CBC Tapestry: Basic Goodness – Episode 1: ‘You’ve pledged your body and soul’: sexual abuse allegations in the Shambhala Buddhist community”
A March 21, 2021 CBC article is entitled: “Basic Goodness – Episode 1: ‘You’ve pledged your body and soul’: sexual abuse allegations in the Shambhala Buddhist community.”
An excerpt reads;
At the heart of Shambhala Buddhism, there lies a beautiful idea: every human being has a fundamental nature of basic goodness.
This teaching has been severely tested by reports of sexual abuse at the highest levels of Shambhala world headquarters in Halifax, N.S. and beyond.
Episode One examines the very particular kind of damage caused by abuse within a spiritual community. What happens when your meditation practice requires you to visualize the face of your abuser as a divine being? What is it about the way spiritual groups are organized and their practices that can help lay the groundwork for abuse?
I’ve so far heard a segment of the final part of the first episode while driving my car. An interviewee noted that when you’re ‘mucking around’ with ultimate concerns such as ‘What is the meaning of life,’ it’s good to be wary of those who seek to answer questions of this nature for you.
There’s also a reference, in the CBC Tapestry segment that I heard, to the marketing of spirituality and the phenomenon of ‘unjust power dynamics.’ That’s a good point: power dynamics in relation to spirituality as in regard to other matters of interest can be just, or not.
I note that in literature about Shambhala going back many years, the potential for disastrous relationships emerging, from active participation in the associated worldviews and practices, has been evident from the start.
Students of power dynamics such as James C. Scott (anthropologist and political scientist) among others note that in many realms of life, working together collaboratively pretty much outside of hierarchical relationships makes good sense, if that can be arranged. In some cases, such arrangements are indeed possible. In my anecdotal experience spread out over three decades, community self-organizing has the capacity to entail the kind of power dynamics I refer to.
Standard hierarchical relationships include ones that are in place as a matter of course in many educational settings, workplaces, and political and religious institutions.
I’ve previously written about spiritual pursuits, and associated worldviews and ideological orientations, at a page devoted to mindfulness meditation.
A March 26, 2021 CBC article is entitled: “Spiritual awakening: Shambhala, a branch of Tibetan Buddhism headquartered in Canada, has long taught the virtue of ‘basic goodness.’ But a Tapestry special reveals the organization’s history is full of allegations of sexual misconduct.”
An excerpt reads;
Based in Halifax since 1986, Shambhala is an international organization with roots in Tibetan Buddhism. One of its core tenets is that every human being has a fundamental nature of basic goodness.
Yet Shambhala has been mired in allegations of abuse and sexual misconduct since 2018, when an initiative known as the Buddhist Project Sunshine raised questions about how a religion associated with kindness and non-violence could allow abusive leaders to go unchecked.