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Great Eastern Sun : The Wisdom of Shambhala
In Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior Chögyam Trungpa offers an inspiring and practical guide to enlightened living based on the Shambhala journey of warriorship, a secular path taught internationally through the Shambhala Training program.
Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala is a continuation of that path. Shambhala was an exploration of human goodness and its potential to create an enlightened society—a state that the author calls "nowness." And in that spirit of nowness, Great Eastern Sun —which is accessible to meditators and nonmeditators alike—centers on the question, "Since we're here, how are we going to live from now on?"
"As a loving and grateful student of Ch�gyam Trungpa, the Dorje Dradul of Mukpo, I am delighted that these wonderful teachings--which have so profoundly influenced and shaped my life--are now available to benefit others. May countless people have the good fortune to read this book."--Pema Chodr�n, author of When Things Fall Apart
"With brilliance and good will, Ch�gyam Trungpa illuminates the dharma of wise society. He invites all of good heart to find a dignity in their human experience that joins together heaven and earth."--Jack Kornfield, author of After the Ecstasy, the Laundry
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Shambhala Dragon Editions
July 01, 2001
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Excerpt from Great Eastern Sun by Carolyn Rose Gimian
The Shambhala training is based on developing gentleness and genuineness so that we can help ourselves and develop tenderness in our hearts. We no longer wrap ourselves in the sleeping bag of our cocoon. We feel responsible for ourselves, and we feel good taking responsibility. We also feel grateful that, as human beings, we can actually work for others. It is about time that we did something to help the world. It is the right time, the right moment, for this training to be introduced.
Driven by survival, hassled by the demands of life, we live in a world completely thronged by holding on to our state of existence, our livelihood, our jobs. People throughout this century and for at least the last few thousand years have been trying to solve our problems right and left. Throughout history, in fact, great prophets, teachers, masters, gurus, yogins, saints of all kinds have appeared and tried to solve the problems of life. Their message has been quite definite: "Try to be good. Be gentle to yourselves, to your neighbors, your parents, your relatives, your spouse--to the whole world. If you are good to others, you will relieve their anxiety. Then you will have excellent neighbors, excellent relatives, an excellent wife, an excellent husband, an excellent world." That message has been presented a thousand times. Our lives are enriched by many sacred writings, including the ancient traditions of Taoism, Vedic texts, sutras, tantras, and shastras--sacred texts of all kinds. Modern libraries and bookstores are filled with these attempts to reach us. People try so hard to help, even placing the Gideon Bible in hotel rooms.
Many of those teachers and saints belong to a theistic tradition. That is to say, they worship the one God, and they are mono-theists, or they are presenting sacred messages from the multitheism of other traditions. On the other hand, Buddhism is a nontheistic spiritual discipline, which does not talk in terms of worship and does not regard the world as somebody's creation. According to the Buddhist teachings, there was no great artificer who fashioned the world. This world is created or produced and happens to be purely through our own existence. We exist; therefore, we have fashioned this particular world. Then there are entirely different schools of thought, supported by scientific discoveries, that say that everything is an evolutionary process. We have Darwinian theories of how, from a monkey or a fish, human beings came to exist.
There are many conflicting notions about the origins of existence. But whether it is according to theism, nontheism, or a scientific approach, there is this particular world--which is created and which we have. To theologians or scientists, it may be terribly important to figure out why we are here or how we came to be here. But from the point of view of Shambhala vision, the main concern is not why I am here or why you are here. Why you happen to have a white shirt, a red shirt, long hair, or short hair is not the question. The real question is, Since we're here, how are we going to live from now onward? We may or may not have a long time to live. Impermanence is always there. Right now, you may cease to live. As you walk out of the room you're in right now, something may happen to you. You may face death. There are many eventualities of life or death. You may face physical problems, sicknesses of all kinds. You may be subject to cancer. Nonetheless, you have to live from now onward.
The basic point of the Shambhala teachings is to realize that there is no outside help to save you from the terror and the horror of life. The best doctor of the doctors and the best medicine of the medicines and the best technology of the technologies cannot save you from your life. The best consultants, the best bank loans, and the best insurance policies cannot save you. Eventually, you must realize that you have to do something rather than depending on technology, financial help, your smartness, or good thinking of any kind--none of which will save you. That may seem like the black truth, but it is the real truth. Often, in the Buddhist tradition, it is called the vajra truth, the diamond truth, the truth you cannot avoid or destroy. We cannot avoid our lives at all. We have to face our lives, young or old, rich or poor. Whatever happens, we cannot save ourselves from our lives at all. We have to face the eventual truth--not even the eventual truth but the real truth of our lives. We are here; therefore, we have to learn how to go forward with our lives.
This truth is what we call the wisdom of Shambhala. The introduction of such wisdom into North American culture is a historical landmark. However, my purpose is not to convert you to what I have to say. Rather, the more you understand, the more you will realize your own responsibility. So I am speaking to you not only from the point of view of the trumpeter but also from the point of view of the trumpetees. Rather than watching the trumpeter, what is important is to hear the trumpet music.
According to tradition, the Kingdom of Shambhala was a kingdom in Central Asia where this wisdom was taught and an excellent society was created. In that society, the citizens' conduct and their behavior were based on having less anxiety. Essentially, anxiety comes from not facing the current situation you are in. The Kingdom of Shambhala and the citizens, the subjects, of Shambhala were able to face their reality. The Kingdom of Shambhala could be said to be a mythical kingdom or a real kingdom--to the extent that you believe in Atlantis or in heaven. It has been said that the kingdom was technologically advanced and that the citizens had tremendous intelligence. Spirituality was secularized, meaning that day-to-day living situations were handled properly. Life was not based on the worship of a deity or on vigorous religious practice, as such. Rather, that wonderful world of Shambhala was based on actually relating with your life, your body, your food, your household, your marital situations, your breath, your environment, your atmosphere.
According to the legends, the vision and the teachings of Shambhala were embodied in that Central Asian kingdom. If we go deeper, we could say that such a situation of sanity comes about because you connect with your own intelligence. Therefore, the Kingdom of Shambhala exists in your own heart right at this moment. You are a citizen of Shambhala and part of the Kingdom of Shambhala, without doubt. We are not trying to bring a myth into reality, which would be the wrong thing to do. Actually, I have even written a book to that effect, entitled The Myth of Freedom. On the other hand, as human beings, we do possess the sense faculties: we can see, we can hear, we can feel, we can think. Because of that, we can do something to bring about the Kingdom of Shambhala once again.
This time, it doesn't have to be a Central Asian kingdom. We aren't talking about going over there and digging up graves, digging up ruins, to find the remains of the truth of Shambhala. We are not talking about conducting an archaeological survey. On the other hand, we might be talking about some kind of archaeological survey, which is digging up our minds and our lives, which have been buried and covered with layers and layers of dirt. We have to rediscover something in our lives. Is it possible? It is very possible, extremely possible. How should we go about it?
From the very day of your birth, you have never really looked at yourself, your life, and your experiences in life. You have never really felt that you could create a good, decent world. Of course, you may have tried all sorts of things. You may have marched in the street in the name of the happiness of humanity, complained about the existing political system, written up new ideas and manifestos to prevent this and that--that pain, this pain, this confusion, that confusion. You may have been somewhat heroic, and you could say that you've tried your best. Nonetheless, have you found any real peace or rest? A real, dignified world has not been created.
Often, we are so angry and resentful, and we complain because of our aggression. Instead of short hair, we want long hair. Instead of long hair, we cut our hair short. Instead of a coat and tie, we want to wear jeans and a T-shirt. Instead of this, we do that. Instead of that, we do this. We try to find some easy way to gain the freedom and the vision of human society. Instead of eating peanut butter, we try eating brown rice. Instead of that, we try this; instead of this, we try that. That, this, this, that. We have tried so many things. Particularly in the United States, people have tried so hard to reestablish a good world. I appreciate that integrity, which is quite relentless, in some sense, and pretty good.
However, the principle of the Shambhala training is that, instead of trying so hard to remove problems, you should reestablish or plant something positive. The point is that you don't have to take so many showers to remove the dirt. The real question is what clothes you put on after your shower and how you perfume and beautify your body. One shower is good enough; it makes you clean. Then, after that, if you continue to take showers, you become stark, too clean. There is certainly an absence of dirt, but what comes after that? There's no warmth, no dignity. Can't we do something more to bring reality and goodness into society?
The point of the Shambhala training is to get out of the cocoon, which is the shyness and aggression in which we have wrapped ourselves. When we have more aggression, we feel more fortified. We feel good, because we have more to talk about. We feel that we are the greatest author of the complaint. We write poetry about it. We express ourselves through it. Instead of constantly complaining, can't we do something positive to help this world? The morewe complain, the more concrete slabs will be put on the earth. The less we complain, the more possibilities there will be of tilling the land and sowing seeds. We should feel that we can do something positive for the world instead of covering it with our aggression and complaints.
The approach of the Shambhala training is to do something very concrete, very basic, very definite, and to begin at the beginning. In the Shambhala tradition, we talk about being a warrior. I would like to make it clear that a warrior, in this case, is not someone who wages war. A Shambhala warrior is someone who is brave enough not to give in to the aggression and contradictions that exist in society. A warrior, or pawo in Tibetan, is a brave person, a genuine person who is able to step out of the cocoon--that very comfortable cocoon that he or she is trying to sleep in.
If you are in your cocoon, occasionally you shout your complaints, such as: "Leave me alone!" "Bug off." "I want to be who I am." Your cocoon is fabricated out of tremendous aggression, which comes from fighting against your environment, your parental upbringing, your educational upbringing, your upbringing of all kinds. You don't really have to fight with your cocoon. You can raise your head and just take a little peek out of the cocoon. Sometimes, when you first peek your head out, you find the air a bit too fresh and cold. But still, it is good. It is the best fresh air of spring or autumn or, for that matter, the best fresh air of winter or summer. So when you stick your neck out of the cocoon for the first time, you like it in spite of the discomfort of the environment. You find that it's delightful. Then, having peeked out, you become brave enough to climb out of the cocoon. You sit on your cocoon and look around at your world. You stretch your arms, and you begin to develop your head and shoulders. The environment is friendly. It is called "planet earth." Or it is called "Boston" or "New York City." It is your world.
Your neck and your hips are not all that stiff, so you can turn and look around. The environment is not as bad as you thought. Still sitting on the cocoon, you raise yourself up a little further. Then you kneel, and finally you stand up on your cocoon. As you look around, you begin to realize that the cocoon is no longer useful. You don't have to buy the advertisers' logic that, if you don't have insulation in your house, you're going to die. You don't really need the insulation of your cocoon. It's just a little cast that's been put on you by your own collective imaginary paranoia and confusion, which didn't want to relate with the world outside.
Then, you extend one leg, rather tentatively, to touch the ground around the cocoon. Traditionally, the right leg goes first. You wonder where your foot is going to land. You've never touched the soles of your feet before on the soil of this planet earth. When you first touch the earth, you find it's very rough. It's made out of earth, dirt. But soon you discover the intelligence that will allow you to walk on the earth, and you begin to think the process might be workable. You realize that you inherited this family heirloom, called "planet earth," a long time ago.
You sigh with relief, maybe a medium sigh, extend your left foot, and touch the ground on the other side of the cocoon. The second time you touch the ground, to your surprise you find that the earth is kind and gentle and much less rough. You begin to feel gentleness and affection and softness. You feel that you might even fall in love on your planet earth. You can fall in love. You feel real passion, which is very positive.
At that point, you decide to leave your old beloved cocoon behind and to stand up without touching the cocoon at all. So you stand on your two feet, and you take a walk outside of the cocoon. Each step is rough and soft, rough and soft: rough because the exploration is still a challenge and soft because you don't find anything trying to kill you or eat you up at all. You don't have to defend yourself or fight any unexpected attackers or wild beasts. The world around you is so fine and beautiful that you know that you can raise yourself up as a warrior, a powerful person. You begin to feel that the world is absolutely workable, not even merely workable, but wonderful. To your surprise, you find that lots of others around you are also leaving their cocoons. You find hosts of ex-cocooners all over the place.
As ex-cocooners, we feel that we can be dignified and wonderful people. We do not have to reject anything at all. As we step out of our cocoons, we find goodness and gratefulness taking place in us all the time. As we stand on the earth, we find that the world is not particularly depressed. On the other hand, there is need for tremendous hard work. As we stand up and walk around, having finally got out of our own cocoons, we see that there are hundreds of thousands of others who are still half breathing in their cocoons. So we feel very touched and sad, extremely sad.
From the dictionary's point of view, sadness has negative connotations. If you feel sad, you feel unfortunate or bad. Or you are sad because you don't have enough money or you don't have any security. But from the Shambhala point of view, sadness is also inspiring. You feel sad and empty-hearted, but you also feel something positive, because this sadness involves appreciation of others. You would like to tell those who are still stuck in their cocoons that, if they got out of the cocoon, they would also feel that genuine sadness. That empty-heartedness is the principle of the broken-hearted warrior. As an ex-cocooner, you feel it is wonderful that people of the past have gotten out of their cocoons. You wish that you could tell the cocooners the story of the warriors of the Great Eastern Sun and the story of the Kingdom of Shambhala. All the warriors of the past had to leave their cocoons. You wish you could let the cocooners know that. You would like to tell them that they are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of others who have made this journey.
Once you develop this quality of sadness, you also develop a quality of dignity or positive arrogance within yourself; which is quite different from the usual negative arrogance. You can manifest yourself with dignity to show the degraded world that trying to avoid death by sleeping in a cocoon is not the way. The degraded world, in which people are sleeping in their cocoons trying to avoid the pain of death, is called the setting-sun world. In that world, people are looking for the sunset as a sign that there will be a peaceful night ahead. But that night is never peaceful: it is always pitch-dark. Those who arise from the cocoon are called the pie of the Great Eastern Sun. They are not blinded by opening their eyes, and they are not embarrassed about developing head and shoulders and stepping out of their cocoons. Such people begin to breathe the fresh morning air. They experience brilliance, which is constant and beautiful.
In the sitting practice of meditation, which is part of the Shambhala training, we stress the importance of good posture. Posture is important, not just in sitting practice, but in whatever you do. Whether you are talking to a client or talking to your mate, whether you're talking to your pets or talking to yourself--which does sometimes happen--having a good posture of head and shoulders is an expression that you've stepped out of your cocoon. One of the reasons that people sing in the shower is that the water showering down on you forces you to stand up and have good head and shoulders. You begin to feel cleaned out, so you begin to sing or hum. This is not a myth; it's true. When you have water falling on your shoulders, your head, and your face, there's a sense that you're relating with heaven.