Frequently Asked Questions

… When You Walk into A Shambhala Center or Group


Why is there someone sitting at the front of the room?brightonshambhalameditationgroup

The umdze is the timer. They keep track of the time for sitting and walking meditation, and any breaks for yoga, exercise, or meals. The umdze is also an example of the forms used in sitting and walking meditation.


What do the gongs mean?

Within the meditation session, a single gong signals the beginning of a period of sitting or walking meditation. Two gongs signal the end of a session. Three gongs signal the end of the day.


What is the clacker stick?

The gandi is used to signal the end of walking meditation, and to tell us that it is time to go back to our cushions.


What are the names of the cushions?

The rectangular cushion is called a gomden. In Tibetan, gom means “to become familiar with” and den means “seat.” The mats are called zabutons. Cushions should be placed with the zippers facing the back of the room.


Can I leave the room whenever I want?

You are free to leave the room at any time. There is however a meditation room etiquette. As much as possible, please enter and leave the meditation space during the walking meditation.


Is there a correct pace in walking meditation?

Generally, it is slower than our normal pace. Position yourself in the middle of the space available to you in the circle. If people are crowded behind you, you are going too slowly. If you are walking closely to the person in front of you and there is a lot of space behind you, you are going too fast. If there is a big space in front of you, you are walking too slowly.

When the umdze strikes the gandi, pick up your pace and walk normally, still clockwise, to your seat. Remain standing on your zabuton, with hands in the walking meditation posture, until the umdze sits down; then all sit down.


What does it mean to Dedicate the Merit?

To dedicate the merit is to acknowledge that the activity just completed is a virtuous one. Rather than holding onto any good deriving from the act, we offer it for the benefit of all sentient beings.


What do the shrine objects mean?

Note: Shrines may have any or all of the following objects.

The crystal ball represents the inherent clarity and purity of mind.

A dharma book, wrapped in brocade, represents the teachings of the Buddha.

The flame of the candle represents prajna, or awakened intellect.

Water represents the practice of generosity. Flowers represent the practice of exertion. Incense represents the practice of patience.


What are the pictures over the shrine at the front of the room?

In the middle is the Primordial Rigden Thangka, which mirrors to viewers an image of their enlightened nature, their basic goodness.

On the left is Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the founder of Shambhala.

On the right hand side is his son Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the current leader of Shambhala. Rinpoche (rin-po-shay) is an honorific title meaning “precious one.”


What does the Sun banner mean?

In the Great Eastern Sun banner, the white background is representative of space
or spaciousness of the mind. The yellow circle represents the Great Eastern Sun, the awakening of human dignity and confidence.

The four coloured bars represent the qualities of a Shambhala warrior, called the Four Dignities.

Orange is mindfulness and gentleness, represented by the Tiger. White is joy and discipline, represented by the Snow Lion. Red is vast perspective and compassion, represented by the Garuda. Blue is wisdom, represented by the Dragon.