Reflections on the Vajra Sangha

February 9, 2009 by     Print This Post Print This Post

Commentary by Charles Marrow

I very much appreciate this forum for dialogue which gives the sangha an avenue to reflect on how we would like to proceed, as individuals and as a sangha, to continue as practitioners of the buddhadharma and Shambhala teachings. As far as a means of communication that are open to me, there is not much available where I can address these concerns. So I think Radio Free Shambhala is pretty good. With this in mind, I would like to express my appreciation for the moderators and all the contributors who have added their posts to this web site regardless of the degree to which their views might coincide with mine.

The ability to have a coherent discussion regarding changes to the lineage view and dharma practice of our sangha has been slow in coming. It has been my feeling that the administration and the leadership of Shambhala have not readily acknowledged two things that I think are important. Now, these topics are gradually finding their way into discussions on this web site and, presumably, into other conversations. The two topics that I would like to consider and that are closely related are:

A: There is a division in the sangha, and

B: Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has made and is continuing to make significant and some of us might say “dramatic” changes in the spiritual approach of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Regarding the first topic, I think it is fair to say that any reasonable Buddhist would regard a division in the sangha as not a good thing. So we probably agree on this point. Regarding the second point, some might feel an affinity to the Sakyong’s vision and feel that his vision is very appropriate to their inspiration, some may feel deeply disturbed by what the Sakyong is doing and many might have mixed feelings about the new approach of Shambhala Buddhism. So I am comfortable suggesting that there is a broad range of feelings about adaptations to the teachings and practices of Trungpa Rinpoche that are now being presented as Shambhala Buddhism.

Let us first discuss the topic of division within the sangha. The historical Buddha gave an important vinaya teaching which addresses the serious nature of a division in the sangha. From a scholarly point of view, the issue of dividing the sangha is somewhat complex. A key element is that the sangha must be harmonious for the fault of dividing the sangha to occur and what is regarded as a harmonious sangha would be subject to interpretation. But suffice it to say, as sangha members, we instinctively feel that a divided sangha is not healthy. Under these circumstances, any balanced and mature communication that can alleviate some of this tension is regarded as laudable in the Buddhist tradition.

We can be a little bit more thorough and consider why a division in the sangha is a problem. After all, there are 84,000 collections of dharma, many personality types that will find affinity with various teachings, we are liberal and broad minded people and certainly there is room for great diversity. Is this not the case? Are not disagreements somewhat normal? On this point, the traditional texts are very clear: “As long as the sangha is divided, the five paths will not be realized”, meaning that if there are fundamental unresolved issues within a practicing community, it is pretty hard to make progress on the spiritual path. Practically speaking, if the sangha is divided in regards to fundamental spiritual principles and the related practices, there will be a natural underlying tension and a certain amount of competition, even if unstated, as to where the sangha’s spiritual and material resources will be directed.

The second topic is that Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has made significant changes to the Vidyadhara’s teachings coming from the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions and also to the teachings of Shambhala. The Sakyong proclaimed a spiritual lineage of Shambhala Buddhism at the year 2000 Kalapa Assembly. Again, whether this is a positive, negative or mixed development will be perceived differently by different people. I would like to be simplistic for a moment and merely note that there is a difference.

Using myself as an example, I became a member of Karma Dzong in Boulder in 1977 which was the main seat for the Vajradhatu Buddhist organization. Vajradhatu, under the spiritual direction of Trungpa Rinpoche, followed the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. The emphasis was on a certain approach to sitting meditation followed by mahayana teachings, the Kagyu ngondro and the yidam practices of Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara. The view and teachings of the Nyingma tradition were elucidated by the Vidyadhara at important points in his teaching. Now that the West has some thirty-odd years of experience of Tibetan Buddhism, there is some understanding that Trungpa Rinpoche’s approach is pretty classic, and is well known amongst informed Buddhists. That is to say it follows the tradition of the Karmapas, the Rimé tradition, and the teachings that the view of Ati is the highest view. The Surmang Trungpa lineage is within the Karma Kagyu school which can be traced directly to Gampopa and is therefore about 1,000 years old. This tradition has had many, many committed practitioners over the centuries in Tibet and also a notable number in the West in recent decades.

In regards to the Shambhala teachings of Trungpa Rinpoche, these have been presented to many people in the Shambhala Training levels, graduate program, the Kalapa Assemblies, etc. This format  is well known in our community and many of us would regard Shambhala Training as having been very helpful to many people over a long period of time.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is teaching and encouraging others to teach the lineage, the view and the practices of Shambhala Buddhism. This lineage came into existence under this name in the year 2000. I do not think any other master ever taught something known as Shambhala Buddhism. This teaching seeks to unify the Shambhala and Buddhist paths and articulates the principle of basic goodness as the overarching principle. This principle is represented by the image of the Primordial Rigden. Shambhala Buddhism is presented as more applicable to the modern times and the problems of this era. It is also regarded as being more applicable to a greater number of people.

In the practice methods, Shambhala Buddhism presents a view of sitting meditation that promotes the value of shorter sitting periods and also recommends using a closer technique with more control used in mindfulness meditation. It presents the mahayana teachings and then one proceeds to do the Primordial Rigden ngondro followed by the Primordial Rigden abhishekha, the Werma Sadhana practice of Trungpa Rinpoche and then the Scorpion Seal retreat. The Kagyu ngondro and yidam practices of Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara are presented in Shambhala Buddhism as optional, and presumably valuable practices that can be done after the completion of the Scorpion Seal retreat at the discretion of the practitioner. As the primordial Rigden ngondro is only a few years old and the format for the Scorpion Seal retreat is still being worked on, there have only been a very few acharyas who have worked with this path to a significant degree. It is still being formulated, without much previous human experience.

The Sakyong, through his administration, has indicated that, with a view to unifying Shambhala and Buddhism, the Shambhala Training levels will be mixed with the new Shambhala Buddhist curriculum. This new approach to the Shambhala teachings is presented under the curriculum title of the Way of Shambhala. There is a possibility that the name of “Shambhala Training” will be phased out altogether in favor of “The Way of Shambhala”. An individual entering this new program will receive Buddhist teachings in an explicit form. As we know, in the Shambhala Training format, it was possible to complete the entire program, even up to receiving Werma Sadhana without becoming Buddhist. Some may feel this inclusion of Buddhist teachings in the Shambhala context is very good.

In these summations, I am trying to be neutral and merely highlight some of the distinctions in the Shambhala Buddhist approach in contrast to the Kagyu Vajradhatu tradition with Shambhala Training being presented as a separate stream of study and practice.

Now I would like to speak more subjectively and say a few things about how I have personally experienced the community and organizational dynamic. First of all, up to the last year or so, I felt like Shambhala International’s official position was that Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s approach was, in essence, identical to his father’s. This is what I felt was being said. Further, it seemed that this new Shambhala Buddhist path was being presented as really superior and that it will become widespread and help many, many people in this dark age. Also, I felt I was being told that the notion of adhering to the practices and teachings I was quite fond of from Trungpa Rinpoche’s Vajradhatu path was out of date and that I was stuck in the past. Then, there were the instances when it was communicated to me that, like other “old” students, I was just hanging on to the Vidyadhara’s teaching, being inflexible and being an obstructionist as to how the Sakyong wanted to manifest Shambhala.


My reaction to this whole process is that the current Sakyong and the administration has crossed the line in what modern parlance would call “non-negotiables”. One could make up a simple story, as an example. Say that I am an Italian man, who likes my home country and falls in love and marries a German woman. I go and spend time with my wife’s family and her German father begins to expect that I will become patriotic to Germany, root for their soccer team, sing their national anthem, adore German beer, give up my love for opera and Italian wine and totally get into the German national spirit. “Well, sorry to say to you guys, I am an Italian and I like my Italian thing and that is just the way it is!” In short, one would feel that these kinds of expectations are unreasonable.

From the point of view of spiritual development, in my own experience, I feel that the presentation of Shambhala Buddhism is a distraction. I do not have much connection to it and I have explored its theory and practices to a reasonable degree.  Needless to say, there are students of Sakyong Mipham who are inspired by his example and are undertaking the Shambhala Buddhist path with enthusiasm. So, once again, I am merely trying to clarify and stabilize the notion that a) the Kagyu Vajradhatu path is different from Shambhala Buddhism, and that b) there is a division in the sangha.

Perhaps it is because of my background as a member of the Dorje Kasung that I believe it is sometimes most skillful to approach complex situations with a degree of simple-mindedness and literalism. In discussions that we have had on this web site and elsewhere it is easy to get drawn into notions that “This way or that way is the pure, enlightened or correct way,” or that “This is what Trungpa Rinpoche really wanted,” etc. In fact, there are certain traditional methods for exploring the validity of a path of dharma through study and contemplation but that is not the purpose of this article. Here, I am trying to focus on two simple facts that are related to the experiences of individual practitioners and that also have a big impact on the vitality and cohesion of ourselves as a sangha, i.e., a group of practitioners.

I will go one step further into an area that is maybe somewhat more difficult, but necessary. This is to say that, in some form or another, there will have to be a process by which the direction of the sangha is clarified. The issues discussed thus far have been in the air for some number of years now. For example, in 2004 there was a conference in Boston called the Mandala Conference that produced a document called The Ground of Openness and Trust. I personally feel that the observations made at that time are still quite applicable to our situation. What is needed now is to have a mechanism for discussing and coming to practical decisions regarding the issues raised at that time.

From the vantage point of looking back to the discussions of the Shambhala Congress of 2003 and the issues that are still with us, I have to be somewhat blunt regarding my observations. I feel like there was, and still is, an approach to communication coming from the Sakyong and Shambhala International where expressions of the principles of inclusion, diversity, respect for elders, etc. are regularly circulated. However, when we observe how actual policies are implemented, it seems that every effort is made to march on with the predetermined agenda of furthering Shambhala Buddhism, while the feelings of those who have an affinity to maintaining Trungpa Rinpoche’s dharma and the practice traditions of Vajradhatu are related to as minimally as possible. One might get the feeling that it is the hope of the administration that if they just proceed, then those of us who did not really like these changes would eventually conform or just get out of the way, perhaps even leave the sangha altogether. Needless to say, this does not encourage a good sangha atmosphere.

To conclude, I would like to recap a statement made by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche when he was in Colorado around the time of the Vidyadhara’s parinirvana. I heard the following quote from two different reliable sangha friends. At this time, His Holiness said something to the effect that:

Now that the Vidyadhara has passed away, various lamas will come to the sangha and will want to present their teachings. My advice to you (the Vajradhatu sangha at that time) is that you ignore those lamas and continue with the teachings you have received from the Vidyadhara.

It is my feeling that this advice applies today.

I know some of these are difficult points, but I trust that presenting these issues will be of some benefit to the practicing community.

Charles Marrow has been a practicing Buddhist his entire adult life. He moved to Boulder in 1977 to become a student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche after practicing at San Francisco Zen Center. In 1983 he moved to Nova Scotia to participate in the Vajradhatu sangha. He has been the owner of several small businesses and currently works as an independent bookkeeper and accountant.


277 Responses to “Reflections on the Vajra Sangha”

  1. Parlan McGaw on March 9th, 2009 2:17 pm

    Let me put it this way: Maybe the Vidyadhara is not as dead as you think he is.

  2. Davee on March 9th, 2009 2:27 pm

    Ultimate root guru? Is that something like a “Root root guru”? If so we could have three tiers now: gurus, root gurus, and ultimate root gurus. 🙂

    In this youtube clip the interviewer asks a related question of CTR:

  3. Michael Sullivan on March 9th, 2009 2:55 pm

    Re: ultimate root guru
    It wasn’t my definition but rather that of the very respected translators at Rangjung Yeshe. My teachers always used the “ultimate root guru” definition as the only one.

    I liked the video. Especially when he talked about the environment in terms of “the teacher, meeting the teacher and having a relationship with the teacher…..”

    re:”Let me put it this way: Maybe the Vidyadhara is not as dead as you think he is.”

    CTR is alive to those who he gave transmission. That is why he placed such emphasis on it and made it a rather large undertaking to receive. It isn’t just reading books or watching youtube videos. There is also having the karma to actually meet him. The “Brief Encounters” section of the Chronicles site is full of vignettes that highlight what I would consider spontaneous, improvised ‘pointing out’ by CTR.

    That isn’t to say that, never having met him, he cannot be a huge inspiration and a driving force in ones practice and study. But it isn’t quite the same. Like he said in the video – “meeting the teacher and having a relationship with the teacher”

  4. Parlan McGaw on March 9th, 2009 3:29 pm

    I’m really impressed by how you know so much more about my experience than I do. It’s humbling.

  5. Michael Sullivan on March 9th, 2009 3:59 pm

    Actually it is I who should be humble in the presence of someone who can have a relationship – a Vajra relationship – with someone they never met. Not to mention receiving pointing out and realizing the nature of mind! I rejoice in your Supreme Devotion and Stainless Karma!

  6. Davee on March 9th, 2009 4:03 pm

    The “transmission” chapter in “Meditation in Action” talks a bit to this point, where Rinpoche says that the transmission appears to come from an external person to protect against the ego, but really the transmission is not given to you. It’s an interesting chapter.

    And depending upon how you feel about the multi-lifetime system, Trungpa Rinpoche is very much alive!

  7. Michael Sullivan on March 9th, 2009 4:28 pm

    Damn, I loaned mine out and never got it back… It might be time to get my third or fourth copy of that great book! I really like going back and finding hidden or coded references (especially to dzogchen) in material I thought I studied many years ago.

    When we use the term transmission we often are referring to ritual activity in the form of words and actions from an external entity – the teacher. But actual transmission only really happens when realization and understanding occur in the mindstream of the student. The teacher may be broadcasting but unless you can tune in the signal, you don’t get the music.

    As regards the newest Trungpa, perhaps the “no live interaction necessary” folks should ask him about that time he pointed out the nature of mind to them – ah, but wait – why bother? Since actual personal contact isn’t necessary for them, they would just be wasting his precious time.

    BTW, I would also posit that the obvious devotion and loyalty shown to the Sakyong by his personal students on this site is further proof of the value / necessity of a relationship to a live teacher.

  8. Davee on March 9th, 2009 6:46 pm

    Hee hee. I’m starting to enjoy all the snarkiness here.

    And at the same time, having a glimpse of the nature of mind probably isn’t even enough. Say you go to a random weekend and Amma gives you a hug and you have an experience, that doesn’t necessarily make her your root teacher really. Seems like it’s a mix of both the environment creating glimpses of mind, which could be occurring continually or from memory, and also having an ongoing connection to that lineage and path and personal journey. More than having a teacher hit you on the head and then having to follow that person just because they were the first glimpse you noticed. Though I think some people chose romantic relationships that way, for better or for worse.

    I don’t know if I personally conflate those things with having a teacher there to point out blind spots and pull the rug though. Unless you are a kusung. Which is not to say that isn’t darn helpful. I just think that’s another thing to be grateful for if it is possible and present. In the large monastery situation, where you have two minutes a year with your root teacher, I suspect it is the khenpos who are messing with you more and calling you out. But the same function could be in the environment basically. Here in the West, maybe our spouse really serves that role?

  9. Parlan McGaw on March 9th, 2009 7:12 pm


    Thanks for pointing to “Meditation in Action.” It’s excellent.


  10. Michael Sullivan on March 9th, 2009 10:08 pm

    Davee, all I’m saying is that if the khenpo is the one that wakes you up big time, then the khenpo is your root guru, even if he only has a middling title. Even if you wish that someone more exotic or famous was your root guru.

    While we’re at it, I’m also of the opinion that Tibetan Buddhism in general has gone into somewhat of an inflationary spiral as regards titles…..

    And actually, since the vast majority aren’t monastics, I kinda like the idea of spouse as rug puller. But of course pointing out isn’t simply ass-kicking, it is more shocking you out of your cocoon and at that instant holding the mirror to your mind so you can see it.

  11. Davee on March 9th, 2009 10:43 pm

    Sure. Khenpos are great! Acharya Rockwell once told me a way Rinpoche used to pop your ego was by giving you a big title. He’d call people “Ambassador” or even send you as a delegate to another country, and I can only imagine there was just no hope that your ego would survive such ridiculous treatment. Imagine if we were all told to call you “Your Eminence” from now on. Hilarious! Perhaps the Acharyas feel that way.

    The vajrayana is so odd. Must have a root teacher, whatever that means, then suddenly you end up at an abhisheka being crowned a buddha. Now that’s an inflated title. 🙂

  12. Aba Cecile McHardy on March 13th, 2009 2:28 am

    Uh oooh! Ooops! Owies and Ouches! Technicians of the Sacred
    – Indigenous Voices offer this perspective. Please listen.

  13. Constance Wilkinson on April 9th, 2009 10:45 am

    This always brings tears to my eyes:

    HH Dudjom Rinpoche’s “A Prayer to Recognize My Own Faults and Keep in Mind the Objects of Refuge.”

  14. Constance Wilkinson on April 9th, 2009 10:47 am

    Similarly, Patrul Rinpoche’s “Advice from Me to Myself”

  15. Aba Cecile McHardy on April 9th, 2009 9:19 pm

    Big and round
    like how Pashtun peasants
    rap canteloupes with their knuckles
    to test for ripeness
    or squeeze
    gently bruising the rind
    for an answering aroma of sweetness
    my heart
    is clutched and questioned
    are you rough and ready
    in the right place
    swollen with vajra pride .. great love – appreciation for all
    silvered like the moon
    in rich
    Joyous Embrace in Space.
    Such loveliness is Freedom
    Awake in the dream.

  16. Susan Noel on August 5th, 2009 7:21 pm

    I want to thank most of the people who are writing in for their thoughtfulness, knowledge, and historical accuracy.

    I admit that though I am a longtime practitioner, I may be somewhat “eccentric,” but here’s how this all works for me.

    I began with the Vidyadhara in 1977 in Boulder, and no other teacher could ever have reached my stubborn, unconventional heart. I still consider him my heart guru — there is no one like him. He was a genius.

    I began sitting, went to Naropa, and took several years before I was even ready to take refuge, which I did, with the Vajra Regent. He gave me my refuge name, which I love: Ngejung Trintso (Renunciation Cloud Lake.) I was then blessed to take B.vows with VACTR (Tsondru Youtso).

    Then I had a long and wandering path. I started Shambhala Training because it was what everyone was doing, and didn’t much take to it. I found the teachers, at that time, arrogant, dismissive, and uncurious. I hated the jargon. I thought “basic goodness” was hogwash. (As I said, an arrogant young girl). I just wanted to be a buddhist. I didn’t understand any need for ST.

    Fast forward many years, to the year 2001. After marriage and love affairs and being distracted and scared of the sangha and many twists and turns (but always practicing), I was fired from a job in NYC and went to Karme Choling. It completely turned me around. My practice finally was internalized, serious, deeply rooted. I rediscovered the shambhala teachings, and loved what they had to reveal. I was suspiscious of SMR, but met him many times and liked him. I always disagreed with some of his views and plans, but somehow I didn’t find that a problem.

    Finally, in 2003, I went to the first European seminary in France. I was and am studying with Khandro Rinpoche, who has changed my life forever, but I accepted pointing out from SMR. I didn’t find any problem or contradiction. He was very powerful, almost transparent with power, in that setting. And he was very kind to me.

    Since then, I have been interested in the changes. I don’t care for a lot of them, but I don’t feel any need to respond to each and every one. I paused in my kagyu ngondro, did the shambhala ngondro (beautiful), attended Rigden Abhisheka (amazing), and then returned to my regular kagyu ngondro, which I am now close to completing. I would not dream of abandoning this practice — it is my heart. VACTR is still my heart guru. I love and respect the Sakyong. And Khandro Rinpoche gave me my life back at a very dark and difficult time. She is brilliant and kind.

    To me, there is just no conflict. I practice as I wish, the dharma is my heart and not a hobby, and I feel incredibly blessed to have had such amazing teachers, all of whom have helped me so much. I’m aiming now for Vajrayogini, not worrying about Scorpion Seal.

    Am I doing something wrong?

    Khandro Rinpoche says that all buddhism can be summed up in two words: “Be kind.” I would agree. I also believe in rigor and accuracy in practice. So I’m always learning.

  17. John Tischer on August 5th, 2009 10:11 pm


    Are you going to L.G. this summer?

    I am……………..J.T.

  18. meg on September 25th, 2009 2:57 pm

    greetings everyone,

    i love this conversation.

    my husband and i have been in the sangha since 1988. so we dont quite fit in as ‘old dogs’ but we are not young puppies, some of whom seem quite razzle dazzled and so full of youthful enthusiasm that i makes us chuckle. there is a difference between between being blinded by the light and a more seasoned devotion which involves critical thinking. my husband and i have had a mantra for years that goes: they only request we leave our shoes by the door, not our brains.

    by way of brief background: we met at 94 seminary, took samaya with the then sawang and have bounced in and out of the sangha a few times. he’s now an MI and on his way to VY abhisheka and i as a sadhaka, just began the hoops of guide training.

    i just returned from guide training in berkeley two weeks ago. there were 25 of us and i was clearly the only sadhaka. in fact when i asked rather complex questions related to offering meditation instruction and tantric view and i wasn’t sure i could represent the ‘shambhala buddhist’ brand i was told and i quote: “you are the only one here w. that problem and therefore we’re not going to address it.” to clarify, this was not a comment by the acharya teaching the program, but one of the ADs.

    the acharya teaching made it very clear that as guides we are representing the lineage. being the smart ass i am, i could not hold back: so i raised my hand and asked ” what lineage?” and the answer i received was “the shambhala buddhist lineage”. I then asked “what is the shambhala buddhist lineage? why are we requiring shambhalians to become buddhists and how am i as a sadhaka supposed to represent the shambhala buddhist lineage?”

    and the reply i received was something to the effect: those questions are beyond the scope of this weekend. oh.

    so i then asked: if we are being asked to represent ‘the lineage’ and these questions are beyond the scope of the weekend, then what questions are within the scope of the weekend?” i figured i had nothing to lose at that point. bounce me out onto the streets of berkeley. who cares? i was met with ‘we’ll talk about this later’. and of course, we never did. fortunately that acharya is my MI so we will indeed have a more indepth conversation. i brought the questions up for the benefit of everyone but apparently i was in a roomful of true believers. some of whom probably have genuine devotion and committment. but i really wonder how many have taken the time to truly examine what is being asked. hell, now we’re told we should tell meditation students they only have to commit meditating 10 minutes a day. are we simply caving into the dark age? i came away wondering if this isnt simply evolving into mcdharma: fast food drive through meditation.

    part of me has perpetuated the story line that these are degenerate times and require a radical response hence the whole shambhala buddhist gig. but now i’m not so sure and i’m grateful to have a place i can share my doubts, continue to practice & trust wisdom is in the mix.

  19. Edward on September 25th, 2009 3:47 pm

    Thanks for sharing Meg.

    In desperate times, wise people seem to meditate more, not less. I remember reading about CTR traveling through the Himalayas to escape the Chinese, with limited provisions and old people dying left and right, and CTR would stop their progress so they could all meditate and go on retreats while their food ran out.

    That takes courage and confidence. Watering down practice is easy. It’s part of what makes a dark age dark.

    A radical response to dark times is what CTR and his Khenpo friend did in Tibet while they were waiting for the Chinese to completely overrun their country. They broke traditional rules and made the core pith practical teachings available to common people who had previously been denied access to them.

    Creating Shambhala Training and making it available to people of all faiths or no faith– that is an extremely courageous and generous response to dark times. Interfering with that training, or restricting who has access to it, seems to be somewhat… un-good, as Jon Stewart might say.

  20. Jim Wilton on September 26th, 2009 2:30 pm

    Thanks Meg. You and I have similar doubts. I deal with it in practice by sitting with the conflicting thoughts. It is harder if you are an MI, depending on how strong the doubts are. I do think you have to be honest about these things. But that does not mean solidfying the doubt.

    A couple of years ago, I started keeping a picture of the Sakyong on my puja table. Personally, it seemed a provocative thing to do. It has been slightly helpful in a long term way in softening me up. My wife says it is like joining the Kasung when you have a thing about the military.

    It is probably a mistake to judge what other people are experiencing. Maybe some people are “true believers” or not applying intelligence to their practice. But it is hard to generalize. If someone is a “true believer” other than having some compassion for that — why should it bother you?

    It is nice meeting you here. It sounds like you will be a great MI.

    I do think as an MI you should reconsider your resistance to recommending 10 minute sessions. A daily practice is a very powerful thing — even if it is only 10 minutes a day.

  21. meg on September 27th, 2009 12:02 am

    thanks jim. i appreciate your comments. i’m in a process of sorting out and some of what i have written reflects not having an outlet for any kind of dissent, questioning or disagreement anywhere. and you’re point is well taken: why should the true believers bother me. fair enough. what’s difficult is to be in a situation where if i am the only one questioning things, there’s clearly a message of ‘what’s wrong with you~where’s your devotion’ type of response. and as an MI (which i am not yet) it has been made clear to us that we are representatives of the lineage.

    i take that message to heart and i ask myself, ‘what am i representing…where is my integrity in this process?’

    as for photos: the sakyong has been my main teacher since 1994. but it has been an uneasy ride and i’ve kept my concerns to myself or confided them to the “wrong people”. i’ve been accused of being quite hard headed, told to practice more and contemplate doubtlessness. in short, i feel spiritual teachings and jargon were used to dampen any threat people might have felt by my questioning.

    and as for 10 minutes a day: yes, i agree it can be powerful for someone to do that. 10 minutes is certainly better than nothing and a good place to start. but if what we are offering is just better than nothing, what are we offering?

  22. Phyllis Murray on September 27th, 2009 5:59 pm

    Meg says:
    and as for 10 minutes a day: yes, i agree it can be powerful for someone to do that. 10 minutes is certainly better than nothing and a good place to start. but if what we are offering is just better than nothing, what are we offering?

    I’m inclined to agree. When I received my first meditation instruction (in 1980) I was told that to sit an hour a day was optimal, if that wasn’t possible to try for at least 45 minutes, and if I couldn’t do at least half an hour not to even bother because it would be useless. I believe that was the standard instruction at the time.

    My own experience has been that to meditating for 10 minutes doesn’t give my mind time to begin to settle and that I am not so much meditating as thinking I am meditating.

    We live in a speedy age, and I fear that we are becoming part of that rather than counteracting it.

    In this vein, I am wondering if the format of dathuns has been changed. Today I offered a nyinthun sitting at my house for some local people as we are not near a center. One participant said she preferred a two hour session as three hours was hard for her. Somewhat surprised, I pointed out that she had recently done a dathun at KCL, and she said yes, but that was different; there were a lot of breaks. This morning, we didn’t have any cushion time longer than 25 minutes without a walking break, and most were shorter, so I don’t know what her dathun was like. I hope we aren’t giving in to the dark age.

  23. rita ashworth on September 28th, 2009 6:28 am

    yeh i was advised to do 45 minutes per day as well and in the morning and to keep a record ot it aswell.

    the ten minute thing -could work-but perhaps 15 minutes would be better –
    I think in 15 minutes you would feel a little more into your environment and mind.

    meg I was wondering when you voicing your ‘dissent’ what was the attitude to this of other people in the room and indeed if any avenues were explored where you could voice your ‘dissent’.

    True believers -interesting turn of phrase -in some respects I would like to be a true believer -but I dont think this is point of any religion anywhere-does doubtlessness mean that you dont doubt or rather that you are willing to work with the teachings – I am willing to work with CTR’s teachings as given to me in the past but re some of his actions I really do have questions about them. For example why was he not more open about the Regent’s behaviour -he could have given more of a lead in people working with him…….perhaps he should have set more ground rules for example.

    The nubs of religion are behaviour in the world and a willingness to look honestly about the institutions, people you are involved in and perhaps at times to say no to the way they are manifesting in the world.

    I think true believers are more found in the states due to the colonial expansion there and people regarding the church as a source of learning and refuge. I think at the present time the US is still more of Christian society than Europe where the enlightenment happened. Indeed our literature is full of doubters witness Camus, Satre and in the UK Colin Wilson and so many recent playwrights like David Hare, Steven Poliakoff etc, etc.

    yes I do believe the ‘true believer’ concept needs to be more explored in America – so it would be interesting to have a discussion on it.


    Rita Ashworth
    Stockport UK

  24. Sherab Gyatso on October 8th, 2009 3:47 pm

    VCTR quote. The context is Dharma Art but he addresses the topic of lineage and lineage holders:

    “The training and discipline you have received is completely inherent; you possess it completely and thoroughly, and it’s now up to you how to present it. It’s the same as the wisdom of the lineage, which is handed down to a particular lineage holder, and that lineage holder exercises his own authority as to how to present it to his particular generation.”

    I am not a student of the Sakyongs. But that’s not his fault!

  25. James Elliott on October 9th, 2009 10:04 am

    Sherab Gyatso has raised an interesting point.

    First, the issue of whether or not one is a student of the Sakyong’s or not shouldn’t invoke a model of blame, either a teacher’s or our own. If it is a Buddhist school, that’s almost irrelevant. One makes a connection or one does not, and any effort to force that from either side is highly questionable

    If the goal is to teach a particular dharma, then that is the job of the teacher, and certainly he or she will have their own style. That does not give them the authority to make stuff up which is not in accord with general dharma or the lineage in which one professes membership, or to claim authorship of other teachings, or to claim teachings are from a particular source when they are not, or to mix them up like spices in a soup to please current trends. In short, there are limits to the freedom the next teacher in a lineage or succession has.

    But I also don’t think the role of Sakyong is the same as that of spiritual teacher. I’m not sure it can be if we are talking of enlightened society. A society is simply too large and diverse to expect all members to adhere to whatever teachings are the current state sanctioned outpouring. If that is to change with every succession, and all members must adhere to the newer version every time there is a succession, then there will simply never be a stable society to speak of. It’s an absurd notion, if we give it some thought and have any understanding of culture and tradition.

    Within a school members have a choice to join or not, and it does not hold sway over people’s lives in terms of taxes, infrastructure, resources, but can and does control the ability of people to participate in that particular school based on their beliefs. Indeed that is the standard Tibetan Buddhist model, and we can find many examples of that in religions, clubs, and special interest groups all over the world.

    But a Sakyong is supposed to be responsible for all the citizens, not only those citizens who have vowed to follow his particular current version of specific teachings.

    That function fails when the church and state is essentially the same thing. Then all citizens are indeed required to adhere to the latest version of teachings and practices, regardless of what came before, or they are not allowed full participation in the society.

    Then the holding together of a large community or society, becomes partial and fractious. Blame, if we must use that word, or the primary cause, does not belong to the citizens.

    This seems to be an ongoing problem with mixing the development of a society, with the practices and path associated with vajrayana Buddhism. The two are not in conflict exactly, may even complement each other, but cannot be regarded as the same sort of practice in any way I can see.

  26. Sam Slick on November 7th, 2009 5:15 am


  27. Cynde Delaina on January 10th, 2014 11:25 pm

    After I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a remark is added I get 4 emails with the same comment. Is there any method you may take away me from that service? Thanks!