November 27, 2012

Shambhala in Crisis: Interview with Executive Director to come!

Above image via @waylonlewis on Instagram, taken last week at the Halifax Shambhala Center.


One or two Shambhala citizens have questioned my personal enthusiasm for Shambhala, and/or the Sakyong. While I am irrelephant to the content of this discussion, I would venture to say that elephant has, with 100s of blogs re: the Sakyong and Trungpa Rinpoche, become the most-read source of info about the Sakyong, Trungpa Rinpoche, meditation and Shambhala dharma in the world. elephant rises out of my appreciation for my training and wanting to share that, and some notion of “being of benefit” as world-view, with others. That said,  of course, The Shambhala Sun, Tricycle, Buddhadhama and other magazines offer far more quality. Ref: elephant Blogs re: the Sakyong. Blogs re: Trungpa Rinpoche. Blogs re: Shambhala.

Update: Interview with Executive Director to come!

Original Post: Shambhala in Crisis: & 3 Ways to Fix it.

Update: check Michael Chender’s comment at the original post, in the comments section at the bottom, which really deserves to be its own post.

Editor’s note:

The reaction to this post has been passionate—which speaks to our devotion to the Dharma.

One personal disappointment, thus far: it’s sad to me that, in various Facebook groups, elders are commenting up a storm about the issues raised here but generally, with some wonderful exceptions, have thus far declined to do so publicly, by name, here. We need your leadership.

One obvious point: this post is not about me or my views—it’s about starting a needful conversation. And so when I’m complemented on one side for raising this whispered subject that we all are united in caring about, criticized on an other hand for not being harsh enough, and condemned by yet others for being too harsh…it all confirms that this vital conversation must continue to walk a respectful middle path guided only by our open-minded, cheerful devotion.

That said, my concern here is admittedly selfish: I grew up both in the sangha, and in the organization, and they seemed to be more or less the same thing at the time—aligned. And I want my future-hypothetical children (and all sentient beings) to have a place to go to to hear accessible, fun, troublemaking, genuine Dharma.

One final point: without hesitation, I personally can say I’ve heard the Sakyong rock the genuine Dharma time and again. My concern is that innovation is replacing valuable curriculum and programs, when both could coexist and complement one another.

Yours in the Noble Shambhala Sangha,

Waylon Lewis


Conversation snippet between myself and a local Shambhala leader and longtime friend, today:

Shambhala leader friend: So, I read your article!

Me: I bet you did!

Her: How do you feel?

Me: It’s hard…not fun.

Her, others: Why?

Me: Because it’s not about me…I got a comment from Michael Chender today, and it’s a relief to hear from someone with more gravitas. [etc…don’t really remember] Overall good conversation to have, though, I think.

Something like that. Talked for awhile, I felt a bit grilled on the bbq, but I’m sensitive. Then…

Her: yeah, some of us were sitting around talking about it so I read it.

The one thing I didn’t get is, why did you put it on elephant?

Me: {raised eyebrows}

Another senior leader: Where else would he put it?

Her: I mean, I don’t read elephant. …What about the Shambhala Times?

Me: First of all, they wouldn’t print it. [I say that with respect, but also with some experience—years ago I was asked to write up, constructively, the Reggie Ray departure and other issues, and…did so. Eventually the article got edited down to nothing and then not printed. Of course, things change, who knows!]

Her: That’s probably true. I guess I don’t read the Shambhala Times, either! [laugh and shrug].

One of the senior leaders, a mentor and friend of mine, seemed angry at me:

Him: “hemmoraghing” is totally incorrect.

Me: If that’s true, great! Then send something in, I’ll correct it! That’s definitely not word on the street up in Halifax from folks on the inside or outside or in between.

The senior teacher indicated he was too busy to keep talking, and expressed no interest in sending anything in.

(And none of that’s to mention that two of the rural land centers are struggling, apparently)

Then, third senior student (interestingly, only after taking me aside) said I did a great job and it was very moderate or middle way and clearly came out of devotion and the issues had been talked about forever etc etc by many people and it might be time to let it go. I respectfully disagreed, saying I wanted my children to have a mandala to study and practice within.

Also, update: Carolyn, the executive director of Shambhala, emailed me and was very nice and offered to do an interview. So that’s coming shortly.

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