What Is Shambhala?
“Shambhala” is the name of a mythical kingdom in Central Asia where the people enjoyed harmony, good health, and well-being. The basis for such an enlightened society is the people’s confidence and respect for inherent goodness, wisdom, and dignity—in themselves, in each other, and in society.
The Shambhala teachings are grounded in ancient wisdom and practical knowledge from many traditional cultures, especially teachings from ancient Tibet. These teachings begin with the understanding that all beings are basically good, and that life is worth living. We call this a path of spiritual warriorship, which here means living a life of fearlessness, gentleness, and intelligence. The Shambhala teachings emphasize being in the world, and bringing together everyday life, work, family, and social action with the path of meditation. The teachings focus on how to help this world. In essence, Shambhala is about living a full human life, right in the midst of challenges.
“The Shambhala teachings are founded on the premise that there is basic human wisdom that can help to solve the world’s problems. The wisdom does not belong to any one culture or religion, nor does it come from the West or the East. Rather, it is a tradition of human warriorship that has existed in many cultures at many times throughout history.”
— Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior
The Shambhala Path — Discovering one’s own innate goodness and the goodness in society
It is the Shambhala view that every human being has a fundamental nature of goodness, warmth, and intelligence. This nature can be cultivated through meditation, following ancient principles, and it can be further developed in daily life, so that it radiates out to family, friends, community, and society. In the course of our lives, this goodness, warmth, and intelligence can easily become covered over by doubt, fear, and egotism. The journey of becoming fully human means seeing through fear and egotism, and waking up to our natural intelligence. It takes kindness—to ourselves and others—and courage, to wake up in this world.
The journey of awakening is known as the path of the warrior because it requires the simple bravery to look directly at one’s own mind and heart. The essential tool for doing this is mindfulness meditation. As we continue on the Shambhala path, we learn many other practices to help us break through the ancient crust of ego and awaken to the joy of fully living in this world. Awakening and opening, we discover the world to be naturally sacred, pure and full of beauty. We begin to see clearly the goodness and wisdom of others, and to feel compassion to help them in myriad ways.
Shambhala vision is rooted in the contemplative teachings of Buddhism, yet is a fresh expression of the spiritual journey for our time; it is available to practitioners of any tradition. Our lineage draws on the wisdom of the Kagyu and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism, as inherited by founder of Shambhala, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and his son and spiritual heir, Sakyong Mipham. In the mid-1970s Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche began to introduce teachings on Shambhala vision, based on his encounter with the Western world, and on the specific wisdom imparted from the Buddha to King Dawa Sangpo, the first sovereign of the legendary kingdom of Shambhala. This tradition teaches how to live in the secular world with courage and compassion.
“In essence, the emphasis of the Buddhist path is to help us attain enlightenment, and the emphasis of the Shambhala path is help us create and maintain a good society. When we put these two together, we have the Shambhalian Buddhist view of enlightened society.”