Rigpa Moving Forward
In September 2018, the boards of each national Rigpa and the Rigpa Vision Board committed to acting on the recommendations of the Lewis Silkin independent investigation report. The boards also committed to moving forward in consultation with our community.
Last updated: 24 January 2019 (see ‘Latest Updates’ in several sections below)
How Rigpa is Moving Forward
We are moving forward together on six areas within Rigpa’s vision and culture, care and governance:
Here you will find progress over the coming months. Each report recommendation will be addressed under one of these areas.
Latest updates: In November 2018, the Rigpa boards consulted our community through an online questionnaire. We received almost 700 responses with overall support for this proposal for moving forward and the Vision Board Charter (both were rated ‘good’). The response also clearly indicated that we have some way to go on these areas. Our progress so far was rated just above 'ok'.
1. Clarifying and embodying Rigpa’s Vision
Our international community is in a period of reflection on Rigpa’s vision, mission and culture.
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.
The Rigpa community is in the process of reflecting on Rigpa’s vision, mission and culture. 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.
This process, led by the Vision Board, began in December 2018 in Rigpa centres and will continue until March 2019. The outcome of the process will be shared in early 2019.
The members of the Vision Board
Rigpa Sangha feedback on the Vision Board Charter
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. At this point in time, there are 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?
July 2017 Boards committed to creating a new code of conduct and to putting a grievance process in place
August 2017 to January 2018 the Rigpa community participated in values workshops
March 2018 draft code of conduct was circulated for community feedback and for consultation with external advisors
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
June/July 2018 Members of the working group and national teams held Code of Conduct Q&A sessions with role holders and instructors
August 2018 grievance process was finalised and independent external grievance council appointed
September/October 2018 a National Grievance Council is established for each country
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 signed it. This includes Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, Neten Chokling Rinpoche, Khenchen Namdrol Rinpoche and others.
By end April 2019 to put in place a comprehensive and clear ‘safe environment’ plan for each country and retreat centre;
Throughout 2019 to develop policies and procedures that support the implementation of the Code of Conduct and Grievance Process;
Throughout 2019 to create and roll out training programs to include topics such as safeguarding vulnerable adults, recognising misconduct, receiving complaints and dealing with grievances.
Helpline and contacts
The external Independent Council is available to take past and present grievances: email@example.com
The national grievance council contacts are listed here.
In October 2018, 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’
In November 2018 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 website under „Beschwerdeverfahren“. Dorothea Reimann from Rigpa Germany’s National Grievance Council recently attended a meeting where many of the practical issues were discussed.
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 specifically addressing this topic will continue to take place in the coming months.
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.
This next phase will begin in December 2018 and is not limited in time. It will be held by the Vision Board with a small team of professional mediators. These next steps are not exhaustive and will be reviewed as we progress.
In the meantime, our community is encouraging anyone who wishes to, to make use of the grievance councils.
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?
July 2017 - present Each Rigpa 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.
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.
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.
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, and a new working group will be formed to track progress.
This process is on-going since August 2017. It was held by the International Holding Group and is now held by the Moving Forward Working Group of the International Coordination Group with professional support.
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?
The fourteen Rigpa entities have agreed to trial a federation model, and drafted a constitution and an affiliation agreement. They have are currently trialing the federative decision-making system over a period of nine months before adopting the constitution. The process is facilitated by a Federation Working Group.
The Chairs of the boards of each entity work collaboratively and meet fortnightly. 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.
Patrick Gaffney, Philip Philippou and Dominique Side have now fully 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 resigned from the Vision Board and the Rigpa UK Board.
Philip resigned 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 are taking place in each of the organisations concerned.
Policies and practices for fundraising for visiting teachers are being updated to ensure they comply with modern requirements in each country and with the expectations of donors.
This process is led by the Chairs of the boards of each Rigpa entity.
Rigpa Moving Towards a Federation: Meeting Report
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. Any reports or news will be posted here.
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. As a result Rigpa is working 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, also already begun, to strengthen our governance.