Newsletter of the Kurukulla Center
for Tibetan Buddhist Studies

Number 6, January 1996

Geshe Tsulga's Fall Teachings & Future Plans

The easiest Buddhist practice is said to be rejoicing in the great merit generated by the Buddhas and our teachers. This past fall has given all of us in the Boston area a great opportunity to practice rejoicing. Beginning with H.H. the Dalai Lama's public talk in early September and continuing with Geshe Tsulga's teachings and initiations, we have had a very full and fruitful schedule. The attendance at Geshe-la's teachings is well up from last year, and our membership list has grown as well. All of us at Kurukulla Center would like to thank the members both new and old for their generous contributions of time, money, and dedication to the Center. It is only through your generosity that we can continue to sponsor Geshe-la's visits to Boston.

Fall Roundup

It is clear that with each visit to Boston, Geshe-la knows his American audience much better and is more able to apply his monastic training to issues of our culture. Geshe-la spent September discussing Buddhism and Compassion in his Sunday teachings, and devoted October to teachings on Death and Dying. These teachings were all based on Lam.rim, the Graded Path to Enlightenment teachings of the great Tibetan master Je Tsong Khapa, and many of us remarked on Geshe-la's ability to make these classic teachings relevant to our hectic, certainly non-monastic lives.

In our management committee's discussions with Geshe-la before his visit, he emphasized a need for our center to receive tantric teachings and initiations. As a result, Geshe-la gave a Four-Armed Chenrezig initiation in November. We were all very pleased with (and admittedly somewhat unprepared for) the turnout of some 60 people for the initiation. Geshe-la then led a Chenrezig retreat with 25 people at our sister center, Milarepa Center, in Vermont over Thanksgiving. We are very grateful to Milarepa Center for providing the space for the group retreat.

In December, Geshe-la kindly explained the practice of Green Tara, culminating with an initiation into this deity's practice. More than 60 people attended the initiation, including many who came from out of state just for the opportunity to do so. Geshe-la clearly is becoming more invested in the long-term spiritual needs of Kurukulla Center members, and the events near the end of his stay highlighted the enthusiasm that is growing for genuine Dharma practice and the strong connection that is developing between teacher and students.

Geshe-la also taught a class on thought transformation at the Jamaica Plain center this fall attended by a faithful core group. Again, attendance was up from last year. Our regular schedule was rounded out by Ven. Jampa Konchog's weekly Introduction to Meditation class and Tibetan language class. In addition, Geshe-la gave an unscheduled Vajrasattva initiation in September, and Geshe-la and Jampa made several visits to classes in Buddhism at local universities including BC and BU.

Given all the preparation that goes into Geshe-la's and Ven. Jampa's teachings, we can see how much effort they have engaged in for our benefit this fall. In talking to Geshe-la, it is clear that this is precisely what he wants to do! From our side, we can repay his kindness and efforts by listening to his teachings, and above all by putting them into practice in our daily lives.

Future Plans

As of January, Geshe-la has completed his third year in the U.S., and so has finished his original agreement to teach at the three East Coast centers (Kurukulla Center, Kadampa Center, Milarepa Center). Geshe-la will return to India and Tibet for most of 1996, where he will spend time with his Tibetan students at Sera Je monastery and visit his family. All three centers have of course requested that Geshe-la return in 1996, and Geshe-la has agreed. The tentative schedule has Geshe-la returning to Boston around October 1, 1996, for a period of four months. We will keep you informed of Geshe-la's plans. Also, please feel free to write Geshe-la at: Sera Je Monastery, House #2, PO Bylakuppe, Mysore Dist., KS 571104 INDIA. Ven. Jampa's plans are also somewhat up in the air, but at present it looks like he will be staying in the Jamaica Plain apartment until the summer.

Once again, we would like to thank Geshe-la from the bottom of our hearts for all his kindness in bringing the precious Dharma to our area, and to Ven. Jampa for his invaluable help in translating and leading classes himself. We would also like to thank all of you not just for your donations but for your presence at the teachings. Without your attendance, there is no reason for Geshe-la to spend his time here. Please let Geshe-la know your appreciation for his work and his example; there can never be too many requests for his return to Boston.

Kurukulla's New Director

As most of you know, as of October we have had a new center director, Suzanne Persyn. Suzanne came to us at the request of Lama Zopa Rinpoche after spending the last 18 months in India and Nepal. We have all been very impressed with her courage in moving to a completely new city, finding a place to live and a (temporary) job, and taking over the direction of an unfamiliar center. The job of center director is one of a never ending series of tasks, large and small, which can eat up as much of your time and energy as you can expend. (This is written by a former center director.) If you would like to thank Suzanne for all her hard work, perhaps the best way is to volunteer to help the center function more smoothly. There are many jobs with which we can use a little or a lot of help. Any amount of time you can offer can certainly be put to good use. Thank you!

Big Merit Cheap, Bigger Merit Not So Cheap

Supporting the Dharma is a way to be "intelligently selfish" in H.H. the Dalai Lama's words. Instead of just spending money in an endless attempt to prolong temporary happiness, contributing to the spread of the Buddha's teachings brings the means to true happiness to others as well as to ourselves. With your well being in mind, we have several ways for you to gain merit through donations!

Geshe-la has many students in his monastery in India. These young Tibetans are studying Dharma in order to preserve these precious teachings and their very culture in the face of their country's continued occupation. Geshe-la has asked that we sponsor these monks as much as possible. We all know that money in India goes a lot farther than here. For as little as five dollars a month less than the cost of a movie each of us can provide for the basic needs of one monk. These contributions go towards the basics mostly food and clothing that we here are fortunate enough to enjoy almost painlessly. Please contact Wendy Cook at Wisdom Publications, 361 Newbury St., Boston, MA 02115 or at (617) 536-3358 if you would like to sponsor a monk.
In addition, we would like to ask all our current members to continue to give their monthly membership during 1996. Donations are needed to invite other teachers to Boston during Geshe Tsulga's absence, and to support the growth of our center. Membership is $25 per month for individuals and $40 per month for couples, but of course all donations are welcome. Kurukulla Center is a 501-A9(3) tax exempt religious organization, so all contributions are tax deductible. We always welcome new members as well. Please contact our Center Director Suzanne Persyn at (617) 628-1953 for any information about our center.

Finally, we have a few specific needs for our center. As you may have noticed, we are very short on cushions for those long teachings. The cushion and mat sets run about $60 per set, and we have set a goal of buying ten more sets before Geshe-la's return. If you would like to contribute specifically towards the cushion fund, please send us a donation with a note. While we don't envision putting plaques with members' names on new cushions, we're sure that many future participants at center events will thank you in their hearts for a more comfortable meditation.

Our center is also very much in need of a proper teaching seat or throne for Geshe-la and visiting teachers. We estimate that a throne would cost about $500 in materials and labor. This cost would cover a basic throne, without elaborate inlay, in line with what our center can afford. Again, if you would like to contribute specifically towards the throne, please let us know.
Finally, Kurukulla Center needs a computer for center correspondence and email. If you have a used 386 or 486 computer you could donate (tax-deductible) or sell to the center, please contact Suzanne. (Before you do, visit our Web site at www.the-spa.com/ed.stutsman /kurukull.htm.)

One final word we fully appreciate all your donations in the past and your support of the center. We know that all of us have limits on how much we can contribute, and we ask you only to contribute amounts you feel comfortable donating. Please don't get turned off by our continued requests for support. We are an all volunteer group, and we will stop soliciting contributions just as soon as all beings reach full enlightenment.

Visiting Teachers

We have invited several teachers for the late winter and spring of 1996. While all the dates have not been finalized yet, we will be sending our flyers for each event over the next few months.

Jan Willis

Prof. Jan Willis of Wesleyan University, the author of Enlightened Beings, has agreed to speak at our center on March 1st at 7:30 pm. Jan is a senior student of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and her talks are always full of humor and insights into issues that Westerners face putting Buddhist teachings into practice. Prof. Willis will talk on current concerns of nuns in both the East and the West.

Geshe Michael Roach

We have invited Michael Roach for his first visit to our center. Michael is a long time student of Geshe Tharchin in New Jersey, and was ordained in 1983. He is now a geshe himself, and is the current director or the Asian Classics Institute in Manhattan, a training school for translators and teachers. Michael has recently given teachings at Vajrapani Center in California, and comes to us with rave reviews.

Michael has agreed to give an intensive seminar on Dependent Origination the weekend of March 22-24. He has requested that participants agree to attend all sessions and take a written test at the conclusion of the course. It has been his experience that this arrangement creates the conditions for students to learn the most within a limited amount of time.

There is no fee for this class, but pre-registration is required. Please call 524-9691 or 628-1953 to register. The class will be held at Wisdom Publications and will finish early Sunday afternoon.

Become a Member

Membership dues for Kurukulla Center are $25 per month for individuals and $40 for couples and are tax-deductible. Kurukulla Center members automatically become members of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition and receive the bi-monthly FPMT magazine Mandala, with news from Buddhist centers around the world. Center members also attend many classes for free or for reduced fees. Help yourself and others by becoming a Kurukulla Center member.

Winter and Spring Classes

Just because Geshela has left does not mean that we should forget our studies and practices! We will begin our winter/spring schedule in February under the auspices of our center's new Spiritual Program Coordinator, Ven. Lozang Trinlae Drolma, appointed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Many of you may remember Ven. Trinlae as Kate McManus, one of our earliest members who was very active during Geshe Jampa's time here. Ven. Trinlae has spent several years in India, and has returned with a long list of practices and teachings in mind for the center. In particular, she will be doing a series of pujas (Guru Puja, Vajrayogini Puja, etc.) at the Jamaica Plain apartment starting in January, so please contact her at 524-1023 if you would like to join her.

Introduction to Meditation

Ven. Trinlae has also agreed to continue the Monday evening Introduction to Meditation classes at the Jamaica Plain apartment. These classes consist of a series of short teachings on the basics of Buddhist practice followed by a group meditations. These classes meet at 7:30 pm starting February 5. The price is $40 for a six week session for nonmembers and is free to members.

Sunday Morning Discussion Group

We will also have our traditional Sunday morning discussion class and group meditation at the Jamaica Plain apartment. Come join us for a morning of informal discussion based on a Buddhist text and a chance to practice with other center members. This year we will concentrate the practice time on Chenrezig and Green Tara sadhanas. This should be particularly beneficial to those who took these initiations with Geshela, but all are invited to attend. The group meets at 10 am starting February 4. The cost is $7 for non-members and is free for members.

Terms and Definitions

In addition, Ven. Connie Miller has kindly offered to give a course in Buddhist terms and terminology. Ven. Connie was ordained in 1979, and is a senior editor at Wisdom Publications. Her course is titled What Did the Geshe Really Say? A Course in Terms and Definitions and comes with this description:

What does karma mean? (And it doesn't mean "uh, whatever..."!) What about existent or imputed phenomenon? How do causes and conditions differ? When is an effect also a cause?

To clearly understand all the wonderful teachings that we receive from our geshes and lamas, we need to have a precise understanding of the terms that they are using when they teach. This is why the first thing that young monks study in Tibetan monasteries is Terms and Definitions (du.(d)ra). In Tibetan Buddhism, one aspect of wisdom is to understand how our minds know things (epistemology); logical debate is an integral part of gaining wisdom. When you do analytical meditation, what are you doing while sitting on your cushion? Debating with yourself! About karma, about interdependent origination, about emptiness, and so on. But whether you are your own adversary or you are discussing with another, if your thoughts and words are not precise and clear, your discourse will only be muddy and confused. Come to Terms and Definitions class. You'll have a great time, loads of laughs, and hopefully, come away with a better understanding of all those wonderful words that you have heard from your geshes and lamas.

The text for the class: Debate in Tibetan Buddhism, Snow Lion, $29.25 (list price $38.95); some photocopies will also be distributed as needed. Classes will be on Tuesdays at 7 pm at Wisdom Publications, starting on February 6, and will consist of two six-week sessions with a break in the week of March 18. The cost is $50 per 6 week session.

Classes with Dr Nick

Kurukulla Center's Dr Nick Ribush is again teaching classes at Cambridge Center for Adult Education and Interface.These classes are an excellent way to become acquainted with the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

Cambridge Center for Adult Education

"Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism"
Thursdays 5:45 pm April 4 through May 9, 1996
Call (617) 547-6789 for more information/registration


"Introduction to Tantra" March 29-30
"Working with the Emotions" May 10-11
Call (617) 876-4600 for more information/registration

Finally, please let us know if you have suggestions for classes for instance, there have been requests for a children class. We are always open to ideas for new classes, and we want to tailor our program to meet the needs of all our members and friends.