Dialogue on the global challenge of Islamophobia

I am deeply concerned about the global challenge of the spread of Islamophobia. There is a compelling need for the international community to understand and meet this challenge, just as surely as it would need to combat any epidemic that threatens the well-being of humanity.

PRR_QandA_MoroccoRecently, I was invited to speak about religious conflict in today’s world at one of Morocco’s leading universities. This place of higher learning, Al Akhawayn University, belongs to the same international network, the Council of Independent Colleges, as Naropa University.

It is an independent, public, coeducational university established by Royal Decree to promote “the values of human solidarity and tolerance”. So it was a truly appropriate setting in which to talk about religious hatred.

I spoke from the perspective of two leadership positions I hold. I am the Chair of the International Working Group on Sri Lanka. It that works working for a just, peaceful and equitable resolution to the continuing conflicts in that country. In the last two years there have been more than 300 attacks on mosques, businesses and homes of Sri Lanka’s Muslim population – as well as attacks on other religious minorities. It deeply saddens me to say that these have been led, in many cases, by Buddhist monks and carried out in the name of Buddhism.

There have been similar outrages in Myanmar (Burma) where Buddhist attacks have forced 100,000 Rohingya Muslims, many of them women and children, into impoverished refugee camps.

These horrific developments have a particular resonance for me as the President of Shambhala. We are one of the largest international Buddhist-inspired organizations in the western world with communities on all five continents. The name “Shambhala”  itself is derived from a legendary kingdom famed for being an enlightened society. It is said that Shambhala was located at the western part of the Orient and the eastern part of the Occident—the confluence of the Asian, European, and Arabic worlds, thus embodying a spirit of universality.

With the blessings of The Sakyong, Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche, I am endeavouring to examine the worldwide incidence of Islamophobia and explore possible strategies to counter it. It must not be left to Muslims alone to defend themselves against this blight; this is a responsibility of all who care deeply for the shared values and dignity of humanity.

The International Working Group on Sri Lanka has engaged on this issue with representatives of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which brings together the Islamic nations within the United Nations. The most recent report of the OIC’s Observatory, covering October 2012 to September 2013, documents incidents in 18 nations involving attacks on mosques, desecration of Muslim graves, political and social campaigns against Islam and Muslims, intolerance directed against Islam and its sacred symbols, discrimination against Muslims in educational institutions, workplaces and airports, and other related phenomena.

These incidents not only target Islam. They are part of a larger and deeply disturbing tendency worldwide to denigrate, demonize and unleash assaults, often with extreme cruelty, on entire groups of people, victimizing them for their identity. Like all forms of religious, ethnic or cultural hatred, what is happening is a direct threat to the principles of co-existence that are essential if people of different faiths and traditions are to live and flourish together.

To quote the Secretary General of the OIC, Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, “In the present globalized world, peaceful and harmonious co-existence among diverse religions and cultures is not an option but the only means to enduring human cohabitation … It has always been my firm belief that like apartheid, the challenge for the international community is to dismantle Islamophobia completely and prevent its spread before it gets out of hand and jeopardizes global peace and security … The sanctity of freedom of expression and freedom of religion cannot be allowed to be endangered by those few radical extremists who are determined to create unrest and divisions in our present day world.”

The argument is put forward that Islamophobia as a whole is justified by the atrocities carried out by extremists in the name of their faith, thereby casting suspicion on the hundreds of millions who belong to the same broad tradition but who have nothing whatsoever to do with these outrages. If the logic of this mass demonization were to be applied universally, the curse of suspicion would fall like a shadow across most of humanity. The historical record shows that few of us can claim that no one has ever committed harm in the name of our faiths, our cultures or our people.

I believe a deep-seated approach is needed to understand and heal what is happening across the globe. It will not end simply by denouncing it and seeking to suppress it. It will continue to burn. If there is to be an effective international roadmap for constructive action, it needs to be grounded in a far more profound dialogue, based on the enduring, noble and transcendent values of our respective traditions.

Many people have written to me since my lecture was live streamed by the university and by Shambhala Online. The full text with slides is linked from my previous post.

Seeds of War, Seeds of Peace: Religious Conflict in Today’s World

I was invited to lecture on Buddhism at Al-Akhawayn University in Morocco yesterday, and to give a public talk on a topic of current international importance. I spoke on religious conflict around the world, and the deeper forces that may be driving that. It was an opportunity to share deep concerns about buddhist violence in South and South East Asia, global Islamophobia, the sharp rise in anti-semitism and other manifestations of human hatred, as well as to examine the influence of spirituality in the search for peace.

The video recording is posted on the Shambhala Times, along with a bit more information about the event.

If you prefer to read it, here is the full text I used in my presentation, interwoven with the images from the slides I paired with it.

The world of email

This is the sixth and final filmette in my new series of short excerpts on key points from the Six Ways of Ruling – taking on what can feel like “a horrific trail of karma that often I can never clear up!”

I hope you have enjoyed all six of these new videos! Don’t forget that you can engage more deeply with these unique teachings, and all of the information about how to do that is posted on this page of my blog.

New Teachings on the Six Ways of Ruling

Last year I launched a multilingual study programme on the Six Ways of Ruling, and I am delighted that many of you have begun to study these important and unique teachings – online, in your centre or group, or on your own.

I have recorded six new and short “filmettes” on six key points from the Six Ways of Ruling, and I will be posting them on my blog one by one over the next week. I hope you enjoy them!

Riots in Sri Lanka Spark Agitation for Peace

This Buddhist nation was recently rocked by severe communal riots. I was there in my capacity as Chair of the International Working Group on Sri Lanka. I talked to many community leaders in an effort to understand what’s happening, since many people are asking “How could this happen in a Buddhist country?”

“The evidence of goodwill is abundant at the community level wherever inter-religious gatherings take place,” says Jehan Perera, Director of the National Peace Council. “This is especially the case in areas where ethnically mixed populations live in close proximity. Small groups of extremists can create disturbances in these areas. But the ethos of the larger majority is to live in peace and harmony.”

A number of the country’s Buddhist monks and prominent lay teachers – who have themselves faced attacks and intimidation from the Buddhist Power Force — have also been active in stressing that violence and hatred are incompatible with the core teachings of the Buddha.

“What we are seeing is not Buddhism,” said Dr. A.T. Ariyaratane, founder of the country’s Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement which promotes rural development. “Buddhism does not believe it putting labels on ourselves or each other, but rather seeing all beings as part of the interdependence of life, and caring for all of them.”

Read the rest on my Huffington Post blog.

Announcing the President’s Draw Shambhala campaign!

Did you know that there are more than ten thousand members and friends of Shambhala on six continents? Our mandala includes the Sakyong, online communities, more than 200 Shambhala centres and groups, as well as individual members, located in major cities, towns, and in rural settings in over 50 different countries.

One of the great strengths of our community is that we are a global, multicultural and multilingual family. We would like to find ways of visually expressing this key message.

Shambhala Map 1Many people have expressed enthusiasm for having a map of our Shambhala world. There are a gazillion ways of doing this. As part of the work I have been leading relating to the Unified Giving view of the interdependence of every part of our global community, I am delighted to launch the “President’s Draw Shambhala Campaign”: you are invited to create and submit drawings or visual graphics showing “The Shambhala World,” however that looks to you! Two examples are shown here.

Shambhala Map 2

The video I made for Shambhala Day, “Countless Points of Light,” is another!

The best entries will be added to our international Shambhala webpages so that people can see different creative ways of presenting our global community. To submit an entry or get more information, please email Anna Weinstein.


Philippines: “We Can Stop This Madness”

Can we be hopeful about the future, with devastating events like Typhoon Yolanda in the news every day?

Speaking about the devastation in The Philippines, [Naderev “Yeb” Sano, the Philippines’ Climate Commissioner] acknowledged that it is always hard to attribute a single weather event to climate change, but, he said, “We know that the science is also clear that climate change will mean more intense typhoons. My country refuses to accept a future where super-typhoons will become a regular feature.”

This brought up to memory an interaction at Awake in the World earlier this autumn – read my full article about it on the Huffington Post.

Syria Crisis: How Much Shock and Awe Will it Take to Wake Us Up?

The article below is copied from the Huffington Post UK, and is my final piece leading up to Awake in the World.

The debate about bombing Syria is, in part, about the shock-and-awe policy of politics: most of us remember the shock-and-awe blitzkrieg unleashed over Baghdad as a curtain raiser to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Shock-and-awe, known in military parlance as Rapid Dominance, is a doctrine developed at The National Defense University of the United States in1996.

Although now used as a technical military planning term, the fundamental idea is not new.

It is based on the age-old notion that using overwhelming force against your opponents, those who threaten you or who you want to eliminate, is an effective way of subduing them, disarming them or exterminating large numbers of them – and thus accomplishing a range of political purposes.

It can also be a kind of apocalyptic lashing out. Think of the people jumping hand-in-hand from the blazing, collapsing towers of the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11. Think of the 7,000 men and boys massacred in a single day in Srebrenica. Remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki; it has never been possible to know exactly how many died in the incandescent heat and radiation.

As you start to trace events like this back through history – including long, drawn-out campaigns of conquest and genocide – the mind boggles. You begin to wonder what has been accomplished, apart from an almost inconceivable self-slaughter of our own species over the centuries and a spiral of addictive recourse to armed might, terror and revenge.

I was pondering all this this past week at a meditation retreat. It might seem a bizarre, even macabre, subject to contemplate while supposedly calming the mind. But dealing with the seeds of war and peace is at the heart of working with our own minds.

You could say that a little shock-and-awe (of a different kind) goes a long way when it comes to contemplating ourselves.

Whether we are simply reflecting on how we lead our lives, or whether we are engaging in deeper purification practices, we can have shocking moments. For example, we might find we are at war within ourselves, swept away by a current of aggression. At another time, in the mirror of the mind, we might see our habits of self-centredness, fear, anger and impatience.

There are also startling moments when we are struck by the natural, underlying health and resilience of the mind.

It becomes clear that there is a seamless connection between these seeds of war and peace in our own lives and the challenges of war and peace in the world around us.

In the same way that we feel the need to wake up from the misunderstandings, pain and conflict in our own lives; I wonder what it will take, as a species, to wake up from our larger, collective habits of inflicting harm on others and our planet.

This is the inspiration for the Awake in the World festival that kicks off at the University of London in a few days’ time. I’ll be leading one of the panels and introducing the international meditation master, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, whose recent book, The Shambhala Principle, opens with the warning, “We humans have come to a crossroads in our history: we can either destroy the world or create a good future.”

It’s a wake-up call worth meditating on, and a conversation worth being a part of.

Back to School: Whatever Happened to a Good Education?

As schools across England and Wales return from their summer holidays – with thousands entering the education system for the first time in their young lives – I am reminded of the words of a wonderful Sri Lankan friend of mine.

“All this killing is being led and supported by extremely well educated and highly cultured people,” he said.

He was not taking sides in his country’s war. He was bearing witness to a society being dismembered despite having some of the highest social indicators, including education, anywhere in Asia.

His words have haunted me. Education in itself is not necessarily a guarantee of civilization.

Click here to read the rest of this next article in my series for Huffington Post UK, leading up to Awake in the World in London. The festival begins September 12!

Mental Health and Meditation in the House of Commons

Earlier this year, one of the more unusual speeches in the House of Commons began by outlining the disturbing portrait of mental health in the UK: in the past ten years, the number of prescriptions for antidepressants has risen five-fold, from nine million to 46 million.

Yet this was not a report from the Ministry of Health. It was an intervention by a politician, about the value of mindfulness. He was talking passionately about the ancient system of meditation – dating back more than 2,000 years, to well before the time of the Buddha – in preventing and dealing with the breakdown of society.

Read the rest of my latest article on the Huffington Post UK, in advance of the upcoming Awake in the World event in London.

Did We Get Darwin All Wrong?

It has been fashionable from the time of Darwin, indeed almost beyond question, to hold that evolution is based on survival of the fittest. But what this latest study demonstrates is that the fittest among us are likely to be those who are the most adaptable, considerate and cooperative.

“Selfishness isn’t evolutionarily sustainable,” says Professor Christoph Adami of Michigan State University who led the study.

Might Darwin agree?

Click here to read the rest of this second piece in my series for the Huffington Post UK, leading up to Awake in the World – enjoy!

Applied Mindfulness Training

With interest in mindfulness becoming mainstream, many groups are now involved in presenting training on this. Recently, the Sakyong spoke about how you could go to the YMCA, a gym or a yoga studio to receive instruction. Shambhala has, of course, offered mindfulness and awareness training in countless ways over the years. This was embodied, in part, in the educational entity established in conjunction with Karmê Chöling, known as “Tail of the Tiger”. Its originating director was Patton Hyman, who stewarded it through its life until last year when there was a transformation from Tail of the Tiger to a completely independent entity: Applied Mindfulness Training. Patton continues his leadership role and has reached out to assemble a broader board with a wonderful range of skills and experience.

This is all now reflected on the Applied Mindfulness Training website:


It includes a blog with contributions by its leadership. I was asked to write a piece about my own experience of applied mindfulness. It took me back to an poignant moment during the war in Sri Lanka. If you are interested, please click here:


Does an End to Fracking Demand We All Dig a Little Deeper?

As part of the build-up to the London Shambhala Centre’s “Awake in the World” Festival, I was asked to write a piece for the Huffington Post UK:

As police and protesters continue to confront each other over fracking in the Sussex countryside, Frances Leader, a 61-year-old grandmother, told reporters: “This isn’t about one place, it’s about the whole country, and the future of the planet.”

Similar confrontations are taking place around the world, but in the midst of economic despair and anger about our environment a new question is emerging – about our humanity.

Read the full article on the Huffington Post – “Does an End to Fracking Demand We All Dig a Little Deeper?

Invitation to a Global Conversation

In the opening pages of The Shambhala Principle, Sakyong Mipham invites us to a global conversation about the future of humanity. He writes: “We may never before have considered human nature, but in order to move forward as a global community, it is vital that we do it now.”

“If a more enlightened society is to come about, it must be based on a global conversation,” he suggests.

Acharya Noel McLellan made a suggestion to me: Let’s get more and more people contemplating this – why don’t we come up with a graphic presentation of this message on film?

I invited Marguerite Drescher, one of the leading graphic artists in our community, to do the graphics. I filmed her as she worked. I also invited Sophie Leger, our new Director of Multilingual Development and a professional actress, to record the accompanying text. It is based on 14 sentences from The Shambhala Principle.

Please consider this videographic offering both an invitation to a global conversation and also an invitation to anyone else who would like to make artistic or other offerings to share the inspiration of The Shambhala Principle with others!

Can the model be adapted to centres and groups of varying sizes and stages of development?

Definitely – and it needs to be. At the same clear, there are clear principles that manifest in the model. If you are clear about those principles, this can be scaled up or down as you need.

An example of this is another frequently-asked-question: whether your council can include more than just the six centrally-appointed positions. The answer is most definitely! This relates to scaling the model to be most helpful and appropriate for your local situation. The idea is that, in addition to the six core positions, you add whatever will fit best with the overall strategy for your centre as it moves forward!

How does accountability fit into the Kalapa Governance model?

This is an unconventional model, based on mandala principle. The fundamental accountability is between the local leadership and the centre of the mandala, which can be understood as a deep commitment to the lineage –which in turn can be understood as a deep, indestructible commitment to one’s own wisdom, represented by the Rigden thangka in all our centres.

Sound far-fetched? Not in my experience. In fact, properly understood and manifested it is far more potent than a conventional approach to accountability that is rooted in a very different view of human behavior!

At the same time, this does not mean that there is no ordinary accountability to our community, our organizational principles or to the law of the land. Much of this is being worked out now with the help of Joe Inskeep who is working with some centres to develop a Policy Governance Manual. When that is ready, it will be widely shared, I hope!

How can we provide more in-depth training for centre directors?

The Kalapa Governance model places the centre director in a central and essential role. Because of this emphasis, and because we have needed it for such a long time, developing a path of training and practice for centre directors is one of our highest priorities. The launch of the new Six Ways of Ruling online package is part of this.

The Sakyong wants to devote more time to this too, with trainings for leaders – the first of these will take place in May at Karme Choling, and in June at Shambhala Mountain Center.

I would love to hear your ideas and specific suggestions for other ways of training centre directors, as well as other centre leaders. Please leave a comment here to contribute your ideas!

What is the difference between the governing and executive functions?

The Kalapa Governance model places great important on differentiating the governing from the executive function. The local Governing Council acts on behalf of the Lineage of Sakyongs to ensure that the local Shambhala Centre manifests the values and vision of Shambhala in its practices, programs and organizational conduct.

The Executive Committee is the leadership group that leads operations at the Centre. Its agenda is centered on interpreting and implementing policy, planning and managing mandala activity, and sharing results with the Council. In some centres, this group may be known by other names, such as Executive Team or Operations Team/Council.

This much more fully described in this document, Steps toward the Kalapa Governance structure at Shambhala Centres. Centres are moving toward this model at all different rates; recognizing this distinction is fundamental to understanding the model. How do you feel that this differentiation may be helpful to our leadership, or confusing? 

Is Kalapa Governance an “uplifted, spiritual practice” or a “bureaucratic chore that you agree to do as a last resort”?

Kalapa governance is what the Sakyong was pointing to when he asked us to practice Secular Sacred Governance. That vision is rooted in a deep understanding of the inseparability of the sacred and the secular. In this way, the Sakyong is inviting us to a practice in which the exercise of governance is a manifestation of the golden dharma of Shambhala! I wrote about this in a message to all the Kalapa Governance Gatherings. I just read it again and if you would like to too, click here!

The phrases in the title of this post are quoted from responses to our 2012 survey of our Shambhala leaders’ experience of Kalapa Governance so far. How does Kalapa Governance feel to you?

Why is this model – or any model – needed?

Introducing the Kalapa Governance model is part of the three major steps we are taking to support the Sakyong’s 2020 Vision. The three are: “Deepen our culture”, “Clarify our structure”, and “Strengthen our resources, human and financial”. This model is related to the “Clarify our structure” part. (Those of you who attended a Kalapa Governance Gathering in 2010 or 2011 will remember those three!)

In fact, it is part of the overall objective of “Creating a Culture of Kindness” since, with a clear structure, it is possible for people to know who is responsible for what, reduce internal confusion and friction and work together with a great spirit of cooperation and harmony. I think we all know how painful it can get when we have no idea who is doing what!

What is the Kalapa Governance model based on, and how does it fit into the big picture of our mandala?

In fall 2012, we conducted a survey of leaders throughout Shambhala about their experience to date of working with the Kalapa Governance model. I have written up some thoughts about some of the most pressing and fundamental questions related to the model itself that emerged in the responses. I will post these thoughts over the next few weeks, to help generate further conversation about these themes! I look forward to your contributions in the comments section.

The Kalapa Governance model is based on three things. First, the Three Pillar Model, which was introduced by the Druk Sakyong (Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche) as the overall governance structure for the Kingdom of Shambhala. Second, the current Sakyong’s wish to have much stronger links between all local centres and the centre of the mandala. Third, the contemporary Policy Governance model, which is highly recommended for the effective governance of organizations like ours. So it is really a fusion of the vision and aspiration of our lineage with a clear model for the effective conduct of business!

Year of the Water Snake

As the Year of the Water Snake approached, I contemplated its energy and meaning. I drew this image over the course of a long day, filming as I painted. It expresses the fluidity of movement and the intelligence of alignment that manifests in the kingdom of these nagas. I offer this with deep appreciation for the devotion, determination and creativity of our lineage and the global community of practitioners.

Among the Unique Treasures

President Reoch at the Kalapa Governance GatheringAmong the unique treasures held by the Shambhala Mandala are the teachings on The Six Ways of Ruling. They were taught by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to his senior students. With the publication of Ruling Your World, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche opened them to the public. Now, Richard Reoch, the President of Shambhala, is offering our community multiple ways to connect with this. This week, he launches an online home study course, plus a package of recorded talks for evening and weekend classes at Shambhala Centers and, in addition, a set of guided contemplations – all accessible on his webpages in English, French, and Spanish.
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“…the issue is the heart of our culture

rockyconnections A Christian minister who was in Colorado during the Columbine school massacre and is now pastor of the Connections Church in Newtown, Connecticut, has spoken about what he describes as “the heart of our culture”.

The Reverend Rocky Veach was interviewed by the BBC today. Here is a partial transcript (that I made and edited) of what he said:

“My wife and I lived in Denver at the time of the Columbine shooting. You never think you are going to live through something like that again, especially if you live in a small town like Newtown. You don’t think that is going to happen. But at the same time, I’m pretty sure that is why I am here. I am happy to help people go through what I have seen before….My job is to be there for people and to make sure that our congregation are not just people who are out there talking as Christians about Jesus, but are exemplifying him, loving people. I know from Columbine that the relational aspect — being able to talk to other people – the community, the fellowship part of it, meant a lot. It brought a lot of healing. The Lord works in the midst of that . . .

“I think the issue is the heart of our culture. There are lots of things we carry around in our hearts, that are more important than what evil people are carrying around in their hands. If it’s in the heart, it’s going to come out. That’s what the Bible teaches. If it’s not with a gun, it will be with some other kind of weapon. So, in my opinion, we need to work on the hearts of people. We need to ensure that from a young age they are exposed to the right kind of things. I don’t know if we are going to do that as a nation, but I think if we do we won’t see things like this in the future.”

Here is the interview itself, which starts 10 minutes into the program. Please click here

If you want to leave a comment, please see the post immediately below this — with the quotation from the Sakyong’s Treatise on Enlightened Society — and leave your comment there, along with everyone else!

Slaughter of the innocents

_64778224_64778223There is a dreadful poignancy to the mass killing of school children and their teachers, two millennia after the slaughter of the innocents – the Biblical massacre that took place in Egypt following the birth of Christ.

It is tempting to ask if humanity has made any progress, and to question human nature. We ask ourselves what can be done to prevent such tragedies from happening again. President Obama, in his heartfelt address, spoke of this: “As a country, we have been through this too many times . . . We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” he said.

As members of a global community, it seems important for Shambhalians to see this in an even broader context. This horror is the latest in a series of mass killings that have taken place in countries around the world, many of them deliberately targeting children and young people.

For a community exploring the principle of basic goodness, these are vital moments. We are forced to examine our own understanding when we are confronted by extreme cruelty like this. What does it mean to speak of enlightened society against a backdrop of mass murder? What is the basis on which to accommodate, understand and feel sadness for the cruelty of beings?

In his recently published Treatise on Enlightened Society, the Sakyong, Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche, directly addresses this question. I am posting it here for the benefit of anyone who wishes to use it as a starting point for their own contemplation and for their discussions with others. You are warmly welcome to post your heartfelt responses on this site as we reflect on this together worldwide.

“At times of great challenge, just when people need to be able to care for each other and the planet, they fall into fear and aggression. In that state, the vision and intelligence needed to solve the crises become buried deep within humanity’s consciousness . . .

“However, if that society mutually experiences the innate goodness of beings, its conduct reflects that point of view. Because of the backdrop of this greater understanding, even if beings behave with aggression or foolishness, that behavior is considered to be an irregularity and an anomaly; it is not considered to be their nature at the core. In this light, enlightened society will always face such challenges and obstacles; it is not a state of utopia. However, even in the midst of great suffering and challenge, enlightened society stays open and awake to basic goodness. If the message of basic goodness is fearlessly proclaimed, and if human relationships reflect this message, kind and virtuous conduct spreads throughout the society. Then, even when situations become difficult, our conduct improves.”

Adding my voice to the chorus of concern

The Canadian Government recently decided to deprive federal prisoners and correctional staff of their long-standing access to professional chaplains from minority religions.

I wrote to the country’s Minister of Public Safety, expressing my deep concern and urging that the decision be rescinded.

The Hon. Vic Toews,
Minister of Public Safety,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON
Canada K1A 0A6

Dear Minister,

I am writing to add my voice to the chorus of people from all faiths across Canada who are shocked by your decision to deprive federal prisoners and correctional staff of their long-standing access to professional chaplains from minority religions.

This decision flies in the face of one of the most laudable characteristics of Canada as a political entity in an increasingly interdependent world. Canada has a reputation for its commitment to creating a multi-ethnic, multi-religious culture free from the prejudice and discrimination that, sadly, has scarred the life of so many nations and regions in today’s world.

I am able to say this, not only as the President of Shambhala, Canada’s Vajradhatu Buddhist Church, but also in my capacity as someone who has been deeply involved in the search for peace in several areas of the world torn apart by inter-ethnic and inter-religious hatred. Canada’s reputation has made it a valued contributor to conflict resolution. The status of being a Canadian national is often instrumental in being welcomed as a facilitator in inter-communal strife.

The decision not to renew the part-time contracts of professional chaplains able to provide their unique services to members of their faith in federal correctional institutions runs counter to this long-standing and precious quality of public life in Canada. It sends a profoundly troubling message to everyone who cares deeply about the value of welcoming and protecting the diverse character of our population. The moral import of this damaging decision – taken at the highest level of government – is wholly disproportionate to the costs that will be saved.

The Buddhist community is undoubtedly one of the smallest in Canada. Until the decision to terminate the provision of all such services, Shambhala provided a part-time chaplain to meet the spiritual needs of Buddhist prisoners and correctional staff. Our voice within the larger community of those expressing concern is not loud. But in such a matter, numbers are not the issue. This is a question that goes right to the heart of the values that guide Canada as a nation.

The representations that you and other government leaders have received from the distinguished representatives of Canada’s faiths, large and small, are characterized by a common determination: respect, protection and care for people of all faiths is a guiding principle of our nation’s life. It is part of what makes Canada a symbol of what countless people yearn for, and give their lives for.

I urge you to return to the collaborative process maintained by successive federal governments to ensure that the religious freedom of inmates is respected. Nothing is served by ending that honourable tradition. Aware of the widespread consternation among religious leaders and their communities across Canada, I ask you to honour the memorandum of understanding between Correctional Service Canada and the Interfaith Committee that allows for the contracting of religious professionals employed by religious institutions to provide faith-based programming in prisons, serving both inmates and prison staff.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Reoch

President of Shambhala

Tonglen Practice on the Shambhala Network

One of the most potent ways in which our community manifests as a global network of compassionate support is through our constant stream of tonglen practice. Someone posts a request for tonglen and hundreds of Shambhalians respond.

Up to now, most people have done this by posting a message on sangha-announce. The old system reached 3,424 Shambhalians worldwide. When the new Shambhala Network goes completely live on Tuesday 9 October, a tonglen request posted on sangha-announce will reach 4,479 people.

So that’s one way you can post a tonglen request — just go to the Sangha Announce Group on the Shambhala Network and post your message there. There’s a link to the Group at the bottom of every page on the Network. If you have joined Sangha Announce on the Network, you will get the tonglen requests posted there.

Or, you can use a special feature on the Shambhala Network dedicated to Tonglen Practice. It’s the International Tonglen Practice Requests group.

This group dedicated to Tonglen Practice currently has 4,331 people. I just signed up myself and asked that I receive a daily report of all tonglen requests because I try to respond to everyone of these.

Here’s what you do, step-by-step, in six steps.

1. Go to http://shambhalanetwork.org

2. An opening page with an inviting nature photo asks you to bow and enter.

3. When you enter, click on the photo panel at the top right of the page — on the word GROUPS.

4. On the Groups page, use the search bar on the top-right and search for “tonglen.” The “International Tonglen Requests” group will show. Click on the group’s title.

5. If you’re not already a member, under the description of the Group you will find a box: JOIN GROUP. Click on this.
Once you’re a member (or if you’re already a member), you can click the yellow “New Topic” button to post a tonglen request.

6. Underneath the “New Topic” button of any group is a line that says: “Your email status is [Weekly/Daily/All Email/etc] (change)”. If you want to receive notifications of Tonglen Requests each day, click “change” and select Weekly Digest, Daily Digest, All Email (if you want to see them as they come in). Selecting “New Topics” means that you’ll only get each initial request — not any discussion about it that follows after.

I hope you find this step-by-step guide as helpful, and that it will further increase the practice of tonglen around the world.

Harvest of Peace

Harvest of Peace 2012 48K1

On this Harvest of Peace, I have edited together a number of highlights from Shambhala videos made by talented folks in our local Shambhala Centres. You can click on the image above for a Quicktime version or here for the film on YouTube!

Thanks to the efforts of our translations committees, the YouTube version has translated subtitles in nine languages!

This is the time of year when we all do our best to support our local centres and groups. So, please, wherever you are, please be as generous as you possibly can!

“A living and disturbing manifestation …”

Remarks by the President addressed to the Sakyong, Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche, at the Scorpion Seal Assemblies, Dechen Chöling, 2 September 2012

Towards the conclusion of the Scorpion Seal Assemblies at Dechen Chöling this summer, I made these remarks to the Sakyong in the presence of the assembled practitioners. Afterwards, he asked that the film of what I said be released to the Shambhala community. I am doing so at his request.

It was dusk when I spoke and so the video, shot against the evening light in the white tent, is very pale — although the sound is clear. For those who prefer to read what I said, an edited transcript follows below the link to the filmed remarks. Thanks to the help of Hamish Maclaren this footage is posted on a private, unlisted YOuTube Channel, not publicly accessible.

To view the filmed remarks, please click here.

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A Shambhala moment – updated

I was recently asked to give a little talk about Social Transformation. It was on the last day of the recent Shambhala Retreat that took place in Boulder, led by the Sakyong, Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche, and Acharya Adam Lobel. I was introduced as someone who had spent his life working for human rights, the protection of the rainforests, and peace. This photo was taken at the height of the war in Sri Lanka where I was helping efforts to try to bring the devastating conflict to a peaceful conclusion. When I spoke briefly in Boulder, I shared what it’s like to be stretched between such lofty aspirations and the daily reality of failure — and the relevance of meditation to that kind of pain.

Many people have asked to listen to my short remarks. Here they are. Please click on the little icon immediately below (not the words underneath that). The sound starts 19 seconds into the recording:

07.06.12 Sangha Retreatl RReoch


I was delighted to get a wonderful message from Shastri Chuck Whetsell after I posted my little talk. He said he appreciated the observation that whether we are addressing the horrors of warfare and environmental destruction, the smaller interpersonal violence of disrespect, or the self-directed dissatisfaction with who we are, the essential mechanisms are the same. He kindly send me very helpful notes from a gathering of teachers in Atlanta, where they talked about exactly the same thing. They offer a very helpful approach to opening up this topic in our local communities. The notes are posted on the Shambhala Network for the members of the Mandala Council (on which all centres and groups have a seat). You can also read them here. Thank you, Chuck!

“Incredible space of vulnerability…”

The High Park Fire raging in the Colorado Rockies is about five miles from Shambhala Mountain Center. Two days ago four of us went to visit the small crew that has remained there to prepare the defences against the fire if it reaches our land. Those still on the land are mainly our own firefighters who also form part of the district fire service. On our team were Carolyn Mandelker, Shambhala’s Executive Director, Christoph Schönherr, Director of Shambhala Europe and Kalapa Envoy to Europe, and Allison Rabinowitz, Assistant to the Director of Karmê Chöling.

Jon Barbieri, Shambhala Mountain Center’s Executive Director, spoke of the “incredible space of vulnerability” in which bodhichitta and kindness just flows out.

Christoph filmed the visit and we have posted several clips on the Shambhala Mountain Center YouTube site. You can get there by reading yesterday’s Shambhala News Service item and clicking on the live link.

I have edited highlights from that footage into a little three minute film. If you have Quicktime you should be able to watch it here. (For those who prefer YouTube format, please visit the YouTube site for the full footage.)
High Park Fire at SMC 19 June

Image from protection ceremony in the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya from The Coloradoan

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Shambhala Mountain Center – tender and valiant

The High Park Fire that is raging in the Rockies near Shambhala Mountain Center has been in the hearts and minds of the leaders and people of Shambhala around the world. Tens of thousands of forest acres have been destroyed, and countless animals and insects have been killed or forced to flee. Jon Barbieri and his brave staff have been on constant alert as the fire – which is still largely out of control and spreading – continues to threatens the land. They have been posting regular detailed reports to the whole community and have been deeply affected by the outpouring of concern, prayers and well wishes from people worldwide.

The Sakyong has been in close and constant touch with the unfolding crisis, working closely with the Kasung Khy Khyap Jesse Grimes. He has asked that we support the entire situation as a community of practitioners by giving particular attention to the Gesar and Magyal Pomra protector chants. Last night, at the Boulder Shambhala Center, where the Kurukulla Abhisheka is taking place (it was previously planned to take place at Shambhala Mountain Center) we recited the Magyal Pomra chant seven times, holding this situation in our hearts and minds.

My opening remarks, on behalf of the Sakyong and the Kalapa Council, were recorded. If you would like to listen to them, please click on the recording link below.

SMC Fire-President Reoch

The Purkhang

Twenty five years ago, on this very weekend, the students of the Vidhardhara, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, gathered in the upper meadow of Karmê Chöling for his cremation. This is beautifully recalled this weekend on The Chronicles of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche with a poem written on the occasion by his student, Allen Ginsburg, and a memoir by Paul Kloppenburg who designed and built the purkhang in which Trungpa Rinpoche’s body was cremated.

I took these pictures at dawn. The purkhang has been lovingly preserved. Its brilliant white surface stands out startlingly against the deep greens and shadows of the mountain trees behind Karmê Chöling. Over the coming two weeks, senior students practicing the highest of the mind terma received by the Vidyadhara will pay their respects as they circumambulate and bow at this site in the course of numerous lhasangs invoking the wisdom, compassion and life force energy of the Drala Lineage of Mukpo. E MA HO!

Vision to Action

Please take a few minutes to look at this new report, Vision to Action, from our Denver Shambhala Community. It is the result of a Community Planning Process that took place over three months and aimed to involve everyone in their community. They had more than 50 participants at each gathering, including long-time and new members as well as non-members. Not only did it generate a strong sense of community, it laid the basis for the anticipated growth of the centre over the next few years.
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Practice, Basic Goodness and Crazy Wisdom — a socially innovative minister speaks out

At a conference on the Strengths and Future of Nova Scotia, hosted by our Shambhala Community to mark the 25th anniversary of the parinirvana of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the Reverend Russell Daye of Saint Andrew’s United Church, Halifax, gave a passionate address about the impact of Shambhala in society, the transformative power of basic goodness, Crazy Wisdom in the Shambhala and Christian traditions and brought tears to the eyes of almost everyone who heard him speak.

Thanks to videogapher Sobaz Benjami and Robyn Traill (now Director of the Shambhala School), we have a beautifully shot film of Russell’s address. I urge you to watch it all the way through. It is worth every 15 of its minutes!

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Seeking Shambhala

These meditators are practicing in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, led by Shastri Diana Evans. Museum Director Malcolm Rogers called it, “the first ever meditation session in the museum.” It not only made history, it made the news. It was the featured item of “Celebrity News” in the Boston Globe!

It was all part of the opening of the Seeking Shambhala exhibition at the Museum. The exhibition features a set of newly-conserved 17th century thangka paintings of the Rigdens of Shambhala and is on display from March 6 through September 30.

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A beautiful annual report

Our friends in Chicago just sent me the link to their beautifully designed annual report. It presents all the activities of this vibrant center, with its network of over 1,500 people (members, friends and people on the mailing list) throughout the city. They are growing (18% increase in revenue this last year) and reaching out with initiatives that include their innovative Merit Exchange!

For a moment of refreshing inspiration, please visit this charming, informative and beautifully presented report

Year of the Water Dragon

People have asked me about the drawings in the little film I made for Shambhala Day. Someone even asked if I could make a film that would show the “making of the film”!

I filmed the emerging image of the dragon as I was drawing it for the final sequence of the film. I have re-assembled the footage of the brush strokes. If you want to see this one minute collage, please click on the large Q below …

The Water Dragon

Shambhala and Society 10

A culture of kindness

When did you feel you had a direct experience of being in a culture of kindness in Shambhala and what it was that made you experience that kindness?

“My introduction was a talk on death and dying. By the end of the evening we had explored all of our conceptions. As it stems from fear everyone was sharing their vulnerability and it seemed like everyone’s walls had dropped. I had no problem then sharing my fears. I was drawn into the openness. An incredible bond had developed because of that.”

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Shambhala and Society 6

A culture of kindness

When did you feel you had a direct experience of being in a culture of kindness in Shambhala and what it was that made you experience that kindness?

“The compassion that I have felt from this community has been very powerful. People allowed me to go through a very hard time. It was powerful because it got me through some dark moments. It showed me how I could be and also taught me how I could be more compassionate to others going through something similar.”
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Shambhala and Society 5

A culture of kindness

When did you feel you had a direct experience of being in a culture of kindness in Shambhala and what it was that made you experience that kindness?

“For me it is having my child (approximately 10 months old) here and not feeling like a nuisance with her. She is sometimes crying and walking around and still I feel nice and welcome. I am thinking constantly, should I go away, can we be here. The kind reactions we get are so warm, it doesn’t feel too awkward at the end. Also these words, we use here, goodness and kindness, they just touch my heart.”
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Shambhala and Society 4

A culture of kindness

When did you feel you had a direct experience of being in a culture of kindness in Shambhala and what it was that made you experience that kindness?

“Shambhala seems to be changing with the warmth of the Sakyong. There is a need to reduce things to the simplest elements, like kindness. Maybe these vows are one step along that path.”

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Shambhala and Society 3

A culture of kindness

When did you feel you had a direct experience of being in a culture of kindness in Shambhala and what it was that made you experience that kindness?

“In a squad meeting I felt naked, awkward and communicated it directly. Immediately other people responded, not in a sentimental way, but in a real touching and genuine way. For me this is the enlightened social mechanism. If you are brave (and slowed down) enough to communicate from your open heart, it invites kindness.”
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Shambhala and Society 2

A culture of kindness

When did you feel you had a direct experience of being in a culture of kindness in Shambhala and what it was that made you experience that kindness?

“The culture of kindness has to do with the silence between us – willingness to allow silence in communication. The richness of words and the richness of silence between two beings.”

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Shambhala and Society 1

Manifesting Kindness

When did you feel you had a direct experience of being in a culture of kindness in Shambhala and what it was that made you experience that kindness?

“I was experiencing a toxicity in life, which I associated with [the city where I live] I thought the city made me this way and other people seemed to agree with me. I found Shambhala and checked out the center. It blew me away – people made eye contact with me, they smiled, they came up and said thank you. I would work there on Sundays just because I had experienced so much love and appreciation for just being. I’d never felt that before.”

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“While we have been gathered here together…”

This is an edited transcript of closing remarks I gave at the Kalapa Governance Gathering at Karmê Chöling in the autumn. People have told me they found them helpful and I would like to share this as an opening and invitation to this new column:

The 10th anniversary of 9/11 took place while we have been gathered here together for the Kalapa Governance Gathering. There is a way of looking at that horror and all that followed it as being entirely about humanity’s drama of inclusion and exclusion. If that’s part of what we are being asked by our lineage to address, using the enlightened teachings have come forth in this dark age, then we ourselves have to become much more expert on this issue of inclusion and exclusion. Otherwise we will have little to preach to others.
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