Monday, April 19, 2010

FPMT via Montana

Tashi Dhargye: The Eight Auspicious Signs - Combined Form

"Image(s) courtesy of Osel Shen Phen Ling," Bob Jacobson

This morning's visit had me returning to the expansive landscape of Montana, searching about for dharma centers there. I came across the site for Osel Shen Phen Ling and took some time to peruse the "Virtual Thangka Gallery," where you can find the above image and many more.

Yet when I started looking into the center, I had one of those moments of realizing how little I knew- how some of even the seemingly basic concepts and historical facts of Tibetan Buddhism were still a bit tangled in my mind.

If you're reading this blog, you are perhaps likely to be familiar with at least the fundamentals of the Tibetan Buddhist lexicon. I am by no means an expert. In fact these pages are a medium for me, and perhaps even some readers, to learn more. I welcome constructive critique as well as "correction" contributions. I am quite clearly basing much of what I write about various centers from what I read on the web and while I hope it is accurate at least for the moment, things change.

Osel Shen Phen Ling in Missoula, Montana follows in the tradition of the Gelug-pa lineage and is an affiliated center of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT). As I learned these bits of information about Osel Shen Phen Ling, I realized my own confusion about the relationships between the traditions and lineages. Osel Shen Phen Ling is an FPMT affiliate, yet follows a lineage, Gelug, that I had been under the impression of as being "Vajrayana" related. Questions arose:

Is Mahayana generally regarded as an umbrella over the Vajrayana tradition?

Are Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug all lineages that can be seen either as Vajrayana or Mahayana?

The three traditionally regarded 'Yanas,' Sanskrit for Vehicle or Path, in Buddhism are: the Hinayana, Mahayana and the Vajrayana. I have entitled my own online 'project' here 'The United States of Vajrayana,' as my virtual trekking to various dharma centers and their histories is USA focused and I previously considered Tibetan Buddhism to be Vajrayanic at heart.

Osel Shen Phen Ling is affiliated with The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, which is affiliated to an abundance of centers worldwide as well as involved in numerous charitable projects across the planet. FPMT was founded by Ven. Lama Thubten Yeshe and is currently spiritually directed by Ven. Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. The list of FPMT's activities is tremendous.

With my unresolved questions, I decided to call FPMT directly and ended up on the phone with Carina Rumrill, editor of FPMT's Mandala Magazine, in what led to a very insightful and helpful discussion. I will be communicating a bit more on this route and look forward to sharing whatever I learn. Early on in this project of virtually exploring different dharma centers and organizations nationwide, it is immediately and pretty amazingly clear how linked the histories of many projects and centers are.

FPMT is headquartered in Portland, so on future virtual treks (or actual revisitations of the Pacific Northwest) I know I will enjoy reading up on the history of this dynamic organization.

Update: Within the scope of a few emails and morning hours, I receive a concise and direct explanation from another FPMT individual (thanks Michael J.), confirming Tibetan Buddhist Centers as Mahayana and Vajrayana in practice and nature. Vajrayana comes under the scope and practice of Mahayana, so Vajrayana practitioners are also Mahayana practitioners, though not always the other way around.

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