We were asked today if we wanted to continue to have “samaya” a sacred unbreakable bond commitment to the spiritual guru, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, head of a large Tibetan Buddhist Community, Shambhala. He was accused of harming some of his Buddhist students and has apologized, and we are all trying to forge a way forward. It’s a large global meditation community with many excellent teachings that is now in danger of crumbling after the #metoo movement.
Here is my reply:


Dear Friends,
I was at the Sakyong’s first Seminary and asked him after that,  if I could study with other teachers too, so my “samaya” (sacred bond) is with him and others. In essence, it’s to our ultimate state of mind and our inner guru and not anything that is in the relative world.

However, as far as the relative guru, I don’t think that we can ask this one-sided question. I think what Garchen Rinpoche said “samaya is love” is really the essential definition of that commitment and it’s not just one-sided from student to teacher.

I think David B. knows me really well I’ve been lobbying for about 10 years that it’s a mutual relationship based on us knowing each other and the guru has got to be committed to us too, that means caring for us knowing us personally and being there at least for significant practice questions and when we are passing away. Pardon my incessant redundancy but we should be there for the students of Trungpa too and not leave them all for dead as “non-loyalists.”

I know that KTG will only grant interviews to students that have significant practice questions or are dealing with death, and I feel that the teacher has got to be able to engender real care for us, as well as expecting us to care for him.

To rule is to serve” as the Taoist quote goes.

I had requested two interviews over a 20 year process and both were rejected and others have been removed from the court curtly, so the question really is is he willing to have genuine love, samaya, relationship with us?

If he wants to really take us on and care and make sure that we don’t have any significant practice or personal obstacles that would prevent us from making progress, and offer these excellent teachings and methods, then I think that question- can be asked.

Does he really, sincerely want to have samaya with any of us?

Samaya is a mentorship with teacher and disciple being committed to each other, it’s not slave and owner, command and control, financial exploitation and servitude. If we really can see this, this community can heal. (And I believe we can, but you have to let us all back in, the people you estranged and hurt by loyalty prerequisites. I fear this “in or out” question will serve only to further divide us.)

The sacred bond is like spiritual family, and we continue to try to bring out the best in each other and be supportive and if we fall, we hold each other, to stay strong and to make progress. Do I love him and feel grateful for all the gifts that I experienced from him in this community? Absolutely and I do not want to break that. Do I want to heal continue, absolutely, but we cannot mandate “loyalty and control”  like that. We have to have a gentle, Dharmic approach that accommodates *diversity of people* that are devoted to his dad or other teachers, and people who are devoted to no one, and finally, people that just want to practice. All should be included in an ever expanding vision of enlightened society and the GES.

If he can come to a point where he’s willing to be brave enough to engender mutual personal and loving relationship with the students and be committed to us, then we can answer that question. We can’t “dharmasplain” this away by saying his position is of some secular “universal monarch” and that he’s too busy or powerful, and our commitment is to some amorphous space. Never seeing a teacher that asked me for my life and devotion feels similar to paying monthly health insurance and never seeing the doctor, but rather being instructed to “faith heal.”

I for one have in my heart never left for one red second. Every gesture of “misconduct” can be forgiven but we have to really see what happened here first, his family seems to still be blaming students so, we haven’t yet gotten to “Step 1” as far as healing. When that really happens we can ask these questions and move forward.

So much love and heartbreak and yes, samaya as love, to the essence and this community, still intact, it cannot be broken.

Dawn, Boulder

3 replies
  1. dawnlhamo
    dawnlhamo says:

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  2. dawnlhamo
    dawnlhamo says:

    I have also been reading: Cults in our Midst, The Guru Papers and watching the A&E Scientology Mini Series and all of the “Holy Hell” etc., films. The threat of hell, spiritual reward and punishment is traditionally used as yes, a powerful SOCIAL CONTROL MECHANISM and even our dear Lamas were trained and kept in the monasteries under the fear of “breaking samaya and real, concrete hell.”

    The greatest most healing part of the #metoo movement for me, would be exposing this semi-criminal and profoundly damaging Tibetan tenet. I think once we “wake up” we even have to help our Lamas to see. We must not harm people anymore in either lay or monastic institutions with the binding threat of damnation and punishment, in many ways this scares and damages people’s hearts even more than sexual or physical abuse. No matter what we have been told or by whom, the Dharma (and the ‘Buddhas’) does not harm or punish.

  3. dawnlhamo
    dawnlhamo says:

    Original Topic Post:
    I haven’t seen anyone touch this topic yet, but I was very sad and uncomfortable with that letter, it felt so black and white, do you take the red pill or the blue pill? We aren’t allowed to “break samaya,” so to give it back seems very strange as it is for me a personal, emotional heart bond that arises after we see the inner guru through transmission and empowerment. What we see is unconditional, vajra, diamond mind, our heart, our nature, how can we callously “give that back?” The guru acts as a conduit if you will, for the ear-whispered living blessing transmission passed down from the Buddha to us, its not a commodity to “give back” or break. Once introduced, we train in a marriage with our inner guru, come back to dropping it all, when life gets too painful, reified. It’s precious, refuge, warm, not scary, not bamboo-tube like, it’s more akin to unconditioned space.

    Samaya I feel got misconstrued through Tibetan feudal culture as a social control mechanism to mean: slave and owner, top down control and institutionalized the raw openness of what happened at the moment of the third turning with all sorts of scary punitive tenets and warnings and hellish threats. However bold or post-modern or revolutionary, I call all of this dark stuff into question now and even asked Tsoknyi Rinpoche about it. He said: “The Samaya that they are talking about is more of an organizational samaya, designed to keep a community together, its not the real samaya.”

    Also, the “relative” samaya with a particular guru is born from a mutual relationship it means sacred heart bond,

    Garchen Rinpoche says simply “Samaya is Love.”

    You have a deep 1-1 personal Obi-Wan specific training to go through based on trust, trust that the guru will always help you to learn and grow and impart teachings to you for *your* best interest, not his. You are not there for financial or sexual exploitation, nor to live a life of administrative servitude. This is just not samaya, and I strongly suggest that we all need to reexamine what we think and believe about that vow.

    My question back to David was rhetorical “does the Sakyong want to have real samaya with us?” Love us, know us, train us personally, be there if we have obstacles and when we are dying? Do we care about people in any real way, his students and the aging and alone semi-banished students of Trungpa? Samaya is love, not “loyalty,” that divides and uses people. I asked for two interviews in 20 years only when I really needed help, and no one was there. My question to HM, do you really care for us… samaya?

    I published my personal response to him, not for public distribution here: https://dawnlhamo.wordpress.com/2019/03/03/love-letter-to-the-sakyong/ password: samayaislove

    With warmth, Dawn


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