Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK, and

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: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 5:01 am

Tainting appreciation of Dharma

The Complaint sets out the damage that is alleged to have been done to the letter writers’ appreciation of the Dharma. Given the conclusions that I have reached above, it is entirely understandable that they feel this way.

In his letter to me, Sogyal says “my utmost concern is that no one should be deterred from their spiritual path and their commitment to following the Buddhist teachings”. Sadly, it appears that the damage has been done for many of those with whom I have spoken.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 5:04 am

Vacuum of accountability

The Complaint states “we see no clear or identifiable ethical standards or guidelines to which you are held. There is a vacuum of accountability”.

Witness O told me that turning against your teacher would amount to breaking Samaya. According to Witness O, if a student were to change their mind, they could move away from the teacher but they should not “turn against them”. Witness O said it should be like an amicable divorce, as opposed to a nasty divorce.

I was particularly troubled by the responses of Witness P on this topic. Witness P’s view was that if someone was unhappy, they should leave:

“If you feel you can’t continue even with the support of the sangha members then the important thing is to leave in a harmonious way. You need to leave in a non-acrimonious way and maintain relationships after you have left”.

Witness P said that an unhappy student should:

“Talk openly to the community and say you feel it is not right. You should ask ‘how shall we proceed?’ You could continue in the community putting a mental pause on your relationship with [Sogyal]. You can receive teachings from others and may reach a different understanding in due course. If not, you could leave in a harmonious way. It depends on the maturity of the sangha. It’s about doing the most beneficial thing for everybody”.

I then asked Witness P specifically about what a student should do if they considered that they had been seriously sexually assaulted by a guru. Witness P responded:

“It would be good for them to talk to each other and senior members of the community that they trust. Information doesn’t have to be suppressed. Perhaps bring it to [Sogyal]’s attention. You need to find out what they want”.

I asked Witness P what a student should do if they had tried to speak to the community and take teachings elsewhere, but still considered themself a victim of sexual assault. Witness P responded “I don’t know.” I asked whether it would ever be OK for that student to go to the police. Witness P responded “I don’t know”.

I found these responses extremely troubling. Witness P, who accepted that a guru is not perfect and can make mistakes, did not say that a student who believes they have been subjected to a serious sexual assault can go to the police. Witness P is one of the most senior members of the Rigpa community and a vital conduit for complaints (for which, see below) yet, in my opinion, Witness P is not prepared to hold Sogyal to account.

Overall, based on this information and the information set out in the next section of this report, I uphold the allegation that, for many years, there has been nobody within Rigpa holding Sogyal Lakar to account.
In saying this, I recognise that Witness P and Witness N were instrumental in the instigation of this investigation, which I see as a very hopeful sign the vacuum of accountability might become a thing of the past.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 5:06 am

An organisational culture that maintains absolute secrecy

The final allegation in the Complaint is that Rigpa, as an organisation, has helped to keep the allegations against Sogyal Lakar secret; the letter writers describe a “veil of secrecy, deception and deceit”. Indeed, the writers go on to say that “some of us, who have held positions of responsibility within Rigpa, struggle with our own part in having covered for [Sogyal] and “explained” away [his] behaviour, while not caring for those with traumatic experiences”.

My investigation into this aspect of the complaint was greatly assisted by the willingness of three former trustees of Rigpa to give evidence to me: Witnesses B, C and D. What they each had to say was critical to enable me to understand the extent of the information available to members of Rigpa management over the years, and to understand how that information was responded to.

I deal with the chronology of various matters which are relevant to this allegation under the various sub-headings below, and set out my conclusions at the end of this section of the report.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 5:09 am

Allegations raised by Witness C

Witness C’s account is set out in more detail in the confidential annexe due to the involvement of a third party in the account, but is summarised below.

Witness C was a trustee of Rigpa. During 1992, he had started to hear some rumours of Sogyal having abusive sexual relationships with students. He had heard that one student had left because of this and Witness B had also raised some concerns with him (for which, see below).

In 1992, a student told Witness C she had been sexually abused by Sogyal over an extended period of time. Further details of this allegation are set out in the confidential annexe.

Witness C says he spoke to Witness P and said that Sogyal’s sexual behaviour was abusive but that Witness P sought to reassure him that nothing was wrong. Witness C said he felt alone with his concerns and did not know what to do.

On 1 February 1994 Witness C made an unannounced presentation to four senior Rigpa students, which included Witness P, Witness O and Witness N. This presentation outlined Witness C’s concerns about Sogyal’s behaviour, which, he said, related to money, sex and power, and urged these individuals to take action. When Witness C sought to include his presentation as an addendum to the minutes of the meeting he was instructed by one of the attendees to unconditionally withdraw the statement as a formal record of any kind, and that it should remain a personal document to him.

At some point between April and June 1994, Witness C says that Witness P addressed another formal Rigpa meeting and confirmed that these matters had been raised with Sogyal Lakar and that there was nothing to be concerned about. Witness C says that there was no further discussion.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 5:13 am

Contact from Inform

In June 1994, Rigpa UK received a letter from Inform, which describes itself as “an independent charity providing information that is as up-to-date and reliable as possible about what many call cults, sects, new religious movements (NRMs), non-conventional religions”. I was shown a copy of the letter from Inform which said:

“It is said that Sogyal Rinpoche has had sexual relations with several of his female disciples. The allegation comes from a number of sources and indeed appears to have been common knowledge among those concerned with Buddhist affairs … Could you please confirm that it is true and could you say whether it is an experience for which young women joining Rigpa now and in the future should be prepared? Further, can you explain how the practice fits in with accepted Buddhist teaching?”

Witness C shared with me a number of different draft responses prepared by Witness P and Witness O, as well as a draft prepared by Witness C. In my view, the responses prepared by Witness P and Witness O were defensive and focussed on the good done by Sogyal; neither draft suggests that there is any cause for concern. Witness C’s draft was very different; it sought to acknowledge the problems and recognise that harm had been caused. Witness C says his approach was rejected.

The final response to Inform was not sent until 10 September 1994. In the interim period, the meeting with Witness B (referred to below) took place, and Rigpa UK was contacted by both the Observer newspaper and the Charity Commission (see below). Witness C says that the eventual response to Inform was prepared by a lawyer instructed by Rigpa and was considerably briefer than the earlier drafts.

On 11 September 1994, Witness C wrote to Witness P to raise concerns about the minutes of an earlier formal meeting and to complain that Witness P had told Inform that sexual relations with teachers did not form any part of the teaching of Buddhism practised by Sogyal. Witness C did not believe that this statement could be made in good faith given the matters disclosed by Witness B (see below). I have not seen a response to this from Witness P.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 5:24 am

Allegations raised by Witness B

Witness B claims to have been approached by a number of women during the early 1990s who complained in confidence that they had been involved in sexually abusive relationships with Sogyal Lakar. Witness B says the incidents complained of included “sexual harassment, sex within the environment of emotional manipulation, coercion to have sex with him “for the sake of the teachings, his health and long life”, verbal abuse, sexual infections as a result of his refusal to practise safe sex and pregnancies resulting in abortions”.

I have set out below the allegations made by Witness B; I should make clear that this is Witness B’s account, as opposed to my own findings. I should also make clear that I have not interviewed Student 21, who is referred to below.

Witness B says that Witness B saw three main patterns emerging from the allegations:

• In the first, women undertaking lama care (i.e. acting as attendant to Sogyal) were told, upon entering his room, to lock the door and take their clothes off, whereupon Sogyal proceeded to have sex with them. As described to Witness B, they did not feel they had a choice in the matter, and submitted to him in a state of shock since he was their master.
• In the second, Sogyal would talk about marriage with the female student, indicating that she was very special. She would then find out later that he was having sex with multiple partners. On one retreat, a student told Witness B that she estimated that Sogyal Rinpoche was having sex with seven women including herself.
• In the third, women found themselves attracted to Sogyal out of curiosity, knowing him to be sexually active. However, once involved, they frequently found themselves unable to extricate themselves from the relationship.

Witness B believed that these events were causing harm on many levels. The women who confided in Witness B are said to have expressed shock, confusion and distress, especially since the man who seduced them was their spiritual teacher in whom they had placed their trust. They also reported that this caused distress to the partners of the women involved, since they were seduced into maintaining a sexual relationship which they were told to keep secret from their partners.

Witness B claims to have raised these concerns directly with Sogyal Lakar on three occasions, and also referred to them in a letter which Witness B wrote to him on 15 September 1992. Witness B believed assurances from Sogyal Lakar that he would change his behaviour and seek help.

Subsequently, Witness B was approached by two further women who described traumatic sexual experiences with Sogyal Lakar. As a result, Witness B concluded that the assurances from Sogyal were not to be trusted.

Witness B told Student 21 and Witness N that, in Witness B’s view the sexual relationships in which Sogyal was engaging with his students were abusive and detrimental to their well-being. Witness B also spoke to Witness C about these matters who shared Witness B’s concerns. In these conversations, Witness B emphasised the need for Rigpa to fulfil the requirements of its status as a registered charity, and the responsibilities of the trustees to ensure accountability and safeguard students.

Having discussed the situation with Student 21 and Witness N, they agreed to inform Witness P of this and facilitate a conversation with Sogyal. Witness B says that the efforts to contact Sogyal were blocked by Witness P, who allegedly said that Sogyal was too busy with his book tour to be dealing with this kind of stuff. It is alleged that Witness P stated that the problems lay with the students.

On 13 October 1992, Witness B then wrote a personal letter to Sogyal Lakar of 10 pages setting out these concerns and the basis for them. Witness B also sent a copy of this letter to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Also on 13 October 1992, Witness B wrote giving notice of resignation as a trustee.

After leaving Rigpa, Witness B continued to be engaged in conversations with women who were traumatised. Witness B decided that it was important to share information in a way that protected confidentiality in order that Rigpa management were officially briefed on what had happened. Witness B arranged a private meeting on 10 July 1994, attended by Witnesses C, N, O and P, and Student 21 as well as four other individuals.

Witness B felt it was important that people in senior positions at Rigpa clearly understood Witness B’s reasons for leaving. Around the same time, Witness B had been approached by a journalist from the Sunday Observer with a request to comment on allegations of sexual misconduct by Sogyal, and financial irregularities. Witness B had declined to make any comment.

Witness B prepared a speaking note in advance of the meeting, which Witness B read out loud, providing information which had come to Witness B’s attention from both the men and the women who had confided in Witness B about their experiences of Sogyal’s behaviour. The speaking note is 18 pages long and a copy has been provided to me. Witness B did not give the attendees a copy of the note or permit them to take notes.

Witness B’s speaking note does not identify victims by name, but provides significant detail of the allegations referred to above. It makes clear that those alleging sexual misconduct include those in the lama care team, as well as other students. The note states that these incidents happened behind closed doors when Sogyal got them alone. The note sets out three specific examples of women who said they had been sexually abused by Sogyal.

I spoke to Witness C about this meeting, who was present at it. Witness C recalls that when Witness B finished speaking Witness P asked “is any of this information out there anywhere?” Witness C says that he was quite upset at this point and said something along the lines of “you have just heard about sexual abuse, rape and abortion and all you seem to be interested in is who else has the information.” Witness P is said to have replied: “it’s a jungle out there”.

Witness B’s recollection is that Witness P was trying to ascertain if Witness B was going to take this any further. At the time, Witness B had no desire to do so, and says that Witness P seemed to relax visibly when Witness B did not seem interested in taking the information outside of Rigpa. Witness B’s view is that Witness P was trying to gauge whether or not Witness B would go to the press. Witness B considers that Witness P was only concerned about damage limitation for Sogyal Lakar.

When I met with Witness N and Witness P, I did not know about this meeting, but the way that they each dealt with this meeting in response to more general questions about their knowledge of any concerns is set out below:

• Witness P volunteered the fact that “someone in England” had said that they had talked to some women who said they had been mistreated. Witness P said that they had asked who this person was referring to and the person wouldn’t name names due to confidentiality problems. Witness P said that Witness B had talked to quite a lot of people and said that a few females had been approached by Sogyal and were unhappy about it. Witness P said that there were “some kind of sexual implications”. Witness P said “I kept asking who they were and said if anyone wants to make a complaint they should do so. There weren’t any names, this was problematic for us and Witness B … we were stuck. The result is a stand-off – who is it and what can we do?”
• I asked Witness N an open question about whether Witness N had any suspicion of wrongdoing by Sogyal Lakar and Witness N responded “no one has ever come to me saying that they have been mistreated or feel uncomfortable”. Whilst this may technically be true (at least in respect of this meeting, as the complaints were being delivered by a third party), the fact that Witness N did not mention this meeting gives me concern that Witness N was being selective in the information provided to me. Whilst I acknowledge that this meeting took place a long time ago, this is not a meeting that would be easy to forget.

By the time I met Witness O I was aware of the July 1994 meeting having taken place so was able to ask more direct questions. Witness O accepted that there had been a meeting at Witness B’s request with lots of people present. Witness O could not recall the detail of what was discussed; rightly pointing out that it took place a long time ago. I asked Witness O what the gist of the meeting was and Witness O said that Witness B was very aggressive and said that Sogyal was abusing people and causing suffering. Witness O said that the allegations related to sexual and emotional issues, not physical coercion or rape.

I asked Witness O what they did with this information and Witness O responded that: “nobody complained to us. I asked one other person ‘do you have a complaint, how are you feeling now’; somebody had given me her name. She was just a bit upset and did not make a complaint”.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 5:31 am

November 1994: Janice Doe

Towards the end of 1994, Sogyal Lakar and Rigpa were sued in the US by a complainant known as Janice Doe. I was able to obtain a copy of the claim (but should make clear that this did not come to me from Janice Doe or anyone involved in the litigation) which states:

“Plaintiff brings this action for reparations and to halt a pattern of physical, mental and sexual abuse by world famous Tibetan author and teacher, Sogyal Rinpoche…

Defendant Sogyal Rinpoche has used his position as an interpreter of Tibetan Buddhism to take sexual and other advantage of female students over a period of many years and has caused extreme injuries to many students, including Plaintiff.

Plaintiff is a student who sought out Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa Fellowship … at an especially vulnerable time in her life [following the death of her father] and met Sogyal Rinpoche [in 1993] … She was almost immediately subjected to systematic indoctrination designed to separate her from her normal support systems including family and friends …
A central aspect of this mental coercion was to lead plaintiff to believe that her only way to enlightenment, or salvation, was to serve her master, Sogyal Rinpoche, and that by pleasing him she would achieve enlightenment and relief of her suffering. The corollary to this was that to incur displeasure, or to refuse him in any way, could cause dire consequences to herself and her family. As a result of this pressure she was coerced into an intimate relationship with Sogyal Rinpoche that continued through November 1993, and included physical, mental and sexual abuse.

Simply put, under the guise of teachings of the Buddha, Sogyal Rinpoche took unfair advantage of plantiff’s and other students’ vulnerability for his own sexual and other gratification …

… defendant Sogyal wilfully, intentionally and maliciously assaulted and battered, and committed sexual assault upon plaintiff.”

Witness P confirmed to me that this claim was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

I asked Witness O about the Janice Doe case and Witness O confirmed being aware of it, but denied any direct involvement. Witness O said “there was a whole team of people behind her, supporting her. She was persuaded to do it by people who had been in Dharamasala and there were secret meetings to plan the law suit. [b]It was part of an anti-Asian guru movement”. Witness O acknowledged having read the case at the time, so Witness O would have been aware in the 1990s that the claim alleged that there were a number of other victims, not just Janice Doe (even if Witness O had forgotten that detail now).

I asked Witness O what Sogyal’s response was to the allegations in the claim and the other issues raised in the Witness B meeting earlier that year. Witness O did not know but “would imagine that” Witness N or Witness P would have asked him. I asked Witness O whether Witness O had been told that Sogyal denied the allegations; to which Witness O replied “I’ve forgotten what he said”. Witness O was “personally satisfied that he hadn’t behaved as alleged” and had never had cause for concern for anyone.

Witness O accepted that it was Witness O who was tasked with producing a grievance procedure and code of conduct for trustees following these issues. Witness O says that a grievance procedure was drafted but never adopted.
In any event, I understand that the mechanism that was proposed was that anyone with concerns should talk to a senior instructor, member of management or trustee.

I asked Witness P to tell me about Janice Doe. Witness P said she was someone who had a relationship with Sogyal and had been his girlfriend for some time. Witness P said that Janice Doe had then “decided she had been taken advantage of … because the relationship had not met her expectations”. Witness P could not recall exactly what Janice Doe had alleged, but said it was sexual and physical abuse. Witness P understood the claim to be “an over dramatized description of the relationship”. Witness P accepted that Janice Doe’s father had died and said she was “fragile and had issues”. Witness P went on to describe Janice Doe as “a pawn in the beginnings of a battle”, attributing her legal action to a group of Western Buddhist Teachers who were known to be hostile towards Sogyal Lakar and other Asian teachers in the west.

I asked Witness P whether Sogyal had been asked for his response to the allegations against him. Witness P’s response was: “we must have talked to him, I can’t recall his take”.

I asked Witness N about the Janice Does law suit. Witness N confirmed that he was aware of it but that it had been handled by Witness P. Witness N said that he was aware that Janice Doe had alleged sexual misconduct but that “the circumstances around her weakened her credibility”. Witness N did not, however, have any personal knowledge of these circumstances and relied on the accounts of others, specifically Witness P, who Witness N told me is trusted by Witness N implicitly.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 5:35 am

The Charity Commission meeting

On 9 November 1994, I understand that Witness C, Witness O, Witness P and Student 21 attended a meeting with the Charity Commission in the UK. Witness C showed me the notes that were taken by Witness C during that meeting.

In this meeting, the notes record that Witness C, Witness O, Witness P and Student 21 were asked about the Janice Doe law suit. Witness C’s notes of this meeting state that Witness O responded that “the result of our preliminary findings is that there is nothing in it. This is the first time in 20 years that there have been any allegations of harassment or misappropriation of funds”.

Witness C recalls that Witness C, Witness O, Witness P and Student 21 were asked in turn whether they had concerns about the sexual allegations and that only Witness C said that he had concerns.
Student 21 is alleged to have told the Charity Commission that the trustees “had been in dispute”. Witness C says that the Charity Commission did not ask what Witness C’s concerns were, but said that the fact that the trustees had been in dispute was “a good thing; that’s why you have more than one trustee”.

In a letter dated 31 March 1995, the Charity Commission wrote to Student 21 thanking Student 21 for letting the Charity Commission know that Rigpa was “drawing up guidelines to deal with harassment”. No such guidelines were put in place, although I have seen evidence that Witness C had put forward detailed proposals at a trustee meeting on 22 February 1995.

It is clear that Witness C’s position caused friction between the UK trustees. Witness P accepted that it became increasingly difficult to work with Witness C. Witness O’s description of the reasons for this are set out in the confidential annexe as they involve a third party’s position.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 5:47 am

Issues raised by Witness D

I have set out below the allegations made by Witness D; I should again make clear that this is Witness D’s account, as opposed to my own findings.

Witness D was appointed a UK trustee in 2006, having become a student of Sogyal Lakar in 2001. Witness D says that Witness D was not informed of any of the allegations set out above when Witness D accepted a role as a trustee. Witness D considers that these matters should have been disclosed so that Witness D could have made an informed choice about whether to become a trustee in these circumstances.

Witness D attended the three-year retreat which commenced in August 2006 on a part-time basis (attending for the summer only). When Witness D returned to the retreat in August 2007 he was approached by a prominent student, and warned about physical and sexual abuse by Sogyal Lakar against a young female student, Student 27. Details of the allegations are addressed in the confidential annexe.

Witness D understood that Student 27 had confronted Sogyal Lakar with her allegations at the Easter retreat in 2007. This evidence was corroborated by Witness E who told me that Witness E had been present at the Easter retreat and had been tasked with collecting Student 27 and driving her to the retreat. Witness E says that, during the journey, Student 27 confronted Witness E with her allegations about Sogyal. Details of what was said are set out in the confidential annexe. Witness E said he “gave her a lame response and told her to look at the positive things that come out of the way he trains us”. Witness E accepts that this was simply an attempt to placate Student 27 as Witness E was not yet ready to accept that what Student 27 described was anything other than a teaching. Witness E believed Student 27 was telling the truth as other girlfriends had confided similar details to Witness E before.

Witness E told me that, on arrival at the Easter retreat, Student 27 spoke in private to Sogyal and was very distressed when she left.

Witness D recounted being shocked by these allegations which had come as a complete surprise. Witness D recalls his wife expressing concern for Witness P and what these allegations would mean for Witness P whose life had been devoted to Sogyal. They assumed that Witness P would have no idea about such allegations.

Witness D understood that Student 26 had confronted Sogyal about Student 26‘s allegations and that Sogyal accepted they were true. Days later, Witness D wrote to Witness P, Student 21 and Student 23 resigning as a trustee and confirming that he would explain his reasons to them in person.

Witness D returned to the retreat to collect his belongings, having cancelled his membership of Rigpa. Witness D met with Witness P and recounted the allegations raised by Student 26 and Student 27. Witness P confirmed to Witness D that he had asked Student 26 to promise not to speak to anyone about the allegations and he was concerned that Student 26 had broken that promise. Witness P is said to have asked Witness D what he would say to the Charity Commission if asked why he had resigned. Witness D said he would tell the truth. Witness D was still not aware, at that point, of the previous enquiries that had been made by the Charity Commission and now infers that Witness P was actively trying to minimise the number of people who knew about the allegations.

Witness D had a conversation with Sogyal before he left the retreat during which Sogyal highlighted the importance of judging the situation from all angles. Witness D recalls discussing the allegations with Witness N as well, who he says responded that if the disclosures were made public it would threaten the future of Tibetan Buddhism in the west.

Witness D says he subsequently had a two-hour telephone call with Student 27 in which she went into detail about her allegations; Witness D said “I was shocked beyond words by what she told me”. Witness D then spoke to Sogyal again and told him that Student 27 had shared, in detail, what had taken place, to which it is alleged Sogyal responded “oh dear”.

Witness D attempted to broker a mediation between Student 27 and Sogyal to allow her to articulate her concerns in a safe environment. Witness D also wanted Witness P and others to hear her first-hand account so that the concerns were taken seriously. I understand that Witness P and Witness N offered to meet with Student 27, but she did not wish to do so.

On return to London, Witness D met with Students 21, 23 and 24 to explain why he had resigned. Despite Student 21’s awareness of the issues raised by Witness B and Witness C, the contact from Inform and the Observer, and being present at the meeting with the Charity Commission in 1994, Student 21 is alleged to have said nothing about any previous allegations of a similar nature. It was only when Witness D spoke to Witness C about the allegations some time later that he discovered this history.

I have seen a copy of a letter from Witness P to Witness D dated 11 July 2007. Witness P went to some considerable lengths in this letter to persuade Witness D that these issues were “an obstacle that – given time and reflection – you can overcome, and for the better”. The letter attempts to persuade Witness D that he has been tricked or seduced by ideas of victimhood which are a distortion of the truth. The letter is, in my opinion, an attempt at silencing Witness D – in Witness D’s words, it paints Witness D “as the one with the problem, which was only based on the machinations of [his] own mind, woven out of shadows residing there”. As Witness D said to me: “reading it now, and knowing what I now know Witness P knew when he wrote that letter to me, I am frankly sickened”.

Witness D says that Sogyal himself also attempted to persuade Witness D in person that he has been “very foolish” and that he had been “bamboozled”.

Witness O is then said to have approached Witness D on a separate occasion and told Witness D that Student 27’s relationship with Sogyal had been as a consenting adult, that Sogyal disputed Student 27’s allegations and that there was nothing objectionable about it. Witness D says that Witness O was highly critical of Student 26 in this conversation, the basis for which Witness D struggled to understand.

Witness O’s comments were the first suggestion to Witness D that Sogyal disputed Student 27’s account; Witness D had previously understood that Sogyal accepted it entirely. Witness D then spoke to Witness P again who, this time, denied knowledge of the allegations. Witness D found this extraordinary as he knew that he had personally discussed them with Witness P, and Witness P had written to Witness D about the obstacle that they caused. Witness D recalls that Witness P was now also critical of Student 26.

Witness D met with Witness O again and shared a full copy of Student 27’s letter to Student 26 (with permission). Witness O was said to be dismissive of the entire letter and is alleged to have focussed on the problems in the relationship between Student 27 and Student 26. Witness D wanted to discuss the allegations against Sogyal, but Witness O stated that they were not accepted and would not accept that there was any issue in a sexual relationship between Sogyal and a student. Again, Witness O is said to have made no reference to the fact that this was not the first such allegation against Sogyal.

Witness N and Witness P made no reference to these discussions with Witness D when I met with them (and I was not aware of them at the time of those meetings so was not able to ask them directly).

When I met with Witness O, Witness O explained the basis for these allegations from Witness O’s perspective; this information is set out in the confidential annexe. In essence, Witness O does not believe Student 27’s account and referred to Student 27 as a beauty who manipulates men with her beauty. Witness O said that Student 27 is “bright and bubbly but manipulative and I think she’s invented it”. Witness O provided me with video footage of Student 27 telling a risqué joke in public. Witness O says that Sogyal accepts that he had a sexual relationship with Student 27, but said that she had seduced him and that there was no coercion. According to Witness O, he “could not recognise himself in the way she was describing things”.

Witness O accepted that Witness D had thought that there was cause for concern, but felt that the fact that Witness D later returned as a student of Sogyal’s must have meant that he changed his mind.

Witness D described to me the difficult situation he found himself in and that he wrestled with whether he could remain a student of Sogyal, whose teachings he found hugely personally relevant and helpful, at the same time as holding concerns about his behaviour. Witness D decided that he would remain involved for the purpose of the study of Buddhism, but was not prepared to accept any management or pastoral role given what he knew.

Witness D has stepped away from Rigpa in light of the Complaint.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 5:51 am

Representing Rigpa

I also heard evidence of the various ways that Rigpa appears to have sought to control the dialogue about and response to the various allegations that have circulated about Sogyal’s behaviour. One of those is a series of training sessions which were rolled out, known as “Representing Rigpa”.

Witness C recalled his experience of attending this training. He says attendees were taught a strategy where if someone raised concerns, they should point them to an instructor who will give them space and listen. Witness C alleges that they were told to acknowledge the concern but encourage the individual to look at what’s behind it. Witness C says they were not given the answer to any specific questions about historic allegations, but were told that the allegations were being stirred up by a handful of people and that no one knows what happens in Sogyal’s private life. Witness C says they were told that they could acknowledge that Sogyal has relationships and has a child, but were told to say that they have never seen anything inappropriate. Witness C says that there were not asked to lie, but that the training skilfully manipulated instructors to be able to deny knowledge of concerns and reassure students.

Witness P acknowledged that the training was an initiative on behalf of the organisation to respond to demands from the press. Witness P said that the first version, called ‘responding to criticisms’ was “done enthusiastically by amateurs and may not have come across well”.

Witness N accepted that Public Relations firms were engaged by Rigpa in light of a critical 2011 television documentary. Witness N said that the meetings were designed to train them on how to be a spokesperson in light of the media interest.

Around Easter 2017, a working group was again formed to discuss the topic of ‘working with criticism’ which Witness D says was essentially formed to discuss how to respond to criticisms about Sogyal’s conduct.
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