July 21st, 2009 by David Whitehorn
Welcome to the Desung blog, developed by the Desung Command Group of the Dorje Kasung to help explore Desung practice. In the posts below you will find information and pictures from the annual Desung Command Group Conference held this year in May 2009 at Dorje Denma Ling; and transcription of brief presentations given by a panel of senior officers as a Shambhala on-line event on 16 May 2009.
As with all blogs, each new postings is added ‘above’ the previous ones. Therefore, we would suggest that you scroll down to the bottom of the postings and begin reading them in order from there upward. This is particularly important for the on-line panel presentations that were sequentially ordered to address view, practice and action of Desung practice.
We encourage you, as well, to post your comments in the space available after each posting; (click on the title of the individual posting to see it alone and access the comment space at the bottom of the posting).
July 21st, 2009 by David Whitehorn
Q – There is a question from Chicago, which is, these teachings are very similar to Shambhala Training, how is Desung practice any different?
DM – These are not different teachings. There’s not a different unconditional world that we are attracted to. There is not a different basic goodness. Desung is very much part of Shambhala, a very integral part. Desung Training and Desung path is total training. When we involve ourselves in it, we don’t go home from a weekend program and do something else. We go home and notice that we haven’t done the dishes, and that we have to do some other things. So there is always an interaction with the phenomenal world. We understand that we want to be able to be in the phenomenal world. We want to actually start there as it is, just as it is, on an everyday basis. We can’t go into situations and be of help if we can’t be in the situation, if we can’t be open to it. So we can’t turn this on and off. And believe me when I first started this I thought that that was possible and tried it. It doesn’t work. So it forces one into a situation where one is constantly involved in the process, and there’s no time out. To get back to your question, Desung practice is not fundamentally different, but it is total in that we are working with the aspiration of just being in the moment. It’s a fruition practice where we say ‘alright the only obstacle here is ourselves’. Working with that obstacle we have the hope, and actually it’s our experience, that we can work towards a state of just being. We can work with that if that is our aspiration and our intention. We have the possibility then of seeing clearly in which case our actions can be skillful. So perhaps there is a difference in intention and continuity.
DWR – I’ll approach that question from a slightly different angle. During our recent meeting of all the Desung Command Group at Dorje Denma Ling, one of the things we did was have the Dragon Dapon Barry Boyce come and work with us. He focused on gaining adeeper understanding of the Sun Tzu, “The Art of War” and how this relates to desungship, especially using the ideas in the new book that he and Jim Gimian wrote, ‘The Rules of Victory’. One of the things that came up in that context is the notion of ‘forming’, of creating forms. So another way to think about Desung practice is that it is a form and that forms are used to hold and focus energy. From that point of view, we might say that we are taking the fundamental teachings of Shambhala and the energy that arises from doing those practices and holding it and focusing it through our Desung practice: including taking on actual posts, positions within the society, and also particularly working together as an organized group.
There are now about 160 members of the Desung Arm and it is growing. As Commander Coats was saying, we’re certainly envisioning that every single Center, no matter what it’s size, will eventually have a Desung. To the extent that we can link all of these people together who are doing the same practice, Desung practice, we can build the group energy and make that available to the society in general. So we might say that the teachings aren’t any different but we are able to use a particular form to hold and focus the result of those teachings.
CCR – I would like to address that from yet another point of view. It is true that there are different roles within Shambhala society. But they are all coming from the same ground, and we have the same inspiration. In the Desung we have a particular role. In 2006 the Council of the Makkyi Rabjam, the command group of the Dorje Kasung, met with the Sakyong. I had the opportunity at that meeting to tell him about what the Desung Arm was doing and to seek his advice about our particular role. The issues we are working withas Desung are related to health and well-being, or involve conflict and heightened situations. In terms of roles, the Sakyong said that health and well-being is primarily the responsibility of the civilian aspects of the mandala. He said that when things become intensified to a certain degree that reaches a “code red”, and then it becomes necessary for the military, in this case the Desung, to get involved. So, I think that as a society, as a mandala, this is something we are still working on. We are still developing and sometimes there is no civilian support for health and well being situations and, of course, we do not have yet Desung everywhere. So in some places, in some situations, Desung are dealing with very important health and well-being issues such as creating circles of care for people who are chronically ill or dying. In other places those situations are dealt with much more by the civilian aspects of the mandala, so I think it’s still an evolving situation.
July 21st, 2009 by David Whitehorn
Commander Debbie Coats Rupon – In terms of action, I want to start by saying again that the Desung are part of enlightened society. In the Sakyong’s treatise on Organization and Society, he describes an enlightened society as one in which all the societal institutions and structures are based on the understanding that all people possess a mind that is inherently intelligent and compassionate. That is, all of us have basic goodness. Our experience of basic goodness that we develop through meditation practice is what inspires us to want to be Desung and to participate in the practice and actually work with that in our daily lives.
I started practicing meditation within Shambhala in 1987 and ‘88. At that time I was working as a nurse on a cancer ward in a specialist hospital. The people who came to that ward had been through treatment in other hospitals and that treatment hadn’t worked. So they were in need of extra treatment or more extreme treatment in some way. Often they were quite ill. The ward specialized in treating people with very rare tumors that occur in young people, such as testicular cancers, cancers of the womb lining, and lymphomas.
So, many young people would come in to that ward. They would have their treatment and some would get better and would go home and that would be fine. But quite a few would come in and would be going through treatment for many months. As nurses we were working with them for a long time and we’d get to know them and their families really well and would become quite close. They would become our friends. Gradually these young people would become more ill and at some point they would die. As nurses we would be dealing with the patients and their families and all the emotional upheavals that occur when people are dying.
I think at that time I felt I had no tools to be able to deal with all of that. Looking back I realize I had built up this huge wall around myself. I would keep very, very busy so I didn’t actually have the time to talk to people a lot or relate to them very directly and connect with them. It was just too painful.
During that time I started going to the Shambhala Center and I did Level I of Shambhala Training. I was quite proud of myself for actually managing to sit still for a whole weekend and for finishing the Level. And then a few months later I did Level II and my experience there was of sitting with all this, with all the emotions and not being able really to escape. It felt as thoughwith every breath the face of one of these people, these friends who had died, would come up. And there was actually no escape from that. I was kind of forced to connect with it and it was excruciatingly painful, but I actually could connect at that point and it didn’t destroy me as I had thought it would.
At that point I could feel the pain and actually connect with it and I remember just crying and crying and crying and crying. The director of the program was very kind and took me aside afterwards and talked to me. It really felt like a big breakthrough to be able to contact that pain and just let it be there and experience it. I think I was able to do that because of the container that was created in the Shambhala Levels.
For me, that kind of experience, of being able to connect with the pain and let it be there, allowed me to go further, to be able to want to connect with other people. I felt that the wall I had built up around myself actually gradually dissolved. For me, that has been the whole process of working with Kasung and Desung practice, just being able to be human and actually connect with other human beings, or animals or whatever, and actually be able to allow that space; to rest in basic goodness.
As Whitehorn Rupon mentioned earlier, in Desung practice we are also trying to create a container in which other people can experience their basic goodness, particularly when things are not going well. In the kind of situations Desung often work with, there could be an opportunity for people to simply experience what’s going on with them and perhaps experience a bigger mind; to experience what is going on and be able to experience basic goodness.
As the Desung Arm Commander I’m working with Desung all over the world. Organizationally we have a Desung Council of senior officers and we have Desung Commanders in each of the seven Kasung Regions and at the Shambhala land centers. We are also working on training more Desung so that we can at some point have Desung in every Shambhala Center.
An important part of Desung action is to work in collaboration with all the other aspects of Shambhala society, particularly the civilian government and the church. The role of the Desung is to ensure that heightened situations are taken care of, that things don’t go unaddressed. Sometimes we might deal with them ourselves, if that’s necessary, but we more often bring situations to the awareness of the people who are the most appropriate to work with them. Depending upon the situation it might be most appropriate and skillful for administrators, teachers or MIs to be involved and take the lead. Each situation is quite individual, but they all have one thing in common from a Desung point of view. That is that everyone involved has inherent, unconditional basic goodness and, therefore, the situation is always fundamentally workable.
We can stop there and leave time for questions and comments from those of you who are out there linked to us through cyberspace. My apologies for the technical problems we had earlier and thank for you staying with us.
July 21st, 2009 by David Whitehorn
Dapon M, Dennis Southward – We know that we have basic goodness. We have developed an affinity for that by virtue of the teacher’s example and the lineage’s teachings. We know quite a bit but we are set back by our own fixations. So how do we practice? As Desung we use those fixed notions of body speech and mind as the means of waking up – that is we don’t stuff them down, we don’t ignore them: in fact as we engage the world we look out for them. If we make friends with them our fixations are acknowledged. Then they can be made into offerings.
And we may have to offer them many times. It is not necessarily a matter of finding issues once and then they go away. We may have to visit those particular difficult places many times. As a result we have to develop a lot of kindness (maître) towards ourselves. We have to have a lot of kindness. That’s because it is a hard process to do every day – day in/day out – day after day – to look at oneself and look at how one is interacting with the world.
A lot of times we are able to make great discoveries about how the world works. We can have appreciation of the great beauty we find. And often we encounter our own fixations and we have to work with those. So we surrender body. In many, many ways we do that. We go to practice, we work with people, we wear our uniforms, we spend time at the Centers. There are many ways that we surrender body. The same with speech. With speech we don’t just mean verbal speech but how we interact with the world, how we radiate out, understanding that we radiate out all the time, anytime that we are interacting with the phenomenal world. And we surrender mind, so that we don’t hold secret places and that we are willing to work with our own doubt.
There are many opportunities to do this and a constant need for honesty and genuineness. It means we have to be kind, not beating up ourselves, not being victims or whatever trap we may fall into. That kindness is maitri. When we look at others on the path, or even others who aren’t on the path who are trapped in their own confusions, we see the struggle that they have. It’s not that different than our own. This is the birth of compassion that grows in us and becomes the means for us to just explore the basic energies that we encounter in the world. We are no longer caught in hope and fear. In fact we understand that engaging with the phenomenal world is the way of informing ourselves, is the way of gaining knowledge and wisdom. We can interact with the world and see clearly. When we see clearly without our hopes and fears, without our judgments, then we can have skillful action. That really is what Desung practice is about. It is a total practice. We don’t turn it on or off, we don’t try to take breaks from it. We do it all the time. So I think basically that’s the view of the practice. There are many tools that we have and I would invite you to come to Desung Training and we can go over those.
July 21st, 2009 by David Whitehorn
David Whitehorn Rupon – What we want to do is give you a quick overview of the Desung Arm and how it’s developing as a part of the Shambhala Society. We have divided the presentation into three sections representing the view, practice and action of Desung practice. My task is to orient you to the Desung View. I should say that from the start, when Mr. Southward was appointed as the first Desung in 1984, view has been of paramount importance. It might be said that holding the view is the very core of what desung do.
The fundamental purpose of the Desung Arm as part of the Dorje Kasung is to support and protect enlightened society. I think in the Desung Arm we are quite serious about actually manifesting enlightened society on the spot, to the extent that we are capable of doing that. As one of the institutions you could say of the emerging Shambhala society, we are aware of how important it is for us to manifest to the best of our abilities based on the principles of enlightened society – which are of course fundamentally based on the understanding that all beings possess basic goodness.
The method by which we try to manifest properly is actually described in our name – Desung. ‘Sung’ means protector and ‘de’ is usually translated as either bliss or harmony. So the Desung are the protectors of the bliss or harmony. We have chosen the title “Protecting Primordial Harmony” for this program to emphasize that the protection we are talking about is not protecting conventional bliss, as opposed to not-bliss, or conventional harmony as opposed to not-harmony – that is dualistic – but to protect unconditional harmony, unconditional bliss, which is none other than the experience of basic goodness.
The un-conditionality of what we are protecting has the interesting twist that of course unconditional things don’t need to be protected because they aren’t affected by circumstances whatsoever. So we aren’t really protecting something that is unconditional, in fact the un-conditionality is protecting us. That’s our ultimate protection, to rest in that. So what we are actually doing is trying to protect people’s access to basic goodness, people’s access to primordial harmony or primordial bliss. We do that by creating environments in which people are able to experience their own inherent basic goodness. It’s been our experience that in order to create such an environment we need to experience, or rest in, our own basic goodness.
As Desung we are generally called upon to enter situations that are quite heightened for one reason or another – physical or mental problems, social issues, conflicts of various kinds. Very often the people involved in the situation are experiencing intense emotions, kleshas and fixed views about what is happening and why. In other words, they may be quite disconnected from their own basic goodness. So, Desung practice involves entering those situations and to the best of our ability resting in basic goodness. From a Desung point of view, this is the most fundamental way that we can actually help the situation. By doing so we are offering the opportunity for other people in the situation to do the same.
Desung practice is quite challenging as you can imagine. The idea is to go into heightened situations and to the best of our ability rest in our own basic goodness. That’s the first step. That’s the view. In terms of building enlightened society, we could say this is the fundamental practice for any citizen; to recognize the basic goodness that is inherent in themselves and in everyone else and to act and interact with that view as the basis. So I want to pass the microphone on to Dapon M who will talk more about what that practice is actually like.
July 21st, 2009 by David Whitehorn
Dapon M, Commander Coats Rupon and Whitehorn Rupon prepare for the on-line presentation
On May 16, 2009, the Desung Arm of the Dorje Kasung offered a 90 minute live Shambhala Online presentation originating from the shrine room of the Halifax Shambhala Centre where the senior officers of the Desung were participating in a weekend program entitled ‘Protecting Primordial Harmony: Desung and enlightened society’. The online presentation was open to any interested persons. No experience or connection with Desung practice was required. Over 50 users, from around the world, connected in on the web. In the tradition of the mishap lineage there were audio problems with the first 40 minutes of the web cast. Once these were corrected the presenters chose to start over.
The blog postings that follow are a slightly edited transcript of the resulting presentation by Debbie Coats Rupon, the Desung Arm Commander, along with Dapon M Dennis Southward and David Whitehorn Rupon, members of the Desung Council; and some of the question submitted by the on-line participants with the associated responses from the Desung officers.
July 13th, 2009 by David Whitehorn
Dapon M (Desung Council) and Khenchen Felice Owens (Dragon Region)
Irene Vliegenthart (Desung Council) Khenchen Nick Birch (GES Regional Commander, an invited guest at the conference), Khenchen Nicolette de Hoop (DCL Land Centre Desung) and Khenchen Margaret Osborne (DDL Land Centre Desung)
Khenchen Marita McLauglin (Lion region) and Harry Tate Kado (Drala region)
The Desung Command Group Conference at DDL (May 12-15) provided a unique opportunity for all seven of the Regional Desung Commanders, along with the land center Desung, the Desung Council and invited local guests, to have extensive conversations about how the Desung are manifesting to bring the vision of enlightened society into heightened situations involving illness and conflict. The staff of DDL made our stay a true delight and the power of the DDL land was inspiring. These pictures were taken by Khenchen Dan Peterson, Garuda (west coast) Desung Commander.
July 13th, 2009 by David Whitehorn
Desung Command Group raising the flags at DDL
Each morning during the Desung Command Group Conference at Dorje Denma Ling, we conducted a flag raising ceremony under the able guidance of Sgt Kelly Mitchell. This picture was taken on a rather cold and windy morning and some of were bundled in our warmest jackets. Following the flag raising Sgt Kelly led us in nearly an hour of drill; a sure way to warm up.
May 20th, 2009 by David Whitehorn
It is a pleasure to send this very brief report from the Desung Command Group conference that is taking place at DDL. The weather here in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia has been delightfully sunny. Spring has come to the Maritimes and the dralas of DDL are cheerful and spacious.
The conference brings together all seven of the Regional Desung Commanders, two land centre desung and the Desung Council, along with the regimental desung from Halifax. With the GES regional commander and the local regimental commander sitting is, we have fifteen people in our circle in the shrine room.
We arrived on Tuesday evening (May 12) and began sharing stories of our personal and desung lives. On Wednesday we participated in a lhasang, with DDL staff, to support the start of the Sakyong’s retreat. During the day, in addition to doing Werma and Dorje Dradul practice, we identified the key issues that are arising in each of the regions. In the late afternoon the Dragon Dapon Barry Boyce joined us and led a lively discussion of the Sun Tsu and it’s application to desung practice, particularly in regard to working with chaos and conflict. The conversation continued over dinner in the shrine room and on into the evening until our curfew at 10pm; (they go to bed early at DDL).
This morning (Thursday) we had nearly an hour of drill, led by Sgt Mitchell; more practice and more discussion of desung view, practice and action.
It’s late, so I will close with the promise to send a more detailed report later. Tomorrow (Friday) we close the conference after lunch and drive to Halifax (2 hours) where we begin a weekend program, open to everyone, on the topic of “Protecting Primordial Harmony”.
–originally posted on [email protected] on May 13, 2009
May 7th, 2009 by David Whitehorn
The Desung Arm of the Dorje Kasung is pleased to initiate this blog to provide information, descriptions and comments related to Desung practice.
The blog will begin with reports from the annual Desung Command retreat that is being held, this year, at Dorje Denma Ling, in Nova Scotia. The blog will continue during the weekend public Desung program to be held in Halifax, May 15-17.
Note as well, that there will be a live, Shambhala on-line presentation from the program at 3pm ET on Saturday, May 16. Go to the Shambhala on-line website to register for that event.
If you can’t participate in the live on-line event you can watch a recording of it later, if you have registered. –Whitehorn Rupon