Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
was born in a remote village in eastern Tibet.
Recognized as Tulku
while still an infant as the eleventh incarnation of the renowned Trungpa lineage of Buddhist teachers, he was raised to take his seat as head of the Surmang monasteries and governor of the Surmang region of eastern Tibet.
1945-1958 Study & Training
1959 Escape from Tibet
The next ten years of the Vidyadhara’s life, first in India and later in England, were marked by a passion to absorb everything he could about the West and find a way to present authentic buddhadharma to Western students. Although there was no lack of interest in Buddhism in the West, he found that students were easily distracted by the seemingly exotic nature of the teachings and the teacher.
1968 Retreat at Taktsang
“The message that I had received from my supplication was that one must try to expose spiritual materialism and all its trappings, otherwise true spirituality could not develop. I began to realize that I would have to take daring steps in my life.”
In Bhutan with Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
1969 A Profound Turning Point
What he understood from the experience was the need to open up completely in a direct and intimate way to Western students. He saw that his robes and monastic vows formed a veil that blocked direct communication and understood that if Westerners were to hear the dharma, it must be stripped of Tibetan cultural trappings.
1974 Karmapa's visit
In 1974, Vajradhatu hosted His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa, head of the Karma Kagyü lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The community, which had so far enjoyed a somewhat relaxed and informal relationship with the teacher and the teachings, now found itself hosting a dharma king. The Vidyadhara received the Karmapa with an impeccable display of devotion and formality, while his students looked on and followed his example.
The visit marked a new phase of the community’s understanding and practice of devotion, a practice that is nowhere more vividly manifest than in The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya. A real link and appreciation for the lineage and world of Tibetan tradition, from which the Vidyadhara had emerged, was indelibly forged through this powerful visit.
The Great Stupa of Dharmaka
At that point, the Vidyadhara’s eldest son, Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo (Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche), whom he had empowered in 1979 as his successor and Shambhala heir, assumed his responsibility as leader. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche carries on today as the head of the Shambhala community.
Transplanting the Buddhadharma
The English words and phrases he applied to Buddhist concepts can now be found in the speech and writings of almost all Buddhist teachers and translators in the English-speaking world. His own books have sold over a million copies.
A Vision for Many Generations
Historically Buddhism has drawn on the innate cultural strength of the many diverse societies in which it has thrived, each culture providing a setting for the dharma in the same way that a gold ring provides a setting for a diamond. The Vidyadhara encouraged his students to seek out what is valuable in Western culture—that which fosters an appreciation of human dignity, courage, and inherent richness—and to avoid the tendency toward nihilism, cynicism, and malaise so prevalent in contemporary society.
A Whirlwind of Activity
He formed the Dorje Kasung, a service organization entrusted with the protection of the Buddhist teachings and the welfare of the community. He also reached beyond the Buddhist community by establishing the Naropa Institute, a fully accredited liberal arts university, and the Shambhala Training program, which offers a secular approach to meditation practice based on an appreciation of innate human goodness.
The Consummate Enlightened Monarch
Working closely with poets, artists, businessmen, educators, medical professionals, gardeners, cooks, and administrators, the Vidyadhara encouraged them to connect deeply with their own traditions and take an uplifted approach to their disciplines. The diverse community was bound together by a common loyalty and love for their teacher, who in turn relinquished personal privacy and gave himself totally to working with others, the consummate enlightened monarch.
From Boulder to Nova Scotia
Much of this activity, particularly in the later years of his life, took place in his home in Boulder, Colorado, which he fashioned into a court or cultural center, and where he lived with his wife, Diana, and five sons.
As a further step toward establishing an enlightened society, he moved his court and the international headquarters of Vajradhatu to the province of Nova Scotia in eastern Canada, a beautiful, rugged, and elemental place with a gentle culture, which he felt had the potential to embrace the Shambhala vision in the years to come.
The Precious Jewel
Thrangu Rinpoche, a good friend of the Vidyadhara, told this story several years ago to members of the Shambhala community. He ended by saying:
“And so along with rediscovering the mind’s true nature, he found this jewel that had been lost for so many years. He was able to recover this jewel, and having it back in his hand, he was able to come to North America and give it to you. This is an extremely fortunate situation.”