Mar
19
2:00 PM14:00

Interim Board Updates Community On Reports From An Olive Branch

Interim Board Updates Community On Reports From An Olive Branch

Dear Shambhala Community:

In July of 2018, the Kalapa Council engaged the services of An Olive Branch, an independent third-party organization, to perform a variety of services in the wake of complaints raised about ethical misconduct on the part of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and other leaders and community members. Their assignment has now concluded.  

Through our work with An Olive Branch, Shambhala intended to provide direct support to individuals who had been harmed within Shambhala and to begin the process of understanding and changing the structural and institutional processes that allowed misconduct and abuse to occur. The Interim Board wishes to acknowledge what has occurred, the impact it has had on individual lives, and express our deepest apology to those who have experienced harm in any Shambhala program or environment.

 

We are releasing all of the materials that An Olive Branch has delivered to the Interim Board.  These include:

  • The Listening Post Report, derived from the listening post service open from September 2018-December 2018 that was available to current or past members of the Shambhala community to receive support around various types of harm they experienced in the sangha. The report is a compilation of data, themes and quotations from these phone, video or written contacts with An Olive Branch. We received the final version on March 13, 2019.
     

  • The Final Report which was written for the Interim Board, however, we would like to share it with the entire community as it contains An Olive Branch’s recommendations for Shambhala. We received the final report on March 14, 2019.
     

  • The Code of Ethics, a new set of suggested policies and grievance procedures for community care and conduct. We sent this to the Process Team Steering Committee when they were seated, and have asked the Steering Committee to work with us on soliciting feedback from the community on the view, scope and feasibility of this proposed policy.

Please continue reading for the links to access the reports.


Scope and Purpose of The Listening Post

An Olive Branch was contracted to provide support, not to investigate claims. In this way, their scope and purpose is very different from a legal investigation. Reporters were not “investigated;” witnesses were not contacted; stories were not interrogated for veracity; reporters were not deemed “credible” or not (as is done in a legal investigation), and names were not disclosed to the accused for the purpose of getting both sides of the story. In fact, we recognize that to do so would be to put those who have experienced harm through yet another difficult process. Many who called into the Listening Post had already told their story to someone in Shambhala and were not believed or taken seriously. Therefore, it was critical to this process that individuals be taken at their word and not assessed for credibility. 

Decision Process to Share the Listening Post

We would like to share openly with the community our process around deciding to share the Listening Post report in full. We received letters from sangha members, imploring us that flooding the community with graphic narratives of sexual violence that has occurred over the last 40 years would only continue to traumatize the community. Some people pointed out that we could not confirm the veracity of reports, thereby requesting that we not publish what they saw as unverified reports. Others wrote us insisting that withholding the Listening Post report would be seen as a cover-up, or concealment by the Interim Board. The Interim Board was not unanimous in its decision to distribute the Listening Post report with verbatim interview transcripts included. The majority decided, however, that withholding or summarizing portions of the Report would be seen as concealing data that the community had a right to read—or not read—without editing.

Issues of Confidentiality

We have also struggled with the issue of confidentiality of the reporters of harm. Even though An Olive Branch did not include names or locations in their report, many stories may be easily identifiable. There are also second- and third-hand reports, giving us no way of knowing if those involved consented to their stories being told by others who were there. 

After receiving the report, we requested that An Olive Branch contact each person whose story is told in the form of a direct quote to solicit their explicit consent for their stories to be included in a report that would be sent to the Shambhala community. An Olive Branch informed us that many reporters wanted their stories to be public; however, we worried that not everyone who called The Listening Post understood or consented to a public release of their stories in the form of direct quotes. While this process delayed the release of the report because it took time for An Olive Branch staff to get back in communication with everyone whose story was included in their report, we felt it would be irresponsible, if not unethical, to publicize direct quotes of those who did not explicitly consent to it. 

A significant number of reporters, upon being contacted, did not consent to having their story made public. Some reporters asked to revise their quotes. And some consented to their quotes being shared as-is. On March 12, we received a revised Listening Post report from An Olive Branch, this time only including direct quotes for people who consented to a public release of their stories. 

As with the Wickwire Holm process, the Interim Board has not been given names of the reporters or the accused. When the accused was a current teacher or office holder, An Olive Branch encouraged reporters to contact the Care and Conduct Panel so that cases could be investigated. In some instances, reports were made to Care and Conduct, and they are under investigation. Some reporters expressed distrust that the current leadership would handle cases appropriately. A significant number of people indicated that they had already tried to report, formally or informally, within Shambhala and that they were ignored or did not receive a fair process. Because we do not have names, we again urge anyone who has experienced harm to contact both the proper authorities and careandconduct@shambhala.org so that these cases can be addressed. 

We are hopeful that the Process Team will facilitate community dialogue around existing structures of reporting and care so that we may improve them. 

Reflections on Viewing the Listening Post Report

We encourage each person to reflect on whether they would like to view the enclosed Listening Post report. Rather than taking a paternalistic stance, which might lead the community to believe we are covering up misconduct, we felt that each person could make their own decision as to whether viewing the reports at this time was in their best interest. 

**Please know in advance that there are graphic narratives of sexual violence contained in the Listening Post report**

There are instances of child abuse included in the Listening Post report. An Olive Branch staff are considered mandated reporters and they have notified the appropriate authorities according to state legislation where the abuse occurred (see Appendix 5 within Listening Post report for more detail on mandated reporting). The Interim Board requests that all instances of child abuse, sexual assault, or any other illegal activity be reported appropriately to the police; Shambhala should not attempt to adjudicate crimes internally. However, it is also important for Care and Conduct to be included in such reporting so that appropriate steps may be taken internally. 


You can access all three documents from An Olive Branch on theShambhala Community Care page.Please scroll to the "Reports from An Olive Branch" section of the webpage to download the reports.

An Olive Branch Recommendations 

As consultants to Shambhala, An Olive Branch submitted a final report detailing their work and making a set of recommendations to the Interim Board. Although this report was intended for the board, we wish to share it with the community. In this report, there are a wide range of recommendations about changes Shambhala could make at the organizational level to create a safer community. We would like the community to review these recommendations as we believe they can help frame needful discussions. It will take time for the Interim Board to dialogue with the the sangha and Shambhala Process Teams to determine how to best relate to them. 

Next Steps 

At this time, there is a working group tasked with improving processes for vetting teachers and office holders in Shambhala. This group is comprised of Interim Board members, the Care and Conduct Panel, and representatives from Practice and Education.  Alongside this vetting process, we are considering a variety of child protection policies and looking at additional safeguards for any person in Shambhala who will be around children. We recommend that the community continue to look at training for teachers, MIs, and leaders around power and harm. 

The Shambhala community can no longer deny or ignore sexual violence, harassment, and other forms of structural violence. At this critical time, we ask the entire sangha to reflect on what needs to change, and what we wish to preserve. In this regard, we are eager for the Process Team to begin their work, and we intend to do whatever we can to support their efforts.

These reports are shining light on longstanding systems of harm and abuse within Shambhala. We have an opportunity to demonstrate how a community can see itself clearly, learn from its mistakes and act decisively to better itself. The Interim Board is committed to doing this work and we invite all members to join us on this journey.

 

Wishing gentleness and kindness to all,

The Interim Board
Veronika Bauer
Mark Blumenfeld
Martina Bouey
John Cobb
Jen Crow
Sara Lewis
Susan Ryan
Paulina Varas

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Mar
9
3:00 PM15:00

Interim Board - March Update To The Community

Interim Board - March Update To The Community

Dear Shambhala Sangha,

We have turned our focus on recent events, including the Sakyong's communication that he will step back from teaching and administration for the foreseeable future. The Interim Board continues to hold the intention to sustain Shambhala.  We hope that the community can understand that we need time to work on the best courses of action. Our priority is to keep in close communication with the community as we do so. If you have missed any of our recent communications, you can find links to all of the Interim Board letters on our website.

The report below is our regular update to the community, informing you about our decisions and ongoing projects.

March Update to the Community

The Interim Board has continued managing the Shambhala organization’s finances and structure as well as relating to issues of care and conduct. We have now completed four months of our tenure and have a clearer picture of some of these issues. We are in the process of generating proposals to the community about next steps. The Interim Board has also begun meeting with the Process Team Steering Committee and we look forward to ongoing collaboration with them. 

We meet regularly as a Board once a week and with all of our working committees at least weekly. We have also begun regular meetings with Shambhala Global Services staff, as well as participating directly in calls to Center Directors and Group Leaders. We also continue to receive many questions about various topics, including the Wickwire Holm report, finances, and more. We have posted responses to these questions as a Frequently Asked Questions section of the Interim Board website. You can access those FAQs here.

DECISIONS

The Interim Board has made the following decisions since January 1, 2019:

  • To propose to the community the selling of an asset in order to meet debt and operating obligations.

  • To release to the community all three of the Wickwire Holm investigative reports and a summary of reports that did not fall within the investigative scope.

  • To release 2018 financials and a 2019 budget to the community. We plan to release these reports in the next few weeks.

  • To share the findings of An Olive Branch with the community. Please read on for further details.

CARE AND CONDUCT

Wickwire Holm Report

The Wickwire Holm report release was delayed while we waited on the final report from Ms. Selina Bath, the Wickwire Holm investigative attorney. On February 3, 2019, one day after receiving the final reports, we sent a cover letter, summary report and all of the investigative reports we received to the community. You can access all of those communications here.  

An Olive Branch Report

An Olive Branch completed its Listening Post services to the community on December 31, 2018.  The Interim Board had hoped to send An Olive Branch's findings at the same time we released the Wickwire Holm report. An Olive Branch needed more time to complete their final report, so we decided to release the Wickwire Holm report on its own. We received the first of two promised An Olive Branch reports at the end of January and met with An Olive Branch on February 21, two days after receiving their final report.  After that meeting, we requested An Olive Branch to seek explicit consent from those whose anonymous stories may appear in the form of direct quotes. An Olive Branch is currently engaged in this process of seeking such consent, and we expect that they will complete their work soon.  

Care and Conduct Policy

As a reminder, the Interim Board released an updated Care and Conduct policy on December 23, 2018. You canaccess that communication here.  This remains the one formal way Shambhala has to investigate reports of harm.   We recognize that as a community we need to review these policies and have involved the Process Team in this process. We will also be releasing along with An Olive Branch’s findings, their proposed Code of Ethics in the coming weeks for community review.  

New Care and Conduct Appeals Process

The Interim Board has also worked on establishing procedures for a Care and Conduct appeal process. In the past, one person in an international leadership position was in charge of appeals. We have now changed the structure so that a committee of international community members will hear appeals.  

Application for New Members to the International Care and Conduct Panel

We are still seeking new members to the International Care and Conduct Panel, and in particular seek to add members from outside North America. If you are inspired to be part of this critical process during an important time for our community, please review the December 23 communication with a link to the application page.

Moving Forward with Care and Conduct Issues

The Interim Board members wish to publicly state our support for survivors of harm in the Shambhala mandala. We intend to work hand in hand with the Process Team to explore how to care for those who have been harmed and how to prevent future misconduct. 

There is a lot to process as practitioners and as a community, and we expect that this may take us all some time to determine our a new ground and perspective. In anticipation of how strongly this could affect the community and the wide range of reactions we will all have, we asked a small group from the Process Team to develop some guidelines and ideas for community gatherings. These were forwarded to Shambhala leaders.

Reporting and Investigating Harm in Shambhala

Both Wickwire Holm and An Olive Branch provided only anonymous reports to us. Aside from mentions of the Sakyong, the Interim Board did not receive names of reporters nor of perpetrators from either organization. When we pressed them for more information to support our responsibility to work directly with harm caused and prevent more harm, both organizations were adamant that they were bound by their promise of confidentiality to their reporters and could not divulge any names to us.  If you wish to report an issue of harm, please refer to the Care and Conduct Policy for current procedures which can be accessed here.

FINANCE

Potential Marpa House Sale

To meet growing deficits and debt encumbrance, the Interim Board is seriously considering selling Marpa House as laid out in our February 1 communicationto the community. We do not take this decision lightly. We are open to alternative proposals from the community and we feel we can wait until mid-March before determining our course of action. Please continue sending us your ideas and questions to [marpahouse.board@shambhala.org](mailto:marpahouse.board@shambhala.org). 

As also stated in our February 1 communication about Marpa House, the Interim Board has no intention of trying to sell local city centers or land centers as we view this as against the best interests of the community.

Center and Group Transfers

Center and group transfers dropped significantly in 2018, from approximately USD $44,000 month to USD $16,000 a month. This substantial loss in revenue has directly impacted the need to sell an asset.  It is critical for the sustainability of the mandala to increase this revenue source. To work with centers and groups on this issue, the Interim Board and Shambhala Global Services staff has been in dialogue with leaders of our 200 centers and groups and was effective in raising transfers from USD $16,000 to USD $22,000 per month.  We have paused these discussions at this time given all that the community is experiencing.

Tax Receipts

The Interim Board assisted the Shambhala Global Services Finance Department in the implementation of a new donor base software system. The system was implemented in December, and all donor tax receipts were released to US sangha members on time by the end of January. We were also on target for Canadian tax receipts to be sent out by their official due date of February 28th. If you have any questions about your tax receipt, please contact [finance@shambhala.org](mailto:finance@shambhala.org).

Shambhala Day Fundraising

We were very happy that the Shambhala Day broadcast was well-received this year and that 81 groups and 115 individuals viewed the event.  The online connection through Zoom worked well and allowed for a seamless broadcast of cultural and practice events that switched between Halifax and Dechen Chöling.  You can click here to view the Shambhala Day broadcast through Shambhala Online. 

The Shambhala New Year fundraising campaign raised a total of USD $375.000 in pledges from the global community to support Shambhala Global Services.  We very much appreciate this support. We are still waiting for some centers and groups to report in with their local fundraiser pledges. Our goal is to raise $450,000 USD worldwide with this campaign.  If you have not yet had a chance to make your Shambhala New Year donation, you can click here to do so.

Part of these fundraising efforts has been the 100 Days,100 More Jewelscampaign.  We have $100,000 in matching gifts that has so far brought in 58 new Jewel Patrons pledging to give $1,000 per year. To learn more about becoming a Jewel Patron, please contact Development Director Faradee Rudy directly at [faradee.rudy@shambhala.org](mailto:faradee.rudy@shambhala.org).

COMMUNICATIONS

We continue to read all of the many emails that we receive from community members. We received hundreds after the recent letters so although we continue to read all of them, we cannot respond individually at this time.  With many community members raising important concerns, we have added many of these to our list of Frequently Asked Questions on the Interim Board website.You can access those FAQs here.

We are anticipating the following upcoming communications to the community:

  • Finance Report

  • Decision on next steps on the possible Marpa House sale

  • An Olive Branch reports

  • A webinar for leaders to be released to the whole community after the release of An Olive Branch reporting.

We are committed to working with the challenges that Shambhala is facing and will continue to communicate and share regularly with the community.  You can continue to reach us at [board@shambhala.org](mailto:board@shambhala.org) or on our website at board.shambhala.org.

We would very much like to acknowledge all of the hard work and dedication of the employees of Shambhala USA and Shambhala Canada who continue to offer their strength and exertion during these taxing and uncertain times.

Sincerely,

The Shambhala Interim Board

Veronika Bauer
Martina Bouey
Mark Blumenfeld
John Cobb
Jennifer Crow
Sara Lewis
Susan Ryan
Paulina Varas

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Mar
6
2:00 PM14:00

Process Team Introduction To The Community

Process Team Introduction To The Community

Dear Shambhala Community,

 

We are writing to introduce ourselves and to say a little about what we have been doing since Shambhala Day when we first convened as the Process Team Steering Committee. 

In that short time, so much has happened in our community. In the midst of our own heartbreak, disappointment, and personal processing, we have been working steadily to establish solid foundations for our work: as a Steering Committee (SC), with the full Process Team (PT) and with the community as a whole. Many different and conflicting viewpoints are being expressed about what now needs to happen to transform our social relations, cultural practices, and structures to be in line with our Shambhala-Buddhist values. We don’t have the answers, nor is it our role to have them. Rather, we are here to help develop sane and supportive processes for collectively exploring needed changes. 

To this end, we have created a number of working groups reflecting input from the Shambhala Community (collected and passed on by the Transition Task Force) and in discussions with the wider PT. We are committed to making our work as transparent as possible and to being in regular contact with the Shambhala community. We will soon send out a link for a website where we will post notes from Steering Committee meetings, important links and documents, and answers to frequently asked questions. We are also exploring better ways of opening lines of communication - by email and other means - and will be back in touch with details within the coming weeks. 

 

We very much look forward to working with the PT and our community as a whole. We remain inspired and deeply committed to our journey together.

 

In the vision of enlightened society,
 

The Process Team Steering Committee

Jim Fladmark
LaDawn Haglund
Dian Marie Hosking
Paul Kelway
David Marshall
Deborah Marshall
Frederick Meyer
Lisa Piemont
Martin Ramstedt
Jose Tomas Ruano
Susan Skjei

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Mar
5
4:00 PM16:00

Shambhala NYC Announces New Meetings After Being Closed For Several Months

NYC Center To Meet Again

Starting tomorrow, the Weekly Dharma Gathering & Learn to Meditate are back in NYC! If you are a beginning meditator or are looking to refresh your understanding of mindfulness meditation practice, join us on Tuesday, March 5th at 6:15pm for the Learn to Meditate class, taking place at the Integral Yoga Institute (@IntegralYogaNYC). Afterwards, you’re invited to stay for our Weekly Dharma Gathering from 7-9 pm (no additional cost). The Weekly Dharma Gathering is a perfect introduction to meditation practice and the Shambhala teachings, as well as an opportunity to connect with like-minded New Yorkers. Join Acharya Eric Spiegel for guided meditation, a dharma talk and discussion. You must register in advance to attend. Sign up at ny.shambhala.org

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Mar
3
4:00 PM16:00

Shambhala Facebook Group Being Archived

30 mins

Dear Shambhala Facebook Group Members, On March 9th this group will be archived. This means that there will be no ability to post or comment on the group, but members can still read everything that has already been posted. I feel strongly (and the other moderators agree with me) that this group has run its course and it is time for a more decentralized Shambhala Facebook presence. Currently there are 10,046 members with multiple requests coming in daily. My guess is that fewer than half of our group's members are in any way affiliated with Shambhala, only a couple hundred are actively engaged in the group, and a few hundred more are lurking. Some History On April 24th, 2012 Madeline Bruser created a group called Shambhala. Facebook had just announced its new group feature. Madeline added 113 of her friends and went to bed. She woke up the next morning to find 845 members. It grew to over 2k very quickly. On April 30th, Madeline put out a request for moderators because she never had any intention of moderating an international Shambhala group. I stepped up and shortly thereafter Wendy Baks contacted me and offered her help. For many years, the attitude of the moderators was of an Open House—all were welcome so long as they could demonstrate that they were, indeed, human. Most of the moderator activity was asking people to turn off their email auto-responders that were posting continuously to threads, and deleting fake accounts that were posting ads. When the ads became too frequent, Carol Borden and Jen Kates stepped up to help. Things were for the most part civil and moderation was mostly about checking each request to join. An occasional drunk needed to be booted out for bad behavior. Then, the first Project Sunshine report came out and our page exploded. Moderating became a stressful, part-time job (without pay). By last summer, the amount of activity and aggression on the page caused me to loose two of my moderators. At this point I put the group on hiatus and was very close to deleting it. Susan Rees Rosquist and Rebecca Fantasia D'Onofriocontacted me to offer support. I also had Jane Heyer and Joel Wachbritrecommended to me as moderators. We re-wrote the guidelines, re-opened the page, and have been working as a strong team since. (Rebecca needed to step down last fall.) At this time, we are all very much burned out. I cannot begin to express the depth of my gratitude and appreciation to all of the moderators who stepped up to support this group over the past seven years. I have witnessed tremendous dedication to creating a space for people to express themselves—especially in these very difficult times. Much love to all of you. We moderators, when accepting posts to the page have followed those posts and one of us has read every single comment. This is a tremendous amount of input. As a Shambhala Sadhaka and student who has taken samaya with Sakyong Mipham I now need time in my own head with my own thoughts to sort through what has happened to our community and to my practice. I need to be able to feel my own feelings and not be continuously holding space for others. They say the next buddha is the sangha, and I believe that. However, I need to focus more on my local community and less on this larger group. I don't even really like Facebook! It has been a source of distress to me that our group has become a place where survivors of sexual assault, racism, and discrimination do not feel safe to speak. Most, if not all, of the Shambhala survivors have left the group. I somehow hoped that this group could shift this aspect of our culture. It has proven to be a much more deeply-ingrained problem than I had imagined. One point I would like to emphasize is that all of the guidelines have been added in response to situations that became difficult to moderate. We started with few, and now have a fairly long list that was still growing. I find this uncomfortable, and frankly, I hate playing cop. Where to go from here? We strongly encourage you to form new Shambhala groups. There are quite a few that already exist that you can request to join. And, I am providing a list at the bottom of this post. You are welcome to use any part of our guidelines and structure that suits you and to adapt it as you see fit. Please don't forget your local communities. Please get together with each other in person, attend meetings and practice sessions. Go out to dinner and into nature. I have experienced more wisdom and resourcefulness in this community than anywhere else in my life and I have great faith in our ability to create something meaningful and lasting that will benefit society. Shambhala Groups Across Facebook I have compiled a list of some of the other Shambhala Facebook groups that I am aware of. I have no doubt there are others. There are also many organized by region and center that you can search for. If you wish to add your group to this list, please PM me and I will publish a separate announcement prior to archiving the group on March 9th. After that date there will be no more posts. Public Groups Your posts and comments in these groups can turn up in google and other search results. Nothing is private.

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Mar
3
4:00 PM16:00

Mukpo Writes Letter To Vajrayana Students Releasing Those Who Wish From Samaya Vows

To my vajrayana students,

I know that this has been an especially challenging time for you. Even though I have stepped back from formally teaching in Shambhala, our bond as teacher and student still exists. I know that this deep bond and level of commitment has made this period especially painful for many of you. For this, I feel great pain and sorrow.

In the past weeks and months, I have received your messages and letters that express how you are feeling and what you are going through. These letters have touched my heart as you express the challenges you are facing. 

Being on the vajrayana path is a decision one makes personally, and by going to a teacher, one formalizes that commitment. However, please know that the wisdom you have discovered on this path is held within your own mindstream. It occurred through your own practice and effort. The teacher supports you in this process.

For those that wish to be released from your samaya vow, I will fully honor and accept that. I hope that dissolving your formal commitment may bring you some level of peace and that by doing this, you are able to move forward in whatever way you choose to continue your journey. Please be well and take care of yourself. 

For those of you who wish to continue as students of mine, I am moved by your trust and courage in continuing this journey with me. I will keep you in my heart, and will support you as we go forward. I encourage you to continue in your current practice, including the invocation of windhorse and stroke practice, and to do whatever you feel is helpful at this time. Please connect to your heart and take care of yourself. So much has happened, and it will take time and space for all of us to heal. I will continue to write and communicate. When you feel ready, please write me a letter letting me know your intention to continue and expressing your motivation as well as your current practice and what you wish to accomplish on this path.

I send you my love and blessings.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

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Feb
28
4:00 PM16:00

Diana Mukpo Invites Community To Shambhala Household Retreat

Diana Mukpo Invites Community To Shambhala Household Retreat

Dear <<First Name>>,

We invite you to participate in the Shambhala Household retreat at Dorje Denma Ling, September 6-11, 2019.
 
The Shambhala Household teachings are one of the greatest strengths of our lineage -- the transmission of living our lives fully and seeing the sacredness in all situations. Household practice manifests by interacting with our fellow sentient beings in a decent, respectful and heartfelt manner. This practice has the possibility to bind generations and be a source of healing for the entire sangha. In light of all the pain and uncertainty we are experiencing in our community, it is important to remember the heart of our Shambhala society and the common ground that can bind us together during these difficult times.
 
We envision participation from all levels of practitioners, as there are no boundaries to creating household. For those who are just entering, bring your hearts, for those with more experience, come and share that with others.
 
We plan to host many activities -- from uplifted dinners where we celebrate our dignity, to sitting around the campfire sharing stories of our history. We will work with Ikebana, poetry, calligraphy. We will come together as community to support each other wherever we are on the path, be it Vajrayogini or Chakrasamvara, Scorpion Seal, Way of Shambhala, or just walking in the door. Our aspiration is to create an open and inclusive celebration of the heart of our Shambhala Buddhist teachings.
 
If you are interested in joining us and have special skills related to creating an uplifted household or sustainable living, please respond to this email and tell Dorje Denma Ling how you might share your knowledge with others during our time together in September.
 
I very much look forward to spending time with you all.

Lady Diana Mukpo

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Feb
28
4:00 PM16:00

Sakyong Wangmo's Sister Denies Mukpo's Abuse On Facebook

Without knowing the whole truth and believing everything some mentally disturbed people say whatever comes into their mind when they are in their own disturbed state and blaming it on others has become a fashion now, it’s not about who’s powerful or not, it’s about who’s right, about who’s using the situation to disturb the environment because of their malicious intent, I don’t wish to receive any mail of yours who cannot think beyond your imaginary truth.

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Feb
24
8:00 AM08:00

Judith Simmer-Brown Talks About Community - Fails To Address Harm

https://shambhalanetwork.org/groups/int-discuss-open/forum/topic/power-of-community/ (the bolded/italicized text is retained from the original post)

February 24, 2019 at 8:37 pm 

Judith Simmer-Brown

In the intensity of day-to-day communications, I know that I and others go up and down, pulled one direction by one passionate email, and then another with the next that comes from a completely different point of view. What to do with all of this?

One week ago, I was presenting a paper at an academic theology conference for socially engaged Buddhists and Christian liberation theologians at Denison University. The topic assigned to me almost a year ago was about spiritual warriorship according to the Shambhala teachings, for a book on social engagement. When the allegations emerged last summer, I knew that my paper would present the Shambhala view, but also how this is manifesting in #MeToo Shambhala. It was extremely difficult, but somehow healing to take the large view on what we are going through. I wanted to share some thoughts from that experience.

I did not speak in detail about the Sakyong, the survivors, the reports—as that would be more like the tabloids–and instead focused on how we as a community are working with this painful and groundless time. It was tough, especially in a formal academic environment with colleagues I have known professionally for years. Trying to depict the whole range of responses, I spoke about how we are struggling to apply our practice and teachings to the situation. Especially I focused on 1) the genuine heart of sadness, that does not fall into extremes, but dares to feel the pain and difficulty and beauty of human life; 2) interdependence, recognizing that this entire situation arose from a variety of causes and conditions that we are all part of; 3) basic goodness, seeing that everyone involved is fundamentally good, even when conduct of abuse or cover-up occurred; and 4) creating enlightened society, recognizing that we are frauds if we do not acknowledge the harm that has happened in the community and not take radical steps to address them both personally and structurally, in order to manifest the vision we so deeply treasure.

In the many circles of conversation I have taken part in, I truly see the beauty of our community, even when we disagree about solutions and feel outraged about opposing points of view. This is such a painful and groundless time, and it’s easy to fall into extremes. But underneath everything, our caring and alive human hearts are communicating how important our connections are. Thank you, all of you, for caring so deeply about our life as a community.

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Feb
22
8:00 AM08:00

Jeremy Hayward, ex Acharya, Response To Community Discussion Of Acharya Letter

Jeremy Hayward replied to the topic the Acharya Letter: at 2:28 am, February 22, 2019 Thank you, Frank. I agree with much of what you say. The Sakyong said on several occasions that ‘acharya’ is not a title but a job. It was a job that had to do with supporting and representing him. So, no more Sakyong equals no more acharyas. It’s as simple as that.

It is clear from the kusung letter that at least several acharyas were involved in, or at least present at, the Sakyong’s debauchery. I agree with you that they should come forward, acknowledge this involvement, and resign immediately. Otherwise even the apologies in this letter have no meaning whatsoever.

I personally had no idea that all this was going on with the Sakyong. But I want to acknowledge that I was asked to ‘retire’ in 2017 because there was a Care and Conduct complaint against me. Back in the Fall of 2016, I had made a stupid and insensitive joke, at a Scorpion Seal Assembly, towards a small group of four men and one woman who were acting out a scene to represent “grasping” (I quoted Donald Trump). The comment was not specifically directed at the woman but to the whole group, but she was seriously offended. In spite of my several sincere apologies, including agreeing not to attend the program’s final banquet, I was reported to the Care and Conduct committee. This was the instigating factor in my being requested to resign by acharyas Rockwell, Rosenthal and Lobel.

However, when it finally happened I was quite relieved. I had been very concerned for several years about the complete exclusion of other Tibetan Buddhist teachers, the removal of Buddhism from the curriculum, especially the Refuge and Boddhisattva vows, and the fact that the Four Noble Truths were no longer being clearly taught. I had started to think/feel that we were becoming a cult. I said this to one or two colleagues and we tried to protest the removal of the Buddhist vows, but to no avail. I was also very concerned at the destruction of the central office in the firing of Richard Reoch, Carolyn Mendelker and Anna Weinstein in 2015, and the setting up of the “Potrang”. Again I questioned this in one of our acharya meetings but was met with “trust the Sakyong.” In the later years it was impossible for ordinary acharyas to have access to the Sakyong. It all had to go through one of the special acharyas—Rockwell, Rosenthal or Lobel. And I don’t think he listened to them much either, especially if they tried to disagree with him.

In summary, I believe that the appropriate thing now would be for all the current ‘acharyas’ to resign. If they are good teachers, as some of them are, they will still be called on to teach, even without the title. If they are not good teachers, so be it. There are many good teachers who have never been called anything special. If the Sakyong does, “in the foreseeable future,” come back to take a leadership role in teaching, he can certainly appoint new acharyas then.

Finally, a little story regarding “teaching” and talking. In the early 90’s I was at Karme Choling teaching a Shambhala Training program. I came out of my office with my AD, Chris Pleim. As we came out, Lady Kunchok came down the corridor and stopped in front of us. Chris said, “Lady Kunchok, this is Jeremy Hayward and he is just going to give a talk.” Lady Kunchok immediately turned around, walked back up the corridor waving her hands from side to side and saying, loudly, “Talking easy, doing hard. Talking easy, doing hard…” I have never forgotten that, and in the last few years before my retirement I used to often quote it at some point in any program I was teaching.

https://shambhalanetwork.org/groups/int-discuss-open/forum/topic/the-acharya-letter/

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Feb
21
4:45 PM16:45

Letter to the Shambhala community from Shastri David Kahane

https://shambhalanetwork.org/groups/int-discuss-open/forum/topic/transforming-our-community-letter-from-shastri-kahane/

February 21, 2019 at 4:44 pm 

David Kahane

To fellow members of the international Shambhala community,

The following is written in my own voice as Shastri; I do not necessarily speak for others at the Edmonton Shambhala Centre.

I was nominated as a Shastri by the Council of the Edmonton Centre early in 2017 and appointed by the Sakyong that fall. While my activities are local, my Shastri vow makes me a representative of the lineage and the lineage holder. Given all that I have learned in recent months and days about harm in the Shambhala community, that vow feels almost impossible.

This started as a resignation letter. But given what has happened in recent days, I am willing to stay on the field a bit longer. I want to speak my own view and in doing so to indicate that I can only stay in my role if Shambhala changes profoundly and if the meaning of being a Shastri changes profoundly. To me, for the first time in many months, that change actually feels possible.

Since June I had been waiting for signs that the leadership of our international community was committed to transforming patterns of misogyny, sexual and racialized harms, secrecy, neglect of victims, all entangled with confused understandings of devotion. My waiting ended with the Sakyong’s February 4thletter. I had fantasized a willingness on his part to model rawness, awareness of deep harms caused to victims and to our entire community, a commitment to radical personal and organizational change, and to restitution. Instead I read bland evasion and the spreading of blame.

Through this period of waiting for communication from Wickwire-Holms, the Sakyong, and the Olive Branch, I’ve had to look at my own confusion as a practitioner and leader. My yearning for community. My yearning for meditative fruition. My yearning to be seen. And the intelligence I submerged in these yearnings.

I’m a political theorist by profession. I know something about democracy, checks and balances, the pitfalls of rule by one individual or by elites, the complexity and intransigence of power relations, the challenges of equalizing power in communication and community. This intelligence has for too long been obscured by my interpretation of devotion and of the Vajrayana path of handing my admittedly shaky judgment over to a trusted guru. With that trust now deeply eroded, let me speak from my political intelligence, such as it is. None of this is the last word for me, but it represents my heartfelt judgment at this moment.

I’m done with the version of monarchy we’ve manifested. The example of the Sakyong’s abuses and how they were covered up out of confused deference and devotion shows the danger of vesting that much secular and spiritual power in one human being.

I’m done with the version of court that we’ve manifested. This much insulation of a ruler and other leaders from their peers in community enables bad judgment, corruption, and violence. The accompanying concentration of wealth and financial control is unjust and unwise, especially in a community that struggles with many forms of marginalization and scarcity, and that extracts massive amounts of unpaid labor as well as high program fees in part to sustain a life of luxury for the Sakyong and those close to him.

I’m done with the version of family lineage we’ve manifested. I don’t believe it has served our community or the Sakyong for him to be lifted onto his high throne. I question whether it is fair or wise to squeeze one of his daughters onto the throne after him. There are teachers with integrity and brilliance inside and outside of our Shambhala community who could be precious resources in this time, and we should critically examine beliefs and teachings that keep us from reaching out to them.

I’m done with the unhealthy hierarchies, gross and petty, official and implicit, that have characterized our community. The harms of these are strewn thickly around us.

My sense is that it has been Sakyong Mipham’s project for years to consolidate the family lineage, to concentrate power and wealth in Mukpo hands, and to propagate dharma that reinforces this centralization, along with particular understandings of loyalty, hierarchy, court, and more. For the community to turn away from harmful patterns it has to critically challenge these teachings.

If these patterns cannot change—patterns that have oriented so much of how we’ve manifested as an international dharma community—I cannot remain in any formal role in this community. I doubt that I can remain in this community at all.

There is a lot of health and beauty in my local centre and in circles I move through in the larger mandala. In moments I can glimpse a different Shambhala: decentralized, inclusive, engaged humbly with the communities around us, bringing our practice to understanding and unmaking harms, injustices, and confusions within and outside our sangha. But that is not the damaged and damaging Shambhala that I’ve learned to recognize around me thanks to the testimony of victims and activists who have spoken out with such bravery. To teach meditation in Shambhala, to consider myself a reformer in Shambhala, to support others’ enjoyment of Shambhala, at the moment also means building my ties and others’ ties to a mandala that is confused and harmful.

In recent days I sense this may be shifting. For me, a key sign of the shift being real will be that teachers, leaders, and community members who have perpetrated harms, enabled harms, or kept harms secret will speak honestly and be accountable. It cannot be left only to victims of harm to speak the truth, though we have their unfathomable courage to thank for whatever shot at transformation we now have. If we’re to be salvageable as a community we have to understand what’s enabled a range of pathologies to fester and grow. And we have to learn what real restitution, repair, and restorative justice look and feel like.

In closing, I wish to offer my heartfelt and abject apology to those who have been harmed by the Sakyong, and by other teachers or leaders or peers in Shambhala. We should have done so much more to create an inclusive and safe community, and we should have learned without defensiveness from those who courageously named exclusion and abuse. To all who have been hurt, I wish you justice, restitution, healing, and peace. It grieves me beyond words that this moment of reckoning has taken so long.

David

Shastri David Kahane

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Feb
21
1:30 PM13:30

Message From Osel Mukpo

Message From Osel Mukpo

To the Shambhala Community:

I know you are suffering greatly in this period of tremendous pain and turmoil in our sangha. I too am in pain, and I am worried and concerned about all of you and our community. I want to express wholeheartedly how sorry I feel about all that has happened. I understand that I am the main source of that suffering and confusion and want to again apologize for this. I am deeply sorry.

I am receiving many messages and am listening to your concerns. Yesterday I received a letter from the Acharyas requesting that I step back from teaching. I have decided to honor these requests and will continue to step back from my teaching and administrative duties in Shambhala for the foreseeable future.

I hope that doing so will allow for the community to heal and determine how Shambhala can manifest and organize itself in the future. As for myself, this time allows me the opportunity to continue a process of healing. I have received many suggestions and advice about how this can occur, and I am investigating these as possibilities. Truly understanding and processing what has occurred will take time. There is no quick fix. Therefore, I ask for your patience so that genuine healing and understanding can happen.

Even though I will not be engaged in the activities of Shambhala, I will be sending my love and support.

For those students who want to maintain a relationship with me, I will be available for contact and will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. I plan to stay connected by writing occasional messages and will be in touch with my Vajrayana students in the coming days. It is very sad and difficult for me to express this to all of you and I hope that doing so allows for each of us to find a way forward and that we can still use the teachings as a way of healing and inspiration.
 
With a sad and tender heart,
The Sakyong

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Feb
21
8:00 AM08:00

Shastri David Kahane's Response To Shambhala's State Of Crisis

https://shambhalanetwork.org/groups/int-discuss-open/forum/topic/transforming-our-community-letter-from-shastri-kahane/

February 21, 2019 at 4:44 pm 

David Kahane

To fellow members of the international Shambhala community,

The following is written in my own voice as Shastri; I do not necessarily speak for others at the Edmonton Shambhala Centre.

I was nominated as a Shastri by the Council of the Edmonton Centre early in 2017 and appointed by the Sakyong that fall. While my activities are local, my Shastri vow makes me a representative of the lineage and the lineage holder. Given all that I have learned in recent months and days about harm in the Shambhala community, that vow feels almost impossible.

This started as a resignation letter. But given what has happened in recent days, I am willing to stay on the field a bit longer. I want to speak my own view and in doing so to indicate that I can only stay in my role if Shambhala changes profoundly and if the meaning of being a Shastri changes profoundly. To me, for the first time in many months, that change actually feels possible.

Since June I had been waiting for signs that the leadership of our international community was committed to transforming patterns of misogyny, sexual and racialized harms, secrecy, neglect of victims, all entangled with confused understandings of devotion. My waiting ended with the Sakyong’s February 4thletter. I had fantasized a willingness on his part to model rawness, awareness of deep harms caused to victims and to our entire community, a commitment to radical personal and organizational change, and to restitution. Instead I read bland evasion and the spreading of blame.

Through this period of waiting for communication from Wickwire-Holms, the Sakyong, and the Olive Branch, I’ve had to look at my own confusion as a practitioner and leader. My yearning for community. My yearning for meditative fruition. My yearning to be seen. And the intelligence I submerged in these yearnings.

I’m a political theorist by profession. I know something about democracy, checks and balances, the pitfalls of rule by one individual or by elites, the complexity and intransigence of power relations, the challenges of equalizing power in communication and community. This intelligence has for too long been obscured by my interpretation of devotion and of the Vajrayana path of handing my admittedly shaky judgment over to a trusted guru. With that trust now deeply eroded, let me speak from my political intelligence, such as it is. None of this is the last word for me, but it represents my heartfelt judgment at this moment.

I’m done with the version of monarchy we’ve manifested. The example of the Sakyong’s abuses and how they were covered up out of confused deference and devotion shows the danger of vesting that much secular and spiritual power in one human being.

I’m done with the version of court that we’ve manifested. This much insulation of a ruler and other leaders from their peers in community enables bad judgment, corruption, and violence. The accompanying concentration of wealth and financial control is unjust and unwise, especially in a community that struggles with many forms of marginalization and scarcity, and that extracts massive amounts of unpaid labor as well as high program fees in part to sustain a life of luxury for the Sakyong and those close to him.

I’m done with the version of family lineage we’ve manifested. I don’t believe it has served our community or the Sakyong for him to be lifted onto his high throne. I question whether it is fair or wise to squeeze one of his daughters onto the throne after him. There are teachers with integrity and brilliance inside and outside of our Shambhala community who could be precious resources in this time, and we should critically examine beliefs and teachings that keep us from reaching out to them.

I’m done with the unhealthy hierarchies, gross and petty, official and implicit, that have characterized our community. The harms of these are strewn thickly around us.

My sense is that it has been Sakyong Mipham’s project for years to consolidate the family lineage, to concentrate power and wealth in Mukpo hands, and to propagate dharma that reinforces this centralization, along with particular understandings of loyalty, hierarchy, court, and more. For the community to turn away from harmful patterns it has to critically challenge these teachings.

If these patterns cannot change—patterns that have oriented so much of how we’ve manifested as an international dharma community—I cannot remain in any formal role in this community. I doubt that I can remain in this community at all.

There is a lot of health and beauty in my local centre and in circles I move through in the larger mandala. In moments I can glimpse a different Shambhala: decentralized, inclusive, engaged humbly with the communities around us, bringing our practice to understanding and unmaking harms, injustices, and confusions within and outside our sangha. But that is not the damaged and damaging Shambhala that I’ve learned to recognize around me thanks to the testimony of victims and activists who have spoken out with such bravery. To teach meditation in Shambhala, to consider myself a reformer in Shambhala, to support others’ enjoyment of Shambhala, at the moment also means building my ties and others’ ties to a mandala that is confused and harmful.

In recent days I sense this may be shifting. For me, a key sign of the shift being real will be that teachers, leaders, and community members who have perpetrated harms, enabled harms, or kept harms secret will speak honestly and be accountable. It cannot be left only to victims of harm to speak the truth, though we have their unfathomable courage to thank for whatever shot at transformation we now have. If we’re to be salvageable as a community we have to understand what’s enabled a range of pathologies to fester and grow. And we have to learn what real restitution, repair, and restorative justice look and feel like.

In closing, I wish to offer my heartfelt and abject apology to those who have been harmed by the Sakyong, and by other teachers or leaders or peers in Shambhala. We should have done so much more to create an inclusive and safe community, and we should have learned without defensiveness from those who courageously named exclusion and abuse. To all who have been hurt, I wish you justice, restitution, healing, and peace. It grieves me beyond words that this moment of reckoning has taken so long.

David

Shastri David Kahane

View Event →
Feb
20
5:00 PM17:00

Response To The Acharya's Letter

Response To The Acharya's Letter

This was a powerful comment by a reddit user in response to the acharya’s letter. The user maintained the format of their letter, but with the language they wished it had featured.

To the Noble Sangha,

By now every member of Shambhala should have received the email from the Interim Board that links to the Wickwire Holm report as well as a recent letter from the Sakyong. Most of you have also seen the open letter from six long-serving kusung.

Reading these reports of harm has been devastating for all of us, notwithstanding the fact that we have known about these behaviors for years, enabled them with our silence and victim-shaming, and in many cases engaged in similar misuse of sex, alcohol and power ourselves.

It is imperative that we examine our blind spots and confront the aspects of culture and hierarchy that have led us to where we are. Our founder, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, is the root cause of the systemic alcoholism and sexual abuse that have pervaded our sangha for over four decades, and we can no longer use his many brilliant and helpful teachings as a defense for those failings. These harmful behaviors have been passed on to each subsequent lineage holder in our tradition and are of course also endemic among ourselves and other senior students in the community. Such conduct is a violation of foundational Buddhist ethics and has ensured that our urban centers and retreat lands, far from being safe spaces for people to heal, have been the scene of countless instances of debauchery and harm.

Our community was born in the 1970s during a time when there were radical movements of liberation and positive social change. In the past we have used this freewheeling atmosphere as an excuse for the loose sex and widespread abuse of drugs and alcohol in our communities, but that ends now. An infinite number of great Buddhist practitioners, then, now, and over the past 2600 years - including many visiting lamas at our centers going back to the early 1970’s - have meticulously practiced the precepts forbidding false speech, theft, killing, sexual misconduct and use of intoxicants; the choice not to engage with these foundational practices has been ours, and we must fully own the disastrous consequences of our failure to do so.

We apologize collectively for the harm we ourselves have caused, for our silence about harm committed by lineage holders, for our hypocrisy and above all for our utter lack of courage and complete betrayal of our Hinayana and Mahayana vows in favor of a perverted version of Vajrayana ideas of pure view and samaya.

We have instructed the Sakyong to resign from all roles within Shambhala and hereby repudiate him as our teacher and as a lineage holder. We are urging him to liquidate all assets of the Sakyong Potrang and will be exploring legal options to facilitate this process.

In the interim, we hereby resign our Acharya titles and roles. We will hope to be of service to the actual leaders of our community - the sincere practitioners and, especially, victims of misconduct, who have so bravely embodied the core Shambhala values of courage, altruism and truth despite rather than because of our leadership.

We have no doubt that the many beneficial teachings and practices of the Kagyü and Nyingma lineages will flourish as never before as part of the democratic, peer-led sangha that will emerge from the ashes of the cult we have allowed Shambhala to become.

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Feb
20
3:00 PM15:00

Potrang vs. Shambhala Canada- time for class action suit? 

in the forum Sangha Talk (Global Discussion Forum):

A quick visit to the Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stock Companies for info on THE SAKYONG POTRANG CANADA and "Shambhala Canada Society will tell you who has decision power and a visit to the Registry office located in Access Nova Scotia Offices throughout NS (and you probably can access this info in any Maritime province Access office) & $25 will buy you the ByLaws.Interesting to note that the POTRANG is the non-profit church and VAJRADHATU BUDDHIST CHURCH became the Shambhala Canada Society in 2014.  And that the POTRANG is for the exclusive support of Mr Mukpo, his family and Kalapa Court.(from a 2015 paper on governance structure by Josh Silberstein.)  Many of the same people serve in both organizations.After several requests for the Bylaws to the various Shambhala Boards, I have not received an answer or the bylaws. Without knowledge of these, i.e. how real change can actually occur according to the By Laws of each group, no amount of requesting change in the organizational structure or financial allocation, etc. will make a difference.Based on the way things have been going, financial allocations appear to be less than beneficial to the overall health of Shambhala & its assets & I'm wondering fiduciary responsibility to whom or what??I'm not a lawyer, but I suggest that these people have had, and still have, the ultimate decision making power for how our donations have been or will be spent including property sales or refinancing: such as $450,00 mortgage taken in 7/2016 on Dorje Denma Ling & $1,430,000 mortgage taken in 2017 on Halifax Kalapa Court & they have threatened to do the same for the Halifax Shambhala Center. These are only the 3 of the properties for which the Shambhala Canada Society is the officially registered owner and the people below made these decisions: (scroll down for Shambhala C S info)Business/Organization Name: THE SAKYONG POTRANG CANADARegistry ID: 3269761Type: Extra-Provincial CorporationNature of Business: CHURCH - N0N PROFITStatus: ActiveJurisdiction: CanadaRegistered Office: 601 - 5121 SACKVILLE STREETHALIFAX NS Canada B3J 1K1Mailing Address: 601 - 5121 SACKVILLE STREETHALIFAX NS Canada B3J 1K1Previous Name: THE SAKYONG LADRANG CANADAPEOPLEName Position Civic Address Mailing AddressJEFF ROSEN Director 1760 BLOOMINGDALE TERRACEHALIFAX NS B3H 4E5JOSHUA SILBERSTEIN Director 1150 HAWTORN AVE.BOULDER CO 80301TSEYANG P. MUKPO Director 316 PURCELLS COVE ROADHALIFAX NS B3P 1C6MIPHAM J. MUKPO Director 316 PURCELLS COVE ROADHALIFAX NS B3P 1C6LANDON N. MALLERY Director 5841 CHAIN ROCK DRIVEHALIFAX NS B3H 1A2JOSHUA SILBERSTEIN VICE PRESIDENT 1150 HAWTORN AVE.BOULDER CO 80301LANDON N. MALLERY SEC/TREASURER 5841 CHAIN ROCK DRIVEHALIFAX NS B3H 1A2MIPHAM J. MUKPO PRESIDENT 316 PURCELLS COVE ROADHALIFAX NS B3P 1C6LANDON MALLERY Recognized Agent 5841 CHAIN ROCK DRIVEHALIFAX NS B3H 1A2 5841 CHAIN ROCK DRIVEHALIFAX NS B3H 1A2ACTIVITIESActivity DateAnnual Renewal 2019-02-04Annual Renewal 2018-01-09Annual Statement Filed 2018-01-08Annual Renewal 2017-01-12Annual Statement Filed 2017-01-10Effective Date of Name Change 2016-03-10Filed Name Change 2016-03-10Annual Renewal 2016-01-27Annual Statement Filed 2016-01-27Annual Renewal 2015-02-02Annual Statement Filed 2015-01-30Annual Renewal 2014-01-20Annual Statement Filed 2014-01-20Filed Document 2013-02-06Registered 2013-02-06Incorporated in other Jurisdiction 2012-01-12Show All CollapseRELATED REGISTRATIONSThere are no related registrations on file for this company.SHAMBHALA CANADA SOCIETY:Business/Organization Name: SHAMBHALA CANADA SOCIETYRegistry ID: 1940101Type: SocietyNature of Business:Status: Active

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Feb
20
2:00 PM14:00

Letter From The Shambhala Acharyas

Sent at 18:43 CET, 20 Feb 2019

To the Noble Sangha,

By now every member of Shambhala should have received the email from the Interim Board that links to the Wickwire Holm report as well as a recent letter from the Sakyong. Most of you have also seen the open letter from six long-serving kusung.

Reading these reports of harm has been devastating for all of us. We feel deep appreciation for the bravery it took for those who have been harmed to speak these truths, which have revealed destructive and tragic behaviors, including serious abuse of alcohol and sexual misconduct, in the very heart of our community. It is imperative that we examine our blind spots and confront the aspects of culture and hierarchy that have led us to where we are.

Our community was born in the 1970s during a time when there were radical movements of liberation and positive social change. In this regard, Shambhala was part of a larger cultural and historical reality. This was also a rich time when Shambhala principles and forms were introduced that were fundamental in shaping our vision, culture, and practices. The dharma was flourishing with a kind of brilliance rarely seen in the world. People were meditating, studying hard, and the teachings were taking root.

Nonetheless seeds of harmful and destructive behaviors became part of our Shambhala culture. Women in Shambhala experienced blatant sexism. Sadly, sexual misconduct, alcohol abuse, and abuse of power became all too prevalent. Over the years, we failed to address these issues directly as leaders and as a community, and therefore these seeds continued to ripen and produce further harm. As we are seeing in Shambhala, and in the larger social and political context, those things that have been habitually and collectively ignored are now coming to light.

We are doing our best to fearlessly examine—and own—our parts in the ignorance and denial that have allowed harmful behaviors to continue. We are committed to a Shambhala that embodies Hinayana and Mahayana values for each and every member.

We wish to apologize to those who have experienced harm through sexism, racism, gender bias, abuse of power, and all the ways that people’s dignity has not been acknowledged. More personally, we offer a sincere apology for any harm anyone of us has caused over the years. We are deeply saddened by the pain that so many of you have experienced and will work hard to protect against its causes.

We are not interested in “business as usual.” We realize that a new model for rooting the Dharma in the West is needed, and that this will take time to develop. We have an obligation to learn how to better hear and support those who have been abused, ignored, or mistreated. We cannot condone the Sakyong’s abusive behavior. 

In order to demonstrate the urgency of this cry and respond to the breakdown in trust that so many of us are experiencing, we are requesting the Sakyong to step back from his teaching for the foreseeable future. We are shifting our emphasis from our role as representatives of the Sakyong to fully supporting the journey of the sangha. We will continue to teach and offer vows and transmissions for the benefit of the sangha and to help preserve the lineage. 

While we recognize that we are living in the uncertainty of how to move forward in this moment, we acknowledge the importance of lineage. We do not believe that severing the ties to our ancient Kagyü, Nyingma, and Shambhala lineages is a viable path forward. 

No one knows what this path forward will look like. However, we are committed to asking the hard questions and working with all of you, the Process Team, and the Interim Board to the best of our ability. We aspire to create a future where we can all feel safe and proud as Shambhalians. 

We wish to thank all of you who have been supporting human dignity and goodness in our communities over these last months. Many continue to practice together and share diverse points of view—to listen, and to be heard. Thank you for working steadily to keep the magic that is Shambhala alive and for holding both confusion and wisdom. 

It is a time of turmoil and a time of opportunity. May we work together to heal and bring our precious teachings forward. 

With deep sadness and unconditional confidence in our future together,

The Shambhala Acharyas

Dale Asrael
Daniele Bollini
Marianne Bots
Emily Bower
Christie Cashman
Orhun Cercel
Susan Chapman
Pema Chödrön
Han de Wit
Suzann Duquette
Gaylon Ferguson
Holly Gayley
Michael Greenleaf
Moh Hardin
Arawana Hayashi
Dan Hessey
Lodrö Dorje Holm
David Hope
Marty Janowitz
Richard John
Beate Kirchhof-Schlage
Samten Kobelt
Charlene Leung
Mitchell Levy
Adam Lobel
Barbara Märtens
Fleet Maull
William McKeever
Noel McLellan
Magali Meneses
Melissa Moore
Mathias Pongracz
Arnd Riester
John Rockwell
Sabine Rolf
Eve Rosenthal
David Schneider
Alan Schwartz
Judith Simmer-Brown
Susan Skjei
Eric Spiegel
Alfonso Taboada

View Event →
Feb
20
8:00 AM08:00

Acharya Richard John Distances Himself From Sakyong & Dharmasplains

etter from Acharya Richard John 20-Feb-2019 Dear ...................., Thank you for your message. You don't really need to leave Shambhala— Shambhala has already left itself. You could go your own way, or you could do what most of us are trying to do, which is to re-ignite our path, re-build the mandala, and actually create an enlightened society. It will take a long time, but this is what we signed up for—think “Mishap Lineage.”

Two weeks ago the acharyas worked like mad on a letter to the sangha, then that open letter from the kusung made it obsolete, and now a new letter (edited by 30 acharyas) just went out, as did letters from Lady Diana, senior Kusung with a more balanced view than the other one, etc. The new acharya letter was of course also obsolete within seconds, but in a nutshell we are shifting our deepest loyalty from representing the Sakyong to protecting and teaching the dharma in a broader sense, and to serving the sangha as our utmost responsibility.

Incidentally, the widespread fixation on "all the acharyas being complicit" is an absurd fantasy. We have had so little contact with the Sakyong for many years that our particular pain has been feeling excluded, and having to represent him while hardly ever seeing him. Once a year he downloaded the next SSA to us for three days. It was brilliant teaching and very good to be in his presence, but we have not even had Q&A with him for the last four or five years. It is now apparent that our formality and separation from him has ironically become very fortunate.

My time is very tight right now (besides the storm of communications, I’m in the midst of a 9-day Mahamudra Retreat at SMC). So I will try to piece together a few thoughts here. Most important of all: Embed yourself deeply in your practice mind, then look at the firestorm of opinions with a wiser view, as a wild display of phenomena. All of it--the pain of victims, the wretched experiences of some kusung, the very real dilemmas, mistakes and precious gifts of the Sakyong, the unsurpassable magic and power of the teachings of both of our gurus and our three lineages, the imaginary organization of Shambhala—all like the imprint of a bird in the sky.

An aside: Two charming slogans about truth just emerged here at SMC: "If it's not a paradox, it's probably not true" (Joshua Mulder) and "Everything is true for a nanosecond" (me).

Finding your practice mind is very literal: You absolutely must make time to open your heart and remember what matters. Your meditation and reading should be whatever is most meaningful to you, not anything you are “supposed” to do. I think the best at this time is to do a group retreat, but if necessary do a solitary retreat. Or go spend time in the woods.

If you don’t find your practice mind, you will be trying to resolve samsaric dilemmas with a samsaric mind, which—as we've heard a million times—is utterly hopeless. It can cause a giant nation to cheerfully elect a childish egomaniac as president, and it can cause the sangha—professing to believe in basic goodness and filled with noble intention--to tear itself apart.

Nothing compares to practicing the dharma together with other committed practitioners, and being able to share our hearts and feelings within that context. I am doing that right now at SMC, where 25 of us are doing a 9-Day Mahamudra Retreat. It has provided such an excellent context for our wisdom path, and for looking into our deepest hopes, fears and aspirations—alone and together.

A Mahamudra Retreat will also happen next week at Casa Werma, from Feb 28 to March 11. If by some quirk of fate you can make the time, come on down. And there will be many other opportunities.

I wish you the very best in your life and path,

Richard Acharya Richard John



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Feb
19
10:00 AM10:00

Diana J. Mukpo Letter To Shambhala Community

February 19, 2019

Dear Members of the Shambhala Community,

I write to you today with a very heavy heart. This is an incredibly painful time for all of us. However, in many ways, I feel that the situation we find ourselves in as a community was inevitable. The deep dysfunction and unkindness at the heart of our organization has been like a festering boil that finally burst. The revelations that have come to light over the last year have been horrifying. It has been so shocking to hear how women have been harmed. The abuse of power and violation of trust that allowed this to occur is unimaginable. As an organization and as individuals, we need to do whatever we can to support not only the women who have been abused but, as we now know, the men who are victims as well.

I have been heartbroken for years as I have watched the expansive vision of the Vidyadhara becoming more and more reduced. He used to say that Shambhala was a vast umbrella that would encompass many different activities and levels of practice. Over the last two decades, our community has become fractured, and the teachings that promise the way toward manifesting an enlightened and compassionate society have become hollow words.

During my seventeen-year marriage to the Vidyadhara I saw him manifest and teach in many different ways. The priority for him was always to find the best way to connect with people. I am sure that if he were alive today, he would be using totally different forms to interact with his students than those he employed during the era in which he was teaching. During his lifetime, he created the Kalapa Court to be a vehicle for students to have access to him. The current interpretation of court is a perversion of the initial intention. The Vidyadhara’s court was designed to build a bridge for his students to interact with him. The current model has built a wall.

I feel that the model of the court and of monarchy has become an obstacle, within which, as we have recently heard, there were abuses and cruelty. I have avoided the court situation for many years, having felt increasingly uncomfortable in that environment. It has been very sad for me, but I felt that I had to distance myself. At the same time, not being aware of the harm that was being perpetrated, I felt that it would only have caused divisiveness to speak out publicly about what I perceived to be a misunderstanding of the teachings. I have watched so many of the beautiful parts of our culture disappear and be replaced by what I have perceived to be a culturally bound religiosity. Like many others, I also have felt marginalized and have been subject to unhealthy power dynamics. If I had thought that speaking out publicly would have helped, I would have done so. In many respects, I now regret that I did not do so earlier. Privately, over the years, I have tried to give the Sakyong advice, but his reaction has been to avoid communication with me. I wrote to him twice last summer imploring him to take responsibility for his actions. We spoke on the phone, and I made a similar plea. Ultimately it is up to him to do what he can to repair the harm he has created.

There has been much discussion about the Sakyong’s childhood. He had a very difficult time growing up. When he arrived in this country as a traumatized ten-year-old child, I, his stepmother, was nineteen. I did not have the parenting skills to help him sufficiently. I am sorry about this and wish it had been different. His father was always loving toward the Sakyong but did not give him as much attention as he needed. This too is sad, but we all have different degrees of trauma. It is the nature of life and doesn’t really excuse his abuse of power and all that went along with it.

There also has been plenty of discussion about the Vidyadhara over the past year. I feel that it is my duty to be completely honest about his life. He was the most brilliant, kind, and insightful person that I have ever met. He was also ultimately unfathomable. When one examines his life, it is easy to make judgements, since his behavior was so unconventional. He was a human being and was not perfect, but he was unrelentingly kind and helped many, many people. During this difficult time, many people have spoken up about how he saved their lives. This is how they have put it, and I can connect with that completely.

In general and understandably, people – especially those who did not know him and only are hearing second-hand stories – may pass negative judgements on him. I know that there is one person who has prominently spoken up about feeling traumatized by the Vidyadhara and those around him. As his wife, the last few years of his life were very difficult for me. There is no question in my mind that alcohol had a devastating effect on both his body and mind in his latter years. My sense of this is quite different from some of the students who were close to him at that time. I have heard from a number of close students that they had positive experiences during that era, and I honor that. I think this is a time for us to honor one another’s experience, rather than judging or dismissing it. Simply speaking for myself, however, this period was very difficult. Nevertheless, it does not negate the brilliance of his teachings both in his words and in
the sacred environments he created as learning situations.

The Vidyadhara taught that the Shambhala teachings should be practiced along with the Buddhadharma, and that the two must support one another. He wrote, for example: “We can plant the moon of bodhichitta in everyone’s heart and the sun of the Great Eastern Sun in their heads.” (Collected KA, page 194.) The Sakyong’s de-emphasis and outright omission of the Kagyu and Nyingma teachings in the last 15 years has been a great detriment for our community. As much as the Vidyadhara conducted Kalapa Assemblies where he opened the Shambhala terma, at the same time he also taught Vajradhatu seminaries where he transmitted the Buddhist teachings of the three yana’s in a traditional manner. Not long before his death, when he was very ill, he made it a priority to give the Chakrasamvara Abisheka to several hundred students. This was an important Buddhist ceremony empowering people to practice advanced vajrayana teachings. He felt that it was imperative that he give this transmission to senior practitioners. I truly believe that he saw the Shambhala and the Buddhist teachings as
equally important.

At the first Kalapa Assembly, in 1978, there was a lot of discussion about what problems might arise from propagating the Shambhala vision. In that era, people often openly questioned the Vidyadhara and each other about any number of things. The following question was posed to him:

“As someone who has been worried about fascism and the possibility of the degeneration of Shambhala into that, could you say something that might be a safeguard against that?”

His response was: “Gentleness, meekness. Most of the warriors are meek persons. That’s it. And also they are practitioners of Buddhadharma.” (Collected KA, page 148)

There are many other examples of how the Vidyadhara viewed the two aspects of his teaching as equally important and supportive of one another. I do not think it was his intention to combine these teachings into one “Shambhala Buddhism”, as the Sakyong did after the Vidyadhara’s death. This move has created deep and painful rifts, not only with Trungpa Rinpoche’s heart students but also with respected members and teachers within the Tibetan community. So I think we need to look to the buddhadharma, as well as to the Shambhala teachings, to help us find the path forward. This does not invalidate the path taught by the Sakyong, nor the diligence of his students in applying themselves to it or the genuine experience of devotion many have had. Rather, it is a call for us to incorporate a bigger version of our relationship to the dharma.

I am writing to all of you and sharing my innermost thoughts with you today because I do believe so strongly that this community is worth fighting for. The incomparable practice of meditation and all the valuable teachings we have received have helped numerous people. Clearly, everything has to be re-evaluated and a healthy organizational structure needs to grow out of this. Over the past year, I have worried that the unfolding of events would be the destruction of Shambhala, but now I am wondering if, in fact, these disclosures might be what actually saves our precious community. I truly pray that we can get back on track and become what we profess to be, becoming a safe and nurturing home for those who seek these teachings. I don’t have the answers, nor do I know how all this is going to happen. There is certainly going to be more difficulty as things unfold.

Please know that I am willing to help in any way I can. I will make myself available if anyone would like to reach out to me.

In closing, I would like to discuss the role that I have played as the copyright holder for all the Vidyadhara’s written and other intellectual properties. Since his death, almost thirty-three years ago, there have been close to thirty books published, and many more could appear in the years to come. It always has been and will continue to be my intention to make his work accessible and available to all those who wish to practice and learn from his teachings. I consider this legacy as a sacred trust and will continue to work to protect and safeguard his teachings so that they will be available to people for years to come. I will do whatever is necessary to honor this commitment to all of you.
Holding you all in my heart,
Diana J. Mukpo

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Feb
19
8:00 AM08:00

Letter To The Dorje Kasung In Response To The Wickwire Holm Report From The Council of the Makkyi Rabjam

Letter To The Dorje Kasung In Response To The Wickwire Holm Report From The Council of the Makkyi Rabjam

Dear Dorje Kasung,

We are all stunned and raw after reading the Wickwire Holm report and the letter that six kusung sent on Saturday.  We are very concerned for those who have been harmed and know that many of you are feeling hurt, shocked, and raw.

Both documents describe harmful and disturbing patterns of behavior and we recognize that there is truth in these accounts.  We are deeply sorry for missing or not understanding some of the warning signs and for our part in enabling these behaviors to occur.  Our mandate is to create a safe container for our community to practice in, and we are heartbroken that we failed many people in that effort.

We commit ourselves to taking the necessary steps to understand and address the dynamics and patterns that led to these disturbing incidents.  We are reaching out to all continuity kusung (including the kusung who wrote the letter) and inviting them to dialog with us. We strongly encourage all kasung and members of the community to bring your concerns about kasung to us.

As the leadership of the Dorje Kasung, we know it is important for us to facilitate genuine communication. More important than ever, we need to bring our critical intelligence to the current situation, there is no party-line we want you to follow.  We support anyone in our community speaking their truth, regardless of where that leads.

We do not know what our future is, as a CMR or as Dorje Kasung. Clearly there are serious problems. But we have experienced a great deal of goodness and wisdom on this path and we continue to be committed to protecting and sustaining that wisdom.

For the last six months, we have been holding: waiting for the reports, supporting the activities of kasung in the centers, and contemplating our situation as Dorje Kasung. At this time is it clear that we need to shift. We will be reaching out to you in the coming weeks, to start working on this together.

In particular, the Kusung leadership, led by Kusung Corps Commander, Amy Conway, Kadö, in partnership with the CMR would like to listen and talk openly with any of you who might find that helpful. They are available to answer any questions you have. Zoom calls with the Kusung leadership for this purpose will be announced in the coming weeks.

As we start to hold these discussions, we want to be transparent. The CMR has not received communication from the Makkyi Rabjam in over 8 months. We are exploring our relationship with him.  We will let you know if and when we receive a communication from him.

We want to acknowledge your heartfelt service, the inspiration that exists and the deep longing to be in Kasung service to our world.

Thank you,

The Council of the Makkyi Rabjam

Kasung Kyi Khyap Jesse Grimes

Kasung Acharya, Lamen Kyi Khyap Mitchell Levy

Gesar Arm Commander, Toby Sifton, Rupön

Desung Arm Commander, Janet Jercinovic, Rupön

Kasung Shastri, Andrew Sacamano, Rupön

Dorje Kasung Sergeant Major, Anna Weinstein

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Feb
18
5:00 PM17:00

Interim Board's Response To Kusung Letter

Interim Board's Response To Kusung Letter

Dear Shambhala Community, 

It is from a place of great sadness that we write you today. When we took our seats as an Interim Board, we did so with the positive aspiration of restoring Shambhala culture to one of trust, kindness, and genuine concern for the welfare of others. In the last days we have learned of patterns of behavior by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche at odds with these fundamental principles.

 

Six Shambhala students who have served as Kusung, a role of close personal protection and direct service to the Sakyong, have bravely come forward with An Open Letter to the Shambhala Community from Long Serving Kusung. In addition to a signed, joint statement, each has provided stories that describe Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche as an individual who has been disrespectful, unkind and has caused harm to others.

 

We strongly disapprove of the Sakyong’s behavior described in the Kusungs’ letter. We will do our part to protect Shambhala culture and community and we do not and will not support the behaviors described.

 

We feel strongly that we need to do what we can to protect the continued mission of Shambhala to connect people with their own basic goodness. We will remain focused on the issues of care and conduct in our community. The Interim Board completed the Wickwire Holm investigative project given to us by the outgoing Kalapa Council and will soon complete the project they started with An Olive Branch, pending receipt of An Olive Branch’s final report and subsequent communication with the community. 

We will now turn our attention to exploring how to go forward as we work with these recent reports of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s behavior. We will engage with the various Shambhala leadership groups and the Shambhala Process Team to determine structures of governance that make most sense for Shambhala now and in the future.  

 

Our hearts are with all of you in this time of difficulty. We aspire that we can rely on the truths we feel in ourselves and can find support with each other in our community. We value your continued input and rely on your support for our efforts.

Sincerely,
 

The Shambhala Interim Board 

Veronika Bauer
Martina Bouey
Mark Blumenfeld
John Cobb
Jennifer Crow
Sara Lewis
Susan Ryan
Paulina Varas

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Feb
16
8:30 PM20:30

An Open Letter to the Shambhala Community from Long-Serving Kusung

An Open Letter to the Shambhala Community from Long-Serving Kusung

To the Shambhala community:

This letter is in regards to Mipham J. Mukpo, also known as Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. For the purposes of this letter, we will refer to him as Mr. Mukpo.

In light of the recently concluded investigations and subsequent communications from the Shambhala leadership, a group of former Kusung decided to come forward and highlight areas we do not feel were fully or properly addressed.

By way of background, the Dorje Kasung is the quasi-military group in Shambhala tasked with protecting the teachings and the community. The Kusung, meaning “body protectors,” are a subset of the Dorje Kasung who are tasked with the direct care of Mr. Mukpo’s body, on all levels. Accordingly, the Kusung are witness to Mr. Mukpo’s private life.

Becoming a Kusung is only by invitation of Mr. Mukpo. He requires loyalty, confidentiality, and allegiance to his view. More often than not he also requires Vajrayana samaya vows. Within the Dorje Kusung there are Continuity Kusung who travel and live with Mr. Mukpo for about a year, serving him 24/7. There are very few people in Shambhala who spend as much time with Mr. Mukpo.

We are all former Kusung who have held multiple leadership roles in the Shambhala community some of which we have listed below our names. Although we are a small contingent of former servants, our collective direct experience with Mr. Mukpo spans from 1994 to 2018.

Serving in these capacities has afforded us both intimate exposure to Mr. Mukpo’s conduct and ongoing access to those who’ve continued to serve or served after our duties concluded. Each of us has gradually distanced ourselves from the inner circle for a variety of reasons, primarily an overwhelming need for self-care. Most of us have left the community entirely.

In conversation with each other, and with many other former Court (personal household) staff, we’ve concluded that Mr. Mukpo has consistently shown a disturbing pattern of behavior.

Given Mr. Mukpo’s position as sole authority of Shambhala, we feel a moral obligation to alert others in order to avoid further harm and provide direct unfiltered feedback to Mr. Mukpo. The following summary highlights key observations and represents our own collective opinion. Attached to the end of this letter are six individual accounts that contributed to our general assessment.

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Ms. Bath from Wickwire Holm had a very narrow mandate for her investigation. However, we know that abuse is generally underreported which speaks to a much wider epidemic in the Shambhala community. This seeming effort to downplay the number and severity of incidents is corroborated by Ms. Merchasin’s investigation.

We can confirm that Mr. Mukpo has a long history of sexual misconduct including those Claimants in the final Wickwire Holm report. While some of us did talk to the investigators about these allegations we feel that much was not fully addressed.

Mr. Mukpo has a long-standing history of questionable behavior towards his students, ranging from crude harmful speech to physical and psychological abuse. This has occurred both while he was drinking heavily and in the absence of alcohol. He has also consistently propagated misuse of organizational funds. In our opinion, his abuse of power goes far beyond the limited scope of the Wickwire Holm investigation.

We know Mr. Mukpo received feedback about his behavior from various key people at different times. He either dismissed or was unable to heed the warnings and continued to engage in these activities. We are concerned that Mr. Mukpo is unlikely to change.

Most of us have been subjected to his abuse. At times we have also been inadvertent enablers of Mr. Mukpo’s behavior. We have each struggled to understand our blind spots. It is a bitter pill to swallow that we were enablers of this man. The more we ignored our own intuition, the more people were harmed, and the more damage was propagated. As was true for us, many other Shambhala leaders may not recognize their role in the propagation of these harms. Indeed many are victims themselves.

While we cannot undo the damage, hopefully we can speak to the truth of how his behavior has hurt many of his students. We seek to further validate those who have bravely named this pattern and who likely were subjected to gaslighting or minimization. We hope our personal statements will encourage others to speak and keep speaking.

Although the Shambhala community is making changes in some areas of leadership, as well as reviewing finances, ethical conduct, and reporting policies, we doubt that these changes will be enough. Our concern is that these efforts may only act as a mere gesture of change if the center of the community cannot face the deep discomfort of its own culpability.

Currently, Mr. Mukpo is still the monarch and lineage guru in Shambhala. This is why we felt it necessary for us to be open about what we have witnessed. He is not solely defined by the terrible things – if he was this would all be much simpler. Nonetheless, we feel compelled to draw the line here – where the disparity gap between what he, as a spiritual leader, says to do and what he himself does, is so wide as to appear immeasurable.

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We have been told (and have told ourselves) in many different ways how to obscure this line. Often there is a theme of imploring us to believe that Mr. Mukpo’s behavior is beyond our understanding. We are asked to regard such activity as the guru’s method of waking us up. But, looking around the world, there’s nothing so prosaic as a leader using his power and position to take advantage of people under his care.

By endorsing this letter we are both affirming these words and standing in support of those who’ve been exploited or harmed.

The forthcoming statements from six of the undersigned are intensely personal accounts from people who were trained to focus on Mr. Mukpo’s needs above all else, even if it meant burying what we saw or felt. It has taken this long for us to come forward because the journey was replete with self-doubt, shame, and grief.

This group as a whole has no affiliation with any particular movement, support group, or any other organization. Although there are other Kusung staff who were interested in endorsing this letter, we do not claim to represent or speak for all other Kusung.

Sincerely,

Craig Morman

Kusung (1997-2015) Continuity Kusung (2002-2003)

Ben Medrano, MD

Former Continuity Kusung and practicing board certified Psychiatrist

Laura Leslie

(2002-2016) Kusung-in-Training, Shabchi (Attendant to Mr. Mukpo’s wife), staff member at Shambhala New York City and Dorje Denma Ling, Aide to the Council of the Makkyi Rabjam (Leaders of the Dorje Kasung), Meditation Instructor and Shambhala Guide, Rusung at the Boulder Shambhala Center, Board Member at Shambhala Mountain Center.

Louis Fitch

(2000-2016) Kasung, Desung, Kusung-in-Training, Boulder Rusung, Kasung Regimental Commander, Sun Camp Leadership Group, Colorado Sun Camp Admin, Personal Attendant to Lady Konchok, Co-Team Leader for Lady Konchok.

David Ellerton

Environment staff, Shambhala Mountain Center (2000-2001) Continuity Kusung (2001-2002)

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Resident Director of Shambhala Training, Shambhala Meditation Center of Denver (2003-2004) Dragon Region Kusung Officer (2006-2008)

Allya Canepa

(1994-2018) Kusung, Camp Commander, Head of Household - Vermont, Boulder, Shambhala Mountain, Chile; and briefly, at the end, Dragon Region Kusung Commander; Karmê Chöling Accounting Office (1993-1999), Windhorse Dressage Academy (1999-2002), Marpa House Director (2003- 2006) Privy Purse (2006-2010), Ashoka Credit Union CEO (2012-2016).

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Ben Medrano February 2019

My name is Dr. Ben Medrano and I was a Continuity Kusung to Mr. Mukpo from December 2002 to October 2004. I was one of 2 such attendants and we were almost always steps away from him offering services including personal security, workout partner, butler, secretary and counselor. Prior to this, my sporadic Kusung training occurred at various programs starting at the 2000 Vajradhatu seminary where I was recruited and trained. Before that I had never met or studied with him. In fact, I knew very little about any aspect of his personal life other than he wore robes instead of the suits of his father. It’s worth noting that I was not born into this community and my participation started around the age of 19. Following my 2-year tour as his Continuity Kusung, I moved to Boulder to begin my own path towards becoming a physician specialized in psychiatry. I continued to be intimately involved in Mr. Mukpo’s household as a Kusung staff supervisor (Kusung commander) for many land center programs on an annual basis for the years following until the summer of 2011. From about 2005 to 2007 I was a regional Kusung commander for programs mostly in the Colorado area. During that time I was involved in recruitment and training of many other Kusung, some of which are still serving to this day. Upon acceptance to medical school in the summer of 2010, my service and contact with him became limited to only a couple of campaigns in total, each a month in duration with the last being at his Boulder household around December 2013 to January 2014. For those who care, my vajrayana path included traditional Kagyu Ngondro by numbers, Shambhala Ngondro, Vajrayogini and multiple Scorpion Seal Assemblies. Following my acceptance into psychiatric residency training I’ve had no direct involvement in his administrative or personal spheres. However, I did maintain my strong friendships and frequent communication with many who continued to serve him and his family. I’ve been a trusted confidant about their experiences, which allowed me a limited vantage point to continue to stay tuned-in. Prior to the release of Buddhist Project Sunshine I was not aware of the extent of harm experienced by these women and many of my former colleagues.

My retirement from service was a result of years of contemplation from which I’d concluded that it was necessary for me to no longer have direct contact with Mr. Mukpo and much of his inner circle. This period of time away from the community while training in psychiatry allowed me a unique perspective of Shambhala and it’s leader’s inner world. In light of the Project Sunshine and Wickwire Holm reports, and after reading Mr. Mukpo’s and other’s statements, I came to realized that sharing my experience was necessary in this process of reconciliation. The primary catalyst for me was knowing that others have suffered for years and many more are suffering as important questions remain unanswered. I was concerned by the fact that many key close personal staff, prior to Mr. Mukpo’s marriage, had remained silent. Furthermore, a substantial portion of the Kusung were born and raised into Shambhala, attending numerous annual military-style summer camps during their vulnerable developmental years.

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The following is an account of what I observed during my time in direct service to Mr. Mukpo from 2000 to 2014 with particular focus on my time as a Continuity Kusung. Please note that any period outside of my 2-year traveling tour consisted of varied week to month long campaigns where contact with him was far more limited, as I was doing occasional service shifts or supervising other Kusung. I will try to give an honest account of my observations and context, while reserving the bulk of my personal interpretations for the latter portion of this report. Its important for me to disclose that I was socialized within this spiritual institution for over 20 years and this definitely contributes to bias. For the last 5 years, I also have had no direct contact with Mr. Mukpo or members of the Kalapa Council and they have not attempted to reach out to me.

From the summer of 2000 to late 2002 I’m guessing I’d accrued a total of approximately 2 months of direct service time to Mr. Mukpo. Much of this training occurred at Shambhala Mountain Center, Dorje Denma Ling and Karme Choling. During those periods I do remember seeing him consume copious amounts of alcohol at occasional social events. When I say occasional, there were a few for every month of service I did. At these events I also witnessed dancing, singing, poetry, toasts and one-on-one close conversation between teacher and student. I clearly recall seeing young attractive women being invited to social events and I remember witnessing him flirting with them in the manner of placing his hand on thighs or shoulders. I don’t remember seeing any groping of buttocks, breasts or vaginas. I was aware of women being invited to his private quarters and had on occasion seen them leave the morning thereafter. If now asked to describe their facial expressions on these occasions I would list a whole range of affects from elation and anxiety to sadness and shame. Rarely did I see women arise from his bedroom looking calm, happy and refreshed. This pretty much sums up all of my observations of women departing after nights spent for the years thereafter.

Prior to starting my tour as a Continuity Kusung, I had a surprise visit from Mr. Mukpo and entourage. This was the first time I was fully able to appreciate his voluminous consumption of alcohol during a binge (easily above 10 drinks). He drank from sunset to sunrise, as he would behave in a provocative manner ranging from being gentle and vulnerable to being threatening and insecure. I will elaborate more on these observations later. I don’t remember him physically harming people at this time. His behavior included demanding others to drink more and coercing some participants to take off their clothes. His behavior towards me during this time was inviting and flattering. From what I could tell he did his best to make me feel welcome. Not long after, I received an invitation to travel with him full time.

Just before my 24th birthday on my first day of tour I remember being greeted at Mr. Mukpo’s household service entry door in the midst of a closed personal retreat by a rowdy and overly casual team of Kusung. I was surprised and somewhat disheartened by their conduct as it reminded me of locker room behavior which I loathed. Much of the 3-man team appeared to be poorly groomed and in general

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looked emotionally worn. They had been serving extensively for many months and appeared to be at the end of their tether. This image really stuck with me and I will remark on why later. Prior to the end of this retreat, most were replaced by fresh- faced devotees.

Within a month of starting these intensive duties we embarked on Mr. Mukpo’s first ever book tour for “Turning the Mind into an Ally” visiting around 20 international locations. This was when I began to see the nature of his social engagement that anchored my allegiance further. He slept very little, was constantly teaching and interacting with students. These experiences were very inspiring for me and gave an example of my own potential to extend my capabilities further than I’d ever imagined. However, the partying continued. At some point in this early period is when my experience of service started to take a turn.

One morning Mr. Mukpo invited me to his room looking worried. He stated that he had a private task for me. He stated that he could no longer be allowed to drink more than “2 wines or 3 beers” and that I should, without question, cut his drink service off at that point. At first I felt honored that he would share such an intimate moment with me. Following this I was informed in a vague manner that something very concerning had recently happened in Chile. Until recently I had been shielded from the details of this event. Evidently his conduct was so infuriating that one of his most senior staff members had threatened to resign. I was given an official letter that basically said I was empowered by Mr. Mukpo to review and regulate all social events involving alcohol. This letter stated that I was to surpass all other authority on the course of celebrations, control alcohol consumption, and dismiss guests if need be. Little did I know, this would be the beginning of a challenging period for me in my relationship with him... ultimately resulting in a protracted phase of decaying trust between us.

As my traveling tour continued, the nature of Mr. Mukpo’s intimate relationships with female students were superficially revealed to me. I use the word superficial because I had little to no idea what occurred behind closed doors. I assumed that some had sex with him, but I did not know the nature of these acts. I learned that he had a number of longstanding girlfriends, many of whom were married. There were times on our tour where they would visit him and vice versa. Having been socialized by Shambhala starting in my teens, I was initially excited to see that my teacher was continuing his father’s “crazy wisdom”. Trungpa’s teachings had already changed my life in a very positive way. I remember thinking how conceptually profound it was that these relationships existed. At the same time I toiled with what it must have felt like for these students, always feeling pushed to rationalize this as a generous offering to their revered teacher. One time we stayed at a couple’s home, whose kid I frequently interacted with. I remember feeling such empathy, realizing that he/she was probably far more preoccupied with the nature of this relationship than I was. Maybe the child was too young, maybe caught up in other things, but part of me could not shake that maybe it was just as disturbing for the kid as it is to me now.

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Over time, many of those affairs with married women ended... and to my knowledge at least one marriage did as well. There’s no way for me to know what impact, positive or negative, Mr. Mukpo’s relationships with these women had on their marriage. Needless to say, to my limited knowledge, all such relationships with him had ended prior to his own marriage... some against his will. One night, just past the midpoint of my tour, I was planning a brief hiatus as things had become particularly stressful. I was sitting at a computer when I heard Mr. Mukpo come up behind me with one of these married women who had evidentially broke up with him. To my surprise he began to massage the back of my neck with one hand. This quickly turned into an uncomfortably tight clamping static grip. At first I attempted to ignore it while continuing to appear focused on typing until I could not tolerate the pain and calmly stated “Yes Rinpoche?” He then snickered and stated to the lady “See?! He can withstand the grip!” I must admit, I had forgotten this story until very recently. Oddly I did not consider it a big deal, but after giving this man countless massages to help him relax I realized this was one of the few moments of physical contact that he initiated outside of using my arm as a banister.

Around the same time of this incident Mr. Mukpo’s drinking escalated. This resulted in one of the few times that I showed the letter in order to intervene. We were at a bar and I noticed that 3 drinks seemed like too much. As per tradition he would dictate the seating arrangement and I would find myself placed at a distance that seemed strategic on his behalf. Many times this made it difficult for me to intercept guests’ offers resulting in an experience reminiscent of the childhood game of Whack-a-Mole. Only this time the moles were drinks being handed to him, much of the time these offerings were instigated by him. I would do my best to be as inconspicuous as possible and replace them with water, as Kusung take great pride in being invisible. Many uninformed senior students would get annoyed with me and some would just ignore me regardless of mentioning the letter. However, on this very rare occasion one senior student actually listened.

During our time at the bar I observed Mr. Mukpo flirting with a student’s long-term girlfriend. I could tell that the situation was uncomfortable for him. That said, for some reason, I couldn’t get a clear read what her comfort level was. This raised further alarm as I had been told that I shouldn’t allow him to make advances on less senior or experienced students... a distant rationale that I now find very troubling. As we were leaving the bar I did my usual escorting of Mr. Mukpo into the bathroom. I informed him that he had reached his limit and with a twinkle in his eye he indicated that he couldn’t care less. I was not invited to his car so I instructed the driver that he must proceed directly back to the residence. I rushed home to hide all alcoholic beverages. His arrival was marked by stomps and slamming doors. I spoke with the driver to ask what had happened and was told that Mr. Mukpo had ordered him to go to another bar and was frustrated by their not having done so. Following this, my pager rang summoning me to his room. I opened his bedroom door to find darkness and quietly asked, “May I get you anything?” A sharp and booming reply: “WATER!” Upon my return I entered the pitch-black bedroom in fear. I had heard

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stories of Mr. Mukpo striking other Kusung and was wary of my currently invisible distance from him while he lay in bed. Fortunately he did not hit me as I somehow managed to place the glass in the void. I left feeling somewhat relieved that a potential crisis had been averted.

The following morning I was summoned to his room and to my surprise he was awake and ready for a planned excursion. He verbalized confirmation that it was good that he didn’t drink more last night since he didn’t feel too hung-over to stick to his established schedule. As an aside, this begs mention of memories about several past events that he canceled due to hangovers. Given that positive feedback and reinforcement were rare experiences for most Kusung, I took his acknowledgement as confirmation that I was doing a good job and this encouraged me to continue serving in this way.

This event was around the time that I had completed my initial commitment of a year. Of note, during this era we were paid a modest monthly stipend of around $750 dollars for our 24/7 duties. Although this low wage was concerning to most, we felt fortunate to be able to serve in this way since Shambhala International was in a major financial crisis and running on a skeleton staff after multiple layoffs. As I understand it, Mr. Mukpo’s “support” income was priority as I hear it continues to be. This alludes to a broader topic on Mr. Mukpo and family’s relationship to money, which many find disturbing. Repeatedly I was amazed by the opulence, frequency, and duration of his luxury vacations. Long after my Continuity Kusung term I gathered that he and his wife’s toiletry/cosmetic budget rivaled my own annual salary as a resident physician. For as long as I have known him, this standard of living has never been enough. I recall a sober midday call demanding me to push for the unfeasible purchase of an Audi A8. I vividly remember his infuriated words being: “I want my FUCKING Audi!”

Returning to my original train of thought: our meager Kusung earnings were barely sufficient to maintain our daily expenditures and I found myself depleting my 401k by the end of my tour in order keep up with his social spending. At the time, his personal accountant had instructed us that we were to avoid using his funds while going out to his numerous expensive dining events. To put it simply, I was beginning to feel that terminating my service at a year would be wise. Soon after, he requested me to renew my commitment for another year. As said in our tantric vows, “Whatever the leader commands, all that I will do.”

As I progressed through my final year of traveling there were multiple instances of Mr. Mukpo’s binge drinking that I was unable to control. All of them were marked by tense confrontations between us. One such occasion, attended by many senior staff, was at a restaurant dinner. As usual I had attempted to follow his established instructions and limit the drinking. As expected he would retract those instructions once the celebrating ensued and do everything in his power to sabotage my efforts. What made this event different was the frank verbal abuse. At one point I escorted him to the bathroom and he proceeded to verbally berate me, calling me an “asshole”

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amongst other things. Upon our return to the dinner table audience, he proceeded to compose an insulting poem titled “Stupid People” which was clearly dedicated to me. On speaking with others who had witnessed this event I found that hardly anyone considered this a stellar teaching moment. In fact, his seasoned scribe later told me that the poem was immediately discarded, as it was one of his “worst” literary works. After hearing the poem I made a public reply for all to hear stating “I’m just the bullet in your own gun, shooting yourself in the foot Your Majesty.” To this he smiled and cleverly stated “Yes, but I have the bottle.”

During this dinner there was a novice female student whom it was common knowledge that I was dating. At various points Mr. Mukpo made advances towards her. As I was so preoccupied with cutting off his alcohol service, I cannot remember the specifics of those advances. All I knew was that she was uncomfortable. As per my instructions, I was to remove new students on such an occasion. So I passed my duties to my teammate and made plans to escort her elsewhere as the party continued back at our residence. When I stopped in his living room I found most of our guests standing in a circle exposed. Mr. Mukpo was marching around and ordering each of them to do various things. Evidently he had demanded that everyone get completely naked, all but one woman halted this task at underwear. Some were crying and many appeared to be nervous. At this point, I imagine senior students reading this might feel encouraged, as it is again reminiscent of his father’s “crazy wisdom” behavior. When we hear accounts of such stories from that era, I think it’s worth reflecting on which participants remain in our community. Of those who have left, what are their experiences? In my experience, and others who I know well, these moments did not feel all that “enlightened”. In this particular instance, I heard that after my departure one guest took it upon himself/herself to dispose of all alcohol. This was after Mr. Mukpo began forcefully biting people, as he was known to do in the past. Those who likely consented to such assaults remarked to me that he had left bruises, which had been documented in photos. I vaguely recall seeing them. However, my memory is quite muddled with anxiety as I attempt to remember and much of this feels unreal as I put it onto paper.

To continue on this story, it was reported to me that Mr. Mukpo re-targeted his sexual advances to another woman. She was married with husband present and other staff noted a general feeling of discomfort. It’s worth noting that he seemed to prefer to target unavailable women, usually while the significant other was present. This instance led to a redirection of Mr. Mukpo’s focus on another single female who consented to entertain him and I know little of what followed.

Later that night I ruminated in frustration, sadness and anger. I could not reconcile the helplessness I felt in trying to assist Mr. Mukpo. I felt trapped and seriously considered leaving immediately. I inquired about changing my flight, but found it to be impossible. I called one of my seniors and recounted the story while emphasizing that I intended to leave as soon as possible. He encouraged me to give it some time. As I lay in the Kusung staff bedroom I looked over at my associate who was sleeping. I realized how this teammate had become like family to me and I feared the stress he

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would face without my support. Upon reflection of this moment I realize that it wasn’t my devotion to Mr. Mukpo that led me to continue, but my allegiance to those who struggled to make use of these experiences. At the time I recounted a story from veteran Kusung who was violently assaulted by Chogyam Trungpa. Knocked to the ground and kicked multiple times with boots on. In that instance he considered leaving as well. His point, that echoed in my mind, was “sometimes being a Kusung is just about showing up.” For those familiar with the stories of the Karma Kagyu Buddhist lineage tracing back hundreds of years, these kinds of assaults are considered brilliant moments of teaching: a complex philosophical rationale of making lemonade out of lemons. I truly believe this veteran accomplished his reframing of this assault in a way that allowed him to cope and gain further insight to Buddhist teachings. Similarly, I also wonder about other senior staff who eventually shared with me their experiences of Mipham Mukpo throwing drinks in their face or slapping them. However, I still struggled and even as I write this I feel guilt for not having the resilience to accomplish such a transmutation. At the same time I forgive myself for this and acknowledge that my socialization into this tradition is the illogical root of this guilt.

The following morning I “showed up” for my duties to find that Mr. Mukpo was amidst a major hangover. He guided me through a soup recipe passed on from his father as a hangover cure and he slept through the day with the help of pharmaceuticals. Once he regained his energy I decided it was necessary to inquire about his memories of the previous night. He indicated that he remembered little and I proceeded to recount most of the details with focus on the biting. I do not recall telling him the details of his treatment towards me. He was remorseful and asked “Should I stop drinking?” and I stated that it was not for me to decide. Seeing him in this vulnerable state of not remembering, feeling upset, and asking for help gave me hope that he could change. I continued to serve for the following months.

During the remainder of my traveling duties and beyond, I did not witness events that were as noteworthy. This is likely due to my deliberate efforts to distance myself once the bottles began to open. His drinking binges and provocative behavior did continue with a mild taper. Time and time again I would butt heads with senior staff and other Kusung about cutting off alcohol service. On most of these instances my efforts resulted in suboptimal results. Regardless, it appeared to me that his drinking was getting a little better. Similarly I noticed, at that time, that his relations to women improved as well. Many veteran Kusung would remark to me that my presence was having a positive influence on his conduct. This made me wonder how much worse things must have been before I came along.

Throughout this period, my duty to regulate his drinking was not my only task. It was also common for me to be his emissary in delivering invitations to romantic interests. This unconventional experience may be hard for others to fathom, but the reality of his role made it difficult at times to convey such communications on his own. It was not uncommon at retreat centers and in Boulder or Halifax for him to be stopped by people in devotional conversation that required his full and at times

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prolonged attention. Having witnessed this I empathized with him and obliged in the awkward transaction with women. Acknowledging the power differential, I would usually emphasize to invitees that there was no pressure and that they should not feel obligated to entertain his invitation. I did not indicate that there would be negative repercussions of their saying “no.” I do not remember stating that he wished to participate in sexual activity with them. Nor did he request me to say so. However, I assume that most people knew that some form of physical intimacy was likely the case.

Acknowledging that it is hard to tease out the affects of devotion from sexual desire, the majority of these communications were with women who seemed to express romantic interest as well. There were a couple of instances where women had declined and I did not observe direct repercussions for their decision. For those who did accept, many were led to Mr. Mukpo’s abode and I know nothing of what occurred thereafter. These women were sometimes one-time guests and others would frequent for the period of weeks depending on the duration of our visit calendar. Marking yet another aspect of complexity in his being able to maintain a stable consistent relationship: our travel itinerary was quite busy. Much like a spiritual rock and roll lifestyle. Please know that these statements are in no way an excuse for an abuse of his position of power. These are simply my observations and personal rationale at the time.

After my review of Project Sunshine, I tried to recall if there were instances where I witnessed acts of frank sexual assault. I’m aware of the definition of such a thing and I admit that I have no obvious memory of such. That said, over the years I did see and hear of many women who felt disheartened, hurt and confused by their intimate experiences with Mr. Mukpo. I’ve seen a number of them leave the community and a few terminate communication altogether. I know of others who shared these observations and dealt with it in the same way that I did: avoidance. I feel ashamed as I read my own words, wishing that I had provided support for them. With certainty I know that their pain and confusion is vastly more severe than my own.

At this point I feel it’s important to mention that over the course of the second half of my travels, Mr. Mukpo indicated that it was his wish to have more integrity in his “relationships” with women. It appeared to me that he was finally considering settling down. This was marked with the termination of most if not all of his standing relationships. He seemed determined to find some stability. Not long after my tour, I found out about his engagement with his wife. To my limited knowledge, the bulk of his known experiences with female students ended with their engagement. Currently, I can’t help but wonder about the timing of the abovementioned letter and his efforts to improve his drinking and intimate relationships. What was/were this disturbing event(s) that happened before my tour that I was shielded from?

As an aside, during my final year as a Continuity Kusung I experienced multiple other instances of what most outside of this tradition would consider psychological

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abuse. To start, a Continuity Kusung receiving compliments from Mr. Mukpo was generally very rare. Conversely, he occasionally reminded me that I was unimportant without him. On a couple of occasions he made jokes about how unattractive I was and that he didn’t understand how women were drawn to me. I distinctly remember him boasting that “Continuity Kusung only attract women because of me.” I only share these as an example of how this preacher of kindness would treat his most devoted servants. Sure they were likely said in jest, but these words hurt me in a way that I’ve struggled to make use of. In this spiritual dynamic, a teacher’s words carried weight and he was well aware of that. Keep in mind we were all complicit in countless flattery sessions that we felt to be our duty in order to counter his frequent episodes of obvious insecurity. It appeared he just couldn’t get enough compliments.

Near the end of my travels with him, there had been conversation of my continuing for an indefinite amount of time with the title of Attaché. The mere thought of this exhausted me. Much like those previous staff members I had seen on my first day, I was nearing the end of my tether. Others noticed my burned out conduct and this was upsetting to me as I felt I was becoming a blemish on Mr. Mukpo’s representation. I began to scramble to find a replacement to fill the role and finessed this agenda into Mr. Mukpo’s purview. Eventually I succeeded and this eager new recruit was ready to jump in following our return from an exhausting trip to Tibet. My final moments in this capacity were bittersweet and I remember Mr. Mukpo telling me for the first and last time “I love you” just prior to heading to the airport.

For the years following I’d struggled with trying to find balance between my service to Mr. Mukpo while traversing my medical training. I took every opportunity to offer my experience to his household and beyond. All the while I felt haunted by these memories that did not coincide with what had initially inspired me to become Buddhist. I found myself coping in unhealthy manners and in unstable relationships. This led to a painful divorce involving some of the closest members of Mr. Mukpo’s staff. During this time I had the chance to discuss this experience with him and he was far from sympathetic. In fact, he voiced his irritation and blame for bringing drama into his home. He followed this with an insult far too personal and complex to mention here. Again, many students of vajrayana Buddhism would consider this a form of teaching. Sadly, to this day I have not been able to make such reconciliation without dismissing my own true feelings and the feelings of others who have felt harmed. As a Buddhist I believe that feelings are devoid of any real existence while, at the same time, highly informative and not to be discarded.

Soon after my graduation from medical school I decided it best to take a distant stance from Shambhala and simply focus on my career. I was matched to residency training in New York City where I hunkered down in my work. This marked the beginning of a rocky period of healing of which I feel is nearing its end. During my residency I had extensive exposure to trauma patients. Listening to these patients and providing them with support became one of my primary avenues for understanding my past. I continued to practice meditation and also engaged in

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therapy for myself. All of these, coupled with the generous and ongoing support of my friends and family, have culminated in my ability to elaborate on these experiences that I’m sharing with you now.

Since my departure from Colorado in 2014, I’ve had the opportunity to hear many other stories such as my own. I’ve seen numerous close Sakyong staff move on. As there is a trend of high staff turnover that is well known in Shambhala, I’ve wondered about the experiences that other, far removed, former devotees have had. For myself, I’m still in a process of integrating my thoughts and feelings about all of this. In fact, having the opportunity to share them has been surprisingly helpful.

I feel its important to take a moment to honor those who have similarly served Mr. Mukpo who may wish to share, but for whatever reason, are unable to do so. I know of many more beyond the group endorsing this statement. The decision to release this statement was very difficult for me, for obvious reasons. Because of that, I respect those who have decided to not speak or remain anonymous. These relationship dynamics are highly complex. It takes time to process. Not to mention the proposed spiritual and social consequences of betraying your teacher and friend. Knowing all the trials and tribulations Mr. Mukpo’s experienced, I still feel genuine concern for him and his family. BUT people are suffering because of his actions and it’s possible that those closest to him are currently being duped by his superficial gestures of restitution, while playing the victim to those who will have it. Yes, I’m very familiar with his use of this tactic. I think it’s only fair that I not propagate this idea of his role being above the ethics that apply to us all, as doing so could have tremendous painful ramifications for this community. We already have undeniable examples of how others have suffered under this spiritual model.

To conclude, I have countless thoughts around the ethical, psychological, and sociological issues that have led to this current predicament. I find I’m repeatedly saying to myself “Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.” At times who or what the “baby” is confuses me. I’ve veered into the narrow-sighted logic of trying to simplify this man’s conduct as someone who has a problem with alcohol and women. Fortunately for me, I now have enough understanding of the human psyche to know that these issues are far more complex and malignant. Despite his voiced intention of creating a “culture of kindness”, my current observation is that we are still in the midst of a culture of fear and abuse of power influenced by longstanding beliefs that need to be further called into question. For those following spiritual leaders who justify this kind of behavior, keep in mind the blinders they might wear while explaining their rationale. Much like many other religions, this particular tradition still has generations of work to do before it fully addresses the entrenched cultural patriarchy from which it has flourished. I wish you all clarity in this process and thank you for your patience in tolerating my lengthy monologue.

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David Ellerton February 2019

My name is David Ellerton and I have been involved in the Shambhala Community since 1995. I have served as a Kusung in various capacities from 1999 until 2013 (when my last formal shift occurred). This service varied in terms of length and responsibility, ranging from single, daily shifts—either at various residences or events—to "campaigns," which involved week(s) or month(s) long stretches at the community's retreat centers. I also travelled as a Continuity Kusung from July 2001 until September of 2002 and served as Regional Kusung Officer from late 2006 to early 2008, the latter of which involved the scheduling, training and supervising of all aspects related to Kusung for the Rocky Mountain region. In addition to my work in the capacity as Kusung, I held other paid and unpaid positions in the community, including environment staff at one of the community's retreat centers, Resident Director of Shambhala Training, Meditation Instructor, and Coordinator of programs.

I am heartbroken. I sign this letter in solidarity with those who have experienced harm in this community.

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Craig Morman February 2019

I was participant in Shambhala from 1995 until around 2015. I served in a variety of roles throughout the years. I was the Rusung of Shambhala Mountain Center, a Sergeant in the Dorje Kasung, a meditation instructor, and the Director of Casa Werma in Mexico. I also served as a Kusung in a number of capacities from 1997- 2015, including serving as Continuity Kusung from early 2002 to early 2003 approximately. I have been keeping secrets for many years, I won’t do it anymore.

There is no way that I could possibly describe the entirety of Shambhala ́s culture of exploitation and abuse in a short statement. I will limit my comments primarily to my experience with the Kusung. Before proceeding I need to say that many of the worst examples of abuse and exploitation that I have witnessed and experienced happened far away from the Court and often had nothing to do with sexuality, but that is for another time.

My first experience of Shambhala was as a member of the summer staff at Shambhala Mountain Center in 1995. It was the first year that it was called RMSC, about 4 months after the “enthronement”.

I very quickly found the meditation practice to be both challenging and helpful and developed a daily practice. The next summer I joined the Kasung out of a mixture of curiosity and fear. I was accepted to the 1997 Vajryana seminary. It was there that I was invited to join the Kusung.

My exposure to the Court gradually increased for a couple of years. It started as a Kasung sitting outside of the house, or driving the car. Then mornings and afternoons serving tea and food, learning how to iron and things of that sort. Exposure to the reality of things was incremental based on how much one could handle: is he or she going to “get it”?

In late 2000 or early 2001 Mr. Mukpo invited a bunch of young men out for drinks to a bar in Boulder. He proclaimed it the first meeting of the YMBA, the Young Men ́s Buddhist Association. A number of current Shambhala leaders were present that night. Some way through the evening he called me over and told me that I should continue to train as his traveling Kusung. We agreed that I would serve for a year when I graduated from Naropa, yeah I did that too.

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The YMBA evening went on until well after the bars had closed. A group of us ended up in the living room of a small Boulder apartment drinking heavily. At one point Mr. Mukpo started screaming dharma questions at us and pointing, demanding an answer. His response to each answer was to scream ”WEAK VIEW!”. This was one of my first tastes of the good stuff. The crazy stuff.

It was really fun, to be honest. I was just happy to be there as we sat in a circle around him and jumped up screaming our refuge names as he pointed to us. I talked to one participant about it a day or so later. He asked what I had thought of the night. When I naively told him that I had had a great time, he intimated that one guest in particular had found it disturbing, and that the “teaching” hadn’t been all that helpful. They are both Acharyas now. I’d be curious to hear their current views.

My tour started in Halifax. It was the first time Mr. Mukpo had stayed in the Northwest Arm house. I met him there as he was returning from India, he had lost a lot of weight on a low carb diet.

The first two weeks in the house were a cycle of party/recover/shop-to-stock-new- home/party- repeat. There were some meetings and teaching mixed in, but that period was focused on celebrating.

It wasn’t long after starting the tour that we traveled to Chile for a teaching visit. Most of the visit was unremarkable. Near the end of the teaching cycle there was a final dinner at the home of a sangha member. This is the night that was detailed in the Buddhist Project Sunshine (BPS) reports. I will present my recollection to the best of my ability.

The dinner started off quite politely, conversation, thank you ́s, and so on. As I recall, local people had taken over the bulk of the service, so I spent most of the early part of the night helping in the kitchen. At some point the serving staff were invited to come to the front. I believe it was the host who stood and opened a fairly impressive liquor cabinet. The cook and I shared a look, concerned.

The night wore on and the crazy wisdom came back out. Writing about this part of it just kind of bores me. I had only been on the road for three or four weeks and I was already getting tired of that crap. It didn’t happen all the time, but I was already wondering why it happened at all.

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At some point I had had enough and checked out. I went and sat in a chair in a nearby room, an office. I hadn’t yet learned that my primary job was to protect Mr. Mukpo from himself. To this day I feel shame.

My memory of what happened next differs very slightly from what was reported by BPS. I feel it is my obligation to tell things as I remember them. It was 15 years ago, so I can only say what I remember.

I was sitting in the chair stewing. I looked up and saw Mr. Mukpo and the young woman from the report walking into what I believed to be a bedroom. Another guest closed the door behind them. That guest is currently an Acharya. My anger toward him in that moment was physical. I couldn’t believe he would do that. I was just learning that it was normal.

I had met this woman earlier and I did not think she would find it appropriate. I felt that the Acharya was encouraging her to sleep with him by closing the door. I cannot say for certain what happened behind closed doors so I defer to the account given by the victim. I have no reason to doubt.

After some time, I don’t remember how long, the Kasung on duty, a local woman, came and told me that she was tired, and that the host would drive us home. She forgot to give me the keys to the apartment. Over the same time span most or all of the guests left.

The woman came out of the room very upset. Somehow I wound up talking to her for a while on a balcony. She told me some of what had happened. I got the impression that Mr. Mukpo had forcefully tried to get her to have sex with him. I was not told that she had been locked-in, or that he had forced her to touch him. What she told me was bad enough, but she did not tell me that part.

I only remember pieces of the conversation, mostly of me trying to rationalize the behavior in some tantric sense while still trying to be supportive. Again, I feel shame.

The rest of the story is much as told by others. I kept his secret for 15 years. I smiled and said that I had a great time in Chile. I dodged questions and avoided people who had heard rumors about “something happening”. I had passed on the information to my superiors and just blocked the whole experience out the best I could. After a year or so the interest died down and I just kind of carried it, never speaking to anyone, and I mean anyone, about that night.

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That’s how it works. We didn’t even talk to each other. If we had, we would have understood just how widespread it was. We need more Kusung to talk. Then we can see what enlightened society is really built on.

Mr. Mukpo was both abusive and tender. He seemed really lonely. He shut everyone out. Sometimes he would briefly show vulnerability only to cover it up again.

After a long day in Fort Collins we went to some bars. 2 Kusung, Mr. Mukpo and one guest, a man. As the night wore on Mr. Mukpo started flirting with a local Ft. Collins woman who was not connected with Shambhala, this made me nervous. He was already very drunk. I was sober while my fellow Kusung was also drinking, he was the good cop that night.

As they sat at the bar as Mr. Mukpo slurred come-ons such as “are you a sexual person?” to the young woman. At one point she asked me if I was okay.

She asked because I was standing with my body touching Mr. Mukpo at the midline of the two of them, just looking straight forward. I needed to be close in case he did something. He kept telling the other Kusung, “tell her who I am”.

After the bar closed we went back to SMC. As I drove up the mountain road, Mr. Mukpo sat with his feet out the windows and talked to my companion about how wonderful the woman from the bar was. My companion made a joke that I seconded. Mr. Mukpo lept from the back seat, screamed “who ́s talking to you asshole?!” and bit me so hard that I lost clarity in my vision for a moment due to the pain. I could have killed us all. He bit me two or three times more.

As we arrived at SMC Mr. Mukpo ordered my companion to call the SMC rusung on the 2 way radio. Mr. Mukpo made him say ridiculous things. Because there are many people with those radios at SMC word got out very quickly. This upset members of the Court and, to their credit, some threatened to leave that year.

When confronted about that night by the Kusung leadership, Mr Mukpo ́s response was “The Kusung need to be better trained” That is how the King receives feedback.

After my tour I fell into a serious crisis that lasted around two years. Hardly anyone from Shambhala talked to me during that period. After I had dragged myself out of it I started to reappear a little bit within the community. A friend told me “we were all pretty worried about you.” No one said it when it would have mattered.

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I did Kusung shifts sporadically over the years since, but never felt comfortable getting close again. I would later turn my attention to the Kasung and land centers as I tried to maintain a connection. Those experiences are what finally drove me to leave the community.

I enabled Mr Mukpo ́s abuse as he abused me. He thinks he can clear things up by writing letters. In his most recent he says “I am beginning to understand how the power dynamics between myself as a teacher and my students could cause pain and confusion in certain situations.” First of all, why would it take so long? More importantly, it seems that he has known all along that he is causing pain. He isn’t likely to change now. He does seem to want to keep getting paid.

This statement is jumbled and incomplete, it is the best presentation I could muster of the most pertinent details. I feel sadness and regret on behalf of the people who were harmed by Mr. Mukpo. I feel shame that I inspired so many others to follow him and possibly lead them into harm’s way. I feel like a fool that I could have been so deceived for so long. To be fair to all of us, it is a clever deception.

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Laura Leslie February 2019

I am angry.

I am angry with Shambhala. A community I came to that seemed warm and understanding and offered the promise of a healthy culture. As I moved closer and closer to the leadership and Mr. Mukpo himself, it became clear that instead a culture of abuse and rampant sexism trickles down from Mr. Mukpo to all below him. Along the way I expressed concerns to my peers and the leadership and was dismissed, insulted or placated every time. Dismissing me as an angry, hysterical person, who doesn’t see clearly, is a time-honored way to silence a woman. From much of my previous leaders and peers, I expect that I will get the same reactions now. But, I hope that some of you out there may hear this and find, reflected in my stories, truths long silenced in Shambhala.

I am also angry and devastated at many of the choices I made that lured and kept me in what I knew was an unhealthy environment. My own desire to fit in, my own ambitions to get the next pin, my own moments of feeling special or powerful- I let these dictate my choices and override my intuition and morals. As I did, I became part of the problem.

The world outside of Shambhala is waking up to the insidious nature of sexism and assault. ‘Small’ comments in locker rooms can lead directly to rape and worse. Leaders create cultures where everyday sexism condones rape. Shambhala likes to pretend that they are the most ‘awake’- the most enlightened – but Shambhala is falling behind. With its continued defensiveness and victim blaming our ‘King’ in his robes becomes the worst example of hypocrisy.

Abuse occurs at every level of the mandala and Mr. Mukpo is the reference point that both implicitly and explicitly fosters it. I trace my experience of the abuse climbing to the top here. While I was never personally assaulted by Mr. Mukpo, there is no doubt in my mind that many were.

I was 20 years old when I found Shambhala in New York City. I was excited to find new friends and a safe spiritual community where I could learn and grow, so I dove in headfirst – taking all the classes and quickly becoming a volunteer for numerous hours each week.

I soon organized a large fundraising event and was honored that the President of Shambhala himself would be there. Excited to meet the President, a man in his 60’s, I approached him to serve drinks and snacks. He took hold of my arm, pulled me close, grabbed a strawberry, and while staring at my breasts, told me I was just as luscious as the fruit and how lucky were they that I was there to serve them. He stood with a male Acharya and the male leader of NYC Shambhala, all three laughed.

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The President, the ‘civilian’ leader of Shambhala had just turned me into a sexual object and a joke. I was humiliated. Over the years I learned from other women that he frequently used his position of power to seduce and harass them.

I was office staff in New York and helping a woman volunteer. A male colleague verbally attacked her for her gender and sexual orientation. I stepped in and told him to stop. He got in my face, pushing me back while yelling at me. The volunteer left and never returned. My boss offered to mediate between this colleague and myself. In the meeting he once again proceeded to yell at me until I was in tears. My boss deemed it a successful mediation and sent us both back to work. I was scared of him every day that we worked in that office together.

I learned later that this male colleague regularly hurt other women. His male superior deemed his actions acceptable; why would he try to be different?

On retreat, in a tiny meditation room, my much older male meditation instructor leaned forward, put both hands on my knees and whispered that there were many ways he could teach me. (AKA, wink-wink, he could teach me to fuck.) He was meant to help me with my mindfulness and instead he tried to meet his own sexual agenda. I left the room shaking. I asked for a new instructor and after being told that I was causing trouble and being annoying in this request, was given one.

He stayed at the retreat and worked with multiple other young women. I have no idea how many he may have touched against their will, but I do know he received no feedback for what he did to me.

Retreat after retreat, deeper in and with each new layer more insults. But, I was hooked so I stayed and I began to push back. I began to ask everyone how and when it would change. I asked every female Acharya and Shastri why there was such sexism. Almost as if trained in their responses, they all told me that in Vajrayana Buddhism male and female did not exist, therefore every day sexism was empty and if I practiced more I would see this.

I was asked to be a Kusung-in-Training (KIT). I was thrilled. I was honored to be in the heart of Enlightened Society and serve Mr. Mukpo directly. On my first shift at the Court I was approached and told that I could not be a KIT. Mr. Mukpo’s wife needed attendants, and her attendants (Shabchi) had to be women. I was politely told that this would be my only way to serve in the Court, but that this was true service. That by following Mr. Mukpo’s wishes and serving Mrs. Mukpo it was the greatest offering I could make to him. But, I was pissed. So, I kept fighting to be a KIT.

Meanwhile, I was made Aide to the Council of the Makkyi Rabjam (CMR). The CMR determines all Kasung activities and practices, but they are also men who hold leadership in multiple other areas of Shambhala. While in a meeting, where I was silently taking notes on how to protect the Sangha, a member of the CMR told me I looked like a sexy teacher and that if he were younger he would want me to scold

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him. The other men in the room laughed then went back to making policy about community protection and Dharma practice.

Turning a female subordinate into a sexual joke is not a laughing matter. All the men in the room thought it was. The joke is that a man who claims to be the ultimate protector abuses a woman under his protection.

While fighting to be a KIT, I spent hours as a Shabchi directly serving Mrs. Mukpo, helping with the children and cleaning and cleaning. The more time I spent at the Court the realization seeped in that the problems I saw in the wider community stemmed from the Court itself. In almost every moment I could observe forms of sexism and power plays. Delusional, I thought that if I were a KIT instead of a Shabchi this would be better.

I pleaded with every man I could think of to become a Kusung and was told to wait. While I was shuttled to the side all my male peers became Kusung and were much closer to Mr. Mukpo. In the Court the Shabchi were treated like they were less valuable than the Kusung. While the male Kusung preened, stood around and did all- important duties for Mr. Mukpo, we cleaned toilets and kept house in addition to serving Mrs. Mukpo and their children. I once asked a Kusung of the Day to help me with laundry and ironing, for the household, and I was told he could not help, as he had to be available just in case Mr. Mukpo needed tea. The general atmosphere in the Court was one soaked in ancient patriarchy.

At a party with my peers I complained to Mr. Mukpo’s most senior staff person in Boulder about the problems of equality at the Court. He told me that if “you were less of a bitch and asked for things in a less angry manner”, then maybe things could change. He helped set the tone for everyone at the Court and in his opinion; a calm woman with a valid opinion was a bitch. He spent countless hours with Mr. Mukpo, I imagine learning these valuable lessons.

I told the head of the Kusung that I would quit all my volunteer time at the Court if I were not made a KIT. The next day, I was invited to be a KIT as long as I continued my Shabchi shifts in equal amounts.

I did my first shift as a KIT. I was so proud to be there wearing my best suit. At the end of a 12-hour shift, feeling elated, Mr. Mukpo walked by me, patted me on the stomach and told me I was fat. His male Continuity Kusung, my peer, laughed at me. I have rarely felt more humiliated.

In that moment something inside me died – my fight and my anger. Now, all I felt was sadness. Now I knew for sure that Mr. Mukpo did indeed set the tone. I had tried to blame it on his wife. I had tried to blame it on the men surrounding him. But, ultimately as the ‘King’ he sets the precedent.

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I had had enough. I felt like no matter how much I fought it would never change. That the sexism was so ingrained it would not move. Part of it was a larger sense of depression in how community members treat each other. Shambhala, as far as I could tell, was not in any way a culture of kindness. All the energy, effort and certainly money, went to the Mukpos, while community members were neglected. The constant pressure, the games between peers and the lack of honesty made me see that each person had to change, beginning with Mr. Mukpo.

And, I became disgusted with myself and ashamed that the wool had been pulled over my eyes – that I too had silenced people and put position over care of others. That women had told me of their hurts and that I had placated. I had become part of the machinery of normalizing abuse, slowly growing blinder to all the ‘isms’ playing out. Doing so, I hurt people, and for this I am sorry.

I left the Shambhala community in 2016 because Mr. Mukpo was abusive and I no longer thought that the community could change. Most of the men surrounding him knew it. Most of the men in leadership roles were either abusers themselves or witnessed it and silently endorsed it. I left because I knew unless something radical happened it would never change.

Then, something radical did happen and it still is not changing. When the Wickwire Holm Report was released, in the next paragraph the Interim Board asked for money. They always ask for money, but the accusations against Mr. Mukpo of clergy sexual misconduct and an abuse of power had just been confirmed. I was deeply offended that the immediate concern was not the victims but the financial health of Shambhala and Mr. Mukpo himself. How about instead a fund to help victims heal? I then received an email to all Kusung asking me to practice for Mr. Mukpo’s long life. No mention of people being harmed by him – just long life for the abuser. When Mr. Mukpo apologized, there was no real claim of culpability or true remorse. As far as I can see it’s business as usual: The victims will be placated, then pushed out, then silenced or discredited and the ‘King’ will shine hypocrisy from the throne.

While some men in power have made symbolic retirements, much of the leadership has not changed. These men are still internal leaders and they are still Mr. Mukpo’s enablers, now it’s behind a curtain. These are the men who laugh at harassment and allow a culture of rape to flourish.

My experiences are the tip of the iceberg. There is no such thing as ‘small’ abuse. There has to be an entire overhaul of how people treat each other. Change has to happen from all sides and by all members and in this insulated, abusive hierarchy it has to happen from the top as well. As long as people keep funding and supporting this power structure, there is no true motivation to change.

We all made oaths of loyalty and secrecy and Mr. Mukpo broke those oaths when he abused his power. I hope that the community can confront him and themselves directly and that the foundations of his throne crumble so true healing can emerge.

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Allya F. Canepa February 2019

“As it has been said: The lion’s corpse will not be eaten by other wild animals; rather it will be consumed by worms from within.”

~ Dorje Dradul of Mukpo, The Court Vision & Practice, Chapter 10 - Corruption

I have many stories and much to share but I am afraid to say too much. So I thought it would be best to start with myself.

Although I had lived only 7 miles from Karmê Chöling in Vermont since 1984, and attended Trungpa’s cremation at the invitation of a childhood friend, I did not enter Shambhala until 1992 when I came to help with marketing. I had been “discovered” as a possible liaison to the local community. Vermonters are standoff-ish at best and Karmê Chöling was viewed as a source of great entertainment. So I understood the problem Shambhala faced.

My colleague, and one of my first Shambhala friends, was Mr. Mukpo’s then current “girlfriend”. I remember how I perceived their relationship, noted it several times, and commented on it at least once. I attended Pema Chodron’s famous “When Things Fall Apart” dathun, a month long meditation practice program at Karmê Chöling in 1993, finished the Sacred Path of Warriorship and other requisite studies in time to partake of Mr. Mukpo’s 2nd 3-month seminary, one of the last long summer programs to be held at Shambhala Mountain, the summer of 1994.

I was an instantaneous true believer.

That fall I was invited to do my first KIT (Kusung-in-training) shift. One afternoon I was handed a bottle of lotion and was told that Mr. Mukpo wanted his feet and legs massaged. Easy enough. I went into his room where he sat in his wing-backed chair. I’m quite sure he wore only his bathrobe as it was easy to massage his feet and lower legs. I doubt that he had anything else on. I don’t remember exactly what he asked me, something along the lines of, “what do you think of my feet?” What I do remember clearly is looking up at him and asking, “is that vanity, sir?” and he said, “Yes, I’m afraid it is.” After I left the room, his travelling Kusung said, “ah, the scent of the lineage”. I still remember the smell of the pear lotion he used for years. I was disappointed when he changed brands. I no longer knew what the lineage smelled like.

I saw so many versions of that scene throughout my 25 years in Mr. Mukpo’s entourage. I am hard-pressed to count them. This flash of beginning devotion, the way he used his personal power, a foreshadowing of his downfall.

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Over the years I have often thought about what I might write. At one point I briefly aspired to be the Kalapa Court historian. Even now it is much too big of a story to unveil alone and clearly too terrifying for me personally. I sob, shake, something like a muffled scream wants to come out. Or I simply freeze. I am told that is the nature of trauma. Although I have been actively engaged in trauma resolution and integration (psychiatry, psychotherapy, AA and Al-Anon, bodywork, creative group therapy etc.) for 2.5 years, when I hear the word trauma, I still believe that must be about someone else. In a way, I suppose it’s both.

Recently I woke up from a dream where I’m standing in a field of dead bodies. The “forgotten warriors of Shambhala” is how we refer to them in our liturgy. The unknown victims of abuse within the confines of an eroding fortress is how I see them. The many of us that gave our whole selves in service of a vision that we believed was good, and who are now devastated to feel that our gift was hardly appreciated. A sad realization compounded by the sensation that “we” are the ones who helped transform this ordinary person into an insatiable king.

It is impossible for me to summarize my 25 years of experience and observation in a short document. If the community wants to know more, then more will come from all of us. Based on my accumulated memories and perceptions, I can say that I unconditionally support the survivors and those who have tried to bring forth stories that run contrary to the public face presented by Shambhala and our would- be king. We might not always get our facts straight, it might come out crazy and jumbled, but we, the survivors, are onto something, whatever we as individuals would like to call it. I personally like to think that I am witnessing the death of patriarchal rule altogether.

At 36 I had convinced myself that I was out of harm’s reach because I managed to steer mostly clear of malignant personalities who seem to enjoy bad sex and late night drinking. Because both sides of my family had normalized and codified sexual, physical, and substance abuse for generations, I was an expert at reading between the lines. The context, the allowing blind eye, the inter-generational grooming, the abuse – it was all there. I came to Shambhala pre-groomed to see my brilliance as a gift for other and to fall into a kind of blank self-less persona when asked to serve. The only thing I was pretty clear about is that I thought alcohol was a problem. And I thought sex was a problem.

The next thing I knew I had sold my beloved home in northern Vermont and was working as a groom for Lady Diana’s Windhorse Dressage Academy in Rhode Island. I can’t remember why I ever thought that was a good idea. I had everything in Vermont that I wanted to enjoy a rich productive creative life. And then I sold it.

I found it impossible to understand, except when forced to look, why I increasingly felt, and at times acted, like a feral, cornered animal. I was “handled” over and over during the course of my 25 years of service because I was perceived as both

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compliant and dangerous, both a jewel and a threat. When I was good, I received treats. When I was bad, I was punished.

I didn’t exactly behave submissively. I asked too many questions. I might have on occasion even growled. To the credit of the courtiers’ twisted intelligence, I did “save the kingdom” in several instances. A natural born fixer, I don’t know how to not go in and just start fixing broken things. Gifted with a robust constitution, no matter how bad it got, how tired or used I felt, I couldn’t be broken. I kept coming back.

When they invited me to be the Dragon Region Kusung Commander, I asked, “Why now, why after 25 years am I being given a command post?” I was told, “you’re the right person for this time”. When I asked, “and what time is that?” I received back what I characterized as nervous laughter. That was in the fall of 2017. When the allegations hit our screens, I was in the Canyonlands with my brother and his daughters. In reading the Buddhist Sunshine Reports I came to realize that I could identify every woman from their stories except one. When I returned home I resigned my post. I had heard about the Chile incident over a decade ago. I have heard faint murmurings about other possible rape scenarios. In the distance I noted hushed voices intent on making the stories go away.

I had my own experiences. I kept remembering a quiet night at Prajna. Perhaps the program had the evening off, or there was a banquet for participants only. I remember sitting around the Prajna staff campfire chatting with 3 or 4 other Kasung. I remember the identity of the Kusung on-duty. I believe I was Camp Commander because that would be the only reason Mr. Mukpo would invite me to his bedroom. He liked to receive summary reports about what people were up to. Nonetheless I was surprised as he and I were not in the habit of meeting this way. Being a Kusung I went immediately to kneel at his side of the bed and waited for his question or command. I was surprised when instead he put his hand down my shirt and fondled my breasts and said, “please I just want to sleep,” firmly directing my head to his cock. I obliged and shook it off. I buried and minimized my own experiences for over 20 years.

Mostly I didn’t tell anyone. Or I curtly summarized my experience as having been blessed enough to receive a “quarter cup of bindus” from my guru. I don’t know why I described it that way. It was the best I could do as my mind scrambled to relieve pressure from the melodic dissonance. In the Vajrayana we are taught that all body fluids, or pieces of clothing, tufts of hair, or leftover food from the guru’s plate are blessings gifted directly from the body of enlightenment. In the end, although I used those words to keep me from imploding, I was never able to discard my basic sense that this man had no idea, nor did he seem to care to have an idea, about how to create a shared space for intimacy. At least not with me. In short, I thought to myself, “well, he’s not a very good lover, I won’t do that again.”

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It was late when I stepped over the body of the sleeping on-duty Kusung who, if he was awake, didn’t peep. The next morning I asked him, “so you didn’t do a final check? To see if Mr. Mukpo or I needed water?” He replied, “No, in those circumstances, I don’t go back in.” Those circumstances. As a Kusung during Mr. Mukpo’s bachelor days I would go in to make sure the female guest had water. Regardless of whatever else was going on, I felt it was common courtesy to offer water. A strange fog of not wanting to experience or witness my own life settled into my being. Periodically I would find someone willing to chat about the bizarre fairytale we were co-creating.

I finally said, “enough”.

Shambhala has been the entirety of my adult life. My so-called productive years. The years during which I should have built a career and developed lifelong friendships, the fruits of which I would be enjoying now. I’ve held almost every service post available in Shambhala. I accomplished the highest practices available to me. If I still believed in formal practice, I would be preparing for Scorpion Seal 6 and mixing in sessions of the revered Six Yogas of Naropa practices. I went on long retreats. Sometimes I was in. Sometimes I was out. Always I was in relationship to a phenomenon that I was both attracted to and repulsed by. I had friends as long as I was good. They disappeared when I was "bad". Occasionally I was not allowed to serve. I was afraid of what I might see. At the same time I had a clear sense that the king and his courtiers were equally afraid of what I might see. Various powerful men at various times took me on as a challenge to see if they could put me under their thumb. I was often punished for my good deeds.

At the end of my time serving as “privy purse” or the king’s personal finance manager (2006-2010), in what I can only describe as an act of cruelty, Mr. Mukpo sent one of the few people he knew I would listen to as the messenger to dispose of me. I vehemently disagreed with the choices that were being made. I did not trust either of the financiers who had sidled up to the king, feeding his grandiose magical thinking, buying his favor with flattery. I had learned what Mr. Mukpo had wanted his “privy purse” to learn – how to model the finance structure to be as lucrative as the ancient system still practiced in currently existing monasteries. I had run a successful beta-test and raised enough money to pay for the better part of the Rinchen Terdzo, the first major retreat held in Orissa. I had created a system designed to help travelling household staff track the money flow. As I rode the crest from bachelor days to the era of our married king, I worked 24/7 to keep up with his activity. I went above the call of duty to protect Mr. Mukpo from being associated with a dubious financier. And then I was summarily dismissed.

A short time later I was asked to meet with five of Mr. Mukpo’s closest advisors, all male. I was very uncomfortable. That feeling of being a caged animal. But I also thought it was humorous – that it took 5 men to ... do what I don’t know. They really wanted me to continue doing the work. I declined. I liked working alone without a boss. I certainly wasn’t going to trade that in order to work for a middle manager

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that seemed both arrogant and dishonest, glib. To add insult to injury, I was offhandedly accused of stealing from the king. I was delirious with paranoia, anger, and exhaustion. I was in a fury for months. After all I had done?

I managed to stay away for two years, but my trauma had not resolved and my relationship with Shambhala was not yet over. In 2012 I took on the most grueling fix-it job to-date, saving Ashoka Credit Union. My work as CEO ended in a similar way. After having successfully beached the credit union onto dry ground, I was squeezed out of my job by having to take considerably less pay than I was originally contracted for. I was thanked profusely when I chose to resign, but I was left at 58 with no income, no retirement, and very little savings.

Those two incidents forced me to acknowledge the institutionalized abuse of people working for the good of Shambhala.

Against my better judgment I returned to Chile in February 2018 as a Campaign Kusung, only to watch our would-be king on the throne we built look the pretty Chilean women up and down, assessing a desirable object within his grasp, overheard my fellow Kusung say things like, “if he does anything inappropriate, her husband will kill him,” watched as Mr. Mukpo asked for one after another of his loyal servants to be flown in on expensive last minute flights as a barricade for what might bubble up and need to be dealt with, watched as we scrambled at great expense to get him moved out of reach of the program and into a local AirBnB. I surmised that we went to these extreme measures so that he could drink without being seen and not blow his cover as an all-powerful guru. One of the excuses we used was that there were too many ants in his bathroom. I did not want to go to the traditional end-of-program Court staff dinner with him. When asked why, I said because I do not want to watch my guru and king get drunk. Again. I was asked to then please come to support the rest of us. On packing day, I looked in the mirror and said to myself, “this is your last campaign.” I was so relieved. I was starting to leave.

When the allegations became headline news, I heard that Mr. Mukpo asked how I was doing. My fury reignited. I told my superior that if Mr. Mukpo wants to know how I’m doing, then he is welcome to call me after he has successfully undergone rehab for both alcohol abuse and sexual predation and has accumulated a few years of sobriety and therapy under his belt. I have no idea if the message was brought to him. At the time Kusung were being asked to tell stories of their Kusung days and were being encouraged to write letters with any thoughts or questions they might have. I feel certain that this was intended as a way of gauging loyalty.

I was even asked if I would be interested in being in charge of the Mukpos’ financial world, as if getting my old job back could be anything other than an opportunistic dump and run. The inner circle was starting to panic. I actually mulled it over for a few days. In the end I was unable to conceive of how much I would be willing to accept in salary. No amount of money could have brought me back into the fold,

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especially since I was unlikely to be paid much for long, even if I did manage to save the kingdom one more time. I couldn’t fathom that it was even possible anymore. And my body refused.

In the end my question is about what I want to be loyal to. What I am not interested in being loyal to is an immature boy-king with substance abuse issues who walks away from every harm he has caused, cowering behind his wife’s traditional skirts, and stepping on the backs of soon-to-be physically fit and mentally unprepared mostly young male Kusung who are trained to not see and to not tell. I have watched almost every Continuity Kusung come through, most of them remaining evangelical despite the near constant abuse of their person. Granted, the abuse was not always immediately noticeable. However, in my view there was always some combination of treating his Kusung as special, or as one of the chosen ones, at the same time toying with a weakness, igniting competition and insecurity, all while stealing their brilliance for his own.

Nor am I interested in hearing the mantra of goodness and kindness being used to lull me into an altogether too familiar stupor. There is no goodness or kindness available here without accountability and justice. None. Unfortunately myself and my few real friends are watching the current debacle shaking our heads, saddened by the feeling that there may well always be new acolytes willing to offer everything they have to the inevitable point of exhaustion, only to be discarded and added to the heap of corpses.

I am 60 years old. There is only one fix-it left and that is me. I have very little idea about where to even begin. I have spent my life trying to care for other, as instructed by my family and my guru. I watched hundreds of women go in and out of Mr. Mukpo’s bedroom. I held the hands of many. Rocked with them when they sobbed. Stayed with them when they just didn’t know what happened. Tried to warn them about what it feels like to be queen for a day. I saw one too many debauched nights and nursed one too many of the king’s hangovers. I feared for the women. I was disgusted by what I saw. And yet I stayed. I watched helplessly as donations were spent like tossed candy. Meanwhile I’m wondering if I’ll be able to keep what little I have left.

I experienced one too many acts of cruelty including being verbally eviscerated by Mr. Mukpo’s closest confidant, his most powerful minister and life-long mentor, the original and most feared Kusung, who in a drunken rage questioned my loyalty. A fellow Kusung hoped to shrug it off by saying, “you know how he gets.” I was on duty. I went back upstairs to the party. I was humiliated. I never even once considered reporting anything. Everyone seemed to be walking around like zombies in various degrees of collusion and denial.

Despite the proclamation that I am my only remaining fix-it, I do have one weird and ridiculous task left and that is to figure out what I can do to help Mr. Mukpo’s feisty, aging, disabled mother and her family who will have no place to live when Marpa

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House is sold. For my sake, I wish I could leave her in the dust. But I can’t. I’ve been holding her finances together for over 15 years. Lady Konchok is akin to the ultimate survivor in this world that was created out of nothing. Instead of selling both Courts and volunteering to put money back into the Shambhala coffers, or at least stop the flow out, Mr. Mukpo has approved selling a property that is home to 30 people and his very own family. Meanwhile, the Boulder and Halifax residences sit empty. I even heard that Mr. Mukpo is in the process of buying another property.

Cognitive dissonance.

I do not believe he feels genuine remorse. I believe that he will say what he feels he must in order to keep the money flowing in. I do not believe that he has genuine concern for whether or not Shambhala crumbles. The young man, the one I once knew and felt love for, had been further perverted by the very thing we all thought was good and true. If he merely suffered from bad judgment and poor taste, I would enjoy seeing his sweaty face as he hauls his own damn suitcases onto the tarmac of his next job. But the protective circle has closed in around him. His wealthy patrons will continue to fill his wallet. They will protect him from his own wake-up call. They will protect him from us, the ones who are willing to name the disease. They will have their own private source of platitudes to help lull their insight. I no longer envy them even as I wonder how I will find my way in this chaotic, overly bright world outside the fortress.

I wake up everyday, despite all my support systems, weary and broken. Despite my perceived intelligence and my broad-spectrum skill sets, I cannot fathom going to work. I spend days at a time never getting out of my pajamas. I am not yet able to trust people except on occasion, even ones who clearly love me. Yes, I came in with my own history of family trauma making it easy for me to fall in as prey. In no way is it ever okay for any human, or any human society, to use someone’s plea for freedom and spiritual awakening as a basis for systemic manipulation across power differentials which indulge cruel, debasing interpersonal relations. And then call it devotion. And use and use and use until it’s all used up.

And yet here we are. I truly believe that we’ve all seen or heard something. I believe we all have questions. What remains is for us to put the puzzle together, attending to the details of our own story and finding our own voice. I believe the story is important. But only because, without it, I would be left standing in the dark with my mouth open making no sound.

Therefore corruption is a dangerous disease, one that should be diagnosed and destroyed as soon as any symptom of it occurs in the Kingdom.

~ Dorje Dradul of Mukpo, The Court Vision & Practice, Chapter 10 – Corruption.

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Louis Fitch February 2019

Culture of Sexism

One of my first Kusung-in-Training (KIT) shifts was at Prajna at SMC. I was being trained by a more senior female KIT in how to serve tea properly - what exactly Mr. Mukpo currently liked. Mr. Mukpo had wandered past us and down into the kitchen to hang out with some of the people there. At one point I heard laughter and turned around to see Mr. Mukpo ogling the KIT mentor’s butt while the other men laughed and stared along with him. The young woman turned around and saw them staring and smiling, turned slightly red, then went back to showing me how many seconds to brew the exact color Mr. Mukpo’s tea must be. Of the 4 men in that kitchen, 3 held leadership positions and have only risen since then. People may find this confusing as this is just typical behavior in this world. Even if I thought that justified it, we have no place claiming to be a community based around mindfulness if we are that ignorant.

I said nothing then. I rose through the ranks and continued to say and do nothing to meaningfully effect change. And sometimes I’d even laugh along myself, to feel a part of something. This was particularly true when I was in groups with Mr. Mukpo and being part of such blatant objectification filled my desire to be part of his inner circle. In those moments this was more important to me than the fact I found the objectification horrible. The majority of Shambhala has not and will not see this side of Mr. Mukpo as it is only with his inner crew where he felt he could drop the PC Rinpoche thing and indulge his abuse tactics.

The KIT was a person coming to offer her heartfelt service out of her spiritual devotion and was reduced to her ass. And we all condoned that. And I know the people who laughed along with him there might be horrified and angry that I would say this as they are one of the good guys. They aren’t rapists. They have never had Care and Conduct investigations about their behavior. They have tried to listen to the complaints of women and other minorities in the community. And yet, we said nothing to change the nature of the complaints we heard. We laughed along. And now we’re mostly silent when it has been made clear that Mr. Mukpo has a distinct pattern of sexual harassment and abuse. We are his closest students and we say nothing. He was born into this community and has been surrounded with this structure his whole life. Those of us who are the closest in for the most part have only laughed along. How would he know any different if we don’t confront him? How would we know any different if he doesn’t confront us?

And I’ve heard from some other Kusung and leaders that they have actually given him feedback. They continue to be publically silent in the face of victims coming forward. They continue to hold their posts.

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Mr. Mukpo often cycles through people who start to give him feedback. And he is incredibly skilled at bringing in those who purely conform to his view of the world, which is part of how I have seen Kusung move towards an increasingly sexist and insular boy’s club. And he can ghost those who start to give too much feedback and cycle in someone who will feel blessed to come in. Then after a few months, he’ll bring the other person back in before they walk away. He plays games of who is close in order to keep feedback at a distance.

I am not saying that it isn’t hard to speak up. But we don’t get to pretend to be good guardians of our community’s wellbeing if we don’t treat these moments with the severity they deserve.

I look back on that moment and I know that I am in part to blame for the harms he has caused. I wasn’t there for the abuses described in the Project Sunshine and Wickwire Holm reports but I know that every time I said nothing, I played my part.

And for that, I am deeply sorry.

Money and Vanity

During one Kusung shift Mr. Mukpo was performing a set of practices to help those in the community who were sick. I went to his bedroom with the Continuity Kusung to wake Mr. Mukpo up and take his breakfast request. We kneeled on the floor while the Continuity Kusung went through the schedule saying that Lama Pegyal and Lama Gyurme Dorje – Mr. Mukpo’s stepfather and half-brother – would be a little late as they were still finishing the tormas and various ceremonial preparations. After being briefed on the schedule he asked who would be coming and who the primary funder of the ceremony was. After being told how much the larger donors were giving, he smiled and gave a happy grunt (interpreting grunts is key to Kusungship).

Somewhere in that day, I remember cleaning up his bathroom and wiping down all of the various face products and cosmetic creams, and wondering at just how much of that money from these students was put into these various expensive creams. And it struck me just how vain Mr. Mukpo is and how many different ways that comes across.

I mentioned this to a senior Kusung who laughed and agreed that it was excessive. But said that it was how these students sitting downstairs could connect to him and so it was how he brought them into his practice for their benefit. The more I’ve thought about that, the more it seems like trickle-down economics. Perhaps the premise of Shambhala is trickle-down enlightenment.

I know people have said that this is not a true reflection of how the finances around Mr. Mukpo work. But excessive spending clearly designed to sooth his insecurity happens and many of us know it. The breaking point was being told this was

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absolutely secret as people “wouldn’t understand.” I couldn’t accept that I was helping facilitate the use of people’s heartfelt gifts to salve Mr. Mukpo’s insecurity and vanity.

Culture of Silence

Why haven’t more of those of us who know Mr. Mukpo and the inner workings of the Court-trained leadership come forward?

I think you have to really buy in to the whole thing. Not everyone was born into this worldview, but I think the pattern is often similar. For those being brought in there is a process of indoctrination during which Kusung are trained to drop their own common sense and conform to the boys’ club atmosphere. As each seasoned Kusung trains the new excited devotees it is easier to shelve jaded views and leave things sparkly. Kusung are groomed to turn a blind eye. And, then the Kusung most conditioned to not confront Mr. Mukpo and hold to bro-code rise through the ranks until they permeate leadership in Shambhala.

For those born into the community we are indoctrinated from birth. My parents were Shambhala Buddhists. I am what is colloquially called a ‘dharma brat.’ I was raised knowing that Trungpa, Mr. Mukpo’s father, was the embodiment of all things wonderful and powerful. Those weren’t always the terms used, but that was the point. I know that I was unique and special because I had the good fortune to be born near Trungpa and to meet him as a baby. I am one of the chosen warriors of Shambhala here in this dark age to bring about Enlightened Society. Again, not always those words, but that was what was being communicated.

For most of my life, when there’s a moment someone might call on a higher power – watching your car crash or some equal scare – it is not some god or deity that comes to mind, it is Trungpa.

And all of the insane things that happened in Trungpa’s days: all the abuses, molestation, drugs, alcohol, mayhem – those were either crazy wisdom or simply the hippy days. But the hippy days are long gone and the crazy wisdom argument is still used. And it’s a brilliant tactic – if something feels or is really fucked up, that’s only because you don’t really understand that it’s there to “wake you up.”

By acknowledging the massive harm perpetrated by these monarchs, I have to face the prospect that everything I have ever known or thought about myself and the world is wrong. And if I accept that as true, I may lose my family and every person I grew up with.

All of this is a very powerful impetus to not examine too closely the underpinnings of this sangha.

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Keep in mind, this is how Mr. Mukpo was raised as well. And while many of the ‘dharma brats’ feel like they are probably some version of a tulku, he has been identified as one and placed on a throne. Introspection for him means a far costlier fall from grace. And with his writing books and expanding on the Scorpion Seal, he has built an impressive suit of armor where he has no reason to think any of us are equal to him as he is The Earth Protector. Until it becomes convenient for him to be represented as human, as he did in his latest letter, so he can get out of taking responsibility for the harm he causes. He cannot choose when he wants to be Rinpoche and when he wants to be human with human foibles. If he wants to be treated as the top of the hierarchy he must act accordingly.

Though I have held many roles and have tried to address many of the cultural issues I felt were harmful, I don’t think I made any meaningful difference. For me, after a point of realizing that I wasn’t changing things it seemed to me that I was actually just enabling the cycle to continue.

I know some of my peers and leaders feel they want to repair and make it all better. I certainly felt that way for many years.

But I look at my pretty uniform and my shiny pins and all I can see is a group of Shambhala Warriors ogling women. And I know that the sexual assault and abuses perpetrated in this community – scars that will never leave – is because people, including myself, didn’t say anything.

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Feb
8
11:00 AM11:00

Letter from Acharya Eric Spiegel to NYC community

Dear NY Shambhala members and friends;

By now every member should have received the email from the Interim Board of Shambhala International linking to the findings and report from Wickwire Holm regarding their investigation into the allegations that were made over the summer and fall regarding the Sakyong’s conduct. A letter was also sent from the Sakyong.

If you have not received these, all of the communications can be found on our website.  


I would like to say something about all that has occurred over the past year: Many seeds were planted in the 1970s of actions and attitudes that may have been acceptable on the most surface level but were grounds for harmful and destructive behavior to develop in our community. These were never actually acceptable but, just as we are seeing in the larger political world, things were habitually or culturally ignored that should never have been.  

Through time these seeds continued to ripen and last year exploded into their rancid maturity. I want to be very clear, as an Acharya and a leader in Shambhala, that any action or attitude which harms or threatens another person is a direct violation of the basic precepts of the Buddhist and Shambhala teachings: of not causing harm, cultivating a humble attitude, and generating both an attitude and activity of kindness and benevolence to others in all situations.

As New York Shambhala, and the greater Shambhala mandala as a whole look to rebuild and present the teachings which genuinely are the crown ornament of the world, past actions and attitudes that have caused harm are not acceptable. On behalf of the Shambhala New York, I extend sincere and heartfelt apology to anyone in our immediate sangha or the larger worldwide sangha who has experienced harm or hurt. I am so genuinely sad for all that has unfolded.  

The purpose of Shambhala is to cultivate human dignity and goodness. This is who we are and who we will be as we continue to grow and teach the dharma to people looking for a path forward in this age of confusion.  

Please join in this endeavor. We need support – people willing to take on roles so that we as a sangha can again explore our own nature of human goodness and begin again to teach meditation and dharma in New York.  

I hope to see you at Shambhala Day, on Sunday at 2pm at Integral Yoga, 227 West 13th Street.

Source Link: https://mailchi.mp/f6e86d894bd4/a-message-from-acharya-spiegel?e=172329bb2b

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Feb
7
12:30 PM12:30

An Apology to Survivors of Shambhala Sexual Misconduct

An Apology to Survivors of Shambhala Sexual Misconduct

By now we are all aware of the letter that Mipham J. Mukpo (known to some as “Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche”) sent to the Shambhala community shortly before fleeing the country. In it he tried to respond to the findings of sexual misconduct that are documented in the third-party report that was commissioned by Shambhala’s legal counsel.

Mipham’s response is inadequate because it fails to address the survivors of his and his enablers’ abuse, and it falls short of the full apology he needs to make if he is ever to regain credibility in the eyes of his disappointed followers, and the world.

Attorney Carol Merchasin, who assisted with the Buddhist Project Sunshine project that started bringing Mipham’s misdeeds to light, wrote a brilliant analysis of Mipham’s letter, in which she suggested how a proper apology to the assault and sexual misconduct survivors might go:

We are beyond regret that your spiritual teacher and the organization you trusted and relied on abused you. All of us as leaders of this community have betrayed your trust; we have been complicit not only in seeing and allowing this aggressive behavior to continue, but we also inflicted more pain on you by not listening, by seeking to minimize the harm, by denying this happened, by demeaning you, by labeling you as ‘needy,’ ‘troubled,’ or ‘too ambitious.’ We understand that all of these actions were wrong – not only wrong but done in an attempt to protect ourselves and not you. For all of this we stand before you in breathtaking remorse for the harm we have allowed. In addition to making the changes that must be made to the organization, we intend immediately to begin a program of restitution and repair for each and every one of you who has experienced pain due to our action and lack of action.

If you feel that you may have been complicit in the abuse, whether directly or indirectly, whether you were a leader or not, then please join me in affixing your name to this apology. Feel free to use your refuge name, Shambhala name, or a pseudonym if you like. You can leave a brief comment expressing why you think this apology is important, if you feel comfortable doing that.

This is not a petition that will be submitted to any authority. This is merely a public statement of support for the survivors of Mipham’s and Shambhala’s abuse over the years, and a token of gratitude to the brave people who have come forward at great personal risk to expose the abuse.

Sincerely,
Fred Coulson 
(Vajradhatu/Shambhala, 1989-2004)

If you would like to leave a comment, please read the posting policy and privacy policy.

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Feb
6
12:30 PM12:30

Community Petition To End The Shambhala Monarchy Released

Community Petition To End The Shambhala Monarchy Released

In summer 2018, Osel Mukpo, the spiritual leader or “Sakyong” of Shambhala International, was first publicly alleged to have committed sexual misconduct, including assault, against several of his female students. Some of these assaults were further alleged to have been directly facilitated by Mukpo’s loyal senior students. These allegations were first made public by Buddhist Project Sunshine and while an independent review has been conducted to mixed conclusions, we recognize basic structural problems in that review. We find the lion’s share of these allegations credible. They affirm a longstanding pattern of misconduct by historical leaders of the organization. In light of this revelation, individual Shambhala centers must enact the end of the Shambhala monarchy and formally extricate themselves from Shambhala International and the Mukpo family so as to protect new and established meditation students from harm.


Solution:

Shambhala International was inspired by Chogyam Trungpa’s aspiration to make secular meditation training broadly available to the general public. The organization which ultimately resulted is a centralized hierarchical body. It boasts numerous local centers on several continents. Tens of thousands of people around the world had their first experience of meditation and encountered the Dharma at these centers, affording the organization a prevalence that is unique among Buddhist organizations.

However, Shambhala has also produced an unhealthy and untenable authoritarian organizational culture; all students have been funneled towards a single guru who now faces serious allegations of sexual misconduct. This problem was described well in Ethan Nichtern’s statement on resigning as a Shastri shortly after the allegations were made public.

In recent months, we have been deeply disturbed by the response of Shambhala leadership in two ways. First, by framing this moment as some kind of collective project of self-reckoning, it has obfuscated a clear and obscene abuse of power by the Sakyong and many complicit others. Second, by allying itself with the broader emergent social movement for racial, gender and economic justice, the organization has made a calculated attempt to avoid directly confronting and remediating those harms which have resulted from the dangerous merger of an accessible educational institution and an esoteric authoritarian body.

On the second count, we wholly support all processes of institutional self-reflexivity which genuinely reckon with real issues of cultural bias, social representation and inequality, but we see SI’s current actions as a cynical withdrawal from and evasion of the more immediate need to critically examine its own unusual institutional structure and accompanying philosophy which have together enabled and promoted a culture of harm and abuse. Osel Mukpo’s transgressions represent a kind of “third strike” following on the misconduct of former leaders Thomas Rich and Chogyam Trungpa. We are especially concerned that SI’s bad-faith appropriation of a social movement stands to taint the righteous work of those many actors who have, in good faith, devoted themselves to this righteous cause.

Despite these revelations, we continue to cherish the dharma and the Shambhala teachings. We aspire to preserve what has been good and indestructible about our experiences in Shambhala yet we cannot possibly remain in the current double bind of obligatory loyalty to what increasingly appears to be a dangerous cult simply so that we can maintain our connection to our own sanghas.

We call on Shambhala International (SI) to take immediate action to modify its unique institutional structure as the organizational center of both 1) an authoritarian esoteric tradition with a body of sworn devotee students loyal to Mukpo, and 2) a highly accessible public educational meditation institution. We do not hold high hopes.

Yet this is, in the end, our sangha, not theirs. We are Shambhala.

We believe the public (outer) Shambhala teachings are robust enough to support a non-hierarchical practice community. 

To this end, we call on individual Shambhala centers to demand that SI facilitate the cleavage of the two aspects described above by recognizing and supporting the centers’ transition to full organizational and financial autonomy.  We also hope that local centers will explore reinventing their own organizational structures on a model of consensus and direct democracy.  We are encouraged to see some centers hosting teachers, like Lama Rod Owens and Lama Tsultrim Allione, from other lineages and traditions and hope this pattern will emerge as a viable future for these centers, perhaps bound together in an informal consortium.  

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Feb
5
7:00 PM19:00

Reflections on the Wickwire Holm Report - A Message from Carol Merchasin

Reflections on the Wickwire Holm Report - A Message from Carol Merchasin

This seems like a good day to share my gratitude, regrets, clarifications, and disappointments with the Wickwire Holms Report.

 

Gratitude

  • I am grateful that the Wickwire Holms report is out and that it has in large part confirmed what seemed all too apparent, that Claimant #1 was sexually assaulted by the Sakyong and also that Claimant #3 was a victim of clergy sexual misconduct and an abuse of power.

  • I am grateful that Ms. Bath was able to talk to enough people to see the patterns of misconduct, including alcohol abuse, abuse of power, financial mismanagement, shunning, silencing and shaming.  I am also grateful that she identified the possibilities of collusion among those whose loyalty to the Sakyong might sway them to be untruthful.

  • I am grateful to Ms. Bath.  This is not easy work, this was not an easy project. I have had no doubt about her neutrality from the beginning to the end.

  • I am grateful for the opportunity to work with BPS.  I came in with a lot of experience in doing investigations but little understanding of working with survivors of sexual trauma.  I am grateful for all of those people who taught me what I needed to learn.  I have tried to help them validate their claims.

 

Regrets

  • I regret that more of the women who were harmed did not come forward. But Shambhala’s long history of betrayal, silencing and shunning made it very difficult for survivors to want to devote any time and energy to this. I have learned in this past year that these survivors owe us nothing and they will participate when they feel safe enough to do so.

  • I regret that the leadership of Shambhala and their lawyers did not understand that to be effective, an investigation has to be neutral and independent in perception as well as reality.  I called for an independent monitor for this reason; instead 1) the Sakyong’s lawyer announced that the Sakyong had never assaulted anybody, 2) Shambhala revealed that the WH report would go to Alex Halpern, a longtime supporter and the Sakyong’s lawyer, and 3) the Kalapa Council’s lawyer advised survivors to ‘just believe’ that despite years of abuse all could be trusted because he said so.  In the end, the community suffers – it does not get the benefit of hearing from all of the people who had allegations and from whom we could learn, and as a result, the investigation is incomplete.

 

Clarifications

  • The report finds that the Sakyong engaged in “sexual misconduct” with Claimant #1.  What does that mean? Sexual misconduct is a broad term that includes “sexual assault” as well as a number of other types of misconduct that are sexual in nature. The conduct that Ms. Bath validated is in general sexual misconduct but in specific terms, it is a sexual assault. So, let’s call it what it is – a sexual assault, which is a criminal offense with no statute of limitations in Nova Scotia where it took place. 

  • The IB has stated in their prologue to the WH Report (Reports Related to Sexual Misconduct and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche) that there were ten individuals (including Claims No. 1 and No. 3) who conveyed issues of misconduct but that “[n]o one reported criminal behavior.” That is not accurate.  Claimant #1’s allegations of sexual assault were substantiated, and sexual assault is most definitely criminal conduct. 

 

Disappointments

  • I am disappointed that the scope of the investigation did not include an investigation into who, among Shambhala officers, administrators, teachers and the Sakyong’s personal staff, knew about and were complicit in covering up the Sakyong’s misconduct.  Making change is hard and I understand that the IB is working diligently to do that.  But you cannot change the organization without a full understanding of what went wrong.  Part of what went wrong lies with the Sakyong; but another large part is with a leadership that enabled and covered up his behavior.  Without knowing the full extent of that, a lot of activity, committees, and group discussion will feel like movement, but perhaps not in the direction of lasting change. Without a full diagnosis of all the dysfunction, it is unreasonable to expect a cure and healing.

  • I am beyond disappointed that the Chilean woman’s claim from the July BPS Memorandum was not considered.  In fact, as late as December 2018, I believed that her claim was being investigated.  It is true that the Chilean woman did not wish to come forward because she did not perceive the investigation as independent or neutral. Ms. Bath had all the information to reach out to corroborating witnesses. In addition, she investigated Claimant #1’s allegation without talking with her (Claimant #1 did come forward later in January). It is a “best practice” that all complaints, even anonymous ones, must be investigated to the fullest extent of the information available, particularly a claim as serious and with as much corroboration as this one. 

 

I believe that the IB should authorize Ms. Bath to do just that – to investigate and make a finding.I can tell you what the finding will be – that it is more likely than not that the Sakyong locked the Chilean woman in a bathroom and tried to assault her. There are reliable witnesses and plenty of evidence of what happened immediately before and after and in the ensuing days, not to mention a flurry of activity when the Chilean woman moved to NYC. There is also independent corroborating evidence that a cover-up was begun immediately.

  • I am disappointed in the Sakyong’s letter/apology. Here is a checklist of what should be in an apology: 

 

  • Expression of regret

  • Explanation of what went wrong

  • Acknowledgment of responsibility

  • Declaration of repentance

  • Offer of repair

  • Request for forgiveness

 

Here is another rule:  Don’t let someone else, especially your criminal lawyer, write it for you.  His job is to keep you out of jail.  His job is not to help you understand that if you had actually done the six steps above, you probably wouldn’t be in this situation.

 

  • I am disappointed that no one in a position of authority in Shambhala, certainly not the Sakyong, has ever made an official public apology to the people who were harmed and who had the courage to raise these issues to the community. Remaking the organization can’t happen unless there is a complete reckoning with the past.  Apologies are hard work, but it is work that must be done. It cannot be outsourced.

 

So, in the absence of anyone else doing the hard work of an apology, here is what should be said to every single one of the men and women that have been harmed. I especially include Andrea Winn along with the many others who have been working for years to shine a light on this dark part of Shambhala. You cannot heal if you cannot honor the whistleblowers.

 

Here is my dream Shambhala apology which (in my dreams) would be signed by every single leader of Shambhala, past and present:

 

“We are beyond regret that you have experienced trauma at the hands of your spiritual teacher and the organization you trusted and relied on. All of us as leaders of this community have betrayed your trust; we have been complicit not only in seeing and allowing this aggressive behavior to continue, but we also inflicted more pain on you by not listening, by seeking to minimize the harm, by denying this happened, by demeaning you, by labeling you as ‘needy,’ ‘troubled,’ or ‘too ambitious.’ We understand that all of these actions were wrong – not only wrong but done in an attempt to protect ourselves and not you. For all of this we stand before you in breathtaking remorse for the harm we have allowed. In addition to making the changes that must be made to the organization, we intend immediately to begin a program of restitution and repair for each and every one of you who has experienced pain due to our action and lack of action.”

 

I am not holding my breath on this, but still, what would be the harm in sending this aspiration to survivors on this Shambhala Day?     

 

I wish all of you a good new year with much healing ahead.

 

Regards,

 

Carol Merchasin




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