“Many of the borders between cultures have blurred in today’s world. Sherpas on Himalayan peaks can watch pop stars on iPhones and teenagers in Michigan read ancient Buddhist texts on the internet. Yet as modernity and the information age bring forth exciting new possibilities for insight, communication, and connection, they also bring new potential for confusion, isolation, and aggression. These times demand teachers who understand them. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, son of revered teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who founded the Shambhala lineage that the Sakyong now heads, is not only a teacher that is adept at making the dharma accessible in these rapidly changing times: He was born of them.”
From the interview I did with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche in August, which Tricycle just published on Thursday,
Your father, most notably in the Sadhana of Mahamudra, stated that we’re living in the dark ages. Can you elaborate on this? Do you share in this notion? What can be done? Well, what do you think? [Laughs]. It was dark then and it’s gotten darker. The extent of human degradation has gotten more obvious, more intense and overt. We have created further chaos socially and mentally. The way I see the notion of the dark ages is that we’re living in a time where the sun is setting on human potential, at least in terms of how people regard human potential, which is as if we can’t do better. There’s weakness in the life force energy and human dynamics. Therefore, it is more important than ever that we try to put into action the teachings of the dharma. I would also say that, because things have in some ways declined, the need for another way to live has become even clearer. It’s very challenging, but at the same time, it’s not over, and we have an opportunity to change in time, if we can rise to the occasion.
You’re a teacher, but you’re also the Sakyong, which means, “Earth Protector,” and is also commonly defined as king. You’re a King in an age where there are not that many Kings, and some people have trouble with the idea of a modern Buddhist king. Can you shed some light on this? How do you see your role as a king? Well, it’s been an interesting journey. I was enthroned in this role when I was very young. Even my father said to me that this notion of Sakyong is something that doesn’t really exist right now. It is a unique position, role, and duty that could maybe be likened to, in the West, a philosopher king, or in the Chinese tradition, a sage king. It’s the notion of a ruler who takes care of society with benevolence and goodness, and at the same time, expounds spirituality. The analogy is that we are all meant to be Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo, the king and queen, and not strictly in the sense of being royalty, but as possessors of our potency. One of the key criteria of leadership in our tradition is that one rules and leads completely as a path of benefiting others.
I think it’s interesting because these days, there’s just so much confusion about leadership altogether, from any political denomination. It really has to come back to the notion of honor, duty and decency. These roles have existed in the past and, and in terms of my community, this is the role and position that I hold. I see that it’s important for me to hold it, because it provides the opportunity for me to help others and protect the teachings, so I see it as a protector and I see it as a leader, guide, and friend.
Read the whole piece here.