The Treatise on Enlightened Society

BSE290-2TIn writing the Treatise on Enlightened Society, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is demonstrating the breadth and depth of Shambhala vision. In its dissemination he is reaching out to an all-inclusive audience to spread the “radical” notion that a society built on the principle of basic goodness is the society that flourishes, and the society that Shambhala Buddhism is dedicated to creating. In proclaiming these teachings in this bold way, the Sakyong is showing the ultimate application of our practice, and bravely, taking that first step for us. It will be our charge, then, to take this vision forward and to make it a reality. We practice dharma as a doctor practices medicine, or a lawyer practices law- practice means to do it. And the intention is to not do it on the cushion alone. Rinpoche has been encouraging our increased engagement for years. As a practitioner, or as a human rather, in this society, he has encouraged us to be in touch with contemporary issues and to be well read in issues, such as, philosophy and trends in Western psychology. He has also recommended that we participate in salon-style events in order to find dharmic solutions to social issues. As Rinpoche has stated on many occasions, society can be distilled down to a conversation between two people, and we, as people working for the benefit of others and our world, would like to have a seat at the table in order to propose the audacious possibility that people, and by extension society, are fundamentally pure, complete, and worthy of this world. 

“Enlightened means awakening to the basic goodness that is here, at the center of our humanity. Society is the natural expression of that goodness.”

Basic goodness is the experience of our true nature in its most original form. It is a term (Tib. zune sangpo) that the Dorje Dradul, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, translated into English after receiving the Shambhala terma cycle (Kalapayana) in the 1970’s, and the etymology of those two words means fundamental faultlessness. It is from this groundless ground that everything arises. This means that all of the confusion and afflictive emotions we experience as our conditioned affect, as individuals and society, are workable. It is therefore the ultimate gospel (good news). It means that our blemishes are unoriginal, and the Sakyong has been focusing his teachings and practices on helping us relax into the experience of basic goodness ourselves. In fact, he says that this experience is indispensable. If our practice is merely theoretical our paradigm will never shift and we will be unable to help our world in the way Shambhala Day 2011that we intend. To this end Rinpoche has dedicated his time and energy with many new teachings and practices. He has written and begun to disseminate the Shambhala Sadhana for our community to engage with in group and individual practice. A sadhana is a “means to attainment” and utilizes liturgy, mantra, and visualization to engage our body, speech, and mind in order to, in this case, allow us to actualize the experience of basic goodness in ourselves, and to see that it is also the nature of others, and of society. He and Acharya Adam Lobel have derived a series of weeknight courses entitled the Basic Goodness Series based on three themes, (Who am I? What is Reality? and How Can I Help?) that explore through study and contemplation of traditional Buddhist teachings, current teachings from the Sakyong and Acharya Lobel, and discussion and practice techniques, how to actualize these important and timely teachings. Rinpoche has also written a new book, The Shambhala Principle- Discovering Humanity’s Hidden Treasure (to be released next year) to take these jewels to the public-at-large.

“This innate enlightened society and natural wish to communicate is demonstrated when we kiss.”

During this year’s Harvest of Peace address, Rinpoche noted that his primary mandate as the Sakyong was to create enlightened society. To this end, after a period of deep reflection during his year long retreat, the Sakyong wrote the Treatise on Enlightened Society while practicing in Nepal in 2010. The Treatise on Enlightened Society expounds upon the two most fundamental principles of Shambhala: our most innate and primordial quality is basic goodness and that, by extension, society is also basically good and therefore workable. During this same talk Rinpoche stated that self and societal reflection is at the heart of the Treatise on Enlightened Society. He is strongly encouraging his students, and all people, to contemplate for themselves questions, such as, Who Am I? What is life? What is society? Stressing the importance of direct experience, Rinpoche said, “Discovering basic goodness is not a convoluted moral position we take; it is based on an experience that is immediate and pure, like spring water. Experiencing this goodness brings a feeling of celebration.” It’s not about trying to convince others, it’s about us having a healthy and deeper confidence and experience of basic goodness. Then we are able to shine this light on others and truly effect a change in our world. The way the Sakyong has chosen to spread this treatise is also unique in our community. It is being transmitted by what he has called a “cascading lung.” Traditionally, a teacher “transmits” a text, and permission to read and study it, by reading it aloud to students who are ready to receive it in a practice context. With a cascading lung, Rinpoche has stated that anyone who has received the lung is empowered to read and pass it along to others, who may then pass it along to more people, etc. Once you have had the text passed on to you through a reading transmission you are then able to obtain and study the text for your self. Anyone who is interested in receiving the text need only to request it from someone who has already received it previously. Once someone has received the text, she could begin to study it, memorize, and reflect deeply and personally on its contents. In this way the Treatise on Enlightened Society will spread throughout the Shambhala community and beyond.

Actualizing the experience of our basic goodness and engaging with society from that basis is our path and goal as Shambhalians. It is the purpose of our practice, and could be the meaning, purpose, and guiding force of our lives. We create enlightened society in each moment, with each gesture that we make. The Treatise on Enlightened Society is another tool that The Sakyong has given us to use to effect change in our lives and world. It is now our time to take this torch and run with it, illuminating the world with the vision of the Great Eastern Sun.

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3 thoughts on “The Treatise on Enlightened Society

  1. “Actualizing the experience of our basic goodness and engaging with society from that basis is our path and goal as Shambhalians. It is the purpose of our practice, and could be the meaning, purpose, and guiding force of our lives. We create enlightened society in each moment, with each gesture that we make.”

    Beautifully said, Travis. Thank you.

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