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Faith Matters: Shambhala Buddhism: Courage wrapped in kindness toward ourselves

  • Co-directors Gisela and Anthony Walker stand inside the Shambhala Center on Ashfield Street in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The Shambhala Center on Ashfield Street in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz



Co-directors. The Shambhala Center
Friday, February 02, 2018

(Each Saturday, a faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email religion@recorder.com or call 413-772-0261, ext. 265.)

By GISELA and ANTHONY WALKER

A community of committed Shambhala students and ‘Drop-Ins’ meets Sunday mornings in our small stone building uphill from the river overlooking the Village of Shelburne Falls. We begin with a period of sitting and walking meditation followed by studying a dharma text and talking about it. We hold that everyone has wisdom and is welcome to share it without prerequisites. We share our space with a couple of other Buddhist groups in the spirit of generosity and community. We also have loose connections to the Interfaith community.

Meditation, mindfulness practice and centering prayer have become familiar components of spiritual institutions. What then would you encounter in our Shambhala Meditation Center?

As the Sunday schedule shows, we combine practice and study. In meditation, we practice mindfulness and awareness both of our body and our mind; we notice how our constant grasping and our judgmental, habitual thought patterns alienate us from the direct experience of our life situations. Studying dharma teachings provides us with motivation and guidance along the path to a genuine relationship with the present moment.

Our most recent book, for instance, “The Lost Art of Good Conversation” (by Sakyong Mipham), invites us to investigate our habits of speech: How do we speak to others, to ourselves? Are we aware of our attitudes and emotions, body language? Do we have the patience to listen? Studying the book opened the door to greater awareness of how we connect to our world through speech. We take notice all through the day. We experience how we can transform our relationships and thus have a profound impact on our world “one conversation at a time.”

To take such an honest look at who we are requires courage and curiosity — highly valued qualities in Shambhala. Such courage, however, needs to be wrapped in kindness towards ourselves. In Buddhism, our basic nature is understood to be goodness. Kindness towards ourselves generates kindness towards others. This opens the door to practicing genuine generosity and patience. Just bringing that to the world makes us an agent of transformation.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the renowned Tibetan Master, brought the Shambhala teachings and the wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism to the West. According to tradition, the Buddha offered these teaching to the then-King of Shambhala, who said that aside from meditating, he had a kingdom to run! Therefore, Shambhala in particular offers a societal vision based on the inherent goodness of all humanity and society itself.

Trungpa Rinpoche’s son, the current lineage holder, Sakyong Mipham, has further developed these teachings into a comprehensive path of meditation, study and training that is being offered through a global network of Shambhala centers. The Shelburne Falls Center works closely with the much larger Pioneer Valley Shambhala sister center in Northampton in the delivery of such programs.

The Sakyong urges us as individuals and as communities to reflect on our core principles. How humanity feels about itself is critical for our future and that of our planet. This vision of a society trusting and believing in its inherent worthiness and basic goodness is the basis of what the Shambhala lineage calls enlightened society.

Enlightened Society does not describe a mythical Kingdom of Shambhala, nor is it merely an interesting concept; rather, Shambhala Buddhism offers a radical paradigm shift away from our Me-centered obsession to an actual path for self-transformation and the discovery of our generous, compassionate, loving heart.

Ready to explore your mind? Come join us!

About the Shambhala Center

The Shelburne Falls Shambhala Center at 71 B Ashfield St., is open for sitting meditation every Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon. We begin with a period of sitting and walking meditation, followed by studying a dharma text and talking about it. We hold that everyone has wisdom and is welcome to share it without prerequisites. We share our space with a couple of other Buddhist groups in the spirit of generosity and community.

Website: shelburnefalls.shambhala.org/

Email: shelburnefallsshambhala@gmail.com

Co-Directors: Anthony and Gisela Walker