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David Schneider's Message to the Shambhala Community
January, 2020

Dear Friends in the Noble Sangha and Shambhala Community,

This is to say that after serious consideration, I plan to step back from the role of acharya. Trying to do this properly, I have written a letter to the Sakyong, since he was the person who appointed me. That letter, like the decision, is highly personal; I am not suggesting that any other acharya—nor anyone else in the community—do other than what their heart tells them to do. My letter to the Sakyong expresses much gratitude. It was an honor to serve in that capacity for many years. Then gradually it wasn’t.

Similarly, I want to thank you for the opportunity to go into the teachings and practices together these past 23 years. It has been very moving; a tremendously rich path. I would not have traded it for any other, even if I could have. This is not to say that everything has been OK. Clearly, everything has not been OK. We would not have experienced such a powerful societal explosion—ongoing—if everything had been OK.

I did not myself see the things initially alleged against the Sakyong; but I did observe, and I was part of, an unhealthy, selectively hierarchical system of privilege and power, one that led to many people getting hurt, women mostly. I personally tried never to cause harm, but I am sure that through the years, I have done so. This will have come from my stupidity, greed, and concupiscence. These qualities, and actions arising from them, are a source of personal shame and of karmic consequence. I can only hope to find forgiveness.

As for teachings, I tried to stay close to source materials, passing along wisdom from Buddhist and Shambhala traditions. Where I have interpolated with opinion or personal narrative—and especially if I have led anyone astray from true dharma—I offer sincere apologies. I trust this can be purified through further practice and study with genuine teachers.

While I love many acharyas as individuals, I feel very differently about us as a group. We have never been cohesive, nor are we now. In leaving, I hope to avoid divisive internal politics, sudden barrages of useless email, and especially attempts—in which I have also participated—to push our group into reductive or simplistic positions. I hope no longer to be thinking about whether or how the Sakyong will answer our entreaties for communication; to no longer be chewing over questions of loyalty, or definitions of our role. I want to set down the title — one that seems to me to have no future, and to exist in the present on a very questionable basis—and use the remainder of my time thinking more creative thoughts.

At the same time, I’m not planning to go anywhere. I will continue to practice, as I have tried to do for the past 49 years; and if I am invited to teach, direct, or lead a program, I will also try to do that, consistent with my abilities and understanding.

Good luck and good lungta to us all!

In the Buddhist & Shambhala dharma, I remain yours,

David Schneider