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The Activity of a Shambhala Center

This article by Acharya Adam Lobel discusses the outer, inner, and secret aspects of a Shambhala Meditation Center and how each aspect works together.

Outer: 

"Magic" Miksang photo by Maxine Sidran

"Magic" Miksang photo by Maxine Sidran

Specifically, meditation practice is our most direct offering.  There is a demand for meditation instruction in our society.  The spirit of shamatha that the Sakyong has been presenting over the past years has been one of openness and clarity.  Openness refers to meeting people where they are.  If someone wants to calm down, feel stronger, or meditate for their health, that is fine.  We offer a simple practice for all human beings.  If someone is interested in Buddhadharma and wants eventually to become a tantric practitioner, we offer the complete path.  If someone is interested in Shambhala Training or the arts, we offer those profound teachings.  If someone has no interest in a spiritual path, they are welcome to come to the center, learn a meditation practice, and play a part in our community.  Clarity refers to being honest and precise about who we are and what kind of practice we offer.  We are Shambhala Buddhists, a community of people around the world who are interested in living a life based on basic goodness, compassion and meditation practice.  We offer a meditation practice that anyone, from any tradition, can learn.  We also hold authentic Buddhist and warrior lineages.

One of the main gateways into our community is a simple, one-day meditation program that introduces new students to shamatha practice.  This kind of program embodies the “outer” role of the Center in that it is flexible, yet clearly and authentically teaches meditation.  One motto for the Shambhala Center could be: “If you are interested in meditation practice, the Shambhala Center is the place to go.”  This should become part of the culture of the Americas, Europe and wherever the vision of Shambhala spreads.  We can trust that those people who want to pursue the depth of our training path will feel the spark of goodness in the way that we teach meditation.

Our centers are rare in how open and accessible they are.  New students can encounter everyday people with families and careers.  The teachings, community and forms that we embody are unique in the Buddhist world:  they are designed to support a society.  Our Centers can reflect such a vision.  We can help to create Shambhala Centers that reach out to the world with warmth and precision.  We can put effort into rethinking what forms and programs would most skillfully touch the hearts of the people in our world.  If we do so, our sangha will feel the joy of generosity.  This is Shambhala Vision.

Inner: 

On an inner level, the Shambhala Center is the home and gathering place of the sangha.  The center is where warriors gather to refresh their connection to the lineage, the teachings and the community.  It is where we gather as a Mahayana community and deepen our bodhisattva understanding.  It is where the Vajra sangha gathers to feast in the proper environment.  It is where we clarify the view.  The center offers a container; it is a settled and protected space in which to express the forms and practices that we have received.  In this sense, the Shambhala center keeps alive our unique lineage for a certain group of people living in a specific location.

On an inner level, the Shambhala Center must consider the students who are already part of the clan and the lineage.  Programs should not only focus on magnetizing new students, but should also offer an opportunity to deepen the training of older students.  In turn, older students should see the center as the place of practice and should be a constant presence of service.  It is important that new students feel that the center is a living community with many generations and levels of practitioners.  One specific way to achieve this is to have weekly gatherings where all center members come together.  This can also help to address new teachings coming from the Sakyong, answer questions and cut through gossip.  We must find ways to raise our windhorse and unify our vision.  The inner aspect of a Shambhala Center also includes nurturing the community and its individual members as practitioners and in times of need.  This involves community care and lays the ground to serve the greater world.

The forms and practices that make up the legacy of the Vidyadhara, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, must be clarified and kept alive.  We can be proud of who we are as Shambhala Buddhists.  This includes learning to choose what forms are shown to the public, and what forms are kept for an inner group of students.  Protector chants, lineage supplications, shrines, Dorje Kasung, iconography: all of these can be either a gateway to the teachings, or can be a way to close people off from the teachings.  If we include traditional forms in a public environment, then we must take responsibility for explaining them with skill.  At the same time, the center must be a place that does not hesitate in proclaiming and manifesting Shambhala culture.

Secret: 

The Shambhala Center is the manifestation of the Court of the Rigden and a microcosm of the entire mandala.  In every center, there is a seat for the Sakyong and symbols, texts and practices tht embody the entire Vajra Dharma.  On a secret level, the energy that is generated at Kalapa Court or in any part of the kingdom flows throughout all of the centers.  This is both a source of inspiration and a responsibility to uphold.  As Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche continues his efforts to strengthen our community, we can envision that each Shambhala Center is the kingdom on the spot.  If we have confidence in this, then we can create enlightened society.  We have centers around the world and more continue to form.  With a clear and joyous effort, each center can radiate the brilliance of the Court and express the profundity of the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages.

In summary :

On an Outer level, the activity of a Shambhala Center is dedicated to the benefit of all beings and reaches to our world.

On an Inner level, the activity of a Shambhala Center nurtures the warriors of the kingdom and deepens our practice.

On a Secret level, the activities of a Shambhala Center are the rays of the Great Eastern Sun in the midst of the Dark Age.

When we plan programs, organize our schedules, consider the various logistical and personal issues that arise in the center, it might help to consider these three levels.  All three need to interact in order to fulfill the potential of every Shambhala Center.  We can stop and ask: Are we skillfully relating to all three levels?  If there is any disharmony, it might come from missing one of these levels.  When all three work together, the Dharma will flourish and it will be obvious to all people who enter the space of Shambhala.

 

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4 responses to “ The Activity of a Shambhala Center ”
  1. Toronto’s center is cold and unwelcoming to new students.

  2. Hi,
    Adam wrote:
    > If someone has no interest in a spiritual path, they are welcome to come to the center, learn a meditation practice, and play a part in our community.

    Is this true? I would love to hear from a non-Buddhist about this. From the folks I talk to who go to Shambhala Centres, they are not given the choice to avoid Buddhist study.

  3. I just finished level five and slowly seem to be getting the sense of outer, inner and secret as our center is going restucturing. Wondering how could the rays of the Great Eastern Sun remain secret except may be at the energetic level…


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