Matthew Remski and I talk about Shambhala, guru-culture, and my blind spots.July 12, 2018 | 58 Comments
As some of you may know, there is a great deal of trauma being exposed in the world of Shambhala where I have studied and practiced Buddhism for more than 20 years. It centers on the clergy sexual abuse perpetrated by Sakyong Mipham, the lineage-holder. The stories of abuse are captured here in a report from Andrea Winn’s Project Sunshine, if you would like to learn more. (Trigger warning for those who may have experienced sexual abuse; you may not want to read this.)
Like everyone else, I was upset and confused. I didn’t know what to say to my meditation students. After a few days, I wrote a blog post that I hoped had helpful suggestions for working with the shock, not, in my mind, to bypass anger and grief, but to find a way forward with care for all.
Matthew Remski read my post, found it problematic, and wrote a blog post about why, point by point.
For background: Matthew is a meditation and yoga practitioner who is also a wonderful writer–which I say grudgingly because I did not want to like him. This piece in particular uplifted and tore at my heart in equal measure. The writing is extraordinary but the heart it reveals is even more so.
In addition to such personal reflections, he writes about the culture surrounding Eastern spiritual forms that have taken root in the West. He has written a lot about cults and scandals in the spiritual world.
In his post about my post (here), Matthew dissected my suggestions and pointed out what he saw as their flaws. Before he posted it, he sent it to me for comment, which I appreciated. I started to read it and while it really hurt my feelings and I felt terribly misunderstood, I did key in on one point that was very important to me: that my language may in fact cause harm to those who are trying to come to grips with this new reality. I do not want to be the cause of such harm.
At first, I was just going to DELETE and hope it would go away. That felt wrong. My next plan was to get really mad and try to find a way to discredit him. That seemed dumb. Then I talked to my friend Josh who has great insight into both the Buddhist world and the world of spiritual harm. He said, basically, he has some good points. He suggested I call Matthew and invite him to a dialog that I would record so we could share it with others, which I did. Matthew was very open and generous and said yes. PS Thanks, Josh. You’re great.
I’m not going to lie to you. I was scared. Was he going to ambush me? Make a harsh meme out of my facial expressions? Be a dick? Well, check the video to see. SPOILER ALERT: IT WAS A GREAT CONVERSATION. Thank you, Matthew, for being willing to share your views so clearly and listen to my responses openly.