We have received a letter from a group of ex-Kusungs outlining some of their experiences with abuse inside the court and the greater Shambhala community. This will likely be both troubling and validating for many of us, but it is encouraging to see the continued braveness and courage required of those who need to come forward and say what they have seen and heard, if we are to have any real hope of rehabilitating Shambhala. The full text of the letter is posted below.
To Project Sunshine,
We are writing you because you have previously written an article about Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the head of Shambhala International.
This is a statement from previous, close, long-serving staff in regards to the allegations brought against him from both the Wickwire Holm and Project Sunshine reports. We are confirming many of the findings and addressing wider concerns.
For the full statement, please see the attached statement or via the publicly available google drive:
An Open Letter to the Shambhala Community from Long-Serving Kusung
To the Shambhala community:
This letter is in regards to Mipham J. Mukpo, also known as Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. For the purposes of this letter, we will refer to him as Mr. Mukpo. In light of the recently concluded investigations and subsequent communications from the Shambhala leadership, a group of former Kusung decided to come forward and highlight areas we do not feel were fully or properly addressed.
By way of background, the Dorje Kasung is the quasi-military group in Shambhala tasked with protecting the teachings and the community. The Kusung, meaning “body protectors,” are a subset of the Dorje Kasung who are tasked with the direct care of Mr. Mukpo’s body, on all levels. Accordingly, the Kusung are witness to Mr. Mukpo’s private life.
Becoming a Kusung is only by invitation of Mr. Mukpo. He requires loyalty, confidentiality, and allegiance to his view. More often than not he also requires Vajrayana samaya vows. Within the Dorje Kusung there are Continuity Kusung who travel and live with Mr. Mukpo for about a year, serving him 24/7. There are very few people in Shambhala who spend as much time with Mr. Mukpo.
We are all former Kusung who have held multiple leadership roles in the Shambhala community some of which we have listed below our names. Although we are a small contingent of former servants, our collective direct experience with Mr. Mukpo spans from 1994 to 2018.
Serving in these capacities has afforded us both intimate exposure to Mr. Mukpo’s conduct and ongoing access to those who’ve continued to serve or served after our duties concluded. Each of us has gradually distanced ourselves from the inner circle for a variety of reasons, primarily an overwhelming need for self-care. Most of us have left the community entirely.
In conversation with each other, and with many other former Court (personal household) staff, we’ve concluded that Mr. Mukpo has consistently shown a disturbing pattern of behavior.
Given Mr. Mukpo’s position as sole authority of Shambhala, we feel a moral obligation to alert others in order to avoid further harm and provide direct unfiltered feedback to Mr. Mukpo. The following summary highlights key observations and represents our own collective opinion. Attached to the end of this letter are six individual accounts that contributed to our general assessment. Ms. Bath from Wickwire Holm had a very narrow mandate for her investigation. However, we know that abuse is generally underreported which speaks to a much wider epidemic in the Shambhala community. This seeming effort to downplay the number and severity of incidents is corroborated by Ms. Merchasin’s investigation. We can confirm that Mr. Mukpo has a long history of sexual misconduct including those Claimants in the final Wickwire Holm report. While some of us did talk to the investigators about these allegations we feel that much was not fully addressed.
Mr. Mukpo has a long-standing history of questionable behavior towards his students, ranging from crude harmful speech to physical and psychological abuse. This has occurred both while he was drinking heavily and in the absence of alcohol. He has also consistently propagated misuse of organizational funds. In our opinion, his abuse of power goes far beyond the limited scope of the Wickwire Holm investigation.
We know Mr. Mukpo received feedback about his behavior from various key people at different times. He either dismissed or was unable to heed the warnings and continued to engage in these activities. We are concerned that Mr. Mukpo is unlikely to change.
Most of us have been subjected to his abuse. At times we have also been inadvertent enablers of Mr. Mukpo’s behavior. We have each struggled to understand our blind spots. It is a bitter pill to swallow that we were enablers of this man. The more we ignored our own intuition, the more people were harmed, and the more damage was propagated. As was true for us, many other Shambhala leaders may not recognize their role in the propagation of these harms. Indeed many are victims themselves. While we cannot undo the damage, hopefully we can speak to the truth of how his behavior has hurt many of his students. We seek to further validate those who have bravely named this pattern and who likely were subjected to gaslighting or minimization. We hope our personal statements will encourage others to speak and keep speaking.
Although the Shambhala community is making changes in some areas of leadership, as well as reviewing finances, ethical conduct, and reporting policies, we doubt that these changes will be enough. Our concern is that these efforts may only act as a mere gesture of change if the center of the community cannot face the deep discomfort of its own culpability.
Currently, Mr. Mukpo is still the monarch and lineage guru in Shambhala. This is why we felt it necessary for us to be open about what we have witnessed. He is not solely defined by the terrible things – if he was this would all be much simpler. Nonetheless, we feel compelled to draw the line here – where the disparity gap between what he, as a spiritual leader, says to do and what he himself does, is so wide as to appear immeasurable. We have been told (and have told ourselves) in many different ways how to obscure this line. Often there is a theme of imploring us to believe that Mr. Mukpo’s behavior is beyond our understanding. We are asked to regard such activity as the guru’s method of waking us up. But, looking around the world, there’s nothing so prosaic as a leader using his power and position to take advantage of people under his care. By endorsing this letter we are both affirming these words and standing in support of those who’ve been exploited or harmed.
The forthcoming statements from six of the undersigned are intensely personal accounts from people who were trained to focus on Mr. Mukpo’s needs above all else, even if it meant burying what we saw or felt. It has taken this long for us to come forward because the journey was replete with self-doubt, shame, and grief.
This group as a whole has no affiliation with any particular movement, support group, or any other organization. Although there are other Kusung staff who were interested in endorsing this letter, we do not claim to represent or speak for all other Kusung.
Craig Morman Kusung (1997-2015) Continuity Kusung (2002-2003)
Ben Medrano, MD
Former Continuity Kusung and practicing board certified Psychiatrist
Laura Leslie (2002-2016) Kusung-in-Training, Shabchi (Attendant to Mr. Mukpo’s wife), staff member at Shambhala New York City and Dorje Denma Ling, Aide to the Council of the Makkyi Rabjam (Leaders of the Dorje Kasung), Meditation Instructor and Shambhala Guide, Rusung at the Boulder Shambhala Center, Board Member at Shambhala Mountain Center.
Louis Fitch (2000-2016) Kasung, Desung, Kusung-in-Training, Boulder Rusung, Kasung Regimental Commander, Sun Camp Leadership Group, Colorado Sun Camp Admin, Personal Attendant to Lady Konchok, Co-Team Leader for Lady Konchok.
David Ellerton Environment staff, Shambhala Mountain Center (2000-2001) Continuity Kusung (2001-2002) Resident Director of Shambhala Training, Shambhala Meditation Center of Denver (2003- 2004) Dragon Region Kusung Officer (2006-2008)
Allya Canepa (1994-2018) Kusung, Camp Commander, Head of Household - Vermont, Boulder, Shambhala Mountain, Chile; and briefly, at the end, Dragon Region Kusung Commander; Karmê Chöling Accounting Office (1993-1999), Windhorse Dressage Academy (1999-2002), Marpa House Director (2003-2006) Privy Purse (2006-2010), Ashoka Credit Union CEO (2012-2016).
Ben Medrano February 2019
My name is Dr. Ben Medrano and I was a Continuity Kusung to Mr. Mukpo from December 2002 to October 2004. I was one of 2 such attendants and we were almost always steps away from him offering services including personal security, workout partner, butler, secretary and counselor. Prior to this, my sporadic Kusung training occurred at various programs starting at the 2000 Vajradhatu seminary where I was recruited and trained. Before that I had never met or studied with him. In fact, I knew very little about any aspect of his personal life other than he wore robes instead of the suits of his father. It’s worth noting that I was not born into this community and my participation started around the age of 19. Following my 2-year tour as his Continuity Kusung, I moved to Boulder to begin my own path towards becoming a physician specialized in psychiatry. I continued to be intimately involved in Mr. Mukpo’s household as a Kusung staff supervisor (Kusung commander) for many land center programs on an annual basis for the years following until the summer of 2011. From about 2005 to 2007 I was a regional Kusung commander for programs mostly in the Colorado area. During that time I was involved in recruitment and training of many other Kusung, some of which are still serving to this day. Upon acceptance to medical school in the summer of 2010, my service and contact with him became limited to only a couple of campaigns in total, each a month in duration with the last being at his Boulder household around December 2013 to January 2014. For those who care, my vajrayana path included traditional Kagyu Ngondro by numbers, Shambhala Ngondro, Vajrayogini and multiple Scorpion Seal Assemblies. Following my acceptance into psychiatric residency training I’ve had no direct involvement in his administrative or personal spheres. However, I did maintain my strong friendships and frequent communication with many who continued to serve him and his family. I’ve been a trusted confidant about their experiences, which allowed me a limited vantage point to continue to stay tuned-in. Prior to the release of Buddhist Project Sunshine I was not aware of the extent of harm experienced by these women and many of my former colleagues.
My retirement from service was a result of years of contemplation from which I’d concluded that it was necessary for me to no longer have direct contact with Mr. Mukpo and much of his inner circle. This period of time away from the community while training in psychiatry allowed me a unique perspective of Shambhala and it’s leader’s inner world. In light of the Project Sunshine and Wickwire Holm reports, and after reading Mr. Mukpo’s and other’s statements, I came to realized that sharing my experience was necessary in this process of reconciliation. The primary catalyst for me was knowing that others have suffered for years and many more are suffering as important questions remain unanswered. I was concerned by the fact that many key close personal staff, prior to Mr. Mukpo’s marriage, had remained silent. Furthermore, a substantial portion of the Kusung were born and raised into Shambhala, attending numerous annual military-style summer camps during their vulnerable developmental years. The following is an account of what I observed during my time in direct service to Mr. Mukpo from 2000 to 2014 with particular focus on my time as a Continuity Kusung. Please note that any period outside of my 2-year traveling tour consisted of varied week to month long campaigns where contact with him was far more limited, as I was doing occasional service shifts or supervising other Kusung. I will try to give an honest account of my observations and context, while reserving the bulk of my personal interpretations for the latter portion of this report. Its important for me to disclose that I was socialized within this spiritual institution for over 20 years and this definitely contributes to bias. For the last 5 years, I also have had no direct contact with Mr. Mukpo or members of the Kalapa Council and they have not attempted to reach out to me.
From the summer of 2000 to late 2002 I’m guessing I’d accrued a total of approximately 2 months of direct service time to Mr. Mukpo. Much of this training occurred at Shambhala Mountain Center, Dorje Denma Ling and Karme Choling. During those periods I do remember seeing him consume copious amounts of alcohol at occasional social events. When I say occasional, there were a few for every month of service I did. At these events I also witnessed dancing, singing, poetry, toasts and one-on-one close conversation between teacher and student. I clearly recall seeing young attractive women being invited to social events and I remember witnessing him flirting with them in the manner of placing his hand on thighs or shoulders. I don’t remember seeing any groping of buttocks, breasts or vaginas. I was aware of women being invited to his private quarters and had on occasion seen them leave the morning thereafter. If now asked to describe their facial expressions on these occasions I would list a whole range of affects from elation and anxiety to sadness and shame. Rarely did I see women arise from his bedroom looking calm, happy and refreshed. This pretty much sums up all of my observations of women departing after nights spent for the years thereafter.
Prior to starting my tour as a Continuity Kusung, I had a surprise visit from Mr. Mukpo and entourage. This was the first time I was fully able to appreciate his voluminous consumption of alcohol during a binge (easily above 10 drinks). He drank from sunset to sunrise, as he would behave in a provocative manner ranging from being gentle and vulnerable to being threatening and insecure. I will elaborate more on these observations later. I don’t remember him physically harming people at this time. His behavior included demanding others to drink more and coercing some participants to take off their clothes. His behavior towards me during this time was inviting and flattering. From what I could tell he did his best to make me feel welcome. Not long after, I received an invitation to travel with him full time.
Just before my 24th birthday on my first day of tour I remember being greeted at Mr. Mukpo’s household service entry door in the midst of a closed personal retreat by a rowdy and overly casual team of Kusung. I was surprised and somewhat disheartened by their conduct as it reminded me of locker room behavior which I loathed. Much of the 3-man team appeared to be poorly groomed and in general looked emotionally worn. They had been serving extensively for many months and appeared to be at the end of their tether. This image really stuck with me and I will remark on why later. Prior to the end of this retreat, most were replaced by freshfaced devotees.
Within a month of starting these intensive duties we embarked on Mr. Mukpo’s first ever book tour for “Turning the Mind into an Ally” visiting around 20 international locations. This was when I began to see the nature of his social engagement that anchored my allegiance further. He slept very little, was constantly teaching and interacting with students. These experiences were very inspiring for me and gave an example of my own potential to extend my capabilities further than I’d ever imagined. However, the partying continued. At some point in this early period is when my experience of service started to take a turn.
One morning Mr. Mukpo invited me to his room looking worried. He stated that he had a private task for me. He stated that he could no longer be allowed to drink more than “2 wines or 3 beers” and that I should, without question, cut his drink service off at that point. At first I felt honored that he would share such an intimate moment with me. Following this I was informed in a vague manner that something very concerning had recently happened in Chile. Until recently I had been shielded from the details of this event. Evidently his conduct was so infuriating that one of his most senior staff members had threatened to resign. I was given an official letter that basically said I was empowered by Mr. Mukpo to review and regulate all social events involving alcohol. This letter stated that I was to surpass all other authority on the course of celebrations, control alcohol consumption, and dismiss guests if need be. Little did I know, this would be the beginning of a challenging period for me in my relationship with him… ultimately resulting in a protracted phase of decaying trust between us.
As my traveling tour continued, the nature of Mr. Mukpo’s intimate relationships with female students were superficially revealed to me. I use the word superficial because I had little to no idea what occurred behind closed doors. I assumed that some had sex with him, but I did not know the nature of these acts. I learned that he had a number of longstanding girlfriends, many of whom were married. There were times on our tour where they would visit him and vice versa. Having been socialized by Shambhala starting in my teens, I was initially excited to see that my teacher was continuing his father’s “crazy wisdom”. Trungpa’s teachings had already changed my life in a very positive way. I remember thinking how conceptually profound it was that these relationships existed. At the same time I toiled with what it must have felt like for these students, always feeling pushed to rationalize this as a generous offering to their revered teacher. One time we stayed at a couple’s home, whose kid I frequently interacted with. I remember feeling such empathy, realizing that he/she was probably far more preoccupied with the nature of this relationship than I was. Maybe the child was too young, maybe caught up in other things, but part of me could not shake that maybe it was just as disturbing for the kid as it is to me now. Over time, many of those affairs with married women ended… and to my knowledge at least one marriage did as well. There’s no way for me to know what impact, positive or negative, Mr. Mukpo’s relationships with these women had on their marriage. Needless to say, to my limited knowledge, all such relationships with him had ended prior to his own marriage… some against his will. One night, just past the midpoint of my tour, I was planning a brief hiatus as things had become particularly stressful. I was sitting at a computer when I heard Mr. Mukpo come up behind me with one of these married women who had evidentially broke up with him. To my surprise he began to massage the back of my neck with one hand. This quickly turned into an uncomfortably tight clamping static grip. At first I attempted to ignore it while continuing to appear focused on typing until I could not tolerate the pain and calmly stated “Yes Rinpoche?” He then snickered and stated to the lady “See?! He can withstand the grip!” I must admit, I had forgotten this story until very recently. Oddly I did not consider it a big deal, but after giving this man countless massages to help him relax I realized this was one of the few moments of physical contact that he initiated outside of using my arm as a banister.
Around the same time of this incident Mr. Mukpo’s drinking escalated. This resulted in one of the few times that I showed the letter in order to intervene. We were at a bar and I noticed that 3 drinks seemed like too much. As per tradition he would dictate the seating arrangement and I would find myself placed at a distance that seemed strategic on his behalf. Many times this made it difficult for me to intercept guests’ offers resulting in an experience reminiscent of the childhood game of Whack-a-Mole. Only this time the moles were drinks being handed to him, much of the time these offerings were instigated by him. I would do my best to be as inconspicuous as possible and replace them with water, as Kusung take great pride in being invisible. Many uninformed senior students would get annoyed with me and some would just ignore me regardless of mentioning the letter. However, on this very rare occasion one senior student actually listened.
During our time at the bar I observed Mr. Mukpo flirting with a student’s long-term girlfriend. I could tell that the situation was uncomfortable for him. That said, for some reason, I couldn’t get a clear read what her comfort level was. This raised further alarm as I had been told that I shouldn’t allow him to make advances on less senior or experienced students… a distant rationale that I now find very troubling. As we were leaving the bar I did my usual escorting of Mr. Mukpo into the bathroom. I informed him that he had reached his limit and with a twinkle in his eye he indicated that he couldn’t care less. I was not invited to his car so I instructed the driver that he must proceed directly back to the residence. I rushed home to hide all alcoholic beverages. His arrival was marked by stomps and slamming doors. I spoke with the driver to ask what had happened and was told that Mr. Mukpo had ordered him to go to another bar and was frustrated by their not having done so. Following this, my pager rang summoning me to his room. I opened his bedroom door to find darkness and quietly asked, “May I get you anything?” A sharp and booming reply: “WATER!” Upon my return I entered the pitch-black bedroom in fear. I had heard stories of Mr. Mukpo striking other Kusung and was wary of my currently invisible distance from him while he lay in bed. Fortunately he did not hit me as I somehow managed to place the glass in the void. I left feeling somewhat relieved that a potential crisis had been averted.
The following morning I was summoned to his room and to my surprise he was awake and ready for a planned excursion. He verbalized confirmation that it was good that he didn’t drink more last night since he didn’t feel too hung-over to stick to his established schedule. As an aside, this begs mention of memories about several past events that he canceled due to hangovers. Given that positive feedback and reinforcement were rare experiences for most Kusung, I took his acknowledgement as confirmation that I was doing a good job and this encouraged me to continue serving in this way.
This event was around the time that I had completed my initial commitment of a year. Of note, during this era we were paid a modest monthly stipend of around $750 dollars for our 24/7 duties. Although this low wage was concerning to most, we felt fortunate to be able to serve in this way since Shambhala International was in a major financial crisis and running on a skeleton staff after multiple layoffs. As I understand it, Mr. Mukpo’s “support” income was priority as I hear it continues to be. This alludes to a broader topic on Mr. Mukpo and family’s relationship to money, which many find disturbing. Repeatedly I was amazed by the opulence, frequency, and duration of his luxury vacations. Long after my Continuity Kusung term I gathered that he and his wife’s toiletry/cosmetic budget rivaled my own annual salary as a resident physician. For as long as I have known him, this standard of living has never been enough. I recall a sober midday call demanding me to push for the unfeasible purchase of an Audi A8. I vividly remember his infuriated words being: “I want my FUCKING Audi!”
Returning to my original train of thought: our meager Kusung earnings were barely sufficient to maintain our daily expenditures and I found myself depleting my 401k by the end of my tour in order keep up with his social spending. At the time, his personal accountant had instructed us that we were to avoid using his funds while going out to his numerous expensive dining events. To put it simply, I was beginning to feel that terminating my service at a year would be wise. Soon after, he requested me to renew my commitment for another year. As said in our tantric vows, “Whatever the leader commands, all that I will do.”
As I progressed through my final year of traveling there were multiple instances of Mr. Mukpo’s binge drinking that I was unable to control. All of them were marked by tense confrontations between us. One such occasion, attended by many senior staff, was at a restaurant dinner. As usual I had attempted to follow his established instructions and limit the drinking. As expected he would retract those instructions once the celebrating ensued and do everything in his power to sabotage my efforts. What made this event different was the frank verbal abuse. At one point I escorted him to the bathroom and he proceeded to verbally berate me, calling me an “asshole” amongst other things. Upon our return to the dinner table audience, he proceeded to compose an insulting poem titled “Stupid People” which was clearly dedicated to me. On speaking with others who had witnessed this event I found that hardly anyone considered this a stellar teaching moment. In fact, his seasoned scribe later told me that the poem was immediately discarded, as it was one of his “worst” literary works. After hearing the poem I made a public reply for all to hear stating “I’m just the bullet in your own gun, shooting yourself in the foot Your Majesty.” To this he smiled and cleverly stated “Yes, but I have the bottle.”
During this dinner there was a novice female student whom it was common knowledge that I was dating. At various points Mr. Mukpo made advances towards her. As I was so preoccupied with cutting off his alcohol service, I cannot remember the specifics of those advances. All I knew was that she was uncomfortable. As per my instructions, I was to remove new students on such an occasion. So I passed my duties to my teammate and made plans to escort her elsewhere as the party continued back at our residence. When I stopped in his living room I found most of our guests standing in a circle exposed. Mr. Mukpo was marching around and ordering each of them to do various things. Evidently he had demanded that everyone get completely naked, all but one woman halted this task at underwear. Some were crying and many appeared to be nervous. At this point, I imagine senior students reading this might feel encouraged, as it is again reminiscent of his father’s “crazy wisdom” behavior. When we hear accounts of such stories from that era, I think it’s worth reflecting on which participants remain in our community. Of those who have left, what are their experiences? In my experience, and others who I know well, these moments did not feel all that “enlightened”. In this particular instance, I heard that after my departure one guest took it upon himself/herself to dispose of all alcohol. This was after Mr. Mukpo began forcefully biting people, as he was known to do in the past. Those who likely consented to such assaults remarked to me that he had left bruises, which had been documented in photos. I vaguely recall seeing them. However, my memory is quite muddled with anxiety as I attempt to remember and much of this feels unreal as I put it onto paper.
To continue on this story, it was reported to me that Mr. Mukpo re-targeted his sexual advances to another woman. She was married with husband present and other staff noted a general feeling of discomfort. It’s worth noting that he seemed to prefer to target unavailable women, usually while the significant other was present. This instance led to a redirection of Mr. Mukpo’s focus on another single female who consented to entertain him and I know little of what followed.
Later that night I ruminated in frustration, sadness and anger. I could not reconcile the helplessness I felt in trying to assist Mr. Mukpo. I felt trapped and seriously considered leaving immediately. I inquired about changing my flight, but found it to be impossible. I called one of my seniors and recounted the story while emphasizing that I intended to leave as soon as possible. He encouraged me to give it some time. As I lay in the Kusung staff bedroom I looked over at my associate who was sleeping. I realized how this teammate had become like family to me and I feared the stress he would face without my support. Upon reflection of this moment I realize that it wasn’t my devotion to Mr. Mukpo that led me to continue, but my allegiance to those who struggled to make use of these experiences. At the time I recounted a story from veteran Kusung who was violently assaulted by Chogyam Trungpa. Knocked to the ground and kicked multiple times with boots on. In that instance he considered leaving as well. His point, that echoed in my mind, was “sometimes being a Kusung is just about showing up.” For those familiar with the stories of the Karma Kagyu Buddhist lineage tracing back hundreds of years, these kinds of assaults are considered brilliant moments of teaching: a complex philosophical rationale of making lemonade out of lemons. I truly believe this veteran accomplished his reframing of this assault in a way that allowed him to cope and gain further insight to Buddhist teachings. Similarly, I also wonder about other senior staff who eventually shared with me their experiences of Mipham Mukpo throwing drinks in their face or slapping them. However, I still struggled and even as I write this I feel guilt for not having the resilience to accomplish such a transmutation. At the same time I forgive myself for this and acknowledge that my socialization into this tradition is the illogical root of this guilt.
The following morning I “showed up” for my duties to find that Mr. Mukpo was amidst a major hangover. He guided me through a soup recipe passed on from his father as a hangover cure and he slept through the day with the help of pharmaceuticals. Once he regained his energy I decided it was necessary to inquire about his memories of the previous night. He indicated that he remembered little and I proceeded to recount most of the details with focus on the biting. I do not recall telling him the details of his treatment towards me. He was remorseful and asked “Should I stop drinking?” and I stated that it was not for me to decide. Seeing him in this vulnerable state of not remembering, feeling upset, and asking for help gave me hope that he could change. I continued to serve for the following months. During the remainder of my traveling duties and beyond, I did not witness events that were as noteworthy. This is likely due to my deliberate efforts to distance myself once the bottles began to open. His drinking binges and provocative behavior did continue with a mild taper. Time and time again I would butt heads with senior staff and other Kusung about cutting off alcohol service. On most of these instances my efforts resulted in suboptimal results. Regardless, it appeared to me that his drinking was getting a little better. Similarly I noticed, at that time, that his relations to women improved as well. Many veteran Kusung would remark to me that my presence was having a positive influence on his conduct. This made me wonder how much worse things must have been before I came along.
Throughout this period, my duty to regulate his drinking was not my only task. It was also common for me to be his emissary in delivering invitations to romantic interests. This unconventional experience may be hard for others to fathom, but the reality of his role made it difficult at times to convey such communications on his own. It was not uncommon at retreat centers and in Boulder or Halifax for him to be stopped by people in devotional conversation that required his full and at times prolonged attention. Having witnessed this I empathized with him and obliged in the awkward transaction with women. Acknowledging the power differential, I would usually emphasize to invitees that there was no pressure and that they should not feel obligated to entertain his invitation. I did not indicate that there would be negative repercussions of their saying “no.” I do not remember stating that he wished to participate in sexual activity with them. Nor did he request me to say so. However, I assume that most people knew that some form of physical intimacy was likely the case.
Acknowledging that it is hard to tease out the affects of devotion from sexual desire, the majority of these communications were with women who seemed to express romantic interest as well. There were a couple of instances where women had declined and I did not observe direct repercussions for their decision. For those who did accept, many were led to Mr. Mukpo’s abode and I know nothing of what occurred thereafter. These women were sometimes one-time guests and others would frequent for the period of weeks depending on the duration of our visit calendar. Marking yet another aspect of complexity in his being able to maintain a stable consistent relationship: our travel itinerary was quite busy. Much like a spiritual rock and roll lifestyle. Please know that these statements are in no way an excuse for an abuse of his position of power. These are simply my observations and personal rationale at the time.
After my review of Project Sunshine, I tried to recall if there were instances where I witnessed acts of frank sexual assault. I’m aware of the definition of such a thing and I admit that I have no obvious memory of such. That said, over the years I did see and hear of many women who felt disheartened, hurt and confused by their intimate experiences with Mr. Mukpo. I’ve seen a number of them leave the community and a few terminate communication altogether. I know of others who shared these observations and dealt with it in the same way that I did: avoidance. I feel ashamed as I read my own words, wishing that I had provided support for them. With certainty I know that their pain and confusion is vastly more severe than my own. At this point I feel it’s important to mention that over the course of the second half of my travels, Mr. Mukpo indicated that it was his wish to have more integrity in his “relationships” with women. It appeared to me that he was finally considering settling down. This was marked with the termination of most if not all of his standing relationships. He seemed determined to find some stability. Not long after my tour, I found out about his engagement with his wife. To my limited knowledge, the bulk of his known experiences with female students ended with their engagemen