Shambhala Day Inspires Seattle Sangha into the Year of the Earth Boar

By Andrea D’Asaro

The community gathered for a rainy lhasang.

Despite a week’s delay from the mammoth Snowzilla storm, Shambhala Day brought out a crowd of attendees on Saturday, February 16. Guests enjoyed a drizzly but spirited lhasang, or juniper smoke blessing, in the front driveway. Then, with a full shrine room, the Director of Culture and Decorum, Ladan Yalzadeh greeted participants. It was a day of warmth, tenderness and togetherness with the welcoming of new teachers and members, reports from local committees, and appreciations to departing director Michael Busby and Shastri Trinley Busby—all before a luscious catered lunch.

JoAnn Schindler, secretary for the Center’s Governing Council, delivered a  message of hope and pain in a review of the year. “It was a very challenging year,” she said. “We were dealing with the heartbreaking news of sexual misconduct accusations of senior teachers and the Sakyong, our lineage holder. In addition, we had a local Care and Conduct case between two sangha members.” She acknowledged that tensions heightened last year between the leadership and some of the membership and between some members themselves. “It was quite painful,” she stated, “but one positive result is that it has lead us to ask, ‘“What does a healthy hierarchy look like and how does it function? What changes do we need to make?’”  

Matthew Lyon announces Janet Bass and Rachel DeMotts as senior teachers in Practice and Education.

She praised Terry Jaworski, Director of Societal Health and Well-Being, and her team, who oversaw a series of listening circles that offered a safe environment to process the wide range of thoughts and feelings. She also noted that an external consultant, Becka Tilsen, was hired to help some of the community process and clarify understanding of our local Care and Conduct case. Despite the loss of 30 sangha members, she notes that visitors continue to come to open houses and our series of winter and spring programs. “People are hungry for these teachings,” JoAnn noted.

The gathered community also watched the Shambhala Day broadcast from Halifax led by senior teachers which included the healing White Tara practice, a fundraising appeal, and the traditional reading of the Chinese oracle, the I Ching.  Seattle’s outgoing Shastri Matthew Lyon commented on the reading as foretelling a liberation of energies towards expansiveness in the Year of the Boar.

“Despite the most recent heartbreaking information about the Sakyong, I continue to feel optimistic that we can reform and re-establish Shambhala on a new, healthy foundation,” said Lyon.  “The old ways must be purged before the before the true vision of Shambhala as sacred and profound can be realized.” Lyon described the Year of the Earth Boar as one of “enrichment of relationships, generosity, integrity and restoration of faith in the basic goodness of humankind. In ancient texts, this year also is said to prescribe “the removal of a ring leader who makes trouble.”

Matthew Lyon receives his retirement oath.

Former Shastri Ben Hines gave the retirement oath for Shastri Lyon, speaking of “the power and simplicity of his generosity, an inclusive power that doesn’t differentiate self and other.”

In remarks about his journey of 45 years with Shambhala, Lyon  described the essence of our practice as “an inner path of energy that rises and expands in our lives like a wind that carries us forward. We can connect with the expansive power of our nature, a transformative force that brings us through the fire, and heart brokenness, like a great Garuda always flying forward.”

Reports from finance, the director search, and facilities along with appointments of two new senior teachers, Janet Bass and Rachel DeMotts, and the welcoming of new members rounded out the morning celebrations.

Attendee Allison Moore Peel used the day to reflect on her membership, since 2017. “It is fascinating to continue to learn about how meditation and the Dharma create a supportive community towards societal enlightenment. I give all my teachers big kudos for their compassionate sharing of the true nature of the Shambhala and Buddhist teachings.”

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