.
6. "Board of Directors". Tenzin Gyatso Institute. Archived from the original on 2012-07-11.
7. Patterson, Christina. "The science of compassion". The Independent. Retrieved 16 December 2012.
8. "Press release: Charity Commission disqualifies trustee from Rigpa Fellowship".
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Re: Randy Sogyal Rinpoche, Best-Selling Lecher

Postby admin » Sat Jun 15, 2019 7:29 pm

Briefing Document on Sogyal Rinpoche
by DialogueIreland
7 April 2009


The renowned Tibetan Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche, whose organisation Rigpa runs various groups throughout Ireland (See http://www.rigpa.ie/) and indeed elsewhere around the world.Sogyal’s book, ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying,’ has opened innumerable doorways for Rigpa in the field of palliative care and he and his organisation are now prominent players in the burgeoning industry offering help for professionals who shop in the spiritual supermarket in the area surrounding care for the dying: take a look at http://www.spiritualcareconference.com/ for instance. Seemingly, Sogyal can do no wrong.

However, there is a darker side to Sogyal, a side that Dialogue Ireland first became aware of some years ago at the London School of Economics’ Inform ‘Seminar on New Religious Movements (NRMs) and Violence,’ held on May 3, 1997. Inform is a New Religious Movements Centre based at the LSE and which was founded by the prominent NRM authority, Professor Eileen Barker. At the conference, a Frenchwoman, who had been Sogyal’s assistant for some years offered a most distressing account of the indignities she claimed to have endured at the ‘Golden Child’s’ hands.

Despite his public portrayal as a traditionally trained Buddhist meditation master from the East, Sogyal has spent the majority of his life in a Western cultural context. He was educated primarily in English schools in India then at Delhi University and then, having moved to the UK in the sixties, studied comparative religion at Cambridge for two years (undergraduate courses usually last a minimum of three). His Western education then far exceeds his formal Buddhist training. He is deeply steeped in Western ‘cultural’ norms, and fully comprehends Western notions of propriety and what constitutes an abusive relationship, for example.

‘Rigpa’ was born quite early on in Sogyal’s Buddhist career in London, after news of his sexual predations and misbehaviour filtered back to the late Dudjom Rinpoche — then head of the Nyingma and one of the world’s greatest meditation masters. At that time, Sogyal had dedicated his London centre, Orgyen Choling, to Dudjom, but when the latter heard of Sogyal’s misdemeanours, he suggested he give up teaching for a while and return to India to ‘ripen his practice’. Sogyal’s response was to remove his centre from Dudjom Rinpoche’s tutelage and change its name to Rigpa with himself as head, accountable to no-one except himself.

In 1994 the Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama hosted a conference for Western Buddhist teachers. One of the items on the agenda was how to deal with the increasing number of charlatans posing as qualified gurus who were using their positions of power to inflict physical and mental abuse on unwitting disciples: a question prompted in part by Sogyal Rinpoche’s ‘enlightened activities’. The Dalai’s advice? ‘Criticize openly,’ His Holiness declared. ‘That’s the only way. If there is incontrovertible evidence of wrongdoing, teachers should be confronted with it. They should be allowed to admit their wrongs, make amends, and undergo a rehabilitation process. If a teacher won’t respond, students should publish the situation in a newspaper, not omitting the teacher’s name,” His Holiness said. “The fact that the teacher may have done many other good things should not keep us silent.” Again, in 2001, when answering a similar question, he advised potential converts to check a guru’s qualifications carefully; ‘The best thing is,‘ the Dalai Lama said, ‘whenever exploitation, sexual abuse or money abuse happen, make them public.’

There can be little doubt that Rigpa’s workshops have brought great benefit to many in the field of palliative care and, moreover, that none of this could have happened without Sogyal Rinpoche’s input. However, there are other areas where, metaphorically speaking, his input has proven significantly less satisfactory and so, in accord with the Dalai Lama’s instructions and DI’s policy of ensuring that the public are fully aware of all aspects of the different religious groups operating in Ireland, below are excerpts from critical pieces that have appeared in the media over the last decade. It is hoped that these will ensure that those with an interest in Rigpa’s Buddhism have a fuller knowledge of the group and, more particularly, its leader’s background, before they take the decision to become involved. Somehow and thus far, much of the rather disturbing information about Sogyal’s exploits has remained hidden, beyond the scrutiny of the public eye. In the interests of balance and the public good, DI is working to rectify this situation by gathering together as much of this information together in one place and then disseminating it.

Probably the most favourable and equally uninformed pieces concerning ‘Lama’ Sogyal appeared in the Press nearly 10 years ago was written by one of Ireland’s most astute political commentators, Eoghan Harris, in the Irish Sunday Times in 2000 (‘Time for lreland to See the Light’ p.20, July 23). (See full article at end of post.)

The piece waxed lyrical about the Tibetan prophet and could almost have been written by his own professional PR team. Most notably, it mentioned nothing of the multiple allegations of abuse against Sogyal, indeed it appeared that the journalist was unaware of them; it was somewhat reminiscent of those reports by supporters of the Soviet Union following visits, where seemingly, everything in the garden was rosy.

DI contacted the editor of the Sunday Times to point out the discrepancies and contradictions between the public and private faces of Sogyal Rinpoche, an act to which Eoghan Harris took grave and immediate exception. He responded directly, implicitly confirming Sogyal’s wrongdoings , but arguing that he had no time for furthering what he called, ‘…American victim culture, of which weird sexual suits are an integral part…. I do not believe gurus are perfect, nor the women who follow them, do not believe that adults who make messy choices are victims of anybody except themselves, do not believe that adult women (or men) who have consensual sex with a gurus, superiors, bosses, film producers etc are really in the same boat as Cuban refugees who are sexually exploited because they have no real choice, and certainly not in the same boat as rape victims. I have no doubt but that Rinpoche, like many priests, ministers, gurus, comes onto women. But he comes onto adults. It is not nice, but it is not unusual and it has no bearing on the general message of Buddhism, no more than Paisley behaviour can discredit the message of Christianity.’

Adult Ritualised Sexual Abuse: A Contemporary, Western Phenomena?

A consultant to Dialogue Ireland wrote concerning Eoghan Harris’s view:

‘While all sexual abuse is immoral, it is obvious that the depth of the immorality varies in dependence on the context of the abuse: the abuse of an adult is immoral, but that of a minor is significantly more so. Here, sexual activity at first seems to have occurred between two, consenting adults and, generally speaking, such a consensual act would not be considered immoral; this is certainly how your correspondent Mr Harris appears to perceive it.

However, where a religious figure in a position of trust engages in a sexual act with a follower, that person’s status transforms a seemingly consensual act into an abusive one. It is blatant abuse where a person in a position of trust engages in sexual relations with another, both from the perspective of the abuse of power and the abuse of the individual victim.

The status of the teacher too contributes to determining the depth of the abusiveness of the act. If relations occur between a ‘mere mortal’ teacher and an equally mortal student, that is one thing. But where the teacher is perceived as a ‘tantric master’, and the act is accompanied by the promise of spiritual benefit, this moves everything to an even deeper level of abusive depravity. Mr Harris appears to have not understood this.

If the multiple allegations are true and were accompanied by promises of a ‘tantric experience’, or as the Janice Doe suit suggests, victims were told they ‘would be strengthened and healed by having sex’ with Sogyal, the relations were abusive and ritualized.

It is clear that in groups of all religious traditions, this type of abuse has existed for generations. To be a victim of such then, does not render one part of what Mr Harris mistakenly portrays as contemporary ‘American victim culture’, though no doubt such a culture exists. Rather it renders one yet another unfortunate victim of that serious and calculated deception that, while as old as the hills, remains as improper and immoral as it has done for the millennia it has existed throughout mankind’s different cultures and creeds.

That it has existed for so long however renders it no less immoral. In fact, with religion in the advanced state of decline that it is, this renders the act even more so, for it destroys what little is left of what is good in the world. If the faiths are to survive and assist the spiritually needy, we have a responsibility to rid all of the traditions of those who engage in such selfish and irreligious acts in the name of their faith. Mr Harris may be correct in his assertion that such abuse, ‘…has no bearing on the general message of Buddhism’. However, it certainly does have a bearing on the purity and future existence of the faith: while it may not destroy ‘the message’, it damages ‘the medium’ irreparably.’

This therefore, is no crusade against Buddhism; rather it is a crusade against Sogyal’s abuse of his position within that noble religion to procure pleasures for his personal gratification. DI has found the same adult ritualised sexual abuse in Yogic, New Age, Christian and Hindu groups.

‘This (abuse) is in large part a result of the naiveté of westerners when it comes to visiting Asian gurus. People who are deeply suspicious of western organized religion suspend all scepticism when it comes to smiling brown-skinned men telling them to let go of their attachments as they slide their hand onto their knee. People in the West are so desperate for spiritual salvation they are prepared to blind themselves to the rogues and charlatans making millions of dollars through the New Age industry in the last 30 years.’

The Politics of Well Being

www.politicsofwellbeing.com/2008/05/gur ... badly.html

In 1994, a $10 million civil lawsuit was filed against Sogyal Rinpoche in the US. It was alleged that over a period of many years, Rinpoche had used his position as a spiritual leader to induce large numbers of female students to have sexual intercourse with him. As well as alleging sexual impropriety, the particular complaint included counts of intentionally inflicting emotional distress (as had been the case with the French assistant DI encountered at the LSE Inform conference) plus one count of assault and battery. In December 1995, the issue was settled out of court through mediation.It is believed that, while initially and as a result of the mediation, it was agreed that Sogyal would retire from public life and not teach again, eventually sufficient funds, amounting to several millions of US dollars, were procured to ensure Sogyal’s continued liberty to teach.

In his defence, his supporters have repeatedly argued that lamas of Sogyal’s Nyingma School are not required to take vows of celibacy and indeed, Sogyal is not a monk.Nor in fact, was the central role model of the school, its founder, Padmasambhava, who had five tantric consorts who were also his students.Moreover, his supporters claim, while there is a precept against sexual misconduct in Buddhism, with respect to a non-monastic lama this precept is rather limited in scope and would apply ‘only if the female is not free but rather under the protection of her father, mother, husband, king or herself bound by a vow of celibacy.’

This calculated response however, does not take into account the fact that, a) Sogyal Rinpoche may not possess the same level of tantric realisation of as the ‘Second Buddha’, Padmasambhava (despite, as we shall see, his claims to the opposite), and b) as well as the above precept, there are further precepts for Buddhist tantric practitioners which prohibit engaging in sexual acts with unqualified partners, precepts which Sogyal’s supporters would probably have been well aware of but, for some strange reason, neglected to refer to. While the eighth century milieu of Padmasambhava was primarily a tantric Buddhist one and would therefore have led on occasion to his encountering qualified consorts, it would be highly unusual for so many young and inexperienced Western victims of Sogyal to possess all of the relevant qualifications, particularly as many were new converts to the faith and therefore could not have possessed any of the numerous necessary prerequisite teachings and initiations.

If Sogyal is not a great tantric yogi and had plain old run-of-the-mill sex with these unqualified victims, while at the same time the latter were expecting to be healed by the ‘tantric experience’ his supposed status promised, then, despite his disciple’s protestations, these acts would amount to nothing more than adult ritualised sexual abuse at the hands of a very ordinary, fat and balding, middle aged man with a penchant for beer, food, praise, TV, and sleep. The 10th century Buddhist master Dharmarakshita’s ‘Peacock in the Poison Grove’ demonstrated the traditional Buddhist position on such devious acts:

‘For the sake of material gain you assume the guise of a noble one: Like dogs and pigs you indulge in lustful acts, Deceiving all with the claim that this is tantra— You should be burned in a hearth by vajra holders….Those who lead the foolish with no graduated stages of the path should be brought to the level of dogs by the learned ones.’

It is hoped that, in acting in the way he has, Sogyal is actually skilfully leading his female tantric students along the path to enlightenment. If he is, thus far, some have clearly yet to feel the benefit. If he is not then, according to his faith’s forefathers, it may be that, sooner rather than later, he finds himself in canine rather than feminine company.

Below are two Press articles about the original Janice Doe case, plus the testimony of an ex-close follower of Sogyal. One would have hoped that the Janice Doe experience would have caused Sogyal to rethink his ways. However, allegations continue to surface concerning his behaviour right down to the present day, as a quick glance at: http://troismondes.canalblog.com/archiv ... 43357.html demonstrates. This site is in French, but has English post as well. We had access to other sites which also allude to Sogyal’s activities, but because of their lack of corroboration we must leave out. Far too much hearsay and not enough evidence are adduced.

It should be borne in mind that the fact that millions of dollars were paid to one accuser to silence them is no indication of moral purity or a lack of culpability on the part of Sogyal nor does it absolve him of the crime he allegedly committed; rather, it demonstrates that everyone has their price and that price is certainly one that some are willing to pay to preserve their empires. Moreover, for those whose silence can be bought, it demonstrates that for some, money is clearly more important than truth and preventing the suffering of others.

Finally, those who claim that, just because there is smoke it doesn’t mean there is fire, should bear in mind that, when smoke does rise from behind a mountain, there usually is a fire behind it; as they say, ‘if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.’
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Re: Randy Sogyal Rinpoche, Best-Selling Lecher

Postby admin » Sat Jun 15, 2019 7:33 pm

Part 1 of 2

Behind The Thangkas ~ Sogyal Rimpoche ~ The imbalance of power and abuse of spiritual authority
by Dialogue Ireland
Posted on 15 December 2011

Dialogue Ireland has hosted a dossier which points to issues of sexual and inappropriate cultist behaviour involving women.

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2 ... -rinpoche/

We have also become aware of extreme teaching methods which are applied in seminars. We publish this in the knowledge that some may hold different views. We always allow contrary views as our comment section shows. However, we go beyond and will allow an official response from Rigpa to be published without censorship. Also if any individual in the body of this text feels a need to respond we will publish this in full following editorial scrutiny. Sexual assault, abuse, an imbalance of power and abuse of spiritual authority concerning Sogyal Rimpoche are all features of this article.

-- Mike Garde Director Dialogue Ireland.

It is a cloudy day in August 2008 in the Languedoc-Rousillon region of southern France. Hundreds of people dressed in their best party clothes line both sides of a narrow country road. Most of them hold a khata — a long white scarf, presented as a ceremonial offering to Tibetan dignitaries. A rainbow array of prayer flags flutter, and the breeze catches plumes of fragrant juniper smoke rising from pot-bellied stoves placed at intervals along the route.

A ripple of excitement runs through the crowd as a procession comes into view. As it approaches some people wave, others bow with hands clasped in the prayer gesture, others offer their khatas, holding them at arm’s length towards a small, elderly man wearing maroon monastic robes and a huge smile. Even at a distance he radiates charisma. He has acquired unique status on the world stage as the man who loves everyone — and many people nowadays accept that the joy on his face originates from a genuinely open heart. As he passes, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, reaches out to touch members of his adoring fan club. The Dalai Lama strides alongside Carla Bruni Sarkozy at the head of a cluster of monks, security men and journalists, towards a multi-coloured, ornate portico. A monastic band strikes up. Monks in their red and yellow robes and ceremonial hats play shawms – oboe-like instruments that wail like the wind in a Himalayan storm. They lead the proceedings that set in motion the inauguration of the largest, most grandiose Tibetan temple in the developed world. Sheltered by the portico, Carla Sarkozy stands apart from the crowd – tall and elegant in a dark couture dress. She too holds a khata. Another figure sidles up beside her. He is short, balding, obese and clothed in a floor-length mustard yellow robe – a chuba — lay rather than monastic Tibetan attire. His manner is obsequious, he is bowed in deference but his face tells the phalanx of TV cameras, forest of microphones and those present in person that this is his finest hour. Here he is, Sogyal Lakar from a remote region of Tibet, introducing the Dalai Lama to the First Lady of France.

Sogyal is recognised as a tulku (re-incarnate lama) and is known as Rinpoche, which means precious one in Tibetan. He is the second best known lama on the Tibetan landscape and he too is idolised by thousands of followers who belong to Rigpa, his organisation active in France with six centres and six study groups and in 24 countries around the world. Carla Sarkozy appears somewhat awe-struck. With a shy smile she offers her khata to the Dalai Lama. His big smile broadens even further as, according to Tibetan custom, he accepts the scarf and then returns it to the donor — draping it tastefully around Carla’s neck. A day of elaborate ritual follows, with the Dalai Lama tasting salt, tossing flower petals and cutting multi coloured ribbons draped across the temple doors, before entering to perform the consecration ceremony. Once inside, more celebrities step out to meet the world’s A list holy man – French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Rama Yade, Secretary of State for Human Rights and former Prime Minister Alain Juppe. As the Dalai Lama moves inside the enormous building decorated with extreme oriental flamboyance, other public figures are on tenterhooks for their brief moment of eye contact with His Holiness. A famous actress here, an author there, more politicians – and a cluster of clerics, including Claude Azema, the auxilliary Bishop of Montpelier. The name of the place is Lerab Ling, which means Sanctuary of Enlightened Action. Sogyal Rinpoche chose this name in honour of Lerab Lingpa, a 19th century Tibetan Buddhist master Sogyal claims as his predecessor. So how did a 63 year old man in poor health, who left his native Tibet when he was a young child, and had only a basic education in India, come to be the head of a multi-national organisation with tentacles in five continents? 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?

Charisma, luck, chutzpah and a lawsuit

If you ask a selection of Sogyal’s many admirers about the qualities as a Buddhist teacher that have contributed to his success, two answers stand out: his charisma and his humour. Sogyal is an accomplished public performer– that is one factor. Another is that he is credited as the author of the all-time best selling Buddhist book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, which has sold a million copies and been translated into 24 languages. More astringent observers of Sogyal’s trajectory into guru super stardom point in other directions: to his lucky streak, his timing, his chutzpah and his astute exploitation of zeitgeist. For example, thousands of people in the developed world were ready to embrace the exotic path to enlightenment offered by exiled Tibetan lamas and ready to address the taboos surrounding death and dying. But beneath the surface of Sogyal’s success story there are darker strands. His status as a Buddhist lama requires him to be an exemplar of two fundamental articles of faith: wisdom and compassion. Yet in 1994 an American woman known as Janice Doe sued Sogyal for sexual assault and battery. Ever since then, allegations around his private life, financial affairs and credentials as a lama have surfaced from disillusioned former disciples – to the extent that they cast serious doubt on his status as a pre-eminent Buddhist teacher. Those in the know about the history of Rigpa make one firm assertion: that Sogyal could not have scaled the giddy heights without the help of his long-term right-hand man Patrick Gaffney. Some former insiders, like the journalist Mary Finnigan, go further: “Patrick is the real brains behind Rigpa,” she says, “Sogyal is merely the public persona.” Patrick played an equal role with Sogyal during the Lerab Ling temple ceremony – highlighting his dominant position in the Rigpa hierarchy.

Career launch in London

Sogyal left India in the early 1970s. The official biography claims he studied comparative religion at Cambridge University, but when Mary Finnigan met him shortly after he first arrived in England, she recalls that he was resident at a sanatorium in Cambridge: “He was accompanying a member of the Sikkimese royal family while both of them were recovering from tuberculosis.” Sogyal’s Lakar family were well-connected, but impoverished since their flight into exile. According to several former members of Rigpa, Sogyal’s mother sent her elder son to the west with specific instructions to make money. In the winter of 1973 Sogyal turned up in London, announcing that he wanted to set up a centre where teachings could be given by some of the great Tibetan meditating yogis. Around this time he met Patrick Gaffney and another faithful acolyte, Dominique Side. The latter was introduced to him by Mary Finnigan and a group of squatters occupying a house in the Kentish Town district of north London. In the early 1970s hippies were settling down back home after their oriental adventures and experiments with psychedelic drugs. Most of them acknowledged their interest in altered states of consciousness, but realised it was time to stop using powerful chemicals. They had encountered exiled Tibetan lamas in India and Nepal and were eager to pursue their fascination with Tibet’s Tantric Buddhism known as the Vajrayana – a contemplative schema that offers the promise of authentic spiritual experience, leading to profound insights and even enlightenment in one lifetime. At the time there was only one Tibetan lama, Chime Youngdon Rinpoche, giving teachings in London. Apart from the dauntingly orthodox Buddhist Society, there was no place anywhere in London where an ambitious young lama could set up his stall, in order to meet the demand for Tibetan Buddhism. That is until the squatters heard about a large empty house in Chatsworth Road, Kilburn, owned by The London Borough of Brent. Mary Finnigan was a member of a group of about 10 squatters who broke into the house and claimed it in the name of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. According to Mary Finnigan, Sogyal already had a reputation as a playboy with a penchant for pretty girls when he arrived in London. It soon became clear to his core group of squatters, hippies and young professional people that their new-found guru had a voracious sexual appetite. Mary recalls that he lived for a while with Dominique Side – “she was devastated when she found out he was not monogamous” – but soon moved into his own room in Chatsworth Road. “At this point” says Mary, “he switched into top gear and persuaded several senior lamas to perform ceremonies and give teachings in what they probably did not know was an illegally occupied building.” The response exceeded all expectations, with crowds turning up to events that were publicised at short notice by word of mouth. During the early days in London, Sogyal acted mostly as a translator for the older generation of yogi-lamas who fled from Tibet following the Chinese takeover in 1959. These included the head of the Nyingma order, the late Dudjom Rinpoche – a lama of legendary repute held in the highest regard by Tibetans and westerners alike. Sogyal dedicated his new centre to Dudjom, who named it Orgyen Choling.

Trungpa Rinpoche and the rock star lifestyle

The squat lasted only a few months. At first Sogyal was “one of the boys”, but took off for a while to visit Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who pioneered Tibetan Buddhism in the USA. Trungpa was a formidably intelligent iconoclast who acquired a nationwide following, with a formula that shook Buddhist America to the core and generated enthusiasm wherever he alighted. In contrast to the more familiar austerities of Zen Buddhism, Trungpa offered authentic Tibetan theory and practice in tandem with a sybaritic lifestyle. An early American seeker, 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.” Sogyal returned to London in a radically altered state of mind – berating his students for their lack of worldly ambition and demanding to be treated like a “precious one”. Around this time Sogyal met up with Ngakpa Chogyam, a Englishman who later became a Buddhist teacher. “At first he was quite friendly”, says Chogyam, “but later he let me know that he was a distinctly superior being and that I was no longer to address him as Sogyal.” Around this time Sogyal launched into his habit of publicly humiliating his close followers – berating for them for even minor errors in front of a roomful of people. Patrick Gaffney is the only one to be spared these ordeals. He was still doing it in 2011. A woman (Lalatee) who attended a retreat at Dzogchen Beara, the Rigpa centre in Ireland, was profoundly shocked by Sogyal’s behaviour: “I experienced what at best could be termed disrespect, at worst abuse of his colleagues and disciples. He was regularly late and often over-ran the sessions by several hours. He was insulting to the Irish people, about his assistants and to individual course participants. The last straw for me was when he called a senior assistant to come to the dais. She’s a respected professional in her 60s doing amazing work with the bereaved and the dying. She was forced to kneel beside Sogyal, while he embraced her closely and put his hand on her chest. I could see that she was embarrassed and uncomfortable. Sogyal proceeded to stroke her face, looking deeply into her eyes. When she pulled back slightly, he turned to the 250 people present and said ‘this is none of your business, turn away’. So 250 people twisted round in their seats and looked away. If that is not crowd manipulation and abuse, I don’t know what is. At the very least it shows complete disregard for western social mores and ethical behaviour.”

Also in 2011 another woman (Myra) attended a Rigpa retreat at Myall Lakes in Australia. “Sogyal seemed arrogant and uncaring. He was habitually an hour or more late and after he turned up would spend another hour and half criticising his older students. Meanwhile, several hundred people who had already waited a long time had to witness this, not understanding what was going on. Many of them were new to Rigpa. Sogyal then gave his senior students orders about how he wanted the presentation to be prepared for the next day. I know they sometimes stayed up all night working on a new version, but next day when Sogyal arrived everything would be all wrong again and there would be another diatribe.” Myra asked older students about Sogyal’s behaviour: “One explanation given to justify it was that he aims to shock people out of their habitual thinking – that he’s a Vajra Master and doesn’t conform to the same samsaric standards as we do. I couldn’t help thinking that if he’s really a Vajra Master why does he need to follow a precise order of events? Why are the prepared readings and video excerpts so important? I really think there’s something else going on.” 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. “He was a slave driver”, says one squatter, Jack, “he had us working flat out, restoring the house, building a shrine, putting up shelves and so on – while he sat around directing operations.” People like businessman Jean Lanoe involved in the construction of the Lerab Ling temple would affirm that in this respect also, Sogyal has not changed.

Sogyal Rinpoche was born in 1947 into the Lakar family of what the Tibetans called the Trehor region of Kham, Tibet.[9] According to his mother, the patron of his courtesan aunt and de facto stepfather, Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, recognized him as the incarnation of Tertön Sogyal and supervised his education at Dzongsar Monastery.[10] However this claim appears to have no other source. He claims to have studied traditional subjects with several tutors, including Khenpo Appey, who was appointed as his tutor by Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö.[10][11]

Sogyal Rinpoche attended a Catholic school in Kalimpong, India and then studied at Delhi University in India's capital before coming to the West.

-- Sogyal Rinpoche, by Wikipedia

Sex conquests and doubts

Neither it seems, has his insatiable appetite for sexual conquests. From Chatsworth Road, Orgyen Choling moved into short life premises in Princess Road, Kilburn. Sogyal occupied the top floor, members of his band of wannabe Buddhist yogis lived in other rooms, while the ground floor was transformed into a shrine room. One resident recalled the steady stream of young women summoned to the guru’s abode for “private teachings.” “Some of them would stay for a while and leave quietly, but others would flounce out shouting loud protests and slamming doors.”

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 drugs, alcohol 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:

“Apart from some stuff he picked up from his uncle Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, he knows very little and what he does know is not Dzogchen.” Ngakpa Chogyam also became aware of gaps in Sogyal’s knowledge: “He asked me a lot of questions about Dzogchen”, he says, “and I was surprised by the way he’d enquire – almost, I thought at the time, as if he didn’t know the answers. I ended up talking a lot when we were alone together – but it occurred to me later that he never asked questions like this when anyone else was around.” Later in his career, when Sogyal was an established lama, he was sitting with several Rinpoches listening to teachings by the Dalai Lama. One of the Rinpoches wrote a note in Tibetan and passed it round the group. According to a Tibetan Buddhist scholar who heard about this from one of the lamas involved “It was obvious to all of them that Sogyal could not read it.” In 1979 the Dzogchen master Choegyal Namkhai Norbu taught for the first time in London and members of Sogyal’s group who attended realised they were experiencing the genuine article. There was a mass exodus from Orgyen Choling, but within weeks the defectors were replaced by a new intake. The devotees who remained faithful include Patrick Gaffney and Dominique Side.

Breaking the bond and the birth of Rigpa

Around this time Sogyal made his first sortie into France – a move which set in motion a chain of events that led to the establishment of Rigpa as a multi-national organisation. Disciples of the late Dudjom Rinpoche had coalesced into a small group in Paris. Sogyal pitched up there and was invited to teach. However, it transpired that the Dudjom people were considerably less tolerant of his playboy lifestyle than his followers in London. Before long they asked Sogyal to leave, but by the time they did this he had acquired a taste for the pleasures of life in France. It must have been tedious for him to return to hippiedom in a dilapidated house in an unfashionable area of London, after spending time with the Parisian bourgeoisie. It seems likely that reports on Sogyal’s womanising and expensive eating habits reached Dudjom Rinpoche’s ears from France – because shortly after he was kicked out of the Paris centre, Dudjom wrote to Sogyal requesting him to stop teaching for a while and return to India “to ripen his practice”. Residents at Orgyen Choling recall little hesitation on the part of their teacher: “He refused point blank to obey the head of his order”, says one of them (Mark) “ quite the opposite in fact. He removed his group from the Dudjom mandala and changed its name to Rigpa, with him in charge and accountable to no-one.” The surge of enthusiasm for Tibetan Buddhism continued to accelerate, but in the late 1970s and early 80s there were still very few lamas actively at work in the big cities of the western world. News of Sogyal’s activities — and that he attracted some of the legendary elders like Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche — spread like wildfire. It soon became apparent that the room at Princess Road was too small to accommodate the ever increasing numbers turning up for teachings. A cash donation from a famous actor enabled Rigpa to obtain a lease on premises in Camden Town. They stayed there for several years until they outgrew this space too. Their final move in London was to their present home on Caledonian Road, in Islington. This is an extensive property with a very large, if somewhat claustrophobic basement shrine room.

Conquering America

The 1980s was a period of phenomenal expansion in the number of people seeking instruction in Tibetan Buddhism – especially in America. As news of the lush lifestyles enjoyed by lamas in the developed world spread to the austere monastic institutions in India and Nepal, more and more of them packed their bags and flew off to fulfil the demand. It soon became clear that not only would they live in luxury, but also that teaching Vajrayana Buddhism represented a major source of income for the Tibetan diaspora. Sogyal set his sights on California.

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 Lama, who belongs to the monastic Gelug school. Sogyal is a Nyingmapa– an older, largely non-celibate tradition. “Sogyal loathed the Gelugpas and the DL,“ 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.

His appeal lay in the Shangri-la myths and legends surrounding all things Tibetan. Sogyal’s American audiences had few points of reference to give focus to their enthusiasm, and like many people in many countries, they were hungry for what seemed to them to be authentic access to an ancient esoteric tradition. One of the Californians impressed by Sogyal was Christine Longaker, who at that time was director of the Hospice of Santa Cruz County in the San Francisco Bay area. This smart woman made a connection between Tibetan texts dealing with death and the after-death state – and her work in palliative care for the dying. She shared her insights with Sogyal – who swiftly realised that this could turn out to be his passport to fame and fortune. He was right. From the mid 1980s onwards Sogyal set his acolytes the task of researching information on western attitudes to death and dying – and linking these with The Tibetan Book of the Dead. This text is attributed to Padmasambhava, an 8th century yogi credited as the founding father of Buddhism in Tibet. Originally translated into English in 1927, it was essential reading for hippies and well-thumbed copies were passed around the traveller communities in India. Some found their way into San Francisco bookshops.

Once he had his research data, Sogyal started lecturing on Spiritual Care for the Dying — challenging deeply entrenched taboos and attracting large audiences, including many people experiencing various stages of terminal illness and grieving. It is beyond doubt that within a western cultural context, Sogyal was delivering a seismic shift. It was pioneered by the psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler Ross, but the addition of Sogyal’s Tibetan Buddhist perspective was a radical new formula – which suggested that rather than a source of fear, death can be treated as source of inspiration.

The book that made a million

The theories and practices expounded in Sogyal’s lectures were collated into his version of the Padmasambhava treatise, but with a contemporary twist – living in tandem with dying – highlighting the two states as mirror images of each other. 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. But there are questions around the authorship of the TBOLD. Rumours that Sogyal did not write the book have been circulating on the internet for years. When approached for comment, the author, academic and mystic Andrew Harvey gave an inconclusive response: “Sogyal participated totally in every level of the creation of the book and as the representative of his tradition was the indispensable transmitter of its wisdom. The process was a totally mutual collaboration in which Sogyal gave everything and had the final word on every word. It is a very hard process to describe. Any suggestion that Sogyal did not write this book is -I think, absurd and dishonouring of his genius and passion. Both Patrick and I worked tirelessly and I hope, selflessly to honour Sogyal’s brilliance and the wisdom of the tradition. And the book could not exist without the transcripts of Sogyal’s talks that were it’s foundation.” The ubiquitous Patrick Gaffney and Andrew Harvey are credited as editors – but Harvey’s words do not confirm Sogyal as the author. Grant, a former Rigpa member, recalls spending time with Harvey “when he was writing the book”. Grant adds: “Could anyone who knows Sogyal imagine him being able to quote the German mystical poet Rainer Maria Rilke? Or the Sufi sage Jalaluddin Rumi? He simply doesn’t have that level of education.” Andrew Harvey does – and comparisons between The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and Harvey’s own books reveal striking similarities in tone, structure and language. According to a well known American Buddhist teacher: “Andrew Harvey was very upset at not being credited as co-author.” The journalist Mary Finnigan is also sceptical: “When Sogyal was living in London it became obvious that he is barely literate,” she says, “he never read anything except comic books, never wrote letters and spent most of his free time watching television.”

Buddhist teacher Ngakpa Chogyam also has doubts:

“The book was cobbled together from more than a decade of Sogyal’s teachings,” he says, “I worked for a while on transcribing the tapes. There were a fair few mistakes which I corrected as I went along – particularly about Dzogchen and precise definitions of Buddhist doctrine.”

Enter Dierdre Smith

In June 1993, less than a year after the publication of the TBOLD, 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 karma: “He ground me down”, she says, “it was the same thing over and over – Do you love me? Do you trust me? It must have gone on for about six hours. Eventually I was exhausted and gave up resisting. The whole thing revolved around surrender to him and I was scared of losing the opportunity to heal my family.” P11. 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 Buddha, love 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.” During her last retreat with Sogyal, Dierdre found out about the scandals surrounding Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and his regent Osel Tendzin (Thomas Rich), who infected several people with HIV. “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. By this time a lot less naïve than she was when she first encountered Sogyal, Dierdre sought help from several counsellors, including a strong-minded Californian Zen teacher who had herself been a victim of a sexually abusive guru. “It is harmful to both student and teacher”, the teacher says, “because they end up slipping into a fantasy realm, rather than cultivating awareness of the Buddhist path. Americans are more sophisticated now — we know about the long term damage inherent in relationships where there is a power imbalance.”
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Re: Randy Sogyal Rinpoche, Best-Selling Lecher

Postby admin » Sat Jun 15, 2019 7:33 pm

Part 2 of 2

The lawsuit

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. The suit also charged that Sogyal had seduced many other female students for his own sexual gratification by preying on their vulnerability. Three days later the story broke in several west coast newspapers, following a report by an agency journalist, Don Lattin, which included comment by Victoria Barlow: “I went to an apartment to see a highly esteemed lama to discuss religion”, she said, “he opened the door without a shirt on and with a can of beer in his hand.” Once they were on the sofa, Barlow continued, “Sogyal lunged at me with sloppy kisses and groping. I thought I should take it as a compliment so I surrendered to him – but it had a horrible effect on me and caused a lot of depression.” News of the lawsuit spread like wildfire across the Tibetan Buddhist grapevine. 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”. Journalists who requested interviews with Sogyal were told he was “in retreat”. In January 1995 a feature about the lawsuit by Mary Finnigan appeared in the British national daily newspaper The Guardian. A few weeks later a broadcast version of the story, also by Mary Finnigan, ran on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme. Sogyal was scheduled to lead Rigpa’s annual UK Easter retreat, booked to happen at Harrow School, but someone at Harrow heard the BBC item and promptly cancelled the booking. “Rigpa was stuck with more than a hundred people and nowhere to go” says one of Sogyal’s organisers at the time. “All we could do was cram them into the shrine room in London.” In February 1995 the UK’s Telegraph Magazine featured a cover story on the Sogyal lawsuit by the journalist and author Mick Brown. In it, two English women spoke about their sexual encounters with Sogyal: P14 “Its a relationship that you haven’t chosen, agreed to or discussed”, said one woman, “Because he was my spiritual teacher I trusted that whatever he asked was in my best interests….by sleeping with the teacher you get a closeness to him which everyone is hankering after….but in fact it caused me a lot of pain that I wasn’t able to dissolve.” Another 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.” In a unique manifestation of his disapproval, The Dalai Lama withdrew from participation in a Living and Dying Conference scheduled by Rigpa to take place in California. The conference was cancelled. Sogyal also had to cancel an appearance at a prestigious event in New York, the Art of Dying conference. This time his excuse was “severe flu”. The glorification of Sogyal suffered a serious setback and in order to silence Janice Doe, Rigpa was forced to part with a large sum of money. Just how much money was involved in the out-of-court settlement is a closely guarded secret, but it is alleged to run into millions of dollars.

After the lawsuit

It took about two years – and a huge workload for Patrick Gaffney and other members of the Rigpa inner circle — to re-establish Sogyal as a globe trotting guru. “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.” Around this time Mary Finnigan interviewed the Dalai Lama about the Sogyal lawsuit. “He was very clear about the issue of sexual relations between teachers and disciples”, she says “he condemned it as unacceptable and told me he had advised Sogyal to settle down and ‘take a lawful wife’. “ P15 Sogyal’s response to this was to have an affair with an American woman called Mary-Anne, who became pregnant and gave birth to Sogyal’s son Yeshe. Asked if he would marry Mary-Anne he is said to have replied “that would be a step too far.” Even though by this time Sogyal had been placing the Dalai Lama at the top of his totem for many years, clearly he was not impressed by advice from the boss on his private life. “It was window dressing” says one former Sogyal dakini, “the Dalai Lama blessed the relationship, but Sogyal was never monogamous. One of his other women – Alison — saw herself as the ‘wife’ and she would not have allowed him to stop having sex with her.”

There is no doubt that the lawsuit made the Tibetan Buddhist community in the developed world take stock of its situation. Even in 1993, before the lawsuit, a group of western Buddhist teachers held a conference with the Dalai Lama. The statement the emerged from it included these words “… each student must be encouraged to take responsible measures to confront teachers with unethical aspects of their conduct. If the teacher shows no sign of reform, students should not hesitate to publicise any unethical behaviour of which there is irrefutable evidence. This should be done irrespective of other beneficial aspects of his or her work and of one’s spiritual commitment to that teacher. It should also be made clear in any publicity that such conduct is not in conformity with Buddhist teachings. No matter what level of spiritual attainment a teacher has, or claims to have reached, no person can stand above the norms of ethical conduct.” Although the Dalai Lama told the meeting that sexual misbehaviour should be publicised and errant teachers made to feel “regretful and embarrassed”, significantly in the light of subsequent developments, he declined to endorse the statement. 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’. “His chutzpah was breathtaking” says the American teacher Yvonne Rand. “We could hardly believe what we were experiencing. It was only our respect for the Dalai Lama that stopped several of us from walking out.” 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. The standards perpetrated by the Tibetan diaspora headquarters in Dharamsala are becoming increasingly obvious to observers of Tibet, its religion and culture. 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.

Fast forward to 2006

Air France pilot Gerard Dubois was coming to the end of his career as a 747 captain. Since the year 2000 Gerard ran his professional and spiritual lives in tandem – off duty he spent his time as a serious, bordering-on-fanatical student with Sogyal Rinpoche. The extent of his commitment is illustrated by the fact that it spilled over into air time — he accomplished the gruelling Tibetan Buddhist preliminary practice known as the ngondro by using his rest periods during long distance flights to complete 108 thousand full body prostrations in the crew space behind the flight deck. Gerard worked his way through the Rigpa hierarchy to the point where he became a dharma teacher himself, alongside other members of the French elite, including Olivier Raurich, Phillipe Cornu and the late Francois Calmes. “I was looking for answers”, he says, “trying to find a way to make my mind free and open. I have to admit that I was hypnotised by Sogyal for six years. As I became more involved, I distanced myself from my family and friends and devoted myself totally to Rigpa – with my time, energy and money. As a result, I became completely anti-social, turned in on myself and one-track minded” Gerard points out that following the Rigpa path is extremely expensive: “You have to buy ritual objects and constantly update study material. You pay for courses, study days, statues, food offerings for the temple – the list is endless. You have to sponsor people who can’t afford retreats and for those who can, the price is exorbitant. They never stop asking for money– and its done with subtle persuasion – pretty speeches scripted specifically to make you put your hand in your pocket.” Other former Rigpa insiders confirm that there is relentless pressure to donate money. According to one of them: “I even heard Sogyal say to one man ‘just shut up and give me your money’ “.

Dakini Janine

The person who was probably most affected by Gerard’s obsession with Rigpa is his daughter Janine. Aged 22 in 2000 and outstandingly beautiful, she was already feeling parentally deprived because of Gerard’s professional absences. 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. ”Afterwards he gave me his schedule and his phone numbers – and almost immediately I was invited to join him for a holiday in Australia. This seemed like a nice thing to do so I said yes. “I was met in Sydney by a wealthy family who were obviously under orders to look after me – and I was treated like a princess. They have a fabulous house where I was given a room and they arranged everything I wanted – yoga classes, shopping etc”.

Did Janine query this – and wonder why it was happening? “Not really”, she says, “I assumed Sogyal was being paternal in an Asian way. But I still hadn’t seen him. Then suddenly, in the middle of the night, he decided it was time to go to the beach.” A convoy of cars set off. Janine found herself crammed into one of them with five other people, including Sogyal: “I didn’t get a good impression” she says, “he virtually ignored me, which was not at all the Asian papa way – I think this was the moment when he started to manipulate my feelings.” The time at the beach coincided with St Valentine’s day. Janine was ordered to wear a best dress and turn up at Sogyal’s house for dinner. At this moment she realised the whole set up was somewhat bizarre:

“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. We were constantly being told to run here or fetch this in a haphazard way – because basically Sogyal is not very organised. 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.

“He made me the only person to interact with the other people. By this time I was sleeping on the floor in his room…every time he had a thought, I would write it down and communicate it. I had control of the phones and the walkie talkies.” 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. After grooming her at record speed (other girls complained she had been fast tracked out of ‘hell’s kitchen’), Sogyal pounced on Janine for the first time at a high stress moment: “We had arranged to go to dinner at a restaurant to celebrate one of the other girls’ (Minou) birthday. Whenever Sogyal does something like this it is a major operation, involving anything up to 20 people. We have to send an advance party to the restaurant to make sure everything is exactly how he wants it, we have to polish up the big cars, pack his bags, wash him, dress him, collect his pillows, tissues and so on.

I was at the centre of the storm, co-ordinating the various strands and at that time I had had only about three hours sleep a night for the past month.” When everything was ready and the people were waiting to leave, 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.

“It happened again of course, especially at times of stress – before a teaching for example he has to have his fix. Sometimes it was every day, sometimes less often depending on how many girls he was into, or what was happening. 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 and he doesn’t sleep well. He keeps waking up and wanting things, medicines or food and so on. “I blanked out my feelings for a while, but then I became very troubled, which was extremely difficult because I’d been sworn to secrecy and couldn’t talk about it with anyone. 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.

“A young lama married to an American woman came to teach at Lerab Ling. He was by himself in the courtyard and I really needed to talk to someone because I knew something was really wrong. So I decided to talk to this lama, hoping he would explain it for me. I asked him ‘what’s a consort?’ He looked at me and he knew exactly what I was talking about. I burst into tears and that bastard said ‘if you are the consort of a master you are very lucky’ and that was it. That’s all he said.”

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.”

Behind the thangkas

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 STIs: “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. That was the only time I heard him say something nice about Anna – he announced that it was one thing she could do well.”

Janine’s epiphany….

…..occurred when she was travelling alone on Eurostar:

“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.”

Janine went into counselling and after initially keeping her experiences with Sogyal to herself, she eventually opened up with her therapist, who advised her to devise a closure ritual so that she could clear the psycho-emotional decks and move on:

“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. Realising I’d reached my limit, I took my counsellor’s advice and created a monstrous drawing and collage. I put myself in it and the other girls and I did a caricature of Sogyal like a Tibetan deity with lots of arms – but they were holding things like cash and the beating stick. Instead of clouds I put speech bubbles with the phrases in them that he used to intimidate and manipulate us.”

Janine took her artwork to Sogyal when he was leading the Rigpa UK Easter retreat. She also took two friends to ride shotgun – one of them a very big man. “We went into his formal reception room and I handed him the drawing and burst into floods of tears. There was a long silence – then he asked me what I wanted. I tried to say that I wanted him to stop what he’s doing, but he started to talk about money. I thought well, why not – I would like my expenses for the trip. I told him the ticket cost 450 Euros, so he got up and came back with an envelope. I left with my friends and when I opened the envelope I had a moment of pleasure – he’d given me 350, rather than the full amount so I knew I’d made him angry. “After this a lot of important Rigpa people called me. There were all sorts of threats and I heard that men were claiming I’d slept with them and were calling me a whore. But they should know that Sogyal is very possessive about the women he likes – he only lets the ones he wants to get rid of sleep with other men.
I know now that many of the things he does are punishable by law. I am not afraid of him”.

The three year retreat

While the Sogyal-Janine saga played out, Gerard was participating in Rigpa’s first three years, three months and three days retreat.

This is a traditional Tibetan Buddhist training programme, designed to bring about deep contemplative realisation and yogic insight. The retreat, involving intensive practice and seclusion from the outside world, began on August 9 2006 and ended on 21 November 2009.

However, true to form, Sogyal adapted the retreat to dovetail with his version of Tibetan Buddhism as a marketable commodity. One of Rigpa’s web sites described it thus:

“…the purpose of such a break is to re-emerge into the world refreshed and re-inspired, having further developed the mind’s innate qualities of peacefulness and clarity, and deepened the heart’s innate capacity for empathy and compassion.”

It does not mention any of the profound aspects of Buddhist meditation– ‘primordial emptiness’ for example, or ‘integration beyond duality’. In comparison with the way other lamas present Tibetan Buddhism, Sogyal’s programme could be equated with studying for primary school exams. Gerard Dubois – retired from flight duty and free from family obligations – sorted his external affairs and settled into Lerab Ling with every intention of staying the retreat distance, in the expectation that it would move his spiritual practice into a fresh dimension. Instead he found himself in a situation where the emphasis on group rather than solitary practice was wholly unproductive:

“I had no experiences” he says, “at the start I went along with what was happening, but eventually I gave up and instead of doing Tibetan meditation, I concealed a Zen text in my prayer books and read that when I was supposed to be meditating.”

The coup de grace on Gerard’s involvement with Rigpa came when he read a letter from Janine – three weeks after it had arrived. In it she confessed to her father that she had been in a sexual relationship with Sogyal. “I was very angry” he says.

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 – but not before he had shared his feelings with other retreatants: “We were not allowed to talk” he says, “but we found ways to communicate.” As a result some of the 200 people present also left the retreat – some shocked at the revelation, others realising that their pre-existing doubts were well founded.


During the time that Sogyal has been active as a lama in the developed world, the deep split between his public persona and his private life has been observed by several people who were not involved with him sexually. These include former assistants, a former member of Rigpa UK, an anonymous witness who was the manager of a Rigpa centre and Louella – who cooked for Sogyal while he was teaching in Montreal.

“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’. Some are embarrassed by the fact that they allowed themselves to be duped by a con man – and after extricating themselves from his clutches want to move on from the experience, rather than re-live it (painfully) in interviews. Also there is an element of sado-masochism in the relationship between Sogyal and his harem. Janine maintains that one woman in particular welcomes the beatings. 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. I remember I seriously started to have doubts about 5 years ago. I was ordered to give Alison a massage and she confided in me that she was SR’s main consort and that he had a harem. She said after he made love to her he just rolled over with no tenderness and she confessed how hard she found it and how jealous all the girls were of each other – that they are very competitive. She said she had been told to make a vow with 2 other main girls in the harem so that they couldn’t have sexual relations with anyone else but were kind of married exclusively to him.

“The following Easter retreat I had lost a lot of weight (he likes them skinny) and had just come out of a long relationship. As soon as SR knew this he started on me. He started to grab me and kiss me, but I would push him away. The worst time was when he’d eaten some Tibetan cheese and kissed me and poured the contents in my mouth — horrific. 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 but thankfully didn’t do anything to me, I think it was to see how I would react. He kissed Lorraine (who is Patrick’s partner) and then ordered me to give Alison a massage. 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 then 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 people to 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 2009 internet blogs in French and English (Les Trois Mondes and Dialogue Ireland) attracted testimonies from a wide spectrum of people disillusioned with Rigpa and distressed by sexual encounters with Sogyal. A Google search tag lined ‘Sogyal Rinpoche abuse’ reveals a range of internet chatter along the same lines. It has to be said that some postings defend the man with obvious sincerity, whilst others are emotional outpourings from people who have invested their hopes and aspirations in a charismatic leader whose shortcomings are being revealed through the lens of public scrutiny.

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.

In October 2011 the French news magazine Marianne carried a six page feature on one of Sogyal’s teaching retreats at Lerab Ling. It was compiled from material gathered by an undercover journalist, Elodie Emery. The tone of the reportage alternates from coy to sarcastic to ‘shock horror’ and contains allegations which would not get past legal scrutiny at mainstream British media. It does, however, vividly illustrate the dysfunctional ambiance of a Rigpa event and it highlights Sogyal’s bully boy tactics, the pleasure he derives from making people squirm and his ruthlessly cruel treatment of one participant, who was stumbling towards an agonised confession in front of 500 retreatants. Emery also reported that Sogyal’s display of self-importance included claims that people had 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. There are two taboos in Buddhist organisations – both of which have merit and both of which can be used as manipulative tools. One of them is an injunction against gossip – useful when trying to establish a calm mental state, but also useful to prevent the circulation of critical comment. The second is samaya – the indestructible bond of loyalty that is one of the key tenets of Tibetan Buddhism. It supports the relationship between teacher and neophyte – but it can be deployed unscrupulously as a threat – break your samaya and attract dire consequences to yourself and your loved ones. Tibetan lamas who have taken empowerments from the same guru regard themselves as vajra brothers, bound by samaya. This is probably one explanation for the fact that the majority of lamas teaching in the developed world have closed ranks around Sogyal – regardless of their misgivings about his modus operandi. A more cynical view hinges on the fact that Sogyal pulls in a great deal of money – some of which is channelled into Tibetan worthy causes. There is a Tibetan prophecy attributed to Padmasambhava which goes like this:

When the Iron Bird flies and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the world and the dharma will come to the land of the red man.

If it really was uttered in the 8th century, it is a potent illustration of the qualities of Tibetan Buddhism that have attracted a huge worldwide following and made the predication come true. 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 power, influence and cash flow.

Pseudonyms are used to protect some individuals. Their words are on record and their identities are known.
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Re: Randy Sogyal Rinpoche, Best-Selling Lecher

Postby admin » Sun Jun 16, 2019 6:22 am

Trauma in Buddhist Community
by Dr. Pilar Jennings
September 5, 2017



After a summer of extended retreat, I came back to learn of the latest allegations of Sogyal Rinpoche’s severe misconduct. Perhaps like those of you who have spent much of your life in Buddhist communities, I’ve been deeply distressed by what I’ve learned. And as a fellow Buddhist and clinician I’d like briefly to respond.

What feels most important to confirm and validate is that the students who have come forward, and perhaps many others, have been traumatized by this abusive behavior. As a clinician, I underscore this for one primary reason. Trauma research indicates that we humans are extraordinarily resilient. We can withstand all manner of shocking loss and catastrophic pain, and still go on to live a meaningful, creative, and even joyful life. There is no suffering we can’t recover from. However, what can cause irreparable harm is any serious trauma that is either denied or minimized. When this happens, our very sense of perception is compromised. Our ability to trust our own feelings and experience can be shattered, leaving people feeling radically isolated and adrift in a meaningless world.

For this reason I’d like clearly to state that Sogyal’s Rinpoche’s predatorial and compulsive behavior has been truly unacceptable. There is no “crazy wisdom” in causing physical or psychological harm to another sentient being, or to exploit students for sexual and narcissistic gratification. And the suggestions that abusive behavior by spiritual teachers has any value, causes great harm to the victims of the abuse, and to the abusers through the denial of their psychopathology in need of care and clinical treatment.

I’d like to make a pitch for spiritual communities to grapple with the limits of spiritual practice to effectively address psychological and psychiatric issues that could be addressed through well-developed methods in other healing traditions. We Buddhist clinicians have been making efforts for decades to offer ways to work collaboratively in spiritual and clinical communities, so that psychological issues that arise in spiritual practitioners and teachers may be effectively treated. It is a terrible shame that Sogyal Rinpoche’s students most harmed by his sadistic behavior were left to feel that they weren’t adequately implementing the Buddha-Dharma, or that their suffering was self-inflicted. They deserved care and healing treatment available outside their community, treatment that might also have salvaged their trust in the spiritual methods they’d been learning.

So too, teachers such as Sogyal Rinpoche need psychological, and at times, psychiatric help. His behavior is indicative of rage reactions and compulsive power-seeking in line with severe and pathological narcissism. How many students might have been protected if he had had clinical support and intervention?
This is a question I ask with respect to people for whom the Dharma is sacred. I am also a devoted Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, but equally I respect the reality and power of the psyche, with its unconscious motivations and impulses, and with the ripple effects of early trauma that is almost invariably enacted regardless of our spiritual development.

Mostly, I want to offer to anyone harmed in this community my genuine wish for your deepest well-being, for your healing process, and for the respect you deserve for coming forward, if you did, and for simply withstanding the suffering you endured as you courageously seek efforts at recovery. In this way, you are affirming for us all the Buddha’s primary teaching – that understanding the causes of suffering and its end is our noble objective in this life. I stand with you until you are freed from the complex suffering I imagine you now face, as do my friends and colleagues in the small but growing community of Buddhist clinicians. Your experience is an important teaching to all Buddhists, now affirmed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to cut through delusions of non-truth in the spirit of reducing harm and increasing well-being for all.

Addendum: For further reading, I highly recommend Daniel Shaw’s Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation, for an excellent exploration of narcissism and its impact on spiritual communities.
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