Shambhala Day Sun
A report on the Shambhala Day celebrations in Halifax by Patricia Blaine
Earlier this week, as we Haligonians huddled around our soup, watching our iced-over windows for the movement of sunlight, questions about the upcoming Shambhala Day whirled in our heads like snow flurries. We pondered such things as, “Which toque is my dress toque?” and “Does the Sakyong own a snow suit…and what color is it?”
I took a break from looking through Facebook photos my friends had posted of themselves shoveling to do a little research about the upcoming year of the Wood Sheep. It is said to be a peaceful year, replete with the qualities of kindness, generosity, and patience. A time to nurture, regenerate, and delight in the warmth of the home and the simple joys of living.
As I contemplated what the whistling winds portended, I decided to iron both my dress and my winter scarf and cleaned the accumulated salt off my snow boots, readying them for the fresh new year, appreciating that whatever the day might bring was guaranteed to bring the magic that is Shambhala Day.
Then Shambhala Day morning came. At the last minute, I had the good fortune to be able to attend the early morning lhasang at the Kalapa Court. As the guests arrived, the sky was gray with clouds, and we walked down the driveway on snow-covered ground, passing the large snow piles made by several weeks of plowing. The kusung were spreading hay over the ice-covered pavement around the lhasang fire in front of the house. The scent of hay soon mingled with fragrant wood smoke and the fresh salty air from the ocean, evoking a heightened experience of the ordinary magic of the elements.
Snow began to fall heavily as the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo, as well as Jetsun Drukmo and Jetsun Yudra came outside. The family’s presence in the quiet morning created an atmosphere of tenderness and gentleness. We began the lhasang chant, and the world filled with the song of warriorship and confidence as thick juniper smoke mixed with snowflakes. The Sakyong’s red toque, and bits of brocade visible beneath the well-bundled coats of the Sakyong Wangmo and their daughters, appeared and disappeared amidst the whirling white lhasang smoke. Like a dream, vivid glimpses of flowing banners, snow banks, the ocean, and the Sakyong’s face, burst out and vanished into the white again and again. I snuggled with my neighbors, sharing a copy of the text, and watched as the words on the page were gradually obscured by falling snow as we chanted. The lhasang text was The Long Werma Lhasang, which calls upon Gesar and his retinue to manifest, and I thought, Where else would Gesar come but here?
After a robust singing of the Shambhala Anthem, I put the hood of my parka back on and was doused with a pile of snow that had accumulated there, making me laugh. Then everyone was invited inside to enjoy freshly-made khapse (a Tibetan fried dough made for New Year’s), sweet tea, and rice mixed with nuts and dried fruit.
Meanwhile, at the Halifax Shambhala Centre, around a hundred sangha members were enjoying celebratory practices of the Werma Sadhana, the Sadhana of Mahamudra, and the Shambhala Sadhana feast.
At noon it was time to start gathering for the day’s main event, the international broadcast and community address by the Sakyong. Halifax Shambhala Centre staff and volunteers had been working hard, setting up the space of the McInnis Room of Dalhousie University. This room, which can accommodate over 300 people, is beginning to accumulate a Shambhalian history, having previously been host to a Rigden Abhisheka, a Shambhala congress, and other major Shambhala events.
I felt very fortunate to be in the audience as the Sakyong, resplendent in yellow and gold, ascended the stage, offered incense and juniper at the shrine, and was seated on his magnificent brocade throne. His talk had a feeling of great warmth, as well as proclamation. There was a tone of confirmation as well as inspiration, and a feeling of being very settled and confident in what we have accomplished. He spoke of our community’s journey together during the twenty years since his enthronement as Sakyong and thirty-six years since his empowerment as Sawang. Using the imagery of the sun, he described the Shambhala vision of engagement with the world, and of the need to connect with our own sadness, joy, strength, and fragility. He said that our community has had some maturation of our confidence in basic goodness at this point, and that it was now time to focus on bringing the principles of Shambhala into our homes and lives. I was particularly touched by his statement that after a thirty-six-year journey, the sun and the rays of the sun were now aligned. At the end of the talk, messages from the Sakyong Wangmo and from Jetsun Drukmo were played, to the delight of the crowd.
Other highlights included the impeccable multigenerational color guard, Halifax’s own Shambhala School being featured in The Year in Review, the special ringing the first Ratna tossed by the Sakyong made as it fell into the gong, and seeing my husband win the poetry competition!
Before the Sakyong’s departure, everyone went up to receive his blessing with a long-life arrow tied with five colored silks and a mirror, and receive a protection cord and chocolate gold coin. Personally, I ate about five gold coins given to me by diet-conscious friends, which I took as an indication of the abundance the Sheep Year will bring.
After the Sakyong’s departure, there followed a cheerful process of making our way
towards the coat room and exit. This was an extended affair, which took about forty-five minutes because friends everywhere were stopping to wish each other cheerful Shambhala Day, compliment each others’ outfits, discuss celebration plans, and generally chat. Stepping outside, we found more snow coming down in slow, big flakes. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who took deep breaths of crisp air and looked up into the sky, enjoying this Shambhala Day blessing from the winter dralas.
From there, many sangha members went on to the celebratory gathering at The Fireside, a large well-known restaurant and bar in downtown Halifax. Since our faces had been pelted with driving ice pellets on the fifteen-minute walk from Dalhousie University, this restaurant’s two floors of couches, easy chairs, and multiple fireplaces, were the perfect setting for our continued celebration.
When I arrived, the downstairs tables were filling because the upstairs lounge was already packed with Shambhalians. Later on, I ran into people who said they were going upstairs because the downstairs was too full. Around a hundred people buzzed like bees, visiting from table to table and talking to various friends. Several of us apologized to the waiters for the chaos our group must be creating for their bill tracking, but we were met with cheerful assurances that, to the contrary, it wasn’t a problem and they were delighted to have so much business in February.
Halifax may have a long winters, but the warmth of community is here. On this Shambhala Day, the sun of our king and queen shone fully, and the rays of friendship and good cheer radiated in all directions. KI KI SO SO!
Thanks to westernschooloffengshui.com for information about the Wood Sheep year.
A transcript and recording of the Sakyong’s Shambhala Day address will be published on the Shambhala Times early next week.