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Sogyal Rinpoche

Sogyal Rinpoche
photo from Flameout
Gurus/Spiritual Masters
Sogyal Rinpoche
current suggested assesment
Tradition Tibetan Buddhist
Gurus A number of reverred Tibetan Masters (see Wikipedia page for more
Abuse of devotees? Moderate sexual (one known instance, but how many other cases never became public?)
Inspiration Buddhist thoughtform/tradition

A Tibetan Master

From Wikipedia link Wikipedia:

Sogyal Rinpoche (born c. 1950 ) is a Tibetan Dzogchen master of the Nyingma tradition. He is the founder of Rigpa and the author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

...With a remarkable gift for condensing the essence of Tibetan Buddhism and transmitting it in a way that is both authentic and profoundly relevant to the modern mind, Sogyal Rinpoche is one of the most renowned teachers of our time. He is also the author of the highly-acclaimed and ground breaking book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Two million copies of this spiritual classic have been printed in 30 languages and 56 countries. It has been adopted by colleges, groups and institutions, both medical and religious, and is used extensively by nurses, doctors and health care professionals. Rinpoche is also the founder and spiritual director of Rigpa, an international network of 106 Buddhist centres and groups in 23 countries around the world. He has been teaching in the West for over 30 years now and continues to travel widely in Europe, America, Australia, and Asia.

A interesting anecdote

"I recall hearing an authentic teacher, Sogyal Rinpoche, talking about a student of his who was suffering from anorexia and was convinced that he was telling her, via visions and dreams, not to eat. He told her face-to-face that she should ignore this stuff and that he was not telling her to starve herself. But she chose to believe the visions rather than the real teacher. "
From New Age Nonsense

I once had a similar thing happen to me. A women developed a fantasy about me, and was convinced I was talking to her out of a wall hanging in her apartment. In real life I have a bad speech impediment. So I asked her, "did this voice stutter?" She said "no it didn't". I said "ah-hah there you go." She said "yes but it was a threshold (her jargon for archetypal) experience". So like Sogyal Rinpoche nothing I could say would convince her or shake her out of her delusion.

Controversy

From Robert Priddy's files:

Sogyal Rinpoche $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. The Dalaa Lama has approved the case against Sogyal Rinpoche. See http://www.american-buddha.com/randy.sogyal.htm and http://www.well.com/conf/media/SF_Free_Press/nov11/guru.html

I've included this solitary allegation because I started out writing a critical page, but then had a strong intuitive feeling that Sogyal Rinpoche is genuine. As always, it is upto the reader to explore all the facts and then make up their own mind.

Interestingly, a preliminary blog search gave no mention of these allegations. The fact that Sogyal Rinpoche comes across so positively in the blogosphere, unlike abusive gurus where there is always a huge polarisation between supporters and ex-devotees, confirms my strong intuition that he is the real deal.

Update

Well, I spoke too soon. Here is some news from integral blogger and writer Bill Harryman (Integral Options Cafe):

The Abusive Guru: Sogyal Rinpoche, and see also Bill's Zaadz blog for the same post but more replies.

"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...

You can read the rest on Bill's blogs, or external link at this link. What is of interest are the parallels with Poonjaian guru Eli Jaxon-Bear, who has recently been enmeshed in a similar scandal. Eli copped it harder, and looks like dragging his wife Gangaji, a beautiful teacher, down with him. But this doesn't mean that Eli's actions were more severe. Rather the Sogyal Rinpoche case occured some thirty years ago, and only was brought to light twenty years later. In those days gurus could get away with a lot more abuse. They were laws unto themselves, accountable to no-one. Da Free John and his infamous "Garbage and the Goddess" workshops of 1974, were a case in point. Eventually even Da's loyal devotee Ken Wilber was to express serious reservations about the actions of his guru (something the Daists probbaly haven't forgiven him for)

This particular case is summed up as follows:

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.

Muktananda also had a thing for young female devotees. This seems to be a common trend, although obviously not limited to fallen gurus!

Presenting the case for the defendent, here is a post by a Seattle-based writer.and wilberian Joe Perez, supporting Sogyal Rinpoche:

Friday, November 24, 2006 - Another respected guru has faced scrutiny

I have no other information about this incident than what I've just quoted. And yet it seems obvious to me that if this woman is claiming to be a hapless victim she is in deep denial about her own role in the incident and her own personal responsibility to herself and the Tibetan monk. She could have behaved differently than she did at every juncture of the incident by turning away at the door, refusing to sit next to an apparently intoxicated and frisky monk, or (imagine that!) rejecting his advances and promptly leaving. This is NOT abuse, except perhaps in the subjective experience of a person suffering a very distorted self-image of herself as a victim ... or perhaps in the subjective experience of a person suffering a distorted self-image of himself as a perpetrator. Given that this woman later chose to (a) participate in an effort to deprive the Tibetan Buddhist community of $10 million and (b) drag the good name of a man who never claimed to be perfect through the mud for making a sloppy pass, I frankly see her own actions as most ethically challenged.

It is interesting to see a very different attitude with the Leela people who forced Eli Jaxon-Bear to setp down for his very similar actions. I don't know whether justifications for this sort of behaviour is due to some sort of entrenched misogyny within Westernised Tibetan Buddhism, due to the influence of serial womaniser and alcoholic Chogyam_Trungpa, very complex and dualistic character, very intermediate zone, who pretty much established the contemporary Tibetan Buddhist movement in America. Or whether it comes from within the Wilberian movement itself (perhaps too much head-centered intellectualising?). William Harryamn gave an interesting response which I wouldlike to quote:

WH said...


I don't like the victim approach, but I also don't like saying that the "victims" had it coming for having bad boundaries, either.

Most people seek gurus/teachers BECAUSE they have bad boundaries in one way or another. A teacher should never abuse that dynamic in any way.

To me, this is what is wrong with the ambigious tecaher. Most ambigious teachers I beleive are genuinely sincere. But because they are not fully enlighetned, they give in to the temptations of their position and the urges of their lower nature. Sexual abuse especially seems to be very common among intermediate zone gurus.






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page by M.Alan Kazlev. Wikipedia content licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sogyal Rinpoche".
page uploaded 16 November 2006, last modified 14 December