By Andy Newman
In a shrine on the sixth floor of a Manhattan office building, a photo of a man in golden robes hangs above an altar. Another photo of him sits upon a throne.
He is the head of one of the largest Buddhist organizations in the West, Shambhala International, a network of more than 200 outposts in over 30 countries where thousands come for training in meditation and mindfulness and some delve into deeper mysteries.
The man is Mipham Rinpoche. He is known as the Sakyong, a Tibetan word that translates roughly as king, and his students take vows to follow him that are binding across lifetimes. These days, they are feeling sad, confused, angry and betrayed.
Late last month, a former Shambhala teacher released a report alleging that the Sakyong had sexually abused and exploited some of his most devoted female followers for years. Women quoted in the report wrote of drunken groping and forcefully extracted sexual favors. The report said that senior leaders at Shambhala — an organization whose motto is “Making Enlightened Society Possible” — knew of the Sakyong’s misconduct and covered it up.
The Sakyong apologized a few days before the report was formally released, admitting to “relationships” with women in the community, some of whom “shared experiences of feeling harmed as a result.” Followers and Shambhala groups around the world demanded more action.
On Friday, it came: The governing council of Shambhala International, which is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, resigned en masse, “in the interest of beginning a healing process for our community.”