KCC was blessed to have Very Venerable KhenchenThrangu Rinpoche offer an empowerment at the retreat land

KCC was blessed to have Very Venerable KhenchenThrangu Rinpoche offer an empowerment at the retreat land.

Ser Chö Ösel Ling, Land of the Clear Light Golden Dharma, Readies for Long Retreats

After more than a decade of work and generosity by many, retreat center Ser Chö Ösel Ling is nearly complete, and just a year away from opening to its first long-term retreat.

The Tibetan Buddhist retreat center has been developed on 240 acres outside Goldendale, Wash., by Kagyu Changchub Chuling, also known as KCC, a small, 35 year-old Tibetan Buddhist dharma center in Portland.

At this writing, the facility is largely complete, lacking only the cloister fence and the final retreat, teacher, and staff cabins. This work will be finished over the next 12 months, well before the first one-year retreat.

To date, our community has raised more than $2.5 million from over 500 donors. We have always been—and firmly aspire to remain—debt-free. Our generous benefactors have included many people who are not Buddhist, but who relate to the potential benefit of retreat to this and future generations.

The long-term retreat facility has been designed from the start to support long retreats of up to three years, with equal attention to the needs of women and men.

It is being built in two separate wings, with eight single rooms in each, and a fully equipped commercial kitchen between. Each wing will include a bath house, dining hall and exercise hall, as well as a meditation hall for group practice.

KCC has learned a lot from this project. Our community has been strengthened and our practice intentions have been fortified. We are deeply grateful to Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, who not only encouraged us to do this project, but who made a large, key gift and inspired us with these words:

It snows in Goldendale, Wash., so the cabins are carefully designed to be cozy and energy efficient

It snows in Goldendale, Wash., so the cabins are carefully designed to be cozy and energy efficient.

“I ask you all to contribute through words, deeds, funds, harmony, understanding and whatever other wholesome input these projects will require. I am confident that you will work together as a sangha, in consultation with Lama Michael Conklin, and that you will successfully manage all the practical details.”

Though Rinpoche has passed away, we continue to be guided by his wisdom and example.

While Ser Chö Ösel Ling has been supporting shorter retreats since 2008, it is now being prepared for its ultimate purpose: hosting longer retreats that yield profound change.

On March 30th, 2013, before sunrise, the glimmer of stars will fade from the night-time sky over Ser Chö Ösel Ling, and a bell will sound, rousing 20 or so practitioners, teachers and staff, calling them and all sentient beings to practice. Parents, professionals, people in their 20s and 30s, artists, tradespeople, elders and scholars who have exited the secular world for a full year, will assume their seat and begin a long day in the pursuit of awakening to benefit all beings.

Why in the world would they do that?

Why in the world would Kagyu Changchub Chuling spend 20 years to build a place to host this first—and many future—long retreats? Why would these people even aspire to do such a thing?

As a society, we are familiar with intensive training. Experts of all kinds do it. Doctors, lawyers, scientists and others often spend 10,000 or more hours in training. People train to be knowledgeable and exceptionally competent in many areas—including sports and the arts. But why train so deeply in meditation? Does it make sense? Who benefits?

The ills of today’s world are not new. Even the most ancient religious and philosophical treatises talk about anger, confusion, jealousy, greed and other obstacles to wisdom, compassion, freedom and joy. These obstacles are not only timeless, but universal.

Volunteers install a Tara statue given to us by kind benefactor Peter Glavin

Volunteers install a Tara statue given to us by kind benefactor Peter Glavin (left).

To impact the most pressing problems of the world, we must bring profound compassion and clarity to each situation. To do this we must address the very source of our problems. From the Buddhist perspective, that source is the mind. A confused mind creates confused emotions that lead to confused and even harmful thoughts and ideas.

Such thoughts and ideas unfortunately reflect the confusion that preceded them. When people suffer from fear, anger and other forms of negativity, they think, speak and act in self-interested and self-protective ways that harm others. This creates negative and sometimes destructive relationships with individuals, families, communities, nations and even the environment.

When a person trains intensively, that fundamental confusion begins to unravel. Practitioners who achieve a high level of mastery manifest speech and actions that reflect a mind at ease, infused with wisdom, compassion and a concern for all. People who engage in meditation at this level can free themselves from prejudice and fear and become a healing balm for all they meet.

The work of clearing up confusion and of achieving high levels of human potential is intensive, and the people inclined and suited to doing it are few. But when those people succeed, everyone benefits. Imagine meeting someone who has succeeded at such training. Whether they choose to be parents, teachers, laborers, artists, professionals or spiritual guides, their speech and actions will come from a clear and disciplined mind.

Such clarity creates a powerful ease and impartial loving-kindness for all beings. Such people act skillfully in the world and are naturally inclined towards goodness. Everyone they meet comes face-to-face with a living, breathing, example of the benefits of a mind that is free from confusion, and filled with loving-kindness, compassion and equanimity. Contact with such a person is a potent experience that inspires and instructs.

Like all forms of expert training, such training in meditation takes time, qualified mentors and a suitable place. For 2,600 years Buddhist teachers have preserved, taught and developed the training methods of the tradition, with the aim to benefit every living being.

Kagyu Changchub Chuling, founded by the great Tibetan mediation master Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche, recognizes the value of training in long retreat, and has committed to creating a place where such training can continue for both men and women. KCC is now under the direction of Lama Michael.

KCC has several qualified applicants approved for the one-year retreat starting in March, 2013, and also for the cloistered, three-year, three-month retreat that will follow shortly thereafter. If you are interested in learning more about this project or in applying for residency as a retreatant, please contact Lama Michael through the retreat team at Jtamang@easystreet.net at your earliest convenience.

We are also indebted to the many Buddhist communities who have given us advice and help, and to the KCC sangha and friends and family who have made the benefit of others their primary practice through volunteering and by giving their financial support.

Another $500,000 US will complete the SCOL facility for the three-year retreat that will follow the one-year retreat. To learn more or support this work, email us at info@kcc.org, visit www.kcc.org or contact Lama Michael through the retreat team. Your offers of volunteer labor are also gratefully received.

May the goodness of the dharma shine impartially on all beings throughout space and time, until not even the word for suffering is known.

About the author:
Julia King Tamang is an associate teacher at Kagyu Changchub Chuling, which has been her dharma home for nearly 20 years. She aspires to sit KCC's first three-year retreat and is grateful to belong to such a kind and good-humored practice community.

Photos courtesy of Kagyu Changchub Chuling.