Sangha members prepare to carry holy scriptures and Buddha statues in procession to the new center.
Tibetan Buddhist practice center Chagdud Gonpa Amrita has moved to a new space in Edmonds, after 20 years of evolving as a center based in the home of founder Lama Padma Yontan Gyatso.
Center members spent much of the fall converting a former office on the second floor of Edmonds’ Firdale Village Shopping Center into a modest-sized Buddhist practice center able to hold several dozen people. A person entering Amrita’s central shrine room will encounter rich yellow and maroon walls, a golden carpet, and a beautiful wooden altar. “We were trying to create a warm, welcoming feeling,” said Lama Padma.
At the heart of the center is Lama Padma, a western-born Buddhist teacher in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The oldest of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the Nyingma lineage is known for its direct pointing toward the truth and for the richness of its traditional practices.
Now in his sixties, Lama Padma is a Tibetologist with a degree in Buddhism from the University of Washington. He has practiced deeply in the Tibetan tradition under several great Buddhist teachers. He is also a family man–married, with three grown children and eleven grandchildren.
“One of the missions of Amrita is to provide an environment that people can relate to as wholesome and that will contribute to their spiritual development as a human being,” says Lama Padma.
Lama Padma places sacred texts above the shrine.
“It’s like community service, to support and maintain a center like this. Our sangha regards it as not just for ourselves, but as our community and social responsibility to maintain it to help others discover their own inner truth.”
Center organizers, many of whom have been practicing Buddhists for decades, are gradually putting together a program of teachings and practice that will suit the needs of people with a full range of Buddhist experience. People relatively new to Buddhist tradition will receive introductory teachings and also will find time to engage in meditation practice. More seasoned Buddhists will be offered deeper teachings and will have a chance to participate in ritual ceremonies called tsoks, as well as longer teaching series and retreats.
During the annual long retreat called “Drupchen” members use practice texts very similar to those used in Tibetan monasteries. They also play traditional Tibetan musical instruments including drums, oboe-like “gya lings”, and long horns. Some members also perform traditional Tibetan lama dancing. This Chenrezig Drupchen is the only one of its kind performed in North America–making this a very special Northwest offering.
Susan Baldwin, Lama Padma’s wife, places a flower offering in the new center.
“It”s authentic Buddhism, as it was received from our Tibetan teacher,” Lama Padma said. “We practice according to our authentic lineage and that”s something we maintain, the integrity of how we received it.”
Lama Padma’s principal teacher was His Eminence Chagdud Rinpoche, a traditionally trained lama who was born in 1930 in Tibet. He received teaching at an early age from some of the great masters of that time. He died in 2002. Among Rinpoche’s accomplishments was ordaining a number of his close Western students as lamas, including Lama Padma in 1996.
Lama Padma now has responsibility for a number of Chagdud Gonpa centers around North America, but Chagdud Gonpa Amrita will remain his home dharma center. Chagdud Gonpa Amrita plans an Open House for January 7th and all are welcome!
For more information about Chagdud Gonpa Amrita, please visit: www.amritaseattle.org.
Contributor: Steve Wilhelm.
Photos: Caterina De Re.