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Oct 21
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Beverley Webster, A Magnificent Lioness of Shambhala

Beverly Webster, from the Chronicles. Photo courtesy of Nade Healy.

Beverly Webster, from the Chronicles. Photo courtesy of Nade Healy.

By Marty Janowitz

Beverley Beattie Webster, named Lady Beattie (Pema Nyima, Lotus Sun), Lady to the Kalapa Court by the Druk Sakyong, Chogyam Trungpa Mukpo, died suddenly on October 11, 2010, just shy of her 69th birthday, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She was a magnificent lioness of Shambhala, one of the pillars upon and with whom the Druk Sakyong built Shambhala’s society and traditions from the ground up in the 1970s and 80s. Lady Beattie was large in every best sense of the word – in stature, presence, beauty, intellect, grace, laughter and most of all in heart and love offered without restraint in service to her guru.

Merely saying that she was the founding Executive Secretary of the Royal Office of the Sakyong, insufficiently portrays the reality. At the time of creation, the collaborative service of Lady Beattie did much to fashion the structure, style and tone of this central heart of Shambhala’s society, known colloquially as ‘A Suite’ but felt by any supplicant as the Seat of the Mukpo lineage of Shambhala. She presided over that space like a mother eagle, guarding the nest but ensuring it was as majestic as its prime occupant, magnifying its essential nature through her stylish, magnetic, gracious and occasionally challenging manifestation.

“You see possibilities of order in the world that are not based on struggle and aggression…You perceive a way to be in harmony with the phenomenal world that is neither static nor oppressive. So the understanding of hierarchy manifests as a sense of natural decorum, or knowing how to behave. That is, you see how to be naturally in this world because you experience dignity and elegance that do not have to be cultivated,”

– Chogyam Trungpa
from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, as quoted in The Decorum Manual

In this era, the Druk Sakyong clearly relished the opportunity to explore and display the principles that became known as Shambhala Decorum, manifesting in the Kalapa Court and throughout the emerging Kingdom – in ceremony, protocols, ritual, social discourse, hospitality, arts and governance. Lady Beattie was a main protagonist in the embryonic production. Many of the forms and patterns that now seem elemental within Shambhala culture were seeded and spiced in that cauldron of creative brilliance, with Lady Beattie as much Sous-Chef as anyone contributing to the Sakyong’s artistry.

She held sway within and beyond A Suite with what often seemed larger than life poise and charm – perhaps summed up as fierce generosity. Watching everything with that eagle’s eye and particularly sensitive to the energetics of the Sakyong, she demanded and exemplified precision and was the master of playful detail, recognizing the simultaneous purposes of a true ‘gate’ – to welcome, wake, and prepare the entrant with just enough sense of threatening magnificence to foreshadow the presence of the Sakyong. Looking at it now she was really more bridge than gate, providing a way for people to approach the Kalapa’s Inner Court alert and as necessary, encouraged. There is no doubt that the Sakyong, Sakyong Wangmo and Mukpo family appreciated and enjoyed her service and her nature.

She worked tirelessly with her comrades in service, particularly with the Sakyong’s Kasung Khyi Kyap David Rome, and other key staff of the Royal Office such as the ladies McKeever, Berman, Pressburger (then Gwynn-John), E. Green and Scott, and especially in the early period with Kusung Dapon then Chamberlain John Perks. She also worked closely and collegially with the broad leadership of Shambhala- Ministers and staff, the Kasung Council of the Makyi Rapjam, The Kalapa Court and House, the Church, Translators and artists of every type, in fashioning the great mandala of Shambhala.

Not content just being engaged in the creation, she exercised leadership in documenting and transmitting what had occurred for the benefit of present and future generations. Among her many accomplishments she will of course be specially remembered as the architect (with due recognition to Angela Gwynn-John and other dedicated collaborators) of the first Decorum Manual of Shambhala. This beautifully crafted document captured and described the essence of Shambhala’s cultural forms and principles, artfully and with great attention to detail, interweaving the words of the Sakyong to frame and elucidate the heart of each aspect.

Many well thumbed and now tattered copies have been for the subsequent decades the ‘bible’ for Shambhalians entrusted with maintaining and evolving these traditions. While the details presented were precise, her first allegiance was always to explicating the core principles that will always be the reference point even as circumstances and therefore details evolve. Many of the first grand events of Shambhala – at Kalapa Assemblies, Shambhala Day and other Solstice holidays, ceremonials, rituals and even grand balls and parties benefited from Lady Beattie’s deft and creative hand. That Shambhala forms are known as much for their simplicity as their sophistication is much due to her understanding of the true nature of elegance, where grace is prized over lavishness, artfulness over embellishment, and genuine humor and communication over broadcast pomposity.

Upon the death of the Druk Sakyong, Lady Beattie persisted in lovingly and carefully saving and documenting the archival heritage of the Vidyadhara’s relics within the Office – laying important ground for the continuation of the lineage legacy of Sakyongs, now known as the Sakyong Ladrang. Only when these tasks were completed or transferred to other capable hands was Beverley ready and willing to let go her charge and move on or more properly, out into the greater kingdom.

In her personal life as much as in her public life, Beverley was never ‘off duty’. Those who knew her for decades or days, from near or far, always, always experienced her unceasing allegiance to imaginatively expressing Court principles in every space, activity and presentation- beginning with her striking and truly gorgeous , towering (over six feet) form, occasionally ornamented with her dangling silver dagger accent, reddish then white flowing hair, eye-catching scarves, sunglasses and bangles. Eyes and smile flashing, ever laughing, occasionally acerbic, sometimes intimidating, never compromising a principle or detail, Beverly treated every guest, interaction and event as just the next steps in the never ending Shambhala choreography. And boy could she have fun – boisterous, no holds barred, everyone join in fun.

In recent years she much ‘held court’ in Margaree, Cape Breton, in the magical land she migrated and settled into as the prophesized heart ground of Shambhala. Although in some ways this move placed her distant (at least physically) from many friends, she remained a noticeable presence through the ripples that emanated with every departing guest and through her every foray. Her home and grounds were spectacular in attention and detail – as if the old house had been born generations before its true owner finally possessed and enlivened it. In Margaree she was surrounded and visited by old and new friends, loving partner Michael, the brood of children, grandchildren and who knows how many honorary nieces and nephews, Shambhala and Caper neighbors. She continued to host and advise, guide and enrich, challenge and play. Completely obvious to all was her unflagging loyalty and fidelity to making the Druk Sakyong’s Shambhala Vision “So”.

She was caring and attentive until the end, listening and responsive first to the needs of those around her – and although as strong as they come, she was truly modest and genuine with everyone. Usually warm and sometimes sharp, an encounter with Beverley might not always go as hoped or planned, but was always characterized by her giving rather than taking and her unconcealed love for all things Trungpa and Mukpo. She would have followed him to the ends of the earth without question. Instead she followed him to the beginning of enlightened society, offering as we say, her body, heart and tongue to create the Kingdom he called for.

Starting with the intent to just offer a few words, I found myself unable to stop – carried on the winds of love and appreciation for a heart friend and comrade, the natural embodiment of mother lineage, femme fatale and warrior servant all in one… dearest Beverley we know what you meant to all we hold dear, then, now and tomorrow.

Marty Janowitz, W.O.G.S., Warrior General, Kusung Dapon Khyi Khap Retired

Read more tributes to Beverley Webster on the Chronicles of CTR.

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