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.
(And if your submission doesn’t show up right away, it’s probably because the moderator is taking a break. Please be patient.)
I regret that my dues and effort over the years helped to enable Shambhala’s ongoing abuse of vulnerable people. And I apologize for the harm I did through my selfishness and lack of empathy.
I was part of this abusive system for 20 years. I gave money, time, energy to that organisation and tried to convince others to do the same. I am deeply sorry for that now. I ask foregiveness from anybody who was hurt in Vajradhatu/Shambhala.
I am deeply touched by your bravery to speak up. I am also very sorry for the harm you have endured and the shunning from your community. Just by being part of the sangha, I feel complicit.
Thank you so much for speaking up. I’m terribly sorry for what you have gone through.
I’m a brand new member, but that does not absolve me from responsibility. Each and every one that is voluntarily part of an organization and supports that organization has a responsibility. A responsibility to find out what the organization is about and what the effects of supporting it is. Unless there is a complete replacement of the leadership structure I will be leaving.
For those who were harmed by my carelessness and those I promoted – may you feel loved, at peace and cherish every moment free of this pain.
To quote further from Attorney Carol Merchasin’s important analysis,
“You cannot heal if you cannot honor the whistleblowers.”
I honor and thank you for shining a powerful light into a darkness that was spun for us to avoid.
Your bravery is an example to us all, I thank you with all my heart and hope you find peace and freedom from the pain you have had to endure.
I appreciate your bravery, but I am so ashamed by the lack of bravery of so many that could have helped, in a variety of ways, which has meant that those at the sharp end, have had to bear the whole load themselves
I am sorry MM treated you with disrespect. I am sorry those who knew the danger and did not take action to prevent it from happening again. I am sorry that I knew and did not speak up sooner. I am sorry I kept company with enablers and fixers, those who don’t or didn’t believe you. I am sorry there was no place out in the open where you would be safe disclosing and responded to. I will not support Shambhala anymore–you are more valuable and worthy of respect. What do you need to move through the impact? Those affiliated owe it to you to find a way to fulfill that need, myself included.
I’m sorry I ever met the universal monarch. I’m sorry I was ever involved. Sorry I said yes. Sorry people died due to the toxic cult of shambhala. Sorry for the pain I caused. Sorry it took me so long to realize how dangerous this is. Not sorry they are going down, though. Not sorry people with intelligence are leaving in droves!
By the sacrifice you’ve made you’ve acted as a true bodhisattva! I’m very grateful and at the same time extremely sorry for your personal pain, loss and sorrow. May all the world shower you with blessings…
I am sorry for your pain and wish you true freedom from your suffering.
Immense gratitude to all those who have broken the silence of abuse in Tibetan Buddhism!
Thank you for speaking truth to power and hoping to change the toxic institutional culture. It’s very sad that Shambhala’s response has not lived up to the heart of the teachings themselves.
With hopes for healing in 2019.
I am deeply grateful to all of the survivors for sharing your stories, even in the face of gaslighting, shaming and threats. I cannot imagine how difficult this has been for you, but in sharing as you have, you have saved many of us from harm. Thank you.
I am also sorry I supported this toxic organization, and that I did not take the time to understand what it was all about before giving it my time and money. I will do what I can to make amends for my part in supporting this culture of harm.
I’m sorry people are choosing to protect themselves and the organization instead of the most vulnerable and the truth which is true dharma. I’m sorry Shambhala hasn’t reached out and said, “We hear you, what do you need?”
I was part of this organization for several years and I totally jumped in even while witnessing problems from the very beginning. I apologize for the blindness that lead to my not noticing the extent of the harm being perpetrated. I apologize for the narrowness of my understanding resulting in ignoring the systemic nature of harm in this community. I apologize for believing, however briefly in the specialness of a leader, imbuing others -and myself – with less power and agency. I apologize for not asking more questions and for my lack of curiosity. I apologize to all those who were harmed by me. I really should have known better.
I have tremendous appreciation and gratitude for those who have had the courage to reveal their stories of suffering by leaders, teachers and students in this community. I know they have faced derision, dismissal, shunning, gossip, threats and discounting. They have been revictimized. I applaud you and I respect you. I am listening.
I am sorry that my support of Shambhala was support for a deeply misogynistic organization that consistently and systematically silenced, shunned, and disbelieved you. Though I didn’t know most of you, I did know one who was hurt and manipulated, and I am sorry. I now realize this is not a safe community. It is a community that helps women uncover their power, only to then objectify, mystify, and co-opt that power. It is a bait and switch. I am ashamed to have been part of that degradation. Shambhala is a sacrilege. It is a community that serves up the sacred feminine for the use of men, for the use of so-called teachers. I have stood by and watched the seduction, and I assisted in normalizing it. I congratulated you. I played along and tried to make myself seem part of the scene by doing so. I should have recognized it for what it was. I should have told you it felt creepy. Because it did. I should have been on your side, looking out for you like a sister should, not going along for the ride. I mean, fingers would have been pointing at me if I’d said, “Eek! What the fuck? Are you sure?” But I could have at least left. I’m leaving now. Even if you need to stay, and no matter what you need to do, I love you. I am on your side. May you have happiness and ease, and may you experience peace in the joy of your own perfection.
I am so sorry that a community that was supposed to be a “culture of kindness”, has abused people so horrifically and that the head teacher didn’t even attempt to acknowledge the “rot” until he was caught. I am sorry for all the victims who were driven to suicide, psychiatric issues, PTSD, addiction, despair, and complete isolation. I am so sorry that sangha members continue to pour secondary wounding on top of that. I am sorry for the deep devastation Osel Mukpos conduct has caused to the actual lives of his victims. I am so sorry that many are still too terrified to speak out about being raped. I am not sorry to be leaving the cult of Shambhala. Ki Ki So So…. its time to go!!!!!
I am so sorry that it took a deafening cry to wake us from great ignorance. And I’m sorry that there are still those who cannot hear the whole of that cry. May you dwell in great peace and equanimity and find joy, compassion and loving kindness in all that you meet.
I am deeply sorry for the abuse, shunning, shaming and personal attacks you’ve endured. I want to thank you for your courage and conviction in bringing these abuses to light. May you have peace and healing.
I’m so sorry for everything you’ve been through, and sorry for any part of it I might have enabled. You deserved better. I send you love, support, and wishes for healing. Thank you for speaking out, if you could, and for surviving whether you chose to speak out or not. I see you.
I am so sorry for whatever role I have played, directly or indirectly, in causing anyone to feel and experience harm. I will continue to try, to learn, and to do better.
I am sorry for also gaslighting you when you first told me. I am sorry to have contributed to this culture of harm towards women and abuse of power. I am so sorry that I was so indoctrinated that it took time for me to listen to my basic intelligence and wisdom. I hope you always feel included and respected. I hope healing, peace, and kindness replace what you have experienced previously. My you feel vindicated and validated.
Thank you for your courage in speaking out and for bringing to light abuse and those aspects which lead to a culture of complicity. As a former member of the kasung for little over a year, I am especially sorry that I didn’t do more to hold space for you, and that I didn’t recognize or dig into the toxic workings of the culture I was being asked to protect. I am sorry that I made a vow to an organization that used its structure to silence whistleblowers, such as yourselves, and that the inner circle of kasung, the kusung, were so derilect in their duty to protect you in your moment of need. There was a serious lapse of relying on innate wisdom, and rather an apparent turn toward fealty. As part of our practice we contemplate and attempt to manifest “Don’t be afraid to be a fool.” It is my opinion we were afraid to appear foolish in front of senior teachers by calling out abuses, and calling out aspects of the culture that we may have observed as toxic. You suffered because of fealty overruling the greater duty of care for the sangha. I am so sorry that my ego, and having it stroked by the opinions of others such as senior teachers, got in the way of your care. Though I never served Mipham Mukpo, I recognize within myself the qualities that could have lead toward fealty toward my trusted spiritual master over duty to the sangha. However those qualities impacted those around me, directly or indirectly, I am sorry to them, and I am sorry to you.
I am sorry that I have been complicit in a culture of abuse. I am sorry that it did not occur to me that it could change. I am sorry that I did not pursue more directly and vigorously the whispers and intimations I caught. I am sorry I could not keep foremost in my mind that those whispers meant people were being hurt. I am sorry that although I was aware that the Sakyong was one of the people we all knew to ‘stay away from’ (as well as many Acharyas and people in the inner circle) that I did not somehow connect that with being WRONG. I am sorry that I assumed the women involved in these exploits somehow ‘wanted’ to. What was I thinking? I am sorry I was basically blind to the reality of clergy sexual abuse. I am sorry that I looked the other way. I am sorry that when I did not look the other way or spoke up that I allowed the immediate negative feedback to hush me. I am sorry that I ‘dealt’ with the victims of power dynamics (even on the most mundane level) instead of going straight to the perpetrator-thereby reinforcing the idea that it was somehow not the problem of the perpetrator. I am sorry that when I was on the receiving end of misogyny that I did not more vigorously stand up to them and insist that they be held accountable. I am sorry for all the ways I cannot currently perceive or imagine in which I have contributed to the culture of abuse in Shambhala. I vow to do much better now and in perpetuity.
I am sorry that I bought into the Shambhala story line, that I fell into the trap of wanting to be cool with outrageous behaviors so I would ‘get it,’ be part of the inner circle, and belong. I’m sorry I was so seduced by SMR and CTR that I didn’t prioritize people who were being harmed by the organization. I am seeing how my own conditioning and traumas led to me believing this was all ok, cool even, crazy wisdom. That the abuse I experienced myself was my karma. I offer my love to all who’ve been harmed, disregarded, discredited, shoved aside. What can I do to help you? What can Shambhala do to help you? I am grateful this is all coming out now so we can work together honestly.
I am sorry I supported financially and emotionally a hypocritical predatory organization.
I am sorry I had no idea anything like this was happening around me.
I am sorry I lacked the confidence in my own innate wisdom but instead placed that confidence with someone as foul and disgusting as MM.
I am sorry I didn’t trust my gut feeling when I thought certain situations seemed strange and I didn’t speak up which may have resulted in someone being harmed.
I am sorry that practitioners/teachers perverted “vajrayana secret practices” as an excuse to justify horrible behavior.
I am sorry everyone used Trungpa’s “Crazy Wisdom” to justify mysogyny and sexual exploitation while we justified it as those crazy hippie years.
I am sorry I was so angry and disappointed that I did not attend an Atlanta community meeting that was suppose to open a discussion with John Rockwell regarding the allegations/investigations (and after spending most the time having everyone chant and mediate leaving only 20 minutes for discussion, saying that a simple accusation could damage a man and basically blowing it off )and I wasn’t there to stand up for victims by calling out how gross he was.
I am so so very sorry from the depths of my humanness that you either were not believed or told that MM shouldn’t be questioned. I ache knowing this happened to you.
I am sorry the leaders in every Shambhala setting have not lived up to their position and are not real leaders in any sense.
I am sorry Shambhalians are continuing to support him and find excuses for MM’s (or any other perpetrator’s) chronic aggressive criminal behavior.
I am devastatingly sorry your practice and your path to wisdom was clouded/confused or eroded by self serving people with no integrity.
I am sorry the investigation was obviously biased and in no way complete.
I am sorry that the investigator had the irresponsibility to publish hearsay/gossip by claiming one of you was trying to buy a way to the teacher. I am sorry there was ANY question that it could be a victim’s fault in any way.
I’m sorry that the findings were classified as sexual misconduct instead of what it really was- sexual predation and assault.
I am sorry and disappointed but not surprised that MM wrote an “apology” that was not real or heart felt and pointed the finger/blame to us to look at how we create harm.
I am sorry that all the community and victims are being asked to continue to follow this sick sociopath if we want to pursue these beautiful and dignified teachings.
I am so so very sorry. No one in our community should ever be put in a situation of harm. I am so very truly and with all my heart sorry you the victims have had to be the ones to shed light on this alone and have to relive and add new pain. We have all failed you. I love you and respect you and feel heart break and true sadness for what you have had to go through.
I’m sorry for my ignorance and my failure to question everything that felt off. I’m sorry that as a kasung I didn’t protect you. I’m sorry that I staffed and coordinated programs and took on leadership positions at my local center, helping to draw in many new people. I’m sorry that my time, treasure and love of the dharma supported a “mandala” that was rotten at the center. Thank you for your bravery. May you be happy, healthy and free.
I am sorry I didn’t see things earlier. I am sorry the gaslighting and shunning and narcissism is still going on. I am sorry for the recent hurts caused by the Sakyongs dumb letter and people’s blindness. I am sorry this organization does not have more courage and common sense. May all the survivors be safe and well.
My apologies for the unnecessary suffering caused at the hands of people in position of power. I offer my wish for healing of all parties affected. Also, my sincere regrets for the moments in my life when I have caused unnecessary suffering of others, regardless of scope, magnitude or intention. Much love.
I am sorry for the harm done to a number of people through the Shambhala community and via Mipham Mukpo. I am sorry that I helped this organization to continue it’s cover up and silencing via my financial contributions and volunteer time. I am sorry the Sakyong will not make an actual public apology for the harm he has done and the confusion he has caused.
For all who have been in pain due to the way they were mistreated and for those who are now in mourning for the community they thought they had, my love and condolences to you. I hope there can be healing.
I am so glad that the perspective of “#metoo” has come to Shambhala, where it has been sorely needed. It is sickening to think of how women’s vulnerability and trust has been exploited by sexual predators within this organization. As with other organizations that have dealt with this issue, it is very important to look at those accountable, including SMR and others, to determine whether it is appropriate for them to continue in their current positions. Perhaps this is a time to reimagine Shambhala.
Because I was mostly on the periphery of the Shambhala organization, I had no idea what was going on, other than an occasional “affair”—usually between a young woman and an older male teacher—which I assumed was consensual. I should never have assumed anything! When I first read the Sakyong’s initial admission of having had inappropriate “relationships,” I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I realize now that this was hurtful to those women who had been marginalized, victimized and used by the Sakyong and his power-elite for whatever reason. I am very sorry for any pain my misplaced trust may have caused. All I can say is that I did speak up when I saw things that disturbed me in Shambhala (i.e.: Chögyam Trungpa’s outrageous drunkenness in videos and the preening, sycophantic loyalty of the kasung—of which I was one—for “His Majesty.” I don’t know if Shambhala can—or should—survive as an organization, but I will continue to speak out against this destructive fiction of monarchy and systemic abuse as long as my voice is not silenced. Thanks to all who bravely came forward to speak their truth. Thanks to those who finally listened.
Laying a big bouquet of roses at Julia’s feet. And Leslie Hays’.
I am so sorry that I didn’t know what to do when you told me. I am so sorry that this continues to be handled with such inteptitude. I am open to learning more about what I can do and I promise to bear my burden in changing this system, which should not have to fall to the survivors alone. Your bravery is to be commended and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I believe you. I’m sorry I contributed my money and time to an organization that prioritized its abusive leaders over you, over your truth. I’m especially sorry and ashamed that when I coordinated a level just as the news was breaking, I took a participant who had questions to the program director, a long time Vadryana practitioner, rather than offering my own perspective. I didn’t want to “overstep.” I lacked the courage of my own wisdom.
Thank you for speaking up, sharing the difficult truth of your experience, and for shedding light on the harm that has been happening. I am beyond regret for the trauma that you have been through. I honor you for your fearlessness and for being your own true witness. I hope you find the solace, acceptance, connection, and appreciation that reflects the true compassion and wisdom that you are. I promise to believe and serve survivors in the process of healing from the harm of sexual misconduct and from the harm inflicted by those who are complicit in allowing it to continue. May you be happy and free.
In deepest gratitude for your voices, your courage, your stength! Through your willingness to be the voices and the faces for those who have endured harm within our community. We are indebted to you for coming forward and being the stimulus for change. I am sorry for the pain, mistrust, and trauma you have endured. Know you have my love and support. May you find healing, peace, and sanity through the chaos.
How can we help you? To the women who have been harmed: we believe you; we are sorry; we deeply regret any unwitting part we have played – ignorance is not an excuse.
Feeling complicit is another shock to us, along with many.
Many of us ‘still in’ feel betrayed by this teacher and the trust we had in him.
We wish you could have seen so many of us – women and men – speak out forcefully in many community meetings that we had no reason not to believe you.
We demanded to know what was being done to support you, and what changes were being made to make sure this never happened again.
We are deeply sorry for the pain that our teacher has caused you. That we have caused you.
Many of us who have wanted to reach out with our care and support but were reluctant to step into the FB fray, and are grateful for this forum.
We feel heartbroken.
You may strongly disagree with us for not walking away.
Yes, it seems that would be the right and only thing for any person with intelligence and integrity to do.
You may say that if we don’t leave then we are still complicit.
I hope you will hear that there are so many good people struggling at all levels in the community, questioning everything and every one. And working hard for real change.
Shocked, outraged, saddened – please know that there are many of us with our eyes now wide open, committed to assuring ‘never again’ and working to see if something worthwhile can be salvaged .
We need to hold the Sakyong accountable, and report to the authorities immediately anyone else who has harmed others.
We need to honour and respect each other. We need to get back to our Buddhist roots. We need to look deeply into the teachings and salvage what is true and good.
Deconstruction before reconstruction.
And for that cleansing fire, we thank the emotional bravery of all you women, heard and unheard.
Please forgive me for not adding my name to this …
I am so terribly sorry for every woman girl man and boy who has been abused at the hand of MM and all of the other members of shambhala. You are not alone and it was not your fault and I believe you. I believe you. I am so terribly sorry for the ways that I have participated in this sick system and for not speaking up years ago. I am so sorry for running away instead of standing my ground and saying THIS IS NOT OK. I am so sorry for your pain for your shame for your self hated for your self injury. I am so sorry that you have lost your faith and your health. I am so sorry that you were ghosted by MM and that I did not reach out to you when you were gone. You survivors are goddess warriors. You are my Sheros and Heros and I bow down in the face of your courage your tenacity and your will to carry on. I love each one of you with all of my heart. Those who have come forward and those who are still in silence. I love you and you are never ever alone. You are a precious child of the Buddha and nothing can ever touch or tarnish your buddhanature. You are brilliant blazing pure crystal shimmering light. Never ever doubt this truth of who you are.
I’m sorry that all of the sexual predators in shambhala perverted the sacred trust that all of the students had in the dharma. I applaud those survivors who have already come forward and to those who don’t yet feel safe to come forward I wish you healing. I am so sad for all of this. I am so heart broken for all the survivors who had to go thru it
To the survivors who have come forward. You are beyond brave. Thank you for being the whistleblowers. I’m sorry that you weren’t met with warmth and caring concern. May you be blessed and surrounded by skillful car providers who can accompany you on your path toward healing. I was sexually abused by my own step-father as a little girl. Don’t blame yourself for not understanding what was happening. It’s not your fault. The Sangha should have protected you. My community that knew my abuser’s history should have protected me and my sisters.
I am a survivor of long term sexual and emotional abuse outside and inside the Shambhala organization. I also held a leadership position during a period when the organization closed ranks around a victim. I was complicit in believing leadership narrative. That they had locally offered support. They characterized her as mentally ill and ensured me nothing had happened. I diverted further correspondence to an email address set up by Shambhala to record her activity for legal purposes. It was a community wide instruction I followed.
I’m embarrassed by my gullibility and ashamed of my ignorance.
I regret any harm that was caused through my bystanding or silent witnessing of harms within Shambhala. While I believed that my decades of practice, study, teaching, and leadership were for the benefit of others, I ignored clear evidence that elements within the culture of Shambhala tolerated, perpetrated, and hid the acts of sexual violence that occurred. May survivors find peace and justice, may those complicit in harm tell their truth and be held accountable, and may the leaders who caused harm, including Mipham J. Mukpo, be removed from office and brought to justice.
I am so very sorry that on my very limited practice at Karme Chöling I did not call bullshit on the “teachings” about “ruling your world” and the perception of right and wrong, basic moral and ethical principles as somehow delusional. I should have done so, especially as an “outsider” even though, at the time, my gut was telling me that it wasn’t safe to do so. I might possibly have prevented done harm or at least named the crazy non-wisdom out loud.
I greatly appreciate that a venue has been created that we all can express ourselves in this way. It’s very moving to read all these statements. As for me, I am so sorry to have participated for so many years and done so little to make sure Shambhala was a safe and genuinely inclusive environment. In my recent times, I naively thought things were at least OK, but I am very sorry that I did not do more to understand. I did not challenge the things that were going on in various parts of our society, especially in the environment around Mipham Mukpo. It breaks my heart to hear of all the physical and emotional abuse that was happening. Now that I do know, I cannot sit idly by any more. I wish for the survivors to know they are supported, and for real truth can finally come out.
I am deeply sorry for the harm that many people have suffered in Shambhala and I feel ashamed of the letter from the ‘Sakyong’ this week as well as his previous communications. I admire the courage of those who have spoken up. I support you all and send love and wishes for healing.
If I had known of the sickness and depravity of the community I was part of from 1978-2010, I know that I would have spoken up. I do not fear telling the truth. Unfortunately, I had no idea that people were being abused, sexually, emotionally and psychologically. I am now revolted by what has been revealed and wish I had never heard of Vajradhatu or Shambhala. I hope that all the survivors understand that we, the truth seekers, support them each and every one. I pray that there is justice coming to the perpetrators so that they never have a moment’s peace until there is reparation. As for the enablers, may they see how little compassion and bravery they have, and may they realize what hypocrites they really are!!
I am sorry that for so many years I made excuses to myself for things that I saw and heard about that didn’t seem right.
I am grateful to all of the survivors who have stepped up and spoken out.
And to everyone who didn’t for their own reasons .
I’m so sorry. I continue to be sorry. I have been open about my own trauma and worked with sexual trauma survivors since my first Courage to Heal workshop in 1988. And still I gave my money, my energy, and my recommendation to others to check out this misguided, abusive power structure. Worst of all, even when things triggered my survivor sense, I said nothing.
I got caught up in the meditation teacher social media moguls – best selling authors with large internet followings who claimed Shambhala heritage/credential and I kept their stars in my eyes while I said nothing.
I saw the way “advanced students” (Level III and up) demeaned new people (“Oh you level ones are so cute. I remember then…”) and then assert their power in sexual and emotional ways over them. It creeped me out. I protected myself. But, I said nothing.
I bought into the whole “Dharma Brat” syndrome – “he was raised as a Buddhist, he knows this stuff” – bought the books, paid for the seminars, and even though I saw the sexual immaturity and opportunistic overtures I called it “sweetly naïve” and “too spiritually focused to realize crude sexual allusions are not appropriate – he just thinks he’s being edgy.” I said nothing.
In fact, even now, I watch Lodro Rinzler, walk away from allegations of sexual misconduct without saying ONE. WORD. of accountability, and start selling his own meditation program – like his actions as a teacher didn’t matter -and still using his Shambhala credentialed “authority” to draw in more women – and I just shrug it off – and I say nothing. Sweeping this precious dharma son of Shambhala under the rug, no one is holding him accountable to his sexual misconduct, not even me. I am sorry I do not stand up. I am sorry I don’t really even know how.
I was world wise enough to steer clear of danger to myself sexually, then let my brothers and sisters walk through that flood without even bothering to yell “The bridge is out. It is not safe.” In my silence, in my ego, in my need to be accepted, I let you all down. I am sorry, and I sit nightly in the hope your healing will be powerful, swift, and soon.
I am sorry to all those harmed, ignored, not believed, or hurt in any way. You did not deserve this. You came to this community with the best of intentions and trusted those around you. You were taken advantage of and we hear you, we see you, and we acknowledge your strength.
I’m sorry I invited people to this organization and encouraged others to participate even if they were feeling uncomfortable.
I’m sorry I didn’t trust myself, my heart, and my gut.
And I’m sorry we were not there when you needed us.
I am so deeply sorry for your pain, for all the hurt and loneliness, the sense of abandonment and loss of faith, the self-doubt and the distrust of others that you have endured. Having been through the hell of abuse of power, I stand beside you, thanking you for holding on for this moment, when bystanders and enablers step forward and accept their complicity and express their genuine remorse and heartfelt wish to make amends. When we who are allies speak up to honor you. May genuine amends be made by those who failed you, and may those amends reach you where you live, in healing and life-affirming ways.
I thank all who came forward with your truth, both the whistleblowers and the report writers, for your courage in speaking truth to corrupt power. You have done this for all of us in the wider Buddhist sangha. You have given us hope that abuse will be called out, that corrupt hierarchies and self-serving leaders will be unmasked, that remorse, care, and amends will flow to those who have been harmed and abandoned. That those who have harmed and those who have enabled harm will fully understand it is their duty to make things right, that they too may find healing from the knowledge that they have betrayed the Buddha’s cardinal Precept of non-harming.
May the heartfelt apologies and healing wishes expressed here be a stepping stone to profound healing. This is my wish for you who have been harmed, by the acts and failures to act of the Buddhist community as a whole, by us all.
To confess wrong withaut losing rightness:
Charity I have had sometimes,
I connot make It flow thru.
A Little, likes a rushlight
To leader back to splendour.
Verse of Atonement:
All evil karma ever committed by me since of old
On account of my beginningless greed, anger and ignorance Born of my body, mouth and thought
Now I atone for it all (x 3)
I am so sorry. I’m sorry for supporting a system that allowed abuse at the highest levels. I’m sorry for ignoring the risky elements of this spiritual model, telling myself that my local sangha was all that really mattered. (“There’s no corruption or misbehavior here in my sangha, so as long as I stay in my own backyard, I’m not too concerned about what goes on elsewhere…”). It’s a poisonous belief system that leads to allowing, either through ignorance or negligence, unchecked harm to be perpetrated on those who trust leaders that are, sadly, not worthy of such trust.
I am sorry for the victims of SMR and leadership’s behavior and all of the occasions that Basic Goodness and Inherent Dignity were marginalized for the sake of power and pleasure. I am sorry that I unwittingly supported that. I had no idea. And I’m sorry that, now that I do have an idea, that I sit in confusion and anguish myself, uncertain of whether to abandon a broken spiritual model or to try and stay to help rebuild it as one anchored in accountability. I’m sorry that I’m not farther along on my spiritual path so that the answers are not more evident.
I hope those who have been harmed can continue to find the truths of the Three Jewels in a community that values their courage, their dignity, and their right to protect their bodies and minds. I hope all of us can find the courage to speak up about what we feel about callous behavior, dangerous power dynamics, and situations that put the well being of others or ourselves at risk.
I am truly sorry for the survivors of this abusive power and callous behavior. I am sorry for our sangha at large, the Shambhala community, for being pulled into confusion and a divisive dialogue about our future, and I’m sorry this system created a power dynamic that doled out privilege at the cost of peace.
May the truth of our path forward, be it within or without Shambhala as we know it, be illuminated.
Some are still blind. My meditation teacher who has been in Shambhala for 40 years both in the US and UK told me of a spiritual leader giving talks sitting up in bed naked while playing with the children. He was amused recounting it. I felt queasy listening to this. To him it’s just part of it. He laughs recalling drunkenness and womanising of Shambhala leaders yet insists that the Dharma that was transmitted was pure. I think he could contribute to the investigation but is keeping quiet. His loyalty runs deep.
I am most profoundly sorry for the ways that your natural openness, trust, and longing to be of service to the world were abused and taken advantage of. We as a community should have protected you, listened to you, and been clear-eyed and brave enough to call for accountability at all levels. I apologize personally for the ways I continued to support a harmful culture, despite the fact that the ways my own probing and questioning was deflected set off alarm bells.
Even at a distance from what has happened directly to you, this process of trying to distinguish what is happening is extremely painful. I can only imagine it must be a million-fold more painful to stand in the center of it all. I thank you for your courage, practice, and compassion, and may the deep knowledge that you are loved and full of wisdom abide in your heart always.
I am sorry for my complicity in supporting the organization that harmed you.
I always felt like something wasn’t right, and yet I stayed.
You are brilliant and beautiful, worthy of love and protection. I wish Shambhala had been a safe place. It should have been. I am sorry it wasn’t. I wish that your community and teachers had believed you. I wish they had provided care to you. I believe you. I care about your healing. I am holding you in my heart and practice.
I’ve been so naïve. I’m so sorry that I prioritized “peace” and tried to come up with a reason, any reason, to explain any “misunderstanding” away. I’m so sorry that it took me so long to recognize what I was doing, that I was brushing away any feelings of unease and thereby brushing away any possibility for hearing you. I should have been there for you, should have been there with you, and instead I spent too much mental energy thinking “maybe he didn’t know what he was doing?”. I spent too long waiting for the moment where Crazy Wisdom behaviours would start to make sense. After all, it was promised to us. Stick around long enough, and you’ll gain the secret understanding of why things aren’t what they seem to those “outsiders”. It’s disgusting when I think back on it now. I’m ashamed that it took me this long to see the ways in which the organization habitually protects itself. I thought for a time I could work to fix it, but I was not strong enough. To all survivors, to all those who refused to be beguiled, I thank you for saving me.
Thank you so much for your courage in breaking the silence, especially when faced with so much marginalization, minimization and ostracism.
I’m so sorry for your suffering. I’m sorry the very community that was your refuge negated your reality, and I’m sorry for any of the ways I was part of that.
I’m sorry that, for years, I suppressed my raw intuition and understanding of the world, and relied on a theocratic, disembodied, flawed path, and so became incurious & untrusting of the real inner lives and experiences of others.
I deeply regret censoring myself & withholding the genuine expressions of my heart when our “religion” came into conflict with my perceptions & innate knowing. I’m sorry for this obstacle to honest conversation, growth, and healing.
I deeply regret that I kept my mouth closed because I thought it was impolite to disparage anything about “the lineage.”
I deeply regret believing that a spiritual path is Off Limits for critique, and therefore that I added to the layers of obfuscation and confusion.
I deeply regret believing that members of the dharma hierarchy were beyond reproach.
I apologize for the walls this created between us and for the stupid reinforcement of power structure that I bought into.
I’m sorry that I believed that all the secrecy and ritual was inherently special and valuable, magical and beneficial, pure and safe. I’m sorry that I didn’t see that they actually create the ideal conditions for abuse & deception.
I’m sorry for any way that my participation, and my encouragement that others participate, perpetuated this damage that has hurt you. I’m sorry that for so long things didn’t feel right but that I didn’t articulate what I knew.
I apologize for judging my own life through the lens of (insufficient) devotion, surrender, discipline and broken samaya; and therefore projecting this cloud of misunderstanding onto others.
I believe you, and I promise to speak now and to support you.
Gratitude to all who have had the courage to apologize to those who have been harmed. For outing y/ourselves. To those who have been gaslighted, shunned, minimized, labeled as mentally ill, liars, and trouble makers. I have been on both sides. Both harmed and complicit. I am not from Shambala but I was aware that Chögyam Trungpa is literally the father of this abusive behavior. We must look in the mirror as Buddhist practitioners and ask ourselves what we are attracted to and why we will go along with abuse. Why we will stay and perpetuate the abuses in one form or another.
I was horrified when I heard about the abuse you experienced from MM and other teachers and meditation instructors in Shambhala. You should have been safe, honoured, and valued by every member of the community. To know that you were ignored, belittled, shunned, and re-triggered by all the non-apologies and victim blaming in the sangha is heartbreaking. I am so sorry that I didn’t question the “nobody was ever hurt” historical storyline or trust my gut feeling that the concentration of power in the Court was dangerous. I’m sorry I accepted the “hippies will be hippies” excuses for the thread of sexual indecency and abusive behaviour that pervades the community. Please know that I am in awe of your courage and resilience, and that I was grateful to see clearly that it was time for me to leave Shambhala. But I wish that clarity had not come at your expense. Sending so much love and gratitude to you. I hope you are now surrounded by caring, loving people.
I am deeply sorry that I gave my time, money, service and devotion to an organization and a man who are deeply deluded. I am so sorry for the heartache and pain of those who were exploited and harmed by Osel Mukpo, who I am convinced is a deeply damaged person and a true narcissist. I am sorry that none of the leadership in Shambhala has had the courage to step down and publicly denounce a culture of delusion, misogyny and abuse. It truly sickens me that good people are too invested in the brand of Shambhala to be able to think for themselves and see that what they’re invested in is led by a fraud, and not an enlightened leader who cares for them in any way. I am sorry for the many many more women who were exploited by Osel Mukpo and others who still feel too vulnerable to step forward.
I’m deeply sorry for the harm, distress, and confusion you experienced. As a Shambhalian, I apologize for any role I may have played–directly, indirectly, or energetically– in perpetuating misuse and abuse of power within Shambhala. I am sorry that traumatized people often go on to traumatize and abuse others–as I believe has been the case with CTR and SMR. I wish you healing and am disappointed that collectively Shambhala isn’t offering you more at this time–restorative justice processes, compensation, and/or whatever you need to see your way forward with healing. Love and justice are not two…in Shambhala we still don’t seem to grasp that as a community or a force. Again, I am sorry.
Finally, the veil is lifting from the Buddhists and uncovering their lying ways. The fact that the Dalai Lama is connected with the NXIVM cult is enough for me to stay far away from any Buddhist “group”.
My husband was in Gampo Abbey with Trungpa in the 70’s and was appalled at the partying and sex back then. He thought he was supposed to be in a spiritual community. After hearing a talk with Trungpa and his evil sidekick Thomas Rich (he doesn’t deserve a Buddhist name), where Thomas was drunk, we turned it off and never look back.
This whole Shambala thing doesn’t surprise me at all. It is a Buddhist cult.
Giving some gratitude to you all, those who were harmed and those who testified as witnesses, for your willingness to stand in your truth, and that at least now you have been heard. Wishing you the peace and support you deserve.
I am sorry too, as a leader in Shambhala, I was not brave enough to speak up. I did not recognize the harm for what it was and I thought I could change things from the inside. We needed those of you who came forward to bring attention to the problems in Shambhala.
I feel voiceless and am using a pseudonym because I am also a survivor, but my needs are not the same of those who’ve come forward. I identify with all of those who’ve come forward and want to support you, so I write this apology as a leader
But I am also writing this apology to myself, as a survivor, knowing that there is not one solution to ease survivor’s pain. My needs as a survivor are not met by everyone saying they will walk away from Shambhala in solidarity. I don’t want to encourage people to leave, and I don’t want to encourage people to stay.
To those survivors who feel they need to leave and that Shambhala should be dismantled. I am so sorry for encouraging you to hang in there, for not trusting my doubt, and for holding up the patriarchy. I am sorry that I’m still not ready to take it all down, because I hear that you want me to join you in that call. I realize that having not come forward put me in, and came from, a position of privilege.
I want to change myself, change our community, and change the greater society as well. I want a real apology from SMR and I don’t want business as usual ever again. I will do my best to amplify your voices.
survivor in solidarity.
I’m sorry I supported the court, and I’m hoping we can raise funds to support survivors. I want abused people to stop having to bear the brunt of this community’s work. The organization’s response has been shameful and harmful. I’m sorry.
To all the whistleblowers of sexual, emotional and physical abuse of every spiritual stripe, please know that your redemption is at hand. The forces of forgiveness and understanding are taking root in the minds of gentle and tender compassion. The suffering of your unfortunate experiences are transforming into the fortunate experience of what is necessary to all human evolution – the advancement and outing of spiritual truth. Your stories of suffering have become our stories of forgiveness. We honor your courage in telling your story so that we can create the opportunities to become better human beings. I am committed to doing what I can to the healing of this or any other spiritual community. I send my prayers and spiritual counsel to all those who need healing. Love to you all.
I’m sorry that I lack the courage to call out my abuser by name, a long time student and MI in Shambhala, for fear for my personal safety and that of those I love. I value my safety first.
I’m sorry that even with #metoo I can’t share what happened, whenever I tried people turned their back on me. They did not want to see their friend as the physically violent, verbally abusive predator he was. I am sorry I could not protect his next victims. If you are one I am so sorry. I had to save myself . I admire the courage and bravery of every person who has spoken up, you are beautiful, you give me hope.
I am very sorry for the way you were hurt in the shambhala community and for the my own actions or lack of actions: of pretending not to see, of not speaking up, of not listening to my heart and of not protecting you, that have contributed to the pain you have experienced. Especially as a kasung i should have protected you!! not the system or the teacher. My bodhisattva vow should have come first. You all have been very brave in speaking up and i bow to you and thank you for the chance this gives us – all of us, who are still in shambhala, including the sakyong – to wake up, to change, to regret and to repair the dammage we have caused.
With appreciation, Maria
“We’re all doing what we can…”
I would like to apologize. I am so sorry!
Thank you all, including Tsultrim Pamo,
Verse of Atonement:
All evil karma ever committed by me since of old
On account of my beginningless greed, anger and ignorance Born of my body, mouth and thought
Now I atone for it all (x 3)
I ask the community’s forgiveness for the many times I have strayed from the path of kindness, compassion, and virtue – 🙏
Apologies for not ripping the cover off the Sham that is Shambhala. I’m sorry for not saying this louder, longer and more publicly! I’m urging others to go to tell the truth on yelp and social media for there local centers. If leadership won’t do the right thing (they haven’t and they have had the chance), then we must.
The notion of Shambhala is wonderful. So many of us would find great relief living in a genuinely enlightened society. What a wonderful tagline – “Enlightened Society”, its right up there with “Coke – its the real thing”. Its very hopeful. We know about hope and fear though.
We must ask ourselves, whats in the bottle? Sure its a lovely container, but what is really inside? What might one expect? Precepts that are followed perhaps? Is that too much to ask of a “Buddhist” organization? Too often the answer is, “Don’t be silly young Padawan, precepts aren’t needed here”. Keep studying (and paying). You will see how with skillful means any behavior can be justified. Abstention from Intoxicants, Dishonesty, Falsehood, Theft, Taking of Life – fail fail fail. They certainly aren’t practiced by many in leadership (booze is the key to a good fund raiser after all – especially after opening the mind through meditation). Cover up, dismiss as rumor, gaslight – wash rinse repeat (lies). Do as I say, not what I do. Protect the leader, besides its my side hustle, wink wink. Shambhala will happily take your life moment by moment and charge you for doing so (stealing of life). Its an organization that is not interested in openess, truth or reality (have you ever seen so much head in the sand behavior when it comes to finances?). Evidently Shambhala would rather believe in flying dragons than failing balance sheets and income statements.
On the outside it looks enticing. The ingredients are however secret. What are those secret ingredients you ask. Well you have to pay to find out, thousands and thousands of dollars (Or you can read a book and practice – its all there). Strange for something that is supposed to be free (of course you need direct transmission – just like measles). Reminds me of a ponzi scheme. Will you actually learn the fundamentals of Buddhism as a Shambhala Buddhist? How could you when the “guru” doesn’t seem to understand them, at least if actions are a reasonable measure?
Is Shambhala even a church? I have my doubts. Its conduct is more like a school. Its leaders are more like laypeople. M&M isn’t a monk (obviously). A substantial portion of revenue is from charging for classes which are of a secular nature (levels 1-5). Doubt this? Look at how your center. Its an educational system at best, and should be classified as such. Potential students would be well advised to stay clear. Healthy options exist.
Are there any good Buddhists in Shambhala? Perhaps, but I have my doubts in this moment. If they exist, they would be pushed beyond the limits of silence and working within the system by the Sakyong’s latest attempt at apologizing. Any good Buddhist would be moved to significant decisive action. We’ve moved well past the first three karmas. Ask yourself this simple question, would you apologize sincerly and deeply to the entire Sangha for all your deep harm? Ask yourself this, if you had multiple houses and your “larger family was in need” wouldn’t you sell every extra one without hesitation? If you saw financial struggles wouldn’t you refuse $1000 meals and eat simple food? Would you continue to wear fancy robes while those around you donated money without having retirement savings? What kind of leader wouldn’t?? Reflect on those simple questions and then act. Stop donating to the centers. Stop the madness. Sanity must prevail.
I am so sorry that Shambhala, the teachers, and the leaders harmed you and continue to harm you. I am sorry that I chose to ignore and minimize past harms when I learned that the founder was an abuser. I am sorry that I supported Shambhala and its teachers directly through purchase of online classes and books. Thank you for your courage and your willingness to stand for the truth.
I am so sorry to have been a victim who thought she could prove herself worthy by spreading hope for what we could be, what was promised to us all, rather than what was. I thought there was something wrong with ME and that the forces of enlightened society were right. If only I could just go with the flow and make the flow bigger, maybe then I would have been okay. Maybe my pain, my shame, my crushed crumpled authentic struggle, my beautifully dark shadow secret, would meld into the holy peaceful light and disappear because of that.
That is how I am complicit. That is how I let others suffer, even as I floated high and disconnected, my own pain driving my profound wish for all this we were told to be true. Now, I hurt. I hurt so much, because my devotion may have stolen away pieces of my truth of being alive. Devotion may have altered the course of my life into a loneliness more profound than social isolation. It’s the loneliness of denying I was violated, treated badly, diagnosed, and sent away. Shambhala did that to me. I see that now, and I see how I used it as an example for what to do to myself. For what to do to others. I am sorry to the depths of my femininity, I am sorry from the depths of my womanhood.
I want to be brave. I am emboldened by your naming foes. The legal coverups, wrongs, damages, and advising to bring harm victims in the name of the greater good–throughout Shambhala–would never have happened, nor continue to happen, without the counsel of Alex Halpern. I am here shouting that his conduct needs to be investigated, at minimal by the community and perhaps among his professional peers.
I applaud your courage for speaking up in an environment where very little support was likely to show up. If one person is spared the abuse you suffered you have done a great service, thank you.
I knew deep in my bones that the allegations were true as only someone that has endured sexual abuse can. I did my best to share the effects of abuse with my sangha, many were not ready to hear, maybe one day that seed will sprout.
This is an excerpt from an article in Time magazine that says it all for me.
No leader of an organization who fails to protect its most vulnerable members should be left in charge. (not to mention if they are the abuser) No person that looks the other way should be in a powerful position that others depend on.
I have left my leadership position and cancelled my membership with Shambhala.
I believe you completely. I was a young woman in Shambhala and experienced grooming, procurement, and harassment, and someone I love has been hurt by MM. I’m sorry I have been a leader in a bystander sangha and this sangha has not come out and offered any empathy, which has confounded my attempts to be an ally. I will continue to use my influence in my community to raise awareness. I wish you healing.
To everyone who has signed -including some I recognize – I cannot thank you enough. To finally be believed is more transformative than you may realize.
On our center FB page a few years ago, a woman posted something about how Shambhala promotes sexual abuse on our page. I was shocked. It was not someone from our group. It was explained to me that the case was occuring at some other center. It was being resolved through Care and Conduct and this woman was just causing trouble. We took her post down and blocked her and I was so angry at her for doing that. How dare she post something like that that isn’t true? Now here we are….
I believe you.
I was complicit and totally in la la land thinking the Sakyong was above human. Thank you for waking me up to my own ignorance.
I pray for your healing.
I could not have said it better but this time it is sincerely my apology to make,
I am beyond regret that my spiritual teacher and the organization I trusted and relied on for 20 years abused you. I have betrayed your trust; I have been complicit not only in seeing and allowing this aggressive behavior to continue, but I 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.’ I understand that all of these actions were wrong – not only wrong but done in an attempt to protect myself and not you. For all of this I stand before you in breathtaking remorse for the harm I have allowed.
We are being taught that there is no ground, that everything changes and that clinging and not wanting to change causes suffering. PRACTICE what you PREACH!
I want to see all people as equal regardless of their sex, religion, ethnicity, wealth or position in life. I aspire to put your suffering ahead of my own well-being. I vow to exchange my welfare for your suffering until samsara ends and space is destroyed .
Thank you all for your tremendous courage. I believe all of you. Grief and heartbreak surround thoughts of all of you, and of the trauma you have experienced. You certainly did nothing to deserve this type of treatment. You are absolutely blameless in all of this. Sending love and a wish for complete healing for all, including those who have not had the strength to come forward.
I’m so sorry for all the abuse anyone has experienced in the name of Shambhala.
Thank you to those who have come forward.
I want to point out the fact than many of VCTR’s older students left the sangha
when we realized that Mipham Mukpo was not listening to any of us in terms of
advice, criticism, or anything. He broke our hearts before he broke yours. The ones
that stayed to keep the organization going, including all he appointed as teachers,
Acharyas and the like, have gone along with this for many years. There is no excuse for
this blindness, that many of us saw through. I don’t see how good intentions, at this point,
can make up for this. It is a real tragedy. It does not in any way diminish the validity of the Buddhist/Shambhala teachings. What it does do is throw each of us back on our own
responsibility for our spiritual path.
I was at the Boulder Shambhala Center on Friday. I saw a framed quote by the Mipham Mukpo saying something to the effect that our primary duty is to cultivate a sane community. I cried seeing it.
When I was raising teenage girls, I wouldn’t let them go to any where in the sangha alone to keep them safe. I didn’t say anything to the other mothers. Some of their friends were molested and statutorily raped. I regret that and all my other complicities so much. I am so sorry that I have enabled this situation.
I’m so sorry for the terrible harm inflicted on people who had such faith and admiration for their teachers. I’m sorry no one listened. I’m sorry for the cover up. I’m sorry that Shambhala was allowed to become shrouded with secrecy, white mail privilege, gaslighting and more. I’m so sorry that so many students and leaders became so blinded by the teacher and the teachings. I’m sorry that the Sakyong and others have not owned up to the harm they’ve done or show any understanding of how their behavior has been harmful. I’m sorry the Sakyong can’t even give a proper apology.
I hope the people who have been harmed are as touched as I am by this outpouring of sincere sadness and regret. Like others, I would like to know what survivors of the harm need most from us right now.
I love you.
I am so sorry.
I am sorry for the pain he inflicted.
I’m sorry he is such a arrogant piece of shit.
I am sorry you suffered for so long and held too much.
I am sorry for the excruciating amount of pain you are in now.
You are not broken. You are one of the strongest people I know. You are Brave. You are kind. You are loved.
I love you with all my heart.
I hope that someday you find the peace you so deserve.
I am sorry. I am sorry that I was not able to rise out of the water that I was raised in and call out what I felt was off but had learned to ignore – the water in which girls and women were/are routinely subject to sexual assault, in my case beginning with “indecent exposure” on my front stoop at age 5, and then on and on and up. In Shambhala I leaned toward what was good and healing for me and those close to me, murmuring about and shrugging off most of the rest. I did not tune into the harm that shrugging causes others, as well as myself. I am sorry. I know now that it could have mattered, to speak up fully. I knew how deep these waters are and I knew that we had not yet illuminated that depth and should take care, if not for ourselves then for others. And I ignored that. I am sorry for that.
I first learned about harm and abuse of power by the Sakyong in 2012 – but I did not know what to do or how to talk about it, and ultimately I did not want to look at it or ask questions. I believed it was something of the past and those who knew him told me that it had been addressed with him. But I closed myself off to looking into it more, to really seeing what was happening anytime that things in the community felt off or concerning. Even when harms were starting to get reported in the fall of 2017, I did not speak up when I could have – even to say “Why isn’t anyone talking about the Sakyong?” It has taken so long for me to not be silent, and I am deeply sorry. The other night, I wrote this public letter to further break my silence and let survivors know that I stand with you and am here for you any way I can be:
MY PUBLIC MESSAGE TO THE SAKYONG
(Please know that the following is a reflection of my personal experiences, beliefs, attitudes, and actions – it is not meant to represent anyone else’s experience or perspective. I respect anyone who feels and thinks differently about these complicated and complex challenges, and I welcome respectful dialogue. If you’re reading this and you know the Sakyong directly, feel free to pass it along – I’ll also be trying to email it to him).
Dear Sakyong Mipham,
It has been a week’s time since the community received your most recent letter as well as the report by Wickwire Holm confirming your acts of sexual harm and misconduct, as well as abuse of power, perpetrated on women of this community. I sit here writing now, having come home from a heartening and always empowering gathering for our local people of color meditation group at the Shambhala Meditation Center of Portland, Maine. I feel resolved in sending out this message despite not knowing exactly what I’m about to say. But what I want to express to you in essence is this:
Just NO. Full stop. ENOUGH. NO MORE. Please STOP.
Maybe you haven’t been told these kinds of words enough before. Maybe you have and simply did not hear them or heed them. But I believe that more than anything, I/we need you to take a good long stop, to fully pause everything that has been the norm about this community, and really see and hear what is happening at this moment in time – AND to do the work necessary to fully appreciate what it means, how harm and trauma work, and how to make amends and possibly repairs for it. I have been a student of Shambhala since 2009 and a Buddhist practitioner since 2007. I first saw you speak in 2011 at a gathering of about 1000 people in Halifax, and I sat there in both awe and some skepticism – awe that I could feel this practice changing my life but skepticism of how much I could give myself over to you and this community. I met you once at a book signing during a leadership retreat at Karme Choling, and even exchanged a few words with you. I looked you in the eyes and told myself that even with my various doubts, I’m got dedicate a significant part of my life to this path. I’ve traversed that Shambhala path steadily over the years, I have held a variety of roles and leadership and teaching positions, I have consciously intertwined Shambhala with much of my everyday life. By almost all accounts, though I am not your formal student, I would consider myself a believer, a devotee, a person of faith in this path. And at the same time, I have known personally several of the women that it turns out you have harmed and abused. Like countless others, I have put my heart and soul into these teachings, these practices, this community. I am by no means a student without his faults or skewed intentions at times. I have seen my hopes, expectations, desires, judgments, agendas, and ego strivings get the best of me time and time again. But despite all that, what I do know is that I am someone who is utterly committed to making amends for harm when I’ve committed it, investigating sometimes a lifetime’s worth of bigotry or misogyny or prejudice, and aspiring to be more awake and aware and humble and human – through whatever means I have available to me. And though I have never called you my teacher, I feel like I have organized my life in such a way to align myself with the vision of Shambhala and your teachings – to be a genuine, gentle, and fearless human being willing to confront the world honestly and lovingly in order to create a more just, sane, and compassionate society. All this I know to be true to about myself – it has taken a long time to get here. And despite the many faults and imperfections of this community, I have believed in it. I believed in you – at least in your commitment to do right by this community.
The other evening, I made a fire at home and placed all of your books and teachings into it. I said a prayer for you and for this world. I think I even said a prayer for myself and the lostness I feel in the wake of all these discoveries of abuse and harm in Shambhala as well as the spiritual path in general. And even though I continue to carry that uncertainty and confusion day-to-day, what I do know more than ever in the last two weeks is that I don’t need you anymore. This community does not need you anymore – at least the way it has needed you in the past. That time is over.
Shambhala is not yours, it never was and never will be. Shambhala is not something you can trademark or mass produce or franchise. We are Shambhala – whomever holds Shambhala in our hearts and commits to living in the spirit of collective goodness and wakefulness and justice. Whatever Shambhala you might claim as yours from this point forward, I want no part of it. Perhaps the day will come when you may be able to address this community with true remorse, self-awareness, and responsibility for your actions and attitudes. Until that day comes and beyond it, those of us still dedicated to these Shambhala teachings and manifesting them in the world will figure out on our own the healthiest and wisest and most skillful path forward. May I suggest that during this time you have before you, you really take the opportunity to understand what harm and abuse mean – not through intensive retreat and self-reflection alone – but through honest dialogue, therapy, couples/family therapy, organizational consultation,workshops, trainings, testimonials, documentaries, stories, research, and everyday interactions with a range of diverse individuals on the impact of trauma, systemic harm, and abuse of power. For yous own healing, and for the healing of all of those whose lives you touch. I suggest all of these because I know them from experience. How much can you honestly say you have done this work?
Please don’t write us anymore messages or letters. Please don’t act like we all created this situation in some equal or parallel way. Yes we all have our faults and we all have our ways of harming one another. But we have not all engaged in abuse of power at this level and continue to pretend like things are otherwise. I have yet to hear in anything that you have said that would make me believe that you truly understand the harm you have created for this community. I simply don’t believe you have done enough work or developed enough knowledge or awareness to know. And not just for the pain and hurt and abuse you have inflicted on the many woman of our community, but also how your words and actions are a clear expression of how truly broken the system is when it comes to grievances, injustices, unchecked power, and reparations. And yes, with all of this I hold you to a higher standard. That feels only fair in my heart. Those of us who have ever taken our seat as teachers or leaders or caregivers should know full well that we are always the ones to be scrutinized and questioned and held to a greater sense of responsibility, not the people we serve. The burden is on us to be more fully aware and responsible when harm is committed. It is not your place any longer to dictate how this unfolds. I believe you have given up that privilege.
If I sound angry in all that I’m saying, it’s because I am. I have no reason to deny that and I believe I have every right to it. But this truly is not about lashing out. Though you might not believe it – I’m not even sure I do – this is coming from a place of hope and love ultimately. For you, but also for all of us. I cannot in good conscience allow you to simply carry on in the same spirit you have all these years, not when I have the voice and the means to act otherwise. I am going to continue to create Shambhala and to teach in Shambhala – but now in the ways that I see fit, no longer letting Shambhala culture dictate what I believe is right or just or true. I will hold true to what I believe is true in Shambhala, and I commit myself to holding spaces in Shambhala that take a stand against harm and abuse in all its varied forms – starting with what has been happening in our own community. This letter is not to single you out as the sole perpetrator of harm – it is for anyone who even with some level of awareness enacted harm and abuse in this community. And if one day, someone asks me to step away because this is no longer my Shambhala, so be it. They will know where I stand.
I pray you find your way. I know from experience that this kind of path is often tremendously painful and heartbreaking. But it’s the only way, and it’s worth it. Believe me, I have been through my share of grappling with trauma, with mental illness, with grief and confusion regarding gender, sexuality, culture, identity, privilege, status, and power. It is heartbreaking, backbreaking work. But it is the only way to authentically come to terms with who we are and how we relate to each other and this world. I hope that one day you might prove to society that a spiritual leader (or any leader of significance in this world) can fully acknowledge and atone for the harms they’ve inflicted with real honesty, respect, and awareness – and that day my confidence and trust in you as a person will be restored. I hope we may find our paths crossing again – with you not as a king or a ruler or an exalted Rinpoche or teacher or guru, but as a fellow traveller and human being trying to realize the nature of suffering, harm, and healing – and the genuine and transformative love that comes with awakening to truth.
In Goodness Always,
Roland Bryan Mendiola
PLEASE NOTE: I use “us” and “we” in this message loosely and for effect in this letter. I know full well and fully respect that many do not share these feelings and attitudes. My intention here is to voice a perspective for myself and for those who for whatever valid reason choose not to share it openly.
I am sorry. Like so many of us, maybe like you, I came to Shambhala as a survivor. And I came to Shambhala to continue to heal and to survive “better.”
What I found was a system that overwhelmed me. That is all I will say here because this is not about me.
Had I known what was happening to you, I am sure that my own dysfunction would have caused me to dissociate from it. And for that I am sorry, too. Because I understand the hurt you have had to endure, how you have been told your reality is not the “real” reality, or just blamed, told you are crazy, told you are a bit “off,” not believed altogether, or maybe even told you need to practice more. I know.
For each one of you, and for Andrea Winn who helped bring all of you to light, I am grateful. I am grateful that you have forced me to see my own brokenness, and how it paralyzes me and silences me. And more importantly, how necessary it is for me to go beyond that and to stand up for you and with you.
The voices in this document are all of us who see you, and all of us who are holding you, and all of us who refuse to ignore the harms done to you.
Please accept my love,
I was heavily involved in the community from the mid 80s through the late 90s. I deeply regret having accepted the party-line justifications for what I now see as rampant sexually abusive behavior by Trungpa, ROT, and other community leaders. I want to personally say I’M SORRY for not listening to my gut about this for many years. I also want to say THANK YOU to those who’ve been bravely speaking up despite the extreme gaslighting and other forms of social pressure coming from the Shambhala organization. You have really opened my eyes to the perverted sickness and power dynamic that has festered within it for decades. I commit to doing my best to vocally and actively supporting you all during these difficult times.
I am so sorry to have supported a system that enabled abuse, and could not acknowledge it. I am so sorry that I looked the other way, and failed to understand, failed to acknowledge what was happening. Thank you for coming forward with your stories, your bravery has made the world a better place.
To all who were abused – I believed you all, the first moment I heard. I’m so sorry for your pain and suffering, and that you weren’t heard from the beginning. I have defended you whole heartedly, in our sangha discussions on the subject.
I was abused as a child, and know first hand, about your pain. I cannot thank you enough, for being so brave and coming forward as you have.
May you all heal your hearts, minds, and bodies, from your trauma….sending much love
I am so sorry, and ashamed. I am so thankful to the BSP for giving me the opportunity to realize the shame of the shambhala organization, and to turn to the path of truth. I am so sorry for your pain and sorrow. I grieve for the harm done.
I hear you. I see you. I recognize you. I embrace you. I believe you.
I regret that when Shambhala leadership, with what were in my opinion inauthentic intentions, reached out to PoC it was not out of a sincere desire, but more about preserving the brand with a veneer of ‘wokeness’. I regret that those from minority communities were put into teachings positions from the get-go instead of being given a proper education in the Buddhist teachings, which would have empowered them as true community builders instead of having them beholden to Shambhala. I regret that I haven’t had the strength to question this facade publicly due to my own fears and shame.
m sorry you were abused, then traduced and cast out like rubbish. I knew you were telling the truth the moment I heard you. I’m ashamed of any organization which did this and doubly ashamed of one which, still, is unable to make a full apology and amends. One simple word: truth – and yet they can’t. I left Shambhala a while ago now in poor shape because of sustained emotional abuse from people who are still out there, still “teaching”. What a mockery. I did not know that far, far worse was in the shadows. It’s a ramp, all of, a Ponzi scheme concealed by silks and spirituality. Stay away.
It hasn’t been a lot over ~12 years but I’m sorry for whatever money I’ve handed over that went toward keeping a drunken sexual predator in silks. I didn’t know what was going on at the top of the organization until a year or so ago, but I probably could have known sooner, if I’d gone looking. If I’d been more conscientious.
And I’m sorry if my continuing to sit and sometimes occupy the timer’s spot at our local center’s open house nights is read as support for MM or his sycophants— honestly, I dont think he or they should continue to have any power to abuse; I’m done propping them up financially; I’m not in any leadership position and don’t aspire to ‘climb’— but I do continue to sit in that place because I’m just trying, sincerely, to help make that space for two hours a week healthy and safe for those who still want a community to meditate with and don’t know where else to go. I’m all for the ‘commoners’ turning away the ‘king’ and seizing the means, and surpassing the teacher’s failings. And I’m making a modest effort to facilitate other opportunities to sit collectively. I just feel those at the ground level, who arguably deserve the least blame, would be too harshly punished if ‘penance’ for any involvement at all was to be scattered into exile. Community is still valuable, though ours has to reckon with its institutional rot; as far as I can tell, many who are trying to salvage this one want to re-make it into what we (perhaps naïvely) thought it was, without the harmful parts. We know it’s still problematic, we know success isn’t assured, but we want to reclaim our society and rededicate it to enlightenment, and oust the charlatans. Then maybe, hopefully, it will be worthy of those it drove away.
I am so sorry I gave so much time, energy, and money to this organization filled with abusers. I am sorry that I was such an idiot that I actually believed the Shambhala teachers wanted to make the world a better place even when I saw behavior that was not consistent with basic ethics. I should have participated with groups doing real healing work outside of this cult instead of putting my efforts into Shambhala.
I am so sorry people hurt you. I hope that you can find peace — whatever that means to you.
I am so sad and disheartened by this betrayal. I am so encouraged by the brave people who broke the silence. We are listening and reaching out to support you through this tumultuous time with Metta and compassion. May you rise confidently and live with peace
In solidarity with all the abuse victims of the Shambhala cult.
I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to tell you how much I support you, believe you, and wish to be there for you. I knew Shambhala was sexist in its teachings since Warriors Assembly in 2005, and further knew it since vajrayana seminary in 2011, there were so many warning flags, the “virgin” (teenage) girls that were placed in the ritual of the Sakyong Wangmo’s empowerment, how she had to “sdo stroke” atthe foot of his throne, how she has to prostrate to the guru on entering the shrine room, etc, etc, and yet I continued to give my time, energy and money to the Shambhala lineage. I tried so hard to do my werma sessions, not listening to my inner voice screaming that it was wrong, trying to be a good practitioner, going all the way to SSA3 — for what? To see that my gut was right all along, and my justifications were hollow, to not honour my inner wisdom. Then when I heard your stories. I knew right away that my fledgling career as a teacher was over, that I couldn’t “hold the lineage” any longer, but I apologize that it took me 8 months to give up my line-of-command post in the kasung, thinking I could be of benefit. I wasn’t of course. My reactions have been so slow-mo! I was so duped!! I am still trying to unravel everything. I will do what I can to support those in my local sangha, that no survivor has to be isolated and marginalized ever again,to learn from your bravery and integrity, to learn from your stories and your example. I send my heart to you.
I am sorry I did not immediately stop contributing financially to my local Shambhala center the moment I first learned of your experiences. I am sorry that it has taken so much evidence, particularly the accounts of men, to finally spur me to action. I am deeply sorry that I used my position as a teacher of yoga and mindfulness to young children to encourage new families to become involved with the Shambhala community. I am sorry I sat calmly at the table when my local Shastri questioned your motives, your veracity, and your mental fitness. I am very much on the periphery of Shambhala, yet look at all of this complicity. I am so sorry for your suffering, and yet so grateful to you for sharing it with us. I receive it as a gift, as there is much here for me to continue to explore with great humility for a long time to come.
Tears Tears Tears
I am sorry, I wanted to be out of suffering so bad that I ignored everything that happened before.
I am sorry I did not trust my intuition and close this chapter before.
I am sorry I wanted to listen to the Shambhala teachings above anything else.
So sad and so sorry that not one person who was in a position to put a stop to these abuses of power did not do so as soon as they knew.
Don’t rock the boat. Sometimes it’s easier to let things slide. I allowed Shambhala culture to shape my actions, or rather inaction. I’m sorry for not doing something. For not listening wholly. For not speaking up when something was amiss. For not being there for you. I’m sorry the organisation took precedence over what was most important: you.
shame that I did not know, did not want to believe when I did hear…
sadness for and remorseful of your suffering…
hopeful for your healing…
For decades, I have been a teacher and MI at Shambhala and I did not see anything. There was an opaque wall between the insiders and the rest of the community, and I was encouraged to think that, in the lofty world beyond that wall, everything was good. I honestly thought Shambhala was a safe place. Because of my presence and involvement with Shambhala, I encouraged people to be part of it. Quite possibly some of them were later abused – or, like myself, became part of the smoke screen. I offer my deepest apologies to all the victims for my having been involved in that deception, and I do wish them a good profound healing.
We were shaken by the accounts of the women who were abused. There were still ways we could sidestep the truth – it was long ago. The Sakyong is different now. We were never part of his circle and never knew such abuse was taking place.
Then another bomb: We were shattered by the kusung’s recent accounts.
No, it is not that we believe them more because some were men.
It is because they were privy to his behavior unmasked – crazy, abusive behavior which we never saw and could hardly believe. BUt now we do. He didn’t behave like this around his Acharyas, I can attest to that.
Many years ago a few clse students of Trungpa Rinpoche’s went to him to complain about the Regent’s abusive behavior. In particular an incident when the Regent verbally attacked a kasung on duty who did not feel he could defend himself.
Trungpa Rinpoche told us that we should talk to the Regent about his unacceptable behvaiour, “Teachers need feedback. If you don’t talk to him about this, who will?” We replied that Rinpoche appointed him and that he should control him. As we know, that didn’t happen.
There is now no question of the Sakyong continuing to teach or lead Shambhala but there is much worth salvaging.
We need your strong voices.
We need to purge the patriarchal model altogether and never again any one to cause harm to another.
Now is the time for things to fall apart.
Now is the time for healing.
I hope you will be part of the solution in the future.
Undr what name? With the leadership of what teacher? No idea.
What we do know is the vast majority of our sangha are good people – women and men who are dedicated to offering Buddhist mindfulness practice for a world in need.
Let’s keep the goodness and support each other in waking up – fully – at this time.
For me, what is happening as the action of the Rigdens.
I love our community. I love the Buddhist and Shambhalians teachings.
The victims who have spoken are the most courageous and strong persons.
They are the samaya keepers.
I think we should honor them. They deserve our respect.
Thank you also to the kusungs who have spoken up.
I am so sorry… for humanity.
But, life is always young… We should celebrate this opportunity for a deep cultural change.
And be part of it.
I am so deeply sorry for the ways I was complicit with my money and time. Love to those who were violated. I am so very very sorry.
I apologize unreservedly. Through my participation in this organization, I have been complicit. Through my ability to see but my failure to take responsibility, I have been complicit. Through ignoring critical intelligence—mine, others’—I have been complicit. Through my complacency and selfishness and lack of bravery, I have been complicit. I breathe in this poison as medicine. I breathe out relief, safety, acknowledgment, care, commitment, courage, trust, clarity, light, comfort, space. Change. Love.
I apologize for being involved in petty local center politics that turned away so many good women and men. I am sorry for being naive enough to think it was okay for older men in positions of MI to manipulate younger women, and not say anything, even as they revel in telling me their exploits.
I am heartbroken for those who have given their lives to this organization in any way and have been discarded as mere lowly servants by the hierarchy. And many left financially destitute, with no assistance from the path they were so dedicated to.
“What god is he,
Who writes laws of peace,
And clothes them in a tempest?
What pitying angel,
Lusts for tears,
And fans himself with sighs?
What crawling villain,
And wraps himself
In the fat of lambs?
No more I follow
No more obedience pay.”
W. Blake, Europe
It felt like family. Attackers took advantage of that feeling. We all failed to protect you. This cannot be undone. We must take care that no one is allowed to trample on your wound any longer. This brutal family business must end. Now.
Thank you for your bravery. I am sorry I did not see… did not want to see… until I couldn’t not see. Thank you for helping us to see what the suffering we created.
I join with the other voices and express regret and I am deeply sorry for the harm that was perpetrated on you. I was part of this system for at least a decade and it’s likely that I turned a blind and naive eye to what was happening. I am sorry that we did not protect you. Thank you for your bravery in coming forward. I see and hear you. I honor you.
I’m sorry for being naive. For not questioning more. For going along with the dream of enlightened society. For being in a big cocon created to not see reality. For the longing to believe this and let my gut intuition be silenced. How stupid of me!
I am sad and heartbroken. I wish for healing for the survivors and clarity, humility and courage for the perpetrators to fully admit to and apologize for the harm they have done. Although I am unaware of any harm that I may have caused and have not already apologized for in the limited roles that I have had in Shambhala or even as a member of the community, I would like to know and make amends for any hurt or pain I may have caused in others.
I am so sorry I have been unseeing and cooperating with an abusive society. Your courage will not be forgotten.
I am sorry I supported Shambhala with my time and money. I am sorry I participated in a sick and abusive system. I am sorry I took vows and served as a representative of an unethical, dysfunctional, and deceptive institution. I am sorry for contributing, even unknowingly, to the personal and spiritual pain of others. To the survivors: I wish you safety, healing, and true community. May we all trust our own wisdom, and may our imaginations be boundless, as we envision a new path forward.
I’m sorry for not being more perceptive as a Kasung and practitioner (1985 to 2002), as I did know about Mr. Mukpo sleeping with students, and never said a word. But worse (far worse) is the guilt I feel for letting my daughter (then 13 years old) take refuge with him. That was done in secret, with a group of other children (@ Sun Camp, RMDC). Years later, my daughter inexplicably committed suicide. Could this be related? We will never know, unless the Larimer County Sheriffs department makes a connection. But the burden of guilt is near unbearable, and this feeling humbles me to no end. This must be akin to what other survivors are going through, and to them, I offer my deepest sympathy and compassion – as well as a speedy recovery… and I am sorry I can’t find the courage to name myself, as so many other old friends here have. Bless you.
I am sorry I initially dismissed shambhala’s past as well as your stories when I heard about them. I am sorry that I contributed to this organization with time and money, and that I encouraged other people to join it. I am sorry that I looked down at people’s resistances to shambhala’s hierarchy and some of its practices. And I am sorry I did not listen to those who worried about my involvement with such an organization.
I left Shambhala awhile back but I am sorry I was not more vocal about the problems I had at the time with hierarchy, elitism, and the idolization of MM. I never directly witnessed any sexual misconduct but I can’t imagine the pain and feeling of betrayal that those who were harmed must feel.
The whole experience has made me really wonder about my own capacity to be deluded, going along for the sake of going along and not trusting fully my gut feelings and moral compass. We have done so much of that as individual human beings when we join groups and put on blinders. In that way we are all responsible for the great crimes of history.
I am sorry I didn’t speak loud enough about my hesitations. I’m sorry I accepted the “crazy wisdom” excuse for CTR’s behavior.
I’m sorry I was drawn in by Mitchell Levy’s charm and did not question at the time why he made me feel so special and above others.
I’m sorry I didn’t tell anyone about another teacher’s inappropriate behavior, usually linked to alcohol and drugs, the many midnight sexual texts and groping and kissing me. He was the son of a Shastri who grew up in Shambhala and I didn’t think anyone would believe me if I spoke up. By not speaking up, I might have left him to prey on another young woman, and if that’s the case, I’m sorry. I didn’t have the courage. I thought I wouldn’t be welcome at my centre anymore. I was not brave enough. I’m still not brave enough to attach my name to this statement.
I’m sorry I gave my hard-earned money to Shambhala International. The organization doesn’t deserve it and it shocks me that the board is still asking us for money. Why aren’t they raising money to support survivors instead?
And most of all, I’m sorry that all of you went through the gaslighting, shunning and not believing by most of the people in your community by speaking up FOR YEARS. I’m sorry it took so long.
I love you all, brave survivors. I am with you.
I am deeply sorry for any harm I’ve caused as member of the kasung and as a member of Shambhala (1988-present). I stand with survivors of Shambhala abuse. I am grateful to my friends and my sangha family who are brave in the face of disgrace and of difficult reality. I value their lives and I trust their experiences. I will do my best to help in any way I can. With love.
I apologize for not questioning out loud the over the top court display. It never made sense to me. Particularly since MM seemed hollow beneath the display, like nobody was home. Though privately I felt uncomfortable I never voiced my discomfort because I attributed it to my own shortcomings as a student. I apologize for not trusting my intuition, for not asking questions, and for going along.
I’m sorry for not questioning more and therefore enabling a culture of dismissal and abuse. I didn’t know how bad it really was, and although I questioned some of the troubling issues with the hierarchy and patriarchy and racism, I never thought that both Mr. Mukpos were so abusive. While everyone is scrambling to salvage their dear communities, survivors are suffering the worst, and I have no idea really what current Mr. Mukpo is wanting to do to right this situation.
After seeing such an outpouing of heart, authenticity and regret, in tears, I can really see why I came to this community. It was for all of *you*, my sangha who spoke here, such beauty and gentleness, incomparable. I’m sorry that people reduce all of us to a mere cult and complicit when there were a sad few who abused power and secrecy. I’m sorry to watch what we all built which was imperfect and beautiful, fall. I will be so sorry to never see you all again, or practice with you. You are Shambhala, my long term family, freinds, my refuge and it’s a travesty to see it all disperse to the wind, and let us be defined by one or a few persons mistaken views and actions.
Many of these comments echo my feelings.
I wish to apologize to all those who have been harmed by Shambhala activities in any way, in particular those that have had the courage to come forward in this latest round of community scandal, which the various reports are both shocking and believable. This is at least the third generation of scandal for this lineage, each involving the leader, while the overall organizational structure is designed to financially benefit the guru household, rather than attending to those that come for religious training and community. This became clear to me awhile ago and I apologize that my religious ambitions led me to be complicit with the enabling organization for some time and for any further harm this led to. I have stopped and am looking for ways to manifest my intention to protect, by informing, those who are still within the confused organization with the dysfunctional operation (it’s dysfunctional), those who have been harmed in the past and are survivors of abuse (there are others), or those who may be arriving on the doorstep even now (beware, there are problems, a complex history). Thank you for your courage, all readers.
I am so very sorry for my involvement in an organization build on a conspiracy of victim blaming, minimizing, and covering up the deplorable sex crimes and sexually/emotionally abusive practices including pushing victims out of the organization. I am sorry for giving money and especially vast amounts of my time coordinating staffing for weekends programs (until summer 2018) for this organization.
When this all came out I was most sorry for the acts of abuse and shunning by the specific leaders doing these acts. As time went on it became more and more clear that it was (and remains) a widespread culture of complicity and coverup, and just how many of the leaders, teachers, kusung, and senior students were/are involved in these lies, and therefore are also guilty of committing abuses.
I am so sorry for contributing my money, time, and energy to such a vastly abusive organization. No matter how much I may like to think the local leaders/ have no part in any of this, the organization is rotten from many if its top layers. I am so sorry for all the pain caused to so many victims. Not just those who suffered legally definable crimes, but also those who were singled out for special attention by the most senior leaders, and afterwards were shunned, forced out of the inner circle and sometimes even out of shambhala, and who were victim-blamed and silenced. I am so sorry for your pain.
I identify with your pain as a sexual abuse survivor. It is so horrible to me that leaders of shambhala, and especially teachers, and most especially the sakyong himself, would commit such horrific atrocities as the same ones I suffered at the hands of a completely non spiritual person. How can a person who claims spiritual leadership and authority commit such crimes against others? How can they live with themselves? Much less want to go on teaching as if nothing happened? I am so sorry to all of the survivors of these abuses, and all who suffered indirectly as a result (family/friends of victims, witnesses to the abuse including the coverups, devoted students who are horrified that their teachers committed these atrocities).
I wish there were something more I could do, but at least I must pledge this: Unless the sakyong and all accused of abuses are removed from shambhala, and until the organization conducts a publicly transparent examination of its toxic culture and takes serious action to fix it, I will never again give them even $1, or my time, effort, or presence. I do this as the only action I can see available to me to support all those victimized by this organization. I am sad for the tremendous bad karma those abuses and collides must have accumulated. But mostly a am deeply sorry for all the harm and pain caused, to the victims of abuse, and I pray that you may find some small peace from these apologies here, and that you will eventually find greater peace and a way through the horrors inflicted on you by those you trusted.
Some places will have to die to change. Some places will have to face the emptiness of their Materialist Dharma cult to change. In the end, hopefully westerners will stop hunting for lama’s, guru’s & despots and learn to be their own guides
Is an apology for everything an apology for nothing? IDK, but here it is. I apologize for allowing myself to be brainwashed, and in turn, to help brainwash others. That’s about as direct as I can get, and I hope it helps in some small way.
I am sorry to have worked to disassociate SMR in my mind from his father, instead of questioning how their behavior might be connected. I turned to Pema, who I believed did not judge CT, in order to keep myself from questioning things when anyone asked me about Shambhala’s history. I dreamed it could be occurring in the present, never having witnessed sexual misconduct in the centers I attended in Columbus OH and Seattle WA, however this just exemplifies how the system managed it’s predatory practice –it did it behind closed doors, in smaller circles, outside of the public sphere. If I had seen anything or heard anyone speak of abuses, I believe I would have taken action, however hindsight is 20/20. I feel deep sadness that underneath the basic goodness of Shambhala there is a darker current that people kept alive by keeping it secret. I am sorry women were hurt, I regret that SMR has not stepped forward genuinely, fearlessly, compassionately and apologized to the group and to each and every person he harmed. I am sorry I was complicit. I am sorry I am writing only now as I know I have been resisting facing this situation since this was written in 2019.
I scrolled all the way down just to post here. This has bothered me for some time. I only spent 2-3 years involved in Shambhala and no harm was done to me personally but I certainly had my doubts about the organization and had no idea the corruption ran this deep. This issue is unfortunately quite close to my heart because my entire introduction to Buddhism and meditation was the result of deep trauma in my past, a large part of which was the result of experiencing clerical abuse in the religious community I grew up in and (in the same fashion as Shambhala) I was met with doubt and ultimately disdain from the ‘leaders of my community’ for daring to disparage the name of my abuser (I talked to a paper outside the community and told the truth and was essentially excommunicated). I was naturally quite turned off from religion for some time after that, and it was only my introduction to writers like Pema Chödrön and Thich Nhat Hahn that I saw the possibility of healing these core wounds through meditation and Buddhist philosophy. It makes me angry beyond belief that the very first Buddhist community I ever experienced had the same underlying dynamics that make abuse so possible and so easily excusable by community members. In my opinion, these abusers are intelligent predators in that they seek to join or create communities that allow for them to get away with their crimes, and the fact that such communities are so easily embedded within the context of religion is deeply disgusting to me, and I think gets to the heart of what is wrong with organized religion. Take heart though my fellow dharma-lovers — at least such behavior goes so against the grain of what the Buddha taught that it is eventually exposed to the light of day. The saddest thing to me about my own experience of clerical abuse is that I am from a community that is so deeply in love with delusion (masquerading as ‘faith’) that my abuser is still working in education, despite what is now 40+ accusations, and he is likely to never be held accountable and when he dies they will tell stories at his funeral of what a holy and virtuous man he was!
I was a true believer and a member of the fold for 14 years. I heard story after story of teachers at every level acting in harmful, and sometimes outright predatory ways. I accepted the doublespeak. To everyone who experienced abuse, I’m so sorry. May you find safe people, safe community, and most of healing.