Around this time Sogyal made his first sortie into France – a move which set in motion a chain of events that led to the establishment of Rigpa as a multi-national organisation. Disciples of the late Dudjom Rinpoche had coalesced into a small group in Paris. Sogyal pitched up there and was invited to teach. However, it transpired that the Dudjom people were considerably less tolerant of his playboy lifestyle than his followers in London. Before long they asked Sogyal to leave, but by the time they did this he had acquired a taste for the pleasures of life in France. It must have been tedious for him to return to hippiedom in a dilapidated house in an unfashionable area of London, after spending time with the Parisian bourgeoisie.
It seems likely that reports on Sogyal’s womanising and expensive eating habits reached Dudjom Rinpoche’s ears from France – because shortly after he was kicked out of the Paris centre, Dudjom wrote to Sogyal requesting him to stop teaching for a while and return to India “to ripen his practice”.
Residents at Orgyen Choling recall little hesitation on the part of their teacher:
“He refused point blank to obey the head of his order”, says one of them
(Mark) “ quite the opposite in fact. He removed his group from the Dudjom mandala and changed its name to Rigpa, with him in charge and accountable to no-one.”
The surge of enthusiasm for Tibetan Buddhism continued to accelerate, but in the late 1970s and early 80s there were still very few lamas actively at work in the big cities of the western world. News of Sogyal’s activities — and that he attracted some of the legendary elders like Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche — spread like wildfire. It soon became apparent that the room at Princess Road was too small to accommodate the ever increasing numbers turning up for teachings.
A cash donation from a famous actor enabled Rigpa to obtain a lease on premises in Camden Town. They stayed there for several years until they outgrew this space too. Their final move in London was to their present home on Caledonian Road, in Islington. This is an extensive property with a very large, if somewhat claustrophobic basement shrine room.