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Mar 02
Community Articles, World, other
Acharya Simon Luna and the Santiago Gong

Director Magali Meneses leads the procession

This article was a collaborative effort of Magali Meneses, Clarke Warren, Veronica Guzman, Marvin Ross and Marc Matheson.

The late Acharya Simon Luna, who passed away in 2007, had a connection to Naropa University and to the Shambhala community of Latin America. Clarke Warren, a Naropa colleague of Simon, and Marvin Ross, a recent visitor to South America, offer these remembrances.

All photos by MarvinRossPhotography.com

Clarke Warren recalls…

How the gong from Kathmandu, Nepal made its way to Santiago, Chile is due to what you might call subsequent circumstances, or more poignantly, a matter of sad coincidence because of Simon’s death, my remembering an old request never fulfilled, and then making the connection with the gong that Simon and I purchased together many years before.

In 1994, during my first year as Director of Naropa University’s Study Abroad Program in Nepal, Simon Luna – accompanied by his then-girlfriend Stacy – joined our staff as meditation teacher, bursar and Assistant Director. Simon and I were both students of the Vidyadhara Trungpa Rinpoche, and had known each other as friends for some years. Simon was in Nepal for just that semester, through the fall of 1994.

The gong enters the shrine room, preceded by incense

The gong enters the shrine room, preceded by incense

At that time we needed a gong for the daily meditations and for use by visiting teachers. Simon initially bought a gong on his own for the program. When he brought that first gong back to our program house, he rang it for me; its tone was terrible! I said to Simon, “This gong is terrible! Let’s go exchange it.” Simon was initially a bit defensive, but after a few more gongs, he agreed.

So we went together back to downtown Kathmandu, to the shop where he purchased it and then to their big warehouse where we hunted gongs for quite a while. We launched into stacked piles of gongs in a large dark and dusty room, testing one after another until our ears were also ringing. A lot of gongs!

Finally, we found one with a beautiful and pleasing yet commanding, strong tone and exchanged it (having to add a few hundred more ruppees.) When we first rang the gong for its maiden voyage at morning meditation, I believe both Simon and I felt a sense of smiling, meditative satisfaction. It was a happy ending to a minor episode of the mishap lineage!

This gong has since been used for meditations and chanting every morning at the Naropa Study Abroad Program, first in Nepal and, from 2002 – when Kathmandu became too dangerous – at our new location in Sikkim. The gong was also used to announce the arrival and departure of many teachers over the years, as well as the beginning and ending of many teachings.

At the shrine

At the shrine

In summer 1999, while on a visit to Chile – during the southern hemisphere’s winter – I was asked by Veronica Guzman if I could obtain a nice gong for the Santiago Shambhala Center. The request came, of course, years before Simon was sent there as a resident teacher. But I was never able to find time in Nepal to purchase and ship a gong to America and then deliver it to Chile.

When the Naropa Study Abroad Program in Nepal and Sikkim was sadly terminated in 2007, I had to leave many things behind in Asia. But, remembering Veronica’s request, I shipped the gong to the USA. My thinking was that it would form a full circle to send the gong to Chile, where Simon had lived and served as resident acharya. And where it could continue to gong.

The gong remained with me until I was able to find someone to take it to Chile. And that person turned out to be Marv Ross, who recently carried it to Santiago.

Marv Ross reports…

Introductory remarks were shared

Introductory remarks were shared

In late 2008, I was going on a visit to South America to visit a friend, and was asked by Clarke to bring to Santiago the gong that Simon and he had purchased 14 years earlier. This is how I came to be present during its installation in the Santiago Shambhala Center’s shrine room.

It was a gloriously clear, warm day. Draped by a silk khata, the gong was ceremoniously carried into the shrine room down a phalanx of many friends and students of Acharya Luna. The gong was brought in to the umdze’s seat, and Santiago center director Maga Meneses sat down and struck the gong three times. The hall was filled with a rich, gorgeous sound, echoing the resonant, warm voice of Simon. We recited the chants and did some group practice, just as our dear friend had so many times taught us.

Clarke also composed this poem to accompany the gong…

The gong echoes from the Himalayas the the Andes

The gong echoes from the Himalayas to the Andes

For Simon and the Sangha of Chile

So definite, like the striking of a gong,
or the rising of the sun,
friends and teachers adorn life, are the very vividness of life,
and then fall away and fade, as all things must,
a receding tone of impermanence,
letting go into space,
drawing awareness into its expanse.
Yet the resonance of that Goodness continues
as the striking beat of one’s own heart,
which lives on to love in each moment
all that enriches life, all those who have enriched life,
always calling one to be awake.
Once a friend, always a friend.

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