Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
First it was Shambhala, with years of multiple forms of abuse by the founder, Chogyam Trungpa, documented by his ex-students. Then it was Trungpa’s son, Sakyong Mipham, and his horrorshow of sexual assaults and financial exploitation. And now…its Dharma Ocean and Reggie Ray. And we all thought Reggie Ray was one of the ‘good guys’ who broke away from Shambhala’s authoritarian and abusive culture. Reggie Ray had been a student of Chogyam Trungpa in the early days, but had gone off on his own for the last 20 years and founded his own teaching lineage. But no, as his students’ say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” What follows are some of the reports, posted on Shambhala Survivors Reddit group, of Reggie Ray’s students who have been through spiritual and psychological abuse at the hands of “the master”, who turned out to be yet another Tibetan-tantric narcissist.
Aren’t you sick of this? I know I am. Maybe it’s time to DITCH THE RAFT, and by that I mean, rid ourselves of all these so-called “teachers” who exploit students for money, sex, power and adulation. We don’t need them to learn the dharma—we never needed them.
Join us to declare a Buddhist Spring in May 2020.
Reggie has [been] accused of spiritual abuse by at least three different people on this board, myself included. Giving him the platform of an AMA here is a direct violation of of rule #2, the Abuse and Harm Denial Policy. I’m fucking shaking as I write this. This is a space that is supposed to be for the victims of abuse, and you’re handing the keys over to a classic narcissistic who is going to twist it to his own ends.
I get that some of you are excited, that he’s a big get, that you really want to hear his take on Shambhala. But apple didn’t fall far from the tree, and for a bunch of people, the many dedicated students who have left dharma ocean because of his abusive behavior, this is the exactly same as giving an AMA to mipham. It certainly is not “standing in solidarity with those who have shared their experiences of abuse and mistreatment.” Or does this board only stand in solidarity with those who’ve experienced abuse within Shambhala? Reggie was an acharya–that’s not close enough? You’re going to give me a care-and-conduct type technicality answer? That the behavior happened after he left, so it’s not your responsibility to take accusations seriously? This is un-fucking-believable. I hope you enjoy being gaslit by Reggie. This board loses all credibility for me now.
Red flags about Reggie Ray, spiritual and psychological abuse and complicity
There is an alarming number of ex-Dharma Ocean members, who have privately communicated grievances about psychological abuse, most of which neatly fits the profile of a narcissist.
There are many accounts of public shaming – while a student is at the microphone in front of retreat participants or behind closed doors during senior teacher, staff, or meditation instructor meetings.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde style whiplash communication, going from kindly, loving and warm to caustic, paranoid and aggressive. It is important that much of this happens in private phone calls or emails. Plenty of gas-lighting included.
If a student is perceived as a threat in any way to his authority, the student is thrown out one way or the other if the student doesn’t leave first. Too many ways one might be perceived as a threat to list here.
The tricky thing is that the public, fresh participants at his dathuns, or readers of his books will never see this side of him. It is those who have gotten close to him (typically entering into “samaya” with him, or becoming a meditation instructor or Dharma Ocean staff member) who get psychologically abused by him. Many who leave seem frightened to come out publicly. Others just want to leave it in the past. Many report PTSD, affecting new relationships, ability to engage in meditation or connect with other dharma teachers.
The other difficulty is while other teachers are in trouble for acts that are against the law, Ray’s abuses are not technically illegal or even easy to identify. The harm he does to others is psychological and spiritual (there’s a whole conversation about his interpretation of “samaya” and how he restricts what his closest students expose themselves to from outside teachers or practices). His behavior is variable, unpredictable, and difficult to document.
Ray has known the Sayong (Shambhala Int’l leader recently accused of sexual misconduct and other abuses) all his life. While Ray was an Acharya (senior teacher in Shambhala), he knew much of what the Sakyong was doing behind closed doors, including the incident that happened in Chile. In fact, Acharyas had regular meetings, spanning years to discuss many of these issues – and for that reason Ray and probably many of the current Acharyas are complicit in his activities. Analogous to what the Catholic church has done.
Ray also knew (since the early 2000’s) from multiple accounts shared with him during a retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center of certain sexual indiscretions by Bill Karelis (another Shambhala teacher) who is now in court because of one account of sexual abuse of a minor. Another in-house cover up, more complicity. He may no longer be part of Shambhala Int’l, but this needs to become part of the larger conversation. The Dharma Ocean staff and meditation instructors could be said to be complicit in the “next generation” of abuse.
Ray himself was subjected to abuse from his teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche, who it is fair to say was an abuser on many levels himself. There’s nothing new here, Ray is also a victim who totally believes in his vision of the dharma, but his limitations aren’t helping him, and hurting others.
Have caution when speaking with Ray, he’s a brilliant speaker with loads of charisma, and if you blink, he’ll have you convinced of his innocence.
It would be great if former members of Dharma Ocean could find a way to communicate their grievances as a group, at least as a measure of public safety. They’re probably spread apart and out of communication with each other for the most part, unfortunately. I urge people to share this post as needed.
Why he’s been invitated to AMA here is beyond me – it’s like asking an abusive father over for dinner with his injured family.
wow, thank you so much for this. you nailed it. I’d emphasize, in #4, the paranoia he exhibits and engenders in his staff and close students. After years, I still haven’t shaken free from it, and I think it’s a big contributor to why people go silent after they leave. I still have an irrational need to prevent Reggie and D[harma] O[cean] people from knowing anything about my life; my theory is that it’s because that’s the only control I have. I know, as anyone who leaves knows, that anything we say or do vis a vis Reggie and DO will be used against us. We know because almost every time someone prominent leaves, Reggie publicly trashes them, creating and controlling the narrative, regardless of how it actually went down.
13. Nepotism to an extraordinary degree. He would go to great lengths to build up his own family members as “true spiritual” beings way above his most dedicated students. It is a long known aspect of being in the inner circle and humiliating to those who have truly given so much of their lives & devotion to the teachings.
14. A clear bias for more traditionally feminine traits in senior teachers i.e.- softness and compliance or silence. If a woman has a lot of money or power these preferences will be overlooked. Female students were told to put themselves “energetically” under their male partners if considered too brash or strong. Staff members/ board members who were either “yes-men” or moneyed tend to hold positions of power much longer than their fellow sangha.
15. Students or staff speaking up about core issues that were coming up in the early 2000’s about sexuality, gender and race were routinely humiliated and silenced. Group conversations/research from experts in the field within his own sangha belittled or co-opted. Students and staff bringing up similar issues almost two decades later share similar issues.
16. Regularly holding fundraisers after encouraging students to drink a lot of alcohol under the guise of teaching or “pointing out”.
17. Routine co-opting of other spiritual traditions from African to Aboriginal to Native American Indian to Hawaiian (most often deeply influenced by whatever student or family member most had his ear at the time) This could also be argued as part of his brilliance and open-mindedness.
18. Every new teaching/ chant/ practice presented as the greatest/ better than other teachers- practices etc with a demand for students to attend a Dathun or VTI or yet another meditation instructor training (often throwing students into years of debt ) or be threatened with lost of status. These rules were always changing and wily-nily.