Uncovering the Mystery of KI and SO

Definitions of KI and SO were crafted with advisement from Ben Hines

“The Shambhala warrior’s cry. Chanting this cry is a way to rouse your head and shoulders, a way to rouse a sense of uplifted dignity. It is also a way to invoke the power of windhorse and the energy of basic goodness. We might call it a battle cry, as long as you understand that this particular battle is fighting against aggression, conquering aggression, rather than promoting hatred or warfare. We could say that the warrior’s cry celebrates victory over war, victory over aggression. It is also a celebration of overcoming obstacles … Sitting in good warrior posture, with your hands on your hips, hold your head and shoulders and shout: KI KI SO SO” — Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche


Do you know the Warrior’s Cry?  The Tibetan letters “KI” and “SO” are seed syllables that hold a central place in the Shambhala teachings. Although they appear often in our teachings, for many of us the meaning behind them remains a mystery.

KI and SO represent open space, and the energetic quality of all things — empty and appearing, vast, indestructible, all-accommodating, without boundary or origin. They are unified by exertion at the human level, which is the path in which we experience life as full and meaningful. These seed syllables have no inherent meaning but are primordial sounds of the universe.

KI, the first letter of the Tibetan alphabet

First is KI, the first letter of the Tibetan alphabet. It represents space, the ultimate nature of reality, and emptiness, characteristic of all things manifest—empty and appearing, vast, indestructible, all-accommodating, without boundary and origin.

In traditional Buddhist wisdom, the “ultimate truth” or nature of reality as space and emptiness are associated with the principle and qualities of the feminine as wisdom (or prajna, or discriminating awareness).

The symbol, SO

Next is SO. It refers to energy. At the ultimate level, the spacious quality of emptiness expresses itself in infinite ways: in the energies of fire, wind, water and the firmness of earth, gravity, light, flowers in Spring, etc.

In traditional Buddhist wisdom, emptiness has expressive qualities and is the same as the energy of compassion, all pervasive, without boundary and origin. Often teachers refer to emptiness-compassion as the nature of reality or mind.

The “relative truth” or nature of reality as energy and emptiness-compassion is associated with the principle and qualities of the masculine, active and communicative, expressed as skillful action in the world.      


Help sponsor the reframing of KI and SO at our Seattle Shambhala Center.

KI and SO are significant symbols in the Shambhala tradition that represent the nature of all phenomena, and are meant to magnetize and attract the eye and attention. The KI and SO calligraphy were chosen to replace the photos of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche for the time being. These symbols invoke the Warrior’s Cry and remind us of our own basic goodness and the basic goodness in everyone.

Our shrine embodies the sacredness of our teachings, holds a central position of honor, and is our focus when we enter the room. To pay respect to our shrine and these powerful symbols, the Office of Culture and Decorum, lead by Ladan Yalzadeh, is currently raising funds to purchase larger, more magnetizing frames. With an uplifted shrine, we will enter the new year with renewed Windhorse. We are estimating the new frames and matting to cost up to $1,000. The intention is to keep these central images prominently displayed somewhere in the Center from now on. 

If you’d like to contribute to this project financially, you can make a tax-deductible one-time donation online or send your check to the Seattle Shambhala Center and include the note “KI and SO Frames”. If you are inspired to sponsor this project in-kind, please contact facilities@seattleshambhala.org.

May basic wisdom dawn.

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