What we usually call “Shambhala” or “Shambhala International” is, legally speaking, several related nonprofit or not-for-profit organizations (or corporate entities).
As not-for-profit or nonprofit entities, there are some general restrictions.
- When they were formed, we had to specify their “purpose”, and that purpose had to be approved as suitable for tax-exempt, charitable nonprofits by the government of the country where they were formed.
- In the case of the Shambhala organizations, the purposes are written around the theme of propagating the teachings of the lineage of Sakyongs.
- These organizations are legally required to be led by a board of directors.
- Those directors are legally required to act in accordance with the stated purpose of the organization.
- The organization’s assets cannot usually be transferred to private individuals other than through payments of compensation or reimbursement of expenses, which are scrutinized by tax authorities.
Because of these restrictions, these organizations are able to protect the Shambhala community’s and the Shambhala Lineage’s assets. These assets include money, real-estate, teachings, art, ritual implements, trademarks, names, and so on.
The structure of Shambhala has evolved over time. The current structure has two main levels: the Sakyong Potrang and the Shambhala organizations.
The Sakyong Potrangs are the legal organizations of the lineage. “Lineage” here specifically means the current Sakyong and future Sakyongs. There is one Potrang in Canada, and one in the USA. Plans for a Potrang in Europe have not been completed.
The Potrangs hold the donations that have been made specifically to the lineage (instead of to Shambhala generally, or gifts to the Sakyong personally) as well as copyright of the Sakyong’s teachings, and also ritual implements used for abhishekas and so on. The current Sakyong appoints the board of the Sakyong Potrangs, which includes the Sakyong himself, the Sakyong Wangmo, and Landy Mallory.
Shambhala USA / Canada / Europe
Shambhala USA and Shambhala Canada are the legal organizations of the Shambhala community in North America. They hold the city centers and land centers, and employ people who manage international programs, support the Shambhala Centers, do publicity, fundraise, and so on. The boards of Shambhala USA and Shambhala Canada are appointed by the respective Sakyong Potrang.
Shambhala Europe, gGmbh, is the legal organization for Shambhala in Europe. It holds the Dechen Choling real estate, as well as European trademarks and logos, and usually has its own set of employees who provide services in Europe. There is no Potrang in Europe. Instead, Shambhala USA is the sole shareholder of Shambhala Europe, and as such has the power to appoint the managing director of Shambhala Europe.
Elsewhere in the world
Shambhala Centers elsewhere the world are usually legally independent, but have an agreement with one of these three (USA, Canada, or Europe) about using the names, logos, and other intellectual property of Shambhala.
The Interim Board and the recusal of the Sakyong Potrang
In general, boards are required to follow the stated purpose of their organization, and operate in accordance with the bylaws (included below). But they are also expected to exercise their good judgement in responding to the actual situation. The Transition Task Force is trying to find interim board members who will represent and consider the full breadth of the Shambhala Community.
The Sakyong Potrang is formally waiving its right to appoint and remove the board members of Shambhala Canada and Shambhala USA for a period of one year starting when the Interim Board is seated. During this year, the Interim Board will have full legal authority over the affairs of Shambhala USA, Shambhala Canada, and indirectly over Shambhala Europe, with one major exception. They will not be able to change the legal structure or the bylaws of the organizations, or dissolve the organizations. These actions will still require the approval of the Sakyong Potrang.
The Process Team and the Bylaws
As the Process Team considers the future of Shambhala, they are free to envision anything, including changing the structures of these organizations and even the bylaws.
We hope that the Interim Board will help the Process Team experiment and prototype and respect the Process Team’s recommendations, but that needs to take place within the existing bounds of the purpose and bylaws (included below). Success for the Process Team will thus take more than just convincing the members of the Interim Board - it will probably come from a sangha-wide conversation that includes the membership and the lineage.
Current Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws
- Most centers in the USA and Canada use this charter