Home / Blog / Financial Update from Karmê Chöling

April 12, 2019

Dear Friends of Karmê Chöling,

Karmê Chöling celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2020. We have been a safe haven for thousands of meditation students to practice and study the profound depths of Kagyü, Nyingma and Shambhala Buddhism in the quiet hills of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. 

Between now and the 2020 celebrations Karmê Chöling faces tough financial decisions.

Based on program attendance in the last quarter of 2018; in December we predicted a 20 to 25% drop in 2019. In the first quarter of 2019 this was actually closer to 50% in most programs, with a total net loss of $153,330. 

As a result of the generous donations at the end of 2018, we began 2019 in the black. By April we have run out of our reserves. Anticipating this, at the beginning of March we began phoning all the leading Heart of the Tiger Capital Campaign donors to let them know that we needed to end the capital campaign and to ask them what they would be able to do to assist Karmê Chöling with the donations already given to the campaign. 

From these individual donors, after subtracting satisfied releases, a total of $178,150 was readily repurposed to operational expenses to help sustain us while we determined the most fiscally responsible next steps. Words cannot adequately convey our heartfelt gratitude for the immediate, spontaneous offering from each of these individuals. Their generosity speaks to their deep appreciation of Karmê Chöling and their desire for it to continue. Other donors have been contacted by email and there may well be further campaign donations yet to be repurposed.

It is difficult to predict how or when attendance at programs will increase, even with new programming. Assuming the current trend will continue, with the uncertainty existing across Shambhala, taking into consideration the repurposed capital campaign donations, we will still need $220,000 by the end of year to keep operating.  We would then continue to run at a loss at the beginning of 2020. Between December 2019 and April 2020, we calculate a loss of $254,500 if Karmê Chöling continues normal operations under the current conditions.

Such a situation is fiscally untenable and demands prudent, creative measures, thinking outside the box. In consultation with our financial advisors and with the agreement of the Interim Board, we have decided for the time being to shift to a seasonal model similar to that of Dorje Denma Ling, beginning in November 2019. With reduced staffing in the winter, the net loss between November and April is reduced to approximately $56,000 which we hope to cover in donations.

Some of the Karmê Chöling staff will remain on-site during this winter session when programs are not offered in order to maintain the facilities, continue planning and recruit staffing for programming beginning in late April or early May. While the extensive details for accomplishing this transition have yet to be determined, we wanted to share this information with you as quickly as possible.

No one would have predicted the necessity of this decision a year ago. The circumstances underpinning it are profoundly saddening. Yet adversity can result in regeneration, with the 50th anniversary of the birth of Karmê Chöling inspiring fresh, new ideas for the summer session of 2020. We invite all of our Karmê Chöling friends to let us know what would meet your needs for Shambhala Buddhist practice, study and community, and how you might like to participate in Karmê Chöling’s future.

Coincidentally this will be achieved with a new Executive Director. By November 2019 I will have been at Karmê Chöling almost 6 years. After careful consideration of what would best serve the interests of Karmê Chöling, I have decided to step aside so that a new director can bring their energy, vision, skills, and love of Karmê Chöling to the transformation of Shambhala in this corner of the green hills of Vermont. A search committee chaired by Ms. Caroline DeMaio will soon invite applications.

Thank you for your patience and love as we move forward with great care and tenderness.

With gratitude,

Myra Woodruff
Executive Director
Karmê Chöling Shambhala Meditation Center



  1. Carol Colmus formally Carol Root says:

    I could pay to live at KC for a month or so in the winter. I was a bookkeeper for 45 years and was a bookkeeper at KC in 1979. At that time I was Carol Root. Would that be possible?

    • Jean Pitman, Marketing KCL says:

      We can pass your kind offer to the new director once they are selected although we are planning to scale way back in the winter months. Thank you Carol!

  2. Rochelle Weithorn I can’t speak for the yidams. Really. And it’s not a management issue.

    Like yourself I’ve been a dharma student at KCL since 1973.

    The question, at least to me, is that we have to stop fooling ourselves about what the message is from the phenomenal world.

    I saw this myself a few years ago when my adult children and I were denied a visit to pay our respects to the purkang, because it was “closed.”

    It is serious. something akin to a “black hole “ in space, meaning how it will suck in all energy, light, money and yes, sexuality which is the energy of reproduction, any kind of reproductive creativity.

    As long as KCL continues to work with it as an “outputs and indicators” management issue, you will continually be arranging the chairs on deck of the Titanic.

    The issue is not “image.” It is the contagion of the toxicity of the Sakyong’s leadership in light of the scandal.

    Of course I’m a bona fide nobody running a charity in Tibet and I’m not even a member of SI. But until there is some real break away from SMR, the entities such as Marpa House will continue to be liquidated. And KCL is next on the block.

    We should wake up to this sad message from the phenomenal world. As Trungpa Rinpoche has said, money is the sexuality of the business world. No amount of new leadership or financial models can solve that problem.

    KCL has to assault the barricades of hesitation and become independent of the Sakyong and Shambhala’s toxicity. Then it’s original inspiration can shine though and lose its guilt-by-association.

    Sorry to be so rough, but losing KCL would be a monstrous act of anti dharma. It’s the place of our forefathers and fore-mothers.

    • Jean Pitman, Marketing KCL says:

      Thank you for your passionate and honest response. We are doing everything we can to insure the present and the future of KCL and we do recognize that it is a rare gem for all of us.

    • Vickie Schafer says:

      We are a Buddhist Meditation Center. Let’s bring this back to our title and advertising. I am probably not the only one, but before we lose KCL I will chain myself to the front pillars. Overly dramatic? I don’t think so. This is a serious time.

  3. KCL has not been a safe haven. It has primarily recruited young people to be a part of it’s staff for either a paid stay or as a non-paying work-study . Many of the sexual abuses which took place at KCL were allowed because of systematically using a large number of young, vulnerable, and naive students believing they were coming there for a spiritual environment and practices. In place of that, it had a few higher up entranced sexual predators who took advantage of their naivete. This went back decades. There was a lot of love and kindness but it doesn’t make up for the dark problems built into the culture there of alcoholism and sexual manipulation. Maybe Gampo Abbey would be an example with a minimum age of at least thirty.

  4. Crisis is an opportunity.
    Strip things back to basics.
    Eschew sidetracks concerned with preserving X or Y lineages or paths and so forth, including programs featuring various types of progressive paths or levels.
    Just offer basic no-nonsense dathun-style sitting practice.
    For now, encourage staff like Carol Root who can pay rent, not those without income.
    That said, keep resident staff down to bare minimum.
    Offer 6+ months a year dathuns, or even all the time all year long.

    Vary the offering by changing head teachers, and/or varying themes (detailed shamatha-vipashana instructions with 9 Ways, 6 Obstacles etc., Shambhala Dathun, Lojon Dathun, Life of Buddha with Precepts emphasized etc.).

    Program scholarships provide most of any staff needed and most programs will easily staff themselves from regular rota anyway (cooking shifts, housekeeping, oryoki, work periods etc.).

    Again, no need to try to maintain ‘forward momentum’ regarding any particular path or teaching stream. It’s time to go back to basics. Just sit.

    And proactively invite people of all levels of experience, insiders, outsiders, loyalists, exiles, tantrics, beginners, and so forth, so that all can come to any such sessions at any time and simply practice together.
    Just sit.
    For the ‘foreseeable future.’

    In this way, Karme Choling can lead the way for the international sangha as well as providing perhaps the single best, simple and most financially viable way forward.

  5. Thank you Myra for all your hard work, it is greatly appreciated. I agree with Lee that losing KCL would represent a large step backwards in terms of establishing dharma practice in the west. May these troubled times bring us great opportunity for renewal and re-creation.

  6. Let other groups (environmental, corporate, new age even etc.) rent Karme Choling when programs aren’t happening, It will benefit KC financially and the groups renting will benefit also by being in the uplifting environment that is KC and the exposure to a community that practices meditation.

    • Vickie Schafer says:

      This is an idea that has been refused before. We now need to think seriously about using our KCL space to bring in funds. Also could we get back to Shambhala Buddhist Center. We were Buddhist before we were Shambhala.

  7. Thank you Myra, but
    What happened to the retreat cabins? I don’t see any mention of them?
    I lived at KCL in 1979 and 1994-1996, a golden age, and doing a retreat was so precious, isn’t it anymore?

    I also agree with Lee,
    And losing KCL would certainly irritate many dakinis

    • Jean Pitman, Marketing KCL says:

      Please visit our retreat cabin pages! Our cabins are incredible, affordable and we have recently updated these pages with more photos of the inside of each cabin. Our cabins are available year-round as are our in-house retreats. Please contact our retreat master for more information (link in the link above). Yes our cabins are cherished and these days a retreat is even more relevant and necessary…

  8. The times and culture are changing. Perhaps it is time to transcend a feudal Tibetan system where the royal lama sits way up on a high golden thrown and looks down at the commoners. There may be little place in the west at this point for this paradigm. The hierarchy is in truth heretical. No one has more or less dignity as a Buddha than another. Shambhala will either change with the times, or sadly, may become a relic of history. I hope the essential wisdom teachings that it holds will survive. But the way in which these teachings are traditionally held, packaged, and shared will inevitably perpetuate the same political pecking order. The traditional rule book may have to be scrapped or revised. The younger generation must lead this transition. May the social equality of our modern times be united with the deeper wisdom of equality. May all beings realize who they are!

    • Whether or not the mandala continues with or without a Kingdom and Throneholder, it must also remain firmly grounded in the Outer Mandala of conventional, or ordinary, dharmas, including both Common and National Law, obeying all Statutes and moral norms therein. So a fundamental re-orientation is called for away from sourcing everything from the Lha on Down – the lineage, the guru, the terma, the next higher program etc. – and instead grounding things in kitchen sink reality.

      This is why I still recommend sitting, sitting, sitting. Abandon the concepts, the layers, the aspirations, the many different lineages, the notion of advanced or beginner, of progress on the path or a path leading to progress. Let it all go for a while.

      If this cannot be done in KCL of all places, then it cannot be done at all. And if it cannot be done at all in this mandala, then what good is it?


      Personally, am astonished at the silence from the leadership in the mandala, both SMR himself and all his Acharyas. They are stunned. They have nothing to offer. It’s time for ordinary people to do ordinary things and leave the arcanity alone for a while. It can only function, in any case, if things are properly grounded in the Outer Mandala, or as VCTR put it shortly before his departure:

      “Never forget the Hinayana!”

      How many dathuns have been offered in the last two years at KCL? It should have been at least twelve…….


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