The Way of Shambhala is an extensive path of training in authentic meditation practices and wisdom teachings for anyone interested in pursuing such training. This program of courses and weekend retreats offers an experiential overview of practices, teachings, contemplative arts, and physical disciplines rooted in the ancient traditions of Shambhala and Vajrayana Buddhism.
The program is open to people of all religious backgrounds or no religious background. It is recommended for new and experienced meditators as well as those looking to enrich their personal spiritual path and social action.
We welcome you to participate to the extent you wish. Sample a course or a weekend retreat – or a number of them – at any time. The full program is described below.
The Way of Shambhala consists of the following elements:
- The Everyday Life series – five courses, with five weekly classes in each
- The Shambhala Training series – five weekend retreats
- Rigden: Unconditional Confidence – a weekend retreat
- The Basic Goodness series – three courses, with six weekly classes in each
- The Sacred Path series – six weekend retreats
The Way of Shambhala also encompasses some one- to two-week retreats and advanced assemblies. For information about those programs, and about how the Way of Shambhala fits in the overall Shambhala path, please see ”The Shambhala Path” on Shambhala’s central website.
The courses are interactive, communal, and create a learning environment where the teachings are intimate and relevant. Participants train in meditation, and use inquiry, dialogue, and contemplative arts to integrate the teachings.
The weekend retreats are opportunities to deepen meditation practice in a powerful environment that meets the needs of a workweek and family life.
You may start with any series except the Sacred Path. In each series, the courses or weekend retreats are designed to be taken sequentially. For example, Shambhala Training participants progress from Level I to Level V in sequence. The most gradual introduction is to take the Meditation in Everyday Life course first.
The Everyday Life Series and the Shambhala Training Series
Anyone may take either the Everyday Life courses or the Shambhala Training weekend retreats exclusively. We encourage concurrent participation in both, if possible, as the combination can profoundly deepen and extend meditation.
Course 1: Meditation in Everyday Life
The Meditation in Everyday Life course is designed to provide participants with the introductory tools and teachings for working with meditation in daily life. With simple instructions and support, mindfulness meditation practice can become part of our lives, bringing greater stability, strength, and clarity. Open to all.
Weekend Retreat 1: Shambhala Training Level I
Through the practice of meditation, we begin to glimpse that goodness—rather than confusion—is the unconditional ground of our existence. Opening to ourselves with gentleness and appreciation, we begin to see our potential as genuine and compassionate human beings. Open to all.
Weekend Retreat 2: Shambhala Training Level II
Having experienced a taste of basic goodness in Level I, we want to learn more. Meditation practice allows us to observe how we create a cocoon of habits to mask underlying fear. We begin to appreciate that there is no fundamental obstacle to experiencing basic goodness. Prerequisite: Shambhala Training Level I.
Course 2: Contentment in Everyday Life
This course provides an exploration of genuine contentment, the foundational views of the Buddhist teachings, and meditation in action for daily life. With meditation practice, we can learn to appreciate ourselves and simple human experiences, free from self-aggression. Difficult emotions and the challenges of life can be met with gentleness, steadiness, and humor. Open to all.
Weekend Retreat 3: Shambhala Training Level III
Examining our habitual tendencies, we begin to look at our willingness to experience our life without relying on the cocoon. We begin to engage the world directly and extend the attitude of fearlessness to our activities. Prerequisite: Shambhala Training Level II.
Course 3: Joy in Everyday Life
As meditation practice expands and we develop trust in basic goodness, we can begin to discover the confidence and personal energy to go forward on the journey. Joining gentleness with discipline leads to a sense of joy. The mahayana teachings on compassion can become the inspiration for a life of bravery and freedom from doubt. Open to all (recommended preparation: Contentment in Everyday Life).
Weekend Retreat 4: Shambhala Training Level IV
Trusting further in basic goodness and daring to experience the sharp edge of reality, we move forward with gentleness, increased awareness, and inquisitiveness about the world, as it is. We find that we can extend ourselves to others fully and with kindness. Prerequisite: Shambhala Training Level III.
Course 4: Fearlessness in Everyday Life
Learning to work with our anxiety, we are not blocked by fear. Through an exploration of the Buddhist teachings on mind and the nature of reality, we learn to see clearly. We dare to face life and death as they are. The meditator, open to uncertainty, goes beyond the emotions of hope and fear to experience equanimity. Prerequisite: Joy in Everyday Life.
Weekend Retreat 5: Shambhala Training Level V
Communicating with the world gently and fearlessly, our awareness is sharpened and we find the open clear sky of mind—a delightful source of wisdom and uplifted energy. We learn to trust our nature enough to let go into the present moment. Prerequisite: Shambhala Training Level IV.
Course 5: Wisdom in Everyday Life
Meditation sharpens our intelligence and uncovers our wisdom. Participants receive practical instructions for discovering trust and magic, even in the midst of challenge. No longer deterred or depressed by obstacles, we can include everything as part of the path. The challenges of daily life become opportunities for both contemplative practice and social and ecological action. Prerequisite: Fearlessness in Everyday Life.
Rigden: Unconditional Confidence
The Rigden weekend retreat is the culmination of the Everyday Life and Shambhala Training series. The Rigden is a representation of our basic enlightened nature and embodies the principle of unconditional confidence. Historically, Rigdens were enlightened rulers – those who could ”rule their world” based on their unwavering experience of basic goodness. This retreat is led by a Shambhala acharya and includes a transmission of ”windhorse” practice and an opportunity to proclaim a commitment to basic goodness by formally taking the Shambhala Vow. Prerequisites: Wisdom in Everyday Life and Shambhala Training Level V.
The Basic Goodness Series
The Basic Goodness series introduces the view of Shambhala in an experiential way. The key difference between the Everyday Life courses and the Basic Goodness courses is that the Everyday Life courses emphasize personal transformation in daily life, whereas the Basic Goodness courses emphasize the experiential study of view and meaning.
While you may start with this series, we recommend the preparation outlined below. We also recommend that you complete the Basic Goodness series before attending Enlightened Society Assembly if possible. The Basic Goodness series is prerequisite for Warrior Assembly.
Course 1: Who Am I? The Basic Goodness of Being Human
This course asks the question, ”Who am I?” and explores the sense of self. It includes teachings on basic goodness, selflessness, the arising of ego and cocoon, buddha-nature, and the confidence of warriorship. We practice contemplative investigations of the self, based on the foundations of mindfulness. Open to all (recommended preparation: Meditation in Everyday Life or Shambhala Training Level I).
Course 2: How Can I Help? The Basic Goodness of Society
This course asks the question, “How can I help?” and explores our relationships with others, an aspiration to help our world, and specific aspects of social transformation. We look at a Shambhala understanding of society, and what enlightened society may be. Is society something that is ultimately confused, or is there goodness in human society? The course focuses on transforming four aspects of society: family life (household), professional life, entertainment, and economy. We learn the traditional mahayana practice of “sending and taking” (tonglen). Open to all (strongly recommended preparation: The Basic Goodness of Being Human; and Meditation in Everyday Life, or Contentment in Everyday Life, or Shambhala Training Level I).
Course 3: What Is Real? The Basic Goodness of Reality
This course asks the question, ”What is real?” and focuses on a study of the phenomenal world. It emphasizes core Buddhist teachings, such as impermanence, the process of perception, the “mind,” and emptiness. It is oriented toward the experience of sacred world, the magic and wonder of the natural elements. The course also has an ecological emphasis. Open to all (strongly recommended preparation: The Basic Goodness of Being Human, The Basic Goodness of Society, and at least Shambhala Training Level I)
The Sacred Path Series
The Sacred Path series is a sequence of advanced Shambhala Training weekend retreats based on the unique inner teachings of Shambhala. You may start the Sacred Path series anytime after completing Shambhala Training Levels I–V and the Everyday Life series. The Rigden weekend retreat and Basic Goodness series are strongly recommended additional preparation. The Sacred Path series is not prerequisite for Enlightened Society Assembly but is prerequisite for Warrior Assembly.
Weekend Retreat 1: Great Eastern Sun
This weekend retreat teaches us how to see the Great Eastern Sun, the primordial energy and brilliance that is the basis of all that exists, and emphasizes the living context for building a sane society.Prerequisite: Wisdom in Everyday Life and Shambhala Training Level V (strongly recommended additional preparation: Rigden weekend retreat and Basic Goodness series).
Weekend Retreat 2: Windhorse
Introduction and instruction for the practice of ”raising windhorse” is given, which opens the heart and refreshes one’s confidence. The practice is a way to bring about skillful and heartfelt social engagement, enabling the warrior to go forward in the midst of whatever challenges occur. Prerequisite: Great Eastern Sun.
Weekend Retreat 3: Drala
Through exploring the depth of perception, one engages the elemental and magical strength inherent in the world. The principle of drala refers to the sacred energy and power that exists when we step beyond aggression. Prerequisite: Windhorse.
Weekend Retreat 4: Meek and Perky
”The four dignities” are introduced as a path and a process, which describe a warrior’s maturing and widening sphere of benevolent engagement in the world. The training in the dignities allows one to maintain awareness and delight at each stage. Meek is a study of the grounded, humble and gentle beginning stages of a warrior’s journey. Here one trains to overcome arrogance – the primary obstacle to learning. Perky is the second of the four dignities and focuses on cultivating sharp, vibrant and uplifted energy through natural discipline. Overcoming the trap of doubt, the warrior of Perky is able to accomplish his or her activities with a sense of nobility and ease. Prerequisite: Drala.
Weekend Retreat 5: Outrageous and Inscrutable
The third and fourth dignities, Outrageous and Inscrutable, emphasize fruition and refer to the extraordinary skill of a practiced warrior. No longer afraid of making mistakes, the unconventional and visionary perspective of the outrageous warrior combines with the skill of spontaneous inscrutability to create benefit for others on a large scale. Prerequisite: Meek and Perky.
Weekend Retreat 6: Golden Key
This weekend retreat is based on a Shambhala text that works with our relationship to the ”material world” and our sense perceptions. It teaches the practice of enriching presence – the ability to instantly sense the inner wealth within oneself, phenomena, and the natural world. Prerequisite: Outrageous and Inscrutable.