In gratitude for the Shambhala dakinis

These are times of startling brilliance. Waves of gratitude have been hitting my email inbox as community members express sincere thanks for the light Buddhist Project Sunshine has brought to abuses happening for decades within Shambhala. Thank you so much for your gratitude – it deeply touches my heart.

This is a community-wide movement at this point, as we tend our grief and betrayal, and as we draw upon the rich resources of our training in warriorship to chart a good way forward for ourselves and our service of all humanity. This is a profound time of recovering the sacred ground of our lineage.

I found myself searching for language for the women who came forward and shared their stories of abuse by Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo (aka Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche). I didn’t want to call them “victims” or “survivors”. I feel these women are far more holy. The women who have come forward and shared the clear testimony of their abuse are strong, brilliant women. They are spiritually devout. They applied their body, speech and mind to their pursuit of their spirituality in relationship to Mr. Mukpo. They walked each step through his mind-bending abuse. They were cast aside. They were shunned by the community. They left, and beyond all odds picked up their pieces and formed better lives for themselves. And then when the opportunity arose for them to share their stories to bring light to a level of abuse more horrific than most of us could imagine, they stood up and shared what happened to them for the benefit of the community.

I feel the best name for these women is, “Shambhala dakinis.” They are a true blessing to us. The gift of their pain and their sanity is truly unsurpassable.

Because of the nature of the BPS Phase 2 report, their stories were anonymous. This means they have received no letters of thanks. I would like to open an opportunity today to give thanks to these courageous women. Please post your gratitudes to them below. And please do share this blog on your Facebook pages and with friends. Let’s spread this far and wide so this community can give abundant thanks to these noble women.


NOTE: The purpose of this blog post is to provide a place for community members to express their thanks to the women who came forward and shared their experiences of abuse by Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo. Only those thanks will be approved below. If you have other thoughts, please share them in the Buddhist Project Sunshine discussion group. If you are not currently part of our discussion group, learn more and connect with the BPS Discussion Group.


  • Allison Conant

    I am very grateful to all of those who were willing to speak up. Thank you for being willing to take the backlash. You are extraordinary humans and role models for all of us.

    July 27, 2018
  • Phyllis Murray

    Thank you female warriors who have come forward. (I have seen at least one abused person who says she finds the word “dakini” triggering). I honor your courage and willingness to expose what was hidden, to lance the boil, so the corruption can be removed, to borrow Tenzin Palmo’s metaphor.

    July 27, 2018
    • Andrea M. Winn

      Phyllis, thank you for your sensitivity to this. When I made a group space for them and called it Shambhala Dakinis, I cringed a little – I did not want to call it something that would be triggering for the women. In the end, it may turn out to be a mis-step on my part. But so far, all is well. All the women have chosen to join the group I started for them under that name. There may be some sense of reclaiming lost territory now. I hope my using this name can be a step of healing. Nevertheless, I want to affirm your caution, and I appreciate you bringing to light that this word may be triggering. If I get feedback from the women themselves, perhaps we will together create better language that they find more suitable. Bowing to you.

      July 27, 2018
  • Thank You All!
    Best to you – pulling for you… probably, none of this helps, but I hope it can, not me, not this message, but all of this.

    My daughters and wife are pulling for you too.

    Into the Light
    In the light, it is harsh sometimes, maybe stark, maybe you get a sunburn
    Sitting beneath the tree of refuge, I gaze at that bright light… almost burning my eyes
    I’m safe here – the ground and air are cool, refreshing
    It’s dangerous out there, in the stark light
    I see them! The light shines on and from them!
    I know they’re sad, worried, maybe even losing sight, blinded by the light
    But there they are! They illuminate themselves, and thus illuminate the Shambhala Kingdom, the true Shambhala
    Something more than precious has been smashed to pieces
    There is no ‘gluing it back together’
    But there is awareness
    And seeds of enlightenment abound
    You are the dignitaries, oh you in the light
    You are the precious jewels, you in the light
    You are the teachers, you in the light

    Best to you. -Kyle

    July 27, 2018
  • Michael

    And may we all heal deeply. Thank you to those who have endured the shame and sorrow of his actions, you are truly my heros.

    July 27, 2018
  • Mary

    Dearest Shambhala dakinis,

    I am so deeply sorry for the grief and suffering you had to endure, first at the hands of the anti-Sakyong and secondly at the hands of your sangha who turned away from you.

    As a trauma survivor, I have been fighting very hard to get both Osel and CTR’s pictures off the shrine at my center. I succeeded in getting them off the wall at Karme Choling for while Family Camp is in session there, but was relieved of my duties as a teacher for the 3-5 year old “tigers” because of my inability to hide my deep pain and anger over what has occurred at online retreat for the family camp teachers.

    At my center CTR remains on the wall. I believe I could handle his picture being hung over the interior shrine room door, but I don’t want it on the shrine. The Rigden and perhaps a buddha statue are enough, I believe the teacher chair should be symbolic enough of the teachings that CTR gave us without seeing his face, as he was an abuser too, and one who tortured a cat.

    I wrote a very snarky letter to the women Archaryas who apologized for the resources of time, money, and energy being taken up by white women, trying to pit the LBGT and people of color against you. I am so deeply sorry that to add insult to injury the women leaders in Shambhala are trying to shame you. You deserve our time, energy, money and our extreme gratitude for helping us root out the infection that has been insidiously poisoning the body of shambhala.

    I am profoundly moved by your warriorship, and pray that your healing will be deep and fast although I know there is no way to speed up time. I entreat you to heal, go for somatic experiencing, be gentle with your selves and know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are worthy, courageous, and strong, and the many people who have turned away from you, who have created divisiveness in our community, who have been complicit should be deeply, deeply ashamed. I have been embracing Kali, and I wrote to those women Acharyas after their pathetic, abstracting, blaming letter. I am furious for you all and deeply troubled by how long you had to endure your pain before the time was finally right to be heard. In deep gratitude, Mary aka Brave Tiger of Goodness.

    July 27, 2018
    • Sean


      I am sosorry to hear that you were treated that poorly at Karme Choling. I have to say, I was recently an employee there and I was extremely upset at how the leadership was handling things there. I quit and left as a result, as did many others. I started taking his pictures down myself but The Rupa Acharya Suzanne Duquette insisted that Karme Choling was “his house and taking his pictures down is not to be taken lightly”.
      So we know where she stands. I quit because I didn’t want to be living in a place that was still being run as “his house”. Personally I don’t think someone with an attitude like that is fit to be leading the community through something like this.

      July 29, 2018
  • Naomi

    Thank you for your commitment to sanity, for reclaiming your dignity and voice, for coming forward in the face of considerable (seemingly insurmountable) pushback and backlash. For speaking truth to unchecked power. For speaking up and risking being re-traumatized. For refusing to be silenced. For bearing incredible pain for too long and saying the Giant NO to that. For unmasking corruption, self-dealing, spiritual larceny, hypocrisy and extortion. For being remarkably brave, resilient and deeply, basically good. Thank you.

    July 27, 2018
  • June

    Thank you brave women for coming out of your place of safety as this courageous step has prevented more women from experiencing the same darkness (assault) that you have. May all of you heal and continue to bring your light, caring and wisdom to the world.

    July 27, 2018
  • tashi

    Dear Shambhala Dakinis,

    Thank you so much!!! We are so grateful for your bravery, courage, and wisdom.


    Thank you for sharing what happened to you and so sorry you had to go through something that horrible. It was not your fault. Thank you for telling the truth with such strong and clear voices. Thank you for exposing the corruption of ASMR and the secondary trauma of having to deal with the cover-ups from the Shambhala Community. Thank you for being a voice for all the women who were abused by ASMR and unable to speak out and are still suffering. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!! There are so many people who support you and are praying for your health and wellbeing.

    Sending you hugs and Love and deep gratitude.

    July 27, 2018
  • Linda Devlin

    Thank you for your bravery coming forward so this abuse can finally come to any end. Love Light & Tonglen 2 U!
    Love always feels good
    Love motivates liberation
    Love relaxes control
    Love accepts uncertainty
    Love needs nothing.
    Fear always feels bad
    Fear motivates grasping
    Fear seizes control
    Fear insists on certainty
    Fear needs everything.

    July 27, 2018
  • Tahlia Newland

    I am extremely grateful to them and to all those in any sangha who speaks up about abuse. Silence is deadly in these situations. Only if the truth comes out can we make sure this kind of thing stops.

    July 27, 2018
  • Debra in San Francisco

    Your courage shines the light on the way forward and out of the hypocrisy of the spiritual materialism inherent in our human nature. Bless you all. And may we all share in turning these arrows into flowers wherever we may be.

    July 27, 2018
  • john laverdure

    well said. i hope all the dakinis heal and then take over

    July 27, 2018
  • Douglas Wolf

    Just some musings sparked by this fragment: “he has shown us…the impact of that abusive leadership on the spiritual paths of an entire community.”

    What is that impact? Is it single or multiple (as many impacts as individuals)? How far back does it go and how have individual members taken, or not, those adverse circumstances as their path, then and now, in this lineage or in any lineage (not just Shambhala Buddhist)? In the midst of this present pain, how do we work with it to be able to draw clear distinctions between a human being that has abused trust, abused people, and failed to live up to the teachings, with that same human being as a conduit of the teachings (“Do not look at my outward shape, but take what is in my hand.”) The photos above the shrine are supposed to be reminders of and appreciation for the lineage as it functions to preserve and bring forward the essence of the teachings, rather than a pedestal for the imperfect individuals down through the ages that represented it. Lots to contemplate…

    July 27, 2018
  • Joanne Bihari

    Thank you thank you thank you.
    Your courage liberates so many from holding the pain of dark shame and silence, which weights so heavily.on their hearts. Thank you for the truth, the sunshine, sending you all the love and respect you can imagine and more…the blaming and minimizing and reality twisting will go on and on but remember you are deeply appreciated for having the courage to speak the truth. It heals, no matter how much people.dont.want to hear is right to speak it. Love love love your way.

    July 27, 2018
  • Vallie Stearns Anderson

    Dear warrior-women, I am so grateful for this opportunity to speak to you, to express my heartfelt appreciation for the brave step you took in sharing your stories. I get why you need to be anonymous, for your own dignity and protection. I know that you are full human beings, and that these abuses do not define you. You are so much more, and although I may never know who you are, let me just take this opportunity to bow to you with love and appreciation and respect for your truth. May you be loved, supported, recognized and respected for the spiritual and capable persons that you are, and the contributions you make to our society. Just by sharing your stories has already made such a huge positive and constructive difference for the better. May we grow and expand to meet your courage with integrity and wisdom, and make the necessary changes to create a truly kind, vibrant and compassionate enlightened society, in your honour.

    July 27, 2018
  • Douglas Wolf

    To the women who came forward and shared their stories of abuse, thank you for your bravery. I believe in the power of your intention to share your experience free from the story line of “victim” or “survivor”. You have found yourself on the path of the mahasiddhas, some of whom were outcasts, shunned by community and families, and found their own way, in spite of the external circumstances, through their inner sense of goodness.

    July 27, 2018
  • Sandra Pontius

    I am sorry for all that you endured. It is disheartening to learn that the Sakyong as well as his administrators set out to keep secret alcoholism and sexual abuse. I am glad you were brave enough to speak up, to let the secrets out into the open.

    July 27, 2018
  • KZ

    Wow, this movement is going forward. I’m stunned for several reasons and I’m in awe for the courage of so many to step forward, to speak out— and— I’m also trembling.
    Question: What does the “R” stand for in ASMR ? If it’s for RINPOCHE– golly, that’s truly crazy-making to me.

    Deep bow and much love & appreciation to you Andrea and to all courageous ones.

    July 28, 2018
  • Shannon van Staden

    Dear Shambhala Dakinis,

    I bow to you. I feel your incredible courageousness, your pain, your fear and your fearlessness. You are true warriors that have been tested beyond imagination. I wish I could give you a long deep hug. But here it is virtually.

    With all my love and appreciation,

    Shannon van Staden

    July 28, 2018
  • Judith Lechner

    Judith Lechner

    Dear Andrea,

    When the stories of the women came out, my heart broke. This is not what Shambhala is meant to be. I subscribe the importance of the behaviour and the systemic patterns to come to light.

    Now that you call the Sakyong the anti-Sakyong, my heart breaks again. The association you make is with the anti-Christ, the Devil. I don’t understand why you think this is necassary to do. Together with calling the women dakinis it seems to me that you are glorifying the women and demonizing Mipham Rinpoche. And you make it a matter of the realm of Gods.

    You simplify this complex human process. Due to your reports, a difficult and painful process in Shambhala started. Please give this process time and space to unfold. Don’t add more agression to it then necessary. Let’s hold our compassion for al humans involved, also the man and also the teacher(s).

    As a community we have to be open for a healing process. Going to extremes is not helpfull. Although I can understand that the title Sakyong doens’t feel appropriate at this time, I’m very sorry you renamed him like you did.

    Maybe calling him Mipham Rinpoche is enough. He is a human, he is a teacher, he stepped over boundaries, he has to take responsability for that. I have trust he will. I do not want to exorcise him from the community. And I also have trust and hope that the community is really determined to find new ways so that abuse will not stay hidden anymore.

    July 28, 2018
  • Laura

    Adding my voice (!) to these expressions of gratitude, sadness, respect, and anticipation.

    July 29, 2018
  • Anne

    I believe you, all of you.You are strong and courageous, and you have fought battles we will never know simply to be able to step forward and name what happened to you. Speaking truth is the only way to begin to heal. Whether the community heals is a separate matter and less important to me than whether you heal. Blessings and appreciation.

    July 29, 2018
  • Jangchub Senge

    I endorse and embrace your valor, wish you much peace and happiness, and hope for your actions and words to help clarify confusion so that confusion may dawn as wisdom.

    July 29, 2018
  • Jane

    Thank you, brave survivors of this shameful abuse. We hear your stories, we feel your pain, we recognize you. You have shown what courage in the face of abuse and abandonment looks like. We are inspired by your willingness to tell your story to the world, to stand by your experience, to say to the perpetrators and enablers, “You betrayed me, and my sisters and all those who believed in Shambhala’s goodness.”
    Thank you for your courage!

    July 29, 2018
  • Sean

    Thank you so much Andrea Winn for bringing the truth out and thank you to the brave women who spoke their truth after being silenced and pushed aside by the leadership in Shambhala. I am so dissapointed in all of the Acharyas who were complicit in this and feel a deep sense of betrayal from ‘Osel Mukpo’ and all of those who knew.

    My only complaint is that calling him the “anti-Sakyong” still sounds like a title of power. Kind of like calling someone “the anti-Christ” or something. It still gives too much power over to him. Better to just call him “Osel”. He doesn’t live up to the principles of kingship that he writes about, and he doesn’t live up to the reputation of Mipham the Great. So let’s just call him Osel, his birth name. His actions of both abuse and cover up color his name plenty on their own. No need to bestow grand titles on him, even those of derision.

    Keep doing your good work though.

    July 29, 2018
  • Barbara Berry

    Dearest Shambhala Dakinis,

    Thank you for your truth, your dignity and your courage in coming forward to reveal the terrible abuses and mistreatments you have endured. Not only abuse at the hands of the Sakyong, but also at the hands of other members of Shambhala community and the general leadership, forcing you from the sangha. May you continue to gain spiritual strength, healing and grace. Thank you for helping the women of Shambhala and all women around the world overcome sexualize violence and discrimination so they can flourish in their own awakened state.

    July 30, 2018
  • Julia Howell

    I have so much gratitude for those who came forward and laboured to share their painful experiences in impact statements and with Carol Merchasin. Your sharing has allowed others to see the patterns revealed due to multiple voices sharing different experiences in different ways. When examined collectively, the conditions that have allowed sexual violence to run rampant and remain unexamined by the Shambhala community become clear and undeniable. After you shared more publicly your experiences of being used, assaulted and ditched by Mipham J. Mukpo, I have witnessed many (who were previously unable or unwilling to come to terms with the depth of the problem) step into a position of intolerance about deception and harmful patterned behaviour and actions. It’s as if sharing these stories has breathed fresh air into networks of people connected through Shambhala that were previously suffocating survivors with stifling denial, unwillingness to change, dissociation. Prior to your sharing, the community’s doubts in the truths shared and challenges posed by those who experienced and witnessed sexual violence at the hands of Mipham J. Mukpo made healing feel impossible–the reconciling required seemed a recipe for sickness and suicide, and it was unsafe to navigate in isolation, advocating for oneself in search of support. That exercize so often resulted in shunning, condescension, disbeliefs and ultimately further harm. Without Carol and Andrea’s bravery (even in the face of threats and manipulation) to support survivors to share their stories, many survivors who previously felt alone, afraid or unable to speak up may not have ever gotten the chance to learn they are not alone. From my view, the labour and sharing you have offered has had exponential impacts–without your effort, care and generosity in doing so, I can imagine survivors could have spent their entire lives struggling to find a path, place and relations supportive of and conducive for healing. I believe sharing your stories has helped those who were abandoned, dismissed and crazy-made for honouring their boundaries and speaking out against the behaviour of ‘superiors’ to not feel so alone and crushed under the weight of that struggle. I truly believe sharing these stories has allowed people to consider and see for themselves the systemic aspects of the problem. I believe your stories have offered people a path forward to understand the nuances and severity of the problem, as well as the impacts, rather than get caught in the dualistic defence or attack of a person. I hope people will reread your stories and Carol’s reports. I hope people will ‘study’ them if they continue to wish to help from within. The statements and the experiences that were shared with Carol and those that came through in her report have so clearly shown that the harm incurred from sexual violence does not stem only from Mipham J. Mukpo’s entitlement, deception and disregard of his women students’ dignity, humanity, health and spirituality, but also from the patterned ways the community of people devoted to him (or those loyal to the “lineage” or “teachings” they grew up with) understand, dis/regard and respond to sexual violence, ‘dissenting’ or rightfully angry voices, to completely valid challenges to behaviour perpetrated by those privileged and protected by the hierarchy or their status, to criminal activity, to violation/manipulation/coercions of consent, to women and students’ basic needs and rights to assert their sexual boundaries. Learning of your strength, resilience and insights and how you have thrived since leaving the community has helped me as well as many others who were still trapped in the thinking that we must die for the ‘lineage’ and that if we are loyal, we will go down with the ship and cover up the truth and disregard our gut instincts things are not right. You have helped me realize there is value, healing, alternatives, honesty and good relations to be found and cultivated when we can say no to both the lies and justifications and to those who remain committed to them. Being introduced to you due to the undervalued extensive volunteer labour and generosity of Andrea to pursue the truth in the face of horrific backlash has been one of the most supportive and helpful experiences I never could never have dreamed up. I believe that clergy sexual misconduct perpetrated by a ‘king’ of a community of people who compete with each other through (what many don’t realize is one-way) devotion and loyalty has specific impacts and a unique type of destruction that wreaks havoc on students impacted. No understanding of that kind of harm (and appropriate response and empathy) has ever–in my experience–been conveyed or demonstrated by a single Acharya, teacher, leader, guru, desung, kasung, kusung, patron or friend in Shambhala. Until you women came forward, I felt alone to process and explain to others the significance and confusion of the Catch 22 I was caught in. Your sharing has helped many leave and has generated new bonds and connections, as well as a deeper care, between those who are not afraid to believe the truth, to leave when nothing changes, to stop handing out more and more chances, and to stand up to what is wrong and harmful, from the point of view of those harmed. I feel forever indebted to all of you who have, who are, and who continue to speak up, call out and reach out. It has been a real honour to have crossed paths and learned years worth of lessons through your being willing to expose yourselves, even in this very short time. Thank you so very much for coming forward–I know, see and experience the benefit.

    July 31, 2018
    • Joanne Bihari

      Thank you for this brilliant communication Melissa. I agree with every word and your clarity helped me further my understanding of this too. Thank you project Sunshine for lifting the shame from the hearts of Aaron and I. We have rediscovered real Dharma, laughter and love. I can’t appreciate you all enough. This is so well written Melissa, I hope you save this file and I hope that, if you are comfortable with it, that it is published more publicly at some point. Sending all my love.

      July 31, 2018
  • Leah Cooper

    Dear Shambhala Dakinis,

    Thank you so much for having the courage to speak up. I can’t imagine what you’ve been through, the pain you’ve had the burden to carry. You are beyond brave, and you’ve done an incredible thing to decide to no longer hide and speak the truth. You’ve gifted the Shambhala community an incredible service.. And you have gifted yourselves an incredible service. Indeed, I believe you’ve gifted Mipham and other men called out an incredible service. Now healing can happen. Don’t let anybody tell you for one moment otherwise. Many blessings on your journey of deepening into the wholeness and worthiness that you are.

    Deep bow,

    August 3, 2018
  • Votre lucidité est une encouragement pour moi.
    J’ai été la cible de la manipulation d’un lama de la tradition nyigma en Suisse.

    August 5, 2018
  • Lida Hospers-Klein, The Netherlands

    Dalai lama comments on harmful behavior by teachers 1993. Quote
    ‘If someone clearly presents the teachings, other persons will profit from this. But if someone is supposed to propagate the dharma and his behavior is harmful, then it is our responsability, out of a good motivation, to criticise this. This is constructive criticism and one does not have to feel uneasy about it. In “The Twenty Verses on the Bodhisattvas’ Vows” it is said that there is no blame in any action one attempts when it comes from a pure motivation.. Buddhists teachers who misuse sex, power, money, alcohol or drugs and who, confronted with the legitimate complaints of their students, do not correct their behavior, must be publicly named and criticised. This can embarras them and make them to apologize for their offensive behavior and make an end to it. By exposing the negative, space for the positive increases. At the announcement of such misconduct it must be made clear that these teachers have ignored the advice of the Buddha. However: when disclosing the ethical misconduct of a Buddhist teacher it is nothing more than fair to also mention their good qualities.”
    Dear all,
    This statement gives good guidance when dealing with misconduct. If I were the one to blame, I could accept this procedure. At first I was very happy with the work and the attitude of the Project Sunshine. What has gone wrong must be bettered. I felt this was done in a respectful way to all parties involved. Now I feel the tone is changing. Speaking of Sakyong Mipham as ASMR and ignoring his apologies and longings to better himself, make some of the commentaries look as a witchhunt and the Sakyong as a witch. Poor witches, no justice was available for them in the dark times they lived in. We can do better now, we must do better as we are on the buddhist path.To all involved we should be fair and bring them in the light of our wisdom and compassion. This is my request to the leaders of Project Sunshine.

    August 10, 2018


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