I’m hanging up my social activist hat tomorrow. My activist retirement has been on the horizon for a week now, and tomorrow will be the official day. I hope you will join me in a little celebration tomorrow of the work accomplished during this journey. I’ll put up my retirement post tomorrow, including what I will continue doing, what I will no longer be doing, and the plan for exploring a future for Buddhist Project Sunshine.
Today I offer my final Buddhist Project Sunshine activist words, and I hope they will be of benefit to some of you.
Buddhist Project Sunshine’s ongoing investigation
Another woman alleging she was sexually assaulted by the Sakyong has come forward. Carol Merchasin, the Buddhist Project Sunshine investigator, has continued investigating. She will have an update that I will post possibly as soon as next week.
Kalapa Council’s conflict of interest
Apparently rather than focusing efforts on hiring a neutral third-party investigator this past week, the Kalapa Council hired a PR firm led by Matthew Hiltzik, who got his start with Harvey Weinstein at Miramax in the 1990s. He has represented an infamous band of clients that includes Glenn Beck, Don Imus, and Donald Trump’s aide Hope Hicks.
I am disappointed to learn this.
I understand that three senior members of the Kalapa Council are implicated in the allegations of the Sakyong’s sexual misconduct. I see a clear conflict of interest.
Allegations of the Sakyong’s financial abuse of the Shambhala community
There are some common aspects to wife abuse. One common aspect is the husband isolates the wife so she has no support and is focused on him for everything. Another aspect is he controls her financially.
I have seen these dynamics at play in the Sakyong’s relationship with the Shambhala community. A number of people have told me insider stories about this. One person emailed me this past week. He gave me permission to share what he said:
Having a financial background, I explored Shambhala’s budgets and financial reports. When I saw the money being spent to keep the Sakyong’s family living a life of comfort (e.g., servants, cooks, nannies, personal secretaries, etc.), I was totally turned off. Very non-Buddhist in my view. To this day, Shambhala uses its various media vehicles to promote the Sakyong’s books, without any benefit of book sale proceeds. Free advertising, how nice! I engaged in a long dialogue with Richard Reoch about all this, but it became quite clear to me that nobody within Shambhala was going to challenge the status quo. They were too enthralled with worshiping the king!
Steps for cleaning up the misconduct at the core
For this community to heal, Shambhala International must appoint a neutral third party investigator to investigate the Sakyong, the Kalapa Council, and some members of the Kusung.
If by their silence the Sakyong and the Kalapa Council are denying that any of these allegations are true, then they must appoint a third party investigator. Of course, if on the other had, they know that these are true, they need to say that.
In an investigation of sexual misconduct in any organization, it is standard practice for those implicated in the investigation to step down from all official duties pending the investigation. The Sakyong and the Kalapa Council should step down while a proper investigation is carried out.
Shrine rooms and Shambhala liturgies
There is a conversation thread happening in the Buddhist Project Sunshine discussion group about how centers are relating with pictures of the Sakyong in their shrine rooms, and references in liturgies.
I would like to strongly encourage centers to cover pictures of the Sakyong for an interim period. In my view, the covering should be done with the utmost gentleness and respect for all the Sakyong has contributed to our community and lineage.
I would further suggest that individual centers can reflect on the unique culture of your local center and choose a cloth covering that reflects the best of your culture and your deepest intentions for healing for everyone affected by this situation. You could begin by using a white cloth covering, and then meet and discern a suitable healing covering.
Similarly, you could cover sections of chants that speak of the Mukpos with a kind covering.
I am emphasizing taking small steps and doing them with the deepest of kindness, because the changes we want can only come from a place of the best intention.
The financial welfare of the community
I encourage the community to consider carefully what parts of Shambhala are vital services. For instance, Shambhala Online provides teachings to people in rural areas who have no access to local teachings. Please consider supporting vulnerable parts of Shambhala who need help during this time of community transition.
I encourage centers to open their doors to inviting Buddhist teachers who can be of most help to come and offer teachings for where your community is at this time. There are important Buddhist teachers who have long-term relationships with our community who can be invited to teach.
Please be open minded and consider who can be invited to teach and/or lead programs that will benefit your local community. There is no reason why cancelling the Sakyong’s teaching schedule needs to mean the downfall of centers. Let us take this as an opportunity for a revival of true Dharma. Please open your hearts to asking for the teachings that will be of most benefit for your communities, including secular teachings on abuse, trauma and community healing.
I will also remind you of the useful tool I promoted early in Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 2: The Miq Maw anti-violence community toolkit: http://awrcsasa.ca/community-development-social-advocacy/responding-preventing-sexual-violence-paqtnkek-project/
My offer to Mipham
Once I finish my service of the Buddhist Project Sunshine discussion group July 31, if I can be of help to Mipham in his journey of healing, I will bring my heart to that.
Sangha member words
Dear Andrea,I was able to successfully navigate GoFundMe to make a donation.Thank you for your concern about my Weekthun plans. There will always be other opportunities in the future. What is important NOW is supporting the Project Sunshine and it’s dedicated team.I have a good feeling that because of BPS the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sanghas will once again flourish and be a safe place for all. The truth will prevail and positive changes will happen thanks to you and the people who helped you on this journey.Namaste and take care.Elisabeth : )
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