On Shambhala and the Samaya Connection

February 28, 2010 by     Print This Post Print This Post


The Chronicles site has posted an Editorial by Ellen Mains: On Shambhala and the Samaya Connection, initiating its Vajra Dog series.

Ellen begins:

Not long ago I heard someone say that people who disagreed with decisions made by the Sakyong or Shambhala International were people who didn’t practice and therefore, we shouldn’t pay attention to them. As I stepped into the shower the next morning, I found myself being gradually drenched with thoughts and reflections in response to that statement. Although the shower ended, the other deluge continued for the next couple of hours and I realized I needed to write the ideas down, if only for myself. They reflect some of the heartfelt feelings, reflections and struggle of an older student of the Vidyadhara.

Read more… and discuss here.


138 Responses to “On Shambhala and the Samaya Connection”

  1. Ginny Lipson on March 23rd, 2010 6:19 pm

    Madeleine wrote:

    ” Oral Instructions..

    I am struck by how much of our core teachings the newer students are missing because these are oral instructions and not possible to codify into a curriculum.”

    Yes Indeed.

    I listen (mostly) to quite a few CDs,( DVDs) and audio tapes by Trungpa Rinpoche, and they include a sense of living presence of the teachings. Each answer he gives is precisely to that moment for the student, and so unique!! His spoken teachings are living treasures, delivered from a profound place of realization and skillful means for whatever situation it is, and if there could , perhaps , be more occasions to listen to or watch these materials, it would be another helpful way to propagate them among newer students. They are so PERSONAL and to the point.


  2. Rob Graffis on March 23rd, 2010 9:33 pm

    Did Adam Lobel actually said that (“His words are 1 hour 15 minutes into this talk: http://www.halifax.shambhala.org/recordings/alobel09_09_09.mp3“)?
    “The top ranking teacher Kalapa Ācārya Lobel described the standard attitude of the Sakyong towards dissenters as being “they can come or they don’t have to” and “he just goes forward with his vision”.

    I really don’t want to listen to an MP3 for that long to verify this. Like a lot of things, it could have been taken out of context.
    If it is true, it would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water in a sieve.

  3. Suzanne Duarte on March 23rd, 2010 10:44 pm

    “Oral instructions: I am struck by how much of our core teachings the newer students are missing because these are oral instructions and not possible to codify into a curriculum.” (suggested by Madeline – Hi, Madeline, long time, no see.)

    Two things came to mind:

    1. “Don’t look at people like they have dollar signs on their foreheads.” The Vidyadhara said this in a Vajradhatu staff meeting in about 1985. I took it to mean that even if we were fundraising, which I was at the time, we should see people as human beings and not just prospective donors. Ie, don’t just look at people in terms of what you can get out of them. Seems relevant – given all the fundraising going on in SI. 😉

    2. Space. Space. Space. Space was a core teaching for meditation and daily life. Give it some space. Let the breath/ thought dissolve into space. See/feel the space around the thought. It seemed to me that learning to become comfortable with space, groundlessness, was an essential instruction. With the Vidyadhara, we became used to expecting to have ‘the rug pulled out’ from under us, and the point was to learn to be OK – ‘keep our seats’ – with that and to have a sense of humor about it. It was part of getting a feel for “egolessness” and, of course, death. Altogether letting go of security and territory as a daily practice. Being spacious. How can we be fearless if we don’t?

    I have no idea whether current students of SMR are getting the space transmission. But I’ll bet other old dogs can remember other ‘space’ teachings and stories.


  4. Suzanne Duarte on March 23rd, 2010 10:57 pm

    Quote sent to me by Jim Hartz, attributed to the Vidyadhara from a 1967 diary:

    “There are many people that are more learned than I am, more elevated in their wisdom. However, I have never made a difference between the spiritual and the temporal. If I understand the ultimate aspect of dharma, there is the ultimate aspect of the temporal. And if I maintain the ultimate aspect of the temporal, this must be in harmony with the dharma. I alone am the one who presents the tradition of thinking this way.”

    I cannot verify the authenticity of this quote. I’ve never seen or heard about it before. But it is a powerful statement that rings true to my experience of the Vidyadhara.


  5. Chris Keyser on March 24th, 2010 3:53 am

    I believe the Vidyadhara wrote this in a poem he wrote while living in England in the mid-1960s.
    It was included in a newsletter from the Nalanda Translation Committee a few years ago.

  6. rita ashworth on March 25th, 2010 5:08 am

    Yes why I said SB wont work completely for this word is because I ‘believe’ there is more than one holder of the shambhala teachings living on this earth. For example sakyong means earth protector –are we really saying that there are not more earth protectors in other religions and none? That would be a big jump to do that – who really knows about this stuff –the vastness of the shambhala teachings?
    I suspect this is why Michael Chender got the order from CTR to visit Gerald Red Elk. Perhaps he was an earth protector –perhaps ‘you’ hiding in the corner are really an earth protector! I dont know for sure but I think we must really consider this. If Rinpoche ‘received’ the teachings surely people on the same wavelength will receive them too –logical says Mr Spock!
    Anyway yes what did really CTR want – separate shambhala centres-did he talk to people about their construction –how they should be –some one must know about this.
    Heres my scenario two separate streams within same building again but rooms for Vajrayana Buddhism and shambhala practice with perhaps more emphasis on shambhala. Its a possibility –why I say going back to the ‘old’ style is because of the earth protector background and peoples profound connection with drala in their own religious stance or non-stance one may say also. Also I just dont know about CTR what he did on this earth – what he ‘planted’ in peoples heads and also one could say aswell physical environments.
    On another tack has any one listened to Ray’s talk on tantra on his website where he talks about Sakyamuni Buddha and his display of tantric practices- its really interesting talk –hes very good –he also talks about the wandering tantric yogis before the establishment of monasticism –so in reality the Buddha’s teachings were primarily for householders in the very ‘first’ place –interesting. This talk I think is also relevant to shambhala because of the King/Queen motif. I also think if you read in depth about monotheistic religions aswell you will find the female/male aspect discussed also –so thats why I think the shambhala teachings are relevant to the theistic teachings. Loving kindness for example within Christianity does that have a ‘feminine aspect’ –it would be interesting to discuss this with feminist theologians to see what they say.
    Yes why shambhala coming forth? Perhaps the King/Queen motif which exemplifies supreme confidence – and also the prevalence of motif in all religions and none. Ultimately yes there is the emptiness quality to both streams but I think emptiness ‘concept’ can be met differently according to different religious traditions and none.
    Well best
    Rita Ashworth

  7. damchö on May 26th, 2010 6:39 pm

    I’d just like to recommend, for those who haven’t seen it, the latest response to Ellen’s writing over at Chronicles. It’s from Fionna Bright and is so powerful and beautifully written. Her experience of scapegoating, down to all its mental and physical effects, is one that I share. And I do wonder how many others…

  8. Chris on May 28th, 2010 7:34 pm

    Dear RFS Staff:
    A Critical Juncture happened on RFS, about two months ago, not coincidently right at the time when Barbara’s Investigative Journalism threads were really honing in on the Ladrang, Kalapa Group, and other dubious financial entities were being exposed.
    I guess the question is now: do you want to remove yourself from the “razor’s edge” where you have been serving an important purpose, i.e. to keep people AWAKE and using their critical intelligence against the forces of spiritual materialism, where ever it appears, or, do you want to succumb to the temptation to try and please moralistic, conventional status quo forces, the very forces that have enabled this spiritual materialism to thrive and prosper. It finally served the purpose to “change the subject completely.”
    There is a collective unconscious we all participate in , that really doesn’t want to know, that really wants to be infantilized and stupid. Much easier to habitually keep thinking and doing what we have been doing for decades, i.e. not questioning things. So part of our collective unconscious comes to the forefront on RFS, telling us to “be good,” insulting and calling crazy anyone who thinks outside the box, or who is critical of SI and company.
    It was getting too scary for some .
    We live in a time where it appears that the forces of repression of the shadow side have reached a critical level, so it is no surprise that it would activate itself on RFS as well. On RFS those forces are feeling very comforted again, a feeling of things returning to normal and insipid. I can hear it in the comments. A place where one can have the pretense of sharing feelings, but where all real honest conversation has actually been repressed. You know your back in that place when there is lots and lots of flattery: “Oh I loved your comment, … or that was so insightful, translation: I wasn’t threatened in the least by what you said, my own conventional world reality and my place in it, is still intact…..
    When I know that I am in a conversation, where only the appearance of honesty exists, but its underlying structure is about tight conformity, and not seeing the shadow side, only the bright, brittle, cheerful side, no matter how unconnected to reality, it makes it just discursive . Might as well just turn it into a FACEBOOK site.
    What makes RFS unique is its willingness to stand the heat, and keep using one’s critical intelligence and NOT conform to those pressures. It is not easy. I hope you can stand the heat and continue using your critical investigative skills to continue to keep us connected to relative reality.

  9. linda kraus on May 29th, 2010 12:04 pm

    Well, Chris you have fired at everyone, how long before you turn the gun on yourself?

  10. john Tischer on May 30th, 2010 10:43 am

    I agree with you, Chris. It takes courage to see what´s going on in SI and
    respond to it here. I don´t see much discussion here lately….There doesn´t seem to be another avenue for dissent. At least there´s a record of what´s been said here so far….important points that anyone can review. Hopefully that will be part of a larger legacy.

  11. Suzanne Duarte on June 2nd, 2010 8:58 am

    Somehow this CTR quote seems relevant to this discussion. Maybe RFS is where the “unemployed samurai” hang out and roam, observing what’s going on in the jungle. 😉


    The tantric approach is much more direct, deliberate, and gross. It is the fashion of the unemployed samurai. When samurai are employed by a certain tribe, they are clean-shaven, they are well-groomed, they dress well, their knives are sharpened. When samurai are unemployed, they are very gruff and rough. Their knives may be rusty, they are sloppily dressed, and they are slightly grumpy. [Chuckles] That’s the Tantric approach!

    Tantric practitioners are not employed by either the laymen or the priests. They are as they are. That is why they are called siddhas. Siddha literally means, in Sanskrit, “he who works with miracles,” or “power over miracles.” But at the same time, the miracles are things as they are-literally-the literalness of things as they are. So vajrayana is very direct, very definite, obvious. It is the notion of the unemployed samurai, or the martial arts teacher who runs out of students. And siddhas are the tigers and lions and leopards that roam about in the jungle, without preying.

    -Chogyam Trungpa,
    From: The Teacup & The Skullcup,
    Pgs. 45-46, Shambhala Publications.

  12. Michael Sullivan on June 3rd, 2010 11:35 am

    I think that maybe the decline in posting here has something to do with the re-working of the site itself…. before the redesign the “Recent Comments” section made it easier to get to the newest comments, and gave you some idea where you were going — IIRC the name of the article a comment was made to was also part of the listing (I just noticed that the title is displayed when you hover over the link that is the name of the person who posted the comment). I’m not even sure if comments on the “featured” article are part of that list. The “cafe”, while useful as a container, offers no indication of new activity. So, even if there is a ton of new content there, you don’t know about it, and can only access it via scrolling down what is sometimes a VERY long page…..

    In retrospect, it might have been useful to explain the User Interface changes to the visitors to the site.

    Also, the “featured” article is now 6 weeks old, and that seems like years in Internet Time!

  13. rita ashworth on June 4th, 2010 2:43 am

    Dear Michael

    You have made some interesting comments about rfs editorially but this is indeed a free site so in that respect its great for what it has done and the level of debate and inquiry is a million miles better than is happening in any Buddhist org that I have known.

    My own suggestion re the site is that we should empower Mark Szp. with some bells and whistles to make the site flourish so that it can be a kind of clearing house for people setting up new groups based on CTRs teachings – so why not have a paypal section much as the Project and indeed start making donations to Mark so that he and others can get this thing together. I think the Kalapa Centre has been given 10,000 bucks to set up a website from their blog -myself I think we could raise some money worldwide to support rfs and to even finance interviews, and conferences so that would be all great -the whole
    thing could be even owned by the members and then we can get some true democracy happpening-yes power to the people!

    Well best from a sunny UK

    Rita Ashworth

  14. Michael Sullivan on June 4th, 2010 7:41 am

    Hi Rita

    No complaints at ALL regarding the work RFS has done / is doing! just User Interface feedback.

    RFS has succeeded wildly as a “back channel” for communication among CTR students.

    I think a PayPal link is a good idea.

    It would be nice to have more articles but I guess that is down to us!

  15. rita ashworth on June 4th, 2010 4:39 pm

    Dear Mike

    Thanks for your feedback re rfs.

    yes articles – we could go wider than the remit of rfs and start interviewing people outside a little -good article idea would be to get an interview with HHDKR when he comes to Canada and the US – I would suggest that Mark starts printing press cards!

    Sure Andrew Safer could supply loads of interview ideas – I have supplied a few to Mark Szp. already. You could also do a Project type thingie as well -surely people would step out for this. Also the notion of getting to know more about shambhala outside of SI -many lamas would supply details I am sure as its part of Tibetan culture-that 1,000 page book that CTR lost when he came out of Tibet that also needs to be explored – I think we in the west have only begun to touch the myths, meditations based on the shambhalian teachings. Part of creating our own culture outside now of SI will be surfacing these teachings about shambhala and I would like this information to be freely available for everyone on the web, as indeed CTRs teachings. Let rfs begin to open the gates now somewhat stuck with greenbacks for the multitudes out there.

    Well best from this side of the pond

    Rita Ashworth

  16. rita ashworth on June 13th, 2010 6:00 am

    (comment re Chris’s post on facebook which I have been thinking about)

    Dear Chris

    I take most of your criticisms about facebook as correct –it is a veritable swamp which oozes tweeness a lot of the time, however, you can still post stuff there for the reader to clue into aswell –so I am still using it –for example watched something on Chavez that an old time friend posted which I normally would not have watched. So I dont know what are you watching on utube and could you post it for me to have a look. The whole therapy thing would be interesting to go into –have you watched any good docs on utube about that. Perhaps we can still see it as a good tool to use.

    I am still not sure what is happening re Boulder and Halifax now –whats going on? One hears rumours-for example where is Ellen Mains now in her connection to the whole thing? That was a big debate on the project and now I would really like to know where she is at…..or will it take her years to unravel her position?

    So yes we seem to be getting these big debates happening and then zigeridooo – nothing. Does this bode dissolution of somewhat a groupie feeling with the rfsers or just people doing stuff on their own? Myself welcome all the discussions but I would also welcome some more what shall we call it a kind of loose allegiance in the sense of may be of groups coalescing to go on a march say on an issue. So more discussion but more integrated discussion. So I dont know may be the essential problem is governance re the shambhala teachings, or then again the ideas that Shambhala will contain numerous coming teachings on what people call the divine or the experience of the present moment. I dont know I think rfsers will have to become more definitive about all their various questions and description of the teachings in relating to politics in the sense of establishing principles as to diversity and the openness of the shambhala teachings.

    So yes great to have the Mains article –but whither now – perhaps also great to have another article and even more and more but that could go on forever and ever and now I think we should be really talking about what we want to see in a future shambhala enlightened society.

    This loyalty aspect aswell think its being screwed to fit the present set-up in SI and Acharyas I thought who would kind of make bridges with people somewhat on the outside seem to be falling into party line….that is really,really troubling-whats going on with them as a group? Perhaps we could discuss that aswell. Would welcome posts on what CTR said about loyalty.

    Well best from the UK

    Rita Ashworth

  17. Chris on June 13th, 2010 11:14 am

    “Further Signposts:”

    Shambhala Mountain Center , although not advertising it on its website, will be hosting from Aug 1st through the 23rd An Andrew Cohen retreat “Enlighten Next.” Andrew Cohen is a self-appointed guru who believes that a group enlightenment, rather than individual enlightenment is possible. It is interesting that this is filling the August calendar at SMC and that I imagine it is because of their financial straits ,that this decision was made. It will provide revenue from the lodging and meals. SMC is also providing shuttle service now for the new age retreatants at 50.00 one way and 90.00 round trip. Pretty sad way to have to make money. A cab service for spiritual materialism. A look at the calendar for the upcoming summer and fall season is saturated with new age retreats such as: three “Running with the Mind of Meditation” retreats, many “Traditional Quigong,” retreats , “Lifeforce Yoga to Manage your Mood,” “Creating Sacred Garden,” (that was the most interesting), two “Healing Rhythms: A Drumming Retreats,” “Women’s Summer Practice Retreat: Yoga and Meditation,” “Backpacking Pilgrimage to the Great Stupa,” “Contemplative Hiking,” “Healing Rhythms: A Drumming Retreat to Discover your Musical Spirit,” “Quantum Breath Meditation and Yoga,” “Peace Drum Circle: Uniting the World in Rhythm,” “Illumination” the Shaman’s Way of Healing,” “Boulder Peace Ride,” “Reading the Signs of Destiny,” “Taking Stunning Photographs,” “Tibetan Cranial Training,” “Awake at Work Retreat,” “Psychotherapy as the Path to Liberation,” “Creating Joy and Passion: An Intimate Retreat for Partners,” “Introduction to Mindfulness-Stress Reduction,” two “Weekend Retreats for Writers,” “The I Ching as a Map of Social Evolution,” “ See Your Dream Job,” and on and on.
    Here is Andrew Cohen’s link:


    There are several books from former students on the shadow side of this group, and I have met ex-groupies of his. There is a web log that reads like radio free shambhala:

    And a book: “American Guru: A Story of Love Betrayal and Healing.”

    Perhaps it might be helpful for us.

    There is also a link now for a fund for Acharyas on Shambhala, and letters have gone out. I thought they used to get salaries? I guess not anymore. Perhaps their former salaries ( didn’t they used to make about 35,000 a year?) have been absorbed into the Ladrang, Our Future Fund”or the 750.00 dollar a day “deep retreat”.

  18. Chris on June 13th, 2010 11:50 am

    This is an article from a blog from Andrew Cohen’s former students on “Enslavement”
    It helps , I think , to put the Shambhala Inc experience of former students in a much larger context and that people everyway are starting to look at the commonalities of their experience as “enslaved devotees” and how it is set up:

    “Then, there is the principle of unquestioned authority and rigid hierarchical top-down structure. The power moves from the top down, only! The person on the top has to be an absolute despot, otherwise there is no real authority and no real obedience, at least according to the rules of this particular game. Each higher level within the structure has to rule the lower ones by the superior commitment and morality. The lower levels have a responsibility to admonish each other or report on each other to the higher levels, ensuring cheap and all-covering policing.

    The principle of bottom-up economy says that the wealth has to flow upward! An absolute ruler on the top has to exploit the slaves below him (Andrew’s students not only give thousands of dollars and pounds but they also give their time and energy worth hundreds of thousands of pounds!) For the ruler’s power to thrive, the richer he is, and the poorer the slaves are, the better.

    Then there is the principle of secrecy. While information about all of the activities in the structure, accurate or distorted, is programmed to reach the top of the pyramid, nothing of importance should leak downward. Ultimately, the top only knows the real purpose and the final destination. This ensures that power always remains where it should be, at the top.

    In this Set-Up, it’s the principle that morality and responsibility are relative values, subject to change according to the whim from the top. The end justifies the means. Trauma is used as a tool to create more obedient subjects, all in the name of better future. Fear (terror if need be) and guilt are applied as cohesive elements. Love and Joy are morsels to be fed to the obedient.

    Going hand in hand with the principle of secrecy is the principle of rampant propaganda. The truth is a commodity in the hands of a few – the top of the structure, the absolute despot(s), is the only possessor of the ultimate truth. The despot uses propaganda to invent New Words and New Meanings. Powerful old words, like “freedom”, “love” etc. are given New Meanings and are installed from the top down to rule over actions of the lower layers. The words become the goals. Through the power of propaganda and inverted meanings human values are turned upside down; blatant truths are shouted down as lies and vice versa, or the truth is given just a lip service.

    Then there is the ‘I’m god’ principle, or the principle of SUPREME CONFIDENCE. The despot has to absolutely believe in himself. Everyone else has to treat the despot as if he was a god. The fear and unquestioning adulation is the most needed food for the ‘great one’ to carry on with his mission.

    Sometimes helpful , I think, to see our experiences in a larger historical context of how these situtations evolve and how they fall.

  19. Ash on June 13th, 2010 1:15 pm

    Chris, I cruised very rapidly through some of the above links and generally over the years have followed various similar stories, the latest blowup being a young Hindu guru with thousands of followers having to go on extended retreat (sorry, can’t remember his name).

    I wish I could think this through in a more articulate way, but to me such stories are not so much about corruption, per se, as about the power dynamic involved with any enterprise involved with spiritual awakening. Simply put, perhaps, one could think of it in terms of riding the kundalini, or in somewhat related buddhist terms, the temptations of Mara, or ‘the greater the wisdom the greater the obstacles’ which could also be expressed as ‘the greater the obstacles the greater the wisdom’.

    In other words, such endeavors are very tricky animals. I think what happens is that as the ‘force’ of awakened mind and compassion are let loose, so also can there be resultant ‘snap-backs’ as ego attempts to claim that more expansive territory, along with insight and energies of all sorts, as its own.

    So I guess what I am saying is that along with concern for such things when they go wrong – as seems more often than not to be the case – I find myself assuming that in most cases the initial intention, and also early realizations of such gurus, is most likely good. But the nature of the enterprise involves traveling through the entire gamut of the various heavens and hells which all of us are capable of, and indeed do, journey through. In other words, although perhaps it’s as simple as saying that some of these gurus are corrupt power seekers, perhaps it’s not, perhaps such power dynamics are an inevitable aspect of unleashing bodhicitta, and all but a few of the most skillful master gurus are able to handle such things.

    Historically, most have done so by restricting their inner/secret activities to small numbers and maintaining a very discrete profile. Thinley Norbu, Rinpoche, comes to mind as a good contemporary example of this very traditional, if by no means stuffy or stilted, approach.

  20. Chris on June 13th, 2010 2:22 pm

    Dear Ash:

    Of course , what you say is right, but I wonder what help it is to embed what is happening at SI in “The Age Old Story.” Soothing ourselves with the idea that this is just business as usual in the evolution of any group? Does that help us use our critical thinking about what is happening in our own spiritual journey, or does it contribute to the same apathy that has enabled this situation to develop as it has? In other words, the words and phrases we use to justify it become the justification itself. We now can say, it’s just “mara,” or “the more enlightenment, the more obstacles,” . We can say anything of course, and words can be used in many ways as propaganda, as this article says about the mechanism of cults. For example “deep retreat” in SI now means something entirely different than just 20 years ago. It now means never being alone, needing a subsidy of 750.00 dollars a day for you and your entourage and an opportunity for another large fund-raiser. “Compassion means” something else now too, at its worst it means “making nice at all times, except toward those who don’t agree with you , and at its best a theistically inspired compassion.

    CTR’s mandala , although it had its share of cultists and was by no means perfect, was about “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism”. Remember? Do Shambhalians still read that book?

    That was really the point here, i.e. that in Trungpa Rinpoche’s name, SMC has become a new-age retreat center where apparently for the right monies, anyone can come and teach, even if it conflicts with the most basic tenets of the buddhadharma. Not only that, but the SMC staff will act as transport/shuttle, transporting the new-agers here and there.

    It sounds like things are getting financially much worse, despite the glowing propaganda.

  21. Chris on June 13th, 2010 2:52 pm

    “Work has begun on the design for programming to be offered under the working title of
    “Center for Enlightened Society”. This will be an important next step towards the
    Sakyong’s long-term vision for Shambhala Mountain Center as a place people can
    awaken to their inherent wisdom and compassion and come together to create a world of
    living peace”.

    Found the above paragraph in the 2/10 Report from SMC.

    I guess the die is cast then fellow CTR students. Kiss the Rocky Mountain Dharma Center goodbye,once and for all, Hello NewAgers, let’s mingle it all together. It’s all the same, right? Perhaps Shambhala Students can mingle with Andrew Cohen’s group this summer and lift up together to create Enlightened Society.

    Soon there will be a new meaning for the word “one taste.”

  22. Ash on June 13th, 2010 2:58 pm

    Fair enough Chris. I am too far away from what is happening in S.I. to have a clear sense of it and wasn’t even thinking of S.I. when I replied (which should have been on this thread).

    I doubt there is a single ‘objective truth’ about it in any case: varies from person to person in terms of their own actions, virtue, motivations, view etc. So it’s neither a black and white nor grey situation: rather a multi-faceted mosaic. From certain points of view, there is corruption; from others there is bodhisattva action. Both can be simultaneously accurate.

    My personal guess is that the community continues to work through a significant, long-term shape-shifting phase, which will last several generations until the role of meditation practice and tantric paths, along with the institutions shepherding such paths, are more assimilated into western culture. This is no small thing. Like many here, I have my own ideas about what is more problematic, what could be done to move that along better, but opinions are a dime a dozen and meanwhile those actually involved are doing the heavy lifting.

    Sometimes things get overly centralized, sometimes overly diffused with various permutations of different elements ad infinitum.

    Meanwhile, I have no doubt that the vast majority of students entering the Shambhala Way and going along through to Scorpion Seal and suchlike are doing so with good intentions and authentic practice, and their sense of sangha fellowship is uplifted and enriching. Might be wrong in this characterization, of course, since no longer actively involved, but that to me is the bottom line.This impression comes partly from occasionally skimming the Shambhala Times, but more recently from various ‘loyalist’ interlocutors here on this site, mainly from a year ago or so it seems.

    Do I think there are serious issues and problems? Yes. But am not one who easily buys into demonization, for such demonization is 99.9% of the time self-generated demonic projections. I found Fioanna Bright’s letter in Ellen’s piece page on the Chronicles site very helpful in providing perspective on this, namely (from my interpretation) that we are very confused about which sort of society we are (church, corporation, country) etc. Assuming this is the case, there would doubtless be many conflicting dynamics going on, which to some will appear as pernicious corruption, and to others as side issues to be ignored, if they are even noticed. Endless.

    PS Small point: when I worked there in the 80’s we provided shuttle service too. It’s necessary for those who fly in from out of State. I think even back then we charged $40.00 or some such.

  23. Chris on June 13th, 2010 5:15 pm

    Dear Ash:
    Your arguments are very convincing. However, I remember a poster here quoting CTR on Werner Eckhart and EST and what CTR though about him, and he said “He should be stabbed with a knife.” I don’t think this indicated a breach of decorum, a slip-up into neurosis, or undue aggression on CTR’s part. I think it meant that he saw it as so dangerous, new age thinking, and ultimately harming the dharma that a true bodhisattva would do whatever it took to protect the dharma.

    I posted Namkai Norbu Rinpoche’s concerns about Psychology and the Dharma before onRFS but it bears repeating and would apply even more so to New Ageisms in general. He thought it was so dangerous that he wrote a little booklet called “Buddhism and Psychology” in 1996, when it hadn’t even cranked up full gear. He was not against psychology and psychotherapy; it was the mingling and merging that he saw so dangerous:

    “I am not at all against psychotherapy. It can have a real benefit. However, it is like modern medicine (and I am not against modern medicine at all, as everyone knows. I think we should make use of all that is available in the modern world, but see it for what it is). Psychotherapy is like a pill or a drug for specific ailment, but like medicine, it cannot cure the soul, it can only cure a local disease. People should take it when they need it , and if they need it. The idea in the West that psychotherapy is for everyone, to me is wrong. It is like treating everyone with chemotherapy, whether they have cancer or not! And if one does have cancer, one must look to find a truly qualified doctor. The same applies for therapy. I do not believe, which happens often, which is that everyone can become a therapist (Think Naropa ) I fell that , even in psychotherapy, one must be highly educated and look to work with some real rooted basis. Otherwise you can do more harm than good for people and create a lot of confusion in the patient’s mind. This does not mean that only the very traditional schools are necessarily correct and helpful; there may also be some very non-traditional approaches that are good. However, it seems impossible that one could study the human mind for one or two years (or even four years) as often happens in the West, and then open up a shop to help people, taking a little from this school or that. Psychotherapists must be very serious about their work as they are dealing with the depths of other human beings. But psychotherapy and the Dharma do not have the same goal, nor are they the same path. Doing one may help the other, as everything positive that one does will generally enhance the other facets of one’s life. The goal of psychotherapy is generally to improve one’s ability to function on this earth as it is, and in this lifetime, as it is, to help one in one’s job, with one’s children, with one’s relationship with his original family unit, the mother and the father. The Dharma is for one’s total realization, forever, for all one’s lifetimes. …

  24. Chris on June 13th, 2010 5:18 pm

    Namkai Norbu Rinpoche continues:

    So the Dharma is for helping the individual to get out of samsara, while therapy is to help one to function better in samsara. AND TO MIX THE TWO IMPLIES THAT SOMEHOW THE DHARMA IS LACKING IN METHODS TO REALLY HELP PEOPLE. It is as if one were saying that the Dharma needs a little improvement, so if I add a little psychotherapy (or add drumming, running, channeling, group elevation, my addition) it will really be something powerful. However, the Dharma is a complete path… If we let the Teachings go that way, mixing and changing with every passing day, in one hundred years the Teachings will be completely diluted and nowhere will a person be able to find the real essence of the Dharma. Then the Dharma, too will pass away….. What problems could a person have with the Dharmapalas? Truthfully, it is hard to say specifically. But it is best to think about it in terms of what happens when one teaches something that is wrong, and this spreads from them to other people and could even last for generations. That means that one has been the cause of many people’s misunderstand, possibly over a long time. One has been the cause of the continuation of others’ suffering. That is heavy karma”.
    Namkai Norbu Rinpoche from “Buddhism and Psychology” 1996.

    So to say Ash , that this is just a phase in the evolution of the dharma, could be the really demonic influence, i.e. ego justifying what will destroy the dharma eventually. Not of course , that you are trying to do this in your justifications. But these are very very tricky times.

  25. Ash on June 13th, 2010 6:18 pm

    Well, I didn’t see anything in that programming that mixed the two per se in the sense that RMSC is being used as a hotel/conference center versus that it’s Shambhala-Vajradhatu programs that are mixing dharma and psychology or whatever. The content is generally ‘New Age / spiritual’ stuff and perhaps RMSC needs to think more carefully about who they include/exclude. In any case, it never occurred to me to label Andrew’s program as a ‘dharma program’.

    Interesting re Werner E. I was at the public talk in L.A. during an HHK visit where CTR publicly skewered Werner who was sitting next to him on the stage, and during which, watching in the wings backstage before coming on to give a Black Crown ceremony I think, HHK reportedly remarked that CTR was ‘the greatest teacher since Marpa’. But that did not stop HHK from going on to be hosted by Werner who had more than ten times as many students as CTR, and whose progressive weekend level structure was copied as we put together Shambhala Training attempting to achieve a similar success on the outer numeric level, albeit providing a more authentic ‘product’ than EST.

    Fwliw, when I look at the programming at RMSC I find it completely uninteresting, even contrary to our original thrust. But I believe the long-term vision for RMSC is that it become a sort of North American landmark spot, so a little like Naropa University, something with a clientele that goes way outside the periphery of the Shambhala Community per se so probably this is their first stab at stepping forward now they have acceptable facilities.

    I would prefer to see things which feature shamatha meditation training taught by ‘us’ along with other studies taught by others such as: quantum physics, educational approaches, philosophy, grass roots organizing, organic farming, conflict resolution, fundraising, NGO operations, leadership training, military strategy, officer training, I-Ching studies, (traditional daoist) medical qiqong, things like that rather than New Age ‘spiritual’ approaches. In other words, we provide a space, gomdens, instruction and atmospheric container, and then others come to merge that space with their own disciplines. Could be very interesting. But could it be done and if so would anyone come? I doubt it.

    Or to put it another way: if not what they are doing now, what else?

    Maybe back to VCTR’s original suggestion: vipashana retreat center and intensives, which to me suggests hinayana (outer level) intensive practice which is not necessarily allied with, beholden to or promoting any particular school or guru. That would be a real switch.

  26. Chris on June 13th, 2010 8:40 pm

    “Maybe back to VCTR’s original suggestion: vipashana retreat center and intensives, which to me suggests hinayana (outer level) intensive practice which is not necessarily allied with, beholden to or promoting any particular school or guru. That would be a real switch”.

    Except there is still lineage; even the most radical Dzogchen teacher who thinks the time has come to discern between the cultural baggage of Buddhism and its essence , still has respect for lineage. To be without any lineage sounds sounds very iffy and could lead to the same problems. There is something about lineage, no matter how radical one gets, that haunts us, I don’t think we really can understand it conceptually or dismiss it easily without consequences. It just doesn’t seem like something one is “making up”.

  27. Ash on June 13th, 2010 8:47 pm

    Well, I was referring to an imprecise memory I have of a longer-term suggestion CTR had made viz. the future role of then RMDC in particular.

    Something vaster than a sangha-mainly type practice center a la KCL, some sort of North American role, but within that context a vipashana retreat center with fairly long programs, if I remember correctly. I don’t have any detailed recollection of these hints, which I heard second hand from the Esposets when they were the Directors there back in the early to mid 80’s.

    Middle age is beginning to set in and I find many such memories are gradually becoming dim!

    (I think he even picked a spot near the retreat cabins beyond Marpa Point but not sure if I am misconstruing a conversation/speculation.)

  28. damchö on June 13th, 2010 11:04 pm

    Chris, thanks for the link to the “What Enlightenment?” blog. I know almost nothing about the guy. Surprised to read that his own mother (!) wrote a book denouncing him as something of a sadistic egomaniac… Anyway, the kinds of experiences many people had in that community, the forms of humiliation and emotional abuse practiced, make for quite chilling reading…

    I was curious to see a video of the man himself after this and clicked on a recent one at random on his website. In it he was being interviewed by a tv station in India proclaiming the “old enlightenment” to be dead, while he is currently introducing the “new enlightenment”. The difference between the two being that the “old enlightenment” concerns itself with “what is” while the “new enlightenment” concerns itself with “what can be”. Goodness…

  29. rita ashworth on June 14th, 2010 3:41 am

    Dear Chris and Ash

    Hi –nice to hear from you again.

    From what I have briefly read about Cohen his teachings seem to be a meld of Indian religion and new ageism. Also just checked on wiki that he was a founding member of the Integral Institute, I wonder if that is true? Hope people can check the wiki piece out –it is informative.

    Chris, is there any one in the New Age movement that you think is worth listening to? Would welcome your point of view on that or is it all second-rate. I ask this merely because Tami Simon on Rays website has said somethings that are favourable to Eckhart Tolle.

    As to the other new-agey programmes at RMSC I believe Mr Waltcher said on the Project that this is what his vision was for the place so yes that vision is still being followed as we can see.

    Yes it must cost a fortune just to keep the place ticking over so I suppose they would be in to maximising their revenues to the nth degree. So yes just checked the programmes and its seems a sort of fifty-fifty split with shambhala stuff –so yes if you took the new age stuff away could it survive –interesting question to pose.

    And yes now all the splits and the discussions about SI I am sure people are hedging their bets about getting involved with the org and consequently RMSC. And any way in the states from what I see on the internet there are many places you could go to do New Age stuff and not travel half a day to get there. So yes what now for RMSC –personally I liked Ash’s prog. and all the items on that re leadership training and organic farming etc but he said it would not work so thats that it seems!

    Yes funding the acharyas I thought that might happen with the proliferation of foundations being formed. So may be the plan is to have the shastris do the education as volunteers and to get the Acharyas salaried may be you could do that with taking something from the dues(maybe also increase them) and doing investments. You know when I read stuff on the SI website I am getting so much information on coporate American business setups. Its a real education-thanks SI for that! I think I could probably become a fundraiser quite easily tomorrow!

    No, I jest, whats the thread title? Shambhala and the samaya connection and the Mains article of course – you could fit that into the discussion of RMSC because if its to become a place concerned mostly with creating an enlightened society on its own terms aka the present SI set-up –there will be no room there to explore shambhala teachings as being open to all. So it would kind of a hybrid New Age/shambhala Buddhism iffy place –can you have competing overall visions of the place – would not the dralas be confused?!

    Also just read about the more pragmatic aspect of having the place as a kind of vipassana type retreat centre. In this connection I was thinking of Jack Kornfields set-up which seems to be flourishing –what do people think of that place stateside. From what I read of it on the internet it seems to be doing quite well. Perhaps people want something that is more down to earth and pragmatic-may be thats why Tolle is doing so well. Yes may be pragmatism is the zeitgeist of the US at the moment!

    So I dont know about RMSC but I am interested in discussing it this side of the pond to just get a ‘handle’ on where people are at with the meditative life in the US because invariably what happens in the states finds it way over here in some shape or form. So it might influence what people are doing round the globe now outside of SI.

    Well best

    Rita Ashworth

  30. Chris on June 14th, 2010 2:05 pm

    Dear Rita:

    As you probably know, Jack Kornfield was originally a Theravadin Buddhist, who together with Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein practiced as Theravadins. When they came back to the west after serious practice and study, they wanted to bring this lineage to the West in a more essential form and started the “Insight Meditation Center” in Barre, MA. Jack Kornfield went on to get his clinical doctorate in psychology and became desirous of bringing these two streams together in some way . Salzberg and Goldstein continued in the Vipassana tradition they had started in Barre, and Kornfield broke off and started Spirit Rock. A Western Buddhist Center, that has a so-called “democratic board” of senior meditation teachers, (the 21 members of the Teachers Council) most of them with psychology and therapist credentials. Partly this center was a reaction to the media exposing “Guru Abuse,” particularly sexually, so it was an attempt to eliminate the “Lama” , particularly the Tibetan Lama part of the equation, although they do invite maybe one Tibetan lama, and other visiting Theravadin lamas to teach there. When the Tibetan lama teachs, they can never teach alone, but always alongside the visiting lama, as though to keep him in check. But mostly, they are psychobuddhist therapists teaching courses. This is true of the visiting teachers list, as well. Some of the senior teachers, teach from the “Diamond Approach” a literal merging of psychology and buddhism.

    Most of their programs are psychotherapeutically influenced but they still try and maintain an emphasis on vipassana retreats of various lengths. Recently Kornfield built a quite serious, solitary retreat center on the land.

    At first blush this doesn’t seem so bad, but dig deeper and you see exactly what Namkai Norbu was warning us about 14 years ago.

    Here’s where it has been pernicious in my view: New people, coming to the center for their meditation month-longs, have an almost 50-50 chance to be told that they first need psychotherapy before they can seriously practice, (Kornfield reports at one time that this is about 40% of the retreat ants for his two month retreats). This is a serious conflict, , because it is a form of “bait and switch”, people are coming into the center for one reason, and Kornfield and his psychotherapist/meditation instructors, puts on their “other hats” as a psychologists and make a diagnosis that this or that person needs psychotherapy” first, as though the Dharma was not enough for them. Now for some people, with serious mental illnesses, this was always true, but 40%? This means he is seeing ordinary neurosis as something very special in Westerners, and something that the Dharma is not quite enough for. Conveniently, he has a whole staff of therapists , since the majority of the senior teachers, and the visiting teachers are also therapists and have their own counseling practices. So there is a built-in referral system, also very ethically questionable and very cozy. ( I doubt the APA would approve this).

  31. Chris on June 14th, 2010 2:18 pm

    Cont……It’s like a doctor prescribing his own patented medicine when someone has come to you feeling sick and wants one type of “healing“ and the doctor prescribes this patented medicine first as though the original medicine “just wasn’t quite enough, by itself.” So Spirit Rock is doing exactly what Namkai Norbu was warning us about. Yet if you google Buddhism at Amazon, it’s not CTR’s books or Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche’s books that come up, it is Jack Kornfield’s at the very top of the list . He is very popular. He is starting to invent even new meanings , taking “The Great Perfection” and calling the it the Great Way but when you read about it, it is a potpourri of new ageism, the ONE, psychology, and the dharma , all mixed up.

    And the dangers are obvious, people I meet, who have been through these Spirit Rock programs, are completely confused about the dharma, the think that Jungian therapy is equal and a partner with the dharma, they want to discuss archetypes ( I like Jung and archetypes, don’t get me wrong) when we are listening to tapes on Dream Yoga as part of the Four Yogas of Naropa. They go to therapists and self-help groups more often then they practice the dharma, they chase after this shaman, and the next self-help new age cure. There are a number of the here who also have a Tibetan Lama as their teacher and it is all the same to them. This lama has gone back to Gampopa and the four noble truths again, teaching the fundamentals. Even he must have noticed finally, that something was terribly amiss in all this. But these feel that they couldn’t function without this adjuncts to their practice. “Quigong is as important as Dzogchen“, I have had people tell me this to my face.

    And Quigong, as you may notice, is as much a mainstay at SMC as Buddhist teachings. Soon Psychotherapy as the Path to Liberation will be a mainstain. Particularly if it is financially successful. So do I think the dharma is in danger of being diluted and disappearing under this NewAge/Psycho/Buddhism?. I think it is the most dangerous time of all for the Dharma;

  32. rita ashworth on June 15th, 2010 4:54 am

    Dear Chris

    Thanks for your reply on Spirit Rock – I suppose I mentioned Kornfield because he was the only person I could think of in connection to the vipassana centre idea for SMC that Ash brought up.

    Interesting to hear your take on Spirit Rock –yes after I mentioned it on my post I did check out the website further and I saw too that they were also following some new age courses aswell.
    And then I read Kornfields history of Theravada in the states which did mention western psychology also

    So yes thats interesting a lot of the Buddhist main centres seem to be doing new age stuff more than they used to – perhaps its because people have more trouble cluing into the Buddhist teachings these days in the sense of understanding about dissatisfaction and impermanence. May be also its a question of how you put the essence of the Buddhist teachings over to people in a manner that captures their intelligence but doesn’t turn them off in this acquisitive age. I suppose that is question of skill in communication that some can do that like of course the Vidyadhara.

    In relation to psychology generally I do have a respect for the profession in that they deal with people that most of us would run a mile from. But then again like any profession I dont think psychology can set itself as an arbiter of society totally which from my reading it has somewhat done in the present age. Foucault of course has written many books explaining that psychology and psychiatry has sometimes had a tendency to do this. Of course I am no academic just a general reader but I do know how to ask questions about things more now than I did in the past –so yes everyone pose more questions about everything if stuff is ruffling you the wrong way and dont take the Authorities line on everything. Chris yes also psychology is going to be involved more in dharma circles to a degree even with just the concept of discussing compassion that does seem to be happening (I have tended to have a more sociological viewpoint of society due to my background) so how would you keep the conversation going or indeed should there be more strict parameters to the discussion? So may be a re-evaluation is called for in relation to eastern religions and psychotherapy –perhaps you could have those conferences again that happened in Boulder between these two branches of disciplines.

    So yes getting back to a modern rise of the New Age –yes it again seems to be coming more prevalent as in the sixties- maybe hints at some essential sociological change in society perhaps here I mean globalisation and a sense of insecurity and uncertainty that is present. Also here I suppose you could posit in regard to this the rise of the shambhala teachings which have that ‘ideal’ of creating a better society ahead – so yes one would have to be very tentative in going forward with the shambhala teachings because they could possibly turn into a panacea catch-all for the ills of society and not an exploration of oneself and ones interaction with others.

    I think its a question myself with the shambhala teachings

  33. rita ashworth on June 15th, 2010 4:57 am

    of just getting the basics out there in relation to basic goodness –may be even not going as far as Warriors Assembly with the whole thing although even now if you are a member of another religion or none I still think you can do WA. So yes I am thinking if that people kind of marinate in just the basics things will begin to manifest from that –so yes to some degree the whole structure needs to be less formal. What would you suggest in regard to the Shambhala path? I know you are somewhat of more devoted follower of the Kagyu and Nyingmpa teachings but I would also like to hear your views on Shambhala terma aswell and of course the environments that the Shambhala teachings are propagated in –that would be an interesting post!

    In addition I had a thought after reading Ash’s post re the vipassana centre idea –why does some one not just interview the Esposets – surely than we would discover more about what CTR envisaged for the place. You know as I post stuff on rfs and ask questions I seem to be ‘discovering’ all these other ideas that CTR had for different ways of supporting the teachings and thats one reason why I am still posting on here. So yes some one give those previous co-ordinators a ring! Yes perhaps you need a group forming on what CTR actually said about the place to people. So may be SI would take no notice of this group but at least you would have an historical record of what was said.

    I myself though am not sure about big centres now –with Ash’s emphasis on the local perhaps that should be emphasised more –perhaps indeed you would be more financially viable as an organisation in that manner of having medium sized centres in the area where you live –yes it’s a chicken and egg situation at present. But in some respects too now I dont think you could sell SMC now that the stupa is there so may be more needs to be discovered about what the Vidyadhara said about the place to everyone. Perhaps the emphasis could be more focussed on other more conventional religions using the place may be it could become an ecumenical centre –there are many in the great Christian traditions that are exploring the meditation concepts perhaps there needs to be more invitations to them to use SMC besides the new age groups. Not that I am totally
    against iconoclasts from the new age movement but you have to be very careful about interacting with the whole thing. I like Matthew Fox, the ex-Catholic minister, he has elements of new age in his teachings but of course he is also rooted in discipline aswell from the Catholic church –I know that to be the case from all ex-Catholics I have known –some how I dont think these people can be as foolish with religious and indeed secular concepts as many others I have known.

    Well I think that is all for now –best from a sunny UK!


    Rita Ashworth

  34. Jake on June 26th, 2010 12:47 pm

    I’m moving from NYC, which seems near the saturation point for dharma right now, to Salt Lake City, which has some dharma centers, but not a lot of Tibetan stuff going on. Anyone here from around there? Any advice? I’m thinking about trying to start a Trungpa study group/meditation group.

  35. Jake on July 4th, 2010 8:29 pm

    So does this mean no one read this, no one has anything to offer, or that the only things people will respond to are the usual posts about SI?

  36. Suzanne Duarte on July 5th, 2010 8:34 am

    Dear Jake, if you are willing to post your email address, I will write to you privately to tell you what is cooking outside of SI that might be of help in starting a Trungpa study/meditation group. Or ask Mark Szpakowski to send your address to me.

    Cheers and good luck with your move,


  37. Mark Szpakowski on July 5th, 2010 10:14 am

    The Shambhala Int member databases (there’s actually two of them) could be queried (if you’re a member) for people in Utah and Salt Lake City. I think the essential part of starting a group is to offer some sitting meditation periods, at least occasionally, in your own home or elsewhere. Chapter 2 of “Smile at Fear” has the definitive Chögyam Trungpa meditation instruction. Then pick a book (“Smile at Fear”, “Cutting Through”, “Shambhala the Sacred Path of the Warrior”, …) and do a reading/discussion course around it.

    This topic – what are the essential practices, texts, and study topics for a Chögyam Trungpa sangha group – will be explored in an upcoming article here.

    In a couple of years the Root Text Project will publish a 3-volume set of the topics covered by CTR in the Vajradhatu Seminaries (Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana). This will be a deep resource for study and teaching.

    – Mark

  38. rita ashworth on July 5th, 2010 3:08 pm

    Dear Mark

    Thanks for the above information re CTR’s texts and study topics. I am looking forward to the future article on this.

    It also may be a good idea in the meantime to point out the details given in your post in perhaps a heading called educational resources for groups because as time goes on people might want to consult such a reference topic.

    Is the Root Text project being produced by SI or independently of SI – I have not heard much about it -what about copyright here and will this project be online? Hope to hear more about this project.

    Great article by Damcho – I am thinking about it before I reply.


    Rita Ashworth