A Question of Separated Events

February 19, 2010

Discussion by Suzanne Townsend

During the recent Shambhala Day event-planning period, there was some phoning and emailing among friends to gather outside of Shambhala International because they did not feel at home there. But it was hard to find a place big enough. In one email, I made the observation that it seemed that ANY home in the Halifax area would probably be too small to hold all the local practitioners who do not feel at home at SI, and maybe next year we could plan to rent a local hall.

I then received a response that while it’s true that very many practitioners do not feel at home at SI, there is a big concern that any large gathering outside of SI would be “dividing the sangha” and therefore breaking samaya. What does everyone think?

To be clear — I think the issue here is not gathering per se, but by renting a hall it would be gathering in a “public” space.

Shambhala is as old as the hills, and belongs to human beings all around the world, in many forms. At the Buddha Eyes entrance to Shambhala in Mongolia, travellers write all their sins on paper, and burn the paper in a hole in the rocks. From

Vajradhara Thangka in Boulder

January 27, 2010

It appears that the Vajradhara thangka in Boulder, which was commissioned by the Vidyadhara, placed by him over the shrine there, and blessed with the handprints of the 16th Karmapa on the back, will be displaced by the “Rigden thangka”, as has already happened with the Vajradhara and Buddha representations throughout the Shambhala International organization over the last few years.

For the story of the “great Vajradhara thangka”, as we shall refer to it now, and a discussion of its unique place in our mandala, please see the article by Clarke Warren, published at the Chronicles of Chögyam Trungpa website.

In 2000 and 2005, when Dorje Dzong was used as collateral to secure large loans for Shambhala Mountain Center, the Boulder sangha was not consulted. Again, the Boulder community has not been included in the decision making process regarding this change, which is so central to our lineage and to our spiritual direction.

It seems important to offer clear, nonaggressive, honest feedback to the Shambhala Adminstration on matters of such importance to our dharma practice.

Therefore, to spark conversation, below are three questions to contemplate.    Please feel free to offer comments.

  1. Do you feel it is appropriate to remove the great Vajradhara thangka from its current position in Dorje Dzong, Boulder?
  2. What is your personal practice relationship with the Karma Kagyu lineage?
  3. Where do you think this kind of change will lead?

Appeal to Prevent the Vajradhara Thangka in the Boulder Shambhala Center from Being Removed

by Clarke Warren

It is highly probable that the Vajradhara thangka in the main shrine room at the Shambhala Center in Boulder will be removed.  It is to be replaced with a painting of the Primordial Rigdin.  I learned this after having spoken with a member of a committee at the Shambhala Center to study and make suggestions for the redesign of the main shrine room.  From what I was told, one option is for the thangka to be rolled up and put in indefinite storage, although no decision has yet been made as to the fate of the thangka.

Yet since the removal of the Vajradhara thangka has not yet taken place, there is still an opportunity to appeal for the thangka to remain.

The Vajradhara thangka is a paramount embodiment of the teachings and activities of Vidyahara the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche.  He commissioned the thangka, and it was painted by his close friend, the renowned thangka master Sherab Palden Beru. The Vidyadhara placed it at the center of his mandala, composing a profound poem of blessing on the back.  The thangka was also blessed by the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje, who placed his own handprint on the back of the thangka, a rare and powerful blessing.

For more information on the history and significance of this thangka, please see an article I wrote for the Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche. The follow-up letter from Mark Nowaskowski presenting the Vidyadhara’s poem of dedication on the back of the thangka, and my follow-up to his comments provide further perspective on the “inner” significance of the thangka. The link to the article is:

http://www.chronicleproject.com/stories_103.html

I am making an urgent appeal to all and anyone who will register their support for the Vajradhara Thangka to remain as the main shrine object at the Boulder Shambhala Center.  Please support this appeal to the leadership of Shambhala Intl by sending in your own words an appeal for the thangka to remain.  Or you can simply cut and paste, or modify, the following:

“The great thangka of the primordial Buddha Vajradhara in the main shrine room of the Boulder Shambhala Center is a major legacy and continuing embodiment of the life, realization and teachings of Vidyadhara the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and the Kagyu lineage.  Please permit the thangka of Vajradhara in the main shrine room of the Boulder Shambhala Center to remain as the main shrine object.”   Signed, your name.

As a second approach, please participate in a discussion of the issue of this thangkas removal on sangha-talk, sadhaka talk, or any other site.

Your appeals can be sent to the following e-mail addresses: (I include my own address at the end, as I would like to document this effort):

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, via his secretary David Brown:  dbrown@shambhala.org

The Kalapa Council, c/o David Brown: dbrown@shambhala.org

The Shambhala Intl. acharyas: acharya3@shambhala.org

Secretary for the acharyas: lin-waters@comcast.net

President of Shambhala Intl. Richard Reoch: richardreoch@gn.apc.org

The Sakyong Council: sakyong-council@list.shambhala.org

The Mandala Council: mandala-council@list.shambhala.org

Ulrike Halpern, Director, Boulder Shambhala Center: uhalpern@boulder.shambhala.org

Jim Fladmark, Director, Office of Practice & Education, Boulder Shambhala Center: warrior@boulder.shambhala.org

The Governing Council, Boulder Shambhala Center: c/o Ulrike Halpern: uhalpern@boulder.shambhala.org

The Building Committee of the Boulder Shambhala Center Main Shrine Room, c/o of Steve Vosper:   sgv@arch-inc.com

– Clarke Warren: senge9@yahoo.com

The summary of addresses for all the above is:
dbrown@shambhala.org, acharya3@shambhala.org, lin-waters@comcast.net, richardreoch@gn.apc.org, sakyong-council@list.shambhala.org, mandala-council@list.shambhala.org, uhalpern@boulder.shambhala.org, warrior@boulder.shambhala.org, sgv@arch-inc.com, senge9@yahoo.com

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter,

Clarke Warren

Shambhala Buddhism and Vajradhatu Buddhism

January 16, 2010

Commentary by Mark Smith

The following was written in response to an email by Andrew Safer (reproduced below).

Andrew, (et al)

Thanks for your kind response below.

I am trying to be very direct—and as precise as I can be—in my posts and to remove any unnecessary harshness from my posts as emotions are easily inflamed. I make no special claim to realization or to any lineage holder/teaching credential (being a student of the Vidyadhara seems to me to be sufficient credential).  My view on the matters set forth below underlies each of my posts. Maybe this can provide the first of many ‘tent pegs’ per your email.

Please read the paragraphs below slowly and with at least an attempt to restrain emotional responses (either positive or negative). I have posted this to both Sangha-Talk and Sadhaka list and sent to some other folk. I encourage each reader to circulate this for discussion to any persons within our extended Sangha who you believe might be interested.  My contact information is below, and I will attempt to respond (if there are any communications to me) privately and/or publicly as appropriate to any persons who have comments, questions, etc. as I believe this  is a very important topic.

Photo courtesy of Walter Fordham

As you are aware, there are innumerable (well not quite that many) ways in which SI/Shambhala Buddhism has ‘morphed’ away from what I denote as the Vajradhatu Buddhism in which we were raised by the Vidyadhara. Few, if any of the changes are bad in themselves—and many appear to represent powerful insight by SMR into aspects of the Vidyadhara’s teachings/transmissions. But cumulatively the changes are large.

If one is willing to undertake even a relatively shallow investigation, it is not possible to deny that there now exist large ‘differences’ between the Shambhala Buddhist Path (‘SB Path’) and the Vajradhatu Path unless one has some strong agenda pursuant to which one elects to suppress prajna.  Without judgment as to ‘better or worse’ for any particular practitioner, the cumulative changes have created a qualitatively different, new path which the Sakyong intends to have SI follow.

These differences include:

  1. merging Shambhala & Buddhist streams into Shambhala Buddhism (with related curriculum changes),
  2. changes in shamatha/vipashyana practice,
  3. changes in the order of practices with the new Shambhala Ngöndro and Werma Sadhana practice (and possibly Scorpion Seal Retreat) (plus numerous ‘new liturgies and practices’) before:
    • the initial Buddhist/Kagyü Ngöndro,
    • Vajrayogini/Chakrasamvara Yidam practices and
    • the subsequent practice of Sadhana of Mahamudra retreat, Kagyu/Mahamudra practices &  Nyingma  Ngondro/Yidam practices (Vajrakilaya and the Longchen Nyingtig/Konchok Chidu/Rangjung Pema Nyingtig terma cycles) which the Vidyadhara instructed us to practice in parallel with and at the same time as we studied/practiced the Shambhala terma transmissions of the Dorje Dradul thru the progression of Shambhala Training/Graduate Levels & Kalapa Assembly/KOS/Werma.

The SI/Shambhala Buddhist path (‘SB Path’) appears to present a strong and full path for those who are karmicly connected to it and elect to pursue it.

But there can be no doubt that the SB Path with the changes outlined above (and many other changes) adds up to a materially different path than the path into which the Vidyadhara/Dorje Dradul entered his students. Pointing to/admitting the differences in no way requires judging the two paths individually or against one another—and I personally have no reason/need to ‘judge’ the changes.

As I have stated in some of my postings (here and elsewhere) and private communications, I believe that SMR’s synthesis of Shambhala Buddhism & the SB Path is a quite valid expression/extension of the Vidyadhara’s teachings/transmissions but it is only one path derived from the Vidyadhara and not the only valid path—the Vajradhatu Buddhist path promulgated by the Vidyadhara himself during his lifetime certainly must be recognized as an AT LEAST equally valid path.

Many of the Vidyadhara’s disciples, including me, find themselves without a strong dharma/karmic connection to SMR’s SB Path synthesis.

Rather, we are samaya-bound/karmicly connected to the Vidyadhara’s Vajradhatu Buddhist transmission/teachings/path (‘Vajradhatu Path’) in the context of KOS.

Further, I believe we are samaya-bound not only to practice this path but to propogate/preserve/promulgate/teach the Vidyadhara’s Vajradhatu Path going forward for the benefit of all beings who may have karmic connection with this very powerful/potent and very unique transmission/presentation of the Dharma.

The Vajradhatu Path in which I was raised by the Vidyadhara is basically outlined as follows (this very short outline is not meant to be comprehensive and entirely omits reference to both the multitude of ‘forms’ initiated by the Vidyadhara and the various ‘arts’ transmissions from the Vidyadhara):

  • commences with the Vidyadhara’s powerful/unique presentation of shamatha/vipashyana practice, the Sadhana of Mahamudra & sitting practice/nyinthun/dathun combined with the Vidyadhara’s extensive teachings re: i) spiritual materialism, ii) development of maîtri/cool boredom/etc (to provide ‘Hinayana ground’), iii) emphasis on guru/disciple form of transmission lineages (Tilo/Naro/Marpa/Mila/Gampo) which CTR repeatedly stated that he favored (in contrast to tulku and/or family transmission) for the Buddhist side of his teaching stream, iv) taking refuge, v) etc. .—- each of which set of teachings/practices were expressly structured/taught by the Vidyadhara in a manner designed to provide the ground for, and collectively serve as a vanguard to, the particular Vajrayana view/path/embodiment which the Vidyadhara taught/transmitted, rather than to produce Arhats;
  • followed by lojong/tonglen practices (for entry into the Mahayana) & Bodhisattva Vow and extensive teachings related to these matters; .—- each of which set of teachings/practices were expressly structured/taught by the Vidyadhara in a manner designed  to provide the ground for, and collectively serve as a vanguard to, the particular Vajrayana view/path/embodiment which the Vidyadhara taught/transmitted., rather than to produce Bodhisattva Mahasattvas;
  • then proceeding thru the Seminary training/Vajrayana TGS transmission process and Kagyu Ngondro;
  • proceeding firmly onto the Vidyadhara’s oft discussed ‘householder yogin’ path of VY/CK yidam practice (with multiple Vajrayana paths/practices to choose from after that point);
  • all of which practice/study takes place while under the umbrella of Shambhala/KOS view and while Shambhala teachings/transmissions are studied and practiced in parallel.

The teachings we have from the Vidyadhara for this unique Vajradhatu Path– preserved and available in innumerable recordings/videos/transcripts of seminar/ITS/ATS teachings plus transcripts/recordings/videos of Seminary Teachings, Vajra Assemblies, VY Tris, etc. (thank you Archive & PUBs & Chronicles & Legacy Project, etc & all who contributed to this availability over the decades)— are amazing and comprehensive.  We are so blessed with this unique and wondrous oral teaching/transmission stream. This teaching stream, and the Vajradhatu Path it relates to, needs to be preserved/propogated/taught and made available as presented by the Vidyadhara for the benefit of beings with a karmic connection to CTR and the particular path he taught while he was alive.

While substantial portions of the Vidyadhara’s teachings have been incorporated into the SB Path/curriculum as part of SMR’s synthesis, the inclusion of the Vidyadhara’s teachings in the context of a DIFFERENT PATH does not eliminate the need to teach the Vidyadhara’s Vajradhatu Path taught by CTR to those persons who have a karmic connection. Similarly, the wonderful recent ‘adornments’ to teachings at SI venues including the recent ‘Essential Chogyam Trungpa class @ Boulder Shambhala Center (portions available on the Chronicles website) and/or the Videodhara programs in no way eliminate the need to teach the Vajradhatu Path manifested by the Vidyadhara as a full/complete path.

I am personally clear that such inclusion in the Shambhala Buddhist Path does NOT satisfy my samaya obligations or relieve me from the responsibility to pursue/preserve/propogate the Vajradhatu Path with which CTR blessed me.   Many others of my dharma/vajra sisters/brothers, I believe, have come to the same conclusion.

My ‘ideal solution’ to the quandries posed by the fact that the Vajradhatu Path is no longer being taught in SI would be for Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche to ‘do the right thing’ and:

  • publicly acknowledge that the SB Path & the Vajradhatu Path are different paths and that both are valid and need to be preserved/practiced/propogated/taught (and to join in doing so);
  • ‘sponsor’/’authorize’ (as a ‘royal act’) the ‘re-establishment’ of ‘Vajradhatu’ (under KOS) as an organization dedicated to holding/preserving/propogating/teaching/tranmitting the Vajradhatu Path;
  • make it clear that there would be no ‘disloyalty’ if any student (from a beginning meditator to an acharya) elects to follow/propogate the Vajradhatu Path within Vajradhatu rather (or in addition to) the Shambhala Buddhist Path and that such students/teachers are all invited to pursue that approach while fully welcome within KOS.

Obviously, many details would need to be worked out, but this matter could proceed rapidly if the Sakyong were to endorse it. With SMR’s blessings, this approach would relieve great anguish among large numbers of the Vidyadhara’s students (even those who have now embraced the SB Path), allow many of the Vidyadhara’s students to migrate ‘home’ and prevent more fragmentation from taking place. Please note that it is highly likely that a promulgation of the Vajradhatu Path will take place even without the blessing of SMR/SI.  However, without such blessings, it will probably proceed in a manner which causes more anguish, is less systematic and continues to plague the Vidyadhara’s entire legacy (including SI) for decades to come.

This approach represents no threat whatsoever to SI if SMR steps up.

The re-establishment of Vajradhatu in no way represents ‘schism’ within the Vidyadhara’s sangha as both paths already exist and are already being practiced.

Vajradhatu would be under the umbrella of KOS.

SI/Shambhala Buddhism can be the ‘state church’ of the Sakyong & Vajradhatu would be recognized as a separate ‘church’ under and loyal to KOS.

(Additionally, implementing this approach would also provide a model to use to include other (more than one) ‘real teaching/transmission streams’ derived from the Vidyadhara’s teaching/transmission (that have already developed outside of KOS) under the ‘umbrella’ of KOS.  The existing splits with other streams such as Reggie Ray/Dharma Ocean & Patrick Sweeney/Satdharma, etc. could be ‘healed’ over time with their acceptance as parallel/alternative ‘churches’ derived from CTR teachings/transmissions recognized under KOS.  Each would be viewed/accepted as legitimate expressions/holders of at least parts of the magnificent splendor which we received as the legacy of the Vidyadhara. And each would flourish and benefit those beings with the appropriate karmic connection.)

I view this post both as a supplication and  pre-petition to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche (and have therefore copied Mr. Brown and Mr. Reoch in the hope that it reaches SMR) and as a document intended to clearly start a (hopefully non-emotional) discussion of the matters set forth above.

Once again I ask that each reader reflect on these matters while restraining emotional response (positive or negative).

I do not believe I have stated anything which attacks any person or path.  If someone experiences such an attack, I apologize.

I do not believe I have made any statements which are clearly false and, if you believe I have been mistaken about parts of the content below or my emphasis on particular points, I invite clarification and critique.  Some may agree with my description above but not my ‘ideal solution’. If so, please critique my proposal and propose alternative approaches.

But please also reflect on the central point: 2 paths exist and only the SB Path is currently being taught in SI while the Vajradhatu Path is no longer being taught.

If anyone wants to contact me directly, my email and phone contact info are below.

My intention in making this post is to commence dialoque/conversation among sangha/vajra brothers/sisters regarding these matters.

Each reader is invited and authorized to share this email with others who may be interested.  I also authorize posting this email on other sites.

As I wrote above,  I will attempt to respond (if there are any communications at all to me) privately and/or publicly, as appropriate, to any persons who have comments, critiques,  questions, etc. as I believe this  is a very important topic. I will attempt to respond privately to each communication within a reasonable period of time (but not necessarily immediately).  If appropriate, I will periodically reply to matters in these public forums.

In the Aspiration that the Glorious Vajradhatu Path Taught by the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa, Dorje Dradul of Mukpo, Be Practiced/Preserved/Promulgated for the Benefit of Mother Sentient Beings.

Mark

Mark A. Smith
303-517-5302(cel)/719-256-5329(off)
Email (read aloud and transcribe): mas1 at ctelco dot net


About Mark Smith: “I have had the good fortune to be a student of the Vidyadhara since 1973 and to practice the full range of CTR’s Buddhist Lineage Transmission under the glorious umbrella of KOS, I aspire that my mother sentient beings continue to have the opportunity with which I have been blessed.”

The message above was in response to the following email from Andrew Safer

Mark:

I appreciate your posts… your relentlessness, and your precision.

The conversation is beginning to take on the feeling of echo, like the sound of a seashell–not at all a bad thing, since there are elements of the Vidyadhara that are taking on a life of their own.

In recognition of the need for a tent peg,

Best,

Andrew


Abbreviations

ATS Advanced Training Session

CK Chakrasamvara

CTR Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

ITS Intensive Training Session

KOS Kingdom of Shambhala

SB Shambhala Buddhism

SMR Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

SI Shambhala International

VY Vajrayogini

Recalling a Buddha

December 16, 2009

or, What is Lineage?

Gregg Eller’s Recalling a Buddha: Memories of the Sixteenth Karmapa, The Life and Death of an Awakened Being, is out on DVD and in limited theatrical circulation. This isn’t a “general interest” movie, but for those in the lineage of the Buddha,  as it traces through the mahasiddhas of India and on through the Kagyu cave and monastery yogis of Tibet, it is a must see. It is pretty much focused on the story of the Karmapa from what might be called a practice point of view, and it offers a real glimpse into the meaning of lineage within a practicing tradition.

Chögyam Trungpa and the 16th Karmapa, 1974

The movie, while it shows a number of historical clips (along with a Black Crown ceremony and many extra features), mainly consists of interviews with the people around the Karmapa, including students, attendants, translators, his “dharma children”, the four princes (Tai Situ, Jamgon Kongtrul, Gyaltsap, Shamar) and Thrangu Rinpoche, Achi Tsepal, Tenga Rinpoche, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, Ponlop Rinpoche, Tenzin Palmo, Gene Smith, Mitchell Levy, etc.

What’s striking: the meaning of lineage. This was the great lesson invited and enabled by Chögyam Trungpa when he brought Karmapa XVI to the west in 1974: for the first time his students saw Trungpa Rinpoche acting in dedicated service to a master of his lineage. The Karmapa was presented as a Dharma King, able to transmit the regal yet totally relaxed essence of mahamudra – “liberation through seeing”. Then, in the movie, lineage echoes again when someone mentions that Karmapa XVI, normally a mountain of shunyata, would tremble at the thought of his own guru.

The Loppön Lodro Dorje recently alluded to how Chögyam Trungpa worked with creating a teaching container into which he could invite other teachers to open up and present in detail aspects of the dharma. Tenga Rinpoche was one such figure: Trungpa Rinpoche insisted that the first Chakrasamvara abhisheka he gave only take place after Tenga Rinpoche had had time to work with the translators and others on presenting the traditional details of this key practice. For some this meant a post-Vajrayogini wait of 6 to 8 years. Trungpa Rinpoche took his time, and included his sangha in that patience, to present the Chakrasamvara dharma within a full and thoroughly prepared container that was at the same time vaster and deeper.

Presenting dharma is not a solo activity: it is built on generations of human beings actively working on their awake, and that awake is invited through the lineage for the benefit of current students and of all beings. A glimpse of the Karmapa is invited, and that glimpse echoes through a whole social network of enlightening beings (many of whom appear in this movie). What we see here are some of the individuals who helped educate Karmapa XVI, many who were taught and brought to realization by him, and many who now in turn have been teachers of the next Karmapa, the XVIIth.

This is also reflected in the intention and framing of practice, which is within a very wide lineage tree. Something like guru yoga is not just addressed to, and coming from, one’s immediate guru, but to and from his guru and family of awake. This is a hidden enabler, which Trungpa Rinpoche’s immediate students are perhaps discovering. For them, the guru yoga was addressed to Karmapa, “Karmapa Kyenno”. Many of those who practiced in that way, are finding that, on encountering Karmapa XVII, “the Karmapa never left”, and that a much larger container of dharma continues unfolding. But that’s a another story…


Photo from Garuda IV, p 76, by George Holms

A Way Forward

December 4, 2009

Proposal by Charles Marrow

A few years ago a vajra sister recounted an exchange she had with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche at Seminary in 1985, at a teacher/meditation instructor meeting. Rinpoche had just recently finished a year of retreat in Nova Scotia and was not entirely well physically. Also, from time to time, he would go into a kind of other-worldly realm in his manner of communicating and manifesting. This lady, well ahead of her time, had the thought that Rinpoche might not be with us too much longer, and she was brave enough to address her sensibilities directly. She had a simple line of questions with the Vidyadhara that went to the effect of: “Sir, when you leave us, what advice do you have regarding who will lead us?” Rinpoche responded in a matter-of-fact way: “I am the guru.” This lady went on to probe a little further, asking: “Won’t [so and so] be able to help us?” Rinpoche replied somewhat more forcefully: “I am the guru!” And she went further: ‘Won’t the Vajra Regent continue your teachings?” And the Vidyadhara became adamant at that point, with an even more forceful response, saying, “I am the guru!” [1]

As we know, fundamental issues of practice and lineage have been extensively considered in this web-based forum and in other situations, such as various Shambhala Congresses. The change in lineage orientation, practice, and study that has been taken by Shambhala International has been recognized by many sangha members as disruptive and disheartening. Many of us feel like it is important to maintain a much closer connection with Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings and his approach to dharma practice, and that this would bring a greater sense of meaning and joy into our lives. This has been discussed extensively numerous times.

I think it is necessary for those of us who have these deeply felt concerns to shift our approach and determine how we may go further, and what kind of approach is spiritually satisfying and realistic. The years have moved along, and, while maintaining a keen sense of lineage tradition, we also must acknowledge the fact of impermanence and that times have changed. It is easy to point out where there are shortfalls, but at some point we need to clarify what we want to do in an affirmative way. We need to determine what kind of effort we can apply to the situation and make a commitment to go forward.

That being the case, I would like to present for the sangha’s consideration what, in effect, becomes a statement of purpose for those of us who would like to return to the spiritual principles we were brought up with by the Vidyadhara. The points made below might seem so obvious as to be hardly worth stating. But if we are to proceed in a practical manner and reignite our sense of sanghaship and lineage connection, then it is probably useful to explore our feelings by stating what may be obvious.

Going a step further, some sympathetic readers may look at this and say, ”Well, that’s great, but it is pie in the sky. How are we going to implement such a thing?” In regards to this response I would like to ask that we apply patience and take things step by step.

We could consider our concerns in two stages. The first stage is akin to prajna, i.e., let us define what it is we feel as valuable to put our energy into. Then, once that is somewhat clarified, we can move to an upaya orientation, and work on the how and the practicalities of accomplishing such things.

Having said this, I will break my own rules slightly and suggest that, first of all, there are avenues of influence that exist within Shambhala International that have not been fully developed. I think the Vidyadhara defined “vajra politics” as a group’s collective expression of buddha nature. If there is some straightforward person-to-person and group-to-group collaboration that is willing to address difficult issues, I feel our sangha has the sanity to navigate through this process. On a very nitty-gritty level, we have lots of real estate in terms of practice center space that, in many cases, is currently underutilized. In spite of the economic downturn, it is highly likely that there are levels of untapped participation from sangha members who feel there has not been an adequate response to their spiritual concerns over many years and have reduced the amount of money they contribute as a result of those feelings. On an important philosophical level, we have the wealth of the Ri-me, i.e. non-sectarian, tradition of Jamgön Kongtrül the Great, and with a genuine approach of open-mindedness, I am confident a new style of leadership can arise within our organization, where the various approaches to practice and study can be accommodated in an intelligent, respectful, and balanced manner.

In terms of natural hierarchy, the teachings and practice approach of Trungpa Rinpoche must be given the proper attention and space that they deserve within the organization. It is not reasonable to have Shambhala International “cut, paste, and morph” what Trungpa Rinpoche gave us, and expect that this kind of treatment of the dharma will be accepted across the spectrum of the sangha.

To return to practical considerations, it seems important to be aware that we must take individual responsibility in regard to considering what we are doing. We are probably approaching the end of what can be substantially accomplished by a high degree of reliance on the internet. The recent Radio Free Shambhala thread of “Heart in Palm” has over 400 reader comments attached to it. This has been a useful process, but we have to move on. If there is interest in going forward, there will be the need to rouse the energy and commitment to do the multitude of obvious things. Maybe some of us will have to drive a couple of hours to attend a nyinthün, a deleg meeting, or a dharma discussion. There will have to be mountains of patience put into the discussions and interactions with others in the sangha in order to come up with acceptable solutions that respect a wide range of feelings.

Having said all of this, let us return to the prajna side of things and see if we have a coherent vision that is inspiring and worthwhile for our efforts. Please read and consider the following. Comments are appreciated, but pretty soon there will need to be phone calls and face-to-face meetings. In my mind, more full-scale nyinthün practice is exceedingly important under these circumstances. Lastly, I would like to remind everyone: “Be careful what you ask for because you might get it!”

In draft form, the following policy directions are presented for consideration by the sangha. They emphasize the importance of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s Kagyü and Nyingma lineages, dharma teachings, and path of practice. Further, the Shambhala Training Levels as taught for the past twenty-year period are regarded as essential to be continued. These general statements are presented in more detail as follows.

The Vajradhatu Shambhala sangha should focus its energies in order:

  • To support a sangha that studies and practices the buddhadharma as presented by the Vidyadhara, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche as he taught in the context of the Kagyü and Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. This is generally known as the Vajradhatu tradition.
  • To support a sangha that studies and practices the Shambhala teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The Shambhala Training and graduate levels that have been established for many years should be maintained, including the Warrior’s Assembly and Kalapa Assembly.
  • To encourage the practice of sitting meditation for all levels of membership. This practice opens up the depth of nonconceptual insight. Nyinthüns, daily sitting practice, and dathüns are essential. Dharma teachers and administrators should be at the forefront, setting an example for shamatha-vipashyana practice.
  • To encourage spiritually beneficial relationships with eminent Kagyü and Nyingma Tibetan Buddhist masters. In particular, close relationships with Karmapa Urgyen Thinley Dorje, the Ven. Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, and others should be furthered.
  • To establish and confirm specific shrine-room spaces, where the shrine imagery and liturgies are consistent with Vajradhatu practice traditions and principles. To encourage teaching and meditation sessions whereby the sangha may practice according to Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings in these shrine rooms. In particular, effort should be applied to increase the activity of the full weekend nyinthün, and the Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara feast practices.
  • To promote the social and cultural traditions of Shambhala and Vajradhatu that were created during the lifetime of Chögyam Trungpa.
  • To remember to further the manifestation of Nova Scotia as the geographical center of Shambhala society.
  • To make every reasonable effort to reintegrate sangha members who have drifted away over the years. In particular, to utilize the deleg system for this important purpose.
  • To request Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and the Sakyong Wangmo to officiate at Shambhala events, and thus present the dignity, basic goodness, and spiritual inheritance of our Shambhala and Buddhist world. Furthermore, to request that they increase their presence at the Halifax Kalapa Court and convene regular Kalapa Assemblies.
  • To respect that some sangha members will want to follow the practice path set out by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, and to see that shrine-room space and administrative support is appropriately allocated for this purpose.

If we are to pursue this general direction, we will need to proceed with energy, intelligence, and a sympathetic attitude towards a wide range of sentiments. The Vidhyadhara taught that virtuous and enlightened activities are always difficult and require manual effort, like laying brick upon brick to create a useful building. He also taught that negative activities are much easier, and usually come with a big sweep because they go along with habitual tendencies. With that in mind, I would suggest that it is helpful to consider simple, practical questions from the outset, such as:

Would we take advantage of the direction proposed, and attend feasts and nyinthüns organized along these lines?

Would we be inspired to teach and staff the traditional Shambhala levels? Does this direction represent an approach we could recommend to others?

Can we find the leadership and dharma teachers from among our ranks who we can support and respect?

An array of realistic and kitchen-sink-level considerations such as these need to be kept in the picture from the very beginning. I trust that this is helpful in furthering the sangha’s noble aspirations.


Charles Marrow
PO Box 595, 525 Main St.
Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia
B0J 2E0, Ph. (902) 531-2491


Edited from the original version of the article, following corrections sent in by people present.

Out of balance

November 26, 2009

Reporting by Barbara Blouin

Out of Balance and Unsustainable
Shambhala Mandala Financial Picture, Q4 2009

I find myself worrying increasingly that the Shambhala mandala may be becoming financially unsustainable. Will the sangha be able to continue to support the Sakyong, Shambhala International, and the 214 Shambhala Centers, Shambhala Groups and practice centers around the globe? My purpose in writing this article is to explore these questions.

There are two main strands in this history; it is difficult to keep them separate because they are interdependent. In explaining what appears to be happening in the Shambhala mandala, I have found it necessary to go back and forth between these two strands, which are: (1) money that is directed to the Sakyong and his activities, and (2) the financial needs of maintaining a very large international structure.

As the winds of economic change continue to blow across the world, a number of factors make financial management of Shambhala International more difficult. One of these is the weak U.S. dollar. This is particularly hard on Shambhala International, whose central administration is located in Halifax. When the U.S. economy was stronger, the U.S./Canada exchange rate worked to the advantage of Shambhala International because most individual contributions and transfers from Shambhala Centers and Groups originated in the United States. A second key factor is that sangha, as a whole, have less disposable income than before the recession. Exactly how, and to what extent, this has affected Shambhala International and local centers is hard to determine because sangha continue to contribute substantial amounts to special fundraising campaigns, such as the campaign earlier this year for the Rinchen Terdzod. One effect of these targeted fundraising campaigns is that less money is available to support Shambhala International and the local centers.

Dzong

The Sakyong Ladrang

A recent development appears likely to further redirect sangha contributions away from Shambhala International: the new Sakyong Ladrang. The creation of the Sakyong Ladrang marks the latest, although possibly not the final, stage in the evolution of the governance structure of the Shambhala International mandala.
According to the web site of the Sakyong Ladrang:

The Sakyong Ladrang supports the Sakyong and the Sakyong Wangmo in their worldly activities. It also acts to safeguard the sacred holdings of the Sakyong lineage to ensure the continuity of the Shambhala teachings. This allows these rulers of Shambhala to reveal the brilliant sanity of the Great Eastern Sun so that Shambhala may flourish for the benefit of all sentient beings.

The Ladrang became a legal entity earlier in 2009. In a report from the Kalapa Council to the Sakyong’s Council, it is described as

the innermost structure of the mandala. . . . It is solely concerned with the innermost protection and support of the lineage, its properties and succession. . . . The Sakyong will be the sole director of the Ladrang.

The establishment of the Ladrang as a legal entity means that individuals who wish to make gifts or donations directly to the Sakyong and the Sakyong Wangmo, to support them personally or to support their family and projects, may now do so. [Governance Update to the Sakyong’s Council, June, 2009]

This is of importance to the mandala and the sangha because it creates a mechanism whereby funds can be directed to support the Sakyong, outside of Shambhala International.

Once certain legal measures have been taken, properties now owned by Shambhala International, such as real estate (for example, Kalapa Valley and the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya), terma texts, copyrights, and so on will be transferable directly to the Ladrang. This development will become the focus for a future article.

More Sakyong Fundraising, More Cutbacks for SI, Less Revenue for SI and Centers

On one side of the ledger, the glass appears to be half full; on the other side, it looks half empty. In a Shambhala News Service post on October 12, President Reoch referred to the Sakyong’s upcoming retreat:

… Our beloved Sakyong [is] going into his year of deep retreat — a vital and life-preserving necessity for him and for all of us in his sacred mandala.

The announcement continues:

In preparation for this decisive juncture in his life, he has created the Sakyong Ladrang, a legal structure that will preserve and protect the lineage succession, transmissions and properties. Together with the leadership of the Shambhala mandala as a whole, we are launching a major funding appeal to establish a far stronger ground for our lineage than we have ever had before.

It is noteworthy that the President spoke about strengthening the lineage but not the community or its organizations.

Shambhala Mountain Center

Three days later, another Shambhala News Service e-mail dated October 15 announced major cost cutting across the mandala:

As the global economic crisis continues, strong measures are being taken to bring expenditure into line with income at key points in the mandala. . . . The President, Richard Reoch, and the Chagdzo Kyi Khyap (Bursar General), Connie Brock, have outlined steps to meet financial challenges on three levels: internationally, in Europe, and at Shambhala Mountain Center. All involve significant cutbacks in expenditure, combined with renewed development efforts, to comply with the Shambhala Principles of Financial Sustainability. … The aim for Shambhala Mountain Center is to reduce average monthly expenditure, including debt payments, [emphasis mine] from November to March, to approximately $128,000 (US) from the current level of $227,000 (US).

A later Shambhala News Service announcement (November 24) from the Treasurer (Connie Brock) describes  SMC as in “the most serious financial crisis it has ever known.”

A monthly reduction of $99,000 at Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC) is drastic indeed. It is my understanding that this will put the survival of SMC at even greater risk. I have not been able to gather as much financial information about SMC’s debt and deficit as I would like because information is not easily available. However, in 2005 a bond issue for $5.1 million provided SMC with capital for building projects. A few years later (sometime before the summer of 2008), according to the last figure provided by SMC , the debt (including the $5.1 loan) had grown to $6.8 million.

Three weeks after the announcement from the President and the Chagdzo Kyi Khyap , two former SMC staff members posted messages to sangha-announce: they were looking for work. After reading these e-mails I contacted the human resources director at SMC, who, I learned, will also be leaving soon. She told me that as of mid-November, 21 people had been laid off and five had left voluntarily. Thirty-nine people will remain at SMC, and another five who work in Boulder (including those working at the call center) will remain as support staff. A smaller staff will reduce expenses in the short term, but in the longer term, if the financial situation does not improve, insufficient staffing will seriously impair the ability of the center to function effectively. There is a big risk that this deficit/debt/inadequate staff situation could become a vicious circle.

Halifax Shambhala Center

The financial crisis at SMC is not the only trouble spot in the mandala. On November 9,  Bob Hastey, the comptroller of the 500-member Halifax Shambhala Centre, sent an e-mail to its members titled “Stark naked reality.” He wrote:

One part of our financial model is no longer working in the way that we have become accustomed to. General program revenue is down substantially and we are projecting a forty to sixty thousand dollar deficit in the coming year. In the near term we are facing a thirteen thousand dollar deficit by the end of December, which means that we will not be able to pay December salaries. Most of the staff will have to be laid off for a few months in order to catch up and get back on track.

Two weeks later, an even more urgent e-mail from Yeshe Fuchs, Director of the Halifax Shambhala Centre, explained that “All five half or full-time staff will be laid off for a period of four months. Thankfully, some [ed: three people] will be able to receive part of their [part-time] salary from the Employment Insurance for this time.” Clearly, the situation in Halifax is going from bad to worse.

Big plans elsewhere in the mandala

In the meantime, plans for the very expensive Kalapa Capital Centre in Halifax are going forward. On June 1, according to an announcement:

The Kalapa Centre, to be established in Halifax, the Shambhala capital, will be the international centre and beacon for the entire mandala. It will be the seat of the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo at the heart of Shambhala, along with the central government and executive. It will provide the long-wished-for drala site for major international Shambhala events, as well as housing the Halifax Shambhala Centre. The huge project will also include a civic cultural space for the city of Halifax so that the intermingling of Shambhala and Nova Scotian society can manifest fully.

At the recent Congress in Halifax (November, 2009) Steve Baker, director of the new center, gave a fundraising talk. The amount being sought, for now, is $15 million.

In the San Francisco Bay area, plans are going forward to create a dzong (“fortress”). “The Northern California Shambhala community will establish a dzong in San Francisco to help fulfill the worldwide Shambhala vision of creating enlightened society. . . . The world needs the teachings and vision of Shambhala now more than ever.” I have no further information, but it is reasonable to assume that this is a very expensive project, and that the Bay Area centers must be hard at work to raise the funds.

Financial difficulties are not limited to SMC and the Halifax Shambhala Centre. The Shambhala News Service e-mail I referred to above makes it very clear how bad things really are. This announcement refers to impending cuts to Shambhala International of $7,200 (CAN) per month, which would be $86,400 on an annual basis. A cut of this magnitude would have to include laying off some staff, because salaries is the biggest expenditure category. Since the staff of Shambhala International is already quite small, further cuts will put a severe strain on the organization’s ability to function.

Europe

In Europe the financial situation is also tenuous. The October 15 Shambhala News Service announcement says:

At the European level, spending is being reduced from Euros 23,000 a month to Euros 20,000. This will bring expenditure into line with current average monthly income of Euros 25,500 (down this year from a previous level of Euros 27,000 in 2008) in order to bridge an estimated budget gap of Euros 14,000 and outstanding payment obligations of around Euros 50,000.

Knowing something about the background of the situation in Europe is helpful. Almost two years ago, Shambhala Europe posted a comprehensive “Finance Report 2007,” which showed that—since 2004, with the exception of 2007, when the Congress was held at the Shambhala Center in Koln, triggering a large payment for use of the center—in a four-year period, Shambhala Europe had annual deficits of up to 17,000 Euros. The 2009 deficit was projected to be even higher—at almost 21,000 Euros. Several reasons were given for these financial straits:  Only half of all Groups and Centers were paying dues; overall membership had declined slightly; donations, particularly those made on Shambhala Day, were declining. An added expense was the expectation of increasing Shambhala Europe’s contribution to the Sakyong’s household and to Core Services. As the years pass and these deficits continue to add up, it seems that the situation in Europe is becoming increasingly difficult.

It would be helpful to have access to a similar overview for Shambhala Centers, Groups, and practice centers in North America. Because the large majority of Shambhala Centers and Groups are in North America, particularly in the U.S., putting together a comprehensive report, such as the one for Shambhala Europe, would be very difficult. My hope is that the overall situation is not as bad as I fear it could be.

In general, it is very hard for the average sangha member (such as myself) to gather much financial information about Shambhala International. I am aware of how many times in this article I have written “I don’t know . . . .” I do not think it is a matter of state secrets. Rather, the mandala is large and complex, and so are its finances. Therefore, even getting specific information on one income or expense category, let alone an overview, is hard to achieve.

The Sakyong’s Income Sources

My efforts to learn specifics about the Sakyong’s income have, so far, been fruitless. The occasional budget figures available to dues-paying members of Shambhala International, called Sakyong Support and Mandala Services, do not provide an up-to-date or complete account of the Sakyong’s income and expenses because only certain categories are accounted for.

The Sakyong has several sources of income. Financial transfers both from within the mandala and from a smaller number of outside sources are shown in a diagram, which originally appeared in my article Navigating the Labyrinth: Understanding Shambhala International’s Financial Arrangements,  Part 2 (2008). This diagram needs to be updated to reflect the new reality that has emerged now that the Sakyong Ladrang has come into existence.

Most of the Sakyong’s income comes from the following sources:

  • The Sakyong’s salary, paid by Shambhala International
  • Payments made by practice centers and Shambhala Centers for teachings and ceremonies
  • Teaching gifts for teaching and conducting ceremonies. Although a specific amount is always requested, these gifts are voluntary. To cite an example, at the Scorpion Seal Assembly in Nova Scotia, the recommended teaching gift was $200.
  • Direct donations. This is probably the most complicated category and the hardest to track. Other than teaching gifts, donations are made through a variety of fundraising campaigns, and most recently, directly to the Ladrang. Before the Ladrang became a legal entity in 2009, most donations were made to Shambhala International via centers, groups, and practice centers.
  • A portion of annual  donations made on Shambhala Day. Traditionally, sangha members gather in shrine rooms across the mandala on his day, and fill out gift cards, indicating the amount of their pledges. These donations are for both the Sakyong and for the administration of Shambhala International. Many of those who give may not realize that a large proportion of the combined donations is directed to the Sakyong and his activities (called Sakyong Support). For the 2009 Tibetan calendar, approximately 34 percent, or one third, of the total amount given was directed to Sakyong Support. (This figure includes an amount budgeted for the Dorje Kasung. Excluding the Kasung, it is 29 percent.)
  • Smaller amounts are also directed to the Sakyong through the Sakyong Foundation. Although most of the money raised by the Sakyong Foundation is redirected to a variety of projects of the Sakyong’s choosing, some is given directly to the Sakyong. Currently (November, 2009) the Foundation’s web site [http://www.sakyongfoundation.org/] lists a parsonage allowance of $54,000 and a Lineage Fund, of $40,000 which also supports the parsonage allowance. Parsonage allowances provide a legal exemption from income tax for the expense of residences and related costs. Information is not provided whether this combined total of $94,000 is for the current year or for a longer period.

The Privy Purse

The Privy Purse is mentioned briefly in the Governance Update to the Sakyong’s Council. According to this document, the Privy Purse “manages the Sakyong’s personal finances.” I have attempted to learn something about this office from Allya Burke, the Keeper of the Privy Purse. However, Ms. Burke informed me that this matter is private.

The Sakyong’s Fundraising Campaigns in 2009

The Rinchen Terdzod

2009 has been a year of major fundraising for the Sakyong and for projects important to him, such as the Rinchen Terdzod in Orissa, India. At this three-month event, His Eminence Namkha Drimed, the Sakyong’s father-in-law, gave this important collection of teachings to the Sakyong, Namkha Drimed’s monks, and a small gathering of Western students. A large number of sangha members donated for this event, but I do not have a figure for the total amount raised.

The Shambhala Vision Campaign

Not long after the Rinchen Terdzod campaign, the Sakyong Foundation launched a four-month Shambhala Vision Campaign in June. The Foundation intends to make a $100,000 challenge grant, with the aspiration of raising $300,000 “to express the community’s support for key priorities the Sakyong has highlighted for this year. It is imagined to be the first of an annual series that supports the regular renewal of the Shambhala community’s sense of forward motion and success in realizing Shambhala vision. The funds will be granted based on a ratio of $1 of matching funds for every $2 of general support.”

There are four projects the campaign plans to support: The Rigden Lineage Thangka: $ 50,000; one Scorpion Seal Retreat Cabin, to be built at Karme Choling: $75,000; the Kalapa Centre in Halifax: $75,000; Shambhala Mountain Center: $100,000. To date, no information has been provided about the success of this campaign.

The Sakyong Ladrang, Gesar Trakpo Abhisheka, Tenshuk Ceremony, and Birthday Party

Fundraising became particularly intense in October and November in advance of the Sakyong’s forty-eighth birthday. The goal of the practices and fundraising was to “dispel obstacles for the Sakyong, Jamgon Mipham before he enters his year of retreat.” [Shambhala News Service, November 6]  Namkha Drimed conducted the Gesar Trakpo Abhisheka in Halifax (registration $150 CAD). The following day, His Eminence conducted a Tenshuk ceremony, for the purpose of dispelling obstacles. The fee was $75, which included the Sakyong’s birthday party in the evening. A “suggested” gift of $50 was also requested for this event.

How will the monies raised through these events, as well as general fundraising for the Ladrang, be used? As for how donations made to the  Sakyong Ladrang will be used, a page from the web site says:

To read more about our appeal, how the funds will be used to sustain and strengthen both our lineage and our mandala, and to find out how to make your offering, please CLICK HERE.

However, as readers discover when they click on the link, no information is provided regarding how their donations will be used. The link is a donation form, asking for donors to supply credit-card information.

Big Job, Big Expenses

Being the Sakyong is a big job involving many expenses. His staff needs to be paid; mortgages and other expenses for his houses (and apartment in Germany) need to be kept up to date; and plane fares and other travel expenses for the Sakyong and his entourage are considerable. When Namkha Drimed, his wife, and other family members travel to Shambhala Centers for ceremonies and other events, these costs can be very high.

The Sakyong Wangmo also has considerable expenses, as well as a small salary. For example, a source in Halifax told me that whenever her father, Namkha Drimed, teaches or gives ceremonies in Halifax, the Sakyong Wangmo comes to Halifax for the occasion. When this happens, the Centre is billed (typically $5,000) for her air fare. Unfortunately, the presence of the Sakyong Wangmo in Halifax, though always welcome, does not generate revenue.

Looking at the big picture, it appears that income and expenses have been out of balance for some time—not just in the area of Sakyong Support but in other areas of the mandala as well. Historically, a valuable example is provided by Shambhala Mountain Center, which took out major loans (for one of them, Dorje Dzong and Marpa House in Boulder were mortgaged as collateral) for the construction of new buildings. Although SMC was in need of more facilities, the amount spent for construction and salaries during the major expansion stage was significantly out of balance with realistic income projections, and there is now an enormous debt that SMC cannot afford to repay.) Currently, as previously noted, the Sakyong wants to have a Kalapa Capital Center in Halifax. Has an effort been made to show how this $15 million expenditure can be justified at this time?

At the same time, SMC has laid off one-third of its staff and the Halifax Shambhala Centre will have to lay off most staff for at least three or four months. Are the right hand and the left hand operating independently of each other?

Heaven, Earth and Common Sense

One way of looking at the current financial situation in the Sakyong’s world is by applying the Druk Sakyong’s teachings on Heaven, Earth, and Man. As we know, Heaven is vision, Earth can be described as practicality, and Man joins Heaven and Earth. Too much or too little Heaven or Earth leads to imbalance. The Sakyong has been manifesting a lot of Heaven: he has created a new concept—Shambhala Buddhism—and introduced and taught The Scorpion Seal to large assemblies. Another priority for him is the creation of a large, magnificent Kalapa Capital Center.

An ambitious dzong is underway in San Francisco. The Rigden Thangka—also large and quite expensive—is in the works. A substantial amount of money went into a months-long Rinchen Terdzod empowerment conferred on the Sakyong by his father-in-law, Namkha Drimed – while, at the same time, a Rinchen Terdzod empowerment was going on at Mindrolling Monastery, from November 8 to March 15, attended by many prominent Rinpoches and a large number of monastics.

There is a term for Earth that is not found in the Tibetan teachings: good old common sense. A common-sense view of handling income and expenses is to try to balance the two and live within our means as much as possible. This approach appears to be lacking, at least at the top, the level of the King. When income and expenses are out of balance, things tend to go wrong, as they have been doing. It’s quite straightforward, actually. This currently imbalanced situation is also intensified by the worldwide economic downturn.

Another way to look at the imbalance is that there is a trade-off between supporting Shambhala International and the Shambhala Centers, Groups, and practice centers—the Earth, in this case, the ground of the mandala in its earthly form. This appears to be a no-brainer: when people give more for the Sakyong and his projects, except for the most affluent students, they have less to give to support the ground. A verse in the Shambhala anthem (written by the Druk Sakyong) goes: “The Sakyong King joins Heaven and Earth.”  The current Sakyong seems to be, not so much joining the two, but adding more and more to Heaven, thereby undermining Earth.

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.

Heart in Palm

October 9, 2009

You can now listen to the September 9, 2009 Halifax Community Gathering with Adam Lobel: the MP3 (right-click to download (on Mac, control-click)) is available on the Halifax Shambhala Centre’s web site [mirrored here]. Shambhala Buddhist Acharya Lobel starts off with a talk on Time and Timelessness, but the vivid discussion by the participants soon cuts to the chase of raw essence, what’s been missing, what is manifesting right there.

This is a two-hour tape. It’s worth listening to the whole thing, but if you’re really pressed for time, start at the one-hour mark, with some eloquent and incisive remarks by Lodro Dorje on how Trungpa Rinpoche’s approach was to create a rich practice container which invited further teachings from the great Kagyü and Nyingma lineage masters.

The highlight though, comes later: Lynn Friedman – trembling but courageous, gentle and articulate. As one text says:

The heart placed fresh in the palm, nothing else.

This is what we miss, but – surprise! – this is what we are.

Madeline Schreiber adds outrageousness and humor, exclaiming about the Rigden Thangka, “it’s bad art!”

There’s a lot more. Adam confirms again that the cornerstone and signature of the Sakyong’s approach is what is being termed “the Shambhala Terma”. A couple of people bring up conflict, skirmish, as itself a vehicle.

At the end, recently-appointed Halifax Shambhala Centre director Yeshe Fuchs expresses dismay at how people are whining.

Listen for yourself. Listen to the voices. Listen to yourself.


Energy fools the magician. – Brian Eno

Chögyam Trungpa Legacy Project–Update

September 20, 2009

Report by Andrew Safer

Carolyn GimianThe publication of On Different Views and Paths, an interview with Richard Reoch, President of Shambhala International, which appeared on both the Radio Free Shambhala and Shambhala Times Web sites in July, inspired a follow-up interview with Carolyn Gimian, Director of the Chögyam Trungpa Legacy Project (CTLP).

The following exchange from On Differing Views and Paths prompted this writer to ask Ms. Gimian to provide an update on the mandate and activities of the Legacy Project:

Radio Free Shambhala: 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.

The following Q’s and A’s are excerpted from interviews conducted with Ms. Gimian in late July and early August.

Vision and Mandate

Q: In 2007, the vision of the Legacy Project was to provide “a very large tent of dharma space as vast and open as Trungpa Rinpoche’s mind”. Is that still the case?

A: Almost without exception, all of Trungpa Rinpoche’s students and students of Shambhala internationally feel a tremendous connection to the Vidyadhara and his teachings, which leads to a sense of us being choicelessly a family and community. We are all united by our love for the Vidyadhara. Sometimes our connection also leads to people feeling either that they are being recognized for their connection or maybe they’re not, and conflict also arises out of that. I think the idea of a huge tent is that it transcends divisions as much as possible and provides a larger space for appreciating and propagating his teachings, which is in the spirit of how he taught.

Presidential Library

Q: Mr. Reoch spoke about a presidential library. What is meant by that?

A: In the United States, starting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the presidential libraries provide a place where the vision of the president is kept intact. This is necessary because each administration goes in a new direction. For example, the Kennedy Library is extremely different from the Bush Library. Presidential libraries include museums, exhibits, audio-visual archives, programming, and extensive oral histories. You need a place where the vision of the president is kept intact. For example, there’s a huge oral history project at the Kennedy Library, which is a collection of taped memories of President Kennedy, based on interviews with his colleagues, family and friends.

If we had a physical location for an institute dedicated to the Vidyadhara’s vision, we would have a place where people could come and practice and study and experience the Vidyadhara’s teachings. We could have a shrine room because he was a great contemplative teacher. There should be a library of his own books, as well as books and texts he had a connection with, reading rooms, and a place where people could watch videos and listen to his talks. We would have a museum that would showcase some of the sacred objects he owned as well as show us something about his life from seeing his desk, his suits and ties, and many other things. In the case of the Kennedy Library, Kennedy had a connection with Hemingway so they have a Hemingway room at the Kennedy Library. We could have, say, the archives of Shibata Sensei, and his life would be celebrated in some way, as well as collections for other senior teachers who were contemporaries or students of the Vidyadhara, and archives and records of members of his family. It would give you a sense of the fullness of the world in which he was teaching.

Q: What are some of the projects that the Legacy Project is planning?

Comprehensive Virtual Archive

A: We would like to help develop a comprehensive virtual archive in partnership with the Shambhala Archives and the Chronicles of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The Archives has completed the digitization of almost all of the Vidyadhara’s teachings that exist in audio format, which is 3,000 talks. Libraries of about half that material have been supplied to a large number of Buddhist centers—mostly Shambhala Centers. Naropa University also has this library of close to 1,500 of the Vidyadhara’s seminars and talks, and Jamgon Kongtrul III’s monastery in Pullahari, Nepal has also participated. Thanks to donations from many centers, as well as several private donors and the Shambhala Trust, 25 centers on four continents have libraries in the form of CDs. All of the major land centers have this library

Now that we have the digital files, we can think about organizing the material and making it available online and in other ways. The centers that have CDs know the title of the seminars, where they took place, and when, but a lot of people can’t use this effectively without more information. They need to be able to search on keywords and to have a synopsis and indication of how to use the material. For example, there are a few seminars on the Battle of Ego…What are they about? We need a synopsis. We’re starting to do some work on this, thanks to a small donation to evaluate the project. To do it properly (to make the CDs keyword search-enabled) would require a budget of at least $25,000. That’s probably low. This doesn’t include the money for the programming, software, server, etc if we want people to be able to access material on-line.

I don’t think most people want the MP3s for 3,000 talks on their hard drives, but they’d like to have access to the material when they want it. Working with the Archives and the Chronicles, we’d like to form a library that would provide membership online, for a membership fee of something like $8 to $10 per month, or people would pay what they can. Members would access all this material on-line and pay a separate fee if they want the recording as an MP3. That way, you could take your MP3 to the gym!

Editorial Apprenticeships

Another important project that’s in the discussion phase is to develop a program to train young people as future editors. There are probably 40 to 50 more volumes of original material by the Vidyadhara that need to be edited and published. There’s a great deal of material on the great forefathers of the Kagyu lineage, for example. To start, we might invite a group of 25 or 30 young students to come together to study the Vidyadhara’s teachings for four to six weeks, possibly during the summer. Some of the instructors would be senior editors who had worked with him. They would present the material from their point of view so the young person could learn to approach it as an editor. Presenters might include Judy Lief, Sherab Chodzin, David Rome, Sarah Coleman, me and others—especially the editors of Rinpoche’s work during the last ten or fifteen years of his life. At the end of the period of time, we would elect a small group to become editorial apprentices (depending on the available funding). The Nalanda Translation Committee has a program where they fund several apprentices. We might model what we do on their approach. We would like to pay the young people a stipend, and they would work for a couple of years with the editors on books. We’re thinking of having up to six young people in the group. We might also have a dharma art apprentice or apprentices for other aspects of the Vidyadhara’s teachings. The point would be to enable the next generations to really begin to take responsibility for his teachings.

A lot of this is in the discussion phase. In fact, a lot of it is just in my head! We don’t have a formal endowment fund, which is really what’s needed to ensure the dharma legacy of Chögyam Trungpa remains available to the future. As it stands now, people can include the Legacy Project in their will, set up an endowment within their own estate planning, or set up their own trust.

There really should be an endowment fund to ensure future editorial work on the Vidyadhara’s books and other projects. There’s a gap between the funding that can come from sales of books and what’s necessary to raise so that people can continue to do this work for future generations. Trying to do it on a cost-recovery basis is nuts; well, it’s unlikely to succeed. Buddhists traditionally have a practice of funding the teachings as merit. Some communities—particularly in Asia—are able to produce books at no cost to the reader and give them away. I wish we could do that with the virtual library and some other projects. If there was a big donation, a really big donation, that would make this possible. Occasionally, we have had patrons who underwrite the cost of a specific publication…A donor paid for many copies of the Sadhana of Mahamudra to be placed in Shambhala Centers, for example.

Chögyam Trungpa Annual Lecture

We have also been discussing the idea of hosting a Chögyam Trungpa Annual Lecture. We were very fortunate to receive the teaching gift from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpooche’s visit to Halifax last year. Unexpectedly, he donated his whole teaching gift to the Legacy Project. The Chögyam Trungpa Annual Lecture would mark this generous gift. Someone who has a connection to Trungpa Rinpoche, such as another Buddhist teacher or a student of the Vidyadhara’s, would be invited to give the lecture about something related to his teachings, or something that came out of his work. We are asking Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche to give the first lecture. This could start in 2010. By the way, I don’t think the Sakyong knows anything about this yet, so he may be a little surprised by this idea.

Root Text Project

We support the work of the Shambhala Archives in many ways, as well as the editorial efforts of the Vidyadhara’s senior editors. We have a fund to help support editorial work. Right now, we’re emphasizing donations to the Root Text Project—the amazing efforts Judy Lief is making to edit the Vidyadhara’s teachings at seminary, and condense and organize these in an appropriate way so these books can be published by Shambhala Publications, and made available to the public.

I am going to work with Judy for about six months next year, and I’m very excited to be able to contribute to this project in some direct way. I recently spent about a week working with her. I was absolutely stunned by the depth and the breadth of the material, which begins to shine through when the editing is polished and the various talks are merged. There are close to 400 talks that she is working with in the three volumes. It’s truly amazing work. I think the publication of this three-volume work will establish Chögyam Trungpa as one of the most important scholars of the Buddhist tradition in the 20th century. I think it will shock people who have viewed him as a great popularizer but haven’t understood that he was actually transmitting the heart of his tradition and many of its details as well. I’m so thrilled that Judy is doing this work She has such a thorough understanding of the material and she is such a highly trained editor. Many others are supporting her, especially Ellen Kearney. Shambhala Publications and Shambhala Media are supporting this work, as are many individual donors. But Judy really deserves our thanks for undertaking and persevering in this project.

What Activities are Outside the Mandate of the Legacy Project?

Q: When Mr. Reoch was asked how the teaching and practice streams of Chögyam Trungpa will be kept alive, he mentioned the Legacy Project. What aspects of the continuation of his teaching stream will NOT be covered by the Legacy Project?

A: I think the Legacy Project can support a lot of different efforts, but I don’t think it will be the vehicle for preserving the teaching stream and practice streams that you’re describing. I think the Vidyadhara was such a vast person who influenced so many people that I also don’t think any one institution is going to be able to lay claim to him completely. He empowered his son, the Sakyong, to continue to teach, obviously, and that sense of lineage is very important.

I firmly believe that many students of the Vidyadhara—disciples and other people he influenced—have received important transmissions from him and that all of us have a responsibility to carry that forward. Almost every senior student—and there are hundreds—have a very deeply felt sense of wanting to preserve the Vidyadhara’s legacy. In the Lojong teachings, there is a slogan that advises us to hold the principal witness. You have to trust your own integrity and sanity. In the last many years with the Archives and the Legacy Project, I’ve realized there are these jewels everywhere, which are the human beings who have extraordinary ideas about what it means to pass on Rinpoche’s teachings. Again, I don’t think any organization can contain all of that.

He gave so many teachings that were applicable to the time when he gave them. I really do believe that many were like terma—little time bombs going off as time goes on. None of them are trivial. Of all the talks he gave and all the times I heard him speaking about the dharma, I can’t think of one instance that was trivial. His contribution was so vast, it’s really important to try to be sure that the breadth of his work and the depth of it is available, both for us and the future. Rinpoche’s students were so fortunate, we’ve gotten so much…The big issue now is not so much do we have enough; it’s more, how can we share it with the world?

The Vidyadhara developed many important forms,dathun, for example. I don’t think it existed until he developed it. We have to be sure that these forms survive. How do people communicate what they actually know? For myself, I’ve been at times really lazy. I felt this stuff is all out there, we just have to keep the machine rolling. I don’t think that’s true anymore. Even if it were a terribly well oiled machine, I would still have the responsibility to work with the teachings he gave me and communicate whatever I understand. There’s always a danger a lot could be lost if people don’t step up. It’s a big wake-up call.

I was recently reading a seminar given in 1974 by the Vidyadhara on Jamgon Kongtrul, about what is the genuine contemplative approach: bringing the teachings together with experience. If we don’t do that continually, we can have something that looks good but actually has no depth to it: there’s no there there. Jamgon Kongtrul said if you approach sharing the teachings with others like being a milkman, you’re really missing the point. If you just take the bottles of milk and sell them, you haven’t actually milked the cow yourself. You haven’t drunk the milk.

Budget

Q: These are very ambitious projects! What sort of budget is the Legacy Project working with?

A: The unaudited budget for 2008 was $43,000, which was huge for us. More than one-third came from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s gift. The ongoing donations we can count on are between $12,000 and $15,000 a year. This year total revenue will be closer to $25,000. Obviously, to fulfill our big plans, we will need more than this on an annual basis.

Q: Does Shambhala International donate to the Legacy Project?

A: There are no direct donations, but there’s a lot of in-kind support—services we have access to.

Trungpa Teachers

Q: It seems that a big part of preserving the Vidyadhara’s teachings is to have teachers who teach what he taught. Can the Legacy Project assist with this work of training teachers?

A: The Legacy Project doesn’t necessarily have a direct role here. Yes, it’s a very important area. I feel that as a group all the senior students of the Vidyadhara need to be respected more than they are. As a mark of respect for the Vidyadhara, it’s important to respect all of the aspects of his teaching. That would include the Buddha, dharma, and sangha principles. Regarding the sangha—his senior students—I think we were incredibly well trained. Trungpa Rinpoche’s students had a very good education. He taught us to think as contemplative people, to apply the teachings to our experience, to understand what things meant, not just to memorize a lot of categories. He worked hard to make people think about how the dharma worked for them individually. That needs to be respected. Where that is not happening, it’s very sad.

Texts

Q: Another important element of keeping the Vidyadhara’s teachings alive has to do with having access to the texts (such as the sadhanas).

A: Access to the texts and similar materials does not fall under the purview of the Legacy Project. You’ll have to ask the Nalanda Translation Committee about that.

Transmissions

Q: It would seem that preserving the unique way that the Vidyadhara gave actual teaching transmissions, such as pointing out instructions, is another key element of keeping the his teachings alive…

A: The Vidyadhara gave teachings that were very important to different lineages, to different Buddhist teachers and their students. For example, his teachings on Zen and Tantra have been well received in the Zen world through the recent book The Teacup and the Skullcup. One reason it’s important for the Legacy Project to be involved in seeing that this root material is preserved is so that many people can benefit from his teachings. However, we’re not in the business of giving pointing out instructions, abhishekas or distributing restricted materials. Traditionally that has to come from an association with a root teacher.

Most Concerned to Protect

Q: What is the aspect of the Vidyadhara’s work that you are most concerned to protect?

A: I’m greatly concerned that we don’t have everything he taught transcribed. At the same time, if we lose his voice, if we lose the audio recordings, we won’t have a total record. And then, in the long run, I’m concerned that he gave a lot of teachings on Mudra Space Awareness, Mudra Theatre, and Maitri and many other unique applications of the teachings to Western culture. A lot of the early material is not very available to people..

I’ve been listening to the Jamgon Kongtrul seminar I mentioned earlier, how Jamgon Kongtrul went around Tibet and received the transmissions and practices for something like 108 different contemplative schools. A lot of them were on the verge of going out of existence because nobody had practiced these teachings in so long. He kept the material from going out of existence by getting the transmissions himself, and practicing, and sharing with others. I believe that much of the Rinchen Terdzo is a reflection of his efforts.The Vidyadhara’s work is so vast that we are in danger of losing some of it. Some parts are hardly practiced anymore. Sometimes people think that, for the moment, a particular teaching is no longer relevant, but that’s really not the case. People have realized that the teachings he gave to Mudra Sapce Awareness, for example, are related to Dzogchen Ati teachings. And they may have much to offer to actors and others in the theatre. If we don’t keep them alive, we’ll lose that whole stream of teachings he gave.

Whither Independence?

Q: I understand the Legacy Project was planning to be independent from Shambhala International…

A: Yes, we had discussions with people within Shambhala International moving toward independence. The original reason for that, in part, was to have the Legacy Project reaching really out on a large scale. There are many people in the world—artists and others—and people from many different organizations who appreciate Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings. That includes people at Naropa Institute and many other Buddhist teachers, not just Tibetan Buddhists but Zen teachers and communities, Theravadin teachers, and many others. But it became clear that the Sakyong and his family and Shambhala International wanted to have the Legacy Project remain within Shambhala.

Kalapa

Q: What does it mean to “come under the protection and blessings of Kalapa”?

A: I don’t know entirely. Practically speaking, I’m working fairly closely with Richard Reoch, in the sense that he and I are working on a two-year plan. I’ve been talking with him about the Legacy Project for three or four years and he has shown an interest for a long time. As far as I can tell, Kalapa is still in the forming stages, so it’s hard to say. I hope it means that the Kalapa Council will lend their support to the efforts of the Legacy Project.

Protection and Change

Q: On Radio Free Shambhala, “Tsondru Garma” posted this comment: “Can the Legacy Project really be in danger of being changed while protected? That’s a scary prospect indeed.    I sincerely hope that the Project is not in any danger of revisionism. Too painful or difficult to even imagine.”

A: I think the best protection of the Vidyadhara’s legacy is to take the biggest view. That really can’t be corrupted because it’s beyond any individual interpretation. We need to remember that the Vidyadhara was Padmasambhava for our age. If you keep that in mind, that tells you that whenever people are trying to make a decision about what to do, it should be made from that highest viewpoint. Small mindedness is going to come from many corners. Whatever my role may be, I have to deal with my own small mindedness first, which is usually the bigger obstacle, rather than what anybody else is going to foist onto me.

Whatever may happen to the Legacy Project, the actual legacy of Chögyam Trungpa is incorruptible. I believe that with all my being, or non-being.

Thanks, Andrew, for this opportunity to say something about the Chögyam Trungpa Legacy Project. Also, may I mention that we are in the process of redoing our Web site. Right now, it’s not much. But I hope the new site will be up in about a month. You can find the web site of the Legacy Project at www.chogyamtrungpa.com.


Carolyn Rose Gimian is a senior editor of the work of Chögyam Trungpa, as well as the director of the Chögyam Trungpa Legacy Project and the Director Emeritus of the Shambhala Archives. She edited The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa and Shambhala The Sacred Path of the Warrior and other titles, including the forthcoming Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

*Photo of Carolyn Gimian by Marvin Moore

Kalapa Council Report

August 3, 2009

A Look at the New Kalapa Council

by Andrew Safer

In July, 2009, Shambhala International released the first Report of the Kalapa Council.   The Governance page has a link to it:

http://www.shambhala.org/community/KalapaCouncilreport2009.pdf

The Kalapa Council makes decisions and acts on behalf of Kalapa, a non-profit corporation described in its articles of incorporation (in Colorado, in 2007) as a “church of the Sakyong lineage of Shambhala”.  Originally registered under the name of “Kalapa Court”, the name was changed to “Kalapa” in early 2008. Kalapa has been described in several articles (KalapaLabyrinth) published by Radio Free Shambhala. This article updates those.

In the Sakyong’s 2008 Shambhala Day address, he said

In thinking about the notion of lineage–who we are–I have created a new format, a new structure that I’m calling Kalapa. Kalapa will be the storehouse and protector of the Shambhala lineage, and in particular, the Lineage of Sakyongs.

What follows are selected sections of the first Kalapa Council Report, with  a few comments and questions listed after each section.

Creation of the Kalapa Council

The Sakyong appointed the Kalapa Council to assist him and the Sakyong Wangmo in the integration and governance of the mandala. The Kalapa Council is the Lha body of Shambhala Governance. It’s role, described by the Sakyong, is “to disseminate and govern” and is “the structure for the Sakyong to express his direct command and wishes.” (1)

…The Kalapa Council now has nine members.(2) The Sakyong holds the position of director of the first class in Kalapa, as he does in Shambhala International. The other members of the council include:

The Sakyong Wangmo, Khandro Tseyang (3)

The President of Shambhala, Mr Richard Reoch (chair of the council) (4)

The Lamen Kyi Khyap, Dr Mitchell Levy (5)

The Kalapa Acharya, Mr Adam Lobel (6)

The Makpön, Mr Jesse Grimes (7)

The Chagdzö Kyi Khyap, Ms Connie Brock (8)

The Chief of Staff of the Sakyong Ladrang, Mr Josh Silberstein (9)

The Head of the Office of the Kalapa Court and Secretary to the Sakyong, Mr David Brown, has a standing invitation to attend the meetings of the Kalapa Council, as does its Chief Legal Counsel, Mr Alex Halpern. Mr Brown also serves as the Secretary to the Kalapa Council. (10)

(1) The Council exists to communicate the Sakyong’s ‘direct command and wishes’.

(2) This document says there are nine members including the Sakyong; the Kalapa Council page says there are eight. Only eight are listed (in total). 

(3) Khandro Tseyang, the Sakyong’s wife, is the second member of the Sakyong’s family on the Council (the Sakyong being the first).

(4) President Reoch is also Chair of the Sakyong’s Council.

(5) Dr. Mitchell Levy, the husband of Diana Mukpo, the Sakyong’s stepmother, is the third family member on the Council. He represents the Kalapa Council on the Sakyong’s Council. Dr. Levy is the only senior student of Chögyam Trungpa on the Council.

(6) Mr. Adam Lobel is Kalapa Acharya and also the Acharya representative on the Sakyong’s Council.

(7) Mr. Jesse Grimes also serves on the Sakyong’s Council, and is Commander of the Dorje Kasung.

(8) Chagdzö Kyi Khyap means Bursar General. Ms. Brock is also Treasurer of the Sakyong’s Council, a board member of the Sakyong Foundation, a core member of the Shambhala Trust, and Finance Director of the Minneapolis Shambhala Centre.

(9) Mr. Josh Silberstein is Secretary to the Kalapa Council and also President of The Kalapa Group, a company that “represents high profile ventures of the Sakyong including publishing, media and speaking engagements that help to support the Sakyong’s charitable activities”.

(10) What mechanism is in place to ensure that views and communication from other than the mandala center will reach the Sakyong?

The Role of the Kalapa Council

The role of the Kalapa Council as described by the Sakyong is “to disseminate and govern” and is “the structure for the Sakyong to express his direct command and wishes.”

The Council fulfils these functions by:

1. Receiving. The members of the council, individually and collectively, receive the direct expression of the Sakyong’s evolving aspirations, often before they take specific shape. (11)

…4. Advising and Assisting the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo. The Council acts in an advisory capacity to the Sakyong and the Sakyong Wangmo. Both may refer matters to the Council on which they are seeking advice. The Council itself may wish to offer advice to their Majesties on any matter that it deems appropriate. The Council has also been asked by the Sakyong to assist in the governance of the mandala in areas such as manifesting mandala principle, protecting and sustaining the lineage (12), ensuring financial coherence, monitoring the global impact of the lineage (13), directing international relations and advising on court appointments in the mandala.

The members of the Kalapa Council serve as the board of Kalapa, the entity that gives legal form to the Kalapa Court. (14)

(11) “Receiving” does not reference receiving input or feedback from the Council members, or from members of the worldwide Shambhala community.

(12) What is meant by “the lineage”? Who does it include?

(13) What is meant by “monitoring the global impact of the lineage”?

(14) What is the legal relationship between the corporate entities Kalapa, Sakyong Ladrang, and Vajradhatu (Shambhala International)? How do Kalapa Council and Sakyong Foundation relate to those? Who owns, or intends to own, what?  What are the legal responsibilities of the Boards of Kalapa, The Kalapa Group, Sakyong Ladrang, and Vajradhatu/Shambhala International?

Reporting and accountability

The members of the Kalapa Council are appointed by the Sakyong and serve at his pleasure. They report directly to him and are accountable to him. (15) The Kalapa Council will report periodically to the mandala as a whole on its activities. This report is the first such periodic report.

(15) It appears that the Sakyong, alone, appoints and retires the Council members. The sole accountability is of them to him.

The work of the Kalapa Council, August 2008 – July 2009

Among the various topics to which the Kalapa Council devoted its energy after its inception were the following:

 

Kingdom of Shambhala responsibility. The Sakyong made clear to the Kalapa Council and to the Warrior General (16) that with the establishment of Kalapa and the creation of the Kalapa Council that primary responsibility for the protection and manifestation of the vision of the Kingdom of Shambhala was now to be held by the Kalapa Council. (17) The implications of this for the role of the Council of Warriors, together with the wish of the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo to establish a Shambhala Office of Culture and Decorum, have been a regular feature of the discussions of the Kalapa Council since its inception and are continuing. (18)

(16) The Warrior General role is now subsumed under the Shambhala Office of Culture and Decorum?

(17) Noteworthy: primary responsibility for the protection and manifestation of the vision of the Kingdom of Shambhala was now to be held by the Kalapa Council.

(18) Council of Warrors: Does this mean the Council of Warriors will no longer have a role in relation to the “protection and manifestation” of Shambhala vision?

Establishment of the Office of the Sakyong Wangmo. The Sakyong requested that an Office of the Sakyong Wangmo be established. (19) The council recommended to him that he and the Sakyong Wangmo appoint a Secretary to the Sakyong Wangmo and that this (voluntary) position be integrated into the Office of the Kalapa Court. On this basis, Ms. Basia Solarz was appointed to the position of Secretary to the Sakyong Wangmo.

(19) What activities will this Office undertake?

Establishment of the Sakyong Ladrang. (20) The council devoted considerable time to discussion with the Sakyong of the importance of establishing the Sakyong Ladrang and how this could best be supported within the framework of the unfolding Kalapa Court. The Ladrang has now been established and legally registered. (21)

(20) What does “ladrang” mean? What is its role in the traditional Tibetan hierarchical structure, and how is it being adapted to the Western context? Is it a family trust?

(21) The Sakyong Ladrang is registered as a tax-deductible Buddhist religious organization. Its articles of incorporation are identical to those of Kalapa. The Web site: www.sakyongladrang.org was live for a short time but has since been taken down.

What is the purpose of the Sakyong Ladrang? 

International relations. The Sakyong requested that responsibility for international relations be located within the Kalapa Court under the direct supervision of the Chair of the Kalapa Council. (22) The separate role of the Office of International Affairs came to a formal end on Shambhala Day 2009, and its work was subsumed into the work of the Office of the Kalapa Court. (23)

The Sakyong established a new position, Head of Protocol in the Office of the Kalapa Court. He appointed Michael Gayner, former attaché to the Sakyong, to this position to assist the Chair of the Kalapa Council with relations not only with major teachers, but also the increasing number of public figures making contact with Shambhala. Lodro Gyatso, a monastic in the Shambhala Community formerly residing at Gampo Abbey, will be the point-person in the Office of the Kalapa Court for receiving and responding to most of the incoming emails from centres and then forwarding them to others who need to be consulted. Peter Volz will serve for a period of time as an adviser on international relations in view of his long experience. Frank Stetzl will continue to be the principal link for Shambhala Europe. The Chair of the Kalapa Council is now working to establish a group of acharyas who will be available to act as high-level emissaries to build and strengthen our relations with lineage holders and teachers on behalf of the Shambhala Mandala.

(22) Since the late 1970s, the Vajradhatu Office of External Affairs has facilitated the establishment of contacts with lineage teachers and cultivated these relationships, as well as managed many aspects of relations within the broader Buddhist context, and beyond. Under the leadership of Chögyam Trungpa, this office had as many as four people working full time, reflecting its high priority. In recent years, the staffing commitment has been reduced to two part-time positions. The Office of External Affairs has been closed and Peter Volz, a senior student of Chögyam Trungpa with considerable experience in lineage relations, has been retired.

(23) The Office of External Affairs of Shambhala International has been removed. Relations with lineage teachers are now under the purview of the Office of the Kalapa Court.

The Kalapa Executive. The Sakyong indicated to the Kalapa Council the importance of identifying and empowering an executive body for the mandala as a whole. This is different to the policy-making and governing bodies – the Kalapa Council and the Sakyong’s Council. The Kalapa Executive would coordinate the highest level executive officers of the Three Pillars. The Kalapa Executive will include the officers who are currently responsible for major operations in all areas of the mandala. Further work will be needed to formalize the roles and authority of the members of the Kalapa Executive. This will be a further step in providing coherence (24) to the central governance of the mandala under the overall leadership of the Sakyong. (25)

(24) “Coherence” means “the quality or state of cohereing, especially a logical, orderly and aesthetically connected relationship of parts.” What parts are being included, and how?

(25) What value will this new level of bureaucracy add?

Chögyam Trungpa Legacy Project. The Sakyong had previously given his blessing to the initiative to explore the creation of a Chögyam Trungpa Legacy Project. On receiving a report on the ground laid by this exploration, he made it clear that he wished the project to come under the protection and blessings of Kalapa (26), since it had long-term implications for the propagation of the lineage (27) teachings. well ino the future and because the form it would take could be the model for the preservation and propagation of the teachings of successive Sakyongs of Shambhala. The Chair of the Kalapa Council was asked to work with the project director, the Sakyong and Lady Diana Mukpo to establish how best this could be done. Broad agreement was reached on this and work is now underway to discuss a two- year work plan for the project.

(26)  “he made it clear that he wished the project to come under the protection and blessings of Kalapa” 

(27) Which “lineage” is being referred to here? (see note (12)

Relations within the mandala.  The council sees as part of its responsibility to help ensure coherence and a spirit of mutuality throughout the mandala. This is, of course, a major responsibility of the Sakyong’s Council, on which all of the members of the Kalapa Council sit as well. Nonetheless, particularly since the Kalapa Council has the function of bringing together the most senior officers of the three pillars of Shambhala, it can also pay attention to collaboration between these strands of the Shambhala brocade. It also monitors the impact and implications of the new curriculum and other ways in which Shambhala is unfolding on the community as a whole. Part of those discussions have related to expressions of concern by longer-term members of the community (28) and the council sees as part of its role to discuss how those can best be addressed (29) so that the community as a whole can embrace diversity and change with mutual respect and support for as many practitioners as possible. (30)

(28) These “longer-term members of the community”, of whom there are many, are not represented on the Council.

(29) Are the harmony meetings part of this “how”?

(30) The Council has responsibility for providing “support” for these “longer-term” individuals. Specifically, what “support” is being referred to here?

Financial responsibilities.  The council received regular reports and proposals from the Chagdzu Kyi Kyap on how best to structure the different financial responsibilities of the Ladrang, Kalapa and Shambhala. An interim division of responsibilities was discussed by the Sakyong’s Council, which has formed the basis for the budget being used by Kalapa in the course of this past year. The council is now considering fresh proposals for the future so that there can be maximum clarity established for annual and long-term budgeting. (31)

(31) Will there be transparency in the financial reporting of the various interlocking organizations (Kalapa Council, Kalapa, Sakyong Ladrang, Sakyong Foundation, Shambhala International)?

Does, or will, the authority of Kalapa, exercised through the decisions and actions of the Kalapa Council, supersede the authority of Shambhala International?

« Previous PageNext Page »