Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexually as

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: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:04 am

A Guided Tour of Hell: A Graphic Memoir
by Samuel Bercholz and Pema Namdol Thaye
$24.95 - Hardcover





Take a trip through the realms of hell with a man whose temporary visitor’s pass gave him a horrifying—and enlightening—preview of its torments. This true account of Sam Bercholz’s near-death experience has more in common with Dante’s Inferno than it does with any of the popular feel-good stories of what happens when we die. In the aftermath of heart surgery, Sam, a longtime Buddhist practitioner and teacher, is surprised to find himself in the lowest realms of karmic rebirth, where he is sent to gain insight into human suffering. Under the guidance of a luminous being, Sam’s encounters with a series of hell-beings trapped in repetitious rounds of misery and delusion reveal to him how an individual’s own habits of fiery hatred and icy disdain, of grasping desire and nihilistic ennui, are the source of horrific agonies that pound consciousness for seemingly endless cycles of time. Comforted by the compassion of a winged goddess and sustained by the kindness of his Buddhist teachers, Sam eventually emerges from his ordeal with renewed faith that even the worst hell contains the seed of wakefulness. His story is offered, along with the modernist illustrations of a master of Tibetan sacred arts, in order to share what can be learned about awakening from our own self-created hells and helping others to find relief and liberation from theirs.

Inferno, 2015. Acrylic, 20.75 x 27 inches. © Pema Namdol Thaye

Gates of Hell (detail) 2015. Acrylic, 20.75 x 21.1 inches. © Pema Namdol Thayel

Momo Drollo, 2013. Acrylic, 23.75 x 30 inches. © Pema Namdol Thaye

News & Reviews

"Sam Bercholz, one of the most genuine and heartful teachers of dharma I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, has written a harrowing and vivid account of what might await us after death. A dark thrill to read, it is also a generous gift, reminding us that what we do here matters urgently." —George Saunders, author of Tenth of December

"A Guided Tour of Hell graphically illustrates the naked consequences of the destructive side of our attitudes and actions. Buddhism says, when our mind is released from this physical setup, we could enjoy a heavenly world of peace and light, or suffer in a hellish world of darkness and pain. No one else creates these worlds for us. They are the reflections of our own past mental habits. Thank you, Sam, for returning with these mesmerizing descriptions of what you witnessed on the other side. I hope that they will make us mindful to become better people." —Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, author of The Healing Power of Mind and Boundless Healing

"This book is an astonishingly generous offering: a tour of hell, guided with love. This is not a pacifying love. Rather, it is a love that destroys illusion to leave the reader in a state of discomfiting wakefulness. If you seek a deeply refined and discerning spiritual view that will compel you to journey beyond conventional thought, never to return, this book is for you." —Susan Piver, author of Start Here Now

"An apocalyptic guided tour through the infernal Buddhist hells realms revealed during a near-death experience. A courageous and subjective account, resonant with Buddhist doctrine, that veers far from the heavenly realms of much modern NDE literature. Sam Bercholz’s narrative is vividly illustrated by Pema Namdol’s brilliant artwork." —Robert Beer, artist and author of The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs

"A fascinating and deeply thought-provoking testimony, powerfully illustrated. A must-read for anyone who wonders what might happen at the time of death." —Matthieu Ricard, author of Happiness
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:13 am

A Guided Tour of Hell
by Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
Apr 20 — Sep 16, 2018



A guided tour of one man’s harrowing descent into the Tibetan Buddhist realms of hell encourages us to contemplate the meaning of life and the consequences of negative action.

After collapsing in the hospital following heart surgery, longtime Buddhist teacher Sam Bercholz felt himself being pulled violently down into a realm beyond life, where he witnessed dramatic suffering. Bercholz recounted the nightmarish imagery and intense sensations of this near-death experience to Tibetan American artist Pema Namdol Thaye. The artist drew on his training in traditional Tibetan arts as well as his childhood obsession with graphic novels to translate these descriptions into a series of vibrant acrylic paintings; more than 20 of these works are on view in this exhibition.

Thaye’s paintings forcefully depict the karmic suffering of hell-beings in fantastical landscapes, both fiery and crystalline. These characters — among them a suicide bomber, a murderous warlord, a self-absorbed socialite, a scientist who invents a doomsday bomb — each represent a negative habit of mind: envy, hate, greed, disdain, materialism.

The artworks encourage us to contemplate suffering in order to inspire us toward greater good in life. To this end, the final painting in the series, Samsara, reminds us that hell is only one of six possible destinations on the karmic wheel of life.

On Saturday, June 23, get an inside look at the exhibition A Guided Tour of Hell with artist Pema Namdol Thaye. Learn more.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:26 am

Outcomes of patients who commit suicide by burning
by O. Castana,1,∗ P. Kourakos,1 M. Moutafidis,1 N. Stampolidis,1 V. Triantafyllou,2 Ath. Pallantzas,1 E. Filippa,1 and C. Alexandropoulos2
March 31, 2013




Cases in which people use fire when attempting or committing suicide are not common but nevertheless constitute a cause of admission to burns units worldwide. Usually these people are suffering from stress and have been diagnosed as mentally ill. Schizophrenia, depression, and personality disorders are the most frequently diagnosed conditions. The psychological problems appear to have been overlooked by the family or not to have been presented to them. The aim of this study is to present the clinical features, characteristics, and outcomes of patients burned during a suicide attempt. The role of the psychiatrist is important, starting in the emergency room. The incidence of patients committing self-injury by burning appears to be higher in women burn patients. Deceased patients usually have a larger extent of burns and a higher incidence of other injuries and require more surgical procedures and longer hospitalization times. The problems for burn unit staff and qualified psychiatric care are discussed.


Attempted suicide by burning (“self-immolation”) is uncommon in Western countries, accounting for 2-6% of burn centre admissions. Nevertheless, this particular patient group remains a great challenge for the burn team because of its special characteristics, placing a heavy burden on medical, nursing, and financial resources.

In 2008, according to WHO, Eurostat, and Elstat (Greek Statistics Service), the annual suicide rate in the 27 EU member states was 10.1 suicides per 100,000 population, the highest being in Lithuania (30.7 per 100,000 and the lowest in Greece (2.8 per 100,000).

In Greece there were 4042 documented suicides in the period 1999-2009, at a steady rate. Since then there has been an increase: from 507 cases in 2009 to 622 in 2010 and 798 in 2012. Psychiatrists correlate this phenomenon with the higher unemployment in the last years.

Given this increase in suicide rates in Greece we took the opportunity to review the particular subset of patient suicides by burning presenting to our Burns Unit in Evaggelismos Hospital.

A retrospective review was performed, examining emergency admissions to our Burns Unit over the past six years. We included burn patients with documented self-inflicted injuries, excluding cases in which deliberate self-harm might have been suspected but not admitted. We recorded patient demographics, marital status, previous psychiatric history, and total body surface area (TBSA) burned.


The review of our records for the past six years showed that nine patients who attempted suicide by self-immolation were admitted to our burns unit (Figs. 1-​-3)3) (Table I), representing 4% of all burn admissions. This incidence does not reflect the true incidence of suicide by immolation since some patients may have died immediately and were never transferred to our burns unit.

Fig. 1: Injury pattern of patient who attempted suicide by burning.

Fig. 3: A third patient.

Table I: Demographic data of our patients

Five of the patients were female (55%) (mean age all patients, 58 yr; age range, 39-82 yr). Four patients (45%) were single/divorced at the time of their injury, five were unemployed (55%), and two (22%) were in prison.

Nearly all the patients were reported to have had a low income status (unemployed, supported by family, low pension). A psychiatric history was recorded in five cases (55%), depression being the most common diagnosis, followed by bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse. The average TBSA was 40.4% (range, 5-91%). Three of our patients sustained inhalation injury for which they were intubated, only to succumb to their injuries in the first five days of hospitalization (mortality, 33%). Eight were injured when they set fire to their clothing - in three cases they set fire to the bed linen as well; four patients used a liquid accelerant on their clothes (gasoline, domestic use alcohol) and swallowed acid solution resulting in a chemical burn. The surviving patients were taken to the operating theatre under general anaesthesia at least twice during their hospital stay. Nearly all returned for more surgery after their discharge. All of the surviving patients received immediate counselling from our hospital’s psychiatric team; two were transferred to the psychiatric ward before their discharge from hospital.

Fig. 2: A second patient.


Characteristics of self-immolation suicide patients

The special characteristics of self-immolation victims have been reviewed and described in the literature, and a distinct difference has been discerned to this regard between Western societies and those in the East. For our review we will focus on the characteristics of Western societies: despite the low incidence of suicide attempts by self-immolation, these are associated with a much higher mortality, mean TBSA burned, frequency of complications (including inhalation injury), and prolonged hospital stay.

Most of the patients had sought psychiatric consultation prior to the event, and 43-90% were diagnosed as suffering from a psychiatric condition (including, in decreasing order, depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders, and substance abuse). The treatment of this group of patients was characterized by delayed healing, increased need for surgery, and poor cooperation. Various studies found a male preponderance, mostly in the fourth decade of life. The most common method documented is the use of a liquid accelerant to enhance the effect of setting one’s clothing on fire. The mechanism of the action together with the absence of the will to rescue oneself from the flames leads in most cases to involvement of the face, trunk, and upper extremities as also to frequent inhalation injury. Many studies also report a correlation with a low education or socio-economic status. Additional factors are loneliness, life-altering events and social stresses, the presence of chronic illness, and long-term disability.

Self-immolation victims in Greece

A previous retrospective study performed (1996-2003) at the Gennimatas General State Hospital in Athens, Greece, reported an incidence of 3.7% (53 patients), with a mean age of 53 years, 43% males, and mean burn TBSA 41.6%. A psychiatric history was noted in 43% of the patients (mostly depression). The use of flammable liquid was the most common method (70%), and the mortality rate was high (75%). The mean hospitalization time for survivors was 59 days.

Our patients generally followed the characteristics mentioned above, the majority having a psychiatric history, low socio-economic status, high TBSA percentage, high incidence of inhalation injury, prolonged hospital stay, increased need of surgery, and high mortality rate. Our group of patients showed a slight female preponderance (55%), compared to most of the series reported (yet in accordance with the other retrospective study from Athens), and a slightly higher mean age (58 yr).


Suicide by self-immolation represents only a small percentage of burn admissions; however, this patient group is a great burden for the specialist team because of its unique characteristics.

The nine burn patients treated in our department over the past six years generally followed the trend of selfimmolation victims in Western societies; however, the sample was too small to allow any conclusions to be drawn.

We believe that this percentage underestimates the true rate of self-inflicted burns because of the frequently observed reluctance of patients and families to admit to selfharm. Insufficient record keeping and the lack of an organized national burns database also make the evaluation of burn patients (and self-inflicted burns) difficult.

Undoubtedly this subgroup of patients deserves special attention from the burn team because of their poor prognosis, and the importance of close cooperation with the psychiatric specialist cannot be overemphasized.



1. World Health Organization; .
2. Eurostat; ... ostat/home .
3. Elstat; .
4. Theodorou P, Phan VT, Weinand C, et al. Suicide by burning: Epidemiological and clinical profiles. Ann Plast Surg. 2011;66:339–43. [PubMed]
5. Forster NA, Nuñez DG, Zingg M, et al. Attempted suicide by self-immolation is a powerful predictive variable for survival of burn injuries. J Burn Care Rehabil. 2012;33:642–8. [PubMed]
6. Moniz P, Casal D, Mavioso D, et al. The self-inflicted burns: Typology and its prognostic relevance in a 14-year review of self-inflicted burns in a tertiary referral centre. Burns. 2011;37:322–7. [PubMed]
7. Daigeler A, Langer S, Hüllmann K, et al. A follow-up study of adults with suicidal burns: Psychosocial adjustment and quality of life. J Burn Care Rehabil. 2009;30:844–51. [PubMed]
8. Pham TN, King JR, Palmieri TL, et al. Predisposing factors for self-inflicted burns. J Burn Care Rehabil. 2003;24:223–7. [PubMed]
9. Poeschla B, Combs H, Livingstone S, et al. Self-immolation: Socioeconomic, cultural and psychiatric patterns. Burns. 2011;37:1049–57. [PubMed]
10. Tsati E, Iconomou T, Tzivaridou D, et al. Self-inflicted burns in Athens, Greece: A six-year retrospective study. J Burn Care Rehabil. 2005;26:75–9. [PubMed]

Articles from Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters are provided here courtesy of Euro-Mediterranean Council for Burns and Fire Disasters (MBC)
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:38 am

Suicide by Self-Burning While Driving a Vehicle
by Motoki Osawa [1] *, Yoo Tanaka [1] [2], Yu Kakimoto [1], and Fumiko Satoh [1]
1 Department of Forensic Medicine, Tokai University School of Medicine, Japan
2 3rd Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, Japan
Submitted: 01 November 2016
Accepted: 17 November 2016
Published: 18 November 2016
© 2016 Osawa et al.




Three cases of suicide by self-burning while driving a vehicle are introduced, in which planned multiple suicide, for which more than two methods are combined, was suspected. They committed suicide by igniting flammable matter while driving and the vehicle collided with a guard rail or walls at high speed. It might be carried out to camouflage a suicidal action as an ordinary accident for insurance fraud or other purposes. No alcohol or drugs were detected, and carbon monoxide hemoglobin saturation was high: 52% on average. Unlike typical social self-immolation, middle aged males who had no history of mental disorder committed this type of aggressive self-inflicted burn.


COHb: Carbon Monoxide Hemoglobin


A vehicle fire occurred in a tunnel of an expressway one evening in 2015. The driver, a woman in her 30s, was rescued. The driver later confessed that she had attempted suicide by sprinkling kerosene on the passenger seat of the vehicle and setting it ablaze with a cigarette lighter. A survey of the Japanese literature reveals that Yamauchi et al., reported a similar case of suicide by vehicle fire, in which a vehicle in a tunnel of an expressway collided with a wall, causing a vehicle fire, after which a middle-aged man was found dead [1]. Because a melted plastic tank was found in the passenger seat, it was inferred that the driver had ignited the accelerant by himself, with the intent of suicide. It might be said that this case is one type of planned multiple suicide for which more than two methods are combined [2]. The youth tends toward aggressive behaviors accompanied by high seriousness and lethality [3,4].

As suicide means, induction of exhaust gas in a stationary vehicle has been popular [5,6], but attempt on moving wheel such as crash is rare. According to the general statement related to suicide during vehicle driving summarized by Pompili et al., based on reports from various nations and regions [7], driver suicides account for 1%-7% of all driver deaths. They concluded that, generally speaking, more than 2% of all deaths can be judged as suicide. Suicidal actions taken during driving usually show a pattern in which a vehicle with one driver causes an accident independently, although other vehicles are involved in some cases [8]. As for the specific suicidal means of automobile driving, intentional collision accidents are common, although various accidents such as plummeting into a valley also occur [9]. Shkrum et al., reviewed self-burning suicides in Canada between 1986 and 1988. Six of 43 victims reportedly found inside the compartment of automobiles, and kerosene was used as an accelerant in one case [10]. Viklund et al., retrospectively analyzed 118 cases of death caused by vehicle fire in Sweden, reporting that 5 cases (3%) were judged to be suicide [11]. However, details of the circumstances in both case reports remain unknown.

In the current investigation, accidents suggestive of intentional vehicle fire death with the intent of suicide were extracted from past autopsy cases and analyzed.


Cases subjected to autopsy in 16 years of 1999-2014 at the Department of Forensic Medicine, Tokai University School of Medicine were reviewed. Self-burning suicide cases occurred 63 times during the period. Of those, 3 cases are suspected of suicide by vehicle fire. An outline of each case is presented below.

Case #1

In the evening, a station wagon collided with the right guard rail of the automobile expressway, caught fire and burst into flames in a tunnel about 200 m further down the road. After the fire was extinguished, the driver, a man in his 40s, was found dead in the driver’s seat. A plastic tank was found under the rear seat, kerosene reaction was detected in the vehicle, and parts of a cigarette lighter were found. Although no suicide note was found, he was reportedly troubled by the fact that an adulterous relationship had been discovered. He had no history of mental disorder such as depression. Autopsy and examination results revealed excessive carbonization of the entire body and soot aspiration image. Blood alcohol tests, urinary alcohol tests, and drug and toxicology tests were negative, although carbon monoxide hemoglobin (COHb) saturation was 48%.

Case #2

In the early morning, on a highway, a passenger car collided with a concrete wall divider from the frontage road, caught fire and burst into flames (Figure 1). After the fire was extinguished, a man in his 60s was found dead in the driver’s seat. In all, four metal paint cans were found in the passenger seat and rear seat. Parts of a cigarette lighter were also found. Results showed that he had large debts and had taken out more than one life insurance policy on himself. His body was carbonized, and had been incinerated to the torso. Confirmation of the soot aspiration image was difficult. Blood alcohol, drug, and toxicology tests yielded negative results. COHb saturation was 31%. No organic matter was detected in the blood using GC/MS method.

Case #3

A passenger car collided with the guard rail and burst into flames in the early morning at a downhill curve in a mountain area. After the fire was extinguished, a man in his 50s was found dead in the driver’s seat. A lump of melted plastic in the shape of plastic tank was found and kerosene reaction was detected in the compartment. He had no history of mental disorder such as depression and exhibited no speech or behavior suggestive of suicide. Autopsy and examination findings revealed that his entire body was burned excessively and soot aspiration image was noticed. Blood and urinary alcohol test, and toxicology were negative, and COHb saturation was 77%.


Items common to the three cases described above are presented in Table (1). Flammable matter was ignited while driving at high speed on the express way or downhill and the vehicle collided with a guard rail or walls. The vehicle then burst into flames. The victim was found dead in the driver’s seat. No alcohol or drugs were detected. COHb saturation was high: 52% on average. Bohnert described that in deaths occurring after car fires due to collisions, the COHb value are usually <40%, often even <20% [12]. This report suggests that the victims did not attempt to escape even after the outbreak of fire and remained in the vehicle. Lam et al., found a statistically significant association between suicidal thoughts and injuries by automobile collision [13].

Table 1: Characteristics of three cases of suicide by self-inflicted burn while driving a vehicle.

Age, sex / Middle-aged men

Situations / Single driver, collision with side wall or guardrail
Burns / Severe
Accelerant / Kerosene (2), Paint products (1)
COHb content / 52% (mean)
Blood alcohol / Not detected
Other drugs / Not detected
Suicide note / None
Psychiatric history / None

In the three cases, plastic tanks for kerosene or metallic paint cans were left in the passenger compartment. In two cases, a kerosene reaction was detected in the vehicle. From these findings, all cases are deemed as intentional fire outbreak and are regarded as complicated and elaborate methods of suicide. The three presented victims clearly prepared to complete suicide. In contrast to younger age of suicide that exhibits the predisposition of impulsive and aggressive behaviors [3,4], these middle aged males, with the mean age of 56 years old, characteristically selected the planed methods accompanied by high seriousness and lethality.

Traffic accidents involving two-wheel vehicles and automobiles normally occur because of carelessness. In reality, one normally considers that fatal traffic accidents are not intentional but accidental. If someone intends to camouflage a suicidal action as an ordinary accident for insurance fraud or other purposes, a traffic accident might well become one option. It has been pointed out that fatal automobile accident data apparently fail to exclude possible suicide or suspected suicide [14]. In these three cases, fire outbreak did not occur in a stationary vehicle, although the vehicle came to a standstill after collision. Evidence indicates that the drivers attempted to camouflage their intentions as an ordinary traffic accident. Moreover, they attempted to provide beneficiaries with a favorable payment of life insurance [15]. Regarding other possibilities, they probably wanted their families not to suffer from the disgrace of suicide by pretending a traffic accident.

No victim had a history of mental disorder such as depression. Franchitto et al., reported that 42% of the patients who attempted self-burning suffered from depression. Most of them had a history of attempted suicide by some other method [16]. It is characteristic that no victim in any of the three cases exhibited a history of mental disorder. Rather, some victims had economic trouble or relationship difficulties.

As for the fire accelerant, kerosene was used in two cases; paint thinner was used in one case. If these flammable materials had not been used, the collision would probably not have produced a vehicle fire. Malic et al., reported that, in 78% of cases of suicide by self-burning, an accelerant such as kerosene was used [17]. They also reported that, in the case of self-burning, with damage intended by the victims themselves, the degree of burn injury was more severe than in cases of assault.

The frequency of self-inflicted burns as a means of suicide apparently depends on the region and sex. Self-burning suicide is generally less common in economically developed countries including Japan: self-burning suicide is used rarely, in about 1% of all suicide cases (1.3% for males; 1.9% for females) [18]. However, it is said that self-burning suicide is markedly influenced by social, cultural, and psychological factors. For example, in Tibet and South Korea, self-burning suicide reportedly accounts for about 5% of all suicide cases [19,20]. Such self-immolation as a cultural or moral statement in India is well-known [21], although no self-immolation occurs for those reasons in Japan. Although self-burning while driving a vehicle as reported this time is truly a rare occurrence, it is considered that economic aspects related to payment of insurance claim or considerations for the victim’s family are important. Similar cases are found only rarely in other countries. It remains unknown whether this phenomenon is peculiar to Japan, or not.

Hernetkoski et al., analyzed accidents in Finland and reported that fatal traffic accidents are decreasing as are deaths of automobile drivers at present, but rates of intentional accidents are increasing [22]. As for distinctive features of such cases, it is said that single-vehicle accidents of vehicles with one person aboard are increasing. Fatal traffic accidents involving vehicle fires probably include some cases of suicide where volatile accelerants are sprayed in the vehicle and ignited by the driver.


We demonstrate a social and clinical topic concerning an aggressive suicide method by self-burning while driving a vehicle. Three victims similarly committed suicide by igniting flammable matter while driving, then the vehicles collided at road side. It seemed to be carried out to camouflage a suicidal action as an ordinary accident. These middle aged males who had no history of mental disorder committed this type of aggressive self-inflicted burn.



1. Yamanouchi H, Dewa K, Fukuda M, Motomiya Y, Xu HD, Naito E. Potential suicide of burning vehicle in traffic accident. Jpn J Legal Med. 2006; 60: 168.

2. Racette S, Sauvageau A. Planned and unplanned complex suicides: a 5-year retrospective study. J Forensic Sci. 2007; 52: 449-452.

3. McGirr A, Renaud J, Bureau A, Seguin M, Lesage A, Turecki G. Impulsive-aggressive behaviours and completed suicide across the life cycle: a predisposition for younger age of suicide. Psychol Med. 2008; 38: 407-417.

4. Mento C, Presti EL, Mucciardi M, Sinardi A, Liotta M, Settineri S. Serious Suicide Attempts: Evidence on Variables for Manage and Prevent this Phenomenon. Community Ment Health J. 2016; 52: 582-588.

5. Sarchiapone M, Mandelli L, Iosue M, Andrisano C, Roy A. Controlling access to suicide means. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011; 8: 4550-4562.

6. Liotta M, Mento C, Settineri S. Seriousness and lethality of attempted suicide: a systematic review. Aggress Violent Behav. 2015; 21: 97-109.

7. Henderson AF, Joseph AP. Motor vehicle accident or driver suicide? Identifying cases of failed driver suicide in the trauma setting. Injury. 2012; 43: 18-21.

8. Pompili M, Serafini G, Innamorati M, Montebovi F, Palermo M, Campi S, et al. Car accidents as a method of suicide: a comprehensive overview. Forensic Sci Int. 2012; 223: 1-9.

9. Milner A, De Leo D. Suicide by motor vehicle “accident” in Queensland. Traffic Inj Prev. 2012; 13: 342-347.

10.Shkrum MJ, Johnston KA. Fire and suicide: a three-year study of selfimmolation deaths. J Forensic Sci. 1992; 37: 208-221.

11.Viklund Å, Björnstig J, Larsson M, Björnstig U. Car crash fatalities associated with fire in Sweden. Traffic Inj Prev. 2013; 14: 823-827.

12.Bohnert M. Kraftfahrzeugbrand. Rechtsmedizin. 2007; 17: 175-186.

13.Lam LT, Norton R, Connor J, Ameratunga S. Suicidal ideation, antidepressive medication and car crash injury. Accid Anal Prev. 2005; 37: 335-339.

14.Jenkins J, Sainsbury P. Single-car road deaths--disguised suicides? Br Med J. 1980; 281: 1041.

15.Ohberg A, Penttila A, Lonnqvist J. Driver suicides. Br J Psychiatry. 1997; 171: 468-472.

16.Franchitto N, Faurie C, Franchitto L, Minville V, Telmon N, Rougé D. Self-inflicted burns: the value of collaboration between medicine and law. J Forensic Sci. 2011; 56: 638-642.

17.Malic CC, Karoo RO, Austin O, Phipps A. Burns inflicted by self- or by others -- an 11 year snapshot. Burns. 2007; 33: 92-97.

18.White paper on suicide in Japan, 2012.

19.Gauthier S, Reisch T, Bartsch Ch. Self-burning - a rare suicide method in Switzerland and other industrialised nations - a review. Burns. 2014; 40: 1720-1726.

20.Caine PL, Tan A, Barnes D, Dziewulski P. Self-inflicted Burns: 10 year review and comparison to national guidelines. Burns. 2016; 42: 215- 221.

21.Poeschla B, Combs H, Livingstone S, Romm S, Klein MB. Self-immolation: socioeconomic, cultural and psychiatric patterns. Burns. 2011; 37: 1049-1057.

22.Hernetkoski KM, Keskinen EO, Parkkari IK. Driver suicides in Finland-- are they different in northern and southern Finland? Int J Circumpolar Health. 2009; 68: 249-260.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:51 am

“The Fire will do the Rest”: Concealing Homicide through Posthumous Burning of Corpses
by Zija Ismaili [1], Bledar Xhemali [1], Admir Sinamati [1] and Gentian Vyshka [2]*
1 Institute of Legal Medicine, Rr. Dibres 371, Tirana, Albania
2 Faculty of Medicine, University of Medicine in Tirana, Albania
Anthropology 2015, 3:1
*Corresponding author: Gentian Vyshka, Faculty of Medicine, University of Medicine in Tirana, Albania, E-mail:
Received: May 15, 2015; Accepted May 15, 2015; Published May 22, 2015
Citation: Ismaili Z, Xhemali B, Sinamati A, Vyshka G (2015) “The Fire will do the Rest”: Concealing Homicide through Posthumous Burning of Corpses. Anthropol 3: 146. doi:10.4172/2332-0915.1000146
Copyright: © 2015 Ismaili Z, et al.




Arson and fire will render very difficult forensic evaluation of a crime scene, and in particular of a victim deliberately burned post-mortem. However, new methodological approaches have made possible to recover as many biological tissue as possible even in burned remains of human bodies, and thus to produce valid data for judicial purposes. The authors of the paper present pictures from two cases, the first one found inside a car that was set fire with the aim of erasing all traces of the crime. Careful forensic evaluation concluded in the favour of a subdural hematoma beneath a bone defect in the right temporal area of the skull, raising suspicions about a premortem injury, since heatinduced hematomas are mostly epidural in nature. The second case was an incomplete burn of lower extremities during a dying fire due probably to a self-extinct mechanism. Theories on both these eventualities are considered in the discussion section of the paper.


Fire scene investigation; Burned corpses; Skeletal remains; Arson


Although arson is a merely criminal issue and treated as such in penal codes, the omnipresent psychology and psychiatry has been so generous as to grant arsonists a particular mental health disposition [1]. The psychiatrically oriented authors accept that firesetting is a behavior, arson is a crime, and pyromania is a psychiatric diagnosis; with courts being rather unable to make necessary distinctions [1]. These hazardous terminological artefacts will be otherwise of no help, when coming to practical issues.

Deliberate firesetting has been a widely used technique from settlers to clear the land and Yoder appraises the value of the setting ablaze living materia when writing ‘the fire will do the rest’ [2]. In spite of this, cremation is a technique as old as humanity itself and from a medical or public health perspective advantaged [3]. None of the above mentioned usages was initially conceived for concealing the traces of a crime, especially of homicides.

The fact is that unfortunately, fire will erase much of the evidence of a crime, and in any evidence will be left it will be of little value in judicial terms. There are however, many authors and techniques that try to pick up some remains of the forensic evidence even in burned corpses. Mostly, the research and the investigation will be limited to hard tissues that resist longer to the heat: bones and teeth [4]. Crime scene investigation will focus primarily into identification, but further analytical steps (if feasible) need to be taken aiming to clarify the mechanism of the death, the presence of any antemortem injury and other relevant details are of importance. In fact, absence of any vitality signs indicates postmortem burns, frequently used by perpetrators to conceal homicide [5].

Cases Study

We present pictures from two burned bodies, and the respective investigative setting of those. The first one is the case of a male aged approx. 40 years, whose death was considered violent, and whose corpse had signs of premortem injuries. The perpetrators set ablaze the corpse inside a car (Figure 1) and abandoned in a secondary rural road.

The charred corpse was found seated inside the driver place. The most important finding was that no signs of any shooting were found, but several fractures of the head skull suggested heat-induced changes of the cranium. Nevertheless, the forensic experts performing the autopsy concluded that the hematoma found in the right temporal-parietal area was a subdural one, which would theoretically orient its origin as an intra vitam, or premortem and therefore would orient the investigation toward a murder. A bone defect ranging 10 × 10 centimetres was seen at the same place, and brain parenchyma protuberance was evident, in a carbonized consistency.

Figure 1: Partially burned car abandoned in a rural area

In fact, the distinction of the origin of an intracranial hematoma following a burn is a matter of controversy, with several factors playing a role, even with the extra force applied during the extraction of the victim from a closed place (eventually the car seat) or in an attempt to save someone from an accidental fire, eventually from self-immolation [6,7]. However, in our illustrative case hemorrhagic infiltrations of osseous margins of the cranial fractures were another indicator of the premortem nature of the injuries. The presence in the blood toxicological analysis of a value of 43% of carbon monoxide suggested as well that the victim was still alive, albeit unconscious, when deliberately burned.

The second image (Figure 2) is a partially burned corpse of a female. In an attempt to erase all possible evidence from the crime scene, the perpetrator covered the victim with a blanket and set fire. However, no fuel dousing was applied in the hurry-up of a hate crime, which might explain that the fire died out without burning down the entirety of the corpse; instead only signs of partial burns were visible in the distal twothirds of lower extremities (Figure 3).

In this second case, a variety of factors might have lead to an uncompleted burn, probably related to the self-extinction of the fire. Closed compartments might have some influence on this self-extinction probability, and apposite predictive models have been elaborated [8].

Figure 2: Charred corpse, with the cranium showing an extensive bone defect in the right temporal-parietal area (star) and a subdural hematoma beneath.

Figure 3: Burns in the lower extremities, in a failed attempt to set fire to a crime victim.


The challenge of a forensic evaluation of burned skeletal remains in not only a methodological one. The fire in fact erases much of the evidence, if not even the entirety of that, when burning is complete. However, authors have demonstrated that perimortem trauma might survive the burning process, hence the necessity for a thorough and accurate examination of all skeletal remains in a fire scene [9].

There are several and well-documented postmortem thermally induced changes, such as:

a. The ‘pugilistic’ attitude of the extremities;

b. The epidural heat hematomas, in the form of epidural extravasates;

c. Cranial suture separation and dura mater rupture;

d. Heat-induced fractures of the cranial vault;

e. Transformation of blood inside the vascular system in dried claylike masses;

f. Heat-induced skin separation;

g. Soot particles in the airways and

h. Protrusion of the tongue [10].

The presence of such heat-induced fractures and hematomas will render notably much more difficult the distinction of premortem skeletal injuries; nevertheless every attempt needs to be made to recover as much data as possible. Different sources have been focused on providing a methodological approach to all this particularly difficult forensic assessment, and have proposed (1) to develop fatal fire scene recovery protocols and guidelines, with the principal aim of locating and recovering all biological tissue remains still present; (2) to document soft tissue burn sequences and bone heat-induced modifications and (3) to analyze effects of fire and heat on the diagnostic characteristics of skeletal trauma [11]. Particular processing of fire scene will safeguard evidence, which will otherwise get lost when routine or classical scene processing is used. The importance of a specialized and prudent approach to burned skeletal remains is therefore widely professed.


Albeit heat and fire-induced changes to corpses are able to destroy substantial part of forensic evidence, still some data might be recovered, particularly through applying ad hoc methodologies and protocols. Experimental models have been tried and validated for this purpose [12]. The criminal trend of posthumous burning of corpses is fomented from the general presumption that fire will leave no traces of any criminal and premortem injuries. More than a medico-legal issue, the fire scene investigation requires a multidisciplinary approach and evaluation, with criminologists and other specialists having their say in formulating conclusions and providing the necessary evidence to courts with regard to violent deaths. Attempts to mask, to disguise or manipulate violent deaths through posthumous burning of the victims need accurate protocols to uncover the truth, a very much difficult albeit still feasible task.



1. Burton PR, McNiel DE, Binder RL (2012) Fire setting, arson, pyromania, and the forensic mental health expert. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 40: 355-365.

2. Yoder newsletter.

3. Wells TS (1880) Remarks on Cremation or Burial? Br Med J 2: 461-463.

4. Berketa JW (2014) Maximizing postmortem oral-facial data to assist identification following severe incineration. Forensic Sci Med Pathol 10: 208- 216.

5. Tümer AR, Akçan R, Karacaoglu E, Balseven-Odabaşı A, Keten A, et al. (2012) Postmortem burning of the corpses following homicide. J Forensic Leg Med 19: 223-228.

6. Dirnhofer R, Ranner G (1982) Intracerebral hemorrhage in a burn victim--burn hematoma, salvage injury or intra vitam origin? Arch Kriminol 170: 165-172.

7. Ahmadi A, Schwebel DC, Bazargan-Hejazi S, Taliee K, Karim H, et al. (2015) Self-immolation and its adverse life-events risk factors: results from an Iranian population. J Inj Violence Res 7: 13-18.

8. Zhang J, Lu S, Li Ch, Yuan M, Yuen R (2013) On the self-extinction time of pool fire in closed compartments. Procedia Engineering 62: 266-274.

9. Ubelaker DH (2009) The forensic evaluation of burned skeletal remains: a synthesis. Forensic Sci Int 183: 1-5.

10. Dettmeyer RB, Verhoff MA, Schütz HF (2014) Forensic medicine: fundamentals and perspectives. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, USA.

11. Symes SA, Dirkmaat DC, Ousley SD (2012) Recovery and Interpretation of Burned Human Remains. Research and Development in Forensic Anthropology and Forensic Odontology. US National Institute of Justice, Biblio Gov, NIJ.

12. Herrmann NP, Bennett JL (1999) The differentiation of traumatic and heatrelated fractures in burned bone. J Forensic Sci 44: 461-49.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 6:30 am

Part 1 of 2

The institutionalised cover up of crime in the Shambhala International Sangha
by Edmund Butler
March 4, 2018, updated July 22, 2018




My experience with Shambhala International from 2007 to date has led me to conclude that, despite a well-crafted aura of goodness based on high ethics, the organisation is as prone to corruption as any other. My intention in publishing here is to inspire others to tell their stories. I make no apologies for its length: it is brief compared to the review of Shambhala’s corrupt sense of justice which has long been required and which may now be starting.

Shambhala International lists 14,000 members worldwide, primarily in North America and Europe. Of these, approximately 2,000 are vajrayana students of the organisations’ leader, Sakyong (‘Earth Protector’) Mipham Rinpoche (‘Blessed One’). It is reliably estimated and quoted by senior students that approximately 100,000 ‘unique visitors’ attend the 220 Shambhala Centres and Groups each year. In July 2018 credible allegations of sexual assault by Mipham and their systemic cover up by his Administrators were acknowledged by those Administrators after they had threatened legal action against their publication. Much of the trouble is a macrocosm of what I experienced in the organisation.

In 2014 I fled one of Shambhala’s four Residential Retreat Centres, Dorje Denma Ling in Nova Scotia, because Shambhala’s Administrators overtly ridiculed my evidence of numerous crimes at that centre, in particular my attempted murder by vehicle sabotage. They failed to inform either myself or the police investigation which I then initiated that they had quietly banned my main suspect from the centre for some of those crimes, just days prior to the discovery of my vehicle’s life-endangering sabotage. As the sabotage became apparent, he continued to slander me and complain about his ban to guests at Dechen Chöling, one of the other four Retreat Centres, to where he had silently gone after being banned from Dorje Denma Ling. Based on the (lack of) information they found, the Police concluded that Dorje Denma Ling was safe for me, even though my main suspect frequently visits Nova Scotia. This case is typical of the Shambhala Administrators’ habit of covering up crime while abdicating their duty of care. My inability to find either empathy or a sense of accountability within Shambhala following my voluminous reports on criminal activity within the Sangha, is evidence that the Administration’s sense of justice is deeply unethical.

In 2015, the just-retired President of Shambhala encouraged me to refer to this life-endangering sabotage as “attempted murder”. As the former Public Relations Manager of Amnesty International and a key broker in the Sri Lanka civil war ceasefire, I took his advice to heart. He also told me that the covering up of this kind of behaviour is “systemic in Shambhala”. The recent attempt by Lady Diana Mukpo to protect her husband, Mitchell Levy, from criticisms of his habitual preying on young women is a classic and very public display of this kind of behaviour in the Sangha.

I prefer to continue sharing my experience with Shambhala in public forums by way of alerting others to the destructive nepotism in the organisation and the harm to which they may be subjected should they join or remain in the group. Project Sunshine is revealing widespread child sexual abuse and its decades long cover up, involving senior teachers and others in the Shambhala Sangha. This reaches into the Shambhala International’s Board of Directors, the Kalapa Council where Levy resides as one of its oldest members. He is one of the Sangha’s most senior teachers and recently recused himself from discussions related to the now very topical issue of sexual abuse due to the many allegations of same against him, one involving a 16 year old girl with whom he had an ongoing affair as a man old enough to be her father. This nepotism, of course, extends to the Sakyong (“The Boss”, my former guru) as I narrate below. This blog is surely the tip of an iceberg and as time goes by this year, it seems that dogs are baying and skeletons are falling out of closets.

“It is not a breach of samaya to bring painful information to light. Naming destructive behaviors is a necessary step to protect those who are being harmed or who are in danger of being harmed in the future, and to safeguard the health of the community … We must distinguish teachers who are eccentric or provocative—but ultimately compassionate and skillful—from those who are actually harming students and causing trauma. These are two very different things, and it is important that we do not lump them together. There are plenty of teachers who push and provoke students to help them learn about their minds, but that is not abuse. Physical, sexual, and psychological abuse are not teaching tools.” Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, as presented by Shambhala’s own publication, Lion’s Roar.


My transition to Dorje Denma Ling

In 2013 the Kasung Command led by Jesse Grimes, Toby Sifton and Ian McClaughlin and the now former Director of Dorje Denma Ling, Lennart Krogoll invited me to take up a dual post as Rusung and Artist in Residence. As Rusung I was charged with the spiritual, emotional and physical health, safety and security of all people at the facility, including both staff and guests. My role was supervised by Kasung Command. The post of Rusung became defunct with my departure, effective with its summary ‘dissolution’ in 2014. In my role as senior management at the facility, I was junior only to the Director.

As Artist in Residence it was agreed that I would set up a Joint Venture between my furniture-making company and Dorje Denma Ling by moving an 11 ton container of machinery, lumber and a thirty-year collection of specialist hand tools from British Columbia to Nova Scotia. An existing building onsite would be converted for the workshop operations. I had sold my property in BC in order to facilitate this major life move, having provided a Shambhala-based meditation group in my community there for the previous two years. I intended to enrol my daughter in the Shambhala School in Halifax and we interviewed there for this purpose.

The Director, who from my point of view spoke on behalf of the Kasung as my most direct supervisor in my dual role, promised that I would be housed in family friendly quarters, and that my daughter’s airfares from British Columbia would be covered by Dorje Denma Ling to facilitate our relationship. I was asked to make a three-year commitment to the post, which I gladly did, having been recommended for the post by a handful of senior members of the community in both Vancouver and Nova Scotia generally. However, upon arrival in February 2014, I was only offered a one-year contract.

It quickly became clear that the Director had been numerously and formally advised between September and December 2013 by the members of Dorje Denma Ling (advisory) Council to not invite me to fill this post of Rusung/Artist in residence. This advice was offered primarily because, as the Director had grossly mismanaged the facility’s finances to date, it could not support the joint venture as proposed. While this advice is minuted in the Council’s meetings of the time, I was kept unaware of it by all concerned despite having many face to face conversations with all of them prior to my departure from British Columbia.

I soon learned that the Director also did not have the legal authority to establish a for-profit business venture between my company and the organisation due to its charitable tax status. In pursuing that Joint Venture therefore he jeopardised Shambhala’s tax charitable status in Canada and therefore its success in Canada and reputation internationally.

I therefore moved my life across the breadth of Canada at the age of fifty-one and arrived at Dorje Denma Ling under the entirely false pretences of the Director and Kasung Command. At the April 2014 Dorje Denma Ling Council meeting, nine members discussed the Director’s attempts to establish the Joint Venture without any legal or internal institutional authority, or even an internal business plan to protect Dorje Denma Ling. Council advised the Director that, “in order to avoid a lawsuit”, (Torgny Vigerstad) the Joint Venture should be wound up. Council therefore voted, unanimously and with the Director’s agreement to compensate me some $9,000 in respect of costs incurred in the moving of my container across Canada.

Although he ultimately did authorise full payment of the $9,000 as agreed, the Director attempted to reduce that payment by 50% in an extraordinarily insensitive email exchange with myself days before honoring his minuted commitment in Council. Aware that the Finance Manager of Dorje Denma Ling at the time, Sandra Selva had sought to have me fired on evidently trumped up charges, he allowed himself to be persuaded by her that the proposed 50% reduction was fair. Employing aggressive logic he compounded it by suggesting, unbelievably that as I was responsible for accepting the contract to work at Dorje Denma Ling I was responsible for 50% of my moving costs.
He appears to ignore the fact I experienced a disruption in my life as a result of his stubborn idealism in misrepresenting the situation beyond any possible assessment I may have made. In fact, the contract came about entirely as a result of the Director’s wishful thinking and that of the persuasiveness of a local Shambhala resident of Tatamagouche, Angela Pressburger who had a vested interest in seeing the Centre flourish on account of her Bed and Breakfast business which was intrinsically linked to the success of the Center.

Kasung Command apologised for the eighty-square-foot cubicle which the Director forced me to inhabit despite his empty promises of ‘family accommodation’ of twice that size. I was obliged to live in it with all of the furniture and possessions sufficient for such accommodation. I was told there simply was no other space available, and, “Sorry about that”.

As it turned out, the Dorje Denma Ling Development Department’s construction budget had been depleted entirely, three months prior to my arrival due to the Director’s financial mismanagement. This left the much needed 500 square foot, three bedroom staff accommodation house 20% unfinished and well over time. It serves as a monument to how he, according to Senior Administrators, “…wrecked Dorje Denma Ling”. While the ‘Hemp House’ could have been completed in six months at a cost of less than $50,000, due to the Director squandering $200,000 on a long-term infrastructure plan for the facility, devoid of any proven market need for such and in the face of considerable skepticism of same, that project also failed. Naturally I was left to pay for my daughter’s airfares myself, the Director advising I approach Kasung Command to cover his commitment to meet that expense while knowing full well that the Command had virtually no operating budget whatsoever and had insisted that Dorje Denma Ling pay my wages for that very reason.

Following the Director’s approval of Council’s advice to pay compensation to myself he excluded me from all of the Dorje Denma Ling management meetings for the rest of my nine month tenure, despite my appeals to all levels of the organisation’s administration and Kasung Command. The internal staff strife was at breaking point and alcohol consumption was epidemic
—snow moving equipment, on which the facility depended for its daily survival, was routinely being operated by one person, Steve Ellenburg who was a known alcoholic and numerously observed to be consuming alcohol while operating it. His assistant appealed to me as a basic safety concern in this regard and, due to the Director’s inaction refused to work with Steve.

Working at Dorje Denma Ling

One month into my tenure the Director asked me to facilitate staff feedback on his, “…lack of care for Staff”. He called a staff meeting to inform us that he would be setting aside an entire day for twelve half-hour appointments to this end, the precise schedule and process to be coordinated by myself. Only one staff member of the twelve booked an appointment: Steve Ellenburg. According to Steve, the Director confided in him his surprise that he had not yet been fired. Clearly he was the most eligible of wiling candidates for the job, which appeared to number just one. A few staff simply ignored the exercise entirely, confiding in me their mistrust in the Director. One staff member told me, wide-eyed and waving his hand as though it were passing through the Director’s body, “It’s like there’s just nothing there.”

The Assistant Kitchen Manager, Roberta Canfield had aspirations to the Kitchen Manager’s post, naturally. She was a good cook and well organised. However, she also routinely bullied her junior staff into resignation so as to achieve her goal. Three people had succumbed to this treatment in the year prior to my arrival. One of her victims wound up in an alcohol-detoxification clinic after consuming three bottles of whisky in one day. He never returned. Although I was on leave at the time, when I returned neither the Director, Assistant Director, Michael Shadoan, Desung (Officer overseeing emotional health and well-being), Lilly Gleich nor the Personnel Manager, Marc Lanthier brought this to my attention as they should have. I had to ferret out the information, feeling somewhat responsible as the victim had finally turned to me as the last person on whom he thought he could rely for support. Sadly they all conspired to get rid of him when I was unable to help him, rather than deal with real issue: the well-known abuse by the Assistant Kitchen Manager. It turns out this situation was a microcosm of the way in which justice is often handled in the Sangha generally.

By her own admission, this Assistant Kitchen Manager recognised mental health issues in herself and, in her most vulnerable moment, asked me to arrange counselling. The Director failed to pursue this option even though I had arranged a suitable counsellor. At the start of my tenure he told me that his, “blind spot” was in firing people, but in reality he didn’t accept guidance, as with the Joint Venture and the Hemp House. He saw his Director’s role as governed only by the Sakyong despite Jane Arthur then holding the post of Land Center Director. He rarely sought advice in his role, and I never once heard him refer to the Land Center Director. His interactions with Dorje Denma Ling’s Advisory Council amounted to three meetings during my nine month tenure. More importantly, while the Shambhala Administration was entirely aware of his management failings via various offices and roles, it entirely failed to intervene, something of which he was clearly curious as evidenced by his discussion with Steve Ellenburg as above.

On July 11th, 2014, Dorje Denma Ling’s routine water test by the Nova Scotia Health Department returned a result showing positive for coliforms. This rendered Dorje Denma Ling’s drinking water officially unsafe for human consumption at that point. Protocol indicated that a second water test should be performed within twenty-four hours. This was not undertaken even though the Kitchen Manager, Renate Hemphill and the Assistant Kitchen Manager discussed it and agreed to do it. Apparently they were “too busy” providing for the guests at the facility.

When it discovered the error five weeks later, the Health Department issued a Boil Water Advisory. Notices were posted at every tap per Canadian law and more water testing was undertaken. Everyone, guests and staff alike, naturally became very concerned. The Kitchen Manager resigned, citing her negligence in conducting the July water test and her difficulties in dealing her Assistant Kitchen Manager.

The Assistant Kitchen Manager became the Kitchen Manager by default. She removed all of the Boil Water Advisory Notices saying there were, “…too many questions”. She began declaring that I had no role in overseeing the situation, even though I was routinely introduced to every guest at the beginning of every program as “our Health and Safety Officer”, and my posted job description clearly covered that role. At a Staff meeting in early September, the Director followed my recommendation and advised her that she was jeopardising his personal liability in removing the notices and that they should remain in place. he did not mention the possible health risk which at that point was still unknown.

She continued to remove the notices, which I was replacing with the sanction of the Director’s directive above. She said that the Health Department had made a “typo” on the water test and the water was potable and became very upset when I proved her to be lying. Officially, the water remained, “… non potable”, yet since achieving that distinction the Kitchen Manager had wilfully overseen its general consumption at the facility, unbeknownst to anybody else except the former Kitchen Manager. In that state, the water was consumed by over 600 guests including the Sakyong’s pregnant wife, senior students, children and Staff. One day I found one crumpled notice taped to the underside of the guest toilet seat. I had to assume that the hand of the Kitchen Manager was at play here, with sick humour.

It seems that it was a lack of requisite empathy for her victims in the Administration generally which permitted her continued employment in both the Sakyong’s private kitchen and at Dorje Denma Ling for seven months after the Boil Water Advisory.

So, while the war of notices continued with virtually no assistance from either the Director (beyond his directive) or the Assistant Director, I contacted the Nova Scotia Health Department’s Testing Facility to ascertain any anomalies in the process concerning the July water test. I was assured that there had been no, “…typo”, as claimed, that Dorje Denma Ling’s water was indeed non potable and that I was obliged to ensure that the formal Notices remain in place per Canadian Federal Law, until the Water Boil Advisory was officially declared ended by the Department. The Health Inspector firmly reminded me that we were, as ever, subject to her unannounced compliance visits.

When I informed the Director of same he made no response. In fact, when the Finance Manager, as an old friend of the Kitchen Manager, insulted me in front of him for pursuing his directive to maintain the notices without any evidence, the Director simply looked down his nose at me, silent, as if I were the offending party. A day later I was physically assaulted by the now emboldened Kitchen Manager in front of a witness when she threw me off the kitchen loading dock as I was investigating the situation, attempting to enter the kitchen to read the official water analysis document posted on the fridge. I was fortunately not injured though I fell the two feet to the ground. She unexpectedly rammed her shoulder into my sternum when I attempted to pass her in the narrow space which she had left for me between her body and the dock’s edge.

We then finally saw some action from the internal Administration. I was immediately ordered by the Assistant Director to stop posting the Health Department’s Notices despite the fact that we were obliged by law to keep them in place and the water testing was incomplete. I advised that protocols should be altered to allow the Rusung, instead of the Assistant Manager, to oversee water safety protocols at the facility. His response was typical of Shambhala Administrators—nothing to see, nothing to change, move along. In declining to effect my proposal he dismissed me with a snicker, saying, “I’m not sure how Roberta would feel about that”. He clearly had no regard for the fact that we had just served officially unpotable water to over 600 people. He apparently felt that not calling out the Kitchen Manager’s wrongdoing took precedence over repairing the ineffective administration of the facility’s water safety protocols and the disregard for the liabilities of the facility, the Director and himself.

The Director then published a still publicly available comment on a private website which monitors water safety in Canada independently of the government. The item highlights the Water Boil Advisory as above. The Director incorrectly states that the water at Dorje Denma Ling has was, “… never unsafe”, regardless of his witnessed directive to Staff regarding the Water Boil Advisory Notices and his admonishing the Kitchen Manager for jeopardising his liability in removing them. He goes on to promote Shambhala’s mission to create enlightened society, regardless of its irrelevance in that context. I am left feeling that there is a tendency for those in power in Shambhala to live in their own bubbles of soporific belief that they are chosen warriors who will save the world. The fact is they merely represent another religious institution, as prone to corruption and deception as any other.

While I received absolutely no effective front line support from Kasung Command to this point, I then began to experience a concerted campaign of bullying, harassment and physical assault directed by the Kitchen Manager and involving two other staff, both self-important “old dog” students of Trungpa, the organisation’s founder, namely Jeremy Blackburn and Sandra Selva. By these three people, in an incident which can be seen as ‘mob bullying’, I was subjected to verbal abuse almost hourly for two months, as well as four other physical assaults after the kitchen dock incident, two of those with witnesses.

I asked the Director to suspend the Kitchen Manager pending counselling. He agreed to do this, but then declined. So, with his inaction, yet again, the stage was set to give free rein to the Kitchen Manager’s vindictive machinations. My personal effects began to be routinely sabotaged and a mixture of corn chips, grass and gravel were placed in my vehicle’s fuel tank. The Director suspected the Kitchen Manager in the vehicle sabotage while I told him that it was more likely the work of his ex-army chauffeur friend who he had recently employed in the Facilities Maintenance Department, Jeremy Blackburn. The Kitchen Manager was asked to agree to relocate her employment in mid-September 2014, following another of her abusive verbal outbursts, this time against a guest and involving slander against myself. She then turned her attention on me, saying openly that, “…because I’ve lost my job, he should lose his”.

The Director failed to intervene in this abuse for six weeks and met each of my appeals with the sadly familiar institutionalised tendency to bury reports of abuse by frequently telling me so often that it began to sound like a mantra: “She’s digging her own grave.” His puppy dog eyes failed to convince me that he was acting responsibly. In particular, the physical assault and the vehicle sabotage went entirely uninvestigated by him, and the Kitchen Manager accordingly and predictably felt emboldened by his inaction. Slander against me prevailed like wildfire. I became sleep deprived due to the aggressive, nightly and entirely unnecessary operation of dehumidifiers next to my room, occasional random kicking of my door as the Kitchen Manager entered her room opposite my own, late at night and early in the mornings. The abuse tactics were creative, unpatterned and entirely unpredictable.

Support from Kasung Command was entirely absent, their sole advice coming from Ian McClaughlin in late September and being to, “…ignore her”. No mention was made of my pleas for their support with regard to the unfolding phenomena of mob bullying. I was being gaslighted by my supervisors as ignoring my abusers was naturally impossible in an environment where twelve of us lived in close quarters while attempting to facilitate hundreds of guests in a calm, friendly environment. Even when a participant brought me to the Director for support in her complaint against the Kitchen Manager, he met the effort with derision. The participant had asked what was for dinner and received the response, “Revenge will be served”. The Director’s response was to chuckle and say, “Ooooh! That sounds tasty. I’d like to see the recipe for that!” The participant and I left his office in disgust at his heartlessness.

By mid-October, after virtually daily appeals for help, I managed to convince the Shambhala Administration to establish in-house, professional mediation using a community member. She was naturally biased as she depended on Dorje Denma Ling for the pursuit of her decades-old spiritual path within the community, being resident in nearby Halifax. The prospect of the Director losing his post for mismanagement of the facility was one she clearly intended to diminish as finding people to fill it is historically very difficult. It is poorly paid ($21,000/year) and a 24/7, often very stressful, job.

That mediation failed almost before it had begun as the Kitchen Manager merely used it to abuse me further by spreading slander about what we discussed in it among the Staff and guests despite our pledge to confidentiality while it was ongoing. Secondly, as the victim of mob bullying I was now being subjected to humiliation among the Staff I was technically managing, by being the alleged perpetrator of abuse in a mediation process which the Kitchen Manager ensured was gossiped about across the Nova Scotia Sangha.

She then assaulted me for the fourth time, during a programme hosting 50 participants and outside the shrine room where the programme was occurring during a break when all the participants were mingling around. In front of multiple witnesses, she body checked me as I attempted to get away from her telling her very clearly to leave me alone. Unfortunately the tension by this point had become so intense that I shouted this request repeatedly as nobody, again, felt willing to confront the Kitchen Manager during her assault. Although the Assistant Director finally and reluctantly physically removed her from my person, he then immediately denied witnessing the assault leaving the Kitchen Manager idly threatening to call the Police and have me charged with assault.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 6:30 am

Part 2 of 2

Leaving Dorje Denma Ling

Kasung Command (in the US) then panicked. They appointed a local mentor, something they should have done weeks prior following my voluminous appeals to them. A few days later they advised that my post had, “…been dissolved”, and I was ordered to take a one month leave of absence immediately, with no pay thereafter, my one year contract with four months left to run notwithstanding. There was a complete lack of basic employment regulation due process as no hearing was held to hear my view and n disciplinary action was ever taken against me, prior to my illegal dismissal.

Wanting to continue with my studies in Shambhala, having committed so much to it and hoping that this situation was an anomaly, on October 24th, 2014 I gladly began driving to Shambhala’s Vermont residential facility, Karme Choling, for a month’s much-needed rest.

About an hour after leaving Dorje Denma Ling, I discovered that the strange sound on my vehicle came from the rear-axle gears: the oil cap on the differential cover had been removed. The oil inside the differential had completely drained from it. This could have resulted in my death as the gears could have seized while I was driving, and caused a major accident on the highway. I immediately suspected the Kitchen Manager in collusion with the Director’s friend in the Dorje Denma Ling Facilities Department, the latter having quietly slipped away to Europe just days earlier without explanation. I later learned that he had in fact been banned from Dorje Denma Ling due to his slander and witnessed physical assault of me and that this had occurred without my knowledge or formal input. However, his banning clearly occurred too late.

I began to investigate what I felt at least criminally reckless behaviour and to research which laws may be applied to the situation. As I could have died in the incident which occurred in the context of relentless harassment, and as Blackburn is most likely to have known the mechanical implications of such an action, it seems obvious that had I died there would have been a murder investigation. In addition, given that no life was lost, the overwhelming likelihood of Blackburn’s involvement in the apparent first and second vehicle sabotages makes an allegation of attempted murder plausible in this case.

In this analysis I am supported by Shambhala International’s former President, Richard Reoch. He is also the former Public Relations Chief for Amnesty International and a broker in the ceasefire in the intractable recent war in Sri Lanka. On two occasions in 2015, four months apart he was careful in assessing what I told him of the scenario, found it to be credible, and earnestly encouraged me to not refer to the incident as merely willful aggression or recklessness, but as attempted murder. He encouraged me to do what I could to pursue all avenues of investigation in this. He was also very clear that I may get nowhere with the Sangha’s internal conflict resolution processes as wrongdoing was, “…systemic…” in the Sangha. He finally told me that if I approached the Sakyong, “…even though you think he should be interested, he ain’t! He just ain’t!”

Having effected an emergency repair, I drove to Maine to spend three nights at the home of Toby Sifton, one of the Kasung Command and my main supervisor. He consoled me with apparent heart, while I arranged for a new differential to be fitted to my vehicle at a cost of $3,000. Nobody offered any compensation and it was clear it was not worth asking for any, despite it being clear to Kasung Command that a major incident had just occurred at Dorje Denma Ling.

Sifton ordered me to silence so as to, “…not feed this beast”, namely the gossip surrounding the Kitchen Manager’s storyline. In my utter confusion, I began a month of attempted healing at Karme Chöling in Vermont. I effectively suppressed any criticism of anybody elses’s responsibility in the aggression which had, preventably, come my way. However, just as the Jews are not responsible for their holocaust, I am not accountable for that aggression and the Sangha remains at risk of harm because, to this day it has been swept under the rug.

Sifton informed me via email that I would risk his personally collecting me from Karme Choling to, “…exile on Ragged Island to subsist on seaweed”, (on the coast of Maine) should I discuss my experience at Dorje Denma Ling with anybody at Karme Choling during my month there. It did seem somewhat of a harsh to toy with making me his prisoner while the Kitchen Manager was left freely crowing around the Nova Scotia Sangha, “We ejected the Rusung from Dorje Denma Ling!” The Kitchen Manager was reported to have done this in the Sakyong’s Halifax kitchen in her role as his trainee cook. Still she was not questioned, and it would be six months before she was properly fired. As a victim of Sangha crime I was being silenced while slander was allowed to generate against me.

Sifton finished by ordering me to not tell the Director of DDL how he had betrayed me. “We will do that,” he said. I had my doubts. Later, in early 2015, he emailed me to advise that I remove my eleven-ton container out of jeopardy at DDL as soon as possible. He encouraged me to get counselling, although I still can’t imagine where one goes to get counselling on a Vajra Master breaking his Samaya with his students by allowing his Administrators to so ineptly mismanage crime in the Sangha for decades. Clearly these administrators were in panicked damage control, just as they are again now.

The current Administration and Board of Directors is largely staffed by all the same people as during the events described above. The current sexual abuse scandal involves credible allegations pointing to a pattern in the Sakyong of forcing his students to have sex with him, and the cover up of those crimes by his Board of Directors.

The response to my situation by Jesse Grimes as the head of Kasung Command is especially telling. He is the highest authority in Shambhala’s so-called justice system. According to Sifton, his initial response in October 2014 was, “Fuckerty, fucking fuckers!” Yet instead of immediately reporting the events to the Police, per protocol and out of concern for the safety of the people at and near Dorje Denma Ling, even seeing that I was in complete shock he simply did nothing. After I wrote voluminous reports he finally reworded the internal protocols on crime in the summer of 2015, such that anyone witnessing crime is advised to report it to the Police. The protocol effectively remained unchanged, as did the respect for it among those accountable for overseeing it.

Writing about his discussions with Grimes on the subject to me, he said, “Our policy is to leave crime to the professionals.” Yet they both failed to help those professionals when the Police investigation which I launched became sabotaged at Dorje Denma Ling by its Assistant Director, in the shamelessly convenient absence of the Director when the Officers arrived to question him.

I reported these events to the Police in Nova Scotia in 2015, from the sanity of my new home in the UK. The junior Constable assigned to the case was enamoured by the lies of the organisation and failed to take me seriously. The Assistant Director who had witnessed one of my assaults denied doing so and persuaded him that Dorje Denma Ling had done all it could by providing mediation between myself and the Kitchen Manager, deflecting all attention from Blackburn as my main suspect. No discussion was even had of the fact that the mediation immediately preceded an inarguably life-endangering sabotage on my vehicle in a series of crimes of harassment against me, and the Director’s firing for not caring for staff, oh, and his absence from the appointment with the Constable.

While I was attending a program Emily Bower led at Karme Chöling during my time there, she also advised me to contact the Police. However I was too traumatized to administer such a complaint at the time as I prepared to flee Nova Scotia for Europe. However we did meet again later within the Care and Conduct Panel Complaint which I filed in 2015. By contrast, on that occasion, no such advice was then offered and I had the impression that their purpose was to gather whatever evidence of wrongdoing there may be in the various Complaints in order to protect the organisation’s legal position, and by inference, the publicising of wrongdoing and guilt of perpetrators.

In fact, while inviting me initially to explain my complaint the Chair, Dan Peterson, assured me all information would be held in the strictest confidence and not shared with anybody without my express consent. I trusted them with my trauma, naively it turns out.

Six weeks later Peterson wrote to say that he had shared my information with the various people named in the case without my consent. He explained that the policy on information disclosure had changed and that the new policy applied retroactively, without notice to myself. Mary Whetsell, who was not a member of the Panel then suddenly appeared in my inbox discussing my Complaint. She apologised for the fact that I had not been informed of the new policies, although it was unclear that she was authorised to speak on behalf of the Panel. The email was copied to the Panel’s members. Emily Bower’s response was a curt, “Thank you, Mary. Emily” rejecting both my objection to the Panel’s breach of my confidentiality and her own responsibility in it. So if anybody trusts the current administration to safely address their trauma, I am confident it is completely unfounded.

The Director of Dorje Denma Ling failed to substantially communicate with me on any of these issues, in particular the second life-threatening sabotage on my vehicle in October 2014. In fact, he has not, to date mentioned the second sabotage to me at all or the very real possibility that it may have occurred because he did nothing about the first one.

While my efforts to engage every available internal conflict-resolution process had failed, including an appeal to the President’s Office and the 14 most senior Administrators in December 2014, I began to work on the assumption that Shambhala was actively covering up the criminal activities against me. For instance, while it is a crime in Canada to harass employees to force the termination of their employment, it is also a crime to not report a crime to the Police. Admittedly I should have reported to the police far sooner than I eventually did. I fell into the majority of victims’ behaviour in not doing so for fear of retribution and shaming, as well as being at the effect of trauma and confusion related to the events and my samaya with Guru, and all amidst an emergency continental relocation in midlife due to safety concerns.

Leaving Nova Scotia

In December 2014, I therefore fled Nova Scotia for my life, even though I had by then purchased property near Dorje Denma Ling with the intention of establishing my furniture-making business independently of Dorje Denma Ling. Clearly the risks of sabotage were too great in such a tiny community as Tatamagouche, where Dorje Denma Ling is situated. I was unaware of Blackburn’s being banned at the time and had I known this I might well have stayed. But that is hypothetical.

I then arranged for the removal of my container from Dorje Denma Ling, at my own expense thus far. In a classic doublespeak, despite voluminous reports on the situation from myself, the Care and Conduct Panel’s final letter to me cited my lack of reports as reason for not compensating me further for having again to move my container on account of their false pretences and for their clear breach of my contract. Jesse Grimes wrote that he had investigated my allegations against himself and found himself to be innocent of everything. Sure.

That said, my voluminous reports persuaded them to fire the Kitchen Manager in April 2015 and the Director in September 2015. Their findings stated that he would be indefinitely barred from serving as an Officer of Shambhala and fired from his Directorship at Dorje Denma Ling, “…for failing to resolve conflict between Staff”. That said, David Brown, who considered my Appeal with Jesse Grimes then wrote Krogoll up in the Shambhala Times in glowing terms and announced his departure from his post as a resignation. Blackburn was never formally interviewed on his role in these events, so far as I can tell although every other staff member was given a cursory interview and my timely complaints about his behaviour are well documented. He had literally manhandled me out of a meeting in August 2014, which I had called with a group of people who all witnessed his behaviour. He then falsely accused me of the same behaviour via emails to various people with whom I was working, including the Director. “Manhandling” is common, he claimed and should not be tolerated etc. Nobody said anything and my reputation was unfairly tarnished with the Director’s passive approval.

One can assume that Blackburn was protected by Krogoll who, along with Anna Weinstein, his successor in the Kasung’s role of Sergeant Major, is aware of Blackburn’s witnessed physical assault on me. Despite more eloquent assurances left and right, nothing was done to curb Blackburn’s violence and, not surprisingly, it increased, to attempted murder and enabled by the unwillingness in the Administration to follow its protocols in dealing with crime and old dogs bullying or gaslighting new ones for the sake of their position.

It is this sort of absence of any real empathy in the former Director which inspired Sifton to write to me in 2015 and declare him “psychoemotionally deaf”. Sifton, to his credit, wrote to me saying that he had “not jokingly” proposed shutting down Dorje Denma Ling in a meeting of the Council of the Makkyi Rabjam, the governing body of the Kasung. This fell on deaf ears, despite a pair of them belonging to one who reeled when I told him about Balckburn’s clownish, heartless, reckless antics being dismissed by Krogoll as, “Oh Jeremy’s got a different sense of humour”.

During my decompression at Karme Chöling, I discussed my experience with many. I was invariably met with utter disbelief that their friend and huggable clownish mascot, Lennart Krogoll was capable of such callous heartlessness. Sifton’s parting advice in a 2015 email was about the need to read and study (the dead) Trungpa’s teachings, regardless of the fact that my living, supposedly caring guru was alive. I should get counselling on how my guru won’t talk to me about almost being murdered while following his instruction and to not, “…publish in the Weekly World”. But now it has come to that, because charlatans must be exposed for the benefit of creating enlightened society.

Before assuming a post within the organisation, Officers are now required to sign, on seven individual pages instead of one, undertakings to report abuse appropriately and to the police if required by law. Like the current overt effort to train people in trauma management, if there’s no heart, no real empathy, policy will not be enacted. If you declare that you need training to file a Police report on ‘systemic, abhorrent abuse’, as the Kalapa Council has essentially claimed, while placing yourself on a pedestal of ethical superiority, enabling crime and yet declaring that, “…the future of the world is in our hands…”, (the Sakyong) you are only surprised by the calls of “Charlatan!” if you’ve drunk too much koolaid, whisky or both.

I became overwhelmed by the prospect of documenting events and providing evidence to the police in Canada while establishing a new life in a new country. However, I was told by Torgny Vigerstad, the person who was eventually forced by my reports to conduct an internal investigation among staff at Dorje Denma Ling that, while he failed to interview my main suspect in my attempted murder because, “I am not the Police,” I should be satisfied with the fact that I had “unseated Dorje Denma Ling’s Director”. Somehow he concluded that no Staff were involved in wrongdoing, so his efforts were clearly a very mature whitewash. I am left feeling that these people have far too grand an idea of who they are. Krogoll is now living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, promoting himself as an advisor to entrepreneurs through an organisation called Futurpreneur. He offers courses in “Conflict Deescalation” with the sanction of the Sakyong, most recently sharing a stage with him at a major multi-organisation conference in Vienna called “Peace Now!”

As I stated earlier, the former President of Shambhala advised that I refer to the second sabotage incident as attempted murder. However, he did so one day after resigning from the post in February 2015, having ignored my October 2014 appeal to him for his intervention just one month prior to that sabotage. Having indicated “systemic” wrongdoing, I wondered whether having resigned, he felt freer to speak his heart, and whether when he initially received my appeal for help he was overwhelmed by other abuse which catalysed his resignation from the Presidency.

Indeed, in April 2015 I had written to the Sakyong directly and experienced this same lack of interest. As I explained to him, my quandary was that in following his instructions as my guru to practice with Shambhala, my life was threatened by the criminal activity which I had experienced within the organisation. He referred me to the high faluting Shambhala International Care and Conduct Panel hoo-ha, completely disregarding my alarm at having my four emails to that Panel’s Chair go unanswered for a month because the Chair wasn’t monitoring the Panel’s official email address. I ultimately found the Chair’s wife’s email address and used that with success. I received a reprimand for using a channel which wasn’t confidential, ironically and absolutely no sense of care in my evident trauma! So yes, in my view, the Sakyong ignored my attempted murder because I told his Justice System was shot and he sent me right back into it, only to be thrown under the bus. Is he a charlatan guru? Yes, without a shadow of a doubt in my mind.

The Nova Scotia Labour Standards Board Complaint against Dorje Denma Ling

During my investigations I uncovered another incident which implicates the Sakyong in other criminal activity. In 2014, the Dorje Denma Ling Development Manager, Dominic Watson-Wall filed a case with the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Board. At issue was the Director’s inability to responsibly manage the finances of and Provincial Labour Standards applicable to Dorje Denma Ling at the time. Krogoll’s mismanagement failed to provide the Province’s minimum wage for employees despite many advisory reports from Watson-Wall. After resigning, Watson-Wall filed a Complaint asking the Province to oblige Dorje Denma Ling to meet its legal obligation to pay minimum wage to its employees.

As the Complaint neared its conclusion in 2016, it was debated by the Kalapa Council Shambhala’s main administrative body, the Kalapa Council, which is chaired by Joshua Silberstein, the Sakyong’s Chief of Staff. Shortly afterwards, Watson-Wall tells me that he was approached by “a member of the Kalapa Council, cheque in hand” in an effort to persuade him to drop the Complaint, and allow the facility to limp along with virtually unpaid Staff and the necessarily stressed environment entailed in such a situation.

He rejected the bribe. The Nova Scotia Labour Standards Board issued its decision shortly thereafter, obliging Dorje Denma Ling to pay minimum wage to all staff, retroactively to January 2016 at a cost of some $35,000. This immediately rendered Dorje Denma Ling incapable of opening for more than 5 months each year instead of the 12 months which it had sustained for years prior to the decision. So, clearly Krogoll grossly underestimated the disastrous potential of ignoring Watson-Wall, as did Selva as his Finance Manager.

My view of Shambhala is one of an organisation with very good intentions which does an excellent job of promoting itself as benevolent, with the taglines, “Creating Enlightened Society” and “Making Enlightened Society a Joke, sorry, Possible”. While Shambhala is content to advise that crime be reported to the police, it routinely avoids doing so for fear of damaging its image and the unquestionable benefit which it paradoxically has in improving people’s self-confidence. In my own case, through studying Buddhism and practising with Shambhala I have been able to reconcile significant family and personal issues and improve my life by achieving some significant inner peace, much like most Shambhalians.

However, it is delusional to suggest that I should continue practising with an organisation which is blind to my attempted murder and which tries, and fails, to flip my sense of betrayal by gaslighting me. To propose, as they did, that I report their crimes to the Police, including the Sakyong and his Shambhala Administrators who then covered them up, and expect their enlightened kindness while continuing to practice in the Sangha is fundamentally naive. They have bitten off more than they can chew in life.

The current clarion call for the Sangha to employ “outside help” is often being met with ridicule. The suspicion is that the Administrators do not have the will to address reconciliation of internal abuse which derives from their blind subscription to the mantra, “We hold the future of the world in our hands.” This arrogance is not only serving denial within the sangha, but it also prevents the very acknowledgement of wrong action which Buddhism seeks to nurture.

It is further delusional to suggest that I should “practise the teachings and get counselling”, as nobody except my guru is fully qualified to counsel me on my samaya with him as that is a contract I made with him alone. The guru has become blameless and the victim, responsible in a situation where the guru’s responsibility to provide a safe space (free from attempted murder) is not and cannot be provided, not because it’s impossible but because the vajrayana view of everything is pure applies to crime, allowing to be experienced even though it is preventable.

I can only look to the example of the Buddha who ultimately rejected all of his gurus’ practices and encourage others to step onto this path with eyes wide open, trusting only oneself. I suppose it’s a good lesson really, although I do feel as though I have been “raped” by Shambhala, and numerously, for the sake of senior student’s egos.

Shambhala subtly promotes a view that we are in essence good and beyond reproach, capable of anything, of flying to the moon. However, in naively inflating a person’s potential, it routinely appoints people to roles for which they are both underqualified and under-supported. The so called “Vision of Enlightened Society” becomes such an intoxicating elixir that when mistakes or crimes occur, they are reasoned away as being the result of the excusable illusion of human existence. By this perversion of the dharma, the pain caused to others becomes acceptable collateral damage along the Sacred Path, because, “Everything is Emptiness,” or, “It’s all an Illusion”. That is called dharmasplaining, and it’s extremely dangerous.

In completing his review of my experiences at Dorje Denma Ling, Sifton told me repeatedly that I was experiencing a, “…hot ngöndro”, referring to a spiritual practice, and that he was, “…jealous”, of my experience. I took this to mean that I should accept my pain as a benefit of my practice. All I could think was, “Must someone die before these self-involved, deluded charlatans sit up?” I am reminded by a supporter of this blog that somebody already did die: a woman who slept with a man callously infected with AIDS by the Sakyong’s predecessor, the Regent. The latter took vajrayana buddhist pure perception/groundlessness/emptiness to a tragic result by believing that he was protected from infecting his sex partners. Have we learned nothing about ethics as a Sangha since the late 1980’s?

Sifton made entirely ignored my suggestion that we discuss how Shambhala deals (i.e., covers up) crime in the Sangha, presumably for the same reason of a systemic, naive allegiance to absolutist, idealist philosophy. That discussion is now coming through the back door because the Care and Conduct Panel, as Shambhala’s Justice System, are becoming understood as the fox guarding the chicken coop. A huge sigh of relief was collectively breathed when the Sakyong married because it meant less managing of his alcohol fuelled sex parties and the allegations of sexual misconduct which slowly filtered down to the Panel despite best efforts by the Kalapa Council to keep his drama in the inner, inner, circle. It’s worth remembering that the Sakyong reluctantly took the job after being wrenched away from his mother in India to Samye Ling in Scotland, held captive there for a few years by Akong Rinpoche who placed him in a group home where he was burned with cigarettes amongst other physical abuses and finally released to his father and his new teenage bride to be raised in Boulder as the son of an infamous alcoholic wise man with a penchant for cocaine and wives. Now in his mid fifties, having inherited a Sangha full of his father’s students who predictably disagree with the way he runs it or leave it, mocking him or respectfully (in rare cases) I have no doubt that the poor fellow needs therapy. Surely forcing a student to have sex with you during your first child’s birthday party is indication enough? Apparently this is not so for the fawning, saccharinistas who surround him, worshiping his every move hereby ensuring their position on the Ivory Tower’s ladder is securely pampered also.

The damage of such clergy misconduct and its enabling is both to the noble mission of the organisation and to the students caught in the institutionally sanctioned crossfire of the Administrative lack of empathy which is applied to any complaint of misconduct. While considering a life at Dorje Denma Ling and in Nova Scotia generally, I met many Shambhalians who told me that its four Residential Land Centres were intense places at which to live and work, yet ultimately worth every challenge. Should I have expected those challenges to include attempted murder and the systemic cover up of criminal activity at both these ‘lay monasteries’ and across the organisation as a whole? It’s not what I taught my meditation students when we read from the Sakyong’s books in the group I started in my own home two years prior to moving to Dorje Denma Ling, because his books tell a very different story. They also don’t describe how, between writing chapters he drunkenly forced his students to sexually pleasure him, knowing which the reader leaves with a rather different interpretation than not knowing.


In my view, the Shambhala Administrators collectively disregard the consequences of enabling criminal activity within the Sangha, in the vain hope that a falsely benign public image can be maintained. This is based on the application the vajrayana pure perception philosophy, recently controversially expounded by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. That view holds that crime is acceptable if it is seen in terms everything in the world being sacred.

A former personal attendant of the Sakyong who told me that “it’s only a matter of time before Shambhala is taken down by a lawsuit”, evidently speaks the truth. Shambhala is now experiencing the same fire into which Boston’s Catholic Church was thrown under the leadership of Cardinal Bernard Law. The bold efforts to address sexual abuse and abuse of power within the Sangha by Andrea Winn and Project Sunshine is drawing much support from the grass roots of the Sangha. This is in stark contrast to the abuse directed at the Project by Shambhala’s Administrators, and, it must be understood, by extension the Sakyong. As the Report of Phase two of the Project was recently about to be published, the Kalapa Council threatened to sue the independent investigator who had written it, should she publish the allegations against the Sakyong and his Administrators contained in it. The phrase used was, “…all available action”, a phrase which the Council unsuccessfully tried to convince readers, excluded litigation. The Sangha is now reeling in confusion as a result of the Sakyong’s various wrongdoings.

In Canada, it has taken decades to acknowledge the need for reconciliation of the abuse suffered by its aboriginal peoples at the hands of those intoxicated by power. Thankfully this process is now well under way – in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand likewise; in the United States, not so much; in Kenya it has begun; across the world we are seeing a rising confidence in truth telling about the very human trait of abuse of power. The courage of victims speaking their truths with the fearlessness about which, ironically the Shambhala Teachings talk, is giving pause to leaders everywhere who may be tempted to use their positions to either directly commit crime themselves or enable it by covering up criminal activity by others.

Shambhala’s relevance will be immeasurably enhanced should it apply its teachings to creating a responsible model for dealing with crime in a religious organisation. As the Sakyong proclaims, “The future of the world is in our hands”, it seems that he is up for the challenge of processes like restorative justice with his victims. The fear and arrogance which declines independent appraisal of its Administrators’ actions presumes that Shambhala is above the temporal laws which guide the societies in which its members reside. Regardless of how much it may feel like a chosen, divinely empowered army of noble, nonviolent, warrior lay monks, crime within its ranks will ultimately be subject to the Courts wherein its soporific niceties will be rendered void and only its pleas as to restorative justice models will save the organisation from an implosion of spiritual gluttony.

The institutionalised denial which, now Buddhist Project Sunshine is facing points to the Shambhala Administrators’ fear of independent appraisal. Nobody yet says this better than Lady Diana Mukpo, the wife of one of its most senior Administrators, the now disgraced Mitchell Levy and former wife of the organisation’s founder. Mr. Levy recently recused himself from internal policymaking on sexual abuse due to decades of sexual abuse allegations against him.

Lady Mukpo’s recent letter is now ‘featured’ on the Shambhala Times website. Her reaction echoes that of Cardinal Law in response to the allegations of his covering up sexual abuse: implausible deniability for the organisation’s systemic abuse.
This clip from the 2015 movie Spotlight is a timely example of how religious institutions tend to lean on whistleblowers and maintain the status quo denials of corrupted ethics so obvious to impartial observers. The award-winning movie addresses the Boston Globe newspaper’s success in exposing the institutionally sanctioned sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in recent decades.

For Lady Mukpo to call now for a “transparent, measured, and responsible accounting of the facts”, to heal the pains which her former husband and his son’s Regent caused decades ago points to the organisation’s inability to reconcile decades of past harms. Compounding this inept response, she characterises the Project’s allegations as gossip, mob justice and an attack on her family. This is in contrast to two of Mr. Levy’s colleagues on the organisation’s governing council who are on record directly praising the value of the Project to Ms. Winn.

Such a self-serving defense of her family heritage and honour, and an attack on the well-intentioned effort towards reconciliation would be unnecessary had the Administrators themselves not failed to make that effort. In my view, her letter is a Kalapa Council sanctioned broadside across the bow of Project Sunshine and the victims which are given refuge by this vessel. It amounts to blatant victim shaming, is fundamentally contrary to the Shambhala Teachings and ironically undermines the Shambhala Administration. It puts the lie to the Council’s simultaneous February 12th letter where they ask for forgiveness for poorly administering the systemic, criminal abuse in the Sangha on which this Project sheds such a clear light.

The only risk which I can see with Project Sunshine is that it is not totally independent of the Sangha and may become subject to the perversions of its Administration. Pursuant to Lady Mukpo’s ideals, I have indeed attempted a responsible accounting of the facts, both by the Sakyong and within the Shambhala Administration. They have completely failed me, my perpetrators and their future victims, if any.

The Sakyong’s Executive Secretary, David Brown and the head of the Kasung, Jesse Grimes wrote to me jointly in their closing my Complaint to the Care and Conduct Panel, which the Sakyong personally advised I pursue. They concluded that no compensation was due to me for breach of contract or for being forced to relocate from Nova Scotia on account of my attempted murder, because I had made insufficient effort to notify the Administration of my experiences. They ignored the fact that I had engaged every available internal conflict-resolution process, written voluminous reports, immediately notified the Director of Dorje Denma Ling of the life-endangering sabotage to my vehicle and personally approached Jane Arthur as the Director of Shambhala Residential Retreat Centres three weeks after the event. She declined to speak with me in person at that point, or at any other opportunity over the next two weeks of my time at Karme Choling, near which facility she is resident and was present.

It was in this same letter, written on an elaborate Shambhala letterhead that Jesse Grimes reported his findings on my allegations that he was remiss in not reporting these crimes to the Police. It should therefore come as no surprise to anyone, and especially Lady Mukpo, that her family is receiving a little dissent just now because such is the position of royalty. The only surprise for me, as with the former Director of Dorje Denma Ling, is that it has not happened sooner.

I am satisfied now to know that I have done a civic duty in telling my story and to let people believe (and respond) as they will.

To those who have perpetrated crimes against myself: I have the protection of my local police force. Any attempts to further harm me online or elsewhere will be noted by them as possible evidence of guilt in crimes committed against myself and others and your ongoing, confused aggression. In the latter, I sincerely wish you well.

I also wish the reader all success in your pursuit of enlightenment.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 8:16 am

Tantric Trolling, Tantric Fixing: Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse’s Posts on Clerical Sexual Abuse
by Matthew Remski
July 18, 2018



Just over a year ago, eight long-term students of Sogyal Lakar (known as Sogyal Rinpoche) sent him a letter that is still shaking the foundations of his “Rigpa International” corporation. The letter from “The Eight” accused him of decades of physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse of students, a “lavish, gluttonous, and sybaritic lifestyle”, and degrading the image and meaning of global Buddhism. The accusations have not been denied. Lakar has retreated from public life, and RI says that it’s investigating. Whether this will result in transparency and restorative justice remains to be seen.

Khyentse Norbu (Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse) comes from a decorated family of Tibetan Buddhist teachers, and is said to be a “Rinpoche” — a reincarnated “precious one”, born to carry perfect and rare teachings forward from a primordial source. Norbu is known for engaging his cosmopolitan global audience with pugnacious erudition, pot-stirring books, and a flair for documentary filmmaking, in which he was reportedly tutored by Bernardo Bertolucci, who he met on the set of “Little Buddha”.

Norbu shares a global stage with Lakar as a popular teacher of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism (Vajrayana). Accordingly, his students asked him to comment on the accusations against Lakar. A month after the letter from “The Eight”, he obliged by posting a ten thousand-word essay that was shared over a thousand times on Facebook, and lauded by his students around the world as a nuanced defence of Vajrayana’s abiding magic and the unorthodox but salvific bonds it promotes between teachers and students.

"Defence” is perhaps not the right word, however. The essay spends none of its time on the accusations. Rather, it sermonizes on the glory of the Vajrayana process, and laments the poor education of those who claim to be hurt by it. The Eight, Norbu argues, must have known what they were in for as Vajrayana students. They should have had “superior faculties” that would have allowed them to transform the perception of Lakar’s abuse into a belief in his spiritual care. These faculties should have been further cemented by the students’ “samaya”, or psychospiritual commitment to Lakar. The essay reminds readers that for Lakar’s students to break samaya by not framing all of his actions as beneficial condemns them to aeons of literal hell.

In the Vajrayana world, worldly laws don’t apply. Lakar is not committing crimes in that world, according to the essay’s reasoning, but rather relieving his students of the social conditioning that deludes them into thinking that mundane concepts like “crime” ultimately exist. The essay also deploys a quasi-subaltern discourse to elevate this goal above any consideration of institutional abuse. The non-Tibetan consumers of Lakar’s content are hopelessly naive, the essay argues, and to investigate whether concepts like “samaya” contribute to grooming conditions for abuse is the folly of “a few liberal, puritanical, Abrahamic, or individualistic activists.”

Vajrayana devotees, the essay argues, enter into a dangerous contract.
The report from The Eight, which the essay neither quotes nor links to in the Facebook post, confirms the danger. Speaking of Lakar, The Eight write:

“You have punched and kicked us, pulled hair, torn ears, as well as hit us and others with various objects such as your back-scratcher, wooden hangers, phones, cups, and any other objects that happened to be close at hand. We trusted for many years that this physical and emotional treatment of students –- what you assert to be your “skillful means” of “wrathful compassion” in the tradition of “crazy wisdom” –- was done with our best interest at heart in order to free us from our “habitual patterns”.

But if Lakar is guilty of anything, the essay suggests, it is in not giving his students the adequate training in understanding that punches and kicks from a Vajra master can lead to spiritual freedom.

At the same time, the essay criticizes Lakar’s supposed lack of traditional training. But even this reasoning turns back on The Eight, who should have been able to assess Lakar’s training before committing to him.

The essay’s content, which blurs the lines between victim-blaming, spiritualized sado-masochism, and promises of liberation, will be familiar to anyone who has studied modern global Vajrayana groups with a critical eye. If there’s anything novel about it, it’s in Norbu’s ability to pad in, Jordan Peterson-style, culture-war rhetoric that conflates critics with snowflakes:

If you are uncomfortable with the non-dual groundlessness of Buddhism—you might just as well follow one of the Abrahamic religions. These are the religions that follow a clearly grounded dualistic path and say things like “don’t eat pork, do eat fish, and women must wear burqas.” If the label ‘religion’ is altogether too embarrassing for your elitist so-called progressive minds, you might try some kind of quasi-atheistic secularism, coated with moralistic ethics and bloated with dogmatic liberal self-righteousness. Or you could blindly allow yourself to be swallowed up by existentialist angst, then get annoyed with those who get blissed out on hope.

Judging by the comments, many supporters appreciated the tough love.

But in October, Norbu escalated the anti-political-correctness rhetoric to outright mockery, dressed up in satire. In a post he has since tried to delete, he presented a sixteen-page spoof contract produced by “Bender and Boner Lawyers” designed to ensure regular-guy Rinpoches like himself “who desire to save all sentient beings yet also wish to have fulfilling sex lives”. In its joke-world, the contract would ensure that Rinpoches have the legal consent of students they want to have sex with. Justin Whittaker provides a good analysis here. (To see how the spoof taps into Jordan-Peterson-land, read what commenter “Daniel S. Thompson” has to say. According to him, criticism of Norbu’s satirical appeal to self-responsibility is coming from “Cultural Marxism”, which isn’t a thing.)

Lama Tsultrim Allione denounced the post.

Tsultrim Allione
about a year ago

I thought this might come in handy for Rinpoches like myself who are not omniscient, not omnipotent, and not well trained; who don’t give enough preparatory training on the prerequisites to their students; and who get carried away by their own self-agendas and, from time to time, by their hormones.


Bender and Boner Law has over 70 combined years’ experience in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. We are sensitive to the special needs of Gurus and Rinpoches who desire to save all sentient beings yet also wish to have fulfilling sex lives.

Let one of our ironclad consent forms protect you from fears of future litigation. Our in-house psychologists are on call 24/7 to assess your potential partners for any unsuitable moral quirks and/or tendencies to play victim.

If you’ve already made a few mistakes, (and who hasn’t?), don’t worry! We can still save your reputation, your assets, and your ass. Free initial consultation. Call us before it’s too late! See our website at

Disgusting and disrespectful unfortunately not surprising and definitely not funny. At all.

Not funny — but certainly sophisticated. In the style of Middle-Way philosopher-rebels who historically have delighted in mocking all moral and existential positions as absurd, Norbu is plausibly making fun of multiple sentiments at the same time. He’s spoofing both predatorial American litigiousness and the damage-control industry. He’s self-deprecating in his suggestion that because he lacks omniscience and is remains a red-blooded male, he needs a contract like this for self-protection. He’s questioning the sanity of potential students, and the perceived prudery of spiritual aspirants by listing, exhaustively, the particular and explicit sex acts that the hypothetical Rinpoche needs his students to consent to.

The primary target of the contract, however, is the “snowflake” attitude that is deemed so uptight, legalistic, and politically correct that all of the spontaneity of both sexual ecstasy — and, by implication, spiritual realization — would be outlawed. Consent, the joke suggests, is a buzz-kill.

Here’s where things get deadly serious, perhaps revealing the implications of “samaya” to such an extent that even Norbu had to walk it back. The hidden punchline of the contract is the assertion that there can be no informed consent within a Vajrayana pedagogy. And if that’s true, there can be no protection whatsoever for people like The Eight, despite the fact that Norbu says they should have investigated and analyzed Lakar beforehand.

The joke illuminates a double-bind: you have to know beforehand what you cannot know.

For emphasis:

The Vajrayana student cannot know or consent to what they are getting into. The mundane egoic person who would ask for a legalistic contract to consent to a transformative process is the very person who would be destroyed by that process. They engage samaya because the teacher knows what they cannot know, what cannot be explained before it is realized. It can only be realized through the death of the mundane personality. Samaya marks that death.

Last week, Norbu Facebooked this defence of global Vajrayana culture in general, and the version of it on offer through Shambhala International in particular.

Buddhism is no stranger to obstacles. Outer, inner and secret obstacles have plagued Buddhists since time immemorial. And among the many Buddhist traditions, paths and methods, the Mahayana and especially the Vajrayana have encountered particularly daunting challenges.

But for not even a moment have such obstacles disheartened the great bodhisattvas of the past. On the contrary, those very obstacles have fuelled the enthusiasm, determination and aspirations of so many great masters, practitioners, students and patrons of Buddhism in the past.

Even in our own time, we ourselves have witnessed great vidyadharas and tantric masters who have given literally everything to keep the lamp of dharma burning.

The sight of Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche still writing, teaching, editing, and instructing students by candlelight way past midnight even into his 80s remains etched in my memory. Or the sight of Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, even with his severe asthma, still conferring initiations and teachings, searching for the right text, compiling and proofreading manuscripts. Or the sight of Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche never giving in to social expectations and political correctness, and relentlessly encouraging and leading students into many years of retreat in mountains and forests. All those images and many more are as clear in my mind today as when I witnessed them.

And how can we forget Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche venturing alone into places totally unknown to him and bringing himself down to the most ordinary human level to single-handedly create nuances, terms, language, atmosphere, discipline and stages of practice for new dharma students. To take just one example among thousands, coining the term “basic goodness” of human beings brilliantly spoke to the hearts and minds of people in the here and now without ever deviating from the most traditional Buddhist teachings.

Nothing Trungpa Rinpoche did was for entertainment or commercial purposes – giving in to popular demand by diluting and watering down the truth – but it was always to guide students on the authentic path to liberation.

Now is the time to remember these great masters and their unrelenting dedication to the dharma even after they had lost everything and become completely homeless! And now is the time to emulate their courage and fortitude, and to follow in their footsteps.

How can we even call ourselves dharma practitioners if we cannot handle temporary obstacles? Why even choose Buddhism with its daring methods to dismantle all our dualistic fabrications if all we are seeking is a safe life, an insured path, and material, worldly comforts? People say: “Come the hour, come the man.” Well, for every one of us, this is the hour, and every one of us is this woman or man.

There are so many ways we can encourage ourselves at this time. When I recently read Pema Chodron’s 2015 Tricycle interview*, I couldn’t help but get goosebumps and tears in my eyes that an heir of Tilopa, Marpa and Milarepa – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche – has borne a grand-daughter called Pema Chodron. If Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s entire life in the west was just to give birth to one Pema Chodron alone, that should be cherished and cause for celebration. Personally, I wouldn’t even need all Trungpa Rinpoche’s brilliant books and teachings: – just having her alone as his legacy is good enough for me. Even in the Tibetan tradition, it is rare to find someone with the courage, insight, humility and bravery of a Pema Chodron.

Many paths are like package tours. The Vajrayana is an adventure, and those of us who have signed up for it have every reason to be cheerful, excited, and famished for this unbelievably rare opportunity to pump our adrenaline. And at the same time, we must do absolutely everything to protect this most precious inheritance.…/pema-chodron-on-th…/

The post doesn’t mention current circumstances: that Shambhala’s leader, Ösel Mukpo, has been accused of forced confinement and sexual assault. Further, that accusations against Mukpo come within the context of revelations about intergenerational sexual abuse at SI, following in the legacy of its founder, Chogyam Trungpa, who openly slept with students and had seven wives when he died of terminal alcoholism n 1987, and appointed a successor who had unprotected sex with male students while knowingly carrying HIV.

This new post ignores all non-idealizing context with a rear-guard elevation of Trungpa and language that positions the current criticism of institutional abuse as a cultural attack that has forgotten the Tibetan genocide. The description of Trungpa is black and white, which goes to show that the language of the dangerous trickster needs only be used when acknowledging “perceptions” of harm:

Nothing Trungpa Rinpoche did was for entertainment or commercial purposes – giving in to popular demand by diluting and watering down the truth – but it was always to guide students on the authentic path to liberation.

This hymn to Trungpa ends by citing the fruits of his labour: the wisdom of Pema Chödrön, a spiritual “grand-daughter” of lamas gone by. It cites and links to an interview Chödrön gave to Tricycle in 1993. I’ve commented on this interview as a rationalization of the disorganized attachment typical of high-demand groups in this post.

Unfortunately, Norbu falsely gives the date of the interview as 2015. While it is still true that Chödrön has not issued any statement on the Mukpo crisis nor updated the sentiments expressed in the interview, the wrong date makes it look like this is closer to her present view than it might be, and worse — that she may have conducted the interview as a recent, pre-emptive strike against the coming scandal. In praising Chödrön this way, this post might be doing her a disservice. Further idealization of her 1993 statement will make it more difficult for a possible update to be made or broadcast.

To summarize: the August letter, October “joke”, and the recent Facebook post all suggest that Vajrayana teachers are not “safe” in any mundane sense. They can’t offer safe spaces or consensual contracts. On the other hand, those who nonetheless crave the danger of Vajrayana teachers are the most earnest and passionate of students.

These arguments advocate for the value of disorganized attachment to a teacher as a means to spiritual liberation.

The student is asked to depend upon a person who will necessarily terrify them.
They are told they are immature if they unwilling to do it. They are told they are ignorant if they feel they were hurt by it. They are told it is their fault if they don’t perceive their experiences as “pure”. They are told, told, told, told, told.

The good news is that these statements aren’t at all deceptive. Norbu is telling the world exactly what’s going on.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 8:24 am

Part 1 of 2

Guru and Student in the Vajrayana
by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse
August 15, 2017




I have written the following in response to a number of requests, including some from the press, for my take on the present situation in the Rigpa Sangha over Sogyal Rinpoche’s behaviour.

I have not responded to any of the questions put to me by the press before now, because what I want to say can’t be edited or altered in anyway. Unfortunately, journalists always cut up texts, then pick and choose the bits and pieces that fit in with their own preconceived ideas. If you don’t believe me, just spend five minutes looking at CNN, Fox News, al-Jazeera, The New York Times, The Guardian newspaper or Breitbart News Network. You’ll soon see what the nature of ‘freedom of speech’ is like in our modern society. Sadly, most ‘Buddhist’ magazines and bulletins are no different.

So here’s what I want to say, uncut and unedited. Please summon up all your patience and read the whole thing from beginning to end; this text is meant to be read all the way through, not in bits.

First, though, I feel I must point out that what I want to say concerns the relationship between a guru and a student that is specific to the Vajrayana. As this kind of guru-student relationship is a Vajrayana phenomenon, I wish I could say that if you are not a Vajrayana student, you don’t need to worry or care about any of what follows. But I can’t. Why? Because like it or not, the Vajrayana is associated with Buddhism, and so in the process of addressing a Vajrayana situation, I can’t avoid talking about Buddhism and its future.

Having said that, I’m sure that the Theravada and Mahayana Buddhists who have been dragged into this public debate by mere association, must be pulling their hair out with frustration. I empathize; if I were in your shoes, I would feel the same.

But there is one thing we must all be clear about. There is a clear difference between Sogyal Rinpoche’s role as a Vajrayana master and his role as a very public Buddhist teacher and head of a non-profit organization. Vajrayana masters are not necessarily public figures. Many aren’t even known to be Buddhist teachers—in the past, some Vajrayana masters earned their livings as prostitutes and fishermen. But unlike the teacher-student relationship in other traditions, in the Vajrayana, the connection between the guru and the student is sometimes more personal and constant than family.

More often than not, the opposite is true for teachers who present Buddhism more generally. These teachers are often public figures. In many cases, they have many followers, and they and their teachings are widely available. They may also be at the helm of any number of monasteries or non-profit organizations.

So ‘Vajrayana guru’ and ‘Buddhist teacher’ are, in fact, totally different roles—even when both roles are fulfilled by one person. What I want to discuss here is the role of Vajrayana master generally and Sogyal Rinpoche’s role as Vajrayana master in particular, not Sogyal Rinpoche’s role as spiritual director of Rigpa and public Buddhist teacher.

This distinction is important
because many Buddhists students are wondering how to explain this kind of scandal to their friends and loved ones. How can you talk about it with your little sister who goes to a Christian high school? Or to your new non-Buddhist boyfriend, who you really want to impress but who already thinks your eagerness to do anything this guru asks of you is really strange. So this is an issue that should be contemplated and addressed separately, especially in light of the increased media coverage Sogyal Rinpoche’s behaviour is bound to elicit.

None of what I have to say here about the Vajrayana in particular is easy to explain. In fact, I am a bit concerned that I might end up raising more questions than answers. And I’m also sure that my words will be misinterpreted. But I have decided to try to write this piece anyway, because there are many genuine Vajrayana practitioners out there who are struggling with how to view the present situation and who might want to consider the issues I wish to raise.

The Guru-Disciple Relationship

Nalanda University in India was one of the oldest universities in the world. It was at Nalanda that one thousand four hundred years ago, scholars confirmed that there is no such thing as an atom, or a ‘smallest particle,’ or a god that inherently exists; and these scholars would have laughed heartily at today’s theories about the Big Bang and democracy. My point here is that at Nalanda University there was absolutely no room for sentiment or blind devotion or blind belief.

Naropa was Dean of that great university. His scholarly achievements were remarkable, but left him unsatisfied. So he relinquished his prestigious position and set out to find a teacher whose wisdom transcended his own great scholarship and all he knew. Eventually, he met Tilopa, a fisherman, and that meeting marked the beginning of an adventurous and highly unpredictable journey.

Among many other inexplicable tasks, Tilopa told Naropa to pinch a princess’s bottom in public and to steal some soup, as the result of which Naropa was badly beaten. Yet Naropa—a fully trained sceptic—wholeheartedly did everything Tilopa asked of him without asking a single question. His reward was the teaching on Mahamudra, which he passed on to his own students, who also passed it on. Over the centuries, Naropa’s lineage of Mahamudra teachings went on to liberate countless human beings.

People who treasure Mahamudra are not stupid; they are neither sycophants, nor are they prone to cultism. Naropa’s Mahamudra lineage has spread far and wide—not just to jobless hippies, dropouts, social misfits and rebels, but to some of the world’s greatest emperors. And the story of how Tilopa taught Naropa has been cited again and again. Not as some kind of legend, but as a teaching and an example—an example that most budding Vajrayana practitioners long to emulate.

Naropa’s Mahamudra lineage continues to the present day thanks to great Mahamudra merchants from the Far East, like Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who even transported it to the wild west of America.

More than thirty years ago, Trungpa Rinpoche commanded his students, including successful lawyers and dentists from Boulder, Colorado, to move to the gloomiest place on the planet: Halifax, Nova Scotia. And they did.
In modern times, such a command is the equivalent of ordering Naropa to steal soup. Amazingly, decades after Trungpa Rinpoche’s passing, those obedient dentists and lawyers are still living in Halifax, and have gone on to spawn a third generation of practitioners.

By the way, if you’re ever surrounded by a few of these practitioners, they’ll talk about the glories of Trungpa Rinpoche until your ears fall off!

This kind of story—from the time of Naropa to Trungpa Rinpoche in the 20th century—exemplifies the guru-disciple relationship on which the Mahamudra transmission entirely depends.

Did Sogyal Rinpoche Do ‘Wrong’?

Recently, it was alleged by some of Sogyal Rinpoche’s students, who also consider themselves to be practitioners in the Vajrayana tradition, that Sogyal Rinpoche regarded abusive behaviour as the ‘skilful means’ of ‘wrathful compassion’ in the tradition of ‘crazy wisdom.’

However you describe Sogyal Rinpoche’s style of teaching, the key point here is that if his students had received a Vajrayana initiation, if at the time they received it they were fully aware that it was a Vajrayana initiation, and if Sogyal Rinpoche had made sure that all the necessary prerequisites has been adhered to and fulfilled, then from the Vajrayana point of view, there is nothing wrong with Sogyal Rinpoche’s subsequent actions. (By the way, ‘initiation’ includes the pointing out instruction which is the highest Vajrayana initiation, known as the fourth abhisheka.)

Frankly, for a student of Sogyal Rinpoche who has consciously received abhisheka and therefore entered or stepped onto the Vajrayana path, to think of labelling Sogyal Rinpoche’s actions as ‘abusive,’ or to criticize a Vajrayana master even privately, let alone publicly and in print, or simply to reveal that such methods exist, is a breakage of samaya.

This is not to say, as has been suggested, that tantra provides teachers with a list of ways they can abuse students sexually, emotionally and financially—you will not find such a list in any of the tantras. At the same time, a Vajrayana guru will use anything he can to challenge and go against each individual student’s ego, pride, self-cherishing and dualistic mind, and might well end up telling a sexually voracious, horny man to become a monk.

I’m sorry, but we can’t bend the rules on this point. When both the giver and receiver of a Vajrayana initiation are fully aware and clear about what has happened, they must then both accept that pure perception is the main view and practice on the Vajrayana path. There is no room whatsoever for even a glimmer of an impure perception.

But what is ‘pure perception’? Ultimately, according to the Vajrayana, the practice of pure perception doesn’t mean just seeing the guru as a god, or even as a tantric deity. Although the Vajrayana does famously include techniques for visualizing not only the guru but every being on this planet and in the universe as a deity, the main point of pure perception is to go beyond dualistic perception altogether and realize the union of emptiness and appearance.

To put it simply, pure perception is the highest form of mind training—dag nang byang in Tibetan. Dag means ‘pure;’ nang means ‘perception,’ and byang means ‘train’ or ‘get used to.’

So, how does pure perception work? As a Vajrayana student, if you look at Sogyal Rinpoche and think he’s overweight, that is an impure perception. To try to correct your impure perception you might then try visualizing him with the body of Tom Cruise, but that is still not pure perception. One of the Vajrayana’s infinite number of skilful methods that are used to deconstruct and dismantle impure perception, is to visualize Sogyal Rinpoche with a horse’s head, a thousand arms and four legs. But even this technique must ultimately be transcended in order fully to realize pure perception.

Basically, while the student’s perception remains impure, the guru they see will be a projection based on their own impure projection, and so it can only ever be imperfect. The only way we can change our impure perception and see the guru as an enlightened being is by training our minds, using the visualization practises provided by the Vajrayana path.

No Vajrayana teaching or qualified Vajrayana teacher would ever expect a student’s perceptions to be completely pure from the moment they step onto the Vajrayana path. This is why the techniques we apply are called ‘training’—and even the English word ‘training’ implies that mistakes are inevitable. But there’s a very simple way of checking your progress with this practice. In the Vajrayana, you are supposed to see not only the guru but yourself as a deity. So if, having just been taught that you are a deity, you skip lunch and feel hungry, it means your training is not complete. You will only be perfectly trained in pure perception once you have finally actualized the union of appearance and emptiness.

So if a student of Sogyal Rinpoche were to see him floundering in the middle of a lake and based on their impure perception, project onto him the idea that he seems to be drowning, it would probably not be a good idea for that student to think, “Rinpoche is an enlightened being and should be able to walk on water.” A much better thought would be, “This is my impure perception! Rinpoche is manifesting as a drowning man so that I can accumulate the merit of rescuing him.”

As your practise improves, your perception of the guru will no longer be bound or limited by the causes, conditions and effects that once made you think he was drowning. This is the point in your spiritual development when you will truly see the outer guru as the Buddha and will also be able to see your own inner guru.

Until then, when your guru chairs a board meeting and it becomes obvious that he has no clue about an issue, as a prudent member of that board you shouldn’t hesitate to supply him with the information he needs. At the same time, as a Vajrayana student, you must skilfully remind yourself the guru only looks clueless to you because of your own impure perception, and that by appearing to need your assistance the guru is actually giving you the chance to accumulate merit.

We all have habits, and it’s habit that makes impure perception inevitable. The moment we step onto the Vajrayana path, we start breaking ‘samayas’—which are our commitment to maintaining pure perception. This is why the assumption that all Vajrayana practitioners will make mistakes is built into the Vajrayana path. A practitioner’s path is then to immediately confess, expose and fix any impure perceptions the moment they arise, and to continually aspire to make fewer and fewer mistakes.

This is what is meant by keeping the samaya vows. In fact, Vajrayana practice cannot be separated from keeping samaya. There is no such thing as: “Let’s keep samaya and then practice.”

Ultimately, once we transcend all possibility of making errors or breaching samaya, even thinking that there is something to confess or such a thing as a confessor is a breakage of samaya. In Buddhadharma, not just the Vajrayana, the only way any of us can keep all the samayas, is by fully realizing a perfect understanding of shunyata.

If an impure perception—such as criticism of one’s guru—is made deliberately and consciously, and if it then goes on to become a well-organized, choreographed public discussion with no room for amendment or correction, it constitutes a total breakage of samaya.

Once an initiation has been given and received, neither the guru nor the student can continue to analyze each other—the guru cannot analyze the student and the student cannot analyze the guru. Having given someone an initiation, no matter how irritating, stubborn, neurotic or even criminal they may be, the guru must accept that person as his student and look after him or her as if they were his own child—even more so, actually. I know that many of you don’t want to hear it, but this is the Vajrayana view and this is what is taught in all the tantras.

It’s a big mistake to speculate about the possibility of continuing to analyze and criticize the guru after having received a major initiation—actually it’s totally wrong. We cannot modify Vajrayana’s fundamental view just because it doesn’t suit the minds of a few liberal, puritanical, Abrahamic, or individualistic activists.

If you find this view doesn’t suit you, but you still want to follow the Buddha’s path, you can always try the Mahayana and Sravakayana paths instead. If neither of those paths work for you—if you are uncomfortable with the non-dual groundlessness of Buddhism—you might just as well follow one of the Abrahamic religions. These are the religions that follow a clearly grounded dualistic path and say things like “don’t eat pork, do eat fish, and women must wear burqas.” If the label ‘religion’ is altogether too embarrassing for your elitist so-called progressive minds, you might try some kind of quasi-atheistic secularism, coated with moralistic ethics and bloated with dogmatic liberal self-righteousness. Or you could blindly allow yourself to be swallowed up by existentialist angst, then get annoyed with those who get blissed out on hope.

And yet, there may be some among you who long for tantric teachings because you quickly want to gain all the spiritual accomplishments you can, but without suffering any of the pain; or because you’re the kind of person who has a strong sense of entitlement and love to bypass preliminary practices. Or you might be very smart and want to follow the simplest path that gets the quickest results, so you might try outwitting the system by cutting corners to get at the highest Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings more quickly. Or you might be one of those who whine bitterly when the guru says it’s not the right time to give such teachings and then apply intense emotional blackmail to get what you want. If you fall into any of these categories, the all-or-nothing guru-disciple relationship is what you will get. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is and there’s nothing I can do about it.

We can’t change the Vajrayana view or invent some ‘moderate’ version of Vajrayana Buddhism just to suit the 21st century Western mind-set. If we did, it would be like saying that in these modern times, we should say that certain compounded phenomena are permanent and some phenomena do exist inherently—but we can’t do that either. The view is fundamental to Buddhadharma and therefore to the Vajrayana path.

In Buddhism, the general idea is that we train our minds to actualize non-duality. Tantra offers us the most profound way of achieving that non-duality through the practice of pure perception; and in the Vajrayana we essentialize that practice by maintaining a pure perception of the guru.

Ultimately, as Vajrayana practitioners, we must apply pure perception to everyone and everything without exception, which means we must also apply it to Donald Trump and even Hitler. But we will only manage to achieve a pure perception of everyone and everything if we can first maintain a pure perception of our guru. If you try to retain the option of questioning, criticizing and analyzing—in other words if you retain some kind of selective impure perception as an insurance policy that allows you to question your very path—then how will you achieve the cessation of the dualistic mind? How will ‘one taste’ be actualized? How will you realize the union of samsara and nirvana?

One of Buddhism’s fundamental practices is that of working with our own projections. It’s a practice that is particularly emphasized in the Vajrayana. I know many of you will roll your eyes and accuse me of copping out when I say this, but everything Sogyal Rinpoche’s critical students are accusing him of is based on their projection. I know it’s hard to accept, I know it seems very real, but even so, it is a projection.

The bottom line here is: if both student and guru are consciously aware of Vajrayana theory and practice, I can’t see anything wrong in what Sogyal Rinpoche then does to his so-called Vajrayana students—especially those who have been with him for many years. Those students stepped onto the Vajrayana path voluntarily; it’s a journey that they chose to make. At least, I assume they did.

Do aspects of this journey go against commonly-accepted laws? Possibly. Do they contradict the way 21st century modern human beings usually think? Yes. From a worldly point of view, much of the Vajrayana seems unthinkable, perhaps even criminal. If Tilopa were alive today, he would have been locked up long ago. Come to think of it, which Western country or culture would actually brag in its great literature about Marpa beating up Milarepa? Yet the Tibetans celebrate this story, holding it up as one of the most glorious examples of a true guru-disciple relationship.

I also assume that these critical close students of Sogyal Rinpoche didn’t originally go to him for advice about how to achieve worldly success or for therapy, but to find out how to transcend this ordinary world—which necessarily involves going beyond all kinds of worldly values like morality, the rule of law, accountability, transparency and so on. You can’t leave one foot firmly grounded in your worldly comfort zones and ambitions, then expect to be able to transcend them.

This is the very reason the Vajrayana is said to be exclusively for disciples of ‘superior faculties’ —which in this context, has nothing to do with being clever enough to qualify for a Rhodes scholarship or graduate from Stanford. A person with ‘superior faculties’ is totally disgusted with the dualism of samsara and nirvana, repulsed by ideas of fundamentalism and moderation, revolted by anarchism and morality, and single-minded and sincere in their devotion to the transcendence of duality. And this is why students are given so many warnings before they receive Vajrayana teachings.

Were Sogyal Rinpoche’s Students Warned? Were the Necessary Foundations for Entry into the Vajrayana Laid?

Anyone with even a modicum of common sense knows that a warning must come before, not after the event. So it’s a Vajrayana master’s duty to warn aspiring students repeatedly and in advance about what they are letting themselves in for. Students must be warned about what they are about to undertake—the full picture, not just the highlights.

If Sogyal Rinpoche had given these warnings, if he had laid proper foundations by teaching the fundamentals of Buddhism, if he had made sure his students had established a strong foundation through study and practice, and if he had told them before they received initiation and teaching about the nature of the Vajrayana path and the consequences they would face if they broke samaya, the chances are that this current situation would never have arisen.

But I suspect that’s not quite what happened. What are my suspicions based on? Partly my knowledge of Tibetan teaching habits, and also what little I know of Sogyal Rinpoche’s teaching methods.

First of all, many Tibetan teachers are still in the habit of teaching non-Tibetans as if they were Tibetan. In Tibet, the Vajrayana wasn’t taught nearly as secretly as it was in India, where the necessity for maintaining absolute secrecy about the nature of the teachings and even the identity of the teacher was emphasized again and again. Even initiations were given in secret, often in uninhabitable places like cemeteries and mountain tops. This is quite the opposite of how Tibetan lamas—who usually sit on huge thrones in front of thousands of people—give initiations.

In India, our tantric predecessors were already extremely well-informed—Naropa, for example, knew exactly what he was getting himself into. That was not the case in most of Tibetan Buddhist history.

It’s ironic that today’s Western students are so eager to emulate the Tibetan way of doing things—habits which, by and large, really aren’t worth cherishing. Two millennia before the European Renaissance brought a new culture of inquiry and investigation into the modern world, the Buddha had already pointed out and emphasized the vital part analysis plays in the discovery of the nature of reality. More than two millennia before the downfall of authoritarianism in the West, the Buddha taught, “You are your own master. No one else is your master.” Neither of these pieces of advice has ever been taken seriously in Tibet. Not taking such teachings seriously is a very bad habit and certainly nothing to be proud of.

Tibetan lamas often use tantric rituals as part of local public events, which means that Vajrayana initiations take place alongside flag hoisting and ribbon cutting. This use of tantra was unheard of among the Tibetans’ Buddhist predecessors in India, where not even a trace of sacred Vajrayana transmission or ritual could be seen before, during or after its discrete performance. Tibetan lamas also openly boast about their gurus, as if they are unveiling a commemorative plaque. But I would be extremely surprised to learn that Naropa put any effort at all into building up his CV, or that he ever announced publicly that his tantric guru was Tilopa.

It might be possible to give Vajrayana initiations and teachings openly and publicly in places where the initiates are completely devoted, largely illiterate and have no academic training or custom of analysis. But it’s difficult to find that kind of person in a world that’s full to overflowing with smart-arses. So nowadays, when Tibetan lamas apply their habit of openly giving Vajrayana teachings to non-Tibetans—particularly Westerners—but forget that they are presenting these disciplines to people who read The New York Times, are groomed in critical thinking, trained to cherish analysis and contemplation, and applauded for rebelling against convention, isn’t it inevitable that things fall apart?

In stark contrast to the characteristics that mark out modern Western Dharma students, the majority of Tibetan disciples were culturally obliged to receive initiations and teachings as part of their traditional life. Very few Tibetans approached the Vajrayana with any thought of applying the proper, recommended analysis, and instead relied on blind devotion. To this day, many of us Tibetan lamas, not just Sogyal Rinpoche, stick closely to our traditional habits and therefore devote very little time to giving students the appropriate warnings and laying the necessary foundations prior to giving initiations and teachings.

I know a little about Sogyal Rinpoche because I have visited several Rigpa centres and have witnessed the Rigpa set-up first hand. To be frank, I didn’t see enough evidence to convince me that the appropriate warnings had been given, or that adequate foundations had been laid, or that the fundamental teachings were properly given. On several occasions it seemed to me that some of the students had been Christians until perhaps the day before they attended the teaching, then suddenly, 24 hours later, they were hearing about guru devotion, receiving pointing out instructions and practising Guru Yoga—it was as extreme as that.

If that’s how it happened—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. Why? Because it is his responsibility to prepare the ground in accordance with the Vajrayana’s prescribed and well-established foundation teachings and practice. There is no question that the person with the greater knowledge, power and therefore responsibility is also more culpable when those obligations are not fulfilled.

How Western Students Respond

But there are things about all this that puzzle me. The students criticizing Sogyal Rinpoche seem to be highly intelligent. Why, then, weren’t they smart enough to examine and analyze the teacher before signing up? How did they allow themselves to get so carried away by the Rigpa experience, those glossy, well-crafted pamphlets and all the other hoo-ha? And I really don’t understand why they waited ten or even thirty years before saying anything? How come they didn’t see all these problems in the first or second year of their relationship with Sogyal Rinpoche?

I should also say that my puzzlement is mixed with sympathy, because we human beings are not only subject to our intellects, we get stirred up by our feelings. I can only speculate, but perhaps these students were moved and even awed by everything they encountered at Rigpa? Perhaps the glossy pamphlets, the incense, thrones and chanting did their job? And of course, Rigpa has hosted many very highly respected, illustrious lamas, including the highest of them all, which must have cemented the veneration and respect these students felt not only for the whole tradition, but for Sogyal Rinpoche himself. As a result of the unexpected eruption of pious feelings they then experienced, there must have been very little room left in their minds for further analysis, because emotionally they just wanted to ‘jump!’ From what I have seen in Rigpa, this may well have been what happened.

Alas, karma does also seem to play a role in all this, doesn’t it? And now that I’ve brought up karma, I’m sure some of you will accuse me falling back on another cop-out. Nevertheless, the reality is that falling for glossy advertising and Tibetan paraphernalia, feeling inspired and touched by Tibetan exoticism and the endangered Tibetan species, and everything else that pops into our minds, all arise from the causes and conditions that are the essence of karma.

That’s the way it is and all I can do is encourage each one of us to accumulate more good karma so that we won’t be faced with this kind of situation again in our lifetimes. Feelings are karmic. And I am afraid this situation won’t be settled until that karma is exhausted.

If a Vajrayana Teacher and Student Fall Out, What are the Consequences?

If the teacher and student have reached a genuine understanding about the path being practised, and if all the necessary and appropriate foundations have been laid and a clear idea of possible consequences conveyed, but the student still has a wrong view and acts on it by slandering and criticizing the teacher, then, according to tantra, that student will face grave and unimaginable consequences.

But the same also applies to the teacher. In fact, if the teacher hasn’t laid the proper foundations, if the teacher takes advantage of a student physically, emotionally or financially, and if the teacher gives the highest yoga tantric teachings to those who have not established a proper foundation and as a result an immature student breaks the most fundamental root samayas, then the teacher will also suffer extremely grave consequences—consequences even more serious and terrible than those faced by the student.

If the proper foundations have been laid, but the guru’s actions—physical, verbal, emotional etc.—do not bring the student a centimetre closer to enlightenment, and if the teacher’s actions are aimed at personal gain, sex, money, power or selfish indulgence, it’s clear he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He is therefore obviously not a great Vajrayana master, let alone a mahasiddha. And he will therefore experience extremely grave consequences.

When I say ‘grave consequences,’ I don’t mean exposure in social media, or having his image ruined by scandal, or even that he is arrested and imprisoned. That’s nothing! The consequences for the teacher are far worse than mere worldly humiliation: he would end up in vajra hell. What is vajra hell? It isn’t merely being boiled in molten iron or fried by hell guardians—which actually sound quite comfortable by comparison. The unbearably awful characteristic of vajra hell is that once you’re there, you will not hear a word about the teachings on cause and condition, dependent arising, shunyata and the rest, for aeons and aeons and aeons. A thousand buddhas might come and go, but in vajra hell, you will hear absolutely nothing about them or their teachings.

If a teacher’s actions ruin the image of the Buddhadharma, or spoil an aspiring student’s appetite for the Dharma, or if the seed of inspiration that leads just one person to follow Buddhadharma is burnt irrevocably, the consequences are so terrible that they are, in fact, inexpressible.

Few people seem to know how difficult it is to be a Vajrayana student, but almost no one knows that it is far more difficult to be a Vajrayana master. I think the widespread woeful ignorance of these consequences is why so many people today fall over themselves to get a job as a guru—even the non-religious secularists. But given the opportunity, these so-called gurus dish out abuse in exactly the same way ordinary people do. If people knew how precarious and dangerous a guru’s job really is, I doubt anyone would want it.

A guru’s very prestige and all the perks he or she appears to enjoy, signify just how much greater the guru’s opportunities to deceive and be deceived are, in comparison with the student’s opportunities. As Patrul Rinpoche stated in The Words of My Perfect Teacher, when a student offers a single penny or makes any kind of effort, however small, to show respect for the teacher—by standing when the teacher enters a room, or bowing to the teacher, or letting the teacher go first—there are consequences; and if the so-called Vajrayana master is not enlightened, he or she is not above the karmic debts these offerings create.

Of course, ideally, a Vajrayana master should be an enlightened being. But the reality is that many Vajrayana masters may not be, yet for reasons that have nothing to do with personal gain, fame and power, they take on that role. Some assume it out of necessity. Or when the teachings need to be upheld or the lineage is at risk of being broken, they accept the role of Vajrayana master out of love for the teachings themselves. Basically, if they find themselves in the position of having no choice but to pass on these precious teachings, then very reluctantly, they become Vajrayana masters.

So an unenlightened master should be under no illusions. He must know in himself that he isn’t enlightened, and he should never deceive himself by claiming that he is. As his student, though, you must see your Vajrayana master as an enlightened being. This is the choice you must make. But doesn’t that contradict the Buddha when he said, “You are your own master. No one else is your master”? No, it doesn’t, because you are the one who is making that choice.

A Vajrayana master is definitely not a mahasiddha if he is affected by scandal, afraid of being publicly shamed and terrified of being thrown into jail. Neither is he a mahasiddha if he worries about losing disciples. A genuine mahasiddha, like Marpa or Tilopa, wouldn’t give a damn about any of that, nor would he give a second thought to being thrown into prison. And a mahasiddha would certainly never feel the need to apologize for any of his actions, because everything he does is done out of compassion.

On the other hand, if your Vajrayana master is not a mahasiddha and not only beats up his own students but also random people in the street, prefers shit to gourmet food, tears up $100 notes, carries around a suitcase full of footballs or sand, gets equally turned on by a rock and sexy man or woman, talks gibberish, and doesn’t guide you onto a path that has a view, meditation and action, or a ground, path and fruition, then he is simply mad and belongs in a lunatic asylum.

But what if a Vajrayana master is neither a mahasiddha nor mad, what should he do? He should behave ‘decently’.

Whether he’s enlightened or not, a Vajrayana master will have studied many precious, profound teachings and techniques. Now that he’s a teacher, he can share what he’s learned with sincere and devoted students. He knows that by using these teachings and the methods his masters used to teach him, there is every possibility that his disciples will get enlightened before him. So he has very good reason for being decent and for not taking advantage of those who have surrendered everything to him. Whatever his students have sacrificed and offered—time, money, offerings, respect, whatever—he must use it to help them. If he lights one candle and puts it in front of a statue of a Buddha with genuine aspirations for his students’ enlightenment, that will do.

Being decent also means that the Vajrayana master must know his students’ limits—what they can and can’t take. To do that, he simply has to use his common sense and ask himself what his own limits might be. What, for example, wouldn’t he have done even if his own Vajrayana master had told him to do it? If Sogyal Rinpoche’s Vajrayana master had told him to become celibate, would he have?

To always obey the guru’s orders is difficult. Fortunately, none of my Vajrayana masters ever told me to do anything that I would have found impossible to attempt—I’m quite certain they knew that I lacked the capacity to do absolutely anything they asked of me.

At the very least, an unenlightened Vajrayana master must always consider the consequences of his actions. In particular, he should ask himself if his actions might turn people away from the Buddhadharma in general and the Vajrayana in particular. And an unenlightened but decent Vajrayana master must always remind himself to distinguish between the fearlessness of ‘crazy wisdom’ and the stupidity of ‘I will never get caught!’
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 8:25 am

Part 2 of 2

Lost in Translation: Misreading Cultural Cues

From my own very limited point of view, and after the experience of having Western friends for several decades, I would say that only one lama has really understood Western culture and acted on it appropriately, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Most Tibetan lamas, as I said earlier, teach non-Tibetans in exactly the same way they teach Tibetans. In the process, they try to do the impossible by transforming their Western students into Tibetans. Believe it or not, I have met people who genuinely believe that the only way they can study and practice the Dharma is by learning Tibetan, chanting Tibetan-style, saying prayers in Tibetan, and even wearing Tibetan traditional dress.

I’ve also noticed that Tibetan lamas spend a great deal of time teaching their students Tibetan traditions that have nothing at all to do with the Dharma. I wouldn’t be surprised if, by so doing, some lamas have led their Western students to believe that it’s only possible to attain enlightenment as a Tibetan.

If Buddhadharma in general and Vajrayana in particular are to be passed on and taught to non-Tibetans, it is so important that there is a proper cultural understanding between teacher and student that allows the genuine Dharma to be transmitted properly and accurately. This is really difficult, but absolutely necessary.

Culture, after all, is a habit, and habits are the fundamental manifestation of ignorance. So it is totally unfair to blame the Vajrayana system when lamas and students don’t follow Vajrayana procedures because they prefer to rely on their cultural assumptions and habits—which I’m afraid most lamas like to do.

The Vajrayana system itself lays out all the necessary procedures very clearly. Almost all major initiations—even the very first of the usual four initiations—are preceded by at least six warnings. These warnings include instructions about the lama showing the vajra, giving the oath water, and more. But how many of us lamas really emphasize these warnings?

When Tibetan lamas give initiations to Tibetans and Bhutanese, most recipients have no clue about what’s going on, and very few even care to know. By and large, Tibetan lamas take for granted that Western students have the same attitude. These lamas sometimes give initiations to thousands of students at a time, but too often students don’t know what they received, let alone what the ritual meant, because the Vajrayana’s warnings were simply read out loud and left unexplained.

To be fair, some responsibility must also rest with the Western students, who are sometimes more interested in looking and speaking like Tibetans than actually practising the Dharma. If they are Tibetologists, activists who yearn to be the saviours of Tibetan culture, then that’s the way to go—and I assume there might be some benefit in it.

But here we are talking about Buddhadharma, and Buddhadharma is way beyond ‘culture’ and ‘country.’ So if you are interested in attaining so-called enlightenment, if you want to be ‘awakened’ and liberated from all defilements and the effects of defilements, then obviously you have to go beyond culture altogether—even the curry-eating, tsampa-chewing and coffee-drinking cultures.

Clear distinctions between Dharma and culture must be made if we are ever to sort out the current confusions—which, as I’ve said, will probably continue for a while longer. Looking at the next generation of lamas and how they are currently manifesting, I must say, I can’t see a glimmer of awareness of this issue amongst any of them.

I’ve been told that Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche made his students do sitting practice—shamatha—for several years. He also made them study the Sravakayana and Mahayana teachings in detail, putting them through years of preparation before they were granted any Vajrayana initiations or pointing out instructions. Trungpa Rinpoche went so far as to create the Shambhala phenomenon—Shambhala training and sitting practice—to ensure that his students were really well prepared for the Buddhadharma.

All the prescribed preparatory procedures are important. Remember, Naropa was already a celebrated scholar and the Dean of Nalanda University before he even tried to find his guru—in other words, he was fully prepared.

Direct Warnings that were Misinterpreted

Another factor that adds to the complexity of the current situation is that however familiar students are with the advice that they should analyze and test the guru before becoming his student—and even when they are given direct warnings—part of being human is that there are some things we simply don’t want to hear, especially when we have been hit by the arrow of inspiration. This means that in practice, on the rare occasions when the proper warnings are given, many people simply don’t listen. Some don’t even hear the words of the warning. For many of us human beings, the skill of being able to listen and actually hear isn’t easy to pick up.

Sadly, warning people of potential danger or trouble can itself end up causing even more problems. Recently, I was very frank with a young woman who was new to the Dharma and suggested that she stay away from a particular young lama because of a few things I knew about him. My advice was heartfelt and disinterested. I wasn’t only concerned for her, but also for the young Rinpoche and for the Buddhadharma. But she didn’t take my advice well—actually, she took it completely the wrong way. To her I was being controlling, possessive and jealous. Of course, many young people have rebellious natures and often do the opposite of what you suggest. But in this case, she repeated everything that I’d told her confidentially to the young lama, and the upshot was that a rift opened up between the lama and me. This was very unfortunate.

Something similar happened when a student complained to me about how her guru was constantly asking her to buy him things—expensive Rolex watches, cars, antiques etc. By the time she came to me, she had already bought him many things, but now, she said, she couldn’t keep it up because she also had financial obligations to her family. I replied that generally speaking, if she, as a student, really wanted to make expensive offerings to her teacher, she should make as many as she could, for as long as she could. But, if she felt the slightest awkwardness about what she was doing, she should express her concern directly to her guru instead of to me. So she spoke to her teacher. Unfortunately, she also told him that I was the one who had told her to address him directly, and from that day to this, he and I have not been on speaking terms. Giving advice can be hazardous.

What if, years ago, I’d warned the Rigpa students who wrote the letter critical of Sogyal Rinpoche, to examine and analyze their teacher carefully before they became his students. Would they have listened to me? I doubt it. At worst, an overt warning could have resulted in major misunderstandings and serious conflict—which as a human being I certainly want to avoid. I also remember some very defensive reactions from Rigpa students after a joke I made about the excessive Tibetan paraphernalia I saw in Rigpa centres.

But what if I had taken on the role of devil’s advocate? What if I had not only advised these students to check and analyze their guru, but gone further and said: “Sogyal Rinpoche has introduced you to so many truly great Vajrayana teachers. Why did you choose to continue following him rather than one of those great masters?”

What if I’d raised the question: “Apart from what Sogyal Rinpoche himself tells you, what proof do you have that he was fully and properly trained? He was only a child when he received teachings from Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö—did you know that? Did you know he was just ten or twelve years old when Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö passed away? Did you know that he went to a Catholic school in Kalimpong and then to Delhi University? So when did he do his training?”

What if I’d asked: “Do you see Tibetans flocking to Sogyal Rinpoche for teachings? Tibetans are always very polite to each others’ faces, but do you know what they really think? Maybe, in spite of the fact they know he hasn’t been well-trained, they are polite to Sogyal Rinpoche because they are following Tibetan custom.”

What if I had raised such questions? Would any of the students who are now being so critical have listened to me? I’m not just talking about Sogyal Rinpoche here. What if I raised such questions about all our present lamas, rinpoches and khenpos?

Karma so often undercuts analysis and bypasses warnings. And of course, karmic links and karmic debts always play out, including the continual misreading of cultural cues—for example, whatever they think of each other, Tibetans are always publicly polite to each other, which many Westerners misinterpret as a confirmation of high regard.

The Tibetans and the Bhutanese— and I myself am a Tibetan-Bhutanese hybrid—have been thoroughly marinated in umpteen cultural habits. I must admit that more often than not, when it comes to talking frankly and honestly about these important issues, these habits really get in the way. People like me think we should always act humbly and often misunderstand the difference between being humble and not being upfront. But the habit of humility often serves a purpose, and can, for example, prevent unnecessary arguments from breaking out. Personally, I would still opt for this approach, partly out of habit and partly to stay out of trouble—and as human beings, most of us usually try to stay out of trouble if we can.

Of course, lamas often don’t say certain things openly because their words have, in the past, been misreported, misquoted and cut and edited to mean something else entirely—lamas are too often misrepresented in all kinds of ways. So, being able to say what they really think can become problematic.

Basically, as I said earlier, warning people about how to choose their guru is one of the most difficult things a lama can do. But if we hold back from warning students openly, how can consequences be avoided?

Different Times, Different Challenges

I have received abhishekas from about thirty lamas, but I cannot claim to have properly analyzed all of them. To be perfectly honest, I’m one of those Tibetans who mostly jumps into initiations without taking the time to examine the preceptor much at all. But before I decided to receive a particular initiation or teaching from a lama, I did usually remember to use my common sense.

One method you can use to choose which lamas to receive initiations from is very similar to the way you can, for example, find out where to get good pasta in Italy. We assume that the places local Italians eat will be pretty good, because Italians know about pasta. Based on that common sense principle, I have myself avoided receiving teachings from certain lamas.

Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche once told me that when Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche first visited France, hardly anyone attended his teachings, but as soon as it was known that Sogyal Rinpoche would teach, everyone would go to hear him. Of course, I understand why people flock to hear Sogyal Rinpoche; he speaks English and is humorous, so students can relate to him—they feel connected. We human beings do tend to opt for accessibility when we can, so that may also have been a factor.

I have to say that none of the gurus from whom I received initiations and teachings ever abused me financially, sexually, physically or emotionally. But I must admit, I also assumed that they would never do such a thing—which was wrong of me. Once you decide to take a teacher as your guru, you are not supposed to make any assumptions about whether you will be treated well or not, because the point is to have the courage to surrender completely before you embark on the completely unknown and unpredictable Vajrayana journey. And as a Vajrayana student, I like to aspire that in future lifetimes I really will be able to maintain pure perception of my guru and have the ability to do whatever he or she asks of me, no questions asked.

However, the common sense method for choosing a guru that I spoke of using the pasta example has its limitations. I am quite sure that many people fall for a guru because he or she happens to be the student of a great master, or because he or she has been publicly lovey-dovey with many other great gurus. My own experience has taught me that this approach doesn’t always work.

Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche so venerated and respected Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, Shechen Gyaltsab and Khandro Tsering Chödrön that anyone connected with them also became very precious to him—even their pet dogs. I couldn’t see much greatness in several of the people for whom Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche showed such great affection. When I mentioned how I felt to my personal tutor, he replied that Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche had perfectly pure perception of everyone and everything, especially those connected with his own guru. Then he scolded me, “This is something you need to learn.” Now I realize just how priceless that advice was.

In a nutshell, for those of us who set out on a spiritual journey, judging a guru by his own CV and the illustrious masters he knows is not always a reliable method. In fact, on this path the very existence of that type of CV is fishy. Naropa didn’t go to Tilopa because he had a great CV. On the contrary, Naropa had to seek Tilopa out. No one knew Tilopa because he was a common fisherman, so just finding him was extremely difficult.

Checks and Balances

To institute checks and balances in the spiritual world isn’t easy. As the Buddha himself said a couple of millennia before it was recognized in the American constitution, no system is perfect. Buddhism is, nevertheless, a system, but a system that itself doesn’t actually believe in system; and its ultimate checks and balances are karmic causes and conditions. Buddhism also recognizes that only an enlightened being can tell if another person is perfect or not.

Some of you are currently trying to do everything you can to ensure that lamas who misbehave are not left unpunished. Your motivation may well be good: you may want to spare more innocent people the suffering caused by that kind of bad behaviour, and you may not want to see anyone else driven away from the Dharma because of it.

My personal feeling is that, these days, there are very few morally decent, compassionate, kind, caring and uncorrupted human beings in the world
—the kind of person for whom we instantly feel a sense of awe when we meet them. And as the mentality of ‘each man for himself’ grows stronger every day, the few decent human beings left on this planet are disappearing fast. Perhaps exposing people’s faults publicly like this, in social media and elsewhere, will make others afraid to act badly? Maybe this is the best we can do in this degenerate day and age. At least some lamas, especially the younger generation, are being sent a powerful message that they can’t get away with this kind of behaviour. So at a time when power and prestige are so intoxicating that some lamas consider themselves untouchable and forget that they could well be held to account, perhaps it is necessary? But I really don’t believe that public shaming or legal punishment is the answer, or that it will actually solve the whole problem.

Many people seem to be so disillusioned by this current situation that they think we have reached a turning point that signifies the beginning of the final decline and demise of Buddhadharma. Sadly, some students may be so disillusioned that for them, there is no turning back.

I’m afraid there is no doubt about it: Buddhism is declining in this world. I am certain that the misgivings people have about the key stakeholders in Buddhadharma—like the Tibetan rinpoches who should have a vested interest in the survival of Buddhism—is one of the reasons why so many feel so discouraged.

While Buddhism has always faced outer obstacles—like invasions, forced conversion by Islam, cunning conversion by Christianity, patronizing assimilation by Hinduism, and so on—its main obstacle is internal and stems from sectarian attitudes. Today, most of us are barely aware of this, even though it’s the greatest of all the threats Buddhism is facing.

There are many factors contributing towards the degeneration of Buddhadharma. Under the banner of rational objectivity as opposed to superstition, and clothed in a supposedly undogmatic liberalism, many among the European and American Buddhist elite are currently promoting a version of Buddhism that completely does away with reincarnation. Their campaign has the potential to destroy Buddhism far more surely than any of its internal scandals. After all, the current scandal is about just one person, whereas the pernicious and apparently contagious trend of misrepresenting the Dharma—which is being perpetrated by many and affecting even more—is spreading so fast that it is far more insidious and destructive.

In addition, there’s a large group of ‘respectable’ life-style teachers who cherry-pick and plagiarize Buddhist ideas without compunction. They market their approaches as ‘mindfulness’ and ‘secular ethics’, but are careful to leave out any terms, expressions or jargon that sound even remotely religious, on the pretext of making the Buddha’s ideas accessible to modern people.They lack the decency even to acknowledge the original author of the ideas and practices they peddle, and instead often try to insinuate or even baldly claim that they have discovered it all for themselves. To me that’s theft, plain and simple. I would have thought that Westerners, who so cherish notions about intellectual property and whose countries enforce strict copyright rules for the protection of writers and institutions, would behave better.

Even more dangerous are the self-made gurus who use mindfulness and other Buddhist practices to turn the essence of the Buddhist path into techniques for increasing our love of samsara. By doing so, they utterly destroy the entire purpose of the Buddhadharma, which is to liberate suffering beings from samsara. If this perversion of the Buddha’s teachings is not demonic—the ‘devil incarnate,’ as Christians might say—what is?

At the other extreme, Buddhism is also being undermined by the pervasive tendency in Sikkim, Nepal and Bhutan to preserve so-called ‘precious culture’ and ‘age-old tradition’ at any cost. In the process of trying to embalm their traditions, they are effectively hijacking Buddhism and stripping it of all meaning and relevance for this modern age.

Sogyal Rinpoche’s misbehaviour may be his ruin and, sadly, it may be the ruin of some of his students. But the other far more destructive trends within Buddhadharma have the power to affect millions and will ultimately destroy Buddhism far more completely than this present scandal. Frankly, they are even more deadly than the decimation wreaked on Buddhadharma by the Cultural Revolution and other external forces.

What Now?

The present situation is difficult and unfortunate, there’s no doubt about it. But at the same time it’s nothing new. In the course of Buddhist history many such scandals have blown up—and some were much worse. I think that this particular situation is giving us all the opportunity to show how resilient we are. It’s also our chance to think about Buddhism’s big picture rather than just one small corner.

For followers of the Buddha, particularly Vajrayana students and especially students of Sogyal Rinpoche and those who are asking very hard questions, I firmly believe that the current discussion about how gurus behave is rooted in a sincere desire to sort things out and to help the Rigpa sangha and larger Buddhist world. This is the positive aspect of the kind of questioning we are seeing today, and it’s an aspect that really must be recognized and appreciated.

Like it or not, as members of the wider Buddhist sangha and specifically as vajra brothers and sisters, we have created a bond between us that is far more important than family. But in our close relationships, we human beings often suffer as a result of miscommunication. What is the antidote for miscommunication? Communication! So now’s the time to clear a space in which genuine, wholehearted communication can take place. In fact, I’ve already seen a number of letters and on-line postings by people who are making a big effort to find a good solution.

Above all, though, we really must look at the big picture—this is most important. We must not make outcasts of the Rigpa sangha or of any of its individual members. It’s also vital that we remember and acknowledge just how much goodness Sogyal Rinpoche has brought to Europe and to America. The fact that he introduced so many people to such truly great teachers alone is a contribution to the Dharma that can’t be repaid, because those outstanding masters were not just authentic Dharma teachers, they were some of the greatest living beings of the century.

On balance, I would argue that Sogyal Rinpoche has contributed far more benefit to this world and Buddhadharma than harm. We must remember this. It’s far too easy to view this current situation simplistically, then take sides and gang up on those with opposing views—especially where devotion is involved.

For myself, what’s been happening recently amongst the Rigpa sangha has really enhanced my appreciation of many of Rigpa’s students—those that some might label as blind sycophants. I myself know many who are diligent, kind, eager to learn, and who really care about the continuity of the Buddhadharma and lineage—which is rare in this world. In this day and age, for anyone even to attempt the practice of pure perception and maintain devotion for their teacher and the teachings is truly admirable. It is so encouraging to see so many first- or second-generation Western practitioners dedicating themselves to Buddhist practice in this way. While it is tempting to focus entirely on the scandal and the disgrace, what we should really try to do is view it through a much larger and more positive lens. From what I can see, most Rigpa students recognize that there is something incredibly good in the teachings they have heard and in their lineage. And of all the Western Vajrayana students I've come across, Rigpa students are among the best and humblest.

Tibetans should also recognize that these Westerners, unlike Tibetans themselves, were born and grew up in countries that lacked any form of Dharma influence. Yet many of these Western students go to great lengths to seek out the Buddhist teachings. Without any historical Buddhist roots and absolutely no Buddhist culture in their countries of birth, they have nevertheless tried to do everything the Tibetans, who were their teachers, have asked of them. They have always tried to do their best. Many have even done things like turn their living rooms into small gathering places where people can practice. And most of them are not rich—many can barely make ends meet.

In this extreme, fanatical age, when so many are lost and desperately looking for some meaning in their lives, these Westerners’ pursuit of Buddhadharma is remarkable and worthy of lavish praise. This is especially so at a time when so many people in the world voluntarily opt to follow the most extreme of all views and paths which glorifies harming themselves and others. Yet our so-called liberal, free, intellectual society tries so hard to justify this kind of extreme outlook and action. Some even label it ‘moderation,’ laying the blame for its violence on an errant few, rather than recognizing that it’s the view and the path that are mistaken.

I would go as far as to say that there seems to be a trend amongst liberals and intellectuals—all those who pride themselves on being objective and love to criticize—for finding fault in things that are obviously good, and finding good in things that are obviously very bad. As a result, they put a remarkable amount of time and energy into deriding a path that’s based on love and compassion, has virtually no historical record of violence, and that teaches the most profound wisdom of dependent arising. And they put even more time and energy into justifying a path that glorifies violence and dualism.

The present upheaval caused by the very public criticisms of Sogyal Rinpoche is distressing for many genuine Buddhist practitioners, especially now that the Western media are seizing on it with such enthusiasm. I suspect that many liberals, atheists and much of the Western media would be delighted if news of a Jain suicide bomber now hit the headlines, because it would prove their point that all religions have a dark side and harbour extremists. How can we not be discouraged when Germany’s largest daily newspaper, the Süddeutsche Zeitung with a daily readership of more than one million, publishes a lead article about the Sogyal Rinpoche scandal under the section heading ‘Buddhism,’ and entitled “Abuse.” Imagine the outcry if the Western press were to report every Muslim bombing and massacre under the heading ‘Islam!’

So in this hypocritical age, followers of the Buddha must be braver and more courageous than ever before. At a time when there is almost no support or encouragement for those who follow a genuine path, and when doubt is sown at every turn, it’s more important than ever that we—as individual practitioners and sanghas—don’t get swallowed up by scandal and factional conflicts. In an era when wrong views and murderous actions not only prevail, but are celebrated and even justified by respected liberal intellectuals, we must redouble our efforts to study the authentic view of Buddhadharma. By focusing on the big picture and the long-term future of Buddhism, this present crisis could be the perfect opportunity for us all to renew, for the sake of all suffering beings, our commitment and dedication to the study and practice of the Buddha’s authentic path to enlightenment.
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