Tibetan Buddhist teacher accused of sexual abuse dies

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Sogyal LakarImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Sogyal Lakar was widely seen as the best known Tibetan Buddhist teacher after the Dalai Lama

Sogyal Lakar, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher accused of widespread physical and sexual abuse, has died aged 72.

Lakar, better known as Sogyal Rinpoche, sold millions of books and was widely seen as the best known Tibetan Buddhist teacher after the Dalai Lama.

But allegations of physical and sexual abuse followed Lakar, although he was never found guilty of any crimes.

An investigation commissioned by his group concluded that some followers were abused by him.

A statement on his Facebook page said that Lakar died in Thailand on Wednesday after suffering a pulmonary embolism. He had been receiving treatment for colon cancer.

Dear Friends, I have some very, very sad news to give you. Sogyal Rinpoche’s health deteriorated today after he...

Posted by Sogyal Rinpoche on Wednesday, August 28, 2019
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Born in Tibet in 1947, Lakar was believed by many to be the incarnation of Tertön Sogyal Lerab Lingpa, a teacher of the 13th Dalai Lama.

He studied comparative religion at Cambridge University and went on to amass a huge following. His book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, has sold more than 3 million copies.

But accusations of abusive behaviour followed Lakar.

In 1994 a woman filed a $10 million (£8.1 million) lawsuit against Lakar for sexual, mental and physical abuse. The case was settled out of court.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Lakar was believed to be the 13th reincarnation of Tertön Sogyal Lerab Lingpa, a teacher of the 13th Dalai Lama.

His reputation came crashing down two years ago when further allegations emerged of his abusive behaviour.

An independent investigation by a lawyer commissioned by Rigpa, a Buddhist organisation started by Lakar, found that he had committed serious abuses.

"Some students ... have been subjected to serious physical, sexual and emotional abuse by him," the report stated, adding that senior members of the group failed to act despite being aware of the accusations.

Despite the allegations, many of Lakar's followers stayed loyal to him.

"I know he will continue to guide us with wisdom and most importantly his love," one follower wrote on Facebook after his death.

But Mary Finnigan, who helped launch Lakar's career in London in the 1970s and recently co-authored the book Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism, told the BBC that he was a charismatic and abusive "cult leader".

"I sympathise with everyone who is bereaved by his passing but have to say that his death does not alter my feelings about his life," she said.

"He abused an ancient spiritual tradition in order to indulge his lust for power, money and sexual gratification."