Not About Happiness

September 21, 2008 by     Print This Post Print This Post

Since Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche died in 1987, the Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate. The Sakyong is taking full advantage of this medium at

A review of this web site brought to light, for this writer, some of the key differences between the teachings of the Sakyong and those of Trungpa Rinpoche.

Firstly, the Sakyong is described as:

  • “one of Tibet’s highest and most respected incarnate lamas”
  • “King of Shambhala”
  • “the eldest son of the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche”
  • “the incarnation of Mipham the Great, who is revered in Tibet as an  emanation of Manjushri, the buddha of wisdom”
  • “descends from the Tibetan warrior-king Gesar of Ling”
  • “holds the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism”
  • “head of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage and is spiritual director of Shambhala, a borderless kingdom of meditation practitioners committed to realizing enlightenment and social harmony through daily life”
  • “the lineage holder of Naropa University”
  • “has studied with the great masters His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche–teacher of the HH Dalai Lama and the king of Bhutan–and HH Penor Rinpoche”
  • “is married to Princess Tseyang Palmo, daughter of His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche, head of the Ripa lineage”
  • “has written two books, the national bestseller Turning the Mind Into an Ally, and the prize-winning Ruling Your World”
  • “is a poet and an artist”
  • “runs marathoms to raise money for Tibet through the Konchok Foundation”
  • “in September 2006 he offered the first Living Peace Award to HH the Dalai Lama at the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya in Colorado”.

The Sakyong’s bio brings to mind Trungpa Rinpoche’s phrase “Buddhadharma Without Credentials”…only here, it’s With Credentials. One gets the impression that some effort is going into crafting his on-line persona.

One of the credentials is that he is the incarnation of Mipham the Great. I don’t recall hearing anything about this before the Sakyong Enthronement in 1995. It is noteworthy that neither of the great tertons/mahasiddhas, Trungpa Rinpoche and His Holiness Khyentse Rinpoche, recognized the Sakyong (who was the Sawang then) as the incarnation of Mipham the Great during their lifetimes. It seems odd that such an important fact would have eluded these great visionaries.

The audio, video, and text files in the Archive section of the site reflect a recurring theme about Happiness. In the video “What About Me”, the Sakyong says, “You know what? When you’re happy, I’m happy. That’s the formula.”

Putting other before self is what Buddhism is about, but it’s the “I’m happy” part that adds a new twist to the teachings we received from Trungpa Rinpoche.

In the audio clip “If You Want to Be Happy” the Sakyong talks about using a type of contemplation to switch one’s thought patterns from focusing on oneself to focusing on compassion and love. The title implies that adopting this approach will make you happy.

While this approach is well-intentioned, there is a danger that students might conclude that there are “good thoughts” and “bad thoughts.” It also gives the impression that discursiveness can be harnessed to achieve a desired result. Even if this type of contemplation is, to some degree, successful in developing compassion, the danger is that, by fiddling with discursiveness in this way, the practitioner–unbeknownst to himself/herself–is sacrificing the development of prajna in the process.

In another audio file, “Chicago Public Talk” (August 2007), the Sakyong talks about karma and interdependence. “Every action we’re engaged in is the result of many things coming together, and they say [this is also true of] our emotions, and whatever happens to us. We say: ‘I’m sitting here feeling sad. How do I feel happy?’ [There is a] way to be able to shift the energy of our karmic situation. We need to orient our karmic situation so that we’re developing the seed, so that has a possibility.”

Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings on the life of Naropa provide a useful context for considering this view. In the talk titled “Meeting Reality” (New York, January 1972), he said, “Naropa’s experience of discovering Tilopa is connected with finally giving up hope. We have to give up the hope of getting what we want to get; the search for an ultimate answer has to be given up.” He further explained that we have a love-hate relationship with ourselves. “That’s precisely why the samsaric mind and samsaric point of view of trying to gain happiness is regarded as holding the wrong end of the stick.”

In the talk about Naropa’s life titled “Continuity” (Karme Choling, December, 1975), he said, “The role of the guru, at this point, is to tell you you’re hopeless…or that you will never solve your problem.”

However, explained Trungpa Rinpoche, hopelessness here is different from despair. He equated despair with laziness and lack of intellect, and hopelessness with intelligence, inspiration, and challenge.

The divergence of these views on happiness and hopelessness hinges on egolessness. In Trungpa Rinpoche’s dharma teachings, there is no shortcut around egolessness, and nothing trumps it–not happiness, not power, not fame, not a 12-gun salute, nothing. “The great symbol (Mahamudra) which does not involve any metaphors,” he said, “relates to things directly and completely and allows no compromises.” According to what he taught, rather than bettering oneself, the path is about giving up ground. Becoming less, not more.

The Vidyadhara’s students are proud inheritors of the lineage of the Takpo Kagyu. In our morning chant, we recite: “Great Vajradhara, Telo, Naro, Marpa, Mila, Lord of Dharma Gampopa…” In this one line, we invoke the lineage of the ones who realized Mahamudra, attained enlightenment, and benefitted sentient beings immeasurably.

When we study the lives of these great teachers, we see that their paths were arduous, to say the least!. The effort they expended is difficult to fathom.

Naropa’s experiences are particularly instructive. After a distinguished career as a learned one, he struck out on his own in search of a qualified teacher—Tilopa. Along the way, he met up with all kinds of disturbing situations. One man was washing the insides of another man’s stomach. Two old people were killing and eating the insects they found in the furrows they were plowing. Naropa then saw one-eyed people, a blind man who could see, a man with no ear who could hear, another without a tongue who could speak, another who was lame, running, and a corpse fanning itself. These were just some of his encounters along the way. When these people called out to him for help he refused because his sights were set on finding the guru. Eventually he learned that they were inseparable from the guru, but his attachment to habitual patterns and conceptual mind prevented him from seeing this.

After Tilopa agrees to take him under his wing, Naropa’s life doesn’t get any easier. At one-year intervals, Tilopa says to him: “If I had had a disciple he would… build a bridge over a pool of leeches. (Naropa does and is eaten by leeches and other vermin); bring fire, reeds and fat, if he wants instruction. (Naropa does and Tilopa dips the ends into the fat which had been heated on the fire, and held them against Naropa’s body; the pain became unbearable); throw the queen down and drag her about. (Naropa does and the king and his followers beat him to within an inch of his life). These are just a few of the trials Naropa went through.

Although very different, Milarepa’s trials were every bit as arduous as Naropa’s. Marpa told Milarepa to build a stone and mud house. Then when it was built, he had him tear it down and put the stones back where he found them. Then Marpa told him to build another house, and another, etc. After that, Milarepa had to build a nine-storey tower for his guru’s son before he could receive teachings.

Such was the nature of the guru-student relationship back then. It has been said that the traditional ngondro practice was developed as a way to approximate the dynamics of this intense and personal relationship in modern times when this close way of working together is no longer possible (for example, Tilopa worked with Naropa for 12 years).

But now that the Sakyong has introduced the Rigden Ngondro, these practices can be accomplished in less time and with less effort. Where will the Milarepas and Naropas of the future come from if this abbreviated form of training becomes the norm?

There is another element of the web site that suggests an entirely different teacher-student relationship in the age of the Internet: the fundraising appeal. It reads: 

For generations in Tibet and other Buddhist countries, it has been the tradition for students to offer what they feel is appropriate for receiving the teachings from an authentic teacher. This creates a situation where we become personally motivated to give back in acknowledgment of the gift we have received and in recognition for the years of training and understanding the teacher has cultivated. Please think about what gift you would like to give in return. Please know that all gifts will be put back into the further development of this site as well as support the Sakyong’s activities world wide. Thank you for your generosity.

Giving a teaching gift is a traditional way for the student to express his/her appreciation to the teacher for conferring a particular teaching. Within the Shambhala community, typically, the teaching gift also helps the teacher to defray expenses associated with travelling from his/her home. 

In the case of this fundraising appeal, there is no reference to a particular teaching that is being given. It appears that the donation is meant to support the Sakyong’s activities, so the use of the phrase “teaching gift” is confusing. After visiting other sections of the web site, one can interpolate that perhaps the teaching referred to is that which is contained within the audio, video, and text files in the Archive section, but this is not at all clear.

As the first lineage holder of Shambhala Buddhism, the Sakyong has broken out of a mold and is charting a new course, one which involves extensive use of the Internet, via web sites and e-mails (Shambhala News Service, etc.) sent to members of his organization.  It seems that the Internet is now mediating between the Sakyong and his students/public, which suggests that it is no longer necessary to meet the teacher in person or be in his/her presence to hear the teachings. The teacher-student relationship has become easy and convenient, but what is being lost in the process? 

The more the Sakyong articulates his view and teachings, the more apparent it becomes to this writer that both his medium and his message are markedly different from what Trungpa Rinpoche taught.

As the Talking Heads song goes, “This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife!”


39 Responses to “Not About Happiness”

  1. Suzanne Duarte on September 22nd, 2008 2:16 pm

    Andrew, thank you for going to the trouble to elucidate the difference between ‘happiness’ and egolessness in the Vidyadhara’s teachings, and the arduous path that egolessness requires. I sometimes wonder whether SMR has tailored his message to those who embark on the Buddhist path seeking an alternative to the confusing conflict and chaos in the world, and in promising ‘happiness’ he is able to support himself in his opulent lifestyle better than he would be able to if he delivered the ‘rock meets bone in insight’ message of the Takpa Kagyu lineage. If people who equate enlightenment with happiness rather than egolessness dominate the Kingdom of Shambhala, I have my doubts about whether this will qualify as an ‘enlightened society’ – and whether it will be able to skillfully deal with the conflict and chaos of the ‘real world,’ and thus, whether it will fulfill Trungpa Rinpoche’s 500-year vision of enlightened society.

    As for whether Sakyong Mipham is “one of Tibet’s highest and most respected incarnate lamas,” I’m afraid I must ask, by whom? I haven’t noticed that SMR is great friends with the many lamas and other dharma teachers who admired Trungpa Rinpoche and paid tribute to him on the 20th anniversary of his parinirvana. See: One of my favorite tributes is from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche:

    I don’t mean to be petty about this, but it does seem that one should be careful about making a claim about oneself being “one of Tibet’s highest and most respected incarnate lamas”.

  2. Davee on September 22nd, 2008 4:49 pm

    it’s easy to confuse the relative for the absolute, and the provisional for the definitive teachings, even when reading the Vidhyadhara’s presentations in my experience. as teachers we need to both present the highest views and also describe a path that leads people there skillfully, from the situation they find themselves in.

    specifically though, you make it sound like shorter ngondro is not enough. yet i have to ask then how is 100,000 of each practice really enough either? does that equate to how naropa and milarepa prepared really? maybe “completing” one ngondro was enough for you but i suspect i will be practicing various things a lot longer than just “completing” a single ngondro or a single sadhana. but is there really a difference between doing one long ngondro or doing nine shorter ngondros interspersed with sadhanas? i’m sure there are some differences to those paths, but in the end it will still add up to a full lifetime of practice for me.

    don’t be afraid of the internet. you’re typing on it right now. i was first exposed to Trungpa Rinpoche’s writings via a book, but i did not find his prolific publishing of books to imply that a personal relationship with him was not necessary or any less important for vajrayana practice. I didn’t get that impression from his books at all. And yet I got the sense that he was quite fine with his talks being editing into books and spread widely. If the Vidhyadhara were alive today, would you be surprised if he asked to have some of his talks put on Youtube? he didn’t seem to be afraid of trying new things.

    i do however share your distaste for all the tibetan titles and traditionalism. though i think that’s my westernness just disliking foreignness. the Vidhyadhara was so good in my opinion at shielding us from the tibetan culture. when one walks into a shambhala center for the very first time one hardly knows we have tibetan roots. i don’t think we need to be ashamed of them though.

    the Vidyadhara also did not have an active role in Surmang once he was here. it was not possible. but the world is getting smaller and smaller. if he were here still, i suspect he would be traveling back to Surmang all the time. And he would be tutoring the next Karmapa and have been more involved in the Tibetan community in India. Over the last thirty years, the monasteries have increasingly been re-established in India. If the Vidhyadhara were still here, we would be hearing about his many trips there and the various titles they would confer upon him – they’d be calling him Khenchen and Kyabje and this and that – and maybe we’d see him in more funny hats and costumes. So how much of the titles and such is the Sakyong’s personal choice and how much is the times we now live in? I have no idea, but I do know I can fixate on the wrong things if I’m not careful.

  3. Kristine McCutcheon on September 23rd, 2008 9:46 am

    hmm –

    I have a feeling that Trungpa Rinpoche also recognised Mipham Rinpoche.

    His refuge name for example (from Trungpa Rinpoche) is Mipham!
    Also at the Sakyong Empowerment in 1995 a sealed cupboard was opened by Penor Rinpoche. This lacquer Box had been in David Brown’s office since Trungpa Rinpoche had moved to Halifax and we had the Tower road building. In the box was a proclamation dated much earlier, you would have to ask David for specifics. The document proclaimed that who we knew as Osel Mukpo was the incarnation of Mipham the scholar and meditation master of the previous century.

    yes – I am all for Buddhism without credentials but why would Chogyam Trungpa do that, proclaim his son as an incarnation of Mipham, if it wasn’t true or something that would be useful to the propagation of Shambhala?

  4. Andrew Safer on September 23rd, 2008 5:07 pm


    You raised a couple of points I’d like to respond to.

    You were responding to my comments about ngondro and asked: “How is 100,000 of each practice enough?” You and I are practitioners,. As such, I don’t think we have the knowledge or perspective to determine how much practice is “enough”. When I see changes that are made to practices that have been around for a very long time, I have to ask questions. Do the changes contribute to, or detract from, the essential point of the practice? Are the changes being instituted for the convenience of the practitioner, to maximize the use of practice centres, or because the practice is easier to “sell” that way? I don’t have the answers, but these are some of the questions that come up. What I keep coming back to is: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    You said that if Trungpa Rinpoche was alive today, he would be going back to Surmang all the time and he would be very involved with Tibet. We are of course in the realm of hypotheticals now. I’d rather not presume to predict what he would be doing. What I can say is that, during his life, he made a monumental effort to make the transition to live and work in the West, to work here with Western students and Western culture. He was, of course, aware of what was going on in Tibet, but his focus was here.

  5. Andrew Safer on September 23rd, 2008 5:20 pm


    Thank you for raising the point about the box that was opened at the time of the Sakyong’s enthronement in 1995. I just checked with David Brown and I have copied and pasted below the proclamation, which, according to David, now hangs at the Kalapa Court in Halifax. While “Mipham” appeared as part of the Sawang’s name, there is no mention of a connection to Mipham the Great.


    In the name of the Profound Brilliant
    Just Powerful All-Victorious Rigden, his glorious Sakyong on earth,
    the Dharmaraja, Dorje Dradül of Mukpo Dong, hereby proclaims

    to be
    The Sawang of the Kingdom of Shambhala

    Proclaimed and sealed at the Kalapa Court
    by the heavenly-appointed Profound Brilliant Just Powerful All-Victorious Sakyong Mukpopa,
    Dorje Dradül of the Kingdom of Shambhala,
    in the year of the Earth Sheep of the Sixteenth Rabjung,
    the first month, the first day, February 27, 1979.

    Dorje Dradül of Mukpo

  6. Davee on September 23rd, 2008 5:42 pm


    Thank you for the reply. Sakyong Mipham told us that intermixing ngondro and sadhana practice in one month group practice sessions and alternating them instead of a single set of 100,000 each is the standard practice in Namdroling monastery. I’m not sure how common that alternative is across traditions, but he cited that when explaining the new formulation. And then when an Acharya asked Khenpo Rinpoche which was better, ngondro by time or ngondro by number, he responded, “by realization.”

    I too appreciate the Vidyadhara’s effort to integrate with us, to meet us so much more than half way. But I ask the hypotheticals with good reason. It is too easy I fear to fixate the Vidyadhara’s image, the memory of him, and then critique everything done today merely because it is different. If we imagine him today, of course we don’t know what he would say and do, but perhaps we can imagine a more open set of possibilities? I believe he was perhaps good at surprising people, no?


  7. Kristine McCutcheon on September 23rd, 2008 8:52 pm

    Andrew – Thank you.

    thank you for checking and posting the complete proclamation of the Druk Sakyong.
    and correcting my assumption that it was referring to the incarnation of Mipham.
    That the Vidyadhara recognized Rinpoche as heir in 1979 still blows my mind.

    oh – re ngondro by numbers – do people know that the ngondro that the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa (head of the Karma Kagyu) asks people to do is 10,000 of each! Maybe others who do this ngondro could expand on why this is so.

  8. Mark Szpakowski on September 23rd, 2008 11:24 pm

    Kristine, I don’t think “recognized” is the right word: on February 27th, Shambhala Day, 1979, in a public ceremony and lhasang, the Druk Sakyong empowered his son Ösel Rangdrul Mukpo as the Sawang (literally, Earth Lord), the Ashé Prince. That’s where the document is from. Mipham is part of his refuge name.

  9. Suzanne Duarte on September 24th, 2008 8:29 am

    Davee, you say “It is too easy I fear to fixate the Vidyadhara’s image, the memory of him, and then critique everything done today merely because it is different. If we imagine him today, of course we don’t know what he would say and do, but perhaps we can imagine a more open set of possibilities? I believe he was perhaps good at surprising people, no?”

    Yes, the Vidyadhara surprised us – a lot! He also broke with tradition in certain, very purposeful, ways in order to plant the profound Buddhadharma in the West. However, he also stuck very firmly with the traditions of his lineages and made sure we understood why. When his students, such as myself, question departures from the traditions of his lineages, it is not simply because we are ‘fixated’ on our memories of him. He did an excellent and thorough job of educating us in the histories of those lineages and making us feel a part of them. In effect, he passed on to his students the responsibility for protecting, preserving and passing on the knowledge and wisdom of those lineages. So our memories of the Vidyadhara aren’t just personal memories of that extraordinary person. They carry the knowledge of the ancient and extraordinary Rimé lineages that he represented.

    To say that we “critique everything done today merely because it is different” not only trivializes the rupture that has occurred in the continuity of those lineages, from the perspective of many of Trungpa Rinpoche’s students, but shows quite a shallow understanding of what has happened and of the reasons for the critiques. Trungpa Rinpoche put quite a lot of emphasis on the development of prajna and the necessity to adhere to the truth. He warned us against deception and taught us to question and seek truth, for without truth the sacred dharma is lost. You might consider that maybe that is the motivation behind the questioning and the critiques.

  10. Davee on September 24th, 2008 11:37 am

    Thank you Suzanne. I certainly respect the desire to keep the transmission pure but I don’t see the changes as “departures from the traditions of his lineages.”

    Nor do I think that you in particular are critiquing only out of difference, or fixating out of deference, but I do fear that it is easy to do so and has happened quite a bit among the more venerable students (ie. the old guard.)

    In my assessment, the changes have mostly been: 1) variations on approaches already found in the lineages (e.g. ngondro), 2) just as consistent with tradition (e.g. increasing importance of the Shambhala teachings like lungta, made popular again by the 19th century Ju Mipham) and 3) greater emphasis on the dzogchen path and practices and on Ju Mipham’s shedra curriculum. And it’s not surprising to me at all that given the Sakyong’s role as Mipham that we would now all be studying more from the commentaries and curriculum of Ju Mipham. To do otherwise would be weird. It would be like following a Trungpa tulku but one who didn’t teach the Surmang presentations.

  11. Michael Sullivan on September 24th, 2008 12:43 pm

    I think there are a few possible perspectives here.

    1. Students of Trungpa Rinpoche who are still active in the community. They see significant differences between then and now, and it is relatively easy to see how they might feel that Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings are being somewhat supplanted. They could be torn between loyalty to their teacher or to their community.

    2. Students of Trungpa Rinpoche who are no longer involved in the community. Perhaps (like me) they left in the wake of the issues around the Regent, or perhaps they became somewhat disenchanted by the direction of the community. They still have a connection to the teachings they received, and are concerned that because of the new direction in the community, that Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings will end up like museum pieces, and ultimately fade away.

    3. Students of the Sakyong who had little or no contact with Trungpa Rinpoche. I’m pretty sure they see #1 and #2 as disgruntled geezers who just don’t want to get with the new program. They would tend to justify all the changes that have been made – after all, to not defend those changes would be tantamount to being disloyal to their teacher.

    I have trouble seeing how these viewpoints can be reconciled, other than by creating an alternative “container” for the Vidyadhara’s teachings. I haven’t seen much mention of Reggie Ray’s work here – it would seem to me that what he is doing falls somewhat into that area – but I don’t have any personal experience, I have only seen the ads for dathun.

    Trungpa Rinpoche’s presentation of the dharma for westerners was very radical, and when he invoked tradition, it was done in a way that transcended cultural inertia.

    His was an incredibly long shadow, and I fear that in trying to establish his own bona fides the Sakyong may have embraced aspects of Tibetan culture that are a bit retrograde (emphasis on titles and tulku-hood), while simultaneously embracing a marketing philosophy somewhat at odds with the idea of cutting through spiritual materialism….

  12. Suzanne Duarte on September 24th, 2008 2:20 pm


    First of all, I regard myself as ‘old guard.’ I first read Trungpa Rinpoche in 1970, met him in 1972, and started working for him Boulder in 1975. There ARE people who became his students earlier, but not many and not much earlier.

    Secondly, I question your certainty in interpreting that the “critique [of] everything done today [is] merely because it is different” and that this “has happened quite a bit among the more venerable students (ie. the old guard.)” How do you know? Who are you to judge the motivations of the ‘more venerable students (old guard)’ when they critique the changes?

    Thirdly, as Andrew’s article and previous posts have shown, there remain questions about ‘the Sakyong’s role as Mipham.’ Did he choose that role or was he ‘recognized’? I makes quite a difference, you know. Yet it remains a mystery. And it is only made more mysterious when we consider that, as far as we know (some of us anyway), the Druk Sakyong only gave Ösel Mukpo the name of Mipham as a refuge name, and only ’empowered’ him as the Ashe Prince.

    I know of no document in which the Druk Sakyong recognized the Sawang as the reincarnation of Mipham the Great. If there is such a document, why was it not made public (within the sangha) as so many other proclamations have been? For example, when HH Khyentse Rinpoche ‘recognized” Gesar Mukpo as the reincarnation of Jamgon Kongtrul of Sechen, he Immediately conducted a ceremony at Berkeley Dharmadhatu empowering Gesar as such when he was a small child. And everybody soon heard about it.

    The mystery only deepens further when we ask, as Andrew asked, why Khyentse Rinpoche didn’t recognize the Sawang as Mipham the Great. After all, Mipham Rinpoche recognized Khyentse Rinpoche when he was still in his mother’s womb. (See: “Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche . . . was born in 1910 in Eastern Tibet and recognized as a tulku while still in his mother’s womb by Mipham Rinpoche.”

    Surely Khyentse Rinpoche would have been able to recognize Mipham in this incarnation. He had ample opportunity to ‘recognize’ the Sawang while the Vidyadhara was alive, and later when the Sawang went to study with him. Yet, I never heard that Khyentse Rinpoche recognized Ösel Mukpo as a tulku, much less of Mipham the Great.

    Thus, there are legitimate questions about the claim that Sakyong Mipham is the reincarnation of Mipham the Great. To my knowledge, having the refuge name of Mipham does not mean a person is the reincarnation of Mipham the Great, any more than having a Lodrö refuge name means the person is a reincarnation of Lodrö Thaye, Jamgon Kongtrul the Great. Some of us, at least, need to have legitimate (public) proof of such a claim, as is traditional, if we are to honor it.

  13. Suzanne Duarte on September 24th, 2008 3:12 pm

    Dear Michael Sullivan,

    Thank you for your clear analysis, which rings quite true with me on all points. You are not the only one with these fears: “I fear that in trying to establish his own bona fides the Sakyong may have embraced aspects of Tibetan culture that are a bit retrograde (emphasis on titles and tulku-hood) [and Tibetan costumes], while simultaneously embracing a marketing philosophy somewhat at odds with the idea of cutting through spiritual materialism….”

    I agree with you here: “I have trouble seeing how these viewpoints can be reconciled, other than by creating an alternative “container” for the Vidyadhara’s teachings.” That’s the rub. Before we can accept the necessity of creating an alternative container, perhaps we have to get over our grief and resentment that all the institutions that the Vidyadhara established as a container for his teachings have been hijacked, leaving us without an institutional container in which to pass on the treasures we received from him – as he wanted us to do.

    It seems that SMR’s students are incapable of understanding what this means to devoted students of the Vidyadhara. Thus they trivialize our concerns, adding insult to injury. The differences remain irreconcilable as long as there is not an open dialogue between Shambhala International (SMR) and disaffected students of the Vidyadhara, and it’s hard to imagine that happening. The kingdom we helped to create has been hijacked.

    Will we get over it in time to create an alternative container before we all die off?

  14. Michael Sullivan on September 24th, 2008 3:43 pm

    Hi Suzanne – you wrote “Before we can accept the necessity of creating an alternative container, perhaps we have to get over our grief and resentment that all the institutions that the Vidyadhara established as a container for his teachings have been hijacked, leaving us without an institutional container in which to pass on the treasures we received from him – as he wanted us to do. ”

    strong words but very true. For those who haven’t bailed on the organization this has got to be very painful – as in thinking ‘the Vidyadhara built these, so we must remain faithfull’ – but your choice of the word “hijacked” is very appropriate. At some point people may need to decide whether their devotion is to the Vidyadhara’s teachings and the awareness those teachings evoked, or to the structures established to let the teachings flourish. They don’t seem to belong to him any more. They were the tangible assets – centers, buildings, memberships etc. and the new regime put their stamp of ownership on them, perhaps assuming that those assets were primary, when in fact the main asset was the teachings and the understanding that developed when they were practiced.

    I also think that Rinpoche had a real sense of humor about the costumes, and used them to push buttons and teach, rather than believing in them…..

  15. Davee on September 24th, 2008 4:07 pm

    Dear Suzanne,

    I have tremendous respect for and I study with the more venerable students, but I do have to admit in my experience while most have reasoned opinions on the changes in the sangha not everyone does. That’s just my experience. My quote however was about hypotheticals. I invite us all to imagine how much the Vidyadhara would be surprising us still if he were here today. And I think that’s an unusual thing to imagine, maybe not something we often do.

    Would he use the internet and youtube? I think he would have used them. And he might have poked fun at them at the same time. Therefore I don’t find controversial, I think we should do more actually.

    Unlike Mr. Sullivan’s characterization that I might feel the need to justify the changes I actually see the changes as consistent within our old traditions. Though I experience the changes as jarring. The Vajrayana path now for years after seminary is mostly Werma Sadhana and is likely to include Tsa-lung and things that the Vidyadhara held but never taught here. That’s a huge change but certainly not inconsistent with the lineages, for example.

    About the tulku recognition, however, I don’t have much of an opinion. It is not as important to me personally. But it didn’t mean much to me with respect to the Vidhyadhara either, what inspired me about him was how I experienced his teachings or how they penetrated. Doesn’t Dzongsar Khyentse regularly joke about the validity of his recognition though?


  16. Mark Szpakowski on September 24th, 2008 8:59 pm

    FYI, the Vidyadhara did send one internet message, in 1984, to Dharmanet, the predecessor to sangha-talk …
    From: Kalapa Manor
    To: VDH
    Subj: Retreat

    Pain and pleasure are one
    Peacock and goose are delicious
    Listening to our hearts we found prediction
    In the form of crocodilian tears
    Alligatorial laughter
    Aren’t we lucky to be in retreat!

    C.T. Mukpo
    9 April 1984
    Kalapa Manor

    … and he might have been poking fun 🙂

    He was into using all communication channels, of course!

    As should we.

    That’s not an or the issue, I don’t think.

    Very simply put, I think one way to state the issue is that some people feel that (CTR’s) transmissions (both Buddhist and Shambhala) are being lost. This should (absolutely) not be an issue because those people could just go off and carry on those transmissions as best they can. And the Sakyong and Shambhala Int could just go on practicing and presenting their own transmissions as they see fit (with those being totally legit, coming from other branches and flavours and dharmas of buddhism, such as through Namdroling, Penor Rinpoche, etc). No problem: we could respect each other, even call this diversity. There’s 64,000, 84 billion, dharmas, enough for and suited for everybody.

    That’s a nice theory, but it runs into the (relative) fact of power and ownership. It seems pretty clear to this observer that Shambhala Int in particular (along with the ever more centralizing concentric circles of mandala council, sakyong council, sakyong foundation, kalapa council, kalapa, “the church of the lineage of Sakyongs of Shambhala”, family lineage, the tight band of brothers that’s claims it’s been re-incarnating since Padmasambhava’s time, …) increasingly feels it can own those transmissions and the goods associated with them – texts, practices, liturgies, words, symbols – and control access to them.

    Now some of us have to explain that “Shambhala” is not a religion and does not mean the same as “Shambhala Buddhism”, while meanwhile Shambhala Int people are being told to use the term “Shambhala” rather than “Shambhala International” (Richard Reoch is president of “Shambhala”). Reggie Ray ran into this problem, whatever the merits of his path may be: he called it “harsh” that the Sakyong did not allow him use of his, Reggie’s, root guru’s teachings (such as seminary transcripts). Ownership of CTR’s dharma stream is becoming increasingly personalized.

    Our polite talk and mutual respect will run into the hard rocks of legalities and power, lawyers and suits.

  17. Suzanne Duarte on September 24th, 2008 10:11 pm

    Very well put, Mark!: “Our polite talk and mutual respect will run into the hard rocks of legalities and power, lawyers and suits.” I assume you mean that if ‘we’ try to form an alternative container for the Vidyadhara’s teachings, ‘we’ will run into legalities and power, lawyers and lawsuits? If so, that is clearly the (relative) case. Thank you for stating it. Perhaps this is the elephant in the living room – the thing nobody has yet acknowledged. The thing that is sucking all the air out of the space for CTR students.

    When you say “Ownership of CTR’s dharma stream is becoming increasingly personalized,” do you mean that CTR’s dharma stream is becoming SMR’s personal property as king of Shambhala? He ‘owns’ it and nobody can use it without his (SI’s) permission, even though he isn’t perpetuating a great deal of it? In other words, SMR ‘owns’ Shambhala and whatever transmissions and property that CTR generated, and can keep CTR’s students from perpetuating them?

    If that’s the implication of what you said re: ‘personalized,’ somehow I don’t think that is what the Druk Sakyong had in mind when he appointed the Ashe Prince to succeed him in Shambhala.

  18. Kristine McCutcheon on September 25th, 2008 8:32 am

    Back to Happiness…..

    I have been contemplating what is the difference between maitiri and happiness. Maybe all you contributors out there can enlighten me?

    one CTR (Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche) quote i found (on Maitri) was. ‘giving up and letting others have a sense of happiness’ how is that not different from the Sakyong’s song’s punch line? Of putting others happiness before our own?

    When one is practicing meditation, really practicing – I know my behavior to others changes. (albeit slowly) There is a sense of wanting others to enjoy happiness also. This does not seem to be a mindless substitution of thoughts that are positive. It actually seems like less thoughts and effort and more appreciation of what is going on.

    the contemplations or the experiences of maittri ARISE from the experience of meditation (which is the third prajna )

    Sure meditators will fall into patterns of ‘good/bad’ that is called path. or what we work with. if we are practicing meditation thought we eventually get the opportunity to see thoughts as thoughts and not have to buy into them.

    but i could fiddle with discursivness longer….

    may all beings be happy, may they not be separated from the great happiness

    and that is you!

  19. Andrew Safer on September 25th, 2008 9:14 am


    I’m glad you brought this up. As we know, the four brahmaviharas (May all sentient beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness…) is part of our practice. This is an aspiration that others be happy, be free from suffering, be free from samsaric fetters, etc.

    There are two distinctions between this and the passages I quoted from the web site.

    In one case, it was — when you’re happy, I’m happy. It’s the “I’m happy” part that’s problematic. There is nothing in our path (that I know of) that has any interest at all in MY happiness.

    The other point is that I believe it’s a problem when the teacher indicates that if you do such and such, you will be happy, or that happiness is even a possible result of the practice (!) We are not supposed to be getting something out of this for ourselves. (Suzuki Roshi taught that we should pracitce _with no gaining idea_. Trungpa Rinpoche said more than once:__this is not a self-improvement course__. It’s not about making us, as individuals, better, happier, more peaceful, more beautiful, more anything.

    Regarding playing with discursiveness, that’s like licking honey from a razor blade, if I may borrow a metaphor from the boss. The only game I’d want to play with discursiveness is boycotting it, and developing the mental muscle that sees right through it.

  20. Michael Sullivan on September 25th, 2008 12:02 pm

    I find it telling that when Mark and Suzanne got to the crux of the matter – survival of CTR’s teachings and proprietary attitudes regarding them – then it was time to switch gears talk about happiness!!

    as the title says, it’s Not About Happiness…..

    So at the end of the day does it boil down to trademarks, copyrights and intellectual property?

    Mark is absolutely right about people being able to carry on CTR’s teachings as best as they can, but the organization probably has the ability to control who gets access to many materials, including translations and sadhanas etc.

  21. Kristine McCutcheon on September 25th, 2008 12:36 pm

    well if it is not about happiness it does not have to be about copy write either. here is a straightforward description of the background of the song lyric.

    FREE – with no copy write.

    try it – that mind may be your mind.

    The intention of Radio Free Shambhala is simple: to provide an open space for practitioners of Shambhala Vision. We are hosting your voices, but may not necessarily agree with any particular view. We will, however, work with you to protect the genuineness of that open space, through all that we are learning about right speech, decorum, conquering aggression, and action in the world.

  22. Michael Sullivan on September 25th, 2008 1:44 pm

    Well actually things like copyright have great bearing on some issues. As Mark mentioned:

    “Reggie Ray ran into this problem, whatever the merits of his path may be: he called it “harsh” that the Sakyong did not allow him use of his, Reggie’s, root guru’s teachings (such as seminary transcripts). Ownership of CTR’s dharma stream is becoming increasingly personalized.”

    The message is pretty clear – unless you have the blessing of the organization, you are cut off from access to many of CTR’s most important works . This would have the effect of making SI the only show in town if you are interested in CTR’s dharma teachings – even if they are fading from emphasis in the curriculum.

    So what happens if things evolve to the point where CTR’s teachings are entirely displaced? Do his students form an “underground church”? Samizdat – style bootlegged publishing? Not “happy” to have to think about stuff like that……..

  23. Suzanne Duarte on September 25th, 2008 2:55 pm

    Thanks for taking this discussion to the next logical conclusion, Michael. Let us not get derailed in this discussion by the non sequiturs of those who are rationally challenged. The issue that concerns me, and has for many years, is how to keep alive the Vidyadhara’s teachings for future generations, since the institutions he created to perpetuate them have been hijacked. His vision was to create an enlightened society that would keep the teachings alive for generation after generation. His teachings emphasized teacher-to-student transmission, and he trained a good many of us to be teachers in order to propagate the teachings that he worked so hard and sacrificed so much to give us. Many of us trained by him to teach in this way are now bereft of an institutional framework for carrying on the work that the Vidyadhara entrusted to us, as well as legitimate access to the teaching materials that are not found in books for the general public. (Keeping the teachings alive means having living representatives, not just books.)

    You ask: “So what happens if things evolve to the point where CTR’s teachings are entirely displaced? Do his students form an “underground church”? Samizdat – style bootlegged publishing?”

    Good question! Perhaps we should ask the Mukpo family, which owns the copyrights and gets royalties from them, if they want to push things this far.

    On the other hand, let’s face it, many of VCTR’s students are already dying off. We don’t have a lot of time to resolve this for the benefit of future generations. Perhaps we should start scanning the texts and liturgies we have and develop an alternative electronic archive . . . .

  24. Mark Szpakowski on September 25th, 2008 6:36 pm

    RE Michael’s “So what happens if things evolve to the point where CTR’s teachings are entirely displaced? Do his students form an ‘underground church’? Samizdat – style bootlegged publishing?”

    A better solution would be for a neutral entity, or one devoted to the Vidyadhara’s “original” teachings as such (as opposed to any offshoots), to take care of publishing and making these available. I believe that’s part of the intention of the Chögyam Trungpa Legacy Project.

  25. Suzanne Duarte on September 26th, 2008 8:02 am

    Hi Mark, I rejoice in the Chögyam Trungpa Legacy Project, but I’m not sure what “publishing and making these available” means. How would it work with regard to the Nalanda Translation Committee’s texts and liturgies, or other copyrighted material? Would it mean Reggie, for example, could get seminary transcripts for his students?

    Let’s say I wanted to start a dharma center that was strictly based on CTR’s teachings and not affiliated with Shambhala International. I would want to provide the Sadhana of Mahamudra for all students to read/practice twice a month, and the protector’s chants that we did when CTR was alive. But I’ve heard that those are now restricted materials. I might just have to make xerox copies of what I have, but that might be regarded as a violation of copyright laws. It didn’t used to be that way in the old Dharmadhatu days, but SI has changed the rules. The dharma stream of CTR no longer flows so easily in terms of gaining access to materials. I am, btw, seriously thinking about these things.

  26. Michael Sullivan on September 26th, 2008 11:50 am

    Suzanne, you really are asking the right questions….

    Control of CTR’s legacy (as embodied in all manner of writings, recordings video etc.) is absolutely at the heart of the matter. The power to withhold
    crucial texts makes this sensitive, and potentially devastating to that legacy.

    As I may have mentioned in a different thread, for the last few years of his life Robin Kornman led a dharma group that met in his home, where he taught a Trungpa-centric curriculum. Many of the members of that were people who didn’t relate to the Shambhala Center, but were devoted to Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings. The issues he grappled with were practical: how he could get the students involved in a traditional Kagyu ngondro, and how to get them mind pointing-out instruction. He didn’t have permission to do this through SI. He wasn’t asked to be an Acharya – his primary allegiance was to CTR and there seemed to be a real premium on loyalty to SMR (and the New Thing aka “Shambhala Buddhism”) in that selection process.

    He ended up sending many students to Traleg Rinpoche for Kagyu teachings / ngondro, and he and I ended up hosting Wangdor Rinpoche for dzogchen teachings (that included mind pointing-out instructions) many times – in fact on his last visit Wangdor Rinpoche gave Robin permission to give the lung for an extremely condensed dzogchen teaching by Nyala Changchub Dorje. Sadly Robin died a month or so later….

    My participating in this forum is largely due to the literally hundreds of hours we spent talking about all these issues – he would want to be a part of this!

  27. Andrew Safer on September 26th, 2008 1:30 pm


    Thank you for your contribution to this discussion. I didn’t know Robin well, but saw him towards the end of his life when he came to Halifax, and attended his sukhavati so had a chance to hear the wonderful stories people told about him. I have a sense that he had a great deal to offer as a teacher and think it’s extremely sad that he had to deal with the obstacles you outlined. I know of some senior students today who could be excellent teachers but are not currently teaching because their view is not in accord with Shambhala Buddhism.

    As Suzanne said, we are all getting older. We are losing some of our great teachers–the ones who are able to pass on Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings and legacy. I agree that something must be done, and soon. Mark suggested that perhaps the Chogyam Trungpa Legacy Project could facilitate the process of ensuring that texts, etc. are available to these individuals. That would be a big step forward.

  28. Suzanne Duarte on September 26th, 2008 1:32 pm

    Thank you, Michael. I loved Robin and admired him for what he did. I thank you for putting his videos up on Google – that was you, right? So I’m not surprised that you and he discussed all these issues at length, and don’t doubt that he would have participated in the discussions on this forum.

    If I were to start a CTR dharma group, I also would invite certain Rinpoches to give the transmissions. But the issue remains – how to gain access to the printed materials that are under SI’s control if one is a renegade loyal to CTR. I’m not particularly expecting an answer, simply emphasizing the conundrum that SI has created for people like me.

  29. Michael Sullivan on September 26th, 2008 2:30 pm

    Suzanne – Actually someone else (thank you!) put those online… here is the link:

    And for those wishing for a higher rez version, the DVDs are available here (scroll down almost to the bottom):

    Since the topic of the seminar was Creating Enlightened Society, they are quite relevant here. Interestingly, although this happened at the Shambhala Center, Robin insisted on NOT using the shrine room but rather another space which his students set up in a much more “Old School” style!

    As to the printed materials, SI and the Mukpo family have ultimate say… hence the samizdat reference… after all, you self – identify as a renegade! Here in the US we have the DMCA so somehow you could probably end up in Gitmo as a copyright terrorist.

  30. Chris Keyser on September 27th, 2008 2:15 am

    Thanks to all you fine people for this excellent dharma discussion in cyberspace. As someone who is sunk neck deep in the stinking wretched mire of samsara — aka the U.S. political process and economic collapse — I deeply appreciate your focus on a vastly more profound and beneficial pursuit: the continual propagation and fluorishing of our precious root guru’s enlightened mind transmission and teachings. It’s so refreshing to read this open and creative exchange after the endless dreary political blogs about the presidential and vice presidential candidates, Wall Street shenanigans, and Congressional stalemates (not to mention the Cro Magnin occupant of the White House).
    Whatever our differences none of us belong to the dreaded cut off family or worse. We are all members of the Mahayana family and most of us are Vajrayana practitioners. What an incredible blessing — one that should never fail to rejoice and delight in.

    My two cents: I live in Berkeley, California, a thriving spiritual shopping center when the Vidyadhara was alive. Some years ago I was perusing the used book shelves in the late beloved Shambhala Booksellers store on Telegraph Avenue. I was astonished and dismayed to see a row of familiar red vajrayana seminary transcripts for sale. The original owners had obviously ignored the Vidyadhara’s request printed prominently at the front of each transcript to not share these restricted teachings with anyone who was not authorized to read them. So much for copyright protection.

  31. Jim Wilton on September 28th, 2008 6:44 pm

    My wife Erika has a great story about CTR. This was before we were married and we lived togther and both did service shifts at Prajna on a weekly basis during the 1985 Seminary — the first held at RMDC.

    Erika was part of the dinner service one night and was heart broken that evening (as she tells it as a result of something that I did). She was wearing a dress and panty hose that had a run in them on the upper thigh that you couldn’t see because it was under the dress.

    As she was serving Rinpoche, with both hands occupied with the serving dishes, she felt a hand slide up her leg right to the run in her stocking. She looked down at CTR and he turned to her away from the conversation at the table and looked her right in the eye and said “Happiness is not the point — it’s much more interesting than that.”

    CTR is dead. We miss him so much.

    SMR is not CTR. And is it surprising that he adopts teaching methods from the great lineage holders that are his root teachers? This situation is not unusual. I have heard Dzongsar Khyentse R. say that his father (Thinley Norbu R.) gives him a hard time about his Sakya lineage view. It is a naive and theistic approach to think that teachers spring from the head of Zeus fully enlightened and don’t have a path that is based on devotion to the lineage of their root teachers. Most of CTR’s old students appreciate SMR, the unambiguous and confident way that he has taken his seat, and his one pointed devotion to the Shambhala teachings.

    I don’t think that anyone can own CTR’s teachings — or even continue them except to the extent that we understand them in a deep way through practice. So I am a little bothered by comments that treat CTR’s teachings as if they are a canon that needs to be preserved.

    I personally feel that the connection to CTR is very powerful in our Shambhala Centers. Is it valid to worry whether SMR has widened the gate at the expense of a deeper level of teachings? Of course. But is that really the case? Teachings on happiness are an example of an approach based on making teachings available to a wide audience. Of course, dharma teachings bring happiness and relieve suffering. And, of course, this is an expedient teaching from the first turning of the wheel and not a teaching on ultimate truth. But is that a problem?

  32. Michael Sullivan on September 29th, 2008 11:58 am


    I like the story.

    But I have also read the book “Blazing Splendor” and seeing how the practices and terma were handed down through Tulku Urgyen’s family lineage, that to me is the way it should be….

    I disagree with your statement “So I am a little bothered by comments that treat CTR’s teachings as if they are a canon that needs to be preserved.”

    That is EXACTLY what they are!! TERMA!! Use it or lose it!

    I also feel that perhaps teachings like the Sadhana of Mahamudra pre-suppose a meditation practice based on a very high view – the formless practice CTR taught.

  33. Andrew Safer on October 4th, 2008 3:50 pm

    I was just reading the Editor’s Foreword to Illusion’s Game in The Collected Works of Chogyaym Trungpa (Volume Five). Sherab Chodzin Kohn, the editor of this collection of Rinpoche’s talks on the life of Naropa, articulated the central point of what I was trying to communicate in “Not About Happiness”. He said it so well (in 1992), I’d like to quote him here…

    “The Vidyadhara’s commentaries on the life of Naropa…are especially helpful in explaining why, throughout the nearly twenty years that he taught in the West, he continued to warn against and castigate lukewwarm approaches to spirituality that seek to integrate it “reasonably” into conventional life. He decried as spiritual materialism the use of spiritual truths and practices as a means to promote happiness, health, success in society, and other comforts of ego. From the moment that Naropa caught a glimpse of the ugly woman, these are precisely the things to which he had to give up his attachment–down to the last trace. Thus, in offering commentary on the life of Naropa, the Vidyadhara can teach us directly of the genuine spirituality–raw and rugged, as he often described it–that he himself abandoned all comforts in order to instill.”

  34. Suzanne Duarte on October 5th, 2008 10:10 am

    Thank you, Andrew. That’s a good one. I just stumbled across this quote from the horse’s mouth – in my collection of CTR quotes from Ocean of Dharma Quotes of the Week:


    Before Prince Siddhartha became the Buddha, he realized things were not quite right in his world. Neurosis was continuously spreading in his kingdom. He decided to reject any approach to life that made him purely comfortable and happy and to search for some psychological sanity beyond that. He thought that meditating and studying with the holy men of the time would help him. Then he would be able to rule his kingdom and be a better king. He left his palace and studied with various gurus, who taught him all kinds of techniques: holding his breath, not holding his breath, sitting in different postures doing spiritual acrobatics, and many other approaches. But he found these techniques kept his mind very busy, rather than being simple and alone. 

    Having practiced for six years, he still had doubts about what he was doing. Then, it occurred to him that life is not so much a question of gain and loss. Instead, life is full of reality, and that reality rests in the mind. He realized that mind is constantly speeding, on and on. So Prince Siddhartha decided to stop that speed. He decided to sit and meditate under a bodhi tree on the banks of the Nairanjana River. His austerity had not proven to be the best way, so he decided to give that up. After sitting for a long time, not much happened. Then, he got up and walked around, and he was offered a drink of milk by a friend. He settled himself on a comfortable seat made of kusha grass. He began to relax and meditate again. At that moment, when he relaxed, the whole struggle began to dissolve. He realized that he shouldn’t push so hard, but that he could give in and let himself go. That was the moment of enlightenment, which was not all that dramatic.

    Edited from an unpublished transcript VIEWING AND WORKING WITH THE PHENOMENAL WORLD, a seminar at Naropa Institute, Talk One, June 10, 1976. 

    I was there. I’ll bet you were too.


  35. Davee on October 7th, 2008 9:06 pm

    I spent some more time researching the way “happiness” appears in the published teachings of the Druk Sakyong and the Sakyong. Sometimes the devil is in the details… in this case the definitions.

    What I’m finding so far is that neither use the word all that commonly compared to other terms. The Druk Sakyong more commonly refers to “joy” and “mahasukha” and occasionally “bliss” and draws distinctions between those and worldly “happiness” and pleasure. He does seem to mostly use the term happiness with respect to a relative or worldly experience or pursuit of pleasure. Though he also uses joy to refer to both worldly pleasure and transcendent experience, a poignant example of that is page 179 of the 1975 Hinayana/Mahayana Seminary Transcript.

    In contrast, the Sakyong draws the distinction between “mundane happiness” and “true happiness” and then teaches about how the pursuit of mundane happiness reduces the possibility for true happiness. He does not use the terms “joy” or “mahasukha” generally.

    There isn’t as much published material by the Sakyong for comparison, but with respect to how the words are used I’m finding that the Sakyong’s usage of “true happiness” is more consistent with his father’s use of
    “transcendent joy” and “mahasukha” and his use of “mundane happiness” is more consistent with his father’s use of worldly “joy” and “pleasure”.

  36. Andrew Safer on October 10th, 2008 11:19 am


    I appreciate the fact that you did some research and brought some more information to this discussion.

    Whether we use the word happiness, joy, or mahasukha, I don’t think is the point.

    One approach is: ‘Do this, and it will make you happy’ (or you will experience joy, etc.). Or, ‘XX is the desired state of mind, and that’s what you want to achieve. It’s definitely better than YY state of mind, which is what you want to get away from.’ This approach is goal oriented, and it also assumes that there is continuity between the one who is unhappy, and the one who is happy. The assumption is that you can connect the dots, from A (where you are now) to B (where you want to be), if you apply yourself enough.

    The other approach is: Just practice. Practice a lot. If you need a reason to practice, (from the Buddhist point of view) it’s because you’re inspired to do so by a teacher, by someone who has trod the path. It’s also because samsara is endless, and it breeds suffering. There’s not much motivation to continue in that vein (we call this “revulsion”), so you try something different. You practice. Devotion to the guru/teacher as example binds you to your practice, and you don’t really need any more reasons than that.

    Whatever happens along the way, through practice, is not something that you can then objectify, or somehow capitalize on. You can’t extract a moment of “contentment”, “happiness”, “peace” (whatever word you want to use) from your practice, and hold it up as if it were a prize. “Look what I’ve got. Look what I’ve done.” Whatever happens in your practice, such as a moment of clarity, has no connection to the person who wants to get as much mileage as he/she can out of it.

    So it’s not a question of whether Sakyong Mipham and Trungpa Rinpoche have used the words “happiness”, “joy”, or “mahasukha”. It’s the view and the path that’s different.

  37. Self-Improvement, Windhorse, and Spiritual Materialism : Radio Free Shambhala on January 2nd, 2009 9:10 pm

    […] As Suzuki Roshi said, “just to continue should be your purpose.” When one’s own happiness is brought about by an act of kindness, this seems to be a different kettle of fish entirely. (This theme was also explored in Not About Happiness.) […]

  38. Rob Graffis on January 3rd, 2009 4:46 pm

    Thanks Andrew for your comment

    Ironically, a transcript came in my e-mail this morning of a talk Chokyi Nyima Rinoche gave yesterday concerning positive thoughts, negative toughts and and neutral thoughts. Not surprisingly, he states that having positive thoughts are best when approaching the Dharma, and negative thoughts will produce more negativity.

    To trancened all thoughts seem to me more on an absolute level, and we won’t progress unless we do that. But, we do need to attain merit before we start dedicating it to others as well. We need to start somewhere, and happiness is particular a selfish motive if it helps us to serve others more skillfully. As we know, all sentient beings want to be happy. (or at least, out of pain). I recall somebody asking Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche about how do you know whether you’re doing the right thing or not (during a Naropa Institute talk). He said “If you do it with cheerfullness, you can’t be that wrong” (not verbatim).
    An excerpt from yesterday’s CNR talk :

    ” Buddhists accept karma, that physical, verbal, and mental
    actions have consequences. Karma has to do with the workings of our mind,
    our thoughts. If we have unkind thinking, it will have a negative influence
    on us. And we might do negative things. When we have kind thoughts, when we
    want to help and benefit others, this is a positive energy that will lead to
    a positive result. Even if we don’t do anything physically or verbally, as
    long as we have kind thoughts in our mind, as long as we want to help and do
    good, then this is a positive action, positive karma, which in turn will
    ensure a positive effect. So, good and evil comes down to different ways of thinking, different mental states”.

    As far as the golfer who said “The more I practice, the luckier I become”, I tought that line was funny, and showed a great sense of humor.
    It would be like saying “The more I practice the cello, magically, I start playing the cello better”. Luck comes most kikely from good old fashioned work. We don’t become good at music, math, plumbing, etc., through luck.
    We don’t pass exams through luck.. I don’t know if practice brings luck, but practice has been described as “practicing what Inherently is there.” Meditation seems awkward at first when we begin it. We always think we are doing something wrong when we begin to practice, but it becomes more natural the more we practice. We doin’t reject negative thoughts, and don’t cling to positive thoughts. When thoughts are transended, then we discover a deeper sense of equanimity, which is happiness. Much of happiness arises from the dissapearence of fear, and klesas don’t have a strangle hold of us. It’s not an attainment as much as more of a non attainment (so it has been taught..I know nothing).

    Rob Graffis

  39. Rob Graffis on January 3rd, 2009 4:51 pm

    A BIG typo I made.
    Excuse me. I meant happiness is Not a selfish motive if it helps us to serve others more skillfully.. I said “it was” in my comment.
    I did say:
    ..and happiness is particular a selfish motive if it helps us to serve others more skillfully.