Yesterday Shambhala’s leadership announced that it has commissioned an investigation into its wrongdoings. The full text of the announcement from the Kalapa Council is pasted below. The Council, as the organisation’s Board of Directors has, instead of resigning now taken this action apparently to exonerate itself and its leader, Osel Mukpo. He has recently declared that he is, “…embarrassed” and has retreated from the public eye.
The Kalapa Council is deluded in thinking that it can manage this investigation into its own crimes and ethical misconduct, and use other peoples’ money to do it! This investigation is a sham as it makes much of the fact that it is a ‘third party investigation’, inviting survivors to voluntarily tell their stories to lawyers who have been retained by their abusers. As a survivor of abuse in this community, the only lawyer I will speak to will be one I have retained to act in my interests. It is naive to think I would walk into my abusers’ lawyer’s office expecting justice, after years of denial and silencing by my abusers.
The socalled investigation is an effort by the Council’s lawyers, Halpern LLC to collect evidence to be used in defending their client, the Sakyong and his board of directors as enactors and enablers of clergy sexual misconduct, per recent allegations. Given that the Council recently authorised a lawyer to threaten legal action against those who would publish such allegations (and then announced their emabrrassed, mass resignation) it appears that this is precisely what is happening.
The firm conducting the investigation is Wickwire Holm and they will deliver their findings to one person in Shambhala: Alex Halpern as Shambhala International’s lawyer. He will naturally do his best to protect the Sakyong and the Council members in any future litigation by controlling the release of information from these findings. Given that this report is most likely going to be vetted (like all other recent public communications by SI) by Matthew Hiltzik as Harvey Weinstein’s former spokesperson, close friend and Shambhala’s PR agent, survivors can expect no justice here and indeed to be vilified by this sham of an independent investigation.
What is required is for the Sangha to appoint an independent investigation of Carol Merchasin’s allegations, free from the influence of the accused. So long as the Sangha is unwilling to ensure that such a process is put in place, Shambhala International will simply become known as yet another scandalous spiritual community administered by charlatans with only their own deluded self-interest at heart. Readers should consider that the oft repeated argument within the Sangha that some incidents occurred years ago holds no water. The trauma related to them exists today and the internal efforts to reconcile that abuse failed to resolve the abusive behaviour and its cover ups, which certainly continue to date. What appears to also be continuing is the broad inability of individual Sangha members to accept that they have been duped.
Even Osel Mukpo’s father, Chogyam Trungpa said that when the leader sees his students as a flock of sheep to do anything with, it does not work. (1985 Vajradhatu Sun interview) That is bittersweet parenting for Mukpo just now as he has been documented as repeatedly forcing his students to have sex with him. Further, members of the Council openly admit to having looked the other way when they learned of his criminal behaviour (Adam Lobel, Leadership Conference Call, July 2018 and Facebook comments August 27.18 admitting ‘complicity’ in clergy sexual misconduct) . The inconvenient truth here is that so many crimes have been committed that it is inevitable a few of them will be prosecuted. This proposed investigation therefore serves only as inspiration for the survivors of abuse in the Sangha like myself to now pursue the intimidating option of class action litigation because it is clear that Shambhala has no care for the survivors’ restitution at all.
The potential for survivors being silenced and ridiculed by this private, internal investigation is clear: for a year and a half Jane Arthur and Adam Lobel have been trying and failing to control the revelation of these allegations. The result has been the hiring of Hiltzik, mass resignation of the Council as well as the resignation of Jane Arthur as ‘Minister of Government’ and Josh Silberstein (Chair of the now former Kalapa Council) as the Sakyong’s Chief of Staff.
Shambhala will face more ridicule as a result of Wickwire’s work, crime in this Sangha will continue to be dharmasplained and abuse will continue to be swept under the rug . The blind devotion to the Sakyong and his socalled lineage of teachers which his father invented will become more evident and no doubt many will continue their fawning, needy, adoration of this magical thinking Kingdom. So while the Kalapa Council members admit to the credibility of Carol Merchasin’s allegations of incidents spanning decades, it is clear to me that this is an effort to draw out the survivors so that they can broken down to silence and a conclusion of no criminal harm, drawn. It won’t work if they don’t show up and indeed, it is inevitable that they will show up with an army of lawyers themselves if they continue to be villified.
If those allegations are as credible as the members of the Council publicly state, each one of them should resign every position of responsibility within the organisation pending the outcome of a verifiably independent investigation. To many of us this seems like a very obvious immediate step to take. The fact that the community appears unwilling to oblige the leadership to do this now only increases its shameful demise and the threat to the brilliant Teachings.
I see Center Directors and senior teachers resigning and students of decades walking away from this Sangha, while some of Trungpa’s students are saying the good old days were better, regardless of the Regent crisis where one person died as a result of the Regent knowingly infecting that person’s partner with AIDS while the community effectively dharmasplained it as vajrayana activity, in concert with the Regent.
I do believe the Teachings can survive this nonsense, but first the corrupt players must be acknowledged and processed fairly. Only then can an effective administrative structure be designed to promote these Teachings, with the lessons of the past documented for reference.
As a reference for the abuse suffered by students I offer this harrowing piece from one of Chogyam Trungpa’s six consorts or, ” Sangyum”. She was a starry-eyed 23 year old when she married him, seduced like so many of us by the idea of a better world, peace of mind, the possibility of a community of kind people immersed in the world and simultaneously the higher ethics offered by (vajrayana) buddhism. What we got was forced sex, suicides, attempted murder and crime habitually and systemically explained as part of the ‘path’. If we rejected that we were told, effectively, “The vajrayana buddhist path is not for you my dear”.
Text of July 20th. 2018 announcement
From: Shambhala <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: July 20, 2018 at 3:49:25 PM MDT
Subject: Investigation of Allegations of Sexual Misconduct
Reply-To: Shambhala <email@example.com>
July 20, 2018
Dear Community –
We are writing to provide you with further information about the third-party investigation of claims of sexual misconduct within the Shambhala community. Shambhala has contracted with Wickwire Holm, a full-service business law firm located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to serve as the investigator.
Selina Bath will be the primary contact and lead investigator. Selina is a Certified Workplace Investigator. She has extensive training in conducting investigations and is experienced in conducting fair, neutral and independent investigations. She has conducted numerous investigations within organizations of various sizes on matters relating to sexual harassment, bullying and disrespect in the workplace. She will be assisted by Will Russell, a member of Wickwire Holm’s Labour and Employment group.
There are two avenues to bring forward a claim to Selina:
Claims of sexual assault or misconduct by any teacher or leader in the Shambhala community can be raised directly to the investigator. She can be reached at (902) 482-7030 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Selina will be out of the office in the coming days, and during this time, her associate Will Russell can also be reached at email@example.com.
Anyone who receives support through An Olive Branch may also authorize An Olive Branch to share information with Selina. More information about An Olive Branch’s scope of work will be sent to the community via e-mail later today.
About the Process
Selina’s approach is to meet with claimants, respondents, and witnesses individually to gain a better understanding of their evidence and their perspective. Claimants may be asked to submit a written statement to Selina before the interview. If either a claimant or respondent identifies a third-party witness who Selina believes to have useful or relevant information, Selina will interview that individual as well. Selina’s approach is to peel back the layers of the claim to identify any underlying or systemic issues.
Selina will interview people who would like their claim investigated. Interviews are private and confidential between the individual and the investigator. Information developed in the investigation will be kept confidential to the extent possible, but may have to be shared with third-party witnesses and respondents to ensure that the investigation is thorough and effective. If necessary, an interview may be conducted by videoconference or telephone. As previously stated, claimants can also authorize An Olive Branch to share information which they have provided to that organization.
The investigation will be open to receive claims for a period of three months, ending October 31. Selina welcomes information from anyone who may have knowledge that can assist with the investigation. She can be reached at (902) 482-7030 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Selina will be out of the office in the coming days, and during this time, her associate Will Russell can also be reached at email@example.com.
By addressing both the specifics of the claim as well as any underlying issues, Selina is able to provide a fulsome report that will allow Shambhala to fully understanding the issues being brought forward so that all involved can begin a path toward resolution. Shambhala will publish a report at the conclusion of the investigation.
We appreciate your continued patience as we work to ensure an objective, credible investigative process that will better allow us to understand the scope of the allegations being raised against leaders within the Shambhala community.
The Kalapa Council