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Sep 17
Dharma Teachings
Shambhala Mahasiddas



From the column Dharma Snacks by Cynthia Kneen

In The Sadhana of Mahamudra Trungpa Rinpoche says, “I’ve been fool enough to think that I possess my own projections.” I certainly feel foolish, and suffer greatly too, when I try to control my own phenomena. It’s not practical, and no one benefits.

One way to express this is that it’s important, and a relief, not to try to fill the world with replicas of ourselves.

In the Buddhist tradition there are eighty-four people called mahasiddhas who lived in India many centuries ago. In Sanskrit maha means great, and siddha means an accomplished person, so these people were great practitioners, with great realization. One of them was a prostitute, one was a weapons maker, one was a pimp, one was a king, and one was a homeless person who slept for twelve years at a busy intersection in Dehli. Among the mahasiddhas in Tibet, Milarepa was a murderer who had remorse, Marpa was a farmer with a bad temper, Yeshe Tsogyal was a princess who had insight, Gesar of Ling was a legendary warrior who had courage, and Gampopa was a doctor who became a monk. Each of their stories encourages me. You can be a Shambhalian and be a prostitute, a weapons maker, a pimp, a king, a homeless person, a murderer with remorse, a wealthy landowner, a princess, a general, a doctor and a monk. No one is excluded, and nothing you experience is excluded. Each of us can work with whatever situation we have. It’s how we do what we do that helps this world that needs our help.

Once I heard a great teacher say, “I want to be a mahasiddha. What else is worth doing??” I thought, Why not? Why not be genuine? It might create hardship for ego, but it’s better that way.


Cynthia Kneen is the author of Awake Mind, Open Heart: The Power of Courage & Dignity in Everyday Life (Avalon, 2002), and the CD course, Shambhala Warrior Training (Sounds True, 1996). Cynthia has taught Shambhala Buddhist programs throughout the mandala for over thirty years and is currently writing a book on business and dharma. Visit her website at www.cynthiakneen.com

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2 responses to “ Shambhala Mahasiddas ”
  1. Pat Dunlap
    Sep 18, 2009

    Thank you for this insight. A group of us at the Birmingham, AL sangha were listening to a podcast by Ethan Nichtern this evening. He was saying that for one to really establish a regular meditation practice you must first believe that you are already awake and secondly, that you really do possess basic goodness. So simple but so important to believe and not have these concepts be words that just come out of our mouths. Your description the mahasiddhas in your column is a good reminder that we all have these gifts, whether wealthy, poor, prostitute, doctor, warrior or homeless. We can fall into the trap of unconsciously judging people. It is crucial to look through those exterior trappings and see the humanity in all of us. Those words sound good but mindfully putting them into practice off the cushion is another thing all together. Like coming back to the breath, as we find ourselves about to make judgment, we can bring our thoughts back to the basic goodness that we all possess.

  2. Brief, nice, thanks!

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