Regular readers may be wondering why I haven’t posted much for the last few months, or maybe you haven’t noticed. Either way, I feel that some explanation might be in order. The photo might give you an idea. And if you’re a Facebook friend you will have gotten a glimpse. Also my post on Silence is the Black Pit of Despair will explain a lot too. Basically my spiritual teacher has been exposed as someone who has allegedly emotionally, physically and sexually abused some students. Needless to say, it was all a bit of a shock since I, as an ordinary person who never got close to the fellow, had no idea this was going on. I knew he was a bit rough in his ways, and I was never comfortable with the way he treated his workers, but I had no idea of the extent of the behaviour. Scandals had popped up about him before, but I’d never paid much notice. This time, however, eight people wrote a letter to my teacher and to around 1500 of his students outlining the behaviour they had either experienced or witnessed, and I knew 2 of these people personally. I knew another two vaguely, and I trusted them all. I had no reason to think that this was anything other than a completly honest testimony.
After the shock wore off, I wrote 10,000 words to process my thoughts on the matter, and realised that I had to leave the teacher and the organisation that had allowed this behaviour to go on for decades. However, I found myself in a situation where I was supporting a lot of other people who were also trying to process the trauma of discovering that someone they looked up to wasn’t who they thought he was. The betrayal of trust hurt a lot of people. So I became involved in holding the hands of a bunch of people walking through a dark alleyway, and as I held them, they held me. I wrote blog posts on another blog, I wrote Facebook posts, I read articles, I set up a Facebook group and spent a lot of time commenting on other’s posts. I lost interest in the things I’d been sharing here, and didn’t care about book marketing anymore. People were hurting.; I found I could help, so I did. And still are. Though the time committment is not so great now, the fallout from the revelations are still continuing.
My teacher resigned and the scrutiny turned to the organisation he left behind. I’ve done my best to help them re-invent themselves, but I doubt the changes they promise will go far enough for my reformist vision. In any case, at this stage, patience is required to see how it will all turn out. Through this process my spiritual practice has been freed of religious forms and restrictions which has brought me to a deeper understanding of what is is the core wisdom in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and what is cultural overlays from a fuedal society So though the self searching was (as any valuable self-examination often is) painful, it has been very freeing and ultimately beneficial.
The one thing I have kept doing through all this (the revelation happened at the end of July) is reading fiction, and that’s why I’ve managed to keep some reviews happening here, but all my personal writing time has gone on non-fiction related to the topic of abuse in Buddhist communities. It’s a very interesting topic for someone like me. I’ve also been editing books for others as well as ghost writing a book and preparing to publish a book for someone else (cover reveal coming soon).
So where does that leave me now?
Wondering if all those words could somehow be made into some kind of book that people might actually want to buy; wondering if I could be bothered collating them into a shape worthy of my time. It’s a nice idea, but the reality is that all those words are a mess, and few people are interested in how Buddhist deal with spiritual betrayal. Or are they? I don’t know. What do you think?
I did have a flash of how all this experience could be turned into fiction as part of a new Prunella Smith book to follow on from The Locksmith’s Secret, but honestly the thought of having to market a new book really puts me off actually writing it. So here I am, more interested in sitting on a cliff and staring into the sky than writing anything for myself. Besides I have enough editing to do for others, and I really love doing that. I also get paid for it – thanks to my lovely clients.
Anyway, if you want to get a window into the saga, have a look at the What Now? blog. I’m only one of the authors. Others write posts as well.
Back to my ghost writing now.
Peter Fortunato says
I read this blog with interest and followed several of the links to gain more perspective on the issues. Thank you for being so forthright. I’ve never met Sogyal or had anything to do with the Rigpa Sangha, and I know of him only through his writings and public presence; I’d heard tell of trouble brewing some time ago, and the nature of the scandal is, alas, all too familiar. A former teacher of mine, old world Asian, now deceased, similarly usurped his power sexually with female students. I have over the years learned to keep the best of what I learned from him and to toss the rest. As you already know, such a crisis is grist for the mill of one’s practice; I would say there’s no need to hurry through the process of assimilating the lessons—there’s grieving involved in it, and there’s no time table for that. You ask if people outside the circles of those impacted might want a book about these particular issues—well, I don’t know. There’s already quite a bit for “outsiders” to be informed of on the Web. And there are plenty of people out there who merely seek sensational details about any fall from grace or power by a spiritual or religious leader. You say you’ve already done a lot of writing on behalf of the community and those most deeply affected—wonderful. I’d say, take a breather. It’s taken me years to reclaim my lineage from that teacher of mine I referred to earlier, and to see him in a human context with the proverbial feet of clay, like the rest of us.
Tahlia Newland says
Thanks Peter. I think that’s very good advice.