The ancient kingdom of Shambhala was renowned for the compassion and wisdom of its leaders and citizens. According to the legend of Shambhala, these qualities were the result of unique teachings on enlightened society that the Buddha gave personally to King Dawa Sangpo, the first sovereign of Shambhala.
These instructions have been preserved over the centuries and are held by a hereditary lineage of teachers that hold the title “Sakyong.” It is a royal title that means “Earth Protector.”
The first Sakyong in modern times was the Tibetan meditation master, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (the Tibetan title, Rinpoche, means “precious one” and denotes a rare and profound teacher). Prior to his escape from Tibet in 1959, he was the holder of numerous meditative lineages and leader of a large monastic complex.
“The world is in absolute turmoil. The Shambhala teachings are founded on the premise that there is basic human wisdom that can help solve the world’s problems… Shambhala vision teaches that, in the face of the world’s problems, we can be heroic and kind at the same time.” – The Dorje Dradül, the Druk Sakyong of Shambhala.
Witnessing the demise of his own culture, and how full of turmoil and pain the world was, Chögyam Trungpa went into a great period of self-reflection and meditation. He came to realize that the ancient teaching of Shambhala were more relevant and necessary then ever, given the immense challenges facing the planet. Beginning in the 1970s he began to present a societal vision based on the Shambhala principle that proclaims the inherent goodness of all humanity.
Chögyam Trungpa felt that if humanity were to succeed in creating a better world it would be based on global respect for fundamental human dignity. This is the core message of Shambhala. His teachings were gathered together into his best-selling book, Shambhala: the Sacred Path of the Warrior, and many other writings, films and recordings.
Feeling such conviction in this, Chögyam Trungpa began training his first born son as the inheritor of this lineage. His son, now the lineage holder of Shambhala, is the Sakyong, Jampal Trinley Dradül. Enthroned as Sakyong in 1995, he went through extensive training in both East and West and holds a unique perspective on the universal values of the human spirit.
“The history and legend of Shambhala is based upon a great community that was able to reach a higher level of consciousness. This community could occur because its individual members participated fully in creating a culture of kindness, generosity, and courage.” – The Sakyong, Jampal Trinley Dradül
As an author, he is known as Sakyong Mipham, signifying his recognition in the Tibetan tradition as the incarnation of Mipham the Great, one of the most revered meditation masters of Tibet. His books include Turning the Mind into an Ally, Ruling Your World and Running with the Mind of Meditation.
The Sakyong’s teachings stress the widely held feeling that humanity is at a crossroads. He urges us to undergo a global self-reflection about our core principles, believing that how humanity feels about itself is critical for our future, and that of our planet. This vision of a society trusting and believing in its inherent worthiness is the basis of what the Shambhala Lineage calls enlightened society.
Acharya is a Sanskrit word that means “teacher.” Shambhala acharyas are individuals who Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has empowered to represent him and the lineages he holds. The Sakyong chose these individuals because of their knowledge, wisdom, and commitment to the confluence of teachings found in Shambhala.
The Victoria Shambhala Centre has hosted many acharyas over the years, and we are honoured to have ongoing relationships with Acharya Jenny Warwick and Acharya Richard John. We look forward to developing such a relationship with Acharya Susan Chapman, who lives in the Vancouver area and was appointed an acharya in July 2012.
In 2010, the Sakyong began appointing teachers to the new role of shastri (literally, “teacher learned in the texts and commentaries”). The shastris’ role includes bringing the current understanding of the Shambhala Buddhist vision, teachings and path to their centres, supporting the development of local teachers, and guiding students at all stages of the path.
Serving terms of three years, the shastris of the Pacific Northwest are:
- Maria Stella (Victoria; see our Centre Leaders page);
- John Fox (Vancouver, BC);
- Ben Hines and Matthew Lyon (Seattle, WA); and
- Rayna Jacobson (Portland, OR).