Shambhala Buddhism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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 practices for achieving an 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 (which roughly translates as "king"); with his father, Chögyam Trungpa, being the first.

Since 2018, multiple reports of clergy sexual misconduct and power abuse by the Sakyong and some Shambhala leadership[2][3][4] have led to an institutional crisis.[5] Sakyong Mipham temporarily suspended teaching and temporarily stepped back from the leadership activity of Shambhala, while retaining his title, position, and authority. He subsequently resumed teaching, both within and outside of the organization. The international governing body called the Kalapa Council resigned and was replaced by a Board of Directors who swore an oath of fealty to Mipham.[6]

Distinguishing characteristics[edit]

Shambhala Buddhism partly derives from the Shambhala teachings of Chögyam Trungpa.[7] Shambhala Buddhism in its current form is a new religious movement, or "cult",[8] the advanced levels of which involve secret teachings and a vow of devotion to the guru, a position currently held by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

Shambhala and Shambhala Training[edit]

The Great Eastern Sun
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

At the 1976 Seminary in Land O'Lakes, Wisconsin,[9] Trungpa Rinpoche began giving teachings, some of which were gathered and presented as Shambhala Training,[10] inspired by his vision (see terma) of the legendary Kingdom of Shambhala.

The concept of Shambhala is part of the lore of Tibetan Buddhism, and is described in the Kalachakra tantra. Kalachakra Buddhism was presumably introduced to Tibet still in the 11th century, the epoch of the Tibetan Kalachakra calendar. In the Kalachakra narrative, King Manjuśrīkīrti is said to have been born in 159 BC and ruled over a kingdom of 300,510 followers of the Mlechha religion, some of whom worshiped the Sun. He is said to have expelled 20,000 people from his domain who clung to Surya Samadhi (solar worship) rather than convert to Kalachakra (Wheel of Time) Buddhism. After realizing these were the wisest and best of his people and how much he was in need of them, he later asked them to return and some did. Those who did not return are said to have set up the city of Shambhala. Manjuśrīkīrti initiated the preaching of the Kalachakra teachings in order to try to convert those who returned and were still under his rule.

The Kalachakra tantra prophesies that when the world declines into war and greed, and all is lost, the 25th Kalki king Maitreya will emerge from Shambhala, with a huge army to vanquish Dark Forces and usher in a worldwide Golden Age. This final battle is prophesied for the year 2424 or 2425 (in the 3304th year after the death of Buddha).

Shambhala Training is administered worldwide by Shambhala International. Shambhala Training is presented in a series of paid 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 final program in the Shambhala Training Sacred Path, after which students must take vows of devotion to the guru if they wish to continue. During Warrior Assembly, students study the Shambhala terma text, The Golden Sun of the Great East, and receive the practices of the "stroke of ashé" (said to be a terma through Trungpa[11]) and lungta.

The Satdharma community, established by Trungpa's appointed regent and Dharma heir Ösel Tendzin (Thomas Rich), offers a comparable "Shambhala Education" course of training in Ojai, California.[12]

Shambhala within Shambhala Buddhism[edit]

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 requires taking Buddhist refuge and bodhisattva vows, as well as Buddhist vajrayana samaya vows of devotion to the guru) became a condition for progressing on the path and receiving the most advanced 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 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[edit]

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.[13] 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.

Zen influence[edit]

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 (簡素) or 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.

Elements of Bön, Taoism, and Confucianism[edit]

To a lesser extent, Trungpa Rinpoche incorporated other elements into Shambhala tradition. 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[edit]

The Dorje Kasung is a group that was formed by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to provide security services, provide driving and personal assistance to the teachers, and address any issues of conflict or health that arise in the community. The training and model of the Dorje Kasung are based on military forms, such as hierarchy, uniforms, and drills. After the reports of misconduct became public, sixteen senior-level Kasung released a statement with their own reports of witnessing abuse while in their roles.

The organization's stated purpose for 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."[14]

Maitri and Mudra[edit]

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.

Traditional Buddhist practices[edit]

Shambhala Buddhism holds various meditation techniques of traditional Tibetan Buddhist lineages, including shamatha/vipashyana, zazen, madhyamaka, mahamudra and Dzogchen, tonglen, Lojong, 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). 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 1971.

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.[15]

Shambhala Lodge was later founded in 1975, a group of students dedicated to fostering enlightened society. At an October party at Snowmass Colorado Seminary, Trungpa Rinpoche ordered his Vajra guard (i.e., the Dorje Kasung) to forcibly break into the room of his guest, Dana Naone, who he then ordered to be brought before the crowd and stripped naked, with onlookers ignoring her pleas for help and for someone to call the police.[16]

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.

Shambhala Training was later founded in 1977 to promote a secular approach to meditation practice and an appreciation of basic human goodness.[15] 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.[17]

In 1978, Trungpa Rinpoche conducted the first annual Kalapa Assembly, an intensive training program for advanced Shambhala teachings and practices.[15]

Trungpa Rinpoche empowered his eldest son in 1979, Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo, as his successor and heir to the Shambhala lineage.[15]

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, who in turn unknowingly infected his female partner.[18] Tendzin, who was HIV-positive, knowingly had sex with students for three years without disclosing his infection. He had a delusion that his enlightened status protected himself and others from AIDS.[19] It eventually came out that the Vajradhatu board of directors had known of the problem for more than two years and had done nothing about it.[20]

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.[21]

In 2000, at the Kalapa Assembly,[22] Sakyong Mipham made a proclamation[23] that started the process of enclosing the previously secular teachings of Shambhala within the container of a new buddhist lineage, Shambhala Buddhism.

On a visit to Tibet, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche met the 12th Trungpa tülku, Choseng Trungpa Rinpoche in 2001, an incarnation discovered by Tai Situ Rinpoche in 1991.

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.

Since 2018 the international Shambhala community is going through a process of change triggered by reports on sexual misconduct by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and power abuse by a number of Shambhala spiritual leaders.[2][3][24][25]

In July 2018, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche stepped back from leadership after the release of a third-party investigative report allegedly documenting sexual misconduct involving his students.[26] The international governing body, the so-called the Kalapa Council, resigned and has been replaced by a Board of Directors.[27] A number of initiatives have been established to address misconduct and misuse and abuse of power in the organisation.[28] While still being in retreat Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche resumed teaching to a small group of selected students in March 2020.[29]

In 2019, several Shambala community members were involved in sexual misconduct including one who pleaded guilty of sexual assault on a child.[30][31][32]

The community today[edit]

Shambhala Center, Boulder, Colorado

At its height, there were over two hundred Shambhala Meditation Centers, Groups and Residential Retreat Centers around the world, mostly in the United States, Canada, Europe and South America,[33][34] the largest communities being Halifax, Nova Scotia; Boulder, Colorado; northern Vermont; and New York City. Many centers have shuttered in recent years, following the revelations of abuses of power by the leader of the organization.

Shambhala-inspired schools[edit]

Shambhala International[edit]

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 network 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. Starting in the summer of 2018 major shake ups of the organization occurred including the resignation of the entire board due to sexual assault accusations of teachers and members including Sakyong.

Spiritual teachers[edit]

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

  • Acharya Dale Asrael
  • Acharya Emily Bower
  • Acharya Christie Cashman
  • Acharya Orhun Cercel
  • Acharya Dorje Loppon Lodro Dorje
  • Acharya Gaylon Ferguson
  • Acharya Moh Hardin
  • Acharya Arawana Hayashi
  • Acharya Jeremy Hayward
  • Acharya Daniel Hessey
  • Acharya Samten Kobelt
  • Acharya Judy Lief
  • Acharya Mitchell Levy
  • Kalapa Acharya Adam Lobel
  • Acharya Noel McLellan
  • Acharya Larry Mermelstein
  • Ashe Acharya John Rockwell
  • Acharya Eve Rosenthal
  • Acharya Judith Simmer-Brown
  • Acharya Eric Spiegel
  • Acharya Richard John

Land centers[edit]

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

Larger Shambhala Mandala[edit]

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[edit]

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
  • Lion's Roar, Buddhist-inspired bimonthly magazine of Buddhism, meditation, culture, and life, published by the Shambhala Sun Foundation
  • The Shambhala Times, online community magazine

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About Shambhala". Archived from the original on November 29, 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Project Sunshine". Project Sunshine. Retrieved August 12, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Letter from Shambhala Interim Board with links to the report of Wickwire Holm" (PDF). Letter from Interim Board. Retrieved August 12, 2020.
  4. ^ "An Olive Branch Listening Post Report" (PDF). Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  5. ^ Newman, Andy. "The King of Shambhala Buddhism Is Undone by Abuse Report". New York Times. Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  6. ^ "Interim Shambhala International Board Swears Religious Oath to Leader Accused of Sexual Assault". Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  7. ^ Trungpa, C. (2001). Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala. Shambhala Publications. p. 133.
  8. ^ "What makes a cult? | Rick Ross". the Guardian. May 27, 2009. Retrieved August 11, 2021.
  9. ^ Midal 2001, pp. 233–247
  10. ^ Midal 2001, p, 220
  11. ^ Midal, Fabrice. (2001). Chögyam Trungpa: His Life and Vision. ISBN 1-59030-098-X, pp 220-232
  12. ^ "Shambhala Education". Satdharma. Archived from the original on May 13, 2008. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  13. ^ Mukpo, p. 223
  14. ^ "True Command: The Teachings of the Dorje Kasung". Kalapa Publications. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  15. ^ a b c d "11th Trungpa Chronology". Archived from the original on October 13, 2007.
  16. ^ Sanders, 1977, throughout; Miles 1989, pp. 466–470; and Clark 1980, pp. 23–25
  17. ^ Tendzin Shambhala Bio "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 11, 2009. Retrieved July 22, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "A Church's Turmoil". The New York Times. February 26, 1989. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Coleman, James William. The New Buddhism: The Western Transformation of an Ancient Tradition (2001) Oxford University Press. Page 170.
  21. ^ Sakyong Shambhala Bio
  22. ^ Kalapa Assembly 2000 Collaborations Archived October 20, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ Mipham Rinpoche, Sakyong. (2000) "Shambhala Buddhism". Published letter
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Category: Sexual Misconduct". Dechen Chöling. Retrieved August 12, 2020.
  26. ^
  27. ^ Staff, Lion's Roar (July 6, 2018). "Shambhala leadership council resigns; names investigator of sexual abuse allegations". Lion's Roar. Retrieved August 12, 2020.
  28. ^ "Community Care |". Retrieved August 12, 2020.
  29. ^ "Rigden Nepal Pilgrimage March 8-15, 2020". Sakyong Lineage. April 16, 2020.
  30. ^ "Former Boulder Shambhala community member pleads guilty to child sex assault". Retrieved August 11, 2021.
  31. ^ "Another former Boulder Shambhala member accused of sexual assault on a child". Boulder Daily Camera. June 28, 2019. Retrieved August 11, 2021.
  32. ^ Byars, Mitchell (January 3, 2020). "Shambhala didn't pressure Boulder family to keep sexual-assault allegations quiet, investigation finds". Denver Post. Retrieved August 11, 2021.
  33. ^ Diversity Resources Archived April 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ Diversity in Shambhala


External links[edit]