Shambhala Buddhism

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The term Shambhala Buddhism was introduced by Sakyong Mipham in the year 2000 to describe his presentation of the Shambhala teachings originally conceived by Chögyam Trungpa as secular practices for achieving enlightened society, in concert with the Kagyu and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism.[1] The Shambhala Buddhist sangha considers Sakyong Mipham to be its head and the second in a lineage of Sakyongs, with his father, Chögyam Trungpa, being the first.

Distinguishing characteristics

Shambhala Buddhism partly derives from the teachings of Shambhala, as originally proclaimed by Chögyam Trungpa, which state that "there is a natural source of radiance and brilliance in the world, which is the innate wakefulness of human beings. This is the basis, in myth and inspiration, of the Kingdom of Shambhala, an enlightened society of fearlessness, dignity and compassion." Furthermore, "Shambhala vision applies to people of any faith, not just people who believe in Buddhism. The Shambhala vision does not distinguish a Buddhist from a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, a Moslem, a Hindu. That's why we call it the Shambhala kingdom. A kingdom should have lots of spiritual disciplines in it."[2]

The Shambhala Buddhist sangha expresses this vision largely within Tibetan Buddhist concepts, terms, and practices, continuing its ties to contemporary Kagyu and Nyingma lineage holders, among them the Karmapa (Ogyen Trinley Dorje),[3] Penor Rinpoche (d. March 27, 2009), and other important lamas. Many prominent lamas come and offer teachings to the community on a regular basis. However, certain aspects of Shambhala Buddhism, known as Shambhalian practices, are unique to the sangha.

File:Great eastern sun.png
The Great Eastern Sun

Shambhala and Shambhala Training

In 1976, Trungpa Rinpoche began giving teachings, some of which were gathered and presented as Shambhala Training,[4] inspired by his vision (see terma) of the legendary Kingdom of Shambhala. Shambhalian practices focus on using mindfulness/awareness meditation as a means of connecting with one's basic sanity and using that insight as inspiration for one's encounter with the world. The Shambhala of Chögyam Trungpa is essentially a secular approach to meditation, with roots in Buddhism as well as in other traditions, but accessible to individuals of any, or no religion. The greater social vision of Shambhala is that it is possible, moment by moment, for individuals to establish enlightened society. Trungpa's book Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior provides a concise collection of the Shambhala views.

Shambhala Training is administered worldwide by Shambhala International. Shambhala Training is presented in a series of weekend programs, the first five of which are called "The Heart of Warriorship", and the subsequent seven "The Sacred Path". The Warrior Assembly is the fruition of the Shambhala Training Sacred Path program. During Warrior Assembly, students study the Shambhala terma text, The Golden Sun of the Great East, and receive the ashé practices of stroke and lungta.

Shambhala within Shambhala Buddhism

After the year 2000, with the merging of the secular teachings of Shambhala and the Buddhist teachings of Vajradhatu into Shambhala Buddhism, completion of Shambhala Vajrayana Seminary (which itself requires taking Buddhist refuge and bodhisattva vows, as well as Buddhist vajrayana samaya vows) became a condition for receiving the highest Shambhala teachings, such as those of Werma and the Scorpion Seal Retreat. In turn, Warrior Assembly became a prerequisite for attending the Vajrayana Seminary.

The Shambhala Seminary is a two-part seminary designed to deepen students' practice and understanding of the Buddhist and Shambhala teachings and to enter them into the vajrayana practices of the Shambhala Buddhist mandala. Part 1, Sutrayana Seminary, is led by a Shambhala acharya and provides in-depth training and study of the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Shambhala teachings. Part 2, Vajrayana Seminary, is led by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and authorizes students to begin their Shambhala ngöndro—the preliminary practices for receiving the Rigden Abhisheka.

The Rigden Abhisheka enters the student into the practice of the Werma Sadhana. It is open to graduates of Shambhala Vajrayana Seminary who have completed their Shambhala ngöndro and to students who have already received the Werma Sadhana and completed their Kagyü Ngöndro.

Shambhala Terma

Certain Shambhala practices derive from specific terma texts of Trungpa Rinpoche's such as Letter of the Black Ashe, Letter of the Golden Key that Fulfills Desire, Golden Sun of the Great East, and the Scorpion Seal of the Golden Sun, in long and short versions. Trungpa Rinpoche is believed by his students to have received these teachings directly from Gesar of Ling, an emanation of Padmasambhava, and the Rigden kings.[5] Their terma status was confirmed by the Nyingma master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

The Shambhala dharma practices derived entirely or in part from these texts include those of werma, drala, Wind Horse (Tib. lungta), and meditations on four "dignities of Shambhala": tiger (Tib. tak), lion (Tib. seng), garuda (Tib. kyung) and dragon (Tib. druk). Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso, a great 19th century Nyingma lama and the predecessor of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, wrote about many of these practices and concepts as well. Some, such as the "stroke of Ashé", have no known precedents.

The Kalachakra, the Rigden Kings, and Gesar of Ling

The Kalachakra tradition is central to Shambhala Buddhism. Trungpa Rinpoche requested that the Kagyu Kalachakra master Kalu Rinpoche perform the initiation for his Vajrayana students, which he did in 1986 in Boulder, Colorado. The Rigden Kings of Shambhala are central figures to the community, and a thangka of the Rigden king is the centerpiece of all public Shambhala Buddhist shrines. Gesar of Ling, a mythical Tibetan king, is also an important figure to Shambhala Buddhists, to whom he represents enlightened wisdom manifesting in the world as a leader. Many of the teachings of the Shambhala lineage derive from the Epic of Gesar as propagated by Mipham the Great.[citation needed]

Zen Influence

Trungpa Rinpoche was deeply influenced by his friend Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, a Japanese Zen master who was one of the first accomplished teachers to present dharma to Westerners.[citation needed] As a result of this influence, certain attributes of form in Shambhala Buddhism are derived from Zen, rather than Tibetan Buddhism. The shrine rooms in Shambhala Buddhism, reflecting the Zen aesthetic of kanso (simplicity), tend to be sparsely furnished and decorated, whereas traditional Tibetan Buddhist shrine rooms are elaborate, ornate, and colorful. As in Zen but unlike Tibetan Buddhist practice, meditators engage in group practice of shamatha-vipashyana.

In addition, Shambhala Buddhists have adopted the practices of kyūdō, ikebana (kado), tea ceremony, oryoki, calligraphy, and other traditional Japanese arts as a means of extending the mind of calm-abiding and awareness to more active practices.

Elements of Bön, Taoism, and Confucianism

To a lesser extent, Trungpa Rinpoche incorporated other elements into Shambhala tradition that he thought would be beneficial to practitioners. From the Bön religion, the lhasang ceremony is performed; other elements of shamanism play a role. From Confucianism comes a framework of heaven, earth, and man for understanding the proper relationship between different elements of compositions of all kinds. From Taoism comes the use of feng shui and other incorporations.

Dorje Kasung

The Dorje Kasung is a group that was formed by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to support the transmission of the Shambhala teachings by helping create an appropriate environment for them to be taught in. The Dorje Kasung accomplish this by providing a gentle and uplifted presence at teaching events, providing security services, providing driving and personal assistance to the teachers, and working with any issues of conflict or health that may arise in the community.

The training and model of the Dorje Kasung is based on military forms, such as hierarchy, uniforms, and drills. The purpose of utilizing the military format is not to propagate war, but to take advantage of the discipline and energy of military forms to embody and communicate compassion.[citation needed] The practice of Dorje Kasungship is founded on the mahayana Buddhist principle of compassionate action, and inspired by the vajrayana Buddhist emphasis on working directly with the energy of neurosis and transforming it into wisdom. Thus, through engaging directly with military forms, they aspire to fulfill the vision expressed in their motto, "Victory Over War".[citation needed]

Maitri and Mudra

Maitri is a therapeutic program that works with different styles of neurosis using principles of the Five Buddha Families. Mudra practice, first explored by the Mudra Theater Group, is based on traditional Tibetan monastic dance training and the teachings on mahamudra.

Shambhala Art

Shambhala Art can be seen as a process, a product, and an art-education program. As a process, it brings wakefulness and awareness to the creative and viewing processes through the integration of contemplation and meditation. As a product, it is art that wakes us up. Shambhala Art is also an international nonprofit art-education program based on the Dharma Art teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the founder of Shambhala. Its purpose is to explore, from the viewpoint of a meditative discipline, the creative process and the product called art.[citation needed]

Traditional Buddhist Practices

Shambhala Buddhism holds various meditation techniques of traditional Tibetan Buddhist lineages, including shamatha/vipashyana, zazen, madhayamaka, mahamudra and Dzogchen, tonglen, Lojong, Lujong, traditional yidam practices such as Vajrayogini, Chakrasamvara, Vajrakilaya, Jambhala, Gesar, Tara, Manjushri, and Vajrasattva.


The term "Shambhala Buddhism", as used to describe the lineage and community led by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, came into use around 2000.

  • In 1970, the Shambhala community had its origins with the arrival of the 11th Trungpa tülku, Trungpa Rinpoche, in North America. The first established center of his teachings was "Tail of the Tiger" in Barnet, Vermont (now Karmê Chöling).
  • In 1971, a second branch of the community began to form when Rinpoche began teaching at the University of Colorado. The Rocky Mountain Dharma Center was established, now known as Shambhala Mountain Center, near Fort Collins, Colorado. In the early 1970s the community grew rapidly and attracted the involvement of such notables as Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, and many others
  • In 1973, the Shambhala community was incorporated in Colorado as Vajradhatu. Vajradhatu hosted visits by the Sixteenth Karmapa (head of the Kagyu School) in 1974, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (head of the Nyingma School) in 1976, and the Fourteenth Dalai Lama in 1981.
  • In 1974, Naropa Institute was founded, a contemplative studies and liberal arts college, now fully accredited as Naropa University.[6]
  • In 1975, Shambhala Lodge was founded, a group of students dedicated to fostering enlightened society.
  • In 1976, Trungpa Rinpoche began his cycle of Shambhala teachings and, with his students, manifesting forms of Shambhala society. Kalapa Court was established in Boulder, Colorado, as Trungpa Rinpoche's residence and a cultural center for the Vajradhatu community. Thomas F. Rich was empowered as Vajra Regent Ösel Tendzin and lineage holder in the Karma Kagyü and Nyingma lineages.
  • In 1977, Shambhala Training was founded to promote a secular approach to meditation practice and an appreciation of basic human goodness.[6] The Gyalwa Karmapa, the head of the Kagyü lineage, confirmed the Vajra Regent's appointment as a lineage holder. Ösel Tendzin was the first Western student to hold such a position in the Kagyü lineage.[7]
  • In 1978, Trungpa Rinpoche conducted the first annual Kalapa Assembly, an intensive training program for advanced Shambhala teachings and practices.[6]
  • In 1979, Trungpa Rinpoche empowered his eldest son, Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo, as his successor and heir to the Shambhala lineage.[6]
  • In 1986, Trungpa moved the international headquarters of Vajradhatu to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he died the following year. A large number of his disciples emigrated from the United States to Nova Scotia along with him.
  • In 1987, after Trungpa's death, Tendzin's role as spiritual head of Vajradhatu lasted until around 1989. Citing an AIDS-related infection, allegations arose that Tendzin had passed HIV to a male partner in the Colorado congregation.[8] Tendzin apologized for believing he and others were protected from AIDS.[9]
  • After the death of Ösel Tendzin in 1990, Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo became spiritual head of what would become Shambhala International.
  • In 1995, Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo was recognized by Penor Rinpoche as the reincarnation of Ju Mipham and enthroned as Sakyong. The Sakyong—literally "earth-protector"—is a chögyal—"dharma king"—who holds and propagates the teachings of Shambhala.[10]
  • In 2000, at the Kalapa Assembly,[11] Sakyong Mipham made a proclamation[12] that started the process of enclosing the previously secular teachings of Shambhala within the container of a new buddhist lineage, Shambhala Buddhism.
  • In August 2007, The Sakyong married Khandro Tseyang Palmo with a ceremony conducted by Drupwang Penor Rinpoche during the Kalapa Festival in Halifax. Khandro Tseyang Palmo is currently the Sakyong Wangmo, a title held previously by Lady Diana Mukpo, now the Druk Sakyong Wangmo.

The Shambhala Buddhist community today

Shambhala Center, Boulder, Colorado

Today, there are over two hundred Shambhala Meditation Centers, Groups and Residential Retreat Centers around the world, mostly in the United States, Canada, Europe and South America,[13][14] the largest communities being Halifax, Nova Scotia; Boulder, Colorado; northern Vermont; and New York City.

Shambhala-inspired schools

Shambhala International

The umbrella organization that encompasses many of the distinct institutions of Shambhala Buddhism is called Shambhala International. Shambhala International, which is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, links a worldwide mandala of urban Buddhist meditation centers, retreat centers, monasteries, a university, and other ventures, founded by the Tibetan Buddhist teacher the Trungpa Rinpoche under the name Vajradhatu. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is the present spiritual and executive head of the organization, which he renamed and reorganized in 1990.

Spiritual teachers

The Shambhala Buddhist sangha is rich with teaching faculty, supporting individual study and practice with mentorship, guidance, personal meditation instruction, junior and senior teachers, and a resource of empowered western spiritual teachers (acharyas) who support and guide the Shambhala sangha, including:

  • Acharya Pema Chödrön
  • Ashe Acharya John Rockwell
  • Kalapa Acharya Adam Lobel
  • Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown
  • Acharya Dorje Loppon Lodro Dorje
  • Acharya Dale Asrael
  • Acharya Christie Cashman
  • Acharya Emily Bower
  • Acharya Mitchell Levy
  • Acharya Jeremy Hayward
  • Acharya Arawana Hayashi
  • Acharya Gaylon Ferguson
  • Acharya Eric Spiegel
  • Acharya Larry Mermelstein
  • Acharya Daniel Hessey
  • Acharya Moh Hardin

Land centers

The Shambhala "land centers" are retreat centers, generally located in more rural settings around the world.

Larger Shambhala Mandala

Many entities are considered part of the larger Shambhala mandala inspired by Chogyam Trungpa, although they may not be legally part of the Shambhala International organization.

  • Shambhala Training
  • Naropa University an accredited, private liberal arts university founded in 1974 by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
  • Shambhala Institute for Authentic Leadership
  • Nalanda Translation Committee
  • Ngedon School of Higher Learning
  • Kalapa Ikebana a school of Japanese flower arranging founded by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
  • Miksang Photography based on the Dharma Art teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
  • Maitri Space Awareness Maitri Five Wisdom Energies practice
  • Konchok Foundation supporting communities in Tibet
  • Shambhala Art

Choseng Trungpa, the Twelfth Trungpa Tulku, along with the other tulkus and leaders of Surmang, asked Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche to assume stewardship of Surmang Monastery and its people. Sakyong Mipham has also been asked to assume responsibility for Weyen monastery, the Gesar orphanage, and the Mipham Institute in Golok, and Khamput Monastery in Kham.

Related publications

Shambhala International has inspired or sponsors a number of publications, and others exist in some degree of relationship to the larger Shambhala International/Shambhala Buddhism mandala.

  • Shambhala Media, distributor of published works and recordings of Shambhala
  • Shambhala Publications was founded and is published by Acharya Samuel Bercholz, a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, but has no legal relationship to Shambhala International
  • Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, journal of Buddhist practice, published by the Shambhala Sun Foundation
  • Shambhala Sun, Buddhist-inspired bimonthly magazine of Buddhism, meditation, culture, and life, published by the Shambhala Sun Foundation
  • The Shambhala Times, online community magazine


  1. "About Shambhala".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Trungpa,, C. (2001). Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala. Shambhala Publications. p. 133.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Due to a controversy within the Karma Kagyu school over the recognition process, the identity of the current 17th Karmapa is disputed. See Karmapa controversy for details.
  4. Midal 2001, pp. 233–247
  5. Mukpo, p. 223
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "11th Trungpa Chronology".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Tendzin Shambhala Bio
  8. "A Church's Turmoil". The New York Times. February 26, 1989. Retrieved July 15, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. John Dart (March 3, 1989). "Buddhist Sect Alarmed by Reports that Leader Kept His AIDS a Secret". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 19, 1999.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Sakyong Shambhala Bio
  11. Kalapa Assembly 2000 Collaborations
  12. Mipham Rinpoche, Sakyong. (2000) "Shambhala Buddhism". Published letter
  13. Diversity Resources
  14. Diversity in Shambhala


  • Butterfield, Stephen T. (1994). The Double Mirror: A Skeptical Journey into Buddhist Tantra. ISBN 1-55643-176-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Midal, Fabrice (2001). Chögyam Trungpa: His Life and Vision. ISBN 1-59030-098-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mipham, Sakyong (2000) "Shambhala Buddhism". Published letter
  • Mukpo, Diana J (2006). Dragon Thunder. ISBN 1-59030-256-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Trungpa, Chogyam (1999). Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala. ISBN 1-57062-293-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Trungpa, Chogyam (2004). The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa, Volume Eight. ISBN 1-59030-032-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links