Navigating the Labyrinth, Part 2

October 23, 2008 by     Print This Post Print This Post


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. 


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.


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


24 Responses to “Navigating the Labyrinth, Part 2”

  1. Navigating the Labyrinth, Part 1 : Radio Free Shambhala on October 24th, 2008 1:41 pm

    […] to make it easier for readers to digest, it has been divided in two parts. Look for a preview of Part 2 at the end of this […]

  2. Andrew Speraw on October 25th, 2008 1:11 am

    Very interesting. Thanks Barbara for taking the time to compile this report. I had no idea these things were happening! Somehow I didn’t understand the implications of all this from reading the SNS.

  3. Suzanne Duarte on October 25th, 2008 8:59 am

    Thank you very much for this investigation, Barbara. I think your questions are very much warranted. It isn’t too hard to imagine that things are being set up so that if Shambhala International somehow succumbs to the increasing chaos (economic &/or socio-political) in the world, the “Sakyong lineage” will be safe and survive. In other words, the security of the center of the mandala is assured, but the security of the mandala itself (including its assets) isn’t. This is not how the Vidyadhara operated. We did not have to read between the lines when he was alive.

  4. Ngakma Zer-me Dri'med on October 27th, 2008 7:14 pm

    Have you ever tried to find the Great Galaxy in the constellation Andromeda, the most distant object one can see in the night sky without a telescope? If you know where to look, and you look in that general direction, you can see it. If you look straight at it, blip! it disappears. If you look a little away from it, blip! there it is again.
    It seems to me that this financial situation is similar. If you look at it too closely, it is indeed an impenetrable labyrinth. But back away a little, and to me it becomes obvious.
    The Sakyong wants to be a separate entity, financially, from Shambhala. He has, in the long tradition of how religious politics are played in Tibet, cultivated some rich people to support him in fulfilling this desire.And he wants to take the copyrights to Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings with him, in order to “protect” them for the lineage of the Sakyongs.
    It’s that last bit that brought the tears to my eyes. Think of what happened to Reginald Ray. If you don’t know, go listen to the interview with him on the Chronicles Project website. From whom do the Sakyong’s patrons think they must protect Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings?
    Thanks especially to Chris Chandler for her comments on Part 1 of this series. One could become quite paranoid around all this, if one did not make oneself available to constant reminders of the only way in which Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings can really be preserved. Those of us who have received them, either from him or from his students, as I have, must put them into practice. Nothing else will serve. People have been trying to lock such things away in personal lineage treasuries for the entire history of Buddhism. They are always left with vaults of dust, while yogis in ordinary households carry the living lineage forward. No one owns a patent on the nature of mind.

  5. Richard Weiner on October 29th, 2008 3:43 pm

    While I think that the initial questions that prompted this report are valuable, this is a seriously flawed piece in a number of respects. First, rather than drive-by-ing a comment, a little background on myself. Student of Vidyadhara from 1973, early Kasung, founder of a group in Cleveland, one of the 300 to receive Chakramsamvara fron CTR. I’m also a retired attorney, currently teach law, and a writer who has published well over a million words in local and national publications on law, business, and other “straight” topics.

    Simply, no editor outside of the Fox News type of hyping conjecture would ever approve this kind of piece as anything other than an opinion, and no professional writer or journalist I know of would write it.
    I’m only going to cover the most glaring errors.

    First of all, you got all of the Kasung stuff wrong, pure and simple. Obviously, Kasung material is proprietary (secret), and you had no business talking about in on a public forum anyway. But it is just wrong, especially the idea of “command.” Become a kasung if you want to know what all of that actually means.

    Secondly, it is obvious that you made no attempt to contact the Sakyong about any of this, instead, cherry picking quotes to fuel speculation. It is, of course, fair game to attempt to contact anyone and, failing that, to mention it and look for quotes to pull from the past. However, it is purely unprofessional and misleading, at least, to not even bother to contact the subject of your article. In my world, that gets you fired.

    Third, in the real world of economic journalism, privately- held corporations are not answerable to anyone outside the corp. We don’t even ask. Nobody’s business, pure and simple.

    There is a lot more. I’m not commenting much on the actual information, because, to tell you the truth, I don’t care. We seriously aren’t talking about enough money to matter.

    But as far as the actual interlocking mandalas go, it all seems like a pretty good idea to me, and it looks like it could create a lot more economic stability for Shambhala International if the Sakyong’s expenses are moved off SI’s books, for starters. Plus, the guy has every right to make his own living. The implication that this is some sort of “power grab,” again, and that the Sakyong is somehow going against the wishes of his father and denigrating our lineage is ridiculous to me.

    Just like the Sakyong’s intentions in this piece are mere speculation, so are the constant harpings of people who think they understand what the DDL would want today. You don’t know, folks. He’s dead and you can’t ask him. Spare me.

  6. Ngakma Zer-me Dri'med on October 29th, 2008 6:40 pm

    Let’s see, what do we have here?
    1. Credentials
    2. Comparison to Fox News
    3. Use of secret teachings to dismiss the opponent: I can’t tell you about it, but you’ve got it all wrong
    4. Assumption that because the Sakyong wouldn’t talk to the opponent, the opponent’s work has no value
    5. Assumption that because privately held corporations exist, no one should ever ask questions about them
    6. Profession of disinterest in something about which you just wrote 8 paragraphs
    7. Assumption that because Trungpa Rinopoche is dead, no understanding can be gleaned, from what he said and did, to apply to current questions
    I know you’re not interested, but then why bother writiing? A lot of folks here have been around for almost as long as you. This sort of content-free Shambhala argument doesn’t really work well anymore.

  7. Suzanne Duarte on October 29th, 2008 9:36 pm

    Bravo, Ngakma Zer-me Dri’med! The best I could come up with to express my feelings about Richard Weiner’s nasty post was that it reeked of condescending rankism, but you nailed all his assumptions. Well done!

    Maybe Richard should stick with the “real world of economic journalism” where false assumptions (endless growth on a finite planet) and Ponzi schemes are used to deceive the public and bankrupt the treasury.

  8. Chris Chandler on October 29th, 2008 9:43 pm

    I’d like to comment on the statements about “Command.” Having been a kasung for almost 25 years, Command was principally about “protecting the teachings” the Dharma. The “Principal” or teacher was to be protected as a container or vehicle of the teachings.
    This relates to the basic buddhadharma principle of “rely on the teachings and not the teacher” meaning this is not a path about personalities, or sucking up to the teacher or seeing the teacher above the teachings.

    I think Richard you ought to review yourself what True Command means.

    The kasung were the wrathful protectors of the buddhadharma.emphasis on Wrathful.” When they become palace guards they have broken their oath.

    What I hear from people on this site, is they are trying to protect the teachings. And they are not afraid to be a fool . i.e. brave the scorn of conventional reality to do so.

    Chris Chandler

  9. Lee Weingrad on October 29th, 2008 11:37 pm

    >harpings of people who think they understand what the DDL would want >today. You don’t know, folks. He’s dead and you can’t ask him. Spare me.

    We should respect each other for the following reason: if we can be very kind to the people we either disagree with, dislike, or consider enemies, that is the fulfillment of Atisha’s vision, the Vidyadhara’s vision.

    When it comes to vajra brothers and sisters, we should be careful in our speech: the volatility is such that we can easily crater our greater beneficence –all the good that we can do for the world. These discussions are not a dress rehearsal, they are the cauldron for sharpening and testing our bodhicitta.

    As far as the Vidyadhara being dead is concerned, I remember CTR once talking, during a Vajrayogini Tri, saying, “if my teacher were here…my teacher is here he’s right here– and he’s very proud of you.” These words had a profound effect on me. For those of us who keep the sacred command, he is not dead, he’s right here, and where genuine sadness, wisdom and openness gather, he will always be there to speak to us. He is right here.

    I would say that the RFS problem is not that we are being too challenging and on the spot, but that we haven’t gone far enough. We need to see that the Church and the Guru is not in the buildings, the organizations, the corporate by-laws, but in the body of the sangha.

  10. Andrew Speraw on October 30th, 2008 12:59 am

    “We need to see that the Church and the Guru is not in the buildings, the organizations, the corporate by-laws, but in the body of the sangha.”

    Bravo Lee. I think you just came up with my new favorite quote.

    Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche also said that about what his organization is trying to do. At the Vancouver teaching in 2007 he said “We are trying to build people, not buildings”.

  11. Lee Weingrad on October 30th, 2008 1:54 am

    In 1980, I spent a lot of time with HH Karmapa, Jamgon Kongtrol and Punlop Rinpoches, especially in the Bay Area. I was a driver, gofer, and general hanger-on. This was the middle of an involvement on my part that began as the head cook at Marpa House, and continued to HH’s visit to Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in Woodstock NY.

    His Holiness was to perform the Vajra Crown ceremony at the HIlton in San Francisco. After the omniscient ones arrived, I took a “break” and wandered to the front of the hotel. Just in the shadows watching, I saw the limo arrive with the Regent, Karl Springer and company, all in three piece suits, somewhat preening themselves in a very self-assured way.

    They couldn’t see me. It was at that point that I got it: The Regent & Co. looked as if they had accomplished something great and HH & Co looked like they had given up something great. And on god’s green earth, there is no way you can mistake one for the other.

  12. Carolyn Gimian on October 30th, 2008 4:28 pm

    This is a comment on Richard Weinder’s statement that :
    “First of all, you got all of the Kasung stuff wrong, pure and simple. Obviously, Kasung material is proprietary (secret), and you had no business talking about in on a public forum anyway. But it is just wrong, especially the idea of ‘command.’ Become a kasung if you want to know what all of that actually means.”

    The facts: TRUE COMMAND, Volume One: The Town Talks by Chogyam Trungpa is available to the general public. It is not restricted material, and can be purchased at With a name like that, presumably the book may have something germane to say about the nature of command.

  13. Chris Chandler on October 30th, 2008 8:27 pm

    Well, its been almost a decade of trying to express any kind of contrarian view to the direction this mandala has been going. People tried and gave up and went away. The latest figure is about 80% of CTR students gone, and probably a new wave is growing with the younger generation and more older students.

    Discussions on sadhaka talk moved to feedback on Chronicles, and then Chronicles morphed into Radio Free Shambhala. It seems there is no room anywhere to express anything in this mandala without being censored.

    I believe that the mandala has for a long time been turning into a Dharma Business. But any concern ever expressed about this and always the “big guns” come out and censor all expression.

    The writing is on the wall: if we want to preserve CTR’s teachings and transmissions (which many believe it is NOT alright to change them out of recognition) than we will have to keep them in our heart and practice them.

    To struggle with this current incarnation of “Shambhala” is a futile endeavor. And after very little genuine practice one can see immediately its irrelevancy to our lives. It is arrogant and foolish to think that wrestling with it will do any good. The time for speaking out has long past.

    It is what it is, and that is alright in the bigger picture. It will be a footnote , if that , in history. But CTR and his teachings will not.

    As for sangha. There is sangha, and there is mahasangha, i.e. those who practice the dharma and they are not the same. One is social , forever caught up in the busyiness of the world, perhaps spreading the dharma a little, but the real difference we can make in creating enlightened society is to practice. We know this in our hearts and it always what any genuine lama, like Trungpa Rinpoche wanted.

  14. Martin Fritter on November 3rd, 2008 12:46 am

    I’ve been hearing about this discussion. I don’t think there’s anything especially questionable going on. Trungpa, Rinpoche always had complete control over Vajradhatu and could do what he wanted with it – within the relevant IRS rules governing the disposal of assets by churches, of course and subject to the seemingly absolute laws of arithmetic.

    For the most part, the thinking behind the roles of the various organizations seems preliminary and tentative, which is pretty much what the official representatives say anyway.

    Things like this have happened in the past, the most significant being the spinning off of Naropa from the Nalanda Foundation.

    For my part, I find the lack of transparency – or intelligibility – of the organizational thinking more problematic than that of the the finances.

    Incidentally, being involved with the Aspen Institute is in no way sinister.


  15. Lee Weingrad on November 3rd, 2008 11:41 am

    This is for “Joe the Sadhaka”

    What is the relationship between state and dharma?

    Let’s look at a roughly analogous situation: HH Karmapa 5, Deshin Shegpa (means “tathagatha” in Tibetan) and his worthy student –nope! not Trungmase, guru to the 1st Trungpa, Kunga Gyaltsen– but the person who gave the Karmapas the first physical representation of the Vajra Crown, Ming Emperor Yong Le of China (mandarin; “Yong Lo” cantonese). He ascended the throne in 1403.

    Yong Le, we know, is the Warrior of the North for our Shambhala tradition. He built the Forbidden City. He re-constructed the Grand Canal. He was the patron of Jing De Zhen, when they created porcelain. He launched a fleet of 3000 merchant ships. He moved the capital to Beiping (“northern peace”) and renamed it Beijing (“northern capital”).

    Karmapa Deshin Shegpa lived in Beijing about 3 years at the invitation of the Emperor, (Huang Di, in mandarin). He was named National (dharma) master, or Guo Shi, in Chinese. He was given a name by Yong Le, “Sha Li Pa.” So Kagyu Dharma became the State Religion. Or was it Kagyu Dharma? After all Since the 3rd Karmapa, the Dzogchen lineage, the called the Karma Nyingthig, was part of the lineage of the Karmapas. As was the Surmang Nyengyud and other lineages such as chöd.

    What exactly did Karmapa Deshin Shegpa transmit to Yong Le? The only thing I know for sure is Chakrasamvara, since I saw a thangka of he bestowing that abhisheka to the Emperor, during a visit to Surmang Namgyal Tse in 1992. So what I’m about to say is purely conjecture. My guess is that he transmitted everything: Surmang Nyengyud, Karma Nyingthig, etc. He was also most likely transmitted the Kalachakra. Why hold back with the Emperor of China?

    What was the result? Yong Le became the principal lineage holder of the Karmapa’s dharma in China. Whoa!, you might say. But let’s look at this more closely. Did he stop being King? No. Did he become a religious leader? no. He ‘just’ became a very powerful and maybe enlightened Emperor.

    His reign was a time of enormous openness and strength for China, rivaled culturally only by the Tang Dynasty, which preceded it by 800 years. His was the first of the Ming Tombs and you can visit it if you come to Bejing.

    There is too much misplaced criticism of the Sakyong.
    My point isn’t that he shouldn’t be King. It’s that something strange and unseemly has happened since he collapsed the distinction between being Guo Shi and Huang Di.

    Too bad the Regent sullied his lineage and life with his shenanegans, else we wouldn’t be having this discussion. As Sakyong, SMR would be the guarantor of the Shambhala teachings. But not only did SMR take on his Shambhala lineage, in taking over from the Regent, instead of naming another Regent for Buddhadharma, he also collapsed the distinction between Buddhadharma and Shambhala.

    I think that for those of us who don’t go along with this collapse, it would have been easy for him to earn our loyalty without casting aspersions, as King of Shambhala and we be his subjects, had he not done so. But that is a big “if” — and recalls the Yiddish “if grandma had balls, she’d be grandpa.” I doubt that one of us adrift as the Dark Matter, would be anything other than loyal to the marrow, had he name some other Regent, such as Punlop Rinpoche or Khenpo Rinpoche and kept on the Shambhala side of the fence. So what I’m saying is not to take anything away from him as King. Not at all.

    The Vidyadhara as we know, was also very accomplished. He hacked through the jungle of Western materialism with the machete of prajna. He loved us. Ming Yong Le was very accomplished, as was his guru, Karmapa Deshin Shegpa, like a rare clear, windless, sunny day in Spring in Beijing. Not common people.

    So here’s a question: what’s the name of Yong Le’s son?

  16. Michael Sullivan on November 3rd, 2008 9:43 pm

    Lee Weingrad that sounds like the seeds of an article to me – please elaborate extravagantly…

    PS I think we met in Chicago back in the day – delivering Karmapa’s throne?

  17. Lee Weingrad on November 4th, 2008 6:15 am

    maybe –I’m beginning to think that we should be very loyal to the Sakyong as King, but we should reserve the right to say, “let’s have a Regent!” on the Buddhist side.

    Let’s get the election out of our system first.

  18. John Tischer on November 4th, 2008 4:10 pm

    Some personal assumptions:

    1. The current Sakyong is not VCTR. Comparison has largely yielded
    only confusion.

    2. One might assume that the current Sakyong has every intention of
    preserving and promoting the teachings of the Druk Sakyong. Why assume anything else? To do so, one would have to assume that the current Sakyong is corrupted. I don’t believe this.
    How this manifests in practical terms is another issue, the key issue at hand.

    3. The push for financial transparency has had results and probably will continue to do so. The imperiousness of many of the close students of VCTR in running Vajradhatu is not sustainable in the current environment..

    4. The project the Vidyadhara started is huge…and multi-generational;
    we cannot know how it will look in ten years, let alone a hundred. Is anything that is happening now set in stone for the future? I cannot see how this would be possible….unless the living quality of the teachings
    is lost. That could happen, it’s true. I’m not sure that it’s likely.

    5. Many (80%?) of the Vidyadhara’s students don’t find affinity with the current picture of Shambhala, (myself included). This “cutting loose”
    of students goes back to the lineage founders. Maybe we should all find something else to do to help sentient beings instead of bemoaning
    what we don’t like about On the other hand, our
    criticisms are important. It took me a number of years to get over my
    proprietary feelings towards Shambhala. It was painful to let go. I feel
    some criticism is mixed with people’s personal feelings. But that too is changing.

    6. The fact that there is so much discussion and scrutiny is extremely
    positive..whatever form it takes.

    As the Vidyadharas students, we should take pride in what we have done and gotten rolling. It was never pretty…but many people have already benefitted from the ground we laid. If we maintain our own integrity
    vis a vis the teachings, that seems the most important thing we can do.

  19. Chris Chandler on November 4th, 2008 6:30 pm

    Dear John:

    And I agree wholeheartedly with you as well. I think is just a forum to express the last of our anger and sadness and yes, rage ( after years of trying to go along, being pissed off , shocked, amazed dumbfounded, disgusted, bemused. hypocritical, smiling, disingenuous, synchophantic, anything but true to our own wisdom and seeing clearly.) before the finally letting go of the whole enchilada.

    I don’t apologize any more for the rage I have felt, I will not reject it, I will feel it completely and let it blaze and burn up my last clinging to this and that and how I thought it would be..

    What is happening in the institutionalization of Shambhala is nothing new. All we have to do is read the great teachers and teachings to see that all of them were expressing the same disgust and anger and humour about the corruption of the dharma in their own lives. And they came to the same resolution:

    “Politics and religious activities
    Are only for gentlemen.
    That’s not for you my dear boy.
    Remember the example of an old cow:
    She-s content to sleep in a barn.
    You have to eat, sleep and shit
    That’s unavoidable anything
    Beyond that is none of your business.
    Do what you have to do
    And keep yourself to yourself.”
    —–Patrul Rinpoche

    Many of us have reached a place where the Sadhana of Mahamudra is more and more a living experience and no longer just an intellectual exercise.

    How does it go:

    “The corpse bloated with the eight worldly concerns,
    Is cut into pieces by the knife of DETACHMENT.”

    I think we can all relate now experientially not intellectually to:

    “The search for an external protector
    Has met with no sucess,
    The idea of a diety as an external being
    Has deceived us, led us astray,
    Counting on friends has brought nothing
    But sorrow and insecurity”,

    ” Doubt that wisdom exists within one and other dualistic thoughts” all these are offered up as my feast offering.

    S of M is probably the most powerful, living terma of any century by any teacher. And we were given this. Just this would have been enough.,

    If the Vidhardhara’s students just got together once a month and did this sadhana and feast offering, we could preserve his terma, It is all here, completely.

    And we could thank the Sakyong for manifesting the way he did, or we would probably still “be going along to get along”. And have missed being catapulted out of the “cocoon.”

    Or how about:

    By the way, S of M was originally titled the “Sadhana of the 100 Siddhas”
    according to an excellent source, but was changed to the “Sadhana of Mahamudra” to please th 16th Karmapa. It is much more Dzogchen, or the Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. Calling it the Sadhana of Mahamudra kept it self-secret actually..

    If we were to keep CTR in our hearts purely, we would never, never have doubt about who we are, we would never apologize, and we could capture the Kings seat by knowing that enlightenment is discovered within. And thank our blessings that the blessings have come in forms we never could have predicted.


  20. Tashi Armstrong on November 4th, 2008 7:29 pm

    Hi John and Chris,

    I promised myself that I would write tonight just because this forum has really touched me. I don’t know if you remember me John. I think we were at KCL together — I may have been Rick Armstrong at that point. Somewhere you

  21. Tashi Armstrong on November 4th, 2008 7:29 pm

    Hi John and Chris,

    I promised myself that I would write tonight just because this forum has really touched me. I don’t know if you remember me John. I think we were at KCL together — I may have been Rick Armstrong at that point. Somewhere you

  22. Tashi Armstrong on November 4th, 2008 7:57 pm

    Hey let me try that again. As I was saying,

    At some point you mentioned that in the old days during Shambhala levels it would often feel as though the Vidyadhara was there in the room. There was the special quality of the mandhala. Call it adhistana — the blessings of the lineage who knows.
    Just drinking a glass of sake would feel that way.

    That is no longer the case, at least in my experience. I think it is still possible to connect with the Vidyadhara but through our individual practice not through Shambhala International.

    At some point, having a brief conversation with Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche I mentioned that I was a student of the Vidyadhara. He asked “Did you meet him?” After I said yes he said “Lucky.” And then he went on to say that that lineage is gone.

    It has been difficult to come to terms with actually. But I think we need to realize that that lineage is gone. The direct tranmission from master to disciple was broken with the regent’s death. I really don’t think there was a backup plan.

    But this in no way lessens what Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is doing or his standing as a genuine tulku and meditation master.

    I remember at the 1986 seminary the Vidyadhara took off at the beginning of the Vajrayana section. There were rumors swirling around about how he was going to France to visit Ciel Turzanski. And rumors that he wanted to tear down the whole organization. I might have that wrong.
    It was a very raw and terrible thing — and I think we were all just wandering around in a daze — naked, groundless and heartbroken. And, of course, now I think what a perfect way to throw us all into it! And we are still in it!

  23. Lee Weingrad on November 5th, 2008 1:08 am

    Tashi Armstrong said:
    >But this in no way lessens what Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is doing or his >standing as a genuine tulku and meditation master.

    This is right on the mark. I think we must respect and venerate him as Sakyong of Shambhala. However as we know from our own history, these choices of the Vidyadhara were inspired experiments, like his choice of Regent. Things can always get worse — also it’s possible for tulkus to make mistakes, as Jamgon Rinpoche said to me in San Francisco in 1980. He said,

    “I make mistakes, His Holiness makes mistakes. But we don’t try to manipulate the outcome.”

    We should find ways, as the keepers of the sacred Shambhala and Buddhist teachings to empower ourselves to make that tradition heard — in ways more connected to “community organizing” and “liberation theology” than has ever been done in the past. We need to take that leap.

    Of course we should petition Shambhala International for greater transparency, both in terms of finances, and also in terms of its kindred spirit, the organization chart. That’s the ground.

    When we, as the Senior Tour, find our voice and perform the right self-abhishekas, cast the net wider to include Reggie, Ojai, etc., from the point of view that fundamentally the body of the Church is in the Sangha.

    This fundamental shift, will ultimately mean that we weigh in for a choice for a new Regent, a linage Buddhist teacher, be it someone like Punlop Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, someone who enters the mandala with a strong accomplished authoritative voice in the lineages with which we are connected. Maybe even Reggie.

    But make no mistake about it, the process of exchange begins with one’s self: it’s not a group decision and it shouldn’t come from on high. It should also respectfully acknowledge the role of SMR as Sakyong of Shambhala. But not as Buddhist Guo Shi.


  24. Ginny Lipson on November 6th, 2008 9:35 pm

    on Nov 4 Chris said:

    “Many of us have reached a place where the Sadhana of Mahamudra is more and more a living experience and no longer just an intellectual exercise.”

    Chris; I loved that part of your post as well as your entire discussion about this Sadhana. The power of the Vidyadhara’s Sadhana of Mahamudra is so overwhelmingly effective and accessible to us in bringing Trungpa Rinpoche and his blessings into our lives and our practice. Yes, even just doing it with loving focus dispels so much darkness, and renews spirit. Whether we do it together or apart, it is THERE for us in a powerful way. It has “saved my life” many times.

    I’m so excited to hear that this is increasingly true for others as well.

    Thank you for bringing that up.