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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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:

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: 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?

Deception, Corruption and Truth

July 21, 2009

Commentary by Suzanne Duarte

   Hell is the truth realized too late. ~ E.O. Wilson, Harvard biologist


Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, 1975 (Photo by Paul C. Kloppenberg)



It is said that when a great teacher passes, as Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche did in 1987, his or her students each carry particular teachings from that teacher that they then have the responsibility to bring to fruition in their lives.  This is how lineage is carried on.  I received many transmissions from Trungpa Rinpoche, but after he died several specific aspects of his teachings rose to consciousness, bringing an urgent sense of my obligation to fulfill them.  These pieces came as little energetic packets of information—or ‘medicine’—about my ‘mission’ that had his stamp on them.  I don’t know how else to explain it.  These ‘messages’ usually came to me while I was on retreat and they shaped the path that would subsequently unfold in my life.

Two of the ‘messages’ I received (on two separate retreats) had to do with two dharmic values that the Vidyadhara embodied, which were reinforced in me by his example.  Those values are consideration and concern for future generations and the importance of being truthful, which are related with each other.  After receiving these messages after he died, I began to understand that our personal adherence to the truth – or honesty – in the present is essential for the sanity and wellbeing of future generations, and thus for the continuity of the dharma.  That neither truth nor concern about future generations is a value that is widely held or respected in mainstream Western societies has become increasingly apparent to me since the Vidyadhara died, which has served to sharpen my focus on the importance of these values. 

The Vidyadhara and his Kagyu and Nyingma lineages had a great deal of foresight and always acted on behalf of future beings.  This was the force behind the Rimé movement in the 19th century, which helped to preserve sacred teachings in Tibet for future generations.  Trungpa Rinpoche expressed his concern about the future in the Sadhana of Mahamudra and in his Shambhala teachings.  I was already concerned about our collective future before I met Rinpoche in 1972, but when I found myself reciting the Sadhana of Mahamudra the first time I walked into a Dharmadhatu (aka Shambhala Center), that clinched it for me.  That shared concern for the future was the main reason I became his student and it fueled my devotion to him. 

Trungpa Rinpoche went to great lengths to make sure his students understood that we are the beneficiaries of the work and sacrifices of many generations of dharma practitioners and teachers whose explicit intention was to benefit future generations of human beings.  In the summer of 1976 or 1977, at a Naropa Institute lecture at the Sacred Heart school auditorium, I heard Trungpa Rinpoche describe his 500-year vision of how the dharma could be kept alive through the Dark Age of materialism, and thus enable future generations to maintain awakened mind in difficult circumstances.  He called this vision Enlightened Society, which is elaborated in his Shambhala teachings on warriorship.  He founded Shambhala Training in the late 1970s specifically to build the foundations for an enlightened society. 

In 2000, when George W. Bush showed up on the American horizon, the truth aspect of the Vidyadhara’s teachings – his consistent directive to adhere fearlessly to the truth, both within ourselves and with each other – began to echo recurrently in my mind.  Surrendering to the truth – even when bitter – and integrating the wisdom offered is the spiritual practice that enables the path to unfold.  After all, when we enter the stream of Buddhadharma by taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, we vow to free ourselves from delusion, acknowledging that ignorance and delusion cause suffering for ourselves and others.  The cure for delusion is to face the truth, the facts of reality.

As Trungpa Rinpoche said in “Just the Facts:

Dharma literally means “truth” or “norm.” It is a particular way of thinking, a way of viewing the world, which is not a concept but experience. This particular truth is very painful truth — usually truths are.  It rings with the sound of reality, which comes too close to home. We become completely embarrassed when we begin to hear the truth. It is wrong to think that the truth is going to sound fantastic and beautiful, like a flute solo. The truth is actually like a thunderbolt. It wakes you up and makes you think twice whether you should stay in the rain or move into the house. Provocative. . . .

Sacredness doesn’t come in the form of religion, as a savior notion. The sacredness is the truthfulness. . . .  At this point, believing in miracles is an obstacle.  There is great room, on the other hand, for our minds to open, give [in] and face facts. Literally to face the facts: the facts of reality, the facts of pain, the facts of boredom.

Our world, this particular world, our Dharma, our truth, needs to be acknowledged and needs immense surrendering—not just a one-shot deal. Without this first Dharma, understanding the truth and our relationship to the truth, we could not go further.

Trungpa Rinpoche himself was fearlessly honest and up-front, and he had an unnerving, cosmic sense of humor.  He abhorred deception and pretense, deplored cowardice, and was compassionately precise in exposing it – a characteristic that discomforted many students.  Someone once said that the role of the spiritual friend is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.  This was exemplified by Trungpa Rinpoche. 

His emphasis on truth as sacred dharma confirmed my intuitive conviction that lies and deception are corrosive.  Lies and deception create fragmentation, confusion, and degradation.  Cleaving to truth gives us strength, backbone, and is essential for maintaining integrity and sanity, whereas lying fragments our integrity and therefore weakens us.  Deception also sows corruption in our social milieu, like a virus in the collective psyche.  Truth sets things right and restores sanity, at least for a little while, until the virus of corruption erupts again.

During George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000, the pretence and deception were so transparent that I could not understand how so many people could fall for it.  Bush’s election was ‘dodgy,’ to say the least, but he got in, and the fact that so many people were so easily deceived did not bode well for the future.  Indeed, a virus of corruption erupted during the Bush II administration, and that virus seemed to spread to other countries due to the American political and economic hegemony that existed when Bush took office – as if the world said, “If they do it in American, it must be okay.” 

I cite the example of the Bush II years to illustrate the relationship between deception, corruption and collective suffering, which is the converse of the relationship between truth (dharma) and the wellbeing of future generations.  Although the corruption in the Bush administration may not have exceeded by orders of magnitude that of other corrupt American administrations, it was nevertheless a dramatic example of the old adage that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

In any case, my conviction in the value of honesty and my visceral antipathy towards deception kept my attention riveted to the shenanigans of the second Bush administration. There seemed to be no end to the lies, hypocrisy, secretiveness, cover-ups, disinformation, denial and distortion of scientific findings (e.g., global warming!), intrigues, scandals, fraud, subterfuge, and evasion that came out of that administration or were permitted by it.

It seems significant that the Bush II years were marked by numerous scandals in the United States, beginning in October 2001 with the Enron scandal – the largest corporate scandal in American history, which involved Bush’s good friend Ken Lay.  And just before Bush left office, another gigantic scandal erupted in December 2008 with revelations of the $65 billion fraud case against Bernard Madoff – “the largest investor fraud ever committed by a single person,” which has had devastating effects on many sangha people.  We can’t blame all of this on Mr. Bush, but a culture of deception and corruption did proliferate during his administration, and now we can watch (and experience) the ripening of the karma as the United States and the global economy suffer the economic consequences.  

On July 12, 2009, an article in The Independent reported on the State of the Future,” the largest single report to look at the future of the planet.  Entitled “The planet’s future: Climate change ‘will cause civilisation to collapse,’” the article says:

The impact of the global recession is a key theme, with researchers warning that global clean energy, food availability, poverty and the growth of democracy around the world are at “risk of getting worse due to the recession.” The report adds: “Too many greedy and deceitful decisions led to a world recession and demonstrated the international interdependence of economics and ethics.”

Although the future has been looking better for most of the world over the past 20 years, the global recession has lowered the State of the Future Index for the next 10 years. Half the world could face violence and unrest due to severe unemployment combined with scarce water, food and energy supplies and the cumulative effects of climate change.

This report vividly illustrates the effects of deception and corruption. “Too many greedy and deceitful decisions” lead to collective suffering in the future because deception and corruption are entropic.  They create disorder and degradation, ruptures in the fabric of reality, and are therefore, by definition, unsustainable.  It doesn’t matter how many people buy into the deception and participate in the corruption, there is no safety in numbers.  Rationalizing that ‘everybody does it’ provides no cover.  The rotten karma will still ripen.  And the more widespread the deception and corruption are, the more people get hurt.  In the case of climate change, for example – which the Bush administration denied for 8 years, delaying action to mitigate the effects – the collective suffering could go on for centuries. 

But what does all this have to do with the dharma and why talk about this on RFS?  Corruption can and does occur on a spiritual level as well as in the political economy.  Spiritual corruption begins when we depart from the truth, the dharma.  When we deceive ourselves, we inevitably deceive others, which starts the degenerative cycle of corruption.

In fact, the Vidyadhara said that deception creates samsara (cyclic existence and suffering due to ignorance and delusion):

With tremendous deception, we create samsara — pain and misery for the whole world, including ourselves – but we still come off as if we were innocent.  We call ourselves ladies and gentlemen, and we say, “I never commit any sins or create any problems. I’m just a regular old person, blah blah blah.”  That snowballing of deception and the type of existence our deception creates are shocking.

You might ask, “If everybody is involved with that particular scheme or project, then who sees the problem at all?  Couldn’t everybody just join in so that we don’t have to see each other that way?  Then we could just appreciate ourselves and our snowballing neuroses, and there would be no reference point whatsoever outside of that.”  Fortunately — or maybe unfortunately — we have one person who saw that there was a problem.  That person was known as Buddha. 

(From “Introduction” to The Truth Of Suffering And The Path Of Liberation, edited by Judith Lief, Shambhala Publications 2009.)

No matter how many people believe a lie, it’s still a lie, and it still creates samsara, corruption, karma, and suffering – a setting sun world.  The lie has to be exposed.  To be permissive of deception is to collude with it and corrupt ourselves. This is the Buddha’s painful and embarrassing truth that “comes too close to home.”  But, since it’s the Buddha’s truth, there is still good news: recognizing deception and corruption and realizing the truth releases the energy that has been locked up in evasion, and that is the energy we use to liberate ourselves and walk the path of dharma.   

Allegiance with the truth, no matter the cost, enables us to remain in integrity, connected with reality, one with the dharma.  We have to look beneath the deceptive surface of ‘normality’ to glean the truth of things as they are – whether about ourselves or about our world.  Being open to seeing the truth, rather than shying away from it, arouses our creative energy, raises our lungta, and turns the poison of delusion into medicine – insight.  Of course, it is certainly best to catch deception before we become involved in corruption, for then we might think we have too much to lose by facing the truth – which is the ultimate deception that creates samsara.  

As the Vidyadhara said, surrendering to the truth isn’t a one-shot deal.  It is a continuous process of unmasking ourselves, cutting through deception, through spiritual materialism and all the other tricks of ego that are reinforced by our conditioning in the setting-sun world.  Our wisdom co-emerges with our confusion when we are willing to catch ourselves in deception and surrender to the truth. 

The energy of truth uplifts us and takes us forward in a dharmic direction, the direction of enlightened society.  Enlightened Society is our hope for the future of humanity and of the dharma, and that hope resides in being honest and truthful with ourselves and each other.

The Net of Speech

July 7, 2009

Here’s some of what is being said and discussed on the world wide web, that may be of interest to RFS readers. We will periodically share links to other web sites, weblogs and networks. 

Not all these sites offer opportunities for  commenting, so feel free to speak up here.

Before, during, and after feeling this freedom, however…  please rest your mind – in whatever your best expression of practice is – and continue to share that! 

The listings below are in no particular order.

Shambhala Times: Shambhala Vision, Forward Vision
Lisa Johnston describes the Shambhala Vision Campaign. Bill Karelis requests financial transparency of the Sakyong’s Foundation.


Shambhala Times Nourishing the Third Jewel: A Letter from our Guest Editors
Mary Whetsell and Debbie Coats write on sangha and community: Susan Szpakowski and Suzanne (?) respond.


Church of Shambhala Vajradhara Maitreya Sangha
Remember the kid tulku in the movie Little Buddha? This is he.


Shambhala Times: Scorpion Seal Opens
“lifting a mist that has been hanging over the terma for decades.”


Gomde Danmark Sangha: East-West, West-East by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche comments on the recent Is Tibetan Buddhism working in the West article.


Gesar Mukpo’s Tulku trailer.

The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation

June 28, 2009

The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation

“For many years, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche wanted the talks he was giving at the Vajradhatu Seminaries to become the basis for a series of scholarly books. His presentations often were based on teachings in Jamgon Kongtrul’s Treasury of Knowledge, and he wanted this material to be broadly available to students and teachers of dharma in North America and beyond. However, during Rinpoche’s lifetime, we were not able to fulfill his wishes.

In the last years of the millennium, Acharya Judy Lief  began working with the material from the hinayana volumes with the support of Ellen Kearney, the Managing Editor at Shambhala Media. They decided to work on several smaller, thematic volumes as a way of getting into the material as a whole. The first volume based on their work can be seen in The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation, which has just been published by Shambhala Publications, in association with Vajradhatu Publications. Judy and Ellen are now hard at work on the three-volume series that will present The Root Texts of Chögyam Trungpa. There will be a large volume for each yana, the fruits of the compilation and condensation of the original transcripts. The vajrayana volume will be edited to present material appropriate for a public audience.” 

– Carolyn Gimian, Director of the Chogyam Trungpa Legacy Project

“This wonderful book presents the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism in a way that is completely fresh and original while at the same time never losing contact with traditional sources. I was extremely fortunate to have Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche as my root teacher, and I’m so glad this new book of teaching is available so that readers can continue to benefit from his profound understanding.”—Pema Chödrön

“An invaluable resource for anyone seeking the truth. With disarming honesty and humor, Trungpa Rinpoche guides us through the Buddha’s teachings, bringing us face to face with our many misconceptions and our true potential.”—Sharon Salzberg

“In this book we can hear Rinpoche’s uncontrived, genuine voice illuminating the fundamental teachings of Buddhism on the cycle of suffering and freedom from suffering—profoundly inspiring all of us.”—Tulku Thondup Rinpoche 

To buy The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation, if you are lucky, you may find it at a local bookstore. Otherwise, take a look at this information from the publisher.

The Keys to the Kingdom

May 19, 2009

Commentary by Susanne Vincent

Salutations to the former students of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche!

I write as a never-direct-student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (never witnessing his loving kindness, timing, wit or anything of his style or presence, but only the writings of the most intelligent mind that I’ve ever come across)  to the former-students-of-Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, because they carry forward That-which-I-define-as-Shambhala.

I’m a very recent voyager into this site, and I’ve just read three or four threads, with great delight.  I wasn’t aware that most of you existed or that you were talking to each other in this way, but in doing so, you’ve unwittingly assisted me a good deal and clarified the nebulous in quite a few places.

Through what you say, I understand a little of what I’d call your predicament. Quandary.  A liminal, edgy position – and in some of the dark matter (sic) of your exchanges, I hear the heart of Shambhala bleeding and feel resonance, concern and a good deal of curiosity.

The aim of this enquiry is to ask you to focus on a question – which is how the pure transmission of the Vidyadhara’s spiritual legacy will be carried forward.

I don’t know if that is a sufficiently precise way to say what I mean – probably because I’m describing something I’ve got no way to quantify – and I don’t have much of the language of such things (some of you could say it much better), but I hope you understand.

I heard from a houseboat family in Kashmir that the Imam of the mosque in Srinagar has a key which has been  handed down forever.  If the shit hits the fan for the planet – to the extent that the whole rigmarole is crashing without any other means of salvation – then he is to go up into the mountains and unlock the case that contains the Staff of Christ.

Why does this remind me of you?  I wonder if there is a parallel in value to the inheritance you hold?  Certainly I hear your sense of guardianship – and the word safeguard comes into my mind – as in protector practice.

I’ve loved listening to you, and your different textures of wisdom, and with great respect for the acuity of your minds and your willing disclosures (and sometimes mere vomitous projections, of course).  I hear in some of you a great sense of accountability, and I’m imagining you out there – in your various mostly American living environments or mountain huts – with the family jewels in the vault and an unclear sense of who they belong to.  Hot potatoes!

Now, all of this occurred as a result of your karma, of course, which could be a cause for confidence, please, since we all do very much need you to be confident.  You were born into this family, sometimes kicking and shrieking, but it has you by the nose, as in many ways it does me, and I have never been as close to it as you.

Looking at the State of the Union from many miles away, I find recently that I view the international construct that is currently identified as Shambhala quite separately in my mind from Chögyam Trungpa’s teachings and vision, or his Shambhala teachings and vision of enlightened society.  And this is of course, absurd.

Now I find a whole swag of you On the Outside, like some scene from Blade Runner, or maybe Watership Down.  Do you remember when the wild rabbits have this conversation with the farmed rabbits and the wild rabbits realise there is something very fishy about the situation with the farmed rabbits?

And all of this is fine for just so long, but no grinning Vidyadhara appears suddenly in the door with an expression that makes it obvious that all of this was a test of trust.  (Or does that spectre ever arise for you?  What do you feel if it does?  Try this one at cocktail parties.)

I don’t have a vested interested in seeing this.  It would be so much more convenient for so many people if the beacon of Shambhala did radiate a great big pulse of authentic presence at us all the time, calling . . . come . . .come . . .  across the miles like the Himalayas, or an absent lover.  I would sell all my furniture for plane fares – not a whisker of a doubt.

I greatly appreciate hearing what you are doing.  I am filled with excited anticipation by Suzanne Duarte’s discussion of DharmaGaia.  I’ve admired Bill Karelis’ blatantly loving heart, courage and determination to maintain an authentic position for some time – Bill’s work is slightly more easily tracked through reports than others.  I have also tracked the work / painful journeys of some better and lesser-known exiles such as Reggie Ray, Patrick Sweeny and Taggie, and there may be more exiles even within the walls.  One only has so much time to follow family affairs.  I also appreciate this is not a club, but with a heavily laden astrological twelfth house, I have often found that it is when we uncover that which has been supressed or exiled that we find the keys to the heavenly kingdom.

So I would like to ask you very sincerely – and as a very interested stakeholder – and even if you think you have already tried to answer this in your posts:

how is the authentic spiritual legacy of the Vidyadhara to be carried forward?

With love

Susanne (Susie) Vincent

Auckland, New Zealand

Susanne Vincent lives in Auckland, New Zealand and has been a student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings since about 1978 via the written word, and via Shambhala since 2000.  After many years as an organisational psychologist / consultant, she now works for the nonprofit and community sector.

The Genuine Chögyam Trungpa

March 25, 2009

Commentary by Bernie Weitzman

I address what follows to students of the Vidyadhara, Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche.

The years since Rinpoche’s parinirvana have been uncomfortable for many of his students.  Many of us have felt alienated from the community and from the Sakyong’s teachings.  We have, of course, dealt with the situation in individual ways. There are, though, commonalities.  Some of us have continued to participate fully, some of us have withdrawn, and others of us have continued to teach but have kept ourselves otherwise distant.

A concern that has become increasingly acute for me personally is that Rinpoche’s unique vision, the world altering presentation of the dharma that was my gateway, my access to sanity, is in danger of being lost.  I heard many teachers before him, during his time with us and have heard many teachers since Rinpoche’s death.  It is clear to me that, if not for him. I would still be wandering in search of a teacher.

I have recently found a significant level of comfort with and confidence in the path the Sakyong is developing.  The new format for Shambhala training will, in my view, be a truly fruitional movement in the direction of Trungpa, Rinpoche’s vision.  The retreat sequence, climaxing in the Scorpion Seal Retreat, moves Shambhala training and the Kagyu and Nyingma practices into a potentially enriching dialogue — but it’s a step towards that dialogue.

In order for that dialogue to unfold, we students of the Vidyadhara need to enter the discussion.  The way is open.  We are free to teach within the community.  Frank Berliner has coined the topic heading that I feel we all might use: “The Essential Chögyam Trungpa.”

H.H. Karmapa once said to a group of tantrikas, “Your teachers plant yeast in you.  It grows and expands in you.  Pass it on to your students.”  Each of us is yeasted.  Each of us has a unique “Essential Chögyam Trungpa.”  Let’s pass it on to the current generation and join the Sakyong in fulfilling his father’s vision.

Bernie Weitzman is in private practice as a psychotherapist in NYC. He became a student of Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche in 1972, and has taught at Karme Choling and at the NY and Philadelphia Shambhala Centers.

Sangha As Herd

March 18, 2009

Commentary by Sebo Ebbens

Sangha as herd

Some discussions within the sangha have produced in me a number of feelings about our sangha, which I would like to share with you. I have tried to express these feelings in this article. As a basis for my reasoning, I will start by discussing the difference between a mob, a herd and a community. I have taken this from a book by Korteweg and Voigt (Helen of delen [Healing or sharing], 1990, chapter 2). Their thoughts have helped me to gain a better understanding of and a firmer grasp on the functioning of learning communities, and of spiritual communities in particular. The theme of learning communities has intrigued me for a long time. To come straight to the point, I think our sangha is usually more of a herd than a spiritual community. I’ll explain further.

Mob, herd, and community

The three-fold division made by Korteweg and Voigt describes a developmental process. They say that a mob is focused on idols, as at a football match or a pop concert. The individual is taken over by the mob and becomes part of it; and worships the idol – the football player or the pop star – as one entity. Individuals have no personal responsibility. It is not an expression of one’s own personality. 

If the mob becomes a smaller collective group with a more personal character, we call it a herd. A herd focuses on common ideals or common values. Examples are a church, or an organization like Greenpeace or the WWF. You become a member because you share the same values. 

If the connection is stronger, the herd then has a large degree of community spirit: you share the same goals. At the same time, however, free thinking or feeling does not exist: viewpoints must express the values of the herd. There can be no criticism of its aims or methods: ‘that simply isn’t done’ or ‘you just don’t say that’ are often heard. Sects are a degenerated example of this.

This is why some people sometimes don’t feel at home in a herd. These people feel the need to control their own lives, the need for authenticity. They no longer want to be guided by the common social values of the herd, but to follow their own values and learn about them. This choice means that you go through life alone, because you can only follow your own conscience. In addition, you seek connections with people with whom you can travel the same road. This means you usually have to go through a period of loneliness or being alone in order to make those connections. When you have found that group, you enter a community (I call it a community; Voigt and Korteweg call this a circle). A characteristic of a community is that it usually is temporary and that it stimulates you to make your own personal journey. In a talk about this with Dale Asrael (one of our Acharyas) she said that the community might also stimulate you to leave the community if necessary, because you would be better off following another path. The community doesn’t push. The principal characteristic of the community is that it helps you to realize your human potential and to express yourself in the real world, whether within or without the community.


I would like to illustrate my viewpoint that our sangha is more of a herd than a spiritual community on the basis of two examples. One example comes from the Shambhala Mountain Centre (SMC, also a part of our sangha) where I have the pleasure of staying for four weeks every summer, as a teacher at Naropa University. The other example comes from our own sangha in the Netherlands. 

The first example: the Sakyong was about to arrive at SMC after an extended period of absence. It was suggested that we all go to the shrine tent to welcome him there. Suddenly someone shouted that we should go and stand by the road and everyone should take a little flag to wave on his arrival. The flags were next to the tent entrance. Everyone ran to the road with their little flag. After a while a car with blacked-out windows drove by. Everyone waved. My first thought was that there might not even have been anybody in the car. You couldn’t see anything. I felt embarrassed, and like part of a herd, nearly part of a mob. There was something extraordinarily stupid about standing there waving a flag with everybody else without seeing the Sakyong.

The second example: over the last few years I have attended a number of courses. At two of these courses I felt that the manner of teaching was inadequate; in the others it was perfectly satisfactory. On one occasion I reported this to the board as well as to the teacher concerned (who ultimately reacted well). But the initial response made me feel that criticism should not be expressed. Or that it should be expressed differently, in another tone of voice or with another sentence construction. It was clear that we don’t know how to react to a message such at that: you shouldn’t say anything about the quality of the teaching. The inadequacy of the second teacher was discussed extensively by the group that participated in the course. But the teacher knows nothing of it, as far as I know. For that matter, that is also not done. Here, too, there is evidence of a herd: the teacher always deserves to be praised. And of course that’s true. But even teachers deserve their own individual paths. Another herd characteristic is to toast the teacher and to sing his or her praises. And to praise each other. Always. That’s how it ought to be.

Sangha as spiritual community 

I could also give other examples. Consider the way we follow Eva Wong, who was asked to rearrange the building of Shambhala Amsterdam. She proposed to change the beams in the shrine room: a very expensive operation. There was not a real discussion about this proposal and it happened as proposed. I personally think that beams in the meditation room are acceptable. Or how we propagate the idea of enlightened society even if we don’t demonstrate it. But to me the examples are not the point.

To me what’s important is that I want the sangha to be a spiritual community where we support each other in following our own path, in our practice as well as in our daily lives, while maintaining respect for each other’s personal paths. Our path is a difficult one. It is a solitary path. But if we are members of the sangha, this is the path we have chosen. In that sense the sangha is a spiritual community and not just a social club. The sangha does not function as a spiritual community if we can no longer say what we think because that isn’t done. Or where we can hide behind what is done or not done or behind what someone else says. We develop for ourselves what is done and what is not, within our own tradition. That makes us a living spiritual sangha. 


Things are never as bad as they seem. Of course there are moments in our sangha when I feel that we do manifest as a spiritual community. Of course our sangha is also made up of some outstanding people. In addition, there are many satisfying weekends and good courses organized by all those members. But in one way or another, herd thinking quickly creeps in. If we were asked, everyone in our sangha would have a different view of what is and isn’t acceptable in the sangha.

And this article… is this acceptable? 

Sebo Ebbens is a long time member of Shambhala in Amsterdam. By profession he is a teacher trainer. He also taught at Naropa University in Boulder for several years in the Department of Contemplative Education. His web site is Center for Contemplative Practices.


Herd photo is from

Vajradhatu-Tradition Group Retreat

March 4, 2009

Proposal by Charles Marrow

It has been interesting to see how the insight and good wishes of the sangha have unfolded through this web site. My good friend Mark Szpakowski and I have had occasional chats over the last year regarding how much of a community environment can be created in a web based format. He takes the general position that you can do a lot in a cyber/web format and I generally go with the old school notion that a community really needs a bricks and mortar environment. I have enjoyed the exploration of this theme with Mark and also found it satisfying to contribute a main article to Radio Free Shambhala

I would like to go further with the principle of sangha-ship by presenting a proposal for the consideration of the sangha and students of the Vidyadhara and Shambhala. I will be somewhat specific here, realizing that there may be good suggestions forthcoming that would result in modifications to what is said below. It is also possible that the following plan may meet with general approval from people and that this idea could go forward in a straightforward manner. The proposal is to:

Have a Vajradhatu Style Group Retreat to Practice and Study the Teachings of the Vidyadhara 

Location: Province of Nova Scotia
Time: Summer 2009

A. I would propose this be undertaken with the following philosophical understandings-

  1. That the sangha  would do so recognizing that Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is the true holder of the lineage of the Shambhala Sakyongs and, as such, has the duty and samaya to represent the dignity and goodness of Shambhala in the presentation of his office. This duty of the Sakyongs relates to manifesting Great Eastern Sun culture to those abiding as citizens of Shambhala and the world at large. The Sakyong is, furthermore, wonderfully supported in this sacred responsibility by the presence of the Sakyong Wangmo.
  2. That the social and political theory of the Kingdom of Shambhala recognizes the diversity of the aspirations of its citizens as may be held by individuals, families and communities guided by the principles of basic goodness and the vision of the Great Eastern Sun. 
  3. That with consideration of the principles mentioned above, in Shambhala society, various valid spiritual traditions, both Buddhist and other traditions will be respected and nurtured. Furthermore, that some students of the Vidyadhara, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche may want to create a sangha situation that focuses on the teachings and spiritual traditions presented by Trungpa Rinpoche in a manner very close to the way he taught during his lifetime. Trungpa Rinpoche presented these teachings variously under the names of the Kagyu, Nyingma and Shambhala lineages and also as the Vajradhatu tradition.
  4. That a true sangha, so convened, must take the responsibility to maintain an attitude of a tamed or shinjanged approach in conduct and in speech according to the basic teachings of the Buddha. The sangha needs to also maintain the gentleness of Shambhala and a common sense of civility and respect that would be held in esteem in the broader reaches of society.
  5. That the issues of practice and textual traditions fundamental to any valid Vajrayana tradition be respected in the manner taught by Trungpa Rinpoche. Furthermore, the issues regarding the process of vajrayana transmission will need to be addressed by the sangha as the process of the change of generations continues. This issue can be worked with in a gradual, respectful and intelligent manner. 
  6. That in order to enhance the quality of harmony, the following texts be considered to be intrinsic to the program:  Unlimited Friendliness (the Metta Sutta), Shambhala Edict of Wholesome Human Conduct, and the Bodhisattva Vow from the Bodhicharyavatara.

B. The following considerations pertain to convening a Vajradhatu tradition group retreat and relate to the format of practice and study. 

  1. The retreat be held in a modest but comfortable facility in the province of Nova Scotia for about 10 days during the summer of 2009.
  2. That the retreat be organized with an emphasis on group sitting practice, listening and discussing recorded talks of Trungpa Rinpoche. Also, the schedule would have Sadhana of Mahamudra and Vajrayogini and Werma sessions for practitioners already having those transmissions. 
  3. That certain understandings would be accepted and adhered to by any individual participant regarding the participation in the program. Those would  relate to attendance at the meditation and study sessions, observing good conduct and meeting prearranged financial and work commitments.

C. That in order to expedite the proposed program, a working committee be requested to do the practical and administrative work to accomplish the group retreat. [Important Note – NONE of these individuals (excepting myself) have been informed in advance of this request]

  1. Ken Friedman – coordinator for tape plays of Trungpa Rinpoche talks and the related discussion group.
  2. Charles Marrow – coordinator for meditation practice sessions and shrine room protocol.
  3. Mark Szpakowski – general dekyong and coordinator for communications.
  4. Andrew Speraw – coordinator of facility and finances
  5. Other interest contributors can be included

This concludes the proposal for a Vajradhatu tradition group retreat. I fully trust the intelligence and good wishes of the Sangha to consider what has been presented in a balanced and mature manner. As a request / suggestion for web comments…..I feel that given the practical (and visionary) nature of this particular topic, that those responding include their full name, city or town of residence and a method of contact, number or email address.

Thank you for your interest.

Charles Marrow 
545 Main St. 
Mahone Bay Nova Scotia 
Ph: (902) 531-2491

Reflections on the Vajra Sangha

February 9, 2009

Commentary by Charles Marrow

I very much appreciate this forum for dialogue which gives the sangha an avenue to reflect on how we would like to proceed, as individuals and as a sangha, to continue as practitioners of the buddhadharma and Shambhala teachings. As far as a means of communication that are open to me, there is not much available where I can address these concerns. So I think Radio Free Shambhala is pretty good. With this in mind, I would like to express my appreciation for the moderators and all the contributors who have added their posts to this web site regardless of the degree to which their views might coincide with mine.

The ability to have a coherent discussion regarding changes to the lineage view and dharma practice of our sangha has been slow in coming. It has been my feeling that the administration and the leadership of Shambhala have not readily acknowledged two things that I think are important. Now, these topics are gradually finding their way into discussions on this web site and, presumably, into other conversations. The two topics that I would like to consider and that are closely related are:

A: There is a division in the sangha, and

B: Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has made and is continuing to make significant and some of us might say “dramatic” changes in the spiritual approach of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Regarding the first topic, I think it is fair to say that any reasonable Buddhist would regard a division in the sangha as not a good thing. So we probably agree on this point. Regarding the second point, some might feel an affinity to the Sakyong’s vision and feel that his vision is very appropriate to their inspiration, some may feel deeply disturbed by what the Sakyong is doing and many might have mixed feelings about the new approach of Shambhala Buddhism. So I am comfortable suggesting that there is a broad range of feelings about adaptations to the teachings and practices of Trungpa Rinpoche that are now being presented as Shambhala Buddhism.

Let us first discuss the topic of division within the sangha. The historical Buddha gave an important vinaya teaching which addresses the serious nature of a division in the sangha. From a scholarly point of view, the issue of dividing the sangha is somewhat complex. A key element is that the sangha must be harmonious for the fault of dividing the sangha to occur and what is regarded as a harmonious sangha would be subject to interpretation. But suffice it to say, as sangha members, we instinctively feel that a divided sangha is not healthy. Under these circumstances, any balanced and mature communication that can alleviate some of this tension is regarded as laudable in the Buddhist tradition.

We can be a little bit more thorough and consider why a division in the sangha is a problem. After all, there are 84,000 collections of dharma, many personality types that will find affinity with various teachings, we are liberal and broad minded people and certainly there is room for great diversity. Is this not the case? Are not disagreements somewhat normal? On this point, the traditional texts are very clear: “As long as the sangha is divided, the five paths will not be realized”, meaning that if there are fundamental unresolved issues within a practicing community, it is pretty hard to make progress on the spiritual path. Practically speaking, if the sangha is divided in regards to fundamental spiritual principles and the related practices, there will be a natural underlying tension and a certain amount of competition, even if unstated, as to where the sangha’s spiritual and material resources will be directed.

The second topic is that Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has made significant changes to the Vidyadhara’s teachings coming from the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions and also to the teachings of Shambhala. The Sakyong proclaimed a spiritual lineage of Shambhala Buddhism at the year 2000 Kalapa Assembly. Again, whether this is a positive, negative or mixed development will be perceived differently by different people. I would like to be simplistic for a moment and merely note that there is a difference.

Using myself as an example, I became a member of Karma Dzong in Boulder in 1977 which was the main seat for the Vajradhatu Buddhist organization. Vajradhatu, under the spiritual direction of Trungpa Rinpoche, followed the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. The emphasis was on a certain approach to sitting meditation followed by mahayana teachings, the Kagyu ngondro and the yidam practices of Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara. The view and teachings of the Nyingma tradition were elucidated by the Vidyadhara at important points in his teaching. Now that the West has some thirty-odd years of experience of Tibetan Buddhism, there is some understanding that Trungpa Rinpoche’s approach is pretty classic, and is well known amongst informed Buddhists. That is to say it follows the tradition of the Karmapas, the Rimé tradition, and the teachings that the view of Ati is the highest view. The Surmang Trungpa lineage is within the Karma Kagyu school which can be traced directly to Gampopa and is therefore about 1,000 years old. This tradition has had many, many committed practitioners over the centuries in Tibet and also a notable number in the West in recent decades.

In regards to the Shambhala teachings of Trungpa Rinpoche, these have been presented to many people in the Shambhala Training levels, graduate program, the Kalapa Assemblies, etc. This format  is well known in our community and many of us would regard Shambhala Training as having been very helpful to many people over a long period of time.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is teaching and encouraging others to teach the lineage, the view and the practices of Shambhala Buddhism. This lineage came into existence under this name in the year 2000. I do not think any other master ever taught something known as Shambhala Buddhism. This teaching seeks to unify the Shambhala and Buddhist paths and articulates the principle of basic goodness as the overarching principle. This principle is represented by the image of the Primordial Rigden. Shambhala Buddhism is presented as more applicable to the modern times and the problems of this era. It is also regarded as being more applicable to a greater number of people.

In the practice methods, Shambhala Buddhism presents a view of sitting meditation that promotes the value of shorter sitting periods and also recommends using a closer technique with more control used in mindfulness meditation. It presents the mahayana teachings and then one proceeds to do the Primordial Rigden ngondro followed by the Primordial Rigden abhishekha, the Werma Sadhana practice of Trungpa Rinpoche and then the Scorpion Seal retreat. The Kagyu ngondro and yidam practices of Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara are presented in Shambhala Buddhism as optional, and presumably valuable practices that can be done after the completion of the Scorpion Seal retreat at the discretion of the practitioner. As the primordial Rigden ngondro is only a few years old and the format for the Scorpion Seal retreat is still being worked on, there have only been a very few acharyas who have worked with this path to a significant degree. It is still being formulated, without much previous human experience.

The Sakyong, through his administration, has indicated that, with a view to unifying Shambhala and Buddhism, the Shambhala Training levels will be mixed with the new Shambhala Buddhist curriculum. This new approach to the Shambhala teachings is presented under the curriculum title of the Way of Shambhala. There is a possibility that the name of “Shambhala Training” will be phased out altogether in favor of “The Way of Shambhala”. An individual entering this new program will receive Buddhist teachings in an explicit form. As we know, in the Shambhala Training format, it was possible to complete the entire program, even up to receiving Werma Sadhana without becoming Buddhist. Some may feel this inclusion of Buddhist teachings in the Shambhala context is very good.

In these summations, I am trying to be neutral and merely highlight some of the distinctions in the Shambhala Buddhist approach in contrast to the Kagyu Vajradhatu tradition with Shambhala Training being presented as a separate stream of study and practice.

Now I would like to speak more subjectively and say a few things about how I have personally experienced the community and organizational dynamic. First of all, up to the last year or so, I felt like Shambhala International’s official position was that Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s approach was, in essence, identical to his father’s. This is what I felt was being said. Further, it seemed that this new Shambhala Buddhist path was being presented as really superior and that it will become widespread and help many, many people in this dark age. Also, I felt I was being told that the notion of adhering to the practices and teachings I was quite fond of from Trungpa Rinpoche’s Vajradhatu path was out of date and that I was stuck in the past. Then, there were the instances when it was communicated to me that, like other “old” students, I was just hanging on to the Vidyadhara’s teaching, being inflexible and being an obstructionist as to how the Sakyong wanted to manifest Shambhala.


My reaction to this whole process is that the current Sakyong and the administration has crossed the line in what modern parlance would call “non-negotiables”. One could make up a simple story, as an example. Say that I am an Italian man, who likes my home country and falls in love and marries a German woman. I go and spend time with my wife’s family and her German father begins to expect that I will become patriotic to Germany, root for their soccer team, sing their national anthem, adore German beer, give up my love for opera and Italian wine and totally get into the German national spirit. “Well, sorry to say to you guys, I am an Italian and I like my Italian thing and that is just the way it is!” In short, one would feel that these kinds of expectations are unreasonable.

From the point of view of spiritual development, in my own experience, I feel that the presentation of Shambhala Buddhism is a distraction. I do not have much connection to it and I have explored its theory and practices to a reasonable degree.  Needless to say, there are students of Sakyong Mipham who are inspired by his example and are undertaking the Shambhala Buddhist path with enthusiasm. So, once again, I am merely trying to clarify and stabilize the notion that a) the Kagyu Vajradhatu path is different from Shambhala Buddhism, and that b) there is a division in the sangha.

Perhaps it is because of my background as a member of the Dorje Kasung that I believe it is sometimes most skillful to approach complex situations with a degree of simple-mindedness and literalism. In discussions that we have had on this web site and elsewhere it is easy to get drawn into notions that “This way or that way is the pure, enlightened or correct way,” or that “This is what Trungpa Rinpoche really wanted,” etc. In fact, there are certain traditional methods for exploring the validity of a path of dharma through study and contemplation but that is not the purpose of this article. Here, I am trying to focus on two simple facts that are related to the experiences of individual practitioners and that also have a big impact on the vitality and cohesion of ourselves as a sangha, i.e., a group of practitioners.

I will go one step further into an area that is maybe somewhat more difficult, but necessary. This is to say that, in some form or another, there will have to be a process by which the direction of the sangha is clarified. The issues discussed thus far have been in the air for some number of years now. For example, in 2004 there was a conference in Boston called the Mandala Conference that produced a document called The Ground of Openness and Trust. I personally feel that the observations made at that time are still quite applicable to our situation. What is needed now is to have a mechanism for discussing and coming to practical decisions regarding the issues raised at that time.

From the vantage point of looking back to the discussions of the Shambhala Congress of 2003 and the issues that are still with us, I have to be somewhat blunt regarding my observations. I feel like there was, and still is, an approach to communication coming from the Sakyong and Shambhala International where expressions of the principles of inclusion, diversity, respect for elders, etc. are regularly circulated. However, when we observe how actual policies are implemented, it seems that every effort is made to march on with the predetermined agenda of furthering Shambhala Buddhism, while the feelings of those who have an affinity to maintaining Trungpa Rinpoche’s dharma and the practice traditions of Vajradhatu are related to as minimally as possible. One might get the feeling that it is the hope of the administration that if they just proceed, then those of us who did not really like these changes would eventually conform or just get out of the way, perhaps even leave the sangha altogether. Needless to say, this does not encourage a good sangha atmosphere.

To conclude, I would like to recap a statement made by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche when he was in Colorado around the time of the Vidyadhara’s parinirvana. I heard the following quote from two different reliable sangha friends. At this time, His Holiness said something to the effect that:

Now that the Vidyadhara has passed away, various lamas will come to the sangha and will want to present their teachings. My advice to you (the Vajradhatu sangha at that time) is that you ignore those lamas and continue with the teachings you have received from the Vidyadhara.

It is my feeling that this advice applies today.

I know some of these are difficult points, but I trust that presenting these issues will be of some benefit to the practicing community.

Charles Marrow has been a practicing Buddhist his entire adult life. He moved to Boulder in 1977 to become a student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche after practicing at San Francisco Zen Center. In 1983 he moved to Nova Scotia to participate in the Vajradhatu sangha. He has been the owner of several small businesses and currently works as an independent bookkeeper and accountant.

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