Buddhist Center welcomes visitors

Gyumed Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Jampa is the spiritual leader at the Do Ngak Kunphen Ling (DNKL) Tibetan Buddhist Center for Universal Peace in Redding. —Jane Hamilton-Merrit

Even though The Buddhist Center, which has its own temple, is home to six monks who welcome visitors to take classes on Buddhist philosophy and meditation, to walk the trails on the nearly 100-acre property, or to attend special events.

The property was called Godstow Center for a time but its name was changed when Gyumed Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Jampa became its spiritual leader. He is also the leader of Thewo Khangsten in Sera Mey Monastery in Bylakuppe, Karnataka state, southern India. Rinpoche was invited to be the center’s spiritual leader on several occasions by the center’s board, and finally came to the center in 2007.

“The name was changed so people would know what we are doing here,” said Geshe Lobsang Dhargye, a resident teacher at Do Ngak Kunphen Ling and a teacher at the Sera Mey Monastery.

Geshe Dhargye translated Do Ngak Kunphen Ling, saying it means “having benefit to others by benefit to all.”

Dalai Lama’s visit

DNKL and Western Connecticut State University are co-hosting His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s visit to Connecticut, where he will speak on Oct. 18 and 19 at the O’Neill Center at Western Connecticut State University on themes of compassion, creativity and advice for daily life.

In 2010, Rinpoche agreed to invite the Dalai Lama to Connecticut. His visit will mark the 65 years that have passed since Rinpoche first encountered the Dalai Llama, then 12. Rinpoche was 10 and it was after he had entered the Sera Mey Monastery.

In 1970, Rinpoche joined more than 200 monks sent to re-establish the Sera Mey Monastery in India, which had closed after the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1959. In 1971, the Dalai Llama arrived to give the first Kalachakra Initiation in exile and take residence in the apartment built for his visits.

In 1993, the Dalai Lama appointed Gyumed Khensur Rinpoche to Umze (Discipline Master) of Gyumed Tantric College and gave Rinpoche his first private audience. Three years later, the Dalai Lama named him Abbot.

During The Pilot’s visit to DNKL last week, Rinpoche said through an interpreter that he had a strong relationship with the Dalai Lama. He considers the Dalai Lama his “root teacher” and said the majority of his teachings come from him.

After deciding to invite the Dalai Lama to Connecticut, the Buddhist Center realized it did not have the facility, staff, etc., to handle the visit, so a connection was made with the university.

Rinpoche thinks the Dalai Lama will emphasize peace and harmony in the world. “He is a unique person to talk about this,” said Rinpoche.

This is a country with different ethnicities, Rinpoche said, so the hope is that with this diversity, the Dalai Lama’s message will be taken to other countries, “especially at this time when we find lots of conflict.”

“If people are given the right message, the Dalai Lama thinks it would solve problems,” Rinpoche said.

Later, Rinpoche observed that Westerners tend to have a strong belief in science. Buddhist philosophy is close to the scientific method, he said.

What he found interesting about Westerners, he added, is the fact they don’t believe right way, but if they find something reasonable, they will accept it. He thinks this is good.

DNKL

While the Dalai Lama’s visit has created excitement in the area, DNKL continues with its normal programs.

Under Rinpoche’s leadership, DNKL qualified in 2008 as a monastery with a resident community of monks. A growing network of monks and nuns from around the country travel there regularly to attend teachings.

“We don’t consider this a cloistered monastery but a Buddhist Center, said Jampa Gyaltsen, a Buddhist monk from China.

Teaching is provided both at the center and via a webcast to the Sera Mey Monastery. Geshe Lobsang Dhargye pointed to the time difference, noting that teaching is done based on the monastery’s time. And three monks will be traveling to the monastery to see their students and to teach them in person.

Classes at DNKL are open to people of all religions, or those with none. Geshe Dhargye said there are students who keep their own religion but come to classes to get help with their lives, to find peace and happiness. “Some are interested in becoming Buddhists, but we are not focused on converting people,” he said.

Some classes are for Buddhists and some are for the public. Tuesday classes are geared more to Buddhism. Wednesday classes are more meditation and open discussion; students learn how to reduce stress and disappointment and how to bring more happiness into their lives, said Geshe Dhargye. Classes are from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Sunday classes are aimed more at using Buddhist teachings to improve one’s daily life. Classes are from 10 to noon.

No reservations are required and classes are free, but donations are welcomed.

DNKL also offers a children’s program that “gives our youngest members a grounding in ethical conduct and various other Buddhist subjects,” DNKL says in its brochure.

Geshe Dhargye said DNKL is fulfilling the wish of the late Maurice Pate, founder of UNICEF and former resident of the property, by working with children.

“Also, teens have a lot of stress, so we train them when young on how to deal with this when they grow up,” he said.

The program is for children ages 2 to 3 to 11 or 12. Parents attend the classes with their children.

Classes begin with a story and a short message, said Geshe Dhargye. There is some meditating and homework, he said.

Besides its teaching, Jampa Gyaltsen said, DNKL is trying to engage in interfaith activities. It took part in the local ecumenical service last year for Thanksgiving, and members attend interfaith meetings in Fairfield.

DNKL hosts formal traditional Tibetan Buddhist ceremonies at its center and is often the site of holy events. Recently it invited the public to participate in its Paint Out, Wet Exhibition and Silent Art Auction. Artists painted and the public was invited to watch and to picnic on the grounds.

The maintenance of the Buddhist Center is solely supported by contributions to the nonprofit organization.

For more information, go to dnkldharma.org.

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