Silicon Valley Tibetan Buddhists find a new home

By Jessie Mangaliman, Mercury News, Feb 17, 2008

Campbell, CA (USA) -- For 10 years, followers of Gyalwa Gyatso Buddhist Center did not have a home, shuttling from living room to living room, libraries and community centers.

<< The new center of the Gyalwa Gyatso Buddhist Center

And like many Silicon Valley companies, it existed virtually - a dot-org known mostly to West Valley residents who practice Buddhism in the tradition of the Dalai Lama.

But on Saturday, Campbell's first Tibetan Buddhist center - one of a handful in the Bay Area - celebrated its first real home. Located in a nondescript two-story office building behind a small strip mall on San Tomas Aquino Road, it is right next door to a technology company.

The resident teacher, the Ven. Losang Drimay, a Buddhist nun, stood outside the entrance to the new dharma center, her maroon robe flapping in the afternoon breeze. She pointed to the blue eight-paneled banner hanging above the door with the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism that she sewed together just days ago.

"People can now understand who we are," she said.

Saturday's open house marked an important passage for a group of less than 100 South Bay Tibetan Buddhists without a permanent home.

Every week for a decade, followers toted the accouterments of their faith in the trunk of a car: a plastic tub filled with teaching materials; cushions to sit on; a statue of the Buddha; candles and incense for the portable altar.

Laura Schaub, the new center's registrar, was quite aware of how often the locations changed because she carried around equipment in her car's trunk. "We've got to have a place for people to come," she said.

Inside, a yoga instructor was lecturing about 20 people sitting on cushions on the carpeted floor and facing an altar bearing reliquary objects, offering bowls and Tibetan thangkas, or paintings.

"It's core for us to be able to grow," Schaub said.

The new dharma center, Drimay said, will also be a place for followers to study and practice puja - prayers and meditations.

"My connection is here," said Gay Bachmann, the center's director. "I hope others will find that here."

Drimay said the center hopes to appeal to Silicon Valley's international residents.

Up on the wood-shingled awning over the center door, a long string of yellow, green, red, white and blue prayer flags fluttered. One prayer, apropos for the occasion and location, was for "swift accomplishment of wishes."