Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexually as

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

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

Postby admin » Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:51 pm

Acharya Martin Janowitz
Accessed: 7/8/19




Acharya Janowitz became a student of the Druk Sakyong (Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche) in 1970. He taught a wide array of programs and co-designed the first teacher training course. He was among a pilot group of Shambhala Training Directors. He traveled widely with the Druk Sakyong for many years and was named Kusung Dapon — senior Kusung (Court Protector) responsible for oversight of the personal guardian attendants of the Mukpo family, the Vajra Regent and his family, and the Kalapa Court. In 1997 he was appointed Warrior General of Shambhala by the Sakyong a position he held until 2010. The Warrior General is responsible for the leadership of the Council of Warriors, Warriors Centres and Kalapa Lodges worldwide. Acharya Janowitz is a member of Shambhala’s Touching the Earth Working Group and has developed Spirituality and Sustainability dharma programs. He was the founding Treasurer of Ashoka Credit Union. He was also founding Executive Director of Naropa Institute (now University) as well as a founding member of the Naropa Board of Trustees. Acharya Janowitz was Chair of the Board from 2000 to 2012. He has worked on numerous environmental sustainability and alternative energy development initiatives and is currently Chair of the Nova Scotia Roundtable on Environment and Sustainable Prosperity. He is also the Chair of The Authentic Leadership in Action Institute, or ALIA (formerly the Shambhala Institute) and Vice President and Practice Leader for Sustainable Development for Stantec Consulting. Stantec focuses on community sustainability, climate change adaptation, corporate social responsibility, sustainable infrastructure and strategic sustainability performance. He is a member of the Halifax Strategic Urban Partnership Core Leadership Group, Envision Nova Scotia Steering Committee, and Buddhist Climate Change Initiative.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:52 pm

Shambhala Guide Resource Manual: A Resource for Directors, Students, and Centre Administrators [Excerpt: Shambhala greater vision than Buddhism]



Shambhala Kingdom

The following is part of a talk given by the Dorje Dradül to members of the Shambhala Lodge in January of 1979:

“... Also in our kingdom, we might have a percentage of citizens or subjects who might be Christians or Jews in their own right, and of their own faith. And it is necessary for them to take Shambhala Training as we run our country, and beyond that, they will find their own religious conviction of becoming true and good Christians or good Jews, speaking Hebrew perfectly. We should try to institute that particular approach. People of any faith that come along to our kingdom would practice their own discipline. Their theism has no problem if there is any contemplative discipline of their theism.

“So you are not taking this oath just to make people into Buddhists, but you are taking this oath so that you can afford to be beyond Buddhism. That's why we call it Shambhala. The oath water that you are going to drink is the water of greater vision.”

I started the live channel and the Group presented a beautiful message about planet Earth in the years ahead. They spoke of a form of Government designed for empowered humans that would be re-emerging soon. They said it was a form of non-government and is a return of the Lemurian ways. They spoke much of Lemuria and Atlantis; of what went wrong and how that can be avoided this time. They talked about Hitler and the eight million Lightworkers and the role they played in the evolution of planet Earth. They talked about the importance of working with the Indigo children to help them with their tasks of redefining the role of children everywhere. Then they also talked about the return of the Crystal Children and how we can prepare the planet to easily accept them. At one point the Group challenged those in attendance to create a formal space for the uniting of the religions of the world. They said that finding the common threads in the religions will quickly lead to a peaceful co-existence and understanding of our fellow men....

The ‘Government’ of Mu

The information we bring this night is about the formation of groups that will bring back the greatest of governments that has ever visited the Planet of Free Choice. That was the government of Mu. In the days of what you called Lemuria, there was a system of government that made space for empowered humans and we tell you that it is making its way back to the planet as we speak. There are those of you in this room and those of you reading this who will act upon this information. There are those who will plant the seeds. Imagine a day when the governments of the world talk as one. Imagine a day when the religions of the world find harmony. Imagine a day when the hearts of mankind find balance through seeking their commonalities instead of searching for their differences. We tell you that day is at hand. Make space for this in your lives.

We challenge you to create the organization necessary to make room for the blending of all the religions of the world, and you will see a reemergence of the government of Mu.

-- Steve, Barbara Rother, and the group are five time presenters at the United Nations on two continents, by nations/
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Mon Jul 08, 2019 11:02 pm

Warrior-King of Shambhala: Remembering Chogyam Trungpa (Excerpt: Discovering Kalapa Valley)
by Jeremy Hayward



Discovering Kalapa Valley

The seminar was held in the Keltic Lodge, a large and elegant old hotel on the magnificent coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. During this program Rinpoche conducted a lhasang at Kalapa Valley. Rinpoche had discovered the Kalapa Valley during his second visit to Nova Scotia in May 1979. The story is that he had gone for a drive one day, saying that they were "setting out to find Kalapa." In the traditional histories of the Kingdom of Shambhala, Kalapa is the name of the capital. Three cars set off around Cape Breton Island. He kept telling them to turn this way and turn that way, clearly as if he were looking for something in particular. Finally, they came to a dirt driveway and he said, "Turn here."

They came to a metal bar across the road, and couldn't see anything beyond the trees. Rinpoche said, "This is Kalapa." The party then walked into a meadow that he called Kalapa Valley, a place that he said would be of spiritual significance to the evolution of Shambhala in the future. Later the land was purchased by a group of generous sangha-members and, after being held in trust by that group for twenty years, was finally handed over to Shambhala in the year 2000. In 2002 Eva Wong, a master of Taoism and Feng Sui, the Taoist version of geomancy, visited the Valley and remarked that it was one of the energetically most powerful places she had experienced anywhere on the earth. Kalapa Valley is now an important retreat place and a sacred spot where visitors can feel the presence of the Shambhala dralas.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:02 am

The Yün Retreat: The Great Retreat of Yang
by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Wendy Friedman and Robert Reichner
April 3–13, 2018



Cost: Choose your tuition level below + 10 Nights Lodging

This retreat is by invitation only.

This retreat is by invitation only and will provide the ground and path to explore the principles of yün – or enriching presence. We will explore how to meet and dive into the experience of the golden ocean, creating the opportunity for direct experience and teachings on the meaning of enrichment to be fully expressed.

The Yün Retreat: The Great Retreat of Yang is the advanced retreat for the Pillar of Economy, in the same way, that the Scorpion Seal Assembly is for the Pillar of the Church, the Monarch Retreat is for Pillar of Government, and the Magyal Pomra Encampment is for the Pillar of Protection.

The Sakyong will teach on the principles of yün and enrichment as well as a further opening of the Golden Key terma. This will provide the ground for more teachings on enrichment to begin to flow throughout the Shambhala community and beyond.

This retreat is particularly relevant to those in our community in spheres of work dealing with wealth and richness in all its various forms including culture and decorum.

Lead teachers for the retreat will be Robert Reichner (Minister, Pillar of Economy) and Wendy Friedman (Minister, Culture, and Decorum).

Please Note: SI benefits are not applicable for this retreat (as is the case with Monarch Retreat) because of the significant proportion of participants that would be eligible for such benefits. Partial participation will not be an option for this program.

Lodging is limited, this retreat is expected to fill completely.

Registration Options
Base Tuition – $850

This price covers 100% of the program costs

Subsidized Tuition – $650

[1 of 20 seats still available]

Subsidized spots have all been reserved. You may register for base tuition and add your name to the waitlist for subsidized tuition in the event that someone cancels or additional patrons register. Please make your request in the comments section of the registration page. This price covers roughly 75% of the program cost and will be subsidized through the generosity of others

Jade Patron – $1,500

Gold Patron – $2,500

[1 of 6 Patrons still needed]

Patron pricing will subsidize discounted rates to enable more people to attend Yün Retreats. Any additional funds will be distributed for the benefit of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Sakyong Potrang, Shambhala Mountain Center, the Pillar of Economy, and the Office of Culture and Decorum.

Materials Fee: There will be a materials fee in addition to the tuition that all participants need to pay prior to the retreat. This fee is currently being finalized.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is the head of the Shambhala lineage. An incarnation of Mipham the Great, he is the dharma heir and son of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Shambhala Mountain Center’s founder. Sakyong Mipham is the spiritual director of Shambhala, a global network of meditation and retreat centers, and the author of the national bestseller Turning the Mind into an Ally, as well as Ruling Your World, Running with the Mind of Meditation and The Shambhala Principle. His background embraces both Eastern and Western cultures. Born in Bodhgaya, India, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment, he grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and received his spiritual training from his father and other distinguished lamas. In addition to Shambhala, the Sakyong also holds the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. An avid poet, artist and athlete, he travels extensively teaching throughout the world.

Wendy Friedman

Wendy Friedman was raised in a Shambhala family and has worked with major cultural events such as the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo’s wedding and the Sakyong Wangmo Empowerment. She was made Director of the new Shambhala Office of Culture and Decorum in 2010, and a Minister on the Kalapa Council in 2015. In 1985, the Dorje Dradul designated her as a member of the Mukpo family and gave her the title Sangyum Drukmo Wangmo. Wendy lives with her husband and owns a clothing store and a home décor store in Halifax. She is active in civic duties and mentorship, loves hosting, and is an avid traveler.

Robert Reichner

Robert Reichner has been involved with the Shambhala community since 2001. He has served as Director of Finance, Co-Director (2005-2007), and Board Chair in Seattle where he continues to live. He is currently CEO of RepairShopr which creates software serving reuse and repair businesses around the world. He also opened Visette Boutique in 2015 to offer Seattle a home for finding dresses to uplift and rouse oneself by wearing good clothes.

Robert was appointed Kalapa Envoy for Enrichment in 2013, soon joined the Kalapa Council and was appointed Leader of the Pillar of Economy in 2015. He also serves on the Board of the Shambhala Credit Union (formerly Ashoka Credit Union).

Program Details

Registration takes place from 2– 5 pm on your program start date. All participants and volunteer staff must check in at our Guest Registration house. Please arrive before 5 pm to check in and settle into your accommodations. Your program begins with dinner, followed by an orientation. The Guest Registration house closes at 5 pm after which no one is available to provide information or orient you to your accommodations. This program ends with breakfast on the final day. Further specifics regarding your program's schedule will be available upon arrival. If applicable, you will receive an email from the program coordinator in the week prior to your program with any additional information you may need.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Thu Jul 11, 2019 4:56 am

Shambhala, the Boulder-born Buddhist organization, suppressed allegations of abuse, ex-members say: Director of Boulder Shambhala Center: “Our culture failed to support many of those who’ve been harmed”
by Jackson Barnett
The Denver Post
PUBLISHED: July 7, 2019 at 6:00 am | UPDATED: July 7, 2019 at 12:39 pm



Ariel Hall sits in her home in Spruce Head, Maine, on June 7, 2019. Hall formerly lived and worked at the Shambhala Mountain Center in the foothills west of Fort Collins. Hall said that when she sought help getting out of an abusive relationship with a fellow Shambhala member, the Buddhist organization’s leadership encouraged her to meditate and told her the abuse was “good material” to work with.

Ariel Hall loved her Tibetan meditation cushion, a maroon-and-saffron pillow that helped melt away the strains of daily life during visits to her local Shambhala center.

She began meditating as a curious New York University undergraduate, her intrigue eventually drawing her to Colorado, the birthplace and a present-day hub of her chosen strain of Buddhism.

Ariel Hall formerly lived at the Shambhala Mountain Center. She said her efforts to get help from leadership in extracting herself from an abusive relationship at the center fell on deaf ears.

But after Hall in 2008 moved to the Shambhala Mountain Center — the international Buddhist organization’s sweeping 600-acre meditation grounds in the foothills west of Fort Collins — she faced a challenge that going to her cushion couldn’t solve.

When Hall sought help extricating herself from a relationship with a fellow Shambhala member who had become abusive, she said her requests fell on deaf ears. Instead, Hall said she was told by the mountain center’s leadership that she should take it “to the cushion” — the abuse was “good material” to work with.

“When I was hearing over and over again to meditate, what I heard was, ‘This situation is not wrong, you are wrong,’” she said. “It was victim-blaming.”

Hall’s experience wasn’t unique.

Shambhala, the Boulder-born Buddhist and mindfulness community, for decades suppressed allegations of abuse — from child molestation to clerical abuse — through internal processes that often failed to deliver justice for victims, The Denver Post found through dozens of interviews with current and former members and a review of hundreds of pages of internal documents, police records and private communications.

That suppression came in the form of worshipful vows students said they were told to maintain to the very teachers that alleged abused them; in explicit and implicit commands not to report abuse; and through a cultish reverence that served to protect Shambhala’s king-like leaders, according to interviews and third-party reviews commissioned by Shambhala itself.

“The problem is that we thought we had a way of doing things that was better, more compassionate, more grounded than the conventional way,” said Craig Morman, a former Rusung, or safety commander, at the Shambhala Mountain Center. “It was arrogant and reckless.”

Shambhala International, now based in Nova Scotia, Canada, has been mired in controversy over sexual and clerical abuse for the last year, with its leader — Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, who has deep ties to Boulder — having stepped back from his duties after being accused of sexual misconduct. Some of those allegations were corroborated by third-party investigations commissioned by Shambhala.

“It is a very painful time for our community. There is broad agreement that our culture failed to support many of those who’ve been harmed since Shambhala’s founding 45 years ago,” Melanie Klein, director of the Boulder Shambhala Center, said in an email to The Post.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, left, the leader of Boulder-born Shambhala International, presents the Living Peace Award to the Dalai Lama at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, west of Fort Collins, in 2006.

“Keep it in the Buddhist community”

Detectives in Colorado have been investigating sexual assault allegations with ties to Shambhala for months — and records from a recent arrest detail an apparent effort to shield a suspect from prosecution by addressing the allegations within the Shambhala community.

Last year, Larimer County sheriff’s detectives opened an investigation into what a Boulder police report describes as sexual assaults at the Shambhala Mountain Center. Larimer sheriff’s officials declined to elaborate, but last week confirmed their probe remains ongoing.


Boulder police said they believe there are more victims in both the William Karelis and Michael Smith cases, and asked that they — or anyone victimized by “any other member or former member of the Boulder Shambhala” — call Detective Ross Richart at 303-441-1833. There is no statute of limitations in Colorado on sex crimes involving children under 15.

The first arrest came in February, when former Boulder Shambhala meditation instructor William Lloyd Karelis, 71, was booked on suspicion of sexually assaulting a young girl he mentored in the early 2000s. Karelis has denied the allegations through his attorney.

After the arrest, Shambhala officials acknowledged they had initiated mediation with Karelis — ultimately revoking his credentials — after women alleged he had behaved inappropriately with them. But Shambhala leadership denied prior knowledge of the sexual assault allegation.

Late last month, Boulder police arrested a second former Shambhala member, Michael Smith, 54, on suspicion of sexually assaulting a teenage girl he met through the Buddhist community in the late 1990s. Those allegations originally had been reported to Boulder police in 1998 after the victim informed one of her mother’s friends about what she said happened — but Smith wasn’t named as a suspect or arrested.

The girl’s parents told police they met with Smith, members of the Shambhala community and therapists at the time, and Smith agreed to go into therapy and have no contact with the victim or other children “in exchange for (the girl’s parents) not providing his name to the police department,” according to Smith’s arrest affidavit.

William Karelis enters the courtroom at the Boulder County Jail on Feb. 1, 2019. Photo by Paul Aiken, Daily Camera file.

Michael Smith appears in court on June 28, 2019. Photo by Cliff Grassmick, Daily Camera file. Both men are former members of the Boulder Shambhala Center who were arrested this year on suspicion of sexually assaulting children they met through the Buddhist organization in a pair of unrelated, decades-old cases.

Dozens of pages of investigative reports released by Boulder police last week further suggest an effort was made by Shambhala members in 1998 to deal with the allegations against Smith as an internal matter.

One former Shambhala member who knew the victim’s family told investigators that “everyone wanted to keep it in the Buddhist community” rather than go to police. A woman identified as Smith’s girlfriend at the time told police a spiritual teacher advised the girl’s parents “not to send Mike to jail and not to press charges, but to deal with it in a way that would teach Mike a lesson.”


Denver Sexual Assault Hotline: Call the hotline at 303-322-7273 for free, 24-hour help.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call the hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for free, 24-hour help.

Violence Free Colorado: Use this map to locate resources by county in Colorado. The website also has resources like a guide to helping someone you know who is being abused.

SafeHouse Denver: Reach local professionals by calling the 24-hour crisis and information line at 303-318-9989.

Moving to End Sexual Assault (MESA): Call the 24-hour hotline at 303-443-7300.

Steve Louth, Smith’s attorney, told Boulder’s Daily Camera newspaper that Smith admitted to “unlawful behavior” at the time as part of a restorative justice agreement and subsequently completed an extensive sex-offender treatment program.

That restorative justice program was facilitated by a Shambhala member named Dennis Southward, according to Boulder police reports. Southward, in an interview with detectives last month, characterized the 13-year-old victim as someone “who was exploring her own sexuality,” according to a report.

The Shambhala Interim Board released a statement saying it had not been aware of the allegations against Smith, but since his arrest, “concerns arose related to the handling of this case internally by Shambhala leaders in the 1990s.”

The organization’s governing board said it will hire a third-party investigator to review how the allegations against Smith were handled. Furthermore, Shambhala said it has suspended Southward “from all leadership positions” pending that investigation.

“The views expressed by Mr. Southward in the (Boulder Police Department’s) incident case report do not represent the opinion of the Shambhala organization nor its leadership,” the board said.

In an interview with The Post, Southward said the handling of the allegations against Smith in 1998 “was not a Shambhala issue,” insisting he was the only member of the Buddhist organization involved in the discussions with the girl’s family. The Boulder investigators’ reports, however, refer to other Shambhala members and teachers being part of those talks.

The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya is seen at the Shambhala Mountain Center near Red Feather Lakes in the Larimer County foothills in this undated photograph.

“Loose” attitude around sex

The Shambhala Mountain Center, where Hall said her abuse was left largely unaddressed, faces allegations that its own leadership neglected reports of harm, interviews with former students show.

Karuna Thompson, a former Shambhala Mountain Center staff member, said she tried to report what she and others believed to be a sexual relationship between a middle-aged staffer and an underage girl in the late 1990s. When Thompson and a fellow staff member tried to alert leaders to the potential sexual activity, she recalled feeling treated like she was the problem.

“Ultimately we were made to feel like a nuisance,” Thompson said.

In the start-up days of Shambhala there was a “loose” attitude around sex, said Jim Becker, who was a student of founder Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in the 1970s. While Becker said he did not directly witness physically abusive sexual relationships, he said he often saw older men approach young women for sex.

“It was like rock stars with the groupies,” Becker said of the scene at the Shambhala Mountain Center, then known as the Rocky Mountain Dharma Center.

Thompson described the Shambhala scene in the 1970s and 1980s as a collision of free love and Trungpa’s “crazy wisdom” philosophy. Trungpa, who died in 1987, preached pushing boundaries in life, in love and in all ways of seeing the world. Thompson said she saw the age gap between men, women and even girls engaging in sexual activity as one of those collapsing boundaries.

“Every young girl I knew had something happen,” Thompson said.

Becker recalled seeing the community ostracize young women who didn’t want to sleep with Trungpa. Thompson also recalled similar pressure for young women and girls to have sex with Trungpa and the men in his court, she said.

Leslie Hays, who in 1985 became one of Trungpa’s multiple “spiritual wives,” known as Sangyum, said Trungpa physically struck her and was emotionally abusive during their relationship.
Their “marriage” — complete with its own Shambhala-issued marriage certificate, which The Post reviewed — began when Hays was 24 and Trungpa was 45. Trungpa’s first wife, Diana Mukpo, married Trungpa in Scotland in 1970 when she was 16 years old.

“He could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and people would still think he is the king,” Hays said about Trungpa, echoing then-candidate Donald Trump’s famous line.

Leslie Hays stands in her mother’s home in Princeton, Minnesota, on June 11, 2019. In 1985, Hays said, she became one of Shambhala founder Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s several “spiritual wives.” Hays said Trungpa was emotionally abusive during their relationship. Their marriage began when Hays was 24 and Trungpa was 45. He died in 1987.

Liz Craig, another woman who spent time at the mountain center, said she often was approached by older men for sexual relationships when she was a teenager growing up in Colorado’s Shambhala communities in the 1980s. Many of the older men she entered into relationships with were in the inner circle close to Trungpa. Reporting the underage sex was out of the question for Craig, even when she said the men became physically violent. Shambhala felt to her like its own universe with its own rules, she said.

No one interviewed by The Post said they reported information to the police about underage sex in the early days of Shambhala.

For Becker, Hays and Craig, Shambhala’s reverence for its leaders made it feel like a cult. “People would be ostracized who didn’t toe the party line,” Becker said of his time in Shambhala in the 1970s.

Addressing misconduct often fell through the cracks due to ignorance of how to properly deal with abuse, interviews show. Those tasked with handling abuse were volunteers, a lack of expertise that the Interim Board has acknowledged was part of the problem.

Several current and former Shambhala leaders, including Mipham, could not be reached or declined to be interviewed.

In a written response to questions emailed by The Post, Shambhala’s Interim Board acknowledged failures in properly addressing harm. Specifically, the board stated that Shambhala’s Care and Conduct processes — the organization’s overarching policy to address conflicts with officeholders — did not do enough.

“Many issues have contributed to Shambhala’s Care and Conduct challenges over the years,” the board said, “including: a policy that did not apply to all members of the community; failure to enact the policy in certain situations; members’ discomfort with the reporting procedures; and lack of proper training for leaders in implementing the procedures.

“We fully acknowledge that all of these issues have contributed to the situation we find ourselves in as a community, and we strive to do better.”

No faith in the system

Pam Rubin, a former Shambhala student, said she was kissed without her consent by a high-ranking teacher during a retreat in Vermont in 2005. After it became public, representatives of Shambhala asked her to attend a Care and Conduct meeting.

As a professional counselor who works with trauma victims, she saw the dangers in participating. She said the format — which brings alleged victims and those accused together — is potentially re-traumatizing without adequate support.

“That process is part of the problem,” Rubin said. “There is no way in hell I was going to get involved in that.”

In 2002, Shambhala International’s Board of Directors created the overarching policy of “Care and Conduct.” It was designed to use Shambhala’s contemplative teachings to address complaints against officeholders — such as meditation instructors or center employees — using Shambhala philosophies.

In a document that outlines the policy, the then-board explicitly stated that the process was not made in the mold of traditional justice or arbitration systems, but instead an arbitration “informed by the profound view of basic goodness.”

Despite being the new system to internally address harm, Care and Conduct was not widely adopted or even understood, according to a report prepared for Shambhala by An Olive Branch, an organization that consults with religious groups on preventing abuse. Claims of misconduct often fell into the hands of people at centers and were not properly passed up the chain to the International Care and Conduct Panel in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the report said.

In the wake of the allegations against the 56-year-old Mipham, Shambhala appointed a process team of nearly 100 members to restructure how the Buddhist organization handles abuse, including Care and Conduct. The board plans to raise funds to hire full-time professionals for handling misconduct, the board said in its statement to The Post.

While Care and Conduct has been seen as ineffective, there was a noticeable gap in who it even covered. Mipham, Shambhala’s spiritual leader, was not required to sign a 2015 pledge to abide by updated Care and Conduct policies that included a pledge to not have sexual relationships with students, An Olive Branch found.

Shambhala leader Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, right, and other Buddhist monks stand amid smoke from burning juniper as they await the arrival of the Dalai Lama at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Larimer County in 2006.

A protected leader

Mipham stepped aside in July 2018, acknowledging he had caused “harm” in past relationships. Since then, he has issued few statements and remains in retreat in India at his wife’s family monastery. His future remains largely uncertain.

A third-party investigation commissioned by Shambhala found what it characterized as two credible allegations of sexual misconduct against Mipham.

In one of those cases, Mipham drunkenly kissed Julia Howell in 2011, the investigation found. The report concluded the encounter qualified as “sexual misconduct.” (The report only labeled Howell as “Claimant No. 1,” but Howell confirmed that was her in interviews with The Post.)

Friends of Howell who were close to Mipham reached out to her after the incident, telling her to keep her stringent vows to Mipham and not to speak about it.

The third-party report found there may have been “some degree of collusion to set a particular narrative” about the misconduct by witnesses to the event who were close to Mipham. “There may have also been an attempt to discredit (Howell),” the report states.

The Boulder Shambhala Center is pictured in 2016.

“This is a (expletive) cult. What happens when you stand up to authority? You get pushed out,” Howell said in an interview.

While Mipham had systemic cover for his behavior from his position as Shambhala’s leader, those close to him had social protection as well.

Juliana McCarthy told The Post that when she was the victim of a domestic-violence incident initiated by a member of Boulder’s Buddhist community, she was explicitly told by two members of Mipham’s court not to report it to Boulder police.

Slow to no reform

Even though many at the upper levels of the Shambhala Mountain Center and Shambhala International, and those close to Mipham, were repeatedly told about problems in the organization, little effective reform was implemented, internal communications and interviews with those who tried to warn Shambhala show.

Rubin, the counselor who said she was forcibly kissed in 2005, sent reports to Shambhala about its handling of her and other instances of alleged sexual misconduct. The response from Shambhala to the red flags Rubin tried to raise did not lead to the reform she’d hoped for, she said. She had to “pull teeth on every level” to be heard.

“They have this knowledge and they are not doing anything about it,” she said.

During retreats to implement structural change at the Shambhala Mountain Center, Morman — the former Rusung, or safety commander — said he saw senior teachers filibuster basic conversation over reforms with soliloquies on Buddhist philosophy. Change was stopped before it could even start, he said.

“Until I started getting involved with running stuff, I didn’t realize how bad it was,” Morman said.

Others who raised questions felt that adherence to Shambhala teachers stifled them. Vows and oaths that students took to their teachers bound them into roles of devotion and obedience. Trungpa and Mipham each commanded great power over their students through these vows.

Leslie Hays, who said she was one of late Shambhala founder Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s several “spiritual wives,” visits the woods near her mother’s home in Princeton, Minnesota, on June 11, 2019.

Hays, one of Trungpa’s several Sangyum, or wives, said the vows she took bound her spiritual husband’s abuse inside of her. The times she said that he hit her with his walking stick and required her to carry and prepare cocaine lines for him were cemented inside of her for decades out of fear of being sent to “vajra hell,” the fate for those who break their stringent vows, she said.

“Shambala is particularly fraught with these oaths and pledges of allegiance,” Hays said.

The report by An Olive Branch noted that Mipham’s role as both spiritual and administrative ruler was a position ripe for abuse. Now that Mipham is in India with his remaining Kusung and wife’s family, it is unclear who will fill the large void he has left.

Mipham has sent emails through his secretary David Brown — who declined to be interviewed — that allowed students to release their vows with him. But he remains legally entangled with Shambhala and his name is still attached to its image, and his proxy entities are still listed throughout Shambhala’s governing documents.

“I just see all these people trying to keep something going, but in my perspective, it ended with my father passing,” said Gesar Mukpo, Mipham’s half-brother and son of Trungpa. “It is a sad state of affairs.”
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Sun Jul 14, 2019 11:18 pm

Part 1 of 3

Tibetan Buddhism Enters the 21st Century: Trouble in Shangri-la
by Stuart Lachs
July 12, 2019



What convinces masses are not facts,
not even invented facts,
but only the consistency of the illusion.1

Buddhism in the 21st century is fairly well established, both in the United States of America and in Europe. This is true for the surviving branches of Buddhism: Theravada, Zen or Chan, and Vajrayana or Tibetan Buddhism.Recently both Zen and Tibetan Buddhist groups in the West have been rocked by scandals involving prominent, well established teachers with titles such as Zen master, Roshi, Rinpoche, Lama, Sakyong, and so on—who are understood by their followers and even by non-followers, to be enlightened beings. Importantly, it is the institutions—that is, the leading authorities representing these traditions—who present these leaders as enlightened beings, and this is also how they have presented themselves to a believing public.

In Zen Buddhism, the “enlightened teacher” has enormous control over the student.2 The teacher in the Zen tradition is certified as enlightened by his or her enlightened teacher, in an unbroken lineage reaching back to the historical Buddha.

This idea of an unbroken lineage of enlightened teachers is a well-constructed myth.3 Yet at the same time Zen practice, which can have great benefits, depends on the student’s unquestioning confidence and trust in the teacher. The dark side to imputing attainment to people who do not really have it has resulted in the steady stream of abuse cases in Zen Buddhist communities, sometimes around extravagant garnering of wealth, but almost always involving sexual abuse.

Stuart Lachs (b. 1940) is an independent scholar and long-time Ch’an/Zen practitioner. He is convinced that critical thinking is Buddhist and Buddhism is critical thinking. In the early 1990’s, Lachs was introduced to an academic view of the history of Zen that contrasted with the history promulgated by the Zen institution. He became interested in the scholarly view as a way to explain the disparity he witnessed between how the Zen institution claimed its leaders (Zen masters/roshi) behaved and what he saw first hand. Looking through both the lens of academic history and the lens of the sociology of religion and institutions demonstrates how Zen developed over time, responding to historical settings and necessities. The institution that grew up around Zen functions to a large extent—as do most institutions—to promote and protect itself, empower its leaders and enable that power to function. Since the mid-1960’s, however, Zen has suffered from repeated scandals—scandals that hurt its practitioners, caused others to leave and marred its reputation. Lachs’ writings helps his readers understand how the conceptions and mythology of enlightened Zen masters beyond the understanding of ordinary people, Dharma transmission and unbroken lineage and their supporting structures impact Zen students’ lives and practice. This article is Lachs’ first excursion outside Ch’an/Zen and into Tibetan Buddhism.

This article is about similar abuses in Tibetan Buddhism, which, like Zen, offers a path to enlightenment.4 For followers of Tibetan Buddhism in the West at least, the day-to-day results have been the same as that of the Zen sect of Buddhism. In the Tibetan case, students’ absolute submission to the teacher has led to some teachers amassing extravagant wealth, and almost always to wild sexual abuse, arguably even more extreme than in Zen Buddhist communities.

Throughout this paper some people will be identified as a tulku(Wyl., sprul sku).5 Tulkus are persons who have been identified as the emanation or reincarnation of a highly respected deceased master. No matter whether the lineages reach back many centuries or are very recent, this tulku system is an important means by which the teachings of various schools of Tibetan Buddhism continue.6 The present day Dalai Lama is the fourteenth Dalai Lama of a lineage that began in 1391. It should be noted that lama (Wyl., bla ma, the Tibetan equivalent of the Sanskrit guru) is a title for a Tibetan teacher of the Dharma that is different from that of a tulku. Not all lamas are tulkus but most tulkus are lamas. Similarly, not all monks are lamas.7 When a master dies he leaves some clues on where or how to find his reincarnation. Finding the reincarnated master or tulku can be an elaborate affair, especially in the case of an important master. Usually a group of respected lamas come together to look for clues for finding the young reincarnated master.

The Karmapa, the head of the Kagyü school, is especially known for recognizing tulkus and even masters from other lineages approach the Karmapa requesting him to discover tulkus. For instance, the fifteenth Karmapa who lived into the twentieth century, recognized about 1,000 tulkus during his life.8 In December 5-8, 1989, the fourth Tulku Conference was held in India. This event was attended by over 350 tulkus from the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and from the Bön religion, and this conference was hardly attended by all tulkus.9 These numbers show that a tulku is not an extremely rare being.10

This paper will look at some of the recent scandals in the Tibetan traditions and examine how they mirror each other through institutional self-definitions, imputed attainments, and institutional guarantees of authority and orthodoxy. Unquestioned authority is at the core of all these scandals. I will discuss five representatives of these sanctified lineages, mentioning also a number of other high lamas as they relate to these teachers. We will see how the authenticating process along with the samaya—in Tibetan damtsik (Wyl., dam tshig)—vows pledged by their disciples empowers these teachers as enlightened beings, who are viewed almost as superhuman by their followers, and how this process prevents virtually any critical thought about the teacher’s actions.11 This paper will thereby show how hierarchy, vows, secrecy and face-saving strategies indulged abuse.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.
Its what you know for sure that just ain’t so.12

What Are We Talking About?

Three “scandals” involving sex, alcohol, drugs, money and some combination of these elements, have rocked the world of Tibetan Buddhism in the West over the past three years, though these scandals had their origins as long as forty years ago. The teachers, involved with titles that translate as “Earth Protector,”—in Tibetan Sakyong (Wyl., sa skyong)— “Emperor,” “Moon of Dharma,” “Excellent Intellect,” “Radiant Holder of the Teachings, (Ösel Tendzin (Wyl., ‘od gsal bstan ‘dzin) in Tibetan),” and so on, were chosen and sustained by esteemed Tibetan Buddhist leaders. This paper examines in substantial but not exhaustive detail scandals involving Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche—Rinpoche (Wyl., rin po che) means “Precious One”—the head of the Shambhala International organization, Lama Norlha Rinpoche, the main representative on the eastern half of America of the famous meditation master Kalu Rinpoche, and finally Sogyal Rinpoche, the author of the well known book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.13

However, to better understand the Sakyong Mipham case, it is important to understand his position in the context of the Shambhala organization founded by his father, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. This is important because abusive patterns that were born under Trungpa’s leadership of Shambhala continued through a succession of their lineage leaders and senior students. To this day these patterns of abuse have continued to affect their satellite centers around the world. Hence this paper will look at five scandals: the three already mentioned, but first the scandals of Chögyam Trungpa and then of his immediate heir, the American Thomas Rich, better known as Ösel Tendzin. While looking at these five teachers we will naturally look at other highly regarded Tibetan Buddhist leaders as they relate to these five.

Chögyam Trungpa

Chögyam Trungpa (b. 1939 d. 1987) was eleventh in the line of Trungpa tulkus, important figures in the Kagyü lineage, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Among his main teachers was Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, as well as other respected Tibetan teachers. He was deeply trained in the Kagyu tradition and received his khenpo (Wyl. mkhan po) degree, a high degree of Buddhist scholarship in Tibetan monasteries. Trungpa was also trained in the Nyingma tradition, the oldest of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1958 Trungpa fled his home monastery and went into hiding after it was occupied by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. Trungpa began an arduous escape from Tibet in April, 1959 arriving in India in January, 1960. Trungpa was head of the Surmang group of monasteries at the time he left. In a word, Trungpa was an important tulku and had highly respected orthodox teachers of Tibetan Buddhism; by the rules of Tibetan Buddhism, he was the real thing.

In 1963 he studied comparative religion at Oxford University. In 1967 along with Akong Rinpoche, also a tulku, they took over a meditation center in Scotland that became Samye Ling, the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Europe.14 Shortly after the move to Scotland, while drunk and speeding, Trungpa had a car accident that left him partially paralyzed on the left side. This along with other experiences led Trungpa to give up his monastic vows and to continue teaching as a layman. He smoked, drank heavily and openly slept with his female students. He was also known for keeping students waiting for hours for a teaching often arriving with drink in hand. In 1970 he married Diana J. Mukpo, a wealthy 16-year-old English student. He had a break with Akong Rinpoche disagreeing over the way to teach Tibetan Buddhism. Akong favoring a more ordered approach as opposed to Trungpa’s so called “Crazy Wisdom” wilder way. Trungpa left Scotland and in 1970 moved to the USA.

Trungpa was extremely charismatic and had a unique way of presenting Tibetan Buddhism that appealed to his Western students. He was bright, witty, and openly hard drinking which originally appealed mostly to the counter culture and artists, writers, and theater people. For example, poet Allen Ginsberg, the Chilean biologist/philosopher Francisco Varela, and poets/activist Diane di Prima and Anne Waldman were students of his.15 Another author/journalist student of Trungpa was John Steinbeck IV and his wife Nancy. Steinbeck was the son of John Steinbeck, the Nobel Prize winner who wrote Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. Unlike many of Trungpa’s followers, John Steinbeck IV and Nancy were able to recognize and face some of the problems generated by Trungpa and his Crazy Wisdom teachings. I will use them as an important source when it comes to Trungpa’s life and teaching in the U.S.A. I refer to them as Steinbeck, and quote their book, The Other Side of Eden in different places in this paper.16

Originally, Trungpa’s meditation centers were known as Dharmadhatus. Now they are known as Shambhala Meditation Centers, including major centers in Colorado, Vermont, and Nova Scotia which hold intensive meditation retreats. In 1974 Trungpa founded Naropa Institute which later became Naropa University, the first accredited Buddhist university in North America. Trungpa had a string of well-known people teaching at Naropa. He was one of the first to introduce the esoteric Vajrayana teaching to western lay students. As with other Vajrayana teachers, Trungpa too warned of terrible consequences for leaving the path or in disclosing secrets of the practice.17 We shall see more examples of this later in the paper.

Trungpa’s original romance with and acceptance by the American poetry world was shattered by two events. In the early 1970’s a poetry reading took place at the University of Colorado featuring Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Robert Bly with Trungpa acting as the master of ceremonies as a benefit to help Trungpa’s Meditation Center. Trungpa was loaded on saki and kept interrupting the poets with loud noises, some imitating the sound of farts, and yodeling and then hitting a loud gong at the end. Trungpa apologized at the end of the evening—not for his behavior but for the poets: ‘I’m sure they didn’t mean what they said.’ Snyder and Bly kept their distance from Shambhala after this event.18

The second event that more deeply soured the poetry community and many others on Trungpa and Shambhala was known as the “Great Naropa Poetry Wars” or the “Merwin Affair.” The well-known poet W.S. Merwin and his girl friend, the Hawaiian poet Dana Naone, were not advanced students of Trungpa. However, they were permitted by Trungpa to attend the 1975 three-month long seminary limited for advanced students. Trungpa organized a Halloween party that in usual Shambhala fashion of the time was quite a drunken affair. Merwin and Naone did not want to take part but on Trungpa’s orders they were physically forced out of their room amid much violence and brought before Trungpa who ordered his Vajra guards to strip them naked, which they did.19

Shambhala under Trungpa’s leadership was known for wild parties, heavy drinking, and promiscuous sex. He also popularized the idea of “Crazy Wisdom,” the idea among others, that unenlightened people often do not understand the words and actions of enlightened people. Being a representative of the “Crazy Wisdom” lineage meant that all his outrageous behavior was presented as teaching.20 Trungpa seemed to have a taste for married women and implied that extramarital affairs were a direct path to enlightenment.21 Trungpa encouraged his students to cultivate detachment toward our children.22 Nancy Steinbeck said that her meditation instructor ‘once accused me of hiding behind my kids when I refused to leave them with baby-sitters and do volunteer work.’23

In spite of his brilliance and creativity which attracted many devotees and no doubt helped many of his students, his involvement with pharmaceuticals soon blossomed into full-fledged addiction that clouded his judgment.24 The Steinbeck’s added that unfortunately, Trungpa presented himself as an authority on areas over which he had no expertise, such as child rearing and family dynamics.25 His students followed his words leading to many mistakes, ‘too many broken hearts, far too much abuse would all trickle down like toxic rain on the heads of those children we so blithely left at home.’26 In this paper unfortunately the reader will see examples of what this means.

Trungpa used the title Vidyadhara Trungpa Rinpoche which indicates that he was someone who constantly abides in the state of pure awareness.27 This also meant that he was beyond the understanding of his students and ordinary mortals. He claimed that because ‘he had Vajra nature [a yogically transformed and stabilized psychophysiology], he was immune to the normal physiological effects of alcohol,’ said one student. The students bought his story. It never occurred to anyone that he was an alcoholic because that was a disease that happened to ordinary mortals.28 Though it was well known that he was addicted to alcohol, much less well known even to today was his $40,000-a-year cocaine habit [that was in mid 1980 dollars] and, ‘the ultimate irony, an addiction to the sleeping pill Seconal. Sleeping pills for the guru who advertised himself as a wake-up call to enlightenment.’29

Steinbeck goes on to describe the effects of Trungpa’s years of excessive alcohol and drug use. ‘In his last year, he’d become so deluded, he would summon his attendants and tell them he wanted to visit the Queen of Bhutan. They would put him in his Mercedes and drive around the block several times. As they led him back to the house, they laughingly asked how his visit went. “Wonderful,” he’d reply. “She was delightful.” And they called that magic. “He’s so powerful,” they’d whisper.”‘30 The Steinbecks referred to Trungpa’s close students serving him as enablers. They claimed that supplying him with drugs and alcohol was a measure of their devotion, while sneering at those of us who objected.31 “Whatever the teacher demands, all that I will give,” was their vow. They believed that to break that samaya (vow), to refuse to administer to the guru the poison that was killing him, would literally send them to hell.32 It should be noted here that Trungpa’s disciples expressing their devotion to him by supplying him with alcohol and presumably cocaine as he desired, was in keeping with the view of samaya, as represented by three well known Rimpoches: Kalu, Dilgo Khyentse, and Dzongsar Khyentse, as we shall see shortly.

The Steinbecks add another disturbing picture to Trungpa’s supposed Vajra nature and his claimed ability to transcend the effects of excessive alcohol and drug consumption: ‘After his death, a Buddhist teenager asked me, “Did you know that some guys used to pimp for Rinpoche? They’d find him new women to sleep with.” (…) While everyone was busy honoring Rinpoche’s courage for being so blatant about his massive indulgences, his henchmen constantly skimmed the various centers for new blood. Women were trained as “consorts.” That meant they knew what to do when he threw up, shit in the bed, snorted coke till dawn, turned his attention to other women, and maybe even got in the mood for a threesome. Our little band of recovering Buddhists began to ask people if they thought this flagrant behavior constituted religious or sexual abuse. The standard answer you get from the male good old boys who buy into the system because it means their coffers will also be full to feed their own addictions, is that they never, in all their pimping, heard any woman complain plain about sleeping with Rinpoche. (I use that term loosely, because for years he was alcoholically impotent and would devise little sexual games using a dildo known as “Mr Happy” or insisting women masturbate in front of him.)’33

He would finally die ‘of the most acute alcoholism and drug addiction I had ever seen’ and I knew, wrote Nancy Steinbeck, ‘because by then I was working in a silk-sheet rehab center in La Jolla, California.34 ‘I saw a picture of him taken a few days before his death. He was bone-thin; his eyes had the haunted look of a madman.’35

Victoria Fitch, a member of Trungpa’s household staff with years of experience as a nursing attendant gives a more detailed description of Trunga’s final decline and death. She also describes how his true condition was kept secret from almost all of Trungpa’s students and that whatever claims he made, Trungpa was dying just like countless other alcoholics. Fitch wrote, ‘When Trungpa Rinpoche lay dying in 1986 at the age of 47, only an inner circle knew the symptoms of his final illness. Few could bear to acknowledge that their beloved and brilliant teacher was dying of terminal alcoholism, even when he lay incontinent in his bedroom, belly distended and skin discolored, hallucinating and suffering from varicose veins, gastritis and esophageal varices, a swelling of veins in the esophagus caused almost exclusively by cirrhosis of the liver.’

‘Rinpoche was certainly not an ordinary Joe, but he sure died like every alcoholic I’ve ever seen who drank uninterruptedly. The denial was bone-deep.’ she continued. ‘I watched his alcoholic dementia explained as his being in the realm of the dakinis [khandroma (Wyl., mkha’ ‘gro ma) in Tibetan], that is as guardians of the teachings, visualized in female form.’36

An example of the level of wishful thinking and of denial of the effects of years of alcohol and drug abuse on Trungpa among his disciples comes from Walter Fordham, the head of Trungpa’s Household, who claimed ‘it was safe to say that his level of awareness in the environment was unaffected by his alcohol.’37

According to Steinbeck, ‘comments from other lamas about Rinpoche [Trungpa] began to seep in. They finally admitted that for years they had feared for his sanity and thought he had been acting irresponsibly, but no one had spoken out.’ 38 The Dalai Lama in 1989 told Steinbeck privately ‘that he would never trust a guru who claimed, as Rinpoche had, that he could turn alcohol into an elixir.’39 It seems, at least in this case, for some lamas and for the Dalai Lama, that protecting the status quo of Tibetan Buddhism was more important than the harm caused to real people.

One has to wonder if the Dalai Lama or other lamas had publicly shared their own concerns about turning alcohol into an elixir, or many other concerns they may have had about Trungpa and Shambhala, if many people including Trungpa himself, would have been spared much suffering? One also has to wonder if these concerns about Trunga and Shambhala had been shared if the abuse that has been passed from the leadership, generation to generation and that seems to have infected many Shambhala centers could have been avoided. But raising concerns about Trungpa’s actions and sanity would have raised questions about the unquestionable authority of the tulku system and of the authority of high lamas endorsing the next generation of orthodox leaders.

Trungpa’s cremation ceremony took place in May of 1987 attended by roughly three thousand people. Looking back in what seems like a sanitized version of Trungpa’s decline and death, but also acting as a smoke screen of things to come, Trungpa Rinpoche’s son Gesar Mukpo, half-brother of the new head of the Shambhala organization, that is, Sakyong Mipham, stated: ‘My dad … was a drinking madman! How much of a madman are you? How brave are you to really do things? He was a warrior. A warrior with the pen. A warrior with the word. A warrior with the drinking. If you don’t like his drinking, he was a fool, he’s dead. If you don’t mind the drinking thing and think he may have had incredible enlightened wisdom, then you are an eligible candidate for his teachings.’40 We see here the holding up of alcohol abuse as the way to practice. Mukpo is daring Trungpa’s followers to be madmen, which he equates with bravery, warriorship, and a chance for attaining enlightened wisdom. At the time, May 2000, it was not widely known that the Sakyong himself, had alcohol and women abuse problems.

Before taking a closer look at the Sakyong, we first need to look at an intermediate step.

Ösel Tendzin

On August 22, 1976, Vidyadhara the Venerable Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche formally empowered Thomas Rich from Passaic, New Jersey—named Ösel Tendzin by Trungpa—as his Vajra Regent, his dharma heir, successor, and lineage holder in the Karma Kagyü and Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Trungpa Rinpoche bestowed upon him the rather ornate string of names “Karma, Moon of Dharma, Excellent Intellect, Radiant Holder of the Teachings, Victorious in All Directions.”41 Thomas Rich was the first Western Dharma student to be a title holder in these lineages. The Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa, the revered head of the Karma Kagyü lineage, during his 1977 visit to the United States, confirmed Trungpa Rinpoche’s appointment of Thomas Rich, that is, the Vajra Regent as a lineage holder. At the time of Trungpa Rinpoche’s death, August, 1987, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, head of the Nyingma lineage, reconfirmed Thomas Rich as Trungpa Rinpoche’s lineage holder and empowered him with the highest Maha Ati Abhisheka, giving him the name “Lord of Yogins, Coemergent Accomplishment Vajra.”42

Almost like magic, by the words of high lamas, the former Thomas Rich from Passaic, New Jersey was transformed into a lineage holder in both the Kagyü and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, became the leader of Shambhala, the largest sect of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, while being sanctified by the most revered teachers of these sects, capped with a string of exalted sounding names indicating his great spiritual attainment. By any measure of judging, he was crowned by highly respected teachers of Tibetan Buddhism. He too in a word, by the rules of Tibetan Buddhism, like his teacher Trungpa, was the real thing!

The Best Laid Plans of Tulkus and Men

When Trungpa XI died in Vermont in April 1987, everyone expected the Regent to hold his position until what was expected to be a relatively swift rebirth and reassumption of the Trungpa throne. During the interregnum between the death of Trungpa XI and the birth of Trungpa XII, the “Regent” would hold power and occupy the position of head of Vajradhatu. Trungpa chose his regent badly – a bisexual first known as “Narayana” upon whom he bestowed the nom-de-buddha of “Osel Tendzin.” That Trungpa XI was infatuated with Tendzin is clear, and it may have blinded his judgment, because a review of Trungpa’s poems dedicated to the Regent suggests that by a naïve admiration of the Regent’s rapacity, he stoked the flames of a dangerous madness that destroyed all of their plans. Certainly there were plans.

In his second book of poetry, First Thought, Best Thought, Trungpa XI dedicated many poems to Tendzin, many overtly sexual and encouraging a cowboy style of governing the sangha. In the Epilogue to a republication of “Born In Tibet” in 1978, Trunpga XI included photographs of himself and the Regent suitable for worship, and laid out his thinking: “My approach to administration and the community in general has been to give more and more responsibility to people but to hold the nerve centre in my control, and I am teaching Osel Tendzin to do likewise.”

In 1977, Trungpa XI published Garuda V, Transcending Hesitation, in the same format as Garuda IV, quoted above. Again this publication was the vehicle for announcing important ecclesiastical news. On page 101 of the book appears the following “PROCLAMATION” concerning the elevation of Osel Tendzin:

“By the power and with the blessings of the three jewels, the glorious and authentic root gurus of the Practicing lineage of Kagyu and the Ancient Lineage of Nyingma, the herukas and dakinis, Dharmapalas and lokapalas, I hereby empower and declare Karma Cho-kyi Dawa Legpai Lodro Osel Tendzin Chogle Namgyel, Thomas F. Rich, as DORJE GYALTSAP, VAJRA REGENT to act on my behalf in propagating buddhadharma and the vision of the three yanas throughout the world, and to implement, as a Director of the First Class, the purpose and intentions of Vajradhatu as well as those of the Nalanda Foundation. Proclaimed and sealed at the seat of Vajradhatu in Boulder, Colorado, in America by Vajracarya the Venerable Karma Ngawang Cho-kyi Gyamtso Kunga Sangpo, Trungpa Tulku XI, this 250th year of the Parinirvana, on the 27th day of the Fire Dragon Year of the 16th Rapjung, August 22, 1976. [signed] Trungpa XI [Trungpa Seal]”

The importance of this document cannot be overemphasized, as it makes absolutely clear that Trungpa XI had decided not to establish a hereditary lineage of succession, which has become so common with other lineages, and flies in the face of the ancient traditions of the Kagyu lineage as a pure meritocracy, based on “practice,” which is to say, achievement. However we may judge in retrospect, this proclamation was Trungpa XI's resounding endorsement of a native-born American citizen, unrelated to him by blood or even nationality, and it was understood as such by the Vajradhatu faithful and the spiritual community at large.

This proclamation was written to serve as an authoritative corporate document. It recites the legal name of the Gyaltsap, Thomas F. Rich, and pointedly names him as the only person authorized to hold Trungpa XI's position as the Director of the First Class in the Vajradhatu corporation. There is no mention of Shambhala International, or of the Sakyong. This document was Trungpa XI's spiritual will, and if there were any doubt of that, the inscription added by H.H. the Sixteenth Karmapa would eliminate it. Appended to the top of the document, with the Karmapa's seal, is the following text: “As set forth below, the supreme Vidyadhara Trungpa Trulku Chogyi Gyatso has appointed his chief disciple, Osel Tendzin, as his Gyaltsap. This I fully acknowledge & rejoice in. Accordingly, let everyone offer to him due respect. Written by the glorious Karmapa, the 8th day of the 12th month of the Fire Dragon Year.” The “Gyaltsap,” according to the Appendix to Born In Tibet, is simply “The Regent Abbot,” second only to the “Trindzin,” who is “The Supreme Abbot.” If Trungpa XI had intended any changes to this document, for example, appointing a new successor, he would have made it absolutely clear, and published the identity of his new Gyaltsap, with equal solemnity and public exposure. No such document exists.

The Regent Flames Out

In the poem entitled You Might Be Tired of the Seat That You Deserve (For the Vajra Regent at Midsummer's Day), Trungpa XI counseled the new Gyaltsap on the right way to do his job:

Dearly loved comrade,
If you do not hold the seat,
Others may take it away;
If you do not sit on a rock,
It becomes mushy clay;
If you don't have patience to sit on a rock or seat,
They give you away;
If you are not diligent in holding the throne,
Some opportunist will snatch it away;
If you are tired of your seat,
Some interior decorator will rearrange it;
If you don't have a throne,
You cannot speak or proclaim from it,
So the audience will dissipate;
If you don't have a government seat to sit on,
Your wisdom and command seal will be snatched by others;
If you run around, thinking that you have a seat to come back to,
It will be washed away by the turbulent river,
Like a presidential platform;
You can never proclaim your command.
Either it will be disassembled by the cockroaches
Or the frivolous multitude will take it away as souvenirs.
It may be hard to sit on the seat,
But one must endure it.
Do sit on your seat,
Whether it is hard or soft.
Once you sit on your seat,
The sitting itself becomes truly command and message,
Then, undoubtedly, multitudes of people will respect and obey it
As the vajra throne of Bodhgaya where Buddha taught.
Truth becomes exertion.
The message of hard fact proclaims itself,
So you don't have to emphasize harder truth.
Offering your seat in order to please others will not give authentic
They will take the attitude that you are a pleasant seat-offerer.
So, my son, please don't move around;
Assume your seat, and sit, and be.
If you be that way, truth prevails;
Command is heard throughout the land.
So sit and hold your seat.
Then you will enjoy, because others will admire you.
This is hard to do, but easy to accomplish.

Had the Regent performed his job properly, keeping his own nerve centres under control, he would have lived until the 12th Trungpa tulku had been born, identified, and enthroned as the new lineage-holder. But the Regent failed in his mission, dying of AIDS in 1990, leaving his highly literate crew of disciples unusually silent concerning his habit of engaging in unprotected sex with a wide circle of people. The Regent apparently suffered from a bad case of Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome (TIDS), that caused him to believe his toxic emissions would bless his students, not kill them.

Two of the Regent’s blessing-recipients died relatively quickly, a young man who was Tendzin’s lover, and his girlfriend, who didn’t realize that dating a Buddhist could be lethal. Call it the collateral damage from the quest for enlightenment – or one more casualty of Colorado’s notoriously slack prosecution in high-profile homicides. The Regent never saw the inside of a courtroom, despite having committed, before the eyes of witnesses, multiple toxic assaults on the bodies of people who loved and trusted him. But it’s all water under the bridge of innumerable lifetimes, right?

-- Born in Tibet, Again: The Exile of the 12th Trungpa Tulku, by Charles Carreon

Ten years later, in April 1987, Vajra Regent Ösel Tendzin assumed leadership of the Vajradhatu community, following the death of his well-known teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The same total deference that Trungpa commanded and was given from his American students was transferred to his Dharma heir, Ösel Tendzin.43 ‘His meals were occasions for frenzies of linen-pressing, silver-polishing, hair­breadth calibrations in table settings, and exact choreographies of servers,’ said television producer Deborah Mendelsohn, who helped host Tendzin when he gave two meditation retreats in Los Angeles, but has since left the community. ‘When he traveled, a handbook went with him to guide his hosts through the particulars of caring for him, including instructions on how and in what order to offer his towel, underpants and robe after he stepped from the shower.’44

Less than two years later in December 1988, Vajradhatu administrators told their members that the Vajra Regent, Ösel Tendzin had been infected with the AIDS virus for nearly three years. Members of the Vajradhatu board of directors conceded that, except for some months of celibacy, he had neither protected his many sexual partners, many of them students, both male and female, as well as male prostitutes, nor did he tell them the truth about his infection with AIDS. The Regent had a penchant for straight young men.45 One of the Regent’s sexual partners, the twenty-year old son of long-term students, was infected, as was a young woman who had later made love to the young man. The young man would later die from AIDS.46

Two members of the Vajradhatu board of directors had known of his infection for more than two years, yet chose to do nothing. Trungpa Rinpoche had also discussed it with him before his death. The Regent added that he came away from that conversation with Trungpa feeling he could “change the karma.” ‘Thinking that I had some extraordinary means of protection,’ Tendzin reportedly told a stunned community meeting organized in Berkeley in mid-December, ‘I went ahead with my business as if something would take care of it for me.’47 Board members had reluctantly informed the sangha (community of practitioners) only after trying for three months to persuade the Regent to act on his own. When 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.’48

In spite of their supposed pure wisdom, beyond the understanding of ordinary people, it seems that both Chögyam Trungpa and his chosen heir, the Regent Ösel Tendzin suffered from a similar denial of human limitation, as well as ignorance of their own addictive behavior. There is an irony here as Trungpa described Shambhala practitioners as “warriors” not afraid to face the world, not afraid to face reality, not afraid to acknowledge that people are basically good. Yet both Trungpa and Tendzin did not face their own physical limitations and their addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, and power and the affects this would have on their disciples who looked to them as wise and compassionate teachers setting an example of enlightened living. It seemed like these teachers and their devotees did not trust their own eyes and ears, but only their imaginations. It is not unrealistic to say that Trungpa and Ösel Tendzin and many of their followers were living in a self created factory of dreams.

The highest-ranking Buddhist to have spoken publicly on Ösel Tendzin’s issue was Kalu Rinpoche (b. 1905 d. 1989), of the Kagyü lineage, a highly respected meditation master known for his compassion and wisdom. He spoke at a meeting of about 100 Buddhists in Los Angeles on December 22, 1988. According to a tape of the meeting recorded by a church member, Kalu Rinpoche, speaking in Tibetan with an English 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.’ Yet he then asked members to show compassion for the regent.49 However, there was no mention of compassion for people the Regent infected or may have infected or were realistically worried about becoming infected because of having had sex with him or one of his partners. Not only no compassion, but also that worries of the students’ questioning Ösel Tendzin’s behavior could be detrimental to themselves because this questioning was breaking their samaya vows.

One student asked about repairing their samaya vows broken by the student’s questioning, if even only to herself, the sexual behavior of the Regent.50 These vows are taken very seriously. We already saw Trungpa’s close disciples because of their samaya vows proudly supplying him with alcohol and cocaine as he rushed to early death from abusing his body with just these very substances. So, the samaya vow idea is very complicit in the entire set up of unquestioned hierarchy, abuse, obedience, and secrecy.

Kalu instructed that the Regent Ösel Tendzin was their Lama, that they should follow him, that they in fact needed to repair their “broken vows” to the Regent. He instructed that this can be accomplished by first confessing to him and second by making a promise to themselves and to the Regent that they would not develop this kind of attitude in the future. He added to rely on Ösel Tendzin and to accomplish as much virtue as possible. ‘You should do whatever you can to be helpful to the Vajra Regent Ösel Tendzin to bring him joy. In these ways you can clear away any broken samaya completely.’51

Kalu also forbid any public talk of the Regent’s AIDS problem at his Centers and told Shambhala members not to discuss it as ‘it was neither helping anyone and was only disrupting their meditation and the harmony of the sangha.’52 Kalu also forbade Lama Ken McCleod, a senior student of his, to speak publicly of Ösel Tendzin, which he obeyed.53

Knowing what we now know, it is not surprising that Kalu demanded secrecy. In 1996, June Campbell’s book, Traveler in Space: In Search of Female Identity in Tibetan Buddhism was published. Campbell in her twenties, as a Tibetan studies scholar, spent many years as a student of Kalu Rinpoche and acted as a translator for him. She also wrote that she was a secret consort of his along with at least one other woman, a teenage Tibetan girl. Campbell said Kalu’s sexual life was kept secret aside from one other person though the relationship lasted for years.54 She wrote, ‘it was plainly emphasized that any indiscretion in maintaining silence over our affair might lead to madness, trouble, or even death.’55 Though Kalu lived many years not as a monk after escaping Tibet, according to Campbell, ‘he was afraid of the consequences of revealing his secret life.’56 Several western scholars seemed to be completely ignorant of the hidden life existing within the lama system; in 1993 Kalu was described as a monk. When the biography of this high lama was written there was no mention of Campbell’s name or even references to a metaphorical consort. According to Campbell, ‘the Tibetan system was for all intents and purposes a secret society.’57

However, in terms of keeping secrecy the reincarnated tulku Kalu (b. September 17, 1990) appears to be very different from his former incarnations. During the question and answer period after a talk he gave in 2011 in Vancouver (Canada), the young Kalu was asked about sexual abuse in Tibetan monasteries. Kalu replied that he was sensitive to it because he himself was a victim of sexual abuse. When the interviewer, Joseph Hooper brought up the concept of “inappropriate touching,” the young Kalu laughed edgily. ‘This was hard-core sex, he says, including penetration. Most of the time, they just came alone,’ Kalu said. Kalu continued, ‘They just banged the door harder, and I had to open it. I knew what was going to happen, and after that you become more used to it.’ It wasn’t until Kalu returned to the monastery after his three-year retreat that he realized how wrong this practice was. Kalu said that by then the cycle had begun again on a younger generation of victims. Kalu’s claims of sexual abuse mirror those of Lodoe Senge, an ex-monk and 23-year-old tulku who now lives in Queens, New York.58

After his three year retreat the young Kalu wanted to change his tutor which resulted in an argument with the current tutor: ‘The older monk left in a rage and returned with a foot-long knife. Kalu barricaded himself in his new tutor’s room, but, he says, the enraged monk broke down the door, screaming, “I don’t give a shit about you, your reincarnation. I can kill you right now and we can recognize another boy, another Kalu Rinpoche!” Kalu took refuge in the bathroom, but the tutor broke that door, too. Kalu recalls, “You think, ‘Okay, this is the end, this is it.'” Fortunately, other monks heard the commotion and rushed to restrain the tutor. In the aftermath of the attack, Kalu says, his mother and several of his sisters (Kalu’s father had died when he was a boy) sided with the tutor, making him so distraught that he fled the monastery and embarked on a six-month drug-and-alcohol-fueled bender in Bangkok.’ 59 The reincarnated Kalu was exceedingly brave to expose some of the hidden underbelly of Tibetan Buddhist monastic life while struggling to make sense of his life. Interestingly, here as in other sexual abuse cases, often the family turns away from the victims.

This story related by the young reincarnated Kalu raises a few questions. Was no older monk looking out or watching over and guiding the young Kalu? If there was, was it just accepted practice that young tulkus or monks to be would be sexually abused? On what grounds was his tutor picked who so easily was ready to kill Kalu for rejecting him as his tutor? Was there no consequence for the tutor attempting to kill Kalu which also was known by at least a few older monks? As Kalu mentioned after coming out of his retreat, ‘the cycle had continued on a younger generation of victims,’ so it seems that the sexual abuse of young boys by older monks was quite open and seemingly common and accepted practice. It appears there are some deep problems that are internally well known in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries but hidden from the public.

However, it was not only the older Kalu who instructed secrecy. When the editor Rick Fields of the Vajradhatu Sun, the official paper of the organization, prepared a short article describing the bare bones of the Ösel Tendzin crisis, he was forbidden to print it. ‘There have been ongoing discussions, both within community meetings and among many individuals, about the underlying issues that permitted the current situation to occur,’ read the banned article. ‘Those issues include the abuse of power and the betrayal of trust, the proper relationship between teachers with spiritual authority and students, particularly in the West, and the relationship between devotion and critical intelligence on the spiritual path.’ In March, Fields again attempted to run his article but this time he was fired by the Vajra Regent. When the board of directors refused to support him, he formally resigned.60

With all these major problems in the Shambhala lineage, the Steinbecks had hoped the Dalai Lama or other lineage heads would speak out, but they too maintained silence and offered no consequences to renegade lamas. The Dalai Lama told the Steinbecks, ‘The student has to take the responsibility of examining the behavior of the teacher very carefully, over a long period. You cannot be hasty about these things.’ In a sense, Steinbeck wrote, ‘the Dalai Lama was blaming the student, which so commonly happens in blaming the victim in any abusive situation?’61

Steinbeck continued, ‘by deliberately ignoring the situation, in what appears to be a fearful political ploy, these titular deities, these so-called God Kings are adding to the confusion instead of delineating clear moral guidelines. Their concern about the truth leaking out, which might drain their monastic coffers, flies in the face of all the teachings and vows they give concerning “right action.”‘62

At the suggestion of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Ösel Tendzin went into private retreat in California but, like the older Kalu Rinpoche, he too urged Vajradhatu students to respect the Regent’s authority as their lama.63 On October 17, 1989 Dilgo wrote, ‘Those who are experiencing difficulties following the Regent now should realize that it is necessary to do so…’64 It is necessary, he explained, because Trungpa appointed him and the Karmapa confirmed it. How Ösel Tendzin lived and interacted with people for the previous ten years did not matter at all. At any rate on August 25, 1990 the Vajra Regent Ösel Tendzin passed away.

After the death of Ösel Tendzin, Dilgo Khyentse Rimpoche and the lineage holders of the Kagyü lineage were all in agreement that the Sawang Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo, Chögyam Trungpa’s oldest son, should become the lineage holder of Vajradhatu.65

Sakyong Mipham

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche (b. November 15, 1962) was the head of the Shambhala organization, a global network of over 200 meditation and retreat centers along with extensive real estate holdings. Sakyong; a compound word consisting of sa, “earth,” and skyong, “to protect,” that translates as “earth protector,” “king,” “emperor,” or “governor” is considered a Dharma king and lineage holder of the Shambhala lineage. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is regarded as a chögyel (Wyl., chos rgyal, in Sanskrit dharmaraja) or “king of Dharma”, who combines the spiritual and worldly paths. The Sakyong according to the Shambhala view is the earthly embodiment or emanation of enlightened awareness. Though the title Sakyong is associated with the lineage of Shambhala implying an ancient lineage, the first Sakyong was Trungpa, the present Sakyong’s father and founder of the Shambhala organization.

Sakyong Wangmo (“Earth Protector Lady”) is the wife and partner of the Sakyong or Earth Protector, and mother of their three children. In this capacity, according to the Shambhala website, the Sakyong Wangmo offers strength and delight in home life, which allows the Sakyong the ground from which he can radiate his teachings out to the world. Again, according to the website, this example of family, based on the principles of enlightened society is a profound offering to the larger society. Sakyong Wangmo was empowered by Penor Rinpoche, who was the head of the Nyingma school from 1993 to his retirement in 2001.66 She comes from an old and distinguished Tibetan family. Her father is the supreme head of the Ripa lineage of Nyingma Vajrayana Buddhism and a living Tertön, or treasure-finder.67 She too by the rules of Tibetan Buddhism, is the real thing.

Lama Tsultrim Allione, a well-known western woman teacher of Tibetan Buddhism said about the Shambhala organization that, ‘the level of institutionalized hierarchy is quite extraordinary,’ with the Sakyong functioning ‘sort of like a divine king.’ His inner circle, with its ministers and attendants, is called the [Kalapa] “court”.68 He has a personal flag that local centers can buy for $350, to fly when he visits.

We saw earlier how Ösel Tendzin also was waited on hand and foot as if he were a divine king with his meals and bathing carefully orchestrated. One might say that Ösel Tendzin and Trungpa in thinking they had transcended all human limitations actually thought of themselves as divine kings of the universe.

The present scandal arose when it was disclosed that the Sakyong had an alcohol abuse problem coupled with sexually forcing himself on young female students. At this time, it also came out that the Shambahla organization has had a long history of sexual abuse even of children by leaders of different Shambhala communities.69

In spite of all the high sounding aims and titles, very troubling events occurring for years at Shambhala were to be dramatically exposed on the internet with the publishing of the Buddhist Project Sunshine in March 2018. Project Sunshine was started by Andrea M. Winn who is a second generation Shambhalian, that is, she grew up in this community. She states,

‘I was sexually abused as a child by multiple perpetrators in our community. When I was a young adult, I spoke up about the community’s sexual abuse problem and was demonized by my local Shambhala Center, ostracized and forced to leave. The shocking truth is that almost all of the young people in my age group were sexually harassed and/or sexually abused. I don’t know the statistics on the generations of children after mine. What I do know is that many of us have left the community, and for those who have stayed, their voices have been unheard. Beyond child sexual abuse, women continue to be abused in relationships with community leaders and by their sanghas.’70

Though Winn does not mention it, one is compelled to ask what the parents of these young people were doing or not doing or thinking, as they had to know this was going on. Was this part of the Shambhala culture and a reflection of Trungpa’s ideas on promiscuous sex, child rearing and family dynamics mentioned earlier by the Steinbecks? Winn continues, ‘I felt awful on a very deep level. Don’t get me wrong. In so many ways I have created a good life for myself. But there has been a deep sick feeling inside of me for all these decades. Shambhala looked wonderful on the outside, and there is no doubt in my mind about the spiritual blessings in these practices. At the same time there has been this incomprehensible sickness.’71
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Sun Jul 14, 2019 11:19 pm

Part 2 of 3

As is often the case, the devil is in the details as we shall also see shortly when we look at Sogyal. There are many first-person accounts related about the Sakyong, but lets just look at three cases to get a deeper sense of what was happening.

A second generation Shambhalian, or “dharma brat,” wanted to contribute her story at the last minute after she saw the Sakyong’s “apology” letter: ‘I was sexually assaulted by the Sakyong in the kitchen of the Halifax Kalapa Court after his wife, the Sakyong Wangmo, retired for the night with her first daughter, following the celebration of her first birthday in August, 2011. This experience was traumatic for me. It took place one year after we welcomed Jetsun Drukmo [the Sakyong’s wife] home on that very lawn. It also marked the one year anniversary of meeting my then partner, who stood in the same room as me that night and watched, did nothing, turned the other way. As time went on, the community’s formal responses and members’ processes of relating to this disclosure and fact have overall exacerbated my confusion and suffering and eroded my mind and body’s health. The responses and denials continue to trigger me and prevent me from moving on from that harm and I believe are preventing the community from its own “healing”.’72

Another young woman reported, ‘Over many years I had several sexual encounters with the Sakyong that left me feeling ashamed, demoralized and worthless. Like many young women in the sangha, I was deeply devoted to the Sakyong and did whatever I could to serve him and be close to him. I witnessed the steady stream of attractive women that were invited into his quarters.’73 On another occasion she mentioned being invited to his suite at a dinner party where the Sakyong was encouraging everyone to drink a lot. He then insisted that we take off our clothes. He led one woman into his bedroom while the rest of us danced. After a while his kusung(attendant) came out to get me to come to the Sakyong’s bedroom. I went into the room and discovered the Sakyong and the woman on his bed having sex. He said to me “She won’t come. Do something to help.” I stood there stunned and he said “Play with her tits. Do something.”‘74

Another woman mentions the steady stream of pretty young women invited to the Sakyong’s suite, and his groping her and attempting to have sex with her when he was completely intoxicated, the Sakyong would ‘pull me into a dark corner. He kissed me and groped me while aggressively encouraging me to come to bed with him.’ Most of the time, another woman who had been invited to the party was already present so she refused.75

Buddhist Project Sunshine went viral being written about by the print media and Buddhist websites, while the members at centers around the world having had no idea of the troubling behavior of their leader and guru, were shocked by the allegations. Shambhala is a very large organization so most members were only exposed to the Sakyong in formal gatherings or through his writing. Now they were being shown a man out of control, perhaps alcoholic and selfishly abusing scores of young women for roughly two dozen years. They demanded a response.

On June 25, 2018 the Sakyong sent the Shambhala community an open letter of Apology.76 He begins with,

‘To the Shambhala Community:

I write to you with great sadness, tenderness, and a mind of self-reflection. It is my wish for you to know that in my past there have been times when I have engaged in relationships with women in the Shambhala community. I have recently learned that some of these women have shared experiences of feeling harmed as a result of these relationships. I am now making a public apology.’

Though he writes as if he is making an open and honest admission of past abuse, he is only admitting to what has already been made public knowledge by the publication of Buddhist Project Sunshine on the internet and even making it into the New York Times.77 Even that admission seems like a whitewash of what is described in the accounts of the Buddhist Project Sunshine. It is not difficult to imagine that without Project Sunshine there would be no ‘honest admission of past abuse.’

The Sakyong’s statement ‘I have recently learned that some of these women have shared experiences of feeling harmed as a result of these relationships’ is less than honest too as he had known that many women felt harmed by his casually using them for sex and then “ghosting” them when he moved onto some one new or if they questioned him about the nature of the relationship. These relationships go back to the early 1990’s or earlier—that is, over 25 years ago.

Later in the letter he writes, ‘I am now entering a period of self-reflection and listening.’ One wonders what he was doing or thought he was doing since August 1990, when he was made the lineage holder of the Vajradhatu organization with the death of Ösel Tendzin. One also wonders what the powerful samaya vows between guru and his students imply when by his own admission the Sakyong was not listening or barely listening to his students and was not “self reflecting” on his own behavior. If the Sakyong admits that he was flawed, this also raises the question of how and why he was given so much power and authority by the most senior lamas. Besides, one might wonder why he had been given so much material resources to maintain his family, himself, and the expenses to run the Kalapa Court?

It should be clear, that Andrea Winn with the Buddhist Project Sunshine was not trying to destroy Shambhala but rather, to expose the sickness and harm that she and many others have experienced. She wanted to save Shambhala by injecting openness and transparency into the organization and holding its leaders responsible for their actions. She also wanted to create a place where those abused could receive support, healing, community and where they could feel safe to talk out.

However revealing Buddhist Project Sunshine was of problems with the Sakyong, an even more revealing document appeared some months later on February 6, 2019: A thirty-five page long open letter signed by six long serving of the closest kusung (Wyl., sku srung, ‘body protectors,’ ‘attendants’) of the Sakyong.78 In it each signer describes his or her experiences of verbal, physical and sexual abuse in vivid detail. Recollections include female students being ‘pushed to rationalize [sex] as a generous offering to their revered teacher,’ stories of Mr Mukpo, as the Sakyong is addressed in the letter, hitting his attendants and forcibly biting people; students crying in a circle in their underwear, a culture of fear, and this is just the first of the six reports.

The six authors of the above-mentioned document write of being told to obscure the line between Mr Mukpo’s spiritual teachings and his abusive behavior, believing that the teacher’s behavior was beyond our understanding. They were asked, they say, to regard such abusive activity as the guru’s method of waking us up. In essence, they learned to discredit their own experience.

Ben Medrano, one of the signers writes, ‘I was amazed by the opulence, frequency, and duration of his [Sakyong’s] luxury vacations.’ Medrano was also amazed that Sakyong’s and his wife’s toiletry and cosmetic budget rivaled his annual salary as a resident physician. On one occasion he writes, ‘I recall a sober midday call demanding me to push for the unfeasible purchase of an Audi A8. I vividly remember his infuriated words being: “I want my FUCKING Audi!”‘

Allya F. Canepa, another long serving kusung, writes of being called to the Sakyong’s room and being a kusung, she dutifully kneeled by the side of his bed, waiting to see what the Sakyong wanted. She reports: ‘I was surprised when he put his hand down my shirt and fondled my breasts and said, “please I just want to sleep,” firmly directing my head to his cock. I obliged and shook it off.’79

Canepa added, ‘in the Vajrayana we are taught that all body fluids, or pieces of clothing, tufts of hair, or leftover food from the guru’s plate are blessings gifted directly from the body of enlightenment.’ Canepa also writes of ‘seeing hundreds of women go in and out of Mr. Mukpo’s bedroom and often consoling them afterward.’80

It should be clear that the abusive situation with the Sakyong was not just between two consenting adults, as some of his apologists claim, but rather between a so called “tantric master” with the title “earth protector” presented as a “king of truth” being the sole authority, and a disciple, with the sex act promising to give spiritual benefit.

The reader might want to question how the idealized presentation of the past and the words of endorsement of the Sakyong from the highest lamas effected their view of the Sakyong and the whole organization supporting his role? They may want to ask on what the endorsements of high lamas was based, and what it means? Were the students blind followers or were they led down that path through their samaya vows? The Sakyong, by his own admission, hardly seemed like the real life model of the “king of truth”—who according to the Shambhala view is the earthly embodiment or emanation of enlightened awareness. Yet another question has to do with the legality of the funding of the Kalapa Court, with money and its allocation coming through different Shambhala corporate entities, some tax free?

Lama Norlha

In 1978 Lama Norlha Rinpoche (b. 1938 d. 2018) founded the Kagyü Thubten Chöling Monastery (KTC) and its Retreat Centers in Wappingers Falls, New York, in the tradition of the previously mentioned Kalu Rinpoche. In addition to a daily schedule of practice, study and work, weekend seminars and special courses were led by resident and visiting lamas. The monastery is also home to a traditional three-year retreat program currently (2019) in its ninth cycle. This program has been a major focus of the monastery since it was initiated in 1982. Lama Norlha also did much charitable work in terms of bringing health care and education for both children and nuns in Tibet.

Over a period of more than 30 years, the monastery hosted two visits from the Dalai Lama, and received blessings from both the sixteenth and seventeenth Karmapas, the heads of the Kagyü lineage, as well as numerous teachings and empowerments from the spiritual heads and other notable lamas from all four lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.81

Lama Norlha Rinpoche, who entered a monastery at five years old, was an accomplished meditation and retreat master.82 He had completed two three-year retreats by the time he was twenty-one. He served as the director of the revered meditation master, Kalu Rinpoche’s Dharma centers in the eastern half of the United States. Lama Norlha, like his teacher Kalu Rinpoche, presented himself as living a celibate life but in reality had at least six secret affairs with female students of his over a period of three decades.

On April 12, 2017, KTC, the monastery and retreat center, hosted a Sangha-wide Disclosure Meeting to inform their community that the founder and principal abbot of their monastery, Lama Norlha Rinpoche, had been secretly involved sexually with a number of female students over the last three decades. The disclosure process was initially set in motion by the coming forward of two former female residents of the monastery, who disclosed their sexual relationships with Lama Norlha to a group of senior officials at KTC in December 2016.83

Approximately 160 people were present at the Disclosure Meeting, including the two female students, who read aloud statements relating their experiences with Lama Norlha. Zen teacher Jan Chozen Bays acted as a representative and read the statements for three other female students who were not present but wrote that they were sexually involved with Lama Norlha. After the statements were read, a sixth woman came forward saying that she too had been involved in a sexual relationship with Lama Norlha. Most of the women reported they felt the relationship to be detrimental to their psychological and personal well being. The Disclosure Meeting included a taped apology from Lama Norlha Rinpoche, who did not attend.84

What was not mentioned or at least made public outside of the meeting was how the relationships began and how they ended—by the women or Lama Norlha, were some relationships concurrent, did the women think or were they led to believe they were the only one, and was there a sense of romance between Lama Norlha and the women? What had the women thought the nature of the relationship had been? How did Lama Norlha present what had been happening with the women?

Lama Norlha had since the meeting been removed from the teaching seat. The KTC website describes his status as “retired.” He passed away one year later, February 19, 2018 at the age of 79. According to the KTC website, in the final weeks of his life, Lama Norlha Rinpoche was fortunate to receive visits from the Gyalwang Karmapa (the seventeenth Karmapa) and Sakya Trichen Dorje Chang. The day before he passed away, Rinpoche was blessed with a visit from the Karmapa who bestowed the empowerment of Buddha Akshobya on Rinpoche. Sakya Trichen had bestowed this empowerent a few weeks earlier.85

Clearly, Lama Norlha reflects the years of secret sexual activity of his teacher Kalu Rinpoche, who is mentioned above in relation to Ösel Tendzin. At the Disclosure Meeting, Lama Norlha’s taped apology mentioned being sorry for any suffering he may have caused. It seems then that he made no effort to pretend that his sexual activity was tantric practice in the quest for enlightenment, at least not for the women who felt it was ‘detrimental to their psychological and personal well being.’ Then what was its purpose? Prolonging life for an older man as having sex with young woman is widely believed to effect in the East or to inspire his visions. Or was it, perhaps, the ordinary need for close human contact?

It also raises the question of how he could have had at least six relationships, but maybe more, with female students over a period of thirty years living in a fairly closed environment without any of his assistant lamas or perhaps close older students knowing what was going on? Were taking samaya vows instrumental in keeping the secret? As Lama Norlha was close to the highest Tibetan Buddhist clergy from the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa down, one wonders who if any of these elite clerics knew of Norlha’s secret life? If they did know, it did not seem like it was particularly troublesome for the elite clergy. As there is so much made of mystical power and spiritual insight connected to high Tibetan Lamas it seems fair to ask did some thing as ordinary as maintaining a secret sex life happening under their noses elude these lamas? And if it did elude them, what does it say about their supposed extraordinary powers and insight? Is it common knowledge among the Tibetan clergy that many lamas have secret sex lives, and that the “secret” is to be well kept to differentiate the clergy from lay people? This leads their devotees to believe that their clergy and lamas live in a sphere of piety which elevates their status above regular people while keeping the hierarchy in place and the donations flowing?

Perhaps a more fundamental question raised by Lama Norlha’s actions has to do with his practice, attainment, and elevated status in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy. Lama Norlha entered the Korche Monastery by the age of five and spent his life taking part in and leading empowerments and retreats, fasts, chanting services, Mahamudra practice, leading his followers in offering over a million butter lights, and daily meditation. He supposedly saw into emptiness and realized his true nature.

Yet for thirty years or so he secretly had a need for intimate female companionship. One wonders how the Tibetan system of taking young boys away from their mothers and families and raising them in the all male monastic world, which we have seen can be quite abusive, affects their emotional well being and need for close human contact and their relationship to women. This need appears to have caused Lama Norlha to have a string of secret relationships in which he had to know that in the end some of these women would not feel good about what was happening. It also caused him to live a lie with at least his very devoted students who certainly were some of the people closest to him. This went against the strong elements in Tibetan Buddhism to which he devoted his entire life, against causing harm to others and to selfishness which supposedly truly realizing emptiness avoids. And yet, that is exactly what he did.

Sogyal Rinpoche

Sogyal Rinpoche (b. 1947), comes from a prominent merchant family in the Kham region of eastern Tibet. He is the founder and was the spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhist organization called Rigpa (“Essential Nature of Mind”), which has a worldwide reach with 130 centers in 41 countries. Sogyal is a Tibetan Dzogchen lama in the Nyingma sect. His bestselling book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying was printed in 30 languages and has sold more than three million copies.86

He starred alongside Keanu Reeves in the movie Little Buddha. Sogyal is a highly successful guru—perhaps the best known Tibetan in the West after the Dalai Lama. Sogyal is regarded by his students as a living embodiment of the Buddhist teachings of wisdom and compassion, yet a man who teaches in a highly unorthodox way, known as “Crazy Wisdom”.87 “Crazy wisdom” was coined by Chogyam Trungpa who Sogyal greatly admired and who he wished to imitate in his rock star life style aspect after seeing him in Boulder, Colorado in the mid 1970’s.88 His center Lerab Ling is said to be the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple in the West.

The organization Rigpa was established quite early on in Sogyal’s career in London. News of his sexual predations and misbehavior filtered back to the late Dudjom Rinpoche, then head of the Nyingma sect and one of the world’s eminent meditation masters. Sogyal had dedicated his London Centre, Orgyen Chöling, to Dudjom. However, when the latter heard of Sogyal’s behavior, he suggested Sogyal give up teaching for a while and return to India to “ripen his practice.” Sogyal’s response was to remove his center from Dudjom Rinpoche’s tutelage and change its name to Rigpa (corresponding to the Skt. vidya, knowledge) with himself as head, accountable to no-one except himself.89

Lerab Ling (“Sanctuary of Enlightened Action”) is Rigpa’s international retreat center and home to the newly constructed temple known as The Institute of Wisdom and Compassion. Lerab Ling was founded in 1991 by Sogyal Rinpoche and is located near Montpellier in southern France. From its opening, the Center has been a place of teaching by a who’s who of Tibetan Buddhist teachers. They include the Dalai Lama and some of his teachers, and also students of the famous Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, who was the Dalai Lama’s principle teacher in Nyingma and Dzogchen Buddhism, and Dudjom Rinpoche among others. The list of distinguished Tibetan Buddhist teachers is too long to list here.90

The Dutch investigator Rob Hogendoorn refers to Sogyal’s supposed enlightenment as “enlightenment by association.” That is, it was assumed by Sogyal’s western followers that he was on par with the famous lamas who visited and taught and who he entertained at his Center.91

Sogyal supposedly was recognized as a tulku, the reincarnation of Tertön Sogyal , a teacher of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. This is questioned by some knowledgeable Tibetans.92 He claimed to have studied traditional subjects at Dzongsar Monastery with a number of tutors though his main tutor died when he was a child. Most of his education took place in schools in India. He was trained by French-Roman Catholics at St. Augustine’s School in Kalimpong and by English Anglicans at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. According to authors Mary Finnigan and Rob Hogendoorn, Sogyal’s credentials as a Nyingma master are at best questionable because of limited training and education.93

Whatever else one may say about Sogyal, there is no denying that he was a money machine. At his center Lerab Ling in southern France a week of teaching in 2011 was €500—which entitled participants to pitch a tent and eat vegetarian food. Five hundred people attended the retreat, including reporter Elodie Emery of Marianne magazine—which means that Sogyal attracted more than €250,000 on one occasion. Emery estimates that Lerab Ling pulls in €1m to €1.5m annually in retreat fees alone—in addition to shop sales and donations. Sogyal’s global organisation, Rigpa, has websites that include multiple income streams. One of them, the Tertön Sogyal Foundations, targets will bequests.94 Board members include Pedro Beroy, the managing director of the investment banking division of Credit Suisse.95

Following the Rigpa path is extremely expensive. Air France pilot Guy Durand was a career 747 captain. He became deeply committed to practice under Sogyal, rising in the hierarchy to become a Dharma teacher. Guy points out the underlying expenses: ‘You have to buy ritual objects and constantly update study material. You pay for courses, study days, statues, food offerings for the temple—the list is endless. You have to sponsor people who can’t afford retreats and for those who can, the price is exorbitant. They never stop asking for money—and it’s done with subtle persuasion—pretty speeches scripted specifically to make you put your hand in your pocket.’96 Other former Rigpa insiders confirm that there is relentless pressure to donate money. According to one of them: ‘I even heard Sogyal say to one man “just shut up and give me your money.”‘97

Before Sogyal’s retirement, in the wake of abuse allegations in 2017, he had been teaching for over 30 years in Europe, America, Australia, and Asia. Sogyal Rinpoche has been accused of sexual and physical assault and abuse, as well as misusing charitable funds to live a high lifestyle, with allegations stretching back to the 1970s.

A Long Time Coming

Within the Buddhist community, Sogyal Rinpoche has long been a controversial figure. For years, rumors have circulated on the internet about his behaviour.98 In the early 1990s a lawsuit alleging sexual and physical abuse plus one count of assault and battery was settled out of court by mediation in Los Angeles. One of Sogyal’s close personal assistants who ran a Rigpa Center in Europe before leaving because of Sogyal’s behavior testified that there was a long string of woman coming to Sogyal for help who end up being coerced into sex with him.99

On July 14, 2017 a twelve-page letter was posted by eight long term (14-33 years) students of Sogyal who were in positions of power, some of who had been working directly for Sogyal.100 The letter was also sent to the Dalai Lama, other senior Tibetan Buddhist lamas and approximately 1,000 members of the Rigpa organization:

‘This letter is our request to you to stop your unethical and immoral behavior. Your public face is one of wisdom, kindness, humor, warmth and compassion, but your private behavior, the way you conduct yourself behind the scenes, is deeply disturbing and unsettling. A number of us have raised with you privately, our concerns about your behavior in recent years, but you have not changed.

‘Those of us who write to you today have firsthand experience of your abusive behaviors, as well as the massive efforts not to allow others to know about them. Our concerns are deepened with the organizational culture you have created around you that maintains absolute secrecy of your actions, which is in sharp contrast with your stated directive of openness and transparency within the Sangha. Our wish is to break this veil of secrecy, deception, and deceit. We can no longer remain silent.’

The letter continues:

‘1. Your physical, emotional and psychological abuse of students

We have received directly from you, and witnessed others receiving, many different forms of physical abuse. You have punched and kicked us, pulled hair, torn ears, as well as hit us and others with various objects such as your back-scratcher, wooden hangers, phones, cups, and any other objects that happened to be close at hand. We trusted for many years that this physical and emotional treatment of students what you assert to be your “skillful means” of “wrathful compassion” in the tradition of “crazy wisdom”was done with our best interest at heart in order to free us from our “habitual patterns”. We no longer believe this to be so…Why did you inflict violence upon us and our fellow Dharma brothers and sisters? Why did you punch, slap, kick, and pull our hair? Your food was not hot enough; you were awakened from your nap a half hour late; the phone list was missing a name or the font was the wrong size…or you were moody because you were upset with one of your girlfriends (…)

‘Your emotional and psychological abuse has been perhaps more damaging than the physical scars you have left on us…your shaming and threatening have led some of your closest students and attendants to emotional breakdowns.’

‘2. Your sexual abuse of students

You use your role as a teacher to gain access to young women, and to coerce, intimidate and manipulate them into giving you sexual favors. The ongoing controversies of your sexual abuse that we can read and watch on the Internet are only a small window into your decades of this behavior.’101

Let’s look at some recent accounts.

‘In June 1993, less than a year after the publication of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, a young and beautiful woman in a state of acute distress over the death of her father went to a Rigpa retreat in Connecticut, USA. After one of Sogyal’s lectures she sent him a written question: “How can I help my father now that he’s dead?” Sogyal’s response was to invite her to his room.’ The woman, Dierdre Smith, says she was ‘completely vulnerable. “I might as well have had a notice round my neck saying Abuse Me!” She went on to describe how Sogyal seduced her, wearing her down over a period of hours in spite of her saying that she did not want to cheat on her husband—but Sogyal persisted, insisting that having sex with him would benefit her father’s karma. She eventually became part of Sogyal’s harem.

‘For several months Dierdre put her everyday life on hold and travelled with Sogyal as his servant, sex partner and arm candy. She recounts how the smile on Sogyal’s face and the unctuous charm of his of his public presentation vanished the moment they were hidden from view: “There must have been about 10 women in his inner circle,” she says, and it was our job to attend to his every need. We bathed him, dressed him, cooked for him, carried his suitcases, ironed his clothes and were available for sex. He was a tyrant. Nothing we did was ever good enough.’102

What Dierdre may have meant by “to attend to his every need” is described by Mimi, the daughter of the Air France pilot Guy Durand mentioned earlier in this paper who became part of Sogyal’s harem for a time. Besides mentioning Sogyal not using condoms and the sexually transmitted infections the women contracted, she described the level of control and humiliation he exercised over the women.

‘One of the most humiliating things happened to Anna. Sogyal always has diarrhea—his diabetes and his diarrhea make him extremely irritable. We had to wipe his arse each time he took a crap. He also has hemorrhoids. Someone wiped his arse, then he asked her to stick a finger in and it hurt—so he went into a total fit and called in all the girls. He asked each of us to wipe him to see who was the best. That was the only time I heard him say something nice about Anna—he announced that it was one thing she could do well.’103

The eight older students in their public letter in the Sexual Abuse section wrote:

‘You have had for decades, and continue to have, sexual relationships with a number of your student attendants, some who are married. You have told us to lie on your behalf, to hide your sexual relationships from your other girlfriends. Publicly you claim that your relationships are ordinary, consensual, and proper because you are not a monk. You deny any wrongdoing and have even claimed on occasion that you were seduced. You and others in your organization claim this is how a Buddhist master of “crazy wisdom” behaves, just like the tantric adepts of the past. We do not believe this to be so and see such claims as attempts to explain away egregious behaviors.

‘3. Your lavish, gluttonous, and sybaritic lifestyle.

‘Your lavish lifestyle is kept hidden from your thousands of students. It is one thing for you to accept an offering of the best of everything (that we may have) as an acknowledgment of our gratitude for spiritual teachings. It is quite another to demand it from us. Much of the money that is used to fund your luxurious appetites comes from the donations of your students who believe their offering is being used to further wisdom and compassion in the world….

‘As attendants, drivers, and organizers for you, most of our time and energy is taken up providing a steady supply of sensual pleasures. You demand all kinds of food be prepared for you at all hours of the night and day by your personal chefs and attendants (who Rigpa pays for) who travel the world with you.’ They go on to describe personal masseuses, drivers, … ‘on call 24 hours a day and outings for you and your companions to theaters, expensive restaurants, venues to shop and secretive places where you can smoke your expensive cigars.’104

This section of the open letter closes with,

‘With impatience, you have made demands for this entertainment and decadent sensory indulgences. When these are not made available at the snap of a finger, or exactly as you wished, we were insulted, humiliated, made to feel worthless, stupid and incompetent, and often hit or slapped. Your behavior did not cultivate our mindfulness or awareness, but rather it made us terrified of making a mistake. You tell your students that you spend most of your time engaging in Buddhist study and practice, but those of us who have attended you in private for years know this is not the reality.

‘4. Your actions have tainted our appreciation for the practice of the Dharma.

‘Please understand the harm that you have inflicted on us has also tainted our appreciation for and practice of the Dharma. In our decades of study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism with you, we trained our minds to view you as the ‘all embodied jewel’ and the ‘source of all the teachings and blessings’ of the Buddha Dharma. We trusted you completely. Yet, we struggled for years because your actions did not square with the teachings. Today, for many of us who have left you, the Lerab Ling community, and Rigpa the organization, our ground of confidence in the Buddha Dharma has been compromised (…)

‘In closing we want to acknowledge that most of the public critique of you that is found on the Internet is factual. Some of us, who have held positions of responsibility within Rigpa, struggle with our own part in having covered for you and “explained” away your behavior, while not caring for those with traumatic experiences. Our past motivation to see all the actions of our tantric teacher as pure obscured us from seeing the very real harm that you are inflicting… Our deepest wish is to see Buddhism flourish in the West. We no longer want to indulge in the stupidity of seeing the Guru as perfect at any cost. The path does not require us to sacrifice our wisdom to discern, our ethics and morality, or our integrity, on the altar of Guru Yoga.

‘Our heartfelt wish is that you seek guidance from the Dalai Lama, other reputable lamas of good heart, or anyone who can help to bring you back onto the true path of the Dharma.’105

But not everyone accepts the critical view of Sogyal just expressed above by eight of his old and senior students as well as the many other critical first-person accounts of other students intimately involved with Sogyal over a period of many decades.

Did Sogyal Rinpoche Do ‘Wrong’?

According to his Wikipedia entry, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche (b. June 18, 1961), also known as Khyentse Norbu, is a Tibetan/Bhutanese lama, is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, and founder and supporter of a number of charities. In this paper we will refer to him as Dzongsar. Until the age of twelve Dzongsar studied at the Palace Monastery of the King of Sikkim. Reflecting the unusual non-sectarian tradition of the Khyentse lineage, he counts as his root-masters teachers from all four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism (Sakya, Gelug, Nyingma, and Kagyu). He has studied with several influential contemporary masters, particularly Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche who he considers as his root guru. After leaving Sikkim he studied at Sakya College in Rajpur, India and later attended SOAS University of London.

From a young age he has been active in the preservation of the Buddhist teaching, establishing centers of learning, supporting practitioners, publishing books and teaching around the world. Dzongsar supervises his traditional seat of Dzongsar Monastery and its retreat centers in eastern Tibet, as well as his new colleges in India and Bhutan. He has also established centers in Australia, North America and the Far East.106

Dzongsar issued a ten thousand word essay, a strongly worded, heartfelt statement via Facebook, titled ‘Guru and Student in the Vajrayana,’ in which he addresses recent public criticism from students over the conduct of the Nyingma teacher Sogyal Rinpoche. In the essay, Dzongsar gives a detailed account of his perspective on the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, guru-student relationships, and the future of Buddhism in the modern age, directly broaching many deeply held concerns among Buddhist practitioners around the world.107

Guru and Student in the Vajrayana

Dzongsar is very clear to differentiate Buddhist teachers associated with the Theravada and Mahayana traditions of Buddhism from Vajrayana Buddhist teachers connected with Tibetan Buddhism. ‘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.’ He then describes some examples of the guru-disciple relationship from early history in India some one thousand four hundred years ago up to the present concluding with an idealized presentation of the previously mentioned Chögyam Trungpa.

As mentioned earlier in this paper, Trungpa was the founder of the Shambhala organization, coined the phrase, “Crazy Wisdom,” quite openly drank excessive amounts of alcohol and openly slept with his female students. Trungpa died mentally deluded, from a combination of alcoholism, cocaine and drug use. He passed his lineage on to Ösel Tendzin and after Tendzin died, Trungpa’s oldest son inherited the lineage, both of who infected the Shambhala organization with their own scandals, whose effects continue to the present (2019).

Dzongsar then asks, ‘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 “skillful means” of “wrathful compassion” in the tradition of “crazy wisdom.”

Dzongsar continued, ‘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 labeling Sogyal Rinpoche’s actions as “abusive,” or to criticize a Vajrayana master even privately, let alone publicly and in print, or to reveal that such methods exist, is a breakage of samaya.108

The essay seems more a defense or upholding the sanctity and the absolute infallibility of the Vajrayana system than even taking the barest look at or consideration of Sogyal’s well documented checkered history going back to the 1970’s. There is much literature of first-person accounts available describing Sogyal having sex with a steady stream of young almost entirely western woman with little pretense of it being for anything but his pleasure. We should keep in mind that there is a fundamental link between actions and interests, between the practices of agents and the interests which they knowingly or unknowingly pursue, that the world they create reflects their desires and fantasies.109

In Dzongsar’s view there is no room in the Vajrayana master system for institutional error or abuse or self interest. In fact, in Dzongsar’s view “Abusive Vajra master” is a contradiction in and of itself: either you are a Vajra master and can’t abuse by definition or you abuse and can’t be a Vajra master by definition. In this view a student, not being a Vajra master, is not capable of judging whether a Vajra master is a true master or not, whether a master is being abusive or giving kindly teaching, albeit in a rough manner.

Self-interest, however, has a radically disruptive function: it destroys ‘the ideology of disinterest, the professional ideology of clerics of every kind.’110 Symbolic interests such as not losing face, not losing your constituency, shutting up your opponent, triumphing over an adverse trend,… are not elements to consider in Dzongsar’s idealized vision of Vajrayana.111 Nor does the world of fantasies and desires these teachers created around themselves. Dzongsar does not mention the possible decline or change either spiritually, cognitively, or psychologically of a Vajrayana master over time. Nor does he consider the effects of excessive alcohol, cocaine, and drug use have over time as we have seen earlier with Trungpa. A basic Buddhist tenet holds that life is change, but Dzongsar’s essay does not allow for any decline in a Vajrayana master’s mental or spiritual being, that is, assuming it was at a high level to begin with rather than bestowed on someone to maintain a lineage or some other mundane reason.

Though Dzongsar points out Sogyal’s lack of traditional training he is quick to point out and criticize the eight writers for not being able to judge Sogyal’s ability and training before signing on to him. He wonders why it took so long for what he referred to as “these well-educated Westerners” to find fault with Sogyal, seemingly oblivious to the complicated nature of a Westerner entering some thing as culturally foreign as Vajrayana practice under the direction of a Vajrayana guru. Taking samaya vows which we saw earlier are inviolable and threaten horrible effects if broken, adds another layer of complication.

Mary Finnigan who much to her later regret, was influential in setting Sogyal up in London back in the 1970’s, mentions two aspects of Buddhist organizations that can have both merit yet can be used as manipulative tools. One is the injunction against gossip which can help keep the mind calm but also can be used to stifle and keep secret critical comment. Secondly is samaya, the bond of loyalty that is one of the key aspects of Vajrayana Buddhism.112

It supports the relationship between teacher and neophyte, but it can be deployed unscrupulously as a threat—break your samaya and attract dire consequences to yourself and your loved ones. We saw earlier in this paper how Kalu Rinpoche had warned his consorts about the dire consequences of breaking their samaya by disclosing his secret sex life. Kalu also warned Ösel Tendzin’s students about breaking their samaya. We also saw how no lama or long term lay student closely connected with Lama Norlha exposed his three-decade hidden sex life. Now we see Dzongsar threatening Sogyal’s disciples with dire consequences. Samaya no doubt was a strong factor in keeping Sogyal’s students from questioning any aspects of the guru’s behavior.

But this is a complicated topic too big to cover fully here. I will mention just a few aspects of the practice without going into detail, that would keep “well educated Westerners from finding fault,” to use Dzongsar’s terminology, with their guru.

• The physical setting: The main altar of Sogyal’s temple has a 23-foot high golden Buddha in a highly ornamented surrounding. This golden Buddha looking down upon the students generates emotional feelings and a sense of being part of a respected ancient wisdom tradition now transported to the West.
• The extreme elaboration of rituals: an emphasis on performing rituals generates an emotional response that deepens a person’s sense of historical continuity and connection with community and the sacred—the individual emerges feeling purified with a sense of awe and significance.113An emphasis on rituals also can strengthen a person’s sense of identity. Emotions however can be used and abused by those in power.
• The language: ornate prose so common in Tibetan Buddhism in the names of teachers, monasteries, and Dharma centers leads to hierarchy and strong power differentials. Perhaps the most common honorific Rinpoche means “Precious One.” Lerab Ling, Sogyal’s main Center in Southern France, means “Sanctuary of Enlightened Action.” Then Tibetan teachers have names like “Earth Lord,” “Radiant Holder of the Teachings,” “Victorious in All Directions”, and so on as well as many empowerments (wang in Tibetan(Wyl., dbang), abhisheka in Sanskrit) that also add spiritual gravitas and more emotional power and attachment the student has to the lama/guru.114
• The idea of the guru’s infallibility: the power of institutions to define legitimate language, to pass judgment, and most powerfully of all, to define reality. At the same time, an unenlightened student according to “Crazy Wisdom” teaching, cannot judge a Vajra master.115
• Training to be dependent on one person: practicing guru yoga under Sogyal, his students were instructed to train their minds to view him as the “all embodied jewel” and the “source of all the teachings and blessings of the Buddha Dharma”—it is not so easy to admit to fault with the guru, to say you have been wrong, or to having wasted much time after many years of this practice.
• Legitimation of abusive teachers by other teachers: Lerab Ling during the summer months hosted teachings and empowerments by a roster of renowned Tibetan Buddhist teachers. The presence of famous and respected lamas teaching at the center and interacting with Sogyal, naturally led people to believe that Sogyal was looked at as being on their level or more, as a peer of these high lamas. The Dalai Lama was the central figure in the two-day inauguration ceremony of Sogyal’s monastery Lerab Ling in 2008.
• Fear of spiritualized sanctioning: all of the above takes place in the context of guru yoga along with samaya vows which generates in the student strong emotional attachment and perhaps most importantly, surrender to the guru.

It is no wonder that the attachments to Sogyal and to teachers or gurus are so strong in much of Tibetan Buddhism and why there is so much hesitancy for critical discussion and openness and why it is so hard to leave once one pledges samaya vows and becomes a disciple of a Tibetan Buddhist guru.

Dzongsar writes, ‘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.’116
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

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Part 3 of 3

One of Dzongsar’s problems here is that he and Sogyal are “Vajra brothers,” having received the same initiations from some of the same lamas. In that case, directly criticizing Sogyal would constitute a breach of samaya with both Sogyal and their mutual preceptor(s). This is one reason why Tibetan lamas have trouble critiquing other lamas: they tend to be Vajra brothers having received initiations (the Kalachakra for instance) from the Dalai Lama.117

This puts the Dalai Lama’s remark that “we Tibetans” like to let lamas “make their own mistakes” in a different light.118 However, in this scenario, there is little concern for the unknowing Westerners the lamas make their mistakes with.

The message we received from Kalu, from Dilgo Khyentse, and now Dzongsar is clear. It is that once accepted by the student, the Vajra Master is to be followed totally on faith with unquestioned devotion, no matter their actions in the world. Any critical thought regarding the master will bring a horrible future in Vajra hells. We should be thankful that Dzongsar states so clearly the Vajrayana view for us!

Everything That Can be Faced Can Be Changed
But Nothing Can Be Changed Until It is Faced119

In September of 2018 the Dalai Lama was on tour in Europe during which he was to spend four days in Holland. The Tibetan spiritual leader had agreed to meet four victims of alleged sexual abuse in the Netherlands. The meeting was facilitated by the Dutch researcher Rob Hogendoorn. This was not the Dalai Lama’s original plan but there was great pressure put on him to hear the abused’s stories as an on-line petition was signed by over 1,000 people. The group had requested the meeting to discuss abuse reportedly carried out by former or current Buddhist teachers in several countries. The three women and one man who attended the scheduled 20-minute meeting were going to deliver twelve written first-person accounts of sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers. The first-person accounts had on its cover page, #MeTooGuru: Abuse survivors’ testimonies, for the Dalai Lama’s eyes only.120

‘We found refuge in Buddhism with an open mind and heart, until we were violated in its name,’ they wrote.121

One of those present, a Dutch woman, Oane Bijlsma, told Efe [Spanish] news agency that it was ‘a very complicated meeting.’122 She said that at the beginning the Dalai Lama ‘didn’t want to hear’ about their cases, but added that after ten minutes of conversation he became ‘more receptive.’ “By the end, Ms Bijlsma said, he was closer to what we were presenting, he stopped trying to convince us that it wasn’t his fault and started to listen to what we were saying.123

The Dalai Lama stated, ‘I already did know these things, nothing new,’ he said in response on Dutch public television NOS late Saturday. ‘Twenty-five years ago… someone mentioned about a problem of sexual allegations’ at a conference for western Buddhist teachers in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, he added.124

This short meeting in Holland with the Dalai Lama has a few elements that call for closer examining. The conference with Western Buddhist teachers he refers to took place at a time when leading Tibetan Buddhist lamas, the leaders and spokespeople for some of the most active and respected groups in the West were dealing with scandals involving sexual abuse, alcoholism, drug use, and financial misdoings lasting over a period of at least two decades. Aside from the lamas, at least in some groups, in particular Shambhala, senior lay members were also abusing their positions. At that time too, there were widely known scandals around sex and alcoholism occurring in Zen Buddhist groups in the West. Almost every major Zen group in the West had faced scandal.

I think it calls for some questioning why the Dalai Lama, not only the most public but also the moral authority of Tibetan Buddhism can only find twenty minutes to fit into a four-day visit in Holland to hear about major problems of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. But more so, it seems to be poor judgement that he spent ten of his twenty minutes of allocated time to defending himself as “not being his fault” for the sexual, psychological, and financial abuse of western students by respected Tibetan and other teachers.

What is even more disturbing, his acknowledgement that, ‘Twenty-five years ago… someone mentioned about a problem of sexual allegations at a conference for western Buddhist teachers in Dharamshala.’ Presenting abuse by Buddhist teachers in this fashion trivializes the problem. But this topic of Buddhist teachers in the West drinking excessively and having sexual relations with their students which was breaking many sanghas(group of practitioners) apart at the time was raised at a meeting in Dharamshala, India between the Dalai Lama and twenty-two western Buddhist teachers from March 16-19, 1993.125 It was a major point of concern that was raised. Besides Tibetan Buddhist groups, the Zen sect at the time was suffering the most from the scandals caused by exposing the behavior of a number of prominent Zen masters. It was one of the earlier issues directly brought up at the Dharamashala meeting.

The Dalai Lama said at that meeting in 1993 that the situation must improve. Then suggested that people speak with the offending teachers and try to get them to improve their behavior. If after a time they did not change, and if there was irrefutable evidence, the Dalai Lama suggested outing them using their name so all would know who they were and they would be shamed.

The Dalai Lama suggested a joint statement be issued between himself and the Western Buddhist teachers addressing the issue of teacher sexual abuse. He was concerned about this issue and made many suggestions for the wording of the statement. Stephen Batchelor was selected as scribe. It took weeks for the Dalai Lama’s private office to ratify the document. When the document was finally returned to the Westerners for publication, it was unchanged except for one thing: the sentence in which the Dalai Lama personally endorsed the text had been deleted. Without his endorsement the text lost much of its authority. It looked like twenty-two self appointed Westerners chose to speak for the Buddhist community. Batchelor felt “used” by the Dalai Lama because he had communicated his concern and offered a solution, but by not endorsing the text, he did not have any responsibility for what it said.126

At the 1993 meeting, the trouble explicitly mentioned was about the Zen sect and their teachers, so called Zen masters, so perhaps it was “safe” for the Dalai Lama to suggest outing wayward teachers if they refused to improve their behavior.127

However, back in 1989 John Steinbeck IV and his wife Nancy met the Dalai Lama at the lavish grounds of the Heinz ketchup heirs’ estate in Newport, California and asked him, ‘You know about the situation within Trungpa Rinpoche’s community. Our teacher died of alcoholism after abusing his power with female students. His Regent transmitted AIDS in a similar abuse of power to a young male student. Many of us have experienced extreme heartbreak and a weakening of faith and devotion. Can you address this problem so that other students may avoid these pitfalls?’128

The Dalai Lama’s reply became a blueprint for the way he and the Tibetan government in exile handled trouble with Tibetan lamas for the next twenty five years. The Dalai Lama replied: ‘I would say that if you are going to follow a teacher, you must examine his behavior very carefully…The student has to take the responsibility of examining the behavior of the teacher very carefully, over a long period. You cannot be hasty about these things.’129

While it is true that a student has a responsibility for her or his decision to become a disciple, so does the teacher, the vajra master, supposedly with superior wisdom, have a responsibility not to take students too hastily and certainly, once taking them not to abuse them for their own satisfaction. But perhaps more importantly, what about the highly respected lamas who were leaders of their given sect, who sanctified the teacher, thereby elevating their standing in the religious hierarchy, do they not have a responsibility to the students who at least partially are studying with the abusive teacher because of their blessings—their giving a sort of Federal Drug Administration guarantee of purity and authority? It seems unfitting to blame only the student for a lack of wisdom.

Steinbeck wrote, ‘”No amount of Tibetan lawyer talk (…) is going to cover up the stench of underlying corruption. He [the Dalai Lama] can blame the student all he likes, but isn’t that the same as blaming the victim in any abusive situation?” “How is their cover-up any different from the decades of secrecy in the Catholic Church regarding their priests’ sexual abuse of choirboys?”130


‘Will it be a matter of time before they follow suit with the Catholics in offering apologies?’131

Why, we may ask, would the Dalai Lama feel so defensive? One reason may be, that as the public face of Tibetan Buddhism, the sheer scale and scope of the recent scandals exposing forty years of dishonesty and abuse without a word of disapproval coming from him could be seen as a cover-up from on high, as is seen with the Pope in the Catholic Church scandals. Another simple reason is that after giving the advice to western students and teachers back in 1993 to out offending teachers if they would not improve their behavior, he has never mentioned one teacher himself though he was well aware of much of what was going with Tibetan teachers.

In addition, in 1992 the Dalai Lama received a ten-page letter about Sogyal’s abuses, the very year he wrote the foreword for The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. When the Janice Doe case against Sogyal was settled out of court in Los Angeles in 1994, the Dalai Lama’s secretary said that Tibetan Buddhist leaders had been aware of these allegations for years.132 But even if for cultural and perhaps political reasons he would not mention particular people, to name names, he surely could have avoided their centers, not doing photo ops with them knowing full well that these teachers were using the photo ops as his endorsement.133

The most striking example of this was the Dalai Lama flying into southern France on a private plane for a major two day affair to inaugurate the opening of Sogyal’s temple complex, Lerab Ling in 2008.134 Besides many other dignitaries in attendance, but often close to the Dalai Lama was Carla Bruni Sarkozy, the stylish wife of the president of France. Sogyal later informed his spokespeople to reply to criticisms of his behavior with the statement, ‘the Dalai Lama endorses me.’135

Sogyal well understood that would be the end of the story!

Yet still another question raised is if for twenty-five years the Dalai Lama knew this problem, why was nothing done about it.136

Why were offending lamas allowed to take prominent and visible places at the Dalai Lama’s talks and presentations?137

Why did the Dalai Lama attend Sogyal’s temple inauguration being the center of attraction for two days of meeting dignitaries, giving talks and performing rituals while Sogyal with obvious glee danced around him? Anyone attending the inauguration or watching it on YouTube would naturally think the Dalai Lama was fully endorsing Sogyal. On the other hand, not attending the inauguration of the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the West, would have certainly been understood as a show of disapproval. The words of the Dalai Lama have tremendous power. In August, 2017, at the peak of the Sogyal scandal, after the public letter signed by eight senior students, after Sogyal’s behavior spread across the internet and into print media, the Dalai Lama finally spoke publicly. He said, ‘My friend Sogyal has shamed himself.’138 A few days later, on August 11, 2017 Sogyal announced his retirement and supposedly went into retreat.

This simple remark was viewed as an overwhelming condemnation of Sogyal. This after forty years of silence and tacit endorsements. It would not have taken very much on the Dalai Lama’s part, or other high lamas to reign in abusive lamas but at the least, to warn unsuspecting students. No wonder the Dalai Lama was defensive!

One wonders as the Steinbeck’s insinuated back in 1989 when they were talking with the Dalai Lama at the Heinz ketchup estate in Newport, California, how much confusion and pain could have been avoided if the various lineage heads, including the Dalai Lama were more open about abusing lamas, insisted on consequences for errant behavior, and outed unrepentant lamas as was suggested back in 1993 for wayward Zen masters.

One also wonders, as all the Tibetan Buddhist teachers involved in the above-mentioned scandals were respected and orthodox teachers endorsed by other highly respected senior lamas and the main lineage holders of their respected traditions, what are these endorsements based on?

What does it mean if the highest lamas’ endorsements were wrong or very questionable at best? What does this say about the understanding and wisdom of these many times reincarnated lamas? Their calls for secrecy and honoring titles in the face of scandal seem more about institutional self protection than any thing else? The high lamas appear hesitant to allow for the possibility of even the smallest crack in their self-created wall of infallibility. Yet we all know nothing in human endeavors is really like that.

Like Zen Buddhism that imputed unquestioning authority and enlightenment to its masters/roshis which led to scandal after scandal for the past 50 years or so, Tibetan lamas and Rinpoches are surrounded by an imputed aura of moral perfection and enlightenment, making the case of an abusive lama, at least until recently, almost inconceivable and rarely taken seriously. Even more than is in Zen, the prevalent view is that everything the Vajrayana teacher does or says is compassionate and enlightened activity.139

Any resistance or questioning of the teacher’s authority or pronouncements are considered arrogant, defending or expressing one’s too large ego. Being accused of arrogance or of defending your ego can apply to anyone, that is, anyone except the master. In fact, not seeing the master in this self imputed perfected way is looked at as a sign of being a slow student- not getting it! This also acts as a damper on any student raising a question about the master’s behavior.

It is widely recognized that sexual abuse is to a large extent about power. That seems to be the case with the teachers discussed in this paper. Trungpa often had sex with the wives and girlfriends of students, and at the snap of a finger could have disciples forcibly stripped naked whether they agreed to it or not. A close disciple of Sogyal stated that Sogyal slept with the wives of some of his students, that is, aside from seducing other women, married or single who came to him for spiritual counseling. This is on top of the physical abuse and humiliation he dealt to his dakinis. The Sakyong we saw also seduced many young women, some involved with other men and ghosted them when he was finished with them. The Vajra Regent liked straight men who had no previous homosexual experience, in one case it was a young man less then half his age who he infected with HIV. The teenage Kalu tulku while in the monastery, was raped for roughly two years by a group of older monks, and when he returned from a three-year retreat he recognized the next young boys attacked by them. When he wanted to change tutors, the rejected tutor attempted to kill him, while dismissing him as being easily replaceable.

From these cases it is clear that imputing spiritual attainment to people, be they lamas, or Rinpoches or tulku or whatever title they carry, who almost certainly have not reached the perfected levels imputed to them, leads to much confusion, pain and suffering. This is true at the least for the students, and given some time, public scandal will tarnish the name of Buddhism. The same goes for assuming that large Tibetan Buddhist institutions and monasteries are inherently pure. It appears to be true with Buddhism just as it does with other religions, that keeping secret and covering over abuse only makes matters worse and more widespread.

Things are clearly changing. There is no more room under the rug. Tibetan Buddhism is no better at policing itself than any other institution. The power of the internet keeps powerful institutions from controlling public dialogue. The voice of students who no longer are afraid to speak out publicly has shone light on the secrecy that many Buddhist teachers have been hiding behind. Of course, the “#MeToo” movement is an empowering and driving force, knocking open the doors of secrecy. Now that the dark underbelly of Tibetan Buddhism is being exposed and hopefully faced, it can be changed for the better.



1. Hannah Arendt, in the film Hitler’s Hollywood.
2. See a number of my papers at The Zen Site. Also, see Lachs, Stuart (2017). Modernizing American Zen Through Scandal: Is the Way Really the Way? in Havnevik, Hannaet al. (editors), Buddhist Modernities: Re-inventing Tradition in the Globalizing Modern World (pp. 282-295). New York: Routledge.
3. Modern scholarship has shown that the Zen propagated idea of an unbroken chain of enlightened masters going back to the Buddha is a myth. See, McCrae, John (2003).Seeing Through Zen: Encounter, Transformation, and Genealogy in Chinese Chan Buddhism (pp. 1-21). Berkeley: University of California Press. Many other scholars have written on this, Alan Cole, Griffith Foulk, Bernard Faure, Martin Schlutter, Robert Sharf, Albert Welter, et cetera.
4. In Tibetan Buddhism, the lineage is based on (re)incarnations or emanations of earlier great masters, who are verified by highly regarded Tibetan teachers.
5. Throughout this text, Tibetan words are italicized and transcribed according to Turrel Wylie’s (Wyl.) system published in 1959, but only on their first appearance. Wylie, Turrel (1959). A standard system of Tibetan transcription. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 22 (pp. 261-267).
6. Estimates for the number of tulkus and tulku lineages vary greatly. ‘From the twelfth century onwards, all four of the major sects of Tibetan Buddhism followed the example of the Karmapa sect and recognized the institution of reincarnations, which led to the emergence of numerous incarnations in almost all monasteries. At the peak of this development, at the turn of the twentieth century, there were believed to be well over ten thousand such reincarnations in Tibet.’ Michael, Franz (1982). Rule By Incarnation: Tibetan Buddhism and Its Role in Society and State (p. 43). Boulder: Westview Press. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism states: ‘There were some three thousand lines of incarnation in Tibet.’ Buswell Jr., Robert & Lopez Jr., Donald (2014) Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (p. 847). Princeton: Princeton University Press. The vast majority are men, though there are a small number of female tulku lineages. Also see, Author unknown (2004). Tulku., March 8, 2004 (last accessed January 9, 2019). High profile examples of tulkus are the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama, and the Karmapa.
7. Ibid.
8. Lama Kunsang, Lama Pemo & Aubèle, Marie (2012). History of the Karmapas: Recognizing a Tulku. Snow Lion Catalog and Newsletter, 26 (1), number 97, Winter 2012 (p. 1, 11, 22, 23).
9. Samdup, Tsenten (1989). Tulku Conference in Sarnath December 5-8, 1988. Snow Lion Catalog and Newsletter, 4 (1), number 7, Spring 1989 (p. 2).
10. If the highest estimate of 10,000 tulkus were really living in Tibet before the Chinese occupation in 1950, at an estimated population of three million, then one in every three hundred Tibetans was a tulku. If the conservative estimate of 3,000 tulkus is more accurate, then one in every thousand Tibetans was a tulku.
11. See, Kapstein, Matthew (2014). Tibetan Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction(p. 89). Oxford: Oxford University Press: ‘In tantric Buddhism, the most crucial relationship is that between guru, or lama, and disciple. The disciple pledges body, speech, and mind to the teacher who bestows consecration upon him, and ones’s oath to the teacher is inviolable.’ This oath is referred to as samayavow, which we shall see plays an extremely important role in Vajrayana Buddhism and in the scandals discussed in this paper.
12. The line is the opening to the film The Big Short, falsely attributed to Mark Twain.
13. Sogyal Rinpoche (2008). The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (Revised and updated edition). London: Rider.
14. The first Tibetan Monastery in the West was founded in 1958 by Geshe Wangyal in New Jersey in the USA, who immigrated to serve the Kalmuck Mongolian community. In 1967 he bought land and built a new monastery in Washington, New Jersey. Jeffrey Hopkins and Robert Thurman, well known Tibetan Buddhist scholars, studied with Geshe Wangyal.
15. Perry, Andrew (2011). Bringing Chogyam Trungpa’s “Crazy Wisdom” to the screen—A conversation with filmmaker Johanna Demetrakas. Lion’s Roar, November 23, 2011 (last accessed February 3, 2019).
16. John Steinbeck IV & Nancy Steinbeck (2001).The Other Side of Eden.Amherst: Prometheus Books.
17. Stephen Butterfield (1994) The Double Mirror: A Skeptical Journey into Buddhist Tantra (p. 11). Berkeley: North Atlantic Books. Also see, Matthew Kapstein (2014). Tibetan Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (p. 86). Oxford: Oxford University Press: ‘Tantric practice must be grounded in unswerving devotion to a qualified teacher, without this, only its outer form survives.’
18. Kashner, Sam (2004). When I Was Cool: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School(p. 49). New York: Harper Collins: ‘Consulting I Ching Smoking Pot Listening to the Fugs Sing Blake.’
19. Much has been written about this. See, Clark, Tom (1979). The Great Naropa Poetry Wars (designed and printed by Graham Mackintosh), November 1979. Also see, Marin, Peter (1979). Spiritual Obedience: The transcendental game of follow the leader. Harper’s Magazine, February 1979 (last accessed July 8, 2019), for an overview of Trungpa and his followers. For a description of the “Merwin Affair,” see pp. 51-53. For another condensed version of the “Affair,” some reactions by Ginsberg, and the atmosphere around Trungpa, see Woods, Robert (pseudonym of Tom Clark), ‘“Buddha-gate”: Scandal and cover-up at Naropa revealed,’ Berkeley Barb. 28 (13), number 698, March 29 – April 11, 1979 (pp. 17-18, 21).
20. Steinbeck, p. 29
21. Steinbeck, p. 39
22. One could argue that Trungpa practiced what he preached here leaving his son Ösel Mukpo, the future Sakyong Mipham with his mother in a Tibeten refugee camp in India while he went to England and then a little later leaving him again to go to America after Ösel Mukpo was in England.
23. Steinbeck, p. 39
24. Steinbeck, p. 40.
25. Steinbeck, p. 40. Trungpa was not alone in this behavior, the author of this paper is familiar with a number of Zen teachers who also assumed the all-wise role.
26. Steinbeck, p. 40.
27. According to Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the Sanskrit word vidyadhara (in Tibetan rigdzin, Wyl., rig ‘dzin) indicates someone who constantly abides in the state of pure awareness of rigpa-knowledge that comes from recognizing one’s nature. See also, Vidyadhara, Rigpa Wiki (last accessed July 8, 2019).
28. See, Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Katy Butler’s (1990) article ‘Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America’ appeared in Common Boundary Magazine, May-June 1990 (pp. 14-22). It dealt mostly with teacher abuse and its effects in the Shambhala community but also mentioned similar troubles with Zen groups and teachers.
29. Steinbeck, p. 211. For a first person report of Trungpa’s cocaine use and child rape by one of his seven young wives trained to serve him see, Dharma Wheel (last accessed January 20, 2019). It also has come out recently that there was child sexual abuse at a number of Shambhala centers. See, Buddhist Project Sunshine (last accessed July 8, 2019).
30. Steinbeck, p. 211.
31. Steinbeck, p. 211.
32. Steinbeck, p. 211.
33. Steinbeck, p. 212-213.
34. Steinbeck, p. 32.
35. Steinbeck, p. 210.
36. Katy Butler (1990), Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America. Common Boundary Magazine, May-June 1990 (pp. 14-22).
37. Remski, Matthew (2018). Pema Chödrön on Trungpa in 2011: “I Can’t Answer the Relative Questions”. July 20, 2018 (last accessed October 26, 2018.
38. Steinbeck, p. 211.
39. Steinbeck, p. 32.
40. See, Way Back Machine (last accessed July 6, 2019). Thompson, Jesse (2000). The Dharma Brats: Growing up Buddhist in America. Nexus, May-June 2000.
41. The Vajra Regent Ösel Tendzin Library and Archive (last accessed October 28, 2018).
42. See, Rigpa Wiki (last accessed July 8, 2019): Abhisheka—wang (Wyl., dbang) in Tibetan— ‘refers to the Vajrayana ritual which awakens the special capacity for primordial wisdom (Tib. yeshe) to arise in the mind of the disciple. It is called ’empowerment’ because when we receive it, we are empowered to follow a particular spiritual practice, and so come to master its realization.’
43. Trungpa seemed drawn to upper crust British ways. He had his students who served as maids and servants address him as “Your Highness” while they dressed in British style maids’ outfits. See, Kapstein, Matthew (2014). Tibetan Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (p. 89). Oxford: Oxford University Press: ‘In Tibetan societies, the deference of social inferior to superior, junior to senior, mundane to sacred, spiritually immature to spiritually advanced, and so forth is very strongly marked.’ In spite of his “Crazy Wisdom,” Trungpa was bringing Tibetan social mores of deference to superiors to the United States of America.
44. Butler, Katy (1990). Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America. Common Boundary Magazine, May-June 1990 (pp. 14-22).
45. Steinbeck, p. 246.
46. Steinbeck, p. 246.
47. Butler, Katy (1990). Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America. Common Boundary Magazine, May-June 1990 (pp. 14-22).
48. Zaslowsky, Dylan (1989). Buddhists in U.S. Agonize on AIDS Issue. New York Times, February 21, 1989 (p. A14).
49. Zaslowsky, Dylan (1989). Buddhists in U.S. Agonize on AIDS Issue. New York Times, February 21, 1989 (p. A14).
50. Breaking of samaya vows can lead to all sorts of trouble, madness, and even death—some believe not only for yourself but also for family members. Samaya can support the teacher-student relationship but it can also be used unscrupulously as a threat to keep people quiet and in line.
51. For an abridged version of Kalu Rinpoche’s talk see, Facebook Dzogchen Meditation Center, December 20, 2017 (last accessed July 6, 2019). The full talk given in Los Angeles on December 22, 1988 was posted on the Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa but was recently (March, 2019) removed. Kalu added, ‘Regarding Ösel Tendzin and his attainments, students are often unable to see the full enlightenment or the miraculous powers of their teachers.’
52. This remark is part of the full talk that has been removed from the Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa website.
53. See, Mendelsohn, Deborah (1989). Correspondence. The Sun, July 1989, published on line at The Sun Magazine (last accessed April 12, 2019).
54. Campbell, June (1996). Traveler in Space: In Search of Female Identity in Tibetan Buddhism (p. 98). London: Athlone. This source will be quoted as Traveller in Space.
55. Traveller in Space, p. 102
56. Traveller in Space, p. 104
57. Traveller in Space, p. 98
58. Hooper, Joseph (2012). Leaving Om: Buddhism’s Lost Lamas. Details Magazine, August 1, 2012, archived by the Way Back Machine (last accessed April 12, 2019). Senge was abused, he says, as a 5-year-old by his own tutor, a man in his late twenties, at a monastery in India.
59. Ibid. The young Kalu also made a ten minute video discussing his life as a tulku, titled ‘The Confessions of Kalu Rinpoche’ (last accessed 26 December 2018). In the video he remarks, ‘Its all about money, power, controlling…’ the video has received over 200,000 hits.
60. Butler, Katy (1990). Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America. Common Boundary Magazine, May-June 1990 (pp. 14-22).
61. Steinbeck, p. 253.
62. Steinbeck, p. 254. Also see, Finnigan, Mary (2011). The Buddhist organizations that are thriving during the debt crisis. The Guardian, February 18, 2011 (last accessed November 21, 2018). For example, the seventeenth Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje visited the North America for the first time in 2008. About 2,000 people gathered at a monastery in Woodstock, New York to catch a glimpse of him. They paid $200 each—a total of $400,000. In October of 2011, 1,500 people flew to Tenerife for a three day teaching of Namkhai Norbu, a master in the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The cost was 150 Euros excluding, flights, accommodation and subsistence—225,000 Euro total for the three days.
63. This is a common trope in Tibetan Buddhism, where “retreat” can mean anything from intense solitary practice to hide from view.
64. ‘Letter to the Sangha from His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’, October 17, 1989, available on line at The Chronicles of ChogyamTrungpa Rinpoche(last accessed July 6, 2019).
65. Statement to the Sangha from His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. August 26, 1990, available on line at The Chronicles of ChogyamTrungpa Rinpoche (last accessed July 6, 2019).
66. Penor Rinpoche recognized the action film star Steven Seagal as a tulku of a 17th-century Buddhist master named Chungdrag Dorje. See, Sweet, Matthew (1999). Steven Seagal: Top Action Hero and Tibetan Lama’.Independent magazine, November 14, 1999 (last acccessed July 8, 2019).
67. Author unknown (no date). Sakyong Wangmo: Invoking the Mother (last accessed April 11, 2019)
68. Lama Tsultrim Allione is an American woman born in Maine in 1947. She is a well-known author and teacher of the Karma Kagyü lineage. In January 1970, at the age of 22, she became the first American ordained by the 16th Karmapa. See, Author unknown (date unknown). Lama Tsultrim Allione’s Biography. Tara Mandala (last accessed July 8, 2019).
69. Andrea Winn is founder of Buddhist Project Sunshine which broke open discussions of sexual abuse in the Shambhala organization. She wrote, ‘I was first sexually abused when I was around seven, and again by multiple men during my teen years.’ Whitaker, Justin (2018). Healing a Heart and a Community: Andrea Winn and Project Sunshine., March 28, 2018 (last accessed 8 July 2019). She later added that that the shocking truth is almost all the children in her group were abused by older men in the group. See, Winn, Andrea (2018). Project Sunshine: Final Report., February 15, 2018 (p. 7) (last accessed July 8, 2019).
70. Winn, Andrea (2018). Project Sunshine: Final Report., February 15, 2018 (p. 7) (last accessed July 8, 2019).
71. Winn, Andrea (2018). Critical information that the Shambhala community needs to know., March 24, 2018 (last accessed July 8, 2019).
72. Winn, Andrea (2018). Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 2: Final Report., June 28, 2018 (p. 18) (last accessed 8 July 2019).
73. Ibid. p. 17.
74. Ibid., p. 17.
75. Ibid., p. 13.
76. The full text of this letter can be found at Author unknown (2018). Shambhala leader makes public apology. Lion’s Roar, June 25, 2018 (last accessed July 8, 2019).
77. Newman, Andy (2018). The “King” of Shambhala Buddhism is Undone By Abuse Report. New York Times, July 11, 2018 (last accessed July 8, 2019).
78. Whitaker, Justin (2018). Further abuse accusations against Sakyong Mipham, head of Shambhala Buddhism. Patheos: American Buddhist Perspectives, February 17, 2019 (last accessed July 8, 2019). The article gives a good condensed version of the 35-page letter and places it in the context of scandals in Tibetan Buddhism. It also has a link to the letter of the Kusung (last accessed July 8, 2019).
79. Morman, Craig et al. (2018) An Open Letter to the Shambhala Community from Long-Serving Kusung, p. 27.
80. Ibid. p. 27.
81. Information taken from the Kagyü Thubten Chöling website (last accessed October 10, 2018.
82. Atwood, Haleigh (2018). Lama Norlha Rinpoche, founding abbot of Kagyu Thubten Chöling dies at age 79. Lion’s Roar, February 22, 2018 (last accessed 8 July 2019).
83. Deveaux, Tynette (2017) Kagyu Thubten Choling addresses sangha about Lama Norlha Rinpoche’s sexual misconduct with students. Lion’s Roar, July 15, 2017 (last accessed 10 October 2018).
84. Ibid.
85. See, Kagyü Thubten Chöling website (last accessed April 17, 2019.
86. See, Brown, Mick, Sexual Assaults and violent rages…Inside the world of Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche. The Telegraph, 21 September, 2017 (last accessed October 15, 2018).
87. Ibid.
88. Finnigan, Mary & Hogendoorn, Rob (2019). Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche (p. 66). Portland: Jorvik Press.
89. The term Rigpa can be talked about in many ways—knowledge is a simple translation. See, Author unknown (2004). Rigpa. Rigpa Wiki, February 16, 2007 (last accessed July 8, 2019). See also, Whitaker, Justin (2017). Further Tibetan Buddhist thoughts on Sogyal/Rigpa. Patheos: American Buddhist Perspectives, September 7, 2017 (last accessed October 27, 2018). This article is unique in that Tibetan leaders of a branch of the Nyingma sect are openly and directly critical of Sogyal.
90. See, Author unknown (2006) Lerab Ling. Rigpa Wiki, December 20, 2006 (last accessed July 8, 2019).
91. Hogendoorn, Rob (2018). The Making of a Lama: Interrogating Sogyal Rinpoché’s Pose as a (Re)incarnate Master, a paper presented to the panel From Rape Texts to Bro Buddhism: Critical Canonical and Contemporary Perspectives on the Sexual Abuse Scandals in Western Buddhism, during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Denver, November 17-20, 2018.
92. Whitaker, Justin (2017). Further Tibetan Buddhist thoughts on Sogyal/Rigpa. Patheos: American Buddhist Perspectives. September 7, 2017 (last accessed February 17, 2019): ‘However, Sogyal Lakar is not universally accepted as an incarnation of gTértön Sogyal. Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche and Künzang Dorje Rinpoche both held it to be impossible. They quoted many other Lamas including Düd’jom Rinpoche, Chatral Rinpoche, and the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa as holding this view.’
93. Finnigan, Mary & Hogendoorn, Rob (2019). Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche (pp. 23-30). Portland: Jorvik Press.
94. Emery, Elodie (2011). “Pas si zen, ces bouddhistes…”. Marianne, 15-21 October 2011, 756 (pp. 72-77). There are five Tertön Sogyal Foundations, one in France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. See, (last accessed January 12, 2019). The Rigpa Fellowship in England is under investigation by the British Charity Commission (last accessed July 8, 2019).
95. Finnigan, Mary (2011). The Buddhist organisations that are thriving during the debt crisis. The Guardian, November 18, 2011 (last accessed October 18, 2018).
96. Finnigan, Mary & Hogendoorn, Rob (2019). Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche(pp. 91-92). Portland: Jorvik Press.
97. Ibid. p. 92.
98. See, Brown, Mick (2017). Sexual Assaults and violent rages…Inside the world of Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche. The Telegraph, 21 September, 2017 (last accessed October 15, 2018).
99. Ibid.
100. Standlee, Mark et al. (2017). Public letter from eight senior students of Sogyal, July 14, 2017 (last accessed July 8, 2019).
101. Standlee, Mark et al. (2017). Public letter from eight senior students of Sogyal, July 14, 2017 (last accessed July 8, 2019).
102. Finnigan, Mary & Hogendoorn, Rob (2019). Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche (pp. 81-82). Portland: Jorvik Press.
103. Ibid. p. 96.
104. Standlee, Mark et al. (2017). Public letter from eight senior students of Sogyal, July 14, 2017 (last accessed July 8, 2019).
105. Ibid.
106. Author unknown (2005). Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche., August 30, 2005 (last accessed July 8, 2019).
107. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse’s essay on Facebook was reproduced in its entirety by Lewis, Craig (2017). Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche Issues Public Statement on Recent Criticism of Sogyal Rinpoche. Buddhist Door Global, August 15, 2017 (last accessed October 21, 2018).
108. Ibid.
109. Bourdieu, Pierre (1991). Language and Symbolic Power (p. 16). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
110. Ibid.
111. Ibid.
112. Finnigan, Mary & Hogendoorn, Rob (2019). Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche (pp. 81-82). Portland: Jorvik Press.
113. See, Kapstein, Matthew (2014). Tibetan Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction(p. 89). Oxford: Oxford University Press. See also, Kakar, Sudhir (2010). The Uses of Ritual. in Brosius, Christiane & Huesken, Ute (editors) Ritual Matters: Dynamic Dimensions in Practice (p. 203). London: Routledge.
114. Empowerment refers to a ceremony in which a lama, on the basis of his own spiritual attainments and understanding of the proper rituals that have been handed down in an unbroken lineage for hundreds and even thousands of years, places a recipient in connection with a particular Tantric deity or deities. The result of this teaching “empowers” a recipient to visualize that deity and recite the deity’s mantra. See, Author unknown (date unknown). What are empowerments? Ewam Choden Tibetan Buddhist Center (last accessed January 10, 2019.
115. Bourdieu, Pierre (1991). Rites of Institutions. in Language and Symbolic Power (pp. 117-126).
116. Lewis, Craig (2017). Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche Issues Public Statement on Recent Criticism of Sogyal Rinpoche. Buddhist Door Global, August 15, 2017 (last accessed October 21, 2018).
117. Kapstein, Matthew (2014). Tibetan Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (p. 89). Oxford: Oxford University Press: ‘By entering into a teacher’s circle, you become similarly bound by oath to your fellow disciples, who thus become “vajra brothers and sisters.”’
118. Steinbeck, p. 253
119. Taken from the film, James Baldwin: I Am Not Your Negro.
120. Hogendoorn, Rob (2018). The Making of a Lama: Interrogating Sogyal Rinpoché’s Pose as a (Re)incarnate Master, a paper presented to the panel From Rape Texts to Bro Buddhism: Critical Canonical and Contemporary Perspectives on the Sexual Abuse Scandals in Western Buddhism, during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Denver, November 17-20, 2018. See also, Hogendoorn, Rob (2018). The Dalai Lama’s Clarion Call. Tibetan Review, December 6, 2018 (last accessed December 6, 2018.
121. Author unknown (2018). Dalai Lama meets alleged abuse victims. BBC News, September 14, 2018 (last accessed July 8, 2019).
122. The major multimedia news agency in the Spanish language and the world’s fourth largest wire service after the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.
123. Author unknown (2018). Dalai Lama meets alleged abuse victims. BBC News, September 14, 2018 (last accessed July 8, 2019).
124. Mees, Anna & De Vries, Bas (2018). Dalai lama over misbruik: ik weet het al sinds de jaren 90., September 15, 2018 (last accessed April 12, 2019). The Dalai Lama’s remarks can be watched through this link.
125. Much of the conference can be watched on line through this link: ‘The Western Buddhist Teachers Conference with H.H. the Dalai Lama’, The Meredian Trust (last accessed July 8, 2019).
126. See, Batchelor, Stephen (2011). Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist (pp. 195-211). New York: Spiegel & Grau.
127. Tenzin Palmo and Stephen and Martine Batchelor at the meeting referred to Tibetans but only Chögyam Trungpa’s name was given. He, of course, had already passed away.
128. Steinbeck, p. 212. John Steinbeck IV and his wife Nancy were very active in the Shambhala organization. Over time and witnessing Trungpa’s drinking, drugging, and sex addiction along with Ösel Tendzin’s out of control sexual behavior became a leading critic of Shambhala. John and Nancy describe Shambhala in detail in their book, The Other Side of Eden. The Steinbecks seemed to be totally disappointed with the Dalai Lama and other lineage heads who maintained their silence about renegade lamas. Steinbeck, p. 254.
129. Steinbeck, p. 253.
130. Ibid., p. 254. See also, Sheriff’s office investigating misconduct allegations at Colorado Buddhist retreat. Fort Collins Coloradoan, December 18, 2018 (last accessed July 8, 2019).
131. Steinbeck, p. 254.
132. Hogendoorn, Rob (2018). The Dalai Lama’s Clarion Call. Tibetan Review, December 6, 2018 (last accessed December 6, 2018).
133. Tibetan social conventions include a taboo against criticizing lamas. The Dalai Lama is constrained by this and so too are the majority of other lamas teaching in the west.
134. Author unknown (2008). The Visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Lerab Ling 2008. Rigpa Video (YouTube), January 2, 2009 (last accessed July 8, 2019).
135. Sogyal Rinpoche & Rigpa: An interview with the former director of Rigpa France, Olivier Raurich, Diffi-Cult, March 9, 2016 (last accessed July 8, 2019). Also see, Finnigan, Mary & Hogendoorn, Rob (2019). Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche (p. 104). Portland: Jorvik Press.
136. See, Brown, Mick (1995). The Precious One. The Daily Telegraph Magazine, February 2, 1995 (pp. 20-28): ‘In a unique manifestation of his disapproval, The Dalai Lama withdrew from participation in a Living and Dying Conference scheduled by Rigpa to take place in California. The conference was canceled.’
137. Finnigan, Mary & Hogendoorn, Rob (2019). Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche (p. 104). Portland: Jorvik Press: ‘When I asked why Sogyal was usually a guest speaker at events with the Dalai Lama, like the Kalachakra Initiation, Chhimed Rigdzin, an official in the Dalai Lama’s office, responded, “We don’t invite him.” I pointed out that they don’t refuse him either.’
138. See, Brown, Mick (2017). Sexual Assaults and violent rages…Inside the world of Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche. The Telegraph, 21 September, 2017 (last accessed October 15, 2018).
139. Dapsance, Marion (2014). When Fraud is Part of a Spiritual Path: A Tibetan Lama’s Play on Reality and Illusion. (last accessed July 8, 2019) in Van Eck Duymaer van Twist, Amanda (editor). Minority Religions and Fraud: In Good Faith (pp. 171-186). Farnham: Ashgate. This paper gives an in depth and disturbing presentation of Sogyal’s organization and practice instructions to his followers.
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Speculative development and the origins and history of East India Company settlement in Cavendish Square and Harley Street
by Harriet Richardson & Peter Guillery
The London Journal
Volume 41, 2016 - Issue 2



As London grew north and west in the eighteenth century, wealth settled on the new-built streets of the Cavendish-Harley (later Portland, now Howard de Walden) estate. This paper describes how, why and where individuals enriched through the East India Company came to ground in this part of London. The cases of Francis Shepheard, scion of an important company family, Governor Robert Adams, in flight from Tellicherry, his nephew Robert Orme, the historian of India, General Richard Smith, a notorious ‘Nabob’, and a few others elucidate the market-based origins and accidental then deliberate consolidation of this settlement and stand for many more East India Company names about whom at this point less is known.

The transfer to London of wealth derived from commerce in India based in the activities of the East India Company was great and ramifying. But its points of landing and consequences are difficult to pin down. Many individual stories have been told and the impact of investment on British country houses in particular has been widely investigated, with a major project focusing on where and how wealth from India was spent in Britain recently completed.1 It is well known that as London’s West End grew northwards into the parish of St Marylebone in the eighteenth century the area was in significant measure populated by those with repatriated wealth from the Caribbean and India, and West Indian connections have now been mapped and quantified.2 That Harley Street and its immediate area in the West End had come by the early nineteenth century to be particularly associated with ‘nabobs’ returned well-heeled from India is also readily discovered. But there has been little close study of this London settlement and its origins have been obscure. This paper delves into the subject, aiming to open it up through individual case studies. It argues for an essentially economic explanation of origins, downplaying socio-cultural emphasis at the outset. It is an illustrative account and makes no claim to be comprehensive or definitively explicative.3

What follows is largely about speculative housing, buildings erected for habitation by the wealthy in market conditions that made it hard to control exactly who those wealthy people would be. The West End house of the eighteenth century is a much celebrated almost quintessential type. It has been a prominent marker, a kind of cultural trope, through successive twentieth-century interpretations. Despite the clear explanations of eighteenth-century West End development set out in John Summerson’s enduringly valuable Georgian London (1945), followed by much other architectural history, recent scholarship of a socio-cultural and identity focussed nature has sometimes overlooked the fact that virtually all the West End’s houses went up as speculations and that supply generally exceeded demand. This has tended to favour teleological understandings of both architecture and settlement that give too much agency to owners and occupiers, too little to the market or the ‘invisible hand’, what in an evolutionary context would be called ‘natural selection’. The result has been an approach to material culture that elides a crucial aspect of how the period’s materiality was experienced.4

The building of high-status speculative houses is a risky business, vulnerable to the turbulence of credit markets and building cycles; fastidiousness as to the source of investment is generally unwise. For this reason the buildings discussed here do not in themselves reflect anything much by way of an East India Company identity. That is by and large not what is being interrogated. The divinity that shapes the ends being traced here is a complex mix of aspiration and design on the parts of both builders and occupants, chance and, above all, market forces. The result was the filling from India of an opening at the top end of London’s residential market. Or, to put it another way, new money from India was what the market supplied to help fill Marylebone’s otherwise surplus smart houses. As is often the case, once the link was established it was reinforced through family relationships, professional and other networks and less tangible collective interdependence. Those returning from South Asia having made their fortune there became a particularly close-knit group, especially in the second half of the eighteenth century when they became the objects of public prejudice, branded as ‘nabobs’ and viewed with distrust. Studies of other wealthy social groups, such as Americans and West Indian planters, groups which also favoured Marylebone for their London residences, have shown similar settlement patterns at this time.5 One thing leads to another, people cohere and colonial economies pervaded the West End.

Taking the period of the development of the CavendishHarley/Portland Estate from its beginnings in the early eighteenth century through ups and downs and its heyday from the 1750s on to the mid-nineteenth century when its earlier prestige was beginning to fade, there is a direct correlation with the fortunes of the East India Company itself. In the early eighteenth century the Company enjoyed great prominence, strength and profitability. But it was in the second half of the century that opportunities for individual fortunes reached their peak, leading to the emergence of the returning nabob. Whilst some such as Robert Clive were of old landed families sent out to restore depleted coffers, many more were of humbler stock and perceived to be upstarts. On their return to Britain they possessed sufficient new wealth to aspire to the life of a gentleman: a country estate, a town house and a seat in parliament. For most returning from Indian service, their desire was for ‘ease and relaxation’ rather than continued investment in trade or manufacture.6

The rapid pace of development on the Portland estate in the second half of the eighteenth century was given added impetus by the laying out of the New Road in 1756-7. This major thoroughfare transformed the accessibility of Marylebone from the City, which mattered to those with East India Company connections. But it also set a highly visual northern boundary to the urban core. Situated at the edge of this rapidly growing city, Marylebone was perceived as neither of the town nor out of it. It offered respite from the hubbub of the inner areas, open space on its doorstep and clear air.7 Marylebone therefore almost immediately reinforced its attractions as a desirable and fashionable location, but fashion moved fast and the southern and eastern parts of the parish where building development began earlier, were soon eclipsed as the most desirable neighbourhoods and the newer houses in the upper stretches of Wimpole and Harley Streets and Portland Place gained the ascendance.

As the century wore on the East India Company’s dominance began to wane, with growing pressure to end its monopoly on trade. Beginning with the Regulatory Act of 1773, government intervention in Company business started to grow. Though the Company’s commercial interests declined, its importance to the government of India remained key. Marylebone residents of this later phase were more generally Company directors or stock holders, and included the director David Scott, who was a central figure in reform of the Company.8

Cavendish Square

Cavendish Square was the centrepiece of London’s first significant expansion north of Oxford Street, speculative development on the Cavendish-Harley estate that began in 1717. Robert Harley’s son Edward, later the 2nd Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, inherited the land in 1713 through marriage to Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles. At first, Tory grandees who were political associates of the elder Harley, were lined up to build, to give the project prestige and attract others. The 1st Viscount Harcourt, Baron Bingley and the Duke of Chandos took sites on three sides of the square and began building great houses. Progress was slow, set back by the bursting of the South Sea Bubble in 1720, and less palatial than first intended. The square’s frontages were gradually but not more than partially filled. The investors who followed on through the 1720s were less august and less Tory. More northerly plots remained open, something of a notorious embarrassment, and were only gradually filled up to 1770 (see below).

Several of the houses of the 1720s still stand. Nos 3–5 on the east side, begun in 1720, but passed from one bankrupt builder to others and only complete in 1727, were first occupied by two Whig MPs (John Neale and Walter Plumer) and James Naish, a financier and a director of both the London Assurance Corporation and the Royal African Company. Nos 4 and 5 had been finished by Thomas Milner, a former salt commissioner and a member of the York Buildings Company’s committee, so very probably an associate of Chandos’s, and George Greaves, a Clerkenwell carpenter. The finest surviving house of the 1720s at what is now No. 20 on the square’s west side was built to fill most of a gap south of Bingley’s mansion on the west side. Here, inside a stone carapace of the 1930s in what is now the headquarters of the Royal College of Nursing, is one of London’s best surviving early eighteenth-century painted staircases (Figure 1). The house was built and decorated in 1726–30. Milner held the site and was chivvied to get on with its development. Greaves built the house with a mortgage from Naish. The first occupant was Francis Shepheard (1676–1739), the scion of an East India Company family, a wine trader and a former MP who had moved from the Whigs to the Harleyite Tories.9 His new political allegiance might provide reason enough for his decision to take a house on the Cavendish-Harley estate, but his connections went deeper. Shepheard’s father Samuel had been an MP, Robert Harley’s financier and Deputy Governor of the South Sea Company from 1713. Before that he had made his name as a prominent critic of the East India Company in the 1690s. After the anti-monopoly legislation of 1698 he was one of the founders of the new East India Company, and in 1708 one of the first directors of the united Company.10 When he died in 1719 he left a fortune to his eldest son, Francis.11 Painted staircases like this did not come cheap. The north side of the square was sold entirely to the Duke of Chandos, whose princely wealth had been built up through speculative opportunities offered by his position as paymaster of the armed forces from 1705 to 1713.12 He intended a full-width palace, something without parallel in London. But, in somewhat reduced circumstances after 1720, drew back. After much havering he decided to build two houses, one at either end of the property. These were substantial dwellings, mansions in their own right (Figure 2). Chandos probably intended them for his two sons – he now had a townhouse on St James’s Square.13 Building work began in 1724, but the houses remained unfinished in 1727 when Chandos’s eldest son, John, died aged 24. He decided to keep the western house for himself and to sell the other, eastern one.14 It was not until 1730 that a buyer was secured. Chandos was advised not to let him go as another might not come forward. Difficulty selling such a huge house is not surprising. Chandos and his proximity would have put off many from society’s upper echelons, and Chandos knew that ‘Cavendish Square is not so well liked as to render it easy to meet with tenants for so large a house’. The only money around was distastefully new money. The catch was Governor Robert Adams – in Chandos’s words not ‘a very steady man’.15

But he was a colourful man and, it seems, a unique upstart. Adams had recently arrived in London from India. He had lived there since a child in 1687 and on the north Malabar (Kerala) coast acquired fluency in Malayalam. As a young man he gained charge of the East India Company factory or trading depot at Calicut where he cultivated good relations with the Zamorin, the ruler of the kingdom centred there, forming an alliance against the Dutch and Cochin. In 1715 Adams devised and financed a plan for the Zamorin to reconquer Chettuva from the Dutch. It succeeded and Adams built a warehouse there. But the Dutch fought back, taking three of Adams’s munchuas (flat-bottomed boats), and forcing the Zamorin into an unfavourable treaty in 1717. Adams retreated north up the coast to become governor of the factory at Tellicherry (now Thalassery). This had been established from Surat in 1683 to secure trade in pepper as well as what were said to be the finest cardamoms. When Adams arrived in Tellicherry it had, according to his predecessor, suffered years ‘under clouds of misfortune’.16

There had been running battles with the local Nair population. These continued and there were deaths in 1723. Adams mediated between the Nair and the Dutch, but defending Tellicherry was costing the Company more than the profits it generated. In Calicut Adams had met and been impressed by Dr Alexander Orme, a physician and surgeon, who in 1707 was based further south at Anjengo (Anchuthengu). It was an enduring bond – Adams married Margaret Hill, Orme her sister. Orme became chief of the station at Anjengo, a place chastened by the massacre in 1721 of a predecessor, William Gyfford, and many under his charge. Orme’s second son, Robert, was born there in 1728, and named after his uncle (see below).17

The Malabar stations were generally run at a loss for the private benefit of their chiefs and factors. The profits of the pepper trade were appropriated to personal accounts by men who operated like lords of local manors. The East India Company usually turned a blind eye. Supervision was impractical and ruthless profiteering often brought the company advantage. According to Alexander Hamilton’s contemporary account, until 1717 Adams imported Bengal opium and sent it inland from Calicut on the Company’s empty pepper munchuas as a profitable private trade.18

Adams had loaned large amounts of company funds to the Zamorin and other Malabar ‘princes’ to fight the Dutch. Of this, £6,424 17 1½ could not be recovered in the late 1720s so the Council of Bombay obliged Adams to sign bonds for its recovery in Fort St George (Madras or Chennai). Fearing he would abscond, the Company detained Margaret, but the couple were able to meet at Calicut and from there to flee to England in 1729.19

In London Adams set about clearing his name and his access to money. He made representations to the Company in September 1729 seeking cancellation of the bonds. These gained a favourable hearing from the Committee of Correspondence in June 1730 and a week later the Court of Directors cleared Adams of responsibility and liability as the transactions with the Zamorin and others had been notified to the Council of Bombay. It was felt, anyway, that the money would soon be paid back.20

In fact a bill from Bengal to pay £3,000 to Adams had been cleared by the Company in May.21 This and anticipation of vindication probably underlay Adams’s upmarket house-hunting. Just days before he was cleared Chandos was writing about the arrangement whereby Adams would finish the fitting out and decoration of the still incomplete house on Cavendish Square. The sale had been settled by October 1730, the price was £3,400.

Three ‘black servants’,22 Edward, Antonio and Abigail, who had come with Adams from India, may have been briefly resident in Cavendish Square. A London winter perhaps came as a shock; they were already keen to return home in February 1730 when Adams sought free passage for them through the Company. This was granted, but not until January 1731.23

In 1732 Adams acquired a coat of arms (Figure 3). Long before, near Calicut, he had, he attested, been ‘attacked by a Tyger who Seizd Him on the left Arm, the Marks whereof are still to be seen; But through Providence he had the good Fortune to destroy that Furious Beast, by ripping his Belly with a Lance, that his Guts fell out and immediately died.’24 The coat of arms therefore included ‘on a cross gules five mollets or, a tiger salient proper and for his crest on a wreath of the colours a Dexter Arm couped at the Elbow habited in Crimson Velvet holding in the Hand a Lance Proper Stuck into the Belly of a like Tyger.’25

Further substantial sums were remitted to Adams from India through the Company and he evidently settled to a well-appointed retirement up to his death in 1738. He was, along with George Frideric Handel, among the callers at the Dover Street home of the Earl of Oxford and Lady Harley after the marriage in 1734 of their daughter, Lady Margaret Cavendish Harley, to William Bentinck, the 2nd Duke of Portland, at the Oxford Chapel (now St Peter Vere Street).26 Cavendish Square was certainly a prestigious address, but not unqualifiedly so. In the same year as the aristocratic marriage James Ralph published a stinging critique of the still only partially built-up square, slating it as a failed speculation: ‘there we shall see the folly of attempting great things, before we are sure we can accomplish little ones. Here ’tis, the modern plague of building was first stayed, and I think the rude, unfinish’d figure of this project should deter others from a like infatuation. When we see any thing like grandeur or beauty going forward, we are uneasy till ’tis finish’d, but when we see it interrupted, or intirely laid aside, we are not only angry with the disappointment, but the author too: I am morally assur’d that more people are displeas’d at seeing this square lie in its present neglected condition, than are entertain’d with what was meant for elegance or ornament in it.’27

Adams completed the house’s interior, finding a place, no doubt, for the tiger skin which he had kept, and added the plain single-storey range on the west side of the house (Figure 2).28 His infant nephew, Robert Orme, had been sent from India to be brought up in the house from the age of two until he was sent to Harrow for schooling in 1734 age six. Orme went back to India in 1742 aged 13 (see below).29 Widowed, Margaret Adams had by then vacated the big house and moved round the corner to a marginally humbler dwelling at what is now 6 Cavendish Square. The Adams’s daughter Elizabeth married Bennet Noel and the larger house was thereafter long in the hands of the Noel family, including Earls of Gainsborough and Gerard Noel, an evangelical anti-slavery MP.30 It was demolished in the 1890s, but a stable and coach-house that Chandos built to the rear survives, much altered and extended, as the Medical Society of London’s headquarters on Chandos Street.31

Harley Street

With the economic downturn following the South-Sea-Bubble’s bursting, the planned northward expansion of the Cavendish-Harley estate came almost to a standstill. Only the southernmost stretch of Harley Street had been set out, and the first buildings there were a rag-tag of houses, a cold bath and a pub, the Blue Posts, built near the track that led to Marylebone village – partly on the line of present day Queen Anne Street.32 It was not until the 1750s that speculators had the confidence to start building north of Wigmore Street. Thomas Huddle, a brick-maker who had grown wealthy developing on the Berners’ estate further east, was the first to take a sizeable piece of ground here, followed by John Corsar, a bricklayer, and a mason, George Mercer, both also local men.

By 1760 terraces of first-rate houses reached Queen Anne Street. Within ten years the west side of Harley Street was built up as far as New Cavendish Street, and a terrace of seven houses had been built on the east side. Into one of these, originally number 11, moved Robert Orme in 1764 at the age of 35. This remained his home for the next thirty years (Figure 4). His return to within a stone’s throw of the house in which he had passed part of his childhood marks a crucial step towards the entrenchment of East India Company settlement in the neighbourhood.33

Orme’s career with the East India Company was not typical, and unlike so many of his cohort, he did not return with a vast fortune. During his early years in India he had studied widely, but also focused on Indian affairs, writing an essay on ‘A general idea of the government and people of Indostan’ when still in his early twenties. On a visit to England with Robert Clive in 1753 his knowledge of India won him influential friends who secured him a senior post on the Madras council when he returned to India the following year. By September 1758 he had risen further through the ranks to become deputy to the Governor. But it was at this point that his career began to unravel. Orme was an arrogant man, ambitious and impatient. He had been sending his imperious criticisms of his fellow (and senior) council men back to the directors of the Company in London, and once this apparent duplicity was discovered in Madras his career with the Company came to an abrupt halt. Making no effort to explain or clear his name, he fled India in October 1758 making a slow return to London.34

At first he stayed with his aunt Margaret in Cavendish Square before taking lodgings on the other side of Oxford Street just off Hanover Square, and then Norfolk Street, before moving to the newly completed house in Harley Street.35 Orme was not quite the first with connections to India to take up residence in this street. He was preceded by William Martin, a retired Royal Navy Captain on half-pay, who had served in India in 1757-8 as commander of the Cumberland at the Battle of Negapatam under Vice-Admiral George Pocock.36 Martin lived in Harley Street from 1761 until his death in 1766. His time in India was remembered in his will, where he named his friends Robert Palk, Governor of Madras, and Henry Vansittart, late Governor of Bengal, as his executors.37 After his death his household furniture was sold, and amongst the items advertised for sale were many that suggest an Indian provenance: India cabinets, blue mixed damask window curtains, sofas and chairs, and fine chintz patterned beds and chairs.38

Although it is plausible that Robert Orme at least knew something of Martin, there is no evidence that they were personally acquainted or that the presence of the aged sea captain had anything to do with Orme’s decision to move to the same street. More likely reasons were his early associations with Cavendish Square and the proximity of at least two of his close circle of friends at that time: Edmund Burke, who was just around the corner in Queen Anne Street, and Lauchlin MacLeane, who was then in Holles Street.39 Harley Street was a respectable address, with a smattering of aristocratic residents, but it was also affordable. With his relatively modest fortune of a little over £5,500, Orme could not afford a country estate as well as a townhouse, but the rent of £60 a year was not beyond his means. His immediate neighbours were Lord Waltham, a young Irish peer and MP, and Captain Staats Long Morris, an American-born army officer who had married the Dowager Duchess of Gordon. Morris was briefly in India, in command of the British troops in Bombay in January 1763, but returned to England in December the same year. He and the Dowager Duchess took up residence in Harley Street in 1766.40

Orme’s house, together with those adjoining, was demolished following bomb damage in the Second World War.41 It was partially captured in a photograph taken in the 1930s (Figure 5). Externally, at least, these houses were exceedingly plain: brick-faced, of three storeys and attics over a basement and with a shallow area. They were entirely typical of mid-eighteenth century speculative houses in the West End, and were not designed to attract wealthy nabobs any more than the landed gentry or any other citizen who had the wherewithal to take a lease of the property. Behind these sober façades, the interiors were by contrast richly decorated. From a stone flagged entrance hall, stone stairs rose up through the building, most with ornate wrought iron balustrades. The principal rooms on the ground and first floors had decorative plaster ceilings and marble chimneypieces. The chief feature of Orme’s house would have been his library. This he finally sold in 1796, together with the lease of his house, due to increasing blindness. He retired to the rural quiet of Ealing, leaving behind ‘the rumble of Harley Street’.42

One of Orme’s closest friends was drawn to Harley Street. Orme had known General Richard Smith from his early days in Madras and had cared for his son from 1764 while Smith was in India. When the General returned in April 1770 it was to a house a few doors down from his old friend.43 For around seventeen years Smith’s townhouse was at 22 Harley Street (originally No.5). It had been built by George Mercer in the late 1750s and was first occupied in 1760 by Sir John Shaw, 4th Baronet, who also held the formerly royal Eltham Lodge.44 Although it too has been demolished, photographs taken just prior to demolition in the 1960s show a building much the same as Orme’s house. Unusually, No. 22 had retained its brick façade, most had the ground-floor front fashionably stuccoed in the nineteenth century, but modest alterations had been made including the cut-down first-floor windows and added balcony (Figure 6). Inside, a photograph of the entrance hall shows what may well have been the original iron stair balustrade with its mahogany handrail, but the tiled floor is Victorian (Figure 7).45 It was also no doubt richly furnished, probably with many items brought back from India.

Unlike Orme, General Smith had accumulated an enormous fortune. As well as his townhouse, in 1771 he purchased a country estate, Chilton Lodge, in Berkshire, for £36,000 from John Zephania Holwell, another ex-East India Company servant and, briefly, a Harley Street resident.46 Like Orme, Smith was known for his arrogance, but his great wealth allowed him to indulge his fondness for the gaming table, horses and extra-marital affairs. All this, together with his origins in trade (his father was a cheesemonger) frequently made him the butt of satirists. He was widely recognized as the model for Sir Mathew Mite in Samuel Foote’s play The Nabob, first produced in 1772, and, under that name, his biography was given, in no tender light, in the Town and Country Magazine in 1776. At that time he had taken as his mistress the equally notorious courtesan, Mrs Elizabeth Armistead.47

When Smith was appointed High Sheriff of Berkshire he was said to have favoured proposals for a new road that would allow him to ‘arrive at his magnificent seat … without the necessity of passing through the little stinking town of Hungerford’.48 He also served a six-month jail sentence for bribing his way to a parliamentary seat. In 1783 he was vilified in a pamphlet by Joseph Price, ironically entitled A Vindication of General Richard Smith, in response to his role as chair of the House of Commons Select Committee on East India affairs.49

By 1784 Smith’s finances were severely depleted and he was forced to sell up his country estate and flee abroad to escape his creditors.50 The Public Advertiser, always quick to attack Smith’s taste and social status, announced that the purchaser of General Smith’s place in Berkshire (John Macnamara MP) would have a great deal to do before he could make it fit for ‘a gentleman’ to live in: ‘All the gewgaw work, and excessive decoration, must be destroyed, and almost all the best rooms re-formed and modernised’.51 There was perhaps more bile here than accuracy, although even The Times noted that this was where Foote, the playwright, declared that he had been served ‘diamond dumplings’ for his supper.52 Macnamara did not keep the house for long. It was up for auction again in 1788 along with the contents. It is possible that some of these may have been Smith’s, but the descriptions are vague: suites of rich Damask, Muslin and fine Chintz Patterns … a variety of Inlaid and fine Mahogany Articles’. There was also mention of some pictures by Angelica Kauffman.53 Two months later there were plans to demolish the house, and the building materials were advertised for sale. Items listed included marble chimney-pieces ‘of superior elegance and exquisite sculpture’, mahogany folding doors, other doors with ormolu mountings, and a stone portico.54 (The house was not demolished at this date, and almost the same list of fixtures and building materials was readvertised in 1791.55)

During the 1770s and into the 1780s the pace of building on the Portland Estate had been rapid, with new houses now reaching as far north as the New Road (now Marylebone Road) with its easy access to the City. When Orme and Smith had first moved here, their houses were still on the very edge of the expanding metropolis. This suburban aspect was especially appealing to both the old elite and its imitators with newer wealth. In 1765 when one of the houses opposite Orme’s was advertised to let, amongst its attractions was the ‘delightful prospect over the green fields as far as Highgate’.56 This was not to last. In 1771 John White entered into the first of a series of building agreements with the Duke of Portland to continue Harley Street northwards. White was working with a consortium of builders and tradesmen that included his business partner, Thomas Collins, who had established himself as highly skilled in plasterwork and who was part of the circle of William Chambers. John Johnson, the carpenter turned architect, was another of that circle who was involved in designing some of the houses here. The first stretch of the extended Harley Street went up between 1772 and 1776, and the second, north of Weymouth Street was completed by 1778. The final section leading up to the New Road was built in two phases, in the 1780s and the 1820s.57

White’s houses were mostly just a little larger than the earlier ones, and boasted particularly fine interiors, but otherwise were built to harmonize with those of the 1750s and 1760s. There was some variation in the width and depth of each plot, and a few lacked a coach-house and stables in the mews to the rear. Typically each house contained a hall, with a stone staircase, iron balustrade and mahogany handrail, then two rooms to a floor. The basement contained the servants’ quarters - a servants’ hall, housekeeper’s room, and butler’s pantry - while the kitchen was generally described as being ‘apart from the house’, and seems to have been in the basement below the back yard or garden.58

Harley Street was one of the best addresses on the Portland Estate, with Cavendish Square and later Portland Place and Mansfield Street being the grandest with the largest houses. Although there was not a great difference in the size of the individual houses in Harley Street, they were not entirely uniform. The largest was taken by another former East India Company servant: John Pybus. Latterly No. 81, this was the only house that had four, rather than the usual three windows across its front. It survives, but with considerable alterations, including the addition of stone window surrounds to the front elevation (Figure 8).

Of modest family background, John Pybus had begun his career with the East India Company as a writer in 1742 when he was about 15 years of age. He became a member of the Council of Madras and in 1762 travelled to Sri Lanka as an ambassador to the King of Kandy. This was the first contact between the Company and the island, prompted by the King’s request for help to oust the Dutch. Nothing became of the mission, however, and Pybus went back to Fort St George.59 He returned to England in 1768 with his family. Before moving to Harley Street he had lived for a few years in Berners Street; he appears as the first ratepayer of No. 64 in 1769.60 Amongst his neighbours were (Sir) William Chambers at No. 13, Thomas Collins at No. 44 and John Johnson at No. 32, all of whom were involved in the development of Berners Street. It seems highly likely that one or other of these men was instrumental in Pybus’s move to Harley Street. Johnson was a party to Pybus’s lease of No. 81, and Collins was John White’s partner in the wider development of that stretch of Harley Street. William Gowing, carpenter and John Utterton, plasterer, were also active in the development here and had earlier built houses in Berners Street. Pybus was one of the few who leased directly from the Portland estate, mostly the Portland leases went to the developers who then assigned or sub-let to tenants. This might suggest that Pybus was an investor in the Harley Street development, or just that he knew of it at an early date.

In the same year as he was issued the lease of 81 Harley Street, 1773, Pybus seems to have been considering a return to India, writing to the Company’s Court of Directors for permission to return on the grounds that his health had recovered. Perhaps he did not expect to be sent back, as he also set about establishing himself in business in London, founding the banking partnership of Pybus, Hyde, Dorset and Cockell in New Bond Street.61

Pybus remained in Harley Street until 1784.62 He died at his new house in New Bond Street in 1789, leaving a lengthy and unusually detailed will.
63 Many of the individual items listed had no doubt once graced 81 Harley Street, and thus provide an insight into the richness of the interiors of these outwardly plain houses. There were several portraits, mostly of himself and his wife described as being ‘by Stuart’ (perhaps Gilbert Stuart, who was working in London from 1777 to 1787). These are most likely still in private hands, assuming that they have survived, but one painting can be identified as the conversation piece painted shortly after their return from India by the fashionable portraitist Nathaniel Dance, now in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (Figure 9).64 The family are grouped in an idyllic landscape, the father resting his hand on the shoulder of his youngest child – his second son Charles Small Pybus who is standing on his mother, Martha’s, lap. Seated on the ground is the eldest son, also John, and to the side stand two daughters: Martha, on the left, and Anne. It is interesting that this family portrait contains no hint of their time in India, unlike many commissioned by returning East India Company employees, who had themselves painted wearing Indian dress, with native attendants or accoutrements such as hookah pipes.65

In addition to paintings, various items of furniture were mentioned, mostly mahogany pieces, such as a large bookcase and bedsteads upholstered in chintz. The chintz was presumably from India, as also an India Blackwood inlaid chest of drawers mounted with silver and a clothes press or wardrobe ‘thereunto belonging’ which had been ‘lately altered by Simpson, upholsterer’. Explicitly brought back from India was an India inlaid mahogany chest of drawers mounted with silver, which also had a matching wardrobe or clothes press. It is noticeable that these exotic pieces of furniture would have been in the bedrooms or dressing rooms, the private side of the house. The one item mentioned which would have been on public display was not from India, it was a Shudi and Broadwood harpsichord.

There were also many smaller decorative items. To his wife Pybus left a pair of gold ‘fillagree’ trunks or boxes which he had bought from George Smith, a merchant in Fort St George shortly before he left India, and ‘a large fillagree rosewater bottle and tree lately gilt by Heming’, presumably the goldsmith Thomas Heming, whose shop was on New Bond Street.66 There were also silver tea canisters and ‘a dressing box and frame of a looking glass for a toilet.’ The looking glass may have been of the type made in Vizagapatam (now Vishakhapatnam), or Mursdabad specifically for the western market.67 Other silverware more particularly described were a ‘gilt monteith of silver’ which he claimed had been given to his father by the Earl of Burlington and a silver cup and cover, another gift to his father this time given by the Marchioness of Rockingham. A more recent acquisition was a large silver tea table, weighing 230 ounces, bought from Timothy Davies, silversmith, of Bond Street.

As so many of his contemporary returnees from India, Pybus invested in property and at the time of his death owned the leases of thirteen houses in Bunhill Row, Moorfields, and a country estate at Cheam, Surrey, which he had purchased from Edward Sanxay in 1787.68 The house no longer survives, but the Pybus family memorials can be found in the Lumley chapel, in the grounds of St Dunstan’s Church in Cheam.

In 1775 Pybus had stood for election as a director of the East India Company, though he was not successful. He had plenty of contacts within the Company, not least his brother-in-law Thomas Bates Rous, who served as a director from 1773 to 1779, and who moved into the house opposite the Pybus’s in Harley Street (now No. 76) in 1776.69 Bates Rous had in fact followed Pybus here from Berners Street, where he had lived next-door but one to William Chambers, and a few doors up from his brother-in-law, similarly taking that house from new in 1769.

There were numerous other serving directors who took houses in and around Harley Street, including Stephen Lushington and John Smith Burges at 69 and 102 Harley Street respectively in the 1780s and 1790s; William Fullarton Elphinstone at No. 92 in the early nineteenth century, and William Wigram from the late 1820s to the 1850s.70 Of the thirty-four men who served on the Court of Directors between 1838 and 1842, seventeen were living in Marylebone at the time they were a director, precisely half. The next most popular London address was Mayfair, with only seven directors.71 A brief analysis of the occupants of all 146 houses in Harley Street in 1840 found 27 with some connection to the East India Company, 20 politicians, 17 in the legal profession, 13 with slave-owning connections in the West Indies, 9 in the medical professions and 8 bankers.72 No information could be gleaned for the occupants of 43 of the houses. Although there is some degree of overlap in these categories, those with Indian connections form the largest group. Whilst similar analysis of other areas in London must be left to others to conduct, it is clear that the London residences of East India Company directors from around 1820 to 1840 have a noticeable Marylebone bias. During that period Marylebone always housed more directors than any other district, by some considerable margin over Mayfair – the next most popular and fashionable address.


During the second half of the eighteenth century and into the early decades of the nineteenth many people living in and around Harley Street had connections to the East India Company. They included many serving and former directors. The newer houses north of New Cavendish Street, which were somewhat larger, proved particularly popular. Apart from access to the New Road, at the north end of Harley Street, which eased travel into the City, and to East India House, the neighbourhood was also convenient for parliament. Many MPs and a smattering of Lords and Bishops resided here, perhaps a further lure to someone with an eye on a parliamentary seat and political advancement.

The colonization of Marylebone by those with East India Company connections was largely due to the availability of good houses coupled with either family connections or ties of friendship with those already resident there. It was Orme’s early years in Cavendish Square together with the proximity of his friends which would have dictated a wish to return to settle. His wish was easily fulfilled by the number of new houses going up in the area around Cavendish Square which created an oversupply and therefore competitive rents. This abundance of new housing in a fashionable location became available at the same time as the first nabobs appeared on the London scene, and continued through the peak years of the 1770s and 80s by which time the character of the nabob had become firmly established in Britain. By the final years of the eighteenth century this part of Marylebone provided an address with cachet. For East India Company men there was also a comforting number of residents with the shared experience of having lived in South Asia. The outward anonymity and respectability of these terraced houses screened their occupants from the officious gaze of the critics of nabobery, masking interiors where the trappings of Indian wealth could be displayed in the public rooms, or hidden away in private apartments.

In the popular culture of the period, the area came to be recognized as an enclave of Nabobs.73 It was perhaps the presence of General Smith, the Nabob of Nabobs, which cemented the area’s reputation, or ensured its notoriety. But quantitative analysis suggests it was not just nabobian visibility and notoriety which gave rise to this popular view. The perception had some basis in facts.

By the early nineteenth century the small area in Marylebone between Portland Place and Wimpole Street had become well known as a centre of the Anglo-Indian community in London, and Harley Street itself was as synonymous with Nabobs as it was later to be with the medical profession. As late as 1841, Harley Street was still being described as ‘the headquarters of oriental nabobs’. Here ‘the claret is poor stuff, but Harley Street Madeira has passed into a proverb, and nowhere are curries and mulligatawny given in equal style’.74



1 - East India Company at Home, 1757–1857 (2011–14), see

2 – Legacies of British Slave-ownership, 2009–15, see <accessed 14/03/2016>

3 – The material presented here derives from research carried out for the Survey of London and many of its findings are destined for publication in brief form in volumes 51 and 52 of the Survey of London series which will cover South-eastern St Marylebone. A version of this paper was presented at the East India Company at Home end-of-project conference, Objects, Families, Homes: British Material Cultures in Global Context, at University College London in July 2014.

4 - Consequent misapprehensions were evident at the East India Company at Home conference (see note 3). See also, for example, R. Stewart, The Town House in Georgian London (London: Yale University Press, 2009). J. M. Holzman, The nabobs in England: a study of the returned Anglo-Indian, 1760–1785 (New York, 1926), and T. W. Nechtman, Empire and Identity in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), studied the material culture of those returning from South Asia but concentrated on country estates rather than London property holdings.

5 - For a study of settlers in London from America and the West Indies see J. Flavell, When London was the Capital of America (London: Yale University Press, 2010).

6 - P. J. Marshall, East Indian Fortunes: The British in Bengal in the Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 215: see also H.V. Bowen, The Business of Empire: The East India Company and Imperial Britain 1756-1833 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

7 – E. McKellar, Landscapes of London (London: Yale University Press, 2013), passim, see, for example, 209-12.

8 – See, for example, A. Webster, The Twilight of the East India Company. The evolution of Anglo-Asian Commerce and politics, 1790-1860 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2009).

9 – London Metropolitan Archives (hereafter LMA), MDR/1729/3/219; City of Westminster Archives Centre, St Marylebone ratebooks (hereafter RB); P. Watson and P. Gauci, ‘Shepheard, Francis (1676–1739), of London, and Exning, Suff.’, in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690–1715 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), see 1715/member/shepheard-francis-1676-1739 <accessed 14/03/2016>.

10 – Watson and Gauci, ‘Shepheard, Samuel I (c.1648–1719), of St Magnus the Martyr, and Bishopsgate Street, London’, in History of Parliament, see http://www.historyofparliamentonline.or ... 1648-1719; P. Carter, ‘Shepheard, Samuel (c.1648–1719)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) (hereafter ODNB), see <accessed 14/03/2016>.

11 – The National Archives (hereafter TNA), PROB11/567/81.

12 – C. Henry & M. I. Collins Baker, The Life and Circumstances of James Brydges, First Duke of Chandos, Patron of the Liberal Arts (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1949); Susan Jenkins, Portrait of a Patron: The Patronage and Collecting of James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos (1674–1744) (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007).

13 – LMA, MDR 1724/6/158–61; Jenkins, Chandos, 101–4; Survey of London, 29: St James, Westminster, South of Piccadilly (London, 1960), 120–2.

14 – LMA, MDR 1731/2/75–8.

15 – Both quotes are as in Collins Baker, Chandos, 279; Jenkins, Chandos, 104.

16 – British Library (hereafter BL), IOR/G/37/1, letter from John Johnson, 19 February 1715/16; IOR/D/19, f. 35, Robert Adams’s memorial of 1729; IOR/B/62, 355; Leicestershire Record Office (hereafter LRO), DE3214/10388; A. Hamilton, A New Account of the East Indies, 1 (London, 1744), 298–301,315–18; M. O. Koshy, The Dutch Power in Kerala, 1729–1758 (New Delhi: Mittal Publications, 1989), 38–9; R. J. Barendse, Arabian Seas 1700–1763: vol. 1, The Western Indian Ocean in the eighteenth century (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 538–9.

17 – Hamilton, East Indies, 299; John Keay, The Honourable Company: A History of the English East India Company (London: Harper Collins, 1991), 250–4.

18 – Hamilton, East Indies, 317–18.

19 – BL, IOR/B/60, 309.

20 – BL, IOR/B/61, passim; IOR/D/19, 35.

21 - BL, IOR/B/61, 20 and 36.

22 – BL, IOR/B/61, 215.

23 - BL, IOR/B/60, 420; IOR/E/1/21/45, letter of 5 February 1729/30 from Robert Adams.

24 – LRO, DE3214/10388.

25 – College of Arms, Grants 8, 148r.

26 - Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, The manuscripts of His Grace the Duke of Portland, [formerly] preserved at Welbeck Abbey, vol. 6 (London, 1901), 56; BL, IOR/B/62, passim: LRO, DE3214/9750/1.

27 – J. Ralph, A Critical Review of the Publick Buildings, Statues and Ornaments in and around London and Westminster (London, 1734), 106.

28 – Gentleman’s Magazine, viii/1, April 1738, 221; Derby Mercury, 13 April 1738.

29 – S. Tammita-Delgoda, ‘Orme, Robert (1728–1801)’, ODNB, see <accessed 14/03/2016>.

30 – RB; LRO, DE3214/3606; DE3214/10172; S. Harratt, ‘Noel, Sir Gerard Noel, 2nd bt. (1759–1838), of Exton Park, Rutland’, The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820–1832 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), see http://www.historyofparliamentonline.or ... d1759-1838 <accessed 14/03/2016>.

31 - City of Westminster Archives Centre, Ashbridge Collection, 160/CAV, pencil sketch by Jean-Claude Nattes, c.1805; Building News, 3 August 1894, 141.

32 – Howard de Walden Estate Archives, HDW 6/1, Survey ‘touching the nature and condition’ of the Marylebone estate, 1737; RB; J. Rocque, Survey of London, Westminster, and Southwark and the Country near Ten Miles Round 1746.

33 – RB. No. 11 Harley Street became No. 16 in the 1820s and was latterly No. 34. A block of flats now stands on the site.

34 – S. Tammita-Delgoda, ‘“Nabob, Historian and Orientalist” The Life and Writings of Robert Orme (1728–1801)’ (PhD thesis, Kings College London, 1991), 24, 28–68, 153

35 – Ibid., 69.

36 – R. Winfield, British Warships in the Age of Sail 1714–1792 (Barnsley: Seaforth, 2007), 33.

37 – RB; TNA, PROB11/920/192.

38 – Gazetteer & New Daily Advertiser, 8 Dec 1766.

39 – RB.

40 – RB; Sir Lewis Namier, ‘Olmius, Drigue Billers, 2nd Baron Waltham [I] (1746–87), of New Hall, Boreham, Essex’, The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754–1790 (London: H.M.S.O, 1964), see http://www.historyofparliamentonline.or ... rs-1746-87 <accessed 14/03/2016>; S. Reid, ‘Morris, Staats Long (1728–1800)’, ODNB, see; Tammita-Delgoda, ‘“Nabob, Historian and Orientalist”’, 69.

41 – Howard de Walden Estate Archives, property files.

42 – R. Orme, Historical Fragments of the Mogul Empire (London, 1805), xlix; Tammita-Delgoda, ‘“Nabob, Historian and Orientalist”’, 146–8.

43 – Tammita-Delgoda, ‘“Nabob, Historian and Orientalist”’, 79; RB; Gazetteer & New Daily Advertiser, 28 April 1770.

44 – RB; LMA, MDR 1754/4/242-3: <accessed 14/03/2016>.

45 – Historic England, London Region photographs, copies also in LMA, SC/PHL/01/311/57/3669 and SC/PHL/01/311/59/2534.

46 – Museum of English Rural Life, BER 36/5/200; RB; D. L. Prior, ‘Holwell, John Zephaniah (1711–1798)’, ODNB, see <accessed 14/03/2016>.

47 – S. Foote, ‘The Nabob: A comedy…’ (London, 1778); Town and Country Magazine, vol. 8, 1776, 345–7; Survey of London, 30: St James, Westminster, South of Piccadilly (London, 1960), 442–3.

48 – quoted in T. W. Nechtman, Nabobs Empire and Identity in Eighteenth-century Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 165–6.

49 – G. J. Bryant, ‘Smith, Richard (bap. 1734, d. 1803)’, ODNB, see; J. Price, A Vindication of Gen. Richard Smith…, 2nd edn (London, 1783).

50 – Smith, ODNB.

51 – Public Advertiser, 1 Nov 1785.

52 – The Times, 4 April 1788.

53 – The World, 29 Sept 1788.

54 – Bath Chronicle, 20 Nov 1788.

55 – The World, 29 April 1791; Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 9 May 1791.

56 – Gazetteer & New Daily Advertiser, 21 Nov 1765.

57 – RB.

58 – Howard de Walden Estate Archives, HDW 3/3.

59 – Account of Mr Pybus’s Mission to the King of Kandy, In 1762 (Colombo: W. Skeen, 1862).

60 – RB; the ratebook for 1768 is missing, and the house does not appear in the ratebook for 1767.

61 – BL, IOR/E/1/57, 492–3v; BL, Mss EurF110; J. M. Holzman, Nabobs in England (New York, 1926), 76, 158; F. G. Hilton Price, Handbook of London Bankers (London, 1876), 25–6.

62 – RB.

63 – TNA, PROB11/1184/72.

64 – E. Lauze, ‘A Nabob’s return: the Pybus conversation piece by Nathaniel Dance’, in National Gallery of Victoria Art Bulletin 43, 2 June 2014, see <accessed 14/03/2016>.

65 – M. Archer, India and British Portraiture, 1770-1825 (London: Philip Wilson, 1979), 487–519.

66 – E. Packer, ‘Heming, Thomas’, Grove Art Online, see ... rove/art/T 037481?q=Heming%2C+Thomas&search=quick&pos=1&_start=1 <accessed 14/03/2016>.

67 – J. P. Losty et al., ‘Indian subcontinent’, Grove Art Online, see ... rove/art/T 040113?q=Indian+subcontinent&search=quick&pos=1&_start=1 pg54 <accessed 14/03/2016>;<accessed 14/03/2016>.

68 – Gazetteer & New Daily Advertiser, 5 Dec 1787.

69 – RB.

70 – J. G. Parker, ‘The Directors of the East India Company 1754–1790’, PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh, 1977, 114–17, 165–8, 229–30; Boyle’s Court Guides; RB.

71 - Information derived from lists of directors published in the Asiatic Journal.

72 – RB; Post Office Directories; Census; numerous sources were consulted to identify occupations and affiliations of the residents, too numerous to cite here, but most began with a simple google search on the name.

73 – Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, July–December 1841, 71; C. G. F. Gore, The Sketch Book of Fashion (London, 1833), 170–1: W. M. Thackeray, The Newcomes, vol. 1 (London, 1854), 81.

74 – Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, July–December 1841, p. 71.

Captions and Figure Credits

Figure 1 – Francis Shepheard’s painted staircase at 20 Cavendish Square. Photographed in 2014 by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

Figure 2 – Robert Adams’s house at 9 Cavendish Square. Photographed in 1891, Bedford Lemere, © Historic England

Figure 3 – Robert Adams’s coat of arms, granted 1732. College of Arms Grants 8 148r, © College of Arms

Figure 4 – Extract from Horwood’s Map of London, surveyed in1792, showing the houses (with original numbering) of: Robert Orme (11 Harley Street, later No.34); General Richard Smith (5 Harley Street, later No.22); Robert Adams (8 Cavendish Square, later No.9); and Francis Shepheard (16 Cavendish Square, later No.20). © London Metropolitan Archives, Corporation of London

Figure 5 – A view of Harley Street taken c.1930 showing Robert Orme’s former house on the far right. From The Metropolitan Borough of St. Marylebone Official Guide, n.d. p.111

Figure 6 – Nos 22-28 Harley Street. General Richard Smith’s house at 22 Harley Street to the right. Photographed in 1957, © London Metropolitan Archives, Corporation of London

Figure 7 – Entrance hall in 22 Harley Street. Photographed in 1959, © London Metropolitan Archives, Corporation of London

Figure 8 – John Pybus’s house at 81 Harley Street. Photographed in 2014 by Chris Redgrave © Historic England

Figure 9 – The Pybus family, conversation piece painted by Nathaniel Dance c.1769. © The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Mon Jul 15, 2019 3:39 am

A Nabob’s return: the Pybus conversation piece by Nathaniel Dance
by Emma Lauze
Art Journal 43
June 2, 2014



I was born Diana Judith Pybus at Queen Charlotte's Hospital in London, England, on October 8, 1953, at midnight on the new moon. My great-great grandfather was the first British ambassador to Ceylon and a member of the Council of Madras. When he returned to England, the king honored him by adding an elephant to the family coat of arms, which is also part of the Pybus seal on the family signet ring.

David Humphrey Pybus, my father, grew up in a large country house in the village of Hexham in Northumberland in the north of England. The house was close to Hadrian's Wall and in fact was made out of stones from the wall, so it had enormously thick walls. Denton Hall, as it was called, is one of the famous haunted houses in England.

-- Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa, by Diana J. Mukpo with Carolyn Rose Gimian

N. B. The following oath was tendered to, and taken by Mr. Holwell in Council the 24th of December, 1759.

"I John Zephaniah Holwell, one of the Council of Fort William, 1756, when Kissendass, the son of Rajah Bullob, received the protection of this presidency, do solemnly swear that I never did, directly or indirectly, receive from the said Kissendass, or from anyone on his behalf, any the least reward or gratuity, either in money, jewels, or merchandise, for such protection granted the said Kissendass, and that I never did, on any other pretence or consideration whatsoever, benefit myself by the said Kissendass to the amount or value of one rupee. So help me God.

J. Z. Holwell."


The scrutiny ordered in the before-recited 132d paragraph, was made by Colonel Clive at Moorshadabad, (where Kissendass then resided) at the time the Colonel went to take leave of the Nabob, on his departure for Europe. On his return to Fort William, he wrote the following letter to the Board, on the subject of his enquiry.

To the Gentlemen of Council.

22d January, 1760.


"The justice I owe to my own reputation, as well as my duty to the Company, obliged me, prior to the resignation of this Government, to use my utmost endeavors in coming at the truth of the heavy charge, seemingly contained against Mr. Holwell, in the 132d paragraph of the general letter. Enclosed is the solemn attestation of Kissendass; and I make no doubt but that gentleman's innocence will appear as clear to the Court of Directors, as it did to us who were present at, and witnessed the said attestation."

N. B. The gentlemen who witnessed the attestation were,

Col. Clive,
Col. Ford,
Major Caillaud,
Mr. Pybus,
Capt. Carnac.

-- Important Facts regarding the East India Company's Affairs in Bengal, from the Year 1752 to 1760. This Treatise Contains an Exact State of the Company's Revenues in that Settlement; With Copies of several very interesting Letters Showing Particularly, The Real Causes Which Drew on the Presidency of Bengal the Dreadful Catastrophe of the Year 1767; and Vindicating the Character of Mr. Holwell From Many Scandalous Aspersions Unjustly Thrown Out Against Him, in an Anonymous Pamphlet, Published March 6th, 1764, Entitled, "Reflections on the Present State of Our East-India Affairs." by J.Z. Holwell


The National Gallery of Victoria has recently acquired a magnificent conversation piece of The Pybus family, c.1769, by the British artist Nathaniel Dance (1735–1811). The painting will complement the NGV’s already impressive holdings in the area of eighteenth-century British art and will be the first work by Dance on display in a public collection in Australia (fig. 1).

The picture represents John Pybus Senior (1727–1789), a retired East India Company servant, and his wife Martha, née Small, (1733–1802), with their children identified, from left to right as: Martha (1758–1788), Anne (1756–1791), John Junior (1754–1808), and Charles Small (1766–1810). The family is depicted full-length, exquisitely dressed in tones of pink and grey, in an idyllic English-landscape setting. The painting was brought to Australia in 1897 by descendants of the sitters and, from that point on, escaped the notice of scholars of both Nathaniel Dance and eighteenth-century British art. It is a source, therefore, of great excitement that this beautiful work has now emerged, newly cleaned, into the public sphere.

John Pybus Senior was born into modest circumstances on 22 November 1727, the only child of Bryan Pybus (1690–1747) of Dover and Mary Kempster of Harwich.1 His father came from Thirsk in Yorkshire but worked as an agent on the packet boats at Dover.2 Aged fifteen, on 15 December 1742, John was sent as a writer to Fort St George, Madras, by the East India Company. The post was clerical but it did at least offer the opportunity for advancement. At the very same meeting, Robert Clive – known to posterity as Clive of India – was also appointed as a writer.3

In March 1752 John Pybus received his first promotion when he was sent to oversee the company factory at Deve Cotah; when he returned at the end of that year he was a junior-merchant on £30 per annum.4 In view of his improved circumstances and future prospects, aged twenty-eight, he married Martha Small of Lewisham on 20 October 1753 in Madras. The young couple must have left immediately for Fort Marlborough in Sumatra where Pybus was appointed as deputy governor on a salary of £40 per annum.5 It was here on 1 January 1755 that the first of their eight children (and the oldest boy in the painting), was baptised John. Another child was born later that year but died shortly after. Their daughter Anne was born on 16 November 1756, presumably in Sumatra as well, but this is not documented; she stands second from the left in the painting.6 On the family’s return to Madras in 1757, a further daughter, Martha, was born on 30 June 1758; she is the younger girl in the painting. Pybus was to write mournfully to Robert Clive on the eve of the birth of his fifth child in March 1764, ‘If a fortune had been as easy to have got as children, I should have been a very rich fellow long ago but this I was certainly never intended to be’.7 The child died shortly after.

Immediately on his return to Madras, Pybus was engaged as assay master, followed by his appointment in October to the council who ran the Presidency of Madras. The following year he was made land customer.8 However, the same directors who only shortly before had declared themselves satisfied, started to question his actions in Sumatra, so much so that he felt compelled to return to London to defend his reputation. He resigned from the council and wrote to them explaining his sudden departure was due to ‘[t]he justification of my character, which to my great uneasiness and concern … has been most basely traduced and misrepresented to my employers’ who he had served ‘with zeal and fidelity’ for sixteen years.9

His wife and family were already in England having left India in September 1758.10 During their reunion in England, a further child was born and named Margaret Clive after his friend, but she died soon afterwards.11 Presumably having cleared his name and justified his actions, Pybus returned again to Madras in October 1761.
While he was in England his brother-in-law, Mr Fairfield, had been appointed to the chieftainship of Masulipatan. Pybus, who wanted the post himself, wrote indignantly to Clive:

I have been deprived of my Right, nay I may say my rank in the service by it for what other benefit arises from Rank but that of succeeding to those Places of Profit which the service affords and very few these are of them God knows.12

Perhaps to mollify him, the council sent him as the ambassador to the King of Kandy in Ceylon. The ostensible purpose was to establish exclusive trading rights with the king over the Dutch. The embassy failed but Pybus’s report and diary survive and have been published.13 Despite the physical discomfort of the embassy, clearly it was something of which he was proud as it is commemorated on his funerary epitaph where it states that he was ‘the first Englishman received in a public character at that Prince’s court’.14 Meanwhile, his wife and family had joined him again in Madras from England, he reasoned frugally ‘I think I shall be able to support her here at as little expense as in England’.15

From November 1762, perhaps due to the intervention of Clive, he was finally appointed as the new chieftain of Masulipatan.16 Pybus must have made the fortune he had so longed for at Masulipatan as he was subsequently able to leave India and the East India Company for good.
There was one further addition to the family during this period, Charles Small Pybus, who was born in November 1766 in Madras and who stands on his mother’s lap in the painting. The following November John Pybus, his wife and three17 children are documented leaving Madras for the last time to a gun salute on the Hector. The family changed boats at St Helena on to the Northumberland and arrived back in England in May 1768. Pybus’s epitaph proclaims:

Having during a period of twenty-five years filled these and other public situations in India, with fidelity to his honourable employers and credit to himself, he returned to his native country.18


On their return to England the family seem to have settled in London at Brudley Street, Berkeley Square.19 Shortly afterwards, in August 1768, John Pybus bought the ancient property of Pricklers in East Barnet, Hertfordshire, just outside London, from Thomas Brand MP, in whose family the property had been since 1558. In true nabob fashion, the Pybus family were establishing themselves with their Indian-made money both in town and country.20 There could be no better way to advertise their new wealth and prosperity than to commission a family portrait by one of the most fashionable artists of the time, Nathaniel Dance (fig. 2). The artist had run a successful portrait practice from 13 Tavistock Row, Covent Garden, since returning from Italy in the mid 1760s. While in Italy he had made a name for himself as a painter of conversation pieces of Grand Tourists, that peculiarly English genre of informal group portraiture. In order to improve his style and his clientele, from 1762 Dance worked alongside Pompeo Batoni (1708–1787) the pre-eminent portraitist in Rome, renowned for his elegant and refined conversation pieces of English travellers (fig. 3). The prominence of Dance’s recent sitters cannot have been unimportant in Pybus’s choice of the artist for a family portrait. In 1768, commissioned by George III, Dance painted the king’s brother-in-law, Christian VII of Denmark. It was Dance alone who exhibited portraits of the king and queen at the first Royal Academy Exhibition in 1769 where he had chosen to exclusively exhibit portraits.21 On the Pybus family’s return from India, Dance’s profile as a portrait painter was particularly high.


No account books or sitters’ books of Nathaniel Dance’s survive from this period and it is therefore not possible to confirm the attribution or date of the painting through this means. However, as the age of the Pybus children is well documented, it is possible to establish the date of the painting within a period of eighteen months. On the family’s return from India in May 1768, John was thirteen and a half; Ann, eleven and a half; Martha, ten; and Charles, one and a half. In the painting their childish features and appearance makes it extremely unlikely that they are any more than, at most, a year and a half older than these ages, dating the painting to no later than the end of 1769 (figs 4 & 5). Tantalisingly, we know that there was a conversation piece exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1770 which is as yet unidentified and may well prove in time to be this painting.22 Although the painting is unsigned and until now has been attributed to Dance on stylistic grounds and the family tradition of the former owners, John Pybus’s will of 1787 clearly refers to the family pictures by Dance’.23



The fine clothes, elegant poses and English countryside speak volumes about the status and aspirations of the family on their return. However, the painting can be viewed more poignantly as commemorating the family’s survival. Collectively they had survived war, disease and separation. John’s beloved wife Martha had given birth to seven children, three of whom had died soon after their birth, all but one having been born in the heat and disease-ridden conditions of the East. The family had been divided between Europe and the Indian subcontinent on several occasions and even when they were together in India, it seems that Martha and the children lived at Fort St George while John Pybus lived at Masulipatan. Finally the family were reunited and were looking forward to a new life in their native country and it is this, as much as their wealth, that Dance captures for posterity.

The Landscape in which the family stands appears to be idealised and is similar to the background of other portraits by Dance, in particular the treatment of the tree with creepers climbing up the trunk (fig. 6). However, if, for argument’s sake, it does represent a location that is associated with the family, one must look to the Pricklers estate in Hertfordshire and not to Cheam, Surrey, where the family is buried, as this land was not acquired until 1788.

The Pybus conversation piece was not the only painting by Dance that John Pybus commissioned; it seems he was a good client of the artist. The use of the plural in John Pybus’s will when he mentions the family pictures by Dance makes clear that there was more than one family picture by the artist. In addition to this, a further half-length portrait of John Pybus by Dance is specifically mentioned in the will.24 In total, therefore, there were at least three paintings commissioned of the family from the painter, all of which must have been painted before the closure of his practice in 1782 and most likely predate the mid 1770s tailing off of that practice. Fascinatingly, we also know that Pybus commissioned a portrait of Robert Clive, as in 1780 Francis Fowke, resident of Benares and a school friend of John Pybus Junior, was sent by his uncle, John Walsh, ‘a large picture of Lord Clive … It is a copy of that done by Dance for Mr Pybus’.25 It is quite probable that Pybus’s painting is the prototype half-length of Clive with the Battle of Plassey in the background at Powis Castle, Wales, of which there are eight copies, one of which is in the National Portrait Gallery, London.26

Major-General the Right Honourable The Lord Clive KB FRS. Lord Clive in military uniform. The Battle of Plassey is shown behind him. By Nathaniel Dance. National Portrait Gallery, London.


The Pybus conversation piece should be viewed not only in the context of other commissions by John Pybus from Dance but also in the wider context of a number of other portraits of East India Company servants dating from a similar period by the artist. Dance received a commission from John Pybus’s friend Robert Palk, governor of Madras, for a portrait of his wife and children which was exhibited at the Royal Academy Exhibition in 1771.27 He also painted Lady Clive and a further full-length portrait of Lord Clive, both dated to c.1772–73 and at Powis Castle, Wales.28 It can be no coincidence that these three close associates all commissioned portraits by Dance during the same period. In addition there is a cryptic note in John Pybus’s papers for ‘Cash paid Dance the Limner for the frame of a Picture’ under the account of his son-in-law Sir Robert Fletcher who was on the military side of the company – was he too painted by the artist?29

The subsequent history of the painting can be traced through the wills of the family. In his own will John Pybus requested that:

I also will and direct that my said wife shall have the possession of our family pictures by Dance … during her life and after her demise I give the said family pictures and all my other pictures and paintings of whatsoever kind not herein before or herein after specifically disposed of, to my son John Pybus’.30

His wife Martha died on 4 November 1802 in her sixty-ninth year; the painting must then have passed to John Pybus Junior. In his will of 1808 it is written: ‘I give to my dear son John Bryan Pybus all my family pictures’.31 He died in the same year and the painting must then have passed to his only son, who, like his grandfather, had returned to Madras as a writer in 1807. It is possible that the painting travelled out to India at this point. John Bryan Pybus married Catherine Wilson in Madras in 1818, but he died shortly afterwards and was buried in Madras on 27 January 1820.32 His widow and son John, who had been born in 1819, probably returned to England at this point. We certainly know that the painting passed to the son in later life, as on 18 May 1885 a John Pybus of 33 Spring Gardens, London, wrote to the National Portrait Gallery offering the painting on loan, describing it in a letter as

a fine picture by ‘Dance’ with a landscape by ‘Wilson’ a family group of the late John Pybus and his wife and children about 120 years old and in very fine preservation.33

I believe the mention of the landscape being by Wilson must be discounted, the two artists are not known to have collaborated.

At the trustees meeting on 6 June 1885 the offer was turned down on the basis that loans were not accepted on principle. This John Pybus (1819–1886) and his wife Charlotte Coventry had ten children. Their eldest daughter was Martha, who married William Cooke. On her father’s death the painting seems to have passed to her brother Cecil who sold it in 1897 for £500 to Martha’s Australian grandson, Samuel Winter Cooke, the son of Cecil Pybus Cooke and Arabella Winter. The painting has then passed by descent (fig. 7).34


We know little of the Pybus family’s life on their return from India until in 1773, perhaps because his fortune had dwindled, John Pybus set up a bank, Pybus, Hyde, Dorsett & Cockell, at 148 New Bond Street.35 Mr Russell, John Pybus Junior’s former tutor, wrote in 1778

Mr Pybus & son are partners in a Bankers shop in Bond Street. The former struggles incessantly with an asthma and other disorders, which frequently renders his life doubtful for four and twenty hours. His son John finds full employment in the shop and has but little leisure for literary pursuits or any other pleasure.36

John Pybus Junior became a partner in the bank in 1779, replacing Mr Hyde. In 1785 a new bank was founded, Pybus, Cockell, Pybus & Call, and moved premises to Old Bond Street.37 In a letter to Warren Hastings, John Pybus Senior asked if he

might assist in promoting the interests of our house by recommending it to any of your friends who may not already have appointed attorneys to the management of their money concerns in this country.38

The records of the bank do not survive although it seems to have been deliberately aimed at the niche market of absentee East India men.

In 1774 Ann made an impressive marriage to Brigadier-General Sir Robert Fletcher, Commander in Chief of the British Forces, and returned with him to India. She was followed in 1776 by her younger sister, Martha, who shortly after her arrival married Lieutenant Arthur Lysaght.39 Soon after, Sir Robert died on Mauritius on 24 December 1776 and Ann returned as a wealthy widow to live with her family in England who had by now moved to Harley Street.40 At about this time the eighth child of John and Martha Pybus was born, Catherine Amelia; she was the only child who lived to adulthood and who is not in the painting. Charles Small Pybus qualified to the Bar and went on to became MP for Dover and a lord of the Admiralty.41

By the time of his will in 1787 John Pybus was no longer living in Harley Street but in Old Bond Street above the banking house. He had sold his country estate, Pricklers, in 1781 to General Provost for £9000.42 In a codicil to his will, in the knowledge that he was dying, John Pybus bought Cheam House, Cheam, Surrey, just outside London, from the trustees of the late Edmund Saxnay for £1500 at Carraway’s Coffee House in 1788. He bought the property as a security for his wife from which she might live after his demise. The house was pulled down in 1922 but is recorded in photographs prior to this.43

John Pybus died on 22 June 1789 and was buried on 29 June in the Church of St Dunstan’s, Cheam. His wife Martha, sons John and Charles and daughter Ann were also all buried there. It is only his daughter Martha who is not buried at Cheam; she died in 1788, most probably in India, having remarried a company surgeon on her first husband’s death.44 Three Pybus wall monuments were saved from destruction when the church was rebuilt in 1864 and can be seen in the Lumley Chapel – the remaining part of the medieval church.45 Cheam House was sold by John Pybus Junior in 1803 following his mother’s death.

The reappearance of the Pybus conversation piece has cast a refreshing new light on Nathaniel Dance and his portrait practice. As a Dance portrait in a good state of preservation, it highlights the quality of the artist’s work on his return to London. This has not previously been studied in any great depth, his work in Italy and as a history painter having always attracted more attention. Through research on John Pybus’s patronage of Dance it has also become clear that he was not alone as an East India Company servant in favouring the artist. Pybus, like many other nabobs, returned to England in the 1760s with a large disposable income just when Dance’s star was in the ascendant and it is unsurprising to find the two attracted to each other. John Pybus may have until now only appeared in history books as a footnote to Robert Clive or as the father of his more famous son Charles Small Pybus but he and his family are deserving of greater attention by historians, not least because of Dance’s family portrait.

Emma Lauze, Photographic Activist, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London (in 2004).



In addition to the specific citations that follow, a number of official public records pertaining to Pybus family genealogy, travel and property dealings were used in researching this article. For Pybus family genealogy, see Ecclesiastical Returns, Madras, 1698–1784, N/2/1 f. 279, f. 312, f. 534 & J/1/22 f. 149; Sumatra Proceedings, 1755, G35/10 & 10A; Oriental and India Office Collections, BL; Register of St Dunstan’s, Cheam, Sutton Archives and Local Studies Collection. For travel dates and passenger lists, see Journal of the Hector, L/MAR/B 486F, 4 Nov. 1767 & 19 Feb. 1768; –Northumberland L/MAR/B/141D 22 Mar. & 29 May 1768, Oriental and India Office Collections. For property purchases and sales, see Indenture of Lease, 5 Feb. 1788 and Release, 6 Feb. 1788, Sutton Archives and Local Studies Collection.

Websites: ... tudies.htm

1 See Rev. W. Betham, The Baronetage of England, vol. 3, London, 1801–05, p.399, fn.

2 See R. G. Thorne, History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790–1820, vol. 4, London, 1986, p. 905.

3 See Court Minute Book, B/67, pp. 177–83, Oriental and India Office Collections, BL, London.

4 See B. S. Baliga, (ed.), Records of Fort St George. Diary and Consultation Book of 1752, Madras, 1939, pp. 51 & 61.

5 ibid., p. 385.

6 Ann Pybus’s birth date appears on her tomb in the Lumley Chapel, Cheam, (see transcription in Rev. O. Manning, The History and Antiquities of the County of Surrey, vol. 2, London, 1804–14, p.477).

7 John Pybus, letter to Robert Clive, 27 March 1764, Clive Papers, MSS Eur/G37, box 32, Oriental and India Office Collections.

8 See Baliga, (ed.), Records of Fort St George, 1758, 1953, pp. 15 & 193.

9 Pybus, letter, 1 January 1760, transcribed in Baliga, (ed.), Records of Fort St George, 1760, p.24.

10 ibid., p. 168.

11 Manning, p. 477.

12 Pybus, letter, 8 April 1762, box 29.

13 See Pybus, Account of Mr Pybus’s Mission to the King of Kandy in 1762, Ceylon, 1862.

14 Manning, p. 476.

15 Pybus, letter, 12 January 1763.

16 See Baliga, (ed.), Records of Fort St George, 1762, 1946, P. 74.

17 It is not clear why three, not four, children are documented; as Charles Small was a baby it is possible he was not documented, it is also possible that John Junior was already in England for his education (see Journal of the Hector, L/MAR/B 486F, entries for 4 Nov. 1767 & 19 Feb. 1768, Oriental and India Office Collections).

18 Epitaph on John Pybus’s wall monument, Lumley Chapel, Cheam, transcribed in Manning, pp. 476–7.

19 Pybus, letter, 22 June 1768, box 53.

20 See J. M. Holzman, The Nabobs in England. A Study of the Returned Anglo-Indian 1760–1785, New York, 1926, pp. 7 & 158.

21 See D. Goudreau, Nathaniel Dance 1735–1811 (exh. cat.), Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, London, 1977, introd., unpaginated.

22 See A. Graves, The Royal Academy of Arts. A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and their Work from its Foundation in 1769 to 1904, vol. 2, London, 1905, p.239, 1770, entry no. 69.

23 Will of John Pybus Senior, 18 August 1787, PROB 11/1184, London.

24 ibid.

25 John Walsh, letter to Francis Fowke, 23 June 1780, Fowke Papers, MSS Eur D11, K25, letter 19, Oriental and India Office Collections.

26 See J. Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London, 1977, pp. 56–9.

27 See Graves, p. 239, 1771, entry no. 56. The painting is now unlocated and is known only from photographs.

28 See J. Steegman, A Survey of Portraits in Welsh Houses, vol. 1, Cardiff, 1956–62, p. 266, nos 47 & 50; and Goudreau, nos 32 & 33.

29 Pybus, note in account book, February 20 1775, John Pybus Papers, MSS Eur f. 110/2, Oriental and India Office Collections.

30 Will of John Pybus Senior, PROB 11/1184.

31 Will of John Pybus Junior, 27 May 1808, PROB 11/1480.

32 See C. C. Prinsep, Record of Services of the Honourable East India Company’s Civil Servants in the Madras Presidency from 1741–1858, London, 1885, pp. 117–18. For his marriage and birth of child see Ecclesiastical Returns, Madras, J/1/22 f. 149.

33 Letter with minutes of the NG trustees 176th meeting, National Portrait Gallery archive.

34 Details of the sale to the Australian line of the family have been taken from notes kindly provided by the National Gallery of Victoria, having been compiled from the Winter Cooke Papers at the La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.

35 See F. G. Hilton Price, A Handbook of London Bankers with Some Account of their Predecessors the Early Goldsmiths, London, 1876, p. 21.

36 See S. Russell, letter to Francis Fowke, Marylebone, 14 January 1778, Fowke Papers, MSS Eur D11, K25, letter 8, Oriental and India Office Collections.

37 See Hilton Price, p. 21.

38 John Pybus, letter to Warren Hastings, 8 October 1784, Warren Hastings MSS Add. 29166 f. 254, Manuscript Collection, BL.

39 See Ecclesiastical Returns, Madras, 1698–1784, N2/1 f. 378.

40 See Russell, letter, 14 January 1778.

41 See Thorne, pp. 905–7.

42 See Holzman, pp. 76 & 158.

43 See photographic files, Sutton Archives.

44 See Manning, p. 477.

45 See C. J. Marshall, A History of the Old Villages of Cheam and Sutton, Surrey, 1936, p. 29.
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