Hullabaloo over the ‘Karmapa’

Written by Rob Hogendoorn

1 minute

Speculation runs rife that the 16th Karmapa (b. 1924 d. 1981) abused an American woman, Kathy (comments 739 through 783). Apparently, the commenters are unaware of the ‘Erratum Notice’ that came with the referenced source, ‘Divine Disenchantment: Deconverting from New Religions’ (1989) by Janet Liebman Jacobs.

In it, Indiana University Press and the author make clear that the name ‘Karmapa’ and ‘His Holiness’ were intended as pseudonyms and ‘inadvertently and incorrectly’ drew attention ‘to an actual Tibetan Buddhist Lama.’

The erratum concludes by saying: ‘There is absolutely no intention in this choice of name and title to refer to His Holiness, the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, lineage holder of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.’

‘Divine Disenchantment’ contains further references to abusive and violent behaviour by Tibetan Lamas in New England, USA, at least one of whom can clearly be identified as Chögyam Trungpa (b. 1939 d. 1987). And so, at least some of the testimonies published by Jane Jacobs in 1989 corroborated previous publications about Trungpa in the years 1976 through 1980.

Truth be told, the contested passage in Jacobs’ book didn’t fit the timeline of the 16th Karmapa’s whereabouts in the early 1970s anyway. Now that the confusion is resolved, here’s to hoping that chatty Buddhists’ running commentary focuses on more pressing matters.

For, all things considered, the serious maltreatment of Western devotees by Trungpa and his successors surely ranks among the earliest, best-documented, most long-standing yet widely ignored abuse cases by Tibetan Buddhist Lamas since the 1960s.

And so my questions would be: Are Tibetan Buddhist Lamas establishing decades-long lineages of abuse to this day? Have their devotees exchanged the pre-existing culture of silence for an existing culture of empty chatter?

And, in closing: might the latter ‘remedy’ be worse than the disease, because the current hullaballoo in the blogosphere and on social media provides future victims and survivors with a false sense of security?

Originally posted as a Tweet on December 16, 2021.

About the author

Rob Hogendoorn

Investigative reporter and academic researcher Rob Hogendoorn (b. 1964) began researching the reception of Buddhism in Western society and culture in the early 1990s. His modus operandi remained the same ever since: independent, inquisitive and provocative.