Many of Shambhala holidays and observations change dates each year according to the Tibetan lunar calendar. One that doesn’t change is April 4th – the Parinirvana of Shambhala’s founder, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a.k.a., The Dorje Dradul of Mukpo Dong. He died April 4, 1987 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. That day turned unusually cold they say, in fact, an “ice pack” mysteriously flowed into Halifax harbor and solidified! That’s a highly uncommon occurrence, as was the life and accomplishment of this highly unusual Tibetan Buddhist spiritual master and teacher in this world realm altogether. The Halifax Infirmary where he died has been torn down. In it’s place, an award-winning, (mostly glass structure) The Halifax Public Library (Main Branch) has been built. Somehow, with glass, ice and the luminosity of our precious teacher, there’s a some kind of auspicious connection – in my mind anyway…!
If you’re curious to know more about the phenomenon of our founder, Chokyi Gyatso (“Ocean of Dharma”, whose name is abbreviated: “Chogyam”) you might want to read Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s self-dictated autobiography, Born in Tibet. This 1966 account was published while he was studying at Oxford before any of his Western legacy was even established. He talks about who the Trungpas were, his childhood, extensive training and education, the enormous responsibilities as Abbot of the Surmang Monasteries and governor of a Tibetan province, and finding his guru. However, mostly the book focuses on his astonishing escape from Eastern Tibet during the 1959 Chinese takeover. With 300 people dependent on 19-year old Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s divination skills and intuition, they crossed endless, uncharted Himalayan mountain ranges using no maps! After a harrowing 9-month journey, slightly over a dozen of the original party crossed safely into India in January 1960. (Trungpa started out 4/23/1959!)
Though I have yet to read the final copy (I glimpsed sections in other formats,) I’m told spellbinding reports of Grant McLean’s From Lion’s Jaws: Chogyam Trungpa’s Epic Escape to the West (published 2016.) This longtime student of Trungpa interviewed five people who accompanied Trungpa on his journey. He also followed the above book and pieced together via Google Maps incredible visuals to give a vivid impression of the route taken through mountainous, SE Tibet into the lowlands of Pemo Ko, close to Arunachul Pradesh and freedom.
I personally love reading Lady Diana Mukpo’s autobiography, Dragon Thunder: My Life with Trungpa Rinpoche. She describes in a fairly linear fashion her frank account of their 17-year marriage. It includes a synopsis of Trungpa’s biography (above) and poignant details of her own childhood, family history, love affair with her brilliant spiritual teacher, and at times, the discomfort of growing into young adulthood under public scrutiny by becoming his wife the day she turned 16! (She was 34 when he died! He was 48…. Oh my!)
If you’re curious to know more about the phenomenon of our founder, Chokyi Gyatso (“Ocean of Dharma”, whose name is abbreviated: “Chogyam”) you might want to read Wikipedia’s compilation. Other than a few minor date flaws or conjectures, it provides a fairly accurate timeline of sorts. It lists a host of resources including nearly fifty books published during his lifetime, dozens of which have appeared posthumously, thanks to skillful editing by devoted students. (I hadn’t read Wiki in a while. So happy to take a fresh look! Much has been added….)
Anyway, I invite everyone to join us for this annual Parinirvana celebration Tuesday, April 4, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at Eagle Rock, or 7:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m. in Orange County. It’s impossible to cover the many achievements of our founder, but Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche reminds us constantly how these direct his own life’s work and that affects us all. Please come to the “Sadhana of Mahamudra Feast”, a practice we rarely do. Enjoy food, contemplation and dharma companionship as we recollect and appreciate the many gifts shared with us by this most noble pioneer of Shambhala Buddhism in the West! We are so grateful to remember all that he gave us in dealing with ourselves, in helping the world, and inspiring in us Shambhala vision, the possibility of creating enlightened society.
Sylvie Stevenson met Vajradhatu (Shambhala) in 1979 after practicing for three years without meeting any Buddhists. She had the good fortune to hear the Vidyadhara give a public talk in Vancouver. Later, she studied with him at the 1985 Vajradhatu Seminary in Colorado at Shambhala Mountain Center.