New Shastris Appointed

The Office of the Sakyong recently announced the appointment of fifteen new Shastris (Sanskrit for “someone who is versed in or holds the śāstras,” the classical Dharma treatises and scriptures) or senior Dharma teachers in the Shambhala lineage. This decision is effective as of September 22-23, or Harvest of Peace.

Tessa Watt at her Shastri oath ceremony (photo by Shastri Jane Hope)


At our London Centre, we are delighted to welcome two new Shastris in their office(s), thereby strengthening and invigorating the Pillar of Practice and Education: Merlin COX and Tessa WATT. Their appointment auspiciously coincides with news of three new European Acharyas. A formal ceremony during the Harvest of Peace celebrations, led by Acharya David Hope, marked the commencement of our Shastris’ first three-year term.



Merlin Cox first came across the writings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1977 and then encountered him in person during his 1981 teachings in London. He attended the 1988 Vajradhatu Seminary led by the Vajra Regent and is now a student of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. He served in various roles in the Dorje Kasung (currently holding the rank of Khenchen) and the administration at the London Shambhala Centre, including a seven year period as director.  A software engineer, he worked for Amnesty International for 15 years, and is now self-employed, living in London with his wife, adult son, and guinea pig.


In conversation with our newsletter editor, Shastri Cox stated that he is “looking forward to teacher gatherings, MI gatherings, […]. I also hope we can have Practice & Education meetings in some format or other.” Another sphere of action would be Merlin’s role as regional Ritual and Form representative, having attended both the inaugural and second International Shambhala Ritual Academies in Boulder (in 2013 and 2016, respectively) with the Sakyong, and now as member of the newly formed Umdze (chant leader and time keeper) Corps. He has just returned from Lviv/Ukraine, where he supported Rinpoche’s teaching tour, as event commander for the Dorje Kasung.


Tessa Watt has been a member since 1992 and a teacher since 2012.  She was Director of the Awake in the World festival (2013) celebrating 50 years since Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s arrival in the West. Tessa teaches mindfulness in the UK’s Houses of Parliament and a range of other workplaces. She was a leader of the Mindful Nation UK report (2015) launched by the All-party Parliamentary Group for Mindfulness.  She is an Associate of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, and co-founder of Being Mindful  which runs MBSR courses for the public.

Tessa is author of Introducing Mindfulness (2012) and Mindful London (2014). In her earlier career she was a BBC Radio Producer, making documentary features around the globe. Tessa has a PhD in History from Cambridge and an MA in Traditions of Yoga and Meditation from SOAS, University of London where she also lectures.

Tessa lives in Balham with two university-aged daughters (coming and going), husband Richard, and cat Jinx.







Paul Gerstmayr looks after the newsletter and blog of the London Centre, and supports Council in terms of Membership. He studies and teaches Sanskrit, Pali, and Yoga.






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