Warrior Tribute for Khenchen Michael Taney
On the morning of November 14th, Khenchen Michael Taney, Rusung of Vermont’s St. Johnsbury Shambhala Center and long-time student of both Sakyongs passed away. He had recently been diagnosed with a rare form of aggressive cancer. He was surrounded family, including Susan and Gabe Taney and Pamela Keats while they were playing a Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso song, which begins, “Leave your body as a corpse…” when he passed.
Khenchen Michael Taney joined the Shambhala community at the Philadelphia Dharmadhatu in 1978, going to Seminary in Bedford Springs, PA in 1983 and has served in both the Gesar and Kusung arms of the Dorje Kasung since 1979. He received Vajrayogini Abhisheka in 1991 at Karme Choling with Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, attended the second Rigden Abhisheka that ever happened at Karme Choling and entered the Scorpion Seal path in 2009, continuing through SSA3.
Khenchen Taney served as Rusung of St. Johnsbury twice, exemplifying dharma, community service and protection. Khenchen Taney is remembered for his cheerful service and wry sense of self-deprecating humor, as well as his wisdom and humility. No task was too small for him. He is an inspiration and humbling reminder to all of us who have the unique opportunity to serve the Shambhala community. Both the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo were deeply saddened by the sudden news. The Sakyong expressed how loyal and dedicated he was, recognizing how much time and service Michael has contributed to the community in St. Johnsbury and beyond. The Sakyong Wangmo expressed fond memories of Michael from her recent visit to Karme Choling. She was well aware of how active and present he was during this past summer’s campaign.
Michael was born on October 28, 1951 in Westport, CT to J. Charles Taney II and Amie Hollingsworth Taney. He grew up in New Rochelle, NY and graduated from New Rochelle High School. He graduated with a BA from Westchester University in Westchester, PA.
Michael is survived by his son Gabe, now a freshman at Massachusetts School of Art and Design in Boston, by his partner Pam Keats, and his ex-wife Susan Taney. He was a loving and devoted father and grandfather. Michael is also survived by seven siblings: Ria Brownlow, Monica Brooke Taney, Charlie Taney III, Peter Taney, Suzanne Hutchinson, Mayda Taney, and Damon Taney. He was predeceased by his parents. Music played a big role in Michael’s life. As a young man he played guitar and harmonica in several rock bands. He loved classic jazz of the big band era, bebop and American Blues. Michael’s livelihood was supported by two careers. He was a professional in internet connectivity, marketing, telecommunications and web design. He created websites for several organizations, including Samadhi Cushions. He was also trained as a paralegal at Woodbury College and served as an investigator for public defense attorneys.
Following are a number of remembrances. Share yours below in the comments field.
Rupa Acharya Suzann Duquette, Resident Acharya, Karme Choling
Michael’s honesty and true heart were always a teaching to me. His complete dedication and loyalty to the Mukpo lineage and steadfastness to the kasung path were an inspiration. Michael always offered himself honestly, and he faced his dying with this same true heart and Michael humor. His death is a great sadness, and a huge loss to our community. I wish Michael a clear journey and his family my deepest sympathy.
Tara Bass and Doug Stark, Assistant Directors, Karme Choling
Michael Taney was completely committed and always available to Karme Choling. When we asked him to help us with a project it was never a question. He was here and ready to help, no matter how last minute it was or what else he might have had going on. He was not shy in expressing how he may have felt about a given situation, but that was one of the gifts that he gave us. You always knew exactly how he felt about something and he always showed up. Not only did he show up, but he arrived with a glint in his eye, a smile on his face and commitment in his heart. Michael demonstrated complete commitment of body, speech and mind. We are so grateful and fortunate to have had him in our close community.
Sara Demetry, Kado, Regional Desung Commander
Over the last 11 years, Michael Taney and I have served together as kasung in many campaigns. He was always warm and loving, occasionally edgy and very devoted to his community and family with a sense of humor I often could not understand but admired. I watched him show up for virtually every campaign. He was steady and loyal.
In spite of our long acquaintance, it feels now that my friendship with Michael started on September 12th this year when I went to see him at home. I thought we were going to talk about back pain, but instead Michael disclosed that he was told 2 days earlier that he had lesions on his sciatic nerve and that it seemed it might be an aggressive cancer, but more tests were needed. We went on to have a long and wonderful dialogue about our paths with Shambhala, our inspiration, our families of origin, experiences with our parents’ deaths, and stories about how we connected with the dharma. It was a spectacular sunny day on his back porch. For days afterward, my heart felt opened by our contact.
What strikes me now, what I will take with me from him, is the truth that opportunities to connect deeply with one another are right in front of us all the time. I wish I had more time to know him more deeply and intimately as a friend and fellow kasung. But I am inspired to remember that each conversation has the power and the opportunity for the kind of presence I felt with him that day.
Khenchen Byron Wild, Rusung at Karme Choling
I knew Michael as a member of the Vermont sangha and particularly as the St. Johnsbury Rusung. We worked together on several occasions co-hosting Essential Heart of Kasungship and supporting the Garuda’s Nest Court. He took such joy in kasung practice. I will always remember him as a passionate advocate for the straightforwardness and earthiness of being kasung. He was strong, steady, loyal, and funny.
I was asked to place the pins on his uniform once his body arrived at Karme Choling. I took my time. I fussed over millimeters and wondered how he had the patience to deal with the faulty clasp on the back of the flag pin. His belt was on backwards so I fixed it. Finally, I stepped back and felt something shift into place. He had so much dignity and calm. I imagined him as a warrior in his best armor setting out for his final battle. His decision to leave this life as a kasung melted my heart. Farewell and much love my kasung brother. May you protect the Mukpo lineage for lifetimes to come.
Tom Bryer, Director, St. Johnsbury Shambhala Meditation Center
Michael was always available to be of service. He was there for the center, for his family and for his community. Photographing events, playing music, organizing fundraisers…his service is a long, long list spanning many years. He loved to greet dignitaries at the center with proper decorum. I remember him standing on the sidewalk on a cold Vermont winter evening waiting for an Acharya to arrive. He was passionate about it. His dedication to Shambhala and the Dorje Kasung was boundless. Michael will be greatly missed. Not just for all that he did but for who he was. We will remember him as a Noble Warrior of Shambhala. Thank you Michael for all that you shared with us.
Gerry Haase, Kado, currently holding the desung post at the St. Johnsbury Shambhala Meditation Center
Two months… That’s all Michael Taney would have wanted. Two months to put his affairs in order. We traveled to Boston, Pam, Michael and I, on November 2nd for a second opinion. The oncologist at Dana Farber cancer clinic did not hold out false hope. That’s when he understood it was a matter of days or weeks at most. Michael spoke openly to me about wanting to reconcile with anyone he felt he might have harmed in this life. Although at times in excruciating pain, Michael exhibited tremendous courage, love, and appreciation for his family and his community.
Michael was not always an easy person. His colossal rants are legendary. Form and protocol were extremely important to him. Beware the person who broke decorum. In the face of death, with the precious time that he had left, Michael showed himself to be a Dorje Kasung through and through. He handed over his Rusung responsibilities, taking his Oath of Resignation on his deathbed while being entered into the Trident path with yet another oath. It is said we can be called back to duty at any time…
Tribute compiled by Sarah Lipton as an act of remembrance for her Kasung Brother. Please leave your remembrances below in the comments field.