Community Conversation — July 11th, 2020


So much had been happening in our community and in Shambhala at large that the Portland Shambhala council felt that we needed to stop and check in with each other. On Saturday, July 11th members of Portland Shambhala met online for a community conversation to reflect on a recent letter from several Achyaras who were stepping down. (The word cloud is based on the 81 responses to their letter.) This Community Conversation was an opportunity to speak from the heart and to listen to ourselves and to each other. I will start this blog by referring to the Acharya Resignation Letter for context and then attempt to summarize the wide range of feelings of those who attended the Community Conversation.

There were two key aspects of the letter that stimulated conversations:

  • When the acharyas finally met with the Sakyong on May 21, 2020 via zoom, it became clear to us that he intends to work with a smaller, exclusive group of students. It was our sense that, at least at this point, he would not focus on rebuilding relationships with the many students and practitioners who are longing for further healing and transformation. Instead, he articulated a path forward based on clarifying lineage rather than attending to community well-being. To us, this feels different from the broad and inclusive social vision that inspires us.


  • While he expressed dismay and concern over the ways things have fallen apart in Shambhala over the last two years, the Sakyong did not mention the revelations of his own past misconduct as a principal cause, nor did he indicate a willingness to enter into dialogue. On the call, we were not invited into conversation with him, and we feel that communication is essential to moving toward repair.


In the end, he asked the Acharyas to recommit to being his representatives or to retire with dignity so it was with sadness and open hearts that the Acharyas shared their decision to step down from the role of Acharya. 

The continuum of feelings and opinions from the attendees regarding this letter ranged widely. To begin with, some felt we had a problem because of our inability to give and receive feedback to each other that was honest, transparent, and reasonable. Furthermore, that feedback could come in the form of dissent. Finally, there was a desire by the participants in the conversation for a leader to be willing to receive feedback, be open to dissent, and be in dialogue because it was believed to be absolutely essential for change. Clearly, the acharyas who were resigning from their role felt that the Sakyong was not willing to receive feedback, be open to dissent, and be in dialogue with them.

At the Community Conversation, some of the participants expressed feelings of disappointment with the Sakyong. However, some people had good feelings about the Acharyas and the possibility of continuing with Shambhala and the vision of Shambhala without him, or with him in a different role than before. However, everyone agreed that mutual respect locally for people on several sides of these issues was important — and possible.

At the end of the Acharya Resignation Letter, the authors wrote: “We are open to dialogue, to continue to teach as we are able, and to serve the vision of good human society in every way we can.” Some of the participants suggested that we should ask some of those Acharyas whether they would like to do virtual programs here in Portland (or in regional NW). In addition to virtual programs, Acharyas who signed the letter could be invited to engage in discussions with us on the many issues Shambhala is facing. 

At the same time, not everyone interpreted the sense of split in a negative way. Acharya Eric Spiegel posted his thoughts in the Shambhala Network: he identified a lot with what the Acharyas had to say but came to different conclusions. It would be interesting to also invite the Acharyas (and Retired Acharyas) who did not sign the letter (e.g., Eric Spiegel, Marty Janowitz) and hear their thoughts.

Earlier, I wrote I would attempt to summarize the wide range of feelings and opinions expressed by the participants in the Community Conversation. It’s hard to capture the whole range of experiences. Shambhala and Portland Shambhala have already taken several steps into an unknown future. We are all probably asking questions like these: Where do we go from here? What are we going to do next? I will leave you with two quotes you may or may not want to reflect on. It has been said: 

  • “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”


The Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa wrote a book and gave talks about:


If you have any thoughts, ideas, questions, or opinions you would like the council to hear, I will make sure your voice is heard. You can contact me at [email protected]

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