On Differing Views and Paths

July 16, 2009 by     Print This Post Print This Post

Interview with Richard Reoch, by Andrew Safer

On-line discussions on the Radio Free Shambhala web site and various listservs have been pointing out that there are students of Trungpa Rinpoche who are continuing along the path he set out for them, and who don’t feel welcome within the current-day Shambhala community. It no longer feels like “home” to them. Sometimes they are disparaged by community members who cite their “lack of loyalty” to the current Sakyong.

Andrew Safer of Radio Free Shambhala recently had the opportunity to ask Richard Reoch, President of Shambhala, to comment on this state of affairs.

Radio Free Shambhala: As you know, there has been tension and disagreement between some of Trungpa Rinpoche’s senior students and some of the students of the Sakyong, regarding changes to the practice path and differences of view. Many of these senior students do not feel that there is room for them within the Shambhala mandala.

Richard Reoch: It’s true that some of the long-term students of the Vidyadhara feel like they’re not supported. I and others have been in conversation with some of the long-term acharyas to see what is the practice support that is needed that would continue to nurture their path, and not make them feel excluded.

RFS: Sometimes the samaya of these senior students has been questioned.

Richard Reoch: That’s not what I feel Shambhala vision is about. I do not believe we should be commenting on or having the presumption to comment on another practitioner’s samaya. We all have a common, deep karmic connection. Probably most of us can’t even fathom it. We are all in this extraordinary lineage stream. We have a deep shared vision, at least about what Shambhala means, in an archetypal sense, in our subconscious.

To regard someone who is maintaining samaya within the Shambhala lineage as a dissenter is a mistaken view. It is not helpful to comment on the legitimacy of another person’s practice of samaya. Perhaps this happens because we don’t have the ground for the perpetuation of lineage in this culture. If you think several generations ahead, are we going to say that the students of the next Sakyong are dissenters because they’re following the teachings of Mipham? This is a fundamental misunderstanding of lineage.

One problem with the transplantation of egoless devotion from a culture like Tibet to a culture like we have in the West is we don’t have a tradition of lineage in modern form. We don’t have the cultural roots to support that. We are all grappling with how to understand this profound teaching.

I try to use the office I hold (as President), and the authority that goes with it to deal with this issue. When members of our community are described as “border tribes”—when they write me or meet with me—I devote a lot of time and try to learn from them. I think there has been a kind of polarization in which extreme language is used. We genuinely have to go deeper, beneath this level of argument, to find the commonality. I’m definitely doing that, person to person.

Maybe now that the current orientation of the path is getting clearer, we need to have a conversation with the senior acharyas about precisely what could be the support that can be provided for people who started on a particular element of the path of Shambhala and that needs to continue and be supported?

Five Sakyongs down the road, there will be people who say “I make a personal connection by reading the works of the Vidyadhara.” Others will day “How fortunate it was for Shambhala that Mipham the Great reincarnated as the Sakyong.” Eventually, it’s not just about tolerating differences; it’s about appreciating the incredible richness that’s available in our kingdom.

RFS: The real question is: how are the teaching stream and legacy of Trungpa Rinpoche going to continue?

Richard Reoch: I’ve been in discussions with Carolyn Gimian since the beginning of the Chögyam Trungpa Legacy Project about the importance of that initiative. The analogy we have used is that the Legacy Project is like a presidential library, so things don’t end up moldering and being lost. I’ve had some initial conversations with some of the longer-term students and acharyas about how to create an identifiable and helpful framework so no one is seen as being on one track or the other, or as renegades which is antithetical to the long-term survival of the lineage.

RFS: Many people who are devoted to Trungpa Rinpoche and who don’t consider the Sakyong to be their teacher don’t feel welcomed by the community, and they’re afraid to speak up.

Richard Reoch: One of the earliest statements issued by the Mandala Governing Council created after the first Shambhala Congress was a statement on the commitment to openness. I asked members of that council to list the issues that people are afraid to speak up about. We seemed to have inherited an incredible atmosphere of fear, and I did not understand that. I had no idea the extent to which this community was traumatized. When I asked what issues were not being addressed, people were afraid to name the issues.  I think we all realized, ‘Wow, we can’t even talk about what we can’t talk about!’ Opening up that discussion was like Glasnost and Perestroika in Shambhala.

I talked to Larry Mermelstein, and asked, “Is there anything we can do to reduce this climate of fear?” Some people were experiencing this fear in a very palpable way. If we can’t create a social framework in which we understand that people will have different points of view, then all the notions of fearlessness and openheartedness—everything we’re so proud of about the Shambhala inheritance—absolutely won’t take root. We can’t build an enlightened society on a basis of fear.

Wherever I go, I invite people to talk to me about this so I can find out more about it. Sometimes, because someone has said something extremely abusive, we feel like we’re going to lose membership. There are people hiding out, as if they’re the old Chi Kung masters at the height of the Cultural Revolution hoping they’re not noticed by the Red Guards. It’s a slow process of personal conversation, trying to address these tendencies of people persecuting each other.

When Radio Free Shambhala was established, people contacted me as if this was the end of the world. “No, just think ahead,” I said. “If we think about the new golden age of Shambhala, there will be countless Web sites and social networking opportunities where people express their experience of the dharma and of different teachers, including what others might disagree with. If there’s one thing that prevents establishing the kingdom of Shambhala, it’s called fascism, and I‘m not having anything to do with that.”


980 Responses to “On Differing Views and Paths”

  1. rita ashworth on April 8th, 2010 3:22 pm

    Dear James
    An interesting post –very thought provoking.
    Yes I have been thinking of Ash’s post about the monarchy, democracy, communism triad re Trungpa’s comment mainly personally into the way I have seen SI operating at present. For example how do all those people in SI see the whole thing playing out politically or do they even consider politics. I dont know sometimes I feel this sense is developing if that people do certain practices somehow magically an enlightened society will manifest. So yes there is that strange fascination with doing things in the ‘correct and loyal’ manner according to what is the standard viewpoint.
    To me there can be no standard viewpoint even Ash’s reply about the realm of Nowness and KOS manifesting from that was a tad suspect – as in the sense well the magic thing is entering into the conversation again, of course I know what he means and how he is employing the term but then teachers tell you to do that dont they –just sit –the whole thing will all work out ok – and I wonder about that way of doing things.
    So sort of crunching along as my philosopher lecturer Mr Holly used to do I ask questions re politics and hierarchy. For example when Ash mentioned the communism angle my eyes opened up a bit wider –wow at last I thought reality is entering the situation but then again as you and Ash have unpacked the situation I thought no we are still going to have to deal with the monarch motif even to establish the glimmerings of an enlightened society and then I really thought no way again. It is something to have the guru as King or the Christian concept of the Christ within you in a religious sense but to transpose that to the running of society in samsara is a big leap forward.
    Any way lets take it forward a bit with some queries as to an imagined structure re enlightened society –well if Trungpa was the King in our pragamatic workaday world and if he was still alive how would he relate to politics. Well re politics if he had founded a National Assembly what would have been his role in it. Perhaps his role would have been somewhat limited as in the sense that only if the people were having some really mega-crisis would he step in –that CCL attitude – at the end of his life for example when he seemed very reluctant to step in and sort things out –even to make any comment at all. So may be that could be a role of King somewhat….. the just watching aspect.
    Could we transpose this ‘non-involvement’ to the present SI set-up – no I dont think so –now its certain path ways to get to Shambhala –the whole org is going mad in conducting interviews here and there to go forward with the correct way of entering into the whole thing, you must go this particular way to get the real hit on the Shambhala teachings etc, etc.
    What happened to the CCL attitude and just letting the whole thing develop organically-what happened to the teacher leaving people the freedom to make mistakes but still some how work the whole thing out. So yes I suppose I am asking about the role of the King ok Queen aswell to do just absolutely nothing but to leave it up to the students as in the sense when Trungpa said my students will be concerned with setting up of enlightened society –where the emphasis is on the students and not the King role (but of course Trungpa has instituted that method with his statement!) So yes I think the whole King/Sakyong interaction with the sangha will have to be more unpacked before we can even get some glimpse of the democracy and communism coming from it or should we say intertwined with it.
    As to the conversation proceeding –yes I would like to go on with it a little more because we are sussing out ‘practical’ connections re the setting up of a society. To say that this discussion is not fruitful and that we should all just sit and just be is also not a totally good thing to do aswell –because within the dharma too there is that whole thing of the study discipline as well. So yeh lets go on until we get ‘called’ on it……..ssssshhhhhhh –someones listening in………
    O yeh Ash looking for stuff on utube on Marx –got this great video on Mark Steel – a socialist worker comedian –hes hilarious –you might want to check him out-a definite bolshie nutcase but very clever!
    Well best
    Rita Ashworth

  2. Chris on April 12th, 2010 2:51 pm

    The Practice Lineage or Remembering Who We Are:

    Or: “Not letting the moralists get you down”:

    “Everyone in the lineage of the practicing tradition has been extremely sarcastic and critical of the current scenes taking place around them. They were extremely critical of the subtle corruption taking place in the name of the dharma. We could say that the Practice Lineage is the guardian of the buddhadharma not only in Tibet alone, but in the rest of the world. Someone should at least have a critical view of how things should happen, how things shouldn’t happen. That particular sharp-vision, traditionally known as “prajna-vision” is very important, and that is a very lively situation, a living situation, in fact, that is why we are here.

    The Practice Lineage is the most pure and is unhampered by any kind of spiritual materialism”.

    From “The Mishap Lineage: Transforming Confusion into Wisdom” by Chogyam Trungpa

  3. James Elliott on April 13th, 2010 2:24 am

    Thanks Chris. I was indeed letting moralists get me down.

    I know I get too wordy, but these are not simple issues to unpack, especially in a milieu in which we haven’t given them much thought, something many people before us have in fact done.

    In any case, it would seem structures being established are not automatically in favor of members, and not best left to ruling elite out of touch with their subjects and in some cases I’ve witnessed reality.

    Distinguishing between spiritual practice and politics has become somehow problematic within Shambhala, and as long as that’s the case, as long as ‘our’ politics is treated as something sacred, then whatever corruption occurs is unassailable, undermining one of the most fundamental needs any society must have for continuity and well being.

    Here’s a poem that’s somewhat apropos, a little more on the lighter side, and I hope a bit of fun…

    Somewhere Under the Rainbow

    A Tornado’s surely comin’,
    Though the punters disagree,
    While delinquent Ninja dropouts hide
    Behind a golden tree.

    Gumball’s in ascendant
    And Leo’s on the fly.
    From acrimony sandwiches
    The Presidents get high.

    The alphabet’s all jumbled up.
    And Toto’s in the zoo.
    It’s getting hard to mumble
    In this gumbo made of glue.

    I ran. I fled. I jumped ahead,
    And still I couldn’t buy,
    A discount entertainment system
    That soothed me with its lie.

    A coffee Tempranillo seltzer;
    Someone’s gotta pay.
    The hangover is just the tax.
    I swear my feet are clay

    So sleeping on my bicycle,
    I veered a steady path,
    ‘Tween calamity and ecstasy,
    Beneath a glaring wrath.

    The stars aligned eccentrically.
    The moon collapsed anew.
    A twinkle in the barkeep’s eye,
    As he tapped another brew.

    A dancing bear came lurching by
    And said he couldn’t talk.
    A lemur with an attitude,
    Handed him some chalk.

    A hippo hinted heavily:
    “There is a secret thought.
    But when you grasp it carelessly
    It’s easy to get caught.”

    A one-eyed deaf orangutan
    Wheezed “Keep ’em in the dark!”
    A leopard picking at his teeth
    Remarked “It’s just a lark.”

    An ostrich shrieked “Preposterous!”
    And then he saw no more.
    A wild pig with no appetite
    Grumbled “What a boar.”

    An iguana staring at the mirror
    Saw nothing there to say.
    A Mantis chewing on her mate,
    Said “This is how we pray.”

    I asked them all as clear I could:
    “Please tell me what this means.”
    They laughed until they pissed themselves,
    And chortled “In your dreams”.

    I took that out. I put it down.
    I let it run around.
    It yelped and snarled, it barked and growled
    But didn’t make a sound.

    The merchants wearing Venice Beach,
    Well, they took an extra snort,
    And onward Christian soldiers sang:
    “How could we ‘ere abort.”

    Lawyers, bankers, acrobats
    Invoked the Sixth Degree;
    “We’re all in this together mates
    And nothin’ is fer free.”

    How much and when and why and where
    And shouldn’t they agree?
    The mystics of the ages,
    Aren’t all drinking the same tea.

    The printing press is running late.
    And walruses are fat.
    If it rains you will get wet.
    All I really want’s a hat.

  4. John Castlebury on April 13th, 2010 10:24 am

    Thanks Chris,

    With all due respect, the passage you quote from The Mishap Lineage [pub. 2009] is not an authoritative quotation, simply because Rinpoche didn’t personally authorize the final wording.

    Who knows for sure that you are quoting Rinpoche and not his editor? So therefore how can we honestly quote Rinpoche from texts published since his death?

    It’s safer if we rely on texts Rinpoche authorized while he was alive; then we can safely quote “chapter and verse”. Not to split hairs, but this is a distinction WITH a difference.

  5. Andrew Safer on April 13th, 2010 1:36 pm


    Re: your comment about the quote from The Mishap Lineage, I’m going to be honest here. I found it quite offensive. Ms. Gimian worked very closely with the Vidyadhara for many years. She is extremely well trained to edit the talks he gave and to present his teachings to the public. There is no question in my mind about that.

    Having said that, no one is perfect .Even highly trained editors have to make judgment calls when committing words that were presented orally to the “permanence” of print in a published book. “Perfection” is an impossiblity in this regard.

    I am aware that you are in possession of a considerable amount of the Vidyadhara’s poetry (unedited), and appreciate the custodial role you have assumed in this regard. However, I’m sad to see that being in possession of such treasures has caused you to cast aspersions on the Vidyadhara’s highly trained and qualified editors.

    By making a statement like this, you are suggesting that Ms. Gimian’s editing is not to be trusted. By implication, you are suggesting that all of the Vidyadhara’s teachings that have been published in book form since 1987 are substandard. I think you are doing the public a disservice by expressing this view, and don’t think it does much for your credibility. I’m also wondering if this is a subltle game of one-upsmanship we are witnessing here.

  6. John Castlebury on April 13th, 2010 5:15 pm

    Dear Andrew,

    Well sorry you got so angry because you feel John cast aspersions on the noble editors, which isn’t even true. Edited text is not literally Rinpoche’s voice, is it? Or do you see an equivalency? But if a text is edited by editors, it’s no longer the text of Rinpoche’s exact words. That’s all I said, not that that’s a good thing or that’s a bad thing; it just is so.

    In the case of a book designed for wider readership it makes perfect sense to edit for the sake of clarity, of course. But for purposes of quotation, a quote from material that has been changed by editors is not equivalent to an original quote of Rinpoche, even though the editors are highly trained and qualified; this is obvious.

    So you found this pointing out the obvious to be offensive and cast the very aspersions at John that you accuse John of casting. I really don’t see the controversy, it’s only controversial if you twist what I said [“not to be trusted” and “substandard” are your words, not mine] to make your case.

  7. JimWilton on April 13th, 2010 7:47 pm

    Well, I guess we are all fucked then. There were no tape recorders or even paper and pencils in the time of Shakyamuni Buddha.

    Nothing to do but rely on the fact that someone heard the teachings and put them into practice and passed the teachings on by discovering compassion and living their life. We’re fucked!

  8. James Elliott on April 14th, 2010 2:11 am

    I didn’t like John’s comment much either, not in a big way, please don’t take it personal John, but the timing made it seem to imply Chris’ quote was completely meaningless. I can’t see anything else it may have added to the discussion at hand.

    Quotes from Trungpa Rinpoche can of course be used similarly to the way a Jehovah’s Witness uses them.

    I met a guy once had a photographic memory and he used to invite door to door bible thumpers in to debate. He could, without looking in the book quote chapter and verse, ‘proving’ the opposite of whatever the proselytizers were preaching.

    They would assume he was making stuff up, so he would tell them which chapter, verse, or psalm, they’d look it up and see it was true, glance at him with a tinge of fear and search in their dog-eared stickum marked tomes for another quote to refute him further, like a bouncing ball hall of conflicting mirrors. It was great fun. (I think some of his victims may have thought him some kind of demon.)

    The point is quotes can be used to support whatever one wants. I don’t see the sense in demanding pure and unadulterated direct quotes from Trungpa Rinpoche. The way he spoke was very often dependent on how the person(s) he was talking to grasped what he was saying. (How much he had to explain and how much he could abbreviate.) Very often there were gaps in grammar and diction, all more than made up for in the pith teachings contained, but for written language, there are very few direct quotations from him in the purest sense of the word.

    Many of the things I know he said, often because I was there when he said them or had impeccable sources, can only ever be considered paraphrasing. I don’t believe that teachings necessarily lose their pith meaning or truth as a result of being handled by … us.

    Even when there is a direct quote, my thinking is we have to put something of ourselves in them in discussions or they begin to sound flat. Like bible thumpers.

    In this particular case, if we don’t pick a specific target for the quote, (which would probably be an aggressive use of his words but I thought this one encouraged people disheartened by moralists and authoritarians -maybe just my take,) it is more likely than not Trungpa Rinpoche probably did say something along those lines.

    Certainly the spirit of that quote is evident in the body of teachings about spiritual materialism and any number of officially sanctioned things he ‘definitely’ did say regarding credentials, the Tibetan church, courage, one’s principles, and about having a sense of humor and mistrust towards the rules laid down around us being a way of ensuring success.

    In the inspiration of not reinterpreting the dharma, and not holding it at arms length either.

  9. rita ashworth on April 14th, 2010 7:00 am

    Dear Chris,
    Thanks for that post re practice.
    Yes there is the moralists getting us down re the one and only way etc etc –suppose thats why to a certain extent exploring other ways of seeing the whole thing or unpacking different scenarios re what we have studied in the past.
    But yes I agree you can not get a definitive way that the shambhala teachings and of course the Buddhadharma teachings will manifest despite what SI states because of course with Shambhala we are discussing and experiencing a manifold awaking to basic goodness and who really knows how this will pan out. Mover-onners in all their little groups at the moment but even that may change as time passes so that we could meet in a more convivial, mad way than SI. And perhaps as you suggest if the little groups now evolving could be more loosely structured and freer that would be great aswell.
    Wow to Julie Greene doing the maîtri teachings in Crestone –what a gift for people –hope other teachers outside of SI will follow suit with this –this is a really interesting development.
    So yes what is the tone of all the new stuff happening perhaps a wish to be less structured, less hierarchical-seems to fit the times especially if you look at the way young people organise themselves nowadays in relation to politics aka environmental demos etc etc. Even conventionally too staid politicians seem to know the game is up on authoritarian modes of governance for example Uk in election mode at moment and we could have a hung parliament because nobody trusts anyone now after the expenses scandal. So yes anything that evolves from Shambhala in different ways in the future will have to be very fluid and open-ended and leave gigantic room for peoples continual input-dont think that will be biased anarchy but may be true anarchy because of course the teachings on basic goodness undercut ego.
    Re Cape Breton and its position in all this – yes maybe Trungpa was seeing far into the future when he designated it as the main place but still I think more moves need to be made by everyone in supporting the shambhala teachings there as it is a somewhat important place in the growing mandala.
    Yes also re the debate about quoting CTR –yes its difficult area. I did do a report for the Buddhist Society magazine on one of his talks in London and when I listened to the tape several times it was like listening to something very deep and almost mesmerising. May be from doing all those debates on Buddhism in Tibet he was dealing in a method of discussion that was almost ‘translucent’ certainly when I read his stuff I have the sensation of things going deeper and in a sense being more open aswell so even his standard works have the sensation of poetry. But isn’t this feeling the nature of all religious/artistic language because we are dealing with imponderables which transcend the mundane, a big branch of religious studies for example is the use of religious language to exemplify connections with our ultimate nature which is of course ‘extraordinarily’ ordinary aswell!. But of course also you can use the whole conception of language to mystify people so its a fine line interpreting what is going on within the religious context. Indeed at college I spent whole terms just debating certain chapters of Descartes on religion and also what people are doing when they use religious language and debate – yes a very interesting topic to discuss the use of language in all the different formats.
    Well yes John hope you can get CTR’s poetry out in book form soon would love to read it that would be great.
    Well best
    Rita Ashworth

  10. Chris on April 14th, 2010 12:14 pm

    Thanks for your poem, by the way.

    As for the quote, it was one of those auspicious “open the book and the pages fall to that particular passage.” It cheered me up , was apropos and I thought I would share it for that reason.

    There has been a tendency here for some to use the Mahayana as a big stick to silence people and was how it was inappropriately used for centuries by the monastic ruling elite to keep the peasants from revolting. Gross inequalities of wealth and labor were justified by using the Mahayana teachings on “merit” and karma to keep people quiet and satisfied with their lot and to keep the ladrangs (labrangs) “full.” So , not surprising that, once again, we see people, who are supportive of this return to a feudal monastic system in SI in order, to “keep harmony” rationalizing and justifying the current SI scene by bringing out the mahayana teachings to try and silence people.
    Anyway, thank goodness this is NOT 14th c Tibet and that we , as Westerners, can and should keep speaking out against the same old corruption, wherever we find it ,such as this monastic, archaic system coming to shear the infantilized Western Buddhist sheep, the latter who stubbornly refuse to look at relative realty or the real History of Old Tibet in order to sustain their fantasies into old age. Some of us, however, feel that corruption of the dharma is not worth that price to keep ourselves infantalized. Particularly when it’s done in the name of Chogyam Trungpa.

  11. John Castlebury on April 14th, 2010 5:02 pm

    That quotation from The Mishap Lineage is incorrect. It is found on page 23 with the browse function at shambhala.com.

    The passage as quoted by Chris says:

    That particular sharp-vision, traditionally known as “prajna-vision” is very important, and that is a very lively situation, a living situation, in fact, that is why we are here.

    But the actual text says:

    That particular sharp vision, traditionally known as “prajna vision,” is very important. And that is a very lively situation, a living situation, which still is up-to-date. In fact, that is why we are here.

  12. Chris on April 14th, 2010 7:40 pm

    Thanks John. Adding that phrase further emphasizes how much he was stressing that the Practice Lineage’s role, as guardian of the dharma against spiritual materialism, is for NOW. So thanks for the correction . He wouldn’t have said it in three different ways, i.e. “that is a very lively situation, a living situation, which still is up-to-date” if he didn’t mean us to really hear it.

  13. Ginny Lipson on April 15th, 2010 11:12 am

    Sorry to interrupt this thread, I didn’t know where to put this piece. It is an update on the earthquake situation, from Khenpo Tsering, just received late last night. Surmang was less affected, and the Shedra still stands! Trungpa Rinpoche the 12th is safe. However, so much else has been destroyed, if you have been following the news, including Thrangu Monastery, and also monks dead, people buried, dead children, etc. Catastrophic. Here is the letter I just sent to the Sangha. (Konchok Foundation has started an earthquake relief fund)

    Dear Sangha,

    I want to thank you all so much from beyond the bottom of my heart for all the donations that are pouring in for the earthquake relief situation. I won’t know the final Tally yet, as there are so many and more still coming in…and we are still scrambling to get news, and communicagte with eachother about what to do, etc.

    Khenpo Tsering arrived safely to Jeykundo last evening (our time), managed to obtain a cell phone, and called us. Here is a first hand report, slightly edited. some good news and some really sad news:

    The cell phone service is Jyekundo is intermittent, it cuts in and out. He doesn’t have a car battery charger and doesn’t know how he’s going to recharge the phone. The power is out in Jyekundo.

    I was able to reach Khenpo Tsering tonight in Jyekundo by cell phone. It’s been a very long 24 hours for him since he called me from Xining last night just after the earthquake had happened. He was leaving immediately for Jyekundo at that time to help with the rescue efforts.

    The road from Xining to Jyekundo is open. There are some cracks in the road and rocks on the road but it is passable. On the way down to Jyekundo, Khenpo passed at least a thousand cars or vehicles that were taking injured people up to hospitals in Xining. There is not nearly enough hospital capacity in Jyekundo for all of the injured people.

    Khenpo said that Jyekundo is “completely destroyed.” He said that probably 95% of the buildings in the city have been destroyed. He said that, if anyone has seen the movie “2012,” it looks like that. Even some of the more recent larger buildings collapsed. He said that one six or seven story building collapsed “like the World Trade Center.” He went first to his own family’s house in Jyekundo to look for his family and dig them out if necessary. Unlike most houses, his family’s house did not collapse. It has a large crack in it, the back wall is tilting at an angle, and it will have to be rebuilt, but it did not fall down. His father, sister, and brother are ok and were not injured. Khenpo said that he has a number of other relatives in Jyekundo and he thinks that six or seven of them were killed.

    He said that he and his family members have been spending all of their time helping other people dig in collapsed buildings, trying to find people who are still alive, but they haven’t found anyone alive. He said that he has pulled out several people who were already dead.

    There are now a large number of Chinese soldiers in Jyekundo who are helping to dig but not enough compared to how many collapsed buildings that there are, and the soldiers don’t have enough heavy equipment.

    Khenpo said that about eight hundred bodies that have been pulled out of the rubble so far but “there are thousands more bodies still buried in the collapsed buildings.” I said that the reports here are of ten thousand people injured and he said that it was at least that many and repeated that there isn’t enough space in the hospitals for all of them.

    No one is staying inside any of the buildings that are still standing and everyone is living outside in tents or in whatever way that they can. He’s sleeping in his car.

    Surmang Dutsi Til was not seriously affected by the earthquake. He has not been there in this first day since the earthquake but he was told that the earthquake was not so large there (Surmang is much further from the epicenter than Jyekundo is). He was told that no one was injured at Surmang Dutsi Til, and that several buildings have cracks in them from the earthquake, but none collapsed. He was told that there was no damage at all to the new shedra building complex at Surmang, which he described as very strongly built compared to how other buildings are constructed in the region. Khenpo has not heard yet of any damage at Surmang Namgyaltse. He has been told that the damage in the Nangchen heartland, centered around the town of Sharda, was not nearly as bad as around Jyekundo.

    Trungpa XII Rinpoche is at Derge right now, which was not affected by the earthquake. Damcho Tenphel Rinpoche was at Kyere and most of the family members of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche are in that area, which was not affected by the earthquake. However, several of the Vidyadhara’s nieces or nephews have been living in Jyekundo and Khenpo has no news yet of what has happened to them. Aten Rinpoche is alright, I believe he was at Surmang at the time of the earthquake but he has now come up to Jyekundo to help out. One of Aten Rinpoche’s relatives is a khenpo at Thrangu monastery and was killed.

    Thrangu monastery was the monastery most severely damaged by the earthquake from the reports that Khenpo has received. He was told that it is “95% destroyed” and that many monks there are dead, but no one yet knows how many. Benchen monastery wasn’t damaged as badly even though it is very close to Thrangu monastery. Domkhar monastery in Jyekundo was already in the process of being moved from its precarious hillside perch to a safer location in the valley and he think there wasn’t so much of a problem for them as a result. The Sakya monastery on a hilltop in Jyekundo has major damage but the buildings did not collapse.

    Thirty or forty families from the Surmang area now have winter houses in Jyekundo, which they were living in when the earthquake happened. He knows all of these families and is trying to check up on them. He thinks that all of them have lost their houses and probably ten to twenty people were killed from the Surmang families.

    He asked me to tell the Shambhala sangha that, if we are able to send money, that would be very helpful, because everyone who was involved in this earthquake needs help. He is going to find the Surmang families first to see how he can help them but there are many people who need help. Everyone who was living in Jyekundo has lost their house and has had people close to them who was killed or injured.

  14. damchö on April 15th, 2010 10:22 pm

    James, I love your poem, thanks. Dylanesque, somehow, but better.

    Also, I liked your thought way back on the Dadaists etc.

  15. Ash on April 16th, 2010 12:44 am

    Rita, did not answer one of yr. queries a while back about ‘unpacking’ individuality issue. Nor James’ about ‘certainty of Monarchy’. Was away from home quite a bit of late, and also internet connection often slower than dialup and this page takes forever to open up.

    Individuality: born in the 50’s (and now in them again!) and raised in England which perhaps had more of a sense of this than America but only to a degree, we were exposed to a more socialised culture. So-called ‘Confucian’ societies had this, and still have this, even more so, as do most traditional European cultures, and, I suspect, nearly all traditional cultures. In other words, one is part of a group, or rather one’s personal behavior is mainly a function and expression of a group, or societal, dynamic. Hence the great emphasis on speech, manners, dress, cultural expression of all sorts, all of which involve how an ‘individual’ manifests within a larger societal context. That larger context is the ‘Realm’.

    During a little window of connectivity last night, I was watching some video clips of Tsar Nicholas, his coronation and marriage, probably some of the earliest news reels ever made. People all arranged according to class, traditional dress, soldiers marching, bells ringing, ceremony, ritual and so on, but what struck me forcefully was the clear bond (samaya) of the assembled population. Nobody was barking orders all over the place telling them what to do and say, and yet everyone was finely attuned to behaving appropriately. Much in England when I was a boy there was very similar.

    Now in the post war years, there has been a veritable orgy of ‘individualism’ even though, interestingly enough, people seem to have less and less individual character, both in terms of vigor and virtue. When a person devotes much of their developmental and expressive energies towards individual view and manifestation, they are by definition distancing themselves from the group and thereby heightening the sense of self and other, creating more aggression and neurosis of all sorts. And then, in order to function, they need psychoanalysis and happy pills. Strange world.

    In any case, I think that is what he was referring to in terms of individualism. But that sort of negative individualism only makes sense to point out within the context of a more or less sane, vibrant culture. If you have general breakdown of social norms and virtues, then just blindly following along, i.e. failing to have one’s own individual integrity, becomes a similar problem on the flip side of the dynamic. I think that is what I was referring to. And also perhaps in the context of RFS, where there is a strong sense of the group having one astray, it is not necessarily ‘individualistic’ in the negative sense, to buck the trend.

    James, I don’t have historical references handy, I am sorry to say. So speaking idealistically, perhaps I could say that when you have a strong society, then a natural Monarch principle inevitably is created one way or another and embodied by one particular, living, human Monarch.

  16. Ash on April 16th, 2010 12:59 am

    But that principle transcends any ‘individual’. It is more like a particular moment, a particular perception.

    When a group is assembled and they tune into something together versus milling about aimlessly, when they focus on the same thing, group shamatha occurs immediately, and especially so in a well ordered, well socialised mandala. And when such groups assemble, they naturally wish to tune into something together. Frequently this takes the form of listening to a speaker, or witnessing a ritual. In any case, there is a single object of group focus.

    In this example of a communal event, the Monarch principle is that single object of group/societal focus. For the group to have a shared moment there must be that shared object of focus, at which point the object itself becomes less important than the mutual experience, or rather the group mind that is sharing the same state at the same place and time. This is similar to the shift of shamatha to vipashana perhaps, in that once the mind is still on an object, then a wider world opens up automatically and the mind itself, which is formless, becomes the object. So society shares the same state generally, altogether, by first focusing on the same particular.

    Now in the context of social hierarchy, or structure, if an individual Monarch starts taking the role as some sort of license to achieve all sorts of individualistic (often hedonistic or narcissistic) goodies, and forgets that his or her rank and role is in fact a function of the entire Realm including each and every inhabitant therein, that Monarch has gone astray, just like a meditator excited by the efflorescence of a particularly luminous state, and who, in trying to maintain that state, capture that state, separate that state from the streaming of unfolding ever-changing nowness, or being, turns it into a nyam, which is another way of saying that ego is trying to possess a sense of egolessness, which is akin to trying to imprison liberation.

    So the role of Monarch, ideally, is to act as a conduit for focus (or example) within an overall societal context which is attuned to group awareness. And since we are all basically good and sane, with fundamentally lovely hearts, such Monarch and such Subjects, by so attuning their minds together, will naturally tend to create more and more luminous, enriching, pacifying and powerful atmospheres together, and thus there will be further socialisation, sophistication and sanity of expression of goodness, skill, expression, intelligence, compassion and so forth. When a society lacks a Monarch principle, it does not have a way to have shared focus, and thus shared Heart-Mind, and thus promote mutual goodness.

    Everyone watching television on their sofa is a particularly glaring samsaric perversion of the Monarch principle. It is neither individualistic nor properly socialised behavior, rather some dim ghost realm imitation delivered via a machine throwing up projections of living people, but without living people being actually there in reality.

  17. Ash on April 16th, 2010 1:09 am

    Speaking of television, I think the funniest thing I ever saw CTR do was a private moment at the Court. It must have been a Sunday morning. I can’t remember what I was doing there, probably getting a notebook or something for Gesar who I was tutoring at the time, but I had to pop into his private sitting room. He was there on his own watching television, which had been specially brought in I suppose (or maybe it was there because I had been watching football with the Sawang the night before!?). Anyway, there he was watching TV. I found this sort of astonishing. I had never heard about his watching or not watching TV but just naturally found it incomprehensible. He was so Alive and TV being so dead sort of thing.

    He was watching one of those TV evangelists, one that alternated being shouting about Hell and crying about his sins and the sacrifices on the Cross and suchlike. And there was Rinpoche, sitting on his chair, staring fixedly at the screen with a black scowl on his face, which was clearly genuine but at the same time exaggerated, sort of Kabuki-like, or like Captain Haddock in a Tintin drawing.

    I paused to look first at the Preacher going through his conniptions and then at the Vidyadhara, both amused and amazed at the unlikeliness of this scenario. And then Rinpoche started shouting at the screen, things like ‘You charlatan! You Liar!” and so forth.

    I found this hilarious, but not just because it was obviously funny, but also because I had the totally irreverent thought that maybe because he was a Tibetan from the Realm of Maha Ati and Primordial Now, he thought he was actually talking to the Preacher. It certainly felt like he felt that way, his expression was so earnest! So the combination of him seemingly being so stupid and so wise at the same time for some reason gave me a great case of the giggles, which of course he ignored completely because he was totally into shouting down the Preacher in the TV box, which is where I left, quietly closing the door behind me, as I went about my business.

    Later, I learned that he hated TV and never watched it. So to test this out, I rented Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. I figured any true Englishman just had to like that, also I found it very TGS-y and thought he would like it, on a TV screen or no.

    He did.

    Which for some reason I found gratifying.

    Just a story for the fun of it…

  18. rita ashworth on April 16th, 2010 12:03 pm

    Dear Ash,
    Thanks for your feedback on ‘individuality and the Monarch principle’.
    Yes I agree with you about the UK and its traditions because of course I was brought up with them too. There were certain standards of behaviour that were prevalent in the 1950’s and 1960’s that have somewhat disappeared in regarding primarily to trust in authority.
    Of course the rebels in British society also talk of this lack of trust in a most unique way aswell. Recently for example I saw an interview with Johnnie Rotten, interestingly he was brought up a Catholic and was an excellent scholar i.e. a swot, he was quoting Shakespeare a lot in the interview and talking of the role of authority and the individual in society. So yes England has always thrown up these kind of characters which want us to consider the real ziji or essence of an individual acting within society, that is also part of the English tradition to mock authority when it swerves from its interaction with the people in a cohesive and compassionate manner.
    So yes I am not against the monarch principle but I think from my example that it has to be intimately intertwined with the concerns of the individuals within the society aswell. Monarchs to me have to allow diversity to happen in their realms, indeed the present Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who is at the head of the established church in the UK and is close to the monarchy, has argued that some aspects of shariah law could be incorporated into British law –how this would be done I dont know for sure but its interesting to contemplate this happening in a diverse society.
    So yes I agree the monarch principle is very deep within peoples psychology but of course too there is one’s own personal integrity as exemplified by the rebels and other traditions in the UK who often point to the societal inadequacies of a strict conception of the monarchy down the ages. In this respect also Princes Charles has argued that he would like to be the Defender of the Faiths and not the C of E Faith as the monarch is now.
    So what is one to do with the individuality concept in this regard when monarchy goes astray from its subjects, divides opinion, is not seen to ameliorate, is not seen visibly for example also? Well to me it means that the monarch has to start having a new relationship with their subjects as indeed the present monarchy has done in the UK from its previous fussiness with protocol and precedence.
    In addition the monarch principle should have a firm footing in tradition in regards to the study of history particularly western history where mega wars have engulfed the planet. Political awareness of the causes of aggression leads to more stability in society.
    So there you have it – I still think under a monarchy you can allow for different takes on the Shambhala teachings indeed the study of English society and history has pointed out that when you dont allow for this diversity you get problems, which Johnnie Rotten to the Archbishop of Canterbury have pointed out.
    So yes the greatness of monarchy has to be seen as a unifying principle primarily for all its citizens in times of national importance and calamity.
    Perhaps also as continual rebel myself in the tradition of the UK from its history and literature I cant ignore the English conception of conscience in relating to the monarch principle – I would be indeed be going against my very English genes if I did – so yes individuality within the conception of enlightened Kingdom for all that I think I could live with.
    Of course your ordinary man or women in the street may not consider these matters so deeply as I do –it might be well just give me the teachings on meditation and a community and yes what is the big deal about a monarchy any way –it wakes us up all this Tibetan stuff! Well all I can say to this is thats your choice but I also think a true King would defend the right of all his subjects to choose their way too as indeed the workaday monarchy in the UK has done. Its certainly weird that the Land of Oz has for example decided to hang out with the British monarchy and that Canada itself has not elected a President though it does have a constitution.
    So yes monarchy/individuality and conscience as to connection to one’s own experiences both secular and religious – big and colossal subjects for discussion.
    Well best
    Rita Ashworth

  19. damchö on April 16th, 2010 7:09 pm

    I’ve been appreciating all the eloquence on this subject of monarchy. My thoughts are not so deep and perhaps even somewhat naive, but for what they are worth:

    I came to VCTR’s first shambhala book well after I’d read nearly all of his published buddhist books. The first main part–“How To Be a Warrior”–blew my mind. Most of the second part did too, as well as aspects of the third. But also somewhere I think in the second half of the book–it’s been awhile since I’ve read it so I can’t pinpoint exactly where–I began to find certain ideas less compelling. Mostly these have to do with the concept of monarchy.

    For years and years I held those difficulties in my mind in “negative capability”. I kept challenging myself, kept playing devil’s advocate with my views, tried to see a different way. But I just was never able to understand that part of shambhala vision. And this created much cognitive dissonance in my mind. After all, I would say to myself over and over, this guy is clearly pretty realized… And yet, the Confucianist stuff just wouldn’t stick no matter how hard I tried. It still doesn’t.

    The main reason for this is simply that I’ve never come across that kind of power structure which, well, has really worked for any length of time, let alone ushered in anything close to enlightened society. Yes, I know the chants mention Ashoka, Emperors of China and Japan and so forth, but when I actually read history–not propaganda or speculation or hagiography, but careful, sober, sound history–I just don’t see “enlightened” kingship anywhere. Maybe I’m missing something–this is highly possible.

    Certain reigns have been much better than others, quite obviously, but what always leaps out at me first and foremost when I study these things tend to be just the grubby, “human all-too-human” realities of power and the will to power. (Sorry for two references to Nietzsche in one sentence!–I’m not especially Nietzschean in perspective.) I see all the manifold pathways power opens up to corruption, ie simple human grasping and aversion–from subtle through flagrant all the way up to genocidal. And I see the stoking of spiritual materialism and theism.

    Of course, VCTR’s teachings on the monarch principle go well beyond merely a philosophy of the state. I realize this. Still, since I never had the chance to meet him and therefore of course have never taken samaya with him, I am free to think that, as extraordinary and powerful a teacher as he was, I simply have no reason or basis for seeing him as perfect, free from all mistakes. And so I must say that nothing I’ve seen in human behaviour, either in historical study nor in my own long experience with power and its abuse, could lead me to feel that the kind of more-or-less absolute monarchy which now holds sway within shambhala is at all desirable. But of course, maybe this is not what he meant to have happen anyway–who knows? (cont.)

  20. damchö on April 16th, 2010 7:10 pm

    (cont. from above)

    Would I feel differently if I had had some up close and personal experience with a great lama? Possibly, but I doubt it. I find I just can’t argue with the old axiom: there’s something in the very nature of power that is corrupting, and the more centralized the power, the fewer the checks and balances, the greater the danger. This is what I keep coming back to.

    My last experiences at shambhala centres heightened all of this considerably. There, I saw the current head of shambhala treated as little (frighteningly little) short of a god. And I saw all the ancient shop-worn effects of this kind of culture on higher-ups and newcomers alike. Personally, I think it is a backward step. I think there are more empowering directions to take. More immediately, it simply scares me.

  21. Stuart on April 16th, 2010 7:20 pm

    ~ Ash on April 16th, 2010 1:09 am

    Just a story for the fun of it…

    Joe Hill wrote a song for the free speech fight of 1910 and it was introduced on the streets of Spokane by HAYWIRE MAC MCCLINTOCK … he was Grant’s secretary then… he wrote BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN and HALLELUJAH, I’M A BUM! They got together a little band… T-Bone Slim… a tuba… a garbage can lid… they stood in a doorway waitin’ to leap out at the unemployed throngs and regale them with song.

    They used a shill to build the crowd… you know a carny shill… someone who uses tricks to build a crowd…his name was Prescott… he wore a black suit an’ a black bowler hat an’ a string tie with an umbrella and a briefcase… looked like a banker. He’d walk down while they were hidin’ in the doorway and suddenly he’d start to yell “Help! Help! Help! I’ve been robbed. Help! I’ve been robbed.” Everybody would run across the street “What’s the matter? What’s the matter?” Soon as he’d got the crowd together he’d yell “I’ve been robbed by the capitalist system fellow workers.”

    He’d talk to ’em for ten minutes and then the boys would leap out and start singin’ and this is what they were singin’ …


    Long-haired preachers come out every night,
    Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right;
    But when asked how `bout something to eat
    They will answer with voices so sweet:

    (Main Chorus)
    You will eat, bye and bye,
    In that glorious land above the sky;
    Work and pray, live on hay,
    You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

    And the Starvation Army they play,
    And they sing and they clap and they pray
    Till they get all your coin on the drum,
    Then they tell you when you’re on the bum:

    If you fight hard for children and wife –
    Try to get something good in this life –
    You’re a sinner and bad man, they tell,
    When you die you will sure go to hell.

    Workingmen of all countries unite,
    Side by side we for freedom will fight;
    When the world and its wealth we have gained
    To the grafters we’ll sing this refrain:

    (Last Chorus)
    You will eat, bye and bye,
    When you’ve learned how to cook and to fry:
    Chop some wood, `twill do you good,
    And you’ll eat in the sweet bye and bye.

    Utah Phillips
    “We Have Fed You All A Thousand Years”

    – “The golden voice of the great American Southwest”, Bruce “U. Utah” Phillips, 1983.

  22. Mark Szpakowski on April 16th, 2010 7:24 pm

    Damchö, you have posed a very well articulated and open question.

    I suggest the following: how about we turn your comment into an article, so it could have its own comment stream? This is an entire discussion (and a half). What you’ve written its fine: no need for much editing.

    Just posing the question well, and then holding that, is great. And I wouldn’t rush in with answers: being and sharing and deepening the question is probably way more powerful.

    – Mark

  23. damchö on April 16th, 2010 7:42 pm

    Hi Mark–sure, happy to do that. I’d want to add a few little things if this were the case and unfortunately am crazily busy for a few days, so I might not be able to do it immediately. But maybe later in the weekend if that would work.

  24. Edward on April 16th, 2010 8:03 pm

    Personally, I don’t believe power is corrupting.

    When people have almost no power at all–say, they are about to starve to death– this often brings out very “corrupt” behavior, such as theft, violence, madness, warfare, all sorts of things.

    I don’t believe power corrupts. I do believe that a lack of feedback tends to be corrupting. Trungpa Rinpoche had a lot of power, I presume, within the sphere of his community. But he also paid attention to what was going on around him, I think. He seemed to be extremely sensitive to feedback.

    A schizophrenic person who lives down the street from you might have almost no power at all, and yet shut himself up in a bubble with no feedback, and become completely corrupted by that behavior.

    I think the notion that “power corrupts” is almost true, but not quite. What’s really corrupting is when people have the ability to ignore feedback. “Power” or money can help give us that ability, the ability to close ourselves off in a little cocoon. Maybe any kind of addiction functions the same way.

    But saying “power corrupts” can be misunderstood and misused to make people feel guilty and afraid to have any kind of power or functional ability.

    In some sense, the “power corrupts” idea is an anti-guru idea. It’s a way of claiming that no one is more realized than me. It’s a very American mindset. When the Karmapa comes to town, you hold out your hand to shake his hand, as equals. That kind of thing.

    I don’t know whether that mindset is good or bad or right or wrong– it just seems to be one that doesn’t allow you to learn from anyone else.

    This is because anyone in a position of power is automatically inferior to you, because you rationalize that they are corrupted. It’s a very competitive attitude.

    When I used to take martial arts, as soon as the class began, there would be two levels of status in the room– the teacher, and the students. The teacher told people what to do, and the students obeyed. Without this dynamic, it would have been completely chaos, and nobody would have learned anything.

    Even when some totally junior person taught the class, just giving that person a special status of “power” made the class go SO much better.

  25. damchö on April 16th, 2010 11:07 pm

    Edward, these are important points. The word “power” can certainly be used in distinctively different ways.

    I would firstly make a distinction between “power” and “empowerment”. The latter conveys a sense of genuine inner strength, which has no need to feed off of others.

    The former–at least in the sense I am using it–also needs to be distinguished from your martial arts example, where I would be inclined to use a word like “authority” or “teacher”. By “power” in my post I really meant political power: generalized power over others, power which has the capacity to compel desired behaviour through either force, sanctions, ostracization, or what have you.

    But–a big subject. Maybe we should wait for the new thread? Which will be specifically about the question of power within Shambhala and perhaps Western Buddhism in general.

    [This thread has become so epic my phone can barely load it anymore!…]

  26. Ash on April 17th, 2010 1:23 am

    Damcho, I find your following paragraph most provocative : “The main reason for this is simply that I’ve never come across that kind of power structure which, well, has really worked for any length of time, let alone ushered in anything close to enlightened society. Yes, I know the chants mention Ashoka, Emperors of China and Japan and so forth, but when I actually read history–not propaganda or speculation or hagiography, but careful, sober, sound history–I just don’t see “enlightened” kingship anywhere. Maybe I’m missing something–this is highly possible. ”

    Two aspects immediately spring forth: ” I’ve never come across that kind of power structure which, well, has really worked for any length of time, let alone ushered in anything close to enlightened society.” If I try to come up with examples from Western history, which I have some sort of familiarity with, albeit not in any great depth, I draw a blank, which makes me uncomfortable to contemplate. Indeed, my main conception of royalty comes from a combination of reading Shakespeare plays at school nearly every term from the age of seven until seventeen in the classroom, and vague notions of King Arthur. Roman Emperors seemed mired in problematic politics of all sorts, ancient Greece I never studied, although some of the old stories, like Jason and the Argonauts etc. probably made a deeper impression. Egyptian Pharaohs are more dreamlike to me than real, albeit Joan Grant’s ‘Winged Pharaoh’ made a deep impression on me when I read it as a teenager. And yet some sort of pure Arthurian type model remains deeply embedded, personally speaking, though I cannot say why. As to Asian examples, I have little knowledge, although I did have the treat once of riding in a Rolls to watch My Fair Lady in London in the Royal Box with Prince Chula of Thailand who was an Oxford chum of my stepfather’s. I enjoyed the whole thing immensely, apart from the chili-pickled mangos served up as refreshments!

    But then the second aspect kicks in, re: “but when I actually read history–not propaganda or speculation or hagiography, but careful, sober, sound history…”

    In regards to the blank drawn above, I have the sneaking suspicion that European history has by and large redacted the role of royal lineages, and feudal culture in general, and this was effected partly by the hegemony of the Roman Republic, but then later by the catholic/universal/transnational initiatives of the Church. I remember years ago reading a Holy Grail book and being surprised to learn that literally hundreds of small kingdoms were wiped out in the 8-10th(?) centuries as part of homogenizing culture and political power, and most recorded history after that point was mainly written by religious clerics and thus largely propaganda. In Britain, most of our history begins with the Norman Conquest. Few have read Bede or earlier historians and indeed only a couple of volumes exist I believe. And yet at that point the royal lineages were largely already extinct in terms of being autonomous, tribe-based lineages and societies. And therefore I wonder just how much of our history has been all that well written, especially the early history, large swathes of which have been systematically eradicated by confiscation and destruction (library at Alexandria for example). It is all very murky that way.

    I suspect those who can plummet the depths of Chinese scholarship could find much more. Chinese Imperial/Royal systems have arguably lasted a very long time until only a century or so ago, often producing very stable, prosperous eras. (Gunter Frank’s ReOrient is an interesting read in this regard.)

    But my main sense of it as a subject is that it is not only a political system, per se, but a fundamentally natural expression of things as they are societally speaking, in that any group has to have some sort of leadership and followership dynamic in order to function as more than a random collection of independent individuals. This is true for a family, a village, a tribe, a business, a sports team, a country and so forth. And at some point there has to be a single, living human being who embodies that principle in that ultimately the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘forward’ or ‘stop’ decisions which have to be made and communicated need to come from one mouth out of one particular body in place and time within the heart of that community.

    And then for me royalty also implies that there is a sacred aspect to life in general, and thus also to society in particular, because that is a living, actual truth, or dharma, of human experience when there is any level of awareness and sanity bubbling forth, something which all people aspire to experience and pass on, just as parents naturally love and cherish their children. So royalty has to do with a clear, unrestrained acknowledgment of this sacredness as being a quintessential sine qua non of decent society and decent life. Indeed, it is ultimately unavoidable, which is why even non-religious, non-royal systems, such as the US Republic, end up treating their elected Presidents as equivalents to Royals, with very similar, albeit rather clunky, rituals and observances. You just can’t get away from it even if you try.

    So if you can’t get away from it, then it should be done fully, completely, thoroughly, with awareness and passion.

  27. Ash on April 17th, 2010 1:48 am

    Footnote on Shakespeare as source: one rather credible theory is that Shakespeare was actually Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. ( http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/ ) I have not read the book – which I plan to purchase at some point, but I remember reading a while back that the de Vere family is one of the oldest Royal Families in Europe with roots going back to Julius Caesar and quite possibly to the Egyptian Royals as well; certainly they were a very old, noble lineage by the time parvenus like William the Conqueror were setting up their new dynasties, put it that way.

    It was a de Vere, for example, who conducted a separate coronation ceremony in the woods for Elizabeth Ist, a very old tradition which for some reason the de Vere’s were entitled to preside over, and also a de Vere who was the individual later changed into the ‘Robin Hood’ of legend.

    If this is true, then quite possibly the sense of Royalty transmitted in many of Shakespeare’s plays, is itself a form of transmission of the view of royalty handed down to us in the sixteenth century from a lineage heir whose family roots stretched deep back into the bedrock feudal past whose culture was probably in many ways far closer to the sort of ‘medieval’ or ‘tribal’ society that is invoked by the expression ‘Mukpo Clan’. So maybe reading Shakespeare to get some sense of royalty is not such a bad thing after all, and interestingly enough he communicated this not so much in the characters, but by the setup of Court mandalas which pervade the hierarchical structure of the plays.

    Also if this is true – that the history of the man Shakespeare is essentially a fabricated one – it is a further example of how quite possibly the history we have read, and perhaps especially the sober, solid stuff, is mainly well-crafted lies (which is why I was looking for footage of Tsar Nicholas, having read a few 1920’s accounts of people meeting with him in Europe, as well as a couple of Russian authors, who painted a dramatically different picture from the ones we have mainly received (much as I respect Tolstoy, who was one of his detractors). Also, very few people growing up in England know that we successfully blockaded Germany after WW I forcing hundreds of thousands, if not more, to starve to death, completely dishonoring the terms of surrender, nor that we did the same thing after WW II during which many millions of Germans were starved, countless hundreds of thousands of women raped and so on. Sober historians do not present such material, and those who do are often hounded out of their jobs and polite society. So quite possibly there have been many good kings and queens in the past whose reputations have been posthumously tarnished, and in many cases during their lives, as with Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and so on and so forth.
    In other words, since there has been a concerted effort for a while to change the previous models and leadership networks it is quite possible that we have a very distorted view of what was going on even only 200 years ago, let alone 1200, which might also explain that even though the institution lasted for millenia in most developed cultures throughout the known world, we have so little knowledge of it in terms of good examples.

  28. rita ashworth on April 17th, 2010 7:27 am

    Dear Ash, Damcho,Edward and Mark
    You know in some ways I cant believe that I am discussing monarchy because in the past I found it too much of an anachronism for a ‘modern’ society but there we go Trungpa Rinpoche has brought the whole thing up again so we must discuss it and not just go along with the present conception on monarchy arising within SI.
    The point of me discussing British monarchy was to point out how much such a very conservative institution has changed in the UK itself. Just think with a million Muslims in the UK the monarchy must now in some way accommodate its loyal citizens more so than it has done in the past even to the point of bringing in shariah law to British law. Of course the Archbishop was roundly condemned by the media and politicians for even raising the subject but there you go he sees what is happening around him and as responsible holder of power he must put this on the public agenda. So from the Archbishops comments I would like to suggest that monarchy itself is a dynamic thing and that when we try to fixate it in established forms in some respect we are undercutting the monarchy principle itself.
    Monarchy also means to me relationship –relationship in the Cosmic Mirror if we are talking Shambhala fashion so student/master power is fluid/ not fixed. We can see this relationship taking place in a most concrete fashion in Shakespeare particularly Richard II which is a very great play and seems to me to revolve around the exercise of power in a cosmic mirror way-a play worth looking at I believe on utube if you can catch it. In fact there is the end of the play which is quite marvellous when Richard II gives his crown to the new King – I dont know mirrors/power its all there.
    To Edward yes I suppose you could say superficially there is a master/student relationship happening within samsara but in a Cosmic Mirror sense I think there is just pure unadulterated magnificent power. But say I take your point conventionally I dont think a teacher can be a teacher unless there is relationship and in some instances the student surpasses the master as I believe Trungpa has stated also in that here too a dynamic is going on. You can see this also in the Q and As with Trungpa when the student hits it sometimes closer than Trungpa does himself but of course he has provide the space for the student to do that.
    So what I have been considering seems to me very deep because I have been thinking of it quite a bit and also very deep psychologically from what I have read about relationship and power. So for me fixating any ‘form’ particularly now the form developing in SI as the epitome of relationship seems to me a bit cock-eyed because we are talking of something that is fluid in all fields in a practical and religious sense .
    But Ok take for example that I surrender to the Sakyongs way of doing things – I see the light which many people may want me to do for the betterment of my mind, ho-hum, ho-hum, ho-hum does that mean that the Rigden King as he is now depicted will appear before me –no I dont think so I think what will come out/surface is what needs to come out which could be anything due to culture, psychological disposition, karma –now we are talking about imponderables! So all the present systems within SI and without are just systems – what we meet in ‘actuality’ and here I am talking of religious/secular experience as defined in the west because that is what I know about, maybe could be Jesus, Angels that Blake depicted – or God/Vajradhara knows what!
    So this is why I believe the Shambhala teachings are still wide open and why HHDKR said anyone could practice them because we talking about relationship and our deep connection to the King/Queen principle within us which is also basic goodness, power, call it what you will (open to more suggestions also!)
    So yes I think the discussion should go on both within and outside of SI for the whole monarchy principle to be unpacked perhaps you could even have a conference on it –so yes its commendable that this discussion has not stopped simply because SI thinks it has found its way to Shambhala.
    Yes as Johnnie Rotten sang ‘God Save the Queen!’ but for me and others not the Queen for the select but the Queen for the many. Yes Never Mind the b#ll##ks here comes the Sex Pistols! Or since I watched Stoned last night about Brian Jones –yes happiness is boring! (you have to see the movie to get that!)
    Rita Ashworth

  29. Ash on April 17th, 2010 9:56 am

    “simply because SI thinks it has found its way to Shambhala..”

    Well, we could say that Shambhala is one way of doing it, not necessarily the only way. But at least it is trying and that is a rare thing nowadays as a deliberate project, so to speak.

    “does that mean that the Rigden King as he is now depicted will appear before me…”

    Well, our sense of Royalty – as for example how we perceive the majesty of a Richard II when reading or witnessing the play – is a form of Rigden right there.

    Re: “So for me fixating any ‘form’ particularly now the form developing in SI as the epitome of relationship seems to me a bit cock-eyed because we are talking of something that is fluid in all fields in a practical and religious sense .” Also your comments on relationship and power.

    Perhaps this is voodoo etymology, but ponder the seeming similarities in sound and meaning of : royal, role, real, realm. Very similar words. In terms of power, the power is a mutual creation. In other words, the Royaly of a Monarch is not just individually generated and projected out; it is also projected from the subjects of the realm onto the Monarch because it comes from underlying sacred perception in the first place. So the Monarch plays the role of Monarch so that the subjects can see the embodiment of sacred outlook and natural hierarchy manifest on the spot in their society. Both Monarch and Subjects make the Realm real though the medium of the role played by the Monarch.

    It is also interesting that the Tib. word ‘Sa’ is in there because it seems also to mean realm/sphere/level/bhumi.

    The power of the Monarch – in any truly Royal/Real/Sacred tradition – is that of Drala which is based on absence of aggression and deception, cowardice and laziness etc. at which point the Majesty/WangTang of the Monarch blazes forth as an expression of the goodness of the society as a whole, such blazing and such goodness not happening in a vacuum. DDM’s seminal 1981(?) Sakyong speech talks of having built a throne out of his own blood, sweat and tears working with each subject personally. In other words, it was societal relationship which allowed for a manifestation of a Sakyong to come forth.

    It is ironic that you criticize SMR and SI for ‘fixating on the form’ when at the same time many are attacking because he has, seemingly, changed to form so much that it is perceived as unworkable. If the society is fracturing to the point that fewer and fewer identify with being part of tha ‘we’, and thus no longer identify with the Sakyong as their Realm Protector, that he no longer plays that vivid role in their lives/mandala, then this is indeed a very serious affair.

    But that said, it is quite possible that as the Buddha remarked, certain obstacles only arise after progress, or greatness. So again (for me) this implies that all this problematic dynamic might not be the sole product of the individual person whose role is that of Sakyong.

    Finally, I think the tendency to think in terms of ‘systems’ is essentially a cop out, or insidious dynamic of the Professionals Enemy in the mix. To me theism is often evidenced wherever concept is trusted (worshipped) over direct experience. We see this all over: in political ‘systems’, medical, scientific, academic and so forth. One of the many functions of a Royal ‘system’ is to cut through that conceptual overlay or sludge so that reality can keep shining through in the realm. You don’t get rid of the power problem by diluting it in a mud of concept – you just end up with some form of totalitarian concrete at some point on way or another.

    So again it is sort of choiceless: the only viable orientation in society is towards the Great Eastern Sun. Ultimately there is no other way if we wish to remain in an enlightening Human Realm.

  30. Ash on April 17th, 2010 10:28 am

    Re: “But that said, it is quite possible that as the Buddha remarked, certain obstacles only arise after progress, or greatness. So again (for me) this implies that all this problematic dynamic might not be the sole product of the individual person whose role is that of Sakyong.”

    During the Mill Village retreat, it was reported that a new text did not come through and that DDM said it was because of obstacles from the students, that we were not coming through enough. He gave a moving speech to the Vajradhatu Standing Committee about how people have to step beyond their personal comfort and survival zones if we were to go forward.

    CTR blazed a mahasiddha trail into Western culture opening up a broad horizon on which could be seen, clearly rising, the Great Eastern Sun, which naturally evolves into some sort of larger, societal unfolding rather than being a personal development scheme alone, even in the dharmic sense. Most of his students bathed in the rays of this Rising Sun principle and took it to heart, because it was in their hearts from birth in any case of course. That is what I meant by ‘greatness’. But then there are the obstacles which come up in the light of that greatness and many of those obstacles are ones that we individually and collectively have to work through and I believe that much of this work has to be done on the Subjects level, which sometimes I have been calling the ‘Nyen’ level.

    Also in terms of the role of Sakyong: CTR trail blazed its creation in the midst of North American culture. Amazing. But also just first dot both numerically and historically. Still amazing. But think of the difference of being the trail blazer where none has trod before, and the one who has to then assume that role, inherit that role, not trail blaze that role but simply continue it. I think CTR was not only being prophetic but definitional when he ‘predicted’ that the Sawang would surpass him. For to maintain a Sakyongship, which means also to maintain a Great Eastern Sun sangha, is perhaps far greater a task than to trail blaze it. No matter who one is or what one does, one is compared to the founder, some of whose original principles must be held as seed syllables, but many of whose forms must naturally evolve into new, and often seemingly quite different ones, just as happened within CTR’s tenure. Similarly, the sangha must evolve, both in terms of maintaining depth and continuity, but ongoing flexibility and development.

    This is a very great undertaking, very great. That there are obstacles, serious ones, is par for the course. But although I respect the views expressed here, and am grateful they are being expressed forthrightly, I am still very reluctant to personalise the whole thing in terms of SMR being the alpha and omega of any perceived obstacle. To me this is a crude form of demonization. It looks like there are systemic problems right now, but I still doubt this is due to gross corruption, rather a large don or obstacle which all involved have to own as such.

  31. rita ashworth on April 17th, 2010 11:50 am

    Dear Ash,
    Wow an interesting post a lot to consider.
    Yes the monarchy /subject principle is an intertwined ‘concept’ both philosophically and practically I dont think it can be seen in any other way there is always that mirror concept there so like you say there is that ‘Rigden’ there.
    Re form and the present depiction of the Rigden King I think the decision has been made to go too early with this form particularly for primarily a western membership and here we are talking about imponderables, intuitions about what kind of forms could be discovered. Yes society is somewhat fracturing but to solidfy a form too early to me excludes more than it includes. So yes this is the serious situation developing which I also think James has referred to in his discussion of culture and manners.
    So to a certain degree it is a matter of timing, appropriateness, knowledge of how to proceed to take people along with you and perhaps the acknowledgement too that other terma could surface which Mr Neutral has alluded to on his post on the Chronicle Project and of course if here we are talking about other terma I think we may be possibly be talking about different forms too. So thats why I think there is room for diversity within this realm because I dont think any one knows how it is going to pan out.
    Re the systems point I think I agree with you –yes if you are going to have the vision of a Great Eastern Sun you have to have some one like Mark Szp said to make the first move but first moves from where? First moves just from the monarch principle –cant be totally that-first moves could come from many sources particularly other people who are practicing much over the years. Also first moves sprang up all over the place when the teachings were introduced into Tibet –again another ‘reason’ to consider diversity within the Kingdom and in your opening sentence you have stated that there could be other ways to Shambhala aswell so this resonates too with multiplicity of practices that might come about. There is also Mark Szps. Statement from Trungpa in an other post which is “I will make you terma” –yes very dynamic, very fluid here.
    Yes I agree I am somewhat placing my feelers into the future re the Shambhala teachings and their establishment on this earth in a practical sense but I am trying to work from own direct experience of the teachings aswell in this regard too so I am not totally working intellectually from a black hole.
    Yes I know its difficult when do you go forth, when do you hold back, who do you accommodate who do dont accommodate, – all the decisions a King/Queen must make to make his realm come about. But truly great Kings and Queens have done this. The one I am thinking of in this regard is Queen Elizabeth II who faced such turmoil in her realm. (Its interesting there have been loads of documentaries on her recently on British TV primarily may be because she was so deft at ruling- I just cant believe how much I am discussing the monarch principle as do you know my Queen is costing me a canuck dollar a year –jeez I think I should get it back with interest!)
    Of course too there is the whole dynamic of the psychological aspect of the teachings which Damcho might consider regarding our own connection to power so I am looking forward to some more posts on that.
    But primarily myself yes I am still interested in the actual setting up of KOS from a political sense and how that can be forwarded in the world as I think I have somewhat glimpsed the psychological thingie so I am interested in taking that connection outside in to the practical workaday world.
    I hope more people can post on the monarchy motif – as I would like to hear differing viewpoints.
    Well best from this side of the pond –for once its very hot in the UK – and no planes eerie!
    Rita Ashworth,

  32. James Elliott on April 19th, 2010 1:58 am


    Individualism or any ideology is flawed, but “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness” talk by VCTR as well as the notion in dharma that enjoins us to ‘cut the universal unconsciousness’ seems to me a call to develop the ability to be fully an individual, rather than a feather in the winds of any local zeitgeist or government.

    Individualism may be problematic, though I would argue with your description of its development, causes and effects. In any case, a wiser man than I once said “Any system that ignores the individual will fail.”

    I would agree that hierarchy arises automatically in any group, corporate or social. I don’t see that as proof that monarchy is therefore necessary or the only way to the highest expression of a healthy society. Nor that the individual is subsumed.

    I’m surprised with Nicholos II as example of commendable monarchy. (albeit no less so than with Shambhala’s partnership with Bhutan, a country involved in ethnic cleansing.)

    Of course the coronation looked grand on film. If you believe luxury is something to aspire to, who can argue, but if that was the pinnacle of a healthy society, I beg to differ. What was not filmed was that when food and drink were handed out, the crowd rushed to get their share and people were trampled. Of c.100,000 visitors, 1,389 died and c.1,300 were injured. I don’t think that happened because of exuberance. I think they were really hungry. (And the film is silent so whether orders were being given or not… )

    Consider his proclamation: “I want everyone to know that I will devote all my strength to maintain, for the good of the whole nation, the principle of absolute autocracy, as firmly and as strongly as did my late lamented father.” which lead into ‘Bloody Sunday’ and fueled the Bolshevik revolution (the Bolsheviks being the main reason Hitler was tolerated as long as he was).

    Or the anti-Semitic programs Nicholos II supported and funded. He had the full support of the orthodox church and was canonized when murdered, perhaps one of the reasons it was so vilified during the following revolution?

    They may look spiffy in their whites, Ash, but… something’s not right there.

    In general what you are describing as ‘the monarch principle’ as necessary for a peak experience of basic goodness in society, if it isn’t just romantic whitewashing, if it can be taken positively as something to emulate, is a religious view, a description of the vajra-master/student relationship.

    Even here I would take some exception. The vajrayana relationship is unequivocally not a form of self hypnosis. The overcoming of ego is not simply a matter of identification or what one believes or a matter of how one decides to approach something. There is real individual work involved in that, and the vajra-master’s job, if not just theater, is more than maintaining a cool facade we can project upon as a group.


  33. James Elliott on April 19th, 2010 2:02 am

    I think this is a classic example of how Shambhala Buddhism encourages people to project the dynamic of a very personal and intimate formalized relationship with a realized master, onto a larger political system that in theory would affect many, some of whom will not believe the same things or even be on the same path.

    As a student/teacher relationship? Fine. As a structure for political power, it is not just prone to corruption, it has in virtually every instance I know of been responsible for it, maintaining power at the cost of a majority, very simply because there are no checks and balances, or any representation to speak of. (Again the Bastille option is not a form of checks and balances.)

    I agree that thinking only in terms of systems is a cop out. I could care less about the ideology, honestly. If a dictator treated me and those around me properly, I would see the benefits of dictatorship.

    My interest in these things began and remains because of witnessing abuse at the hands of appointed officials, and the abject failure of any official party involved to relate to those problems productively and tangibly with concern for those affected. Any manifest concern has been for appointed officials, or the image of Shambhala, not those affected.

    In such a highly hierarchical structure one cannot, Ash, hold those who have been poorly served accountable for the behavior of appointed officials. That is the role responsibility and duty of those who appoint them. Holding those adversely affected responsible would mean leadership is not accountable for its decisions, the actions of officials, or any ensuing results. That would be the antithesis of genuine leadership, and would if continued lead predictably to a collapse of social cohesion.

    Blaming the victim also exacerbates the frustration of people adversely affected, and activates people to do more than just grumble. Because when that happens, it becomes clearer we are not talking about simple misunderstandings or minor mistakes of people with responsibility, but rather an institutionalized denial system actively avoiding responsibility for the very things the institution and its leaders must at the very least be held responsible for.

    I begin to think a highly centralized absolute monarchy will ultimately only serve the kinds of films you saw of Nicholos II’s coronation, and perhaps the noblemen and soldiers tiptoeing in order to get a glimpse of the great man. The rest of us can eat cake.

    In the inspiration of what a Russian/German friend said when we visited Versailles, the luxurious Palace and gardens commissioned by Louis XIV just outside Paris: “When I look at the concentration of luxury and wealth here, I think a lot of people must have died in poverty to make it possible.”

  34. Ash on April 19th, 2010 10:49 am

    Well, that business about 1,300 dying to get food is clearly pretty bad. If true. The Bloody Sunday incident: there are two sides to that one, with some credible witnesses at the time saying it was a classic false flag type event engineered to get the soldiers to respond the way they did. Hard to say.

    As usual, I agree with most of your points. My main thrust earlier was more about how only a few generations ago, or in more ‘traditional’ societies there was far more socialisation, for lack of a better term, i.e. individuals experience as such being far more wedded to being part of a collective. Like any dynamic this has both positive and negative aspects.

    My impression of European monarchy is that it has been largely corrupted since the Dark Ages and perhaps never really established itself properly in any case. But I still do feel that Monarchy/Royalty is the clearest, most sophisticated and practical expression of an underlying societal dynamic which is inevitable in any group, aka the need for hierarchy. Embodying the Monarch principle – which could manifest in many ways such as democratically elected individuals or committees, or unseen oligarchies, or war chiefs or whatever, in the person of a trained and empowered public figure, is the best way, but that does not mean it is a sure thing. Indeed, it most certainly is not, which is also one of its virtues.

    There is a fallacy in thinking that human affairs can be made perfect by some sort of perfect system, which ultimately is no more than a conceptual overlay, an idea versus a true “res”, which relates to the terms denoting reality and the State, interestingly enough, our ‘Sa/Bhumi/Realm’ notion again; or moreover that a system can trump the living people who ultimately comprise its component parts.

    The ideal sense of Royalty, embodied however imperfectly in such events as the Tsar’s coronation (or the mass outpouring of grief at Princess Diana’s death which itself evidences the vitality of the Monarch principle even in modern society, also the shared distress at JFK’s sudden death etc.), to my mind has aspects of luminosity, sacredness, glory and goodness, some sort of pure expression of basic goodness. So what makes a leader Royal is that somehow society has mutually conspired to make itself capable of generating sacred perception which manifests in the mutual sacredness of both ruler and ruled.

    I think the key fault line, though, might be in terms of the old checks and balances business. Like IF you have a ruler who is totally corrupt, how do you depose him if necessary, or protect the nobles or ordinary subjects from abuse, either from their peers or their leaders. Again, no system alone can ensure sanity and decency since ultimately it comes down to the psychic threads knitting a collective together into one society, or realm. This is similar in principle to the difference between experience-based ‘spirituality’ and book-based religion. The rule of law, an excellent thing, is not impervious to being corrupted (witness the 10+ year imprisonment of Martin Armstrong in the US without trial or evidence of criminal activity).

    Underlying several of your stories and objections is the theme of dealing with civil servants who have been less than civil, or actually harmful. Personally, I think there needs to be a more formal mechanism for public complaint and arbitration put into place ASAP. Any organisation larger than a ‘mom & pop’ has this. Would help prevent festering wounds when mistakes are made.

  35. rita ashworth on April 19th, 2010 11:26 am

    Dear James, and Ash
    Wow another interesting post from James re the debate between individuality and monarchy emphasising here more the role of the individual in society.
    Re concrete monarchy in the UK and its literature its a mixed historical bag I believe-certainly in war time a constitutional monarchy provides some notion of strength that is not purely jingoism. For example I have seen film of George VI who was a very nervous man and stuttered a lot on film but he did try to engage with all aspects of society and that would have been hard for him coming from such a nutty class-ridden society as the UK in the 1940s-so thats why I am not totally against the monarch principle.
    However in the UK there has been much talk about containing all the hangers-on around the monarchy and modernising the monarchy so that in some way it would resemble more modern monarchies in Europe where here monarchs are more in contact with their people. So then again in society the monarch maybe would resemble the European model but with the spiritual qualities of a Shinto Emperor/King/Queen so it would be somewhat of a constitutional /natural vision of a monarch not the guru principle persay.
    Of course in Shakespeare we have the discussion in a lot of the plays between the monarch/individual principles and of course dissent and non-dissent so thats why the bard is still so important because of course he is talking about when we act and dont act in situations according to whether we have got the ‘chutzpah’ of a monarch to do so –so yes its all very psychological as is the student/master relationship and the dynamic flowing between the two. And here I brought up Richard II because here we have an individual/monarch who did not heed what was going on around him or the advice of older wiser heads in the kingdom and although he was capable of being a monarch and also loved by some of his people he just lost the plot because of his narcissism. So thats why I was talking about the appropriateness of how you rule and how you work with people that requires a certain level of skill both concretely and metaphysically aka meditation practice. You can not exclude others if you want the whole thing to gel together so you have to be open to people with their arguments about stuff and indeed be amenable to changing the course of your thought and actions in the world.
    Re the monarch/individuality principle the practice of theatre is also very interesting to take part in to sort of recognise how group dynamics evolve. I have mentioned the Boal workshop I attended where Forum theatre was practiced before but I would like to mention the way here a kind of leadership style evolved in much more of a democratic way. Here we all sat in a circle and people would bring up stuff that they found was bothering them in society and then we would do plays on those issues. After some time if people coalesced around certain subjects the play would coalesce around that subject also. So it was up to the individual to speak up, go forward, with his/her take on the situation and then for that to be worked out practically in the workshop. I suppose by this process you got natural leaders emerging and that even if you did not say anything and you just had the hotheads coming forward at least you had people in the group observing the process so that was ‘good’ in itself. Yes, even the seeing of ‘leadership’ whether good/bad/indifferent was of some benefit to others in developing the qualities of a leader/facilitator.
    Of course the description of this process does not entirely match the leader/individual dynamic within SI and other dharma groups also because here of course we have to be more mindful of including everyone in the process even the quieter students but I think the Forum theatre method could be modified to take account of this. It also seems to me that this dynamic of the individual versus his/her role in greater society is being played out more fruitfully in Latin America where one can concretely see the divisions in society more so than in the liberal democracies of the west. So yes might be good to engage with Latin American thinkers more so at Naropa.
    So yes you can see from this post I am somewhat of in a mixed bag myself about the monarch/individual principle in that I probably favour the Boal/Latin American approach more favourably than the traditional concept of a monarchy. But being rooted in my culture I can not entirely dismiss the monarch principle both psychically and concretely but I think it has to be greatly modified but the least I can say on this re SI is that in order for KOS to evolve you have to include and not exclude different ways of the shambhala teachings coming to fruition so I think whats the problem let people go their own way with these teachings dont try to maintain the control so much.
    Just a typo also in my last post it should have read Queen Elizabeth I not II – also if people want to check out some excellent documentaries on religious stuff and monarchies they can download programmes from Channel 4 to watch –there is one on ElizabethI to download.

    Rita Ashworth

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  37. James Elliott on April 22nd, 2010 4:37 pm

    However we frame theTzars, when so much wealth is concentrated next to so much poverty it can never be healthy or stable. The galas wealth can throw to celebrate itself, will not mitigate the social collapse that results. That’s a universal dynamic – a concentration of wealth or resources leading to collapse –we can see it in micro-biology, nature and physics as well as history, and a potential failing of all forms of government. Clearly America’s form of democracy has not overcome this weakness.

    Your assumption about monarchies sounds a bit like New Age nostalgia that primitive societies were more spiritual and in harmony with their environment than we. But I think that as humans evolved from one success to the next, populations grew, and new difficulties arose, so new systems evolved. We are probably in such a cusp now.

    Before the dark ages, kingdoms were more like glorified chiefdoms, occasionally unified by force, bribery or necessity, and fought with their neighbors for resources, manpower, and land. The first thing they explain on any castle tour is how the architecture is a battle strategy. Some great halls it would be mind-blowing to have a Shambhala Ball in… but a system of governing through serfdom and indentured slavery, we are all well shod of.

    (A passing thought: it may well be that monarchy faded because banking systems became sophisticated enough that the concentration of wealth was too easy, too tempting, and therefore inherently unstable.)

    ‘Monarchy principle’ which can manifest in any form of government evokes less resistance. (not anti-monarchy btw, though absolute monarchy looks pretty toxic.)

    But I still feel uncomfortable with your descriptions of a group’s perceptual experience of a coronation, or events around famous people as examples of luminosity, sacredness, etc, in arge part because it is highly questionable that people outside of the privileged circle see it in the same way.

    If we experience those sorts of peak tribal experiences without knowledge or concern about origins substance or cost, are we experiencing a form of realization, a glimpse at the nature of mind, or a form of group-think, a shared ‘National Enquirer’ illusion?

    I know what you mean about how inspiring that feels. We had the good fortune to know VCTR and a few other dharma kings. That experience, tangible for even non-Buddhists, was nevertheless grounded in a field of individual discipline practice and study, and compassion. In short it is a description of hanging out with a realized teacher and his sangha.

    I’m not at all sure one can create a government that is dependant on, or meant to create, such feelings, for a number of significant reasons.

    This is akin to problems with Gross National Happiness. When we make the government responsible for our happiness, I don’t think we enter a mutual conspiracy of sacred outlook. I think we become mutually dependant in a symbionic way that tends to discourage genuine introspection and insight.

    In the inspiration of the magic inherent in being able to stop the world.

  38. Ash on April 22nd, 2010 8:45 pm

    Well, the social collapse in Russia, whose working class citizenry had the highest standard of living in Europe at the time according to some reports I have read (but cannot now cite or vouch for) was certainly helped by the simple fact that within months of the ‘revolution’ all of Russia’s gold was shipped back to the bankers in Germany, London and New York who had financed the revolutionaries. Halifax NS had a minor part in this sordid tale: after arresting Lenin as a German agent (with whom we were at war at the time, and which he was) they were persuaded (presumably by the Americans) to let him go. From Germany he went over to Russia (trip paid for by German govt) and the rest, as they say, is history.

    As idealistic as my depiction of Royalty no doubt is in terms of projecting such outlook onto actual history (which shall forever remain unknowable), I think there is a certain blackwashing of the feudal past that is the product of a narrative largely pushed by those with contemporary axes to grind, and therefore not necessarily more accurate.

    My main thrust has been, admittedly, more intellectual or abstract, however, and not tied to historical evidence necessarily. That said, I would be very surprised if there were not many good examples of uplifted Royal Courts in many small kingdoms, principalities or chiefdoms, not only in Western culture but also Eastern.

    Peak tribal experiences/sacred perception: of course not all peak experiences are sacred. But there were two parts to the thought:
    1. group experience does heighten perception/state of mind. This sort of thing is very obvious at something like a football game. Very strong energy, almost tangible it is so obvious. Of course this can flip into the power of an angry mob, but the energy is there.
    2. Societies are comprised of individuals, families, communities, regions etc., but ultimately of people. And I think most people everywhere throughout history are…. basically good (surprise surprise!). This goodness, when combined with strong group energy can indeed engender a form of sacred perception. Ordinary examples are times of birth, of marriage, death ceremonies, national reaction to sudden calamity like assassinations or earthquakes. Also war, I suppose. But I think birth, marriage and death are ordinary societal events at which such perceptions most often naturally arise. This being the case, I think it somewhat jaded to insist that any social system should not have any concern for engendering more of this sort of thing, that it has to be a dry, pseudo-scientific, or objective, or emotionless, systematic approach that most closely resembles the dry, if intellectually turgid, prose which university textbooks and intellectuals of all stripes (ab)use when describing such things. I think this is yet another manifestation of a contemporary sort of superstition -the mechanical, dead, objective world fallacy, one of the principal setting sun banes of these our ‘modern’ times.

    Lastly, the wealth of the monarch evidenced at a coronation is in fact the wealth of the entire society made manifest. As is the wealth of the monarch moment to moment.

  39. Ash on April 22nd, 2010 9:04 pm

    “This is akin to problems with Gross National Happiness. When we make the government responsible for our happiness, I don’t think we enter a mutual conspiracy of sacred outlook. I think we become mutually dependent in a symbiotic way that tends to discourage genuine introspection and insight.”

    Two little points in response to that:
    a) people must be made responsible for their government. That is the great challenge of any society, how to make that both true, and at the same time have well ordered, flexible, dynamic leadership along with class systems.
    b) conspiracy is, by definition, something secret; such a national outlook, is not. Key difference.

    If a) is not the case and ‘da people’ are essentially serfs to the dominant order, then I agree, it’s hopeless. But this doesn’t mean that trying to put up something purely mechanical is in any way better. At best, it means you have a well functioning animal realm, little more. That’s not a very great achievement in the larger scheme of things, although it still could be better than what we have now on several levels. Perhaps.

    At the same time, to return to a provocative element in CTR’s teachings, ultimately a good citizen is one who knows how to surrender ego completely, learns how to serve others. This is the ideally ‘socialised’ individual. It is sort of the enlightened side of serfdom although in legal or class terms the two might be almost identical.

    In any case, there is a reason, I think, why traditional monarchies of all sorts evolve far beyond the chief model which you often cite as the root form for monarchy. Although a chief/tribal leader/elder is manifesting certain aspects of what we have been calling the ‘monarchy principle’ in abstract terms, a full-blown Royal Lineage, established in a society over generations, is something a little more than that. More to the point, in most of these Royal models, the Monarch refrains from meddling over much in governmental affairs or, when they do, have empowered various Ministers, Mandarins and Generals to take up much of that burden and letting them carry it, only retaining the ultimate authority to empower and dismiss such individuals. The point being again that people have to run their own affairs, ultimately, and even a Monarch cannot do that for them. Not a good one, anyway. That being the case, what is the role of a Monarch?

    I would argue that it has far more power on the gut and heart, than the head, level. It is an example, an inspiration, an ultimate authority, but above all a role that embodies the heart of a people, and also a person embodying that role whom the people find a communal object of focus, a psychic axis around which societal basic goodness and lungta is engendered and aroused. Something like that. Which is why dry systems language alone, though fashionable nowadays when discussing societal themes, falls so far short.

  40. rita ashworth on April 23rd, 2010 6:02 am

    Dear Ash, James
    Ash I believe it was Leon Trotsky that was detained in Nova Scotia not Lenin – I have just checked this up on wiki. I remember hearing about this in Nova Scotia when I was there and I thought wow the British let him go and thinking Trotsky in Nova Scotia that would make an interesting play. Seems from Wiki that he stayed in Amherst, NS.
    And of course it was Trotsky who as an army commander kept the White armies at bay –also checking this period up on utube it seems many governments in the west supported the monarchies White Army so thats may be why the Tsar was executed.
    Myself from my brief reading of the Russian revolution and its causes from school and now on utube for me the Tsar did not reform his government to a constitutional monarchy as many had done in Europe of course I dont know the pressures on him from those surrounding him at the time perhaps he was hidebound by the hangers-on that surround monarchies. One does have to be a astute monarch to devise a good pathway through difficulties, perhaps he was ill-advised.
    Trotsky I find more interesting than Lenin in that he was into a world wide revolution the overhaul of the complete economic system so yes he had a very inquisitive mind about politics nearly bought a book on him here recently, but the bookshop closed down. Anyway re the communism angle of the shambhala kingdom I think Trotsky is more interesting to look into than Lenin –so yes will definitely read more about him.
    Re the monarchy thing again I think I am in the middle between you and James in the discussion in that I can see that a constitutional monarchy does foster a sense of for a better word pride –in the Uk you can not avoid the impact of the monarchical system of all aspects of our life from the law to our chequered history. And of course we have the C of E with the Monarch at the head of it but may be disestablishment will come soon due to the multiculturalism in the UK. So yes the monarchy now in the Uk at the present time – I think it is looked upon fondly but it can not seem to be aggrandising wealth to it –the press is always on its heels re extravagances.
    So from this brief swish at the monarchical system I would say that a monarchy in Shambhala has to follow somewhat of the same course but with the added system of maintaining ceremonies that manifested drala. Do the cherry-blossom ceremonies do that in Japan –not sure about that. So yes thats how I see a Shambhala monarch in the most widest sense for all religious and secular people. So yes this would still preserve the notion of seeing the Shambhala king as a master warrior aswell as given in the Sacred path of the Warrior book.
    Re James perhaps more emphasis on the individual –yes you gotta have it otherwise the monarchy is in competition with the notion of underdog which as you probably know too Ash is a British favourite aswell. Uk renowned down the ages for throwing up poets, scholars, revolutionaries that have pointed out the inadequacies of the monarchical system – so there is always that tension going on between the two spheres of government so thats why in the end we have a constitutional monarchy I think.
    Myself in the sphere of the revolutionaries was attracted to the Levellers in the UK from Cromwells time (read a magazine in the 70’s called the Levellers) certainly with the Levellers more so than Cromwell we are getting ordinary people really thinking about political affairs to the nth degree even to the point of being imprisoned and having their lives threatened. So may be with the Levellers metaphor we have a image of the democracy level in the monarchy, democracy, communism triad acting more acutely – it also ties in with Trotsky’s viewpoint a tot one may say. So yes we don’t have a docile democracy but a very active one in relation to the monarchy –perhaps this is my main point about the triad.
    Thought the discussion had stopped……..maybe you could swop positions Ash talking more about individual in society and James talking more about where he has observed ‘enlightened hierarchy’ that would be interesting – I would be interested in this way at looking at the discussion.
    Best from an again flying nation!
    Rita Ashworth

  41. Chris on April 23rd, 2010 2:04 pm

    I don’t believe that the issue is Shambhala-Buddhism versus Vajrayana Buddhism and Shambhala as a separate path.
    I think the issue needs to be seen in a bigger context of New Age Spiritual Materialism rampantly consuming and subsuming the Buddhadharma . New Age Spiritualism is easily commodified and marketed, and so the Dharma is commodified and marketed along with New Age Buddhism. SI should change the name to “New Age Buddhism” since Shambhala Buddhism has much more in common with New Ageism now , than Buddhism, not only in term of its content offerings, but in its emphasis on marketing and seeing the dharma as a product and commodity.
    Just take a look the defining characteristics, as laid out by New Age Buddhist marketers at Shambhala Mountain Center ” Learn how to meditate, delve into the wisdom teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, stretch beyond your limits in a yoga retreat, or practice mindfulness in one of our contemplative arts programs. And if R&R is what you are seeking, consider one of our relaxing, rejuvenating Retreat & Renewal weekends. Discover this and more at our pristine six hundred-acre mountain valley meditation retreat center, a sanctuary and training ground for body, mind, and spirit”.
    Spirit? Buddhism doesn’t believe in a spirit.
    Or look at the any of the current seminar offerings at Shambhala Mountain Center:
    “Sourcing your Soul; ” “Awakening Artistry;”, “Evolve Your Brain;” “Conscious Relationships;” “Seat of the Soul;” “Intuitive Fitness for Women Yoga;” “The Way of the Happy Woman;” ” Psychotherapy as the Path to Liberation;” “Yoga to Manage Your Mood:” etc. etc.
    New Ageism and Buddhadharma have had a rather long relationship, since Madame Blavatsky and earlier, and New Ageism has often mistakenly believed that it has had something in common with the genuine buddhadharma. In actuality , they couldn’t be more different, and that is why the mixing of these two has been so confusing for so many people. Most of the people now attracted to New Age Buddhism, in such forms as the current Shambhala Buddhism of SI , would never have been attracted to the genuine dharmic path, which required a commitment that took one away from mainstream, popular culture, was shocking to ego and all its subterfuges, and demanded a ” critical questioning of consensual reality”not only of the larger reality, but also of the consensual reality of dharma institutions and teachers, throughout the path. New Age Buddhism , on the contrary, allows people to believe they are “Buddhist,” without taken many risks, or questioning consensual reality, or confronting the “truth of suffering.” In fact, New Age Buddhism is always denying the truth of suffering, and presenting a package that will distract one from the truth of suffering, and being a New Age Buddhist is now an ornament to ego, a credential, another reference point for ego.

  42. Chris on April 23rd, 2010 2:06 pm

    New Age Buddhism now has so much currency in our contemporary society, that recent scam artists in Boudler, Colorado bilked millions out of clients, simply by having the name “Dharma” in the company name, thereby convincing the New Age Buddhists that this was a legitimate investment group. The “Dharma Investment Group” is now being indicted for many counts of fraud, being simply a scam group involved in another ponzi scheme.
    New Age Buddhists are into health, yoga, denial of old age and suffering. New Age Buddhists, after a few courses , begin teaching about buddhism on their blogs, having practiced just enough to “calm down” and make themselves feel good, and then going about their” business as usual.” Just enough “dharma” but not so much that it interferes with their comfy professional lives and consumerism. In fact, New Age Buddhism is all about being confortable, and seeking the latest program, seminar, that will lead to an ever more upward, but comfortable quest for “enlightenment” which is just about to happen , at the next weekend program.
    Buddhadharma is not about utopian futures where a positive new apocalyptic future is envisioned. New Age Spiritualism and Shambhala Buddhism are about envisioning a future where people exponentially lift the whole society upward into a grand utopian “enlightened” society. Both New Ageism and Shambhala Buddhism have this futuristic view that our society, and the human race, is on an inevitable thrust forward into the age of Aquarius. This is why Shambhala Buddhism appeals to people who are really New Ageists at heart and who believe, like Madame Blavatsy and the Theosophists that the human race and its next “phase of development” is inevitable.
    New Age Buddhism is always about “improving the individual” and it is always eclectic in its approach. Like Shambhala Buddhism, It tries to be all-inclusive, and confuses this with being open. New Age Buddhism has a bias against rational thought and examining things. It doesn’t want to look too closely at history, or critically examine current, contemporary issues within its own institutions It has much in common with arm-chair liberalism, but its real thrust is being competitive in consumer society, gaining a market hold, and offering perpetual novelty to the masses who are easily bored. New Age Buddhism, like its founders, Theosophy, and other mystical New Age movements are Orientalists, fascinated with Tibetology and its myths. Shambhala Buddhists, like New Age Buddhists of the present and past, are not really interested in the history of Tibet, a culture whose superficial aspects it has embraced wholesale, because this would mean confronting the unpleasant aspects of another culture, which might turn out to be not so idealistic . The utopianism fantasies, and projection of Shangri-Lai , which New Ageism has always projected onto Tibet, would be sadly disabused, if even a cursory study of Tibetan history was undertaken. It would read not much differently than our own Western medieval history of monastics and peasants and surfs, and unequal distribution of wealth, and exploitation of others.
    New Age Spiritual materialism is supporting the spread of this pseudo Buddhadharma. B The Buddhadharma, on the other hand , is about the truth. It is not about mysticism, or eternalism, or entertainment. The real Buddhadharma is not about a path of intensified self-improvement, spiritual programming as an adornment to ego.
    And the particularly sad thing about this mishmash of Buddhadharma with New Ageism is how the Lamas, who know better, have gone along with this distorted view of the dharma to appease westerners and to keep the donations flowing. . They, after all know better. They know this westernized new age , consumerism Buddhism is NOT the authentic dharma. They go along with it, and they don’t really tell us the truth about the dharma. Because if they did, very few people would be attracted to the real buddhadharma, and what would that do to their fund-raising in the West?

  43. Carl Mcfadden esq. on April 23rd, 2010 8:53 pm

    Chris, your description of new age Buddhism, though long and passionate, isn’t an accurate description of what is actually happening. If that was all Shambhala Mountain was offering it would be one thing. But you failed to mention the GES, Windhorse, and Drala(three Shambhala Training levels over about a week) that just happened, the Half Dhathun, the winter Dhatun, Sutrayana, Chakrasamvara intensive, VY Fire Puja and intnesive(separate programs), Werma and Ngondro intensives, Maitri, Sutryana and Vajrayana seminaries, Warrior Assembly, Scorpion Seal Assemblies, Or any of the programs that are actually attended by the Sangha, not to mention the visit from Khandro Rinpoche, or the Sufis who are just renting the space.
    You don’t really seem to have any sense of magic. The land and the Stupa absolutely radiate the mind of the Vidyadhara. Everyone there for a few hours, or a few years experiences that, from the day visitor, to the volunteers, the core staff, to the the ones who come and sit in chairs, listening to someone talk. . . all decent people. Their presence doesn’t make the Sangha less genuine, it actually gives them an opportunity to experience a container created by Shambhalians, to experience the land, and visit the Stupa.
    Retreat and Renewal consists of a room or a dorm, meditation instruction if you want, access to a shrine room and staff sitting, and of course, food.
    After that you get to wander around in the barren beautiful darkness of SMC winter. That’s what they experience when they get there. Just their minds. Of course Sangha can also participate in the various feasts
    You make it sound so ugly, but since your previous posts make it clear that you really have know idea what is actually going on, that you have grown tremendously opaque, obsessing over the fourteenth century, and drawing wild conclusions based on little information, I believe you have become quite irrelevant.

  44. Chris on April 23rd, 2010 11:19 pm

    In March of 2010, 170,000 people, worldwide, investigated the Scientology. org site. That same month, 32,000 people, worldwide logged onto the Shambhala.org site, despite a 10 year marketing blitz. Now that, Mr. Esq. is “irrelevancy.”

  45. Carl Mcfadden esq. on April 23rd, 2010 11:27 pm

    You are quite completely insane.

  46. Chris on April 24th, 2010 1:15 am

    Thank you Mr. Esq. Very nice. Of course, cult-members always resort to radical marginalization and name-calling of anyone, particularly calling someone “insane,” that dares to question what is happening. It’s so predictable now, it is boring. Fortunately, the statistics show that you are much less relevant than Scientology to the world. The world just doesn’t agree that “you have something they are dying for.” That is just the facts , despite millions spent on marketing by SI over the last 10 years, while bankrupting the community , literally and spiritually, and mixing the buddhadharma with every new age fad to come along.

  47. Carl Mcfadden esq. on April 24th, 2010 1:54 am

    Chris, I said that you are insane, not anyone else, just you. Incedently, scientology had more hits in the eighties than Trungpa Rinpoche too, as if that was the point

  48. Ash on April 24th, 2010 10:00 am

    Rita, yes, sorry, Trotsky not Lenin. Should have googled first to check! Recommend before studying T in depth that you do a little background research into who was funding him in both US and Germany before the revolution and during WWI. Although the public narrative always emphasizes the individual as the driving force behind things like ‘revolutions’, my suspicion is that this is all mainly propaganda.

    A last little thought about the monarchy/individual theme: the monarchy – or one could say ‘perceived royalty’ is not the product of the individual person in the role alone, rather also the mutual creation of an entire society over time, and thus an expression of its net rising & setting sun qualities. I think it is partly because of the emphasis on individualism in the past century that we have a hard time viewing situations like ‘Tsars’ or ‘Queens’ with anything other than an ego-based view, whereas in fact these forms are expressions of more traditional cultures wherein there was a much greater degree of socialisation and ‘collectivism’.

    There is an interesting article in the Independent (viz. UK Election) about the long-term shift from individualism in the 19th century to collectivism in the early 20th century, albeit I am not sure I buy the author’s main historical premises viz. the 19th century being the individualist era. In any case, there has certainly been a swing from collective to individual view the past few decades and of course such widely-held views affect how Buddhist teachings and sanghas, including S.I., perceive themselves and function within the overall societal context.

    In other words, when discussing things like monarchy, communism, the path etc., there are deeply held a priori assumptions which are often not just taken for granted, but overlooked completely. But it is quite possible that what many of us mean today when discussing ‘monarchy’ is far divorced from what it meant in actual dynamics during periods when it was an established form.

    In any case, European history the past two or more millenia is largely one of both reducing the influence of royal lineages (Greek and Roman Republics) and then reviving them mainly as a tactical means of managing affairs albeit under the authority of the Church as higher power, and then finally relegating them to largely ceremonial functions, albeit still able to remain in the heart zone of a culture providing a common reference point for national identity, something which is intellectually unfashionable but nevertheless seems to happen spontaneously as long as such figures exist (such as QE II in UK today, despite the Windsors rather questionable background as Royals in general, or British Royals in particular).

    ( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/threes-a-crowd-how-the-unexpected-rise-of-a-third-contender-broke-the-cosy-twoparty-system-1951707.html )

  49. Chris on April 24th, 2010 10:58 am

    What is insane is to keep believing that 10 million are coming, (the Sakyong’s stated goal) someday, when 32,000 globally in one month (and that was the highest month ever) checked out the site. It is insane to keep “building out” on the basis of this fantasy 10 million coming, while the whole mandala is in financial crisis. That is not magic, that is magical thinking. It is insane to keep believing that this is still CTR’s mandala when he would have raged against this new age spiritual materialism bullshit mixed up with the dharma, to attract new students. All the insults in the world won’t change how this has devolved over the years. Si can’t even pay the salaries of the people who have worked for decades for them, yet is advertising for a new director for the San Francisco Dzong at 60,000 a year to what? Market Shambhala Buddhism of course in the new “hot spot”. When things don’t work out there, there is always Malaysia and Tawain.

  50. John Tischer on April 24th, 2010 11:27 am

    I think Chris’ points would have been more glaring if SMC did not continue
    offering Buddhist and Shambhala programs. And I think some would reason that SMC is just trying to survive by offering a variety of programs to bring in revenue….regardless of their compatibility to the Buddhist path. That SMC is in such a shape is due to Harvard MBAs and a business model that forced it in that direction. The paramount concern was the growth of SMC, not the continuation and propagation of the teachings. Also, the end of volunteerism
    as a main sustaining force has led to more compromise in what needs to be offered in order to bring people in. Instead of offering something unique and unadulterated, the “product” becomes enslaved by market forces. This was a choice, and no alternate strategy seems ever to have been considered. The culture changed at SMC. The murky, undefined
    and superficial qualities of “New Age” approaches couldn’t help but affect
    that culture. Many of the staff at SMC, myself included, were outraged
    when Osho students were allowed to hold programs there. Now, I imagine, no one would blink. It’s the old “end justifies means” logic that
    has never produced the desired outcome.