The Dartmouth Shambhala Meditation Group is giving up its rented space at the MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning and will no longer regularly bring in teachers to address a dwindling group of participants, says Margaret Angus, the group’s coordinator.
Angus has been with the group since it was established in 2006. She remembers a more robust attendance in those days, with meetings of up to 30 people on a regular basis.
“We’ve been seeing a trend for the past two to three years of low attendance with a small core group (half a dozen, give or take) coming regularly and others dropping in occasionally,” she says in an email interview.
Angus says, as far as she knows, people aren’t falling away because of allegations published this year in several Buddhist Project Sunshine reports.
Several former and current members of the Shambhala Buddhist community have made allegations ranging from the community shunning those who complain about sexualized violence to more serious allegations of sexual assault. Some of the latter allegations have been levelled against Osel Mukpo, also known as Mipham J. Mukpo, and known within the Shambhala community as Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.
“Our core group members have remained consistent,” Angus says. “We have not heard from anyone that they are choosing not to come because of the recent allegations of sexual and clergy misconduct, although that is always a possibility.”
Whatever the reason, the Dartmouth group is one of many Shambhala Centres seeing a decline in membership.
In July of this year, Michelle Munro of the Halifax Shambhala Centre told The Coast that the Halifax centre had lost “a small percentage” of members.
“Any loss of members is challenging as community and impactful to our financial stability,” said Munro.
The New York City Shambhala centre, faced with rising rent, diminishing revenues and attendance, will close its doors this month, though it is in search of a new space.
Still, Angus says, the Dartmouth group remains open to newcomers.
“We want folks to know that we will continue to be a welcoming, supportive community dedicated to exploring and deepening meditation practice. All are welcome, including those without meditation experience.”
Starting in January, the Dartmouth Shambhala group will hold its gatherings at the Alderney Gate Library. The move from the MacPhee centre means no more access to storage facilities, so at its final meeting of 2018, on December 10, the group will try to sell off its meditation benches and cushions.
The group will no longer bring in teachers on a regular basis, but will instead “largely rely on the members of our group to bring forward discussion topics related to practice,” says Angus, who believes the change will result in “a more sustainable model both financially and in terms of the energy of our organizers.”
Meanwhile, the results of a third-party investigation carried about by Halifax law firm Wickwire Holm into sexual and clergy misconduct allegations are expected to be delivered to the new interim board of Shambhala International in January.
A recent communiqué from the board to Shambhala members notes “The board will review the information from the investigator and then provide a report of the investigation to the community. The Board is committed to providing transparency as to the investigator’s findings without breaching the requested confidentiality of the people whom she interviewed.”
No word yet on whether the investigator’s findings will be publicly available.