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Feb 19
Community Articles, Opinion Pieces
Letter from Lady Diana Mukpo

Dear Members of the Shambhala Community,

I write to you today with a very heavy heart. This is an incredibly painful time for all of us. However, in many ways, I feel that the situation we find ourselves in as a community was inevitable. The deep dysfunction and unkindness at the heart of our organization has been like a festering boil that finally burst. The revelations that have come to light over the last year have been horrifying. It has been so shocking to hear how women have been harmed. The abuse of power and violation of trust that allowed this to occur is unimaginable. As an organization and as individuals, we need to do whatever we can to support not only the women who have been abused but, as we now know, the men who are victims as well.

I have been heartbroken for years as I have watched the expansive vision of the Vidyadhara becoming more and more reduced. He used to say that Shambhala was a vast umbrella that would encompass many different activities and levels of practice. Over the last two decades, our community has become fractured, and the teachings that promise the way toward manifesting an enlightened and compassionate society have become hollow words.

During my seventeen-year marriage to the Vidyadhara I saw him manifest and teach in many different ways. The priority for him was always to find the best way to connect with people. I am sure that if he were alive today, he would be using totally different forms to interact with his students than those he employed during the era in which he was teaching. During his lifetime, he created the Kalapa Court to be a vehicle for students to have access to him. The current interpretation of court is a perversion of the initial intention. The Vidyadhara’s court was designed to build a bridge for his students to interact with him. The current model has built a wall.

I feel that the model of the court and of monarchy has become an obstacle, within which, as we have recently heard, there were abuses and cruelty. I have avoided the court situation for many years, having felt increasingly uncomfortable in that environment. It has been very sad for me, but I felt that I had to distance myself. At the same time, not being aware of the harm that was being perpetrated, I felt that it would only have caused divisiveness to speak out publicly about what I perceived to be a misunderstanding of the teachings. I have watched so many of the beautiful parts of our culture disappear and be replaced by what I have perceived to be a culturally bound religiosity. Like many others, I also have felt marginalized and have been subject to unhealthy power dynamics. If I had thought that speaking out publicly would have helped, I would have done so. In many respects, I now regret that I did not do so earlier. Privately, over the years, I have tried to give the Sakyong advice, but his reaction has been to avoid communication with me. I wrote to him twice last summer imploring him to take responsibility for his actions. We spoke on the phone, and I made a similar plea. Ultimately it is up to him to do what he can to repair the harm he has created.

There has been much discussion about the Sakyong’s childhood. He had a very difficult time growing up. When he arrived in this country as a traumatized ten-year-old child, I, his stepmother, was nineteen. I did not have the parenting skills to help him sufficiently. I am sorry about this and wish it had been different. His father was always loving toward the Sakyong but did not give him as much attention as he needed. This too is sad, but we all have different degrees of trauma. It is the nature of life and doesn’t really excuse his abuse of power and all that went along with it.

There also has been plenty of discussion about the Vidyadhara over the past year. I feel that it is my duty to be completely honest about his life. He was the most brilliant, kind, and insightful person that I have ever met. He was also ultimately unfathomable. When one examines his life, it is easy to make judgements, since his behavior was so unconventional. He was a human being and was not perfect, but he was unrelentingly kind and helped many, many people. During this difficult time, many people have spoken up about how he saved their lives. This is how they have put it, and I can connect with that completely.

In general and understandably, people – especially those who did not know him and only are hearing second-hand stories – may pass negative judgements on him. I know that there is one person who has prominently spoken up about feeling traumatized by the Vidyadhara and those around him. As his wife, the last few years of his life were very difficult for me. There is no question in my mind that alcohol had a devastating effect on both his body and mind in his latter years. My sense of this is quite different from some of the students who were close to him at that time. I have heard from a number of close students that they had positive experiences during that era, and I honor that. I think this is a time for us to honor one another’s experience, rather than judging or dismissing it. Simply speaking for myself, however, this period was very difficult. Nevertheless, it does not negate the brilliance of his teachings both in his words and in
the sacred environments he created as learning situations.

The Vidyadhara taught that the Shambhala teachings should be practiced along with the Buddhadharma, and that the two must support one another. He wrote, for example: “We can plant the moon of bodhichitta in everyone’s heart and the sun of the Great Eastern Sun in their heads.” (Collected KA, page 194.) The Sakyong’s de-emphasis and outright omission of the Kagyu and Nyingma teachings in the last 15 years has been a great detriment for our community. As much as the Vidyadhara conducted Kalapa Assemblies where he opened the Shambhala terma, at the same time he also taught Vajradhatu seminaries where he transmitted the Buddhist teachings of the three yana’s in a traditional manner. Not long before his death, when he was very ill, he made it a priority to give the Chakrasamvara Abisheka to several hundred students. This was an important Buddhist ceremony empowering people to practice advanced vajrayana teachings. He felt that it was imperative that he give this transmission to senior practitioners. I truly believe that he saw the Shambhala and the Buddhist teachings as
equally important.

At the first Kalapa Assembly, in 1978, there was a lot of discussion about what problems might arise from propagating the Shambhala vision. In that era, people often openly questioned the Vidyadhara and each other about any number of things. The following question was posed to him:

“As someone who has been worried about fascism and the possibility of the degeneration of Shambhala into that, could you say something that might be a safeguard against that?”

His response was: “Gentleness, meekness. Most of the warriors are meek persons. That’s it. And also they are practitioners of Buddhadharma.” (Collected KA, page 148)

There are many other examples of how the Vidyadhara viewed the two aspects of his teaching as equally important and supportive of one another. I do not think it was his intention to combine these teachings into one “Shambhala Buddhism”, as the Sakyong did after the Vidyadhara’s death. This move has created deep and painful rifts, not only with Trungpa Rinpoche’s heart students but also with respected members and teachers within the Tibetan community. So I think we need to look to the buddhadharma, as well as to the Shambhala teachings, to help us find the path forward. This does not invalidate the path taught by the Sakyong, nor the diligence of his students in applying themselves to it or the genuine experience of devotion many have had. Rather, it is a call for us to incorporate a bigger version of our relationship to the dharma.

I am writing to all of you and sharing my innermost thoughts with you today because I do believe so strongly that this community is worth fighting for. The incomparable practice of meditation and all the valuable teachings we have received have helped numerous people. Clearly, everything has to be re-evaluated and a healthy organizational structure needs to grow out of this. Over the past year, I have worried that the unfolding of events would be the destruction of Shambhala, but now I am wondering if, in fact, these disclosures might be what actually saves our precious community. I truly pray that we can get back on track and become what we profess to be, becoming a safe and nurturing home for those who seek these teachings. I don’t have the answers, nor do I know how all this is going to happen. There is certainly going to be more difficulty as things unfold.

Please know that I am willing to help in any way I can. I will make myself available if anyone would like to reach out to me.

In closing, I would like to discuss the role that I have played as the copyright holder for all the Vidyadhara’s written and other intellectual properties. Since his death, almost thirty-three years ago, there have been close to thirty books published, and many more could appear in the years to come. It always has been and will continue to be my intention to make his work accessible and available to all those who wish to practice and learn from his teachings. I consider this legacy as a sacred trust and will continue to work to protect and safeguard his teachings so that they will be available to people for years to come. I will do whatever is necessary to honor this commitment to all of you.


Holding you all in my heart,

Diana J. Mukpo

Contact Lisa Fiore at: [email protected]


Este artículo ha sido traducido al español aqui.

Pour lire cet article en français, cliquez ici.

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24 responses to “ Letter from Lady Diana Mukpo ”
  1. Arthur David Ramsay
    Mar 10, 2019

    Ah Diana, did you have to join in this moral panic? You husband was the great Druk Sakyong, your son-in-law is the great Kongma Sakyong. They were/are not perfect but they were/are wonderful teachers who have caused so much goodness kindness and wakefulness in our world. Without them no Shambhala in the past, none in the present, and certainly none in the future. No criminality or malice as far as I can see, just gossip and jealousy and pent up anger. Put it in perspective folks, how does it compare to the usual aggression and real harm we see around us? Time to take pride in our heritage and let this hysteria and enmity go.

  2. Once when I was very young, I wrote a poem and gave it to my heart’s desire. It was a childish work but I believe that the message contained something inspiring that came through the work because in the gesture, my heart was pure and full of hope that my love would be returned.

    I discovered that the person for whom I had dedicated my poem was dishonest and behaved in a shameful way. He decided to take the poem and submit it as his own to his school’s literary magazine but because he had been impressed by it, he felt that perhaps I’d taken it from another writer. So to protect himself he changed it enough to avoid being accused of plagiarism.
    I was so heartbroken when I found out what had happened, as my first love had betrayed me so terribly. I was so hurt and shocked. I never ever imagined that anyone could be so heartless to use my love poem in such a cowardly and self serving way.
    As I reflected on that betrayal when time had passed, I gave myself a special gift. I recognized myself and who I had been in that exchange. My love was given as it is when one is young – with impetuous freedom and without regard for my self, with the fullness of the infatuation and passionate idealism.
    I wish with all my heart that those who have been harmed, betrayed and abused by unworthy loves will remember – sometime in the future – that shame belongs elsewhere and it should be placed there and kept there permanently. And then, go forward.

  3. Hypocrisy

    Can someone be an acharya, leader, shastri who is

    – not able to see what’s going on due to lack of intelligence

    – from the same corrupted nature


    It’s obvious since many years, that things going into wrong direction.
    With every cell and pore to feel.

    The real warriors are gone, left are the cowards. The whole system is completely contaminated by spiritual fascist. Without all the smallminded supporters it wouldn’t have been possible.
    And see, now they try to put on another facade quickly.


  4. Next please
    Mar 1, 2019

    seems like it’s important to note the full mind transmission of both the Shambhala teachings and the Kagyu lineage is separate and unaffected from all this and unaffected. The question has always been who will do it. Whether or not it manifests in the West or not is another question. But much like climate change, the Earth will be fine. Our own unfortunate demise is what’s at stake. Death is real. Spiritual leaders come and go. Practice the genuine Dharma . In the words of the great Chuck Berry “just stick to playing with your own ding a ling”

  5. Hoping for the best
    Feb 27, 2019

    I’m trying to think positively now. Are things really too far gone to be saved? Can Shambhala survive, and the Shambhala teachings be faithfully and accurately transmitted, outside the model of a kingdom with a monarch? Does there need to be a central spiritual leader at all, in fact? If some of the local centers start to go their own way, and separate from SI, will the teachings they present be distorted over time? And if a connection to the Kagyu and Nyingma teachings can be restored, as I think they ought to be, is anyone left in Shambhala who is qualified to teach these things?

  6. Next please
    Feb 26, 2019

    “Acharyas?” Lol .

    Padmasambhava was a qualified Acharya. O titled ones. How about those worldy concerns lol.

  7. Hoping for the best
    Feb 24, 2019

    As a former student of the Vidyadhara (not close, but admiring and devoted), I really wanted to like this letter—in fact, I did when I first read it. But after reading it again and more closely, I have to agree with many of the other commenters here that this is a case of too little, too late. Ditto for the letter by the 42 acharyas. Many of them have to have known, some of them directly, what the Sakyong was doing, and yet they chose to keep silent until now. What a mess all of this has become,

  8. Bodhi Gerfen
    Feb 24, 2019

    “The current model has built a wall.”

    “Contact Lisa Fiore at: [email protected]

  9. B. Delaney
    Feb 23, 2019

    You say you’ve been heartbroken for years but never too sad to participate in the obscenely expensive hobby of dressage. Buying trips to Holland, Belgium and Germany to acquire expensive horseflesh that you can put through painful unnatural distortions in order to compete with your fellow one percenters, like Ann Romney. You hit the matrimonial jackpot, didn’t you, “Lady” Mukpo?

  10. Linda Devlin
    Feb 23, 2019

    Wow; just your everyday screwed up family finally coming out; can’t keep it in the closet any longer; it’s too big; there is too much infection; too much water under the bridge!! Now what? A boil needs to be lanced to release the buildup .of pus; sickness mental, physical & spiritual needs to be healed. Part of this healing is going forward calling out harm and putting a stop to it. Say “stop right there, this isn’t right!!!!” We all have a part to play in this. It is not easy but is necessary to build a good and sane society. We are training as warriors not “automatons”. It is important to take care of ourselves and each other. That’s why I came to shambhala 9 yrs. ago. The meditation and teachings opened my mind & made me aware of the connection we all have to each other and ourselves and how Sacred it is…..Yes….Sacred…..It’s important to practice living from a Sacred place and when we make a mistake, correct it and keep practicing….”Like our hair is on fire” is a good reminder!! Love and kindness to all and remember .”What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters to what lies within us.”

  11. Dick Tracy
    Feb 22, 2019

    “Tragic results?” This is yet another sad episode of “Lifestyles of the Mahasiddhas (but without any of the realization)” for the Shambhala community. People with too much privilege and time spent on someone else’s dime, trying to emulate whatever tales they heard that great practitioners supposedly did. From what I understand no one has revealed any more “terma” lately for the benefit of the unfortunate beings of the kali yoga. So I have a hard time putting everyone in the same category here. Time will be a cruel mistress to such people.

    Children lost in the flower garden is all most of us are, let’s face it. Let’s take a step outside and look at the world and our place in it with some humility and self awareness. We aren’t benefiting anyone except ourselves . So we can probably dial back on the expectations and blamesmanship just a hair. What did we come here for, salvation?. Try the Catholics across the street they have rituals and some prayers you might like. But watch out for that one priest whose always alone after mass hanging around the kids.

    Last I checked Karma and conditioned existence is still in effect, let’s start acting accordingly.

  12. View from the cheap seats
    Feb 22, 2019

    How sad , the entire Shambhala and kagyu lineage being allowed to be reduced to a cult of personality . A little fast and loose with the Teaching credentials werent we o fortunate ones. Kye ma

  13. Nancy Jacobs
    Feb 22, 2019

    @Kurt Justin YES. Everything you said.
    Torturing a cat while giggling at one of his Sangyum’s pleas to desist, while the Kasung stopped her from interfering, sound more like the actions of a psychopath than a Vidhyadjara. Or even a decent human being. If CT was the kindest man she ever met, I am very sorry for her.
    Way too little and way too late.
    It’s the damage that has been done to so many that is truly unfathomable.

  14. Brian Pollard
    Feb 22, 2019

    Thank you so much for this letter, Diana. I left the Sangha mentally in the mid-90’s and totally by 2005 as I became a student of of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. I could never really articulate why this happened but your letter brilliantly presents some of what was going on in my mind. I loved your husband and his teachings…an absolutely brilliant experience beyond words.
    Thank you again. I wish the Shambhala community welll in its efforts to get back to the roots of what it should be about.

    Brian Pollard

  15. Well… interesting comments here. I remember VCTR saying that we can only be destroyed from within and that the dark ages would be defined by extremes. I took all my vows with VCTR and also with The Sakyong, which tells you how old I am. I am not a personal, as in close, friend of Lady Diana but have “known” her since 1974. And at the same time I love our Sakyong and his teachings. But I see no one being thrown under any bus and it is really crazy to compare how one thinks today with how they thought last month. I have disagreed, as Lady Diana said, with The Sakyong (and voiced it to him personally) that the Shambhala path should be distinct and complement all genuine spiritual paths — Kagyu or Nyingma or Jewish or whatever. We also had access to many beyond magical teachers which we seem to have pruned down to a few which I miss. And I also feel that the Kalapa Court is more insulated that it was 40 years ago. Even if my thoughts and feelings (which seem to change hour to hour) disagree or agree with other people, including Lady Diana, Acharyas, the Sakyong, or other spiritual teachers around the world — I can not thank any of them enough for what I have learned and received blessings.

    Maybe this is an opportunity or even a message to change again. To wake up and go deeper onto the teachings.

    Anyway — Hugs and Kisses (still allowed here) from Brasil !!!

  16. Lizzy Cline
    Feb 22, 2019

    I went to my very last Shambhala meditation group tonight. I have been the treasurer of this group for 14 years. It took quite some time before I really heard about CTR and his ‘escapades’. And now his son has merrily tripped down pretty much the same path with alcohol, but seems to have outdone the old man with his own set of ‘escapades’.

    Sure, hindsight is 20/20, and in trying to keep her own income streaming, seems that Diana may not be a Lady after all. She wishes she had spoken out sooner? Really? She really could not see this train wreck coming? Not very awake after all. I bought her book, tried to read it, and was pretty much disgusted with it. Nothing normal at all.

    I am disgusted / disturbed / angry / sad / and pretty much every other emotion on the list. The ‘setting sun’ mentality has those people who have been senior students still with their heads either in the sand or in the clouds – and with those two vantage points, you really can’t see much of what is and has been going on. If he really were a warrior, he would have stood up years ago and said enough – brought everything out into the open, manned up, and taken his punishment like a true warrior. But, it seems to damn easy to just hop a plane, go on ‘retreat’ and write sappy, half-hearted attempts at apologetic letters. Oh, but keep that money coming in, folks, gotta keep up appearances of the king.

    Most of all, I feel sorry for his own children. All girls. He had better hope karma does not raise it’s ugly head… as for me, I am so done…

  17. Ugo Benelli
    Feb 21, 2019

    “I felt that it would only have caused divisiveness” … ? That’s exactly what need to be done. Divide! Good People from abusive psychos.

  18. Some old goat
    Feb 21, 2019

    Someone should write a book on Avoiding Spiritual Materialism. Maybe call it “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialsm.

  19. It’s easy to distance yourself from disgraced leaders and their senior enablers after the fact, play the disempowered victim, claim the moral high ground, hide behind copyrights and your role in history, and present teachings out of context to support your actions with 20/20 hindsight. It takes a real warrior to speak truth to power in the moment. To take a stand. To risk losing your entire spiritual community, to risk fracturing a sangha in order to protect the integrity of the vision of the Great Eastern Sun. All of this could have been stopped years ago, but guess which path was taken by senior students: cowardice and sleep in a tradition of warriorship and waking up. How dare Shambhala offer resources and support to victims without purging its ranks of ALL the perpetrators, enablers and sycophants? If the latter is not done, there is nothing worth fighting for, nothing worth saving. An organic meal isn’t worth eating if it has poison in it.

  20. Kurt Justin
    Feb 20, 2019

    Ati, I completely agree that it is very good to see her perspectives published openly. Can you clarify your statement about “the role(s) played by those closest to her in enabling, allowing/supporting the sakyongs actions for this long”?

    Does this include the role played by her deceased husband? She expresses her “duty to be completely honest about his life.” She calls him “unfathomable” and his behavior “unconventional.” Many of us have heard such euphemisms for too long. She says he was a loving father to the Sakyong, who he named as the future holder of the lineage. Under the Sakyong, she says, there have been cruelty and abuses within Shambhala.

    Attributing the current crisis solely to the behavior of the Sakyong and his “enablers” while leaving his father out of this equation amounts to further denial and minimization. His father may have been a brilliant teacher and visionary. But his own behavior, abuses and addictions can’t be compartmentalized if we’re being honest with ourselves. The situation Shambhala finds itself in cannot be laid solely at the feet of the Sakyong. The tragic results of his father’s legacy are now being revealed to the world. CTR needs to be at the forefront of those skeletons that “need to come out and dance” if we are to honestly address the crisis within Shambhala. It did not begin, nor will it end, with the Sakyong.

  21. This is disappointing and an insult to survivors. I hope she gets help.

  22. Gracia Zanuttini
    Feb 20, 2019

    Wow. I’m not buying this. I feel that by throwing Mr. Mukpo under the bus and blaming so much of the problems on his decisions/views/monarchy, she is creating a scapegoat. For her to CLOSE the letter by mentioning the copyrights just makes her sound suspicious, she seem to want to continue receiving money for the book royalties. Compare her views to this letter she wrote a year ago: https://shambhalatimes.org/2018/02/12/letter-from-lady-diana/
    She didn’t appear to have a problem with the monarchy by signing the letter as LADY, but NOW she does? I’m sorry, nice try…

  23. Rick Gilbert
    Feb 20, 2019

    thank you for this–it’s very helpful right now. My practice stalled after the 99 seminary and then I moved a fair distance away from my local center and never really connected with the “new curriculum.” I’ve re-established a basic practice and am looking for some paths forward. It may be with another sangha but I still have tremendous devotion to CTR and the lineage that he introduced to us.

  24. Ati Rosselet
    Feb 20, 2019

    I am truly grateful to finally see/hear something published openly, rather than just on internal mailing lists. I applaud her openness and committment to the teachings and the sangha. From what I glean from the information now freely available, I would hope that Lady Diana now also opens her eyes and critically examines the role(s) played by those closest to her in enabling, allowing/supporting the sakyongs actions for this long. All the skeletons need to come out and dance.

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