To the Noble Sangha,
By now every member of Shambhala should have received the email from the Interim Board that links to the Wickwire Holm report as well as a recent letter from the Sakyong. Most of you have also seen the open letter from six long-serving kusung.
Reading these reports of harm has been devastating for all of us. We feel deep appreciation for the bravery it took for those who have been harmed to speak these truths, which have revealed destructive and tragic behaviors, including serious abuse of alcohol and sexual misconduct, in the very heart of our community. It is imperative that we examine our blind spots and confront the aspects of culture and hierarchy that have led us to where we are.
Our community was born in the 1970s during a time when there were radical movements of liberation and positive social change. In this regard, Shambhala was part of a larger cultural and historical reality. This was also a rich time when Shambhala principles and forms were introduced that were fundamental in shaping our vision, culture, and practices. The dharma was flourishing with a kind of brilliance rarely seen in the world. People were meditating, studying hard, and the teachings were taking root.
Nonetheless seeds of harmful and destructive behaviors became part of our Shambhala culture. Women in Shambhala experienced blatant sexism. Sadly, sexual misconduct, alcohol abuse, and abuse of power became all too prevalent. Over the years, we failed to address these issues directly as leaders and as a community, and therefore these seeds continued to ripen and produce further harm. As we are seeing in Shambhala, and in the larger social and political context, those things that have been habitually and collectively ignored are now coming to light.
We are doing our best to fearlessly examine—and own—our parts in the ignorance and denial that have allowed harmful behaviors to continue. We are committed to a Shambhala that embodies Hinayana and Mahayana values for each and every member.
We wish to apologize to those who have experienced harm through sexism, racism, gender bias, abuse of power, and all the ways that people’s dignity has not been acknowledged. More personally, we offer a sincere apology for any harm anyone of us has caused over the years. We are deeply saddened by the pain that so many of you have experienced and will work hard to protect against its causes.
We are not interested in “business as usual.” We realize that a new model for rooting the Dharma in the West is needed, and that this will take time to develop. We have an obligation to learn how to better hear and support those who have been abused, ignored, or mistreated. We cannot condone the Sakyong’s abusive behavior.
In order to demonstrate the urgency of this cry and respond to the breakdown in trust that so many of us are experiencing, we are requesting the Sakyong to step back from his teaching for the foreseeable future. We are shifting our emphasis from our role as representatives of the Sakyong to fully supporting the journey of the sangha. We will continue to teach and offer vows and transmissions for the benefit of the sangha and to help preserve the lineage.
While we recognize that we are living in the uncertainty of how to move forward in this moment, we acknowledge the importance of lineage. We do not believe that severing the ties to our ancient Kagyü, Nyingma, and Shambhala lineages is a viable path forward.
No one knows what this path forward will look like. However, we are committed to asking the hard questions and working with all of you, the Process Team, and the Interim Board to the best of our ability. We aspire to create a future where we can all feel safe and proud as Shambhalians.
We wish to thank all of you who have been supporting human dignity and goodness in our communities over these last months. Many continue to practice together and share diverse points of view—to listen, and to be heard. Thank you for working steadily to keep the magic that is Shambhala alive and for holding both confusion and wisdom.
It is a time of turmoil and a time of opportunity. May we work together to heal and bring our precious teachings forward.
With deep sadness and unconditional confidence in our future together,
The Shambhala Acharyas
Han de Wit
Lodrö Dorje Holm