Deer Park, Part Two
Contemplating the U.S. presidential race and Shambhala; part two of a two-part series
by Acharya Daniel Hessey
The technologies designed to make our lives more comfortable also distance us from ourselves, from our communities, and from the very Earth which is our home. As people chase comfort and security through materialism, they increasingly lose touch with the sacred: the seasons, the plants and animals, and the magic of the unseen world. Ironically, the unimaginable wealth and power of this new world of technology is increasingly being held by the few, and ordinary people are realizing that they are being subjugated by materialism rather than benefitting from it:
Living as I do, in the dark age,÷
I am calling upon you because I am trapped ÷
In this prison, without refuge or protector. ÷
The age of the three poisons has dawned ÷
And the three lords of materialism have seized power. ÷
This is the time of hell on earth; ÷
Sadness is always with us ÷
And unceasing depression fills our minds. ÷
Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, The Sadhana of Mahamudra
People everywhere, no matter what their political views are, feel profoundly disconcerted by these radical unprecedented changes in human society. We all feel the revolutionary transformations — climatic, economic, political, and cultural — that loom on the horizon of our lives.
These seismic shifts in culture and environment manifest as a profound sense of anxiety in all of us, as we realize the things we had relied on are no longer true, and that the irresistible current of change on the largest scale threatens all that we treasure. All of us share the experience of cultural groundlessness, no matter how we identify its causes, or whom we may blame.
For millennia, spiritual traditions served society by binding human culture to natural ecology and the sacred, warning of the fear, poverty, and aggression that would come when society decoupled from the sacred. In the last hundred years those sacred traditions have largely been regarded as quaint superstitions, or have been re-engineered into dogma to manipulate and dominate people.
Now the world of fear has come to the door of the deer park. The felled buck sacrificed at the gate of Shambhala Mountain Center calls us to understand more deeply the role of Shambhala in this world.
We are in a time when virtue — kindness, gentleness and exchanging self with other — is widely regarded as naïve. The momentum of blame and objectifying others as the source of the things that scare us has never been stronger. And yet as we blame others, they blame us as well, and so the culture of aggression grows stronger.
Shambhala is the culture of no mistake, of being “friendly to oneself and merciful to others,” no matter whether we agree with them or not.
“The Shambhala principle is a socially transformative process through which confusion about human nature becomes confidence in human worthiness.”
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
The Shambhala Principle: Discovering Humanity’s Hidden Treasure
The Sanskrit word yana means “vehicle” especially referring to a set of teachings that carries beings from confusion to wisdom. For four decades the Kalapayana of Shambhala has been like a magnificent horse that we, as children of the Dorje Dradül, have wondered at, studied, practiced and finally, with the advent of the Scorpion Seal path, ridden.
We have done this largely within the precinct of the deer park, our familiar world. Now the world calls us to ride our windhorse into society, by gently and fearlessly proclaiming the basic goodness of individuals, each other, and society itself.
How do we do this? First, we need to look at our own fear without shame, and to train in the disciplines of warriorship, so we have the insight and strength to benefit others. Understood in this way, meditation is a profound form of social activism, because it provides the means to contact and develop confidence in our inherent goodness and courage, the courage free of aggression that we will rely on as we meet these challenges.
As we discover genuine confidence, we can enter the greater world as agents of goodness. As we do so, to our surprise, we discover that the glorious Windhorse, our unconditional confidence, carries us directly into our own lives — our days, our families, our community, our nation, and the world as a whole. How we meet these worlds and manifest warriorship will be different for each of us.
In our modern age, the traditional societies that supported the great wisdom traditions have been ravaged by the cancer of materialism, which devolves every relationship to a commodity, and recasts the natural world as a set of “natural resources” to be mined and exploited.
Today, our world needs a banner of courage and basic goodness around which people can rally, take heart, discover their inherent basic goodness, and learn to trust it. By following and delighting in the confidence which is primordially free, each of us can carry this banner as warriors who fearlessly care for others and never give up on anyone. This is our inspiration, to create an enlightened society to support the wisdom traditions that bind heaven and earth in a good human society.
As Shambhalians, it is our duty to unfurl this banner without fear or hesitation. The fallen deer in our driveway invites us to embark on the sacred journey that is without beginning or end.