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Mar 12
Dharma Teachings, Opinion Pieces
Considering the Future of the Treasure of Shambhala

Este artículo ha sido traducido al español aqui.

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In these heartbreaking days, while we are committed to redesign the entire structure of our community and practice, I wanted to add an element that may provide some historical perspective for our considerations.  This is not meant to in any way dictate what we decide to do; those directions will be shaped by the community input to the Process Team, and by auspicious coincidence.  Certainly, I have no idea or recommendations for the future.  But the Buddhist and Shambhala teachings are often predicated on the question of what we are to accept and what to reject.

As a student of my root guru, the Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, I have tried in the decades since his passing to understand who he was and what he did.  I have puzzled over the final ten years in which he continued teaching the profound Buddhadharma, but he obviously prioritized the Shambhala teachings as chief among his heart treasures.  As a scholar-practitioner, I have witnessed how the Shambhala teachings became primary sometime after his passing, and I have increasingly understood this decision as core to the Tibetan tradition and lore of terma itself.

Terma are “discovered treasure” teachings, also known as “close transmissions,” especially associated with the Tibetan Vajrayana tradition.  They are contrasted with the Kama teachings, that are the “long transmissions” through historical lineages of greatly realized adepts like Naropa, Milarepa, and the Karmapas.  Terma teachings are called “new transmissions” because they arise without a long lineage of adepts and are destined to address the new conditions that arise throughout history in fresh and immediate ways.  The Shambhala teachings are primary among the terma teachings discovered by the Vidyadhara, the Druk Sakyong, over a series of years.

Historically speaking, there have been many terma discovered over the centuries by “treasure discoverers” (tertons) like the Vidyadhara.  Most of those terma have remained obscure, and have even disappeared, because there is more to a terma than its discovery.  Scholars have identified the prevailing historical skepticism that terma have faced within Buddhist traditions over the centuries in Tibet;  tertons have been accused of being charlatans, eccentrics, and frauds, even among the most traditional yogic practitioners.  Even the great 18th century Jigme Lingpa, discoverer of the Longchen Nyingtig, was deeply concerned with providing legitimacy for his discovery, given the skepticism of his age. The dissemination of a new terma is scrutinized closely, and terma are eventually considered legitimate only in special circumstances, such as whether they lead to palpable realization of some kind or provide clear benefit to beings in the dark age. 

Tertons have typically relied on a lineage-holder to propagate the terma, a terdak.  That is, the terton discovers the treasure, and the terdak provides commentaries and support for practice for the principal discoverer, and so the terdak is a key figure in the destiny of the treasure teachings.  Sakyong Mipham has committed his life to being the terdak of his father’s Shambhala terma.  Another key element has been the practitioners who engage in the practice, and whether they develop realization of the teachings.  In the case of societal teachings like Shambhala, a great deal depends upon the community of practitioners.

This suggests that for the first generation or two, the future of terma is most fragile and subject to scrutiny.  If the teachings do not take root, traditionally the dakinis whisk them away to the lha realm where they may remain until a future, more auspicious moment.  Certainly, the career of the terdak can influence the future of the terma, which we are witnessing in a major way in our community right now.  But also the practice and realization of this first generation of practitioners has a tremendous impact on the future of the terma.

Among some members of the Shambhala community there has been enormous bitterness about the Sakyong’s decision to make the terma central in our community, sidelining the precious Buddhadharma teachings.  I have at times felt that way myself, as I continue to hold the Buddhadharma transmissions of the Vidyadhara as central in my life.  Could it be that at least some part of the Sakyong’s decision had to do with the commitment to sustain the terma?  That is, would we as a community have explored the depth of the Shambhala terma if it had remained sidelined in our lineage?

And now, the conduct of the Sakyong that has surfaced is definitely threatening the future of the terma.  He has devoted the last ten years of his teaching to deepening our realization of the power of basic goodness and creating enlightened society, and many of us have felt the transformative power of those teachings.  The flourishing of Shambhala has been directly related to the power of the terma for individuals and the whole community.  I like to think that current events are the way the protectors and dralas are cleaning out our lineage’s closets and basements so that the terma can deliver on its promise.  There is no way we could or should continue with secrets that are in direct contradiction to confidence in basic goodness and enlightened society.  There is deep health in the breakdown of our damaging structures and behaviors, but whether the overall outcome will be beneficial to our community and humanity depends in part upon what we decide to do.

As we make decisions and plans for our future as a community, it is important to recognize that we are the generation of practitioners who have received the precious Shambhala teachings in the introductory curriculum, the intermediary practices, and in the advanced retreats.  The future of those teachings rests in part on how we respond to this crisis.  In my devotion to my root teacher, I wonder about this essential part of his legacy.  Can we embody the core teachings of basic goodness and enlightened society as we experience the heartbreak and make the necessary changes in our community?  Can we continue to highlight the Shambhala terma in our practices and community life?  Will the terma continue beyond this generation of Shambhala practitioners, or will it go the way of the obscure or irrelevant ones?  The Vidyadhara, the dakinis and dralas, and the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, are closely watching.


For further historical context, please consult:

Andreas Doctor, Tibetan Treasure Literature: Revelation, Tradition and Accomplishment in Visionary Buddhism (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2005).

Janet B. Gyatso, Apparitions of the Self:  The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 1998).

Janet B. Gyatso, “Drawn from the Tibetan Treasury: The gTer ma Literature” in Cabezón and Jackson, ed., Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1996).

Tulku Thondup, Hidden Teachings of Tibet: An Explanation of the Terma Tradition of the Nyingma School of Buddhism (London & Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1986, reprint edition 1997).


Judith Simmer-Brown is Distinguished Professor of Contemplative and Religious Studies at Naropa University, where she is a founding faculty member.  She has been a Shambhala acharya for 19 years, and was previously Dean of the Teachers’ Academy.  She is author of Dakini’s Warm Breath (Shambhala 2001) and Meditation and the Classroom (SUNY 2010), and numerous articles and book chapters.

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66 responses to “ Considering the Future of the Treasure of Shambhala ”
  1. Dear Judith,
    Thank you for initiating this discussion.

    As we have seen, interpreting what the Vidyadhara’s intention was after his passing can be tricky. We will undoubtedly project our own view onto his legacy. If this is the case, in hindsight, we could have been more restraint in making some of the radical changes to the path, that he had laid out for us, until we have developed the higher perceptions.

    Certainly his spiritual will and Court Vision and Practice are good reference points. In Court Vision on page 53 in the chapter on corruption, the Druk Sakyong clearly states that lack of practice in the Kingdom, but particularly among office holders, may lead to corruption and the resultant symptoms that have been brewing behind closed doors are now fully exposed. Let us keep that in mind in addition to the work that needs to be done in adopting a governance structure that takes into account a monarch who had been called to duty before he had completed his training.

    In regards to the question of focusing exclusively on the Shambhala terma while neglecting the other lineages that we are empowered to hold, two proclamations come to mind. The Vidyadhara made these in the early eighties, so well after the discovery of the Shambhala terma:

    In 1980 VCTR wrote in the introduction to The Rain of Wisdom:
    “As for myself, the older I get, the more of a Kagyü person I become. Aging in this way is wonderful. My thanks and appreciation to the forefathers.”

    In 1983 VCTR wrote in “The King’s Bugle”
    “Dharma is good food,
    Especially the Kagyü dharma that we love.
    We like the spice of the Kagyü dharma in our food.
    We love to cry a lot, shed our tears.
    We want to support dharma,
    We want to spend lots of money for the sake of dharma.
    Please come join us and practice with us.
    Practice is like a key, money is like a lock;
    Enjoyment of all this is like opening a treasure chest.
    Welcome to the dharmic world.
    We are so proud and hungry.
    This is a hungry letter from Chöggie.
    Still Chöggie is Tiger Lion Garuda Dragon,
    Never afraid of obstacles.
    So Chögyam Trungpa writes this letter;
    C.T. Mukpo writes this letter in the name of the Kagyü dharma.
    Kill or cure, Trungpa never gives up”

    I am sure there are quotes that can be interpreted to support a different view, but I have not seen a proclamation that could be interpreted as a waiver to hold the Kagyü and Nyingma lineages within Shambhala. Years ago I had discussed waning support for Kagyü and Nyingma practices and feasts in Shambhala with an Acharya and she thought that this was a natural unfolding. “You complete one cycle of practices and you move onto another one”. Personally I do not think VCTR would have poured out such an abundance of “other” foundational teachings that we could graduate from. “Never forget the Hinayana!” let alone Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara. More recently Dzongsar Rinpoche implored us in a passionate letter, not to let the precious practices that we had received from VCTR go to waste. Lineage holders like him have been kept away from our centres until recently, think about it.

    To me creating enlightened society is possible if we recognize our diversity and different karmic connections to different lineages as a source of richness rather than a problem. Shambhala has become poorer after so many of our “old dog” warriors, our elders, have left because they have not been cherished and have been made obsolete, in some cases, by revoking their authorizations that they have earned under Trungpa Rinpoche.

  2. Sandy Lemberg
    Mar 27, 2019

    The two preceding comments from Dia Ballou exemplify a significant aspect of what I find unacceptable and offensive about the Sakyong’s regime and what he has done to the Shambhala organization.

    Dia Ballou asks: “why did you not join SMR and the SS teachings?” and “Those of you who were well into Vajrayogini and Chakrasambhava practices when SMR started offering Scorpion Seal — honestly, why did you not lean in?”

    Personally, my involvement with Shambhala is an outcome of my interest in and love of Buddhism and my commitment to the Dharma.

    It is not the result of any interest in militarism, monarchy, royalty, authoritarianism or elitism of any kind because I have no such interest.

    So why would I even consider abandoning the Buddhist path in favor of a regime built on militarism, monarchy, royalty, authoritarianism, and elitist hierarchy?

    She asks: “how can I trust your perception of SMR and the SS teachings when you have not been practicing the latter?” She further says: “I have to admit to being confused by and not entirely trusting of those who could have become SS practitioners and chose not to.”

    Summarizing some of what Dia Ballou says:

    She does not trust or understand people who have continued on the traditional Buddhist path instead of abandoning it in favor of the Sakyong’s path.

    She believes that “disenfranchised, long-time Kagyu practitioners seem to be pettily taking advantage of what” SHE BELIEVES “is really a totally unrelated political situation to air their old grievances” and says that it feels like “vulture-ism”.

    Dia Ballou thus condemns those of us who are committed to the Dharma and have not chosen to follow the Sakyong and accuses us of taking advantage of the crimes of the Sakyong and other Shambhala followers to denigrate Shambhala Buddhism.

    In my view, the sexual abuse and other misconduct are merely a symptom of the environment created by the Sakyong and his regime, the germs of which were already present in the environment created by Trungpa Rinpoche.

  3. BarbaraElizabethStewart
    Mar 23, 2019

    Dia, there is so much to respond to here, but I will just say a few things: first, that Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings in English on Kagyu ngondo and sadhana practices, especially Vajrayogini, are vast, unique and just terrific. You are saying that hey, you can get VY and Chk sadhanas from lots of places, they’re really common, but I am telling you that the Vidhyadhara’s teachings on these practices are every bit as valuable and unique and in need of being honoured and saved from extinction as his Shambhala teachings, and also that it’s important to receive these abhishekas and do the practice with your close teacher, not a teacher you barely know.
    And re: why didn’t all of VCTR’s students drop the Kagyu and sign up with the Sakyong and only the Sakyong? — it’s because it doesn’t work that way. You have to have karma, connection, with teachers and the practices they offer. Some people did an SS or two and realized it wasn’t for them, others knew it wasn’t at the start. Many people came to see that while Trungpa Rinpoche was their root guru, and the Sakyong simply wasn’t and they couldn’t fake it. You don’t just inherit a guru like a rent-controlled apartment in New York. You don’t just drop the practices that are deep in your bones because the new head of the organization is sidelining them. The problem (“old grievances” as you call them, though in fact the painful feelings are both rooted in the past of exclusion but also as current as the Mueller Report) is, as Michael and Cassell said, that the older students who were honest about their path were pushed out, and looked down upon (if you question that, please reread your own postings here and your characterizations of the people who built Shambhala.)

  4. Sarah Lionheart
    Mar 21, 2019

    “May we have no nightmares, ill omens, or bad dealings”

  5. Dia Ballou
    Mar 21, 2019

    I have to admit to being confused by and not entirely trusting of those who could have become SS practitioners and chose not to. VCTR commanded SMR, his son, to carry forth the Shambhala terma. Wasn’t that alone enough for you to join SMR’s SS path? I know it must have been hard to be asked to set aside Kagyu practices. I had to press pause on Kagyu ngondro, a decision it took almost ten years to make. Those of you who were well into Vajrayogini and Chakrasambhava practices when SMR started offering Scorpion Seal — honestly, why did you not lean in? SMR said that he needed you to devote a lot of time to SS, and you chose to not give that time. During the bardo between the Regent and the Sakyong, you found other teachers who would support you on the Kagyu path — great. But they were not your root gurus, they would not step into Shambhala while SMR had something so important to teach, and they would probably have been delighted had you returned to Shambhala when SMR began offering SS teachings. That was his mandate and our privilege. For you to now say that SMR denied you something sounds childish to me. It is absurd to talk about the teachers VCTR invited and the teachers SMR didn’t invite; it is a totally different world now, with most Western Tibetan teachers having their own sanghas which some VCTR Kagyu students joined, perhaps in a half-hearted, heartbroken way; and Eastern Tibetan teachers also having their own sanghas that are factionalized and politicized and thus uncertain about whether to align with Shambhala. So I don’t think there is any blame in SMR asking us to focus on Shambhala teachings for this period of time and excluding other Vajrayana teachers while he shows us what Shambhala can mean. I also just need to say that it continues to feel really uncomfortable to me that disenfranchised, long-time Kagyu practitioners seem to be pettily taking advantage of what is really a totally unrelated political situation to air their old grievances. It does feel like vulture-ism to me…and also like a lot of ignorance of what actually happens at Centers, which are not marketing venues; at classes, which are not ignorant of our community’s history; and at retreats, which are not cult gatherings.

  6. Dia Ballou
    Mar 20, 2019

    I am interested in hearing from those who have been on both Kagyu and Scorpion Seal paths — those who did agree to set aside their Kagyu practice for the time being and focus on SMR’s SS teachings. Was that hard to do? Was it worthwhile for you? I put Kagyu ngondro on hold in order to engage in the Shambhala terma teachings and practices, and that was not an easy decision. But I am so glad I did. Those who have been doing Vajrayogini/Chakrasambhava for so many years — I would think it would have been easier for you than for a ngondro student like me to set aside your long-held advanced Kagyu practices and give the full amount of time required to be a Scorpion Seal practitioner. I’m curious why you did not do so. I hear your commitment to Kagyu teachings and practices, but I keep thinking: they are not so at risk of being lost (many other communities teach and practice them), and they are not what our current lineage holder was specifically asked to teach. So why did you not join SMR and the SS teachings? And how can I trust your perception of SMR and the SS teachings when you have not been practicing the latter?

  7. Joe Priestley
    Mar 20, 2019

    I’m one of that small minority who never really took to the Shambhala presentation. I’ve tried to stay connected over the years, but gradually found that the narrow, defined, one-size-fits-all path available didn’t feel right for me. Does that make me part of anyone’s “we”? Maybe not. But there’s such a refreshing variety of ideas in these posts, I’m inspired. So here goes…

    I’m *startled* to find that this year, the Parinirvana of VCTR, one of the few events I attend, is being phased out. And with no explanation. It seems to be either non-existed or turned into a “moment of remembrance” at various centers. Is appreciating VCTR too controversial? Is it that alcohol is banned going forward? Is the subject too touchy to even acknowledge?

    There’s hot debate here over the roles of Buddhist vs Shambhala teachings, and which should be preeminent. But aren’t they both essentially Vajrayana? And doesn’t Vajrayana require a vajra master? And in Vajrayana, isn’t the teacher the teachings in an essential way? (See the musk deer analogy.) This discussion of how things should proceed seems to imply an agreement that the Sakyong is not a vajra master. (Can anyone imagine a meeting while VCTR was alive, to discuss whether he knew what he was doing?) In other words, Judith Simmer-Brown’s view — and many of the comments here — imply a shift to planning by senior teachers and committees, in order to preserve the current system. Or even possibly a democratic vote. Rather than a sangha under the direction of a master.

    I look at the Shambhala Center calendar and see what I consider to be politically correct events, special interest nights, non-Dharma classes, and “listening circles” for various groups. (I had to look up “listening circle”. Should I have known what that is? Does one need a background in pop psychology these days to practice?) Then there’s the proposed Code of Ethics, which states that all members are responsible for enforcing an officially designated moral code of behavior. I see a Buddhist organization that’s gradually converting to a corporate-style, institutional… what? A Theravada-ish, self-actualization training franchise run by psychologists, lawyers and so-called social justice warriors, always with an eye toward marketing? (I guess that’s what Julia Sagebian is thinking of as a “shamatha shop”.) The result of that approach seems to be already evident: Lots of newer students who see a monolithic, quasi-retail organization that should be providing some kind of happiness payoff in exchange for their program fees. Ex-members on Reddit, with little or no understanding of Dharma, who view themselves as recovering cultists and feel they were tricked into Buddhism through a feel-good marketing machine.

    Certainly controversy is not a new thing in Buddhist circles. Tantra is anti-social in a fundamentally radical way. Even the 4 Noble Truths teaching is radical, at odds with basic societal values in an age of scientific materialism. And I suspect many practicing Buddhists don’t grasp just how radical. But the current reaction to controversy is notable for the anger, reactionism, dogmatism and blaming coming from within. So much reliance on changeable societal values rather than practice and view.

    I guess I’m proposing that there should be a clarification of View in discussions like this. And perhaps also overview. It seems that in Buddhism, View is overview. But if Buddhist view is being subsumed by cultural views, MeToo views, psychology views, etc, then such an overview needs to be clarified. I don’t think people here are sharing the same View. From any sort of Vajrayana view, when the students are planning how to preserve a codified version of the teachings independent of the teacher, isn’t something already lost?

  8. Juanita Evans
    Mar 19, 2019

    Michael Smith, Thank you for your post. Can you tell me where this quote is from?

  9. Cassell Gross
    Mar 19, 2019

    In reply to: Birgit

    Thank you! I visited those sites years ago – but somehow had completely forgotten about them. It is amazing and wonderful.

  10. Lisa fiore
    Mar 19, 2019

    Cassell Gross this is beautiful. Do you mind if I post this on Facebook? I think people need to see this.
    Thank you.

  11. This is a beautiful comment. Thank you very much. I’d like to see such an organization – I’d even like to participate in one.

  12. Cassell_Gross
    Mar 17, 2019

    Dear Judith,
    We have been friends for a long time, and I have so much affection and love for you. Here I am writing about what you recently wrote in the Shambhala Times and posted on Facebook. I am addressing your words and your position, not you, my friend. We’ve taken different paths here and it is important to clarify the issues – for myself and for many others.

    In your writing, you wondered what might have happened to the Shambhala terma if they had been “sidelined” in our lineage. Who has ever wanted to “sideline” the Shambhala terma? Why even suggest that? Trungpa Rinpoche presented TWO distinct (and fundamentally connected) streams of transmission. Studying the two streams that Trungpa Rinpoche spent his entire life presenting to us did not require “sidelining” either. He set it up so that we WOULD study both deeply – knowing that they would mutually enhance one another – and cause us to sharpen our intelligence and insight and skills as we did. He would hardly have been disappointed had it caused us to be confused or to struggle at times.

    In April of 1986, one year before he died, when he was very very sick, he gave the two-day Chakrasamvara Abhisheka. We were both present. He had been preparing the mandala, students, and the translation for many years. Do you think he did it by mistake? Do you think he did it so our links to that teaching stream would go dormant after his death? Why does one stream have to be “sidelined” in order for the other to flourish?

    Do you think it was in any way necessary for the Sakyong to block students’ access to other teachings and teachers in order for the Shambhala teachings to remain “central to our lineage?” And I use the word “block” because he did create a block: we were forbidden from inviting other realized and legitimate teachers, besides his family and acharyas, to teach in our city and land centers. He also forbade his Scorpion Seal students from studying with other Vajrayana/ Dzogchen masters, thereby preventing access to one of the two paths for everyone. One had to choose one over the other — the Kagyu/Nyingma lineage transmissions OR the Shambhala path as he was elaborating on it. You made one choice and I made another, but that was a choice neither of us should ever have had to make.

    The issue is NOT that the Shambhala teachings were “made central” to OUR lineage. They are our root teacher’s terma. The problem is that the Sakyong used them to create his own lineage, that he made himself the exclusive center of that lineage. And to this end, he dismissed the other stream of Trungpa Rinpoche’s transmissions. The problem is that the lineage of Trungpa Rinpoche was fragmented, split. And that we had to choose which part of our samayas to uphold.

    This is what broke my heart – that the Sakyong blocked all of us from following both teaching streams. He made it an either/or. I was fully planning to finish the Scorpion Seal with the Sakyong, to progress along the Shambhala path of Trungpa Rinpoche, to which we are all heirs. When he created this thing called “Shambhala Buddhism” and made the stipulation that we could only go further if we were willing to profess loyalty to HIM, the Sakyong and no one else, it became untenable. The other option was to leave and study somehow in the other stream of Trungpa Rinpoche’s teaching.

    Each option involved the requirement for students of Trungpa Rinpoche to choose one path over the other, to abandon our heart commitments to our root teacher in one way or the other.

    In these years, I have studied with many great teachers. Not one of them has ever made me choose between their teachings and those of Trungpa Rinpoche. Many of them have tried very hard to help us, those of us who had to make the impossible choice to leave the behind the terma tradition of our root teacher because the Sakyong demanded singular loyalty when our hearts told us otherwise. What was the Sakyong afraid of? Why did he need to make Shambhala his possession? Why did he need to keep other teachers away?

    Personally, I long for the Shambhala teachings – as they were given. I long to study them again with my entire sangha in the light of the other profound teachings I have received. I long for them to be freely available in this world without everything leading through the Sakyong’s vision of who he thinks he should be. Somehow, he lacked confidence in the potency of the whole path that Trungpa Rinpoche transmitted. And he apparently did not trust that the students, old and new, of Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings could hold both streams – and awaken by doing so.

    This is the tragedy of that resonates throughout the mandala – the Sakyong forced all of us to make a choice we should never have had to make.

    Cassell Gross

  13. Dear Judith,
    thank you for your enthusiasm for the Shambhala Terma and the related treasure that needs to be sustained for the future. BUT:
    This terma was not born out of space, it has an ancient history and many people have researched and written books about it. For sure you also know this blog:
    Here you will find everything: Shambhala, Rigdens, Shiwa Ökar, Drala, Werma, Basic Goodness etc., back to the last known roots.
    “The Red Garuda’s Cry to the Kalkins of Shambala” is almost identical to a section of our werma practice.
    Also the images of the 4 dignities have been given before in Tibet in secular education. All this has been used by CTR. He made it available to us. He deserves this credit. But please come down to earth. As you can see, these ideas and stories have already existed thousands of years before us and are not lost. And this is no exclusive material belonging to the Mukpo family.
    Best regards – Birgit

  14. Michael Smith
    Mar 17, 2019

    “There are two kinds of lineages: one is the family lineage, which still is hot; the other is the spiritual lineage, which is also still hot. And they both exist simultaneously in order to protect each other. We have the secular vision of having a sakyong rule the world in order to accommodate the buddhadharma. And on the other hand, the buddhadharma can exist because it confirms the secular situation. They are in league.”
    Trungpa Rinpoche in 1978

  15. When all the discourses/letters/statements/apologia are done, a few simple questions and answers will arise:

    Who among all the entrusted, self-identifying Shambhala Internationalists will pay the implicit debt for complicit notions of “basic goodness” & “enlightened society” wagered at all cost; sparing no expense?

    Clearly, self-identifying Shambhala Internationalists are watched from within by assiduous custodians of innate truth pure and simple.

    There are no other “dharma custodians” coming to the rescue with a precious golden cookie making it all better; or coming to exact retribution while armed with phantasmagoria for reclaiming what was loaned by besotted agents of self-deception’s karmic propensities.

    “They” are us since beginningless time.

    Clearly, self-identifying Shambhala Internationalists are watched from within by uncompromising forces of one’s very own true nature and its wo/manifestations ensuring the original integrity of Life that is elemental harmony.

    There are no other motherly holders of Life’s warm breath coming to tickle one’s blissful golden dot & inspire the properly devoted; or lay claim to an apostate’s life-force with the eternally long etchings on the Lord of Death’s stick excised by vajra-fingered nails.

    “They” are us since beginningless time.

    Clearly, the Wheel of Time is ticking timelessly from within the stainless clear light of Kalapa Court’s inestimably serene palace within our vajra-heartiness.

    There is no more time to waste on not decisively seizing ownership of our own sovereign native ground.

    Clearly, the Wheel of Time-Keeper the primordial rigden is watching from within all who sit upon the glaring hot & icy cold vajra-wire fence.

    There is no more time to waste on not decisively disowning our own sevile foreign status.

    And another question arises:

    Is this current state the location where all self-identifying Shambhala Internationalists simultaneously know to take our “broken-hearted” seats?

    If not, please answer:

    What is this so-called, “Shambhala International” that all who do so identify are now indebted to it at such inestimable human cost while so-called leaders espousing “basic goodness”, “tender heartedness”, etc., etc., ad nauseam seem so easily able to forget it all and swiftly move along with the scheduled programs?

    And finally, if the answer to the above questions is “No. I don’t know (as JSB states she does not know the way through ).” then what’s the point?

    —A job, a title, a chair, a false sense of identity and ‘belonging’ to something obviously dislocated from intimately knowing true love’s alchemically transformative powers and, consequently, shadow-cast as an exotic, foreign “other” to the point of criminal pathologies along with all its fantasy-laden trappings so artfully described by mere religious notions and esoteric tribal languagings of a High Demand Closed Group’s ghostly disembodied voices—?

    Who among us all shall have the authentic bravery to make the truly grand gesture beyond mere empty, bankrupting symbols to pay for this in a manner that reclaims our original dignity and empowers the way of universal wholesomeness?

    On this Dragon month’s Tenth Day that celebrates embodying the Guardianship of Peace which is at home in the charnel ground of existence I ask, “Who among Shambhala Internationalists shall serve to center Earth and Heaven with the conduct that is finer than flour and the view that is as vast as the sky — a naturally coalescent union that is immovably ever-present prior to the shadows cast by Suns East and West?”

  16. Well, the “historical perspective” is to escape from the reality of abuse into a realm of dakinis, dralas, termas etc – the supernatural.

    The professor seems to have access to that realm otherwise this post doesn’t make much sense. To escape to the supernatural is a classic among cult followers or cult leaders because the supernatural realm can’t be validated or invalidated by those who don’t have access to it. Only those who claim directly or indirectly to have access to the supernatural are in the position to validate or to invalidate. This puts those who claim to have access to the supernatural realm in a position to continue to be in power and to control the group. But how do we know that Judith Simmer-Brown, the Distinguished Professor of Contemplative and Religious Studies, has access to the realm of dakinis, dralas, termas etc and that “the Vidyadhara, the dakinis and dralas, and the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, are closely watching”? We don’t know. It’s just a bunch of claims that bypass the real issues of massive institutional abuse and the harm been caused while turning for decades a blind eye on it.

    Actual, if the teachings or termas were really so powerful and beneficial and capable to create an “enlightened society”, there shouldn’t be that amount of abuse, ignorance, blind spots, gaslighting, victim blaming, enabling abuse, turning a blind eye on abuse – a total absence of compassion and wisdom for those been harmed.

    If the teachings had worked, there shouldn’t be this hell of confusion. But there is a hell of confusion within Shambhala. Wake up!

  17. To Acharya Simmer-Brown.
    Thank you for your article that has prompted such lively heart-felt discussion.

    Dear sangha friends,
    I am so sorry about all the pain that is being experienced.

    I am a newcomer who is unscathed. I plead ignorance and naivete, however, I stumbled on
    “THE MISHAP LINEAGE: TRANSFORMING CONFUSION INTO WISDOM” by the Vidyadhara in a used bookstore recently. It provides a useful perspective to our current times. (Based on, “The Line of the Trungpas Seminar,” Karme Choling, 1975)

    P. 74 includes the following replies to questions posed by Allen Ginsberg.
    Out of context and more than 40 years ago …..



    In Oneness and humility,
    Bardo Cholu

  18. Vivi Spicer
    Mar 16, 2019

    Thank you so much for writing because it helped me during this period of chaos. I am original sangha from the 1970s and still support the local center in Washington, DC, although I am limited in pratice (in service 24/7 to my disabled husband). Inasmch as we are individually challenged to know whether the dharma is true to our experience, what you wrote was true to my experience. I received both the long arc of terma and the immediate terma, and I so much appreciate your explanation so I can better (albeit painfully) navigate the current chaos. I deeply appreicate your offering because I learned something from reading it. I have not read any of the comments listed above, but can only hope they are not screaming at you. I deeply appreciate your wisdom and your courage to post anything on the internet.

  19. The asterisks introduce quotes, followed by my heartfelt comments.

    * Certainly, I have no idea or recommendations for the future.

    If I would make that statement after years and years of courses, I would ask my money back for all the very expensive retreats Shambhala offers.

    * The Buddhist and Shambhala teachings are often predicated on the question of what we are to accept and what to reject.

    This discussion of how the teachings have to go forward is degrading, it is degrading the suffering of the victims of (sexual) abuse. I don’t know anymore about the Shambhala teachings, but the Buddhist teachings are very clear on what to accept and reject. One of the five precepts in the Theravada tradition: “I vow to refrain from sexual misconduct.” In the morning liturgy for Mahayana students, practitioners vow to “not to degrade the faultlessness and discipline of my family.” If this is not addressed, how can you even begin to talk about preserving teachings?

    * The dissemination of a new terma is scrutinized closely, and terma are eventually considered legitimate only in special circumstances, such as whether they lead to palpable realization of some kind or provide clear benefit to beings in the dark age.

    If we look at the palpable behaviour of Jampal Mukpo (aka the Sakyong), as stated in the letters of the ex-Kusung, the practice of the Shambhala teachings has obviously not led to any palpable realization of some kind. If you would actually listen to the women Jampal has abused, I hope you would agree we also cannot say that the terma has led to provide clear benefit to beings. If His Majesty hasn’t come to realization, what can benefit can we provide as lowly subjects? (Answer: give money)

    *Tertons have typically relied on a lineage-holder to propagate the terma, a terdak. That is, the terton discovers the treasure, and the terdak provides commentaries and support for practice for the principal discoverer, and so the terdak is a key figure in the destiny of the treasure teachings.

    Destiny is a very cute word to describe a situation wherein the terton dies of alcoholism and cocaine abuse, and his regent dies of HIV after infecting students by rape. Mr. Gesar and Shiwa Ökar (the deity personifying basic goodness), who supposedly transmitted the Shambhala terma to Chogyam Trungpa, didn’t think of adding the addresses of the local AA and Planned Parenthood to their instructions. Another proof of the Shambhala terma not leading to palpable realization (the unawareness of being an alcoholic) and not providing clear benefit (spreading HIV through forced sexual contact).

    * Another key element has been the practitioners who engage in the practice, and whether they develop realization of the teachings.
    * In the case of societal teachings like Shambhala, a great deal depends upon the community of practitioners.

    This is an irrelevant point, because the terma lineage depends on the (sole) lineage holder to transmit the teachings. Currently, Jampal Mukpo is morally not up to standard to give out bodhisattva and samaya vows which accompany the Shambhala teachings. Not my standards, but standards stated in Mahayana and Vajrayana texts on the moral uprightness of Vajrayana teachers. These standards ensure the ritual practice of the deity is safely transmitted. We don’t want little Rigden Kings forcing their vajras into mouths and pants, do we? This misconduct effectively ends the Shambhala lineage by default.

    * Certainly, the career of the terdak can influence the future of the terma, which we are witnessing in a major way in our community right now.
    * And now, the conduct of the Sakyong that has surfaced is definitely threatening the future of the terma.

    Firstly, I wouldn’t call years of abuse a career. Furthermore, the word we are looking for is MISconduct. Ding ding ding. And how caring to see the concern for the future of the terma. Because the victims already got so much one on one care from the Sakyong himself. And look where it got them.

    * I like to think that current events are the way the protectors and dralas are cleaning out our lineage’s closets and basements so that the terma can deliver on its promise.

    Yeah, I’d like to hope and dream too. That Jampal Mukpo will face the consequences of his actions in a court of law. Preferably presided over by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. So the law of secular society can deliver on its promise to the citizens.

    * The Vidyadhara, the dakinis and dralas, and the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, are closely watching.

    Editorial note: Overlord Xenu of the Scientologists and the angel Moroni of the Mor(m)ons are also closely watching. Your dearly needed donations.

  20. Laurie Fisher Huck
    Mar 15, 2019

    Thank you Dr. Simmer Brown. I respect your credentials as an academic but I find your comments alarmingly subjective. I joined the sangha in 1986 and the primary emphasis was the Kagyu Path. The full force of the Vidyadhara’s Buddhadharma stream was coming to fruition with the Chakrasamvara Abhisheka (1988) after many years of careful development. Rather than the erratic history of terma development which you site, I would postulate the completion of the Kagyu Path as well as a perceived shortness of time in the Vidyadhara’s life as reasons for this perceived emphasis. However, as I said, my experience was different.

    The Shambhala Path was introduced as an accessible teaching for non-Buddhists and an important adjunct to those practicing the Kagyu Path. The core for his students was always the Kagyu Path.

    I feel that you are arguing an “out with the old and in with the new” scenario. The emphasis of Shambhala terma over the Kagyu Path was not a decision made by the Vidyadhara. Since that decision was made the Vidyadhara’s sangha has been split. Do you think he would have wanted this? Do you honestly think he wanted his Kagyu Path teachings to be sidelined? Are you saying that Sakyong Mipham is a tertön with his new developments?

  21. [This comment’s author has requested the following errata be published in reference to their previous comment on this article]:

    ERRATA: Simmer not Zimmer and Rigden Ngöndro written in 2004 not 2014. Apologies.

  22. Karen Monahan
    Mar 15, 2019

    Thank you Christine. What you have expressed comes closest to what I have been thinking & experiencing – that many of us are bypassing deep reflective work that is necessary if we are not to do harm, whether in leadership or not. You say: “Why haven’t people been brave/wise/gentle enough to work with their own shadows? Why so much enabling in the guise of a gaze toward the ultimate? If joining heaven and earth has any meaning at all, it is that we hold an ultimate perspective while paying close attention to every step we take and its effect on ourselves and others.” Our blind spots are many. The greatest harm arises from our shadows. Do we have the courage & commitment to look deeply at ourselves, to ask for help, to be fearless mirrors for each other, to invite & welcome people & ideas with which we feel uncomfortable? That remains to be seen.

  23. John Darby
    Mar 15, 2019

    Dear Judith.
    Thank you for the beautifully written, historical perspective. I am not a scholar, I’m a visual artist so maybe I see the world more visually. I have been a student of these teachings for 43 years
    I saw Chogyam Trungpa as a visionary translator first and foremost. The first book I read was Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, for me, a magnificent expression of a profound ancient text translated to contemporary western language.
    I saw the Shambhala terma in the same light, just as Buddhist teachings have moved across Asia retaining its essence while taking on the local cultural expression, most profoundly in Tibet. I thought, this is fantastic, we are beginning forms and expressions in the west as beautifully accessible teachings that hold the essence of Buddhadharma while relating to the contemporary world
    I feel the currant Sakyong is going in the opposite direction more Tibetianized, I don’t meen more Buddhist, more medieval, there is a royal family teaching from above and we are the peasants. This is not just the influence of his in laws but I’m sure they play a significant Role.
    It feels to me like a refuge, place of safety for him, a tightly controlled circle out of touch with the greater sangha. It’s no wonder abuse of all kinds were able to fester. There is no air in such a tightly controlled mandala
    The Sakyong does not own the Shambhala teachings , we do, the greater sangha, we all came up together in this world.
    As a senior teacher and meditation instructor here in the Pioneer Valley Shambhala Center in western Massachusetts I had the privilege of working with a number young people, particularly young women who were very promising up and coming teachers. When the “scituation” developed they were the first to go ,outta here , no regrets and pretty pissed off yet very sad missing our very warm and open hearted creative community. Not that we didn’t have issues.
    In my humble opinion, the essence of the Shambhala Terma will flourish when it tunes in to the rapidly changing culture as it is NOW. In this time of massive income inequality and division in our cultures in the west, teaching from a high throne from a closed, buy your way in court is just not going to be heard.
    With respect, appreciation, and love for our Sangha, including all the teachers,scholars,builders, psychologists, artists, software engineers. etc practitioners and donors of all kinds
    I realize I sound naive and simplistic but I know that “we”built” Shambhala I’m pretty sure we can hold it and move it through this this very rich challenging time Terma intact
    “the times they are a changin”

  24. Mary Herron
    Mar 15, 2019

    Hear hear!! I salut you Sir!! Thank you for taking the time to write such a cogent response. Complicit is the word of the times and thank you for underscoring it!! With great appreciation, I thank you sir.

  25. A Shambhala Cousin
    Mar 15, 2019

    This commentary does not seem complete to me. The Sakyong discarded his father’s Buddhist terma and forced everyone onto one path, at the exclusion of all others, demanding exclusive loyalty to him. I know of no textual support for this and have never experienced this with any other lineage, terma or no terma. Also, people like me who are connected to the Vidyardhara via the Kagyu/Nyingma lineage were told that we could not practice with the sangha until we completed Shambhala trainings and received empowerment from the Sakyong. That has not happened for me with any other lineage, and it confused me for quite some time in terms of how to relate to a teacher and pursue the path.

    Sending heartfelt wishes to all of my family in Shambhala that you may find a path through this. The Vidyadhara’s teachings are so precious… May they continue to benefit countless beings.

  26. I find that article very interesting and important to think about, Thank you

  27. Kevin Knox
    Mar 14, 2019

    I just want to celebrate the diverse, eloquent and passionate expression of heartfelt anguish, care and concern in these comments, and to thank and congratulate Shambhala Times for their courage in publishing them.

    So much to love and admire here, and to have one’s heart ripped wide open by, but I especially wanted to say that though I don’t know you Julia Sagebien, whatever Dharma community you are part of is one I would like to know about and support. You are amazing and inspiring.

    What I am reading in these comments is if not the *real* then certainly the current “Chronicles of Chögyam Trungpa.” In so saying I mean no disrespect to that wonderful site, but rather to honor the turning toward what is difficult in service of the greater good that is so richly demonstrated by the comments in this thread.

  28. julia sagebien
    Mar 14, 2019

    Dear Acharya Zimmer Brown,

    Thank you for your essay.

    I am grateful for your plea not to forsake the core teachings of Shambhala in the process of muddling along the design of governance structures and norms that can live up to the moral, ethical and spiritual disciplines of warriorship. These teachings are what bring us together as a community of purpose. Without them Shambhala Centers become just ‘Shamatha shops’, something which is a tremendously good thing, but something that falls quite short of what was originally intended. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that Shamata Shops may be all that remains of our centers and lineages.

    Like you, when in doubt, I also revert back to the instructions of my root guru Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the terton who discovered all of the Shambhala termas. However, my understanding of what VCTR’s intentions were, is somewhat different from yours. Thus, I would like to invite you as a fellow practitioner and scholar to have an open and public discussion on a number of the points you raise. I would prefer to do so not only via internet, but in person and in public if that were possible. Would you be open to that?

    Here are some specific points that I would welcome open discussion on:

    1) Who is ‘we’ for you? when referring strictly to the VCTR terma texts, while he was alive, these teachings were given to thousands of people most of whom were Buddhists. Many of these individuals have not been able to continue studying the Shambhala teachings, especially those given by SMR on the Scorpion Seal path, because they refuse to renounce their commitments to Buddhist teachers and practices. For decades, Buddhist teachers were invited to teach in our centers with the full blessings of VCTR and SMR. Do you include these individuals in the ‘we’ of ‘community’? Or are these individuals a ‘they’, a ‘them’ on ‘other’ to you? For me, ‘we’ must mean ALL of us since we already are karmically bound to each other by virtue of our samaya with the terton and terdak.

    2) Having spent a fair amount of time with VCTR during his last few years of life, what I recall, again, is somewhat different. I recall seeing a frail, physically ill man mustering every bit of energy in his body and mind in order to teach a 3-month Buddhist seminary (1986), concurrent with an Encampment, give Chakrasamvhara Abhisheka, and command, plea, cajole, push, beg his students to move to Nova Scotia in order to realize the exoteric aspect of the Shambhala teachings – the Kingdom of Shambhala. My recollection is that the study of the esoteric aspect of the teachings of Shambhala (the termas) was NOT the focus of his teaching at that time. Rather, the texts which he had received several years before, were being used as a teaching vehicle for the Graduate Programs of Shambhala Training.

    3) The sidelining of the Shambhala teachings that you mentioned in your essay occurred in part due to the fact that for most of 1990s, SMR’s attention was somewhere else. He was completing his shedra studies. I was able to observe the development of his teaching sryle relatively closely since I had the privilege of being invited to teach in 3 of SMR’s Vajradhatu Seminaries. The Buddhist teachings were central to our community and to SMR and many extraordinary Buddhist teachers came to enrich our centers.

    4) For most of this time, the Council of Warriors (COW), a non-governmental/civil society organization of subjects/practitioners I was fortunate to serve in, not the administration of Shambhala, kept the Shambhala terma teachings alive. The COW used its own personal financial and physical resources to host Kalapa Assemblies and Lodge meetings, produced the Kalapa Journal, kept records of who had received KOS transmission, etc. The Council was disbanded by SMR after he received the Rigden Ngondro in 2014. From that point onward, the emphasis was put on the esoteric/spiritual aspect of the termas and SMR’s role as terdak.

    5) Concurrently, the Buddhadharma started being sidelined from our centers and Buddhist teachers were no longer welcomed to teach. The official line of the administration at the time was that the Shambhala terma was being given priority and that Buddhadharma was simply being put in the back burner. These days in our centers, Buddhadharma has mostly been extinguished. Even the word Buddhism has been eliminated from most of Shambhala corporate signifiers and communication devices – by design. Even the Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma, the compendium of VCTR’s Vajradhatu Seminaries is being taught in cafes and secular meeting rooms rather than in Shambhala shrine rooms. What would VCTR say about that?

    6) Lastly, the Shambhala teachings were fundamentally decoupled from many essential aspects of VCTR’s Kingdom of Shambhala teachings.

    Acharya Zimmer Brown – as you suggest – please let’s go back to the Big Bang of the Shambhala dharma and have an open discussion about what VCTR’s original intentions were We are all realizing that the Dark Ages is not science fiction. It is around the corner. And the Shambhala teaching were meant as the pith instruction on how to maintain once sanity and humanity as the darkness encroaches.

    We are most likely to disagree in our interpretations of the cosmic expansive wave that these teaching unleashed, but WE, the direct holders of the terton’s teachings, owe each other and all present and future Shambhalians an honest, public and transparent examination of what VCTR taught and why he taught it. Simply providing one official ‘state’ interpretation of the past and excluding any real critical analysis of what VCTR might have meant or not – is simply, well, wrong.

    For example, may I suggest a glance at VCTR’s Spiritual Will where it is clear that he intended not only Shambhala, but traditional Buddhism to continue being taught at Dharmadhatus (for newer students – the original name of Shambhala centers).

    The above reading in no way contradicts your assertion that SMR is the rightful terdak of his father’s Shambhala terma, but it also suggests that practicing the Buddhadharma and maintaining good relations with our Buddhists brethren was, and is, equally important. May I also suggest that this document shows that, as originally intended before the Vajra Regent crisis, Buddhism and Shambhala were to be kept apart, and that, despite this dual stream, SMR was to be the overall authority, but as the secular leader, not as the vajra master.

    Yes, thing change and SMR adapted to the times, etc. But taking into consideration the intention of the terton should count for something in designing the secular and spiritual governance structures that support the teachings of the terdak.

    Newer students who came into the Shambhala Centers during the past 14 years may have absolutely no idea what I am talking about. Or perhaps, they have no interest in what they see as the trappings of the orientalist dead brown men patriarchal monarchy. So be it. But let their decisions be well informed. As a scholar, I think you would agree.

    The current crisis in Shambhala reminds me of Brexit. Everyone knows what they DON’T want, everyone has a different idea of what they want, and no one can figure out what enough people may want in order to come to a consensus and move forward. Similarly, ‘we’ are all in disagreement. But in our case, at this time at least, we don’t have to agree. We simply have to be willing to look back and see if we can make sense of VCTR’s Bing Bang of Shambhala…and armed with some insight and magic…go forward as fellow Shambhalians/subjects and fellow dharma/vajra brothers and sisters.

    Thank you for opening this discussion. I sincerely believe that harvesting long-term peace in our community can only result from collectively amending our mutual samayas as Buddhist and Shambhalians.

    I look forward to hearing from you.


    Julia Sagebien, Ph.D.

  29. Sherab Gyatso
    Mar 14, 2019

    We have no need to invoke dakinis whisking the teachings away, or other provisional if not superstitious teachings. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche calls such teachings fairy tales. Reality is quite simple: Things that don’t work don’t survive the test of time.

    The Shambhala teachings did not become “primary” as if by magic. They became “primary” because the Acharyas stopped teaching anything else. Those in the Sangha who wanted to continue teaching the Kagyu/Nyingma Dharma were pushed out. The Kalapa Council prevented Tibetan teachers from visiting Shambhala Centers. This was unpopular, so the centers had to be “weened” off letting them come. ( https://old.reddit.com/r/ShambhalaBuddhism/comments/b0ypbg/shambhala_office_of_practice_and_education_for/eij38dq/ ). Centers like Boulder that did not comply had their directors replaced by more compliant individuals. It’s not for nothing that the Karmapa’s office has removed every Shambhala center from their list of Kagyu centers in the West.

    I see no flourishing of Shambhala Buddhism. The Sangha has not grown. It’s shrunk. The Shambhala Network lists only 200 people who practice Scorpion Seal 10. Contrast that to the 750 who practice Chakrasamvara, and this, after 10 years of pushing the Kagyu/Nyingma practices out, or at best down into a basement. Even Scorpion Seal Assembly Year 2 has fewer members than the Vajrayogini group, and the requirements for Vajrayogini were far more difficult.

    I have significant doubts about the quality of the new curriculum. Senior practitioners have told me emptiness (the Ngedon, the Definitive teachings) is not studied all that much. And I see Scorpion Seal 10 level practitioners asking for an English translation of the Vajrasattva Mantra. Wow!

    Yes, the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism are watching closely. But it’s not the Vidyadhara, the dakinis and dralas, and other dead or imaginary people who are looking. It is us, the live students, on whom the continuation of the lineage depends. And it is not particularly inspiring to see the main teacher at Ngedon School write such a muddle headed opinion piece.

  30. Another Voice
    Mar 14, 2019

    The cognitive, taxonomical, and pedagogical dichotomization between the “Shambhala treasure teachings” and the “Teachings of the Buddhadharma” is among the most shocking and disappointing aspects of this article. There is no authentic Terma which is not Buddhadharma.

    That… and the whiplash inducing gaslighting demonstrated by your acknowledgment of Mr Mipham’s horrors immediately followed by an attempt to sweep them under the rug with an infomercial-esque testimony about how he’s spent decades devoted to promoting “basic goodness and enlightenes society.” The two are mutually exclusive. How quickly the victims are minimized abd forgotten.

  31. Dear Judith,

    Thank you for being fearless in speaking out and stirring up debate. I hope you are being fearless in reading the comments here.

    I came to Buddhism as an adult child of an alcoholic and as a sexual assault survivor. My perspective on my path combines gratitude and Scottish realistic pessimism with waking up to my own gullibility and denial. Not to put too fine a point on it, I grew up with the elephant in the room and the emperor who has no clothes–all the while deeply loving and admiring that emperor.

    I want to address four things here: 1. Reality, 2. Finances, 3. Accountabliity, and 4. What Remains of Value.

    1. what is real? Chogyam Trungpa often spoke of his conversations with the dakinis. I have never known how to process that information. However, Robert Spellman, famous sangha artist, tells me one time how he comes back from Vajrayogini Abhiseka to find Vajrayogini herself in all her red fierce splendor standing at the foot of his bed. And, early in my path, in 1980, on a car trip to Berg Stettenfels with British sangha, we camped by a lake. This was after the London ITS with Chogyam Trungpa. I remember looking out on the lake and there — floating in the air above the lake I “see” the members of the lineage tree. I can’t explain that. My “seeing” was not like hallucinating their technicolor images. I could not describe their images in detail like an artist might.Rather, I experience an impression of their presence. I am looking out across the lake and I know that wise beings are here. So. Are dakinis real? Is the discovery of terma a true experience? Or like a poet who feels uplifted by the sight of a blue heron taking off from a few feet away, are the words not simply born as inspiration from a number of causes and conditions?

    Interesting, I did not see you use the term drala in your article, because I believe that drala is what I saw and what Robert saw. I see drala as the idea that the whole world is alive and that much of what we see as not being sentient, such as a mountain, does have sentience. I believe this concept is common among religions that worship local deities, such as Shinto and native-american traditions.

    I find the “terma” or “poetry” of Chogyam Trungpa beautiful and inspiring. Were Trungpa not a Tibetan tulku, he would still be a poet, and his poetry would not have this vehicle for reaching many people and transforming their minds. The Tibetan culture is a culture. I respect it and I respect its limitations. On the one hand all these visualizations, impressions, and mythic ways of perceiving reality have their truth. I can see that.

    At the same time, I can see that from my pessimistic Scottish realist point of view, this all came from the school of MSU (make stuff up). From that point of view I’m OK with the original MSU creations. However, if the Emperor is only wearing the impression of new clothes, I’m not convinced in the value of an interpreter or terdak for those impressions. I understand in Tibet, there are often historical examples of commentaries on commentaries and so on.

    What I’m pointing to here is that you cannot assume (as you might in a closed vajrayana retreat) that everyone is just on board with terma, terdaks, and dakinis. I applaud your bravery in broaching this topic and I feel sure you understand not everyone sees our world through the lens of myth and legend.

    2. Finances. I believe I must pay my way in life. I expect that same ethic in dealing with friends and with charities. People work hard for the money they donate to Shambhala, and they deserve to see that money applied to the causes they support.You don’t mention finances in your article. But in my path, I find that if the money has integrity, everything else falls into place. I don’t believe, as many do, that Sakyong Mipham got rich on Shambhala money. In fact, I suspect his finances today are running low. However, I do believe in the importance of financial transparency going forward and in the importance of being fiscally conservative. Several years ago, I saw how much money from me went into attending an SSA retreat with its lungs, material costs, teacher gifts, program costs, and accommodation costs. That more than anything slowed down my SSA path.

    3. Accountability. I do not agree the terdak is the baby that we mustn’t throw out with the bath water. As you are a teacher in that program, I can understand how you value the terdak teachings and their programs. That must be close to your heart. For me, accountability is more valuable. Recently, I’m teaching newcomers about the basic principles of mindfulness/awareness and the mahayana. Many of these newcomers bring their own wisdom to these dialogues. They appreciate and use these teachings. I see immediate benefits in them. I hear how much they appreciate having a place to come to and talk about what is happening in their lives. I believe this is the baby we need to not throw out. We need to keep presenting basic hinayana and mahayana and Levels 1 through 5 of Shambhala Training. The way Chogyam Trungpa presented these teachings had great skill. It included throughout the teachings, a vajrayana element from the get-go. We are still teaching according to Trungpa’s original template and its helping lots of folk.

    Further on accountability, or to get more to that point, I feel it is too soon to be speaking of Sakyong Mipham’s ongoing role–terdak or no terdak. I do not take for granted that the Sakyong is in a 12-step program, under therapeutic advice, or involved in any rehabilitation program. I hear remorse and sadness in his letters, but I don’t hear full accountability. I don’t hear a full apology. Apology must apply not only to specific victims but to all of us who gave our hearts and our money to Shambhala. I also don’t hear humility.

    I understand the Sakyong has many devotees for whom accountability is not an issue. My reading of your article suggests your willingness to move on regardless. I respect your view. Nonetheless…

    I see accountability here as an opportunity that the Sakyong can use or lose.

    If indeed the Sakyong is on a new course, why is it hard for him to express humility and to apologize and take responsibility for harms done in the past. Culture of no mistake does not have to mean “not saying sorry.”

    Thank you again for taking such a bold move and being willing to stir up discussion.


    Lainie Logan

  32. Christopher Szendroi
    Mar 14, 2019

    Indeed, the Sky Lake Q&A with the VCTR and the then Sawang, point to a visionary moment of the Terma and its futur, in a profoundly Pith way.

  33. Alice Smiley
    Mar 14, 2019

    I have a somewhat different point of view. I’m not bitter that the Kagyu/Nyingma path was abandoned but I was sidelined as I went to Seminary in 1994, didn’t go into Shambhala Buddhism with the Sakyong and didn’t continue my Kagyu Ngondro. I think that the Regent was the holder of the Buddhist teachings from CTR and it is interesting to pause and consider what things would look like if both the Sakyong and the Regent were here working side by side today. Perhaps the Sakyong thought it more convenient to combine the two streams instead of maintaining them as set out by CTR. I think these kinds of actions by the Sakyong have split the Sangha apart again and again and the Sakyong appeared to not really care if people left. I feel very sad about the whole thing because of my primary connection with CTR.

  34. Kevin Knox
    Mar 13, 2019

    As someone who was deeply inspired by your teaching, writing and above all your example since coming to Boulder to study with Trungpa Rinpoche in 1974 I’m even more deeply disappointed in this article than I have been in your other public communications during this time of crisis.

If you don’t have any “idea or recommendation for the future,” as the single most esteemed scholar-practitioner left within Shambhala, what hope is there? You’ve done the practice, you know the tradition, you are infinitely better qualified than the hapless Sakyong to occupy the lineage holder’s seat, yet you claim not only not to have a clue while actively embracing this staggering level of cognitive dissonance and denial of documented history:

    “…the conduct of the Sakyong that has surfaced is definitely threatening the future of the terma. He has devoted the last ten years of his teaching to deepening our realization of the power of basic goodness and creating enlightened society, and many of us have felt the transformative power of those teachings. The flourishing of Shambhala has been directly related to the power of the terma for individuals and the whole community.“

    Let’s unpack this. The conduct of the Sakyong is of course awful, yet it pales in comparison to (and was clearly both inspired and effectively sanctioned by) the far worse substance abuse and sexual predation of your root guru and his chosen successor Thomas Rich.

    In saying that he’s devoted a decade to teachings focused on realizing “basic goodness” that others have “felt” to be deeply transformative you’re saying that how someone “feels” is all that matters. The fact that they received them from an alcoholic sexual predator (the third in a row) who by the standards of the Buddha (and for that matter those set for teachers by Patrul Rinpoche) hasn’t so much as entered the path of Dharma practice doesn’t matter. Even more irrelevant (and never to be discussed) is the self-evident fact that these so-called termas have fueled the creation of a community which is both diametrically opposed to the foundational ethical norms of the Buddha and which far from supporting something so fanciful as “enlightened society” is utterly unable to comply with the basic civil and legal norms of the countries in which it operates.


Finally, by what measure is “the flourishing of the Shambhala community” a reality? Protecting esoteric terma texts while not having a single lineage holder or acharya who can even keep the “Hinayana” 5 precepts for laypeople?

While the entire piece is clueless and clumsy, the most deeply offensive and delusional sentence is this one: “I like to think that current events are the way the protectors and dralas are cleaning out our lineage’s closets and basements so that the terma can deliver on its promise.” 

I can certainly see why you feel the need to invoke invisible beings given the utter failure of yourself and all of the rest of the acharyas to step up and wield either the sword of Mañjuśrī or the compassion of Avalokiteśvara, but surely what you meant to say is how much [your extensive previous gaslighting of them notwithstanding] you appreciate the dozens of brave victims of Shambhala who have come forward over the past two years, and who in so doing have exhibited the courage, altruism and nobility that are mere words for those in leadership positions in Shambhala.


With respect to your final sentence, it is not dead lineage holders and imaginary beings watching whose judgment you ought to be concerned with, it is that of the victims you never talk about, the sincere dues-paying students whose trust you have betrayed through your silence and complicity, and the record of history which will have a very sordid tale indeed to tell about the transformation of a pioneering effort to transmit the Buddhadharma to the West turning into a cult so damaging that it has caused countless beings to give up on Dharma and meditation altogether.

  35. Leanne Martin
    Mar 13, 2019

    This is someone trying to get us to stay, to recommit to the organization. She’s trying to scare people who have legitimate concerns and hard decisions to make. She wants people to be afraid the terma will evaporate into the Iha realm if we don’t double down and recommit. It’s a fear based argument. Not what is needed.

  36. This quote is disturbing: “I like to think that current events are the way the protectors and dralas are cleaning out our lineage’s closets and basements so that the terma can deliver on its promise.”

    It almost suggests that you think the suffering of survivors is serving some spiritual purpose, as if you are rationalizing their suffering as a means to a greater end. Well, that’s obscene. People’s lives are blighted so the terma can take hold? Really?

    If we were given a choice between losing arcane knowledge and rationalizing violence, I say, goodbye arcane knowledge. Come back to us another day. Instilling fear that the institution might falter is EXACTLY what apologists do when there is scandal.

    So you seem to be arguing to prioritize lineage and transmissions because, omg, we might lose some precious teachings into the Iha realm. If that argument flies, woe to Shambhala. Nothing matters more now than how you treat survivors including those whose hearts are just broken from the lies. Nothing matters more. You’d never know that from this article.

  37. I completely agree.

  38. Mark Waldron
    Mar 13, 2019

    This discussion brings home a few important considerations for me. The importance and the responsibility of sangha not the least. Judith’s final comment, “The Vidyadhara, the dakinis and dralas, and the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, are closely watching,” reminds me of the old adage, “There are no mistakes.”

    That given I wonder if this whole episode isn’t yet one more predictable chapter in the life of this Shambhala Terma. Certainly a lesser individual than the Sakyong could never take on such a responsibility. Indeed it smacks of the Vidyadhara’s Crazy Wisdom. We practice always aspiring to and becoming more able to shoulder the groundlessness that is our inheritance. This absolutely critical housecleaning we have stumbled on now… do we need to be so shocked and undone on its account? As someone once said, “You could just smile.” It is not likely that many among us are exempt from the personal need of some such housekeeping, not even me.

    That is likely more than enough coming from this young punk but first I wish to apologize. I know these are provocative thoughts. If they for some reason act as more salt on open wounds, please know that is not my intention. I haven’t heard the suggestion that humour might be on the list of suggested antidotes lately, but then it is true, Trungpa’s opportunity to share a few kind words has passed.

    With a smile,
    Mark Waldron

  39. Jason Ruvelson
    Mar 13, 2019

    Thank you Judith,

    People in our local sangha are finding your article very helpful…

  40. Thank you Judith for expressing this valuable perspective.
    I don’t doubt the basic goodness of the transmissions I have received. My wish would be to continually learn from them and from careful listening to others.
    For Pascal: There is some information on the relationship between terton/terdak in talks by Changling Rinpoche’s on Ocean website. He points to the unique relationship between His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and the Vidyadhara as an example. He discusses Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism as a vajrayana path.
    Opened my eyes to a book I’ve read many times and made me want to read it again.!
    May we continue with strong but tender heart and continual care for each other.

  41. Gracia Zanuttini
    Mar 13, 2019

    I respect people’s right to hold whatever religious views they have. I appreciate the power of religion. My life has benefited from the religion called Buddhism/Shambhala. But, really? This just seems so incoherent. Sorry for falling pray to my rational, western indoctrinated mind, but tell me if I got this wrong:

    Premise: Terton Trungpa received the Terma and “tertons have been accused of being charlatans, eccentrics, and frauds, even among the most traditional yogic practitioners”.

    In the meantime we learn about so many stories of corruption, sexual abuse and just general abuse of power committed by the terdak in whom the Terton relied on “to propagate the terma”. The Terton himself did some very controversial things (Oh! And in the middle of the story there’s also an almost successor who infected people with Aids).

    Is it me, or the logical conclusion would be that the Terdak, and most probably the terton are frauds?

    But no, we’re not talking in western, rationally driven terms here (but sometimes we do). As Richard John quoted in one of his last letters: “If it’s not a paradox, it’s not true”, so I guess they’re a fraud and not a fraud in a schrodinger’s cat kind of way. Is it me, or it’s just a little bit to convenient to have this paradox card up your sleeve all the time?

    Furthermore, the biggest red flag for me here is that the individuals, victims of abuse aren’t even mentioned, it seems like they are just cogs, “the way the protectors and dralas are cleaning out our lineage’s closets and basements so that the terma can deliver on its promise”. So, these individuals don’t matter? The only important thing here is that your terma doesn’t get taken away by the dakinis? It just feels like what’s important is your collectivist project and couldn’t care less about the individuals.

    Finally, if “The Vidyadhara, the dakinis and dralas, and the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, are closely watching”, where were they this whole time?

    I don’t know, I just seem to be more attracted to rational, western thought after this whole ordeal.

  42. Bob Sutherland
    Mar 13, 2019

    I have always thought I could access the profundity of the terma teachings/practices and all the while avoid the trappings of religious “belief”. But, if access to this profound wisdom is predicated on imparting unconditional lifelong power and status on one individual regardless of that person’s willingness to leverage that power and status for his/her own self gratification, then I may have been wrong. Is this the case, Judith Simmer-Brown?

  43. Christine Labich
    Mar 13, 2019

    Yes. What to accept and what to reject seems central here. It seems the courageous and decent thing to do is talk openly about alcoholism, sexual abuse, exploitation of volunteer workers and students to fund the culturally sanctioned power trip of three leaders in succession who could not follow basic Buddhist precepts. It seems the decent thing to accept into our consciousness and be willing to discuss the bravery, despair, confusion, sadness, and anger of survivors and the un-acknowledged shadow side of those who think they can practice without precepts. I reject the glossing over of these issues so that we can get back to feeling good about being part of some magical lineage. If the terma is so precious and effective, why has it not been treated as such by our leaders? Why haven’t people been brave/wise/gentle enough to work with their own shadows? Why so much enabling in the guise of a gaze toward the ultimate? If joining heaven and earth has any meaning at all, it is that we hold an ultimate perspective while paying close attention to every step we take and its effect on ourselves and others. This includes knowing when we are not whole/healed enough to be leading. If this is a legitimate path, why have none of the leaders been able to do that? Any value that is here will indeed be lost if that question is not seriously considered by us all.

  44. Jeffrey Slayton
    Mar 13, 2019

    Thank you, Acharya Simmer-Brown. You wrote-

    “Among some members of the Shambhala community there has been enormous bitterness about the Sakyong’s decision to make the terma central in our community, sidelining the precious Buddhadharma teachings. I have at times felt that way myself, as I continue to hold the Buddhadharma transmissions of the Vidyadhara as central in my life. Could it be that at least some part of the Sakyong’s decision had to do with the commitment to sustain the terma? That is, would we as a community have explored the depth of the Shambhala terma if it had remained sidelined in our lineage?”

    I think it is worthwhile to read the Q&A with the Sakyong from the 2005 Shambhala Congress. He articulates some (not all) of his thinking behind his decision to focus on the terma. In recent years he has communicated more about the nature and purpose of terma in general and the Shambhala terma in particular but in this Q&A he talks more about needing a ground and binding factor for our community.

    He says, “Fifty years down the road, we’ll have people in groups doing various practices of Longchen Nyingthik, people doing various Nyingma practices, and others following the Kagyü tradition. People obviously know that I went to Surmang, where there’s a whole series of Chakrasamvara and Vajrayogini practices in the Vidyadhara’s own Surmang tradition. I am sure—translators being the way they are—they’re going to translate all those. I will have to give those empowerments, and we will have those variations, and there will be less opportunity for people to come together in a particular feast practice. Our situation is getting more complicated, and more diverse. We need some kind of binding factor. My inspiration is to lay the ground for that, and then those other practices can be protected and enhanced.”

    If anyone is interested in reading the whole Q&A you can find it here – https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/26299928/as-at-the-first-shambhala-congress-the-sakyong-offered-a-live-

    If you want a downloadable version then please email me at [email protected].

    Warm regards and best wishes,

  45. Jamie Moffat
    Mar 13, 2019

    It seems both ironic and quite tone-deaf that the quote of the moment beside the article is has a picture of Sakyong Mipham saying “Be famous for your love.”

    I do not think this is what he was going for when he said those words.

    Judith – I agree with a lot of what you are saying, but that a man who is now renowned for his abuse can look at me through the screen of Shambhala Times and say those words to me speaks volumes – louder than your thoughtful reflection unfortunately. The fact his face is still emblazoned across the screen reflects a critical lack of self-awareness, and a lack of prompt action, that the Shambhala organization needs to hold itself accountable for. The sword of manjushri is sharp, yet we are reluctant to use it on our own views, I believe is something Trungpa may say about this situation.

    I am also a little surprised at your line “Certainly, I have no idea or recommendations for the future.” Honestly, I did a doubletake. I am all for not putting thoughts out willy-nilly…but really? I believe Trungpa would press you harder than that and not allow you to cop out in such grand fashion. You are one of the most respected and well-versed leaders in the community, which is based around bringing about enlightened society, and you look at the mess it is currently in and say “I have no idea or recommendations for the future”


    From a perspective of everyone embodying basic goodness, and basic confidence – where is the confidence in the sanity of your view?

    It seems like towards the end of your piece, you do reveal a few ideas you have about the future:

    “There is no way we could or should continue with secrets that are in direct contradiction to confidence in basic goodness and enlightened society. There is deep health in the breakdown of our damaging structures and behaviors, but whether the overall outcome will be beneficial to our community and humanity depends in part upon what we decide to do.”

    ‘What we decide to do’ will be largely informed and shaped by leaders in the community, such as yourself. Not to be too direct – but Judith, you have an important voice here, as well as a podium. Your reach is large. No one is asking you to be THE leader of Shambhala – but use your position and influence to exhibit leadership. That is what Shambhala requires, both as a vision and a community in healing right now. We need you to step up.

    The community needs its thought-leaders like you to stop equivocating and be more decisive. Equanimity at the expense of others is not true equanimity, nor is it moved by compassion. We are in deep need of people stepping forward and offering compelling, and constructive moves towards a better future, not kind of shrugging their shoulders and saying ‘Well, what should we do now?’

    It reminds me of Trungpa deriding the whole ‘Buddha save me!’ attitude. We need to save ourselves, and can only look to ourselves to do it. That is where the basic sanity of Shambhala, and its confidence, is to be found. You can make more of an impact than this.

    What do you think is required to bring about a better version of global society? What steps can we take, as Shambhala, to fulfill that? Is our work as a secular organization rendered unnecessary by the wider culture embrace of meditation we are currently seeing? Or are there important perspectives that practices like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction leave out? What is the role of bodhicitta in all of this, how can we engender more of it throughout the world? Is Shambhala’s role to produce rulers of enlightened society, or heralds; ushers? Is Shamatha / Vipassana practice still the bedrock, the core foundation of realization? Or does an ever-more elaborate world require ever-more elaborate practices?

    There are many more questions to consider than just these, but having dialogue about these will start to illuminate what the path forward could look like. It is important to have well-informed, knowledgeable people, like you, driving these conversations.

    Thank you for your many years of effort, I have read and appreciated a lot of your work.

    In basic goodness,


  46. We can save this, and the essenece of these teachings and methods are exceedingly powerful, but yes we have to stop talking in magical thinking terms- drala sprits, dakini’s whisking things to the clouds, dead Buddha’s watching from the afterlife, full stop to all doctrinal nonsense.

    We have plenty of work to just be kind and ethical and create a safe and better world and we need to distill all made up doctrine now to earthy, evidence based sanity.

    All we need to know comes from practice and introspection and critical thinking like the Buddha insisted, we don’t need acharyas or Tibetans to tell us how things are anymore, please let’s get grounded in reality now, for all our sake.

  47. How many sexual abuses, financial abuses, lies, deceptions, alcohol abuses, physical abuses, etc, does it take for someone to lose their right to be a “Lineage Holder” or “Terdak”? Reading this it seems that for the devoted, there is no limit. This is not enlightened anything, this is cult logic. This is blind cultic devotion.

    This guy has no place teaching anything dharma related ever again in this lifetime.

    “Terma” and “Lineage” do not justify or redeem decades of deception and obscene abuse. They do not justify maintaining any ties to the abuser. This is not “house cleaning”, this is a sex offender who has been outed as a charlatan “guru”.

    Are we supposed to believe that the Dakinis want us to maintain ties to a serial sex abuser? That is absolute nonesense.

    Continuing to cling to him is the fastest way to kill any future for this Sangha. If that is your goal, keep up the good work. I imagine statements like this damage the appeal of Tibetan Buddhism in general as well.

  48. Thanks for this offering Judith. I would look forward to articles that go more into explaining some of the shambhala teachings in more depth as well. What to accept and reject :) I am interested in how Shambhala and Buddhism both differ from Abrahemic or American morality. Merci

  49. Walker Blaine
    Mar 13, 2019

    The terdak is sometimes called the chödak. Here is more information about that part of a tertön’s activity:


  50. Frank Stelzel
    Mar 13, 2019

    Maybe complete off topic:

    „Always focus your mind, rely on your mindfulness and alertness, and donˋt be secterian“

    Words of advice in 1834 from Jamgön Rinpoche to the young Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye when departing the first time for Palpung. I recently stumbled upon reading his auto-biography.

    Different time, different situation, different teachings/termas, sure.

    But isn‘t it remarkable that he did not mention any particular texts/termas/protectors/deitys/slogans/mantras/mudras as reminders but mindfulness, alertness and non-sectarianism?

    Maybe we can allow our terma(s) some vacation in a highly adequate, secure and super-clean resort without the slightest idea of expelling or disrespecting them. And while we ourselves are on the road not to Palpung but to rediscover our original home base we stick plain and simple to mindfulness, alertness and non-sectarianism. Lets do that for 3 years and then ask the terma-drala-dakinis if they prefer to stay in that super-bright resort or if they are willing to support us in our partly foggy homey domain.

    Regarding my personal situation there seems to be the need to have the willingness to go on a journey (again), just re-arranging precious furniture at home will not do it. Maybe it is also true on a larger scale, just my wild guessing.

    Mindfulness, alertness and non-sectarianism sound like a useful travel insurance for that journey, at least for my personal one.

  51. Lindsay Cox
    Mar 13, 2019

    Yes Judith-spot on and straight from the hip !

  52. Sarah Lionheart
    Mar 13, 2019

    It is with great sadness that I witness from afar the exposure of the evil and abuse in the Shambala lineage and the vast cover up that has taken place and continues to take place. From my perspective there is so much in this cult that is against buddhadharma. It makes me ask why you are invested in insisting that there is value in something that is so abusive. It is probably because you and other students, experienced a common cult phenomena: when a student thinks they are standing in front of god, even if the ‘god’ is a stone – there neural pathways change and the mind opens and the student can provoke feelings of gratitude and awe and reverence and devotion and such emotions again change the neural pathways and then the student experiences a mind opening, caused by the changes in the brain and the student says ‘it was the guru who did this’, even when the guru is a lump of rocks or a statue. Or a corrupted delusion alcoholic paedophile. So you believe that the ‘guru’ is wonderful when it is only really your own desire to believe in something that has caused the changes. I have seen it in groups in Hinduism and Sufism and Christianity and Buddhism and many cults. It is very sad. ANd now you are too invested in your delusions to see clearly. I feel for you.

    Akong Rinpoche threw Chogyam out of Samye Ling because Chogyam sexually exploited children and was already an alcoholic and raging egoist. People in your organisation vilified Akong for seeing the truth and protecting his students. time has proved Akong to be right.

    I wonder if one day you can take the courageous leap and see how you have been fooled. But I doubt it. It is hard to do when your work and life and friends and ‘family’ are all tied up in the delusions too.

    But please stop harming people and teach your students to stop trolling survivors of the organisations abuse.

  53. Dear Judith,
    Your article has amazing focus and veracity. I applaud that as well as your devotion to our root guru, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

    There are a few things missing, however, that I’d like to bring to your attention. One is that we can agree that the Vidyadhara brought the Shambhala terma to be a prominent part of his legacy. And why not? Any great teacher has a limited focus when face to face with the biggest challenges to his world, and the biggest responses to those challenges. In our case in this particular time the challenges are the rising strength of the 3 Lords of Materialism and their power not just in society, but in the world of religion, dharma practitioners.

    But we should remember as well, and you should since you were a part of it, the enormous effort the Vidyadhara gave to the continuity of lineages of the Karma Kamtsang, and the Nyingmapa especially as manifested in the lineage giants who graced our community in the 1980’s: Gyalwa Karmapa XVI, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Shamar Rinpoche, Tai Situ Rinpoche, HH Dudjom Rinpoche, Orgyen Tulku, Dodrup Chen Rinpoche. Reading the names of this group out loud is a virtual Practice Lineage Lineage chant.

    Then there were others — more distant such as Kalu Rinpoche in 1986 and HHK’s visit, not to mention the continued presence of Kobun Chino.

    From my very myopic, un-accomplished point of view, the news after the Sawang’s investiture, was a sharp right turn that “de-capacititized” the Vidyadhara’s community, leading to a few major changes, all of which are part of the grander, change, one that embraces the reality that the Vidyadhara’s dharma is not confined to one teaching.

    The exiling of those of us who are the Vidyadhara’s students, who experienced the dharmic explosion of the 80’s notted above, functioned to eliminate challenges of any threat to the Sawang/Sakyong’s rule. Why? Because many of those exiled had a vaster knowledge of the practices and vaster depth of those practices than he did. SMR is not a particularly well-educated ruler.

    Part 2 is that whether you believe the paragraph above or not, his personal behavior is the icing on the cake. There are, here in China, many glorious lineages such as Tang, Yuan, Ming, Qing all starting with greatly inspired Emperors. Such as Kublai Khan, Yong Lo, Qian Long. All of these dynasties no matter how inspired, ended up —if I may say so— with lineage heirs whose preferred command was “fu#@ and suck” and in the case of the Qing, smoke opium. And so these Dynasties fell.

    Is this progress? Is it regress? that is not for me to say. But as a student of the Vidyadhara, I have to say that we shouldn’t get lost in the Tibetan Buddhist religious theory to see what has happened. We just have to look at the downstream effects of both Osel Tendzin and Osel Mukpo to understand these effects.

    I am proud of the chances that the Vidyadhara took with all of us. Took with me. But we cannot overlook the reality that the disgusting behavior of both of these lineage heirs has caused —as is said in the Sadhana of Mahamudra— the spiritual ancestors to be ashamed.

    In keeping with Robin Kornman’s excellent talk, we have to have more confidence in the prajna and upaya of Trungpa Rinpoche. His vast Tibetan terma has been promulgated. The corruption of his lineag heirs’ rule will do nothing to impact that.

    Time for a new kitchen.

  54. Judith sure is smart about terma and dakinis and what-not, but we are still waiting for her to make a strong statement of support for the abuse survivors.

  55. Michael Chender
    Mar 12, 2019

    Judith, thanks for your thoughtful and heartfelt perspective.

    One sentence jumped out at me:

    “That is, would we as a community have explored the depth of the Shambhala terma if it had remained sidelined in our lineage?”

    “We as a community” have not explored this depth, because many of us were given a binary choice–either Scorpion Seal or your Vajrayana comittments with other teachers. ” Good luck with your path,” is what many of us heard from our Vajra brothers and sisters. So the community you’re referring to is a fraction of the original big tent. Couldn’t the Shambhala deep path have been available without the attendant damage?

  56. Shawn Boyne
    Mar 12, 2019

    A true spiritual leader walking in the footsteps of the Buddha would not seek to amass wealth and surround himself with a court. I value the effect that the Shambhala teachings have had on my spiritual development however the organization of Shambhala at the top is anything but a manifestation of an enlightened society. Any nonprofit organization should be responsible to an outside board. As a former sex crimes prosecutor, I’m done with Shambhala unless and until the assets are transferred back from the Potrang and the leader(s) are accountable to an outside board of directors that do not swear an oath to the Sakyong. I’m content to let the dakinis to sweep in and take possession of the terma.

  57. Philip Beeman
    Mar 12, 2019

    The Vidyadhara watches the Sakyong do all this crap. What a sad fairytale.

  58. Diane Whitcomb
    Mar 12, 2019

    Thank you Judith.
    I believe this is a profound opportunity for us to purify our own habits and karma as a community. –cleaning out the closets so we can move forward, indeed!

    I think it would behoove us all to take a close look at all the many ways in which sex, alcohol, politics, and the various levels of everything from simple unkindnesses to outright abuses have played a part in our founding and early culture. We all have some responsibility for co-creating enlightened society. If we don’t take to heart the power each of us has to manifest that in the small moments with each other, we are certainly doomed to have this terma swept up by the dakinis…


  59. Thank you Judith for your excellent summary of the history of the Shambhala lineage.

    Having dedicated much of my life to the continuity of the Shambhala teachings, as have many others, I am sure it will continue to flourish.

    To see the terton lineage of Surmang up close and personal, the Konchok Foundation produced a video describing the actual discovery of terma by the Vidyadhara, he discovered many others besides the Shambhala terma.:

    Glimpses of Chogyam Trungpa’s Life and Legacy in Tibet



    Dale Hinchey
    Fredericton Shambhala Center
    Shibata Meadows Retreat Center
    Greenhill, New Brunswick

  60. Judith, The Dharma has been corrupted and the 3 lords of materialism have seized power. The Potrang (aka: Osel Mukpo) owns it all, how did this happen? Sexual corruption, material corruption and power corruption have asserted itself with an inner group of his loyal supporters turning a blind eye or rationalizing that this is all in the name of ‘crazy wisdom’. Osel asking complete and utter loyalty and creating an insular society where he can maintain his power and riches has been only one of the major problems. After the first Scorpion Seal you told me that you would find a history where a guru has asked students to study ONLY with them and not receive ANY Vajrayana teachings from any other teacher. I am still waiting for this answer. I have asked numerous Kagyu/Nyingma Rinpoches, all of whom have gone through the intensive Shedra programs and none of them have confirmed this, in fact they said there is no such thing. So please, let us know here where you have found this teaching so we can all see. Please quote your sources too. I have been told by these Rinpoches that one can have as many teachers as one wants, and study teachings from many teachers. Osel Mukpo’s demand for utter and complete allegiance is based on his ego and lack of self confidence, and his inner circle has only bowed to his wishes without prajna. This blind devotion and loyalty has created a society full of insularity, lack of compassion, and arrogance. Osel’s first mistake was eliminating the Kagyu-Nyingma path as an equal and separate path. Trungpa Rinpoche was very clear that this was our path, and even with the death of the Regent, it could easily have continued with Vajrayana sangha teachers as well as the support of teachers from the Kagyu-Nyingma lineage. I believe the protectors and Dharmapalas are angry by this turn and are manifesting in their wrathful way. In Vajrayana we have a confession liturgy, where one confesses ones wrongdoings and vows to not repeat them again. Perhaps all those involved in this inner circle need to take this to heart? The vision of the great Druk Sakyong needs to be restored to his initial vision. Bring back the Kagyu-Nyingma dharma in its full dimension,as equal and separate. Bring back Vajradhara to its rightful place at Karma Dzong, such an incredibly blessed thangka that brings great blessings to us all, must be in its home, not relegated to the stupa, where students sit with their back to it. The entire structure needs to be dismantled, all leaders need to resign and then Shambhala and the Kagyu-Nyingma Dharma can rise from the ashes, like the Phoenix. No more oaths to a corrupt leader, property needs to go back to the Sangha not to one or two corrupt leaders. The Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo should be taught as a ”view or principle’ since there is no person worthy of the title. Osel Mukpo should resign and step down, and go to rehab and get years of counseling. When the organization gets rebuilt it needs to be centered on the sangha and its well being and not oaths to a corrupt ruler. Teachers can still teach the dharma but not as someone whom is regarded as extra special or considered elevated or more important than others. As CTR stated, “Humbleness is the dwelling place of the forefathers”. Let us all take an oath to actually practice the dharma, to meditate and to examine oneself and ones mind. May the 3 jewels flourish from the ashes of ego. Judy Sullivan

  61. Faith Okamoto Miller
    Mar 12, 2019

    Thank you, Judith. This helps me raise my gaze and open my heart, maybe even get to the cushion and take my seat. Broken heart, confused mind, hope and fear, love and gratitude, doubts and all..

    With deep gratitude,

  62. Pascal Machado
    Mar 12, 2019

    Thank you for this article.

    Could someone direct me to sources that clarify what is a terdak and their role, maybe with stories of past terdaks?

    It is a term I am not familiar with. I have only seen it used a few times in relation to the role of the current Sakyong.

  63. Jill Sarkady
    Mar 12, 2019

    Dear Judith:

    It has been many years since I studied with you at seminary in 1982. I have a profound respect for your analytical and scholarly approach to the teachings.

    My initial response to what you wrote was yes I understand exactly what she is saying, but … what is not taken into account is that the Sakyong has – for so many older, and, particularly younger students, caused there to be doubt about the truthfulness and integrity of the Shambhala teachings period.

    How can his poor behavior not bleed into peoples’ attitude and involvement in the terdak’s manifestation in body, speech and mind of these precious teachings, or lack thereof.

    It is a huge quandary for so many. You may view this from a different point of view than the average Joe or Joelette Schmo as you are an Acharya and a highly advanced practitioner. But “on the street” so to speak is a combination of how appalling his behavior has been and how can I go farther into this lineage. How can we even talk about lineage. Not to mention, how can we honor those who have been harmed?

    So though I see the veracity of your scholarly aporoach, what seems to be of more concern is how can we continue to bring our devotion to this community and how can we deal with our broken hearts – how can we keep all of the wonderful people who have birthed our Shambhala Centers together sanely and with compassion given the river of abuse that has happened? Because without our community the teachings lose their potency and applicability.

    With devotion,

    Jillian Sarkady

  64. Gail Whitacre
    Mar 12, 2019

    Thank you so much, Acharya Simmer-Brown, for taking a long view. It adds perspective. May others join you and Acharya Spiegel in helping us contemplate more or less calmly what we are doing, where we are going, where we want to be, how we get there, and at least some of the ramifications and so on.

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