Home     Contact Us         Log in

Opinion Pieces - 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 Opinion Pieces


Politics Is Internal

Politics Is Internal – HIGHLIGHT

Politics as Practice by Larry Barnett, Shambhala Director of Communications There is a yogic practice in Tibet that takes place in a charnel ground, or what we call a graveyard. Graveyards in Tibet, which is mostly rock, are not the neat and grassy parks we have here in ... continue
Posted August 3, 2013 by Larry Barnett
The Plight of Canadian First Nations Children

The Plight of Canadian First Nations Children – HIGHLIGHT

NEW COLUMN: In the News article by Linda V. Lewis Of 150, 000 First Nations children in Canada, more than 3,000 died in the residential school system, which ran from the 1870s until the 1990s. These shocking findings are the result of a first systematic search of government ... continue
Posted March 31, 2013 by
Does Shambhala Discriminate Against the Disabled?

Does Shambhala Discriminate Against the Disabled?

I was shocked when I went to a retreat at a Shambhala retreat centre recently. A woman arrived in a wheelchair and it was quickly realized that she had no wheelchair access to her dorm room. She also had a hard time navigating between rooms in ... continue
Posted February 9, 2013 by
Critical Thought, and Shopping

Critical Thought, and Shopping – HIGHLIGHT

a brief essay by guest contributor Amanda Hester It is not ‘Big Business’ with its CEOs, Walmart, outsourcing, or misguided policies that shall ultimately destroy the world, these are all just symptoms of our fear and the ignorance that comes from it. Indeed, all of our ‘demons’ ... continue
Posted December 5, 2012 by
Sit Here Now

Sit Here Now – HIGHLIGHT

by Anne-Marie Keppel, Montpelier, Vermont My ten-year-old daughter is trying to understand how her mind works. She is becoming curious of her frustrations and anxieties and becoming aware of how they sometimes take over and cause stress and unhappy feelings. Slowly and solidly, she is creating a ... continue
Posted September 21, 2012 by
Union of Dharma and Art

Union of Dharma and Art – HIGHLIGHT

photos and article by Dana Marshall In my last year of high school in Boulder, Colorado (1978), at 16 years old I had completed all the required courses so I had the opportunity to focus on what really interested me which was painting, photography, ceramics and mythology. ... continue
Posted May 7, 2012 by
Powerfully, Be Generous

Powerfully, Be Generous – HIGHLIGHT

This article is part three of a series on the practices of generosity by Jonathan Hanna. Click here to read the first article: Simply, Be Generous, and here to read the first article: Practically, Be Generous. Generosity can have two objects, the fields of benefit (sentient beings) ... continue
Posted March 13, 2012 by
The Fourth Pillar

The Fourth Pillar

by Andrew Forbes There is a void in the Shambhala community. For all the sophisticated practices of meditation, a budding governmental body, and military protection, there is something still missing from the lungta of the developing community. I feel it every time I walk into the Shambhala ... continue
Posted February 9, 2012 by
Staying Healthy on Retreat

Staying Healthy on Retreat – HIGHLIGHT

A natural approach to wellness while on retreat by Silas Rosenblatt, R Ac Anyone who has spent any time at a group retreat or meditation program is likely to be familiar with one of the many obstacles that arise in practice – getting sick. Back pain, boredom and ... continue
Posted January 18, 2012 by
Practically, Be Generous

Practically, Be Generous – HIGHLIGHT

This article is part two of Simply, Be Generous, previously posted on the Shambhala Times, by Jonathan Hanna. There are said to be three kinds of generosity: giving material goods, giving protection from fear, and giving the dharma. Throughout the history of buddhadharma the teachings have been ... continue
Posted January 9, 2012 by
Simply, Be Generous

Simply, Be Generous – HIGHLIGHT

by Jonathan Hanna Within our sangha as a whole, we often struggle with the dilemma of how to be generous in offering the teachings while ensuring the financial solvency of our centers. Individuals grapple with the same challenge, wishing to contribute financially, either for receiving specific teachings ... continue
Posted November 18, 2011 by
Protectors of Wealth and Wisdom

Protectors of Wealth and Wisdom – HIGHLIGHT

by Judy Bond Last March I wrote an article for the Shambhala Times about drilling for shale gas, which is a new technology that allows the mining of natural gas from shale formations, often thousands of feet within the earth. Such formations are widespread and ... continue
Posted August 29, 2011 by
Artfully Wedded in Britain

Artfully Wedded in Britain – HIGHLIGHT

Jennifer Holder shares her cross-national perspective on watching William & Catherine’s Royal Wedding live. As the royal wedding proceedings rest for photographs and inner-sanctum formalities, electricity is surely surging across Britain as everyone flips the switch on their kettles for tea. I myself flipped the switch, but ... continue
Posted April 29, 2011 by Jennifer Holder
 Natural Gas in Nova Scotia: What's best for all?

Natural Gas in Nova Scotia: What’s best for all? – HIGHLIGHT

By Judy Bond Last week Nova Scotia accepted bids from companies proposing to develop onshore natural gas reservoirs from shale deep under the province. Natural gas is cleaner burning than coal and oil, creates less global warming, and is locally available. But what are the pros and ... continue
Posted March 30, 2011 by
How is the oil spill affecting you?

How is the oil spill affecting you? – HIGHLIGHT

By Bill Scheffel, writing from New Orleans. Three of my walks in New Orleans took me into the Ninth Ward and the Lower Ninth Ward, the primary neighborhoods that delivered pictures to the world of people left behind, stranded on their roofs in the floods ... continue
Posted June 15, 2010 by

RSS feed for the Opinion Pieces category

View all posts from authors in Opinion Pieces: Claire_Crevey alexvangils Luz_Rodriguez Ashley_Dinges Eric_Rainbeau DhiGood cghenderson Susie_Cook

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