Buddhist Project Sunshine: Closing One Chapter and Beginning Anew

Buddhist Project Sunshine: Closing One Chapter and Beginning Anew

By Andrea Winn, Founder – September 28, 2018


There are important things to share today, as Buddhist Project Sunshine is shifting the focus of our work away from Shambhala and into a greater space of promoting integrity of Buddhist practice in the West. The needs of the greater world are becoming more apparent as political corruption rocks the foundation of people’s feeling of safety in their everyday lives. Buddhism can help this world. To do that, it needs to be healthy Buddhism. BPS is now joyfully engaging a greater mandate of increasing the integrity of Buddhist practice in the West.

The allegations in the three published BPS reports have been shocking. Many people have found it difficult to comprehend how trusted leaders could behave in the ways that survivors have described.

The reaction of many Shambhalians following the Phase 3 report reveals that the Shambhala community needs time to process the information BPS has provided, and to come to their own conclusions about how the community needs to change.

We’re glad to see the changes that have already happened: The resignation of the Kalapa Council and a few Shastris, and Pema Chodron confirming allegations against her in the BPS Phase 3 report. May other leaders follow in her footsteps and tell the truth. Telling the truth is an important step in repairing the harm of clergy abuse and sexualized violence.

The Shambhala community needs to muster strong and accountable leadership if it wishes to be a true reference point for enlightened society for future generations.  Assuring Ösel Mukpo’s legal and ethical accountability for the harm he has caused is important. Guaranteeing that selected leaders are not predators or abusers is essential. And, there must be deep investigation and reflection about whether a feudal system of patrilineal lineage remains a viable model for the transmission of spiritual teachings.

I am very pleased with what BPS has accomplished over the past year. BPS has succeeded in shining a light on a lot of deeply hurtful, adharmic behaviour within Shambhala. Hidden truths are now known, and the level of awakening in the community has increased dramatically. We are proud of our gift of light to Shambhala.

For the past nine months, Shambhala leadership has declined to engage with BPS as a partner in change. I accept this and have released my hopes of working together. We leave it to those still inside Shambhala to reform the current dysfunctional governance system. We wish the Shambhala community the very best.

Some have responded to our shift away from serving Shambhala saying they wish BPS would still be the “watchdog” on the outside of Shambhala and “hold their feet to the fire.” If you feel that way, then we invite you to help create a Shambhala Watchdog group. BPS will connect you together. Sign up to organize a group with others who share this concern here: https://andreamwinn.com/offerings/shambhala-watchdogs/

As BPS concludes its work with Shambhala, I’d like to create space for an important expression of gratitude. Many people have been involved in BPS’s campaign of light. I am grateful to all of those people! One person has been an especially generous, largely unsung bodhisattva: Carol Merchasin. Carol is a retired investigator who has been at the forefront of her field both as an investigator and as a trainer of investigators. We were inconceivably blessed to have Carol come to BPS and dedicate hundreds of hours of expert volunteer labour documenting the stories of abuse survivors in Shambhala. I have set up a Thank You Card for Carol. Please come visit and write a note at the bottom to her!  https://andreamwinn.com/thank-you-carol/

Many Shambhalians have departed the formal community and are continuing to live out the essence of these precious teachings. This same goodness will be infused in the future of BPS.

BPS will continue to support the survivors of Ösel Mukpo’s alleged clergy abuse and sexual assaults by providing advocacy and support as they heal and become ready to make statements to police. BPS will continue to stand 100% behind the survivors pursuing criminal charges. We welcome more women coming forward who want to explore making police statements, and in particular we warmly invite the under age women reported in the Phase 3 report to make contact. BPS will continue to provide community updates on the legal steps the women survivors make.

In addition, we are organizing a healing group for the women survivors of Mr. Mukpo’s alleged abusive behavior and assaults who contributed to the Phase 2 and 3 reports.

To the broader Buddhist community, BPS will also continue to offer vibrant, sane and supportive community in our facilitated on-line discussion group. We are now pleased to be offering two group meditation sessions in our zoom room each week. Learn more about our free on-line community here: https://andreamwinn.com/offerings/project_sunshine_discussion_group/

Moving forward, BPS will be shifting its focus to two main areas: addressing past harm and proactively preventing future harm.

First, we are exploring creating in-person programs and supports for the delicate work of healing from the abuse and trauma that members of Buddhist communities have experienced.

Second, we will be working to discern healthy governance models and ethics for Buddhist communities in the West. We have several passionate and intelligent members who are keen to dig into this area, so that Buddhist communities can become safe, thriving places for Western practitioners.

As we move forward into this new frontier, it is important to celebrate what may be our most profound accomplishment so far: forming a community within BPS that is sane, genuinely kind, and intelligently compassionate. It is trauma informed, since many who have gathered have been through significant relational trauma. Here is a sneak peek into the volunteer culture operating at the heart of BPS, The Buddhist Project Sunshine Volunteer Guide: https://www.andreamwinn.com/project_sunshine/BPS_Volunteer_Orientation_Guidelines.pdf

BPS is actively reclaiming the lost jewel: Sangha. It is time for all of us to have a place where we feel valued, safe and heard. It is a wonderful healing after years (decades for some) of alienation and suffering caused by sangha corruption.

Please join me in celebrating the profound success of Buddhist Project Sunshine over the past year. Our new focus will allow us to continue fostering integrity in Buddhist communities so the blessings of Buddhism can flourish in the West. Three cheers for Buddhist Project Sunshine!


We invite you to be part of BPS!

Join the BPS community email list

Join the BPS online discussion community

Contribute financially to continuing this important work

Volunteer with BPS

Thank you, Carol


Carol and Andrea were on a zoom call with the women survivors just before releasing the Phase 3 report, and one of the women spontaneously said how grateful she is to Carol. She talked about how deeply compassionate Carol was in listening to and documenting her story. After all those years of profound suffering in silence, she said that someone listening and caring to document her story was “like a dream come true.”

Although Carol has simply been doing her job as an investigator, the simple action of listening and taking these women seriously has in fact been a deeply compassionate activity – it has been genuine bodhisattva activity – within probably the most horrific situation that any of us can imagine.

Carol has brought light to the darkness. She has shone that light in a most professional, caring and thorough way. And she has spent hours carefully crafting her memos so they are clear and digestable.

What Carol has done for the Shambhala community, completely in a volunteer capacity, is truly “imponderable”, to use the word of one past blog commenter. Many people will want to express their thanks to Carol for what she has done for our community, so we are offering this “Thank You Card to Carol” today to give you an opportunity to express what is in your heart for what Carol has done for us. Simply write your note at the bottom of this page!


Assault survivors share why they are not participating in Shambhala’s Wickwire Holm investigation


In the Kalapa Council email to the community two weeks ago, they attempted to deny allegations made by Ann in the Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 3 report. We are aware that Ann’s story is shocking, and it takes time to ground this new information. The depth of betrayal by loved and trusted leaders is deeply heart breaking. To be clear, BPS stands firmly behind Ann’s statement. She has been through serious assaults in the center of the Shambhala mandala, and it is long overdue for these assaults and the people involved to be brought into the light. We are happy that leaders, like Pema Chodron, are starting to come forward to confirm allegations against her in the Phase 3 report. This is important for the process of healing.

With their email, the Kalapa Council included a letter from their new employment lawyer, Steven Suflas. In response to Mr. Souflas’ letter, two of the women survivors of Osel Mukpo’s alleged sexual assaults asked BPS to share why they are not participating in Shambhala International’s Wickwire Holm investigation:

“I submitted a statement to Buddhist Project Sunshine detailing abuse I experienced from Osel Rangdrol Mukpo (Mr Mukpo) aka Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, but decided not to speak with Wickwire Holm, the law firm hired by Alex Halpern who serves as attorney for Shambhala’s board of directors and Mr Mukpo.  I have no doubt that Wickwire is a respected firm, but I question whether it can serve as a neutral third-party investigator when its client is the organization that has covered-up Mr Mukpo’s egregious behaviors for many years. Additionally, Shambhala has not stated how it intends to use Wickwire’s findings or if it would share the complete findings with the Shambhala community. Therefore, I suggest an independent monitor be engaged to investigate the abuse claims against Mr Mukpo.”


“I made my decision to come forward about being sexually assaulted by SMR after many years of silence.  I saw that finally safe space had been created and I will be forever grateful to Andrea W and Carol M for their professionalism and depth of understanding of trauma.  They have given me a protected place to finally step forward and speak my truth.  In all of my interactions with Carol and Andrea, I have only experienced support to make my own decisions that are best for myself.  Any suggestion that I have been coerced by them in any way is both absurd and insulting.  What I experienced with SMR is criminal behavior and I deeply regret not filing criminal charges years ago.  I was beaten down and terrified and so I fled.  Even with as much healing as I have done over the years, the terror remains and safe space to speak of the sexual assaults is imperative.  I am not participating in the Wickwire investigation for the simple reason that this law firm has been hired by Shambhala USA, an organization run by my perpetrator, SMR.  How could this possibly be a safe place for me?  The so-called third party investigation being conducted by Wickwire smacks of a whitewash.  The firm was retained by Shambhala and the final report goes to Shambhala.  The new board, likely to be comprised of Sakyang loyalists will make a decision about what to release publicly or not.  How can anyone think that this is a legitimate third party investigation?  For me a third party investigation has grown in a grassroots fashion with BPS and this is sufficient for me.  SMR has committed crimes.  He should be held accountable for his actions by our legal system and charged in a court of law.  It is my hope that other survivors out there will know that BPS offers a safe place to tell your story.  I can say for me that this has been one of the most healing experiences of my life and I know that this healing energy can infuse the entire Shambhala mandala.  I am so very grateful to those of you who have spoken and written in support of the survivors.  Your words mean the world to me and you are in my heart.”

To conclude, here are seven quick observations from reading Mr. Souflas’s letter:

  1. He must have somehow managed to get an early draft of the Phase 3 report, as he is almost entirely citing outdated information about the Wickwire Holm investigation that is not in the Phase 3 report we published. He should use the published report for any response to the report.
  2. He is a workplace lawyer citing workplace laws. Shambhala is a spiritual community not a workplace, and there are significantly different dynamics as such. The women alleging being assaulted were not employees of Shambhala.
  3. BPS called for an independent investigation in the Phase 2 report to investigate Osel Mukpo. Mr. Suflas says this investigation is “in response to allegations of widespread harm” which distracts attention from the person, Osel Mukpo, who needs to be investigated
  4. To say that An Olive Branch conducts workplace investigations is simply false
  5. Both Andrea and Carol explained in the Phase 3 report why the Shambhala investigation is not sufficiently independent. Mr. Suflas does not address that and simply asserts his opinion saying “There can be no question that this investigation will be sufficiently independent”
  6. He refers to “Shambhala’s outside general counsel, Alex Halpern”. Mr. Halpern has been a Shambhala member from the beginning of the community.
  7. He says Wickwire has been “given their responsibility to make sure that Shambhala’s employees and contractors do not engage in misconduct while serving the Shambhala community.” Again, since Osel Mukpo is not an employee of the community, he has taken the lens off the true object of investigation. And since Shambhala is not a workplace, again, his workplace law perspective really isn’t relevant to a spiritual community

Carol Merchasin emailed Mr. Souflas on September 14, 2018 to inform him he was working from an early draft of the report and to offer some suggestions about the investigation, but he did not respond to her.

Would you like to be able to talk about your response to this information? Join the free Buddhist Project Sunshine on-line discussion group for a great space for reflection and connection.

Also, you can join the BPS email list to stay current and have access to all of our offerings. Sign up for the BPS email list



Buddhist Project Sunshine will be making a major announcement tomorrow (Friday September 28, 2018).



BPS Healing Message

As promised, Buddhist Project Sunshine is offering a healing message today for everyone impacted by the situation in Shambhala, including those who have left the community.

We understand we have now entered into a time of profound grief. The growing BPS community wants to support the delicate process of moving through the painful experience of grief, betrayal and emptiness that many are feeling.

The BPS Discussion Group community is beginning regular group meditation sessions next Tuesday. An intention will be made for the practice to benefit all of those impacted by the Shambhala situation.

We continue to affirm our confidence in the ability of the Shambhala community to do the right thing and create a new culture that properly addresses abusers and honours and respects the dignity and tenderness of all people so that the Shambhala dharma can flourish.

If you are interested in learning more about the BPS Discussion Group, see our BPS Discussion Group information page.

BPS Update September 6, 2018

BPS healing message coming soon

We understand the distress and grief community members are experiencing after reading the Phase 3 report and learning of things none of us would ever have wanted to happen to students within this community. In response, we have formed a Wisdom Circle to look at how BPS can offer further support through healing energy practices and a community healing message. This will be coming soon.


BPS On-line Discussion Group is open, and you are invited

We are pleased to offer a moderated on-line discussion space to explore an inspiring and honouring new approach to sangha that dismantles past abusive practices and behaviours. We offered this on-line group before, and it was so successful that people asked us to offer another one. Please join us!

Learn more and register


Visionary words

“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?

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.”

– Katie, a BPS Volunteer

Web Credits
Project Manager and Developer Joseph Rodrigues
Graphic Design Angel Ling
Usability Andrea Winn
Photography Christina Asante