Rigpa Moving Forward
Rigpa is undertaking a series of reforms and changes throughout the organisation, following the retirement of its founder Sogyal Rinpoche in August 2017, and serious allegations and complaints against him and Rigpa. These allegations were investigated and an independent report was published in September 2018.
Last updated: 1 July 2019
How Rigpa is Moving Forward
We have been through a period of challenges and change in the last two years. Following serious allegations against Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa, Rigpa commissioned an independent investigation that was published in September 2018.
We acknowledge the gravity of the independent report and have committed to act on its recommendations.
In consultation with our community we are moving forward with reforms and are specifically focusing on six areas within Rigpa’s vision and culture, care and governance::
This page is updated regularly with on-going progress, and addresses the recommendations of the independent investigation.
1. Clarifying and embodying Rigpa’s Vision
After a period of reflecting on our vision as a Buddhist community, we have reaffirmed the purpose of Rigpa as a vehicle for the Nyingma and Dzogchen lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.
What we learned during the exploration of Rigpa’s vision is shared in our vision document.
We are continuing to reflect on what it means to be an authentic Vajrayana Buddhist community in Western society holding ongoing dialogue with other Buddhist groups and contemporary Western and Eastern teachers.
We offer a complete and authentic path of Buddhist study and practice, both for those who aspire to follow it in its entirety, and for anyone who wishes to apply the compassion and practical wisdom of the Buddha’s teachings in their lives.
Rigpa was founded in 1979 and since that time over 80 renowned Tibetan Buddhist teachers have been teaching in Rigpa and guiding the study and practice of Rigpa students. In 2019 alone we are receiving teachings across the spectrum of the ‘Foundations of the Buddhist Path’, Mahayana (Compassion), Vajrayana and Dzogchen from 20 teachers, including His Holiness the 42nd Sakya Trizin Ratna Vajra Rinpoche, His Eminence the 7th Kyabje Yongzin Ling Rinpoche, (in alphabetical order) Dzigar Kongrul Rinpoche, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche, Khamtrul Rinpoche, Khenchen Namdrol Rinpoche, Neten Chokling Rinpoche, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, Pema Rigstal Rinpoche, Khenchen Pema Sherab, Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, Tulku Ridgzin Pema, Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche and Western teachers Dungse Jampal Norbu, Lama Tsering Everest, Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel and Andy Karr.
What has been done so far?
Following the retirement of Sogyal Rinpoche from the role of Spiritual Director of Rigpa in August 2017, a Vision Board was appointed to guide Rigpa. The Vision Board is advised by eminent Tibetan Buddhist lamas, including Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Mindrolling Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche both key figures in interpreting Tibetan Buddhism in the modern world, and Khenchen Namdrol Rinpoche, a great scholar and lineage holder of the Ngagyur Nyingma tradition. Other Tibetan Buddhist lamas also advise Rigpa regularly.
From December 2018 to April 2019, the Rigpa community came together in Rigpa centres to reflect on what we have learnt in the last eighteen months and on Rigpa’s vision. This includes reflections on the history of Rigpa's vision over 40 years, what we have learnt about our culture, and what it means to uphold our lineage and tradition in the 21st century. Read the outcome of the reflections of the Rigpa community here.
The members of the Vision Board
Vision Board Charter: Role, activities and process of nomination of new members
Rigpa Sangha feedback on the Vision Board Charter
Communications from the Vision Board
Announcing Rigpa’s Vision Board, January 2018,
Report from the Vision Board’s first meeting, April 2018,
How Rigpa will move forward after the investigation report, November 2018,
Letter to the Rigpa sangha from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, January 2019
Clarifying and reaffirming Rigpa’s Vision May 2019
2. Communicating the relationship between Rigpa and Sogyal Rinpoche
Sogyal Rinpoche retired definitively as the Spiritual Director of Rigpa in August 2017. He has no other legal or organisational connection with Rigpa and does not receive any financial or organisational support from Rigpa. He is currently in retreat and undergoing medical treatment.
Communication with him is via his private secretariat: firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters to Sogyal Rinpoche are sent directly to the above email address.
Sogyal Rinpoche taught for over 40 years and recorded a large body of unique teachings. Recordings of Sogyal Rinpoche’s teachings continue to be available to students and to Rigpa centres who wish to listen to and study them.
3. Pledging to a safe environment in Rigpa
We create a safe environment for all who come into contact with Rigpa at our centres and retreats.
Rigpa role holders are required to sign the Code of Conduct and make a commitment to training which will include recognising misconduct, receiving complaints and dealing with grievances.
The Code also applies to visiting masters, teachers and instructors.
The Grievance Procedure operates at the local and national level in each country and also includes an external Independent Council that can be contacted directly, and can be activated for past or present conduct.
There are currently two members of the Independent Council. Both are senior western Buddhist teachers based in the USA with experience and qualifications in western psychology and counselling and were nominated by Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche.
The Independent Council is empowered to make recommendations to the Rigpa boards, including the Vision Board, which the Rigpa boards commit to act on.
What has been done so far?
September/October 2018 until present a National Grievance Council is being established for each country and these councils are collaborating to ensure best practice across all Rigpa countries.
August 2018 grievance process was finalised and independent external grievance council appointed
June/July 2018 Members of the working group and national teams held Code of Conduct Q&A sessions with role holders and instructors
June 2018 Rigpa Code of Conduct was approved and adopted by the Vision Board and all Rigpa boards. All members received a copy of the Code by email and it became publicly available on Rigpa.org
March 2018 draft code of conduct was circulated for community feedback and for consultation with external advisors
August 2017 to January 2018 the Rigpa community participated in values workshops
July 2017 Boards committed to creating a new code of conduct and to putting a grievance process in place
Speakers and teachers & the Code of Conduct
Speakers and teachers at Rigpa centres are made fully aware of relevant policies, including the safe environment and fundraising policies, before having contact with students.
Since July 2018, all visiting teachers and their teams have been informed about the Rigpa Code of Conduct and have committed to it. This includes Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, Neten Chokling Rinpoche, and Khenchen Namdrol Rinpoche.
The European Buddhist Union, of which Rigpa is an active member, has published a statement addressing abuse in Buddhist communities. Click here to download the EBU 2018 ‘Statement on abuse in Buddhist communities’
The German Buddhist Union, of which Rigpa is an active member, appointed two contact people as a helpline for people who may have experienced abuse in the Buddhist context or are unsure how to assess a situation in which they feel uneasy or oppressed. It is a support service rather than a mediation or conflict resolution service. These independent contacts are another option for those using Rigpa Germany’s Grievance Process. For details see Rigpa Germany’s website under „Beschwerdeverfahren“.
The Board of Rigpa Netherlands set up a working group to create a plan for learning from the past and facilitate healing in the Dutch sangha. The Dutch sangha can contribute their ideas and advice to the healing group via an email address set up for that purpose email@example.com.
Two new confidential-advisors (vertrouwenspersonen) were appointed. A confidential-advisor provides a confidential, safe listening space and initial care. The advisor also gives personal guidance and support for sangha members in raising their concerns. The Buddhist Union of the Netherlands (BUN) also provides an external confidential-advisor (vertrouwenspersoon) which gives Rigpa students another choice.
Rigpa UK became a member of Thirty-one:eight which specialises in supporting charities, churches and other faith-based organisations to create safer places and to comply with safeguarding laws in the UK.
The first Safeguarding training workshop was held in April 2019 with a professional safeguarding trainer from Thirty-one:eight. Role holders, including senior instructors, attended from as far away as Northumberland and Scotland. Participants included Averil Schram from the Lerab Ling safeguarding workgroup; Vinciane Rycroft from the Vision Board and Catherine Paul who is holding the international overview of safe environment implementation.
A Rigpa UK Safeguarding group formed to review and update the existing Rigpa UK Safe Environment policies.
Further safeguarding training is planned for RIgpa teams in UK and other countries later in 2019.
The Lerab Ling Congregation has a safeguarding workgroup to work on policies and determine training needs to support implementation of the Code of Conduct and a safe environment at Lerab Ling, and support the implementation of the Grievance Council policies in Lerab Ling.
Put in place a comprehensive and clear ‘safe environment’ plan for each country and retreat centre that describes how we take responsibility to create a friendly, open environment where there is respect for the differences and dignity of others, and where everyone has the right to feel and be safe from discrimination or abuse;
Update existing and develop new policies and procedures that support the implementation of the Code of Conduct and Grievance Process;
Identify training needs and role out training from external providers as well as internal courses on topics such as safeguarding vulnerable adults, recognising misconduct, receiving complaints and dealing with grievances.
Helpline and contacts
4. Taking responsibility for healing and past hurts
We are learning from the findings of the investigation report and are reaching out individually to past and present members of Rigpa who have been hurt.
What has been done so far?
Following the letter of allegations against Sogyal Rinpoche sent in July 2017, the writers were contacted individually by members of Rigpa’s national and/or international teams.
Rigpa boards jointly set up the independent investigation for complainants to come forward and be listened to in a confidential and sensitive way. The report was published on 5 September 2018.
In December 2017, as five of the eight letter-writers are based in the USA, Rigpa US also asked a neutral third party, the Zen-based reconciliation organisation An Olive Branch, to hold a listening post and a healing process.
The teams managing Rigpa internationally and nationally, including the Vision Board, have been reflecting on the culture that enabled this situation to take place, and continue to do so. Workshops continue to be held on these topics.
The Rigpa community held a prayer gathering in Bodhgaya in March 2019, attended by over 300 people, which is dedicated to restoring and renewing our spiritual path, as well as our connections to each other and all our teachers.
Boards are reaching out to those who have expressed their hurt, not just informally as it happened in the beginning, but also formally through letters and invitation to meet and support. One example is the US Rigpa community who wrote to their former sangha members following the ‘Listening, Hearing and Acknowledging weekend’ facilitated by An Olive Branch.
Our community is also encouraging everyone to make use of the grievance councils.
This work is led by the Vision Board with the national teams and a small team of professional mediators.
5. Deepening our culture of listening, non-judgement and good communication
We are embedding a culture change towards listening, non-judgement and good communication at all levels of the community and the organisation.
What has been done so far?
November 2018 The boards and the Vision Board consulted the international Rigpa community about this Moving Forward plan, as well as the proposed Vision Board charter and the process by which new members are appointed. A summary of the feedback was shared in sangha gatherings and newsletters.
September 2017 until present: Channels of communication were opened within the organisation with the firstname.lastname@example.org email address, and the Sangha Connection newsletter started in September 2017 with the wish to be fully transparent. Sangha Connection newsletters are sent to Rigpa members, and you can read past issues here.
August 2017 - December 2017 Values workshops were held to bring out what we treasure as a community and what we wish to abandon. The values workshops then informed the Code of Conduct.
July 2017 - present Each Rigpa sangha has created time for open spaces where any question can be asked, personal experiences can be shared, reactions expressed and the full diversity of views accommodated.
We recognise that listening, non-judgement and good communication need practice and on-going deepening. We are committed to checking regularly that we continue to change by seeking feedback from our members.
Catherine Paul email@example.com
Vision Board firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Strengthening our governance, transparency and financial practices
The new federative structure being put into place ensures that Rigpa continues to work harmoniously as one organisation internationally. It includes accountable transparent decision-making processes. The highest priorities are rigorous financial and fundraising processes and reporting.
What has been done so far?
Establishing a Federation
The fourteen Rigpa entities are trialling a federation model, and have drafted a constitution and an affiliation agreement. They are currently trialing the federative decision-making system before adopting the constitution. The process is facilitated by a Federation Working Group and led by the Chairs of Boards of the Rigpa entities.
The Chairs of the boards of each entity work collaboratively and meet monthly. The International Coordinating Group (the executive body) is formed of National Directors and retreat centre directors and meets fortnightly. It replaced the interim International Holding Group in September 2018. More about Rigpa’s Management Teams.
Patrick Gaffney, Philip Philippou and Dominique Side have stepped down from all their positions of governance in Rigpa, as of the end of September 2018. They are now in a period of reflection.
Patrick stepped down from the Vision Board and the Rigpa UK Board.
Philip stepped down from the Vision Board and his remaining governance roles in Rigpa Switzerland, Rigpa Germany and Dzogchen Beara.
Dominique retired from her role as Superior of the Lerab Ling Congregation.
Clear processes of hand-over have taken place in each of the organisations concerned.
Updated Financial policies:
Policies and practices for making financial offerings to visiting teachers are being updated to ensure they comply with regulations in each country and with the expectations of donors.
UK and Australian Charity Regulators investigations
UK Charity Commission inquiry: Following on from the Lewis Silkin report, the UK Charity Commission is conducting a statutory inquiry into the charity. Rigpa UK has been working closely with the Charity Commission to comply with their requests.
On the 13 June 2019 the Commission announced that it has disqualified Patrick Gaffney from acting as a Charity Trustee for a period of 8 years.
Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) investigation: The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) launched an investigation into Rigpa in Australia in January 2018. On 4 June 2019 the ACNC wrote that Rigpa had complied with their requirements and that the investigation is now finalised.
This process is led by the Chairs of the boards of each Rigpa entity.
Rigpa Moving Towards a Federation (June 2018): Meeting Report
Spiritual Director of Lerab Ling appointed: Rigpa’s main retreat centre, Lerab Ling, was recognised as a religious congregation by the French Ministry of Interior in 2002. As a religious congregation it is required to have a spiritual director. In March 2019, Her Eminence Mindrolling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche accepted to take on the role of acting Spiritual Director of the Rigpa Lerab Ling Congregation for an interim period, a role which has been vacant since the retirement of Sogyal Rinpoche in August 2017. The role of Spiritual Director of Lerab Ling applies only for Lerab Ling and not Rigpa as a whole. The spiritual guidance of Rigpa as a whole continues to offered by the Rigpa Vision Board together with the lamas who are spiritual advisors.
Read more about Lerab Ling’s spiritual guidance and governance here.
December 2018 to March 2019 the Vision Board, using the process outlined in the Vision Board Charter, requested the senior members of the Rigpa sangha to nominate new members for the Vision Board.
New Vision Board members appointed: Three new members of the Vision Board were appointed in April 2019 - Philippe Cornu, and two youth advisors, Yara Vrolijks and Fian Löhr. Read more
Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) investigation: On 4 June 2019 the ACNC wrote that Rigpa had complied with their requirements and that the investigation is now finalised. The ACNC had launched an investigation into Rigpa in Australia in January 2018. As a result Rigpa has worked to carry out their request to implement the recommendations of the Lewis Silkin Report, complete the policies required to more fully care for and safeguard students and the public, and continue the work of strengthening our governance.