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

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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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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 8:29 am

Buddhist leader locked his victim in a bathroom to sexually assault her, report claims: The group's senior leadership reportedly knew about the incident and did nothing.
by Joshua Eaton
Jul 11, 2018, 9:04 AM



Sakyong Mipham, a prominent Buddhist teacher who has appeared on stage with the Dalai Lama and Queen Noor of Jordan, allegedly locked a woman in a bathroom and forcibly groped her during a drunken party in Santiago, Chile, in 2002, according to a report published Wednesday by the advocacy group Buddhist Project Sunshine.

Mipham heads a global network of more than 200 Buddhist centers called Shambhala International. The report alleges members of its board of directors knew about the incident in Chile as early as 2002.

“I found this woman very credible,” the report’s author, retired employment lawyer Carol Merchasin, wrote. “She reached out immediately after the incident to others, telling them the same story; her contemporaneous account to the Corroborating Witness further strengthens her credibility.”

Shambhala International referred ThinkProgress’ requests for comment to the public relations firm Hiltzik Stategies, which referred them to Mipham’s personal lawyer, Michael Scott, of the Halifax, Canada, firm Patterson Law.

Shambhala has hired Halifax law firm Wickwire Holm to investigate other allegations of sexual assault against Mipham published last month.

“Out of respect for the integrity of the independent investigation, my client will, for the moment, be offering no comment,” Scott told ThinkProgress in response to questions about those other allegations.

The new allegation is harrowing: During a party, Mipham allegedly pulled the woman into a bathroom, then locked the door and stood in front of it, barring her escape. Then he proceeded to grope her, put her hand on his genitals, and try to undress her, all while she said “no” and “I don’t want to do this.” When she told him she had a boyfriend, he responded, simply, “That doesn’t matter.” After about 15 minutes in the bathroom, the woman said she managed to push him away from the door and escape. By that time, all the other guests had left the party.

The next morning, the woman told a cook who was traveling with Mipham about the incident. That cook confirmed the woman’s account to Merchasin, the report says. That cook also told Merchasin that David Brown, a member of Shambhala’s board of directors and Mipham’s personal secretary, interviewed her about the incident later that year and told her two other board members, Mitchell Levy and Jesse Grimes, were trying to get Mipham to “clean up his act.”

A third woman told Merchasin that she overheard a senior Shambhala leader talking about the incident on the phone in 2002.

Brown, Levy, and Grimes did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

ThinkProgress did not interview any of these women and has not independently confirmed their stories. But parts of the account square with statements Shambhala board members made during [url]a private video call with the group’s meditation teachers last week.[/url]

“Early in 2002 some close to [Mipham] became concerned with his drinking,” Grimes said during the call, according to notes obtained by ThinkProgress. “Mitchell Levy and I sat with [Mipham] for an intervention.”

On that same call, another board member and Mipham’s chief of staff, Josh Silberstein, addressed the incident in Chile directly: “We have first-hand witnesses who indicate it isn’t true.”

Scott and Hiltzik Stategies declined multiple requests to put ThinkProgress in touch with those witnesses or provide further details.

Wednesday’s report comes after another report by Buddhist Project Sunshine, published last month, detailed several other allegations of sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and heavy drinking by the Mipham. That report briefly mentioned the incident in Chile as a second- or third-hand rape allegation. The new report corrects and clarifies those allegations.

Three days before the last report came out, Mipham apologized for having “relationships” with women in Shambhala. He did not admit any sexual misconduct.

“I have recently learned that some of these women have shared experiences of feeling harmed as a result of these relationships,” Mipham wrote. “I am now making a public apology.”

In 2003, the reports says Mipham met with the woman whom he reportedly assaulted in Chile and apologized to her. He sent her an apology letter later, though the report doesn’t make clear whether he ever admitted to sexual assault.

Shambhala’s governing body, called the Kalapa Council, announced its “phased” resignation in the wake of last week’s allegations. Mipham has stepped down from teaching and administrative duties pending the outcome of that investigation. Naropa University, in Boulder, Colo., also forced Mipham to resign from two honorary positions.

Neither Scott nor Hiltzik Stategies would comment on whether Mipham and the Kalapa Council members will continue in their legal roles as directors of the half-dozen or so legal entities affiliated with Shambhala. They also declined to comment on whether Mipham will continue to receive a salary, attendants, cooks, travel and housing expenses, and other benefits.

“The organization is assessing the situation and taking necessary steps towards healing and rebuilding the community,” a source close to Shambhala said in a statement.

Do you have information about sexual misconduct in Shambhala or another religious organization? Contact reporter Joshua Eaton by email at or by Signal at 202–684–1030.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Sat Feb 09, 2019 12:59 am

Sangyum Anniversary Recollection
Shambhala Times
by Sangyum Drukmo Tinkar
May 14, 2010 – 1:08 am



May 10th, 2010 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of my Sangyum ceremony. Inspired by my dear friend, Laura Simms, I’ve compiled a little sangha history in the spirit of celebration.

In 1985 the Vidyadhara, Venerable Trungpa Rinpoche had recently returned to Boulder from a wild and memorable year-long retreat in Mill Village, Nova Scotia. He was full of new inspirations, one in particular, feminine principle. Empowering seven women over that year, we were to serve as his eyes and ears and to share in the inner court of his mandala. The month of May was a Sangyum Ceremony triathlon, with full-blown court regalia every Wednesday and Friday for two weeks in a row on the 8th, 10th, 15th and 17th. The last three empowerments occurred in June and August, with the final ceremony culminating in winter.

Conducted in the Tenno Room of his home, The Kalapa Court, Rinpoche’s love for ritual and ceremony was in full bloom. Lady Diana Mukpo and Lady Lila Rich were the preceptors. For each ceremony, he suited himself appropriately. On May 10th he wore his White Cloud Uniform, while at other empowerments he wore traditional Japanese Hakama, or a wool, olive drab military suit, or his White Abhisheka Uniform. We complimented his dress with suits in a variety of colors at his request.

Spontaneous poetry was written together by the Druk Sakyong and the Sangyum-to-be. Oral examinations were administered by Lady Diana to both the Druk Sakyong and Sangyum. Each ceremony included examinations on the Six Ways of Ruling as well as additional exam questions. By the fourth ceremony, the atmosphere was getting really familiar and playful thus his question: “Why did you pick me?” to Drukmo Wangmo evoked ripples of laughter. I thought, “No fair, I fumbled through the difference between relative and absolute ashe!”

Love, calligraphy by Chogyam Trungpa

Strokes were executed, chants recited, oaths taken, white katas offered. Sake was toasted from square wooden Japanese cups. Laughter and intimidation arose as spontaneous discourses were appointed to some unsuspecting soul, and a kiss concluded each ordeal before being lead out in procession by Japanese Gagaku music. Elegant receptions prepared by his cook, Shari Vogler, followed with the signing of official documents, food, drink, more toasts, and overall merriment at Trungpa Rinpoche’s latest vision and inspiration.

This ceremony was like a dream echoing something both strange and familiar of ancestral times past. At the juncture of this event, my life took an irreversible turn onto a road I didn’t have a map for and continues to unfold today. Inducted as part of Trungpa Rinpoche’s retinue, a Midwestern girl from a sleepy suburb in Ohio hesitantly became Drukmo Tinkar, a potential female warrior. Along with many other unsuspecting students, I was given responsibilities to care for some of the precious seeds of wisdom Trungpa Rinpoche so urgently wanted to plant. A vast job, he employed his motley assortment of students to help him prepare the soil for the seeds of an awakened society. Succeeded by his heart son, Mipham Rinpoche, our current Sakyong, the vision of Shambhala continues to blossom.

“The essence of devotion and compassion is actually the same: it is a kind of love. Whether feeling is directed toward enlightened pure beings or ordinary impure beings, whether it is devotion or compassion, the essence remains the same: at the moment the mind is laid bare of thoughts, the empty essence dawns nakedly and can be directly perceived.”

–The Dzogchen Primer

In honor of the feminine principle in both women and in men
And to my Sangyum Sister Dragon Ladies…

Cynde Grieve, Drukmo Yudra
Wendy Freidman, Drukmo Wangmo
Leslie Hays, Drukmo Dashen
Agness Au, Drukmo Seri

and to Karen Lavin, Drukmo Dawa
and to Ciel Turzanski, Drukmo Nyima
who have both moved on from this life.

Cheerful Anniversary!

Love from Drukmo Tinkar
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Sat Feb 09, 2019 12:59 am

Buddhists in U.S. Agonize on AIDS Issue
by Dyan Zaslowsky
New York Times
Feb. 21, 1989



America's largest Tibetan Buddhist group has been thrown into turmoil by allegations that its leader knew he had AIDS and transmitted it to his sexual partners.

Osel Tendzin, the 45-year-old regent of the Vajradhatu International Buddhist Church, is said to be in seclusion in La Jolla, Calif., and could not be reached for comment. Many members have urged that he resign, after a man with whom he had sex received a positive test for the AIDS virus. In December, a high priest of Tibetan Buddhism told a group of American Buddhists that there was concern that Mr. Tendzin ''might have passed this on to many, many people.''

Three senior members of the Vajradhatu congregation, who asked not to be identified, said Mr. Tendzin's companion, a man in his 20's, unknowingly passed the virus along when he had sex with a woman in the community. She has since tested positive for the AIDS virus. They said the leader had other partners who might also have been infected.

And they said some members of the church board of directors did nothing about Mr. Tendzin's behavior for months even after they learned that he was infected with the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome and was still sexually active. 'Great Pain and Confusion'

At a meeting in Boston Jan. 8, the 12-member Vajradhatu board of directors asked Mr. Tendzin to quit his teaching and administrative duties, saying his ''actions have become a source of great pain and confusion.'' So far he has not complied, and members of the community say the board is considering what to do next.

Mr. Tendzin's condition became widely known in early December, after the regent's companion was tested positive for the AIDS virus. The infected man's mother and sister began to tell others in the sangha, the Sanskrit word for community. Members telephoned each other and spread the news through the large Buddhist community here and around the country.

At a meeting of several hundred Buddhists in Berkeley, Calif., on Dec. 15, Mr. Tendzin was questioned about AIDS and his sexual relationships. According to a tape of that meeting, he did not deny that he was infected wtih the virus or that he had AIDS. He indicated that he may have infected others and that some people knew of his illness before reports of it spread through the community. Asked why he did not realize he could infect someone else with AIDS, he replied: ''It happened. I don't expect anybody to try to conceive of it.''

Some members of the community remain loyal to the regent, saying he did not intend to harm anyone. But others have reacted with confusion, outrage and a sense of betrayal. 'Reprehensible Moral Behavior'

''There was an immediate sense of shock, and a lot of horror,'' said Ralph Hiesey, 47, who has resigned as coordinator of a small Vajradhatu study group in Santa Cruz, Calif. ''I don't want the head of this organization to demonstrate what I consider reprehensible moral behavior.''

The teachings of Vajradhatu, a branch of Tibetan Buddhism with 3,500 to 5,000 followers in the United States, Canada and Europe, do not prohibit homosexuality or sex with more than one partner. ''Buddhism is nondogmatic in that it doesn't lay down rigid codes of behavior,'' said David I. Rome, a member of the Vajradhatu International Church's board of directors in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

He and other board members declined to answer other questions about Mr. Tendzin's behavior and said they did not know where he was.

The highest-ranking Buddhist to have spoken publicly on the issue is Kalu Rinpoche, a high priest of Tibetan Buddhism in India, who spoke at a meeting of about 100 Buddhists in Los Angeles Dec. 22. According to a tape of the meeting recorded by a church member, Kalu Rinpoche, speaking in Tibetan through an interpreter, said: ''As all of you know, the Vajra regent has contracted AIDS. And people worry very much about the fact that he might have passed this on to many, many people.'' He then asked members to show compassion for the regent. Conversation With Founder

At the meeting in Berkeley, Mr. Tendzin said he had talked about his illness in 1985 with his predecessor, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who died of heart disease in 1987. Mr. Tendzin added that he came away from that conversation feeling he could ''change the karma.''

''Thinking that I had some extraordinary means of protection,'' he said, ''I went ahead with my business as if something would take care of it for me.''

The Vajradhatu International is now based in Halifax, but it was founded 18 years ago in Boulder, where about 900 members now live. Its followers in North America and Europe are largely non-Asian professionals.

Mr. Tendzin, who was born Thomas Rich in Passaic, N.J., is the first Westerner to hold so high a position in the Kagyu tradition, one of four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Vajradhatu's founder, designated him to lead the church until a permanent successor is chosen. As regent, he transmits the teachings of Buddha to Vajradhatu followers. Fear and Loyalty

Some members say they fear that important teachings will be lost if the regent is forced to resign. At the meeting in Berkeley, Mr. Tendzin was asked if he had made plans for a successor; he said he had not but promised to do so before his death.

Others say the regent's behavior reflects badly on the teachings of Buddha, and add that he abused his position by having sex with his students.

''We don't want people to think our tradition is just another cult,'' said Robin Kornman, a Princeton graduate student who is also a senior student of the Rinpoche. ''We are asking, 'Are any of us blind followers?' If so, that's not what we want.''

But other followers remain loyal to Mr. Tendzin. ''My feeling for the regent as my teacher has not wavered,'' said Irini Rockwell, who teaches dance at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, a liberal arts college founded by the Rinpoche in 1974. ''I have the view that he should continue to teach. The regent never intended to hurt anybody, and my religion has taught me to never, ever reject anybody who does not intend harm.''
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Sat Feb 09, 2019 7:42 am

Letter to Aung San Suu Kyi
by Dzogsar Khyentse
November, 2018



Dear Honourable Aung San Suu Kyi,

In these difficult times, I am moved to write to you to express my deep respect and appreciation for all you have done over so many years to fight for your people's freedoms, and especially for your great courage and perseverance in upholding your principles through nearly 15 years of house arrest.

You remain in my mind a true heroine of this age, more than worthy of the Nobel Prize and other honours you have received. And so, I am also writing to tell you that l have been appalled in recent months at the removal of many of those awards - from the cities of Edinburgh, Oxford, Glasgow and Dublin to your honorary Canadian citizenship.

Those shocking actions against you reveal a blatant double standard.

Without doing anything and just eight months into office, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet no one demanded it be taken away after he killed thousands of civilians in Mid-east drone strikes and bombings. In fact, denuclearizing North Korea will do more for world peace than anything Obama ever did, making Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un far worthier of a Nobel Prize.

More subtly, however the hypocrisy of taking away awards is a sign of the insidious colonialism that continues to strangle Asia and the world. We Asians have been taught to disparage our own noble traditions and instead to treasure western values, literature and music, to chew gum and wear faded jeans, to embrace Facebook and Amazon, and to ape western manners and institutions. We are badgered to feel guilt for the European Holocaust of World War 2, while our own holocausts are conveniently forgotten and buried in the dustbin of history. How many westerners mourn the 15 million displaced and million killed in Britain's partition of India, or the five million civilians killed in Korea and Vietnam?

Who recalls that the US. dropped two million tons of bombs on Laos between 1964 and 1973, almost equal to all the bombs it dropped on Europe and Asia during all of World War 2 - making Laos the most heavily bombed country in history relative to population size. And how quickly have we forgotten the genocidal holocausts of the 16th to 18th centuries that killed an estimated 130 million native Americans - more than 90% of indigenous peoples there. We nonwesterners have considerable cause for grievance against those European invaders who now claim moral authority over our lives.

Today, we are so infatuated with the west and so immersed in the western mindset that such criticism is seen as almost sacrilegious. So, I must add that nothing I am writing to you here signifies any lack of appreciation for the west's great contributions to human civilisation. From superb music, art and literature to brilliant scientific and medical breakthroughs to philosophies like anarchism, the creations of the west are astounding.

But watching the self-righteous western actions against you in recent months, I have become convinced it is finally time to tell the truth about the colonial structures and world-view they imposed on us and that persist to this day. Above all, it is time to restore the dignity of our own great eastern wisdom traditions and legacies.

Many mistakenly think the “colonial” era of western invasion and control is long past, since most Asian and African countries won apparent political independence more than half a century ago. But as “post-colonialists” rightly note, the economic and political structure of the colonial era continues to shape life around the world. In fact, western ideologies, lifestyles and systems of morality are now more deeply, subtly and dangerously entrenched than ever. Alien to the profound wisdom traditions of the east, today's colonial legacy continues to eat away at and destroy our own heritage.

For instance, we once knew how to respect and live in harmony with nature. Today, we have been swallowed into the western capitalist system together with its greedy materialism, traffic jams, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and voracious resource consumption. If that system is not even serving the west and is literally destroying the planet, why should it serve the east?

And to prop up that system, the west is so proud of its supposed “human rights” and "democracy” that we are blindly supposed to imitate. But it is only its limited individual rights the west cares about and those mostly for the rich and powerful. The US and most other western constitutions give no protection to social rights like the right to a job, housing, education, health care and safe drinking water.

And when it suits, the west blatantly violates its vaunted individual rights. Writing this supposedly exercises my right to free speech. But free speech is a hoax if listeners are intolerant and if they label, stigmatise and demonise the writer. In fact, "the tyranny of the majority” these days includes so-called “liberals” who on US campuses now regularly shut down views they do not agree with, especially if those views might offend some groups.

And that is so ironic, because western liberals' current obsession with identity politics plays right into the hands of their professed enemies. In the words of ultrarightist Steve Bannon: “The longer they talk about identity politics, I got 'em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush [them]."

In fact, to rebel against the whole capitalist, liberal-democratic syndrome, China, Vietnam, Laos and North Korea swallowed another western import, communism, which is totally at odds with their own history and culture. No wonder that fake model is collapsing everywhere into the embrace of the very capitalism it sought to bypass.

Even the very word "development” is a western colonial imposition. The industrialised western countries are considered "developed", while we are supposed to “develop” towards their dysfunctional western ideal. For the west there is only one acceptable direction for the whole world - to be capitalist, “democratic”, individualist, and therefore “developed,” and to recklessly consume more.

In the meantime, our own views and traditions that could literally save humankind are labelled “undeveloped” and “superstitious.” While we are expected to kowtow to western morality, we ignore the profound moral values arising from our eastern wisdom heritage that the colonisers severed, taught us to hate, and supplanted with their own.

And those parts of our tradition the west finds useful are now also colonised and co-opted, entirely missing yoga’s profound Indian wisdom heritage. Florida and California now “certify” yoga teachers.

Some western "Buddhist teachers” write books that conveniently bend Buddhist teachings to fit their own rational, scientific proclivities. And self-proclaimed ”gurus” edit and plagiarise handy bits of those teachings as their own invention, missing the essence and never acknowledging the source. In fact, Buddhism itself is being colonised and rendered unrecognisable as its extraordinary insights and methods are altered, dismantled and eviscerated to fit western science and selfhelp fads.

To maintain “objectivity" and be socially accepted, Buddhist academics in suits and ties hide their own affiliation, avoid Buddhist terminology and reserve any display of eastern culture for fancy dress parties. Even eastern teachers now consciously shun Buddhist iconography and imagery and custom-tailor their vipassana and other meditations to suit western secular expectations. More widely, Asian professionals are quick to bow down to western values to dismiss their own traditions as archaic and superstitious, to wrongly equate modernisation with westernisation, and thereby to reap the rewards of being labelled “modern, progressive and open-minded”. Without western validation, they see their own accomplishments as worthless.

The irony is that when Japanese, Korean and Chinese musicians learn and play western classical music, they have utmost respect for the integrity of the music as it is and as it was composed. Even in daily life and popular culture, Asians faithfully try to copy the way westerners think, look and act, in sharp contrast too many western scholars manipulate, cherry pick and even alter what they take from the east and then impose their own modified version on us with obstinate moral authority.

This kind of psychological and moralising colonialism is subtle and dangerous, as you yourself have painfully experienced. For the west, the only qualified ”victims” are those the west itself has oppressed, and the rest of us are expected to join their chorus of guilt and penance.

We dare not point out that their so-called victims have brutally victimised our people for centuries. To me, the bestowal and removal of your awards typifies the culture of hypocrisy created by that pervasive colonial legacy. Those awards mean nothing beyond another means to colonise us and pull us into the western value system, while they congratulate themselves. In fact, I personally pay the postage for you to send your honorary Canadian citizenship back to Ottawa. You don't need it!

For me, you remain the heroine you truly are. And for so many who dare not speak up but who secretly agree, you personify our own Me Too movement.

None of what I write here justifies wrongs committed by the Burmese military. What I am saying is simply that the western actions against you and the whole historical and ongoing colonial legacy they reflect are wrong. The post-colonial impact of economic domination and ideological imposition is far more harmful to our peoples and to the planet than anything you have done. A guilty person cannot be a judge and has no credential either to give or remove an award.

As well, nothing I write here denies the suffering of the Rohingya people. But instead of blaming you, will the British at least acknowledge their colonial responsibility for bringing most Rohingyas from Bengal in the 19th and 20th centuries as cheap labour to work the Burmese rice paddies?

If the British really care and want to redress the harm they have done to Burma and the Rohingya, they will migrate the Rohingya to the U.K. and give them citizenship instead of letting them languish in refugee camps. And instead of revoking your awards as they've done, Oxford, Sheffield, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow will resettle the Rohingya there.

Many will label what I am writing to you here as "partisan", “west-bashing” and more. But we have been so deeply twisted by western colonialism for so long that we now have no choice but to break the silence, speak up, and address what has long been taboo. We have long celebrated US and British war victories but do we dare to look at what that western global domination has meant for us?

If we avoid starting this conversation ourselves, and if India, China and others keep sucking up to western models, the only ones who speak up will be those who make no secret of their hatred for the west. Do we really want to leave the playing field open only to ISIS and the worst extremists to call a spade a spade in challenging western arrogance?

And that is why I am writing this to you - because for many of us, you superbly represent that middle way. You have stood strong, held to your principles, fought untiringly for your people and refused to bow to the self-righteous western moralising that now reveals itself in the removal of these awards. In that, be assured you have our admiration and support.

It is more difficult to suggest an effective strategy for a genuine dialogue on the tough issues I am raising here. It seems that the western colonisers will only listen if we have a lot of oil or other resources they need.

Alternatively, we have to seek out westerners’ weak spot which appears to be their pride and guilt. These days they do not dare criticise Muslims or Jews for fear of being labelled Islamophobic or anti-Semitic. So perhaps we need to start by coining new words for anti-Buddhist and anti-Asian bias to evoke their guilt and fear of those phobias.

Again, please accept my heartfelt thanks for all you have done and continue to do for your people and for our proud eastern heritage.

Yours sincerely,

Dzongsar Iamyang Khyentse
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Sat Feb 09, 2019 8:36 am

An Open Letter to Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche from a Burmese Buddhist Activist: A former ally of Aung San Suu Kyi responds to the Tibetan Buddhist teacher’s support for Myanmar’s controversial leader
by Maung Zarni and Matthew Gindin
Nov 28, 2018



Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, a well-known teacher of Vajrayana Buddhism, surprised some in the Buddhist world recently when he penned an open letter of support to Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of Myanmar’s civil government accused of complicity in the military’s persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority. The letter praises her sacrifice, courage, and principled political actions in pursuit of the rights of her people, while attacking her critics as hypocrites and arrogant colonialists pushing Western interests and values.

Dzongsar Khyentse is a major figure in contemporary Buddhism. A tulku (reincarnated master) in the Khyentse lineage, he is the son of the revered Thinley Norbu Rinpoche and grandson of the influential Dudjom Rinpoche. An embodiment of the Rime (nonsectarian) movement, he is the guardian of the teachings of the Dzogchen master Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, as well as an accomplished filmmaker and author of popular English language expositions of Buddhism.

His support for Suu Kyi comes on the heels of a September report by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar that said the violent campaign against the Rohingya amounts to genocide, a claim supported by several human rights research and documentation bodies around the world. The report, released at a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, stated that Suu Kyi and her civilian government had “contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes” through their “acts and omissions.” As a result of mounting allegations of culpability, Suu Kyi, who was once lauded for her activism on behalf of democracy in Myanmar, has been stripped of multiple awards, including the US Holocaust Museum’s Elie Wiesel Award, her honorary Canadian citizenship, and Amnesty International’s human rights award.

In response to Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche’s letter, Maung Zarni, a Burmese Buddhist, pro-democracy activist, and former ally of Suu Kyi, and I have co-authored an open letter challenging what we view as faulty narratives, misinformation, and questionable reasoning in Dzongsar Khyentse’s letter.

—Matthew Gindin

Dear Rinpoche,

In a November 16 letter, you expressed your “deep respect and appreciation” for all Suu Kyi has done “to fight for your people’s freedoms.” You call her a “true heroine of this age, more than worthy of the Nobel Prize and other honours” and say you are “appalled by the removal of awards” she received. You argue that this is a “blatant double standard,” citing the reception of a Nobel Prize by former US President Barack Obama despite his use of drone warfare against Middle Eastern civilians.

You see this double standard as part of “insidious colonialism strangling Asia and the world,” which you say teaches Asians to “disparage our own noble traditions and instead to treasure Western values and music, to chew gum and wear faded jeans, to embrace Facebook and Amazon, and to ape Western manners and institutions.”

I (Zarni) am a child of a Burmese Buddhist family with close ties to the military. I grew up with intense pride and deep reverence for the Buddhist tradition and spiritual culture of Burma. After coming to the US to study, I founded the Free Burma Coalition to support the struggle for democracy in Burma and became a hardworking supporter of Suu Kyi, inspired by her personal courage and the mixed discourse of Buddhist loving-kindness and human rights. But early on I began to suspect that she was an ethnic nationalist and a Buddhist chauvinist, more concerned for her own legacy and the interests of the Bamar majority than she was for human rights and a true democracy for all the peoples of Myanmar. In April 2016, Suu Kyi assumed the position of State Counselor. She quickly morphed into a key actor in the longstanding oppression of Myanmar’s Rohingya people. Since then I have been a fierce critic of my fellow Buddhist dissident, who now acts in a joint partnership with our former common oppressor, Myanmar’s murderous military, the Tatmadaw.

According to statistics from the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) earlier this year, 898,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled violence in Myanmar currently live in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Of them, 686,000 have arrived since August 2017, when the government launched a coordinated military-led campaign of arson, murder, and sexual violence against their communities in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. This assault, according to human rights organization Fortify Rights, was deliberately prepared for months in advance by the Tatmadaw. Many Rohingya, faced with proposals over the last year to repatriate them to the country where for decades they faced systemic discrimination and the deliberate deprivation of basic human rights, have said that they would sooner die in Bangladesh.

Genocide is not simply incidents of mass killings; it is a long process of systematic, intentional destruction of a target group. Suu Kyi, as the leader of the ruling NLD party, controls several government ministries involved in such efforts against the Rohingya, but she has done nothing to protest or attempt to stop her country’s abuse of them. Meanwhile, she has repeatedly and publicly dismissed well-documented reports of the genocidal violence of the Tatmadaw—in one instance referring to systemic sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls as “fake rape.”

Rinpoche, you cite atrocities committed by Western governments past and present and accuse the modern West of hypocrisy for criticizing Suu Kyi. First, the criticisms of Suu Kyi do not only come from the West but also from people all over the world who oppose the kind of brutal oppression the Myanmar state has subjected the Rohingya to. Second, you erase the distinction between Western non-governmental bodies and activists on the one hand and Western governments on the other. By your logic, the Swedish Nobel committee, local bodies like the Oxford City Council, or Suu Kyi’s own alma mater (St. Hugh’s College, Oxford) cannot criticize human rights abuses if the governments of Britain or Sweden have ever committed atrocities (which of course they have). You lump together governments, private bodies, and activists under the simplistic rubric of “the West.” These kinds of generalizations can become fodder for muddled thinking and racism. After all, many of the Western activists and human rights organizations who have criticized Suu Kyi have also spoken out against the violations of Western countries, and continue to do so. They have also confronted the Chinese state for its persecution of Buddhists and embraced efforts to preserve traditional Asian culture and values, such as the Gross National Happiness initiative in Bhutan.

A more sober assessment of global politics would recognize that all cultures have committed atrocities and that many have fallen into the temptations of militarism, racism, and colonialism. You present the “noble tradition” of the East as opposed to the ignoble tradition of the West despite the fact that “our East” has as many murderous and colonizing legacies as “their West.” This way of framing the Rohingya crisis and criticism of Suu Kyi does more to obscure the matters at stake than to clarify them. In setting off West against East, your letter focuses on a clash of civilizations instead of the real problem: a clash of values. The true battle is between those who embrace values of nonviolence, compassion, and justice—which the best traditions of both West and East argue for—and those who put first their race, the defense of their traditions, the accumulation of capital, or other divisive values.

While we sympathize with your criticisms of the hypocrisy, arrogance, and colonial legacy of many Western countries and share your concern for the way that the “capitalist system” is swallowing diverse global cultures, we balk at your emphasis on the Western nature of what is destructive in the world today. The problems we face—growing fascism, violent racism, nationalism, tremendous gaps of wealth between the rich and the poor, the destruction of our shared ecosystem and the destruction of both ethnic and zoological diversity—are now global problems exacerbated by the worldwide embrace of misguided policies that are often championed by those who hold power and wish to cling to it. The current conflict in Myanmar embodies this adoption of destructive policies, in which the fires of ethnic disputes have been stoked in order to consolidate power for the military and business elite.

Toward the end of your letter you say that “nothing I write here denies the suffering of the Rohingya people,” but you argue that instead of blaming Suu Kyi, the British “should be taking responsibility for bringing the Rohingyas from Bengal in the 19th and 20th centuries as cheap labour” and suggest that the UK should take in the Rohingya refugees themselves.

Here you are referencing a false narrative, popular in Myanmar, that claims that the Rohingya are not a native ethnicity but rather Muslim Bengali laborers who never went home and who now want to undermine the Burmese Buddhist state. This ahistorical propaganda is used to justify discrimination and violence against them. Suu Kyi has signaled that she accepts this narrative with her refusal to use the name “Rohingya,” a title by which they refer to themselves and that reflects their centuries-old history in the country.

In fact, the Rohingyas’ presence in the region long predates both the arrival of British colonial rule in 1824 and the emergence of Myanmar as a nation-state in 1948; thousands of Rohingya have been living in the western Arakan Kingdom, now Rakhine state, since the 15th century. Aside from the fact that there were no national boundaries as such in the 18th and 19th centuries, in the pre-colonial societies of the time, demographic and geographic fluidity was the norm. Arakan, or Rakhine, the fertile coastal region of the Bay of Bengal, was a multi-ethnic, multi-faith society until Bamar invaders arrived. Their forces destroyed the nearby kingdom in Mrauk-U and then expanded, annexing Arakan in 1785.

Although international attention has focused on the plight of the Rohingya, their persecution is only the most egregious symptom of the interethnic conflict that afflicts Burma, a violence fueled by the Bamar supremacism of the ruling government and the oppression it directs at the Shan, Kachin, Karen, Mon, and other historic peoples of Myanmar. Arguably, the idea of an ethnically pure nation-state is a product of the very colonialism you claim to decry.

“For me,” you write to Suu Kyi toward the end of your letter, “you remain the heroine you truly are. And for many who dare not speak up but who secretly agree, you personify our own #MeToo movement.”

The #MeToo movement arose because powerful persons used their positions to sexually harass and assault women (as well as some men) and then manipulated or threatened them into keeping quiet about it. If anyone in Myanmar personifies the #MeToo movement, it is the Rohingya women and girls whom the Tatmadaw has gang-raped and murdered.

Suu Kyi has publicly stated that these rapes did not occur, making her an enabler of the kind of violence that the #MeToo movement arose to stop, not a victim of it. In this situation, it is Suu Kyi herself who is a powerful abuser aiding other powerful abusers. Moreover, we find your attempt to co-opt the #MeToo movement to be acutely disrespectful of both the Rohingya victims of sexual violence and of all the courageous women who stood up to say “me too” to call sexual abusers to account around the world.

After this quick reference to #MeToo, you then suggest it may be time to seek out “the Westerner’s weak spot” in that “they don’t dare criticize Muslims or Jews for fear of being called Islamophobic or anti-Semitic,” so “perhaps we need to coin new words for anti-Buddhist or anti-Asian bias to evoke their guilt.” Western countries are particularly sensitive to the Holocaust because so many of us were complicit in the deliberate, state-sponsored murder of six million Jews only 70-odd years ago. We are sensitive to Islamophobia both because of the recent warfare between Western governments and historically Islamic ones, and also because of real problems with violent Islamophobia in western countries, such as the mosque shooting in Canada in 2017. There is a great irony in your writing this at a time when the United States government has tried to impose a ban on Muslims entering the country and when heated anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish rhetoric has been normalized.

To close, we would like to call attention to one voice that is almost totally silent in your letter: the Rohingya themselves. Though your letter is really aimed at “Western” critics of Suu Kyi, the chief resistance to the genocide, and the primary critics of Suu Kyi and the Myanmar state, are not Westerners; they are Rohingya activists like Nural Islam, Razia Sultana, Tun Khin, and Nay San Lwin, to name a few, as well as groups like The Free Rohingya Coalition and Arakan Rohingya National Organization. Many of these Rohingya have been fighting for the last four decades against their impoverishment and oppression at the hands of the Myanmar state, and no one was more pleased by the revocation of Suu Kyi’s awards for human rights activism than they.

While there is always room for criticizing specific policies of a specific Western country or institution, when you paint matters with as broad as a brush as your letter does, opportunities for grappling with injustices in the real world are replaced by harmful meta-narratives that, to our mind, simply stoke the fires of conflict and division. It would be more fruitful for those opposed to colonialism, racism, violence, and injustice around the world to work together rather than to close ranks against each other. Your claim that Western institutions are guilty of colonial violence, both gross and subtle, is true. So is the claim that the Myanmar state and Aung San Suu Kyi are guilty of genocidal violence. Instead of putting these truths in opposition to each other, why not join hands to fight against injustice everywhere? Why not recognize greed, hatred, and delusion wherever they rear their ugly heads and create an international coalition of generosity, love, and clarity?

With goodwill,

Maung Zarni and Matthew Gindin
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:36 pm

There Are Risks to Mindfulness at Work
by David Brendel
Harvard Business Review
February 11, 2015



Mindfulness is close to taking on cult status in the business world. But as with any rapidly growing movement—regardless of its potential benefits—there is good reason here for caution.

Championed for many years by pioneering researchers such as Ellen Langer and Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is a mental orientation and set of strategies for focusing one’s mind on here-and-now experiences, such as abdominal muscle movements during respiration or chirping of birds outside one’s window. It is rooted in ancient Eastern philosophies, such as Taoism and Buddhism. Contemporary empirical research demonstrates its benefits for reducing anxiety and mental stress. A recent study suggested that it might cut the risk of stroke and heart attack as well.

Mindful meditation and other related practices are now widely accepted. The New Republic published an article entitled “How 2014 Became the Year of Mindfulness.” Mindfulness has recently been featured on CBS’ 60 Minutes, and lauded by the Huffington Post. Dan Harris, a well-known ABC News correspondent, published a best-selling book called Ten Percent Happier, which describes his journey to discovering mindful meditation as optimal management for his very publicly shared anxiety disorder. There is increasing interest in how mindfulness can be applied in clinical medicine and psychology, and even large insurance companies are beginning to consider providing coverage for mindfulness strategies for certain patients.

As an executive coach and physician, I often sing the praises of mindfulness approaches and recommend them to clients to manage stress, avoid burnout, enhance leadership capacity, and steady their minds when in the midst of making important business decisions, career transitions, and personal life changes. Drawing on concepts of Eastern philosophies and research evidence from contemporary neuroscience, I help some clients to employ controlled breathing and similar strategies in our sessions and in their everyday lives. In addition, I refer many clients to trusted colleagues who teach them yoga and mindful meditation in greater depth than I can provide in my coaching sessions.

But my growing knowledge of (and enthusiasm for) mindfulness is now tempered by a concern about its potential excesses, as well as the risk that it’s crowding out other equally important models and strategies for managing stress, achieving peak performance, and reaching professional and personal fulfillment. At times, it appears that we are witnessing the development of a “cult of mindfulness” that, if not appropriately recognized and moderated, may result in an unfortunate backlash against it. Here are a couple of my concerns:

The avoidance risk. Some people use mindfulness strategies to avoid critical thinking tasks. I’ve worked with clients who, instead of rationally thinking through a career challenge or ethical dilemma, prefer to disconnect from their challenges and retreat into a meditative mindset. The issue here is that some problems require more thinking, not less. Sometimes stress is a signal that we need to consider our circumstances through greater self-reflective thought, not a “mindful” retreat to focused breathing or other immediate sensory experiences. Mindfulness strategies can prime the mind for sounder rational thinking—but the former clearly should not displace the latter. One of my clients spent so much time meditating and “mindfully” accepting her life “on its own terms” that she failed to confront underperforming workers (and discipline or fire the worst offenders) in her company. After periods of meditating, she struggled to return to focused, task-oriented thinking. She required significant reminders and reassurance from me that embracing Buddhist meditation does not entail tolerating substandard performance from her employees. Mindful meditation should always be used in the service of enhancing, not displacing, people’s rational and analytical thought processes about their careers and personal lives.

The groupthink risk. As mindfulness practices enter mainstream American life, some organizations and companies are admirably encouraging their people to make use of them in the workplace. But I’m aware of situations where this new orientation has gone too far. In one case, the director of a business unit in a financial services corporation required his direct reports to participate several times per week in a 10-15 minute mindfulness session involving controlled breathing and guided imagery. Many participants came to dread the exercise. Some of them felt extremely awkward and uncomfortable, believing that mindfulness practices should be done in private. The very exercise that was supposed to reduce their work-related stress actually had increased it. The practice continued for weeks until several members of the group finally gathered the courage to tell the group leader that they would strongly prefer the daily exercises be optional, with impunity for non-participants. Mindfulness is rooted in a philosophy and psychology of self-efficacy and proactive self-care. Imposing it on people in a top-down manner degrades the practice and the people who might benefit from using it of their own volition.

There is no denying that mindfulness has emerged as a major cultural phenomenon on the contemporary American scene and in the business world in particular. That can be good news for people dealing with stress, burnout, and other realities of the modern workplace. But mindfulness practices need to be incorporated as one among many self-chosen strategies for people aiming to cope with stress, think effectively, make sound decisions, and achieve fulfillment. Mindfulness practices should be used to enhance our rational and ethical thinking processes, not limit or displace them. And mindfulness practices should never be imposed on other people, especially in the workplace. At its very core, mindfulness culture will be a huge step forward for Western cultures if it stays focused on creating opportunities for individuals to discover their own personalized strategies for taming anxieties, managing stress, optimizing work performance, and reaching genuine happiness and fulfillment.

David Brendel, MD, PhD is an executive coach, leadership development specialist, and psychiatrist based in Boston. He is founder and director of Leading Minds Executive Coaching, LLC. He is also co-founder of Strategy of Mind, LLC. Follow him on Twitter @DrDavidBrendel and on LinkedIn.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:50 pm

The Little-Known Downsides of Mindfulness Practice: Some potentially serious pitfalls
by Utpal Dholakia Ph.D.
Apr 27, 2016



banho de chuva by Gustavo Perez Flickr Licensed Under CC BY 2.0
Source: banho de chuva by Gustavo Perez Flickr Licensed Under CC BY 2.0

As I pointed out recently, mindfulness practice has entered the mainstream of western culture to such an extent that 2014 was proclaimed as “The Year of Mindfulness” by the New Republic, and futurists see “mindful living” as a top trend that will influence consumers in the years to come.

Most readers may know this already, but here’s a quick refresher. Mindfulness practice refers to a set of activities and exercises that concentrate an individual’s mind on experiencing the present moment and excluding the stream of diverse thoughts and mind-wandering that happens normally. Mindfulness practice usually involves some form of meditation, with or without a spiritual locus. Its goal is to create and maintain a nonjudgmental and nonreactive state of awareness.

To capture and keep one’s concentration in the present, the practitioner continuously focuses on a single concept for a period of time ranging from a few minutes to hours. During the practice, he may pay attention to his own breathing, counting breaths, monitoring and regulating each cycle of inhalation and exhalation. Alternatively, she may listen to a soothing, mellifluous sound or recite a chant, over and over, maintaining complete attention on the chosen stimulus, and bringing it back each time it drifts.

Research about the benefits of mindfulness practice has grown in tandem with its popularity in the mainstream culture. Thousands of studies, most of them conducted over the past decade, have associated the practice of mindfulness with a variety of substantial health benefits. Through this research, mindfulness practice is credited with numerous forms of psychological and physiological benefits, including long-term reductions in anxiety and depression, pain reduction, anger management, curbing addictions, and emotional well-being.

But as I pointed out in my recent blog post, these benefits don’t seem to have translated into society-level benefits. On the contrary, data about various social phenomena consistently indicate that on the whole, we are behaving more mindlessly (and often with serious negative consequences) than we used to.

I want to continue critiquing the unalloyed positive spin employed in most discussions of mindfulness practice. In this blog post, I want to focus on emerging academic research that points to potentially negative consequences of practicing mindfulness. I want to mention one important caveat first: I personally value and occasionally try to practice mindfulness myself. Nevertheless, I do feel that the scholarly and popular media discussions of mindfulness tend to be far too unbalanced. Negative findings in research studies and potential detriments of mindfulness are often swept under the rug.

So let’s shine the spotlight on these findings here, so as to have a balanced understanding of the pros and cons of practicing mindfulness.

Forming False Memories

In one recent study published in Psychological Science, the author team led by psychologist Brent Wilson found that after just one 15-minute mindfulness induction involving a guided breathing exercise, participants were more likely to form false memories compared to control participants who engaged in mind-wandering. The authors concluded that:

“When meditators embrace judgment-free awareness and acceptance, their reality-monitoring accuracy may be impaired, increasing their susceptibility to false memories.”

They called the formation of fake memories “a potential unintended consequence of mindfulness meditation in which memories become less reliable.” While the studies in the journal article were limited to rather innocuous tasks, we can only imagine the grim possibility of regular mindfulness practitioners forming entirely fictitious realities (and even past histories) for themselves which they then carry into the future, doing god knows what harm to themselves and others.

Discarding Positive Thoughts

Many variations of mindfulness practice involve putting down mental baggage by separating ourselves from our thoughts, and then discarding thoughts that are seen as negative or harmful. But what if the same thing is done for positive thoughts? In another Psychological Science paper, an author team led by Pablo Briñol found that when participants physically discarded a representation of their thoughts such as by writing them down on a piece of paper and then tossing it in the trash, they tended to use them less in their decision making afterwards, mentally discarding them as well. Relevant to us, the authors found that positive thoughts also seemed to be discarded mentally just like negative ones. In their paper, the authors cautioned:

“This finding suggests that techniques involved in some mindfulness treatments can backfire—at least for some people and for some situations, particularly those in which positive thoughts are present.”

Much as we would like to see the world and our thoughts and memories in black-and-white terms and selectively discard negative thoughts whilst keeping positive ones, such a thing is very hard to do. As we try to cull our negative baggage and get rid of it with mindfulness practice, we may find we have left behind some precious and strengthening baggage with it.

Avoiding Difficult Thinking Activities

By its definition and based on its Buddhist and Vedantic origins, the practice of mindfulness encourages detachment. A core aspect of practicing mindfulness is to attempt a withdrawal from the streams of thought that have to do with current challenges of every form, whether they have to do with difficulties with a particular relationship or the tasks that one has to perform on that day. Unfortunately, such a withdrawal supports our natural, hard-wired tendency to be “cognitive misers” leading mindfulness practitioners to use the practice as a means of escape from having to think about difficult problems and arrive at reasonable solutions. Psychiatrist David Brendel summarizes this danger of mindfulness practice as follows:

“Some people use mindfulness strategies to avoid critical thinking tasks. I’ve worked with clients who, instead of rationally thinking through a career challenge or ethical dilemma, prefer to disconnect from their challenges and retreat into a meditative mindset.”

Adverse Side Effects

In a 2009 paper in Advances in Mind-Body medicine, the author team led by psychologist Kathleen Lustyk provided an in-depth (and to me, astonishing) review of mindfulness practice studies that reported adverse side effects to participants. There is a whole laundry list of psychological and physical effects in the paper.

These included reports of depersonalization (feeling detached from one’s mental processes or body), psychosis (loss of contact with reality) with delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized speech, feelings of anxiety, an increased risk of seizures, loss of appetite, and insomnia. The authors especially cautioned vulnerable people such as those with PTSD to be particularly careful when undertaking mindfulness practice. Their main point was that participants should be screened carefully for their suitability before undertaking this practice, and its teachers should be properly trained and supervised.

While the paper focused on best practices in conducting mindfulness research, I feel that their advice applies to any of us wanting to practice mindfulness regularly. As psychologists Miguel Farias and Catherine Wilkolm point out:

“Buddhist meditation was designed not to make us happier, but to radically change our sense of self and perception of the world. Given this, it is perhaps not surprising that some will experience negative effects such as dissociation, anxiety and depression. However, like the small print on medication, these “side-effects” in some individuals are not what the creators of this pill are concerned with promoting.” Other experts have come to similar conclusions.

Does all of this mean I am going to abandon my own interest in mindfulness? Of course not! But it does mean that I am going to adopt a more skeptical stance and pay attention to both positive and negative outcomes of mindfulness practice.

I teach marketing and pricing to MBA students at Rice University. You can find more information about me on my website or follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter @ud.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:18 am

Unity of opposites
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 2/11/19



The unity of opposites is the central category of dialectics, said to be related to the notion of non-duality in a deep sense.[1] It defines a situation in which the existence or identity of a thing (or situation) depends on the co-existence of at least two conditions which are opposite to each other, yet dependent on each other and presupposing each other, within a field of tension.

Ancient philosophy

First suggested by Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BC), a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, philosophers had for some time been contemplating the notion of opposites. Anaximander posited that every element was an opposite, or connected to an opposite (water is cold, fire is hot). Thus, the material world was composed by some indefinite, boundless apeiron from which arose the elements (earth, air, fire, water) and pairs of opposites (hot/cold, wet/dry). There was, according to Anaximander, a continual war of opposites.

Anaximenes of Miletus, a student and successor of Anaximander, replaced this indefinite, boundless arche with air, a known element with neutral properties. According to Anaximenes, there was not so much a war of opposites, as a continuum of change.

Heraclitus, however, did not accept the milesian monism and replaced their underlying material arche with a single, divine law of the universe, which he called Logos. The universe of Heraclitus is in constant change, but also remaining the same. That is to say, an object moves from point A to point B, thus creating a change, but the underlying law remains the same. Thus, a unity of opposites is present in the universe as difference and sameness. This is a rather broad example though. For a more detailed example we may turn to an aphorism of Heraclitus:

The road up and the road down are the same thing. (Hippolytus, Refutations 9.10.3)

This is an example of a compresent unity of opposites. For, at the same time, this slanted road has the opposite qualities of ascent and descent. According to Heraclitus, everything is in constant flux, and every changing object co-instantiates at least one pair of opposites (though not necessarily simultaneously) and every pair of opposites is co-instantiated in at least one object.

Heraclitus also uses the succession of opposites as a base for change:

Cold things grow hot, a hot thing cold, a moist thing withers, a parched thing is wetted. (DK B126)

As a single object persists through opposite properties, this object undergoes change.

Modern philosophy

Dialecticians claim that unity or identity of opposites can exist in reality or in thought. If the opposites were completely balanced, the result would be stasis, but often it is implied that one of the pairs of opposites is larger, stronger or more powerful than the other, such that over time, one of the opposed conditions prevails over the other. Yet rather than 'stasis' the identity of opposites, there being unity within their duality, is taken to be the instance of their very manifestation, the unity between them being the essential principle of making any particular opposite in question extant as either opposing force. For example 'upward' cannot exist unless there is a 'downward', they are opposites but they co-substantiate one another, their unity is that either one exists because the opposite is necessary for the existence of the other, one manifests immediately with the other. Hot would not be hot without cold, due to there being no contrast by which to define it as 'hot' relative to any other condition, it would not and could not have identity whatsoever if not for its very opposite that makes the necessary prerequisite existence for the opposing condition to be. This is the oneness, unity, principle to the very existence of any opposite. Either one's identity is the contra-posing principle itself, necessitating the other. The criteria for what is opposite is therefore something a priori.

In his criticism of Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel who tried to systematise dialectical understandings thus wrote:

The principles of the metaphysical philosophy gave rise to the belief that, when cognition lapsed into contradictions, it was a mere accidental aberration, due to some subjective mistake in argument and inference. According to Kant, however, thought has a natural tendency to issue in contradictions or antinomies, whenever it seeks to apprehend the infinite. We have in the latter part of the above paragraph referred to the philosophical importance of the antinomies of reason, and shown how the recognition of their existence helped largely to get rid of the rigid dogmatism of the metaphysic of understanding, and to direct attention to the Dialectical movement of thought. But here too Kant, as we must add, never got beyond the negative result that the thing-in-itself is unknowable, and never penetrated to the discovery of what the antinomies really and positively mean. That true and positive meaning of the antinomies is this: that every actual thing involves a coexistence of opposed elements. Consequently to know, or, in other words, to comprehend an object is equivalent to being conscious of it as a concrete unity of opposed determinations. The old metaphysic, as we have already seen, when it studied the objects of which it sought a metaphysical knowledge, went to work by applying categories abstractly and to the exclusion of their opposites.[2]

In his philosophy, Hegel ventured to describe quite a few cases of "unity of opposites", including the concepts of Finite and Infinite, Force and Matter, Identity and Difference, Positive and Negative, Form and Content, Chance and Necessity, Cause and effect, Freedom and Necessity, Subjectivity and Objectivity, Means and Ends, Subject and Object, and Abstract and Concrete. It is also considered to be integral to Marxist philosophy of nature and is discussed in Friedrich Engels' Dialectics of Nature.

Coincidentia oppositorum

Coincidentia oppositorum is a Latin phrase meaning coincidence of opposites. It is a neoplatonic term attributed to 15th century German polymath Nicholas of Cusa in his essay, De Docta Ignorantia (1440). Mircea Eliade, a 20th-century historian of religion, used the term extensively in his essays about myth and ritual, describing the coincidentia oppositorum as "the mythical pattern". Psychiatrist Carl Jung, the philosopher and Islamic Studies professor Henry Corbin as well as Jewish philosophers Gershom Scholem and Abraham Joshua Heschel also used the term. In alchemy, coincidentia oppositorum is a synonym for coniunctio. For example, Michael Maier stresses that the union of opposites is the aim of the alchemical work. Or, according to Paracelsus' pupil, Gerhard Dorn, the highest grade of the alchemical coniunctio consisted in the union of the total man with the unus mundus ("one world").

The term is also used in describing a revelation of the oneness of things previously believed to be different. Such insight into the unity of things is a kind of transcendence, and is found in various mystical traditions. The idea occurs in the traditions of Tantric Hinduism and Buddhism, in German mysticism, Taoism, Zen and Sufism, among others.


1. "The Unity of Opposites: A Dialectical Principle (PDF)", V.T.JMcGill and W.T. Parry, Science & Society, vol. 12 no. 4 (Fall 1948), pp.418-444]
2. Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830) Part One IV. Second Attitude of Thought to Objectivity TWO. THE CRITICAL PHILOSOPHY §48

External links

S.M. Cohen, "Heraclitus on Change and Unity of Opposites"
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