By Tenzin Dharpo
Dagri Rinpoche. FPMT file photo by Michel Henri
DHARAMSHALA, May 13: In the wake of multiple molestation allegations against a senior Buddhist lama Dagri Rinpoche, the Tibetan Lama has come out with a statement denying the charges, claiming innocence.
On May 3, an Indian woman alleged that the 65-year-old Tibetan religious leader groped her during a flight from Delhi Airport to Gagal Airport. A First Information Report (FIR) was filed against him at the Gagal Police station. Head Constable Shashi Pal, speaking to Phayul on phone, confirmed that Dagri Rinpoche was released on bail the next day on May 4 and that the case is still under investigation.
Days later on May 7, a Spanish woman posted a video where she said that in 2008, Dagri Rinpoche molested her on the pretext of giving her blessings when she was a nun studying Buddhism in Dharamshala. Jakaira Perez Valdivia claimed that when she visited Dagri Rinpoche’s apartment near Namgyal monastery for advice and blessing for her back problem (herniated disk), the Tibetan Lama molested her.
Valdivia in her statutory declaration stated that the Tibetan lama asked her to remove her robe, touched her breasts and sat on her buttocks while she laid face down on the floor. The former nun said that the whole incident took place while Dagri Rinpoche chanted mantras and continuously drank and applied an alcoholic drink over her belly which he claimed was a “very holy substance”. She said that she sent copies of the declaration to the private office of the Dalai Lama and the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), where Dagri Rinpoche is one of the senior religious teachers.
In her video posted on YouTube, she said that an apology from Dagri Rinpoche during a meeting set up by the private office of the Dalai Lama, prevented her from reporting the case to police.
Dagri Rinpoche released a statement on Sunday. He denied any wrongdoing during the flight. The Tibetan lama claims that while trying to retrieve something from the overhead luggage compartment, he held on to the arm rest of the seat and accidentally woke up the woman who allegedly spoke to him angrily in Indian language.
The Tibetan lama also said years after he helped Jakaira who he claimed was “physically and mentally troubled” with blessings, she had accused him of molestation and consequently sat down for a meeting with witnesses. Dagri Rinpoche made no reference whether the meeting was set up by the Dalai Lama’s private office other than that the meeting helped “clarify the truth”.
The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition’s Center Services Director Claire Isitt from its headquarter in Portland, Oregon has said, “We understand that Dagri Rinpoche believes he is innocent of the accusation and is preparing a personal statement in response to the accusation.
“If the investigation results do determine that the accusation is correct, then we would follow the guidelines described under ‘Administering the Ethical Policy’ and it could impact Dagri Rinpoche’s inclusion on the FPMT registered teachers list, as per the FPMT Ethical Policy.”
Dagri Rinpoche belongs to Sera Jey’s Tsawa khangtsen based in Bylakuppe Tibetan settlement in South India, one of the largest monasteries in Tibetan Buddhism. He is the 5th reincarnation of Dagri Kyenchen Gyatso Thaye, a highly respected great yogi, enlightened scholar. He is also a Geshe Lharampa, the highest order of the Gelukpa’s scholastic hierarchy.
The ongoing molestation case against Dagri Rinpoche will proceed further after the police draw up a chargesheet based on their investigation, following which the court will issue summons for the both parties involved.
The sexual offences related crimes in the Indian legal system have been jolted post the high profile Nirbhaya rape case in New Delhi in 2012. In 2013, amendments in sexual offences laws have been swiftly brought on with the ‘Nibhaya act’. Under the current Indian law, IPC 354-A states that among others, “Physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures” shall be “punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both”. If proven guilty, the said parameters could come into play for the Tibetan Lama.