Shambhala Center

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The Pioneer Valley Shambhala Center is one of the many centers of the Shambhala tradition in North America. Founded in 1970 by Trungpa Rinpoche, Shambhala tradition emerged in North America as a result of a search for a method to express Tibetan Buddhist teachings to Americans in an accessible and desirable way. Shambhala has online communities and more than 200 physical meeting centers located in over 50 countries.[1] The organization is based upon the principle of a “classic mandala,” a web of relationships that all sprout from the Shambhala lineage and teachings, currently being led by Sakyong Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche. Holding simple meditation and discussion sessions every week, Shambhala centers offer opportunities for guided enlightenment, a practice that attracts a growing segment of contemporary Americans.The Shambhala community’s main concern is to instil in people that everyone can ignite their innate goodness to combat the unnatural greed and arrogance of the world.

The Pioneer Valley Shambhala Center has been in the Valley since the late 1970s and moved to its current location of Northampton in 2009.[2] It is an all-volunteer organization supported by member dues, program fees, and donations. With over 60 dues-paying members, the center is growing with the increasing interest in Shambhala meditation and mindfulness in America. Holding weekly meditations and open discussions, the center is dedicated to following the Tibetan Buddhist path of awakening and compassion. The center welcomes anyone from any religious background and works to reassure everyone of their shared basic goodness. The members tend to be middle-aged, Caucasian, and have varying levels of experience. The center offers weeknight classes, weekend retreats, free meditation sessions, and open discussions with the community about Shambhala values.

Shambhala sitting meditation is somewhat different from other forms of meditation; it involves having one’s eyes open rather than closed. Throughout the meditation, the instructor encourages everyone to accept their thoughts as they are and to not try to deny that they are present. During the practice, there is an emphasis on being aware of the world around you and of your present state. It is also encouraged to have “dignity” in your posture when you meditate; this physical representation of dignity is emphasized by Shambhala’s core value and goal–making people confident of their inherent goodness. In the Shambhala tradition, knowing the true condition of yourself and of the world is believed to facilitate the awakening of one’s innate basic goodness.

[1] ‘Shambhala Lineage,’ Shambhala, accessed 18 November, 2019,

[2] ‘Community,’ Pioneer Valley Shambhala, accessed 18 November, 2019

[3] Kathy McWilliams, ‘How did Lions Become a Symbol of Buddhism?’ Vision Times. 24 October, 2015.

[4] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘Vairochana,’ Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1998,

[5] ‘Shambhala Standard (GES) Flag,’ Kalapa Media, accessed 18 November, 2019,

[6] Jim Yensan, ‘The Four Dignities: Meek, Perky, Outrageous, and Inscrutable,’ Shambhala Mountain Center, accessed 18 November, 2019,