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Creating Enlightened Society — The Arrow

With the broader propagation of the Shambhala teachings that highlight the importance of creating enlightened society, it is natural to wonder what compassion means in a Shambhala context. In conjunction with Naropa University’s 40th Anniversary and the theme of “radical compassion,”[1] this article explores the unique contributions of the Shambhala teachings to cultivating and manifesting compassion in a complex, ever-changing world full of overt and subtle modes of suffering. The approach of the article is to provide a historical and cultural context for the Shambhala teachings and for their relevance to contemporary global crises, and to provide scriptural and commentarial support for the view of compassion as a motivation for creating enlightened society.

Buddhism has always been associated with compassion. The Buddha said that he instructed his monastics to go forth and teach “for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, the good and the happiness of gods and humans.”[2] Compassion teachings pervade all Buddhist lineages, and they are among the most compelling practices currently being pursued by Western practitioners. From mettā or lovingkindness practices to the brahmāvihāras, tonglen, and contemporary self-compassion and communal compassion practices, Buddhism has introduced profound and pragmatic ways for practitioners to become more caring and responsive to themselves and to others. As the Dalai Lama famously said, “We can reject everything else: religion, ideology, all received wisdom. But we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion... This, then, is my true religion, my simple faith.”[3]

While there are many sources on compassion in Buddhism, very little has been written about the founding tradition of Naropa University, and the very special teachings of Naropa’s founder. This tradition of Shambhala [4] “is rooted in the contemplative teachings of Buddhism, yet is a fresh expression of the spiritual journey of our time. It teaches how to live in a secular world with courage and compassion” according to the Shambhala International website.[5] This paper will address Shambhala’s unique and visionary teachings on compassion and on creating enlightened society...

Creating Enlightened Society — The Arrow

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