Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
Dear Shambhala Community-
This is a letter that Ani Pema Chödrön sent recently to the Shambhala Board and the Acharyas and now wishes to share it with the community.
Warmest best wishes,
Glenna Olmsted, Executive Assistant to Pema Chödrön
January 14, 2020
Dear Acharyas and Shambhala Board Members:
I send New Year’s greetings and my love to you all.
I’m writing to let you know that I have decided to step down as an acharya. As you know, I haven’t actually served as an acharya for a long time, and I have been considering retiring for a few years. And now, the time has come.
When I read the recent letter from the Sakyong saying that he wished to start teaching again and would do so for all who requested, I was disheartened. I experienced this news as such a disconnect from all that’s occurred in the last year and half. It feels unkind, unskillful and unwise for the Sakyong to just go forward as if nothing had happened without relating compassionately to all of those who have been hurt and without doing some deep inner work on himself.
Then came the letter from the Board informing the Shambhala community that they have invited the Sakyong to give the Rigden Abhisheka in June, and I was dumbfounded. The seemingly very clear message that we are returning to business as usual distresses me deeply. How can we return to business as usual when there is no path forward for the vast majority of the community who are devoted to the vision of Shambhala and are yearning for accountability, a fresh start, and some guidance on how to proceed? I find it discouraging that the bravery of those who had the courage to speak out does not seem to be effecting more significant change in the path forward.
I understand that the Board’s decision to invite the Sakyong was based on the compassionate intention to benefit the 125 people who wish to take the abhisheka in order to continue on their path. But for me, personally, to have the very first indication of how we are going to manifest be that we are returning to business as usual is shocking and also heartbreaking.
I feel that as a community committed to creating an enlightened society, we deserve something better than business as usual.
Hopefully, it’s not too late to reverse this trend. For instance, the Board could be proactive and invite a few small groups of people with differing views to propose ideas for how we can go forward – ways that include everyone in the community and that provide accountability for all that has happened. If the Board could then make it their priority for 2020 to start to implement some of these plans … that, in my opinion, would be very wise.
I will close by just saying thank you very much to the acharyas for continuing to teach and help the community and to the Board for the admirable work they have done to stabilize the community’s finances and to establish a new and more efficient code of conduct. Nevertheless, I do not feel that I can continue any longer as a representative and senior teacher of Shambhala given the unwise direction in which I feel we are going.
Yours in the vision of the Great Eastern Sun,
Ani Pema aka Pema Chödrön
The statement from the Shambhala Board [in response to Pema’s letter of resignation] also quotes a private communication from Pema Chödrön to the board yesterday in which she wrote:
“At this time, I am still very hopeful that a path forward that would include everyone in the community can be designed and implemented. Therefore, I have no intention of leaving the Shambhala community and would always do my best to be there for anyone who might need it. However if no path forward can be found, that would break my heart, and I’m not sure what I would do.”