Shambhala Buddhism glossary

Like many communities, we have a habit of using words that we become familiar with and are not necessarily easy for the ‘newcomer’ to understand!

Much of this information has been selected from the glossary of The profound treasury of the ocean of dharma by Chögyam Trungpa, compiled and edited by Judith L Lief. Thanks also to Atlanta Shambhala Meditation Center for sharing terms in their glossary.

We hope this list will make it a little easier—and please do not hesitate to ask us what we mean if you catch us using jargon. We really don’t mean to!  (This is just a starting place for these words!)


acharya: A Sanskrit word that means ‘teacher.’ It refers to individuals that Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has empowered to represent him and the Kagyu, Nyingma, and Shambhala lineages he holds. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche chose these individuals because of their knowledge, wisdom, and commitment to the confluence of teachings found in Shambhala.

basic goodness: Basic goodness is the openness inherent in every situation. The basic aspect indicates the primordial, self-existing nature of this quality. The goodness aspect indicates the faultless aspect of this quality.

bodhi: Awakened state, full illumination or enlightenment.

bodhichitta: ‘Awakened mind’ or ‘awakened heart.’

bodhisattva: ‘Enlightenment-being’ or ‘Wisdom-being.’ One who is dedicated to the path of cultivating bodhichitta and benefiting others. One who has made a commitment to the mahayana path of practicing.

Buddha: ‘Awakened One.’ One who has achieved enlightenment. It is the title given to Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha born in India 2500 years ago. The ‘Buddha’ refers in particular to Shakyamuni Buddha, whereas ‘buddha’ may refer to any enlightened being or to the principle of enlightenment itself. The Buddha is also the first of the three jewels.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche: The founder of Shambhala Buddhism. Born in Tibet 1939, he fled to India in 1959 when the communist Chinese invaded his country. He came to the West in 1963 and entered the US in 1970. Rinpoche died in 1987.

compassion: A key principle of mahayana Buddhism, describing the motivation and activity of a bodhisattva.

contemplation: A calm and thoughtful way of pondering an idea.

dathun: A month-long meditation retreat.

dharma: Teachings that express universal truth, particularly the teachings of the Buddha. Truth, law, phenomenon. The second of the three jewels.

Dorje Dradul: ‘Indestructible Warrior.’ This is the Shambhala title for Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Dorje Kasung: An organisation within Shambhala modelled on the ancient tradition of dharma protectors and drala warriors. Dorje Kasung training strengthens our capacity to work with heightened and chaotic situations (in our mind or in our environment), and to find non-aggressive means to solve conflicts.

fixation and grasping: The word order of the Tibetan sung-dzin, reflects the process of how ego arises. Having first fixated on an ‘other’, we grasp on to ourselves.

four noble truths: The essence of the Buddha’s first turning of the wheel of dharma: suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path.

gatekeeper: Person who directs entry into the shrine room or meditation hall.

gomden: A firm rectangular foam cushion used for sitting meditation. It was designed by Chögyam Trungpa for his Western students.

Great Eastern Sun: Represents the vision that wakefulness is always present. ‘The way of the Great Eastern Sun is based on seeing that there is a natural source of radiance and brilliance in this world: which is the innate wakefulness of human beings.’: Chögyam Trungpa

head and shoulders: Holding oneself upright with a quality of presence, confidence and decorum.

Hinayana: Lesser or Narrow Vehicle. The path of individual salvation, based on the practice of meditation and an understanding of basic Buddhist doctrines such as the four noble truths. It provides the essential instruction and training that serves as a basis for both the mahayana and vajrayana.

karma: The chain-reaction process of action and result.

lineage: A record of teachers and their students who pass on the dharma from generation to generation since the time of the Buddha. By saying ‘Shambhala Buddhist lineage’, we are describing our spiritual ancestry, which has its roots in Tibet.

lojong: Mind training, specifically cultivating loving-kindness and compassion by practicing the slogans of the Seven Points of Mind Training.

mahamudra: The meditation transmission handed down especially by the Kagyu school from the buddha Vajradhara through Tilopa up to the present.

mahayana: Great Vehicle, the second of the three yanas, which emphasizes the union of emptiness and compassion, the practice of the paramitas, and the ideal of the bodhisattva.

maitri: Friendliness, loving-kindness; one of the four limitless qualities that are to be cultivated on the bodhisattva path.

mandala: A symbolic representation of cosmic forces in two or three-dimensional form, with a centre and four gates in the four cardinal directions. The Shambhala community is organised as a mandala, a circular framework that connects the teachers and teachings with the community of practitioners.

mantra: Sanskrit words or syllables that are recited as a means of transforming energy through sound.

MI: Meditation instructor.  A person trained and authorised to give meditation instruction.

Milarepa: Tibet’s most famous yogi, Milarepa was famous for his ascetic discipline and songs of realisation.

nirvana: Freedom from the sufferings of samsara; a synonym of enlightenment.

nowness: The spontaneous mind of the present instant, free from past or future; a synonym of ordinary mind.

paramita: Transcendent perfecton of the mahayana. The six paramitas are generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation and prajna.

postmeditation: Follow-up to formal meditation session; carrying the awareness cultivated in meditation into all activities of one’s daily life.

prajna: Perfect knowledge, meaning, wisdom, understanding.

Rinpoche: ‘Precious One.’ A Tibetan honorific title used for any incarnate lama.

sacred outlook: Pure perception. The awareness that all phenomena are sacred.

sadhana: A profound form of tantric practice which includes meditation, visualization, recitation of verses and mantras. Central to Tibetan Buddhism, a sadhana is usually only performed by practitioners who have received the appropriate transmission.

Sakyong: ‘Earth Protector.’ The title used by the current spiritual leader of Shambhala. Sakyong Mipha Rinpoche is our current spiritual leader. The first Sakyong in our lineage was Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Sakyong Wangmo: ‘Lady Earth Protector.’ The title refers to the consort/wife of the Sakyong. The current holder of this title is Khandro Tseyang Ripa Mukpo. The Sakyong and the Sakyong Wangmo were married in 2006 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Their first child, Jetsun Drukmo, a daughter, was born in August 2010.  Their second daughter, Jetsun Yudra, was born in March 2013. Their third daughter, Dzedrön Ökar Yangchen Ziji Mukpo, was born in April 2015.

samsara: Cyclic existence; the repetitive cycle of births and deaths that arises from ignorance and is characterised by suffering.

sangha: ‘A community of practitioners working together’: Chögyam Trungpa. Companions on the path of dharma; the third of the three jewels.

Setting Sun: Any attitude, thought or action that leads one to degraded behaviour.

shamatha: Mindfulness practice; the practice of taming and stabilising the mind.

shamatha-vipashyana: The union of the mindfulness of shamatha and the awareness of vipashyana.

Shambhala Buddhism: The union of the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism with the Shambhala Teachings introduced by Chögyam Trungpa in the 1970s, based on the warrior tradition of Tibet’s legendary King Gesar.

Shambhala training: The path of study and practice of Shambhala warriorship introduced to the West by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Shambhala vision: A reference to Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings on the sacred path of the warrior and the creation of enlightened society. Shambhala teachings are closely connected with the Buddhist meditative tradition, but have a more secular and societal focus.

shastri: The shastri’s role is to bring the current understanding of the Shambhala Buddhist vision and teachings to their centres, be a reference point for questions about the path, mentor and strengthen the local teaching mandala, and promote the vision of enlightened society.

shenpa: Often translated as attachment but the meaning is more akin to trigger, stickiness or hooked. ‘Getting hooked’ is what ‘gets us into trouble’ over and over and over again.

Three Jewels: The heart of Buddhist teachings: the Buddha, the dharma (the teachings), the sangha.

Tibetan Buddhism: A form of Buddhism practiced in Tibet and other Himalayan countries. It is also called Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism.

timekeeper: Person who times a meditation session.

tonglen: Sending and taking, a key practice of mahayana mind training; the practice of exchanging oneself for others.

umdze: A timekeeper who also leads chants.

vajrayana: The highest of the three yanas in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. In the three-yana system, vajrayana is said to rest on the solid foundation and training of the previous two yanas; the hinayana path of individual development and the mahayana path of wisdom and compassion.

vidyadhara: A term of honour referring to accomplished practitioners of tantra, meaning ‘holder of awareness’.

vipashyana: Awareness; insight arising either through direct meditative experience or through analytic contemplation. An open, expansive quality of meditation that complements the stability and groundedness of shamatha.

warrior: Shambhala term for one who practices bravery, living openly and authentically with a tender heart, compassion, inquisitiveness, genuineness and humour.

Way of Shambhala: A structured path of meditation and teachings offering a complete introduction to the foundations of Shambhala Buddhism. Suitable for both beginning and experienced meditators and open to people of any spiritual tradition, this series of weekend programs and evening classes provide a strong foundation in mindfulness-awareness meditation practice, wisdom teachings, and physical practices rooted in the ancient traditions of Shambhala and Tibetan Buddhism. Students are also introduced to contemplative disciplines that make the teachings experiential: touching our emotions, our intelligence, our creativity and the practical details of daily life in modern society. The programs are presented by experienced Shambhala teachers under the guidance of the Shambhala lineage-holder, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

weekthun: A week-long meditation retreat.

zabuton: A rectangular flat cushion used under gomdens and other cushions for sitting meditation.

zafu: A round mediation cushion.