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Thread: The Shambhala experience

  1. #1

    The Shambhala experience

    So I've been practicing for around 2 years now and all I've ever really known is Soto Zen; the simplicity/minimalist nature of it was what drew me in. While I may know the academic differences between the schools of Buddhism I've never encountered anything out of my Soto bubble. I'm home in Colorado on break I thought I'd see what the sangha situation is like and I realized that Shambhala is very well represented here in the Rocky Mountains. I've signed up for a weekend meditation retreat at their mountain center (it looks AMAZING), and realizing I know nothing about Shambhala I went to a public meditation last night with a beginner's mind and see what it's all about.

    I had some very subtle... culture shock? If that's the right word. Obviously in Zen sitting is everything, it's our bread and butter. To hear a group be so lax about meditative practice came across as odd to me, same with all of the nuances of Tibetan Buddhism that are so foreign to me. The whole organization is lead by a guy who isn't there and there wasn't any sort of local leadership. What really struck me about the whole thing is the pragmatic nature about it. From what I understand so far, the raison d'Ítre in Shambhala is to create an "enlightened society" and the main path for this is through a series of trainings that often feature ironic, warrior themes. Growing up evangelical at a megachurch it just felt strikingly similar. "Attend our weekend seminar for $150 and receive phase one training so you can work your way up the ladder." And yet, even though they've been able to break it down into pragmatic pieces and market it really well I can't help but feel it's a bulky, complex system with its Tibetan roots and its boot camp feel to create a better society rather than pointing at the moon for individuals to overcome suffering and realize reality.

    While I really enjoyed meeting people who just like to sit together in silence and be present in the moment, the whole experience reminded me even though we're an online sangha everything about our practice is incredibly accessible. All you have to do is speak up and return to the cushion. Anyways, just some thoughts I've been working through.

    Does anyone else have any experience with Shambhala? Any advice for my first weekend meditation retreat?

    Sat today,

  2. #2
    Hi Josh,

    Well, we should hesitate to criticize another Buddhist group that people find suits their needs for Practice. They might find criticism of our Way of Practice.

    Different medicines for different patient, varied tastes suit individual tongues.

    Gassho, Jundo


  3. #3
    I didn't intend to come across as critical, just observational like a kid who's wandered off his own block and into the next neighborhood. I apologize if it seems that way!

    Sat Today

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Josh View Post
    I didn't intend to come across as critical, just observational like a kid who's wandered off his own block and into the next neighborhood. I apologize if it seems that way!

    Sat Today
    Oh no, it is okay to compare, even offer some constructive criticism. I just always am a "different strokes" kinda guy.

    Gassho, Jundo


  5. #5
    There is a Shambhala centre near me as well. I have Never been to it. Check out the retreat, be open and enjoy the experience. If it's not for you, It's not for you.

    Gassho, Kyotai
    Sat today.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyotai View Post
    Check out the retreat, be open and enjoy the experience. If it's not for you, It's not for you.
    Nicely said Kyotai ... this is the best way to truly experience things, by just experiencing them. =)


    Last edited by Mp; 01-07-2016 at 10:56 PM.

  7. #7
    Hi Josh,

    A few years ago I was very reluctant to attend to events of the local Tibetan sangha here in the city. I used to criticize them a lot and I was close to their festivals and rituals.

    Until I was invited to attend and went there. I was really savoring my critiques and judgments in advance, but when I sat with them and listened, I found them to be an amazing group that now I am happy to call friends.

    What I want to say is that zen might be what you want, but sometimes is great to learn from other schools of Buddhism. You might be surprised of what you learn.


    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  8. #8
    I've been going to conferences with a band from Kyoto recently. The mandolin player runs a Shin Buddhist temple with her family. Mostly as a funeral business, but they are Buddhists. She's taught me a bit about Shin (limited language between the two of us) but what I've learned from her, and from what else I've been able to find on my own has been very interesting. Shin is very different from Zen. No meditating. More goal oriented. And based on faith rather than practice. I still prefer sitting everyday, but what I've been learning about Shin and consequently Pure Land Buddhism has been a lot of good food for thought.

    My my aunt is a nun with a Tibetan group. But I don't have nice things to say about them so I won't. But they aren't Shambala. Ya gotta be careful with this religious/spiritual stuff. There are some unsavory characters out there. And people do get taken advantage of. Zen is certainly no exception, but Jundo has done a phenomenal job of keeping things on the level, direct, honest, and open. More so than others I've come across.


    Sat Today

  9. #9
    Thanks for bringing this up for discussion Byrne... there is a Shambhala group very near where I work and before I found Treeleaf I had considered joining it, but Soto Zen really was what I was looking for also. It's interesting to hear about different approaches to Buddhism though, and someday perhaps when my kids are out of the house I will have time to go check them out.


  10. #10
    Hi Byrne,

    The only experience of Shambhala I've had is through podcasts / books / blog posts etc from the Interdependence Project in New York which bills itself as a multilinear secular Buddhist centre but which was set up by somebody from the Shambhala tradition (Ethan Nichtern). There is stuff in there that I find less relevant to me and some which fails to float my boat on a liturgical/practice level, but in terms of how to live Buddhism in contemporary society and 'engaged Buddhism' I've found a lot of their talks really thought-provoking and beneficial. Certainly before I found Treeleaf their podcasts / blog were my first port of call whenever I wondered how to bring my Buddhism out of the shrine room and into my every moment, even though in terms of tradition I would have considered myself Theravada.

    So, yes, I bet you'll have an interesting time, and it's always good to see what's out there

    sat within last 12 hours!

  11. #11
    Hi Josh,
    I went to a Shambhala centre in London about 10 years ago a couple of times, at a time when I was checking out lots of different groups, and I seem to remember that the very first time I went to a meditation class I had a meditation interview. And it seemed like if I went regularly, this would be a regular thing. So maybe different Shambhala centres have different emphases or maybe things have changed. I also attended a talk by visiting Lama, which was incredible. There was a particularly strong emphasis on community and ritual as well, although the ritual wasn't quite for me. In the end, the centre wasn't very easy for me to get to and I ended up practising with a Tibetan Lama for a while instead, but they did seem to have a lot to offer.

    Enjoy your first weekend retreat! I would say don't have any expectations.


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