The independent investigation being conducted by law firm Wickwire Holm into allegations of widespread sexual misconduct by the renowned Dharma teacher Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and other senior members of the Canada-based Shambhala International Buddhist community, which has expanded to include a growing number of abuse accusations, is still ongoing, with a final report of the firm’s findings expected in early January.
The eight-member interim board of Shambhala International issued a statement to the community yesterday saying that the ongoing probe, which began in mid-2018, had closed to new abuse claims and that Wickwire Holm is continuing to review the details of allegations already submitted:
Since late summer, the law firm Wickwire Holm has been receiving and investigating allegations of sexual harm caused by the Sakyong and other Shambhala leaders. The investigation closed to new claims on November 16, 2018. Presently, the investigator is continuing to investigate the claims that she has received. She will then assemble her work into a final report, with an intention to conclude the investigation and submit the results to the Interim Board no later than early January 2019. The Board will review the information from the investigator and then provide a report of the investigation to the community. The Board is committed to providing transparency as to the investigator’s findings without breaching the requested confidentiality of the people whom she interviewed.*
Headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Shambhala community is an international network of more than 200 meditation centers and groups with over 12,000 members spanning some 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 Vajrayana 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.**
Later in July, another prominent former Shambhala teacher, Lodro Rinzler, who resigned on 1 July, was also accused of sexual misconduct within the community.
The allegations against Sakyong Mipham and other community members were first covered extensively in a series of three independent reports published 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 Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 3 Final Report include details of two harrowing alleged 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 allegedly present during such assaults, or who allegedly procured women on behalf of Sakyong Mipham.
In response to the accusations, Shambhala’s outgoing governing body—the Kalapa Council—issued a written denial to the Shambhala community in 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 Kalapa Council, which stepped down en masses in July,*** engaged Halifax-based Wickwire Holm to investigate the assault claims and subsequent accusations of institutional coverup.
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 an incarnation of the highly revered Tibetan Nyingma scholar and meditation master Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso (1846–1912).
Buddhist Project Sunshine
Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 1 Final Report
Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 2 Final Report
Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 3 Final Report