Home     Contact Us         Log in

Dharma Teachings - Category Archive

Mar 12
Tuesday

Considering the Future of the Treasure of Shambhala

Filed under Dharma Teachings, Opinion Pieces

Este artículo ha sido traducido al español aqui.

Pour lire cet article en français, cliquez ici.

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.

Entries filed under Dharma Teachings


Weekly Videodhara

Weekly Videodhara – HIGHLIGHT

Infusing the Presence of Chogyam Trungpa into Your Curriculum Complied by Jennifer Holder, with Carolyn Rose Gimian, Gordon Kidd, and Denny Blouin contributing. The Videodhara By Denny Blouin Forget the mahasiddha for the west business: Just CTR in b & w and color, speaking. In your face, your brain, your blood Mainline direct, ... continue
Posted January 8, 2010 by Jennifer Holder
Seven Riches of a Sakyong

Seven Riches of a Sakyong – HIGHLIGHT

The Seven Riches of the Sakyong are traditional, universal and practical contemplations on how we can handle ourselves. They were introduced to the community by the Druk Sakyong (Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche) at the 1978 Kalapa Assembly. The accompanying photos are of rupas given to the Druk ... continue
Posted December 31, 2009 by David_Brown

Making Room in Your Meditation Room – HIGHLIGHT

The Zen Novice finished his first meal at the monastery. Anxious to begin his journey to enlightenment he asked his Master “Now What?” The Master replied, “Now wash your bowl.” —-Zen Parable By Acharya Michael Greenleaf Michael, Can We Talk? Michael, my dear, we have to talk. No, I didn’t ... continue
Posted December 30, 2009 by

Knowing Love – HIGHLIGHT

From the column Dharma Snacks by Cynthia Kneen I’ve been thinking about love. Rumi, the Sufi poet, says of love, “Sea water begs the pearl to break its shell.” In a different context, the Druk Sakyong, Trungpa Rinpoche, said, “The dralas are eager to fall in love ... continue
Posted December 25, 2009 by
Universal Responsibility and the Climate Emergency

Universal Responsibility and the Climate Emergency – HIGHLIGHT

By His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, who was the first to sign the Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change It is difficult to fully comprehend great environmental changes like global warming. We know that carbon dioxide levels are rising dangerously in the atmosphere leading to unprecedented ... continue
Posted December 5, 2009 by Jennifer Holder
“It Works If You Work It”

“It Works If You Work It” – HIGHLIGHT

What we can learn from the discipline of people whose lives are on the line. By Bindu Wiles I have been getting up at 5:30 am to get to my desk by 5:40. I have never been a morning person — I seem to do my ... continue
Posted November 29, 2009 by Jennifer Holder

Picasso’s Picassos – HIGHLIGHT

From the column Dharma Snacks by Cynthia Kneen There is a story about a collection of paintings by Picasso that Picasso kept for himself. One of them is very small, only 7 ¼ by 5 ½ inches. It is a very dark oil painting with a figure ... continue
Posted November 22, 2009 by

Interdependence and Freedom – HIGHLIGHT

By Sakyong Mipham What keeps us from tasting our inherent wisdom? Concept. We are generally chasing one conceptual creation after another. This matrix of concept appears in many variations, but its weak point is always the same: it is fabricated. Without really looking at the nature of ... continue
Posted November 21, 2009 by Jennifer Holder
The Cool Kids

The Cool Kids – HIGHLIGHT

By Acharya Michael Greenleaf Recently, the New York Times published an op-ed piece on a conference for Social and Affective Neuroscientists (or “Neuros”) which took place in New York this past week. According to David Brooks, the writer, “the leading figures at this conference were in their ... continue
Posted October 24, 2009 by

Chogyam Trungpa on Shambhala Sun – HIGHLIGHT

Teachings by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche The November 2009 issue of the Shambhala Sun features two new pieces, one by, and one about, Chogyam Trungpa. Look inside the November 2009 issue. Below are excerpts and links to classic teachings by Chogyam Trungpa from the Shambhala Sun archives. One-Shot ... continue
Posted October 18, 2009 by

The Joke’s on Me – HIGHLIGHT

From the column Dharma Snacks by Cynthia Kneen Trungpa Rinpoche always asked me to help him–at Tail of the Tiger, at Naropa University, and later, as he put it, “by infiltrating the business world and telling me what they are up to.” “Please,” he’d say, “Help me. ... continue
Posted October 17, 2009 by
Offering to the Guru

Offering to the Guru – HIGHLIGHT

On one of his trips to India, the Tibetan master Marpa brought gold dust to offer to Naropa, his guru (Sanskirt for “teacher”). Traditionally, tantric teachings are not just given away; the disciple must make an offering in order to receive them. Gold was the gift ... continue
Posted October 15, 2009 by Holly

Taking Refuge – HIGHLIGHT

By Sakyong Mipham The Tibetan word for refuge means “to be protected by.” Every day we wake up and tacitly take refuge in something that we think will offer us security and protection. Most of the time we put our poker chip on the little thing that ... continue
Posted October 2, 2009 by Jennifer Holder
Harvesting Happiness

Harvesting Happiness – HIGHLIGHT

The Tale of Meme Haylay Haylay This tale was collected by Dorji Penjore in Bhumtang, Bhutan. It is a retelling of one of the most popular tales in Bhutan. Meme Haylay Haylay was a poor old man. He liked his life, and was ... continue
Posted September 27, 2009 by

A Single Grain of Rice – HIGHLIGHT

An Indian teaching tale once told in the dining room of Karme Choling by Roger Guest, retold here by Laura Simms. There was a king in India who had four daughters. When they were old enough, he decided to go on a spiritual retreat. He left his ... continue
Posted September 26, 2009 by

RSS feed for the Dharma Teachings category

View all posts from authors in Dharma Teachings: Travis_May AnnicaCrouse alexvangils Luz_Rodriguez Alexandra_Kalinine Jody_Larson jsimmerbrown MichaelGreenleaf

Sites with content in this category: https://shambhalatimes.org/ https://shambhalatimes.org/ https://shambhalatimes.org/ https://shambhalatimes.org/ arrow.shambhalatimes.org https://shambhalatimes.org/



Website Development by Blue Mandala using Wordpress MU.
All content and source Copyright © 1994-2019. Shambhala International (Vajradhatu), Shambhala, Shambhala Meditation Center, Shambhala Training, Shambhala Center and Way of Shambhala are registered service marks of Shambhala USA

Facebook

Get the Facebook Likebox Slider Pro for WordPress
Translate »