UPDATE: Response to public statement by Benchen Library regarding translations of Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche texts and Facebook pages

RESPONSE TO PUBLIC STATEMENT BY BENCHEN LIBRARY REGARDING TRANSLATIONS AND FACEBOOK GROUPS

12th October 2019

Benchen Monastery Library have issued an official letter, on 11 October 2019, which is not signed personally by HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, regarding ‘unauthorised’ Facebook pages, and the permission and copyright for translations of texts composed by HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche.  Here is my response to this letter:

  1. The ‘dozens of unauthorised pages’ this letter refers to have been, and were created, prior to the ‘Followers of HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche’ FB group I created in May 2019, and in addition, were set up by members of the Benchen monastic community (or their friends) themselves. So they appear to be complaining about the activity of their own sangha and community.

  2. There was never any intention or suggestion by myself, or others, that my ‘followers’ group was an authorised FB page and in addition, many great masters have such fan groups in existence, which have not been demanded to be closed down by their respective monasteries. Also, as I have had a personal and close connection with Rinpoche himself, as a friend and translator (we have been in almost daily contact on wechat), and there was no such fan group for Rinpoche, I saw no major issues with creating one. When it was first created it was liked and shared by many members of the Benchen monastery community and members of his own family. This initially friendly and welcoming attitude suddenly changed to one of hostility and aggression towards me as a woman and translator, and the main motivation for that change needs to be clearly explained by Rinpoche and/or the monastery.

  3. The translation work I have done and published already of short texts or sadhanas by (or about) HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche have all had his express and personal transmission, instruction and support. Rinpoche also gave me the transmission and permission to translate the Shentong text (Music of the Ultimate Sphere) in October 2018 and gave instructions over wechat and in personal meetings at Benchen monastery in May 2019.  I have audio recordings of those meetings and the wechat messages relating to his instruction and advice on other translations I have done. He told me in several messages that he was very happy with the translations I had done and they were ‘excellent’ and ‘beautiful’. In March 2019, Rinpoche also offered me financial support for the translation work when we met in Bhutan. In September 2019, Rinpoche also told me personally over wechat and in calls, that he would meet me the first week of October 2019 at the Nepal monastery to continue helping with the text, his health permitting. Therefore, as significant amounts of my own time and money have been spent on the translation of the Shentong text, I do intend to complete the translation of it and will seek Rinpoche’s instruction on it in the future as well.

  4. It sets an extraodinary legal precedent, if applied, for a monastery publisher to say that they, and only they alone, can give permission to translate and publish texts.  Particularly if the author.composer (in this case Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche) has given express permission and transmission to a translator to translate their teaching/text.  At the very least, the author and publisher should have joint copyright.  I have not come across any such official letter before, forbidding translations without the permission of the publisher alone. In the academic world, for example, many scholars and translators, translate and publish texts even without the oral transmission and instruction of the lama or a lineage master, never mind getting the permission of the monastic publisher. Also, let us not forget that these are Dharma texts under discussion, not worldly texts written and published for a profit basis and so on. The wishes of Rinpoche and that of some members of the Benchen community seem to be in contradiction and opposition.

  5. As a published Dharma translator, with an academic background in the subject, I have already spent a significant amount of time (and my own expense) translating the Shentong text (I have finished half of it) and Rinpoche gave me the transmission, instruction and permission to translate it. Therefore, any suggestion by Benchen Monastery or anyone else that I do not have the authority to translate or publish such a text is a mistake and potentially libellous. I also took the translator’s commitment to complete the text regardless of the obstacles that may arise, based on Rinpoche’s own actions supporting me and the translation activity. Therefore, for Benchen Library to try and force me, or any translator to abandon that is not only unprecedented but also unethical. It should be for Rinpoche himself to decide who he gives permission to translate a text and who he wishes to support on that. In addition, why could Benchen Library not have issued this letter to me personally, months ago when I started translating the Shentong text with Rinpoche’s support? Why do they choose now to do it now and in such a public manner?

  6. When I first met Rinpoche last year, it was apparent then, that very few of Rinpoche’s teachings or Tibetan texts have been published, translated or transcribed into English. At first I found this very hard to understand, but now the reason is becoming clearer. If a few Benchen monks with little personal access to Rinpoche, are literally dictating to scholars, translators and Rinpoche himself, who can translate and publish his works then of course, very little will, and can, be done. They state in their letter that: ”We are therefore dedicated to input, edit and publish them in modern book format or release online as eBooks.” However, there have been many years to do this and so far there have been no e-books, or new translations and transcriptions of his works and teachings in English.

    7. The online threats, bullying and silencing of my voice on Facebook, the disabling and loss of my personal FB account ‘Adele Zangmo’ as well as the slanderous accusations and slurs against my character as a woman, translator, Dharma practitioner and so on (by a few Benchen monks and people using anonymous FB profiles) are clearly motivated by a wish to control everything Rinpoche says and does and to block any activity he is involved in that they do not have explicit control over.  For more on that please see my previous post. The comments targeted at me as a woman are aggressive, sexist and misogynist.  In addition, as there are clearly some serious allegations surfacing regarding Rinpoche’s conduct (possibly over decades) towards female followers and women he has met,  any such allegations should be investigated objectively and impartially nonetheless and Benchen Monastery has a legal and moral obligation to respond privately to any complaints or grievances by men or women against Rinpoche and/or members of the Benchen monastic community. For example, earlier this year, I was also messaged on Facebook by ‘Sunny Ng’ and ‘Gillian C Kin’ telling me about such allegations, and have met several women independently in person, who all tried to warn me about Rinpoche and his conduct towards women, giving clear and specific examples with names and places. These allegations upset me a great deal to read and hear about and still do.

I do hope that these matters can be resolved in a peaceful, compassionate and humane manner that is consistent with the purposes and spirit of the Buddha Dharma and any slanderous accusations, disrespectful, bullying and unethical activity towards myself (and other female followers (and their Dharma friends)) cease and desist as soon as possible. I am also now seeking legal advice, not only on the above matters, but also as I have lost all access to my FB account and personal data in it and need to recover it, as well as resolve the issue that I cannot create a new FB account without it being immediately disabled without explanation. The fact that this has all happened at the same time as these other matters is no coincidence as far as I am concerned.

None of my previous letters sent to Benchen monastery administration about these matters have been responded to.

Adele Tomlin, 12th October 2019

 

UPDATE: LOSS OF FACEBOOK ACCOUNT AND PAGES FOR SHENTONG MADHYAMAKA AND HE SANGYE NYENPA RINPOCHE

Since the beginning of September 2019, I have had my Facebook account, Adele Zangmo, hacked into and/or deliberately disabled, as well as my emails being hacked into and personal data illegally accessed. Despite much effort and time, I have not been able to recover it or regain access to my FB account, as I no longer use the email or phone number I originally registered the FB account with. This has not only meant I lost access to many of my friends and contacts on there, but also my personal data, and administration of the new FB group ‘Followers of HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche’ and the older FB page ‘Shentong Madhyamaka and Kalacakra Translations and Teachings’. I have not been able to make a new FB account either without it being immediately disabled or hacked into on the phone and laptop I normally use.  This has never happened to me before.  I am trying to set up a new FB page for the Shentong Kalacakra website but that is very difficult to do if I cannot create a new FB account.  For now, I will post updates of new translations and research on this website here.

Please also see below a public statement I requested to be posted yesterday in the FB fan group, that I created and ran few months ago, called ‘Followers of HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche’.  The group became popular quickly with over 3000 followers. This statement addresses the circumstances in which I have lost access to the administration of the group, the hacking into my FB account and my relation with Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche and the translation work I have been doing with his support since we met in Nepal last year. Since my FB account was lost, I have seen and been brought to my attention many malicious and false posts (mainly from fake FB profiles) attacking me as a woman, my personal life, my work as a translator/scholar and as a Dharma practitioner. I strongly deny these anonymous and unsubstantiated accusations and defamations and hope the statement below clarifies it from my own side. The sources of these attacks is still not clear, some recent posts have come from members of the Benchen monastic community.  Others have come from Facebook profiles, using the names ‘Sunny Ng’ (said to be based in Hong Kong), and ‘Gillian C Kin’ (who has now changed the name to Palden T Stone) who sent me messages earlier this year with the main purpose being to smear and defame the name of my precious root and refuge lama, HH 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje (whom I took refuge with in 2005 in India) and that of Kagyu in general. Starting in January 2019, both these FB profiles have sought information via message requests about the nature of my relation with Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche and also spread rumours and gossip about him and his conduct towards women and female followers. Some women i have met, who are long time Dharma pracitioners, also told me similar things. I have screenshots of some of their messages. It was very upsetting and painful to read about and hear such things from people using fake profiles and whose sole intent was to cause doubt in my own mind towards him and emotional distress. Despite this I continued to have faith in and trust Rinpoche and continued contact with him and the translation work.

Of course, much more can (and perhaps should) be said about what has been happening, but I sincerely hope that with a sense of common humanity and desire not to harm or cause uneccessary suffering, these matters can be eventually resolved in a peaceful, harmonious, compassionate and humane manner in person and away from irresponsible mud-slinging and personal attacks, via FB profiles and messages (many of which are using fake names/accounts).

PUBLIC STATEMENT REGARDING THIS FACEBOOK GROUP AND HE SANGYE NYENPA RINPOCHE

Dear group members and fellow devotees,

For the record, and to clear up any confusion and malicious gossip, I am now issuing this public statement about the FB group and my relation with HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche.

First, I want to make it clear that the sole reason I set up this group was to share and post new translations and transcribed quotes of HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche. There are many such FB fan pages in existence for HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, HH 17th Karmapa, HE Tai Situ Rinpoche, HE Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche and more, which are not set up by or administered by their monasteries. This group for Sangye Nyenpa has been very popular and appreciated by many, as there was not such a group in existence before. There was a FB followers group for another Benchen lama, HE Tenga Rinpoche, which was unofficial and not administered by Benchen monks, which has been running for several years. So I did not see any reason why there could not be one for Rinpoche either.

I met Rinpoche in September last year, and offered to translate some of his texts and he agreed and gave his personal support, instruction and full backing. Since then, I have faced obstacles and hostility from some members of the Benchen community. Many translators would probably have walked away from it. However, as Rinpoche himself personally continued to support and help me, and told me he was happy to do so, I continued despite these obstacles. Rinpoche has also been proactively in almost daily contact with me over the last year on Wechat (including voice messages and calls) which developed into an intimate connection and friendship. Earlier this year, Rinpoche also kindly helped me attend his teachings in Trongsa, Bhutan (for which he helped me arrange a guest visa with one of his friends and also offered me some financial support for my translation activity). We also met several times for several hours in May 2019 at Benchen Monastery, Swayambu, where he continued to give me instruction on a Shentong text he composed and which he has given me the transmission and permission to translate. As a result of this kind and generous support and our close communication, I did not see any issue with setting up such a fan group, as the work I was doing had the direct blessing and input from Rinpoche himself. Since the beginning of September 2019, however, Rinpoche I suddenly lost all contact with Rinpoche, and do not know what has happened. The last time we spoke he had told me that, health permitting, he would meet me at the monastery in Nepal in the first week of October and continue to help with the Shentong text translation. As a result, I am also very worried and concerned about his health and well-being.

As you already know, for the last couple of weeks, I have been hacked out of my FB account, Adele Zangmo, and lost access to management of this Followers group as well as my other page ‘Shentong Madhyamaka Teachings and Translations’. Unfortunately, FB do not have any direct phone line or email to contact in such situations and so far I have been unable to recover it. When I have tried to create new FB accounts, they have been blocked and disabled. This has never happened to me before. It has been a stressful and time-consuming situation indeed. My email account has also been accessed by other devices and private data has been accessed. This is clearly part of a deliberate attempt to bully and silence my voice and activity off Facebook as a whole (not just in the group). I have also been messaged by fake FB profiles this year by people (whose first language is Chinese judging by their timeline posts) whose sole intent is to spread false and malicious rumours about my precious root and refuge lama, HH 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, whom I have been following since 2005. In addition, I have also seen various FB posts from one or two junior monks within the Benchen monastic community (as well as many fake FB profiles), defaming my character, relation with Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, translation work and motivation. Some Dharma friends who have helped me maintain the group after I was blocked, and support and appreciate the posts in it, have also been messaged by these people privately, even to the point of harassment.

When this group was first created, several members of the Benchen monastic community and Rinpoche’s family joined the group and shared the posts. However, for the last four weeks, this has changed and their motivation and reasons for doing so are not clear. They are now trying to insist that the group be closed and be replaced by an ‘official’ one (whom it is not clear actually have the official authority of Benchen administration or of Rinpoche to do so). The same anonymous people have also recently set up a new ‘followers’ page that seeks to ‘compete’ with and shut down this group. One of my main goals has been that Rinpoche’s teachings and texts are shared and made available in an accurately referenced and sourced manner, with good quality English translation/transcription. However, from what I have seen of the new followers page, the posts are mainly in Tibetan, not fully or accurately sourced or referenced and/or poor English/translation. In addition, there appears to be no direct transmission or blessing from Rinpoche himself for the page and the content in it. Nonetheless, as they clearly now want to have such a page, I congratulate that effort and wish them well with it. I hope it is of genuine benefit to people and promotes the genuine Dharma with words that have actually come from Rinpoche himself.

As a result of the above, and mainly because I have lost the ability to post and administer this group, I have decided for the time being to stop any postings to the group, unless and until I get full access to my original FB account. However, the group content that has already been posted will be left available for people to read and hopefully benefit from. This decision has not been taken because I have done something unethical but because sometimes ‘offering the victory to others’ (even if they are acting in a bullying and unethical way) is sometimes the wisest and kindest action of all. So, with that as the motivation, and also out of consideration for the mental and physical well-being of Rinpoche himself, I hope this is the most compassionate and wise action to take for all involved at this moment.

May truth, virtue and harmony prevail and may the genuine Dharma flourish.

Adele Tomlin, 5th October 2019.