The Sex Lives of Monks: Confessions of Kalu Rinpoche.

Via on Dec 5, 2011

This video represents an allegation—not proven fact—by the speaker, not elephant, and is passed along as important news for mindful, heartfelt consideration. That said, among the Buddhist community, it is well known that young monks are too-frequently subject to inappropriate physical “relationships” with their superiors. ~ ed.

~

Revelations of Sexual Abuse and Dehumanization in Tibetan Buddhism.

Kalu
Kalu Rinpoche

Kalu Rinpoche, a 21-year-old young man, is considered to be the reincarnation of Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche. The official website for the lineage declares Kalu to be the “The Supreme reincarnation of our spiritual master,” and someone whose mere gaze can inspire equanimity, even ecstasy. These are confusing pronouncements, when viewed in the light of Kalu’s personal and confessional video posted on November 28 of this year.

Below, Kalu Rinpoche frankly and bravely tells the true story behind his spiritual myth. It is a story of molestation by Tibetan monks, murder attempts, and drug abuse. It is not a comforting tale. And it clarifies the endemic problems of any system that relies upon the denial of the senses in favor of supernatural “realities.”

I speak from experience. I am a former monk and former guru from the Hindu tradition. And while my personal story is not one of sexual abuse, I can attest to the damages done by orthodoxy and mind-body dualism, which have the overwhelming tendency (and track record) to perpetuate dissociation, denial, and rationalizations that enable unethical and often dehumanizing—even criminal—behavior within the religious hierarchy. What to speak of how debilitating such body-negative philosophies can be to one’s personal spiritual journey. That being said, it is pretty clear by now that anytime you get a bunch of monks bonded together by an intense body-negative religious code some little kid is bound to get molested.

Here is the video: YouTube Preview Image

This video has a power to it. It is, of course, disenchanting to those of us enamored and prone to romanticizing the Tibetan Buddhist tradition—and by that logic any traditional spirituality other than Western iterations. (Cue revelations of how condescending it is to perpetuate contemporary renditions of the “noble savage” with regards to Eastern guru-types.)

But it has an even deeper lesson to teach us: the problems inherent to a spiritual philosophy that dehumanizes us. When we believe in supernatural realities to the extent that some young kid is somehow considered to be the reincarnation of a “Supremely Wise Being” we have essentially erased the person, the human being, behind all of our idealizations. Critiquing the corruptive power of such spiritual idealization is an oft cited and very relevant observation to make—which definitely applies to the monks who abused Kalu—but Kalu’s story is more than that. It is the story of a young man who is and was being crushed beneath the cultural and religio-political burdens of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He is definitely a remarkable young man. Very few human beings are subjected to such a powerful machine of personal erasure as the Tulku tradition and yet he has come out of it with his humanity, while bruised, intact.

Again, I can relate to this. As a young boy my yogic community held me in high regard and, by the time I was twenty-five, had officially declared me to be a fully enlightened being. This conferment of spiritual authority produced a revelation in me, but not the one expected.

What I saw so clearly were four things, two of which Kalu touches upon in his video:

1. We are all human beings, no one person is superhuman or has some privileged connection to a hidden domain of consciousness kept just out of the reach of other normal human beings—no matter their title or religious esteem (or cultural pedigree for that matter).

2. There are very dark politics seething beneath all forms of religious hierarchy. Kalu describes a key motivator behind this cutthroat political underbelly and the attempts on his life when he states, “and then my own manager tried to kill me… I mean my teacher. And it’s all about money, power, controlling. Because, if you can control the president you can get what you want” (min 5:03—5:14). Disheartening words for a spiritual tradition that promotes selflessness and compassion.

The third awakening is one that Kalu barely and only briefly gestures to in his video. This elision has to do with a number of things but most importantly: he is still operating as Kalu Rinpoche, which only perpetuates the hypocrisy he has been the victim of. If this revelation has dawned upon him he has yet to put it into practice. I will describe this third awakening in the paragraph below. But here I want to say that I have profound sympathy for Kalu. He has so much personal trauma to work through, so many cultural and religio-political burdens placed on his shoulders, and—not to sound condescending—a very significant educational gap to overcome due to his monastic training (I speak from experience). He needs a lot of help and my heart goes out to him. Nonetheless, he has yet to leave the Tulku machine. I know I will get a lot of flak for saying this, but, I truly hope he does. Of course, I understand that he is living under intense social pressure, as a Tibetan. Still, that doesn’t change his very human need for help, which requires the time and appropriate space to heal. I don’t see this type of healing as forthcoming in his maintaining the role of spiritual educator, and divine incarnation, in an orthodox tradition.

3. The third observation has to do with the pernicious effects of mind-body dualism. Whether it be Tibetan Buddhism, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, or Christian mysticism, there is a deep and abiding disgust for the human body. This negative view of our human biology stems from a belief in the existence and superiority of the spirit. Most traditional forms of spirituality (whether Eastern or Western) are predicated upon a metaphysical identification with an invisible spirit that survives the death of the body and contains our essence. In Tibetan Buddhism this spiritual “imprint” may be devoid of “true self” but it nonetheless survives the death of the body and contains the continuity of self necessary for the demands of reincarnation. The second commonality within religious traditions is that the body is viewed as an obstacle to the evolution of the spirit.

In Patanjali’s system, this problem is resolved through the abnegation of the body’s essential needs and wants, including food, sex, intimacy, and love. Both the Buddhist and yogic traditions teach us to not grieve the dead, for all things are impermanent. This speaks to not only a profound fear of death but it is also a fear of life—for it is life denying. In order to guard against death, life itself is rejected in the form of militating against the physical body via spiritual detachment.

I spent years engaging in this form of metaphysical asceticism. I rejected my body, denied it sex, fasted continuously and abstained from all “impure” foods. I was starving for intimacy, for love, for the permission to grieve those cherished ones who had died (including my father). I was desperate to be human. And yet, my whole spiritual life was predicated on denying my essential humanity. This note of desperation I do hear in Kalu’s video. He implores us to take care of our families, to be human. And I applaud him for that. But I, personally, think this effort to be human demands a reinvestment in the body itself.

(See Julian Walker’s excellent article that touches upon these same themes, and in greater depth)

It is, in many ways, an ethical decision. In order to treat others well I must value them, not an imaginary supernatural idea of “who they truly are as invisible spiritual beings,” but as living breathing persons that I can touch and know and speak to right now with my own body and my own eyes made of flesh. This also means that I can hurt those people if I don’t invest in the value of the human body.

Spiritual idealizations, such as mind-body dualism, have the tendency to not only obscure but also erase the value of the physical—for it is the physical body that invalidates and casts doubts/threatens the world of spiritual idealizations. These are the dangers engendered by losing contact with the real, the tangible, the physical, for it is the erasure of persons replacing them with concepts—which is anti-body and therefore has profound implications for our very human lives.

4. The fourth observation I made soon after being officially declared a superhuman divinity is intimately connected to this third awakening. It has to do with the implications of reinvesting in the body. It is a revisioning of spirituality and ethics.

When we understand the importance of this living breathing human body, the questions are no longer about metaphysics, but ethics. The question is no longer “what is the meaning of life?” but is much more vitally “what should I do with this life?” This kind of spirituality, which is rooted in the reality of the body, elicits an interpersonal experience we can all share in. And it therefore generates an ethic of intimacy. This re-embodiment of our common humanity, based upon the value of the body itself, is in fact an ethical practice.

By reinvesting in the body, we reinvest in our ecology, economy, and society. Understanding that all things lean into one another we can develop an ethical philosophy that has immense force. The force of this ethic is grounded in the experience of inhabiting your own skin. From there we inhabit our environment, our community, and this earth. If I invest in my body then I naturally care about the rivers and the lakes, from which I get water to live. By investing in my own body I come into greater intimacy with the bodies of others, which makes me care for the wellbeing of others as well as myself. Therefore, the ethics of this embodied life are about intimacy and the world of relationship. By this simple act, this reinvestment in my humanity, the ethical and environmental ramifications are enormous. I have in one simple philosophical shift become an environmentalist and an embodied humanist.

This fourth observation I’ve come to call embodied spirituality (see Julian Walker’s wonderful sutra on this very topic), which is a type of embodied ethics and embodied ecology. Of course, I have not originated any of these ideas but they have been the touchstones by which I have learned to heal myself from years of metaphysical asceticism. It is also why I am no longer a monk or a guru, for both “occupations” perpetuate and engender beliefs I consider to be harmful to myself and others. Hence, my weariness regarding the Tulku theocracy via belief in reincarnation and its tendency to breed the kinds of exploitation and scandal Kalu is simultaneously mired in and exposing.

It is inhuman to deny yourself the pleasures of the body and it is inhuman to deny the overwhelming precedence and value of our embodied lives. If such an embodied spirituality were to gain traction in the world, as I am advocating for, we would see less moral travesties, exploitation, and sexual abuse in the guise of religious holiness, such as the sad story of Kalu Rinpoche. I also believe that if such an embodied spirituality were to take hold it might stir a revolution in ethics, that would extend into all spheres of our religious, political, and social lives. For it is about becoming more human, not less.

About Shyam Dodge

Shyam Dodge is a former Hindu monk, author, and satirist. He is currently a student of religion at Harvard University. His memoir, Wet Hot and Wild American Yogi, enjoys a cult following in the United States and Europe, both for its enduring controversy and irreverence. His collection of sacred stories, Sweetened Condensed Milk, remains a part of the curriculum in the philosophy portion of many yoga teacher trainings worldwide. You can find his books here: http://amzn.to/utWZO7 Author Website: http://shyamdodge.com/

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94 Responses to “The Sex Lives of Monks: Confessions of Kalu Rinpoche.”

  1. [...] it be Tibetan Buddhism, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, … … Read the original post: The Sex Lives of Monks: Confessions of Kalu Rinpoche | elephant … ← Shane Crowe Put Daughter on Pornographic Web Sites, According [...]

  2. Devi Ward says:

    Hello there. You made a statement in your article that I have personally found to be completely incorrect. "The third observation has to do with the pernicious effects of mind-body dualism." Regarding Tibetan Buddhism- I am a practicing Vajrayana Buddhist, and my experience practicing the Tantrayana is that the body itself is considered Buddha. Form is emptiness and emptiness is form. In the lineage that I practice under, Shangpa Kagyu, we also use sexuality as a tool for realization. We have instruction in the secret Tibetan 5 Element sexual teachings from the previous Kalu Rinpoche, and my husband has empowerment and practice in some of the highest Anutara Tantra Yoga's. There is no separation of Body and Spirit. The emotions, the body, the human experience is used as fuel for practice. My Lama told me- "you will always have a body of some sort. Incarnation is ceaseless, so enjoy it." That doesn't sound like divorcing myself from the physical realm.
    Thanks for reading.

    • Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

      Hi Devi, thank you for your comment. I appreciate it. But I think that there is some misunderstanding here as to what the term "Mind-Body Dualism" means. This type of dualism basically asserts that there is some substance that is incorporeal that survives the death of the body, which you acknowledge exists in the Vajrayana tradition when you quote your teacher, "you will always have a body of some sort. Incarnation is ceaseless, so enjoy it." How can you have incarnations unless there is some incorporeal substance that transmigrates? I address this when I say "In Tibetan Buddhism this spiritual “imprint” may be devoid of “true self” but it nonetheless survives the death of the body and contains the continuity of self necessary for the demands of reincarnation." This by its very nature is an example of mind-body dualism.

      Thank you for your time and consideration,
      Shyam

  3. Chewyguru says:

    Shyam: I HOPE YOU READ WHAT IS WRITTEN ABOVE.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Thanks, brother. We oughta publish your thoughts above, here.

      Here's another take, via Julian. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/12/sex-death-

      Yours, Waylon.

      • Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

        This article via Julian, in my mind, is one of the very best articulations of the underpinnings of body-negative philosophies and a remarkable voicing of an alternative path–one which embraces the realities of our very human lives by reinvesting in the world.

        Thank you for linking it, Waylon (btw I linked it in my article above as well).

        I've been quoting this a lot in the comments so far but I'm reposting here again.

        In the words of Stephen Batchelor:

        "All belief in an unconditioned reality that transcends the
        contingent, painful flux of this world is, I suspect, an understandable
        but dangerous delusion. Rather than directing our longing
        and energy towards the Absolute and the spiritual freedom it
        promises, we need to turn our attention back to this world with
        all its messiness and suffering. For if there is any liberation to be
        found, it will be found here, in the midst of ordinary life, as a
        freedom from the grasping and craving for the self or the world
        to be perfect."

        All my best,
        Shyam

  4. [...] (See also Shyam Dodge’s excellent article about this video, in which he shares his own story o… [...]

  5. Padma Kadag says:

    Mr. Dodge…The biggest difference between yourself and Kalu Rinpoche, and I do not know either one of you, is that you are a businessman and Kalu R. is a spiritual person. You have decided, it seems to me anyway, to profit from your experiences and Rinpoche is learning and refining a new approach and remaing true to his Bodhisattva vows….so it seems.

    • Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

      Dear Padma Kadag,

      I don't understand how you have come to conclude that I am a businessman! In what way am I profiting from my experiences? By writing for free on EJ?

      Rather than making a character attack maybe you could address the issues at stake…

      All the best,
      Shyam

      • Padma Kadag says:

        Website…Book deal…movie? "Harvard student"!? Thats how. You are selling yourself and that is fine. That is the difference between you and Kalu Rinpoche…thats all. So why would you deny that you are a businessman? Is it a character attack to merely point out the obvious? Are you ashamed of doing business?

        • Padma Kadag says:

          BTW…the fact that you are a businessman is the reason for your commentary and your "spiritual" views. Be careful that selling yourself does not precede your spiritual path

          • Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

            Dear Padma,

            Your comments are so unfounded. It is interesting how getting an education is being demonized here. Also I have no movie! And my book served a purpose that had nothing to do with monetary gain. Read the book before you judge it.

            Either way, this is a diversion away from the issues raised by the article. Launching personal attacks like this do nothing to raise the level of discourse.

            You are entitled to your own perspective on me, but, again, I implore you to address the issues raised by the article.

            All the best,
            Shyam

          • Padma Kadag says:

            Shyam shyam Shyam…One cannot address issues until one has considered your perspective after having read your article. As I said, I do not know you. You, based on your website where you announce your Harvard education and your parents ashram and your book and your being in the same position as Kalu Rinpoche. Your website makes proclamations in order for you to sell yourself as knowing something based on your education at Harvard and your parents ashram…So…this makes you in the business of selling your story to make money. This is being a businessman. Surely a Harvard student can understand that. If you are referring to Vajrayana in your general terminology, "Tibetan Buddhism", your perspective is inaccurrate.

  6. Rob says:

    I'm not sure where you're getting mind-body dualism out of Vajrayana, because there is none. You make broad generalizations here based on misinformation. For those of us who practice Vajrayana it is hard to take this article seriously. Devi Ward put it rather well.

    I think your point that Westerners have a tendency to view Tibetan Buddhism through rose tinted goggles is accurate, but… Tibetan Buddhism is a human enterprise and thus it is not immune to the very delusional behavior that it provides antidotes for. Tibetan Buddhism has a track record of providing many people with a practical and complete path to awakening to higher purpose and greater utility WITHOUT advocating that they abandon important aspects of human existence, such as their physical bodies, the environment, passionate emotional responses and sexuality. The worth of these traditions should not be disregarded based on the misdeeds of the minority or the presence of politics in certain religious hierarchies.

    • Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

      Rob,

      I value so many teachings from the Vajrayana, including maha mudra and other profound practices. I am not arguing against those parts that are valuable in these contemplative traditions, merely critiquing the shadow portions of the tradition. Without honest assessments of what's going on we will only continue to enable and perpetuate the kinds of abuse Kalu reveals in this video.

      The Dalai Lama says that the two wings necessary for spiritual life are discernment and compassion. Without these two things the bird cannot fly.

      In this respect I am advocating for both discernment and compassion when evaluating these ancient wisdom traditions. Ignoring the problems of sexual abuse in monastic orders does not help, even if it be the minority.

      as far as the critique regarding mind-body dualism see the reply I posted to Devi's comment.

      I appreciate your thoughts.

      All the best,
      Shyam

    • Dolma says:

      thank you Rob, I've only recently got more involved in Tibethan Buddhism and reading Mr Dodge cast some doubts – is it yet another delluding system? but what has always attracted me to Buddhism, as I understand it , is working with and through the human body, feelings, emotions not denying it and taking responsibility for everything. though i totally agree that monks, and tulkus and lamas and Rinpoches brought up since early years among other men is "unhealthy", leads to sexual abuse, patriarchal system of power, excluding women….

  7. Alex says:

    I believe silence on part of author is not making him look very objective in his writing so He should comment and address what few people have pointed out above.

  8. Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

    I have been in final exams all day. So I have been unavailable to comment. I will respond to each and every person's comment tonight and tomorrow morning. Don't worry, I will address all the points you brought up!

  9. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Dear Shyam, thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. Although I am very confused by some of the comments left here, I have taken many positive things from this post. I feel there are some very important messages, at least for me. Especially pertaining to the disconnect of the body. This is something that seems so obvious in today's society – there is a major disconnect between mind, body and spirit in most of us. We see this in many forms, some of which you mention above.

    Please excuse any of my ignorance, but I want to add that I don't necessarily understand why we argue about dogmatic or religious rules. I also do not understand how we can ridicule those who have been a part of them, but at some point invite a new perspective or interpretation of them. We don't all have the same experience. It is all possible that we have something unique to offer. Although these religious rules have said to produce certain effects, it is not always true. What works for one, does not always work for another. Each of us have to find our own way and we won't find it by ridiculing others, but through compassion and seeing if at all possible and even at the most subtle level if there is a message that pertains to our own journey here – any clues or confirmations that provoke a deeper meaning within ourselves.

    Thank you for being here.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

    • Padma Kadag says:

      Tanya…it is called supporting your assertions. It is also called debate. Having a spiritual path is a wonderful opportunity and gift. Having the leisure to practice a spiritual path is rare. Yes I agree that a spiritual path is personal. If you assert a certain spiritual path publically or have commentary about how a spiritual path or school conducts itself be prepared to support your assertions. Both ways the one who is making commentary and the one questioning are given the opportunity to sharpen their views. This is as old as all of the spiritual paths and traditional means. My assertion to Shyam's article is that as a businessman he tries to relate to Kalu Rinpoche and he can't. He discusses Vajrayana when most of Vajrayana is not meant to be discussed hence..the Secret Mantrayana. I do thank him for bringing this video to my attention.

    • Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

      Dear Tanya,

      The Dalai Lama says that the two wings necessary for spiritual life are discernment and compassion. Without these two things the bird cannot fly.

      In this respect I am advocating for both discernment and compassion when evaluating these ancient wisdom traditions. This requires discourse and dialog. I am very appreciative of everyones comments to this end. In order for there to be discernment there must be dialog, and much of what is going on in these comments is serving that purpose.

      Dialog is necessary to the process of reshaping and formulating appropriate ethics that are both compassionate and reasonable.

      In that regard, I thank you for diving in and engaging in this shared discourse. And of course I thank you for the kind remarks and observations.

      All the best,
      Shyam

  10. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage. Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook.

  11. Joshua Eaton says:

    I'm a little disturbed by your implication that body-negative theology or chastity somehow cause pedophilia. I'm fairly certain that I could never have sex again for the rest of my life and not be tempted to molest a child. Plenty of monastics simply break their vows with (adult) women; why chose young boys instead? And if theology and chastity are somehow to blame then how do you explain similar incidents at day care centers, Protestant and Jewish religious organizations, and the recent scandals at both Syracuse and Penn State?

    • Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

      Dear Joshua,

      All good points. This is the first serious and well-reasoned criticism of the article. I highly appreciate it. You are correct in asserting that by simply becoming a monastic does not automatically make one vulnerable to becoming a pedophile. I was more on the side of pointing out the hypocrisy of a body-negative dogma, which is supposed to support and inspire compassion and ethical codes, that attempts to hide sexual abuse of children within its own monastic structure. And how the ramifications of both such a body-negative and a hypocritical double standard only serve to further fragment and traumatize the victims of abuse.

      So, I thank you for bringing greater clarity and nuance to the conversation regarding these highly charged issues.

      All my best,
      Shyam

  12. Nadine McNeil Nadine says:

    Hmmmm…no doubt I’ll need to re-visit this one before forming any sort of hard and fast opinion. From a writer’s perspective, you’ve taken on a deeply complex situation at the root of which I believe, your driving force was/is compassion. It seems to have evoked a tremendous amount of strongly emotive reactions — understandable — given the terrain you’ve waded into — based on the comments posted by other readers. My all encompassing comment at this point is: while there is an inter-connectedness in all things great and small, there mightn’t be a correlation. At the core of being [more] human is a requirement to be [more] conscious. Many of whom claim/profess to wanting/leading a spiritual path embark on these blind journeys which ultimately have the opposite effect; i.e., totally losing themselves rather than enhancing their levels of awareness. Courage must always be acknowledged and for this, I say, KUDOS!

  13. I don’t see vajrayana as “denying the senses”
    At all. There’s a lot in this article that is not
    Correct as far as vajrayana goes. I’m not a monk
    Or nun, and I do know atleast one person who
    Didn’t want to claim their possible Tulku status
    And I don’t know the authors background but
    As a vajrayana practitioner and someone who
    Has lived over there to learn more, I would say
    Alot of the basic concepts are misconstrued here.
    Spreading misconceptions like this is not a positive
    Idea.

  14. Padma Kadag says:

    Friendly reminder to all of the Vajrayana practitioners…do not explain the dharma or more specifically the Secret Mantryana to those who have not taken the vows. Blogs and websites are no place to discuss the ins and outs of the Vajrayana…especially to those who have not taken or upheld the vows. Kalu Rinpoche's video does not discuss Vajrayana. Shyam makes an attempt to give an opinion about the Secret Mantrayana to which he seems to not be committed…So, if he knows and is holding vows then why would he show so much misunderstanding or even discuss it publically?My assertion is he ho;ds no Vajrayana vows. So why would you explain anything to him?

    • elephantjournal says:

      Right. They are secret, and thankfully self-secret. We can keep this discussion general without getting into a discussion beyond the depth of the many wonderful books available to all of us about Vajrayana. ~ Waylon.

  15. Adele says:

    ..as for you people who are PUBLISHING these accusations, aren't there publishing guidelines/ethics that such serious allegations should only be published if the individual in question has sufficient objective evidence to back up his claims? I can only hope for the individuals who are helping Kalu propagate these accusations that they have seen sufficient objective evidence to back them up if needs be in a court of law. Otherwise, it makes a mockery of ethical journalism and is essentially mud-slinging of the highest order. Remember people ARE INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. Its a good job he/or the publisher have not named anyone because you might find yourself in court. Until evidence is shown, then this is just confused and harmful GOSSIP….

    • elephantjournal says:

      Amen on innocent until proven guilty. That said, go easy on the ALL CAPS..!

    • Ogyen Kunsang says:

      He was 13 years old at the time. Kids then don't have conciousness enough to tell what is right and what is wrong. And everyone in the sanghas and monasteries will use the word Dharma to convince others to make certain acts.
      I know I borned in a corrupted "Buddhist" community. That now is a desert mountain for some reason.
      Hard core crimes committed in name of the Dharma.
      I just hope you don't face corrupted people like this.

      • Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

        Dear Ogyen Kunsang,

        Thank you for sharing your important and powerful story here with us. Would you be willing to be interviewed?

        Much gratitude,
        Shyam

  16. randolphr says:

    ANY SUGGESTION that an abused individual remain silent, is cold hearted.
    Nothing takes precedence over the safety & sanctity of another.
    Not belief, not philosophy, not practice, not stature.

  17. Sydoni says:

    There is so much incorrect about this article. I do not agree with much of it. Some yes.

  18. Owen Sayre says:

    Shyam and those interested in getting beyond mind-body dualism, I would refer to an (excellent, I think) series of articles regarding spiritual practice, yoga, and Buddhism here on Elephant : http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/08/buddhist-y… Subsequent article installment links are at the bottom. Part 7 was linked today. Peace.

  19. JOnathan says:

    Isn’t it funny that the reincarnation of Kalu Rinpoche says that he has been sexually abused ? Knowing that his former incarnation had been accused himself of sexual abused by one of his disciples ? Could it be a retribution ?

    • Adele says:

      This is one of the best replies to this article I've seen so far…..I had exactly the same thought myself about this a couple of days ago.

      • Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

        Rationalizing someone's abuse and trauma through metaphysics only serves to dehumanize and deny the very real suffering and pain of another sentient being.

        Using reincarnation as a way to explain and thereby devalue the suffering of another human being is no better than saying that a rape victim or a child who has been molested deserved their fate because "they asked for it."

        This is the very reason why I am arguing against the fragmenting and dehumanizing philosophies of reincarnation and metaphysical ideas of karma.

        Both, the abuse that Kalu experienced, and the alleged sexual abuse inflicted by Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche, speak more to the flaws and imperfections of the Tulku tradition.

        Even more revealing, is how such sexual abuse is now being rationalized through supernatural beliefs in karma and reincarnation. This only further establishes the dangers of such beliefs and their capacity to act as personal erasure and dehumanization.

        Blaming the victim is inhuman and is the opposite of compassion. Let's get back to the real living breathing life we are living now and experience and practice real empathy for one another rather than engaging in useless metaphysical speculation.

        All my best,
        Shyam

        • Padma Kadag says:

          "Let's get back to the real living breathing life we are living now and experience and practice real empathy for one another rather than engaging in useless metaphysical speculation. "
          Shyam I whole heartedly agree with this quote. But it seems that you have suffered by stacking your own house of metaphysical intellectual cards just as the majority of western spiritualists have done and continue to share with all of us on EJ. Rather than denounce the Law of Karma publically why don't you contemplate it first. The issue with Karma is that the majority of westerners dont understand it…I can be listed in that group….so they use it to explain the unexplainable and announce it's undeniability when it suits their ends. Do you really reject the concept of Karma? What is your understanding?
          in

    • randolphr says:

      Nothing funny whatsoever.

    • Dolma says:

      I had the same thought….. but then was ashamed to think that way, it's really mean….

  20. Jasmine Gill says:

    "By investing in my own body I come into greater intimacy with the bodies of others, which makes me care for the wellbeing of others as well as myself. Therefore, the ethics of this embodied life are about intimacy and the world of relationship. By this simple act, this reinvestment in my humanity, the ethical and environmental ramifications are enormous. I have in one simple philosophical shift become an environmentalist and an embodied humanist." This is so beautifully written and a realization that I came to recently. Thank you.

    • Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

      Dear Jasmine,

      I am so happy it resonated. It is such a simple revelation that has profound implications. In fact, in many ways, it is revolutionary. I am grateful to you for being here in the world–feeling and thinking these things. Not only are you enriching your own life, but the lives of others, my own included.

      All my best,
      Shyam

  21. renodante says:

    Tibetan Buddhism is an ancient family business, much like the mafia. the tulku system is a sick joke that is all about maintaining power.

  22. renodante says:

    "The two 'confessions' here, are nothing whatsoever to do with dharma" i love how you gloss over the fact this person was sexually abused but instead focus on your fantasy based alternate realities.

  23. Adele says:

    Hang on, isn't it creepily karmic that the current Kalu rinpoche is complaining about sexual abuse when his former incarnation was accused of sexual abuse/exploitation by a former student? I mean, can anyone else not see the potential karmic link here?! Or have some Buddhists on this thread become totally blind to karma when talking about their own guru/lama? June Campbell, a former Kagyu nun who is an academic feminist, acted as Kalu Rinpoche's translator for several years. In her book Traveller in Space: Gender, Identity and Tibetan Buddhism, she writes that he subjected her to an abusive sexual relationship which he told her was tantric spiritual practice. She raises the same theme in a number of interviews, including one with Tricycle magazine in 1996.

    • Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

      Dear Adele,

      Rationalizing someone's abuse and trauma through metaphysics only serves to dehumanize and deny the very real suffering and pain of another sentient being.

      Using reincarnation as a way to explain and thereby devalue the suffering of another human being is no better than saying that a rape victim or a child who has been molested deserved their fate because "they asked for it."

      This is the very reason why I am arguing against the fragmenting and dehumanizing philosophies of reincarnation and metaphysical ideas of karma.

      Both, the abuse that Kalu experienced, and the alleged sexual abuse inflicted by Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche, speak more to the flaws and imperfections of the Tulku tradition.

      Even more revealing, is how such sexual abuse is now being rationalized through supernatural beliefs in karma and reincarnation. This only further establishes the dangers of such beliefs and their capacity to act as personal erasure and dehumanization.

      Blaming the victim is inhuman and is the opposite of compassion. Let's get back to the real living breathing life we are living now and experience and practice real empathy for one another rather than engaging in useless metaphysical speculation.

      All my best,
      Shyam

      • dominique says:

        Dear Shyam,
        Thank you for your humanity.I am a Buddhist practitioner and a survivor of sexual abuse.I am 60 years old and is only now articulate enough to understand how it crippled all aspects of my being.
        I fell into addictions, denial , dissociation and used spirituality as a copout.
        I was not the only one.I have noted many victims of sexual abuse tend to go to Dharma centers(or Catholic convents) in an attempt to white wash the shame and guilt and fell pray to other predators.
        I have seen this pattern at Triratna with young men abused by Sangharakshita,Rigpa with people sexually, physically and emotionally abused by Sogyal Rinpoche.
        I have been witness of bullying in 3 year retreats structures by other western students;(the same who now call themselves lamas and perpetuate something which has nothing to do with becoming beautiful beings).
        I cannot help thinking it is our own bigotry and desire for a romantized Tibetan buddhism which has put kalu Rinpoche in the sad place where is is now .
        How can one put in doubt what he says?

  24. Konchok Tashi says:

    Critics sitting in they computers judging respectful youngsters. All who consider them self humans or bodhisattvas with no respect for others even them self.
    There is a lot of corrupted people even in Tibetan Buddhism. And even Tibetan people do not listen to Dailai Lama. How can western people understand ??

  25. [...] it in Catholic history, and here we see it in a Tibetan tradition.”I was also directed to an article addressing the same issue at Elephant Journal, by Shyam Dodge, a former Hindu monk, author, and satirist and current student of religion at [...]

  26. doug says:

    Shyam's article is a breath of fresh air on this website! I went to Amazon and bought both his books. :)

    The defensive tone of many of the above posted comments is pathetic. I find many Yoga and Buddhist practitioners as difficult to reason with as are Born-again Christians and Republicans. I've been involved with enough religious and self-help organizations to know that the SHADOWS OF ABUSE AND FRAUD LURK IN THEM ALL… BEWARE of all religious organizations — including those of ancient eastern origin. And especially those organizations that require that you keep secrets and make pledges of loyalty.

    God bless…

  27. Scott says:

    The authors own rage blinds everything else that he is saying about Kalu Rinpoche and Tibetan Buddhism.

  28. tashi says:

    Hi all,

    this came up in conversation today and now of course finding it online as news on FB. What a metaphysical revelation!

    ;-}

    Well anyway Gesar Mukpo gets my vote here, there are clearly so many condescending… hmm… opinionated armchair psychoanalysis type remarks here, that form the usual
    formula
    of “I hope he gets help, poor victim” that removes all dignity and power from the actual man, and all based on the deluded imputing of this author and sensationalism that surrounds these types of scenarios.

    Perhaps if anyone were to examine that the author has little if any connection to the subject matter beyond having seen a video on youtube, we can see what this armchair “I KNOW, I AM SPIRITUAL and use PRETTY SPIRITUAL WORDS.” type of commentary is.

    with love and respect to Kalu, and seeing that speaking the truth, as he has indeed been doing, and outing corruption, which he does speak of and has been dealing with, is all “reality”.

    Forming condesceding “compassionate” theories about how Tulkus are supposedly victims is a bit silly, for a person who is from a different tradition, but thinks they know the “Vajrayana” too.

    Elephant seems to sell on sex and yoga, so no surprise for the low quality editors job here too ( Love ya, Waylon ;)

    from Marpa House,
    one guy with a “Supernatural” connection to Kalu

  29. [...] The Sex Lives of Monks: Confessions of Kalu Rinpoche and Sex, Death, Sacrifice & Waking Up. Comments worth the read. ~ ed. [...]

  30. Yasica greenbless says:

    Posted on EJ Health & Wellness Facebook

    Jessica Stone Baker
    Co-Editor, Elephant Health & Wellness
    The Mindful Body

  31. Alexander Duncan says:

    Disgust for the body is an expression of attachment and disdain for the body is unbalanced. To regard the body as other than enlightenment itself is the view of an unenlightened being. To say that the body – samsara, rebirth – is illusory and therefore has no ground is just another illusory perception. Hurting the body violates the precept against harming living beings. The experience of the body is the experience of being/non-being. The mindstream does not disappear upon enlightenment. Therefore, the "body" – in the largest sense (which is not antithetical to anything) – is endless. What does the universe feel like?

  32. Enid Grosser says:

    The Government is operating so far outside of its design parameters that this type of discussion becomes futile. IMO the place to begin is eliminating tax which would force massive reductions in power and programs, bringing the govt. more in line with the founders structure. Only then can a discussion vis-a-vis federal and state govts. become worthwhile.

  33. [...] have an entire economy built around the myth of self-realization. Current iterators of the “Buddha’s teaching” profit from an idea of a saintly ghost, for the [...]

  34. [...] but it was invisible, I couldn’t grasp it. In that moment I saw her nakedness and my own. We both fell short of the myth. Sometimes you have to let your idea of the world die, so you can touch the things that are real. [...]

  35. Karina says:

    What's being overlooked here is that Kalu Rinpoche has already made a tremendous contribution to his segment of humanity simply by uncovering corruption and institutionalized abuse, and in speaking the truth. In so doing, he is opening the door to the possibility of long-overdue reforms. He already has introduced reforms and ethics into some of "his" centers in Europe, replacing corrupt and abusive lamas with those he is confident will adhere to high ethical standards. Furthermore, he has pledged to build boarding schools for boys from poor families who would otherwise be given away to monasteries, where they would be at high risk of experiencing a childhood of sexual abuse. This is true humanitarian work. Let us hope that this is the beginning of a trend.

    Kalu Rinpoche isn't the only one to speak about sexual abuse in the monasteries. Namkhai Norbu has spoken with his students about his own sexual abuse as a child tulku, and refused to send his own son to be educated in a monastery for that reason. Slowly, the light of truth is being shone on the dark recesses of the monastic system. Transparency is gradually coming to Tibetan Buddhism.

    The effects of severe childhood trauma can cripple people emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually for life, unless they get qualified professional help. Many ex-monks end up living marginal lives in menial jobs. The lucky ones get visas to the West, where menial jobs can at least afford a better standard of living than in India and Nepal. Even so, it's common for them to have difficulty forming loving relationships, maintaining job stability, and advancing in life. The sooner this custom of admitting children into the monastic system is ended, the sooner suffering to a certain class of sentient beings will be ended. Kalu Rinpoche is the harbinger of this change. He deserves and needs our support.

    For more info on Kalu Rinpoche's reforms: http://www.paldenshangpa.net/2011/09/a-vision-forhttp://www.paldenshangpa.net/2011/04/broken-hearthttp://www.paldenshangpa.net/2011/04/light-shines
    His posts show he's not wallowing in self-pity, but is taking constructive action to end abuse. More power to him!

  36. leroy jacobowski says:

    The new bodhisattva vow is: "How can I altruistically help, in a human creative way (and anonymous way), the fellow deviated human creature who stands in front of me??" While being aware with one eye on the thought: "A man's conscience is only as good as his level of honesty to his conscience." And with the self-same one eye being simultaneously aware of the second question: "How did this fellow deviated human creature become the way he is?" All the while remembering that e-v–i-l (that is, a lack of sufficient or abundant l-i-v-e (or life) makes everyone the same.

    I have never took any lessons on Vajrayana or mahayana, I have no religious preferences, other than the daily school of life itself, Karma 101. I can help to present the collaboration, and co-creation of the Sacred Fire of self-effacing paradoxes of manasic and/or buddhic stories or moral proto-inventions or "presents", only when I accidentally kill ole Super Sid on the way the dancing in the street temple. "Enlightment is Innate; demonstraing it in the Moment is pure grace and beauty!!"

    True friendship is an altruistic gift.

    Thanxs. Gautama & Kamala!!

    Leroy Jacobowski (the world's greatest sinner, most hated nobody, and professional idiot).

    • Leroy Jacobowski says:

      I have accidentally made the mistake in the above (1): it should read Not : as his level of honesty to his conscience? But … as his level of honesty to his hypocrisy.?" And (2): Not, "… on the way the dancing in the street temple, But, … on the way to dancing in the street temple.

      My boo-boo's, Sorry,

      Leroy.

  37. L. Jacob says:

    My mistakes above: (1) should be:: as his level of honesty to his hypocrisy." (2) should be: on the way to dancing in the street temple.

    I apologize!!,

    again, thanxs,

    Leroy. (the world's greatest sinner, most hated complete idiot).

  38. [...] beginning of the end of my career as a celibate monk came when I was 21. In June 2003 my father was hospitalized with an aortal dissection (where the [...]

  39. I am not sure where you are getting your info, but great topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.

    Thanks for great information I was looking for this
    info for my mission.

  40. [...] Revelations regarding sexual abuse suffered by boy-monk Kalu Rinpoche, believed by Tibetan Buddhists (but not himself) to be the reincarnation of a venerated [...]

  41. [...] and my humanity were obstacles to transcendence (you can read a more in depth discussion of this here and here), which was the result of a philosophy that not only conflicted with reality but also [...]

  42. Giorgios says:

    Hi

  43. rakesh says:

    what did buddha say…………………."middle path"………………i hope it answers all the queries and doubts…………rest all teachings are just for show…………

  44. joe says:

    I appreciate your some of your views and coming from christian tradition ( christian tradition is not Christianity ) I can see the very some things you mentioned are present in christian tradition as well… However the craving for power , power abuse, the sexual and emotional molestation etc appear not only in religion but appear on all levels of human existence…look at politics, education, medical and pharmaceutical industry….it is present wherever humans are present!
    Because spiritual communities should be the light beacons and all to often they are not we who endeavor for spiritual growth see them as hypocritical which they are. As far as your need to be "human"
    I can agree with you partially.Wanting to be loved, wanting food, sex, contact, communion etc is not what makes you human although it is a part of it. Mind/Spirit is what makes you a human much more! Body can be severely damaged and dysfunctional and may or may not be able to participate in all the things you call "human" (invalids are good example) yet depending on the mind it possess ( or vice versa) it will manifest higher (positive) or lower (negative) nature. Should we destroy our bodies with rejection, self denial and fasts ? To "quote" your previous God: "if you loosen the string to much the instrument will not play and if you tighten it too much it will break" …The truth is in the middle!

  45. Ann says:

    You can have three children growing up in the same household with the same parents and each have a different experience of reality, just as if three different people can walk into a movie theater and have a different experience of the same movie. No one perspective invalidates the others. I have not yet watched the video, but I am most certain, that when I do, my experience of it and my empathy for Kalu, will be nothing like yours.

  46. Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

    Adele, a little more compassion will go a long way. Kalu was the one abused, let's not make him the bad guy!

    Kalu does have a lot of issues, but it is his honesty about those issues that is so unique and vitally important.

    All the best,
    Shyam

  47. Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

    Dear Gesar Mukpo,

    In no way did I mean to lessen the bravery, compassion, and integrity of Kalu. That being said, you did not address many of the issues I brought up in my article, instead you made some very strong claims about me and my character. But I completely understand as you have a very personal connection both to Kalu and the subject matter at hand.

    I too am struck by the profound courage it took to speak this truth. It goes against so much intense adversity. And it requires immense honesty. The emotional clarity and ethical integrity it took to post this video is more than admirable. I, in no way, have ever indicated I thought anything less of Kalu. I think he is a remarkable man. I also believe that he would benefit from help on a very human level. I think Kalu needs to have the time and space and support to heal from these traumas. You cite his three year retreat as if it is a mark of validation… but Kalu, himself, reveals the abuse he suffered from during those 3 years of retreat. What I find remarkable is his ability to tell the truth behind his pedigree. This alone speaks to his integrity. Acknowledging the injustice and hypocrisy he suffered from is, in my mind, in Kalu's best interest.

    I don't see how rationalizing and defending the system that abused him helps Kalu in any way.

    I hope I have not offended you in my reply, but I felt you deserved my most honest and heartfelt response.

    All the best,
    Shyam

  48. Gesar Mukpo says:

    Shyam,
    Thank you for taking the time to reply, it's much appreciated.

  49. Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

    Dear Ben,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and nuanced response. I agree that there is enormous benefit to many of the traditions, orthopraxy, and teachings within Vajrayana. That being said, I think we are making the same observations regarding, as you say, "When the illusion of perfection is seen as a necessarily ingredient for the survival of an institution, then all imperfections will be swept under the rug." If you read what I wrote more carefully you will find that what I am critiquing is the Tulku tradition, which demands of people, like Kalu, to appear "perfect," and how that acts as a kind of erasure on a personal and human level. We need to be human and so do our teachers.

    Notice, how I separated my observations on Mind-Body Dualism into the portion that was personal for me. Then I do draw that out into a general commentary on the dangers of supernatural beliefs that tend to value and even erase the importance of the living breathing human being in favor of spiritual idealizations.

    And if you read my response to Gesar Mukpo, I highly respect Kalu's courage and integrity.

    All the best,
    Shyam

  50. Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

    Dear Gesar Mukpo,

    I appreciate your comments here and am thankful for the opportunity to engage with you. Maybe one day we can have a cup of tea and discuss these things on a more personal and human level.

    In deep gratitude,
    Shyam

  51. Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

    correction: "tend to ****devalue and even erase the importance of the living breathing human being in favor of spiritual idealizations."

  52. Benjamin Riggs Benjamin Riggs says:

    Thank you for your response, Shyam.

    I was fully aware that you were critiquing the tulku tradition. I was saying that I felt like your critique was unfair.

    It is true that the tulku tradition demands of people, like Kalu, perfection. But perfection is not always defined in an inhumane way. Perfection (paramita) maybe defined, as is often the case in Mahayana Buddhism, as wholeness or completeness; Fully human. There are two recent tulku’s that come to mind, who fully embodied this sort of perfection: Gesar Mukpo's father, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. So, the tulku system is not impotent. It is vibrant and very helpful.

    However, I do think that these sort of situations point out the limitations of the tulku system. Often times we are lead to believe that every body involved in the tulku system is an embodiment of human perfection. This is obviously not the case. (I am not referring to Kalu Rinpoche, but the individuals that abused him, which I would imagine are highly esteemed monks.) There are limitations in any system, and entertaining romantic ideals while ignoring the reality of the situation is not healthy. On this, you have no argument from me.

    I have often said that these limitations are ignored because to have limitations means that the system is not all encompassing, which challenges the monopoly on enlightenment and therefore power, which Kalu Rinpoche alluded to in the video.

  53. Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

    Ben, lovely and salient observations. I'm trying to manage finals and 4 final papers for school at the moment, so there will be a delay in most of my responses. I thank you in advance for your patience.

    I disagree with the metaphysics underpinning the Tulku system and believe that it invites, and is in many ways sustained by, unrealistic idealizations and expectations.

    That being said, I wholeheartedly agree with your statement regarding the limitations of systems like this, which often conflict with our romanticizations, "these limitations are ignored because to have limitations means that the system is not all encompassing, which challenges the monopoly on enlightenment and therefore power, which Kalu Rinpoche alluded to in the video." So well said. I am really appreciating the clarity in your observations.

    Thank you Benjamin,

    Shyam

  54. Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

    Dear Lobma Thundrup,

    Thank you for your comments and observations. I get concerned when I see statements like:

    "a Buddhist is taught to value his or her body, for it is the temple which clothes the universal mind, that lives within it. We therefore, feed and clothe the body and then basically just let it be."

    The reason being that some other substance is being valued over the body, a substance that has no basis in reality. There is an artificial disconnect being created here between the body and the "universal mind." What is this universal mind?

    These delusions are troubling precisely because they act as personal erasure. In this artificial contrivance, you, who are a living breathing human being, are now simply a pair of clothes to encapsulate "the universal mind." This can only serve to disconnect us from what is now, from what is real, from what is truly liberating.

    This is why I am advocating for a spirituality based upon practices and ethics, not unprovable metaphysics. There are many profound practices such as Dzogchen, and Mahamudra, which are not dependent upon metaphysical assertions.

    In the words of Stephen Batchelor:

    "All belief in an unconditioned reality that transcends the
    contingent, painful flux of this world is, I suspect, an understandable
    but dangerous delusion. Rather than directing our longing
    and energy towards the Absolute and the spiritual freedom it
    promises, we need to turn our attention back to this world with
    all its messiness and suffering. For if there is any liberation to be
    found, it will be found here, in the midst of ordinary life, as a
    freedom from the grasping and craving for the self or the world
    to be perfect." (which is a very Dzogchen/Mahamudra type of observation to make)

    Kind regards,
    Shyam

  55. Adele says:

    Well said!

  56. Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

    Wonderfully stated, Alicialei.

    I appreciate your observations and comments.

    All my best,
    Shyam

  57. Padma Kadag says:

    Shyam your response to Lobma La is as if he/she is a buddhist scholar and you have caught him/her in error to support your erroneous thesis. You can argue his/her way of explanation but certainly you are reaching if you will use Lobma La's commentary as if he/she speaks for Buddhism. You are predicating your argument on the opinion of a buddhist practitioner's view not the teachings of the Buddha. Furthermore, Stephen Batchelor? Give me a break. Certainly now…let me get this straight.. you do not recognize the Law of Karma…yet you are qualified to state what is Dzogchen view?

  58. Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

    Dear Padma,

    I was not critiquing "Lobma La's commentary as if he/she speaks for Buddhism." Rather I was addressing Lobma as a fellow human being that I was/am engaging in dialog with. I am completely aware that I am speaking to Lobma not the Buddha.

    Padma, I respect your passion, but it's quite obvious to me (and most likely apparent to everyone else) that no one here has mistaken Lobma for the historical Buddha. I advise you to pay closer attention to the mechanics and nuances of argumentation.

    As far as Karma: it is a metaphysical concept that has been used to maintain aristocratic-theocracies and religio-power structures for centuries, and, also, to maintain social control via imaginary supernatural forces. We have gravitated towards this concept in the west because it has the aura of personal responsibility, but this is only when taken out of the cultural context.

    All my best,
    Shyam

  59. Shyam Dodge Shyam Dodge says:

    P.S. And of course the misuse and misinterpretations of karma in western iterations also serve unhealthy psychological functions. Which we can talk about if you are so inclined.

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