Statement from the Board about Teacher Accountability and the Sakyong

Dear Boston Shambhala Community,

We write today to acknowledge the recent communications that have been shared within the global Shambhala community, particularly around teacher accountability and the desire to heal our global community. As Board members of the local Boston Shambhala Center, we wish to share our position on these matters.

These communications included an open letter to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche from second generation Shambhala members (“dharma brats”), a resignation letter from over a dozen Acharyas, a letter from the Nepal Pilgrimage group – students of the Sakyong who recently visited him in Nepal, and just last week, a letter from Lady Diana Mukpo.

We want to acknowledge the pain and heartbreak that many in our community continue to experience as these matters unfold, and to extend our love and compassion at this time. We have seen our local community harmed over this period, and each of us on the board has also felt harm in different ways. Besides the heartbreak and disillusionment, we have experienced loss of membership, community engagement, and lungta.

Today we wish to communicate that we stand with all those in our community who have been harmed by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s past behavior and his current lack of leadership and accountability.

As time goes on, it has become increasingly clear that Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is not stepping forward to engage in a healing process with the broader international community. His continued absence and silence has made it clear that we must move our center forward and can no longer wait for this healing process to occur.

Until there is a clearly defined and successful healing process between the Sakyong and the broader Shambhala community, we cannot in good conscience move forward with him as either our Center’s spiritual or secular leader. Nonetheless, like the former Acharyas, we are not leaving Shambhala, nor suggesting that the center do so. We fully intend to offer and support the Shambhala teachings, which have been transformative for each of us. The specifics about how the Boston Center navigates this is unclear at the moment.

One thing we are clear on is that our Center must make sense for our local community. This includes our current membership as well as both past members who have left in pain and potential future members and visitors who can benefit from the amazing teachings Shambhala has to offer. We share the vision of an “open umbrella” that was described in the Acharya resignation letter, and from conversations with the community we know that this is valued by many of our members as well. We wish to be an inclusive community that can embrace and support students of the Shambhala, Kagyu and Nyingma traditions, secular meditation students, and others who come through our doors.

We understand that our community represents diverse points of view and lived experiences of both Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. We wish to include any and all current and past students of Trungpa Rinpoche and the Sakyong, while also being honest about our history of harm, setting clear standards for teacher accountability, and applying these standards consistently from the local level up to the level of Sakyong or lineage holder.

Like the Acharyas, we commit to “the difficult work of forging a good human society, learning from past harms in our community and acknowledging our own failings”. Board members are participating in a pilot Right Use of Power training, offered through Shambhala Community Care and Conduct, led by Dr. Cedar Barstow and Acharya Susan Skjei. The ongoing work of understanding and dismantling both systemic racism and patriarchy will be central to our mission, as well as working to understand and heal the trauma our community has experienced.

There will be many opportunities for continued conversations going forward, and for our future as a Center to emerge through the difficult and ongoing work of building community together.

Yours In the Vision of the Great Eastern Sun,

The Board of the Boston Shambhala Center
Mary Lang, Chair
Judy Vreeland, Secretary
John Ranco, Treasurer
Dylan Bianchi, Director at Large
Kate King, Director at Large
Max Roberts-Zirker, Executive Director

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