Shambhala in Crisis: & 3 Ways to Fix It.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Nov 23, 2012
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Update: All updates have been moved here.

Shambhala Mandala in Crisis: & 3 Ways to Fix It.

A Sense of Urgency; We Can No Longer Afford to Brush Concerns Under the Rug.

The unsurpassable teacher is the precious Buddha,
The unsurpassable protector is the precious Holy Dharma,
The unsurpassable guide is the precious Sangha
To the unsurpassable Three Jewels I make this offering.
~ Buddhist Opening Chant


For those of you who may not know, and those of us who may forget why we care, Shambhala is more than a Buddhist community. It’s a worldwide, diverse container in which meditation, and the accessible (and actually fun) teachings of sanity, are made available to all. As the UN doctrine states, it’s in the minds of men where wars begin—and therefore, it’s in the minds of men where we must create peace. Meditation does that. Furthermore, the Shambhala mandala takes this kind of peace-making off the meditation cushion, in what we term “post-meditation”—you know, everyday life.

From Shambhala Centers in every city to rural meditation retreats, to the Dorje Kasung service organization (kinda like…grown-up Buddhist Boy/Girl Scouts, pretty much the best thing ever), to translation committees and books and Dharma Art and schools, the Shambhala mandala has been a strong, but vulnerable society for decades, now.

For the first time, over the past year, I’ve heard whisperings (never publicly acknowledged) that Shambhala is in trouble. I’ve heard more than just the usual complaints—I’ve heard reasonable, wise, experienced and young leaders alike talk about organizational, financial problems. I’ve been hearing this for a year, waiting for someone knowledgeable and wise to communicate with us about what’s going on and what we can do to help.

But positive change comes from the bottom, up, sometimes. Lately, I’ve talked with senior students and the new generation of leaders, and heard the same problems described from different points of view, all united by a sense of exhaustion and a resigned willingness to “let it all go.”

I’m not cool with that. Shambhala isn’t about us, or our community. It’s for the world. Trungpa Rinpoche and the Sakyong both regarded their teachings and our community as a vehicle for offering sanity and real joy to a world beset by unnecessary suffering and neurosis.

Shambhala can be fixed. While I may not have an accurate handle on the problems, or solutions, here’s my best shot. I invite you to offer your *constructive* evaluation of our challenges and solutions below in the comments section.

Yours in the Great Eastern Sun,

Waylon Lewis


First, two videos each of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and his son and heir, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche—both worth listening to in the spirit of getting past our projections of them and remembering their fundamental message.

Shambhala appears to be in nothing less than crisis—still fixable, however.

I grew up in Vajradhatu, now known as Shambhala, the biggest and strongest and loudest Buddhist community in the United States. Thirty years later, it’s falling apart.

Shambhala is hemorrhaging money month by month (I’m not at liberty to name numbers, but hemorrhaging is apt, and without hyperbole). We’re insecure (we now exclude teachers from other traditions at our many Shambhala Centers, whereas before we were a big tent, the umbrella under which all Buddhist lineages drew strength). We’re staffed and led by valiant but often overwhelmed, head-down, passionate (it’s impossible to generalize—Shambhala is led by many responsible, kind servants—but by and large appointments seemed characterized not by a desire for leadership or entrepreneuralism or outward-facing, magnetizing troublemaking…but rather by enthusiastic allegiance to new curriculum. Everyone’s doing the best they can, and better. Everyone’s trying). We’re divided in two: the Sakyong‘s innovation (which is profound and needed) has step-by-step replaced his father, Chogyam Trungpa‘s teachings, classes, paths. And elder students, with their enthusiasm, deep training, joy and…money…have left in waves, wave after wave after wave over the years. Another wave of “culture loss” and diaspora just occurred.

For the first time since I was 16 or so—when the Shambhala sangha (community) was painfully split by Trungpa‘s death and then his successor’s inglorious fall and, then, saved by the Sakyong, young and uneager to teach, riding forth as if on a white horse to lead and heal our community—my community seems poised to fall apart, to dissolve, to become a fractured shadow of its former mainstream, well-known, joyful, outward-facing self.

Let me be clear: I’m not partisan, here. I’m loyal to the Sakyong, my teacher, and have personally experienced that he’s a profound vehicle for the Dharma, the teachings of Buddhism, and the Shambhala lineage. I’m also born and brought up in the spiritually-rich society that his father, Chogyam Trungpa, created. There is no conflict. In this phenomenal world, on both practical and spiritual levels, there’s plenty of room for both styles and manifestations—of course, both strengthen one another.

@waylonlewis on Instagram: Photo taken at Shambhala Sun offices.

That said, mistakes have been made and continue to be made, and the Sakyong would be the first to say that as our community’s leader, and first servant (service is the ultimate smile), responsibility is his first. And, simultaneously, any blame and responsibility belongs equally to myself, and all of us in the Shambhala mandala. It’s up to us. All of us.

The problems, as I see them—having talked with those close to the Sakyong, as well as those more on “the outside”, as well as those in administration—are few, and workable. But our problems are urgent, and will kill the sangha, if not fixed now, by leader servants who can address them.

Three Problems, Three Solutions.

1. While the Shambhala Sangha is vast, and led ably by President Richard Reoch and many devoted servants, money is beyond tight. Changes to curriculum have encouraged old students to defect, taking their donations, energy and service with them, and a few of the large rural centers are buckling beneath hard luck and incompetent business administration. Our umbrella is small—we don’t invite enough new energy in, we squash programs and replace them with less-attended substitutes, we have actively disinvited teachers from other traditions and communities.

Problem: overwhelmed administration.

Solution: appoint leader servants who are devoted not just to the Sakyong, but to the actual fulfillment of his vision—which means we need folks happy to get dirt under their fingernails, to reach out and invite involvement from our community, who know how to smile, and mean it, and to be tender and hard-working, all at the same time. We need to do a better job supporting, paying, training, and connecting with our hard-working leaders.

2. Senior students and teachers are leaving in droves—taking with them their money and training. They could and should be mentoring, passing the baton to the next generation, and teaching publicly. Instead, they’re bitching and moaning, disrespected, unable to teach (unempowered by the Sakyong‘s new teachings), curriculum changed again and again until they’re irrelevant. Only, the aren’t irrelevant—they’re our core, our base, the heart that pumps blood throughout the corporeal mass that is a healthy Shambhala.

Problem: We need our elder students and our newer students and curriculum to be interconnected.

Change happens; it’s fine and inevitable. But it need not happen at the expense of worthwhile tradition and experience, or you get what we got: the worst of both worlds, where Shambhala Centers are under-loved and burnout is a constant danger, and elders are disrespected and pushed aside, taking their teaching and money with them. 

Solution: when Coca Cola came out with New Coke, there was a rebellion. Smartly, Coke listened, reacted, and brought out Coca Cola Classic to assuage the (wallets and) loyalty of their countless, yet fickle fans. We need a “Coke Classic” track: a renewal of Lineage and Devotion and the countless other programs and teachings and practices that have been shunted aside as new replaced old timeless. Then Trungpa-loving folks, satiated, would realize the Sakyong can and should innovate all he likes. The Sakyong’s teachings are profound and timely, I’m told (I’m one of many who, despite not being a hater, has fallen behind and beneath wave after wave of curriculum change). If I could send my future children to Seminary, Alaya, to Ikebana or Kyudo, to Shambhala schools, to Shambhala Training, to video talks by Trungpa Rinpoche to the mandala that I grew up within, that would be glorious, wonderful, amazing. If simultaneously, newer students could enjoy the Sakyong‘s new teachings, his new books (which deserve devoted, professional campaigns behind them—they’re great books) then the Sakyong would become what he should be, and what the world needs—a teacher of Buddhism, meditation and Shambhala values and practices to the world, to millions and not just our little community—his books renowned and his face on the cover of magazines, a guest of talk shows (he’s funny, wise, eloquent…and, ladies, cute), etc. A reference point for joyful sanity in a world beset by strife and suffering.

3. On a practical level, the Shambhala mandala is losing vast sums of money, monthly. Time is urgent.

Appoint folks who can handle money, magnetize morale first and donations second and money-making New and Classic curriculums, third. Cut unnecessary expenses (like airfare and extravagances for extended family, perhaps). Invite other teachers to use (and contribute) to our mandala. Well-loved President Reoch and the many devoted directors of centers, and acharyas (senior teachers) deserve help, and better pay. Reconnect with a weakened Naropa, a strong Shambhala Sun/Buddhadharma/Mindful, elephant, Shambhala Pubs—any sangha-created organization that can help.

Problem: Money.

Solution: Leadership that can communicate; heal rift between Classic and New; fundraise and run Shambhala like the profitable social-benefit business that it could be.

Coda: I write the above reluctantly—I’m out of my depth on this, of course, though I took time to talk with old and new, in and out folks—but someone needed to say something and invite a constructive dialogue (douchey comments will be deleted). The many inaccuracies and faults in the above “problems” and “solutions” are my fault, alone. The above is offered out of devotion and enthusiasm for seeing Shambhala continue to offer a fun, practical, open community for meditation and social-benefit to all, everywhere, for another hundred kalpas.

The Sakyong and his Queen. A kitchen shrine is a wonderful way to honor the fundamental intention behind nourishment.

Without Shambhala, I would be suffering immensely and of little use to anyone. It taught and trained me to be human. I owe it everything—and like most of us those looking in from the outside, my ignorance about how to help does not mean that I wouldn’t happily answer a call to help in a capacity I have any energy and skill for. I’ve offered in various contexts, many times, as many of those inactive Shambhala students out there have done. That failing is addressed above.

We need flowering leadership, not lids.


By this merit may all attain enlightenment,
May it defeat the enemy, wrong-doing,
From the stormy waves of birth, aging, sickness & dying,
From the ocean of suffering may I free all beings.
~ Buddhist Closing Dedication of Merit


Update, some relephant perspective:


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | | | | | Google+ For more: publisherelephantjournalcom


112 Responses to “Shambhala in Crisis: & 3 Ways to Fix It.”

  1. irish mary says:

    This is great and could apply to many dharma organisations. In particular i vibrate- with a deep blue energy- at 'the downward looking administrators ' and the 'extravagances for extended family' . Skilfully said. I hope most sincerely that somebodies are listening and Shambala survives.

  2. Rick Gilbert says:

    Thank you so much for this Waylon. I'm not partisan either and am devoted to the Sakyong. I am an "in-betweener": came of age in a Buddhist context on the mid-late 90's. after intense years culminating in Seminary (old school Kagyu ngondro prep), my life changed dramatically-with new job, wife, kids, house and location in short order. I let go of my practice more than I should, and now feel stuck between trying to work with Kagyu ngondro and switching over to Shambhala ngondro. I've been told different things by different teachers. My heart is torn too. My life can't keep up with the new curriculum and group retreat requirements-so part of me wants to do the Kagyu-but there's so little support for that anymore. I don't want to leave the community either. Needless to say, your post is spot on for me. Thank you for your bravery and good heart, my friend.

    • Iektje says:

      I very much feel in the same boat as you, Gilbert. I would love to be more involved in the community, and am torn between the commitment I made to Kagyu Ngondro many years ago, a sincere wish to fulfill the vision of the Sakyong, and work and family responsibilities. I feel so inspired and hopeful by the Sakyong's teachings and vision for enlightened society, but the problems that Waylon outlined frighten me. I would love to help in any way I can.

    • Mat says:

      Not trying to make you leave the community..But you should check out Reggie Ray.. There are a lot of older students finishing their ngondro with him.

    • Stefan Carmien says:

      I have been doing Kagyu nongdro for 34 years, did seminary in '78 and fizzled out in about 3 years, spent the rest of the time in the sangha doing service (AV mostly) moved from Boulder to Germany in 2006 and suddenly finished prostrations. Saw several friends in same boat pick up their practice and finish with the new Shambhala nongdro, but decided my vow with VACT was what I needed to honour and am now in the middle of mantra. I feel totally supported in doing this by my 'local' sangha (Dechen Choling and the few vajra siblings in this part of Spain – where I live now). It's a bit lonely but works for me – plus the recent addition of Lodro and Larry M to help us (and the Lopon's amazing mahamuda classes), I feel there is a place for me in *this* sangha. As for what I do after I finish, maybe scorpion seal maybe vajrayogini – I have a while to decide. But, for me, the important thing is that there is a place for me in the sangha and that I follow my heart. As for the ‘true believers’, statistically we are just like any other organization and there will always be a small number of assholes, thank them for sparking compassion and regard them as children.

  3. Paul Burke says:

    Shambhala has always attracted the trolls that hoard the teachings. The Sakyong gives all his money to Monasteries
    in southeast Asia. We will always be broke.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Paul, thanks for not posting anonymously, but let's keep this conversation constructive. Trollish comments will be deleted. We can honor criticism by offering it thoroughly and thoughtfully brother!

  4. Noel says:

    Thanks Way,
    I had to read this a few times follow it as all the different font sizes and numbers confuzzled me, but I get the gist. I really appreciate the care that comes through here. A few years ago you told me in a conversation that you wished you had time to do journalism, but that unfortunately you only had the capacity for blogging. I didn't know the difference, so you explained that journalism involves investigating what is actually going on- interviewing the people who are actually involved and responsible, etc., whereas blogging is just hearing bits and pieces and then posting "what's up with that?"
    I find myself reflecting on that here because you're poking into a realm that is quite emotional for many people, and while I wouldn't say you got it all wrong by any means, it is clear that you're just telling superficial stories and making uninformed generalizations.
    I don't really want to get into all the bits and pieces, but I feel compelled to take issue with one piece of your article, which is your criticism of the leadership…
    "Solution: appoint leader servants who are devoted not superficially to the Sakyong, but to the actual fulfillment of his vision—which means we need more than fake-smiling yes men. We need folks happy to get dirt under their fingernails, to reach out and invite involvement from our community, instead of blocking it. We need folks who know how to smile, and mean it, and to be tender and hard-working, all at the same time."
    This is not only goofily simplistic but, to use your word, douchey. There's no doubt that there are some Shambhala pod people out there, but there are also many current Shambhala leaders, many of them old friends of yours, who work overtime for very little reward other than the satisfaction of living their aspiration to serve the vision, who do so with all the genuine heart that you describe, and who bring all they have to it and continue to train and learn to expand their skills. You should interview some of them.
    Meanwhile, here's an interview with Richard Reoch that at least taps some of the issues you raise.

    Yours in the Clan,

    • elephantjournal says:

      I do not doubt that many of our sangha peers are serving out of devotion and working their fingers to the bone. I say that above.

      Working hard, however, isn't enough—we need to "work smart." As Trungpa Rinpoche said, to paraphrase, martyrdom isn't enough for we non-theists. The cause of wakefulness has to actually win out. If many of our leaders are overwhelmed, need more help, more pay, more support and training, then we need to open our flower, not tighten our lid.

      If you think that the above, offered in the spirit of not fully understanding internal efforts and external concerns (despite having talked with many over the past years)…if you think my questions and suggestions above, offered in the spirit of constructive problem-addressing, music-facing and fixing is "douchey"…well that may be a reflection on the lack of rank, constructive communication in our community. I've taken more time and learned more than most of us are able to do—but understanding what's up in the sangha shouldn't require the work of a journalistic Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps we need consistent, genuine sangha-wide communication akin to the Vajradhatu Sun of old, under Rick Fields. I'd be happy to help with that, and I've offered before, and I've offered to do other things as well.

      There is, as I acknowledge above, responsibility with each of us, including you and I, to contribute. But it's hard to contribute, these days. When the elders of our sangha are disinvited to teach because they haven't done the latest round of new teachings…when we're bleeding money…when the culture you and I grew up in has been edited and largely left behind…when others like myself have offered various ways we can plug in and have heard either "no" or silence (understandably, as you and I both say above, leaders are overwhelmed) however wonderful and profound the new teachings are, there needs to be constructive conversation to move things forward.

      I look up to your judgement and love you. Most folks aren't as lucky to be as well-informed as you are, and you and others who are better informed than me should feel welcome to communicate to the sangha about Shambhala's challenges and how we can help, either on a personal level, or in a broader community fashion. This conversation is too important to be relegated to whispers—it should be elevated into an uplifted conversation, free of "douchey" name-calling but equally open to frank, honest, open-ended I-don't-know-the-answers-but-I-have-questions-and-a-willingness-to-listen conversation.

      Yours in the Clan, and outside of it,

      Waylon Lewis

  5. Noel and Way,
    I agree, things are not all the dire, look at the turnout at recent events such as the Being Brave Retreat last year- and full houses, sold out events everywhere these days! I came into this community when I was 19, 24 years ago now, and not as long as you both, but living in Boulder I have never seen such a rejuvenation. Just the Holiday practice retreat, for instance, fills up all shrine rooms at Marpa House such that we have to overflow to the Shambhala Center. I have never seen such enthusiasm and practice before all of these changes.
    I know how you feel Waylon, as a now inactive MI/AD, I cant keep up, but I am happy it's making people inspired to practice, finally! I also concur Waylon, that there could be more support for people still working on the Karma Kamsang Ngondro and further practices that Trungpa traditionally laid out. Those of us for whatever reason, cannot participate in all of the new retreats could feel like we have a place still- wasn't there a recent discussion about this at the last congress?
    I would love for everyone to feel included, rather than excluded or as you say "fallen behind and beneath wave." Certainly, students of Trungpa, the Sakyong, both, have another teacher as well as in my case, or someone who has no teacher at all but just likes to come to the center for sitting and Children's events like my husband, all have a heartfelt, welcomed place. That is… Shambhala, a good, human society. I know we'll get there really soon, and when we do, the money will follow. Much love to all- Dawn

    • elephantjournal says:

      The Sakyong is magnetizing and excellent at connecting to the larger world, and I'd love to see him do more of these great events, and see his books get the support they deserve, marketing-wise.

      I just attended his birthday celebration in Halifax, and got to see most of his recent sold-out talk in San Francisco on video. The message: kindness. Let's do it!

    • Anonymous says:

      At every ninthun I have attended recently there is never more than 2 other people sitting.

      • elephantjournal says:

        Good for you attending! Invite us and your friends and stir up some morale! I'll come!

      • dawn says:

        Thanks for saying that, I forget about attending Nynthuns! Well, we have a packed house at tomorrow nites Werma Feast with the Sakyong, over 200 (or 250) attending… wheh! 🙂 It's all good my friends…

  6. Kallie says:

    Sounds like you need to take more of a leadership/central role, Way. I think you have amazing teacher/leadership qualities and could inspire many more people to get involved.. that's a start. Too busy with Ele?

    • elephantjournal says:

      All of us should probably talk less, and jump in more. I'm not too busy to be a more helpful part of my community, these days, and I've offered various things, but I'm certainly no significant part of any solution, beyond hopefully helping start a constructive conversation before, financially and spiritually, we've drifted too far. I have offered various things both locally and internationally, and those offers are still good. I've offered to hold our talk show locally at the Shambhala Center, drawing 200-plus public folks into the Center, and through their intimidation, each month. I've offered to help train centers in social media, a free means of genuine, personal marketing that could help our programs succeed and fill up even more easily. That said, I know many of our leaders, both locally and nationally, are already overwhelmed and it's hard to know what to do with random offers of volunteering, sometimes.

      In any case, many of my peers and the elders are far more capable than I! We have a rich-in-experience community.

      • Kallie says:

        Just wondering 🙂 Speaking of, Pema Chodron walked into the Vitamin Cottage today… I was awe struck ,especially since I just got her book, The Wisdom of No Escape, and was listening to some of her teaching last night 🙂 In any case, your article opened my eyes a bit, hopefully enough that I'll at least get my butt to young Sangha night.

  7. Buddha says:

    I think what might be responsible is a certain egoism related to people who have attained all they were to attain from the practices. These people, for some reason, represent the place to newcomers. And then these newcomers can't understand how egoism can be associated with a spiritual center and realize that it would probably be the same for them if they just stayed away. There should be absolutely no egoism in centers of meditation – regardless of what is going on outside. That is the whole point having a meditation center; otherwise, the place itself becomes absolutely meaningless. It's like a Starbucks running out of coffee – it's just a building.

  8. heilbrunn says:

    adversity, whether individual or organizational, always cultivates strength. this rift between old dawgs and dharma brats is baked in to our Culture. now the difference is financial. economically we have all been challenged. it appears it is time to prune the deadwood and strengthen the roots that bare fruit. where is all the financial currency being short circuited and where is it generating energy?? these questions need to be answered, especially at this time of the year when every non-profit reaches for support.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I've been in-and-out of the Shambhala community, beginning practice in 1981, leaving after the Regent scandal, back in during a recent marriage, now out again — long enough to finish Kagyu ngondro and receive V. abhisheka. I'm not sure mine is a typical path.. I will say, though, that my impression is that those students who stayed, accepted the dissolution of a traditional Kagyu path and the repeated curriculum changes that followed, should embrace their situation, just as Trungpa's students did when Vajradhatu was just beginning. Many of Trungpa's students have moved on, found new teachers and/or practice alone. Please consider how they felt to be left without teachers or community when Shambhala Buddhism was created and they were disempowered. I've heard Trungpa loyalists (?!) were even mocked, said to be members of the "dead guru society." Unfortunate. But to take your branding analogy one step further, Shambhala may want to re-brand itself to reflect its current form, whatever that is.

  10. John Tischer says:

    The older students have not been respected…have been insulted even. The rift seems to have gone on for so long, that
    how can it be repaired? And who really wants to? I won't say how I feel about it, but the fact that so many of VCTR's students
    have left cannot help but convey a strong message that has been ignored.

  11. Gordon says:

    I would echo what Noel said and add a couple of points.

    1) Saying things like “we have an overwhelmed administration” and then saying that we need to find some new, better administrators is totally disrespectful. Part of why these folks are overwhelmed is because everyone feels they can criticize what they are doing without…you know… ever asking them what it is that they are doing.

    2) It’s ridiculous to write an article like this without interviewing the leaders who you are criticizing. If you did, I think you’d find that they think about these problems all the time, and have nuanced and informed views about them.

    3) Saying “we need more funding” is obvious and unhelpful. Again, a lot of very smart and very dedicated people have been working on this for years and years. You should find out, and speak concretely about, what they are doing rather than just saying that we need to “run it like a profitable social-business”

    4) Shambhala has a core services funding problem, not a practice-involvement problem. There are vastly more Shambhala practitioners right now than there have ever been in the organization’s history, and a lot of that has to do with the changes to the path that you are talking about. As an organization, we need a way to fund the organization which scales along with the number of practitioners and with inflation. But when you look at actual data, the community itself looks pretty healthy.

    • elephantjournal says:

      It's responses like this, in tone and defensive condescension, which are why more folks don't come forward and try and engage in uplifted discourse about what we all are united in caring about. That said, your passion is commendable and your reaction understandable.

      If you look at actual financial date, you'd likely write something similar, and hopefully better informed, to the above. In fact, you should have done so already, since at least half of those love Shambhala are confused and disheartened, or at the least out of touch and less involved that we'd like. If you or anyone would like to offer a more informed response or rebuttal, whatever you like, I'll be happy to give that equal space.

      • Noel says:

        But Waylon, seriously… how is it uplifted discourse or open dialogue when you've already established the rules of which storyline must be accepted? You've framed each issue and the whole situation as a problem, rather than a discussion. You haven't framed any inquiry. Dialogue begins with a level playing field, not a fortress. It's fine to editorialize, but don't pretend you're being a moderator. It's responses like yours above that have driven the genuine dialogue underground.

        • elephantjournal says:

          If this were a fortress, challenging comments wouldn't be accepted here. It's more of a, say, vajra dzong…letting in truth as long as it's not expressed with trollery. As for problems, we all have them—in the same breath I suggest sollutions. How is that overly solid?

      • Gordon says:

        When you say "At least half" what is that based on? Half of what? Have you asked some unbiased sample of the 9,000 members? or the 150 or so centers and groups? The 13,000 people who did Shambhala Training programs last year? Or the unrecorded thousands who have come and through the doors over the last 40 years? Or is this just basically made up?

  12. Lay it on the line why don’t you Waylon!

    Bravo for speaking your mind – a very Shambhalian thing to do!

    Many of the things you’ve said resonate with me. One thing I have come to realize through my dark nights is that there is no “us” and no “them” inside, or outside, our mandala. But, my ego would always like to find a straw man to knock down – that hasn’t changed! I’m embarrassed to say, but delighted to discover it’s the same neurotic shit I’ve always been dealing with, different day. I don’t think that has anything to do with your article, just letting you know what goes on for me.

    All those curriculum and packaging changes are hard for me too, but I have to allow that when I have surrendered to them, i.e. get into them, I can see the logic in the pedagogy and admit that I appreciate the spaciousness of the new meditation hall forms too (I keep more pictures on my shrine at home). So I resent the new changes when they come out. I resent being challenged with one more thing, but I used to resent it when the Vidyadhara changed stuff too! and it’s still the same material just repackaged and streamlined into one curriculum, with some new suggested even experimental adult education techniques. It’s still up to the teacher to decide how to deliver the heart of it and what there’s time for in each class.

    I don’t think the Sakyong is blocking anything with the new curriculum particularly. I think he is re-staging, addressing the beginning stages more thoroughly so we can grow without perverting the teachings. One problem is that when people take the levels and do the courses in between, they come along very quickly! Not sure I’m ready for that.

    Anyhoo, I want to let you know about three encouraging things that are happening with Shambhala here in Victoria, BC, which have the potential to address your three flash points, a little.

    One is that the new website layout and other small but important refinements have resulted in strong turnout to our free public sitting and open house talks. We have been surprised by burgeoning capacity crowds of 55 people. So something is happening there. Maybe the world is just realizing meditation is ordinary and good (hope so).

    The second is the Lopon’s new Shambhala Online initiative to teach Mahamudra by reviewing and expounding upon Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso’s programs is magnetizing some and tantalizing other dormant senior students and bringing them together with keen newer tantrikas. This is both healing and inspiring. Also, the Lopon is delivering the material with frequent references to the Vidyadhara’s and the Sakyong’s comments on the same topics which brings it alive in a whole new way. It’s great!

    Finally, I can sense what you mean by overwhelmed administration talking and working with “them”. What has come of that is actually a grass roots kindled movement by some Centre Directors to implement what is called a United Giving Model UMG for short, which just means some centres like ours are migrating or switching to sending 10% of our annual dues and program fee revenues, averaged and paid monthly for the central administration. In Victoria this amounts to all of about $640 per month, but if it is widely embraced, it will reduce emergency fundraising and has the potential to bring more balance to the force.

    So yes Shambhala is in crisis, but alas the whole world is in crisis. In fact, I’m in crisis, old habits die hard. But I think we will handle it the way we have learned, by holding our seats and letting the world touch us as much as we can.

    Great article.


    Layth Matthews

    Director, Victoria Shambhala Meditation Centre

    • Buddha says:

      Unfortunately this is egoism, albeit in a veiled form. There must not be any egoism at these centers. And if there is, the wrong people are in charge. The big problem facing society today is that people have become professional at masking their egos – using sweet language and words… and using x's and o's. The point of these meditation centers is to reduce the ego to ashes, to dust. But if the director has a rather large ego – how is any progress going to be made?

    • elephantjournal says:

      Layth, great to hear from you. Thanks for responding with genuine interest and healthy morale, instead of defensiveness—that's a testament to your devotion and practice.

      Amen on much: but it's my understanding that re "I don't think the Sakyong is blocking anything with the new curriculum particularly" old classes are now gone, like Lineage and Devotion, etc. That's culture loss, or blocking, whatever you want to call it. Kagyu ngondro is now no longer taught, etc. Others could say more than I on this. And if you're a senior teacher but not trained in newer curriculum, you can't teach. I've heard this from multiple sources. Please correct if I'm mistaken!

    • Buddha says:

      I realize that my post was deleted – and that is a shame. Why cover up truth – and replace it with masked egoism? Isn't that going in the wrong direction? Egoism at places of worship, meditation centers, and the like are absolutely disastrous; so, Shambhala is just reaping what it has sown. And this is the way it should be. What we can do is point it out and fix it! Now, how could I be surprised if this post was deleted too? If there is a hole in the floor and a rug is placed over it, has the hole really disappeared? Be well people – and meditate!

      • elephantjournal says:

        To my knowledge we haven't deleted any comments—our comment system doesn't allow overly long comments, so just split them into two or three and comment them in.

        If however your comment was deleted, it was because you were being insulting, name-calling, ad homineming and such.

        • Buddha says:

          Yea, sorry about that. It wasn't deleted. I didn't click on the red replies link. Even Buddha isn't perfect. But we really do have to end this fraud of people giving people high fives for doing nothing other than obscuring the truth for their own selfish desire to maintain power. And we all thought this didn't happen in the spiritual world. It needs to stop. The problem is the ego and it can only be dealt with via the truth. And what Waylon has done here is to provide a democratic (I know see) forum for this discussion. Just to make my point again… egoism might be fine on wall st. because these guys aren't supposed to be anything other. But to have egoism in the spiritual realm is the worse thing in the world. Worse than any other fraud anywhere else. And these people need to be condemned. Good work Waylon.

      • Padma Kadag says:

        Lohs..Lohs…Rinpoche!!!!! Hahaha

    • Susan Williams says:

      thanks Layth, I appreciate your honesty, practicality and levity. xoxox Susan Williams

      • elephantjournal says:

        Amen. This is the kind of comment to be expected, or hoped for from Shambhala leadership/servants—thoughtful, fun, passionate but not knee-jerk defensive, devoted and GES forward looking without ignoring challenges.

  13. Anonymous says:

    As a newer-ish student who is also very devoted to the vision of the Sakyong and very heavily involved in the community (where I can be), I have to say that even with my very limited time here thus far, I can see the kinds of things that you are talking about. One of the most disheartening things to me on this path lately, has been that I very much long to be connected to the older students but that there seems to be some obstacles preventing that. They have so much wisdom, heart and experience that I (and many others) could benefit greatly from hearing about. The problem that I see, is sort of along the lines of what you are saying – where curriculum has become a barrier.

    Because I haven't attended Seminary yet (I will attend it though, hopefully soon, but it will all come in due time), I feel a sense of disconnectedness from the community at large. The older students that I come into contact with have generally been AD/MI's in my previous programs, and tend to be the same people. Don't get me wrong, these people are wonderful, and their service greatly appreciated, but could there not be a time where all students – old and new, are together to learn and discuss the vision that we all hold so dear?

    On the other hand, it does seem as though Shambhala Centers are making an effort. In Boulder, the introduction of "SunDay" Assemblies seem to have gotten some success – although, by and large, the biggest groups of "old"/"more advanced" students appear on days of Werma Feast (or other feasts), and the biggest groups of newer students happen at a Level I or Monday Night Open Class.

    Sometimes it feels as though once you reach a certain level of "practice" in this community, you forget about the other ones. In my mind, I know that that isn't necessarily true (or at least, it isn't the main view held by most), but I have heard "more advanced" students say things such as, "I just don't have time to go to a Monday Night Open Class, or an open shamatha evening sitting, I have other practice requirements to meet." And so, with the amount of individual/group practice requirements set in place for people in order to "advance" on the path, it seems as though integration between old and new students gets left behind. The more "advanced" students seem to have a sense of urgency in completing requirements and it leaves newer students with a sense of "goal" on the path, such as: "When I get to that place in my practice, then I am more advanced and I can attend the more advanced classes and receive more teachings…" This isn't what I hold to be true, but I have spoken directly with some of my fellow "new-ish" students and they definitely have gotten that impression.

    So, what I am wondering is how can we encourage a more blended practicing Shambhala society? How can we foster a community where both old and new practitioners are practicing together and learning from each other in order to radiate out the same shared vision of Enlightened Society?

    Just some thoughts…
    And thanks for writing this article, Waylon.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Thanks, Anonymous. I still attend, and bring friends to, the open houses. I love them.

      I've been saddened to hear directly from senior teachers/students who no longer teach these wonderful open houses because they don't want to teach different, newer methods. I'm fine with change, you probably are, we all are—but tradition and Trungpa R's world are worthwhile, too. Both!

      • Sangye says:

        I think it's already been mentioned but again these changes are NOT a new thing. CTR changed things all the time and likely the same students objected then too. Fundamentally I think attachment to the form is just as difficult as anything else, if not more.
        As for wanting more connection with older students & wanting to see them practicing with newer students at the center has been an issue for me as long as I've been around, which was a few years after CTR's death. 1991 I connected in Halifax and for the 10 years I was there this was a concern to me and I had been in many discussions about it.
        Personally I see more of a mixture of older and newer students here in Toronto on a rather regular basis. There are also initiatives to train more MI's and a new training approach is rolling out for teachers. We are running a pilot program now for training people to facilitate some of the courses while using videos of teachings from Acharyas.
        I find it interesting to note that I couldn't connect at the Toronto center when I first moved here in 2001. I would occasionally go to the center but just couldn't connect. Then something shifted a few years back and when I walked into the center again it felt warm and inviting. I've heard the Sakyong comment on how in our culture we had become somewhat unkind to one another, going around cutting other peoples trips and such is the sort of thing I felt like he might be talking to. That resonated strongly with me. He talked about the fact that if we can not be kind to each other we can not establish Enlightened Society. I think his insight and the adjustments he's made are strongly needed.
        The idea that people have been pushed out is something I don't quite understand. If you are saying a lot of the older students are not committed to The Sakyong's vision and don't want to adopt the new practices The Sakyong is giving out (much like his father introduced Shambhala Training and even in the 90s there were STILL students who refused to accept their teachers instructions. I'm by no means enlightened but might this be an issue of one's own spiritual path and becoming rigid? It appears that people who felt that way simply feel they do not need a teacher now, at least not the one their Guru put in charge, empowered and personally trained for it.

        I think those students could still stay involved with Shambhala and still continue their own favorite practices at home. I don't do Shambhala Ngondro and perhaps never will, I received the Lung from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche while he was visiting the Halifax Center. I use the Nalanda Translation Committee's version because Mipham Rinpoche gave me permission to. This all seems rather open to me. Some human students thought I couldn't do that but that's because we all tend to get confused about things. My teachers don't seem to have that problem. I've heard DKR talk a lot about how the methods of practice someone uses depend solely on how their Teacher has told them to practice and to not be hung up about how someone else might practice differently. It seems to make sense to me that students of Mipham Rinpoche's should follow the current curriculum in so far as the karmic connection exists. For students (i.e., teachers who were CTR's students) who do not feel a karmic connection with the Shambhala lineage it makes sense that they might leave. However if people do feel they have a karmic connection with the Shambhala Lineage and they are leaving the community as some sort of protest towards The Sakyong's leadership, I find that a bit sad that they have no samaya with The Sakyong but maybe that's just how it should unfold. Perhaps those older students will spread the Dharma in their own way. CTR intended for his son to be King of Shambhala, only those of us who are willing to go along with those wishes should stick around and support him as our Leader and the King of Shambhala. Which means we respect the hierarchy and don't try to put ourselves on the same level as him. If we hold this view we wouldn't ever need to feel "pushed out", we just have to put our own ego in check and go with the flow, bringing it all back to the path for ourselves.

  14. Leonid Barenblit says:

    glad you're speaking out. i hope more people will. the way I see it, there is basically one problem and one solution — the solution of openness and inclusiveness vs. protectionism and "territorialism". it's about freedom, freedom to invite any teacher, freedom to study with multiple teachers and whoever you want to and at any time you want to; freedom to host any program; freedom to let teachers teach what they're inspired to teach and freedom for students to want to learn (and demand even) what they're inspired to learn; speaking out openly about any issue and allowing space for that. We need to allow to be who we are — neurotic, crazy, protector-wrathful-chanting, peace-loving, werma-happy, whatever it is, but please let's forget about being politically correct — and following the party line — let's just present teachings, any teachings and let people decide what they want to learn.

    if we do this one thing, then everything else will fall into place. when freedom is intentionally or unintentionally is reduced, this always leads to reduction of enthusiasm, creativity and aliveness. Once freedom is back, enthusiasm would be back, the inspiration would be back and collectively everything will work itself out.

    Let's trust our intelligence and more importantly the intelligence of others and let each choose their own path.

    The Buddha said, "Don't believe me, don't believe anybody, don't accept anything based on tradition. Don't believe anything based on the fact that your community believes this or your country believes this or the people that you are around believe this"

  15. ziji says:

    I fully support the Sakyong and his vision, but I question how it is implemented. The Shambhala centers I'm most familiar with can barely make the rent, yet the central administration keeps imposing new requirements — framed photos are problematic when you're not bringing in enough each month to pay expenses. I'm too low on the hierarchy to know what curriculum changes you're referring to, but Shambhala seems to me to be becoming increasingly cult-like, while not building alliances with other communities doing similar work. Look at the website — it's meditation, not Buddhism.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Recently, new classes—Basic Goodness I think they're called–were implemented. That's great, and welcome, hopefully they're genuine Dharma and will be of benefit. The problem as I see it, and I'm just one person, is that there's not "Coca Cola Classic" track—ie, the new classes, yet again, have replaced Lineage & Devotion and the other time-tested Dharma classes.

  16. Anonymous says:

    As a newer student and following the teachings of the Sakyong, I’m concerned of current stories being shared over the last couple of years. Regardless of the history, which I know very little about, depending on the center, someone can have a really great experience being introduced to Shambhala or a nightmarish experience. Maybe 80% or more of the teachers are great, but when up to 20% of those in charge spread egotistic attitudes and polarizing approaches (all while people in critical positions seemingly turn their heads the other way) it damages the entire sangha with poison. And while the Sakyong and teachers are spreading amazing dharma, some of the interpretations, and hence manifestations, can be absolutely toxic. New practitioners are sometimes exposed to hypocrisy and pain, go in another direction—maybe to a Zen center, another meditation center, another Rinpoche—and share their crazy Shambhala stories “such as let me tell you about my crazy experience at this land center” and so. Then we wonder why others start labeling Shambhala as cult like or maybe not true dharma teachings. This has been allowed to manifest to this day.
    And as Leonid said “there is basically one problem and one solution–the solution of openness and inclusiveness vs. protectionism and "territorialism". it's about freedom, freedom to invite any teacher, freedom to study with multiple teachers and whoever you want to and at any time you want to; freedom to host any program; freedom to let teachers teach what they're inspired to teach and freedom for students to want to learn (and demand even) what they're inspired to learn; speaking out openly about any issue and allowing space for that.”

    If those that are implementing the wonderful teachings think that what Leonid said is not happening—that maybe there is a belief that Shambhala promotes inclusiveness and is not territorial, then I think there could be some slight delusion happening. Depending on what center or sangha member one is introduced to, many, including new participants, have come with the impression that Shambhala is very exclusive and sometimes have a hard time trying to reconcile the teachings of Enlightened Society with the dysfunction that is witnessed at times. And it is great to hear that many new students are coming to centers, but I wonder if many will be inspired to stay.

    And thank goodness for directors like Layth Matthews in Victoria for posting such a thoughtful words. If everyone in leadership could be this welcoming and thoughtful, Shambhala could be the embodiment of the very teachings it is trying to give to world.

  17. Guy Leisure says:

    If 1st place is the teaching, the tradition is #2 then Trungpa is #3 and his direct students 4, then I am 5. Please do not remove me or any other student further from the source. I was magnetized to the lineage because of the refinements of the tradition not because of it's fluidity. The fluidity is my work right? If the Sakyong has lost the connection to the original tradition then it is wrong to ask him to teach in a way that is not his own. Perhaps the car wreck and the choice to go western was Trungpa's tragic flaw. Once the seal was broken on the traditional methods there was no turning back so lets re-write the whole cannon every year and call that our practice. Fun for a while but then the parodied analogies and revised revisions will just sound like channel surf. As for the finances, who knows the truth? From my limited internal and external view the judgement is called, "Penny Wise Pound Foolish". If the Sakyong prefers to send western spiritual dollars to rural Asia i think it is a great service. It will also kill his organization. That would actually be a fine epitaph to the whole project. Trungpa's teaching is done and well documented, the new liturgy is doomed to fail, so lets transfuse the assets of the organization into a completely different purpose, done. We can still follow the teachings as they were and the easily distracted can wander off.

  18. Suzanne says:

    The funny and sad thing is that Waylon's article is about 10 years behind the times. All this was repeatedly asked of and offered to and ignored by Osel and his students in Halifax long ago.

    • Tharpa says:

      Amen! Waylon, where have you been? Discussion and investigation of these topics was very active on Radio Free Shambhala years ago. The issues Waylon raises are not "fixable" because no one in charge cares, and the roots of these problems go deep. The financial issues were entirely predictable years ago given the lack of transparency and the emphasis on loyalty to the "Sakyong's Vision" over financial responsibility. These problems are inherent in a monarchical system, superimposed awkwardly over our modern globalized society.

      Also, Waylon would do everyone a favor if he would be more explicit about the financial issues and magnitude of the problem.

      • elephantjournal says:

        The financial issues are not well known, because to my knowledge they are not public. If SI and the two rural centers in question are in fact healthy and doing well, I'm happy to issue a retraction.

        • Tharpa says:

          Of course they are not public. Shambhala's finances, and those of Vajradhatu before it, have occasionally been reported publicly, but usually these moves towards transparency have been short lived, and the creation of alternative organizational forms like the Ladrang, etc. has clouded the picture considerably. Several financially savvy individuals have attempted to decode what's really going on behind the smokescreen, particularly Bill Karelis and Barbara Blouin. If someone in a position to know wants to challenge the rumor and innuendo we are thereby left with, and which you are unfortunately limited to, I wouldn't settle for happy talk, but would ask for an independently audited balance sheet and several years' worth of income statements for the centers.

          This points out the inconvenient fact that this is only an imaginary monarchy, lacking the power to tax or behead people. Eventually excess at the top and poor management will take its toll, and people will simply drift away – which has already been going on for years.

      • Lilly says:

        "Senior students and teachers are leaving in droves—taking with them their money and training." This hits the nail on the head! The fact that what we represent to the "organization first and foremost is MONEY. Repackaging teachings and making new prerequisites in order to make more money is a gimmick. Comparing the issues facing SI to the problem with the Coca cola company is hideously revealing of the attitude that underlies the problem and will probably completely undo the community altogether. Can we really not imagine enlightened society outside of the mercantalistic paradigm? With a king and a queen? Is this not theism by any other name? I say.. Let it fall apart.

        • elephantjournal says:

          You're quoting me, above, not Shambhala International—those expressions and faults therein are mine, not the leadership's. As for Coke Classic, it may be a crude analogy, but for me it represents the notion that we could find a way for tradition and innovation to coexist, in harmony.

          As for "let it fall apart," I personally feel that's a selfish and regrettable attitude. The suffering of countless sentient beings depends on contact with truth, whether Dharma, any genuine sangha, or other wisdom traditions. Without the Shambhala sangha, speaking personally, as I mentioned above, I would have been lost, miserable, and utterly selfish. I think that goes for many of us—we've been given much and the three jewels' wealth is potentially inexhaustible, and can give much more, for many more years and kalpas.

          • Anonymous says:

            as others have said elsewhere — Radio Free Shambhala and Bill Karelis have taken a look at the finances, which have not been in good shape for years. Waylon, it sounds like you've heard finances are worse than usual.

          • Lilly says:

            Yes I do realize that I was quoting you and at the same time I also feel that it reflects the predominant attitude that drove me and many others away..But let me just speak for myself though.
            As for the other part..My "regrettable selfishness".. I do still have many friends in this Sangha but I have otherwise completely let go of the scene and I do not miss what I left behind. I had had my misgivings about the extravagant spending but those who cared were nobodies like me.. RMDC went Disney and became Shambhala Mountain center.. It went from an affordable place to do a solitary retreat to way too expensive to pitch a tent.. And they destroyed a wetland to do it. But that was back then and this now.. The Sakyong is a nice guy but his idea of wanting a million students I find ridiculous..sort of more of that coke thing. Selling Dharma.. Trungpa taught us much and so have many other people.. What we do with it is up to us. Hopefully some of us will use it to make a better world, with or without SI.

          • Minuteman says:

            The Shambhala organization and the approach it has created and refines seems, in my view, to overemphasize the growth of the organization (or, to take a more positive slant, "community") over the individual meditator's spiritual path. I recently visited a European city center where, during the breaks in the program, most of the discusssion among the participants was about the activities of the Sakyong and his spouse, rather than the teachings presented in the program. While this may give the participants some common currency in their discussions, it left me feeling that the atmosphere was much more cult-like than I remember from earlier years. I felt as if I was back in Boulder in 1982, but without the profound teachings that accompanied Trungpa's eccentricities. Given how many other sources now exist to obtain "certified" Buddhist teachings of various types, Shambhala no longer has the near-monopoly that its predecessor had in the early '80s on Buddhist teachings in the West. It is now, in my view, appealing to a much more limited segment of the population, both in Europe and North America than it did in the 1980s. In my region of Europe, attendance at programs is declining — two people per Nyinthun is common. (I would note however that there does seem to be growth in Shambhala programs in the former Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe — here of course Shambhala has no history and there are much fewer competing Buddhist resources). So "Let it fall apart"…this, in my view, primarily refers to an organization — if the teachings are valid, then people will continue to seek them out and there would still an audience, though perhaps in more humble digs.

  19. older student. says:

    Luckily there is Reggie Ray.

  20. jennifer says:

    I am new to the path and new to the Shambhala path as well (6 years?) I come from a small sangha and have very little exposure to anything out side of that. I was in San Franciso at Grace Cathedral, and have never attended any programs beyond Drala. After seeing the Sakyong I felt like I wanted to help him…to develop myself more so I could. I found Shambhala through CTR's books and always will, for whatever reason, feel a connection to a man I have never met. All of that being said…I have seen and heard and agree with both sides of this storyline. To me Shambhala teachings are CTR teachings….I know nothing of Kagyu teachings. I am also saddened by the lack of acknowledgment to that. My experience with my sangha has been painful and I haven't seen the manifestation of the teachings in their leadership. I stay because I feel devoted and use the disappointment as practice…..I have a lot more to go. I have had the fortune to meet great teachers within Shambhala…old dawgs…who work very hard to deliver the Sakyongs curriculum. It is also because of them that I stay and keep working with this path. They refresh me after dealing with some of the other aspects within my community. I absolutely do not understand funding extravagant anything for anyone during times like these…..I feel very strong about that. This type of spending DOES go on and it should be called out. I believe strongly in Shambhala vision…aspire to grow within it and would very much like if one day I could be a representative for it. I also do not like being "exclusive"…not joining/welcoming other teachers from our sister lineages is to me contradictory to Shambhala vision. I am not saying we need to confuse people with mixing a bunch of teachings together, but not joining in celebration or blocking them out is just small minded. I see a lot of hypocrisy and I am also grateful for the vision that has been shown to me….I really see both sides. I am worried more about the negative because I feel a sense of the urgency in our times…and then I hear the Sakyong say the same thing. From a new person's limited perspective, I love Shambhala and am very sad about how Shambhala is manifesting in my world overall….I suppose I should include myself in that as well. Thank You for the opportunity to speak.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Well, Shambhala and being in the sangha has always been heartbreaking, and that's okay, though groundless and difficult. Thanks for sticking with it, and your respectful comment, and for sticking with yourself!

      • jennifer says:

        I don't think that breaking peoples hearts should be taken so lightly. I'm not talking about the heartache from tenderness…I am talking about being mean and slightly repressive. Perhaps I should have been more straightforward. I have felt unwelcome at times and have also seen a sense of superiority when someone feels they hold "rank". I have seen cowardice, a lack of free thinking and refusal to practice forgiveness. I remember reading a survey of Shambhala centers where others expressed similar feelings. It isn't that my heart breaks only for myself…my heart breaks for the disintegration of the whole. Afterall, whether we are new or old, we are still within the same mandala and one way or another we will feel this. I wouldn't underestimate anything about it.

  21. elephantjournal says:

    Via Michael Chender, who asked me to post this because of some login trouble:

    iscussion/debates about these issues often get framed in terms of
    trying to marshall “facts” (“What did the Vidyadhara say about ___”), dharmic principles, (“You’re too attached to the past”), superior insight (“The Sakyong is completely bringing forward all of the Vidhyadara’s activity), emotion (“Why can’t we all just get along?”). However, as we are focusing on “enlightened society,” I think it is
    useful to look at this in terms of societal dynamics. In fact, I
    think this is essentially a problem of relationship, communication and
    social experience, and that addressing it exclusively in any other way
    just masks this underlying dynamic.

    That dynamic is a well-known one to students of culture and history.
    Although aspects of our situation are unique, we are also living
    through typical patterns that ensue when a new culture becomes
    dominant and is naïve or unskillful jn communicating with older
    culture members as it begins to change cultural patterns to reflect a
    new, “superior” form of organization. As the older culture loses its symbols and sources of meaning, and members’ protests or creative suggestions are dismissed as ignorance or seen as signs of a power
    struggle, confusion and helplessness turns to anger. The anger is then
    largely internalized, resulting in well-known patterns of loss of
    energy, depression, and lassitude. The newer culture then points to
    this manifestation of the older culture as “proof” that its new
    systems are needed! This is an inexorable social dynamic that unrolls
    from the initial felt experience of disrespect and dismissal, no
    matter who the individuals involved are. The newer culture may, and I
    believe in this case does, offer many real benefits, but the losses it
    occurs in this process will hamper and haunt it.

    This is because the life force of any society exists in the wild
    vitality closest to its roots (which ideally lives on as the basis of
    trust and respect between generations.) Building an “enlightened
    society” over the de facto muting of a large section of its pioneers
    is a strange idea. The ultimate source of meaning for any society is
    in its story of origins. Right now there are competing interpretations
    of those origins, which is sapping the energy from realizing the
    underlying vision.

    So how do societies (rarely) sort out these issues? The older culture
    has to rediscover its own collective strength, on its own, and engage
    and enrich the newer culture from that perspective, and/or the newer
    culture needs to realize its loss and recalibrate its approach.

    ~ MC

  22. Martin Fritter says:

    This is all rumor and innuendo. It may be true, or it may not. But it's not reporting, not news, not journalism and not really opinion. I don't see how it serves any constructive purpose other than to harm Shambhala International and undermine its finances. How? By suggesting that it's somehow "in crisis" and dishonest with its members and donors. All of which is unfortunate, regardless of one's opinion of SMR and his works.

    • elephantjournal says:

      If it's rumor or innuendo, that's because this conversation hasn't yet been hosted on a more uplifted, well-read forum open to sanghawide and public communication, as there used to be with the Vajradhatu Sun. There certainly could be. If it's rumor and innuendo, that's because finances aren't transparent to you or I or you or you or any of us, which is fine and understandable but does not make a discussion of important issues easy. And if I had Shambhala's balance sheet, I wouldn't publish it—would you have me do so? I don't think so. I was given numbers via various folks I talked to, and have chosen not to print them for precisely the reason you offer.

      As for waves of elder sangha leaving and feeling disaffected, read some other comments—that's not rumor or innuendo. Some departures are inevitable and natural, of course. But many are unnecessary if there was a "Coke Classic" option whereby folks could study Kagyu Nyingma dharma, and not be funneled into newer teachings, however wonderful and worthwhile they are.

      Thanks, Martin—see you around town!

  23. jenkm1 says:

    All good thoughts – my perception after 12 years is that this is a marvelous time for Shambhala – we are all part of a tremendous evolution – providing a place- numerous places for people to sit and be – in reality costs nothing. Yes, there are elements of this large entity that need specific support. Perhaps it is time to contemplate further the difference between needing and wanting – deeply contemplate it.

  24. […] our problems are real and some of them are urgent and solutions are urgently needed and the issues a… and our horse has also ran…it’s time for some […]

  25. Sopa Chöga says:

    Shambhala is not an organization. This is a common misconception, but it's totally wrong. The Druk Sakyong created a Vajra culture that can't actually be "censored" or changed in any way by the church of Shambhala Buddhism. His students, and their students, and any person who adopts that culture, in the organization, around the organization, and even way outside the organization is part of Shambhala. The organization's success is not a determining factor in the success of the project of enlightened society, though, to be fair, it can sure be helpful. Thinking larger than the organization is critical.

    • Suzanne says:

      Totally agree — have been saying this for years. Big difference between Shambhala and Shambhala International!

    • elephantjournal says:

      Well said! Still, as you say, the organization, the centers, the books, the teachers, the trainings and programs…all provide wonderful, needed form.

  26. chavarrj says:

    I appreciate this article and have also appreciated reading a lot of the discussion happening here.
    Some of the discussion on this thread, however, is a little disheartening. So, I just wanted to say a gentle reminder…

    When we are giving someone feedback (correction, constructive criticism, etc.), it should raise their lungta, not lower it.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Thank you, Chavarrj. This is where our practice comes to fruition, or not—in our ability to walk our talk, or come back after we lose our minds. It's tough stuff, but worth doing gently, and with a genuine smile, or at least a genuine apology when we mistake self-righteousness for truth.

  27. […] Original Post: Shambhala in Crisis: & 3 Ways to Fix it. […]

  28. Jigme says:

    So much love for the three jewels expressed in so many different ways…like the facets of a diamond shining in sunlight.
    May all sentient beings be free and at their ease.
    May Dharma flourish.
    Thank you all for your generosity and thoughtfulness.
    All best,
    Jigme Urbonas
    Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia, Canada

  29. old dog says:

    Thanks Waylon.

  30. Kirk Cornwell says:

    When I arrived at Taiil of the Tiger (now Karma Choling) in 1974, the wisdom was there, but there was also a ring of big city types (yes, I'm a country boy) who were extremely protective of Chogyam Trungpa and eager to decide what was best for the rest of us. Sound familiar?

    • elephantjournal says:

      Amen! The good old days were never the good old days. The good new days and the good old days are and were both full of rich possibility, practice and difficult issues. A key difference: Rick Fields and the Vajradhatu Sun made for uplifted communication and discourse. I'm heartened to see the Shambhala Times and our executive director finding new ways to communicate.

  31. Ira Zukerman says:

    I appreciate this discussion. Waylon, also, thanks for your Elephant Journal, which is probably the only on-line service I subscribe to with cash money (though not much).

    I should say I became aware of this discussion today (how did the rest of you hear about it?) from the post in the current version of sangha talk on the Shambhala Network. Sam Scoggins posted there about this. So, it's important to understand, for all of us, whether we agree or disagree about how Shambhala is shaping up…that it provides container elements for us to share our unhappiness, too.

    That's probably my 3rd of 3 points I would make. My own pretty long standing training in Shambhala, since about 1975 proper, is to frequently think about things in threes, as in 3 fold logic. So, consistent with Waylon's point, I guess, there are newer technologies of dyads and such which may have come forward since the presentation of 3 fold logic, particularly. I'll be neutral on that, I think.

    But another point I'll reaffirm from Laythe Mathews…there is, as an initiative fully in our Shambhala community, for all tantra students to come together (or at least if you think you have the time) to engage in study of Mahamudra, with the Loppon, who many of us have had the pleasure to study with over the years. If you don't know about it….well…I don't know why…and if I were you…I would look at your sources of information…and see why you don't. Also, though…you're really not too late, as the program is a bit early. Check out both the group under the Shambhala Network on Kagyu Mahamudra, and also, go to Shambhala Online to get signed up. Or…go to your local center, as some 300 people are attending, many or most through a center hookup. Here in DC, we're integrating this study on tantra weekends, so that those counting by time can include this as a study portion of their practice.

    And, as a last point, I'll affirm one point from Mr. Chender. While natural maybe for organizations to throw out the old as administrations roll forward….we have too little signs of rot, if you don't mind my saying.

    An old analogy from the Vidyadhara is that rather than seeking to throw out some of our "thingies," we might treat it as manure, and include it. Somehow, it seems our many senior teachers over the years could be more well heard. For example, there have been many ambassadors in our communities. I suppose Jonathan, recently parted from Shambhala Mountain Center, was active in the role of director until very recently. Although it's a system (ambassadors) that has dissolved…and we do engage in dissolving in our practice….we frequently also "re-arise" as that which we dissolve. Wouldn't it be nice to see some of the senior teachers of yore continue to be encouraged to be active and engaged in what we're doing. Of course, this is happening is some measure, thank goodness, witness my second point above. Still, there could be lots more.

    Anyway, I…like Waylon, owe a continued debt to this community. Nevermind that I've been also seeking to splice new genes over the last decade….I seek to grow my training here still, and look to Shambhala as a place of nourishment. And so, it is as a stakeholder, and with the encouragement I've been given, I join in sharing that I am frequently both happy and sad, and understand that such sharing is both my pleasure and duty.

    Many thanks,

    Ira Zukerman

  32. elephantjournal says:

    I did ask, and have been doing so for a year. You seem to be defensive, which is strange, because I'm not attacking. I love the sangha.

    I was in Halifax for four days. In that time I talked with about half a dozen folks in, and half a dozen folks halfway in, halfway out. No exaggeration. I attended the Sakyong's Birthday, and Trungpa Rinpoche's Naropa talk from 1975, held at the Shambhala School. I visited the Shambhala School a second time. I talked with Noel at length, though I haven't sourced or quoted him here. I caught up with sangha at the Farmers Market, and at your parents' cafe, and other third places, and met with the folks at the Shambhala Sun.

    But, mostly, I was there to take my mom out to dinner.

    Re your below comment:

    Have you? You're working with Shambhala, so you are in a position to do so. I'm not. I'm happy to, if you'll give me the means. Seriously!

    "Half" refers to many of our elders, our parents' generation. As for 9,000 members and your other states, please provide some hard proof, or you're doing just what you're accusing me of, Gordon—engaging in discussion without evidence.

    Finally, I'd asked you to breathe deep—I'll do the same—circling wagons and acting defensively isn't helpful on either end—we can all agree we're devoted and enthusiastic, and just as in a personal relationship, discussion problems and solutions is sometimes helpful, and can be done without rancor, and is itself a testament to wanting to make things work.

    • Gordon says:


      To be clear I'm mostly taking issue with this as a piece of lazy journalism rather than trying to refute the particular points you are making. I think Craig does an excellent job of laying out the whole situation at the very end of this thread. There are tons of formats where you could have asked how Shambhala is doing — the Times, the Shambhala Network, facebook, writing an open ended article as "Waylon Lewis" — but that's not what this is. This is a more or less official sounding post from an journalist-y kind of web site making positive claims that a) there is a crisis in Shambhala b) that people are leaving the community "in droves" and c) that you have the solution for all of its woes. You do this without even cursory fact checking or due diligence, or giving the organization you're deriding a chance to comment. I have sympathy for many things, but bad blogging is not among them. It's also silly to post an accusatory ill informed piece on the main page, then ask people to put on kid gloves in the comments.

      As an example, it really looks like you mostly gathered information for this piece by asking some of your friends and acquaintances how they feel about stuff. This is a fine way to get information about your friends and acquaintances, but a terrible way to find out how an international community is doing. This is a really common way for, especially second-generation people to come up with general conclusions about Shambhala, and I just hate it.

      Why I hate it is that by saying "at least half of Shambhala hates the new curriculum" and you've only talked to a small segment of Shamabhala, you are saying that they are the only people who matter enough to think about. There are lots of Shambhalians who connected through the Way of Shambhala Classes, and lots of people who are involved and inspired because Werma is our main practice. By not thinking to ask these people what they think you are basically just saying they don't matter. It doesn't matter if a bunch of people in Missausauga love the current curriculum, Shambhala is in crisis when some set of the "respected elders" who you happen to know get irritated or disheartened. Obviously I think these people should be welcomed, and I'm sad when they leave, but they are not the whole of the community and they do not get to decide when that community is or is not in crisis. To do that you have to actually ask people generally how they are doing. Forums like the Kalapa Governance Gathering, the Shambhala Network, the Letter of the Morning Sun and the various surveys are all designed to do that. So you should talk to the people who have gathered this information before crying wolf. These people are not idiots, they do not make curriculum changes that make people run screaming from the room, or torpedo the donor base.

      I mean honestly, you are criticizing a set of classes (the Basic Goodness Series) which hasn't even been offered yet it in Boulder. How the hell are you expecting anyone have informed views on classes they have not taken?

      Again, I will publish something on the Shambhala data work I've been doing when it's written, and that will be on the TImes. I will say this about it though. One thing which is clear from the data is that people who do the in every day life classes are a lot more likely to keep practicing than people who don't. This is exactly what the classes were designed to do, and what more or less everyone who has taught them reports. People actually develop a daily shamatha and contemplation practice, which is something we've been trying to do for 40 years. Personally, I don't connect with them, but I understand that the fact that I don't personally like something does not mean it's bad, and that the fact that my friends think something does not make it true.

      • Student! says:

        Just a note…The basic goodness series HAS been offered in Boulder (for the past 2 months). I'm a student in it. There have been about 20-30 of us in it…Someone should ask us what we think of it :). I, personally, am pretty happy with it.

        • Gordon says:

          Whoops! apologies! I was just assuming since they're offering the one in January that they hadn't put on the first course. This is why one should check the database.

      • elephantjournal says:

        As I've said to Noel, and should be obvious for anyone who reads online or reads elephant, this is a blog, not the New York Times. Not even close. We do our best, here, and walk a road paved with good intentions.

        I've done more to support a needed dialogue about something we all carea bout than Shambhala itself, which should be frankly appreciated, not condemned anonymously.

        If you want journalism, we can do that—you need to subscribe, writers need to get paid, and then we can do investigative research. —just a buck a month, and if we get enough, I'm planning to start paying writers, hopefully this year. It needs to happen.

        • Gordon says:

          In the words of the immortal Andrew Sullivan: Blogger please.

          You don't need to be the New York Times to send an email to someone saying "hey, I'm planning on publishing about the financial woes, do you all have comment?" Or, as Craig mentions, do a little bit of online research on the Shambhala members section. Even just writing an article which asks the question rather than proclaims that we need a change in leadership.

  33. Craig Morman says:

    part one(continued in replies)

    Hi Waylon,

    I want to first commend your effort. There are things that need to be discussed within Shambhala, and you have tried to start a dialogue.

    And, by making the kinds of statements you did, undocumented, unqualified, and many inaccurate, I am afraid you are creating more confusion than wisdom. I won’t be able to cover everything in detail without writing a novel, please forgive the nuances left out, but hopefully this will clear a few things up.

    First, you keep talking about the non-public nature of the finances. All you had to do was go to and search financial reports. Sure one needs a member password, but those are easy to get, and what non-member would care? You would find exactly how short Shambhala was in 2011 as well as the intended budget for 2012. The problem is essentially that 2012 fundraising has not met projections. There is no big secret; people don’t look at these things because they don’t understand them, or they find them boring.

    It is also important to note that the central body of Shambhala, while providing the spine and nervous system for the local centers, and incurring expenses in the process, has no self-generated revenue. So, while there has been a budget shortfall at the center of the mandala, membership has increased by 10% in the last year. Addressing this disparity is in process. While I don’t agree with all of the ideas for correcting this problem, some of them are very good. When concerns have been expressed, I feel at least thus far that they have been addressed.

    As far as new curriculums are concerned, no one has been asked to repeat material they have already covered just because it has been presented in a different way. It is true that in order to teach the Way of Shambhala courses, one needs to have been trained in the approach. However, if one was already teaching Shambhala Training levels, which are basically unchanged, they still can. (We recently hosted one such retreat with a teacher who has done no extra training, and is not following the Scorpion Seal path, but who taught a wonderful block of graduate levels). My experience with teaching the Way of Shambhala has been that it brings teachings that for years often stayed in the realm of concept, into the experience of students quite quickly. I too felt some resistance to some of the ways things were presented, but it was mostly due to having my own buttons pushed. Having seen the results, it is clear to me that the new curriculum works quite well.

    I was also brought up in the Kagyu, three month seminary style, and made the transition to the Scorpion Seal path seamlessly, but I had already finished Ngondro. I admit that I sometimes miss Vajrayogini practice, but that has been my choice. I have a close friend who has done both Ngondros, continued on the SS path and finished Vajrayogini all at once. It is quite doable.

    Stehphan and Layth point out some of the efforts that have been made to support the continued study of the Kagyu and Nyigma paths within Shambhala. I am sure there will be more to come.

    • Craig Morman says:

      (part2, more to come)
      Stehphan and Layth point out some of the efforts that have been made to support the continued study of the Kagyu and Nyigma paths within Shambhala. I am sure there will be more to come.
      It is true that many senior students feel out of place. But your characterization of them leaving in droves is nothing new. It is to some degree the nature of a spiritual path. The first time that happened was when Trunpga Rinpoche took off his robes, the students and teachers of Samye Ling revolted. Then there was the introduction of Gomdens, the introduction of the Shambhala Teachings, Trungpa Rinpoche’s death, the Regent situation, and more recently the shamatha inbreath debate and the opening of the Scorpion Seal. Actually, a number of students have returned since the opening of the Scorpion Seal as well.
      While I hope that those students who genuinely want to be involved can be better accommodated, it is not going to be by bringing back a three month version of seminary. You touch on a problem here, but so superficially that it creates confusion.
      Then we have the issue of inviting teachers to centers. This is somewhere else you could have gotten more information by sending an email or two. Had you contacted Mitchell Levy, or Michael Gayner (who are in charge of relating with other teachers and communities) you could have gotten a description of the new guidelines for inviting outside teachers, as well as the reasons these guidelines were implemented, rather than speculating that it has to do with Shambhala being cloistered and insecure. The actual context behind the new guidelines is that it is unwise to just invite anyone because they are a Buddhist. If, for example Khandro Rinpoche wanted teach for a weekend on the Mahayana there would be no problem. The problem arises when teachers come to centers and give pointing out instruction to new students and the general public, or offer advanced practices to people who have no context or background for understanding them. It is common practice for Tibetan Lamas to say “repeat after me”, and have the students say something in Tibetan three times. Then the teacher says “good, now you have taken Refuge”. It is like spraying an auditorium with a fire hose and saying, “now you have been baptized”.
      I have personally seen the damage that this approach can cause in new students. A new student I was working with was given a visualization practice at a brief retreat that caused tremendous confusion. This is why these guidelines exist. They do not say that teachers of other lineages cannot teach within Shambhala, they just clarify the way that it should be done.
      Further, the reason why many of the Tibetan teachers who taught at Shambhala Centers no longer do is simple: In the eighties and early nineties, we were the only place to go. Many of those teachers have their own centers now, and no longer need our spaces.
      It is also necessary to mention that it is not uncommon to ask students not to take initiation with more than one teacher. It does not mean one cannot read the books or go to the talks given by another teacher. The reason for this is simple as well. Having two separate samayas, with two separate sets of requirements makes it difficult to keep either. Many Lamas ask their Vajrayana students not to try to have multiple root Gurus with different samaya requirements, this is not in any way unique to the Sakyong.

      • Craig Morman says:

        (part three, almost there)
        You offer three simple solutions, which essentially amount to ‘get new leadership’. I don’t think this is helpful. Having worked full time for Shambhala in various capacities for six years now, I can tell you that it isn’t that easy. For one thing, so much time is spent just keeping things afloat that it is difficult to make progress. Progress happens, but it is slow, and never as much as one would hope. There is an inevitable loss of institutional knowledge whenever a new person enters a position. I agree with Gordon that it would have been much better for you to talk to people in positions of leadership about what they are doing before declaring them incompetent. Who exactly to you recommend to fill those roles?
        Now, I want to cycle this back to the positive side of you writing this. While I feel very strongly that you should have done your homework before posting this, I do feel there is a need for much more open discussion. The problem that I have is that the issues you illustrate are inaccurate, and don’t even scratch the surface of the real things that need to be addressed.
        The Financial situation is urgent, more than I have seen it in the past. It is, however, nothing new. I have barely scratched the surface of the question of senior students feeling disenfranchised, not because I don’t care, but because it is a hugely multifaceted issue. There are many senior students still very active, there are many who only would have stayed had Trungpa Rinpcohe lived forever, and there are those in the middle, those still committed, but feeling left out. It is the third group that needs to be better incorporated into what is happening now.
        Since the beginning of the Shambhala Sangha, our teachers have had a huge vision that has not always meet with what we regard as terrestrial reality. Someone in the comments made fun of the Sakyong saying that he felt Shambhala could have millions of students. I wonder if she knows that Trunpga Rinpoche said the same thing at a Kalapa Assembly (I am not going to look up the exact talk, but it is there). Or that he envisioned billboards in L.A. advertising Shambhala Training. It has actually always been this way.
        One of the big problems right now is that in an effort to strengthen and establish the view behind Shambhala as a culture, the information flow has become a bit too top down. While there are ways to give feedback, it can be difficult and doesn’t often change things. Decisions are made without consulting the community to any large extent. A further problem is that we are provided with a constantly optimistic outlook. It is definitely good to feel that Shambhala can succeed, but sometimes things that need to be discussed are swept under the rug.
        I see two fundamental problems with the way our leadership is structured within Shambhala. One is degree of proximity. With people who have other full time jobs trying to solve organizational problems with each other over skype, creativity can suffer. Secondly, too much familiarity; for a group to be both creative and cohesive, there needs to be some familiarity, as well as fresh voices. With no familiarity you get chaos, with too much you get people recycling similar ideas, and then agreeing that they are wonderful. This not the fault of the leaders themselves, but a structural issue that needs to be addressed.
        As I said before, I have found that when I have expressed disagreement with a policy, it has been well received and addressed. This goes back to when I was a 21 year old hippy who no one knew what to make of, up until now. We are running into some big government/growing pain issues. They need to be addressed. You tried to do that, and you may have accidently started a dialogue that might bear fruit. I just needed to address some of the factual issues.
        Thanks for caring so much and being willing to take a leap.
        Craig Morman, Co- Director Casa Werma, Patzcuaro, Mexico

  34. Barnaby says:

    Dear Michael Chender,

    Thank you for framing the reality of an ever-changing and increasingly complex world (and the enlightened society of Shambhala within the world) in a larger context. Thanks to everyone for their comments. Where ever we go – us human being types – there we will be…there's no escaping from our individual or collective experience. Within that situation my "raft" has been the fact that if I have the capacity (on some level and with at least one person) to be honest with myself and to nurture an "until my dying breath" life-long desire for learning and growth in the dharma…all will be well, and all will be well; and all manner of things will be well.

    In crisis there is opportunity. What a wonderful opportunity for Shambhala to learn and grow and to root that learning and growth within its capacity to be honest with itself. Are we imperfect, do we make mistakes, has harm been caused to others, have others woven elaborate cocoons and scabs around that harm (both the perpetrator and the victimized) to develop a narrative, a storyline, a deep wound oral history about this; have others forgiven, moved on…and have others decided that Shambhala no longer works for them (left) while others find themselves sinking more deeply into the meaning of the teachings provided by all teachers, trusting their own natures to cipher out what works for them from what does not work? Yes, yes, and yes.

    The current crisis seems to present a great opportunity for folks to sit down with a book called "The Human Side of Change" by Robert Evans. It's also a great opportunity to take a look at other organizational structures that are dedicated to, if not an enlightened society, certainly a sane and sober one…like Alcoholics Anonymous for example. Granted they are not about promotion and more about attraction, not about an overall king and more about workers among workers…I think (and know) that there is much to be gleaned from how they trudge their happy road to destiny in the work they do…particularly when it comes to how they regard and handle finances. But there are many other examples as well.

    I remember President Reoch saying once that some day Shambhala, as an enlightened society, will have to come to terms with even larger societal and human tragedies within its own sangha, if it is truly going to expand, embrace and transform the poison in the world into nectar from the heart. Well, he didn't say "transofrm the poison….heart" bit…but he said something like that. The point was simple – Shambhala is as much as an inside job (working with our heart, mind) as it is an external one – working and being with others. Again, to repeat this phrase, in an increasingly complex and ever-changing world, what else would you be expecting? Best, Barnaby

  35. elephantjournal says:

    More richly diverse comments via Shambhala, an open group on Facebook:

    More richly diverse comments via Shambhala, an open group on Facebook: Jillaurie Crane thank you for writing this
    November 23 at 6:08pm · Like · 1
    Corwin Halwes I would like a moment to say nothing… Thank you all very much.
    November 23 at 6:24pm via mobile · Like · 2
    Rick Gilbert Thanks Waylon-posted a comment.
    November 23 at 6:54pm via mobile · Like · 2
    Miriam Hall Thank you.
    November 23 at 7:47pm · Like · 2
    Stephanie Potter "…May the sangha expand and may all the activities
    Of exposition, debate, and composition; learning, contemplating, and
    meditating flourish.
    May it be a harmonious community, have long life, freedom from illness,
    and so on,…See More
    November 23 at 10:45pm · Unlike · 6
    Walter Logue Could you please be quiet more quietly my dear friend Corwin??? PUH lease!! (I am crafting something as a response Way, which I may or may not post… tough one my friend. If it were not challenging then it would not challenge people, non? Growth equals stretch)
    November 24 at 12:17am · Edited · Like
    Alan Kelly Thanks, Waylon and others, including sectarian and non-sectarian peace practitioners. What is the sound of solving a problem, when nobody is there to tell?
    Sunday at 10:56am via mobile · Like
    Michael Chender Dear Waylon,

    I became a member of elephant with the username michaelchender and a
    simple password but after many attempts it refuses to let me in. Will
    you please post this for me?

  36. elephantjournal says:

    Waylon Lewis Michael–there's a password reset button or email [email protected] and we'll sort it our for you asap. And, yes, honored to post your comment.
    Sunday at 3:05pm · Like
    Richard Heilbrunn "We tend to think that the threats to our society or to ourselves are outside of us. We fear that some enemy will destroy us. But a society is destroyed from the inside, not from an attack by outsiders. We imagine an enemy coming with spears and machin…See More
    Monday at 4:24am · Like · 3
    Stephanie Potter Threads, thread counts, and the fabric we all are weaving together.
    Thanks, Waylon Lewis!
    Monday at 4:57am · Like
    Ans de Vries Dear Waylon, as a European Shambhalian I am not sure what you plea for solving Shambhala 's problemen is about. I think that the American situation differs from the European. Of course, we have our financial problems too, and we too have a divide betwe…See More
    Monday at 5:09am via mobile · Like · 4
    Stephanie Potter Dear Ans de Vries – Thank you for a nice post, and a perspective from across the pond.
    Monday at 5:14am · Like
    Madeline Schreiber Perhaps the financial crisis is a huge problem for the central office, but not so devastating for the centres and regions. It sounds like Europe is fairly stable. And I think the individual centres can work our economies of scale for themselves where ever they are. So maybe it's just the same old problem we've always had . . . how to fund the central office adequately *?*
    Monday at 6:01am · Like · 3
    Gordon Shotwell Madeline, I think that's exactly right. My view is that this is not an organizational crisis, but a central services cash flow problem. Ironically, one of the reasons why we have this problem is because the mandala is growing, and so there are more people relying on Shambhala's paid staff each year.

  37. elephantjournal says:

    Mike Henderson I'm part of that growth! 😀

    Andrew Forbes When I see Shambhala taking a sideways approach to covering up our controversial history; watering down the teachings in hopes to attract more people; hearing a lot of teachers who are using the platform to sell themselves as 'professional buddhists' o…See More

    Waylon Lewis Gordon, you should head up our propaganda division! Though you'd have a lot of competition.

    Gordon: comment removed by request of Gordon

    Waylon Lewis Ans, great comment–as I said in the post I've offered to help in roles I have some experience in, but that's not particularly relevant here. What is more relevant is, clearly, there's not an effective instrument of sangha-wide, both fringe and outside…See More

    Waylon Lewis It's a joke, Gordon. You know, humor. That said, if you get out there, you'll hear a lot of devoted, serious concern.

    Gordon: comment removed by request

    Waylon Lewis Thanks, Gordon! I hope so, of course.

    John Perks Since I have been living in Shambhala, I look around everything seems fine,in fact brilliant,of course there is work to do….perhaps Shambhala is a state of mind..for some it could be an organization…Cheers JP

    Diane Kalsang Whitcomb I had a lot of trouble with the article. I have to say I don't agree with much of it. As much as older students drift away, some also drift back — especially since the Scorpion Seal teachings have been introduced. Yes, there are issues with funding the center of the Mandala, but my understanding is that the new model is working well in Europe and is being rolled out in the US beginning this year.

    I think there are as many *opportunities* arising, as a result of this period of growth and transformation, as the things you may consider problems. I certainly wouldn't call any of it (except fixing the funding model) a "crisis." And the funding model is being actively addressed.

    In my experience, Boulder is a hot spot for the old student/new student divide complaint. As someone who practices there fairly regularly, my sense is that this is overblown. And as a relatively "new" student, it really hasn't been my experience at all. There are many Old Students who I consider mentors and friends, and who have not fled the Sangha. Those who do usually do so because they are attracted to different teachers, and Boulder offers many other Buddhist opportunities.

    Also, there is good reason and rationale for the guest teacher policy, which again, I don't consider a "Crisis." Shambhala is Shambhala. Let's not confuse who we are and what we're about. The money problems are not a function of older students practicing with other Sanghas. It's a function of growth, and the economy and it's being addressed.

    Waylon Lewis Diane, I got much of my information from folks in NYC, Halifax, other places…and terming constructive checking in with where we're at "complaint" is lid-talk, and not kind nor necessary nor accurate to those among us who've had a hard time or have questions or issues. VCTR said never to let go of our critical awareness! As Howard Zinn used to say in a political content, do not confuse dissent with lack of patriotism—rather, it's the opposite.

    That said, I'm psyched you feel so positive, and welcome any points of view. I'm interviewing Carolyn, our executive director, and if you or anyone here has questions you'd like to ask her, leave you question in comments on the blog itself. Comments here are not part of any lasting discussion, as they'll fade with the Facebook Wall.

  38. Robyn Traill says:

    Dear All,

    I appreciate everyone tremendously. I don't have the gumption right now to dive into the nitty gritty like many of you have, but I would like to offer a few simple experiences of the past few weeks gathered in my mind as a tone or colour that perhaps I can pass on.

    For the past 6 weeks I've provided space at the request of Carolyn Gimian, for a course in "Symbolism, Art and Meditation" which centered around the video-recorded talks by VCTR that became the Dharma Art book and later True Perception. This weekly evening gathering was mostly attended by 25 somewhat crusty "original" students. Every week, for a time, we sang, drummed, painted, created and generally played like children. I found the talks themselves mindblowing and provocative. The people were fun to be with, sharp, foolish, and hearfelt. I didn't really know many of them before but so much freshness amidst the sore backs. What an honor to be with.

    I've been working with the "Atlantic Centre for Contemplative Science and Technology", as visualized and led by Jim Torbert and David Whitehorn. They have offered me an opportunity and challenge to "put my money where my mouth is" and bring what I value the most, essentially the heart of my Mukpo heritage, to secular, professional society in as accessible a form as possible. Out of that group, (or parallel to it?) some of us have designed and will teach in April a Masters course in contemplative education at the local university.

    The Shambhala Center in Halifax has been booking many high school tours and I gave a tour to 45 Grade 12 students from the small town of Lunenberg (90 min away) who were so focused and engaged in the instruction in sitting practice. They want us to come down to their school to teach more of the school in January.

    I run a small independent school that is separate from the Shambhala organization and I receive constant support for my own lungta from the current leadership of Shambhala (R Reoch, C Mandelker, Jesse Grimes, Terry Rudderham etc etc) There is no tangible short-term benefit they receive other than they know when they see a good thing for society.

    Last weekend I dropped in to the St Margaret's Bay community who held a gathering of stewards of the environment, people who were really getting their fingers dirty joyfully finding gentle ways of living sustainably in community, not out of fear, but out of inspiration. The age range in the room went from the 20s into er . . . the 70's

    I saw the Dorje Loppon Lodro Dorje a week ago and we talked about the mahamura study group of 40 people he is leading at the Shambhala Center. He is a jewel that guided me and many of my vajra siblings through our path during the late 80's and early 90's and I was so happy to hear of him currently teaching.

    This summer I heard one of "those" talks by SMR where I felt his intimacy, directness and clear understanding for me as a householder yogin. I knew he knew the texture of my life and practice. I went to the talk out of duty, and my wife's advice that it would be good for me.

    And there is Windhorse Farm, and John Wimberly running for city council and Elephant Journal and this blog and and

    Maybe all of us have a list of small ordinary pieces of brilliance, humor and expansion constantly arising. Isolated they might not feel the warmth of each other's vitality. If you take a thousand embers and gather them together they will surely make a fire.

    And I know that little of this is the Shambhala organization per se, and it doesn't point to a solution to solve the money, admin or generations, but it is the reason that I, like Waylon, Noel, Layth, Michael and others, will never, ever give up on this world.

    • elephantjournal says:

      I love this and want to read this over and over again and pull it like a warm blanket around my heart. Thanks for this.

      It should be its own post.

      I too attended one of those talks by VCTR at your inspiring Shambhala School (which deserves much more fundraising support, which Noel and Kyle and I talked over slightly), the day after I think SMR"s bday celebration at the Shambhala Center. Why aren't the VCTR talks hosted at the Shambhala Center? The talk at the Shambhala School that I attended was made up of only 10 of us—I was by far the youngest, and I'm not that young. It would seem more accessible, perhaps, if offered at the Shambhala Center and widely advertised?

      In any case—good to hear the mandala in Halifax and the surrounding areas feels so rich to you. I am reminded of Lady Diana's response to me about kyudo when I interviewed her a few years ago: "If it feels under-appreciated, go more often! And invite all your friends! Before long, it'd be happening again!"

      And it was good to see you, Robyn. Keep up the hard, cheerful work.

  39. Will Brown says:

    (Repost from ShambhalaNetwork.) I read the article but haven’t yet parsed the many threads of commentary. It is provocative, unsubstantiated, and yet throbs from Waylon’s heart. I cringed at the repetitive “older students and their money” theme but agreed with the curriculum frustration. But hey, as my friend C. reminds me, this is a young lineage – another thousand years and it will be worked out!

    Broaden the base. Keep the SSBS. Open up to other traditions and thought leaders. Don’t give up on anybody. Remember the View.

    (Added) "Leaving in droves"? Hmmm… Longtime practitioners still wanting another "now". How about that "great view of emptiness"?

    It was recently publicly announced that a Shambhala administratove department had its budget cut. So, not totally hush hush.

    The Sakyong made clear a few years back that the Shambhala Terma was a ground where we all could meet. Kagyu and Nyingma to us is like wet to water – inseparable, it's not going anywheres.

    My Level 1 was only in 2008 so am no grizzled vet) but I just finished a new class, Basic Goodness series, called Who Am I? And theres a strong thread here which has potential to lead to people joining in droves and the dharma going out into the community. The material has great group and solo exercises as well as an intro to the Abhidharma (development of ego).

    Your blog is a dharmic wildweed and in this connected age everywhere is Tahrir square. So, be the change.

    • elephantjournal says:

      My understanding is that Kagyu Nyingma has "gone somewhere"—no longer on our shrines, particularly, and the nyingma no longer taught, though available?

      As for older students and money, money is energy, as many New Agey types like to say—but on a practical level losing one's core base will affect any rock band, business, organization, and…yes, community.

      That said, of course—as a former sergeant and still-member of the DK, I've spent many countless hours learning from and enjoying and crying because of our elder warriors. Money is the least of their contributions, and we could use all of them. I mention also their wonderful teaching, training and magnetizing ability, but you seem to have pruned that out of your post?

      Yours in GES,


  40. Thom says:

    This "article", regardless of it being factual or not, is clearly true to someone. So I urge everyone to go to your local Shambhala Center or your nearest Land Center and find out if what was said is true for you. I live and work at a land center and have been here for 2 years and have been a part of the sangha since my childhood. Personally I see old and new students coming together more so than ever – Acharyas and Senior students who have been practicing decades longer than Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, coming together under his banner of liberation; a new generation rising to the new challenges that didn't exist for Vajradhatu. In earlier years we just hired whomever to do whatever, the fact that someone was willing to work for cheap or free was enough. Things just aren't the way they used to be. But it is changing, we have to adapt if we want to stay afloat, if we have to change the curriculum a bit to continue to spread the Dhrama in the massive way that we do, so be it. If just one person benefits from this, is that not worth it? As someone that grew up in the sangha I am aware of the territorial or tribe-like mentality that can take over. The, "I was here first" and the, " we used to do it like this" are irrelevant. This frame of mind is our enemy; if you don't see this as a Sacred World then it probably won't be for you. If you're not attempting to recognize basic goodness in yourself then you might have a hard time seeing it in the world. With the unconditional Basic Goodness that we all posses these trials and tribulations can be recognized for what they are, the beautiful and miraculous nature of the phenomenal world. So please investigate your local Shambhala community and make decisions for yourself. So much of this rests in our hearts and hands, that is why the Shambhala Lineage is so strong and dedicated.

  41. […] introduction. Shortly after the publication of Shambhala in Crisis (click for context), which listed Three Seeming Obstacles & Three Possible Antidotes, and the following sangha […]

  42. Waylon,

    Thank you for your essay. It was a delight to read it and began a healing process for me that I hope continues. I am a member now for 35 yrs, a sadhaka, officer in thee Dorje Kasung, MI for 30 yrs and have received Kalapa Assembly transmission. Have not done scorppion seal..
    My positive suggestion is to ask carolyn about the possiblitiy of the Sakyong empowering the “classic” Kagyu members who have been MI / teachers for 20 or more years to do Refuge vows. This could be done after a weekend training that would not he on a pass/ fail basis. It would be a genuine regal gesture of healing that would have more meaning than a stained glass window at a center. It would not lessen the Acharya role one bit and lighten their load. But it would also give us older folks some new found meaning in this seemingly alien atmosphere of the present. I go to our center and all that I loved and served with sincere devotion has been removed without a trace. I feel like a stanger in a strange land.
    We have been of service for many years and would just like a respectful job with some gravitas rather than just teaching another course a smile and a shove out of the way.
    Again thanx so much for your brave attempts at dialogue.


  43. […] honoring the past, or tradition, even as we stretch forward into the future. She reminded me of the struggles of my Buddhist community to innovate while respecting the old ways, lineage, the tried and true. We’re very good at […]

  44. Chuckie_Brookes says:

    We can feel contented no matter how great or small our circumstances. That's my experience of late.

  45. Harper says:

    I'm really sorry to hear that Shambhala is in trouble. I started my journey as a Buddhist there, but stopped practicing after feeling like I wasn't going to really be included in the community without spending thousands of dollars on training. I'm not sure if that's a common experience though or just my own… Later down the road, I was lucky enough to find my spiritual home in Nichiren Buddhism and received gohonzon with the SGI. I continue to be pretty astounded by what the SGI community achieves while being run (almost) entirely volunteer power. I think a lot of this success is due to a deeply rooted focus on member care. As a leader, the main priority is always about connecting on an individual, heart level with the members of your sangha, and making sure everyone feels genuinely cared for. Shambhala has some lovely teachings, and while there might be some systematic problems, I'm sure if your members strive to connect with each other in a sincere, heartfelt, and faith-filled way there shouldn't be any reason why the organization can't thrive. I know how rough it can be when a community you love is under distress and I hope Shambhala is able to get back on a good track soon.

  46. Joe P. says:

    Shambhala is the sangha but it's also an institution meant to "help the whole world"? You, Michael Chender and others are casting this as a group/social issue to be ironed out within a "community". But I think that there are a number of longstanding ambiguities and assumptions that confuse this issue. It's deeper than just an updating to "newer cultural patterns".

    Students of CTR were expected to become students of SMR. Vajradhatu Buddhists were expected to enter into Shambhala as a natural next step. On the one hand, as Buddhists, practice comes first. On the other hand, the project of building enlightened society is the raison d'etre of Shambhala. These are inherent, unresolved contradictions. You describe Shambhala as a "worldwide, diverse container" of teachings. Yet within Shambhala there's only one, narrowly defined path of practice. It's always been that way; sort of a Dharma academy, with a single, specific, graded path for all. But now that path is… to what? Is it the spiritual Path, or a path to becoming subjects in the Enlightened Kingdom, or is it training for a life of social action?
    That matters.

    The Sakyong himself has said that Buddhism is for getting enlightened and Shambhala is for creating enlightened society. Those are two very different things. Does the systematic purging of Buddhism from Shambhala, then, mean that spiritual practice is to be deprecated in favor of evangelism and church-building? Or maybe this is more a change in emphasis from "prayer" to "acts"?

    Many older students are dismayed over the purging of Buddhist teachings within Shambhala. They've travelled far along a path that's now seemingly being discarded. But it's not merely an issue of acclimating to change. Those people helped build the foundation and infrastructure that Shambhala the institution now uses, with the idea that they were embarking on spiritual Path. Those people bought the buildings, paid the mortgages, staffed the programs. On the one hand they're students of CTR. On the other hand, it's now the Sakyong's organization. The Sakyong is a different teacher who is taking things in a different direction. How does that work? People put their effort into Vajradhatu but now it's arguably not even Buddhist anymore. The Sakyong is the Shambhala heir. What about the Dharma heir? Is that Patrick Sweeney? Or has this Dharma lineage been ended? Did CTR himself perhaps ordain these developments? Or are they the result of top-level power struggles? Do the students of CTR "owe it to him" to stay with Shambhala? Is Shambhala by definition their path, no matter how it develops? Why? Does devotion extend to the guru's son?

    In the midst of all these contradictions, conflation or blurring of concepts, and apparent differences in priorities, Vajradhatu/Shambhala has nevertheless developed over the years as a single organization with centralized leadership and finances. How does that work?

    It's not for me to answer these questions (except for myself). And I daresay it's also not for you to answer them. Though I think these questions are worthy of practitioners' reflection. So perhaps it would help if you start with clarifying your own assumptions and views that underlie your own position.

    You seem to feel that Shambhala as institution is the most important aspect and must be saved, for the world's sake. If need be, it should be re-marketed to students of CTR. As someone who grew up in Vajradhatu/Shambhala you apparently also see Shambhala as a community or family, which you also feel needs to be saved by making whatever changes are needed to do that. Those views imply numerous, definitive assumptions and value judgements that are not necessarily shared by others.

    The word "community" is devilishly ambiguous. Like "love" and "faith", it's been assigned a positive connotation, despite its many shades of meaning. My circa 1980, pre-PC, Websters dictionary defines community as a group of people living together with common interests. As actual community has dissipated in modern society, the word community has become merely a valorizing, credential-bestowing label for any special interest group, no matter how trivial: artist community, anti-drunk-driving community, Safeway shoppers community, etc. Sangha is not necessarily a community in either sense. Sangha is the group of practitioners who orient their lives according to the Path rather than worldly interests. It's a group of people who share Path, acting as alarm clocks (as Gurdjieff put it) to help each other wake up. Sangha is not a club or a family or an institution. Awake comes first. Or as the tirelessly theatrical Zen followers like to put it: If you meet Buddha in the road, kill him. If either the institution or the "community" is pre-eminent then sangha (and Dharma) is not served.

    Some of us came for the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

  47. Leann says:

    Just wanted to say thank you for this article as well. As a very new practitioner (2011), my connection to this form of practice has been tempered with so many things left unspoken, that I'm not sure this is a lineage that wants people to commit to it, and your article hits on exactly the things I'm concerned about. I've heard talking about the course material changes (with heavy sighs and eye rolling), meaningful glances about the new courses vs "what we used to teach" (which I would *love* if someone could tell me what the difference is) and much hush-hushness about the way things are. Coming from a zen background for many years, I am left completely befuddled in all of this process. How can my heart feel so strongly about something that has this many layers of opinions/sideways glances/etc?

    Waylon, I will buy you dinner if you would please explain to this new potential student just what the heck am I missing? What the heck is everyone *not* saying? Because as much as you don't say it and it gets tossed around boards like these, it makes it seem like the true dharma eye has become clouded. But because of this levels/ stages of a path type of system, I can't seem to get a straight answer out of anyone. And "anyone" is pretty darn limited out in the east coast where I am. The center I visit is 5 hours away. I have a 9-5 job and health concerns and can't just hop out to boulder for a week to see what I can see. So i have a home practice with what little I've been taught and have 3- 6 month gaps inbetween access to people at a center. I'm exploring other lineages but I keep finding myself connecting with articles and sayings that I find linked to Shambhala, so I keep trying to explore this connection.

    I just want to know what you and others are not saying. I'll be honest, the hiding of what things are like makes me feel like I might be contemplating joining something that's not going to help me get clear, but just cloud up my beliefs more than they already are. How can I get clear in a system that's working to keep things covered? I don't know anything about the Kagyu lineage practices, nor older students who can help me understand what everyone seems to want to say but won't.

  48. Janelle says:

    I connected deeply with the teachings, but have had some utterly heart-breaking experiences in the sangha in terms of unkind behavior. I have seen a lot of awful shit too. I heard Shambhala described by others in different Tibetan Buddhist lineages as a well-known "toxic sangha" with more serious problems than other sanghas. I am wondering if this is true since this is my first experience in a dharma setting. Thanks

  49. Jonah says:

    I was heavily involved with Shambhala for about a year but then left. Shambhala has most of the signs of being a cult, albeit a very tame one under its present leadership. The potential for abuse is there. Shambhala shows an overzealous and unquestioning relationship with its leader – who essentially declared himself a Buddhist king and whose yearly salary is more than what the Prime Minister of Canada makes. If you question Shambhala teachings you are made to feel unwelcome. Excessive meditation in their programs (hours upon hours) puts people in a pliable altered state. It's teachings suggest how to act, think, and feel in everyday life. The group is elitist, based on what levels or programs you have done. They hold polarized teachings between warriors and cowards, enlightened and unenlightened, great eastern sun vs. the setting sun. In their programs they make participants do exercises that are weird and out of place. It's preoccupied with making money through programs and bringing new people in. Chogyam Trungpa was most definitely a classic cult leader – he had sex with his students, blew money on drugs and booze, made people wake up in the middle of the night, even forced people to strip down in front of groups. This isn't Buddhism.

    • Janelle415 says:

      I agree with you, Jonah. I came to Shambhala when i was vulnerable and it nearly ruined my life because of the Chogyam Trungpa imitators who did not respect the physical and emotional space of the female practitioners. When I dared complain, I was shunned and silenced.

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