Newsletter of the
Kurukulla Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies

Number 15, Spring 1999

Making the Vision a Reality

It's no secret that we at Kurukulla Center have been thinking about buying a building of our own for some time. Geshe Tsulga has talked about it at teachings, Lama Zopa Rinpoche has advised us to develop a plan, and members have been talking among themselves about how much it would help our community to grow and thrive. Readying ourselves to take this big step is no small task and depends upon the involvement and commitment of each of you. In the past six months a group of us at the Center have begun to look into exactly what it would take in order for Kurukulla Center to be ready to purchase a building. I'd like to share with you what we've learned, and invite you to become part of this exciting effort in any way you can.

From the Ground Up

In June of 1998, Center volunteers gathered together for an informal party, and the conversation turned to the topic of Kurukulla Center's future plans for meeting and living space. We recognized that we had a ways to go before being in a position to buy. Those in the room decided that what was needed was a written plan-a "Concept Proposal"-that would bring together our ideas thus far about the Center's needs and broadly describe the elements of the project. A six-member Building Committee was formed, which included a volunteer consultant, and the committee's charge was to undertake the research, oversee the writing of the proposal, and draft a preliminary project plan.

Our efforts to articulate our understanding of the Center's needs naturally unfolded into the beginnings of a vision for what Kurukulla Center can be. We drew upon numerous informal conversations we'd had in the past with fellow members, and upon our own reflections about the Center community. Initial reflections expressed in the Concept Proposal show our sentiment that having a permanent home for the Center would provide, above all, a place where we could support one another in the development of our practice. It will provide the space where we could visit much more frequently, and with a greater choice of times; where we could browse the library or bookstore; where we could silently meditate in the gompa; and where we could visit more easily with Geshe Tsulga and our translator. We could offer a wider variety of classes to meet a wider range of interests, and more easily host visiting teachers and sangha. Having a more permanent location for Kurukulla Center will also enable us to grow and to reach out to more and more people in the surrounding community.

This description provides only the bare outline, with the details to be filled in by all of you. I have always felt that Kurukulla Center is constituted by each of us and is not something separate from us; and so our vision for a permanent Center must come from each of us in the community as well. Below I'll talk about the opportunities we'll be providing for you to help us complete the picture.

Advice from Lama Zopa Rinpoche

When Rinpoche was here in November, he met with the Center's Management Committee and members of the Board of Directors to discuss our vision for Kurukulla Center. We took an honest look at where we are now, what we'd like to accomplish, and the steps that need to be taken to reach our goal. Lama Zopa pledged his support for our efforts, gave us ideas on how we could raise the necessary funds, advised us to begin immediately the twice-monthly Tara pujas which many of you have attended, and encouraged us to "have a plan." While everyone in the room agreed to move forward with the development of this plan, we all recognized that there was much work to be done in order to be ready to look for space.

Members of the Building Committee have met separately with bankers, Center benefactors, and other friends of Kurukulla Center who have experience in real estate to gather advice regarding the project's groundwork. We have reviewed property specifications; researched prices; discussed the elements of strong loan applications; and estimated monthly costs and projected income. As many of you may know, the real estate market in Cambridge and Somerville is quite active, and prices for a multi-unit building with mixed zoning and good location are high. In order to be considered for a commercial loan, Kurukulla Center must demonstrate to a bank that we have the financial stability necessary to take on such a responsibility. This is more than just showing a bank balance; it is showing that Kurukulla Center members are supportive and dedicated, and have been so for some period of time.

A Call for You to Join the Effort

At our meeting with Rinpoche we agreed that 1999 would be the year to increase our stability, refine and implement our project plans, and involve each of you as much as possible. I encourage you to join our effort in one or more of the following ways:

Pledge a Continuing Regular or Student Membership for 1999. While the number of Kurukulla Center members averages between 20 and 25 members per month, only a few are actually continuing members. In other words, in any given year many of our members pay for some months and not others. In 1998, about 70 individuals paid a membership at one time or another; yet only 13 of them paid every month, or for the entire year. One banker has estimated that we would need to demonstrate at least 40 continuing memberships. You can show your commitment to the future of Kurukulla Center by pledging a membership for the entire year. There are a variety of membership levels which are explained in the box below. Our Membership Coordinator is Priscilla Sawa, and she can help you with your pledge. You can contact her by leaving a message on the Kurukulla Center line (617-624-0177) or send her e-mail at sawa@verisity.com. We will also be calling you if you have paid a membership already in 1999.

Maintaining a stable membership is necessary before we can consider fully embarking on our plan to buy a building. We will not be taken seriously by any bank if we cannot demonstrate that we have the ability to make a monthly payment on a loan. 1999 is our chance to show a continuing membership for the year. Also, revenues from memberships will be critical for this year, as our expenses will increase in the area of office expenses, professional services, and continuing support for our resident translator, a new expense since 1998. Donate Professional Services and Volunteer Time. This year we must also focus on stabilizing our financial and organizational structure. Part of this effort includes producing a set of audited financial statements for the Center. A bank would expect to see two or three years' history in these statements, and we have received estimates in the range of $3,000 to $7,000 for each year to be audited. Also, we need to begin filing federal tax statements for non-profit organizations. If you are an accountant and are experienced with non-profit accounting practices, we need your donation-in-kind of consulting time and services. Or, you may be able to refer us to an accountant who would be able to provide services at a reduced rate or free of charge. We are also in need of legal advice, particularly from an attorney with experience with non-profit organizations or real estate. If you can connect us with services in any of these areas, please call me at the Center number, 617-624-0177. Your help with professional services would relieve a substantial burden from our budget in 1999. Last year, our expenses averaged $2000 per month (with the exception of November when Rinpoche visited), so having to pay the market rate for a CPA or an attorney would quickly become the Center's greatest expense.

Additional volunteers are needed for the Building Committee and various sub-committees which will be formed over the next few months. Volunteers are needed to help plan community meetings, and facilitators are needed to help draw out ideas of what the Kurukulla community needs and wants in a permanent Center location. Individuals will be needed to help oversee the financial and organizational preparations and help us to write future planning documents. If you have experience in any of these areas and have a few hours a months to contribute to this effort, then please call me to talk about how you can help.

Contribute to the Vision

As I mentioned above, your voice is at the core of this effort to buy a building. The recent activity surrounding a building plan grew out of the conversation of volunteers and supporters, and it can only continue if that conversation continues as well. There are many ways in which we'll be asking for your input. First, we are planning visits to some of you who have been associated with the Center for a number of years-I'll call you to set up a time when we can meet. Also, we are planning an open community meeting in late June, where we'll work together to add some details to the vision and the project plan. Finally, you can contact me at any time, or talk to any of the members of the Center's Management Committee, a number of whom are on the Building Committee as well: Wendy Cook, Kerry O'Brien, Suzanne Persyn, Nick Ribush, Steve Rosenberg, Priscilla Sawa, David Strom, Debra Thornburg, and myself.

The bottom line is that each of us needs to contribute in some way in order to bring the vision of a Kurukulla Center home into reality. Whether it is pledging as a continuing member, donating services, joining a committee, or giving feedback at one of our upcoming community meetings, your contribution at this time is critically important to the success of this project. There is no Kurukulla Center apart from those of us who form her community; and I believe that if we work together it will not be long before our community has a place that we can call a home.


Welcome Ven. Damchoe!

In February, we had to say good-bye and thank you to Losang Namgyal, our translator since September. Losang has been a great gift to our community, and we will miss his kind ways and his genuine humility. We wish him all the best in the future. We're very happy, however, to welcome Geshe Tsulga's new translator, Ven. Damchoe. Damchoe (Tsering Gyurme Lama) was born in Nepal in 1969. In October he wrote about himself: "I have been a monk since 1980, so for eighteen years now. I have studied all the elementary studies of Buddhist philosophy, including studies on the nature of phenomena, mind and awareness, the science of reasoning, Buddhist tenets, and the perfection of wisdom. After I Finished class ten in Tibetan and English I studied translation for about two years, then did an intensive translation course for three months at Kopan, and translated teachings for the short meditation courses at Kopan. In 1993 I was sent to Translate at the FPMT Center in Hong Kong, where I translated for one and a half years. At the end of 1995 I went to Singapore and have been translating teachings into English at Amitabha Buddhist Centre until now."


Geshe Tsulga's Travel Plans

In late January Geshe Tsulga received an invitation from Lama Zopa Rinpoche to attend a special meeting of all the main lamas and geshes of the Gelugpa tradition, being held in Delhi in late March. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the preservation of the Lama Tsongkhapa tradition worldwide. Rinpoche indicated that it was very important for Geshe-la to attend, so we have made arrangements for him to go. Also, Geshe-la had requested some time ago that he have time to do a three-month retreat. Since he will already be in India, he will be traveling to Sera Monastery after the meeting, Returning to Boston in early August. While we are delighted to be able to make these arrangments for Geshe-la, he will be sorely missed. Our special thanks goes out to all those helping to sponsor his travel.


A Tibetan Adventure

by Sue Macy

"So to Sera. I think it will be the turning point for me."

Little did I know how prophetic that entry in my journal before visiting Sera Monastery in Tibet would be. I met Geshe-la less than a year before my trip as a Tibetan language teacher. I had no intention of studying the Dharma, I politely informed him, but several months later went to a teaching out of intellectual curiosity. Now here I was, at his monastery in Tibet, the place he fled, the place he helped rebuild in India. And I was a Buddhist.

The reception I received at Sera was overwhelming. Geshe-la asked me to make an offering at the statue of Hayagriva-the protector of Sera Je. The translator told this to the Geshe in charge, and they stopped the procession, brought me to the top of the line, blessed me and the offering, and helped me offer the kata. I have no words to capture the pure joy and utter devotion the monks expressed when they saw the photo and learned who he was. And the people-they flocked to me, and when they touched Geshe-la's photo to their heads, they were transformed into pure sunshine. (This proved typical of the reception I received throughout my journey!)

The highlight of the visit was when the Abbot of Sera invited us into his private quarters. We conversed about Geshe-la as the others, all non-Buddhists, stood awe-struck by the very old Thangkas and other artifacts in the simple, otherwise sparse quarters. I took a photo of the Abbot holding Geshe-la's photo, and he asked me to send him a copy. The turning point did come on my visit to Sera. As I stood in the courtyard in front of the chanting hall, gazing up at the buzzards circling the prayer flags at the top of sky burial hill, I imagined Geshe-la beginning his 4 month journey on foot to India through the Himalayas. At that moment I knew in my heart what a precious gift this college had given to me. I no longer take my teacher or the teachings for granted-and know I am blessed to have the freedom to learn from Geshe-la. It is this memory, more than any other, that motivates me to continue what I have barely begun.

Thank you Geshe-la, thank you so very, very much.


Ask Geshe Tsulga


My body and my mind are in a state of total confusion because my marriage is falling apart. I'm looking for a way to calm myself to start with. I am new to this practice, and I wonder what you would suggest to focus my mind on now?


First of all, it is very good for you, and for all of us when we have confusion or experience problems, to come and listen to the Dharma. We need to remember what is the true nature of cyclic existence, that it is natural that during our lifetime we meet and then must part from other people. We can first reflect on how our state is impermanent and constantly changing. We can reflect on karma as well. Think that whatever situtation arises in this lifetime comes from the karma of past lives. That is how cyclic existence works. Certainly an experience only comes about when all the necessary external conditions come together, but the main cause of our experience is the karma we have created in the past. You cannot prevent a problem that is happening right now. Your main concern should be not to blame any other person for creating this situation, which is fundamentally the ripening of karma. Think about how in the future even greater problems may arise because of your karma. Make sure that you can be content and feel that it is good that this karma has ripened and is ending. If, through understanding impermanence and karma, you maintain a peaceful mind and stop blaming others, you will definitely reduce problems and confusion.


A huge "thank you" to all who have contributed their time and talents to the Center over the past few months! Special thanks to Ven. Geshe Tsulga who tirelessly works to help all of us here in Boston with his skillful teachings of the Dharma, Ven. Robina Courtin (Thubten Kunsel) for her great energy and generosity in returning again and again to Kurukulla Center to teach, and to all other visiting teachers. Special thanks to all old and new Center members who are pledging membership for 1999. And to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, our Spritual Director, we extend our deepest gratitude for guiding Kurukulla Center toward growth and setting a perfect example of how to serve others with boundless love and compassion.