According to the Interim Board of Shambhala, the investigation shows that up until 2005, Sakyong Mipham’s behavior included “frequent sexual contact with women who were his students.”
Shambhala has released the finding of an investigation into sexual misconduct in the community. The main subject of the investigation is Sakyong Mipham, known as the Sakyong, the leader and main teacher of the Shambhala community. The investigation concludes that in two instances Mipham likely committed sexual misconduct.
The investigation was carried out by Selina Bath, a litigation associate with Canadian law firm Wickwire Holm. The investigation was commissioned by Shambhala in June after allegations of misconduct arose, many of them reported by Buddhist Project Sunshine, an initiative to raise awareness of misconduct in the community.
Based on the investigation, the Interim Board of Shambhala concludes that up until 2005, Mipham’s behavior included “frequent sexual contact with women who were his students and, thus, characterized by a power imbalance… some of these relationships left the women feeling abandoned. Often they had little to no communication with the Sakyong after their encounter.” The Shambhala Interim Board writes that “No one reported criminal behavior.”
Bath’s investigation focused on incidents with a sexual component and an imbalance of power that took place since 1990. The report did not look for proof that allegations were true, but instead to establish that the reports were “more likely than not” to have happened, based on probabilities.
After inviting the public to submit reports, Bath received 100 reports of misconduct. Thirty were direct reports of sexual misconduct. Of those reports, 10 were related to Mipham, and 20 were related to other leaders. Bath says that three of the sexual misconduct reports met the criteria for inclusion and were able to be investigated.
In one report, Mipham is said to have gotten drunk at a party and approached a woman who was his student. He tried to lift up her dress and started groping her breasts and kissing her. The investigator concludes that “his actions and behavior on that night constitute sexual misconduct.”
In the other case regarding Mipham, the investigator concludes that Mipham attempted to have sexual relations with a woman who was his student, which, too, constitutes sexual misconduct. That case also involved a number of other allegations that were not substantiated.
The Shambhala Interim Board writes that it “feels strongly that the Sakyong must take responsibility for the harm he has caused and be directly involved in the healing process. We, like the rest of the community, are awaiting his response and actions in this regard.”
In the other claim investigated, a man alleged that a woman in Shambhala, with whom he had previously had a relationship, used her power and influence to exclude him. The report was not found to be substantiated.
The investigation received other reports of sexual misconduct by male leaders in the community that were not investigated, including unwanted kissing, inappropriate relationships, and one instance of “a senior teacher who tried to seduce women with a promise of secret tantric teachings.”
The report also notes that “in addition to claims of sexual misconduct, other concerns were raised, which were beyond the scope of Ms. Bath’s investigation,” including “alcohol, abuse of power, financial mismanagement, racism, handling of past claims, exclusion and shaming and neglect of the community outside of North America.”
You can read the full report on Shambhala’s Community Care page.
Update #1, February 5, 2019: Sakyong Mipham released a letter addressing the investigation, writing:
“I have read and heard the stories of women publicly sharing their experiences of how my actions made them feel. I have deeply reflected on how I handled these situations and my past relationships, and am becoming aware of how my behavior hurt others. It is clear that I have much to reflect on, think about, and learn. Addressing and apologizing for these situations needs to occur at a personal level. I have started this process and intend to make every effort to continue doing so.”
Update #2, February 7, 2019: Carol Merchasin, the investigator with Buddhist Project Sunshine, has released a reponse to the report.
Update #3, February 19, 2019: Six former personal attendants to Mipham have released an open letter detailing physical and psychological abuse and sexual misconduct by Mipham.