HALIFAX — An independent probe into allegations against the spiritual leader of one of the western world's largest Buddhist organizations has finished accepting new claims, with a final report into sexual misconduct accusations expected by early January.
In a statement to the Shambhala International community Monday, the organization's interim board said the Halifax law firm Wickwire Holm has been investigating allegations of sexual harm caused by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and other Shambhala leaders since late summer.
The investigation closed to new claims on Nov. 16, and the investigator is continuing to review the claims received, the eight-member interim board said.
The investigator is expected to submit a final report to the Buddhist organization no later than early January, the board said.
"The board will review the information from the investigator and then provide a report of the investigation to the community," the board said in the statement, adding that it's "committed to providing transparency" on the findings without breaching confidentiality.
Inspired by Tibetan Buddhism, Shambhala is one of the largest western Buddhist movements with more than 200 meditation centres and 12,000 members worldwide.
Halifax is considered the world headquarters of Shambhala Buddhism, which has encouraged many Buddhists — mostly from the United States — to move to Nova Scotia while prompting locals to join the community.
The investigation was launched after former Shambhala community member Andrea Winn published reports from women alleging sexual misconduct by the Buddhist leader.
The accusations suggested a pattern of behaviour by the guru of heavy drinking and using his "kusung" or attendant to "procure women students for his own sexual gratification," according to one report.
The women described being torn by their devotion to the leader — a holder of Shambhala lineage considered royalty within the Shambhala community — and claim they were "pushed from the inner circle" if they resisted his sexual advances.
They also said members of the Shambhala leadership were aware or enabled his behaviour.
The accusations prompted the Buddhist leader to step back from his duties pending the outcome of the third-party investigation.
In July, Mipham apologized for the "pain, confusion and anger" sweeping through the Shambhala community.
He said he "engaged in relationships with women in the Shambhala community" and has recently learned that some of these women felt harmed.
As more allegations surfaced, however, a lawyer for the spiritual leader made it clear his apology was not an admission of guilt.
Michael Scott said in August that "the Sakyong categorically denies assaulting anyone, sexually or otherwise."
Meanwhile, the allegations also led to the mass resignation of the Kalapa Council — the governing body of the Buddhist group — and the decision to usher in an interim board.
Winn expressed concern Monday over whether the full results of the investigation would be shared with the community.
In its statement, the interim board said its focus so far has been on understanding Shambhala's organization and operations and on issues of community care, "especially understanding and preventing harm."
The board has also drafted a code of ethics, and hired an outside organization to provide "listening services" until the end of December.
The interim leadership has also worked on the Buddhist group's finances, and said "Shambhala is currently running at an unsustainable monthly deficit."
A finance committee is examining ways to "stabilize Shambhala's fiscal situation," with a financial plan expected in the coming months, the statement said.
The interim board will meet for the first time in person in Halifax early next month, which will include an "introductory meeting" with "the Sakyong" and a social reception with local community members.
Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press