Summary of our successes

Dec 31, 2020

Hello Everyone!

I am delighted to share a summary of our successes at Thubten Norbu Ling, which I’ve been updating you about throughout the year: our growing donations, donors, members and spiritual program.

I’ve been reminded recently about Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s vision for his FPMT centers, described in terms of Five Pillars: Dharma, Universal Education for Compassion and Wisdom, Social and/or Community Service, Interfaith Activities and Revenue Generation Activities. It is good to see our success in these terms.

I’m also happy to tell you about an influx of holy art coming soon – statues and a stupa. This is an example the first of the Five Pillars, Dharma.

I imagine Rinpoche will be so happy as he often tells us that “every time you look at holy objects—pictures of the Buddha, statues, scriptures, stupas—they plant the seed of liberation and enlightenment in your mental continuum. So every time you look at them they purify your mind.”


We know that money is not the main point in the Dharma – we offer everything for free at our Buddhist center. Nevertheless, that does not mean we should not be a professional organization with good legal and financial structures, good management, and to use wisely the resources of the world, including money.

And of course, money is an excellent measure of growth and success.

As the lamas teach us, access to even one dollar is the result of our past generosity. So, we as a center should want to offer the most beautiful place, the best program – everything – to the students. In turn, we as students are inspired to give back to the center. This is how generosity works – it is a dependent arising.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche is a perfect example of this. He is renowned for his incredible generosity. Whatever he receives, he gives away, and the more he gives, the more he receives. With this precious resource called money, Rinpoche funds an ever-growing number of projects to benefit others.

I am so in awe of the generosity of our members – just look at how much you have given, and totally from the heart! Donations for 2020 were $242,000, an increase of 75% compared to last year.

This includes the $85,000 gift from Rinpoche – see above! – to help pay down our mortgage, and other individuals’ donations from $5 to $35,000.

Last year, 99 people kindly offered the money to run the center. But this year, 237 of you practiced the generosity of giving!

This is in part because we now have students from all over the world joining our online classes – from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Sweden, England, Denmark, Netherlands, France, Italy, and Australia. The marvelous benefits of Zoom!

From this pool of 237 donors, since October, when we launched our new membership model of $50 a month for everything, 45 of you have joined. Now we have 112 members, an increase of 67% from the fairly steady 50 to 70 members of the last few years. At this rate, we will easily achieve our goal of 200 members by the end of 2021.

Also, we know it is not just donors and members who come to classes, because we happily welcome students who do not give a donation.

Spiritual Program
Why do we have more students? Because we have more programs to offer. For years we had an average of six events a week. Now we have 20 events a week and have scheduled even more next year.

I’ve often heard Ven. Robina Courtin, one of our FPMT touring teachers – who, as you know, is here with us in Santa Fe these days – share her views on the benefit of expanding the spiritual program at centers.

“It seems we go to so much effort to create a center,” she said. “We have to find a place, pay the rent or the mortgage, we need a director, a spiritual program coordinator, volunteers, teachers to teach the courses, and members to pay the costs – all this infrastructure just to be open for a couple of hours on weekday evenings and an occasional weekend course. Can you imagine running a cafe, or any organization, like that! It’s just not practical.”

I think what Ven. Robina says makes sense. When I think of the cafe example, I imagine just a few items on the menu and open only a couple of hours a day – of course it would be difficult to satisfy a small pool of customers, keep them, or attract new ones, let alone cover all the costs.

We are taking this example seriously, thus fulfilling the first of Rinpoche’s Five Pillars, by providing as much Dharma as possible. We will offer more of the different levels of the FPMT core curriculum; other courses that support our heart program, such as our new series based on the teachings of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche; more guided meditations; more prayers and pujas; and yoga and qigong.

In 2021, we will fulfill the second of Rinpoche’s Five Pillars, Universal Education for Compassion and Wisdom, by offering courses such as Sixteen Guidelines and Building Balanced Empathy.

Not only have we increased our programming, but we are also providing classes seven days a week with multiple time slots. Our 30-minute Express Meditation is offered every weekday at 7am. We will soon have mid-morning and late afternoon classes, more Saturday workshops and weekend intensives, as well as our usual evening programs. I’m especially excited about our new 30-minute evening purification meditation, starting in January, which we can end our day with at 9pm.

We have also increased our pool of teachers, facilitators, and meditation leaders, both locally and globally. And we have invited more than 20 FPMT teachers from around the world to join our faculty to teach our 2021 program.

Our events are attracting between 9 – 60 students


Our Manjushri (left) and Chenrezig statues in the Kopan Monastery office,
waiting to be shipped.

Our kind
Geshe Sherab contacted his good friend Ven. Tenpa Choden in Kathmandu, who manages Kopan Monastery and also oversees all the art, to help us choose new holy objects for our center. 

Geshe Sherab with his good friend Ven. Tenpa Choden, who organized the buying of our new statues; here they are in the mountains of Nepal last year. 

A student of Geshe-la’s has sponsored a magnificent forty-one inch statue of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom.

This inspired one of our directors, Matt Bunkowski, to offer a Four-Armed Chenrezig statue of the same size, the Buddha of Compassion, to go with Manjushri.

The statues were made by Newari Buddhists of Kathmandu, who are renowned as the best artists in Nepal. Created in the traditional style, the statues are partially gold-plated and their faces are painted with pure gold.

Lots of mantras to fill our statues – the more mantras, the more blessings!

Apparently a statue only becomes a buddha once it has been consecrated. It is filled with special mantras and other precious items, and prayers and pujas are done to invite the buddha to enter the statue.

Our center’s new gorgeous stupa ordered from Nepal and donated by Steve Nadeau.

While center member Steve Nadeau was participating in the ceremonies recommended by Lama Zopa Rinpoche that I wrote about in my October blog, he decided our beautiful new altar needed a new stupa.

A stupa is a necessary component of an altar, representing enlightened mind. A text represents enlightened speech, and a statue represents enlightened body.

On Geshe Sherab’s recommendation, Ven. Tenpa Choden chose a twenty-two inch gold-plated Enlightenment Stupa. It was consecrated and filled at Kopan.

Steve was pleased to offer the stupa, sweetly quoting Lama Zopa Rinpoche: “Holy objects benefit without words. The benefits are limitless, like the sky.”

Our dharmachakra, with a male deer on the right and a  female deer on the left. 

Geshe-la also requested Ven. Tenpa Choden to make a dharmachakra, a dharma wheel, for our center’s entryway. The male deer sitting to the right of the wheel represents the ordained sangha, and the female deer represents the lay practitioners. 

As many of you know, Tibetan Monasteries have a dharma wheel surrounded by deer on the roof, which indicates they possess a collection of the Buddha’s teachings, the Kangyur and Tengyur.

According to Geshe-la, a dharma wheel represents Buddha’s first teaching, and the deer represent Deer Park in Sarnath, where Buddha turned the wheel of dharma by teaching the Four Noble Truths.

Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva vowed to help beings realize enlightenment during the period between the parinirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha and the coming of Maitreya Buddha. He is famous for rescuing those who, due to past negativities, fell into hell realms.

Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha Statue
We recently heard from the FPMT International Office that a generous benefactor has offered a statue of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha to each of the 163 FPMT centers around the world, if they would like one.

Ksitigarbha is one of the group of holy beings known as the Eight Great Bodhisattvas. According to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, it is very powerful to recite his mantra, or even just think of his name, especially for those with heavy problems, serious health issues, big projects to complete, or financial difficulties. 

The statue, carved in either marble or granite, is forty-two inches high and weighs over four hundred pounds. Not only is the donor offering the statues, but is also paying for shipping to the closest port.

How could we turn down such a generous offer! We plan to place Ksitigarbha in our garden. Our Grounds Manager, Jeremy Lewis, is excited. “Amazing! We’ll make a good home for him.”

I offer each and every one of you a thousand thanks and much rejoicing for our marvelous year, despite the challenges!

May next year be even more successful!

May all of this collective, virtuous activity ripen in our never being separated from the Mahayana Dharma and our perfect Mahayana guides, especially our kind Spiritual Director, Lama Zopa Rinpoche!

May we continue to receive the blessings and teachings of Geshe Sherab and all our teachers!

May we never be separated from His Holiness the Dalai Lama! As Rinpoche says, His Holiness “is the great treasure of infinite compassion embracing all sentient beings, the sole source of benefit and happiness, and the sole refuge.”

With love,

Charmaine Hughes
Executive Director


Share This