Shambhala International is no stranger to controversies regarding relationships between its teachers and their students. The founder of the organization, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, was a well known womanizer and alcoholic. Many articles and books have been written about the unconventional spiritual career of this brilliant but broken man. Some, such as “Dragon Thunder” by his wife Diana Mukpo, frame the conduct in terms of spiritual instruction. However, in accounts publicly available on facebook, other women involved with Trungpa instead speak of his conduct as damaging, abusive and out-of-control.
The effect of Trunpa Rinpoche’s behaviour on his children, in particular on his heir and current leader of Shambhala, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, has not been extensively discussed. But certainly statistically, adult children of alcoholics are at are far higher risk for alcoholism and dysfunctional relationships than the general population.
The current allegations against Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche are detailed extensively in Part Two of Andrea Winn’s Project Sunshine Report, an exhaustively researched document detailing a culture of abuse and silence that has been part of Shambhala since its early days. The latest version of the report includes disturbing first-person accounts from three women that detail sexual harassment and assault they endured during their interactions with the Sakyong.
The Sakyong’s recent letter preceded Part Two of Project Sunshine by two days. Many have argued that the letter does not include the important step of taking responsibility, and instead makes a vague statement apologizing to “women who felt harmed”. It is seen by some in the community more as a damage control document than sincere apology.
The Shambhala troubles are the latest in a long and painful chapter of organizational abuse and secrecy in Western Buddhism. One thing is becoming increasingly clear, though, in the era of the #MeToo movement, abuse can no longer be hidden or swept under the rug for long. Abusers, especially those who try to remain in power, will eventually face push-back.
When organizations fail to properly address abuse, those harmed will make independent efforts for justice. This is what has happened with Project Sunshine, and it is very likely what will happen to other Buddhist organizations that continue to cover up abuse or shield abusers from taking responsibility for their actions.
- Shambhala Head Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche Accused of Sexual Abuse in New Report – Tricycle
- Shambhala leader makes public apology – Lion’s Roar
- Report alleges sexual misconduct by leader of Shambhala community – Lion’s Roar
- Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 2 Final Report – Andrea M. Winn
- Shambhala International Owns Up to Past Abuse, But What Comes Next Remains Unclear – Tricycle
- Allegations of sexual abuse in Shambhala Community – Canadian Public Broadcasting intwerviews whistleblower Andrea Winn and Joshua Silberstein, Chair of the Kalapa Council, which is the leadership group for Shambhala Buddhism
- Buddhist group admits sexual abuse by teachers – The Guardian
- Shambhala Leaders Acknowledge Sexual Harm – Sandra Pawula
- Shambala Statement – The Kalapa Council
- Project Sunshine – Final Report – Andrea M. Winn (PDF Part 1)
- Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America – Katy Butler
- Behind the Veil of Boulder Buddhism: The Party (Ed Sander) | When the Party’s Over (Interview with Allen Ginsberg)
- Pema Chodron on The Questionable Behavior of Trungpa Rinpoche – Tricycle Interview
Updates (latest update listed first)
- A Look At The #MeToo Movement In The Shambhala Buddhist Community – NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with Andrea Winn
- Sexual misconduct allegations against Halifax-based Buddhist leader rising – Global News
- Shambhala community update | 13 July 2018
- The ‘King’ of Shambhala Buddhism, Undone by #MeToo – The New York Times
- Buddhist group leader steps down over sexual assault claims – The Guardian
- New allegation of sexual assault against Sakyong Mipham – Lion’s Roar
- What about the financial side of Shambhala? – Halifax Examiner
- Statement by the Sakyong to the Shambala Community | 10 July 2018
- Shambhala leader steps aside amid sexual misconduct allegations – CBC
- Leadership of Buddhist organization steps down amid sexual misconduct scandal – Joshua Eaton (ThinkProgress)
- Leaked notes reveal Buddhist leader coerced female students into sex – Joshua Eaton (ThinkProgress)
Food for Thought
- Breaking the Silence on Sexual Misconduct – Lama Willa B. Miller (Lion’s Roar)
- What Went Wrong – An interview with Tibetan psychologist Lobsang Rapgay about student-teacher relationships that turn abusive (Tricycle)
- Accountability Or Apologia? Reading Between the Lines When Yoga and Buddhism Leaders Issue Crisis Statements – Matthew Remski
- A Disorganized Attachment Legacy at Shambhala: Brief Notes on Two Letters and a 1993 Interview with Pema Chödrön – Matthew Remski
- Forgivingness is not Buddhist – Ken McLeod (see especially the passage on “sincere apology”)