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