Lama Norlha was born in Kham (Eastern part of the ethnic Tibet) in 1935. 8 years of age, he entered a monastery. He escaped from Tibet in 1961. Lama Norlha was then 7 years in Kalu Rinpoche’s monastery in Sonada in India. In 1976 he went to the USA and became the leader of the Dharma centre Kagyu Thubten Choling. He also visited Denmark. Allegedly, Lama Norlha has had many sexual relationships, since he arrived in the USA. Now, he is officially deposed and retired. It is a bit strange to hear about, but not so surprising for people, who know Tibetan culture.
These stories about sexually potent Tibetan Lamas with great erotic appetite, that appear to lack ability to let go of attachment and identification with passionate feelings (kleshas), pop up al the time. So, this looks like a typical problem, that occur periodically. There is good reason to consider this problem and to take care. It is not always all right.
The problem in this kind of cases is of course, that we as bystanders cannot look through, whether the case is sexual abuse or correct erotic Tantra.
It is always the students that complain and feel abused. Some times such students experience regret long time after the whole thing took place. We might presume, that they did not learn anything and they were unable to conduct Tantra correctly. Possibly, the Lama have tried to show them a special way to emancipation and enlightenment in a professional manner. We do not know. On the other hand, the Lama might misuse the hierarchical power situation to relate erotically to the student with an intent of personal gratification and orgasm, disregarding the students situation and keeping Bodhicitta out of it. In that case, there is no samaya or Tantra wow.
We do not know, but the complaining students suffer much evil, because they have been caught up in a game, that they could not evaluate nor avoid, when it all happened. Later it appear to them, that they could have backed out. All in all, they are left with a feeling of shame. So even if the Lama did try to teach the students karma mudra, then apparently there was no success, and the students cannot help it, but experience abuse and regard the Lama as a sophisticated violator. The Dharma community, that they are part of, then also suffers and people leave.
It is not obvious, what is real or true. Such cases are difficult to unravel. It is typical though, that the abused students feel outrage, and that the Lama does not say much if anything at all, maybe because of samaya – or because it is simply all too stupid.
This is the reason, that erotic Tantra is rare indeed and difficult to accomplish. Also, it is not the ‘highest’ path. That of course is Mahamudra, where you will not engage with an erotic partner – where there is no erotic Tantra.
The wise Lama and Dharma-teacher will abstain from erotic relations with the students. As a principal rule it is unprofessional and may only be applied in very special cases, for instance if the Lama is married with the karma mudra, whereby the hierarchy to some extend is equalised.
In ancient India erotic Tantra was a tradition between the homeless wandering ‘sadhus’ or ‘holy men’ and yogis. In their native environment the tradition worked well, because there was not much of private property, private life, family honour nor lasting relationships for such yogis. On the other hand, karma mudra have never worked well within organised religion in general nor in the monasteries in particular. The first Karmapa Dysum Khyenpa was in this way expelled from his Lama Gampopa’s monastery, because he conducted erotic Tantra within the monastery walls 900 years ago. It was not the first time nor the last that such expulsions happened.
What is ethically correct in connection with Tantra, may be utterly incorrect in a civil samsara connection. When someone cultivate eroticism, almost automatically also the strong passion of envy is invited and not only desire. Right in the heels of both follow naturally pride and anger. Also confusion will arise. But just as easily great sensitivity and openness may appear, so Bodhicitta is definitely a possibility, if you really go for it. Even erotic Tantra is designed to handle and overcome the invitation of eroticism to attachment and identification, then this art will just as easily lead to more of the same kind. Eroticism is seduction, so erotic Tantra may become completely seductive and be misused.
The good news are, that the misuse was discovered, the Lama dismissed and everybody hopefully got wiser…
On Tilogaard you cannot learn erotic Tantra. Actually, it is quite difficult to find a Dharma-teacher on this subject, if you are interested. The Magazine Tricycle has written about Lama Norlha: https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/kagyu-thubten-choling-monastery-working-sex-impropriety/.
Read also: www.lionsroar.com/confronting-abuse-power/.
Also Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche has commented on the issue of Sogyal Rinpoche by writing a rather lengthy paper on Facebook you can download this paper as a PDF file.
Some people never learn
On the various website of the organisations directly connected to Lama Norlha and Sogyal Rinpoche there is no mention of sex scandals, even these two Lamas have made their formal exit from these organisations explicit and made excuses for their behaviour. It may seem that they did not leave at all. Quite strange - as if they are also in denial...
The same strange kind of attitude is also seen with the ‘alternative’ Jamgon Kongtrul Lhabrang. When you visit their websites, it is as if the Tulku has not left them, though he indeed did so more than a year ago in April 2016, stating that he did not feel like an incarnation of Jamgon Kongtrul, and he would rather live his life without this organisation. Read about that here.
(Please notice, that the ‘classical’ incarnated Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, the son of Beru Khyentse Rinpoche both feels like his previous incarnation, behaves as such and has no problem of being that incarnation. I call his incarnation ‘classical’ because he was appointed by the ‘classical’ Karmapa Thrinley Taye Dorje. The 17th Karmapa Thrinley Taye Dorje was called ‘classical’ by Shamar Rinpoche, because Taye Dorje appointed himself. In fact, it was his very first words spoken in this life, when the former Karmapa’s sister visited Taye Dorje’s family. Taye Dorje instantly recognised her and then spoke his first words. He was only 3 years old back then. Shamar Rinpoche then recognised Taye Dorje as a genuine Tulku of the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpae Dorje.
For people in the West, a solution to this problem is imperative, though a resolution seems to be far away. Saints, that are not really saints, cannot have a future in the West. Nor can they have any future in Asia, if they are not genuine, though old traditions die slowly. The Tibetans are in awe of their Tulkus, so it is not easy at all. Many people in the West are devotees to this or that Tulku, so many of them are also expecting the Tulkus to rule. This may lead to the perception by a majority of people, that Buddhadharma is a faith like so many other religions, and not a genuine way to insight, liberation and enlightenment. The Tulkus may have a limited future for a minority of people, who put emphasis on faith rather than insight. Such a future would be deplorable. Devotion to a highly qualified Lama is a genuine method, but if the Lama does not posses exellent qualities and mastery of the mind, it is futile to rely on such a person.
Stephan Delahunty wrote a paper on the 20 november, 2020 in the magazine 'Third Sector' (UK),
Read about Lama Puntso from Dhagpo (PDF file). In February 2021 rumours started to spread about Lama Puntso having misused women for many years. Nothing substantial has been revealed about theses allegations. Never the less, the public need to know, what is known as a fact in this case - and what is not. Rumours as such are harmful and should be disregarded until they have been proven. That has not happened yet in this case. So, Lama Puntso is innocent, as far as we know. But it is remarkable, that anonymous people do not hesitate to accuse him. Read about it here.
'Lust for Enlightenment - Buddhism and Sex' of John Stevens; Shambhala Publications, 1990. ISBN: 0-87773-416-X.
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