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Last year, Kadampa Center completed its beautiful Kadampa Stupa. This year, Land of Medicine Buddha is in the process of building a new stupa modeled on the Mahabodhi Stupa in Bodhgaya. Mer Stafford, who with her family was active with Kadampa Center during their stupa building is now living in California and is involved with Land of Medicine Buddha’s project. She wrote Kadampa Center member Christopher Baranski asking him to share his technique for making juniper powder incense, which they used to fill the Kadampa Stupa. Sarah Brooks, spiritual program coordinator at Kadampa Center, got wind of the exchange and thought there might be more people who would want to know how to make their own incense powder and shared the instructions with Mandala.
When asked how he started making the incense, Christopher wrote Mandala, “We had a contest to get juniper/eastern red cedar incense for [filling] some statues and I won with the 2-1/2 gallons [I’d made]. It all took off from there. When I heard we needed six tubs, about 132 gallons for our beautiful stupa, I got busy.
“I feel this gives me a karmic connection with anyone who sees our stupa or uses a statue for a practice. Since a lot of the time I am waiting for the baking of the needles to finish or watching needles whirl in a blender, I am always thinking of more efficient ways to complete the task. I could not have done this without other center members who have helped find eastern red cedar trees, strip needles off branches, load pans, bake, grind needles into powder, and sift.”
You can see more photos of Christopher’s efforts on his Flickr page.
By Christopher Baranski
1) Find eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), also known as juniper. You can’t ever collect enough needles. In this part of the country, juniper is grown as decoration, so it’s not free like the trees, which are spread by birds. Ninety-eight percent of what I have used has come from trees.
2) Strip off just the needles by hand. If some of the smallest branches are mixed in, this is OK.
3) Place the needles in aluminum pans as shown in the photo above on a grill and bake for 1 hour. The temperature and length of time requires some experimentation. I have started placing these on brick tiles so I can turn the grill off after an hour while it continues to dry out. Also, with the pans on bricks, there is little chance the needles will burn. Try to keep temp below 400°F (204°C). My current process is 1 hour at about 300°F (149°C).
The baking can be done inside, but some people can be allergic to this, like my wife!
4) When the needles and twigs are crunchy-crispy, remove from grill, chop up a bit more by hand, and then place in a blender and grind up until it is all powder. I am currently using a 12 ounce plastic soda bottle with the bottom cut off as a safe pusher that won’t damage the blender.
5) I sift the powder with a wire mesh colander with holes a bit larger than a window screen. This removes the large twig pieces that can either be discarded or dumped back into the blenders to be ground up more.
For more information on stupas, visit FPMT Education Services’ stupa resource page.
On his way to the Light of the Path retreat, Lama Zopa Rinpoche spent a day at Kadampa Center on Saturday, May 3. During the visit, Rinpoche taught two sessions on the Eight Verses of Thought Transformation.
Kadampa Center is a thriving FPMT center in Raleigh, North Carolina, US. During Rinpoche’s visit he blessed their beautiful Kadampa stupa, which they completed last year. Geshe Gelek Chodha serves as the center’s resident teacher and offers weekly teachings at the center. The center also has a successful and popular children’s program.
You can read more about this active and growing center in “Kadampa Center’s Past, Present and Future Times” from Mandala’s January-March 2014 issue.
Mandala brings you news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and of activities, teachings and events from over 160 FPMT centers, projects and services around the globe. If you like what you read on Mandala, consider becoming a Friend of FPMT, which supports our work.
After arriving in Raleigh, North Carolina, Rinpoche was very happy to find 48 buddhas to circumambulate in the house where he was staying. Rinpoche taught at Kadampa Center in Raleigh on May 3 and then continued on to teach at the two-week Light of the Path retreat in western North Carolina.
You can watch video from the retreat, including live streaming of teachings as they happen, on the Light of the Path webcast page! Visit the page now to see when the next live webcast is scheduled.
The family who hosted Rinpoche has made 800 of these beautiful statues. They have only 200 left to go for their commitment of 1,000. They cast the statues using an example Rinpoche gave them, which had also been used at Nalanda Monastery in France for a similar project.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an organization dedicated to preserving Mahayana Buddhism through offering the Buddha’s authentic teachings and to facilitating reflection, meditation, practice and the opportunity to actualize and directly experience the Buddha’s teachings. Sign up to receive news and updates.
By Barb Baranski, Sarah Brooks, Sandy Carlson, Julie Cox, David Machles and Mer Stafford; Photos courtesy of Kadampa Center.
The idea for Kadampa Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, US, took shape in 1990, and in October 1991, Don Brown officially founded the center. Our first home was in the basement of an office condominium, where we remained until we moved in 2007 to our current location, a former aquarium store in need of renovation. The community tore out walls, hung drywall, laid flooring, painted, cleaned and ran wires, finishing just in time for one of Ven. Robina Courtin’s annual visits. It was exciting to have the space open for such a large gathering!
We have had many great visiting teachers, including several visits by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, who encouraged us to first obtain a Kalachakra statue and then to build our Kadampa stupa. Our precious resident teacher, Geshe Gelek Chodha, has been with us for over 14 years, and we are pleased that several members of our community have become ordained, making a larger commitment to their practice.
Our programs continue to expand to fill the requests of our rapidly growing membership. Each day starts with silent meditation, and most evenings include one or more programs. On Sundays, like many churches, we offer the same teachings twice along with our popular children’s program that has age-based group classes and babysitting in the nursery.
We offer a wide range of classes, from basic introductions to Buddhism and meditation to instructions on bodhisattva and tantric vows. Our longest ongoing class is studying the Lamrim Chenmo with Geshe Gelek. We began teaching Discovering Buddhism in 2002, and haven’t stopped since – starting over every two years. We’ve also started offering classes like “Food for Thought,” exploring mindfulness when eating.
On the practice side, our monthly calendar typically includes Tara practice, Medicine Buddha and Guru pujas, and special practices on holy days. Weekend retreats both at the center and off-site also happen periodically, and we had our first family Dharma camp this summer. We also provide or sponsor special ritual services such as statue consecrations with mantra rolling, pet blessings and animal liberations.
We supplement our regular teachings with related offerings like our current year-long course on death and dying, covering everything from the death dissolution process to dealing with the American medical and legal systems. …
Beginning on Sunday, May 4, Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings at the Light of the Path retreat will be webcast live for students around the world to watch. The teaching on Sunday is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. EDT (4:30 p.m. PDT, 11:30 p.m. UTC; Monday, May 5, 5:00 a.m. IST, 9:30 a.m. AEST). Video recordings of the teachings will be made available as quickly as possible in English, Spanish and French.
The Light of the Path Retreat 2014, hosted by Kadampa Center in North Carolina, US, is the third of a five-year series of teaching retreats led by Lama Zopa Rinpoche based on Lama Atisha’s text, Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. The first two retreats took place in 2009 and 2010 and many resources and materials have been developed from these precious teachings:
- All teachings from the 2009 and 2010 Light of the Path retreats are freely available in the resources area of the FPMT Online Learning Center.
- MP3 audio and MP4 video files are available for download in the Light of the Path Retreat Materials 2009, 2010 and 2014 course. This course also contains the root text and other information associated with the retreat, including reviews, guided meditations, and the complete transcript of the retreat.
- The Living in the Path online program has been created from the Light of the Path retreat teachings of 2009 and 2010. Organized into structured modules you will find this, and other, programs on the FPMT Online Learning Center.
More information, photos, schedule and updates about FPMT spiritual director Lama Zopa Rinpoche can be found on Rinpoche’s homepage. If you’d like to receive news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche via email, sign up to Lama Zopa Rinpoche News.
In this video, Kadampa Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, United States, asked Geshe Gelek Chodha, its resident geshe, to describe himself a little bit. Humbly, Geshe-la spent most of his time talking about how important the entire community has been to the growth of the center. “We’re a good team,” he reflects. “Physically, spiritually, we’ve made a lot of progress.”
You can learn more about Kadampa Center in the January-March 2014 print issue of Mandala.
RINPOCHE ON TOUR
By Barb Baranski
Celebration was in the balmy air of Raleigh, North Carolina as Lama Zopa Rinpoche joined members and friends of Kadampa Center in July for a week of teachings and events to consecrate Kadampa Center’s new building. On his first night, Rinpoche led a Guru Puja as center members rejoiced in his safe arrival.
Later in the week, almost 200 people stood outside the center as Rinpoche and other senior Sangha (Geshe Gelek, Ven. Roger, Ven. Tonden, and Ven. Kunsang) led prayers leading up to the ceremonial ribbon cutting to officially open the building. After the ribbon cutting everyone moved inside the gompa where Rinpoche taught and talked about how incredible it is to be able to offer such a space for anyone to come and learn more about the Dharma.
Rinpoche also blessed Kadampa Center by personally signing copies of his book, Dear Lama Zopa. Smiles were shared all around as he spoke with each person individually before writing in their book.
Children were also a big part of the celebration, and their laughter, along with Rinpoche’s, filled the gompa. Kadampa Center has a growing Children’s Program – a group of its participants offered Rinpoche a sound offering by chanting the four immeasurables prayer in Tibetan. Rinpoche then gave a short teaching to the children and the transmission of Chenrezig, Shakyamuni Buddha and other mantras. Then the children lined up and each offered Rinpoche a flower and khata. He responded with gifts of small stuffed animals, bubbles and popsicles. With gifts in tow and lots of happy faces, each child circumambulated Rinpoche’s throne. …
Kadampa Center has completed their stupa building project. The large and active center in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., committed to building a Kadampa Stupa in 2002. They spent nine years accumulating funds and began building in 2011. Construction took 29 months.
On May 10, the pinnacle of the stupa was installed. Using a lift platform and ropes, the disk section was lowered over the stupa’s tree of life. Then, the parasol and top knot were placed on top. Stupa artist Jamphel and volunteers contributed thousands of hours of work – from planning and fundraising to painting and landscaping.
On May 25, five Sangha and 130 members of Kadampa Center gathered to dedicate the stupa, posing for a photo on the surrounding new brick plaza. Kadampa Center reports that night-time lighting and benches will be added soon around the stupa as finishing touches.
Kadampa Center for the Practice of Tibetan Buddhism was founded by Lama Zopa Rinpoche in 1992. Under the guidance of their resident teacher, Geshe Gelek Chodha, the center offers a full range of programs, including teachings, pujas, morning meditation practice, Discovering Buddhism, a popular children’s program, animal liberation practice and much more.
FMPT News Around the World
Kadampa Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, is making impressive strides with its project to build a new Kadampa stupa. The center reports, “For two months, we had been designing and building all the remaining concrete parts for the stupa ‒ an ‘upper cylinder’ to complete the vase section, a lid for the cylinder, and a harmika. These have all been built to sizes and shapes that we have been taught by Jampel Lama, who of course is with us every day in person, and by his comrades who are back in Nepal.”
With the aid of a forklift, center members moved the concrete pieces weighing well over 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms) each, making sure they all fit together.
With the completion of the last concrete parts, the stupa is ready for the blessing and filling ceremony. At the blessing ceremony, the cylinder will be filled with mantras and precious substances, and then the lid and harmika will be lifted into place and the ceremony completed.
Jampel, who supervised the construction and decoration of the stupa at Kurukulla Center, will be adding more decorations to the harmika. You can see some of the decorations (above) that have already been completed on the throne section.
The stupa is situated in view of both passing drivers and those traveling by train on nearby tracks as advised by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
With 159 centers, projects and services around the globe, there is always news on FPMT activities, teachers and events. Mandala hopes to share as many of these timely stories as possible. If you have news you would like to share, please let us know.
By Tony Allen
Since beginning to study the Dharma, I’ve been amazed at just how inspirational the teachers, lamas, and rinpoches are. Their influence reverberates all across the Buddhist landscape and their ability to inspire transformation in students and practitioners is extraordinary. Recently, I got a taste of this power when Khensur Rinpoche came to our local FPMT center here in Raleigh, North Carolina. And while many people clearly gain much from empowerments, receiving refuge or from just being in the presence of a high lama, surprisingly, my transformative experience came about not from receiving teachings, but by missing them.
Rinpoche, a former abbot of Gyume Tantric College and a senior lineage lama from Sera Je Monastic University, had come to the Kadampa Center to teach, give empowerments and participate in pujas for several weeks, and I blew my first chance to meet him.
The Sunday that Rinpoche was to give his first teachings at the center, I arrived early, or so I had thought. When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw that I was anything but early. The whole area was filled with cars and people were streaming into the center, many of whom carried flowers and other offerings for Rinpoche. As for me, I had nothing to offer. When I walked into the center, it was abuzz with a palpable sense of excitement and it seemed everybody had something to do but me. I walked around for a minute or so somewhat overwhelmed by my lack of preparedness and uselessness.
Instead of staying and helping to get ready for Rinpoche’s arrival, I got in my car and drove off. I was racked with guilt and a diminished sense of self. But as I drove to work, I really began to observe the thoughts that had led me to abandon seeing Rinpoche. I actually began to implement some of the techniques that I had learned from all those Dharma books I had read and from those few minutes I managed to devote a day to meditation.
My thoughts of guilt began to reform and re-shape into thoughts of remorse. That remorseful attitude coupled with a curiosity to understand my irrational acts allowed me to see that the root of this latest act of absurdity was nothing more than ego itself. It was the same ego that had so adamantly objected to my offering prostrations when I first started coming to the Kadampa Center . It was the same ego that caused me to look at and pre-judge and tell stories about people. It was the same ego that called upon me to act out of cruelty, anger and jealousy instead of love, compassion and equanimity. In short, the same force that had caused me to run from Rinpoche, an embodiment of what I claimed to want to be, was the same force that I had been allowing to wreck my current life and so many lives before this one.
This kind of realization for me was profound and somewhat scary at the same time. Now that I was finally starting to make sense of things, what was there to do about it? The wall between my study of the Dharma as an intellectual endeavor and my applying the teachings of the Buddha to my everyday life in more than a superficial way needed to broken down for good.
So what I vowed to do that day was not do things as I had done them the day before. Instead of spending my workday engaged in the most banal and trivial conversations imaginable, I found ways to interject elements of Buddhadharma into the discussions. Much to my surprise, I found a very receptive audience in my co-workers, who clearly appreciated the change towards the positive. It became clear to me that Buddhism was just as much about the twenty-three hours off my cushion as it was the one hour on it. I found that the application of wisdom and compassion in any situation and in any context not only was uplifting to myself, but was of benefit to those around me.
What could have been a day completely controlled by my ego became a day that was transformed. There was a change in me sparked by the arrival of Buddhist teacher from thousands of miles away. A man whom I had never met and whose teachings I had yet to receive, a teacher whose presence I had literally fled from, had sparked in me a surprising chain of realizations. That is the power of the Triple Gem.
If I have gotten this much out of missing Rinpoche’s teachings, I am sure that there is much more I can learn by actually going and staying this time to sit and listen and to contemplate what he has come so far to give.
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Basically, the human mind is mostly unconscious, ignorant, and gets so preoccupied with new experiences, that it forgets the old ones. Review the past month: exactly what happened, precisely what feelings did you have, every day? You can’t remember, can you? But if you practice this slowly, slowly, continuously checking within your mind, eventually, you’ll be able to remember more and more of your previous experiences.
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