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Oct 22

Rupa Acharya Retirement Letter to the Shambhala Community

Filed under Sakyong and Family, Shambhala News Service

To the Shambhala Community,

I am writing to share with you that I have retired as Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s acharya representative to the post of Rupa Acharya (Form Acharya). Having requested the Sakyong’s blessings, this is effective as of the recent Harvest of Peace. I feel the work of this post is established and stable, and dedicated senior and next generation ritual practitioners are upholding the view, practice, and action of Shambhala ritual. For myself, I look forward to entering a time of deepening practice and study, and engaging further as a student of the Sakyong. I continue to serve as his acharya.

I am honored to have held this post for the past nine years, and feel deep gratitude and appreciation for the Sakyong entrusting me as his acharya representative for ritual and form. I have learned a lot and benefited greatly from his potent teachings and instructions at the International Shambhala Ritual Academies and his direct instructions and generosity to me.

Below is a brief description of the view and responsibilities of this post for those of you who may not be familiar with it, including its two primary manifestations. Also, please see my expression of appreciation for key practitioners who have joined me in refining and protecting the path of Shambhala ritual and form.

The view and responsibilities of the post of Rupa Acharya have been to propagate and protect the sacred forms of Shambhala and, in particular, the rituals, liturgical practices, and ceremonies that support Shambhala practice and teaching environments. The work of the post has included establishing consistency of umdze (chant leader) and chöpön (shrine server) training and determining how chants and chanting are introduced in the community. 

Shambhala ritual and form, which invokes sacredness and fosters awake and drala-soaked practice environments, provides the bedrock for Shambhala culture. It is an essential compass by which we can hold and deepen our meditative practices. Working closely with strong and devoted practitioners has been instrumental in bringing forward this area of the mandala. In particular, members of the following two groups have nurtured consistent practice and care of ritual and form: 

The Sakyong initiated the International Shambhala Ritual Academy (SRA) in 2013. Through three international SRAs with the Sakyong, and regional SRAs taught by myself and other senior faculty over seven years, 650 vajrayana practitioners trained in the vast view and specific details of Shambhala ritual and form. In 2020, a Shambhala Ritual Academy program, Lineage as the Heart of Ritual, and a follow-up Shambhala Online class were made available to non-vajrayana practitioners. 

In an ongoing way, the Ritual and Form (R&F) Group members have supported practice and education leaders and practitioners in local and regional Shambhala communities in the United States, Europe, and Canada. They have helped to foster Shambhala ritual; supported and trained consistent and harmonious umdzes and chöpöns; and nurtured a societal path of ritual practice as taught by the Sakyong.

I have worked and practiced with many brilliant, skilled, and dedicated people over these years, and feel much appreciation for everyone who has participated in deepening the view and consistency of Shambhala ritual and form. A special thank you and deep bow of appreciation to the following people: 

Charlie Goetzl, previous Director of the Shambhala Office of Practice and Education, and Walker Blaine, Master of Liturgies to the Sakyong, who were steadfast and skilled colleagues with overlapping areas of responsibility. It was a delight to accomplish numerous projects together.

Shambhala Ritual Academy Senior Faculty and Staff
Andrea Doukas, Timothy Quigley, and Walker Blaine for our collaboration and camaraderie in developing and implementing the Shambhala Ritual Academy according to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s vision and instructions.
Alexandra Landstra-Kalanine, Director, Chöpön Corps Europe
Acharya Alfonso Taboada, integral senior faculty Europe
Andrea Doukas, Director, Chöpön Corps, and key contributor to the initiation and implementation of the Shambhala Ritual Academy
Shastri Merlin Cox, Director, Umdze Corps Europe
Timothy Quigley, Director, Umdze Corps
Walker Blaine, senior faculty
Gayle Niss, SRA Assistant, for her organizational and administrative support for senior faculty and SRAs 

Ritual and Form Group Members
The Ritual and Form Group, which included those already named, has concluded its work. Special thanks to:
Charlie Byron, R&F Assistant, for his steady and dedicated work over many years to support the work of the Rupa Acharya and the R&F Group
Cyndi Levine, R&F representative for Halifax, and support for R&F Group meetings
Acharya Eric Spiegel, ongoing support and holding ritual instructions for death and dying liturgies
Gayle Niss, R&F representative for Boulder
Irv Kirschbaum, R&F representative for Northern California Region (NORCAL)
Jeff Scott, Director of the Shambhala Office of Practice and Education
Marian English, R&F representative for Karmê Chöling, Barnet, Vermont
Sandy Brooks, R&F representative for Vancouver and Northwestern United States and Canada
Tom Berthoff, R&F representative for Philadelphia
Ute Reinhart-LaHaye, Director of Practice and Education Europe, for her support of the SRA Europe faculty 

Thank you to Sangyum Wendy Friedman, Office of Culture and Decorum, for her support and guidance; Ani Dawa Chotso, for many years of singular and dedicated work on ritual documents for Scorpion Seal Assemblies; and to previous R&F Group members: Emily Bower, Susan Chapman, Jim Fladmark, Rebecca Martorano, Julia Persch, and Sabine Rolf. 

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche established the ground of Shambhala culture for us all. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is building on this ground and, through the Shambhala Ritual Academy, has taught us the power of ritual to create and change culture on this earth. The Sakyong has brought forward the culture of Shambhala ritual from an individual practice to a societal path of practice, a path that has inspired many of us to reduce individualism, open our hearts, connect with drala, and build community.

May those who are practicing the path of Shambhala ritual, and those yet to come, support this sacred manifestation of enlightened culture for the benefit of current and future generations.

With great appreciation and delight,
and in the vision of sacred Shambhala Ritual,
Suzann Duquette

Entries filed under Sakyong and Family

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