It is a little known fact that Halifax, Nova Scotia is a center of transplanted Tibetian Buddhism in the west. Canada’s Atlantic port is the headquarters of Shambhala International, a worldwide network of meditation centres with locations around the world, including one near Bloor and Christie in Toronto.
670 Bloor Street West, Toronto
- Group sittings
- Meditation instruction
- Lectures and courses
Newcomers are offered the opportunity for introductory meditation instruction in a separate smaller room, while experienced practitioners participated in an unguided group sitting.
Wednesday night sittings are often followed by lectures. The night I attended, I enjoyed a lecture by contemplative psychologist and meditation teacher Susan Chapman.
Shambhala was founded by Chögyam Trungpa, a Tibetian spiritual leader who fled the country after the failed uprising against the Chinese communists.
Similar to the Dalai Lama, Trungpa fled on foot across the Himalayas into India, where he remained for four years before finding his way to the United Kingdom to pursue studies at Oxford University.
There, he helped establish the first Buddhist meditation centre in the west, Samye Ling in Scotland. But after breaking with his fellow spiritual leader, Akyong Rinpoche, and renouncing his monastic vows, he made his way to America (via Canada, incidentally) where he became a lay teacher known for making Buddhism intelligible to western students.
Trungpa was a controversial figure – known for some less than enlightened pursuits such as alcohol consumption – but I won’t delve deep into that in this post. I’ll just say that during that period, Buddhism in the west was embraced by the sixties counter-culture scene. In fact, Trungpa’s students included rock star David Bowie and beat poet Allan Ginsberg. The renowned Buddhist nun and author, Pema Chödron, also studied with him.
In the 1970s, Trungpa began giving a series of secular teachings about the legendary mythical kingdom of Shambhala which began the movement, and established the hereditary lineage of Sakyongs (or ‘earth protectors’) that head the tradition. The current Sakyong, Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche is less of wild mystic than his father was. He’s a nine-time marathon runner whose books look quite at home on the Indigo self-help shelf.
Shambhala describes itself as ‘a global community of people inspired by the principle that every human being has a fundamental nature of basic goodness.’
Check out this YouTube video from the Sakyong on running: