Nov 10 , 22:57:55 PST, 1994
$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
By Don Lattin
Special to the Free Press
SAN FRANCISCO -- With the blessings of the Dalai Lama, a group of American Buddhist women have launched a campaign to expose the alleged sexual misconduct of a prominent Tibetan lama and best-selling author.
Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, is accused of "physical, mental and sexual abuse" in a $10 million civil suit filed last week in Santa Cruz County Superior Court.
According to the lawsuit, an anonymous woman identified only as "Janice Doe" came to Rinpoche for spiritual guidance last year at a retreat sponsored by the Rigpa Fellowship meditation center in Santa Cruz, but was "coerced into an intimate relationship" with the Tibetan guru.
"Sogyal claimed (she) would be strengthened and healed by having sex with him and that to be hit by a lama was a blessing," the lawsuit states.
The suit -- which accuses Rinpoche of fraud, assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress and breach of fiduciary duty -- also charges that the Tibetan lama has "seduced many other female students for his own sexual gratification."
Sandra Pawula, spokeswoman for the Rigpa Fellowship of Santa Cruz, one of many meditation centers in the United States, Europe and Australia, declined to comment about the allegations, but said that Rinpoche is not married and does not claim to be a celibate monk. Rinpoche, who lives abroad, could not be reached for comment. The lawsuit follows a letter-writing campaign to the Dalai Lama by American women concerned about alleged sexual exploitation by Rinpoche and several lesser-known Tibetan lamas.
"What some of these students have experienced is terrible and most unfortunate," said Tenzin Geyche Tethong, the Dharamsala-based secretary to the Dalai Lama.
In a letter sent earlier this year to one of the women, Tethong said Tibetan Buddhist leaders "have been aware of these (allegations) for some years now."
Jack Kornfield, founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin County, was among a group of two dozen Western teachers who discussed the sexual misconduct of Buddhist teachers with the Dalai Lama last year in India.
According to Kornfield, the Tibetan Buddhist leader told the Americans to "always let people know when things are wrong. Put it in the newspapers if you must do so."
Another woman allegedly abused by Rinpoche, Victoria Barlow of New York City, said she is "disgusted by the way the Tibetans have manipulated the reverence Westerners have for the Buddhist path."
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.
"I went to an apartment to see a highly esteemed lama and discuss religion," she said in an interview with the Free Press. "He opened the door without a shirt on and with a beer in his hand."
Once they were on the sofa, Barlow said, the Tibetan "lunged at me with sloppy kisses and groping."
"I thought I should take it as the deepest compliment that he was interested and basically surrender to him," she said.
Sources say the Tibetan Buddhists were trying to handle this issue within their community but decided, especially after the Dalai Lama made the comment about going to the press, to go public now.
"The Dalai Lama has known about this for years and done nothing. There is a real code of secrecy and silence," said Barlow.
The Independent - 10. February 1999 - Paul Vallely
I was a Tantric sex slave
For years June Campbell was the`consort`of a senior Tibetan Buddhist monk. She was threatened with death if she broke her vow of secrecy. But then enlightenment can be like that.
Feet of clay? No, it was a different part of the anatomy - and of all too fleshly substance - which caused the trouble. But, I suppose, you don`t expect Tantric sex to be a straightforward activity. Then again, sex of any kind isn`t really what you`re planning when you become a celibate nun.
It was, said June Campbell as she began her lecture, only the second time she had been asked to give a talk to a Buddhist group in this country since her book. Traveller in Space came out three years ago. Small wonder. The topic of her talk was "Dissent in Spiritual Communities", and you don`t get much more potent types of dissent than hers. For she not only revealed that she had for years been the secret sexual consort of one of the most holy monks in Tibetan Buddhism - the tulku (re-incarnated lama), Kalu Rinpoche. She also insisted that the abuse of power at the heart of the relationship exposed a flaw at the very heart of Tibetan Buddhism.
This was heresy , indeed. To outsiders, the Rinpoche was one of the most revered yogi-lamas in exile outside Tibet. As abbot of his own monastery, he had taken vows of celibacy and was celebrated for having spent 14 years in solitary retreat. Among his students were the highest ranking lamas in Tibet. "His own status, was unquestioned in the Tibetan community", said Ms. Campbell, "and his holiness attested to by all".
The inner circles of the world of Tibetan Buddhism - for all ist spread in fashionable circles in the West - is a closed and tight one. Her claims, though made in a restrained way in the context of a deeply academic book subtitled - "In Search of Female Identity in Tibetan Buddhism" - provoked what she described as a primitive outpouring of rage and fury. "I was reviled as a liar or a demon", she said during a public lecture last week at the nonsectarian College for Buddhist Studies in Sharpham, Devon. "In that world he was a saintly figure. It was like claiming that Mother Teresa was involved in making porn movies".
But it was not fear of the response which made her wait a full 18 years before publishing her revelations in a volume entitled Traveller in Space - a translation of dakini, the rather poetic Tibetan word for a woman used by a lama for sex. It took her that long to get over the trauma of the experience. "I spent 11 years without talking about it and then, when I had decided to write about it, another seven years researching. I wanted to weave together my personal experience with a more theoretical understanding of the role of women in Tibetan society to help me make sense of what had happened to me."
What happened was that , having become a Buddhist in her native Scotland in the hippie Sixties, she travelled to India where she became a nun. She spent 10 years in a Tibetan monastery and penetrated more deeply than any other Westerner into the faith`s esoteric hierarchy. Eventually she became personal translator to the guru as, during the Seventies, he travelled through Europe and America. It was after that, she said, that "he requested that I become his sexual consort and take part in secret activities with him".
Only one other person knew of the relationship - a second monk - with whom she took part in what she described as a polyandrous Tibetanstyle relationship. "It was some years before I realised that the extent to which I had been taken advantage of constituted a kind of abuse".
The practice of Tantric sex is more ancient than Buddhism. The idea goes back to the ancient Hindus who believed that the retention of semen during intercourse increased sexual pleasure and made men live longer. The Tibetan Buddhists developed the belief that enlightenment could be accelerated by the decision "to enlist the passions in one`s religious practice, rather than to avoid them". The stategy is considered extremely risky yet so efficacious that it could lead to enligthenment in one lifetime.
Monks of a lower status confined themselves to visualising an imaginary sexual relationship during meditation. But, her book sets out, the "masters" reach a point where they decide that they can engage in sex without being tainted by it. The instructions in the so-called "secret" texts spell out the methods which enable the man to control the flow of semen through yogic breath control and other practices. The idea is to "drive the semen upwards, along the spine, and into the head". The more semen in a man`s head, the stronger intellectually and spiritually he is thought to be.
"The reverse of ordinary sex expresses the relative status of the male and female within the ritual."
More than that, he is said to gain additional strength from absorbing the woman`s sexual fluids at the same time as withholding his own. This "reverse of ordinary sex", said June Campbell, "expresses the relative status of the male and female within the ritual, for it signals the power flowing from the woman to the man".
The imbalance is underscored by the insistence by such guru-lamas that their sexual consorts must remain secret, allowing the lamas to maintain control over the women. "Since the book was published, I`ve had letters from women all over the world with similar and worse experiences".
So why did she stay for almost three years? "Personal prestige. The women believe that they too are special and holy. They are entering sacred space. It produces good karma for future lives, an is a test of faith". The combination of religion, sex, power and secrecy can have a potent effect. It creates the Catch 22 of psychological blackmail set out in the words of another lama, Beru Kyhentze Rinpoche: "If your guru acts in a seemingly unenlightened manner and you feel it would be hypocritical to think him a Buddha, you should remember that your own opinions are unreliable and the apparent faults you see may only be a reflection of your own deluded state of mind...If your guru acted in a completely perfect manner he would be inaccessible and you would be able to relate to him. It is therefore out of your Guru`s great compassion that he may show apparent flaws... He is mirroring your own faults".
The psychological pressure ist often increased by making the woman swear vows of secrecy. In addition June Campbell was told that "madness, trouble or even death" could follow if she did not keep silent. "I was told that in a previous life the lama I was involved with had had a mistress who caused him some trouble, and in order to get rid of her he cast a spell which caused her illness later resulting in her death.
There are those Buddhists, like Martine Batchelor - who spent 10 years as a Zen Buddhist nun in a Korean monastery and who now teaches at Scharpham College - who insist the religious techniques the Buddha taught can be separated from the sexist, patriarchal and oppressive culture of many Buddhist countries. But June Campbell is not convinced. "You have to ask what is the relationship between belief and how a society structures itself," she said. In Tibetanism, power lies in the hands of men who had often been traumatised by being removed from their mother at the age of two and taken to an all male monastery. "Some were allowed visits from their mothers and sisters but always in secrecy - so that they came to associate women with what must be hidden".
But there is more to it, she believes than that. Teaching at Sharpham last week she gave the students a whole range of material about different kind of feminism - from the political to the psychotherapeutic. She then asked them how it relates to the fact that there are no female Buddha images or to why in Tantric sex images the woman always has her back to the viewer, or to why Buddhist women are told to pray that they will be reborn into a male body in their next life -for only in a man`s body can they attain full enlightenment.
"Once I started unravelling my experiences, I began to question everything," she said. That meant not just the actions of a particular guru But the very idea of the guru. She began to wonder whether the Tantra was just a fantasy, and whether there is really any difference between Tantric sex and ordinary sex. She questioned the very concept of enlightenment itself and the practice of meditiation. "I realised that in order to be myself I had to leave it all - completely an utterly."
[Child abuse in Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries]
By Lama Shree Narayan Singh
Newsweek, Sep. 2, 1996 , had carried a special report titled 'The World's Dirtiest Business – What can be done to stop the Child-Sex Trade'. The article itself was titled 'Children for Sale'; the abstract reading 'A horrific crime in Belgium shocks the world and serves as a grim reminder that the sexual exploitation of children – some of them barely school age – is a global curse. What can be done to stop it?' This was the question asked by Susan H. Greenberg. Belgians asked as to how their prayers had gone unheard! The discovery of the bodies of two young girls and two girls near death in Belgium , had shocked the conscience of the world and resulted in an intense soul-searching followed by an international outcry and campaign against paedophilia.
Few know that this scourge is rampant in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in India of His Holiness the XIVth. Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Prize winner for 1988. During the last decade he has emerged as an icon of the twentieth century, his charisma overshadowing any possible criticism of him, even though valid, and the various institutions he governs or represents. The international media has gone to the extent of terming him 'the face of Buddhism' presenting him as the messiah of the new age!
The Tibetan Review, a monthly magazine an organ of the Govt. of Tibet in exile, published from New Delhi, interestingly has also focussed on this evil within the Tibetan context in a telling book review on 'The Struggle for Modern Tibet – the autobiography of Tashi Tsering' by Melvyn Goldstein, William Siebenschuh & Tashi Tsering, published by M. E. Sharpe (NY & London 1997). Mr. John Billington, under whom this writer has personally studied English in Darjeeling , imbibing also the qualities of liberalism from him, writes in his review titled 'Helping Tibetans to catch up with the 20th. century' , Tibetan Review April 1998, page 23, central column, para 1:
'Polyandry and the peculiarly Tibetan mode of homosexuality were never a problem; in fact he is grateful for the patronage bestowed on him by his homosexual monk-official lover.'
Heinrich Harrer in Seven Years in Tibet too states categorically that the monks in the Potala are homosexual whilst also mentioning the terror of dob-dobs, the monk-thugs, in Lhasa .
Recently a journalist investigating the phenomenon of Tibetan Buddhism, stumbled across some alarming evidence concerning paedophilia in a Tibetan monastery. Not so long ago, a young boy aged 7 had been inducted into a monastery directly under the Dalai Lama in the hills of West Bengal . Amazingly he had himself insisted that he had wanted to go to a monastery for further studies. The parents of the boy had been naïve, even though closely associated with the monastery for many generations, until the mystery was unraveled. The boy had stayed there for about eight months and by the time he fled the monastery, he had been scarred for life. Initially he had been extremely reticent about telling his parents concerning what had happened. But slowly the truth had emerged.
The monastery he had gone to was a den of vice, even though it claimed to be of the Gelugpa persuasion – 'those who uphold virtue'. The Dalai Lama is the head of this tradition!
What transpired is briefly as follows: Every night the elder monks would entice the novice monks away from their beds offering them sweets and then rape - sodomise -- them to their hearts' content, overpowering any resistance the young ones would put up. Throughout the nights the monastery would be filled with the subdued sobbing of these unwilling victims of sexual lust. But there was nothing they could really do about it as their parents had sent them there from afar with the hope that they would be cared for well and taught the paths of virtue.
To prevent a full blown scandal, the offending teenage monk was sent off to a sister monastery in Kathmandu where such behaviour too is the norm.
This is institutionalised as 'helenkos' in Afghan society where apparently certain tribes gradually, through insertion of progressive larger pieces of rounded wood into the rectum of young boys, prepare them for their mission later on in life. In one interview published in a newspaper, an Afghan adult admitted that he indulged himself in this way due to their sheer availability, due to the separation of sexes in society. The report went on to state that invariably, the adult would have his helenko get married to one of his daughters so that he could remain in the family. Many such youngsters invariably develop rectal incontinence, the report stated.
More often than not, child abuse goes undetected primarily because of the hesitation of the victims to be frank to their parents about it. Debonair April 1996 had carried an in-depth analysis on this issue. Though focussing on heterosexual abuse, the article titled INCEST – INHOUSE ABUSE deals with the matter very sensitively and elaborating partly along the following lines.
Firstly, as is well-known, children find it extremely difficult to tell their parents about anything as personal and immediate as the violation of their bodies which they do not understand in any case. Secondly such behavior is not to be expected from those who have been entrusted with their welfare and upbringing, be it parents, relatives or mentors. It is a blatant breach of trust. Thirdly, it is natural for the authorities to feign absolutely no knowledge of child-abuse. Fourthly Tibetan society, as is well-known, is amazingly blind when it comes to its beliefs in the Dharma and their Lamas who constitute an elite of supra-mundane beings who can do no wrong and that too in spite of ever growing evidence of their culpability.
It is even more amazing that such people openly continue to wear robes, be called monks and continue apparently as being so, even though the Vinaya or the Code of Ethics, as laid down by the Buddha, prohibits penetrative intercourse of any type whatsoever and provides for their immediate expulsion from the order.
Moreover from the perspective of energy exchange, it is clear that the aggressive partner is being downloaded with excretory energy from the passive. This enters his central channel with wondrous results! This writer has noted with extreme concern, the harmful changes in personality such encounters bring about amongst active homosexuals! Anyone who tries to glorify homosexuality writing a kama sutra adapted for such people, recently reviewed in Tricycle published from the USA, needs to look deeply into the energy aspects of what he might be intending to promote.
This writer has also come to know about what is referred to as 'the peculiarly Tibetan mode of homosexuality' mentioned in the review above. In fact, it forms the rite of passage into the noviceate. Fortunately the process is non-penetrative and could be termed as a sophisticated form of masturbation where the gap between the groins serves as the make-believe. This can also take the form of mutual gratification through an interchange in the missionary position!
In fact it is said in these monasteries that one must practise this to be and remain a 'good monk'. The young are invariably abused and receive favors of various kinds from their active partners in the form of cash and so on becoming de facto 'monastic sex workers'.
Practitioners of this art trace their heritage back to a rather naughty monk called Charkha, as the Tibetans refer to him, during the time of the historic Buddha himself. The Buddha however, had refused to condone this and had included it as one of the principle infractions in the Discipline for Monks. Masturbation has been incorporated as the first of the Thirteen Lhag-mas, which require automatic expulsion after the third offence. Sex being such a fundamental human drive, it is only natural to expect that each and every monk could not possibly be purely celibate. Males are naturally aggressive as is well known.
This practice, termed "monks' custom", between consenting adults however, seems to have existed in Tibet from the days of the Buddhist founding fathers. It is not known as to when children were inducted into this phenomenon although it could be fairly early in its history considering the tremendous sexual appeal pre-adolescent boys seemingly exude as their hormones become more and more active.
Authentic Masters however, have through the centuries, spared no effort to decry this malpractice. However, they have succeeded in doing little to curb it for obvious reasons. His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche openly spoke out against it. The XVIth Gyalwang Karmapa when asked, pensively replied that during these degenerate times, it is considered sufficient if a monk could keep inviolate his Five Principal Vows. It is known however that 'monastic homosexuality' became actually institutionalized with the advent of the reformed Gelugpa movement of Je Tsongkhapa in the fifteenth century. Even so, penetration oral or anal, has always constituted a breach of the monk's vow of celibacy and openly discouraged!
In fact esoteric teachings of any tradition invariably stress the presevation of what is termed the 'bindu'. It is said concerning the previous Sangjay Nyenpa Rinpoche of the Karma Kagyu Bheng-chhen Monastery, that due to his strict celibacy, a glow could be seen in his third eye chakra. For success in the practices of the Six Yogas of Naropa in particular and for Vajrayana practises in general, the preservation of one's 'bindu' is a pre-requisite.
This writer has himself been witness to one pathetic incident a few years ago in a particularly well-known monastery in Nepal, in which one night, a young monk aged 8 was being physically hauled by none other than the Monk in-charge of Discipline. The boy in his undergarments, had kept on pleading to be released whilst his young roommate helplessly watched on. There was nothing this writer could have done as the entire episode took place in front of one of the high Lamas of that monastery, who merely chuckled over the incident.
As they grow up some adolescent monks begin to pair off; such adult 'couples' sharing their joys and sorrows as they age together within the monastic system, are not uncommon. Others merely contribute to the perpetration of this vicious cycle! In all fairness it must be stated that the more sincere amongst them, as they grow in the practice and understanding of the Dharma, veer away from indulging in themselves.
The manner in which they accost each other is through an innocuous handshake in which the would-be active partner will tickle the palm of his desire with his forefinger. The other, should he acquiesce, would tighten his grip; should he not, merely release his hand, look away and go his own way.
In conclusion, it needs to be stated that such compulsive behaviour is reprehensible and punishable under the penal codes of most civilized societies. Even worse is that the Dalai Lama has never taken the initiative to stop it, being content to brush it under the carpet for expediency!
What is amazing is the incredible veneer of respectability monks of the Tibetan plateau exude and are thus able to literally fool millions of people throughout the world. In brief, it must be emphasized that any culture or sub-culture which fails to protect its young needs to be relegated to its place in history. Modern society has no place for this. This is a message which must be sent loud and clear to the Dalai Lama.
The United Nations High Commission on Human Rights and various NGO-s are hereby urged to investigate this seriously and punish as many offenders as possible even though a personage such as the Dalai Lama be involved and implicated in such goings on. The world needs to tell this Nobel Peace Prize winner that hence it refuses to acknowledge him and his compatriot 'monks' as monks within the tradition of the Buddha!
This is in direct contrast with the stance taken by Pope John Paul II in the recent past. He has openly condemned the sexual abuse by Catholic priests of their charge. Many priests have been taken to court and forced to resign their positions! Clearly winds of reform are blowing through the Roman Catholic world, even as the Holy Tibetan Buddhist Empire of the Dalai Lama begins to disintegrate with the expose of one scam after another, stagnant as it is, clinging on to dead wood!
The inscrutable Dalai Lama clearly belongs to an anachronistic, obscurantist and medieval past where whatever he said was the law irrespective of the merit inherent in his statements and deeds. The modern world demands transparency and that its spiritual leaders actively live up to the ideals professed by them or at the very least not be hypocritical. At least Osama bin Laden is honest about his aims.
He knows now that he can no longer order that an opponent be liquidated simply by his wishing it to happen and/or paying for it! He and his devout followers must now also curtail their misguided use of tantra to get rid of and torture those who openly oppose him.
The modern world has become more of a level playing field where his idiosyncrasies are tolerated to the extent that they are not known by the ordinary person! People particularly in the west have been thoroughly fooled by his amiability for the simple reason they do not understand Asia-craft! And if he finds himself incapable of contributing meaningfully to the Buddhist world as is becoming increasingly evident, he should take sannyasa from his supposed God-kingship and be done with it.
Of what use is the gala show called the Kalachakra Initiation, due Jan 2003, when conducted by a person who has himself, given the above, committed endless breaches of the samaya covenants specifically concerning the Karmapa Imbroglio and the schism he has himself fostered in the Buddhist sangha causing immense suffering -- all in the name of Buddhism!
What blessings are expected to flow from one such?
Would it not be yet another instance of the blind leading the blind?
Would it not be better then, were he to immerse himself in social service, exchanging himself with others, practising the qualities he eloquently writes about in all his books, and thus become a worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize like Mother Teresa!
'Taala'i Lama – are you listening?'