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May 11
book reviews

Review and Brief Commentary by Christine Heming

Part 2: The realm of Shambhala and the Kalachakra Tantra

The Historical Shambhala

What of Shambhala the realm? Does it exist? Khentrul Rinpoche addresses these questions in part to point out that “the key to manifesting Shambhala is recognizing that it is a process.” He calls this process “patterns of transformation” that provide signposts indicating we are traveling in the right direction. In this way, the history of Shambhala becomes a blueprint for how to bring about a similar transformation within our own experience and within our own world

According to the great commentary of Kalachakra, the kingdom of Shambhala existed before the tantra was ever taught: the implication being that the sublime or pure realm of Shambhala has not always existed. Shambhala began as a coarser realm similar to other kingdoms of its time. What made it unique was that its kings were realized bodhisattvas who acted as magnets for those with strong propensities for loving-kindness and compassion. As a result, the kingdom flourished both temporally and spiritually.

Khentrul Rinpoche, along with the Vidyadhara, believes Shambhala was located somewhere in central Asia. Because of it central location and its peaceful leaders, what began as one settlement expanded to include 96 surrounding villages. Different cultures were able to live harmoniously alongside one another, which gave rise to great prosperity. Rinpoche writes: “. . . this illustrates to us that basic human goodness is the foundation upon which the definitive meaning can grow.”

Many generations passed before king Suchandra, the first dharmarāja, an emanation of Vajrapani, recognized that many people in Shambhala were ready to receive more profound teachings on the nature of reality. While he was highly realized himself, Suchandra recognized that only a buddha would be able to transmit the ultimate teaching. His search for such a being led him to Buddha Shakyamuni, who was meditating on Vulture Peak Mountain outside of the village of Rajagriha. While the Buddha’s mind was absorbed in the definitive meaning, the true nature of reality, his samadhi inspired the great bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara to give the teachings of the Perfection of Wisdom, the prajaparamita. At the same time, on a more subtle level and from within this deep indestructible absorption, the Buddha manifested the complete mandala of Kalachakra to king Suchandra, to which form the king then requested teachings. Suchandra and the governors of the 96 regions of Shambhala received the Kalachakra tantra directly from the mouth of the deity. Suchandra shortly thereafter wrote down the entire teaching he had received. Unfortunately this teaching has not survived.

Over the next six hundred years, the leadership of Shambhala, through the power of their accomplishments, inspired an ever-growing appreciation for the Kalachakra teachings so that, by the turn of the first century BCE, the Kalachakra was established within the culture of Shambhala. The first Kalki (Rigden in Tibetan) Yashas, an emanation of Manjushri’s wisdom, successfully unified all the citizens of Shambhala through the wisdom of the Kalachakra, enabling even those of other traditions to recognize the definitive meaning within their own traditions. Centuries under the profound guidance of the bodhisattva Kalki Kings enabled the minds of all the people of Shambhala to become so refined and realized that the realm of Shambhala could no longer be experienced by the gross minds of ordinary beings. Shambhala finally became the “Sublime Realm,” a pure land.

The Kalachakra Tantra

Khentrul Rinpoche is a lineage holder of the Jonang Kalachakra tradition, also referred to as the Jonang Shambhala tradition. In one of the appendices he gives a detailed description of this lineage. Rinpoche is, however, a true Rime visionary. He states that he is not trying to convert anyone to Buddhism or the Jonang tradition as such. He is encouraging us to become familiar with these teachings, learn from them, understand how they work with reality, and then connect with the wisdom of our own tradition, whatever that may be. Like the Vidyadhara, he sees Shambhala as the container that can hold all the genuine wisdom traditions without conflict.

The Jonang path begins with Outer Preliminaries that lead to an understanding of “the interdependent nature of our present reality.” These include an understanding of karma, the nature of suffering, the preciousness of our current conditions, and the nature of impermance – in other words, the Four Reminders. This is how to become a decent human being, words we have heard from the Vidyadhara as well.

Having been inspired by this practice, practitioners are introduced to the Inner Preliminaries, which are designed to cultivate the following: the heart of loving-kindness and compassion, the practice of virtue and accumulation of merit, balance and mental stability, surrender of one’s ego and devotion to the teacher. These teachings and practices enable the practitioner to overcome even the subtlest obscurations, and for this, the guidance of a master acting as a mirror, is extremely important.

The Unique Preliminaries come next and introduce the practitioner to the generation stage of the Kalachakra teachings. Through deity practice one develops pure perception and overcomes grasping onto appearances; nonconceptual mind is established. Through these preliminaries one is prepared for the six yogas, the main practice of the Kalachakra, designed to establish the direct perception of the buddha nature. The ultimate result is perfect, complete enlightenment.

The view of the Kalachakra Tantra seems to coincide with our own view of Basic Goodness as well as with the Uttara Tantra[1] view of Buddha Nature. Khentrul Rinpoche writes: “. . . the understanding [is] that buddha nature is primordially pure and . . . the only reason we do not experience it now is due to the obscurations in our minds.” The Kalachakra view starts with the fruition – the nonconceptual primordial wisdom that is our true nature, our inheritance. The path is one of uncovering this nature through the refinement of the subtlest obscurations to this realization. We are not getting rid of something impure and then developing what is pure. The pure nature, basic goodness, the great perfection, has always been the ground of who we are.

Experiencing Shambhala in Your Life

The final chapters in The Realm of Shambhala teach us how to strengthen our connection to Shambhala in this life: increasing our karmic propensities for virtue, strengthening our connections to the principles of Shambhala, creating causes for greater peace and harmony both now and in the future, and receiving the Kalachakra empowerment. We need to prepare our mind, developing patience and the determination to overcome obstacles. Faith is important – not doing anything that will not help you achieve your goal – as is an unwavering confidence that what you are doing is taking you in the right direction. Cultivating the mind of bodhicitta is necessary and removing all obstacles to its manifestation, in particular overcoming all forms of bias – gender, race, age, location, culture, knowledge, belief and class bias. There is much more to aid the practitioner in these final chapters. Rinpoche’s guidance is detailed and very clear, as is his strong conviction that the golden age of Shambhala is possible.

About Khentrul Rinpoche

Rinpoche was born on the 18th of April 1968, in Tibet, in the Dera valley. Many auspicious signs preceded and followed his birth. At one year of age, he is said to have recited the Manjushri mantra as his first words. During his childhood, he was recognized to be a very important incarnation by several masters. This was kept secret for his protection. Rinpoche was ordained in 1987; he met his root guru in 1991; and entered a three-year retreat on the completion stage of Kalachakra in 1994, at the age of 23.

In 1997 Khentrul Rinpoche was recognized to be the third incarnation of the great Kalachakra adept Ngawang Chözin Gyatso by his guru, Jetsun Lama Lobsang Trinlé. He also holds the title of Khenpo and Rimé Chojé, “Unbiased Dharma Lord,” from Lama Trinlé. He is a recognized Rimé Master having studied and practiced within a variety of teachings and traditions.

In 1999, after the death of his guru Lama Trinlé, he made his first visit to the West, to Australia, where he began to learn English and gather Western students. In 2007 he founded Tong Zuk Dechen Ling, his seat in Belgrave, Australia. In 2018 he established Dzokchen, an international network of individuals, groups and training institutes and retreat centres that embrace the vast diversity of wisdom traditions in the world while specializing in the unique teachings of the Kalachakra completion stage in the Jonang Shambhala Tradition. Rinpoche’s mission is to generate the causes for global peace and harmony through the practice and teachings of the Kalachakra Tantra.

Rinpoche has published several books, including three volumes on the Kalachakra path titled, Unveiling Your Sacred Truth through the Kalachakra Path.

You can learn more about Khentrul Rinpoche and his teachings from his website: https://khentrulrinpoche.com

[1] From the commentary on the Uttara Tantra by the Venerable Kenchen Thrangu Rinpoche.

Christine Heming is a writer and educator.  She has been a student of the buddhadharma for over 45 years, and a senior teacher and meditation instructor in Shambhala.  She lives in Port Royal, Nova Scotia.

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