An independent investigation into allegations against the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Sogyal Lakar (known widely as Sogyal Rinpoche), founder of the Rigpa community, has found that he committed acts of “serious physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.”
The report by law firm Lewis Silkin details multiple allegations of physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse, as well as accounts of “living a lavish, gluttonous and sybaritic lifestyle,” and “tainting the appreciation of the Dharma.”
The 50-page report found that “senior individuals within Rigpa… were aware of at least some of these issues and failed to address them, leaving others at risk.”
Last July, eight current and ex-members of Rigpa wrote and signed a letter that detailed allegations of abuse. In August of that year, Sogyal Lakar officially retired as the spiritual director of the organization. Rigpa then approached the British law firm to investigate the allegations outlined in the letter.
The report details allegations that Sogyal Lakar “abused the letter writers by slapping them, punching them, kicking them, pulling their ears, hitting them with a backscratcher, phones, cups and hangers.” It is also alleged that a student was knocked unconscious by Sogyal Lakar and that monks and nuns were left “bloodied and scarred.”
Of 22 witnesses whose direct evidence the firm received, 13 confirmed that Sogyal Lakar had hit them. The witnesses provided evidence that they were aware of 20 more people who were regularly subjected to physical abuse, some on a daily basis.
The report also details allegations that Sogyal Lakar “used his role to gain access to young women and to coerce, intimidate and manipulate them into giving him sexual favours,” for which there is “a significant weight of first-hand evidence.”
Further, the report details allegations that Sogyal Lakar “instructed students to strip, show him their genitals, take photos of their genitals and show them to him, give him oral sex, have sex with their partners in his bed and describe sexual relationships to him,” as well as lie to cover up relationships with him. He is alleged to have “groped students and asked one of his students to photograph attendants and girlfriends naked,” as well as offered his attendants to other lamas for sex.
A statement from Rigpa following the publication of the report asserts that Sogyal Lakar now has “no organisational role in Rigpa.” The organization has also created a new code of conduct as of June 2018, which states: “if a guru asks you to do something and you cannot do it for whatever reason, you should know that you are allowed to say no.”
“We feel deeply sorry and apologise for the hurt experienced by past and present members of the Rigpa community. We are contemplating on our role as an organisation, and how we may have contributed to this situation,” Rigpa writes.
The investigation report can be read in full on the Rigpa website.