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Mar 09
Sakyong and Family
Sakyong Teaches 1,200 in San Francisco

Under the French Gothic arches of San Francisco's Grace Cathedral Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche presents the Shambhala view of basic goodness. The cathedral's famous labyrinth is visible in the aisle.

article by Stephen Schurkey (with a little help from his friends)
photographs by Andrea Roth

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche made a historic visit to Northern California this past weekend to teach the Rigden program to a gathering of 400 people who came from all over the mandala to hear his teaching.

His talk on Friday night was a public address to a standing-room-only crowd of 1,200 people at the majestic Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, where Bishop Marc Andrus warmly welcomed the Sakyong and gave an introduction to his work. Both the Bishop and the Sakyong reflected on his father, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and the deep challenges he faced in bringing the message of Shambhala to the west after Tibet’s takeover by China. “This is bravery,” the Sakyong observed. “It was his decision that life was worth living.”

For over an hour and a half, the Sakyong spoke eloquently about that “sense of bravery and self-reflection that everybody shares,” and the nature of our collective work towards creating a global mood where basic goodness is acknowledged as inherent in human nature.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche speaks on Creating Enlightened Society to over 1000 people at Grace Cathedral

He described the importance of meditation, and wryly noted, “My new book, Running with the Mind of Meditation, is not to be confused with meditation while the mind is running!”. In encouraging us to practice in the face of obstacles, he observed that: “even the great meditators weren’t necessarily in the mood. But they continued.”

He closed by saying that, “society is no more than all the thoughts and feelings we have right now, expressed in a myriad of ways.” Describing basic goodness, he summarized, “The notion that we don’t have to transcend earth, but we can bring that goodness here, is what we’re talking about tonight.”

Shambhala members and the public listen to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche's address on Enlightened Society at Grace Cathedral

The Sakyong went on to Craneway Pavilion to continue the Rigden weekend with students who had completed the Way of Shambhala curriculum. He was assisted by Acharya Eve Rosenthal and Acharya Emily Bower. It was a wonderful opportunity for many newer students to meet and practice with Rinpoche at an early point in their path. Many of them commented afterwards that up until then, the idea of “Sakyong” had been just that – an idea. Now that they had met him they understood at a heart level what Shambhala is trying to do in the world.

While in Northern California, for the first time the Sakyong visited Sharchen Dzong, the regional Shambhala Center headquartered in San Francisco, blessing the space and leading a gathering of regional representatives from the three pillars.

The Sakyong teaching the Rigden program at Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, California to 400 people

The whole of the Sakyong’s teachings seemed to create a momentous shift that could be felt throughout the mandala; the event was literally felt in the San Francisco area, where it was punctuated the morning after his teachings by a 4.0 earthquake!

The combined efforts of over 130 sangha members contributed to the success of the Sakyong’s visit. The coordinators’ group developed this aspiration which infused the visit: “With warmth, openness and cheerful discipline, we manifest Shambhala together.”

And yes, we did.

Stay tuned for the video from this program that will be made available through Shambhala Media.

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8 responses to “ Sakyong Teaches 1,200 in San Francisco ”
  1. It is great to know 1200 people came to listen to Sakyong speak about enlightened society! I wish I could be there, since I had fond memories of visiting the San Francisco center briefly and attend a community picnic in summer of 2009. May the aspiration of enlightened society and sparks of basic goodness blossom everywhere within and beyond the mandala, so we can feel and experience the field of Great Eastern Sun without center or fringe. peaceful bow~

  2. rita ashworth
    Mar 24, 2012

    hmmmm- I am not so sure if this is as historic as it is portrayed. In these times of confusion about life and society people will gather in large gatherings to explore issues but whether this can transform culture consequently is debateable. ‘Religions’ all over the planet are losing adherents under the onslaught of materialism -real power, the energy that people contact with might indeed be found outside of institutions or organisations at the grassroots level -this is what the Occupy movement has taught us all over the globe…the return to community or ‘sangha’. Indeed one could posit that the change-makers in our society much as many ‘religious leaders’ of the past will not be found in the temples but on the streets where the action is. The study of religion and the lives of all these great leaders posits that they placed themselves in chaos to be close to what was really occuring. For myself I think we are entering an age where the fringe will be more important than the centre….it is an age of exploration, transition-sifting what is practicable and what is inspiring to the individual and then exploring that in the collective….as such many forms may evolve from these emerging communities -some traditional-some much more revolutionary-it is hard to tell at this time how things will go. But for any ‘religion’ to survive in this maelstorm of thought, divergence, dissolution will indeed be very hard…..we could be watching the beginnings of the actual decay of ‘religion’ itself and maybe tentatively a beginning awakening into a consciousness beyond conventional forms…anyway thats what I am hearing about and witnessing from many people I am engaged with in discussing these issues….I do wonder if the actual Shambhala Sun could actually engage with these issues and tentatively posit articles on the world beyond conventional ‘religious’ discourse….well best from the uk Rita Ashworth

  3. Kara Dansky
    Mar 15, 2012

    I’m so happy to hear about the tremendous gathering at Grace Cathedral, the Rigden weekend, and the Sakyong’s blessing of Sharchen Dzong. Great job Northern California sangha!

  4. Yes, this week was a turning point, certainly in my own life. I will never be the same! Love to the Sakyong and to our beautiful mandala.

  5. Super awesome! Nice job all. And also so glad His Majesty can make a connection with newer students. This is essential.

    Ki Ki So So!

  6. Manny Medeiros
    Mar 9, 2012

    E Ma Ho! Indeed!
    This was an event marked by auspiciousness from beginning to end. The Sakyong’s blessing of Sharchen Dzong! Standing-room only at Grace Cathedral for brilliant teachings on Creating Enlightened Society — with a heartfelt and generous welcome of His Majesty by the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California! And the Sakyong’s teachings on Rigden were framed by two days of clear skies, brilliant sunshine, cool breezes, and the shimmering waters of San Rafael Bay. His Majesty’s visit could not have been more wonderful! The generosity of the Bay Area community in helping to create this mandala was overwhelming.

  7. Kerry Schwartz
    Mar 9, 2012

    The earthquake was centered quite close to where the Sakyong was staying, and we all felt the earth shift and shake. Rather than feeling alarm, I just woke up and smiled, hearing the rumbling sound of the ground rolling and the doors rattling. Delightful and right on cue, as the dralas will be! (And no one was hurt…) We had a rip-roaring good time together.

    I am so proud of this Bay Area leadership and community for their practice of kindness towards each other. This was demonstrated by cheerful, hardworking teams of people creating a BIG mandala in order to serve others. The Sakyong was splendid, gentle, so personal and direct; he melted hearts and gave guidance on how to BE basic goodness in a way that will make genuine change.

  8. Hudson Shotwell
    Mar 9, 2012

    Awesome! E Ma Ho!

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