Our History and Lineage

History

In 1975, the first American course with Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche was held at Lake Arrowhead in California. During the retreat, Lama Yeshe was asked what would be a good name for a center in California. Lama immediately said “Vajrapani Institute for Wisdom Culture.”

 

As more students gathered and more teachings were given, the students were inspired to make it happen. In 1977, thirty acres of land in the Santa Cruz Mountains were donated for a center and Vajrapani Institute for Wisdom Culture was born.

 

In December 1978, students began to arrive on the land with only the clothes on their backs and their faith in the Lamas. In Volkswagens and mobile homes, people came with their families to live in tipis and shacks made of carpet remnants so that they could build a thriving center.

 

Eventually enough money was raised to purchase a sawmill and slowly the work of building the center began. Because construction work occurred in-between students’ day jobs and family responsibilities, progress on the center moved slowly.

 

By 1983, the students had obtained the now 75 acres of land and finished building the gompa, complete with a commercial kitchen, dining room, offices, and library. In 1984, Lama Yeshe came back to Vajrapani Institute one last time, to leave his body behind. At the death and cremation of Lama Yeshe, construction of his “Enlightenment Stupa” began and was completed in a few years.

 

In 1994, after a large earthquake in 1989, California state relief money helped fund the completion of six private retreat cabins and a bathhouse on the ridge near Lama Yeshe’s cremation site. Recently in 2010, Lama Yeshe’s cremation Stupa, constructed on the site of his cremation, was completed.

Lineage and Teachers

Vajrapani Institute is affiliated with the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international, non-profit organization, devoted to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values worldwide through teaching, meditation, and community service. FPMT projects include: meditation and teaching centers in 36 countries, monasteries and nunneries in 6 countries, prison outreach, leprosy clinics, polio clinics, health and nutrition clinics, hospices, publishing houses, and schools teaching universal education.

 

The FPMT organization is based on the Gelug Buddhist tradition of Lama Tsong Khapa as taught by FPMT’s founder, Lama Thubten Yeshe and its spiritual director, Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. The organization strives to follow the example and inspiration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his compassionate service to humanity.

“…I would like to thank all the people working in (Lama Zopa) Rinpoche’s organization… I would like to request you to continue. Rinpoche works with such determination and great sincerity in the service of Buddha’s teachings and sentient beings, it’s important that we all combine our efforts…”

– His Holiness the Dalai Lama

 

The Gelug Buddhist tradition traces its lineage, teacher to student, back to the ancient university of Nalanda in India. Every one of our teachers must be approved by Lama Zopa Rinpoche and the International Office of the FPMT. This ensures that every teaching given at Vajrapani Institute, as well as the other FPMT centers worldwide, is pure and correct within the Gelug tradition.

 

Because Vajrapani Institute was one of the first Tibetan Buddhist Dharma centers in America, it has had the privilege of hosting many great Tibetan Masters, such as:
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, His Eminence the 7th Ling Rinpoche, His Holiness Zong Rinpoche, Deshung Rinpoche, Tara Rinpoche, Lati Rinpoche, Geshe Nawang Dhargye, Zasep Tulku, Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, Geshe Sopa, Geshe Gyeltsen, Lama Kunga, Jetsun Kuchula, Choden Rinpoche, Jangtse Choje Lobsang Tenzin Rinpoche, Yangsi Rinpoche, and Gyumed Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Jampa.

 

While many of these great teachers are no longer with us, many of them are and continue to visit the center to this day. The blessings that each of them leave behind are felt by all who come to visit our sacred and tranquil land.

Upcoming Retreats

Online Book Club – Vol 3: Samsara, Nirvana and Buddha Nature

Venerable Gyalten Chimé

January 31 - March 20, 2024
When On Zoom Every Wednesday for 8 weeks (January 31-March 20) 6:30 - 8:30pm Pacific Time   About the book This weekly online book gathering will feature facilitated conversation, discussion and meditation sessions with Buddhist monastic Venerable Chimé.   Knowledge of buddha nature reveals and reconciles the paradox of how the mind can be the basis for both the duhkha of samsara (the unpurified mind) and the bliss and fulfillment of nirvana (the purified mind). To illustrate this, Saṃsāra, Nirvāṇa, and Buddha Nature first takes readers through Buddhist thought on the self, the four truths, and their sixteen attributes. It then explains…

Transforming Problems Into Happiness – an Experiential Mind Training Retreat

Don Handrick

March 14 - 17, 2024
About the Retreat "Transforming miserable conditions into necessary conditions that help us move along the path to enlightenment has great benefit, especially in the exceptionally difficult times in which we live. … If you cannot make use of every condition that arises, both undesirable and desirable, you are in danger of losing the Dharma, and you will never achieve the unsurpassed and lasting happiness of enlightenment." – Lama Zopa Rinpoche   Just before the Buddha attained enlightenment, Mara and his demon army shot scores of arrows at him, but as the arrows approached, they turned into flowers and fell harmlessly…

Our Blog

  • Spring has officially arrived and with it a sense of renewal, a spark of hope. Trees are leafing and blossoming. So many wildflowers dot the hillsides. Bees are buzzing and early morning birds chatter like townsfolk exclaiming the beauty of this valley.  Living a quiet......

Vajrapani Institute is affiliated with the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition www.FPMT.org