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May 29
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Supporting Enlightened “Care and Conduct”

By Irene Vliegenthart

"Palm Frond" - Miksang photo by Margaret Clark

"Palm Frond" - Miksang photo by Margaret Clark

The Shambhala Care and Conduct document is based on the view that the Shambhala mandala is committed to creating enlightened society. As well, the members of the Shambhala community are inspired by the teachings to conduct themselves in a manner that brings forth the wisdom of enlightenment as part of a society where people naturally care for themselves and each other.

It happens in any society that misunderstandings cause conflicts between people. The wisdom of the Buddha families teaches us that people of the five families will experience life’s events in different ways. Meditation practice shows us clearly how clever we are at building emotions and concepts out of our experiences. Next, with the help of more or less strong emotions, we make our concepts known to others who may well have developed other ideas about the same occurrence or situation. Usually disagreements between people can be overcome by listening and talking to each other and reaching an understanding about each other’s point of view. But, as we all know, more serious differences of opinion can occur, followed by words and acts that hurt others.

“The Care and Conduct Process” has been developed to deal with and learn from such painful situations between people in the community. The process works with conflicts and complaints with a view of respecting the dignity of everyone involved.

"Stitched together" - Miksang photo by Margaret Clark

"Stitched together" - Miksang photo by Margaret Clark

The process of bringing a situation to the path applies to the person who caused distress as well as to the person on the receiving end. Much honesty, fearlessness and forgiving of self and other is asked of people going through the process, as well as compassionate understanding and mediation skills from the people who accompany the process. These issues obviously often take some time to resolve.

People to ask for help locally in dealing with conflicts or misbehavior can be your meditation instructor, a dekyong, a desung, the shambhala center director or anyone in a leadership position in your Shambhala centre whom you trust. Seriously inquiring about a situation with the right person is always better than looking the other way or putting the incident under the carpet.

If a problem cannot be resolved locally or if a complaint is made against a person holding a leadership position in Shambhala, the International Care and Conduct Panel will be asked to help. The panel consists of three people representing the three pillars of Shambhala: the church, the government and the Dorje Kasung. The current panel members are Acharya Dale Asrael, who recently replaced Acharya Christie Cashman; John Sennhauser, representing the government (Office of the Sakyong), who has been a member since the initiation of the panel; and Irene Vliegenthart, the Desung officer on the panel (she replaced the Desung General, Simon LaHaye, in 2005).

Being part of a care and conduct process means practicing the wisdom of the “Four Dharmas of Gampopa” constantly and closely. During such a process we practice to keep our mind awake or “one with the dharma.” And we ask, “May the path clarify confusion, and may confusion dawn as wisdom.”  It is also a strong reminder of the slogan of level III of Shambhala Training: “We never give up on anybody.”

Right communication is the skillful means used in a process of bringing understanding where confusion reigns. In order to keep the lines of communication clear and not add to the weight and confusion of the process, everyone involved is asked to keep the meetings confidential. It is not helpful to receive too many opinions, and gossip can especially create confusion and difficulties in the process.

The practice of protecting the third jewel started in 1984 when Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche asked Dapon M, Dennis Southward in Boulder to start caring for sangha members in difficult situations. In 1995, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche empowered Simon La Haye as the Desung General on the Dorje Kasung Command Group and the International Care and Conduct Panel was instigated by president Reoch in 2002.

Signing a Code of Conduct
For some years now, participants have been asked to sign a code of conduct during the registration for larger Shambhala programs. This new and simple action has made the sangha aware that some rules are helpful in creating a space where people know how to fully take part and not be a nuisance to other participants. The other reason for signing the code is that Shambhala needs to operate within the laws of the hosting country.

Signing a code of conduct makes us aware that we need rules if we want to live together in the often heightened situations of programs where everyone depends on each other. The idea is to treat everyone in a way that respects their humanness and dignity. But because participants will all have different needs and opinions, general rules are laid down that fit particular teaching situations best.

Not accepting misbehavior and making sure it is brought forward to the right person needs to happen because we individually need to work with the dark corners of our minds. Together we should take care that our Shambhala centers are safe and healthy places for anybody who wants to come: women, men, children, teenagers, old dogs, new students–in short anyone who wants to connect to the vision of basic goodness.

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3 responses to “ Supporting Enlightened “Care and Conduct” ”
  1. Conflicts are created when first one party to a conflict persistently manifests behaviour which is repugnant to the Precepts. No repugnancy, no conflict.

    In some practices, Vairocana is the deity invoked and present during the ceremonial recitation of the Precepts. Vairocana represents the Skanda of Consciousness, the purified form of which is Dharmadhatu Wisdom.

    If, at the moment of Consciousness, we remember the Precepts, then we will not have so many conflicts. Clarify the mind, follow the Precepts.

    “If you keep your refuge vows, then all three vows—pratimoksha, bodhisattva and vajrayana—are subsumed there.”

    – The Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche (1924- C.E.)

    Root Bodhisattva Vows
    PDF Version

    Secondary Bodhisattva Vows
    PDF Version

    “Buddhist monks take pratimoksa vows, of which there are two hundred fifty-three. But ngagpas, with their tantric vows and the samayas [commitments], there are a hundred thousand they have to keep in their mental level. It’s about practice in every single moment to keep all this and not engage in non-virtuous things.”

    – The Venerable Khetsun Sangpo Rinpoche (1921- C.E.)

  2. Dan Peterson
    Jun 8, 2009

    I found this to be a very clear description of the Care and Conduct policy and process. I am sending this along to folks in Vancouver, B.C., who are planning to discuss this policy in more depth at their Center, with the aim that administrators, teachers, and MIs will be familiar with this process. Thanks very much!

    I would like to add a thought regarding the preceding comment, which I empathize with. Our personal situation is in general more fluid than an organizational situation, so holding Precepts is simpler than identifying and working with organizational norms . I think some of the challenges I have with the Care and Conduct policy come from the fact of being affiliated with an organization – there is a haunting quality of being separate, which heightens critical intelligence. Since we are fundamentally not separate there is a constant challenge to soften with relative forms. The assertion of forms in an organization pledged to creating enlightened society … oh, never mind. Thanks very much for your work!

  3. Perhaps if we agree to abide by the Precepts, then we could just let it go at that…

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