Dear Northern California Shambhala Members, Friends, and Guests,
As members and advisors of our regional Shambhala governing body, we are concerned and saddened by the recent accounts of sexual misconduct, including those regarding Shambhala’s lineage holder, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.
Our hearts go out to those who have experienced harm in Shambhala, as well as our many community members and friends experiencing pain and confusion at this time.
We understand that these accounts have brought up a range of emotions and responses, including concerns related to the integrity of our lineage holder, the safety of our community and centers, as well as issues of good governance.
We recognize and honor these concerns and the multitude of reactions in our community, and are taking measures to respond as best we can and to keep you updated as the situation unfolds.
We are committed to providing safe spaces in the centers throughout our region to support and deeply listen to each other, to cultivate the fearlessness, gentleness and intelligence of our precious Shambhala teachings, to deeply reflect on what it means to connect with and manifest basic goodness in the face of the obstacles we encounter, and to deepen our exploration of what an enlightened society could be in which all beings experience respect, dignity and wellbeing.
At this time we are aware of the following facts:
- There are allegations circulating regarding the conduct of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and other leaders within Shambhala. We have put together a resource page to help our sangha understand current events. We are updating it with important communications regularly.
- Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has stepped back from his teaching and administrative responsibilities during the investigation. You can read the letter from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche here.
- The Kalapa Council, the current governing body of Shambhala International, is stepping down and inviting in a transitional governing body. You can read the letter from the Kalapa Council here.
- Shambhala has contracted with Wickwire Holm, a full-service business law firm located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to investigate the allegations of misconduct. For details and to contact the law firm, visit this link.
- Shambhala has engaged the services of An Olive Branch to support the sangha’s healing and reconciliation. Their process will include the creation of a new Ethics Policy and Grievance Procedure based on best practices for organizational ethics policies that define acceptable and unacceptable behavior for teachers and members, and specifies fair grievance procedures. An Olive Branch will be working with Shambhala representatives to review and revise the draft to ensure that it reflects both Shambhala’s aspirations for a new culture of responsibility and today’s ethical standards. Once the new ethics policy and grievance procedure are in place, An Olive Branch will offer a Listening Post for individuals who want to report sexual or physical misconduct. You can read the introduction letter from An Olive Branch here.
There are things we do not know, including:
- How long the investigation may last.
- How the outcomes will be addressed.
- How long Shambhala will be in a state of leadership transition.
However, as a regional body we feel we can move forward with the following intentions:
- We are committed to preventing and addressing all forms of harm within our regional community.
- We support the work of An Olive Branch as a means of providing independent third party support to anyone harmed. Here is a link to the An Olive Branch letter of introduction.
- We are committed to work with any care and conduct process developed by Shambhala International and An Olive Branch for addressing the misconduct of leaders and teachers. You can view our current Care and Conduct Policy that is undergoing revision here.
Going forward, we are committed to improving our regional governance practices through the following actions:
- Supporting regional and local community engagement beginning with community meetings and circle practice as a means of listening deeply to the needs of our community. Several such meetings have already taken place at our local centers.
- Regional financial transparency. Expect a regional financial report in the coming weeks.
- Continual regional communication as the greater Shambhala situation unfolds.
- Providing and supporting ongoing opportunities to practice and study the Dharma as a means of continuing our journey of awakening our heart-mind and experiencing community support and connection at this time.
Here is how you can get involved:
- If you have experienced any form of harm in Shambhala, An Olive Branch is in the process of putting in place an avenue for reporting and addressing harm. Once the new best practices for organizational ethics policies are developed, we will receive a communication from An Olive Branch with their contact person.
- Attend local and regional community meetings to share your voice with fellow community members and leadership.
- Talk to your leaders: Our local center directors and regional council members would like to learn what you need and hear your ideas about how to move forward. For a full list of regional leaders, please see below.
- Host your own conversations. Many members are taking it upon themselves to support one another and host meaningful conversations at this time.
- Let us know what programs, events, teachings and teachers you would like to see offered at our centers. A survey to solicit your input is being prepared and will be shared soon. We welcome all suggestions and sparks of inspiration.
Although this is a challenging time for everyone in our community, we aspire to bring these difficulties to the path to help us become a safer, kinder, wiser, more caring, and more equitable community.
Yours in the vision of good human society,
The Northern California Shambhala Regional Board and Advisors
Board Members and Center Directors
Regional Chair/Regional Director Cody McGough
Vice Chair Gale Young
Regional Chagdzö (Director of Finance) Dave Rapson
Regional Finance Manager Karen Walls
Secretary Lory Poulson
Regimental Commander Martha Silverspring
Legal Counsel Rebekka Martorano
Director of Practice and Education Irv Kirschbaum
Director of Culture and Decorum Pat Medeiros
Member at Large Yasmin Spiegel
Berkeley Director Arelly Sanchez-Shackett
Davis Director Patti Larson
San Francisco Director (Center Manager) Kelsey Brown
Santa Rosa Director Karen Halseth
Silicon Valley Director Mitchell Blank
Sonoma Director Susie Cook
Tamalpais Co-Director Bill Smith
Tamalpais Co-Director Karen Walls
Advisors to the Board
Acharya (Senior Teacher) / Diversity Working Group Chair Charlene Leung
Acharya (Senior Teacher) Melissa Moore
Acharya (Senior Teacher) Alan Schwartz
Shastri (Senior Local Teacher) Sandra Ladley
Shastri (Senior Local Teacher) Charlotte Linde
Shastri (Senior Local Teacher) Joanne Martin Braun
Member at Large Manny Medeiros
Member at Large Jesse Miller
Kusung (Attendant) Corps Commander Amy Conway
Regional Communications Director Kathryn Rile
Regional Database Manager Radha Chandra
Restorative Justice Professional Elvia Garcia
Inclusivity Warrior Chinh Nguyen
Berkeley Center Manager JoshuaRaen Thornberry
Berkeley Practice & Education Elena Oxman
Berkeley Chagdzö (Director of Finance) Scott Tracy
Berkeley Member Kara Bunting
San Francisco Steering Committee Member Susan Arnesen