Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexually as

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

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Christopher Dill, Petitioner v. The People of the State of Colorado, Respondent
by Supreme Court of Colorado
November 25, 1996



927 P.2d 1315 (1996)
Christopher DILL, Petitioner,
The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondent.
No. 95SC363.
Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc.

November 25, 1996.
Rehearing Denied December 16, 1996.
1316*1316 David F. Vela, Colorado State Public Defender, Thomas M. Van Cleave, III, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, for Petitioner.

Gale A. Norton, Attorney General, Stephen K. ErkenBrack, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Timothy M. Tymkovich, Solicitor General, John Daniel Dailey, Deputy Attorney General, Robert Mark Russel, First Assistant Attorney General, Robert M. Petrusak, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Enforcement Section, Denver, for Respondent.

Justice LOHR delivered the Opinion of the Court.

The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of conviction of Christopher Dale Dill (defendant) entered on a jury verdict finding him guilty of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust.[1] People v. Dill, 904 P.2d 1367 (Colo.App.1995). We granted certiorari to determine whether the court of appeals was correct in holding that the trial court properly denied the defendant's motion for discovery of any notes and reports made by a psychologist during or resulting from meetings with the alleged victim (the child). See Dill, 904 P.2d at 1371. We affirm the judgment of the court of appeals.


On March 6, 1992, the defendant was charged by information in Larimer County District Court with the class 3 felony of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust. See § 18-3-405(1),(2)(b), 8B C.R.S. (1986). The charge was based on an incident that occurred between June 1, 1988, and July 4, 1988.

At the time of the alleged assault, the child was six and one-half years old. She lived in Loveland with her mother, brother, and stepbrother. The defendant was staying with the family on weekends and was the biological father of the stepbrother.

The child testified at trial that the assault occurred late one weekend night when she went into the living room of the family apartment to lie on the couch. The defendant was in the living room. According to the child, the defendant laid down on the couch beside her and sexually assaulted her. The defendant then warned the child not to tell anyone or he might hurt her or her family. The child did not tell anyone about the assault at the time.

The child and her mother testified that the child first told her mother of the assault early in 1992 during a conversation precipitated by the child's attendance at a school assembly. The mother reported the matter to the Loveland Police Department and took the child for a medical examination, the results of which indicated that she had been subjected to sexual penetration some time in the past.

On January 18, 1992, the mother took the child to a child psychologist to evaluate the child's report of sexual abuse. The psychologist talked with the mother and child for about ninety minutes on that occasion to establish rapport with the child. At that meeting, the psychologist referred generally to the sexual assault allegations but did not ask the child for specific information. On January 24, 1992, the psychologist met with 1317*1317 the child alone for about ninety minutes. During that meeting, which the psychologist tape-recorded, the child made several statements describing the sexual assault by the defendant in 1988. On the basis of information obtained in those two meetings, the psychologist prepared a written report dated February 24, 1992. She delivered both the written report and the tape recording of the January 24 interview to the Loveland Police Department. Thereafter, the psychologist met with the child from time to time for therapeutic purposes.

Prior to trial, defense counsel filed a Motion to Disclose Identity of and Information from Professionals, which included a request for disclosure of any information resulting from the initial meeting and any later contacts of the child with the psychologist. The motion also sought disclosure of notes, reports, and statements of the child generated by contacts with any therapist, alleging that "[a]ny therapist who is currently seeing [the child] has information that is potentially exculpatory in the form of statements by the victim and in the form of suggestions and reinforcement that have been given to the victim in the course of therapy." Prior to a hearing on the motion, the prosecution provided the defense with a copy of the psychologist's February 24 report and a partial transcript of the tape of the January 24 interview. The prosecution did not provide any notes or other materials from the January 18 interview or from the therapy sessions.[2] The court heard argument on the motion, during which defense counsel contended that any privilege attaching to the child's statements to the psychologist had been waived or, in the alternative, that the materials should be reviewed in camera by the court to search for inconsistent statements or any other information to which the defense was constitutionally entitled. The court granted discovery of material from the January 24 interview, "which basically was to assist the Loveland PD," but denied discovery of material from further interviews "that appear to the Court to have been therapeutic." The court made no specific mention of the January 18 interview.

On November 4, 1992, defense counsel moved to exclude the testimony of the psychologist, based in part upon alleged discovery violations. The defendant asserted that none of the psychologist's notes produced during the course of her ongoing therapeutic relationship with the child had been provided to the defense and that without such notes defense counsel could not fully cross-examine the psychologist, "especially on the issue of whether or not [the child] suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder." After hearing argument, in which defense counsel asserted the right to disclosure of all of the psychologist's notes concerning all meetings with the child, the court denied the motion without elaboration.

At trial, the psychologist testified to statements made by the child in the course of the January 24 interview concerning the sexual assault and expressed the opinion, as an expert in child psychology, that the child was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, the mother, the Loveland Police Department detective who interviewed the child, and the doctor who examined her testified to statements made to them by the child, describing the sexual assault. The child also testified to the assault. Although the child's out-of-court statements and her testimony at trial were consistent as to the location and circumstances of the assault and the identity of the assailant, the degree of detail concerning the assault varied among the different accounts.

The defendant testified on his own behalf and denied that he had ever assaulted the child. The defendant also presented evidence from a psychologist, qualified as an expert in the fields of mental health and sexual abuse, that he did not exhibit the majority of the characteristics accepted as traits usually demonstrated by sexual offenders, and friends offered testimony that commission of the offense was inconsistent with the defendant's character.

1318*1318 At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged. The trial court entered judgment sentencing the defendant to ten years imprisonment. On appeal, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of conviction. Dill, 904 P.2d at 1370, 1375. In doing so, the court rejected the defendant's argument that "the trial court erred in refusing to allow [the defendant] to examine the psychologist's notes and reports during her initial [January 18, 1992] and ongoing counseling sessions with the victim." Id. at 1371. The court noted that the defendant had received a copy of the psychologist's formal report and the notes used to prepare it and held that the child had not waived the psychologist-client privilege, § 13-90-107(1)(g), 6A C.R.S. (1987),[3] which protected communications between the child and the psychologist during ongoing therapeutic counseling sessions. The court of appeals also held that section 19-3-311(1), 8B C.R.S. (1996 Supp.), which abrogates the psychologist-client privilege as to communications between a victim and a psychologist that are the basis for a required report of child abuse under section 19-3-304, 8B C.R.S. (1996 Supp.), "does not concern communications relating to ongoing treatment of the victim." Dill, 904 P.2d at 1371. We granted certiorari to determine "[w]hether the trial court erred in refusing to allow discovery of [the psychologist's] notes and reports with respect to her meeting with the victim."


At the outset, it is important to identify the materials as to which the defendant asserts that he was erroneously denied access. The record is clear that the psychologist based her February 24, 1992, written report on both the initial January 18, 1992, interview and the January 24, 1992, interview. Well before trial, the defendant received the written report, as well as the psychologist's notes on the January 24 interview and a partial transcript of a tape recording of that interview. The prosecution also offered the defendant access to the tape recording during a pretrial hearing.

The record is also clear that the psychologist did not prepare an additional report based solely on the January 18 interview. The record does not establish whether the psychologist made notes at the January 18 interview or preserved a record of that interview in any other form. If materials from the January 18 interview exist, they were not provided to the defendant. In addition, the defendant was not provided with any materials relating to the therapy sessions attended by the child and the psychologist after January 24, 1992. It is these two groups of materials to which the defendant asserts he was wrongfully denied access in pretrial discovery proceedings.


We first address whether any notes taken by the psychologist during her initial interview with the child and her mother, held on January 18, 1992, should have been disclosed to the defendant. We hold that this issue has not been appropriately preserved for appellate review and that in any event the record does not indicate that the defendant was prejudiced by the inability to review any such notes.

Communications between a psychologist and a client in the course of professional employment are statutorily privileged. This privilege is delineated in section 13-90-107, which provides in relevant part as follows:

(1) There are particular relations in which it is the policy of the law to encourage confidence and to preserve it inviolate; therefore, a person shall not be examined as a witness in the following cases:
(g) A licensed psychologist[[4]] shall not be examined without the consent of his client 1319*1319 as to any communication made by the client to him or his advice given thereon in the course of professional employment....
§ 13-90-107(1)(g), 6A C.R.S. (1987).

A psychologist, however, "who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect... shall immediately report or cause a report to be made of such fact to the county department [of social services] or local law enforcement agency." §§ 19-3-304(1), -304(2)(p), 8B C.R.S. (1996 Supp.). Section 19-3-311 provides that the psychologist-client privilege does not apply to any communication that is the basis for a report under section 19-3-304, 8B C.R.S. (1996 Supp.). Section 19-3-311 states:

(1) The incident of privileged communication between patient and physician, between patient and registered professional nurse, or between any person licensed pursuant to article 43 of title 12, C.R.S., or certified school psychologist and client, which is the basis for a report pursuant to section 19-3-304, shall not be a ground for excluding evidence in any judicial proceeding resulting from a report pursuant to this part 3. In addition, privileged communication shall not apply to any discussion of any future misconduct or of any other past misconduct which could be the basis for any other report under section 19-3-304.
§ 19-3-311(1), 8B C.R.S. (1996 Supp.).

In the present case, the psychologist testified that the purpose of the January 18 and January 24 interviews was for a therapeutic evaluation of the child. The psychologist explained that such an evaluation addresses whether the child was sexually abused, if so by whom, and how the child has dealt with the experience. The psychologist relied upon both the January 18 and January 24 interviews in preparing a written psychological report, which was provided to law enforcement authorities. The report included the child's statements describing the sexual assault and identifying the defendant as the perpetrator. At trial, the psychologist testified that her opinion, expressed in her report and in her testimony, that the child suffered from post traumatic stress disorder was based upon the two initial meetings with the child. Under these circumstances, we conclude that any psychologist-client privilege that may otherwise have been applicable with respect to the communications between the child and the psychologist during the January 18 and January 24 meetings was abrogated under section 19-3-311.

The evidence is clear that the only report made by the psychologist was the one dated February 24, 1992, based on the interviews of January 18 and 24 of that year. The prosecution provided the defense with copies of that report and a partial transcript of the January 24 interview. The prosecution also offered the defense access to the audiotape of the January 24 interview at a motions hearing prior to trial. The only materials from the initial interviews not provided to the defense were any notes taken by the psychologist at the January 18 interview. The defendant asserts that any such notes should have been provided to him under Crim. P. 16. However, notwithstanding opportunities to inquire into the existence of such notes at pretrial motions hearings, defense counsel did not seek such information, and the record does not disclose whether the psychologist made such notes. Under these circumstances, the defendant has not properly preserved this issue for review. See Moses v. Diocese of Colo., 863 P.2d 310, 319 n. 10 (Colo.1993) (with few exceptions, issues not properly preserved in the trial court may not be asserted on appeal), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 114 S.Ct. 2153, 128 L.Ed.2d 880 (1994); Denver Decorators, Inc. v. Twin Teepee Lodge, Inc., 163 Colo. 343, 348, 431 P.2d 8, 10 (1967) ("`As a general rule, in order to preserve for review an objection to the exclusion of evidence, a pertinent and proper question must be asked ....'") (emphasis added) (quoting 4 C.J.S. Appeal and Error § 291).

1320*1320 Moreover, the record does not suggest that the defendant was prejudiced by lack of access to any notes from the January 18 interview. The psychologist testified that the sexual assault at issue was discussed only in a very general way at the first meeting. She testified that the meeting was used to develop rapport with the child and to put her at ease. The psychologist prepared a report based on both interviews, and this report was provided to the defense. Under these circumstances, and particularly in view of the prosecutor's obligation under Crim. P. 16 to provide such notes in the prosecution's possession,[5] and the absence of any indication that this obligation was not satisfied, we do not believe that reversal is required to provide the defendant yet another opportunity to inquire whether such notes exist. Cf. People v. Alonzi, 40 Colo.App. 507, 511-12, 580 P.2d 1263, 1267 (1978) (denial of motion for judgment of acquittal sustained where undercover agent had destroyed notes of initial telephone conversation with defendant but prosecution provided defendant with tape recordings of six subsequent conversations between the agent and the defendant, as well as a report based on all the conversations), aff'd, 198 Colo. 160, 597 P.2d 560 (1979).

For the foregoing reasons, we hold that reversal is not required to provide the defendant another opportunity to inquire into the existence of the psychologist's notes from the January 18 meeting with the child.


We next address whether notes taken by the psychologist during therapy sessions with the child subsequent to the January 24, 1992, interview should have been provided to the defense. We hold that such disclosure was not required.

The psychologist's testimony makes clear that her February 24, 1992, written report was based solely on the January 18 and January 24 evaluation sessions. Thereafter, the psychologist met with the child periodically to provide therapy to assist the child in coming to terms with the sexual assault. The child's communications with the psychologist during those sessions were subject to the psychologist-client privilege under section 13-90-107(1)(g). The defendant, however, contends that the trial court erroneously denied discovery of any notes made by the psychologist during those sessions. The defendant argues that the privilege was abrogated, and predicates that contention on three bases: (1) construction of section 19-3-311 to effect a waiver of the psychologist-client privilege, (2) actual waiver of the privilege by the child, and (3) a constitutional right to discovery that overrides the privilege. We address these arguments in the order listed.


We are not persuaded that section 19-3-311 should be construed to abrogate the privilege for communications between the psychologist and the child during the therapy sessions following the psychologist's report of child abuse under section 19-3-304. The psychologist satisfied her obligation to report child abuse in this case by providing her written report to the local law enforcement agency. See § 19-3-304, 8B C.R.S. (1996 Supp.). The report was based solely on the January 18 and January 24 interviews. Only those interviews, therefore, provided an "incident of privileged communication"[6] that "is the basis for a report pursuant to section 19-3-304," and were therefore not protected by the psychologist-client privilege from use in evidence in the defendant's trial. See § 19-3-311(1), 8B C.R.S. (1996 Supp.).

The defendant, however, argues that section 19-3-311 totally abrogates the psychologist-client privilege if a psychologist makes a section 19-3-304 report that leads to legal proceedings. He predicates that proposed construction on the final sentence of section 19-3-311, which negates the privilege as to 1321*1321 "any discussion of any future misconduct or of any other past misconduct which could be the basis for any other report under section 19-3-304." § 19-3-311(1), 8B C.R.S. (1996 Supp.). "[O]ther past misconduct which could be the basis for any other report under section 19-3-304," however, plainly relates to misconduct other than that which was the basis for the "report pursuant to section 19-3-304" first referred to in section 19-3-311. In construing a statute, we must give effect to the intent of the General Assembly. Farmers Group, Inc. v. Williams, 805 P.2d 419, 422 (Colo.1991). "[W]e must choose a construction that serves the purpose of the legislative scheme, and must not strain to give language other than its plain meaning, unless the result is absurd." Id. (quoting Colorado Dep't of Social Servs. v. Board of Comm'rs, 697 P.2d 1, 18 (Colo.1985)). Applying these principles we construe section 19-3-311 to abrogate the psychologist-client privilege for only those communications upon which a report required by section 19-3-304 is based. Later communications between the psychologist and the client relating to the same incident that occasioned the earlier report are not subject to statutory waiver of the privilege under section 19-3-311. Cf. People v. District Court, 743 P.2d 432, 435 (Colo.1987) (a statute eliminating the physician-patient and husband-wife privileges in prosecutions for sexual offenses did not eliminate other statutory privileges because "[i]f the General Assembly had intended [the statute] to eliminate all statutory privileges ... it could have used the broad language required to express that intent.") (internal citation omitted).

Our construction of section 19-3-311 is bolstered by the strong public policy that we have recognized promoting psychotherapy for sexual assault victims. See People v. District Court, 719 P.2d 722, 726-27 (Colo. 1986) ("[T]he purpose of the statutory psychologist-patient privilege is to aid in the effective diagnosis and treatment of mental illness by encouraging the patient to fully disclose information to the psychologist without fear of embarrassment or humiliation caused by disclosure of such confidential information."). For that reason, prior to enactment of section 19-3-311 we stated that "the only basis for authorizing a disclosure of the confidential information is an express or an implied waiver." Id. at 727 (quoting Clark v. District Court, 668 P.2d 3, 9 (Colo. 1983)).

The legislative declaration for the Child Protection Act of 1987, §§ 19-3-301 to -316, 8B C.R.S. (1996 Supp.), of which section 19-3-311 is a part, provides further support for our construction of section 19-3-311. The legislative declaration provides that in adopting that act, "it is the intent of the general assembly to protect the best interests of the children of this state and to offer protective services in order to prevent any further harm to a child suffering from abuse." § 19-3-302, 8B C.R.S. (1996 Supp.). In view of the fact that the psychologist-client privilege is also designed to encourage a patient to seek counseling with the assurance that all communications will be kept confidential, see People v. District Court, 719 P.2d at 726, a conclusion that section 19-3-311 negates the psychologist-client privilege for post-report therapeutic communication would be inconsistent with the legislature's intent to shield a child victim from further harm. We therefore agree with the court of appeals that "the victim's psychologist-patient privilege afforded to her by § 13-90-107(1)(g) was not abrogated by statute with respect to ongoing treatment," and that the trial court did not err in denying discovery of the psychologist's notes with respect to ongoing treatment sessions with the child. Dill, 904 P.2d at 1371.[7]


The defendant argues that the child impliedly waived the psychologist-client privilege for all purposes by permitting the 1322*1322 psychologist to testify at trial about the diagnosis that the child suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and by turning over to the defense the psychologist's written report, and notes from the January 24 evaluation session. These acts, according to the defendant, constituted an injection of the child's mental condition into the case and hence waived any claim of psychologist-client privilege. Cf. Clark, 668 P.2d at 10 (injection of a privilege-holder's mental condition into proceedings as a basis of a claim or affirmative defense waives the privilege with respect to communications with professionals concerning such condition). We disagree.

The record is clear that the psychologist based her opinion concerning post-traumatic stress disorder solely on the January 18 and January 24, 1992, evaluation sessions. Communications in those sessions and notes and reports based on such communications were not privileged by reason of the statutory abrogation of the privilege by section 19-3-311. See supra at 1320-21. Therefore, the use of these materials by the prosecution did not require any waiver, express or implied, by the child.[8]


We next address the issue of whether the United States Supreme Court's decision in Pennsylvania v. Ritchie, 480 U.S. 39, 107 S.Ct. 989, 94 L.Ed.2d 40 (1987), requires that we reexamine our holding in People v. District Court, 719 P.2d 722 (1986), concerning a defendant's right of access to a victim's post-assault psychotherapy records. In that case we held that

where ... the victim has not waived the [psychologist-client] privilege afforded her by section 13-90-107(1)(g), the defendant is not entitled to examine the victim's post-assault psychotherapy records or to have the trial court review such records in camera on the basis that the records might possibly reveal statements of fact that differ from the anticipated testimony of the victim at trial.
People v. District Court, 719 P.2d at 727. We rejected the defendant's argument that some access to the victim's therapy records was required under the Confrontation Clauses of the United States and Colorado constitutions. Id. at 726-27. Noting Colorado's strong public policy interest in encouraging sexual assault victims to obtain psychotherapy, we stated that absent waiver or a "particularized factual showing ... that access to the privileged communications of the victim is necessary for the effective exercise of [the] right of confrontation," it is error even for the trial court to review such communications in camera. Id. at 727.

A year after we decided People v. District Court, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Ritchie. In that case, Ritchie was charged with various sexual offenses against his thirteen-year-old daughter. Ritchie, 480 U.S. at 43, 107 S.Ct. at 994. During pretrial discovery, Ritchie sought access to the file of a Pennsylvania agency ("CYS"), which had investigated the charges and other reports of alleged abuse. Id. The agency refused to turn over the file, arguing that the information contained therein was privileged under a Pennsylvania statute. Id.

At the outset of its opinion, the Supreme Court rejected Ritchie's argument that his lack of access to the file would interfere with his right effectively to cross-examine his daughter under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment. Id. at 51-54, 107 S.Ct. at 998-1000. The Court stated, much as we had stated in People v. District Court, that the Confrontation Clause only guarantees an opportunity for effective cross-examination, not access to every possible source of information relevant to cross-examination. Id. at 53-54, 107 S.Ct. at 999-1000.

1323*1323 Although the Court found no Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause violation, it held that Ritchie's due process right to a fair trial required that the CYS file be subject to the trial court's in camera review.[9] Id. at 60, 107 S.Ct. at 1002-03. In reaching this decision, the Court noted that "[i]t is well settled that the government has the obligation to turn over evidence in its possession that is both favorable to the accused and material to guilt or punishment." Id. at 57, 107 S.Ct. at 1001 (citing United States v. Agurs, 427 U.S. 97, 96 S.Ct. 2392, 49 L.Ed.2d 342 (1976); Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 1196-97, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963)). "`Evidence is material only if there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A "reasonable probability" is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.' " Ritchie 480 U.S. at 57, 107 S.Ct. at 1001 (quoting United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 682, 105 S.Ct. 3375, 3383-84, 87 L.Ed.2d 481 (1985) (opinion of Blackmun, J.) and citing id. at 685, 105 S.Ct. at 3385 (White, J., concurring in part and concurring in the judgment)).

The Court then observed that there is a strong public interest in protecting the type of sensitive information to be found in the CYS records, but noted that the Pennsylvania legislature itself had provided that such information is to be disclosed in certain circumstances, including when CYS is directed by court order to do so. Ritchie, 480 U.S. at 58, 107 S.Ct. at 1001-02. The Court concluded that under Pennsylvania law, "[i]n the absence of any apparent state policy to the contrary, we therefore have no reason to believe that relevant information would not be disclosed when a court of competent jurisdiction determines that the information is `material' to the defense of the accused." Id.

The Court, however, disagreed with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's holding that defense counsel must be allowed to examine all of the confidential information, both relevant and irrelevant, and present arguments in favor of disclosure. Id. at 59, 107 S.Ct. at 1002. The Court noted that where the defendant makes only a general request for exculpatory material under Brady, "it is the State that decides which information must be disclosed. Unless defense counsel becomes aware that other exculpatory evidence was withheld and brings it to the court's attention, the prosecutor's decision on disclosure is final." Id. (footnote omitted). The Court therefore held that the defendant's interest and that of the state "in ensuring a fair trial can be protected fully by requiring that the CYS files be submitted only to the trial court for in camera review." Id. at 60, 107 S.Ct. at 1003. That procedure, the Court determined, is required to avoid unnecessarily sacrificing the state's "compelling interest" in protecting its child-abuse information and to prevent "a seriously adverse effect on Pennsylvania's efforts to uncover and treat abuse." Id. Such an effect might well result if a child does not "have a state-designated person to whom he may turn ... with the assurance of confidentiality," or if relatives and neighbors who suspect abuse are not offered confidentiality in presenting their information. Id. at 60-61, 107 S.Ct. at 1002-03.

We are persuaded that the present case is distinguishable from Ritchie in certain critical respects. First, the information in question is not provided to a state agency. It is provided by the child to a treating psychologist for the purpose of treating the consequences of abuse. We have recognized that "the purpose of the statutory psychologist-patient privilege is to aid in the effective diagnosis and treatment of mental illness by encouraging the patient to fully disclose information to the psychologist without fear of embarrassment or humiliation caused by disclosure of such confidential information" and that "it is of paramount importance to assure a victim of a sexual assault that all records of any treatment will remain confidential unless otherwise directed by the victim." People v. District Court, 719 P.2d at 726-27. We have 1324*1324 observed as well that "[t]he knowledge that the alleged assailant would be entitled to discover these otherwise privileged documents could hamper a victim's treatment progress because of her unwillingness to be completely frank and open with the psychotherapist." Id. at 727. In sum, the information in question is not collected by the state, is disclosed only to a psychologist, and requires a higher level of confidentiality in order to achieve the open communication upon which successful therapeutic treatment depends.

Second, the legislative exception to the confidentiality provided by the psychologist-client privilege is relatively narrow. As earlier explained, supra at 1320-22, under section 19-3-311 the privilege does not extend to communications that provide the basis for a statutorily required report of child abuse under section 19-3-304. But, as we have construed the statute, see supra at 1320-21, this partial abrogation of the privilege does not extend to communications concerning the same incident of child abuse that occasioned the earlier report. If additional incidents of abuse are disclosed in communications between a psychologist and child during treatment, section 19-3-311 may require that the psychologist report such additional incidents, and the communications that generated such reports would not be privileged. See § 19-3-311(1), 8B C.R.S. (1996 Supp.). This partial abrogation of the privilege represents a legislative judgment that the importance of discovering and addressing child abuse justifies this limited intrusion on confidentiality.

In Ritchie, however, the statute included as one of the exceptions to confidentiality circumstances in which CYS was directed by court order to disclose information in its file. 480 U.S. at 57-58, 107 S.Ct. at 1001-02. Such an exception suggested the necessity for judicial inspection and evaluation of the contents of the CYS file to identify material information. See id. at 58, 107 S.Ct. at 1001-02. The exception to confidentiality created by section 19-3-311 is much narrower. It necessarily depends on the psychologist to report child abuse and does not contemplate judicial review of all the psychologist's notes to determine whether such report is required.[10] Accordingly, we are not persuaded that Ritchie requires an in camera inspection of a psychologist's notes of post-report therapeutic sessions with the child to ascertain whether information material to the defense might have been disclosed by the child.[11]

The facts of this case reinforce our conclusion that an in camera inspection of the psychologist's notes is not required here. The child's testimony at trial was consistent in all material respects with her statements to the psychologist in the January 24 interview. Although her account of the assault has varied somewhat in the degree of detail that she provided to the various witnesses who testified as to her pretrial statements, she has never suggested doubt about the fact of the assault, its location and circumstances, or the identity of the assailant. The defendant asserts nothing more than a desire to conduct a fishing expedition in the hope of discovering material exculpatory information that he has no reason to believe will be found. As we said in People v. District Court in assessing the right to examine such records for the purpose of effective cross-examination:

At the hearing below, the defendant argued that because the victim might have 1325*1325 told her therapist a different version of the events relating to the sexual assault than had been disclosed to police officials, access to the therapy records was necessary for full cross-examination of the victim. The vague assertion that the victim may have made statements to her therapist that might possibly differ from the victim's anticipated trial testimony does not provide a sufficient basis to justify ignoring the victim's right to rely upon her statutory privilege. In view of the strong policy embodied in the statute [recognizing the psychologist-client privilege], the limitation it imposes on the scope of cross-examination is justified.

719 P.2d at 726.[12] We concluded in People v. District Court by reemphasizing that:

There is a strong public policy interest in encouraging victims of sexual assaults to obtain meaningful psychotherapy. The defendant's constitutional right to confrontation is not so pervasive as to to [sic] place sexual assault victims in the untenable position of requiring them to choose whether to testify against an assailant or retain the statutory right of confidentiality in post-assault psychotherapy records.
Id. at 727.

We therefore reject the argument that Ritchie entitled the defendant to require the court to conduct an in camera examination of the notes of the psychologist taken during post-report therapy sessions with the child in a search for information relevant to the defense.


For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the judgment of the Colorado Court of Appeals.

[1] § 18-3-405(1), (2)(b), 8B C.R.S. (1986).

[2] At some point, the prosecution also provided the defense with notes taken by the psychologist at her January 24 interview with the child. The prosecution also observed at the hearing on the motion that the tape recording of the January 24 meeting was available to defense counsel.

[3] The statute recognizing the privilege refers to the parties as "psychologist" and "client," although the privilege is often referred to as the psychologist-patient privilege. See, e.g., Dill, 904 P.2d at 1371.

[4] The defendant asserts for the first time in this court that the privilege does not apply because the psychologist was not licensed. The evidence indicated that she has a doctorate in counseling psychology, pursued a post doctoral fellowship at the C. Henry Kempe Center at the University of Colorado Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics, interned for a year at the Adams County Mental Health Center, was qualified by the court as an expert in the field of child psychology, and had testified as an expert in that field on approximately fifty prior occasions. Because this issue was not raised in the trial court, we decline to address it.

[5] See Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(III), 16(a)(2); People v. Diefenderfer, 784 P.2d 741, 753 (Colo.1989) ("[T]he prosecutor is obligated to give [the defendant]... reports, statements, etc., of experts it intends to use.")

[6] We assume for purposes of discussion that the psychologist-client privilege would have applied to the communication but for § 19-3-311. We need not resolve that issue for the purposes of this opinion.

[7] A psychologist may have an obligation to make a further report under section 19-3-311 should the psychologist obtain in the course of therapy information about the assault materially at variance with the psychologist's report under that section. In this case there is no suggestion of such a situation, for the child's trial testimony was consistent in all material respects with the information she provided to the psychologist in the January 18 and January 24, 1992, evaluation sessions.

[8] The court of appeals stated that only the holder of a privilege can waive it and, implicitly, that the child did not waive the privilege because it was the prosecution, not the child, that accomplished the acts that injected the child's mental condition into the case. See Dill, 904 P.2d at 1371. This overlooks the possibility of implied waiver in circumstances where the holder of the privilege, by words or conduct, consents to the disclosure of the privileged information. See People v. District Court, 719 P.2d at 725. We need not explore the issue of implied waiver, for here the acts relied on by the defendant to effect waiver related to the use of unprivileged material, which did not require the child's consent.

[9] The Court elected not to analyze Ritchie's claim under the Compulsory Process Clause framework because the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause established "a clear framework for review," and the Compulsory Process Clause "provides no greater protections in this area than those afforded by due process." Ritchie, 480 U.S. at 56, 107 S.Ct. at 1001.

[10] Section 19-3-304(1) provides that it is the reasonable suspicion of the psychologist (or other person listed under section 19-3-304(2)) which precipitates the requirement of a child abuse report. If the psychologist makes no such report, the psychologist-client privilege remains intact and no judicial inspection of a psychologist's notes is statutorily authorized.

[11] A construction of § 19-3-311 that allows judicial inspection of psychotherapy notes even where no child abuse report has been filed, aside from taxing judicial resources, would undermine the purposes of both the psychologist-client privilege and the Child Protection Act of 1987. A patient who has visited a psychologist for counseling would simply have no assurance that communications will not later be subject to examination. See e.g., People v. Foggy, 121 Ill.2d 337, 118 Ill.Dec. 18, 24, 521 N.E.2d 86, 92 (1988) (allowing a trial judge access to all counseling records of a sexual assault victim "would seriously undermine the valuable, beneficial services of those [rape crisis counseling] programs that are within the protection of the statute."), cert. denied, Foggy v. Illinois, 486 U.S. 1047, 108 S.Ct. 2044, 100 L.Ed.2d 628 (1988).

[12] Other jurisdictions have also required, post-Ritchie, that in order to overcome a therapist-client privilege, a defendant must make more than vague assertions that counseling sessions might contain communications with impeachment value. See Foggy, 118 Ill.Dec. at 23-24, 521 N.E.2d at 91-92 (in view of the strong policy in favor of confidentiality and the fact that the defendant had access to an "array" of unprivileged statements made by the witness, a general request for in camera inspection of counseling records was insufficient); Goldsmith v. State, 337 Md. 112, 651 A.2d 866, 876 (1995) ("[I]n assessing a defendant's right to privileged records, the required showing must be more than the fact that the records `may contain evidence useful for impeachment on cross-examination. This need might exist in every case involving an accusation of criminal sexual conduct.'") (quoting People v. Stanaway, 446 Mich. 643, 521 N.W.2d 557, 576 (1994), cert. denied, Michigan v. Caruso, ___U.S. ___, 115 S.Ct. 923, 130 L.Ed.2d 802 (1995)).
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Sat Aug 24, 2019 2:37 am

Supporting Enlightened “Care and Conduct”
by Irene Vliegenthart
Shambhala Times
May 29, 2009



The Shambhala Care and Conduct document is based on the view that the Shambhala mandala is committed to creating enlightened society. As well, the members of the Shambhala community are inspired by the teachings to conduct themselves in a manner that brings forth the wisdom of enlightenment as part of a society where people naturally care for themselves and each other.

It happens in any society that misunderstandings cause conflicts between people. The wisdom of the Buddha families teaches us that people of the five families will experience life’s events in different ways. Meditation practice shows us clearly how clever we are at building emotions and concepts out of our experiences. Next, with the help of more or less strong emotions, we make our concepts known to others who may well have developed other ideas about the same occurrence or situation. Usually disagreements between people can be overcome by listening and talking to each other and reaching an understanding about each other’s point of view. But, as we all know, more serious differences of opinion can occur, followed by words and acts that hurt others.

“The Care and Conduct Process” has been developed to deal with and learn from such painful situations between people in the community. The process works with conflicts and complaints with a view of respecting the dignity of everyone involved.

The process of bringing a situation to the path applies to the person who caused distress as well as to the person on the receiving end. Much honesty, fearlessness and forgiving of self and other is asked of people going through the process, as well as compassionate understanding and mediation skills from the people who accompany the process. These issues obviously often take some time to resolve.

People to ask for help locally in dealing with conflicts or misbehavior can be your meditation instructor, a dekyong, a desung, the shambhala center director or anyone in a leadership position in your Shambhala centre whom you trust. Seriously inquiring about a situation with the right person is always better than looking the other way or putting the incident under the carpet.

If a problem cannot be resolved locally or if a complaint is made against a person holding a leadership position in Shambhala, the International Care and Conduct Panel will be asked to help. The panel consists of three people representing the three pillars of Shambhala: the church, the government and the Dorje Kasung. The current panel members are Acharya Dale Asrael, who recently replaced Acharya Christie Cashman; John Sennhauser, representing the government (Office of the Sakyong), who has been a member since the initiation of the panel; and Irene Vliegenthart, the Desung officer on the panel (she replaced the Desung General, Simon LaHaye, in 2005).

Being part of a care and conduct process means practicing the wisdom of the “Four Dharmas of Gampopa” constantly and closely. During such a process we practice to keep our mind awake or “one with the dharma.” And we ask, “May the path clarify confusion, and may confusion dawn as wisdom.” It is also a strong reminder of the slogan of level III of Shambhala Training: “We never give up on anybody.”


Right communication is the skillful means used in a process of bringing understanding where confusion reigns. In order to keep the lines of communication clear and not add to the weight and confusion of the process, everyone involved is asked to keep the meetings confidential. It is not helpful to receive too many opinions, and gossip can especially create confusion and difficulties in the process.


The practice of protecting the third jewel started in 1984 when Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche asked Dapon M, Dennis Southward in Boulder to start caring for sangha members in difficult situations. In 1995, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche empowered Simon La Haye as the Desung General on the Dorje Kasung Command Group and the International Care and Conduct Panel was instigated by president Reoch in 2002.

Signing a Code of Conduct

For some years now, participants have been asked to sign a code of conduct during the registration for larger Shambhala programs. This new and simple action has made the sangha aware that some rules are helpful in creating a space where people know how to fully take part and not be a nuisance to other participants. The other reason for signing the code is that Shambhala needs to operate within the laws of the hosting country.

Signing a code of conduct makes us aware that we need rules if we want to live together in the often heightened situations of programs where everyone depends on each other. The idea is to treat everyone in a way that respects their humanness and dignity. But because participants will all have different needs and opinions, general rules are laid down that fit particular teaching situations best.

Not accepting misbehavior and making sure it is brought forward to the right person needs to happen because we individually need to work with the dark corners of our minds. Together we should take care that our Shambhala centers are safe and healthy places for anybody who wants to come: women, men, children, teenagers, old dogs, new students–in short anyone who wants to connect to the vision of basic goodness.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Sat Aug 24, 2019 2:44 am

“The Sakyong has something for you…”
by President Richard Reoch
October 31, 2009 – 10:00 am



Emily Sell, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s editor, recalls how the composition of the Treatise on Society and Organization occurred:

“I was just settling into an airplane ride when someone sat down in the seat beside me. It was Rinpoche. He had moved from first class to coach in order to dictate a letter to the President. I believe it may have been inspired by a conversation with Dapon Dennis Southward the night before. The next day, more dictation, read-alouds, and editing took place all over New York City, including in the tearoom of the Carlyle Hotel, with a number of different people. That evening Richard Reoch heard it for the first time.”

“The Sakyong has something for you,” Emily told me. We were in New York in the midst of his Turning the Mind into an Ally book tour. It was March 2003.

We were ushered into the rooms where the Sakyong was staying and I sat on the floor at his feet. After a short silence, he nodded to Emily and she began reading the Treatise on Society and Organization, which he had dictated to her the night before.

The treatise takes the form of a communication from the Sakyong to the President, offering a vision of how Shambhala society will take shape and giving his heart advice for achieving that. Although it was originally addressed to me, it is clearly meant as a vision and advice for all of us, since one of its central themes is that we are all responsible for the manifestation of Shambhala society.

The Sakyong first asked that the key elements of the treatise be read aloud to centre directors throughout the mandala, rather in the manner of giving them the traditional oral transmission that opens the path to study and practice of a text. This was done through a series of meetings and conference calls. It was then made available to centre directors and others in a pre-publication format. I am delighted that Shambhala Media is now formally publishing it online at the time of the Fourth Shambhala Congress which has as its theme “Exploring Community”.

Compassion is the golden thread that binds the tapestry of the treatise together. “As members of Shambhala society,” the Sakyong writes, “it is our constant responsibility to be generating compassion on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Compassion is our life blood.”

This the ground of the Sakyong’s vision. The Shambhala society he depicts is not another version of Utopia. Quite the opposite.

“To my mind,” he writes, “ in this society, imperfection is the fuel that allows us to generate genuine compassion…It is not a matter of who is right and wrong, or did what and when. Our responsibility is always to reflect back to see if the ember of bodhichitta is still burning in our hearts, for this is the flame that we proudly and gladly pass on to fellow sentient beings.”

The emphasis of the treatise is on Shambhala society, rather than the organizational infrastructure that delivers programming and services. He acknowledges the importance of caring for the organization, but the goal is to welcome newcomers into Shambhala society. “They will be welcomed into a community – rather than an organization,” he writes, “in which their own transformation and personal participation is a key element and building block for the entire endeavour.”

Many of the threads that run through the treatise reflect the earthy wisdom that has emerged at the previous Shambhala Congresses and that have led to the strong emphasis on community as the theme of this year’s Congress. Indeed, most of the major international working groups that have been established and form much of the fabric of the govering Sakyong’s Council arose from aspirations expressed at the Congresses. Their work is entirely in line with the Sakyong’s vision set out in the Treatise.

“There are many issues that we need to face from a societal point of view,” he writes. “These are human realities, and although we may wish that the organization could solve them, the solutions are rooted in the interaction between members of the society. Death, sickness, trauma and other critical junctures in people’s lives are events than can be supported and nurtured through advice and care by a society that is sensitive to its own members…Individuals need to know that in terms of whatever may be occurring in their lie, there are others who care and aspects of the society that will help them traverse their particular dilemma.”

Personally, I turn to the Treatise again and again for guidance. I carry it with me on my travels throughout the mandala. One of my deepest aspirations is that I could serve, in some way, to bring its wisdom more fully into being. I am thankful to Emily for editing the original and making it possible to have it online in this format. Making these heart instructions so much more accessible will enable all of us to refresh and deepen our everyday practice and understanding of the meaning of Shambhala.

Richard Reoch
President of Shambhala
October 2009

“This innate enlightened society and natural wish to communicate is demonstrated when we kiss.”

-- The Treatise on Enlightened Society, by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Sat Aug 24, 2019 2:48 am

Jump the Gun
by Dan Peterson, Kadöm Desung Care and Conduct Officer
March 21, 2015 – 12:58 am



I turned on the AM radio while driving and was hooked. There was a shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School and five students were dead. The school was on lock-down and First Responders were on the scene, as well as local media.

Law enforcement officers went from classroom to classroom, securing portions of the large sprawling campus. Intermittently classes were released to run about a quarter mile across open fields, across a rural road to a small church, where parents were waiting to meet their children.

I have a friend who is a special education administrator at the Marysville School District. She contacted a few of us who have backgrounds in special education, developmental disabilities, and mental health to be at the High School to provide support on the first day it reopened after the shooting.

My wife asked what I would be doing by going in on the first day. I was very grateful to recall a Desung Training I desung1attended with Dapon H Simon La Haye. He said to drop all your tricks, all the expertise. It just gets in the way. To be truthful I couldn’t think of any tricks to bring to this tragedy – just a broken heart and a willingness to be present.

Marysville is about an hour’s drive north of Seattle. When the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. it was raining and dark. Sometimes I wake from a quilted cocoon, and crawl into the morning cocoon of coffee, newspaper, and National Public Radio news. But this morning there was nothing familiar to crawl into.

In the early grey dawn I could see that Marysville homes and businesses were decked out with hand-made signs, some with flowers, ribbons or balloons attached. “We Love You, Marysville-Pilchuck”, “The Alumni Association Supports Our Students,” “Marysville Loves Our Students.” A quarter mile chain link fence bordering one side of the high school campus was completely covered by ribbons, flowers and signs. I later learned that community members and families who didn’t know what they could offer spent the weekend decorating the fence.

I parked and walked towards the main office to sign in. Busses were pulling up and letting out students. Each person arriving was greeted by more students waiting to give hugs, shake hands, and sometimes share tears. I had to pull myself together after witnessing this communal display of love and kindness before entering the school. I busied myself with signing in, getting a name tag, and greeting friends who were arriving to volunteer.

In Desung Training it is said that we are never off duty. Instead of writing about a school shooting, this account could just as well be about the fearless warrior opening the back door of the car and cleaning the papers and miscellany that accumulates there over time. Or about getting up at night to feed the baby, or kissing one’s partner before going to work.

During the shooting, which occurred in the school cafeteria, a first year teacher saw the gun, and saw the students being shot. She saw the young student with the gun raise the weapon and put it to his head. She ran towards him and yelled “No! Stop!”

I was assigned to sit in on several classes. Without a plan it was easy to make friends. I sat with a fellow and we colored in a thank you poster to send to Arlington High School. They had sent 1200 hand-written notes from each student to the students at Marysville-Pilchuck. Later I accompanied two students who had a job going from classroom to classroom to collect recycling. The school campus has a number of buildings with classrooms that let out into the outdoors rather than into interior hallways. As we walked from class to class I looked out at the fields surrounding the school. It was drizzling, and low mists came down to the damp ground. I was glad for the company of the two students, and I think they were happy to have me there as well. There was a palpable fear in that space between the buildings.

desung pinIn the last class the teacher read a story about a high school girl who lost her mother to cancer. The teacher wanted to use that as a springboard to discuss the school shooting. It was very difficult for several students. One student, who might be on the autism spectrum, raised his hand. He said “My friend is having a problem talking about this so I want to explain something. It is called ‘train of thought’. You started reading about death, and she thought about her friends who died in the cafeteria, and now she is crying. So one thought reminds her of something else, and that is called ‘train of thought’.”

Another student talked about being bullied, and how he has a dream that he can run faster than the wind to a hill in the distance where he has a hiding spot. Fantasies of being a wind runner, a martial arts expert, or packing a gun naturally come to mind when day-dreaming about life-threatening situation. David Whitehorn says that as Desung, which means ‘bliss protector’, we don’t really protect bliss. Bliss doesn’t need protection. What we protect is the capacity to experience basic goodness, protecting avenues so that we can remain open to each other. Our reactive fantasies shield us from a reality that might be just too vivid, however it helps to see them for what they are. Several students had a very difficult time discussing death, and I took them from class and walked with them down to the counseling center set up for students who needed a safe place to be.

The teacher then started a frank discussion about the incident. He said that when the lock-down was ordered, he discovered that he could not lock the classroom doors. He set up a curtain in the back of the room and had the students stay behind the curtain, while he stood by the door to hold it shut. The lock-down lasted four and a half hours, because the school had not updated the map of the campus to give to first responders, and several major changes had occurred on campus to accommodate growth in the last couple of years. Because of how long they were held in class a screen was set up in a corner of the classroom and a waste can with a plastic bag was set behind the screen to serve as a toilet. The shooting happened just before lunch, so the teacher opened up all the classroom treats to share as they waited.

As the discussion opened up the class became animated when they talked about seeing themselves on the news later that evening. They were filmed from a helicopter running from the school to the church. For the first time that day I heard some laughter as they teased the teacher, saying that they could recognize him running because of his bald head.

Our practices, teachings and teachers all work to soften and dissolve the barriers that separate us from others, from our world. I have condensed something Dapon M Dennis Southward said years ago at a Desung Training in Boston. It is something of a Desung slogan for me.

The war is over.
We are surrounded by the phenomenal world.
Our job is to surrender,
And to make offerings.

The next opportunity to learn more about the Desung view will occur April 10 – 12 in Tucson, Arizona. Desung Arm Commander Jan Jercinovic, Rupon and Dapon M Dennis Southward will be offering ‘Entering the Desung Path’. For more information go to: ... 45&cid=257

Dan Peterson has been a Dorje Kasung since 1980, and currently serves as a Desung Care and Conduct Officer. He lives in Ballard Heights in Seattle and works as a Mental Health Resource Manager for the State of Washington.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Sat Aug 24, 2019 2:52 am

Today’s Command
by Kusung Dapon Noel McLellan
July 23, 2010 – 1:51 pm



Kusung Dapon Noel McLellan writes about What’s What and Who’s Who in the Dorje Kasung. Unless labeled, all photos courtesy of Christoph Schoenherr.


How Dare You
Be a tiger.
Lick the Wilkinson sword.
Join together with thunderbolt.
I am so proud to be one of the Kasung.

–Makkyi Rabjam Dorje Dradul of Mukpo

This poem by Chogyam Trungpa (here referred to as the Makkyi Rabjam Dorje Dradul) expresses the audacious and romantic energy of the Dorje Kasung tradition. Founded by Trungpa Rinpoche in conjunction with the 1974 visit of His Holiness Karmapa XVI, the Dorje Kasung continues today as the military pillar of the Shambhala mandala.

As a practice, Kasungship is a deep means of engagement with the path of warriorship, the bodhisattva vow, and the vajrayana lineage. The very embodiment of crazy wisdom, the Kasung utilize the forms of western military as a discipline of meditation-in-action and a way to embody compassion and to transmit the joyful, sharp edge of nowness. As an organization, the Dorje Kasung serves as protector of the teachers, the teachings, and the community. Much has been taught about the view of Kasungship and why it exists. For an introduction, go to For this article however, I would like to describe the Kasung mandala as it exists today and some aspects of our activities.

Kasung Dapon McLellan and Debbie Coats Rupon at the royal wedding. Photo courtesy of Marguerite Drescher.

Chain of Command

Central to the military model is the principle of chain of command. Chain of command simplifies communication and facilitates effective action. In a functional chain of command, each soldier knows whom she reports to, and discursive confusion is minimized. In the Dorje Kasung, the pinnacle of the chain of command is the Sakyong, who is the first kasung, and whose military title is Makkyi Rabjam, “Supreme Commander.” The Makkyi Rabjam receives the first ka, the command of the Rigdens.
Lady Diana Mukpo is also a paragon of the Dorje Kasung, and has been instrumental in providing guidance and overseeing many kasung gatherings and trainings. Her military title is Tönsung Wangmo, “Lady Protector of Benefit.”

Chain of command utilizes a system of ranks and posts. A kasung who holds “rank” is an officer, which signifies a level of experience, ability to carry responsibility, and embodiment of kasung dharma. The four primary ranks are dapon, which is somewhat equivalent to acharya, then rupon, kado, and khenchen. Posts, such as Regimental Commander and rusung, are specific roles carried out by individuals for a specific duration of time.

The Council of the Makkyi Rabjam

After the Makkyi Rabjam, the next kasung in the chain of command is the Makpön, who is the Commander of the Dorje Kasung, and chair of its highest command group, the Council of the Makkyi Rabjam. The current holder of this title is Jesse Grimes, who also represents the Dorje Kasung on the Kalapa Council. Makpon Grimes was appointed to this role in 2004.

The Council of the Makkyi Rabjam is also made up of the Kasung Acharya Mitchell Levy, Kusung Dapon Noel McLellan, Dapon E Don Winchell, Bonnie Hankin Rupon, and Debbie Coats Rupon.

The Dorje Kasung is made up of three Arms of service – Gesar, Kusung and Desung.

The Gesar Arm

The largest Arm is the Gesar, which works with container principle and security. Event guards for dharma teachings, including special operations like the Karmapa’s visit, fire safety, Centre guards, drivers, and personal guards for members of the Mukpo family, kasung who oversee the land center communities, and staffing all major programs, assemblies, and abhishekas are among the duties of the Gesar Arm. Bonnie Hankin Rupon is the Gesar Arm Commander and chair of the Gesar Operations Council, which consists of Robert Taylor Rupon, Bill Lynch Rupon, Ian McLaughlin Rupon, Jan Frans Sturmm Rupon, Jane Stevens, and Alexandra Milsom.

The Kusung Arm

The Kusung Arm works with service to the Mukpo family and the Kalapa Court. Kusung are the personal attendants of the Sakyong. “One gesture” is a basic principle of the Kusung, which means that at any time the Sakyong should be able to summon a kusung with one gesture – a word, a glance, or by touching his call button. Continuity Kusung travel with the Sakyong to maintain current service protocols and knowledge. The kusung work closely with the shabchi, who are the Sakyong Wangmo’s attendants, the shabdo who uphold the households, the machen, who are the cooks, and with the Gesar, who also serve at Court. The Kusung are commanded by Kusung Dapon Noel McLellan and the Kusung Command Council, which consists of Dapon White Mark Thorpe, Michael Fraund Rupon, Greg Wolk Kado, Dylan Smith Kado, Jim Torbert Kado, and Khenchen Nick Trautz.


The Desung Arm

The Desung Arm works with community wellbeing. Desung activity ranges from providing band-aids to assisting the Care and Conduct Committee with difficult issues. Needless to say, responsibility for health and wellbeing is shared by many groups in the mandala, and one might say, by every sangha member. The Desung aspire to assist, connect, encourage, or provoke any of these as needed, so that genuine care takes place. The Desung are commanded by Debbie Coats Rupon and the Desung Command Council, which includes Dapon H Simon LaHaye, Dapon M Dennis Southward, Irene Vliegenthart Rupon, David Whitehorn Rupon, Shari Vogler Rupon, and Kasung Laura Puts.

Regional Command

In all places where Shambhala is established, the Dorje Kasung are active. From the Council of the Makkyi Rabjam and the Command Councils of the three Arms, the chain of command continues at a regional level. Each of the eight regions around the globe has a Regional Commander for each of the three Arms, overseeing operations over a broad geographic area. Under them, other posts command smaller groups of kasung.


The Kasung possess a rich heritage of teachings from both Makkyi Rabjams and other officers, as well as formal meditation and meditation-in-action practices. These are presented through the formal kasung curriculum, through on the spot training, and at our land-based training intensives, Magyal Pomra Encampment, and for 10-16 year olds, Shambhala Sun Camp. These areas of enrichment are overseen by the Kasung Acharya Mitchell Levy and the Education and Training Corps, which includes Aaron Snyder Rupön, Renee Cowan Kadö, and Khenchen Andrew Sacamano.

Kasung at the 2008 Magyal Pomra Encampment

In the last decade or so, the increasing numbers of programs, the overall expansion of sangha activity around the globe, and the growth of the Mukpo family have exponentially increased the activity level of each of the Arms, and thus their need for leadership, training, and education. The mandala’s need for the Kasung has greatly intensified. Furthermore, the prevalence of war, natural disasters, and depression in the world beckon us to expand the unique vision and powerful methods of this tradition onto the world stage. In order to galvanize the energy of the leadership, assess the terrain, and ready ourselves to activate the command of the Makkyi Rabjam, we are planning a Dorje Kasung Command Conference for all leaders in the Dorje Kasung, to be held October 9-11 in Halifax.

How One Becomes a Kasung

The kasung path begins when one steps forward to serve, practice, or play, puts on the uniform, and gives it a try. There are many ways in, and no pre-requisites. One formally becomes a kasung by taking the one-year preliminary oath. After that, if there’s a connection, one may take the lifetime oath. Like the bodhisattva vow, the lifetime kasung oath deepens an aspiration – in this case the aspiration to safeguard the precious Three Jewels and the Kingdom of Shambhala. Over time, through a combination of lonesome duties, shared laughter, camaraderie, sweat, and practice, one begins to feel woven together with the dralas, with kasung mind, and with the Mukpo Clan.

Noel McLellan is a second generation Shambhala practitioner. He grew up in Boulder, CO where he attended Vidya Elementary School, and later Colorado University. In 1999 he served an 18 month tour of duty as continuity kusung to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. In the Dorje Kasung he has also served as Sergeant, Rusung, and Chief of Staff in the Kusung. In 2004 he was appointed to the Council of the Makkyi Rabjam as Commander of the Kusung Arm, and in 2008 promoted to the rank of Kusung Dapon, senior officer of the Kalapa Court. He now lives in Halifax, NS with his wife Marguerite, 3 year old son Gabriel, and 4 month old daughter Esme. He teaches at the Shambhala School.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Sat Aug 24, 2019 3:12 am

Treatise on Society and Organization
A communication from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche to Richard Reoch, President of Shambhala,
17 March 2003
©2003 Mipham J. Mukpo. All rights reserved. Online publication by Shambhala Media for the Fourth Shambhala Congress, 2009.




It is common these days to refer to Shambhala as an organization, yet we also talk about Shambhala society or enlightened society. The interplay between Shambhala as an organization and as a society is an interesting one, a key issue for us at this time. Organization, or society? This question may sound like a riddle, but it is actually a process of better understanding how to bring benefit at the most practical and sublime levels.

The basis of Shambhala society is exemplified by the word sangha, or gendun, “those who follow virtue.” The magical element that binds the words “society” and “enlightenment” into “enlightened society” is the wholehearted motivation by individuals to engage personally in a social transformation that will lead to the betterment of the society. Thus we are keen on the meaning that is hidden within the word “enlightenment”: to cleanse and purify, to generate and increase. Generating enlightened society begins with the willingness of individuals to look at their own habitual tendencies and take responsibility—first for purifying and cleansing their own outlook and action, and then for generating views and activities that are courageous and liberating. In other words, we must work to overcome our own self-absorption and our habitual reliance on anger, jealousy, and so forth to resolve our issues. Doing this will help us activate the compassion and wisdom necessary to lead a truly joyous and meaningful life.

Compassion and Virtue

As members of Shambhala society, it is our constant responsibility to be generating compassion on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Compassion is our life blood. It binds us. It is our Tao, our Way. Our thoughts, words, and actions all exude at the base a mind that is genuinely, truly revelling in compassion. In this way, our every action generates compassionate warmth. We are not idly waiting around for others to make mistakes—or for that matter, fearful of our own mistakes. We are willing to delve into our basic goodness, our compassion, and practice it in its many imperfect and infantile manifestations. As a budding society, we will no doubt be clumsy at how we tackle the practice of compassion and how we manifest it. But in my mind, in this society, imperfection is the fuel that allows us to generate genuine compassion.

It is not a matter of who is right or wrong, or who did what, and when. Our responsibility is always to reflect back to see if the ember of bodhichitta is still burning in our heart, for this is the flame that we proudly and gladly pass on to fellow sentient beings. This is how we practice the Shambhala teaching on the sixteen edicts of what creates Shambhala society, the final one being, “Expand your mind in the vision of the mahayana.”

What is paramount for mahayanists, and thus Shambhalians, is understanding the ebb and flow of virtue. Virtue is a stream that runs through our life, a river that is never blocked, but is always meandering. As practitioners, we can choose to drink from it at any time. What does it mean to be virtuous? It means that we understand karma. Essentially a society is the constant interplay of innumerable actions among its own members. Those actions produce constant reflections and results. Because this enlightened society is always striving to understand virtue, it does not ignore karma. Because we understand karma, we realize that we must conduct our own lives according to the principles of virtue. What does this entail? It means having wisdom, having knowledge, having prajna, having the perspective and hindsight to realize that we must abandon aggression. It means striving together to build a peaceful, harmonious society on the understanding that ill intent and animosity, whether toward fellow community members or the world at large, will only create further pain for ourselves and others. We cannot be cavalier in dealing with karma. Simply, within our own Shambhala community, we must now realize that the ongoing low level of aggression—in the form of jealousy, fixation, pride, and so forth—is the element that gnaws away and fundamentally weakens the foundation of society. The antidote is patience—patience with ourselves and patience with others. This understanding of community can fuel the mantra for our societal contemplation: How can we be nonaggressive, yet strong?

We need to self-reflect daily in order to see how we can purify attachment and fixation and cultivate generosity. This is the root of our activity as a community. We have many ways to help others: practicing health care; engaging in social action, business, or education; teaching and practicing meditation. If we as individuals begin to realize that this is our unified approach, the society that we’re referring to as “enlightened society” will have tremendous potency and synergy that will be available to all of us, as well as to the general community.

The Society and the Organization

It would be wonderful if we could refer to ourselves as “Shambhala society,” rather than as the “Shambhala organization.” There are many issues that we need to face from a societal point of view. These are human realities, and although we may wish that the organization could solve them, the solutions are rooted in the interaction between members of society. Death, sickness, trauma, and other critical junctures in people’s lives are events that can be supported and nurtured through advice and care by a society that is sensitive to its own members. Needless to say, our organization can provide specific practices or places to gather, but many personal or social dilemmas are inner struggles that need a social response, not out of duty, but because addressing issues, helping people, or even solving problems reflects the most natural response. We need to move in a direction where members feel supported. Individuals need to know that in terms of whatever may be occurring in their life, there are others who care and aspects of the society that will help them traverse their particular dilemma.

Right now, in order for individuals to feel part of our community, there is a feeling that one must be in the organization. Some people feel left out, because they don’t have an active role in the organization. We need to understand that working for the organization is not the only way to be an active part of the community. As opposed to being the defining principle in terms of how people regard themselves and their relationship with the community, the role of the organization should be to run the practicalities of the community. Simultaneously, we need to develop the organization to function as a support for a community that is building a society. Everybody in the community has an active role in developing Shambhala society.

So at this point we need to do two things: 1) move toward creating a community where everybody has a place based upon their own wishes, and 2) move toward creating an organization that is efficient and engaged. It should be simple, functional, and small, if need be. It should be grounded in the basic inspiration of organizing, supporting, and expanding a community in which people can dedicate themselves to building Shambhala society. Developing our view of what Shambhala society is and could be will no doubt involve an ongoing search and experimentation, rooted in these questions: Can the organization be a stem, and the society the flower? Can the organization be the bones, and the society the flesh and the heart?

To some degree we have expanded the organization simply to accommodate people’s wish to participate. Now that we are trying to realign the organization, the rub seems to be utilizing many people for few positions. The challenge is to simplify our organization. We need to shift our view, or more rightly, mature our view, so that we regard the organization as the support system for ourselves as a society in which we all have roles. When people retire from the organization or are released from their positions because of finances or other restrictions, we may feel that the organization is shrinking, and thus that the community is shrinking. So we need to develop a culture where there is no discrepancy between officially being on staff in the organization and being a member of the community participating in the myriad endeavours that it offers to contribute to Shambhala society.

Sometimes we feel that it is the organization’s responsibility to come up with a solution to a social problem. Obviously leaders within the organization can provide guidance, but in many respects the leadership is simply a conduit for communication. Ultimately it is the basic nature and intention of the community to help itself. In putting together programs, presenting practices, and providing places to meet, the organization and its leaders can help communicate social issues and concerns, but addressing them at the roots will take interaction between community members who have a deep desire to do so. They themselves will need to be willing to participate in a social transformation, not simply to require others to change their habits.

Occasionally, people feel that they have to leave our community in order to get help or even to find work, that somehow they can be better nourished outside the community than within it. Obviously purely by our numbers and our distribution around the globe, each little centre cannot provide everything for everyone. However, given our strength and our incredible diversity, we can try to encourage a feeling that within our community, much support is available. This requires encouraging a simple change of approach and attitude from our members, as opposed to having to reorganize in order to help people.

So as the president, your role is not just to coordinate the “organization,” but to look at the entire endeavour as a societal one. As a leader, you are not simply initiating change within a small group of people who are administrators; rather, you are responsible for the overall health of the community. This in the short term will be challenging simply in terms of view and understanding, because we need to be clear about it. Simply rearranging members of the organization will not result in any solution of the social issues.

The organization can deal with managing our practice centres, developing and administering curriculum, running the Dorje Kasung, and maintaining the Kalapa Court. We need individuals to commit themselves to work diligently, full- or part-time, for a certain number of years in these fields, so that they may in turn benefit the greater community. Thus many members of our community will be participating in the organization for periods of their lives, in a formal and practical role. Once they have fulfilled their particular duties, they continue their contribution by engaging in activities that inspire them within our community. They are no less connected or dedicated than before; they are simply shifting their focus. This is a crucial point, since individuals tend to think that once they’ve retired, they are no longer part of the organization, and therefore, they are no longer active within the community. The present reality is that thanks to some of the organizers, the community is, in fact, expanding. Those who have been responsible in part for that growth should feel enthusiasm and pride, even though they may not currently be part of the organization.

We need to loosen our minds around the edges so that we can adapt to the constant change to which we are all subjected. This moves us in the direction of self-confidence. Most of us base our connection to society on what our position is. Certain individuals may not feel like they have a position, because they perceive the situation to be one of “inner” and “outer.” Feeling dislocated from our seat within the society leads to fermentation of insecurity, doubt, resentment, and other disabling emotions. We must realize that we are looking at this from our own point of view. If we correlate organization and society too closely, then it will always feel like we are trying to stuff many things into a bag that is too small. There will also be a feeling that something is left out. The items in the bag will feel squeezed. They will feel the acuteness of being in or out of the bag.

One of the instrumental elements in your role as president will be to determine what it takes, in fact, to run and coordinate the workings of all the centres. What do the organization, the leadership, and the members of the community need to do in order to care for and nurture their respective centres—the physical spaces as well as the membership and its activities? Unless you put significant emphasis on answering this question, people will be looking to you as a leader to solve various issues, administrative as well as ideological. If you are able to determine what we need, which I am confident that you can, then that intention and spirit will be disseminated among the leaders of the community.

Then we can welcome newcomers to Shambhala society with the proper approach, understanding, and attitude. They will be welcomed into a community—rather than an organization—in which their own transformation and personal participation is a key element and building block for the entire endeavour. The organization is here to offer practices, programs, and teachers who can nurture the individual’s progress on the path, not to offer membership in an administrative mammoth where the goal is to be pigeonholed into a particular job or responsibility. Working in the organization proper is not the only game in town. This doesn’t mean that we become disperse, rather, that if we have healthy involvement, there will be an infusion of energy that will be felt by all.

Natural Hierarchy

By the same token, I have always encouraged both older and newer students to take initiative where they see fit, to jump in if it is truly beneficial, not to wait for the perfect conditions to come about, or for me to formally direct them or invite them to participate. It is not necessary for everyone to have specific instruction from me personally. When it rains, you don’t ask the clouds how to grow vegetables. You take the water and you grow vegetables. This is the notion of society. The role of the Sakyong is to provide space, to protect the space, so that the flowers can blossom. The sun does not pull the flowers up to the sky; the flowers grow, reaching toward heaven. If heaven is too close, the flowers will not exert themselves. Therefore the organization is necessary as the extension of the Sakyong’s ability to provide and protect the space.

The Sakyong is the centre of the Shambhala mandala. The centre of the mandala manifests as the Kalapa Court, the seat of the Sakyong and the heart of his government. The energy generated within the Court radiates outwards through the teachings, culture, and structure of the mandala. The energy that is generated toward the Kalapa Court is harnessed by the organization. It is not the role of the organization to dampen or suffocate. If it becomes too thick, its members tend to become complacent and irritated. When it can extend the energy of the Court as the basis of inspiration, the members of the community look in and around themselves for solutions, realizing their responsibility to motivate themselves and to communicate with others. This process is not simply one of administration, but also of education, since the curriculum must also reflect an understanding of the individual.

This is the primary teaching within the literature on natural hierarchy. Specifically, it means that yourself, as well as the rest of the leadership of the mandala, need to facilitate this dissemination of energy from the Kalapa Court. You must organize the mandala and extend communication in the most effective way. All the members of our community have strong virtues and diverse qualities. They need not base their situation upon whether they are participating as a member of these administrative groups. Those who are members should be functional, practical, and energetic individuals who have chosen to fully participate in and organize our community. But we need to wean ourselves away from thinking that if we are not in one of these groups, we have no real function in our organization. The more clearly we understand this, the more smooth the transition will be for the individuals leaving or entering administrative roles. Thus the society becomes healthy.

The nature of phenomena is change and fluctuation. When a rider has truly taken his seat, from a distance he seems steadfast in the saddle. However, to maintain this equilibrium, both horse and rider are balanced in a state of constant fluctuation. The relationship between the administration, the organization, and the society will likewise fluctuate.

Rather than specifying how we initiate these societal endeavours and inspirations, I leave it to you to disseminate this understanding and view, letting others know the importance and uniqueness of what we are doing—building a society. It is important that we all recognize that being involved at this point and engaging in socially enriching activities is part of the process. Rather than being handed the entire basket and its contents, we are learning how to pick fruits and vegetables and place them in our container of social initiative.

Shambhala in the World at Large

Needless to say we all live in a greater society, whether it is dominated by the local culture of North America, South America, or Europe. We may feel torn between two different cultures, that of Shambhala and that of the world in general. We must realize that because culture and society are created by conscious mind, they too are always subject to change and fluctuation. Even the general society is made up of many cultures, which are always changing. We ourselves are very much part of that general society—in a most important way. Because we see that all beings have basic goodness, we regard all beings to be part of Shambhala society. Those of us who are inspired by that approach gather together and try to extend the common bond we feel about conducting our lives based on goodness and virtue.

When our work takes us into dealings with practitioners from different traditions or people who are not on a meditative path, we must begin to dissolve the sense of being “in” or “out.” The essential difference between being “outside” and “inside” very much comes down to our deep understanding of mind and heart. It is not the water that tastes better in Shambhala, it is our mind that tastes better. That mind needs to be cultivated and shared. That is how we should extend ourselves in the greater world.

The point of relating to the greater world is to see the need for enlightened society. We experience the suffering of others, the struggle everyone goes through, and that inspires us to delve into the Shambhala Buddhist teachings, squeeze out their essence, and apply it to our lives. Then we can regard what we are doing as a personal contribution to the betterment of the world at large. The changes and contributions we make to society must be grounded in the perpetuation of bodhichitta. Within that context, from day to day, month to month, and year to year, we should review our actual activities toward creating enlightened society.

At times, we may seek from the greater world something we feel that we are missing from our community. This is a tricky proposition, because we can spend our energy chasing our tail, imagining some reward, when in reality we’re just being fooled by samsara, the setting sun. It may seem to be coated by wisdom, so we lick it, but again and again we are stung by the thorny underbrush. We must not underestimate the power of samsara, for samsara lures us into thinking that it holds something. We must recognize samsara and not be disheartened by it, but realize that as extremely special beings with a gift of wisdom and compassion, we need to offer our gift to others in whatever we do, in each moment of every day.

Basic Goodness and Bodhichitta

For us, every day is a process of honing and strengthening our understanding of goodness. We must constantly be vigilant in this. It is not sufficient just to mouth the word “goodness”; we must pound this word, extract the meaning, and eliminate all confusion and doubt from our understanding. This very act increases our joy in propagating the vision of Shambhala and weakens the force of the setting sun. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that hearing the words once or twice, or contemplating them here and there, is sufficient. In that case surely the current of samsara will carry us away, and we will find ourselves old and scared.

Being engaged in the view of basic goodness and bodhichitta, we have much to offer. If we engage in the world without this intention, we are simply developing our fixation and attachment, and therefore only postponing our enlightenment. However, if we engage in the world with the view of basic goodness and bodhichitta, that approach will affect everything we do. Individuals will enter our programs knowing that they are being trained to uncover their tremendous gift as warrior-bodhisattvas inspired to dedicate their life, whatever they may engage in, to the betterment of society.

We therefore need to engender a genuine understanding that all individuals have a place in Shambhala society. There should not be a sense of outer and inner, but rather a sense of being included in the compassionate embrace of heaven and earth. With the inspiration and empowerment of heaven, we can take our seat in the society. When each of us develops this level of confidence and understanding, the society gains tremendous vitality and social transformation becomes possible. Thus there is a healthy relationship between the earthy virtues of both the organization and the society and the visionary principle of heaven. I believe that we are capable of producing such a situation, for it comes down to releasing and inspiring basic goodness wherever it may lie. When this happens, the natural interplay between society and organization creates the perfect dance, to the delight and benefit of all.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Sat Aug 24, 2019 3:35 am

Interview with Debbie Coats, Desung Arm Commander
by Dan Peterson
May 28, 2009 – 9:21 pm



Being a desung often means choosing to step in to situations that are uncomfortable or perhaps frightening. In our community desung are kasung who focus on issues of health and well-being or conflicts. So if people are in distressing circumstances or conflicts are occurring, for example between members in a Shambhala group, the desung role is to notice what is happening and make sure that the situation is addressed and related to in the most appropriate way.

Desung Arm Commander Debbie Coats

Interview by Dan Peterson

Q. I want to start by thanking you for your time in doing this interview for the Shambhala Times. It is a real privilege to discuss the desung path.

A. You are very welcome. It is a real pleasure, and I feel honored to be invited.

Q. Could you tell us about how you came to be a practitioner and especially how you found your way to Shambhala Buddhism?

A. I first heard about the Dharmadhatu center in London, as it was called then, from a friend in 1986. He gave me “Buddha in the Palm of Your Hand.” So my first contact actually was through the Vajra Regent. I read the book, but I didn’t go to the Dharmadhatu until late in 1987 because I was visiting America to work at a boys summer camp in North Carolina. The friend who gave me the book suggested that we go to the East Coast early for the cremation of a Tibetan guru in Vermont. At the time my reaction was along the lines of “Why would I want to do that?” And of course ever since I’ve really kicked myself for missing the chance of being at the Vidhyadhara’s cremation. Anyway that is what happened.

So later in 1987 when I got back from America I went to the Dharmadhatu in London, and I was greeted by a kasung. But I was too speedy at that time to notice the uniform. I found the Dharmadhatu really spacious. and I felt completely at home. It felt as though for the first time I had found people who thought along the same lines as I did. I felt free to be myself and could be who I really wanted to be when I was there.

I went to dathun at Karme Choling in 1988 and then to seminary at RMDC in 1990. It was there that I joined the Dorje Kasung. Although I value all the Shambhala and Buddhist practices and really appreciate how much they have enriched my life, my strongest connection has been to the kasung. I feel that it has pushed me into situations that made me open up and experience the world in a more expansive way. It helped me to develop confidence, often by pushing me beyond my comfort zone.

Q. What was your first experience with desung practice?

A. I attended a desung program in Paris in 2001, led by Dapon H, Simon La Haye. I missed the last day of the program because Irene Vliegenthart became ill and I stayed to look after her. But it was like desung practice because I had the chance to talk to Irene; we could just talk or sit quietly together and that felt really nice. Usually we are both very busy. Then I was asked to be the desung for the Warrior Assembly at Dechen Choling in 2003. I found it very touching. Each day after lunch I would be in the infirmary and people would come in to talk about physical or emotional issues they had. They were so trusting and shared issues very openly because of being in a practice program. It was really wonderful.

Q. I imagine you are sometimes put on the spot to describe what a desung is, what a desung does. How do you respond when such questions come up?

A. My first thought is that being a desung often means choosing to step in to situations that are uncomfortable or perhaps frightening. In our community desung are kasung who focus on issues of health and well-being or conflicts. So if people are in distressing circumstances or conflicts are occurring, for example between members in a Shambhala group, the desung role is to notice what is happening and make sure that the situation is addressed and related to in the most appropriate way. We especially get called into situations where people are experiencing very heightened psychological reactions, for example having an episode of mental illness, or when situations become very solidified and stuck and it seems as though there is no solution. Sometimes we help in the situations ourselves and sometimes we just bring them to the notice of people who are in the best position to deal with them and support those people if necessary.

Q. Sometimes desung is defined as bliss protector, and sometimes as harmony protector, and both have somewhat different meanings. Do you distinguish between these two definitions or have a preference between the two?

A. Well, I find that a very interesting question. I think protecting bliss seems to be more about working with our own potential as human beings to live a rich life and to connect with our own wisdom and basic goodness. We can experience joy or bliss through practice, and our ego-centered way of relating to the world begins to drop away a little bit. Then we can just relax with things as they are. When that happens we feel we’ve actually got energy to give to the world. And protecting harmony seems to relate more to working with the community and being willing to pay attention to what is going on and step in and act if necessary. But I feel that the two are completely entwined. When we have the experience of joy or bliss and contentment with our life through practice, that makes us want to open up and offer our help in situations, rather than just focusing on building up our own world, or becoming exhausted by the challenges we might face in daily life.

Q. The desung arm has developed rapidly in the last several years – perhaps because it is meeting a genuine need in the Shambhala community. What factors have contributed to this growth and have influenced the form that desung practice is taking?

A. I think Dennis Southward, Dapon M, started a really good model in Boulder, showing how desung can function in the community and actually care for people. And then Simon La Haye, the desung general, took over from him in 1995 and started to create a mandala-wide organizational structure for the desung. When I became the desung arm commander in 2005, I was amazed at how much interest there was in desungship in the community; it seemed that everyone I spoke to felt that it was a really important component and needed to be developed and strengthened. That felt like quite a responsibility, and it was an encouragement as well to go forward. The issues that people talked about most often were how to help and support people with mental illness or addiction, or who have chronic illness or are dying. The desung training programs have focused on those and other issues.

We are also starting to look at how to help people who have experienced abuse of any kind. We now have desung in every region of the mandala, but I want to have desung in every center who work with the civilian aspects of the community as members of local care groups or councils, so there can be a team of people working together on these issues. For the past few years there has been a lot of focus on developing community care, and the desung is one aspect of that. I am very glad that the Shambhala Community Care Council was recently formed under the chairpersonship of Mary Whetsell. That council can bring together all the different aspects of the mandala to focus on community issues.

I feel that the role of the desung is becoming clearer in some ways, but there is still a lot to do to develop that further. In 2006, during a meeting, the Sakyong said that the civilian aspects of the mandala have the main responsibility for health and well-being, and the desung should be called in when the situation escalates or there is a crisis. He called this the “code red” situation and said we have to figure out what constitutes a “code red.” So I think we are beginning to work this out and to function in that way. In a recent interview in the Dot, the Sakyong mentioned the importance of delegs in building community, and I hope that desung can play a part in supporting them. The Community Care Council is starting to look into that.

“Enriching our thoughts and actions with love and compassion releases tremendous positive energy, as if our windhorse has been liberated. Like churning milk into butter, there is alchemy involved. When we churn “What about me?” into “What about you?” we are consciously changing our molecular structure by engaging the big-mind chromosome. The result is ziji — radiant, inner confidence. As we turn our energy outward, we are present for the world in the wholehearted manner of a child offering a gift. There are no politics involved, no scheming, no manipulation. Our compassion beams outward in delight at the happiness of others.”

-– Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

Q. In the last year or so there has been a discussion about the three pillars of Shambhala – the church, the state and the military. Clearly the desung arm is part of the military, but it has a lot of interactions with the state, particularly as described in the care and conduct policy. Could you say something about how that policy informs the relationship between the military and the state?

A. The care and conduct policy is Shambhala’s version of a complaint policy, and it aims to protect members of Shambhala by making sure that if some members of the community or of the leadership are behaving in a way that harms or could cause harm to others, that can be addressed effectively and in an enlightened way. The policy can be invoked by any member of Shambhala or by anyone attending a Shambhala Center who sees behavior that concerns them. When a complaint is made and can’t be easily resolved, a panel is usually be formed to explore what happened and make recommendations about how to deal with the situation in the best way. The panel would usually include a senior teacher, a kasung and a member of the administrative area of Shambhala, thus involving the three pillars.

My experience has been that having these three perspectives is really helpful in exploring situations fully and in an open, nonjudgmental way. All meetings are confidential so that the people involved can talk freely. It is very important for the three pillars to work together in all structures of the mandala, and another example of this is the Kalapa Council.

To go back to the care and conduct policy, it is important that people know about it, and a copy should be posted in every Shambhala Center, with names of people to contact if there are concerns. I would encourage people to ask the director of their center to put a copy of the policy in a public place if it is not posted already. It is also available online here.

Q. Could you describe what your responsibilities are as the desung arm commander – the committees you attend, the situations that fall into your lap, the tasks you are apt to encounter when you read your e-mail?

A. I am responsible for appointing desung and making sure that they have appropriate training and support. I also am responsible for making sure that the desung know whom to contact when conflicts or problems with health and well-being occur. It is my aim that effective communication occurs between the desung and all the other aspects of the community. Every year we have a conference attended by all the desung in leadership positions to talk about developments in the community and situations that have been dealt with and what we can learn from those. We are currently preparing for this year’s conference, which will be held in Halifax in May.

You also asked about the committees that I attend. I am a member of the Council of the Makkyi Rabjam, which is the Dorje Kasung command group, and the newly formed Community Care Council. Also on that council is Irene Vliegenthart – the desung care and conduct officer. I am also a member of the Shambhala Europe Council, the European Dorje Kasung command group and the Dorje Kasung Uniform Committee. That last one is very interesting. I kind of insisted that I be on that committee, as I thought that there should be a European woman. So even though I am not Italian or French and I don’t have their sense of style, I am on that one.

My role at times involves a lot of travel to meetings or to teach kasung programs, and that is the best part of the job in a way, meeting people in all the different situations in the mandala. The meetings feel like gatherings of like-minded friends, and it always feels very productive. Recently within the Dorje Kasung we’ve been looking at realigning the command structure in line with changes in the mandala, and that has been very interesting.

Mainly when I get e-mails or phone calls they are from regional desung officers or other people in leadership positions contacting me to tell me what they have been doing to address issues in their area or maybe to ask for advice or support. So that is a really important part of the job, to have contact with people in different situations and know what is actually going on.

Q. It sounds like a lot!

A. I know. [Laughter] It doesn’t leave much time for TV, except “Doctor Who,” which I highly recommend.

Q. Are there any particular goals or objectives you are working on that you would like to share regarding the direction forward for the desung arm?

A. My main aim at the moment is to raise awareness of the role of the desung throughout the Shambhala community. I hope this interview will play a part in doing that. And as I mentioned before, I hope to have desung in every Shambhala Center and have them be part of local community care groups so that people work with issues as a group. Each person can then bring in his or her own perspective. I also want to do whatever I can as part of the Council of the Makkyi Rabjam to help implement the Sakyong’s vision of creating an enlightened society. That feels really important in this dark time in the world.

Q. Is there anything else of special interest to you as the desung arm commander that you want to share with us?

A. I just would like to say that because I did not meet the Vidyadhara in person, I always appreciate hearing or reading stories about him and having teachings from the people who were around him. It is such a gift when people share those experiences. I also feel honored and privileged to have met Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and to be a part of this community. I see people who have grown up in Shambhala and are so open and confident due to their practice and the way they have been brought up. They can offer the world so much, and that feels really good and quite heartbreaking. Particularly in London things can feel pretty grim and aggressive sometimes because people are under so much pressure. Shambhala can do a lot to enrich the world, and I am grateful to be able to be part of that.

Q. Thank you very much for generously sharing your time and for providing such a clear vision of desungship.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Sat Aug 24, 2019 3:56 am

Mandatory Reporting of Abuse: Is Clergy Included in Denver?
by Terry O'Malley
O'Malley and Sawyer, LLC: Sex Crimes Defense Attorney in Denver, Colorado
Posted on August 15, 2014



The law regarding mandatory reporting of abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse is confusing to many in Denver, Arapahoe, and Jefferson County. The law, “Persons required to report child abuse or neglect” – C.R.S. 19-3-304, outlines people who are required by law to report incidents or confessions of sexual abuse or neglect towards children to law enforcement. But, does this law apply to priests, pastors, rabbi, or other clergy members? In Colorado, clergy members are not required to report confessions of abuse. And, this is a good thing. How can people dealing with sin hope to overcome their struggle if they cannot get help from their pastor’s counseling or priest’s guidance? Let’s look at this law to better understand.

Mandatory Reporting Law in Colorado

The law states that a person (specified as doctors, nurses, dentists, police officers, teachers, coaches, therapists, counselors, etc.) “who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect or who has observed the child being subjected to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect shall immediately upon receiving such information report or cause a report to be made of such fact to the county department, the local law enforcement agency, or through the child abuse reporting hotline system.”

The Law Regarding Clergy and Mandatory Reporters

While “clergy member” is listed in the people who are required to report abuse in Adams, Larimer, and Douglas County, immediately below their listing is the following:

“The provisions of this paragraph (aa) shall not apply to a person who acquires reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect during a communication about which the person may not be examined as a witness pursuant to section C.R.S. 19-3-304 (1) (c), C.R.S., unless the person also acquires such reasonable cause from a source other than such a communication.”

In other words, when a confession is made to a clergy member during counseling, or told to a pastor when asking for spiritual advice, this confidential confession is protected by law. And, why should it not be? Pastors are to provide advice and counsel to members of their congregation. If a member is struggling with a sexual sin, he or she should be free to discuss their struggle with their spiritual guide without fear of being arrested. In this way, true rehabilitation can be facilitated. Unfortunately, governmental websites and other sources of information often ignore this law regarding confidentiality.

When a confession is made to a clergy member during counseling, this confidential confession is protected by law.

When Do Pastors and Clergy Have to Report Abuse?

People often struggle with the specifics of the law and when they are required to report. Let’s look at the law once again to be more specific. A clergy member is required to report if they acquire “reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect or who has observed the child being subjected to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect.” Put simply, a clergy member is required to report child abuse or neglect if they:

• Observe the act of child abuse
• Hear from a child about an act of abuse (to themselves or another child)
• See a child who obviously is the victim of abuse (unexplained bruises)
• Hear from someone (in a way other than during a confidential communication) about an act of child abuse

How Does the Mandatory Reporting Law Affect You?

People tend to agree to laws that “protect children” without thinking about the personal impact on their own lives. For example, now that you know about this law, will you take your child to the doctor if they have bruises from playing outside? Would you and your spouse go in for marriage counseling (which would greatly benefit your marriage and family life), if you were concerned your husband was going to be arrested and charged with a serious crime? You probably answered “no” to these questions. People can’t get the help they need when mandatory reporting laws are overly broad. A person struggling with a sexual sin can’t get the help they need, and children are taken away from their families unnecessarily. You might think this law is reasonable, but as an experienced criminal defense attorney, I can attest to its overuse. I recently worked on a case where a young girl made up a story and ultimately, caused the entire family to be split. Her siblings are in foster care. Why is this family now destroyed? Because the Department of Human Services (Social Services) always believe children, no matter if the evidence doesn’t support their stories. Human Services would rather be “safe than sorry” (i.e. protect their own careers, rather than protect families). In the process, they destroy families and take children away from their parents.

Why You Need a Lawyer for Sex Crime Cases

If you have been contacted by the police after making a confession to a clergy member or counselor, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. You need an advocate to fight on your behalf. You need someone who has compassion and will stand by your side to fight the allegations against you. Don’t stand alone in the courtroom – work with a criminal lawyer who knows exactly what is needed to fight. Here at the O’Malley Law Office, we fight to win.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Sat Aug 24, 2019 3:58 am

Entering the Desung Path with Dennis Southward and Jan Jercinovic
by Karme Choling, Shambhala Meditation Center
October 30 - November 1, 2015



"Desung" means bliss or harmony protector. Desung practice is a profound path arising out of the Kasung tradition. It consists of protecting access to innate wisdom by embodying generosity, gentleness and fearlessness in our daily lives. This state of "being" is made possible by increasing trust and confidence in our basic goodness and that of the society in which we live. All situations are viewed as workable, and distress is recognized as a powerful opportunity to open to our basic goodness.

This program is open to Shambhala council members, Guides, Meditation instructors and people in the community who are interested in learning to work with difficult situations. Members of the Dorje Kasung are especially encouraged to attend. This weekend program is a prerequisite for Dorje Kasung who wish to apply to be members of the Desung Arm. The training also provides further depth to the profound path of the Dorje Kasung.

The Friday night presentation is an essential part of the program so please plan to arrive no later than dinner time (6:30 pm). The program will conclude in the late afternoon on Sunday Nov 1. Please plan to attend the entire program. All students are encouraged to read “Put Your Meditation into Action,” by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

To apply, please download, complete, and send the completed application to Sara Demetry at download a Application for Entering the Desung Path, please click here.


Shambhala council member, Guides, Meditation instructor or people in the community who are interested in learning to work with difficult situations. Members of the Dorje Kasung are especially encouraged to attend.


Program Fee: $160

Payment Policies:

Karmê Chöling has updated its payment policies. The new policies apply to all programs that start after January 1, 2019. Please read the payment policies before proceeding with registration.

Financial Aid:

Karmê Chöling offers full-time student discounts, scholarships and other financial aid.

Program Credit:

If using existing program credit to pay for a program, you must pre-register for this program at least two weeks prior to the program start date by calling the front desk (802-633-2384 x-101 or x-103). Program credit may not be used to pay for housing or practice materials and may not be used on or after arrival day.

Please Note:

Price includes meals but not accommodations.

Online registration is not currently open.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Sat Aug 24, 2019 7:18 am

The survivor who broke the Shambhala sexual assault story
by Stephanie Russell-Kraft
Columbia Journalism Review
May 7, 2019



LAST SUMMER, the Shambhala Buddhist community was stunned to learn that its leader, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, had sexually assaulted numerous female students. The story was not broken by any of the several Buddhist news outlets, but instead by Andrea Winn, a former Shambhala member and survivor of sexual abuse who conducted her own investigation.

Winn, the creator of Buddhist Project Sunshine, does not consider herself a journalist. But she was able to get many other survivors to tell their stories, ultimately shining light on decades of abuse by faith leaders throughout the community. When reporters descended upon the story—requesting additional proof, corroboration, and on-the-record interviews—everything changed. Many survivors were wary, exhausted by their trauma and unwilling to put their names out for public scrutiny. The ensuing struggle between the goals of journalism and the needs of survivors underscores both the benefits and limitations of reporting on sexual abuse. Journalists often say they do not decide the consequences of the news they report. Perhaps Buddhist Project Sunshine points to another way.

A BRANCH OF TIBETAN BUDDHISM, Shambhala is a community founded by Chögyam Trungpa and now led by his son, Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo, also known as Mipham J. Mukpo or Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. Shambhala International, the community’s governing organization, is headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and runs about 200 meditation centers around the world.

The roots of Winn’s project date back to her childhood in the Shambhala community, when, on several occasions, she was sexually abused by other members and one Shambhala leader. Winn didn’t speak about that abuse for years, but she saw it happening to other women, and knew the problem was widespread. When she raised concerns around 2000, she says, she was forced out of the community. (Winn still practices Shambhala on her own.)

In 2016, Winn suddenly felt like she had broken a Buddhist vow by “giving up” on the community. “From the beginning, I was trying to be a good Buddhist,” Winn says. “I constantly tried to come from a place of peace.” In February 2017, she began organizing a year-long initiative, which she called Buddhist Project Sunshine, to help Shambhala heal from years of sexual violence. She hoped to gather female Shambhala leaders together for collective discussions. When that didn’t pan out, she thought she might collect anonymous statements from survivors and submit them for publication at the Shambhala Times, an online community magazine. But no one came forward. With her self-imposed project deadline approaching, Winn began writing a report about her efforts, even though she felt they had failed.

Andrea Winn, founder of Buddhist Project Sunshine. Photo courtesy of the subject.

Mid-January 2018, as the #MeToo movement gathered steam, something changed. “All of a sudden, people just started to come out of the woodwork, wanting to write anonymous impact statements,” she says. Winn scrambled to include some of the statements in her report, which she published on her personal website on February 15, 2018. The report included statements from five anonymous survivors, detailing sexual abuse by teachers in the community and Shambhala’s lack of institutional response.

The report made a big splash, particularly in Shambhala groups on Facebook. Winn received a flurry of messages and emails from critics as well as survivors, some of whom had new stories to tell.

Winn also heard from Carol Merchasin, a retired employment law partner at the law firm Morgan Lewis. Merchasin, who had experience investigating workplaces, hoped to lend credibility to Winn’s project. “I said, ‘You need to have more detail if you really want to have people believe you,’” Merchasin tells CJR. She joined Buddhist Project Sunshine as a volunteer, producing two investigative write-ups for the project’s “Phase 2” and “Phase 3” reports, published in June and August of last year, respectively.

Before they published the Phase 2 report, Winn and several other Buddhist Project Sunshine volunteers watched the movie Spotlight, which tells the story of Boston Globe reporters uncovering decades of sexual abuse and cover-up in the Catholic church. “It was kind of like, we were the ones doing this,” Winn says.

Unlike the journalists in Spotlight, however, Winn insisted that survivor statements remain anonymized in the reports. “It was not about addressing specific situations,” she explains. “It was not about getting justice about specific situations. It was about raising awareness.”

BUDDHIST PROJECT SUNSHINE’S FINDINGS began to attract attention from journalists after the first report. But it was the second report, which implicated Shambhala’s leader, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, that brought a flood of coverage by mainstream outlets including The Canadian Press and The New York Times.

Throughout the process, Winn acted as a gatekeeper, protective of the survivors who had shared their stories for her reports. She says she felt betrayed by some journalists who she believed didn’t put survivors’ needs first in their reporting.

Jerry West, a producer at CBC Radio, declined to run a story about the Phase 2 report without an interview from one of the survivors. Winn says she wasn’t able to provide him with such an interview. “He didn’t get the fact that these women had been sexually abused and spiritually abused by their guru, and had been shunned from the community,” Winn says. “His expectations were outlandish.”

West says he had already interviewed Andrea for a story about the Phase 1 report, and he needed new sources willing to go on the record to move the story along after Phase 2. “I can’t just read a report into the record,” he says. “We need a live person to talk.” West says he still wants to run another story about the sexual abuse in Shambhala, but hasn’t yet found another source willing to go on the air.

Wendy Joan Biddlecombe Agsar, a reporter at the Buddhist magazine Tricycle, asked Winn if she might speak to a specific survivor mentioned in the Phase 2 report. Winn asked the survivor if she felt comfortable speaking to a reporter, but the woman, referred to as “Ann,” said she wasn’t up to it before the Phase 2 report came out. Agsar ultimately published her story on the report with a note that Ann “declined to speak with Tricycle about her accusations.”

“It simply isn’t ethical for me as a journalist to not attempt to reach out to anonymous accusers in a story about widespread abuse…and to omit the fact that I attempted to reach out,” Agsar tells CJR. “I’m reporting a story, not just relaying the information that Winn wants me to tell our readers.”

Winn, who was outraged by that sentence, has a different take on journalists showing all of their work in finished stories. “The last thing [the survivors] needed was Tricycle saying that Ann declined to make a statement,” she says. “When I hear that on the news, I think, Well, what do they have to hide?”

We’re reporters, we have to corroborate things, we have to keep a level of independence. But it’s not a process that’s designed around helping people heal

FOR MANY SURVIVORS, the recent deluge of sexual abuse journalism has brought welcome and overdue recognition of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse. But the relentless press coverage has also created a new kind of trauma. Headline after headline has thrust alleged abusers into the spotlight, all the while commodifying the pain of survivors. Journalists covering sexual abuse are encouraged to use extra care and follow certain best practices, but there are still limits to how journalistic institutions, which are themselves centers of power, can confront the full scope of sexual abuse and its effects.

While the Phase 2 and Phase 3 reports were being published, Buddhist Project Sunshine also established a support network for survivors and other members of the community to process the news. “It was always supposed to be about more than just exposing abuse,” volunteer Katie Hayman, a trained spiritual care practitioner who helped to lead moderated discussions among community members on Slack, says. Before new reports were published, moderators received extra preparation and training to help the community receive the news. They considered questions such as, “How do you respond to the aftershock and care for the people who are reading that news and are going to be devastated?”

Hayman believes Buddhist Project Sunshine’s survivor-centered approach enabled many women to come forward. “It was a different way of doing things that didn’t just take their stories and forget about them,” she says. “You would give your story and they would continue to care.”

“I honest-to-God wish we had something like this in our community,” Hayman, a practicing Roman Catholic, adds. “Because I saw the way that people were heard if just given the space.”

JOSH EATON, an investigative journalist at ThinkProgress, was one of the first reporters to write about the allegations raised in the first Buddhist Project Sunshine report. “I really feel like Josh Eaton getting involved made all the difference,” Alex Rodriguez, a former Shambhala member and a volunteer with BPS who coordinated press relations, says. “But Josh Eaton got involved because Andrea took the first step.”

Eaton, who also has a masters in divinity from Harvard with a focus on Buddhist Studies, treated the stories with care, according to Rodriguez. Nevertheless, Eaton says his goals were always journalistic. “We’re reporters, we have to corroborate things, we have to keep a level of independence,” he says. “But it’s not a process that’s designed around helping people heal.”

Winn says she would have welcomed the work of a journalist earlier on in the process, someone to bring all of the wrongdoing to light in the first place. “I took a lot of responsibility in this,” she says. “It would have been really nice for me to have somebody else taking the lead, like to have a true partner or someone to be the knight in shining armor for me, or for us.”

But it’s unclear whether the story would have been the same. The fact that a survivor from the Shambhala community led the original investigation made all the difference, according to Rodriguez.

“[Winn] never pretended to be providing objective information. She came into this from a place of believing that by speaking her truth she could contribute to community healing,” Rodriguez says. “Had a journalist been catalyzing it, I don’t think you would have gotten the same impact.”

Stephanie Russell-Kraft is a Brooklyn-based freelance reporter covering the intersections of religion, culture, law, and gender. She has written for The New Republic, The Atlantic, Religion & Politics, and Religion Dispatches, and is a regular contributing reporter for Bloomberg Law. Follow her on Twitter: @srussellkraft.
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