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Sep 04
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Thank You for Building Karmê Chöling—Now Help Us Celebrate

Karmê Chöling, from the photo archive

By Mike De Give

Since Shambhala Day, there have been photos from the archives hanging on the walls here at Karme Choling. In the silence before the gong each morning, sometimes I’ll pick one out and study the grainy faces of sangha members — some erecting the walls of the Main Shrine Room, others inspecting the Eternal Knot before it was raised and attached to the southern wall. 

I’m grateful to everyone I see in those pictures. Thank you so much, all of you, for building this amazing place. Your work has had a profound impact on me. Living here is one of the highlights of my life. 

Just last night, I was on the front porch with two housemates, Nathan Railla and JT Buck, reading aloud from “The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma.” I can hear the dharma so much more clearly this way. What a way to spend an evening. Thank you, noble housemates.

Emblem under inspection

This year marks Karme Choling’s 50th anniversary as the seat of the lineage and a powerful container in which to receive the profound, brilliant Shambhala dharma. And, pandemic or not, my housemate, KCL Programs Manager JT Buck, is making sure this anniversary gets the celebration it merits, with roughly 30 FREE online programs taking place Sept. 17-22. 

There have been no in-person visitors to Karme Choling this season, but most things continue as usual. 

Purkhang under construction

The garden, for instance, is phenomenal; I don’t like to single out specific crops, but the tomatoes in the greenhouse are flaunting their sweetness this season (but not in an obnoxious way). Muscular woodchucks are galoomphing boldly across the front lawn (and being total woodchucks about it). The purkhang is shining after a beautiful, restorative freshening up by Karme Choling treasure Raven Fennell. Thank  you, Raven. I’ve taken your picture, and maybe it will hang on the wall one day.

And there is still that swirl of energy emanating from the Programs office, an invisible force that anyone who has lived here over the decades can probably sense on a cellular level. Perhaps with a shudder.

I am grateful for JT, mainly because I might have had to be Programs Manager if he wasn’t here.

Karme Choling’s 50th Anniversary Celebration begins with an offering of the Sadhana of Mahamudra, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s powerful, foundational practice — which arose for chaotic times, such as the one we’re experiencing now. This program is co-sponsored by Shambhala Online. Thank you, Shambhala Online. A Zoom dinner in smaller groups will be enjoyed afterward, offering a chance to reconnect with old acquaintances and make new friends.

There’s a full list of 50th Anniversary programs on the website — including the offerings of the Shambhala Sadhana, Werma, Chod, Vajrayogini and other practices — but here are a few that sound pretty interesting to me: 

Allen Ginsberg in the Main Shrine Room

The Global Nyinthun, Sept. 19-20, for which Karme Choling is recruiting Shambhala centers, groups and individual practitioners as timekeepers. “Every hour we’ll pass the hosting duties to a new umdze, one hour westward, all the way around the world until it comes back home to Karme Choling,” JT told me. I like the tagline: “No politics. No preaching. Just practice.”

Lineage Cafes, Sept. 18-20: These will be a chance to share heart connections to the many teachers who have offered profound teachings at Karme Choling. I’ll be attending the one focused on Trungpa Rinpoche, on the 19th. I started my Shambhala journey many years after the Vidyadhara taught here, but have enjoyed lots of stories told by cabin retreatants on their way up and down the Retreats Road. 

Other lineage cafes have focuses on Visiting Lamas (such as Dilgo Dheyntse Rinpoche, HH the 16th Karmapa, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche and HE the Third Jamgon Kongtrul); The Sakyong, Pema Chodron and Khandro Rinpoche.

Teaching discussions, Sept 20-21: These discussions include:

  •  “Protecting Compassion: Kasung Gathering” 
  • “Shambhala Householder Tea,” with Shastri Donna Williams.
  • “Shambhala and Art Discussion, with legendary Shambhala Artist Jack Niland and his students Alison Pepper and Tai Pimputkar.
  • “Karme Choling in Interesting Times.” What have we learned from the cultural upheavals, economic downturns, community scandals and PLENTY of “groundless” days?

The front door, 1971

We’re also going to do an entire cookout and luncheon with people who have worked on the land for many years and know it well. If you have served as a garden apprentice, or if you love cabin retreats, or are simply drawn to the Karme Choling land as a drala spot, this would be a session you want to attend. 

When I was Karme Choling’s Retreats Assistant, one of the highlights was meeting the Vidyadhara’s  students and carrying their practice materials up to a cabin. Along the way we’d pass the purkhang, and they often would open up and share a quick story about living at Karme Choling in the early years.

A couple of people have told me about the late-night fireplace ROTA, which involved staying up and stoking the fire through the night. It was the household’s only source of heat. If you slept through your shift, you’d hear about it from your housemates when the cold, cold morning arrived.

Some have told me gently conflicting stories about damming the creek to create the pond in the front yard — and Rinpoche not liking it so much when he returned some months later.

There are stories everywhere. There was that time a dathun was sitting in the Main Shrine Room while workers blasted rocks outside to clear the way for an addition to the house. One version says the blasting was halted, and that’s why we have that giant boulder living in our living room today.

I’m going to take Steve Sinnett’s picture soon. He’s another housemate, and is currently preparing the Eternal Knot for painting and restoration. His face belongs on the wall, too. And Betsy’s and Nathan’s and Suzanns and Tsondru’s and Jonathan’s and Nick’s and Elisa’s and Marian’s and Coyote’s and Donna’s and Jan’s and Maizie’s and Kayla’s and Kevin’s and Bill’s and the other Bill’s and Ella’s and Kaitlin’s and Michael’s and the other Michael’s and Sue’s and Sandy’s and Juila’s (dear Julia)  and Doug’s and Nanine’s and Camren’s and Caleb’s … 

… and man, once you start making a list you’re bound to accidentally forget someone. But you are in good company, along with the hundreds or thousands of others who have a hand in holding this beautiful and profound container. 

I know the sangha has a history of splintering, and am living through the current splintering into this faction and that one. I’m not taking a side here. However, I am extremely in favor of Karme Choling. The seeds of the dharma planted here 50 years ago have continued to grow, and so many people have nourished it since then. Thank you. I wish I had a picture of all of you, but I can feel your good work, and am so grateful.

Mike de Give has been a resident of Karme Choling since 2017.

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3 responses to “ Thank You for Building Karmê Chöling—Now Help Us Celebrate ”
  1. Christine Heming
    Sep 13, 2020

    Thank you Mike for this wonderful offering of your joy, inspiration and love of Karme Choling. It is contagious.
    So so pleased that you and everyone you mentioned are there.
    Ki Ki So So

  2. Paul T. Wegener
    Sep 11, 2020

    Dear Mike,
    Very touching, thank you.
    I was standing with Bill McKeever in the twilight after the blasting dathun you mentioned. The foreman came over and said they thought they were done with the excavation. We were standing by what is now the west entrance to the kitchen, looking north towards the rock. As far as I could tell, there was no measuring tape in sight. So that is why the rock is still there. The other end of that rock emerges in Nova Scotia.
    All my best, Paul

  3. Nicki Dayley
    Sep 5, 2020

    Thank you for this beautiful article and description of offerings for the 50th anniversary. It warms the heart of this broken-hearted warrior, whose path began at NY Dharmadhatu and Karme-Choling.
    Love you all for “holding down the fort”. Look forward to celebrating the 50th from a distance!

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