Q&A [1] – Misuse of “Rinpoche” title, fake generosity, sexual exploitation history

The following Q&A is repurposed from enquiries to this blog. The answers cover important points that are beneficial for current and ex-members of Pathgate who wish to make sense of their experience. Names and details have been changed to protect identities.

Q, I feel very confused after reading what is written on the website.

Feeling confusion is the first step towards re-evaluating one’s involvement in a questionable organisation. I will answer your questions and statements one by one. I am also using “followers” in place of “students” because I do not consider Peter Yeung a teacher.

Q. I am not saying your claims are not true, but how can you prove them?

It is common to believe the words of the people we trust; but it is a bias that all humans have. It’s good that you’re activating your critical thinking to investigate if what Peter Yeung has been saying is real or not real. Blind faith and submission is not the Buddha’s way.

There is no reason for me to deceive you. I do not need your worship, your time, your energy or your money. Many ex-members have wasted years of their lives following a fake teacher and I don’t want the same for you and your family. I’m telling you the truth without any hidden agenda, in the hope of freeing you from Peter’s harmful influence.

Q. You say that Peter Yeung is not a Rinpoche but how do you check this?

This is a great question. First you need to understand the word Rinpoche and how it is used. While you may have been told that it means “precious one”, you would not have been told that when a teacher is called “Rinpoche” it usually means:

  1. They are a tulku, who has been recognized as the reincarnation of a prominent master.
  2. He is trained from childhood in Buddhist study, practice, and ritual, and takes over the responsibilities of the previous incarnation when the training is complete.
  3. Occasionally, exceptional practitioners are given the title Rinpoche later in life to honour their accomplishment (and are often retroactively recognized as tulkus). [Source]

Peter is none of the above. While Peter may have spent some years being associated with Palyul,

  1. He has not been recognised as a tulku.
  2. He has no formal training in Buddhist study, practice, and ritual; and definitely not from childhood.
  3. He has not been given the title Rinpoche by Palyul, or any authority for that matter. He gave himself the title.

This is why Peter is not a “Rinpoche”. He is misrepresenting his actual status by calling himself that; this is a form of deception.

It may also be helpful for you to know that when I met Peter in 2008, people were calling him “Sifu”. Then over time it became “Sifu Rinpoche”, and then it became only “Rinpoche” from around 2015-2016.

For further understanding, I suggest looking up the difference between the words “title” and “honorific”. You can also read more detailed explanations in earlier posts here and here.

Q. I am a student from [201x], Yeung has never yelled at me, and his advice has always been “doing good for others”, and has taught that “everyone has goodness within them”. He has also sponsored different projects.

There are three valid but faulty beliefs here to be debunked:

1. He never yells at you so he must be good.

You would have noticed that Peter only yells at long term followers. He usually treats the recent followers well because this is how he builds trust and loyalty. It is only after they are totally indoctrinated and committed, then he will start his exploitation and abuse. Unfortunately, by then, it would be very difficult to leave.

Also, for followers whose first language is not English, most of the “yelling” has been lost in translation. You may think he is just “yelling” at followers, but in reality his words cause a lot of emotional harm. It attacks people’s dignity, self-esteem and confidence. It is brutal and dehumanising. So it is not just yelling, it is verbal abuse. A Buddhist teacher, or anyone in that matter, should not be engaging in this harmful behaviour.

How can you tell it is verbal abuse?

a. Followers become fearful of Peter, long after the verbal abuse.
b. They often appear depressed and sad, even though they are doing their best to “practise”.
c. They appear anxious or jittery, and often over-explain themselves to others.
d. They are further criticised by Peter for “not practising, that’s why they look so ‘ugly'”.

2. He gives good advice and teachings such as “always others first and everyone is good”, so he must be good.

All authentic spiritual paths talk about these things. If Peter does not make valid and reasonable points, then no one would follow him. He is using valid spiritual teachings as a bait to keep you hooked. Just because someone says something good and true, it does not mean everything they say is true.

Moreover, Peter preaches “others first” but if you examine carefully he does not practise this himself. Every good deed that is performed by Peter is to gain your trust and loyalty, so this is corrupted. Just because someone says some good things, it does not mean they practise them, and it does not make them trustworthy.

3. He is generous so he must be good.

It is true that Peter can appear very generous. However, it has been observed time and again that it is his method to buy devotion and loyalty. In this sense, it is not real generosity, it is manipulation.

How do you check that if it is real generosity or manipulation?

a. Even though it appeared like a good deed and you feel gratitude, did you also sense that there was something unnatural about it that made you feel uneasy?
b. Did the act of generosity feel imposed, intrusive or overbearing?
c. Did you feel that it was difficult to say no to him], or that there will be consequences for saying no?
d. Did you get the feeling Peter was performing/acting?
e. Has he criticised followers for declining his offer to help?
f. Does he seem to talk about his generous acts often, especially in public?
g. When he talks about it, do you get the feeling that he is boasting or showing off?
h. Do you get the sense that he is reminding you not to forget what he did?

If you do notice these thoughts and feelings, it means that the generosity is conditional, and he is asking for something in return. Acts of generosity can be used to gain power and control over you.

Also, think about whether you would perceive Peter the same way if he had not been so generous. If you knew for sure he had done bad things and had not sponsored anything, would you still follow him? Acts of generosity can be used to cover up bad behaviour.

Q. Peter’s students have also travelled to [Namdroling Monastery in] India to make a film, and those were really monks from the Monastery, even though they didn’t know who Yeung was.

It is true that he sent two followers to India’s Namdroling Monastery to shoot some footage. This is because he did visit that place multiple times over a period of years. However, there is no correlation between that and Peter being a “Rinpoche”.

From my memory, the two followers who went to India faced problems when they first arrived at the monastery because the monks in India did not know who Peter was, until Peter personally rang up old contacts for help. If Peter is supposedly a “Rinpoche”, how come hardly anyone in Namdroling Monastery knows him?

Q. When he visits foreign countries to teach, he leaves the monetary offerings behind.

This is a very common thing he would say, “I always leave money with the students in so and so country”. We heard it all the time. Unfortunately, this is one of the ways he tries to paint himself as generous and kind. That’s why it is so confusing.

The actual reasons are:

  1. Practically, it is more troublesome for him to bring foreign currency back to the UK. Once you have a lot of foreign currency cash on you while you are travelling, you need to declare it at customs. If he is found to have all this cash, he needs to explain how he obtained them, which will get him into trouble because foreigners need to declare income they obtained overseas.
  2. He often instructs followers to remit the money back to the UK through electronic bank transfer anyway.
  3. He knows the followers will make donations back to him when they visit the UK, often more than what he left behind.
  4. If he is truly generous and kind, he would not constantly remind followers about what he did. These “acts of generosity” should not be even be something to be talked about.

The above reasons indicate that Peter is not being generous and kind, but is painting a misleading narrative to enhance his image; this is a form of deception.

Q. I see him wearing luxury brand items as you claimed.

There is nothing wrong with wearing branded items in itself. However, Peter’s luxury items are paid for through “offerings” in cash or as “gifts”. Followers have been indoctrinated to associate splurging on the lama as a good thing i.e., “generating merit”, but this is actually very corrupt and wrong.

Q. How is “Tanya” related to him?

[TRIGGER WARNING: Description of sexual abuse below]

Good question about Tanya, and one that many people have asked. I’m sure you have wondered, “Why does a Buddhist teacher have a young attractive woman to travel and do everything for him, instead of an ordained monk or nun?”

Tanya is a follower from Europe who joined around 2010. People would describe her as Peter’s “personal attendant”. She is not his wife or girlfriend, but I would not be surprised if Peter had sex with her, due to his history of sexual exploitation. She was a successful businesswoman but depleted all her resources through her “faith and devotion” to Peter. Her parents are financially wealthy, and I have observed that Peter is trying to groom them.

Before Tanya, there was another young European woman named Chime (2009-2011), travelling with Peter, attending to him and translating for him. She wrote to us in 2019 to tell us that she was sexually exploited by Peter. Her story is here.

And before Chime, there is yet another girl Alice F. (1999-2001) who also reported being groomed for work and sex (her statement here). This was before Peter started acting as a Buddhist teacher. Therefore, there is a track record of Peter grooming women for sex from a long time ago.