Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexually as

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

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Part 1 of 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

One of the questioners agreed with this premise.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transcript key:

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

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

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

Prajna: Internal wisdom.

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

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

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

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

Rigdens: Kings of the mythical land of Shambhala.

Transcript

Host:

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

Judith S-B: 00:01:53

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 2 of 2

First Question: 00:35:44

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

Judith S-B: 00:36:11

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

Second Question: 00:37:41

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

Judith S-B: 00:38:55

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

Second Question: 00:38:55

I can’t either.

Judith S-B: 00:39:01

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

Second Question: 00:40:01

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

Judith S-B: 00:40:42

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

Third Question: 00:42:47

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

Judith S-B: 00:45:16

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

Fourth Question: 00:46:55

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

Judith S-B: 00:47:28

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

Kathleen Moore: 00:47:28

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

Judith S-B: 00:49:59

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

Kathleen Moore: 00:50:10

That’s why I’m asking.

Judith S-B: 00:50:12

Okay. Thank you very much for checking in.

Sixth Question: 00:50:24

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

Judith S-B: 00:51:13

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

Seventh Question: 00:53:30

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

Judith S-B: 00:55:05

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

Seventh Question: 00:56:56

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

Judith S-B: 00:57:02

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

Eighth Question: 00:57:45

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

Judith S-B: 01:00:06

If we can find it.

Eighth Question: 01:00:09

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

Judith S-B: 01:02:00

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

Kathleen Moore: 01:02:06

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

Judith S-B: 01:03:35

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

Kathleen Moore: 01:03:51

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

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

Judith S-B: 01:08:52

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

Fifth Question: 01:08:52

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

Judith S-B: 01:09:31

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


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

Ninth Question: 01:11:03

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

Judith S-B: 01:11:03

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

Tenth Question: 01:15:31

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

Judith S-B: 01:15:31

Especially now.

Tenth Question: 01:19:14

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

Judith S-B: 01:19:43

This is all part of our conversation.

Eleventh Question: 01:20:00

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

Judith S-B: 01:20:00

Thank you.

Twelfth Question: 01:22:25

Yes. Bring Back Vajrdhara.

Judith S-B: 01:22:41

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

Thirteenth Question: 01:22:51

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

Fourteenth Question: 01:25:40

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

Judith S-B: 01:28:15

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

Assembly: 01:28:29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My notes are in red italics.

_____

Dear friends, students, and Shambhala Sangha,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t see what’s so bad.

Like father, like son.

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

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

The next Sakyong should be a woman.

Maybe Pema Chodron will come lead us.

Our alcoholic culture is the problem.

This is samsara, what did you expect?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s over.

It’s just beginning.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Here are some alternatives.

One: Examine your personal relationship to the teacher.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Four: Consider the institution and the teachings separately.

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

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

Five: No one will save us.

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

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

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

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

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


Six. Hold your seat.

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

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

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

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


Seven. Dudes: check yourselves.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Eight. Stop aiming your weapon at yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

May it be of benefit.

Good luck everyone.

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

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:48 am

A Disorganized Attachment Legacy at Shambhala: Brief Notes on Two Letters and a 1993 Interview with Pema Chödrön
by Matthew Remski
July 11, 2018

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

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On Sunday, a unknown number of unnamed “Women acharyas” released this unsigned letter. The acharyas are a group of Shambhala International leaders, empowered by their current head, Ösel Mukpo, to represent the legacy and teaching content of the organization. Their letter responds to a call for action from members outraged by revelations of continued institutional sex and power abuse in their community.

Mukpo stands accused of sexual misconduct by three anonymous women whose voices have been recorded by Andrea Winn in her Project Sunshine report. He has posted a vague admission of guilt. Winn’s work has pried opened an unhealed wound carved out by the abuses of Mukpo’s father, Chogyam Trungpa, and his lieutenants. Those stories are still coming to light, and they are unbelievably savage.

Insiders will be able to better parse out the likelihood of whether this particular political constellation of “acharyas” is equipped to understand the dynamics within which it is embedded and strong enough break out of them. I don’t pretend to have any insights on that. I hope I can, however, point out a key characteristic of crisis communication that does not bode well in the present, and which has deep and influential roots in the past.

From the outset, the framework of the authors is flawed by the loaded language of the organization’s spiritual ideology. They write:

“The women acharyas of Shambhala are writing today to send our love and support to our community at a time of enormous groundlessness.” (emphasis added)


The term “groundlessness” here both indicates and hides the more appropriate word, which would be “betrayal”. The (non)signatories who didn’t know that Ösel Mukpo behaved like his father have been betrayed. Those who did know betrayed those who didn’t, which would mean most of the membership.

Why do the authors use the word “groundlessness”? Because the purpose of the letter, first and foremost, is to maintain the content and ideology of the group. If the writers can do that, they can then maintain interpretational authority over that content. They can still be “acharyas”. The word “groundlessness” positions what follows in the letter as a learning opportunity, but one in which the content of the abusive group will simply be recycled. “Groundlessness” is, after all, a virtuous state or realization described in Middle Way philosophy as a pathway to the wisdom of non-attachment to changing identities or phenomena.

By using it here, the letter writers conflate the trauma of having been stripped of care with the feeling of having seen into the nature of reality. This is tantamount to saying that abuse and abandonment are our natural state, or lead to it. It then follows that finding out that your leader is an abuser is actually (subtly, and with our help you will eventually understand it) a good thing, an opportunity to really put that same leader’s wisdom about “groundlessness” into practice. If that’s their interpretation of the First Noble Truth, then no thank you.

I imagine the “groundlessness” that some of the writers profess to feel here is actually a dawning realization of hypocrisy: that the organization has been talking about one thing for 40 years, and doing another.

Victims may feel stripped of care and support, but they are not “groundless”. They are the ground itself, wounded, right in front of you, under your feet. They were there all along. They don’t need to “be steady within this open space of not-knowing.” They know exactly what happened to them.

Asking the community to be “steady within this open space of not-knowing” sets victims up against members who are entrained to remain, not advocate on behalf of justice.

After this opening, the authors cite a plaintive poem from a distressed member, petitioning for restorative action. It begins with:

To the mother lineage.
Please, break the silence.
Please, approach and speak up.
Please, step up to the plate.
Please, protect the girls and women.
Please, protect the children.


Put a pin in that. Remember that members are using maternal metaphors or transferences to petition their elders.

If Judith Simmer-Brown (Distinguished Professor of Contemplative and Religious Studies at Naropa University) and Susan Chapman are part of “the mother lineage”, and also among the (non-)signatories of this letter, their capacity to offer protection is compromised by deep conflicts.

Why? Because their names are signed to this June 30th letter to registrants for the upcoming “Scorpion Seal” empowerment (July 15-26) at the Shambhala Mountain Centre, Colorado:

June 30, 2018

Dear Scorpion Seal practitioner,

Good morning! We Werma Acharyas are writing in the wake of the cascade of disclosures from the Sakyong and the Kalapa Council and the Sunshine Report regarding allegations of sexual abuse of power in our mandala. We are heartbroken about these, even while we recognize the health of openness, honest exchange, and strategies for change in our sangha culture.

This is all the more concerning because of the preciousness of the Scorpion Seal teachings we have received from our Sakyong, that have provided such a vision for enhancing human goodness in a setting sun world. These teachings have been so personally important for us, equipping us to work with the most difficult, intractable situations in our world. It is essential that these teachings continue and that they help us work with personal and societal obstacles that plague our lives.


You may be wondering about the Scorpion Seal Garchen at Shambhala Mountain
Center, what to expect, how you feel, maybe even whether to come. We can assure you that we will address the current crisis in Shambhala, sharing our personal responses and deeply listening to each other’s. Rather than retreating to a bubble that pretends nothing has happened, we plan to relate with this painful news in the context of our many practices including Shambhala Meditation and the Inner White Lotus practice of working with the dons, as well as the new practices for your particular Assembly. And we look forward to being with our Scorpion Seal sisters and brothers. We see this as an opportunity to create a fresh karmic stream for our community, going into the future.

We have supplicated the Sakyong to be at Shambhala Mountain Center with us, but we honestly don’t know what he will do. Rest assured, we Werma Acharyas will be giving all the transmissions in the event he is not there.

Please join us with your heartbreak, your doubts, your confidence, and your love of the Shambhala community and teaching, and your connection with our Sakyong. It promises to be a deep and authentic experience.

In the Great Eastern Sun,

Ashe Acharya John Rockwell
Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown
Acharya Michael Greenleaf
Acharya Susan Chapman*


“The Scorpion Seal” is a “terma” or a teaching that was mystically “found” by Chogyam Trungpa in 1980 or 1981, according to Shambhala’s narrative. But according to retreat leader John Rockwell the content “was rather secret, a bit ahead of our times.” It fell to Trungpa’s son, Osel Mukpo, to “open” it, and reveal the “Werma” or ritual practices it reputedly contained.

Whether you find this plausible or not (beliefs are like intentions here: far less important than impacts), two things are important to know.

1. This upcoming empowerment/training, with lodging, costs approximately 2000USD to attend. A source forwarded me an email from Shambhala Mountain that stated that there were “well over 200” registrants. This means that this single event could gross up to 400,000 USD.

2. If the empowerment follows the typical pattern of Shambhala-appropriated Tantric ritual, it will ask participants to make vows of allegiance to the community, the teachings, and perhaps even to the acharyas and Mukpo himself. The vows will have both emotional and financial impacts. There are several “levels” of entrainment into the “Scorpion Seal”, which, let’s remember, was “discovered” by an abusive spiritual leader well on his way to dying of terminal alcoholism.

So what shall it be, acharyas?

1. Listening in “groundlessness” and “not-knowing”? Or

2. Selling empowerments to mystical teachings you assert come from the etheric realms?

The answer, if we’re willing to look at this landscape through the lens that Alexandra Stein provides on the attachment patterning that drives cult organizations, is that the acharyas must offer both things at once.

Uncertainty and certainty. Listening and telling. Care and demand. Support and dependency. These are domesticated versions of the most dangerous dyad: the confusion of love with terror at the heart of every high-demand group.

In her riveting addition to cult analysis literature, Stein argues that the primary task that a high-demand group must accomplish in relation to recruits is to take their existing attachment patterning — instilled through familial and intimate conditioning — and, through a “groundless” alternation of love and fear, convert it into a “disorganized” state. There’s a huge literature on this; I’ll let Stein summarize the basics here:

[Disorganized attachment] responses occur when a child has been in a situation of fright without solution. Their caregiver is at once the safe haven and also the source of threat or alarm. So, when the child feels threatened by the caregiver, he or she is caught in an impossible situation: both comfort and threat are represented by the same person – the caregiver. The child experiences the unresolvable paradox of seeking to simultaneously flee from and approach the caregiver. This happens at a biological level, not thought out or conscious, but as evolved behavior to fear. The child attempts to run TO and flee FROM the caregiver at one and the same time… However, in most cases the need for proximity – for physical closeness – tends to override attempts to avoid the fear-arousing caregiver. So usually the child stays close to the frightening parent while internally both their withdrawal and approach systems are simultaneously activated, and in conflict. – Stein, loc 894-903


Now compare the two statements from the acaryas. The “mother lineage” is functioning to both comfort and make further demands. Simultaneously. Stein suggests that such a gambit is not a contradiction, but a feature of the continuously-charged feedback loop of caregiver betrayal that lies at the root of disorganized attachment. This charge will be heightened in environments of physical, sexual, financial or moral abuse.

With Shambhala International, this feedback loop is not new. There will be many examples to point to, but the one that’s fairly well-known and shows the intergenerational continuity of disorganized attachment is this 1993 interview of Pema Chödrön in Tricycle Magazine.

To be fair, this interview is now twenty-five years old, and comes from another era. However, I’m not aware of any widely-available update to these sentiments. Between 1993 and the present, of course, Chödrön has become an international spiritual celebrity. She remains listed amongst the current cohort of acharyas.

Tricycle: Would you say that the intention behind this unconventional behavior, including his sexual exploits and his drinking, was to help others?

Pema Chödrön: As the years went on, I felt everything he did was to help others. But I would also say now that maybe my understanding has gone even deeper, and it feels more to the point to say I don’t know. I don’t know what he was doing. I know he changed my life. I know I love him. But I don’t know who he was. And maybe he wasn’t doing things to help everyone, but he sure helped me. I learned something from him. But who was that masked man?

Tricycle: In recent years women have become more articulate about sexism. And we know more today about the prevalence of child abuse and about how many people come into dharma really hurting. If you knew ten years ago what you know today, would you have been so optimistic about Trungpa Rinpoche and his sexuality? Would you have wanted some of the women you’ve been working with to study with him, given their histories of sexual abuse?

Pema Chödrön: I would have said, You know he loves women, he’s very passionate, and has a lot of relationships with women, and that might be part of it if you get involved with him, and you should read all his books, go to all his talks, and actually see if you can get close to him. And you should do that knowing you might get an invitation to sleep with him, so don’t be naive about that, and don’t think you have to do it, or don’t have to do it. But you have to decide for yourself who you think this guy is.


Tricycle: Were there women who turned down his sexual invitations and maintained close relationships as students? Was that an option?

Pema Chödrön: Yes. Definitely. The other students were often the ones who made people feel like they were square and uptight if they didn’t want to sleep with Rinpoche, but Rinpoche’s teaching was to throw out the party line. However, we’re always up against human nature. The teacher says something, then everybody does it. There was a time when he smoked cigarettes and everybody started smoking. Then he stopped and they stopped and it was ridiculous. But we’re just people with human habitual patterns, and you can count on the fact that the students are going to make everything into a party line, and we did. The one predictable thing about him was that he would continually pull the rug out no matter what. That’s how he was.


There’s too much here to unpack outside of a book-length study. You can probably see the pattern, though. Chödrön employs many of the self-oriented defences I’ve listed here while showing just how powerfully Buddhist rhetoric can be mobilized to evade personal responsibility. It is also a textbook example of I-got-mine-ism.

Chödrön privileges the genius of the abuser over the time, agency, and self-direction of his prospective female student in an equally sophisticated way. The prospective student is supposed to “decide for yourself who you think this guy is”. This is after Chödrön has admitted to his sexual misconduct, as if the “groundlessness” of his teaching puts the actions of the “masked man” in doubt. Women are supposed to invest time and emotional labour in him before understanding his nature, even after Chödrön admits that he abuses power. Intentionally or not, this stunning paragraph manages to both hide and spiritualize an induction into disorganized attachment. Trungpa was brilliant, she suggests — as if this were a sign of care — because “he would continually pull the rug out no matter what.”

Chödrön’s life-long message, inspired by and inspiring Shambhala’s content generally, is about finding rest and space and security “When Things Fall Apart”. We now have to wonder whether this message has as much to do with Buddhism as it does with creating a poetic strategy for metabolizing an abusive relationship that presented itself as loving, and doing so in order for it to continue, and eventually be commodified.


The cultural impact of Chödrön’s views can only be imagined. Never mind that Tricycle thought that this was a reasonable thing to publish. How many people have been influenced by this doublespeak through contact with Chödrön’s writings via Oprah?

In the yoga world, Chödrön’s reasoning vibrates loudly. In late December of last year, Ashtanga Yoga adept Kino MacGregor recommended this very interview to her million-plus followers as a resource that would help them integrate the competing stories of love and terror that constitute the legacy of Pattabhi Jois. Whether it works remains to be seen.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:50 am

Email: "Please"
by The Women Acharyas of Shambhala
Kalapa Council Quarterly Update
July 8, 2018

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


Dear Noble Sangha,

The women acharyas of Shambhala are writing today to send our love and support to our community at a time of enormous groundlessness. We hear the pain of those who have had the bravery to come forward and share their experiences of harm. We also feel for all who are silent and marginalized. Our Shambhala world has been turned upside down, and we are all holding many questions.

On July 1, we received an email with the subject line "Please" and the following supplication:

To the mother lineage.
Please, break the silence.
Please, approach and speak up.
Please, step up to the plate.
Please, protect the girls and women.
Please, protect the children.
Please, be good mothers.
Please, don’t look away.
Please, don’t be ignorant.
Please, don’t blame the women.
Please, establish enlightened society.
Please, be courageous.
Please, don’t be afraid to be powerful.
Please, come together.
Please, be the female sages of our lineage.
Please, cry with us.
Please, feel our pain.
Please, talk to us.
Please, make the community safe for us.
Please, don’t wait.
Please, be there for us.
Please, we need you now.

Over the past week, the women acharyas have gathered our voices and intentions together. As women, we have experienced the impact of systemic power imbalance in our community; some of us have also personally experienced gendered harm in our journeys. We are dedicated to a more just and inclusive society and to structural changes that are more representative and diverse.

Together, we have been reflecting on how our lineage has met great challenges in the past and has come through difficult times. Typically, in times of dissolution, there is a tendency to solidify, blame, polarize, or jump hastily to new reference points. But for new forms to be genuine and fresh, it is important for us to be steady within this open space of not-knowing. We encourage you to listen, nurture each other, and stay strong as a sangha and as friends. New and appropriate forms can then evolve—unhindered by hope and fear.

As women leaders, we wish to protect our community and its members from harm. Like the society at large, our community has karma connected with intoxication and disrespect for women. Even though this is extremely painful, we are relieved this history is becoming transparent so that the Shambhala community, all of us, can address it.

We trust that the Shambhala path is one of transformation, and we remain loyal to the lineage. We have been steeped in the teachings of inherent goodness, and we hold the perspective that we don’t give up on anyone—the teacher, the teachings, each other, or ourselves. This is our path of warriorship. We feel that healing and transformation is possible for this community. As this is happening, we are completely and fearlessly dedicated to deep and lasting change.

We support the Sakyong’s decision to step back from teaching for now. We appreciate how he has brilliantly introduced thousands of people to the path of dharma, bestowed the highest transmissions, and guided our community for decades. At the same time, we see a lot of pain, sadness, outrage, and fear in our community around gender and other types of harm.
Our eyes have been opened to many patterns. We recognize the need for brave and caring spaces to begin a healing process that will bring out our inherent dignity.

We invite you to consider this a time of unearthing old social patterns and joining together to let new ground and structures make us stronger as a community. These times are calling for deep self-reflection by the Sakyong and also ourselves. As he stated on a call with leaders, he is committed to doing “the hard work.” So must we—business as usual cannot continue.

Additionally, we are aware that some queer, trans, and especially, people of color, have been hurt by the sudden attention and resources (time, energy, money) dedicated to gender harms against white women. Marginalized communities have tried for years to call attention to patriarchy, racism, ethnocentrism, homophobia, and transphobia. Dominant group power dynamics harm everyone regardless of their social identity or culture.

We will be in touch again soon and look forward to co-creating spaces for open dialogue. The Kalapa Council's transition/resignation provides an opportunity to explore new forms of governance. We, as a community, will need to work together to ensure that what arises in its place is representative of all the diverse facets of our community.

We are committed to listening, learning, teaching, and acting. With profound respect and sadness, we want you to know we are here for you and that we are committed to a process of community transformation.

The Women Acharyas of Shambhala


This letter was composed by the women acharyas in Shambhala in response to the supplication of a woman in the Shambhala community. It has been read and is broadly supported by all Shambhala acharyas. May there be benefit!
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:01 am

Letter of Apology
by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
Kalapa Council Quarterly Update
July 10, 2018

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


To the Shambhala Community,

In a state of complete heartbreak, I write to you, humble, embarrassed, and thoroughly apologetic for disappointing you. I feel a tremendous amount of sorrow for the pain, confusion, and anger that our sangha is experiencing. I accept accountability for this pain, and want to express my commitment to personal growth.

I fully support a third-party investigator being hired to look into claims of sexual misconduct in the Shambhala community. I feel that I must, at this time, step back from my administrative and teaching responsibilities as a leader of Shambhala to allow space for the investigation to occur.

It is clear to me that I have much more learning to do. I am committed to engaging with women and others in our community who have felt marginalized,
beginning this week. I will be using this time of self-reflection to deeply listen and to better understand how the dynamics of power, gender, and my actions have affected others.

I know that some of what you are hearing may be surprising and shocking for those of you who have only known me as a teacher. I wish to share with all of you some of the challenges that I have gone through. None of this is to give an excuse for my actions, but I do wish to be open with you about my journey as a human, and give some history and context to my life and behavior.

After the passing of my father, I took on the leadership role of Shambhala at a young age, followed by my enthronement in 1995. During this period, I struggled to find my way, and fumbled with unhealthy power dynamics and alcohol. I failed to recognize the pain and confusion I was creating.

Noticing this, a group of senior students came to me deeply concerned about the way I was drinking, and it was then that I began to realize how my actions were impacting others, and affecting my ability to lead in a genuine way. At that point, I realized that I needed to change my lifestyle.
Again, I am not saying that this is an excuse.

In the years following this feedback, I cut back my drinking, began running and developed a more healthy lifestyle, physically and spiritually. I committed myself to deepening my own practice and teaching path. In 2005, I met and married my wife, the Sakyong Wangmo. We established our home and began a family together. She has been a teacher and partner, helping me to open my heart in a healthy way.

Since then, I have consciously worked on improving my relationship to alcohol as well as trying to improve my general behavior and my relationship to others as a teacher and as a person.
Personal development and learning is a lifelong process and I know that I must continuously apply myself and hear the feedback that I am getting. I feel tremendous regret and sadness, and I commit myself to continuing this healing.

Our teachings advise that we do not give up on ourselves or on each other. I am realizing that I have much to learn and am committed to that process. I hope that by my doing this, our Shambhala community and organization can evolve, and become a true place of kindness, respect, and dignity. I am here for you, and am thinking of you always.

With love,

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

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:21 am

The Unbearable Smugness of “I Got Mine-ism” Amongst Cult and ex-Cult Members
by Matthew Remski
April 6, 2018

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I’ll preface this post by saying that, in accordance with the clinical research, I do not believe there are strong correlations between prior life experience and the likelihood that a person will join or stay in a cult (or “totalist”, or “high-demand” group.) What follows is a speculation, based on memory and anecdote, on why people who are already inside such a group may be more prone to the kind of enabling and moral harm that Facebook friend Joseph Teskey has described to me as “I got mine-ism” (IGM).

IGM is a defensive strategy by which a member who has not (or believes they have not) directly experienced abuse or institutional betrayal within the group deflects stories of abuse within the group by immediately self-referring, saying things like: “I don’t know about other’s experience; I find/found the teacher/teachings to be profoundly helpful in my life.” The statement is usually couched within an unwillingness to act on behalf on victims or mitigate future harm.

In my own two cult experiences, I adopted the defence of IGM to varying degrees, and I remember many others who did as well. In the circle of people I’m thinking of, none of us (that I’m aware of) had prior experience with therapy. We had all come from family and social cultures in which that just wasn’t part of the wellness toolbox. When we gravitated towards the techniques of meditation and yoga offered by the groups, we found that they could have powerful self-regulatory effects we had never felt before, and we were hooked.

I believe that many of us were under the illusion that the meditative/yogic technique was the key to our new-found capacity for self-regulation. I don’t think we understood that we’d been love-bombed, or acquired a new family / safe haven in one fell blissful swoop. We didn’t understand that our internal changes were as much relational as they were intra-personal. The messaging was always singular and privatized: “You can go within, you can find x, you can choose y, you can be responsible.” One was never encouraged to really examine who was saying this to you, or why, or what they might want.

A paradox formed part of the group’s deception: you were told you were entirely self-responsible, and yet the benefits you experienced were mostly if not entirely coming from the group dynamic. You were emotionally isolated within a group somatic process that made itself invisible.

My own, and I believe others’, prior training in self-responsibility (or lack of experience with therapy) gave us the impression that we were in a place in which we had to resolve all conflicts or grievances internally. In a cult you can’t ask people for help and expect transparency or existential honesty. It’s palpable, whether you cognize it or not, that anyone with standing in the community who you would go to for help will reframe your appeal in relation to some deeper way in which you must surrender to the teaching or the leadership. In other words: any counselling is highly motivated and manipulative. It’s designed to protect the dynamic by making it manageable. Nobody will suggest that you leave, when leaving might be the only healthy thing to do, as hard as it would be.

If you’re aware of all of these rules, I believe you’ll double-down on the hyper-individualism that makes sense and seems to keep you safe. You remind yourself that you are there for your own development: that’s all you have control over. Yes, there are problems, ups and downs, hypocrites and assholes. People get hurt. Some recover, some don’t. Such is life, you feel, and it’s the same in here as it is out there.
God is both shrugging and chuckling at the thought that you would have it be different.

And so nothing has really changed from before you were enmeshed in this new scene: you were always on your own, just you and God and the fates, and it’s the same now. And this feeling of the atomic self, equipped with nothing but a technique for self-consolation, means that you have no time for the sorrows of others. How could you bear to add them to your own?

The height of my own IGM was catching myself casting judgments on an older woman who died of cancer while in the group. Classy. She had sought out and received no care, in part because she maintained an affect of complete and total devotion to the leader. So obviously, she was fine.

Instead of being able to understand that I was part of a network that enabled harm, I criticized her in my heart. I remember distinctly feeling: her death was her own fault. She was stupid for not seeking treatment. But at some point I realized that I was criticizing her for not being able to do what I actually needed to do: reach outside of the group, restore other relationships, recognize that I had been fooled by my society into believing something that the group had expertly amplified: “You’re on your own, so you’ve got to get your own.”

I don’t want to abdicate responsibility for any way in which my IGM hurt other people, like those I hardened myself against and refused to sympathize with, even after I saw them emotionally and physically abused by a leader. At the same time I think it’s important to recognize that IGM is enforced by the isolationist dynamics of such groups. Cult members who are incapable of bearing witness to the trauma of their fellows are stunted, I believe, by a subtler form of trauma they are able to mobilize into a sophisticated defence that looks like spiritual dedication.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:34 am

Leaked notes reveal Buddhist leader coerced female students into sex: Stories of drunken parties and sexual misconduct are emerging from his inner circle.
by Joshua Eaton
July 6, 2018, 8:00 AM

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Sakyong Mipham signs a book during a program in Munich, Germany, on Feb. 2, 2007. CREDIT: Robertivanc via Flickr

A senior official in the Buddhist group Shambhala International admitted Monday that its head, prominent Buddhist teacher and author Sakyong Mipham, had coercive sexual relationships with his female students, according to meeting notes obtained by ThinkProgress.

The notes come from a private video call Monday between ground-level Shambhala leaders and its governing body, called the Kalapa Council. They reveal a crisis of leadership, with members calling for Mipham, the council, or both to step down in the wake of a sex scandal that has rocked the organization.

“There is no one holding this body accountable right now,” one person told the council during a question-and-answer session. “That’s not ok [sic]. I want to see some accountability. I want to see members step down.”


Mipham and the Kalapa Council referred requests for comment to the public relations firm Hiltzik Strategies, which declined to comment on the record.

Last week, the advocacy group Buddhist Project Sunshine published a report detailing allegations of coercive relationships and sexual assault by Mipham — including a second-hand allegation that a woman in Chile accused him of rape.

Senior officials within Shambhala made several other previously unpublished disclosures during the hour-and-a-half-long call, including:

● Shambhala is hiring the Halifax law firm Wickwire Holm to investigate the allegations against Mipham.

Two members of the Kalapa Council — a governing body within the organization whose members have been appointed by Mipham himself — have held separate interventions with Mipham in the past over his heavy drinking and his louche behavior with women, one of which lead to him going on “retreat.”

A council member and another senior official seemed to admit to the facts of a 2011 incident in which Mipham allegedly sexually assaulted a woman in the kitchen of his Halifax home after the first birthday party for one of his daughters.

● Shambhala nevertheless believes the Chile allegation to be untrue and said that the organization has “first-hand witnesses who indicate it isn’t true.”

In a letter sent to Shambhala members before the report’s release last week, Mipham acknowledged what he called “relationships” with his female students in the past, but he stopped short of admitting to any sexual misconduct.

“I have recently learned that some of these women have shared experiences of feeling harmed as a result of these relationships,” Mipham wrote. “I am now making a public apology.”

Mipham echoed those sentiments at the beginning of the call Monday, apologizing again for this behavior, saying he has “a lot of hard work to do” and that he feels “sad and embarrassed” about the disclosures. He did not go into detail about his behavior or how it might have affected the women involved.

Early in the call, one member of the council, Adam Lobel, described the “wild culture of drinking, spontaneous poetry, and parties” he witnessed while working closely with Mipham in the early to mid 2000s.

“A lot of what we saw with women was consensual,” Lobel said. “What was disturbing was his inability to connect with women as a human being [sic].”

Lobel described what he saw during that time as “off and confusing.”
Eventually, Lobel said, an intervention was staged that led to Mipham being sent on a “retreat” after which he appeared to settle down — evidenced by fewer instances of drunken public debauchery and his 2006 marriage to Khandro Tseyang.

debauch verb
1a archaic : to make disloyal
b : to seduce from chastity
notorious for debauching young women
2a : to lead away from virtue or excellence
debauched by ambition
b : to corrupt by intemperance or sensuality
debauched poets
a debauched society

debauch noun
1 : an act or occasion of extreme indulgence in sensuality or carnal pleasures : an act or occasion of debauchery
2 : ORGY
a debauch of pleasure


-- debauch, by Merriam-Webster


“The story line I’ve had in my mind is one of human growth and healing,” Lobel said before admitting that the organization needs to own up to Mipham’s history with women.

But at least one woman has said Mipham sexually assaulted her since his marriage in 2006. In the Buddhist Project Sunshine report and an interview with ThinkProgress, the woman described how Mipham lifted up her skirt, groped her breasts, and began drunkenly kissing her in the kitchen of his Halifax home in 2011 after the birthday party for his one-year-old daughter.

“I felt like I just did something I didn’t want to do, and I didn’t have a way out,” the woman, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisal, told ThinkProgress. “I felt trapped … There was no one there to help me. I felt alone.”

During the call Monday, two senior Shambhala officials, one of whom is on the Kalapa Council, seemed to concede the facts of that incident and said they tried to provide support to the woman afterward.

“She told me her account a couple of days after,” one of the officials said. “I said what happened was not ok [sic] and it’s not your fault. I shared my feelings with [Mipham].”


Shambhala is not aware of any incidents since 2011, according to notes from the Monday call.

ThinkProgress is not identifying the two senior officials in order to protect the identity of the woman who says Mipham sexually assaulted her.

Toward the end of the call, an unnamed person said they had a sexual relationship with Mipham in 2003 and challenged Lobel’s assertion that the relationships he saw Mipham engage in were all consensual.

“I had a relationship with [Mipham] in 2003,” the person said. “I don’t feel it was consensual, given the power difference.”


“All of us are lea[r]ning a lot about power dynamics,” Lobel responded. “I no longer see those relationships as consensual in that same way. I’m sorry for any of the pain you have gone through.”

Lobel did not respond to a request for comment on the leaked notes.

Mipham showed visible regret as he addressed the call Monday, according to a brief summary of the call posted online by the Shambhala meditation center in Atlanta, Georgia. Some of those who participated in the call expressed gratitude at what they described as his decision to discuss his past with greater honesty.

But others have said that it’s time for the organization’s rigid, top-down leadership structure to change. That will be difficult for an organization that’s viewed itself as building an enlightened society with Mipham as the literal king at its center — complete with a royal court, attendants, titles, a flag, and an anthem.

Sue Gilman, a Shambhala teacher, summarized the mood she saw among the group’s rank-and-file in an email included in the summary published by the Atlanta, Georgia center.

“The Sakyong must step down until full investigations have happened,” Gillman wrote. “The Kalapa Council has to dissolve and a transitional governing body [be] put in place. The monarchy needs to go. This needs to happen now, not in a month.”

Do you have information about sexual misconduct in Shambhala or another religious organization? Contact reporter Joshua Eaton by email at jeaton@thinkprogress.org or by Signal at 202–684–1030.
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Re: Former teacher at Boulder's Shambhala accused of sexuall

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 4:04 am

Boulder man who set car on fire and died identified
by John Bear
Staff Writer
POSTED: 07/10/2018 07:36:46 PM MDT
UPDATED: 07/10/2018 07:38:19 PM MDT

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The Boulder County Coroner's Office has identified a man who was found dead Sunday in the front seat of a car that he had intentionally set on fire. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)

Kathleen Moore spoke fifth, and gave me permission to disclose her name. Moore was the partner of the late Bill Scheffel, who died of suicide on July 8th. He immolated himself in his car a week after giving a despairing address to a community gathering to discuss the scandal.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


A man who died after intentionally setting his car on fire near the Boulder Rifle Club on Sunday has been identified as 64-year-old William Scheffel, of Boulder.

The Boulder County Coroner's Office has completed an autopsy and Scheffel's cause and manner of death are pending further investigation, according to news release.

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

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Figure 1: Partially burned car abandoned in a rural area

Arson and fire will render very difficult forensic evaluation of a crime scene, and in particular of a victim deliberately burned post-mortem.

-- “The Fire will do the Rest”: Concealing Homicide through Posthumous Burning of Corpses, by Zija Ismaili, Bledar Xhemali, Admir Sinamati and Gentian Vyshka


Scheffel's death remains under investigation, but no foul play is suspected.

My personal effects began to be routinely sabotaged and a mixture of corn chips, grass and gravel were placed in my vehicle’s fuel tank. The Director suspected the Kitchen Manager in the vehicle sabotage while I told him that it was more likely the work of his ex-army chauffeur friend who he had recently employed in the Facilities Maintenance Department, Jeremy Blackburn....

About an hour after leaving Dorje Denma Ling, I discovered that the strange sound on my vehicle came from the rear-axle gears: the oil cap on the differential cover had been removed. The oil inside the differential had completely drained from it. This could have resulted in my death as the gears could have seized while I was driving, and caused a major accident on the highway. I immediately suspected the Kitchen Manager in collusion with the Director’s friend in the Dorje Denma Ling Facilities Department, the latter having quietly slipped away to Europe just days earlier without explanation. I later learned that he had in fact been banned from Dorje Denma Ling due to his slander and witnessed physical assault of me and that this had occurred without my knowledge or formal input. However, his banning clearly occurred too late.

I began to investigate what I felt at least criminally reckless behaviour and to research which laws may be applied to the situation. As I could have died in the incident which occurred in the context of relentless harassment, and as Blackburn is most likely to have known the mechanical implications of such an action, it seems obvious that had I died there would have been a murder investigation. In addition, given that no life was lost, the overwhelming likelihood of Blackburn’s involvement in the apparent first and second vehicle sabotages makes an allegation of attempted murder plausible in this case.

In this analysis I am supported by Shambhala International’s former President, Richard Reoch. He is also the former Public Relations Chief for Amnesty International and a broker in the ceasefire in the intractable recent war in Sri Lanka. On two occasions in 2015, four months apart he was careful in assessing what I told him of the scenario, found it to be credible, and earnestly encouraged me to not refer to the incident as merely willful aggression or recklessness, but as attempted murder. He encouraged me to do what I could to pursue all avenues of investigation in this. He was also very clear that I may get nowhere with the Sangha’s internal conflict resolution processes as wrongdoing was, “…systemic…” in the Sangha. He finally told me that if I approached the Sakyong, “…even though you think he should be interested, he ain’t! He just ain’t!”

Having effected an emergency repair, I drove to Maine to spend three nights at the home of Toby Sifton, one of the Kasung Command and my main supervisor. He consoled me with apparent heart, while I arranged for a new differential to be fitted to my vehicle at a cost of $3,000. Nobody offered any compensation and it was clear it was not worth asking for any, despite it being clear to Kasung Command that a major incident had just occurred at Dorje Denma Ling.

Sifton ordered me to silence so as to, “…not feed this beast”, namely the gossip surrounding the Kitchen Manager’s storyline. In my utter confusion, I began a month of attempted healing at Karme Chöling in Vermont. I effectively suppressed any criticism of anybody elses’s responsibility in the aggression which had, preventably, come my way. However, just as the Jews are not responsible for their holocaust, I am not accountable for that aggression and the Sangha remains at risk of harm because, to this day it has been swept under the rug.

Sifton informed me via email that I would risk his personally collecting me from Karme Choling to, “…exile on Ragged Island to subsist on seaweed”, (on the coast of Maine) should I discuss my experience at Dorje Denma Ling with anybody at Karme Choling during my month there. It did seem somewhat of a harsh to toy with making me his prisoner while the Kitchen Manager was left freely crowing around the Nova Scotia Sangha, “We ejected the Rusung from Dorje Denma Ling!” The Kitchen Manager was reported to have done this in the Sakyong’s Halifax kitchen in her role as his trainee cook. Still she was not questioned, and it would be six months before she was properly fired. As a victim of Sangha crime I was being silenced while slander was allowed to generate against me.

-- The institutionalised cover up of crime in the Shambhala International Sangha, by Edmund Butler


John Bear: 303-473-1355, bearj@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/johnbearwithme

***************************************

Librarian's Comment: May 2 at 11:59 PM
https://www.reddit.com/r/ShambhalaBuddh ... dium=web2x

As a retired prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, I can only say that finding a body in a burned automobile raises serious suspicions about whether the death was a homicide, rather than a suicide. Burning yourself to death is a difficult way to kill yourself, and self immolation inside a car is almost unheard of. The only reference to a case of self-immolation in an automobile is in a paper entitled Unusual motor vehicle suicides, and was "a backup to a drug overdose."

On the other hand, burning a body in a car is a textbook way of hiding evidence of murder. Planting rumors about why the person would commit suicide is a second form of concealment, called staging: "For example, after killing a person an offender puts the victim into their vehicle and sets the car on fire with the aim of destroying any physical evidence that may have been left behind. This would be a precautionary act. If the offender does the exact same thing, but writes a suicide note, signing on behalf of the victim, speaking of mental anguish and the desire to end their life, this would constitute staging."

Getting Away With Murder: An examination of detected homicides staged as suicides

I became acquainted with the technique of burning the body in an automobile after simulating an automobile accident when I was an Oregon Deputy DA, and watched a video with some detectives of the exhumation of a body that had been buried eighteen years. Asking why we were watching this, another DA told me that a Native American in a Georgia prison was dying, and confessed to participating in a biker murder in Grants Pass where they shot the victim in the throat with a shotgun, put his body in a car, doused it all with gasoline, and pushed it over a cliff. Sure enough, Josephine County sheriffs called it a fatal one-vehicle crash. But when they exhumed the body (not much flesh left on the bones by the maggots, but there was still a cohesive spinal structure visible), they x-rayed it and -- boom! There was a wad of buckshot right in the neck.

Obviously, if a person self-immolates themselves, there's going to be a different appearance than if someone ignites their corpse. Here is the difference: "If a person is alive but unconscious before they are burned, the burned body will assume a pugilistic posture. This term arises from the similarity of the posture to that of a boxer in the ring; the arms are raised up in a defensive position and the hands are tightened into fists. The legs may be bent into a defensive stance as well. "

Burning Evidence

I don't have any information on the appearance of Bill's body, but good police forensic practices are often not followed, and homicides are taken for suicides all the time. (See the likely murders of Ferguson activists, including at least one the police are calling suicide that was almost certainly a lynching. The Boulder law enforcement do not have a great reputation for investigating homicides involving the wealthy, as we can recall from their inability to solve the Jon Benet case.

Suicide by a Dharma student is a rare thing. Sometimes people know too much. Questions should be asked, but the Boulder media isn't doing it. Somebody should get the coroner's report, and see if Bill's burned corpse was in a "pugilistic posture." If not, then he was dead before the car was burned.

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

Postby admin » Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:04 am

A Guided Tour of Hell: A Graphic Memoir
by Samuel Bercholz and Pema Namdol Thaye
shambhala.com
$24.95 - Hardcover

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Details

Take a trip through the realms of hell with a man whose temporary visitor’s pass gave him a horrifying—and enlightening—preview of its torments. This true account of Sam Bercholz’s near-death experience has more in common with Dante’s Inferno than it does with any of the popular feel-good stories of what happens when we die. In the aftermath of heart surgery, Sam, a longtime Buddhist practitioner and teacher, is surprised to find himself in the lowest realms of karmic rebirth, where he is sent to gain insight into human suffering. Under the guidance of a luminous being, Sam’s encounters with a series of hell-beings trapped in repetitious rounds of misery and delusion reveal to him how an individual’s own habits of fiery hatred and icy disdain, of grasping desire and nihilistic ennui, are the source of horrific agonies that pound consciousness for seemingly endless cycles of time. Comforted by the compassion of a winged goddess and sustained by the kindness of his Buddhist teachers, Sam eventually emerges from his ordeal with renewed faith that even the worst hell contains the seed of wakefulness. His story is offered, along with the modernist illustrations of a master of Tibetan sacred arts, in order to share what can be learned about awakening from our own self-created hells and helping others to find relief and liberation from theirs.

Image
Inferno, 2015. Acrylic, 20.75 x 27 inches. © Pema Namdol Thaye

Image
Gates of Hell (detail) 2015. Acrylic, 20.75 x 21.1 inches. © Pema Namdol Thayel

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Momo Drollo, 2013. Acrylic, 23.75 x 30 inches. © Pema Namdol Thaye


News & Reviews

"Sam Bercholz, one of the most genuine and heartful teachers of dharma I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, has written a harrowing and vivid account of what might await us after death. A dark thrill to read, it is also a generous gift, reminding us that what we do here matters urgently." —George Saunders, author of Tenth of December

"A Guided Tour of Hell graphically illustrates the naked consequences of the destructive side of our attitudes and actions. Buddhism says, when our mind is released from this physical setup, we could enjoy a heavenly world of peace and light, or suffer in a hellish world of darkness and pain. No one else creates these worlds for us. They are the reflections of our own past mental habits. Thank you, Sam, for returning with these mesmerizing descriptions of what you witnessed on the other side. I hope that they will make us mindful to become better people." —Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, author of The Healing Power of Mind and Boundless Healing

"This book is an astonishingly generous offering: a tour of hell, guided with love. This is not a pacifying love. Rather, it is a love that destroys illusion to leave the reader in a state of discomfiting wakefulness. If you seek a deeply refined and discerning spiritual view that will compel you to journey beyond conventional thought, never to return, this book is for you." —Susan Piver, author of Start Here Now

"An apocalyptic guided tour through the infernal Buddhist hells realms revealed during a near-death experience. A courageous and subjective account, resonant with Buddhist doctrine, that veers far from the heavenly realms of much modern NDE literature. Sam Bercholz’s narrative is vividly illustrated by Pema Namdol’s brilliant artwork." —Robert Beer, artist and author of The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs

"A fascinating and deeply thought-provoking testimony, powerfully illustrated. A must-read for anyone who wonders what might happen at the time of death." —Matthieu Ricard, author of Happiness
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