Moderator, Weekend retreat discussion on the development of the Four Seasons Project, Shambhala Mountain Center – November, 2013

Environmental and land management professionals gathered at SMC to guide the development of a new emphasis on celebrating, understanding and caring for the land that makes up this 600 acre retreat. The Four Seasons Project will include programming, attention to resource management, and other activities in synergy with the overall mission of the Shambhala Mountain Center.

Shambhala Mountain Center has long been a place for people to practice meditation and other inquiries into the mind and spirit. But it is also a particular place on Earth that inspires with its beauty, tranquility and life. Thus, there is an unparalled opportunity to blend many elements of the human mind and body, human society, land and the world as a whole.

We live in a time when the importance of understanding our human relationship to nature and finding ways to live that are compatible with our living Earth cannot be overstated. The Shambhala Mountain Center’s Four Season Project has the potential to contribute significantly to such integrated understanding and action. Of great symbolic significance is the fact that SMC is the site of the largest Buddhist stupa in the Western Hemisphere. An excerpt from the explanation of the stupa gives insights into the profound connections between land and people that the Four Seasons Project can reveal.

If you look down on a stupa from the sky, it always reveals a directional orientation such as South, West, North and East – a mandalic square shape. It has a central axis, the center of the universe, the axis-mundi. Two basic shapes – the circle and the square – are apparent, representing water and earth respectively, while the vertical shape – a triangle – represents fire.

A fundamental significance of stupas in the West lies in the contrast between modern and ancient worldviews, specifically in how matter is viewed. Ancient people, living close to nature, viewed matter as living and fecund, as an accumulator of spirit. Modern people, cut off from nature, often view matter as dead, something mechanical to be used or manipulated. The stupa is monumental architecture, emphasizing our connection to the spiritual by both its mass and symbolic shapes. (From the Shambhala Mountain Center website)

It seems no accident that the motif of the Buddhist stupa and mandala – the circle and four directions – is basic to many other symbols from around the world that describe the relationship between human beings and nature.