Published on October 30th, 2013 | by Martin Miron0
Keeping the Flame of Tibetan Buddhism Alive
The Drepung Loseling Monastery, in India, which has long been associated with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has firmly planted roots in Atlanta. Drepung Loseling Monastery Atlanta is the North American seat of this monastery, with its main missions to share the unique Tibetan arts and culture, as well as to help to preserve and provide training in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of wisdom and compassion. The monastery also provides a sanctuary to nurture inner peace and kindness, community understanding and global healing. This task is especially important in light of the current fragile political status of Tibetan culture.
Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, the spiritual director of the Drepung Loseling Monastery, is also a senior lecturer and director of the Emory-Tibet Partnership at Emory university. In 1998, the Dalai Lama inaugurated an affiliation between the two schools which makes many activities available to a wider audience. When the Dalai Lama visited here in October, he spoke at Emory. Thus, Drepung Loseling provides a unique link between the resources and faculty of a major American university and a principal scholastic Tibetan monastery-in-exile in India.
The Buddhist Studies and Practice program is designed to provide instruction and practical training at beginning, intermediate and advanced levels. It offers a number of free, weekly opportunities to learn about meditation and Buddhism, as well as more formal courses. Most of their highly qualified teachers were educated at the Drepung Loseling Monastery in India.
Geshe Ngawang Phende, a teacher at the monastery for five years, has spent his life in the service of Buddhism. Born in Tibet in 1968, he entered the monk’s training at age 12 and spent 30 years in India before moving to Atlanta. He administers lessons to seekers on the wisdom of the ancients.
Geshe-la emphasizes that these are sectarian, not religious classes, saying, “Our main purpose is to live a very peaceful and happy life. The main thing is for the individual to have a peaceful and calm mind. If in their mind there is something going wrong, like anger or hatred or jealousy or selfishness; any negative emotion, it can disturb the individual’s personal life and family life and society. My service is to help people learn how to be calm and peaceful and remain positive.”
The monk explains that this process is not an easy one. “To get rid of this negative mind is not easy; it is very, very difficult, and you need a background of philosophy and common sense to increase the poverty of mind using meditation,” he says. Geshe-la first teaches pupils how to discipline their mind and then about compassion—what it is and what its causes are. “Sometimes you have to deal with very difficult people, and at that moment, drop anger out of love, out of compassion,” he explains. “It’s not only in America, it’s all over the world. Human nature is fundamentally very positive; everyone wants to be peaceful and happy. Even when there seem to be many obstacles to happiness, they are not external, they are internal.”
He notes that the danger is that when people feel hopeless, they become weak and it is harder to fight. Everyone has equal potential, but they need to cultivate their inner strength, which cannot be obtained by external means.
Geshe-la describes the more widely known form of relaxing meditation as a solution for short-term distress, saying, “Strong negative emotions require meditation to shift and focus on deep breathing to calm down.”
For more long-term benefits, there is another form: analytical meditation. “When your mind is calm, you have a better way to think,” he states. “When your mind is negative, your actions are negative. Instead of getting stuck with the problem from feeling anger, how can I look forward? Analytical meditation says, ‘I am here to get rid of the problem.’ From positive thought comes the wisdom to get rid of the problems. Education is crucial.”
One ongoing project of the monastery is to establish a “Little Tibet” in Atlanta with a center and a separate residence for the monks. Their goal is to raise $2.87 million, and individuals and businesses in the community are invited to donate at a variety of sponsorship levels.
For a complete list of services, classes, lectures and events, call 404-982-0051 or visit Drepung.org.