Controversial Buddhist cleric Sogyal Rinpoche dies

This 15 March 2019 video says about itself:


WARNING: if you have been abused by Sogyal Rinpoche, then you may not want to see and hear this.

THE CONTEXT: This recording was made on the 30th July 2004 on the patio of the garden of Sogyal Rinpoche’s villa, where he has gathered some senior students early in the morning – including current Vision Board member, Seth Dye. One of them, Hervé, has just been hit for the first time by Sogyal. He is understandably upset and bewildered at being the subject of an unprovoked assault. This is what Sogyal tells him. Seth Dye can be heard translating into French. There is also noise from the building work on the temple. This recording was referred to on page 18 of the Lewis Silkin report, commissioned by Rigpa, which confirmed Sogyal’s physical, psychological and sexual abuse. The report can be downloaded here.

To keep up to date on developments, follow @SogyalTruth on Twitter

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Discredited Buddhist lama Sogyal Rinpoche dies

The influential but also highly controversial Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche has passed away. The Tibetan taught Buddhist teachings worldwide for forty years. He withdrew in 2017 after it became clear that he had sexually abused and ill-treated students.

Sogyal Rinpoche died in Thailand from a pulmonary embolism. He was 71 or 72 years old; only his year of birth, 1947, is known.

After his studies, he started teaching in London in 1974. This resulted in the establishment of the Rigpa organization, which ultimately included more than a hundred Buddhist centers in 23 countries.

In 1983 Sogyal wrote The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying, which became a bestseller with more than two million copies sold worldwide.


The popularity and public image of Sogyal Rinpoche got damaged from the nineteen nineties on by accusations of sexual abuse and ill-treatment of students. Not only he himself, but also other teachers from his Rigpa organization became discredited.

In 1994, a lawsuit of a female student against Sogyal Rinpoche was settled out of court for an unknown amount. 10 million dollars was demanded.

From 2011 on , new accusations were regularly made against the lama, but it took until 2017 before the other shoe dropped. Eight Rigpa students and former students described in a letter how Sogyal had abused and ill-treated students for years, both physically and mentally. Some letter writers had high positions within Rigpa.

It led to the resignation of Sogyal Rinpoche within a month. Rigpa had a private agency investigate the allegations further. In a report that appeared a year later, the allegations were largely confirmed. …

The lama retired to Thailand. He had been suffering from cancer for several years and died in the presence of followers.

Dalai Lama says I knew about clerical sexual abuse

This 22 July 2017 Dutch video says about itself (translated):

Ex-members of the [Tibetan Buddhist] Rigpa movement accuse the spiritual teacher Sogyal Rinpoche of physical violence and sexual abuse. Former Rigpa member Oane Bijlsma is investigating whether she can file a complaint against the guru jointly with others.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Dalai Lama about abuse: I know it since the 1990s

The Dalai Lama says that he has long been aware of stories about sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers. “I already knew all those things, they are not new”, he answered the question from the NOS about what he learned from his conversation with four victims of yesterday. Follow-up questions and other questions about the subject were not allowed to be asked at a short press conference in the Nieuwe Kerk church in Amsterdam.

The Buddhist leader says he discussed accusations at a meeting with Western Buddhists in 1993. “I think that was probably about Sogyal Rinpoche.” That man is one of the best-known and most controversial Buddhist teachers. According to the four victims, the Dalai Lama said yesterday that he now has a reason to do something.

Dozens of victims

Furthermore, the spiritual leader repeated that self-discipline is important for teachers and that victims must make their stories public. “Then teachers would be worried about being shamed.” Dozens of victims have come out in recent years with complaints about teachers.

The Dalai Lama‘s office has been receiving letters from victims of abuse since at least 1992. The spiritual leader has in any case seen no reason to keep his distance because of the warnings about Sogyal.

whose center in France he opened in 2008.


Oane Bijlsma, former follower of Sogyal Rinpoche and initiator of the conversation with the Dalai Lama, is disappointed. “We have already come out with this, no matter how difficult it is because of, eg, the shame. Nothing seems to have changed.”

Bijlsma thinks it’s time that “the interests of victims prevail over political interests and relations between the Dalai Lama and teachers”. “Although the Dalai Lama has publicly dropped Sogyal, it remains to be seen whether something really changes.”

She is also amazed about the answer that the clergyman already knew. “For example, he clearly did not know anything about OKC yesterday.” That is a Belgian Buddhist cult into which one of the four victims [at the conservation with the Dalai Lama], Ricardo Mendes, was born. Mendes says that yesterday he told the spiritual leader several times that OKC uses photographs of the Dalai Lama as legitimation.

The Dalai Lama confirmed that he will discuss the problem in November at a meeting with Buddhist teachers in his Indian residence Dharamsala.

Survivors discuss sexual abuse with Dalai Lama

This 3 July 2018 video says about itself:

Sogyal Rinpoche in disgrace. Part 4: Sangye Nawang

In July 2017, Sogyal Rinpoche, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhist organization Rigpa, fell into disgrace, following accusations of sexual and physical abuse. Eight prominent students of Rigpa and Sogyal Rinpoche wrote a letter about the misconduct of their spiritual leader. Sangye Nawang, a Buddhist monk and Director of Technique for Rigpa International, was one of them. Sangye speaks with Menno Bijleveld through skype, from his hotel room in Bangkok.

The interview was made by Menno Bijleveld. In July 2017, Menno decided to terminate his membership of the Tibetan Buddhist organization Rigpa. It also meant the end of his 25-year-long relationship with Sogyal Rinpoche, Rigpa’s spiritual leader. Increasing rumours and messages concerning sexual, physical and psychological abuse and his extravagant lifestyle choices have damaged his faith in Sogyal as a spiritual teacher. In his view, a Buddhist teacher who preaches love and compassion should also embody these qualities himself.

Following his own feelings of confusion and anger, as well as the struggle of others, he took up the idea to interview several people who are involved in this difficult situation. How do they perceive the actions of Sogyal Rinpoche? How do they cope with the accusations? And to what extent do Sogyal’s teachings remain valid?

With these series Menno wants to re-evaluate his relationship with Buddhism and the dharma.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Discussion between abuse victims and Dalai Lama ‘difficult but worth the effort’

Victims of sexual abuse have just recently spoken with the Dalai Lama. As far as is known, it is the first time that the Buddhist leader speaks to victims about abuse.

It was “quite difficult”, says initiator Oane Bijlsma, “but it was definitely worth it.”

The Dalai Lama has promised to pay attention to the widespread problemin his Indian hometown Dharmsala. A special meeting with scientists on this subject seems to him a “very interesting idea”, says Bijlsma.

The victims would like him to use his position to emphasize that teachers who commit abuse are not above the law. “He said that he said earlier that ‘bad lamas’ must be criticized publicly.”

Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche’s abuse victim speaks

Sogyal Lakar, aka Sogyal Rinpoche, with Buddha sculpture in 2016, EPA photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Researcher on Buddhist: Sogyal Rinpoche abused students seriously

Victims of sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers will meet the Dalai Lama tomorrow and will give him a booklet with their testimonies. It contains several stories of ex-followers of Tibetan Buddhist Sogyal Lakar, with as his title Sogyal Rinpoche (“the precious one” [roughly “the Reverend”]). He has been accused since 1992 of all kinds of abuse of his students.

The French justice department investigates the case and has made a request for legal assistance to the Netherlands to hear victims here. After six years of research by the French gendarmerie, the file has been at the office of the Montpellier prosecutor since the beginning of this year. According to French media, the prosecutor is conducting a judicial preliminary investigation. He told the NOS that he is “currently not communicating about this matter”.

Apart from the French investigation, Sogyal’s international organization Rigpa hired a British law firm to investigate allegations. This happened after eight (ex-)followers had written in a letter last year that they were sick of Sogyal’s misbehaviour. The lama has abused some of his students “physically, sexually and emotionally” seriously, noted the hired firm Lewis Silkin last week.

In a statement, several international Rigpa boards write that they “deeply regret and apologize for the pain experienced by former and current members”.

Sogyal has written the bestseller The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and after the Dalai Lama he is the best known Buddhist in the world. His headquarters Lérab Ling in southern France was opened in 2008 by the Dalai Lama. Rigpa has about 130 centers in 40 countries. From the beginning of the 1980s until last year, Sogyal traveled the world with his retinue to preside over retreats. In the Netherlands, the organization has 350 members and centers in Groningen and Amsterdam. Sogyal last presided over a retreat here in 2017.

Sogyal is certainly not the only accused teacher. According to researcher Rob Hogendoorn, 20 of the 45 affiliated organizations of the Buddhist Union of the Netherlands (BUN) have been discredited because of accusations of sexual abuse by the spiritual leader(s).

Oane Bijlsma, initiator of the request to meet the Dalai Lama, was heard by the Amsterdam vice squad on behalf of the French authorities. “They wanted to know everything, and the interview took 5.5 hours”, she says. From mid-2011, Bijlsma was a volunteer for a year at Rigpa. She says that Sogyal made all kinds of sexual allusions. So he came to her one evening with an image of a deity with a huge erection in his hand.

“He grabbed the back of my head, pressed the image in my face and said, look, look! Then he started to laugh.” Because of this experience, Bijlsma left Rigpa. To others, much worse happened, tell ex-students.

Sogyal and some of his 'inner circle' women about ten years ago

The report by the British law firm shows that several people from the group closest to Sogyal – his ‘inner circle’ – were beaten daily, some of them bloody. “I have heard convincing evidence that he used several followers as punching bags to vent his own frustrations and anger”, writes researcher Karen Baxter. In addition, she found evidence that Sogyal had beaten someone unconscious and someone sustained a concussion.

Sogyal used his position to “force, intimidate and manipulate young women to give him sexual favours”. They were also offered to other lamas that came by for sexual services, Baxter observes.

These were all lessons on their path to enlightenment, their guru told them. Enlightenment is the ultimate goal of Buddhists. Fully dedicated pupils could achieve enlightenment even within one lifetime. The way to reach that was complete obedience. If pupils did not show that, then the teacher-student bond (“samaya”) would be broken and, eg, all kinds of bad things would happen to their families.

Depression and hallucinations

Witnesses state in the British report that Sogyal’s behaviour led to post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, chronic insomnia, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts. Baxter concludes that Sogyal let his students go so far that they were “on the verge of emotional collapse”.

Pupils who reported internal abuses received ‘Rigpa Therapy’, named after their organization. According to witnesses, a ‘therapist’ told them that the cause of their problems were family relationships, and not what Sogyal did. Many vulnerable women came to Rigpa, sometimes traumatized because of earlier sexual violence.

Not only Sogyal himself can be blamed, writes lawyer Baxter. Other high-ranking people in the organization knew of at least a few of these issues. “They have not succeeded in tackling them, so they put others at risk.”

Three of the international directors, who have been Sogyal’s most faithful followers for decades, are resigning as a result of the report. In the Netherlands, since last year “we work towards a new board”, the chairman Wim Marseille says. The secretary, the Groningen lawyer Daan Meerburg, will retire “within the foreseeable future” after 23 years. Last year the organization started a “transformation process that helps prevent repetition”. Thus Sogyal retreated as “spiritual director”. He is on retreat in Asia and in treatment for colon cancer, writes Marseille.

Report to authorities

In their statement, the Rigpa boards write that they “take full responsibility to ensure that Rigpa offers a safe environment for everyone”. The boards do not say whether they will actually do something with the recommendations in the report. There was no answer to questions by the NOS.

Two of those recommendations to Rigpa are to “take steps to dissociate themselves completely from Sogyal” and to stop contacting him with students. Rigpa’s directors in different countries also have to consider to what extent they are obliged to “report all cases mentioned in the report to law enforcement authorities or relevant regulators”. There is no mention of the latter in Rigpa’s statement.

Dalai Lama will meet clerical sexual abuse victims

This video says about itself:

SOGYAL RINPOCHE: “HIS WAY IS TO RAPE” – French TV on sexual abuse at Rigpa‘s Lerab Ling – Subtitled

Report broadcast on 24th January 2018 on the France 3 channel, detailing abuse committed by Sogyal Rinpoche at the Rigpa centre at Lerab Ling in France and Rigpa‘s attempt to sue a lawyer who is attempting to defend the victims of abuse.

Accompanying article (in French) here.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Dalai Lama will meet abuse victims in the Netherlands

The Dalai Lama will meet in the Netherlands tomorrow with victims of sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers. In doing so, he responds to the urgent appeal that twelve victims did to him. As far as is known, this will be the first time that the Dalai Lama will sit around a table with abuse victims. …

The victims will have a short time tomorrow afternoon to offer their written testimonies and a petition. Three of them are from the Netherlands. That petition has been signed about 850 times since Monday.

After earlier accusations, the advice of a Dalai Lama employee was not to make too much noise in these kinds of issues.

Clerical sexual abuse survivor speaks

This September 2012 video about a disgraced Buddhist leader says about itself:

“In the Name of Enlightenment – Sex Scandal in Religion” – About Sogyal Rinpoche

Letter to Sogyal Rinpoche by senior Rigpa members (14 July 2017) & its consequences so far: here.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, 10 September 2018:

The Dalai Lama now almost protects abusers

Her Tibetan Buddhist teacher has beaten her, she says. He humbled her publicly in his center in Switzerland. He also abused her sexually three times in the period between 2007 and 2013. She experienced severe mental problems, which she has now overcome with professional help.

Now Dutch Cecile (surname known to the editors) together with other abuse victims wants to call the Dalai Lama to account during his visit to the Netherlands. Half an hour of his time is enough, she stresses. It would be the first time that he would talk to victims.

The Dalai Lama did, however, show himself in the past with teachers who abused their pupils. In a video, Cecile tells why this is dangerous.

Cecile is well aware that Tibetan Buddhism can not be compared to the Roman Catholic Church, which has a clear hierarchy. Buddhism has no cardinals or bishops, who are appointed by the spiritual leader and can also be dismissed again.

But that does not mean that the Dalai Lama can not take action against this kind of misconduct. “It is really time for him to see what his role is in Buddhism in Europe, to attract people to false leaders by honouring them with visits and other expressions of appreciation, and I am one of those people who were totally wrongfooted. I came to Buddhism because I saw a photo of my teacher Namkha Rinpoche with the Dalai Lama.”

“In that photo, Namkha appeared to be very humble. I thought: that is a virtuous man; he is in all respects close to the Dalai Lama. In practice, the opposite was the case. This kind of visits makes the Dalai Lama almost a protector of false teachers.”


What Cecile did not know then, but does know now, is that the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism had previously been warned about her teacher Namkha Rinpoche. A Dutch Buddhist sent the Dalai Lama a worried e-mail at the end of 2006. A few days later an answer came from an employee, which showed that other accusations against Namkha had already been received. “Of which one is of a sexual nature“.

But because Namkha denied and there was no further hard evidence, nothing happened. The advice by the Dalai Lama employee was not to make too much noise about these kinds of issues. “If we feel uncomfortable with a teacher, then it is best to take some distance, and it is also good not to talk too sharply or divisively with other pupils, but to gently move away.”

‘Dalai Lama, stop Buddhist clerical sexual abuse’

The controversial Buddhist cleric Sogyal Rinpoche, far left foreground, and the Dalai Lama, third from left, in France in 2008

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, 10 September 2018:

Abuse victims want to speak to Dalai Lama in the Netherlands

Victims of sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers and monks make an urgent appeal to the Dalai Lama. They ask for a meeting during his visit to the Netherlands of the coming weekend. The women want to offer him written testimonies of twelve victims from ten countries. Three of them are from the Netherlands. They also want to hand him a petition.

As far as we know, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people has never sat around the table with victims before. His office in India has not yet responded to the request, which was sent to him on Friday. …

Carla Bruni

In recent years, a series of prominent Buddhists have been discredited after accusations of sexual misconduct. The best known of them was the Tibetan Sogyal Rinpoche. He is the co-author of ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’, of which millions of copies have been sold worldwide. More than a year ago, Sogyal retired after eight followers accused him in an open letter of physical, emotional and sexual abuse of students. An independent researcher confirmed the allegations last week.

The Dalai Lama refused to dissociate himself from Sogyal Rinpoche until recently, although he has known since the early 1990’s that he had been repeatedly accused of serious sexual abuse and physical abuse.

Ten years ago, the Dalai Lama was guest of honour at the solemn opening of a temple of Sogyal in the south of France, together with the then French first lady Carla Bruni [the wife of Nicolas Sarkozy]. It was only after the accusation by the group of students last year that he changed course by saying that Sogyal “has disgraced himself”.

The twelve testimonies drawn up for the Dalai Lama are about five Buddhist teachers. According to Dutch Cecile (surname known to the editors), one of the victims who requested the conversation, the Dalai Lama is insufficiently aware of how Buddhist teachers use him to build an image of trustworthiness.

“If he honours someone with a visit and treats him like a friend, then many people think that that teacher is probably good all over. And that proves to be wrong, not only with Sogyal, but also with my teacher. It is really time for the Dalai Lama to become aware of how he draws people to these false leaders, and that from now on he will use his influence for the better.”

Most Buddhist groups in the Netherlands are members of the Buddhist Union of the Netherlands (BUN). According to Rob Hogendoorn, who investigates abuse in Buddhist circles, 20 of the 45 member organisations have been discredited because of accusations of sexual abuse by the spiritual leader(s). A few examples:


Founder Sogyal Lakar, with the title Sogyal Rinpoche, has been accused by dozens of pupils of all kinds of abuse since the 1990s. A British law firm hired by Rigpa confirmed last week that several students were “seriously physically, emotionally and sexually” abused by him.


The accusations against teachers go back to 1983, according to a recent report. Shambhala head Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo, who is called Sakyong Mipham, is said to have used, eg, volunteers “for his own sexual satisfaction”. Mipham resigned in July after nine Shambhala managers had already resigned.


A Swiss woman has filed a criminal complaint against founder Namkha Rinpoche for “extensive sexual abuse“, the Volkskrant daily wrote at the beginning of this year. A former board member of the Dutch branch confirmed to the newspaper that “women were pressured to have sex with Namkha Rinpoche”.

Buddhist monasteries, snowy mountains in China

Mount Yala, 3 April 2018

Still 3 April 2018, after our earlier report on that day. We left Pamuling village, and went to an area with many snowy mountains. Like Mount Yala depicted on this photo.

Mount Yala is 5,820 meters high. It is one of four holy mountains in local Tibetan Buddhism. Oriental White Yak mountain is another name for it.

Mount Yala, on 3 April 2018

There are Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and prayer flags around Mount Yala …

Mount Yala, Sichuan, 3 April 2018

… and green meadows and grey rocks.

Lhagang monastery, 3 April 2018

We continued to Tagong, or Lhagang monastery, at 3,530 meters above sea level. Its full name in Tibetan is Minyag Lhagang Yongdzog Rabgyal Lhakang Thongdrol Samdrubling. On its gate, four languages: English, Chinese, Tibetan and Sanskrit.

Mount Gongga, 3 April 2018

We continued, and saw the highest mountain in Sichuan province. Mount Gongga. 7,556 meters high.

Snow, 3 April 2018

More snowy mountains.

Mount Zheduo, 3 April 2018

We arrived at a mountain pass: Mount Zheduo.

Mount Zheduo, flags, 3 April 2018

Many Buddhist prayer flags there.

Stupas, 3 April 2018

And Buddhist stupas (chörten in Tibetan).

Finally, we arrived back in Kangding.

Buddhism and architecture at Pamuling monastery

Pamuling Tibetan Buddhist monastery inner court, 3 April 2018

Still 3 April 2018, still at Pamuling Tibetan Buddhist monastery on the top of Pamuling mountain in Sichuan, China. This photo shows the monastery’s inner court with some monks.

Pamuling Tibetan Buddhist monastery #8, 3 April 2018

The monks live in numbered cells.

Pamuling Tibetan Buddhist monastery #13, 3 April 2018

Apparently, the belief that 13 is supposedly an unlucky number has not spread to this monastery (in China, four is an unlucky number).

Pamuling Tibetan Buddhist monastery monks, 3 April 2018

A group of monks, with in the background one of the lion sculptures.

Pamuling Tibetan Buddhist monastery monk, 3 April 2018

This photo shows a young monk at the exit. So, we passed through the exit to see some more birds. We will see them in the next blog post on Pamuling!

Pamuling monastery, Buddhism, lions and elephants

Pamuling monastery, 3 April 2018

As this blog blogged earlier, on 2 April 2018 we arrived in Pamuling village in Sichuan, China. The next day, 3 April, we went up a dirt road to the about 4,000 meter high summit of Pamuling mountain. On that rather flat summit is the about 900-years old Tibetan Buddhist Pamuling monastery. The photo shows the view from a monastery gate to the immediate surroundings and the snowy mountains beyond.

The photo also shows a bit of the elephant sculptures at the gate; about which more later.

Pamuling monastery, monks, 3 April 2018

This photo shows some of the monastery’s monks at the inner courtyard.

Pamuling monastery, monks, lion, elephant, 3 April 2018

This photo shows monks, and also a lion sculpture and an elephant sculpture. Lions live only in Africa and a small part of western India. If often strikes me that lions depicted in coats of arms etc. in countries where no lions live, whether in England or the Netherlands or Indonesia or Tibet, somehow don’t look realistic.

Pamuling monastery, lions, elephants, 3 April 2018

This photo shows the lion and elephant sculptures from outside the monastery.

Pamuling monastery, elephant, 3 April 2018

It was not easy to photograph the elephant sculptures: as they are white and there was blaring sunlight.

There are quite some birds around Pamuling monastery. The monks feed them. These birds will be the subject of a later blog post.