https://boulderreiki.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Screen-Shot-2021-05-12-at-9.29.43-AM.png 982 1508 Dawn Boiani-Sandberg https://boulderreiki.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/LOGO_Reiki_Boulder.jpg Dawn Boiani-Sandberg2021-05-12 09:32:282021-05-12 10:14:11Was I really in a cult? Reflections from a Shambhala Member
I wrote this a few years ago, a journal entry, when I had a lot of time to think about my former Buddhist Community, now struggling to survive and redefine itself. I was a member for over 20 years and many close friends there still, still here. These words meant a lot to me and reflected my rawest heart essence, my hope for profound, fundamental, ethical change in our Tibetan Buddhist tradition and longing for healthy and sane spiritual community and friends.
“I’m alone here in Crestone, deeply reflecting on all of the trauma that has transpired in the past few years in our Dharma communities, particularly Shambhala. I remember being in Bhutan in 1992 after Khyentse Rinpoche’s cremation, we were with the Sakyong in his room at night at the Olathang hotel, about 20 of us, talking, all was so real and gentle and close. He had just started to teach, he was shy, soft, a tad frightened to take us on for sure, and I was at his very first seminary. I loved him and still do, too many years and too much has happened to shake it. I remember an empowerment that he gave at his home in Boulder, now for sale, where I felt nothing but kindness, and never saw anything harmful, ever.
So very many years for me, for us, retreats, a lot of practice, a life devoted to what we thought was an enlightened society, now revealed as only a mere cult with abuse and power at it’s core? Now it’s all deemed as predatory and grooming to later to controlled, threatened with some spiritual punishment if one leaves or speaks out, indeed, social control tactics unethically used for centuries in religion. I believe every word of the survivors, and have been speaking out tenaciously for over 10 years because I could feel that there was something off when they were starting to mandate loyalty, and many in the sangha left, the contraction was a slow drip, core erosion. I spoke out because I could foresee it’s end and I wanted to preserve it.
How could this be, what did we really all create together, and how could it have gone so very wrong, and all of this dark stuff secret behind the scenes to the majority of us? Was my life, involved with Shambhala all a sordid dream? I just can’t believe it will all fall after 47 years, 25 of which I was in that community. I still love and miss you all, you were the only family I ever knew, and there was so much warmth and blessing, that I know was real.
We were not all blind cultists, broken sycophants. Some of the most powerful and benevolent people I will ever know are or were part of Shambhala/ Naropa/ Tibetan Buddhism. These centers and retreats offer community, amazing meditation practice that has been tested to cultivate the mind and open the heart, and provide solace for people in hard times. I guess that why I have been a proponent of healing, transparency and restorative justice. People, since time immemorial, can get into unhealthy patterns, abuse, and indeed absolute power corrupts absolutely. This Tibetan “Lamaism” is dying quickly now due to profoundly incorrect organizational methods. Does that mean that there is nothing of value in our care for each other, these powerful practices, or any hope of healing? “