In the eighth century, Buddhism became the official religion of the Tibetan people, and the king invited Buddhist teachers to Tibet. Today, Tibetan meditation master Lama Gursam has come to Davis and is offering those same teachings to us.
These teachings are Buddhist teachings, and one of Buddhism’s fundamental beliefs is reincarnation, not of personality but of consciousness. It is believed that before a teacher — referred to as a lama — dies, he bestows all his teachings on someone else, who holds onto those teachings as he grows old. Then when the lama is reborn, he can be re-taught.
Today, as part of this long-lived tradition, a lama has come to Davis and is offering his teachings in free classes throughout the month of November.
“The point is to preserve the teachings in order to benefit others,” Lama Gursam said. “If somebody destroys Buddhism pictures and Buddhism statues at the temples, we don’t really care about that at all. We don’t care about that part. Buddhism is not about statues, it is about the teachings.”
Lama Gursam is offering his classes through A Shared Awareness, a place where people can meet to practice the dharma, the teachings and doctrines of Buddhism. It is located at The Lofts, at 105 E Street 3G.
“When I got back [from a pilgrimage] I had already rented this beautiful space and I was using it for my women’s circle,” said Sunny Shine, founder and teacher at A Shared Awareness. “I just realized that I needed to build a shrine there. I needed to build a Tibetan shrine and I needed to start really practicing. It just clicked, it was like ‘this is a meditation hall.’”
After building the shrine, Shine began inviting people to join. She supports it, so there are no requirements and no dues. If people give donations, they go to whatever teacher happens to be there. And whenever there is an opportunity to invite a teacher, she invites them.
Lama Gursam has come to Davis at this time each year for six years now and has found that each time, people who have studied with him before return to learn more.
“When we teach about meditation, it is not just about studying,” Lama Gursam said. “It is more about the practice, to sit down and understand a practical way for the mind and the body to come and experience peace.”
Buddhist teachings go back more than 2,005 years, and their preservation is very important. The teachings have been present in many countries, including India, China, Japan and Tibet, and Lama Gursam believes that they can be a very beneficial contribution to every living being in the world.
“This is not about becoming a Buddhist,” Lama Gursam said. “This is about people learning how to live as happy people and healthy people.”
Lama Gursam said that meditation is not religious; it is about training minds.
“We living beings all have a mind and a heart; it is a great opportunity to train the mind into an understanding of inner peace,” Lama Gursam said. “There are many different types of happiness, but we believe that the most important is inner peace and happiness.”
Buddhist teachings have been supported by many scientists as well.
“It is not just that we believe something,” Lama Gursam said. “Now we are proud to say that scientists can talk to the Buddhist people; they want to know about the mind and Buddhism’s ideas.”
Meditation is a teaching about awareness, according to Lama Gursam, and the awareness is the wisdom.
“So I’m letting people know that if they are interested in meditation, it is not necessary to be a religious person, not necessary to be a spiritual person, and not necessary to believe something. Just come for the learning and the training to see who you are, learn about our minds, and become more aware,” Lama Gursam said.
Lama Gursam spends part of each year on retreats to India, Nepal, and Tibet, learning from the older generation, and spends the rest of the year traveling in the west, teaching.
So far this year, he has already been on the East Coast, from New York to Boston to New Hampshire, and Vermont. Now, he’s in Davis for the month of November, and will be moving on to Arizona at the end of it.
While he’s here, however, classes will be held every day. Already, he has spoken about general meditation and the different levels of meditation. Last Friday, there was a healing ceremony, and on Saturday and Sunday there were sessions of meditation from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“My goals and my intention is to benefit others, to share this meditation technique,” Lama Gursam said. “My wish is for people to be happy and at peace with themselves. That is why I try to share this skill of meditation and Buddhist teachings. It has been thousands of years that we’ve had this tradition, and so I share with them.”
Bob Foley, who frequents A Shared Awareness, has attended Lama Gursam’s teachings before and stated that he was very impressed and recommends that students attend.
“I think it’s an opportunity to see a good teacher — a real teacher of Tibetan Buddhism,” Foley said.
The next classes will be held Monday through Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. and on Friday at 7 p.m. there will be another empowerment session. For more information call Sunny Shine at (530) 756-2671.
NAOMI NISHIHARA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.