‘It appears he had a very revolving door’: Allegations against Halifax-based Buddhist leader rising
The woman whose whistleblowing research has touched off a sex scandal in a Halifax-based Buddhist organization suggests the allegations have just begun.
“More women have come forward just this week,” says Andrea Winn, a former Shambhala member.
Winn says when she decided to look into allegations of sexual abuse in the Shambhala community, she hoped its spiritual leader Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche wasn’t part of it.
Instead, three anonymous women came forward. One claimed, “He kissed me and groped me while aggressively encouraging me to come to bed with him.” Another alleged she was sexually assaulted by the Sakyong in the kitchen. A third woman described an assistant leading her into the Sakyong’s bedroom, where he and another woman were “on his bed having sex.”
Winn claims those who protested were shunned and forced to leave the Shambhala community.
“It appears he had a very revolving door, of lots of women being phoned up, asked to come, him having sex with them, and, it going on for however long that he wanted, and then, he would callously dismiss them.”
The Sakyong is a married father of three.
His father relocated Shambhala Buddhism from the U.S. to Nova Scotia in the 1980s.
In a statement, the Sakyong admitted: “I have engaged in relationships with women in the Shambhala community.”
Adding: “I have recently learned that some of these women have shared experiences of feeling harmed as a result of these relationships. I am now making a public apology.”
The statement does not confess to any sexual misconduct.
However, there’s another allegation from a woman who claims the Sakyong sexually assaulted her at a party in Chile in 2002.
A claim which is bolstered by retired employment lawyer, Carol Merchasin, who followed up on Winn’s research by interviewing the complainants and other witnesses.
“He took her by the hand, and he pulled her into a bathroom, he locked the door and then he sexually assaulted her. And he wanted her to have sex with him, and she refused, and he continued,” she said.
As the scandal unfolds, the Sakyong has stepped aside, as has Shambhala International’s nine-member governing council.
Winn applauds those measures.
“These are very, very positive responses, in a very short time to our releasing that report, which I think speaks to the wisdom and the integrity of the Shambhala community.”
A growing list of lawyers has become involved, including a law firm appointed by Shambhala leaders as a third-party investigator.
The Sakyong’s lawyer has not replied to Global News’ request for comment.
Complainants can take their allegations to police.
Winn says the #metoo movement encouraged complainants to share their stories. She hopes it will lead to positive change in the Shambhala Buddhist community.
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