Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche sent a letter to the Shambhala community today responding to recent allegations against him of sexual assault and clergy sexual misconduct.
Today’s communication follows his statement last week that he is “stepping back” from his administrative and teaching roles in the Shambhala organization while a third-party investigation of the allegations is underway.
At the request of its board of directors, Sakyong Mipham has resigned his positions at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. The nine members of Shambhala’s highest leadership body, the Kalapa Council, announced last week that they are stepping down.
Sakyong Mipham’s complete letter follows.
To the Shambhala Community,
In a state of complete heartbreak, I write to you, humble, embarrassed, and thoroughly apologetic for disappointing you. I feel a tremendous amount of sorrow for the pain, confusion, and anger that our sangha is experiencing. I accept accountability for this pain, and want to express my commitment to personal growth.
I fully support a third-party investigator being hired to look into claims of sexual misconduct in the Shambhala community. I feel that I must, at this time, step back from my administrative and teaching responsibilities as a leader of Shambhala to allow space for the investigation to occur.
It is clear to me that I have much more learning to do. I am committed to engaging with women and others in our community who have felt marginalized, beginning this week. I will be using this time of self-reflection to deeply listen and to better understand how the dynamics of power, gender, and my actions have affected others.
I know that some of what you are hearing may be surprising and shocking for those of you who have only known me as a teacher. I wish to share with all of you some of the challenges that I have gone through. None of this is to give an excuse for my actions, but I do wish to be open with you about my journey as a human, and give some history and context to my life and behavior.
After the passing of my father, I took on the leadership role of Shambhala at a young age, followed by my enthronement in 1995. During this period, I struggled to find my way, and fumbled with unhealthy power dynamics and alcohol. I failed to recognize the pain and confusion I was creating.
Noticing this, a group of senior students came to me deeply concerned about the way I was drinking, and it was then that I began to realize how my actions were impacting others, and affecting my ability to lead in a genuine way. At that point, I realized that I needed to change my lifestyle. Again, I am not saying that this is an excuse.
In the years following this feedback, I cut back my drinking, began running and developed a more healthy lifestyle, physically and spiritually. I committed myself to deepening my own practice and teaching path. In 2005, I met and married my wife, the Sakyong Wangmo. We established our home and began a family together. She has been a teacher and partner, helping me to open my heart in a healthy way.
Since then, I have consciously worked on improving my relationship to alcohol as well as trying to improve my general behavior and my relationship to others as a teacher and as a person. Personal development and learning is a lifelong process and I know that I must continuously apply myself and hear the feedback that I am getting. I feel tremendous regret and sadness, and I commit myself to continuing this healing.
Our teachings advise that we do not give up on ourselves or on each other. I am realizing that I have much to learn and am committed to that process. I hope that by my doing this, our Shambhala community and organization can evolve, and become a true place of kindness, respect, and dignity. I am here for you, and am thinking of you always.
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
Previous coverage on LionsRoar.com:
- Shambhala leader to “step back” from duties during investigation of sexual assault allegations (July 7, 2018)
- Shambhala leadership council resigns; names investigator of sexual abuse allegations (July 6, 2018)
- Report alleges sexual misconduct by leader of Shambhala community (updated June 29, 2018)
- Shambhala leader makes public apology (June 25, 2018)
- Sexual misconduct in Shambhala addressed by CBC radio (May 24, 2018)
- Guardian reports on Shambhala allegations (March 5, 2018)
- Shambhala statement addresses sexual misconduct (February 13, 2018)