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.

  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.

  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,

  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

  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?

  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.

  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

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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?

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

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