Continuity of Practice & Teaching Stream
Article by Andrew Safer
Preserving the Continuity of the Vidyadhara’s Practice Path and Teaching Stream
The fact that two practice paths have developed within Shambhala International is well established. Between 1970 and his death in 1987, the Vidyadhara, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, introduced both the Kagyü-Nyingma Buddhist path and the Shambhala path, with clear instructions on how to proceed. Between 1995 and the present, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has introduced the Shambhala Buddhist path, also with clear instructions on how to proceed. To the best of my knowledge, there is no single comprehensive document outlining these different practice paths, but much of the detail was captured in Mark Smith’s article.
There are also marked differences in the teachings that both teachers have presented. After combining the Shambhala and Buddhist paths, the Sakyong has been focusing on the development of peace, joy, contentment, the mahayana aspirations of bodhichitta and compassion, windhorse, the four dignities, and the path to the Scorpion Seal retreat. On the Buddhist side, the Vidyadhara was a crazy wisdom mahasiddha and inheritor of both the Kagyü and Nyingma lineages through his root guru, Jamgon Kongtrul of Sechen, Khenpo Gangshar, and His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. He taught on themes including spiritual materialism, egolessness, buddhadharma without credentials, prajna and upaya, vajra pride, and relating with the raw and rugged nature of reality. He also introduced the Shambhala teachings to the West.
There are many students of the Vidyadhara who have practiced according to his instructions who are alive today. They are in a position to contribute to the perpetuation of his practice tradition and teaching stream in the roles of meditation instructor and teacher. I believe many feel it is their duty to do so.
In the last few months, Shambhala International announced support for the Vidyadhara’s practice path. It is noteworthy, however, that this support is only available for sangha members who are already on this path. Others have the single option of pursuing the Shambhala Buddhist path after completing what is now called Shambhala Vajrayana Seminary.
Since the Shambhala Vajrayana Path document was issued several years ago, sangha members have been directed to receive the Primordial Rigden Abhisheka after Seminary and to proceed with the practices of the Rigden Ngöndro and Werma Sadhana.
According to that document, the path continues with a Period of Service, Mahamudra Investigations, and then Kagyu Ngöndro, followed by Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara.
I asked the Dorje Loppon Lodro Dorje for an update regarding the practice path and he indicated that as of now, Kagyü and Nyingma practices will be available to sangha members following the Scorpion Seal retreat. This path through the Scorpion Seal retreat can be expected to take 8 to 12 years.
A significant break in the continuity of the Vidyadhara’s practice path has therefore been built into the structure of Shambhala International.
During this time, sangha members who are qualified to teach the Vidyadhara’s practice path will have little opportunity to do so within Shambhala International. Some who are qualified to teach have already left the organization, some can be expected to leave under the current circumstances, and others will probably die during this period.
The image that comes to mind is that of a tree ripe with fruit. The question is: will the fruit be picked, or will it fall to the ground and rot?
Please consider these questions:
- Are you concerned that the practice path set out by the Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche may not survive the current generation?
- Do you believe that sangha members should have the option of choosing which practice path they want to follow after Seminary?
- Can a student of the Vidyadhara who is qualified and ready to teach his practice path and teaching stream fulfill his/her duty to do so within Shambhala International, as it is presently constituted?
- [April 23, additional question posed by Mark Smith] Is it appropriate that it is no longer possible for a student to enter into the particular Vajradhatu Path/Transmission which the Vidyadhara taught us while he was alive?