Re: Fake Tibetan Buddhist Lamas - Do you know any "Wolves in Lama's Ro
Date: November 06, 2011 09:40PM
I find it rather ironic that this thread should refer to Namkhai Norbu and Matthieu Ricard as 'good' religious teachers and Sogyal Rinpoche as 'bad'. In about 1998 I was present at a retreat where Namkhai Norbu was questioned by a British student who asked Lama Norbu about a statement he had made that he would not return to teach in Britain if his students did not unify enough to get land there. Lama Norbu replied that he would not be returning to Britain and that in any case, Sogyal Rinpoche was a completely qualified Dzogchen master who was fully capable of looking after Norbu's students in Britain. I am acquainted with Matthieu and have heard him speak of Sogyal Rinpoche in a complimentary way. I also know personally that whenever Sogyal Rinpoche and Namkhai Norbu are in Australia at the same time, which is usually, Sogyal Rinpoche makes great efforts to stay with Namkhai Norbu for at least a week.
I don't know much about the sexual allegations, but I do have some comments to make. I studied with Sogyal Rinpoche and Namkhai Norbu from 1986-1998 and still sometimes see them, and with Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche from 1986 also. I spent a great deal of time with all of these lamas and have many other dharma connections including being regarded as competent to teach Theravada. I have also been authorised to run groups by Chagdud Tulku, Namkhai Norbu, Drikung Gyalsey and others, although I want to make it clear that this in no way involves recognition of me as a teacher or me claiming to be a teacher of any kind.
Calling Sogyal Rinpoche 'Sogyal Lakar aka Rinpoche' is no more than a slur. When he was officially recognised by the greatest Nyingmapa lama of the 20th century, Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, as one of the two incarnations of Terton Sogyal (Sogyal Rinpoche regularly visits and keeps up contact with the other), Gelugpa sources tried to belittle him because he came from a rich family. I knew quite well Geshe Dharghey, a very, very revered and respected Gelugpa teacher who in fact grew up across the street from Sogyal Rinpoche and who praised him and made it clear he recognised him. This 'aka' implies that he is in some way not entitled to be called Rinpoche. On the contrary, this title is completely recognised and great Nyingmapa masters regularly visit his retreats and centres. He also had or used to have at any rate regular contact with Dzongsar Khyentse, who is the present emanation of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. He treats these high lamas with great humility and deference. He has full recognition of that title and was trained as a teacher from a very early age. This is so well known that this 'aka' business implies to me personal animosity.
I actually helped set up Rigpa in Australia, but I was mainly an outsider. I was respected and treated well for my long connection with teachers and my little knowledge, and some of the national leaders of Rigpa Australia were very close to me and kept me 'inside' on things. Some others were not receptive of a poor person, especially since I attended all Rigpa retreats but was unable to pay for any! Sogyal Rinpoche repeatedly told these people to accept and respect me.
There is one other slur against Sogyal Rinpoche that I am personally able to completely repudiate. It is said that he did not write 'The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying'. This book, published in 1992, was said in the foreword to be basically transcripts of talks that Rinpoche had given from 1986, when he was quite new, until 1991. In any one year he would give basically the same series of teachings in different countries. I want to say that between 1986 and 1992, I personally heard Rinpoche give every teaching in that book. Moreover, I actually transcribed some of these teachings. None of my transcripts appear in the book, but talks do appear given in Germany and France that are almost word-for-word identical with what I transcribed.
From 1986-1998, I attended almost all teachings that Sogyal Rinpoche gave in Australia. I seldom talked with him alone, but was very vigorous in questioning him in retreats and in fact we teased each other a good deal. He always told students that they should check and test every teacher for many years before accepting him. He only once to my knowledge gave an initiation, saying that he was not worthy, and directing students to more senior teachers. He said often that he was a 'fake Dzogchen master', and asked our tolerance for his errors. He made every attempt to get us to attend teachings by great masters that visited and to invite them. He asked us to think about and check everything he said. He never described himself as having great knowledge or realisation. He worked extremely hard and was known never to rest in trying to help students, even having letters read to him on the toilet (from outside), as King Ashoka did. Also, myself and others saw some very special manifestations while he was giving teachings.
I never cared to become a close worker of his since, as some lamas do, he pushes his workers hard. Like Chagdud Tulku and Namkhai Norbu, who are undoubtedly great teachers, he can be quite grouchy. I never saw nor heard of any hint of impropriety among female students. When visiting Australia, he usually had a girlfriend with him, as is entirely proper, one for two years and one for five years. When they broke up, he was very sad. He paid for their air fare and for many years himself traveled in tourist class. He would not accept gifts nor did he live high. It is claimed that main female students of his recruited sex partners for him. Knowing the main female students he has in Australia and some of the international ones, I would never believe that of them for one moment. I know very well indeed a woman that has been one of his closest workers and acquaintances for thirty years, and she is an extremely kind, straight and indeed somewhat puritanical woman. Her closeness to him would mean that she would have seen anything like this, and I think she would never for one second stay with a teacher that abused his status. When I heard of sex allegations in about 2002, I asked his main organiser in Australia, a trusted friend, who told me that he had been with Rinpoche in America during this period and that the woman concerned was unstable and had never even met Rinpoche.
In about 1998, I became unhappy with the way that Rinpoche was developing Rigpa and discussed it with him. I decided to withdraw. In addition, at the same time I met my own real root teacher. I think that the course structure is good, but everything has got very corporate and the courses are expensive. I have no reason to think this money is misused, as Rigpa maintains urban premises and retreat centres and monasteries at some expense. As a manager, I can make rough calculations of the income from courses as against the cost of running the Melbourne centre, and I doubt that there is much margin at all. However this corporate structure was not congenial to me and I did not agree with it.
I am not saying that there may not be valid claims against Rinpoche, and especially perhaps against members of his organisation. I have seen Buddhist organisations go bad - I started out as an FWBO member in 1973 and had withdrawn by 1980 when it became clear that Sangharakshita was growing rather erratic. I have spent time living in monasteries in Sri Lanka and am well educated in the required standard.
If there are real claims against Sogyal Rinpoche and hard evidence, certainly I would be interested to see them. However, I have also worked with other humanitarian and spiritual leaders. In fact, I am now working for a very prominent Muslim leader, which I regard as rather ironic for a committed Buddhist. I've been criticised for helping Muslims and I always answer 'I'm not helping Muslims, I'm helping human beings'. One thing I know about such leaders and celebrities in general is that there are a great many false and malicious claims against them, as there are against even HH the Dalai Lama, another one of my teachers. We should be sceptical and test spiritual teachers, but we should also very very sceptical of and test people of no reputation who make claims.
One last thing. I do not completely agree with other elements of the list, though my knowledge is small. So far as I know, there is no reason not to accept either Jetsunma Akhong Lhamo or Traktung Rinpoche (=aka Stuart Kirkpatrick). I have heard from witnesses that His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche definitely said that the Jetsunma was a Tara emanation, and in any case her recognition by Penor Rinpoche is established. When I first heard of these two, I was very dubious and made a number of enquiries among well-connected students and even some lamas. So far as I know their recognition, though very irregular in terms of their variant dharma histories, is completely authentic and by great masters whose word must be respected. In any case, that recognition is official. I have also never heard any criticism of them as mistreating their students.
With regard to the many other fake 'lamas', it's really good that a web forum like this should exist to expose them. I used to know one Maori guy who would pretend to be a Tibetan Lama to get chicks at nightclubs!