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Jun 12
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Sakyong Visits Atlanta

By Collette Frix

Only two humble old houses comprised the entire Atlanta Shambhala Center when Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche last visited in 2003. Our shrine room then could seat a mere 28 people. Six years later we have managed to construct a new building with a large shrine room as well as two satellite buildings, and we have acquired an adjacent residence for a rental/retreat house, which we call the Green Dragon.

But the Sakyong’s imminent arrival still required great diligent effort—refinishing wooden floors, landscaping, repairing the Green Dragon porch, painting and clean-up. Over 70 people, many who had never met the Sakyong, generously volunteered their help before and during the visit. The weeks of preparation by so many brought our community together as never before.

Welcoming the Sakyong

Once the Sakyong arrived, the ordinariness of his visit seemed most extraordinary. Even though we had not hosted the Sakyong in years, we were neither nervous nor on edge. His presence felt so normal. We followed our Shambhala forms, bowing and chanting without any sense of formality or stiffness. Instead, intimacy and open heartedness flowed back and forth: we welcomed the Sakyong, and he embraced us.

More than thirty of us lined the sidewalk in front of the Green Dragon to greet the Sakyong upon his arrival Wednesday evening. Light rain descended as purification; it hindered our cheerfulness not an iota. We sang the Guru Rinpoche mantra while we waited. The Sakyong arrived, waved hello to everyone and entered the Green Dragon to meet with center leaders. A rainbow appeared across the eastern sky as the sun hovered in the west.

Photo by Parlee Chambers

Lhasang and Community Talk

The next afternoon the Sakyong led the community in the Long Lhasang. We completed it with Jackie Muse leading the Shambhala Anthem and the Sakyong leading the warrior’s cry. The Sakyong then held an audience with Vajrayana students.

After dinner the Sakyong gave a community talk attended by two hundred members from Atlanta and the southeast. He said it was “heartwarming” to see the community and center in Atlanta. He recalled the “dream to turn Atlanta into a jewel, a garden to strengthen mind, to silence fear and hesitation and discover basic goodness. It was a challenging dream when it [the center] was mostly a parking lot.”

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s talk covered several themes:

  • the sponge-like, porous nature of our mind-being that enables us to focus on increasing positive thoughts and decreasing negative thoughts;
  • the importance of proving to ourselves that meditation works, thus providing motivation for continuing our practice;
  • the need for the support system that comes through community to further develop successful practice;
  • the importance of bringing compassion, mindfulness and peace into our vocations both individually and societally.

    Listen to the Sakyong’s Public Talk

    The Sakyong offered guidelines for daily practice, emphasizing quality not quantity, and shared some of his work in compassionate leadership. He also said he would like to have more leadership training here in Atlanta, touchingly adding, “If you’ll invite me back.”

  • Throughout the talk the Sakyong continued to share his sense of humor, alternating between insight and laughter. Before closing he led everyone in a short meditation session.

    At the conclusion of the talk Rinpoche consecrated our new building and blessed everyone. We chanted the four-line Shambhala Dedication of Merit as everyone eased through the blessing line. After the blessing Susan Ottzen played her harp while we enjoyed desserts on the lawn.

    Photo by Parlee Chambers

    Atlanta’s Unique Personality

    Before leaving Atlanta Friday morning, the Sakyong invited several center leaders to brunch, where he shared his thoughts about local centers in general and Atlanta in particular. The Sakyong stressed the importance of each local center developing its unique personality. He saw Atlanta as “outward facing,” a place for “peace work,” saying “inner peace brings outer peace.” This perspective continued a theme from his community talk on the importance of bringing our practice into our lives and into the larger society.

    The Sakyong proclaimed our center “Jewel Garden” and named each building on campus after a specific jewel. The main building is now “Turquoise Hall,” our advanced practice house is “Diamond Temple,” and our administrative building is “Sapphire House.” He said he would re-name Green Dragon once we cease rentals there.

    The Sakyong again stressed the importance of having well-trained teachers that can embody the teachings and manifest the skills to speak directly to different audiences. He suggested an Acharya become more available to us in Atlanta, given the small number of senior students in relation to our membership. He encouraged us to host a mandala-wide teacher training this winter.

    While residing at Green Dragon, the Sakyong wrote a new chant specifically for our center. We will be getting the text from his staff in the near future. He presented the center with a calligraphy of shiwa, meaning “peace,” which will be framed and hung in the community room.

    Blessings and Generosity

    Everyone in Atlanta feels incredibly blessed by the Sakyong’s warmth and generosity. The lineage teachings and practices on compassion, mindfulness, and peace are his gift—not just for us but for our society. While he was in Atlanta, the Sakyong seemed to be asking us to develop ways to make that gift more available.

    Collette Frix has been a member of the Shambhala Meditation Center of Atlanta since 1995. Having attended Vajrayana Seminary last summer, she is now a Shambhala Guide and serves as the treasurer of the Atlanta Shambhala Center while working as a controller for a local lighting company.

    Photo Credit: Parlee Chambers

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    2 responses to “ Sakyong Visits Atlanta ”
    1. Collette Frix
      Jul 3, 2009

      Parlee Chambers, our visit photographer, posted all the visit pics on her website. To view them go to http://studiochambers.com, then select Contact, then Client Area, then Shambhala. The password is SAKYONG.

    2. phyllis segura
      Jun 28, 2009

      Would love to see photos of the new Atlanta center.

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