Two Embattled Buddhist Leaders Pressured to Stop Teaching

Tricycle Magazine

February 22, 2019

By Matthew Abrahams

Following separate sexual misconduct investigations, Shambhala head Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has stepped back from teaching and Noah Levine’s authority has been revoked.

Two prominent Buddhist teachers accused of sexual misconduct are facing new actions from their communities, which have urged them to stop teaching after internal investigations found the allegations against them credible. Shambhala International head Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche announced that he would be stepping down from teaching for the “foreseeable future” in an email sent out to students on February 21. A day earlier, the Spirit Rock Meditation Center released a statement withdrawing authorization to teach from Noah Levine, who founded the now-shuttered Against the Stream Meditation Society (ATS).

While the Sakyong and Levine have both been accused of abusing their power, the details of the allegations and how they were handled differ in many ways. Most notably, Levine was removed from ATS, which closed its centers soon after, while the Sakyong has remained the lineage holder of Shambhala.

The Sakyong had previously announced that he was stepping aside while a law firm hired by Shambhala, Wickwire Holm, investigated the claims against him. The investigation, released this month, found that the Sakyong “more than likely” engaged in sexual misconduct in at least two cases. Earlier this week, a group of the Sakyong’s former kusung, or personal attendants, released a statement further detailing decades of inappropriate and harmful conduct.

In his email on Thursday, the Sakyong said he will continue to step back from his duties now that the investigation has concluded. He writes that he made this decision after receiving a letter the day before from Shambhala’s 42 acharyas [senior teachers] asking him to do so.

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