Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Venerable Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Manifesting nirmanakaya appearance through cultural modalities

This photograph shows Rig’dzin Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche at the Kalapa Court in Boulder, Colorado in the early 1980s, manifesting an enlightened mode through his marital family connection with Scotland.

Ngak’chang Rinpoche comments:
It is little understood with regard to Vajrayana that the dimension of nirmanakaya is one in which infinite expression becomes feasible in terms of compassionate communication. There is no aspect of the phenomenal world which cannot be employed by enlightened masters in terms of providing transmission. The vajra master can appear in many different guises: as monk or nun; as ngakpa or ngakma; as a hunter, as in the case of DoKhyentsé Yeshé Dorje; or as an enlightened warrior as in the case of Ling Gésar, and here – Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Military or martial appearance is a glorious offense to the politically correct and, as such, poses a fabulous challenge to our constricted appreciation of Dharma. To authentically comprehend Vajrayana we need to understand that wearing the body of visions, with regard to the yidam, is a practice which expands into gar’cham or Tantric dance – but Tantric dance is only one of many possible modalities.

Khandro Déchen comments:
The use of costume, both as practice and enlightened communication, is intrinsic to Vajrayana, and is not limited to beautiful oriental brocades. For example – the Aro gTér lineage has a practice involving Yeshé Tsogyel as Ka-gu Kun-pön Tsogyel Legma’i (mKha’ dGu rKun pPon mTsho rGyal legs ma’i) – the Brigand Queen of the Nine Skies. She rules the Vajra Brigandage – four female warriors and four male warriors who assume the style of renegade horse-soldiery. They are ‘renegades from duality’ who maraud with crazed ferocity amongst established concepts.

This picture shows Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in his Shambhala manifestation as the Dorje Dra’dül of the Mukpo Dong Clan, in what he described as his ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ formal kilt uniform. There are a series of pins that are worn on both sides of the lapels of his dress jacket. The top pin on his left lapel is a symbol of the three jewels made from pure solid Tibetan gold, a gift from Sharmar Rinpoche. The next pin below is a cloisonné garuda crest of the Kingdom of Shambhala. The garuda is holding a banner of the four dignities of the Shambhala Warrior. These principles are drawn from the life example and wisdom of the great Tibetan King, Gésar of Ling: the Tiger of Meekness (white square), the Lion of Perkiness (orange square), the Garuda of Outrageousness (red square), and the Dragon of Inscrutability (blue square). The next pin below is the Banner of Shambhala (also known as the Kalapa Assembly pin) shown in horizontal form. This style of wearing the pin is appropriate for either civilian or military dress. The central golden-yellow dot on the white background of the banner is known as the Great Eastern Sun. The background of the banner is white symbolizing the primordial ground of basic goodness.

The view that the sacred world is Great relates to its primordial quality. That is, sacredness goes back and back through history to prehistory to before history. Before thought, before mind had ever thought anything at all. This wisdom is old and young at the same time, and is never diminished by the relative problems in the world. The sacred world is connected with East, because there are always possibilities of vision in this world. East represents the dawn of wakefulness, the horizon of human consciousness where vision is constantly arising. Wherever you are, when you open your eyes, you always look ahead, to the East. You always have possibilities of wakeful vision, even in the most degraded or confused situations. Finally, the sacred world is lighted by the Sun, which is the principle of never-ending brilliance and radiance. The sun is also connected with seeing self-existing possibilities of virtue and richness in the world. The Great Eastern Sun is eternally blazing: it has no need of fuel. There is actually greater luminosity that occurs without fuel, without even a pilot light. Seeing the sacred world is witnessing that greater vision, which is there all the time.

The vertical stripes stage-right of the yellow Sun disc represent the four dignities of the Shambhala warrior. The blue stripe closest to the Sun represents the warrior dignity of Inscrutability. The next stripe shown is red, representing the warrior dignity of Outrageousness. The next is orange, representing the warrior dignity of Perkiness. The final stripe in the sequence is white, representing the warrior dignity of Meekness.

The dawning of the Great Eastern Sun unfolds with the experience of joining sadness and joy. According to the Shambhala principles you should feel that way with everything you do. Whether you have a good time or a bad time, you should feel sad and delighted at once. That is how to be a real decent human being, and it is also connected with the Buddhist principle of longing or devotion. Longing is the hunger for sacredness. When you begin to feel you’re too much in the secular world, you long for the sacred world. Therefore you feel sad, and you open yourself up that way. When you feel so sad and tender, that also brings ideas for how to uplift the rest of the world. Joining sadness and joy is the only mechanism that brings the vision of the Great Eastern Sun.

The Great Eastern Sun has three qualities. From the experience of the simultaneity of sadness and joy, we radiate peaceful confidence, which is the first quality of the Great Eastern Sun. Second is illuminating the way of discipline, which is realising what to accept and what to reject. That aspect of the Great Eastern Sun is like turning on the light. If you are standing in the middle of a dark room and you have no idea what’s around you, when you switch on the light, you will know what to accept and reject. The third quality is becoming the eternal ruler of the three worlds, or conquering the three worlds. Having developed a sad and joyous situation, seeing what to accept and what to reject, therefore, you feel a sense of joy and achievement. This is conquering the threefold world, which, roughly speaking, corresponds to the heaven, earth, and man, or human, principles.

Conquering here is very personal. It is related with one’s attitude towards oneself and one’s world when one begins to see the Great Eastern Sun. You could say that, when you switch on the light, it conquers your room because there’s no darkness left. Conquering here is not the concept of a battle. It’s just switching on the light. That is the synopsis, so to speak, of the qualities of the Great Eastern Sun.

How to cultivate the Great Eastern Sun, as we discussed altogether, comes from joy and sadness put together, which might be something like sweet and sour pork.

(Quotations taken from ‘Great Eastern Sun’ by Trungpa Rinpoche, Shambhala publications)