|Tara Institute |
|Founder(s)||Lama Thubten Yeshe|
|Teacher(s)||Ven. Geshe Doga|
|Director(s)||Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche|
|Address|| 3 Mavis Avenue|
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|Phone||(03) 9596 8900 ; (03) 9596 7410|
|Fax||(03) 9596 4856|
Tara Institute is named after the female Buddha, Tara, who represents the enlightened and liberating activities of all the Buddhas. Tara was born from the tears of compassion of Avalokiteshvara, the Great Compassionate One, and puts Avalokiteshvara’s wishes into practice, caring for each and every sentient being as a mother would her precious child. Tara Institute is one of approximately 150 centres and study groups affiliated with the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), a worldwide network of Buddhist Centres. Tara Institute has a large membership base that supports the Centre and its activities, as well as a floating population of about 400 who visit the centre on a weekly basis. The main function of Tara Institute is to provide Buddhist teachings, to offer charitable service to the greater community and to support the members. Tara Institute, through the guidance of Venerable Geshe Doga, offers programs to suit beginners and advanced students aspiring to gain inner peace through the study and practice of Mahayana Buddhism.Everyone is welcome to come to the Centre to learn and apply whatever Buddhist practices and teachings are most useful and meaningful in their lives. The gompa (meditation room) is temperature controlled for those cold winter nights and hot summer evenings. As a visitor or member, you can participate in the regular weekly teaching program (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings), one day courses, pujas, Healing Group for seriously ill people and social events. We invite children aged 4 to 15 years to attend the monthly Dharma club where we hope to inspire children to practice a healthy way of life.
Our Spiritual Program
Buddhist Philosophy and Meditation Courses
Tara Institute, through the guidance of Venerable Geshe Doga, offers programs to suit beginners and advanced students aspiring to gain inner peace through the study and practice of Mahayana Buddhism. Whatever your religious affiliation you are welcome to attend any teachings or events. We encourage you to maintain your own religious customs whilst borrowing any Buddhist practices and teachings that prove meaningful to you.
The seven Medicine Buddhas are powerful in healing diseases as well as for purification. Many eons ago, seven bodhisattvas strongly prayed for the temporal and ultimate happiness of all sentient beings, that their names become wish-fulfilling in order to heal both the mental and physical sicknesses and diseases of sentient beings. They vowed that their prayers will be actualized during these degenerate times when the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha are in decline. When they became enlightened, one of the ten powers of a Buddha is the power of prayer - that means that all the prayers that have been made get fulfilled. As the Buddha's holy speech is irrevocable, you can wholly trust in their power to quickly grant blessings to help all sentient beings in these degenerate times. They are called the Seven Medicine Buddhas, the main one is `Lapis Buddha of Medicine, King of Light'. Buddha Shakyamuni taught the teachings on the Medicine Buddha, and according to one tradition, is also considered as one of the Medicine Buddhas, and hence the Eight Medicine Buddhas.
The seven Medicine Buddhas manifested in order to pacify the obstacles to the achievement of temporary happiness, liberation and the ultimate happiness of full enlightenment. They are powerful in healing diseases as well as for purification. The Medicine Buddha practice can be used to help purify those who have already died and liberate them from suffering. It is also very powerful in bringing about success, both temporary and ultimate. The reason why the Medicine Buddha practice brings success is that in the past when the seven Medicine Buddhas were bodhisattvas practicing the path to enlightenment, they promised and made extensive prayers to actualize all the prayers of living beings of the degenerate time when the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha are in decline. They generated a very strong intention to become enlightened for this reason; this was their motivation for meditating on and actualizing the path. Lama Zopa says, "It is very important that the elaborate Medicine Buddha puja with extensive offerings be done regularly. The offerings should be as extensive and as beautiful as possible, and done in order to benefit all sentient beings."
Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy & Meditation
The Buddha taught that the key to peace of mind & happiness is to generate & apply a warm & kind heart in our daily interactions. One way to cultivate and maintain loving kindness is to listen to the Buddha’s wisdom and develop a regular mediation practice. So each month a senior student introduces a different aspect of Buddhist philosophy and meditation. The aim is to couple Buddhist theory with practical techniques that you can use every day and each class will give you something useful to contemplate. The evening usually ends with a brief question and answer session, so please feel able to ask any questions you might have. Classes are open to everyone, regardless of religious affiliation or current knowledge of Buddhism. If you’ve never been to a Buddhist Centre, the Gompa Etiquette page will acquaint you with some of our practices.
In Study Group Geshe Doga guides the students through profound classical Buddhist texts that have been studied for centuries in the great monasteries of Tibet and India. Because the texts can be quite difficult, it is important that you come to study group with extensive knowledge of Buddhist philosophy. Study Group is structured in ten-week blocks that are divided into eight weeks of teachings by Geshe Doga, a ninth week of discussion on the previous teachings and a written test on the tenth week. The homework, discussions and tests are simply study tools. No scores are recorded and how you perform is a purely personal matter and in no way affects your eligibility to attend future sessions.
In providing practical guidance for everyday living, Geshe Doga draws on his experience and insight to highlight the essence of the text. Each Wednesday night, Geshe-la simplifies teachings from a Buddhist text to give you practical techniques and guidelines for heart-centred living every day. You can come with no prior knowledge of Buddhism as Geshe Doga makes these teachings very accessible. He draws on his experience and insight to highlight the essence of the text and to explain the concepts in ways that can be applied in our Western culture. The evening usually ends with a brief question and answer session, so please feel able to ask any questions you might have. Classes are open to everyone, regardless of religious affiliation or current knowledge of Buddhism. If you’ve never been to a Buddhist Centre, the Gompa Etiquette page will acquaint you with some of our practices. While there can be between 50 to 150 people attending, there is no need to book and there is no charge. The class is held in the Main Gompa and afterward, you are invited to join fellow attendees for a cup of tea or coffee in the dining room.
Although the basis of the meditations and discussions is Tibetan Buddhism, and the place where the classes are held is a Tibetan Buddhist Centre, we believe that our presentations are accessible to all, whether one has a spiritual tradition or not. Our purpose is to encourage the further development of peace and harmony in one's life which can lead to the healing of body and mind. This group is a development of the Healing Meditation Program which has been running at Tara Institute since 1991. The Focus of the classes is to support people with serious illnesses and to develop meditational skills that will support them in their goal of healing. By "healing" we mean the essential healing of the mind. When the mind experiences wholeness, there is peace and acceptance of the whole of ourselves. The program runs over a 12-week period. Each week there is an opportunity to develop more skill and confidence in meditation. There is also a discussion topic based on introducing participants to basic Buddhist concepts which are relevant to health and healing. It is anticipated that the topics will give participants the chance to understand these fundamental ideas in a gentle and conducive environment.
Dharma club is for school age children as these are the ages that they able to concentrate and participate. Younger siblings are welcome to come but we ask that parents supervise the younger child to keep the disruption to a minimum. Dharma Club needs to be flexible. Children’s lives are so busy these days. There is so much input and so much activity that we resist asking people to enrol and make a firm commitment. So you may come one month but not the next if that suits the family. Because of this fluidity, the groups may change each month and you may not find your child in the same group.
His Holiness the 14th the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, is the head of state and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He was born Lhamo Dhondrub on 6 July 1935, in a small village called Taktser in northeastern Tibet. Born to a peasant family, His Holiness was recognized at the age of two, in accordance with Tibetan tradition, as the reincarnation of his predecessor the 13th Dalai Lama, and thus an incarnation Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion.
Lama Thubten Yeshe was born in Tibet in 1935. At the age of six, he entered the great Sera Monastic University in Lhasa, where he studied until 1959, when the Chinese invasion of Tibet forced him into exile in India. Lama Yeshe continued to study and meditate in India until 1967, when, with his chief disciple, Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, he went to Nepal. Two years later he established Kopan Monastery, near Kathmandu, in order to teach Buddhism to Westerners. In 1974, the Lamas began making annual teaching tours to the West, and as a result of these travels a worldwide network of Buddhist teaching and meditation centres—the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition—began to develop. In 1984, after an intense decade of imparting a wide variety of incredible teachings and establishing one FPMT activity after another, at the age of forty-nine, Lama Yeshe passed away. He was reborn as Osel Hita Torres in Spain in 1985, recognized as the incarnation of Lama Yeshe by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1986. Some of Lama Yeshe's teachings have also been published by Wisdom Publications. Books include Wisdom Energy; Introduction to Tantra; The Tantric Path of Purification; and (summer, 1998) The Bliss of Inner Fire. Transcripts in print are Light of Dharma; Life, Death and After Death; and Transference of Consciousness at the Time of Death. Available through FPMT centres or at Wisdom Publications. Lama Tenzin Osel Rinpoche was born in 1985 as Osel Hita Torres in Spain. He was recognized as the incarnation of Lama Yeshe by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1986. Lama Osel likes to be known as Osel Hita.
Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche was born in Thami, Nepal, in 1946. At the age of three he was recognized as the reincarnation of the Lawudo Lama, who had lived nearby at Lawudo, within sight of Rinpoche's Thami home. Rinpoche's own description of his early years may be found in his book, The Door to Satisfaction. At the age of ten, Rinpoche went to Tibet and studied and meditated at Domo Geshe Rinpoche's monastery near Pagri, until the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959 forced him to forsake Tibet for the safety of Bhutan. Rinpoche then went to the Tibetan refugee camp at Buxa Duar, West Bengal, India, where he met Lama Yeshe, who became his closest teacher. The Lamas went to Nepal in 1967, and over the next few years built Kopan and Lawudo Monasteries. In 1971 Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave the first of his famous annual lam-rim retreat courses, which continue at Kopan to this day. In 1974, with Lama Yeshe, Rinpoche began travelling the world to teach and establish centres of Dharma. When Lama Yeshe passed away in 1984, Rinpoche took over as spiritual head of the FPMT, which has continued to flourish under his peerless leadership.
The Venerable Geshe Lobsang Dorje Doga arrived in Australia on January 1, 1983. He had been invited by FPMT’s founding Lama and spiritual head, Lama Yeshe to become the resident teacher at Atisha Centre (our sister centre near Bendigo). Much work had been done to get the Centre in working shape for Geshe Doga’s arrival. Over sixty people came to the welcoming party that was held at the house of Kevin and Bernice Smith and were granted the joy of seeing that wonderful and now famous smile. “What you are doing is a very rare thing,” Geshe Doga said at the time. “To give your time to establish a Buddhist centre is rare and precious and takes much courage.” Geshe Doga was born in July 1935 in a small village called Khamze, situated in a valley in the remote Kham region of North-East Tibet.
His family was a large one of ten children. The parents were devout Buddhists and from an early age Geshe Doga was fascinated by the nearby monastery. From the age of three he would beg to go there to watch the monks debating and conducting their pujas. So it was with great happiness that at the age of seven he went with his parents to be admitted to the local monastery. The Abbot of the monastery predicted that the boy would become a Geshe and so ordained him as a novice monk. Geshe Doga was to study there for the next 10 years. After this preliminary training it was compulsory in Kham that young monks attend one of the three main monasteries of Tibet for at least 3 years. Then they could decide whether to return to their local monastery or continue their studies towards the ultimate goal of becoming a Geshe. So, aged 17, the young monk undertook the dangerous three month journey on horseback and on foot from Kham to Lhasa. As a number or raging rivers had to be crossed in Kham, it was said that only the good swimmers got to Era!
For most Tibetans it was considered fortunate to be able to make at least one pilgrimage to the sacred city of Lhasa, the seat of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and known as “The Pure Land”. This was a wish come true. At Sera Monastery he met his main teacher the Venerable Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, also a Kham-pa who was later to become the main teacher at the Tibetan Library in Dharamsala where he introduced many Westerners to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The young monk now studied three of the five major areas of learning – the Paramitas, Madhyamika philosophy and Pramanavatrika. He stayed there until he was 24 years old, when, in 1959, he was forced to flee Tibet.
While escaping, some monks disguised themselves in lay clothes but Geshe Doga refused to do so. At one point their party was detected by the Chinese army. Some of the Tibetans ran for cover behind rocks and were picked off by the Chinese. The young Geshe Doga stood his ground, saying “How can rocks give protection when the only protection is Buddha, Dharma and Sangha?” Though the Chinese mowed the party down with a volley of bullets, miraculously Geshe-la escaped with his life. His family remained trapped back in the village in Kham which was close to the Chinese border. It was particularly difficult for them to flee. Subsequently all have died except for one sister whom Geshe-la has not seen since that time. Two hundred Sera monks survived the journey to India. They arrived at the height of summer. The Tibetans were used to high altitudes and had little resistance to many diseases. But physical hardships were nothing compared to the sadness they felt at being forced to abandon their sacred homeland.
Geshe Doga stayed at the refugee camp at Buxa for 8 years where he studied the two remaining major treatises, the Vinaya and Abidharma with his Guru, the Venerable Gyume Khensur Urgyen Tsetan who visited Tara Institute in 1988. Thus Geshe-la completed the entire studies for the Geshe Degree. Following the period at Buxa, Geshe Doga was one of 13 monks chosen by the Indian Government out of 1000 to complete Sanskrit studies at Varanasi University. Their task was to translate Buddhist texts for the Indians and help restore the great Mahayana tradition to its homeland. This work earned deep respect of the Indian academic community. It added nine years of study onto what was already a lifetime of concentrated learning. Geshe Doga was conferred the Indian university degree of “Acharya”. Following his university years, Geshe Doga spent one more year studying at Sera Monastery which had been re-established in southern India. In March 1982 he passed his final exam for the highest monastic degree of Lharampa Geshe following an exhaustive series of examinations by the greatest living scholars. He passed with such distinction that his exam performance is still remembered.
He was now faced with a big choice, for once a monk has become a Lharampa Geshe he is in much demand as a teacher. But he can also choose to go into solitude and meditate. Geshe Doga decided to teach. Exactly at this point, Lama Yeshe, founder of the FPMT (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition), and a colleague at Buxa, invited Geshe-la to teach young monks at Kopan monastery in Nepal. Geshe Doga taught there for three years where for the first time he had contact with Western students. His Holiness the Dalai Lama blessed Kopan’s pioneering work with Western students and Lama Yeshe requested Geshe Doga to go to Atisha Centre in Australia. Geshe-la was happy as he had heard Australia was very beautiful. He said “I will teach according to the students. I will know what is best to be taught. The main aim is to benefit the minds of the students.”
Accompanied by his translator Sonam Rigzen, Geshe Doga immediately began giving regular teachings to a small dedicated contingent of Atisha Centre students. Major texts taught over 1983-’04 included Atisha’s famous “Lamp of the Path”; “37 Practices of all Buddha’s Sons” and the “Graduated Path to Enlightenment”. In April-June 1984, while the resident teacher Venerable Geshe Dawo was visiting India, Geshe Doga taught for the first time at Tara Institute. He conducted a five-day Easter Retreat on the Four Noble Truths as well as teaching on “Bodhicitta”; the “Wheel of Sharp Weapons” and “Supplement to the Middle Way”. The Venerable Geshe Dawo gave his last weekend course at Tara Institute on 22/9/84. A farewell dinner was held for him on October 7th as he was returning to India. Geshe Dawo was responsible for creating a stability at Tara Institute that has been built on to this present day.
Geshe Doga accepted FPMT’s request to follow Geshe Dawo as resident teacher at Tara Institute in September 1984. His first teachings were from Shantideva’s “Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life” and “Lo Rig” or mind and its functions. Geshe Doga’s decision to forfeit his Indian papers and take out Australian residency in 1987 and then Citizenship in 1989 expresses the extent of his deep concern for us. While visiting Sera in 1985 Geshe Doga was repeatedly begged by the young monks for teachings but he politely declined because he said there was little point giving only a few teachings: “It’s best to teach to students who can study with you over a long period of time”. Somehow we have collectively accumulated that very karma so the challenge is ours.
Over the years Tara Institute has grown enormously. The confidence to shift from Crimea Street with its tiny gompa (sitting a maximum of fifty) to our present beautiful building with massive gompa (it has sat 550!) and residential community of around 36 is certainly due to the confidence that Geshe Doga’s patient and lucid guidance gives us. Every time Lama Zopa Rinpoche visits he asks us to treasure Geshe Doga and to heed his advice. We now have increasing numbers of students studying, meditating and training as Dharma teachers whilst countless numbers have found their lives transformed through contact with Tara Institute. Sometimes the contact consists of nothing more than a flash of that famous smile. One student saw a photo of Geshe Doga in a Tara Institute newsletter found lying on a coffee table and that was it! Another met the Buddha’s teachings while Geshe Doga was strolling in a park. Her child ran up to him and demanded an introduction. I’m sure each of us has our own stories to tell of how much Geshe-la means to us. For my part I clearly remember His Holiness the Dalai Lama saying during teachings in 1985 in Dharamsala – “Although I am teaching you now, it is the teacher you live with daily and who guides you in a gradual process who is more kind.” Knowing my daily habits this struck me as undoubtedly true!
Venerable Michael Lobsang Yeshe
Born in London in 1966 to a Greek father and a Belgian mother, Venerable Michael Lobsang Yeshe was raised up in Kopan Monastery in Nepal and has been a monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition since the age of 7. At age 13, he entered the Sera Jhe Monastic University in South India where he spent the next 18 years studying Buddhist Philosophy. Since 1996, Ven Michael Yeshe has been invited to Buddhist centers in America, Singapore, Malaysia and Holland as a translator and teacher. He is currently residing at the Tara Institute in East Brighton where he serves as translator for The Tibetan Buddhist master The Venerable Geshe Doga.
Venerable Tsering was born in Nepal in 1975. He was ordained at Sera Jhe Monastery when he was eleven years old where he began studying Buddhist philosophy. However, Tsering spent a lot of time looking after his teacher and other monks and wasn’t able to devote much time to his studies. Higher lamas always told him to serve monks as the best way for him to make merit. He studied up to the Madhyamika level at the monastery. When he was around 24 years old he came to Australia to study English but ended up becoming Khensur Rinpoche attendant in Adelaide where he spent almost three years. At the end of 1999 Venerable Tsering moved to Tara Institute to become Geshe Doga’s attendant where he remains to this day.