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Shambhala Training – The Generosity of Level Five

January 2nd, 2009 · No Comments · Filed under: Shambhala Training

Last year in August I wrote about my experiences with Shambhala Training Level Five.

I wrote the piece for the Austin Shambhala blog, which I manage, but I didn’t publish it because I wasn’t sure how much I can reveal about the training programs. There’s a legacy culture of secrecy that has grown up around the training path of Shambhala. This is changing – wants to change, is approved to change – and I play my small part in its changing here in Austin.

I will write increasingly more about Shambhala. As I progress along its training path I become more qualified to speak of my own experience in it, and I understand more of the whole path. And I trust my own wisdom more to say only the right things and not the wrong.

Meanwhile, here’s the piece on Level Five.


August 19, 2008

Shambhala Training’s Level V weekend intensive is coming in September, long and eagerly awaited and trained for by a number of people whom I’ve seen go through the Levels over the last year or so. A small group has managed to stay together through them all, which is always a special bond. And others that I knew from the year before who missed a Level are now catching this wave too, which makes me very glad. And there will be others taking the class again, and coming in from below my radar – I hope to know them all by the end of the weekend, it will be my profound satisfaction to volunteer as staff this time around.

Steve Vosper is coming down again from Boulder to teach the class. It was a very small class last year, and he was fresh out of a three-month retreat, so we had a great sense of depth to the program. I have no idea what was unique to that event and what is standard for the Level V class, so this one will be fresh in every sense.

To me the experience of Level V was a culmination beyond all expectation of the five levels. Ever since that class I’ve gone around telling everyone: they should call it the Five Levels of Shambhala you know, the way they speak of the Four Foundations, or any other numbered list in Buddhism. I’ve wanted to show that taking just one of them is only part of the experience.

Fortunately perhaps, no one is ever swayed by my enthusiasm for this, and nothing ever changes, but at least here in this very personal opinion – sponsored by no one – I get to present my observation that there are five Levels because there are five important things to teach, each of them showing us a part of our experience. The totality of this is not apparent, until the fifth teaching takes the first four teachings and shows the unity of all five practices in one great burst of freedom.

This is why I call it generous. I was astonished to discover what Level V had to show me about my mind and the reality it perceives. To realize that this is always here, that this has always been my experience, waiting to be perceived, if someone would simply be kind enough and skilled enough to show this to me, at the perfect time.

I didn’t know what pointing out instruction was when I took the class but during my particular weekend in my interview an Assistant Director sat before me and showed me my mind experience. I was thoroughly impressed. I felt very skilled. I felt very happy to get a tiny glimpse of the reality we live in. It took over a year I’m sure for what I learned to soak into the bedrock of my practice.

I was joyous to have traveled so far, and not moved an inch, and to be such a beginner still, and yet to learn that I never have to journey to find my enlightened nature, but need only stay right here, and keep practicing.

I know of no greater gift.

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