Shambhala Governance: Going Deeper, April 27, 2021

Selected Quotes

Generational Questions

I think that many of the younger people already left. I can see my grandchildren, they are so much more indignant about all of this than I am.

It seems kind of clear that until this issue is in one way or another, resolved, young people are not going to touch it. People who are attracted to Shambhala a bit are not going to touch it with a 10-foot pole, until we can all sit in the same room together and do shamatha.

I feel like there’s a middle generation of students that we’re kind of losing. And as new students come up, we will lose them, because there isn’t clarity about the path.

I hope we can have one umbrella. But then the leadership group have the, let’s say, two sides, and they have to be totally clear what is presented when you as a new person enter into a Shambala center, so that people have a clear understanding.

I really really want to fight, I want to do what I can in a non-desperate way to pass on the beauty and the explosive brilliance of what we’ve been given. But you know, maybe that doesn’t happen. Maybe the particular practice lineage of Surmang in America dies out in 50 years, when we all die out. It’s very poignant. And in a really odd sort of way, kind of beautiful. But I really don’t want that to happen.

Questions and Possibilities for Shambhala's Structure

If by governance we’re talking about dealing with financial issues of a collection of land and local centers, that’s important, and that needs to happen. But that’s not really what’s going to solve the issue and keep us going. We really need to find a way to help the teachings spread and spread and spread. And that has much more to do with opening things up.

Any notion that there is a thing called Shambhala which is a single identifiable thing, and it’s this and it’s not that, that seems to be a really bad idea. That’s a really dangerous trap. And we have much more of an opportunity now to support all the many ways in which the Shambhala teachings are spreading, and all the people who are helping to make that happen.

In terms of the practical approach to governance, I see that the arrows of control by the Potrang need to be cut, and that the Potrang is there to serve the succession of the Sakyong lineage, which is really important. But it doesn’t need land centers or anything else to do that.

So I really see much more like a federation approach, where the Sakyong and his students as well as profound Treasury and Chronicles and Wisdom Seat and anything else that feels as if it is part of the larger Shambhala lineage can all be members, and that the governance is to provide the services that those individual members request, but probably isn’t that much: access to texts and curriculum and access to shared promotional activities and communications and maybe some financial support.

It’s a collection of things that share the same lineage, all trying to spread the teachings. And the governance is only what those individuals need. So we don’t need to create a central Shambhala international that governs things anymore, that would be a mistake.

One thing more clear to me from this conversation is that this idea that somehow governance and the teachings could be separated is not really possible. And that when we’re talking about governance, part of what we’re talking about is who and what governs the teaching streams. So having that lack of separation is now clear, but how that can actually happen becomes less clear to me.

I’ve been very attached to holding on to the container that the Vidyadhara created. But I think the reality is, you know, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. Humpty Dumpty can’t be put back together again. But with every loss, that there’s a potential for other spread of the Dharma, and so maybe the contents of Humpty Dumpty is going to spread. I think that notion that the Shambala teachings could spread is very exciting. And the governance of that is something we can work on but the big view is very exciting, even though I’m still very attached to Humpty Dumpty.

The discussion clarified for me how important lineage is in resolving these issues. What does lineage mean and how can it accommodate different points of view?

I feel that a large umbrella is possible, but it has to be totally clear who is giving what teachings, so that students entering any Shambhala Centre know what is offered and how they can go about it.

I’m still not sure what the best solution would be after listening to the group. I personally want to be part of a group with the Sakyong as the spiritual leader, with a strong Shambhala Board that has some power to take care of business, social, and administrative matters.

I am hopeful that we will evolve a more horizontal governance that enables and requires responsibility from the bottom up. Definitely dividing church and state, and making the understanding of “church” more broad than the Sakyong alone.

The main question to the Sakyong might be: would you be willing to teach in a Shambhala mandala where other great teachers also might teach?

There will probably need to be various containers to spread Shambhala teachings rather than just one called Shambhala International led by one person. And that process will spread the teachings more.


These meetings just feel so great to me. I mean, there’s something fundamentally wholesome and healthy about listening to each other, that really feels both healing and creative. They never fail to encourage me that we’re talking to each other.

The goodness in this gathering is so palpable. I am more confident that it will prevail, in spite of the broken Humpty Dumpties and the paradoxes that will eventually untangle (and then likely tangle again).