dorje_2001_Philadelphia

Dorje, erstwhile Media Lab wizard, has now gone on to another career, although he still helps out as a volunteer when it fits into his busy schedule.

Have you wondered where the LMB Media Lab went? Starting in January of 2014, the videos that used to be distributed on hard-copy DVDs have been migrating over to the online video streaming service called Vimeo.

For over a decade, Dorje (Jason Greenberg) and others worked in a department here called the Media Lab, carefully recording, editing, and distributing Dharma teachings on DVD and CD. Venerable George Churinoff, who lived and taught at LMB for some time, was instrumental in figuring out the technicalities of what software to use and what kind of DVD printing machine to get. Dorje was assisted by Nicholas Eyes behind the computer up in the Media Lab trailer.

But times have changed and people are now getting their media through online streaming. Alas, many computers sold nowadays do not even have a DVD/CD drive! Also, the shipping costs were prohibitive for people living outside of the United States. And for other reasons, we could no longer afford to run the Media Lab.

Ven-George_screenshot_Awareness-Knowledge

Venerable George, in a screenshot from one of the videos on Vimeo on “Awareness and Knowledge”.

So, we decided to start uploading the general, unrestricted videos to Vimeo, where you can watch and/or download them for free. We haven’t done anything yet about the audio recordings from year’s past. As for the restricted videos, such as those requiring an empowerment, we will hold onto the master recordings and perhaps make those available upon special occasions in the future.

For now, please enjoy the unrestricted videos on Vimeo. If you find the service useful, you are invited to make a donation on the Vimeo website by clicking on the button there that says Tip this video. You can get to our page through the Vimeo button that lives amongst the social icons in the footer of our website. V for Vimeo button

 

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Six cement truck loads of concrete were poured on May 28, 2014, to bring the foundation of the stupa up to ground level.

pouring the foundation

May 28, 2014: Pouring the foundation.

Since then, more framing has been built to get ready to pour the next level. The stages of the construction will need to be paced to allow for the filling of the interior spaces. The spaces within the main tower will be filled with the sutras – the scriptures of the Buddha’s own words. We are ordering 10 sets of the Kangyur in the form of Tibetan pechas (books) to put in there. Extra space will be filled with ‘incense’ in the form of cedar shavings.

See YouTube video of foundation pouring.

 

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by Gelongma Losang Drimay
May 2014

When people see us red-robed people in town, they usually guess right – that we are connected with Land of Medicine Buddha. But they still have many questions. Here are some answers to the most common questions. Of special note are some terms at the end of this article.

Is Land of Medicine Buddha a monastery?

There are a few monks and nuns around the place, but no, Land of Medicine Buddha (LMB) is not a monastery. It is a Dharma center – a multi-function venue for classes, meditations, retreats, lodging, camping, walking in nature, and pilgrimage to visit holy objects. The monks and nuns are just a minority of the people who work here.

How many monks and nuns do you have there?

At this writing, May 2014, there are six sangha members living and working at LMB. ‘Sangha’ is a Sanskrit term that we use to refer to the ordained vow holders, what are usually called monks and nuns in English. (Some other Western Buddhist organizations use the term sangha in a looser way to mean ‘the congregation’, i.e., all the people who practice together, or all Buddhists, but we don’t use the term that way in our organization.) Our sangha consists of two monks and four nuns. In our organization, FPMT, we are using the English title ‘Venerable’ for both male and female sangha members of any level of ordination.

steve_LOP2014_300px-webVenerable Steve

Venerable Steve is from England, has been a monk since 1979, and has been based at Land of Medicine Buddha since 2006. He is fluent in the Tibetan language and often serves as an oral interpreter for visiting Tibetan lamas, both here and at other centers. Venerable Steve also teaches the more advanced level classes, e.g., the topics from the FPMT Basic Program.

Samten-wheelVenerable Samten

Venerable Samten is from Tibet, has been a monk since 1991, and has been based at Land of Medicine Buddha since 2007. He came here to serve as attendant for Khensur Jampa Tegchog, a retired abbot from Sera Je Monastery who was teaching here for a few years. Ven Samten then stayed on after Khensur Jampa Tegchog left for Europe and then India. Ven Samten takes care of the altars (filling numerous water bowls every day), performs the Medicine Buddha puja and other prayers daily, and provides hospitality to any Tibetan visitors. He also serves as a respected spiritual friend for the local-area Tibetan people.

tsomo_bamboo_300px-webVenerable Tsomo

Venerable Tsomo is from Singapore, has been a nun since 1996, and has been based at Land of Medicine Buddha since 2002. She first came here to help with the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama when he taught at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California, an event which was organized by our center. She then came on board as the Spiritual Program Coordinator (SPC), a broad-ranging role which includes inviting teachers, setting the calendar of events, liasing with other Dharma centers, and taking care of all sorts of details related to the spiritual activities of our center.

drimay-LOP2014-300px-webVenerable Drimay

Venerable Drimay is from California, has been a nun since 1991, and is currently on her third stay at Land of Medicine Buddha. She first came to this land even before it was called Land of Medicine Buddha, back in 1989 when she started working for the FPMT International Office, which had just moved over here from Nepal. Ven Drimay teaches entry-level classes, and does computer-related things for the Spiritual Program Department, and is our website designer ‘master’.

yangchen-LOP2014-cropVenerable Yangchen

Venerable Yangchen is from New York, has been a nun since 2001, and came to offer service at Land of Medicine Buddha in 2011. She leads some of the meditations and pujas, sets up for pujas, and helps do all the little things necessary when getting ready to receive honored visiting lamas. She also helps to keep the flowers blooming in the front yard. Ven Yangchen was trained in fine arts, doing landscape and portrait painting for many years before her ordination, so she has a keen sense of style, which is very helpful around here.

gyalten-laurie_300px-webVenerable Gyalten

Venerable Gyalten is from Ohio, is our newest sangha member having become a nun in March 2014, and has been working at Land of Medicine Buddha since 2008. She is now the center manager and continues to be responsible for the needs of guest groups who rent facilities for their own retreats here. Ven Gyalten leads meditations and performs the Medicine Buddha puja on one of Ven Samten’s days off.

Are There Many Buddhist Monks and Nuns in the United States?

There are very few Westerners who are ordained as Buddhist monks or nuns at this point in time. Many of us know each other and get together for conferences and teachings. Buddhist monks and nuns of Asian origin are more numerous, but they are still scarce.

In the IMI – International Mahayana Institute (the umbrella for the non-Himalayan sangha of the FPMT organization), the database lists 50 sangha members who have their mailing address in the United States. However, this includes some who are often traveling in other countries. Twenty of those are in California.

In addition to the six sangha members at LMB, you might see monks and nuns from the nearby area who are based at Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s house in Aptos, at Vajrapani Institute in Boulder Creek, in San Francisco with Tse Chen Ling, and a few who are living on their own in Santa Cruz.

Why Do You Look Like That?

robes-Mandala-Mag

Some nuns from San Francisco demonstrated the traditional Tibetan-style monastic robes for an article in a special edition of Mandala Magazine.

We cut our hair and wear the robes because that is the uniform for monks and nuns. The Buddha cut his hair when he left home to become a religious seeker, so we do the same. It also eliminates a lot of vanity and time-consumption associated with hairstyling. The patchwork shawl was designed by the Buddha’s request and has stayed the same throughout the centuries in all the various traditions. Most Buddhists are not monks or nuns (just like Catholics). Most Buddhists just wear regular clothes and have regular jobs.

Who Can Get Ordained?

You can receive ordination vows when your spiritual master thinks you are ready. There is no definite minimum course of study required beforehand, although you should be well-versed in the Buddhist teachings and aware of what you are getting into. Our organization, Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), requires 5 years from the time of taking “Refuge” (formally becoming a Buddhist) before becoming a monk or nun. There are various rules that monks and nuns must follow, but the main principle is abandoning the affairs of a householder’s lifestyle in order to commit one’s whole life to religious practice and study. See this useful publication: Preparing for Ordination.

What are the People Like who Become Buddhist Monks or Nuns?

Each one of us is very different. We have distinct personalities, abilities, and interests. That is one of the things that makes our teamwork work so well. One thing we do have in common is that we are adventurous. And independent. These are almost required traits in order for a person to do something so out of the norm for one’s cultural upbringing. We do tend to be travelers, another trait which often explains how we got involved in Buddhism. If we weren’t traveling before we met the Buddha-Dharma, we often end up traveling afterwards in order to attend courses and retreats, or to serve at different locations.

What are Your Days Like?

As mentioned above, Land of Medicine Buddha is not a monastery, so we don’t have a set schedule. (At monasteries in Asia, it is typical for there to be a strict schedule of prayers, studies, and other duties.) At LMB, we are mostly on our own to do our personal meditation practice. There are pujas throughout the month which the sangha are expected to attend. Other than that, we each have our own duties. Some are administrative. For those of us who are teaching and leading other practices, we need to do a fair amount of preparation – studying, reviewing, and putting together materials. And we all have an obligation to ourselves to continue our education – lifetime learning – by attending classes that are offered here and at other Dharma centers by qualified visiting masters and residential teachers. During unscheduled times, it is usually easy to find visitors out in the yard here at LMB who would like to ask questions or be shown around, so the sangha are often involved in that kind of impromtu hospitality. And whenever we venture into town, curious people are bound to ask questions, so we serve as informal ambassadors for the Dharma center and for Buddhism in general. 

Some Terms

Monk – man who has taken monastic vows, which includes, among other things, celibacy. Monk is a general term which covers various levels of ordination, such as bhikshu and shramanera, i.e. gelong and getsul. 

Nun – woman who has taken monastic vows, which includes, among other things, celibacy. Nun is a general term which covers various levels of ordination, such as bhikshuni and shramanerika, i.e. gelongma and getsulma. 

Householder/Layperson – someone who might be a Buddhist, but who has not taken monastic vows. (A lay vow holder is called an upasaka (m.) or upasika (f.).)

Venerable (Ven.) – English-language form of address for any Buddhist monk or nun. (Polite forms of address in the Tibetan language include kusho-la for a monk and chö-la for a nun.)

Lama – Tibetan word for “Guru”, meaning spiritual master.

Rinpoché – Tibetan word meaning “precious one,” a respectful form of address for: reincarnated lamas, abbots, your own main lama.

Tulku – Tibetan word meaning “emanation,” a term for spiritual masters who come back life after life in order to guide others.

Geshé – Literally “Virtuous Friend”; a title somewhat like a Doctor of Divinity, earned after approximately 20 years of higher study in a monastic university.

 

 

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