Is there really a problem?


I think there is a part in most, if not all, of us that hopes this is all a dream, and that we will wake up and everything will be the way it used to be. But you know, change can be good. Really!

I’d love for us to face our reality and dig in and take proactive steps to take care of this situation.

Some people have written me and said they are waiting to see what Shambhala International does. There is a sense of wanting to support Shambhala International, and wanting to give them a chance.

I myself dedicated many hours last year in building my relationship with members on the Kalapa Council. I felt it was important to support them in developing their confidence so they could lead the community through this. We developed a good relationship of mutual trust and respect. 

After publishing the Project Sunshine Phase 1 report, I emailed them and invited them to collaborate on building a good solution for the community to work through the sexual violence problem in the community. It is a mystery to me why they suddenly stopped responding to my emails at that point. I am guessing they don’t feel the confidence to take one step at a time through dealing with this, and relating with the people who have been impacted by the abuse.

From my point of view, we can best help Shambhala International by taking some responsibility ourselves at this point. From what many people have been writing to me, they see that Shambhala leaders are good people (who they dearly love!) and that these leaders are out of their depth to deal with this.

As I learn more extensively about the harm, I am learning of Shambhala leaders, some of them high up, who have committed clergy sexual misconduct. If you would like to educate yourself about what clergy sexual misconduct is, and why it is so detrimental to the health of spiritual communities, I recommend reading this article from An Olive Branch: Clergy Sexual Misconduct and the Misuse of Power

Shambhala International announced  in their communication on March 19 a number of key initiatives, including “Creating new sexual misconduct strategies, policies, and procedures based on these conversations [with survivors], input from the community, and guidance from third party organizations. We are in active conversation with an established organization, An Olive Branch, about taking on such a role. ”

I wonder how serious Shambhala International is about dealing with this problem, given that there have been growing allegations of clergy sexual misconduct regarding some men within that leadership. Might the Council have too much of a conflict of interest to truly deal with this? I hope not, and that they will persist in doing the right thing.

People have been writing me and asking for details and a better understanding of the scope of the problem. I appreciate these questions and that people want to know the scope of the problems that have been raised.  At the same time, we want to be sure that we are not spreading information that is not true, or naming people who have not been given an opportunity to respond to the allegations.

Is Shambhala International ready to launch such an investigation, so people can know the scope of the problem and also ensure that no one is falsely accused? I am not seeing evidence of their willingness to do this. There is no way that our community is going to be able to move through this and heal without proper investigation of all the leaders who have been implicated.

I heard yesterday from a friend who gave me permission to share this with you. He just went through the formal Care and Conduct process for a Shambhala teacher in his local community who sexually assaulted him. His concerns have been strongly supported by two leaders in his community, including a Shastri. Despite the support of these two leaders, he received a final report yesterday from the Care and Conduct committee that stated, “Our findings did not identify behavior on Mr. [perpetrator]’s part that requires any kind of ongoing protection of Mr. [victim]” How is this possible after all of the recent attention at all levels of the community to the issue of sexual violence, and specifically Shambhala International’s heartfelt commitment to improving the Care and Conduct process? 

This same victim was a high-contributing member of his local Shambhala center, including managing their social media. He joined Project Sunshine as part of his healing journey. A couple of weeks later he was fired as their social media coordinator because a leader in Shambhala International said he had a “conflict of interest” being associated with Project Sunshine. Project Sunshine’s mandate is to bring healing light to the abuse problem in Shambhala. I would like to understand what the conflict of interest is for Shambhala International. Do they feel the need to cover abusive behaviours up?

I had a good conversation with Judy Lief a couple of weeks ago by phone. I shared with her about Project Sunshine Phase 2, and how it involves a conversation format for local communities to meet outside of their Shambhala centers. Judy gave me permission to share in this blog how she responded: “I feel it is important for people to meet outside Shambhala centers as well as in centers because people tend to feel they need to be more polite and formal at the centers and do not talk as freely.”

It is important to find spaces where you can talk freely. I’d love to support that with Project Sunshine Phase 2. Dialog is very important at this point. And opening our hearts to doing what is right, so that we can go forward and not stay too long in this place of murky confusion.

I do believe that the light is going to continue to grow in this community. This community is pregnant with a growing desire to heal, and people are asking to know the extent of the abuse. They understand we cannot go forward as a community until this is properly investigated and dealt with.

So yes, there is a problem, and it can be sorted out one step at a time. That is what I am doing, and have been doing for over a year now. 

In my opinion it is not wise to wait for Shambhala International to sort it out. Instead, why can’t we can take practical steps, as community members, to deal with this so that the Buddhadharma can flourish in Shambhala? And would not this in fact be a support to the health and well-being of the leaders in Shambhala International? The simple fact is that we ALL need this related with in a direct and skilful way. Rather than hide or leave it to others to sort out, let’s BE the solution!

If any of this resonates with you, please take an active step in this moment now and contribute to the Project Sunshine Phase 2 fundraising campaign. This is a chance to actively contribute to creating a solution – for us, and for people beyond this community.

Ki Ki So So!

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