Shambhala Governance and the Role of the Sakyong
So the governance structure that I would like to see is where the Sakyong is the sole head of Shambhala. And the main qualities that I would like to see within that governance structure is loyalty and appreciation between students and the Sakyong, samaya. So strong samaya connection between the center of the Mandala and the surrounding aspects of the Mandala.
As a vajrayana student and student of the Sakyongs, I don’t see any advantage to having a lot of diverse other perspectives and people with other kinds of motivation and intentions and aspirations. I don’t see any incentive for me to want to include people outside of that. If people have different intentions and different aspirations, fine, they can have all the aspirations they want. But that’s not what I think of as Shambhala. And if the organization is going to continue to be weakened by all of these different perspectives and points of views, that I won’t be part of it.
The reason I think that he wouldn’t want that is because I truly believe that he understands very well the importance of the student teacher relationship, in the transmission of vajryana. And in the transmission of our lineage. And that student teacher relationship involves the the whole atmosphere of the Sangha. And what we’ve had in our Sangha for many years, is all kinds of groups and people who are negative towards the Sakyong, not simply just following something else, but actually negative towards him. I think that is very much a root cause of our current downfall.
It looks to me like you’re saying we should go back to where we were five years ago. And, frankly, I think that was proved to be a disaster. An awful lot of people got very badly hurt, and an awful lot of people being irresponsible, we need to change things. So that does not happen again. And I agree without saying we need to kick out the Sakyong, or anything like that. But something needs to change. We can’t just go back to the way it was, which is what you seem to be asking for.
Sakyongs teach through governance. That’s what defines a Sakyong. How can you separate those within Shambhala?
I’m a Shastri, I took a Shastri oath in front of the Sakyong. And included in that oath, as a teacher, elder and spiritual friend, I assume responsibility for the core path of the Shambala terma in the region to which I’ve been assigned, and of quote. So the spiritual friend function has been quite diffused. So that’s offered as a correction to you saying that that’s all one person. This Sakyong, like his father, trusted Western students, to an amazing degree. And I know you might go on to say that that’s the reason for the problems that we weren’t trustworthy. But I’ll argue with you about that.
I’d like to say that I feel that the community is going through what we describe as an amicable divorce. And that I feel that we can’t define ourselves as a lineage institution. At this point, I personally have deep appreciation for the Sakyong and his father, but not everybody in the community does. And I feel that we need to concentrate on what we share in common: our trust in basic goodness and the path of meditation and as a way to awaken our wisdom and compassion.
The lineage is very central to some people’s practice, and perhaps the Sakyong needs to teach through an organization that does concentrate on lineage. But we have a huge building locally that needs to be occupied by more than just people who are close students of the Sakyong. It’s too big, and it needs to expand in some ways.
So I feel like we need to exercise a lot of skillful means to accommodate people of different views, perhaps some gatherings that include everybody and a lot of teachings that are separate at this point. And perhaps sometime there will be more unity. I definitely respect everybody’s feeling about the Sakyong, but I feel like seeing him as the center of the organization and the organizational mission needs to change at this point.
I’d like to suggest that our community does not have to be all things to all people. I don’t really get why so many of my fellow older students are so concerned about keeping everybody who has ever been part of Shambhala together and keeping it all intact and holding on to everything. Change is inevitable; whatever comes together, falls apart. And I think that in in that concern for other people that we know in the community, we’re giving away the store, we’re giving away the heart and the essence of what our tradition is.
My aspiration is that we keep our pursuit of enlightened society front and center. Fundamentally, do we have the view of figuring this out together? For me, that would be a mature response. Or are we going to take the easy way out?
Possibilities for Shambhala Governance
I would like to have a governor structure that has feedback and learning and change, and that we are curious, we look at the effect on each other, and we adjust. Not something that’s as locked in, but can be open to change and newness.
I would like to have a governance structure that is clearly and transparently organized, with the Sakyong at the center. I would like to have a congress that has fiduciary responsibility to the people who pay membership dues, and transparency about where that money is being spent. I would like to have input to that Congress. I don’t think we need to have elections, but we can certainly have open seats that people can apply for, so that there is representation.
I would like to see the people that work for Shambala get paid decently. I think another root cause of the abuse by senior teachers and other things really comes down to the fact that the centers and the land centers just didn’t have the money to have people in place as overseers and supervisors of activities within their centers. We we were trying so hard to expand at any cost and pay people nothing, and so it was always just a fundamentally weak organization that way.
I think going forward, even if it means selling some buildings, and selling some land, it’s more important to have a strong human resource within our community.
I think accountability is a very easy thing to say, and a very difficult thing to do. In organizations, you put people in charge, and you have to trust them, and sometimes they don’t live up to your trust. And that’s a problem in every organization.
But I’ve been around this organization for so long. And I remember all of the efforts on accountability in the past. I remember when Shambhala published its financial statements in vast detail: everybody was calling for it, and then nobody read it, and nobody really cared.
When people say, I want accountability, I want transparency. What is that? What do they really want? What are you really looking for in an organization? I think those are platitudes that don’t really get to the heart of our problem. They don’t really get us very far. I think we need to be much more clear about how to address the difficulties that we’ve had.
I fully agree that just saying the words “transparency” and “accountability” is never going to do anything. We need specific measures. What specifically do we envision by transparency and accountability? What are the skillful means that we’re going to put under that to make it happen?
Without a clear understanding of how we intend at least initially to implement it, and then evaluate it in three months and six months, in a year, and then every year, I agree that that by itself is not enough.