Many of us asked ourselves, when we read the florid homages to Sogyal Lakhar posted on the Rigpa website, authored by twelve Tibetan lamas* and one American woman with a Vajrayana following, "What were they thinking?" This is an excellent question, and one that can be approached by asking ourselves, "What might they otherwise have done?"
Well, let us see. If Sogyal wasn't a crazy wisdom guru whose every act was sanctified by his attainment of Dharmakaya wisdom in a prior lifetime, compassionately emerging from the pure Sambhogakaya realm, due to auspicious circumstances, for the benefit of sentient beings who otherwise would be lost in the wiles of a degenerate age, what would he be? He would be a man who, lacking any real education in the Dharma, but blessed with the gift of gab and devoid of scruples, seized the opportunity to impersonate a Tibetan guru, and took the world for a ride, milking his followers for sex, money, and adulation. Arrogantly claiming attainments that he lacked, he demanded offerings, and converted them to his pursuit of pleasure and self-aggrandizement. Instead of realizing the pure nature of awareness as the union of emptiness and compassion, as the union of Samantabhadra and Samantabadri, wisdom and skillful means, he engaged in fornication, telling his "consorts" that they were receiving blessings, when in truth they had simply been seduced by a lecherous lama.
Well, according to the Vajrayana teachings, what happens to such a person? Tibetan Dharma students are all familiar with the answer -- such a person has committed the most heinous of sins, the misuse of tantric practices for worldly purposes, and their penalty cannot be remitted or delayed. There will be no stopping-place in the bardo for them, for they will "fly like an arrow into the lowest hell."
So let us place ourselves in the position of those who, like the Thirteen Eulogists, know all of this, and realize that, at some point, people are going to start saying that Sogyal is roasting in vajra hell until the end of the aeon. That just sounds awful. Think about it. Sogyal was fond of threatening people with vajra hell himself -- so much so that in the Lewis Silkin report, the author noted:
Lewis Silkin wrote:"Witnesses told me that Sogyal Lakar’s teachings describe a Samaya breaker as being condemned to Vajra Hell; I was told that this is described at length in historic teachings as the worst of the eighteen hells and a place of eternal torture. I heard evidence that breaking Samaya is taught by Sogyal to be the worst thing a student can do; it is said that it will damage their own health, the health of their family and cause harm to the teacher / damage his long life. Many witnesses considered that there was pressure on them to keep their Samaya. *** The fact that many of the witnesses I spoke to considered that they are, or were, bound by Samaya, and felt that they would be said to be breaking that vow by speaking to me, has been a particularly challenging aspect of this investigation. It is also a factor which I have had to take into account when assessing the credibility of the evidence available to me."
So there seems to be a terrible irony inherent in this story. The one who threatens others with hell goes to hell. Of course, when you think about it further, you realize that Sogyal obviously didn't believe in vajra hell, otherwise he wouldn't have been cavorting along the edge of the precipice above the blazing pit. For fake Tibetan lamas like Sogyal, Vajra hell is strictly what we might call an "export product" -- you sell it to others, but you don't consume it yourself. Fraudsters always realize the goods they are selling aren't what they claim. If you keep thinking about it, there is a serious risk that you, yourself, will begin to doubt the entire concept of vajra hell. And once that happens, well, the whole darn house of crazy might just start coming apart.
Looking at the situation from the viewpoint of the Thirteen Eulogists, there was only one thing to do. Roll out the Big Lie. No half-measures would do, because even if you try to excuse Sogyal's failings as those of a man made of flesh, subject to earthly temptations, who nevertheless disseminated a lot of holy ideas, and helped other lamas to get access to his funding sources, which must certainly be virtuous, the fact is -- a strict interpretation of the rules sees him frying in hell at least until the Milky Way collapses into the black hole at its center. And these kinds of contemplations are very dangerous.
The truth is, Sogyal's reckless conduct put the entire ship of Tibetan Dharma at risk. He punched a hole right through the hull, and the ocean of samsara was gushing in. Like money, organized religion is built on mass belief. When belief in a religion dissolves, all its tenets and promises become as useless as a stack of Confederate dollars, and the priests of that religion are bankrupt. Conduct like Sogyal's -- and the Sakyong Mipham's, to cite another example -- cause a run on the bank of belief, and that leads to a run on the bank of real dollars, which as we know, is a genuine catastrophe. Rigpa and Shambhala have both been sucking wind for a while. Big donors, after all, do their due diligence, and nobody wants to put their money in an organization with questionable charitable bona fides. And little donors, well they keep up the altars, they provide the Sakyong with clean linen and pleasant environments. Once they depart, things can get pretty shabby pretty quick.
Sure, you say, all of this may be true, but what's it matter to the Thirteen Eulogists? So Rigpa collapses, the faithful lose their faith -- one man gathers what another man spills -- Rigpa's loss could be their gain. Why not just remain silent on the matter? Because they are not going to sit by and watch one of the largest aggregations of faith and donors, of real estate and students, simply collapse upon itself, as if they were disinterested anchorites on retreat in their desert caves. They are going to move on those Rigpa students, comfort them in their bereavement -- Sogyal after all built his empire on seducing the bereaved -- ladle adulation over the dead guru like ghee on a lingham, and make everyone feel all right. They are going to scoop up those Rigpa students, the poor lost little lambs, gather them into the sheepfold and get them all bleating happily together, so safe in their tender Dharma love, just like that nasty old wolf had never been here. And all those people who say Sogyal was the wolf -- well we just won't let them in here -- they were the wolf. Yeah, they were the wolf, those nasty people who said Sogyal was the wolf. That's the plan. Gather those little sheep together, comfort them in their hour of need, and then, just like Sogyal, shear them of their wool.
* One of those lamas, Rigdzin Namkha Gyatso Rinpoche, had his eulogy deleted after it was posted. Some have stated that he is under investigation for sexual assault in Switzerland. I haven't confirmed this. A copy of the original RNGR eulogy is preserved at this link.
Sign the Petition at Change.org -- Dharma Teachers: Please Retract Your Homages to Sogyal