Addressing Harm and Promoting Community Care in Shambhala
Shambhala is a global community that aspires to awaken kindness, goodness, and wisdom within society. This vision is rooted in the principle that every human being has a fundamental nature of basic goodness.
To honestly hold this vision and aspiration means we cannot ignore the pain, confusion, and harm that are also part of our experience. We need to look directly at the ways that we—both in the past and now—have maintained traditions, habits, power structures, language patterns, and other forms that perpetuate harm, individually or collectively, consciously or unconsciously.
In 2018, our community experienced upheaval from the reports and findings of a third-party investigator regarding sexual misconduct by our main teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. In response, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche stepped back from his teaching and administrative responsibilities. The Kalapa Council, the international governing body at that time, resigned and was replaced by a community-based Shambhala Board of Directors.
Further, in February 2022, the international Shambhala organization and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche reached a mediated agreement that he will no longer hold administrative responsibilities in the Shambhala organization and agreed that the Board will operate independently from his authority. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has not taught in Shambhala since he stepped back from administrative authority. Should he be invited to teach at a Shambhala Centre in the future and choose to do so, he would be required to sign Shambhala’s Care and Conduct Policy, acknowledging his agreement to abide by Shambhala’s standards for care and conduct.
Shambhala Community Care Initiatives
The Shambhala Board and the Shambhala Global Organization have instituted a number of initiatives to address issues of past harm in our community, and to prevent and work with future harm with deep care and accountability.
- In February 2021, in response to the need for greater safeguards and stricter codes of conduct, particularly for teachers and other leaders in positions of power or authority, the international Shambhala network implemented the Shambhala Code of Conduct.
- Many trainings for teachers, leaders and community members have been instituted in Shambhala, including Right Use of Power and Gender Dynamics. Many local Centres and Groups have also offered trainings on Right Use of Power and Gender Dynamics as well as trainings that explore racial injustice and white awareness.
- The Shambhala Board made available a free Therapy Offering to anyone who experienced harm in Shambhala. This service is ongoing.
- In November 2021, the Shambhala Board drafted and made public the Shambhala Statement on Harm.
- The Shambhala Board used the services of An Olive Branch to make recommendations on preventing harm in Shambhala and creating a culture of care, and in April 2022 shared a community update on all actions taken to meet these third-party recommendations.
Shambhala remains committed to teaching and practicing meditation, and working together as a community to manifest the teachings of our Shambhala and buddhadharma lineages.
As we move forward with this vision, we acknowledge our history and aim to continue to identify areas needing attention. We are committed to transforming our culture to prevent harm as much as possible, acknowledge and stop it whenever it occurs, and bring about justice. We know much more work is also needed to examine how all of these things show up in our own hearts and minds.
We are committed to transforming our culture to prevent harm as much as possible, acknowledge and stop it whenever it occurs, and bring about justice.
We welcome you to join us in this practice, and we invite communication related to past or present experience about issues of harm.