Buddhist center moves to Edmonds, offers meditation

By Amy Daybert, HeraldNet.com, Jan 9, 2010

EDMONDS, WA (USA) -- Colorful prayer flags above the door of Chagdud Gonpa Amrita are one indication of a new neighbor for nearby residents and other business owners in Firdale Village.

Inside the former office space, the smell of incense lingers in the air. Cushions are stacked neatly along one wall in a room where a photo of the center’s founder, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, a meditation master and Tibetan physician, is displayed.

Chagdud Gonpa Amrita began in 1989 as the Seattle branch of the Chagdud Gonpa Foundation that provides teachings and practice in the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

The center was operated out of a residential home in the Northgate neighborhood until it moved to Edmonds in October, said Lama Padma Gyatso, the center’s coordinator and teacher.

There were many families who associated with the center and the group outgrew its earlier home, he said.

“We moved here as a way of welcoming people who were interested in either Buddhism or things that happen to be perceived as belonging to Buddhism,” Lama Padma said.

Meditation often is associated with Buddhism. Lama Padma will teach free meditation classes on Thursdays beginning Jan. 21 through April 8. Anyone can drop in to a Thursday class and learn about meditation. He also teaches classes for those who are in the more advanced stages of Buddhist practice.

Seattle resident Mary Strasser visited Chagdud Gonpa Amrita for the first time in 2000. She liked what she saw.

“I just went to scope it out,” she said. “There were people working on a mailing for an event and people sitting in front room doing (Buddhist) practice and a few kids coming in and out.”

She was interested and started attending classes taught by Lama Padma. She attends a Wednesday night class at the center’s new location and said she enjoys applying what she learns in the class to her daily life.

“He’s giving us things to think about,” she said. “He’s taught about kindness to yourself and to others and that it starts with giving yourself some space to not react so quickly.”

Lama Padma went on a spiritual quest to India in 1967. In India, he started training with the late Venerable Kalu Rinpoche. He returned to Seattle, entered the Buddhist Studies Program at the University of Washington, and earned his degree in 1974.

He was a student of Chagdud Rinpoche, who ordained him as a lama in 1996 and designated him the teacher at Chagdud Gonpa Amrita in Seattle.

An open house from 1 to 4 p.m. on Jan. 16 is one opportunity for those who are interested in Buddhism practices and teachings to learn more about the center, he said. The drop-in meditation classes are another ongoing opportunity.

“In a center like this it’s my responsibility to see that if someone is on a path they have some authentic guidance,” he said. “People can cook for you but they can’t think for you so if people know how to meditate it will be to their advantage.”

Chagdud Gonpa Amrita is supported by its approximately 40 members who are learning to work with their new space.

“It’s a change and we’re adjusting,” Strasser said. “But it’s really wonderful. (The center) has a community feeling and I feel it’s more accessible.”