"BELIEVE NOTHING BASED MERELY ON TRADITION, SCRIPTURE, OR FAITH IN A
Mandatory Reporting Duties That Expose it To Tort Damages in Boulder
by Charles Carreon
July 1, 2019
How long can Shambhala claim ignorance of child abuse
that happens in its centers? Twenty-two years, in the case of
Michael Smith, arrested after he turned himself in to the
Boulder Sheriff on June 28, 2019 on charges of
sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust as a pattern
of sexual abuse. The Interim Board was quick, however, to issue
its claim of ignorance in
a missive to the faithful, brimming as usual with sanctimonious
denials of responsibility:
The Interim Board wrote:
Neither the Shambhala Interim Board nor the
International Care and Conduct Panel were aware of any incidents
involving Michael Smith prior to his arrest on June 28, 2019.
Let's face it -- that's why they have an Interim
Board -- because it doesn't know anything about what happened
anytime prior to its appointment. It's also why they disbanded the
Kalapa Council -- it "knew too much." And what is this
"International Care and Conduct Panel" but another paragon of
ignorance? Of course, now that the Interim Board "knows" about this
event of child abuse, they are eager to convey their total
commitment to doing right in the future:
Interim Board wrote:
Shambhala officials, teachers, and office holders,
as well as general members, need significantly more training on
proper reporting of misconduct. As well, Shambhala should never
attempt to handle crimes such as sexual assult and child abuse
The fact is, of course, that the Boulder Shambhala
had dealt with the problem through its local Care and Conduct
policy, administered by one of Shambhala's finest Desungs, Dennis
Southward, who has been teaching Shambhala students the "Desung
Path" for many years. In October 2015, he taught "Entering the
Desung Path" at Karme Choling. The description of the class leaves
little doubt that Southward's elevated position as a religious
leader makes him a "clergyman" who is subject to Colorado's
mandatory reporting law:
Karme Choling wrote:
Entering the Desung Path with Dennis Southward
and Jan Jercinovic
October 30 - November 1, 2015
"Desung" means bliss or harmony protector. Desung
practice is a profound path arising out of the Kasung tradition.
It consists of protecting access to innate wisdom by embodying
generosity, gentleness and fearlessness in our daily lives. This
state of "being" is made possible by increasing trust and
confidence in our basic goodness and that of the society in which
we live. All situations are viewed as workable, and distress is
recognized as a powerful opportunity to open to our basic
This program is open to Shambhala council members,
Guides, Meditation instructors and people in the community who are
interested in learning to work with difficult situations. Members
of the Dorje Kasung are especially encouraged to attend. This
weekend program is a prerequisite for Dorje Kasung who wish to
apply to be members of the Desung Arm. The training also provides
further depth to the profound path of the Dorje Kasung.
-- Entering the Desung Path with Dennis Southward and Jan
How did Desung Dennis Southward display his grasp of
the "further depth of the profound path of the Dorje Kasung?" By
victim-blaming, of course!
Joshua Eaton at Religion News wrote:
Southward told police in May that a young woman was
“exploring her own sexuality” when she was sexually assaulted more
than a decade ago at age 13 by another man in the group and that
her “exploration” fed the man’s addiction to pornography,
according to a police incident report.
The official, Dennis L. Southward, 70, also told
police that the woman “could do a lot of damage” to an important
member of the community if she pressed charges against her alleged
abuser, 54-year-old Michael Smith.
“Southward also pointed out that this incident
occurred several years ago and that Smith is a business owner who
is still involved in the Shambhala community within Colorado,” the
police report says.
Southward went on to say that police needed to tell
Smith’s accuser about the counseling he received after allegedly
-- Buddhist official tells police alleged abuse victim was
exploring her sexuality
The remainder of the article leaves little doubt that
Southward was a smooth-operator, able to spread oil on troubled
waters, satisfying the victim's father with his resolution of the
The woman told one of her school teachers and a
close friend of her mother about the abuse in late 1998, according
to the police report. The teacher reported the incidents to
police, but the family decided not to pursue criminal charges and
instead called Southward, who was a leader in the Boulder
“(Southward’s) role in the Shambhala community was
the person who deals with family conflicts or domestic violence
issues within families,” the accuser’s father told police,
according to a summary of his interview with police that is
contained in the incident report.
“(The woman’s father) described Dennis Southward as
‘the rock’ and the one you would call for situations like the one
they were dealing with,” the interview summary continued.
Another person interviewed by police described
Southward as “having a health and well being role within the
Shambhala Buddhist community.” Southward himself told police that
“he is known throughout the Shambhala Community (sic) as someone
who will address issues.”
Southward made Smith move out of the young woman’s
home and helped negotiate an arrangement by which Smith would pay
for the woman’s counseling and would seek counseling himself,
according to the report. He also set “boundaries” for Smith’s
contact with children at Shambhala events, according to the
The woman’s father spoke favorably of Southward in
his interview with police, calling him a “good friend.”
What Shambhala is completely avoiding talking about
is that Desung Southward was obliged by Colorado law to report the
crime because he is a member of the "clergy". The Colorado Child
Protection Act of 1987 was clearly in effect in 1997 when the abuse
occurred. See this case reported in 1996, referring to a therapist's
duty to report abuse under the law at page 1321:
Dill v. People 927 P. 2d 1315 - Colo: Supreme Court, 1996.
Furthermore, the failure to comply with the mandatory reporting duty
exposes Southward and Shambhala (whose agent he was) to tort damages
under the statute: "Any person who willfully violates the reporting
mandate commits a class three misdemeanor and "[s]hall be liable for
damages proximately caused thereby." § 19-3-304(4)(a)-(b)."
When Do Pastors and Clergy Have to Report Abuse?
A clergy member is required to report if they
acquire “reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been
subjected to abuse or neglect or who has observed the child being
subjected to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably
result in abuse or neglect.” Put simply, a clergy member is
required to report child abuse or neglect if they:
Observe the act of child abuse
Hear from a child about an act of abuse (to
themselves or another child)
See a child who obviously is the victim of abuse
Hear from someone (in a way other than during a
confidential communication) about an act of child abuse
-- Mandatory Reporting of Abuse: Is Clergy Included in Denver?
By failing to report Smith to the police in Denver,
Shambhala and Southward enabled him to predate on the children of
other Shambhala members:
Religion News wrote:
Boulder police say they also have been contacted by
another woman, who alleged that Smith sexually assaulted her when
she was 11 years old at Karme Choling, a meditation center that
Shambhala International operates in rural Caledonia County,
Vermont. Authorities in Vermont are investigating that allegation.
Why did the woman in Vermont, now in her thirties,
come forward with her complaint? Because she knew that the law would
do something about it.
Religious News wrote:
Police said the two survivors do not know each
other and that the women came forward after police in Boulder
arrested former Shambhala teacher William L. Karelis, 71, in
February for allegedly assaulting a 13-year-old girl he met
through the Buddhist group.
Whether this is the tip of an emerging iceberg we do
not know. A lot will depend on the willingness of victims to come
forward, and if the Catholic Church's slow disintegration under the
corrosive effects of sex abuse claims is any indication, it may take
many more years for enough injured victims to step forward into the
light. Meanwhile, Shambhala is playing its cards very close to its
chest. But as each one is revealed, the inept handling of the crisis
makes it clearer that whatever bliss this Buddhist group has been
enjoying has been founded on willful ignorance of the rot at the
As noted above, Dennis Southward was a Desung who did
a lot of classes on "The Desung Path," including teaching a class at
Karme Choling in 2015. See screencaps below, taken to preserve the
evidence, because Shambhala has already scrubbed Southward's name
from virtually all of these pages, something their IT team has
apparently written a script for, in these days when it's important
to disappear the truth tout suite.
FIrst, the Karme Choling page:
Next, the general Google site-specific search
Finally, the site-specific search for Tucson and
Just how important to teaching the "Desung Path" was
Southward? Well, a site-specific search of "Desung Path" produces
only a few more hits than does a search for "Dennis Southward," and
it appears that Desung Southward was the main teacher of Desungs for
many years, with the only other identifiable teachers being Dan
Peterson, Kristen Mullen, Laura Burnham, Deborah Coats, Sarah Lewis,
and Nicole Arsenault. Desung Southward clearly did more Desung
teaching than any other Shambhala Desung.
Searches for "Dennis Southward" at ShambhalaTimes.org reinforce the
conclusion that the International Care and Conduct Panel is lying
when it says it didn't know about how Southward handled the Michael
Smith's child molestation in Boulder:
Shambhala Times wrote:
The practice of protecting the third jewel started
in 1984 when Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche asked Dapon M, Dennis
Southward in Boulder to start caring for sangha members in
Supporting Enlightened “Care and Conduct”
Emily Sell, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s editor,
recalls how the composition of the Treatise on Society and
“I was just settling into an airplane ride when
someone sat down in the seat beside me. It was Rinpoche. He had
moved from first class to coach in order to dictate a letter to
the President. I believe it may have been inspired by a
conversation with Dapon Dennis Southward the night before."
"The Sakyong has something for you"
Dan Peterson, Desung Care and Conduct Officer in
Shambhala Times wrote:
I have condensed something Dapon M Dennis Southward
said years ago at a Desung Training in Boston. It is something of
a Desung slogan for me.
The war is over.
We are surrounded by the phenomenal world.
Our job is to surrender,
And to make offerings.
Jump the Gun
Kusung Dapon Noel McLellan in Shambhala Times wrote:
The Desung aspire to assist, connect, encourage, or
provoke any of these as needed, so that genuine care takes place.
The Desung are commanded by Debbie Coats Rupon and the Desung
Command Council, which includes Dapon H Simon LaHaye, Dapon M
Dennis Southward, Irene Vliegenthart Rupon, David Whitehorn Rupon,
Shari Vogler Rupon, and Kasung Laura Puts.
-- Today's Command
Dan Peterson in Shambhala Times wrote:
The desung arm has developed rapidly in the last
several years – perhaps because it is meeting a genuine need in
the Shambhala community. What factors have contributed to this
growth and have influenced the form that desung practice is
I think Dennis Southward, Dapon M, started a really
good model in Boulder, showing how desung can function in the
community and actually care for people.
-- Interview with Debbie Coats, Desung Arm Commander
For a quote straight from the horse's mouth, let's
consider what Southward himself told the police about his Desung
Joshua Eaton at Religion News wrote:
Southward himself told police that “he is known
throughout the Shambhala Community (sic) as someone who will
Since we can assume that Desung Southward had some
input on the course description posted at the Karme Choling website,
it's fair to say that this statement expresses how he did his work
as a Desung:
Desung course description wrote:
All situations are viewed as workable, and distress
is recognized as a powerful opportunity to open to our basic
while this link has been scrubbed, what's visible on Google at
this site-specific search at Shambhala.org for "desung path" + "care
and conduct" is just this fragmentary snippet, which is nonetheless
Jan 12, 2019 - Friday Evening Talk: Entering the
Desung Path with Dennis Southward ... Desung are especially versed
in the Care and Conduct protocols... that
Adding up what we've learned and drawing a
The Desung Path recognizes all situations as
The Desung Path recognizes "distress" as an
"opportunity to open" to "basic goodness"
Desung know more about Care and Conduct protocols
than anybody else in Shambhala.
Southward was the pre-eminent teacher of the Desung
Path, who enjoyed close contact with Chogyam Trungpa and the
Sakyong, inspired the development of the Care and Conduct process
Shambhala-wide through his work in Boulder, and produced poetic
statements that became "Desung slogans," as Dan Peterson put it.
Conclusions: Southward was very knowledgeable
regarding Care and Conduct protocols and in fact helped to
establish them; he viewed the "distress" of sexual abuse victims
as "workable;" he viewed abusers as redeemable because he was open
to their "basic goodness;" and, he taught other Desungs to apply
Care and Conduct protocols in this way.
Thus, it is quite likely that Southward was one of
the key victim silencers in Shambhala, the "go-to guy" when claims
of abuse arose, who may have acted as a trouble-shooter to deal with
victims nationwide, as well as an adviser to victim-silencers
throughout the organization, who bear the title of "Desung." In
other words, when it came time to circle the wagons, Southward was
at the head of the parade.
For a personal injury lawyer seeking to "dig up the
whole graveyard," the way forward would be clear:
Sue Shambhala and Southward for violating the
Colorado Child Protection Act of 1987, under the "private right of
action" provisions of Colorado Revised Statutes Section
Subpoena Southward and all of the Desung who have
written laudatory articles about his role in developing and
implementing the Desung Path and the Care and Conduct Policy.
Demand copies of all documents that identify child
molesters in the organization who were recognized as possessed of
"basic goodness," and therefore never reported to the police.
Use the documents so discovered to establish:
(1) that the Shambhala Interim Board was lying
when it said that the International Care and Conduct Panel
didn't know about Southward's handling of the Michael Smith
(2) that Shambhala's failure to mandatorily
report the child abuse that some victims say was endemic in the
organization was no accident, but rather a pattern and practice,
(3) use facts 1 and 2 to establish an entitlement
to punitive damages, and
(4) to identify additional victims whose
violators can be prosecuted and sued.
This is what justice demands.