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Feb 09
Opinion Pieces
The Fourth Pillar

by Andrew Forbes

There is a void in the Shambhala community. For all the sophisticated practices of meditation, a budding governmental body, and military protection, there is something still missing from the lungta of the developing community. I feel it every time I walk into the Shambhala Center. Some believe it is the reason why Shambhala has not become widely popular throughout the world. I believe it is the reason why many of the old students of Trungpa Rinpoche have silently exiled themselves from the community. The essence of the Dorje Dradül’s teachings, as illustrated in the documentary Crazy Wisdom, is that his entire manifestation was an artistic display. Dharma art was the root of his inspiration to his students. The audacity of this display has largely been undermined in the pursuit of a cleaner, corporate, more wholesome appearance of the community. This has allowed the teachings of Dharma Art to be largely forgotten. These teachings have fallen under the closed control of workshop programs, and the ability to truly demonstrate what it means to have a lively and vibrant culture of modern dharma has been abandoned.

Dharma art is more than contemplative-style art, or using art for meditation. It is about festivals, traditions, celebrations, pageantry, holidays, architecture, music, toys, games, folklore, furniture, and popular culture. The great civilizations throughout history are remembered primarily by the style of their art, which permeated all parts of their culture. The Romans had great pillars, temples, and statues. The Japanese have their castles, their tea ceremonies, their cleanliness and efficiency. The Scottish have their tartans, weapons, and music. All of these attributes are primary definitions of these unique cultures.

The teachings of visual dharma and dharma art is the presentation of how to accomplish the manifestation of enlightened society. They are essential oral instructions on how to actually join heaven and earth in a real artistic display. Producing a work that demonstrates Shambhala wisdom. The teachings are not limited to the archaic mediums of calligraphy, ikebana and object arranging, but if studied and understood are applicable to virtually any medium. Using the principles of Dharma art, artisans can actually design and create the day-to-day world of Shambhala. There is an opportunity to transform the civilization of materialism by creating our own world, the one we want to live in.

Taking up a brush, gathering a lot of confidence, and making a stroke to validate your authenticity is one thing, but where does one go from there? How does that translate into actually producing a work of art, one that is marketed and distributed to the mass? How can the notion of basic goodness and fundamental sanity extend into regions where such notions have never even been thought of? How does that translate into the celebrations of the festivals and holidays of the world wisdom traditions? The presentation of Dharma Art has barely penetrated a superficial epidermis of workshops. There are instances of artistic inspiration, mostly for festivals like Children’s Day, but they are seldom supported by patronage or administration. This is because the emphasis of the development of Shambhala society has completely overlooked importance of arts and culture.

An example of Dharma Art taking root beyond the sangha is Miksang Photography, developed by Michael Wood. After meticulously developing a very sophisticated approach to contemplative photography, Michael and his partner Julie DuBose travel around the world, teaching photographers their unique method. Their work has been showcased in many galleries worldwide, and entire collections have been purchased for decorating hospitals. They have authored books available in popular bookstores, and have magnetized many people into the discipline of shamatha meditation.

In recently Shambhala history, the Kongma Sakyong has emphasized the cultivation of Shambhala community by highlighting the Three Pillars of Shambhala: the government, the military, and the church. This has proved essential to strengthen the key components of the foundations of the mandala. However, not three but four pillars are needed to build a palace. It was the fourth pillar that the Druk Sakyong mentioned as the Pillar of Arts and Culture, which has been generally overlooked by the international community. It is time that the fourth pillar is raised so that the world of Shambhala becomes a bright beacon that magnetizes beings to the Great Eastern Sun. These teachings of Dharma Art, and the appreciation of the various festivals, must be opened up and shared in a new way. We can continue to make believe our little enlightened corner into its non-profit corporate image, or we take responsibility for the opportunity we have to transform materialistic culture on its most profound level. Not only is this an opportunity for working with media, but for-profit companies can be created to capitalize on the distribution of Shambhalian merchandise. Festivals and concerts produced would generate enough income to generously donate to the endowment of Shambhala and the Sakyong Ladrang, replacing the impoverished donation-based economy that Shambhala depends on. Shambhala was never meant to be a non-profit corporate pseudo-religious entity, but a culture and kingdom.

Borrowing other traditions’ art and culture will not produce an effect on future generations. Ignoring the Dharma art teachings will promote the appearance of Shambhala as a corporate entity. By formally implementing the Fourth Pillar of Shambhala, the Shambhala mandala will enter a new and exciting phase of development, outreach, and manifestation.

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3 responses to “ The Fourth Pillar ”
  1. P.S. If you are wondering what is has been happening in Greece, since this article was written, you can watch this short video on youtube:


    Greece, the country you have all visited and loved, is under attack. Same is all what Greece represents to civilization. Spread this video worldwide, so that everyone knows what is happening in Greece the past 2 years and now. Advancing Greece is advancing civilization against international vulgarity. Civilization can win !

  2. E MA HO Dear Andrew!
    What a clear view, and clear voice!
    I find culture and language very important since I come from Europe and since I live in Greece and I have to travel thousand of miles in order to be able to continue my Shambhala and Buddhist studies. I think that I have had the honor to meet you in the 2008 MPE in Colorado and I will never forget the sound of the music that you play – if I remember correctly. In that sense as well, yes, the culture that we produce creates very strong bonds. It is an endless story…. Thank you for bringing it up!

  3. Art tells a story, encoding and decoding a human existence as well as sets the matrix for everyone to open their minds and embrace the moment recorded and feel the energy , it is still there . I celebrate the Fourth pillar.
    a bow,
    Tracy Mayrello

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