Why Tibetan Buddhism is facing up to its own abuse scandal

Last year the Telegraph published a series of allegations made by eight senior and long-standing current and former students against Sogyal, whose book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying has sold more than three million copies around the world, making him the best known Tibetan Buddhist teacher after the Dalai Lama. 

The report, undertaken by the law firm Lewis Silkin to investigate the claims at the behest of Rigpa, confirms a shocking catalogue of physical, sexual and emotional abuse by Sogyal against students. It also concludes: “senior individuals within Rigpa were aware of at least some of these issues and failed to address them, leaving others at risk”. 

Yet such allegations of widespread abuse – and subsequent cover up – within the Tibetan Buddhist community is not restricted to Rigpa alone. 

In July, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the leader of the Shambhala Buddhist community – an organisation with more than 200 meditation centres globally – announced he would “step back from his administrative and teaching responsibilities” while allegations of sexual assault and misconduct are investigated. Other similar accusations are swirling around other centres elsewhere in Europe.

“There are huge cover ups in the Catholic church, but what has happened within Tibetan Buddhism is totally along the same lines,” says Mary Finnigan, an author and journalist who has been chronicling such alleged misdemeanours since the mid-80s and is a long-standing critic of Sogyal. 

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