Back to All Events

Kalapa Council Considers Selling Nalanda Translation Committee HQ In Financial Crisis

From Shambhala Online:

“Stephen started the topic BB: at 1:56 pm, August 6, 2018 Please read this and send letters to the Kalapa Council

Dear sangha

We have just learned that the Nalanda Translation Committee headquarters in Halifax is being targeted by the Kalapa Council to be mortgaged or sold to offset the financial crisis in Shambhala International.

This house was given to the NTC by a major donor, along with several other properties, and it was designated to remain as the headquarters for the committee in perpetuity. It is fully paid for with no encumbrances. The donor trusted Nalanda Foundation (to whom it was given—same board of directors as Shambhala) and so did not make a written statement at that time, which would have protected those properties from being sold off by a later administration that might disregard their importance for financial expediency. This house is the main financial asset of the NTC, and its value was always intended by the donor to benefit the NTC alone. To mortgage or sell this for any other reason would be directly going against the donor’s stated wishes.

We ask you as a sangha who may recognize the importance of the NTC to petition the Kalapa Council to reconsider their pending action. We are students of the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche who see the Nalanda Translation Committee as essential for the further propagation of the heritage of the Vidyadhara into the world. They have much more work ahead in translating hundreds of pages of his earlier works from Tibetan into English and also in upholding the practice lineage.

While the Kalapa Council has announced that they will step down soon, in actual fact they remain in control as the only board of directors until sometime next month. Meanwhile they continue to meet, deliberate and enact policies and decisions that will bear great consequence to the future of the students who practice and study the heritage of the Vidyadhara.

If you share our concern, we beseech you to contact the Kalapa Council ASAP, urging them to find alternative funding options for their immediate needs, as they are expected to make a decision on mortgaging or selling the property in the coming days.”

It’s my understanding that The Kalapa Council still runs SI for ~ 6 more weeks— until a new governance structure & new board are selected.


More context:

1) Letter from Patricia Blaine, a former NTC translator, written in response to the original letter from Barbara Elizabeth Stewart & Miriam Tarcov (the one posted on SF Shambhala site).

To me, the important part of Patricia's letter is learning that NTC has actually been a very difficult place to work as a woman, and we've lost a generation of woman translator's because of it. I think it's important to share this at this time as a lot of us, myself included, venerate NTC, its members, and their work. I still have a deep appreciation for their exertion over many years in translating so much dharma, but it sounds like it may be time to recreate our translation body (which isn't to say going against a donor's wishes should be taken lightly, but on that, see David Brown's letter).

2) Reply from David Brown, secretary to the Sakyong, sent a couple days ago to everyone who had written re the possibility of mortgaging the old NTC house, which was shared publicly (on the unaffiliated Shambhala fb group).

Letter/Comment from Patricia Blaine:

"Respectfully, the people who wrote this letter have no idea what the actual environment of NTC has been over the past 20 years. The two younger women who worked at NTC full time for 12 and 10 years (myself and Jessie Litven) left NTC in 2014 in protest after many years of trying and failing to improve the work environment because we found it absolutely intolerable. The only "new members" who survive are people who don't actually live in Halifax and have very little interaction with the full time NTC employees. These "new members" decide to join based on NTC's former reputation and the academic honor of being a member of a committee. Because they don't actually interact much with the committee, they don't learn what a difficult environment it is, and NTC uses their names to look more forward thinking than they actually are. The letter writers' statement that NTC is training a new generation is deeply offensive and ill informed to the previous "new generation" who lost their translation careers because of NTC's poor conduct and the lack of oversight of NTC by the larger mandala. Another young woman translator who was hired to translate for them in China (after Jessie refused to do so anymore) also stopped working for them after experiencing what the working environment was like in person. 

As for the supposed offense of mortgaging "the translation house," the main use of that house has been as Larry Mermelstein's personal residence, for which he pays a minimal rent well below the going rate. There isn't anywhere else in the mandala where a director is given an almost free house for life. For most of my time at NTC we didn't even have meetings at the house never mind work there. Before Tingdzin moved out of the basement, texts were kept in the unfinished basement hallway and packed on top of the dryer, the most "lu" setting you could imagine. (in recent years they use the basement room for occasional meetings and text storage). This is a far cry from what most people are probably imagining as a glorious "translation house". There's also the fact that Kalapa Media which has an uplifted storage space and shipping system already in place could be handling the orders and shipping for NTC instead of everything being duplicated twice and using double the resources. I invite those of you who are offended by the mortgage of the house to look a little more practically and closely at the situation, and not base your opinion solely on the promotional material of the NTC newsletter. 

Another thing that really bothers me about the letter is that it deifies the role of "translator" to an absurd degree, it even uses a sort of religious grammatical construction, saying "we must not impede or disrespect the work of the translators." The idea of a sort of sacred translator is part of what the four older men of the committee have hidden behind for decades, obscuring their actual conduct. I find it ironic that while the Sakyong's life is being scrutinized under a microscope, the letter seems to suggest these four ordinary guys should be respected at all costs."

Reply from David Brown:

Dear All,

Please for give me addressing you as a group, but with 56 emails of concern for the well being of the Nalanda Translation Committee arriving both to the Kalapa Council and my office in a short period of time, and our small staff, I was at a loss how else to respond.

The Kalapa Council met yesterday and we discussed other options to mortgaging or selling the house used by the Nalanda Translation Committee. We do not want to go against the donor's intent for this property, but painful decisions may be necessary. 

Ryan Watson's message (which we did not review) of July 18 implying NTC was "no longer core to our operations" does not reflect the Kalapa Council's view. We do not want to limit the work of the Nalanda Translation Committee, and should a move ever be necessary, we have offered them space for their office, warehousing, translation work, meetings, and shipping needs, so their good work may continue.

A report will be sent out on the 15th outlining Shambhala's financial situation. As you can imagine the ground is shifting, and the financial landscape is changing rapidly. For the present Shambhala will hold off mortgaging and selling the Edward Street property as long as funds are found to meet our expenses, which are being reduced dramatically.

I have written to Martha and Helen Bonzi; and Wendy Friedman has shared this with Larry and offered to remain in collaboration with him on behalf of the Kalapa Council to explore other options and solutions. 

I would ask you to wait for the Financial Report on August 15. If you respond to me, please know that with over 120 emails pending as of today, no timely response may be possible.

Yours in the vision of Shambhala,

David S. Brown Executive Secretary to the Sakyong Shambhala