Shambhala Interim Board Dodges Questions about Religious Oath Sworn in Allegiance to Accused Leader

As reported previously, the Shambhala International Interim Board of Directors was sworn in on October  17th with a religious oath that pledges allegiance to the now-resigned spiritual leader of the organization, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche (Mipham Mukpo). Mukpo has been accused of sexual assault by several community members.

On December 1, Kevin Anderson, a former coordinator of the Sackville Meditation Group in Sackville, New Brunswick, wrote the following letter to the Interim Board. By email, Anderson explains that the group has recently “taken a first step away from Shambhala due to the recent allegations” against Mukpo. (Correspondence shared with permission.)


Dear Shambhala Interim Board,

I’m writing you because a discussion arose between some members of the 
Sackville Meditation Group, concerning the appointment of the new 
Interim Board. I am hoping you can help us deepen and nuance our 
understanding of this.

According to some media outlets, the new interim board has “Sworn a 
Religious Oath to Leader Accused of Sexual Assault”. The article proceeds to discuss the implications of this, and provides what purports to be a copy of this oath.

The questions that arose are threefold:
1. Is this oath text accurate as reported?
2. Who authored the text?
3. If SMR [Mukpo] has “stepped back” from the organisation for the time being, 
why then was the oath worded with direct references to him?

I personally am quite concerned that the optics of this kind of language 
can undermine the credibility of the Interim Board. Therefore I look 
forward to your input on this matter.

Kevin Anderson

Two days later, Anderson received the following response from the Interim Board.

Dear Kevin,

Thank you for taking the time to write to the Interim Board.   You may know it is traditional for leaders in any leadership position in Shambhala to take a oath when they begin their position. Shambhala oaths are a statement of loyalty to the principles of our community. The Shambhala Interim Board was appointed by the Transition Task Force, and is not a governing body appointed by the Sakyong. The Board functions independently of the Sakyong in terms of our legal and fiduciary responsibilities.

We are currently focused on understanding the financial, operational and ethical issues before us and plan to make regular reports of progress to the community. We appreciate you taking time to contact us and will include your comments in our considerations.

Yours in the Vision of Shambhala,

The Shambhala Interim Board

Veronika Bauer, Martina Bouey, Mark Blumenfeld, John Cobb, Jennifer Crow, Sara Lewis, Susan Ryan, Paulina Varas

Anderson replied on December 9th:

Dear Interim Board, 

Thanks for your reply. 

I will comment here, but probably not pursue this further. Imagine, for a moment, that I had asked a trusted person (a friend, or a spouse, a child, a spiritual friend) those very direct, and very reasonable (though uncomfortable) questions. If they had avoided my questions as starkly as you have, it would have eroded my trust. In that light I’m finding your answers to be dishonest. 

Commenting each question: 

1. You could have said, “yes the wording is accurate”. Since the oath is on your website, it would have been easy to say that. 
2. You avoided the question of authorship – it would have been easy to say “We don’t generally reveal authorship, but we can assure you it was not SMR”. Since you didn’t answer, that leaves open the possibility that Mr. Mukpo authored it. 
3. I’m really not surprised that you didn’t address this, but in any other organization it would have made sense to build trust by at least temporarily distancing oneself from a leader. It erodes my trust that you have chosen not to do that, or somehow because of “guru logic, samaya logic” you feel unable to do so. An honest answer would have been to at least address the question in some fashion. 

With kind regards, 

Kevin Anderson


  • I received a similarly disappointing response to an inquiry on a related topic that I submitted to them about a month ago. Their emails and updates are quite friendly in tone and encourage people to contact them with questions – I was disappointed I didn’t receive a final response in person, nor the mass email they sent out as update after I had made these inquiries. It isn’t surprising they are being so brief if they are only working 3 or so hours a week, but it causes pause when you consider how their grand image and the significant responsibilities of taking on the messy financial management of the organization bodes with a 3 hr/wk time allocation, especially without being in communication with the outgoing board or perpetrators. I am sharing my correspondence below. Note that I was trying to clarify what I thought to be true – do not quote me/spread rumours based on my then understanding of the Potrang, etc. – do your own research.

    Nov 11, 2018

    Will you kindly provide clarification on the legal and fiduciary relationship between the Interim Board and the Sakyong Potrang? (Or has the Interim Board replaced the Sakyong Potrang, currently the sole member to Shambhala USA?)

    In the interest of transparency, will you please provide documentation of any limitations from the outgoing board and copies of legal agreements signed as the Interim Board?

    Thank you,


    Nov 14, 2018
    Dear Julia,

    Thank you for taking the time to write to the Interim Board. We are currently focused on organizing ourselves and understanding the financial, operational and ethical issues before us.

    We appreciate you taking time to contact us and the thought you put into your suggestions. We are receiving many questions about the structure of Shambhala and the decision making process of the board. We are working towards answering many of these questions in the FAQ section of the website that we will be announcing later this month.

    Yours in the Vision of Shambhala,

    The Shambhala Interim Board
    Veronika Bauer
    Martina Bouey
    Mark Blumenfeld
    John Cobb
    Jennifer Crow
    Sara Lewis
    Susan Ryan
    Paulina Vara

    Nov 14, 2018

    Are you aware that you will not answer those pretty pertinent questions until AFTER the reporting period for the report for the Wickwire-Holm investigation is closed, and that WH will not guarantee confidentiality to those reporting? Are you still willing to tell community it is independent third party and confidential? To me, this seems thoroughly unethical and completely deceptive — but maybe I am missing something. Why would someone report to WH if it is not clear who is receiving it beyond Alex and you, and without knowing what your duties and obligations are? This means that the IB, other Shambhala organizations and Potrang could be recieving–perhaps if not now, possibly in the future—all information without any protection to those reporting potential legal claims who may be facing the very same people in a court of law?

    This sounds very much like a form letter, but I want this to be made clear if you ever do read this and when you respond at the end of the month on your website.



  • Thank you Matthew for this tremendous service of respectful and insightful reporting on the Shambhala abuse crisis. I participated in Trungpas dream of an enlightened kingdom for some years and drifted away eventually after too many contradictions piled up.

    Reading Buddhist Project Sunshine reports alongside your writing has been absolutely heartbreaking as I’m finally understanding how my time in Shambhala was a mixture of tremendous aspirations alongside the deepest ignorance.

    Sadly I find the reports of abuse and cover up believable. I met so many kind and trustworthy people in Shambhala.
    The deep Tragedy stems from the fact that the most abusive criminal behaviors came from the top, Trungpa, Ösel Tendzin and the sakyong himself. The nexus of senior students (Acharyas) clustered around those figures revere them as Gods. As A devotee of Trungpa I befriended members of the first generation of Trungpa fanatics. I was told about trungpas sexual abuse in confidence. and to a limited degree also witnessed the Sakyong with his rotating cast of women. I was let in on what felt like family secrets and I stuffed it down, therefore I guess becoming complicit in the deception.

    I keep breaking down in tears as I think about how utterly foolish and destructive it was for the Shambhala leadership to hurt people the way they did, how many peoples lives are now being affected, how as abuse survivors and ally’s we are forced to re-evaluate our relationship to meditation, language, and deeply held beliefs.
    I hope that healing and justice are possible for all involved and an independent inquiry is convened ASAP.

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