While the Sogyal-Janine saga played out, Gerard was participating in Rigpa’s first three years, three months and three days retreat.
This is a traditional Tibetan Buddhist training programme, designed to bring about deep contemplative realisation and yogic insight. The retreat, involving intensive practice and seclusion from the outside world, began on August 9 2006 and ended on 21 November 2009.
However, true to form, Sogyal adapted the retreat to dovetail with his version of Tibetan Buddhism as a marketable commodity.
One of Rigpa’s web sites described it thus:
“…the purpose of such a break is to re-emerge into the world refreshed and re-inspired, having further developed the mind’s innate qualities of peacefulness and clarity, and deepened the heart’s innate capacity for empathy and compassion.”
It does not mention any of the profound aspects of Buddhist meditation– ‘primordial emptiness’ for example, or ‘integration beyond duality’. In comparison with the way other lamas present Tibetan Buddhism, Sogyal’s programme could be equated with studying for primary school exams.
Gerard Dubois – retired from flight duty and free from family obligations – sorted his external affairs and settled into Lerab Ling with every intention of staying the retreat distance, in the expectation that it would move his spiritual practice into a fresh dimension. Instead he found himself in a situation where the emphasis on group rather than solitary practice was wholly unproductive: “I had no experiences” he says, “at the start I went along with what was happening, but eventually I gave up and instead of doing Tibetan meditation, I concealed a Zen text in my prayer books and read that when I was supposed to be meditating.”
The coup de grace on Gerard’s involvement with Rigpa came when he read a letter from Janine – three weeks after it had arrived. In it she confessed to her father that she had been in a sexual relationship with Sogyal.
“I was very angry” he says.
Gerard demanded an interview with Sogyal, who was initially wary. but then admitted he had had sex with Janine. He tried to shift the blame onto her – claiming that she had seduced him and that he was at first resistant, but later gave in to her demands.
Gerard was inclined to believe his daughter’s version of what happened and this, coupled with his disillusionment with Tibetan spiritual practice, made him decide to leave the retreat – but not before he had shared his feelings with other retreatants:
“We were not allowed to talk” he says, “ but we found ways to communicate.”
As a result some of the 200 people present also left the retreat – some shocked at the revelation, others realising that their pre-existing doubts were well founded.