Dharma in Europe

October 23, 2009

Report by Bill Karelis   – Propagating the Dharma in Europe, September – October 2009

I am grateful to the Radio Free Shambhala website for publishing this introduction to the photo essay which is to be found on the Shambhala Times site.  The photo essay includes a few remarks on the various cultures in Europe I have savored.

By way of summary, I have toured Europe for Dharma purposes about thirty times in the last fifteen years, including for 4 ½ weeks this September – October, 2009.   This time, I visited the United Kingdom , the Netherlands , Germany , Poland , the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Romania , offering a total of sixteen public talks or intensive programs in twelve locations.   I am happy to report that the Dharma practice of some of the people I have met over the years is taking root, and small groups are forming, based on the teachings of the Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and his predecessors.

Romanian Sangha at Complete Teachings of Mahayana program

I have been asked my intentions for this work by many senior students.   I feel I am, in the words of the Vidyadhara, “just propagating the Dharma”–as I have been doing more or less without cease since 1994.    There is no change in direction on my side at all, although there is a change in sponsorship and venue.   My feeling is that the teachings of the Vidyadhara are for all humankind, and that they could and should be disseminated much more widely.    I do not feel that I am doing something special, nor that I am special by doing this.

It is traditional to propagate in the world at a certain point in one’s Dharma trajectory.   I have been informing my teachers of my direction, and so far there is no objection.   In fact, I have received encouragement to continue on.   I see no contradiction to the Dharma work of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and Shambhala International.   It is just more Dharma.   I am in no sense leaving the Vajradhatu sangha, or the Shambhala community–in fact, it is turning out to be quite the opposite.    There is directness and honesty now which has been liberating to some communications, and the heartfelt bond remains as before.

In my travels, I have encountered a great number of the Vidyadhara’s senior students, who feel shy for some reason to contribute their Dharma understanding and practice experience to others.  In the spirit of inclusivity, I would like to invite anyone interested to advise me, discuss with me, and possibly join with me in this work, according to their own inspiration and training.   The invitation also includes newer students.   Feel free to write to bkarelis@yahoo.com.

A Progress Report

April 27, 2009

Update By Bill Karelis, April 26, 2009

On January 21st, 2009, I wrote a letter to the Vajradhatu sangha and the Shambhala community, stating that from this time forward it is my intention to focus on the propagation of the teachings of my root guru, the Great Vidyadhara, Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, and his predecessors. It has been about three months since this letter was posted on sangha-announce, and much has happened.

I am grateful for the invitations being offered by the Shambhala Times and to the Radio Free Shambhala website to report on the progress of this work.

Dharma program in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, April 3, 2009

To begin with, the Shambhala Prison Community, which is separately incorporated from Shambhala International, continues strong; and it also has been evolving rapidly. We have begun to authorize meditation instructors, and to create a path into instructorship for those doing prison work. The Shambhala Prison Community is not a non-profit organization in the conventional sense of establishing territory in its field, consolidating that territory, and expanding from its established base. We have no home office function to speak of; we spend 96% of every dollar raised on work in the field, providing service to prison inmates, correctional personnel and volunteers. We have been training case workers in the Polish prison system; last December 2008, I conducted our fourth three-day workshop outside of Warsaw for ten participants. Our organization in Oregon has put on about 18 weekends for offenders in the Maximum Security Penitentiary, originally via Shambhala Training. This year that program is shifting its emphasis to the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and other basic Buddhist practice topics.  This March I visited prison workers the SPC trained two years ago in Amsterdam. Three of these individuals now belong to a group of four full-time staff employed by the Dutch government to provide Buddhist services to inmates; that group covers over 80% of the prisons in The Netherlands, which has one of the most progressive governmental systems in the world in the area of concern for the human development of its inmate populations.

Trying out the cushions before the program

Trying out the cushions before the program

While in Europe this winter and spring, I made several prison Dharma presentations, notably with the Amida Trust in Narbrough, UK, at a university conference for mindfulness practice in the field of psychology in Warsaw, and in France.

Most of my activity, as it has been for some years, is conducted outside the prison field—straight Dharma, unmingled with worldly dharmas, presented to meditation groups. This presentation falls generally into the two categories of cutting through spiritual materialism, and Buddha Nature, in the context of all three yanas; and the Shambhala parallels. I have just this April completed a two-month tour of nine countries, mostly in Western and Central Europe (I also presented a program in the United Arab Emirates). My activity is dividing out into three major components:

  • Collaborating with senior students of our lineage on Vajrayana practice and the Shambhala teaching of the Vidyadhara, and maintaining communication generally among the Vajra Sangha, who are often painfully dispersed and isolated—at least as much as I am able.
  • Teaching in Zen, Karma Kagyu and other centers and venues—programs and individual talks, in equal measure.   This activity comprises a great part of my work. It includes relating with teachers of different lineages.
  • Establishing non-aligned groups, which operate under the principle of personal mentorship, rather than that of institutional process, and which follow the teachings of the Vidyadhara. There are now five of these, one in each of five countries.
Dubai harbor by night

Dubai harbor by night

This has been, without question, the most dynamic and creative period of my practice and teaching path. It is characterized by exertion, hopelessness and a tremendous sense of the need for our teaching stream in the world at large. In fact, the world is starving for what we know. My overarching feeling is that we should stop trying to sell the Dharma, and start giving it away to those who request it, for whom the karma is ripe.

Anyone wishing to know more, to collaborate or to help is welcome to write to me or call me at bkarelis@yahoo.com, or 1 303 444 0043.  

 Bill Karelis has been practicing and studying the Buddhadharma and the Shambhala teachings for 37 years. For the last 15 years he has been presenting these teachings internationally.


Photos by Bill Karelis 2009  |  © Bill Karelis 2009

Keeping Alive the Teachings

August 10, 2008

The living treasure trove of teachings, practices, forms, symbols, individual and group instructions and methods, which the great Vidyadhara, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche left to the world, are held by his direct students–to preserve, protect, and propagate.   Such treasure belongs not to us, but to humankind.

Read the full article, and return here to comment on it.