‘Not The Tibetan Way’: The Dalai Lama’s Realpolitik Concerning Abusive Teachers

1 hours
Is the Dalai Lama personally accountable for his enabling behavior towards the abusive Tibetan Buddhist lamas and violent spiritual teachers he is being warned about? Does he take ownership of ignoring the plight of victims and survivors who follow his advice and “out” abusive teachers at great personal risk? How does the Dalai Lama judge the Tibetan lamas and other spiritual leaders he continues to endorse after they have been exposed? Cui bono: to whom (or what) is it a benefit? To answer these and other questions, this article examines the Dalai Lama’s conduct towards four abusive and criminal spiritual leaders that he endorsed in the past 50 years. To bring the imperatives and motives that governed the Dalai Lama’s discharge of his temporal and spiritual duties during that era into focus, we take his own view of his institution—that of the Dalai Lama lineage—into account. Evidently, the Dalai Lama’s religious realpolitik concerning these four abusive, criminal leaders won the day—to the detriment of people he could have placed out of harm’s way by expressing his disapproval in public, and in time. By letting the victims and survivors do the hard things while he focusses on the continuity of Tibetan institutions, including his own, the Dalai Lama’s conduct matches that of his religious peers—other media-savvy, power-wielding priests.

This long-read makes use of numeric endnotes that open on hover and take you to the endnote at the bottom of the page on click. Clicking the blue thumbnail at the end of the listed endnotes takes you back to where it was inserted into the text. The captioned images will enlarge in a new tab on click

This article is a joint effort of Stuart Lachs (b. 1940) and Rob Hogendoorn (b. 1964), both of who have been involved as practitioners of Buddhism for many years. Stuart has been a practitioner of Zen and Ch’an Buddhism beginning in 1967. Rob has been a practitioner of the Geluk sect of Tibetan Buddhism since the early 1990s. Both of us have spent much time at Buddhist centers and monasteries. Stuart in Taiwan, Japan, and Korea, as well a number of centers in the USA. Rob in Europe and India. We both continue to practice today.Having practiced for many years, each in our respective traditions, we have witnessed problems that arose within our respective groups. Commonly these problems are not visible to the casual observer or even, for one reason or another, to a long-time practitioner. Yet, these problems strike us as man-made and integral to all religious endeavor. And so, besides being practitioners, we have also looked at Tibetan Buddhism and Zen/Ch’an respectively with a critical eye, especially so as they are practiced in the west. We have brought in disciplines, such as sociology, history, and religion from outside of Buddhism to help understand what we were seeing and experiencing as insiders, that is, active practitioners in our respective traditions.

We both have over the years written critically about our respective traditions. An easy search on the internet will turn up most of our work. In doing so, we think you will see how involved we are in Buddhism. We also have felt the wrath of people who do not take lightly having their practice of Buddhism and Buddhist leaders being looked at closely and questioned. In a sense, we are now looking, simultaneously, as both insiders and outsiders, at the 14th Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism. Over our years of friendship and collaboration, we have seen certain similar features between Tibetan Buddhism and Zen/Ch’an Buddhism. This may not be as surprising as one may think, as these are traditions that place much importance on wisdom, hierarchy, and enlightened leaders. These leaders, whether titled Lama, Rinpoche, Tulku, Roshi, Guru, or Master, are supposedly beyond the understanding and, importantly, the critical view of ordinary folk—that is, you and us. We beg to differ, and this article demonstrates why.

Introduction

In this article, we examine the 14th Dalai Lama dealings with abusive and criminal teachers in the 1970s through 2010s. First, we will explain why it is appropriate to view the Dalai Lama as an ordinary priest, going about his duties in the ways ordinary priests do.1 We will then describe the Dalai Lama’s relations with four abusive teachers—Buddhist and non-Buddhist—he was being warned about, and the enabling effect his conduct has. Finally, we will discuss some consistent patterns that emerge from our close examination of the Dalai Lama’s behavior, as well as the dysfunction of ordinary feedback mechanisms that could have him change his ways.

We will take the Dalai Lama at his word and see how his word matches his actions. And in doing so, we will return him to the world he shares with the rest of us. But first, to value the Dalai Lama’s self-defined mission properly, let us briefly consider the political, this-worldly nature of the office he holds.

Political Innovation

The ancient practice of formally instating reincarnated lamas, commonly called trülkus, was a political innovation native to Tibet that developed between the 11th and 14th centuries.2 Its worldy utility was aptly summed up thus: ‘The tulku model provided a political counterpoint to the power of the nobility, a rallying point during times of national turmoil, and a means of succession among celibate monastics.’3 Tibetans took to the idea en masse: Through the ages, many hundreds of major and minor trülku lineages, some say thousands, became firmly intrenched.4 Quite literally, these trülku lineages took on a life of their own. While traditional screening of trülkus has lapsed since the 1960s, their numbers have increased so much that Tibetan exiles now talk of a ‘trülku boom’ in a deprecating way.5

As a matter of course, formally instated trülkus attracted their own dedicated following and prosperous patrons. Amassing rights of property and considerable wealth of their own, aside from whatever religious function they serve, effectively turns their offices into religious corporations. And so, the orderly passage of power, assets and other property, as well as followers and sponsors, from one deceased trülku to the next became a priority.6 With each consecutive incumbent, the self-perpetuating power and symbolical capital of these lineages grew. Fourteen generations later, many find it impossibly hard to imagine Tibetan Buddhism without them.7

Martin Brauen: ‘The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History’ (2005)

To invest the executive powers of the head of state in one such lineage, that of the Dalai Lamas, is a further political enhancement of the original trülku idea.8 This custom began in the 17th century and, once again, was motivated by the worldly needs of the day.9 In 1642, the 5th Dalai Lama was bestowed with this title by the Mongol leader Güshi Khan. He and his Mongol patron thereby established joint temporal and religious rule of Central Tibet—at least in theory. As Georges Dreyfus summarizes: ‘Instead of insisting on continuous control of the monastic order by political authorities, in Tibet monastic groups have tended to take over the instruments of political domination. The institution of incarnated lama manifests this unique Tibetan solution.’10

Savvy Political Operator

Most Dalai Lamas, however, turned out to be ineffectual leaders, whose precarious authority was curbed by powerful or even devious patrons, ministers, and regents. Only three incumbent Dalai Lamas capitalized on the politics of their day to actively lead the Tibetan nation. They are called ‘the Great Fifth,’ the Great Thirteenth,’ and ‘the Great Fourteenth,’ respectively. It is with good reason that these three great leaders are seen as savvy political operators.

Given the political nature of the institutions he embodies—that of a trülku and Dalai Lama—it is hardly surprising that the present Dalai Lama does not believe that they are integral to Buddhism. Rather, he sees these institutions as the products of their time—to be changed or abolished at will. Indeed, in the 1960s through 2010s the Dalai Lama consistently argued that the widespread instating of trülkus has outlived its purpose. He did so on the basis of decidedly this-worldly considerations.11

The Dalai Lama relinquished his political authority and abdicated the throne as Tibetan head of state in 2011. At that time, he transferred the political leadership of the Tibetan exiles to the Harvard-educated Tibetan lawyer Lobsang Sangay, who is called Sikyong or President.12 Even so, the Dalai Lama continued to call his own office a ‘man-made institution’ that could cease any time.13 Indeed, he called the Dalai Lama institution ‘backward.’14 In 2017, he stated that ‘lama institutions’ that create ‘lama politics’ must end, because they reflect badly on Buddhist monastics.15

A year later, the Dalai Lama reiterated that ‘the system of recognizing incarnations of previous spiritual masters is a Tibetan cultural tradition. It is not a practice taught by the Buddha. In the 1960s I discussed limiting the number of tulkus, but one adviser told me that would be difficult because it is the Tibetan’s custom. Nowadays being recognized as a rinpoche has become a position of social status, not one of religious import, and this is not healthy.’16 News reports made clear that he actually said that the ‘lama institution’ has ‘feudal’ origins and must end.17

The Last Dalai Lama?

Throughout the 14th Dalai Lama’s reign, he kept Tibetans dangling with the possibility that he might be ‘The Last Dalai Lama’—effectively a form of political blackmail. He frequently hinted—and sometimes threatened—that his lineage will end with him. Already in 1975, he told a BBC-reporter that he believed that he might be the last incumbent.18 In 1976, the Dalai Lama denounced the perceived materialism and factionalism of Tibetan exiles in so many words, and refused to accept their ritual long-life offering—tantamount to a threat of abandoning the Tibetan people to their fate.19 In 2014, once again, the Dalai Lama told BBC Newsnight that he might be the last to hold the title.20 Two years later, people close to him discussed the Dalai Lama’s succession in the documentary The Last Dalai Lama?21

Apparently, though, the historical origins of the Dalai Lama institution are of less concern to the religious heads of all Tibetan traditions, for their recent resolutions attempt to preordain the matter: ‘The present status of the Tibetan people being extremely critical, all Tibetans genuinely wish for the continuation of the Institution and Reincarnation of the Dalai Lama in the future. We therefore strongly supplicate to His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama for the same.’22 With this, the religious heads effectively short-circuit the decision-making process. And so, although the Dalai Lama himself argued that his office is ‘feudal’ or ‘backward,’ becoming the 15th Dalai Lama seems to be his predestined end. Here, David Graeber’s dictum ‘one should never underestimate the power of institutions to try to preserve themselves,’ comes to mind.23

‘Will He Poison The Baby Dalai Lama?’

Tenzin Gyatso (b. 1935) is perhaps the best-known Tibetan in the world. He is better known as the Dalai Lama, to be precise, the 14th holder of the title of Dalai Lama.24 That Tenzin Gyatso lived long enough to assume the powers of the 14th Dalai Lama was not a foregone conclusion even after he was recognized as such. Since 1805, just one out of five Dalai Lamas had reached adulthood. The others—that is, the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th—died mysteriously of “stomach trouble.” It is not unlikely they were poisoned.25

‘Picture of the week: The King-Regent of Tibet’ (‘Life Magazine,’ 1940)

Absent the Chinese occupation in 1950, following precedent, a regent would have ruled Tibet until at least the 14th Dalai Lama’s 18th birthday. In 1940, Life magazine had a full-page photo of the regent of the day with the caption: “The King-Regent of Tibet: will he poison the baby Dalai Lama?” Instead, the regent himself was murdered a few years later, while he was imprisoned inside the young Dalai Lama’s Potala Palace in the Tibetan capital Lhasa. Gyello Döndrup, one of the elder brothers of the Dalai Lama, alleges that their father suffered a similar fate.26

Despite the clear political and power-broking aspects connected to the position of Dalai Lama, its 14th office holder has become the world’s leading symbol of peace, compassion, timeless wisdom, human kindness, and non-violence. He is viewed by Tibetans as the physical manifestation of Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion, while many others in addition to Tibetans, believe he is a living saint. 27

He is commonly referred to as His Holiness even by clearly secular commentators.28 Though the Dalai Lama won the Noble Peace Prize in 1989, among other international awards, he usually describes himself as a ‘simple monk.’29 Yet truth be told, the Dalai Lama’s real-time exercise of priestly authority in important cases, does call into question his saintly image. This is what this article will show.

A Not So Simple Monk

President George W. Bush with his painting of the Dalai Lama (Mickey Lemle, The Last Dalai Lama, 2016)

In addition to being a simple monk, the Dalai Lama is a consummate scholar, a charismatic rhetorician, an uncommonly effective orator, a shrewd priest, and an experienced politician. He surely ranks first among the longest-ruling religious leaders: The Dalai Lama saw no less than eight Roman-Catholic Popes reside on the Apostolic Throne of St. Peter in Rome. Having assumed full religious and political power in 1950, his reign is longer than that of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first American president to send him a gift—an exclusive Patek Philippe watch.30 The Dalai Lama was alive during the inauguration of 15 US presidents. He has met the Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and erstwhile Vice-President Joe Biden in private. In 2007, he received the Congressional Gold Medal from George W. Bush during a ceremony at Capitol Hill—the first time an American President met the Dalai Lama in public.31

The 14th Dalai Lama & Chairman Mao of the Chinese Communist Party (1954)

As a young man, the Dalai Lama traveled through China between July 1954 and June 1955, repeatedly meeting Chairman Mao of the Chinese Communist Party and the first prime minister, Zhou Enlai. From November 1956 until March 1957, he sojourned in India, to attend the 2,500th birth anniversary of the historical Buddha. He met prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and other dignitaries there and, once again, Zhou Enlai.32 These tours thrust him into the limelight of modern media, so that by now the Dalai Lama has at least 65 years of political negotiating, public speaking, and media experience under his belt.33

William Myers et al., ‘Man Of Peace: The Illustrated Life Story of the Dalai Lama of Tibet’ (2016)

The imputed benevolence of his title precedes him since the days before he was born. This lends a certain lustre to the Dalai Lama’s presence that even professional skeptics find hard to resist.34 Indeed, Tibet House US had the temerity to turn him into a comic character in a graphic novel, to wit a caricature of his normal self—and of Tibet and the Tibetans too.35 So, to bring us down to earth, perhaps with a bump, let us briefly look at his involvement with the notorious Nxivm-cult.36 This serves as a first-pass overview of a typical real-life situation in the Dalai Lama’s day-to-day interactions with other teachers and priests.

‘An Elephant’s Nose’

On April 5th, 2009, the Dalai Lama canceled his scheduled appearance during a conference of the World Ethical Foundations at the 17,500 seat Times Union Center in Albany, NY.37 According to his host Clare Bronfman, along with her sister Sara, heiresses to the Seagram fortune, ‘His Holiness spent an entire year vetting us out. I believe him to be an incredibly well-educated man of deep critical thought who considers his participation in anything he does very deeply.’38 The problem the Dalai Lama faced was that the World Ethical Foundations Consortium was connected to Nxivm, a litigious self-help group. Nxivm was headed by Keith Raniere (b. 1960), a controversial leader with a questionable history having been investigated by 25 state attorney generals and others for operating a pyramid marketing scheme.39 In spite of the prestige of the Dalai Lama’s presence, Skidmore College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which is Raniere’s alma mater, refused to be part of the conference.40

The 14th Dalai Lama, Keith Raniere, Nancy Salzman, and Sara Bronfman (Dharamsala, 2009)

The Dalai Lama backed out not long before the event after hearing warnings by the above-mentioned universities and local newspapers, not to be associated with Raniere and Nxivm. A columnist of the Daily Gazette of Albany, NY actually called the Dalai Lama’s cancellation a ‘no-brainer.’41 However, shortly thereafter Keith Raniere, along with his followers Nancy Salzman, Sara Bronfman, and Mark Vicente—who came along to document the encounter—traveled to Dharamshala, India to meet with the Dalai Lama and address his concerns: numerous pending lawsuits and being labeled a cult leader. The Dalai Lama asked for evidence to counter the allegations, though he had already invited Raniere and his followers for a meeting the very next morning.42

Keith Raniere & the 14th Dalai Lama (Palace Theater, Albany, May 6, 2009)

For whatever reasons, literally overnight, the Dalai Lama persuaded himself that allegations that Raniere was in charge of a cult named Nxivm were unfounded and revoked his cancellation.43 The conference was rescheduled, and the Dalai Lama appeared with Raniere, Salzman, and the Bronfman sisters at a smaller venue, the 3,000 seat Palace Theater in Albany on May 6, 2009.44 The Dalai Lama also wrote the foreword to The Sphinx and Thelxiepeia (2009), which was co-authored by Raniere.45

In response to a question from the audience during his public talk in the Palace Theater, in the context of explaining his attending the meeting after first canceling, the Dalai Lama addressed the media: ‘I’m always telling the media people, [that they] should have a long nose, as long as—[applause], wait, wait, wait—as long as an elephant’s nose and smell in the front and behind. That’s very important.’ He added that they should dig deep into issues and to be open and impartial: ‘Whether [it’s] a politician, or the mayor [laughing, who was sitting on the stage], or religious people, the bishops [a Bishop was sitting next to him], or myself, [they] must sort of watch and make clear, inform the public, provided it must be very honest, unbiased, objective, that’s important!’46

A Reasonable Priest

As we said, in this paper we intend to take the Dalai Lama at his word, that is, to look at some of his words and actions as a tried and tested religious leader, with long noses, to smell in the front and behind, to inform the public in an honest and objective way. We will assess his personal responsibility and accountability by viewing the Dalai Lama as a media-savvy, power-wielding religious authority, whose doings exhibit the same measure of logical consistency and transparency as that of a reasonable priest.47

The 14th Dalai Lama, ‘Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World’ (2011)

In recent years, the Dalai Lama has championed secular ethics outside religious belief. Surely, his secular values repudiate sexual abuse and criminal forms of violence under the guise of religion or spirituality.48 Also, in the documentary The Great 14th, the Dalai Lama says he has three principal commitments: secular ethics, religious harmony, and the cause of Tibet. 49 Underlining both the temporal nature of his own office and the primacy of the rule of law, the Dalai Lama confirmed that lamas who break the law—he himself included—should be prosecuted.50 It stands to reason to do as he does, so we will assess the Dalai Lama’s discharge of his duties during his reign as the Tibetan head of state, in particular his public endorsement of abusive teachers, from a temporal, secular perspective.

We will look into the Dalai Lama’s involvement with two famous Tibetan lamas, both part of orthodox Tibetan Buddhist lineages who, however, lived and taught for most of their lives in the West: Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoché and Sogyal Lakar, formerly known as Sogyal Rinpoché.51 We also examine the Dalai Lama’s dealings with two self-proclaimed non-Tibetan teachers: the Japanese Shōkō Asahara, who was put to death for releasing sarin gas in the Tokyo subway system which killed 13 people and injured thousands more, and the aforementioned Keith Raniere, who in 2020 in a trial in New York City received a 120-year prison sentence for a long list of crimes.52

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

‘It is not the Tibetan way to confront errant behavior on the part of the lamas. We prefer to let them learn about their mistakes on their own,’ the Dalai Lama told John Steinbeck IV and his wife Nancy. The year was 1989, and the American Nobel laureate’s journalist son and his wife pressed the Tibetan leader to introduce a system of checks and balances, to counteract the prevalent abuse of power by lamas in the West. Theirs was a wasted effort, as it turns out. This becomes clear in John and Nancy Steinbeck’s memoir The Other Side of Eden: Life with John Steinbeck (2001).53

During the preceding years, the American couple had witnessed up close, the destructive behavior of their own Buddhist guru, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoché (b. 1939 d. 1987).54 John Steinbeck IV first met Trungpa in 1971, and Nancy Steinbeck first met him in 1975. While Trungpa’s alcoholism was open and well known, his use of cocaine, the sleeping pill Seconal, and at least on one occasion, LSD was kept hidden from the majority of his followers. His incessant substance abuse and predatory promiscuity, including with minors, wreaked havoc in his Vajradhatu community in Boulder, Colorado, but also set an example for the abuse that took place at his other centers across the western world.55

Gesar Mukpo, ‘Tulku’ (Festival Media, 2011)

Trungpa’s offspring was not spared. In 1963, four years after escaping from Tibet at the age 0f 20, Trungpa moved to the United Kingdom. He left his one-year-old son and the child’s mother, a Tibetan nun, behind in a refugee camp in India, where the boy spent his formative years.56 Trungpa abandoned the boy again in 1970, shortly after he had summoned him to the UK. Three years later when the boy arrived in the United States, Trungpa sent him to boarding school.57

Trungpa abandoned his second son at the age of four—that is, the first child he had with Diana, his seventeen-year-old British wife. Nicknamed Taggie, he is autistic and epileptic. Taggie was left in the care of an untrained group of American devotees and later, under the ‘curative’ regime of hard-handed Tibetan monastics in Sikkim, India. Trungpa’s third son, likewise, was repeatedly abandoned to ad hoc caregivers, burning through seventeen schools in different countries.58 Arguably, even though the three boys, like the Dalai Lama himself, were declared trülkus of high Tibetan teachers, Trungpa, with this style of parenting, repeatedly exposed himself to charges of endangerment and criminal neglect of a child.59

Not even animals were safe with Trungpa. Former devotees gave testimony ‘about his strangely superstitious hatred and abuse of cats, evidently because they weren’t sufficiently grief-stricken at the death of Shakyamuni Buddha.’60 Trungpa’s former “head butler” wrote about the mistreatment of a dog:

One night after supper Rinpoche said, “Get Myson and bring him in here.” I dragged the shaking dog into the kitchen and following Rinpoche’s instructions I sat him on the floor and covered his eyes with a blindfold. I set up stands with lighted candles by either side of his head. Myson couldn’t move his head without being burned. Rinpoche rook a potato and hit Myson on the head with it. When the dog moved, the fur on his ear would catch on fire. I put out the flames. Now and then Rinpoche would scrape his chair across the tiled floor and whack him again on the head with a potato. “Sir,” I began hesitantly, trying to stop him. “Shut up,” snapped Rinpoche, “and hand me another potato.” I started to empathize with the dog. In fact, I became the dog. I was blindfolded and was banged on the head with a spud and if I turned my head my ears would burn and there was the squealing sound of the chair on the floor. Pissing in my pants I was that dog not being able to move, feeling terrified and at the same time excited. Finally, the scraping chair and the potato throwing stopped and we released the shaking dog, who ran upstairs to Max’s empty room. “That’s how you train students,” Rinpoche calmly stated to me.’ “Jesus,” I thought, “that’s pretty barbaric.” Rinpoche had me change the telephone number so that Max [the owner of the dog] could not call us before he came back. He arrived, bags in hand, concerned that he had not been able to reach us. Before he could say much else Myson rushed in and jumped all over him in exuberant delight. Rinpoche deliberately scraped the kitchen chair across the tiled floor. The terrified dog shot out of the house and fled across the field. Max was shocked and pointedly asked, “Rinpoche, what did you do to my dog?” “I don’t see any dog,” he replied, looking at me.61

Trungpa’s Successor

Though Trungpa certainly had hundreds if not more disciples, he designated only one successor, Thomas Rich, who was named Ösel Tendzin by Trungpa and titled Vajra Regent. Like his teacher Trungpa, the Regent was highly promiscuous. Unfortunately, he was HIV-positive which he kept secret aside from two members of the Board of Trustees, thereby risked transmitting HIV to the followers—male and female—that he forced himself on. In fact, one twenty-year-old, the son of a follower, contracted AIDS from the Regent and died. The Regent also engaged in unprotected sex with male street prostitutes.62

Dyan Zaslowsky, ‘Buddhists in U.S. Agonize on AIDS Issue’ (New York Times, February 21, 1989)

According to the Regent, Trungpa had discussed being HIV-positive with him before his death. The Regent added that he came away from that conversation with Trungpa feeling he could ‘change the karma.’ ‘”Thinking that I had some extraordinary means of protection,” Tendzin reportedly told a stunned community meeting organized in Berkeley, California in mid-December, “I went ahead with my business as if something would take care of it for me.”‘63

In spite of Trungpa’s and his self-chosen Regent, Ösel Tendzin’s years of alcohol, drug, and sexual abuse, Kalu Rinpoché, a widely sought-after meditation master of the Kagyü school, and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoché, hierarch of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism and a recognized master, scholar, and poet, as well as other leading Tibetan lamas continued to endorse Trungpa and his regent Ösel Tendzin—right until their protégés’ untimely deaths due to alcoholism and HIV/AIDS respectively.64 The Dalai Lama followed suit with his endorsements.

There is an irony here, in that Trungpa, his Regent as well as the Tibetan priests who endorsed them as intercessors and advocates, supposedly are all wise and even enlightened teachers. Yet, they seemed unaware of common human limitations: addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, money, and power. It also appears that upholding the good name of the Tibetan Buddhist institution and the reputations of its prominent teachers was more important to the leading priests, including the Dalai Lama, than protecting the unsuspecting public.

Stripped Naked By Force

Cover of ‘The Party’ (1977)

John Steinbeck IV became Trungpa’s follower in the early 1970s.65 As one of Trungpa’s early followers, John Steinbeck IV was acquainted with the all-American coterie of poets and authors that occasionally held court at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, a department of the nascent Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado.66 One well-known member of this group was the poet W.S. Merwin.67 In 1975, at a drunken Halloween bash taking place during a three month-long Buddhist ‘seminary’ program for advanced students, Merwin and his poet girlfriend Dana Naone were physically assaulted and stripped naked by force—by order of Chögyam Trungpa.68

Cover of the ‘Boulder Monthly’ (March, 1979)

The Merwin-scandal was investigated and made public in the spring of 1979, right before the Dalai Lama’s historic first visit to the United States of America.69 That summer, the authoritative magazine Tibetan Review, which was co-funded by the Dalai Lama’s exiled administration in Dharamsala, copied the article ‘”Buddha-Gate” Scandal and cover-up at Naropa revealed’ in the Berkeley Barb.70 But perhaps more importantly, the July issue also contained a disconcerting letter by Karl Springer, Trungpa’s head of external affairs. Springer’s letter was distributed at the end of 1978 and alleged a power grab and murder plot against the 16th Karmapa by the Dalai Lama’s principal supporters.71

Cover of ‘Berkeley Barb’ (March 29-April 11, 1979)

It’s inconceivable that Springer would have begun this campaign without Trungpa’s consent, for the rhetoric was outright incendiary. The 16th Karmapa was the head of the Kagyü sect to which Trungpa belonged, while the 14th Dalai Lama is the most prominent member of the Geluk sect.72 Predictably, a vocal polemic about Tibetan inter-sectarian strife ensued. In effect, the brouhaha instigated by Springer created a diversion that held the attention of Tibetan Review’s readers all through the summer of 1979—meanwhile, Trungpa’s alcohol-fueled, violent, and licentious conduct directed towards his western followers was left undiscussed.

Looking For Patrons

The Dalai Lama responded to the drunken bash and violence that took place at the three-months-long Vajrayana ‘seminary’ in 1975 by canceling a planned visit to Vajradhatu, Trungpa’s center in Boulder during his tour of the United States. He thus evaded reporters’ probing questions about the cultish “Buddha-gate” scandal and the alleged murder-plot against the Karmapa.73

Cover of ‘Tibetan Review’ (July 1979)

After all, this was his first ever visit to America and the stakes were high.74 When president Richard Nixon wooed Chairman Mao in the early 1970s, he ordered the Central Intelligence Agency to stop bankrolling the Dalai Lama and Tibetan guerilla forces as part of the normalization process as demanded by China.75 Consecutive US administrations repeatedly denied the Dalai Lama a visa. And so, by 1979 he was anxious to gain a foothold in US politics and look for needed new patrons of Tibet.

Moreover, at this time the fear of religious cult leaders was fresh in people’s minds. The murder-suicides in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978 where 918 people died mostly from cyanide-laced kool-aid, was only a year past.76 If asked outright about the violence and drinking that occurred at the Vajrayana retreat, the Dalai Lama could hardly avoid the unequivocal repudiation of Trungpa’s addictions, baseless assassination allegations, and violence, without forfeiting American benefactors’ hoped-for support of the Tibetan cause. A public rejection by the Dalai Lama could have caused collateral damage too: his high-profile comments on a religiously inspired, violent bacchanal in the nude might well have jeopardized Naropa Institute’s long sought-after academic accreditation and public funding.77

Evidently, the Dalai Lama was unwilling to disavow Trungpa and his community. The reasons for this are legion. He and Trungpa had at least one guru in common: Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoché. This alone would have led the Dalai Lama to exercise restraint.78 But he and Trungpa had personal ties as well, going back to the first years of exile.79 Also, Trungpa’s network of Buddhist centers across the United States, among the first of their kind, could act as one of the ‘operating bases’ for the Dalai Lama’s future visits.

The Dalai Lama and Chögyam Trungpa (Dharmadhatu, New York, 1979) [photo: Jan Andersson]

And so, the Dalai Lama bypassed Boulder, the mainstay of Trungpa’s activities at the time, altogether. Instead, he held several private meetings with Trungpa, Ösel Tendzin, and their board of directors in their Dharmadhatu center in New York City. Moreover, Trungpa’s pseudo-military militia Dorje Kasung provided the Dalai Lama with motorcades and a security detail.80 In 1981, after the fuss over Trungpa’s misconduct had died down, the Dalai Lama made up for lost time and spent a week with him and his Vajradhatu community in Boulder, which was considered to be ‘a great blessing’ by Trungpa and his followers.81

Left Out In The Cold

Cover of ‘The Other Side Of Eden: Life With John Steinbeck’ (2001)

When John and Nancy Steinbeck called upon the Dalai Lama for assistance in 1989, he had been well aware of and had tolerated the abusive behavior of Chögyam Trungpa and his successor, the Vajra Regent, for ten years or more. In response to the Steinbecks’ request, he confined himself to a generic warning to westerners against religious conversion and cautioned them to ‘examine the teacher with utmost scrutiny. There are many charlatans.’ After John Steinbeck IV reminded the Dalai Lama of what he already knew, he told him about Trungpa’s alcoholism and sexual abuse, and that Ösel Tendzin transmitted HIV/AIDS to a young male follower. The Dalai Lama said:

I would say that if you are going to follow a teacher, you must examine his behavior very carefully. In your case, with Trungpa Rinpoche, you had a lama who was drinking alcohol. We say, in our tradition, that a lama is never supposed to drink. Now, occasionally there have been some teachers who drink alcohol and claim to turn it into elixir. If I were considering following a teacher who drinks alcohol and claims to turn it into elixir, or excrement to gold, I would insist on seeing this happen. If I saw it happen, I may follow this teacher. Unless I see that happen, I would never follow him. The student has to take the responsibility of examining the behavior of the teacher very carefully, over a long period. You cannot be hasty about these things.82

The Dalai Lama’s posture, of course, projects a rather dubious distribution of responsibility and accountability between the unimpeachable Trungpa and his supposedly less than thoughtful followers. Interjecting the hypothetical that he himself—the Dalai Lama, of all people—might become Trungpa’s follower one day, in effect, he dismissed the victims and survivors as having been ‘hasty’ and irresponsible in choosing their guru. The Steinbecks’ plea that the Dalai Lama might take the lead in establishing a mere modicum of oversight fell on deaf ears, witness his response to their call to action in 1989:

“I am a believer in nonsectarianism. I try to provide as much motivation as I can. I have no interest in promoting myself. There are no Dalai Lama centers, no Dalai Lama monastery. Wherever I can contribute, I am willing.” To our dismay, he continued, “It is not the Tibetan way to confront errant behavior on the part of the lamas. We prefer to let them learn about their mistakes on their own.83

After their conversation, the couple clearly felt left out in the cold with no support that the Dalai Lama’s moral authority could have imparted. The Steinbecks were hardly gullible teenagers at this time. Both John and Nancy had spent years with Trungpa’s group, so were very aware of the abuse taking place. John was drafted into the Army in 1965 and served in Vietnam. Along with the famous actor Errol Flynn’s son Sean, he founded Liberation News Service, an independent news service reporting from Vietnam, where John had returned after release from the Army. He broke Seymour Hersh’s Mai Lai Massacre story and testified to the US Senate on drug use among soldiers in Vietnam. Nancy by this time was working in a “silk sheet” alcohol rehab clinic.

‘How Is Their Cover-up Any Different?’

By no stretch of the imagination would the Steinbecks be viewed as naive at this time, which was 1989. Yet we see them taking to heart the Dalai Lama’s often repeated words espousing tolerance, respect, kindness, and compassion. So surely, they believed, if he, the most prominent and respected Tibetan Buddhist only knew what was transpiring with Tibetan Buddhism in America, that he, the Dalai Lama would step in and offer some oversight to set it on a straight course. Unfortunately, that was not to be. Their disappointment with the Dalai Lama and their wake-up light shining on the Dalai Lama and other leading priests in Tibetan Buddhism is evident in the Steinbecks’ biting words:

“How is their cover-up any different from the decades of secrecy in the Catholic Church regarding their priests’ sexual abuse of choirboys?” I countered. John and I continued to be disappointed as the Dalai Lama and other lineage heads maintained their silence and offered no consequences to renegade lamas. By deliberately ignoring the situation, in what appears to be a fearful political ploy, these titular deities, these so-called God Kings are adding to the confusion instead of delineating clear moral guidelines. Their concern about the truth leaking out, which might drain their monastic coffers, flies in the face of all the teachings and vows they give concerning “right action.” Will it be a matter of time before they follow suit with the Catholics in offering apologies?’84

In 1993, at the Western Buddhist Teachers Conference held in his residence in India, the Dalai Lama, the central figure of the conference, told Western Buddhist teachers the following about Trungpa:

I’ve heard both sides. I once brought this up with my late guru Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoché, and Khyentse Rinpoché said: “It is true that some of the things he had done are outrageous and difficult to understand. But at the same time, he was someone who seemed to have a certain degree of realization.” That’s all that Khyentse Rinpoché said. One of the things that I noticed, is that the structure of his organization seemed to have been modeled on Japanese organizations. One of the sad things that I noticed about this particular organization is that I met some people who are from the organization who seemed to be living in constant fear and anxiety. I don’t know why. Why do such things happen? This is a Buddhist organization. They should not create any sort of fear in the organization. But an individual expressed to me that while they were in that organization, they felt some kind of fear. Why, I don’t know. What was it? I don’t know. I think that’s sad.85

Evidently, the reassuring words of his guru Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoché kept the Dalai Lama from looking deeper into the harm that he was warned about early on, or the reason for the fear and anxiety some students were living with. Perhaps he was insinuating that the problem was that Trungpa’s organization was modeled on Japanese—not Tibetan—organizations. Yet, his professed concern did not keep the Dalai Lama from frequenting Trungpa’s centers in the 1980s through 2000s. In fact, at least until 1993, he entrusted Trungpa’s American followers with the task of keeping him safe.

Before the US government began assigning the Secret Service to protect the Dalai Lama on his visits, members of Trungpa’s ‘militia’ Dorje Kasung served as his chauffeurs and security detail. The Dorje Kasung or Dharma Protectors, a group within Shambhala, was formed in 1977 by Trungpa with uniforms and style modeled on the British military. They are trained to protect the space where the teachings are given. So, instead of distancing himself, the Dalai Lama chose to be dependent on Trungpa for security and a certain amount of mobility when visiting the USA.86

Shoko Asahara’s Doomsday Cult

The 14th Dala Lama and Shōkō Asahara (Promotional material of Aum Shinrikyō)

Little did the Steinbecks know that at that time, the Dalai Lama did not just ignore the problems they mentioned with regard to Trungpa and his organization. He ignored serious misgivings about his years-long involvement with the infamous Japanese guru Shōkō Asahara (b. 1955 d. 2018) as well. Asahara was the founder and leader of Aum Shinrikyō, a Japanese doomsday cult group. At the height of its powers, Aum claimed to have some 10,000 Japanese members, 1,100 of whom lived in communes.

Asahara with some of his disciples would go on to masterminding nerve-gas attacks, first in 1994 attacking a building in Matsumoto, 110 miles from Tokyo. In 1995, they attacked the Tokyo subway system during rush hour by having five members on different subway lines simultaneously releasing bags of the deadly sarin nerve-gas. Aum’s large-scale assault with nerve gas killed thirteen people and wounded nearly 6,000. The police quickly figured out that Asahara and Aum were responsible for the attacks. Asahara was captured shortly after, tried and found guilty of murder, and was executed by hanging for his crimes on July 6, 2018, along with six other Aum-members.87

The Dalai Lama’s Written Endorsement of Aum Shinrikyō (May 26, 1989)

Ignoring Aum’s negative press, both in Japan and the Tibetan Review, but even more so, warnings of concerned Tibetans living in Japan and the alarming story of a Japanese victim who travelled to Dharamshala to personally warn one of his aides, the Dalai Lama continued to endorse Asahara for years. His endorsement was influential in Aum achieving the much coveted, tax-friendly recognition as a religious organization. The Dalai Lama received 1.5 million US dollars in donations from Asahara though it is not clear that the money was directly related to Asahara’s recognition as a religious organization. What is 100% clear, however, is that the Dalai Lama’s endorsement did not hurt in attaining religious organization status.88

After Aum’s fatal sarin attack in 1995, reporters accosted the Dalai Lama during his visit to Japan. They also traveled to Dharamshala, to ask Tibetan officials questions about the Dalai Lama’s eye-catching presence in Aum’s promotional literature and videos. Only a year later, the Dalai Lama’s spokesmen disclosed that he accepted a large donation from Aum Shinrikyō. But even then, they covered up an aide’s meeting with an ex-member of Aum Shinrikyō in 1990 and the objections Tibetans living in Japan raised in 1991. As a result, the true extent and financial rewards of the Dalai Lama’s seven meetings with Shōkō Asahara over the years, remained unreported at that time.

Sogyal Lakar

Unchastened by his conversation with John and Nancy Steinbeck concerning serious problems of abuse with Chögyam Trungpa, the Dalai Lama was as ready as before, in spite of knowing of abuse by Sogyal Lakar (b. 1947 d. 2019) too, to award his much sought-after endorsement.89 Suffering no consequences from furthering Shōkō Asahara’s mission either, the Dalai Lama went on to help jump-start the sluggish career of Sogyal. In 1992—the very year the Dalai Lama wrote his foreword to Sogyal’s best-selling The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying—he received a ten-page letter detailing his abusive behavior.90 But even before that time, he had already received warnings about this.

On November 2, 1994, a woman identified only as Janice Doe filed a widely published complaint for damages against Sogyal and his organization Rigpa. This civil case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. A contemporaneous news report cited the Dalai Lama’s secretary Tenzin Geyche Tethong as saying that Tibetan Buddhist leaders ‘have been aware of these (allegations) for some years now.’91

Western Teachers Conference (Dharamshala, March 1993)

In March 1993, approximately twenty-five western Buddhist teachers travelled to the Dalai Lama’s residence in India to discuss with him for four days ways to go forward in western Buddhism, but also, and perhaps primarily, to discuss sexual scandals seemingly rampant with Buddhist teachers in the West. Sogyal’s behavior, who the Dalai Lama referred to as his friend, was very much on the participants’ minds.92 The meeting has become widely known as the Western Buddhist Teachers Conference, which to this day, the Dalai Lama refers to and quotes from often, specifically in relation to abusive Buddhist teachers who will not change their ways.93 Though there have been subsequent such meetings, it is not a regular yearly affair.

The Network for Western Buddhist Teachers: ‘An Open Letter’ (1993)

The Dalai Lama counseled the western teachers to “out” such abusive teachers who are fixed in their ways. Though he gave much input to the wording of the conference’s closing statement, months later he did not sign his name onto it’s Open Letter to the western Buddhist community at large. This, of course, diminished its impact. Well-known western Buddhist author Stephen Batchelor, like the Steinbecks, was hardly a naive teenager at this time. He worked much with the Dalai Lama formulating the exact wording of the final statement to meet his satisfaction, was left with ‘the slightly unpleasant taste of having been used.’ He later wrote:

The Dalai Lama had succeeded in communicating his concerns and proposing a solution, but by removing his endorsement from the letter, his staff ensured that he did not have to take any responsibility for what it said. Once again, I became aware of how what appeared on the surface to be a shared cause between Tibetans and Westerners could also conceal conflicting agendas.94

Public Perception

History shows that the Dalai Lama is aware of the public perception of himself and the cause of Tibet and is keen to avoid image damage, as is his prerogative. In March 1993, for instance, right after his conference with the western Buddhist teachers ended, the Dalai Lama was quick to send an ‘angry fax’ to director William Sessions of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). That very week, the FBI had been engaged in psychological warfare with the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas.

US Congress, House Committee on Government Reform, ‘The Tragedy at Waco’ (2000)

As part of that FBI operation, its agents in Waco loudly played ‘the sound of rabbits being slaughtered,’ Christmas carols, an Andy Williams album, Nancy Sinatra singing ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking,’ and ‘chants recorded by followers of the Dalai Lama,’ through the night. When the Dalai Lama made known his offense to the FBI playing Tibetans’ chanting, however, Sessions immediately ordered them to stop playing the Tibetan tapes.95

So, evidently, the Dalai Lama chooses his battles. To take credit for Western Buddhist teachers’ public statement without taking responsibility, of course, would be viewed as a deft piece of politicking by many a seasoned priest. In effect, the Dalai Lama’s participation in the 1993 conference confirmed his moral rectitude in the public eye, while not signing the Open Letter reduced the risk of being held accountable for exposing Tibetan lamas—more particular, perhaps, lamas of other sects than his own—to legal battles in the West, to face charges of abuse.96

As a dyed-in-the-wool politician, the Dalai Lama must realize that his association with the teachers he endorses carries evidential weight—as a character witness, that is. This may sound harsh, but when abusive teachers are exposed by victims, survivors, and witnesses in mainstream media or the courts, while the Dalai Lama continues to publicly endorse them, he actually errs on the side of the teacher. Why? When there is a viable alternative: do nothing, keep silent.97

In each of the four cases we’ve looked into, the Dalai Lama chose differently, however. He chose to back people who he was well warned were courting trouble and scandal, but who also transferred to him considerable amounts of money or large exposure, showing him extreme deference that projects to western audiences his image as a revered and sanctified being.

Selective Indignation

Clearly, the Dalai Lama is perfectly capable of putting his foot down—he did cancel his appearance during the Nxivm event, at least at first. He is an assured, effective communicator as well—FBI-director Sessions learned this during the Waco standoff. The Dalai Lama does not shy away from stirring up controversy either—witness his much publicized, imperative stance in the inter- and intra-sectarian dispute over the Tibetan deity Dorje Shukden since the mid 1970s.98 Finally, the Dalai Lama is very particular about his endorsements—withholding his signature from the western teachers’ Open Letter in 1993 attests to that.

While whistle-blowers who denounce unethical, abusive, and even criminal conduct in public, bear the brunt of airing their overt criticism, the Dalai Lama routinely absolves himself from justifying why he continues to endorse the very ‘friends’ he is being warned about. His consecutive dealings with Chögyam Trungpa, Shōkō Asahara, Sogyal Lakar, and Keith Raniere are cases in point: The Dalai Lama did not distance himself from these repeat offenders unless and until his own image was at risk of being tarnished in media reports.99

Unprincipled, transactional conduct and selective indignation by a priestly authority and moral leader—any priestly authority or moral leader—are problematic, of course. But they are hardly surprising: a reasonable, media-savvy, power-wielding priest may be expected to put the perceived interests of his office and the institutions he represents first. That is exactly how all manner of religions turn themselves into ‘religions for abusers’—slanted playing fields from which victims and survivors come off worst.100 Also, with his conduct, the Dalai Lama, like priests in other religions, sets a norm from which the usual harmful results follow. This becomes clear from the response to a reporter’s query by one of his most celebrated followers.

No ‘Morality Police’

The world-famous monk Matthieu Ricard, the Dalai Lama’s main French interpreter, frequently accompanied Sogyal Lakar, while Ricard’s charity was sponsored by Rigpa, which is the name of Sogyal’s organization. Marianne-reporter Élodie Emery questioned Ricard about Sogyal’s downfall in 2017. According to Ricard there is no ‘morality police’ in Buddhism.101 About the Dalai Lama, Ricard said:

Having served him for the last twenty-five years, I can testify that he is strongly allergic to any kind of duplicity and pretense. On the other hand—and once again—it is not his role to act as an international Buddhist policeman. He can only remain as a teacher and as a point of reference, demonstrating by his own example the qualities of any Buddhist practitioner worthy of the name.102

Matthieu Ricard (World Economic Forum, Davos, 2017)

Rejecting a ‘morality police,’ Ricard would have Buddhist teachers’ duty of care devolve to every man for himself, and the Devil take the hindmost. Apparently, he is unaware that ‘demonstrating by his own example the qualities of any Buddhist practitioner worthy of the name’ might obligate the Dalai Lama—as well as himself—to stop endorsing or even retract previous endorsements of abusive Buddhist teachers. Also, Ricard seems to overlook the Dalai Lama’s avowed commitment to human rights and secular ethics.103 By Ricard’s rendering, the Dalai Lama simply bears no responsibility or accountability for his endorsements at all.104

The Dalai Lama, according to many, is viewed as the as the world’s most authoritative Buddhist, and as such is looked at as the prime example of Buddhist morality and of living a selfless upstanding life. To propose that the Dalai Lama bears no responsibility or accountability for his endorsements makes him into an empty and truthless figurehead—a caricature of a holy man. Yet, the Dalai Lama’s avowed commitment to the Charter of the Tibetans-in-Exile and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both of which he signed onto, demands that his endorsements actually mean something.105 And then there is his dedication to secular ethics. Certainly, many people have this in mind when they see him as a guide to right and compassionate living, and addressed as “His Holiness.”

Religious Realpolitik

More research is needed to establish the facts of the matter in more detail, but even a cursory glance at the history of his tours of the West reveals that the Dalai Lama was feted by numerous spiritual fortune hunters—Tibetan Buddhist or otherwise—of dubious pedigree. From his side, he has welcomed them in his residence on their visits to Dharamshala.106 As a rule, such teachers use the acquired photo opportunities, commendations, forewords, et cetera, to great effect, sprinkling themselves, their communities, their promotional material, and websites lavishly with the Dalai Lama’s stardust, to draw prospective followers in.107 In a word, the Dalai Lama Sells.108

Nina Burleigh, ‘Sex and Death on the Road to Nirvana’ (Rolling Stone, June 2013)

Some people have argued that the Dalai Lama’s religious commitments do not allow him to resist such overtures, but his own conduct belies this.109 In 2006, the American Tibetan Buddhist teacher Geshe Michael Roach, for instance, found out the hard way that the Dalai Lama’s hospitality has its limits. Roach had openly broken his vows of celibacy with one of his students and made claims for his own attainment among other acts that the Dalai Lama disapproved of. The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala dismissed Geshe Roach in no uncertain terms, refusing him a visit.110

It may be hard to determine just what criteria are normative in each particular case but, clearly, the Dalai Lama is not everybody’s friend. And so, each time the Dalai Lama himself, as is his wont, pays no heed to the public or private “outing” of the derailed teachers he endorses, his (in)actions speaks volumes. In effect, the Dalai Lama routinely advises others to do what he himself evades, that is, “out” in the media abusive unchanging teachers. But at the very least, stop endorsing questionable figures whose abuses have been thoroughly exposed.

The significant issue is not why the Dalai Lama acts this way—it might be called the priestly response par excellence. But: how does he get away with it? Surely, most professional observers would give short shrift to other religious and political leaders’ long-standing transactional relations with the likes of Trungpa, Asahara, Lakar, and Raniere, as the Dalai Lama has maintained. At times, it seems as if the Dalai Lama’s persona, as authorized representative of ancient and spiritually pure Tibet, allows him to retain an aura of sanctity that distorts people’s sense of reality. It even blunts the critical faculty of professional skeptics such as journalists and academic scholars.

Why else do so many observers fail to register that the Dalai Lama’s conduct mirrors the religious realpolitik of other priests promoting the interests of their offices and institutions? Why else do they find it so hard to hold him accountable for the actual exercise of his priestly authority—both his acts of commission and omission?

25 Years Later

The 14th Dalai Lama meets victims and survivors in Rotterdam (September 14, 2018) [Photo: Marlies Bosch]

Fast forward to 2018, when the Dalai Lama made a scheduled four-day visit to the Netherlands. This was a time of the growing power of the #metoo-movement that “outs” men or women in power who are sexually abusive to people they had power over. This coupled with a robust letter writing campaign that reached over 1,000 signatures in the first week and the resultant media attention, pushed the Dalai Lama to meet for twenty minutes with four people who had been involved with sexually abusive Tibetan lamas.111

That is correct, it took a robust letter writing and media campaign to get the Dalai Lama on a four-day visit to the Netherlands, to agree to a twenty-minute meeting to hear four first-hand accounts of students who were involved with abusive lamas. Even with that time frame, the first fifteen minutes or so, the Dalai Lama did most of the talking, lecturing these four people as if they came to be counseled by him. Actually, they wanted him to hear their testimonies and their requests, as well as to receive the written accounts, for his eyes only, of twelve people in all. Because they were feeling rushed by his aides, while not being told how much time they were allocated, the four were forced to interrupt the Dalai Lama’s talking, not an easy position, to get him to understand why they were there.

The Dalai Lama did not seem to realize that his doing the talking instead of listening, was another form of abuse. Also, he did not realize when he told the four victims and survivors—three women and one man—to out the abusive teachers who will not change, just how difficult that in fact is, as one of the women bluntly told him. Unfortunately, she did not remind the Dalai Lama that he himself refuses to do just that! But when the Dalai Lama told the four people that they should not put the whole responsibility on his shoulders, she did retort that making individual victims and survivors responsible for outing the abusive teacher amounts to the same. Somehow, the Dalai Lama found it hard to express his sympathy with the man who was frequently beaten as a child by his supervisor who was following the instructions of ‘Lama Kunzang’—while young girls were being abused by the lama himself. And so, one of the women told him: ‘Can’t you just say that you’re sorry that it happened?’

Unique Meeting

This meeting with the Dalai Lama was unique in that he was forced to stop talking and to listen to what the visitors had to say. It was also unique in that he was told that he did not understand what was involved in following his advice of “outing” abusing teachers. This meeting in the Netherlands was unique in yet another important way, for the first time, in his own words, the Dalai Lama corroborated that he had been familiar with the many allegations against Sogyal’s abuse for twenty-five years.

Sogyal Lakar, Carla Bruni & the 14th Dalai Lama (Lerab Ling, France, August 22, 2008)

During their meeting in Rotterdam, the Dalai Lama agreed to the petitioners’ demand that he would ask the Mind & Life Institute to host a meeting on human sexuality, sexual abuse by lay and ordained religious teachers, and sexual trauma. He also agreed to the 1,200 petitioners’ request to put the abuse by lay and ordained Buddhist teachers on the agenda of a gathering of religious leaders and representatives of the major Tibetan schools in Dharamsala in November 2018.

However, in doing so he shifted the responsibility for the follow up to the victims and survivors he was speaking to. Of course, this greatly weakened the potential impact. After the meeting of the heads of the various sects had been postponed and rescheduled without notice to these four people, its single focus became the Dalai Lama’s succession—not sexual abuse. And so, at the time of writing, the Dalai Lama has yet two deliver on these two promises.112

A day after the meeting in Rotterdam, he repeated his remark on Dutch national television to reporter Nicole le Fever of the Dutch Eight O’Clock News.113And yet, this knowledge did not keep the Dalai Lama from visiting Sogyal Lakar’s centers and events, including the three-day opening of its main temple, Lerab Ling, in 2008 in southern France, where he was clearly the main attraction to Sogyal’s almost uncontrollable delight. It also proves that the Dalai Lama was aware of Sogyal’s long history of abuse while not “outing” him as he advised others to do.

In spite of this knowledge, the Dalai Lama further authenticated Sogyal’s legitimacy by allowing one of his organizations—the Tenzin Gyatso Institute in Berne, NY—to be named after him.114 To this day, Rigpa claims to have ‘the gracious patronage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.’115 Sogyal instructed his spokespeople to answer questioning journalists with ‘the Dalai Lama is supporting Sogyal Rinpoché one hundred percent.’116 And who can question their claim after seeing the video of the opening ceremony beginning with the Dalai Lama flying in on a private plane followed by the prominent position he played during the three-day event in 2008?117

Don’t Do What I Do, Do What I Say

Perhaps tellingly, the Dalai Lama declared about Sogyal Lakar: ‘Now recently Sogyal Rinpoche, my very good friend, he [is] disgraced. So, some of his own students now made their criticism public.’118 But he only said so after Sogyal had stepped down. How much pain and suffering could have been avoided if he spoke earlier? After all, he had 25 years to consider his options.

Is the Dalai Lama’s view that Sogyal was ‘disgraced’ by his followers’ disclosure of his abusive behavior—not by his actions? This is a curious conclusion, especially so, since it is the Dalai Lama who counsels followers to expose their own unrepentant abusive teachers. Whatever the Dalai Lama meant with the peculiar sentence structure above, it is clear that he had nothing to do with his ‘friend’s’ disgrace.

Not having confronted Sogyal’s abuse for twenty-five years—victims’ and survivors’ numerous warnings be forgotten— but having endorsed him instead, the Dalai Lama washed his hands of the affair once his ‘very good friend’ was brought into disrepute—just like he did with Chögyam Trungpa, Shōkō Asahara, and Keith Raniere.

It sounds all well and good to say as the Dalai Lama has, ‘It is not the Tibetan way to confront errant behavior on the part of the lamas. We prefer to let them learn about their mistakes on their own.’ This is fine as long as one can blind oneself to the effects on the victims of ‘the lamas’ while they are supposedly learning—decades long—about their mistakes on their own. Unfortunately, as we have seen above, at least a few lamas are exceedingly slow learners when it comes to learning of their own mistakes. Too, with these lamas, both Trungpa and Sogyal in particular, as is common with most people, the longer they get away with questionable behavior, the more entrenched and extreme becomes that behavior.

We have also seen above how the highest-ranking trülkus of the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism from the Dalai Lama down, have refused to admonish, in any way, these slow-learning lamas.119 In fact, the opposite has occurred, they have continued to endorse these very lamas for periods longer than 25 years. This is in spite of the Dalai Lama in 1993 counselling western teachers to “out” abusive Lamas/Dharma teachers/Zen masters who after warnings, will not change their behavior. Apparently the old saying, ‘Don’t do what I do, do what I say’ appears to be the lesson of the Dalai Lama.

False Sense Of Security

Some students of Tibetan Buddhism in the west taking the Dalai Lama’s public words to heart, were perhaps naive—but no less justified—in their expectations of him. Arguably, the Dalai Lama’s meeting with the western Buddhist teachers in 1993, as well as his frequent references to that meeting, provided some casual observers with a false sense of security. But when there were scandals involving Tibetan Buddhist lamas, the Dalai Lama was as quiet as the proverbial church mouse and nowhere to be seen.

The Dalai Lama himself, however, is anything but naive. For decades, his unprincipled dealings with abusive and even criminal teachers were transparent and consistent to the point of being highly predictable. Meanwhile, the organizations founded and led by Trungpa, Asahara, Lakar, and Raniere served as scattered outposts of the Dalai Lama’s realm that provided him with much-coveted connections to political, financial, and religious patrons, favourable media exposure, institutional and practical assistance abroad, and grassroots support for him and his good causes.

Some have discredited the Dalai Lama’s statements as recorded by John and Nancy Steinbeck as inauthentic—‘fake news,’ before the term gained currency. However, there is no reason to doubt their credibility. In fact, the Dalai Lama’s words ‘We prefer to let them learn about their mistakes on their own,’ sound like an eerily accurate description of his actual behavior. The Dalai Lama does prefer this. He acts as if he feels no moral responsibility to the public at large when it comes to associating with abusive lamas. And in doing so, he is the spitting image of a reasonable priest.

The Dalai Lama’s conduct is very consistent indeed: his attitude towards abusive teachers mirrors his transactional relations with dubious or even murderous ‘old friends’ who he perceives as political supporters.120 And the Dalai Lama simply accepts no personal accountability for his continued endorsement and elevation of the abusive and criminal ‘friends’ who sink into disrepute. He distances himself only when they bring discredit upon his office or his activities on behalf of the Tibetan people.

The Dalai Lama’s Flip

The HBO documentary series The Vow was broadcast during the Covid-19 pandemic. It showed the Dalai Lama’s association with Keith Raniere and Nxivm, and importantly, how little “investigating” warnings from reputable sources may mean to him when he is endorsing questionable people. Raniere, Sara Bronfman, Nancy Salzman, and Mark Vincente flew to Dharamshala by private plane, and their meeting with the Dalai Lama resulted in an almost magical over-night change of mind. He went from canceling his appearing with Raniere on stage to agreeing with a stage appearance together—thereby endorsing him while a whistle-blower was being sued.

HBO, ‘The Vow: A Nxivm Story’ (Season 1, 2020)

Even Mark Vincente, at the time a Raniere loyalist and film maker brought along to record the meeting, appears surprised by the Dalai Lama’s overnight flip. According to Vincente, ‘the whole idea about having him come [to the Albany stage appearance] was to basically vindicate Raniere.’ Not surprisingly, Raniere, like Sogyal the year before, could hardly contain himself over receiving this highest stamp of approval, the Dalai Lama’s endorsement, as is clearly shown in the documentary.121

At that time, Clare Bronfman had just filed a criminal complaint with the Saratoga, NY District Attorney against Barbara Bouchey, a former executive board member of Nxivm. Bouchey, who had been the Bronfman sisters’ financial planner, resigned two weeks before the Dalai Lama’s visit, along with eight key female followers. Bouchey was in fact a long-time lover and loyalist of Raniere but resigned when she discovered that she was just one of many Nxivm women who were sexual partners of Raniere.122

Together, this group of women hoped to “wake up” other people in Nxivm and get the government involved, to hold Keith Raniere accountable. In response, civil charges were brought against Bouchey. This was not really surprising, as Clare Bronfman, with almost unlimited financial resources, had a history of pursuing people through the courts that caused trouble for Raniere. ‘Of course, it didn’t do anything,’ Bouchey said, looking back on the failed intervention that immediately preceded the Dalai Lama’s visit.

The footage of his meeting with Raniere in Dharamshala proves that the Dalai Lama was aware that some litigation was ongoing, but also that he wasn’t clear who was suing whom. His questions were less than probing, as were the questions of his advisors. The Dalai Lama satisfied himself with Sara Bronfman’s remark ‘There is no lawsuit;’ Nancy Salzman’s ‘They’re not against him [that is, Keith Raniere], none of them are against him;’ and Keith Raneire’s ‘The things that are said are not only just opinion, but the facts that they use are incorrect: to propagate that we are a cult, we are a cult, we are a cult, with no evidence.’

Clearly, the Dalai Lama did not bother to have his aides check in with Barbara Bouchey or her fellow apostates, or other, easily checkable media reports and long-term records of lawsuits.123 In the words of Mark Vincente, Raniere’s film maker brought along to document the meeting, ‘seemingly out of nowhere,’ the Dalai Lama agreed to appear in the Palace Theater in Albany after all. It seemed like a set piece: was the Dalai Lama agreeing out of nowhere or was it arranged before filming?

Will He Learn?

Evidently, neither the result of his own supposed careful vetting, or Raniere’s widely reported track record, nor his too easy a denial, raised the Dalai Lama’s concern enough to call for at least a pause in his support for Raniere. And so, the Dalai Lama, one of the world’s leading advocates of secular ethics, squandered yet another real opportunity to warn the public at large of a less than ethical teacher by withdrawing his moral support.

Raniere was recently convicted and sentenced to an almost unheard of 120-year sentence, convicted of a long list of crimes: racketeering, sex trafficking, child pornography possession, and others—to what is effectively a life sentence. Clare Bronfman, his loyal supporter and financial backer, received a sentence of 81 months. The Dalai Lama remained in seclusion inside his residence in India at the time and wasn’t traveling abroad, most likely because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hence, he was hardly questioned by media about his connection to Raniere.

Few journalists, if any, had a chance to question the Dalai Lama on his appearance in the documentary, The Vow either, while its wide media coverage in the United States may well have escaped him. Therefore, it remains to be seen what lessons, if any, the Dalai Lama learned “about his mistakes” in being involved with Nxivm. Will he continue to endorse and vindicate the very people he is warned about? Will he continue to ignore the very media exposure of offenders he himself calls for? Will he accept any personal responsibility and accountability at all for his transactional attitude towards persons with questionable histories with the law and society’s ethical standards and the way they reciprocate his endorsement?124

We say transactional because the Dalai Lama or organizations affiliated with him reaped considerable benefits from his association with characters whose history broadcast clear warning signs of trouble ahead: $1.5 million from Asahara, for instance. Then too, ten days after being on the stage with Raniere, $2 million showed up in a new foundation with the Dalai Lama’s name on it. Coincidence, perhaps?125 But the Bronfman sisters were some of the most loyal of Raniere’s followers: they bankrolled him with $ 100 million for years. Moreover, they stood to receive a vast inheritance. To the Dalai Lama, their mere proximity provided a motive for the cultivation of goodwill between them.126

Symbolic Capital

Mary Finnigan & Rob Hogendoorn, ‘Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche’ (Jorvik Press, 2019)

If any money transpired between the Dalai Lama, his foundations and Trungpa or Sogyal directly is unknown.127 However, both of these lamas had control of large sums of cash which they spent lavishly on themselves. At the very least, they and their organizations afforded the Dalai Lama much exposure to western audiences, covering him in social and political capital—all expenses paid—while presenting him as the supreme representative of Tibetan Buddhism, as a sacred being beyond question.

Once more, the question arises: How does the Dalai Lama get away with acting in so evident a transactional manner when dealing with people with questionable histories, yet still, both he and Tibetan Buddhism of which he is the main representative, are viewed as the epitome of untainted, pure spiritual attainment? Perhaps it has to do with the West, to a large extent creating the myth of Tibetan Buddhism as an untainted religion surviving unspoiled by modern ideas and lifestyles, in isolation from the rest of the world in an imaginary Kingdom of Shangri-La made famous in the movie Lost Horizon in 1937.128

The problem with the western people creating and then naturally buying this myth is just that, it is a myth. The Dalai Lama is, however, the delegated spokesman for Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism. Because of his social position he has legitimate access to the language of the institution. His words are not only his—he is also a carrier of the words of the institution and as such, represents the authority of Tibetan Buddhism. He is the authorized spokesperson, the delegated representative whose words and speech concentrates within it the accumulated symbolic capital of the institution—pure, unadulterated Tibetan Buddhism. It has delegated him as its authorized representative, to be an object of guaranteed belief, certified as correct—that is, both right and just.129

The Buck Never Stops

As a ‘simple monk,’ the Dalai Lama upholds this supercharged image while he directly interferes with real life situations in exiled Tibetan Buddhist communities and monasteries throughout Asia, and Tibetan Buddhist communities in the West—via constant endorsements, audiences, teaching tours, residencies, requests, exhortations, and interdictions.130 Moreover, for more than 60 years the Dalai Lama served as the religious and temporal leader of the Tibetan people at the same time, acting as the exiles’ head of state.

The 14th Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela (Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Amsterdam)

Traditionally, each person who holds the office called Dalai Lama is understood to be an emanation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara—the Bodhisattva known for his compassion for all sentient beings. It is safe to say, then, that any Dalai Lama’s words carry a rather unusual weight. Indeed, the ‘immutability’ and ‘inviolability’ of his public office tend to supersede the responsibility and accountability for the way the Dalai Lama acquits himself of his tasks in real life. To many, both Tibetan Buddhists and not, the Dalai Lama is a ‘sovereign’ it seems, who never gets called on for his words and/or actions, who can do no wrong. The buck never stops with him.

Arguably, by ending his political role in 2011, abdicating the throne as Tibetan head of stateeven though everyone, including the Tibetan President Lobsang Sangay, still defers to his political judgement—the Dalai Lama became even less accountable. Previously, the Constitution of Tibet and Charter of Tibetans-in-exile, at least in theory, provided that the Dalai Lama’s executive functions could be taken over by the Council of Regency ‘in the highest interests of the State.’131 Now, he has reverted his position ‘back to its role and responsibility as being the spiritual head.’ In effect, the Dalai Lama alone determines if his ‘constituents’—the Tibetan people, people across the Himalayas, and ‘other Buddhists who are connected to the Dalai Lamas’—still support the continuation of the office he holds.132

However, the Central Tibetan Administration in exile is not a full-blown democracy—nor does it claim to be one. When everyone is responsible for evaluating the Dalai Lama’s discharge of his self-defined mission, most likely no one is. Which of his followers would dare to stand up to a ‘simple monk’ who is the emanation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara and the last beacon of hope of the Tibetan people? It is a highly effective means of control, of course. If the only option to have the Dalai Lama remain in this world is to see him as all-good, this curtails any open and transparent judging of his actions as he claims to call for. But ask yourself: does this benefit or corrupt the Dalai Lama’s office and the Tibetan cause?133

Words, Actions, Reputation

No matter what is the Dalai Lama’s personal learning process, some constants in his conduct are clear: ignoring well founded warnings of deep problems with people he is associating with; letting himself be used to legitimate questionable people and activities; quietly accepting large amounts of money; private meetings with controversial people; leaving victims, survivors, and whistleblowers out in the cold, while gaining access and exposure to a wide audience; and being preoccupied with the continuity of his own office.

All this considered, the Dalai Lama’s involvement with Chögyam Trungpa, Shōkō Asahara, Sogyal Lakar, and Keith Raniere, as well their abusive communities, offers a valuable perspective on the way he performs his duties as a religious, moral, and political leader over a long period of time. It also gives us a window into seeing how well the Dalai Lama’s words and actions match or not. If anything, history shows that he is an exceedingly poor judge of character.134

Hopefully, a more down to earth view of the plausible motives and imperatives that have guided the Dalai Lama’s fulfilment of his responsibilities since the 1970s, helps those at risk of being abused recognize his enabling behavior towards abusive teachers before they are harmed. Again, in the Dalai Lama’s own words, ‘they [media people, researchers] should dig deep into issues and to be open and impartial. Whether a politician, or the mayor, or religious people, the bishops, or myself, must sort of watch and make clear, inform the public, provided it must be very honest, unbiased, objective, that’s important!’

Not Too Holy To Fail

Good and bad aspects of being human can operate at different times in the same person. A well-founded critique of the Dalai Lama’s failure to protect the public at large by confronting or condemning his abusive ‘friends,’ does not diminish his numerous achievements. Also, it does not negate his preeminence as a lucid expositor of Tibetan Buddhist ideas. On the other hand, such a critique is not indicative of a reprehensible susceptibility to Chinese propaganda or the silent support of the oppression of the Tibetan people. There is just no good reason to believe that the Dalai Lama is too holy to fail. These are specious arguments, that deny his agency.

George W. Bush, the 14th Dalai Lama and Nancy Pelosi (Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony, October 17, 2007)

The simple fact of the matter is that the Dalai Lama was Tibetans’ absolute ruler for more than 60 years. Since 1991, the Charter of Tibetans-in-exile promulgates that the Central Tibetan Administration must ‘endeavor to improve the purity and efficiency of academic and monastic communities of monks, nuns, and tantric practitioners, and shall encourage them to maintain proper behavior.’ Right after the Dalai Lama went into exile in 1959, his administration made the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a cornerstone of its Constitution. The Charter that is now in force, likewise, mandates the Central Tibetan Administration to adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On top of that, the Dalai Lama urges the necessity of a secular approach to universal ethics.

Such express commitments do not merely bring about entitlements, but obligations as well. After all, Tibetans are not merely subject to human rights abuses, some of the Tibetan lamas the Dalai Lama endorses, commit them. Given his avowed commitment to the Charter of the Tibetans-in-exile, it is a fair question to ask what the Dalai Lama does to ‘improve the purity’ of Tibetan lamas, and ‘encourage them to maintain proper behavior’ when he has the chance. His international stature as a moral leader and champion of secular ethics implies that the Dalai Lama’s dealings with non-Buddhist abusive leaders merit critical scrutiny as well. The untold numbers of victims and survivors in four continents deserve that much. Let us then not judge the Dalai Lama’s words and actions by his reputation, but rather, the other way around.135

The text has been updated, to reflect the latest findings of our ongoing research.

  1. We use the word ‘priest’ here in its neutral sense, derived from the ecclesiastical Latin presbyter or ‘elder,’ to denote a person who performs religious ceremonies and duties in a non-Christian religion.
  2. Turrel Wylie submits that the concept of the trülku fulfilled social, cultural, and political needs that were felt in Tibet around the 14th century. The erstwhile Mongol patrons were riled by the recurring sibling rivalry between scions of the Khön (Wyl. ‘khon) family dynasty from Sakya (Wyl. sa skya) in Tibet. The Khön clan had acted as the Mongol’s regents of Tibet since the days of Kublai Khan (b. 1215 d. 1294), but was marginalized by the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorjé (Wyl. karma pa rang byung rdo rje, b. 1284 d. 1339). According to Wylie, Mongol rulers were attracted to his political profile for three main reasons: First, the transfer of political power from one trülku to the next would eliminate the sibling rivalry inherent in biological lineages; second, trülkus, especially celibate monks committed to frugality, would lack the patrimonial connections with which to foment rebellion; and third, transitioning the charisma from the person to his or her office would institutionalise the rule by priests, irrespective of personal charisma. A few decades later, however, the Mongols were overthrown by the Chinese Ming dynasty, which kept the Karmapa lineage from achieving long-term political supremacy in Tibet. Wylie, Turrell V. (1978). Reincarnation: a political innovation in Tibetan Buddhism. In Louis Ligetti (Ed.), Proceedings of the Csoma de Kőrös Memorial Symposium, Hungary, 24-30 September 1976 (pp. 579-586). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó; Gardner, Alexander. (2011). The Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje: b.1284 – d.1339. Treasury of Lives. Retrieved April 14, 2021. Throughout the endnotes, Tibetan names and words are transliterated according to Turrel Wylie’s (Wyl.) sanctioned orthography, but only on their first appearance. Wylie, Turrel V. (1959). A standard system of Tibetan transcription. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 22, pp. 261-267. The transliterations were phonetically transcribed with the online Tibetan Phonetics Converter of the Tibetan & Himalayan Library (THLib.), except where widely established renderings of terminology, proper names, and locations exist. At the first mention of well-known names, the proper ThLib. transcription is noted. Tibetan Phonetics Converter of the Tibetan & Himalayan Library. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  3. Hirshberg, Daniel A. et al. (2017). Preface: The Tulku (sprul sku) Institution in Tibetan Buddhism. Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines, 38, pp. i-iii. See also: Dreyfus, Georges. (1995). Law, State, and Political Ideology. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 18 (1), pp. 117-138.
  4. Estimates of the number of trülkus in exile in the 1970s through 2010s have mounted from circa 120 to 1,000. Most authors agree that their number rapidly increased in exile. Bomhard, Allan R. (Ed.). (2002). The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet: By John Blofeld (1913—1987): Revised and edited by Allan R. Bomhard. Charleston: Charleston Buddhist Fellowship; Hixon, Lex. (1976). The Moment You See Him. The Laughing Man, 1 (2), pp. 51-54; Aziz, Barbara N. (1976). Reincarnation Reconsidered: Or the Reincarnate Lama as Shaman. In John T. Hitchkock & Rex L. Jones (Eds.), Spirit Possession in the Nepal Himalayas (pp. 343-360). Warminster: Aris and Phillips; Saklani, Girija. (1978). Tibetan Refugees in India: A Sociological Study of an Uprooted Community; Bärlocher, Daniel. (1982). Testimonies of Tibetan Tulkus: A Research among Reincarnate Buddhist Masters in Exile: Volume I: Materials. Ph. Dissertation, Universität Freiburg, Freiburg. pp. 67-68; Michael, Franz. (1982). Rule by Incarnation: Tibetan Buddhism and Its Role in Society and State. Boulder: Westview Press. p. 43; Avedon, John F. (1998). In Exile from the Land of Snows: The Definitive Account of the Dalai Lama and Tibet Since the Chinese Conquest. New York: Harper Perennial. pp. 119; Buswell Jr., Robert E. & Donald S. Lopez Jr. (2014). The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 847; Asshauer, Egbert. (2006). Tulkus—The Mystery of the Living Buddhas: Conversations, Encounters, Backgrounds. Ulm: Fabri Verlag. pp. 43, 156; Asshauer, Egbert. (2010). Das tibetische Tulkusystem: Entwicklung und Bedeutung. Tibet und Buddhismus, (3), pp. 29-33; Levine, Norma. (2018). The Tibetans. In The Spiritual Odyssey of Freda Bedi: England, India, Burma, Sikkim, and Beyond (pp. 133-168). Merigar: Shang Shung Publications.
  5. Dagyab Rinpoche has referred to the rapid increase of the number of trülkus in exile as a ‘trülku boom.’ Dagyab Rinpoche. (1992). Religion: Problems in the development of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. Tibetan Review, 27 (10), pp. 15-17. Marco Pallis noted in 1960 that ‘of late years’ some ‘suspicious occurrences’ demonstrated lapses in the traditional screening of formally instated trülkus. Pallis, Marco. (1960). The Way and the Mountain. London: Peter Owen Limited. pp.169-170. The 14th Dalai Lama, likewise, said: ‘”So, in Tibetan history, some lamas [were] really wonderful, but some lamas [are a] disgrace. I think..” [continues in Tibetan]. Translator: “So, this master Chösang Rinpoche, has said that when someone is recognized as a reincarnation of some high lama, of a predecessor, it seemed that there was some wisdom in it, in recognizing the reincarnation. But when this reincarnation actually proves to be a disgrace, then I really feel very sad from the depth of my heart.” Dalai Lama: “So there are cases now, frankly speaking, [in which] the individual lama utilizes the name of reincarnation, but never pays much attention to study and practice. So, these lamas disgrace the Buddhadharma.'” Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (2019). Interaction with College Students. YouTube.com. Retrieved April 9, 2021. In 2011, the Dalai Lama critiqued: ‘Today, there are recognized Tulkus in all the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Sakya, Geluk, Kagyu and Nyingma, as well as Jonang and Bodong, who serve the Dharma. It is also evident that amongst these Tulkus some are a disgrace. (…) In the recent past, there have been cases of irresponsible managers of wealthy Lama-estates who indulged in improper methods to recognize reincarnations, which have undermined the Dharma, the monastic community and our society.’ Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (2011). Reincarnation. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 9, 2021. For critical observations on the formal institution of tulkus by the Dalai Lama’s brother Tenzin Choegyal, see: McGirk, Tim. (2013). Reincarnation in Exile. Believermag.com. Retrieved April 9, 2021; Craig, Mary. (1998). Kundun: A Biograpy of the Family of the Dalai Lama. London: Fount. pp. 161.
  6. Anya Bernstein writes: ‘The identification of the successive incarnation of high lamas, an institution that developed in Tibet as early as the eleventh century, ensured the inheritance of leadership and property from one generation to the next at a time when celibate monastic communities replaced noble families—previously the primary patrons of Buddhism—to became centers of Buddhist power and governance. Taking a Weberian view of authority, Turrell Wylie suggested that the institution of reincarnation facilitated the “transition from charisma of person to a charisma of office: a change essential to the establishment of a hierocratic form of government that could survive as an institution regardless of the charisma of any individual.” Focusing on the role of reincarnation in the transfer of property, Melvyn Goldstein demonstrated how features inherent in reincarnation transformed the Tibetan political system itself, resulting in what he called a “circulation of estates,” large blocks of arable land intermittently held by incarnate lamas in power.’ Bernstein, Anya. (2017). Buddhist Body Politics: Life, Death, and Reincarnation in Transnational Eurasis. Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines, 38, pp. 157-182.
  7. For present purposes, we take our estimate from the total of 14 Dalai Lamas since the first was born in 1391. Their number sits between 8 consecutive Panchen Lamas and 17 consecutive Karmapas. The Tibetan tradition posits that the 3rd Karmapa was the first major trülku, but modern scholarship calls that assumption into question. Wylie, Turrell. V. (1978). Reincarnation: a political innovation in Tibetan Buddhism. In Louis Ligetti (Ed.), Proceedings of the Csoma de Kőrös Memorial Symposium, Hungary, pp. 24-30 September 1976 (pp. 579-586). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. Dreyfus, Georges. (1995). Law, State, and Political Ideology. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 18 (1), pp. 117-138; Van der Kuijp, Leonard W. J. (2005). The Dalai Lamas and the Origin of Reincarnate Lamas. In Martin. Brauen (Ed.), The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History (pp. 15-31). Chicago: Serindia Publications.
  8. Wylie, Turrell. V. (1978). Reincarnation: a political innovation in Tibetan Buddhism. In Louis Ligetti (Ed.), Proceedings of the Csoma de Kőrös Memorial Symposium, Hungary, pp. 24-30 September 1976 (pp. 579-586). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó; Dreyfus, Georges. (1995). Law, State, and Political Ideology. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 18 (1), pp. 117-138; Van der Kuijp, Leonard W. J. (2005). The Dalai Lamas and the Origin of Reincarnate Lamas. In Martin. Brauen (Ed.), The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History (pp. 15-31). Chicago: Serindia Publications.
  9. The 3rd Dalai Lama, Sönam Gyatso (b. 1543 d. 1588), was the first to bear that title. The title Dalai Lama (Wyl. ta la’i bla ma, ocean,’ ‘vast,’ or universal lama) was given to him by the Mongol ruler Althan Khan (b. 1507 d. 1582). The first two Dalai Lamas were recognized posthumously, many years after their deaths. Van der Kuijp, Leonard W. J. (2005). The Dalai Lamas and the Origin of Reincarnate Lamas. In Martin Brauen (Ed.), The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History (pp. 15-31). Chicago: Serindia Publications. The 5th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lopsang Gyatso (b. 1617 d. 1682), unified Tibet in the wake of a civil war. In 1642, the Mongol leader Güshi Khan (b. 1582 d. 1655) enthroned the 5th Dalai Lama as the ruler of Tibet. He thereby established the yön chö (Wyl. yon mchod, ‘patron-spiritual teacher’ or ‘donor-donee’) relation of joint political and religious rule that became the hallmark of the hegemonizing Tibetan political ideology. See the extensive discussions of the lineage of the Dalai Lamas in: Mullin, Glenn H. (2001). The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation. Santa Fe: Clear Light Publications; Brauen, Martin. (Ed.). (2005). The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History. Chicago: Serindia Publications.
  10. Dreyfus, Georges. (1995). Law, State, and Political Ideology. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 18 (1), pp. 117-138. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  11. In 1979, for instance, the 14th Dalai Lama said about trülkus and his own office: ‘Buddha in all his teachings has never mentioned any special status, only qualification. (Regarding) the Tulku system there was some connection with the social system of Tibet in the past. And some of this will change. (…) This Tulku system evolved in the Tibetan society, so it will go on its own evolution and changes. Basically it has nothing to do with the teaching. (…) Rebirth is there, reincarnation is there. But not the lineages.’ Bärlocher, Daniel. (1982). Testimonies of Tibetan Tulkus: A Research among Reincarnate Buddhist Masters in Exile: Volume I: Materials. Universität Freiburg, Freiburg. pp. 112-125. In 2011, the Dalai Lama reiterated the same view and said: ‘The one who is qualified as a result of one’s own study and practice is known as Lama. A Tulku, even without such a standard of education, enjoys status in society in the name of the former Lama. And there are many who lack the Lama’s qualification and even bring disgrace. So I used to say since some forty years ago that there needs to be some system to regulate the recognition of Tulku. Otherwise it is not good to have many unqualified ones.’ Author unknown. (2011). Transcript of Video-Conference with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Chinese Activists. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 6, 2021. In 2005, he said: ‘In the early sixties, on one occasion, I think it was during the meeting with heads of religious schools, I [stat]ed some historical facts. It is important to keep the recognition and the lineage of some of these lamas who are historically authentic and based in Tibetan history. (…) But until now, in many cases if one has money—enough money—then one gets tülku recognition from the monastery. This almost is like buying [the position] with money.’ Brauen, Martin. (2005). Introduction and Interview with His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. In Martin Brauen (Ed.), The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History (pp. 6-13). Chicago: Serindia Publications. Evidently, the Dalai Lama’s personal evaluation of the formal instatement of trülkus is contested. Donald Lopez is reported to have found that the religious heads of all Tibetan traditions decided on a ‘moratorium’ on the recognition of trülkus in the early 1960s‘which lasted a decade before some unnamed group broke it, ushering in open season on tulku recognition.’ Author unknown. (2013). The Tulku Institution in Tibetan Buddhism: A Symposium at USF, February 15 & 16, 2013. Tsadra.org. Retrieved April 7, 2021. Also, the Dalai Lama’s actions did not always match his view: in response to the so-called ‘trülku boom’ of the 1960s through 2000s he too began conferring formal recognition on numerous young trülkus. See also: Asshauer, Egbert. (2003). Das Tulkusystem: ein Stück tibetische Identität. Tibet und Buddhismus, (67), pp. 25-30; McGirk, Tim. (2013). Reincarnation in Exile. Believermag.com. Retrieved April 9, 2021; Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche. (2016). Time for Radical Change in How We Raise Our Tulkus. Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  12. A new presidential election will be held in 2021. Singh Dhillon, Gangadeep. (2020). Explained: How Tibetans across the world will elect their parliament-in-exile. Indian Express. Retrieved March 10, 2021. In the documentary The Great 14th, the Dalai Lama says about his abdication: ‘This is the right time, now. Now hand it over, all my legitimate political authority. The almost four-century old tradition of the Dalai Lama institution as head of both [the] temporal and spirituality, now that, sooner or later, had to change. The Great 14th Dalai Lama—[laughing] quite popular…—at such moment, to voluntarily end it, I feel very proud. I proudly, happily, ended that.’ Rawcliffe, Rosemary. (2020). The Great 14th. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  13. Author unknown. (2014). Dalai Lama concedes he may be the last. Retrieved April 12, 2021.
  14. Mishra, Pankaj. (2015). The Last Dalai Lama? The New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  15. Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (2017). Inauguration of Seminar on ‘Buddhism in Ladakh’. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  16. Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin & Thubten Chodron. (2018). The Foundation of Buddhist Practice (2). Somerville: Wisdom. pp. 92. See also: Author unknown. (2017). Dalai Lama about Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa with students from the University of California. Youtube.com. Retrieved April 9, 2021. In 2019, a statement on the Dalai Lama’s own website said: ‘In seeking to balance preserving tradition and modern development, His Holiness suggested that the custom of recognising reincarnate lamas may have had its day. He remarked that no such custom existed in India. There is no reincarnation of the Buddha or Nagarjuna. He wondered what place this institution has in a democratic society.’ Author unknown. (2019). Addressing Students from North Indian Universities. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 9, 2021.
  17. Jensen, Karen & Matthew Abrahams. (2019). Buddha Buzz Weekly: Dalai Lama Considers End to Reincarnated Political Leaders. Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Retrieved April 9, 2021; Mohan, Lalit. (2019, October 2019). Institution of Lama has ‘feudal’ origins. The Tribune. Retrieved April 14, 2021; Author unknown (2019, October 26). Reincarnation feudal, should end now: Dalai Lama amid successor row with China. The Times of India. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  18. Kewley, Vanya. (1975). The Lama King. BBC One London. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  19. Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (1976). Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the Seventeenth Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day, 10 March 1976. Retrieved April 12, 2021; Author unknown. (1976). Editorial: The Last Dalai Lama? Tibetan Review, 11 (3), pp. 3-4; Author unknown. (1976). News Report: Dalai Lama Assails Tibetan Complacency. Tibetan Review, 11 (3), pp. 4-5; Dreyfus, Georges B. J. (1998). The Shuk-den Affair: History and Nature of a Quarrel. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 2 (21), pp. 227-270; Mills, Martin A. (2009). Charting the Shugden Interdiction in the Western Himalaya. In J. Bray & E. De Rossi Filibeck (Eds.), Mountains, Monasteries and Mosques: Recent Research on Ladakh and the Western Himalaya: Proceedings of the 13th colloquium of the International Association for Ladakh Studies (pp. 251-270). Pisa: Fabrizio Serra; Nowak, Margaret. (1984). Tibetan Refugees: Youth and the New Generation of Meaning. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. pp. 29-30.
  20. Author unknown. (2014). Dalai Lama concedes he may be the last. Retrieved April 12, 2021. See also: Eigendorf, Jörg. (2014). Der Dalai Lama will keinen Nachfolger mehr haben. Welt am Sonntag. Retrieved April 15, 2021; Author unknown (2014, September 9). Tibetans Say ‘Last Dalai Lama’ Report Is Misleading. Voice of America News; Mishra, Pankaj. (2015). The Last Dalai Lama? The New York Times Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  21. According to professor emeritus Robert Thurman of Columbia University in New York City, the Dalai Lama said he would not reincarnate to duck out of a situation in which the Chinese Communist Party uses ‘a Dalai Lama puppet person to try to keep the Tibetans distracted from their destruction of the Tibetan culture and environment.’ The Dalai Lama’s interpreter Thupten Jinpa notes that when the Dalai Lama says he is the last, he means that he may be the last one in his lineage to be awarded ‘the formal recognition as the continuation of the institution.’ All the same, the Dalai Lama himself said: ‘If today I die, I think most probably two Dalai Lamas may happen.’ The Harvard-trained lawyer Lobsang Sangay, who succeeded the Dalai Lama as the Tibetan exiles’ head of state, is unequivocal: ‘This Dalai Lama has the final say on the next Dalai Lama, no one else. No power, no money, no Chinese leader can replace this Dalai Lama as far as the next Dalai Lama is concerned. So, the 14th Dalai Lama will decide on the 15th Dalai Lama.’ Lemle, Mickey. (2016). The Last Dalai Lama? New York: Alive Mind. See also: Frayer, Lauren. (2019). Who Will Decide On The Dalai Lama’s Successor — His Supporters Or Beijing? NPR. Retrieved April 12, 2021. In the documentary The Great 14th, the Dalai Lama reiterated that whether there will be a 15th Dalai Lama is up to the majority of the Tibetan people, but that under the present circumstances the institution will remain: ‘So, in order to keep the Dalai Lama institution continuously and more respectful, [it is] better to distance [it] from political power.’ Rawcliffe, Rosemary. (2020). The Great 14th. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  22. Author unknown. (2019). 14th Tibetan Religious Conference affirms the Dalai Lama’s sole authority in his reincarnation, illegitimizes China’s meddling in religious affairs. Central Tibetan Administration. Retrieved April 12, 2021.
  23. Graeber, David. (2018). Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 308.
  24. The Dalai Lama’s full name is Jétsün Jampel Ngakwang Lozang Yéshé Tendzin Gyatso Sisum Wanggyur Tsungpa Mépé Dépel Zangpo (Wyl. rje btsun jam dpal ngag dbang blo bzang ye shes bstan ‘dzin rgya mtsho srid gsum dbang bsgyur mtshungs pa med pa’i sde dpal bzang po). Jeffrey Hopkins translates it into English as ‘Leader-Holiness-Gentleness-Renown-Speech-Dominion-Mind-Goodness-Primordial-Wisdom-Teaching-Hold-Vastness-Ocean-Being-Triad-Controlling-Unparalleled-Glory-Integrity.’ Gyatso, Tenzin (the fourteenth Dalai Lama). (2006). Kindness, Clarity, and Insight: The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso (Revised and updated ed.). Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications. p. 12. The 14th Dalai Lama assumed full religious and political authority in 1950. Shakabpa, Tsepon & Wangchuk Deden. (2010). Necessity of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama to Assume Religious and Political Authority Suddenly (Derek F. Maher, Trans.). In Henk Blezer et al. (Eds.), One Hundred Thousand Moons: An Advanced Political History of Tibet: Volume 2 (pp. 943-994). Leiden: Brill.
  25. Author unknown. (1940). Picture of the week: The King-Regent of Tibet: will he poison the baby Dalai Lama? Life, 8 (15), pp. 32-33. Leonard van der Kuijp writes: ‘the 9th through 12th [Dalai Lamas] were also at the mercy of a succession of regents, their political ambitions and interests, and those of their families. None of these Dalai Lamas lived beyond twenty-one and it is likely that their untimely deaths resulted from foul play.’ Van der Kuijp, Leonard W. J. (2005). The Dalai Lamas and the Origin of Reincarnate Lamas. In M. Brauen (Ed.), The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History (pp. 15-31). Chicago: Serindia Publications. See also Norbu, Thubten J. & Colin M. Turnbull. (1968). Tibet. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 312; Richardson, Hugh E. (1984). Tibet And Its History (Second edition, Revised and Updated ed.). Boulder: Shambhala. p. 59; Mullin, Glenn H. (2001). The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation. Santa Fe: Clear Light Publications. pp. 343-346. The fourth Dalai Lama, Yönten Gyatso (b. 1589 d. 1616) and sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso (b. 1683 d. 1706), died in their mid-twenties. Brauen, Martin. (Ed.). (2005). The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History. Chicago: Serindia Publications. pp. 60-61, 93-101.
  26. Gyello Döndrup (Wyl. rgyal lo don ‘grub, b. 1928) is the 14th Dalai Lama’s second oldest brother. Author unknown. (1940). Picture of the week: The King-Regent of Tibet: will he poison the baby Dalai Lama? Life, 8 (15), pp. 32-33; Craig, Mary. (1998). Kundun: A Biograpy of the Family of the Dalai Lama. London: Fount, p. 125. For the struggle of power that preceded the Regent’s untimely death in 1947, see Finnigan, Mary & Rob Hogendoorn. (2019). Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche. Portland: Jorvik Press, pp. 13-15. The 14th Dalai Lama’s accession to the throne in 1950—ahead of time, aged 15—was his government’s response to the conquest of Tibet by the Chinese occupying force in 1950.
  27. A bodhisattva is a realised being who renounces nirvana in order to be re-born in the human realm to help other beings to enlightenment.
  28. Brown, Andrew. (2012, May 17). Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff? The Guardian. Tibetans commonly call the Dalai Lama Kündün (Wyl. kun ‘dun, ‘exalted presence’), Gyelwa Rinpoché (Wyl. rgyal ba rin po che, ‘precious conqueror’) or Kyapgön Rinpoche (Wyl. skyabs mgon rin po che, ‘precious protector’).
  29. Author unknown. (Date unknown). Brief Biography. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  30. Wind, Eric. (2016). The Dalai Lama’s Patek Philippe, Gifted By FDR Via An OSS Officer Who Was The Grandson Of Leo Tolstoy (Seriously). Hodinkee.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Laird, Thomas. (2006). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama. New York: Grove Press, p. 294.
  31. Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (2017). U.S. Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony Acceptance Speech. Dalailama.com.Retrieved April 14, 2021; Bush, George. (2007). Speech by President George Bush. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 14, 2021. President George Bush looked back fondly on his interactions with the Dalai Lama in the documentary The Last Dalai Lama? As a token of his appreciation, he showed the portrait of the Dalai Lama he has painted. Lemle, Mickey. (2016). The Last Dalai Lama? New York: Alive Mind.
  32. DD News. (2014). Dalai Lama: The Political and Spiritual Guru of Tibetans. YouTube.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Wangchuk, Rapker & Tharchin, Choyang. (2014). Visit of His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, Tibet to India (1956-57). YouTube.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  33. Author unknown. (no date). Chronology of Events. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Author unknown. (no date). Visit to India – 1956 to 1957. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Author unknown. (Date unknown). Dignitaries Met 1954 – 1989. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021. His sojourns in China and India mark the Dalai Lama’s first extended exposure to real time reporting by modern mass media.
  34. The Dalai Lama can get testy when his usual bonhomie and readiness to laugh off objections do not produce the usual enchanting, disarming effect and are met with determined questioning instead. For two instances of such interactions, see his interview with Dutch politician Paul Rosenmöller and a townhall meeting with a large group of Dutch graduate students, moderated by reporter Twan Huys: Rosenmöller, Paul. (2009). Dalai Lama. Spraakmakende Zaken. Npostart.nl. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Huys, Twan. (2009). Dalai Lama. Nova College Tour. YouTube.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  35. Myers, William et al. (2016). Man of Peace: The Illustrated Life Story of the Dalai Lama of Tibet. New York City: Tibet House US.
  36. Nxivm is pronounced as nexium.
  37. Parry, Marc. (2009, March 13). For Dalai Lama, third choice is charmed. Times Union. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Ettkin, Brian. (2009, March 18). Details on Dalai Lama’s visit. Time Union. Retrieved April 3, 2021. Curiously, before he cancelled his visit the Dalai Lama did not list his visit to Albany on the upcoming appearance schedule on his official website. Ettkin, Brian. (2009, March 29). Details light on Dalai Lama visit. Times Union. Retrieved April 3, 2021. The Dalai Lama was scheduled to appear at the University of Albany, The College of Saint Rose, and the Times Union Center. On Sunday April 5th, 2009, Tenzin Dickyi, the special assistant to the Dalai Lama’s representative in the Office of Tibet in New York, and the Dalai Lama’s secretary Tenzin Taklha sent cancellation messages. George R. Hearst III, the publisher of the Times Union and president of the University of Albany Foundation, told Brian Ettkin that Taklha ‘was not excited to cancel. He was really hoping to go forward, but there’s enough stuff out there that (they) don’t need to expose His Holiness to this kind of risk.’ Ettkin, Brian. (2009, April 6). Dalai Lama cancels his visit to Albany. Times Union. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  38. Mueller, Chris, & Jon Campbell. (2009, March 31). Dalai Lama comes with controversyAlbany Student Press, pp. 1-2. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  39. Orenstein, David. (1997, August 24). Success can quickly turn to ruin. The Times Union.; Orenstein, David. (1997, August 24). Some dip, others dive into selling. The Times Union.; Odato, James M. (2012, February 16). ‘Ample Evidence’ to justify investigation. Times Union. Retrieved April 14, 2021. In 2003, Forbes had already called Nxivm a ‘cult of personality.’ Freedman, Michael. (2003). Cult of Personality. Forbes. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  40. Parry, Marc. (2009, March 13). For Dalai Lama, third choice is charmed. Times Union. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  41. Weaver, Daniel. T. (2009, March 29). Op-ed column: Dalai Lama’s visit to Albany sponsored by cult-like group. Daily Gazette. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  42. Filmmaker Mark Vicente was a long-time Nxivm-member and Raniere-devotee, and the official photographer of the group who was brought along to document the meeting. Footage of the Dalai Lama’s interactions with Raniere and his entourage was used in the HBO documentary series The Vow, first broadcast in 2020. For a transcript and extensive discussion of the Dalai Lama’s interactions with Keith Raniere and Nxivm, see Hogendoorn, Rob. (2020, November 8). The Dalai Lama and Nxivm Revisited. Openbuddhism.org. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  43. Ibid.
  44. See The Vow, season 1, episodes 5 and 6: Author unknown. The Vow: A Nxivm Story. HBO. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Grondahl, Paul. (2009). Dalai Lama offers message of wisdom, optimism in Albany. Times Union. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  45. The cover of the book makes a special note of the Dalai Lama’s foreword.
  46. However, during the press conference that preceded his talk the Dalai Lama himself sidestepped a question about his appearance during an event sponsored by Nxivm. He merely said: ‘I had an invitation, so I accepted.’ Hogendoorn, Rob. (2020, November 8). The Dalai Lama and Nxivm Revisited. Openbuddhism.org. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Grondahl, Paul. (2009, May 7). Dalai Lama offers message of wisdom, optimism in Albany. Times Union. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Gyatso, Tenzin (the fourteenth Dalai Lama). (2009). H.H. the Dalai Lama: Public Talk in Albany. YouTube.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021. Question starts at circa 44.15 mins.
  47. Our approach mirrors that of Hogendoorn, Rob M. (2014). Caveat Emptor: The Dalai Lama’s Proviso and the Burden of (Scientific) Proof. Religions, 5 (3), pp. 522-559: ‘In legal matters, personal accountability is judged on a day-to-day basis by a coherent set of standards that is well-nigh impossible to meet by any one individual. This is done by taking recourse to the objectifying legal fiction of “a reasonable person.” Within the context of law, the fiction of a reasonable person presents the objective standard against which individuals’ actual conduct is measured. Whether such a person actually exists does not even enter into the discussion.’ See also: Lachs, Stuart. (2019). Tibetan Buddhism Enters the 21st Century: Trouble in Shangri-la. Openbuddhism.org. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  48. Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (1999). Ancient Wisdom, Modern World: Ethics for a New Millenium. London: Little, Brown and Company; Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (2011). Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Author unknown. (2014). Discussing Secular Ethics. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 17, 2021; Author unknown. (2020). The Need for Secular Ethics in Modern Education. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  49. Rawcliffe, Rosemary. (2020). The Great 14th. Retrieved April 15, 2021. See also: Author unknown. (2018). Principal Commitments. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  50. Richard, Ursula. (2017). Dalai Lama in Deutschland: Mahnende Worte zum Thema Missbrauch. Buddhismus Aktuell. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  51. The Tibetan honorific Rinpoché (Wyl. rin po che) is commonly translated as ‘precious one.’ The word lama (Wyl. bla ma) is the Tibetan translation of the Sanskrit word guru for spiritual teacher.
  52. It is important to note that the Dalai Lama endorsed other Tibetan Buddhist teachers of ill repute as well—by visiting or teaching at their centers; having them act as his hosts or sponsors during visits of their country; welcoming them on stage during public teachings in the West and audiences at his residence in Dharamsala, India; and so forth.
  53. Steinbeck IV, John & Nancy Steinbeck. (2001). The Other Side of Eden: Life with John Steinbeck. Amherst: Prometheus Books pp. 316-331. John Steinbeck IV (b. 1946 d. 1991) was an American war correspondent, essayist, and author, married to Nancy Lenn Steinbeck. He was the second child of the Nobel Prize-winning author John Ernst Steinbeck. It is important to note that the Dalai Lama’s remark in 1989 did not become public until 2001, when The Other Side of Eden came out.
  54. Chögyam Trungpa (Wyl. chos rgya drung pa, THLib. Chögya Drungpa) was born in Kham, Tibet in 1939. He died of alcoholism in the US, in 1987. Katy Butler wrote about his death: ‘When Trungpa Rinpoche lay dying in 1986 at the age of 47, only an inner circle knew the symptoms of his final illness. Few could bear to acknowledge that their beloved and brilliant teacher was dying of terminal alcoholism. even when he lay incontinent in his bedroom, belly distended and skin discolored, hallucinating and suffering from varicose veins, gastritis and esophageal varices, a swelling of veins in the esophagus caused almost exclusively by cirrhosis of the liver. “Rinpoche was certainly not an ordinary Joe, but he sure died like every alcoholic I’ve ever seen who drank uninterruptedly.” said Victoria Fitch, a member of his household staff with years of experience as a nursing attendant. “The denial was bone-deep.” she continued. “I watched his alcoholic dementia explained as his being in the realm of the dakinis (guardians of the teachings, visualized in female form). When he requested alcohol, no one could bring themselves not to bring it to him, although they tried to water his beer or bring him a little less. In that final time of his life… he could no longer walk independently.’ Butler, Katy. (1990). Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America. The Common boundary, (8), pp. 14-22. See also: Varvaloucas, Emma. (2018). Same Old Story in a New World. Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Retrieved April 17, 2021; Remski, Matthew. (2018). Pema Chödrön on Trungpa in 2011: “I Can’t Answer the Relative Questions”. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  55. Vajradhatu and its sister organization Naropa Institute were founded and incorporated in Boulder, Colorado in the United States of America in 1974. Legally distinct, the organizations maintained common officers and boards of directors. John and Nancy Steinbeck specifically note Chögyam Trungpa’s ‘rampant addictions (a $40,000-a-year cocaine habit, along with a penchant for Seconal and gallons of sake).’ Ibid. Leslie Hays was one of the seven sangyum (Wyl. gsang yum, ‘secret consort’) who Trungpa ‘married’ within five months in 1984. She corroborated Trungpa’s alleged cocaine use—code-named ‘tabi’—and sexual relations with minors in several Facebook posts. Hays, Leslie. (2018). Tabi. Facebook. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Hays, Leslie. (2019). Ciel. Facebook. Retrieved April 3, 2021. Andrea Winn, likewise, corroborated Trungpa’s cocaine use: Winn, Andrea M. (2019). How I decided to end my guru relationship with Trungpa Rinpoche. Andreamwinn.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021. Vajradhatu was renamed Shambhala in February 2000. In 2018, Chögyam Trungpa’s son Sakyong Mipham Rinpoché (b. 1962, see endnote 54) stepped down amidst allegations of sexual abuse that were corroborated by Andrea Winn’s Buddhist Project Sunshine. This project underlines, among other problems, the widespread abuse of children by older men in positions of power in the Shambhala organization. Winn, Andrea M. (2018). Buddhist Project Sunshine. Retrieved April 3, 2021. See also: Newman, Andy. (2018, July 11). The ‘King’ of Shambhala Buddhism Is Undone by Abuse Report. The New York Times. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  56. According to the Mulasarvastivadin disciplinary code of conduct for novice and fully ordained monks, sexual intercourse is a ‘defeat’ that can’t be undone. Thereafter, it is impossible to return to the status of monk. See: Author unknown. (2010). Ordination in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021. Trungpa, then, lost his monkhood in 1962 by fathering a son with Könchok Päldron, a young Tibetan nun: Ösel Rangdrol Mukpo. However, Trungpa kept up appearances as if he were still a monk until 1970. In January 1970, he married a 16-year-old barrister’s daughter, Diana Judith Mukpo (née Pybus on October 8, 1953). Flintoff, John-Paul. (2012). Did I know you in a past life? The Guardian. Retrieved April 3, 2021. Trungpa and Diana had sex during her very first visit to his room, late October 1969, while he was recuperating from a car accident. She had just turned sixteen. Mukpo, Diana J. & Carolyn R. Gimian. (2006). Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chögyam Trungpa. Boston: Shambhala. p. 16.
  57. Late 1969, Trungpa summoned Ösel Mukpo to the United Kingdom and left the boy in the harsh—or in Diana Mukpo’s euphemism: ‘archaic’—care of the monks of his center Samye Ling in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. When Trungpa and Diana moved to the United States of America in March 1970, they left Ösel behind in Samye Ling. He joined his father’s household two years later, only to be sent to boarding school in Ojai, California until 1976. Mukpo, Diana J. & Carolyn R. Gimian. (2006). Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chögyam Trungpa. Boston: Shambhala. pp. 45, 87, 95, 116-120. Ösel Mukpo later became known as Mipham Rinpoché, the Sakyong (Wyl. sa skyong, ‘king’) of the Shambhala organization. He stepped down in 2018, in response to allegations of sexual abuse (see endnote 52).
  58. After their marriage, Diana soon became pregnant and gave birth to Trungpa’s second son Tendzin Lhawang Tagdrug David Mukpo—nicknamed “Taggie” or “Tagi”— on March 9, 1971. Another son, Gesar Tsewang Arthur Mukpo, was born April 26, 1973. A few weeks later, Dilgo Khyentsé Rinpoché determined in a dream that Gesar was the trülku of Sechen Jamgön Kongtrul. During his marriage to Diana, Trungpa routinely had sex with large numbers of young female followers and kept a household of concubines.
  59. Eventually, each of the boys was declared to be a trülku—that is, (re)incarnations or emanations of deceased Buddhist masters. In 1979, Trungpa’s son Ösel Rangdrol Mukpo (see endnote 52 and 54) was retroactively recognized as a trülku by Penor Rinpoché (Wyl. contraction of pad+ma nor bu, b. 1932 d. 2009) the head of the Nyingma tradition. Shortly after the birth of Taggie Mukpo, the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rikpé Dorjé (Wyl. karma pa rang byung rig pa’i rdo rje, b. 1924 d. 1981) sent Trungpa a letter from Sikkim to tell him that he had recognized the boy as a trülku—unseen, that is. The Karmapa later determined that the boy—who is autistic and epileptic—suffered from ‘trülku disease’ because he was not being trained in the traditional way. The Karmapa insisted that he would be cured by his enthronement and monastic education in Rumtek, Sikkim. Taggie was sent to live in a Sikkimese monastery between 1977 and 1987, after which the monastics returned him to the care of Trungpa’s students—uncured, that is. He is now a ward of the State of Vermont.
  60. Montgomery, Dan. (2018). Samaya and the World of Shambhala. Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  61. Perks, John R. (2004). The Mahāsiddha and His Idiot Servant. Putney: Crazy Heart. pp. 60-61. Leslie Hays recounted a similar story involving a cat. Hays, Leslie. (2018). The cat story. Facebook. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  62. Zaslowsky, Dyan. (1989, February 21). Buddhists in U.S. Agonize on AIDS Issue. The New York Times, p. A14. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Butler, Katy. (1990). Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America. The Common Boundary, (8), pp. 14-22. Ösel Tendzin (formerly known as Thomas Rich) was born in New Jersey, USA in 1943. He died of HIV/AIDS in 1990.
  63. Zaslowsky, Dyan. (1989, February 21). Buddhists in U.S. Agonize on AIDS Issue. The New York Times, p. A14. See also Lachs, Stuart. (2019). Tibetan Buddhism Enters the 21st Century: Trouble in Shangri-la. Openbuddhism.org Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  64. For a biography of Kalu Rinpoché (Wyl. kar lu rin po che, b. 1905 d. 1989), see Gardner, Alexander. (2021). Kalu Rinpoche Karma Rangjung Kunkhyab: b.1905 – d.1989. Treasury of Lives. Retrieved April 14, 2021. For a biography of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoché, see: Gardner, Alexander. (2009). Dilgo Khyentse Tashi Peljor: b.1910 – d.1991. Treasury of Lives. Retrieved April 14, 2021. For discussions of their endorsements of Chögyam Trungpa, see: Author unknown. (Date unknown). Kalu Rinpoche’s Instructions to the Sangha of Trungpa Rinpoche—1988. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Author unknown. (Date unknown). Letters of the Current Situation. Chronicles of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Retrieved April 3, 2021. Krupnick, Robert. (Date unknown). Vajra Regent Ösel Tendzin Library & Archives: About Us. Retrieved April 3, 2021. According to Alexander Gardner, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoché belatedly ordered Ösel Tendzin to go ‘into retreat, although he refused to surrender control of the organization.’ Gardner, Alexander. (2021). The Eleventh Trungpa, Chogyam Trungpa: b. 1939 d. 1987. Treasury of Lives. Retrieved April 3, 2021. The 16th Karmapa died in 1981, but he never publicly distanced himself from Chögyam Trungpa either.
  65. Steinbeck IV, John & Nancy Steinbeck. (2001). The Other Side of Eden: Life with John Steinbeck. Amherst: Prometheus Books. pp. 27-32.
  66. The Steinbecks wrote: ‘The Naropa poetry department, the Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, hosted a weeklong Kerouac Festival that summer [1982]. All the poets from the first summer at Naropa were back and this time, Ginsberg and Corso, Ferlinghetti, William Burroughs, Kesey, and Norman Mailer were hanging out at our house. A video production company was filming them daily in our living room.’ Steinbeck IV, John & Nancy Steinbeck. (2001). The Kerouac Festival. In The Other Side of Eden: Life with John Steinbeck. Amherst: Prometheus Books pp. 188-194. The most prominent poets in this group were Robert Bly, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, W.S. Merwin, Ed Sanders, Gary Snyder, and Anne Waldman.
  67. William Stanley Merwin (b. 1927 d. 2019) was a two-time Poet Laureate. Author unknown. (Date unknown). About W.S. Merwin. Merwinconservancy.org. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  68. For extensive discussions of what became known as the ‘Merwin Affair’ or the ‘Naropa Poetry Wars,’ see: Investigative Poetry Group. (1977). The Party: A Chronological Perspective on a Confrontation at a Buddhist Seminary. Woodstock: Poetry, Crime, & Culture Press. In 1977, John Steinbeck IV was interviewed about the affair by Al Santoli of the Investigative Poetry Group. Steinbeck first met Merwin in the autumn of 1974 at Chögyam Trungpa’s Dharmadhatu center in New York City. Ibid. pp. 17, 18, 20. See also: Clark, Tom. (1980). The Great Naropa Poetry Wars: With a copious collection of germane documents assembled by the author. Santa Barbara: Cadmus Editions; Steinbeck IV, John & Nancy Steinbeck. (2001). Introduction. In The Other Side of Eden: Life with John Steinbeck. Amherst: Prometheus Books. pp. xix-xxviii. After Merwin and Naone had left the 1975 seminary, shortly before it ended, a young boy died in the room they stayed in. Looking back, Trungpa’s wife Diana puts this tragedy in the context of the Merwin affair and the struggle with their own son Taggie’s disabilities: ‘In some way, this incident was tied in for me to what was happening with Taggie. This was such a difficult time in our lives. In a certain sense, Rinpoche was dealing with extreme and seemingly unworkable energy at the seminary, while I was driving into a high wall of insanity (his phrase) in terms of Taggie and our family life. In fact, in a scenario that is unrelated yet strangely in keeping with the dark energies I’ve described, a child died at the very end of the 1975 seminary from complications of asthma while sleeping in the room at the hotel that Merwin and Dana had stayed in. (Although they stayed for the final talk of the seminary, they had left a bit earlier than others.)’ Mukpo, Diana J. & Carolyn R. Gimian. (2006). Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chögyam Trungpa. Boston: Shambhala. pp. 192, 211.
  69. Visiting lecturer Ed Sanders and his class at Naropa Institute investigated the matter and completed an in-depth report in September 1977. Copies of this report circulated widely in Boulder until August 1978, when Sanders and his class decided to publish it. A lengthy excerpt appeared in the Boulder Monthly in March 1979. Investigative Poetry Group. (1979). The Party: A chronological perspective on a confrontation at a Buddhist seminary. Boulder Monthly, 1 (5), pp. 24-40. The same issue contained an extensive interview about the scandal with Alan Ginsberg: Clark, Tom. (1979). When the Party’s Over: An interview with Alan Ginsberg. Boulder Monthly, 1 (5), pp. 41-51. That same month, the Boulder Monthly’s editor Tom Clark reported on the affair and its cover-up in the Berkeley Barb under the pseudonym of Robert Woods. Woods, Robert. (1979). “Buddha-Gate” Scandal and cover-up at Naropa revealed. Berkeley Barb, 28 (13), pp. 1, 4. See also: Spaed, Sam. (1979). Buddha-Gate Revisited. Berkeley Barb, pp. 1, 6. In 1980, Clark published a comprehensive history of the events: Clark, Tom. (1980). The Great Naropa Poetry Wars: With a copious collection of germane documents assembled by the author. Santa Barbara: Cadmus Editions. See also: Goldman, Sherman. (1976). Robert Bly on Gurus, Grounding Yourself in the Western Tradition, and Thinking For Yourself: An Interview. East/West Journal, pp. 10-15; Marin, Peter. (1979). Spiritual Obedience: The transcendental game of follow the leader. Harper’s Magazine, pp. 43-58; Reed, Ishmael. (1978). American Poetry: A Buddhist Take-over? Black American Literature Forum, 12 (1), pp. 3-11.
  70. See endnote 66. The Dalai Lama visited the USA between September 3 and October 21, 1979.
  71. Author unknown. (1979). The Nadir of Sectarian Squabbles. Tibetan Review, 14 (7), pp. 10-14. See also: Author unknown. (Date unknown). The Sixteenth Karmapa: Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. Kagyuoffice.org. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  72. Chögyam Trungpa was affiliated with both the Kagyü and Nyingma sects of Tibetan Buddhism.
  73. Vajradhatu was the name of the umbrella organization of Trungpa from 1973- 1990. The term has a rich meaning in Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism. Bernie Simon writes that Karl Springer later apologized to the Dalai Lama on behalf of Trungpa’s Vajradhatu community: ‘The Dalai Lama asked for an apology and wasn’t satisfied with the half-apology that Karl Springer wrote on behalf of Vajradhatu. So the Dalai Lama cancelled his plans to visit Boulder, a huge embarrassment for Vajradhatu and Karl Springer personally.’ Some years later, Simon says, Springer criticized the Dalai Lama’s visit to the Vajradhatu centre in Washington, D.C. after the Tibetan leader had left. Simon, Bernie. (2003). The Dalai Lama’s Plumber. Carelesshand.nfshost.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021. For responses to Springer’s letter by the Dalai Lama’s representative in New York and his secretary in Dharamsala, see Author unknown. (1979). The Nadir of Sectarian Squabbles. Tibetan Review, 14 (7), pp. 10-14.
  74. Jeffrey Hopkins, who was the Dalai Lama’s interpreter on this tour, writes that the Tenzin Tethong, erstwhile head of the Office of Tibet in New York, ‘formed a committee to arrange the details of the visit, which focused on the content of the lectures and avoided any media hype.’ Gyatso, Tenzin (the fourteenth Dalai Lama). (2006). Kindness, Clarity, and Insight: The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso (Revised and updated ed.). Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications. p. 8.
  75. For extensive discussions of Tibetan exiles’ military collaboration with the Centra Intelligence Agency, see: Mullin, Chris. (1975). Tibetan Conspiracy. Far Eastern Economic Review, 89 (36), pp. 30-34; Mullin, Chris. (1978). The Question of Tibet: Tibet and the I.C.J. China Now, May-June 1978, pp. 12-13; Author unknown. (Date unknown). The Shadow Circus: The Cia in Tibet. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Sonam, Tenzing & Ritu Sarin. (2001). The Shadow Circus. Dharamsala: White Crane Films; Conboy, Kenneth & Morrison, James. (2002). The CIA’s Secret War in Tibet. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas; Dunham, Mikel. (2004). Buddha’s Warriors: The Story of the CIA-backed Tibetan Freedom Fighters, the Chinese Invasion, and the Ultimate Fall of Tibet. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin; McGranahan, Carole. (2006). Tibet’s Cold War: The CIA and the Chushi Gangdrug Resistance, 1956-1974. Journal of Cold War Stories, 8 (3), pp. 102-130; McGranahan, Carole. (2010). Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Memories of a Forgotten War. Durham: Duke University Press; Vivas, Maxime. (2012). NGOs and the CIA. In Behind the Smile: The Hidden Side of the Dalai Lama (Kindle ed.). San Francisco: Long River Press.
  76. In his interview about the Merwin affair in the Boulder Monthly in March 1979, Alan Ginsberg repeatedly references the massacre in Jonestown, Guyana. Clark, Tom. (1979). When the Party’s Over: An interview with Alan Ginsberg. Boulder Monthly, 1 (5), pp. 41-51; Clark, Tom. (1980). The Great Naropa Poetry Wars: With a copious collection of germane documents assembled by the author. Santa Barbara: Cadmus Editions. pp. 52-67.
  77. Hunter, Ann. (2008). The Legacy of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche at Naropa University: An Overview and Resource Guide. Boulder: Naropa University. p. 8. Daniel Seitz writes: ‘Obtaining regional accreditation was a goal early on: by 1978, Naropa obtained candidacy status with North Central Association of Schools and Colleges (now the Higher Learning Commission), and achieved accreditation in 1985. In 1999, the Naropa Institute changed its name to Naropa University to reflect the expansion of its academic programs.’ Seitz, Daniel. (2009). Integrating Contemplative and Student-Centered Education: A Synergistic Approach to Deep Learning. University of Massachusetts, Boston. pp. 184-185. The Party reports about Naropa Institute’s co-founder Allen Ginsberg: ‘Ginsberg, fearing the loss of a $4000 grant to the Kerouac School from the National Endowment for the Arts, responded by initiating the “Merwin cover-up” (later known as “Buddha-gate”). He contacted both [Robert] Bly and Merwin and asked them to inform the NEA that there was no connections between Trungpa’s alleged misbehavior and Naropa or the Kerouac School.’ The grant application was turned down. Investigative Poetry Group. (1977). The Party: A Chronological Perspective on a Confrontation at a Buddhist Seminary. Woodstock: Poetry, Crime, & Culture Press. p. 26.
  78. It seems likely that both Chögyam Trungpa and the 14th Dalai Lama occasionally received the same tantric teachings, initiations or empowerments from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoché and other tantric teachers. In that event, their relation would have been governed by the tantric prohibition of critiquing a ‘vajra brother’ or their mutual tantric guru.
  79. In 1960, the Dalai Lama appointed Chögyam Trungpa as the spiritual advisor to students at the Young Lamas’ Home School in India. While there, Trungpa fathered a child on Könchok Päldron, a young Tibetan nun (see endnote 53). Trungpa kept silent about the pregnancy, and held this office until 1963, when he received a scholarship to study at Oxford University in the UK. Looking back on the events of the day, Trungpa’s widow Diana Mukpo writes: ‘Around this time, Rinpoche received a Spaulding Scholarship to attend Oxford University. This had come through the intercession of Freda Bedi and John Driver, an Englishman who tutored Rinpoche in the English language in India and helped him with his studies later at Oxford. The Tibet Society in the United Kingdom had also helped him to get the scholarship. To go to England, Rinpoche needed the permission of the Dalai Lama’s government. They would never have allowed him to leave if they had known about his sexual indiscretion, nor do I think it would have gone over very well with the Tibet Society or his English friends in New Delhi. He and Konchok Paldron kept their relationship a secret, and it was a long time before anyone knew that Rinpoche was the father of her child. This caused him a great deal of pain, although I also think that he hadn’t yet entirely faced up to the implications of the direction he was going in his relationships with women. At that time, in spite of the inconsistencies in his behavior, he still seemed to think that he could make life work for himself as a monk.’ In 1971, the Dalai Lama named Trungpa’s second son, Taggie Mukpo (see endnote 55 and 56). Mukpo, Diana J. & Carolyn R. Gimian. (2006). Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chögyam Trungpa. Boston: Shambhala. pp. 72, 132.
  80. Chögyam Trungpa’s widow Diana Mukpo writes: ‘In September 1979, His Holiness the Dalai Lama made his first visit to America. Members of the Dorje Kasung [Chögyam Trungpa’s bodyguards] were very involved in the visit. They organized motorcades for His Holiness’s party wherever he traveled in North America, and they worked with local law enforcement officials in major cities to help with crowd control and in general to provide security for His Holiness and his entourage. Trungpa asked Karl Springer to greet His Holiness on Rinpoche’s behalf when the Dalai Lama arrived in New York on September 3. Mr. Springer traveled to many cities with His Holiness to help assure that proper protocol was observed. In early October, when His Holiness returned to New York, Rinpoche, the Regent, and the entire board of directors of Vajradhatu flew to New York to meet with him. Rinpoche felt that it was extremely important for his senior students to meet the Dalai Lama, whom he himself had not seen for more than ten years. His Holiness and Rinpoche had several private meetings during the visit. Rinpoche was so happy that this great spiritual figure and the leader of the Tibetan world finally was setting foot on the American continent. I was unfortunately away for much of this, but I was able to meet and spend time with His Holiness in New York just before his departure from North America. I was arriving from Europe to attend the Kalapa Assembly and spend time with Rinpoche. Although His Holiness was not able to stop in Boulder during his first visit, when he returned in the summer of 1981, he spent about a week with our community, which was a great blessing for everyone. Mukpo, Diana & Carolyn Gimian. (2006). Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chögyam Trungpa. Boston: Shambhala (pp. 320-321). For an extensive discussion of the Dalai Lama’s first visit to the US, see Andersson, Jan. (1980). The Dalai Lama and America. The Tibet Journal, 5 (1/2), pp. 48-63.
  81. Mukpo, Diana & Carolyn Gimian. (2006). Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chögyam Trungpa. Boston: Shambhala (pp. 320-321). Tom Clark suggests that Trungpa’s followers bought the March 1979 issue of the Boulder Monthly en masse, to take as many issues out of circulation as they possibly could. Clark, Tom. (1980). The Great Naropa Poetry Wars: With a copious collection of germane documents assembled by the author. Santa Barbara: Cadmus Editions. p. 38. In 1981, the Dalai Lama taught at the Naropa Institute and the University of Colorado in Boulder. Gyatso, Tenzin (the fourteenth Dalai Lama). (2006). Kindness, Clarity, and Insight: The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso (Revised and updated ed.). Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications. p. 207-216.
  82. Steinbeck IV, John & Nancy Steinbeck. (2001). The Other Side of Eden: Life with John Steinbeck. Amherst: Prometheus Books. pp. 316-331.
  83. Ibid. Once again, note that the Dalai Lama’s remark was made in 1989 and remained unpublished until 2001.
  84. Ibid.
  85. The entire conversation can be watched online: Author unknown. (1993). The Western Buddhist Teachers Conference with H.H. the Dalai Lama Frome: Meredian Trust.
  86. See endnote 77. Mukpo, Diana J. & Carolyn R. Gimian. (2006). Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chögyam Trungpa. Boston: Shambhala. p. 320; Shepherd, Harvey. (1993, July 3). Dalai Lama had more to say than space allowed. The Gazette, p. H6; Smith, Kidder. (2001). Transmuting Blood and Guts: My Experiences in the Buddhist Military. Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  87. Shōkō Asahara’s death sentence was carried out on July 6, 2018—as it happens, the 14th Dalai Lama’s birthday.
  88. For a comprehensive reconstruction of the Dalai Lama’s involvement with Shōkō Asahara and the Aum Shinrikyō doomsday cult, see: Hogendoorn, Rob. (2020, December 5). Knave or Fool? The Dalai Lama and Shōkō Asahara Affair Revisited. Openbuddhism.org. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  89. Sogyal Lakar (Wyl. bsod rgyal lwa dkar, b. 1947 d. 2019) was formerly known as Sogyal Rinpoché. For a comprehensive discussion of the life and times of Sogyal Lakar, see: Finnigan, Mary & Rob Hogendoorn. (2019). Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche. Portland: Jorvik Press.
  90. Baxter, Karen. (2018). 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. Retrieved April 3, 2021. p. 39; Sogyal Rinpoche. (2008). The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (Revised and updated ed.). London: Rider.
  91. Lattin, Don. (1994). Best-selling Buddhist author accused of sexual abuse. Free Press.
  92. An abbreviated version of the conference is available on DVD: Author unknown. (2011). In Conversation with the Dalai Lama: Highlights of the Western Buddhist Teachers Conference London: Gonzo Distribution. The entire conversation can be seen here: Author unknown. (1993). The Western Buddhist Teachers Conference with H.H. the Dalai Lama. Frome: Meredian Trust.
  93. See, for instance: Sogyal Truth. (2017). Dalai Lama Speaks About Sogyal Rinpoche. YouTube.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021. For the Dalai Lama’s original address, see Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (2017). Inauguration of Seminar on ‘Buddhism in Ladakh.’ YouTube.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021. See also: Mees, Anna & Bas de Vries. (2018). Dalai lama over misbruik: ik weet het al sinds de jaren 90. NOS. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  94. Batchelor, Stephen. (2010). 16: Gods and Demons. In Confession of a Buddhist Atheist (Kindle Edition ed.). New York: Spiegel & Grau.
  95. The Western Buddhist Teachers Conference was held from 13 until 22 March, 1993. Between 1990 and 1992, monks of the Dalai Lama’s personal Namgyal monastery released several CD’s, but it is unclear if these recordings were used in Waco. The Tibetan chants were played first on Sunday night, March 21, 1993. Boyer, Peter. (1995). Waco: The Inside Story. PBS Frontline. Retrieved April 5, 2021 (Tibetan chants start at 33.33 mins.); Author unknown. (Date unknown). Chronology of the Siege. PBS Frontline. Retrieved April 5, 2021. This was widely reported in U.S. media: Bragg, Roy & Laura E. Keeton. (1993, March 23). Loud wake-up call to cult: Recording of Tibetan chants. The Houston Chronicle, p. A1; Schneider, H. (1993, March 23). Tibetan Chants Are Latest Waco Weapon. The Washington Post. See also: Johnston, David. (1993, July 21). Change at the F.B.I.: Final Act for the F.B.I.’s Director Is Painful and Almost Mute. The New York Times, p. A10; Benson, Eric. (2018). The 25-Year Siege. Texas Monthly, p. 90. A report by the House Committee on Government Reform of the United States Congress says: ‘Director Sessions stated he received a letter from the Dalai Lama about the FBI’s playing of Tibetan chants at the compound during the standoff. The Dalai Lama objected to the playing of the religious chants. The Director said that he replied immediately and ordered that the chants be discontinued.’ United States Congress, House Committee on Government Reform. (2000). The tragedy at Waco: new evidence examined: eleventh report. p. 1011. One of the Dalai Lama’s spokesmen declared later: ‘If the motivation is to create harmony, to provide a peaceful means to conclude this whole fiasco, then that would be appropriate. But the use of chants to create the opposite effect, to antagonize, is very unfortunate.’ Pareles, Jon. (1993, March 28). It’s Got a Beat and You Can Surrender to It. The New York Times, p. 2.
  96. The Dalai Lama is the most prominent, best-known member of the largely celibate Geluk sect. Chögyam Trungpa was trained in the Kagyü and Nyingma sects, while Sogyal Lakar’s extended family has a Sakya-Nyingma background. The Kagyü, Sakya, and Nyingma sects are largely non-celibate. However, all Tibetan Buddhist sects have their own cases of abuse. The most recent case to attract widespread media attention is that of Dagri Rinpoché of the Geluk sect, who allegedly involved the Dalai Lama’s private office in his case. Littlefair, Sam. (2019). Prominent Tibetan lama accused of molestation by three women. Lion’s Roar. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Abrahams, Matthew. (2019). Nuns Push for Investigation into Molestation Allegations against Teacher Dagri Rinpoche. Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Retrieved April 3, 2021; FaithTrust Institute. (2020). Summary Report of Sexual Misconduct Complaints Against Dagri Rinpoche. Retrieved March 25, 2021; DemaioNewton, Emily & Karen Jensen. (2020). Buddha Buzz Weekly: Dagri Rinpoche Permanently Removed as FPMT Teacher. Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Meade Sperry, Rod. (2020). Dagri Rinpoche found to have committed sexual misconduct, FPMT states. Lion’s Roar. Retrieved April 3, 2021. Tenzin Dharpo of the Tibetan website Phayul.com wrote about one of the women who alleged the abuse: ‘In her video posted on YouTube, she said that an apology from Dagri Rinpoche during a meeting set up by the private office of the Dalai Lama, prevented her from reporting the case to police.’ Dharpo, Tenzin. (2020). Dagri Rinpoche committed “intentional and inappropriate sexual behaviour”, says FPMT. Phayul.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021. Dagri Rinpoché was arrested for sexual harassment after a flight from New Delhi to Gagal, India. Allegedly, he groped an Indian woman on board. Indian news sites reported that Dagri Rinpoché told the arresting officers that he worked for the Dalai Lama’s Office in Dharamsala, stating that its address as his residency. For details of the Dagri Rinpoché’s pending criminal case before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, TC Kangra, see the E-Courts Services (CNR number HPKA120015502019). The next hearing date is June 2nd, 2021.
  97. This is not an academic issue. In the civil case of 23 ex-adepts’ children against Robert Spatz (also known as ‘Lama Kunzang’) of Ogyen Kunzang Choling (OKC) in Belgium, Spatz maintained that the Dalai Lama’s visit to his center in Brussels, Belgium ‘proved’ that he was a bona fide Tibetan Buddhist teacher in a bona fide Tibetan Buddhist tradition. When Ricardo Mendes, one of those 23 children, met him in Rotterdam in 2018, the Dalai Lama denied knowing Robert Spatz at all, even after he was shown a photograph of himself and Spatz together. For the victims’ and survivors’ reporting on this case, see Author unknown. (Date unknown). #OKCinfo: Exposing OKC/Spatz cult. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  98. For extensive discussions of this matter, see Sparham, Gareth. (1996). Why the Dalai Lama Rejects Shugden. Tibetan Review, 31 (6), pp. 11-13; Dreyfus, Georges B. J. (1998). The Shuk-den Affair: History and Nature of a Quarrel. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 2 (21), pp. 227-270; Batchelor, Stephen. (1998). Letting Daylight into the Magic: The Life and Times of Dorje Shugden. Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Spring 1998, pp. 60-66; Von Brück, Michael. (2001). Canonicity and Divine Interference: The Tulkus and the Shugden-Controversy. In Charisma and Canon: Essays on the Religious History of the Indian Subcontinent (pp. 328-349). New Delhi: Oxford University Press; Mills, Martin A. (2003). This turbulent priest: contesting religious rights and the state in the Tibetan Shugden controversy. In Richard A. Wilson & Jon P. Mitchell (Eds.), Human Rights in Global Perspective: Anthropological studies of rights, claims and entitlements (pp. 54-70). London: Routledge; Gardner, Alexander. (2013). Treasury of Lives: Dorje Shugden. Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Chandler, Jeannine. (2015). Invoking the Dharma Protector: Western Involvement in the Dorje Shugden Controversy. In Scott A. Mitchell & Natalie E.F. Quli (Eds.), Buddhism Beyond Borders: New Perspectives on Buddhism in the United States (pp. 75-91). New York: SUNY Press; Repo, Joona. (2015). Phabongkha Dechen Nyingpo: His Collected Works and the Guru-Deity-Protector Triad. Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines, 33, pp. 5-72. The Association of Geluk Masters, The Geluk International Foundation, & The Association for the Preservation of Geluk Monasticism. (2019). Understanding the Case against Shukden: The History of a Contested Tibetan Practice (Gavin Kilty, Trans.). Somerville: Wisdom Publications.
  99. For extended discussions of the Dalai Lama’s distancing attempts, see Finnigan, Mary & Rob Hogendoorn. (2019). Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche. Portland: Jorvik Press; Hogendoorn, Rob. (2020, November 8). The Dalai Lama and Nxivm Revisited. Openbuddhism.org. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Hogendoorn, Rob. (2020, December 5). Knave or Fool? The Dalai Lama and Shōkō Asahara Affair Revisited. Openbuddhism.org. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  100. Ganzevoort, Ruard et al. (Eds.). (2013). Geschonden vertrouwen: Seksueel misbruik in een religieuze context. Tilburg: KSGV. pp. 17-37.
  101. Emery, Élodie. (2011). Pas si zen, ces bouddhistes. Marianne, 756, pp. 72-77. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Emery, Élodie. (2017). Violences, abus sexuels. le scandale qui déshonore le bouddhisme. Marianne. pp. 31-32. Retrieved April 3, 2o21. Emery, Élodie. (2017). Scandale chez les bouddhistes: Matthieu Ricard recommande aux disciples plus de vigilance. Marianne. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  102. Ricard, Matthieu. (2017). A point of view. Retrieved March 27, 2021.
  103. Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (1999). Ancient Wisdom, Modern World: Ethics for a New Millenium. London: Little, Brown and Company; Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (2011). Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  104. Again, this is not an academic issue. In the OKC civil case in Belgium (see endnote 94), Robert Spatz’s lawyer submitted to the court that Spatz and Matthieu Ricard were once ‘contemporaries,’ that is, fellow students of the same Tibetan teacher, Kangyur Rinpoché. And so, their past proximity was construed as a legal argument underlining Spatz’s authenticity as a bona fide Tibetan Buddhist teacher.
  105. Since 1991, the Charter of Tibetans-in-exile promulgates that the Central Tibetan Administration must ‘endeavor to improve the purity and efficiency of academic and monastic communities of monks, nuns, and tantric practitioners, and shall encourage them to maintain proper behavior.’ Right after the Dalai Lama went into exile in April 1959, his Central Tibetan Administration translated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into Tibetan. It was made a cornerstone of its draft Constitution for Tibet. The Charter that is now in force, likewise, mandates the Central Tibetan Administration to adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. See article 4 and 17 of: Author unknown. (1991). Charter of the Tibetans in Exile. Retrieved April 3, 2021. Jan-Ulrich Sobisch and Trine Brox discuss challenges in the linguistic and cultural translation of human rights by Tibetans such as the Dalai Lama, as well as his idiosyncratic use of words like ‘religion,’ ‘politics,’ ‘secularism,’ and ‘democracy.’ Sobisch, Jan-Ulrich & Trine Brox. Translations of Human Rights. Tibetan contexts. In Carmen Meinert & Hans-Bernd Zöllner (Eds.), Buddhist Approaches to Human Rights: Dissonances and Resonances (pp. 159-178). Beyond the universality of human rights, Tibetan Buddhist and other spiritual teachers are subject to the criminal and civil codes of the countries they are in, for instance those of India, European countries, or the USA.
  106. For an extensive discussion of the concerns Tibetan exiles have expressed over the required vetting of the many people the Dalai Lama meets, see Hogendoorn, Rob. (2020, December 5). Knave or Fool? The Dalai Lama and Shōkō Asahara Affair Revisited. Openbuddhism.org. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  107. Ricardo Mendes, one of the survivors of Robert Spatz and OKC, told the Dutch news network NOS: ‘By attaching his name and reputation to it, the Dalai Lama legitimized OKC.’ For this reason, he wanted to discuss the matter with the Dalai Lama himself. Hogendoorn, Rob. (2020, December 5). Knave or Fool? The Dalai Lama and Shōkō Asahara Affair Revisited. Openbuddhism.org. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  108. Author unknown. (2019). 1966 Land Rover Series IIA 88. RMSothebys.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  109. The German monk Tenzin Peljor (Michael Jäckel, commonly known by the contraction Tenpel) writes: ‘For the Dalai Lama it is first and foremost a religious exercise to see others as fellow human beings. His view is that one must distinguish between the act and the person: compassion for people but rejection of destructive acts. In addition, his actions are based on an understanding of friendship and gratitude that is very different from Western customs and culture: to whoever helped or helps you, like Heinrich Harrer or Jörg Haider, you are grateful and indebted in principle. Friendship is not terminated when some wrongdoings come to light.’ Our translation from Peljor, Tenzin. (2009). Korrekturen und Reflexionen zum Stern-Artikel über den Dalai Lama. Info-buddhismus.de. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  110. Kaufman, Leslie. (2008). Making Their Own Limits in a Spiritual Partnership. The New York Times. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Burleigh, Nina. (2013). Sex and Death on the Road to Nirvana. Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Schecter, Anna. (2014). My Brief Rendez-vous with the Guru. NBC News. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  111. The Dalai Lama’s meeting with victims and survivors in Rotterdam, the Netherlands came about thanks to a large group of victims and survivors, as well as the numerous signatories of the petition ‘#MeTooGuru: Support the Dalai Lama’s effort to remedy sexual abuse’—helped by the media attention the petition garnered. The petition is still available online. By April 16, 2021, the petition was signed more than 2,600 times. Full disclosure: to shield the victims and survivors from unwanted attention in (social) media, Rob Hogendoorn acted as their liaison and press contact before, during, and after the Dalai Lama’s visit. Mees, Anna & Bas de Vries. (2018). Misbruikslachtoffers willen dalai lama spreken in Nederland. Nos.nl. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Corder, Mike. (2018). Dalai Lama meets alleged victims of abuse by Buddhist gurus. Associated Press. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Author unknown. (2018). Dalai Lama meets alleged abuse victims. Bbc.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Finney, Richard. (2018). Dalai Lama Meets in the Netherlands With Sex Abuse Victims. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Rahim, Zamira. (2018). Dalai Lama says he knew about sexual abuse allegations made against Buddhist teachers. The Independent. Hogendoorn himself reviewed the events in an op-ed published by the Tibetan Review. Hogendoorn, Rob. (2018). The Dalai Lama’s Clarion Call. Tibetan Review. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  112. Eckert, Paul. (2017). Tibetan Religious Figures Reject Chinese Role in Dalai Lama Reincarnation. Radio Free Asia. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  113. Mees, Anna & Bas de Vries. (2018). Dalai lama over misbruik: ik weet het al sinds de jaren 90. Nos.nl. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  114. For the dubious origins and financial history of the Tenzin Gyatso Institute, see Finnigan, Mary & Hogendoorn, Rob. (2019). Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche. Portland: Jorvik Press.
  115. Author unknown. (Date unknown). Who Are We? Rigpa.org. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  116. Mostert, Dirk. (2017). Brandpunt: Misbruik in de boeddhistische gemeenschap Hilversum: KRO-NCRV. The documentary can be seen here with English subtitles: Sogyal Truth. (2017). Sogyal Rinpoche & Rigpa – 2017 Documentary – Subtitled in English. YouTube.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  117. For a short version of the DVD included in the second issue of Rigpa’s View Magazine, see Lerab Ling. (2013). The Visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Lerab Ling, August 2008. YouTube.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021. For a previous visit by the Dalai Lama to Lerab Ling in 2000, see Rigpa Videos. (2000). His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Lerab Ling – September 2000. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  118. Sogyal Truth. (2017). Dalai Lama Speaks About Sogyal Rinpoche. YouTube.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021. For the original video, see Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (2017). Inauguration of Seminar on ‘Buddhism in Ladakh.’ YouTube.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  119. After Sogyal Lakar settled the civil case filed by Janice Doe in 1994, the Dalai Lama did admonish Sogyal Lakar to settle down and ‘take a lawful wife.’ But he stood by doing nothing when Sogyal resumed his promiscuous and abusive ‘lifestyle’ as before. And he continued to endorse Sogyal and visit his centers. Finnigan, Mary & Rob Hogendoorn. (2019). Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche. Portland: Jorvik Press. pp. 86-87.
  120. See endnote 46. The Dalai Lama is very much a political player. He was one of the few world political figures along with UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President George H.W. Bush who sided with General Augusto Pinochet of Chile to help keep him from being extradited from England to Spain to stand trial for crimes against humanity. No doubt, much pressure was put on the Dalai Lama to get him to stand for Pinochet’s defense against extradition. Author unknown. (1999). Forgive Pinochet, says Dalai Lama. CBC News. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Travis, Alan. (1999, April 16). Pinochet to face extradition court. The Guardian. Maxime Vivas quotes an interview with French intellectual Georges-André Morin, who says: ‘It is staggering to think that in 1994, the current Dalai Lama wanted to convene a meeting in London of key Western figures who had known Tibet as independent. The seven guests included two Waffen SS members—mountaineer Heinrich Harrer and Auschwitz anthropologist Bruno Beger—and a Chilean diplomat by the name of Miguel Serrano who built his career in the footsteps of Kurt Waldheim, forming close relationships with Augusto Pinochet and the Nazi communities in southern Chile. In April 1999, the Dalai Lama appealed to the British government to free Pinochet, who was arrested while visiting England.’ Vivas, Maxime. (2012). The Untouchable. In Behind the Smile: The Hidden Side of the Dalai Lama (Kindle ed.). San Francisco: Long River Press; Sifflet, Patrice. (2006). France Culture 10 septembre 2006: Le Dalaï Lama et le Waffen SS. Retrieved April 22, 2021; Recourt, Glen. (2013). Gilles Van Grasdorff: Des SS au Tibet. La Télégramme. A press statement by the Central Tibetan Administration referred to the same meeting in London on September 13, 1994 and showed a photograph of Harrer and Beger with the 14th Dalai Lama and his other guests at Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Author unknown. (1994). Statement by Westerners who visited Tibet before 1949. The Government of Tibet in Exile. Retrieved April 22, 2021. The same website also showed Beger’s and Harrer’s memoirs of Tibet. Beger, Bruno. (Date unknown). Dr Bruno Beger’s memoirs of Tibet. Retrieved April 22, 2021; Harrer, Heinrich. (1994). Professor Heinrich Harrer’s report. The Government of Tibet in Exile. Retrieved April 22, 2021. See also: Dispot, Laurent. (2008, April 22). Le dalaï-lama et l’honneur nazi. Libération. Retrieved April 22, 2021. The Austrian Heinrich Harrer (b. 1912 d. 2006), famously, wrote Seven Years in Tibet (1952). He joined the paramilitary Sturmabteilung (SA, “Storm Detachment”) of the Nazi party in Germany in 1933 and Adolf Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (SS) in 1938. From 1934, the German Bruno Beger (b. 1911 d. 2009) worked at the Rasse- und Siedlungshauptambt (“Race and Settlement Main Office”), serving as its head of racial and genetics department from 1937. This office safeguarded the racial ‘purity’ of the SS in Nazi Germany, developed the Nuremberg race laws, and worked on studies to expand the Holocaust. Harten, Hans-Christian et al. (2006). Rassenhygiene als Erziehungsideologie des Dritten Reiches. Berlin: Akademie Verlag. pp. 148-149; Pringle, Heather. (2006). The Master Plan: Himmler’s Scholars and the Holocaust. New York: Hyperion. p. 242. Beger joined the Schäfer-Tibet-Expedition of 1938/39 sponsored by Heinrich Himmler’s SS-Ahnenerbe (“German Ancestral Heritage Society”) as an ethnologist. Engelhardt, Isrun. (2004). Tibetan Triangle: German, Tibetan and British Relations in the Context of Ernst Schäfer’s Expedition, 1938–1939. Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques, 58 (1), pp. 57-113; Engelhardt, Isrun. (Ed.). (2007). Tibet in 1938-1939: Photographs from the Ernst Schäfer Expedition to Tibet. Chicago: Serindia; Engelhardt, Isrun. (2008). The Nazis of Tibet: A Twentieth Century Myth. In Monica Esposito (Ed.), Images of Tibet in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Vol. 22, pp. 63-96). Paris: École française d’Extrême-Orient. In 1943, Beger spent two weeks in Auschwitz, where he filmed and photographed Jewish inmates in the nude and selected 86 Jewish men, women, and children for the ‘Jewish Skeleton Collection’ of August Hirt at the Reich University of Strasbourg. Beger then transferred to the concentration camp Natzweiler-Struthof, near Strasbourg. There, the 86 people he selected in Auschwitz were murdered for their skeletons in a newly constructed gas chamber. Bruno Beger is one of the main protagonists in: Pringle, Heather. (2006). The Master Plan: Himmler’s Scholars and the Holocaust. New York: Hyperion. pp. 155-156, 165-176, 242-267, 319-325. See also: Kaufman, Wolfgang. (2014). Das Dritte Reich und Tibet: Die Heimat des “östlichen Hakenkreuzes” im Blickfeld der Nationalsozialisten. Ludwigsfelde: Ludwigsfelder Verlagshaus. pp. 693-711; Kurlander, Eric. (2017). Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 248-249. In 1971, Beger was sentenced to three years in prison, for being guilty of complicity in 86 counts of murder. On appeal, his sentence was reduced to three years of probation. Klee, Ernst. (2016). Das Personen Lexikon zum Dritten Reich: Wer war was vor und nach 1945. Hamburg: Nikol Verlag. p. 36. The infamous joint ‘research project’ of August Hirt and Bruno Beger is discussed at length in an online documentary by Kirsten Esch, a granddaughter of the Dean of the Medical Faculty of the Reich University of Strasbourg. In 1942, Carl Friedrich Freiherr von Weizsäcker (b. 1912 d. 2007)—yet another ‘old friend’ of the 14th Dalai Lama—joined this university in Strasbourg, where science was the handmaid of rabid Nazism and anti-Semitism, as a professor of physics. The documentary shows that Von Weizsäcker and Hirt were neighbors and that their families mingled with each other. So, it is plausible that Von Weizsäcker made Hirt’s co-worker Bruno Beger’s acquaintance as well. In 1953, unaware that he had already committed suicide in 1945, a French military court convicted August Hirt to the death penalty in absentia. Many years later, some of the remains of the 86 victims were still being found in the laboratory of Hirt’s and Beger’s institute in Strasbourg. German scholar Hans-Joachim Lang finally managed to identify the 86 victims by name and commemorated them with their biographies. Esch, Kirsten. In the Name of Science: The Reich University of Strasbourg. DW.com. Retrieved April 26, 2021; Lang, Hans-Joachim. (Date unknown). The Names of the Numbers. Retrieved April 27, 2021; Lang, Hans-Joachim. (2004). Die Namen der Nummern: Wie es gelang, die 86 Opfer eines NS-Verbrechens zu identifizieren. Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe; Lifton, Robert Jay. (2000). The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing And The Psychology Of Genocide. New York: Basic Books. pp. 284-287; Lang, Hans-Joachim. (2004). Skelette für Straßburg. Die Zeit, (35); Lang, Hans-Joachim. (2010). Die Spur der Skelette. Der Spiegel; Lang, Hans-Joachim. (2013). August Hirt and “extraordinary opportunities for cadaver delivery” to anatomical institutes in National Socialism: A murderous change in paradigm. Annals of Anatomy, 195 (5), pp. 373-380; Bazelon, Emily. (2013, November 6). The Nazi Anatomists. Slate; Kaufman, Wolfgang. (2014). Das Dritte Reich und Tibet: Die Heimat des “östlichen Hakenkreuzes” im Blickfeld der Nationalsozialisten. Ludwigsfelde: Ludwigsfelder Verlagshaus. pp. 818; Author unknown (2015, July 20). Holocaust victims’ body parts found in lab. The Daily Mail, p. 19; Bever, Lindsey. (2015, July 22). Remains of Holocaust experiment victims found at French forensic institute. The Washington Post; Thomann, Laurence. (2018). New French film raises ghosts of Nazi medical horrors. The Times of Israel; Korn-Brzoza, David. (2019). Sciences Nazies: La race, le sol & le sang (Blut & Boden: Nazi-Wissenschaft). Arte. Retrieved April 30, 2021. Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin & Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker. (1994). Gemeinsam handeln! Der Dalai Lama und Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker im Gespräch (H. Gassner, Trans.). Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus; Author unknown. (2017). Attending a Science Symposium and Visiting Tibet House. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 26, 2021. See also: Engelhardt, Isrun. (2009). Tibet und nationalsozialismus: Fakten und Fiktionen. Tibet und Buddhismus, 3, pp. 44-47. In an interview with Gerald Lehner, Bruno Beger confirmed that he had met the 14th Dalai Lama in 1994, as well as several times before. Also, he claimed that he was friends with his brother Thubten Jigme Norbu (Wyl. thub bstan ‘jigs med nor bu, THLib. tup ten jik mé nor bu, b. 1922 d. 2008) and relatives of the 11th Dalai Lama. (Date unknown). Judenhass bis zum Schluss. Retrieved April 22, 2021. Mike Billington writes that Bruno Beger met the 14th Dalai Lama at least four times in the 1980s. He mistakenly notes that Beger was acquitted in 1971. Tenzin Peljor (see endnote 109) reports that according to Bruno Beger’s brochure Meine Begegnung mit dem Ozean des Wissens he met the Dalai Lama in September 1983, July 1984, and July 1985. Billington, Mike. (2008). Why the Nazis Love the Dalai Lama. Executive Intelligence Review, pp. 69-71. Retrieved April 23, 2021; Peljor, Tenzin. (2009). Korrekturen und Reflexionen zum Stern-Artikel über den Dalai Lama. Info-buddhismus.de. Retrieved March 30, 2021. Chilean diplomat Miguel Serrano (b. 1917 d. 2009) became a Nazi sympathizer and publisher in the late 1930s, early 1940s. He became a prominent figure in the Neo-nazi movement and “Esoteric Hitlerism.” Serrano was the first Charge d’Affairs of Chile in India between 1952 and 1962, where he met the 14th Dalai Lama. Between 1964 and 1970, Serrano was the Chilean ambassador to Austria. The Dalai Lama met Serrano again during his visit to Chile in 1992. Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas. (2002). Miguel Serrano and Esoteric Hitlerism. In Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity (pp. 173-192). New York: New York University Press; Versluis, Arthur. (2014). Savitri Devi, Miguel Serrano and the Global Phenomenon of Esoteric Hitlerism. In Henrik Bogdan & Gordan Djurdjevic (Eds.), Occultism in a Global Perspective (pp. 121-133); Guzmán, Gustavo. (2019). Miguel Serrano’s Antisemitism and its Impact on the Twenty-First-Century Countercultural RightistsAnalysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism, 40 (1), pp. 1-14. Retrieved April 22, 2021; Grunfeld, Tom. (1996). The Making of Modern Tibet. Armonk: M.E. Sharp. p. 302. During the Dalai Lama’s visit to Chile in 1992, Serrano—who, according to a contemporaneous news report, showed up uninvited at the airport—claimed to have met the Dalai Lama at the funeral of Indira Gandhi in October 1984 as well. Author unknown (1992, June 17). Miguel Serrano fue el convidado de piedra en recepción al Dalai Lama. Las Últimas Noticias, p. 31. The 14th Dalai Lama met Kurt Waldheim (b. 1918 d. 2007), the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, in 1986 and 1991. Waldheim was implicated in war crimes by the Nazi regime, and deemed persona non grata by the US and most every nation outside the Arab world and the Vatican throughout his term as President of Austria (1986-1992). Grunfeld, Tom. (1996). The Making of Modern Tibet. Armonk: M.E. Sharp. pp. 231-232; Author unknown (1991, September 1). Dalai Lama to met Kurt Waldheim during four-day visit in Austria. Agence France Presse; Author unknown (1991, September 3). Dalai Lama says days of Chinese communist regime are numbered. Agence France Presse.
  121. For a verbatim transcript of the Dalai Lama’s meeting with Keith Raniere and his entourage in Dharamshala, see Hogendoorn, Rob. (2020, November 8). The Dalai Lama and Nxivm Revisited. Openbuddhism.org. Retrieved April 3, 2021. HBO is currently working on a sequel that will cover the trial of Keith Raniere and members of his entourage.
  122. Andrews, Suzanna. (2010). The Heiresses and the Cult. Vanity Fair. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Odato, James M. (2010, March 28). Ex-NXIVM official seeks protection. Time Union. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Odato, James M. & Jennifer Gish. (2012, February 12). In Raniere’s shadows. Times Union. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  123. In March 2009, most media reports on Nxivm and Keith Raniere were readily available on the website of The Rick A. Ross Institute Institute and their original sites. Ross, Rick A. (2009). NXIVM: formerly known as Executive Success Programs (ESP): founder Keith Raniere: also linked to “Jness” and Nancy Salzman. Retrieved April 3, 2021. On March 29, 2009 Daniel Weaver wrote an Op-ed column stating that the Dalai Lama’s cancellation of the event ought to be a ‘no-brainer.’ Weaver, Daniel T. (2009, March 29). Op-ed column: Dalai Lama’s visit to Albany sponsored by cult-like group. Daily Gazette. Retrieved April 3, 2021. The same day, Brian Ettkin wrote about the vetting process by the Dalai Lama’s representative Tenzin Dhonden: ‘Mutual friends arranged for Sara Bronfman and Tenzin Dhonden to meet on separate occasions in Sun Valley, Idaho, where she requested an audience with the Dalai Lama, Sara and Tenzin Dhonden said. Bronfman told Tenzin Dhonden that the Dalai Lama might find NXIVM’s tools useful. “She was being very honest,” Tenzin Dhonden said, referring to Sara Bronfman’s disclosures to him during their initial meetings about the negative publicity NXIVM has received. Before granting her an audience, Tenzin Dhonden visited NXIVM’s Colonie headquarters for a week in January 2008 as part of a background check. He observed courses and spoke with coaches and participants, he said, and found them to be “very happy, friendly and sharing.” Tenzin Dhonden said neither he nor anyone else representing the Dalai Lama has actually participated in NXIVM courses. The Bronfmans and Tenzin Dhonden said that news reports, along with the cult researchers’ evaluations of NXIVM programs, were sent to the Dalai Lama’s office in India. Tenzin Dhonden said he’d “briefly” read some newspaper and magazine reports on NXIVM. While he was observing NXIVM training in 2008, he said, he did not interview any former participants or NXIVM critics. “I have my own intellectual resource, capacity, to know persons, to feel persons,” Tenzin Dhonden explained. “I can pick up like that, very easily.”’ Ettkin, Brian. (2009, March 29). Details light on Dalai Lama visit. Times Union. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  124. For an extensive discussion of Tibetans’ concerns about the Dalai Lama’s carefree, high-risk dealings with less than thoroughly vetted characters, see Hogendoorn, Rob. (2020, December 5). Knave or Fool? The Dalai Lama and Shōkō Asahara Affair Revisited. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  125. When The Daily Mail wrote that the Dalai Lama was paid $ 1 million to endorse Nxivm in 2009, the Dalai Lama’s Office was quick to publish a clarification: ‘We wish to categorically state that His Holiness the Dalai Lama never takes an honorarium or fee of any sort, nor does he require that any payment be made to charities or organizations, as a condition of his making a personal appearance. Therefore, the reported allegation has no basis. Neither His Holiness the Dalai Lama nor the Dalai Lama Foundation ever received the alleged $1 million in connection with His Holiness’s appearance in Albany.’ Perry, Ryan. (2018). EXCLUSIVE: Dalai Lama was paid $1 MILLION to endorse women-branding ‘sex cult’ after secret deal between Buddhist’s celibate U.S. emissary and his Seagram billionaire ‘lover’. Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved April 3, 2021.; Author unknown. (2018, January 25). Clarification in Response to the Daily Mail Story of January 24, 2018. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021. Indy Hack and Frank Parlato responded by validating ‘a source who declared that the Bronfmans offered the Dalai Lama one million to speak for NXIVM and that it was her impression that there was never any concern about his or one of his organizations accepting it.’ Hack, Indy & Frank Parlato. (2018). Further questions about the Dalai Lama’s Million Dollar Visit to NXIVM Sex Cult. Frankparlato.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  126. The sisters’ father, Edgar Bronfman Sr. passed away in 2013. Kandell, Jonathan. (2013, December 22). Edgar M. Bronfman, Who Built a Bigger, More Elegant Seagram, Dies at 84The New York Times. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  127. Sogyal did name his center in Berne, New York, the Tenzin Gyatso Institute, after the 14th Dalai Lama. But Sogyal’s devotees always maintained control of its governance and finances. Finnigan, Mary & Rob Hogendoorn. (2019). Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche. Portland: Jorvik Press. pp. 141-144.
  128. Author unknown. (Date unknown). Lost Horizon (1937) Imdb.com. Retrieved April 16, 2021. The movie is based on the fantasy novel Lost Horizon by the British author James Hilton. Hilton, James. (1933). Lost Horizon. London: Macmillan & Co; Sautman, Barry. (2010). “Vegetarian between Meals”: The Dalai Lama, War, and Violence. Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique, 18 (1), pp. 89-144. See also: Sautman, Barry. (2006). Tibet and the (Mis-)Representation of Cultural Genocide. In B. Sautman (Ed.), Cultural Genocide and Asian State Peripheries (pp. 165-272). New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
  129. Bourdieu, Pierre. (1991). Language and Symbolic Power (Edited and Introduced by John Thompson, translated by Gino Raymond and Matthew Adamson). Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 107-116. The two chapters ‘Authorized Language: The Social Conditions for the Effectiveness of Ritual Discourse’ (pp. 107-116) and ‘Rites of Institution’ (pp. 117-126) explain well the power of institutions as manifest through their delegated representatives.
  130. Many Tibetan Buddhist centers and monasteries in the West reserve a dedicated room for the Dalai Lama’s use only, should he desire to sojourn there at any given time.
  131. See Chapter V (‘Of Executive Government’) of the Constitution of Tibet promulgated by the Dalai Lama in 1963, and article 31 of the Charter of Tibetans-in-exile promulgated by The Eleventh Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies in 1991. Author unknown. (1963). Constitution of Tibet: Promulgated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: March 10, 1963; Autor unknown. (1991). Charter of the Tibetans in Exile; Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (1992). Guidelines for future Tibet’s polity and the basic features of its constitutionTibetan Review, 27 (10), pp. 10-14.
  132. See endnote 21 and 22. See also: Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (2011). Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the 52nd Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (2011). Message of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Fourteenth Assembly of the Tibetan People’s Deputies. Dalailama.com. Retrieved April 3, 2021; Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (2011). His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Remarks on Retirement – March 19th, 2011. Retrieved April 3, 2021. In the documentary The Great 14th, the Dalai Lama says that the Dalai Lama institution should return to the position of the 1st through 4th Dalai Lamas: ‘only spiritual leader, no political power.’ Rawcliffe, Rosemary. (2020). The Great 14th. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  133. Emeritus professor Robert Thurman (see endnote 21) told The Guardian in 2017: ‘It is considered a breach of etiquette to bring up unpleasant matters to the Dalai Lama,’ which ‘leads to whistleblowers not being rewarded.’ Ellison, Katherine & Rory Carroll. (2017, October 27). Revealed: Dalai Lama’s ‘personal emissary’ suspended over corruption claims. The Guardian. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  134. The Dalai Lama told Pico Iyer that when he first met Shōkō Asahara, ‘he was genuinely moved by the man’s seeming devotion to the Buddha: Tears would come into the Japanese teacher’s eyes when he spoke of Buddha. But to endorse Asahara, as he did, was, the Dalai Lama quickly says, “a mistake. Due to ignorance! So, this proves” (and he breaks into his full-throated laugh), “I’m not a ‘Living Buddha!'”‘ Iyer, Pico. (2004). Sun After Dark: Flights Into The Foreign. In Making Kindness into Reason (Kindle Edition ed., pp. 51-78). New York: Vintage Departures; Iyer, Pico. (2008). The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 107.
  135. Hitchens, Christopher. (1998, July 13th). His Material Highness. Salon. Retrieved April 3, 2021.

About the author

Stuart Lachs & Rob Hogendoorn

Stuart Lachs (b. 1940) is an independent scholar and long-time Ch'an/Zen practitioner. 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.