Atiyoga Foundation as an Umbrella
The Words of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu
From a meeting with Mark Farrington, Steven Landsberg, Fabio Andrico, and Andrea Dell’Angelo
December 7, 2017 at Dzamling Gar
In the Dzogchen Community the way of working, internally, externally and economically, is that all areas are autonomous, so that one person is not controlling everything. Everybody who is responsible for an area takes this responsibility and they report back and things become unified and everything becomes much easier; things are less expensive, we need less time and less people. Then there is more possibility for more people because now in the Dzogchen Community we have so many branches, so many different aspects.
We need to make it possible for everyone to participate and to offer more general courses and present them in a more normal way. In this case we need to be a little more open. Open doesn’t mean, for example, that the Teaching or everything is open, but that we need to offer some topics or areas in a different way; we need a different way of working. This is what I am thinking about when we talk about an umbrella foundation. It is fantastic if there is this possibility, but we need to check everything to see if we can actually make this foundation or not.
Studying, learning and developing, this is my idea. When I tell people my idea, some people feel afraid and they think my idea is dangerous. But we are present and we work with circumstances, not that someone has decided one way and we must follow that. We always work with circumstances, we see how the circumstances are; we see if there is a possibility or not, if the circumstances are good or not.
This is how the Dzogchen Community works basically because we have open and not open Teaching, so if we go in a perfect way, there is no problem. I am saying that we need different sections and different people responsible for these sections. The responsible people are checking and collaborating and then they report in a unified place.
We work with circumstances, we see how the actual situation is and then we work with that. We don’t say everybody needs to be registered as only a cultural or religious association. In some countries it is better to be registered as religious and in some better as cultural. We should work with circumstances. When we work with circumstances things do not become heavy, everything is easier.
Now, for example, we have two foundations, two separate entities: Shang Shung Foundation and Dzogchen Community Foundation (which is legally not a foundation but an association, Ed.) and now they are becoming one. How do we become one? This doesn’t mean we cancel everything, but inside these different areas there are different aspects, different kinds of work. So these areas all become autonomous and work in that way.
For the organization and the foundation, when you have two entities, you need to spend money for two separate entities; we don’t need to do this and in this way we are limiting things and in the end we cannot integrate. So now we need to open more possibilities for many different aspects of the Dzogchen Community. This means we become larger and more open.
Then there is an umbrella, the umbrella of the Dzogchen Teaching. The Teachings are for all sentient beings, not only for monasteries, also for groups of practitioners. If there is a more elevated teaching, it would be a little more limited, and in the end everybody cannot understand and apply, so for that reason we have different areas, different aspects within the foundation.
For example, ASIA will remain autonomous, but ASIA will be connected with this umbrella. This is what we need. ASIA is the work of the Dzogchen Community, this is what we mean when we say ASIA is part of the Dzogchen Community. You do not necessarily have to say you are working for the Dzogchen Community, it is the work of the Dzogchen Community, but you know that and you deal with the umbrella of Dzogchen Community, because everything is unified there. This is what we need.
The umbrella will have another name and under this umbrella you will have the Dzogchen Community dealing with the Teachings, for instance, ASIA dealing with Tibet, and etc. The foundation will be called The Atiyoga Foundation.
Everything will be integrated and there will be more possibility; all activities will enter there. That is why at Merigar (West, Ed.) for example, we are making some business of tourism, but these things cannot enter in our association, because there is no legal possibility. In society we need to make money, otherwise how can we live. We develop everything, but it doesn’t mean that the Dzogchen Teaching is becoming a business.
Maybe you didn’t read our program, but you can read it and then you can understand. We have prepared everything with Marco Baseggio. He has been working on this for a long time and reporting back to us. Sometimes we are correcting things.
Some people feel afraid when they hear about this change, but I am not afraid because until now, like Merigar (West, Ed.) and Dzamling Gar, there have not been heavy mistakes. I am not saying it should be like this, but we can work with circumstances and see how the possibilities are. We are researching because I don’t know everything. Proceeding in this way means our activities can be more open.
We are not working only with Tibetan culture. We are also working with the open aspects of the Dzogchen Community. Through the Teachings in this world there is benefit for all sentient beings. This is the main point, not only Tibetan culture. We are already working in this field of Tibetan culture, there are many aspects of Tibetan culture in Shang Shung Institute and Foundation. For example, we are studying, researching, doing translations, etc., basically we are working with Tibetans. So it is better if people don’t have useless thoughts and feel afraid.
We should remember the Teaching is for all sentient beings. We have so many conflicts and problems in this globe, if we can develop a little (it can help, Ed). Also the aspect of evolution really helps for peace, also politically for people if they develop this mental concept a little. For example, the teaching is related with that. When we say evolution, the main thing related to evolution is the Dzogchen Teaching. Evolution is the Dzogchen Teaching, the base is the Dzogchen Teaching.
That is what we need in order to help to reeducate people. That is why we are learning and slowly developing different aspects, at least for dancing and singing, for example. I think it is not necessary to change so many things because (in the end, Ed.) we are coordinating to work a little more together, not to remain separate.
With Santi Maha Sangha we need to develop more and organize still more. There are many things to do. When we say Dzogchen Teachings, there is open Dzogchen Teaching and not open. Not open is for practitioners who are seriously studying Santi Maha Sangha and going deeper. Open, for example, means like when I am doing a retreat and I say to do Ati Guru Yoga, to apply presence, this is an example. At that moment at least people understand what the main point is. The main point in the Dzogchen Teaching is that you know there is mind and nature of mind in everybody. Nature of mind is Dzogchen.
We do not know what nature of mind is. We are studying, we are thinking and judging, but this is in time and space; for developing this understanding we should go beyond time and space. In this case, at least in an open teaching, we say to do Ati Guru Yoga and then relax. When you relax you are not thinking, you are in that state and that is a symbol of contemplation. We introduce that. That is open. If you want to go more (deeply, Ed.) study Santi Maha Sangha. Then you can understand what teaching is open and not open.
Also we have Yantra Yoga and Vajra Dance, open and not open. That is related with the teaching of Dzogchen. In ASIA we don’t have open and not open, it doesn’t exist.
In the Dzogchen Community we really have great potentiality of everything, there are so many things and so much understanding. We also need the possibility of all we can use, we can do something to develop on this globe. In this case we need to be more open, otherwise we could not do that. We need to make a Santi Maha Sangha program because we still don’t have a very precise program, we are thinking and we should do and apply. For Santi Maha Sangha there will be a meeting to study and prepare in a precise way. It is very important.
(The group thanks Rinpoche for his time, Ed.)
Transcription Ilaria Faccioli
Edited narrative by Naomi Zeitz
Interview with Marco Baseggio about the
Dzamling Gar December 7, 2019
The Mirror: Can you tell us how the Atiyoga Foundation was founded?
Marco Baseggio: Thank you for this question because it allows me to clarify something about the Foundation. Initially I started to do research about establishing a foundation because Rinpoche asked me to understand if it was possible to create a foundation where we could merge the MACO (Museo di Arte e Cultura Orientale) and the Shang Shung Foundation. This happened in October of 2017 when I came back from China, where I went to assist Fabio Andrico with Yantra Yoga. Immediately after I returned, Rinpoche asked me to see if we could consolidate the MACO and Shang Shung Foundation and how.
I prepared quite a complex long document with all the information from the Italian court about how to merge our two entities, one a foundation and the other an association, and also how to merge a museum that is part of another association as well. After one month I wrote to Rinpoche and he wrote me back directly and was very happy because he understood that it was really possible to do this and not very difficult from a legal or economic point of view.
Then I spoke with Rinpoche by telephone and he said, “Very good”, and then at the end of the call he asked to expand the research a little. Rinpoche wanted to understand if it is possible to do a foundation that is more international, not only Italian, possibly with the legal domicile in Dzamling Gar .
I started to have contact with a lawyer skilled in cultural foundations in Barcelona, thanks to Ilaria Facciolli, who suggested this lawyer. I went to Barcelona and he explained to us how this works in Spain; quite similar to Italy but the law is a little better structured, because there is an institution that does not exist in Italy. The institution is called El Protectorado de Fundaciones in Madrid; they give the license/authorization to become a foundation. It’s a process and they have to understand how our statute is.
This happened in November of 2017. In December of 2017, Rinpoche wanted to make a public announcement about the cultural foundation. On the morning of the announcement, they told me I had to be part of the webcast through Skype. So Rinpoche began to speak about the merger of the two foundations to make one new foundation. I was a little surprised because it was a little difficult to understand what these two entities were. One was clear, it was the Shang Shung Foundation. And the second one? I thought that Rinpoche was speaking about IDC
M: So at that point you thought he was talking about merging the Shang Shung Foundation and the International Dzogchen Community?
MB: Yes, in fact, I discovered after this public announcement that this was his idea. There is a recording where Rinpoche clarified to Fabio Andrico, Andrea Dell’Angelo, Mark Farrington, and Steven Landsberg about this idea (see above) .They asked Rinpoche what his idea was. He said many things. This recording is very interesting. It would be good to put this transcription in The Mirror. Rinpoche spoke of many things, including Guru Yoga . (December 7, 2017)
I tried to understand how to merge a cultural association with thousands of members (IDC) into a cultural foundation (The Atiyoga Foundation) where there are three members who are the founders. Rinpoche made it clear that Atiyoga Foundation must be the umbrella for all the organizations in the Dzogchen Community . He explained that it meant that all the organizations under the umbrella must maintain their identity for their activity and cultural business, but they have to be under a bigger umbrella that is this new foundation, The Atiyoga Foundation. Rinpoche explained his idea for The Atiyoga Foundation for the first time at the meeting (see transcription above).
Then at Losar, February 2018, Rinpoche asked me to prepare the Atiyoga Foundation birth certificate as a symbolic deed for the birth of the Atiyoga Foundation with him as the founder and Nancy Simmons and Carlos Ramos as co-founders. Also the co-founders represent the Dzogchen Community. There are five members of the Board. I am just the temporary president, and my commitment is only to create the structure of the foundation, and Ester Escudero, Alex Siedlecki, Oliver Leick, and Pia Bramezza are the other Board members .
We started our job very slowly. We understood that it was very difficult to dissolve IDC into Atiyoga Foundation and maybe it was not necessary. Our intention was to create a relationship with IDC, a partnership, and that is what we are doing now. Atiyoga Foundation tries to keep the “leadership” for the main decisions for external activities and to leave as the IDC’s role, which is very useful and strategically important, for membership, the alignment of the all the statutes for the internal programs, retreats, etc ., and for the salaries for the four main teachers. This role is very clear from our side.
M: When you say the management of the internal programming, does this also include the decision making for Santi Maha Sangha, for example, which contains a lot of internal, transmission related material, and right now they are having a meeting to decide how SMS will go forward? These kinds of policy decisions about internal programming and internal functioning are also the domain of the IDC?
MB: Yes maybe it is. But in my mind, for example, if we invite someone else, some other teacher or someone who is not part of the Dzogchen Community, it is not internal anymore, that is external . For these aspects, however, it seems more correct to me to solicit the opinion of the Namkhai family, especially of Yeshi Silvano Namkhai.
In June of 2018 it was not easy, we had some exchanges by email with the Protectorado of Madrid, and they gave us many requirements and we had to modify something in the statute, but we finally obtained the permission to sign the constitution of the ATIF officially. The 4th of July of 2018 Rinpoche was really ill, it was not easy for him to go out, but despite this he went to a notary near to Dzamling Gar to complete the legal formality for the constitution .
Then there was the moment that was very strong for all of us on September 27th, 2018, when Rinpoche passed away .
Immediately after, in October and November, we had some communication, especially with Yeshi Silvano Namkhai and the Namkhai Family, about the legacy of the copyrights and the intellectual proper- ty of Rinpoche. In the meantime the Atiyoga Foundation, in a practical way, became the leader or the manager of the Shang Shung Foundation.
We decided to sign a new publishing agreement between the heirs of the Master: Yuchen, Yeshi and Rosa, and SSF/ATIF. It was good because it was possible to develop a clear relationship with Yeshi, Yuchen and Rosa and I suggested that they choose an administrator from a legal point of view for the legacy, the legal copyrights and the intellectual property. Yeshi accepted to be the legal administrator and representative for the heirs. So we have to remember he is legally appointed by the rest of the family for that .
M: There is a question that many people have as to whether Shang Shung Foundation still exists or not?
MB: The process was complex because it was not easy to dissolve SSF since inside SSF is Shang Shung Publishing. It costs money to close a legal entity and to open a new one, and since we have to maintain the existence of SSP, there were some fiscal problems with the tax authorities in Italy with SSF, so we suspended the legal process, and we actually blocked it . So the old Board of the SSF renounced and we created a new Board with the agreement of the three founders still living: IDC, Merigar and Rosa, so now the Board is composed of three of us from the Atiyoga Foundation: me, Pia Bramezza and Oliver Leick and two more members of the Board who are representatives of the publishing house, Giovanni Totino, who is also the legal president of the SSF, and Artur Skura. So for a few more months SSF will still exists, until the end of April 2020, as a branch of Atiyoga Foundation and the publishing house will be a department of SSF as a branch of Atiyoga Foundation .
Inside the SSF there is also legally the library of Merigar and the archive, which are in my opinion, more connected to the task of a cultural Foundation than a cultural association. And there is the department of Tibetan languages that again, for fiscal reasons, tried to create a seat in Spain, but it is easier to have that department in Italy; even with all this legal structure the leadership is clearly under The Atiyoga Foundation .
M: Is the Tibetan Medical program under the umbrella of The Atiyoga Foundation?
MB: Now we are creating our structure. This activity takes months and months. We are learning how to make an action plan, a strategic plan, for Atiyoga Foundation. There is a professional helping us, Lucia Lander living in Barcelona, part of the Dzogchen Community, she is very precious, and we are creating this plan with the method called Theory U. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_U) We discovered that Theory U is the same methodology that Yeshi Namkhai applied some years ago. That is interesting. Yeshi was happy we are using Theory U .
Now for us it is clear how the structure of The Atiyoga Foundation is. We have many services in the area of activities, health and wellbeing, interdisciplinary dialogues, languages and translation studies, and cultural awareness and expression, there are many, and our function is as advisors, mentors and collaborators as a board .
The activities are many; Tibetan Medicine/Integrative Medicine, Tibetan language, Yantra Yoga, Breathe, School of Khaita, Vajra Dance, Meditation and others. How are the departments managed and functioning concretely? Rinpoche asked the ATIF to serve as an umbrella, and to leave each department self sustaining, self responsible for their own activities. There are internal departments, external departments, and there is also a larger ecosystem. It is not really hierarchical; its function is to improve partnerships and relationships.
So the internal departments are the Board – with five members – and the Board does fundraising, IT, finances, administration, program and volunteer management, and many other activities. We network for different projects inside the Dzogchen Community, we try, for example, to collaborate for the development of the Global Gar (Dzamling Gar) as a real Global Gar, through cultural relationships with important external cultural institutions, and we try to find some investors to complete the vision of our founder and master, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu.
Then there are departments. There is the Ati Movement and Mind Department, the director is Fabio Andrico, and inside of this department are all the practices that are at the core of the cultural heritage of our master, ie: Vajra Dance, Yantra Yoga, Breathe, Khaita, Presence and Awareness, or Santi Maha Sangha. These kinds of activities are more connected to the external world. Maybe we don’t like to talk about external/internal because it is a dualistic approach, but just for the organization the ATIF is more connected with external activities as a tool of the Dzogchen Community, and the IDC, the Gars and the Lings are more connected to the internal activities.
Then there is a Department of Wellbeing and Medicine, with the headquarters in Dzamling Gar. The Director is Menpa Phuntsog Wangmo and the executive manager is Ilaria Faccioli. Now Mariela Domin- guez Leandro is the secretary for the Atiyoga Foundation in Dzamling Gar, primarily for the Tibetan Medicine and Ati Movement and Mind programs, but also for the different independent sub areas.
Then there are external structures that are somehow part of ATIF, for example, SSF is still existing for a few more months and maybe there will be a new Foundation in Italy, maybe not, and the rest will remain. Shang Shung Publishing will become a cultural business company; there is a new law in Italy giving permission that a cultural business company can receive donations and also do business .
Then the archive, which is for the entire Dzogchen Community. The archive legally could be part of the foundation through Atiyoga Foundation Italy or directly under the Atiyoga Foundation or move legally in- side Merigar (we still have to understand what is the best route), and the library. We signed an agreement with Merigar and they accepted to manage the library at this moment, they are very helpful and kind because ATIF does not have the resources to pay for the library management, and the library is very, very precious. And then under the Italian legal entity is the school of Tibetan Language, which is directed by Fabian Sanders .
Then there is another department, which is Shang Shung Institute; we want to maintain the brand, it’s very precious and it has a history. It was created by Rinpoche so the brand is important, and there are many SSI’s around the world, so we don’t want to cancel it. Oliver Leick, from the SSF, is a bridge from all SSI’s to The Atiyoga Foundation, to create a good and deep relationship .
Then there is MACO. Alex Siedlecki is a member of the of the Atiyoga Foundation Board. MACO is still legally under Merigar but the long term direction, in my personal opinion as a lawyer, should be for MACO to become part of either the future Italian Atiyoga Foundation or the International Atiyoga Foundation as the Italian branch. I think that legally a museum cannot be part of an association, like Merigar, because a museum is looking to the world, not only for the members of a association .
So the last thing that I want to say is that now we are more or less finishing our strategic plan, and now we discover where we are. When we finish our strategic plan, we want to start with our strategic communication plan. We are really sorry to the people of Dzogchen Community that only a few people really know about us, because the process has been quite complex and it takes a lot of time. We want to do everything done well, so we are trying to create the accounting systems, software where everything is transparent, and all of this is time consuming. We are sorry that we have not yet started the strategic cultural communication plan.
Actually few departments already created their own landing page , such as Khaita, very well done, and Tibetan Medicine, also very well done. The idea is that also for the communication that each department be self sustaining and responsible, though we have to make a common communication strategy for all the areas/departments under ATIF umbrella.
We also have to establish a relation with Atiyoga Association, the responsible is Migmar Tsering. With ASIA we already did something together where we presented the heritage of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu in Italy. And we have a strong strategical connection with SSP for many reasons, and one is for the intellectual property rights of Rinpoche.
M: And how does the Atiyoga Association of Migmar Tsering fit in to all of this?
MB: Migmar created this association in China before we did and called it Atiyoga with the same logo as we have, to develop the activity of the Dzogchen Community in China but also to create a relationship for tourism, between China and Europe and especially Italy. Rinpoche informed me, and Migmar knows this, that in the future this will be a department in the Atiyoga Foundation. We will create a good partnership and we already spoke and we have to understand how to manage our relationship. We have the same name, but we have different activities.
M: So what are the immediate goals of the ATIF?
MB: Our direction consists of two concrete projects in this moment.
The first one is to come out with the guidelines for external courses; to take the leadership and give some direction – a light in the darkness – and this is a main project, part of the core.
And then, for the cultural aspect, we want to interface with the BIAS, Biennale International d’Arte Sacra Contemporanea (www.bias.institute). The main seat of BIAS is in Sicily with branches all around Europe and the world .Possibly Merigar and hopefully Dzamling Gar can host some works or some related event or cultural pavilions of BIAS. The next summer of 2020 BIAS will do several events/expositions for sacred contemporary art in several sites in Europe and outside of Europe, so we invite all the artists, architects, photographers, musicians, photographers, performers, set designers, and filmmakers of the Dzogchen Community to present their candididacy through the website www.bias.institute if they want to present some works. Possibly Merigar and hopefully Dzamling Gar can host some works, some related event, So these are our main projects at this time.
M: Thank for this information, Marco. In conclusion, let’s review the next steps for The Atiyoga Foundation.
MB: For me the first most important activity in the near future is to communicate the existence and the function of the guidelines for public programming to all authorized instructors. We also have to im- plement them because if instructors ask to partner with ATIF, to promote their courses with our logo, we have to answer and give them information. Also in the guidelines there is the provision to partner with the ATIF; participants in the courses can be- come friends of the ATIF. They can offer a donation per year and receive a card (virtual), that certifies that, for example, the yoga class they are following is part of the legacy of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and they can receive the newsletter, participate in some events for free. These kinds of benefits are normal in a cultural foundation and an important step for us to go ahead in the world and for the future.
The next most important step is the dissolution of the SSF and creating the new entity for Shang Shung Publishing. I think SSP is really strategic for our community. It’s a very important asset for all the community for members/ practitioners as owners of the legacy. The books and publications are very important.
M: This is a question about the participation of instructors and also the Community at large in the guidelines and branding of the Atiyoga Foundation. If instructors choose to go their own way using Rinpoche’s methods and teachings, does the Atiyoga Foundation have any recourse?
MB: The Atiyoga Foundation is not a police force. We want to certify courses as part of the legacy of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and if the instructors want to be part of this legacy it is optional. They are free . If people appreciate to participate in this very precious network for the Dzogchen Community, that is very good and we appreciate and we are very happy. We think that the reputation of The Atiyoga Foundation will improve because of this, but we are also sure of this reputation because of the Founder. If the instructors do not want, really they are free to go ahead; it is everyone’s personal choice and decision .
M: So you have communication with and keep the Namkhai Family updated as to the situation?
MB: Yes we are in communication with all three, Rosa, Yuchen and Yeshi. For example, I just made a large report to Yeshi Silvano Namkhai about the main projects of ATIF and its strategic plan and during that meeting he explained to us very effectively what the cultural heritage of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu should be. Now we will have to understand how to implement this message concretely.
Also recently I talked to Yuchen and Rosa Namkhai on different topics. Personally I think that the three of them are the first representatives of the Master’s cultural and spiritual heritage, so the Foundation cannot ignore a good relationship with them. This is my personal deep conviction, indeed I would like that in the future that they enter somehow into the organization of ATIF, if they wish. The invitation is always open to them .
M: Thank you Marco very much for this very helpful clarification, for your work and your time.