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admin | to meditate in silence | 17.06.2014
Before moving to Boulder I went to a small temple every week in Baton Rouge run by a dedicated, humble, Vietnamese monk.
I pass by a Tibetan monastery every time I am on the shuttle to my liberal arts college from my apartment off­campus.
I remember when I was little and the heir to the Sakya tradition, Sakya Vajra Rinpoche, visited Nepal. So, when a friend told me that she had had a spiritual revelation, had developed a sensitivity to the plight of the world, was in need of spiritual guidance that would allow her to make sense of her newly found awareness, and that she had found that guidance in a Tibetan monastery, I had some issues. Having said that, monasteries are not used by Tibetans only to gossip and display their fashionable outfits. My uncle trained himself for years in order to cultivate the physicality and the mental strength necessary to become a hermit.
A monastery is a place for monastics to live collectively, according to the rules of Vinaya, and practice Dharma.
Let me see if I understand what you are saying here, as your article made things more confusing for me, rather than clarifying the situation: are you saying that any westerner engaging in Vajrayana practice is guilty of cultural appropriation? Reminds me of my grandma when she didn’t like all dem foreigners coming to her church. Firstly the picture he is using is not a buddhist monastery it is the shrine room at Karma dzong in boulder To judge american buddhism by one person Is absurd And actually I highly doubt any thing this guy has to say.
In my experience, it’s often the Tibetan teachers themselves who encourage westerners to adopt Tibetan cultural forms.
Just last week, I was informed that the Tibetan teacher I was going to see preferred western women to wear chubas and western men to wear ngakpa robes.
That shrine room in the photo is the one time Karma Dzong converted to New Age Shambhala Center.
The below compilation is meant to provide an uplifted forum for information and communication from any and all who care about Shambhala and American Buddhism—including our wonderful Boulder Shambhala Center Director Ulrike Halpern and my dear friend and papa Jesse Grimes, as well as senior students like Clarke Warren, Mark Smith. We can communicate openly—and passionately!—without resorting to complaint, slander or gossip. And yet, in Buddhism, traditions and rituals are based upon reminding us of the present moment. I was sitting in the Shambhala Center shrine room the other day, Alex Halpern giving a talk to we Dorje Kasung on kyudo, thinking about the Radio Free Shambhala post and all the comments. Update: reply from the Boulder Shambhala Center concerning the removal of the Vajradhara Thangka. You recently wrote about your wish that the Vajradhara thangka in the main shrine room in Boulder not be removed.
Boulder will then join all the other centers in the mandala that have the Primordial Rigden as the primary image in its public shrine room. Last year, the Sakyong spoke about the significance of the Vajradhara thangka and his love for it. In the meantime, we will keep all communications like yours so that the Sakyong can be made aware of your deep concerns and wishes as he considers what is best. It seems highly probable that the Vajradhara thangka in the main shrine room at the Shambhala Center in Boulder will be removed. Yet since the removal of the Vajradhara thangka has not yet taken place, there is still an opportunity to appeal for the thangka to remain. The Vajradhara thangka is a paramount embodiment of the teachings and activities of Vidyahara the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche. For more information on the history and significance of this thangka, please see an article I wrote for the Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche. I am making an urgent appeal to all and anyone who will register their support for the Vajradhara Thangka to remain as the main shrine object at the Boulder Shambhala Center. Removing the Karma Dzong Vajradhara Thangka, which, as other correspondents have noted, the Dorje Dradul took special pains to have painted, blessed and installed, is another way in which the Dorje Dradul’s teachings have been and are being profoundly altered in form and substance. It is a strange situation when students of the Dorje Dradul’s who wish to continue the practices he gave them find no place to do so in the organization and in fact the very buildings that he (and they) built for that exact purpose. As far as I know, no one has offered a cogent explanation why such wholesale alterations are necessary, but it might be worth noting that a precedent has now been firmly established in the Shambhala lineage.
Henceforth it would appear that any current Shambhala Lineage holder can remove, change, or replace without restriction any of the teachings or whatever has been created to support those teachings of his ( and who knows, why not her) predecessors.
Thanks for your kind response below (my response is delayed as I didn’t want to interrupt in midst of the recent interesting discussion on the list). I am trying to be very direct in —and as precise as I can be—in my posts and to remove any unnecessary harshness from my posts as emotions are easily inflamed. Please read the paragraphs below slowly and with at least an attempt to restrain emotional responses (either positive or negative). If one is willing to undertake even a relatively shallow investigation, it is not possible to deny that there now exist large ‘differences’ between the Shambhala Buddhist Path (‘SB Path’) and the Vajradhatu Path unless one has some strong agenda pursuant to which one elects to suppress prajna.  Without judgment as to ‘better or worse’ for any particular practitioner, the cumulative changes have created a qualitatively different, new path which the Sakyong intends to have SI follow. Obviously, many details would need to be worked out, but this matter could proceed rapidly if the Sakyong were to endorse it.
The re-establishment of Vajradhatu in no way represents ‘schism’ within the Vidyadhara’s sangha as both paths already exist and are already being practiced.
I view this email both a supplication and  pre-petition’ to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche (and have therefore copied Mr. Once again I ask that each reader reflect on these matters while restraining emotional response (positive or negative). I do not believe I have stated anything which attacks any person or path.  If someone experiences such an attack, I apologize.
I do not believe I have made any statements which are clearly false and, if you believe I have been mistaken about parts of the content below or my emphasis on particular points, I invite clarification and critique.  Some may agree with my description above but not my ‘ideal solution’.
But please also reflect on the central point: 2 paths exist and only the SB Path is currently being taught in SI while the Vajradhatu Path is no longer being taught.
If anyone wants to contact me directly, my email is above and my phone contact info is below. Each reader is invited and authorized to share this email with others who may be interested.  I also authorize posting this email on other sites.
The conversation is beginning to take on the feeling of echo, like the sound of a seashell–not at all a bad thing, since there are elements of the Vidyadhara that are taking on a life of their own. How about replace it and hold an auction on the old one to benefit the center or better yet a charity.
A dharma that becomes static, and attached to traditions, rather than striving to be aware and in the moment, fails to truly be Dharma… It instead becomes a religion of ancestor worship.
I believe they will, and believe further that this is his skilful play and well within his control.
It would be nice if there were an explanation as to why there could simply not be both the main Buddhist shrine with the original Vajradhara thangka which was both commissioned and blessed to be hung there for years, along with a full-bore Shambhala Shrine with the new Rigden thangka.
Of the teachings I can remember receiving from Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche the emphasis on fidelity to lineage has remained as a guiding principal for my meager Dharma practice. Without having a sense of, and honor for, this profound lineage even one or two generations back I think there could be a risk of devolving into a cult and cutting off the blessings that have made the transmission of genuine wisdom, compassion and methods possible.
Almost as serious as removing the Vajradhara thangka is the plan to install a lowered ceiling in the Main Shrine Room at the BSC. The new Primordial Ridgen thangka was unveiled on Shambhala Day in Boulder, and a celebration to commemorate its installation happened the following day, March 6th.
In his remarks, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche expressed his appreciation to master painter Cynthia Moku, whom he had personally requested to create the thangka as part of the renovation of the Boulder Shambhala Center shrine room. According to Cynthia Moku, this new Primordial Rigden thangka differs in several important ways from her earlier rendition, which hangs as a print in Shambhala Centres throughout the world. Much larger than her previous rendition, the Primordial Ridgen in Boulder is also more translucent, luminous, and ephemeral. Another important difference is that the Rigden thangka in Boulder was blessed by the Sakyong when he emerged from his deep retreat, prior to its installation at the Shambhala Center.
The power of the new thangka and the Sakyong’s return from retreat are palpable in the Boulder Shanbhala Center. In response to a question from one curious Level I participant, Cynthia Moku described the thangka as a mirror that reflects back the brilliance of our own minds as we sit in meditation. Many thanks to Marv Ross who shared his stunning photos from the Shambhala Day celebrations in this and other recent articles on the Shambhala Times. The Shambhala Times is a community forum for news and views from all over the Shambhala mandala. Shambhala Vision is rooted in the principle that every human being has a fundamental nature of basic goodness. 100 mile housealbanyalbuquerquethe arrowatlantaaustinbaltimorebellinghamberkeleyshambhala mountainbostonboulderbrightonbrunswick portlandbuffaloburlingtoncalgarycape townchicagocolumbusdallasdc washingtondenverdorje denma lingdurhamwny southtownsfloridafort collinsfraser valleyfrederictonfundinghalifaxlos angeleslexingtonminneapolismississauganelsonnorthern californianew yorkottawapalm beachphoenixportlandprovidencesan antonioseattlesan franciscoshambhalaonlinest. A friendly guy led an Intro to Meditation class and told us some basic ideas about mindfulness.

I never thought of visiting it because monasteries have never been places that are meaningful independently. She responded by saying she wasn’t doing anything bad and that her intentions were in the right place.
It is one of the ways of using the space that directly contrasts what I had seen in the American Tibetan monastery. The main purpose of going to the monastery, regardless of what we do there, is to collect merit and everything that is associated with or taking place around the monastery also has a quality of religiosity to them. He did 300 prostrations in the morning, 300 more at night, and meditated for three hours, twice a day every day. They would be places where I would meet the people that I don’t usually meet and connect with them and confirm to myself and them, the connectedness and the realness of our community.
But your compulsion to impugn the lily-whiteness of the Westerners you saw at the monastery is all too familiar. It’s one of the pictures picked from a random google image search for Tibetan meditation center in USA. I know for a fact that very few white Buddhists will recognize the consequences of their actions.
Perhaps it would be more efficient to confront these teachers than confronting the westerners who are just doing what the teacher asked them to do? He introduced the Shambhala path (and it’s myriad forms) to westerners, not the other way around.
Can’t believe how riled up these white people got over you telling a personal story and writing about your own thoughts and your own culture and traditions.
So when one newer Buddhist teacher wants to change a series of traditions (click here for some background) that, in this case, his father established, what is more important: tradition?
Other people have also expressed this wish and asked us to respect its sacred character and the historic importance of this thangka for our community. Ulrike [wonderful director of the Boulder Shambhala Center ~ed.] shared with the Boulder sangha [community] on Harvest of Peace [Fall Equinox celebration] that the Sakyong had commissioned Cynthia Moku to paint a thangka [traditional Buddhist painting] of the Primordial Rigden [a Shambhala teacher, basically] to go in the Boulder shrine room. He commissioned the thangka, and it was painted by his close friend, the renowned thangka master Sherab Palden Beru.
The follow-up letter from Mark Nowaskowski presenting the Vidyadhara’s poem of dedication on the back of the thangka, and my follow-up to his comments provide further perspective on the “inner” significance of the thangka. Please support this appeal to the leadership of Shambhala Intl by sending in your own words an appeal for the thangka to remain. Please permit the thangka of Vajradhara in the main shrine room of the Boulder Shambhala Center to remain as the main shrine object.” Signed, your name. One result will surely be a sangha that is permanently fractured as no generation can share its practice experience with the one that follows. With SMR’s blessings, this approach would relieve great anguish among large numbers of the Vidyadhara’s students (even those who have now embraced the SB Path), allow many of the Vidyadhara’s students to migrate ‘home’ and prevent more fragmentation from taking place. I wonder why it is that in such a short time as just part of a life time, there is such a push for new names and forms; while the old ones where actually able to contain such precious wisdom in a form that was able to touch and transform so many hearts and minds in this country and culture so seemingly far from the land of eastern Tibet.
I have felt faced with a sense of split happening between vajradhatu and shambhala for some years heightened particularly with reggie rays' feeling that he had to split off from RMSC. Those of you who studied sacred architecture and know of the benefits of accumulated finer energies generated from practice and from the presence and blessings of realized beings understand what I'm talking about. The latest coffin nail is the new Shambhala Chant Book that replaces the current morning and evening chants.
Khandro Tseyang led Shambhala’s own Gesar Lingdro dance troupe for the occasion in their second-ever performance to date. First and foremost, the Sakyong asked that the thangka include his father, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, in the form of the Dharmakaya Dorje Dradul.
On the back of the thangka, he wrote seed syllables as is customary and signed his name as a special blessing. Even newcomers who participated in the Level I the following weekend remarked on the feeling in the building. The Shambhala Times presents people’s individual points of view and takes no position itself on the content and views expressed. This nature can be developed in daily life so that it radiates out to family, friends, community and society.According to the Shambhala tradition we are living through an age of greed and aggression. After a brief talk and some sitting meditation practice, he gave us a tour of the beautiful building.
Unfortunately, the Shambhala Center reeks of pyramid scheme and the emphasis on money and membership is so disappointing and icky.
You should know that the Shambhala Center does have a generosity policy that allows people to attend classes for free or at a reduced rate.
They are places where I have formed a lot of beautiful memories and they have also been places where I felt trapped by ritualistic handshakes, bows, smiles, and other social formalities. I, only a child then, fell from the grip of my grandmother’s hand and was being pushed around in the crowd until one stranger hoisted me up over their head and then handed me over to another stranger. The way she went on about this Tibetan monastery; in an instant, she made all that felt familiar to me, my childhood memories at the gompa, feel foreign. She wanted to appeal to my good sense and convince me out of what she believed was an irrational attachment to my belief that the monastery should be a place only for Tibetans.
Being born in a devoutly Buddhist family, I had experienced in one way or another, all the ways a Tibetan refugee might use a monastery and sitting in utter silence was certainly not one of them nor was I accustomed to murmured chants. Even if you are within the vicinity of a wang, you are collecting merit, which is why parents will often bring their children with them and then have them play in the monastery yard. His physical tenacity was such that he once walked the Raj Path to India gate, which stretches 1.2 miles, back and forth in 30 minutes, carrying with him refreshments and drinks for four people. They recognized themselves and they were on an independent journey; a quest where I was all but necessary. Also, my friend is not stupid because she is Jamaican, she is stupid because she thought being Jamaican meant that she could participate in cultural appropriation and refused to acknowledge her enormous class privilege. It is the same compulsion that led internet feminists to decry the Dalai Lama’s alleged sexism.
An image of an empty meditation room from google was purposefully used, there’s no meaning behind the specific picture on display, an image that resembled what the author wrote about is used. Your highly educated and very Buddhist author Kungsang Palmo la, has chosen to express herself in an extremely offensive and unprofessional manner.
This summer, I attended another Tibetan teacher’s program and he strongly urged westerners to learn and participate in Tibetan khaita dances. It is the only other original Rigden thangka that he has asked her to paint and it has been specially designed to go over the shrine where the Vajradhara thangka now hangs. He said he would be thinking about how best it could be preserved, and was very concerned that we find an appropriate way to house and honor this sacred image. I learned this after having spoken with a member of a committee at the Shambhala Center to study and make suggestions for the redesign of the main shrine room.
The Vidyadhara placed it at the center of his mandala, composing a profound poem of blessing on the back.
Reoch in the hope that it reaches SMR) and as a document intended to clearly start a (hopefully non-emotional) discussion of the matters set forth above. I will attempt to respond privately to each communication within a reasonable period of time (but not necessarily immediately).  If appropriate, I will periodically reply to matters in these public forums. As to transmitting the Vidyadhara's lineage into the future, that is being done by his heir and the current Mandala. When Trungpa Rinpoche talked of his own Guru Jamgon Kongtrul of Shechen he could not contain his tears. The symbolism of the vajradhatu tanka being replaced by a primordial rigden tanka and worse yet being put in storage is obvious. The two discussed the iconography at length, particularly the crown that the Dharmakaya Dorje Dradul wears — a white turban adorned with a jewel crown. While drawing his figure according to the proportions of a traditional seated Buddha, she rendered the face so that it emerges from the sun behind it and gave the Rigden’s robes soft edges that fade into its backdrop. The Level I, held on March 11-13, had a record 60 participants and took place in the newly renovated shrine room. As a child in Nepal, I played games there, and as an adult in America, I sit next to the popular gossips and listen to my mom reminisce about refugee life with them. I was then being passed over the heads of one stranger to another until I reached the front of the line in a corner allotted for lost children.
She argued that there is a way of thinking of religion that is detached from the institutionality of it. It was the silence that rendered me clueless and alienated me from the monastery, and it was silence and stillness that I had never witnessed at a monastery. Anything that is associated with the monastery is sacred, even the food that is served there.

It is that palpable atmosphere of resentment in our time which emboldens people to always put the blame others for whatever paranoia is going on in their own heads. The comments on this post were made public with the authors permission and it is up to the author on whether they want to post a reply. With a few exceptions, not many Tibetan teachers try to pour the essence of Buddhism into Western forms.
I do t understand how people can feel justified in telling a Tibetan Buddhist regugee that they know something about what that identity means that I don’t understand. Our understanding is that he will be giving us his guidance on this once he returns from retreat. From what I was told, one option is for the thangka to be rolled up and put in indefinite storage, although no decision has yet been made as to the fate of the thangka. The thangka was also blessed by the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje, who placed his own handprint on the back of the thangka, a rare and powerful blessing. Perhaps this is a great opportunity for us to detach from those things we imagine to be important, so that, freed of those attachments, he can begin to teach more intensively in this new incarnation and new age.
It is continuing, there is no sign that it is fading away, and that the way it has changed has alienated some is, no doubt, a pity, but in the long-term scheme of things, rather unimportant. He wears the robes of a dharmaraja with a pure white fur coat on top, and his hands are in meditation posture holding a flaming blue jewel. Shiwa Okar also has a slightly different feel than her previous rendition — with much more of a sense of movement. Going to a monastery means that my mom and I pull out our best chubas, Tibetan dresses, and sit down with other beautifully dressed women and speak in Tibetan. It was there that I cried so loudly and fervently that I got scolded for not realizing the good fortune of being in the presense of the Lama, who was sitting in front of me. It is separate from the community and closer to the idea of spirituality and a sacred truth, she explained. She said it would eradicate my bias against the monastery and potentially alleviate my propensity to rage.
It felt like the times I had wandered into empty rooms while visiting my monk relatives in the Tharig Monastery, or rather tharu monastery as my Khampa tongue is accustomed to saying. As a result, the act of going to a monastery is, in itself, an act of piety and that experience is always shared with other people.
He took on an excruciatingly demanding regiment and his devotion is admired within our family. My Buddhism is confirmed to me through my connection with the people in my life and a prayer session without conversation and connection­?making left my experience at the American Monastery incomplete.
Sitting in silence and gazing inward as I felt that I was expected to do, distanced me from that space. That is fundamentalism; The idea that an authentic form of practice can exist and that there are inauthentic forms. For comments on this post, the author is responding to comments made on her own post, she has the right to respond which ever way she feels fit whether we agree with her replies or not. Your grandmother can run to a place only with white people because white people can make for themselves a place where only they are allowed. Instead, westerners have to adopt Tibetan cultural forms, and a few learn Tibetan, in order to get Buddhist teachings.
My staff put together various letters here, with the update from Mark Smith via my dear friends Ulrike Halpern, Jesse Grimes.
This is a great spot to visit for anyone interested in checking out meditation and mindfulness.
As a teacher, I feel hesitant to judge these instructors, but I cannot hide my disappointment and would recommend those of you looking for a deep spiritual connection to go elsewhere.
We remind ourselves that we are indeed Tibetan and not the Americans we are most of our lives.
I saw the head lama sitting on the highest seat in the front side of the room next the elaborate shrine, which took up an entire wall. My instincts were telling me to do three quick prostrations in front of the shrine and then leave the room immediately after. Even when a person decides to become a hermit, which entails complete isolation, a community is involved. We recognize him as being singular in his practice and although we do not try to imitate him, we certainly have involved ourselves in every part of his journey. If you read properly, you would know that my main and only argument is that the experience itself is invalid.
You are so attached to what you believe is authentically Tibetan and Buddhist that when I explained my personal relationship to Buddhism (influenced by bedtime stories and close relationships), you called me inauthentic. I don’t know of a single Tibetan teacher that had to adopt the language and forms of a foreign culture in order to train and study in Buddhism. It is because I don’t adhere to their preconceived notions of Tibetan, Buddhist, and refugee. Thus, in the new thangka, the Ridgen is flanked by the Dharmaraja Dorje Dradul to his upper right and Shiwa Okar to his upper left with Buddha Shakyamuni at the top. Between gossips and snacks that are spread before us on the floor, we would listen to our teacher and marvel at his wisdom and rhetoric. I told her that her understanding of Tibetan Buddhism reminded me of the rendition that I had heard from Richard Gere. Next to him, in a lower seat were his wife and the second head lama, and in the lowest of the elevated seat, was a lone monk. Even in the most somber of activities, one of which would be prayer sessions, the room will reverberate with chants. By taking over his Samsaric duties, we have allowed him to fulfill his Dharma aspirations and through him we have been able to collect merit. I use my wisdom to help me determine where to show my anger and where to show my compassion.
Has any Tibetan lama or Rinpoche had to chant liturgy in a foreign language they didn’t understand while they were training and studying Buddhism? I would therefore also request that the tanka of vajradhara not be removed because to do so is symbolic the same way that all the other name changes have been .I know the two paths to be inseprable so why separate them ? Her intentions were of no importance to me nor did I pay any heed to her claim to goodwill. The noisiness of the room also allows people to take breaks in between to have small chats. Therefore, it wasn’t the piety, which the silence was supposed to convey, that disturbed me.
According to you, I, born and raised a Tibetan Buddhist, am less Buddhist than you because I have relationship with Buddhism that you can NEVER have.
As for her emotional problems and her need for Buddhism to save her, I couldn’t have given less shit.
The chats will never be prolonged as the main purpose of a prayer session is to collect merit through the repetition of donba, ?mantras. The alienation I felt stems from the fact that I wasn’t involved in the merit­?collection of every single person there. Their style of wearing chuba imitated impeccably the popular fashion among middle­aged Tibetan women.
However, being a woman and a lay person means that most of my activities at the monasteries involve everyday Tibetan conversations. I have seen many White women wear chubas, but they have always looked awkward with the hem falling too short and the bust either stretched to a distorted shape or hanging loose in an unattractive silhouette. However, these women even matched their tailored­t?o­f?it chubas with oversized, dark, felt material winter sweaters of the North Face brand that I have only seen Tibetan women sport in the stupas of Nepal out on their daily circumambulation. But if they are fighting the same powers as me and they are not being violent, I will be in solidarity with them. I have read Said and Fanon.” So, does that mean that her blackness gives her immunity and that her elite, bourgeoisie self can legitimize the appropriated, exotifying narrative of Tibetan Buddhism? I sat in silence in a room where there were no gossips, no snacks, and was altogether too unnaturally Tibetan.
I don’t want it to be consumed in the new age, capitalist, white fantasies of Buddhism.
Stop making a mockery of people’s culture by imposing your needs, desires, and fantasies upon them. You are so busy thinking of yourself as an individual, you don’t recognize the community you belong to.

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