What: Explore Buddhist meditation and learn stress-reduction techniques from Yogi Acharya Lama Gursam
When: 7-9 p.m. Tuesday and at other free sessions throughout November
Where: A Shared Awareness meditation center, 105 E St., Suite 3G
Info: Sunny Shine, 530-756-2671
By Ellen Anderson Holt
These days, it’s difficult to check out of the grocery store without seeing a slender, cross-legged woman sitting serenely on the cover of a magazine … a magazine that could be advertising anything from beachfront vacations to vitamins. This being the case, you might think it’s now easy to find a qualified spiritual teacher here in the United States.
Quite the opposite is true. And when a qualified teacher does appear, it seems he or she is almost inevitably swarmed with hundreds, if not thousands, of adoring fans. This can make it difficult to ask questions and receive responses directly, as was the traditional manner of transmitting these teachings.
So yes, the benefits of mindfulness practices have been popularized by the media and validated by the medical community through the work of conscientious researchers in laboratories from Davis to Madison, Wis. Yet real masters — people who have devoted at least three years or more to solitary meditation practice — remain rare and elusive.
Enter Yogi Acharya Lama Gursam, “Lama G” to his twentysomething devotees, one of a new generation of dynamic young Tibetan Buddhist meditation masters who speak fluent English and know the Western mind through direct personal experience.
Lama Gursam has completed a traditional three-year solitary retreat as well as the rigorous course of study in languages and philosophy required of all those who bear the title “acharya.” Yet he is also a “yogi,” a real yogi, who has spent time meditating alone in caves for extensive periods of time.
So why haven’t you heard of him? Possibly because Tibetan meditation masters are not necessarily public relations masters. Possibly because he hails from a tradition that places high value on humility in the face of great accomplishment. And possibly because, as Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman, Ph.D., reminds us in his bestselling book “Inner Revolution,” modern society does not value human realization as highly as it values technological advances. If it did, Tibet would long ago have outpaced Silicon Valley.
When Davis resident Sunny Shine began her search for a meditation teacher, she was fortunate to meet Lama Gursam and invite him to A Shared Awareness meditation center in Davis. Since then, Lama Gursam has quietly returned each year to guide interested students through traditional Tibetan meditation practices.
All are invited to attend free teachings with Lama Gursam throughout November, beginning Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. at The Lofts, 105 E St., Suite 3G, in downtown Davis. Complete schedules are available in downtown Davis at Himalayan Gifts, 713 Second St., and Yeti Restaurant, 234 E St. For more information, call Shine at 530-756-2671.
Each practice session ends with an open question-and-answer session. Students’ questions range from detailed inquiries into the nature of mind to requests for clarification regarding Buddhist terminology. Last year’s visit included an exchange between a UC Davis undergraduate new to Buddhism and Lama Gursam.
It went something like this: “Lama-la, what are Buddha, Dharma and Sangha? What do these words mean?” Lama Gursam smiled, his eyes twinkling in response to the bright-minded clarity of the young man’s question, before he explained that Buddha is the awakened mind in all of its manifestations; Dharma is the truth, the truth of noticing how things really are without the judgments and fabrications our minds make up; and Sangha is the community of like-minded people who support us in living a spiritual life.
Lama Gursam’s teaching sessions cover a wide range of interests and ability levels, from beginning students seeking basic meditation instruction to advanced practitioners interested in daylong retreats and more esoteric practices. Each spring, Lama Gursam also leads trips to the holy places of Nepal and India, on which participants have the opportunity to meditate in traditional monasteries, walk around sacred stupas, and immerse themselves in the cultures that spawned these techniques for calming the mind and opening the heart.
For more information on Yogi Acharya Lama Gursam, as well as a complete biography, visit www.lamagursam.org.