Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK, and

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Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK, and

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 1:08 am

Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK, and Rigpa Fellowship US: Outcome of an Investigation Into Allegations Made Against Sogyal Lakar (Also Known as Sogyal Rinpoche) in a Letter Dated 14 July 2017
by Karen Baxter, Partner
Lewis Silkin LLP
22 August 2018

To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture. Enjoy, sir, your insensibility of feeling and reflecting. It is the prerogative of animals. And no man will envy you these honors, in which a savage only can be your rival and a bear your master.

-- The American Crisis, by Thomas Paine


Table of Contents:

• A preliminary note on terminology
• Executive summary
• Appointment and scope of investigation
• Aims of the investigation
• Approach
• Parameters of participation
• Burden of proof
• Interviewing Sogyal Lakar
• Assessment of the witnesses
• Sogyal Lakar’s teachings
• Findings
• Physical abuse
• Findings: physical abuse
• Sexual abuse
• Allegations with no supporting evidence / insufficient evidence
• Allegation that Sogyal Lakar used his role to gain access to young women and to coerce, intimidate and manipulate them into giving him sexual favours and has had decades of sexual relationships with students, including underage girls
• Requiring students to lie to cover up relationships with him
• Groping students, photographing attendants and girlfriends naked, and forcing others to make collages of the images
• Offering attendants to other lamas
• Emotional and psychological abuse
• Ian Maxwell comments
• Telling people their loved ones would be at risk / died because they displeased Sogyal
• Pushing students to the verge of emotional breakdown
• Use of Rigpa therapy
• Lavish, gluttonous and sybaritic lifestyle
• Tainting appreciation of Dharma
• Vacuum of accountability
• An organisational culture that maintains absolute secrecy
• Further allegations
• Recommendations

Witness B claims to have been approached by a number of women during the early 1990s who complained in confidence that they had been involved in sexually abusive relationships with Sogyal Lakar. Witness B says the incidents complained of included “sexual harassment, sex within the environment of emotional manipulation, coercion to have sex with him “for the sake of the teachings, his health and long life”, verbal abuse, sexual infections as a result of his refusal to practise safe sex and pregnancies resulting in abortions”.

***

Witness K shared the following information with me:

“When I was 18 or 19, he asked me to come and meet him at his personal shrine in his house. He said he had had a dream about me and it would be good if I worked for him as an attendant. He asked if I wanted to and I said yes. I understood it would be like a PA but the uber rich version, bringing him anything and everything he might need including food, laundry, cleaning and carrying his bags. He said it’s really important that you never talk to anyone about anything that goes on while you’re working, especially don’t tell [a family member also in Rigpa] as it will damage [that person’s] view and relationship with the dharma. I said OK. I didn’t expect this to mean there would be anything awful, but I understood I would have information about what he spent his money on and what he did which he would want to keep private. I was very young and emotionally vulnerable; he knew this.

One day he showed me some sexy photos of [another student] on the beach to see if I was shocked. I wasn’t.

Within three months of me arriving, I was helping him one evening to get ready for bed with [another student]. I had to bring his hot water. He suddenly asked me to lick and touch his genitals. He said it in a jovial way and I wasn’t sure if he was serious. [The other student] smiled and said “yes, do it”. I tried but I freaked out and he said “oh, that’s OK” and he dismissed me. The next day I felt very uncomfortable and said I was not well and stayed in bed. A couple of hours later I was called and told he wanted to see me in the garden straight away. I went to the garden reluctantly and he started screaming abuse at me, saying “you think I’m attracted to you, why would I be?” He was aggressive and it was terrifying, I was not used to being yelled at. I started to cry and felt panicked. I said I didn’t think that, but felt bad because I had failed him and his test. He immediately turned nice and said “oh no, you did well”. I felt shaken and was not OK with it. I had no one to talk to.

I then went to [another country] with him [as part of the lama care team] and I was leaning over to give him something. He put his hand down my top and touched me. He said my nipples were young. I felt shocked.

[Some time later], I attended a retreat and was feeling better and more on track. I was alone with him in the shrine room and he asked me to give him a blow job. I tried to be a good Buddhist and see it as a teaching. It was an out of body experience. I didn’t want to do it but I did. I didn’t do it for long and he then dismissed me. It felt like a power play, he didn’t seem particularly aroused”.
....

Witness K

“Another lama was visiting and Sogyal made comments in front of others asking me if I would sleep with the lama. I thought he was joking and trying to get a rise out of me. I jokingly replied “yes, of course” and Sogyal then said “good you can be his attendant” he also told me to go and buy condoms. … On the second day of attending the lama, he led me to a bedroom and started kissing me. I suddenly realised it was not a joke and I froze. The other lama realised I was not consenting and stopped. He asked if I was OK and let me go back to the house.

I realised I was in over my head and locked myself in a bathroom and broke down. I didn’t have anywhere else to go – I was 20, had nowhere else to live, no money and no food. I was very scared. There was no way out but I felt very unsafe.

Someone found me and I was crying hysterically. I had to meet with Sogyal and the other lama; Sogyal said he was sorry as he thought that [offering me to the other lama] would be good for me.

Witness E then took me to a bus stop and put me on a bus to [the city], even though I had nowhere to go when I got there. No one contacted me or checked I was safe”.


Another witness provided a similar account to me, but did not wish for details to be included in this report.

Based on the evidence available to me, on the balance of probabilities, I uphold this allegation.....

Witness K reported that she suffered from hallucinations and suicidal thoughts and still suffers from chronic insomnia and anxiety. Witness K says she has spent thousands on therapy since leaving Rigpa.

***

It is alleged that Sogyal required one of his students to photograph attendants and girlfriends naked, forcing others to make collages of the images for him which were then shown to others. Several witnesses confirmed to me that they understood that a student who was a photographer was required to take naked photographs of Sogyal’s girlfriends and attendants.

Witness L gave evidence of an occasion when four female students were called upstairs, and Witness E was then asked to go upstairs to take photos in Sogyal’s personal shrine room. Witness L said “I went upstairs a day or two later and saw photos of them all posing naked in the shrine room. I felt shocked to see it”.

Witness G also saw intimate sexual photographs of Student 3 in Sogyal’s possession and alleges that he saw Sogyal share these with another lama. I have been provided with evidence (which is addressed in the confidential annexe) which confirms the existence of these photographs.

I have also been provided with evidence (which is addressed in the confidential annexe) which confirms the existence of some of the video footage that Witness E says he was asked to film or was given by Sogyal to edit. This includes a video of two young female attendants who are asked by Sogyal to dance for him. One starts dancing in a bikini until he simply tells to her: “take it off”. She complies with the instruction. In my opinion, the student who is dancing looks uncomfortable and awkward. I was told that this footage was filmed by Witness E, at Sogyal’s request. Another of the videos includes a student being told by Sogyal that she can stop what she is doing when she wants to, but when she immediately asks to stop she is told by Sogyal to repeat what she was doing “one more time”.

Multiple witnesses confirmed seeing naked pictures of “Sogyal’s girls” in his accommodation and to there being huge blown up collages with naked images of one of his girlfriends in his private rooms, to which only the inner circle were granted access.

Witness E, who took many of the photographs, explained that Sogyal would ask him to crop and enlarge the images that he would take so as to focus only on the genitals of the women in the photographs.


I am satisfied that Witness E, in particular, was asked to photograph attendants and girlfriends naked. Whether there is anything wrong in this conduct depends primarily on whether the photographs or videos were taken of people who did not consent to them being taken or shared in the way that they were. I have not spoken to any of the women in the photographs so cannot determine whether they were consented to this on the evidence available to me. This could be investigated further if they women in the photographs were willing to provide evidence in future.

I have not heard direct evidence of anyone being “forced” to make collages of the images for Sogyal, as is alleged, but there is evidence to support at least one student being asked to do so.

***

Use of Rigpa therapy

It is alleged that Sogyal Lakar introduced ‘Rigpa therapy’ for his closest students and that trained therapists were “given the task of dealing with the pain that was being stirred up in the minds of those [he] was abusing”. It is alleged that therapists were used to ensure that the students did not see Sogyal as an abuser, but instead blamed old family relationships.

Witness N accepted that there was a period when four or five students, who were also therapists, were looking at how modern therapy techniques could have confluence with Buddhism. Witness N stated that one of these therapists also saw some students privately, but that this was not a Rigpa offering.

Witness P also told me that there was a therapist (Student 20) who would see people, but described this was an individual thing and not arranged by the organisation. Witness P said that people would choose to see Student 20 and it was private and confidential, there was no official organised therapy.

Witness O agreed that there had been some work done by a group of therapists to see if they could develop a Buddhist inspired therapy technique, but that this had not been able to make much progress. Witness O confirmed that there was some completely informal therapy with a therapist (Student 20) who would informally support students with any problems during the three-year retreat. Witness O stated that this would be confidential and Witness O’s sense was that the therapy was used to get to the bottom of what the cause of any problems might be.

Witness K told me that she was “assigned” to Student 20 for therapy. Witness K said that this was not a great experience. Witness K says that Student 20 “made it all about your relationship with your parents”. Witness K says that Student 20 was caring but she felt that the key message was that Witness K should keep Sogyal’s behaviour under wraps and not make a scene. At one point, Witness K says she was told to see Student 20 for therapy twice a week. Witness K says it was a relief to be able to speak to someone, so Witness K did not say no. Witness K continued seeing Student 20 for therapy via Skype for some years but now sees this as a means of keeping Witness K tied up in the Rigpa way of resolving these issues instead of going to the police.

Witness F describes Rigpa therapy as a strategy of psychological abuse, saying that Student 20’s job was to mop up the mess created by Sogyal, which enabled him to push them all further and Student 20 would catch them. Witness F agrees with the account of Witnesses N, O and P as to how the therapy discussions started, but says that the idea of one-on-one therapy with Student 20 came from Sogyal himself. Witness F was “sent” for Rigpa therapy around the time that Witness F started to develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Witness F says that the idea of the therapy seemed good at the time. Witness F described the therapy as a chance to relax and not be on-call for an hour. Witness F says that during the therapy, Student 20 was told by Witness F about the beatings and other concerns. Witness F says that Student 20’s focus was that the behaviour of Sogyal was purifying Witness F’s relationship with Witness F’s father. Witness F describes this therapy as their one chance of finding help, and that it was abused.

Witness F alleges that Student 20 once told Witness F “the things these girls tell me – if they happened in the real world I’d have to report them”.

I have heard a recorded public teaching in which Sogyal asks for Student 20 to share something that has come out of Witness F’s therapy sessions. Student 20 then shares information coming from those therapy sessions with Sogyal and the rest of those present. This is clear evidence of the misuse of these therapy sessions and the confidential information shared therein.

Witness L confirmed that she was aware that Witness F and a number of the young women in the lama care team were seeing Student 20 for therapy. Witness L alleges that those undergoing therapy reported back that Student 20 would persuade them to blame their families, or their karma from past lives, instead of holding Sogyal responsible for his actions towards them.

I must make clear that I have not received any testimony from Student 20. There is, however, a significant volume of evidence to support the allegation that (whatever Student 20’s intentions were) the therapy sessions held by Student 20 were encouraged or sanctioned by Sogyal Lakar and caused harm to those who participated in them.

On the balance of probabilities, I uphold the allegation that therapy sessions were improperly used.

***

Representing Rigpa

I also heard evidence of the various ways that Rigpa appears to have sought to control the dialogue about and response to the various allegations that have circulated about Sogyal’s behaviour. One of those is a series of training sessions which were rolled out, known as “Representing Rigpa”.

Witness C recalled his experience of attending this training. He says attendees were taught a strategy where if someone raised concerns, they should point them to an instructor who will give them space and listen. Witness C alleges that they were told to acknowledge the concern but encourage the individual to look at what’s behind it. Witness C says they were not given the answer to any specific questions about historic allegations, but were told that the allegations were being stirred up by a handful of people and that no one knows what happens in Sogyal’s private life. Witness C says they were told that they could acknowledge that Sogyal has relationships and has a child, but were told to say that they have never seen anything inappropriate. Witness C says that there were not asked to lie, but that the training skilfully manipulated instructors to be able to deny knowledge of concerns and reassure students.

***

Further allegations

Throughout the course of this investigation I have been contacted by a number of additional people who have further stories of abuse. Regrettably, the scope of this investigation has had to be limited to investigating the Complaint and there came a point when it was not feasible to conduct further interviews.

-- Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK, and Rigpa Fellowship US: Outcome of an Investigation Into Allegations Made Against Sogyal Lakar (Also Known as Sogyal Rinpoche) in a Letter Dated 14 July 2017, by Karen Baxter, Partner
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 1:09 am

A preliminary note on terminology

Within the Buddhist community, the epithet “Rinpoche” carries great significance. It will not escape the attention of anyone associated (or formerly associated) with Rigpa that Sogyal is referred to throughout this report by his full name, Sogyal Lakar, as opposed to calling him Sogyal Rinpoche. This simply reflects the fact that this report has been compiled from an independent, non-Buddhist perspective. It is intended as an expression of neutrality, and nothing more should be read into this.

Where possible, the use of personal pronouns which might enable witnesses to be identified has been avoided. This is not always possible as the content of their testimony sometimes reveals their gender.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 1:11 am

Executive summary

Whilst I have seen evidence that many people feel that they have benefited greatly from having Sogyal Lakar as their teacher, individual experiences are very different. There are varying degrees of closeness to Sogyal Lakar, with the closest relationships regularly referred to as the “inner circle”. The experiences of some of the members of the inner circle are very different from the experiences of many of those who are less close.

Not all of the allegations against Sogyal Lakar are upheld, as explained in the body of the report below, but based on the evidence available to me, I am satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities:

a. some students of Sogyal Lakar (who were part of the ‘inner circle’, as described later in this report) have been subjected to serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse by him; and

b. there were senior individuals within Rigpa who were aware of at least some of these issues and failed to address them, leaving others at risk.

A number of serious concerns arise out of my findings which, in my opinion, must be addressed. Recommendations and proposed action points are set out at the conclusion of this report.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 1:12 am

Appointment and scope of investigation

Lewis Silkin LLP was first approached by Rigpa International in August 2017 to discuss the potential appointment of this firm to conduct an independent investigation into allegations which had been raised by eight former Rigpa students against Sogyal Lakar in a letter dated 14 July 2017 (the “Complaint”).

Rigpa International made clear that its overall goal was to “restore peace and harmony” to all who have been affected by the issues outlined in the Complaint, including anyone who feels personally hurt, as well as those within the worldwide Rigpa community. Rigpa International explained the Buddhist belief that reconciliation can only be achieved through compassion and understanding, and that it saw this investigation as a first step towards that goal.

Lewis Silkin set out a proposal for how it would approach the investigation, if appointed. There followed a lengthy period during which different law firms were considered by Rigpa’s various boards internationally.

Lewis Silkin was formally appointed on 19 December 2017, and I (Karen Baxter) was appointed as the lead investigator. It was agreed that Rigpa International would step back from the investigation process at that point given the likelihood of Rigpa International members being potential witnesses.

The organisations which engaged Lewis Silkin were Rigpa Fellowship UK and Rigpa Fellowship US; essentially they were the bodies that would be responsible for the fees connected with the work. Two members of each the U.K. and U.S. boards were appointed as their authorised representatives (“the Investigating Committee”) who were to act as the point of contact between Lewis Silkin and Rigpa.

It was agreed that the initial scope of the investigation was to collate the allegations and establish the facts in respect of the Complaint. It was my hope and expectation that this would initially involve interviewing the signatories of the Complaint, and would then extend to interviewing additional witnesses and/or members of Rigpa management as I deemed appropriate (and achievable within the agreed fee budget).

It was agreed between Lewis Silkin and the Investigating Committee that the investigation was to be objective and impartial. The Investigating Committee asked Lewis Silkin to ensure that due respect and sensitivity was shown to those who feel they have been harmed.

It was agreed that the fact that Rigpa engaged Lewis Silkin as a client should not be allowed to influence or bias the investigation or its conclusions in any way. It was expressly acknowledged by the Investigating Committee that the report might be critical of Rigpa and that there was nothing arising out of the relationship between Rigpa and Lewis Silkin that would prevent that.

It was expressly agreed that all interviews conducted as part of the investigation (and the notes thereof) would be confidential and would not be shared with the Investigating Committee, or anyone else, unless the witness specifically agreed to this, or unless Lewis Silkin was required to disclose this information by law.

I am satisfied that, throughout this investigation, the Investigating Committee has behaved in the way that was agreed at the outset; I have been allowed to investigate the Complaint as I saw fit and reach my own conclusions without interference, bias or inappropriate influence.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 1:13 am

Aims of the investigation

The purpose of the investigation was defined by the Investigating Committee to be as follows:

a. To ascertain in more detail the specific allegations against Sogyal Lakar and to identify the potential witnesses to those allegations.

b. To understand the extent to which senior members of Rigpa were aware of these allegations and whether they were dealt with appropriately at the time.

c. To enable Rigpa to take a first step towards healing and reconciliation with those who feel they have been harmed, by listening to the experiences in an open, impartial and sensitive way.

d. To provide an independent assessment of what Rigpa needs to learn and change in the light of these experiences, in terms of structures, processes and the like.

It was agreed that this report would set out my key findings, together with any recommendations or learning points for Rigpa going forward. It was also acknowledged at the outset that this report might be a preliminary report, with a recommendation for further investigation to be carried out.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 1:14 am

Approach

It was agreed with the Investigating Committee at the outset of the investigation that I would initially seek to interview the eight authors of the Complaint. Thereafter, I would identify who else I felt would have relevant evidence and I was free to determine who those people should be and how many people I should see, within the constraints of the budget that had been agreed with Rigpa.

On the same date as I was appointed, I wrote to the eight authors of the Complaint to invite them to meet with me in order to participate in the investigation.

To date, some of the letter writers have not responded to me at all. Others have, but it was clear from the outset that certain of the letter writers held a deep suspicion that the investigation was not being conducted independently, or was some sort of trap.

I spent some months agreeing parameters which would enable some of the letter writers to feel safe and willing to participate. We were, eventually, able to reach a point where some of the letter writers agreed to meet me. I have, however, agreed that I will not identify which of the letter writers spoke to me, or how many of them I have spoken with.

Whilst the process of negotiating the terms of participation for the letter writers was ongoing, I was approached by some other individuals who told me that they had first-hand knowledge to share with me. To the extent that these people claimed to have knowledge of the matters referred to in the Complaint, or of a similar nature, I arranged to meet with most of these individuals and received testimony from them in person. This group of people included three former trustees of Rigpa UK (Witness B, Witness C and Witness D), who each gave evidence to me separately and have agreed to be identified as former trustees in this way. I was also provided with a number of written statements or other evidence in relation to the allegations.

Within Rigpa, I requested interviews with three senior and long-term students who were identified to me by some of the letter writers as being the people I should speak to. All of them agreed to this and provided evidence to me in person.

I should make clear that there are some other individuals who offered to speak to me but with whom I was not able to speak. I address the fact of these outstanding testimonies below in the section headed: further allegations.

The investigation has been international in scope, and I have attended face- to- face witness interviews in six locations across three countries. In addition, I have been provided with written accounts from some further witnesses. In total, I have received evidence from twenty two relevant witnesses. Rigpa extended the original budget for the investigation in order to facilitate this.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 1:16 am

Parameters of participation

From the outset, it was agreed by the Investigating Committee that where any witness wished to give evidence to me without being identified, or in confidence, that would be respected and I would be under no obligation to share that information with Rigpa.

In the lead up to the interviews taking place, Rigpa’s Investigating Committee also provided the following assurances in response to direct requests from some of the authors of the Complaint:

“We confirm that no legal action will be taken by or on behalf of Rigpa against any of the 8 letter writers, or against any other victim of abuse who comes forward, as a result their providing witness evidence to Karen as part of the investigation.

There is a huge number of members of Rigpa worldwide so we are not in a position to prevent all of our members from taking legal action, but we confirm that Rigpa will not support or encourage anyone to take legal action against you arising out of your participation in the investigation. In addition, we would highlight that the confidential nature of your interviews with Karen … will help to protect you - very few people will know what information you have shared”.


In response to requests from some of the letter writers, the Investigating Committee also agreed to commit to making a copy of this report available to each of the letter writers who participated in the investigation and to the public.

These assurances made a significant difference for many people participating in the investigation, and were relied upon by many of the witnesses who agreed to speak to me. The majority of witnesses asked to remain anonymous. They have all, however, agreed that the information they provided to me can be used in this report, accepting that this may enable them to be identified to some degree.

In order to protect the identities of the witnesses as far as possible, I have applied an identifier to each person who spoke to me, or who was spoken about – those from whom I received evidence are referred to as, for example “Witness A” and those who were spoken about, but from whom I did not receive evidence directly, are referred to as, for example “Student 1”.

There are three witnesses referred to in the report as the “Rigpa management witnesses” (Witness N, Witness O and Witness P); this description reflects the fact that they are senior students who have held and continue to hold positions of influence. I have not been more specific about their current roles as this would identify them. I will provide the Investigating Committee with a confidential key that will enable them to identify (only) those witnesses or students referred to in the report who hold current senior positions within Rigpa. This is purely so that Rigpa is able to take the steps identified in my recommendations below (should they be accepted).

For the sake of transparency, there is one person who is referred to in the report by two separate identifiers – this is because information provided in one area of the report would enable the witness to be identified by information included elsewhere.

Where sensitive information was provided by witnesses which relates to students who did not participate in the investigation and have not therefore consented to the inclusion of this information, that information has been set out in a separate confidential annexe to this report. The confidential annexe will be made available on a strictly confidential basis to the Investigating Committee (on the understanding that they will be permitted to share it only with the UK Charity Commission).
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 1:16 am

Burden of proof

In reaching my conclusions I have applied the U.K.’s civil standard of proof (as opposed to the criminal standard). This means that, in order to uphold an allegation, I need to be satisfied, on the basis of relevant and sufficient evidence, that the conduct occurred “on the balance of probabilities”. In essence, this means that, in order to uphold the allegation, I need to conclude that there is more than a 50% chance that the alleged behaviour occurred.

Some of the allegations levelled against Sogyal Lakar would, if proven, constitute criminal behaviour. I should make clear that, in the UK, in order for someone to be convicted of a crime, a higher standard of proof applies – the allegations would need to be proven “beyond all reasonable doubt”. Whether this is the case in respect of allegations against Sogyal Lakar would be a matter for the relevant law enforcement authorities and I have urged those who consider themselves to be victims of criminal behaviour to contact the police if they feel able to do so.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 1:20 am

Interviewing Sogyal Lakar

I was initially provided with a copy of Sogyal Lakar’s letter in response to the Complaint, dated 18 July 2017, which sets out his position to some degree.

I requested a meeting with Sogyal Lakar in order to interview him, but he wrote to me on 30 April 2018 explaining that he was not well enough to participate. He wrote:

“It is with regret that I must inform you that I am not available for interview, owing to my ill health. Last autumn I was diagnosed with cancer of the colon and have since received surgery and am receiving follow-up treatment with regular medical check ups … Upon the recommendation of my doctors, I am taking a period of complete rest … it is for this reason that I will be unable to participate.

I do hope that the investigation will nonetheless proceed in the best possible way.”


I was provided with medical evidence to support the fact of Sogyal’s cancer diagnosis and related ill health.

As I reached the point of concluding my investigation I contacted Sogyal Lakar again, in June 2018, to ask if his health had improved such that he would be able to meet with me. I also provided him with the alternative options of providing responses to specific written questions (which I sent to him) or providing a written statement to me.

Sogyal Lakar wrote to me on 4 July 2018. Sogyal’s letter did not respond to the specific questions I had asked, but it did address the allegations, in general terms, from his perspective. The content of this letter is addressed in my report below.

I am, of course, disappointed by the fact that I have not been able to speak with Sogyal Lakar. In reaching my conclusions, I have been very conscious of the fact that I have not heard from him face-to-face. That did not, however, mean that the investigation could not proceed.

In both his letter to me of 4 July 2018, and the letter 18 July 2017 to the eight letter writers, I noted that Sogyal did not deny the allegations against him, but instead pointed out that he did not ever intend to cause harm. Having heard evidence from a number of witnesses and listened to some recorded teachings by Sogyal, I have concluded that it would not be safe to treat his lack of denial as a tacit admission. Sogyal has stated publically that he considers that he will not defend himself against attack, and others (e.g. Witness N) spoke to me of the Buddhist belief that there is no need to respond to any form of attack against you – “wait and the truth will come”.

As such, I have treated his position as akin to a ‘no comment’ interview – this is essentially a neutral position (save that he expressly denies ever intending to cause harm). This requires me to satisfy myself that there is sufficient evidence to support the allegations, in the absence of an admission or a denial on Sogyal’s part.
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Re: Report to the Boards of Trustees of Rigpa Fellowship UK,

Postby admin » Sat May 04, 2019 1:22 am

Assessment of the witnesses

The vast majority of the witnesses that I spoke to came across as honest, credible and forthcoming; their motivation for speaking to me was clear and it was evident that a number of witnesses had overcome significant fear by agreeing to speak to me. Some of the witnesses were visibly distressed when relaying their account.

I tested each testimony to understand whether it stood up to scrutiny and I was satisfied that the witnesses were generally careful to ensure that they did not speculate but spoke only about what they had personally witnessed or experienced. Many witnesses produced physical evidence to support their accounts, such as emails, photographs, recorded teachings, videos, letters and minutes.

Of the Rigpa management witnesses, Witness N and Witness P were sincere and credible in their accounts; I believe that there were some areas where they were not entirely forthcoming, but they addressed some difficult topics in what appeared to be a candid manner. Some of their responses were troubling, particularly Witness P (for which, see the section entitled ‘vacuum of accountability’ below).

The only witness who gave me cause for concern about some elements of their testimony was Rigpa management Witness O, who I found, at times, to be guarded, hostile and inconsistent.


I must make clear that Witnesses N, O and P have not been afforded a right of reply in respect of the conclusions that I have reached in this report, and this will need to be taken into consideration by Rigpa as it decides how to move forwards in light of this report and its recommendations.

Where witnesses are quoted in this report, please note that these quotations are extracted from my contemporaneous notes of my interviews, or from written statements or documents provided by the witnesses. In the former case, the quotes are as accurate as possible but may not be verbatim.
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