Response to Criticism
I am Domo Geshe and wish to inform you that these are lies lies lies that are telling about me.
the web site you leave messages with others is lies and lies and lies!!!!
I am Domo Geshe. The lies are so outrageous. It keep getting more strange and people quoteing lies about me as true. a little reading??? my, my, my – so smart after little reading.
I am Domo Geshe. is there something so lack of important that you not ask me direct but place in ether of internet. Is for your own fame? The lies being told are being quoted again and again and it not true so I request that you please stop.
the West is verrry young in understanding how the inner dynamics are express through tantric Buddhism but my goodness, what vicious and lying things are being said about me. my my my!
The above comments come from the only personal appearance Tara has made on message boards questioning her legitimacy, in 2006. You can read the full discussion and see her contributions in context at Scamming Rinpoche? and Lama or Llama?
Blaming the System
Tara has usually defended her lack of recognition by blaming the biases within Tibetan Buddhism. She argues that the establishment couldn’t handle her forward-thinking, modern flavor of Buddhism. Specifically, as a woman, a Westerner, and an adult reincarnate, her hopes for recognition met the blockade of the Tibetans’ misogyny, xenophobia and conservatism.
In other words, the problem is the Tibetan establishment’s inability to appreciate and acknowledge that she is an enlightened guru in a modern form.
In reality, her problem is her claim to be an enlightened guru – one of the most enlightened on the planet, no less. On the Grandiose Claims page we include a small sample of her incredible boasts.
She also says the Tibetan system of tulku recognition is corrupted by political motives.1 We can’t argue that. Like most religious institutions, it needs to adopt modern secular values like gender equality and suffers from widespread political corruption. However, relevant individuals in the Tibetan Buddhist community point to something not addressed by the above points:2
She proclaimed herself to be an enlightened lama, and then asked for recognition.
It’s hard to overstate how dubious this makes her in the eyes of Tibetan Buddhists. The Dungkar Gonpa Society letter articulates this point:
The Gelug Tradition to which Ms. Quinn-Dadak purports to belong as Domo Geshe Rinpoche does not allow and does not recognize self-proclaimed reincarnations like her own. According to the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, all reincarnations must be officially recognized by other incarnate lamas. This has not been her case. Consequently, neither her assumed identity nor any of her acts performed as Domo Geshe Rinpoche in this country or abroad, including the ordination of monks and nuns, can be regarded as having any legitimacy. 3
Even though we’re no longer persuaded by the idea of reincarnation, barring self-proclaimed tulku’s sounds like a sensible policy. It could only help in weeding out narcissistic charlatans and charismatic manipulators.
Open Letter from White Conch
White Conch published an “Open Letter to New or Potential Students” in 2008 as an official response to Tara’s critics.4 One of the concerning things about this document are frequent ad hominem arguments to deflect criticism – reflecting the cultish belief that critics of her must have ulterior motives. Tara nurtured this culture in White Conch. She at one point responded to critics with the question, “Is for your own fame?”5 Later, when she hoped a particular Tibetan higher-up would consider her authenticity, she asked that a document maligning one of her critics be shared with him.6
White Conch released an updated version of the letter in 2013. The language was much toned down. The arguments it laid out, however, are similarly unsatisfying. Below we will excerpt and respond to a few relevant sections.
We are aware of messages on the Internet…that seek to discredit Rinpoche’s authenticity and convince the public that she and White Conch are fraudulently seeking fame, power and wealth.
Someone’s authenticity can only be discredited if it has been established. Within Tara’s group, her authenticity is not challenged, but outside her group she is largely dismissed. After 16 years, and numerous attempts to be recognized, she has not gained public recognition from anyone in a position to grant it.
Therefore, rather than seeking to discredit her authenticity, it is more accurate to say these critical voices reflect how the world at large views her – and how the Buddhist teachings generally encourage one to view a teacher with her behavior. One of the most surprising things to us after leaving her group was how many friends said, “Good for you. She never seemed genuine/healthy to me.” The only reason they didn’t speak up earlier was their respect for our spiritual path.
Rinpoche generously uses donations to fund projects such as new retreat rooms and spreading the dharma.
We cannot speak to her personal finances. However, the above implies that people make donations to her and she elects to spend the money in selfless ways, whether that’s retreat center expansions or “spreading the dharma” (a notably vague phrase). It is true that expansions at her retreat center, where she lives, have been constant since she first acquired the property. It is also true that every major expansion had an associated fundraising campaign.7
Thus, one complaint in White Conch was “fundraising fatigue” – being asked to contribute money for the latest project at Lotus Lake, before your bank account had recovered from the last one.
Rinpoche is often observed to be in prayer.
This was simply not true in our experience. Even as students this raised our eyebrows. The only way they could make this claim is by accepting a very liberal definition of prayer. In our years of living with her, we can count the number of times we witnessed her privately praying or meditating on two hands.
At the time, we accepted her esoteric explanation that as an enlightened guru, she did “inner work” for the benefit of others all the time. The implication was that she no longer needed to meditate for her own well-being. She was after all enlightened – her mind was already subdued! So adept was she at this inner work, that she didn’t need to sit down or close her eyes to do it. Even if it looked to outside appearances that she was cooking or garage-saling, watching Netflix or posting on Facebook – things we saw her do frequently – in reality she was engaged in invisible, Buddha-level activity to help others reach enlightenment.
In our days as devout disciples, one thing did stand out. She never wore a mala – a set of prayer beads used in Buddhist meditation. Our malas were so precious to us that we kept one on our wrist at all times, as did many of her students. Authentic Tibetan lamas appear to keep their malas on them as well, as an important reminder of their spiritual practice. But not Tara. Prior to the supposed transference, she wore one often, but not afterwards. This seemed yet another sign from her that she was above meditation practice. 8
Several years ago, a man with experience of Tibetan Buddhist lamas travelled to her center for an extended retreat, inspired by her website and posts on Facebook. He soon decided to cut his visit short, having lost belief in her as a spiritual teacher. One of the reasons? “She does not practice meditation.”9
Although Rinpoche has not yet been officially recognized by the Tibetan Government in Exile, she has been accepted and welcomed as the authentic incarnation of the previous Domo Geshe Rinpoche by spiritual masters from a variety of spiritual traditions. Many of these masters have requested her to teach in their centers and/or have themselves taught at White Conch programs.
This section reflects some contradiction and confusion. First, they are truthful here about Tara’s lack of recognition, whereas elsewhere on their website they claim she is recognized by another Tibetan lama. Second, they say the Tibetan Government in Exile would provide recognition. This is not the case – individual qualified lamas would do so.
It is true that she has friendships with spiritual teachers from other traditions. But it seems disingenuous to claim these people “welcome her as the authentic incarnation of the previous Domo Geshe Rinpoche.” None of these teachers knew the previous Domo Geshe Rinpoche, nor are they part of the Tibetan Buddhist community. Is it true that they agree with her specific claim to be Domo Geshe Rinpoche? Or is it just that they haven’t openly rejected this claim? Since the letter does not name any of these interfaith teachers, it is impossible to verify.
A beautiful long life prayer was composed for Rinpoche by a prominent Buddhist reincarnate lama and is posted on our website. Namkha Rinpoche has spent time with Domo Geshe and affirmed to a large group of her students that she is who she says she is. He also offered extensive advice to the formally assembled group on how to care for the tulku of the Domo Geshe. She received transmission and direction to teach from him, and has been teaching extensively from The Words of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche.
Here we come to the central argument. Ever since Namkha Rinpoche began associating with Tara, White Conch members have used him as the primary support for Tara’s claim to be Domo Geshe Rinpoche. We covered Tara’s time with Namkha Rinpoche on the Seeking Recognition page. While they did associate for a time, he’s since cut ties with her and made it very clear to us that he never did, and does not now, recognize her.
It is acknowledged, though rarely emphasized in the west, that up to five incarnations of a previous lama can be recognized. The nature of enlightened beings is to be unencumbered, and they are able to incarnate as multiple beings. This aspect of reincarnation is little understood in the west, partially due to our strong cultural affinity for individuality. Therefore, when a westerner learns that a particular individual has been recognized as a reincarnate of a particular lama, the predominant belief is that this is the only reincarnate; this is not necessarily the case. At this very moment, there are also two others, a Tibetan boy and a Sikkimese boy, who have been officially recognized as Domo Geshe Rinpoche by two separate well-reputed Buddhist groups.
First, the tone of this section is emblematic of a cult. Saying that reincarnation is “little understood in the west” implies that you shouldn’t trust yourself or any doubts. It’s too esoteric and complicated for you to understand. Simply trust Tara.
Second, this section includes an interesting acknowledgement – that two individuals have been recognized. How do they reconcile the fact that others have been recognized while their teacher has not? By suggesting that they are all equally valid – that Kyabje Domo Geshe Rinpoche actually incarnated into all three.
Unfortunately, this contradicts what Tara said in her 2009 interview with the Isthmus: 10
“I will not get involved but I am the actual Domo Geshe,” says Rinpoche, “the only actual one.”
They conclude their letter:
Nothing speaks more clearly than the truth.
We couldn’t agree more.