Shambhala Training

A secular meditation program rooted in Tibetan Buddhism aiming to cultivate an enlightened society.

Shambhala Training emerges from the teachings of the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who sought to present a secular approach to meditation that could be accessible to individuals of all faiths, not just those following Buddhist traditions. This initiative, based on the concept of “Shambhala Vision,” revolves around the belief that an enlightened society is achievable through the cultivation of fearlessness, dignity, and compassion among individuals. Unlike traditional Buddhist paths that may require adherence to specific religious beliefs, Shambhala Training emphasizes secular enlightenment, focusing on uplifting personal existence and that of others without the necessity of a religious framework.

The core teachings of Shambhala Training include the inherent goodness and dignity of human beings and the world around them. Participants are encouraged to recognize and cultivate this basic goodness through practices that enhance awareness and gentleness towards oneself and others. The curriculum encompasses art, society, and politics, aiming to create an enlightened society not only through social and political processes but also through individual practice and development.

The Shambhala Training curriculum is structured around a series of weekend programs and longer retreats, known as “The Heart of Warriorship” and “The Sacred Path.” These programs introduce and build upon meditation techniques and contemplative practices designed to foster mindfulness, awareness, and compassion in daily life. The initial meditation technique taught involves sitting with a relaxed posture, focusing on the out-breath, and gently acknowledging and returning from thoughts with a label of “thinking.”

This new religious movement, while drawing heavily from Tibetan Buddhist traditions and the mythical kingdom of Shambhala, distinguishes itself with its secular approach and the absence of a requirement for religious belief. However, advanced levels of the program do involve secret teachings and a vow of devotion to the guru, a role currently held by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, indicating a blend of secular practices with traditional guru-disciple dynamics found in Vajrayana Buddhism.

Shambhala Training has faced its share of controversy, particularly regarding accusations of sexual misconduct within its community. Efforts to address these issues have included engaging external organizations to investigate the extent of misconduct and to evaluate Shambhala’s ethical standards and practices in light of these challenges. The community has undertaken a process of reflection and reform, aiming to align more closely with its foundational principles of basic goodness and enlightened society while grappling with the implications of its hierarchical and guru-centric structure.

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