Frequently Asked Questions
What is Dzogchen?
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Who is Lama Surya Das?
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When and Where are local meetings held?
For details of upcoming meetings, please see the Events page. For more general information, click on the relevant local area in the menu bar above.Can anyone attend?
Everyone is welcome, regardless of whether they follow any faith or tradition, or none. Our approach is non-sectarian and ecumenical, and meetings are suitable for anyone regardless of whether or not they have any previous meditation experience.Is there a charge or expected donation?
Attendance is free. You can make a small donation to help with expenses if you wish, but none is required.Who are the teachers?
Weekly and monthly meetings, as well as periodic one-day and weekend retreats, are usually led by Lama Daniela or Lama Christopher. Occasionally when both are away in retreat, meetings may be led by other long-term students of theirs.What happens at a meditation group meeting?
Lama Surya visits Southern California regularly several times a year to lead weekend or one-week retreats.
We usually make a welcoming start with brief announcements about upcoming events and opportunities to connect. Meditation practice follows, introduced by aspirations to awaken for one's own benefit and that of others. After setting our motivation for practicing, guidance leads us gently into the main practice of natural meditation - an easy, comfortable resting in natural awareness; presence requiring no effort to maintain. A period of sitting together silently in this vivid, wakeful and joyous "non-meditation" follows, lasting perhaps 20 to 30 minutes, possibly interspersed with occasional further guidance. The session ends prayerfully with dedication of the benefits of our practice to the well-being of all and aspirations for universal freedom and peace.Will there be prayers
Meditation practice may be followed by a short teaching, and an opportunity for questions about practice. There is then usually a social break with light refreshments (tea and cookies), and a chance to get to know other members of the group. Meetings last approximately two hours in all, ending with a short "mini-meditation" and dedication.
In Tibetan, the word for "prayer" literally means "aspiration-path". It is in this sense, of setting aspirations and turning our mind toward awakening, that we often recite or chant at the beginning and end of sessions, in order to invoke and invite blessings and encouragement to awaken naturally in our mindstream.What about chanting?
You may be surprised (like many of us) to find that you actually like to chant, even if you have no prior experience or think you may find it strange. This long-standing spiritual tradition is expansive, energizing and uplifting, and for thousands of years practitioners have relied upon their voices to help them awaken. We often use traditional Tibetan chants (also set out in Western phonetics for ease of reading) to ground our practice, infuse it with joy and share the blessings. If this is initially unfamiliar, you can feel free to just relax, listen and let the experience unfold; see how it is for you. And if at any point minded to join in, you'll find yourself in good company - people whose vocal aptitude varies from some to none, and who are happy to "chant like nobody's listening". Our regular natural meditation sessions usually include only a little chanting; other specifically scheduled sessions may focus more on chanting as a practice, for those who find it helpful. You can also read more about chanting here.