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Our Sacred Responsibility

A letter of courage and responsibility, of honesty and inspiration in challenging times

from Vicki Giella

President Reoch has been asked by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche to work closely with him in developing Shambhala's international relations.

In my despair about the election, my mind turned to our former Shambhala President and current Shambhala envoy, Richard Reoch. I was wondering what he might be thinking about Donald Trump, the dark age, and what Shambhala warriorship means at this moment in time. Since Richard has had so much experience dealing with conflict and peace initiatives around the world, I wanted to hear his views.

I emailed Richard and, in his usual prompt manner, he responded quickly. After reading his response, I asked him if I could share his response more broadly. He agreed. So here are some perspectives from our former Shambhala President, Richard Reoch, about the current turmoil in our world.

“Dear Vicki,

It has certainly been a disturbing year — there seems to be so much polarization taking place in so many countries. Of course, the US presidential election laid bare a lot of polarization and it may feel at times like the country is more deeply divided than ever.

tribalism-1201697__480The same is true in the United Kingdom. Although the government says that “the British people” voted to leave the European Union, the actual vote was 52% to leave and 48% to remain. Every day we see deep divisions that have been exposed, and even heightened. We are also seeing a lot more xenophobic and racial abuse coming out into the open.

People describe a lot of situations like this around the world, one way or another.

Brazil, I am told, is experiencing a higher level of political polarization than it has for years, at times paralyzing the country. There is now an extreme populist president in The Philippines. Nationalist movements are gaining support in Europe. Hindu nationalism is on the rise in India. And, of course, across much of the Middle East and North Africa, we see so much bloodshed. The majority of victims are Muslims slain by fellow Muslims. To many in the Muslim world, this is the most horrific tragedy imaginable.

And, lest we think that Buddhists are immune from this, I have been following events in South and South East Asia where, as you know, we have extremist monks and mobs periodically threatening or attacking minorities (Christians and Muslims) and carrying out atrocities. This at least strips away any pretense we might have of being aloof from what’s happening.


The Marrakesh Declaration

Faced with this rising tide of hatred, I feel we have a sacred responsibility. I spoke about this at a conference I attended earlier this year in Marrakesh, Morocco, as a guest of the government. It was attended by some 300 religious leaders from all over the Muslim world as well as representatives from other faiths. They adopted a historic declaration, the Marrakesh Declaration, calling for the protection of religious minorities in Muslim lands. Sadly, it went virtually unreported in the western media.

If you’re interested in my statement, “Our Sacred Responsibility”, to the Marrakesh conference, it’s on my website: http://richardreoch.info/2016/01/16/our-sacred-responsibility/

Version 3

Richard Reoch speaking in Morocco

I feel we all need to think deeply about this — about the underlying forces that have given rise to this polarization on a global level and about the manifestations of polarization in ourselves. I think it is time for deep, personal reflection. It is also a time to radiate compassion, and sustain in our own lives, families, and local communities the values we hold precious so that they are not lost. We are holders of one of humanity’s treasures. These rare karmic seeds have been planted in us and need to be nourished and protected.

At the same time, it is important to put all this in a larger perspective. Polarization and violence are part of the picture, but by no means all of it. This is also a time of what is arguably the largest global movement for peace, non-violence, and environmental protection ever taking place in history. Much of it is unreported. It is taking place through innumerable grassroots organizations around the world. I always remember the words of the environmentalist Paul Hawken in his book, Blessed Unrest, where he says: “This is the largest social movement of all human history. Tens of millions of people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in an attempt to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.”

You asked me what forms of action might be appropriate. I feel this is very much a personal decision and there are times where it is simply not clear what to do. But I have noticed that bringing light into others’ lives, even through a simple smile on the street, seems to have a lot of power and significance for people these days….


p1090749Vicki Giella is a long-time student of the Vidhyahara and the Sakyong. She currently lives near Karme Choling and is a member of the St. Johnsbury Shambhala Center. She and several others in the area study Golden Ball Tai Chi with Richard Reoch and have led Golden Ball classes for elders in the Northeast Kingdom community for almost 10 years.

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6 responses to “ Our Sacred Responsibility ”
  1. Ezra Epstein
    Dec 14, 2016

    Great to read Richard’s letter. Thank you for sharing it.

    On what to do: politically it all starts at the local level. Being involved in the tedium and simple steps of getting locally organized seems to be the actual step. Bringing sanity and fairness at that level is a big help. Gerrymandering has become a feature of many States. Some who were appalled by it had a partisan response to it, thinking that it’s not OK if one party does it, but OK if the other one does! So bringing sanity and a voice of fairness to those types of situations would go a very long way.

  2. George Ramsey
    Dec 5, 2016

    Dear Vicki,

    I much appreciate that you contacted Richard and that he agreed to have his response posted. His message is clear, realistic, and warming. He is correct that we each need to find personal ways to perpetuate wisdom and express compassion toward our fellow citizens of this amazing world. As Shambhalians, we’ve certainly been blessed with many skillful means—no gesture is too small. I remember reading a quote of the Vidyadhara, Chogyam Trungpa but don’t recall the source. Nevertheless, what he said was: “Be kind to others; it will help them to relax.” Not a bad place to begin!

  3. Marecelle Gilkerson
    Nov 27, 2016

    Thank you for sharing this Vicki. I so appreciate this.

  4. Eric K Fisher
    Nov 23, 2016

    I appreciate Richard’s warm comments of reflection and share his dismay about the wanton violence and hatred that has seemed to poison many of our fellow sentient beings. Despite this sometimes overwhelming imbalance of aggression, each individual who is driven by unbridled passion still has basic goodness at the core of who they are. Consequently, it seems vital to breathe in deeply these poisons and breathe out our boundless love and compassion so that those who are targeted and those who are targeting can heal. Now, more than ever, we must be involved in positive peaceful social action, with groups such as Richard’s AI, as an expression of our outward breath. I wish everyone a Joyful Thanksgiving.

  5. Thank you so much, Vicki for reaching out to Richard for his comments. His vision of love is always inspiring especially as we grapple with our own sadness around societal issues of despair. I think we can all find great solace in the fact that we can and do make a difference if we open our tender hearts to whomever we are with. Love to all!

  6. Jeanne Cain
    Nov 21, 2016

    So grateful for your initiative in contacting Richard, Vicki!
    Thank you Richard for sharing your work and perspective which is so welcome, particularly at this time.

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