Karme Chöling Turns 40

A day of preparation: a three-day journal of the preparations and celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Karme Chöling.


By Tom Bell

May 28, 2010

Today is a day of preparation at Karme Chöling—getting ready for the Celebration. The place looks really beautiful and the feeling is good. Staff are working and it is a very relaxed atmosphere. There are some new staff here including Jane Condon, who has taken the Chief of Staff position. She has lived in Boulder since 1974 and now, having raised her family, she has moved to Karme Chöling—even she is surprised.

Acharyas Rockwell and Greenleaf were the morning staff sitting this morning, and the MMGY was packed. It was easy to think of the Vidyadhara sitting there with us, in that room where he gave some of his earliest teachings in North America. The room is changed very little from those days and once again, I scrapped my head on the slanted ceiling as I reached for an extra gomden.

Jacquie and I did lujong on the front lawn, facing the house, like we have done so many times. Once again, it seemed like Khenpo Rinpoche would soon look out from the suite widows with his watchful eye. The grass is much fuller and it is cut perfectly—it feels luxuriant on the bare feet. And, how nice it is to be staying in a newly decorated guest room with a new bed and futon mattress. There is simply an uplifted feeling here; I’ll keep you posted on how the Celebration goes.

May 29, 2010

Today the Celebration is fully underway. Right now Jack Niland’s impromptu theatre is performing the CTR play Castle of Ego on the front lawn to much laughter, applause and shouts of approval – and there are more plays to come.

Last evening the birthday party and cutting of the cake took place. Director, Jane Arthur, used the ceremonial Director’s sword to make the first slice of the birthday cake while seven former directors stood behind her and even tried to help get the sword through the cardboard that separated the layers. The sword still needs some sharpening to cut through cardboard.

Mostly the evening was for people to talk with each other and remember their lives together at Karme Chöling and their connection with the place. I learned more about the Tail of the Tiger programs that are bringing meditation instruction to various groups of people in the area surrounding Karme Chöling and are attracting various interest groups to new meditation programming at KCL. Paton Hyman is heading up this work and says that it is important to bring meditation instruction to people in the places and activities where they are already engaged. Also, former Director Bill Brauer and I had a good chance to listen to each other and enjoy comparing experiences of the very transitional time when we served as Directors.

This morning was full of meditation practice – an hour of shamatha practice and morning chants, then the lhasang at the site where the new Stupa That Conquers All Directions will arise. The energy was definitely aroused. Next we went to the Azuchi for a ceremonial shooting of the arrow. Shibata Sensei will be here on Monday and there is a definite rise in the energy of Kyudo at Karme Chöling. Raising the gaze to the hill behind the Azuchi and seeing a row of prayer flags waving there was a beautiful reminder of the happy fact that Karme Chöling now owns that hill and will be protecting its beauty for generations to come.

This was all before 10 am. Then came two hours of formal meditation practice – either Shamatha practice, Werma, Vajrayogini Ngondro or Kasung Drill .

After lunch came the groundbreaking for the Scorpion Seal retreat cabin where construction will begin in an upper meadow of Karme Chöling within days. Acharya Hayashi offered a beautiful Bugaku dance to magnetize the energy and focus our minds. Sounds like the cabin will be ready for retreat in September. Each of the Acharyas who were present and the current and former directors got to dig a shovel full of dirt to start the construction. I am sure that Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is delighted that this is happening.

May 30, 2010

Last evening we gathered at 6:00 for practice of the Sadhana of Mahamudra led by Kunga Dawa, one of the original co-directors of Karme Chöling. He talked a bit about accompanying the Vidyadhara, Trungpa Rinpoche on his trip to Bhutan and to retreat in the cave of Padmasambhava at Taksang.

Of special interest is that, on the way to Taksang, Rinpoche received abishekas from both Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche in Bhutan and His Holiness the 16th Karmapa at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim. From His Holiness Karmapa he received the Karma Pakshi (2nd Karmapa) initiation and from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche the Dorje Trollö (wrathful Padmasambhava) initiation. After returning to Bhutan from Rumtek, Rinpoche entered retreat at Taksang. It is here that he received the Sadhana of Mahamudra. This Sadhana unites these two great gurus, Karma Pakshi and Dorje Trollö, providing a unification of the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions.

After the Sadhana practice, there was a recognition ceremony for former Directors of Karme Chöling. At this ceremony, Jane Arthur asked former Directors Kunga Dawa, David Nichtern, Roger Guest, John Rockwell, Jude Robison, Suzann Duquette, Tom Bell, and Bill Brauer to recall the years during which they served and asked that they identify the single most important thing that they did during their tenure.

This flow of history was further explored after the morning practice sessions today. David Nichtern moderated a panel and general discussion of what went on during each of the four decades of Karme Choling’s history. The Directors who were present all contributed to this discussion and Caroline DeMaio, Jeanine Greenleaf, and current staff member, Andrew Highsmith, also served on the panel. I felt greatly inspired to hear everyone’s contribution to this story of Karme Chöling. It is so good to look at all the roots which lead to the present situation of Karme Chöling. It is a vibrant, peaceful place, focused on offering its richness to the participants who come to learn and practice the Dharma. There is a lot of good, grounded youthful energy on the staff along with experienced, older members of the staff. It is gratifying to see this current result.

After dinner Saturday evening there was a very successful fundraising session, marking the public kick-off of “The Cornerstone Campaign.” Over fifty thousand dollars was raised on the spot in an inspiring outpouring of generosity by those present. This means that over $355,000 dollars has now been raised toward the Campaign goal of $515,000. This campaign will complete the funding for the Stupa That Conquers All Directions, the Scorpion Seal Retreat Cabin, and the already purchased 117 acres of hillside land across the road from Karme Chöling. The Campaign will also provide $80,000 toward the master planning for future expansion, including a first phase of providing additional participant and staff housing at Karme Chöling.

This afternoon I attended the first annual “”Tail of the Tiger Croquet Invitational Tournament.” I was doing pretty well until some last minute spectacular moves by Bethany Perron eliminated me from a spot in the medal round. It was a clear case of playing it too safe, thinking that I had third place locked up.

Anyway, Bethany’s brilliant end game allowed me time to proceed to the graduation ceremony for the Mukpo Institute. The graduation ceremony turned out to be another very inspiring event with four students graduating from the program. All were very appreciative and the talk given by a young graduate from South Africa was a truly top quality speech. He is dedicated to bringing what he has learned back to his country for the benefit of people there, and he displayed a very good and gentle understanding of the Shambhala Buddhist teachings.

Tonight the 40th Anniversary Celebration closed with yet another party. This one featured perennial favourite, Peter Goldfarb, as moderator, as well as wonderful presentations including an improv dance by Vicki Tansey, some beautiful singing by Julia Sable, and a great performance of the CTR play “Proclamation” by Jack Niland’s improv company. Andrew Highsmith and the Karme Choling Choir also led us in some compositions he has done while attending Shambhala Training levels. These verses are filled with humour and good fun.

It is getting pretty late so this is it for now.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche at Karme Choling Message of Milarepa Program 1973

In this video, people answer the question: When did you first come to Karme Choling—