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What is the Sakyong Ladrang?

Interview with Suter Dubose
Councilor of the Sakyong Ladrang

Listen to the Interview

This interview was taped at KGNU in Boulder with the assistance of Thomas Lenk. An edited and abbreviated transcript is provide below.

Could you explain what the term, Sakyong Ladrang, means? What does a ladrang do?

The word ladrang has many translations, but basically the la stands for lama or ruler or king, and drang means residence; it can also be interpreted as palace. So ladrang literally means “place of the lama,” or “residence of a lama.”

In Tibet, ladrang had different applications and several meanings. It is the physical place of the lama, or the sakyong, depending on the tradition in Tibet. When teachers would travel and teach, wherever they were actually conducting their business was their ladrang. It was the place of rulership.

Ruins of Palace at Surmang

Ruins of palace at Surmang, gifted to the Trungpa tulkus centuries ago

In our context in America, the Sakyong Ladrang is similar in that regard. When the Sakyong is at Karme Choling–or in Halifax or at Shambhala Mountain Center–wherever he has set up his residence or conducts his activities as a Sakyong, that is his Ladrang. The place where he abides is the Ladrang.

Formally, the Sakyong Ladrang is a non-profit organization, a 501-C3, and its primary purpose is to protect and support the Sakyong lineage. The reason is fairly obvious; without the Sakyong lineage, there is not a Shambhala lineage extending into the future past a generation or two. In addition, the Ladrang protects the relics and the assets of the Sakyong lineage.

Traditionally in Tibet, ladrangs have ensured the smooth secession from one tulku or one family lineage holder to the next. It has created a financial base of support for the training of the next incarnation or the next person born to that lineage.

Apart from the Ladrang’s function as a legal entity ensuring the continuity of the property of the Sakyong, could you speak to the current fund raising campaign in terms of protecting the lineage of the Sakyong? What is the money being raised for?

With respect to the current sponsorship campaign for the year of retreat, when people make offerings to the Sakyong Ladrang for the year of retreat that money is being utilized three ways.

The principal use of that money is to pay for his year of retreat: the travel costs and the physical expenses of him being in retreat for a year. So that is the primary need for and use of the money.

The secondary use for the offerings made to the Ladrang during year of retreat is also to help Shambhala Core Services during the period of the year of retreat, because there is going to be reduced revenue for Shambhala while the Sakyong is retreat. This is to help replace that revenue, so that Shambhala is able to maintain their core services, while he is in retreat.

The third use of the offerings made to the Ladrang during year of retreat is actually to create an endowment for the future Sakyong. So, in answer to your question, this campaign is not so much about the assets and the religious objects of Shambhala as much as taking care of the retreat, taking care of Shambhala, and also a beginning of an endowment for the future Sakyong.

How does the Ladrang’s fundraising campaign relate to Shambhala in general? People are giving to Shamabhala, from which the Sakyong receives a salary, and then they are being asked to give to the Ladrang to support him in retreat. Does that mean he will not be receiving his salary from Shambhala? How do these aspects of our mandala interface?

Okay I think there are two questions here. One question is: Will the Sakyong be receiving his salary while on retreat? And the answer is yes.

And the other one is: what is the difference between giving to Shambhala and giving to the Ladrang?
This is a great question because, as a complex society, we have complex structures, and it is easy for confusion to arise from that.

When people make offerings to the Ladrang, there are two aspects. One is their devotional gift to their teacher, which in the vajrayana tradition has to do with the dynamic between teacher and student and creating an energectic connection that also generates blessings.

Secondly, the money that is offered to the Ladrang is used for supporting Sakyong’s activities and assets, such as Kalapa Valley, which could at some point be an asset of the Sakyong Ladrang. So the money is used to support the assets of the Ladrang. And it will also be used to create endowments for the future Sakyongs–for their education and their support.

Money that is given to Shambhala, of course, is extremely important in that it is used to support the organizational structures that in turn supports the work of the Sakyong. Our mandala activities and our land centers, all of those are part of the general structure which is essential to the creation of enlightened society.

You gestured towards this in your answer. There is a growing sense of organizational complexity in Shambhala. Some people find they cannot keep up with the various entities that have recently been founded. Several of them include: the Kalapa Group, the Sakyong Foundation and now the Sakyong Ladrang. It would be really helpful if you could describe how each of these might be different and complementary in their function.

I would be delighted to. The Kalapa Group is a currently somewhat dormant as a corporation. It is a for-profit entity. If the Sakyong writes books that do not really pertain to Shambhala, such as a running book, that would be a for-profit undertaking, and that money could be directed to the Kalapa Group.

The Sakyong Foundation is the philanthropic channel through which the Sakyong directs moneys for his projects in Asia and in Shambhala, such as the Shambhala Vision campaign. The Sakyong Foundation also serves as a vehicle for individuals who would like to donate money for specific causes, and the Foundation has had very successful matching-grant campaigns. So that is an example of the Sakyong Foundation as a directed philanthropic channel for those activities.

The Ladrang, which we have been talking about, is the organization that supports the Sakyong lineage and, again, ensures the continuity of the lineage.

That is very helpful. In terms of the campaign, will there be an offering made directly to the Sakyong? If so, is that going to happen at the Tenshuk?

There are a few opportunities between now and when the Sakyong goes on retreat, when people will be able to make offerings to him via the Sakyong Ladrang. In October, there have been a series of practice events at Shambhala Centers, in which people have done a certain number of mantras and practices recommended by His Eminence Namkha Drime Rinpoche. As a community, we need to complete these prior to the Tenshuk day on November 10th, which is also the formal celebration of the Sakyong’s birthday. In the Tenshuk day, a puja will be performed in order to remove obstacles and to prepare the auspicious ground for his retreat. At each of those events, community members will have the opportunity, if they’re so inspired, to actually make offerings to the Sakyong.

And will those offerings then be presented to the Sakyong at the Tenshuk itself?

That’s right. Basically between now and November 10th, we have a pledge drive underway. We would like to be able to make an offering from the whole community to the Sakyong on his birthday for his year of retreat. People tend to relate to these pledge drives as money events, and it is. We need money to pay for the year of retreat, to pay for dharma centers, and to pay for Shambhala. That’s the world we live in, and it is very important.

But even more important is creating a “field of power” (wangthang), another way to translate authentic presence. The field of power, in this case, is all of the community members who have a devotional relationship with the Sakyang, being able to actually express that devotion at this time. I think it would be wonderful if everyone in the community, who has this kind of relationship with the Sakyong, is actually is able to make an offering to him.

And it does not matter how large or small the offering is. If it is a five dollar one-time gift to the Sakyong or a five thousand dollar one-time gift, if it is done with a heart of devotion and the offering itself is an act of love, then they are offerings of equal magnitude, equal significance. So this is not about how much money we can raise as much as coming together as a community and expressing our support and devotion to the Sakyong. Because it takes a strong society to support a Sakyong, and it takes a strong Sakyong to create enlightened society.

The Sakyong Wangmo’s letter to the community goes even further to say that the very life force of teachers are dependent on the devotion of their students. So it seems that you are saying that this is an important time for the community to come together and create a platform for the Sakyong’s activities and also for his longevity.

That’s absolutely right. That is part of the field of power. When we come together as community, and everybody participates in this way, we are creating this energetic support for his longevity and also supporting the vitality of his work. Again, it doesn’t matter how large or how small; this occurs just by virtue of making offerings.

In terms of the longevity of the Sakyong lineage itself, is the Ladrang the vehicle through which, in the future, we can support the raising of the Sakyong’s and Sakyong Wangmo’s children?

The financial support for raising future Sakyongs is the responsibility of the Sakyong Ladrang. An important part of what we do is wealth generation. It’s not really fundraising. What we are doing for the year of retreat is manifesting as a pledge drive, which is a little bit unfortunate, but necessary at this time to be able to create the the financial base to support his absolutely seminal work of being in retreat as well as generate support for Shambhala while he is in retreat.

But the more long-term activity of the Ladrang is wealth generation. And the point of that is to create the financial base to support the next Sakyong–his education, time in India, etc.–to provide the resources to ensure that he receives the training he needs.

This is exciting, because in our community we ordinarily don’t think in terms of endowments. We’ve been so busy building the infrastructure for Shambhala to thrive in the west. This is more far reaching. With an endowment, that money will be secure and from the income and interest the Sakyong lineage can flourish. This seems like an incredible opportunity for merit-making in the sense that, if one gives to an endowment, that merit will keep producing infinitely. That’s exciting.

It is exciting. An aerial perspective of what we’re doing is that this is the beginning of a thousand-year campaign. And it’s going to take a great endowment to support a Sakyong lineage and an enlightened society in Shambhala over the next thousand years.

This was the inspiration of the Dorje Dradul. This was his heart inspiration–that we create an enlightened society because the world desperately needs it. We’re not doing this for us; we’re really doing this for the benefit of the future generations of the world. Because we are in the grip of the dark ages. We represent a paradigm shift that the world desperately needs.

This again was the Dorje Dradul’s completely impassioned and singular aspiration for the future. The current Sakyong is brilliantly leading the charge in terms of creating enlightened society, and I can’t wait to see the next Sakyong and what he does. If I live long enough to see three Sakyongs, I will be a blessed man.

The Sakyong has talked about how much, in Tibet, actually it is the teacher who supports the community, rather than the community that supports the teacher. In other words, donations are always circulated back to the community. He has spoken about wanting to have that kind of pool of resources so that he could be more of a patron.

This is a generational process, and we really are in on the ground floor. There is a very elegant three-yana description about how this can progress.

What we’re doing this year and what we’ll be doing for the next couple of years probably is more on the level of the Hinayana, which is stabilizing the ground financially. This is so that we can support the Sakyong’s activities, that he and the Sakyong Wangmo can begin their family, and that Shambhala maintains financial health. So this is kind of the Hinayana level, and it’s really more about developing the ground.

The Mahayana aspect is possible as wealth is generated over time. The Sakyong is the source of blessings and generosity to the community, to mandala organizations and to the world at large. So that’s the Mahayana manifestation. I look forward to us getting to that level with the Ladrang.

The vajrayana aspect is interesting. The way that may play out is that over time we will have the temporal wealth and power to support the spiritual treasures of Shambhala. By joining these together (spiritual and temporal) we will have the critical mass to begin to actually impact and create serious transformation of the samsaric nature of the world.

Sometimes, one hears people ask: why is it that we keep pouring our funds into Shambhala rather than into the world that needs our help? And you’ve just addressed this question so well. We are very much at the building-block stage, and there’s an incredible amount of infrastructure that needs to be in place. Just like we start the path by working on ourselves, it seems that as a society we need to start by building infrastructure. But if you think about it from a thousand-year plan, then very quickly, we can turn the flower outward and go onto the Mahayana stage and beyond.

That’s very well put. From a personal point of view, I completely agree. I think that as bodhisattvas we look at our resources, look at our capabilities, and then ask the question: how can we best benefit the world? How can we best contribute to the world and transform it to a better place? It’s really important to be in the world and to support institutions that are doing good work in the world.

From my perspective, I feel like I can benefit the world more by directing my money and energy to help create Shambhala, because I think ultimately it’s going to have a much greater impact than I could ever have with my individual activities. The key is joining together as a society, as a mandala, and working with the Sakyong who has tremendous power to be able to transmit the essence of basic goodness to the world. When we approach it that way, the whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts.

This has been a wonderful discussion. Thank you so much, Suter, for joining us today. On the Shambhala Times, there will continue to be postings about the Sakyong Ladrang, about the year of retreat, and the Tenshuk.

Visit the Sakyong Ladrang website to learn more or to make a contribution.

Please feel free to use the comment section below for questions and discussion.

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2 responses to “ What is the Sakyong Ladrang? ”
  1. Alex Halpern
    Nov 20, 2009

    The Sakyong Ladrang is the inner church of the international Shambhala mandala. Its purpose is to preserve and protect the Sakyong lineage and the central teachings of Shambhala. These include the lineage terma and teachings on that terma and the critical real and personal properties that express the dignity of the lineage and the presence of Shambhala in the world. It is within the Ladrang that the succession of Sakyongs will occur and be legitimated. It is from the Ladrang that the Kongma Sakyong and his successors disseminate the central teachings of Shambhala. The concept of a Ladrang is rooted in the practices of the lineage holders of Tibet . It does not exist to benefit any private individual or group of individuals, but is the central structure from which the larger spiritual organization (in our case, Shambhala) is enlivened.

    Because the Sakyong Ladrang is newly organized, there is a present emphasis on initiating a funding base. This should not be mistaken for the purpose or operation of the Ladrang, which remains as I have described it above. All funding will serve the visionary role of the Ladrang, including supporting certain activities of the Sakyong undertaken in his role as the lineage holder of the Shambhala mandala.

    Donors do not need to be concerned that their donations will be misapplied in a manner that jeopardizes their tax-deductions or the safety of the funds received by the Ladrang.

  2. Thank you for this illuminating explanation. I have two questions about the Ladrang:
    1. My understanding is that 501c3 organizations can’t exist for the benefit of individuals. I heard that the support for Tagdrud Mukpo had to be restructured because of this. How is the Ladrang avoiding this issue? I ask because I wonder if our donations may be seized or garnished at some point if the Ladrang does not handle this correctly.

    2. How are future Sakyongs determined? Will it be the family lineage of SMR? What is the plan for the fund in the event of a gap in Sakyongship? How will the assets be distributed or dissolved?

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