Vajradhatu-Tradition Group Retreat

March 4, 2009 by     Print This Post Print This Post

Proposal by Charles Marrow

It has been interesting to see how the insight and good wishes of the sangha have unfolded through this web site. My good friend Mark Szpakowski and I have had occasional chats over the last year regarding how much of a community environment can be created in a web based format. He takes the general position that you can do a lot in a cyber/web format and I generally go with the old school notion that a community really needs a bricks and mortar environment. I have enjoyed the exploration of this theme with Mark and also found it satisfying to contribute a main article to Radio Free Shambhala

I would like to go further with the principle of sangha-ship by presenting a proposal for the consideration of the sangha and students of the Vidyadhara and Shambhala. I will be somewhat specific here, realizing that there may be good suggestions forthcoming that would result in modifications to what is said below. It is also possible that the following plan may meet with general approval from people and that this idea could go forward in a straightforward manner. The proposal is to:

Have a Vajradhatu Style Group Retreat to Practice and Study the Teachings of the Vidyadhara 

Location: Province of Nova Scotia
Time: Summer 2009

A. I would propose this be undertaken with the following philosophical understandings-

  1. That the sangha  would do so recognizing that Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is the true holder of the lineage of the Shambhala Sakyongs and, as such, has the duty and samaya to represent the dignity and goodness of Shambhala in the presentation of his office. This duty of the Sakyongs relates to manifesting Great Eastern Sun culture to those abiding as citizens of Shambhala and the world at large. The Sakyong is, furthermore, wonderfully supported in this sacred responsibility by the presence of the Sakyong Wangmo.
  2. That the social and political theory of the Kingdom of Shambhala recognizes the diversity of the aspirations of its citizens as may be held by individuals, families and communities guided by the principles of basic goodness and the vision of the Great Eastern Sun. 
  3. That with consideration of the principles mentioned above, in Shambhala society, various valid spiritual traditions, both Buddhist and other traditions will be respected and nurtured. Furthermore, that some students of the Vidyadhara, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche may want to create a sangha situation that focuses on the teachings and spiritual traditions presented by Trungpa Rinpoche in a manner very close to the way he taught during his lifetime. Trungpa Rinpoche presented these teachings variously under the names of the Kagyu, Nyingma and Shambhala lineages and also as the Vajradhatu tradition.
  4. That a true sangha, so convened, must take the responsibility to maintain an attitude of a tamed or shinjanged approach in conduct and in speech according to the basic teachings of the Buddha. The sangha needs to also maintain the gentleness of Shambhala and a common sense of civility and respect that would be held in esteem in the broader reaches of society.
  5. That the issues of practice and textual traditions fundamental to any valid Vajrayana tradition be respected in the manner taught by Trungpa Rinpoche. Furthermore, the issues regarding the process of vajrayana transmission will need to be addressed by the sangha as the process of the change of generations continues. This issue can be worked with in a gradual, respectful and intelligent manner. 
  6. That in order to enhance the quality of harmony, the following texts be considered to be intrinsic to the program:  Unlimited Friendliness (the Metta Sutta), Shambhala Edict of Wholesome Human Conduct, and the Bodhisattva Vow from the Bodhicharyavatara.

B. The following considerations pertain to convening a Vajradhatu tradition group retreat and relate to the format of practice and study. 

  1. The retreat be held in a modest but comfortable facility in the province of Nova Scotia for about 10 days during the summer of 2009.
  2. That the retreat be organized with an emphasis on group sitting practice, listening and discussing recorded talks of Trungpa Rinpoche. Also, the schedule would have Sadhana of Mahamudra and Vajrayogini and Werma sessions for practitioners already having those transmissions. 
  3. That certain understandings would be accepted and adhered to by any individual participant regarding the participation in the program. Those would  relate to attendance at the meditation and study sessions, observing good conduct and meeting prearranged financial and work commitments.

C. That in order to expedite the proposed program, a working committee be requested to do the practical and administrative work to accomplish the group retreat. [Important Note – NONE of these individuals (excepting myself) have been informed in advance of this request]

  1. Ken Friedman – coordinator for tape plays of Trungpa Rinpoche talks and the related discussion group.
  2. Charles Marrow – coordinator for meditation practice sessions and shrine room protocol.
  3. Mark Szpakowski – general dekyong and coordinator for communications.
  4. Andrew Speraw – coordinator of facility and finances
  5. Other interest contributors can be included

This concludes the proposal for a Vajradhatu tradition group retreat. I fully trust the intelligence and good wishes of the Sangha to consider what has been presented in a balanced and mature manner. As a request / suggestion for web comments…..I feel that given the practical (and visionary) nature of this particular topic, that those responding include their full name, city or town of residence and a method of contact, number or email address.

Thank you for your interest.

Charles Marrow 
545 Main St. 
Mahone Bay Nova Scotia 
Ph: (902) 531-2491


30 Responses to “Vajradhatu-Tradition Group Retreat”

  1. Mark Szpakowski on March 4th, 2009 12:48 pm

    Charles, there may be good reasons why people may not want to let loose their phone numbers and/or email addresses on a public forum. Perhaps if you offer your email address they could communicate directly with you. A somewhat safer (reduces chances of automatic harvesting of the email) way to publish an email address is using a form like:

    harry.neesah at uddiyana dot org (a human being can substitute the right symbols for at and for dot), so this is something you could do here, and people could email you directly and avoid publicizing their private info.

    – Mark

  2. rita ashworth on March 4th, 2009 1:41 pm

    Dear Charles

    I think your proposal for a group retreat is great. I hope you can keep radiofreeshambhala aware of how the whole thing is progressing.

    I am in the UK-I also dont know if I could make it but I could publish details of it to people over here in the UK.

    Do you know where you could hold it in NS -maybe the Nova Scotia Tourist Board could help you out on that one.

    I believe also that I am not sure that other religious traditions have bases for group retreat in NS -perhaps you could google for a venue.

    Best for the new year.

    Rita Ashworth
    Stockport UK

  3. Suzanne Duarte on March 4th, 2009 8:01 pm

    Thank you, Charles Marrow! My god, what a splendid and delicious idea! And so well stated. My heart leaps. Tears come to my eyes. I’d like to suggest inclusion of the Sadhana of Mahamudra in the program.

    Since I am in Europe, I don’t know whether we (husband and me) can make it, but I am definitely interested, to say the least. Forgive me for not including my email address, but after the misuse of my photo, I would like to avoid the misuse of my email address. (Mark has it.)

    With gratitude,
    Suzanne Duarte
    Amsterdam, Netherlands

  4. Edward on March 7th, 2009 4:45 pm

    This sounds like a great idea.

    I agree with Mr. Szpakowski that the internet can be an effective medium for many things, but I also think practicing together in person has a tremendous amount to offer– the magic, synergy, inspiration and expectation that happens. It’s hard to find a substitute for that.

    I’m not sure I could make it to the retreat, but I would try to do so, assuming either all or part of it would be open to people who’d only gotten to Shambhala level 4 or 5.

    I love the Sadhana of Mahamudra, especially when it’s done with certain kinds of folks.

    Western U.S.

    P.S. I don’t feel comfortable publishing my private contact info on the Internet, but I’d be happy to phone or email someone if that seemed useful.

  5. Charles Marrow on March 7th, 2009 5:26 pm

    A further thought about the retreat…..

    In response to Edward’s question and to fill out the picture a little bit further…We could tentatively suggest that the “prerequisites” for the retreat are very simple, e.g. the person has done at least one weekend of sitting meditation (Zen, Theravadin, nyinthun or a Shambhala Level), is willing to accept the structure of the program, which would be worked out and communicated in a clear manner, and that they have an interest in the teachings of Trungpa Rinpoche and the Vajradhatu practice tradition. It is my hope that we could develop an authentic dharma program over a few summers that would have some of the quality of Trungpa Rinpoche’s Vajradhatu seminaries.

    Thanks for your interest and happy to know that Edward lives in the Western USA (its where my Mom lives)

  6. Jackson on March 9th, 2009 5:36 pm

    from # 5 “Furthermore, the issues regarding the process of vajrayana transmission will need to be addressed by the sangha as the process of the change of generations continues.”

    it seems to me that this issue is one that should be determined by the lineage holders, the Gurus, and not the sangha. I make a point of this because it seems to me to be indicative of the tone of a lot of what goes on in this site. I quite often feel like people are upset at the Sakyong because he is not the Vidyadhara, or to be more precise, because he is not leading the sangha in what they believe is the style the Vidyadhara would have chosen to lead if he had lived longer (and isn’t that really a rather large presumption on our parts, based on our own limited experience in this lifetime?) And that in the absence of the Vidyadhara pruning their egos down to size, the egos are getting larger. What I mean is that once you lose your in person connection to the Guru, it is real easy to stray from the Vajrayana, to think we know better, because things do get messy and a real Guru has a way of cutting you apart but at the same time leaving you just enough ground to work your own way through it (though it may not always seem like it). From what I’m reading on this site, I don’t feel like we on our own without the continual exposing of our raw hearts neuroses to a qualified Guru (which is of course vulnerable and scary to the ego) can have much hope of cutting through our habitual patterns that keep us stuck in samsara. We need that refinement to stabilize the view. If after careful consideration one does not feel that connection to the Sakyong, fair enough, there are plenty of other lineages and Gurus around these days. But I think its egregious on our own part to jump to the conclusion that the Sakyong is unqualified as a lineage holder/Guru. It’s one thing to make that decision for ourselves, but its entirely a different thing to stir up that kinda energy on a website that may actually turn some people off from connecting with what may possibly be the Guru/lineage they need to connect with, according to their karmic aspirations and intentions from their past lives practice. Really, who are we to make that kinda blanket judgment for others? And I do feel like that kinda energy pops up on this site. Is it just nostalgia masquerading as protecting the lineage/Guru’s teachings? Or have we all been infected with the American ideal of democracy and personal rights? As I said, in the Vajrayana, things get messy, chaotic, stirred up, we will be disappointed, depressed and feel cheated at times, all that is a natural part of the process. I think we can extract sentences from his books (as if it epitomizes his view in all situations) and express our sentiments (which are quite often ego driven) to the cows come home, but might it not be better to, even if we don’t take him as our Guru, give others the benefit of the doubt to draw their own conclusions without universalizing and solidifying our own experience? Really I feel like there is too much clinging going on because things are not going the way we want them to. We cannot control how the teachings manifest themselves to us. As Vajrayana practitioners, we should strive to maintain the view, and really any crying over so-called external circumstances is as much a reflection of our own clinging to dualistic forms. We should take it all as practice and if we commit to the sangha, do our best to keep things harmonious outwardly while dealing with our own inner ego meltdown, and not confuse the two. Personally, I think if the Sakyong was as far out of step from the Vidyadhara as some are claiming, he wouldn’t have gone anywhere near Thinley Norbu Rinpoche. Also, I’m sorry, I don’t have any sense of sadness for those of you who are still longing for the good old days, for what has been lost. Impermanence is painful, deal with it. If you can’t handle losing your sangha or your Guru, how will you cope in the bardo, when you will have to leave all these illusory forms behind?

  7. Edward on March 9th, 2009 11:23 pm

    Jackson, wow, thank you for this insightful commentary. You make some excellent points about disappointment and messiness. And I see my tendency to complain rather than practice.

    And like you I would prefer, if I was part of a sangha or family, to deal with certain issues privately rather than out in public. I sympathize with this notion myself– though I’m not sure if that’s an asset or a liability– and was slightly shocked when I first found this website. But then I became inspired by how brave you people are in being able to discuss things so openly and civilly. I mean that truly.

    It’s actually very attractive, and it’s lightyears away from how, say, the Catholic church sometimes finds itself in the public limelight. Those people are incredibly good at secrecy, by the way, and yet ultimately they can’t prevent certain things from popping out.

    Anyway… maybe I wouldn’t feel the same need to participate on this website if I could hear how the Sakyong is receiving advice from the sangha. When Mr. Rome asked what should happen if people thought the Sakyong was going in the wrong direction stylistically, VCTR didn’t say “shame on you for asking such a question! Get the frak out of here!”. He said that those students should serve an advisory role, and the Sakyong would have the ultimate authority.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but the impression I’m getting is that the Sakyong does not want that kind of advice, at least he does not want it given in a private manner, you know, out of the public eye. To take it a step further, I sometimes get the idea that the Sakyong doesn’t even want to be Sakyong, at least in the sense I understand it, as championing the non-sectarian, non-Buddhist Shambhala Teachings, and protecting those teachings from (among other things) encroachment from Buddhist chauvinism / ownership dangers.

    Can you say more about what you propose in such a situation?

    Also I’m not sure that an “advisory website” is the only, or the most controversial, solution that people have proposed lately. Particularly in regards to vajrayana transmissions, I’ve heard of more controversial things coming out of this lineage.

    What I love about all this is that there’s no safety net, there’s no one to save us from our own potential mistakes, which hopefully makes us more mindful about what we’re doing. My old teacher once said to one of his students (someone who was perhaps always trying to look good, always trying to be seen doing things the “correct” way), that the day might come when he would realize that he’d been deluding himself for decades about his practice, and that he’d been going about it wrong the whole time.

    Now that’s a sobering thought.

  8. Jackson on March 10th, 2009 1:05 am

    Edward, this life is so precious, so rare. Really, I think its best to just find a Guru we trust and deepen our devotion to them by offering our practice for the benefit of all beings. We are all gonna die and we don’t know when. It would be very sad to die having met the Vajrayana teachings but not having engaged fully with a Guru to the point where we are confident enough to enter the bardo. And that is what happens to most of us who even have the great merit to connect with the Vajrayana in this brief lifetime. We spend more time gossiping with the sangha than practicing guru devotion, without which there is no basis for the view. I feel like we as practitioners are not taking the opportunity we have to truly practice (myself included btw) the Vajrayana and instead are getting caught up in sangha politics, in semantics, in ego driven desires to control the direction of SI and the Vidyadhara’s lineage, but really there needs to be only one rider of that horse and the Vidyadhara proclaimed it to be the Sakyong. And by practicing the Vajrayana, I mean trying to cultivate pure vision, sacred outlook towards all phenomena, including the Sakyong. When you are drawing your last breath, will it really help you to have confidence in the view to know that the Sakyong has heard your opinions on his leadership of the sangha? Really, think about it…..what difference does it make? What is more important in this life? Where we are expending our energy and time, is it going to pay off when we are in the bardo? Why do we assume we have enough (or greater) realization to question the Sakyong’s direction? Are we not just, by trying to solve what we perceive to be a problem, only further entrenching ourselves (and possibly others) in samsara? Really, I have to strongly agree with what Gesar posted recently about how we should all just shut up and go practice….myself included, so on that note… of luck to ya!

  9. James Elliott on March 10th, 2009 3:02 am

    I tend to agree with you, Charles, that a community can’t fully depend upon cyberspace. It’s like an illusion of an illusion. It’s not the brick and mortar that’s missing so much as the hearts and minds and bodies… all the textures and feelings, smells and sights, the annoyances and obstacles as well as joys and inspiration that comes with banging elbows with the whole wide world out there, an inconceivably complex confluence of influences Buddhist philosophy calls ‘codependent origination’.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s useless; for making contact and communicating, exchanging ideas, raising issues and for organizing the internet it’s a quantum leap from the before times and has some tangible value and indeed power.

    I don’t live in Nova Scotia so probably this idea for a Vajradhatu vajrayana retreat may be none of my damn business… but it’s on this site which is not restricted to Nova Scotia. I think it’s a fine idea, but have to say I might have had trouble attending if I were there, due to the preconditions set out. Not because I’ve already taken a side, but rather because these kinds of preconditions are there at all. I suspect this may in some way be one reason for the division in the sangha you acknowledged in your previous post to RFS, why there is some question about ‘Shambhala Buddhism’s, and a fairly clear example of how we tend to politicize practice thereby.

    While there are certainly ground rules and necessary understandings for practicing vajrayana, it ain’t just a walk in the park, I’m not at all sure they entail philosophical understandings. Be that as it may, the preconditions you present are not in fact philosophical in nature, they are political, and I am fairly certain that is not a prerequisite for practicing genuine dharma or any level of vajrayana be it from Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche or any other realized teacher.

    The first prerequisite is that we accept a specific political power, which as described would include the entire cosmology and structure of that political system, as a precondition for gathering to study vajrayana teachings of the Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The implication here is that if one does not accept that statement with gusto akin to a vajrayana commitment, or at least keep one’s mouth shut if not in total agreement, then one should not attend this gathering regardless of whether or not Trungpa Rinpoche is one’s root guru.

    Quite apart from which aspects of whatever cosmology may be true or not, regardless of the possible factions that may exist within Shambhala International, I can’t wrap my head around the notion that belief in a political structure has very much at all to do with the stuff of spiritual work, like shamatha, tonglen, or in this case sadhana practices. Equating my path and practice with a political agenda seems to me an unfortunate mind set which I have found for myself to be insidious and undermining to what I understand the true aims of practice to be.

    The second point, “That the social and political theory of the Kingdom of Shambhala recognizes the diversity of the aspirations of its citizens” is a good aspiration no doubt, but put into this context it’s not simply an aspiration. It’s presented as a belief required as prerequisite for gathering to study some very sophisticated vajrayana teachings. If there is a ‘social and political theory of the Kingdom of Shambhala’, I haven’t heard it yet, and what does fizzle through is not always something I can agree with, and often seems so changeable and shifty it can hardly be considered a coherent ‘social and political theory’.

    Further this prerequisite implies we have to believe that this political structure, that Shambhala International does in fact honor this aspiration, before we can attend such a gathering intended to practice and study the teachings of VCTR. I’m sure many people with responsibility take those aspirations to heart. I am also just as certain some do not. Where would I fit in?

    Frankly I don’t think any political structure as an entity in itself can ever truly have intents in this way, it’s the individuals that do, and the intents of individuals really can’t be corralled into one unified mind set, presumably so that the organization has a unified front(?). There’s all kinds of reasons that’s a bad idea.

    Points 3 and 4 are continuations of the first two preconditions and are simply descriptions of how one needs to comport oneself in order to show respect for a political structure and what we are told to believe its intents are, i.e. to express the acceptance of points 1 and 2.

    Number 5 is free of any problem in that we do need to respect these materials in the way they were given us. Nothing more need be said about that.

    I doubt very much however, that the political structure one must accept in the first place in order to attend, would ever allow the kinds of issues described regarding succession and empowerment, and the handing down of wisdom and teachings, and indeed power, be decided in any other way than the political structure itself allows, so I’m not at all sure what is being referred to with: “…the issues regarding the process of vajrayana transmission will need to be addressed by the sangha as the process of the change of generations continues.” That needs to be unpacked further because it’s in conflict with the opening prerequisite, so doesn’t make sense as is.

    I wonder if these kinds of decisions are part of the study and practice of vajrayana at all, but it would be interesting to discuss how those kinds of things are ever decided. That such decisions might be given to groups of sangha members with disparate views and various agendas hardly seems auspicious. What agenda do you think a vajrayana study/practice group ought to have? A shamatha group? A Shambhala Training group? Can that ever lead to anything other than a struggle for power?

    To put this all in another perspective, imagine for a moment a Christian church that opens its doors to all comers, but has a High Mass that not all can attend. In order to gain entrance into that High Mass, one must attest that one believes George Bush was, or for that matter Barak Obama is, carrying out the vision of the American dream, is supporting the best vision of the best society which reflects your highest values, and that he has your best interests at heart. If you do not, then your are not welcome.

    There may be a few backwater churches where everyone believes the same things about politics and shuns those who do not, but I think we are all civilized enough to agree that it makes no sense to make the practice of contemplative Christianity or any religion at any level dependant on belief in the prevailing political structure or administration, regardless of whether it is ‘our guy’ or someone else’s.

    If so propagated, the practice of religion then becomes an extension of the political structure, and the true aims of spiritual work become harder to discern. There’s all kinds of further problems with that as well, but the first problem is how it thwarts clear vision.

    I am not trying to say anything one way or the other about the Sakyong Mipham’s legitimacy. I fear that raising any concerns on these points will be construed in that way, as either loyal or traitorous. I think those two poles are unfair and inaccurate. And political.

    I only want to make clear that the practice of vajrayana Buddhism, an individual journey one enters into through the blessings and empowerment of one’s vajra master, a commitment that is nothing like a legal document or anything else I’m aware of, has never been as far as I can see, dependant on belief or acceptance of any prevailing political structure whatsoever. That’s one of the things that makes it so very powerful.

    To make the preconditions “No politics” wouldn’t be right either, but it would be better than making attendance dependant on certain beliefs that probably have little bearing on whether or not one is a sincere or genuine practitioner or not.

    In the inspiration of taming the political structure to allow genuine dharma practice, rather than the other way around,
    James Elliott

  10. Charles Marrow on March 10th, 2009 9:48 am

    -Cheerful Milarepa Day –

    Thanks for everyone’s recent remarks. As was said, a practitioner is mindful of the preciousness of life and of time. In my case, I need to get to our local center to join a session of Milarepa Day and then go to work and contribute to my paycheck! With that in mind, I would like to remind people that this particular discussion began with a proposal to gather in the coming months to practice and study Trungpa Rinpoche’s Kagyu, Nyingma and Vajradhatu teachings. The specifics mentioned in my proposal were primarily intended to create a skillful focus to assist the reader in visualizing what was being proposed. There are, undoubtedly, limitations and, quite possibly, a bit too much stiffness in how things were expressed in the proposal. In the actual flow of life and implementing the activity, I generally think those things become obvious and natural to the participants or they fall by the wayside if they are too cumbersome or inappropriate. So those are just a few remarks to provide a little bit more context. The main point to consider is if the theme of the group retreat is interesting and valuable.

    Jackson’s remarks about the need for a living lineage holder and guru are very helpful. If I were to apply my own feelings combined with references from the teachings of Trungpa Rinpoche and other masters, I would say that the most genuine way is to practice and study directly with an authentic master one has complete faith in. In the context of this proposal, the spiritual authority for convening a Vajradhatu Group Retreat is based on my faith in the sanity and past training of an inspired group of sangha members. This is combined with a faith in the lineage, the Vidyadhara, the Kagyu and the Nyingma masters. For me, this basic inspiration is further supported by the wonderful manifestation of Karmapa Urgyen Thinley Dorje XVII and the kind and wise example of the Ven. Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche. I also feel that there are other living lineage masters that could help inspire us to further Trungpa Rinpoche’s Vajradhatu teachings. Let me conclude here with two quotes that may help as support for this proposed effort. A reference is added so the reader can go to the original material to read an expanded version for a more complete context.

    First, from the “Spiritual Will of Dorje Dradul of Mukpo”, posted on the chronicles web site:

    “The relationships with other Buddhist organizations should be kept continuously friendly. On the whole, the expansion of Vajradhatu should be one of the most important focuses. My death should not prevent or slow down any vision.”

    Secondly, Trungpa Rinpoche teaches on the refuge vow, in the book “Heart of the Buddha” pg. 106 regarding the refuge vow ceremony itself:

    “The discipline of taking refuge is more that a doctrinal or ritual thing…Buddhism is transmitted into your system. Something in the lineage which is very physical…enters your heart as your commitment to openness takes place. The third time you say, ‘I take refuge in the sangha’, the preceptor snaps his fingers. This is the moment of real transmission. At that moment the sperm, so to speak, enters your system and you become part of the lineage. From that moment onward you are a follower of the practicing lineage of the Kagyu…”

    In regards to the practical aspects of communication and organizing the retreat, I am using a little bit of personal intuition and sensing that when we get a core group of people who can bring things together, then that can expand to a gathering consisting of 20 to 30 people which could be a decent group dynamic. Again, we do not have a lot of time, but I think we are still in range to make practical arrangements for a facility in Nova Scotia for a ten day practice session sometime during the coming months from July to September 2009. Please feel free to give me a phone call as noted below. Also, I obviously take note of the individual comments on this web site.

    Have a cheerful Milarepa Day….Karmapa Khyenno!!!

    Charles Marrow
    525 Main St.
    Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, B0J 2E0
    Ph. (902) 531-2491

  11. rita ashworth on March 10th, 2009 2:14 pm

    who cares about the bardo when you snuff it ——-its this world I am interested in………….mind the gap as they say on the tube in London.


    Rita Ashworth
    stockport uk

  12. rita ashworth on March 11th, 2009 2:05 pm

    “who cares about the bardo when you snuff it ………..etc, etc’

    …….So sorry missed the quote from the above post – I was replying to ie

    “We are all gonna die and we don’t know when. It would be very sad to die having met the Vajrayana teachings but not having engaged fully with a Guru to the point where we are confident enough to enter the bardo.” posted from Jackson

    …..seems to me talk about the bardo can only at best be speculation…..and really the Tibetan Book of the Dead was about relating to ‘death’ ie the gap of shunyata in life as Trungpa Rinpoche wrote in the preamble to Francesca Freemantle’s translation of the book. Think its important point to make and relevant to the evolving splits in Shambhala…….that is I think people worry unnecessarily as to who has the real hit on the teachings thats why some people who may feel disgruntled with SI are not posting on this website because they feel they will lose the ‘precious’ teachings of the Vidyadhara. But I dont think this fear should preclude us from exploring divergent paths from SI whether within SI structure or not. Really have to get down to brass tacks as to what we want to study, practice……..thats why I still have my qualms about the Rinchen Terzod………for example Rinpoche talks in the Lions Roar about having American Tantra…….surely other teachings will evolve from each country as we go on practicing…….I think we have to leave some space for teachings to come from our own cultures.


    Rita Ashworth
    Stockport UK

  13. Chris Chandler on March 11th, 2009 3:48 pm

    Dear Rita:

    That’s what we are all working with now . Your post says it.

    When Keith Dowman, long time Tibetan translator was here, it was a powerful retreat in terms of what was pith to the teachings and practice, and what was irrelevant. Most is irrelevant eventually, and is seen as cultural overlay or provisional. We spoke quite a bit about the bardo teachings in the light you are referring to. What transmigrates , for example, if we don’t exist? To say mind stream is a fancy way of saying something exists.

    We seem to have, too long, also neglected our own culture, choosing a neo-Tibetophilism that seems to be wearing thin as we begin to have a more authentic relationship with teachers and others from an Asian culture. I think we first adopted the “whole cloth” with very, very little understanding of what we were adopting or emulating. That is probably common, and probably Tibetans did the same thing when the Buddhist teachings came to Tibet from India. How much was necessary and how much was Indian cultural overlay.

    I was fascinated to be recently reading Pascal and realize that he had spoken quite extensively on the first two noble truths, for example.

    If you want to read someone really fascinating you can acess Adrianne Clemente (spelling) and long-time Dzogchen student of Namkai Norbu Rinpoche, and also a doctoral level western philosopher who happens to be Venezualian. He is brilliant, a bit much in his head but fascinating. He incorporates much of Western philosophy in his Dzogchen writings, and also debunks alot of Ken Wilber and psychobuddhism by comparing his transpersonal stuff with authentic Dzogchen teachings, the similarities and the pivotal divergences, ( he says Ken Wilbur has only reached a form or formless realm, I can’t remember which, but which is quite delusional from a Dzogchen point of view).

    It is dense but fascinating if you can wade through it. Lots of esoteric Dzogchen/Buddhist content too. He was a translator, long-time Dzogchen practitioner, i.e. actually has done retreat and student of Trangu Rinpoche, and Namkai Norbu and I think Dudjom Rinpoche, (not sure about the latter. He actually thanks Trangu Rinpoche in the foreword for giving him Dzogchen pointing out transmission. So there is much interesting material here. Google , and he has published his works online intact.

    It will be nice, however, when more Asian teachers show as much interest in Western culture as CTR did. But he was a Renaissance man, as well as a mahasiddha.

  14. Edward on March 11th, 2009 5:23 pm

    It’s absolutely astounding to me sometimes… how VCTR came to American and offered such beautiful simple teachings that cut through all types of confusion. He wore western clothes, taught people to speak English better, and did all sorts of things. He was one of the very first Buddhist teachers on this continent.

    And now today, almost 40 years later, it’s like a zoo. People want to learn to speak Tibetan, they want all kinds of bizarre foreign cultural trappings, and the more they get of all that stuff, the more of a pain they are to be around. It’s like giving crack to a crack addict to indulge people’s fascination with foreign credentials.

    Anyway… I thought this thread was supposed to be about group retreat, and whether people liked the idea or not, and could make it or not? Or had other suggestions on the subject?

  15. Michael Sullivan on March 11th, 2009 5:27 pm

    Adriano Clemente is Italian, and is Chogyal Namkhai Norbu’s “main” translator.

    I think you may be referring to Elias Capriles, also a longtime student of ChNN, who is I believe Venezuelan.

  16. Edward on March 11th, 2009 5:33 pm

    Jackson, I honestly am not sure if a living lineage holder is always and constantly necessary, particularly if one has spent years with a living teacher who has passed on, but in whom one has tremendous faith.

    But even without all that fancy stuff… Just sitting and reading genuine dharma is pretty good in my book. I’ve seen amazing things occur to people at beginning Shambhala levels.

    Plus, lineage holders sometimes make terrible mistakes, as we may remember. Yes, in today’s world, this actually can happen.

    My root guru had an extremely high regard for Trungpa Rinpoche, and as it turns out I have some real faith in Trungpa Rinpoche’s students, and in an environment that might be created with them.

    As you pointed out Jackson, I sometimes fixate on things. But at the same time, my (someday) willingness to practice with everything that arises would not make me into a pushover, I would hope. I don’t think that going along with everything that other people promote is necessarily the sign of a true practitioner, even if the promoter is a guru. My old teacher used to promote all kinds of stuff, just to see how his students would react, and to test their understanding. He once said there is a sucker born far more often than once a minute. I think there might be some truth to that, because we’re so full of hope and fear, so allergic to the vividness of our own experience.

    This is the bardo, and we’re looking for a comfortable home in it, someplace protected and approved by parental figures.

    Are there any other comments about group retreat?

  17. Chris Chandler on March 11th, 2009 5:55 pm

    Dear Michael:

    yes it was Elias Capriles I meant to say. Very interesting, albeit headystuff and all online.

    There was quite a bit of very interesting information in his material that you just wouldn’t find anywhere else.

    And, by the way, Edward, there is a difference between a guru-teacher-student relationship with a Vajrayana teacher, and a Dzogchen teacher. It is not the same. So that you are not expected in the latter case to lose your intelligence, and go along with everything the teacher says , like jumping off a building because the teacher said so. After all what has been pointed out is the nature of mind, and developing clarity should be happening. But devotion and a living teacher is still very important to guide you along the path by someone who has much practice experience and can help you differentiate between genuine awareness, and meditation nyams. You do need a living teacher in both Vajrayana and Dzogchen. Otherwise, the dharma becomes like a patch, just an intellectual understanding, or result in places where you can get lost, without someone pointing you continuously in the right direction from there own experience, mistakes, nyams, etc. The teacher becomes an inspiration and a model of the direction you are going in, not a Vajrayana master where you are doing everything they say however absurd to break through conceptual mind. Different strokes etc..

  18. Chris Chandler on March 11th, 2009 9:09 pm

    Thank you again for your correction to Elias Capriles. I found his paper again on the 3 types of Self- Liberation and the Source of Danger is Fear. It is amazing material, with acknowledged influences from R.D. Laing, Alan Watts, and Lao-Tzu as well.
    I put this link up for anyone interested,

    particularly the paper entitled “Self-Liberation and some Loops.”

  19. Michael Sullivan on March 11th, 2009 9:18 pm

    Sometimes I think that the manifestation of this site, and the move to spontaneously organize a practice retreat outside of conventional structure, is a form of self-liberation at the collective or sangha level….

  20. Charles Marrow on March 12th, 2009 9:17 am

    – Greetings to the “Radio Free” Sangha –

    I would suggest that all of us that are able, including friends and fellow practitioners proceed to gather for the Vajradhatu Tradition Retreat. There have been some concrete and positive responses to the idea and my sense is we have enough interest to hold the retreat. In recent days I have made some inquiries regarding facilities and accomodations and there should still be some nice options for a 10 day program for 20 to 30 people but, as we can understand, the practical considerations of reserving a place need to be related to soon.

    So as a means to confirm the direction we are going: I am working with the theme, format and clarifying remarks that were made in the initial article about the retreat and comments on the thread that I made March 7 and 10. For scheduling purposes, we can work towards confirming any 10 day period that is most possible for the largest number of interested sangha participants. The budget / cost for the retreat would be in the range of $400 to $800 Canadian.

    Please feel free to pass along this general information to any practitioner friends who you think might want to participate and might not be reading this web site.

    Please send expressions of interest to:

    A. Name – Address – Phone No. – Email
    B. Which dates are possible for you to participate
    C. A few points of reference as background for you as a practitioner, e.g. Year and person with whom you took refuge, level of practice e.g. Vajrayogini Sadhana or Shamatha student, Shambhala training levels you have done, etc.
    D. Any miscellaneous suggestions, remarks or inspirations that come to mind.

    Thanks so much and I hope to see many friends, old and new, in sunny Nova Scotia this summer.

    Charles Marrow
    Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

  21. John Tischer on March 12th, 2009 3:51 pm

    “To say mind stream is a fancy way of saying something exists.”

    I disagree. Example, when we watch a movie, we
    are in essence watching a mind stream. No one would say that the action is taking place. Our lives are the same….a seemingly reel illusion. If that’s true, then there’s no problem with the illusion continuing from life to life due to karmic cause and effect. What’s the difference between going to sleep and waking the next morning, and rebirth? In terms
    of experience, only that the continuity seems more
    obvious. I heard that The Vidyadhara was once asked, what’s it like for an enlightened tulku to be reborn, and the answer I heard was that it’s like
    moving to another city.

  22. Edward on March 12th, 2009 4:20 pm

    I heard that The Vidyadhara was once asked, what’s it like for an enlightened tulku to be reborn, and the answer I heard was that it’s like
    moving to another city.

    On that note, I hope that the Vidyadhara is being well taken care of in his Twelfth Trungpa incarnation. I don’t know much about that, but I heard that somebody recognized such a person.

    I remember reading in Born in Tibet about how many political factors were involved in the Eleventh Trungpa’s upbringing. I’m not sure that the world is less dark than it was then. I hope in the “new city” he’s in, he has access to the things he needs.

    That’s one Tibetan tradition that doesn’t seem so terrible– the idea that a teacher’s students would help serve the new tulku when he or she was reborn.

    Getting back to the original comment, I personally have some sense that rebirth is actually a real thing.

  23. Charles Marrow on March 14th, 2009 6:22 pm

    I think the comments here, exploring the importance of a living lineage holder are very good and important. As we know, Trungpa Rinpoche’s generation of dharma masters who came to the west arose from a very long term tradition of monasteries and the unique approach of the Tibetans of recognizing Tulkus.

    Maybe it is time to have some focused discussion on how the Trungpa wisdom and lineage can continue for us with a recognized lineage holder. There is actually a good amount of information available in many forms; anecdotal, common sense, scholarly, etc. For example, I think HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said there could be five emanation tulkus of Chogyam Trungpa. Trungpa Rinpoche himself, indicated a wide range of possibilities as to how the continuity of the Kagyu dharma might continue. Many of us know a a few somewhat “famous” hints suggested by the Vidyadhara in various talks of his. In my thinking, this exploration would be more than could be accomplished in a web discussion and could potentially be one of the purposes of a retreat / dharma conference.

    On a slightly different note, it may be that the Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche, HH Karmapa and perhaps Rabjam Rinpoche, from the nyingma tradition could provide valuable insight if we preparated our thoughts and questions for them properly.

    So those are some thoughts for the day…..Charles

  24. rita ashworth on March 16th, 2009 2:43 pm

    thats the first time I heard that about Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche saying there would be five emanations of Trungpa Rinpoche -could you go into a little more depth about this.

    ……..I’ve heard the one about the Japanese scientist(JOKE?) but were there any more other takes on what would happen that sounded reasonable……….just thinking that people need to be informed about everything that occured at that time in the 80’s……….even if it sounds absurd.

    Still dont know how Trungpa Rinpoche wanted the whole thing to be politically-thats why I am posting on this site to really understand how Trungpa Rinpoche envisaged an enlightened society to be manifest in the world.

    ………re consutling another lineage holder about how to go forward that sounds interesting…………could it be done democratically……….plus there is still the shambhala teachings……… would we view them with another lineage holder…………..just musing on things at the moment.


    rita ashworth

  25. Charles Marrow on March 19th, 2009 6:01 pm

    ……Last Call…..
    For the Vajradhatu Tradition Retreat. I need to hear from more people in the next 5 to 7 days. To assist your visualization….basic dharma, wake up, 7ish with breakfast and sitting til noon. Then lunch, a little work period, afternoon dharma talk (there is someone probably available who is very good with Trungpa Rinpoche’s Vajrayana teachings), probably time for open discussion, then dinner. Evening would be all watching / listening to a talk by the Vidyadhara.

    Shrine would have central image as Buddha or Vajradhara with Trungpa Rinpoche, the Sakyong and Karmapa XVII as lineage figures. Liturgy for morning and evening chants would be late 80’s / early 90’s vintage.

    Politics….no problem, we are Shambhala and Shambhala embraces diversity.

    Any other questions….please refer to previous posts.

    Karmapa Khyenno!!! Charles

  26. Edward on March 29th, 2009 4:31 pm

    I would like to come to one of these retreats, but I don’t think I can make it this summer.

    Perhaps there can be another one next year, if this one happens and goes well.

  27. Constance Wilkinson on April 7th, 2009 9:51 am

    Anyone for a virtual retreat?

    Big virtual tent?

    The wide-mind kind? Sans credentials, as is said?

    Spontaneously arisen?

    dawa chotso lodro garma

  28. Andrew Speraw on June 10th, 2009 11:18 pm


    Where is Gesar’s comment? I’ve never seen him post anything on here so please direct me to that thread if you know where it is…

  29. Mark Szpakowski on June 11th, 2009 7:20 am
  30. Andrew Speraw on June 14th, 2009 3:38 am

    Thank you sir.