Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Thoughts on Leaving Rigpa


After almost 20 years in Rigpa, I have left with a heavy heart and a wounded soul.

I still have huge faith and trust in the Dharma and have connected with my own wisdom in a real way. The allegations of abuse by Sogyal Rinpoche have been around for a long time and every now and again, they re-surface in the media and a whole new generation of Rigpa students become aware that all is not as it seems.

For my first few years in Rigpa, I was not aware of these issues at all and when I did become aware in some way, my mind compartamentalised these issues. I was so confused, I tried to rationalise it – so many people benefit from the teachings, this surely can’t be true and so on but there was always a niggling doubt.  Then people that I trusted in the Dharma assured me that this was all fine, it was allegations, it was crazy wisdom, this was my ego reacting and so on. However, this doubt got bigger and bigger and when I discussed the issues with senior students, some of whom were in blank denial and issued a party line, some of whom admitted the truth of the allegations but justified it by “crazy wisdom” approach. Both reactions only made my doubts bigger, I read as much as could, watched interviews and soon found myself connecting with other students who had left or were leaving. We were all fearful  as this was a taboo subject and had been taught that to speak or think badly about the master would be a terrible corruption of samaya and would send you to the vajra hells. These teachings in recent years in Rigpa on devotion and samaya have become more numerous and explicit – I believe this is deliberate.

Only after leaving Rigpa, did I realise how free I felt – no longer did I have to justify thoughts in my mind as bad or a corruption of samaya, I was recognising something wrong had happened. I had attended weekends where these issues were discussed in Rigpa but mostly how the issues could be managed in the face of questions from students or the public. It was effectively a re-education or PR training and it left me feeling deeply uncomfortable. Why  should I put out a party line? I remember how my skin crawled a little when one instructor referred to those making allegations as “these women”, it was how it was said, it was loaded with meaning – these woman who dare speak out, who make these allegations, these women who don’t know what they want. We were told Sogyal is not a monk, he is not celibate and is entitled to a private life and that many woman because he is a Rinpoche want to connect with him and have a relationship. This does not make it ok as many people project hugely onto Tibetan masters, in much the same way as those in psychotherapy in the West might do so with a therapist. A good therapist sees this immediately and uses it in the therapy in a healthy way to sort out real issues and the idea of a therapist sleeping with a client is seen as a huge betrayal of trust and breach of fiduciary duty.

Since leaving Rigpa, I am clearer and happier – I feel sick that I stayed there so long and didn’t see the reality, that I listened to the lies and justification. I sometimes now meet people from Rigpa and I know that a lot of people have left in the past year or two and there is a concerted campaign to re-connect with those who have left, wanting to know their reasons why, wanting to talk to them. I want to have nothing to do with this as I believe the allegations against Sogyal Rinpoche should be dealt with openly and honesty.

The complicity of many people in Rigpa in covering up these allegations, managing what can and can’t be said and so on is wrong and so sad. It is no different that the terrible behaviour of the Catholic Church in how they covered up abuses for years.

This whole experience has left me deeply wounded in ways I cannot describe – Buddhism has brought huge benefit and meaning to my life but this experience with Rigpa about Rinpoche’s abuse and the cover-up of same means there is a dark shadow over my experience. I feel by participating in such an organisation for some time, I was also complicit as first I didn’t know and then I did and didn’t say anything about my questions or concerns. This isn’t surprisingly as a very strong and distinct culture of silence, group think and constant activity has built up in Rigpa. It means people are afraid to speak out, afraid to be different and the constant activity means people are so busy and tired they don’t question the norms.

I am hopeful that in the coming year the issues in Rigpa will be exposed more and more and there will be a honest dialogue that benefit all those who have suffered at the hands of this organisation.  The really sad thing is there are many kind and good people in Rigpa, who lead lives according to the Dharma but there is this huge blindspot about the issues of the allegations about Rinpoche. Rigpa has also provided students in the west with access to extraordinary lamas such as Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Garchen Rinpoche and so on but I also have questions why does no-one speak up. Surely these lamas also know about these allegations? it is all so sad and confusing and disheartening and I commend those who have the bravery to speak out from the bottom of my heart.


Violation of the Sacred – Western Psychological Perspectives …

Guest Post

Western Psychological Perspectives on Sexual Misconduct in the Clergy and their Implications for Western Dharma Centers

“The pig and the chicken were on their way to breakfast, trying to decide what to have.  When chicken said, “Let’s have ham and eggs,” the pig then replied, “That’s fine for you.  It’s a small donation on your part, but it’s a total sacrifice for me.” Anonymous
So it’s time to ask the question again: Are sexual relations between lamas and their students harmful?  I’ve decided to keep asking this question until women begin to be heard.  Now is a good time to ask, because comments from BellaB on Dialogue Ireland (DI) continue to support the following key points:

1. Sogyal Lakar does have multiple sexual relations with his students; and
2. Bella and Sheila both see no harm in these relations.

In the absence of any official response from Sogyal or Rigpa, we must assume that Bella’s comments are the official response.  Bella is particularly clear about those two points in her responses to the bulleted summery which I included at the end of my last post on DI:  http://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/is-sex-between-a-spiritual-teacher-and-students-harmful/
Certainly, in the comment line, neither she nor Sheila deny Sogyal’s right to have multiple sexual relations with his students, nor do they deny that he is likely having those.  Bella has also been forthright about an assumption underlying all of her comments on DI and those of Sheila as well.  This is the assumption of the elite, which is that the suffering of a minority—meaning those few courageous women who have come forward to speak of their suffering—is insignificant and questionable if it challenges the comfort of the majority.  This attitude is quite contrary to the essence of Mahayana Buddhism, where the bodhisattva pledges to protect the happiness of every last being in existence.  There are no exceptions in this pledge, never a deaf ear to any cry of suffering.  Within this mighty outlook, if Sogyal’s style of teaching and sexual gratification causes suffering for even one woman, then it is unsafe for all women.

So what do we mean when we talk about suffering here?  Rigpa students frequently refer to suffering in the light of the necessary discomfort that sometimes comes from spiritual growth.  This is how they justify Sogyal’s sometimes harsh, sometimes unorthodox methods.  Of course, this is true.  Once we embark on such a grand spiritual path as the Mahayana, there are bound to be obstacles and difficulties.  Certainly, we embrace those short termed sufferings for the sake of long term happiness and there is no trouble in that outlook.
However, that is not the suffering we are talking about here. The suffering I refer to here is trauma.  In fact, the women who suffer from sexual abuse within a religious setting frequently struggle to even continue on the spiritual path.  Many of them in fact turn away from religion entirely.  For many of them, even the name of God or reference to their place of worship will trigger painful and intolerable memories and so it is avoided (Rauch, 2008).

Much of what psychologists know about this sort of trauma comes from studies done on clergy sexual misconduct.   Buddhism is still relatively new in the west and I admit that literature specifically addressing the harm caused by lama sexual misconduct is lacking.  However, the features of clergy which make sexualizing clergy/parishioner relations harmful are similar to features of Buddhist spiritual teachers.  In this way, one can conclude that the harm caused by sexualizing the clergy/relationship is likely to be no different than that resulting from sexualizing the lama/student relationship.

In fact, there are more similarities than dissimilarities between clergy and Buddhist spiritual teachers.  Both are seen as leaders of a religious institution and both give regular sermons/teachings.  Both are in positions of power and authority.  Both tend to the spiritual needs of community members, frequently in very close ways.  Both have the role of fiduciary care, which means placing the needs of their parishioners/students before their own.  Both play roles in major life events, such as funerals, births, marriages and religious holidays.  Both frequently counsel and advise parishioners or students.

Of sexual misconduct by spiritual leaders, Simpkinson (1996) writes:

“Despite the lack of reliable figures and the misconceptions, most professionals agree that the problem is far-reaching not only in Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish congregations but in Buddhist sanghas and Hindu ashrams as well. Abuse by spiritual leaders is nondenominational, and the dynamics between clergy and parishioners, between gurus and devotees, between spiritual teachers and students, bear striking resemblances to one another. From profiles of the perpetrators and victims to the impact on the spiritual communities and their ways of dealing with the situation, clergy sexual malfeasance is an ecumenical reality, one that has probably been with us as long as civilization and one that is not about to go away.”

A decade later, in a 2008 study on the prevalence of clergy sexual misconduct, Garland and Chaves (2008) reported, “Overall, 3.1 percent of women who attend religious services at least monthly reported being the object of a sexual advance by a clergyperson or religious leader in their own congregation since turning 18; 2.2 percent of regularly attending women reported a sexual advance from a married leader that did not lead to an openly acknowledged relationship.”

Within this context, I suggest that we in western Buddhist communities need to begin to view ourselves as part of a larger, societal problem.  In the same way that religious intolerance and hate crimes can be addressed in powerful ways through interfaith exchanges, this discussion as well can be better addressed within an interfaith context.  I believe that it is time for the closed, secretive and separate components of these problems to be opened up and aired within mainstream western societies.  These problems are not religious; they are societal.  Church communities are currently assessing methods for insuring safety within their congregations.   Dharma centers would certainly benefit through joining these efforts.

Decades ago, Rutter (1989) advised that students will be better protected only when spiritual teachers become more aware of the harm which these sexual relations can cause and when they cultivate greater empathy for those students.  While I can do nothing more than the Buddha himself to assist Buddhist teachers at becoming more empathetic, I would like to assist lamas at understanding the strong risk for harm in student/lama sexual relations.  While I am no expert myself in these matters, most of the articles I quote from are written by professionals who have expertise both in counseling victims and in clinical research.  I assure BellaB and Sheila that the articles I quote from are not the mere opinions of a few individuals but the substantiated findings of most professionals.

So what is meant in western psychology by the term “clergy sexual misconduct?”  Psychologists identify three key reasons why sexualizing the clergy/parishioner can be called misconduct.   These are: 1. The power imbalance; 2. The presence of fiduciary care; and 3. The violation of necessary boundaries in the relationship.
The imbalance of power in these relationships is the most important consideration.  Because clergy, like lamas, are in strong positions of power and authority, it is questionable whether any clergy/parishioner sexual relationship can ever be consensual.  The parishioner is less able to refuse because of the authority invested in the clergy.  In western psychological and legal perspectives, this constitutes a potentially abusive situation.  (Faith Trust Institute, 2008; ALEPH).   Without consent, sexual relations are at great risk of being nothing more than sexual assault.  In the literature, there are many stories of victims who are confused about their right to refuse the sexual advances of their clergy.  Many of them speak of being unable to view these sexual advances as they would the advances of other men.

I suggest that the power imbalance within the lama/student relationship is even greater than that in the clergy/parishioner relationship.  In Buddhism, students are instructed to view the lama as perfect, as a Buddha.  Despite the fact that this instruction is meant only for tantric practices, it is commonly fed to students soon after they walk in the door of a dharma center.  Even outside of tantric practice, students are frequently instructed to see the faults of the lama as faults in their own perceptions.  Sogyal refers to his teachers as “masters”—and his students, even beginning students, refer to him in the same way.

Indeed, the word “master” holds a strong meaning of power!  How could a woman refuse the sexual advances of her “master”?  Certainly this fact alone places any sexual advances made by Sogyal precariously close to sexual assault.
There is a quote from the scriptures frequently quoted which reads that if you view the lama as a human being, you will receive the blessings of a human being, but if you view the lama as a Buddha, you will receive the blessings of a Buddha.  Indeed, who wouldn’t choose to view the lama as a Buddha in order to receive the higher blessing?  And who would refuse sexual advances from Buddha himself?

Another complication which increases the risk for abuse in clergy/parishioner sexual relations is the assumption of fiduciary care.  This means that within their roles, it is assumed that clergy will place the welfare of their parishioners first and not seek gratification for themselves.  Clergy sexual misconduct occurs when the clergy’s own sexual gratification interferes with his responsibility for the welfare of his parishioners.  Many victims speak about their feelings of confusion because they trusted that the clergy had their welfare uppermost in his mind.  Many victims are unable to view the situation realistically as one of simple sexual desire because of their belief in the clergy’s unselfish motives.

I suggest that fiduciary care is even more relevant in the context of a Buddhist lama. Lamas pledge to put the welfare of others before their own.  This is a central feature of Mahayana Buddhism.  Students become sexually abused because their expectation that the lama will put their needs first impairs their ability to judge his sexual advances.  This also leads to a deep betrayal of trust when students realize that their lama is putting his own sexual gratification before their needs.

The third feature of clergy sexual misconduct listed above, the feature of boundary violation, is also prevalent in lama/student relations.  In fact, lama/student relations have the potential of becoming far more intimate than those between clergy and parishioner.  This is because the very nature of Buddhist practices, particularly those of meditation, Dzogchen and tantra, is very intimate.  These practices frequently involve deep, personal change.  In addition, practices of tantra frequently involve visualizing the merging of the lama’s mind within the student’s mind.  One could argue that these practices alone constitute a boundary violation!  Certainly, they require a very high ethical standard on the part of the lama.  In Buddhism, as in all religions, boundaries are protected through ethical restraint.  Sexual boundaries in particular require this.
In our discussions here regarding Sogyal, the question of his methodology in “working” with students is frequently raised.  Not only does this methodology involve a huge power imbalance, as students give Sogyal permission to harass and insult them whenever he sees fit, these harassments and insults are said to “work” on a student’s problems on a very deep way.  Students frequently report very deep experiences of intimacy with Sogyal resulting from these experiences.
In this way, I propose that sexual relations between a lama and his/her student certainly have comparable, but likely even more, risk for harm than similar relations involving clergy.  This is further complicated by the difficulties inherent in moving from a culture grounded in a faith-based religion to Buddhism, which is not faith-based.   Redefining the sacred without the central figure of God is unknown territory for a western student of Buddhism.  Navigating this territory requires clear guidelines and boundaries.  It can be expected that sexualizing the student/lama relationship could confuse these guidelines and boundaries and place the student at risk.

I believe that it is also imperative to view lama-student sexual relations in the west in the context of the judo-Christian culture within which it occurs in order to obtain a full understanding.   For example, Christian doctrine generally prohibits sex outside of marriage.  While this prohibition might not apply to a western woman’s own personal, more liberal ethical standards, it is likely to play a role, albeit unconscious, in shaping her expectations of a spiritual leader.  Many of the victims described in BTT report that they never had a sexual expectation of their relationship with the lama.  It took them completely by surprise.

In fact, much of the harm resulting from sexual relations between a Tibetan lama and his/her students comes from deep confusion.  The relationship crosses personal boundaries in ways that cloud the student’s spiritual orientation.  In a qualitative study of 46 adult victims of sexual misconduct by clergy, Garland and Argueta (2010) observe that most of the participants in their study admit to feeling confused over accepting advances made by the clergy that they would never accept from a man outside of the church.  These participants also describe confusion making them particularly vulnerable during the beginning days when the relationships first turned sexual.  They didn’t expect clergy to use sexually explicit language, for example, and yet found ways to accept the behavior.  They reported that they had no cognitive categories in which to understand sexual advances from clergy, so they contorted the truth in ways that they would never do in relation to an ordinary relationship.

The risk of confusion is even greater for western students of Buddhism because Buddhism in the west is unchartered territory.  Westerners come with assumptions from a judo-Christian upbringing and Tibetan Buddhist lamas come with assumptions from a Buddhist, Asian (and patriarchal) upbringing.  It seems that both sides expect the Buddha’s teachings to somehow resolve all the confusion.  Both sides however need to better understand their own cultural biases in order to approach those teachings in more honest ways.

For example, women within a judo-Christian culture frequently have strong associations of guilt around issues of sexuality and frequently respond with self-loathing when their sexual boundaries are crossed.  These are not emotions with which Tibetan Buddhist lamas are at all familiar.  In fact, HH Dalai Lama responded with shock years ago when he first learned of the western phenomena of self-hatred.  This is not a situation which occurs amongst Tibetans.  As a result, lamas are in unchartered territory in terms of fully understanding the damage that can occur when sexual boundaries are crossed with western women, when the sacred becomes tainted in a woman’s perspective.

Rauch (2008), who is herself a survivor of sexual abuse in a religious setting and a longtime therapist of victims, gives a strong statement on the damage that can result when sexual relations intrude on the sacred:

Sexual abuse in a religious context is a double breach of sacred trust and space.  It occurs when sexual activity is forced or coerced by a person in some position of power on another.  It is not necessarily direct physical contact.  Sexual abuse in a religious context can include voyeurism, exposure to sexual material, inappropriate and erotic sexual conversations, or sexual exposure in the context of a religious activity.  But it is an act of aggression nonetheless, whether one is forced or seduced, whether it is painful or pleasurable.

“Sexual abuse by a member of the clergy in any religion is tantamount to incest.  No violation other than with a blood relative combines such profound intimacy with intense betrayal.  The breach is all the more serious because the abuse is under the auspices and in the company of the sacred.  Circumstances and context can differ whether the victim is a child or an adult.  But, for anyone violated in this manner, regardless of age, the malevolent exploitation of trust, dependency and affection leads to a mind-numbing decline into alienation, secrecy, and spiritual chaos.” (Ch. 6)

In a review of the literature and a conference on clergy sexual misconduct organized by the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute, Wells (2003) observed: “The preponderance of evidence that the trauma of clergy sexual abuse is seriously debilitating is overwhelming.” And later, he summarizes, “clergy sexual abuse is a trauma that denudes the soul of the basic sense of trust that is so needed in the quest for spirituality. Contamination of the sacred rituals is the result of the one who pledges his faith to God, only to be betrayed by his representative through sexual abuse… [and can] lead the victim parishioner into experiences of no understanding, no connection, and no peace.  Oftentimes, the victim is rendered stuck in the stage of spiritual development that he or she was in when abused.”
Indeed, the greatest tragedy of all with these instances of sexual misconduct by both clergy and Buddhist lama is the fact that the trauma reaches into the spiritual wellbeing of the victim.  In this way, it has the potential of causing immeasurable harm.  I suggest that clergy, lamas and all spiritual leaders have an even greater responsibility for restraint than psychologists, doctors or teachers.  They certainly have a greater responsibility for restraint than ordinary men or women!  This is quite contrary to Sheila’s comment on DI that having sex with one’s lama was no different than sharing a nice meal with him!

Certainly in the comment line it seems that concern over the sacred is often ignored.  Rauch (2008) asks: “with all the books, documentaries, discussions and arguments, why had no one spoken of the impact of religious abuse on the soul?  Why did it seem that people who suffered some form of violation in God’s name struggled not simply in their psyche but beyond that—to the core of themselves?  How do people recover what is most essential to who they are, within whatever one calls the soul?” (Ch. 1, Introduction).

Indeed, Hopkins (1993) notes that when the person of the clergy is seen to embody the divine, this intensifies the relationship such that the betrayal of trust can become even more devastating for the victim of sexual abuse.  In many Buddhist tantric practices, the lama is visualized as a deity—he actually does embody the divine, at least in the minds and imaginations of practitioners.  Once the relationship moves into such a realm of the sacred, student/teacher sexual relations can never be compared to ordinary sexual relations and the risk of harm and abuse is greatly increased.

Simpkinson (1996) writes “Sexual abuse by spiritual leaders violates trust, devastates lives, and tears communities apart.  No denomination or tradition is immune.”

Rediger (1990) writes:
Victims of clergy sexual abuse suffer consequences most nearly identified as betrayal, grief and loss, shame, confusion, rage, and contamination. Betrayal, because the pastor-parishioner relationship has been violated. Grief and loss, because this pastor can never truly be a pastor to this person again . . . Shame because sexual intimacy with clergy, whether instigated or suffered, [italics added] often implies in the victim’s mind the grossest of moral turpitudes. Confusion, because intimacy and spirituality are so closely related . . . Rage, because of the power imbalance . . . Finally, contamination, because the victim’s life is now clouded and distorted by titillating rumor, loss of reputation, voyeuristic sympathy, and mistrust, along with loss of care and support he or she has a right to receive in the church. (pp. 28-29)
In a comprehensive review of the literature and study of 149 victims of sexual misconduct by physicians, therapists and clergy, Disch and Avery (1998) conclude, “the results underscore many findings of other studies: sexualized abuse of power by professionals can have highly negative effects on the victims, whatever the practitioner’s discipline. Loss, emotional turmoil, suicidal depression, isolation, low self-esteem linked to shame and self-blame, mistrust, and relationship difficulties are so common as to be almost predictable.”
As I dig deeper into the literature, I discover how church congregations play their part in allowing the abuse to continue.  I discover that the characters of Bella and Sheila, as portrayed in the DI comment line, are not unknown in the dramas within church congregations dealing with these troubles.  Indeed, their habit of denial and their insidious assumptions that it is the women (and not the lama) who are transgressing is the most common occurrence of all.  Women making allegations of clergy sexual misconduct are frequently ostracized and demonized in ways that are reminiscent of years ago when rape victims first spoke out for their own rights (Fortune, 1999; Faith Trust Institute, 2003).

So I say to Bella, Sheila and that silent Rigpa congregation—for the sake of all that’s decent, it’s time to hear these women.  Their suffering is real.  They cannot truly heal until they are heard.  It is time to put aside your fears, prejudices, rages and blindness and hear what the women have to say.  As Crisp (2010) observes: “Survivors of sexual abuse are frequently met with cultures of silence which make it difficult for their experiences to be acknowledged. Furthermore, many have been subjected to threats and intimidation in efforts to ensure that they remain silent about what has happened to them.”

So please, Bella and Sheila and you others, listen—

“In his statement to the US Conference of Bishops Conference in 2002, Craig Martin, who spoke of being abused during his childhood by a priest known and trusted by his family, said:

‘Gentlemen, I wanted so desperately to be heard. I wanted someone to listen to me. I wanted someone to help me. I wanted to break the silence and despair that was killing me. I wanted someone to hear my story.’” (Martin, 2002 http://www.usccb.org/bishops/martin.shtml as quoted in Crisp, 2010).

“As the American legal scholar Susan Estrich discovered:

‘At first, being raped is something you simply don’t talk about. Then it occurs to you that people whose houses are broken into or who are mugged in Central Park talk about it all the time. Rape is a much more serious crime. If it wasn’t my fault, why am I supposed to be ashamed? If I’m not ashamed, if it wasn’t “personal”, why look askance when I mention it?’”(Susan Estrich, Real Rape (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987), p. 2.4, as quoted in Crisp, 2010).
Bella and Sheila, instead of pointing to the pain, emotional instability and confusion of victims and labeling them as signs of guilt, listen—

“As the psychiatrist and trauma expert Judith Lewis Herman has noted:

‘People who have survived atrocities often tell their stories in a highly emotional, contradictory, and fragmented manner which undermines their credibility, and thereby serves the twin imperatives of truth-telling and secrecy. When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery. But far too often secrecy prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom.’”Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror (London: Pandora, 2001), p. 1., as quoted in Crisp, 2010).

“’In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. Secrecy and silence are the perpetrator’s first line of defense. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens. To this end, he marshals an impressive array of arguments, from the most blatant denial to the most sophisticated and elegant rationalization. After every atrocity one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies: it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates; the victim brought it upon herself; and in any case it is time to forget the past and move on. The more powerful the perpetrator, the greater is his prerogative to name and define reality, and the more completely his arguments prevail.” (Herman, Trauma and Recovery, p. 8, as quoted in Crisp, 2010).

So when are the women who have come forward with their suffering going to be heard?

I will conclude with observations from Marie Fortune (1999) who spent three years fighting for a group of women who had been sexually abused by a pastor in a church in the US:
The situation that arose at First Church of Newburg is in some ways an extreme instance of betrayal of the pastoral relationship.  But it is extreme only in terms of the severity of the pastor’s assaultive and abusive behavior.  It is not extreme in terms of the situations he exploited, the methods he employed, the numbers of people he harmed, or the resistance of the church to   knowing the truth.  In regard to the dynamics that allowed for such behavior, it is a typical case.  I chose it (from nearly fifty other with which I have had some association) to illustrate the problem of professional misconduct by a pastor, because it carries within it virtually every aspect of the issue and of the difficulty of the church’s response.  It may strike you as so extreme as to be unbelievable.  Some of the events were unbelievable; but this does not mean that they are not true.  You may conclude that this case is so extreme that it must be an isolated incident; these things simply do not happen in the church.  Unfortunately, instances of pastoral misconduct are far more common than any of us would like to believe.  They may not be as far-reaching or as extreme as in the Newburg situation, but the damage to individuals and to the church is often just as serious …
“The church has a choice when faced with such occurrences: It can turn a deaf ear, or it can heed the call of its own theology to attend to the powerless who are victims of its own power.  It can keep faith with itself and its people.  It can seek to do justice as a means to healing and restoration for all concerned.  It can preserve the sacred trust that rests within the pastoral relationship.” (pp. xvii-xviii)

Bella and Sheila and all you silent Rigpa students, when are you too going to start hearing?  When are you going to heed your own theology—our theology as dharma students—and  ensure that the Buddha’s core teaching— “Commit no harm”– forms the pillar of every Rigpa center?  When are we going to preserve the sacred trust that rests within the lama/student relationship?
Congregants grant clergy authority.


ALEPH, 2008.  Aleph.org. Breach of Professional Trust: Sexual and Financial Ethics, www.aleph.org/code.professional.htm
Crisp, Beth R., 2010, Silence and Silenced: Implications for the Spirituality of Survivors of Sexual Abuse.  Feminist Theology, April 14.
Disch, Estelle PHD and Avery, Nancy, MSW, 2001.  Sex in the Consulting Room, the Examining Room, and the Sacristy: Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Professionals. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 71 (2).
Faith Trust Institute, 2008.  www.faithtrustinstitute.org/ (follow “About the Issues” hyperlink, then follow “Clergy Ethics and Sexual Abuse by Clergy” hyperlink; then follow “Q&A” hyperlink.)
Fortune, Marie, 1999.  Is Nothing Sacred? The Story of a Pastor, the Women He Sexually Abused, and the Congregation He Nearly Destroyed. Eugene, Oregon: WIPF & STOCK.
Garland, Diana R. and Argueta, Christen, 2010, How Clergy Sexual Misconduct Happens: A Qualitative Study of First-Hand Accounts. Forthcoming with final edits in Social Work & Christianity.
Garland, Diana and Chaves, Mark, 2009, The Prevalence of  Clergy Sexual Advances Toward Adults in Their Congregations.  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 48 (4); 817-824.
Lief, Harold I., 2001, Boundary Crossings: Sexual Misconduct of Clergy, Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 26 (4).
Rauch, Mikele, 2008.  Healing the Soul After Religious Abuse: The Dark Heaven of Recovery.  Westport, CT: PRAEGER.
Rediger, L.G., 1990. Ministry and Sexuality, cases, counseling and care.  Minneapolis, MN: Fortress.
Rutter, P., 1989, Sex in the Forbidden Zone. New York: Fawcett Crest.
Simpkinson, 1996, Soul Betrayal, Common Boundary, November/December.
Wells, Ken, 2003, A Needs Assessment Regarding the Nature and Impact of Clergy Sexual Abuse Conducted by the Interfaith Sexual Trauma Institute, Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 10:201–217, 2003.
Written by a former Rigpa student


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Trungpa: Crazy Wisdom, or Just Plain Crazy?
by Keith Martin-Smith

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We are very happy to feature the first of a series of excerpts from Keith Martin-Smith's new book, A Heart Blown Open: The Life and Practice of Zen Master Jun Po Kelly Roshi—a playful, occasionally depraved, yet thoroughly liberating chronicle of Jun Po's life, whose story has been described as part Hunter S. Thompson, part Timothy Leary, and part Eckhart Tolle. A Heart Blown Open is now available for sale on Amazon.com. Pick up your copy today! 
Be sure to stay tuned on Saturday, March 3rd for an exclusive dialogue between Jun Po Roshi and Ken Wilber, when they will take a closer look at this remarkably moving and insightful book.
Later that year he returned to Boston to serve as the Tenzo, or cook, for Trungpa and the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpei Dorjé. The position was an honorable one, and Kelly spent a month preparing, learning the finest Japanese preparation for the six-pound red snapper he was going to cook. The day he was to serve food to Trungpa and the Karmapa, the two men were sequestered with a number of attendants and senior students in a closed room not far from the kitchen. Dinner was scheduled for 9, and Kelly made all the necessary preparations. Having remembered Trungpa's penchant for lateness, Kelly planned the dinner to be served at 11 p.m., a safe delay, he figured. At 10:30 he approached the wooden doors where Trungpa and the Karmapa were sequestered. An attendant stood in front of the doors, his arms folded neatly in front of him and his gaze off in the distance. 

"Dinner's ready,” Kelly said to the man, who nodded politely. 

"One moment.” He slipped as quickly as he could through the door, but drunken laughter and a slew of moving bodies were divulged. A few seconds passed and the attendant again quickly opened and closed the door. He resumed his position, back to the door and hands folded neatly in front. 

"Rinpoche is not ready for dinner yet.”

"It's fish,” Kelly reminded him, a little sharply. "Prepared to be served hot. If it cools, the whole thing will cave in on itself.” The attendant nodded and politely smiled, but did not move. 

Kelly went back to the kitchen and cleaned the dishes. He put away his spices and the dishes, cleaned the counters, and folded all the towels. At midnight he took his apron off and hung it up. On the kitchen's main table his snapper sat in its pan, the red skin caved into the sides, cold and ruined. The side dishes, garlic mashed potatoes with horseradish and handmade gravy, a green bean dish infused with honey and tarragon, and handpicked mushrooms sautéed in red wine and fresh spices, were cold, their sauces opaque. 

Kelly walked into the hallway and toward the attendant, and halfway there could hear the raucous laughter and giggling coming from behind the doors. Kelly was deeply resentful of having his time and his talents taken so for granted.
Fuming, Kelly moved toward the doors like a projectile. 

"You –” Kelly shot at the man. "I've got a message for that Tibetan cocksucker: he can go fuck himself.” The attendant, who was one of Trungpa's inner circle had seen many strange things in his day, had never heard his teacher referred to quite like that. Kelly spun on his heel to leave as the doors to the room opened with a flourish. Trungpa emerged with a huge smile on his face. 

"Charrless,” he slurred, using Kelly's alias, "where's our food?” He clapped Kelly on the back. "Come! I am sure you have prepared something incredibly delish-delicious for us, no?” 

Kelly went to the kitchen and brought the food in, serving it onto dishes for the 9 people in the room. It was devoured amid heaps of lavishing praise about Kelly's cooking prowess. He stood silently with folded hands, listening to their compliments and watching them eat. As he cleared their plates afterward and brought the last of the dishes to the kitchen, the stoic attendant pulled him aside. 

"Did you hear how much they enjoyed your food? You must be quite a chef!”

"I could have served them dog shit, and they wouldn't have known the difference,” observed Kelly. "I fixed you up a plate if you're hungry. It's in the fridge, third shelf down.”

"Are you okay?” the man asked, genuinely concerned. 

"Yeah,” Kelly said, "I'm fine.” He smiled. "I'm better than fine, actually. I'm great.”

"He teaches through Crazy Wisdom, you know,” the attendant, whose job was often to manage the shock Trungpa created, noted apologetically. 

Kelly paused for a moment. "In my experience, there's nothing crazy about wisdom.”

Back in his room, Kelly slept soundly with the knowledge he would leave in the morning and never return to study under Trungpa. He had finally gotten the man, finally understood his teaching methods and how effective they were at breaking people apart. Kelly even saw how well he had been played, with Trungpa taking the joke as far as he could, pushing Kelly's buttons for maximum effect. It was, he had to admit, clever from start to finish.

"See the perfection” was one of Trungpa's favorite expressions, by which he meant from the non-dual, Enlightened mind, from satori, everything was perfect. Your master was drunk? So what? He tried to sleep with your wife? So what? See the perfection! From the Absolute, there was no valuation, there was no ego, there was nothing that wasn't utterly perfect as it was. Despite what religion taught, the truth was that God didn't take sides or share our morality or our valuations. Everything that arose was Perfection, just as it was. Kelly had no doubt that Trungpa was, like Swami Gauribala, a fully Enlightened character. He suspected Trungpa's Crazy Wisdom was a smokescreen for self-indulgent behavior and an excuse to not do psychological work on his small, relative ego. The man was unquestionably an alcoholic and a sex addict, but Kelly also knew nothing Trungpa did mattered if one truly ‘saw the perfection'

As he zipped his bag shut and headed out the door into the coolness of the Boston morning, a critical truth had taken shape for him: he saw how Trungpa's brand of crazy wisdom worked in retreats and weekend workshops and lectures, worked for the suburban middle-class Americans drawn to him who needed to learn to break the stubborn drudgery of their lives. Kelly, though, was trying to get back to sane. He was done with crazy. 

His upbringing was crazy. A fourteen-year-old boy bringing a loaded shotgun into his parent's bedroom was crazy. His fleeing from his wife and daughter, working for the mob, and living on the streets for weeks on end was crazy. He had somehow along the way become one of the biggest LSD manufacturers of the 1970s and there were half a dozen DEA agents combing the country for him at that very moment. Crazy. Jesse had been lost to heroin and was doing hard time, Cheryl was lost to PMA and alcohol (as were a good many of their friends). Crazy was killing him, and killing those he loved. Crazy was Kandinsky whispering to him on the army base about necklaces of ears, crazy was the Kali worshipper covered in blood with topless women behind him, crazy was Swami Gauribala making a hut and an old woman and four ancient swamis vanish into thin air in defiance of everything that was possible. Crazy was Kelly's life. He had enough of crazy to last a lifetime.