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Apr 05
Community Articles
Bringing Court into our Lives
The Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo with Jetsun Drukmo at the Court in Halifax

The Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo with Jetsun Drukmo at the Court in Boulder

By Amy Conway

When describing the experience of Kalapa Court, the home of the Sakyong and the Sakyong Wangmo, it’s easiest to start by describing the environment. The court is an elegant, beautiful place filled with nice furniture, rich textiles, rugs, and impeccable pieces of art. All is clean and orderly. The towels are folded neatly and placed evenly on the shelves. The laundry is sorted precisely with clothing, sheets and towels going in different bins. Each kitchen cupboard has a clear purpose. The stovetop is cleaned after a meal is cooked. Clothing is hung in the closet to reflect the way it lays on the body – shirts on top, pants on bottom, and shoes beneath everything else. Fresh shrine offerings are made and offered daily.

This household discipline allows the court to support the activities and well-being of the enlightened ruler, the Sakyong, so that he can help the world. Order in the home also creates a system of sorts that allows members of the Shambhala community to step in and easily be of service in the household.

However, the experience of court is more profound than its outer manifestation as a beautiful and well organized physical environment. As the Sakyong said on Shambhala Day, “Don’t let this throne fool you.” Likewise, to only define the court as a beautiful piece of real estate that houses the king of Shambhala would be to miss the profundity of court as a living dharma teaching that we can all experience – either at the court itself or through court principles that appear throughout the Shambhala community.

In addition to being the home of the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo, the court is a training ground for Shambhala warriors. The intention of the place is clearly to wake us up and expose us to our inherent sanity. Sometimes when we first encounter the court, it looks like the Sakyong requires many people serving him. But before long, we may sense that actually the Sakyong is serving us by opening his home to the Shambhala sangha and welcoming us into a place where we can see our mind and habitual patterns very clearly. It is a totally generous and compassionate situation that he and the Sakyong Wangmo allow so many people into their home.

By participating in the path of Kasungship or household service at the court, our minds and hearts are trained. We learn how to work with our body, speech, mind, and the phenomenal world. Experiences at court are pervaded by a heightened sense of awareness. No activity at court is excluded from this wakefulness. Even a mundane task such as serving a glass of water or cleaning a toilet becomes not just work, but a process that shows our state of mind.

While cleaning the toilet bowl, we may feel a surprising sense of vigor and caring for the job at hand. When ironing a shirt, we may feel challenged, even scared about whether we are doing it well. Sitting as the lone Kasung guard on a post outside of a dinner party, we may feel tremendous longing to be inside as a dinner guest. Or we might be grateful for being outside! Whatever our state of mind, we see it clearly. And this clarity is an extraordinary gift that the court gives us.

This heightened awareness is exacerbated by the sense that we really have no idea what will happen next when we are at the court. There are always plans for the day and how things are supposed to go. But more often than not, those plans change – sometimes abruptly – and we are left in space scrambling to fulfill whatever request the enlightened ruler has put forth or whatever our job was supposed to be. Our old expectations cease to be relevant to a new reality. We surrender our own agenda. We are forced to open to now instead of our idea of what now should be like. We start learning to “be” with whatever is arising however unexpected.

Another lesson we learn at the court is how to create hospitable environments of sanity that allow others to relax. No matter why we are there, we are welcomed in. As we live through this openness and accommodation from others and in the environment, we begin to learn how to create the same sweet situation for ourselves and others both in the court and beyond. We become the welcoming party. We realize that welcoming is not confined to the court! We may find ourselves cleaning up our homes, serving tea to our co-workers, making our bed, and letting others in front of us in traffic. By serving the Sakyong, his family, or our fellow sangha, we find we are learning to be present and serve other sentient beings.

Being in the court cuts through our habitual way of relating to time and space. Time does not feel the same there as it does when we are at home or work. Why? Perhaps it has something to do with the incredible lungta, openness, and caring that is exuding from the Sakyong and his family. Perhaps it has to do with being close to a being who is not limited by time, space, or other constraints that our minds create. And most definitely it is because the court is a dwelling that attracts enlightened energies, drala, to gather and help fulfill the Shambhala vision.

The large majority of the Shambhala community may never visit the courts in Halifax or Boulder. It is very important to realize that the court experience is not totally dependent on visiting the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo’s home. The experience of court can become a part of our lives no matter where we are. For most of us, the strongest experience of court occurs in a Shambhala Center and even more specifically in the context of a Shambhala Training weekend. Shambhala Training levels are executed with hospitality, caring, wakefulness, precision, and always at least a little unpredictability! Just like at court, many people help create an environment where goodness can be felt. Ultimately, the court of the enlightened ruler is available to all of us because it is a sane place that starts in our heart, becomes more apparent through our meditation practice, and then manifests in our lives, in our environment, and working with others.

Whether we encounter court as the Sakyong’s home or as a Shambhala Training weekend, it is a very unique occurrence in this world. Just by being there, we feel part of a royal family. We feel we are at home. We learn what it feels like to be accepted and loved even if we have never even seen or exchanged a word with the Sakyong. Court is certainly a magical element in the Shambhala Kingdom. Contacting goodness through everything (even the toilet bowl!) is how we establish Shambhala society on earth. By deepening our understanding and incorporating court principles into our lives, this delightful society will come to fruition.

In honor of the invitation to contribute to the Kalapa Court in Halifax this month two sangha members, Amy Conway and Jeff Grow, offer us some stories of their experience of court. We would like to invite people of all generations to submit their own stories of Court. Please feel free to share yours in the comment section below or e-mail them to Lodro Rinzler at [email protected]

Photo by Marv Ross.

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4 responses to “ Bringing Court into our Lives ”
  1. Amy Conway
    May 5, 2011

    Yes Sabine. Feel free to share!

  2. Very nice article, Amy. I will make good use of it!

  3. Phil Castillo
    Apr 9, 2011

    This is a beautiful article Ms. Conway, thank you! I will be sharing it with San Antonio’s coordinator group on the Shambhala Network :)

  4. Sabine Rolf
    Apr 7, 2011

    Thank you, Amy!
    I find this article a wonderfully clear and helpful offering.
    With your permission I will try to alert some of our translators to it – so that it may find its way into the different languages and outposts of our mandala in Europe.

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