Our three-fold strategy

Following the Kalapa Council Update that we posted on this blog in April called “Strategic Directions”, there was an enthusiastic response from the Shambhala community. Many people posted comments, suggestions and questions. We took the many viewpoints into account, took a careful look at the options before us and presented a series of strategic recommendations to the Sakyong last month. With his agreement, we are now putting those recommendations into effect. To read our three-fold strategy and the detailed background to it, please click here.

Part of our three-fold strategy involves tightening our belt for this immediate period. As a result some of our services will need to be reduced over this coming period. To read about these changes in detail, described in a letter from Carolyn Mandelker, the Executive Director of Shambhala, please click here.

We encourage you to read and reflect on these two important documents and contribute to a community discussion on this blog!

We would also like to thank everyone who contributed so generously to our most recent appeal, which raised $120,000 in the months of May and June. It was thanks to everyone who wrote into the blog urging us to launch a further fund-raising appeal that we sent a follow-up appeal asking for support. Your gifts helped us close just over a third of the funding gap we were seeking to fill. We were deeply touched by the generosity of your responses and the many kind messages we received.

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About Richard Reoch

Richard Reoch was appointed by the Sakyong, Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche, as the President of Shambhala in 2002 -- a position he holds to this day. He heads the Government of Shambhala and chairs the highest governing body of the mandala, the Kalapa Council. Prior to his position in Shambhala, he was the global media chief of the human rights organization, Amnesty International, and continues as a trustee of the Rainforest Foundation and Chair of the International Working Group on Sri Lanka, a network of diplomats and major agencies devoted to peace making.

13 thoughts on “Our three-fold strategy

  1. Thinking ‘first thought, best thought,’ my immediate response to reading the documents: This is fantastic!

    How can I help?

  2. Thanks for your efforts! I appreciate that the Unified Funding model is coming to the center of the process as this can be a powerful tool for magnetizing communal lungta and recognizing our interdependence. While the decisions that have been made about staff are unfortunate, I laud your tough choices in this challenging time. Your responsiveness to the community’s feelings is also touching and reflects the continuing maturation and openness that our community is going through in this exciting, challenging, and evolving time.

  3. The Sakyong has great magic and such power nowadays that if he were to travel and teach in the major cities in North America and Europe, as he has done in Boulder and Halifax already, it is certain that the Shambhala principles of basic goodness would be exponentially propergated. There is no doubt that this would immensely increase the wellbeing and wealth that is currently needed.

  4. More like life, less like school – yes! Really like this idea.

    As far as tightening the belt, I read the 2012 budget and noticed that support for the Sakyong and Court exceeds $720,000 of a $2 million budget.

    I am a devoted student of Rinpoche and know his activity is magical; nonetheless it is a challenge to give more to Shambhala International when so much supports an already bountiful Court.

    Of course I’ve “missed the point” many times before, so any comments are welcome :).

  5. Some observations and questions:
    1) SI has borrowed money to fund, among other things, a full-time nanny for the princess, a full-time scribe for the Sakyong and a second “Machen” (?) for their majesties. Presumably, the belt-tightening and layoffs that will take place won’t affect these positions. A record $300,000 was raised on Shambhala Day but it still left a $780,000 gap which means borrowing more money in the short-term. And some of that money will help pay consultants to figure out how the Unified Giving Model will work and how SI can be financially viable longer term.
    2) Resources will be devoted to the Sakyong’s publishing initiatives, including the roll-out of his next book. Despite all the marketing SI provided (and continues to provide) on “Running with the Mind of Meditation” SI isn’t entitled to any of the proceeds. How about the next book? Same thing?
    3) The vision document didn’t say a word about the reintroduction of the ratna. The Shambhala Times article on the currency can be found within “Mandala Projects.” But upon further reading it appears that the ratna is an initiative of the Sakyong Ladrang. And according to the Sakyong Ladrang website, this is how it works – “A gift to the Sakyong Ladrang directly supports the Sakyong’s activities, lineage assets and creates financial security for future Sakyongs. A gift to Shambhala supports the administration that maintains the Shambhala mandala activities and centers. Shambhala is the organizational structure that supports the Sakyong’s work of creating enlightened society.” Mandala project? Does it benefit SI? Does it pay for the nanny and scribe? Some definitive clarification would be nice.

    Does Unified Giving cover sangha members purchases of the ratna? If not, then the giving isn’t exactly unified. Will proceeds from publishing benefit SI financially? Given the nature of the challenges SI faces, the vagueness of the vision documents, particularly with respect to financial matters, is very disappointing.

  6. Some more observations and questions:

    The vision document lists strategic responses to the situation. The first three open with the words “devote resources.” It goes on to say that two new positions must be funded – a project manager and a business development consultant. The “Living Within Our Means” section cites budget cuts of only about $200k. This math doesn’t seem to work. After falling so short financially, this seems like more of the same. That is, devoting a lot of resources that the organization doesn’t have. Yes, this section also cites the intention of borrowing more money to close the gap. So, an organization that is financially strapped and facing a large budget shortfall is committing to “devote resources” and borrow more. This sounds like the same strategy that created the problem in the first place. Very unrealistic that is. The “belt-tightening” itself obviously won’t cover the shortfall or fund the additional positions.

    From the vision document – “The Sakyong has introduced a new governing structure for the mandala, based on the principle of The Three Pillars, first presented by his father. These pillars work together with the aspiration to create enlightened society. They support each other in holding the view of the inseparability of the sacred and the secular and in nurturing the balance of masculine and feminine principles. The heads of the three pillars serve on the Kalapa Council, the lha governing body of the mandala. This principle is now being extended to all centres and groups.”

    Question – What does this mean? Will our local centre will now have a Pillar of Protection? Interesting that this “principle” is being extended to centres and groups, yet the layoffs at Shambhala include high ranking members of such Pillars. At the centre level, are you suggesting actual organizational change or just a mindset?

    My intention really is not to be overly negative. Obviously, I’m not a member of the Kalapa Council, just a member of a local centre. I’m trying to communicate the point across that a strategic plan addressing financial challenges such as SI faces must be much more definitive and realistic. Similarly, the mission of an organization must be reasonable in view of its financial capacity. If not, one or the other must be modified. An increasingly expansive mission without the resources to support it is not sustainable. Hiring full-time nannies and scribes and increasing borrowing doesn’t make sense. And an answer to my question about the “ratna” (see the Shambhala Times article) – do the proceeds go to SI? – would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Dear Michael,

      Thank you for raising these questions…

      There is a three-fold logic to our thinking about how best to fund the centre of the mandala in this period of constrained resources while, at the same time, doing our best to move forward with the 2020 vision of the Sakyong.

      The first is to raise some additional funds through several initiatives which would include the Shambhala Community Bonds (similar to the community bond method used by other not-for-profit organizations with considerable success). We believe this is feasible.

      The second is to tighten our belt as far as current levels of staffing and expenditure are concerned. We have discussed this with the Sakyong who is fully in support of this three-fold strategy at the present time. That will include a 25% cut in expenditure affecting both the core services we provide to the mandala and the support we provide from the international budget to the Sakyong. He has made it clear to us that he is supportive of the cuts overall and to his direct support because he is excited by and supportive of these next steps to ensure the longer-term unfolding of Shambhala vision.

      The third is to explore new revenue streams, which would, for example, include increased use of our very considerable store of recorded teachings which can be made available in downloadable and other formats online.

      As I explained to you in our extensive earlier correspondence, the proceeds from the Sakyong’s books go to him as the author, separate from his role in Shambhala. His royalties are treated as part of his private income in accordance with his compliance with the requirements of the Internal Revenue Service.

      The re-issue of the ratnas is an initiative taken by the Sakyong through the Sakyong Ladrang. The proceeds go to support the ladrang whose role is to directly support the Sakyong’s activities, lineage assets and creates financial security for future Sakyongs.

      If you would like to discuss these detailed financial points in greater depth, our Chagdzö Kyi Khyap Connie Brock is more than willing to do that. Her email is:

      In our earlier communications, Michael, I tried to respond to a similar question you asked about whether the Sakyong should be contributing a portion of his book royalties to support the mandala as a whole. From my point of view, this raises the more fundamental question of how to understand what the Sakyong gives to Shambhala already. My answer, from my direct personal knowledge, is that the Sakyong gives himself totally, 24/7, to accomplishing Shambhala Vision. He holds and bestows the blessings of the lineage. He provides and protects the priceless teachings and transmission of our lineage. He is the vajra master of the vajra sangha of our mandala. Together with the Sakyong Wangmo, he emanates the central energy at the heart of Shambhala, is responsible for the family lineage of Shambhala, and ensures its continuity into the future. To mind that is one of the most complete gifts one could imagine.

      This is not to say that it is inappropriate to ask questions about the financial structure and procedures we follow in Shambhala. This is why it would be good to talk in detail to Connie. At the same time, I do feel it is important to put the question of the Sakyong’s personal support for the mandala in the broader context of what he is already giving unceasingly.

      The model of the “Three Pillars” is part of the Kalapa Governance Structure in place at the centre of the mandala (with the Kalapa Council and the Kalapa Executive) and now being implemented at all Shambhala Centres. It was presented at the Kalapa Governance Gatherings last year and a detailed document outlining how this works is available online. Please click here to see how it works in detail at the local level.

  7. Hi Richard. Thank you so much for your response. I think you’d agree that it’s important for folks to open their eyes and not passively accept things without thinking and questioning.

    One could easily assume that proceeds from the sales of the ratna coins or the running book might be of financial benefit to Shambhala. In your note, you say that “the Sakyong gives himself totally, 24/7, to accomplishing Shambhala Vision.” I don’t doubt your sincerity in the least, but 24/7 leaves little room for non-Shambhala business. That just makes it even more puzzling why there are these distinct “non-Shambhala” funds flows at the same time that there ARE significant Shambhala resources flowing directly and indirectly to the Sakyong (as laid out in the Shambhala budget).

    I continue to believe that the Buddha himself would have taken issue with quite a bit of what’s going. That’s not to say that great things aren’t being done within Shambhala. They are. However, that doesn’t mean we should accept things that are out of kilter. That is simply my own opinion and when it comes to opinions, people can agree to disagree. But facts are stubborn things! I wanted to be sure that I had my facts straight regarding the matters of which I’ve expressed criticism. Thank you for confirming that I do indeed have my facts straight.

    When all is said and done, people will make their own decisions. Hopefully, they are informed decisions. If not, they lack substance. With the aspiration that the qualities of humility, compassion, informed understanding and courage will prevail in our world!

  8. Hi there!
    I read the strategic plan three times to the day but I still don’t get some of the points. Reason could be my limited English skills.
    But furthermore I have the feeling that the plan lacks a few points, e.g. I don’t see a clear strategy in reference to working on Communication and Marketing. Or is it just me missing these things?

    • Hi,
      My English is also limmited, and my mind too, I am also wondering if these are the reason that I haven’t really understood how the 3 pillars system will be applied in our centers, although I have been to a few Kalapa Governance Gatherings.
      In Europe the 3rd pillar is weak, there isn’t Kasung presence in every center.
      Moreover, I see in our global manadala that the new people who have been appointed as Directors in SMC, DDL and Shambhala Europe are “professional” Kasung (former Sergent Major, and other high ranked Kasung; Simon La Haye is DCL is Dapon H).
      Personally, I am a Kasung and I love to see my fellow Kasung, whom I know that are great practitioners and very skilled people to take these positions in our governance. But my common sense says, isn’t there here an overlap, and isn’t the 3rd pillar taking the upper hand? 😉
      Yours in 2020 vision,

  9. Dear Richard and Michel,

    Your exchange sounded like a true Warrior Exchange! I am grateful to both of you.

    I would only like to add that from my experience in the European Mandala, transparency of finances is something lacking and this scarcety is not in accord with the Shambhala Principles, in my humble opinion. So, there is still a lot of work to be done on this field.

    Warmest greetings from Greece,

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