Apech

Death of Sogyal Rinpoche

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Sogyal Rinpoche, a charismatic Tibetan Buddhist teacher and best-selling author who abruptly retired after several of his students accused him of multiple acts of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, died on Aug. 28 in a hospital in Thailand. He was in his early 70s.

The cause was a pulmonary embolism, his care team announced. He had received a diagnosis of colon cancer in September 2017.

Two months earlier, his reputation as a popular teacher of Buddhism and longtime friend of the Dalai Lama’s unraveled when eight students wrote a damning, heart-rending letter that outlined allegations of years of abuse by Sogyal Rinpoche against them.

 

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/01/obituaries/sogyal-rinpoche-dies.html

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A British charity founded by a disgraced Buddhist guru, who died last week after he was accused of sexual misconduct towards some of his followers, faces further controversy after it emerged that one of its trustees was found responsible for covering up abuse.

Patrick Gaffney was a trustee of the Rigpa Fellowship, which was founded by the Tibetan guru Sogyal Rinpoche, who died aged 72 in Thailand on Wednesday after going into hiding following the claims.

Weeks before Rinpoche’s death, Gaffney – the guru’s right-hand man who co-edited his bestselling The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying – was banned by a watchdog from working with charities for eight years.

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/sep/02/trustee-uk-charity-covered-up-abuse-buddhist-guru-rigpa-fellowship

 

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I was reading his book 'Tibetan book of living and dying' not too long ago, and I found it actually quite helpful. So it was pretty shocking to read some of the stories from his former students. I felt pretty disgusted with him.

 

Strangely enough, when he died, I kept having an image of him in my mind's eye. Part of me felt like he should suffer for undermining the dharma and harming students. Then I read somewhere that Garchen Rinpoche was advising students to recite a particular sutra on his behalf (I forget which one), so he might have a good rebirth.

 

It occured to me that this was done precisely because whatever is waiting for him on the other side was terribly sad for a man who - for all of his flaws - strived toward Buddhahood throughout his life. One day, as I finished my recitation of the Mani I decided that instead of dedicating merits to all beings, I would dedicate the merits for this one day to him, so that he might have a more fortunate rebirth. I don't pretend to believe that it might have been enough to help him, but after I did so, his image in my mind's eye dissolved in light, and hasn't reappeared again. 

 

Think his passing is a lesson for all Buddhists to overcome the 'cancel culture' mentality, whereby a person becomes unforgiveable, and practice the true Buddhist teaching of well-wishing to all sentient beings.

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I am a bit sick of these Tibetan Buddhists and their colourful robes arguments of who is the true lama and multiple BS.

Some of the meditation in these traditions is powerful but you need not be part of these groups whatsoever to practice it.

You can simply learn and then you practice, just like Buddha did on his own in the park.

I particularly dislike all the entwining ideas of power-ups and initiations and dependencies, all that crap that they have used to make a new Vatican, and the unrealistic Bodhisattvas torturing themselves for eternity.

And I dislike their endlessly moron-smiling that they do, just like they do on the equally idiotic Alpha Course.

 

Life has created you, and a path for you.

Life itself wishes you to reach the peak.

It is to Life itself that you should turn.

 

Forget these monkey towers of babel, they all have a bad smell.

Forget these crowds.

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This dove tails on another thread we had on how celibacy can lead to stagnation, can lead to mental demons out of control. 

Does it happen more often in clergy due to celibacy.  Due to fame and ego? 

 

Or is it part of the human condition, happening to everyone to some degree and but its the rich, famous and clergy who get the press.

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Sogyal Rinpoche wasn't a monk, as far as I know, so had no prohibitions on girlfriends and stuff. I think he just struggled to keep his head when his book sold millions of copies and he was being courted by celebrities. That's just my understanding though, I don't know all the details of this teacher.

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19 hours ago, Vajra Fist said:

Sogyal Rinpoche wasn't a monk, as far as I know, so had no prohibitions on girlfriends and stuff. I think he just struggled to keep his head when his book sold millions of copies and he was being courted by celebrities. That's just my understanding though, I don't know all the details of this teacher.

 

Recently read this article:

 

https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/rigpa-abuse/

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The Ama-Deus healing method from the oldest tribe on Earth in the Amazon in Brazil has a simple method which is used for people who have crossed over to the other side so that they will make better choices next time around. It uses a symbol that we were taught. 

At first I was not impressed after learning the Reiki like Ama-Deus energy healing method until one day I met someone who had such a bad back condition that she was on lots of pain killers and had to work an important job from home. So I tried using my Ama-Deus remote energy healing method on her. She reported that the next day was the first day she could remember since her injury that she did not have to take any pain killer and that she had so much energy that she was able to put up her Christmas decorations instead of having to remain in bed. So that made a believer out of me. So when someone that I know dies I use this Ama-Deus symbol for them if I remember to do so. 

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Just to toss it out there, in Tibetan Buddhist circles it is considered extremely poor taste to speak poorly of the dead during the 7 week bardo period.

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On 9/17/2019 at 3:37 PM, ilumairen said:

 

Recently read this article:

 

https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/rigpa-abuse/

 

 

The abused people all seem to share the wish to surrender their ego (after having some kind of trauma or depression) and chose Sogyal Rinpoche to surrender to.  I'm sure that trust and surrender do provide some kind of release/relief from suffering - subjectively - but I think this is a misunderstanding of 'mogu' which is devotion to the Lama - and in the long term they just become (as they did ) victims or naive followers unable to distinguish what is right from what is wrong.

 

 

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On 9/19/2019 at 4:15 AM, Apech said:

 

 

The abused people all seem to share the wish to surrender their ego (after having some kind of trauma or depression) and chose Sogyal Rinpoche to surrender to.  I'm sure that trust and surrender do provide some kind of release/relief from suffering - subjectively - but I think this is a misunderstanding of 'mogu' which is devotion to the Lama - and in the long term they just become (as they did ) victims or naive followers unable to distinguish what is right from what is wrong.

 

 

Some rhetorical questions came up for me when reading this. To add context, I just returned from a week long retreat where most of us opened ourselves in such a way that brought up powerful emotional energy, so your words really touch a nerve.

 

Don’t all practitioners work on surrendering the ego? Is that not a big part of ngöndro? Why else do we prostrate? Does the lama bear any responsibility for a misunderstanding of mogu? Where else are practitioners to gain a better understanding than from their teacher? Can we expect victims of trauma who are unfamiliar with Tibetan Buddhist culture and customs to be able to navigate the labyrinth of a sexual predator in a position of spiritual authority? I know how I feel towards my teacher. That deep connection, even in the presence of clear understanding, is ripe for exploitation. All the more so with a fragile and vulnerable student. And we all become quite vulnerable at times during the process if we are doing the work and digging deeply enough to really transform, none more than victims of trauma. I saw this vividly all week. 

 

In a general sense, I suspect tantric practice does not translate well into modern, Western culture. 

 

I don’t imagine it was your intent, but your post gave me a sense of victim-blaming. Perhaps it is simply my projection. 

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22 minutes ago, steve said:

Some rhetorical questions came up for me when reading this. To add context, I just returned from a week long retreat where most of us opened ourselves in such a way that brought up powerful emotional energy, so your words really touch a nerve.

 

Don’t all practitioners work on surrendering the ego? Is that not a big part of ngöndro? Why else do we prostrate? Does the lama bear any responsibility for a misunderstanding of mogu? Where else are practitioners to gain a better understanding than from their teacher? Can we expect victims of trauma who are unfamiliar with Tibetan Buddhist culture and customs to be able to navigate the labyrinth of a sexual predator in a position of spiritual authority? I know how I feel towards my teacher. That deep connection, even in the presence of clear understanding, is ripe for exploitation. All the more so with a fragile and vulnerable student. And we all become quite vulnerable at times during the process if we are doing the work and digging deeply enough to really transform, none more than victims of trauma. I saw this vividly all week. 

 

In a general sense, I suspect tantric practice does not translate well into modern, Western culture. 

 

I don’t imagine it was your intent, but your post gave me a sense of victim-blaming. Perhaps it is simply my projection. 

 

Yes, I apologise if I appeared to be victim shaming.  That was not my intent.  I think it is primarily the fault of the teacher if people are led into the kind of abuse that Sogyal Rinpoche (and many others) seemed to indulge in.  It's quite clear in the dharma that in the event of a lama asking the pupil to perform any harmful or non-dharmic activity that they should politely refuse giving their reasons - also that great care and scrutiny is required on behalf of the pupil in an assessment period while they decide to accept the lama as their guru.  It is the responsibility of of the lama to teach these verses in order to protect their pupils so they know already how to act.  And also to act with compassion thereafter.

 

Having said that Buddhism (and presumably Bon) is a moral path and no one can give up this position.  You can't, no matter how devoted you are, just give up your own moral responsibility.  Indeed it is a mis-service to your lama not to challenge his behaviour if it does not seem right to you.  I understand in this case many 'elder' members of the sangha turned a blind eye to what was going on - which removed the normal protections you would expect to see in this kind of community.

 

But - beyond this - there is the fact that as a pupil, who accepts blessings and empowerments, it is a huge commitment, which rather like a marriage has to be stuck to through thick and thin - even if this involves invoking the wrath of your master.  This is very tough and difficult - and only for those with a strong will and true devotion.  There may be circumstances where the lama does something outlandish and challenging where you just have to suck it up to honour the serious commitments you have made.  But it seems to me that if one were to witness something abusive, then not raising this as an issue is not compassionate to the 'victim', but also the lama and yourself.  It's not without reason that the vajrayana is a secret/esoteric path and perhaps a mistake to plant it in western culture in an open and public way.  In Tibet it may work because the vajrayana is so embedded in the culture - but in the west it opens up all kinds of confusion and misunderstanding.

 

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Well said Apech.

An important point I’d like to emphasize is that while people must take personal responsibility, many who come to Dharma do so out of desperation. I see this all the time. Victims of abuse and trauma, in particular, need loving and skillful support and, to my mind, that is a part of the role of the lama or those she might delegate to. While the responsibility of the student is to investigate the lama before applying to be their student, the responsibility of the lama is at least as great in deciding if they will accept the burden of holding that being’s Dharma fate in their hands.

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12 minutes ago, steve said:

Well said Apech.

An important point I’d like to emphasize is that while people must take personal responsibility, many who come to Dharma do so out of desperation. I see this all the time. Victims of abuse and trauma, in particular, need loving and skillful support and, to my mind, that is a part of the role of the lama or those she might delegate to. While the responsibility of the student is to investigate the lama before applying to be their student, the responsibility of the lama is at least as great in deciding if they will accept the burden of holding that being’s Dharma fate in their hands.

 

 

Yes.  We might not agree on this point - and you are undoubtedly more expert in this field than I am.  But, if someone comes to the dharma suffering from PTSD or clinical depression for instance would you think it ok to offer advanced tantric practices as remedy?  Should you encourage such a person to solve their mental health problems by displacing all their emotions onto the lama?  or relying on them in a dependent way?  I doubt if this would be healthy.

 

It would take a long, long time for such a person to start to understand that their mental content is empty or to assimilate their traumatic experience in a healthy way - and while for instance, study and mind-training techniques could help - they would have a lot of karmic work to do.  In fact this applies to many of us to a greater or lesser extent.  Loving and skilful support is undoubtedly needed and this could come from a dharma community - if that community is mature and strong in itself.

 

 

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4 hours ago, Apech said:

 

 

Yes.  We might not agree on this point - and you are undoubtedly more expert in this field than I am.  But, if someone comes to the dharma suffering from PTSD or clinical depression for instance would you think it ok to offer advanced tantric practices as remedy?  Should you encourage such a person to solve their mental health problems by displacing all their emotions onto the lama?  or relying on them in a dependent way?  I doubt if this would be healthy.

Absolutely not, we agree completely on this point.

In my opinion, the lama needs to be able to recognize if the student is in a place where it is safe to introduce them to such intense practices. In the case we're discussing, the lama took the opportunity to sexually, emotionally, psychologically, and physically abuse such people. 

The lama may certainly agree to guide them on the spiritual path but needs to be grounded enough in the Dharma and in common sense to help the practitioner choose the right spiritual path and get appropriate medical or psych support at the same time. 

 

4 hours ago, Apech said:

 

It would take a long, long time for such a person to start to understand that their mental content is empty or to assimilate their traumatic experience in a healthy way - and while for instance, study and mind-training techniques could help - they would have a lot of karmic work to do.  In fact this applies to many of us to a greater or lesser extent.  Loving and skilful support is undoubtedly needed and this could come from a dharma community - if that community is mature and strong in itself.

We're precisely on the same page.

In my mind, all of that is ultimately the responsibility of both the lama and the practitioner.

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There are karmic conditions at play that most people don't understand. I doubt if many of the teachers do so either. That's why one is supposed to work on detaching, so that no more debt is accrued. Yet, the nature of teaching is very involved -- especially of practical spiritual traditions. 

 

In the old days, a student would have to jump through hoops to get accepted as a student. I know some teachers still do that. But some are more easily accessible...call it their karma I guess.  In any case, by the time one became a student, they would have been tested by the teacher, as well as get an opportunity to test their teacher as well. Not much of that happens in today's world of seminars and workshops. 

 

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23 minutes ago, dwai said:

There are karmic conditions at play that most people don't understand. I doubt if many of the teachers do so either. That's why one is supposed to work on detaching, so that no more debt is accrued. Yet, the nature of teaching is very involved -- especially of practical spiritual traditions. 

 

In the old days, a student would have to jump through hoops to get accepted as a student. I know some teachers still do that. But some are more easily accessible...call it their karma I guess.  In any case, by the time one became a student, they would have been tested by the teacher, as well as get an opportunity to test their teacher as well. Not much of that happens in today's world of seminars and workshops. 

 

I think this is a large part of why Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche doesn't require, or even accept, samaya vows from students.

He expects nothing and offers everything, the whole potato - for free.

He asks nothing from students other than they respect the teachings, respect each other, and show up. 

It's on us as individuals to do the work and take full responsibility.

Karma certainly does decide who gets it, who doesn't, who gets hurt...

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11 hours ago, steve said:

I think this is a large part of why Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche doesn't require, or even accept, samaya vows from students.

He expects nothing and offers everything, the whole potato - for free.

He asks nothing from students other than they respect the teachings, respect each other, and show up. 

It's on us as individuals to do the work and take full responsibility.

Karma certainly does decide who gets it, who doesn't, who gets hurt...

 

 

This is a major difference to the type of Buddhism I'm involved with where great stress is laid on samaya vows.  Luckily for me the lama has impeccable conduct so I have not met any of these problems.

 

Is this lack of samaya a Bon thing? or is it just Tenzin Wangyal?

 

 

Edited by Apech
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1 hour ago, Apech said:

 

 

This is a major difference to the type of Buddhism I'm involved with where great stress is laid on samaya vows.  Luckily for me the lama has impeccable conduct so I have not met any of these problems.

 

Is this lack of samaya a Bon thing? or is it just Tenzin Wangyal?

 

 

 

Mostly a Tenzin Wangyal thing but also a Bön thing.

Tenzin is a very progressive teacher and no longer a monastic.

He gave up requiring or even offering samaya vows of his students many years ago.

He also has been teaching tantric practices from the Mother Tantra without requiring students to walk the entire tantric path, practices like dream and sleep yoga, tsa lung, tummo, bardo, phowa, 5 elements, and chöd.

There has been some degree of relaxation of requirements  for these practices in Bön in general as well.

I believe it is because there is a feeling that the world is desperately in need of these practices.

I also suspect there is a recognition that the translation of tantric practices and the guru-student relationship to the West is problematic and the teaching of the full tantric path to non-monastics in the complexity of Western society is very challenging.

The intention is to disseminate them as widely as possible both to keep the practices alive but also to offer them for the sake of anyone who has the karmic connection and access.

For example, the most senior lama of the order recently published a book detailing the tantric practices of tsa lung and tummo.

Lots of books are out there as well as online teaching opportunities.

The Bön also emphasize the Dzogchen path for similar reasons and the samaya requirements are different in Dzogchen.

In Dzogchen, our obligation is to the source itself, our Nature - not to a teacher who is simply an ornament of the base.

At least that's my rudimentary understanding and interpretation of what's going on.

 

 

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1 hour ago, steve said:

 

Mostly a Tenzin Wangyal thing but also a Bön thing.

Tenzin is a very progressive teacher and no longer a monastic.

He gave up requiring or even offering samaya vows of his students many years ago.

He also has been teaching tantric practices from the Mother Tantra without requiring students to walk the entire tantric path, practices like dream and sleep yoga, tsa lung, tummo, bardo, phowa, 5 elements, and chöd.

There has been some degree of relaxation of requirements  for these practices in Bön in general as well.

I believe it is because there is a feeling that the world is desperately in need of these practices.

I also suspect there is a recognition that the translation of tantric practices and the guru-student relationship to the West is problematic and the teaching of the full tantric path to non-monastics in the complexity of Western society is very challenging.

The intention is to disseminate them as widely as possible both to keep the practices alive but also to offer them for the sake of anyone who has the karmic connection and access.

For example, the most senior lama of the order recently published a book detailing the tantric practices of tsa lung and tummo.

Lots of books are out there as well as online teaching opportunities.

The Bön also emphasize the Dzogchen path for similar reasons and the samaya requirements are different in Dzogchen.

In Dzogchen, our obligation is to the source itself, our Nature - not to a teacher who is simply an ornament of the base.

At least that's my rudimentary understanding and interpretation of what's going on.

 

 

 

I suspect some of the purists in my sangha would have a heart attack if they read that :)

 

So you can learn his stuff properly from books???  I might take a look :)

 

 

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14 hours ago, Apech said:

 

I suspect some of the purists in my sangha would have a heart attack if they read that :)

 

So you can learn his stuff properly from books???  I might take a look :)

 

 

No way you can learn it properly from a book but it’s a good resource.

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Posted (edited)
On 9/16/2019 at 9:48 AM, rideforever said:

I am a bit sick of these Tibetan Buddhists and their colourful robes arguments of who is the true lama and multiple BS.

Some of the meditation in these traditions is powerful but you need not be part of these groups whatsoever to practice it.

You can simply learn and then you practice, just like Buddha did on his own in the park.

I particularly dislike all the entwining ideas of power-ups and initiations and dependencies, all that crap that they have used to make a new Vatican, and the unrealistic Bodhisattvas torturing themselves for eternity.

And I dislike their endlessly moron-smiling that they do, just like they do on the equally idiotic Alpha Course.

 

Life has created you, and a path for you.

Life itself wishes you to reach the peak.

It is to Life itself that you should turn.

 

Forget these monkey towers of babel, they all have a bad smell.

Forget these crowds.

 

I hear you. Some of the spiritual practices are very powerful, but the lama groups can be very much the opposite of what they teach. (I have a feeling you have had some bad experience with lama groups.)

Edited by BluLotus
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