Dharma in Europe

October 23, 2009 by     Print This Post Print This Post

Report by Bill Karelis   – Propagating the Dharma in Europe, September – October 2009

I am grateful to the Radio Free Shambhala website for publishing this introduction to the photo essay which is to be found on the Shambhala Times site.  The photo essay includes a few remarks on the various cultures in Europe I have savored.

By way of summary, I have toured Europe for Dharma purposes about thirty times in the last fifteen years, including for 4 ½ weeks this September – October, 2009.   This time, I visited the United Kingdom , the Netherlands , Germany , Poland , the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Romania , offering a total of sixteen public talks or intensive programs in twelve locations.   I am happy to report that the Dharma practice of some of the people I have met over the years is taking root, and small groups are forming, based on the teachings of the Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and his predecessors.

Romanian Sangha at Complete Teachings of Mahayana program

I have been asked my intentions for this work by many senior students.   I feel I am, in the words of the Vidyadhara, “just propagating the Dharma”–as I have been doing more or less without cease since 1994.    There is no change in direction on my side at all, although there is a change in sponsorship and venue.   My feeling is that the teachings of the Vidyadhara are for all humankind, and that they could and should be disseminated much more widely.    I do not feel that I am doing something special, nor that I am special by doing this.

It is traditional to propagate in the world at a certain point in one’s Dharma trajectory.   I have been informing my teachers of my direction, and so far there is no objection.   In fact, I have received encouragement to continue on.   I see no contradiction to the Dharma work of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and Shambhala International.   It is just more Dharma.   I am in no sense leaving the Vajradhatu sangha, or the Shambhala community–in fact, it is turning out to be quite the opposite.    There is directness and honesty now which has been liberating to some communications, and the heartfelt bond remains as before.

In my travels, I have encountered a great number of the Vidyadhara’s senior students, who feel shy for some reason to contribute their Dharma understanding and practice experience to others.  In the spirit of inclusivity, I would like to invite anyone interested to advise me, discuss with me, and possibly join with me in this work, according to their own inspiration and training.   The invitation also includes newer students.   Feel free to write to bkarelis@yahoo.com.


15 Responses to “Dharma in Europe”

  1. Edward on October 23rd, 2009 11:21 pm

    Bravo. Real action. Inspiring.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    Bill Karelis writes:
    My feeling is that the teachings of the Vidyadhara are for all humankind

    This sounds right to me. And I think this includes people who do not wish to convert to Buddhism, such as people who take pride in being Christian, or from a Native American heritage.

    I’m curious to know if Mr. Karelis is still doing Shambhala Levels in prisons and other settings, or if he is focused primarily on Buddhist training at this time.

  2. Suzanne Duarte on October 24th, 2009 2:49 pm

    Thank you for updating us on your activities, Bill. It is inspiring to know of the hunger for the Vidyadhara’s teachings outside the reach of Shambhala International, and how things are coming along. Thank you for your invitation. I hope it inspires more fearlessness and daring among VCTR’s senior students. Perhaps it is the lack of ready-made sponsorship and venues that gives others pause about following your example. While the Vidyadhara was alive, the people he trained to become teachers got used to Vajradhatu’s sponsorship and venues. Bereft of the container and unable to teach within SI, I’m sure many of those teachers feel frustrated and sad. Perhaps you could write something about the nitty gritty of working in the field, and how the teaching container in these places gets set up. I’m curious.

  3. Rob Graffis on October 24th, 2009 9:57 pm

    If you look up Chronicles Of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, you’ll find the following, among other things:

    Beyond Buddhism

    Late in the 1970s, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche expressed his long-held desire to present the path of meditation in secular terms. He developed a program called Shambhala Training, based on a legendary enlightened kingdom known as Shambhala. During the 1980s, while continuing teaching tours, Vajradhatu Seminaries, and book publication—and establishing a Buddhist monastery in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada—Trungpa increasingly turned his attention to the propagation of teachings that extended beyond the Buddhist canon. These activities included not only Shambhala Training, which was attracting thousands of students, but also Japanese archery, calligraphy, flower arranging, tea ceremony, health care, dance, theatre, and psychotherapy, among others. In planting the seeds for these many activities, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche sought to bring, in his words, “art to everyday life.” He founded the Nalanda Foundation in 1974 as an umbrella organization for these activities.

  4. Michael Sullivan on October 24th, 2009 10:39 pm

    I think that there are senior students of CTR who are carrying on outside the existing framework. In many cases they don’t worry about an official venue – they do it at home. That is what Robin Kornman did for several years prior to his death. He taught a group of students in his home, unencumbered by official curricula that was changing from what CTR taught. Also, Traleg Rinpoche brought him to Australia specifically to teach CTR’s approach to shamatha / vipashyana.

    I think that Newcomb Greenleaf may be doing a bit of “home-style” dharma teaching in Vermont as well.

  5. Mark Szpakowski on October 25th, 2009 6:58 pm

    When it comes to dharma, home cooking is the only way 🙂

  6. Tsondru Garma on October 25th, 2009 8:45 pm

    Like fresh baked bread!!

  7. Charles Marrow on October 26th, 2009 9:07 am

    It is great to get an update from Bill about his ongoing activities in sharing the buddhadharma with others, especially in light of the connection with the inspiration of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. I have been paying a little bit of attention to teaching situations where the Vidyadhara’s teachings have been presented by senior students. May I boldly proclaim that the inspiration and teachings of Chogyam Trungpa are alive and well.

    This is based on listening to the talks given in the series, “The Essential Chogyam Trungpa”. This is an ongoing series presented at the Boulder Shambhala Center. One can hear talk 1 entitled “Introduction to Chogyam Trungpa” given by Peter Volz and “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism” given by Clarke Warren. Those are available in audio files at http://www.chronicleproject.com. Also, close to home for me, our sturdy little Shambhala group in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia is listening to Pema Chodron’s DVD series given in the summer of 2007 at Berkeley California. In this seminar Pema closely follows Rinpoche’s book “Myth of Freedom”. For the talks just mentioned I will give a hearty endorsement of “well done” in each case. Nice to hear Trungpa Rinpoche’s words come through these individuals with clarity, balance and, of course, a good sense of humor.

  8. Susanne Vincent on October 27th, 2009 6:13 pm

    I am so glad to see what you are doing, Bill, in this tangible fulfilment of the Vidhadhara’s wishes:

    ‘The expectation is that eventually I won’t have to give any more seminars. You will be able to help yourselves. Not only that, but you will be able to develop American Buddhism, to teach other people, to teach the rest of the world. In fact, you will be able to go back to the Tibetans or the Indians and teach them what their earlier understanding was all about and work with them.

    As far as I personally am concerned, I have tremendous trust in your participation in this work, and it means a lot to me that finally we are able to work together on the basic sanity level, that we are able to set up some solid ground enabling you to help your whole world, not purely in terms of religion but also in terms of concrete living situations’.

    Chogyam Trungpa: Orderly Chaos, p13

    Resounding cheers

  9. Jake on October 27th, 2009 10:36 pm

    Teaching the dharma back to everybody! What audacity and brilliance!

  10. Ingrid on November 14th, 2009 3:00 pm

    Dear Shambhala Sangha,

    sorry for my bad english, I am writing to you from France/Europe. I am reading this with interest and astonishment. I guess Bill Karelis is a great teacher, I’ve heard his names already a few times, specially in relation with Maitri. I also appreciate it very much that an experienced Sangha member helps to spread the dharma in our old world… But I am a little bit suspicious when a teacher writes about the success of his/her own teachings. Also I wonder where the “old VCTR” students see the longing of people for Chögyam Trungpas teachings. I don’t see that “Hunger” in Europe. CTR taught in the 70th the so called hippie generation in America – all this is far away from us here in Europe. The Hippies are settled, the culture here is different, there is a huge amount of Dharma-literature now available translated, and many young and inspiring teachers are present as well. If the old Shambalians progressed on the path, put their teachings into practice and developped, like some of them whom I met did, with other teachers – they for sure have something to teach: The DHARMA (like Andy Karr for example in his book). But for the other old Shambhalians coming over to Europe to teach us the way CTR taught – I can’t really see a need for that. We already have some of these people here, travelling and looking for teaching chances, which are meanwhile somehow disappointed. Having now access to brilliant translations (The treasury of Knowledge for example) or the books of Thrangu Rinpoche and Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche we have a good opportunity to clarify our understanding.Specially in France we are fortunate to have some famous Centers here where we might receive teachings from such brilliant teachers as Dzongsar Kyentse, Dzigar Kongtrul. Pönlop Rinpoche, Tenga Rinpoche, Thrangu Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche etc… So why don’t you come over the ocean to teach some things that are unique to the Sangha like the Maitri or the Mudra ? It seems that we don’t have many experienced teachers here for that and this also represents another access to the dharma that is not available from other teachers (as far as I know).
    Well thank you for your patience and your open heart while reading this and greetings from France.

  11. Bill Karelis on November 14th, 2009 7:18 pm

    Hello Ingrid,

    Thank you for this post. You raise important issues with great heart, and with dedication for the Dharma, which I appreciate a great deal.

    I will try to respond to some of the points you raise.

    That the entire population of Europe is covered by the increasing presence of such great masters as you name in your comment I don’t believe those masters themselves would feel is so. Out of several hundred million people, perhaps a few tens of thousands of them identify themselves as Dharma practitioners. One of my teachers said to me that since people tend to follow people who are like themselves, therefore Western Dharma teachers have an appeal for many people that ethnic Tibetans may not. This is not at all to compare Western teachers with Tibetan masters. It is simply to say that there is more than enough room and need for further Dharma presentation. If what I am saying were not true, then why do new people attend additional talks and program?

    Perhaps Western presenters such as I could be seen as helping people to prepare themselves to meet real masters. Do you not feel there is a need for that?

    You have said that since the Vidyadhara addressed a generation of hippies (which he did do, in part), therefore his presentations were bounded by culture and era. Actually, he represented the whole Kagyu/Nyingma and Buddhist tradition, as well as the vision of the Great Eastern Sun, and many substreams of secular and spiritual wisdom, not just for one generation, but for hundreds of years to come.

    Nor is the breadth of the Vidyadhara’s enlightened activity limited to a few famous practices. To take just one example, he taught the five skandhas in “Glimpses of Abhidharma,” from a Vajrayana perspective, which I have never encountered elsewhere in my Dharma readings, although I have seen seeds of it in Longchenpa’s writings. Virtually all of the Vidyadhara’s teachings bear this amazingly profound stamp, each in a different way.

    His books have sold many millions of copies in dozens of languages, and continue to sell, with little promotion. I think we have run out of hippies to account for all this interest. There is no question in the minds of many people that he articulated the traditional Dharma in a powerful, modern way. For instance, one of his root gurus, His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, whom you mention, said of the Vidyadhara, “The son has surpassed the father.”

    In sum, the way the Vidyadhara presented the three yanas, plus the Shambhala and other teachings, has a wakeful quality, profundity and richness which is worthy of continuing as vividly, accurately and fully as possible.

    Here is the URL for the photo essay which accompanies RFS statement, to which you responded: http://shambhalatimes.org/2009/10/23/dharma-tour-of-europe. This is a kind of blog. I hope you find it interesting enough to offset the problem of my having posted it myself.

  12. Jake on November 15th, 2009 9:01 pm

    Maybe there isn’t a need for it. Obviously, I think, I think there is, but then that’s just me. Finally, it’s up to the “audience” to decide; there is a distinct possibility that although the Vidyadhara’s influence is beyond dispute, his style of teaching and his teachings might not become more popular.

    To me that seems like a shame, on a good day, and a nightmare, on a bad day. I think the best we can do is try to do the practices, study, and embody the teachings. And go out and teach, when we’re ready.

  13. rita ashworth on November 20th, 2009 3:10 pm

    Dear Ingrid

    Re older students of CTR coming to Europe –yes I think it is necessary if you are not a student of the Sakyong. I think you have to maintain some kind of historical connection to the basis of CTR’s teachings –from a direct link as it were you find that in Christianity that is how it evolved in some places. O f course too you have to allow space for people who have a revelation about the teachings as in Christianity like St Paul. So there are many ways if you look at western history for a religion to establish itself in a culture.

    In some ways France as a civilisation has to my mind allowed this to happen in its Society more than in other places in Europe with its tradition of scholarship and yes even revolutionary ideas. For myself I have always looked to France regarding philosophy with reading Satre and Camus, and now of course I am very intrigued with what Fabrice Midal is doing with the dharma and meditation in France.

    I also have a quasi more personal relationship with France because my mother was brought up by French and Irish nuns so in some respects I have a touch of French in me –maybe in the sense of arguing about ideas. Also I was born on 14 July –so you cant get away from revolution with that date!

    So yes I would say open your doors to whoever you wish to dialogue with …….for example thats what I well remember happened in 1968 when I saw revolution happening on the Parisian streets on British TV – those events have stuck in my brain cells and I have thought about them and of course the student leader of those demonstrations Daniel Cohen-Bendit.

    So yes lets have a free society with the freeflow of religious and philosophical ideas with no barriers present – let it be a hearty soup –lets try it!


    Rita Ashworth
    Stockport UK

  14. Katey Schultz on December 7th, 2009 10:36 pm

    As a “newer” (last 6 years) student on the Shambhala path and a student of the Kagyu lineage teachings, it’s interesting and inspiring to read this dialogue. I appreciate the balance of honest inquiry and genuine responses…all of which only make me more eager to continue on the path and stay connected with folks like Mr. Karelis. Thanks for making part of this work public (online) and to all who contributed to the dialogue.

  15. richard heilbrunn on January 3rd, 2010 7:58 am

    as an old hippy and somewhat world traveler, i feel i have always had a connection to CTR and Shambhala but everyday my REALization becomes greater. this is still fertile ground. actually it has only been recently that this has become part of my practice consciously. my understanding is that the Shambhala Household will be the Center of this movement. In this Spirit, it seems to be irrelevant wHere we are but who we are and by our example the Spirit of Shambhala will continue to Propagate IMHO Peace.