Senior Rigpa Students Ask for Sogyal Rinpoche to Be Reinstalled: Sources

Credible sources say a petition letter (copied below) is being circulated amongst the inner circles of the Rigpa International organization, and is gathering signatures of support. It has been translated into English, most likely from Dutch.

The petition letter asks for the Rigpa “Vision Board” to reinstall Sogyal Lakar (aka Sogyal Rinpoche) as the public spiritual guide for the organization.

The petition letter lists seventeen original signatories. Emails to six of these signatories requesting comment have gone unanswered. The names have been redacted in the copy below, pending a response.

A source says that most of the signatories make up part of a core practice group at Rigpa’s Lerab Ling temple, located in southern France.

Rigpa’s Vision Board took over organizational  leadership in August of 2017, after Lakar was forced to retire following accusations of physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuses brought against him by eight former devotees in an open letter published a month earlier.

The petition letter asks for Lakar to be effectively reinstalled as spiritual figurehead of Rigpa. It uses the language of inclusivity to argue that Rigpa students who “don’t have a problem” with the abuse allegations against Lakar are now unfairly marginalized because of the controversy.

The petition letter rebuffs the recommendations made by a recent independent investigation into the allegations, commissioned by Rigpa. The investigation, conducted by the London law firm Lewis Silkin, confirmed that Sogyal Lakar committed “serious physical, sexual, and emotional abuse” and that for decades, senior Rigpa management enabled Lakar’s behaviors and “failed to address them, leaving others at risk.”

The first recommendation of the 50-page report was that “Sogyal Lakar should not take part in any future event organised by Rigpa or otherwise have contact with its students” and that Rigpa should “disassociate itself from Sogyal Lakar as fully as possible. Following the independent investigation, Rigpa issued a statement that said, “Rigpa commits to act upon the report’s recommendations.”

The petition letter ignores the recommendations, saying, “…we continue to have full confidence in Sogyal Rinpoche. We will always take him to be our root teacher…”

It makes no concrete suggestions as to what Lakar’s rehabilitation within the organization would look like. Lakar, 71, has recently received treatment for colon cancer.

The Dalai Lama has repeatedly spoken out in the last 18 months about Lakar’s abusive behavior and Rigpa’s exploitation of students.

The Vision Board, to whom the petition letter is addressed, is staffed by five non-Tibetan devotees, and advised by three Tibetan lamas.

One of the lamas is Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, who mocked the eight original complainants in October 2017 with a satirical “Sex Contract” that would purportedly secure consent from devotees for various sex acts with their teachers. More recently, he trolled Rohingya refugees with a rambling letter of praise for Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Another Vision Board lama is Khenchen Namdrol Rinpoche, who gave a speech at Lerab Ling in September condemning the eight letter writers, suggesting they are possessed by demonic spirits. The speech was live-translated for a cheering audience by Shambhala Publications author Sangye Khandro (Nancy Gay Gustafson).

A source says that most of the signatories are part of the “Lerab Ling Practicing Sangha.” The Practicing Sangha was formed at Lerab Ling after its founding in 1992 and are distinguished by their high degree of loyalty and devotion to Lakar.

Lerab Ling functions as the organization’s administrative and spiritual headquarters. It was home to Sogyal Lakar before he fled French authorities after accusations against him were first made public. In May 2018 French police raided Lerab Ling as part of an ongoing investigation in Lakar’s abuse. Rigpa and Lerab Ling temple were both suspended by the French Buddhist Union following the open letter by the eight original complainants.

Lerab Ling continues to host programmes for both the public and dedicated Rigpa students. The next public event, “Living in Harmony with what Really Matters”, is scheduled for over the holidays.

In the summers, the centre also hosts Buddhist camps for children and teens.

 

_______

A letter to the Vision Board about our concerns regarding the current direction.

Firstly. Thank you for all you do to preserve the Dharma and Sangha. We are so happy to be part of the effort you have made so far to take care of those in the Rigpa Sangha who have been hurt. Sangha unity is foremost in our minds as advised – for us it means a Sangha where each and every member is allowed to hold views and openly practice as we believe in.

It has been more than a year of healing and the direction we now seem to be heading, is of concern to us. The profile of retreats and courses that are being promoted and views being held are of concern to us.

We now feel that slowly, the needs of those in the Sangha who don’t have a problem is perhaps being over-looked or just not highlighted. We worry that by continuing to remain quiet in order to give space to our dharma siblings who were hurt, might indeed be mis-construed to mean we hold the same views.

So this letter is to state that we continue to have full confidence in Sogyal Rinpoche. We will always take him to be our root teacher and we bring this body of students to your kind attention. We request to be provided forums where we are able to openly express our devotion and practice the lineage of which Sogyal Rinpoche is an integral part. The peaceful co-existence of these events together with the ones already taking place will make for real sangha inclusivity.

Secondly.

The question of spiritual integrity is of concern to us. No matter how noble a reason, we believe there are certain lines which cannot be crossed. Commitments and rules for students following the path of Dzogchen is one of them. What we hear to be occurring at Dzogchen retreats is of great concern to us.

In the same vein, we have full confidence that you will hold any rules and commitments that pertain all level of the spiritual path – Vinaya, Mahayana, Vajrayana – in their entirety and not make them flexible to accommodate varying views and conveniences. We will be grateful if you continue to uphold spiritual integrity above and beyond the success of an organization.

Thirdly and most importantly.

The upholding of the spiritual lineage carried through by Sogyal Rinpoche. For us, we believe what differentiates Dharma centres is their spiritual lineage. At Rigpa we had the greatest fortune to be blessed with the lineage of the unsurpassed Dzogpa-chenpo. This is our crown jewel, our greatest blessing, our glory -which sets us apart from any other centre. Most importantly it our gift to give the world, for all sentient beings and the future of Dharma. This most precious gift – the greatest of compassions – we can only give if we have it ourselves.

We believe that this is a living lineage of blessing, transmitted person to person and it is embodied in the person of Sogyal Rinpoche as an irreplaceable link in this chain. And it is simply not possible to uphold this lineage without him being squarely at the centre of it. Hence it is unclear to us how we can preserve this our most precious possession in the current direction of barely being able to say his name.

Thank you again for all you do. We hope that together we will be able to exit this period of difficulty – stronger and wiser – and continue to keep Rigpa as the gift it is to the world.

[names of 17 signatories]

25 Comments

  • Such a stark contrast here Matthew between the clarity and precision of your writing and the self-contradictory, grammatically-wretched obsequious haze of the letter from the old students to the so-called “vision” board.

    Where to start with the contradictions? Even the head of the “Vision” board, Dzongsar Khyentse, has pointed out that Sogyal was never qualified to be a guru. There goes the “lineage” claim – as if such claims ever really mean anything or can somehow magically substitute for actual ethics and realization. Then there’s the trotting out of the old trope about honoring all of the different levels of ethical commitments from lowly HInayana vinaya to exalted Vajrayana samaya while conveniently failing to admit that the “root lama” they gush about is an utter failure at observing even the most basic and foundational of these vows.

    Healing, according to these wise senior students, consists off sweeping everything under the rug, grudgingly permitting victims to “have their own views” while threatening them with vajra hell for breaking samaya and reinstalling the violent, lecherous and incompetent sexual predator who is the root cause of their root guru screw-you situation on the throne. Brilliant solution – should work like a charm,

    Instead this bunch should just start their OWN organization, and I’ll even help them out by offering them a name for it, free of charge: Marigpa (Tibetan for “primordial ignorance”).

  • Who are the 17 signatories?
    Names please.

    I was a Rigpa member (until 2013) and a Dzogchen mandala ‘student’, so I’d like to know how is supporting this crap. As some of them I’d know personally and upon finding out who, wouldn’t like to anymore.

  • So, apparently senior Rigpa students are lobbying for Sogyal Lakar’s reinstatement—the recommendations in British lawyer Karen Baxter’s report notwithstanding. It fits a pattern: so far, I’ve seen no indication that any attempt at reform beyond paying lip service to principles of good governance is seen among the senior Rigpa members that remain at this time.

    It’s a measure of their intellectual stasis and moral inertia, I think, that senior students should persuade themselves that arguing for a reinstatement of Sogyal Lakar lies within the realm of reason.

    They feel no compulsion to argue that the alleged abuses did not occur, of course. For they are true believers, who presuppose that these were mere ‘seeming abuses’. To them, Sogyal Lakar is incapable of harming others by definition. In effect, these senior students argue that he is above the law. This is not a manner of speech. These students truly believe that their own view is superior: their guru’s nemesis is no match for their personal hubris. It never is.

    Not to belabour the obvious, but Sogyal’s victims would no doubt be re-traumatized if such a reinstatement occurs. Fortunately, the senior students’ ‘arguments’ are incoherent and fallacious—they will not hold up in a court of law. There’s no legal exemption for Vajrayana gurus’ supposed enlightenment. Moreover, Sogyal Lakar will likely be arrested and/or extradited upon his return to Europe or the United States. His reinstatement is a moot case: this particular ’emanation’ is not even remotely interested in ‘showing the aspect of going to prison’.

    Believing that spiritual teachers are above the law has happened before, of course. Over and over again, in fact, with disastrous consequences: the history of Rigpa and Shambhala (formerly known as Vajradhatu) are a case in point.

    All of this may not be these senior students’ “problem”, but it may cause concern in others. I’d suggest that those of you who are concerned about this development alert the appropriate authorities, fiscal oversight committees, and authoritative media in your home countries that Rigpa is going through a relapse into business as usual.

    • Yes, the only thing you can di is a process to intentions; you can bring NO fact that Rigpa actual management is not following the report recommendations. No fact.

  • Reliable sources says that none of these belong to Rigpa Sangha, they are not in Admin&Care database and this is a fake news to undermine curent effort of all serious Rigpa Members.
    it’s simply unbelievable that these belong to the ‘practicing sangha’ in Lerab Ling as they know the risk of Rigpa collapsing completely and would mean their own ruin.
    Sogyal is seriously sick and unable to stand alone and in any case his retreat from the positions previously held is definite.

    • “Reliable sources” from within Rigpa International also condemned the open letter from the Eight as “fake news”, and did everything they could to discredit it. Not clear who “they” are in your comment, as the names were redacted. I will consider contradictory evidence sent through the contact page.

    • Pema – be serious, they are people on the board of Rigpa. I’ve seen the letter and I know almost every name and their job, history. You are no journalist with sources, you are just trolling because you don’t like the truth coming out. It is believable because people see it as an expression of their devotion to that teacher and they don’t really care about consequences because Rigpa is not going to retaliate since it is all run by the same kinds of people. They simply don’t think it will be their ruin to just magically wait for it all to blow over.
      I’ve been openly blowing the whistle on this unethical horror story for years and I saw via a different channel a copy of the same letter circulating in Rigpa centers so I can confirm it is not fake.

  • @Matthew By the way, Sogyal recent health condition have worsened, and your info above is out of date. Read the latest conditions on Facebook at Sogyal Rinpoche page, post of 12th November.
    You do not have reliable sources to confirm that, do you?

    • Thanks for the update. I do not have sources to confirm it, no. One of the countless tragedies of cultic dynamics is that when an entire history is clouded by deception, one must ask whether even accounts of a leader’s terminal condition are true, or further manipulations of the emotions and finances of followers.

      • In the Lewis Silkin report it is aknowledged that SL was sick and could not meet the investigator and she( Karen Baxter) said she received evidence of his medical condition.
        Beware of anti-cultic dynamics: I’ve never seen people so fixated and compulsive with Sogyal and Rigpa as ever before….and with no official judicial investigation or charge!
        How is that those who were hurt hardly appear after they said what they had to say? ( and anonimously in the Investigation). How is that people like you and other open blogs and YouTube channel and Fb pages to continue hammering: now that Sogyal is out of reach, it is Rigpa members to be targeted. You know: thanks God Jesus came for the sinners, not for the righteous…yet you’re not christian ,are you?

          • You bear the shame of telling open lies such as in your title. Where it is asked in this letter, even if a false letter, that Sogyal be reinstalled? Where, if not in your obfuscation and deflection? Where it is said in the Report recommendation that it is prohibited to someone to hold his own view on Sogyal? The recommendation is for Rigpa not to favor PHYSICAL contact with Sogyal and students and Rigpa is keeping that, and nobody can disprove that. Learn to read, man before attempting to write anything with some sense.

          • ^ FYI If this commenter is bound by religious commitments to view Lakar in an glorified way (as is the custom in Tantric practice) the right to defend that view begins to make more sense. The article is exposing this same view as a matter of public interest, because it is reportedly coming from inside an organization that hosts public events. If some senior students really don’t “have a problem” with Lakar, parents who send their children to summer camps at LL should know that. The commenter first doubts the letter, but is now compelled to defend it. Clearly they believe that if the letter is authentic, that would be okay, because the independent investigation is a matter of “perspective”.

            This is this commenter’s last comment here.

          • Lewis Silken recommendations say
            “1. Sogyal Lakar should not take part in any future event organised by Rigpa or otherwise have contact with its students;
            2. Rigpa should take steps to disassociate itself from Sogyal Lakar as fully as is possible (having
            regard to any legal arrangements which may for the time being connect the organisation with
            him);”
            So this downplay to Physical contact as some limitation is just made up nonsense.

        • I’ve done my own public open testimony and supported everyone. I’ve talked to victims and they are scared to talk because of shameless backlash from people like you Vera. I was in the center of the mess, i know everyone involved quite well. The Lewis Silken report had enormous amounts of evidence and recommended criminal investigation. However, people want to heal, that Lewis Silken report was actually meant to threaten people but they gave their testimony and showed it was true – almost everything claimed was upheld. Not being upheld doesn’t mean not true either – it simply means not everything was met with overwhelming testimony because there wasn’t time and money to interview all the people who could have testified. A lot of testimony is kept locked to protect the witnesses from people who are dangerous – you know, sexual predators, psychopaths, narcissists who are amoral and dangerous. This is all well known and standard practice. Are you trying to roll back women finally getting their chance to be heard. What you want witnesses to come to your place and tell you when they are never welcome in the first place – that is the epitome of ignorance.

  • “At Rigpa we had the greatest fortune to be blessed with the lineage of the unsurpassed Dzogpa-chenpo. This is our crown jewel, our greatest blessing, our glory -which sets us apart from any other centre. Most importantly it our gift to give the world, for all sentient beings and the future of Dharma. This most precious gift – the greatest of compassions – we can only give if we have it ourselves.”

    “Which sets us apart from any other center” : What a display of arrogance that was created within Rigpa for a long time. Better than the rest of the world…..

    “our gift to give the world”: What a incredible “modesty”, for those who know Rigpa well from inside , nothing new.
    I remember very well, when at the time of the so called three year retreat, at the end the Rigpa spearhead communicated that those who had attended the 3y retreat would be send to different places in the world and different organisations in order to change the world, have now a real strong impact. Nothing happened of course, just another expression of megalomanic thinking as typical for the devoted followers and their chief.

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