An Open Letter to Shambhala Worldwide

To the Shambhala Interim Board,

We, the Nashville Shambhala Group Governing Council with members and friends, are writing to you on behalf of this good human society we all feel is so precious.  

We want to express how much our community, both collectively and individually, has benefited from the Shambhala Teachings. We are very fortunate here in Nashville to be a small group of practitioners who count each other as friends and colleagues. It feels to us that the vision of good human society is close to our hearts.

We care so much about future of Shambhala—both the organization and the perpetuation of the Teachings. Many of us were shocked, saddened, heartbroken, and appalled (or some combination thereof) by the news of misconduct by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and other senior teachers.

As a group, we’ve engaged in many discussions about the way forward. Recently, we held a vote on whether or not to remain in our Shambhala Charter. 17 present voted to remain, and 2 voted to leave. As a result of this, we are creating our own path to healing the harms within our local community, creating our own grievance process (which we will integrate with the revised Care and Conduct Policy), and working to bring more accountability and democracy to our internal structures. We are sharing some of our insights with you, in the hope that we as a worldwide group of humans who care can work from the ground up, to heal Shambhala and create a healthy, thriving organization based on respect, dignity, and care for all.

What We’d Like To See

As we all envision how to proceed in our communities, in our practices, and in the world, there are certain things we want to see. In fact, we feel so strongly about the necessity of these, that we are not sure we could continue to call ourselves a Shambhala Group them being in place:

  1. Shared power. A governing council should be widely elected from diverse areas of the community. That council should not have power in and to itself, but share power with other leadership groups working within Shambhala on specific activities and efforts. There should be a CLEAR and VIABLE chain of communication between leadership councils and local governing councils.
  2. Bottom up instead of top down governance. Governance should be based on extending roots into all local communities, feeling what nutrients are there, what is lacking, what people are saying, what is needed, and responding directly to local needs. This is in contrast to making blanket decisions which apply across the board but might not fit the needs of any particular place.
  3. A more accessible path to teaching and facilitation. Teaching power has historically also been in the hands of the few, the affluent, the white, and the male (for the most part). There are many admonitions on who can and cannot facilitate or teach. Currently this has become even more difficult for groups like ours, who don’t have direct access to Shastris and teaching circles. Groups need the means and authority to identify, train and install guides, instructors and group facilitators.
  4. Understanding class dynamics and the effect of affluence on decisions and requirements. Currently both student and teacher paths take an immense amount of time and money. Can we introduce these paths without requiring long expensive trips to programs? Can we nurture these paths within people’s situations?
  5. Replace the relative monarchy. We’d like to see a democratic organization relevant to the modern world. The idea of monarchy on an ultimate level, in line with the teachings can be helpful. However, monarchy as it has manifested in Shambhala has led to insularity, power imbalance and corruption.
  6. Dissolution of insular systems. We’d like to see all insular systems within Shambhala including but not limited to SMR, the Court and things like the Kalapa Council dissolved. When power is in the hands of the few, and their circle is closed and void of feedback or interchange outside themselves, corruption is inevitable. The new Board should be democratically elected, independent, and include a diverse array of members both Shambhala and non-Shambhala
  7. Empower local centers. Rather than this sense of needing approval from this or that Shastri for every move we make, we’d like to be empowered to make certain decisions based on our actual needs and on being truly connected to our own community.
  8. Dispersal of resources. Rather than having so much wealth concentrated on the persons of the Sakyong and the Sakyong Wangmo, their various homes, Courts, furnishings, cars, clothing, etc, wealth should be shared. Most centers and almost all Land Centers are struggling financially. A better use of resources is necessary. One that doesn’t play into power dynamics, classism, and inequity

We, the Nashville Shambhala Meditation Group, do not condone, in any way, the harmful actions reported about SMR or any other senior leader. We would like to see all harmful actions owned without excuses or ego protections. We are all humans. We all do harmful things. But it will be necessary for each person who has caused harm to own that action, and begin to make amends. We can let go of needing to protect ourselves or our reputation.

We are asking Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche in particular to seek treatment for his behavioral issues, and to come out and speak to everyone with honesty, accountability, integrity, and humility. We do not feel it is appropriate for Mr Mukpo to resume any of his formal roles within the organization. Regardless of outcomes, near and far, in order to allow healing and true reform for Shambhala worldwide, we need an extended period to understand who we are first. Then, will we need time to learn how a Teacher, Lineage Holder and Sakyong, along with the new Mandala, mutually orient themselves.

Here is the bigger statement we’d like to make: We are longing for a more relevant vehicle to carry the teachings forward. A vehicle that can hold and respect all human beings in deep and profound care and sacredness. A vehicle that turns the mirror back on itself as a way of being held accountable for the actions and behaviors of its members, the culture it has collectively created, supported, and perpetuated, and the harm it has caused. We see that it is necessary to dismantle the structure that has been in place, and as a local Shambhala Group we need a more participatory and representative organization.

The Nashville Shambhala Meditation Group Governing Council
Joe Smith, coordinator, joe@artdudegraphics.com
Jill Bates, jill.bates@comcast.net
June Caine, rdh4peace@aol.com
Rick Chudacoff, rhchu@comcast.net
Court Donner, ereiamjh@gmail.com
Paul Felton, paul.felton@comcast.net
Leslie Gossett, lesliegossett@gmail.com
Mary Ann Fricko, maryannfricko@gmail.com
Tyler Hume, tylerhume@hotmail.com
Katrina Stone, katye.a.stone@gmail.com
Jon Stone, jon.stone@comcast.net
Shaun Stallings, MrSStallings@gmail.com
Amy Warren, warren.amy76@gmail.com


Post Script: This letter began in October 2018 as a proactive response to circumstances that seemed out of reach and out of our control. In February 2019, with more information coming to light, our governing council posed the question of whether to remain in our Shambhala Charter or not. Discussion was extended until our next monthly meeting. We gathered what information we could (http://www.nashvilleshambhala.org/charter/ also http://www.nashvilleshambhala.org/clarity/). This was distributed online, via email and in social media where our discussion prompted in-person group discussions. Much of this discussion was very raw, and sometimes misunderstood or misdirected.

Ultimately our group listened albeit with reparations and thorough clarifications required. On March 17, 2019 our council with members voted 17 to 2 to remain in the Shambhala Charter. Our hope is that the beginning reforms that have only begun will continue AND that our input through this powerful, mind awakening process, and the collective wisdom found in this letter can continue and propel change. Staying is also to work toward change within rather than tossing stones from outside.

We are in. We hold the Shambhala teachings to be our vehicle toward change. We are bound to those who so very much care across the globe. And we will work with them toward the changes that must occur.

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