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Sakyong Offers Shambhala Day Address, 2012

Sakyong Mipham on Shambhala Day 2012, photo by Breton Hoagland

Shambhala Times is delighted to offer the full transcript from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s Shambhala Day address given on Wednesday, February 22nd in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

I’d like to begin with a New Year’s bow. Those of us here in Halifax, in the capital, and those of you who are joining us, please take a moment and begin this year first by bringing to mind what is important to you. This is called holding — the first part of the bow. It is a moment of self-reflection. The beginning of the year is a wonderful time to take this opportunity. As we bow our heads, this is called feeling. It is the quality of connecting with our humanness. The end of the bow is called releasing, which is giving. So let’s begin this way. Holding, feeling, and giving. [Everyone bows] Good. That was excellent. I hope all of you enjoyed seeing the top of my head.

I would like to wish everyone a cheerful Shambhala Day and a wonderful year. I would like to begin by reflecting, because I feel like this is a very important year. Last Shambhala Day, I addressed the community at the conclusion of my one-year retreat. I expressed to everyone how one of my major contemplations and themes was reflecting on the life and the teachings of the Vidyadhara, the Dorje Dradul—in particular, the theme he so strongly presented, basic goodness. For myself, I came to that crossroads where I felt it was important to reflect on this theme.

Even though basic goodness has been a prevalent theme throughout the history of our community and our teachings as a whole, that particular moment, which I expressed and shared last year on Shambhala Day, was really a culmination for me.

This crossroads is something that we all share, in that we have to feel and believe in this notion of goodness. When I talked about it on Shambhala Day, and consequently through all the programs last year, there was a lot of synchronicity and connection. What struck us all is that basic goodness is not just a personal experience, it is also a social experience. So I think last year was really about proclaiming basic goodness. This year is about becoming basic goodness.

I don’t know how you feel about last year, but since I’m talking, I’ll tell you how I feel. In some ways, in the last year we have become Shambhala. We have come to terms with knowing who we are. It is a beginning. What is most important this year is for that beginning to continue. The theme now is that we are on a path that we have begun. Even though there are many things to do, there is something that we have set in motion — that our community has set in motion. [Jetsun Drukmo calls for her mother “Ama!”] [Laughs; laughter] That’s how we all feel. [Laughs; laughter]

So we have set something in motion. Are we going to follow through? What I want to express this year is that what we have begun is not just the social transformation of our own selves and our own community. Rather, the reason that the Dorje Dradul taught Shambhala, the reason that he moved to Nova Scotia, the reason that he took on the name Dorje Dradul, and the reason that he empowered me to be the Sakyong is that at the heart of the Shambhala teachings lies the possibility of social transformation. How that occurs is something that we have to experience personally, and it is something that we have to work on.

As I said before, the only problem with Shambhala is that there is no small version. It’s not just about me; it is about humanity. It’s about how to interface with every living being. It is how to bring this culture of basic goodness into our everyday life. Many of us feel the stress of our own work, our own life, and the pressure of the global situation. What we are being asked to do is reflect on what is most important. What the Shambhala teachings are really saying, and what is prevalent now, is that this notion of human nature is the most important global issue. What we do to our planet, what we do to ourselves, how we relate to our own minds, how we make decisions, and how we relate to the world is all coming from this notion of basic goodness. It is up to us.

For myself, even with years of looking at the notion of basic goodness and trying to understand it, I believe that we are just scratching the surface. In this light, in relation to basic goodness, you could say, “A little goes a long way.” The potency of self-reflection — once we begin to feel how we feel — begins to have a dynamic effect.

What we are challenged by is the world. What we are challenged by is the total environment, which is constantly trying to put us to sleep. We are creating an environment where the notion of human possibility is being challenged. When we reflect on basic goodness, we are actually reflecting on the nature of society — the nature of our interaction with others. Even though many of us came to the dharma with a sense of simple personal purpose, we all have a direct relationship with this seed of goodness.

Since this last year, a lot of people are very excited about how our community can go out and do things. Many of you are already going out and doing things, and there’s a point I’d like to make about that. We are doing things as a community. I believe right now, to use an analogy, we are like a growing tree: the roots have to go down and the shoots have to go up. In many communities that are socially engaged, there are sometimes internal conflicts or aggression. So how do we engage in this socially and personally?

The essence of the Shambhala teachings is a nonaggressive culture. How do we actually engage in a nonaggressive culture? I know everyone feels challenged by that, even in the day-to-day experience. When we talk about the notion of nonaggression, we are not just talking about pacifism. From the Shambhala point of view, nonaggression means that there is some kind of internal peace. As we’ve said before, the notion of basic goodness is the feeling of self-worthiness. Millions of people feeling anxiety about who and what they are creates a tremendously unaccommodating environment. We can address this by meditating, which can ease it. But meditation won’t address it totally. We have to know how to go further.

In terms of how he came to this particular vision, the Dorje Dradul said that whether you look at the great tradition of Tibet, of India, or at the great traditions and all the great minds of the West, it all comes back to the notion of how to be good. What is the notion of good? Energetically, we call it lungta. Environmentally, we call it drala. As we enter this New Year, the whole point of starting fresh is so that the opposite of drala does not occur. The opposite of drala is that we are suppressed by what we call döns, or obstacles: somehow we feel like we are unable to fulfill or succeed.

Really, Shambhala at the heart is an optimistic outlook. So cheer up!

We are getting our daughter to sometimes smile when she is getting her photograph taken. The way she smiles is like this [the Sakyong demonstrates Jetsun Drukmo forcing a smile for the camera] [laughter]. And then “Am I done?” [laughs; laughter]. Then she goes away and really smiles. The quality of watching her and watching — as we can hear in this room — the children, the generations we are raising in this culture, reminds us of how important it is to constantly start fresh. Can we create a culture that has this possibility of innate strength? Of course it is possible. The human mind is so powerful that we create every environment that we walk into. And we live in that environment constantly, whether we self-generate it, or whether it is communally generated.

As Shambhalians, we are being challenged — from both an Eastern and Western point of view — to take a fresh look at human nature and see what road we are walking down. What we should be doing, and what the community is trying to demonstrate, is difficult and challenging. So I would like to ask everybody personally to take some time to reflect on current value systems that we have either been brought into or have adopted ourselves. If we are going to make a shift, we must decide at some point what our value system will be.

Again, as I have mentioned, this is no longer about myself. It is about you, and it is about all of us. Even though there should be more activities that we do in the centers, as a community we need to show — as I believe that we are — a culture that is daring enough to try to live by these principles. We are not just relegating kindness and wakefulness to the weekend. But how do we bring it into the rest of our lives? This is something that I hope we can be doing this coming year.

I have done my part, in that I have composed the Shambhala Sadhana, which is going to be practiced by the community for the first time very soon. This sadhana is a way to experience basic goodness as a community. As much as we talk about basic goodness, we do not actually have a practice that is dedicated to it.

So this year is very much a year of creating that culture of basic goodness. From the practice point of view, the sadhana will be available. From the study point of view, I have had the opportunity to write a short treatise on enlightened society, which I encourage you to read. Even though I did not have much time, I was able to write something else — a text on Shambhala meditation — which I would like to present at the programs that I will be teaching this year — both the advanced programs and the beginning programs. This is about how we, as Shambhalians, embody basic goodness. It is meditation based upon the tradition of Shambhala. So for now, I’ll keep you in suspense. If you can be kept in suspense about meditation at all, this might do it. So I welcome all of you to participate in that, which I’ll be presenting.

If we can connect personally and socially to this very potent and dynamic principle, like ripples in the pond, all kinds of activities will come about. This year, as we celebrate and commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Vidyadhara’s passing, we reflect on his bravery and his legacy. It only has been twenty-five years since he passed away, but it has been almost fifty years since he arrived in the West. Due to the hard work of senior students and all generations, we are really laying the foundation. Not only personally, but symbolically, I feel that we have been pushing a very large rock up a very steep hill. It is hard to push, but at a certain point it has momentum and begins to roll. We are at that point. Over this next period of time, we have to keep working at it.

In that light, I would like to ask all of you — whatever your level of practice and connection — to participate. It’s important to step up now, with new generations occurring. You — the younger generation— especially need to step up. You need to take on more responsibility as we go forward. So, I’m done with pushing. And even though I have to pull sometimes, what I would like to do is relax. That’s not going to happen. [Laughs; laughter] There is no vacation from the setting sun. We have to find power and we have to find strength.

Last year we talked about making the impossible possible. Now we have to see the possibility for personal transformation. We have to believe in our own community. Our community has to be a beacon in all the aspects of our activity. I think this is possible; what has occurred is already fantastic. But it will come down to us, ladies and gentlemen — all of us — participating. So I would like to encourage you to engage in conversation and dialogue about what exactly we are talking about, at a personal level and at a community level. Do we have something? Is what we have dynamic? Can we be that community that is daring enough to take that leap? Or will we be a community that had something, but didn’t know what it was? Will we just fade away? Or will something happen, where unbeknownst, it began to gather? I think that is where we are.

I know this is challenging for everyone. Some of us have been at this for a long time. Some of us have engaged just recently. But that does not matter. Time does not effect what we are talking about. Really, we are talking about things on a cosmic level. Who we are is at a cosmic level. Being human is at a cosmic level. The decisions we make on very simple things begin to have a ripple effect — not just on how we feel about ourselves but on how we treat others. The challenge is that we are very diverse. Can we bring out this human thread of basic goodness? Can we begin to connect at that level?

For the Dorje Dradul, the Vidyadhara, English was his second language. He was trying his best to communicate. He thought he did a good job when he came up with “basic goodness.” We need to be able to go beyond the simple seeming preconceptions of those words, and reflect on what powerful and dynamic thing he was referring to. If we do not do that, but immediately jump into social action, we will burn out and have difficulty finding harmony. This is a fundamental step that some communities and groups are either unable to do or do not want to do. We may feel desperate to take action, but we have to go through this process. You cannot speed up the growth process. There has to be some maturation. As a leader, it is my job to keep you all going. At the same time, for practitioners and human beings, this is an organic process. We, as a community have to go through this organic process.

The Vidyadhara said that the notion of enlightened society had occurred throughout history in different ways — there were bits and pieces. He was attempting to make it more whole. I think that we have that possibility. We can go deep in terms of the profound teachings of sacred texts, and we can get lost in metaphysical analysis of reality, but in any system, being enlightened society is the actual sign. So we have talked about it, and we will talk more about it. But now we need to figure out different ways of communally experiencing and harnessing this energy. Our daydreams and fantasies need to become daydreams and fantasies about basic goodness and what is possible. Otherwise our mental space and heart will only be taken up more and more by depressing and isolating themes. So, as a community, can we demonstrate this notion of strength and openness? It has to be beyond words. It has to be experiential.

Research now is showing that negative thought processes create an acidic environment in the body. It is showing that meditation helps create a more holistic environment. So there is a convergence of science and spirituality that will begin to reflect on how we live.

Shambhala is really about living and culture. As Shambhalians, we need to understand society. We need to become experts on society, on its complexity. While we are always participating in the creation of a society, much of the time we are unaware of what is happening. We have to ponder the underlying themes and principles that are at play and look at what kind of society we are creating.

Shambhala Day is the awake day. We certainly got up early with our little one waking us up — and we are still awake. I am happy and awake for you. This year please participate in this communal exploration. As a community, we need it as a binding principle. It needs to be deeper. We need to go from just saying it to feeling it, and let it touch our heart. Even our attempting for that to happen is going to automatically send a message.

So at this point, I would like to ask the Sakyong Wangmo to address us on this good day.

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Please click here to read the Sakyong Wangmo’s Shambhala Day address.

Following the Sakyong Wangmo’s address, Sakyong Mipham offered a guided meditation to everyone. Please click here to read that transcript.

To watch the Iron Hare year in review video, please click here.

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