When eight students wrote a letter accusing Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the best-selling Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, of decades of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, Tahlia Newland set up an online support group for abuse victims and students of his Tibetan Buddhist community, Rigpa. Appalled by the lack of ethics, the group undertook a journey of discovery during which they uncovered the depth of the trauma suffered by victims, and the fundamentalism and cult behaviour at the heart of Rigpa. They learned about destructive cults, trauma and recovery, narcissistic abuse, co-dependency, institutional betrayal, and the methods of mind control used by Rigpa, who had covered up and enabled the abuse for decades.
Fallout, Tahlia’s memoir of this time, reveals the consequences of spiritual abuse for an ordinary member of an abusive, high-demand religious group and the psychological processing required for healing and cult recovery. Fallout is a cautionary tale for students and potential students of any guru-centred spiritual group. For Buddhist teachers and scholars, it also provides valuable insight into areas of the teachings which can easily be misunderstood and misused. For psychotherapists and counsellors, it’s an important case study for anyone working with cult survivors, particularly in a Buddhist context.
(A percentage of profits will be given to the Alliance for Buddhist Ethics and to Cult Information and Family Support Inc – CIFS – Australia.)