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Talk to me about Shambhala please

edited October 2010 in Sanghas
I am looking to visit a Buddhist center soon and from the looks of it the two best options in terms of a center that has activities on days and hours I can actually make it are a Shambhala center and a Zen center.

I am familiar with Zen (intellectually), but Shambhala is new to me. I became familiar with it while reading a book by Pema Chodron and I very much enjoy her teaching. However I have heard that it's controversial to some primarily due to it's founder's antics. It also seems it's not Buddhist, but Buddhist like.

Anyway, I really don't know much about it as my above paragraph makes clear so I thought I would ask you folks what it is about and if it is 'kosher'. I do like the idea of their weekend training programs and the level 1 program starts next week so I am considering that.

Comments

  • edited September 2010
    Shambhala is alright. Even though Trungpa's behavior was (in my opinion) deplorable at times the organization that he left behind seems to be a good place for a lot of practitioners to get started. I'm not sure about any kind of long term commitment though.
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited September 2010
    There's definitely a cult-like quality to it. Its paramilitary arm sort of squicked me, when I flirted with it. Love Trungpa's teachings, though.
  • edited September 2010
    Yeah, I agree, 5B. I love Trungpa's teachings, but I think the organization today is more than a little cultish, unfortunately.

    Palzang
  • edited September 2010
    Palzang wrote: »
    Yeah, I agree, 5B. I love Trungpa's teachings, but I think the organization today is more than a little cultish, unfortunately.

    Palzang

    Would those of you who say the organization is cultish please elaborate a bit? The main reason I am considering a Shambhala center apart from their location and convenient hours is Pema Chodron. Her books seem to have a lot of wisdom and I think I could really benefit from it. She is a student of Trungpa's and seems to have a really good heart.

    I really do not wish to get involved with an organization that is just going to waste my time and I already ordered Trungpa's book "Shambhala: The Sacred Path" which I am told covers most of the info the level 1-5 courses do.

    I really, really want to find a Buddhist center I can become involved with, but really, really have no interest in getting taken off the path by a cult. My time is very limited with a full time job, wife and 4 kids 2 of whom are special needs and 1 requiring 24x7 medical care. That's why I am asking about this organization. Hearing that they may be a cult without any evidence supporting the assertion just confuses me.

    Are they kosher or not and if not, why not?
  • fivebellsfivebells Veteran
    edited September 2010
    It's just my impression. In your shoes, I would try them out.
  • cazcaz Veteran
    edited September 2010
    Try them out see If they are for you :)
    No one gains anything from listening to gossip :)
    dhammachick
  • edited September 2010
    Hi Username_5,

    Don't be in too much of a rush. Investigate the core teachings of the historical Buddha first, before getting involved with any organisation. ( Maybe check the big Buddhanet site and also What-Buddha-taught-net)

    If things don't seem to fit in with your own investigations of Buddha's teachings and your own reasoning and common sense, then don't get involved. :)


    Kind wishes,

    Dazzle


    .
    oceancaldera207
  • edited September 2010
    Yes, Pema Chodron is great. My comment stems from the fact that I used to be a member of Vajradhatu (now Shambhala) way back when when Trungpa was alive, and now the organization has changed a lot, and not for the better from what I can see. Just my opinion. But you have to remember that Pema Chodron is not really part of the Shambhala organization per se. She's with Gampo Abbey, an ordained nun, while Shambhala itself is predominantly laypeople. I know from personal experience that they don't really like or get ordained people, particularly Western ordained people. So Pema is sort of apart from all that.

    Palzang
    FoibleFull
  • BarraBarra soto zennie wandering in a cloud in beautiful, bucolic Victoria BC, on the wacky left coast of Canada Veteran
    edited September 2010
    It is very much a personal decision as to what fits best for you. I have practiced with a Rinzai Zen group - very formal, but I liked it, and a meditation group based on Soto Zen, where I still go and I like it very much. It is led by someone with 30 yrs practice, was a monk at one of the early zen centres, and has a degree in Buddhist studies. His zen talks show that he is very learned. By contrast, I started with a study group at a Shambhala centre which was led by two lay people. These people had no experience in leading groups, and had very little learning in buddhist studies. The book we were using (by Trungpa) was clearly by someone with english as a second language, and some of the passages gave advice which I felt to be inconsistent in tone from the teachings that I'd received elsewhere. I didn't like being in the hands of amateurs, so I quit.
  • edited September 2010
    I can't comment on the nature of the Shambhala organization. I'm a fan of Pema Chodron's writings -- who isn't? ;-) -- but have never met her.

    I have, however, met Ani Trime, a nun in the Shambhala tradition and great buddy of Pema. She assisted Anam Thubten Rinpoche in his last two retreats in my neck of the woods, so I had the chance to hang out with her, ply her with questions, crack jokes with her. She's indescribably delicious. 82 with the energy/playfulness of a kid. Very kind, big heart, but able to stop you cold with deft and delightfully blunt insight. Example: At one point I pulled her aside, breathless with excitement about the experience I'd just had during meditation, convinced I'd seen the light. She let me get it all out, then without missing a beat she said, with a wry grin: Are you sure you didn't just fall asleep? :-)
  • edited September 2010
    A lot of Shambhala centers host visiting teachers as well, which is a good way to get some teachings without committing to the center, lineage, or tradition.
    Some of the teachers are truly excellent, Khandro Rinpoche regularly teaches at Shambhala centers and she is an amazing lama.
  • Invincible_summerInvincible_summer Heavy Metal Dhamma We(s)t coast, Canada Veteran
    edited September 2010
    fivebells wrote: »
    There's definitely a cult-like quality to it. Its paramilitary arm sort of squicked me, when I flirted with it. Love Trungpa's teachings, though.

    Paramilitary? Whaaa??
  • edited September 2010
    Paramilitary? Whaaa??

    Yup. Its super weird.
  • ShutokuShutoku Veteran
    edited September 2010
    The paramilitary thing prompted me to do a little googling and found this:

    http://lightindarkplaces.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/shambhalabuddhism/

    I cannot attest to it's acuracy, but it seems to be a fair review.

    I know there is a Shambhala group in my town who have inquired about renting our Shinshu Temple, however they want it on days we use it, so it was a no go.
  • cazcaz Veteran
    edited September 2010
    Shutoku wrote: »
    The paramilitary thing prompted me to do a little googling and found this:

    http://lightindarkplaces.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/shambhalabuddhism/

    I cannot attest to it's acuracy, but it seems to be a fair review.

    I know there is a Shambhala group in my town who have inquired about renting our Shinshu Temple, however they want it on days we use it, so it was a no go.


    That was certainly an interesting read, Although personally I make no Judgement on something untill Ive tried it, The paramilitary thingy looks a bit odd for a Buddhist organisation though.
  • edited October 2010
    The Shambala organization is very structured and has a strong emphasis on "court life" of the Kalapa court, which is ostensibly modeled on the Kingdom of Shambala. I personally don't feel the need to turn my back on Western democracy to engage in feudal Tibetan role-playing but maybe some do. If you like playing Mr. Dressup and calling your dharma friends Lord and Lady, you may just have found a new home.

    In all seriousness, I find it really hard to relate to the pretenses of this organization. I dearly love Pema Chodron's work and Trungpa Rinpoche's as well, which I find to be the furthest thing possible from the tone and flavour of Shambala. There has been considerable controversy over the past few years as the new head of the Shambala organization has brought the Shambala teachings together more closely with buddhism. I don't know that I would call them a cult. I don't think that they brainwash anyone or keep them from communicating with the "outside world". They are however somewhat controversial, so I would not let proximity be the ultimate determinant of where you go sit.
  • edited October 2010
    I'd say that pretty much sums up my feelings, Karma. While I've met the Sakyong and like him, I don't really like all the pseudo-Tibetan court stuff much either. Feels like some sort of exclusive club thing, though I also don't agree it's a cult. Just not my cup of tea. But then I'm a Nyingmapa!

    Palzang
  • FyreShamanFyreShaman Veteran
    edited October 2010
    There is sometimes a problem when westerners try to recreate the original culture of their teachers and those of past generations. What would not be given a second glance in one country looks barking mad in another. (Must stop doing Chöd dances in Walmart. LOL :) )

    Another issue which applies to TB and its derivatives is Guru Devotion. Given a jaundiced view, one may slap the 'cult' label on anything Tibetan which appears to be worshiping a teacher as a living deity.

    I've spent a lot of time in organisations deemed cultish. (Thinking about it, it's an accusation I've only really heard being bandied about by Westerners, often about each other.) I've also spent a lot of time in 'mainstream' TB. There has been very little difference in the core practices.

    I would advise, as others have, a strategy of exploration. Maybe a couple of visits, then prepare some questions about what you have seen, and return to ask them.

    The LARP (Live Action Role Play) some seem to be engaged in may help some break down their delusions, their understanding of the nature of emptiness and reality, much as Self-Generation tantric practices do. Or they may be engaged in ego-massage and bonding with each other - whatever you do don't roll up a trouser leg and agree to the blindfold! LOL :)

    Delusions - we've all got em, but I wouldn't recommend joining an organisation which adds even more to your load! ;)
  • I first test this feature
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited March 2012
    DETAILED POST DELETED.

    @flying69, Please clarify with admin before posting an advertising post.
    Also, it would be best to simply ask members to PM you for further information, as publicising contact details open to general public viewing, is discouraged.

    Many thanks.
  • SabreSabre Veteran
    edited March 2012
    I went to a shambana sangha once. One time may be a bit little to judge, but I didn't get any of this cult aspect vibe. I didn't know anything about the teachers or whatever, I just went there to check it out. Didn't even know it was Tibetan Buddhism before I walked in. But in general I enjoyed it and the people were very friendly. However, if you already have doubts beforehand, maybe you will have another experience, I can't tell you.

    I don't really recall why I didn't go back more often, but I ended up being more involved with a Zen sangha. It's was mainly their practice that suited me more and the people were maybe a bit more open. But it's a personal thing. So I also suggest just to check the opportunities yourself. It's the easiest way to find the right place.

    Also, you don't have to choose. You can keep going to both. A lot of people I know -including myself- also visit different traditions and we openly talk about this; even plan to go together. And that's great, I think. There is not so much difference in all traditions in the end.
  • I am an ex-member of Shambhala, been to Vajradhatu seminary with Trungpa in 1984. It is not a cult, but it is an incrowd. I think all organisations like have got some sectarian aspects to a certain extend. Their techniques are good. Shambhala is quite expensive.
    Willem
  • I have gone to our local Shambhala center in Denver and it is very nice. I never got a weird vibe. There is also a mountain center and everyone I know who has gone has had a good experience. Most of the time they go for a special teacher and they have those all the times. There are programs for creativity or running meditation or beginning, etc.

    I can see it is very hard to get away with your life so trust your gut and just try something unless you have a really bad feeling IMHO. Just going to any retreat will be good.
  • As a long-time practitioner of Buddhism, and a committed Shambhala Buddhist practitioner, I would like to offer a few comments that may help with these considerations.

    First of all, Shambhala is really about using your environment to wake up. This is one of the main reasons that Shambhala is mostly a sangha of Buddhist lay householders. It is about working with the obstacles we face every day and putting our practice (on the cushion and otherwise) into action. This means dealing with structure, form, money, hierarchy, imagery, etc., etc.

    It's certainly worth trying, in my opinion. Even if you don't commit to a Shambhala path, they do have the resources to bring in some great teachers, and in many cities they have some fantastic spaces to practice in.

    As far as the "cultish"-ness of Shambhala...I think it is more about a set of forms. Forms different from our expectations can be intimidating, even scary, but it is important to recognize that these forms are about waking up to the moment, being on the spot...facing fears and asking questions. I think that you'll find that most Shambhala Centers are really welcoming places, and (at least at my center) we really try not to hit you over the head with form at the outset.

    One of the forms that can be intimidating, however, is the Kasung (the military-arm that many of you have mentioned). This form is really about manifesting, very physically and powerfully, so that individuals can deal with real concerns about aggression and appearance. Kasung practice is a way to go beyond aggression, while holding a form. Ultimately, the Kasung uniform and practice is really about monasticism. It uses military forms to explore and peel away the layers of ego.

    Hope this helps!
    K
  • The organization fits the description of both a religion and cult.

    The Cult of Shambhala
    by Marcus Conte - 02.20.2013
    http://wakeyourselfup.org/cult-02-20-2013.htm
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited February 2013
    I used to go to a sham bhala 'cult' center twice a week after work. Did the free meditation sessions. The cushions I sat on and the hall I walked around, were similar to the settings of the well known ex-Hindu 'cult of Shakyamuni'.

    I got some instruction on sitting. We had a couple of one hour sessions, with a talk from visiting practioners or monastics in the second hour.

    Most times it was two hours of sitting, interspersed with walking.

    Occasionally I talked with long term members, fellow sitters in the tea and biscuits after a session. Usual diverse bunch.

    Strangely enough you can sit contemplatively in the 'Jewish cult' buildings of Catholics, without being abused by Christians . . .

    You can sit in a mosque (a 'reformed pagans' cult) without being solicited to bomb Israel . . .

    Etc, etc . . .

    You can even attend Buddhist groups without being pressurised into becoming a member of the inner cult, the dreaded 'sangha' - a uniformed, para military group of hard core celibates . . .

    Use your mind. It is a useful practice.
    chelaTakuanInvincible_summer
  • @Awake_Pig and everyone else on this forum calling the Shambhala Community a cult. I have to say, I'm really surprised to read these comments.

    I read the article Awake_pig recommended and after having been a "casual" Shambhala participant for the last 5 years, I have never experienced anything like what was written in that article.

    I have taken many courses at my leisure, and each time I've never been able to afford them and I've always used their "Generosity Policy", which means, pay what you can.
    I have popped in and out of the centre for this or that, I've always met really nice people, I've always found it to be a very accepting and welcoming environment. After being raised Catholic, I had been completely turned off organized religion, which was why I found this community to be SO refreshing. They mostly just emphasize the fact that humans are basically good, be good to yourself, be good to others.

    That's how it's going down here in Halifax, I'm not sure what they are doing in other places, but wow, I have to say, I absolutely cannot relate to what people have written here. We've got a pretty casual, relaxed, welcoming environment here in Nova Scotia.

    They have never tried to "Break Me", or make me feel "left out", or that I can't have this information or that, they certainly have never tried to empty my pockets, the books are great and the people I've met are awesome, sane, and funny.

    It's a real shame if others are having such awful experiences elsewhere.



  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran
    Shambhala isn't a cult. They're kinda into their own thing and pay a lot of attention to fund-raising, but a cult? Not really.

    Around here (CO) Most people in Tibetan Buddhism, especially the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages, passed though the Shambhala organization at some point.

    My intro to Tibetan Buddhism was in Shambhala. I spent several years there and learned a lot about meditation practice and basic Buddhist teachings. On the other hand, I didn't really connect with the Sakyong, Shambhala teachings in general and the whole Kasung thing kinda put me off. In the end, I wanted a more traditional Buddhist path so I moved on to a Kagyu sangha. I still maintain contacts in the Shambhala community and many people I know outside Shambhala have contacts there too, as well as maintaining memberships while focusing on other lineage teaching a practice.

    Simply put, Shambhala is okay. It isn't for everyone, and there will be things some folks won't like - a different strokes kinda thing. The only way you'll be able to come to an informed opinion is to drop whatever preconceived ideas you may have, and go check them out.
  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran
    Awake_Pig said:

    The organization fits the description of both a religion and cult.

    The Cult of Shambhala
    by Marcus Conte - 02.20.2013
    http://wakeyourselfup.org/cult-02-20-2013.htm

    and you believe that?

    I'd sure like to know what kind of Shambhala center Conte went to, because I never found any of what he reports.

    A_P - have you ever spent any time in a Shambhala sangha?

  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran
    AMH said:

    I have gone to our local Shambhala center in Denver and it is very nice.

    The Denver center is very nice. Some great people there.
    There is also a mountain center
    Which is awesome. I was up there a few weeks ago, to scatter the ashes of a friend who died recently. Can't get enough of the place, really.
  • Cult is a term thrown around with a variety of meanings. In this case, some Buddhists use it for a sect that they think has teachings and a practice that strays too far from what they're taught is the Dharma. However, considering the rather esoteric strangeness of Tantric practices as an example, I'd consider something like Scientology to have many more "cult" characteristics than Shambhala.
  • oceancaldera207oceancaldera207 Veteran
    edited September 2013
    Dazzle said:

    Hi Username_5,
    />Don't be in too much of a rush. Investigate the core teachings of the historical Buddha first, before getting involved with any organisation. ( Maybe check the big Buddhanet site and also What-Buddha-taught-net)

    If things don't seem to fit in with your own investigations of Buddha's teachings and your own reasoning and common sense, then don't get involved. :)


    Kind wishes,

    Dazzle


    .

    Exactly! Ditto 50x @username_5
    'It also seems it's not Buddhist, but Buddhist like. '
    That's pretty much how I feel about it.

    Also I distrust anything connected to choygam, basically a criminal opportunist who mangled mahayana sutras for profit, sowed as much confusion as possible, and was a complete idiot. In addition, he loved cocaine, women and drinking himself retarded. A person would be better off following the wisdom of 50cent or jayZ.
    As a big fan of the tripitaka and Mahayana sutras, I can tell you that trungpa 'teachings' make me wince. Its like someone took the ancient teachings, threw them in a blender with fortune cookie strips and a bottle of jack Daniels.
  • Hello fellow travellers: I want to say a few things about Shambhala, based on my first-hand experience. I won't be too specific because I don't want to slander anyone, but I do live in the great state of TX in a big city which seems chuck full of born-again, Bible-beating, fervent Christians: the sort of people who, in all goodwill, take advantage of you sitting next to them at a bus stop to tell you how and why they are up close and personal with Jesus, as their very own Lord and Savior. You have to give them full marks for religious fervor and sincerity. After several of these encounters, I have developed a sixth sense so as to politely avoid these emotional meetings. I do so much prefer a more rational approach, based on reason and experience, not so much on blind faith and fear.

    So, when I discovered a Shambhala Meditation Center in my city, I had high expectations of Buddhism in action. I had never heard of Shambhala before and was attracted to the open and free meditation classes. Supposedly, paid-up members could drop in at any time and meditate, but that was not always true. If you dropped in you just might find yourself turned away because an exclusive group was meeting and they didn't want to include just anyone. I find anything that smacks of elitism or in-crowd-ism, very unBuddhist. A sangha is not a club. After a little while of attending their meditation sessions and a couple of their courses, I became very disillusioned. I have been meditating since the 1960s and, although it is great wisdom to always approach meditation as a beginner, the so-called meditation teachers acted as if only they knew anything and really didn't want to know of my experience pre-Shambhala. Also, I became very unimpressed with these courses they run. This seems to be the procedure: the Sakyong or Pema write a book, you are strongly encouraged to buy the book. A senior member of the center (a 'shastri') trips off to Shambhala HQ, expenses paid by the local center (is that where my member's fee is going, I ask myself), to learn how to teach this book. Then the members have to pay again to sit on our cushions, listen to the 'shastri' expound (reading off of index cards) what the Sakyong or Pema wrote. Our shastris were pretty poor public speakers and spoke so softly and airy-fairy that I could hardly make out a word. Then we broke up into little groups and we were suppose to exchange ideas or experiences. What a poor show it was. I can read a book by myself, I don't need someone to interpret for me and I don't appreciate spending around $100 to sit on a cushion and strain to hear a word. What service, I ask, is this center actually doing, besides providing a room to sit in. We could just as easily get together in a member's living room, without the expense. And then there were the 'levels' of enlightenment, which I consider a bit of a fraud. The What it Means to be Human program, several levels. The Warrior program, several levels, all costing something like $125-150 for each level. I'm not saying these programs are useless; I just seriously doubt they are Buddhist.

    I am an American; I am not impressed with all this silly royalty imagery surrounding the Sakyong. What in the world is all this nonsense about him being a king of the legendary kingdom of Shambhala and he has a court, with courtiers, and a pseudo-military security detail to protect him and his family? Genuine lineage is important in Buddhism, but this basing his authority on a fanciful fiction is not Buddhist. The Sakyong's father, from what I have read, knew a thing or two about meditation and spiritual materialism, but he was also a drunk and a drug-user, all very unBuddhist. One of the meditation teachers I met at my Shambhala tried to excuse this aberrant conduct by saying that Choygam took LSD and cocaine 'to see what it was like, so he could speak from experience about it.' What a load of humbug, talk about enabling behavior! One of the Buddha's teaching for his followers was 'no intoxicants.' Chogyam was also sexually irresponsible. Buddhist teachers don't have to be celibate, but they do have to be responsible and in control of their basic cravings. The Dalai Lama has recently come out with a very clear message about drug-use, like pot. He speaks strongly about the human brain and mind and how it is foolish to endanger the mind through drug use. I liked that he is not cutting any of us moderns any slack about what is expected of a serious follower of the Buddha.

    By the way, isn't the Sakyong's wife just gorgeously beautiful, with all the eye-liner and mascara, the fashionable hairdo, isn't she just the perfect model of the modest wife of a Buddhist leader, mmmm? Wouldn't she be just as lovely if she let her natural beauty shine through?

    At one of my final attendances, the center's governing council showed a short film clip from the Sakyong and his family, the gorgeously turned-out wife and the two little girls. The older child was evidently expected to somewhat 'perform' for the camera and support a desired projected image of The Holy Family, but she would have none of it. She would not smile or perform for Daddy. She was being 'difficult.' I was rather proud of her. I recognized what she was doing, having had similar experiences in my own childhood, of adults requiring little children to conform to a family image. I sensed something akin to childhood exploitation and I, too, will have none of it. I seriously wonder how much pressure the wife and children are under, now that Daddy is an international personage and has a public image to maintain. I'm thinking of all those big celebrities who make huge efforts to protect their children from the cameras and lime-light, but the Sakyong doesn't seem to object to turning his kids into public figures. I don't like it.

    The Sakyong's financial security seems to be guaranteed by the Shambhala Charter, but does that include his family? Is the Sakyong supporting his wife and children through his own writings, his books and lectures, or is the ever-growing Shambhala Movement supporting his wife and children? That is not a malicious question. If the Shambhala movement is supporting the Leader's family, every member has a right to know. Christians and Jews support their spiritual leaders, their priests, ministers and rabbis in return for spiritual guidance and deep personal service. Can members expect the same return on investment with the Sakyong? On YouTube there is some footage of the Sakyong and family arriving home after the birth of the second child. My jaw dropped when I saw the car (was that a Rolls or a BMW?) arriving with a squad of uniformed para-military folk in quick-step, escorting, protecting, them. What the ....... ! I asked. Daddy was later seen in his fashion-plate aviator sunglasses with a guard standing behind him. We have all seen the type: hyper-vigilant, unsmiling Secret Service guarding the President. This is a Buddhist?

    The real reason behind the film and the meeting was The Pitch. They need lots and lots of money because 'the time has come to buy our own building and it's going to cost zillions of dollars, so all members are expected to contribute and pay up, because the first payment is due, like, next week and if you don't pay up we will lose out and so on and so on and so on.' I was once badly and traumatically trapped in the UK-based cult The School of Economic Science (SES) and its offshoot, The School of Philosophy (SOP) and I recognize all the manipulations and come-ons to part devotee-members from their bank accounts. I've seen and heard it all before. And I'll be hanged if I'll be fooled ever again. SES/SOP is all over the world, like a subtle plague. There is a huge website, ses-forums.org, if anyone is interested in phoney spiritual schools. My former cult experience has made me super cautious.

    This brings me to the question, is Shambhala a cult? Comparing it to the deeply materialistic SES/SOP, no it is not. Shambhala doesn't follow you around or condemn you to 'outer darkness' if you don't attend anymore. When I decided to cancel my membership I emailed HQ and requested that the direct debit from my bank account be cancelled and it was cancelled almost immediately. No delays, no hassles, no explanation demanded. I was happy about that. They may have dodgey spiritual classes, but they are very respectful of a person's instructions to stop payment. So that is very much in their favor. They also post their financials right out on the bulletin board where everyone can read them, and yes, a certain amount of the center's income goes to HQ. Really bad cults are secretive about their finances, so on that issue, my center seemed honest and legal.

    However, I don't like the obvious personality adulation focused on the Sakyong, even if he is a great looking, young, fit bloke who runs marathons, fantastic! I think the Shambhala Movement has the great potential to go down the cult drain, unless they maintain their true Buddhist foundation. One of the shastris at my Shambhala was heard to say, "Forget Buddhism. This is Shambhala." Meditation and mindfulness are harmless and do the world of good for everyone, so who is to say if Shambhala is a genuine path to enlightenment or not? All efforts towards peace and evolving enlightened society are noble and true pursuits. Probably our survival as a species will depend on these efforts.

    I prefer plain and simple Buddhism, even a no-frills Buddhism. The Buddha was, in fact, a real, actual Prince of a real, actual physical place on the planet and he gave it all away. Wow. He talked about suffering, its reality, its cause and cessation and the path leading to the cessation of suffering. Simple stuff. Not much fancy dress-ups, I reckon.

    Thank you for reading this, my first posting. Comments, replies, yes?

    person
  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran
    edited August 2014

    @DarwinatDawn1996 said:

    So, when I discovered a Shambhala Meditation Center in my city, I had high expectations of Buddhism in action. I had never heard of Shambhala before and was attracted to the open and free meditation classes. Supposedly, paid-up members could drop in at any time and meditate, but that was not always true.

    If you have a key, or know a member with one, you can drop by when the center isn't open. Otherwise, all the centers are locked when not in use, and with smaller centers the shrine rooms may be in use for classes, etc. When I was an Umdze at the Denver center, I had a key, so I could use the center any time I felt like it. The trouble is that most centers can't afford full-time staff to keep the center open.

    If you dropped in you just might find yourself turned away because an exclusive group was meeting and they didn't want to include just anyone.

    Sure, you will find that with a lot of groups, especially of the Vajrayana variety. If the shrine room is in use for a restricted practice or just some sort of private event, and they're using the shrine room

    I find anything that smacks of elitism or in-crowd-ism, very unBuddhist.

    But it is very human.

    If you were to look a little deeper into Shambhala, you'll find that "Shambhala" is it's own path with it's own teachings, and while it's roots lie in various forms of Mahayana Buddhism, it's still treated as distinct.

    A sangha is not a club.

    I dunno, but I'd say that it is - at least in a way

    After a little while of attending their meditation sessions and a couple of their courses, I became very disillusioned.

    That's not uunusual. Noone stays in one place forever. If you don't have a real connection to that path, you won't stay. I lasted about 3 years and then moved on.

    I have been meditating since the 1960s and, although it is great wisdom to always approach meditation as a beginner, the so-called meditation teachers acted as if only they knew anything and really didn't want to know of my experience pre-Shambhala.

    Also, I became very unimpressed with these courses they run.

    Actually, I found the coursework to be excellent. A bit expensive perhaps, but still good. The teachers in Denver and Boulder are excellent and was the meditation program. The two best Meditation Instructors I've ever had were both Shambhala MIs.

    This seems to be the procedure: the Sakyong or Pema write a book, you are strongly encouraged to buy the book. A senior member of the center (a 'shastri') trips off to Shambhala HQ, expenses paid by the local center (is that where my member's fee is going, I ask myself), to learn how to teach this book. Then the members have to pay again to sit on our cushions, listen to the 'shastri' expound (reading off of index cards)

    They all seem to do that. Index cards seem to be a hallmark of many Shambhala teachers. I don't know if they're trainned that way or if it's a personal thing. I know Shambhala Acharyas who don't use them.

    Our shastris were pretty poor public speakers and spoke so softly and airy-fairy that I could hardly make out a word.

    The Denver and Boulder centers it are quite the opposite.

    Then we broke up into little groups and we were suppose to exchange ideas or experiences. What a poor show it was. I can read a book by myself, I don't need someone to interpret for me and I don't appreciate spending around $100 to sit on a cushion and strain to hear a word.

    That's not so bad. What got to me was the seemingly endless hours of Shamatha. Talk about sore!

    What service, I ask, is this center actually doing, besides providing a room to sit in.

    Well, what were you expecting? YOu mentioned "Buddhism In Action" earlier. What did you mean by that? Apparently Shambhala Training doesn't meet that expectation, and that's fine. It's not for everyone, but what you describe is pretty typical of goings on at a Shambhala Center.

    We could just as easily get together in a member's living room, without the expense. And then there were the 'levels' of enlightenment, which I consider a bit of a fraud. The What it Means to be Human program, several levels. The Warrior program, several levels, all costing something like $125-150 for each level. I'm not saying these programs are useless; I just seriously doubt they are Buddhist.

    That's news to me. I've never heard of "levels of enlightenment" at a Shambhala center. They have levels of training, of various types.

    I am an American; I am not impressed with all this silly royalty imagery surrounding the Sakyong. What in the world is all this nonsense about him being a king of the legendary kingdom of Shambhala and he has a court, with courtiers, and a pseudo-military security detail to protect him and his family?

    I never really got the whole Sakyong thing either, but he is a King, has a court, courtiers and his Kasung.

    Genuine lineage is important in Buddhism, but this basing his authority on a fanciful fiction is not Buddhist.

    The Shabhala lineage is very traditional. If you read the chant book the lineage is in there - beginning with the primorial Buddha. All of it can be viewed as "fanciful fiction". That would include what you believe as well.

    The Sakyong's father, from what I have read, knew a thing or two about meditation and spiritual materialism, but he was also a drunk and a drug-user, all very unBuddhist.

    I know what you mean and it's a common criticism of the Vidyadhara. By all accounts he wasn't muuch of a drug user though. He did do acid once and reportedly pot didn't phase him. He preferred saki. Is that un-Buddhist? Maybe. I would prefer to see it as un - My Concepts Of What Buddhism Should Be.

    That said, one of the reasons I left Shambhala was to distance myself from the controversy surrounding his drinking and philandering, althouugh I don't condemn it. I've done all that and more. I have no right nor reason to condemn him.

    One of the meditation teachers I met at my Shambhala tried to excuse this aberrant conduct by saying that Choygam took LSD and cocaine 'to see what it was like, so he could speak from experience about it.' What a load of humbug, talk about enabling behavior!

    Most of his students were already using that stuff.

    One of the Buddha's teaching for his followers was 'no intoxicants.'

    Well, that's really not somewhere you want to go on this board.

    Chogyam was also sexually irresponsible.

    Ok, lets have a show of hands. Who here has never been sexually irresponsible?

    Only one. Lobster ;-)

    Buddhist teachers don't have to be celibate, but they do have to be responsible and in control of their basic cravings.

    Perhaps, but personally, I prefer my teachers to have a little dirt under their nails

    The Dalai Lama has recently come out with a very clear message about drug-use, like pot. He speaks strongly about the human brain and mind and how it is foolish to endanger the mind through drug use. I liked that he is not cutting any of us moderns any slack about what is expected of a serious follower of the Buddha.

    Well, I'm not a follower of His Holiness. I practice in another lineage. I also live in a state where pot is 100% leagal for recreational use. No different than alchohol. I know lot's of Buddhists who both drink and smoke pot. I know one who grows medical marijuana for a local dispensary.

    By the way, isn't the Sakyong's wife just gorgeously beautiful, with all the eye-liner and mascara, the fashionable hairdo, isn't she just the perfect model of the modest wife of a Buddhist leader, mmmm? Wouldn't she be just as lovely if she let her natural beauty shine through?

    Boy, there is nothing you seem to like about Shambhala. Good thing you moved on.

    The Sakyong's financial security seems to be guaranteed by the Shambhala Charter, but does that include his family?

    Probably.

    Is the Sakyong supporting his wife and children through his own writings, his books and lectures, or is the ever-growing Shambhala Movement supporting his wife and children? That is not a malicious question. If the Shambhala movement is supporting the Leader's family, every member has a right to know.

    They do know.

    In Buddhism, traditionally, students support their teacher.

    Ever attended a Mandala talk?

    This brings me to the question, is Shambhala a cult?

    It depends on how you define the word.

    However, I don't like the obvious personality adulation focused on the Sakyong, even if he is a great looking, young, fit bloke who runs marathons, fantastic!

    Like I said earlier, I never got the whole Sakyong thing. Left me flat

    I think the Shambhala Movement has the great potential to go down the cult drain, unless they maintain their true Buddhist foundation. One of the shastris at my Shambhala was heard to say, "Forget Buddhism. This is Shambhala." Meditation and mindfulness are harmless and do the world of good for everyone, so who is to say if Shambhala is a genuine path to enlightenment or not?

    Well, if you believe the Vidyadhara was enlightened, then yes.

    All efforts towards peace and evolving enlightened society are noble and true pursuits. Probably our survival as a species will depend on these efforts.

    I doubt that, but I did find the talk of Enlightened Society very compelling.

    I prefer plain and simple Buddhism, even a no-frills Buddhism.

    Then go find it.

    The Buddha was, in fact, a real, actual Prince of a real, actual physical place on the planet and he gave it all away.

    Are you sure that isn't some "fanciful fiction"? Whether or not it happened isn't so important. The message transcends the portrayal.

  • I would have to say that there is something cultish about Shambhala, but not in a severe way. They are wonderful about not pushing heavily for donations, and sincerely welcome and make accomodations for those in financial difficulties.

    However - and this has happened in the last 20 years - it has turned more and more into worshiping their leader, the Sakyong, without any critical thought. The Shambhala path is a linear one, makes no accomodation for existing experience, and honestly promotes Spiritual Materialism based on accolades for taking the courses and learning to say the right Shambhala thing, rather than personal insight. It seems to me the leaders (Acharyas) have been chosen as much for loyalty and blind subservience to the Sakyong than for presence and wisdom.

    The Shambhala community has become more and more a bubble out of touch with the rest of the world and indeed the rest of the Buddhist world. There was a battle in the early 90s betweens the "Shambhalians" and the Buddhists, and the Shambhalians won. You used to be able to study formal Buddhism in the organization, but no longer. The concepts are rather over simplified and there is a certain amount of groupthink going on. The people are all pretty nice people, so you don't really notice the conformity going on. They talk of "enlightened society" but really they mean they want everyone to take the Shambhala courses and be really nice to each other - it's getting less and less grounded. There's no "Crazy Wisdom" that Chogyam Trungpa brought.

    So it isn't necessarily a bad group. But there is a growing groupthink and unquestioning parroting of the Shambhala words and sayings. I still think the initial levels are good for people new to meditation, but don't get your hopes up that it's a magical orginization with the answer to everything.

  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran

    @carrotwax said:
    I would have to say that there is something cultish about Shambhala, but not in a severe way. They are wonderful about not pushing heavily for donations, and sincerely welcome and make accomodations for those in financial difficulties.

    Well, then, you haven't been around Shambjala for long. I found money talk to be persistant and to me, a bit annoying because I wan't in a place where I could afford more than $20 / month dues.

    AS far a cultish goes, I wouldn't say it's any more cultish than, say Geshe Michael Roach's group, or NKT or any number of Buddhist groups that could be named.

    However - and this has happened in the last 20 years - it has turned more and more into worshiping their leader, the Sakyong, without any critical thought.

    Actually, I've never seen any Sakyong worshipping going on. I have many friends in bother the Boulder and Denver sangha and while I'll admit a number of them are very devoted to him, none would be what I'd call worshipping the Sakyong. There are, again, many Buddhist groups that focus on a single teacher, both Mahayana and Theravedin.

    The Shambhala path is a linear one, makes no accomodation for existing experience, and honestly promotes Spiritual Materialism based on accolades for taking the courses and learning to say the right Shambhala thing, rather than personal insight.

    I believe that this was intentional with the Vidyadhara. He pt his students in positions that could become either spiritually materialistic or enlightened society - lots of juicy human neurosis to work with.

    It seems to me the leaders (Acharyas) have been chosen as much for loyalty and blind subservience to the Sakyong than for presence and wisdom.

    I know a couple Shambhala Acharya's personally, and have been taaught be some others. They are all loyal to the Sakyong, yes, but they are also wonderful teachers.

    The Shambhala community has become more and more a bubble out of touch with the rest of the world and indeed the rest of the Buddhist world.

    I wouldn't say that. They're no more out of touch that any other Buddhist group.

    There was a battle in the early 90s betweens the "Shambhalians" and the Buddhists, and the Shambhalians won.

    I don't know about that. Shambhala was always the goal.

    You used to be able to study formal Buddhism in the organization, but no longer.

    That's true. They used to have a good, and active Buddist study series that was pretty good. One of the reasons I left Shambhala was because I wanted more Buddhist study and wasn't going to get it.

    The concepts are rather over simplified and there is a certain amount of groupthink going on.

    Again, what social grouping doesn't employ groupthink?

    The people are all pretty nice people, so you don't really notice the conformity going on.

    We all conform to something.

    They talk of "enlightened society" but really they mean they want everyone to take the Shambhala courses and be really nice to each other - it's getting less and less grounded.

    No, they really want an Enlightened Society. yes they're into coursework and levels, but that's not unusual. My Guru is Kaygu and he has an extensive curriculum for his students.

    There's no "Crazy Wisdom" that Chogyam Trungpa brought.

    Ohhhhhhh yes there is.

    Ever heard of Tilopa? Naropa? Padmasambhava? Lobster?

    I'm joking about Lobster.

    Rowan1980
  • > Also I distrust anything connected to choygam, basically a criminal opportunist who mangled mahayana sutras for profit, sowed as much confusion as possible, and was a complete idiot. In addition, he loved cocaine, women and drinking himself retarded.

    Do you say this because you knew him personally?
  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran

    :)

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @row37 the moderators of the page would prefer to see a new thread created, referencing the old one, if the thread is more than a year old. Even a year is getting to be a lot. So many people come and go from the site that quite a lot of them who were in this one are likely not here anymore. (I'm not a moderator, just something that comes up often)

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