How I decided to end my guru relationship with Trungpa Rinpoche

The journey we are on in the Shambhala world is enough to stretch every fibre of our being. At least that is how I have found it. I’d like to share about the decision I made to end my guru relationship with Trungpa Rinpoche.

Before I share my story, I want to say clearly that there is no right way forward for everyone. These decisions are very delicate and personal, and I believe each of us has to weigh the situation in our own soul to find our own best way forward. My decision is a result of weighing the situation in my soul. Someone else may make the decision to continue in a guru relationship with someone who has done the types of things like what we have been learning about; that may be right path for their highest good.

I feel deeply grateful to Leslie Hays for courageously bringing to light the abusive dark side of Trungpa Rinpoche. I am also grateful for John Perks sharing the story of Trungpa’s torture of a dog in his book.  I am grateful to the women (“consorts” and “girlfriends” of Trungpa) who came forward to me and confirmed Leslie’s stories of Trungpa’s abuse of women and cats, and his cocaine addiction. I needed to know these things, as hard as they have been to hear.

Trungpa Rinpoche was my anchor for nearly my entire life. I was 6 years old when my parents became his students. I grew up within his blossoming Shambhala world. I went to seminary as a full participant in 1985, received pointing out instruction from him, and began doing prostrations visualizing him as Vajradhara. He was my guru. He was the earth and the sky of my experience of life. 

Learning of his secret behaviours has been deeply devastating. And after completing the work of Buddhist Project Sunshine in February, I finally had time to face the uncomfortable truth.

This past May I went through an online meditation program I had created years ago. During one of the days of the process, the program invited me to go out for an intentional walk barefoot. 

I did this.

And while I was walking I found myself talking out loud with Mother Earth. I heard myself saying that there was no way that I would ever feel a sense of foundation for my spiritual journey in a primary relationship with someone who was abusive and a coke addict. 

I said I wanted something better for myself, and I wanted a chance to have a strong path.

I then found myself speaking out loud to Mother Earth making a decision to end the guru relationship with Trungpa Rinpoche. I said it clearly. I said it within the light of clearly seeing that there was no steady foundation for my path with that type of relationship at the core. I made a decision to end it.

I was shocked at how this unfolded. How could a relationship that was at the center of my life be over during one walk? Everything in Tibetan Buddhism has so much ritual, how could I end this primary relationship with no ritual, and in fact, no forethought?

Every time I have asked myself these questions since that day, I come back to the reason I made the decision. The reason cannot go away through turning a blind eye or wishful thinking. The reason I ended the guru relationship is because I need a healthy foundation for my spiritual path. 

On this walk I found myself taking Buddha Mother Locana as my guide. I have been developing relationship with her for a number of years, and this feels good to me. I experience her as solid and kind, and of course, with the deepest wisdom.

I feel better after making the decision, and I feel I have great potential with my future now that I clearly decided to end that relationship.

I still regard Trungpa’s dharma teachings with honour and gratitude. I am so grateful for his sharing them! I have lived my life through his dharma teachings, and they have served me well. So even as I ended the guru relationship, he still has a special place for the valuable instruction he has given me for my path.

Decisions and understandings like this can only happen through engaging our own heart and path. No one can tell us how to think or what to do. We each need to take personal ownership for “looking” and “seeing” what is true in our own heart. 

Sometimes we don’t know how to find that personal clarity. I’m grateful I had the resource of the online meditation course I went through. I liked it because it was self-study, and I had only me and my own mind to relate with. It gave me the safe space I needed to look at what was true for me.

I also found that in going through the meditation course, it would have been a much better experience if it took into account the sensitivity of my having gone through spiritual betrayal at such a deep heart level – both at the level of the guru, and at the level of the community who perpetuated the abuses. In hindsight, the program could have been more sensitive to that experience of trauma.

I’m passionate about finding ways to heal from what we’ve been through. I’m also passionate about the value of having a healthy meditation practice. Meditation gives us back the ability to work with our mind, and that helps us to be happier and better able to live fulfilling lives! Meditation is tried and true, and has been around a lot longer than any of the current difficulties with teachers. It’s important to reclaim something that is so valuable, and not let a few people tarnish that value.

My experience has inspired me to re-vamp the original meditation program so it brings greater sensitivity and support for those who have gone through spiritual betrayal. I am beta testing the revised program next month. If you are interested in learning how you can be part of the beta test, click here: Heal Your Heart Through Meditation. I’m limiting the test to 50 people. So if you are interested, be sure to register and reserve your spot.

There is a zoom call called, Reclaim Your Meditation Practice After Spiritual Betrayal, on July 30th which will include an interview of myself followed by group discussion. You can learn more about it here: True Healing, True Empowerment

I am confident we are going to find our way through this.  If the Heal Your Heart Through Meditation program can play a small part in that, I will be very grateful. Take good care, and hope to connect with you soon!


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