FAQs

Spiritual program

I am new to the center. What classes should I take?

A great place to start is one of our drop-in meditation classes on Monday evening, or a Sunday morning “Sharing the Dharma Day.” Every semester we also offer introductory programs, six to eight week classes on an introductory topic such as the basic principles of Buddhism, an introduction to meditation, etc. There are no pre-requisites to attend our introductory courses. Many students who attend these courses have little or no experience with Buddhism and meditation. Students with previous experience can also join our introductory courses in order to review and contemplate more deeply the essential points of the path. You can also set up an appointment with our resident teacher or one of our senior students who can help you decide.

In general, we try to list the level of each lecture or workshop that we are offering, so that you will have some idea if having background information will be helpful. However, unless the course says that there is a prerequisite, we encourage you to come to anything that sounds inspiring. If you have questions about a particular class, please feel free to ask us.

How should I prepare for my course/retreat?

Once you have registered for the course/retreat and have carefully read the registration confirmation e-mail sent to you, there is nothing else you must do.

Though it is not necessary, some students like to do some preparatory reading. For Introductory Course students we suggest:

  • The Four Noble Truths, Geshe Tashi Tsering (Wisdom Publications)
  • What Makes You Not a Buddhist, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche (Shambala Publications)
  • The Misleading Mind, Karuna Cayton (New World Library)

For those interested in an introduction to meditation, check out:

  • Guided Meditations on the Stages of the Path, Thubten Chodron (Snow Lion Publications)
  • How to Meditate, Kathleen McDonald (Wisdom Publications)
  • Spiritual Friends: Meditations by Monks and Nuns of the International Mahayana Institute, edited by Ven. Thubten Dondrub (Wisdom Publications)

Also of interest:

  • Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up, Alan Wallace (Snow Lion Publications)
  • The Awakened One: A Life of the Buddha, Sherab Chödzin Kohn (Shambala Publications)
  • Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, Pabongka Rinpoche (Wisdom Publications)
  • The Path to Enlightenment [previously entitled Essence of Refined Gold], His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Snow Lion Publications)
  • The Principle Teachings of Buddhism, Je Tsong Khapa (Mahayana Sutra and Tantra Press)
  • The Way to Freedom: The Core Teachings of Buddhism, His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Harper Collins, Snow Lion Publications)
  • Awakening the Mind, by Geshe Wangchen (Wisdom Publications) 

For the intermediate and advanced courses, there are often suggested readings listed under the course description on the website.

I have been studying Buddhism for a long time already. Where do I fit in?

Our first question in reply would be “Why not take an introductory course?” Buddhist understanding should not be measured in breadth but depth, and every good student knows that there’s always something new to learn! Although the courses are listed as introductory courses, many experienced students also take part and find them of immense value. Students sometimes repeat the course; when teachings and guided meditations are heard from different teachers, their varied perspectives and styles – combined with your own personal experiences acquired since your last course – can stimulate fresh insights for even the most experienced students. We particularly recommend that you take an introductory course if you have only learned about Buddhism from books; nothing compares to being taught by an actual teacher.

We often receive registrations for Intermediate Level courses from people who have meditation experience: we must stress that our courses focus on Buddhist Philosophy rather than only the deepening of meditation practice and therefore meditation experience alone is not sufficient to qualify a student for one of our Intermediate Level courses

If you have studied a lot within another Buddhist tradition, you will also find a great deal of new information on our courses. Here at Gendun Drubpa, we follow a traditional presentation of Tibetan Buddhist teaching known as the Lam-Rim (The Graduated Path to Enlightenment). This is a systemized overview of Buddhist Philosophy and students of other traditions may not be familiar with some aspects of it. Buddhist Philosophy investigates many subtle conceptual points: different traditions often use different terminology or translations. Consequently, long-term students of other traditions who have not studied Tibetan Buddhist philosophy before can find that our introductory level courses introduce many new concepts.

Therefore, we qualify students as being “Intermediate Level” once they have taken one of our introductory courses, such as “Buddhism in a Nutshell,” because our Intermediate level courses assume a solid understanding of basic Buddhist philosophy as it is taught in our tradition. It’s our way of making sure that everyone is “on the same page,” of course we try to be flexible, so if having read the above you still feel strongly that an Intermediate Level course would be more suitable for you, then contact us.

For our more advanced students that fulfill these criteria, the Basic Program is a five-year comprehensive transmission of the Buddha’s teachings for committed students who wish to progress beyond beginning level of study and practice. We offer this program at Gendun Drubpa center – please contact Ven. Tenzin Chogkyi if you are interested in joining in the Basic Program classes.

We schedule occasional weekend workshops on all levels including intermediate and advanced, so keep checking our website or give us a call for more information.

If I have a question about my study or practice, is there someone I can talk to?

Yes, please feel free to make an appointment with the resident teacher or one of our senior students at our center to talk about any questions or problems you might have regarding your Buddhist studies or practice. Please call 778-412-7780 or email gendundrubpa@shaw.ca to schedule an appointment.

I have been having emotional problems recently. Do you think that starting to meditate or attending one of your introductory courses might help me to gain some balance in my life?

This is a very difficult and subjective question to answer. The nature of mind and emotions are extremely important topics in Buddhist philosophy and will be covered in some detail on the introductory course. In the teaching sessions, you will learn about Buddhist perspectives on mind and the problems we all deal with, which can be summarized as delusions based on desire, hatred and ignorance. In the meditation sessions, you will have time to investigate the relevance of these Buddhist perspectives to your own experience and learn techniques to deal with negativity and increase peace, happiness and compassion in your daily life.

But students are cautioned from thinking of this course as being a “cure” for all the troubles of our everyday lives. Be realistic; this is a great start but by no means the end of all our worries. Please be aware that this is a course of instruction, it is not intended to be a therapy retreat and the teachers are not trained psychotherapists. Taking a course or practicing meditation should NOT be considered as a substitute for professional counselling or prescribed medication.

There will be opportunities to ask questions to clarify any difficulties you may be having in understanding the philosophical points raised, but in these courses teachers cannot extensively counsel students on personal difficulties they might be experiencing.

Also, if you have been experiencing severe emotional problems, this may not be the right time to take part in a course that introduces such new and challenging ideas.

Meditation can also access new awareness of physical and mental experiences that can be unsettling, particularly if you have a history of emotional instability. In which case, for the safety and comfort of yourself and all the students and teachers on the course, we ask that you honestly question whether this course would be appropriate for you at this time. If you feel that it would be a healthy decision to join the course, we ask that you inform the teacher of any concerns or psychological history when registering, so that we can offer appropriate support should it be needed.

To learn about Buddhism is to learn about yourself; how your mind works and how this affects your life. It’s up to you to apply this wisdom!

What tradition of Buddhism is practiced at Gendun Drubpa Centre?

Our teachings, meditations and practices are based on the tradition of Lama Tsong Khapa of Tibet, who lived from 1357 to 1419, founder of the Gelugpa School of Tibetan Buddhism, as taught to us by our founder Lama Thubten Yeshe and our spiritual director Lama Zopa Rinpoche, both of whom are students of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Practitioners of all Buddhist schools as well as non-Buddhists of any nationality and any religion are welcome to visit our facilities, study, meditate and retreat here. You can find more information about our teachers by looking at the “Our Teachers” tab above.

Are you affiliated with any larger organization?

Yes. Gendun Drubpa is part of the FPMT (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition) a network of over 160 meditation centres and social service projects dedicated to benefiting others in over 35 countries around the world. For more information about FPMT, Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, please see www.fpmt.org.

When is Gendun Drubpa Centre open?

As Gendun Drubpa Centre is also the home of our resident teacher  to ensure her privacy and to allow her to have time to prepare for the courses she is teaching, we don’t have open hours at this time.

Ven. Tenzin Chogkyi is  available for personal conversations.  – please schedule an appointment by emailing her at ven.tenzin@gmail.com or calling 778-412-7780.

Dharma Etiquette

Are there “rules” I need to follow when visiting Gendun Drubpa Centre?

Yes. We ask our visitors to observe the following guidelines in order to maintain an atmosphere conducive to inner reflection and meditation:

  1. Respect all life: do not intentionally kill any living being, even small insects
  2. Respect others’ property: do not steal or take anything not freely given
  3. Be honest and straightforward: do not lie or intentionally deceive others
  4. Refrain from any sexual activity
  5. Be alert and mindful: avoid intoxicants such as cigarettes, alcohol and drugs (if necessary, one can smoke outside)
  6. Be considerate of the monastics: dress respectfully (no revealing clothing) and refrain from intimate displays between couples

When coming in contact with the Buddha-Dharma, it is useful to know the basic ways that you can show your respect for the teachings, which are considered precious. Conforming to these modes of behavior does not mean you are Buddhist or agree completely with the values or the validity of the Dharma, but merely expresses respect for it. Thus it is an intelligent way to make your encounter with the Dharma enjoyable and beneficial.

Dharma Books:

Buddhist books, notebooks and other reading material should be kept in a clean place. They should not be sat upon, stepped over or on, or placed directly on the floor. A cloth covering can be wrapped around these books when carrying or storing them and can be spread on the ground when these books are placed down. It will be helpful to place your books as compactly as possible near your seat to allow others to walk by easily. In addition, paper with Dharma notes on it should not be taken into the bathroom or discarded in unclean places. For disposal, they can be burnt or put in special containers available for that purpose.

Listening to Dharma teachings: 

It is fine to shift your sitting position during the teachings etc. but be mindful not to point the soles of your feet, – symbolically the lowest and often least clean part of your body, directly towards the teacher, altar or over your Dharma books. To do this is considered careless and disrespectful. While listening to Dharma teachings, one tries to show respect for the teacher and teachings by not wearing hats or shoes and not sitting higher than the teacher. One should also avoid lying down or leaning lazily against the wall. (This will also help prevent you from falling asleep!)

Out of respect for the teacher and the other students, always try to arrive on time – even a little bit early, to get settled in your seat before the teaching begins.

Prostrations:

During most of the introductory courses, we may not do prostrations before we sit down. Although many of the advanced students perform three prostrations before sitting down, this is not strictly necessary. Prostrations work effectively to decrease false pride and make the mind more receptive, but it is not necessary that you adopt this practice. One can also make prostrations by putting the hands together in at the heart on prostration mudra or mentally, by visualizing one is prostrating.

Please feel free to ask any questions whatsoever about what we do at the centre. At first it may seem like there is a lot of complicated ritual, but it doesn’t take long to start to become familiar with the basics.

Why does the resident teacher have “Ven.” in front of her name?

“Ven.” stands for “Venerable”, and is a title that we offer as a sign of respect to those who are ordained monks or nuns.

Logistics and practicalities

Do I have to pay for teachings?

Teachings are free, however our infrastructure costs are not. You are encouraged to make a donation if you can. Some programs do have set costs, which help us cover the costs of keeping our center running and supporting our resident teacher. More information about supporting our center can be found on the “Membership” page.

Can I join a course later, attend just a few sessions, or leave earlier than scheduled?

We have several drop-in programs for people who cannot attend a full course, but our introductory and intermediate courses have a cohesive, progressive structure running for the full session of the course (between six or eight weeks). Therefore, joining a course after it has begun or dropping in and out of sessions is generally not permitted.

In our experience, we have found that the progressive structure of our introductory courses is the most comprehensive and concise method to teach the basic principles of Buddhism and to miss parts of this course would be to undermine what can be absorbed from the course in its entirety.

In addition, it can also be very distracting or distressing for the other students when a student drops in and out of the course, attending sessions here and there, so this is strongly discouraged.

What is the last day that I can register for a course?

For most of our introductory and intermediate courses that are not residential, it is possible to register up to the day the course begins. However, we strongly encourage you to register as soon as you have decided to attend. We make up course materials ahead of time, so it is useful to know how many people will attend the course ahead of time. Also, as we have a small space, from time to time, due to space limitations, we have had to hold our course in a larger space to accommodate all the people who wish to attend. We need to make those arrangements well in advance, so PLEASE REGISTER EARLY!

But, if you have not preregistered for whatever reason, please don’t let that stop you from attending a class – you can register at the door.

There is no need to preregister for a drop-in meditation, or the Sunday morning program.

What if I cannot afford to pay for a class that I would really like to attend?

It is Gendun Drubpa Centre’s policy never to turn anyone away due to a lack of funds. Please email gendundrubp@shaw.ca to discuss options.  

Does Gendun Drubpa Centre have accommodation or a residential study program?

No, sorry. Gendun Drubpa doesn’t have any accommodation at this time, or a residential program. However, if you’re from out of town and would like to attend a weekend retreat or teaching, we will try to find housing for you with one of our members.

Where are you located?

Gendun Drubpa is in a small town called Williams Lake in the interior of British Columbia. We are about seven hours’ drive from Vancouver. There is a small airport in our town, and it’s possible to fly here from Vancouver. If you are considering coming from out of town to attend one of our weekend retreats, please contact us for more travel information.