The presence of Buddhism in North America in the early 1950s was largely the result of Asian immigration, although there was growing interest in Zen Buddhism among the so-called “Beat Generation.” For the first six years that Reoch and his parents attended the Toronto Buddhist Church they were the only non-Japanese there. They first took part in its Sunday services in 1954 after meeting its spiritual director the Rev. Takashi Tsuji.
The central practice of the Jodo Shinshu sect is reciting the “nembutsu”, calling on the name of Amida Buddha, the Buddha of Compassion. Few books on Buddhism were available in those years in local bookshops; the family ordered what they could from overseas, many from the Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka. After the death of his father in 1966 and prior to leaving Toronto for London, Reoch and his mother attended Soto Zen meditation courses at the Rochester Zen Centre, USA, and York University, Canada.
During his years of work for Amnesty International in Asia, he continued his private Buddhist practice without belonging to any organization. His work brought him into contact with the Tibetan community in exile and, while in India, he secured intervention by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on behalf of Buddhist monks imprisoned in the Republic of Viet Nam (South Viet Nam).
After 23 years of working for Amnesty International, he entered the training offered by the Shambhala community started in the West by Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. In 1994, Reoch received the Buddhist name Tashi Changchup, Auspicious Enlightenment, from the son and heir of Chögyam Trungpa: The Sakyong, Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche – revered as the rebirth of Mipham the Great, said to be a living embodiment of Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom.
Among the many short films he made for the Shambhala community, this multilingual presentation, “Countless points of light”, shows the global reach of the Shambhala teachings. It includes an illumination of the Shambhala emblem, The Great Eastern Sun, created from hundreds of lighted candles.
After attending a three-month Shambhala seminary in 1996, he received transmission into the practice of Vajrayana Buddhism, and was appointed Director and Chair of the Council of the London Shambhala Meditation Centre. From 1999 to 2001, he directed the planning of the Consecration of The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya at Shambhala Mountain Center in the Colorado Rockies, USA – an international gathering of 1,500 people at 6,000 feet in the mountains.
A year later, Reoch was appointed by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche to the position of President of the worldwide Shambhala organization, a position he held from 2002 until 2015, travelling worldwide to many of its more than 200 centres and groups, teaching and leading retreats. He now serves as the Personal Envoy of the Sakyong of Shambhala.
During his period as President of Shambhala, he toured with Buddhist Nun Ani Pema Chödrön, co-leading events on the theme “Practicing Peace in Times of War” and taught widely on the life and legacy of the Indian Emperor Ashoka, famed for renouncing war.
In May 2015, he was among a group of some 200 Buddhist leaders, from all different schools, who were invited to the White House in Washington DC for a meeting with key staff in the Obama administration. Delegates signed the Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change and later, a statement following the massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.