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Feb 11
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Training the Greatest Gift
2010 graduates of the Mukpo Institute. The author, Luc Jacobs, is on the far right.

2010 graduates of the Mukpo Institute. The author, Luc Jacobs, is on the far right.

Luc Jacobs describes his experience at the Mukpo Institute, engaging training, study, and meditation to discover that becoming who you already are is a gift to everyone.

Mukpo Institute has been in existence for several years now, but somehow it has not attracted that many students, which really surprised me initially. But then I felt glad, since I got to know my fellow students on a level that might have not been possible with a bigger number of people, and a very special and intimate bond was created between all of us.

It is not an easy task to describe what happens at Mukpo Institute, but I think my friend Johann (my fellow Mukpo brother) summed it up pretty well, by saying that we get to meet the high’s and low’s of our mind at close range. I think he forgot to mention the middle range as well, but that goes pretty much without saying.

Myself, I went for the two semesters — one in fall, and one in spring — and they were quite different for me. The first semester, I had expectations that I would get a decent head start towards enlightenment, ample supplies of bliss, laser-like abilities to make clean-cut decisions about the most important aspects of my life, and perhaps get involved in a wild and romantic love affair whilst I am at it… Not bad as an agenda, I thought.

Well, none of that happened (well, most of it, at least not at first), and I did not understand why. The teachers were truly exceptional, the container as they call it, was as good as it gets. I went to all the meditation sessions, paid attention in class, really tried to behave like a professional Buddhist, I think some people even bought it. I was a little disappointed with myself when I left there in December, thinking that perhaps I should have studied more, turned up the volume on my meditation sessions a bit higher, prepared myself more in advance. Nevertheless I knew somehow that I wanted to go back.

I noticed that I kept running into so many paradoxes, in the sense that Buddhism is very simple but at the same time very complicated. Like meditation, very simple but hard to do. I think back now to what Allison (another fellow Mukpo sister) said at some point in that she saw the students “become more themselves.” Yes, and now you might be thinking “what I was thinking? All that training, all that study, all that meditation, just to become what you already are?”

But to just be what you are, nothing less, nothing more, all the time, in any place, is no common feature. To basically train in what is natural, innate, fundamentally awake, does sound pretty dichotomous, right? In my experience it seemed that some of the techniques we trained in were at the same time descriptions of mind being awake, as if neurotic mind was asked to behave like awakened mind. I might say the whole environment is created in that way, so the main thing seems to be to show up, and immerse yourself in the place and its discipline.

Now, half a year later, in looking back, I find my time there becoming and more precious, and what I experienced there, and whom I shared it with will never come back. I have not managed to stay in touch with most people I met, but I feel they are so close to my heart. I can say that the time I have spent there, is really haunting me in the positive sense. Obviously spiritual work is no small task, and there is no quick fix involved, but the Shambhala Buddhist path I have been introduced to is absolutely worth it. It is a path worth treading, regardless of anything… and that seems to be the main point for me.

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1 response to “ Training the Greatest Gift ”
  1. Kevin Winters
    Feb 16, 2011

    I very much sympathize with the strong habitual desire to “be a good Buddhist”. I imagine it is amplified in that kind of setting, like it was when I did my first weekthun in November. Keep up the good work of being ordinary.

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