In Shambhala Buddhism, “ There is a natural source of radiance and brilliance in the world, which is the innate wakefulness of human beings. ” It is in the Shambhala view that every single human has the foundational characteristics of good, warmth and intelligence. The Shambhala way of life applies to any faith and not just people of the Buddhist religion. Basically put, Shambhala is a global movement devoted to bringing kindness, insight, meditation and an idea of sacredness into society. Historically, the term of “Shambhala Buddhism” was introduced to the world in 2000 to describe the lineage and community led by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.
However, the Shambhala community was brought to America in 1970 with the arrival of the 11th Trungpa Tulku (incarnate line of Tibetan Lamas). The first ever center of teaching was located in Barnet, Vermont and known as “The Tail of the Tiger. ” Since then, the Shambhala way of life spread like wildfire due to the openness and overall acceptance of people from any cultural or social background/construct. Shambhala teachings also promote a worldly approach to meditation and an appreciation of the goodness every human being has the capability to reveal.
Different from other paths of life, Shambhala Buddhism encourages diversity since it’s own essence is derived from many different religions. Although the teachings are based around the central idea and construct of Tibetan Buddhism (concepts, terms, etc. ), Shambhala adds elements of Bon, Taoism, Confucianism and Shinto. Trungpa Rinpoche, Buddhist Meditation Master and holder of the 11th Trungpa Tulku, decided to infuse and corporate the elements of said religions/traditions because he felt it would do no harm and only benefit practitioners.
Today, the Shambhala Buddhist community thrives as the largest community of Western practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. Momentarily there are a few thousand followers located in more than 170 centers around the world. Through this modern, new-age branch of Tibetan Buddhism, Shambhala invites and welcomes you on a journey to becoming fully human by waking up your natural intelligence. Personally, I was fascinated and intrigued by this way of life and this particular group of people. Coming from a strict Catholic background, I was always told to stray far from other religions and to only believe in Catholicism.
With the exception of an ethnography paper for my anthropology class, I am able to explore, research and investigate a whole new path of life. Simply put, Shambhala Buddhism interested me because of their bizarre, yet practical approach to a way to worship. As stated earlier, Shambhala does not discriminate people from different walks of faith. In fact, it is safe to say that this practice actually encourages others to learn and acquire a knowledge of what it is that Tibetan Buddhism and meditation have to offer.
With no strings attached or no shackles from society, Shambhala Buddhism lets you be in control of your life and allows you to develop your capacity of goodness in daily life so that it resonates to your workplace, family, friends and community. The closest center of Shambhala was located in the northern section of Portland, Oregon. The Shambhala Meditation Center of Portland was at first hard to find. My fellow peers and I were searching for a temple of some sort. Instead, the Meditation Center was a small building no larger than the size of a couple classrooms.
At first glance, when we walk through the front entrance, we were all shocked and surprised. As we all expected an area similar to a synagogue, instead it was as if we were welcomed into someone’s house. The front area seemed like a living room. In it there were plush couches and pictures on the walls of followers/practitioners that belonged to this Meditation Center. Also on the walls were bright colored paintings of Buddhist ancestry and divine temples. As soon as we walked in, everyone gathered in the front room welcomed us with open arms and exuberant expressions.
Right away we were already talking to and experiencing the life of a Shambhala practitioner. After we signed in and grabbed name tags, Ms. Lesa, one of the directors of the center, offered us a tour of the area. Behind the front room were two other rooms and then the main section of the center in which all meditational practices were held. The room located directly behind the front room was known as the library. On the outsides, this room was filled corner to corner with books about the Shambhala faith.
The director told us that every book imaginable about the Tibetan Buddhist and Shambhala practices were located in that room. From historical backgrounds to personal auto-biographies of those whose lives were changed from Shambhala, all was present in this room. Director Lesa offered us a small breakfast as well as a cup of water. The breakfast was intriguing to me as all were foods of the organic category. As Director Lesa continued to talk to my peers, my mind was wandering as I fascinated and tried to absorb all that this place had to offer. I quietly snuck into a room to the left of the library.
This room was covered in gold wallpaper and smelled of sweet spices. The carpet was a red velvet color that humbled itself to the all of the gold shiny objects adorning wooden stands and cabinets. Located in far right corner was one red velvet chair plated with gold. On the chair was a sign that read “Please do not touch or sit down. Thank you for your cooperation. ” Furthermore, there were only two pictures located on the walls. One was of a beautiful, majestic temple and the other was of a bald Asian man dressed in a red and yellow gown. I was later told that this man was Sakyong Rinpoche.
After in that secluded room for a couple minutes, I was able to fall back in line with my peers and come in good time to be introduced to the main meditational area. This was the biggest room of all. On the ceiling was a big window that allowed rays of sunlight to drop down and lavish the room. There were square mats laid out on the floor and one row of chairs in the back for those who were more comfortable sitting in chairs. In the front of the room was what seemed like a shrine similar to the one I saw in the secluded gold and red velvet room.
Above the shrine was a painting of another temple and pictures of important Buddhist men to the Shambhala religion. On all opposing walls were pictures and paintings of mystical creatures and quotes of life to live by. One of the paintings that really caught my attention was the biggest and most elaborate of all bright colored paintings in the room. In this painting was one human being clothed in red and yellow attire that seemed to be meditating in the clouds. Later I learned that this painting was known as “The Primordial Rigden. Basically, the Primordial Rigden symbolizes the enlightened nature of all human beings and their capacity to be good and do good. Each aspect and every detail of the Primordial Rigden points to feature of the training and full realization of the awaken mind. After the tour of the center, we had a couple minutes to relax before the meditation process began. Everyone gathered in the meditation room and with the directions of another leader, we began our journey towards a relaxed state of mind. Personally, the meditation portion of the day was by far the best part.
The whole time it was mostly quiet. Everyone around me seemed to be at peace in another world of their own. At first it was hard to stay calm, still and focus on complete nothingness. However, after maybe thirty minutes of fidgeting and trying to get comfortable, I was able to fully relax. It felt as if my body was floating and for a moment in time, my mind was at ease. Not knowing how to control my meditation skills, I began to fall into a deep slumber. A bit later an elderly lady to the left of me slightly tapped me to wake me up.
She chuckled, “Don’t worry, I fell asleep the first time too. ” And even though I did fall asleep for awhile, it felt as if a boulder was lifted off of my shoulders. I never felt so at ease, so peaceful, so accepting of everything and everyone around me. With that, I made sure that I interview this lady when we would get an intermission from the intense meditation. Generally, she was a happy, elderly lady. Her name was Elizabeth and she fit the confines and characteristics of a normal grandmother that gave money to her grandchildren and baked cookies every day.
However, Elizabeth’s story was farthest from ordinary. Easily interviewable, Elizabeth shared to me her life before Shambhala Buddhism and how this practice has helped her find peace in all of the negativity this world has to offer. Pre-Shambhala, Elizabeth was a nun of the Catholic Church for 24 years. In an instant, I was able to connect with her through our shared faith. She told me that one day she woke up, questioned her life and consequently left the monastery. I was so shocked that after 24 years of devotion to the Catholic religion, she could just up and leave.
With that, the interview became more of a deep, whole-hearted conversation. I was able to relate to her in this way because many times I have also questioned my faith. Most importantly, she told me that Shambhala was not a way to escape Christianity or to run away from her past. Instead, she told me that through meditation and practice, she is able to find peace in a world full of distress. She said Shambhala isn’t inescapable like that of other religions. Instead, Shambhala Buddhism lets you be in control of your own faith.
With an everlasting resonance, Elizabeth said to me, “In today’s society, goodness can be covered by doubt and fear and other negative energies. Do what you must to find peace and remember to always be kind to others. This is life is a gift, this life is worth living. ” On a broader scale, Shambhala Buddhism practitioners are definitely an enlightened people. From what I observed and was able to experience at the Shambhala Meditation Center of Portland, I was able to make a connection with the values this faith is built around and American values overall.
Generally speaking, there are eight values of the Buddhist way of life: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. All of these, except for right concentration, can relate and pertain to values that are ingrained into youth of America at a young age. The difference between Buddhists and Americans, however, is that Buddhists are more focused and live more thoroughly through these values.
In modern day America, there are many distractions and diversions to living a good and prosperous life. The Buddhist lifestyle is much more simpler and values are easier to attain when there aren’t other things to worry about such as work, taxes, technology, etc. With that, Shambhala Buddhism does a great job at finding a middle ground, or a way of life that is possible to gain peace in all the hustle and bustle of our fast-pace society. Through meditation and practice, one is able to “awake” their natural, fundamental nature of goodness and thus magnify American values.
In conclusion, I can honestly say that going to the Shambhala Meditation Center of Portland was in fact one of the best times of my life. For once, I was given the opportunity to be at peace. Especially since I am a college freshman thousands of miles away from home, it is hard for me to tranquility when there are so many other distractions. With the help of Elizabeth, I was able to learn about myself and accept the way that I am. The Catholic religion is very traditional and going to Church sometimes seems like more of a chore than a luxury.
However, positive thinking through relaxation and generally becoming a better person will help me strengthen my faith and live a better life. Although I do not plan on switching faiths or veering away from the Catholic community, I am very thankful for the chance of a lifetime to realize that there is still peace and kindness today. Buddhism, as stated by Stephen Prothero in God is Not One, doesn’t seem very enjoyable. It seems as if the lifestyle is very strict and so elaborate that it takes up all your time and effort to becoming a true follower.
However, with my participation in Shambhala, I have realized that Buddhism (well at least this form) isn’t so strict at all. Shambhala Buddhism lets you be in charge and basically guides you on a journey towards a better life. This faith accepts all different walks of life and therefore is very diverse. All that is required of you is bravery to look directly at one’s own mind and heart exactly how it is, and then build from there. Through mindful meditation, one is able to awake from negativity and fully enjoy the sacred and pure beauty this world has to offer.
Cite this Shambhala Buddhism
Shambhala Buddhism. (2016, Oct 30). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/shambhala-buddhism/