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Sogyal Lakar’s rise and fall

I just read Mary Finnigan’s and Rob Hogendoorn’s book on rise and fall of Sogyal Lakar:
I wrote this review at Amazon, which I hope will soon be visible:

This book is well worth a read by anyone involved in or interested in any spiritual movement.

It includes an almost forensic – yet very readable – dissection of how a sexually voracious and ultimately abusive, untrained and unqualified opportunist, Sogyal Lakar, seized the opportunity offered by a constellation of factors: Westerners’ spiritual hunger and the gullibility that thrives in the needy; an unwillingness to probe; a simple inability to ask the right questions, because of our ignorance; a willingness to indulge the sexual and culinary gluttony of someone believed to be extraordinary; the patriarchal, even misogynistic culture of old Tibet, along with its class-ridden unwillingness to be seen to criticise; the only-too-understandable urge of the Tibetan community – a community that has been slaughtered and tortured out of its own land – to pull together and look after its own, trying to sweep the appalling behaviour of one of its best-known representatives under the sofa. These are some of the ingredients of this ghastly cocktail.

I have been personally involved in Tibetan Buddhism for a long time; I have done my best to study and practice it, and I have been lucky enough to meet some awe-inspiring teachers (and students) of both high and low “status”. It means a great deal to me, and I have no doubt at all about the richness and value of this tradition. I therefore find it particularly important that we open our eyes to this kind of abuse and call it for what it is. Otherwise it will fester like gangrene.

I do feel that the last part of the book, which details the unravelling of Sogyal’s empire over the last year or two, will be less interesting to the general reader, although it is valuable to have the process documented. The earlier, and major, part of the work will be of much wider interest. It describes how a minor figure – with not a lot of education and very few contacts – parlayed not much more than the fact that he was Tibetan whose uncle was a well-known teacher into his dizzying later position. He became the second-best known representative of Tibetan Buddhism in the West, heading up an organisation devoted to absorbing his ill-will and satisfying his ill-adjusted needs. An illuminating read, with lessons for many of us.

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