CHÖGYAM TRUNGPA is best known to Western readers as the author of several popular books on the Buddhist teachings, including Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, The Myth of Freedom, and Meditation in Action. The present volume, Shambhala, is a major departure from these earlier works. Although the author acknowledges the relationship of the Shambhala teachings to Buddhist principles and although he discusses at some length the practice of sitting meditation—which is virtually identical to Buddhist meditation practice—nevertheless, this book presents an unmistakably secular rather than religious outlook. There are barely a half-dozen foreign terms used in the manuscript, and in tone and content this volume speaks directly—sometimes painfully so—to the experience and the challenge of being human.

Even in the name with which he signs the Foreword—Dorje Dradul of Mukpo—the author distinguishes this book from his other works. Shambhala is about the path of warriorship, or the path of bravery, that is open to any human being who seeks a genuine and fearless existence. The title Dorje Dradul means the “indestructible” or “adamantine warrior.” Mukpo is the author’s family name, which was replaced at an early age by his Buddhist title, Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche. In Chapter Eleven, “Nowness,” the author describes the importance that the name Mukpo holds for him and gives us some hints of why he chooses to use it in the context of this book.

Although the author uses the legend and imagery of the Shambhala kingdom as the basis for his presentation, he states quite clearly that he is not presenting the Buddhist Kalacakra teachings on Shambhala. Instead, this volume draws on ancient, perhaps even primordial, wisdom and principles of human conduct, as manifested in the traditional, pre-industrial societies of Tibet, India, China, Japan, and Korea. In particular, this book draw its imagery and inspiration from the warrior culture of Tibet, which predated Buddhism and remained a basic influence on Tibetan society until the Communist Chinese invasion in 1959. Yet, whatever its sources, the vision that is presented here has not been articulated anywhere else. It is a unique statement on the human condition and potential, which is made more remarkable by its haunting and familiar ring—it is as though we had always known the truths contained here.

The author’s interest in the kingdom of Shambhala dates back to his years in Tibet, where he was the supreme abbot of the Surmang monasteries. As a young man, he studied some of the tantric texts that discuss the legendary kingdom of Shambhala, the path to it, and its inner significance. As he was fleeing from the Communist Chinese over the Himalayas in 1959, Chögyam Trungpa was writing a spiritual account of the history of Shambhala, which unfortunately was lost on the journey. Mr. James George, former Canadian High Commissioner to India and a personal friend of the author, reports that in 1968 Chögyam Trungpa told him that “although he had never been there [Shambhala], he believed in its existence and could see it in his mirror whenever he went into deep meditation.” Mr. George then tells us how he later witnessed the author gazing into a small handmirror and describing in detail the kingdom of Shambhala. As Mr. George says: “. . . There was Trungpa in our study describing what he saw as if he were looking out of the window.”
In spite of this longstanding interest in the kingdom of Shambhala, when Chögyam Trungpa first came to the West, he seems to have refrained from any mention of Shambhala, other than passing references. It was only in 1976, a few months before beginning a year’s retreat, that he began to emphasize the importance of the Shambhala teachings. At the 1976 Vajradhatu Seminary, an advanced three-month training course for two hundred students, Chögyam Trungpa gave several talks on the Shambhala principles. Then, during his 1977 retreat, the author began a series of writings on Shambhala, and he requested his students to initiate a secular, public program of meditation, to which he gave the name “Shambhala Training.”

Since that time, the author has given well over a hundred lectures on themes connected with Shambhala vision. Some of these talks have been given to students in the Shambhala Training program, many of them have been addressed to the directors, or teachers, of Shambhala Training, a few of the lectures were given as public talks in major cities in the United States, and one group of talks constituted a public seminar entitled “The Warrior of Shambhala,” taught jointly with Ösel Tendzin at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, in the summer of 1979.

To prepare this volume, the editors, under the author’s guidance, reviewed all of the lectures on the subject matter and searched for the best, or most appropriate, treatments of particular topics. In addition, the author wrote original material for this book, notably the discussion of the dignities of meek, perky, and outrageous that appears in Chapter Twenty, “Authentic Presence.” He had already composed the material on inscrutability as an essay during his 1977 retreat, and the discussion of the other three dignities was written for this book in a style compatible with the original article.

In deciding upon the sequence of chapters and the logical progression of the topics, the original lectures were themselves the foremost guide. In studying this material the editors found that the Shambhala teachings present, not only the logic of the mind, but also the logic of the heart. Based as much on intuition as on intellect, these teachings weave a complex and sometimes crisscrossing picture of human experience. To preserve this character, the editors chose to draw the structure of the book out of the structure of the original lectures themselves. Of necessity, this sometimes resulted in paradoxical or even seemingly contradictory treatments of a topic. Yet we found that the overall elegance and integrity of the material were best served by retaining the inherent logic of the original presentation, with all its complexities.

Respect for the integrity of the original lectures was also the guiding principle in the treatment of language. In his presentation of the Shambhala principles, the author takes common words in the English language, such as “goodness,” and gives them uncommon, often extraordinary, meanings. By doing so, Chögyam Trungpa elevates everyday experience to the level of sacredness, and at the same time, he brings esoteric concepts, such as magic, into the realm of ordinary understanding and perception. This is often done by stretching the English language to accommodate subtle understanding within seeming simplicity. In our editing, we tried to retain and bring out the author’s voice rather than suppress it, feeling that this approach would best convey the power of the material.
Before work on Shambhala began, many of the author’s talks had already been edited for use by students and teachers in the Shambhala Training program. These early editorial efforts by Mr. Michael Kohn, Mrs. Judith Lief, Mrs. Sarah Levy, Mr. David Rome, Mrs. Barbara Blouin, and Mr. Frank Berliner are gratefully acknowledged; they considerably reduced the task of preparing this book.

The curriculum used in Shambhala Training was of great help in organizing the material for this book, and thanks are due to those who have worked with the author to develop and revise this curriculum over the past six years: Mr. David Rome, private secretary to the author and the assistant to the publisher at Schocken Books; Dr. Jeremy Hayward, vice president of the Nalanda Foundation; Mrs. Lila Rich, executive director of Shambhala Training; as well as the staff of Shambhala Training, notably Mr. Frank Berliner, Mrs. Christie Baker, and Mr. Dan Holmes.

Ongoing guidance was provided by Ösel Tendzin, the cofounder of Shambhala Training
and Chögyam Trungpa’s dharma heir, who reviewed the original proposal for the book and gave critical feedback on the manuscript at various stages of completion. We are extremely grateful for his participation in this project.

A similar role was played by Mr. Samuel Bercholz, the publisher of Shambhala Publications. As shown by the name he gave to his company in 1968, Mr. Bercholz has a deeply rooted connection to Shambhala and its wisdom. His belief in this project and his constant interest in it were a major force in moving the manuscript along and bringing it to completion.
Two of the editors at Vajradhatu deserve special mention for their excellent work on the manuscript: Mrs. Sarah Levy and Mrs. Donna Holm. In addition, we would like to offer particular thanks to Mr. Ken Wilber, the editor of the New Science Library and the author of Up from Eden and other books. Mr. Wilber read the manuscript in both penultimate and final form, and his detailed and pointed comments led to significant changes in the final text.

Mr. Robert Walker served as the administrative assistant to the editors, and without the secretarial and support services that he provided, this book never could have been completed. His excellent and diligent contribution to the project deserves our greatest thanks. Mrs. Rachel Anderson also served as an administrative assistant for a period of several months, and we thank her for her dedicated help. It is not possible to mention by name the many volunteers who produced the transcriptions that already existed when we began work on the book, but their efforts are gratefully acknowledged.
The editors also wish to thank the Nalanda Translation Group for the translations from the Tibetan that appear here, in particular Mr. Ugyen Shenpen, who calligraphed the original Tibetan writings. We also thank the editorial and production staff at Shambhala Publications for their assistance, notably Mr. Larry Mermelstein, Miss Emily Hilburn, and Mrs. Hazel Bercholz.

We thank as well the many other readers who took time to review and comment on the final manuscript: Mr. Marvin Casper, Mr. Michael Chender, Lodrö Dorje, Dr. Larry Dossey, Dr. Wendy Goble, Dr. James Green, Miss Lynn Hildebrand, Miss Lynn Milot, Ms. Susan Purdy, Mr. Eric Skjei, Mrs. Susan Niemack Skjei, Mr. Joseph Spieler, Mr. Jeff Stone, and Mr. Joshua Zim. We particularly thank Dr. Goble for her careful copyediting of the final text.
It is impossible to express adequate thanks to the author—both for his vision in presenting the Shambhala teachings and for the privilege of assisting him with the editing of this book. In addition to working closely with the editors on the manuscript, he seemed able to provide an atmosphere of magic and power that pervaded and inspired this project. This is a somewhat outrageous thing to say, but once having read this book, perhaps the reader will find it not so strange a statement. It felt as though the author empowered this text so that it could rise above the poor vision of its editors and proclaim its wisdom. We hope only that we have not obstructed or weakened the power of these teachings. May they help to liberate all beings from the warring evils of the setting sun.

Boulder, Colorado
October 1983


I AM SO DELIGHTED to be able to present the vision of Shambhala in this book. It is what the world needs and what the world is starved for. I would like to make it clear, however, that this book does not reveal any of the secrets from the Buddhist tantric tradition of Shambhala teachings, nor does it present the philosophy of the Kalacakra. Rather, this book is a manual for people who have lost the principles of sacredness, dignity, and warriorship in their lives. It is based particularly on the principles of warriorship as they were embodied in the ancient civilizations of India, Tibet, China, Japan, and Korea. This book shows how to refine one’s way of life and how to propagate the true meaning of warriorship. It is inspired by the example and the wisdom of the great Tibetan king, Gesar of Ling—his inscrutability and fearlessness and the way in which he conquered barbarianism by using the principles of Tiger, Lion, Garuda, Dragon (Tak, Seng, Khyung, Druk), which are discussed in this book as the four dignities I am honoured and grateful that in the past I have been able to present the wisdom and dignity of human life within the context of the religious teachings of Buddhism. Now it gives me tremendous joy to present the principles of Shambhala warriorship and to show how we can conduct our lives as warriors with fearlessness and rejoicing, without destroying one another. In this way, the vision of the Great Eastern Sun (Sharchen Nyima) can be promoted, and the goodness in everyone’s heart can be realised without doubt.

Boulder, Colorado
August 1983


Creating an Enlightened Society

The Shambhala teachings are founded on the premise that there is basic human wisdom
that can help to solve the world’s problems. This wisdom does not belong to any one culture or religion, nor does it come only 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.

IN TIBET, as well as many other Asian countries, there are stories about a legendary kingdom that was a source of learning and culture for present-day Asian societies. According to the legends, this was a place of peace and prosperity, governed by wise and compassionate rulers. The citizens were equally kind and learned, so that, in general, the kingdom was a model society. This place was called Shambhala.

It is said that Buddhism played an important role in the development of the Shambhala society. The legends tell us that Shakyamuni Buddha gave advanced tantric teachings to the first king of Shambhala, Dawa Sangpo. These teachings, which are preserved as the Kalacakra Tantra, are considered to be among the most profound wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism. After the king had received this instruction, the stories say that all of the people of Shambhala began to practice meditation and to follow the Buddhist path of loving kindness and concern for all beings. In this way, not just the rulers but all of the subjects of the kingdom became highly developed people.

Among the Tibetan people, there is a popular belief that the kingdom of Shambhala can still be found, hidden in a remote valley somewhere in the Himalayas. There are, as well, a number of Buddhist texts that give detailed but obscure directions for reaching Shambhala, but there are mixed opinions as to whether these should be taken literally or metaphorically. There are also many texts that give us elaborate descriptions of the kingdom. For example, according to the Great Commentary on the Kalacakra by the renowned nineteenth-century Buddhist teacher Mipham, the land of Shambhala is north of the river Sita, and the country is divided by eight mountain ranges. The palace of the Rigdens, or the imperial rulers of Shambhala, is built on top of a circular mountain in the center of the country. This mountain, Mipham tells us, is named Kailasa. The palace, which is called the palace of Kalapa, comprises many square miles. In front of it to the south is a beautiful park known as Malaya, and in the middle of the park is a temple devoted to Kalacakra that was built by Dawa Sangpo.

Other legends say that the kingdom of Shambhala disappeared from the earth many centuries ago. At a certain point, the entire society had become enlightened, and the kingdom vanished into another more celestial realm. According to these stories, the Rigden kings of Shambhala continue to watch over human affairs, and will one day return to earth to save humanity from destruction. Many Tibetans believe that the great Tibetan warrior king Gesar of Ling was inspired and guided by the Rigdens and the Shambhala wisdom. This reflects the belief in the celestial existence of the kingdom. Gesar is thought not to have travelled to Shambhala, so his link to the kingdom was a spiritual one. He lived in approximately the eleventh century and ruled the provincial kingdom of Ling, which is located in the province of Kham, East Tibet. Following Gesar’s reign, stories about his accomplishments as a warrior and ruler sprang up throughout Tibet, eventually becoming the greatest epic of Tibetan literature. Some legends say that Gesar will reappear from Shambhala, leading an army to conquer the forces of darkness in the world.

In recent years, some Western scholars have suggested that the kingdom of Shambhala may actually have been one of the historically documented kingdoms of early times, such as the Zhang-Zhung kingdom of Central Asia. Many scholars, however, believe that the stories of Shambhala are completely mythical. While it is easy enough to dismiss the kingdom of Shambhala as pure fiction, it is also possible to see in this legend the expression of a deeply rooted and very real human desire for a good and fulfilling life. In fact, among many Tibetan Buddhist teachers, there has long been a tradition that regards the kingdom of Shambhala, not as an external place, but as the ground or root of wakefulness and sanity that exists as a potential within every human being. From that point of view, it is not important to determine whether the kingdom of Shambhala is fact or fiction. Instead, we should appreciate and emulate the ideal of an enlightened society that it represents.

Over the past seven years, I have been presenting a series of “Shambhala teachings” that use the image of the Shambhala kingdom to represent the ideal of secular enlightenment, that is, the possibility of uplifting our personal existence and that of others without the help of any religious outlook. For although the Shambhala tradition is founded on the sanity and gentleness of the Buddhist tradition, at the same time, it has its own independent basis, which is directly cultivating who and what we are as human beings. With the great problems now facing human society, it seems increasingly important to find simple and nonsectarian ways to work with ourselves and to share our understanding with others. The Shambhala teachings, or “Shambhala vision” as this approach is more broadly called, is one such attempt to encourage a wholesome existence for ourselves and others.

The current state of world affairs is a source of concern to all of us: the threat of nuclear war, widespread poverty and economic instability, social and political chaos, and psychological upheavals of many kinds. The world is in absolute turmoil. The Shambhala teachings are founded on the premise that there is basic human wisdom that can help to solve the world’s problems. This wisdom does not belong to any one culture or religion, nor does it come only 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.

Warriorship here does not refer to making war on others. Aggression is the source of our problems, not the solution. Here the word “warrior” is taken from the Tibetan pawo, which literally means “one who is brave.” Warriorship in this context is the tradition of human bravery, or the tradition of fearlessness. The North American Indians had such a tradition, and it also existed in South American Indian societies. The Japanese ideal of the samurai also represented a warrior tradition of wisdom, and there have been principles of enlightened warriorship in Western Christian societies as well. King Arthur is a legendary example of warriorship in the Western tradition, and great rulers in the Bible, such as King David, are examples of warriors common to both the Jewish and Christian traditions. On our planet earth there have been many fine examples of warriorship.

The key to warriorship and the first principle of Shambhala vision is not being afraid of who you are. Ultimately, that is the definition of bravery: not being afraid of yourself. Shambhala vision teaches that, in the face of the world’s great problems, we can be heroic and kind at the same time. Shambhala vision is the opposite of selfishness. When we are afraid of ourselves and afraid of the seeming threat the world presents, then we become extremely selfish. We want to build our own little nests, our own cocoons, so that we can live by ourselves in a secure way.

But we can be much more brave than that. We must try to think beyond our homes, beyond the fire burning in the fireplace, beyond sending our children to school or getting to work in the morning. We must try to think how we can help this world. If we don’t help, nobody will. It is our turn to help the world. At the same time, helping others does not mean abandoning our individual lives. You don’t have to rush out to become the mayor of your city or the president of the United States in order to help others, but you can begin with your relatives and friends and the people around you. In fact, you can start with yourself. The important point is to realize that you are never off duty. You can never just relax, because the whole world needs help.

While everyone has a responsibility to help the world, we can create additional chaos if we try to impose our ideas or our help upon others. Many people have theories about what the world needs. Some people think that the world needs communism; some people think that the world needs democracy; some people think that technology will save the world; some people think that technology will destroy the world. The Shambhala teachings are not based on converting the world to another theory. The premise of Shambhala vision is that, in order to establish an enlightened society for others, we need to discover what inherently we have to offer the world. So, to begin with, we should make an effort to examine our own experience, in order to see what it contains that is of value in helping ourselves and others to uplift their existence.

If we are willing to take an unbiased look, we will find that, in spite of all our problems and confusion, all our emotional and psychological ups and downs, there is something basically good about our existence as human beings. Unless we can discover that ground of goodness in our own lives, we cannot hope to improve the lives of others. If we are simply miserable and wretched beings, how can we possibly imagine, let alone realize, an enlightened society?
Discovering real goodness comes from appreciating very simple experiences. We are not talking about how good it feels to make a million dollars or finally graduate from college or buy a new house, but we are speaking here of the basic goodness of being alive—which does not depend on our accomplishments or fulfilling our desires. We experience glimpses of goodness all the time, but we often fail to acknowledge them. When we see a bright color, we are witnessing our own inherent goodness. When we hear a beautiful sound, we are hearing our own basic goodness. When we step out of the shower, we feel fresh and clean, and when we walk out of a stuffy room, we appreciate the sudden whiff of fresh air. These events may take a fraction of a second, but they are real experiences of goodness. They happen to us all the time, but usually we ignore them as mundane or purely coincidental. According to the Shambhala principles, however, it is worthwhile to recognize and take advantage of those moments, because they are revealing basic nonaggression and freshness in our lives—basic goodness.

Every human being has a basic nature of goodness, which is undiluted and unconfused. That goodness contains tremendous gentleness and appreciation. As human beings, we can make love. We can stroke someone with a gentle touch; we can kiss someone with gentle understanding. We can appreciate beauty. We can appreciate the best of this world. We can appreciate its vividness: the yellowness of yellow, the redness of red, the greenness of green, the purpleness of purple. Our experience is real. When yellow is yellow, can we say it is red, if we don’t like the yellowness of it? That would be contradicting reality. When we have sunshine, can we reject it and say that the sunshine is terrible? Can we really say that? When we have brilliant sunshine or wonderful snowfall, we appreciate it. And when we appreciate reality, it can actually work on us. We may have to get up in the morning after only a few hours’ sleep, but if we look out the window and see the sun shining, it can cheer us up. We can actually cure ourselves of depression if we recognize that the world we have is good.

It is not just an arbitrary idea that the world is good, but it is good because we can experience its goodness. We can experience our world as healthy and straightforward, direct and real, because our basic nature is to go along with the goodness of situations. The human potential for intelligence and dignity is attuned to experiencing the brilliance of the bright blue sky, the freshness of green fields, and the beauty of the trees and mountains. We have an actual
connection to reality that can wake us up and make us feel basically, fundamentally good. Shambhala vision is tuning in to our ability to wake ourselves up and recognize that goodness can happen to us. In fact, it is happening already.
But then, there is still a question. You might have made a genuine connection to your world: catching a glimpse of sunshine, seeing bright colors, hearing good music, eating good food, or whatever it may be. But how does a glimpse of goodness relate with ongoing experience? On the one hand, you might feel: “I want to get that goodness that is in me and in the phenomenal world.” So you rush around trying to find a way to possess it. Or on an even cruder level, you might say: “How much does it cost to get that? That experience was so beautiful. I want to own it.” The basic problem with that approach is that you never feel satisfied even if you get what you want, because you still want so badly. If you take a walk on Fifth Avenue, you see that kind of desperation. You might say that the people shopping on Fifth Avenue have good taste and that therefore they have possibilities of realizing human dignity. But on the other hand, it is as though they were covered with thorns. They want to grasp more and more and more.

Then, there is the approach of surrendering or humbling yourself to get in touch with goodness. Someone tells you that he can make you happy if you will just give your life to his cause. If you believe that he has the goodness that you want, you may be willing to shave your hair or wear robes or crawl on the floor or eat with your hands to get in touch with goodness. You are willing to trade in your dignity and become a slave.

Both of those situations are attempts to retrieve something good, something real. If you are rich, you are willing to spend thousands of dollars on it. If you are poor, you are willing to commit your life to it. But there is something wrong with both of those approaches.

The problem is that, when we begin to realize the potential goodness in ourselves, we often take our discovery much too seriously. We might kill for goodness or die for goodness; we want it so badly. What is lacking is a sense of humor. Humor here does not mean telling jokes or being comical or criticizing others and laughing at them. A genuine sense of humor is having a light touch: not beating reality into the ground but appreciating reality with a light touch. The basis of Shambhala vision is rediscovering that perfect and real sense of humor, that light touch of appreciation.
If you look at yourself, if you look at your mind, if you look at your activities, you can repossess the humor that you have lost in the course of your life. To begin with, you have to look at your ordinary domestic reality: your knives, your forks, your plates, your telephone, your dishwasher and your towels—ordinary things. There is nothing mystical or extraordinary about them, but if there is no connection with ordinary everyday situations, if you don’t examine your mundane life, then you will never find any humor or dignity or, ultimately, any reality.

The way you comb your hair, the way you dress, the way you wash your dishes—all of those activities are an extension of sanity; they are a way of connection with reality. A fork is a fork, of course. It is a simple implement of eating. But at the same time, the extension of your sanity and your dignity may depend on how you use your fork. Very simply, Shambhala vision is trying to provoke you to understand how you live, your relationship with ordinary life.

As human beings, we are basically awake and we can understand reality. We are not enslaved by our lives; we are free. Being free, in this case, means simply that we have a body and a mind, and we can uplift ourselves in order to work with reality in a dignified and humorous way. If we begin to perk up, we will find that the whole universe—including the seasons, the snowfall, the ice, and the mud—is also powerfully working with us. Life is a humorous situation,
but it is not mocking us. We find that, after all, we can handle our world; we can handle our universe properly and fully in an uplifted fashion.

The discovery of basic goodness is not a religious experience, particularly. Rather it is the realization that we can directly experience and work with reality, the real world that we are in. Experiencing the basic goodness of our lives makes us feel that we are intelligent and decent people and that the world is not a threat. When we feel that our lives are genuine and good, we do not have to deceive ourselves or other people. We can see our shortcomings without feeling guilty or inadequate, and at the same time, we can see our potential for extending goodness to others. We can tell the truth straightforwardly and be absolutely open, but steadfast at the same time.

The essence of warriorship, or the essence of human bravery, is refusing to give up on anyone or anything. We can never say that we are simply falling to pieces or that anyone else is, and we can never say that about the world either. Within our lifetime there will be great problems in the world, but let us make sure that within our lifetime no disasters happen. We can prevent them. It is up to us. We can save the world from destruction, to begin with. That is why Shambhala vision exists. It is a centuries-old idea: by serving this world, we can save it. But saving the world is not enough. We have to work to build an enlightened human society as well.

In this book we are going to discuss the ground of enlightened society and the path towards it, rather than presenting some utopian fantasy of what an enlightened society might be. If we want to help the world, we have to make a personal journey—we can’t simply theorize or speculate about our destination. So it is up to each of us individually to find the meaning of enlightened society and how it can be realized. It is my hope that this presentation of the path of the Shambhala warrior may contribute to the dawning of this discovery. 

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