Police launch criminal investigation at Shambhala Mountain Center

Police Launch Investigation into “Possible Criminal Activity” at Shambhala Mountain Center  by Anne Wisman – Buddhistdoor Global –  2018-12-12

The Sheriff’s Department of Larimer County, Colorado, has confirmed that it is investigating “possible criminal activity” at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado, a meditation center run by Shambhala International.

The public confirmation of the investigation follows after an article by ThinkProgress detailing a possible police investigation into allegations of sexual assault against Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, leader of Shambhala International, and other members of the organization, published on 9 December, and was confirmed by a spokesman from the Sheriff’s Departmentto Lion’s Roar.

“The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office received information involving possible criminal activity involving Shambhala Mountain Center. Investigators are currently sorting through to see where that information leads.” spokesman David Moore said in a statement. (Lion’s Roar) Adding that anyone with information concerning the investigation can contact their office.

Carol Merchasin, investigator for Buddhist Project Sunshine, confirmed to ThinkProgress that Larimer County officials have contacted her as part of their inquiry.

 In response to their report on a possible investigation, Shambhala International wrote in a statement to ThinkProgress: “At this time, it is our understanding that there is no open criminal investigation in Larimer County.” (ThinkProgress)

Headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Shambhala community is an international network of more than 200 meditation centers and groups with over 12,000 members spanning some 50 countries and six continents, in addition to online communities. Sakyong Mipham, the current lineage holder, was enthroned as sakyong in 1995. 

The allegations against Sakyong Mipham and other community members were first covered extensively in a series of three independent reports published by Buddhist Project Sunshine, a grassroots initiative started by Andrea Winn, a second-generation Shambhala Buddhist who grew up in the early years of the community. The Buddhist Project Sunshine Phase 3 Final Report include details of two harrowing alleged assaults, which members of Shambhala’s governing Kalapa Council and some senior teachers allegedly witnessed or even participated in. It also identifies community leaders alleged to have taken part in a group sexual assault or individual rape, who were allegedly present during such assaults, or who allegedly procured women on behalf of Sakyong Mipham.

A prominent Buddhist teacher in the Nyingma tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism, Sakyong Mipham announced in an official statement on 6 July that he had decided to “step back from his teaching and administrative responsibilities within Shambhala to allow the independent investigation of these allegations.”**

Later in July, another prominent former Shambhala teacher, Lodro Rinzler, who resigned on 1 July, was also accused of sexual misconduct within the community.

In response to the accusations, Shambhala’s outgoing governing body—the Kalapa Council—issued a written denial to the Shambhala community in August, stating:

We want to be clear to you, our community, that based on the information provided, Shambhala, the Sakyong and the four Board members named in these allegations categorically deny the substance of the allegations, which are not only unfounded, but are each based on speculative and unsubstantiated claims. The publication of such salacious and defamatory information is grossly irresponsible.***

The Kalapa Council, which stepped down en masses in July,**  has engaged Halifax-based Wickwire Holm to investigate the assault claims and subsequent accusations of institutional coverup, which is expected to be released in early January****.

A Message from the Office of the Sakyong

** 6 July message from the Kalapa Council

*** 23 August message from the Kalapa Council

**** Community Letter from the Interim Board

“LCSO has received information regarding possible criminal activity involving the Shambhala Mountain Center,” spokesman David Moore said in a statement, referring to Shambhala’s retreat center in Larimer County. “Investigators are looking into the information to see where it leads.”

“Anyone with information regarding criminal activity in unincorporated Larimer County should contact LCSO at 970-416-1985,” Moore added.

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