Thoughts from our Sangha

by Sala Sweet

Over the past few months, we as members of the Seattle Shambhala sangha have been faced with many painful revelations about the abuses of the Sakyong and other teachers. The news is painful and affects each member in a different way. Long term members who came to Shambhala as a result of their devotion to the Vidyadhara, Chögyam Trungpa are facing a change in their  life long practice and view of Shambhala. At the same time they have experienced times of challenge in the past and have carried on. Those devoted to the Sakyong and grateful for his teachings are experiencing disappointment, anger and sadness. Newer members also feel the sadness that our sangha is feeling.

On Sunday, March 3, a Listening Circle met to provide space for all present to express what they were feeling. Despite what our sangha is facing, those who attended expressed much gratitude for our collective strength and hope that we will go forward together. I simply offer some of their insights.


Broken heartedness is a gift that allows us to grow. We are learning from what has happened.

Concern about the legacy of CTR.  Some people have stopped coming to Shambhala because of the Sakyong. Have compassion for them, as they often left in pain and anger. Many in our Circle expressed anger at the Sakyong’s behavior.  But at the same time, many expressed compassion for him and his family. Often both feelings at the same time.

Optimism for a new birth.  Changes that have needed to happen will now come forward.   

We are the inheritors of a wisdom and culture that has an independent life. We have a strong foundation. We have been down playing our innate wisdom – depending on the teachers’ wisdom. We got attached to the teachers and not the teachings.  The teachings survive. We can offer the teachings in such a way that minimizes the potential for abuse.

We need to look at the structure of our governance and teachings to see what changes need to be made. Let’s contemplate how we can maintain enlightened leadership. We have the opportunity to be the foundation of a new society.

People come to our center to meditate and develop their discipline and wisdom. Many are not concerned with the Sakyong. They are hungry for the wisdom of the teachings, but not reliant on a particular teacher. We have a gift to offer. We don’t want that to go away. We want our center to be a place that welcomes and teaches.

Every person expressed an appreciation for the generosity and strength of sangha members. At the same time, more volunteers need to step forward. It may help to outline how people can help. Some have more time or resources, but all can help. Those in leadership need to find new ways to ask for help and ask. We need to illuminate that volunteering is not just helping, but volunteers gain from their service as well.

In summary, what was felt was – I want to see Shambhala survive.  I don’t want the practice to disappear. We need to clean up our mess.  But we have many gems to cherish. And we want to offer that to all who come through our doors.

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