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Shambhala Transition Task Force Announces its Dissolution

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The eight members of the Shambhala Transition Task Force (TTF), which include Acharyas Ani Pema Chödrön, Suzann Duquette, Arawana Hayashi, and Charlene Leunghave announced they have completed their task and are dissolving the TTF. In a letter dated 27 January* and sent to members and donors of the Shambhala community, they write that they will hand over their work to the new Shambhala Process Team (PT), an “independent body of volunteers” consisting of 88 members who were identified in an announcement by the TTF on 20 January.** Eleven of the members will form a steering committee tasked with coordinating the work of the PT and bringing about organizational and cultural changes within Shambhala. 

Meanwhile, the final report of Halifax-based law firm Wickwire Holm, engaged by the former Kalapa Council to conduct an independent investigation into the 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 was expected in early January, has yet to be published.

Wickwire Holm was expected to conclude its investigation and submit the results to Shambhala’s Interim Board no later than early January 2019, according to a community letter from 26 November 2018.*** Tye board would then share the findings of the investigation with the Shambhala community without breaching the requested confidentiality of people involved in the investigation.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche with Ani Pema Chödrön. From sakyong.com
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche with Ani Pema Chödrön. From sakyong.com

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. 

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.

A prominent Buddhist teacher in the Nyingma tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism, Sakyong Mipham announced in an official statement on 6 July last year that he had decided to “step back from his teaching and administrative responsibilities within Shambhala to allow the independent investigation of these allegations.”****

Later in July last year, another prominent former Shambhala teacher, Lodro Rinzler, who resigned on 1 July, was also accused of sexual misconduct within the community.

In response to the accusations, Shambhala’s outgoing governing body—the Kalapa Council—issued a written denial to the Shambhala community in August last year, 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.*****

In addition to Wickwire Holm investigation, the Sheriff’s Department of Larimer County, Colorado, confirmed in December last year that it is investigating “possible criminal activity” at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, a meditation center run by Shambhala International.

Final Message from the Transition Task Force

** Process Team Announcement

*** Community Letter from the Interim Board

**** 6 July message from the Kalapa Council

***** 23 August message from the Kalapa Council

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