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FAQ – Shambhala

This is an analysis of commonly asked questions about the Shambhala of Chögyam Trungpa, how it relates to Shambhala Buddhism, and how it meets our 21st century world.  If you would like to submit a question, or a discussion/suggested answer, write to

Is the view of what Chögyam Trungpa called Shambhala Vision the same as the view of what Sakyong Mipham calls Shambhala Buddhism?

The prerequisite for Kalapa Assembly was Vajrayana Seminary, with a very few exceptions: doesn’t that show that Shambhala was intended for Buddhist tantrikas?

In another discussion on this, Carolyn Gimian writes:

I attended many meetings, both formal and informal, with him [CTR] concerning Shambhala Training, Kalapa Assembly and the transmission of these teachings. In my memory, he made it quite clear that he hoped that the full transmission of the Shambhala teachings would be made to many people and that their religious persuasion was not an issue. Whenever those of us meeting with him tried to put limitations on who should be included in the advanced levels of Shambhala Training, and whenever we tried to add requirements as hoops for newer people to jump through, Rinpoche would resist our desire to limit things. I remember once, in Mill Village I believe, that he said that we needed to have more faith in the magic of the teachings.

The Werma Sadhana is a Vajrayana practice – it was intended for Buddhist Vajrayana practitioners.
Here’s what the Druk Sakyong had to say in Comments on the Werma Sadhana:

From one way of thinking, the sadhana has been influenced by the traditional buddhist style, but on the other hand it is quite different. It is a self-contained practice. It is not particularly borrowed from buddhism, but it is simply self-existent in the Shambhala style.

Related to this is a famous incident at one of the Assemblies where he got upset about how “religiously” people were doing this practice.

What CTR introduced was not just the Buddhist Kalachakra teachings on Shambhala – Khyentse Rinpoche himself once warned against taking such a view, and that this is how most Tibetan Buddhists would see it. Related to this, Michael Chender writes

I put the direct question myself to HH Khyentse Rinpoche, on behalf of the Shambhala Training leadership of the time after the Vidhyadhara’s parinirvana in 1987, “Do Shambhala Training students have to become Buddhists at some point to continue?” He said, “No, Shambhala Training is a complete path to enlightenment–it has view, meditation, action.”

What CTR did insist on was that people (including Buddhists) who have a religious tradition (and he often asked people to _not_ become buddhists) carry it on, but in a “yogic”, practice-oriented fashion.

This person (Sakyong, Regent, …) was empowered by the Vidyadhara. Therefore I (and you) should have full confidence in him and his view and his actions.

Here’s what Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin said on this topic (1980):

After my empowerment, the Vajracarya gave me instructions as to how to proceed. The most important one was this:
In our lineage, it is said that the grandchildren are more accomplished than the grandfathers. But there is one thing you should always remember: you have to earn it. My confirmation of you will only go so far. The rest you will have to do by yourself. If that were not the case, we would have been corrupted a long time ago.

I support the naming of our tradition as Shambhala Buddhism. Not because I think that the two should be melded, but because it is an accurate description of the way things are and always have been.

There’s disagreement about how accurate this is. From the point of view of the present, if you’ve only experienced Shambhala Buddhism you may think ’twas ever thus. However, I believe that study of the root texts, the history, the language and forms used, and the being of Chögyam Trungpa – which is accessible now in various ways – leads one to find and experience that he really was coming _from_ openness, from the space of no credentials (including Buddhist credentials) in order to meet this world, its people, and their deepest needs, and that you/I are being called on to do the same. This space, while not contradictory to or dismissive of buddhism, does not require it. In CTR’s view, Buddhism and Shambhala are not two. Nevertheless they are distinct, like the two wings of a bird. For others, Shambhala and their yogic practice tradition could also be not two.