Dear Shambhala Educators and Leaders,
Thank you so much for the strength and patience that you have shown over this past period of uncertainty for our Shambhala community. We want to invite you to continue your exemplary work as Shambhala teachers, meditation instructors and guides, and to join together in shaping Shambhala practice and education as we move forward.
In this communication we are happy to provide you with a first look at the view and initial actions being planned for those elements of the practice and education sphere that are within the purview of our Shambhala organisation. This letter is being sent to all Shambhala educators (that is, teachers, Shambhala Training directors, meditation instructors, SPMIs and Shambhala guides) and centre leaders. A more general letter is being sent to the entire community. This educators’ letter will also be posted so that interested community members can access the more detailed picture that we offer here.
Our Shared Dharma Heritage
As sangha members of Shambhala, we share a rich and multifaceted heritage of teachings and practices, all centred on the experience of basic goodness and its manifestation as enlightened society. Our teachings and practices are rooted in the Buddhist and Shambhala traditions. They have been brought forth by our Sakyongs, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. They have also been enriched by companion lineages based in the arts and cultural knowledge, springing from many sources. They continue to come alive as they are applied to our worldly experiences — relating to mental and physical health challenges, child rearing and end-of-life issues, and the many social and environmental crises that we face.
Since the origins of our community, we Shambhala sangha members have shared the responsibility for nurturing this heritage and bringing it forth so it is available in contemporary and relevant forms. While we each have our own personal relationship to the Sakyong lineage, and the form of this relationship continues to evolve for each of us, as teachers, meditation instructors and guides we remain devoted to preserving and propagating the dharmas of Shambhala for the benefit of all beings.
A Practice and Education Container
The Office of Practice and Education in our Shambhala organisation continues to be committed to identifying and making available the resources that support the community in accessing Shambhala’s teachings and practices. At the same time, the structure and workflow of the Office need to change in order to adapt to the changed relationship between the Sakyong and the Shambhala organisation. Some changes in our curricula and our approaches to teacher/instructor training and authorization are required as well.
Our plan is to create a networked, collaborative structure to carry out the many tasks and make the many decisions involved in practice and education activities. We intend for this structure to tap input from the entire community of Shambhala educators and to include feedback mechanisms so that we continually evaluate the impact of our decisions and actions as they are implemented. This will be a work-in-progress that will evolve over the next few years through innovation, trial and error, and mutual learning of the skillful means of collaborative work.
Within this new structure we will be forming five working groups to support and bring forth the qualities of the different aspects of our dharma heritage. It may be helpful to think of these as five baskets, each filled with jewels that represent different components of our teachings and practices:
- Introduction to shamatha meditation. Open shamatha practice. Shambhala arts. Meditation in settings such as schools and prisons, addiction recovery offerings, dharma tailored for children and youth.
- Foundational Buddhist teachings and Shambhala Training Levels 1-5. Supportive courses drawn from the In Everyday Life and Basic Goodness series, the Profound Treasury, and the Shambhala School of Buddhist Studies. Weekthuns and dathuns.
- Mahayana Buddhist teachings on compassion, emptiness and interdependence drawn from these same sources. Teachings on enlightened society and kind communities. An in-depth group retreat focusing on Buddhist and Shambhala principles.
- Introduction to the Shambhala terma, Windhorse, Drala, Four Dignities, Golden Key and Warrior Assembly, Supportive courses on the terma tradition and the classical roots of the Shambhala terma. Introduction to the five wisdom energies and maitri space awareness practice. Study and practice of the Sadhana of Mahamudra. Solitary retreat practice.
- The Vajrayana sadhanas and pujas that we have already received from our teachers. The post-Vajrayana courses, including the Ngedon School courses, which have been developed in our community over many years. Support for Ngondro practitioners. Entry into the Kagyu Vajrayana, and entry into Werma Sadhana practice.
The five working groups caring for these five baskets of jewels will include short-term task forces formed by community volunteers to work on specific projects. Representatives from each working group, along with representatives from the practice and education leadership of local centres, will form a council to make recommendations on curricula, teacher and instructor training and practice guidelines. These recommendations will be based on our shared values of genuine dharma, inclusion, supportiveness and sustainability into the future.
We are fortunate that our Shambhala sangha includes many highly respected senior teachers who have guided us in study and been models for us in practice in different contexts for a long time. In the coming weeks we will be reaching out to senior teachers, and we appreciate all of those who have already been in touch with offers to continue to support study and practice in Shambhala.
The Way Forward
Many of us in the Shambhala community already have a spiritual path that has been woven as a sequence of teachings and practices held in the five baskets described above. Some people who are newly encountering our community are seeking such a path. Others within our community have chosen to practise and study their own selections from these baskets rather than following a prescribed route through all of them, and this will be the case for some who encounter Shambhala in the future. While, of course, there are logical course sequences and program prerequisites, each of these baskets of dharma have their own integrity and offer powerful benefits when explored wholeheartedly. As a community of educators, we are here to support everyone in accessing the dharma in the way that is most meaningful for them.
As we create and maintain this collaborative process in the practice and education sphere we will be engaging with topics that are both complex and tender. We want to take all of these topics very seriously. We want to involve knowledgeable and respected community members and senior teachers in studying them and in making recommendations that consider all perspectives. We want all of these discussions to be transparent, so that it is clear to everyone that the resulting decisions are made with the intention of mutual benefit.
We look forward to involving all Shambhala educators as we co-create this new approach to Shambhala practice and education. Everyone’s views and voices are valuable. All of your current teaching and instructor authorizations are valid and still stand. If it is your choice to become inactive as an educator at this time, please inform the Practice and Education Director at your centre. That person can authorise the appropriate changes to your Shambhala Database record.
In the near future we will be hosting community conversations to provide more information and to gather your feedback on practice and education priorities. These sessions will be announced publicly, but If you would like to receive a direct invitation, please click here to join our contact list. Recruitment of volunteers for our working groups will occur after these community conversations.
Our Shambhala groups, centres, land centres and Shambhala Global Services team members have been remarkably resilient in this time of so many challenges. We are learning how to pool resources. We have manifested tremendous creativity in the content and forms of our programming. We have cared for each other as our views and practice paths have diverged. We have introduced new people into Shambhala with honesty and gentleness. Let us all continue with these activities as we move forward.
In the Vision of the Great Eastern Sun,
The Shambhala Board