Acharya Charlene Leung has served as Chairperson of the Shambhala International Diversity
Working Group since 2009. She was appointed by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche as a Shastri in
2010 and an Acharya in 2018. She first became a student of the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa
Rinpoche in 1983. Over the years, Charlene has led Way of Shambhala and parenting as path
programs. She facilitates workshops for the UNtraining, a Shambhala inspired organization
devoted to healing personal and social oppressions. Her current teaching focus is developing
programs that join Shambhala dharma with social justice and inclusion.
Professionally she practices Chinese medicine and teaches qi gong in the San Francisco Bay
Area. She lives in a Shambhala household with her husband, Robert Pressnall, where they
raised their two, now adult sons, Steven and Gabriel Pressnall.
I identify as a Chinese American woman and person of color. I grew up in a family of six
children in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1947, my mother, at age 17, left China on a ship to
the United States to attend college. She had been awarded a scholarship from Catholic
missionaries. My father’s family, peasants from southern China, came to the US shortly before
he was born. With 11 children crowded into a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco
Chinatown, they lived frugally, working as domestic servants, in restaurants and laundries. My
father, trying to assimilate, eventually became a successful small businessman and moved our
family into white neighborhoods. There I became a “model minority” by overachieving in school
and dissociating from the trauma of racial violence I witnessed against my brothers.
While my interest in social justice began in college, I found my way to Shambhala (then
Vajradhatu) and focused my early adulthood practicing and studying dharma. I worked in
community based non profits in Oakland Chinatown and began having children. A couple of
decades later, in the mid 2000’s I got involved with the Shambhala Diversity Working Group
(DWG). It wasn’t until after I took the oath as DWG Chair, was appointed a Shastri, and joined
a process group for Chinese people to heal racism and internalized oppression, that I began to
uncover and heal the trauma of racial violence I experienced as a child.
My passion for doing “diversity work” began as an aspiration to help others, and led to a
powerful personal healing journey that is intimately linked to my Shambhala path. Dharma
supports racial healing, and diversity work deepens my understanding of dharma. The two are
inextricably linked. This journey of awakening from the delusion of separation has yielded my
greatest sense of community.