Five years ago today, I took refuge vows. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche described them this way, “In the Buddhist tradition, the purpose of taking refuge is to awaken from confusion and associate oneself with wakefulness. Taking refuge is a matter of commitment and acceptance and, at the same time, of openness and freedom. By taking the refuge vow we commit ourselves to freedom.” During that ceremony, I was also given my dharma name, which translates to Space Dancer. I still love how that name marries spaciousness and intention.
This past year has been a confusing one for my Buddhist practice. My primary sangha was in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, introduced in the west by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and continued by his son Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. I’d initially had issues with the lineage because (among other things) I had questions about Chögyam Trungpa as a teacher and student of the dharma whose answers didn’t sit right with me, but his teachings had made such a difference in my life. Pema Chödrön had been one of his students and Sakyong Mipham seemed to be an honest, generous, wise teacher, so I moved past my doubt, chose to trust, to invest.
It turns out my trust was misplaced. The more I learn about what has been happening, the more my original doubts arise and solidify, and there seems to me no repairing the situation. Which means I am suddenly without a sangha, at least not in the same way I’d experienced it before. The deeper lineage of the tradition is the Kagyu and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism, so I’m optimistic I’ll find a new teacher, a new sangha. For now, my sangha seems to be those of us who feel a little lost, who put our trust in someone or something that turned out to not be trustworthy, who stay on the path and continue to practice even when it feels like we are without company, even when we are lonely and our questions seem without answer.
Working my way through my email inbox today, two things in particular jumped out at me. In Jena Schwartz‘s newsletter, she asked, “What if it doesn’t have to be such a struggle? What if you could choose ease?” and in Julia Fehrenbacher‘s most recent newsletter, she asked, “What if you stopped making it about good and simply focused on being authentic and true?” As I continue to sit with my confusion, wondering who to trust, these questions are good reminders, a way of grounding my contemplation in wisdom and compassion.