Buddhist Project Sunshine Airs New Allegations in Unfolding Shambhala Abuse Scandal
Amid an ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct by the renowned Dharma teacher Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and other senior members of the Canada-based Shambhala International Buddhist community,* Buddhist Project Sunshine published a new report on 23 July detailing harrowing new accusations of sexual impropriety against the former Shambhala leader.**
The author of newest exposé, the Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 3 Final Report, founder of Buddhist Project Sunshine and former Shambhala member Andrea Winn, said phase three contains new accusations that are “more serious in nature.” (The Guardian)
“The new report brings to light a deeper gravity of the alleged crimes and what it means to be a sexual predator,” she said, alleging that under Sakyong Mipham, the Buddhist community had become a “highly sexualized sort of male locker room,” with no respect for personal boundaries. (Global News, The Guardian)
The 46-page document contains detailed new accusations of sexual assaults allegedly committed by Sakyong Mipham, as well as accounts of a number of alleged incidents that suggest his inner circle of Shambhala officials and senior members were complicit witnesses and even participants. The report also includes allegations of sexual encounters with underage participants.
The allegations contained in Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 3 Final Report include details of two harrowing assaults, which members of Shambhala’s governing Kalapa Council and some senior teachers allegedly witnessed or even participated in. It also identifies community leaders alleged to have taken part in a group sexual assault or individual rape, who were present during such assaults, or who procured women on behalf of Sakyong Mipham.
Headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Shambhala community is an international network of more than 200 meditation centers and groups spanning over 50 countries and six continents, in addition to online communities. Sakyong Mipham, the current lineage holder, was enthroned as sakyong in 1995. A prominent Buddhist teacher in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, Sakyong Mipham announced in an official statement on 6 July that he had decided to “step back from his teaching and administrative responsibilities within Shambhala to allow the independent investigation of these allegations,” according to an official statement from Sakyong Mipham’s office dated 6 July.***
The allegations against Sakyong Mipham were first covered extensively in an independent report published in late June by Buddhist Project Sunshine,**** a grassroots initiative started by Andrea Winn, a second-generation Shambhala Buddhist who grew up in the early years of the community. The report includes three anonymous first-person accounts of abuses allegedly committed by Sakyong Mipham. The Halifax-based law firm Wickwire Holm has been engaged by Shambhala International to investigate the assault claims and accusations of institutional coverup.
However, in response to the latest round of allegations, Shambhala’s outgoing governing body—the Kalapa Council—issued a written denial to the Shambhala community on 23 August, stating:
We want to be clear to you, our community, that based on the information provided, Shambhala, the Sakyong and the four Board members named in these allegations categorically deny the substance of the allegations, which are not only unfounded, but are each based on speculative and unsubstantiated claims. The publication of such salacious and defamatory information is grossly irresponsible.*****
The Buddhist Project Sunshine report has also garnered a statement from Sakyong Mipham’s legal representative Michael Scott: “The Sakyong categorically denies assaulting anyone, sexually or otherwise, sexual contact with minors, or any other criminal offence.” (Global News)
“We are greatly disappointed that Ms. Winn has chosen to include the abuse of children to her list of accusations,” Scott said in an emailed statement. “As fits the pattern to date, the allegations are vague, unsourced, and uncorroborated. If Ms. Winn has information about the abuse of a child, any child, by anyone, she should contact law-enforcement authorities immediately.” (Global News)
However, the Buddhist Project Sunshine report also includes a memo from the lawyer overseeing the ongoing investigation with Buddhist Project Sunshine, Carol Merchasin, who described the accounts of the alleged victims as “extremely credible.”**
“There are allegations of a new level of harm that needs to be understood by the community,” Merchasin states in her memo, noting that: “There are simply too many reports following the same pattern to believe that this number of unrelated women are all lying.”**
In July, Sakyong Mipham shared a letter with Shambhala members in which he apologized for the “pain, confusion and anger” that has overtaken the 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.******
Born Osel Rangdrol Mukpo in Bodh Gaya, India, in 1962, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is the eldest son of Shambhala founder Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Buddhist nun Ani Konchok Palden. He has been recognized as the incarnation of the highly revered Tibetan Nyingma scholar and meditation master Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso (1846–1912).
* Report Details Alleged Sexual Assault And Misconduct by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche (Buddhistdoor Global)
Ripples of Shambhala Sexual Abuse Scandal Continue to Spread amid New Allegations (Buddhistdoor Global)
Buddhist Project Sunshine
Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 1 Final Report
Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 2 Final Report
Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 3 Final Report
New allegations surface against Buddhist leader accused of sexual misconduct (The Guardian)
Halifax-based Buddhist leader accused of sexual misconduct denies new allegations (Global News)
Related news from Buddhistdoor Global
Shambhala International Announces Steps to Address Sexual Abuse
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche Issues Public Statement on Recent Criticism of Sogyal Rinpoche
Sogyal Rinpoche Resigns from Rigpa
Dalai Lama Turns Spotlight on Fallibility of Buddhist Teachers in Public Address
Sogyal Rinpoche Pledges to Enter Retreat After Rigpa Members Detail Abuse Allegations
Related features from Buddhistdoor Global