Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chögyam Trungpa is one of our favourite books of all time, and it is one that is as popular today as it was when it was first published in 1984. That said, we aren’t quite sure whether we should actually define it as a Buddhist book. As the Editor’s Preface states: ‘Although the author acknowledges the relationship of the Shambhala teachings to Buddhist principles and although he discusses at some length the practice of sitting meditation – which is virtually identical to Buddhist meditation practice – nevertheless, this book presents an unmistakably secular rather than religious outlook.’
However you want to define it in terms of genre, this book presents readers with plenty of wisdom from the Shambhala teachings, but very little Buddhist terminology is used, so literally anyone can pick it up, understand what is being said and apply the principles to their lives.
Part One of this book is about How to Be a Warrior, and the author is quick to point out that the word warrior as used here has nothing to do with violence, but stems from the Tibetan word pawo, which means ‘one who is brave’. The Sacred Path of the Warrior is therefore a path to developing bravery so that you aren’t afraid of being yourself. To rise up and live life as a heroic being, facing problems and challenges with kindness and compassion rather than cowardice and selfishness.
After that important introduction to the notion of warriorship as defined in the Shambhala teachings, the author explains how to use sitting meditation as a way of Discovering Your Basic Goodness. Through this meditation practice you will awaken what the author calls your Genuine Heart of Sadness and come to understand in Fear and Fearlessness how being willing to experience fear is the only way to become fearless.
And so the path continues, with chapters on Synchronizing Body and Mind, The Dawn of the Great Eastern Sun, The Cocoon, Renunciation and Daring, Celebrating the Journey and Letting Go. By the time you reach the end of this first part of the book (assuming that you put the principles into action rather than simply read about them) you will have established yourself on the path of the warrior and will have started living a life of kindness, fearlessness and elegance.
Part Two of the book focuses on The Warrior’s World and describes life from the perspective of the warrior, who is now able to start discovering magic and thereby transform his or her life into an expression of the sacred. There are eight chapters in this section of the book, including discussions on Nowness, Discovering Magic, How to Invoke Magic, Overcoming Arrogance, Overcoming Habitual Patterns and How to Rule.
Part Three of this classic guide is titled Authentic Presence, and here the author explains how mundane reference points can – and must – be appreciated in order for them to be transcended, and for the warrior to become The Universal Monarch – a king or queen, ruler of their world. In the penultimate chapter, Authentic Presence, the author discusses how the journey continues by ‘resting in the state of warriorship’. Finally, the last chapter discusses The Shambhala Lineage and ‘the qualities of the master warrior and how they are transmitted’.
As you can see, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior is much more than the sum of its parts. For anyone who cares to spend time with the book, it is an enthralling read, but for those who actually apply the principles as they are presented, it also serves as a powerful guide to a brand new way of life.