Drala Mountain Center (DMC), Colorado’s largest Buddhist center, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on 28 February. The center, formerly known as Shambhala Mountain Center, sits on some 242 hectares in a valley in the Rocky Mountains. DMC released a statement that detailed a number of reasons for the loss of revenue, including the pandemic, destruction from the 2020 Cameron Peak wildfire,* and the wider crisis facing Shambhala Buddhism in North America.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection allows the center to restructure its debt. According to its filing, DMC entered into a restructuring agreement with the Wells Fargo bank on 29 July 2015, which consolidated the center’s outstanding debt. In 2021, Wells Fargo sold the debt to a “distressed debt fund” manager called RH Fund XXII LLC. After the new debt-holder refused further forbearance on the loan payments, DMC filed for bankruptcy, which will allow them to pay down their debt over time.
As part of the bankruptcy plan, the Pema Chödrön Foundation has committed to donating up to US$500,000 to match other donations, and so far more than half of that goal has been met with pledges from other major donors. The process “allows an organization to restructure its debt and chart a clear and viable financial route forward while continuing to operate without threat of foreclosure,” according to a statement released by the organization. (Shambhala Mountain Center)
According to the DMC’s news release, the Chapter 11 process should last about six months. They plan to continue to operate during this time.
Drala Mountain Center’s executive director, Michael Gayner, said in the release: “DMC is extraordinarily grateful for the continuing love and support of the broad DMC community, including our staff, donors, program participants, retreatants, and guests. We know that the filing of a Chapter 11 petition may cause worry for many of you.” He added: “We are confident that our restructuring will be successful.” (Shambhala Mountain Center)
The move comes after declaring official independence last fall from the Sakyong Potrang, the nonprofit entity in charge of the assets of the Sakyong Lineage of Shambhala Buddhism.** At that time, Gayner noted the center’s continuing efforts to remain both a spiritual refuge and an ecological beacon. The center was honored with Larimer County’s Land Stewardship Award and efforts were said to be underway to continue conservation projects.
Shambhala, the Buddhist community founded in nearby Boulder, Colorado, and now headquartered in Hallifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, became embroiled in scandal in 2018 with the release of the Project Sunshine report led by former member Andrea Winn. The allegations rocked the community and included misconduct charges against the head of Shambhala Buddhism, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, who stepped down from leadership and later from teaching.***
Late in 2018, police also launched an investigation into possible criminal activity at Shambhala Mountain Center in connection with the widespread abuse allegations. An investigation by The Denver Post found that: “Shambhala and its leaders had a decades-long history of suppressing abuse allegations, including child molestation and clerical abuse, through the organization’s own internal processes. Some of those accusations directly involved the Shambhala Mountain Center, including claims that center officials disregarded pleas for help.” (The Denver Post)
The police investigation into actions at Shambhala Mountain Center ended in 2020 with no charges filed.
According to documents with the center’s bankruptcy filing, DMC continues to be affiliated with Shambhala International. However, it is run as a separate non-profit organization. The center employs 33 people, 22 of whom work full-time. Income to the center comes from lodging and dining, meetings from outside groups, and fees for online events. They also receive substantial income from 335 monthly donors.
Drala Mountain Center Files Voluntary Chapter 11 Petition to Restructure Debt (Shambhala Mountain Center)
Colorado’s Shambhala Mountain Center files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (The Denver Post)
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Former Shambhala Teacher Arrested in Colorado; Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche Implicated in Sexual Misconduct
Buddhist Project Sunshine Airs New Allegations in Unfolding Shambhala Abuse Scandal
Report Details Alleged Sexual Assault And Misconduct by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
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How Sexual Misconduct Shatters Spiritual Communities: Lessons for Buddhists
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Healing a Heart and a Community: Andrea Winn and Project Sunshine
Buddhistdoor View: Abuse Allegations and the Buddhist Dispensation