Austin Shambhala Center

Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 22 March 2013.

Phone: 512-443-3263
Email: austinshambhala@gmail.com
Website: http://www.austin.shambhala.org

Activities and Schedule

Members meet during the public meditation hours: Sundays from nine to noon and Monday through Thursday evenings seven to eight. The Center also offers free meditation instruction on Sundays at ten, or by appointment. On Wednesdays, the director of the Center receives visitors, taking them on tours, teaching meditation, and leading discussions. In addition to the regular meetings, there are two small subgroups for children and gay practitioners. In the first subgroup, about twenty children of the members are taught about the basic tenets of Tibetan Buddhism and simple meditation techniques. The second subgroup is called Gay Men's Meditation Group, which was started by two of the members of the Center in spring 2004, currently has twenty to thirty regular participants. Gay practitioners usually meet on Sunday afternoons or evenings, and a guest speaker is invited to give a lecture to the group.

History

The Austin Shambhala Meditation Center has been at its present location in South Austin for about twenty-five years since its founding in 1979. Its lineage was established in North America and Europe by Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungapa Rinpoche, who was a lineage holder and dedicated vajra master in both the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions. There is no resident teacher in the Center; consequently, each spring and fall, an Acharya (senior teacher) travels to Austin from Canada to offer new teachings for the members of the Center. The Center is currently registered as a Buddhist Church and non-profit educational organization and has three sister centers located in Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas. The Austin site has two buildings and a large garden area. The larger building features two meditation halls, two small meeting rooms, and a kitchen; and the smaller building has a meditation hall, a children's class room, an office, and a kitchen. The largest meditation hall can hold about eighty people. To date, the Shambhala Meditation Center has built a good relationship with some local Buddhist groups through personal ties. It is also well known in its neighborhood, and a few neighbors have become interested in Buddhism and are participating in the activities of the Center. Some regular members also have moved to the neighborhood in order to facilitate their practices.

Description

With its roots in Tibetan Buddhism, the Austin Shambhala Meditation Center offers four major programs to meet practitioners’ various needs: “Shambahala Buddhism,” focusing on traditional Tibet Buddhist practices; “Shambhala Training,” with an emphasis on pure meditation techniques; “Shambhala Art,” led by an inter-disciplinary artist, dancer and choreographer; “Nalanda”, teaching Ikebana, tea art, the art of Japanese flower arranging, calligraphy, the way of the bow, and so on. The Center director indicates that "Shambahala Buddhism" is the favorite program among the members, for it encourages practitioners to face reality instead of turning away from it ("just like a warrior, don't be afraid of what you are"). These programs are intended to benefit both practitioners and society. One of the dedicated practitioners, who has practiced Buddhism for about two decades in the Center, said in an interview, "Through my practice, I have learned how to not be serious about myself and to be more valuable to other people." The programs at the Center reflect the idea that Buddhism, an Asian religion, must adapt itself to Western life in order to flourish in this culture. The importance of the practice is "the essence of the teachings." It is not about monastic life, but about living in the (secular) world. "Down through our tradition,” said George Hasty, the Center director, “many teachers (in Tibet) also had wives and families." One example of this Western adaptation is the wedding ceremony, a popular social service featured by the center. "Sometimes even visitors who were not Buddhists came in, asking for a Buddhist wedding."

Demographics

There has been slow but steady growth in membership of the Center. The current membership is about 110, while it was 80-90 five years ago, and ten years ago, 40-50. There are about fifty dedicated core members; other members may leave for many reasons as new members come. Almost all of the members are Anglo-American practitioners, and a few are Hispanic and African-Americans; no Asians or Asian-Americans have joined. Slightly over half of the regular members are female. The ages of the members range from the twenties to the sixties, and about half are over forty. Unlike many Christian churches, the Shambhala Meditation Center does not emphasize proselytizing. “Dharma teachings are just offered, and people feel free to come or leave,” said the Center Director. Interested people may get to know about the Center through word of mouth, internet, or posters in bookstores. Most of the practitioners grew up in Christian homes. Some may go to Christian churches and join different religious groups. A few of them even belong to two or three local Buddhist groups, such as Austin Zen Center and Plum Blossom Buddhist Group.

Affiliation

The Austin Shambhala Meditation Center is affiliated with Shambhala International, located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and founded by the late Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Shambhala International is currently supervised by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, son and spiritual heir of the founder.