Sakyong Mipham on Windhorse

Ray: Please describe Shambhala’s character. What distinguishes Shambhala from other Buddhist traditions?

Sakyong Mipham with Ray Hemachandra in Vancouver, B.C., in 2006

Mipham: The Shambhala teachings are coming from the point of view of integrating spirituality into everyday life, as opposed to being monastic. Shambhala is a Buddhist tradition — in particular, a Vajrayana Buddhist tradition. The first king of Shambhala was taught by the Buddha.

Over the years, Buddhism has adapted to various cultures. What distinguishes Shambhala is its intention of trying to create a society based upon certain principles. So, Shambhala’s focus is not just on the individual but on society as a whole.

Shambhala does have unique teachings, as do many Buddhist traditions. For example, certain teachings within Shambhala have to do with raising the personal windhorse, or the energy of the individual, so a person has good fortitude to be able to live a good life. Shambhala teachings say we all have the potential to accomplish our enlightened nature — our basic goodness.

Ray: Please elaborate on the nature of windhorse.

Mipham: A lot of people talk about the spirituality of Buddhism, and it is a spiritual discipline. But in Shambhala there also is a notion that you have to be synchronized with both heaven and earth. You have to be synchronized with earthness in the sense of the practical, day-to-day aspects of life — very basic things like taking care of your body, exercising, and meditating.

If you do these things, then your personal life-force energy increases. Your strength increases. You achieve good windhorse. In Tibetan, we say people who have good windhorse have the sense they can accomplish what they want to do.

A lot of people think spirituality has nothing to do with success or accomplishing — that it’s something you do with removal, with leaving the world. Part of the notion in Shambhala teachings is that everybody can live their lives so they get weaker and more stressed out as they go along or so they get more fortitude and strength.

Ray: How do you balance developing and nurturing good qualities within yourself with engagement in the modern world? Do they happen side by side — is one here and one there — or are they interconnected and entwined?

Mipham: Initially, you have to live a period where you are developing your attitude. I would consider that a meditation — determining what you want to do. You have a period where you meditate and you get the strength.

You infuse that attitude into your everyday life situation. Whatever you are doing — if you are taking care of your family, or driving, or traveling a lot — you see the potential in it and how to make it part of your journey.

A lot of people do their practice. They meditate on compassion. Then, they yell at people afterwards.

That is not quite working. One of the things I try to emphasize is contemplative meditation — bringing your thought and intention into meditation. You can do exercises to raise windhorse with visualization meditations on raising personal energy.

But you also can meditate on things like feeling fortunate, so you feel a sense of fortuneness as you are entering into your life, as opposed to, “I’m not worthwhile, and life is very depressing.” It’s really trying to change an energy.

*Read about Sakyong Mipham and Shambhala Buddhism at his website,, and read this full interview at I did this interview for New Age Retailer magazine.

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