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Jul 30
Sakyong and Family
A Letter from Walker Blaine, Master of Liturgies

Walker Blaine, Master of Liturgies to the Sakyong, submitted this letter to the Shambhala Times to be shared with the Shambhala Community.

Este artículo ha sido traducido al español aqui.

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Questo articolo è stato tradotto in italiano qui.

Dear Shambhala Community,

This letter is to help clarify the impressions given by the recent acharya resignation letter, where it was said that the Sakyong intends only to work with a smaller, exclusive group of students.

On May 21st, the Sakyong met with all the acharyas, after they requested an online audience because a group retreat seemed impossible due to the pandemic. At the beginning of the call, the Sakyong greeted each of the acharyas, and acknowledged at length all they have been holding and the heartbreak of all that has occurred. He made it clear that he is committed to offering the teachings, not to an exclusive group of students, but to everyone who wishes to receive them from him. He emphasized his commitment to continuing the Shambhala lineage for the benefit of humanity and future generations, as well as the importance of practice.

I was present at this meeting and reviewed the recording. At no time did the Sakyong speak of working with an exclusive group of students, or only an advanced one. While describing the lineage of Shambhala descending from the Dorje Dradül and Gesar of Ling, and how that lineage can go forward, the Sakyong did speak about the importance of a community clarifying itself and knowing what it is, even if that community is smaller. His point was that this is a time to clarify our lineage, and to some degree make a personal decision about what we want to do.


Walker Blaine

Master of Liturgies to the Sakyong

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29 responses to “ A Letter from Walker Blaine, Master of Liturgies ”
  1. Joseph Fiala
    Aug 6, 2020

    thank you

  2. dian marie hosking
    Aug 3, 2020

    What If:
    What if you had written simply as Walker Blaine, and not as The Master of Liturgies……
    What if you had not claimed the position of being able to “clarify” the “impressions” that the Acharyas letter may have given others
    What if you had not implied that could could read the minds of the acharyas concerning why they had requested a meeting with the Sakyong
    What if you had clarified the basis on which you, implicitly, claimed to speak for the Sakyong …
    What if, in sum, you had not claimed a superior, insider, more knowing, position ?

    Then you might have written something like
    …as a fellow participant of the meeting to which the Acharyas referred in their letter, I formed a different understanding of the Sakyong’s meaning. My understanding was… To my mind, he made it clear that…
    Then I might not have felt that your letter was power play…

  3. Michaèl Brandt
    Aug 2, 2020

    Shambhala should be a Rimé inspired Sangha and organization, where we faccilitate teachers from the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages to heal and preserve te transmission of genuine dharma in the west.
    Not aiming for that and practically working for it as soon as possible would be stupid an destructive

  4. David Uglow
    Aug 1, 2020

    Mr. Blaine, with respect,

    You and your colleagues have already written quite clearly, in an earlier letter, about the sense in which the Sakyong is calling the Community to clarify itself.

    I am uncertain what is meant in this letter by this being “a time to clarify our lineage.” My understanding from the Supplication to the Shambhala Lineage, composed by the Sakyong, is that our lineage descends from the Primordial Rigden, Samantabhadra and Vajradhara, and proceeds unbroken from there.

    In what sense does the Sakyong wish to clarify our lineage?

    In the event that Mr. Blaine does not read the Times site, I am hopeful that someone in contact with him will pass this question on.

  5. This

  6. Bob Sutherland
    Aug 1, 2020

    To clarify – the “whole thing” meaning the drama show of the “lineage” and organizational adolescence of Shambhala. I’m still all in for the teachings and the wonderful gift of practice.

  7. The letter seems to imply that the lineage is simply a matter of family descendance via Gesar and the D. Dradul. It is rather simplistic to believe that is all it takes to qualify someone as a lineage holder in the same way it is not enough just to be empowered as such or to be recognized as a tulku. Lineage means continuity of the teachings and a lineage holder is a person who has taken a vow to propagate the unique view, practices, approaches and topics taught by his predecessors. Nowadays I don’t see continuity in the Kagyu and Nyigma practices, the monastic tradition of Gampo Abbey, the three-year retreats, strict Dathuns, seminaries and other things the VCTR cared and worked so hard for. Shambhala was a place where spiritual materialism was exposed but has now become a new age supermarket. The VCTR wanted the Shambhala teachings to be inclusive and available regardless of one’s religious belonging. Now on the contrary it is mandatory not only to become Buddhist but also to be totally loyal and obedient to the Sakyong.
    Lineage holder also has to be someone who embodies the teachings and acts accordingly. SOM has failed in all this a long time ago and has broken his vow. In no way do I see him as a holder of any lineage.

  8. Mark & Becky Hazell
    Jul 31, 2020

    Dear Friends,

    So many strong views — we love you all! Here are two poems which seem to encapsulate the current moment:

    Small Sentence to Drive yourself Sane — Lew Welch

    The next time you are doing something absolutely ordinary, or even better

    the next time you are doing something absolutely necessary, such as pissing, or making love, or shaving, or washing the dishes or the baby or yourself or the room, say to yourself:

    “So, it’s all come to this!”

    The Guest House

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.
    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.
    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.
    The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
    meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
    Be grateful for whatever comes.
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.

    — Jellaludin Rumi,

    translation by Coleman Barks

  9. Serge Gempelburg
    Jul 31, 2020

    A few words:
    “While describing the lineage of Shambhala descending from the Dorje Dradül and Gesar of Ling”. This is not secular, it is religious belief, that a transmission of wisdom can come from a mystic and invented figure.

    Many members appreciate the Shambhala Teachings, but cannot go with the lineage holder anymore. So what is to be clarified here? Those who do no more trust the Sakyong have to leave the community? Everybody who wants to receive the Shambhala teachings can ask the Sakyong, okay. But can someone who can no longer follow the Sakyong ask him honestly for that? To me it seems that he is clearing the community without clearly speaking.
    I think he is about to divide the community, because there is no alternative, as far as I read and hear.

  10. Ashley Howes
    Jul 31, 2020

    A rather minor point of clarification typical of the arcane mutterings of the too-long cloistered in mono-culture doublespeak. Let me, for the sake of your audience, try to clear it up a little for ya:

    The Sakyong will continue to work with anyone who wishes to work with him, be they brand new or well seasoned students.
    He will continue to own all the Centers internationally.
    He will maintain the same legal and administrative structures over which he retains total control.
    He will continue to encourage only those adhering to his particular teaching approach and continue to disempower those teaching methods from earlier times.
    He will not help or otherwise address issues pertaining to those who over the years have been disempowered.
    He has nothing to say about those who have been traumatized in this community, no teachings to offer, no alternative mores to suggest.
    He remains the one and only inheritor of the Dorje Dradul’s Shambhala lineage and only he can say who will be able to teach his father’s lineage, any other approaches to be regarded as perversions of the teachings.

    If any of the above is wrong, it would be helpful if the Master of Liturgies or some other worthy Authority Figure – preferably the Sakyong himself – could address them.

    As it is, your note about an ambiguous phrase falls far short.
    I hope you do better with liturgy composition than blog posts!!

    Much Love to you and your Lord,
    Sir Ashley.

  11. Let’s call it wat it is: a purge. There was one before, and there will be another one, and another one, and another one. There will always be a safer and more loyal (sorry, more ‘clarified’) inner circle into which to retreat. Don’t forget to look over your shoulder, mr. Blaine.

    Jul 31, 2020

    Whether or not the Sakyong has explicitly stated he wishes to work with a smaller more exclusive group or not, it appears that is happening as a consequence of the decisions he has made. Particularly, his choice to ignore the dissent of his former leadership circle has led to that.

  13. Maura Ganz
    Jul 31, 2020

    I too would like to hear the recording.

  14. This argument seems more than a little petty to me. I don’t see a fundamental difference between “intends only to work with a smaller, exclusive group of students” and “the importance of a community clarifying itself and knowing what it is, even if that community is smaller”. They seem like different ways of perceiving the same intention.

    It’s a bit like two people arguing furiously about where they’ve just been and one says “we went to a forest” and the other says “don’t be so ridiculous, we were among a large collection of trees, not a forest”.

  15. Brian Callahan
    Jul 31, 2020

    Walker, thank you for this clarification.

    So many of us, who still call Sakyong Mipham our teacher, have been silent for a long time.
    That silence has arisen partly from fear of being “called out” or publically shamed on social media.
    That same silence has also partly arisen from respect for all those who experienced harm.
    My silence allowed space for other voices to speak their truth.
    Now, several truths, among the many truths of this relative world seems obvious.
    There is more than one side to any story.
    Any story, by necessity, offers an interpretation of the ‘facts.’
    So, in this light, it feels futile to try and please everyone or satisfy everyone.

    As I have read the many letters in circulation, I’ve been struck by how they focus on only one side of the truth.
    I read the Acharyas group letter, as well as the several other letters now in circulation, as one-sided.
    That’s OK, all letters, including this one, are one-sided. We just need to acknowledge this.

    It is good to know that the interpretation of SMR”s meeting with the Acharyas can be understood more broadly.
    And, it feels inevitable, that calls to clarify our understanding of our connection with the lineage will be experienced as polarizing.

    Even so, I appreciate the clarification and appreciate knowing that it comes from the video record of SMR”s meeting.

    Thank you,

  16. Jack Hillie
    Jul 31, 2020

    Is the recording of the audience available to listen?

  17. Jamia Hill
    Jul 31, 2020

    Supplicate what we want from the teacher? How about a teacher that does not abuse his students and attendants? How about completing a treatment program for mental health, alcohol abuse, and recovery from childhood trauma before trying to guide others?

  18. Ian Powell
    Jul 31, 2020

    Thank you for offering this clarification, Walker.

    And thank you, Meghan Leary, for your reminder of “Be Grateful to Everyone.”

    I believe this instruction (for those who practice it) includes even those who might post spiteful words (e.g. “five decades long contagion”) or vendetta-curated link-lists (as above) in order to help shape Shambhala as an ethical beacon in this world.

    “We can be better”, yes. We can also do better. We’ve only scratched the surface of what is possible.

    Thank you,

  19. Denise Kilshaw
    Jul 31, 2020

    It may be that the Sakyong never explicitly stated that he would work with an ‘exclusive group of students’ but that is the effect of his actions or lack thereof. Why can’t he speak for himself instead of sending you to do so?
    Hiding out from us all, it is so discouraging.

  20. Dear Walker et al,
    In the hopes that we all find our way to peace and integrity, I would like to add this: It might be helpful to understand that the “smaller, more exclusive group” is not a quote to be defended or attacked; it is an inferential conclusion that people have come to (which seems obvious). To argue and defend what is so insubstantial under a big colorful letterhead is, with all due respect, a matter of tone deafness.

    If anyone would like to re-read a statement that is free from tone deafness, reread the dharma brats letter. Without trying to attack or defend, they offer a clear depiction of the unresolved problem, that if not attended to, will guarantee that the Sakyong teaches to smaller more exclusive groups. It’s an extrapolation. It’s a conclusion. This is a conclusion. It’s already manifesting. It will manifest into the future.

    The Sakyong will continue teaching, as he must, but if the tone deafness continues to muddy the accountability the larger community is waiting, hoping and practically praying for, then the Shambhala community will remain small and stunted.

    The silent majority of this community does not need one more letter articulating or defending the Sakyong. With all due respect, and speaking in friendship, Walker, these messages speaking for the Sakyong clarify nothing. I hope you understand that people’s minds are not being changed by these little skirmishes. The silent majority wants to hear from the Sakyong—and what they want to hear is clearly articulated in the Dharma Brats letter, where it is clearly and sensitively communicated.

    Best wishes to you, best wishes to the entire community, best wishes to the Sakyong. May the healing begin soon.
    Alan Anderson

  21. Linda V. Lewis
    Jul 31, 2020

    With respect Walker, my only question is why not make the recording of the Sakyong’s words public, rather than speaking for him?

    Part of the problem that people have is that so little direct communication from the Sakyong himself to the entire sangha has occurred–thus the proliferation of so many different interpretations of what he actually said as spawned.

    Why not make the recording public? It would be great to hear him speak of the lineage, share his appreciation for the acharyas, “his heartbreak over all that has occurred”, and “the importance of the community clarifying itself…even if the community is smaller.” Am sure those phrases were not one-liners.

  22. Since there is such hurt and confusing information , why not make the recording referred to in the letter, public so everyone (rather than an exclusive group) can listen to it? That way, there can’t be smoke or mirrors…..

  23. Bob Sutherland
    Jul 31, 2020

    This seems a bit desperate and may be the straw that breaks the camels back for me on this whole thing.

  24. Gerry Haase
    Jul 31, 2020

    Walker, I was just looking at old photos of you dancing with Nancy Murphy at the Khenpo program. How are you doing? You seem to have morphed into Josh Silberstein (have you talked to him recently?)

  25. Bruce Dal Santo
    Jul 31, 2020

    Dear Walker,

    We have walked this Path for decades. We hold this Lineage and these teachings as he does from our root guru Trungpa Rinpoche and from him. We are in this organization for life. We are not leaving, we are not going anywhere,
    and we are not loyal to this Sakyong till
    he fulfills his samaya vows (to his survivor victims , and the entire membership of Shambhala which he has grievously harmed by his callous and uncontrite actions,) through proper, direct, complete public confession and reconciliation.
    We are all bound in this mandala lifeboat together. There is no where to go so the Sakyong had best get used to looking us all in the eye and communicating with each and every one of us authentically and not through special “social distancing” emmissaries. True enlightened Monarchy is not a one way street relationship. There have been tragic consequences due to this Sakyong’s frivolity which he has not accepted as genuine Warrior.

    It must stop now.

    At the root, as Tantrikas’ , Kasung and practitioners, we are first and foremost loyal to the Truth, Dharma, and not the teacher, guru.

    Though our vows we are all in the space of Dharmadhatu and the Cosmic Mirror. The finger of loyalty he points at us points back to him.

    In this space no one can be left behind and nothing happens by chance.

    Do you hear me.?

  26. Sherab Gyatso
    Jul 31, 2020

    Instead of clarifying matters, this seems to confuse them further:

    Many Acharyas, people who were chosen to represent the Sakyong, stated one thing.

    Now, Blaine Walker, apparently also chosen to represent the Sakyong, states the opposite. And he only does so a full three weeks later, once any potential damage from the Acharyas’ letter would have unfolded.

    It is hard to know who to believe, and why this factual correction, if factual correction it is, took so long to emerge. Making the recording available to the Sangha would clarify the truth of this matter.

  27. Alma Kellogg Carpenter
    Jul 30, 2020

    Testing. Om Ah Hum!

  28. Meghan Leary
    Jul 30, 2020

    Many of us were emphatically invited into Shambhala centers to learn secular mindfulness practices. We were constantly told and offered programs that were advertised as helpful to anyone of any spiritual or secular background.

    Sadly for those of us who thought Shambhala was a safe place for secular practice we instead have been shown most definitely that Shambhala as a deeply fundamentalist institution beholden to, fiscally owned by, and liturgically copywritten to the “sakyong”.


    Reviewing Shambhala’s history through Vajradhatu under tom rich and trungpa shows it was always fundamentalist, enabling, and indulgent of its leaders at its heart.

    Some history on tom rich: https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/encounter-shadow-buddhist-america/

    Trungpa’s best trained students acting at his command to assault fellow students: https://boulderbuddhistscam.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/the-party.pdf

    We can be better than this. For anyone who came to Shambhala centers to simply practice being more kind, thoughtful, and clear seeing, then please take the kind thoughtful and clear seeing actions of removing your local community from this five decades long contagion that is trungpa’s monarchist self serving hedonistic twisting of dharma.



    There are simpler, more direct, more free, more ethical dharma study that we can do as a community. Please let us move towards openness and sanity.

  29. Diane Whitcomb
    Jul 30, 2020

    Thank you for clarifying this Walker.

    It’s vitally important that people realize that the Sakyong has not abdicated his role as teacher, nor made some weird decision about only including certain practitioners, while ignoring those at a different stage of the path. There is a big difference between allowing people to reflect and decide for themselves whether this is a path they would like to pursue, and being told – you’re not one of the “included” people. The idea that there is someone making decisions about other’s opportunities to follow this dharma path needs to be clearly understood as a projection.

    I am disturbed at the number of people who believe a social media story line. It seems to me that part of our responsibility as practitioners and members of this community it to take responsibility for ourselves and our own paths. The relationship between teacher and student is entirely the responsibility of the student to request and initiate. It’s up to us as students to supplicate for what we want from the teacher. If we feel that this is somehow his job, and not ours, we have missed a vital point.

    It’s good to have this clarification.
    Thank you!

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