This issue features two of the great Buddhist teachers of our time. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche is dead twenty-five years now. Thich Nhat Hanh is still vigorous and active at the age of eighty-five. So different in styles—the soft-spoken, celibate monk and the ground-breaking lama who celebrated life’s passions— they are alike in dedicating their lives to others, holding nothing back, and in the depth and breadth of the teachings they have given us. As much as anyone, they have defined Buddhism as we understand it today.
There is a journalistic convention these days called “full disclosure,” in which writers acknowledge conflicts of interest or personal involvement in their story. I’d like to declare — not just declare, but celebrate, with pride and without embarrassment — my and the Shambhala Sun’s involvement with these great teachers. When the debt is spiritual and genuine, there is never conflict of interest. There is only universal benefit.
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche is my root guru. I searched for him for many years and found him only toward the end of his life. Others here at the Shambhala Sun, such as Jim Gimian, Liza Matthews, Barry Boyce, and Andy Karr, knew him much longer and worked closely with him. Yet even those at the Sun who never met him, even those who are not Buddhists, are inspired by the basic principles of his teachings that are the foundation of the Shambhala Sun. He is the founder of this magazine and he is alive here every day.
Chögyam Trungpa’s life story is a dramatic tale in itself, but from history’s point of view what matters more is the extraordinary philosophical journey he took in his forty-eight years. It focused on one all-important question: how best to bring genuine dharma to the dark age of this modern world. As Barry Boyce describes so beautifully in this issue, it brought forth an outpouring of genius that ranged from identifying the core challenge for modern Buddhism—cutting through spiritual materialism—to a ground-breaking presentation of the three-yana view, to teachings on the arts and the military, to the Shambhala vision of a society reflecting universal human wisdom and basic goodness. I hope that when you read Barry’s insightful essay you will find that these teachings are reflected in the Shambhala Sun. Their depth and openness are our foundation and strength.
There is another Buddhist teacher whose teachings are deep, diverse, and far-reaching. Who was driven into exile from his native land, came to the West with nothing, and changed our world with his brilliance and fearlessness. He is Thich Nhat Hanh.
Like Trungpa Rinpoche, he devotes much of his teaching to presenting the original tenets of Buddhism in a new light for the modern world. When I last interviewed Thich Nhat Hanh, I asked him why he did not focus more on his own Zen tradition. As Trungpa Rinpoche taught foundational Buddhist principles with a Vajrayana view, Thich Nhat Hanh said he was presenting the teachings of original Buddhism in the open spirit of the Mahayana. In doing so, he has made his unique teachings on mindfulness, concentration, interbeing, and joyfulness an integral part of Buddhism today.
In her moving account in this issue, Andrea Miller opens her heart to us about her own healing journey during her recent retreat with Thay. Somehow this old Vietnamese monk understands our emotional wounds so well, and shows us a path of healing based on traditional Buddhist psychology that’s perfectly suited for our modern psyches. Beyond even that, as founder of the Engaged Buddhism movement he offers us a vision of peace, social justice, and compassion that has defined Buddhist activism for a generation.
I have had the good fortune to attend a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh — which I found as transformative in my own way as Andrea did in hers — to interview him twice, and to edit several books of his teachings. I count him as one of my teachers.
Thich Nhat Hanh has been generous to the Sun with his time and teachings. It is an honor to present them. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche remains the light of the morning star that guides us, and over the next year we will present a selection of his teachings to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death. May these two great teachers continue to benefit sentient beings until samsara ends.