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May 11

THE REALM OF SHAMBHALA by Shar Khentrul Jampel Lodrö

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Review and Brief Commentary by Christine Heming

Shambhala is . . . the ultimate manifestation of peace and harmony. It is the realization … of those two qualities and the revelation of their capacity. Like the sun hidden behind clouds, every so often we can get a glimpse of its dazzling rays.


Part 1: The ultimate meaning of Shambhala

The Realm of Shambhala is an excellent introduction to the view of Shambhala based on the Kalachakra tradition. There are details about Shambhala in this book that were unknown to me, and there are differences in the language and emphasis of the author, Khentrul Rinpoche. But the essence of what is presented in The Realm of Shambhala is remarkably familiar. Although the Vidyadhara, Trungpa Rinpoche, made it clear that he was not teaching the Kalachakra tantra, his knowledge of this tantra and its influence on what has been handed down to his students is quite apparent when one reads this account written by Khentrul Rinpoche, a Kalachakra lineage holder.

The Preface, written by the Venerable Tempa’i Gyaltsen, tells the story of the origin of this teaching: After a six-month teaching tour, Khentrul Rinpoche realized how little people understood about Shambhala, what it actually was. He set about writing this short accessible book “to clarify the confusion surrounding Shambhala and to provide the basis for connecting with its deeply profound nature.”

In the Introduction, Khentrul Rinpoche, touches on the problem of extreme views – scientific materialism and religious extremism – that dominate much of the thinking within our world. He presents the teachings of the Kalachakra as a balanced approach to life, a middle ground. He says the Kalachakra can be differentiated from other Buddhist tantras because of its expansive scope (“the theory of everything”), its clarity and its profound methods.

According to Trungpa Rinpoche, the Kalachakra tantra is within the anuttarayoga yana, like Chakrasamvara and Vajrayogini. All of these tantras exist for the same reason – to lead practitioners to complete enlightenment. But there seems to be something particularly potent about the Kalachakra, and it is the tantra with a direct connection to Shambhala. As the story goes, it was the first king of Shambhala, Suchandra (Dawa Sangpo in Tibetan), who invited the Buddha to give him teachings that would enable him to attain the supreme enlightenment while remaining the sovereign of Shambhala. The teaching the Buddha gave to Suchandra, as well as many other kings, was the Kalachakra.

Shambhala According to the Kalachakra

Khentrul Rinpoche distinguishes between Shambhala as a “realm” and Shambhala as a “state of mind”- a state of mind that can be cultivated through the practice of a spiritual path. He describes this mind of Shambhala as “the perfection of peace and harmony.” Peace refers to our own personal experience, and harmony is the natural expression of that peace through our connections with the environment and our relationships with others. It is a state of mind in which there is no conflict, no contradiction and no separation. Perfection means that it is the ultimate manifestation, the full realization of those qualities. He uses the metaphor of the sun hidden behind the clouds; we glimpse its dazzling radiance, and with the right methods, we can strengthen the conditions that reveal more and more of its essence.

Various ideas about Shambhala have existed both in the traditional cultures of central Asia and, more recently, in Western cultures. Khentrul Rinpoche recognizes our Shambhala lineage as an example of using the principles of peace and harmony to create an enlightened society, in particular through Shambhala Training. He describes the Vidyadhara Trungpa Rinpoche as a visionary who received teachings from the kings of Shambhala. He also notes that the Vidyadhara’s teachings on Shambhala incorporate ideas from the Kalachakra. But he stops short of seeing our path as a complete path to enlightenment. It appears his knowledge of our teachings and vision is limited to Shambhala Training. Continue…

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