“The protocol, the mannerisms, and everything we have created, everything you have been taught, everything you have studied quite diligently – the purpose of all that is to have concern for others.”
Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, 1979 Kalapa Assembly, Big Sky, Montana
Dear Shambhala Community,
By now you will have received the Joint Statement from the Sakyong Potrang and the Shambhala boards describing the results of the mediation process. We, the Shambhala Board, would like to take this opportunity to clarify the decisions made in the agreement with the Potrang, as well as express our appreciation for the community’s patience during the mediation process, which lasted from August 2021 to February 2022.
It has been close to four years since the crisis in Shambhala began and during this time, it often felt like the direction of the organization was on hold. We have all had to examine our connections with Shambhala and the lineage in ways that were personal and often uncomfortable. Now with this agreement in place, we can turn our attention to moving forward as an organization, as a community, and as individuals.
As you have often heard us say, the Shambhala Board remains committed to Shambhala as an inclusive society. We encourage all members, centers and groups to continue creating and nurturing opportunities for practice, while remaining open and caring about one another. While different views will continue to arise within our community, we all have our fundamental grounding in the Shambhala teachings of confidence in basic goodness, gentleness and fearlessness that we can strengthen in ourselves, foster in our communities and share with the world.
The mediation has led to the following agreed upon changes for the Shambhala organization. You can access the authorizing resolutions and the red-lined changes of the Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws here that show the language changes to our governance documents.
- The changes were made to the purposes clause of the Articles and By-laws for Shambhala so that all students, including those of the past, present and future Sakyongs, will feel included and welcome in Shambhala.
- Shambhala will no longer have a sole member governance structure. Thus, the Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and the Sakyong Potrang will have no legal authority over the operations and governance of Shambhala. The Sakyong or his representative will now share with the Shambhala Board the power to amend the Articles or the by-laws or make decisions regarding dissolution of Shambhala or sale of the majority of its assets. Although these kinds of decisions are not usual occurrences and may never happen, they could be very consequential for the organization as a whole and need to have the input of both the community and the lineage holder.
- In place of the Sakyong, the Shambhala Board will now be independent and responsible for appointing new directors to the Board and, if necessary, to remove them for cause. To accomplish this, the Shambhala Board has decided to establish a Board advisory nominating group that includes members from the community and the Board to make recommendations for new Board members. This nominating group will start a process to bring new members onto the Board that reflect the diversity of our community.
- Shambhala USA will have a perpetual license to use the trademarks “Shambhala,” “Shambhala Training,” “Shambhala Meditation Center,” and others. We will be able to sub-license their use to our affiliated centers and groups. Shambhala USA will be able to continue operating under the same organizational names that we currently use. Since Shambhala Canada and Shambhala Europe own their own trademarks for “Shambhala,” no license is needed internationally.
- No assets were transferred as part of the mediation settlement. The Sakyong Potrang and Shambhala agreed to a mutual release of any claims, including past asset transfers. Previous asset transfers covered by this provision include the transfers by the Kalapa Council (which predated the seating of the Shambhala Interim Board) to the Sakyong Potrang of the Sakyong’s Halifax residence (the Court), the US trademarks and Kalapa Valley.
- The Shambhala and Potrang boards agreed to continue to communicate to clarify issues that arise.
While there is a lot in this agreement that will impact the two organizations, many issues of importance to Shambhala members were not made part of the mediation process. The most important may be individual students’ and centers’ relationship to the Sakyong.
In that regard, the Shambhala Board has had a number of opportunities to meet with the Sakyong or his representatives throughout our tenure. Our intention has been, above everything else, to help find a way to properly reconcile the Sakyong and the whole community. We know that there are students who feel the Sakyong has genuinely apologized for his past behavior, are devoted to the lineage and are connected to the Sakyong and his teachings. However, we are also aware that many others have expressed their need for the Sakyong to take more accountability.
To this aim, we approached the Sakyong and his representatives with the wishes for better accountability and further communication from him. We offered ideas for possible processes, consolidated the many emails we had received from the community that articulated many open questions and feelings, and introduced potential consultants to help with a reconciliation process. We also shared the new Code of Conduct, which we understand the Sakyong and the Sakyong Wangmo support.
We have come to recognize that the Sakyong is focusing his energies on teaching outside of Shambhala. We have been told by his representatives that he will continue on this current path. We remain committed to providing a healthy practice environment and community for his students within the Shambhala community.
We are also aware that many people in our community are committed to their Shambhala path but are not interested in studying with the Sakyong. The Board sees many opportunities to continue to deepen all of our practice and community life together. We are fortunate to have many skilled, well-practiced teachers within our community. Our centers and online spaces will continue to welcome groups to practice together, utilizing the full range of the Shambhala teachings including those studying with the Sakyong and those who are not. We also think that Shambhala can present our teachings to the modern world in a variety of forms, and we are open to how best to do that.
We understand that this is a big change from how students may have related to the Sakyong before the crisis. However, the Shambhala Board is confident that as a community we have tremendous resources to offer each other and the world. We are committed to continuing to have Shambhala offer the Shambhala path teachings through Werma practice and support for the Kagyu/Nyingma traditions through the Vajrayana, which are part of our heritage. We commit to supporting the Shambhala contemplative arts and other important aspects of Shambhala culture.
We know that you may have questions about all of this and we want to provide opportunities in the coming Year of the Water Tiger to communicate and work together as a sangha.
As a Board, our initial plans for the new year include:
- Continuing to welcome, read and reflect on the emails we receive. We look forward to hearing from you. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Organizing meetings with community leaders to discuss the organizational changes.
- Meeting with leaders to clarify the ongoing relationships between Shambhala Centers and Shambhala Global and receive their input on a formal affiliate agreement.
- Publishing FAQs that will address the issues raised by leaders and the community.
- Working closely with the skilled facilitators of the Shambhala Process Team to organize and hold community conversations on important topics, such as the results from the Societal Mirror Survey.
- Continuing to communicate through regular Board updates. During the mediation process, we agreed to work with the Potrang in a confidential space and were not at liberty to speak of the changes. We will have much to say about opportunities for practice and study as well as how we are going forward as a community.
- Holding regular Zoom meetings with leaders and the community.
- Continuing our conversations on understanding harm that have occurred within the community that we began with Shambhala leaders in December 2021 after publishing our Statement on Harm.
After a long period of uncertainty, we feel excited about what may now arise. We hope you will join us as we continue to strengthen our dharmic paths and together establish a Shambhala that reflects the elements of a good human society, for the benefit of all.
In the Vision of the Great Eastern Sun,
The Shambhala Board