Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexually as

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexually as

Postby admin » Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:58 am

Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexually assaulting student: Community expelled mentor over separate misconduct allegations in 2004
by Mitchell Byars and John Bear
DailyCamera.com, Staff Writers
POSTED: 02/02/2019 05:14:24 PM MST
UPDATED: 02/02/2019 05:14:44 PM MST

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Image
William Karelis enters the courtroom at the Boulder County Jail on Friday (Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer - Daily Camera)

A former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala Center has been accused of sexually assaulting a girl he was mentoring through the program, and investigators say the Buddhist community was aware of other allegations of inappropriate conduct against the teacher when it expelled him back in 2004.

William Lloyd Karelis, 71, was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, according to a news release from the Boulder Police Department.

Karelis on Friday afternoon appeared in court at the Boulder County Jail. The Boulder County District Attorney's Office asked for a $10,000 bond arguing that Karelis abused his position as mentor to repeatedly assault the alleged victim.

Karelis' attorney Frederick Bibik countered that his client has lived in Boulder for more than three decades and has strong local ties. He asked for a personal recognizance bond, or in the alternative, a $5,000 bond.

Boulder County Judge J.P. Martin issued a $10,000 bond.

Karelis did not speak except to say that he understood a mandatory protection order bars him from communicating directly or indirectly with the alleged victim in the case. He remained in custody at the Boulder County Jail on Friday evening and is due back in court Tuesday to be formally charged.

Outside the jail Bibik said his client has cooperated with police during the investigation and surrendered voluntarily when he learned a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

"Mr. Karelis strongly denies these allegations," he said. "We are confident that when the evidence is fully developed and scrutinized in the crucible of the courtroom, he will be found not guilty and fully exonerated."

Shambhala's interim board on Friday issued a statement on the arrest.

"William Karelis was a member of the Shambhala community from its early days. In response to inquiries from the Boulder Police Department, Shambhala confirmed that Mr. Karelis was the subject of two Care and Conduct complaint procedures in 2002 and 2008. These were initiated by women who alleged that he had behaved inappropriately towards them. Due to his failure to comply with Shambhala's Care and Conduct procedure, Mr. Karelis's teaching and meditation instructor credentials were suspended in 2004 and later permanently revoked in 2008. Owing to procedural disputes between Mr. Karelis and Shambhala's Care and Conduct officers in both cases, neither resulted in an agreed resolution.

"Mr. Karelis resigned from the organization in 2009. None of the complaints received by Shambhala involved minors or reports of criminal behavior. Shambhala has always and will continue to comply with mandated reporting concerning minors. We also have and will continue to cooperate with and fully support the ongoing BPD investigation."

According to an affidavit, Karelis met the girl in the 1990s when she was around 8 through Shambhala, when Karelis was assigned to her as her meditation instructor.

The girl, who was living in Denver at the time, spent time getting to know Karelis and told police in the first few years she spent a lot of one-on-one meditation time with him.

According to the affidavit, things began to escalate in 2000 when the girl was around 13, and she began taking the bus with her parents' permission to spend weekends at Karelis' Boulder house for teachings.

The girl would sleep in a downstairs room at Karelis' home, but told police Karelis would come into her room after his wife fell asleep and would perform oral sex on her.

The girl told police this happened 10 times over about 18 months.

According to the affidavit, sometime around December 2003 several women accused Karelis at a public event of inappropriate sexual behavior.

Karelis was expelled from the community following the accusations, and Shambhala "set up a council of people that were responsible for keeping in contact with (Karelis) as well as working with people in the community to heal the wounds from this event."

The named victim in the Boulder case said she did not tell her mother about Karelis' behavior, but she was still sent to therapy as a result of the allegations from other women.

According to the affidavit, the girl told her counselor about some but not all of the behavior, and the therapist said she was obligated to report it.

The girl said she never knew what became of that report if it was filed, but did say it was one of the reasons she never reported the incident to police.

Investigators did not become aware of the case until August 2018, when the named victim told a friend about the incident and the friend reported it to Boulder police.

Boulder police believe there were more victims over the span of 30 years. Anyone who believes they or someone they know was victimized by Karelis in the past is asked to call Boulder Police Detective Ross Richart at 303-441-1833 or Detective Heather Frey at 303-441-3369.

Officials with the Shambhala Center have not yet returned requests for comment on this story.

The Denver Post reported in December the Larimer County Sheriff's Office was investigating " possible criminal activity" at the Shambhala Mountain Center, a Buddhist retreat in the foothills west of Fort Collins.

Boulder police spokeswoman Laurie Ogden said Boulder police have reached out to Larimer County because Karelis spent time at the center, but at this time police do not have any formal complaints about him in that jurisdiction.

There is no statute of limitations on sex offenses involving children under the age of 15.

The news comes on the heels of a sexual misconduct scandal surrounding Shambhala International's leader, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

The allegations surfaced in a three-part report called the Buddhist Sunshine Project that detailed allegations from anonymous women with first- and secondhand accounts of sexual misconduct by Mipham and other high-ranking Shambhala officials.

Mipham said in a statement he would step back form his leadership position at Shambhala International — now based in Halifax, Nova Scotia — pending an investigation. He conceded in a letter to his followers that past relationships he engaged in had caused "harm," but did not address the broader allegations of misconduct or any illegal activity.

Mitchell Byars: 303-473-1329, byarsm@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/mitchellbyars
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Thu Feb 07, 2019 1:58 am

Shambhala Centers Still Holding “Sealed” Retreats to Venerate a Leader Under Criminal Investigation
by Matthew Remski
January 2, 2019

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A New Year’s Eve email sent out from the Sky Lake Retreat Center of Rosendale, New York, invited qualified practitioners to attend a seven-day “sealed” retreat, beginning on February 23.

The event, named the “Monarch Retreat”, will be focussed on generating loyalty towards the spiritual “kingship” of the leader of Shambhala International, Mipham Mukpo, known as the “Sakyong”. Mukpo is the son and heir of the Chögyam Trungpa, the founder of the organization. In 1995, Mukpo was recognized as the reincarnation of Mipham the Great, a Tibetan philosopher, astrologer, and mystic who died in 1912.

This past July, Mukpo stepped down from his administrative leadership of Shambhala International amidst accusations of sexual assault published by Buddhist Project Sunshine. Mukpo has issued a vague apology for past behaviour, but he has since denied all criminal allegations through his lawyer.

Mukpo is a focus of a controversial independent investigation commissioned by Shambhala International, the results of which are due to be released at the end of January. According to ThinkProgress, Mukpo is also a focus of a criminal investigation by the Larimer County, Colorado, Sheriff’s office.

The rituals of the upcoming retreat will include a “heart transmission” from Mukpo to all retreatants. Mukpo will not be in attendance, but retreatants will be able to venerate a “full” portrait of him — the centrepiece of a specially-designed altar — while following a ritual schedule written by him.

The text of the invite, signed by Cynthia MacKay, who is scheduled to lead the retreat, is printed below. A critical response from Patricia Ullman, a former Shambhala Training director, follows.

MacKay claims to write “on behalf of the Pillar of Government”. In Shambhala terms, this refers to the administrative third of the organization, which includes the lead administrative body, the “Kalapa Council”. Recognizing that “parts of our system are broken,” the Council resigned in July and in October handed over control to an Interim Board assigned to handle the crisis.

A request for clarification from the Interim Board about whether MacKay is in fact writing on their behalf went unanswered.

The Monarch Retreat is “sealed” to participants who have received ritual permission to practice Tantric meditations conferred by Mukpo himself. Often, tantric meditations require practitioners to perceive and visualize their preceptors as divine or enlightened beings.

Similar Monarch retreats were offered at Dechen Chöling Shambhala Center in France this past November, at Dorje Denma Ling Shambhala Center in Nova Scotia this past June, and at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado in this past February.

MacKay did not answer a request for comment.

__________

Text of the Sky Lake email

From: Monarch Retreat Host <monarchretreats@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Dec 31, 2018 at 10:50 PM
Subject: Invitation to Monarch Retreat February 2019
To: [redacted]

Invitation to Monarch Retreat,

Sky Lake Retreat Center, February 23 – March 3, 2019

Dear Holders of the Rigden Abhisheka Transmission1)

On behalf of the Pillar of Government, I would like to invite you to attend the Monarch Retreat at Sky Lake Retreat Center from February 23rd through March 3rd, 2019.

This unique retreat includes receiving and practicing a heart transmission from His Majesty the Kongma Sakyong II2). Although the Sakyong himself does not physically attend the retreat, his presence is palpable. In light of the disturbing events and conflicts in the mandala3) this year, it may seem surprising to be holding such a retreat at this time. Some might find it provocative. I recently attended this retreat at Dechen Chöling for my third time. There was a profound sense of tenderness and genuineness among the 22 participants as we each explored our deeply personal relationship with the lineage and with the Sakyong. It was a meaningful journey for me and felt incredibly necessary and nourishing in terms of engaging in my path for the benefit of our greater world.

My experience is that the most magical things happen during these retreats. The container provides a lot of time for practice, contemplation and conversation about what it means to be a warrior. The thin veil that separates the conventional world from the world inhabited by the dralas 4)dissolves and the kingdom of Shambhala opens up as the ground for exploration and play. The lineage is there waiting for us, trusting us and loving us.


The Monarch Retreat includes receiving and practicing a heart transmission from His Majesty the Kongma Sakyong II and a specially-designed Monarch Retreat shrine with a full portrait of the Sakyong.

In line with other Monarch Retreats, we will also study and contemplate:

Discovering Your Bravery — His Majesty’s teaching on bravery on the path of leadership and kindness at the most recent Kalapa Garchen5)

The North Star of Shambhala, Loyalty – The Ground Path and Fruition of the Four Pillars (participants will receive the lung for this text if they do not have it already)6)

Study of The Six Ways of Ruling and practical exercises to help manifest them7)

The retreat container

The Monarch Retreat is a seven-day retreat (plus arrival and departure days). It is a sealed retreat — all participants live, eat, sleep and practice in the confines of the retreat, except for outdoor exercise.8) The days are structured according to a practice text that His Majesty has written solely for this retreat.

These retreats take place from very early in the morning through to late evening. The Sakyong has structured each day to accommodate individual study and reflection as well as group practice, contemplation, exercise and discussion.

Further information

Register here: https://skylake.shambhala.org/program/1 ... h-retreat/

If you have any registration-related questions about the Monarch Retreat, please email: Sky Lake at programs@sky-lake.org

If you have any other questions about the retreat, please email: monarchretreats@gmail.com or feel free to contact me directly at cynthiamackay@mac.com

Closer to the time of the retreat we will send you detailed information about practical arrangements.

Again, I know this is a very tender time in Shambhala and this retreat will not be for everyone but offering it feels very important. You may be experiencing confusion and doubt during this time. It is my hope that exploring this in a safe container with other warriors will feel nourishing.

Yours in the vision of the Great Eastern Sun9),

Cynthia MacKay

Monarch Retreat Host

_____

Response from Patricia Ullman

To Cynthia –

I am so sad and disturbed to receive this letter, in light of the abuse that has occurred and the many people who have been harmed. As you say in your last paragraph, “this retreat will not be for everyone” – obviously it is only for those who wish to continue excluding and ignoring those many who are finally speaking out against duplicity and revealing what many like yourself wish to ignore. Even when I thought I couldn’t be shocked any more, your letter is shocking and very disturbing, as well as unkind.

The ‘disturbing events and conflicts’ you allude to are actually sexual abuse and other forms of aggression, carelessness, unkindness, and greed. They are not ‘conflicts,’ and they have caused immeasurable suffering and harm not only to individuals but to Shambhala and to Buddhism in general. The continuing effort to cover it all over is part of the problem and perpetuates a ‘culture of blindness,’ a cultish allegiance and clinging to something that is full of holes, rotten from the inside. The teachings of wakefulness deserve better.

It seems that Shambhala has forgotten its sense of decency and courage and has lost its ability to feel shame. Shame on you for sending this letter, at this time. I don’t speak out very often but this is beyond the pale.

Patricia

Patricia J. Ullman
(Executive Director of Dorje Denma Ling 2005-2012, Director of Practice & Education for Dechen Choling 2000-2005, Resident Director of Shambhala Training for Washington DC, 1994-2000, etc.)

_________________

References

1. The “Ridgens” are mythic kings of Shambhala, a divine or shamanic realm featured in medieval Tibetan Tantra. “Abhisheka” indicates a Tantric initiation that binds the student to the teacher through a strict code of allegiance called “samaya”. Consequences of breaking samaya — which can involve as little as speaking negatively of the teacher — include rebirth in torturous realms.
2. Chögyam Trungpa, Mukpo’s father, was known as the first “Kongma Sakyong”.
3. “Mandala” means “protective circle”. It is used here to describe the organization as a sacred walled city.
4. The “dralas” are elemental and animistic energies appropriated into Buddhist discourse from indigenous Tibetan spirituality.
5. “Kalapa Garchen” refers to another Shambhala/Tantric retreat, which features the “Scorpion Seal” teachings discovered or revealed by Mukpo.
6. “Lung” means oral transmission, without which the teaching is said to be superficial or nonviable.
7. This Shambhala leader claims that these instructions date back to the Buddha, but gives no citation. Ex-Shambhala leader Lodro Rinzler lists the Six Ways as: Benevolent: “Let aggression exhaust itself”; True: “We’re both basically good”; Genuine: “Point to the logic”; Fearless: “Have faith in yourself”; Artful: “Set up your day skillfully”; Rejoicing: “Find joy in being true to yourself”. Rinzler resigned from the organization prior to being accused of sexual misconduct.
8. “Sealing” is not a metaphor in Tibetan Tantric retreat protocol. Physical boundaries are set and charged according to ritual. Crossing the retreat boundary is thought to degrade the value of the retreat for everyone involved.
9. An epithet for the “kingdom” of Shambhala.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:54 am

Interim Shambhala International Board Swears Religious Oath to Leader Accused of Sexual Assault
by Matthew Remski
November 28, 2018

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On October 17th, eight Shambhala students chosen by the Transition Task Force to form an Interim Board of Directors were sworn into service for a twelve month period.

The move comes as the global neo-Buddhist organization navigates allegations of sexual assault committed by its spiritual leader, Ösel Mukpo, also known as Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

The allegations against Mukpo were first publicized by Buddhist Project Sunshine in February. BPS is headed up by Andrea Winn, a life-long Shambhala member, along with independent investigator Carol Merchasin. The team’s three reports also contain allegations of intergenerational and institutional abuse within the organization, which was founded by Mukpo’s father, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, in 1971.

The revelations have shaken Shambhala International to the core, triggering the resignation of its Board and forcing Mukpo to step down from his administrative role. Recent financial reports show that the organization, which posted 18M in North American revenue in 2017, is now in financial crisis. Some local centres, including the one in New York City, will soon be closing.

Winn’s team, along with the women who provided their testimony, also prompted Shambhala to commission its own independent investigation, led by the Halifax firm Wickwire Holm. Some community members have doubted the impartiality of the investigation and its gag order on complainants.

According to its new website, the Interim Board is charged with several tasks, including keeping the crippled organization solvent, coordinating international affairs, and communicating the results of Shambhala’s collaboration with An Olive Branch, an American Zen-based group that consults on ethics policies for Buddhist groups.

The website also states that the Interim Board will “Release to the community as much of the Wickwire Holm report as is legally and ethically possible while respecting confidentiality.”

The report is due out in early January. In early December, the Interim Board will convene in Halifax, where they plan to meet with Mukpo.

Additionally, the Interim Board is to keep Mukpo “apprised” of their work, “even though he is not responding to any administrative aspects of Shambhala or the Interim Board.”

The installation of the Interim Board required that members swear this oath:

SHAMBHALA INTERIM BOARD OF DIRECTORS OATH OF OFFICE

I bow before the Profound Brilliant Just Powerful All-Victorious Rigden, the omniscient Buddha, the enlightened monarchs of the past who led good human societies, and the warriors who bravely opened their eyes and hearts. I invoke the doubtless confidence of the Dorje Dradül, who proclaimed the Tiger Lion Garuda Dragon vision of Shambhala. Holders of the Shambhala lineage embodying compassion and wisdom, who promote enlightened society, guide me and inspire me.

Following the principles taught by the Kongma Sakyong, Jampal Trinley Dradül, and the Sakyong Wangmo, Dechen Chöying Sangmo, and rejoicing in my good fortune, I, given name, bodhisattva name or Shambhala name, as a member of the Shambhala Interim Board vow to propagate the vision and culture of Shambhala as proclaimed by the Druk Sakyong, Trungpa Rinpoche, and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. I recognize that a good life, based on the principles of bravery and kindness, is accessible to everyone, and aspire that this knowledge may blossom into enlightened society.

As a leader in Shambhala, I commit to my personal path of practice and study. I pledge to uphold my commitment to the disciplines of sitting meditation and meditation in action. In particular, through mindfulness and awareness, may I realize contentment, appreciate the present moment, and not cause harm to myself or others.

I request the dralas and protectors to support me in my aspirations as a member of the Interim Board. I call upon the magic of the phenomenal world to assist me in my duties.

May I develop equanimity in the midst of the reality of change, accepting gain or loss without hope or fear. May I open my heart to delight through the discipline of service. I vow to approach my work and my colleagues with gentleness, exertion, and a sense of humor.

With a mind of selflessness, I aspire to radiate confidence and compassion. I aspire to perform my role with gentleness and good cheer, remembering the basic goodness in myself, others, and society. I dedicate my service to the benefit of others, so that everyone may experience their own goodness and decency.

As appropriate and agreed upon by my fellow Interim Board members, I vow to maintain confidentiality as required and to share information regularly with representatives of Shambhala, Process Team members, and members of the worldwide Shambhala community.

I pledge my commitment to the Shambhala lineage of Sakyongs and the society of my fellow Shambhala Warriors. Should I turn my mind from this oath, may I be liberated from my position.

KI KI SO SO! Great Eastern Arise


This year of building the kingdom:
Dealing with the four seasons,
Studying how millet grows
And how the birds form their eggs;
Interested in studying how Tampax are made,
And how furniture can be gold-leafed;
Studying the construction of my home,
How the whitewash of the plain wood can be dignified,
How we could develop terry cloth on our floor,
How my dapons can shoot accurately ...

-- First Thought Best Thought, 108 Poems, by Chogyam Trungpa


Thomas More: When a man takes an oath, Meg, he’s holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then—he needn’t hope to find himself again.

-- Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons (New York: Vintage Books, 1990) at 140


Loyalty oaths ... 2) infringe upon the rule of law; 3) they violate freedom of conscience...

A theory of allegiance was first fully articulated in the Calvin’s Case by Chief Justice Edward Coke. Justice Coke did not elaborate on the distinction between allegiance and obedience, yet a glimpse of medieval England provides a better understanding of this distinction.

Common law demanded allegiance to the King and obedience to acts of Parliament. Allegiance was a natural duty “due from all men born within the King’s dominions immediately upon their birth.” The duty of allegiance was absolute, perpetual, and indelible. The duty of obedience, conversely, was not natural, but legal, and thus could be relinquished....A subject had to legally obey the law of Parliament, yet show faithful devotion to the order of the King—for right and wrong, for better and for worse. Allegiance was more than blind obedience to all laws at all times. It implied a positive attitude, an affection or attachment toward the object of loyalty....

In Ancient Greece, a mutual oath was the foundation of the Spartan monarchy. Even the King had to take an oath of allegiance as an expression of a mutual bond. The King swore: “I will exercise my kingship in accordance with established laws of the state;” in return, the people of Sparta swore: “so long he [the king] shall abide by his oath we will not suffer his kingship to be shaken.” The American rebels adopted this concept. They argued that allegiance and protection are the quid pro quo of a mutual contract, each given in return for the other. If the King does not protect his people, the people are not bound by allegiance. In fact, the breach of the bond of loyalty is what the American Revolution was all about. The American colonies did not consider the revolution to be treasonous since they believed King George III was the first side to break the mutual contract of loyalty....

Allegiance is still different from obedience in at least two senses. It is broader, because it requires devotion to the best interests of the community even when there is no legal duty of obedience. A person is loyal when he or she unquestionably follows specific patterns of behavior....

Oaths can be viewed as the most ancient form of contract. Their origin is rooted in an era in which people believed oaths possessed a magical power: mere words could kill or heal people. The oath’s power relied on faith in its magic and naturally implied a belief in God or other supreme being. Oaths acted as self-inflicted curses used to secure that a promise is fulfilled. They included a ‘curse clause’ to indicate the expected harm for violating the contract, and a ‘blessing clause’ to mark the expected gain for its fulfillment. Legal sanction was not essential since a breach of an oath was tantamount to breaking a contract with God; ‘Gods became the tools whereby the oath caused to operate.’ The expression ‘so help me God’ is the invocation of God as a partner to the oath. The contractual power of the oath, as Daniel Webster observed, “is found on a degree of consciousness that there is a Power above us that will reward our virtues and punish our vices.” In Ancient Greece, the oath gained its political nature. Oaths acted as a contract between men and society....

The modern concept of allegiance was developed in medieval England. Fealty tied vassals and lords and obligated fidelity in return for protection. Oaths of allegiance were largely derived from oaths of fealty. Allegiance was the obligation that subjects owed to the King in return for his protection. The incorporation of the oath of fealty into the public sphere occurred in 1534 when Henry VIII’s hopes of reconciliation with Rome were exhausted. Henry passed The Act for Establishment of the King’s Succession, forcing recognition of the validity of his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Henry invoked the oath in defense against the Catholic Church to ensure that the loyalty of his subjects was to the new Church of England and not to the Pope. He knew that his subjects had doubts as to the validity of his marriage, which could consequently undermine the validity of the throne. The oath was a mechanism forcing subjects to recognize his marriage....

One can reasonably argue that loyalty oaths are a fallacy....James Wilson wrote that “a good government did not need them, and a bad government could not or ought not be supported.”....

History shows that oaths were carefully designed to intimidate and exclude non-conformists due to political reasons....


To a great extent, the history of the oath is a history of fear. Oaths were a sign of weakness and were used by the side which perceived a threat to its power....

The revival of loyalty oaths mirrors exactly the opposite. It reflects the decline of loyalty to an object because it shows the need to protect it. The words of the oath are needed precisely since they have been called into question. Sunstein rightly argued that “sometimes the purpose of oaths is to delegitimate heterogeneity by asserting unity. When this is so, the very existence of the oath tends, ironically, to confirm the existence of the problem.”...

Montesquieu attributed the strength of the Romans to their use of oaths: “the oath had so much force among these people that nothing attached them more to the laws. In order to observe an oath, they often did what they would never have done for glory or for the homeland.”...

Oaths of allegiance promote solidarity and a feeling of belonging. They aim to create in-and out-groups but, more importantly, to unify the in-group....

The success of the oath of allegiance as a nation-building symbol, however, is not self-evidently true. Social science provides some evidence to support the proposition that some people are more prone than others to be either loyal or disloyal. It offers two ways to identify these people. The first way is relative; it touches upon character traits. Some people are more likely to be loyal than others due to specific traits they possess. The second way is situational; it defines a social structure in which people are generally prone to be more loyal. And yet, social science provides no evidence to support the premise that an oath has a positive influence on one’s sense of loyalty. Aside from anecdotal evidence, there is no evidence indicating that stating words of loyalty can foster social cohesion....In fact, one may reasonably claim that oaths are counterproductive: a student reciting the Pledge of Allegiance each morning in public school may develop negative, rather than positive, feelings toward the object of loyalty. Think about a man who asks his spouse to declare her love every morning (especially when he does not do the same). After a year, would she love him more or less?...

Their efficiency obviously depends on their content and context. Forcing a Scotsman or a Catholic Irish to swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II, or a non-Jewish immigrant to pledge loyalty to a certain ideology or religion (a Jewish State), can exacerbate social divisions, rather than create social unity....

Oaths still serve important goals in the contemporary world, especially in ceremonial functions, and in particular among religious communities who have faith in the magical power of the oath....

Imagine that you declare “fidelity to the Nation,” or pledge to “avoid everything that might harm the interests and the reputation of the Republic.” Can you identify your legal obligations from this oath? What about loyalty to Queen Elizabeth II “from this day forward”? Does it make sense to you? While a central tenet in law is clarity in understanding what legal responsibilities are undertaken—under some views of the rule of law principle, the law should be clear and unequivocal— the substance of oaths is vague. It is not possible to understand precisely who owes what and to whom....

The Court found the oath to be unconstitutional since its language was “vague, uncertain and broad … a law forbidding or requiring conduct in terms so vague that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning … violates due process of law.”...

[Charles] Roach refused to take an oath to Queen Elizabeth II because he objected to swearing allegiance to a monarchy.
Interestingly, the Canadian Court held that Roach could pledge loyalty to the Queen and still advocate fundamental changes in the structure of Canada as long as they are performed according to the amendment procedure. Justice Linden dissented. In Linden’s view, Roach could not advocate the abolition of the structure to which he pledged allegiance; he cannot act to replace the monarchy, yet remain loyal to the Queen....

In Constitutional Theory, Carl Schmitt asserts that an oath to a constitution “does not mean an oath regarding every single constitutional norm, nor does [it mean] … submission to everything that comes out by way of [the amendment procedure].” Instead, it implies one obligation—to accept, or at least not to undermine, a society’s fundamental structure. In the case of the Canadian Constitution, Justice Linden held that the oath demands “an acceptance of the whole of our Constitution and national life.” If one accepts Schmitt’s minimalist view of oaths, and further accepts that Canada’s basic structure is based upon, among other things, its status as being a Constitutional monarchy, Roach’s citizenship petition ought to be denied because Roach seeks to repeal Canada’s fundamental constitutional structure, and not merely to challenge (or amend) a single constitutional norm....

Born in Trinidad, a previous British colony enslaved by the Crown, Roach asserted that swearing allegiance to the Queen is tantamount to asking a Holocaust survivor to take an oath to a descendant of Hitler....

"Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.”...

Only just/legitimate states can define and enforce conditions in which freedom is realized....

More than a hundred years ago, English anthropologist Edward Burnett Tyler wrote in Popular Science that oaths of allegiance belong to the low stage of civilization. Tyler predicted that, sooner or later, the oath will follow the concept of ordeals and leave the stage of history. Oaths are a relic of sanctity and do not reflect intellectual reason. Science, he anticipated, will make the oath disappear. About a century before that, Noah Webster predicted that the time will soon come when all “oaths of allegiance, abjuration, and partial exclusions from civil offices, will be proscribed from this land of freedom.” Webster preferred a country that generates loyalty through its laws and policies rather than by a coerced statement. For Webster, only “a good Constitution, and good laws, make good subjects.” Yet, more than four hundred years after Henry VIII required Englishmen take an oath of allegiance to the Protestant Church, loyalty oaths still play a key role in modern immigration law in liberal states. In fact, a broader examination reveals that we are a “land of oaths.” Loyalty oaths exist everywhere: oaths of office, military oaths, oaths at universities, judicial oaths, and oaths of witnesses. Liberal democracies have “an oath for all seasons.”

What does not exist, however, is a strong justification for the duty to take a loyalty oath. It is not clear enough what loyalty is, why it is justified politically, and why it is legitimate to be burdened with a duty of loyalty as distinct from the duty to obey the law. It is neither clear what moral goals loyalty oaths serve nor whether any empirical evidence supports the idea that oaths rationally serve their putative purpose. In light of that, it may be the right time to say goodbye to the loyalty oath as a legal institution.

-- Liberalism, Allegiance, and Obedience: The Inappropriateness of Loyalty Oaths in a Liberal Democracy, by Liav Orgad


While highly unusual for any not-for-profit, this oath is consistent with Shambhala’s culture and mythology, which posits that members are living in, aspiring to live in, or trying to manifest an enlightened world, parallel to this one, governed by supernatural beings.

The “Rigden” to which Interim Board members are bowing is an archetypal ruler of that world, linked to the divine realms described in medieval Tibetan tantric literature. (The lede image for this article is of an incomplete painting of the “Primordial Ridgen”. The image is featured on many Shambhala Centre altars around the world.)

“Dorje Dradül” is an epithet for Chögyam Trungpa, who died of alcoholism in 1987, and was believed to be in telepathic communication with the rigdens.

“Kongma Sakyong, Jampal Trinley Dradül, and the Sakyong Wangmo, Dechen Chöying Sangmo” are epithets for Ösel Mukpo, Trungpa’s son and business heir, and his wife, Semo Tseyang Palmo. The term “dralas” refers to the embodied nature spirits that were a feature of Tibetan indigenous religion, prior to the arrival of Indian Buddhism in the 8th century.

The Interim Board was appointed by the Transition Task Force, led by senior Trungpa devotees, including Pema Chödrön. It is comprised of long-term Shambhala students and leaders, including the Chair of the Shastri (teachers) Council, a former President of Naropa University (founded by Trungpa in 1976), and a feminist anthropologist and psychotherapist who will teach at Naropa beginning in 2019.

Three of the Interim Board members are also practitioners of the “Scorpion Seal”, an initiated ritual meditation said to be divinely received by Chögyam Trungpa, and later revealed by his son. Part of the ritual, which is kept secret, involves visualizing the Mukpos as enlightened beings
, as seen in this more introductory practice.

On their website, the Interim Board asserts that “We are especially sensitive to resisting a top-down approach that seeks to polish or smooth over harm that has already occurred.”

However, they did not respond to a request for comment on how they planned to impartially oversee the investigation of Mukpo, given their religious commitments to him as leader.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:07 am

Shambhala Interim Board Dodges Questions about Religious Oath Sworn in Allegiance to Accused Leader
by Matthew Remski
December 10, 2018

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As reported previously, the Shambhala International Interim Board of Directors was sworn in on October 17th with a religious oath that pledges allegiance to the now-resigned spiritual leader of the organization, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche (Mipham Mukpo). Mukpo has been accused of sexual assault by several community members.

On December 1, Kevin Anderson, a former coordinator of the Sackville Meditation Group in Sackville, New Brunswick, wrote the following letter to the Interim Board. By email, Anderson explains that the group has recently “taken a first step away from Shambhala due to the recent allegations” against Mukpo. (Correspondence shared with permission.)

Dear Shambhala Interim Board,

I’m writing you because a discussion arose between some members of the Sackville Meditation Group, concerning the appointment of the new Interim Board. I am hoping you can help us deepen and nuance our understanding of this.

According to some media outlets, the new interim board has “Sworn a Religious Oath to Leader Accused of Sexual Assault”. The article proceeds to discuss the implications of this, and provides what purports to be a copy of this oath.

The questions that arose are threefold:

1. Is this oath text accurate as reported?

2. Who authored the text?

3. If SMR [Mukpo] has “stepped back” from the organisation for the time being, why then was the oath worded with direct references to him?

I personally am quite concerned that the optics of this kind of language can undermine the credibility of the Interim Board. Therefore I look forward to your input on this matter.

Sincerely,
Kevin Anderson


Two days later, Anderson received the following response from the Interim Board.

Dear Kevin,

Thank you for taking the time to write to the Interim Board. You may know it is traditional for leaders in any leadership position in Shambhala to take a oath when they begin their position. Shambhala oaths are a statement of loyalty to the principles of our community. The Shambhala Interim Board was appointed by the Transition Task Force, and is not a governing body appointed by the Sakyong. The Board functions independently of the Sakyong in terms of our legal and fiduciary responsibilities.

We are currently focused on understanding the financial, operational and ethical issues before us and plan to make regular reports of progress to the community. We appreciate you taking time to contact us and will include your comments in our considerations.

Yours in the Vision of Shambhala,

The Shambhala Interim Board

Veronika Bauer, Martina Bouey, Mark Blumenfeld, John Cobb, Jennifer Crow, Sara Lewis, Susan Ryan, Paulina Varas


Anderson replied on December 9th:

Dear Interim Board,

Thanks for your reply.

I will comment here, but probably not pursue this further. Imagine, for a moment, that I had asked a trusted person (a friend, or a spouse, a child, a spiritual friend) those very direct, and very reasonable (though uncomfortable) questions. If they had avoided my questions as starkly as you have, it would have eroded my trust. In that light I’m finding your answers to be dishonest.

Commenting each question:

1. You could have said, “yes the wording is accurate”. Since the oath is on your website, it would have been easy to say that.

2. You avoided the question of authorship – it would have been easy to say “We don’t generally reveal authorship, but we can assure you it was not SMR”. Since you didn’t answer, that leaves open the possibility that Mr. Mukpo authored it.

3. I’m really not surprised that you didn’t address this, but in any other organization it would have made sense to build trust by at least temporarily distancing oneself from a leader. It erodes my trust that you have chosen not to do that, or somehow because of “guru logic, samaya logic” you feel unable to do so. An honest answer would have been to at least address the question in some fashion.

With kind regards,

Kevin Anderson
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:11 am

Shambhala Investigator Tells Sakyong Accusers Not to Talk to Anyone
by Matthew Remski
August 14, 2018

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The outgoing “Kalapa Council” — the Board of Directors for Shambhala International — sent out a newsletter on Saturday. The newsletter was meant to clarify the role played by the Halifax legal firm, Wickwire Holm, in an internal investigation of possible sexual misconduct within Shambhala’s leadership, including the allegations against the spiritual leader of the organization, Ösel Mukpo.

The Shambhala investigation doubles up on the third-party investigative work of The Buddhist Project Sunshine, which has ignited a firestorm of controversy throughout the organization. Shambhala International has not denied any of the findings of the BPS, although a key leader has tried to discredit the motivations of the investigators, claiming they are staging an “attack upon the Mukpo family”.

The Kalapa Council’s Saturday newsletter attempts to address “questions and concerns from members about the neutrality of this investigation” by including a statement from Selina Bath, the Wickwire Holm investigator.

In numerous social media threads, community members have wondered who has retained Wickwire Holm, who will have access to the results of the investigation, and whether disclosures from accusers made to the firm might later be used as risk assessment against future litigation.

Bath writes that “Wickwire Holm has been retained to conduct an investigation into complaints of sexual misconduct on the part of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and other senior leaders of Shambhala USA.” She writes that “Our firm has not been retained to represent the interests of Shambala USA, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, or any other senior leader.”

Bath does not state who has retained the firm.

The day before the newsletter was issued, Bath sent an unsolicited letter to one of the women whose story was anonymously featured in The Buddhist Project Sunshine. The woman, who still wishes to remain anonymous, sent me the letter and consented to my citing it here.

In the letter, Bath does not clarify who has retained Wickwire Holm for the investigation, nor how the results of the investigation will be used.

Bath asks the woman to provide a written summary of her allegations, and says that it will be shared with “any identified respondent”. On behalf of the firm she also asks for witness names and any relevant documentation.

Bath also asks the woman to be silent beyond communicating with the investigation.

“In order to maintain confidentiality and support the integrity of the process,” Bath writes, “we ask that you not discuss the content of the allegation with anyone, including any other claimants or potential witnesses, while the investigation is ongoing.”


The woman found the letter disturbing.

Via email, she noted that she approached the Buddhist Project Sunshine investigator consensually, and that the investigator in that instance did not ask for a written summary or documentation prior to their interview. The appeal from Wickwire Holm, she says, feels coercive. She doesn’t know how the firm got her contact information.

The woman is also concerned that the Shambhala investigation, as communicated by Bath, amounts to “a ‘discovery’ process, where they hold all the cards… so they can decide whether to try to hush people before people take them to court.”


Bath did not respond to an email and phone request for clarification.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:16 am

Shambhala Newsletter
by Outgoing Kalapa Council, Josh Silberstein, Chair; Jane Arthur; David Brown; Wendy Friedman; Jesse Grimes; Mitchell Levy; Adam Lobel; Robert Reichner; Christoph Schönherr
August 11, 2018

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Dear Community -

We have received questions from the community about the independent, third-party investigation being conducted by Wickwire Holm. In an effort to continue providing timely and accurate information, we are writing to you today with some additional details and answers to your questions.

Statement from Wickwire Holm

Wickwire Holm is the independent, third-party firm contract by Shambhala to conduct an independent investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct by leaders in the community. We have received and heard questions and concerns from members about the neutrality of this investigation.

Selina Bath, the lead investigator with Wickwire Holm, has written the following response:

“Wickwire Holm has been retained to conduct an investigation into complaints of sexual misconduct on the part of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and other senior leaders of Shambhala USA. Our role is to investigate these complaints and make a determination as to whether sexual misconduct has occurred.

Our firm has not been retained to represent the interests of Shambala USA, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, or any other senior leader.

Our firm has not been retained to represent the interests of any individual who makes a claim of misconduct.

We do not represent any one individual involved. Our role is to gather and analyze information to provide a clear and objective report of our findings.

The terms of reference for this investigation are that Wickwire Holm will:

Investigate specific allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche brought forward by identified claimants, and

Investigate specific allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of other senior leaders of Shambhala brought forward by identified claimants.

These terms of reference will guide the nature of the investigation, but do not prohibit Wickwire Holm from interviewing any witness that may have relevant information about the alleged misconduct.

As lawyers we must be honest and candid with our client and disclose any and all information that we believe may have bearing on the matter at hand. Information gathered as part of the investigation will be reported to our client who will then make a determination how to proceed.

Wickwire Holm will not make the results of the investigation public and will not make any public comment about the investigation while it is ongoing.”


Investigation Results

The results of the independent investigation by Wickwire Home will be reported to the Interim Board of Directors of Shambhala, after the current Kalapa Council has transitioned out of our roles. The Kalapa Council will recommend to the Interim Board that the full results of Wickwire Holm’s investigation be made available to the Shambhala community.

Channels for Reporting Harm

As a reminder, there are three avenues to bring forward a claim of harm or sexual misconduct:

• Care and Conduct: Shambhala’s existing Care and Conduct process and procedure is available for those who would like to raise a concern within the organization. To contact the Care and Conduct panel, click here.

• Independent Investigation: Those who do not wish to raise a claim through the organization directly can bring their claim to Wickwire Holm, the investigator. Claims of sexual assault or misconduct by any teacher or leader in the Shambhala community can be raised directly to the investigator, Selina Bath of Wickwire Holm. Selina can be reached by e-mail or phone at (902) 482-7030.

• An Olive Branch: In addition to other services, in early September, An Olive Branch will offer a Listening Post for those who wish to discuss stories of misconduct in the organization with a neutral third party. More details will be sent about this in the coming weeks.

Additionally, the Community Care website contains additional information, updates, and information about the work of the Transition Task Force. Click here to access the website.

As always, you can continue to contact the outgoing Kalapa Council to share feedback, ideas and concerns at kalapacouncil@shambhala.org.

Warmly,

The Outgoing Kalapa Council

Josh Silberstein, Chair
Jane Arthur
David Brown
Wendy Friedman
Jesse Grimes
Mitchell Levy
Adam Lobel
Robert Reichner
Christoph Schönherr
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:21 am

Letter From Lady Diana
Shambhala Times Community News Magazine
February 12, 2018 – 9:32 pm

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This has been a very dark dön season for many people. It has exposed a tremendous amount of pain that people have experienced both in the Shambhala community and in the greater world.

Having the Shambhala community as the focal point for the majority of my life, I have witnessed numerous times when many members of our community, myself included, have not been protected in a way that reflects our ideals and strengths. Culturally we are at a powerful moment in time, which allows women a voice to express their pain. This has not always been the case in the past. We have a responsibility to one another to facilitate a conversation that is actually of benefit to our community and therefore the greater world.

Distortion of facts is extremely damaging and is counterproductive for this process. While I respect the need for everyone who has experienced trauma to find a way to be heard and to find healing, that does not absolve us of the poison of presenting assumptions and untruths. This has caused a great deal of pain and confusion and this is what I need to address.

When I first heard about Project Sunshine I thought it would be a wonderful way to embark on this important process. But now that I’ve seen its connection to the spreading of inaccurate, misleading facts, I no longer have faith in its ability to assist with this important task in an unbiased and honest manner. Embarking on the process of healing is a greater call to our sangha to come together and address these issues. This process is being hindered by a personal agenda to launch an attack on the Mukpo family.


Unlike many Buddhist teachers, Trungpa Rinpoche was committed to transparency. He had a very outrageous lifestyle. Some of the events that transpired during that era clearly caused some people pain and we need to create a process where these people can be heard. In the vein of transparency, I have written extensively about this time in my book Dragon Thunder. The reason that I wrote this book was that, in order for people to learn from Trungpa Rinpoche‘s teachings, they needed to have their own insight into the lifestyle that surrounded those teachings. Personally, I feel that the Shambhala teachings provide tremendous benefit to people and will continue to do so for generations to come, but only if we truly commit to helping one another heal and chart a path toward a better sangha.

When and where a transparent, measured, and responsible accounting of the facts shows that misconduct or abuse has taken place, or that the response by administrators and teachers has failed to adequately protect and care for those who were harmed, I am committed to healing and acknowledgment, even if that requires consequences for those at fault. But our tradition is not one that allows for mindless mob justice spun from aggression and half-truths.

May the remainder of this dön season be free of obstacles. I extend the love of the Mukpo family to all of you. May this new year bring in a time of healing and change in which we are committed to finding the correct forum for this process to take place.

Lady Diana Mukpo
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:34 am

Part 1 of 2

Judith Simmer-Brown to Distraught Shambhala Members: “Practice More.” (Notes and Transcript)
by Matthew Remski
August 6, 2018

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On Saturday, August 4th, senior Shambhala International teacher Judith Simmer-Brown gave a talk in Boulder as part of a series called “Conversations That Matter”. The title was “Caring for Community,” and it was structured around a set of slogans called “The Four Reliances”, which are meant to help Buddhist practitioners separate out mundane and spiritual concerns.

In this context, the slogans were offered to help Shambhala practitioners in particular renew their commitment to the group’s ideas and practices, in the midst of continuing revelations of abuse within the group itself. They advise the practitioner to see immediate and obvious circumstances — and their interpretation of those circumstances — as ephemeral (or at best instrumental to a higher purpose) and to develop a depersonalized, non-judgmental, and non-verbal devotion to the group’s content.

The “Four Reliances”, featured in several Buddhist texts dating back to the first century CE, are:

1. Do not rely on the personality or individuality of the teacher. Rely on the Dharma teachings themselves.

2. Do not rely on the literal words. Rely on the meaning of the teachings.

3. Do not rely on merely provisional teachings. Rely on the definitive or ultimate teachings.

4. Do not rely on conceptual mind. Rely on the nondual wisdom of experience.

The presentation series is hosted by the group’s flagship Center, founded in 1970 by Chögyam Trungpa. Simmer-Brown’s talk was livestreamed for members of the public who registered via the Zoom platform. I registered under my own name, and recorded the event. No copyright notice or privacy request was posted.

Appropriating a popular concept from trauma-recovery discourse, Simmer-Brown explained that her talk would offer “foundational things that we need to know in order to be resilient practitioners.” In the Q&A that followed, she suggested that such resilience could be nurtured by the activities of the very group that had caused the trauma. “Our confusion and pain,” she told one questioner,” might drive us more deeply into practice.”

The appeal from group leaders to double down on group practice in the face of group abuse is a common theme in the crisis responses of yoga and dharma organizations. When the news of Pattabhi Jois’s decades of sexual assaults on his women students began to go mainstream, a common insider response was to repeat Jois’s most famous aphorism: “Practice, and all is coming.”

As the Shambhala foundations shake, many devotees are likewise relying on beloved sayings of Trungpa, such as: “The essence of warriorship, or the essence of human bravery, is refusing to give up on anyone or anything.” (Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, 2009, p. 17). A similar theme grounds the recent remarks of Susan Piver, as well as Pema Chödron’s 1993 and 2011 responses to Trungpa’s own abuses.

In my notes on Chödron, I use Alexandra Stein’s lens of disorganized attachment within cults to examine the double bind this advice presents: the group has been revealed as harbouring or enabling abuse (as the leaked notes from the July 2nd Kalapa Council phone call show); and then the group and its practices are positioned as the best way for members to soothe themselves in relation to that abuse.

In short: the member is asked to move more fully towards and into the group that has caused harm. They are asked to seek refuge in a space that has proven itself unsafe.

I’m posting a transcript of the event below. I do this at the risk of shaming the speaker should they take the critique personally, instead of as a public figure with powerful cultural influence. I believe the transcript presents a unique opportunity to witness in real time how the leadership of a high-demand group, regardless of intentions, will so often have nothing to fall back on during an ethical crisis except the very ideological content and behavioural advice that may have covered over, worsened, or even caused the crisis in the first place. The conflict of interest is blatant.

Analyzing this happening in real time can, I hope, aid cultural fluency in the mechanisms of undue influence at work in many yoga and dharma communities. I hope it will help members of similar groups see more clearly how they can be asked to give their labour — financial, intellectual, and emotional — while simultaneously dealing with having been violated by the group.

The transcript shows how the logic of the in-group cannot admit outside information. Indeed, it cannot even admit inside information: the actual allegations are never named. (Information and message control is essential to any high-demand group.) By marginalizing and minimizing the allegations and offering no outside resources — such as in the areas of restorative justice or trauma care — the talk creates the impression, supported reflections on “The Four Reliances”, that not only is the group ideology all that is available to help, but that leaders like Simmer-Brown have adequate answers to the problems in the organization they have led for decades.

I’ve left out the names of the community members who ask questions or comment, save for one. Kathleen Moore spoke fifth, and gave me permission to disclose her name. Moore was the partner of the late Bill Scheffel, who died of suicide on July 8th. He immolated himself in his car a week after giving a despairing address to a community gathering to discuss the scandal.

Boulder County sheriff's deputies responded to a report of a burning car near the 4900 block of North 26th Street on Sunday morning and found charred human remains in the driver's seat of the car.

-- Boulder man who set car on fire and died identified, by John Bear


Moore issued a direct and personal appeal for accountability amidst a culture of silencing.

Moore described having been isolated by the community after Scheffel’s death, pushed to the margin as an outsider, as someone willing to discuss toxic dynamics within the group. This follows, as she says, a pattern that impacted Scheffel himself. She began by reading a quote from Scheffel’s address:

I’m in a world of pain. When Trungpa Rinpoche died, there were many forces at work. Now there’s a phenomena of you’re either in or out. We are no longer a society. We’ve become a church. Society has division, diversity and dissonance. The rank-ism [here] creates distance and has broken me.


“Since he died,” Moore continued, “his friends who are mostly senior students of Trungpa Rinpoche, almost all of them teachers, are saying things like, I killed him, that I’m responsible for his death. No one will say this to me. I hear it from others who’ve heard it and believe those people. But what I’m experiencing is incredible amounts of silence.”

Instead of directly answering Moore’s public appeal to suggest policy that would address ways in those who criticize the group are marginalized, Simmer-Brown offered to meet with Moore in person.

“It sounds like this may be a more personal conversation between you and me and I would be delighted to talk with you one on one about that,” said Simmer-Brown, effectively silencing a discussion about silencing
, and further blurring the lines between public responsibility, private resolutions, and perhaps even therapy.

It’s important to understand that in this and similar sub-cultures, private meetings with teachers are highly valued and largely understood as intimate transmission moments. The assumption is that far from being confrontational or eliciting accountability, the meeting will offer the leader an opportunity to communicate some deeper, secret truth that will give the member relief.

After offering a private meeting, Simmer-Brown then went on to self-reference, talking about her own periods of outsidership in relation to the community.

The appeal to private reckoning is not only used to evade public accountability. It can also be used to deflect the institutional responsibility that organization leaders hold.

Simmer-Brown is not just a rank-and-file Shambhala member. She is one of forty “Acharyas”, authorized by Ösel Mukpo (now accused of forcible confinement and attempted rape) to transmit initiated or restricted group content in retreat settings. In her public life, Simmer-Brown is the author of the feminist-inflected study of the “Dakini” principle in Tibetan Buddhism. She has served as the Chair of Shambhala’s Teacher’s Academy, Chair of Religious Studies at Naropa, and has sat on the Board of Shambhala International. Beyond her group, Simmer-Brown also serves on the steering committee of the Contemplative Studies Group of the American Academy of Religion.

But throughout Saturday’s event, Simmer-Brown repeatedly defaulted to the private register. The effect, in part, was to deinstitutionalize her relationship with Mukpo, and restricted her criticisms to the intimate level of disappointment. She did not use the terms that would be necessary on an organizational level to analyze events and reform structures, such as “power imbalance”, “assault”, or “victim”. Simmer-Brown has a long history with Mukpo, she explained, having bonded with him in sorrow over the deadly sexual abuses of Tom Rich, Trungpa’s appointed successor, and having played a key role in soliciting the sympathies of Tibetan luminaries, on Mukpo’s behalf, at the time.

Simmer-Brown is now “mad at him about certain things and disappointed about certain things. And am shaken about various things. But my love for him abides.”

Simmer-Brown makes implicit use of her credentials and her public register, however, in her role as a scriptural explicator. The text upon which she was commenting, she said:

is an early teaching that came from the foundational Canon, the Pali Canon of Buddhism, teachings given by the Buddha shortly before he passed. And in reading these teachings, I realize there was a crisis in the sangha then, when the Buddha passed, particularly because he did not appoint a Dharma heir and there was no clear direction forward. The teachings that I will be presenting to you came from this early period of Buddhism, but they became very important as well during the Mahayana period. Obviously people went back to these teachings over and over and most recently Mipham the great in the 19th century, wrote a text where he talked about these Four Reliances and talked about their importance as a way of really knowing how to stabilize our practice in difficult times. The original teaching was published in a Sutra called the Catuḥpratisaraṇa Sutta, which means the Four Reliable Refuges, and then the more recent teaching that came from Mipham the Great, came from a text called the Sword of Wisdom where he taught a number of classical topics. It’s said that Mipham the Great composed this text, the Sword of Wisdom, in a single day in 1885, and it consists of 104 verses bringing in foundational things that we need to know in order to be resilient practitioners.


There are several problems here. There is no “Catuḥpratisaraṇa Sutta” (the term is a garble of Sanskrit and Pali) in the Pali Canon. The Four Reliances is a Mahayana idea, which means that it dates to as many as five centuries after the Buddha’s death, and is at considerable variance from the Pali content. Comparing the succession issues in the Buddha’s time to repeated and ongoing abuse crises at Shambhala International is a false equivalency that covertly compares Trungpa to the Buddha himself.

Lost on many outsiders will be the implication of using Mipham the Great as a primary reference. Ösel Mukpo is said to be the reincarnation of this philosopher. In other words: Simmer-Brown is using teaching content that ostensibly comes from the past-perfected mind-stream of an alleged abuser, in order to address the crisis caused by that same abuse. The implication is that the Mukpo’s “wisdom” is somewhere, somehow intact, untouched by the present circumstance, which it can now help to heal.

The citation and its usage spin in a mutually reinforcing feedback loop that allows Mukpo’s current “personality or individuality” to be bypassed in favour of relying “on the Dharma teachings themselves”, which are elided with the perfected Mukpo, who resides in the great beyond.


It does not matter whether these interpretive issues are oversights, educational gaps, or outright manipulations. The net effect is deceptive: the whole premise of the event is that the presenter is authoritative when it comes to scripture, transparency, and community care.

So: there is a general promotion of group practice as the answer to group abuse. There’s quote from Thrangu Rinpoche that minimizes institutional abuse as the Guru’s “foibles” or “defects”. There’s a comparison between the online explosion of outrage and a “storm” — a code word in Tibetan Buddhism for ephemeral phenomena. (Far from ephemeral, it is the very reason Simmer-Brown is giving the talk.) And there is the continued use of honorifics to refer to Trungpa — even as the larger community debates whether his image should be banished from shrine rooms around the world.

A more sophisticated mechanism of psychosocial control on display here is the persistent dismissal of “concepts”, “premature conclusions”, and “taking sides”. These basic ethical functions are said to be “more painful than” non-dual experience, in which one cannot take a position.

One of the questioners agreed with this premise.

“I think conceptuality can be so tricky,” they said, “and so sneaky and nefarious and easy to mistake for experience and so I’m wondering if you could speak more to like how we can identify operating from a place of our nondual wisdom experience instead of conceptuality.”

“Well,” replied Simmer-Brown, “and as we know Buddhist tradition particularly in Tibet is just full of beautiful concepts and concepts are, are useful and they have their place, but there’s no substitute for practice.”

In my notes about Chödron, I suggested that it is up to Shambhala International to show how such invocations of mystical union do not encourage members to use their group-given practices to dissociate from their agency in the light of conflict and abuse. I believe the same test applies here.

Perhaps the most disturbing language that Simmer-Brown uses involves a reinforcement of the hard line between the insider and outsider status that Moore illuminated. It comes through a discussion of the hierarchical difference between “hindrance doubt” and “questioning doubt”, and the roles each play in the life of a Buddhist. The former is worldly and paralyzing, while the latter is to be nurtured and embraced as a path to integrity.

“The profundity of the Shambhala teachings for me,” said Simmer-Brown,

has been the ability to relate to the great doubt of our culture, the doubt in basic goodness. The Sakyong has said, the Dorje Dradul has said, that the little doubts are invitations for deeper investigation. The great doubt in basic goodness is what really has become a blight on our society and has led us toward the setting sun. So as practitioners, our primary path is working in a healthy way with the doubts. Doubts, plural, have a beautiful place on our path, including doubts about our teachers, doubts about lots of things, but if we begin to doubt the fundamental goodness, then we have given into the setting sun world.


Who is this advice really for? Is it right to suggest that those who turn away from the group altogether are no longer working with their doubts “in a healthy way?” Why is “doubt in the fundamental goodness” of the world and existence presented as the likely outcome of disillusionment with institutional abuse? What is the “setting sun world”? It is the world outside of or beyond the “Great Eastern Sun” of Shambhala.

Through entrainment or conviction, Simmer-Brown seems to be suggesting something that cannot be said outright:

If by some indefinable measure, members’ doubts about their teachers cease to be “healthy”, not only do they run the risk of giving up on their own “fundamental goodness”, they’re actually no better than those who inhabit the “setting sun world”, where the Shambhala teachings are invisible.

For some members, this could amount to a furtherance of disorganized attachment pattering: a threat of banishment, disguised with something that sounds like love.

I’ve found Stein’s framework so useful in my life and work. I’ll end by introducing another framework. Perhaps it’s now up to Shambhala International to show how events like Simmer-Brown’s talk are not continuing acts of “institutional betrayal”, as outlined by Jennifer Freyd.

Freyd says institutional betrayal occurs when environments are created where experiences of abuse are more likely, and more difficult to report. Project Sunshine provides many textbook examples of longterm institutional betrayal within Shambhala International. Saturday’s event continues the theme: don’t name the actions, minimize them if you do, and always make their effects abstract against a more-important spiritual backdrop.

In their landmark study, Freyd and Parnitzke Smith found that: “sexually assaulted women who also experienced institutional betrayal experienced higher levels of several post-traumatic symptoms.
This pattern of results may offer an explanation for the increased difficulties observed following abuse experienced in institutional settings such as the military… institutionalized childcare… and cases of domestic violence involving failed attempts to seek help from the justice system.

“It appears that the added betrayal surrounding sexual assault exacerbates what is already a traumatic experience for most women.”
____

Transcript key:

Vidyadhara: “Awareness-holder”. Honorific for Chögyam Trungpa

Dorje Dradul: “Ultimate warrior”. Honorific for Chögyam Trungpa

Sawang: “Earth lord”, likely dynastic heir. Honorific for Ösel Mukpo, Trungpa’s son, prior to his becoming the “Sakyong” (“earth protector”), in 1995.

Prajna: Internal wisdom.

Garchen: A tantric practice retreat at which various levels of initiated practice are bestowed upon group members. Simmer-Brown is referring here to this recent event.

Terma: Received, found, or channeled religious content, often revealed to initiates as liturgy for Tantric practice. The recent Garchen, for instance featured a transmission of the “Scorpion Seal” terma, said to be channeled by Trungpa in the early 1980s, but revealed by Ösel Mukpo decades later.

Great Eastern Sun: Epithet for the mythical land of Shambhala.

Setting sun world: Everywhere other than the mythical land of Shambhala.

Rigdens: Kings of the mythical land of Shambhala.

Transcript

Host:

Well good morning everyone. Good to see you. Here it is. My pleasure to introduce someone who needs little introduction, perhaps many of you. We have the, uh, the privilege of hearing from Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown today. The Acharya Judith, as you know, is a senior teacher in the Shambhala lineage and has just completed her 40th year on the Naropa faculty as a distinguished professor of contemplative and religious studies. And so with that, thank you for being here Judith.

Judith S-B: 00:01:53

I just have to take a moment to look around and see, well many old friends and friends and, and thanks for coming out on a Saturday afternoon, a beautiful day. I’m so delighted to see all of you. This has been a rough time, I don’t know about for you, but certainly for me and for our community and my mind goes back to a major crisis in our community 30 years ago, when, after the passing of the Vidyadhara, and finding out about the illness of the Regent, and all of the scandals associated with that time and the extremely breakdown of our community in the couple of years after that, as people began to shout and vilify each other and insist that everybody take sides and to this day there are people in our community who are not speaking to each other because of the incredible difficulty and pain and heartbreak of that particular time in our community.

And I have a fear of that kind of thing happening again. It was a major crisis and it’s remarkable that our community has continued in the years since then. And at least so far, while there’s storms on social media and there are things that are said around the margins, I have experienced our community as connected often in a more authentic and deeper, more honest way than we have in a very long time. And I take great comfort in that. Knowing that we don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Ironically, 30 years ago when all this was happening with our community, I was in Nepal, with my family having just directed the study abroad program for Naropa. And at the time, in December of 2008 [sic. the year was 1988], The students had just left to go home and the then Sawang who was studying at Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s monastery and had been there for the all the time that I was there. I was in Nepal that time for eight months and the Sawang was studying at Tsechen Monastery at that time and he sent for me and took me up to the roof of the guest house where he was living and told me slowly with very deep sadness, the whole story of what had happened with the Regent and about the students who had been — one particular student who had been infected with AIDS — and all of the incredible tumult in the community. And I had known the Sawang for some time. But in that particular moment we both were weeping as we looked out in the whole area around the monastery, realizing the kind of impact that it would have on our community.

And at the end of this time, while he told me of the events and I felt so heartbroken as I do now, he asked me if I would be his secretary for the months that came because he was receiving many phone calls and messages from our international community trying to pull him into one camp or another. And during the months that I worked with him with my young son in a backpack on my back, um, I was sent around to different monasteries asking for pujas and practices on behalf of our community and was tasked with telling various Lamas about what had happened and to sit with them while they wept for our community. And for the legacy of the Vidyadhara. During that time, I came to deeply love the Sawang — now the Sakyong. Love him for his authenticity, his depth, his steadiness in the midst of a real crisis and his wisdom.

And I love him still. Even though I’m mad at him about certain things and disappointed about certain things. And am shaken about various things. But my love for him abides.
So in my remarks to you, I’m speaking from the complications of the many things I feel and my own experience over my years of practice of “Where do I find stability? Where do I find some sense of ground in an incredibly groundless situation? A situation with sometimes lots of upheaval and sometimes things are more steady for me personally and especially because as an Acharya there are many turning to me for support and help. I feel they’re tumult as well. it’s contagious. So in my life of practice and each of us have a different story, a different way of working with adversity in our lives, and adversity like this world, working with individually and as a community and as a larger community of Buddhists in the West. Having heard from many practitioners from other Tibetan Buddhist communities and other American Buddhist communities of feeling the reverberation of all of this, I wanted to just say that for me, there’s been tremendous benefit in joining practice and study and a long life of studying Buddhist texts and commentaries and looking for my guru on every page.

So the question that I bring to you today is “How do we become resilient practitioners in the midst of a crisis like this and whatever crises are yet to come that we may not yet know about?” So are you with me so far? Okay.

I found several teachings that have been incredibly helpful to me in finding some kind of stability and the first one is the one that was advertised with this talk, the teaching of what’s known as the Four Reliances. This is an early teaching that came from the foundational Canon, the Pali Canon of Buddhism, teachings given by the Buddha shortly before he passed. And in reading these teachings, I realize there was a crisis in the sangha then, when the Buddha passed, particularly because he did not appoint a Dharma heir and there was no clear direction forward. The teachings that I will be presenting to you came from this early period of Buddhism, but they became very important as well during the Mahayana period. Obviously people went back to these teachings over and over and most recently Mipham the great in the 19th century, wrote a text where he talked about these Four Reliances and talked about their importance as a way of really knowing how to stabilize our practice in difficult times.

The original teaching was published in a Sutra called the Catupratisadana sutta, which means the Four Reliable Refuges, and then the more recent teaching that came from Mipham the Great, came from a text called the Sword of Wisdom where he taught a number of classical topics. It’s said that Mipham the Great composed this text, the Sword of Wisdom, in a single day in 1885, and it consists of 104 verses bringing in foundational things that we need to know in order to be resilient practitioners.

So I’d like to share these four with you and my understanding of them because they have definitely helped me. The Four Reliances are worded, do not rely on this, rely on this, but as I understand each of the four, it’s not that we discovered the first because without the first we cannot access the second, so there’s a sense that the first is something that we turn to and we deeply connect with, but what we rely on is the second, so let me read these four through and then I’ll treat them one at a time.

They are, the first one is do not rely on the personality or individuality of the teacher. Rely on the Dharma teachings themselves. The second is do not rely on the literal words. Rely on the meaning of the teachings. The third is to not rely on merely provisional teachings. Rely on the definitive or ultimate teachings. And the fourth is, do not rely on conceptual mind. Rely on the nondual wisdom of experience.

So let me talk about each of these one at a time and they each go very much together. The first one, do not rely on the personality or individuality of the teacher. Rely on the Dharma teachings to themselves. This is a teaching which is saying that the teacher of course, is crucial. We’ve learned to turn to the teacher. Without a personal transmission of the teachings, teachings are merely words on a page and we can’t get these teachings from words on pages. The teacher kindness through generosity, through skill is able to bring the teachings directly to us in a way that helps us really deeply absorb and really understand the teachings, but too often we get caught up in a kind of personality cult of the teacher and we focus too much on the individual characteristics of the teacher rather than on the teacher as teacher, as the kind lineage holder who brings the teachings to us in a very personal way, and so of course we love our teachers and that’s fantastic.

We may sometimes not love them. We may in fact develop incredible antipathy toward them, but the real measure is what are the teachings that they bring us and how do we connect and understand those teachings themselves? This is what is reliable. This is the key to our connection with a teacher that can help stabilize the ups and downs that we may go through in the teacher student relationship. Again, not to discard the teacher, but rely on the teacher as one who gives us teachings and connects us with the lineage.

The second reliance is do not rely on the literal words. Rely on the meaning. We of course need the literal words of the teachings that we receive. If we don’t know those literal words, there is no meaning available to us,
and so as we studied the teachings, as we hear the teaching is, as we put the teachings, really apply them in our experience, we need to really connect with the literal meaning of the words because the literalness of the words, but the meaning is something that is about how this dawns in us in our own experience. And so this quality of meaning dawning is the key to our contemplative meditation. The key to not just be kind of Buddhist fundamentalists about things, but to really allow the meaning to dawn afresh over and over again in our experience. The meaning changes. We go back to some of her favorite Dharma books, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism — every time I read that book, it’s a new book. Same words on the page, but it dawns in a different way. So of course without the book, without the literal words, the meaning could not possibly dawn. So this is what we rely on, the way in which these literal words, dawn, in our experience in a fresh, immediate way. Mipham the Great spoke of the literal words as fingers pointing to the moon. We thought only zen teachers talked about fingers pointing at moons, but Mipham the Great talked about fingers pointing to the moon, the literal words pointing to the meaning as it dawns in our experience.

The third one, do not rely on merely the provisional teachings. Rely on the definitive or ultimate teachings. And this is a huge, this could lead to a huge conversation, but one way to understand the provisional teachings: Do not rely on teachings that are limited by specific cultural context, applied to very specific cultural environment. Instead rely on those teachings that transcend culture. Of course, we live within a particular socio-cultural location, and we hear things within that particular socio-cultural location, but if the teachings are limited to that, we immediately become a very provincial exclusive sangha that doesn’t really reflect on the universal application of those teachings. It’s important to recognize those aspects of the teachings that transcend time and culture and to rely on those.

So thinking about such things, it’s a going back to the time of the Vidyadhara, and his love of Oxonian English, and how he loved to have us drill in a Oxonian in English pronunciation. I don’t think that it was meant that we are all to be speaking in Oxonian accents to each other all the time or carrying on particular British table manners, some of the odd ways that he wanted us to do ballroom dancing. I don’t see those as transcending culture. The principles behind them do transcend culture in some kind of way. So this is a very provocative one and raises the question for me about such things as patriarchy. Is Patriarchy a culturally specific form? The perhaps does not fit in a western Dharma situation of this time. What kind of ways can we apply the sense of respect and dignity without employing cultural forms that are perhaps not appropriate or relevant for our time and place? It raises lots and lots of questions like that and these conversations are happening all over our Shambala world. What kind of governance structure do we need? What kind of way can we cultivate dignity and kindness in our society without falling into too narrow a cultural form? What are the definitive transcultural values that we can carry into the way Shambhala should look?

I think the main thing that we understand that I should speak only for myself, the main thing that I understand as the transcultural values of Shambhala have to do with honour and virtue, kindness and community and always lineage. How do we understand “lineage” in this particular point in time?

Then the Fourth Reliance do not rely on conceptual mind. Rely on nondual wisdom experience. This is an incredibly important one and one that I work with every single day because in these particular times with everything flying around, concepts are flying like crazy. Mine are, I don’t know about yours, my mind looking for a place to land wants to come up with some kind of conclusion or position. But conceptual mind is not reliable, and of course concepts still keep coming up all the time, but can we rely, especially on our nondual wisdom experience as the precious treasure of our lineage, more precious than any conceptual teachings that we may have received. Can we allow ourselves to hold paradoxes, complexity in our experience without trying to boil it down to very simple conclusions at any given moment. What is it like for us to rely on the nondual wisdom of experience? That’s really the challenge. It’s a challenge I’m facing every day. I’m sure a lot of us are.

Those are the Four Reliances and I have two other things I’d like to share with you if I may go on and then we will have a discussion.

Shambhala teachings have put a great deal of emphasis on the notion of freedom from doubt. That’s a very difficult teaching these days, given how many of us are caught up in many doubts. So I think this is an important teaching to reflect on what is meant. Freedom from doubt, if you may remember the Vidyadhara or the Dorje Dradul talked especially about freedom from fear, but in our current explication of the Shambhala teaching. So we see that freedom from doubt is more important and I find it very helpful to go back into my Buddhist studies about this and do you use them as a way to reflect on the Shambhala teaching about freedom from doubt? Because I do find that freedom from doubt is really important, but what kind of doubt?

The early teachings of the Buddha talked about two kinds of doubt. One kind of doubt is the kind of doubt that gets you stuck on the horns of a dilemma. It’s sometimes called the hindering doubt or skeptical doubt. And in Theravadin Buddhism, it’s one of the five hindrances to be caught in doubt, doubt that paralyze a shoe that makes you feel you cannot continue, that you cannot practice, you cannot go along with your path, and there’s lots of that kind of doubt around now. The Buddha warned about this kind of doubt because it does freeze us in paralyze us, but he talked about a different kind of doubt, a doubt that could be called questioning doubt or it’s doubt that’s connected with the kind that inspires deeper investigation and the development of prajna.

How do we bring doubt onto our paths such that we can go more deeply and go for deeper, more profound understanding rather than the more superficial understanding that we’ve had in the past. This is what’s talked about in the famous Pali Sutta called the Kallama Sutta which talks about the importance of questioning doubt, the kind of doubt that opens up what’s what we’re looking at. Rather than closing it down and freezing it. I dare say that none of us could be practitioners for even a second or third day without working with our doubt in a healthy, inquisitive way. I certainly would not, and working with doubt has been a major part of my path all the way along and it’s probably what has constantly drawn me to join practice and study together. It’s this magic combination of practice and study together that allows my hindrance doubt to turn into questioning doubt, and to open up a deeper and deeper appreciation for aspects of the path. The profundity of the Shambhala teachings for me has been the ability to relate to the great doubt of our culture, the doubt in basic goodness.

The Sakyong has said, the Dorje Dradul has said, that the little doubts are invitations for deeper investigation. The great doubt in basic goodness is what really has become a blight on our society and has led us toward the setting sun. So as practitioners, our primary path is working in a healthy way with the doubts. Doubts, plural, have a beautiful place on our path, including doubts about our teachers, doubts about lots of things, but if we begin to doubt the fundamental goodness, then we have given into the setting sun world.

And this is our greatest challenge, to entertain and work in a healthy, ongoing, inquisitive way with the doubts that come up without falling into the despair that human goodness is not possible, is not manifest in our world. This is really our lifeline for practice. And for me personally, this has been a challenging time. But the fundamental conviction in the power of basic goodness is what gives me the core of what I feel I can rely on in what I have received in the Shambhala teachings. And I feel completely committed that the purpose of my life is to preserve and practice these teachings about basic goodness.

There’s one last thing I’d like to share with you. Have many more things I could say, but um, I don’t want to talk too long. I want to allow time for all of you. I want to say that in my years of practicing with the Sakyong and seeing him on his journey, I’ve seen difficult times for him. I’ve seen challenges for him, but in general, the Sakyong depicted in the news stories is not the Sakyong I know. And so maybe I’ve missed something along the way. And it absolutely breaks my heart that there have been women who have been harmed by his conduct and I realize that we as a community did not do enough to take care and to find out what happened with this women. So I hold this paradox in my heart as my path of warriorship. My love and respect for the Sakyong, his teacher and what I’ve gotten from him, and my heartbreak about the harm that has occurred that we as a community, the Sakyong as teacher did not take care of and address. So I just want to say this. Holding this paradox is my path of warriorship that sends me into lots of ups and downs.

I wanted to read the last thing, a quote from Thrangu Rinpoche, which I have seen on the Internet. It was sent me originally by a dear friend from Halifax, is a quote that comes from a talk that Thrangu Rinpoche gave in 1997 at Rigpe Dorje center in San Antonio, Texas, and it was published in 2001 in a publication, let’s see, I want to make sure I get the name of the publication correct. It’s his commentary on creation and completion that — my pages are messed up. Here we go it’s in the Shenpen Ösel is the name of the Journal, a Kagyu journal which publishes teaching some remember. So keep in mind this is a teaching that came in 1997. Thrangu Rinpoche has always been for me a Dharma uncle. I’m one of the lamas who he’s one of the lamas that I was sent to talk to 30 years ago about what was happening with the Regent and I will never forget how he sat and wept with me in his monastery in Boda and his kindness. So he’s Dharma uncle still. He says:

Devotion is necessary because fundamentally we need to practice Dharma, and if you have 100 percent confidence in Dharma, then your practice will be 100 percent. If you have less confidence in Dharma, then your practice will be less intense. The less intense your practice, the less complete the result. Therefore it is essential to have confidence in and devotion for Dharma itself. There has to be trust in the Guru. If you trust the Guru, then you will trust the Dharma and if you trust the Dharma, then you will practice it. However, faith in one’s Guru does not mean blind faith. It does not mean believing my Guru is perfect even though your Guru is not perfect. It is not pretending that your Guru’s defects are qualities. It is not rationalizing every foible of the Guru into super human virtue. After all, most Guru will have defects. You need to recognize them for what they are. You don’t have to pretend that your Guru’s defects are qualities because the object of your devotion is not the foibles, quirks and defects of your Guru, but the Dharma that your Guru teaches you, you are not practicing the gurus foibles. As long as the Dharma you receive is authentic and pure then that Guru is a fit object for your devotion, the results that you get you get from the Dharma that you practice. You need to recognize the defects of your Guru as defects. You don’t need to pretend they are otherwise. The Guru’s defects cannot hurt you because because it is not they that you create and cultivate, you follow the teaching of the Guru and trust, meaning, trust principally in the validity of the teachings themselves.

Thank you for listening and in our discussion, I would first like to entertain questions or comments about what I’ve said and then we’ll open it up more fully to additional things you might be reflecting on today.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:35 am

Part 2 of 2

First Question: 00:35:44

Thank you so much. Acharya very touching. Talk. My question is about, uh, I think when you were talking about the qualities that transcend culture, I think the last one you might’ve mentioned was lineage. I’m wondering if you could expand on that and talk about more why lineage transcends culture.

Judith S-B: 00:36:11

In my understanding of Buddha Dharma as a non theistic religion, the transmission of the teacher is essential and Buddhism is just a bunch of books if we do not rely on the living transmission from generation to generation from the teacher. So that transmission moment is not about the personality of the teacher but about the teachings and about the teachers’ commitment to pass these teachings on. And what I see in the Sakyong is his incredible dedication to passing on the teachings of his father from the terma lineage and to making sure that these teachings are practiced and realized. So that that transcends, it’s tricky about what form it may take, but that transcends culture when it comes to Buddhism. Buddhism is not going to become the kind of tradition or religion where there are no teachers and there’s no lineage. You don’t have any Buddhadharma without lineage. Does that answer your question? Very much so, thank you.

Second Question: 00:37:41

Thank you Judith. I’ll try and articulate my question? Um, it’s difficult because the quote you just read from, Thrangu Rinpoche, gets to the core puzzle I’ve been experiencing ever since the news first came out, um, which is Thrangu Rinpoche said as long as you rely on the purity of the Dharma as transmitted by the teacher, and that’s it. And that makes sense to me. And so personally I’m, having been around for awhile. I, I do have a great deal of confidence in the purity of the diamond itself and that is completely unshaken, at the same time when such relative conduct, such human conduct, um, occurs that, that has been said about what happened in the Sakyong, and various women and so forth. Um, it undermines that sense of trust in the purity of what has been transmitted on a more relative level. And so

Judith S-B: 00:38:55

I don’t, I can’t draw a line between those things

Second Question: 00:38:55

I can’t either.

Judith S-B: 00:39:01

This is why there are ups and downs for me, of trying to identify what’s reliable and what’s not is it feels to me the main thing I’m working with. And um, so, um, I can’t really answer your question. I’m just saying that this particular teaching has been helpful for me to begin to really contemplate. This brings up the questioning doubt for like going more deeply. So as I’m doing my practices and reading the texts of the sock young at all of that, I have this question. Okay. What’s culturally, it’s very specific. That might be provisional and what might be ultimate about this, what might be the literal words, what might be the meaning? So I’m giving you the categories. How we apply the categories is really, that’s for me the path and all of this.

Second Question: 00:40:01

Thank you. I wasn’t looking for fit definitive answer from you particularly. It was more like I just wanted to articulate the puzzle I’m working with. I’m sure people can identify with and you know, I, I think as a community it’s a very useful and interesting contemplation and for one is going in this community for over 40 years, you know, it’s really good. I feel it’s very healthy that I’m thrown back on myself yet again to think about what are we doing, what is pure here, what is bullshit, you know…

Judith S-B: 00:40:42

What’s bull shit in me? What’s bullshit? And you know, I came a week ago from the Garchen, which was a two week retreat with a 240 people from all over the world who are going through their own version of this journey. And what was remarkable to me about the Garchen was the incredible. It was rough, especially the first four days. Very rough. But the depth of practice, the quality of authenticity, the genuineness of people with each other, the honest, the no-bullshit quality. And the incredible kindness was incredibly moving to me. And um, I feel like this is what we mean by path, you know, um, that when we get too solid and come to, to sort of quick a position about things, our practice dies on the vine right there. So I think there’s this quality of nakedness is what we’ve learned about practice and individually I think we’re going through that. And I think as a community as well, so there are signs of incredible health along with the incredible heartbreak and wondering what is going to happen.

Third Question: 00:42:47

I’m in [inaudible] for the Level Two this weekend, so considering doubt and doubtlessless is very apt. Perfect timing and in preparing for that. I was reading Sacred World by Jeremy and Karen Hayward and just reminded about the importance of space in my mind and practice and that there’s no difference between the space out here in the space in here and um, and that’s what I have been missing when I get on Facebook. That’s what I am missing. And in other conversations where there’s that desire to come to a conclusion and solidify things. Um, so I was just very refreshed and I’m appreciative of coming across a reminder of that teaching. Um, and I think somehow related, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to make the link, but when you were talking about prajna I think one of the things that’s been tricky and painful for me or I’ve been struggling with is that when individuals who are encountering a feeling of “This doesn’t feel good the way I’m being treated in any situation doesn’t feel good” and they go and they talk to other people, especially senior teachers or leaders about that. And that person’s prajna is actually there. They’re encouraged in some way just I think perhaps out of our own ignorance to sidestep there their own prajna, to not see clearly what’s going on. And I guess it, it sounds like when people talk about being silenced in terms of talking about their experiences that feels like, and I don’t mean dramatizing our experiences too much or you know, making accusations and allegations in terms of talking about our experience. But someone just saying, “I’m really confused about what happened here. And then they’re somehow their prajna isn’t recognized. You kind of get what I’m like, their ability to see that there’s something wrong here was not acknowledged. And, and, and I, I think that a lot of what people have been upset about is that, that seems to have been a systemic in our culture.

Judith S-B: 00:45:16

I think that for whatever reason, we became some kind of monoculture of a particular party line at times about things maybe because we individually we’re afraid of our own doubt. I don’t know. I do feel that what’s going on is our community’s Karma that we need to work with and that we’re part of a larger society where it’s the larger society’s Karma as well and it needs to be worked with and hopefully we can can do this. it’s work that really needs to happen and as heartbroken as I am, I don’t regret that the conversations and the whole situation has opened up. I do feel that as a Dharma practitioner, there’s a tremendous truth of impermanence and, um, the impermanence of our Shambhala systems may be very good news.

Fourth Question: 00:46:55

So if we’re looking at our karma and the lineage, how do we open up a space to practice understanding, the lineage, the behaviors of the Regent, behaviors of the Trungpa Rinpoche, and the context of the Sakyong. How do we make space for all of that if we’re really looking at this and trying to heal and trying to move forward. We have a history of practices and behaviors that for some reason I’ve just been sort of, it’s there but it’s not there. So how do we open up space for that?

Judith S-B: 00:47:28

That’s what this is. I think this series of “Conversations that Matter” have been opening up a lot of this and we were on a journey that’s going to take a while to unpack this, to try to understand it, to identify what all this is about and it’s, it’s challenging for us individually as challenging for us as a community. But we’re at the very beginning of this process. This journey that we’re on is less than six weeks old. And of course there were the, there were things coming out before, but this whole kind of a meltdown that we’re experiencing as a community is still in its early days and the wonderful thing is rather than turning us against each other, we are talking. And it’s hard to know it’s too soon in the process to know where these conversations will go and there are very deep feelings about it all, pro and con and all of that. So I hope that we can keep the openness of the space to hold diverse points of view while we go through this. Because there is a fundamental health in all of this, if we can really hold together in the journey and really listen to each other and not come to premature conclusions about it all. I appreciate your raising the question.

Kathleen Moore: 00:47:28

My question pertains not the Sakyong situation but to the community and so I’m not sure if my timing is right in terms of how you’re wanting the questions to go. And so I just wanted to check in with you.

Judith S-B: 00:49:59

I hadn’t seen any more hands. Were there anymore questions or comments about what I specifically said? There’s one in the front row. Could we take this question and then we’ll come back to you?

Kathleen Moore: 00:50:10

That’s why I’m asking.

Judith S-B: 00:50:12

Okay. Thank you very much for checking in.

Sixth Question: 00:50:24

Thank you so much for your teachings. I have a question about Four Reliances. I have a question about The Four Alliances. It seems like one of the reasons that we have these teachings is because it’s so easy to get stuck on the first one and I’m thinking about the fourth one in particular and I’m wondering if you could speak more. I think conceptuality can be so tricky and so sneaky and nefarious and easy to mistake for experience and so I’m wondering if you could speak more to like how we can identify operating from a place of our nondual wisdom experience instead of conceptuality.

Judith S-B: 00:51:13

Well, and as we know Buddhist tradition particularly in Tibet is just full of beautiful concepts and concepts are, are useful and they have their place, but there’s no substitute for practice. And one of the beauties about the Garchen that we were just at a number of us together, for two weeks is we were practicing all day and it allowed the space to connect with each other across tremendously different points of view. There were some people there who were just furious and there are other people there who just, “Everything is fine” and you know, all the different, everything in between. So as we started there were the contrasting points of view and rubbing up against each other and it was painful. And then the more we settled, and I think the beauty of right now is that our own confusion and pain might actually drive us more deeply into practice. Then there were people who reported before they came to the Garchen they hadn’t been able to practice. And the level of pain that goes up when you can’t practice, won’t practice, you know, whatever. And then the concepts. So the only thing going on causes such extreme levels of pain. So I think whatever pain we feel in the groundlessness is nothing like, at least in my experience, the pain of concepts, whatever extremes they may be. So if we’re feeling a lot of pain. I think it’s a good incentive to practice more. Incredibly helpful.

Seventh Question: 00:53:30

Thank you so much, Judith. It’s good to see everybody again and I’m sad I missed the Garchen. I’ve been feeling um, the gathering of a, of that group of practitioners and I’m sending my heart from a distance. Thanks for being there because, uh, I’m um, what I wanted to comment on is about trust and doubt and that how different my personal relationship is to trust an doubt versus my cultural or social relationship and a lot of this, just because I feel safe and sound in my culture and in my practice doesn’t mean that I know that to be true for the people I care about near me. And, and I don’t know that, that we’ve gotten there yet. We don’t know, but the forms might look like to allow for that level of safety and I just wanted to acknowledge that you know, that we don’t know. We don’t know what’s going to change and uh, and what that’s gonna look like and in the meantime we can’t guarantee everyone’s experience. It’s actually going to take literal trial and error and speaking to each other. And I mean, I think that’s next. This has been such a powerful practice of hearing each other and showing up together. I guess I just wanted to name that there are people who, who don’t feel safe showing up yet until our forms are tried again. So it just came up to me around trust. My trust in the teachings is different than marketing my community as a safe and trusted place. It’s not true yet.

Judith S-B: 00:55:05

Absolutely. Part of the Shambala teachings talk about the epidemic of social mistrust in our society and the larger society is full of that kind of social mistrust and the feeling of basic badness that is so prevalent. And I think one of the things that’s so painful for many of us is we have really taken refuge in Shambhala in the midst of a really messed up world that we’re in politically in our country and in the world. And so it hits us really hard to have this happening in Shambhala. So the level of how social mistrust shows up here at the Garchen, And we, um, we had four different assemblies and I was lead in one of the assemblies and we lead Acharyas really aware that a lot of the protocols have assigned seating and hierarchy, just simply have no place. So we dispensed with as much as we possibly could while keeping the form of the Garchens. And um, we’re going to be experimenting a lot in our centers with how do we feel about each other, what kind of forms feel appropriate for us now? And how do we, how do we include everybody rather than a few people who are very vocal. And then there are a lot of people who have very strong feelings who don’t feel they can say much. And how do we take the time to really listen and feel our way forward about how we’re going to be as a community together. So, um, yeah, I think I appreciate your naming that because that is very much going on right now.

Seventh Question: 00:56:56

Thank you. I just saved the only way I can not take sides is just to name that I’m still falling.

Judith S-B: 00:57:02

You know, and yeah, I think I take a side and then I’m slipping to the other side and I’m, you know, I’m a Libra. What can I say?

Eighth Question: 00:57:45

I’m not a teacher. What I’ve learned, I’ve learned from all of you talking with you. And I feel like I’ve learned a few things, but I don’t know how to express it, but I know a lot of us get married and uh, we have sex with our wives and our wives seem to enjoy it very much and we get all excited and our ego starts going up. And so then we, uh, we go up here to Shambhala up in the mountains and there are all these young girls up there that are taking courses and at the end of this program we have a big dance and this dance occurs. And these girls were asking me would I dance with them? I’m already chosen. No. Oh, I thought, Whoa, what the hell? And so I danced with several other girls, same damn thing. And then when I went back to my room with, there were several guys, there are, one of them says, well, I’ve got to go because I’ve got a date. And what were they doing? Well there were enjoying sex. And the thing is the girls there were taught to well, you enjoy it, let them know you enjoy it. And so their ego goes up and up and pretty soon they think that any woman is going to be a and they have an enjoyable experience with them and they don’t always have an enjoyable experience. And so they think, Oh Gee or what’s wrong with me now? And the problem is their ego keeps going up and the ego is something we want to suppress.

Judith S-B: 01:00:06

If we can find it.

Eighth Question: 01:00:09

If we can find it, yes. But the problem is in the world is it every man thinks women should enjoy my having sex with them and we see it every day and women are beginning to complain about it, and they have every right to complain and we need to know that the stupid word we have for orgasm, yes, orgasm, it shouldn’t be something different. But the problem is that we can express what orgasm is for is for procreation. It took me a long time. It took me 72 years to figure that out. And I learned a from all of you. But you don’t seem to understand that you don’t have to have… There’s only one time you need to have an orgasm, that’s when you want to have a child, and it should be the woman’s choice. Not the man’s choice. And all the time. That’s all. Boy, we had sex before marriage or. Oh, you’re already pregnant. It’s a sad world where we don’t let women choose when they want to have sex.

Judith S-B: 01:02:00

Thank you so much. Hello. Lovely to see you.

Kathleen Moore: 01:02:06

I trusted what you were going to say today in some way, which is why I’m here because I have an essential trust from when our kids had play dates together and we would have conversations. This is more of a contemporary expression of something in the community that’s affecting me and so it’s very uncomfortable because I really don’t want this. Even though it’s my personal experience, I’m really not speaking it because it’s about me or because I need something. If one can hold some sort of an anthropological view while holding a personal view. So this is about Bill. I know it was just really hard to come in here and see his picture, although I knew it would be here and, and so I wanted to say first something that he said two community meetings ago because it’s relevant and what I need to say, which is

Judith S-B: 01:03:35

Does everyone know that she’s speaking of Bill Scheffel? Not everybody would know that. Who recently passed and his photograph is up here.

Kathleen Moore: 01:03:51

“I’m in a world of pain. When Trungpa Rinpoche died, there were many forces at work. Now there’s a phenomena of you’re either in or out. We are no longer a society. We’ve become a church. Society has division, diversity and dissonance. The rank-ism creates distance and has broken me.”

So I’m an outsider. I used to belong to this community and I left this community because I felt, um, that just wasn’t a good fit. I mean, it was just theologically different from what I wanted and that, that’s just fine. Um, but I also felt traumatized emotionally in this community. And when I met Bill, we entered into that difference of my lineage and his lineage and um, and it was challenging not so much between him and me, but his community and me and um, I felt often rejected sometimes people would actually literally turned their back on me if I was doing, well, whatever, I don’t want to get into, too much story. But um, and it put Bill into a tremendous place of tension. And since he died, his friends who are mostly senior students of Trungpa Rinpoche, almost all of them teachers, are saying things like, I killed him, that I’m responsible for his death. No one will say this to me. I hear it from others who’ve heard it and believe those people. But what I’m experiencing is incredible amounts of silence. Like when I email people and they don’t email me back or I call people like Chuck Lief and he doesn’t call me back when I’m trying to understand why I was ignored by him and treated the way I was at the Sukhavati. I don’t even know if it was personal or if it was just the field. And I just kinda want to clarify it. Now, I’m not saying I’m right. I’m just saying this is my experience, although I have been hearing things and, and that predates his death in some way. So my question is: I’m an outsider and if you want to talk about honour and kindness for each other and also with someone, who’s somewhat of an outsider. I mean I’m here because I feel still connected to this community and I feel great love for many people in this community and for the Dharma. So I feel like I have a personal responsibility as a defender of the Dharma in some way to talk about the negativity and so, Judith, and I just want something from you about some kind of way forward about how to work with difference and how. I mean how I’m perfectly happy to have conversation. I have great conversations with people in many traditions. One of my best friends is a Christian monk for chrissake, so. And we’ve had lots of conversations so I just don’t know if you have any comment about this or, or how to put it in some kind of relationship on how to manifest teachings that you’re talking about.

Judith S-B: 01:08:52

There’s a lot in what you’ve said and I was at the Garchen at the time of Bill Scheffel’s Sukhavati so I was not here that evening. He was a very precious human being and I know that many people were here to honor his life at that time. It sounds like this may be a more personal conversation between you and me and I would be delighted to talk with you one on one about that.

Fifth Question: 01:08:52

[inaudible, Moore refers to a phone message left for Judith]

Judith S-B: 01:09:31

Oh, I have not been into my Naropa office. Okay, good. Um, I will listen for your message on my answering machine when I’m next in the office, but uh, I would be delighted to talk with you one on one because it sounds like there’s a lot of pieces of that in terms of inside and outside. One of the challenges of our community is people feeling inside, outside, you know, in out kind of thing. And it’s been a theme for a lot of us. I’ve had in my many years in this community. I’ve had my times of feeling out in my times of feeling in and it’s really an issue for us to create a more open environment without such a tight sense of in and out and this is part of our ongoing conversation of what we need to work with and how do people define in and out if it’s closeness to the teacher. There are a lot of issues around that. If it’s, you know, how do we define being in a community? Um, we’ve struggled with that conversation for a long, long time.


So at this point what I’d like to do is open it up so I’m not giving answers, but that people have a chance to share as we have in our previous conversations. I don’t want to be the reference point of somebody giving answers since we now have reached the point where we have discussed the talk that I gave, but if there are other things that people would like to say at this point, I would like to open it up to that kind of conversation.

Ninth Question: 01:11:03

Yes. Hi everyone. In May of 2001. I graduated from Graduate School, um, and became a psychotherapist a professionally and, uh, four months later, 9/11 happened. And, um, his client after client came into my office. Um, I was struck by my, um, well as a psychotherapist, you have your own feelings happening and have to contain those in some way to allow for your client to have their feelings. And this amazing, um, situation happens in the relationship. So what struck me the most during that time is that each client that came in had their own experience and reactions to this national tragedy. And a lot of it depended on where they grew up, um, what experiences they had had with, um, trauma, um, a lot of their own, um, their emotional reactions were varied from a terror to fear to confusion to a grief, despair. Um, and um, the biggest piece that I took away from that was that, um, we had to grieve together. And what I realized is that people that were from New York City had a way of really coming together in that community to grieve in a really, really deep way. Especially if they were in New York at the time and people that didn’t have as much of a connection or couldn’t talk about it were trying to grieve silently, uh, and, and in isolation. And so the biggest piece that I’m realizing is that however anyone feels about the situation, that underneath that there’s loss, there’s, there’s just loss. I’m not sure how we all can come together no matter how we’re thinking and feeling or how angry we are, how sad we are. How do we come to that place together. The other thing that I’ve learned over my tenure as a psychotherapist is that when a crisis happens in anybody’s life, it’s a wake up call, wake up to what sometimes a lot of times I don’t know when someone comes in and something devastating, devastating has happened in their lives. Um, but I do know that it’s time to wake up and to do something different. And, um, I feel that the situation that is on us right now holds that same dynamic.

Judith S-B: 01:11:03

Thank you. We have just a few more minutes and then we’ll adjourn to a more social setting. But I’m delighted.

Tenth Question: 01:15:31

Thank you, Judith. I’m something I’m, I’m hearing a lot about your hearing in this conversation is a lot around feeling a included versus excluded about, um, uh, as _____ talked about people’s prajna. I’m being honored versus ignored. Um, and I’m thinking about this, um, this idea of parallel process, which is a concept I learned awhile ago that what happens in a and all hierarchical situation, say in an elementary school principal interacts with the teacher is going to show up with how the teacher interacts with the children and also the other way around how the children interact with each other is going to affect how the teachers interact in the faculty lounge. Um, and I’ve, I’ve seen that personally. We have, um, it seems like some very centrally important teaching seemingly to me in Shambhala around natural hierarchy and, um, and around Court principle, the Mandala principle. And it seems like we’re, this, we’re, this seems like I’m a bit of a crisis point that has to do with our understanding this, that people who are in a, uh, a lower area of the hierarchy maybe don’t trust themselves to speak up to the hierarchy or if they do those in a, in a higher place, don’t trust. Um, and so it seems like we have a dysfunction there. And, and as I read the Sunshine Report that, that seemed to very prominent in there that people maybe saw things but didn’t say anything. Um, but if, if they were in a different situation, they may have said something if there wasn’t that hierarchy. Um, I know myself, I, I feel like I’m, I’m in situations where I sometimes feel like I’m on the inside and people value my insight very much. And then other times I’m on the outside and sort of the ding dong. And maybe that’s maybe both are true, but there is, it seems like we need to explore further — is natural hierarchy is core principle. Is that a core aspect of Shambhala? Whereas that, uh, the, the other one that you had spoken about the relative or not a core aspect. And if it is a core aspect, we seem to have dysfunction around it so that the people aren’t feeling excluded and pushed away. Um, so many people I know feel on the outside, I’ve seen the Sakyong look like he feels like he’s on the outside. He seems like one of the loneliest people in Shambhala as far as I can tell.

Judith S-B: 01:15:31

Especially now.

Tenth Question: 01:19:14

Especially now, you know, and um, how, how can we, and maybe maybe this court principle, you know, I’ve been invited to serve on the court but the court seems very far away. Very hot, intense place. Seems too hot for me. Especially now. Um, yeah, how can we look at these different things? So thank you.

Judith S-B: 01:19:43

This is all part of our conversation.

Eleventh Question: 01:20:00

Hello. Thank you Judith. I want to say that when I first got the email saying that you were going to talk about the Four Reliances, I said brilliant, absolutely perfect. And, uh, I, I believe that for me personally, and maybe for how I imagined for a lot of others, that this is exactly what we’re dealing with, the topic of the Four Reliances and the other things that you’ve mentioned, what I wanted to say, and I said this on Project Sunshine, it did not get a big response. But, um, we need to move forward and, uh, two ideas that I’ve had, one is a truth and reconciliation project and I’m speaking as one that’s been on the outside for like almost 50 years. And, and, uh, you know, uh, uh, I don’t know why there has to be an outside and inside, but, but there’s definitely a culture that needs to go and I think the hierarchy thing needs to go and the monarchy thing needs to go. But I think a truth and reconciliation reconciliation project, which is absolutely uncompromising and I don’t know exactly how is implemented in that way, but that’s absolutely needs to happen. And the other thing that I wanted to suggest is that we have been talking about covering up the pictures and uh, I haven’t heard anybody talk about putting up the pictures. We have a 2,500 year old lineage and it’s been removed. It’s gone. I would say maybe before we take down or cover up anything but those back up and then see how we feel and maybe the Vajradhara, there might be a place for him too Okay. Thank you.

Judith S-B: 01:20:00

Thank you.

Twelfth Question: 01:22:25

Yes. Bring Back Vajrdhara.

Judith S-B: 01:22:41

So these are the last two and then we’ll close. Thank you. Lovely to see you

Thirteenth Question: 01:22:51

What you said was about doubt was really, really a relevant to me, not only in this situation, in the last long retreat I did. That was the main obstacle for me and it clarified to an extent what that was about. So I thank you just on a personal level and I feel really, really sad about Bill. It’s when I first found out it was like a, like an eclipse, an eclipse, and were there last week seems to be brightened up a bit. And that if anyone feels it’s their fault, I would urge you to please realize it’s not anyone’s fault in my opinion. And the other thing is, I remember Chogyam Trungpa talking about sangha and how we all have to be together, but each one of us has to remain in their own integrity, otherwise he said it’s like a, where does that game where you have to — dominoes and if you lose your integrity the sangha hasn’t lost its integrity. Then you know, one person loses their integrity and then pretty soon everyone else has fallen over. So just just seeing where you were talking about doubt and practice in the quality of finding what they call in Sanskrit “sthita” our stability inside seems to be really, really important. And that’s just my thoughts. Okay.

Fourteenth Question: 01:25:40

Judith, with your permission. I, and it’s not something I usually do at all. So, um, but it, it came to me today and it’s six lines. It’s a song and it, [inaudible] very good friends with taught at years and he describes his, said this song is the national anthem of Tibet. And I’m sure you know when I, I’m going to sing it, I’m not a great singer, so please accept my humble offering. But um, if I may, please. Yes, of course. Bodhisattva three times / Guru Rinpoche Maha sukha / Embodiment of all siddhis / Drudal Drakpo who clears all obstacles / grant your blessing, this I supplicate / Pacify outer, inner, and secret obstacles / Please our spontaneous wishes attain.

Judith S-B: 01:28:15

Thank you all for coming. It’s. This is a beautiful way to end our gathering. Thank you so much, ______, until we dedicate the merit together:

Assembly: 01:28:29

By this merit may all attain omniscience. May it defeat the enemy, wrongdoing, from the stormy waves of birth, old age sickness and death. From the ocean of Samsara may I free all beings by the confidence of the Golden Sun of the Great East. May the Lotus Garden of the Rigden’s wisdom bloom. Made the dark ignorance of sentient beings be dispelled. May all beings enjoy profound, brilliant glory.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:37 am

Susan Piver’s “On Shambhala”: An Abuse Crisis Letter, Annotated
by Matthew Remski
July 5, 2018

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Just yesterday, I published a list of the rote defences commonly mobilized by leaders of yoga and Buddhist organizations in which institutional abuse has come to light. I feel it’s important to see these defences clearly as they unfold in real time. I have four reasons for this:

1. Analysis — especially from the outside — can be an important reality-check for group members who are emotionally vulnerable through a crisis that casts doubt on whether leaders who they believe care for them actually do care for them, or have the tools to care for them.

2. The defences are sophisticated. Crisis statements often conflate acknowledging organizational abuse with the encouragement for members to re-commit to the organization. They conflate transparency with damage control and rebranding. They present the unfolding of institutional betrayal in real time. Abuse with organizational roots has already manipulated the time, labour, and emotions of members. It’s not the time to ask them to give more.

3. The defences are sophisticated, part 2. The basic teaching content of modern global yoga and Buddhism is easy to weaponize against those who were evangelized by it. People are often attracted to this content because it provides cognitive relief by focusing on the somatic present through techniques like breathwork or bodyscanning. At first, people can really benefit from the encouragement to question judgment, to disconnect feeling from thought, to take an ironic stance towards thought altogether, to change or pause thought rhythms with mantras or silencing meditations, to chase emptiness and silence, to adopt a metaview beyond all positions, and to imagine themselves or more often their leaders as always already perfect. But in crisis situations, an organization can ask members to use every one of these methods as forms of self-abuse: to undermine critical thinking, cover up power differentials, minimize perceptions of harm, and silence victims.

4. Reading these defences for their impact (and against their intention) reveals important aspects of the nature of the group and its teaching content. If you want to know what a group really teaches, listen carefully to what it says in crisis-mode.

I also wrote that “I’ve taken a lot of criticism for pointing out stuff like this. Usually I’m told that it’s not good to shame people who are trying to make accountability statements. I get that, which is why I try to identify trends instead of naming names.”

But within minutes of hitting “Publish”, a reader sent me this post by Susan Piver. Piver is a prominent figure in the global Shambhala community, although she carefully qualifies her relationship to Shambhala International, suggesting she is independent of the brand and its network. That network is now grappling with accusations that the son and heir of Shambhala innovator Chogyam Trungpa, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, is, like his father, a heavy-drinking womanizer who regularly abuses his power as a spiritual leader. The accusations have been painstakingly compiled by Andrea Winn, a life-long Shambhala member with her own personal story of sexual abuse with the community. The Sakyong has issued a qualified apology.

I’m not offering the following analysis of Piver’s community letter to shame her personally, nor because it employs many of the defences I described yesterday, even while it makes strong statements of support for Shambhala victims. I’m analyzing it because it offers nine points of advice to her followers that I believe are poorly resourced, information-controlled, and victim-silencing. Piver suggests her letter is prompted by online reactions she names as “dangerous”. I would argue that what she offers her followers falls short of emotional safety.

I hesitate to publish this, because I can predict the blowback. People will say that it’s a misinformed outsider’s opinion, or that criticizing a woman’s heartfelt communication with her community is misogynistic, or that this is a personal attack. I’ve weighed these possibilities carefully, because it’s never okay to punch down. I’m not punching down. I’m critically analyzing a public document that comments on abuse revelations within the enormously wealthy and powerful institution to which the author is tied through content and method.

To address these objections up front: I’m making no claims about Piver’s intentions, which seem genuinely altruistic, but rather focusing on the letter’s implications and impacts. If criticism of a public document feels like a personal attack, it is because yoga and Buddhist public figures have been encouraged by neoliberal propaganda to commodify personal spaces and moods. This makes it easy to conflate private intuition with public responsibility. The letter’s content is self-reflexive: I believe an outside view will be informative. And while I will never entirely shed my own misogynistic conditioning, I know enough to tell when pseudo-feminist arguments are being used against whistleblowers and those who call for reform.

Finally and on a grateful note I’ll say that I reached out to Piver with a draft of this before publishing, because I saw that she was really listening to and responding to criticism on her blog. This is miles better than the Shambhala International bureaucracy. She wrote back with an important correction and then, by phone, expressed appreciation for the perspective. “I think you should publish whatever you think is helpful,” she said.

I felt a lot of empathy for Piver and told her that I believed she was in a really difficult spot. Having started practicing with the Shambhala group in 1993, she’s having to re-evaluate the joys, troubles, and sunken costs of twenty-five years in a very short period of time. “This is an active learning situation,” she said.

We agreed to continue to discuss these issues and our differing approaches, and may film a conversation for broadcast. I’m really looking forward to that.

My notes are in red italics.

_____

Dear friends, students, and Shambhala Sangha,

If you haven’t heard, the head of my Shambhala lineage has been accused of clerical sexual abuse.

The reports are here. Not linking them can distance and abstract the issue. Project Sunshine is not gossip, but solid research and reporting created at enormous personal expense.

The community is reeling. Whether you are in the Open Heart Project community or are a fellow Shambhala practitioner, I want to share with you my own thoughts and feelings about what is going on.

This statement of intention frames and limits what follows as personal. This seems reasonable, but it’s problematic. The statement is published on Piver’s personally branded blog, but she is also writing as the meditation coach and guide for the more than 20K followers of her online platform, the Open Heart Project. Through online meditation lessons, Piver’s voice has become a trusted source of internal guidance for many. By virtue of this pedagogical structure alone, her own thoughts and feelings will be easily internalized by those entrained to relax into the instructions that follow. But the instructions themselves are not framed as personal, but as universally useful.

First, thank you to those who were brave enough to bring their experience to light. My heart goes out to you and I am grateful to you for being willing to step forward.

The women making allegations in the two parts of the Sunshine Project have remained nameless. But Andrea Winn has taken incalculable risks to openly platform their voices. Naming her and platforming her efforts would be an excellent gesture.

Note: if any part of the neo-Buddhist practices commodified by Shambhala International are about actual rather than performed transparency, if they are about actual rather than meditated-upon compassion, its figureheads should be on their knees, asking Winn what they can do to help, as well as for her teachings on insight, courage, and forbearance.


For those of you who don’t know me: I have practiced in the Shambhala lineage since 1993, graduated from Vajrayana seminary (as it was called) in 2004, completed meditation instructor training in 2007, and attended several additional programs for “advanced” students between 2007 and 2015.

The use of the word “lineage” is deceptive. (This is not a comment on Piver’s intention, but on the effects of a repeated untruth.) “Lineage” has been deployed by Trungpa devotees for over forty years to suggest that his innovations have historical or scriptural roots in medieval Tibet, or even earlier. While Shambhala narratives do borrow from early Indian and Tibetan tantrism, Trungpa had as creative a relationship to historical sources as he did to ethics, describing his teachings as “termas” — discovered or channeled texts left by previous enlightened beings. He was skilled at getting other luminaries in the Tibetan diaspora to verify them as authentic.

In its current usage, “lineage” also implies that the honorific “Sakyong” has historical depth, when in reality it dates to the enthronement of Trungpa’s son, Ösel Rangdrol Mukpo, in 1995, two years after Piver began her practice. This all seems academic until we consider that the primary mechanism of cult formation is deception and secrecy — about the leader, the origin stories, and the group’s intentions. This is worth considering when words like “lineage” are often used to inflate the legitimacy of a yoga or Buddhism organization and increase member loyalty.


In 2011, I started an online practice community called the Open Heart Project and there are now close to 20,000 members all over the world. I send out a meditation instructional video once a week to everyone (for free). We have free and paid online programs. It is an amazing, loving, genuine sangha.

Everything I teach is what I have learned along my path as a student in Shambhala. I don’t reference or hide my affiliation and I have no official role within Shambhala. I rarely teach at Shambhala centers and I’m not connected to the current curriculum. I say all of this for context.

Context can be useful, but it can also distance and limit liability. This passage initiates one of the letter’s main drives, which is to attempt to separate the content of Shambhala materials from the institution that creates and maintains them. We must consider whether this is truly possible. Whether this platform and letter would have social capital, or have emerged at all, without the seminary, programmes, and networks of the institution. Whether the general message is somehow separable from the medium. Whether there would be visible content at all without an original charismatic leader, land centres, an organization of think tanks, a university, a credit union and a media empire. The plea to “separate the teacher from the teachings” is common in crisis situations, but ironic when employed by organizations that profess to teach non-dualism.

One needn’t have legal or formal financial bonds with Shambhala International to be tied to the harm it produces. If it becomes clear that SI is cult, it will also become clear that it is encircled by front organizations and businesses that can function to recruit members towards the centre. Hannah Arendt describes this as the “transmission belt” effect in totalitarianism. Not everyone will be drawn into a deeply committed relationship to SI, but those who are will be more easily drawn if exposed to lower-demand versions of its culture and ideology.

Nor are legal or financial bonds necessary for the expression of softer powers. Piver makes clear use of Shambhala teaching content through various media streams. What’s less overt is her expression of the routinization of the Shambhala leadership charisma that tracks directly back to Trungpa himself. This can be seen through seemingly peripheral details, from aesthetic similarities to performative overlaps. If you’re using Tibetan colours, Trungpa-style low teaching thrones, and filming yourself in front of rice paper screens or a neo-Tibetan altar, the continuity is clear. The medium is the message.

More important than design elements are the performative affects that constitute the habitus of the organization — the general way it feels to sit in a Shambhala room, listening to a Shambhala teacher. Close observation shows that bodily postures, speaking speeds, Mona-Lisa smiles, and the counterpoint rhythm of seriousness and irony are shared amongst many Trungpa senior teachers. There are strict dress and grooming codes. This mimicry might not be conscious, but it’s not by accident, either. It is the way in which the somatics of Trungpa’s charisma have been distributed throughout his senior followers after his death.


So what do we do when we hear that our Gurus are also humans who do fucked-up things, awful things, things that harm others and cause trauma? The answer is I have no bloody idea. We are all grasping for a way to meet the current circumstance.

Part of the intention here might be about fostering a sense of normal humanness and vulnerability. This can be helpful at dissuading followers from developing idealizing transferences. At the same time there is no excuse for being in a leadership position and not having ideas. There are plenty of ethical policy resources available, including those from An Olive Branch, and The Faith and Trust Institute. Anyone can Google “restorative justice”, or take a look at how Andrea Winn struggled to raise $10K to fund more than a year’s worth of research. Compare that to outsized wealth of Shambhala-related businesses, and ask whether a donation is in order.

With this graf, Piver initiates the second main drive of the letter, which is to support the idea that the abuse should mainly be addressed through the internal work of group members — work in which she is not a leader, but an equal partner. Power differentials, however, confound the premise of equal partnership. Finally, if the picture of systemic abuse coming into focus through the efforts of Winn is accurate, it is likely that a percentage of the 20K members of OHP have experienced harassment or boundary violations in relation to the Shambhala hierarchy. Here would be an ideal place to direct them to a grievance procedure or independent services.

Even better: the letter could encourage readers to support Winn, or for victims to bring their stories, if they are comfortable, to the investigator employed by the Sunshine Project.


I have heard from my own students and have a longing to offer something of benefit, as do so many others. Here is what I have been telling them. I share it here with the vast hope that it might be useful. I will be happy if you benefit from my clarity or confusion. I offer both without quite knowing which is which.

Here are the various responses I’ve seen on the Shambhala Facebook page in an effort to make sense of where we are right now:

Here several paraphrases are presented in italics as quotes. I’ve bolded portions that seem to be additions/caricatures.

The Sakyong is a dick/criminal/bro/alcoholic, we need to fire him.

The Sakyong is a dick who is also a flawed human, we should separate those two manifestations.

I love the Sakyong and that is not going to change although I abhor what he has done.

I don’t see what’s so bad.

Like father, like son.

We need to force the Sakyong out; sign petitions; remove his photos; turn away from him completely. Hesitation in doing so to be interpreted as supporting the abuse.

Hierarchical structures and faux Asiana are part of the problem; Shambhala should be a democracy. We should vote for the next Sakyong.

The next Sakyong should be a woman.

Maybe Pema Chodron will come lead us.

Our alcoholic culture is the problem.

This is samsara, what did you expect?

We don’t need a Guru. (Related: the Guru is within; Gurus are always trouble; there is no such thing as a Guru; follow the teachings of the Guru not the personality of the Guru, and so on.)

Forget about Sakyong Mipham. The victims are the ones who need our attention.

You feel empathy for Sakyong Mipham? Fuck you. What about the victims, huh? Huh?

Shambhala is a cult and I am out. (Related: I always felt something was off and my intuition told me to stay away; I’ve heard stories that made me feel weird; it is riddled with patriarchal dysfunction)

He is guilty, guilty, guilty, screw “allegations.” It’s obvious. I am the judge, jury, and executioner, and I say off with his head.

I’ve been around him a lot and I never saw any such behavior.

I left Shambhala long ago and man, was I right to do so.

He’s not my teacher and this is not my Sangha, but here are all of my dharma-opinions anyway.

It’s over.

It’s just beginning.

Multiple invocations of the Four Dharmas of Gampopa, especially, “Grant your blessing so that confusion may dawn as wisdom.”

Perhaps each of these responses is quite accurate. However, with the exception of the last one, they are useless (or worse) in this particular moment.

Without citing Winn, describing the allegations, or referring to Shambhala’s intergenerational history of abuse, the letter now assesses the utility of diverse responses. These responses are admitted to possibly being accurate, but that their accuracy is divorced from their utility. In black and white, therefore, this letter is suggesting that there is a difference between what is true and what is useful. Useful to whom? To what?

Next steps are critical and what I see so far from our sangha (with some notable, profound, beautiful exceptions) feels dangerous—not because strong emotions are involved, but because some space is required in order for our wisdom to choose the way forward rather than our neuroses. With space, we plant our words and decisions in clarity. Without it, when our words and decisions are rooted in an attempt to feel better/make others feel better/offload painful emotions, we add to the confusion.

How are the next steps critical, and for whom? Here, the virtues of non-reactive communication are lauded, and the alternatives, listed above (with some parody), are deemed “dangerous”, and the product of “neuroses”. The advice that follows is previewed in contrast as “space” through which “wisdom” will “choose the way forward”. This elides the letter itself (and by extension its author) with “wisdom” and “clarity”. The words and decisions of the letter will not attempt “to feel better/make others feel better/offload painful emotions.” All of these impulses are positioned as inferior.

Apparently, it’s okay to have painful emotions, but the advice that follows offers no pathways for expressing them, whether informally in the social media forums discussed, or through any formal institutional or third-party grievance process.


Here are some alternatives.

One: Examine your personal relationship to the teacher.

A place to begin is by contemplating your own relationship with the teacher. Not Susan’s relationship, or Johnny’s or Missy’s or the victims’ or the students of 1974 or 2004. Yours.

My relationship to Sakyong Mipham is via the teachings themselves. I have studied with him during retreats that have lasted for months on end. I have read his books and other writings. That is how I know him.

The only relationship I have ever had with the previous lineage-holder, Choygam Trungpa (who died before I entered the lineage), is through his books. It is impossible for me to overstate the power these teachings have had and continue to have in my life. They altered my trajectory completely into a far richer and more powerful place than it seemed I was headed for. (I might still be a bartender in Texas, who knows.) (Not that there was anything wrong with that.)

This may be the world’s biggest cop-out, I get that. And it is easy for me to say, as I have never experienced sexual misconduct or a power trip from Sakyong Mipham. I have compassion for the individuals mentioned in the report and am horrified on their behalf. There can be no excuse for such behavior and nothing in here is intended as such. However, when I examine myself for what I know to be true, this is what I find. I think that is always a good place to start.

Editorial note on Jul 3: I removed this paragraph for three reasons. One, I realized it could easily be misconstrued as a way to excuse inexcusable behavior. Two, I was being wishy-washy. My reasoning was murky and more applicable to my relationship with Chogyam Trungpa than Sakyong Mipham. Chogyam Trungpa is not the issue here, Sakyong Mipham is. Three, it hurt someone’s feelings and she was right to be hurt. I APOLOGIZE.

It’s really great that Piver removed and apologized for this graf, which was odious. It suggested that if a member didn’t have personal contact with either of these leaders, their verifiable experience would be limited. If, as in Piver’s case, the institutional or literary contact was non-abusive, this should be the starting-point for discussion.

This is (was) an isolating message, encouraging an individualistic and solipsistic relationship to “community” in which private experiences and interpretations are valued above all. Surely that “all” must include and privilege the experiences of victims. For more on this, the concept of “I got mine-ism” might be helpful.


Two: Make your personal practice the very center of your life.

What I tell myself (and you) is this: Do what you need to do to deepen your practice. Period. That is the only thing that matters. If it is to practice for longer, do that. If it to retreat into study, do that. If it is to leave and study elsewhere, do that. If it is to be utterly confused and uncertain about what to do, do that. Your practice is the teacher. Your inner wisdom is always, always present.

If this letter is addressed to “friends, students, and the Shambhala Sangha”, what practice is it referring to, other than techniques and methods and sentiments that are inspired by the organization itself? What does “your personal practice” mean when referring to something that has been derived from a seminary experience and a costly pyramid of workshop programmes and trainings? What is being asked here, really? Who has defined and conferred “inner wisdom”, and how can this be distinguished from the agency of the member? The letter holds out the possibility of leaving, but fails to acknowledge how terrifying that might be to people dependent upon the group. Nor does it point to resources beyond the practices that surely Chogyam Trungpa and his son were themselves practicing, and which offered their students no protection against institutional abuse.

Three. Protect your relationship to the teachings at all costs.

At my seminary, Sakyong Mipham tossed off what could have been heard as a throwaway line, but it implanted itself in my head. Paraphrasing: “In Tibet,” he said, “When it comes to the Guru, the conventional wisdom is to live three valleys away.” Three valleys! Close enough, presumably, to receive teachings and far enough to be insulated from the goings-on of the inner court/sausage machine. That’s for me, I thought, and I have kept my version of that distance.

Leaving aside the incongruence between the item and the explanation — “inner court/sausage machine”? Really? Is this letter telling us that abuse is inherent to the organization’s administration, but that this is to be expected? That it’s better to just eat the sausage, and not know where it comes from or how it’s made?

Four: Consider the institution and the teachings separately.

If you have lost trust in Shambhala, that is totally understandable. Some may even have lost trust in the teachings. In any case, it is important to hold Shambhala the institution separate from the Shambhala teachings. You may choose to keep both or to toss one and keep the other. Or opt out altogether. It is completely up to you and no one has the right to question your decision or tell you what to do.

This highly contradictory statement continues the attempt to separate form and content. It directs the member to do this, but then advocates personal choice.

Five: No one will save us.

I invite you to join me in contemplating the lojong slogan, “Abandon any hope of fruition.” There is no papa who is going to save us. While there are countless beings who know infinitely more than I—and when I encounter them, I will supplicate them for their wisdom and compassion—there is no one who can figure out my life for me. To hear that the Guru may be deeply flawed gives us the chance to give up such expectations once and for all. Stop looking for someone to rescue you. Focus on what is rather than what you hoped would be. Stop wishing there was another now. In this way, you make your heart and mind available to our world that needs you so much. I’m not saying we should not hold perpetrators accountable. We most definitely should. Hold Sakyong Mipham accountable in the conventional courts if you choose, but hold yourself accountable in the ethereal courts.

Meditation slogans won’t save us, either. Here the activities of social and political change are degraded as the infantile wishes of those who aren’t wise enough to recognize the innate goodness of the present moment. Wanting justice or even clear answers is conflated with “wishing there was another now.” Worse, such desires are said to limit one’s capacity to engage with real-world issues. This is not true. Wanting justice or clear answers is also a present and embodied state.

“To hear that the Guru may be deeply flawed gives us the chance to give up such expectations once and for all.”

Or, hearing that the Guru may be deeply flawed gives members the opportunity to examine how and why he ascended to power, and how he was enabled both materially and through his organization’s valuing of empty and perfect nowness, whilst relying on idealizations of magical pasts and futures for validation. It gives members the opportunity to ask where all their money and labour and emotional energy went, and how they might get some of it back.

The last line mobilizes a Mahayana teaching on the division between conventional and absolute reality to subtly degrade legal remedies, and then goes farther to make Tantric reference. “Hold yourself accountable in the ethereal courts,” will read like a thinly-veiled threat, unfortunately, to fully-ensconced Shambhala members. As a part of their “Vajrayana” commitment ceremonies, they have all been told about the horrible afterlife consequences of even thinking negatively about their Buddhist teachers.


Six. Hold your seat.

“Feel the feelings. Drop the story,” said Pema Chodron. It is very important to do this at a time when emotions are powerful. The more powerful, the more important. Fortunately, as practitioners we know exactly how to do this. Whether you feel rage, sorrow, numbness, all of the above, turn toward it immediately and lean in as deeply as you can—unless you are traumatized and/or triggered due to past abuses, in which case, DO NOT DO THIS. Meditation may actually be harmful. Please turn to whomever you can for help and feel the love of your sangha in whatever way you can. And know that my heart goes out to you so bad.

Otherwise, “feel the feelings” means something like locate it in your body and rest within the sensations as best you can. When thoughts arise: The Sakyong should be fired/we live in a patriarchy/I feel so sad for everyone…just as you do in meditation, let go. Return attention to the feelings until you are ready to stop. Trust yourself. Know that in so doing, you are priming the ground of power, not desperation.

Here the meditation techniques of Trungpa, Chodron, and the Shambhala organization are turned against against members who are merely thinking about ethics policies, social conditions, or even the pain of abuse victims.

This advice conflates transparency with aggression by acknowledging the feelings of abuse and betrayal as real while making the member responsible for resolving them. In applying this message to this circumstance, the letter suggests that “Yes, there is abuse, and it has real effects on you. Ultimately you alone are responsible for those effects. You’ve been given tools for neutralizing this pain. It’s your task to use them. When the feelings stop, through the use of our techniques, you will be more powerful.”


Seven. Dudes: check yourselves.

I haven’t exhaustively parsed the vast kaleidoscope of comments on the Shambhala Facebook page, although I have been following the threads as carefully as I can. Some things I’ve read have been truly helpful while others have really pissed me off or made me depressed. Cool. That’s how these things go. However, I can’t help but notice that the majority of voices calling for unilateral moves, making demands, and telling others what to do come from our friends with penises.

Men. Thank you for decrying the patriarchy. However, I would like to suggest that you consider taking yourselves out of the center of the conversation by asserting black-and-white opinions, calling for reprisals, airing condemnations, circulating petitions, and so on. Try to listen. Let other voices come to the fore. Consider asking more questions and issuing fewer proclamations. Many have said they wish for more female/feminine energy voices. This is one way to accomplish that. Otherwise you’re not going to get these voices to step into the conversation. This is not because we are fragile and we certainly do not need hand-holding but because the conversation will simply arise in a different way if you stop dominating it via edicts and mansplaining.

This is 101% my view and if my sisters and brothers want to dispute me on this, that would be awesome.

These points should be foregrounded as crucial to fostering women’s leadership in all yoga and dharma organizations. The content, however, is inconsistent in relation to nine items of top-down directive advice given by this very blog. Piver is drawing on content created within a dominance hierarchy that fantasizes about a heavenly monarchy headed by a transcendental king that will eventually rule the world.

Letting “other voices come to the fore” could first involve platforming Andrea Winn and her reporting subjects.

Also problematic is the parallelism here between “feminine energy” and the bias of Piver’s advice, which seeks to avoid taking a solid and active position in the face of systemic abuse, preferring internalized examination and silencing. Mansplaining is patriarchal, but dharmasplaining is not necessarily a feminist alternative.


Eight. Stop aiming your weapon at yourself.

This is something I have seen so many times, in myself, you, the planet. When we are upset about something, we do that exact thing in response. If it wasn’t so painful, it would be really funny. A made-up example:

Person 1: What you just said is so judgmental. Who made you the judge and jury? Stop telling me what to do.

Person 2: Wait. You just did all of those things.

Obviously, this is a silly example. but I have seen so many instances where we do exactly what we tell other people to stop doing and then wonder why the conversation isn’t going anywhere.

Conflict in such circumstances is often minimized as dramatic or childish. Here the letter is presents a high road voice, above it all. It presents the conflicting views as though their perspectives are equal, when in reality the main “sides” in authority crises in high-demand groups express a power disparity. Generally speaking, on one side are those who demand restorative justice, while the other side attempts to preserve power and order. This is not childish bickering, but a values dialectic that will be bitterly contested until the status quo changes or is re-established.

Nine. We’re on our own. And that’s okay.

It may seem like now we are on our own and it is up to each Shambhala person to bring the heart of the teachings to the world. It is true. But this has always been true. In no way is this meant as an excuse for the behavior attributed to Sakyong Mipham or to bypass the suffering of anyone who may have been harmed by him (which, to varying degrees, would be all of us). Do whatever you can to bring the teachings to life in your world with the support of the three jewels, however they arise for you.

“In no way is this meant as an excuse for the behavior attributed to Sakyong Mipham or to bypass the suffering of anyone who may have been harmed by him (which, to varying degrees, would be all of us).” Perhaps not. But what is the impact of writing over 2K words without referring to a single restorative action the author, her students, or the broader Shambhala sangha might take in relation to the victims of institutional and systemic abuse?

Here the concept of bypassing is addressed, which creates the impression that it is a studied and digested mechanism. This is belied by the teaching content of “letting go”. Lastly, the reinforcement of the value of privatized religion marks the overlap between the rise of Shambhala and the wave of neoliberal sentiment and politics in the Global North. I don’t know if “We’re on our own” was the message of Trungpa, but it certainly was the message of Thatcher and Reagan.


You got this. And speaking on behalf of all humanity, I implore you to take your seat with wisdom, compassion, and power.

Finally, please know that I am reevaluating my relationship to Shambhala (the institution, not the teachings). I don’t know what the future holds for me, although I am committed without question to the dharma, to you, and to my path as a student and a teacher.

I offer this post, not as an activist or jurist, but out of spiritual friendship.

This sign-off statement reminds readers that the letter is coming from a higher place, a place beyond agitating for reform or restorative justice, or enacting policies that would help prevent harm.

May it be of benefit.

Good luck everyone.

Love, Susan
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