Addressing Harm

Shambhala Burlington is part of a global community which aspires to awaken the innate kindness, goodness and wisdom within every human being and society itself. Yet to honestly hold this vision and aspiration means we cannot ignore the pain, confusion and harm that are also part of our experience. We need to look directly at the ways we maintain traditions, habits, power structures, language patterns, and other forms that perpetuate this – individually or collectively, whether consciously or unconsciously.

In February 2018, allegations of sexual misconduct against Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Shambhala’s lineage holder, and other people in positions of authority, were revealed through the first of three reports from The Buddhist Sunshine Project. Subsequently, these allegations were investigated by a third party investigator, Wickwire Holm, which you can read here.  Our community has been experiencing uncertainty and upheaval from these allegations since this first report was released. In response, the Sakyong stepped back from his administrative duties until October 2021 and the former governing body resigned. It has been replaced by a new Board of Directors not appointed by the Sakyong.

A number of initiatives have been put into place by the international organization, central to which is a new Code of Conduct (read here) that came into effect February 2021. As it states, ”Behaviors that may be harmful to ourselves and others are regarded as opportunities to be acknowledged, examined, and worked with on the basis that the innate nature of all beings is profound, brilliant sanity.” It puts into effect “local (informal) processes for resolution of concerns, protective or rebalancing measures that may be applied in cases of misconduct (for the benefit of their community and themselves)” and both a regional and international body to take further steps if needed. It starts by speaking and witnessing truth and taking responsibility. It affects not only the individuals involved but the whole community.

Here in Burlington we remain committed to teaching and practicing meditation, and to work together as a community towards collective liberation. At the same time, we are clear that meditation is not a replacement for therapeutic healing of trauma. We aspire to create a supportive and healing environment for those who come seeking to ease their suffering. We recognize that we will continue to make mistakes, that not intending harm doesn’t mean no harm was caused, and we will never give up. We are working on getting better at having challenging conversations. We are working on training our community to better recognize and undo the causes of all kinds of suffering.

Our community is more engaged than ever before in acknowledging our history, seeing where we are caught, and transforming our culture to acknowledge and stop harm, and enact justice. And we know that much more work is needed to examine how these show up in our own hearts and minds.

We welcome you to join us in this practice.