Newsletter of the Kurukulla Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies

Number 9, January 1997

Full Schedule Of Spring Teachings At Kurukulla Center

Geshe Tsulga will start Spring teachings at Kurukulla Center with two 6-week courses. On Sundays beginning February 9, Geshe-la will teach on the Wheel of Life. This course emphasizes the need to understand the reasons why we all experience suffering, dissatisfaction, aging, sickness and death. Beginning February 5, Geshe-la will teach a second 6- week course every Wednesday on The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva. This profound and inspiring text serves as a manual for those embarking on the Bodhisattva path of service to others. We are fortunate that Geshe-la has agreed to teach us these 2 profound subjects.

On April 5, 1997, Geshe-la will grant the initiation of Medicine Buddha. With several of our center members and friends having health problems, he felt each of us should be offered the opportunity to obtain this initiation in order to do this healing practice for the prevention and cure of illness. During the three Sundays following the initiation, Geshe-la will offer commentary on the Medicine Buddha practice. Further information about the location and time of these events can be found in the February - April teaching schedule.

Geshe Tsulga's Recent Fall Teachings:
Loosening The Hold Of Our Self-Grasping

Geshe-la began his fourth year at Kurukulla Center after Labor Day with a series of teachings designed to help us shake the hold of our self-grasping and "essentialism." Beginning with the Six Mahayana Perfections, Geshe-la's topics ranged through the Heart Sutra, the Four Noble Truths, the development of bodhicitta, Guru devotion, and the Two Truths.

Each of these teachings demonstrated how our suffering arises from our attachment to the self and to external phenomena. Geshe-la's teachings offered practical instruction on the path of liberating the mind from grasping at the belief in the "essential" selfhood of persons and things.

Geshe-la encouraged us to work daily toward sustaining the wisdom of emptiness with the perfect altruism of bodhicitta. We were reminded that the difference between a spiritual and non-spiritual practice lies in competing ideas of selfhood: interdependence vs. independence. As Geshe-la defined it, a spiritual practice is one that seeks to use a perfect human rebirth to eliminate all un-wanted suffering in this lifetime and all future lifetimes. A non-spiritual practice, Geshe-la noted in contrast, is any practice geared just toward sustaining the self in this life striving only for food, shelter, and the like. "Animals can do this," he reminded us.

From his side, Geshe-la's teachings seem to be more in tune with the Western mindset each time he returns here. It is not just that his examples come from our daily experiences now no examples involving yak butter these days but his entire approach shows that he has a very good understanding of the problems we face as Westerners, and which parts of Buddha's teachings are particularly relevant for us.

We have rented the meeting hall at the Friends Meeting House in Cambridge. Although we have to move benches around before and after the teachings, the hall is much quieter than the old apartment or Wisdom Publications. (Probably few of us miss the music from the dance studio at Wisdom!)

Ven. Robina Courtin: Attending to Mind in Spiritual Practice

During a weekend of teachings on January 3-4, Ven. Robina Courtin, an Australian native who has been a Tibetan Buddhist nun for almost 20 years, explained how self-understanding can lead us to fuller, more productive lives. Her Friday evening talk, titled Investigating the Mind, explored the fundamental role that knowing your own mind plays in successful spiritual practice. On the following day, her Mindfulness and Emotional Transformation workshop focused on converting destructive feelings like attachment and pettiness into their fruitful counterparts of love and compassion.

Ven. Robina Courtin Describes
Answering the "Big Lie" with "Ruthless Clarity"

The following excerpt is from Investigating the Mind, Robina Courtin's talk at the Kurukulla Center January 4. With her keen logic and profound sensitivity to the individual concerns of the attendees, Robina offered us living proof that learning to balance our hearts and minds can help us reach our true potential.

"If attachment is the cause of suffering, what is it? And how isn't it love, joy, generosity, kindness, compassion and all that? This is the kind of precision that Buddhism demands we have within our own mind. Otherwise we're just being kind of superstitious, kind of closing our eyes and playing "I'm a good Buddhist," and being mindful and hoping for the best. I mean, this is ignorant you would never dare to say this if you were trying to be a gardener. You know, it's a long hard process. So, okay, what is it about attachment that causes suffering?

"One of the key qualities of attachment, and all the delusions, is that it exaggerates the good qualities of the object. When you are in love, that person is truly divine, aren't they? From the tip of the head to the tip of their toenail. Everything about them is divine. Now it sounds depressing to be told "I'm sorry guys that's the result of attachment."

"What Buddhism is saying is, if we can get rid of attachment, if we can remove attachment from that relationship, you will have the love, the bliss. Take an extreme example. You know, when you crave that chocolate cake, you miss the pleasure completely. You manipulate to try to get it. When it comes, you are so anxious to get it in your mouth, and you're shoving the first piece in while you're thinking about the second piece. We are so overwhelmed with that extreme energy of attachment, it's like we're insane. But the trouble is, we think that the pleasure we get is because of that [insanity].

"There is a big lie in there that we have to unravel. And that is such a subtle job to do. I tell you. And that the subtle job is to begin to distinguish between attachment and love....Love and attachment so totally go together that it is even inconceivable to love a person that you are not attached to. But, if we begin to believe that it is not the same, it is a kind of liberating, outrageous idea. Start developing your love and decreasing your attachment, thereby getting far more pleasure.

"You have got to know very precisely the recipe for that incredibly delicious cake. You're never fooling yourself that three of that, and two of that, and four and a half of this, is the delicious experience of the cake. But you know you need to be very correct in that recipe. Do you understand my point here? You have got to be very clear about your theory. You know it is not the real cake. You know that it will lead you to that cake. Well, that is the same approach in this tradition. Absolutely develop the kind of clarity, the ruthless kind of clarity, to cut through all the deluded ego garbage concepts, all the emotional baggage we carry around, to cut through that to get to the heart of what is love. Once you know the words like you know that recipe my goodness, you are going to get a very nice cake. But if you fool yourself that those words are the cake, well, you are in trouble."

Geshe Michael Roach Returning To Kurukulla Center

Geshe Michael Roach will be teaching on Buddhist logic at the Kurukulla Center, July 11-13. Geshe-la's weekend course last March on the 12 links of interdependent origination was dynamic and inspiring. As Geshe-la taught us last year of desire and aversion: "It's not like, if you're a Buddhist, you have to feel bad about wanting something. You better want something, or you can't get out of samsara!"

Become A Member

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 reduced fees. Membership dues for Kurukulla Center are $40/month for individuals ($25/month for students and low-income folks) and $70/month for couples, and are tax- deductable. Help yourself and others by becoming a Kurukulla Center member.

Looking Into Space

While the Friends Meeting House in Cambridge has been a peaceful spot for Geshe-la's teachings this fall, this space only works as a temporary location. I think we all feel, as does Geshe-la, that Kurukulla Center definitely needs a permanent home. It would be wonderful to have a large space with a permanent altar, where students could drop in for meditation and practice, and where Dharma teachings could flourish. We have begun to explore buying a commericial space. However, because of real estate prices in Boston, we also are looking into long-term leases. If you would like to help with this long-term project, please contact Suzanne. Even a few hours making calls can bring us closer to finding a home for the Center.

Volunteer Needed

If you are interested in helping the Kurukulla Center by coordinating bulk mailings, please contact David Strom. Training will be provided.

Thanks For Your Help

As we start the New Year, we would like to thank everyone who contributed time and resources to Kurukulla Center this fall. Of course, our first thanks goes to Geshe-la for providing us with such pure teachings and for all of the preparation on his part that makes his explanations so clear. Geshe-la's thoughts would never reach us without the help of our excellent translators, Pasang Tenzin, Sara McClintock and John Dunne. Our thanks to Kerry O'Brien (and others!) for arriving early to set up the teaching space before each class. Thank you, Eric Hoffman and Angela Suescún-Hoffman, for hosting Geshe-la this Fall in your home.

On the material side, special thanks for the generous donation of $900 by Leo Liu and Penny Noyce, and thanks also to the following members of the center who gave donations over $100: Gail Keeley, Sara McClintock and John Dunne, and Linda Harris.

On the virtual side, our thanks to Cheryl Bentsen, Tony Trigilio and Shelly Hubman for donation of computer equipment. The Kurukulla Center cyber-home is in excellent shape thanks to Eric Hoffman's maintenance of our web page. Please remember to rejoice in others' merit-building efforts and in your own beneficial acts.

We also want to acknowledge the effort and enthusiasm that Vicki Fremont, Lindsay Robertson, Dan Howlett, Tony Trigilio and Shelly Hubman have put into giving private English lessons to our dear Geshe-la. He has enjoyed them very much. We also want to thank Kristen Maarten (and her daughters Sarah and Nastassja), Nick Ribush, Dolkar Yarchim, Yishi-la, Tashi Kamson, Cheryl Bentsen and Gary Curtis for taking Geshe-la to and from various appointments. He highly appreciates your kindness!

Monk's Fund a Success!

While Geshe-la is dedicated to teaching the Dharma to his Western students, he still has the responsibility of providing his young Tibetan monks with things such as food, clothing, housing, books, paper and medical care. The Monks' Fund was created to help sponsor Geshe-la's students at Sera Monastery in India.

We are very happy to report that in 1996 we sent a total of $ 2,084.40 (U.S. dollars) to Geshe-la's students. With this, we were able to sponsor 22 monks, some of them for six months and others for one or two years. This contribution is going to make a great difference in the quality of their day-to-day lives. Through this effort, each sponsor helps these young monks in the process of studying and preserving the precious Dharma, as well as their Tibetan culture.

There are still seven monks that need our generosity and are waiting to be sponsored. You can gain great merit and help out a monk with as little as $7 or $10 a month, or you can fully sponsor a monk (covering all his expenses) with $16.60 a month ($200 a year). Please contact Angela Suescún-Hoffman at (617) 254-8727 to sponsor a monk.

Kurukulla Center Finances



Medical                  $   805

Living Expenses              475

Offerings                    600

Facility Rental             1475

Translators                  960

Publicity                    625

Outstanding/Unpaid Expenses  575

Misc.                        200


Sept.-Dec. Expenses      $  5715

Average MONTHLY expense: $1428.75


Membership donations     $  2250

Non-member donations     $  3750


Sept.-Dec. Donations     $  6000




Medical                  $   175

Living Expenses              375

Offering                     150

Facility Rental              360

Translators                  240

Publicity                    150

Travel Expenses               50


Monthly Expenses          $ 1500

Expense of $1500/month is an increase of $71 from Fall 1996 monthly expenses.