New Name for SMC: Drala Mountain Center


Red Feather Lakes, Colorado •  Friday, February 18, 2022 

Shambhala Mountain Center announces its new name: Drala Mountain Center.  

Why the name change?

When SMC became a fully independent nonprofit organization last fall, we came to an agreement with the Sakyong Potrang to change our name by the end of March. We are grateful to the Sakyong Potrang for working with us to effect these changes, which are essential to fulfilling our mission. 

What does Drala mean?

When people reflect on being at SMC, they talk about how vividly they experience the power of the land itself. We can experience drala by directly connecting to the world through our sense perceptions. By opening to this experience, we encounter vast wisdom in ourselves, those around us, and the world itself. Much more can and will be said about drala as we grow together into the meaning of our new name.  Also see the FAQs below.

What About Shambhala? 

Our roots run deep in Shambhala, and we endeavor to uphold the teachings of our tradition. We will continue to host Shambhala practitioners as well as those from other secular and nonsecular wisdom traditions.  Many people within the Shambhala community and beyond consider this land a refuge and a home. All are welcome.

The Renaming Process 

With the opportunity to rethink our name and position ourselves for the future, SMC undertook a multi-month process to carefully consider our mission, our values and our broader community. We renewed our ongoing commitment to our mission:  

Bringing people together to experience wisdom

With our mission confirmed, we clarified our values, and identified the key elements that together define SMC. These elements are expressed in the graphic at right. 

Following this work, SMC staff and governing council members offered name ideas. After several rounds of discussions and voting on the various choices, we emerged with a short list of five names. We then hosted five focus groups composed of more than 50 friends, advisors, donors, teachers and presenters to consider the choices. When all the focus group data was collected, one name emerged as the clear front runner to best express the heart of who we are: Drala Mountain Center. 

Same Place, New Name

For the last 50 years, SMC has been one of Colorado’s beloved retreat destinations, a place of pilgrimage, and host to world-renowned teachers of meditation, yoga, Buddhism and a range of secular and nonsecular activities. We reflect with gratitude on our roots: originally secured as a retreat place for Karma Dzong (Boulder Shambhala Center), the land eventually became known as Rocky Mountain Dharma Center. For the last 20 years or so, we’ve operated under the name Shambhala Mountain Center. 

Drala Mountain Center encapsulates our aspirations. We look forward to sharing the dralas of this land with you for many years and generations to come. 

SMC Governing Council

  • Clifford Neuman, Chair
  • Michael Gayner, Executive Director
  • Amelie Bracher
  • Ming-Lien Linsley
  • Connie Rogers
  • Karen Wilding
  • Reid Miller, Secretary

Contact the Governing Council via:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  Is the Sakyong welcome to teach at SMC?
A:  We’ve posted the statements Drala Mountain Center (DMC) has made over the last few years regarding allegations of misconduct in Shambhala. From our first statement, we’ve held to the position that we would be “…watching closely and with hope for the Sakyong to engage in a genuine process of accountability, purification, and reformative action” in regard to the events that were substantiated. Those would include the events described in the report by An Olive Branch, commissioned by Shambhala. Until that time, we cannot invite the Sakyong to teach at DMC.

Q:  Are students of the Sakyong welcome at DMC?
A:  Students of the Sakyong are always welcome to come here. We do not ask with whom a guest studies. In keeping with our commitment to not host programs by the Sakyong, we were unable to provide program support for a group wanting to participate in a live virtual program with the Sakyong from DMC.

Q:  What is the Sakyong Potrang?
A:  The Sakyong Potrang is the nonprofit organization that holds the assets of the Sakyong lineage.

Q:  What is meant by “legally independent nonprofit organization”? What has changed?
A:  Prior to January of 2020, the Sakyong Potrang held legal authority in four areas of SMC governance: the right to 1) Amend the bylaws, 2) Amend the articles of incorporation, 3) Hire and fire Directors and 4) Sell all or substantially all of the assets of SMC. In January of 2020, those rights were shifted to veto powers, with the proactive rights being held by SMC’s board, called the Governing Council. In October of 2021, an agreement was reached in which the Sakyong Potrang relinquished all of its legal authority over what was then SMC. The present DMC Governing Council now holds full and independent authority in all matters related to DMC. The sole requirement of the settlement was that SMC, by the end of March, remove the word “Shambhala” from its name.

Q:  What about my monthly donation – do I need to change the name for my credit card or bank withdrawals? 
A:  If you initiated your monthly donation through your bank (a recurring check or EFT), please change the name to Drala Mountain Center. Otherwise recurring donations go through our merchant account and do not require any action on your part. Thank you for your ongoing support!

Q:  What was the process of choosing the name?
A:  SMC staff and the Governing Council reviewed our mission, values and activities to clarify our identity and what we want to project about who we are. Our mission remains the same:  Bringing people together to experience wisdom. We then collected name suggestions and, through several iterations, narrowed it to a list of 5. We invited friends, teachers, donors, presenters and advisors to participate in focus groups to consider the short list of names. Based on their input, Drala Mountain was the top choice.

Q:  Why not go back to Rocky Mountain Dharma Center? 
A:  We definitely considered this idea! Some people suggested this or variations on the RMDC theme. Ultimately, it didn’t make the short list for two reasons: 1) there are so many Rocky Mountain names already in existence, and 2) we want to look forward rather than back.

Q:  Why is drala a good name? 
A: Drala expresses a quality of uplifted energy and accessing wisdom through the sense perceptions that people describe as an essential aspect of being on the DMC land. It also connects us with our Shambhala roots, as Chögyam Trungpa wrote and taught about drala, even named his horse Drala. We love how it rolls off the tongue and it’s also easy to spell. It’s a unique word, a Tibetan term, that isn’t already being used by other retreat or dharma organizations.

Q:  What does “drala” mean?
A:  This is a wonderful, open question. Drala is a Tibetan word that doesn’t have a simple translation. Trungpa Rinpoche described it as “energy beyond aggression.” Drala can refer to the wisdom accessed through the sense perceptions.

Another definition is “people or places that cut through one’s habitual chain of thoughts.” Drala Mountain Center is such a place, where the land itself — the weather, the flora and fauna, the creatures and features of this hidden mountain valley — combine to bring us into direct contact with the present moment, with the wisdom that is our birthright.

Many cultures and traditions point to this experience, of opening to wisdom that is beyond just one’s self. It’s universal and yet it’s hard to explain, as it is so experiential. We invite you to develop your own understanding of and relationship to drala. We provide a container for guests and teachers to explore and connect with wisdom. The dralas of this land support the programs we host and thereby help in fulfilling our mission of bringing people together to experience wisdom.

How would you define drala? We invite you to share your thoughts, images, memories and experiences.

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  1. […] The view of the Drala Mountain Center from a hike. (From Drala Mountain Center.) […]

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