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Introducing Acharya Alfonso Taboada

Acharya Eric Spiegel gives the oath to Acharya Alfonso Taboada

Born in Madrid in 1962, Acharya Alfonso Taboada studied mathematic sciences. He was appointed this past summer by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche as Europe’s newest acharya. He has a family and currently works as a math teacher in two American universities in Madrid. In October, Acharya Eric Spiegel traveled to Madrid to conduct Acharya Taboada’s oath ceremony. In honor of this, an interview was recently conducted by Begoña Martínez Izeta for the purpose of introducing our community to this new acharya.

How did you discover the Shambhala teachings?

In the last year of my studies I met a woman from the San Francisco sangha that was studying in Madrid. She gave me Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, and that was how I got to know Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and his teachings. When I finished my studies, I went to visit my friend in San Francisco, and I stayed for two years. I attended Shambhala Training Levels 1 through 4, one dathun, a three week solo retreat and I accomplished the three month Seminary. Previously, I had practiced Zen, but it did not turn out to be difficult for me to connect with the Shambhala Teachings.

Can you tell us something about the beginning of Shambhala, here in Madrid? What inspired you to open up this space here?

Once I came back from the states, I placed a small shrine in my house and went to the Kagyu Center in Madrid for practice. A few people that used to attend there were interested in Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings and so they started coming to my house to practice meditation and share the teachings. At the time I was translating a book by the Vajra Regent, Ozel Tendzin: Buddha in the Palm of Your Hand. I traveled to London, Paris and Amsterdam for Shambhala programs, and on one of those journeys I met Julia Sagebien and invited her to teach the first Level 1 in Spain. We had everything we needed: the teacher, myself as a meditation instructor, a friend that manufactured the cushions, the banner my mother sewed, as well as the presence of Marion Lompa, the coordinator of Shambhala Training in Europe at that time. That first Level 1 was a success and was attended by 16 participants. From that program emerged a small group that started coming to my house every week to practice meditation. As the Sakyong says, planting buddhism in a different culture is like planting a flower in a rock, and it takes time to grow.

What do you think about the evolution that has taken place in our sangha through all these years?

Madrid Shambhala community gathers for Acharya Alfonso Taboada's oath

In the last 12 years, our center has become much more stable. We have more teachers, meditation instructors and kasung. At the same time, there is the feeling that: “since we have a nice center and have everything we need, we therefore don´t have to do that much.” That obstacle has slowed down our growth. There are thousands of people that could gain benefit from these teachings, and we can therefore always do a little bit more. As we explored in the celebration of the Shambhala Lineage Festival, we need to deepen what we are – our basic goodness – and live as a society that is already awakened. When we make contact with our kindness, with our basic goodness, we radiate this and people feel attracted to it.

What does it mean to you to be an acharya?

It means many things! I remember when the Sakyong came to Spain years ago and said that now we were on the map. Right now, not only are we on the map but we have an acharya as well! (Laughs) It is an honor, and at the same time a big responsibility. It involves a much stronger commitment towards my practice and study. This is a task that I am going to build upon little by little. I have to combine my work as a teacher with my family and my practice and study. I have to go slow but without stopping to see how can I become an acharya with all that it means.

Your appointment as an acharya came quite quickly because you were a shastri for only a year. Were you surprised by the appointment?

More than anyone else! (Laughs) Last summer while participating in the Scorpion Seal Assembly, I happened to be taking a walk with Acharya Lobel when he told me: “By the way, the Sakyong would like to talk to you about appointing you as an acharya.” Fortuitously, I was attending the kusung training at the time, making it possible for me to see the Sakyong at any time. After my interview with the Sakyong, he said: “I think I already saw you this afternoon.” I agreed with him, telling him that I was wearing multiple hats, which helped me not to think at all about what was going on. The Sakyong burst out laughing!

What projects are you focused on as an acharya for the next few years?

My work has to with the establishment of the Way of Shambhala in Madrid. The idea is to make it possible for all people to have access to these teachings. I think it is a very powerful program because it creates the sense of sangha from the very beginning. It also allows people to focus on the meaning of meditation in their lives and the importance of practicing every day. Apart from that, I must look to the needs of the sangha. Eventually there will be vows that must be given and the other kind of things that acharyas have to do. (Laughs) Of course I have the responsibility for the rest of the groups in Spain as well, looking to satisfy their needs. Since my mother-tongue is Spanish, I am also concerned with whatever happens in South America. It is good to maintain a link with them for everything related with translations, and I want them to know that I am here if they need me, and I can be there for them. It is very good that Acharya Fleet Maull also speaks Spanish.

Would you like to add anything else?

Yes, I would like to say that I feel very close to the Sakyong. I think that through all these years we have established a relationship of affection and I think that this is very good. I can feel his love and his concern towards myself and towards everybody and it is something that we can feel in a very intimate way. I think that if we can feel that, we can make things possible with others and therefore create bonds of affection and friendship. Kindness and goodness are what will make Shambhala stronger. We need heart in everything we do.

To view Spain’s Shambhala website, please visit: www.shambhala.es. The website of the Shambhala Center of Madrid can be viewed here: www.madrid.shambhala.es.

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Begoña Martínez was born in a small village in the north of Spain, but grew up in Madrid. She studied psychology and works now as a psychotherapist in a center for people with addiction problems. The first time she met Shambhala was in 1999. Right now she is a teacher of levels two and three in the Way of Shambhala and also teaches local buddhist programs. As much as possible, B is working with three other teachers to help Acharya Alfonso Taboada to implant the Way of Shambhala in Madrid.

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1 response to “ Introducing Acharya Alfonso Taboada ”
  1. Sandra Harper
    Dec 19, 2011
    Reply

    Your devotion, taking on a large responsibility, is inspiring. I appreciated the opportunity to read this interview. Congratulations and Thank You from a fellow warrior.


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