Saturday, September 18, 2010

Karma Triyana Dharmachakra

One brisk early Autumn day some years back, I set out for Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, nestled in the Catskill Mountains near Woodstock, New York. I was living in Ithaca, New York at the time and it made for a great morning road trip.

As the seat of the Karmapa (the head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism) in the West, Karma Triyana Dharmachakra's history, presence (spiritual and physical) and dynamic schedule has served as a significant hub in the gradually expanding network of Vajrayana centers since the 1970's.

Many temples and Buddhist centers are set within a range of rich, meditative landscapes. KTD's surroundings are expansive, rolling and woodsy. As excited as I was to reach KTD, the journey there was an event in itself.

Inside shrine room

Photos by Annika Lundkvist

KTD was founded in the 1970's and construction of representative architecture here in the 1980's.

Mead's Mountain House, part of the KTD complex, was built in 1865, functioned for a period of time, historically, as a summer hotel.

When I visited, construction for the monastery was underway. Taking a look at their website, the news is that the monastery is complete.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wood Valley Temple

In viewing the imagery of Tibetan Buddhist temples as well as visiting their spaces when possible, I am occasionally reminded of famous Swedish author Astrid Lindgren's popular red haired child character- Pippi Longstocking. More specifically, I am reminded of Villa Villekula, the house that Pippi inhabited- a charming, chaotic and color bursting scene of love, open hearts and a child's sense of keeping space.

The energy on the scene of a Tibetan Buddhist temple or monastery is certainly more decidedly infused with matters of spirit and ritual- but there too is a playfulness, a bright quirk and twinkle in the eye.

Not to mention, the color schemes bear striking parallels.

All photos by Annika A. Lundkvist

My memories of visiting Wood Valley Temple, Nechung Dorje Drayang Ling, are infused with the memory of road tripping southward on the island of Hawai'i. First upward and over, past Pele's domain, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, and onward towards the verdant and peaceful environs of the town of Pahala. Always a sense of calm, active excitement as I rounded the bend, nearing Wood Valley Temple- this bright, active little node tucked discreetly into the rainforest.
I never saw many people there. Sometimes I saw the monks, or caretakers, or a peacock or two.

A friend and I happened to make the "pilgrimage" on a day that was also a Lunar Festival. Our visit was spent mostly sitting quietly in the shrine room until a small group of monks appeared on the scene, at which point we became active witnesses to ceremony, followed by a feast of the offerings that visitors had left over the weeks on the altar. Oreos, gummi bears and such.

Delightful. Not to mention my introduction to ceremony in the Tibetan Buddhist sphere. My next ceremonial experience (just as rich but more solemn) would not occur for another five years or so, back in the continental U.S., in upstate New York.
Aptly named Nechung Dorge Drayang Ling, meaning Immutable Island of Melodious Sound, this Tibetan Buddhist temple runs in the Geluk tradition, with H.H. the Dalai Lama as spiritual director. The center was established in 1973 and while I don't have the history of the center at my fingertips, I am guessing that there is a hearty tradition of local residents that have served as caretakers of this small but spacious, beautiful space.

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Ampitheatre of the Redwoods"

Drawing: Matt Welsh

On aptly named 'Eureka Canyon Road' in Santa Cruz, California is the Pema Osel Ling Retreat Center- the 'Ampitheatre of the Redwoods.' Set within the epic landscape of the redwood Forest, Pema Osel Ling serves as an exquisite, and eco-friendly, retreat center as well as a creation under the work of the Vajrayana Foundation. Founded in the late 1980's by Lama Tharchin Rinpoche, the Foundation works in the vein and lineage of the Nyingma school.

The stupas at Pema Osel Ling have been constructed in the form of a mandala and in the style of the eight traditional stupas.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Kagyu Landmark in NY State

Source for all images:

Source: Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery website

Founded in 1978 by Lama Norlha Rinpoche, just a couple of years after his arrival in the States Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery is located in Wappinger Falls, New York.

The first dharma center in North America to offer a traditional three year retreat for serious and dedicated students to train in the Kagyu lineage, Kagyu Thubten Chöling is one of the oldest dharma centers in North America and certainly among the very first Tibetan Buddhist monasteries to be established on the continent.

The center also serves as mother Monastery to:
Kagyu Drupgyu Chödzong (D.C.)
Kagyu Shenpen Tharchin (VA)
Kagyu Puntsok Gatsal Chöling (VA)
Kagyu Samchen Chöling Dharma Center (VA)
Kagyu Gyurmey Gatsal Chöling (Key West, FL)
Kagyu Tashi Chödzong (Coconut Grove, FL)
Kagyu Shedrup Chöling (El Portal, FL)
Kagyu Trinley Kunchab (Watertown, MA)
Kagyu Osel Chödzong (NH)
Kagyu Samten Chöling (Barrington, NH)
Kagyu Osel Chöling (Westfield, NJ)
Kagyu Dakshang Chöling (NYC, NY)
Kagyu Dzamling Kunchab (NYC, NY)
Kagyu Pende Kunchab (Red Hook, NY)
Kagyu Samdrup Chödzong (Greensboro, NC)
Milarepa Drakmar Kyung Dzong (Arden, NC)
Milarepa Osal Chö Dzong (Tallahassee, TN)
Kagyu Palchen Chöling (Montpelier, VT)
Kagyu Tarjay Chöling (Lima, Peru)
Kagyu Drupgyu Chöling (Cusco, Peru)
Kagyu Gempel Chöling (Quebec, Canada)

Source: Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery website

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Southernmost North American Stupa in Progress

From the last post on a center in Hawai'i, back to the continental USA and to the southeastern extremity. The state of Florida is host to a number of Vajrayana dharma centers. Today's focus is Kagyu Shedrup Chöling, founded by Ven. Lama Norlha Rinpoche, who immigrated to the States in the late 70's and founded Kagyu Thubten Chöling Monastery in New York State. The teachings at Kagyu Shedrup Chöling are very diverse and address several levels of technique and skill. Kagyu Shedrup Chöling's resident teacher is Ven. Lama Karma Chötso, who has also devoted her time as a Professional Volunteer Chaplain for Hospice Care and has performed Buddhist death rituals for deceased, among many other services.

Kagyu Shedrup Chöling stupa project will ultimately result in the southernmost stupa constructed in North America, an interesting point for the entire energetic network of stupas on the continent.

Stupas have a long history and tradition of serving both as symbolic representations of the Buddha's enlightened mind, as spaces for circumambulatory movement and meditation and tributes to precious teachers. They also have an additional and incredibly interesting dimension of 'acting' on and with the environment. It is a type of construction that sees form as infused with energy as the elements and with the ability (and often necessity) of interacting with them.

Kagyu Shedrup Chöling's blog, South Florida Kagyu Stupas, notes:

"The treasure vase is a Tibetan tradition that goes back to the time of Guru Rinpoche, who gave specific instructions on how they were to be made and their purpose. These vases can help balance the environment and promote healing of all kinds. Here in South Florida the basic elements of earth, water, fire, air and space are all out of balance. These vases are part of the reason the stupas will be balancing them and will help avert negative forces of all kinds -- storms, wars, etc."

Treasure Vases
Source: South Florida Kagyu Stupas Blog

It appears that as of late, the foundation is being set and the stupa construction is in motion. Check out Kagyu Shedrup Chöling's blog for visuals and to watch the process unfold.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Aloha and the Dharma

Over in a state I consider home in a very heartfelt way are dharma centers on the most verdant and peaceful of grounds, colors exploding amidst a gentle rustling of leaves and general serenity.

The center for this post is found on the "Garden Isle" of Kauai, tucked into the mountains on the eastern side of the island. Established by Lama Karma Rinchen in 1990 and directed by Lama Teshi Dundrup, this Kauai Dharma Center offers meditation retreats, Vajrayana Dharma teachings for intermediate students and basic Mahayana Buddhism classes. The center also contributes time and efforts to maintaining the first Buddhist stupa on Kauai. A project born from the efforts of the Dharma Sanctuary, the first Buddhist stupa in Kauai was consecrated in 2009. At the Kauai Dharma Sanctuary a central stupa, dedicated to the lineage of H.E. Kalu Rinpoche in Hawai'i, is surrounded by smaller stupas.

The stupa project in general serves as a further unifying force for Lama's who devoted energy to establishing centers and transmitting dharma teachings throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

Clicking through the slideshows at the Dharma Sanctuary's website also really gives one a sense of the lushness and spacious sense on the island surrounding the centers. The Dharma Sanctuary's main focus is the construction of Tibetan stupas globally with stupas already constructed in France, Hawai'i and New Mexico. As the Dharma Sanctuary states on their website, stupa building....

"is a spiritual technology that the Tibetans have codified over centuries and is now available to the western world....Building stupas is holy work. They only appear when all the conditions are auspicious. "

Stupa Empowerment ceremony at Dharma Sanctuary, Kauai
Source: Kagyu Thubten Choling/Kauai Dharma Center website

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bardo. Art.

Image source: New York Tibetan Art Studio & Rubin Museum of Art

A Tibetan word that translates literally to 'intermediate state,' Bardo is commonly used to refer to the time between death and rebirth. The Bardo Thodol, known in English as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, translates to "Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State." While Bardo often does refer to the 'interim' period between passing from one life to another, it is also indicative of other intermediate states. The Bardo Thodol outlines these 6 different intermediary states, which include the bardo of meditation, the bardo of dreaming and the bardo of dying.

Whatever your level of engagement with Buddhism, it's spectrum of artwork offers visualization of religious and spiritual concepts, shows a range of admirable craftmanship and can simply mystify and awe the mind with it's boldness, subtleties and spectacular and strange sceneries.

The Rubin Museum of Art has been a well known purveyor of art from the Himalaya's as well as a dedicated sponsor for many educational activities related to Buddhism. Until September of this year, the Rubin Museum is hosting the exhibit: Bardo-Tibetan Art of the Afterlife. I had the opportunity to visit the museum once when I was in NYC and it was stunning. Artwork can be one of the most enjoyable and interesting ways to share culture and aspects of spiritual philosophy with the community. This is a world class institution, sharing in the qualities of the exquisiteness of the art it shows.