Sakyong Mipham: Father and Son
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was the first of the Sakyong Lineage and is remembered to this day as “Dragon Earth-Protector”. His son, Sakyong Mipham is the second, and current, Sakyong and is simply “Earth-Protector”. Trungpa explained to his son from a young age that the term “Earth-Protector” didn’t yet make sense to the world, but it should be seen as a philosophical King. Representing a leader of humanity based on goodwill and piety. The metaphor of Kind and Queen is clear in the terms Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo (The Sakyong’s wife), however, it is not meant to represent more than a sense of duty and honor to society. The Sakyong Lineage is a responsibility to humankind, a role of leadership in a time of social, political, and religious corruption.
Both father and son strived for a world of kindheartedness. Trungpa laid the foundations for Shambhala Buddhism, a mythical land of enlightened beings. He hoped that the tradition would combine spirituality with the modern world in a way that would be appealing. Upon leaving Tibet, Trungpa realized the necessity of continuing to teach while also blending ancient and traditional wisdoms with the rapid growth of materialism and modernity. As Buddhism helps recognize the truth of suffering and how to lighten it on an individual level, Trungpa envisioned Shambhala to help on a societal level. Shambhala Buddhism contains a stronger communal atmosphere and works for a global cause. A cause the current Sakyong, Trungpa’s son, now maintains.
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The Sakyong was born in India and spent his early years with his mother in a refugee village. He was raised speaking Tibetan and Hindi and learned English when he joined his father in Scotland at a young age. Growing up he studied the Buddhist dharma and ritual texts and practices in accord to his heritage, but also learned Western arts, philosophies, and politics. When asked to reflect on his upbringing in an interview for tricycle magazine, The Sakyong indicates his father seemed to have conceived him very intentionally, raising him to walk between traditions elegantly so that he could one day carry the lineage.
Once coming to the West, The Sakyong ran a lot of events and programs at the request of his father. He trained in contemplative practices and martial arts, gaining knowledge of Tibetan, English, Chinese, Japanese, and American cultures. It seems clear that Chogyam Trungpa had a plan to continue his evolving concept of Shambhala, a plan that has flourished. Trungpa believed Buddhists could help change society, helping to mold a stronger sense of humanity. Since his passing the Shambhala community has opened foundations, meditation centers, schools, and much more. The vision of Shambhala has arguably exceeded its founder’s hopes.
Maintaining a Lineage
When Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche died, his son was not the immediate leader of the Shambhala lineage. Instead he went to study under a great teacher in Nepal while the Sangha began experiencing differences. The Shambhala leader during this intermediary time, Osel Tendezin remains controversial even though he is seldom discussed. He died shortly after Trungpa and The Sakyong took his place as lineage holder, though he experienced a bit of psychological hostility from leaders within the community at first. It is remarked that despite his youth, The Sakyong managed his new role with ease, generosity, and joy. People realized soon after that the Shambhala vision would not just survive, but thrive.
A Father’s Plan
The Sakyong is not his father nor is he overly similar to him, as one can recall Trungpa to have been rather fond of his debatable exploits. Though there was a mutual respect and understanding of greatness between the two. Trungpa recognized his son as a great leader and incarnation when the Sakyang was still the Sawang. His Holiness the sixteenth Karmapa, one of the main Tibetan leaders who recognized reincarnations of previous teachers, also recognized this greatness. Trungpa took his son to meet the Karmapa and towards the end of the visit had the Sawang go to the car. During this short meeting between the elders, Trungpa asked the Karmapa to not publically out the Sawang as Mipham the Great’s reincarnation as he had other plans for his son’s greatness. If The Sakyong had been publically recognized at the time, traditional Tibetan leaders would have insisted on his immediate studies. Instead The Sakyong continued on the path his father prepared for him.
The two men are not similar in societal behavior, one an avid drinker and smoker, the other a runner and traditional line holder. The Sakyong recalls his father’s legacy and while the man himself could have been enlightened or crazy, he carried an immeasurable burden and founded a beautiful community.
- Kate Mattes
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