Green Shambhala breakdown


The late Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (left) and modern day acolyte Ryan Watson, outgoing leader of Nova Scotia's Green Party

Coast News Editor Tim Bousquet has stirred things up with his report of a festering schism within Halifax’s Shambhala Buddhist community, and Green Party gadfly Mike Marshall claims the same breach underlies bizarre behaviour by outgoing party leader Ryan Watson and his executive.

Bousquet reports that dissidents, including Mark Szpakowski, Ed Michalik, and Andrew Safer, have set up RadioFreeShambhala, a website to foster discussion they say mainstream Shambhala leadership discourages.

The dispute centers on “a disagreement over the relationship between Buddhism and Shambhala.” The dissidents say Shambhala founder Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche encouraged adherents of all religions, and even atheists, to use Shambhala practices, which he saw as distinct from Buddhism. The current leadership, headed by Trungpa’s son, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, who took power after the founder’s original successor died of AIDS (and, by some accounts, spread the disease through the community) focuses on traditional Buddhist teachings.

Marshall’s Arcadian Recorder blog links the theological dispute to the battle for control of the Green Party, and the outgoing executive’s embarrassing mismanagement of party finances and organization:

Shambhala is all about reaching a state of ego-less-ness, the zen of conflict, and
finding means to resolve conflict internally by various ways of re-establishing group consensus… The Green Party of Nova Scotia learned recently just how uncomfortable Shambhala Buddhists can be when anyone refuses to be smothered to death in this mantra of non-conflict.

According to Marshall, Watson’s leadership team was “top heavy in Shambhala members,” including deputy leader Gabrielle Donnolley, treasurer-official agent Kathryn Herbert, chief advisor Amanda Hester, web master Hamish Anderson, and a half dozen Green candidates in June’s election. [See correction.]

These Shambhala members certainly changed the tone of GPNS internal discussions… The idea of pushing any issue to a vote where one side lost and one side won was totally alien to them. So a minority as tiny as one person… meant that the majority of the others were denied a chance to bring the question to a decisive vote.

[T]he result was that the minority got to carry as before, even in the face of a potential majority vote against them. Supposedly consensus-oriented and ego-less, GPNS decision-making in the Shambhala style turned out to mean the leadership made the decisions and the members learned to ‘suck it up’ regardless.

As always, contrarian welcomes comments from the contrary-minded. No smothering conflict-aversion here.