Tribute to Arbie Thalacker

Our dharma brother, Arbie Thalacker, passed away peacefully on January 9th.



Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche remembers Arbie Thalacker

Reposted from Buddhadharma, The Practitioner’s Quarterly Online.

I have known Arbie Thalacker for many years. He was a wonderful person and a devoted practitioner, full of wisdom and love. Arbie worked tirelessly for very many years to enable, befriend and protect the development of an American dharma in the United States. He gave most generously of his time, talent and financial resources. The establishment of the dharma in the West is also one of my heart aspirations, and so I am very grateful to Arbie for his efforts and contributions.

At the request of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Arbie joined the board of the Karmapa Foundation in 2010 and has been serving as Chairman. His work ensured that the Foundation will continue His Holiness’s activity without obstacle.

I worked closely with Arbie in this capacity for His Holiness. It is safe to say that Arbie was instrumental in preparing for His Holiness’s visits to the United States. In particular, he worked closely with me on both visits, in 2008 and 2011, to ensure that everything went smoothly. He was also invaluable in supporting the whole spectrum of individuals who welcomed His Holiness to the U.S., from dharma students to government representatives. It was here that Arbie’s qualities of equanimity and love shone, for he was equally at home with all sorts of sentient beings.

I know that Arbie served the Vidhyadhara, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and Shambhala International with great devotion, love and care. He was also an important supporter and servant to Karma Triyana Dharmachakra (KTD), North American seat of His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa. For many years, Arbie worked with KTD to ready the home for Karmapa in the U.S. As a lawyer, he and his firm represented KTD through enormous obstacles and challenges, guiding it safely into continuous service as the Karmapa’s seat in North America.

Arbie has a kind and loving family and my thoughts are with them at this time. He and his wife Deb created a welcoming space, in which the dharma in the U.S., especially focused in New York, has come to flourish.

I understand, as well, that Arbie was a highly acclaimed lawyer for a large firm in New York. I have always been impressed with Arbie’s skill and professionalism whenever I have had to call on him. Accordingly, I imagine that his clients benefited enormously from his work.

We are all now benefitting from Arbie’s devotion to Karmapa, and from the wisdom that continues in the hearts of those he touched and in the organizations he built.

May his aspirations and wishes be fulfilled. May his legacy continue to shine in this world.

-Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

Arbie Thalacker: Great gathering of merit

Reposted from Buddhadharma, The Practitioner’s Quarterly Online.

We have just received word that a true friend and an important figure in the dharma has died. Arbie Thalacker was a big man, with a big heart, with many big accomplishments to his credit. I knew him and his wife, Deborah Garrett, herself a powerhouse for the dharma, for twenty years. We worked together in the Shambhala organization, and I enjoyed their generous hospitality many times when I was in New York. I loved and admired them both.

Arbie’s combination of devotion, ability, and connections made him a unique and powerful force on behalf of the dharma.

He was an important figure in the Shambhala mandala as a long-standing and influential member of its board. He was deeply devoted to His Holiness the Karmapa, and used his skills as a key behind-the-scenes advocate during negotiations with the federal government preceding the Karmapa’s two trips to the US. Later he became chairman of the board of the Karmapa Foundation and was long an important supporter of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, the Karmapa’s North American seat. And his good work was not limited to the dharma; he was an important supporter of the arts, contemplative education, and historical preservation as well.

Arbie was the very definition of a “high-powered lawyer.” I don’t know precisely what he did, but it involved things like arranging bond issues with the government of China. He not only knew people like the late Richard Holbrookehe had a long-standing feud with him. That’s big league. These are the skills this warm, big-hearted, devoted, powerful man brought to the service of the dharma. I will miss him. We all will miss him. The dharma will miss him.

There will be a small sukhavati for Arbie’s family and close friends at the Shambhala Center of New York on Thursday. A public celebration of his life is planned for March in New York, which will undoubtedly bring together people from the many spheres Arbie touched. Here are the first two of what I’m sure will be many tributes to this man with such a big heart, who accomplished so much.

-Melvin McLeod, Editor-in-chief, the Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly

Great Gathering of Merit

Reposted from Buddhadharma, The Practitioner’s Quarterly Online.

One of the names bestowed on Arbie by his Buddhist teachers was “Complete Gathering of Merit.” I would often refer to him by this name when we served together on the Sakyong’s Council, established by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche in 2005 as the governing body of Shambhala during the period of reconstruction of the mandala initiated with the first Shambhala Congress. He was an endearing, enduring, and unshakeable reservoir of insight and guidance to us all. Arbie, on hearing his “lineage name,” would smile bashfully. Everyone else’s eyes would light up.

But it did not take that for us to understand, both intuitively and in a very practical way, how perfectly this breathtaking name matched the inner character of this great dharma warrior.

I hold him with profound respect in my heart and practice as he makes his way into the great expanse.

-Richard Reoch, President of Shambhala


I had the pleasure to serve with Arbie Thalacker for several years on the board of Shambhala International. When you think of Arbie, the very first thought that springs to mind is kindness. That’s striking, because it’s not the very first trait one expects to see in top-flight, high-powered, midtown Manhattan lawyers. But Arbie showed himself to be so much more than a lawyer. He was, for one thing, a delightful companion. After long sessions wrangling with the intractable challenges involved in running a far-flung dharma organization, I enjoyed sitting on the porch of a cabin in the mountains and just hanging out. Arbie displayed not only a great sense of humor and the ability to tell a good story, but also the ability to listen and pay attention and offer honest, helpful counsel.

Arbie was gifted with wisdom indeed, but also with great merit. He did not seek it, but he earned it. An extraordinary lover and devotee of the dharma, he did a great service to the lineage of teachers who have brought dharma to the West. His assistance and support were invaluable. He was a true son of noble family.

-Barry Boyce, Senior Editor, the Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly