The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) published an update on 13 November outlining its findings concerning allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior by Lama Dagri Rinpoche. In the report, the FPMT outlined their use of an outside agency, the FaithTrust Institute, to independently determine the veracity of claims against Dagri. The foundation concluded that Lama Dagri had committed sexual misconduct and spiritual abuse, and issued a permanent suspension from the organization’s list of registered teachers.
The report found that Lama Dagri had engaged in “a pattern of intentional and inappropriate sexual behavior that persisted over many years toward women who were in his company due to his position as a trusted incarnate lama and teacher.” The suspension will mean “that FPMT centers, projects, and services, cannot invite Dagri Rinpoche to give Dharma teachings. . . .” (FPMT)
The allegations regarding the lama’s behavior were first made public in May 2019, when a woman filed a complaint that Lama Dagri had molested her during a flight in India.* Soon after, a former Gelug nun released a video on YouTube accusing Dagri of molesting her at his residence in McLeod Ganj, northern India, in 2008. A third woman offered her own account on Facebook of a sexual assault taking place when she studied in India between 2005 and 2009. FPMT responded at the time with a temporary suspension of Lama Dagri from teaching, pending further investigation.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche, co-founder and current spiritual director of the FPMT, issued advice on guru devotion on 31 May 2019 in response to the unfolding allegations. In his advice, Lama Zopa Rinpoche listed historical Buddhist masters who had great attainment but were mistaken as flawed beings, suggesting that it is up to the student to complete necessary practices and take precautions before finding a guru.
A summary of the reports of allegations published on the Buddhism Controversy Blog, operated by the Buddhist monk Tenzin Peljor, detailed several allegations of abuse by Dagri as well as the FPMT’s failure to respond to allegations brought to them as early as 2011. The document lists Roshi Joan Halifax, Dr. Janet Gyatso, and Ven. Lhundup Damcho as the advocacy team for women harmed by Lama Dagri and further lists Carol Merchasin as the lawyer and investigator in the matters.
The summary also accuses the FPMT of withholding information from the public by failing to release the information in a timely manner after the FaithTrust Institute presented its final report to the FPMT board on 19 September 2020. Updated segments of the summary report state: “Even now, although the FPMT has acknowledged that women were indeed harmed and even though it has in its possession the summary report by the Faith Trust investigators that it had committed to make public, it has yet to do so, or to fully address its own role in enabling such harm.” (Tibetan Buddhism in the West)
The summary report adds that from 6–12 November, five of the eight members of the FPMT’s board resigned.
Since 2019, the FPMT has taken a number of measures to protect students by improving safeguarding and its ethics policies. The FPMT board further added in the 13 November update that they believe they followed internal policies and procedures to the best of their ability, pledging that in future they would respond in a more robust manner to allegations of abuse by anyone within the FPMT.
In an update to a petition seeking an investigation into the the matter, the author writes: “We are pleased that the FPMT board conducted an impartial independent investigation as we requested. We are also pleased that after this investigation, it has accepted the truth of the allegations, acknowledged that Dagri Rinpoche’s behavior toward these women constituted both sexual misconduct and spiritual abuse, and clearly stated that such behavior is unacceptable. We request the FPMT to now fulfill its commitment and publish the complete and unedited summary report prepared by Faith Trust.” (Change.org)
* Tibetan Lama Dagri Rinpoche Suspended from Teaching after Molestation Allegations (Buddhistdoor Global)
Update from FPMT Inc. (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition)
Updates Regarding Dagri Rinpoche (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition)
Advice from Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Regard to Guru Devotion (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition)
Summary of Reports of Dagri Rinpoche Sexual Assault Allegations (Tibetan Buddhism in the West)
Fact-Finding Results In Response To Multiple Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct By Dagri Rinpoche (Buddhism Controversy Blog)
Call for investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Dagri Rinpoche, Update on November 14, 2020 (Change.org)