It feels like a momentous occasion today as I close Buddhist Project Sunshine. I launched the project two years ago on Shambhala Day* 2017 with a mission to bring healing light to the sexualized violence embedded in the Shambhala community.
It is auspicious to learn that in the past week the first Shambhala leader was put in jail for allegedly sexually assaulting a minor within the community. Also Shambhala International released results from their own investigation into Osel Mukpo. It is striking that even with significant problems inherent in this investigation due to Shambhala’s refusal to appoint a neutral monitor, their results still confirm the tip of the iceberg of Osel Mukpo’s sexual assaults of women! It seems that the tide has officially turned, sanity is emerging, and genuine healing is beginning.
What I have most appreciated about this work has been the thousands of people across the world who have been an active part of this healing process. The fierce courage and genuine goodness that have arisen in the most surprising places throughout these two years have proven to me the truth of the core Shambhala teachings on fundamental goodness.
There has been a magical element at work lifting up the powerful sun of BPS. Community-wide healing has happened in a good and thorough way the past two years after decades of deep denial, oppression and harm.
I’d like to give a special shout of thanks to the survivors who wrote their stories of sexual harm in Shambhala in the Phase 1 report. These exceptionally brave people created the crack for light to come in. It was after the Phase 1 report that survivors of Osel Mukpo’s sexual misconduct and assaults first began to speak.
I believe I will never be able to give enough thanks to Carol Merchasin for her endless hours of solid investigative work documenting the harm in a professional and explicit way so the community could know what has been happening. It is also important to acknowledge that her findings have now led to police investigations into Osel Mukpo and John Weber.
There are two special memories I’m holding close to my heart as I move forward. One is of what one BPS volunteers said to me:
“You are attending to Buddhist Project Sunshine with so much grace and care. I’ve been struck by how your energy has always prioritized care and concern for the hurt and the trauma of everyone involved. There is so much sexual abuse happening in the world – in the Catholic Church, the #metoo movement – and too often these initiatives to uncover abuse are done in such a cold manner. It feels like all that happens is that abuse is uncovered, as though that is enough. But where is the care for the people in the community who are reeling from the hurt, who are picking up the pieces and trying to understand and express their deep pain?– Katie, a BPS Volunteer
I am in awe of the care that permeates BPS. I truly believe that this initiative needs to serve as a model for how other groups can and should operate. BPS exemplifies a genuinely human way of moving forward in the light of abuse which is actually directed toward people’s healing. I can’t emphasize that enough: BPS is so incredibly special.”
The second memory is of a quote from Matthew Remski, a journalist who has shown keen insight into the Shambhala problem. He made one statement that causes me to laugh every time I read it:
“if any part of the neo-Buddhist practices commodified by Shambhala International are about actual rather than performed transparency, if they are about actual rather than meditated-upon compassion, its figureheads should be on their knees, asking Winn what they can do to help, as well as for her teachings on insight, courage, and forbearance.”From: Susan Piver’s “On Shambhala”: An Abuse Crisis Letter, Annotated
I find his imagery delightfully outrageous, and I was grateful for the healing laughter this quote brought in my moments of despair over the past months!
Aside from the outrageousness of Remski’s statement, I do wish the Shambhala leadership would have been willing to work with me. There is much that could have been possible if they had been open to working together.
Perhaps the only way for the Shambhala teachings to flourish now is for the local centres to take on the work of spreading the teachings. Perhaps that is where this all was headed from the beginning. Dismantling the hierarchy may now allow for the freshness and the beauty of our sacred teachings to be released and do their work in and for this world. May this be so!
I feel great about Buddhist Project Sunshine being complete! Healing light *has* been brought to the sexualized violence in Shambhala. Myself and many, many people were carrying a heavy burden of silence around what has been happening for such a long time. I, personally, am happy to be relieved of the burden of silence and to know the wound is now exposed to fresh air and sunlight to be properly dealt with, both in the criminal justice system, and within our hearts. I am happy to have played a part in this time of awakening. I’m also happy to lay down the great burden of service I have carried and return to living my own life.
In terms of my own moving forward, I am immersed in preparing for entering a PhD at Dalhousie’s Faculty of Computer Science this Fall. I’m currently busy taking a couple of 2nd year computer science courses at Dal, polishing up my coaching business and retirement workbook, and in my spare time I am singing with a high calibre women’s choir called the Aeolian Singers. I am looking forward to writing a paper within the coming months documenting the innovative model I developed for the BPS online discussion groups. You can sign up to receive a copy of the Discussion Group Model Paper, if you are interested.
Although the project is complete and I am leaving, to my delight there are three people who I very much trust who are launching a Buddhist Project Sunshine News Service tomorrow. If there is one word that sums up Buddhist Project Sunshine, that word is “integrity”. This is what I built BPS to stand for. I feel confident that the three people who are taking the BPS name forward will continue to stand firmly for integrity within Buddhism.
We expect Carol Merchasin to share a statement on the Wickwire Holm report through the BPS News, perhaps as early as tomorrow. The BPS News Service is also a place to keep up to date on the criminal investigations into Osel Mukpo, John Weber, and others. If you were not aware of the Shambhala leader who was put in jail last week, you can learn about it through the BPS News too. Sign up for the BPS News Service at www.buddhistprojectsunshine.org
Now that the secrets are out, we can all create new lives based on solid ground. It is my sincere wish that each person who has been touched by the Shambhala tragedy will be well-supported in their healing process AND fully engage their unique potential in vibrant colour and joy!
With all my love,
* Shambhala Day is the Tibetan New Year’s Day.