On Divisiveness

January 19, 2009 by     Print This Post Print This Post

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.


30 Responses to “On Divisiveness”

  1. Mary B. Smith on January 21st, 2009 10:43 am

    I’ve noticed that when a Guru or Leader (so to speak) dies that the generation which follows becomes very “religious” relying on solidifying the organization and that it in itself becomes “us versus them”. CTR always encourage us to use our critical mind, never to take anything as being an end in itself, always to have a sense of humor. In other words a “light touch”. Looks like this is not happening in Halifax/ Boulder wanted to invite a speaker to their World Affairs group. The speaker had a broader political point of view/ A sangha member took extreme objection to this. Fortunately the Director allowed the group to hear the speaker. Fear should not dominate the sangha.

  2. Nyima Wimberly on January 21st, 2009 10:51 am

    Thanks for quoting my post. I always need to drink a cup of coffee and wait awhile before I respond to anything on rfs. I didn’t wait it out that morning.

  3. Rob Graffis on January 21st, 2009 11:05 am

    Long long letter you wrote.
    I completely agree with Andrew Safer’s main article. My response was to help neutralize any anti Shamhbhala International feelings that may be floating out there. Some of the quotes from the Sakyong’s book seemed to cater to those who wanted their cake and eat it too.
    On the other hand, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche spoke about one and a half fold egolessness,
    Chogyam Trungpa seemed to go more to the heart bone of the matter.
    There has been a lot of changes made in our organization, and they are to be expected in this fluid world, but some of the changes have driven some devoted students away who wanted to contribute and add on, but were not felt welcome (Richard Reoch, are you listening?). This isn’t an opinion, and I’m not using myself as an example..
    Rob Graffis
    PS Time For A Change

  4. Kathryn Weathersby on January 21st, 2009 11:15 am

    As a historian of the communist world, I have high regard for Radio Free Asia and Radio Liberty, and have given many interviews for broadcast on the networks. Your use of their name is, to my mind, childish. There certainly needs to be a way for disaffected CTR students to discuss their concerns with the broader sangha, but it sets a poor tone to give the effort such a silly name.

  5. Jonathan McKeever on January 21st, 2009 11:56 am

    I join Andrew Speraw in asking “what’s there to protect against?” In fact, I join Andrew in everything he said in that paragraph.
    I also want to remark that the NYC Centre has toyed with the idea of interest-based delegs for years, and I think they even have them in place now. (must check on this). So, why you couldn’t have a deleg of this sort is totally beyond me.
    Gesar of Ling had a subject named Todong. If any of you should get high and mighty about subversion, I highly recommend you reread the Epic and take a good look at the way in which Todong was included in the community, in spite of his “subversive” tendencies. (this is not saying RFS is subversive: but rather, even if they were, there’d still be a place for them.)
    The art of conquering is including. Think of Milerepas visit by the demons. He was only able to quell them by inviting them in.
    Conquering means giving a place. Without that inclusiveness, its called “defeating” not conquering.
    I feel that Nick should be invited to write an article – perhaps on this forum – on the dangers of a CTR delek and multiple possible negative outcomes.
    A final note is on transparency. Whether we like it or not, the internet has brought an irreversable tide of transparency to all organizations, societies and workings. It has been shown time and time again that the successful organization learns to harness and encourage healthful transparency, to work *with* the bloggers, etc. The unsuccessful organization continues to maintain the view that the common person is not equipped to handle certain information, and cannot judge for themselves. No mistake, transparency is scary. But wielded correctly it can yield a more whole, more honest and more collaborative situation.

  6. Nyima Wimberly on January 21st, 2009 12:58 pm

    OK. I’ve had my coffee and can respond a bit.
    I wanted to first say that Andrew Speraw was not just responding to my statement. It was next in the thread of discussion, preceded by heated comments from a number of folks with different views on this. I’m a little peeved to have only the most stupid and ugly line quoted and be taken out of context for dramatic effect, but that’s neither here nor there I suppose. But it does bring me to a statement, also from that thread of responses, that communicates the point that my (full) post was trying to make. It’s from Alan Anderson, who begins by saying:

    It’s so obvious that behind the surface of reasoned investigation (by most major contributors on this site—not this article, specifically), there’s this 500 lb. gorilla in the radiofreeshambhala room saying, “The Sakyong is doing the wrong thing, and let me show you why I and my supporters are so right about this.” This attitude doesn’t engender trust and curiousity, because it naturally edits out many contrary details to support the bias.

    Everyone can support their own opinions, pro and con by quoting the Vidyadhara (or others), so why be hopeful and/or righteous because we read or hear something that supports our opinions?”

    This is basically my issue with RFS. Closed-off one-sidedness is not going to be helpful for genuine discussion: It’s the upside down cup (heck, it’s all three cups if we take “sides”).
    Discussion is good. Let’s have it! I was at Dorje Denma Ling a few months ago for the wonderful event A Weekend in Kalapa, where we spoke quite a bit on these issues. What struck me was that it didn’t have the ugly feeling that I get from this site. The discussion was undertaken with fearlessness to say what needs to be said and the gentleness to try to understand what others felt.
    I wanted to attend the CTR deleg meeting in Halifax, but I was staffing a Shambhala Training level and couldn’t make it. I hope to make it to the next one, because I first connected with the Vidyadara, and his teachings and students have shaped my life. I want his upaya’s to continue to flourish, and I think it’s up to all of us to make sure that happens. So, LET’S DO THAT ALREADY! Making it so political is going to be a hindrance! Let’s spread his teachings! I rarely see the RFS folks around the centre, and that may be a big reason why the things they care about in the centre are waning. Come and share with the young students! You hold something so precious; too precious to waste your energy on fighting.
    My post is getting a little rambling and emotional, and I think I’ll indulge that a bit further: The reason this eats me up so much; the reason this conversation always makes me angry, is that I’m really on both sides (if we’re going for sides). I’m in love with the Vidyadara. I’m a devoted student of the Sakyong. I read transcripts of the Vidyadara all the time, and am amazing every time. I do practices that the Sakyong has composed every day, and feel the power, compassion and wisdom that these communicate. I’m very close with students of the Vidyadara and I’m very close to students of the Sakyong. Realistically, it’s probably best for me to simply step back from this conversation and practice what both Sakyongs have taught. It’s not my fight. But, it hurts. It hurts to watch the left hand try to cut off the right hand. No good can come of it.
    To close, I must say that I’m sorry for that post that you quoted. You only posted a bit of it, but it was still ugly, especially that part. What I’ve written here is of direct contradiction to the attitude of that post, so I guess I’m outed as a proud hypocrite! In the future I’ll try to consider whether a statement will actually be useful to someone before I make it.
    I hope we all can enjoy our cup of coffee and take time to contemplate before we engage.
    OK! Off to sit and not think about what I’ve done! Later folks.

  7. Howard Harawitz on January 21st, 2009 1:00 pm

    Good grief. Please lighten up. I mean you too, Barbara. For the life of me I really can’t understand what the fuss is about. Yes, there are differences and disagreements among us. So what? Whenever people collect there will be differences.

    I pay dues to and attend events at the Shambhala Centre. I also visit and, occasionally, contribute to the RFS web site. I was a participant in the group that started it and I attend meetings with its founders. I have differences with some of the others in that group, just as I have differences with things I see, read and hear concerning Shambhala International. Again, so what?

    I really don’t get why people on both sides of some imaginary divide are so emotionally wrought up over Radio Free Shambhala — sufficiently so to end friendships. Yikes! What on earth is that about? Would any of us refuse to extend a hand to someone in the “opposing” group — especially an old friend — should they need help? I seriously doubt that.

    We really do need to find ways to hang out together while we talk, eat good (or even bad and cheap) food, play music, read poetry and abuse substances rather than each other, eh?


  8. Nyima Wimberly on January 21st, 2009 1:19 pm

    Very cute, Howard. Let’s hang out some time

  9. Davee on January 21st, 2009 3:02 pm

    Barbara, I appreciate your candor and some more background on this site and what’s going on for you and others. I also appreciate there being a forum to discuss things.

    What hooks me personally is when authors appear to attack the Sakyong as part of that or appear disrespectful to me, but then there is a comment form where I can express my views as well.

    My aspiration though is that we all find ways to communicate and discuss that foster respect and decency as part of the process and not foster further division and klesha. I’m not sure exactly how to do that though. This site definitely gets my juices going sometimes, and other times it is thought provoking and feels helpful for me. It’s been a mixed experience for me so far.

    My one specific request is that authors here be respectful of the Sakyong and other sangha members in their criticism – and own opinions and views as theirs – even in the midst of any sadness or anger or other heartfelt feelings. I will try to do the same and keep that as a reminder for myself, but I’m not always so good at it. I will also try to have a cup of coffee and a deep breath if needed before commenting. My apologies if I’ve offended any authors here, who have put a lot of work into this site and into their writing.

  10. Mark Hobbs on January 22nd, 2009 9:06 am

    With change it is always possible to have feelings of alienation. Having a clear understanding of how things are and what to expect being uprooted by new circumstances and influences. Is it good change, bad change or are these types of judgments even valid? Perhaps re-defining the “message” of Shambhala is exactly what is needed in these times. Is the Sakong truly dismantling the Vidyadhara’s vision or is he simply presenting the dharma in a way in which more people can find it accessible? As far as I recall, there are 84,000 different ways to present the teachings.

    As for the reaction to any dissent, we need to always be free to express our views without the burden of retribution by those we are criticizing. Even though some of the views expressed on Radio Free Shambhala, I disagree with wholeheartedly, what appeals to me is the ability to express opinions freely.

    For as long as I can remember, even before the Regent’s fiasco, there has been dissent and divisiveness in the community. An example in the early days was the perceived arrogance of Vajradhatu Executive Committee and how members felt alienated from the organization. Nothing new here, in fact the Kagyu seem to be in general, followed by political divisions, just look at the Karmapa lineage controversy.

    The Vidyadhara said it is up to us to follow his vision and communicate the dharma. We must trust in out ability to continue and support his vision and not let our different views hinder us from the objective of helping others.

  11. George Klima on January 22nd, 2009 9:34 am

    As a newcomer to Shambhala I was fascinated, confused and discouraged by the material I read here in Radio Free Shambhala. But I got over it. I got over it after reading The Sacred Path of the Warrior for the first time and by having discussion with some Shambhala friends. If the Shambhala vehicle changes some of its characteristics I feel confident that it can still support me.

    It appears that the discussion around Shambhala direction has created some difficulties. Perhaps the “dark matter” will become disaffected by the views expressed here. Perhaps non-Shambhala people will find this site and create yet more difficulties. Or perhaps not. In any case, I am sure that open discussion is a useful and healthy thing.

  12. Michael Levy on January 22nd, 2009 2:22 pm

    Divisiveness seems an apt title to this discussion and I am compelled to respond to the ironic dichotomies this creates. There are certainly differences in the teaching styles of our lineages Sakyongs but it seems much more useful and necessary to bridge these different shores than live on either style island. Can this be an opportunity rather than an obstacle? Could we skillfully translate these different teachings into the shared struggles, strengths, and heart of our lives, using their differences to heighten and further nourish our awareness rather than use syntax to fuel our identity egos. I want to admit now with all necessary humility and open curiosity to learn, that I do not fully understand all the facets and hardened emotions in this schism but the impact of them is obvious. I feel the judgments and scarring in our community and don’t know what to say to new members and visitors that feel it too. I imagine those deeply immersed in this argument telling me, “O you’re too young a member to get it”, or “This is a more fundamental point than any compromise can resolve”, but I do know I feel the pain and passionate confusion of dedicated sangha distancing themselves from each other. When I entered the community I came with much resistance, confusion, and judgment. Trungpa’s teachings helped discover the honor and integrity of applying universal truth to my internal obstacles. I would have stayed selfish in this pursuit if not for Sakyong Mipham’s language and teachings on the importance of social, economic, and community responsibility as an action forum for my spiritual practice. I have such tremendous gratitude for the various faces of this rich and profound tradition. If we apply our neurotic Vajra energy to each detail rather than our potential wisdom and skillful means to build bridges then “I know and can help” turns to “I’m right so listen here”, and who cares how skillfully we can isolate?
    I want to thank all who made this forum available, and want to learn more from many peoples perspectives. Appreciating the diversity of enlightened society.

  13. rita ashworth on January 23rd, 2009 1:11 pm

    ………..so what indeed did happen at the meeting – would be interesting to have some minutes on it on this site.

    ………..reflecting on schisms, different appreciations of the dharma have decided not to get as riled about it as the Regent affair……..but I still feel there needs to be more exploration of how we explore these issues and a more direct way of inviting the Sakyong into these arguements/discussions…………..here governance of the whole thing is the rub…………often thought myself you could have a system of colleges within SI as the Catholic church does but with each one having its own skilful means – lots of questions also need to be resolved about the King/subject debate aswell …………Robin Kornman is good on this issue and he speaks at length on Shambhala society on a series of lectures on utube……………also feel the sangha should have more direct input on how the budget is spent as they are funding the whole thing.

    ………..its true I am not as inspired by the present Sakyong as Trungpa -dont think you can legislate on how you feel about people but I do listen to his talks over the net and I can see that he is growing to be a good ruler….but Patrick Sweeney is as well – catch him on utube ……….

    …………plus I think people should put their hands together and clap for the people who founded this site…………..divisive or not………….its a real breath of fresh air.

    hey call the deleg choggie chew-chew…………..vroom-vroom………..yep when I was in uk listening to Trungpa talks……………people wanted their money back because he spoke for so little a time and also because he was drunk aswell…………….cant we have wild conversations aka Trungpa and just go mad about dharma again………………..really myself chose Trungpa in the end because he screwed up ………..he admits this in Torch of Certainity because he was not teaching in the appropriate fashion in the Uk -thats why he had his accident………….love the fact that the guru even admits his own digressions on the path and that the mahakalas will get even him………….he was so human…………….even when he was half dead near the end of his life he was still teaching people and always surrounded by students. …………..o well

    -yes would love to see the minutes of the meeting…………..


    rita ashworth

  14. Gordon Kidd on January 24th, 2009 4:01 pm

    May all sentient beings be without evil deeds,
    May all sentient beings be joyous.
    On whatever path they tread,
    May they meet with Buddha himself.

    Perhaps this traditional aspiration can remind us to include all who are walking the path. Not everyone’s path is following the same prescription, but the earnest desire to reach enlightenment for the benefit of others should be the common point. Excluding some from our view on the basis of their path seems to miss the point.

  15. rita ashworth on January 26th, 2009 2:40 pm

    re Gordon Kidds post………..Buddha-the term itself means awake ……….I think all religions aspire to this awakened state hence the discussion on this site on how you encourage people in their quest for enlightened society/awakedness…………..shambhala vision I think has to relate to everybody in all their paths to further this ‘Kingdom’ on earth…………the debate is has the present change in the teachings given by SI hindered or helped the furtherance of this vision for everyone on this planet……….because I think if you think globally not everyone is going to become adherents in our org……………I think we have to start having a more global shambhala vision -hence rfs -think bigger………..


    rita ashworth

  16. Davee on January 26th, 2009 2:55 pm

    ya, but there is a difference between view and path. in view, there is no problem with including all kinds of paths in a society. but then an organization likely presents particular paths. the question as I hear it is if the shambhala organization will present a completely secular path (or beyond-buddhism path ala dzogchen) as well as the vajrayana for advanced students, either now or at some future point. i’m not hearing that a secular path “is not possible”, in terms of view, nor that other traditions don’t have advanced paths or could not be included in society. But I am hearing that the advanced shambhala path of the scorpion seal and werma sadhana could not be extended in a completely secular context at the moment. it required dzogchen teachings on trekcho and thogyal to be presented. Maybe that’s just for the current stretch of time though? i don’t think that precludes a continued development of secular practices based on the shambhala terma long term – in particular ones that do not require a student to take refuge and bodhisattva vows (such as they are included in the werma sadhana.) But perhaps there is another point here about what is the ‘center’ of the organization, is it vajrayana or is it shambhala vision which could be secular. It seems currently it is vajrayana. Which is to me a separate point than what paths are presented and if paths could be extended for advanced students (like could a future “shambhala art” path have sadhanas and dark retreats or the equivalent.) But maybe the ‘center’ in the future could be shambhala vision instead of vajrayana and vajrayana would just be included as an advanced path?

  17. Rob Graffis on January 26th, 2009 3:28 pm

    To clear up a few things. Some people have gone so far as to suggest a schism maybe happening here. There is no schism. I don’t see anybody taking off in one direction and saying “follow me”and forego our teachings, or another group saying “follow us instead”. Our disputes are tame compared to other past Buddhist conflicts. I do see confusion though as to what “the teachings” are.
    Secondly, “View” means vipasnaya (sic). Nothing more. Nothing less. The view is the vision based on vipasyana, whether it be Hina or Maha vipasyana, it is based on clear seeing. What’s illuminated by a candle light or a flashlight, or a spot light, all forms of illumination are good. None is worse then the other..
    As far as being secular or not, I don’t see the issue here unless we are talking about monastic vows.
    Rob Graffis

  18. Davee on January 26th, 2009 4:19 pm

    hi rob, in terms of view i don’t mean ‘right view’ as in eightfold path nor did i mean “yang takpe tawa” or utterly pure view, the first of the eight forms of vipashyana, i mean just the mundane “what are these paths and why travel them?” separate from specific path instructions. I see Shambhala as being able to hold many paths, even those which do not explicitly pursue enlightenment – for example mindful knitting or six ways of ruling for administrators – which includes paths that do not require taking refuge in the Buddha or pursuing a vipashyana understanding. Including many paths is I think within the “view” of Shambhala; as opposed to traditions that only include one path. Whether there is a complete path taught by Shambhala that doesn’t require taking refuge in the Buddha seems to be at odds, and whether taking refuge in the Buddha is required at the ‘center’ of Shambhala seems at issue, yes?

  19. Rob Graffis on January 26th, 2009 4:56 pm

    In 1994, I heard Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche give an afternoon talk, and he said something that resonated to me.
    I’ve heard it said and written before by Zen teachers, and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, but this time it made sense.
    He said “There are many Bodhisattvas in the world who aren’t Buddhist”.
    I think it finally made sense to me because I’ve seen people talk the talk who were western Buddhist, but not walk the talk.
    During my mundane jobs working as a social worker and a teacher, I saw lousy teachers, so-so (not as in ‘Ki Ki So So’) teachers, and those who rolled their arm sleeves up to get things done to help improve life a little. Not a lot, but a little.I saw this as an example of, given the opportunity, most people want to help each other, not hurt each other. Maybe it was my Zen flash.
    They weren’ doing it for the pay. I could care less what religion they follow.
    Rob Graffis

  20. damchö on January 26th, 2009 5:13 pm

    I think we would probably all agree that divisiveness (as opposed to respectful criticism) is a danger. It also has an opposite which is equally dangerous. I’m not sure what the best phrase for this would be, but something like “the true believer” might point to it. I feel group ego is an exceptionally powerful phenomenon, endlessly underestimated. Over and over again throughout history we underestimate it. And as far as I can see it has yet to receive the serious attention it needs within the sangha. Various forms of negative dynamics can flourish unnoticed for years, becoming more and more solid–the ego of the group can subsume that of the individual and make it all okay.

    Someone quoted Reinhold Niebuhr I believe to this effect in a comment to another post. The original quotation was directed towards “political” organizations and the poster applied it to “religious” ones. Another comment then disputed this application. Personally I think the quotation is if anything more applicable to organizations which are specifically religious. Not that the line can always be adequately drawn in the first place: we know that Fascism and Communism operate like religious faiths in all kinds of ways. But in any case I’ve put the words “political” and “religious” in quotations intentionally to spotlight the continuities. With regard to Shambhala, for instance: which one is it? I see Shambhala as both “religious” and “political” organization, and believe it sees itself ultimately that way.

    How do we avoid the first danger–divisiveness? I think we do so through monitoring our motivations, speech patterns, and so on. Do all who have criticized Shambhala ultimately wish for it to succeed? My sense in reading the essays and comments on this website is: yes. Many here are simply struggling with deeply conflicted feelings: devotion to the teachings and person of Trungpa Rinpoche, who has inspired them so much; confusion about various new directions and attitudes within Shambhala which they have difficulty reconciling with the former. These are honest, healthy doubts and concerns.

    How do we avoid the second danger–the corrosive effects of power and the group ego? I think this needs a lot of attention. Good basic rule of thumb: the more power someone has, the more safeguards there need to be. As so many have re-recognized in recent years, the US balance of powers arrangement so meticulously set up in our Constitution is a pretty amazing thing (and needs major repair…). The dharma teaches basic goodness and it also teaches the endless craftiness of ego. Trungpa Rinpoche in particular emphasized just how wily spiritual materialism can be, and made it his first major topic for introduction to us Westerners. Personally, if I were ever given a position of major power, I would want and welcome someone to remind me–maybe even every week at a certain hour–of the endless temptations of power and the fruits of humility. President Obama seems to understand this. My experience of Shambhala is that it has failed to do so. In its case a religious organization (vajrayana no less, with its requirements of supreme obedience residing in the samaya vow) has become wedded to a monarchical political one, in which the main powers (acharyas and kasung) have taken said samaya vow or other oath of loyalty with the leader / King. This is a theocratic model in which safeguards are all the more necessary. For theocratic models rarely (ever?) have happy endings.

    Sorry for the length of this. My basic point is: yes, let’s continue to contemplate divisiveness. As long as we continue (or maybe even just begin) to contemplate group ego, the “true believer”, the effects of power and lack of genuine balance of power, and so on. These two dangers always exist as complements. My own feeling, for what it’s worth, based on long experience in relating to Shambhala, is that the latter danger is actually more apposite at this point in time, more in need of being addressed. That is why I’m grateful for the existence of this site, and why (I feel) all should be. As the new US prez seems to realize, divergent and even passionately divergent views–if respectfully expressed *and* respectfully engaged with–can only make everything better and healthier in the end.

  21. rita ashworth on January 27th, 2009 1:42 pm

    …….I seem to have sparked some discussion with my post -primarily when I came to Buddhism I was interested in the Kaygy path……..later Trungpa brought out the Shambhala teachings which were for followers of all other religions aswell – a means for them to practice meditation –
    as I see it at the present alot of older students, including the late Robin Kornman, also still believe that the two paths should be somewhat separate – or not so interwoven with Shambhala teachings at the present time – I think this is the way the Satdharma community has preserved the teachings of both of these traditions aswell.

    Shambhala Buddhism, as indeed Davee’s post points out, is where people will have to become Buddhist to do the later stages of the Shambhala path……..and with the emphasis now being put on Shambhala that doesnt include all those secular meditators out there………those Xtian and Muslim meditators.

    Yes I would like eveyone to become Buddhist – it would be a great world?! But I am sure but that isn’t going to happen…………we need a more open inclusive path for people of other religions who we used to talk to quite alot witness the Xtian and Buddhist dialogues in Boulder in the eighties but now this is less the case.

    Davee posits that at some stage in the future advanced practices might be offered to people but this is not the case at present and as the ‘reforms/changes/ideas’ just come down from on high there is no forum to discuss the futherance of the teachings in different directions.

    Personally I became a Buddhist because before I was one I had some experience in meditation on my own which pointed me in that direction -but I have realised that as time has gone on not many people in the west want to become Buddhists…. they want though access to a meditation path which will lead them to a more open-hearted and successful way of life……the Shambhala teachings should have been that pathway I believe and I still think Trungpa wanted this to be the case………..also personally I dont think I want to follow the Sakyong for four years in learning to do these dark retreats……………..still dont consider him as my prime teacher…………so if I remain in SI my connection would be with the vajrayana teachings and older Acharyas I suppose which to a degree would exclude me from the bulk of people practicing the new teachings…..no there has to be some new way of Shambhala still being secular…………maybe we have to discover it ourselves on sites like these………’rfs think bigger…..bigger……….bigger……..and try and get bods from all over discussing these ideas from the ground up as Barbara Blouin stated.

    ………..plus what do people think about all this fundraising for the Rinchen Terdzo in India …………it seems to have gone mega when you look at the SI website…………still not sure about it myself…………of course Trungpa had access to all these teachings and he even gave the transmission for it himself…………but as far as I know he did not want westerners to get involved in going for long teachings he wanted them to concentrate on basic meditation and the teachings that he gave when he was alive……….do people think we are getting too much involved with the Tibetan way of doing things…………as I said before in another post what about the terma to be discovered in the west…………dunno reading the stuff on SI website about RT………just made me feel it was all too hyper……..religious fervour and its all in Tibetan too…….what do people think?……….plus dont get me on to patrons (YUK-YUK)………….

    well best

    Rita Ashworth

  22. Tsondru Garma on January 27th, 2009 4:27 pm


    I agree with you whole heartedly and, by the way, I love your posts. I’m so glad that you brought up the RT. I really heartily agree with you. Although it seems ” the dye is cast” in terms of where things are going, at least it is helpful to hear others say these things.

    Also, re: VIEW, as it was discussed earlier. This is sort of a side line to the discussion, but I wanted to put in a quote from CTR that was sent to Sadhaka Announce years ago, I’ve saved it as a treasure that I wasn’t quite sure I completely understood, but loved it anyway. It is from an entry in CTR’s diary, dated Dec 1, 1967, and published in the Nalanda translators’ newsletter. It is interesting and provocative. I think it expresses his unique style in presenting the Dharma to us.


    “I have no home.
    Home I have none.
    I have no home.

    While growing up, since I was little up to now, I have never had a family. Having no family seems very sad, but when I think how I have no home, it is very strange. Home and family – my parents couldn’t create it. My friends couldn’t create it. No one has been able to create it. Why? the family created by my parents and friends was just a family according to their own way of thinking.

    In particular, my own situation is due to the fact that no one could understand everything all together: both worldly and spiritual views and how to live one’s life. That is not to say that I am more skilled, more learned, and more experienced in the dharma. There are many people who are more learned than I, and more elevated in their wisdom. However, I have never made a separation between the spiritual and the worldly. If you understand the ultimate aspect of the dharma, this is the ultimate aspect of the world. And if you should cultivate the ultimate aspect of the world, this should be in harmony with the dharma. I am alone in presenting the tradition of thinking in this way.

    Therefore, since I have no ultimate heart friend other than myself alone, I think that it is definite that no one can create an ultimate home or family for me. Still, strangely, this home of being homeless is my home wherever I go. Everything is my home, the home of being homeless.”


  23. George Klima on January 28th, 2009 9:08 am

    Rita, would you kindly post a link to the Robin Kornman talks? I searched Youtube and was unable to find it.


  24. Michael Sullivan on January 28th, 2009 10:51 am
  25. Caroly Dekker on February 11th, 2009 1:47 am

    I have always found this kind of music very uplifting towards the Shambhala Kingdom:


    Please listen and enjoy the feeling of festiveness!

  26. Kelly on February 24th, 2009 12:48 pm

    Why doesn’t anyone ever question the old man?
    And speaking of people leaving, how many people left when he was alive?

  27. Barbara Blouin on February 24th, 2009 1:17 pm

    Kelly, As the author of “On Divisiveness” I don’t understand your comment and question. “The old man”? Do you mean Chogyam Trungpa? For one, he was only 47 when he died. And to be totally obvious, he is dead, so how can one question him? Yes, people left the sangha during Chogyam Trungpa’s lifetime. I think I detect a tone of veiled hostility in your comment. If you don’t like what I wrote, please be more direct: say it! And be specific. That would be much more helpful.

  28. John Tischer on February 24th, 2009 2:47 pm

    I agree with Rob…there is no schism…at least not like the one between the
    Dalai Lama and the break off sect from the Gelukpas. We’re still talking.
    I don’t think we’ll ever be rid of each other.

    I like this quote by the Vidyadhara from his introduction to “The Rain of Wisdom”:

    “Without exception, anyone who has had the slightest contact with our
    Kagyu dharma, whether with positive or negative reactions, is bound
    to become liberated.”

  29. John Tischer on February 24th, 2009 3:51 pm

    Nobody’s starting a “Trungpa sect”, except maybe Reggie. Who would be capable of leading such a thing anyway? Maybe Gesar…but notice how wisely he has stayed out of the fray.

  30. Eric Ross on July 30th, 2009 2:27 pm

    This reminds me of the time when we approached the local Shambhala Center to form a deleg for gays and lesbians within the community, feeling that there was more of a connection through shared life experience than where one’s house was located. We were given the same, “Delegs = neighbourhoods” answer. We called the response “habitual thinking” and felt sorry for the “stick-in-the-mud” approach to life and formed the group in a private home rather than meeting at the Shambhala Center. Their loss, our gain..