What’s fascinating is that between Ray’s video contrition and his newsletter walk-back, Ray seems to demonstrate the same “emotional inconsistency” to which he is presumably confessing.
Alexandra Stein’s work shows how manufactured disorganized attachment in the high-demand group eventually will have every member both coming and going at the same time. It’s the unpredictability — “inconsistency”, to use Ray’s word — that puts the member in the position of the child who “experiences the unresolvable paradox of seeking to simultaneously flee from and approach the caregiver. This happens at a biological level, not thought out or conscious, but as evolved behavior to fear.”
October 14, 2019 at 12:36 pm
Some of the teachings and practices can be removed from the religion that holds them – you can take the ‘good’ and leave the ‘bad’ – but it wouldn’t be Tibetan Buddhism or even Vajrayana anymore.
I’ve been doing a bit of ‘meditation’ lately and working with what was helpful for me without the unhealthy devotion to the teacher – the empowering teachings on mind and meditating with visualisations – and I realise that what I end up with isn’t something you couldn’t call vajrayana. And without taking refuge in the Buddha, it’s not Buddhism either. Which is fine by me since I don’t think of myself as a Buddhist anymore. But what would you call something where all you’re taking refuge in is the nature of your own mind and the nature of reality? Not that names matter.
I’m just clear that what I’m taking away from my study and practice isn’t vajrayana because vajrayana will always have that fixation on the teacher. It’s key to how it ‘works’ and how it doesn’t work, and it’s open to abuse and always will be for so long as the teachers and students follow the scriptures that give the leaders licence to abuse. All the codes of conduct in the world are meaningless in light of it.
So if you’re still wanting to be a Tibetan Buddhist or just study and practice the vajrayana, then you’d better care about abuse because you could be next in line for it, and if not you, then certainly someone somewhere. Someone is likely being abused by a Tibetan Buddhist teacher right now. That’s how common it is. And not just in the West, but also in the monasteries and nunneries in the East. No student of Tibetan Buddhism should be ignoring this or not caring; if they are, then it’s not just a question of where is their bodhicitta; it’s where is their ordinary compassion and empathy?
The Dagri Rinpoche case shows how TB teachers just ignore the codes of conduct. The FPMT has a really strong code, the best I’ve seen, but it didn’t stop him. And Lama Zopa’s response shows why they get away with it and think it’s all perfectly fine.
The very least one can do is care.ReplyQuote
Michaël Van Broekhoven
October 22, 2019 at 7:35 am
I was excommunicated by Reggie and his devotionally obedient henchmen, a nightmare when already commited with him as Vajra master. Vows, honesty, humility,… it ultimately seems it all meant NOTHING to the guy.
But to what extent he was hexed himself is for him to figure out… As it seems this abuse rabbit hole goes a lot deeper…
Michaël Van Broekhoven
October 27, 2019 at 3:14 am
For anyone interested, i’ve added my thoughts on DO’s response (Dharma Ocean)
November 14, 2019 at 4:14 pm
Trungpa was a head I just victim pure and simple. He crashed his car, got a boo boo on his head then began acting so strange it “scared” the other monks. He left the monk bit, married an under-age girl and fled Britain in part to escape her enraged family. The other monks told the authorities he’d “gone insane” but he’d already gone to America. He arrived at the height of hippy interest in consciousness and discovered he had a gift for getting people to believe whatever he said. He started all these enterprises, hung up a list anyone could sign to have sex with the guru and drank drank drank until he drank himself to death at age 47.
No other Tibetan teacher acts anything like this!
He ran around wearing ridiculous uniforms that made him look like the Mexican general Santa Anna. He had a guy who followed him around with a chair in case he wanted to sit down, and another guy following him with an umbrella to keep the sun off of him.
He had his students tell people he was “a Tibetan prince.”
Does anyone really believe this person was enlightened like Ramana Maharshi?
20 points ·
11 months ago
Red flags about Reggie Ray, spiritual and psychological abuse and complicity
There is an alarming number of ex-Dharma Ocean members, who have privately communicated grievances about psychological abuse, most of which neatly fits the profile of a narcissist.
There are many accounts of public shaming - while a student is at the microphone in front of retreat participants or behind closed doors during senior teacher, staff, or meditation instructor meetings.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde style whiplash communication, going from kindly, loving and warm to caustic, paranoid and aggressive. It is important that much of this happens in private phone calls or emails. Plenty of gas-lighting included.
If a student is perceived as a threat in any way to his authority, the student is thrown out one way or the other if the student doesn't leave first. Too many ways one might be perceived as a threat to list here.
The tricky thing is that the public, fresh participants at his dathuns, or readers of his books will never see this side of him. It is those who have gotten close to him (typically entering into "samaya" with him, or becoming a meditation instructor or Dharma Ocean staff member) who get psychologically abused by him. Many who leave seem frightened to come out publicly. Others just want to leave it in the past. Many report PTSD, affecting new relationships, ability to engage in meditation or connect with other dharma teachers.
The other difficulty is while other teachers are in trouble for acts that are against the law, Ray's abuses are not technically illegal or even easy to identify. The harm he does to others is psychological and spiritual (there's a whole conversation about his interpretation of "samaya" and how he restricts what his closest students expose themselves to from outside teachers or practices). His behavior is variable, unpredictable, and difficult to document.
Ray has known the Sayong (Shambhala Int'l leader recently accused of sexual misconduct and other abuses) all his life. While Ray was an Acharya (senior teacher in Shambhala), he knew much of what the Sakyong was doing behind closed doors, including the incident that happened in Chile. In fact, Acharyas had regular meetings, spanning years to discuss many of these issues - and for that reason Ray and probably many of the current Acharyas are complicit in his activities. Analogous to what the Catholic church has done.
Ray also knew (since the early 2000's) from multiple accounts shared with him during a retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center of certain sexual indiscretions by Bill Karelis (another Shambhala teacher) who is now in court because of one account of sexual abuse of a minor. Another in-house cover up, more complicity. He may no longer be part of Shambhala Int'l, but this needs to become part of the larger conversation. The Dharma Ocean staff and meditation instructors could be said to be complicit in the "next generation" of abuse.
Ray himself was subjected to abuse from his teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche, who it is fair to say was an abuser on many levels himself. There's nothing new here, Ray is also a victim who totally believes in his vision of the dharma, but his limitations aren't helping him, and hurting others.
Have caution when speaking with Ray, he's a brilliant speaker with loads of charisma, and if you blink, he'll have you convinced of his innocence.
It would be great if former members of Dharma Ocean could find a way to communicate their grievances as a group, at least as a measure of public safety. They're probably spread apart and out of communication with each other for the most part, unfortunately. I urge people to share this post as needed.
Why he's been invitated to AMA here is beyond me - it's like asking an abusive father over for dinner with his injured family
6 points ·
10 months ago
Other red flags:
13. Nepotism to an extraordinary degree. He would go to great lengths to build up his own family members as "true spiritual" beings way above his most dedicated students. It is a long known aspect of being in the inner circle and humiliating to those who have truly given so much of their lives & devotion to the teachings.
14. A clear bias for more traditionally feminine traits in senior teachers i.e.- softness and compliance or silence. If a woman has a lot of money or power these preferences will be overlooked. Female students were told to put themselves "energetically" under their male partners if considered too brash or strong. Staff members/ board members who were either "yes-men" or moneyed tend to hold positions of power much longer than their fellow sangha.
15. Students or staff speaking up about core issues that were coming up in the early 2000's about sexuality, gender and race were routinely humiliated and silenced. Group conversations/research from experts in the field within his own sangha belittled or co-opted. Students and staff bringing up similar issues almost two decades later share similar issues.
16. Regularly holding fundraisers after encouraging students to drink a lot of alcohol under the guise of teaching or "pointing out".
17. Routine co-opting of other spiritual traditions from African to Aboriginal to Native American Indian to Hawaiian (most often deeply influenced by whatever student or family member most had his ear at the time) This could also be argued as part of his brilliance and open-mindedness.
18. Every new teaching/ chant/ practice presented as the greatest/ better than other teachers- practices etc with a demand for students to attend a Dathun or VTI or yet another meditation instructor training (often throwing students into years of debt ) or be threatened with lost of status. These rules were always changing and wily-nily.
9 points ·
11 months ago
It’s also maybe important (or not) to note that for likely the very same number of years that RR (and his community/dharma heirs/lineage etc) was (is?) not considered a legitimate lineage holder by Shambhala/ the sakyong etc.. that RR consistently and completely called out the Shambhala community/lineage as being un-legitimate and not teaching true Dharma. We all ate it up. The arrogance/condescension became our own. This was classic RR -as much as he trash talked his own students (even those he called senior students ) behind our backs he did the same with most (but not all) teachers from other communities. I can specifically recall many of the Tibetan teachers but also anyone that was potentially a threat or was of interest to his students like John Welwood, Lama Tsultrim Allione, the Shambhala acharyas etc. Many of us were naive and judgmental even after leaving RR’s community and were surprised, heartened (and so very delighted in my case) to meet Shambalians who were devoted to the teachings, willing to engage in open-hearted and spontaneous dialogue and have formed fast and deep friendships with many. I am grateful, but if I had not challenged the “truth” as presented by RR it would have been my loss.
10 points ·
11 months ago
Yes! this is one of the most culty aspects of his teachings, though he manages to do it is a way that isn't always obvious. It contributes to the inner/outer split that is so useful for controlling people. I remember the first time he really lashed out at me, in a dharma talk on retreat, not naming me but referring anonymously to an interaction we had just had and really pouring on the shame, saying to the sangha "can you believe he said that to me?" I stayed up all night, cycling between anger, shame, regret, confusion. I tried to imagine leaving dharma ocean, and I just couldn't. there was nothing else out there for me. After years of being told that no one else is doing what we're doing, that no one else is embodied, that no one else is really doing the work, I was unable to see another option. And so over the next couple of days I twisted it around into a teaching, that there had been something in me that needed to be attacked that way, even though I knew, on some level, that my comment to him had been completely innocent, and the interpretation of it that he presented to the group was completely nutty and paranoid. but I found a way to interpret his abuse and aggression as a teaching, to rationalize it, as we all must do, over and over.
Sorry, the point of that story is that yes, we do take on that arrogance, seeing most other buddhists as kind of well-meaning losers, and that arrogance traps us, binds us to him. Shit, that's the real Samaya in Dharma Ocean. It's not "the communication of the heart," as Reggie so beautifully says it is, or at least used to. Any and all insight, growth, or value that you have becomes utterly dependent upon your dedication to Dharma Ocean and its ever changing path. Leaving becomes simply unimaginable for most people, and incredibly destabilizing when it finally happens.
(Reggie Ray)But then I would wake up the next morning and I would be in a different place. And suddenly the feeling of being completely suffocated by my own vomit and my own shit and the feeling of, uh, incredible, overwhelming anxiety all the time, which really I felt that much of the time when I was in the in the first year, first year or two, um, it would be completely gone. And I would get up and you know, you know how it goes because you go through this too and look outside and it’s an unbelievable day you’ve ever seen. And you look at the mountains and you smell the air and um, you, you feel the warmth of the sun and you feel so open and you run into parts of yourself that you didn’t even know where there. Beautiful parts and inspired parts and open. And you look at people’s faces and you see them and you feel the tremendous sense of their sacredness and you feel love for them.
Stein describes a paradoxical moment of relief when the nervous response to cultic stress collapses into fold or fawning mode. She writes:
Giving in – dissociating and ceasing to think – is experienced as relief. In my own experience I remember well this sensation: overwhelmed with confusion and exhaustion, the thoughts that were trying to enter the cognitive part of my brain just could not make it there and they fell back out of consciousness. Simultaneously I stopped struggling and decided to commit myself more fully to the group even though I disagreed with it. That too felt like relief – I didn’t have to fight anymore. In fact, as we shall see later in more detail, key regions of the brain that connect emotional (largely right brain) and cognitive processing (largely left brain) are shut down in the disorganized and dissociated state.
(Matthew Remski comments)
I can report from interviews with and reading the testimonies of students of Jois, Iyengar, and others that the relief portion of this trauma-bond cycle – especially if it is also contrasted with the physical pain of yoga practice or sitting in meditation for long periods of time – can be amplified into euphoria.