Andrea Winn, the lead author and driving force behind Buddhist Project Sunshine (BPS), has announced that she will step down from her role in the project, effective 4 February. In a statement dated 26 January, Winn noted that the mission of BPS, to “bring healing light to the sexualized violence in Shambhala,” had been accomplished. She also stated that volunteers from the project would offer an ongoing news service for those interested.
Buddhist Project Sunshine has been the most visible and sustained effort to draw together stories of survivors of alleged sexual misconduct and alleged abuse by leadership within a Buddhist organization, in this case Shambhala International. At its inception in early 2017, Winn hoped that BPS could operate as a mechanism within Shambhala to “heal the intergenerational trauma of sexualized violence that is active within the Shambhala community.” (Project Sunshine: Final Report)
However, by the time the full first report was published in February 2018, Shambhala leaders had cut off dialogue with Winn and issued their own statement on social media and in emails to followers admitting to failures in its handling of cases of “abhorrent sexual behavior” perpetrated by “some men in the community . . .” (The Guardian)
Winn and others kept up the pressure and in July 2018, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche stepped down from his leadership role as an increasing number of allegations of impropriety pointed to him. In December 2018, the Sheriff’s Department of Larimer County, Colorado, confirmed that it was investigating “possible criminal activity” at the Shambhala Mountain Center north of Denver.
The fallout continues within the Shambhala Buddhist community as members await a delayed investigative report commissioned by its leadership, which had been expected in early January.
Winn’s full statement on stepping down from BPS follows:
Without doubt, it can be said that the mission of Buddhist Project Sunshine has been accomplished at this point, and far more. The original mission was to bring healing light to the sexualized violence in Shambhala. That has happened beyond what I could ever have imagined two years ago, and investigations now continue in the capable and neutral hands of law enforcement.
It feels important to acknowledge that our mission is complete. I am therefore closing my involvement in the project and all that has been running through my business computer systems on February 4th, the end of this Tibetan year of the Earth Dog. I launched BPS two years ago on the Tibetan new year’s day 2017, and it seems fitting to acknowledge the completion of my work at the end of this Tibetan year, after two years of “dogged” service. On February 4th I will shut down the GoFundMe page and delete the BPS contact database from my business systems. I will be posting a last message before closing my part in BPS on February 4th.
I am pleased to share that a small group of exceptionally good-hearted volunteers will be offering an “add on” to the project. Volunteers will be offering a BPS news service this winter! The news service will be completely in their hands, and I will have nothing to do with it. I will formally pass the reins to the volunteers’ news service through my existing communication channels on February 4th. So stay tuned for more information coming shortly!
I am leaving the GofundMe campaign open until February 4th for anyone who would like to contribute to help me pay the debt I accumulated as I devoted my time and energy to BPS. My debt is $20,200. I made decisions along the way to continue to focus on BPS rather than shift my focus back to my coaching service because I personally needed the sexualized violence to be brought out into the light. I do not regret this. And now I am turning my attention to my own healing, paying my debt, and moving forward with a good life. I welcome financial help from those who feel they benefitted from my efforts. If you feel moved, you can contribute here.
As always, thank you to everyone who is contributing to the healing light. Every small effort you make makes a different – so thank you from the bottom of my heart!
I am closing my Buddhist social justice campaign February 4th (andreawinn.com)
Buddhist Project Sunshine
Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 1 Final Report
Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 2 Final Report
Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 3 Final Report
Buddhist group admits sexual abuse by teachers (The Guardian)