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January 12, 2004, No. 1

From: oscar
To: AmLearning
Posted: Sat Jan 03, 2004 1:40 pm
Subject: Sogyal R

Hello " AmLearning",

I have read your account of your horrible experiences with Sogyal Rinpoche and I can confirm many similar events happening during the time (mid 80's to beginning 90's) when I was in a leading position in Rigpa Org in Europe. Because of the obvious abuse of female students, I confronted SR , who called me a friend at that time, several times (he did not even try to justify his behaviour spiritually), then first I resigned from my position and later left Rigpa fellowship. I did not want to give my name anymore as a person of trust to be misused to help to recruit women to Rigpa to eventually be abused by the SR ("lama care").

I am very interested in the information about the lawsuit against SR which I guess took place recently, and which you mention in your comment on the Kazi case.

With best wishes


From: oscar
To: AmLearning
Posted: Tue Jan 06, 2004 1:32 pm
Subject: my story

Dear AmLearning,

Thank you for keeping my privacy and answering in length to my email. I will tell you a bit of my story, and having discovered ambu-bulletin board only one day after you, I will need more time to carefully consider my next steps. I have no interest to join into something which is not yet clear to me what the motivations of some of the people are. I write to you because you appear to me clear, well thought, and responsible. This makes your contributions to me more trustworthy than many of the other posts.

Some are horrible and have very bad energy themselves. I find the papers on narcissism in the bulletins quite correct. But let me say that also: what “Odysseus” and “Ambu” say in many of their posts is very horrible and unacceptable to me. When Ambu wants to get all men fucked and wants to cut their balls, I can’t see her anymore in any moral position to criticize others. If you want to change something for the better, you must try yourself to live up to the values you want to defend or support as good as you can. I am very hesitant about putting something into the American Buddha bulletin because many of the posts there are of very low ethics and using words and expressions which do not represent my values and the way I want to change something for the better. This kind of complaining and judging and talking reminds me of adolescents who yell at their parents and blame them for everything they do without putting the same high standards on themselves. But we are adult. So I must say very clear: I will not become a member of another sect. I see this danger very clear in this forum, and this will take the power away from the justified and necessary actions to stop people like SR abusing their students and abusing religion, and the trust of many good people. Abuse is always soul murder, and sexual abuse in so called spiritual context is for me the worst. It makes me sick. But some of the posts there are as sickening and disgusting. I can see the damage which has been done to these people, and I can feel the pain behind it, but I think one has to consider one's actions very well and one's words as well, not to go on a similar level as the people criticized. In that way they are working for those they try to fight. They put themselves down with gossip, and I get the feeling they put themselves up. As a therapist, I can see the need for expression of strong feelings, and that those feelings are bitter and not very subtle, but going public it needs another stage in the dealing with the trauma. One must be very aware of one's actions, not to be surprised by what kind of response one might get. There is a great danger that you point to somebody with one finger and don’t see that three fingers are pointing towards you.

So here is a bit more of my story:

In the mid 80's, during my seven years with Rigpa and 4 years as founding director of a national Rigpa branch, I had slowly discovered that Sogyal Rinpoche had sex with very many disciples. Even though I was very close to SR, it took me some time to notice the obvious. Even though I am a professional counselor, it took me quite some time to notice it at all, and then it took me even more time to take action. First, at the same time I was shocked and kind of amused, I felt somehow mixed about it, because in the beginning I saw that some women tried to get him. First I thought, they are mature woman, they know what they are doing, and I simply am too inexperienced in the exotic ways of Tibetan Lamas to be able to judge. It was much later that I heard stories and saw things which were not based on consent, and saw that he was cheating all the time on the women. Also I noticed that he had sex with young students who just had come to Rigpa retreats for the fist time.

There was the harem, and the women seemed to be able and ok with their role in the game. At least I wanted to believe this, still trying to see SR as a holy man. On the other side, I found always obstacles to consider SR as my guru. I considered myself at that time more as a Buddhist manager and some kind of assistant of SR than as a disciple of him. I could see Dilgo Khyentse or the Dalai Lama as true masters, but SR appeared to me always more as a teacher who teaches Buddhism, or many times as a salesman who sells Buddhism. When I was in power at my national Rigpa branch, I always extinguished most of the superlatives in the flyers. I said to SR: either you are true and good and people will find out themselves, or if not they will also find out. So don’t tell them what they should think or how good they should think about you. True quality will speak for itself. With me, he accepted such words, but I heard my successors had to put on the praise line again.

Well back to the abuse subject:

I confronted first jokingly, then half-heartedly Sogyal with my concerns about his behaviour, and I said to him that as a therapist I know about transference phenomena: students see the teacher as kind of a father figure, so sex with the student is psychologically seen as incest. Also, that in the West, the relationship between teacher and student, or priest and the parishioner, must be kept pure, and does not allow intimate relationships or involvement with sex in any way. He was not amused, and tried to avoid the subject, but he first tried to justify his sexual behaviour spiritually. First he said that because he is one of the incarnations of Padmasambhava, and that Padmasambhava had had many "spiritual consorts", he would be somehow entitled to do so. Then he played the cultural card: in Tibetan culture women are seen as Dakinis, and they would happily serve the Lamas for enhancing their spiritual power and so on. I am ashamed, but first I wanted to believe all this. Raised in an over-sanctimonious, hypocritical catholic background, I was somehow trained for bending the truth, and trained to idealize and respect people of position even more than supposedly “holy” men. My spiritual and emotional hunger made be blind to my own values and my professional standards - at least where the standards of a Lama are concerned, not in my own work. For some years I was blind with my own position. I was together with other dear friends establishing a very well-working organisation to benefit many people. I was happy. I was in a very special position. I honestly tried to use my possibilities well. I felt I was chosen, and because of karmic connections with Sogyal, I was finally recognized in my full capacity. What the bitter irony is, because other students saw me as a rather independent, seemingly critical, and reasonable person, and because I am a psychotherapist, some people took me as a guarantee for trusting Sogyal. And I guess some people even envied my special access to SR. By that time I could no longer ignore what was happening. Once Sogyal wanted me to lie on the phone to a woman, who wanted to contact him after having had sex with him another day, because he was in bed with another one, but I refused. He became very angry and yelled at me, but I was not impressed. Basically, he treated me always very good. He seemingly respected me, but now I think he was clever enough to not treat me like some of his other main students. He gave me the feeling that he appreciated my views at least as long I helped him to please the audience and the students. But he never was open to criticism concerning his personal behaviour. Also, he never answered any of my personal spiritual questions. I got more and more the impression that he simply could not answer them. Also, when I attended sessions where he should answer questions by his students, he often gave very stupid answers, and showed that he had not much understanding of what people were really asking. Sometimes he ridiculed people.

One of the worst things I experienced was at a winter retreat in Germany. A long term student of his was in emotional distress and asked in obvious pain and vulnerability and confusion for his help, and he forced her to speak louder and then to come forward to the stage where he put her completely down. In my view, he was totally afraid of her, and could not deal with the situation whatsoever. But instead of putting her into safe hands, he tried to save himself in putting her down and ridiculing her, and then played the strong teacher who can deal with everything. In the same night, we had to rush her to the emergency ward of the next psychiatric hospital with a nervous breakdown and a psychotic seizure.

As a therapist and as a student, I was horrified by his behaviour and his complete lack of compassion and skill. Before I left Rigpa, an American woman told me confidentially and in great distress that she had just lost her husband and had come from US to France to SR to get help, and that SR, during a private audience, had tried to violently force her to have sex with him. Fortunately, she managed not to be raped. She left the retreat in even greater despair and completely shocked. This was the worst incident which I heard from firsthand.

SR did not respect any limits: he had sex with most of the wives of the leading students at Rigpa. I tried to keep myself and my private life out of his. I tried not to mix with his affairs. Sogyal had a classical harem, and he knew all the tricks to make the obvious invisible, or if that did not work, to change the context of the students’ values, giving the whole thing a spiritual excuse, and abuse fears and naivety, or the good belief of his students to get what he wanted. It’s 12 years ago that I quit Rigpa, so I have no more first hand information of SR’s doing now, but I must say I have little doubt that everything is the same today, because I consider him an addict. He is hooked on sex and power.

When I have more time I will write more professionally on the psychology of the guru-student relationship and of abuse. What interests me most is why people “agree” to be abused and what hinders them to see the truth. And how to help others to discover their own truth, and how to stop people like SR from going on.

Please again this is confidential, and I will take action, but I will choose my own way according to my values and my autonomy. It is a painful process for me to look after all these years more deeply into my own behaviour and acts. I need my time so that I can be really of use for others who need help. Just acting without having my personal process at a certain point could do more harm than good.

Thank you for listening, and it's very good that you study the psychological background of what happened to you. You are very courageous. I hope that you can heal and learn from it and help others. Of course it would be easy to identify me quickly -- maybe you have already -- but the story is on trusting, so I trust you.

Best regards