The Sex Lives of Monks: Confessions of Kalu Rinpoche.

Via Shyam Dodge
on Dec 5, 2011
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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 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: 

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: Author Website:


95 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.

  3. Chewyguru says:


  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.

  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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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,

  11. 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,

  12. 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,

  13. 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,

  14. Shyam Dodge says:


    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,

  15. Shyam Dodge says:

    Hope that I have allayed your fears Alex 🙂

  16. 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
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  17. Tanya Lee Markul says:

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

  18. 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?

  19. 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!

  20. 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

  21. 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?

  22. 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

  23. 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.

  24. 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?

  25. Adele says: 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….

  26. Gesar Mukpo says:

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

  27. 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.

  28. Sydoni says:

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

  29. elephantjournal says:

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

    Here's another take, via Julian.

    Yours, Waylon.

  30. 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.

  31. elephantjournal says:

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

  32. 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,

  33. 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,

  34. 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,

  35. 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 :… Subsequent article installment links are at the bottom. Part 7 was linked today. Peace.

  36. 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,

  37. Shyam Dodge says:

    Thank you Nadine. I couldn't agree more!

    All the best,

  38. 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.

  39. Shyam Dodge says:

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

  40. 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 ?

  41. 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.

  42. 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,


  43. 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,

  44. 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.

  45. 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,

  46. Shyam Dodge says:

    Wonderfully stated, Alicialei.

    I appreciate your observations and comments.

    All my best,

  47. 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,

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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,