July 5, 2020
Dear Shambhala Warriors,
It is with sadness and open hearts that we share our decision to step down from the role of acharya. This decision has not come easily and is not made lightly. Some of us have served in this role for many years, and have devoted our lives to serving Shambhala vision. We all remain dedicated to working toward the further manifestation of this vision.
Although we have each known Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche in various ways and served in different roles over the years, we share having had a complex relationship with him, seeing both his wisdom and confusion. For much of this time, we felt confident in our ability and wish to represent the Sakyong, an essential aspect of the role of acharya.
However, in the midst of the crisis around sexual misconduct and abuse of power, in an effort to support the community and encourage the Sakyong to engage in a process of accountability and healing, we acharyas asked him to step back from his teaching role. We openly shifted our focus toward serving the community. At that time, and since then, his communication with us has been minimal.
When the acharyas finally met with the Sakyong on May 21, 2020 via zoom, it became clear to us that he intends to work with a smaller, exclusive group of students. It was our sense that, at least at this point, he would not focus on rebuilding relationships with the many students and practitioners who are longing for further healing and transformation. Instead, he articulated a path forward based on clarifying lineage rather than attending to community well-being. To us, this feels different from the broad and inclusive social vision that inspires us.
While he expressed dismay and concern over the ways things have fallen apart in Shambhala over the last two years, the Sakyong did not mention the revelations of his own past misconduct as a principal cause, nor did he indicate a willingness to enter into dialogue. On the call, we were not invited into conversation with him, and we feel that communication is essential to moving toward repair.
We still remain open to conversation. As acharyas we, like so many in the Shambhala community, have been holding in a “wait and see” pattern, hoping that the Sakyong would join the community in a process of healing and reconciliation. In the end, he asked us to recommit to being his representatives or to retire with dignity.
Now we find it more important than ever for the Shambhala community to face the wounds that have been part of our heritage for a long time. These need to be acknowledged more fully and worked through in a thorough and well-designed communal process. Without such a process, we cannot in good faith continue in our role.
We remain loyal to the Shambhala vision and teachings, the Scorpion Seal path, as well as the lineage streams introduced into our community by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. We recognize the importance of an “open umbrella” approach that supports the range of practices in our community, including Shambhala, Kagyü, Nyingma, contemplative arts, cultural forms, and social engagement.
We commit to the difficult work of forging a good human society, learning from past harms in our community and acknowledging our own failings. We recognize that we acharyas have participated in and enabled the culture that has caused harm. We have much to learn individually and as a community. At the same time, we see a lot of strength in the community and willingness to engage in cultural change.
We support the Care and Conduct initiatives, the commitment to accountability, transparency, and inclusivity that they embody, including the new societal trainings being developed in the right use of power, diversity and inclusivity, gender dynamics, and the reduction of harm having to do with sexual predation, racism, and more.
In leaving this position, it is not our intention to abandon the Sakyong, for whose inspiring teachings we feel deep gratitude. Nor is it our intention to abandon the sangha and the vast community of warriors. We appreciate the kindness and wisdom of the remaining acharyas who have been our friends and colleagues for a long time.
The world is calling all of us with countless voices in great pain. The earth is crying out; our polarized cultures are crying out; our broken systems are crying out; oppression and injustice are crying out; the dralas are crying out. We aspire to listen and respond with compassion.
We are not giving up. We join with the community to collaborate on ways to move forward together. We are open to dialogue, to continue to teach as we are able, and to serve the vision of good human society in every way we can. How this will manifest remains to be seen and will undoubtedly vary for each of us.
Yours in the vision of the Great Eastern Sun,
Lodro Dorje Holm