Chögyam Trungpa Legacy Project–Update

September 20, 2009

Report by Andrew Safer

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

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

Radio Free Shambhala: The real question is: how are the teaching stream and legacy of Trungpa Rinpoche going to continue?

Richard Reoch: I’ve been in discussions with Carolyn Gimian since the beginning of the Chögyam Trungpa Legacy Project about the importance of that initiative. The analogy we have used is that the Legacy Project is like a presidential library, so things don’t end up moldering and being lost. I’ve had some initial conversations with some of the longer-term students and acharyas about how to create an identifiable and helpful framework so no one is seen as being on one track or the other, or as renegades which is antithetical to the long-term survival of the lineage.

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

Vision and Mandate

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

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

Presidential Library

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

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

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

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

Comprehensive Virtual Archive

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

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

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

Editorial Apprenticeships

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

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

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

Chögyam Trungpa Annual Lecture

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

Root Text Project

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

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

What Activities are Outside the Mandate of the Legacy Project?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Budget

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

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

Q: Does Shambhala International donate to the Legacy Project?

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

Trungpa Teachers

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

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

Texts

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

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

Transmissions

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

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

Most Concerned to Protect

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

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

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

Whither Independence?

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

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

Kalapa

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

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

Protection and Change

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

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

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

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


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

*Photo of Carolyn Gimian by Marvin Moore

Shambhala from 21st Century

September 8, 2009


Imagine – a civilization, a culture, a country or countries, where the sacred is acknowledged in every aspect of personal, family, and community life, as well as in the details of business, finance, and government. Imagine, not “no religion too“, but “your religion too“, so that such a society would respect equally the genuine practice traditions of the many faiths of its citizens. This is what I hear the 21st century, and the millenium we’re entering, calling for. This call is also the real source – terma, actually – of the Shambhala vision of Chögyam Trungpa.

I will explore two aspects of this here, very briefly: secular/sacred, and drala.

Secular/Sacred

A new balance, or indivisibility, of secular and sacred seems to be needed, in which the sacred is fully acknowledged in all the institutions of government and society, but in which they are not tied to any one religious faith. The founding fathers of the United States made a very conscious and brilliant effort in this direction, basing the state on fundamental natural principles while separating state from church, but as we can see in today’s American society this is not the final word –  a more complete synthesis is necessary. The sacred has become the preserve of official religions and of fundamentalisms, while the secular has been left to be terrorized by market darwinism and peculiar beliefs such as that good trickles down from attachment and greed.

Looking beyond the shores of North America, we see that much of the world does not buy into McGlobalization, and is suggesting that other outlooks are equally or more valid: an Islamic example is that of a Caliphate, with formally integrated calls to prayer throughout the day, as a better way to be for human beings. I think there is great accuracy in this latter aspiration, and it finds echoes in the lifestyles of Hasidic Judaism, in life as sadhana for Hindus and Buddhists, etc. But how can it be realized in a manner that can be shared by adherents of more than one religious practice?

In my understanding and experience this is exactly the question and the need from which the Shambhala vision of Chögyam Trungpa was extracted, and it is this that the Shambhala project – experiment – in creating a secular expression of the sacred is seeking to address. Its motivation is not an attempt to find “who we are”, but rather, what kind of radically open space, in which the sacred presents, can we uncover, manifest and share – for us and others?

Drala

The divorce of the efficient instruments of economy, business, finance, and law from the sacred – evident in mantras such as “business is business” and in notions such as that the bottom line can be expressed as a number – have led to devastating exploitation and destruction of our environment, and of the entire fabric of life within which we arise. Drala is the Shambhala term for the understanding, relationship, and practice which brings experience of the sacred together with the world of appearances, resources, and perceptions. Drala is finding the cosmic mirror in a blade of grass, in a sheaf of wheat, in a kitchen utensil. It is drala that calls for an explicit role in the very guts of our systems of sustainability and care, in the DNA of our financial and engineering systems – and we need to find language and forms to express that. Drala also offers a way to bring together the sometimes more abstract notions of emptiness and nature of mind with the textures of the living world, and more and more vocabulary for it is emerging within science itself.

The Source is in Front

On a personal note, this is why Shambhala Vision feels ever more relevant: it is a genuine attempt to go from but also beyond one’s personal practice into the open space of others, and it offers some useful language and practice to bring such aspiration down to earth. This is also something not unique: I am finding that the more I look out and interact genuinely with people, the more I meet such vivid openness. It is not of my making, or my belonging, but through mutual letting go the space feels held, and common language, understandings, and forms emerge. It’s possible for people to meet in no-man’s land, and to learn to be there with integrity, decisiveness and confidence – then it turns out to be pure gold, drala’s home, and warrior’s way.

More than that, it’s necessary for our world to be so, and for us to develop such ways of being, along with the forms, culture and institutions to actually embody these. Sustainability needs sustained drala practice, for example. This is a radical project, to create a new secular vocabulary of the sacred, which includes explicit personal and communal recognition of drala in our food, clothing, land, and homes – where we live. That space and its yearning is where our legacy comes from.

Over the centuries, there have been many who have sought the ultimate good and have tried to share it with their fellow human beings. To realize it requires immaculate discipline and unflinching conviction. Those who have been fearless in their search and fearless in their proclamation belong to the lineage of master warriors, whatever their religion, philosophy, or creed. What distinguishes such leaders of humanity and guardians of human wisdom is their fearless expression of gentleness and genuineness – on behalf of all sentient beings. We should venerate their example and acknowledge the path that they have laid for us. They are the fathers and mothers of Shambhala, who make it possible, in the midst of this degraded age, to contemplate enlightened society.

The Shambhala Lineage, the final chapter in Shambhala The Sacred Path of the Warrior


Mark Szpakowski, earth cadet and habitat partner, develops software for collaboration and care, and has been a co-conspirator with Chögyam Trungpa since 1972.

Creating Enlightened Society — Part 3

April 4, 2009

Creating Enlightened Society

by Dr. Robin Kornman

 Part 3

Now, I’m going to talk about what Rigden means. The Rigden was the king of the mythical kingdom of Shambhala. He was the man who spread the Kalachakra teachings across the world. By the end of this weekend, you’re going to know what the Kalachakra teachings are and who the Rigden is, and what the idea is in being a Rigden. But for right now, let’s just say that the Rigden king represents the wisdom of the Court principle. And when these people are devoted, because of their intelligence, to the Rigden king, they work together well and they form a society. So it says,

Thus a good human society was created on this Earth.

And that’s the end of the section. I’ve been studying this section for years, and if I had more time I’d work through every word in Tibetan. Actually, I’d like to give a word-by-word commentary on it, but we don’t have time tonight. Still, I think you have the basic idea: Society is a natural thing. It comes into being when your mind perceives the basis of things. Society is created, not by two or three people getting together, which is what Aristotle said about politics. It’s created by glimpsing the origins of human intelligence, and how you accept your glimpse of origins of human intelligence, that tells you what kind of society you are going to create.

We build an enlightened society in the Shambhalian way by giving people a practice that enables them to face their primordial nature, to face their own nature, and that is the sitting practice of meditation. The first thing we do in Shambhala Training or in Buddhism is teach you how to sit, and we tell you to follow your breath. But the idea isn’t for you to become an expert at focusing on your breath. The idea is that you are using the breath as a crutch to do something else: to look at your own mind. My mind is following the breath; my mind is looking at the breath. My mind is the “I”. The breath is the “it”. “I” look at “it”. What I want to do is look at “I”. I want to turn and look at myself, and the sitting practice we do aims to do that. That’s what it fundamentally is. You follow the breath, and after a while you begin to discover that you can’t follow the breath too much. Thoughts come up and distract you, and you begin to complain that your mind is full of uncontrolled thoughts. You have a monkey mind, full of thoughts. It swings from thought to thought, like a monkey swings from branch to branch.

You complain about your lack of discipline, but you’re seeing your thoughts. You’re beginning to turn towards your mind. That first glimpse of the business of your thoughts is the beginning of your turning towards your mind.  That first glimpse of the business of your thoughts is the beginning of your turning towards mind itself. As you begin to slow down in meditation, you begin to see the arising, dwelling, and cessation of the thoughts. You begin to see the beginning of the thought, the middle of the thought, and the end of the thought. When you see the beginning, middle, and end of a thought, now you are turned away from the phenomenal world and you’re looking back towards the cosmic mirror, and you’re watching the thoughts arise from the mirror.

The thought arises from something. When you turn towards that something, rather than the thought, you’ve made that great turning, the 180 degree turn. The Yogacharans call it “the great turning”. The longer it takes you to do it, the better. The more agonizing it is, the better. If it takes you 20 years to turn, you’ve made a great turning, and you’re going to have a great realization. That’s what the meditation practice is, and that’s where we begin. We’re going to learn to construct an enlightened society and the first step is learning how to look at the abyss, at the vast mind. Tomorrow morning I’m going to go into the technique of looking and I’m going to talk about how you develop a capacity, from that meditation practice, which enables you to construct palaces and plant beautiful fields, join with others in complex projects, and design a society.

Actually, if you wanted to prepare for the talk, in the manual there’s a paper you could read called A Prolegomena to a Theory of Contemplative Education by Robin Kornman. When I was studying Comparative Literature at Princeton, I learned that if you begin a paper with a Greek word that nobody knows, it gets published! (Laughter) It just does! Stephen knows… So I want this paper published, so I begin with “Prolegomena”, and I’m not going to tell you what it is. That would remove the magic and mystery.  This is a Prolegomena, but you’re going to have to guess what that means. In any case, if you wanted to you could prepare by reading this, because this is what I’m going to talk about tomorrow morning.

Then tomorrow afternoon, I’m going to take the different pieces of an enlightened society and talk about them separately. I’m going to hearken back to oral teachings that Trungpa Rinpoche gave me, gave us in the early days. He taught us, I don’t know, it seems like hundreds of techniques of meditation in action. Each one of them was an aspect of building an enlightened society. I’ve made a rough list of those teachings he gave that didn’t get written down anywhere. Now, some of them did get written down, but if you want to know his techniques for meditation in action, or his techniques for building an enlightened society, it’s hard to find them by reading his writings. Thanks to the work of people like Carolyn Gimian we have the collected writings of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche [The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa] in those gorgeous yellow books. And in addition to them, we have all the seminary transcripts from the early Vajradhatu Seminaries. We have tons and tons of writings by him, but I reckon he gave about one-third of his teachings casually and orally in his living room to different students. We knew that they were important and we spread them. We talked to all the other students we could talk to and we made sure that these teachings got propagated. So that community of Trungpa Rinpooche’s original students did a very effective job of spreading these teachings.

I was at Karme Choling, a Buddhist meditation Centre in Vermont, and I would come back from spending an evening at Rinpoche’s house and people would say, “Well, what did you talk about?” And I would say, “We talked about this, and this, and this…go through the whole list, and then everybody would talk to each other about it. Somebody else would spend the evening there and come back and say, “Well, we talked about such and such. We talked about sex. Would you like to know what he says about sex?” “We talked about cooking, we talked about clothes, we talked about politics. Whatever was discussed got passed on, and passed through the community, and became part of what the senior teachers taught in their more casual moments in the lectures they gave. Now, we stand in danger of losing those teachings because they weren’t written down in books. They weren’t recorded.

So a bunch of us have been rushing around, finding people who were privately taught something by Trungpa Rinpoche, and getting those people to talk it into a camera. We post it on The Chronicles web site; we make them available in general. For example, Jack Niland spent hours and days with Rinpoche learning an approach to painting based upon Dzogchen. It’s an approach to painting that even includes a Dzogchen way of preparing the canvas. You actually polish the canvas and cover it with a kind of clay which you polish until the canvas becomes a mirror. The canvas becomes the cosmic mirror, and then you paint what arises out of the mirror on the canvas. It’s a whole system of painting and he just taught it to Jack Niland. Jack kept notes and Rinpoche did drawings for him, and he kept the drawings and a couple of us learned about it two years ago and we began having Jack give programs in New York, and filming the programs. So now we’ve documented those private sessions. So I’m going to make a list of whatever I can remember of private teachings that need to be discussed, and talk about them. As the months go on I’m going to just give them into the camera and we’ll make podcasts and put them on the web. And I’ll find other people who have had private instructions like that and add them to the list.

In the afternoon tomorrow, I’m going to start a list of oral instructions on details of an enlightened society. Any that you can remember, add to that and we’ll collect as much as we can. There are a couple of old timers here.

On Sunday I’m going to take the material on enlightened society that you’ve heard in these three talks, and follow it out in some of the Tibetan scriptures from which these teachings come. All of the teachings that I’ve been talking about – we find them in the Shambhala texts. We received them from Trungpa Rinpoche in his lectures and we got instructed on them in private lectures with him or with the Sakyong, whoever your guru is in the Shambhala lineage. But they all come from Tibetan scriptures. On Sunday, I’m going to go through two or three of the Tibetan scriptures in detail that are origins for these teachings on enlightened society. Actually, there are lots more than I’m going to have time to do on Sunday but Sunday will be a beginning, and then we can have podcasts of the rest. So that’s the weekend. We’re going to have music and art and a book fair. I’m going to mention lots of little details and I want you to enjoy yourself and enjoy contributing to this environment as we try to remember the dreams we had in the early days of the Court, and recreate the sense of Court. It seems pretty complete.

I wanted to just say one thing and I’ll talk more about it later.  I just realized that that table in the corner might seem very mysterious to you. It’s meant to be a table full of aphorisms. We’re going to talk about the role of proverbs and aphorisms in enlightened society, so I grabbed a bunch off my shelf and put them there. These are texts which are designed to be read by 14-year-olds. I’ll talk about the training of teenagers in an enlightened society, and the use of those texts. Also, you’ll see Recalling Trungpa Rinpoche which is a book that Fabrice Midal edited. A lot of work went into this book. It’s meant to be a way of presenting Trungpa Rinpoche’s ideas to the non-buddhist world. It’s a collection of essays written for philosophers, academics, critics, and artists who aren’t committed to a path, the beginning of making him one of the people you study in school when you study the thinkers of the twentieth century. It’s being published in French and in English. I don’t know if the French translation is going to really happen or not, but the text has been translated into French. You’ll find the articles there very interesting. Some of them are average but a lot of them are very brilliant. Reggie Ray has a very good article, Traleg Rinpoche has a brilliant article. This is a way of getting a really different insight into the thought of Trungpa Rinpoche, looking at him as a twenty-first century philosopher, not done just as a buddhist teacher. 

OK. So let’s bow to each other and fold our tents and steal silently into the night.


Creating Enlightened Society, Talk 1: Part 1 | Part 2

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.

On Divisiveness

January 19, 2009

Commentary by Barbara Blouin

I don’t remember when the dreams began. For a long time I dreamed that a practice center where I had practiced many times had become unrecognizable, even alien, to me. The details of these dreams are too long for this commentary, but my dream-feeling was one of penetrating sadness, loneliness, and irrevocable loss. 

For years I didn’t understand what those dreams meant. Then gradually, my waking experiences of walking into my local Shambhala Centre (Halifax) started to resemble my dreams. I felt like I no longer belonged, and in ways that were partly specific and partly indefinable, the centre felt foreign to me. I felt that, in that place, the presence of my root guru, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, which I had always experienced so strongly, was waning, that it was being lost.

Several months ago I became involved in the creation of this web site, to which I contributed two articles. When I first started going to the meetings that culminated in the web site, I said, “I’m afraid I could lose some friends because of this,” and this fear has, in fact, become a reality with one person. I have deeply upset another friend. They and others see my role, and that of RFS, as divisive. That is painful to me and even more painful to them. I regret that I have caused my friends pain and wish I felt I had a choice, but what I was doing seemed — and still seems — choiceless.

Those who are upset about Radio Free Shambhala see our “divisiveness” as damaging to the fulfillment of the Vidyadhara’s vision, as disrespectful of the Sakyong, and as harmful to the sangha. They say that we are creating a “schism,” a “faction.” What they seem to fail to recognize — and I find this odd — is that the sangha is already divided. It has, in fact, been divided for a long time. 

Does divisiveness (I am calling it by the label that others have chosen, although I would not choose it) inflame already existing divisions? Should I and others stop taking actions because some regard them as divisive? Should we keep our thoughts to ourselves and keep our pain inside? Do we even have a right to speak out publicly? 

The subject of divisiveness was explored and debated for three days by the Mandala Governing Council in Boston in December, 2004, just over four years ago. The statement that was drafted after this meeting, called The ground of openness and trust (PDF) is found in the Members’ section of the Shambhala web site.

The contents of this statement address divisiveness head on: 

The Mandala Governing Council, meeting in Boston from 4 to 7 December 2004, wishes formally to affirm that the continuing emergence of Shambhala Society must be based on the profound realisation of unconditional openness and trust in basic goodness that are the heart of our Kagyü, Nyingma, and Shambhala lineages. …we urge our community at all levels to reflect on the ways in which we can create containers for sane society within our mandala. Thus we can work compassionately with our differences and conflicts, so that there is respect for each other’s commitment to different streams of teachings and practice. No one should face derision, exclusion, rejection, or retribution for holding or expressing their views or for dissenting from the views held by others, including the policies and practices of the leadership of the mandala. … The process of community reflection and renewal in which we are now engaged must be conducted in such a way that it includes all generations, embracing elders, emerging leaders, the second and third generations, as well as those who feel they have been marginalized in our community over the years. 

As Shambhalians, our trust for the Sakyong varies widely from individual to individual. At one end of the continuum, a number of devoted students are deeply concerned that the Sakyong is systematically dismantling the Vidyadhara’s vision. At the other end of the continuum, equally devoted students feel the Sakyong is completely and brilliantly manifesting the Vidydhara’s vision. 

The sangha is divided because there are a great many students of Chögyam Trungpa who “are deeply concerned that the Sakyong is systematically dismantling the Vidyadhara’s vision.” These students cannot, however, be described as a group, or lumped together. They have no organization, no web site (RFS notwithstanding), no way to communicate with each other except one by one, or in small informal local groups. They have no place in which to gather.

Yet I would go so far as to say that they — we — are a sangha, a disenfranchised sangha that exists both within and outside the Shambhala organization. No one knows how many of us are out there. According to one estimate, as many as 70 % of Chögyam Trungpa’s original students have left Shambala International. In my opinion  that estimate is too high, but whatever the number or percentage, there are a great many such students. Some remain members of Shambhala Centres, while others have stopped paying dues. Some have completely cut their ties with the organization, while others continue to go to programs and to practice at urban and practice centres. There is no way to create a profile of a typical, for want of a better word, “disaffected” sangha member. My hope is that those who disagree with their views have not simply dismissed them, written them off.  

The divisiveness issue came to a head recently in Halifax because members of a local group devoted to Chögyam Trungpa announced a meeting to discuss the idea of forming a delek (working title: CTR Delek). We asked to hold the first meeting at Coburg House, which is a complex of four buildings. Everyone in Coburg House is a participant at the Shambhala Centre, although some only at the level of open house. Permission was given and an announcement was posted on the nova-scotia-announce mailing list that the meeting would take place on Sunday, January 18. That announcement provoked a heated controversy, and the Coburg House offer was revoked. Some people felt that calling this group a delek was improper. The delek system, they claimed, was based on neighbourhoods, and because this group was not neighbourhood-based it could not rightly call itself a delek. 

This is not the place to go into the details of the opposition to the formation of the CTR Delek. Probably few of us remember, or ever knew, that in 1982, Chögyam Trungpa, who created the delek system, told his students at Seminary:

I want you to know that we are not setting up a solid and fixed idea about how things should run, how things should go. We are giving a lot of leverage and a lot of freedom to you people to decide how you would like your sangha, your world, your enlightened society to function. We are leaving a lot of it up to you. The responsibility is yours, people, all of you, to elect dekyongs and come into the delek system altogether. So it requires a lot of your involvement.

Would Chögyam Trungpa have approved, or disapproved, of what we are doing? It’s an open question. 

After the announcement of our delek meeting at Coburg House, Nick Wright, a resident, sent a private e-mail to Madeline Schreiber, the Coburg House manager. Nick has given me permission to quote his letter and to use his name.

I noticed that Mark Szpakowski’s invitation to form a “Chögyam Trungpa delek” mentioned Coburg House as the meeting place. I have some questions.

1) Why are they not using one of their houses? … Are you inviting them here because you support their views?

2) Why are we hosting a group that is working hard to undermine the Sakyong? I don’t think it is good for Coburg House to be associated in people’s minds with that kind of energy and intention. Respectful disagreement is one thing, active subversion is something else again.

3) Why is Coburg House fostering the formation of a faction within Shambhala — which is the clear intention of this group? Their arrogation of the name “Chogyam Trungpa” for their proposed deleg makes that abundantly clear. All of the Vidyadhara’s students feel we are carrying on his legacy, from the Sakyong on downward. It is merely offensive that any sangha group is arrogant enough to presume that they are “the true holders of his legacy”; I feel it is dangerous (for them and newer students) to give them encouragement and support in such a view.

I have  chosen to reprint most of his letter because I think Nick has clearly articulated some of the objections, not only to the CTR Delek, but, more broadly and more importantly, to the existence and purpose of Radio Free Shambhala and its ilk. He is far from being the only sangha member who has problems with  this web site and its views. 

This letter provides plenty to chew on, partly because a number of assumptions are made about the organizers of the CTR Delek:

  • We are working hard to undermine the Sakyong
  • Evidence for this is abundantly clear and an arrogation of the name ‘Chögyam Trungpa’ for our proposed deleg. (According to the Oxford English Dictionary: arrogate means to “take or claim [something] for oneself without justification”).
  • We are engaged in active subversion.
  • We are fostering the formation of a faction within Shambhala–which is [our] clear intention
  • We are arrogant : It is merely offensive that any sangha group is arrogant enough to presume that they are ‘the true holders of his legacy’.
  • Our goals are dangerous.

Since the sangha is already divided, can an argument be sustained that “we” of RFS are causing divisiveness?  To me, this is the key point, and I don’t think it holds up to scrutiny. How can something be divided that has already divided itself?

I think the same can be said of the accusations that “the formation of a faction” is our goal, and that we are “actively working to undermine the Sakyong.” There is in fact no faction. The many disaffected sangha members do not belong to a group or an organization; they are simply a collection of individuals. If it were possible to gather them together in a large room and have a discussion, I’m sure they would find plenty to disagree over. There is no unified view.

We — in this case, a small collection of disaffected Halifax sangha — are not “subversive” because we have no hidden agenda. The purpose of Radio Free Shambhala is clear:

Radio Free Shambhala is not affiliated with Shambhala International, a Shambhala Buddhist church. It has arisen because many people, both within and outside that organization, are looking for further means to connect to and to fulfill their inspiration, to think bigger. This is true for those whose emphasis is on the Buddhadharma way and lineage of Chögyam Trungpa, and for those who may or may not be buddhists, who see his Shambhala Vision as a secular/sacred way of meeting this world and society. We hope that the Radio Free Shambhala web site will be one of many vehicles for communicating about this view, its practice, and its action in this world.

The intention of Radio Free Shambhala is simple: to provide an open space for practitioners of Shambhala Vision. We are hosting your voices, but may not necessarily agree with any particular view. We will, however, work with you to protect the genuineness of that open space, through all that we are learning about right speech, decorum, conquering aggression, and action in the world.

If you, who are reading this article, think that this purpose is subversive or sinister, we would like to hear from you. Granted — subversiveness can be sinister. I went again to the OED for the definition. Subversive means “seeking or intended to subvert an established system or institution.” We have no such intention. There are plenty of obvious examples of subversive activity. The first one that comes to my mind is the CIA, which has organized and carried out numerous plots to overthrow legitimate, democratically elected governments. 

I hope that by this time I have made my point. There is no need to address all of the accusations made in this e-mail. What strikes me most about the language is the fear that lurks behind it. 

Radio Free Shambhala is threatening to Nick Wright and to others, but so far, none of our critics has used the word “fear.” No one has said: “I am afraid of what you are doing,” although Nick Wright has called us “dangerous.” The fear, I think, may be twofold: the continuation of the legacy of  Chögyam Trungpa is being undermined, and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and his teachings are under attack. These two go together, because loyalty to the Druk Sakyong is often interpreted as automatic loyalty to the current Sakyong. Loyalty in this sense is a huge subject that I would like to see as the basis for another RFS article. 

It is important to surface the subject of fear because, I believe, it lies at the bottom of most of the criticism of the RFS web site and the efforts to create a CTR Delek in Halifax. As we all know, fear provokes a variety of responses. At the most basic, physiological level, fear triggers fight or flight or freeze, and I believe this is at the root of the anger that RFS has provoked.  Two responses to my article Navigating the Labyrinth are useful in understanding the controversy — including the fear —that my article, and RFS in general, have generated. It is noteworthy that this exchange is between two second-generation sangha members. Nyima Wimberly wrote:

I still find it hard to believe that there is this hateful contingent of sad, bitter students who are so driven to twist anything Shambhala into an evil act. Can you see yourselves becoming zealots?

Andrew Speraw responded: 

Why does it have to be either the Sakyong is ‘up to no good’ or people who question are ‘up to no good’? Why do we undervalue the process of debate? Is there really something to be afraid of or something that we need to protect against? Is it really necessary to bring things to that painful point? In an enlightened society there is a place for both questioning and devotion. We need to learn how to open our hearts to those who both agree and disagree with our views. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche did not promote blind faith and I think you need to respect the process of questioning that some people are going through. They may or may not become students of the Sakyong and that is OK. Trying to silence those who hold different views will only result in further division.

To end this commentary, I ask that those who are upset and angry with RFS, and those who have been supportive of the view of RFS, open their hearts and listen to what Andrew Speraw is saying. Loyalty is not dogmatism; questioning what the Sakyong is doing is not subversive; wanting to meet outside the umbrella of the organization is not factionalism. 

And I ask that all of us be more open to really listening to each other with open hearts. Just listen. We all have something to say that is worth hearing.

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.

A Useful Analogy?

November 12, 2008

There’s a possibly useful historical perspective and analogy that might apply to the question of whether the Shambhala Vision (as well the Dharma Art) of Chögyam Trungpa and of many of his followers is in its breadth and in its depth fundamentally for Buddhists, or equally for people of any religious practice.

Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, was himself a Jew, as were all his original disciples. Yet very soon, though not without controversy, Christianity opened itself up to people who were not Jewish. As it says in one of its texts (Galatians 3:28), there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female.

This seems roughly comparable to the situation with the Shambhala of Chögyam Trungpa, who was himself a Buddhist, and whose Buddhist students made up 99% of the original citizens of his Shambala Kingdom. Yet it was always clear to me, as one of those Buddhist students, as well as to my fellow participants in this grand experiment, that the intention was quite explicitly to have Shambhala and the full range of its teachings and practices available to all. As Chögyam Trungpa says in Great Eastern Sun, The Wisdom of Shambhala, p 133:

Shambhala vision applies to people of any faith, not just people who believe in Buddhism… the Shambhala vision does not distinguish a Buddhist from a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, a Moslem, a Hindu. That’s why we call it the Shambhala kingdom. A kingdom should have lots of spiritual disciplines in it. That’s why we are here.

Now in the last few years there has much of what I would call revisionism and antidestablishmentarianism (yet another historical perspective), with the mainstream Shambhala Buddhist organization saying that Chögyam Trungpa’s Shambhala was always intended primarily for Buddhists, with non-Buddhists able to share some of the beginning practices, but that ultimately they can not be full, first-class citizens and subjects. Mitchell Levy, for example, in his recent Chronicles podcast, says that non-buddhists can participate in a Shambhala society but not in the Church (which, if it’s Buddhist, is understandable), the Military, or the Government. I think that the root of such a view lies in equating Chögyam Trungpa’s Shambhala exclusively with the Tibetan Buddhist Kalachakra teachings (he explicitly says it’s not just that). This view, for many, ignores the very heart and essence of Shambhala vision and of the ever increasing relevance  of its simple, precise language to our 21st century world.

The analogy with the relationship between Christianity and Judaism is not perfect: among others, the Buddhist/Shambhala relationship is not one between two religions, but between a religion and a society/state/kingdom. Nevertheless, I think it can be helpful in offering some perspective on an issue that currently divides communities inspired by Chögyam Trungpa.

– Mark Szpakowski

Navigating the Labyrinth, Part 1

October 23, 2008

Understanding Shambhala International’s Financial Arrangements

There is much that is unclear about how money is gathered in and distributed in the Sakyong’s world, particularly with the recent introduction of new entities such as Kalapa, Kalapa Group, and the Sakyong Foundation. My interest is in understanding how money operates at the center of the mandala, and how financial support for the Sakyong is provided.

This is a long article. In order to make it easier for readers to digest, it has been divided in two parts. This is Part 1. Click Part 2 to get to the second part. Look for a preview of Part 2 at the end of this page

Part 1

For a long time I have been curious about, and confused by, some of the many announcements that appear in my e-mail inbox from Shambhala News Service. In particular, I have been puzzled by the workings of money in Shambhala International: where it comes from, through what channels it flows, and where it goes. The purpose of this article is to shed some light on the complex and often confusing entities that, taken together, serve to provide the money necessary for the Sakyong to teach and for Shambhala International to function. My interest was in understanding how money operates at the center of the mandala, and how financial support for the Sakyong is provided.

Staff and leadership of Shambhala International have been working to make the details of its financial activity more accessible. In 2008 a policy was adopted [PDF] called the Shambhala Policy on Financial Transparency and Integrity.

The crux of this policy is this statement:

As a matter of financial policy, Shambhala is committed to transparency. This means that all members of Shambhala, on whom the mandala’s financial support depends, are invited to receive accurate information, both detailed and summary, about the organization’s finances. Both traditional accounting reports and reports designed to make information easier to understand will be provided.

This new policy is a positive step. At the same time, it isn’t easy to understand the large and complex web of financial structures that make up the Shambhala International mandala, and I found that my questions were starting to multiply. So a few weeks ago I asked Terry Rudderham, Director, Shambhala Office of Finance and Development, Shambhala International, if she was willing to explain the financial structure of Shambhala International to me. The notes from my conversation with Terry became the starting point for this article. I later interviewed Connie Brock, the Chagdzö Kyi Khyap. Portions of that interview will follow in Part II of this article.

The Sakyong Foundation, The Kalapa Group, and Kalapa

Over the past two and a half years, three new legal and financial entities have been founded: The Sakyong Foundation, the Kalapa Group, and Kalapa. (All three are incorporated in the State of Colorado.) I also wanted to learn what I could about these new entities. I soon learned that gaining that knowledge would not be so easy.

I was also curious to know how the Sakyong Foundation, the Kalapa Group, and Kalapa were financially related to Shambhala International. And I was particularly curious about the Sakyong’s role in all of this since he is at the center of the mandala. In spatial and symbolic terms, the center of the mandala is the Kalapa Court. I wanted to know what portion of the Sakyong’s income and expenses are reported to dues-paying members on the Shambhala International website, and what parts of his income and expenses (if any) lie outside of this reporting.

I wanted to learn to what extent the Sakyong makes the major decisions regarding how money is spent, and to whom within the mandala he might be accountable for financial decisions and spending.

Core Services and Sakyong Support

The administrative center of the mandala is described on the Shambhala International website:

The term ‘Core Services and Sakyong Support’ indicates those services provided by Shambhala to its centres, groups and members. Included in Core Services is Sakyong Support, Office of the President, Council of the Acharyas, The Dorje Kasung,The Shambhala Office of Practice and Education,  The Shambhala Office of Finance & Development, International Affairs, Communications, Administration (legal, insurance), Governance (Sakyong’s Council and Mandala Council, Congresses), Kalapa Valley and IT Service.

Terry Rudderham is a member of Shambhala International’s Core Services and Sakyong Support staff, and our conversation focused on that portion of what is in fact a very large and very complicated mix of interwoven financial (and legal) structures that span much of the world. The scope of this article does not include the practice centers, the Shambhala Centers, Shambhala Training, etc.

Terry Rudderham: People have been working to make it [financial information for Shambhala International] accessible, transparent and easy to find. Extra staff were added to the Finance & Development office in the late spring. I feel it will be close to a year before the staff has gone through all the training and will be fully functional and be able to produce reports in a timely fashion.

Barbara Blouin: Who at Shambhala International is higher than you in the chain of command?

Terry: I report to Richard Reoch, and Connie Brock is the Treasurer. [Both Connie and Terry are on the Sakyong’s Council, the Board of Shambhala International].  I’m the working person and Connie is the vision person. I give her details and we work together. Although there is a natural hierarchy, Connie doesn’t have authority over me. But she is in a higher position. Connie is also the Chagdzö Kyi Khyap which translates roughly as Bursar. In this role, which is different from the Treasurer role, she is the person who oversees all of the finances connected with the Sakyong’s activities.

Q: Please tell me about the other financial entities besides Shambhala International: The Sakyong Foundation, Kalapa, and the Kalapa Group.

Terry: The Sakyong Foundation was formed because a number of people have made connections with the Sakyong and want to support some of his activities. Generally, they are not into Buddhism or Shambhala or meditation, but rather, into his other activities, like building peace in the world. In addition, some people connected with SI also give to the Sakyong Foundation because they want their donation to be directed by the Sakyong and not directed by Shambhala International. The Sakyong Foundation has its own board. It doesn’t report to Shambhala International.

Gregg Campbell recently made a second donation to the Sakyong Foundation of $200,000, and it is intended to be used for Shambhala Centers. Thanks to Gregg Campbell’s earlier $250,000 donation to the Sakyong Foundation and another large, anonymous donation, made directly to Shambhala International, the operating debt for Core Services is gone. The other large donation was an anonymous bequest for $950,000 and was also given for Core Services. This donor also left money to other parts of the mandala.

The Kalapa Group is more like a business. It is the holder of the Sakyong’s personal business interests. For example, if the Sakyong writes another book, the income would go to the Kalapa Group, and the Kalapa Group would pay the associated expenses. [ed: I later spoke with Joshua Silberstein, the President of the Kalapa Group. He gave a very different account of the activities of the Kalapa Group.]

Kalapa is not fully defined yet. What I know is as much as anybody knows. Kalapa has a board, called the Kalapa Council. The intention behind Kalapa is to hold ritual instruments that are used for abhishekas, terma texts, and other things for the lineage of Sakyongs. The other purposes for Kalapa are being worked out.

Q: Would it include some of the properties that are part of the mandala?

Terry: It  might include Kalapa Valley and the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya.

Q: Are there any other properties?

Terry: I don’t know. The Sakyong and the leadership are thinking about what needs to be protected for the Lineage of Sakyongs and looking carefully at the effect that might have on Shambhala.

Q: The “Lineage of Sakyongs”? But there isn’t one.

Terry: There are only two Sakyongs so far; there will be more in the future. The Sakyong is trying to look into the future to protect the Lineage of Sakyongs.

Q: Why do they need protection?

Terry: Well, I think that the idea is to protect things that are directly related to the Lineage of Sakyongs. For example if Shambhala International was to be sued at some point it would be good to know that certain things such as terma texts and ritual instruments are protected. Kalapa will not affect the operation of SI.

Q: I’m not sure how many houses the Sakyong owns. [ed: This interview took place before the announcement of the new Kalapa Court in Cologne, Germany.] I know he has one in Boulder, besides the Court  in Halifax, and I have heard he wants to have another house at Shambhala Mountain Center.

Terry: He does want a house at SMC, but the clear priority is to stabilize SMC first.

Q: What is the relationship between the Sakyong’s houses and the Shambhala International budget?

Terry: The budget shows all Core Services expenses and income that are related to the Sakyong — absolutely all of them.

Q: What about the Sakyong’s house in Boulder?

Terry: It isn’t owned by Shambhala International. It is in the category of his personal expenses.

Q: Does the Sakyong have expenses and income that are not shown on the web site?

Terry:  He has personal income and expenses, but I can’t speak to that-in much the same way that I cannot speak to your personal income and expenses and you cannot speak to mine.

Q: Then the Sakyong’s expenses do not affect the finances of Shambhala International?

Terry: No, not directly. I think that there is also an energtic exhange: Shambhala International supports the Sakyong and he supports Shambhala International through activities of the Sakyong Foundation. The recent matching grant for the Shambhala Centres is an example of this.

This interview answered some of my questions and raised a whole host of new ones. I needed to learn more than Terry had told me about the Sakyong Foundation, the Kalapa Group, and Kalapa.

The Sakyong Foundation

According to the Sakyong Foundation web site:

The Sakyong Foundation’s mission is to contribute to the growth and strength of the Sakyong lineage and the Shambhala vision of enlightened society. … The Foundation is organized as a public charity and was formed to provide support to organizations and projects throughout the world whose activities are aligned with our mission. The Foundation is an advocate for the many projects and meditation centers that are under Sakyong Mipham’s direction.

The Sakyong Foundation was incorporated as a charitable foundation in May, 2006. Its board consists of five members: The Sakyong, Jesse Grimes, Alex Halpern, Denny Robertson, and Jeff Waltcher, who has been the Executive Director from the beginning.  He was in various high-level management positions at Shambhala Mountain Center, a beneficiary of the Sakyong Foundation. There was a seven-month overlap between Mr. Waltcher’s employment at Shambhala Mountain Center (May, 2006 to December, 2007), during which he was working for both organizations. This seems to be a conflict of interest, particularly since SMC received over $200,000 from the Foundation during that time.

So far, other grants made by the Foundation have gone to: Shambhala International for partial repayment of a large debt: $250,000 in 2007 and $200,000 in 2008; the Sakyong’s own expenses, known as “parsonage expenses, ” in 2008 ($25,000+); funds for the Dorje Kasung ($75,000), and for Shambhala Centers and practice centers. The Foundation also gave nearly $100,000 for health care in Orissa, India. Although not so named on the Foundation web site, Orissa is the seat of the Sakyong’s father-in-law, Namkha Drimed Rinpoche. It seems logical, then, to conclude that this money is for one of the Sakyong’s father-in-law’s projects. More  information about grants that have been made is available on the Sakyong Foundation web site.

The Foundation appears to have close ties to the Kalapa Group. In 2008:

The Foundation held a fundraiser in Aspen for Surmang and the Sakyong’s other projects in Tibet. Inspired by the Sakyong’s desire to bring the wisdom of Shambhala to conversations about world peace, the Foundation, in partnership with The Kalapa Group, has received a grant to further develop the Living Peace Award (first awarded to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in 2006), and a related social networking web site, Viva Peace. In the fall of 2008 the Sakyong, along with Queen Noor [of Jordan] and Rabbi Irwin Kula, will host conversations about peace at four universities. The Sakyong Foundation will be one of the beneficiaries of this speaking tour managed by The Kalapa Group.

The Sakyong Foundation differs from many public foundations in two key respects. First: Most foundations accept funding proposals and make grants to organizations primarily outside of their own sphere of interest. However, in this case, almost all of the money disbursed by the Sakyong Foundation  is returned to Shambhala International, to the Sakyong himself, and to projects of his choosing. In other words, whereas most public foundations look outward, the Sakyong Foundation, on the whole, appears to be supporting internal priorities.

Second: Although the Sakyong Foundation is not a “pass-through foundation” (“a pass-through foundation is a private grantmaking organization that distributes all of the contributions it receives each year [1 www.minnesotagiving.org]) it appears to operate as one. To put it another way: Most of the grants the foundation makes come directly from donors, rather than from the endowment. This allows the foundation to make grants that are quite large in proportion to the small size of its assets. According to the Foundation website: “Since its inception the Sakyong Foundation has received over $2 million in gifts, earned over $300,000 of investment profits, [ed: for a total of $2,300,000] and made grants of over $500,000.” Based on these figures, which are not exact, in its first two years the Foundation, has given approximately 21.7% in grants. This is an unusually high percentage of grants for a foundation with such a small asset base. Gross assets for its first year, reported to the IRS, were only $647,850. Accurate financial information after the end of the first fiscal year is not yet available. While there is nothing wrong with running a foundation in this way, we might wonder about its long-term viability.

The Kalapa Group

I conducted a brief phone interview in September with Joshua Silberstein, President of The Kalapa Group and a student of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche since 1998. Mr. Silberstein was an Attache and Continuity Kusung from 2004 -2006. He is also the secretary of the recently formed Kalapa Council.

The Kalapa Group, a for-profit organization, was founded in 2006 and is funded by individual investors, whose identity is confidential information. Its two staff members are Silberstein and a web designer. At present the Kalapa Group has two projects: organizing speaking tours for the Sakyong and Viva Peace, a social networking website:

Viva Peace is the collective expression of people living peace in their daily lives. We believe that peace is a real thing and that by celebrating it we can do something more powerful than change the world: we can let what is already there begin to transform it. We were born out of the friendship that blossomed between a Compassionate Businessman , a Tibetan Lama and a world famous DJ. We are not about profit and we are not about religious beliefs. We are simply trying to provide a space where people can share the inspiration to live peace today.

The founders of Viva Peace are the Sakyong, Jerry Murdock (the “Compassionate Businessman” referenced above), and Charissa Saverio, better known as DJ Rap. Viva Peace is primarily a collection of images and short videos that either celebrate peace or show areas in the world where peace needs to be expressed. Silberstein explained that Viva Peace is “not text oriented” because, for the young generation, who relate strongly to such web sites as Facebook and MySpace, images are more powerful than words.

I encourage readers to take a look at the Viva Peace web site so that they can see what  this approach to promoting world peace is about.

In addition to Viva Peace, the second type of activity the Kalapa Group engages in is organizing speaking events and tours for the Sakyong. These events are not sponsored by Shambhala International or directed towards the Shambhala sangha. In the summer of  2007

The Sakyong Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche was invited for the second year to present at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado. … Last year [ed: 2006] the Sakyong taught on Ruling Your World, and this year [he] participated in several discussions including a panel on “Compassionate Leadership” with Her Majesty Queen Noor and Rabbi Irwin Kula. [2 Shambhala News Service]

In September, 2008 the Sakyong participated in a speaking tour, once again, with Queen Noor and Rabbi Kula, called Compassionate Leadership: Cultivating the Leaders of Tomorrow. Moderated by  Jerry Murdock, three Compassionate Leadership events took place at New York University, Tufts University, and Goldman Sachs – during the throes of the Wall Street financial crisis.

The Sakyong Group was reluctant to provide me with information about its sources of support, except to say that there are “some investors.” I discovered, however, that the teaching gifts made at  the Sakyong’s personal web site (the “make a teaching gift” requests are featured on several pages) go directly to the Kalapa Group. This might come as a surprise to some who make teaching gifts there.

Who is the “Compassionate Businessman”?

The unnamed supporter of Viva Peace, Jerry Murdock, described on the Viva Peace website as a Compassionate Businessman, has a very visible role in the Sakyong’s activities as well as a major though somewhat hidden role in funding the Sakyong’s activities. Jerry Murdock is a wealthy venture capitalist and serves on the board of several IT companies. He is also a member of the Boards of Trustees of The Santa Fe Institute and The Aspen Institute.

In addition to moderating the three Compassionate Leadership events held in September, 2008, Murdock also moderated a panel discussion called Music, Technology and Community at the 2007 Aspen Ideas Festival, featuring the Sakyong, Charissa Saverio and two other pop musicians. (The 2007 Aspen Ideas Festival also included four talks by Karl Rove, three by Colin Powell, and one by Bill Clinton.)

The minutes of the May 22 meeting of the Sakyong’s Council report that “some of the items on the [Sakyong’s] wish list would be funded by a private benefactor of the Sakyong, Jerry Murdock. Mr. Murdock had offered to pay for the Sakyong’s travel for particular purposes …  and for the positions of executive director of Shambhala [International] and the Sakyong’s chief of staff for a determined number of years.”

Mr. Murdock’s donations are directed to the Sakyong Foundation, which channels them to the Kalapa Group, to help support the Living Peace Award and the Compassionate Leadership speaking tour.

Jerry Murdock seems to represent a new phenomenon in Shambhala, one that Terry Rudderham mentioned when I interviewed her: wealthy benefactors who are not Buddhist but who are inspired by the Sakyong and want to support some of his activities — particularly those that are focused outward, away from the Shambhala International sangha. Are there others like Jerry Murdock who are completely anonymous? If so, and I think it likely that they exist, they remain under deep cover.

This is the end of Part 1.

This diagram attempts to visualize some of the money flows discussed here.

 

 

 

 

 


Part 2is about “Kalapa,” which the Sakyong spoke of on Shambhala Day, 2008. He said:

 

 

In thinking about the notion of lineage — who we are — I have created a new format, a structure that I’m calling Kalapa. Kalapa will be the storehouse and protector of the Shambhala lineage, and in particular, the lineage of Sakyongs. … I do not hold it lightly, as it’s obviously both a blessing and a burden. … The notion of the lineage of Sakyongs has to continue. It’s the source of spiritual blessing and teaching. It felt important in terms of all the teachings and the artifacts of the Vidyadhara, as well as those that I am continuing to produce, that all those will be safeguarded in Kalapa.

Kalapa has been institutionalized as a legal entity. Its potential power is far-reaching. To learn more, please read Part 2.

Navigating the Labyrinth, Part 2

October 23, 2008

Kalapa

This is Part 2 and a continuation of Navigating the Labyrinth, Part 1.

Shambhala tradition says that Kalapa was the capital of the Kingdom of Shambhala. We know how important that was to the Druk Sakyong and to the Shambhala terma he gave us. The Druk Sakyong also gave the name Kalapa Court to his residence in Boulder to signify that it was the center of the mandala of the Vajradhatu organization. He also gave the name to a remote and beautiful valley in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia — Kalapa Valley, which was later identified by Eva Wong as the energetic center of the entire Shambhala mandala.

Kalapa is now also the name of a nonprofit corporation registered in its articles of incorporation as a “church of the Sakyong lineage” in Colorado in 2007. The original registration was in the name of Kalapa Court, but in 2007 the name change occurred. Since it was turned into a legal entity, Kalapa has acquired new meanings. The Sakyong spelled these out, to some extent, in his Shambhala Day address in February, 2008: 

In thinking about the notion of lineage — who we are — I have created a new format, a structure that I’m calling Kalapa. Kalapa will be the storehouse and protector of the Shambhala lineage, and in particular, the lineage of Sakyongs. … I do not hold it lightly, as it’s obviously both a blessing and a burden. … The notion of the lineage of Sakyongs has to continue. It’s the source of spiritual blessing and teaching. It felt important in terms of all the teachings and the artifacts of the Vidyadhara, as well as those that I am continuing to produce, that all those will be safeguarded in Kalapa. 

The Sakyong’s vision for Kalapa was later described by President Reoch[1] as: 

the structure for the Sakyong to express his direct command and wishes; ensure the preservation of the lineage and teachings of the Sakyongs; provide the container for the lineage succession, seals, texts and properties of the Sakyongs; and disseminate and govern.

From an inner perspective, if by Kalapa we mean the center of Shambhala, it can’t be preserved or protected legally because a mandala is not an entity that is recognized by the laws of the United States. Neither can spiritual lineages or the buddhadharma or the Shambhala teachings be protected by legal means.

What Kalapa, the nonprofit corporation, is meant to protect according to the Sakyong’s wish and command is tangible things, such as terma texts, copyrights, practice implements, and quite possibly also property — in particular, the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya and Kalapa Valley. 

What, exactly, does it mean when the Sakyong says that the purpose of Kalapa is to be the storehouse and protector of the Shambhala lineage, and in particular, the lineage of Sakyongs?

I had hoped that a careful reading of minutes from recent Sakyong Council meetings would shed light on my questions. Minutes of these meetings are available to dues-paying members on the Shambhala International website. However, what I read left me more puzzled than informed. First, from the May 22 meeting:

Confusion was expressed around the category of items on the wish list which were labeled as “Lineage items” and which would be receiving funding from “Kalapa patrons”. Connie [Brock] was asked to explain the relationship between the Shambhala budget/funding and these other expenses/funding. Connie explained that the current process of establishing financial priorities and budget for Shambhala was happening alongside a process of considering a budget for the newly forming “Kalapa”. [some words seem to have been omitted here] The process [is?] underway [words missing] Kalapa is currently trying to determine which of the Sakyong’s expenses would belong in which category (personal, official). Finance and legal affairs would meet to consider the draft legal document for Kalapa and the draft budget for Kalapa in the near future. Connie clarified that the two budgets — Shambhala and Kalapa — would remain separate and would be reported separately. … Kalapa will have its own funding sources … The Sakyong had himself determined the prioritization of the Lineage items.

In case readers are confused by the meaning and possible consequences of these minutes, I am just as confused as you might be. 

There is more on the subject in the minutes for the following meeting (June 5, 2008):

Further clarification was requested on the items on the list [the wish list referred to earlier in the minutes] which were indicated to be funded by “Kalapa Patrons.” Connie [Brock] explained that these were items which would not need to be funded through the Shambhala budget, because there were patrons of Kalapa who had pledged money or who would be asked to pledge to fund these items. She clarified that those items listed in the Kalapa Budget were not being put forward for approval by the Sakyong’s Council, because they were the responsibility of the Sakyong and the Kalapa Budget. However, those items funded by Kalapa Patrons and listed under the Shambhala Budget would require consideration and approval by the Sakyong’s Council (such as the Executive Director position). 

In an e-mail on 2008/9/27 I asked Terry Rudderham about some questions that arose from reading these minutes. I have rearranged our e-mails so that Terry’s responses follow my questions. 

Question: I read the minutes of the Sakyong’s Council meeting on June 5, this year. You were “there,” in phone space [meetings are accomplished by conference calls]. Can you tell me:

1. What are Kalapa Patrons?

Terry: Kalapa Patrons are sangha donors that take an oath to actively embrace generosity as their path of practice, and commit to making large monetary gifts whenever possible. Often times, but not always, these are gifts that support the activities of the Sakyong. i.e. A patron may pay for Rinpoche to go on a retreat in India if there are not sufficient funds in the Shambhala budget to support this activity.

2. What is the Kalapa Budget?

Terry: When the organization Kalapa is formed, it will have a budget. Much of the funding for that budget will come from Kalapa Patrons. 

3. How do each of these relate to the budget of Core Services and Sakyong Support?

Terry: At this point it is still being contemplated what elements will be covered by the Kalapa Budget. What are currently known as Core Services will likely remain the same, covering the Shambhala Office of Practice and Education, the Shambhala Office of Finance and Development and similar functions that provide support services to the Shambhala Centres and members. Some aspects of the current budget for Sakyong Support would likely be reclassified as part of the Kalapa Budget, but this is still being contemplated and worked on.

Kalapa has a board called the Kalapa Council and they will have the responsibility of making decisions for Kalapa. The Sakyong’s Council is the board for Shambhala and their decision making will be focused on Shambhala. While they will not be involved in the day-to-day matters of Kalapa, they will be involved in matters that interrelate.

After reading Terry Rudderham’s e-mail, I contacted Connie Brock to ask for an interview, which she graciously gave. Connie is Chagdzo Kyi Khyap, which means Bursar General. Connie explained: “The Sakyong asked me to serve as a coordinator of finances across his mandala. There’s a function loosely referred to as the Treasury, which  includes all the entities at the inner court level, and it also includes the new entities you referred to [Kalapa, the Sakyong Foundation, and the Kalapa Group].”

Connie Brock is a key person in the mandala. In addition to sitting on the Sakyong’s Council and the recently formed Kalapa Council, she is a board member of the Sakyong Foundation, a core member of the Shambhala Trust (a separate organization), and the Finance Director of the Minneapolis Shambhala Center. 

The following are portions of my interview with Connie Brock.

Question: What is the role of the Kalapa Council?

Connie: Part of our responsibility is  to work through exactly what all this means, how Kalapa should be legally set up to take the Sakyong’s idea of Kalapa forward. So we’re working with that over the next couple of months, and hopefully by the end of the year we’ll have a clear recommendation for the Sakyong about how to move forward.

Q: In terms of governance, will Kalapa and the Sakyong’s Council  be at a level that could be described as parallel and equal? Or will one have a higher authority than the other? 

Connie:  I think from a governance point of view the way we’ve been describing it is more like nested oryoki bowls. You have the Sakyong as the inner bowl, then you have the Kalapa Council, and the next bowl is the Sakyong’s Council, and the next bowl is the Mandala Council. And then you have the Congresses. And they’re nested in the sense that every member of the Kalapa Council is on the Sakyong’s Council, and every member of the Sakyong’s Council is on the Mandala Council. Each bowl is bigger, but each bowl contains the previous one. The value of that is that it creates integration, and it probably looks more like a mandala than what we might think of as traditional organizational structures. 

Q: So it’s not a question of hierarchy?

Connie: No, I don’t think so. It’s a matter of each bowl having its purpose. So, for example, the kinds of questions that Kalapa Council looks at are ones that are beyond the scope of the Sakyong’s Council, typically because the Kalapa Council crosses church, state and military (Kasung).

Q: On Shambhala Day, the Sakyong said that “it felt important in terms of all the teachings and the artifacts of the Vidyadhara, as well as those that I am continuing to produce, that all those will be safeguarded in Kalapa.” What, exactly, will Kalapa contain and protect? Would it include Kalapa Valley and the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya? 

Connie: Whether or not it makes sense to put property in Kalapa is still very much an open question. But what is quite clear is this notion of maintaining what you might call the key lineage assets: the terma, the copyrights, et cetera, as well as the ritual objects.

Part of this arose out of the fact that, when the Vidyadhara died, there had been no legal arrangements for any of this, so much of the copyrights went to Lady Diana, because she was his widow. And obviously the intent is that these be carried by the lineage. President Reoch spoke about that: that Lady Diana very much supports this idea, and does want to be able to transfer the copyrights to Kalapa as a lineage institution, so that they are carried from Sakyong to Sakyong. So that’s obviously a very key point. Because we’re considering the possibility of transferring assets, like Kalapa Valley or the Stupa, then there are a couple of ways you could structure things legally. For example, you can set up a trust to hold properties, or it could be through Kalapa as a church. Those questions are still open. It’s a bit complicated legally because whatever we set up, we want it to work for both scenarios: whether it’s just lineage objects and service marks, et cetera, or whether it’s also property. 

Q: When Kalapa has its own funds, what will they be used for?

Connie: The Kalapa Budget will probably house a couple of things. For example, the Court staff, which includes two continuity kusung for the Sakyong, one continuity kusung and an attendant for the Sakyong Wangmo, and support for the machen (cook) services. There’s a core of volunteers who can provide those machen services, but you can’t always get one in the right place and the right time. So there’s a budget of maybe $12,000 so the machen can be flown around where they might be needed to fill in. So those relatively modest salaries and related expenses, like cell phones, are probably going to be housed in Kalapa. And because the Sakyong Wangmo now often accompanies the Sakyong when he’s out teaching, the cost of travel for the whole party has basically doubled, and it’s too much for local centers to pay. So we are creating a travel subsidy, where maybe as much as fifty percent of travel expenses will be covered by Kalapa.

At this point the subject of the interview shifted course and began to include a broader subject: the transfer of both money and expenses from one legal entity to another. 

Q: Where will the funds for the Kalapa Budget come from?

Connie: There is already a chunk of funding that will come from the Sakyong Foundation. 

Q: Is that the part that is designated for “parsonage expenses”? 

Connie: No. These parsonage expenses come from people who make annual donations to help pay for the Boulder residence—mortgage, taxes, utilities, and insurance—so that the Sakyong can actually be in residence in Boulder. Right now, donations for the house in Boulder flow through Shambhala International. At this point we’re thinking it would make more sense to move those donations and the parsonage expenses to Kalapa. It’s a different situation than in Canada, where Shambhala International actually owns the Court and pays the mortgage and other expenses. The Boulder house is  owned by the Sakyong personally. [ed: It was recently announced that a donor in Cologne, Germany has purchased an apartment that will become a Kalapa Court for Europe. In this case, the Court is owned by the donor.] 

Q: Will some of the income that now goes to Shambhala International be redirected to Kalapa? 

Connie: None of the revenue would be redirected, but the expense that would be moved is the personal staff: the continuity kusung, the machen services, the Sakyong Wangmo’s personal attendant, and some travel, as I explained. As well, the Sakyong Foundation is able to provide a small stipend of about $36,000 a year to support the Sakyong.  That also will come to Kalapa to help cover expenses. So, because I want to be very clear, we’re moving expenses from Core Services to Kalapa, but we’re not moving any revenue, other than the parsonage allowance.  The other revenue to Shambhala International—transfers from centers and individual donations—still goes to cover Core Services, the Court in Halifax, et cetera. 

The Sakyong’s Private Finances

Q: Does the Sakyong have an income independent of Shambhala International? 

Connie: He does have other income. What Shambhala International provides him is a fairly modest salary. Of course, we also provide the residence in Halifax, and we cover some travel and various expenses. He also has direct personal income from teaching gifts and from fairly modest book royalty income. 

Q: Where is that income housed?

Connie: It’s his personal finances and goes into his personal accounts. These accounts cover his personal and family expenses, as well as his charitable donations. 

The Path of the Patron

In addition to the three new legal entities that have arisen in the past two and a half years, the Sakyong has also created a new type of dharma program, called The Path of the Patron. The first of these programs, which are private (by invitation only) though not secret, took place this summer at Shambhala Mountain Center. What I learned about this program explains the origin of a new category of financial supporters for the Sakyong and his projects: the Kalapa Patron, which Terry Rudderham and Connie Brock have explained. 

In May, President Reoch sent letters to an unknown number of individuals inviting them to attend the program. He wrote:

The Sakyong said that he would like to gather a number of the major benefactors of the mandala together to give teachings on the role that the patron has played historically in the development of the buddhadharma and its communities, the path of the patron as a major element of the Buddhist path altogether and how to go forward with “clarifying, delineating and enhancing” that path. He will develop a new practice for patrons, reflecting our distinctive Shambhala Buddhist inheritance, and offer that at the program.

I asked Rinpoche what sort of offering he thought might be appropriate in appreciation of his teaching and this initiation of the practice. He said he thought it might be appropriate for us to make an offering towards the forthcomng Sakyong Wangmo Empowerment.

Yours in the radiant vision of Shambhala,

Richard Reoch 

I have been able to learn some details about this event from a sangha member who was present. He sent me an e-mail in which he described his experience: 

There was an evening social and dinner on a Friday night. The next day, there was morning practice, and a passionate and candid discussion among attendees that spontaneously focused on the financial sustainability of Shambhala Mountain Center.  

In the afternoon, we were joined by the Sakyong. He spoke about his reasons for wanting to gather donors. In particular, he explained that working with wealth was one way of supporting the mandala. [In Tibet] the patron was considered an indispensable condition for the presentation of dharma. Traditionally, there was a seat at monastery events for the main patron. Patrons are often acknowledged in traditional aspirational chants, as do some of our feast liturgies. So he wanted to recognize the patron principle as a seat and a practice within the mandala.

The Sakyong offered a preliminary draft of a practice he wrote for this gathering. He gave a lung and we did the practice together for a short while. He then offered a vow which was taken by approximately 11 of the 24 people in attendance. The vow was a promise to practice generosity. Finally, he offered a pin for the occasion. 

It is my understanding that following this pilot, the Sakyong plans to offer similar programs at major practice centers next year. 

 


Comments by Author

What I learned, what I was unable to learn, a few generalizations, and many questions

It is difficult to know what to say about what I learned without straying into conjecture. What is clear is that the Sakyong and his closest advisors have been very active in the past two-and-a-half years, creating three new legal entities for receiving and spending funds, and a new type of dharma program, called The Path of the Patron. 

The financial and legal landscape of Shambhala has changed markedly since these new entities came into being. As long as Shambhala International (under its various legal names) was the only game in town, financial and legal transactions were relatively straightforward. Now, however, there are complex financial, and in some cases legal, relationships between Shambhala International and the new entities. 

Transparency

If it was possible to measure the success of the transparency policy by looking at the finances of Shambhala International alone, without adding in the new legal entities and the Sakyong’s personal finances, I would be satisfied that Shambhala International is doing what it says it is doing.

However,  the question of transparency becomes more complicated and much less clear when applied to the new legal entities created by the Sakyong.

About Kapala, I asked Connie Brock (after the interview) whether the minutes of the Kalapa Council would be posted on the Shambhala International web site. Her response was: “The Kalapa Council has had only one meeting and one conference call so far and has not worked out its procedures. It does not yet have a webpage, for example. So it is too early to say exactly how we will function, keep a record of meetings or share those with others. We will be working all that out as we get underway.”

When I asked for financial information from The Kalapa Group, I hit a wall. I asked Joshua Silberstein for a statement of revenue and expenses for the most recent fiscal year. His reply: “Unlike the Sakyong Foundation and Shambhala, where due to their structures they have a responsibility to publicly file information, the Kalapa Group is a privately held corporation. We reserve the right to not share these details.”  This response makes it clear that the Kalapa Group is not only the least transparent of the three new entities, it is basically opaque

The Sakyong Foundation is more transparent than the Kalapa Group, but there is definitely room for improvement. The web site offers financial information (although in rounded numbers), but so far there has been no annual financial statement. I asked  foundation staff for a financial statement for the most recent year and received this reply: “To date, we have not published a formal annual report but hope to do so in the near future.” Most public foundations provide annual reports to their supporters and the public, providing names of grant recipients, the amounts of grants made, and expenses such as staff, office expenses, fundraising, and so on. These reports typically include at least one audited financial statement. The Sakyong Foundation is still young, and it is my hope that in the future it will become more transparent. 

Accountability and Kalapa

Kalapa is another area where many questions remain. When I asked Connie Brock about the relationship between the Kalapa Council and the Sakyong’s Council, which functions as the board of directors for Shambhala International, she described the three councils (including the Mandala Council) as a series of nested oryoki bowls, with the Sakyong at the center. She explained that it was not a hierarchical relationship. I find this assertion somewhat hard to believe because the Sakyong is the monarch of Shambhala International, and monarchies are hierarchical, top-down structures. As the monarch of Shambhala International, is the Sakyong really accountable to the other members of the Kalapa Council? Or are they there to carry out his “wishes and commands”?   

To whom is the Kalapa Council accountable?  Should the Kalapa Council be held accountable to the sangha? This is a difficult and tricky subject because the Sakyong is a monarch, (as was the Druk Sakyong) and, with the exception of constitutional monarchies, accountability is not required, or even expected, of monarchs. 

Other questions about Kalapa point in a different direction — toward the question of the Sakyong’s leadership and how it has evolved. Why does the Sakyong now believe that it was necessary to create a legal entity in order to protect the teachings (including their copyrights) of the Druk Sakyong, as well as his ritual objects, terma texts, and — though contemplated, still undecided — Kalapa Valley and The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya? Is this legal form of protection really necessary? Is Shambhala International really not capable of providing this level of protection?

Command and Protect

It becomes important to understand the notions of “protection” and “command” as they apply to the formation of Kalapa. According to the August 12, 2008 Shambhala News Service, “The Sakyong’s vision for Kalapa was described by President Reoch as the structure for the Sakyong to express his direct command and wishes. ” What do command and protection mean here? And what was their original meaning, as set out by the Druk Sakyong in his intensely personal work with his students over a period of many years?

For the Druk Sakyong, command was all about a back-and-forth relationship between the guru and his students, in this case, the Kasung. According to James Gimian in his introduction to True Command: The Teachings of the Dorje Kasung, Volume I:

The Dorje Dradul insisted on a phase between issuing a command and the execution of that command within the Dorje Kasung. He called this the “yogurt” phase. This is the formative time for a practitioner to consider the truth and accuracy of the command he or she receives, to test it personally, to integrate it and thereby make it genuinely one’s own, or not.[2] 

The origin of the word kasung is interesting. “’Ka’ has the sense of command, as in the exhortation to be awake, and thus takes on the meaning of the dharma or what is true altogether.”[3]

So command is used in the sense of “ka”, lineage transmission, utterance of truth. There is also the sense of “ka” as alpha-pure, so kasung is protecting the brilliant primordial purity, the essence. Ka-gyu is continuity of that. It does not mean the power of a commander of a conventional military to tell his subordinates to carry out his orders. Between the Druk Sakyong and his students there was two-way communication. 

About protection, the second part of the word kasung, sung, means “protector,” and “the overall meaning of Dorje Kasung is ‘the indestructible protector of the dharma.’”[4] The Druk Sakyong said, in an address to the Kasung in 1978: “The military is closely linked with the notion of protection, which means cutting through any neurosis that comes up with the community, as well as outside the community.”[5]

In light of these statements, can we have confidence that the Sakyong correctly understands, and is using, command and protection in the way the Druk Sakyong intended them to be used? I’m not sure what the Sakyong means by “command,” but the way the word was used in the Shambhala News Service announcement leads me to believe that it refers to a one-way communication from the monarch. If this is true, then command has lost the meaning it had when the Druk Sakyong used this word.

As for protection, there is a clear shift in emphasis. By creating Kalapa, the Sakyong has set up a legal and financial structure designed to contain the ritual objects, the copyrights legally held since the Druk Sakyong’s death by Lady Diana Mukpo, the terma texts, and quite possibly also Kalapa Valley and The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya. 

Why does the Sakyong feel the need to protect these things in this way? Why is what is now in place no longer sufficient?

Concentration of Power and Money at the Top

Does establishing Kalapa as a legal entity give the Sakyong increased control and ownership of what has traditionally been held by Shambhala International, which is accountable to the sangha? Is the net effect of the creation of Kalapa (and the Kalapa Council), as well as the Sakyong Foundation and the Kalapa Group, to concentrate power in the person and position of the Sakyong, and to diminish the power of sangha, as represented by the Sakyong’s Council, the Mandala Council, and the staff of Shambhala International? Are these new entities accountable to the board of Shambhala International (Sakyong’s Council)?  So far, from what I was able to learn, there appears to be communication and cooperation between the Kalapa Council and the Sakyong’s Council. As Connie Brock explained, all members of the Kalapa Council sit on the Sakyong’s Council. The Sakyong Foundation, so far, transfers most of the donations it receives either to Shambhala International or directly to the Sakyong. In 2009 it will begin to transfer money to Kalapa. It remains unknown whether statements of revenues and expenses of Kalapa (the Kalapa Budget) will be made available to sangha. As for the Kalapa Group, it is clear from Joshua Silberstein’s response to  my query that this corporation is accountable only to the Sakyong: “The Kalapa Group is a privately held corporation. We reserve the right not to share these details.”

All three of these entities are, then, accountable directly to the Sakyong. Although two have  boards (the Kalapa Group does not), I do not know whether they are accountable to anyone other than the Sakyong. 

The existence of three entities that are accountable, so far as I know, only to the Sakyong also changes the balance of power in the Shambhala mandala. It is obvious that more money is now in his control, and some of that money (housed at the Kalapa Group) is completely unknowable. We also know that the Sakyong has at least one, and probably more than one, private major benefactor outside the sangha. So how much money does the Sakyong now have in his control? That we will probably never know. 

It looks like these new structures will further empower the Sakyong to pursue his wishes and  commands as he sees fit. Whether this is a positive or a negative shift depends entirely on the perspective of the observer. From the perspective of this observer, this concentration of power makes me very nervous.


References

Money flows diagramThis diagram attempts to visualize some of the money flows discussed here.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] From the Shambhala News Service post of 2008/08/12, Sakyong appoints Kalapa Council.
[2] True Command, Trident Publications, Halifax, 2004, page xxxix
[3] Ibid, page xix
[4] Ibid, page xix
[5] Ibid, p. 45

Not About Happiness

September 21, 2008

Since Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche died in 1987, the Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate. The Sakyong is taking full advantage of this medium at www.mipham.com.

A review of this web site brought to light, for this writer, some of the key differences between the teachings of the Sakyong and those of Trungpa Rinpoche.

Firstly, the Sakyong is described as:

  • “one of Tibet’s highest and most respected incarnate lamas”
  • “King of Shambhala”
  • “the eldest son of the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche”
  • “the incarnation of Mipham the Great, who is revered in Tibet as an  emanation of Manjushri, the buddha of wisdom”
  • “descends from the Tibetan warrior-king Gesar of Ling”
  • “holds the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism”
  • “head of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage and is spiritual director of Shambhala, a borderless kingdom of meditation practitioners committed to realizing enlightenment and social harmony through daily life”
  • “the lineage holder of Naropa University”
  • “has studied with the great masters His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche–teacher of the HH Dalai Lama and the king of Bhutan–and HH Penor Rinpoche”
  • “is married to Princess Tseyang Palmo, daughter of His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche, head of the Ripa lineage”
  • “has written two books, the national bestseller Turning the Mind Into an Ally, and the prize-winning Ruling Your World”
  • “is a poet and an artist”
  • “runs marathoms to raise money for Tibet through the Konchok Foundation”
  • “in September 2006 he offered the first Living Peace Award to HH the Dalai Lama at the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya in Colorado”.

The Sakyong’s bio brings to mind Trungpa Rinpoche’s phrase “Buddhadharma Without Credentials”…only here, it’s With Credentials. One gets the impression that some effort is going into crafting his on-line persona.

One of the credentials is that he is the incarnation of Mipham the Great. I don’t recall hearing anything about this before the Sakyong Enthronement in 1995. It is noteworthy that neither of the great tertons/mahasiddhas, Trungpa Rinpoche and His Holiness Khyentse Rinpoche, recognized the Sakyong (who was the Sawang then) as the incarnation of Mipham the Great during their lifetimes. It seems odd that such an important fact would have eluded these great visionaries.

The audio, video, and text files in the Archive section of the site reflect a recurring theme about Happiness. In the video “What About Me”, the Sakyong says, “You know what? When you’re happy, I’m happy. That’s the formula.”

Putting other before self is what Buddhism is about, but it’s the “I’m happy” part that adds a new twist to the teachings we received from Trungpa Rinpoche.

In the audio clip “If You Want to Be Happy” the Sakyong talks about using a type of contemplation to switch one’s thought patterns from focusing on oneself to focusing on compassion and love. The title implies that adopting this approach will make you happy.

While this approach is well-intentioned, there is a danger that students might conclude that there are “good thoughts” and “bad thoughts.” It also gives the impression that discursiveness can be harnessed to achieve a desired result. Even if this type of contemplation is, to some degree, successful in developing compassion, the danger is that, by fiddling with discursiveness in this way, the practitioner–unbeknownst to himself/herself–is sacrificing the development of prajna in the process.

In another audio file, “Chicago Public Talk” (August 2007), the Sakyong talks about karma and interdependence. “Every action we’re engaged in is the result of many things coming together, and they say [this is also true of] our emotions, and whatever happens to us. We say: ‘I’m sitting here feeling sad. How do I feel happy?’ [There is a] way to be able to shift the energy of our karmic situation. We need to orient our karmic situation so that we’re developing the seed, so that has a possibility.”

Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings on the life of Naropa provide a useful context for considering this view. In the talk titled “Meeting Reality” (New York, January 1972), he said, “Naropa’s experience of discovering Tilopa is connected with finally giving up hope. We have to give up the hope of getting what we want to get; the search for an ultimate answer has to be given up.” He further explained that we have a love-hate relationship with ourselves. “That’s precisely why the samsaric mind and samsaric point of view of trying to gain happiness is regarded as holding the wrong end of the stick.”

In the talk about Naropa’s life titled “Continuity” (Karme Choling, December, 1975), he said, “The role of the guru, at this point, is to tell you you’re hopeless…or that you will never solve your problem.”

However, explained Trungpa Rinpoche, hopelessness here is different from despair. He equated despair with laziness and lack of intellect, and hopelessness with intelligence, inspiration, and challenge.

The divergence of these views on happiness and hopelessness hinges on egolessness. In Trungpa Rinpoche’s dharma teachings, there is no shortcut around egolessness, and nothing trumps it–not happiness, not power, not fame, not a 12-gun salute, nothing. “The great symbol (Mahamudra) which does not involve any metaphors,” he said, “relates to things directly and completely and allows no compromises.” According to what he taught, rather than bettering oneself, the path is about giving up ground. Becoming less, not more.

The Vidyadhara’s students are proud inheritors of the lineage of the Takpo Kagyu. In our morning chant, we recite: “Great Vajradhara, Telo, Naro, Marpa, Mila, Lord of Dharma Gampopa…” In this one line, we invoke the lineage of the ones who realized Mahamudra, attained enlightenment, and benefitted sentient beings immeasurably.

When we study the lives of these great teachers, we see that their paths were arduous, to say the least!. The effort they expended is difficult to fathom.

Naropa’s experiences are particularly instructive. After a distinguished career as a learned one, he struck out on his own in search of a qualified teacher—Tilopa. Along the way, he met up with all kinds of disturbing situations. One man was washing the insides of another man’s stomach. Two old people were killing and eating the insects they found in the furrows they were plowing. Naropa then saw one-eyed people, a blind man who could see, a man with no ear who could hear, another without a tongue who could speak, another who was lame, running, and a corpse fanning itself. These were just some of his encounters along the way. When these people called out to him for help he refused because his sights were set on finding the guru. Eventually he learned that they were inseparable from the guru, but his attachment to habitual patterns and conceptual mind prevented him from seeing this.

After Tilopa agrees to take him under his wing, Naropa’s life doesn’t get any easier. At one-year intervals, Tilopa says to him: “If I had had a disciple he would… build a bridge over a pool of leeches. (Naropa does and is eaten by leeches and other vermin); bring fire, reeds and fat, if he wants instruction. (Naropa does and Tilopa dips the ends into the fat which had been heated on the fire, and held them against Naropa’s body; the pain became unbearable); throw the queen down and drag her about. (Naropa does and the king and his followers beat him to within an inch of his life). These are just a few of the trials Naropa went through.

Although very different, Milarepa’s trials were every bit as arduous as Naropa’s. Marpa told Milarepa to build a stone and mud house. Then when it was built, he had him tear it down and put the stones back where he found them. Then Marpa told him to build another house, and another, etc. After that, Milarepa had to build a nine-storey tower for his guru’s son before he could receive teachings.

Such was the nature of the guru-student relationship back then. It has been said that the traditional ngondro practice was developed as a way to approximate the dynamics of this intense and personal relationship in modern times when this close way of working together is no longer possible (for example, Tilopa worked with Naropa for 12 years).

But now that the Sakyong has introduced the Rigden Ngondro, these practices can be accomplished in less time and with less effort. Where will the Milarepas and Naropas of the future come from if this abbreviated form of training becomes the norm?

There is another element of the mipham.com web site that suggests an entirely different teacher-student relationship in the age of the Internet: the fundraising appeal. It reads: 

For generations in Tibet and other Buddhist countries, it has been the tradition for students to offer what they feel is appropriate for receiving the teachings from an authentic teacher. This creates a situation where we become personally motivated to give back in acknowledgment of the gift we have received and in recognition for the years of training and understanding the teacher has cultivated. Please think about what gift you would like to give in return. Please know that all gifts will be put back into the further development of this site as well as support the Sakyong’s activities world wide. Thank you for your generosity.

Giving a teaching gift is a traditional way for the student to express his/her appreciation to the teacher for conferring a particular teaching. Within the Shambhala community, typically, the teaching gift also helps the teacher to defray expenses associated with travelling from his/her home. 

In the case of this fundraising appeal, there is no reference to a particular teaching that is being given. It appears that the donation is meant to support the Sakyong’s activities, so the use of the phrase “teaching gift” is confusing. After visiting other sections of the web site, one can interpolate that perhaps the teaching referred to is that which is contained within the audio, video, and text files in the Archive section, but this is not at all clear.

As the first lineage holder of Shambhala Buddhism, the Sakyong has broken out of a mold and is charting a new course, one which involves extensive use of the Internet, via web sites and e-mails (Shambhala News Service, etc.) sent to members of his organization.  It seems that the Internet is now mediating between the Sakyong and his students/public, which suggests that it is no longer necessary to meet the teacher in person or be in his/her presence to hear the teachings. The teacher-student relationship has become easy and convenient, but what is being lost in the process? 

The more the Sakyong articulates his view and teachings, the more apparent it becomes to this writer that both his medium and his message are markedly different from what Trungpa Rinpoche taught.

As the Talking Heads song goes, “This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife!”

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