Dispatches from the Front
Halifax, Shambhala Week
February 7, 2002
On February 7th, 2002, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia fresh from three months in retreat at Namdröling Monastery in south India. He arrived in time for Shambhala Day, which marks the Tibetan New Year in true Shambhalian fashion. In Halifax, the week was filled with celebration-for both the New Year and the Sakyong's official residency at the new Kalapa Court. David Brown reports.
On Shambhala Day, Tuesday February 13, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche began the morning with a private lhasang ceremony in the shrine room at the new Kalapa Court. He blessed the home that had been generously purchased, renovated, and decorated by sangha members. Outside, several senior kasung built a bonfire on a hill overlooking the Northwest Arm, the inlet that forms the western boundary of the Halifax peninsula. The Sakyong joined them, and by throwing juniper onto the flames, the kasung and Rinpoche blessed the grounds.
Meanwhile, over 500 people filled the McInnes Room at Dalhousie University in Halifax-and were joined on the airwaves by thousands of community members from 93 centers from as far away as Germany, Brazil, Korea, and New Zealand-to hear Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche's message for the Year of the Water Horse. Pre-event commentary by Julia Sagebien included an overview of the energies that can be anticipated in the New Year. Having warmed up the audience, Julia turned the event over to Shambhala International's Director, Sara Levinson, and the Chair of the Board of Directors, Chuck Lief. They delivered the clear message that the community is more active than ever in more parts of the world and that we are completely committed to expanding the vision of non-aggression, undeterred by the extreme difficulties that made themselves so apparent in the past year.
When the Sakyong arrived, he took his seat at the front of the hall and offered his message for the Year of the Water Horse. He encouraged the community to strengthen itself during this period of destabilization after the events of September 11. He asked that we strengthen our principles, practices, and understanding; that we generate Windhorse; and that we have the courage to exert ourselves even more in the service of others. (The full text of the talk is posted on the Shambhala website at www.shambhala.org/teachers/sakyong/sd-address2002.html.) Following the talk, the Sakyong tossed three ratnas into a silver bowl, officially beginning the International Shambhala Day offerings.
After the address, the Sakyong returned home to host the first of many social events that would occur at the Kalapa Court that week. At several of these gatherings, Rinpoche spoke at length about the joys of having a home after so many years of living out of suitcases.
On the third day of the Year of the Water Horse, the Sakyong joined the community at the stately Lord Nelson Hotel for "An Evening in Kalapa." Community members dressed in their finest and made offerings of poetry, music, and dance to the Sakyong and the community. Between songs and demonstrations of flamenco and throat singing, the atmosphere was warm and festive. The Sakyong threw the I-Ching for the year: hexagram 32 "Duration," changing to hexagram 2 "The Receptive." Later in the evening, sangha members young and old took to the dance floor-joined for a number of songs by the Sakyong.
After a day off, the Sakyong joined Shambhala lodge members for practice of the Werma Sadhana at the Halifax Shambhala Center. He gave a pithy talk on Shambhala Buddhism and the werma sadhanas. Through the rest of the week, Rinpoche took part in the meeting of the Shambhala Board of Directors and conducted many meetings with Shambhala International leaders, including the new Office of Practice and Education, the translation committee, and the Council of Makyi Rabjam.
During the week, Dorje Kasung commanders from the seven regions around the world gathered in Halifax for a pre-meeting with the CMR, followed by a conference attended by 80 officers of the Dorje Kasung from around the world. On Saturday, February 23, Rinpoche invited the 50 out-of-towners attending the conference to visit Kalapa Court. He made brownies from scratch and the kasung were each offered a rich, chocolaty brownie. As they toured the Court in groups of ten, the officers visited Rinpoche's library and study, where he was executing a series of calligraphies in colored inks on bright paper.
That evening the Sakyong spoke to the entire conference about Shambhala Buddhism and the importance of the protector principle, and officially welcomed Bob Taylor as a new member of the Council of Makyi Rabjam. Rinpoche. He then offered to auction the 18 striking calligraphies he had completed that day. The auction was lively and successful, and the money raised will be dedicated to the continuing effort to furnish the Kalapa Court and to support the expansion of the Dorje Kasung.
Monday, February 25 marked the beginning of a four-day chakrasamvara abisheka, during which the Sakyong offered teachings to practitioners of that sadhana. On March 8, he delievered a public talk on the example of the Buddha to a large audience at Dalhousie University, the first of a series of three on Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The other two will be presented in April. On March 13, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche left Halifax to travel to South America where he will spend three weeks with Shambhala communities in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Santiago, Chile.