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Oct 14
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Judy Lief becomes Acharya Emeritus

Much loved Acharya Judy Lief has become an Acharya Emeritus. The title was bestowed on her by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, following a meeting they had at Karme Choling this summer in which they agreed that she would transition from being an active acharya to playing the new role of an acharya emeritus.

The term “emeritus” is used throughout the academic world to designate a professor of distinguished status who, having fulfilled and completed their role as a member of the active teaching faculty, is appreciated and honored by the governors of the university for that accomplishment. The Sakyong feels this could now be used to honor acharyas who have nobly served the lineage and who are transitioning to a new phase of service in the mandala.

An acharya who receives the title “Acharya Emeritus” relinquishes their active role, and is no longer requested to give refuge and bodhisattva vows, lungs or fulfill the other responsibilities of an active acharya. Where appropriate, the Sakyong would make specific requests of the acharya emeritus to take on teaching or other duties that he feels would be helpful to the mandala, and where there is a unique or specialized role that individual could play.

The Sakyong has asked Judy to continue offer teachings and programs, including those on death and dying, such as those she gives in connection with her book Making Friends with Death, and those relating to The Profound Treasury, the massive soon-to-be-published compilation of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings for which she is the editor-in-chief.

Throughout her career as an acharya, Judy has taught and made personal connections with dharma students throughout the mandala, but probably no where more so than in New York, where she resided for many years. In New York, she conceived of and started the Weekly Dharma Gathering program which quickly became the engine of Shambhala New York. She has offered refuge and bodhisattva vows to literally hundreds of people and was, for many years, a guide to the leadership in the New York sangha and other Centers. Her personal style connected people with the true heart of the Shambhala lineage.

The Sakyong has expressed his deep personal appreciation for Judy’s life of sustained and exemplary devotion to the lineage, for the tremendous support she gave for so many years to his father and whom she continues to serve through the publication of The Profound Treasury, as well as for the personal support and friendship she has extended to him over the years and in her role as one of the first acharyas he appointed.

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18 responses to “ Judy Lief becomes Acharya Emeritus ”
  1. Lisa Thompson
    Jan 14, 2012

    Dear Judy,
    This is the first Martin Luther King weekend in years that you haven’t had a program in Washington, D.C. I coordinated or attended nearly all of those teachings and I left every one with a question that profoundly affected my practice and view. You challenged me, and while that was very often painful and awkward and infuriating, I appreciate it more and more each day. I also cannot fathom what it means to be an Acharya, when someone with your skill and authenticity is not one. And where is the answer to Jon Frank’s quite relevant question? Love, Lisa

  2. Abner Burnett
    Nov 22, 2011

    What is the “Harmony Committee”?

  3. david warren
    Oct 23, 2011

    Yes it is interesting that those questions are not raised or addressed here although not terribly surprising considering that the word on the street is that Judy Lief and Sam Bercholz were both called before the Harmony Committee or whatever the name is and asked to resign due to their suspect loyalty. I personally think this is really sad. David Warren

  4. Left unaddressed or even raised here is the question of why this is happening at this particular time. Given that Judy is not retiring and is more committed than ever to sharing what she knows, as she states, why is she stepping down as an Acharya? If Emeritus means one who has “fulfilled and completed their role as a member of the active teaching faculty”, how does that description fit Judy? And what exactly does it mean to be an Acharya at this point, and in what respects did Judy no longer fit the job description? Inquiring minds want to know.

  5. Gayle Van Gils
    Oct 20, 2011

    Dear Judy,
    I hope that your new status means that we will an even greater chance of studying with you in the years to come. You are a brilliant and warm light of dharma.
    Much love, Gayle

  6. Dearest Judy,
    You are a shining pillar of our community. May you live a long and healthy life so that you can continue to serve your teachers, all of us, and all other sentient beings.
    We celebrate you. E MA HO!
    Graciela and Charles

  7. Linda V. Lewis
    Oct 20, 2011

    You are “buddhadharma without credentials personified”! I remember your teaching and smile clearly from Boulder days and a bit in Halifax. I appreciate your amazing work on the Vidyadhara’s seminary transcripts and so look forward to the fruition in 2012. This announcement is illusory, for I know your active devotion is unchanging, but it provides a great opportunity for us to celebrate you!

  8. Sarah Whitehorn
    Oct 20, 2011

    Dear Judy ~

    Thank you so much for your genuineness and clarity in teaching the dharma, and just being you! The way you joyfully engage with your world and those you meet, is an inspiration to me. I hope our paths continue to meet. I look forward to your future publications!

    With love,
    Sarah Whitehorn

  9. Barnaby Spring
    Oct 20, 2011

    I am grateful to you for all you have done for so many. Thinking of you always inspires me regardless of the circumstances I find myself in. That’s what the greatest teachers do. They inspire.

    Thank you, Judy. Looking forward to more teachings!!

    Barnaby Spring

  10. Shante Smalls
    Oct 20, 2011

    Dear Acharya Emeritus Lief,

    Thank you for giving me both my refuge and bodhisattva vows. I’ve benefitted from every teaching of yours that I’ve ever heard. I look forward to seeing you again once I’m back in NYC. Thank you for everything.

    In the Vision of the Great Eastern Sun,


  11. Dear Judy:

    I appreciate so much having a connection with you, and even though I don’t get to see you much, can clearly picture your sparkling presence! Thank you so much for all you have done and do.

    Much love,

    Pam R.

  12. Stephanie Potter
    Oct 20, 2011

    Yes Yes Yes Yes! A fantastic teacher who has had a profound effect on my life. I will never forget the “how to die” program at KCL.

  13. Chris Montone
    Oct 20, 2011

    Dear Judy,
    I would like to thank you dearly for the many contributions you have made to Shambhala and to the many gifts you have shared and will share with the sangha. (And for the bodhisattva name you gave me. :-) Thank you for coming each year to the Washington, DC Center (and even for spotting and confirming the building they’re in currently during the space search!) Thank you also for your wonderful editing work, too! You have served us all so well and given us so much…I know there is much more that you have to give and look forward to receiving it in this new phase of your life! With heartfelt appreciation, Chris

  14. Sabine Putze
    Oct 19, 2011

    Dear Judy, I am reading your book again “Making Friends with Death”. I like especially the slogan parts at the end very much. I am wondering if the book is going to be translated in German. I have friends who are working for a mobile children hospitz and it would be helpful, not only for them. Thank you for your very inspiring manifestation of living and teaching honestly with compassion and wisdom! Greetings from Vienna, Sabine Putze

  15. Kristine McCutcheon
    Oct 18, 2011


    Your radiance only gets brighter. Thank you for all you have done and all you will do. Your manifestation is always inspiring.

    Ki Ki So So.

  16. Andrea Sherman
    Oct 17, 2011

    Dear Judy,

    Thank you for all of the gifts you have given to so many of us. With deep appreciation, gratitude, and
    love for your teachings and friendship!!

  17. We love you very much and thank you for your blessings.

  18. My Fellow Sangha,

    Although I have stepped down as an acharya, this does not mean that I have retired. In fact, I am as committed as ever to sharing what I know through teaching, writing, editing. It is a privilege to support this sangha and the Shambhala dharma, and I will continue to do so to the best of my ability, as I have been doing for the last 35 years. The Vidyadhara and the Sakyong have kindly encouraged me and given their blessings, for which I am boundlessly grateful.

    In the near future, I particularly look forward to sharing some of the amazing teachings I have been studying while compiling and editing the material from 13 years of Seminary teachings by the Vidyadhara. This three-volume set, entitled The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma– is due to be published in 2012.

    May your practice, study, and bodhisattva activity flourish to the benefit of this suffering world.

    Acharya Emeritus Judy Lief

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