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Richard Reoch Looks Ahead

outgoing president Richard Reoch in his "office" at the Tenno Room in Halifax

outgoing president Richard Reoch in his “office” at the Tenno Room in Halifax

The Sakyong has announced changes to the governing structure of Shambhala. This includes reintegrating the position of president back into the seat of the lineage holder. Shambhala Times asked outgoing president Richard Reoch, who is transitioning to a more international role, what lies ahead for him.

What’s next for you?

Shambhala Vision and my years as president have really deepened the way I work in the world. War and peace are on my mind and heart a lot these days. The Sakyong has given his blessing to the work I do in Sri Lanka and, increasingly, on the global epidemic of Islamophobia. This is part of supporting his work on the international level. That includes the Shambhala Festivals and the Enlightened Society Awards for distinguished individuals and organizations who are helping society. Within Shambhala, he has asked me to retain overall responsibility for the Monarch Retreats.

Tell us more about your work with Sri Lanka and against Islamophobia.

I chair a network of diplomats and major agencies involved with the continuing conflicts in Sri Lanka. Sadly, there have been more than 300 attacks, led by Buddhist monks, on Sri Lanka’s Muslims, Christians and Hindus over the last two years. I have talked to leaders on all sides. This violence takes place against the backdrop of the global spread of Islamophobia with attacks taking place recently in 18 countries. I was just invited to the Royal University in Morocco to talk about “Seeds of War, Seeds of Peace: Religious Conflict in Today’s World. It was broadcast on Shambhala Online and posted online here. I’ve also been writing about this on the Huffington Post UK edition.

What inspires you to do this work?

The first buddha statue in my home when I was a little boy came from Sri Lanka and I have been working on human rights and peace issues there for over 40 years! The island has the only surviving cutting from the original bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. It is where Padmasambhava is said to have travelled after his years in Tibet, to curb the island’s demons who were threatening the world. And over these years, almost all the major issues threatening the world – terror and counter-terror, religious and communal hatred, natural and environmental disasters, sexual violence and exploitation, economic and social disruption, political and financial corruption, militarization and disregard for humanitarian law – have erupted on this strategic island which has also experienced the ravages of colonialism and globalization. I have engaged with the country’s senior Buddhist leadership, including pro-war monks. Their hatred and violence have forced me to search for answers to the question that now applies around the world: “What leads people to act completely against the teachings and practices of their faith?”

How do you weave your practice into this work?

I feel my life, my work, and my practice cannot really be separated. That was also true of my years as the President of Shambhala. Every aspect is connected in some way to the vows we take: our refuge and bodhisattva vows and our Shambhala and Enlightened Society vows. I once chaired a very difficult meeting of diplomats. At the end everyone around the table was literally slumped forward from exhaustion and despair. I noticed I was the only person still sitting upright. In that moment, I understood how much I owed this inner strength to the countless hours my body and mind have sat in pain on a gomden.

Tell us a little more about the leadership work you are doing in the mandala?

I help the Sakyong with the Monarch Retreats he has established. These are intensive week-long retreats for leaders who have received the Rigden Abhisheka, are practicing the Roar of the Werma, and are committed to playing a role in the leadership of the mandala. Some I lead myself, but we are also creating a team of other senior retreat leaders. The Sakyong would like everyone in a leadership position in Shambhala to take part in a Monarch Retreat at least once a year.

Can you share a little about the work you are doing in Europe with the next steps in developing Shambhala in Europe?

I am working with Christoph Schönherr, the Kalapa Envoy to Europe, on exploring and implementing the thoughts and vision that the Sakyong set out in a letter to our European community a month ago. He wrote about the next possible location of the seat of the Shambhala Lineage in Europe, the structure of Shambhala Europe as a whole, and talked about this being an opportunity for Europe “to manifest Shambhala society within the heart of modern human culture.” So it’s a big project. We are establishing a multinational and multilingual Task Force. There will be discussions around all this taking place in 16 nations and in about a dozen languages!

How do you feel about this major transition in your life?

Richard Reoch at the Q&A session at his talk in Morocco

Richard Reoch at the Q&A session at his talk in Morocco

I’ve spent 12 years in a pretty hot seat! The Sakyong urged me to talk about this – and the changes that are happening – in a little film he asked me to make. There’s a five minute version and the full 13-minute version.

We have actually been working towards this change of governing structure for some time now. As I say in the film, building a much more unified mandala – with the central role of the lineage clearly established – has always been my heart’s wish.

When the Sakyong asked me to help him 12 years ago, things were very different. To help our community, he needed to delegate some of his organizational responsibilities. As he said to me: “If you take care of the organization, I will get on with the magic.” I have seen him do that in a truly amazing way. The way the whole situation has evolved now makes it possible for him to hold both the temporal and the spiritual. He is now able to re-integrate the role and responsibilities of the president back into the seat of the lineage holder. I think his father, the first president, would be pleased!

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5 responses to “ Richard Reoch Looks Ahead ”
  1. Clay Bennett
    Feb 15, 2015
    Reply

    Who is your President?

    Richard Reoch is my president …

  2. Dear Richard,
    Many thanks for your warmth, exertion, and caring for the entire Sangha! We have greatly benefitted from your efforts.

    Karen Iglehart

  3. Christine Sloan
    Feb 10, 2015
    Reply

    Dear Richard,

    Deepest thanks to you for all your have done for our community over these last 12 years; we owe so much to your exertion, dedication, enthusiasm and humour. Sincere good wishes on the next leg of your journey.

  4. A deep bow to you President Reoch for your unwavering service to The Sakyong and our community.

  5. Kristine Mccutcheon
    Feb 9, 2015
    Reply

    Thank you so much Richard. Your work has been at the heart and ground of a culture. It is pretty hard to summarize. I would like to thank you in particular for staying in that hot seat and being an example of wonderfulness. You and Jane are literally jewels. May you have long life and happiness and be able to continue to fulfill all your aspirations.


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