Deer Park Buddhist Center
Just about ready for the coming visit of His Holiness, The
Dalai Lama, July 19-24
|Heidi M. Pascual*
Publisher & Editor
* 2006 Journalist of the Year for the State
of Wisconsin (U.S.-SBA)
“Now, we have here so many records and tapes on teachings, and we have special scholars and teachers who come from Tibet.” He
talked of volumes and volumes of scriptures that Tibetan scholars had to learn before they could “teach” some of these scriptures.
Geshe Sopa himself underwent an extensive study of Tibetan Buddhism starting at age nine, when he was ordained a novice monk. In
his youth, he studied under four of the greatest scholars of the dGe lugs pa school, and later continued his advanced studies until he
sought political asylum in India in 1959 when Tibet fell under Chinese rule. He was “sent” to the United States by the Dalai Lama in the
sixties to tutor three young monks selected to study in the U.S. He was later recruited to teach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one
of the few Tibetan scholars to hold a faculty position in the U.S. “I taught at the UW-Madison for many many years,” Geshe Sopa said, “and
I decided to establish the Deer Park Buddhist Center. because more and more people want to learn Buddhism (outside of the academic
Ani Jampa (Alicia Vogel) was a longtime student of Geshe Sopa at UW-Madison and now a nun at Deer Park Buddhist Center. She is
working as Geshe Sopa’s administrative assistant, and in many ways, coordinator of the construction project, according to Geshe Sopa.
She has travelled with him abroad, including to Tibet, and therefore, she has seen first-hand the traditional designs for temples and
monasteries. She’s also deep into Tibetan Buddhism and its way of life. Geshe Sopa has only praises for Ani Jampa.
“It’s been hard work, but there’s great joy in serving the community and my teacher,” Ani Jampa said. “On a deeper level, I truly am
‘satisfied,’ if you can call it that.”
Everyone interested to learn about Buddhism is welcome in the Center. “Teachings are conducted (in English) every Thursday evening
and Sunday morning,” Ani Jampa said. “Now , we have added Tuesday evening.” This points to the growing number of learners, for sure.
The new temple — its door, the inside, and the roof — has been designed to symbolize Tibetan Buddhism and art. “Geshe Sopa didn’t
just want an American building,” Ani Jampa said. And she taught this writer a bit during the brief tour of the temple, and introduced me to
the three Tibetan artists working on intricate designs on panels and cabinetry on the lower level of the building..
The Deer Park Buddhist Center is now ready, not only for the visit of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, but also for the visit of many regular
people who would like to learn about his teachings as well.
“The Dalai Lama doesn’t teach in order to convert people,” Ani Jampa said. “He wants people to keep their cultural or religious traditions
and take his lectures as ‘teachings,’ which can be used in everyday life.”
For more information on Deer Park Buddhist Center and the forthcoming visit of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, visit www.deerparkcenter.
After more than three years of construction and fund-raising
through donations (in money or in kind), the Deer Park Buddhist
Center in Oregon, Wis., is almost ready for its grand opening to
coincide with this year’s visit of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama.
The project was way behind schedule (the Center’s contruction
started on Earth Day, April 22, 2005, and was expected to have
been completed in the fall of 2006) due to various constraints.
But the delay allowed for a thorough concentration on details,
such as the incorporation of authentic traditional Tibetan
designs and symbols inside and outside the building. There are
three Tibetan artist-painters direct from India and Nepal who
have been working at the Center for about a year now
exclusively to re-create Tibetan art work on the edifice.
“The Deer Park Buddhist Center is a mirror of a Tibetan
Buddhist Temple specifically designed to embody Buddha’s
teachings,” Venerable Geshe Lhundub Sopa, founder, director
and abbot of the center and monastery (and a retired professor
of Buddhist Studies at UW-Madison) said, in an interview
Deer Park Buddhist Center front view
(L-R) Ani Jampa and Geshe Sopa
with Asian Wisconzine. “And it is named after ‘Deer Park’ in India, because that was where
Buddha originally taught; it was in the jungle.” While the center isn’t “in the jungle,” it is
located in a relatively isolated area where houses are few and far between, and it
blends perfectly well with nature.
He said the principal aim of the center is to educate people about Buddha’s teachings,
which were completely taught and practiced in Tibet He then explained what Tibetan
Buddhism is all about — a philosophy, a moral guide, and religion. He said it is based on
Madhyamika and Yogacara of the Mahayana School.
“Tibetan monasteries are specially built; and they are much, much richer than temples that
mainly record Buddhist teachings, scriptures and commentaries,” Geshe Sopa continued.