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Cutting Through Spiritual Puritanism

Illustration by Alicia Brown

This article was originally published on Nov. 27, 2018 on The Arrow: A Journal of Wakeful Society, Culture & Politics

Written by Gabe Dayley

In the West it is difficult for the Dharma to take root. The soil is not fertile. The good and evil, fire and brimstone logic of puritanism has dried the ground and permeated our cultural and political institutions.1

Western Buddhists often lament this situation, claiming to hold a superior, subtler view that sees the emptiness of phenomena and transcends the misguided dualisms of puritanism and its modern offspring.2 Yet when crisis strikes—when the proverbial Buddhist rug is torn from its restful place beneath our feet—more than a few Western Buddhists forget their cherished dharmic view.

Although some of the fire-and-brimstone eccentricities of puritanism have long since faded from mainstream discourse, the fundamental logic of good and evil—with no middle ground—remains a powerful cultural force in politics, media, and literature. Buddhist practitioners in the West, who have been steeped since birth in a society of rigid categories of good and evil and Aristotle’s law of the excluded middle,3 cannot escape their puritan conditioning, which rears its head in thoughts, feelings, and pronouncements in reaction to crisis.

We see this phenomenon as many Dharma communities in the West have been shaken in recent years by allegations of sexual misconduct and other abuses of power by teachers and lineage holders. Most recently among them have been allegations of sexual misconduct against the spiritual leader of the global Shambhala Buddhist community, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. Many responses from members of these communities are constructive—calling for introspection, examination of patriarchy, and transformative justice.4 Yet alongside these responses emerges a pattern—often among men—of expressing righteous indignation toward the accused, lumping all abusers into one convenient category of everything evil: rapists, child-abusers, tyrants, and Harvey Weinsteins.5 Doing so both ignores a spectrum of harm and allows men in particular to avoid critical self-examination by publicly distancing themselves from the harmful behavior.

We should condemn behavior that causes harm in the most uncertain terms. There is something questionable, however, when men use the abuses of another man as a foil, condemning the accused abuser in a self-righteous way that places the commentator above such reprehensible action, as if to imply that some men are responsible for patriarchy, while others are clean observers, on the right side of history lamenting the abuses of others.

All men participate in patriarchy. (So do women.6) The righteous indignation—laden with puritanical judgment of the other—creates an implicit illusion of a stark division between ‘good men’ (who righteously defend women, always) and ‘bad men’ (who perpetrate abuse, full stop). This indignation perpetuates “the lies that we men like to tell ourselves,” as philosophy professor George Yancy writes, “that we are beyond the messiness of sexism and male patriarchy, that we don’t oppress women.”7

A more dharmic response to the news of such abuses that would more skillfully challenge patriarchy would be for men—especially the righteously indignant ones—to contemplate and interrogate our own behavior toward women. In what ways, despite our best intentions, do we perpetuate patriarchy? George Yancy offers an eloquent, if painful, enumeration that is worth quoting at length:

“I have failed to speak out when I should have. I have failed to engage critically and extensively [women’s] pain and suffering in my writing. I have failed to transcend the rigidity of gender roles in my own life. I have failed to challenge those poisonous assumptions that women are “inferior” to men or to speak out loudly in the company of male philosophers who believe that feminist philosophy is just a nonphilosophical fad. I have been complicit with, and have allowed myself to be seduced by, a country that makes billions of dollars from sexually objectifying women, from pornography, commercials, video games, to Hollywood movies. I am not innocent.

I have been fed a poisonous diet of images that fragment women into mere body parts. I have also been complicit with a dominant male narrative that says that women enjoy being treated like sexual toys. In our collective male imagination, women are “things” to be used for our visual and physical titillation. And even as I know how poisonous and false these sexist assumptions are, I am often ambushed by my own hidden sexism. I continue to see women through the male gaze that belies my best intentions not to sexually objectify them.”8

And in if in our contemplation we find that we are generally respectful toward women most of the time, if we find that we hold feminist views and seek to challenge elements of patriarchy even as we perpetuate other elements, then let us ask further: What good fortune and circumstances contributed to our outlook and perspective? What women and men opened our minds, stretched our thinking, and nurtured our empathy and compassion?

I am fortunate to have been in a ten-year relationship with a strong, grounded, confident woman who has a deep sense of self-worth. We met in college, and I think I brought some of my own ‘game’ as a sensitive, respectful, self-identified feminist man (thanks to my parents and closest friends from childhood, as well as to a whole slew of karmic causes and conditions that I cannot understand). Through college and graduate school I certainly pursued opportunities to study feminist theory, patriarchy, and rape culture. But in the course of our relationship, the woman who is now my wife has been a partner and mirror as I have sought to deepen my own awareness, investigate my social conditioning as a man, and cultivate my feminist inclinations. Despite whatever personal tendencies toward awareness I nurtured of my own accord, I also had a lot of help. To be clear, it is not the responsibility of women to educate men on how to be decent. But when reaching some point along our journey, if other people helped us get there, we cannot claim sole credit for arriving. This is one way of pointing to Buddhism’s teaching on dependent origination: While our own intention, discipline, and exertion are crucial for cultivating virtue, we are never the sole cause of that virtue.

Indeed, I sometimes wonder, if I hadn’t been lucky enough to meet a long-term partner in my freshman year, how might have I treated women on certain occasions under the influence of desperation for love, romance, and sex in my college years and mid-20s? There but for fortune go I. And what of my flirting with girls in middle school and high school? To what extent could my attempts at connection—socialized by society—have made some of those young women feel uncomfortable?

This is not to equate the behavior of all men. Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault—and subsequent lying about it—is far more heinous than a mild flirtatious transgression. But if you are a man and you have condemned Kavanaugh or Buddhist teachers accused of sexual misconduct with no thought of your own participation in patriarchy or as a way of distancing yourself from such behavior, then consider looking more deeply. You are not as ‘clean’ or ‘pure’ as you think you are, and whatever ‘purity’ you have is as much the result of the blessings of others as your own self-reflection and education.

A similar phenomenon is observable among white people’s condemnation of racism. Too often it comes as a condemnation of the overt racists at the expense of ignoring—or as a means to avoid—one’s own participation in a racist society. It is so easy for white liberals to bash white supremacists while staying ignorant of the ways in which we support oppressive systems or of the subtle racist thoughts we wish we didn’t have. The flip side of this righteous condemnation is the self-promotion of our own anti-racist virtues. I most recently witnessed this in a group dialogue among white people on our experience of whiteness. Most participants offered heartfelt self-reflections on our own confusion, shame, and sadness when contemplating the ways in which we have impacted people of color through our social conditioning as white people. One person, however, made a point of emphasizing how they have been at the frontlines of supporting people of color for decades. This person never shared their experience of being white; they only proclaimed their status as an ally, as a ‘good’ white person. It fell flat.

This is known as virtue signaling,9 and generally serves one’s own ego—establishing oneself as a ‘good’ white person or a ‘good’ man—while avoiding honest introspection and reckoning. Virtue signaling shores up one’s own status in a group while doing little to nothing to challenge systems of oppression.

Claiming one’s own history as a ‘good’ man or white person not only fails to promote introspection, it also claims whatever virtues one has as one’s own. If you’re male or white and you think you are woke, how did you get that way? What friends were kind enough to name your sexism or racism for you? What friends held your basic decency while giving you feedback on an ignorant remark or calling out a behavior that crossed a line? I can’t be sure how my friends and colleagues who are women or people of color see me. But to whatever extent I have increased my awareness as a white male in recent years, I have many friends to thank who have had the patience with my ignorance and the kindness to reveal my own shortcomings and blind spots.

When we see the wisdom and confusion of ourselves and others, we open the door to genuine feedback and learning. Puritan virtue signaling—which seeks to create neat categories of good and evil—closes this door. If a man sees himself as firmly established in the ‘good’ camp, then why would he choose to seek out feedback from women about his behavior? In the absence of feedback to challenge his self-righteous image, he perpetuates patriarchy. Thus if we can view our fellow humans and ourselves as multilayered and complex, we empower one another to challenge oppression.10

In 1973, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche published Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, in response to the materialistic approach to spirituality that he saw in students. We could also be more vigilant for what we might call “spiritual puritanism”—posturing ourselves as righteous in contrast to others and viewing people in a strict dichotomy of good and evil. Particularly for men and white people who posture themselves in dualistic opposition to “bad” men who are responsible for patriarchy and “bad” white people who are responsible for racism, little else is served but ego, while patriarchy and racism continue apace. As men, as white people, let us condemn harmful behavior, and let us also reflect on the ways in which we contribute to harmful systems. We can let go of virtue signaling and cut through spiritual puritanism.


Gabriel Dayley serves as Chief Editor of The Arrow: A Journal of Wakeful Society, Culture & Politics, which investigates applications of contemplative wisdom traditions to confronting pressing environmental, social, and political challenges. Gabe formerly served as Executive Director of the Shambhala Meditation Center of Washington, DC, and as Program Associate for Global Field Initiatives at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, managing the Activist Education Grants program. Gabe received an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University and a B.A. in International Relations from Pomona College. His graduate research examined how to address ecological harm using methods from conflict analysis, peacebuilding, and mindfulness research. Gabe’s main areas of interest include environmental justice, anti-oppression work, the intersection of civil resistance and peacebuilding, and the role that mindfulness practices can play in social transformation. He has designed and led workshops to examine whiteness and racism, to investigate toxic masculinity, and for employing mindfulness methods in confronting our personal ecological footprint.

Illustration by Alicia Brown


1. Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

2. Ibid.

3. Rajiv Malhotra, Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism(New Delhi: HarperCollins, 2011).

4. For a discussion of the value of restorative and transformative justice in the broader #MeToo movement, see: Wendy C. Ortiz, Punishment Is Not Justice: Defying Definitions after Sexual Violence, Bitch Media, April 23, 2018, https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/feature/punishment-is-not-justice.

5. Several examples illustrate this type of reaction to abuse allegations by senior teachers in the Shambhala community. A number of blogs and social media posts advocated for Sakyong Mipham’s resignation from his role before allegations were investigated, in contrast to the calls for restorative and transformative justice that many community members advocated. As an example of lumping all wrongdoers into a single category irrespective of a spectrum of harm, one comment in a post thread on the Shambhala Facebook group compared Sakyong Mipham to Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin. As an example of distancing to avoid critical self-reflection, at least one well-known teacher in the Shambhala community stepped down in protest of Sakyong Mipham’s alleged behavior, only later to be accused of sexual misconduct as well (https://thinkprogress.org/buddhist-teacher-quit-shambhala-in-protest-before-his-own-sexual-misconduct-allegation-went-public-c7b85ceb36e2/https://www.lionsroar.com/buddhist-teacher-lodro-rinzler-accused-of-sexual-misconduct/). It should be noted that many posts on the two main Facebook groups for the Shambhala community (‘Shambhala’ and ‘Shambhala Office of Social Engagement’) offered heartfelt, vulnerable, and self-aware reflections by women and men.

6. See, for example: Miki Kashtan, “Why Patriarchy Is Not About Men,” Psychology Today, August 4, 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/acquired-spontaneity/201708/why-patriarchy-is-not-about-men; Cynthia Enloe, “The Persistence of Patriarchy,” New Internationalist, October 1, 2017, https://newint.org/columns/essays/2017/10/01/patriarchy-persistence.

7. George Yancy, “Dear White America,” The New York Times, December 24, 2015, https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/12/24/dear-white-america/.

8. Ibid.

9. James Bartholomew, “The awful rise of ‘virtue signaling,’” The Spectator, April 18, 2015, https://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/04/hating-the-daily-mail-is-a-substitute-for-doing-good/.

10. Lest the reader think the author is claiming to have mastered this, rest assured, he has not.



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17 responses to “ Cutting Through Spiritual Puritanism ”
  1. Philip_Friedman
    Oct 10, 2019

    Put simply the bottom line is: The Sakyong ran away. A cowardly act that left everyone in a lurch.

  2. Edmund Butler
    Sep 29, 2019

    In addition to what I said below I’d like to point to the elephant in the room: No Sakyong No Shambhala.

    It is this truth which drives such self-interested apologism as Gabe is here showing. That is the spiritual materialism to which I refer earlier.

    It is this truth which inspired Josh Silberstein acting as the Sakyong’s Chief of Staff to threaten Andrea Winn with a lawsuit claiming defamation should she publish her Report on the Sakyong’s sexual abuse: self-interested apologism. She published. The Kalapa Council resigned. The Sakyong ran away.

    It is this truth which has rendered the Care and Conduct Panel such an Orwellian protector of the crimes of Shambhala’s in crowd. That protection now continues with Shambhala’s newly appointed Board of Directors formerly known as the Interim Board, especially with respect to their whitewashing their review of this Panel. I have been continuously writing to the Board since January this year requesting a review of the way the Panel handled my 2015 Complaint so disastrously, yet have received NOT ONE response. In the meantime they have collected 3,000 responses to their Survey on how to reconstitute the Panel, receiving discussion on Complaints filed after 2014.

    For somebody who has made his image on the axiom, Be Famous for your Love it’s beginning to look like he’s made a fool of both himself and his organisation accordingly. Yet right across this myopia infused organisation Centers proudly display his image alongside fawning falsely words declaring his lineage to the Buddha and his kindness, compassion and all that good stuff.

    The situation is like when Tom Rich died. The organisation is desperate for a leader and will do anything, including paying $200,000 to Penor for a fake title to credentialise the only possible candidate. Except this time there is no candidate because the current leader, the Earth Protector, has failed to acknowledge egregious and voluminous harms which both he and his organisation have stood behind for decades.

    It’s hardly surprising because they would go to prison if they did. So the default alternative is to promote the position which Gabe so eloquently describes: dharmasplain the crime, conflate the absolute with the relative, and ignore the embarrassing, vulnerable and confused victims. As Judith Simmer Brown so myopically stated in March this year, “I like to think that current events are the way the protectors and dralas are cleaning out our lineage’s closets and basements so that the terma can deliver on its promise.”

    Sexual assaults, murders, physical assaults, financial malfeasance, vehicular sabotage, Police investigations, the leader and his cronies shamed like the two leaders before them, total avoidance of restitution for the survivors – all this is the charitable work of Shambhala’s “protectors”? Most can see it is the work of Shambhala’s self-protectors, and to those ranks Judges in Courtrooms deliberating that self-interest will soon turn to find their places as so many Police officers already have.

  3. This article resembles an academic work with citations from sources that have nothing to do with Shambhala or enlightenment, barely mentioning Trungpa Rimpoche at the last paragraph. Challenging systems of oppression, advocating for social transformation, social change and social justice, combating racism and sexism are the undertaking of Social studies. Shambhala students seek to overcome confusion and duality in the path to clarity and enlightenment. Is Shambhala to become a platform for social experiments and social change? I hope not. I hope students and leaders of Shambhala will find an answer by actually connecting with the Teachings transmitted by Shambhala.

  4. Gabe – I would be able to hear what you are saying a lot quicker if you replaced some of the ‘buts’ with ‘and’ or made a nod to power dynamics. Apologies for my blunt comments.

    If I replace your word ‘puritanism’ with ‘patriarchy’ and I can make a similar argument to that ‘patriarchy’ assigns people to positions of influence and authority without much regard the nuance of actually fulfilling those roles or the impact and harm that they are actually causing.

    Positions of power and authority come with a responsibility of care. They are both a role that is enacted and an expectation from the community. Yes – there are supporting conditions to being able to teach skillfully and avoid causing harm. Yes – we are all interdependent and external circumstances do matter for how we manifest. Yes – we do have a responsibility as an organization to set standards of conduct for teachers to avoid foreseeable harms. No – that is not being puritanical.

    Most of the teachers that I’ve met in buddhist communities hold their role in the community with a lot of humility acknowledge the razors edge that exists in living up to the role. They have tremendous appreciation for the support that they have received and receive. They do not take their role for granted.

    I agree that as a community we should all look at how we are supporting patriarchy by who we considered qualified to hold positions of power. How do we respond when they act in harmful ways, are cowardly, and disconnect from the impact they are having? How do we give feedback and is that feedback respected or dismissed?

    It is not ‘giving up’ on someone to say they, at the moment, are not fit for their current office. Particularly so when that conduct violates the law. Or when, as an organization, there is a standing care and conduct policy, that has been used without hesitation in other similar cases, that defines when to remove someone from their position. No academic citations needed.

  5. Kermit Ashemead
    Sep 27, 2019

    Now we know what we have been doing wrong this last year. It’s not that we have been sitting on our hands doing nothing to revitalize the spiritual and psychological health of the community. That is a tolerable form of discourse for those who would remain in the jewel-encrusted lotus seats of power and denial. What we are doing wrong, argues this piece (a master’s level smokescreen of virtue-signaling, woke-washing, spiritual bypassing, projection, whataboutism and obscurantist jargon) is that, whatever our blind spots may be, because we are at least clear eyed enough to see a misbehaved elephant in the room when there is one, we are openly demanding a change at the very top. What ignorant dharma folks are doing wrong, apparently, is that they are asking for real safety, accountability, honesty and spiritual renewal, and before having spent sufficient time naval gazing, attending workshops and apologizing to everyone first, and even worse, without permission from any of the Sakyong’s credentialed gatekeepers. What’s wrong here it seems is that masses of folks are so deluded by conditioned mind and white male privilege that they are just going around pointedly pointing out the focal source of deep hurt and rot in the system, asking for redress, and otherwise generally getting out of hand with the captain obvious stuff, and in the meantime, trammeling on the latest most archly woke forms of discourse, committing unforgivable philosophical error upon error, and worst, stirring up a big psychospiritual heart-mess for one Gabe Dayley to sort out. Gabe we are sorry to have to ask something of our betters, but we are calling for the abusers, liars, absconders and – just as importantly – their cadre of sycophants and apologists (those who are looking to shore up their spiritual egos and organizational status without facing an honest reckoning of the karmic ripening of the whole situation), to act like the true spiritual warriors they strive to be: to own up to their behaviors and those of others they have enmeshed with, face the hurts all have caused, publicly reveal their shame, and humbly step aside taking refuge so that others with a fresher vision may lead.

  6. Byron Wild
    Sep 27, 2019

    I appreciate the message that it isn’t enough to simply call out others, we need to couple that with personal reflection and change. I don’t think that the author is saying we must be completely pure before we are allowed to call out abuse, nor is he saying everyone who calls out abuse is virtue signaling.

    Perhaps western Buddhist communities are reverting to a good versus evil Puritan logic in the wake of all the scandals, but if so then that is a reaction to the somewhat vague ethical territory we carved out in the early attempts to live according to the Buddhist teachings. I’m talking about dharmasplaining. The dharma has been used to justify many questionable, unethical, and outright abusive situations in the west.

    What has been missing is almost a lack of a clear-cut good versus bad or right versus wrong logic. What needs to be emphasized within our communities is not more contemplation and self reflection because those actions unrestrained will sometimes lead us into elaborate self justifications. Identifying abuse is essential right now, and if there’s anything we need to reflect on it is why our communities did not take it more seriously before. And personally, why we may not of been stronger advocates.

  7. I so appreciate this thoughtful and responsible commentary on our Shambhala situation. I’d like to see more of this kind of thinking, especially among leaders in our global sangha. It is the lack of recognition and efforts to change the culture of complicity within Shambhala, on the part of leaders, Acharyas, etc, that has bothered me the most. We don’t have to give up on the Sakyong, but let’s listen to those harmed and make restitution. Part of that is participating in this kind of dialogue. Thanks, Gabe (and Mark)!

  8. Do you really regard your own flirting, in your teenage years, as an aggression against women? Do you, like Andrea Dworkin, view male sexuality in any form as an act of violence? Are you anti-sex? Or perhaps it’s OK only when instigated by a woman? How did you meet your girlfriend, then? Did she drag you home by your hair?

    On the one hand you’re proposing a reasonable response: Don’t make stark good/evil distinctions. Yet at the same time you’re voicing PC dogma, suggesting that all men should be wearing hairshirts and repenting some imagined wrongdoing. Aren’t you doing the same oversimplifying that you criticize? Are women somehow free of sexism? And isn’t it also sexism to put women on a pedestal? Have you noticed that the qualities you’re idealizing in women are traditional cliche male qualities such as powerful, strong, aggressive and proud? The same qualities you attack in men. I honestly don’t see how you’re saying something different from the extremists you’re criticizing. (Interestingly, several of those extremists are attacking you here for saying the same things they’re saying. The only difference is that you haven’t reviled the Sakyong in your version of politically correct fire and brimstone.)

    How about getting back to Buddhist roots? If you’re going to talk about Dharma then talk about Dharma, not politically correct jargon. Mindfulness, meditation practice, lojong slogans, and so on. How about just practicing decency and kindness without dividing people into categories of deservedness? How about dealing with the Sakyong issue in a Buddhist context and not a MeToo context. MeToo has made some useful points and also imposed dreadful excesses. Either way, it’s not Dharma.

  9. Please understand that standing up to everyday ongoing oppression and recurring abuse is not puritanical. We are living in the relative world, and we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to a culture of oppression and abuse and misogyny and white supremacy in the name of dharma or basic goodness. We cannot shame the very few men who are actually standing up for women either, as you’re doing here. There is a deep misunderstanding exhibited by your article and a couple of the comments here. And it’s disturbing to see “Master of the Court Thorpe” agreeing with you! Someone who could have protected women in his position SO MUCH MORE is falling into the trap of dharmasplaining away some serious harm and skewing the lens away from the harm caused onto criticizing those standing up against it. I was contacted by a police officer this summer who’s been investigating all of the instances pedophelia that have occurred at SMC and he said it’s A LOT OF CASES. He can’t convict in most of the cases because of old laws around statute of limitations, just to put this in perspective. The problem has not just been the perpetration of harm, but the culture around it that has allowed the harm, and is continuing to allow harm, as demonstrated by your article and a couple of responses here. Please, it’s not that hard to take a look inward and take ownership for how your misconceptions have allowed this. How your understanding of dharma has caused you to turn a blind eye and criticize those trying to do something about it. No one is saying you’re BAD. They’re just asking for accountability, rather than allowing a culture where harming women, children, and POC is the norm, along with turning a blind eye to it because DHARMA. We can begin talking about forgiveness and oneness and non-duality once this everyday ongoing oppression, harm, and ignorance have been addressed in the relative world, and once those who’ve caused harm have taken some ownership and offered real apologies and begun taking steps to acknowledge and rectify their wrongs and change their behaviors.

  10. Edmund Butler
    Sep 26, 2019

    This is little more than self-righteously credentialled wokewashing – spiritual materialism at its worst. It’s a blatant effort to deflect criticism of the decades of institutional protection offered to abusers adept at dharmasplaining their crimes among Shambhala’s ranks.

    Nobody is infallible, of course yet the presumption here is that anybody who judges abuse holds themselves faultless beyond ego. This premise is similar to saying I can’t judge Hitler because I once hit my buddy in the schoolyard. It’s a fallacious and peurile argument.

    People such as Sogyal, Trungpa, Rich and Mukpo Jr. charged with the spiritual and physical care of groups of people commit crime at their peril, and render the Dharma unattractive to sincere seekers. It is transgressions such as they have performed which are now garnering the attention of the Charity Commission of England and Wales with respect to the tragedy at Rigpa. Two trustees have recently been removed from Rigpa’s Board for failing to care for people in their charge, one for 8 years and one permanently and from any Charity.

    Shambhala’s time is coming also, be in no doubt. When it does you will have to answer to your apologism. No wonder Shambhala is in such a mess with people like you running its Centers.

  11. In an attempt to distracts us from SMR’s evil-doings, “Woke AF” bro decries virtue signaling,but writes a flimsy treatise that turns out to be exactly that – a smokescreen of virtue signaling. So we have now had it Dharmsplained to us that things in life are more nuanced than good and evil. Wow. Big score. Some of us didn’t even need to get a masters in wokefull studies to realize this. But what about SMR? Is he still your main squeeze or not?

  12. I’ve heard this accusation of Puritanism before. It reminds me of Republicans accusing Democrats of McCarthyism. Anyway, I suppose this western Puritanism is pitted against the non-dualistic approach of Buddhism. But here’s the fallacy: Ethics and morals do apply on this earthly level in this society. Some things, some actions are just not morally right. I can’t excuse wrong action with the shrug of “no good no bad.”

  13. Ellen McKay
    Sep 25, 2019

    I do not need to be pure–purity is not required for my observations to be legitimate–to say that Mipham’s behavior is not acceptable, that he should be asked openly and directly to take responsibility, to make amends, and to do the work of examining himself and understanding his mistakes. Purity itself is a deeply problematic concept here.

    The longer he goes on hiding and not acknowledging forthrightly and meaningfully what he has done, what has happened and is happening, the more my staying silent makes me complicit in his patriarchy, misogyny, and participation in rape culture. Saying that he should be held to account does not make me a puritan. Saying he should be held to account does not mean that I’m trying to lump everyone into one category or make things black and white. Asking for justice is not the same as asking for punishment.

    It’s insulting to suggest these things, which is what this wokewashing misdirection seems to be implying. You don’t even acknowledge why you’re publishing this article. Can you not even say it? It is Mipham’s behavior and the behavior of those like him that has pulled the rug out from under us, which for many of us has helped the confusion to lift, allowed us to to see our dharmic view more clearly, and leave Shambhala, especially since “Shambhala” appears to being doing little meaningful to work directly with the conditions from which this multigenerational harm arose.

  14. This article was being discussed on reddit and this comment seemed to really hit the nail on the head:

    Here’s why your article is harmful: you’re doing the very thing you think you’re condemning. I know the community’s gonna give you some “attaboys” for this piece because it sounds smart, it has the trappings of academic rhetoric, you use footnotes, and you appear to have at last a superficial understanding of historical context. Wow. You know to cite Weber. Bravo. Shambhala(TM) is easily fooled by these flourishes. But just remember too that part of that approval stems from the fact that you are not undermining Shambhala here. You are, in fact, making a case for it. You’re giving words to people who want to condemn attempts, however blunt, to point out abuse and make the perpetrators pay for their actions.

  15. Maybe if you’re going to fling around words like “puritanism” as an insult in the same way that a child screams abuse when they’re throwing a tantrum, and if you have any aspirations to providing an intellectual argument, you could define it!

    This article comes across like a tweet from Donald Trump–puerile, confused, unintelligent and pretentious…and missing the point completely.

    If someone capable of writing such bilge is running a Shambhala centre in a major city, no wonder Shambhala is haemorraghing members!

    But then of course, if the Sakyong assaults someone, the result should be that instead of holding him to account, then we should all reflect on the completely hypothetical possibility that we made someone feel uncomfortable when we were 15 by flirting with them. Jesus–grow up man!! Take some responsibilty for what’s happened in your community.

  16. Mark Thorpe
    Sep 24, 2019

    Thank you for this illuminating article. Ventilating the solidity of “good vs evil” makes understanding difficult notions/concepts/truths such as “basic goodness,” actually possible.

  17. Susie Cook
    Sep 23, 2019

    Thank you for sharing so much truthful insight. Cheerful Harvest of Peace!

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