Shambhala Investigator Tells Sakyong Accusers Not to Talk to Anyone

The outgoing “Kalapa Council” — the Board of Directors for Shambhala International — sent out a newsletter on Saturday. The newsletter was meant to clarify the role played by the Halifax legal firm, Wickwire Holm, in an internal investigation of possible sexual misconduct within Shambhala’s leadership, including the allegations against the spiritual leader of the organization, Ösel Mukpo.

The Shambhala investigation doubles up on the third-party investigative work of The Buddhist Project Sunshine, which has ignited a firestorm of controversy throughout the organization. Shambhala International has not denied any of the findings of the BPS, although a key leader has tried to discredit the motivations of the investigators, claiming they are staging an “attack upon the Mukpo family”.

The Kalapa Council’s Saturday newsletter attempts to address “questions and concerns from members about the neutrality of this investigation” by including a statement from Selina Bath, the Wickwire Holm investigator.

In numerous social media threads, community members have wondered who has retained Wickwire Holm, who will have access to the results of the investigation, and whether disclosures from accusers made to the firm might later be used as risk assessment against future litigation.

Bath writes that “Wickwire Holm has been retained to conduct an investigation into complaints of sexual misconduct on the part of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and other senior leaders of Shambhala USA.” She writes that “Our firm has not been retained to represent the interests of Shambala USA, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, or any other senior leader.”

Bath does not state who has retained the firm.

The day before the newsletter was issued, Bath sent an unsolicited letter to one of the women whose story was anonymously featured in The Buddhist Project Sunshine. The woman, who still wishes to remain anonymous, sent me the letter and consented to my citing it here.

In the letter, Bath does not clarify who has retained Wickwire Holm for the investigation, nor how the results of the investigation will be used.

Bath asks the woman to provide a written summary of her allegations, and says that it will be shared with “any identified respondent”.  On behalf of the firm she also asks for witness names and any relevant documentation.

Bath also asks the woman to be silent beyond communicating with the investigation.

In order to maintain confidentiality and support the integrity of the process,” Bath writes, “we ask that you not discuss the content of the allegation with anyone, including any other claimants or potential witnesses, while the investigation is ongoing.”

The woman found the letter disturbing.

Via email, she noted that she approached the Buddhist Project Sunshine investigator consensually, and that the investigator in that instance did not ask for a written summary or documentation prior to their interview. The appeal from Wickwire Holm, she says, feels coercive. She doesn’t know how the firm got her contact information.

The woman is also concerned that the Shambhala investigation, as communicated by Bath, amounts to “a ‘discovery’ process, where they hold all the cards… so they can decide whether to try to hush people before people take them to court.”

Bath did not respond to an email and phone request for clarification.

6 Comments

  • Shambhala international was not mentioned by the firm. My guess they are paying the bill and that is who they are working for.

  • Look to the Catholic church for the game rules being used here. Even though there’s evidence that Catholic priests, abbots, etc committed sexual abuse (in some cases heinous acts against children), doubtful that any of them will go to prison—ditto for Shambhala’s little king, for Soygal & all the lamas yet to be named.

  • “A key leader”? Really? Diana Mukpo was Chogyam Trungpa’s wife. If you’re going to do an expose, please… expose.

  • Having just gone through a legal issue not at all related, the lawyers are asking something that is perfectly normal. I doubt they mean not to talk to your partner or a close friend, but while an investigation is going on (which may even lead to a criminal accusation), it is quite normal for a lawyer to ask for you to curb gossip. Things can be elaborated on, distorted, etc. Remember th game of telephone?

  • One of the ways the Rigpa – Lewis Silken – investigation began was with this feeling of threat of the investigation. So there was negotiation to clarify many things and make conditions to satisfy the survivors and victims, rather than just whoever hired the firm. In Rigpa’s case it was Rigpa who hired the firm so the idea it was independent took a long time to swallow. There were conditions that favoured Rigpa such as they would get the report earlier than others so they could begin to spin it or respond to it and be seen as initiating, sharing etc. Even that was too much but the investigation did end up extending to more than just the people who wrote a letter related to misconduct – it lead to bringing evidence. Nobody that I remembered gave instructions or legal sounding dictates to us beyond that feeling of “you are the ones under investigation here” which slowly got eroded by negotiation. Cults always try to weaponize what should be neutral to add to the stigma and threat of what happens to those who talk.

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