The transcript shows how the logic of the in-group cannot admit outside information. Indeed, it cannot even admit inside information: the actual allegations are never named. (Information and message control is essential to any high-demand group.) By marginalizing and minimizing the allegations and offering no outside resources — such as in the areas of restorative justice or trauma care — the talk creates the impression, supported reflections on “The Four Reliances”, that not only is the group ideology all that is available to help, but that leaders like Simmer-Brown have adequate answers to the problems in the organization they have led for decades.
I’ve left out the names of the community members who ask questions or comment, save for one. Kathleen Moore spoke fifth, and gave me permission to disclose her name. Moore was the partner of the late Bill Scheffel, who died of suicide on July 8th. He immolated himself in his car
a week after giving a despairing address to a community gathering to discuss the scandal.
Moore issued a direct and personal appeal for accountability amidst a culture of silencing.
Moore described having been isolated by the community after Scheffel’s death, pushed to the margin as an outsider, as someone willing to discuss toxic dynamics within the group. This follows, as she says, a pattern that impacted Scheffel himself. She began by reading a quote from Scheffel’s address:Quote
I’m in a world of pain. When Trungpa Rinpoche died, there were many forces at work. Now there’s a phenomena of you’re either in or out. We are no longer a society. We’ve become a church. Society has division, diversity and dissonance. The rank-ism [here] creates distance and has broken me.
"Since he died,” Moore continued, “his friends who are mostly senior students of Trungpa Rinpoche, almost all of them teachers, are saying things like, I killed him, that I’m responsible for his death. No one will say this to me. I hear it from others who’ve heard it and believe those people. But what I’m experiencing is incredible amounts of silence.”
Instead of directly answering Moore’s public appeal to suggest policy that would address ways in those who criticize the group are marginalized, Simmer-Brown offered to meet with Moore in person.
“It sounds like this may be a more personal conversation between you and me and I would be delighted to talk with you one on one about that,” said Simmer-Brown, effectively silencing a discussion about silencing, and further blurring the lines between public responsibility, private resolutions, and perhaps even therapy.
It’s important to understand that in this and similar sub-cultures, private meetings with teachers are highly valued and largely understood as intimate transmission moments. The assumption is that far from being confrontational or eliciting accountability, the meeting will offer the leader an opportunity to communicate some deeper, secret truth that will give the member relief.
After offering a private meeting, Simmer-Brown then went on to self-reference, talking about her own periods of outsidership in relation to the community.
The appeal to private reckoning is not only used to evade public accountability. It can also be used to deflect the institutional responsibility that organization leaders hold.
here is no way that I will proceed any further with Shambhala in regard to doing their higher level courses. I have learned that virtually all of my misgivings about Shambhala that I discussed in my Integral World previous article, as well as new alarming information that I have subsequently learned about, are all too real. This includes the violent and luxury living history of the gurus and Rigden kings of Shambhala; the esoteric and nonsense-filled (to me) content of their higher level teachings; the sexual abuse and violations committed by Shambhala teachers to their students; the apparent occurrence of violence in Shambhala on some occasions; and the extensive and intensive practice of prostrations, chantings, and mandalas in the higher levels of Shambhala, culminated by complete absorption of the guru into one's self identity.
After all these learnings, one may very well ask why I would ever consider doing anything further in Shambhala, at any level. And my answer is largely wrapped up with the beauty that I have seen in the free spirit of Shambhala, that has emerged in all its glory in many of the actual members of Shambhala, as evidenced in Project Sunshine. Project Sunshine is a wonderful and inspiring example of this, as is the courage of the Shambhala members who dared to publicly counter Lady Diana in her statement of criticism of Project Sunshine. These Shambhala members remind me of the genuine feeling of comradeship that I felt through my Shambhala levels, as we were all meditating and believing in the worthwhile goal of working toward an enlightened society. As I remarked above, I don't know how the higher-ups in Shambhala will respond to all that I have included in this essay. But if it turns out that I am still accepted in Shambhala, then I can see being open to continuing to engage in mindfulness meditation at Shambhala workshops, though not at the higher Shambhala levels. And who knows—perhaps all the courageous and honest communications of the participants of the Project Sunshine forum will significantly reduce the cult dangers of Shambhala so that in some future time, I could do yet another analysis of cult dangers in Shambhala and find that from my combined integral experiential and non-experiential perspective, that Shambhala has moved into the Neutral category, or perhaps even back into the Mildly Beneficial category. I am an optimist and idealist at heart, and I will therefore end this essay on this positive note.
I felt that it was only fair to give Mipham the benefit of the doubt until and unless I saw anything more concrete and convincing about his purported sexual abuse. But it did reinforce for me why I was so diligent about listening to my gut level negative reactions at the Shambhala Taking Vows workshop to pledging to give my allegiance to the guru of Shambhala, as I described in my Part 1 article . But the gates have now been completely opened, as I received the Project Sunshine Phase 2 final report yesterday
and I am still shocked by what I have read. I don't want to go overboard in conveying all the gross and lurid details of Mipham's sexual abuse with many of his women students in Shambhala for a number of years, as you can read all about this for yourself , but I do need to convey enough about this to justify why I am writing this Part 3 essay on Shambhala.
In regard to my cults analysis of Shambhala , I would certainly now rate Shambhala higher in both the categories of Sexual Manipulation and Censorship, but my numbers would still keep Shambhala in the Minimal (as opposed to Moderate) Cult Danger category that I ended up with in my Part 2 essay. I had already decided that I would not be having any more associations with Shambhala, soon after I wrote my Part 2 essay, so all this new very disturbing information that I have learned about Mipham does not have any additional effect in this regard for me. But what about Mipham's apology letter? Do I think this is sincere enough for Mipham to be forgiven for all the sexual abuse he has committed in Shambhala, which apparently was essentially in the past?
This is a difficult question. There is no doubt that Mipham had little choice but to write his apology letter, once Project Sunshine exposed his sexual abuse in Shambhala, which was affirmed by a legal investigation as part of the report . But unlike his father Trungpa, Mipham was entirely secretive about all his sexual “relationships” with many of his women students in Shambhala over the course of a number of years, and this secrecy was maintained and reinforced by the Shambhala organization. He now apologies and acknowledges that “some” of the women whom he had relationships with feel that they were harmed, even though he alludes to the belief that he did not “intend” to harm them. He says he is going into a period of “self-reflection and listening” and that his wife is being “strongly supportive” of him, and that he has entered into “mediation and healing practices” with the women who have felt that he harmed them. So what do I think?
Well I think it is “something” and that there is some sincerity here, but I don't think it does justice to the extent of the sexual abuse that he committed over many years, and especially not to his criminal rape of one of his women students in the seminary kitchen, in the presence of his victim's partner. I am still somewhat in shock over all these revelations, and I can only imagine how devastated I would have been if I had continued in Shambhala and had truly pledged my allegiance to Mipham as part of my taking Shambhala vows
J.D. said: (Name converted to initials for privacy-C)
Check out matthewremski.com he analyses the cult language use in shambhala in his recent articles.
Also the deeper you go in shambhala the more cult like it becomes. There are (or, until this scandal broke at least there were) secret mansions devoted students have built and donated to the Sakyong. In them he has a personal chef and volunteer servants (who do it for the honor, good karma or "merit"), body guards, kasung soldiers posted as guards. Some of these volunteer servants live in a smaller house near the mansion during their service period. He is served every meal as if he is in a restaurant, eating off of plates with gold rims around the edges of the plate. Everyone who gets there is told to keep everything that happens there secret. And you don't get the opportunity to serve at a court until you are deeply involved in shambhala. He is usually referred to as "your majesty" in the court. And he has personal volunteer drivers driving him wherever he wants.
He only uses some of these mansions only for a few weeks every year (of which I believe there are at least 4 that I have heard of, a 5th was recently in plans of being made near Halifax To replace the old Halifax "court")
And when he isn't there, they are closed down and not used for anything else.
And when you get deep in there are unusual teachings about samaya that differ from most vajrayana traditions. You are told you can't learn from any other teacher other than the Sakyong and that he will be your teacher for infinite lifetimes. If you break your samaya vow with him you will go down into "vajra hell" for billions of lifetimes. So it is easy to see why so many high ranking students were willing to cover this up and do whatever he asked,even when it went against their moral upbringing. They are told that everything the guru does is enlightened activity and that it is only their "impure vision" that sees differently.
All of this is not how many vajrayana teachers teach. Most allow some more flexibility to see other teachers for many practices and Mingyur Rinpoche, for example, says that psychological, sexual, and physical abuse are NEVER teaching methods. Shambhala likes to blur these lines quite a bit.
In my own experience, the deeper I got into shambhala, the more I was told that my reactions to what was happening were about my own mind and not about the situation around me that felt wrong. So I tried to look at it as an opportunity to practice.
I think your cult danger rating scale should go up.
Deep in shambhala things are very, very, weird.
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(July 15, 2018) Elliot Benjamin said:
Absolutely Rob, I was wrong in what I initially thought/hoped about the ethical behavior of Mipham. But please see my two follow-up essays on Shambhala, especially my Part 3 essay sub-titled Like Father Like Son?
(July 14, 2018) Anonymous said:
(July 14, 2018) Jake said:
Estimated net worth of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is 26 million
(July 7, 2018) Rob said:
With the much more public and recent revelations of Sakyong Mipham ... oh how wrong are you. But that's not surprising. I've seen the same story over the years with numerous Buddhist organizations. I've also heard this quip so many times, it's nauseating ... "everyone knew". No, not everyone knew, which is evidenced by your postings. There are new people, like yourself, coming to Buddhist organizations all the time ... they don't know.
So two camps will form. Those who no longer want to tolerate such authoritative abuses, and then those who have been covering up for their teacher ... (and most likely many others), who will continue their dutiful servitude to abuse.
So they'll lose some members, but it will limp along in its dysfunction with the "abuse" camp being in control. It's the same story that is far too easy to predict.
Unfortunately, there will always be people attracted to this crazy wisdom b.s.
I want to point out from your writeup, you are likely the Shambhala's "type" - educated, intellectual, middle class, not as much body focused, middle aged or above, and white. You might have had a different feeling of comfort if you weren't their type.
The cultish behavior only starts being more obvious from Rigden on, FYI. The vow to serve the Sakyong is something new, in the last 5 years. I, along with a few in my Ridgen class, refused to take it. It was a general revolt - everyone agreed with the Shambhala principles, but why use that wording? From then on, that weekend was called the "Rocky Rigden" and it was discussed up the hierarchy and from then on they invited people to talk about the vow beforehand, so as to give time for people to make justifications and interpretations like you did.
The thing is, less intellectual people would likely not have made interpretations like you. They could have chosen different wording - like serving a vision, valuing the Sakyong, etc. They didn't. And as I said, it's new.
I did one or two on from Ridgen and I found less "meat" each time. Having been on other Buddhist retreats and done much reading on Buddhist thought and Advaita Vedanta, it did feel both oversimplified and sold, presented like it was magical. The cost just didn't justify it.
I appreciate, again, all the effort you have put into your analysis of Shambhala being a cult.
When I was at your stage, I must admit, I would not have been able to take this objective a stance. I think this will fare you well, because I suspect they will 'love bomb' you, the inner circle now, as one of their very important 'fringe' assets.
Not someone who dives into the Vajrayana, but someone who will hold back. Even more important to the inner circle of Tantric true believers.
Now that they are implementing their newest disguise, these masters of the masked dance, : their 'secular spirituality' GAIA feminism, diversity, and 'white privilege' disguise; to continuing to play on white educated liberal guilt. What they have always done. Which they think will last, as a recruiting technique, but is already backfiring.
Since these are cult members, following Tibetan lamas , who are the ultimate racists. believe they are above the whole human race,. Lamas who kept slaves and see themselves as 'greater than kings.' That will continue, as long as they need to, even when they appear to be giving up their brocaded thrones.
This is also the disguise they are using now, to distance themselves, appearing to take a more 'secular' approach to Tibetan Tantric Lamaism; blending with Zen and Theravada Buddhism; what Jon Kabat Zinn represents, as former Buddhist monk and very tied into the Dalai Lama's Mind and Life Institute, and its Three Stream Buddhism; here to replace western science with Scientism, and the occult and subjective experience, for fact.
So, he is not the stripped down 'secular' mindfulness fellow, as you may think, at first blush. He is part of the Dalai Lama's attempt to create a Buddhocracy through out the world. These are all true-believers. Some with convenient medical credentials. Never forget, the inner circle that protected the Regent and kept his AIDS from the community, while he had unprotected sex was a practicing physician.
"This is something 'progressives' would never tolerate if it were right-wing Christians doing this"
Now openly merging their occult religion, with other Buddhist streams and into our western institutions, to create a new world progressive agenda, on the sly. Something in direct conflict with our Constitution which I still believe in, and so did liberals, at one time.
This is something 'progressives' would never tolerate if it were right-wing Christians doing this. Besides it being so incredible thick, on their part, to not notice or care that this is a religion that keeps harems and kept their own people in servitude and slavery for a thousand years.
This is why I stopped identifying with being a democrat and liberalism in 2011. I will not vote democratic again, unless this changes. Since we are bringing politics into the conversation.
In my day, in Shambhala, we were discouraged from politics in Tibetan Buddhism. Not now. Not in Phase III.
Now Tibetan Lamaists are calling their Vajrayana and Vajrayana methods as "helping to meld the scientific, egalitarian, individualist spirits of East and West into a 'progressive' culture of contemplative learning, democratization and optimal human development that circles the globe." (Joe Loizzo, of the Dalai Lama's Nalanda Institute for "Contemplative Science' , on the Guru Question, 2017).
This paper from a leading member of a spin-off Tantric Vajrayana foundation of the Dalai Lama, one of many now posing as 'academic' and 'objective,' , is a justification for merging the Vajrayana Tantra of medieval lamas, who created a permanent serf and slave society less than sixty-years ago, and who have so totally duped. 'liberal progressives,' like Joe Loizzo, to believe that the atavistic, occult and misogynistic practices of the Dalai Lamas, admired by the Mongolian Khans, Himmler, Serrano, Wirathu, Shoko Asahara, and other dictators, fascists, and despots, left and right, all over the world, throughout the centuries, would actually be the vanguard of a 'liberal progressive' agenda?
That is some powerful mind-control, don't you think? Fortunately these true-believers are sounding increasingly bizarre, to more and more people, who are no longer under, or never have been under, the thrall of Lamaism and probably never will be,now.
I sincerely hope that you can maintain your western reason and intelligence and don't engage in too much mindfulness. Best to you Elliot. Don't let them steal your compassion for the world, for their own uses.
Gaslighting is often misunderstood as simply trying to make someone believe something isn’t true. What it really entails is breaking down a person’s trust in their own mind – something so damaging it can take years to recover from. It’s a daily form of coercive manipulation designed to make someone so vulnerable and confused that they rely more on their abuser than on themselves.
In short, gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse “in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.”
Essentially, gaslighting is a tactic used to destabilize your understanding of reality, making you constantly doubt your own experiences.
Most of the time, this tactic is used to further uneven power balances with abusive partners, making you second guess yourself when you feel as if you are being abused or attacked.
Even if a relationship seems otherwise non-abusive, gaslighting is emotional and mental violence. This process in and of itself is toxic and unhealthy, regardless of whether there are other abusive behaviors taking place within the relationship.