Am I in a cult?
And, is it a dangerous one? An inept one? A brilliant one?
I stumbled across this gem of an article talking about my lineage from an outsider's perspective: Judith Simmer-Brown to Distraught Shambhala Members: “Practice More.” (Notes and Transcript) and it gave me much food for thought. There is much harm my lineage has caused that I was completely unaware of because we don't really talk to each other. A man committed suicide by immolation because of the current scandal with my teacher. In fact, this article is the first time I actually learned his given name (Ösel Mukpo) because we have this tendency to use only his honorifics when referring to him.
I also learned a very important term: Institutional Betrayal, which seems to talk about how we operate much of the time. What if our own practices and forms are what got us into this mess? Telling us to double down on the Shambhala teachings is one form of this betrayal. What we need now is not more Shambhala teachings, but external checks that they are:
- No good, and we should stop practicing them, or
- Quite good, and we should learn how to practice them better.
Since I am no expert, I am going to start validating. At the moment, I am exploring the teachings of Mingyur Rinpoche. A gentleman about my age who suffered from serious anxiety as a kid and found a way to end it through the practice of Vajrayana Buddhism. I'm eager to learn how he did it, since I am now suffering from serious anxiety.
I have much to resolve. And am hopeful my fellow sangha members and I will all come out of this better people. It's quite hard to "Be grateful to everyone" right now, but I continue to look for that silver lining.
May the Shambhala Community find its Institutional Courage instead of suffering from Betrayal Blindness. Goodness knows I've seen examples of both.. Ethan Nichtern was quite courageous, for example.