Choosing a Lineage

William B. Turner
4 min readOct 24, 2022
The Buddha

I had an important practical realization recently.

I remain agnostic as to lineage. One aspect I like about the Buddhist path is that Buddhists do not fight with each other about who is right. The Dalai Lama has said that anyone who recognizes the centrality of the Four Noble Truths is a Buddhist. Teachers from one school will borrow ideas, insights, and stories from other schools.

So I have nothing to say about which lineage you choose to practice in, assuming you choose one. Obviously, during the lifetime of the Buddha, there were no lineages. There was just the Buddha teaching directly.

I started practicing and took refuge in the Shambhala lineage, which I no longer adhere to, for various reasons. I started with them when I was in law school, mostly because their site was convenient, relatively, for me. Convenience is a valid reason to choose a Buddhist meditation school. People on the Buddhist path are very practical.

My realization involved one of my reasons for leaving Shambhala, which is a Tibetan lineage, not the Tibetan lineage of the Dalai Lama. Chogyam Trungpa, who captured the attention of a lot of people in the United States during his lifetime and brought Shambhala to the United States, functioned to Shambhala somewhat as the Dalai Lama does to his lineage.

When I read works by Chogyam Trungpa, I often had the thought that he had been inside my head. I still think it is pretty remarkable that two humans, despite having been born on the same planet in the same century, could yet have such disparate experiences. He wrote about how he could remember the first time he saw a car. He could smell it before he could see it.

My first exposure to car smell occurred when my parents drove me home from the hospital when I was two or three, or however many, days old. If I could somehow magically eliminate the car element the ambient smell I live with daily, I suppose I would just think the air smelled unusually fresh. I doubt I will ever know.

But I also find his exposition maddeningly vague and meandering. When I read Trungpa, I keep wondering what the point is.

This is mostly my training as a historian and lawyer, two professions for whom clarity of exposition is a chief value. We might also be able to explain…