To the Shambhala Community,
As I prepare to travel and enter retreat for the next several months, I wanted to take the opportunity afforded me by the release of the Wickwire Holm report to finally be in touch with all of you directly, something I have wanted to do for many months.
The past months have been a most difficult time for myself, my family, and I know for many of you. Despite these challenges, this has been a time filled with thought, emotion, and insight. I have had an opportunity to be with my family, to practice and to deeply self-reflect.
Through this reflection, much has arisen, and there is still a lot that remains unresolved. Today, I would like to share some thoughts and feelings with you.
In reflecting on my past two statements, I realize that they did not fully express my experience and feelings. I wrote them at a time when I was under intense pressure. I received many conflicting opinions about what I should say. It felt almost impossible to articulate my feelings openly without being taken out of context. I would like this letter to be the first in a series of ongoing communications with you about my genuine experience, feelings, and what I am learning.
I have read and heard the stories of women publicly sharing their experiences of how my actions made them feel. I have deeply reflected on how I handled these situations and my past relationships, and am becoming aware of how my behavior hurt others. It is clear that I have much to reflect on, think about, and learn. Addressing and apologizing for these situations needs to occur at a personal level. I have started this process and intend to make every effort to continue doing so.
I have spent the past seven months listening to many voices expressing messages of concern, support, anger and love. I have read all of the letters sent to me. Conversations with individuals and groups have given me the opportunity to just listen and hear firsthand what is on your minds and in your hearts. I have had—and plan to continue—ongoing conversations with several groups of women, and the People of Color Council.
I have also had conversations with some of the women who I have had relationships with in the past. We have had time together to share and express how we feel, and discuss the challenges we are going through. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to dialogue in this way.
All of these conversations have given me the opportunity to listen and learn. Most importantly, 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.
I realize that it is essential that we examine, personally and collectively, the ways in which we have mistreated each other. Personally, my process of self-reflection and learning is only just beginning.
I am in a relationship with you, the community. I believe that in order to move forward, in any relationship there must be an exchange in which we both can express what we feel, self-reflect, and from this exchange find a meeting place.
It is important to me that you examine your own reasons for being part of this community. If you feel that this work is personally meaningful to you, then I invite you to join me as we navigate our future together.
Shambhala is setting up the measures needed for the community to find its voice, to grow, and to change. I fully support this process and believe the spiritual and worldly experience must work together. This path is important and will ultimately allow us to rebuild a stronger and kinder community.
During the next period of time, I hope that we can begin to clarify who we are, both individually and collectively, rather than rushing to solve our problems and patch everything back together. Without this basic level of clarity, we cannot help ourselves or each other. From there, we can decide if we want to be together in this relationship. This process is healthy, needed, and will ultimately bring clarity.
Each of us has to find our path on our own. I am no different. I hope this can be a new beginning, and I look forward to the future.
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche