Links Relevant To The Current Crisis In Shambhala International Regarding Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s Conduct With Women

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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 (Ösel Mukpo), 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.

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