The Way of Shambhala
Shambhala Offers an extensive, structured path of training in authentic meditation practices and teachings. The name of this path is The Way of Shambhala. If you would like an introduction, you may choose to sample a workshop, a course or a weekend retreat—or several—at any time. The following is an overview of the full Way of Shambhala program.
The Way of Shambhala, comprised of a series of workshops, weeknight classes (the Everyday Life series and the Basic Goodness series) and weekend retreats (Shambhala Training), is an experiential overview of meditation practices, wisdom teachings, contemplative arts, and physical disciplines rooted in the ancient traditions of Shambhala and Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. The full program includes four modules of practice and study opportunities:
- The Everyday Life Series of courses
- Shambhala Training weekend retreats
- The Basic Goodness Series of courses*
- The Sacred Path weekend retreats (advanced Shambhala Training retreats)
*currently being offered at SMCLA in a pilot program (see below)
The courses are weekly, interactive, communal, and create a learning environment where the teachings are intimate and relevant. We train in meditation, and use inquiry, dialogue, and contemplative arts throughout the classes. The weekend retreats are opportunities to deepen one’s practice of meditation in a powerful environment that meets the needs of a work-week and family life. Rather than having to go away for meditation experience, we provide this training in local communities. Within each module, the courses or weekend retreats are designed to be taken sequentially. For example, within the Shambhala Training weekend retreats, participants progress from level I through Level V in sequence.
All are welcome to participate. The Way of Shambhala is open to people of all religious backgrounds or no religious background. It is recommended for new and experienced meditators, as well as those looking to enrich their personal spiritual path and social action in the world.
Overview of the Way of Shambhala
The Everyday Life series, Basic Goodness series and Shambhala Training Weekend Retreats: While one may take either the weekend retreats (Shambhala Training) or the weekly courses (Everyday Life series and Basic Goodness series) exclusively, we encourage participation in both, as the combination can profoundly deepen and extend meditation. In order to continue to the Rigden Weekend, however, it is necessary to complete both the Everyday Life series and the weekend retreats. Students have found taking both series in the sequence laid out below to be beneficial. You may start with either Course 1 or the Level I weekend retreat. The most gradual introduction is to begin with the weekly course before embarking on a weekend retreat.
Course 1: Meditation in Everyday Life
The Meditation in Everyday Life course is designed to provide you with the introductory tools and teachings for working with meditation in everyday life. With simple instructions and support, mindfulness meditation practice can become part of your lives, bringing greater stability, strength, and clarity. Open to the Public
Shambhala Training Level I: Weekend Retreat
Through the practice of meditation, we begin to glimpse that goodness—rather than confusion—is the unconditional ground of our existence. Opening to ourselves with gentleness and appreciation, we begin to see our potential as genuine and compassionate human beings. Open to the Public
Shambhala Training Level II: Weekend Retreat
Having experienced a taste of basic goodness in Level I, we want to learn more. Meditation practice allows us to observe how we create a cocoon of habits to mask underlying fear. We begin to appreciate that there is no fundamental obstacle to experiencing basic goodness. Prerequisite: Level I retreat
Course 2: Contentment in Everyday Life
This course provides an exploration of genuine contentment, the foundational views of the Buddhist teachings, and meditation in action for daily life. With meditation practice, we can learn to appreciate ourselves and simple human experiences, free from self-aggression. Difficult emotions and the challenges of life can be met with gentleness, steadiness, and humor. Open to the Public
Shambhala Training Level III: Weekend Retreat
Examining our habitual tendencies, we begin to look at our willingness to experience our life without relying on the cocoon. We begin to engage the world directly and extend the attitude of fearlessness to our activities. Prerequisite: Level II retreat
Course 3: Joy in Everyday Life
As meditation practice expands and we develop trust in basic goodness, we can begin to discover the confidence and personal energy to go forward on the journey. Joining gentleness with discipline leads to a sense of joy. The mahayana teachings on compassion can become the inspiration for a life of bravery and freedom from doubt. Prerequisite: Course 2–Contentment in Everyday Life
Shambhala Training Level IV: Weekend Retreat
Trusting further in basic goodness and daring to experience the sharp edge of reality, we move forward with gentleness, increased awareness, and inquisitiveness about the world, as it is. We find that we can extend ourselves to others fully and with kindness. Prerequisite: Level III weekend retreat
Course 4: Fearlessness in Everyday Life Course
Learning to work with our anxiety, we are not blocked by fear. Through an exploration of the Buddhist teachings of mind and the nature of reality, we learn to see clearly. We dare to face life and death as they are. The meditator, open to uncertainty, goes beyond the emotions of hope and fear to experience equanimity. Prerequisite: Course 3–Joy in Everyday Life
Shambhala Training Level V: Weekend Retreat
Communicating with the world gently and fearlessly, our awareness is sharpened and we find the open clear sky of mind—a delightful source of wisdom and uplifted energy. We learn to trust our nature enough to let go into the present moment. Prerequisite: Level IV weekend retreat
Course 5: Wisdom in Everyday Life Course
Meditation sharpens our intelligence and uncovers our wisdom. Participants will receive practical instructions for discovering trust and magic, even in the midst of challenge. No longer deterred or depressed by obstacles, we can include everything as part of the path. The challenges of daily life become opportunities for both contemplative practice and social and ecological action. Prerequisite: Course 4–Fearlessness in Everyday Life
Unconditional Confidence: Rigden Weekend Retreat
The final retreat of the full Way of Shambhala I program (The Everyday Life courses and the Shambhala Training weekend retreats) is the “Rigden” weekend retreat. The Rigden is a representation of our basic enlightened nature and embodies the principle of unconditional confidence. Historically, Rigdens were enlightened rulers —those who could “rule their world” based on their unwavering experience of basic goodness. This weekend is led by a Shambhala Acharya and includes a transmission of windhorse practice, and an opportunity to proclaim a commitment to basic goodness by formally taking the Shambhala Vow. Prerequisite: Wisdom in Everyday Life and Level V, (or, in the previous system, completion of the Sacred Path program and some introductory Buddhist classes.)
Overview of the Basic Goodness Series
The Basic Goodness Series is comprised of 3 courses. Each course has a question and a title:
1. Who am I? The Basic Goodness of Being Human
2. How can I help? The Basic Goodness of Society
3. What is Real? The Basic Goodness of Reality
Who am I? The Basic Goodness of Being Human
The first course asks the questions “Who am I?” and focuses on the sense of self. It includes teachings on basic goodness, selflessness, the arising of ego and cocoon, Buddha nature, and the confidence of warriorship. We will practice contemplative investigations of the self, based upon the Foundations of Mindfulness.
How can I help? The Basic Goodness of Society
The second course asks the question, “How can I help?” and explores our relationships with others, an aspiration to help our world, and specific aspects of social transformation. We look at a Shambhala understanding of society, and what enlightened society may be. Is society something that is ultimately confused, or is there goodness in human society? The course focuses on transforming four aspects of society: relations with family (household), professional life, entertainment, and economy. We learn the traditional mahayana practice of “sending and taking” (tong len).
What is Real? The Basic Goodness of Reality
The third course asks the question, “What is Real?” and focuses on a study of the phenomenal world. It emphasizes some of the core Buddhist teachings, such as impermanence, the process of perception, the “mind,” and emptiness. It is oriented towards the experience of sacred world, the magic and wonder of the natural elements. There is an ecological element to the class.
Overview of the Sacred Path (advanced Shambhala Training weekend retreats)
The Sacred Path module is a series of advanced weekend retreats offered in urban centres, that follows completion of the Everyday Life Series and the Shambhala Training weekend retreats. The Sacred Path program is based on the unique inner teachings of Shambhala.
Weekend 1: Great Eastern Sun
This weekend program teaches us how to see the Great Eastern Sun, the primordial energy and brilliance that is the basis of all that exists, and emphasizes the living context for building a sane society. Prerequisite: Unconditional Confidence: Rigden Weekend Retreat
Weekend 2: Windhorse
Introduction and instruction for the practice of “raising windhorse” is given, which opens the heart and refreshes one’s confidence. The practice is a way to bring about skillful and heartfelt social engagement, enabling the warrior to go forward in the midst of whatever challenges occur. Prerequisite: Great Eastern Sun
Weekend 3: Drala
Through exploring the depth of perception, one engages the elemental and magical strength inherent in the world. The principle of drala refers to the sacred energy and power that exists when we step beyond aggression. Prerequisite: Windhorse
Weekend 4: Meek and Perky
“The four dignities” are introduced as a path and a process, which describe a warrior’s maturing and widening sphere of benevolent engagement in the world. The training in the dignities allows one to maintain awareness and delight at each stage. Meek is a study of the grounded, humble and gentle beginning stages of a warrior’s journey. Here one trains to overcome arrogance—the primary obstacle to learning. Perky is the second of the four dignities and focuses on cultivating sharp, vibrant and uplifted energy through natural discipline. Overcoming the trap of doubt, the warrior of perky is able to accomplish his or her activities with a sense of nobility and ease. Prerequisite: Drala
Weekend 5: Outrageous and Inscrutable
The third and fourth dignities, Outrageous and Inscrutable, emphasize fruition and refer to the extraordinary skill of a practiced warrior. No longer afraid of making mistakes, the unconventional and visionary perspective of the outrageous warrior combines with the skill of spontaneous inscrutability to create benefit for others on a large scale. Prerequisite: Meek and Perky