Zen Blog

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Knowns and Unknowns Regarding Sogyal Rinpoche’s Biography

By Bernd Zander

A review of “Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche” by Mary Finnigan and Rob Hogendoorn

One main concern for Sogyal Rinpoche’s (SR) former students is – or at least should be – that we had to realise that our spiritual teacher isn’t the man we thought he was. That leads almost unavoidably to the question of who he really is.

Of course, we have quite a lot of publicly available material: On the one hand there are SR’s own accounts, as well as those of other lamas and Rigpa, mainly portraying him as a great master. This in many ways tends to remind us of the Tibetan literary genre of an idealized devotional biography, called namtar[1]. Otherwise, there is plenty of evidence of his abusive, shadow side, culminating in a letter by 8 of his closest students[2] in 2017 and an official report subsequently commissioned by Rigpa (Lewis Silken Report, 2018)[3]. However, the great challenge remains to make sense of these two very oppositional and conflicting sides without remaining stuck in cognitive dissonance.

“Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche” by von Mary Finnigan and Rob Hogendoorn (Jorvik Press, 2019 – 204 pages)

Here the need for scientifically-proven, historical and biographical research comes into play. In this regard particularly it’s worth noticing the recent publication of Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism.(SVTB) Its approach is a combination of:

a) Historical, biographical research stretching back to the 1940’s, beginning with a fascinating account of the complicated power struggles within and between ancient Tibet/China and how they directly affected SR’s ancestors, the Lakar family. As stated on page 187, reference 3, this part of the book (chapters 2 and 3) is the result of Dutch journalist Rob Hogendoorn’s (RH) research, based on his paper entitled “The Making of a Lama: Interrogating Sogyal Rinpoche’s Pose as a (Re)incarnate Master (2018)”. This paper is currently unavailable, however. The author claimed six weeks ago that he was revising it and it would be published soon on his website, Open Buddhism. However, that has yet not happened and at present, there is no access to resources from that paper.

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Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, Anchor of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, Dies

Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, a leading figure of Tibetan Buddhism in the US, died early in the morning on Sunday, October 6, at the age of 95. Karthar Rinpoche was the abbot of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra (KTD), a monastery in the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism near Woodstock, New York, since its founding in 1978. The influential teacher died at his home in Delaware County, NY.

Karthar Rinpoche’s passing came after he spent the weekend at two hospitals receiving treatment for blocked blood vessels, according to a statement released Sunday by KTD board member Sandy Hu on behalf of Lama Karma Drodhul, KTD’s president and Karthar Rinpoche’s nephew. “For the next three days, Rinpoche will remain in meditative absorption without disturbance,” Karma Drodhul’s message continued, referring to a traditional Tibetan Buddhist practice for entering the bardo, the intermediate state between death and rebirth.

Born in 1924 in Kham, a region in east Tibet, Karthar Rinpoche completed rigorous monastic study and training in his teenage and early adult years at Thrangu Monastery, where he became acquainted with the tulku [a reincarnate teacher] Thrangu Rinpoche, among other high lamas. In 1958, he fled his increasingly dangerous, Chinese-occupied homeland for safety elsewhere. A year later, he and thousands of other refugees arrived in northeastern India, where he helped to preserve his lineage’s tradition at a time of substantial transition.

Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche at the Karma Thegsum Chöling center in Ann Arbor in 2012. Photo by Tanya Schroeder | https://tricy.cl/2VrAXbt

When the 16th Karmapa Rigpe Dorje made his first world tour in 1974 and decided that he would establish a North American headquarters for his lineage, he tapped Karthar Rinpoche, with the support of administrator Tenzin Chonyi and teacher Bardor Tulku Rinpoche, to be its head figure. Four years later, KTD found its home in New York’s Catskill Mountains. Offering both extensive programming for weekend retreatants as well as deep immersion in a traditional Tibetan Buddhist practice community, KTD has since become an anchor of Tibetan Buddhist activity in the West. In addition, dozens of smaller practice centers in urban communities nationwide that were founded after visits by KTD’s high lamas, each called Karma Thegsum Chöling (KTC), offer meditation guidance and Buddhist teachings for practitioners of all experience levels.

Thrangu Media, Khenchen Thangru Rinpoche’s primary PR page on Facebook, shared Thrangu Rinpoche’s request that his monasteries in Nepal and India conduct a special puja [prayer] ceremony in light of Karthar Rinpoche’s death.

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Five Obstacles to Happiness (and How to Overcome Them)

“You’re making Daddy late for work!” I said, standing over my then-three-year-old daughter with the winter coat I was insisting she wear. 

“No! I’m not wearing it!” Celia screamed. My anger surged. Thoughts of “I’m sick of this” and “She’s doing this on purpose” swept through my mind. I was scheduled to conduct a 9 a.m. parent training therapy session, and her resistance would make me late. Ironically, it was on “mindful parenting.”

Mindlessly, I pressed my agenda. Understandably, she pushed back. “NO!!” she yelled, dropping rag-doll-style to the kitchen floor. 

I lost it. Bending down nose to nose with her, I yelled: “Celia! Put on your f&@#ing coat!”

She froze. I jammed the coat onto her, led her to the car, buckled her in, and drove to daycare. My daughter, usually chatty, was notably silent. Me? My cheeks burned red with the shame and self-doubt of a man completely convinced he was a “horrible father.”

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Working with the Heartbreaking Feeling That Something is Wrong with You

“I found the Divine within my Heart.”

~Rumi

By Leo Babauta

The most common problem I’ve found in the people I’ve coached and worked with in my programs is a very fundamental problem:

Most people have the feeling that something is wrong with them. And it is heartbreaking.

Actually, most people would say that their problem is that they want to be more disciplined, more focused, better at sticking to their health habits, better at finances, more mindful … so more of something, or better at something else.

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Questions and Answers

Posted on October 5, 2019 by Chan Niem Hy

This is a 117-minute session of questions and answers with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in Hanoi during the “Engaged Buddhism in the 21st Century” retreat. The date is May 10, 2008 and the questions and answers are offered in English. 

Questions

How would applied Buddhism look to the healthcare professional? (3:25)How do we deal with guilt? (8:07)My father cares about no-one and has no interest in life. He also has lots of anger. How can I help him? (17:50)A question on mindfulness of joy. Can you explain a little more about joy as it relates too attachment to the joy? (23:30)Experiencing suffering in not being able to conceive a child. (32:30)A question about medication and depression. In reference to what Thay taught in a previous talk. Sometimes there is also a physiological aspect to depression. Concern that Thay’s teaching may be misunderstood. Can you clarify? (41:24)Why does life exist? Why are we here? (56:33)As a young person, how can I use the practice and be able to share with other young people? Is there some more creative language that might speak more to young people? (1:00:00)How do we forgive someone whom we have never known intimately and have no way of communicating? For the suffering they have caused. (1:08:15)Having recently traveled in Laos and meeting many people impacted by the war and areas where unexploded ordinance remains. This caused anger and sadness to arise in me. Is this karma? Is this a time when we can be righteously angry? (1:16:03)There are young people who grow-up in a loving and supportive environment, but when they travel for university or work, they will face really negative pressure. This is a challenge. We should vaccinate our mind. Should we give children challenges so they are better prepared? (1:25:50)What is your intention with offering the Five Mindfulness Trainings? (1:35:30)Question about the 5th Mindfulness Training. This training watered by feeling of fear based on my upbringing as a Catholic. (1:45:30)

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Original author: Chan Niem Hy
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