The Shambhala Buddhist Path

Click here for an illustration of the Shambhala Buddhist Path

The path begins and continues with meditation. Students are introduced to Buddhist and Shambhala teachings in the context of an ongoing meditation practice. The San Francisco Shambhala Meditation Center offers a broad and carefully thought-out range of classes, meditation programs and community activities.

The path consists of a series of programs designed to stabilize and strengthen a student's meditation practice, and to clarify their understanding of the teachings. Our courses offer entry into the classical teachings of the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as the Shambhala wisdom presented by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. The Way of Shambhala is our core curriculum and incorporates both the Shambhala Training and Shambhala Schools of Buddhist Studies programs, which both serve as graduated paths of instruction in the profound vision of the lineage.

In order to provide an environment in which Buddhism can flourish in the West, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche presented the spiritual journey in the cultural context of Shambhala - a personal and social vision of awakening that is accessible to everyone, all the time, even in the midst of busy daily life. The name and outlook for his approach comes from the legendary kingdom of Shambhala. This land has for centuries been seen throughout central Asia as a source of individual and cultural virtue: a place in which inhabitants led meditative lives of bravery, gentleness and intelligence, where they acted with responsibility and delight in caring for one another.

It is said that "the dharma is good in the beginning, good in the middle and good in the end." From the first experience of relaxing on the cushion and allowing oneself to just be, the practitioner can discover the goodness of dharma, both within him or herself and in the world. The path of the practitioner of dharma is rich with opportunities for self-examination and discovery. Beginning with looking at one's own experience directly in meditation, the practitioner learns about the ways the mind works. Through meditation, the practitioner penetrates confusion to experience the naturalness of being awake. Through studying the wisdom of the lineage, the great practitioners dating back to the Buddha, the student is challenged and inspired to discover a direct view of the nature of mind and reality. While there are many opportunities to join with others on the path for practice and study, the journey is personal.


Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

How do I get started?

Weekly Newcomer Events and Public Programs

The Shambhala Center hosts several introductions to meditation each week. These include our Weekly Open House, Public Sitting, Learn to Meditate Workshops, Sunday morning meditation and periodic Nyinthuns. For more information about our weekly programs please click here. We also host public evening course, day-long or weekend-long in-depth meditation programs that are open to the public. For more information on those programs please click here.

The Way of Shambhala - Year One

The Way of Shambhala is a complete introduction to the foundations of Shambhala Buddhism. This series of workshops and classes is an experiential overview of meditation practices, wisdom teachings, contemplative arts, and physical disciplines rooted in the ancient traditions of Shambhala and Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. The Way of Shambhala incorporates the Shambhala Training Heart of Warriorship series of weekend retreats which introduce teachings on "warriorship" that cultivate genuineness, confidence, humor, and dignity in daily life. This course of study prepares students who wish to develop their practice and study further for Sutrayana Seminary and the Shambhala Sacred Path program.

Contemplative Arts and Practice

Inspired by Nalanda, an eleventh-century Indian university that welcomed teachings and disciplines from many different traditions, a number of arts, disciplines and activities have developed within Shambhala. The arts and other contemplative disciplines [link to arts page], including flower arranging, photography, tea ceremony, and kyudo, are a vehicle for integrating mindfulness and awareness into everyday life. Each represents a genuine contemplative path that further enriches our day-to-day experience.

The Way of Shambhala - Year Two

The Way of Shambhala year two curriculum combines the Sacred Path Levels of Shambhala Training and the Shambhala School of Buddhist Studies classes. This second year of retreats and classes introduces further warriorship practices that extend the basic meditation training received in year one. These practices are based on a societal vision and aspiration to help the world. By learning the tools taught in the buddhist studies classes, we hone our mindfulness and awareness so that know more about ourselves and how we perceive and act in the world. Through this training, we cultivate our inherent dignity and confidence, and rediscover our inherent gifts that allow us to act in the world with a compassionate and practical influence.


Dathun (Tibetan for "month session") is a one-month group meditation retreat led by a senior teacher. It is a powerful introduction and deepening of mindfulness-awareness meditation, open to anyone. The program includes sitting and walking meditation, talks, study, and a short work period. Silence and functional talking are observed and meals are served in the shrine room oryoki-style. Oryoki is a practice of mindful eating borrowed from the Zen tradition. After attending a dathun, students may choose to do a solitary retreat, and a number of Shambhala practice centres have facilities for individual retreats. Dathun is a prerequisite for attending Sutrayana Seminary.

Warrior Assembly

Warrior Assembly, the culmination of the Sacred Path program, is a living teaching in creating enlightened society. This training cultivates one’s dignity and natural gifts in order to widen one’s sphere of compassionate and practical influence.

Sangha Retreat with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and Enlightened World: The Three Yanas of Shambhala Buddhadharma

These new programs taught by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche provide an introduction and exploration of the basic principles of Buddhism, as well as an opportunity to practice with the head of our lineage. The teachings take the student through the three yanas (vehicles), from the foundation teachings of the hinayana to the advanced teachings of tantra (vajrayana), giving an idea of the breadth of the Buddhist teachings as well as the unique path of Shambhala. Held at residential practice centers, these retreats include meditation instruction, study, and contemplation and will provide an opportunity to meet the Sakyong and practice under his guidance.

Refuge Vow

The refuge vow marks the decision to commit oneself wholeheartedly to the Buddhist path and to further one's practice and training. It is the formal commitment to being a Buddhist, following the example of the Buddha Shakyamuni, his teachings (the dharma) and joining the community (sangha) of fellow practitioners. Read a talk by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche on taking refuge.

Shambhala Sutrayana Seminary

Sutrayana Seminary deepens and expands a student's practice and study in a two week residential program alternating periods of intensive meditation practice with classes in Buddhist and Shambhala view. The program is led by a Shambhala acharya, assisted by other senior teachers. Read about prerequisites and how to apply.

Bodhisattva Vow

The bodhisattva vow is further commitment to put others before oneself and to work wholeheartedly for their benefit. The basis of this vow is the aspiration to develop friendliness, compassion, and genuine insight through the practice of the six paramitas and to undertake the view and practice of the mahayana.

Shambhala Vajrayana Seminary

The Shambhala Vajrayana Seminary is the gateway for entering the Shambhala lineage and engaging in vajrayana Buddhist practices. These practices are based on the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and the Shambhala teachings, transmitted through Chögyam Trungpa and his lineage heir, Sakyong Mipham. The vajrayana path offers powerful methods for cultivating one’s innate compassion and wisdom and is based on a strong teacher-student connection. Read about prerequisites and how to apply.

Vajrayana Practice

At Shambhala Vajrayana Seminary, students receive vajrayana transmission from Sakyong Mipham and instructions to begin the special preliminary practices (ngöndro) of the vajrayana path. The vajrayana path of practice and study includes ngöndro practices, abhishekas (empowerments), the various sadhanas associated with them, and mahamudra and dzogchen practices. Vajrayana practice and study programs are held at both urban and residential Shambhala Meditation Centers to support a student's practice with teachings, group practice and guidance from acharyas and the Sakyong.

Giving Back to the Community

At a certain point upon our path, it might strike us that we would like to give back to our community because we ourselves have received so much from the path, the practice, the teachers, the teachings, and our community of practitioners. There are many ways to do this, including volunteering your time to staff or coordinate programs, joining a committee to help plan the programs, or stepping onto the path towards becoming a teacher yourself. Below is the path towards becoming a teacher.

Shambhala Guide Training

Shambhala Guide Training is appropriate for eligible students who feel ready to deepen their path of service through engaging the practice of listening to, encouraging and supporting others on their meditative journeys. This training is also the required Step 1 toward becoming a Shambhala Meditation Instructor or Assistant Director. In addition to being trained to give initial meditation instruction, a Shambhala Guide is a resource, friend and host to newcomers within the context of a Shambhala Center. Guides are therefore trained in the principles of engagement and friendship — listening, inquiry, and speaking from the heart — so they can assist each new student appropriately. Prerequisites: The Way of Shambhala year one, completion of one week of dathun, center membership, active volunteer, strong meditation practice.

Assistant Director Training

This program is for Shambhala Training practitioners with a strong personal practice and who feel ready to help others with meditation practice. These trainings prepare you to begin a practice of listening, to encourage and support others. Assistant Directors work with students one-on-one during the course of Shambhala Training programs. Prerequisites: completion of Shambhala Guide training, completion of Warrior’s Assembly, completion of Six Class course for Meditation Instructors.

Meditation Instructor Training

Meditation practice and instruction is at the heart of all other activities at centers. One of Shambhala's most important responsibilities is to ensure that proper instruction is available at all levels of practice. Individual instruction is a key component of how meditation is taught in Shambhala Centers. The Shambhala Meditation Instructor is trained to give instruction in the practice of shamatha/vipashyana meditation, and to work with students who aspire to engage an on-going, thorough training in meditation and the path of practice and study offered in the Shambhala Centers and Groups. There are several levels of authorized Shambhala meditation instructors. These levels depend upon the instructors' own practice, the training they have received, and the extent of their experience in giving instruction. Read an overview of the training and prerequisites for eligibility.

Shambhala Buddhist Teacher Training

This training program is the first formal training on the Shambhala Buddhist teacher training path, and will serve to authorize new directors for Shambhala Training levels II and III, as well as new co-directors for the first three courses of the new Way of Shambhala curriculum. Participants work together on spontaneous discourse, responding to questions and answers and leading groups. In particular, participants have the opportunity each weekend to give practice talks, take questions and receive feedback on their presentations.

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Shambhala Meditation Center of San Francisco
1231 Stevenson Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
Tel. 415-796-2507    Email:

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