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Aug 14
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Three Recent Acharya Retirements

Recently three acharyas retired from their posts.  Below, the Times has published their individual letters to the community.

La carta en español se encuentra aquí.

Dear Shambhala Community,

I write with a sad and tender heart. I have retired as an acharya as of July 1.

I feel that my appointment two years ago was in one way an acknowledgment of my journey joining the Shambhala dharma with the work of healing personal and social oppression and importantly, it also marked a greater acceptance of that work in Shambhala. Many in the community rejoiced. Two weeks later revelations of the Sakyong’s misconduct surfaced on Facebook. Eight months later my husband had a near death fall while hiking and suffered a traumatic brain injury. His recovery has been slow and laden with obstacles while at the same time a beautiful unfolding of warriorship.

My reasons for retiring are two fold. First, I choose to continue turning inward to focus on my family and my husband’s healing process. Secondly, from the May 21 zoom meeting with the acharyas, my understanding of the Sakyong’s intentions to not further engage in dialogue and open communication with the broader sangha feels discordant with the work I have engaged in Shambhala over the past decade, initially as the Chairperson of the Diversity Working Group and then as an acharya. This makes it difficult for me to serve in the role of acharya as his personal representative.

I wish to thank the many people who have supported me over the years as I explored the inseparability of the Shambhala dharma and the work of bringing awareness to social oppression. I am indebted to members of the Diversity Working Group: Gale Young, Michaela McCormick, Elaine Yuen, Bob Pressnall, and Toby Sifton for nearly a decade of collaboration. Thanks to the newer groups that emerged: the PoC Council, White Awareness Council, and Inclusivity Warrior Council. Thanks to acharya colleagues: Gaylon Ferguson, Adam Lobel, Judith Simmer-Brown, and Christie Cashman for their kind and insightful support over many years. Much appreciation to Ro Horton and Rita Shimmin, co founders of the ​UNTraining​. I have been blessed sharing this journey with so many true warriors as my heart was torn open by the suffering of social injustice.

Charlene Leung

I am forever grateful to the Sakyong for his profound teachings that have guided my personal and intimate journeys of both unraveling societal oppression and navigating my husband’s accident. I remain a student on the Scorpion Seal path where I have been trained to be present with both beauty and horror. The extent that I will be able to engage as a teacher and leader however, will continue to be limited due to the ongoing need to support my husband’s health. I remain committed to creating good human society in the devastating times we are living in.

In the vision of the Great Eastern Sun,

Charlene Leung
Imperial Purple

Christie Cashman

August 7, 2020

Dear friends and family in Shambhala,

This is a personal note regarding my path as an acharya. I’m communicating in this way, because many of us have become deeply connected over these decades, and I would like to honor your exceptional dharmic friendship.

For several years now, I have struggled with health issues, which many of you know. While I’m still able to function quite well, doctors and family are asking that I begin to step back from the rigors of the life of an acharya.

I have loved serving the community ever since the Vidyadhara first asked me to be his corresponding secretary 49 years ago. I sat at a little typewriter with red ink and wrote letters to students on yellow note paper marked with a red garuda. This was the beginning of working for the only two employers I’ve ever known—the Vidyadhara and the Sakyong.

The word “gratitude” does not come close to expressing the wonder of sitting at the feet of many of the world’s greatest teachers, the years of receiving the pure and magnificent three yana teachings and Shambhala terma transmissions from the Vidyadhara, followed by an impeccable unfolding of the profound Scorpion Seal path under Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. Having also been given the opportunity to support their students is more fortunate still. I will never be able to repay such kindness.

As you probably know, acharyas are now being asked if they would like to continue as acharyas or take this moment to retire with dignity and with the Sakyong’s blessing. Based on recent pulmonary function tests, I’ve decided that it is imperative that I step back. It’s heartening to pass this baton to the next generation of acharyas while continuing to be of service in any way that is helpful and appropriate—as a senior teacher, tutor, mentor, or friend.

I look forward to solitary retreats where one finds the ease and naturalness necessary to enter the ocean of primordial mind. Out of that, may my life forever contribute to the building of a good world.

Thank you to all my acharya colleagues, friends and teachers along the way, and to all of you who have made life very much worth living. May basic goodness dawn, and may our confidence be eternal. KI KI SO SO!

With love from your dharma sister,

Christie Cashman
Moon Lake of Compassion

Susan Chapman

August 10, 2020

To my dear friends in Shambhala,

Greetings to you from a beautiful summer day in Vancouver, with blue sky and a cool Pacific breeze. I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words about my upcoming retirement as an acharya. As you know, the Sakyong offered us three options: to resign, to remain or to retire for reasons including ill health. I’ve known for a while that it would be hard to continue traveling and teaching due to increasing fatigue, but on July 3rd I was diagnosed with TNBC, an aggressive and hard-to-treat form of breast cancer. So my decision to retire was clear.

In Shambhala we celebrate our rites of passage, so I offer my retirement as a poignant moment to reflect on the past 46 years and to share my overwhelming gratitude for the teachings and practices, and especially the teachers who have transformed my life. My dharma path began in the spring of 1974, when I hitchhiked from Vancouver to Boulder to meet Trungpa Rinpoche and to attend the first summer of Naropa Institute. From then until his Parinirvana in 1987 I was like a dry, thirsty sponge, soaking in pretty much every word he taught. My gratitude to the Vidyadhara is beyond words.

Following Rinpoche’s passing, for 20 years, while living in Juneau and at Gampo Abbey, I studied closely with Thrangu Rinpoche. Rinpoche continuously reminded me that, regardless of my devotion to him, my primary commitment was to Trungpa Rinpoche and Shambhala. When some friends and I visited his monastery in India for Losar, with a big smile he asked us to sing the Shambhala Anthem to his monks. He joined us for a rousing Ki Ki So So! I am profoundly grateful to Thrangu Rinpoche, and to all the other great masters who have illuminated my way. Again, beyond words.

Thanks to the Nalanda Translators and the Gampo Abbey monastics, I was fortunate to have completed the Kagyu Three-Year Retreat. Thrangu Rinpoche designed this retreat for Shambhalians, reminding us of our commitment to create an Enlightened Society. He changed the traditional format into a year-in/ year-out schedule so that we could maintain our relationships to family and to our financial responsibilities.  The retreat practices rolled out in progressively more subtle stages of meaning. But the bottom-line lesson was the importance of ordinary kindness and the practice of exchanging self for other. I am so thankful to my fellow retreatants for having shown this to me.

I had an insight in retreat that gave a new perspective on my path. It was a sudden glimpse of how skillfully the Dorje Dradul, Trungpa Rinpoche, had condensed these ancient teachings into the pith instructions of the Shambhala Terma. After years of mostly Buddhist practice, the Shambhala teachings came alive for me in a new way. Later, when I learned that Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche had decided to open Trungpa Rinpoche’s final terma, The Scorpion Seal of the Golden Sun, I was overjoyed. Today, having deeply studied and practiced his teachings and the Scorpion Seal for ten years, I feel complete confidence and incredible gratitude to the Sakyong. May his devotion to this terma lineage benefit all beings now and in future lifetimes.

I also wish to thank Ani Pema and John Rockwell, who have been my mentors, and my many heart friends—I hope you know how much I love you. I’m so grateful to my fellow acharyas for your past, present and future guidance and support to our community and to me personally, especially these past two years. Having served the Sakyong and the sangha first as a shastri and then as an acharya has been the greatest honour of my life.

I am also completely grateful to my husband, Jerry, and my family who have enabled me to travel and teach and lead the eccentric lifestyle of a modern-day Vajrayana practitioner. Now that I’m finally at home for more than a few weeks at a time I realize how much they sacrificed to support me. And a special thanks to Sandy Brooks, my dear friend who served as my secretary and bridge to the Vancouver Shambhala Center.

Finally, I want to thank all of you who are reading this letter. There are so many friends in this community to whom I feel indebted, for a meaningful conversation, for hosting me in your home, for our time studying and practicing together, for giving me feedback, for your examples of courage and kindness in following this heart-path of warriorship. To all of you, I bow with gratitude.

The next phase of my path will be another retreat, this time into the bardo of cancer treatment. I know that some of you have been there. It will be challenging in some ways, but it is always a gift to be reminded of the preciousness, fragility and impermanence of our life. Bringing all the suffering of the world at this time to mind, I feel so incredibly fortunate and blessed by the vision of the Great Eastern Sun. I want to especially dedicate my practice to all beings who are hidden from sight in this shadow world of sickness and dying. May their fear find refuge in the cradle of loving kindness.

With love and the tender heart of sad/ joy,

Susan Chapman

Garuda Mother

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17 responses to “ Three Recent Acharya Retirements ”
  1. Catherine Eveillard
    Aug 28, 2020

    Dear Shambhala ladies, I visualise you in my mind, smiling and radiating Basic Goodness to countless students, as you have done for so many years, while sitting in the teachers’chair and holding the pure view of the dharma of Shambhala. Thank you from the deepest of my heart. Your letters bring forth my mind of sadness and faith and teach me how to keep as if smiling.
    May your health and energy be restored, may your merits bring blessings on you and your family, may your inspiration stay with me for a long time.
    Catherine Eveillard

  2. Irene Lorch-Wauchope
    Aug 22, 2020

    Dear dharma sisters and guides on the path,
    Thank you so much for inspiring and teaching us with mother lineage wisdom, heart and strength. You will be dearly missed as female leaders and examples.
    Wishing you all the best in recovery of your health, your husband’s health and a joy-filled and relaxing life.
    In gratitude,

  3. Scott Forbes
    Aug 22, 2020

    Dear ladies,

    I feel that the three of you have a deep sense of before, after and beyond mind that binds us all forever. Your natural ability to let go and just be seems so evident when I’ve been in your presence.

    Thank you all for manifesting sanity. Also for sharing and helping so many on this glorious path!

    With much appreciation,

    Scott Forbes

  4. Rose Sposito
    Aug 21, 2020

    To Charlene, Christi and Susan,

    Thank you all for years of dedication and service to the dharma, Shambhala lineage of Sakyongs and fellow warriors on this path. I will hold you in my prayers for your health and well being.

    With Appreciation,

  5. Margot Iseman
    Aug 19, 2020

    Dear Susan, Charlene and Christie,
    It’s challenging to write a single letter to all of you, since I’ve had very specific connections, memories and deep appreciation each of you in a variety of ways. Please know that I wish you all the rest, healing and care that you so richly deserve after having given so much to all of us over these years. I hold you in my heart with enormous love and appreciation. Thank you so very much for your tireless exertion and devotion.
    Margot Iseman

  6. Sonia Arriola
    Aug 19, 2020

    My dear beautiful Acharyas:
    Thank you for all your wisdom, love and brilliance. I am touched deeply by your example of how to “wear your basic goodness.” The lessons you have given me are a source of inspiration.

    May we meet again, love you, Sopa Karma

  7. Bruce Dal Santo
    Aug 19, 2020

    Very, very inspired, and joyfully heart-broken by all 3 of you, tender
    Triple Gems.

    After reading your letters, this is the first thought that came into my head. It’s a story long ago from a dear Peace Corps, Dharma brother friend, Mark Koenig, of the Halifax sangha, who passed away 2 years ago.

    Mark would say, “whether on a high mountain trail or deep jungle trek, the guides, when asked are we there soon,
    would softly and confidently reply,’ it’s around the next corner.'”

    I’m not that poetic or inscrutable: I’d just say for you 3 gracious Tantrikas’, ” the best is yet to come!”

  8. Bernie Kamps
    Aug 19, 2020

    Thank you all so much for your extraordinary contribution to establishing the Shambhala Buddhist Dharma in the West. You are all powerful examples of the wisdom, grace and integrity of our lineage. May you continue to benefit beings! Love, Bernie Kamps

  9. Jean Westby
    Aug 19, 2020

    Dear Charlene, Christie, and Susan,

    Thank you so much for your teachings, kindness, and examples of warriorship over these many years.

    Having had the wonderful opportunity to be a Coordinator for the many programs you were a part of and your examples of the teachings and kindness to all of the staff involved.

    May your future plans of rest, retreat, and renewal bring you happiness and health.

    I hope to meet up again someday.

    Warmly, Jean

  10. Daniel Kaemmerer
    Aug 19, 2020

    Dear Charlene, Christie and Susan,

    Please have my deep gratitude for you dedication, devotion, inspiration and service! You are forever in my heart!

  11. Deep bows to each of you fearless warriors. Many thanks for your teaching, generosity, countless sacrifices, and kindnesses along the way. May we follow your examples, Imperial Purple, Moon Lake of Compassion and Garuda Mother. Ki Ki So So!!!

  12. Jill Sarkady
    Aug 15, 2020

    Dear Susan: thank you so much for your devotion to the lineage and your service. You will be in my practice now. Please take care of yourself in all ways. Look for hummingbirds, see the beauty in the natural world, slip soulfully into waters that heal and sooth and jettison doubt.

    May the lineage blessings reach you….and your friends bring you joy and love. I have never met you but I sense how beautiful your heart is

  13. Nicki Dayley
    Aug 15, 2020

    Thank you all for your dedicated service to Shambhala and the larger world. You have given so much to so many….and I have no doubt you will continue to give….but now it seems so important to give to yourselves and your loved ones. Thank you for holding the community, especially in these last two painful years. Now it’s our turn to hold you all in our hearts. A deep, deep bow of gratitude. With much love, Nicki

  14. Erika Berland
    Aug 15, 2020

    I will be eternally grateful for your eloquence, devotion and beauty. A deep bow to all three of you and I have no doubt that your teachings will continue to benefit sentient beings. Love, Erika Berland

  15. Shambhala Times Team
    Aug 14, 2020

    Thank you, Susan, we have edited the article to include this name!

  16. Susan Chapman
    Aug 14, 2020

    PS my Shambhala name is Garuda Mother.

  17. Eric Laufe
    Aug 14, 2020

    We have been and continue to be so incredibly fortunate to have been guided and supported by these remarkable Shambhala practitioners. Thank you, Charlene, Christie, and Susan. As they say in Tibet to those going on a journey, “Go slowly”.

    Eric Laufe

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