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Reflections on Kalapa

By Andrew Safer

One of the key messages in the Sakyong‘s 2008 Shambhala Day address was that he has created a “format” or “structure” called Kalapa which will be a “storehouse, a protector of the Shambhala lineage, particularly the lineage of Sakyongs”.

The Shambhala Lineage

Presumably, “the Shambhala lineage” includes Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the Dorje Dradul (Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche), the Warrior King Gesar, and the Shambhala warriors of the past. But wait a minute! Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s path, “Shambhala Buddhism”, is quite different from what the Dorje Dradul taught.

In the chapter entitled “Creating an Enlightened Society” in Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, the Dorje Dradul wrote:

Over the past seven years, I have been presenting a series of “Shambhala teachings” that use the image of the Shambhala kingdom to represent the ideal of secular enlightenment, that is, the possibility of uplifting our personal existence and that of others without the help of any religious outlook. For although the Shambhala tradition is founded on the sanity and gentleness of the Buddhist tradition, at the same time, it has its own independent basis, which is directly cultivating who and what we are as human beings. With the great problems now facing human society, it seems increasingly important to find simple and non-sectarian ways to work with ourselves and to share our understanding with others.

In the chapter “Nontheistic Energy” in Journey Without Goal, Trungpa Rinpoche said the following about obscuring the dualistic gap (in this context, the gap between Shambhala (the non-sectarian) and Buddhism (the religious):

The attempt to define who we are and who we are not is basically split into two approaches: the theistic approach and the nontheistic approach. In the nontheistic approach we simply acknowledge the dualistic gap rather than trying to unify it or conceal it. In the theistic approach, there is an ongoing attempt to conceal that gap completely. There is a notion of spiritual democracy. In fact, that approach is often used in dealing with political and social problems: “Blacks are not against whites–we are all the same species. Since we all live on the same earth, we should regard ourselves as a brotherhood.”

The Dorje Dradul’s Shambhala is universal. It has no religious affinity. With that, the basic ground for Shambhala was established. Then Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche introduced “Shambhala Buddhism”—a significant departure from that ground. Before Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, there was no such thing as Shambhala Buddhism. He created it, and it is now his legacy. In his version, “secular enlightenment” is eclipsed by religion. Clearly, these are two distinct Shambhala paths. It is misleading to refer to both as if they are the same.

So what exactly can “Kalapa” protect? “Kalapa” can protect Shambhala Buddhism—but not Shambhala. This is not a matter of nitpicking over semantics—or seeing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Shambhala is bigger than religion, bigger than ethnicity, bigger than anything that divides or separates people. It’s accessible to Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists. This is what the world needs—an enlightened warrior’s way that can accommodate everyone.

Any effort to unite these two differing views is futile. But there is no problem with duality—just as there was no problem with Shambhala and Buddhism being separate. There can be two lineages.

“You can’t attend your own funeral” was Trungpa, Rinpoche’s version of “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Rather than talk about oneness, he talked about duality and zeroness.

The Lineage of Sakyongs

Presumably, “the lineage of Sakyongs” refers to a lineage that includes the Dorje Dradul and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. While it’s true that the Dorje Dradul passed the baton to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche with regard to Shambhala, there is no assurance that the latter is still carrying that particular baton.

“There are no guarantees,” as the Dorje Dradul used to say…“Good luck, Sir.”

In fact, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has changed the context of Shambhala so significantly that there is little reason to believe that he and the Dorje Dradul represent the same lineage, if by “lineage” we mean more than the simple dictionary definition of “lineal descent, ancestry”. Yes, they are blood relations, there is ancestry. However, if we mean by “lineage” the continuity of the teachings, this word does not apply because Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has started his own “lineage”…“Shambhala Buddhism.”

Just as it’s erroneous to apply “The Shambhala Lineage” to both the Dorje Dradul and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, it’s also erroneous to speak of “the Lineage of Sakyongs” for the same reason. Again, it’s two, not one.

The Fundamental Question

The haunting, fundamental question in all this becomes: Who is going to propagate, transmit, and keep alive the Dorje Dradul’s teachings? It seems to be up to us—the students who are bound to the Dorje Dradul, Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, by samaya.

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