How Is Shambhala Different?

Hear Senior Shambhala teacher, Shastri Matthew Lyon describe how Shambhala is similar to other Buddhist traditions and the emphasis that makes it different.

He talks about the Shambhala concept of the meditative warrior; someone has the courage to compassionately meet the world instead of retreat to the safety of their inner world. Shambhala training helps develop the skills of dealing with obstacles and challenges so one can meet the world while seeing the basic goodness in ourselves and others. And, when you get a community of people together that all view the world in this way it can be powerful.

"Compassionate energy is naturally expansive; it inspires us to actually want to make a difference"


What sets Shambhala apart from other meditative traditions?

Engagement in the World

One of the differences is the emphasis on engagement with the world. I think most of the Buddhist meditative traditions certainly hold that as a value, as a worthy value. That as a result of our meditative discipline, we can cultivate a kind of personal sanity, a greater level of compassion in ourselves, a greater sense of personal stability and that the personal qualities that we develop through meditation naturally emanate to the world and allow us to be more skillful in what we do. And, then in the Mayahana approach of compassion, you have compassionate activity in the world is really emphasized in all Buddhist traditions.

The Concept of the Meditative Warrior, That it Takes Bravery to Engage in the World

What Shambhala brings to this kind of discussion and vision is the sense that meditative warriorship develops qualities of bravery, courage, strength, skill, discipline, exertion, persistence, personal stability, personal skill and those qualities that are specifically developed in the Shambhala path and specifically emphasized. are emphasized because the state of the world right now is really chaotic, and dark in many ways. The social situation we are facing is very challenging, it affects us personally.

A Force Against Negativity Starts with Personal Strength

In order to counteract so much of the negativity that is present in the culture and in our lives, some strong qualities are required and Shambhala places an emphasis on the theme of developing personal strength from the point of view of our meditative discipline. That personal strength is founded in the aspiration for compassionate action in the world. It really emphasizes the theme of cultivating one‘s own awakened mind as a contribution to the world. And going beyond that aspiration or that virtue, Shambhala enters us into deep training about the qualities that are necessary to accomplish a skillful engagement in the world in the service of compassion.

Training to Deal With Obstacles and Challenges

These themes of warriorship are explored in great depth and there is a wide spectrum of kinds of training we engage in order to discover the fruition of the path of warriorship: what can a skillful warrior accomplish in this world, what are the specific obstacles to that kind of accomplishment, how do we train ourselves to meet those obstacles, how do we draw on the inspiration to meet those challenges, how do we cultivate the personal courage to actually engage with difficulties in an uplifted way, how do we cultivate a connection to what we call ‘primordial confidence’ or that deep confidence that can really give us the energy that awakens the energy to actually engage properly and to really train.

Seeing Basic Goodness in Ourselves and Fellow Humans

So that emphasis on those specific qualities that are required for the meditative warrior to meet the challenges of today’s world – I think that’s the unique gift that Shambhala offers. One of the aspects of that unique gift is the emphasis on enlightened society. That despite the problems we witness in the world, the tremendous chaos, dysfunction and violence and aggression that we perceive in the world, that despite all that, it is possible to really connect with our human goodness, our inherent human goodness in such a way that as we work together from that point of view that a good and healthy society can arise. When people are connected with their own basic goodness, there is a power in that connection that can bring the realization of healthy society into this world. So, basic goodness or the experience of our basic goodness, our basic wisdom, our basic potential, our basic openness, isn’t just a passive kind of experience but it’s actually awakening something that is dynamic. The connection with our basic goodness awakens a kind of energy in our being and that energy is directly associated with compassion. Compassionate energy is naturally expansive; it inspires us to actually want to make a difference.

The Effect on Society as a Whole, What Happens When We Get Together

When you bring a group of together who have that aspiration and they are coming from the point of view that humans aren’t fundamentally flawed, that we basically have wisdom in us that can accomplish real benefit, when people share that view, there is this kind of collective mind that emanates confidence in basic goodness, confidence in humanity, it emanates generosity, it emanates possibility and potential. As those qualities are awakened in individuals, they also are awakened in the community. The vision of Shambhala, which is already developing, is that not only can individual warriors make that kind of beneficial contribution but the community as a whole can radiate this light of confidence in humanity, a light of inspiration for others, a light which illuminates the discovery that humans are basically good, basically wise, basically capable of creating a better world. The Shambhala vision is that our community can radiate that confidence, not only to our community members but to the world.

And so I think those are some of the themes that differentiate Shambhala from some of the other traditions not that I am making a qualitative judgment but just describing the differences in emphasis in this particular path.