Book Editorial Reviews
Victor and Victoria Trimondi
A light which leads out from the Tibetan Buddhist dream-trance ©
Review of Chris Chandler’s book: “Enthralled – The Guru Cult of Tibetan Buddhism”
A renegade is a person who shifts allegiance from one loyalty or ideal to another. He is a resistance fighter, who rebels against an ideology or religion to which he once belonged. Some of the famous renegades, who opposed Stalinism are Arthur Koestler, George Orwell, Manès Sperber, Ignazio Silone. Others turned against Maoism like the French philosopher André Glucksmann who was a Maoist in his youth. Their critiques of degenerated communism have been so important, because they were authentic.
No one has more competence to judge an ideology or system as former adherents who know it from within. The books of the above-mentioned authors brought elucidation and clarity. They have prevented thousands of people to resist the totalitarian temptation of authoritarian communism and they gave courage and arguments to thousands of former “comrades” to leave the terror-system.
With her book, “Enthralled: The guru cult of Tibetan Buddhism “Chris Chandler is a renegade who once served Tibetan Buddhism and Lamaism for many years and has now moved away. Therefore, she calls herself “Ex-Tibetan-Buddhist” and is operating a website with the same name. Her critical study is authentic, brilliant, exciting, clear and without compromises. We have no doubt that this book will motivate many western Tibetan Buddhists to see their religion as problematic and to go out. It will give them the courage to make the decisive step and it will save many people, to enter this system ever. The author dedicated her book “to all the abuse victims of Tantric Lamaism, whose voices have been silenced for centuries.”
After we did publish in 1998 our book The Shadow of the Dalai Lama – Sexuality, Magic and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism, which triggered world-wide severe debates a lot of critical publications and websites have been brought out in the meantime questioning Tibetan Buddhism and Lamaism from scratch. The authors include Tibetologists, religious and cultural studies scholars, historians and bloggers like Melvyn Goldstein, Tom Grunfeld, Michael Parenti, Andrei Znamenski, Mike Garde, Maxim Vivas, Geoffrey D. Falk, Gilles van Grasdorff, Bernard Faure, for mentioning only some of them.
But Chris Chandler’s enlightened book has, thanks to its authenticity, and due to the fact that it has been written by a woman and a victim, something very special. It may put the final point of the irrational glorification of Lamaism and the Dalai Lama by the western elite in politics and show biz. But it also will enlighten Buddhists of all not-Tibetan schools and will make them realize that Lamaism is a distortion and falsification of Buddhism.
Who is Chris Chandler? She belonged for nearly thirty years to the Karma Kagyu lineage; the most popular Lamaist sect in the United States. She finished her studies in psychology at the Northeastern University and specialized in System Theory. She did work as a social worker, family therapist and licensed school psychologist.
Like thousands of young western people, she joined this eastern belief system in the quest for enlightenment. She took seriously the promises of the Lamas of happiness, of equanimity, of tolerance, of compassion for others, of a socially fair world order, of inner and outer peace. Many of her generation, who converted to western Tibetan Buddhism, came like her from the academic middle classes, have been students, pedagogues, social workers, psychologists, artists and intellectuals.
Most of them decided to go the way of a Bodhisattva helping people and the world to create a better peaceful social future. To “save the world” they connected Eastern religions, Shamanism, Christian altruism, personal development and enlightenment were connected with grassroot activism, alternative lifestyle and socially engaged politics.
Also, the Kagyu Lineage of the Lama Chögyam Trungpa, that Chris Chandler joined, began in the West as an assemblage of young men and women, who cultivated a protest attitude against the (repressive) bourgeois value-codex mainly of the capitalist American society. Their radical outbreak from the dominating social norms was called by Trungpa “crazy wisdom”. But, what once began as libertarian and altruistic, according to the author, did finish in a religious dictatorship and in sexual excesses without limits.
In this group Chris Chandler did play a special role. Because of her academic qualifications she offered her services as an administrator, direct care provider and legal guardian for Trungpa’s seriously ill autistic son and attended him together with her husband Robert selflessly for nearly, seven years. She lived in the house in Vermont, where the meanwhile deceased Trungpa had resided. Also after his death she still admired him as her first and best spiritual teacher. By her association and contact to his family she had been more than other western students connected with the elite of the Lamas and with their rich western admirers, who during these years also adored and idolized Trungpa’s son as an incarnation of a Buddha and did often visit him in Vermont.
Years later she found out that during all her time in the Sangha she did live in a kind of trance. And one day she became enlightened. She did recognize the true face of Tibetan Buddhism. But this awakening was a long and difficult process, which she endured together with her husband Robert, who also has been a western Tibetan Buddhist: “Without his encouragement, and unwavering support, as well as his outrageous wit, we would never have escaped this Tibetan Tantric world and this book could never have been written.”
Proceeding from the scientific studies of two well-known psychologists, Robert Lifton and Margaret Thaler Singer, who have worked out the binding general criteria, whether a spiritual group must be seen as a religious community or as a guru-cult, Chris Chandler investigated and challenged Tibetan Buddhism and Lamaism. The classical criteria of a repressive cult system are according to Lifton and Thaler Singer: The control of information and communication in the group; the “mystical manipulation” of the adherents orchestrated by the group or its guru; public confessions in the group; undemocratic and autocratic leadership; infallibility and divineness of the guru, which renders any critics of them impossible; absolute interdiction to speak about group-internals with outside people; threat of monstrous torments of hell in the case of disobedience; psychic terror and brainwashing; the construction of a specific communication-language for isolating the group-members from the external world; reduction and abolition of the familial relations; systematic deconstruction of the personality, the person and the Ego. Thank to her deep insider information the author reveals by a lot of examples, by personal testimonials and with convincing arguments that Lamaism shows all these above-mentioned criteria and has therefore a cultic character.
The Ex-Tibetan Buddhist also reports how too much meditation may lead to awareness disorder. How the students are brought to heel by mantras, which they have to repeat a million times or by permanent prostrations, when they have to throw themselves on the earth with their whole bodies; how books which criticized the Lamas, or their beliefs, are forbidden and ritually burned; how rational modern thinking systematically was destroyed and has been replaced by a magical world view; how the difference of Good and Evil are smudged. She gives an inside view into the multi-million-dollar streams, which are flowing through the veins of the Lamocracy having its origins not only in the western financial elite, which supports world-wide the Lama-cult but also collaborates with them in the People’s Republic of China, where Tibetan Buddhism is becoming (like in the west) a modern trend promoted by the rich of the country.
Chris Chandler also deals with the Kalachakra-Tantra-Ritual which has been performed by the Dalai Lama for dozens of years, and therein includes the Shambhala-Prophecy. This ritual is presented by the Lamas as a pretended vision for world peace. Without doubt the Tantra text speaks in a violently martial and apocalyptic language. The Lamas rectify this outwardly by saying that these (entirely un-Buddhist) warrior-metaphors are to be understood only symbolically. In a lot of publications we and others authors could show that this is not the case and that even such aggressive political movements as Fascism, National-Socialism and Bolshevism did reach for the Kalachakra-Tantra and the Shambhala myth to construct out of them an extremely militant ideology.
Also by the Lamas themselves in contrary to their rehashed public statements, the Shambhala-texts are understood not only symbolically. In detail talks Chris Chandler reveals the ritual practices and weekly long retreats of her ex-master Chögyam Trungpa to train his adherents as “Shambhala Warriors”. She shows, how his bizarre Hollywood-style militant rites in a white uniform and on a gray horse as a Shambhala general and how the corresponding Shambhala-meditations have not to be understood as pure metaphors or as symbols, but it was intended that he himself and his students will become reincarnated as real “Buddhist Warriors” in the last battle against the Powers of Evil.
Knowing that in the Shambhala prophecies of the Kalachakra Tantra, to which Trungpa refers in his initiation-practices, all Abrahamitic religions but foremost Islam are the main enemies one can imagine how dangerous such destructive visions are, which can draw the whole world into an apocalyptic maelstrom and a final battle of religions. This does not differ much from the war-ideology of the Muslim Mujahedeen who want to conquer the decadent west in the name of Allah. The horrific fate of the Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar gives a “foretaste” to what has to come if Muslims and Buddhists are confronted by war.
The center of the whole Tibetan cult is for Chris Chandler the apotheosis of the Lamas, who are worshiped as omnipotent, infallible gods in human form and who think themselves that they have supernatural powers. The author called this “a cult of Divine Narcissism as a religion, perpetuated throughout the centuries.” Very authentically she describes how the Lamaist gurus suggest again and again to their students, that it was a higher purpose to have met them.
The book draws a special attention to the cases of sexual abuse one can find in this Lama-cult. Since the Scottish Ex-Tibetan-Buddhist June Campbell has published twenty years ago her much-noticed critique of the misogynic sexual practices by high Lamas, a lot of other cases became known, which are well documented and commented upon in Chris Chandler’s book. In the Karma Kagyu group, to which she belonged, several students had been affected with AIDS by the successor of Trungpa (Osel Tenzin),Thomas Rich. This, too, has been called “crazy wisdom”; a “paradox event” on the way to enlightenment.
Shortly before “Enthralled” had been published, the Buddhist Community has been shattered by a spectacular scandal, the case of Sogyal Rinpoche. Sogyal Lakar Rinpoche, maybe the best-known Tibetan Buddhist teacher, beside the Dalai Lama, became famous for his bestseller “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”, which was sold with three million copies and which is a classic of modern Tibetan Buddhist literature. His organization (Rigpa) is spread all over the world. It contains 130 centers in 41 countries. In France he was allowed to build up the biggest Lamaist temple (Lérab Ling) of the West.
This high and well-known Lama was accused by eight of his former enablers and assistants of continuous physical, emotional, sexual, financial and spiritual abuse of his students since the nineties of the last century. Chris Chandler has been still able to introduce his case in her text, which did hit like a bomb and whose implications for the Tibetan Buddhist Movement in the west are not yet foreseeable.
The author not only describes these cases of sexual abuse as misconducts or assaults, but she shows how directly they are connected with the Tantric sexual-magical rituals. So – sexual abuse of women is shown as an integral and institutionalized part of Tibetan Buddhism, even as the essence of their Tantric mysteries. The material presented by Chris Chandler proves that Lamaism is an extremely patriarchal misogynic cult, based on the androcentric exploitation and appropriation of sexual and spiritual female energies.
Very illuminating are also the detailed reports about several formerly emancipated women like Tsultrim Allione, Sangye Khandro, Jetsun Khandro of Mindrolling or Pema Chödron who did submit abjectly to the system and therefore have been consecrated by the Lamas; that means they have been against all tradition recognized as female Lamas. Chandler shows what their pretended mixture of tantric Buddhism and feminism (also propagated as “enlightened feminism”) is like and that we have here an ideological fraud, which is selling this fundamentally misogynist system as pro-woman. “Writing books and creating movements that can be marketed at new-age seminars as the new ‘spiritualized feminism,’ these sexual consorts and nuns of the lamas have rationalized their own enabling of the sexual abuse, by making themselves powerful as make-believe dakinis and women of wisdom; not victims of the lamas and of their own fantasy-filled minds.” It is scary when one sees, how these so called “Wisdom-Women” or “Power-Dakinis” are closing their eyes for so many years in front of the systematic and ritual-legitimated abuse of their sisters in the Sangha.
Chris Chandler’s book appeared also in a moment, where women all around the world are organizing themselves to protest against sexual abuse by men. The case of the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein triggered a wave, which has become in a short time, the campaign #Me Too, where women are witnesses to all forms of sexual harassment; a strong international movement. In its depth this female protest must be seen as a reaction and answer to the actual rise of anti-feministic right-wing parties and patriarchs in many countries, who refer back to outdated not seldom religiously-founded misogynic patterns. In her book Chris Chandler shows that in the spiritual “universe” of Tibetan Buddhism this masculine and misogynic development is predetermined. The Lama-men claim their absolute say and use of women for their proper ends. The Ex-Tibetan Buddhist asserts therefore: “It is time to start a #MeToo, a Tibetan Lamaist Sexual Abuse movement, and stop pointing the finger away from the thousands of western women who have been victims of these lamas and their institutionalized sexual abuses.”
The institutionalized abuse of women is assured by the widespread pederasty in the Tibetan monasteries. The author speaks in this context also about the problematic institution of children monks and mentioned the young Lama Kalu Rinpoche, who in a YouTube-Video speaks about his personal history of suffering as misused child. Also, very interesting are her statements about the children of the first and in the meantime already second generation of western Tibetan Buddhists (dharma brats) and of their indoctrination; what is known also by other cultic sects.
Another focus of the book is the critical dispute about this great number of western scientists and intellectuals, who are related to as the authority of Buddhist knowledge because of their close contacts with the Lamas and the Dalai Lama. Their magical world view and the occult rituals of Tibetan Buddhism are propagated by these scientists as “secular ethics” or “secular spirituality”, when they are gullibly repeating in parrot fashion, terms which are always skillfully used by the Dalai Lama, to canvas the occult background of his system. Lamaism is for Chris Chandler not this “positive happiness religion” nor a forerunner of western science, as it is presented by the Lamas. Behind its so-called “secular ethics” is hidden an authoritarian Buddhocratic ideology of high priests, which does not know nor accept any ethical standards as we understand them here in the West
In the centre of her research about this phenomenon we find the Mind and Life Institute with hundreds of internationally connected scholars from very reputable academic institutions, mainly psychologists and neuroscientists. The problematic meditation practices of the Mind an Life Institute, behind this international movement, according to Chris Chandler, is hidden the global power claims of the Lamas, who are already deeply anchored in American society. Big companies like Google already work with these methods of “mindfulness” as sensitivity training for their employees. Such meditations have even become part of certain training programs in the US-Army. Politicians, actors, and business magnates are made fit again in the costly wellness clinics of the Mind and Life Institute. Also in Germany prominent neuroscientists like Wolf Singer, who gave a lecture at the 50th anniversary of Angela Merkel, are members of the Mind and Life Institute.
Particularly for intellectuals and scientists, the enlightened book of Chris Chandler maybe an eye-opener to lead them out of their trance and will show them what is hidden behind the stage of the so-called wellness-Buddhism. Her intellectual honesty, her clear argumentation line, her expert knowledge as a psychologist and as a system theorist give her, combined with an active participation in the Buddhist Sangha for nearly thirty years, the academic and empiric competence therefore. Chandler’s book proclaims the final end of the Shangri-la illusion with its “peace, love, and harmony” dreams of a global Utopia.
She comes to the following conclusion: Tibetan Lamas and the Dalai Lama do have a politico-religious agenda for a global Buddhocracy. Their sexual-magical tantric cult-system would abrogate the main values and standards of Western humanism: democracy, liberty of thinking and speaking, gender equality, human rights, social responsibility, education opportunities for everyone in favor of an androcentric cast-system and an anti-democratic dictatorship of priests. She shows how the western adherents of Tibetan Buddhism are manipulated as “useful idiots”, to promulgate and push through this extremely aggressive and apocalyptic doctrine and praxis all around the globe, in the centre of which we find the so- called Adi-Buddha, the fantasized monotheistic sovereign of the world, the universe and of time and who, in his incarnation as the Shambhala King “Rudra Chakrin,” will drag the world into an apocalyptic-messianic religious war.
We want to finish our review with the quotation, which you can read at the beginning of Chandler’s book. It comes from Allen Ginsberg. The famous Beatnik Poet had been fascinated by Tibetan Buddhism and by his spiritual master-lama Chögyam Trungpa. But, for a short moment, he became a renegade. He seems to have deeply regretted that he once motivated his friend and poet-colleague William Stanley Merwin and others to join the Lama-cult. Ginsberg wrote: “I accuse myself all the time of seducing the entire poetry scene and Merwin into this impossible submission to some spiritual dictatorship which they’ll never get out of again and which will ruin American culture forever. Anything might happen. We might get taken over and eaten by the Tibetan monsters.” Nevertheless, Allen Ginsberg could not until his death really distance himself from the “Tibetan monsters”. That shows how deeply the system can occupy the mind of people.
In difference hereto, Chris Chandler and her husband have been successful in their final getting out and we are certain that many will follow. Her book is a light which can lead people out of the Tantric Tibetan Buddhist labyrinth and Alan Ginsberg’s nightmare.
Victor and Victoria Trimondi ©