I’m sharing a few more emails I’ve been getting from the community. All are shared with the writer’s permission.
Just remember that whatever happens that you changed the dynamic and the discourse for the entire Shambhala Community in a very short time. I can’t tell you how many years I discussed these issues with a good friend and she was so angry and frustrated that nothing ever happened. Also remember that a lot of women and men were finally heard and given a voice to speak their truth and open up about the serious abuses in the community over the years. People are really talking about these issues now in a way I have never seen before. So thank you Andrea for your devotion and compassion to help deal with these difficult issues in Shambhala. Project Sunshine will make people think and possibly change attitudes about the issues of sexualized violence. Just the fact that they are now having meetings at Shambhala International and local Shambhala Communities about these issues is a huge shift.
Barbara, St. Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia
Hi Andrea –
I very much appreciate your work, and the courage of those who have spoken up. While I strongly support an honest assessment and account of what has already happened, those aren’t my stories to tell.
My personal concern is that our local communities are not equipped /authorized / encouraged to either investigate the misbehavior of those in a teaching or leadership position, not (at least in the one extended case I am aware of) have they been in any meaningful way supported by the international organization when they attempted to do so. This is a terrible, potentially preventable loss for the victims of the abuse; it is also an unacceptable compromise to the reputation, lungta, and resources of the sangha as a whole.
Organizations that wish to survive – let alone presume to hold some moral high ground – must adopt and enforce some effective policies to prevent abuse of authority in general, and sexualized abuse and violence in particular. No one should be free to think that inflicting their sexuality (or other kleshas) on others is a perk of their position.
Given that you are working closely with the victims, it seems to me that the time to address “what should we do going forward?” may still be some time off, since we first have to deal with what has already happened, and address the reality that it still can happen, most likely *is* happening.
Whenever we get around to talking about how *not* to do this, I’ll be happy to participate in any discussion that arises.
Gordon Burgess, Cleveland
I just wanted to connect to tell you how much I admire what you’re doing. I’m an “old” student having connected with CTR in 1972 and lived in Halifax from 1989-2005.
I quit FB last fall because it was so addictive and agitating, and it was great to come back into [your Project Sunshine Phase 1 report discussion] closed group with good boundaries, thanks to the way you set it up. I’ve since continued the conversation with some old friends I’d rediscovered through that process.
I can appreciate the perspective you have, having grown up in Shambhala, of wanting to reform it. There is a lot of good there, and I devoted most of my adult life to it.
At the same time, I think there are some fatal flaws in it, particularly the notion of an inherited lineage and the guru-knows-all-worship. As someone who remembers the Sakyong as a shy and insecure teenager it was quite bizarre to see how many of my friends were willing to lionize him just because of the inherited position he had. I think the West was wise to ditch this idea several hundred years ago.
But I also think the years I lived in Halifax between the death of CTR and the Sakyong “taking his seat” were some of the best of my life. We had strong ideas about enlightened society and people were doing a lot with it, without needing a king. Many people in Halifax who weren’t buddhists appreciated us for the ideas and uplifted attitude we brought. After 1995 it became an issue of whether one was with the Sakyong or not, and I felt that things degenerated. I finally left it all in 2005 and came back to Colorado. I wonder if there can be a Shambhala without the Mukpo dynasty?
In any case, you’re gutsy lady, and I wish you success and strength dealing with all the shadows you are addressing. It’s a modern-day story about taming the demons, and so necessary.
Dan Montgomery, Boulder