History & Storytelling: many homes, many contributors, many phases

Many members of Portland Shambhala gathered to remember our history on a recent Sunday afternoon.

Gardner Murphy had collected some of this recollections in advance:


General Timeline and History of Portland Shambhala Center

Started in 1970’s, met in peoples’ houses, Gardner was one of the originals! (Gardner to insert his remembrances of history here)

In January,1984, Rayna Jacobson, who had been in the sangha since 1976, moved to Portland from Boulder, Colorado.  Shortly thereafter, she and a few other sangha members moved into a Portland foursquare house that had an attic shrine room at NE 15th & Stanton.  When we first walked into the house, there was a Buddha statue on the mantle, and a teacher’s chair in place where the shrine room would be.  Coincidentally, the Landlady’s brother was Naropa student, and the house had a layout exactly like Kalapa Court (Trungpa Rinpoche’s house) in Boulder.  It was meant to be!

We met there for several years, starting the tradition of Tuesday night sitting, and Sunday morning nyinthuns.  We had classes, picnics, and the small sangha started to grow.  Long-time member Irene Lundquist, who died in 2009, first joined us at that time.  Irene left her legacy in the Irene Lundquist Scholarship Fund, still in use today to help our members attend programs.

During those years, we developed close ties with Kagyu Changchub Choling, a local NE Portland center supported by students of Kagyu teacher Kalu Rinpoche.  Our sangha members helped when major teachers, such as Situ Rinpoche, Thrangu Rinpoche, and others, came to town.  

Between 1985 and 1995, we met in a series of private homes belonging to Liza Goldblatt, a close student of the Vidyadhara.  During that time, we hosted both teachers mentioned above for talks with our sangha.  Also during that time, the practice of Ikebana began, with classes in basic forms presented by sangha members.  Teachings of the Buddhadharma were ongoing, and we had a few Shambhala Training weekend programs held at various places around town, including the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, of which Liza Goldblatt was president.

The biggest change happened in 1995, when we moved into our first public place – the Alder St. Carnegie building, through the contact of Mark Dodich, local astrologer, who joined our sangha for only a short time.  The first year we inhabited the suite next to current one, with the shrine and cushions hid behind closed doors.

We were in that space only one year, after which we moved into the current shrine room and community room space, sublet by a New-Age Christian spiritual group.  We had a shrine with handles that got moved back and forth as we shared the common space with the other group.  Our current green stackable chairs were left behind when they vacated a year or so later.

Needless to say, during those and the ensuing years our sangha kept growing, both with new local members, and sangha members from other parts of the country moving to our beautiful city.  Each person brought fresh energy, new ideas, and dedication.  Some of those people have since left the area or the sangha, but many are still here.

From that time on, we inhabited our full current space, eventually expanding into the office, bookstore, and Vajrayana Shrine room spaces when the current renters moved out. This necessitated installation of the double doors connecting the spaces.  There were other various changes, like the glass entry door, initiated by Jorjan Parker, who was the Center director at the time.  Jorjan was the director who shepherded us to the status of a full Shambhala Center, which was a great achievement for us. Some physical changes were directed by Eva Wong, such as the side door in the community room, the closing of the office/hall door, the placement of the Tokonoma space outside the Vaj. Shrine room, and others.

During all those years, we had a variety of Center directors:  Liza Goldblatt, Rayna Jacobson & Irene Lundquist (co-directors), Jorjan Parker, Jack Bodner, Paul Refalo, Lesa Ricci, Lisa Stanley, and now John Smith and Jane Perlstein.  There were various efforts to purchase our own building.  Over the years, this was a serious pursuit, coming close several times, but the process never reached completion.

There are more details, you can ask some of the long time members such as Gardner Murphy, David Parker, Rayna Jacobson, Robert Archer, and others.

Notable items in the center:

Many items that have served to uplift and dignify the Shambhala Center have their own history:

The Main shrine, and shelf/shrine in Vaj. Shrine room were built by Mac McDowell, Rayna’s husband, who, though not a practicing member of our sangha, provided this and many other small projects for us over the years.  Anything you see painted, was at the skilled hand of Gardner Murphy.

The Basic Goodness calligraphy in Community room, was donated by David Dubin, a sangha member and teacher who now lives in L.A.  David is the one who first taught meditation classes at Reed College, an effort continued by Lisa Stanley and Jay Stewart.

Teachers chair on main shrine was on loan from Marco Noailles and Penny Peterson, now returned. 

The Large Ashe in the Vajrayana Shrine room was purchased at SMC fundraising auction by Rayna Jacobson, when she had a moment of “I have to have this”.  It is in safe keeping in her home.

Many other items, photos, thangkas, rugs, furniture, etc. were donated by various members of the sangha or purchased over the years.  The more precious items are being lovingly cared for by sangha members, ready to bless the next center space.

Major teachers who have blessed our center with their presence & teachings

Over the years, the PSC has hosted a number of major teachers in the Shambhala and other Buddhist lineages.  A short list of the most notable teachers include:

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche came to Portland three times, twice on book tours for Turning the Mind into an Ally and Ruling Your World.  During those visits, he stayed in local sangha members’ homes with his traveling staff.  We provided full household service, cooking, kasung duties, etc.  It was a galvanizing and exciting time for us all, allowing us to participate in the experience of being close to the teacher.  Many of us remember the time in 200? when he gave a talk on a wet and windy New Year’s Eve.  The talk was held in a large space at PSU, and over 300 people came.  There was remarkable energy in the room, as people kept arriving.

Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso taught several times in his unforgettable style, singing, moving, and delighting us with his wisdom and brilliance.

Eva Wong visited several times, teaching Qi Gong, and providing guidance on Feng Shui matters.

Other teachers included Mingyur Rinpoche, Anam Thubtin, President Richard Reoch, Prajwal Ratna Vajracarya, plus numerous Acharyas – Jenny Warwick, Gaylon Ferguson, Susan Chapman, Allyn Lyon, Fleet Maull, Emily Bower, John Rockwell, Richard John.

There were many other wonderful teachers from within and outside our mandala – many riches and blessings!

Rayna Jacobsen put together the following time-line:



I came to Portland in 1976, driving straight from Virginia in a 55 Chev panel van with my pregnant wife. As we got settled, I learned that several up to about six, students inspired by Trungpa Rinpoche were preparing for a visit by the 16th Karmapa.  Being busy with livelihood and family, I was not very involved in that visit.  There was a sizable Tibetan diaspora community in Oregon at the time and a devoted Shangpa Kagyu (KCC) student group as hosts. Our Dharma Study Group had afternoon tea with His Holiness in a house at SE 14h and Oak St.  He commented on the favorable location of downtown as he could see the view from the second story window.  The low hills to the West and the river to the East he deemed favorable. The BlacK Crown ceremony took place at the Marylhurst Chapel. I don’t believe any Shambhala kasung were involved.


On the energy wave that followed the visit, Richard Boak began to establish a newsletter and Tuesday night meetings of the Dharma Study Group at that house of interested Trungpa inspired students, etc.  There was turnover of our group as many students wanted a more vibrant and developed practice and study scene and variously moved away.  Richard became disengaged from the Trungpa sangha, but remained in Portland. 


Kevin Geary and Lisa Johnson took over hosting meetings in their own apartments which were several over a period of time, being very generous to host in small spaces. Lisa was an enthusiastic promoter, proselytizer and advertising department.  It seemed that there was always someone showing up who had run across her in casual encounters.  Our method of advertising for programs was postering at shops after asking permission, and Lisa’s persuasion got a lot of posters placed!  We had our first weekend program in the Pine Room at PCC Sylvania, with meditation instructor meetings in the empty cafeteria.

I submitted copies of a 1977 and 1978 newsletter to our archives.

1979 – 1980

The group meetings had gone dormant when Brad Klaus used remainder funds from the group treasury and advertised  a “Battle of Ego” study program that would take place at his house with a beautiful mailer.  I was the only one from the mailing list who showed up!  We had to search the kitchen for a good gong quality bowl or pot. Brad enjoyed the freshness of the Shambhala teachings.  Later, he finally got a break from livelihood needs, went to a much anticipated weekthun, was punched in the face at a party and had his camera broken.  He began to reconsider his involvement with the scene as well as moving residence to the far West side metro.  We lost a meeting place and went somewhat dormant.  A few meetings were at my house.  Brad is kind of a natural buddhist.

The second visit of H.H.Karmapa to Portland was in 1980.  It took place at the Masonic Temple which is now part of the Art Museum.  There was quite a large group that committed to the Refufge Vow in a ceremony conducted prior to the second Black Crown ceremony for Portland!  There were a few Shambhala Kasung members from the Pacific Northwest helping.  In our small group DSG audience, he said he would see us again in 1982, but he passed away in 1981.


In October, our group was recognized as a Vajradhatu Dharma Study Group!  I was appointed coordinator by Osel Tendzin in a document that I submitted to our archives.


In this year, several dedicated students of Trungpa,Rinpoche arrived in Portland.  Their contributions of knowledge of the Vajradhatu community offerings for study and practice brought greater energy and growth to the group.  Most importantly, several in this group of women offered their homes as our public meeting spaces in their generous desire to keep together and welcome others.

A list of venues open to the public that I can recall:

  • 14th & SE Oak 
  • 32nd & Clinton
  • NW 23rd
  • Off Capitol Hwy.
  • My House
  • Sellwood On Lambert St.
  • Jim Dewey’s house in Bridlemile neighborhood 
  • Liza Goldblatt and Rayna @ 14th and Stanton
  • Liza and Rayna @ NE 53rd
  • Liza at Mt. Tabor
  • Carnegie office space
  • Current space after New Thought church

And now, with heroic efforts by Abbey Pleviak, Alison Clark, Bettina Hetz, Carol Lieberman, Eric Shaffer, David Cook, Laura Gibson, Jack Bodner, Janie Perlstein, John Light, Rayna Jacobsen, Timaree Bierle-Dodds, and many others, the Portland Shambhala Center is living in cyberspace.  (Some of our belongings are stored in member’s houses and some of them are in a storage space shown below)

We will migrate once again.

Leave a Reply