Meditating for Gold

Pagpa and the Great Britain Men’s Hockey Team

The earliest recorded Olympic competition occurred in 776 B.C. Buddha Shakyamuni taught in 500 B.C. The ancient Greeks valued physical excellence, and that admiration has continued in the Olympics up to this day. The ancient Buddhists valued mental excellence, and this admiration too has continued amongst meditators to this day.

While in Cape Town on a local tour to play against South Africa and train for the 2012 London Olympics, the Great Britain Men’s Hockey team asked Pagpa at the Kadampa Center in Cape Town to come and teach them how to meditate. Taking a leaf out of the 2500 year-old Buddhist tradition, they are including meditation as part of their regimen for success. As a side effect, they are also reporting increased happiness and well-being 🙂

A calm, balanced, peaceful mind is likened to stable, shining gold in the Kadampa Buddhist Tradition – avoiding the extremes of over-excitement, like glittery diamonds, or dullness, like lead. We will see in October whether the UK hockey team bring home the Olympic gold again, but it seems they’re already making strides toward inner gold. Read on to see what their coach has to say:

“In football there is an old debate about whether or not it is possible to practise in preparation for the infamous penalty shoot-out. The England football team have lost on penalties at late stages of many major competitions. In the ruminations of the incident, football pundits generally agree that you can’t replicate the pressures of the penalty shoot-out, so at best any attempt to practise for it will be limited. It is true that you can’t replicate those pressures, but you can improve the ability to not be distracted by the pressures, to maintain a balanced and calm approach.

We in the Great Britain Men’s Hockey team are using meditation to try and develop this ability, and whilst in South Africa during a training camp we were privileged to be introduced to the power of meditation by our teacher Pagpa from the Tushita Buddhist Centre.

Many of the players reported how inspired they were by Pagpa’s introduction to meditation, and were amazed at the positive potential meditation has for their sporting performance and their general happiness and well-being.

We now integrate meditation time into our day and since doing so there has been a palpable improvement in the mood of the players, despite the increasing pressures they are experiencing as we get closer to the biggest sporting event of their lives; the 2012 London Olympics.

Irrespective of our performance at the Olympics, I am confident that the help Pagpa has given us in using the power of meditation will help us play to our best, whilst keeping a calm and balanced perspective.”

Jason Lee
Great Britain & England Senior Men’s Head Coach

Kadampa Buddhism in South Africa

Pagpa is an old friend. Here is a very quick potted history: Pagpa met Kadampa Buddhism many years ago at Madhyamaka Centre, while I was living there — he peeked his dreadlocked head around the door to Tharpa Publications, where I was working, and introduced himself as the son of two of my parents’ closest friends. He was attending horticultural college in the area, and then he moved into Madhyamaka Centre and became the laid-back gardener, until Geshe Kelsang scooped him out and asked him to be Director of NKT mother ship Manjushri Centre. From there he went to Malaysia to teach Buddhism for several years, until he was requested to teach in South Africa.

Pagpa and other religious leaders opening the World Cup Stadium 2011

Since he has been there, as well as teaching in Cape Town he has managed to open the World Cup stadium and help his fellow teacher and monk Sangdak bring Buddha’s teachings to Zululand. He and Sangdak are having way too much fun out there. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Sangdak in Zululand

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

8 thoughts on “Meditating for Gold”

  1. Up to last year, i was a hockey trainer in men’s junior hockey in Ontario, Canada. I too, tried meditation with my hockey team. My team had lost a few games in a row and the coaches were scrambling around trying to figure out what to do in order to change things around. As a trainer, you are in charge when the coaches aren’t in the dressing room, and i had a plan of my own. I decided i was going to take the time and bring the boys together so that i could make an attempt at explaining about meditation and it’s benefits. Well, it worked, we won our next game, and the one after that too. As mentioned in the article, the boys were also saying that they felt better and found a level of peacefulness in their daily lives. I’m glad to have spoken to them about meditation. I’m almost sure that some of them are still meditating on a daily basis.

  2. That’s where I know Pagpa from, MKMC. He’s mint isn’t he. It’s brilliant to hear that a UK olympics team have the wisdom to look for inner gold as well as external rewards.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. This is a great ‘mainstream’ example for Kadampa Buddhists and a great way for me personally to encourage my Dad in his meditation practice! He mentioned to me many years ago, that he’d heard about sports players meditating to improve. As a friend of mine once said to me… ‘everyone’s coming from somewhere’ and this is another ‘on ramp’ to the path 🙂 It will be an example he can talk about to explain to others that meditation is nothing ‘unusual’… even Olympic hopefuls do it!

  4. I’m on a month’s visit to Cape Town, and attended Pagpa’s teaching on Love and Attachment a couple of weekends ago where he mentioned teaching the GB Hockey Team. It is so lovely to see the photos of this! I will be attending a retreat led by Gen Pagpa this weekend before flying back to England on Thursday; a week today.. Time can go so fast! Pagpa has transformed my month from enjoyable to wonderful – it made me very happy to receive your article this morning; thank you.

  5. Thankyou for this inspiring article – here in South Africa we are so fortunate to have Dharma, on our doorstep. It is Gold ! This article is close to my heart as I follow sport and play a little. I find sport to be a spiritual teaching – self grasping, attachment and anger are the downfall of many sportsmen, teams and individuals as it is in our precious human life – this Saturday in the Beautiful Midlands of Kwazulu Natal we have a wonderful course organised by our kind teacher Kelsang Phuntsog.
    “Reality Wisdom TRUTH” looking into the way things really are with Gen Kelsang Sangdak.

  6. Another inspiring article. Thank you Luna. Pagpa is one of a number of people that nurtures my confidence in Buddhism and the NKT. Long may that continue.

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