Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
The following is the letter of explanation for a petition to the Board of Directors of Shambhala International. The petition was started by Tsultrim Yarda, an (ex) Shambhala member. I signed her petition because I support her call for an ‘open source’ dharma. Her letter is a brilliant explanation of what I would call ‘anarchist Buddhism’. I suspect the author would not call it that, but we agree on principles nonetheless. My only objection is her assumption that “if you’re really an anarchist, you couldn’t be bothered to read this far.” On the contrary, because I’m an anarchist, I read the entire letter.
What’s significant is that a religion that is as secretive and tradition-bound as Vajrayana could be reframed as ‘open source’. It’s inevitable, because that is what’s happening to many forms of Buddhism around the world. It’s a process that probably can’t be stopped and will only accelerate as East and West integrate through the web.
It is time to open source the dharma. The Buddhist teachings have been developed and transmitted for millennia by plain old human beings. Thousands of “sacred” teachings were lost to the Chinese invasion of Tibet, and yet new teachings were magically written or “discovered” in the minds of “masters”. But all those sacred syllables point ultimately not to the Four Noble Truths, but to the clear, luminous, expansive nature of mind. Pointing not to the mind of the Buddha, or Padmasambhava, or of the next Livestream Lama, but to the clear, wise nature of all Mind.
Just one random page in “As It Is” (Vol 1) by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche produces, “The qualities of enlightenment are not a fabrication or a product… They are present from the very beginning.” What are we protecting with our lineage and hierarchy of teachers and acharyas? We are only protecting people from liberation.
The traditions of exclusive lineage and secret oral transmission are an obsolete throwback to a time when wandering lamas competed for the scarce resources of would be patrons. Tantras can be had now on eBay for pennies. If this knowledge is truly “self secret”, then it would seem that strict exclusivity is merely protecting false power and authority, perpetuating the racket.
Copyrights should be respected. But a copyright does not confer a divine, spiritual exclusivity. A human being wrote and registered a text and thus it is intellectual property. It is a brand. It is now just spiritual materialism.
The sacred mantra has strayed into Pon, and the yogis of tantra are losing the insight of meditation. They spend their whole time going through villages and performing little ceremonies for material gain.
If the nature of mind is like an open sky and yet gurus still act like petty tyrants, then it is time to open source the dharma.
Sign this petition if: You agree that Sakyong Mipham should not have any teaching role in Shambhala, that the hierarchy of acharyas should be dissolved, that a decentralized form of governance should developed, and that the Shambhala dharma could be somehow open sourced, returning from the “Way of the Workshop” to a decentralized model of “each one / teach one”.
Of course you can also sign this petition if you put your faith in chaos monkeys and silly hats.
And if you’re really an anarchist, you probably couldn’t be bothered to read this far.
Om Ah Hum
May Benefit Increase