The Arrow is delighted to republish a “New Year’s Statement” written by the leadership council of the Shambhala Buddhist community. The letter offers a rousing message for bringing the wisdom and practices of spiritual warriorship to engaging the pressing issues of our time. While the letter was written for the Shambhala community in particular, we feel that its message is broadly resonant and inspiring. For readers of The Arrow who practice in another spiritual tradition or none at all, we invite you to read the letter with your own community in mind, wherever that may be. May this offering provide inspiration and motivation for invoking fierce compassion in a time of great need.
A New Year’s Statement from the Kalapa Council of Shambhala
The essence of warriorship, or the essence of human bravery, is refusing to give up on anyone or anything. We can never say that we are simply falling to pieces or that anyone else is, and we can never say that about the world either. Within our lifetime there will be great problems in the world, but let us make sure that within our lifetime no disasters happen. We can prevent them. It is up to us. We can save the world from destruction, to begin with. That is why Shambhala vision exists. It is a centuries-old idea: by serving this world, we can save it. But saving the world is not enough. We have to work to build an enlightened human society as well. – Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Obstacles and challenges may arise, but they do not reduce the enlightened qualities we have at our disposal. – Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
As the tumultuous Year of the Monkey draws to a close and the Year of the Bird approaches, with its possibility of discipline and integrity, we on the Kalapa Council feel that it is a good moment to reflect on our time and its relevance for Shambhala vision.
This has been a period marked with displacement, violence, racism, misogyny, political fragmentation, increased threats to the ecosystem, and intensifying nationalisms. It is also a period of tremendous heart and possibility. We feel that it is important for you to know that members of the Kalapa Council are deeply aware and concerned, and are working to rouse our community to the creative and potent manifestation that is the very reason for our existence.
As the world seems to grow darker and great challenges are upon us, we must, as a lineage of warriors committed to establishing enlightened society, sense what is happening and respond with skill. Our confidence, now more than ever, is that every human being, and society itself, are fundamentally good, wise, and strong. As Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche said, preventing disasters and saving the world is not enough; we must work to build an enlightened human society, and we have the enlightened qualities to do this. Arising from kindness, vision, wisdom, and loyalty, this is a creative process that fulfills a human life.
Here are some immediate possibilities to manifest enlightened society today:
We warriors must see that our practices, path, and teachings are meant for this time. Discovering the unshakable mind of meditative awareness, learning to be comfortable with uncertainty, not hiding from the broken heart of sadness, and raising powerful windhorse are all methods to face our dark age. We can be sad, alive, vibrant, fearless, and inspired—no matter what. The Shambhala teachings are the spiritual-activist’s skillful means to be fully human and to respond to the needs of the world. It is time to rely more fully on their power.
We warriors must stand up against and steadfastly resist divisive acts that prey upon vulnerable, oppressed, or minority communities. We aspire for our centers and households to be safe and welcoming refuges for all, regardless of religious or national background, gender identification, race, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Now is the time to do the hard personal and collective work needed to create a culture that is so rooted in the basic goodness of all that prejudice and bias may dissolve completely.
We warriors must take seriously our responsibility to protect the earth. It is a time to face the reality of ecological destruction and climate change with open eyes. We aspire for Shambhala centers and programs to look at their ecological impact, attend to where we source food and energy, and be mindful of our waste. We aspire to be a force for sustainability, to divest from carbon and other forms of pollution, and to prevent the destruction of species and habitats. Now is the time to create a society with sustainable practices rooted in a felt-experience of drala and sacred world.
We warriors must acknowledge both the possibilities and the limits of existing political, economic, and media systems. We aspire for Shambhala to use and develop creative means and sacred forms of conflict resolution and political deliberation, to experiment with new economic models, and to work with the power of language and symbolism with skillful compassion. Now is the time to create a society that unites the sacred and secular, expressing wisdom and goodness in our political, economic, and communicative forms.
We warriors must be vigilant activists for peace. We aspire for Shambhala to engage conflict with the mind of meditation, to create safe spaces for open and genuine conversations and deep listening, and to boldly carry these insights and capacities into our wider communities. Now is the time to manifest the beauty, gentleness, and kindness of our tender human hearts in social forms. The world is longing for such examples.
We warriors must understand that the work to establish, maintain, and support our community and households is the very cultural heart of Shambhala. What may appear to be an “inward facing” effort to just keep our centers going is a brave act of cultural creation in a world that tends to undervalue community. Now is the time to strengthen community and the fabric of our everyday relationships by deepening our conversations and coming together for all our celebrations, group practices and cultural gatherings. It is time to slow down, and to support and be available to one another beyond scheduled programs.
With all of the above, we start where we are, with the opportunities to practice enlightened society in our centers, programs, events, and households. Let each hub of our global community be a living laboratory to cultivate and express human goodness in all aspects of our lives together. Start today, with your home, your center and your city. Aspire to free yourself of habitual busy-ness, self-hatred, assumptions, and judgments to come to the heart of why your Shambhala community exists.
Despite the obstacles and challenges, in fact because of the challenges, it is time to wield our warriorship, magical practices, and powerful community. It is a time to be creative and intelligent. It is a time to see the inseparability of our deepest contemplative experiences and the creation of a good society. Our meditative peace, space, and brilliance are wellsprings of our windhorse to establish Shambhala on earth.
We, the Kalapa Council of Shambhala, look forward to exploring with our leadership and community how to unlock the basic goodness of society. We are stronger together as we rouse ourselves to delight in humanity, to celebrate and trust our hearts, and to never give up on this world. We can thrive in the dark ages by increasing our laughter and sense of humor, by nourishing ourselves with deep practice and loving community, and by fearlessly engaging. We express our confidence with the warrior’s action of manifesting Shambhala on earth.
From the vast view of heaven, all is good: flowing in perfect patterns beyond concept. From the practicality of earth, the time is good for wise and compassionate manifestation. For the broken-hearted human warriors between heaven and earth, this is our good moment.
Yours in the Great Eastern Sun Vision,
The Kalapa Council
Mitchell Levy, Josh Silberstein, Adam Lobel, Jesse Grimes, Jane Arthur, Robert Reichner, Wendy Friedman, Connie Brock, Christoph Schönherr, David Brown, and Alex Halpern