Friday, November 24, 2006

The Abusive Guru: Sogyal Rinpoche

This morning I was looking at traffic to my site and found that someone came here while searching for info on Sogyal Rinpoche as an abusive guru. This was something I had never heard anything about, so I looked at the search results and read a couple of articles. The abuse was sexual in nature and occurred over a long period of time, culminating in a civil suit that was settled out of court back in 1995.

I've been very hard here on gurus who have been abusive in any way toward their students or followers, especially Andrew Cohen and Rabbi Marc Gafni (here and here). So I feel like a hypocrite for posting so many of Sogyal Rinpoche's quotes without knowing that he has been one of the worst abusers.

Rinpoche as been an important part of my coming to Buddhism. His Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is one of the books that got me serious about being a Buddhist, and his Glimpse after Glimpse has been the source of a lot of inspiration in my meditation and mindfulness practices. It pains me to know that he is not a good person (or has not been a good person in the past).

Here is the story from 1994:

Best-selling Buddhist author accused of sexual abuse

$10 million civil suit filed in Santa Cruz by a woman who says Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, "coerced" her into an intimate relationship

By Don Lattin
Special to the Free Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- With the blessings of the Dalai Lama, a group of American Buddhist women have launched a campaign to expose the alleged sexual misconduct of a prominent Tibetan lama and best-selling author.

Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, is accused of "physical, mental and sexual abuse" in a $10 million civil suit filed last week in Santa Cruz County Superior Court.

According to the lawsuit, an anonymous woman identified only as "Janice Doe" came to Rinpoche for spiritual guidance last year at a retreat sponsored by the Rigpa Fellowship meditation center in Santa Cruz, but was "coerced into an intimate relationship" with the Tibetan guru.

"Sogyal claimed (she) would be strengthened and healed by having sex with him and that to be hit by a lama was a blessing," the lawsuit states.

The suit -- which accuses Rinpoche of fraud, assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress and breach of fiduciary duty -- also charges that the Tibetan lama has "seduced many other female students for his own sexual gratification."

Sandra Pawula, spokeswoman for the Rigpa Fellowship of Santa Cruz, one of many meditation centers in the United States, Europe and Australia, declined to comment about the allegations, but said that Rinpoche is not married and does not claim to be a celibate monk. Rinpoche, who lives abroad, could not be reached for comment. The lawsuit follows a letter-writing campaign to the Dalai Lama by American women concerned about alleged sexual exploitation by Rinpoche and several lesser-known Tibetan lamas.

"What some of these students have experienced is terrible and most unfortunate," said Tenzin Geyche Tethong, the Dharamsala-based secretary to the Dalai Lama.

In a letter sent earlier this year to one of the women, Tethong said Tibetan Buddhist leaders "have been aware of these (allegations) for some years now."

Jack Kornfield, founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin County, was among a group of two dozen Western teachers who discussed the sexual misconduct of Buddhist teachers with the Dalai Lama last year in India.

According to Kornfield, the Tibetan Buddhist leader told the Americans to "always let people know when things are wrong. Put it in the newspapers if you must do so."

Another woman allegedly abused by Rinpoche, Victoria Barlow of New York City, said she is "disgusted by the way the Tibetans have manipulated the reverence Westerners have for the Buddhist path."

Barlow, 40, said she first met Rinpoche in the mid-1970s, when she was 21, and that she was sexually exploited by him during meditation retreats in New York and Berkeley.

"I went to an apartment to see a highly esteemed lama and discuss religion," she said in an interview with the Free Press. "He opened the door without a shirt on and with a beer in his hand."

Once they were on the sofa, Barlow said, the Tibetan "lunged at me with sloppy kisses and groping."

"I thought I should take it as the deepest compliment that he was interested and basically surrender to him," she said.

Sources say the Tibetan Buddhists were trying to handle this issue within their community but decided, especially after the Dalai Lama made the comment about going to the press, to go public now.

"The Dalai Lama has known about this for years and done nothing. There is a real code of secrecy and silence," said Barlow.

The details of this article are verified in other articles that can be found on the web.

My inclination is to stop posting anything by Rinpoche on this site. As much as I think there is incredible value in his teachings, I need to respect the man as well. I don't expect all teachers to be perfect, and Chogyam Trungpa is a perfect example of a flawed man who was still a valuable teacher.

So, I'm torn and I want to throw the question out for discussion. How much can we separate the human being from the teachings? And how appropriate is it that we do that? Any thoughts?


Bill LaLonde said...

This makes me sad. I Love the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. More and more gurus seem to be linked to this kind of corruption.

I have no insights here. Just being sad.

. . . said...

Hi William, and thanks for posting this here - it is an important discussion.

So, I'm torn and I want to throw the question out for discussion. How much can we separate the human being from the teachings? And how appropriate is it that we do that? Any thoughts?

For me, I see that it depends on the teachings themselves, the extent of my connection with the teacher, and to what extent they own and work on their issues.

I am happy to read just about anything by anyone and see if there is something for me to learn from it. I would be much more careful to have a closer connection with a scandal-ridden teacher, especially if it concerns abuse of power. And I would probably hesitate to recommend him as a teacher for anybody else, and if I recommended his teachings, I would also mention whatever concerns people have around the teacher.

It also depends on how much of the distortions come out in the the teachings, although that may be difficult to tell and subject to opinion (what appears as a distortion to one may look like skillful means to another.)

When I first picked up a book by Andrew Cohen, I got a big red flag as soon as I started reading the first page, and I didn't get further than to about the second chapter. When I later heard about his abuse of students, it was not so much of a surprise to me as I thought it fitted in with the attitudes reflected in his language. So with him, I hold back on what I read, and I wouldn't really recommend his teachings to others. I would certainly not recommend him as a teacher.

With Sogyal Rinpoche it is different for me. I find his writings and teachings to be wonderfully lucid and to the point, and cannot find much "contamination" there. So for me, I would still be happy to enjoy his teachings and even recommend them to others (along with a warning about his history).

Maybe most importantly: there is not a lack of good teachers who also have a great deal of integrity, so one way to solve the dilemma is by sticking to them. To me, Adyashanti and Byron Katie are great examples of deep and clear teachers who seem to have things in order in their personal life, and in their relationship with their students (as far as I know, anyway.)

Anonymous said...

Its hard. Dharma practice is genuine--as long as it is ultimately accountable to the Buddhist ethical precepts. When a teacher's personality and charisma override the precepts, that is when the trouble begins.

One thing that is difficult in the Tibetan tradition is that these splendid and helpful teachings are transmitted through the medium of human beings who have been socialized in ways that can lead to an impaired capacity for human intimacy. Many of these teachers are taken from their families while still little children and sent to be trained in monasteries.

Childhood is cut short, and there's no chance to learn normal peer relationships with boys or with girls. Then, put these same people into the highly charged, very public guru role, with its combination of hectic routine, emotional intensity and emotional lonliness--and that can give you a guru who is able to teach excellent Dharma practice, but whose emotional life may be fragile and subject to lonely craving for intimacy--and where its then tempting to act out--and where there are so many devotees willing to cover up, look the other way, and rationalize everything in the name of 'crazy wisdom.'

I read somewhere that a woman reported that her lama admitted that he would use dzogchen practice to neutralize painful emotions rather than being present to those emotions.

That is the great difficulty when teachers and students became able to realize emptiness---its tempting to use that insight illicitly to neutralize the very emotions that make us human, just the way it can be tempting to use alcohol or prescription medication to numb out, rather than for therapeutic purposes.

Alexander Berzin has a very good book on relationships with spiritual teachers. You can find some excerpts here:

And Stephen Butterfield wrote about both the excellent features of Tibetan Buddhism and its built in pit falls in his memoir The Double Mirror.

There are persons who insist that the guru is the final criterion (faith only stance) and those who insist that even the guru remains accountable to the precepts.

Abuses of money, sex and power are often part of a pattern of deceit. And one of the Buddhist ethical precepts strictly forbids misleading speech. No guru can override that.

Keeping an affair secret, results in a slow leak of energy/vitality--and this is no longer available for spiritual practice. Short term, the secrecy can feel very intense and flattering, but long term it drains your life away.

If a guru forgets this, he or she has slipped into a pattern of spiritual illness, no matter how helpful he or she may remain in public. Eventually, the price is paid and its heavy.

Thomas B. said...

Thanks for this post,

This affair seems frigthenning and sad to me ; all the more as members of my family spend a lot of time at Rigpa (which, I was told, is led by Sogyal). and consider Sogyal as a master, sometimes not thinking enough by themselves, in my opinion.

I would really like to urge them to think by themselves ; and to prevent them from believing everything that is alledged by someone as soon as he comes from Tibet and wears orange clothes and seems calm and nice and peaceful.

Yet your claims lack proof ; you write "The details of this article are verified in other articles that can be found on the web." - but I have looked for such sources for one hour and a half and could not really find anything but sites that seem written by violent and crazy people. They speak, but who knows what is true, what is exaggerated, what is false ? What to believe ? I prefer to remain cautious : one cannot believe everything that is on the web.

Still : I'd be very interested in finding real and undeniable elements showing that various lamas and "masters" (and Sogyal in particular) have far more complex a life than they actually pretend. If you could please give "proving" information, that would be very useful to me, because I could show it to my relatives and really argue.

We cannot just repeat what we have heard or read "somewhere". For example, where does "10M $" come from ; etc.

- I. B.

Kevin said...

I'm going to get way behind the starting line, then run up to the line so that I hit it in an absolute blaze of speed, an absolute tizzy of self-righteousness.
On second thought.....
This is tricky.
1) Because trust is such a precious thing in this day and age, so much so that even trust in a teacher who does not fully deserve it may be better than to be lost in the ocean of cynicism. Especially, if you are not close enough to the teacher to be too directly impacted by the shadow.
This is even trickier than usual.
2) The problem seems to have gone on from the 1970s until 1995, but the absence of more recent allegations means that he may have matured since then.
3) None of these teachers manages to create these problems on their own. We collectively help them do it, out of our need to put them on a pedestal. And this process can lead to abuse and pain and withdrawal and it also leads for many to maturity and wisdom.
I could not stand by and watch someone harmed, but on the other hand, I have many times sat quietly in rooms full of people relating to a teacher in a way that to me seemed to be an invitation to problems.
One thing I am clear on is transparency and responsibility to fellow students. Many teachers have a large number of students, only a few of whom really have enough unstructured contact with the teacher to know how he or she really acts. When I am one of those few, I feel responsible to students connecting with the teacher from farther away to pass on to them what I have seen up closer. And to the best of my ability, to be transparent about my own weaknesses so they can decide for themselves what to make of what I say.

Anonymous said...

I feel we Westerners have corrupted lamas such as Sogyal Rinpoche. What were these women thnking?

Anonymous said...





Anonymous said...

I am a current female student of Rinpoche's just finding out about these allegations and the lawsuit. I don't know who the Free Press is but I have been unable to verify this information through any other source. I will continue my research though, as it will be a deciding factor on whether I continue my studies with Rinpoche. I, myself, have never been approached for sex and would be smart enough to refuse such advances from any teacher -- even the Dalai Lama!

I've been practicing Buddhism for eleven years. I've learned the most from Sogyal Rinpoche and will be deeply saddened if I verify the truth of these allegations and decide that I should not study with him anymore. However, as Buddhists we learn not to grasp too tightly to anything. I suppose this too shall pass and we find the dharma in another qualified teacher.

I would caution everyone to verify the source, meditate on it, practice tonglen for Rinpoche and the victims if you find the stories are true, then let it go. Find another teacher.

Nicky said...

Hi, doing a search I came across your site unexpectedly today and was pleasantly surprised to see the intelligent and mature discussion.

Please consider having a look at a number of sites or books that discuss the danger of putting gurus of *any* kind on pedestals.

Prophetic Charisma by Len Oakes.

Stripping the Gurus:

June Campbell,

who authored the excellent Traveller In Space, Gender and Identity in Tibetan Buddhism.

My name is Victoria Barlow and Don Lattin of the San Francisco Chronicle interviewed me back in the 1990's when the lawsuit against Sogyal was underway. Years after meeting her in an airport in German, Miranda Shaw, Harvard professor and author, put the woman, known as Janice Doe to protect her privacy, in touch with me after hearing that Sogyal's sexual abuses of women were continuing, decade after decade.

Not only can I attest to Sogyal's sexual conning of me in 1976, I have documented proof in the form of letters from a number of Sogyal's 'students' who discussed not only being sexually duped by him but participating in procuring women for him in a 'service' they called "Lama Care". These letters were used in the lawsuit and were part of the reason that Sogyal settled the case out of court with Janice Doe. No, I did not benefit financially from Janice Doe's lawsuit. My motivation, like Janice Doe, was to help stop Sogyal creating further victims of cultic conning. He had continued his predatory sexual abuses of women for twenty years at the time of the lawsuit.

What is particularly despicable about Sogyal's conning is that people come to him in states of profound grief, mourning a parent, child or loved one and in this vulnerable state, get tricked by Sogyal into having sex, being told that the sex will be a blessing for the one who died.

When sharing on the American Buddha site a number of years ago, a therapist from Spain by the name of Oscar, who had been helping to run a Sogyal Rigpa center, part of the multi-million dollar Rigpa empire, informed me that he knew Sogyal had a non-stop harem at his centers. Oscar informed me that one woman was so disturbed being conned by Sogyal in this manipulative way, that she had a breakdown and had to be hospitalized.

Yes, the American Buddha site expressed intense, even violent emotions, including deep outrage about the deceits, rip offs, abuses that went on under the umbrella of the student-guru relationship. Some people's lives, including mine, had been for many years utterly given up to devotion towards certain lamas, as the teachers of the holy dharma. When people are ripped off, especially over many years, a natural and healthy response is to feel outrage, disgust, horror, shame, bitterness and a need to express it, especially with others who know what it feels like. Being tricked by one's trusted spiritual teacher is intensely, deeply painful.

In the very first Refuge vows I was encouraged to take way back in 1975, when I became officially Buddhist, I "took refuge in the holy lamas". It was a huge set-up to put absolute faith in gurus I hardly knew at all.

If you contact Andrew Harvey, a former student of Sogyal's, you will find out that Sogyal did not, in fact, write the book he takes credit for writing, that Andrew ghost wrote it based on a handful of notes Sogyal collected from others' teachings.

The women, who filed the lawsuit against Sogyal, was in profound grief because of her father's recent death. She came across the Tibetan Art of Living and Dying book, approached Sogyal for spiritual guidance and what he said to her, after telling her his typical line, how 'special' their 'connection' was, that if she had sex with him it would be better for her father's rebirth. So she did. Then she was duped into working on publicizing his book and found out that Sogyal wasn't able to answer questions when he was interviewed but had the answers scripted for him by others. Over a couple of months, during which she was encouraged to leave her husband to stay with Sogyal, observed others being conned as she had been, she realized she'd been conned and had the courage to do something about it by making a lawsuit and risking ridicule or threats to remain silent, so others might not be so duped as she had been.

Imagine Janice Doe's nightmare. Her father died, she was grieving for him, turned to what she thought was a well-intentioned spiritual guide, conned into sex with him under the ruse it would help her father's rebirth, finds out she's one of many being conned sexually and there is nothing 'special' about this bogus relationship Sogyal tricked her into. She's encouraged to leave her husband and tricked into working for free to promote the book used to lure her in the first place.

In speaking out against sexual abuses of Western women by Tibetan lamas in 1999 I did receive death threats from Tibetans, who were unaware that the FBI can take immediate action about such intimidation tactics.

Once arriving in Boulder, in 1976, Sogyal was enthralled by Trungpa’s sexual conquests and told me outright, that he wanted what Trungpa had and aimed to achieve this rock star lifestyle.

It took me many years to come out of denial about Trungpa's abuses of power and cult leadership. But as the years went by it was sadly plain he was running a cult.

To this day I consider myself Buddhist but do not follow any guru.

If anyone would like to discuss anything I've said, please do not hesitate to email me: nickyskye at hotmail dot com.

WH said...

Thank you Nicky,

I really appreciate you sharing your story and some links for others to follow.

I hope that you have recovered from your experience.


Nicky said...

Thanks for your kind response Bill. It's been some years now since I spoke or wrote about the sexual abuses of Tibetan lamas. It hurts to stir up those ashes. However, thanks to the internet and more people discussing their experiences online, the truth is emerging. And so it should. I’m glad you have chosen to discuss this topic here and am grateful for an opportunity to share my story with others and hopefully prevent their being hurt as I once was.

The recovery process from being betrayed, especially serially betrayed, took a long while, a lot of emotional work and therapy. A book that helped me, among many, was Patrick Carnes' The Betrayal Bond. There is an excellent therapist in NYC, who specializes in helping those who were once devoted to cult leaders or narcissists of any ilk. His name is Daniel Shaw. He was once a cult devotee himself and writes succinctly on the subject of this particular recovery process.

Part of my recovery process was realizing that I was an adult child of a pathological narcissist and to a large extent this was the foundation for my pattern of being emotionally intoxicated, being attracted to and handing over my power as an adult to narcissistic teachers.

This is not only something that happens to female disciples. Corey Donovan, who created a website, Sustained Action, for those recovering from their enmeshment with Carlos Castaneda, talks about his experiences.

An exit counselor, who helped both Janice and me during the lawsuit process, told me he had been a cult devotee of a malignant Zen Roshi, a woman, who had tricked him into a liaison with her. When he decided to leave his enmeshment with his 'teacher', she gave him three dimes. He asked what they were for and she said he could call her from a jail, a homeless shelter or a mental institution. Nothing like Zen abuse. She cursed him in parting, to fail at his life, condemning him for leaving her.

I was threatened by Thinley Norbu that if I spoke the truth about Sogyal, that I would "go to Vajra Hell". Sogyal also said this at a public 'initiation' given by Dudjom Rimpoche that to break one's damtsig (vajra vows) would be the cause for suffering in Hell fires.

Belief systems are part of one’s everyday outlook and accompany one’s life as naturally as breathing. Taking a look at one's belief system and seeing the trusted teachers of those beliefs were corrupt is like living through a devastating earthquake of sorts. Awakening to knowing one was duped, with the camouflage of the trickery being profound Truths, is no fun. Becoming emotionally sober is a slow process.

The guru-disciple allure was very intense, being devoted to a Wise, Benevolent Elder like a surrogate parent. This abject surrender of one's entire life is romanticized in marvelous ways, like in the Songs of Milarepa. Knowing, for example, what happened to Trungpa's HIV positive Vajra Regent, Osel Tenzin, who infected numerous people with AIDS which killed them, I think this is not a time for abject devotion of anyone. Not presidents, not doctors, not parents, not spouses, not gurus but, as is said to have been stated by Sakyamuni at his death, "Be a light unto yourself."

This is not to say do not listen to others and learn from others but listen and learn as an independent adult, without pedestalizing the teacher.

Peace to you too Bill.

Nicky said...

PS, Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. Wishing you and your beloved much mutual joy, intimacy and every happiness.

Nicky said...

oops, realized that my wishes for a happy wedding should have been directed to Bill LaLonde, not William Harryman.

Anonymous said...

It is July 2007 and I have just stumbled across the comments regarding Sogyal Rinpoche and sexual abuse.
I would like to add that a couple of years ago my husband returned from one of his rigpa weekends to annouse that they all had to offer prayers as "Rinpoche has a son". I asked of the mother to be told that she was a tall blonde person, possibly American.
My conclusion is that not much has changed since the out of court settlement, except that perhaps this lady is one jump ahead of the guru.

Anonymous said...

Dear all,

Just to let you know that another "story" of sexual abuse with sogyal rinpoche "came out" after 2 years hold in a "cupboard".

The girl found the courage to talk but as she was (and her father too) since sooooo long years very near of rinpoche, she decided not to put all this "bad stroy" in lawyer's hands...

But knowing this, her father straight decided to quit the inclosed 3 year retreat in Lerab Ling.

Never "Smoke appear without Fire"...

Just be aware that people might not always be what they seems....

ps: that is true that this "master" loves a lot things such as Money, Power, Food, Dresses and apparently much more...

Anonymous said...

Dear all,

Just wanted to remind you that Sogyal Rinpoche works very hard to help beings in multiple corners of the world. I can't believe how much he travels and teaches continuously. Repeatedly he has said he doesn't work and build the temple for himself. When he is 'gone' all this is for the sentient beings, not for himself, he has said. He has a great motivation, not a small minded one.

New project is to build a Tenzin Gyatso Institute to preserve the work of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

And all this is done in a motivation to get women, cars, clothes??! How narrow thought! He doesn't even drink alcohol.

Anonymous said...

Just open your eyes "anonymous"...
just see behond the apparences...
Know that a super ego is working!

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that these cases have been in US. It'not in Europe, not in Australia but in US. THAT makes me sad...You guys are sick, sick people with all your lawers.

Also, if someone actually heard what Rinpoche is teaching then you'd have no doubt that he wrote a book and can actually answer all the questions. I am sad that he teaches some idiots that blame him later or better use a system to their advantage...

I reckon his only mistake is to open the teachings to everyone...

Anonymous said...

I have opened my eyes. I have asked around and people who work closely with Rinpoche, have not vitnessed anything bizarre.

What is the *easiest* way to put someone down: assault of sexual abuse! It is SO easy. Just see what was done to Mary Magdalene... "prostitute", said the priests... but Jesus taught of her as the wise one to continue his teachings.

Please, do open your own eyes.

Anonymous said...

It is just an illusion

janetke said...

I was / am a student of Sogyal Rinpoche's work and was in retreat with him in France the summer as this news was breaking in London and San Francisco. At the retreat some elder students led peculiar groups to talk with us about how this lama is single and not celibate, a normal man. I didn't understand what they were driving at until this news broke in the U.S. press.

For years I have been unable to think about him without revulsion. I had also been with him at a retreat in Connecticut, where I saw him with the young woman of the U.S. story and commented on the intensity of their relationship. With some jealousy, I must recognize, for it was well known among us that he paid no attention to middle-aged women.

However, it continues to be that he is the best teacher of Tibetan Buddhism I have ever met or heard, and I've studied with many. I have held myself accountable for my judgmentalism toward him and my heart is just beginning to soften, almost 20 years later. That is MY problem.

I do not mean to suggest that his sexual abuse of students is in any way acceptable; it is unethical within the Buddhist canon! However, I'm learning to understand deeply two points that I have known cognitively. It is not mine to judge and, even more important, the Dharma is the Teachings, not the man.

I urge all of you who have benefitted from his books and other teachings to hold onto the truth of that dharma, even while you do not countenance other of his behaviors.

Robert said...

It is a shit,and a anti-buddhist propaganda...!!!!

WH said...

It is not anti-Buddhist to question the moral behavior of a teacher. It is in the best interest of Buddhism to acknowledge that some teachers, while possessing great knowledge and being great teachers, might not always act appropriately.

Sexual misconduct is contrary to Buddhist teachings:

Together with the idea of ahiṁsā and right speech, right action constitutes the Five Precepts (Sanskrit: pañcaśīla, Pāli: pañcasīla), which form the fundamental ethical code undertaken by lay followers of Buddhism, and which are as follows:

1. To refrain from destroying living beings.
2. To refrain from stealing.
3. To refrain from sexual misconduct (adultery, rape, etc.).
4. To refrain from false speech (lying).
5. To refrain from intoxicants, which lead to heedlessness.

If lay followers are expected to uphold these precepts, we should also expect teachers to uphold them.

It is true that there have been no recent allegations, but several women in these comments have attested to the reality of the accusations.

Rinpoche is a powerful teacher, but he has made mistakes that compromise that reputation.

We all know that enlightenment does not mean that shadow elements in the psyche have been eliminated. Many enlightened beings have immature development in some developmental lines (such as sexual conduct), not doubt due to their education and isolation as children.

Maybe we can forgive them their mistakes if they have learned their lessons -- certainly, none of us, no matter our spiritual evolution, are without flaws and wounds.

Peace to all,

Anonymous said...

I grew up around Soggy Al and he was a slimeball.. He used and abused the trust and the love his brainwashed pupils gave him. He's a creepy individual as are his half brothers.. These guys treat their women in a way that makes the Taliban look like 'New Men'.. If you're getting into Buddhism, just remember you don't need to sleep with anyone to become enlightened (especially not some fat ol' perv like Soggy Al!)

betty said...

what about Trungpa's son Sakyong Mipham (shambhala)? He just married a Tibetan woman. Any shady rumours regarding this lineage. I just got interested in this group's teaching practice.

WH said...

Hi Betty,

I don't know of anything bad about Mipham or the Shambhala group. His father, Chogyam Trungpa, had a reputation as a hard drinker during his lifetime, but other than that, I don't know of any scandals in the Shambhala community.

I practice the Shambhala teachings, largely based of Tungpa's work, and that of his student Pema Chodron -- but I am not involved with any groups.


Anonymous said...

The book that he wrote,"The Tibetan Book of the Living and Dead" goes against the Buddhist teachings as recorded in the Buddhist Canon,so says Mr. Xiao Pingshi.He advises people not to believe in this book.
Deep knowledge in a particular field does not neccesarily mean high personal moral standards.Many highly-educated people are obsessed with sensual pleasures,especially sex.We should learn not to be so gullible,as there are too many seemingly holy gurus around.

Anonymous said...

Sorry,the title should read "The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying".
Mr. Xiao,who knows much about the Buddhist Canon in Chinese,quotes passages from it to prove that this book contradicts the Dharma.For those who can read Chinese,go to:


Anonymous said...

Some seem to think that Sogyal Rinpoche is innocent.
Everyone knows that it is a very serious offence to make a false accusation of sexual assault in a country like the US.The authorities will investigate thoroughly to ferret out the truth.If it is not true to some degrees, who dares to make such a charge?There was a meticulous plot by anti-Buddhists to get him into trouble?
Also,would you just keep silent if you are really innocent?
Beware of people who use religions to clinch money and fame.In the begining,they may be srupulous,but people do change with time.
Follow the teachings,not the person.

Anonymous said...

Why do some of you continue to "worship" man of blood and flesh bewilders me.

Anonymous said...

Do you guys realize at the higher levels of Tibetan "Buddhism" tantric sex rituals take place?

It's called the Kalachakra Tantra sexual magical rite.

That the sexual partners engage in these rituals with these Lamas are as young as eleven years of age.

But, then again Dalai Lama is not going to tell you that will he?

Anonymous said...

I would especially believe anything what a Chinese man tells me... :D

Mr. Xiao Pingshi -> made me laugh!

I think sexual teachings are part of high level teachings and they actually are designed for opening the heart, the love, you know? Pornographphic West is just so consumed by commercial sex, that anything else is forgotten. What an act of kindness sex industry has offered us...?!

I do feel terrible about womens sexual exploitation - world wide - very present and prevailing the whole West too.

Sogyal Rinpoche has given many teachings on love and also on sex to students, publicly. He has said multiple times sex without love is abusive and harmful. If anyone of you fearsom critics would ever dare to listen to him?

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

After 15 years with Sogyal, I would say that he is just a normal human being, with strong food and sexual needs. The problem arises when you invest too much on a normal human being which you think should be different.

He has also a huge charisma and gift to speak and "explain" what he understands from the teachings. But, just as the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying was not written by him, so are his "teachings". He is a wonderful actor and manage to reappropriate what doesn't belong to him.

Still, it makes somme people happy. So why not? The girls have just to be warned and remain on their guard.


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Nigel said...

I appreciate the (mostly)lucid, level-headed and informed discussion and debate on this blog.

I consider myself a student of Sogyal Rinpoche and have been following his teachings for 3-4 years. I have found his teachings very instructive, inspiring and beneficial to myself and others. I had no reason to doubt his authenticity as a teacher until I stumbled across allegations of sexual abuse through reading his Wikipedia entry. I don't know about the truth or otherwise of these accusations against Rinpoche but I will listen to the claims and investigate for myself.

Related to this, it has been inferred from these accusations and others that Rinpoche is not an authentic master, but a 'fake'. This I am not sure about - Previously I have thought that because his masters were not fakes, that the masters that support him currently are not fakes, because he quotes authoritive and authentic sources in his teachings, and because his teachings 'felt right' he was not fake.

However, maybe this isn't enough, and perhaps I'm taking his authenticity too much on (blind) faith. The teachings, as quoted in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (and elsewhere that I've seen) talk about the meaning of faith and devotion on the buddhist path (that it's not blind but rather lucid and based on logic and experience); and of the qualities of an authentic teacher (primarily that their motivation is pure - based on bodhicitta). Perhaps I (and others) should do what the Buddha and all of the masters have said in the past we should do as a spiritual practitioner - don't take anything told to us on blind faith but analyse, reflect and come to our own conclusions. So, I'll look openly at whether Rinpoche is an authentic teacher, and look more closely at the basis of my faith. Whatever the outcome, this can only be positive as my faith or otherwise will have a stronger basis.

In terms of how this relates to that other question - about whether we can follow a teacher if their teachings are authentic but their actions impure - well I'm not sure. Perhaps through the process of investigation, analysis and reflection as taught by the teachings I'll find out.

Chris said...

Of course it is sad to hear of this, but one of the most important lessons in Tibetan Buddhis is that we are evolving through many lifetimes & as humans, we cannot be perfect..I believe Sogyal Rinpoche is a good person, but he is only human..His book, "The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying" is a classic & could only have been written by someone with an enlightened spirit..I do not condone his behaviour, but as a soul evolving through life experience, I wish him well.

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Anonymous said...


Its uncertain if it is true. But even if it is I don't see any thing in here that Sogyal is guilty of committing. I don't see any hypocrisy. These women were all over 19 years of age with a clear mind to say yes or no. The only confusion is that these people must have maintained their christian condition that sex is anti spiritual and basically a sin. This morality that breads that untrue thought that there should be some division between sex and spirituality.

The accusations in the report do not show that there was any force or coercion.

There is nothing in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying that says anything about sex being anti spiritual. There is a mention of tantra and if any one of these people really understood tibetan buddhism, which has its roots in tantra, then they would see that there is no violation that has occurred.

It looks like the woman's major complaint was that his kisses were sloppy AND he was with other women too. Basically it was a lawsuit of female sexual disappointment and jealousy. I guess he wasn't as good in bed as he professed. For that, I truly am sorry, lady. It would have been better to have just meditated.

Anonymous Tantra Princess

ubik said...

I see that you miss the point. You do not separate the message from the man. This is not about him. It is about you. WHACK!!! You need more study!

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rhinocycle said...

Even if the pain and suffering caused by Sogyal having sex with these women is a result of them having Christianity-induced gulfs between sex and spirituality, there still has evidently been suffering caused by these teachers. It may be acceptable in traditional Tibetan society, but there seems to be a consensus among Western students that these types of sexual exploits often cause them pain. The question then arises: is this really something that the Westerners should just get over, and deal with the fact that non-celibate spiritual teachers may have sex with their students, or should the Eastern spiritual teachers change their ways to adapt to the Western mores which are evidently present? While it's easy to say "deal with it", using sex in a way which causes suffering is in violation of the Buddhist precepts, as has been mentioned above. The one caveat I would say here is that it is definitely possible for spiritual transmission to occur through the medium of sex, and not just through Tantra - I have experienced this personally, though not with a lama. But perhaps this is not the best method to use in the West, especially not with a large number of your female students...

Anonymous said...

There is a guru inside that is incurruptable.Be quiet and listin to him.Study the sutras and trust in Buddha and you will be most blessed.Om namah Buddha,Om mani peme hung.

Anonymous said...

I can't determine the truthfulness of the articles as allegedly published. I tried to search for the sources. Still, what is clear to me is that Sogyal Rinpoche's book helped me. I am perfectly sure based on my own experience. I will continue to read the book because it has its good effect.

The article on scandal seems shady and lack verifiable facts. That is only my observation.

From the Philippines.

Anonymous said...

test comment from the Philippines.
Why is the comment censored?

stephen L H said...

People, are you not missing the point ? the "Tibetan book of the living and dying" (which changed my life positively) and Sogyal's teachings are still valid, he is a human and we are all flawed, how quick people are to judge, he is not GOD he is a man, he may have elevated insight and wisdom but cannot "walk his talk" ..... that simple!

I do not condone his behavior, he has abused his status as a spiritual teacher, HE of all people must be fully aware of the karmic consequences, perhaps WE should show some compassion for a fellow human who is obviously off the correct path and making bad decisions.

Just my thoughts, god bless u all and my heart goes out to the woman who have been hurt by his actions, "may you find healing, in forgiveness"

dingding said...

I too was quite saddened when I learned about this. The book was very helpful to me when a friend of mine died. However, charismatic leaders come in all shapes and forms- from Jim Jones to Jim Baker. Fortunately, the West has a tradition of skepticism that should help expose and prevent these kinds of abuses. And for the Princess, your comment is thoughtless and not compassionate. The women in these reports did indeed sound lonely...and he took advantage of them. "Just meditate" is bs for someone in pain, and if they can prove the allegations, then the man who is responsible should be made to pay. You cannot come to the West and take advantage of all the resources and rights here, not to mention the potential to make money, without being held accountable for your actions by Western standards.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what Stephen L. H. said above.

I thought 'The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying' was fantastic but it seems SR can't live up to everything he says in it - I don't condone his actions but that doesn't invalidate what he's said.

He comes across to me as a naughty child who has some unfortunately destructive behaviour patterns. I'd be surprised if his female victims had anything good to say about him, and I suppose we should warn women to be on their gaurd in his presence, but overall I think we should respond to him with compassion. It must be terrible to have written what he's written, have the fame and adulation he has gained from having done so and know deep down that he can't truly live up to it. It must be a difficult cross to bear.

I thought HHDL's foreward to 'The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying' was noticeably distant and lacking in warmth despite it being a recommendation - and he didn't write a new one for the revised edition. I think he knows what's going on. I also thought the photos of SR with his masters in the appendix were similarly revealing - he seems to be tolerated despite his faults.

Anonymous said...

To Nicky,
I read your experience with great sadness. As a tibetan myself, practising 'Dharma, I feel let down by teacher like Sogyal Rinpoche. But, I want to assure that you not every Tibetan teacher is like him. I always find interesting to see many Westerner in the west that follows certain Tibetan teachers with no investigation and experiment.

I see number of Tibetan Buddhism Teachers in the west (both Tibetan and westerners), who I can tell in few hours of their characters as a teacher, unfortunately, it looks like many western followers can’t.

This blog certainly is eye opening to many first timers Buddhist.

As a Tibetan, I apologise of some of the pain and please refrain using phrase like ‘Tibetan Lamas’. You should name the lama.

Look after yourself!

Charles said...

Life is a big dream, isn't it? And letting manifest what is deep inside us may well be a means to learn, for ourselves and others as well. And the teaching that comes through may really be beyond "good and bad". I mean maybe we can learn more from the challenging events in the so called "real world" as long as we are not yet able to learn through our more fluid dreams. Perhaps this is the opportunity why this world and this part of the samsara is constructed for us humans, rinpoches, lamas, policemen, judges, you name it. Perhaps it is really so that "there is only one to blame", and accuse, for all of us. And it may be me the "dreamer". Wanting to abuse and wanting to be abused isn't the name of the passionate game we have been playing here for endless ages to take part in this amazingly informative play. Isn't it a sign of flaw and compassion at the same time that we leave our enlightened part of ourselves far behind when we enter this theatre of the Dark Age to be caught up in the action? Cannot rational reasoning, self-confident accusation, compulsive differentiation between good and bad be viewed, from a certain perspective, as ignorant or daft? Or hypocrite? O. K. one can be politically correct during the day, but what will be with the stuff that remains in the shade to come to the forth in their dreams? Do they remember their dreams at all? When we say it is ugly or disgusting, cannot it be viewed as a projection of ourselves? Cannot be the "teacher", the environment, news, world, actors like us be viewed as mirrors of ourselves? What I am saying is not just to condone a bewildering behaviour, it is also to condone the whole creation which steps out of meditation to take part in a gigantic and highly informative drama providing the opportunity of personal catharsis in every moment when we are open to see ourselves in the mirror. And please condone my hypocricy. Will this style also do among a revealing series of discussions on this blog?

Anonymous said...

I'm new to Buddhism, just started my studies at a FPMT center. My teacher told me the first day to be careful when choosing a teacher and now I now why. If this is true about Sogyal then I’m truly disgusted. I wound not let my wife or daughter near him, so he could corrupt and destroy them and also my marriage. Spiritual teachers should set a good example and not abuse the trust they get from students, as many students make contact when in hardship and despair and seeking spiritual advice. Sadly it was the Tibetan book of the living and dying that got me into Buddhism at first, now I’m very sceptical as I understand that sexual tantra is sometimes practised. Sex and religion do not mix together, it’s like oil and water. How come he can continue abusing woman? .He should be thrown out of the Buddhist community and be condemned by other Buddhist teachers if they are sincere. .

Anonymous said...

Learning requires evaluation of experience...assuming you know what is important, encountering the unexpected, and then evaluating your reaction. What is expected of this man? Why have such expectations? Why experience 'disgust', 'anger, and so on? Considering these questions is education and may lead to positive changes in behaviour and expectations.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for all Rigpa members because they obviously don't care the suffering caused by reading this blog. Otherwise they would have written something about Sogyal Rinpoche has been wrongly accused and Tibetan masters wouldn't defend themselves... Padmasambhava, Garab Dorje, Yeshe Tsogyal and others are known for defending their believes for the benefit of all sentient beings...

If anybody is interested in real Tibetan Buddhism should better read books written by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, or listen to his teachings...


nedup said...

sogyal rimpoches book has helped me out in the most difficult situation of my life.he is a guru,not a buddha so he may have his flaws but just bec of this alleged incident we should not pass judgement on him and tibetan buddhism in general.not a single book on tibetan buddhism has said that do what the guru says,infact it is us who have to choose that we want to faith in the rimpoche is strong cos his words have saved my life.i try to follow his teachings though i know i can only try being a buddhist

Anonymous said...

I'd be careful about taking any enpowerments of any Tibetan Lama before reading the chapter on Samaya in Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's book 'Rainbow Painting'...

Furthermore, in the book about Chöd by Sarah Harding 'Machik's Complete Explanation: Clarifying the Meaning of Chod' is written that the usage of wrathful practices are only allowed to be used for somebody else. Never for the practitioner itself, because it would piss off spirits and they would harm or even friends and relatives of the practitioner.

Sogyal Rinpoche as Chögyal Namkhai Norbu have recommended the usage of wrathful practices for healing purpuse of the practitioner itself.

I thing everybody should read those two books before attending any Tibetan Buddhism teachings.

Take care

Anonymous said...

This is not just about Sogyal, it's about innumerable lamas who take advantage of their position of authority and the trust students place in them. It boils down to two simple things: INTEGRITY (we want our teachers to be good examples of the spiritual path, don't we? The Dalai Lama and others say: don't place trust in a teacher until you've checked him/her out thoroughly and are satisfied that they are up to your standards), and COMPASSION for the women who get used and abused. We should show our compassion and solidarity with those women by avoiding teachers who betray Buddhist principles. We need to let teachers know that exploitation and sexual harrassment will not be tolerated. I gave up going to teachings, because I never met a lama or monk who didn't come on to me. My impression is that very few (if any) take their vows seriously. And I've never seen or met any who actually practice loving-kindness. Small wonder: they are raised in a pretty violent environment. See: for details.

Anonymous said...

....Something -- i have not read here --- is that east & west are different .. Most seem to be speaking from a western psychological stand-point --- In the east tantric practices are accepted as a way of life ... and are not VIEWED in " ordinary " everyday emotions .... people here want the same as an everyday relationship experience .... their disappointment blocks from seeing " As It Is " ... whether Rajneesh Osho or Trungpa or Sogyal or whoever --- it is not about being the same confused emotional STUFF ... We can discuss the stuff forever and get no INSIGHT ..... THE ONLY abuse is a lack of understanding of the DEEPER meaning ... & isn't it a coincidence that abuse lawsuit often happens AFTER someone gets a lot o' cash .. ?? ... think about it ....

Anonymous said...

I would like to explain/express my feelings in this matter, that I felt the need for to investigate more. Judge not on others, but always make sure you do judge for your self. it is all just perception, and this does not belong to someone else. All i can say about anyone elses perception, please make sure YOU can live with it, you should!! because dying without a profound feeling that you CAN live with all you have perceived (in its totalitary) is the last thing you want/need....
this goes for all human beings, and guess how I know? maybe from being human! everything else again, it is (your) perception.

Toby said...

I don't like it either when a dynamic teacher or a respected author turn out to have a shadowy history... especially when mixed up in something as troubling as "abuse". I think it's a good idea to not get too sucked into the controversies of the individuals, and focus on the good points about their products instead. Sogyal Rinpoche isn't the first guru who turned out to be a disappointment, and he certainly won't be the last.

Another classic example is David Schirmer. He was featured as one of the teachers in "The Secret", a film about the law of attraction. This Australian investment trainer went on to rip off a rather large number of people with his dubious investment programs, leaving quite a few people disillusioned and incredibly angry. He ended up being confronted on an Australian investigative TV show. I'm afraid I don't know the extent of this alleged fraud, or the final outcome.

Anonymous said...

If the actions of a teacher are incongruous with their teachings then it would be ridiculous to consider their words - for if they don't believe their own scriptures how can we? However, we must also be aware of the validity of accusations - especially in a world where one can assume the identity of many and use a tool such as the WWWeb to spread a false agenda. I, myself, am very fond of "Soggy Old Rinpoche" and will reserve judgement until I meet him in person, as his teachings remain a very real and positive influence on my life.

Anonymous said...

You should NOT believe what Mary Finnigan and her dear friend Victoria Barlow have propagated in the internet over the centuries. Don't be a fool. Learn to know Sogyal Rinpoche and see who he really is. He is like the Book is: genuine and full of light.

I've known him for 10 years.