Sakyong Mipham: King of His World
The Tibetan lama--also a golfer, marathon runner, and sharp dresser--on why worldly success is compatible with spiritual growth.
Gandhi, George Washington, Tusum Khyenpa, JFK, MLK. What draws us to these people? There was a moment when each of them overtly cared for a large group of people. They provided protection. We respect that compassion. They each had that quality. If you can't protect their own mind, you can't nurture it for others. When you are peaceful or you are acting for the benefit of others, you have ziji, confidence. You have authentic presence. People gather around you because there's something bigger, something selfless, which is different than someone who is completely arrogant or self-obsessed.
These aren't standard Buddhist teachings. You call them Shambhala teachings. Where did they come from and how did you get them?
These are high teachings. When the Buddha was very old, a king visited him from the northern kingdom of Shambhala. The king wanted to learn from the teacher but he had worldly responsibilities and told the Buddha all his subjects couldn't go off and become monks and nuns. The Buddha taught how you can engage in the world through a mind of understanding. It's very challenging. We have to have enough wisdom to see how we are conducting ourselves, but the kingdom itself can be an oasis of virtue, the energy of the land can increase, people become more efficient, and they work harder.
There were also kings in Tibet who practiced these teachings. They were known as dharma kings. One famous example is Gesar of Ling whose teaching stream ran in my family. More recently my father [Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche] wrote about these teachings extensively.
Was there actually a kingdom of Shambhala where all this happened?
There were various kingdoms. Above Tibet there was an actual country called Shambhala.
Do you believe it's still there?
It could be. People are looking for the place. Shambhala is very intriguing because they did practice the Kalachakra tantra. The tantra itself became one of the main staples of the kingdom. Everybody practiced and the society became an example and an inspiration for others.
Do you consider looking for Shambhala a worthwhile goal?
It's only worthwhile if it fortifies people's trust in the teachings. When you hear about Shambhala, it's very inspirational. We all long for a place that has a level of harmony. The physical place is important to see that it really did happen somewhere, but when you go there what's going to be most enduring is that people really did practice this way and we get down to teaching this approach which is what we need to carry on.