Bodhi Path Martha's Vineyard celebrates 10 years in West Tisbury
Bodhi Path Martha's Vineyard, a Buddhist meditation center in West Tisbury, will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Saturday, August 29, with "A Jewel on the Island," featuring a silent auction of jewelry and thangka paintings (painted or embroidered Buddhist scroll paintings or banners). Attendees will have the opportunity to meet some of the Bodhi Path teachers while they explore the center's surroundings on Laurand Drive (off the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road) in West Tisbury.
The fete has been organized not only to acknowledge the center's 10 successful years on Martha's Vineyard, but also to raise awareness about Bodhi Path, and to welcome new members into its open community.
The Bodhi Path organization, founded in 1996 by Tibetan master Shamar Rinpoche, consists of 28 establishments in three different continents around the world. Its founder, who is highly active in spreading the dharma (the teachings of Buddha) in the States, is the 14th Shamarpa.
The Shamarpa lineage is the second-oldest reincarnate lineage in Tibetan Buddhism. The Bodhi Path centers teach a non-sectarian form of Buddhism, and invite newcomers as well as experienced practitioners from all walks of life to experience their approach to taming the mind.
The Martha's Vineyard Bodhi Path center began in 1999 and is situated in a peaceful, woody area close to the beach; the tranquility of the locale helps guide the practice of meditation, whose objective is for one to enter a state of mental clarity, and to achieve peace of mind. Although the undisturbed setting furthers this goal, Lama Yeshe Drolma, a Bodhi Path teacher since 2000, points out that inner calmness and composure can be achieved independent of outside influences.
"Peace of mind is really a matter from within," Lama Yeshe says. "If the mind is not at peace, even if you come to a beautiful place like Martha's Vineyard, the Island doesn't appear to be at peace. On the other hand, when I go to downtown Manhattan and it's boiling hot and there are a lot of distractions, if my mind is at peace, downtown Manhattan is at peace."
Lama Yeshe, who splits her time between Martha's Vineyard, New York, and Germany, is extremely accessible, and encourages newcomers to Buddhism to explore Bodhi Path: "We emphasize how effective Buddhism is in daily life at any age and any system of belief. It's a universal way of being. We give information that can be applied to daily life right away."
During the winter, when Lama Yeshe is elsewhere in the world, different teachers visit the center, and practitioners are encouraged to apply the abundant teachings on their own. "The teachings are very vast, and there's a lot to absorb," she says. "There are periods during the year when practitioners are left to practice [on their own]. Practice is an important part of meditation."
Lama Yeshe wasn't always a proponent of meditation; she worked as a business woman in the fashion industry in France for 20 years before a friend introduced her to Buddhism. "I worked with buyers and sellers and tried to help people be beautiful on the outer level, then I discovered inner beauty."
She was skeptical about the religion and its practices at first. "When I found Buddhism I didn't just want to believe in it, I wanted to know if it was true, so I checked it out," she says.
It didn't take long for Lama Yeshe to overcome her uncertainty and doubts regarding the institution and its set of beliefs. "As soon as I listened to my first Buddhist teaching, it touched my heart and I knew [Buddhism] was true," she recalls.
Barbara Dacey, the director of Worldwide Programming at WMVY Radio, a long-time Buddhist practitioner, has been actively involved with the Martha's Vineyard Bodhi Path Center for most of its 10 years. She sits on the center's board of directors and has contributed to maintaining and keeping the center active over the years. "I started meditating when I was going through a difficult time as a way to deal with my discomfort," she says.
Like Lama Yeshe, Ms. Dacey was introduced to Buddhism by a close friend. "I was living in Cambridge at the time and a friend brought me to a center and I immediately realized the benefit of practicing meditation," she says.
Others who have been an integral part of Bodhi Path's decade-long presence on the Island include Sharon Gamsby, the co-coordinator (along with Dacey) of the center, who has been integral to its smooth functioning. Drew Kinsman and Ivory Littlefield have also been involved in a renovation project - the center is currently restoring the on-site housing it provides for visiting Lamas.
The center offers group meditation sessions twice a week in the evenings, as well as a teaching series on the topic of "The Mirror Of Wisdom" taught by Lama Yeshe on Sunday mornings through September 27. In addition to these regular meetings, the center holds occasional day-long meditation retreats with Lama Yeshe.
Megan Cerullo is a freelance writer living in Edgartown.