Leader of Boulder-born Shambhala International Apologizes for Past Relationships in Which Women Felt "Harm"
By Carina Julig
Daily Camera Boulder News
June 28, 2018
|Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, left, the leader of Shambhala International, presents the Living Peace Award to the Dalai Lama at the Shambhala Mountain Retreat in Larimer County in 2006. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)|
The leader of Shambhala International, a Buddhist group founded in Boulder, released a statement this week apologizing for past relationships in which the participating women have expressed "feeling harm."
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is the spiritual leader of Shambhala, a Buddhist organization created in the west in the 1970s by Mipham's father, exiled Tibetan monk Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
The Canadian-based organization's U.S. headquarters are located in Boulder, along with the Buddhist-inspired Naropa University, which also was founded by Trungpa.
The organization has been the focus of sexual misconduct allegations for the past several months, after a report called "Project Sunshine" was published online in February detailing a culture of sexual abuse by the organization's senior teachers. The report contained several anonymous accounts from victims.
None of the previous allegations directly named Mipham, who wrote in a statement that emailed to current Shambhala members on Monday that "there have been times when I have engaged in relationships with women in the Shambhala community. I have recently learned that some of these women have shared experiences of feeling harmed as a result of these relationships."
In the statement, Mihpam went on to offer a public apology, and said he apologized personally and engaged in mediation with those who felt harmed. He said with his wife's support he will be "entering a period of self-reflection and listening."
The message does not contain specific details about the alleged harm, and Mipham does not directly reference sexual assault or abuse, or detail what he plans to do going forward.
Melanie Klein, executive director of the Boulder Shambhala Center, declined to comment Tuesday when asked about Mipham's statement. The Boulder Shambhala Center was the first of the now more than 200 meditation centers under the umbrella of Shambhala International, which is based in Halifax.
The Kalapa Council, the international governing body of Shambhala, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Andrea Winn, the creator of Project Sunshine and a self-described second-generation Shambhalian, said she will be publishing a second report on Thursday containing more direct allegations against Mipham.
Winn said she is publishing the report to urge Shambhala to conduct a full investigation of the allegations.
"I was sexually abused as a child by multiple perpetrators in our community," Winn wrote in the original Project Sunshine report. "When I was a young adult, I spoke up about the community's sexual abuse problem and was demonized by my local Shambhala center, ostracized and forced to leave. The shocking truth is that almost all of the young people in my age group were sexually harassed and/or sexually abused."
Currently, Shambhala members can submit allegations of abuse by staff and senior teachers to an internal care and conduct panel. However, Project Sunshine reported that the panel was often biased in favor of the accused, and did not work to sufficiently protect victims.
In March, Shambhala announced a new effort to address harm and said it would be announcing the plan in steps. In June it finalized the creation of a sexual harm and misconduct task force, which will create a new sexual misconduct policy within Shambhala.
The organization also announced that there have been 12 cases of sexual misconduct by Shambhala officials brought to the care and conduct panel between 2012 and 2017, including one charge of pedophilia and one sexual relationship with a student.