How did a Tibetan refugee with no formal religious training become the most powerful Tibetan Buddhist leader in the West and a best-selling author, while he beat, abused and humiliated his followers?
This book finally sheds light on a decades-long story of deception and moral corruption that is the background to the life of the infamous Tibetan lama, Sogyal Rinpoche, who died on August 28, 2019, in Bangkok, aged 72.
Co-authors Mary Finnigan and Rob Hogendoorn have traced the entire history of Sogyal, from his origins in a family of traders in rural Tibet, through their flight to India after the Chinese invasion, to his arrival in Cambridge, England, accompanied by the Prince of Sikkim. It was here that Mary, a professional journalist, first met him in 1973.
This renowned guru, who came to be revered by thousands around the world, was accused of violating dozens of his aides and devotees over the past thirty years. The authors – an investigative reporter and a specialist in Tibetan Buddhism – have gathered all available evidence from victims and eyewitnesses to tell a tale of sexual exploitation, physical violence, emotional manipulation and relentless denigration. It was all perpetrated by a holy man with fabricated credentials and covered up by his foundation.
Living secretly in self-imposed exile in Thailand for the past two years while being treated for colon cancer, he remained beyond the reach of police investigations and civil suits underway in five countries. His organization, the Rigpa Fellowship, is still in business, with over a dozen active centers in the West.
Early complaints from his followers were met with denials and doctrinaire obfuscations. Then in the mid-1990s, soon after publication of Sogyal’s best-selling The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, more women came forward with accusations. In the UK, the mainstream media started to take an interest. Mary Finnigan’s piece in the Guardian and her broadcast on BBC Radio 4 were followed by Mick Brown’s cover feature in the Telegraph Magazine.
Galvanized by the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, the trickle of accusations has slowly turned into a flood in recent years. His organization’s cover-up attempts wore thin after the Dalai Lama himself stepped in.
The book does not sensationalize the perverse behavior that caused untold suffering to scores of devotees. It’s a fact-based account, backed by exhaustive research grounded in decades of first-hand knowledge by two Buddhist practitioners. It’s also a story about the culture clash that occurs when an exotic émigré from a feudal, patriarchal Tibet is greeted with unwitting acceptance and adulation by spiritual seekers in 21st-century liberal democracies.