A significant feature of the Shamhala Lineage Festival was that we suggested that centres and groups devote time to contemplation and discussion of the theme: Shambhala and Society. The idea was to reflect on two aspects: Shambhala as a society itself, and the role that Shambhalians are playing in the larger society around them.
First, Shambhala as a society itself. Before he went on retreat, the Sakyong emphasized the overarching importance of developing, within Shambhala itself, a culture of kindness. Participants in the festival were asked to contemplate a time when they had a direct experience of being in a culture of kindness in Shambhala. Where and when did that happen? What was it that made people feel this?
Everyone was then asked to contemplate a time when they felt they were definitely not part of a culture of kindness in Shambhala. What was it that made people feel this way? What could we do to ensure that other people no longer have that kind of experience?
Second, Shambhala in the world around us. The second part of the discussion asked:
“What are we Shambhalians doing in the society around us?” Sometimes, we may think that Shambhala is not doing anything in the world around us. But in fact, many Shambhalians are engaged in all kinds of social, ecological, and other forms of creating enlightened society.
Then we were asked to contemplate and share with each other how we are bringing what we have learned in Shambhala into our life and work.
More than 60 centres and groups worldwide sent in reports on their discussions for presentation to the Sakyong. A composite report will be made available to the community soon. It makes fascinating reading!
These discussions and the Sakyong’s emphasis on the social vision of Shambhala are taking place against an international backdrop of social, political, economic and environmental concerns and warnings. The world’s most powerful nations were warned in November that the international economy is on the brink of a deep new economic crisis that could cost millions of jobs around the globe and trigger mass social unrest. This warning came from the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation (ILO). The ILO said the risk of social unrest is rising in 40 per cent of the countries it examined. It said it could take until 2016 for global employment to return to the levels of three years ago – and that anger could erupt on the streets of Europe and other continents as a result.