On Shambhala

June 30, 2018   |   187 Comments  |   FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites

Dear friends, students, and Shambhala Sangha,

If you haven’t heard, the head of my Shambhala lineage has been accused of clerical sexual abuse. The community is reeling. Whether you are in the Open Heart Project community or are a fellow Shambhala practitioner, I want to share with you my own thoughts and feelings about what is going on.

First, thank you to those who were brave enough to bring their experience to light. My heart goes out to you and I am grateful to you for being willing to step forward.

For those of you who don’t know me: I have practiced in the Shambhala lineage since 1993, graduated from Vajrayana seminary (as it was called) in 2004, completed meditation instructor training in 2007, and attended several additional programs for “advanced” students between 2007 and 2015.

In 2011, I started an online practice community called the Open Heart Project and there are now close to 20,000 members all over the world. I send out a meditation instructional video once a week to everyone (for free). We have free and paid online programs. It is an amazing, loving, genuine sangha.

Everything I teach is what I have learned along my path as a student in Shambhala. I don’t reference or hide my affiliation and I have no official role within Shambhala. I rarely teach at Shambhala centers and I’m not connected to the current curriculum. I say all of this for context.


So what do we do when we hear that our Gurus are also humans who do fucked-up things, awful things, things that harm others and cause trauma? The answer is I have no bloody idea. We are all grasping for a way to meet the current circumstance.

I have heard from my own students and have a longing to offer something of benefit, as do so many others. Here is what I have been telling them. I share it here with the vast hope that it might be useful. I will be happy if you benefit from my clarity or confusion. I offer both without quite knowing which is which.


Here are the various responses I’ve seen on the Shambhala Facebook page in an effort to make sense of where we are right now:

The Sakyong is a dick/criminal/bro/alcoholic, we need to fire him.

The Sakyong is a dick who is also a flawed human, we should separate those two manifestations.

I love the Sakyong and that is not going to change although I abhor what he has done.

I don’t see what’s so bad.

Like father, like son.

We need to force the Sakyong out; sign petitions; remove his photos; turn away from him completely. Hesitation in doing so to be interpreted as supporting the abuse.

Hierarchical structures and faux Asiana are part of the problem; Shambhala should be a democracy. We should vote for the next Sakyong.

The next Sakyong should be a woman.

Maybe Pema Chodron will come lead us.

Our alcoholic culture is the problem. 

This is samsara, what did you expect?

We don’t need a Guru. (Related: the Guru is within; Gurus are always trouble; there is no such thing as a Guru; follow the teachings of the Guru not the personality of the Guru, and so on.)

Forget about Sakyong Mipham. The victims are the ones who need our attention.

You feel empathy for Sakyong Mipham? Fuck you. What about the victims, huh? Huh?

Shambhala is a cult and I am out. (Related: I always felt something was off and my intuition told me to stay away; I’ve heard stories that made me feel weird; it is riddled with patriarchal dysfunction)

He is guilty, guilty, guilty, screw “allegations.” It’s obvious. I am the judge, jury, and executioner, and I say off with his head.

I’ve been around him a lot and I never saw any such behavior.

I left Shambhala long ago and man, was I right to do so.

He’s not my teacher and this is not my Sangha, but here are all of my dharma-opinions anyway.

It’s over.

It’s just beginning. 

Multiple invocations of the Four Dharmas of Gampopa, especially, “Grant your blessing so that confusion may dawn as wisdom.”

Perhaps each of these responses is quite accurate. However, with the exception of the last one, they are useless (or worse) in this particular moment. Next steps are critical and what I see so far from our sangha (with some notable, profound, beautiful exceptions) feels dangerous—not because strong emotions are involved, but because some space is required in order for our wisdom to choose the way forward rather than our neuroses. With space, we plant our words and decisions in clarity. Without it, when our words and decisions are rooted in an attempt to feel better/make others feel better/offload painful emotions, we add to the confusion.

Here are some alternatives.

One: Examine your personal relationship to the teacher.
Editorial note on Jul 3: I removed this paragraph for three reasons. One, I realized it could easily be misconstrued as a way to excuse inexcusable behavior. Two, I was being wishy-washy. My reasoning was murky and more applicable to my relationship with Chogyam Trungpa than Sakyong Mipham. Chogyam Trungpa is not the issue here, Sakyong Mipham is. Three, it hurt someone’s feelings and she was right to be hurt. I APOLOGIZE.

Two: Make your personal practice the very center of your life.
What I tell myself (and you) is this: Do what you need to do to deepen your practice. Period. That is the only thing that matters. If it is to practice for longer, do that. If it to retreat into study, do that. If it is to leave and study elsewhere, do that. If it is to be utterly confused and uncertain about what to do, do that. Your practice is the teacher. Your inner wisdom is always, always present.

Three. Protect your relationship to the teachings at all costs.
At my seminary, Sakyong Mipham tossed off what could have been heard as a throwaway line, but it implanted itself in my head. Paraphrasing: “In Tibet,” he said, “When it comes to the Guru, the conventional wisdom is to live three valleys away.” Three valleys! Close enough, presumably, to receive teachings and far enough to be insulated from the goings-on of the inner court/sausage machine. That’s for me, I thought, and I have kept my version of that distance.

Four: Consider the institution and the teachings separately.
If you have lost trust in Shambhala, that is totally understandable. Some may even have lost trust in the teachings. In any case, it is important to hold Shambhala the institution separate from the Shambhala teachings. You may choose to keep both or to toss one and keep the other. Or opt out altogether. It is completely up to you and no one has the right to question your decision or tell you what to do.

Five: No one will save us.
I invite you to join me in contemplating the lojong slogan, “Abandon any hope of fruition.” There is no papa who is going to save us. While there are countless beings who know infinitely more than I—and when I encounter them, I will supplicate them for their wisdom and compassion—there is no one who can figure out my life for me. To hear that the Guru may be deeply flawed gives us the chance to give up such expectations once and for all. Stop looking for someone to rescue you. Focus on what is rather than what you hoped would be. Stop wishing there was another now. In this way, you make your heart and mind available to our world that needs you so much. I’m not saying we should not hold perpetrators accountable. We most definitely should. Hold Sakyong Mipham accountable in the conventional courts if you choose, but hold yourself accountable in the ethereal courts.

Six. Hold your seat.
“Feel the feelings. Drop the story,” said Pema Chodron. It is very important to do this at a time when emotions are powerful. The more powerful, the more important. Fortunately, as practitioners we know exactly how to do this. Whether you feel rage, sorrow, numbness, all of the above, turn toward it immediately and lean in as deeply as you can—unless you are traumatized and/or triggered due to past abuses, in which case, DO NOT DO THIS. Meditation may actually be harmful. Please turn to whomever you can for help and feel the love of your sangha in whatever way you can. And know that my heart goes out to you so bad.

Otherwise, “feel the feelings” means something like locate it in your body and rest within the sensations as best you can. When thoughts arise: The Sakyong should be fired/we live in a patriarchy/I feel so sad for everyone…just as you do in meditation, let go. Return attention to the feelings until you are ready to stop. Trust yourself. Know that in so doing, you are priming the ground of power, not desperation.

Seven. Dudes: check yourselves.
I haven’t exhaustively parsed the vast kaleidoscope of comments on the Shambhala Facebook page, although I have been following the threads as carefully as I can. Some things I’ve read have been truly helpful while others have really pissed me off or made me depressed. Cool. That’s how these things go. However, I can’t help but notice that the majority of voices calling for unilateral moves, making demands, and telling others what to do come from our friends with penises.

Men. Thank you for decrying the patriarchy. However, I would like to suggest that you consider taking yourselves out of the center of the conversation by asserting black-and-white opinions, calling for reprisals, airing condemnations, circulating petitions, and so on. Try to listen. Let other voices come to the fore. Consider asking more questions and issuing fewer proclamations. Many have said they wish for more female/feminine energy voices. This is one way to accomplish that. Otherwise you’re not going to get these voices to step into the conversation. This is not because we are fragile and we certainly do not need hand-holding but because the conversation will simply arise in a different way if you stop dominating it via edicts and mansplaining.

This is 101% my view and if my sisters and brothers want to dispute me on this, that would be awesome.

Eight. Stop aiming your weapon at yourself.
This is something I have seen so many times, in myself, you, the planet. When we are upset about something, we do that exact thing in response. If it wasn’t so painful, it would be really funny. A made-up example:

Person 1: What you just said is so judgmental. Who made you the judge and jury? Stop telling me what to do.
Person 2: Wait. You just did all of those things.

Obviously, this is a silly example. but I have seen so many instances where we do exactly what we tell other people to stop doing and then wonder why the conversation isn’t going anywhere.

Nine. We’re on our own. And that’s okay.
It may seem like now we are on our own and it is up to each Shambhala person to bring the heart of the teachings to the world. It is true. But this has always been true. In no way is this meant as an excuse for the behavior attributed to Sakyong Mipham or to bypass the suffering of anyone who may have been harmed by him (which, to varying degrees, would be all of us). Do whatever you can to bring the teachings to life in your world with the support of the three jewels, however they arise for you.

You got this. And speaking on behalf of all humanity, I implore you to take your seat with wisdom, compassion, and power.

Finally, please know that I am reevaluating my relationship to Shambhala (the institution, not the teachings). I don’t know what the future holds for me, although I am committed without question to the dharma, to you, and to my path as a student and a teacher.

I offer this post, not as an activist or jurist, but out of spiritual friendship. May it be of benefit.

Good luck everyone.

Love, Susan

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187 Comments

  • Posted by:  K. A.

    Thank you.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      You are so welcome. xo S

      • Posted by:  stephen

        really good to read, full of light

    • Posted by:  Carolyn Sykes

      Thank you Susan, beautifully written as always!

      I personally think it is time for us to grow up as a sangha. The Sakyong is a wonderful teacher and can continue to do that, but we have to become the grown up children and take charge of our practice and our centers and our policies. If we are going to create enlightened society I think this is an important step.

      Thank you for addressing the path and the process of how we are going to be able to start doing this.

      • Posted by:  Susan Piver

        Agreed–it’s time to change. xo S

    • Posted by:  Melissa Soalt

      This is bullshit- what the. Hell kind of flowery crap is this. HE and other top SHAMBHALA leaders are scum and still abusing. Have you not seen the Sunshine Project report indicating the insidious VAST abuses. How disappointing ,

      To hell with these pricks and they are many and SHAMBHALA has been complicit in a vast coverup new being examined by criminal courts

      • Posted by:  Susan Piver

        Which is the bullshit part? Not sure what you are responding to or which part is the flowery part. Yes, I have seen the report. That is why I wrote this. I don’t know about the criminal courts part and I also don’t know that people are still abusing. I’m not saying these things aren’t happening. I’m just saying that I haven’t heard these things. Can you shed some light on these points? It would be most helpful.

    • Posted by:  Tom Lang

      Seems to me (never having spent time or study with Shambala, but grateful it’s out there) you have helped create here a “thoughtful and compassionate” space for reflection. Thank you!

      As a skeptic about Guru Yoga, and a pretty much a Stephen Batchelor (de-emphasize the traditional and cultural) Buddhist aspirant, I see this as a very sad “event” with a potentially good outcome, not as a “meltdown.”

      I hope the various pieces/parts that may result the next year or so are on amicable terms eventually.

      The hyper-emphasis on teachers, their lineages, and “transmissions” is outside my experience…at least so far. Probably not so respectable to be an “internet Buddhist,” but a lot safer in light of the frequent whoopses like this over the past 50 years.

      My view is put your faith in the Dharma, not the one who ostensibly brings it to you. With compassion toward all those in the mix of the scandals, take a few deep breaths and join me in hoping for the best!

      • Posted by:  Susan Piver

        Hi Tom. Thanks for taking the time to comment. When you say you are skeptical of Guru Yoga, what do you mean? Do you mean devotion to a guru? Or the visualization and other practices that are called Guru Yoga?

        Your point about de-emphasizing tradition and culture makes some sense to me. We are not Asians. It would be weird to pretend we are and imitate forms that we have no cultural connection to. However, when we separate the practices from their spiritual underpinnings, to me, this can give rise to a kind of wishful thinking. To do these profound practices but ignore the underlying principles is to deconstruct a long-standing tradition and then cherry-pick the parts we like. While it makes sense on one hand, if I do this, there is also a greater likelihood that I will use spiritual teachings as an avoidance rather than an opening to what is beyond my comfort zone. Personally, I’m not a fan of “secular Buddhism” although I’ve never read Batchelor so you know more about his view than I do, which is basically nothing.

        Agreed, it is “safer” to be an internet Buddhist! 90% of my teaching life is online, so I get that. I also agree with making the dharma a priority. And I join you 100% in those deep breaths and hopes for a more sane future in the dharma world and everywhere else. Warmly, S

        • Posted by:  robert heffernan

          One thing I think that it’s important to keep in mind is that practices like Guru devotion, Guru yoga were not part of the classical Dhamma teachings of the Buddha. These are later developments.

          One reason that there has been less ethical scandals in the organizations and sanghas in the West oriented towards the more classical Pali based traditions could be that teachers, while greatly respected, are not accorded an exalted status.

          The fundamental, existential nature of the Dharma doesn’t change yet the way it is understood, framed and organized does because it is by necessity nested within cultures and the individuals that make up those cultures. There is a growing non sectarian, global inquiry among Buddhist practitioners, scholars and “clergy” into the core and classical teachings that form the well spring out of which all traditions flow.

          Personally I don’t identify as a “secular” Buddhist. I find the term a bit dry and disconnected. Yet, I am deeply influenced by the scholarship and inquiry by people like Stephen Batchelor who probe into questions like Guru yoga from both personal experience (he was a Tibetan monk, then a Zen monk when he was younger) and historical consideration.

          Thank you Susan for catalyzing such a deep and wide discussion.

          Metta

          • Posted by:  Susan Piver

            And thank you for being in the discussion with me. It is very valuable to have this conversation.

  • Posted by:  Deb Bjork

    Thank you Susan. I keep reminding myself, it is the teachings, not the teacher. But am so sorry for suffering caused.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Yes, me too. xo S

  • Posted by:  Kiku Masamune

    Hi Susan. I’m so happy to hear about all of this, for only one reason. I haven’t thought of Donald Trump for 48 hours. Hooray!

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Yay!

  • Posted by:  gwen

    My question to myself is this: How is all this making me wake up?

    I feel motivated in my practice. I know I have a lot to learn/notice/feel/release/heal/connect with/etc.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Great question. xo s

  • Posted by:  Rev. Alexander R. Garbera

    Excellent. The first step for me was to sit. The human brain stores and recalls ( or manufactures) memories through associative networks. I first needed to let how these events activated my own personal past traumas, experiences of violence and sexual abuse. I also became aware of the agitation and toxicity of our current political environment. By allowing these to arise, it helped me clear space to practice Ton Glen for the victims, as well as the Sakyong, Sakyong Wangmo, the Jetsuma, and all members of Shambhala suffering from these tragic states of affairs, including myself.

    As an organization Shambhala shares the same obstacles and issues other organizations face. The difference lies in our chance to create a response indicative and worthy of an enlightened society, a response that could bring healing extending beyond lifetimes. How that looks, I haven’t got a clue….. but it is my sincerest wish that the healing brings us together and emboldens our efforts toward enlightened society, and a healing that breaks the karmic chains doomed to repetition.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      I hope for healing too. <3 s

  • Posted by:  Denise Blanc

    Thank you Susan. This has been the most helpful perspective of all that I have read (and I have read a lot!)

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      I’m glad.

  • Posted by:  Molly D

    Helpful Susan. Thank you.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      You are so welcome, Molly.

  • Posted by:  Karma Gyendon

    I am so grateful for you writing this. Thank you thank you. I especially resonate with your advice to deepen our practice, This whole situation has helped me feel so much less confused about what my commitment, and my vows are to. Thank you.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      I actually feel more clear myself. xo s

  • Posted by:  ANYANA BANERJEE

    Susan, thank you…for the first time this week I feel some grounding through your post. Thank you….

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      sending love, dear Anyana. xo s

  • Posted by:  fede

    This article is really helping, and I dig it completely. But anyhow, what I feel very much confused about (I’m just a simple practitioner and have not such a subtle and deep level of understanding as yours, so this comment here is much more in a mundane level and maybe as unenlightened as those you have listed above) is not so much the Sakyong behavior -which feels like a very painful heartbreak- but the way everything is being dealt with by the institution: that insensitive apology letter without naming the cause of the apology, the feeling that the letter has been crafted by many authors -as those letters written by a team of lawyers to avoid dangerous edges-, the whole shambalian jargon in which the core message of the text is wrapped, that even feels as if the so much loved shambhalian “language” is being betrayed by using it in a wierd context. Afterwords, the Kapala Council letters that give the impression of being much more focused on fighting project sunshine strategy than healing the immense fresh wound just openend and visible to all of us. There’s something obscene about it. For me, this is like: one moment, what the heck has been happening in that far away, almost fictional place where the elite of shambhala “lives”? Who are they? What do they do, really? Did they, as the reports imply, know about all this mess? Did Kalapa council know all along? What I’m a member of?

    • Posted by:  Gisèle Laberge

      Thank you Fede for expressing so well what is in my mind.
      I am a senior and devoted shambhalian. These teachings the very best I know in the entire world and they actively inhabit the core of my heart.
      It is a big tough time for us, for our whole mandala, including our teacher, and for the friends of Shambhala.
      What makes me afraid the most is the shutting down of voices from leaders and from the Kalapa Council. This would be dangerously insane, settting sun as we say.
      The Sakyong recently published a book on the wisdom of good communication. He also gave us the wondwrful practice of Shambhala medidation really necessary in this time of intense confusion, suffering and darkness.
      In Shambhala, we say “obstacles are stepping stones”. Denying, theorising, rethotics are obstacles to possible transmutation.

      I wish we receive guidance from the Sakyong Wangmo. We need her.

      May the Great Eastern Sun shines,
      Gisèle

      • Posted by:  Susan Piver

        Looking for guidance too, from all the sources you suggest. with love, s

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      These are excellent questions. I don’t know the answers. i hope for clarity in the coming days and weeks. Wishing you well.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      These are all the right questions… Sending love, S

  • Posted by:  Justin Blemly

    Thank you ❤️

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      You are welcome. And thank you for all your good heartedness. With love, S

  • Posted by:  Mary Lang

    Very well said, Susan. Thank you.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thank you so much, Mary. This means a lot to me. xo S

  • Posted by:  Bernie Gay

    ❤️🙏 Thank you so very much 🙏❤️

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      You are so welcome, Bernie.

  • Posted by:  Elisa Gonzalez

    Many, many years ago, I found myself in a pattern of joining spiritual groups and then leaving them because I found fault in the members and/or leaders of the groups. When I was investigating Vajradhatu and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, I was both magnetized by the power of the teachings and repelled by the stories I was hearing about him. On the advice of my meditation instructor, I ended up attending the Women in Buddhism Conference in Colorado in 1981.
    It was powerful because there was every possible view and opinion of teacher/student interaction expressed at that conference. In other words, no one really knew, or they knew but for themselves.
    During an interview with a very revered teacher at that conference, I expressed my concern that Trungpa Rinpoche was not the “real deal”. The teacher responded with the following words, “All I can tell you is that even if someone were to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Trungpa Rinpoche is a charlatan, I will be forever grateful to him for what he taught me about my mind.”
    That statement changed my spiritual journey forever because I realized that it was totally my journey. It had nothing to do with whether or not members or even teachers were enlightened or confused. I had to test everything within the context of my life and I had to apply his very own words,”Never forget your basic intelligence.”
    These are painful and confusing experiences. What seems more and more clear to me is that we need to question our tendency to follow others unquestioningly and forget our own basic intelligence in the process. This is heavily conditioned in us. If you test the teachings, you will find what is genuine as opposed to what is only based on seeking confirmation from on high.
    It’s very common for females to be valued based on their willingness to be sexual partners rather than on their other capacities, so we should always be wary when sexuality appears to be connected to being personally recognized, rather than one’s commitment. Also, we need to be wary of our complicity in feeling special when we are being chosen sexually. I wish everyone good fortune on their journey.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      There is so much to learn, see, and be wary of in ourselves and others as we try to heal. sending love, S

  • Posted by:  Colin C.

    Thank you!

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      You are welcome. Wishing you well.

  • Posted by:  Diane Lee

    Do whatever you can to bring the teachings to life in your world with the support of the three jewels, however they arise for you. Deeper your pracrice. Thank you for this. Reminds me of something I heard the Karmapa say once about may e we will see the teachers have flaws but the teachings being stainless…May compassion dawn as wisdom

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Practicing a long with you. xo s

  • Posted by:  David Schneider

    Humble appreciation.
    Well done, Susan. Thank you.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thank you. I appreciate this.

  • Posted by:  Ahmee Hewitt

    Thank you for your well articulated wisdom in the midst of chaos. The teachings will likely survive. However, I think they are more likely to benefit many more people, going forward, if we are able to support the institution’s/society’s painful struggle to grow. Very, very painful and confusing and heartbreaking and terrifying right now. Thanks for reading and enduring so many intense communications in social media and distilling the collective wisdom that has arien so far. Truly, may confusion continue to dawn as wisdom.

    Thank you for your efforts to inspire us to help this continue to happen.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Right there with you, Ahmee. Sending love, s

  • Posted by:  Pamela Rubin

    your absence of feminist analysis or sense of how structures facilitate male violence is striking for 2018. if i may offer a suggestion, people may want to truly contemplate and visualize the complete devastation these sexual assaults have caused to individuals, to their families and relations, and to communities. before glossing it over and moving on to “me and my practice.” real people have been driven to suicide, mental illness, dissociation, substance abuse, despair and total isolation. sangha members often poured secondary wounding on top of that. there are many victims here – many. before telling others what to do i think it would be good for all of to pause and really visualize the devastation his conduct has caused not to our dream of a community but to the actual lives of his victims.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thank you, Pamela.

      Your hope for a feminist analysis of how structure facilitates male violence sounds like a good post for you to write. It sounds as though you are better equipped to do so.

      If my post seems lacking to you, I am sorry. I offered what I could. Now it is your turn.

      • Posted by:  Pamela Rubin

        i offer the above suggested exercise of fully contemplating the very real pain of the victims – that should inform our responses first of all.

        • Posted by:  Susan Piver

          I appreciate that that is your view based on your expertise and experience. You should definitely write about it. I would love to read it.

  • Posted by:  Leonora Forslund

    Thank you, Susan. I worked at Karme Choling as both Program and Shambhala Director, attended Vajrayana seminary and feel the teaching have forever changed and improved my life. I intuitively turned away from Shambhala when it changed to Shambhala Buddhism and I have been a solo practitioner ever since. Something didn’t feel right to me.
    The teachings, as the Ashe is, will always be in my heart, but the infrastructure of Shambhala has taken a hit.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      I wish you so much goodness on your path, Leonora. xo S

    • Posted by:  Jenni Wain

      Thanks Leonora – like you I drifted off. In my case when it was clear that Shambhala was to be “ruled” by a prince. I have tried to join other buddhist organisations since but none were as welcoming or as genuine and I ended up as a home practitioner. Like you I feel forever changed and improved by what I learned and experienced in Shambhala and I feel really sad about this situation – something that was a major part of my life has been spoiled and people have been hurt in a place that should have been safe BUT Shambhala has been in this unfortunate situation before and survived. Shambhala and its core ideas will survive because it is made up not of committees or leaders but of the open-hearted members of the sangha who are the people who turn up to sit, to teach, to cook and clean and to work for the benefit of others. “Gurus” come and go but the practice remains so I hope to see a new incarnation of Shambhala which is caring, inclusive, represents the best interests of the sangha and which is rooted in the centres. Love you all.

  • Posted by:  Susan Piver

    Mary, I’m glad you feel this way. With love, S

  • Posted by:  Michel de Noncourt

    Merci sincerement Susan.
    Very healing & inspiring letter you wrote today!
    Karmapa on His death bed in Chicago reminded a sad crying Regent : “nothing happens” Osel!
    Then in a sacred cave in Butan the wording “Basic Goodness” repeated itself to the retreatant Sakyong who then pass it on to us!
    The “view” as in the bigger picture has the power to clear my mind when following the oral teachings from this human guru.
    I feel sorry for Sangha friends hurt once again by a stumbling Sakyong who is reminding me of the Regent fall a while ago!
    Still the teaching is first & so fundamental for me, keeping a clear mind whatever goes on .
    I suspect stress and alcohol get at the teachers and assistants at time.
    Blessings to the victims and offenders of our Sangha in order to erase any negative karmic seeds !
    May confusion dawn into with.
    Bodhi Svaha.
    Chang Chub Dawa
    Pema Tak

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Yes, may confusion dawn as wisdom…

  • Posted by:  Kevin Knox

    A friend shared your post. I practiced and studied under Trungpa Rinpoche from 1974-1982 so our Dharma trajectories are very different, though in some ways parallel.

    The utter disinterest in following even the 5 precepts for laypeople (no killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct or use of intoxicants – note that none of what has occurred would have been possible had they been followed) has been a basic part of Vajradhatu/Shambhala since the beginning. I doubt the organization can be reformed from within, especially as long as leading figures such as Pema and the acharyas remain complicit in supporting the kinds of cover-ups and denial that have become so ingrained over the past 40+ years.

    One can indeed rely on the teachings though, and a very good place to start would be (and would HAVE been) with Patrul Rinpoche’s requirements for a spiritual teacher, from his famous book “Words of My Perfect Teacher.” I leave it to readers to decide where the Sakyong and anyone else representing themselves as teachers fit.

    “In the sandalwood forests of the Malaya mountains, when an ordinary
    tree falls, its wood is gradually impregnated with the sweet perfume of
    the sandal. After some years that ordinary wood comes to smell as sweet
    as the sandal trees around it. In just the same way, if you live and study
    with a perfect teacher full of good qualities, you will be permeated by the
    perfume of those qualities and in everything you do you will come to
    resemble him.

    “Just as the trunk of an ordinary tree
    Lying in the forests of the Malaya mountains
    Absorbs the perfume of sandal from the moist leaves and branches,
    So you come to resemble whomever you follow.”

    As times have degenerated, nowadays it is difficult to find a teacher who
    has every one of the qualities described in the precious tantras. However,
    it is indispensable that the teacher we follow should possess at least the
    following qualities.

    He should be pure, never having contravened any of the commitments
    or prohibitions related to the three types of vow-the external vows of
    the Pratimoksa, the inner vows of the Bodhisattva and the secret vows of
    the Secret Mantrayana, He should be learned, and not lacking in knowledge
    of the tantras, siitras and sastras. Towards the vast multitude of
    beings, his heart should be so suffused with compassion that he loves each
    one like his only child.

    He should be well versed in ritual practices-outwardly,
    of the Tripitaka and, inwardly, of the four sections of tantras. By
    putting into practice the meaning of the teachings, he should have
    actualized in himself all the extraordinary achievements of riddance and
    realization. He should be generous, his language should be pleasant, he
    should teach each individual according to that person’s needs and he
    should act in conformity with what he teaches; these four ways of
    attracting beings enable him to gather fortunate disciples around him.

    More particularly, for teachings on the profound essence of the Mantra
    Vajrayana pith-instructions the kind of master upon whom one should
    rely is as follows. As set out in the precious tantras, he should have been
    brought to maturity by a stream of ripening empowerments, flowing
    down to him through a continuous unbroken lineage. He should not have
    transgressed the samayas and vows to which he committed himself at the
    time of empowerment. Not having many disturbing negative emotions
    and thoughts, he should be calm and disciplined. He should have mastered
    the entire meaning of the ground, path and result tantras of the
    Secret Mantra Vajrayana. He should have attained all the signs of success
    in the approach and accomplishment phases of the practice, such as seeing
    visions of the yidam. Having experienced for himself the nature of reality,
    he himself should be liberated. The well-being of others should be his sole
    concern, his heart being full of compassion. He should have few preoccupations,for he has given up any clinging to the ordinary things of this
    life. Concentrating on future lives, his only, resolute thought is for the
    Dharma. Seeing sarnsara as suffering, he should feel great sadness, and
    should encourage the same feeling in others. He should be skilled at caring
    for his disciples and should use the appropriate method for each of them.
    Having fulfilled all his teacher’s commands, he should hold the blessings
    of the lineage.

    The extraordinary teacher who gives the pith instructions
    Has received empowerments, kept the samayas, and is peaceful;
    Has mastered the meaning of the ground, path and result tantras;
    Has all the signs of approach and accomplishment and is freed by
    realization;
    Has limitless compassion and cares only for others;
    Has few activities and thinks only, resolutely, of the Dharma;
    Is weary of this world, and leads others to feel the same;
    Is expert in methods and has the blessings of the lineage.
    Follow such a teacher, and accomplishment comes.

    Mad guides. These are teachers who have very little knowledge, never
    having made the effort to follow a learned master and train in the sutras
    and tantras. Their strong negative emotions together with their weak
    mindfulness and vigilance make them lax in their vows and samayas.
    Though of lower mentality than ordinary people, they ape the siddhas
    and behave as if their actions were higher than the sky.” Brimming over
    with anger and jealousy, they break the lifeline of love and compassion.
    Such spiritual friends are called mad guides, and lead anyone who follows
    them down wrong paths.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thank you.

  • Posted by:  Janet Varan

    Thank you, Susan.

    I have been wondering about the situation and your post has pointed me in a good direction.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Sending love, Jan. xo. S

  • Posted by:  Elisa Gonzalez

    https://www.lionsroar.com/treat-everyone-as-the-buddha/

    In my view, he still misses the main point though. First of all, how is one accepted as a student of a teacher in the Vajrayana? Because of patriarchy, this has been very difficult for women so one can understand the decision to pass a so-called test of one’s devotion by having sex with a teacher. Second, how in the world can you know if someone is “teaching” you or giving you instructions based on their compassion, out of trying to help the student?

    By the same token, if someone were actually acting out of compassion to “wake someone up”, you can see why this may result in strange actions. What if the purpose of a teacher’s sexual actions was to wake you up to not using your sexuality to “buy” the teachings. To cut through your ego about “having been chosen by the teacher”. After all, there is a very grasping quality to going to the extreme of engaging sexually in order to “get” the teachings. At some point, that may well wake you up to your grasping in general. I am speaking from my personal experience, not anyone else’s. However, how can you actually know the motives of your teacher? Even Trungpa Rinpoche would warn that you were taking a chance with Vajrayana and that any genuine teacher of Vajrayana would warn you before you proceed.

    Very tricky stuff! But ultimately it still doesn’t address the fact that most male teachers prefer their male students to female students over and over again. This is the conditioning of patriarchy over and over again. I remember female students of one teacher asking me, broken heartedly, why it appeared that he always responded with more enthusiasm to his male students. I would tell them what do you expect, he grew up in a monastery. He knows how to relate to them better. But, of course, he related sexually to his devoted female students over time. I remember one of Trungpa Rinpoche’s consorts telling me that her husband was heart broken because he could never be as close to Rinpoche as she was. Ah, the human dimension!

    And yet, despite these sexual scandals, I cannot emphasize enough that the deepening of my own spiritual understanding was increased exponentially by the teachers and sangha I have had along the way.

  • Posted by:  Jessica Sarapoff

    Thank you Susan for your post.

    If I try to unpack how I feel…. Everybody knew that the Sakyong before his marriage was sleeping around a lot.
    (Didn’t know about his heavy drinking habits, if these allegations are true, this is quite unfortunate)

    These women are hurt. Ok. But they are grown-ups, couldn’t they simply say “No” ? I must admit that I don’t quite understand.

    If they are confused because he’s the teacher and they wanted at first, share a more intimate space with him, out of feeling a bit star-struck.. Then, is it not their responsability ?

    “Look at your own mind”
    … it’s not “the teacher is the only one looking-seeing your mind”.

    Still part of the testimonies about the Sakyong’s behavior are troubling, the language he is said to have used. Very uncongruent if that is the case.

    Still the teacher is a human being. He lacks congruence and the “good conversation” is out the window. Oh well, so much for our illusions.

    I see these open wounds and chaos as good news… as opportunity to truly work toward a more compassionate, more grown-up community.

    So many things are not working in this sangha, time to now work with these strong contrasts?

    I sure hope so, because we have been given tremendous teachings, how about putting them into action.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Hi Jessica. What you are proposing is wrong, forgive me for being so blunt. It is not as simple as “just saying no” when there is a power differential like this one.

      If someone takes advantage of your naivete to get something that they want from you without regard for your humanity–and that person has made a commitment to protect your mind and heart–then there is a very big problem. It is in no way the responsibility of the women, no matter how they expressed their wish to be close to him. It’s like saying that a woman who dresses seductively deserves unwanted sexual attention, that it is her fault. NO.

      Yes, the teacher is human. But he has a commitment to his students to put their well being first. If he (or she) can’t honor that, it is a betrayal of the highest order. This is not a relationship issue. It is a issue of misuse of power in the most intimate realm imaginable.

      The open wounds are not good news, unfortunately. It will take years and years for the victims (and the sangha) to work with this trauma.

      Happy to continue the conversation but also very aware of wanting to protect the vulnerability of the victims who should be held blameless. Susan

      • Posted by:  Jessica

        Hello Susan.
        When I talked about responsibility, I’m not saying that they are guilty.
        Not at all !!!

        I see responsibility as nobody but me, is responsible or in charge of my own mind and it’s protection. Not even a vajra master.

        SMR is human. It doesn’t take his faults and indecency away. It’s more feeling sad and disillusioned.

        It is a betrayal. Yes. Completely

        SMR should have known better and psychological help was obviously needed, he should have had the humility and decency to go through a therapeutic process, then.
        And now? Probably still.

        The open wounds are for me good news, because healing can’t happen in unspoken words, silenced traumas and running away from the pain.

        Wounds need air to heal. And as Rumi said: wounds are where light enters us. Wounds can be beautiful.

        Of course, it is traumatic. Of course, it hurts. But they are also a wonderful opportunity to learn so much about ourselves.

        I learned much more in those stark contrasts and in taking full responsibility for all my thoughts, emotions, choices and what seemed at the time, non-choices than the happier times.

        • Posted by:  Susan Piver

          I am so sorry if I misunderstood you!! Please forgive me. I truly appreciate your generous and clarifying response to what I said.

          I feel so sad too. I have no idea what is next. And, yes, wounds can be powerful gateways to wisdom. You are so right.

          Glad we are practicing on the path together. With love, Susan

          • Posted by:  Jessica

            Take good care, Susan.
            It is an emotional time for all of us.

  • Posted by:  Phil Castillo

    Thank you, Susan. This was very helpful. I’ll be practicing along with you!

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Glad to hear it!

  • Posted by:  Melissa Howell

    Thank you, Susan.
    This helps.
    With a tender heart of sadness,
    Melissa

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Sending love, Melissa.

  • Posted by:  Anonymous Dharma Brat

    Unfortunately, this behavior has been going on for years, as one of his victims from 1994.

    But kaleidoscope out and what do you see? SMR was brought to this world with incredible trauma and uncertainty. His childhood is utterly unique and terrifying in so many ways. His early sexual experiences were engineered by his father and they were not easy to understand or interpret. He became a leader but is perhaps not a leader? He took on the lineage but perhaps was never fit for it? There are so many subtleties and nuances to his story that to sum it up as coming or going, perp or victim, accused or accuser, is utterly absurd.

    SMR is a person who has experienced incredible trauma. We must not forget that. It does not forgive him but it affords him the space to truly, deeply explore his trauma center and become stronger for it.

    For myself, I left Shambhala over a decade ago. I am no longer affiliated with the day-to-day. I still very much love SMR. I’ve known SMR since I was 5. He is a good person, despite the airs he must wear to do what he feels he must do. But, he is my brother and not my guru. As my brother, I say, I love you, be strong, learn, grow from this, make peace with yourself, and do what you must to calm the storm.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Yes to all of this. I appreciate your compassion for yourself and for him.

    • Posted by:  penelope

      I love that you have spoken out here. This kind of honesty cuts through so much of the mud slinging and aggression from people who are apparently on the sidelines. I have the same assessment of SMR’s childhood. Perhaps we can consider that although he seems privileged he also has many ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences). he grew up with both Tibetan and American versions of patriarchy. I’m glad this has come out into the open. I hope he will learn and grow from this as you say. I hope the people he harmed will and I hope that the community will too. Thank you for sharing your brilliant sanity, generosity and cmpassion.

  • Posted by:  ashoka

    Thanks Susan. This felt very sane. I too remember the “live three valleys away” exhortation and – yes. That one resonated with me as well.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      So glad this resonated, Ashoka (and that you remember the exhortation as I do). I’ll be your 3-valleys-away neighbor. With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Caroline

    Compassion without accountability is enabling. i see a stunning emphasis on compassion for Sakyong and a familiar but still disappointing lack of it for the victims of his actions. Maybe shamatha practice is not the most skillful tool to apply to our thoughts about how to hold someone accountable for harm. Maybe “letting go” in this case is weaponized in favor of helping reinforce an existing hierarchy. I too am struggling with how to deal with this, being that I am not a Vajrayana student, but for someone whose work is so much about relational practice and keeping an open heart, your dismissive tone here is what is the most heartbreaking for me.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Hi Caroline. Yes, compassion for the victims is of utmost importance. Please point out to me where you find my tone to be dismissive of that. I would like to learn what has conveyed that as it is in no way obvious to me.

      Not sure where you see that the primary emphasis is on compassion for Sakyong Mipham in this post or elsewhere. I don’t see that. And “letting go” doesn’t mean to let go of the issue. Actually, the opposite is the intention: to FEEL everything in order to dive right into the issue, no matter how uncomfortable….to allow for the pain and sorrow and rage and confusion–not to make ourselves feel better but to prepare our hearts and minds for skillful action on behalf of the victims, ourselves, and our Sangha.

      I appreciate being in the struggle with you. Susan

      PS I don’t know if this is true for all Vajrayana students, but many are trying to find a way to understand our relationship to Sakyong Mipham in this new and horrific light. That may sound like an emphasis on compassion to you, but I hear it as really, really hurt and angry people trying to come to grips with trauma.

      • Posted by:  Caroline

        Thank you for pointing that out. I’ve been thinking about how utterly traumatic it must be for people who have taken vows with the SMR and have struggled myself with my impulse to rush to comfort them when, again, I feel the emphasis should be on the victims who I can’t help but shudder for when I hear things like, well, this is why they say to live three valleys away from your guru…

        I’m also struggling right now with the memories of inappropriate treatment & sexual remarks by male Shambhala teachers that caused me to walk away from participation in the organization myself. I felt such guilt and shame over not being able to “make it work” so that I could go one to climb the Shambhala ladder. I am feeling both anger and relief about that now.

        I have love and respect for everyone who chooses to continue their involvement in the community and am grateful that you continue to be open on this topic but I also think that asking the community to remain in groundlessness at this moment has the potential to further the trauma. The victims of harm continue to be in my heart and thoughts and I will continue to hope that the community is able to hold perpetrators accountable for this harm.

  • Posted by:  Karma Donyo

    Can you or anyone please explain to me how the first testimonies against the Sakyong, particularly #1, could not be interpreted as of two woman who got caught up in a romantic fantasy about their Guru, and then, failing to secure him exclusively for themselves, were overcome with pride, became jaded, were distanced as they would be in any failing relationship, felt worthless because of over-committing themselves, and, having left no dignified alternative for themselves, enacted their revenge. All the while knowing that the topic of their revenge is so well situated amongst a still largely puritanical population, and so well timed, being set loose in the age of growing populism and thoughtless mob mentality.

    Please also explain how the third testimony is even admissible, being totally groundless, and making such calculated attempts to pre-empt any reply.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Oh, Karma Donyo. No, no, no. Reading your comment actually makes me nauseous. I literally want to throw up when I read it.

      Can you explain to me how you came to this view of women as scheming, stupid, selfish, and vindictive? And why you have no compassion whatsoever for people who feel taken advantage of by their Guru for his own satisfaction with no concern for their well-being? Your views are the kind that make violence toward women acceptable. Check yourself.

      If I don’t hear from you with an apology and acknowledgement of your own hateful prejudices against women, I will take this comment down as it is will trigger trauma in victims of sexual abuse.

      • Posted by:  Susan Piver

        OK, no apology and no attempt to address my points in your subsequent comments so I’m going to take them down.

    • Posted by:  Fenwick Gibb

      Dear Karma,

      I take your questioning as a genuine interest in how to better understand this painful situation, and it’s in that spirit that I offer a response.

      The interpretation you espouse is one that’s commonly held in general society and one that requires close scrutiny. Whenever an opportunity to unpack these beliefs arises, everyone benefits from embracing the chance to learn. Following a conversation with Acharya Noel McLellan about how important and simultaneously difficult it is to uncover our own blind spots, I’ve taken on the tremendous challenge of trying to uncover my own blind spots and have found it particularly engaging work.

      What makes the situation with SMR and the women who came forward through Project Sunshine different is what’s known as a “power differential”. As the Shambhala lineage holder, Vajrayana master, and leader of Shambhala, SMR holds a tremendous amount of perceived power on the part of his students. This makes any relationship between the two particularly charged, and one that’s not felt to be a meeting of equals. A sexual relationship between these unequal partners is very different than “dating the most popular boy in school” and hoping he’ll marry you.

      What’s particularly destructive in a sexual relationship between a spiritual teacher and student is that the student’s perception of their own spiritual worthiness becomes tied to their willingness to engage in the sexual relationship. The same thing happens in situations of secular teacher / student relationships in higher learning institutions; intellect, professional acumen and professional opportunities come into question once a sexual relationship comes to light. This is why all universities, etc. have very strict rules regarding such relationships, and intense associated consequences for professors. I’m sure we can all agree that no intellectual nor spiritual path should have any such hindrances, as both are challenging enough waters to navigate as is.

      The following white paper by An Olive Branch provides an clear explanation of the self existing power dynamic between spiritual leaders and followers. I highly recommend taking the time to give it a read. (For those you don’t know, An Olive Branch is a Buddhist group dedicated to assisting religious communities experiencing the effects of trauma associated with unethical conduct between spiritual leaders and followers. It is the first external body with which Shambhala has engaged following stories of abuse coming to light.)

      White paper “Clergy Sexual Misconduct and the Misuse of Power” http://www.cbelakodesign.com/journal/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/An-Olive-Branch-White-Paper-on-Clergy-Misconduct-and-the-Misuse-of-Power.pdf

      My final comments are directed towards exploring another common and yet particularly painful blind spot; society’s tendency to speak harshly and condemningly of people who bring forward testimonies of abuse. It’s extremely important to contemplate your words when attempting to discuss such allegations. In particular, consider the power of speech to inflict harm on others , particularly for those of us who’ve taken vows to avoid such harm. The women who have spoken believe what they are saying to be truth and have taken years of contemplation before bringing their experience into the public eye. I find their accounts very credible and believe them to be true, even though admitting such is extremely painful. However, regardless of personal feelings, the engagement by Shambhala of an additional outside party with whom will be tasked to fully investigate these allegations is currently underway. My wish is that that will bring more clarity for and cooler hearts and minds for everyone.

      • Posted by:  Susan Piver

        Thank you for this.

    • Posted by:  penelope

      Karma Donyo: why should we do your practice for you? Why should we try to explain something that needs to be cultivated in your heart and mind? Why should anyone take the time to point out your stunning ignorance and lack of compassion?

      • Posted by:  Susan Piver

        I gotta say, I share these questions, Penelope.

  • Posted by:  Another Susan

    I was a member of Shambhala from 1982 to 2017. I left because of serious financial malfeasance in my local center, which was the culmination of many misgivings over many years. I am now studying with another Tibetan teacher. I hope that my long participation in Shambhala will make my observations of some value.

    Shambhala has always had two significant issues: money and power. Both of these problems have worsened under the Sakyong. The cost of programs has increased exponentially, and requirements are frequently increased. In addition, programs that were usually offered at local centers (such as Refuge Vows) have been moved to land centers, apparently as a way to increase revenue, making them even more expensive. The Sakyong has established a huge and financially unsustainable bureaucracy of salaried staff to manage Shambhala, Inc. The demands for money never stop. Even though the “generosity policy” is touted, the attitude is often “If you can’t pay, stay away.” And asking to use the generosity policy frequently becomes a humiliating experience.

    Shambhala’s system of government is an invitation to the abuse of power. Officers and Meditation Instructors are in positions where they have too much control over individual members, which easily creates egotism as well as an exaggerated sense of their own spiritual development and ability to advise others. I say this as a longtime MI and Shambhala Training AD. After noticing the seeds of those attitudes in myself I stopped participating in both activities.

    The Sakyong has handled this issue badly. His statement was the classic non-apology used by perpetrators everywhere. “I’m sorry if they felt harmed” means that the victims’ feelings are the problem, not his actions.

    I am not sure how Shambhala can survive this scandal; I’m not sure it deserves to. It survived many in the past only due to the victims’ fear of speaking out. I’m very grateful to Andrea Winn for bringing this important issue into the light of day.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Hi, another Susan. I truly agree that our systems in Shambhala are broken in terms of money and power–and that Sakyong Mipham’s “apology” really missed the point. It is really, really hard to see how we go forward from here. I’m glad people are speaking out and also completely heartbroken that they have had to hold so much pain and trauma in fear and loneliness. Standing by with friendship and as much sanity as I can muster. With love, another Susan

  • Posted by:  Anon Lay Practitioner

    Thank you for posting this. I study with a teacher who has Shambhala as one of several backgrounds (and it is not the focus of my practice or my Mahayana affiliation) and this news has been very, very disappointing. Unending Zen messes, and then this.

    Perhaps teaching and authority should be earned and supported by merit, not family connection? Tear down the Kingdom and its culture of some people being more special than others.

    While a number of CTR’s books have been incredibly valuable to me, I’m one of the people who thought “like father, like son” and mentally wrote off SMR when the news broke. I still hear periodic whitewashing of CTR along the lines of “I didn’t see it” or “he was just meeting people where they are to wake them up” and I think that’s baloney. Always have. Now I always will.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. It is really, really hard to know what will happen now in terms of the lineage. The next days and weeks are so important, not to explain away traumas, but to recognize them and do whatever is possible to support victims of abuse and acknowledge what they have had to go through. We will see. <3 S

  • Posted by:  Kellie Schorr

    I started this journey with the open heart project in 2014 because having an open heart called and terrified me. 4 years of guidance, courage, and new – I see how much this path has supported me through these feelings after this disclosure. Teachings matter. Teachers (big and small t) matter. Susan, you matter. Gratitude.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Kellie, I am so grateful for you. So glad we are in this together. Much love, S

  • Posted by:  Amanda Hinton

    Thank you for saying all of this, Susan. I was heart-broken and sad to hear of these allegations against SMR. This wasn’t, however, my first encounter with spiritual abuse from a teacher I respected. I’ve spent the last 13 years trying to heal from intimate abuses from within a Christian environment. I’d like to offer a few thoughts in case they may be helpful:

    1. There are so many layers of hurt, betrayal, power struggle, abuse at play here — just imagine what hasn’t been published or reported. There’s simply no way for anyone to quantify the mending that our community will need, which is why our practice will continue to be the most important guide and companion in the coming weeks, months, years. This won’t be clean and tidy — it will be messy, emotional and unpredictable. (Another reason I’m thankful for our practice.)

    2. In my experience with spiritual abuse, all of the leaders RUSHED to cover up the leader’s indiscretions; they discredited his (abused) wife; they let him get off without ANY legal repercussions. When I saw this happening, I was completely and utterly GUTTED. It was a significant part of my healing journey: why would *more* good people try to cover up the bad guy?

    In the situation with SMR, I’m sending love and light to those who were brave enough to stand up to the abuse and shine a light on it. It took more courage than we’ll ever know to do so. And I’m proud to call those persons my brothers and sisters in this life.

    3. I think it’s really important (for everyone reading this) to never discredit or downplay how a spiritual role model or teacher can become “more” than s/he should be. Your blog rightly points to this as a path for healing — I love the analogy of a teacher being three valleys away. This makes good sense to me and I can say from experience that it has been a wise path for me when I sought to re-enter some sort of spiritual community.

    4. I can’t thank you enough for being a teacher and student who never shies away from the here and now. I can’t imagine how much pain must be in your heart. Thank you for opening to us and not shrinking back. This will do more than you know.

    love,

    amanda

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thank you, Amanda. I am sorry for what you have had to go through and appreciate you showing up here to share from the heart. xo S

  • Posted by:  Hillary L.

    Thank you for your honesty and for offering some sound advice when clarity is uncertain. I have an even deeper appreciation for your authenticity, now more than ever, Susan. The dharma is unshakeable in my heart, despite revelations of this horrific abuse of power. This is probably easier for me to say because SMR is not my root guru. I have not been a student of the Shambhala lineage, although I have found great benefit from several of the teachers in the community. I feel so much compassion for those who held SMR dear. There is terrible suffering here on so many levels and I fear there is still more that might surface as the truth continues to be revealed. His “apology” was completely lame – he took no responsibility and it screams of narcissism. I cannot imagine the pain that the victims have and will carry – also for SMR’s wife and children.
    Sacred trust has been broken and it takes a miracle to rebuild, if that that’s even possible. All of this makes me long for the connection and company of the Open Heart Project sangha, because I do feel a deep trust in its authenticity and because it’s unaffiliated with any particular organization, other than your good guidance of dharma practice, Susan. I would really like to attend the next OHP Retreat, but I don’t feel comfortable contributing financially to Shambhala, nor would I be able to feel at ease to practice in peace with everyone there. Shambhala as an institution leaves me with a very bad feeling for covering up this and other abuses and it would loom too large to feel like a safe space for a “retreat.” I say this with a heavy heart and would like to humbly suggest that a more neutral gathering place could be found. I realize this is likely no small task, but I can’t imagine I’m alone in preferring an alternative location. Anyway, that’s how this news has affected me as an OHP sangha member. Thanks for being the real deal, Susan. It’s priceless.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Hillary, I understand your hesitation and honor it completely. You are right to take a pause and to ask for a change of venue.

      I am really torn. I too do not want to support the current Shambhala culture. But Shambhala Mountain Center has been my heart-home for over a decade. It is where the teachings came to life for me. The Great Stupa is there and it is an extraordinary source of spiritual healing and potency. And SMC is in the midst of a financial crisis. They have to completely replace their sewage system (paging Dr Freud) or be shut down at the end of this year. It is a multi-million dollar project and they are only about halfway there.

      While I have stopped teaching (mostly because no one invited me!) at Karme Choling, the Boston and NYC centers (places I had taught before), this is the one place where I have felt completely aligned. None of this is meant as an excuse for the culture of patriarchy in Shambhala–but I know for a fact that SMC is deeply committed to changing that culture, first for its own staff, and then for others. It is a model of what Shambhala could be. To me. These are my thoughts based on my personal experience.

      That said. I totally get how you (or anyone) would not want to contribute at this point. Let me think about it.

      Let me ask you this: would you feel any different if you knew that 100% of the revenue from this program was earmarked for SMC alone and would go toward their urgent need to replace systems? It is a totally open question and whatever you say will be absolutely respected. If you’d rather reply personally, that is great. You know my email address.

      Love always, Susan

  • Posted by:  Eve

    Thank you for this commentary. I have found it most helpful. I have been involved with Shambhala for 18 years. Although I have attended many programs, I was never comfortable with the leadership history and patriarchal nature of the organization. Male domination is the essence of patriarchy. In my experience it naturally creates space for male toxicity. For this I have zero tolerance. While I find the behavior of the Sakyong and his close associates disappointing, it is not at all surprising. I do believe the teachings are of great value and are not undermined by the flaws of organizational leaders but I do not see how the leadership can continue as is and certainly do not wish to support or be associated. It is a sad time for the community and my heart breaks for the victims. I will focus on my own path and learn as much as possible from these events.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Hello, Eve. I agree and share your sentiments right down the line. I appreciate your clarity and sharpness. I too will focus on my own path (as both a student and a teacher) and seek to educate myself about my own role in the culture of patriarchy and how I can be more supportive to you, all women, and also POC, LGBTQ, and any other population that has been marginalized in our Shambhala culture. While the teachings are exceptional, the culture surrounding them is not. With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Lise Hull

    I am very impressed with your wisdom and sharing your concerns about this entire mess. However, as I said in a FB post regarding comments you made about this being “allegations,” I am also somewhat uncomfortable with your statement, “the behavior attributed to Sakyong Mipham.” He admitted he had sexual relationships with students. This is not behavior merely “attributed to him” – it is something he acknowledges.

    I do appreciate the following comment, ” please know that I am reevaluating my relationship to Shambhala (the institution, not the teachings). I don’t know what the future holds for me, although I am committed without question to the dharma, to you, and to my path as a student and a teacher.” I agree, the teachings are invaluable. The institution? I always had my concerns. Thank you for reevaluating your relationship to that institution, which has a known history of abuse.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Lise, thanks for this comment. if you are concerned that I am looking for a way to give Sakyong Mipham a “pass” or in any way doubt his clergy sexual abuse, I would like to assure you that is not the case. “Allegations” is an accurate word to describe something not fully adjudicated and is not a way of obfuscating the ethics involved. This post was written the day after the Project Sunshine report and was in response to the heartbreaking stories it contained. What would be a better word? Accusations?Truth? Fact? How would you have said it? I’m not trying to nitpick, but I do care about being precise. Thanks for reading in all cases. xo S

  • Posted by:  Tenpel

    Hi Susan,
    thank you for this.

    I have some questions:

    1) To open up to and to listen to the pain and the sufferings of the victims, letting go the fear to get disenchanted, or deeply sad, or disillusioned while listening to or reading their testimonies, being open and courageous to feel the pain of those been harmed, feeling your own pain in light of their pain, and respond to it with patience (peace) and compassion, isn’t this practice too? Why not making the opening up with courageous compassion to the survivors of abuse the “personal practice” right now? Its not in your list. Why?

    Opening up and reading and encouraging others to read survivors’ testimonies, wouldn’t this be also the practice of groundlessness and fearlessness etc, concepts and terms much stressed in Shambala teachings? Why not applying these practices also to the testimonies of the victims?

    2) You write: “Try to listen. Let other voices come to the fore. Consider asking more questions and issuing fewer proclamations. Many have said they wish for more female/feminine energy voices. This is one way to accomplish that. “, but why are you not linking to female voices, e.g. female survivors of abuse or whistle blowers like Andrea Winn? Your whole post does neither quote explicitly a female survivor of sexual abuse nor links it to a testimony of a female survivor. Why?

    3) In the light of 1) + 2) are you aware, that a concluding sentence like “In no way is this meant as an excuse for the behavior attributed to Sakyong Mipham or to bypass the suffering of anyone who may have been harmed by him (which, to varying degrees, would be all of us).” downplays survivors-of-clergy-sexual-abuse’s sufferings and what happened to them?

    Thank you for considering these questions.

    I wish you and all the Shambalians, inner strength, inside, wisdom and courageous compassion.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Tenpel, hello. Your points are well-taken.

      My post was written for those looking for a way to work with their own suffering first and was not meant to minimize the suffering of the victims. My experience is that if you can meet your own suffering, you are better able to meet the suffering of others. In no way was this meant to gloss over what the victims experienced. I was simply trying to speak directly to anyone who might have come here looking for ideas.

      As far as point 3, if you refresh this post you’ll see that I had already removed the language you mention (and explain why).

      Tenpel, I wrote what I thought would be useful from a very full, open, and broken heart. If you wish I had written something different or emphasized other points, I suggest that you write it yourself. I did my best. Now it is your turn.

      I’m not saying you should agree with everything I’ve written. If you disagree, great. Bring it. We can have a discussion. But if you are critiquing me (which is different than disagreeing) by telling me what, in your opinion, I should have written, that is another story. That does not feel appropriate to me.

      If I have missed your intention, I am open to hearing what you meant instead. It is entirely likely that I am overreacting, having been policed and judged for my thoughts over many years of my life. It is a trigger for me.

      Thank you for listening. Susan

      • Posted by:  Tenpel

        Susan, hello, thank you for your openness and your answer.

        Yes, this is also what I felt first, that you want to help those who struggle with the situation, to find a way to deal with their own suffering. I also agree, that you cannot face others’ suffering without being able to face, to accept, to stand in peace with your own suffering. A fact rarely stressed among Western Mahayana Buddhist Followers but of crucial importance.

        Thank you for changing the part regarding point 3.

        “Tenpel, I wrote what I thought would be useful from a very full, open, and broken heart. If you wish I had written something different or emphasized other points, I suggest that you write it yourself. I did my best. Now it is your turn.”

        Thank you. Why I came to visit your blog post was because it was claimed the post lacks empathy for survivors.

        I could feel the empathy and compassion for those who struggle with the whole thing – and also a tremendous openness to different point of views or approaches.

        Why I wrote my questions is because I am convinced that compassion for others can be itself a deep healing, because it can kick you out of your self-circling thinking, grasping to identities (which bind you, cause fear and narrow mindedness, clinging etc.) and it can loose the burden you feel; it gives you tremendous strength, clarity and peace of mind. So, for those who can use the situation to increase their compassion for others, this is a very good option to deal with the whole situation. (Similar to Lojong … But even in therapy, as an example, a psychologist told me a patience, stuck in selfishness, said after the therapy that the best healing for her was to develop compassion for others. On the other hand, I know, for some it is far more important to develop compassion for themselves for a long time and leaving aside compassion for others for the time being … Its complex …)

        Then, some of what I read also reminded me on an advice by one of my own teachers, who, when someone complained to him that I engage for survivors of abuse (the OKC case where minors have been abused, children made working slaves, locked in cellars, beaten, left starving, neglected, prevented from school education, brought to other countries etc. …) – this Buddhist teacher, asked me to stop my engagement (to make their pain known to the Buddhist community) and recommended that ‘now you should instead truly practice the Dharma’. I wondered: why is this not ‘truly practicing Dharma’ to help victims of abuse by giving them a voice, listening to them, taking their suffering seriously, cultivating compassion and actions based on compassion etc?. I rejected his advice and explained why. Since you are a Buddhist teacher, and because I saw a similar pattern and I wanted to raise my objection.

        I have prepared something to offer for healing, it will be based on the Four Noble Truths. My main point is: Buddhists in the West strive for healing (or sometimes rather “damage control” in the guise of “healing”) in communities where abuse has occurred, i.e., faithful human beings have been harmed. But as far as I can see, they are looking for ways to heal without first having got totally aware of the sufferings for those who were harmed, and without having understood the causes for these sufferings (which include often a type of indoctrination and self-manipulation, over idealisation etc which are fuelled with simplistic or too literally understood concepts of the Vajrayana or manipulative Buddhist teachers). IMO, and also logically, for healing, the facing and seeing of the sufferings must come first, then the causes must be understood. Only then paths for healing and an reduction of suffering can be achieved …

        These things made me to write the comment or explain where I am currently at.

        I am sorry that my post triggered something in you. I think this is because my motivation was not pure and not based on love and compassion for you. I apologise for that. I will learn from that, remind it and try to avoid that in the future. I think basically, my motivation was just to challenge some points and I didn’t have much in mind how it might effect you though I tried to avoid any offending or patronising / arrogant attitude…

        Thank you Susan.

        • Posted by:  Susan Piver

          Tenpel, I am exceedingly grateful for your response. It strikes me as genuine, kind, learned, and truly useful. I will read it several more times and respond more fully but in the meantime I wanted to thank you for taking the time to write it and also for being willing to feel what may be in my heart. When one is willing to do that, all sorts of doors open that remain closed otherwise, no matter how compelling one’s words or insights may be. To me, that–being willing to feel what is in another’s heart–is the very foundation of true compassion. Thank you and to be continued. Susan

          • Posted by:  Tenpel

            Thank you Susan, sincerely, thank you. Your openness and honesty opens my heart.

  • Posted by:  Kevin Knox

    Just wanted to offer a recommendation to all wrestling with these issues to read this blog post by Matthew Remski. He’s all-too-familiar with the ways not just individuals but whole communities try to bypass dealing with these issues as a victim himself and writes with more clarity than anyone else I’ve found.

    http://matthewremski.com/wordpress/accountability-or-apologia-reading-between-the-lines-when-yoga-and-buddhism-leaders-issue-crisis-statements/

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thank you very much for this.

    • Posted by:  Tenpel

      Thank you to the link, Kevin. Great analysis by Matthew. Truly helpful and to the point IMO. Here is a link to Ken McLeod, (I don’t agree with everything) but he has a good point and expresses it extremely well, what a “sincere apology” actually is: https://tricycle.org/magazine/forgiveness-not-buddhist/

  • Posted by:  Terry Blaine

    Thank you Susan for this brave, open hearted response. I will go to ESA in NYC to lean in, listen deeply, and practice at this tender time. I will sit with the questions and not-knowing. I am curious to see how I can offer support to others, and travel a path together that has yet to show itself. Love to you, and to all.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Terry, this is such a tenderhearted and loving comment. I will be practicing right alongside you. We need nothing more right now than people who are committed to creating an enlightened society. Thank you. With love, Susan

    • Posted by:  Mark

      Terry, I had been planning to go to ESA until a couple days ago too, but this whole thing has left a very bad taste in my mouth. I believe that ESA is where we take vows to serve the Sakyong and his wife, and is also where we start chanting supplications to the Sakyong and the Lineage, etc. Given what has been revealed over the past few weeks, I don’t feel at all comfortable with doing either of these things.

      Even if the Sakyong’s actions hadn’t been revealed, I have come to the conclusion that this whole concept of Sakyong as reincarnated lama / ordained leader / “king” — while it comes from a legitimate Asian / Tibetan cultural history — leaves the person in the leadership role dangerously isolated with few checks on his (or her, if the Sakyong had been female) behavior. Just because they had this custom in Tibet does not mean that it is a good fit for North American society. A lot of us, me included, are wondering why we have only found out about the Sakyong’s behavior now, when it has apparently been going on for YEARS. But honestly, if you were one of those students who called the Sakyong “His Majesty,” and who read the Supplication Chant to start every day’s meditation session, would you really feel comfortable going up against this hierarchy and helping out a student who claimed abuse? Would you even believe that “his majesty” could do such a thing? This might be even more the case if you had committed to the Sakyong on a deeper level during Rigden Abhisheka or Sacred World Assembly. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to graft this idea of Sakyong royalty and Asian Hierarchy onto the Shambhala Buddhist teachings in North America?

      The other side of this whole episode that I find ugly is a certain reactionary emotional off-loading against men in general that I see developing. I am a man. A GAY man. One of those rare gay men (1% of the population on the Kinsey scale) who has never had any sexual interest in women whatsoever. I am not interested in being tarred with the sins of the Sakyong or the patriarchy during the inevitable painful discussions that will occur during the ESA. As a gay man, I have had my own unpleasant run-ins with patriarchal thinking – since I was a small child. Confronting patriarchal assumptions has been a big part of becoming comfortable toward myself as a gay man. But this reactionary emotional off-loading that I see has the vague taste of a witch-hunt to me. Coupled with the presence of abusers and those who covered it up, I believe that there are some dangerous currents flowing through the Sangha. And I don’t see any way to work with this.

      I also feel profoundly sad. In the two years that I have been part of Shambhala I have had many amazing teachers, and have seen many positive changes occur in my life as I have put the teachings into practice. These teachings are precious. But right now I feel like yet another institution has been discredited for me.

      In terms of my practice, I don’t know where I will go from here. I had hoped to continue on the vajrayana path, but options to do so are becoming more limited in the West given recent circumstances in Shambhala and other sanghas.

      But I do know that I will keep practicing. I will meditate on groundlessness this afternoon.

      • Posted by:  Susan Piver

        Mark, your responses make total sense. If I can do anything to be supportive, please let me know. Even though I don’t know what that could be, I would try.

        If there is anything in my post that comes off as a witch-hunt against men, I truly apologize. My request in this post was to ask for men who reflexively dominate conversation with unilateral statements, instructions about what to do next, or opinions that allow for no space, to think about making room for other voices. It is a hard thing to call attention to without hurting people’s feelings, but we live in (and have replicated) a culture that marginalizes the voices of women, POC, LGBTQ, and others. I believe we would all like to stop doing that and one step could be to become conscious about the dynamic.

        I am sad too, right along with you. My life is built around the Shambhala teachings. I’ve been in this lineage for more than 20 years. Yes, the institution as it stands has been discredited and deservedly so. It is truly broken at this moment. The teachings, for me, remain apart from this. How I (or you, any of us) will study them going forward remains to be seen, if we even want to.

        There are truly great teachers with whom one could study the vajrayana teachings, should the heart connection be there. Khandro Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Chokyi Nyima RInpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Kilung RInpoche, and my beloved Tulku Thondup Rinpoche come to mind. In our own lineage, Judy Lief and Michael Carroll are very powerful teachers who can transmit the vajrayana.

        FWIW, I still do the supplication chant. For me, it is a supplication to the various lineages–Shambhala, Kagyu, Nyingma. It is not about supplicating the Sakyong as a person, but as…something else. We are all Sakyong. THIS IS JUST ME. I totally understand anyone who just can’t stomach it all right now.

        With love and appreciation, Susan

        • Posted by:  Mark

          Thanks Susan, I appreciate your answer. Your post wasn’t what generated the witch hunt comment. It’s more the weight of all the comments that I’ve read and heard over the past few weeks that brought that feeling to me. I think it’s the old reformation / counter-reformation cycle that always plagues every social change, and which seems baked into human nature. Habitual patterns and karma of society and all of that……

          I let things alone for 24 hours since I wrote that comment yesterday, stayed away from social media and the internet, slept well last night, and feel less pessimistic today. I think the only piece of wisdom I have to contribute at this point is that a lot of the anger and “neurotic stink bomb” activity is a result of forces that are bigger than Shambhala, but that, since Shambhala is a part of the bigger society, are buffeting our sangha too. This isn’t my own wisdom of course, I think I absorbed it from other wise comments that I have read. Dysfunction which we overlooked or ignored once, we don’t overlook anymore, and this is painful, because we all are learning that we have caused pain through our actions or our silence, and that people we respect have caused pain through their actions or silence.

          As far as support goes, you are providing a ton of support, just by providing this forum and responding to difficult emotions with compassion.

          I’ve rambled enough. Thanks again for your comment.

  • Posted by:  surag

    I am relatively new to Shambhala culture. Please forgive me if this is inappropriate question. However, if the Shambhala community believes in reincarnation and I was told (may be I am wrong?) that they already have identified CTR long ago. Why we are not making him a leader of the movement (Isn’t that other traditions in Tibet …Dalai Lama’s , Karmapa’s follow?).

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Hello Surag. Your question is understandable, however the 12th Trungpa Tulku (born in 1989, I believe) has his own set of karmic responsibilities. The 11th Trungpa Tulku (Chogyam Trungpa) created his own situation and the 12th will do so as well.

      I have very little expertise in these matters, so this is the best I can offer. There are others who know much more than I.

      Also, on another related point, it’s not so much about reincarnation as it is about the notion of rebirth. Reincarnation, as I understand it (which is extremely little), is about a kind of new replica of a deceased person. Rebirth has more to do with certain energetic qualities being recreated in a new being. In this way, one being can show up in a number of ways, none of which I understand!!

      If there is anyone reading who actually knows what they are talking about (as opposed to myself), please don’t hesitate to weigh in. Sending love in all cases, Surag. Susan

      • Posted by:  surag

        Thank you Susan… Appreciate your answer! (not that I completely understand). One more question so when 11th- CTR was born(identified) did he took over from the 10th ( Monastic Teaching, Financial heritage) all of course before he moved to India due to the invasion.
        Why I am I asking this? there may be a possibility that current SMR and his close circuit may not want 12th CTR to take over the financial inheritance? So we may be missing the real ( and/or reincarnated) CTR over financial reasons? … Personally, as a scientist, I have doubt about reincarnation/rebirth but being born in India, part of me want to hang on to the the tradition which seems to be working well in case of Dalai Lama….

        • Posted by:  Susan Piver

          Surag, I don’t have any way of answering your questions as anything I would say would be completely made up. That said, I doubt there are intrigues such as you outline.

          If you feel a heart connection to the Dalai Lama, that matters. It would be good to pursue that in addition to whatever else truly touches you. Thanks, S

          • Posted by:  surag

            IHi Susan,
            You are right in not fully understanding the Rebirth/Reincarnation issues (neither am I) however on broad sense, there seems a strong possibility of “Nepotism” in transition CTR to SMR…? which could have been avoided ?
            Yesterday I was talking to one of the Shastri who said to me that we should select his oldest daughter(could not be more than 6-8 years old?) to replace SMR…I dropped my jaw !

  • Posted by:  Fred Strathmann

    Dear Susan,
    Thank-you for one of the most cogent responses I have read. Your wisdom and kindness are greatly appreciated. I bow to the goodness in all of us.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      You are very welcome, Fred. With appreciation, Susan

  • Posted by:  George Gomez

    Dear Susan,

    Thank you for posting this. Your voice and insight are needed. I feel that some of it is being directed to me personally. I am a man, who wrote a post on the Shambhala Facebook group about how Shambhala has a problem with alcoholism. This comment was based on my own personal experience. In the comment I don’t accuse anyone of personally being an alcoholic (that opportunity is reserved for us all individually to answer), but as a collective body, a collective consciousness, in my opinion and experience relating to my own self-diagnosis and to hundreds of self-diagnosed addict/alcoholics, therapists and experts in the field of addiction, trauma, and sexual confusion/misbehavior, Shambhala culture has shown time and time again that it has a big problem when it comes to understanding the affects alcoholism – as a disease – has on the members of the family/sangha. If someone in a family gets cancer, though difficult, everyone else understands what it means and therefore begins to relate to it. That is not the case with the disease of alcoholism largely because no one understands how to talk about it. Second, the taboos and misguided understanding of what it means keeps our ability to deal with it in the dark. So as we all take the time to relate to what is happening, we also should realize that we will not be able to meditate our way of this one if we do not relate to the real tough questions around the confusion how the disease of alcoholism has played a role in all this.

    Secondly, I would like to state that though I really do appropriate your voice as woman in a position of power, I think it really is not helpful to attack men who obviously do not have your kind of power. You say that men need to check themselves and not tell others what to do and the way you emphasize it is by giving a list of things the rest of us should do. Hmmm. I think its important to be reminded that there is a difference between male/female principle energies, vs. the very real masculine and feminine roles we all find ourselves inhabiting in this life. And though the conversation is (in very appropriate way) about men harming women, as a man who was abuse by a woman at the age of 5, I would like to remind everyone that women as just as capable of causing harm as men.

    At the age of 5 my babysitter, a woman, molested me. She created trauma in my life. From that moment on, my ability to relate to women was distorted. By the time I turn 13 the wiring was so fucked I began to self medicate. By 20 I was a full blown alcoholic and a addict that was causing serious harm to myself and others, including other women. And yet, from the outside everyone else saw a good kid, a good student, with good parents, and at times a good friend. All those things were true. That’s how the disease works. Admitting that I had a problem was the first step towards discovering the solution – and more importantly – find ways to make amends with those I had harm through right action. There is hope, but it does not come without first doing some serious soul and becoming rigorously honest.

    May all being find happiness and the root of happiness,
    May all beings be free from suffering and the root of suffering,
    May all beings never be separated from happiness, devoid of suffering,
    May all beings dwell in the great equanimity, free from passion, aggression, and ignorance.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      George, thank you so much for taking the time to write. Your words, story, and willingness to share from the heart are powerful and inspiring. I am grateful to you.

      I agree wholeheartedly that we should question our toxic relationship to alcohol in Shambhala and the culture of denial that has arisen around it. And, yes, while we cannot meditate our way out of this, the practice of mindfulness-awareness offers us the chance to navigate the complexities, emotional outbursts, triggers of past trauma, grasping, aggression, and ignorance with an open heart and a clear mind. It is certainly not a solution. But it is the foundation for enacting a solution that actually sticks–and not losing our minds and our connection to each other in the meantime.

      Please let me clarify my rather cavalier statement, “Dudes, check yourselves.” In no way was I asking men to keep quiet. I apologize that it came across this way. What I was asking was for men who (perhaps without knowing it) reflexively dominate the conversation to check themselves and consider making space.

      I don’t know why that was interpreted as an attack on men. Can you point to what makes you say so? It would be helpful to me.

      I agree wholeheartedly that both masculine and feminine energy are essential, important, dignified, and necessary.

      Yes, unfortunately and undeniably, women can be just as criminal and abusive as men. I am deeply, deeply sorry that you have had that experience. The men I know and love who have also experienced sexual abuse carry a uniquely terrible burden. I wish I could do anything to help, but all I can do is bear witness with love.

      That said, we have a history of shutting out the voices of women (and POC, LGBTQ, and others) and I wanted to call that out. This does not minimize in any way the sexual violence against men at the hands of either gender. But it does point to a systemic problem that I (and you and countless others, I am certain) do not want to continue to replicate in our sangha. We need to be conscious about making space for many voices and my (awkwardly expressed) request was for men to be aware of this.

      To deep introspection and rigorous honesty, Susan

  • Posted by:  Clotilde Wright

    Hi Susan,

    Thank you for creating a sane space to do some talking about this. A friend of mine who is an Episcopalian recommended the following New York Times article written by Rev. Emily Scott. It does assume that men are always the perpetrator, but as we see from George’s comment above, that’s not always the case. However, I found this quote particularly relevant to the crisis at hand:

    “abusive narcissism must be unraveled through a transformation of heart and mind. A shift in the larger culture depends on putting the stories of women front and center.”

    Full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/16/opinion/sunday/women-the-bible-metoo.html

    Best,
    Chloe Wright

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thank you, Chloe.

  • Posted by:  Lisa Harris

    Susan

    I’m frustrated by all of this, and there’s a lot of ‘this’ involved here.

    I am frustrated by the news of the Sakyong’s, and other teachers’, alleged sexual misconduct.
    I am frustrated with the abundance of people in the world who have questioned the information put forth by others – ‘fake news’ – and how that brings into question almost everything I read.
    I am frustrated by the vague responses from the Sakyong and the Kalapa Council.
    I am frustrated by so many men who have mistreated so many women.
    I am frustrated by so many men who have no clue that they have sexually abused/offended women…and deny it – or maintain silence in the face of possible guilt.
    I am frustrated by the depth of wisdom we learn from Shambhala, and how it feels like it’s just gone out the window with this information.
    I am frustrated by the inability to know what’s really happening in Shambhala now.
    I am frustrated by the sharp and hot anger that is spewing from so many in the Sangha.
    I am frustrated by how fragile our training and teachings are, by the exodus and dismissal of Shambhala members.
    I am frustrated by the irony of creating an ‘enlightened society’ – via the Sakyong and other teachers’ alleged behaviors, the behaviors of sangha members toward others who are expressing their opinions as they find their way, and

    And

    I am grateful for the teachings I have received through Shambhala – including, question your teachers – which are actually giving me strength and wisdom and the space to sit with this now.

    And I am grateful for you, Susan, for writing this letter for us, with your honesty and open heart.

    Thank you for this forum.

    Even with the fear of inevitable dismissal from others, I feel strong and grateful for these teachings.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Hello, wonderful Lisa. Yes and yes and a thousand times yes to these frustrations. I share each one.

      While I’m also frustrated that our teachings often don’t inform our behavior and many of us are detonating our personal neurotic stink bombs right now, the depth and wisdom of Shambhala has not gone out the window. It is right here. It has not abandoned us. When I can get over my own outrage, sorrow, and so on to look, I still see it. So do you. Your message is full of what we have been taught.

      We are seeking to create an enlightened society in an extremely dark age. Our own leaders are not exempt from the slime and muck. Now what? We have yet to see. No one can say it’s all gone to shit or it can all work out because we just don’t know. At such moments, we could see what warriorship really means.

      Standing by with friendship and love. S

  • Posted by:  Isabelle Taylor

    Dear Susan,

    As usual your words are like a lighthouse that shines through the fog of emotion. I can’t thank you enough for sharing them, and for helping myself and others to find our way back to our seats.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Isabelle, I am so happy you found this useful. Sending love. Susan

  • Posted by:  Lachlan

    Thank you Susan, and all others so much for this space.
    As someone in a Shambala Sanga “10 valleys”
    away from the centre, I have only had glimpses of the centrist and at times opressive power of this organization; otherwise I have benefited from many teachers and teachings from away. I had always hoped/assumed Shambala had learned from its shakey past history…
    I guess it’s an opportunity to sit with things falling apart.

    Thank you to all those who have suffered from the organization i have been a part of, and who have had the courage to come forward now, and in the future. You are foremost in my mind when I read the institutional “in the valley” responses I have received thus far. They depress me in their predictability. I try to hold you and your experiences and I am better aware of my ignorance. And my shame. I hope to change my relationship to this organization that I am a part of. And always to think about my own harmful relationships to others and myself.

    A time for change. I hope maybe for change within Shambhala, but I see that it is possible outside of this organization too! I see so many good hearts waiting for something ; I fear it will not come from where we are looking.
    Our Sanga is strong and deep, it will survive in a better form from this.
    From far away, but close in this space you have created Susan. Thank you.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Hi Lachlan. Thank you too. I appreciate your heartbreak, your wish to do better, and your connection to Sangha. Standing by in friendship. Susan

  • Posted by:  Susan

    Well said. Thank you. ❤️

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thank you, eebe and Susan. Eebe, I share your questions and concerns. Love, S

  • Posted by:  José

    Almost 20 years ago I trained a Buddhist nun who complained to me of the Sakyong´s behavior and was appalled that the institution protected him. As a graduate of Naropa, I was taught by many of CTR´s senior students and felt the defensive touchiness around his behavior. I heard many stories and I was on the fringes…but apparently no one did anything about it. This begs the question: what is it about this tradition, this sect, these teachings, which lend themselves so often to the same kinds of sexual abuse? I am not singling out Vajrayana but that is our focus here. Is there something in the protected teachings, the air of invincible omniscience around holders of the Dharma, that perpetuates such? Is the whole notion of hierarchies, kings and courts, etc., the crux? Is it the secret nature of the highest teachings of which only the teachers (or their appointed favorites) possess? And what does one make of the notion that our true nature is universally present while at the same time wrapping certain individuals (invariably men) with the mantles of “His Holiness” and “Precious One”? This will happen again and again until we get at the bottom of this. Abusive relationships happen everywhere and power hungry individuals are in every group but what is going on here when the simplest behaviors of moral rectitude are cavalierly dispensed with when “high spiritual” practices are spoken of? Give me a Chatral Rinpoche over “courts” and “royalty” any day. Or a humble practitioner without the need for elaborate obsequiousness and, in fact, disdain for it.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      These are truly the right questions, Jose. I appreciate you for asking them.

  • Posted by:  Jennie Kiessling

    A shining and wise response. Thank you.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      You are so welcome, Jennie. Sending love.

  • Posted by:  Matt

    The issues with Shambhala (and, frankly, Buddhism in general) power relationships is a deep one, on many, many levels. The link below is to an excellent annotated critique of this very article which helps to illuminate just how deep-seated the problem really is.

    http://matthewremski.com/wordpress/susan-pivers-on-shambhala-an-abuse-crisis-letter-annotated/

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Got it, Matt.

  • Posted by:  Matt

    Do a search for matthew remski pivers for a very perceptive and fascinating annotated write-up of this very article by Susan.

    This is a deep problem, not only in Shambhala, but in Buddhism in general.

    • Posted by:  E

      I take issue with this annotated takedown. There are valuable observations which are perhaps helpful to explore – yes. Yet there is also something off In his authoritative and almost authoritarian annotation. We simply do not and cannot know a person’s intricate nuanced intentions unless we take pains to want to explore them and intuit them through time in a way that runs in the face of the digital universe we live in.
      (And if tjisnwriter’s views. ) This world loves authoritative, unnuanced statements. Many of us relate to and respect Susan and her thoughts precisely because she is real. This perception comes from years of intimate encounters with her through her teachings, her person. Annotate that! Well, you can’t. When you are curious and get to know a person on a gut level and through many years you relate to and interpret their statements according to what you know, This is not something the writer considers. We are not all naive lemmings and Susan understands this. The writer also takes painstaking efforts to tease apart the ways the statement falls short, the statement which can never be perfect, without acknowledging another digital age reality: teachers and people with followers associated in any way shape or form with an organization in this kind of trouble are now expected to almost immediately issue some
      Statement. Otherwise the implication is they’re considered complicit. So not doing that, is pretty much not an option: they have that pressure and responsibility. That’s OK. On top of that though, they have to grasp all the still evolving yet apparently hard and fast rules of how any and every word they say may be interpreted by anyone reading them. But needless to say they are to do this In an entirely authentic, genuine, heartfelt and personal way.( Or maybe that’s the piece which can take a hit? No thank you. ) Can we please acknowledge that this is all an impossible task, it simply constricts organic thought, to something almost totalitarian ?

      • Posted by:  Susan Piver

        I appreciate this and I appreciate our relationship, E.

        • Posted by:  Susan Piver

          PS Matthew’s post really hurt my feelings–but there are also important points to consider. We are going to try to consider it all together so please stay tuned. Matthew graciously accepted my invitation to talk face to face which seems possibly more useful than slinging comments, no matter how carefully thought out and expressed. I will share the conversation with you all here.

          • Posted by:  Eszter

            I admire your bravery. A lot. However I want to say please proceed with caution. I think continuing this particular dialogue could prove futile and perhaps hurtful. I do agree face to face is the only way you could possibly disarm the authoritative stance. But I fear for you. Our age is afflicted with the disease of what I’ve decided to call the sociopathy of correctness. There are always valuable insights, which we can learn from, that’s the bait, but there is just one thing missing: space for basic humanity. it is a maze. with no way out. If you enter this space Susan, I hope you take steps to protect yourself, your heart.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thanks, Matt. Got it.

      • Posted by:  Susan Piver

        Eszter, your love and friendship are very palpable and inspiring. Thank you. And your admonitions are truly well taken. Like most people, I don’t always know how to protect my heart, so this is helpful. When you say “space for basic humanity,” it kind of makes me want to cry. You are right, it is often missing and when it is, all sorts of doors close. In this case, I’m willing to take a risk. Important issues are on the table and to educate oneself so as not to contribute to further harm is a step I’d like to take. It’s scary and weird and it may not work out at all–but in all cases, I will learn something. And to know that I have friends like you to turn to gives me the courage to try. I don’t mean to sound all dramatic, but this is a dramatic moment with so much possibility for good and bad. With much love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Kathy KinKaid

    Thank you, Susan, for bringing clarity to a really thick cluster of panic for me. Although fairly new to Shambhala, it has certainly been a struggle sorting through my own emotional baggage while keeping my seat. Oddly enough, its the teachings & my sangha that have helped through. I am moving from TX to the Ft Collins area in Jan & would love to be a part of the healing & rebirthing as it continues for SMC.
    So lovely you’ve opened this space for sharing our hearts. Thank you!

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Hi Kathy. I understand the “thick cluster of panic.” That is a great way to describe it. Please keep me posted if I can be helpful. With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Anne M.

    I am a Christian survivor of clergy sexual abuse within my own tradition. I have friends with deep connections to Shambhala and find myself compelled to read everything I can find about the current difficult circumstances Shambhala now finds itself. I hurt for the victims and know from my own experience that if three were quoted in the Project Sunshine Report, there are many, many more. The power dynamic between teacher and student makes a sexual relationship inappropriate and damaging, because “consent” cannot actually be granted. And when the guru is the lineage holder and highest ranking member of the community, the damage intensifies. Did some female students say no? Yes, of course. But that does not blame the ones who found they couldn’t.

    It took me ten years to come forward about what happened to me. I was disbelieved and belittled and found myself incredibly fragile for a long time, and that will also be true for the victims within Shambhala. They need to be HEARD and loved and supported which might be really hard for many in the community because of the damage created by the actions of the Sakyong.

    Thank you for writing this, Susan. I found it helpful and well thought out. I also appreciated your comment earlier about paying attention to seeing which teachings drew my heart. That brought me some clarity.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Anne, thanks for showing up and I am so, so sorry that you have firsthand knowledge of this kind of abuse. And you are right, just because some were not ensnared does not lessen the victimization of those who were. That is a hard truth.

      It was brave of you to come forward after 10 years and it is brave (and kind) of you to come forward now to voice support and love for the women who have spoken the truth.

      I too find it useful (meaning: healing, supportive, clarifying) to remain connected to the teachings that speak to me. I honestly feel that we can trust the teachings themselves, not to sidestep the current painful realities, but to find the strength to face them head on.

      With love and respect, Susan

  • Posted by:  Hans Kaufmann

    Posted by: Carolyn Sykes
    July 1, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Thank you Susan, beautifully written as always!

    “I personally think it is time for us to grow up as a sangha. The Sakyong is a wonderful teacher and can continue to do that, but we have to become the grown up children and take charge of our practice and our centers and our policies. If we are going to create enlightened society I think this is an important step.

    Thank you for addressing the path and the process of how we are going to be able to start doing this.” Thank you, Carolyn! I agree fully to what you expressed here. And thank you, Susan, for your honest and helpful statement and suggestions how to work with that situation. Let´s hold our seat, practice and trust our experience and lets take serious and appreciate the exchange in the community and – if needed – also outside the community. It´s truly a waking-up-experience, helping us to be more honest and couragious human beings, overcoming blind faith and maintaining social structures, causing and maintaining desception. In the middle of the huge pile of broken pieces I feel a strong faith, that – if we can hold the seat in the middle of that – really something can arise, which feels to be a sane society.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Hi Hans. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I am so glad if you found this post useful. I agree, it is time for us to grow up as a community…and as human beings with an unmistakable responsibility to understand and care for each other, ourselves, all sentient beings, and our very planet. It is a time for honesty and courage, just as you say. I will do my best (which will never be perfect) and I’m sure you will too. With love, Susan

  • Posted by:  Mike

    Hi Susan. If I may offer a perspective (which happens to be male but isn’t a males perspective) on the “check yourself dudes” comment- I think generalisations are not helpful and I also felt whether intended or not that was subjugating. It was interesting because it made me realise I do the same thing the other way round- eg “don’t let girls have you under the thumb like that”- the uk is actually quite matriarchal in my opinion though I’m sure others would disagree. Anyway being on the receiving end of your comment made me realise some of mine are not helpful or accurate, as generalisations tend to be!

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Mike, I am so happy you left this comment as it gives me a chance to reach out across the divide to you. I agree that generalizations are not helpful and I don’t want to make anyone feel subjugated. The point I was trying to make–unsuccessfully–was that, while all voices are welcome, male voices that DOMINATE the conversation may be obscuring other voices. We live in a world that is dominated by such voices. I know you a little, Mike. I know you are not one of them. Many of the people on the Shambhala Facebook page were expressing a wish for more female leaders. My thought was that this would be one way to make that more of a reality.

      This is very complex territory we are in. I know we are each trying to parse it to the best of our ability and I truly apologize if I made anyone feel subjugated!

      I hope this is useful in any way and I appreciate your attunement to your own generalizations. If we could each become more aware of such things, it would be truly beneficial to all. Warmly, S

  • Posted by:  Ann Van Dyke

    Hi Susan,
    I have read most though not all of the comments, to get the sense of what you and others are saying. I just heard about this whole business yesterday over lunch at a Zen retreat center and have found it deeply disturbing. The Open Heart Project has been helpful to me and I have looked forward to your talks. My work life is challenging and so an online sangha has been helpful. I consider myself nonsectarian and interested in wisdom wherever it may be found. I did have some misgivings about the relationship with Shambhala and with Chogyan Trungpa. I have wondered about the elephant in the room of his alcoholism and now we see it played out with his son. Having been married to an addict/alcoholic I am painfully acquainted with the dynamics of alcoholism in families. This reminds be so much of that. I wish you would address this directly and talk openly about how the father’s illness has affected the organization. I have to say honestly that I don’t know if I can continue this affiliation as It is triggering for me. I thought before that I could set these concerns aside and just focus on the good, but now I’m not so sure.

  • Posted by:  Paul

    Voices rise when listening occurs. When listening occurs, voices feel heard. When voices feel heard, openness arises. When openness arises transformation potential arises. Whatever the nature of the transformations that occur, you have performed a great service here, Susan Piver. It is Work to breathe in the energy, and then courageously respond. Do feel noticed.

    Paul

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Paul. Truly, this means everything to me. The sequence you outline is exactly what I hope for, here and everywhere. I do feel noticed, and in the best possible light. Thank you again.

  • Posted by:  viviane

    Thank you for your writing Susan. It’s been a hard pill to swallow and it will take time to make some sense and put them into words. Here, in your writing, I feel and love and disappointment towards the teacher, same I felt when I just found out. It is heart breaking to know Shambhala Liders and members knew about, covered up, and just pushed the victims away from the sangha. The community is rotten from the center and untrustworthy. What I want to focus now, Last year same kind of problem with Sogyal Rinpoche cane to light, and a very confusing essat written by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche regarding this issue. It worries and saddened me to think how these teachers really consider us . I am tired of them referring to us as “the westerners” as if we were dummies with extra dollars on our pocket to make their empires grow bigger. I confess, when you look at videos of us “westerners “ greeting these teachers, we do look like dummies. It is about time to wake up and listen to the basic Buddhist teachings. We need to stop with this stupid thing of calling people gurus, there is no such a thing. We are always searching on the outside, giving power to people that don’t have enough wisdom and compassion to be in such positions. Dalai Lama encourage us to question the teachings, and the teacher.

    One pierce of a Tibetan chant by nuns says: “there is no Buddha elsewhere; look at your own face. -there is nothing else to search for; rest in your own place.”

    I Loved that at a workshop someone asked Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo and Lama Tsultrim Allione ( ser YouTube) about the Sakyong’s sexual misconduct, I love their answers, and I wish I had given more chances to learn from them.

    I am absolutely disappointed I had trusted and looked up for the Sakyong and Shambhala. I don’t even believe in their teachings anymore. I can’t trust the spiritual words from teachers that act like that, who has No compassion and no self discipline. How could he teach meditation and to stay with the feelings given the fact that he was not doing it.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Hi Viviane. Yes, the points you make point to terrible and heartbreaking behaviors. I too have been confused by DKR’s writing on Guru principle..and I also loved listening to Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo and Lama Tsultrim Allione. Their’s was the most helpful input.

      It is impossible (literally) to know what went on in the mind of Sakyong Mipham. The only judgments I can make are based on his behavior and the expressions of pain from the women he mistreated. I don’t know what happens next, if anything, but we will see together.

      Warmly, S

      • Posted by:  viviane

        Thank you Susan again for opening up a space to talk about this. I really appreciate this space to express our feelings. Much love ❤️

        • Posted by:  Susan Piver

          I appreciate it, too. Thanks, S

  • Posted by:  Rob Heffernan

    Greetings Susan,

    you wrote: “Chogyam Trungpa is not the issue here, Sakyong Mipham is.”

    Actually IMV Trungpa is very much part of the issue here. It has always been my impression that there has been a lack of honest and clear acknowledgement of his sexual misconduct and alcoholism by this lineage which has created a culture of denial and avoidance. This avoidance and denial created the conditions that allowed unethical behaviors to continue. This doesn’t mitigate the good teachings of Trungpa. Nor do the good teachings mitigate the karmic consequences that these harmful behaviors have wrought.

    Metta for us all.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Hi Rob. I see what you are saying. My impression is different than yours. We each have our reasons for those impressions an so we are entitled to them. Warmly, S

      • Posted by:  Rob Heffernan

        Susan, I’m not sure I see what you are saying. Do you believe there wasn’t a culture of avoidance and denial about forthrightly speaking about and contemplating the affects of Turngpa’s behavoirs around sleeping with students and his consumption of alcohol among other things?

        Blessings

        • Posted by:  Susan Piver

          There may have been a culture of avoidance and denial and so on. But that is not what I have heard from the people I know who were there and were close students (and even sexual partners) of Trungpa Rinpoche’s. The behaviors have never been denied, that is for sure. I’m not saying that what I have heard is all there is to know. I’m just saying that it is what I have to go on.

          • Posted by:  Rob Heffernan

            Its wasn’t just his sleeping with his students, which is questionable enough. It was his alcoholism. Both of which are often rationalized as “crazy wisdom”. As in a family (in this case which includes a literal family) these behaviors get passed on. Its not a coincidence that his first Vajra regent was involved in a tragic scandal involving infecting someone with HIV and now his son is involved in these other scandals involving sex and alcohol. There is a reason why the precepts exist as guidelines (not necessarily as rigid codes of conducts for non monks/nuns).

          • Posted by:  Susan Piver

            Thank you.

    • Posted by:  Sylvia

      The news about Sakyong Mipham was disheartening and unfortunate. I agree with this writer that part of the issue is that the Shambhala organization itself has never clarified its stance on Chogyam Trungpa’s alcoholism and sexual misconduct leaving a chasm of misunderstanding about what is acceptable behavior. And there are a lot of people who simply condone bad behavior because they are afraid of thinking they might be wrong and the behavior is simply ‘enlightened’. Along with the Sunshine project report is an interview with Pema Chodron in which she keeps dancing around the issue of whether what Trungpa did was ‘wrong’ — maybe her views have changed on this but I found a dull thud in my heart when I read the interview. I never was attracted to the Shambhala organization, in part because of its hierarchical structure, although I have a long-time meditation practice in various other Buddhist traditions. I teach a class at a university on Contemporary American Buddhism and usually take my students to the local Shambhala center to get another viewpoint. But I can’t in good conscience take them any longer if I know that the Shambhala institution is not clear about what constitutes ethical behavior for its teachers.

  • Posted by:  Laurie Macomber

    I am reminded of when the Kripalu community learned of Gurudev’s sexual clay feet. Years later they are stronger than ever.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Hi Laurie. I’m curious about this! What makes you say that Kripalu is stronger than ever and how do you think that happened? Thanks, S

  • Posted by:  Laurie Macomber

    Hi Susan,
    I used to go to Kripalu when Gurudev was the charismatic leader. At that time, marketing was informal, the classes were few, and the focus was on Amrit Desai.

    After he was ousted, the community came out of chaos into a more formal and truly robust
    approach to promotion and class offering. I see you are a visiting teacher there – I believe you would not recognize the ‘world class’ facility from yesteryear. Here’s what Wikipedia has on record about the shift:

    During the 1980s, Desai became an international figure in yoga, delivering talks, performing yoga demonstrations, and leading seminars worldwide. The Kripalu community continued to grow in size until it contained more than 350 residents. In 1994, although one of the spiritual practices of the Kripalu Center was “Brahmacharya” the practice of celibacy for unmarried residents, revelations surfaced of sexual relationships between Desai and several female ashram residents. When these and other alleged abuses of power were confirmed, Kripalu’s Board of Trustees called for Desai’s immediate resignation. Since 1994, and continuing today, there is no formal relationship between Kripalu and Desai.

    Between 1996 and 2004, Kripalu’s leadership and staff focused on establishing a new vision, launching Kripalu as a nationally recognized yoga retreat and experiential program center. While continuing to teach Kripalu Yoga, it reached out to a broad mix of teachers from other traditions and disciplines to expand its curriculum and appeal to the growing number of Americans interested in yoga, health, wellness, and personal growth.

    During these years, Kripalu was restructured into a standard nonprofit organization offering a broad curriculum of educational programs and spiritual retreats. This new structure was formalized in 1999, when Kripalu officially ceased being a religious order.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thanks, Laurie. I was semi-around in those days (my brother was dating and later married a Kripalu resident). I agree completely–Kripalu has prospered due to much hard work and professionalism. It is a fantastic program center, truly world class, as you say. However, Kripalu as a spiritual center seems to have withered. Kripalu yoga has ceased to evolve as a spiritual path. (I’m sure there are people who would disagree with me on that.) That’s how I see it. Happy to continue the conversation about how you see it! <3 S

  • Posted by:  Rob Heffernan

    Here is an article written a number of years ago that well describes some of the issues of denial and avoidance in Buddhist communities.

    http://www.katybutler.com/publications/commonboundary/index_files/commbound_shadowbuddhistusa_new.htm

    Blessings

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      Thank you. I have read this article before. It is very powerful.

  • Posted by:  Tereza Joy Kramer

    Thank you for this beautiful, helpful, reflective essay, Susan.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      I’m very glad it was useful, Tereza. <3 S

  • Posted by:  Bob Brockob

    He who is without guilt cast the first stone. This wisdom helps me on my own path to just keep practicing.

    • Posted by:  Susan Piver

      It is great that you will keep practicing. I will too. <3 S

  • Posted by:  Howard Katz

    For the past 2 days I have been reading Andrea Winn’s report. Very disturbing. This morning I woke up and my first thought was “The Sakyong is much worse than Harvey Weinstien”.
    This was a much greater betrayal of trust. I believe he should be ex communicated from Shambhala. Never again be allowed to teach. I think all the silly titles; Acharya, Shastri should be done away with. I started Shambhala in Ottawa in 1993. Attended Warriors Assembly at Karme Cholling in 2004.
    This was after nearly 30 years in a Gurdjieff group in Philadelphia, Hollywood (Fl) and Montreal. I do love the Shambhala teachings. Two weeks ago i started and completed reading “The Sacred Path of the Warrior” which I haven’t looked at for probably a decade. Poetic, brilliant, Energizing.
    Yesterday I received from the the Palm Beach Dharma Center the 4 reliances.

    (1) Don’t rely on the person, rely on the teaching.
    (2) Don’t rely on the words, rely on the meaning.
    (3) Don’t rely on the provisional meaning, rely on the definitive, ultimate meaning.
    (4) Don’t rely on conceptual mind, but rely on wisdom.

    More than ever this is true.

  • Posted by:  Joe P.

    I don’t have a definitive reaction to all this, but I do have a few additional thoughts that don’t seem to have been mentioned.

    * The most glaring aspect to me is that the Sakyong has so much encouraged his role as “emperor”. Is he not a qualified vajra master? Surprisingly, he himself seems to be saying that he’s not. If not, then why was he playing that role? Did he believe he could fulfill the role of enlightened king without being enlightened? How could he have ever accepted the role of leading a Vajrayana sangha without being qualified?

    * Don’t throw the bath water out with the guru. This is Vajrayana. There are gurus. Many people prefer Theravan Buddhism, which is fine. But they shouldn’t be mixed. It’s like reading a manual about skydiving vs having an instructor jump out of the plane with you. It’s not theoretical. It’s direct. Anyone practicing Vajrayana must be prepared to suspend judgement on all levels. That doesn’t mean be gullible. It does mean not indulging in certainty. It means watching one’s mind and staying in nowness, without fixating on black/white truths. Ethics are critical, but in the final analysis their purpose is to tame the mind, not to define reality. It’s critical in Vajrayana not to fall into a Hinayana view. Sorting out this situation is not a job for therapists or Theravadan moralists. It’s a job for each individual practitioner to manage on their own.

    * Resist the temptation to know the truth. When the scandal broke with the Regent I remember a local meeting to talk about it. A large number of people were furious and ready to quit, as many are now. Righteous certaintly is very seductive. Was the Regent a fool? Was he evil? Was he teaching us a lesson? Did CTR engineer the whole thing to teach us a lesson? Can we afford to reject even considering those possibilities? If we do reject them, aren’t we saying that we will only accept reality if it fits our expectations? Interestingly, AIDS was a very hot-button topic then and sexual harassment is a very hot-button topic now. Then, as now, it was very easy to see the situation as a black/white issue.

    * Resist the temptation to look for another savior and start the whole cycle all over again. I see people asking for Pema to save us. Or maybe the Sakyong Wangmo can save us. What should we think? Let’s ask the acharyas. Let’s ask female lamas. Maybe an “authentic” Tibetan lama should take over… That’s asking for a parent to take charge so that we won’t have to risk our own insight. That’s what allowed the Sakyong to be fawned over in the first place.

    * Recognize the guru as awake itself. CTR often said that his job was to pull the rug out from under our feet. I remember one persistent questioner who kept pushing when CTR was being humorously evasive (as he often was). Finally CTR said something like, “It’s not my job to be your brainstorm. I’m here to raise questions, not answer them.” It floored me, making me intensely aware of how much I’d been hoping to “get the answer”, without ever seriously thinking about what renunciation, surrender, devotion meant. I submit that those are all essentially the same and they boil down to a willingness to be fully present, now. That’s practice. It’s not superseded by any issue. It’s interrupted by “issues”. There isn’t an answer.

    • Posted by:  Rob Heffernan

      Joe wrote: “Then, as now, it was very easy to see the situation as a black/white issue.”

      Yes, somethings are black and white. Very clear if ones eyes and heart are open. Sexual abuse, abuse of power, alcoholism, avoidance and denial of the obvious dysfunctions with families and communities. These things are not hard to discern unless one wishes to put narratives about gurus and traditions above the actual karmic consequences of these behaviors for individuals, sanghas and the broader community. And above the embodiment of the dharma which certainly is not about labels like Vajrayana and Hinayana ( a polemical term which in the case of the dysfunctional dynamics of Shambala seems to have covered up rather illuminate anything).

      • Posted by:  Ann Van Dyke

        Thank you Rob for your response, which is spot on. Personally I don’t mind listening to Hinayana moralists at all. Ethics do matter and rationalizing destructive behavior in spiritual leaders is quite dangerous. Please keep speaking up!

        • Posted by:  Eszter

          Agree. As a matter of fact. According to several accounts that O have heard, One of CTR’s very last instructions before his passing was: Don’t forget the Hinayana.

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