Shambhala and the Kagyu Lineage

January 21, 2009

Commentary by Jim Wilton

The Sakyong’s activity is clearly focused these days on developing the Shambhala path through to the practices of the Scorpion Seal retreat.  Since my practice has been almost entirely focused on Kagyu Buddhist practice in recent years — I feel somewhat left behind.  For example, the Sakyong’s retreats starting this year will no longer have a “track” for Vajrayogini practice.  So my choice is to join Werma practice or not to participate.  For me, it will probably be a few years before I can circle back and fully engage with Werma practice and the Scorpion Seal path.

I don’t view the Sakyong’s approach as a move away from Kagyu Buddhist practices as much as a move toward Shambhala practices — recognizing that we are the sole holders of Shambhala terma and that time is short.  I write this because I was recently reading Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche’s autobiography Blazing Splendor and found a similar tension expressed regarding Rinpoche’s Barom Kagyu lineage and his unquestioned primary focus on propagation of Chökyur Lingpa’s New Treasures terma.  Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche expresses some regret and wistfulness in acknowledging that his lineage’s one pointed focus on the New Treasures has resulted in a lack of attention to traditional Barom Kagyu practices (other than certain protector practices).

This experience seems to me to be in some way similar to the situation in our mandala.  I know that there are practitioners who regret both the connection of Shambhala and Buddhism as concepts and the perceived neglect of the Kagyu Buddhist lineage — which in CTR’s vision was passed to VROT as lineage holder.  And perhaps Kagyu practices will become an “advanced” practice in our mandala for old students.  This in some sense is a shame because CTR’s extraordinary teachings on Vajrayogini and the excellent annotated sadhanas that we use for Kagyu yidam practices are currently unavailable to other Kagyu sanghas and increasingly will be underutilized in our sangha.  I don’t think that we are yet at the point where we are neglecting Kagyu practices (although I expect our feasts may have sparser attendance as newer practioners defer practice of Kagyu ngondro in favor of the Shambhala path).

However, it would be a greater tragedy to fail to fully transmit the Shambhala terma.  These are my mixed feelings.  I don’t know if others have thoughts about this.  I’d be interested in hearing them.


Jim Wilton is member of the Boston Shambhala Center since 1986.  He lives in Newton, Massachusetts with his wife Erika and son Nick.

Dzongsar Khyentse Interview

December 11, 2008

The Chronicles web site is featuring an audio interview with Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, conducted by Barry Boyce as part of its Let Loose series. This interview, held in November 2008 during the Transcending Madness program in Halifax, is worth listening to for its comments on lineage, cultural flavoring of how the teachings are presented, and other issues relevant to readers of this site. Please comment and discuss either here or on the Chronicles site.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche has a particularly strong connection to students of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, which began with his presentation of Vajrakilaya teachings to the Vajradhatu sangha on behalf of his (and CTR’s) teacher, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, and continued with his being tasked by Khyentse Rinpoche to relate with and care for the community of CTR’s students.

Keeping Alive the Teachings

August 10, 2008

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

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