Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Lion's Roar, by Alex

Shang Rinpoche
State Library of Victoria, Foyer
One essential quality of a Vajra Master, as stated in the texts, is that he is fearless, proclaiming the Dharma as the lion roars his reign in the grassy plains of the Savanna. In this instance, the roar was heard resounding in the lecture hall of the State Library of Victoria, where the Venerable Shang Rinpoche was invited to speak on mindfulness and healthy living in a modern context. It was a full house, and the event started out with a demonstration of the qigong Rinpoche teaches to his students, performed by a few of the latter. Following this short session of relaxation and meditation, Rinpoche made his entry and started talking in a relaxed fashion, setting all present at ease.

After this brief introduction, Rinpoche addressed the audience, stating that nowadays, so many people practice yoga, mindfulness and insight meditation. Why then is it that no one has attained the enlightenment Buddha Shakyamuni, upon reaching Buddhahood, declared every being was capable of, it being in actual fact each and every one's original nature? Having uttered such a bold statement, he went on to expound the foundational concepts of Buddhism, namely the Four Noble Truths, Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, the Thirty-seven Factors for Enlightenment and the Four Foundations of Mindfulness: body, feelings, mind, and thoughts.

Shang Rinpoche
Rinpoche, On Stage During the Talk
On this last topic, Rinpoche lingered a while, sharing insights pertaining to practice as it relates to each of the four. On reaching awareness of the mind and thoughts, Rinpoche steered his way to open up on the topic of Mahayana Buddhism, the vehicle of Buddhism where the practitioner seeks awakening for the benefit of all sentient beings. At this point, he related the story of the first transmission of the lineage of Ch'an, whereby Buddha Shakyamuni, ever peaceful and composed, surprised an entire congregation of listeners by unexpectedly holding up a flower, and smiling. This spontaneous act was understood by the Venerable Mahakassapa, who simply stood up and smiled back. I had read this story before but never before had it been brought so vividly to life in my mind. Rinpoche jokingly added that people who study Ch'an therefore initially undergo quite a bit of confusion.

Shang Rinpoche
A Captive Audience
Towards the end of the talk, the tone became more conversational, as the crowd was invited to ask questions, and received answers both humorous and insightful. This relaxed interaction continued after the lecture, where a group gathered upstairs in a more intimate setting to ask more personal questions. The questions ranged from the theoretical to the personal, and when the topic of qigong came up, Rinpoche gave a personal demonstration.

As the discussion came to a close, everyone rose from their chairs feeling visibly light-hearted. As we proceeded downstairs to the exit, people were heard chatting and joking joyfully. It was quite a pleasure to behold a crowd so relaxed and at ease after having witnessed the roar of a lion.

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