New allegations surface against Nova Scotia-based Buddhist leader

HALIFAX — The spiritual leader of one of the largest Buddhist organizations in the western world is facing fresh sexual misconduct allegations as a Halifax law firm prepares to launch an independent investigation into claims against him.

A Chilean woman alleges Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche dragged her into a bathroom, groped her and tried to remove her clothes during a dinner party in Santiago, Chile, in 2002.

The unnamed woman came forward with her account of the alleged incident after multiple women accused the Shambhala International leader of sexual misconduct in a report published last month.

Her claims are included in a new memo by Carol Merchasin, a lawyer who oversaw a preliminary investigation into the initial claims against the Halifax-based Buddhist leader.

The unnamed woman says she was working as an assistant cook at a dinner party when a Mipham, who was described as “visibly drunk,” invited the staff to join the gathering while he read poetry.

According to Merchasin’s memo, released Wednesday, he took her hand and dragged her to a bathroom, where he locked the door and prevented her from leaving.

“He groped her breasts and began trying to remove her clothes,” says Merchasin’s report, which is based on interviews with the woman and a corroborating witness. “He forced her hand to his genitals, even though she told him ‘no’ several times.”

After roughly 15 minutes, she says she managed to push Mipham away from the door, unlocked it and escaped.

She says she immediately described the alleged assault to the cook, and the next day she says she spoke about the incident to a person who was travelling with the Shambhala leader.

That person, referred to as a corroborating witness, was able to confirm the story the woman first recounted in 2002, Merchasin said.

“I found this woman very credible,” she said. “She reached out immediately after the incident to others, telling them the same story.”

The allegations follow Mipham’s alleged “patterns of behaviour” detailed in the report last month, Merchasin said.

In that report, by former Shambhala community member Andrea Winn, several women accuse him of heavy drinking and using his attendant to “procure women students for his own sexual gratification.”

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