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.
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,
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,
Moon Lake of Compassion
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,
- Source: https://shambhalatimes.org/2020/08/14/three-recent-acharya-retirements/