The Vidyadhara
Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche


The reality of the world is something more than the life style that the twentieth century has embraced.  Pleasure has been cheapened, joy has been reduced, happiness has been computerized.  The goal of warriorship is to reconnect to the nowness of reality, so that you can go forward without destroying simplicity, without destroying your connection to this earth. . . .  Nowness is a way of joining together the wisdom of the past with the challenge of the present.  — Chögyam Trungpa, Shambhala: TheSacred Path of the Warrior



“Vidyadhara” is the dharma title of Chogyäm Trungpa, Rinpoche (1939–1987). In Sanskrit, vidyadhara means “holder of knowledge.”  “Rinpoche” is a less formal title meaning “precious one” or “jewel,” which indicates that a person is a reincarnated lama or tulku. Chogyäm Trungpa was the eleventh Trungpa tulku.

Born in Tibet, where he was the abbot of the Surmang monasteries, he escaped at the age of nineteen during the Chinese invasion, was subsequently educated at Oxford University, married an English woman, and immigrated to the United States.  (See biographies below.)

Chogyäm Trungpa was a master of meditation, a social visionary, author, artist, and poet who founded Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, the first Buddhist-inspired university in North America, in 1974. Late in the 1970s, expressing his long-held desire to present the path of meditation in secular terms, Trungpa Rinpoche developed a program called Shambhala Training, based on the legendary enlightened kingdom known as Shambhala. During the 1980s, while continuing teaching tours, Buddhist seminaries, and book publication—and establishing Gampo Abbey, a Buddhist monastery in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada—Trungpa increasingly turned his attention to the propagation of teachings that extend beyond the Buddhist canon. These activities included not only Shambhala Training, but also Japanese archery, calligraphy, flower arranging, tea ceremony, health care, dance, theater, and psychotherapy. In planting the seeds for these many activities, Chögyam Trungpa sought to inspire students to bring art into everyday life. The Nalanda Foundation, which he founded in 1974, is an umbrella organization for these activities. Vajradhatu, the international organization of meditation centers that he established, is now known as Shambhala International.

Photograph by James Gritz ©2008

Trungpa Rinpoche is widely acknowledged as a pivotal figure in introducing the Buddhadharma to the Western world. His appreciation for Western culture was woven into his deep understanding of his own tradition, resulting in a revolutionary approach to teaching the dharma.  The profound teachings of the Karma Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibet were integrated into a unique presentation of the ancient Central Asian Shambhala tradition as a basis for creating an Enlightened Society to sustain both humanity and the natural world. Through his remarkable command of the English language, these ancient and profound teachings were presented in a thoroughly contemporary manner. 


Trungpa Rinpoche was known for his fearless proclamation of the dharma: free from hesitation, true to the purity of his tradition, and utterly fresh.  From his earliest days in the West, he was known for his no-nonsense, straightforward approach to Buddhism, meditation, and daily life.  Being honest with oneself was a frequent theme.

Editor's note: Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, was my teacher, the center of my life for twelve years until his death, and the most profound formative influence in my entire life.  See Lineages and Journey and my articles below for more on that relationship. — SD


Talks and Articles by and about Chögyam Trungpa

Teachings by Chögyam Trungpa - Video, Audio & Print

Just the Facts  by Chögyam Trungpa - Dharma literally means "truth" or "norm." It is a particular way of thinking, a way of viewing the world, which is not a concept but experience. This particular truth is very painful truth -- usually truths are. It rings with the sound of reality, which comes too close to home.

Buddhadharma: Why Meditate? by Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche 1974 - In the practice of meditation, it is necessary to think quite sanely and practically about ecology. It is more ecological, needless to say, to stop collecting more stuff, more garbage. Just see the collections of thought as something unnecessary. That is the starting point for the practice of meditation, which is the beginning of undoing ego’s territory.

How to Meditate: The Dathun Letter by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche - The shamatha style of meditation is particularly recommended by the Buddha. It has been the way for beginning meditators for 2,500 years. To describe meditation we could use the phrase touch and go. You are in contact, you’re touching the experience of being there, actually being there-—and then you let go.

On Meditation by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche - Quotes from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, on the Shambhala Training Glossary.

Acknowledging Death by Chogyam Trungpa - We do not have to try to conceal the unspeakable; on the other hand, we do not have to push it to the extreme. At the least, we should help a person to have some understanding of the idea of loss – of the possibility of nonexistence and of dissolving into the unknown. It is a question of acknowledging that we are born alone and that we die alone, but that it is still okay. There is nothing particularly terrible or special about it. But the acknowledgment of your common ground – your common experience of birth, old age, sickness and death, and the fear that underlies all of those – brings a sense of humility. That is the beginning of the healing process.

The New Age by Chögyam Trungpa - In an article originally published in 1969, Trungpa Rinpoche reflects on how Buddhism can address the alienation of modern society. He suggests that opening up communication is the answer to violence and aggression, and that meditation opens up communication.

The Way of Maha Ati by Chögyam Trungpa and Rigdzen Shikpo.

Crazy Wisdom: The Life & Times of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche - Trailer for a film in production by Johanna Demetrekas - Crazy Wisdom is a feature documentary exploring the life, teachings, and “crazy wisdom” of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, a pivotal figure in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West. Called a genius, rascal, social visionary, ‘one of the greatest spiritual teachers of the 20th century,’ and ‘the bad boy of Buddhism,’ Trungpa defied categorization. Raised and trained in the rigorous Tibetan monastic tradition, Trungpa came to the West and shattered our preconceived notions about how an enlightened teacher should behave - he openly smoked, drank, and had intimate relations with students - yet his teachings are recognized as authentic, vast, and influential. Twenty years after his death, with unprecedented access and exclusive archival material, Crazy Wisdom looks at the man and the myths about him, and attempts to set the record straight. (6 min. video)

Thunder Over Ocean: Introductory Talk by Dorje Loppön Lodrö Dorje  (with much biographical information about Chögyam Trungpa)

Exploring the teachings of Chögyam Trungpa  by James Gimian - Excerpted from a talk given at the New York Shambhala Center in April 2007  (Audio 55 min)

A Meeting of Two Remarkable Men: Chögyam Trungpa and Gerald Red Elk  (Excerpt from Sacred World: The Shambhala Way To Gentleness, Bravery, and Power, by Jeremy and Karen Hayward) 

Creating Enlightened Society: The Oral Instructions of Trungpa Rinpoche,” teachings by Dr. Robin Kornman  (5-part video)

Shambhala from the 21st Century by Mark Szpakowski 9/8/09 - Imagine - a civilization, a culture, a country or countries, where the sacred is acknowledged in every aspect of personal, family, and community life, as well as in the details of business, finance, and government. Such a society would respect equally the genuine practice traditions of the many faiths of its citizens.

The Vidyadhara by Paul Kloppenberg, 1975

Deception, Corruption and Truth by Suzanne Duarte 7/16/09 - Two dharmic values that the Vidyadhara embodied, which were reinforced in me by his example, are consideration and concern for future generations and the importance of being truthful, which are related with each other.

Jump Out the Window by Suzanne Duarte - A few highlights of my personal experiences with Trungpa Rinpoche.

Introduction to the Drala Principle by Bill Scheffel - The “drala principle” refers to a body of teachings that Chögyam Trungpa presented in the last decade of his life, from 1978 to 1986. The roots of the drala principle precede the introduction of Buddhism into Tibet and are found in the indigenous traditions of that country - as they are in all countries. The drala principle is applicable to anyone. These teachings speak to the heart, whether one is religiously, artistically or politically motivated. Drala is the elemental presence of the world that is available to us through sense perceptions.

Shambhala: the Outer Tradition by Suzanne Duarte - A brief overview of the myths and legends of Shambhala in Asia.

Being Tara: Recollections of Dharma Art with Chögyam Trungpa - A slideshow with Jack Niland, with images of Trungpa Rinpoche's original art work, 2007.

Research Notes on the Kingdom of Shambhala by John Hopkins

Research on Shiwa Ökar by John Hopkins

Eye of Dharma – Photos by Chögyam Trungpa

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche – His life and work

About Chögyam Trungpa – a brief biography

Chögyam Trungpa Straight Up! - Uncensored Internet Resource Links



Books by Chögyam Trungpa

Chronicles of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche  - a rich source of information about the man, his work and his students, by his students.

Ocean of Dharma Quotes of the Week - an e-mail feature that brings you the teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. An e-mail is sent out several times each week containing a timely or timeless quote from his extensive teachings.

Chögyam Trungpa Legacy Project

Radio Free Shambhala – Discussions between students of Chögyam Trungpa and those of his successor.

Naropa University  - founded by Chögyam Trungpa in 1974

Gampo Abby  - founded by Chögyam Trungpa in 1984          

Karme-Chöling Shambhala Mediation Center

Shambhala Mountain Center

Shambhala Sustainability Initiative

Urban and Rural Centers founded or inspired by Chögyam Trungpa

Resources and Links


Books about Chögyam Trungpa

Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chögyam Trungpa  by Diana J. Mukpo (his wife)

Warrior-King of Shambhala: Remembering Chögyam Trungpa by Jeremy Hayward

Chögyam Trungpa: his Life and Vision  by Fabrice Midal

Recalling Chogyam Trungpa  by Fabrice Midal

The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant by John Riley Perks


The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, Shambhala Mountain Center, CO – dedicated to the Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche



In contrast to the traditional medical model of disturbances, the Buddhist approach is founded on the belief that basic sanity is operative in all states of mind. Confusion, from this point of view, is two-sided: it creates a need, a demand for sanity. This hungry nature of confusion is very powerful and very important. The demand for relief or sanity that is contained in confusion is, in fact, the beginning point of Buddhism. That is what moved Buddha to sit beneath the bodhi tree twenty-five hundred years ago -- to confront his confusion and find its source -- after struggling vainly for seven years in various ascetic yogic disciplines.

Basically, we are faced with a similar situation now in the West. Like Siddhartha before he became the Buddha, we are confused, anxious, and hungry psychologically. Despite a physically luxurious prosperity, there is a tremendous amount of emotional anxiety. This anxiety has stimulated a lot of research into various types of psychotherapy, drug therapy, behavior modification, and group therapies. From the Buddhist viewpoint, this search is evidence of the nature of basic sanity operating within neurosis.

— Chögyam Trungpa, Ocean of Dharma: The Everyday Wisdom of Chogyam Trungpa - 365 Teachings on Living Life with Courage and Compassion, number 34.


Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche (L) and the Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (R), 1985


© 2009 Suzanne Duarte