Santa Barbara CA
Ani Thupten Tsondru ~ 805.698.4712

For many years, I have had the vision of a Buddhist women’s urban retreat center.  Well, center might be a stretch, a household of 3-5 female practitioners who are dedicated to regular, daily practice and devoted to the Buddha’s teaching and the path of complete liberation for the benefit of all beings – nuns and/or yoginis who live together, mainly in silence, and support each other’s transformation along the path.  A home that creates a space to be in semi-retreat all the time and strict retreat some of the time and that honors the four noble truths, the eight-fold noble path, the four boundless states, the four reminders, the six paramitas, the ten virtuous activities, and the four foundations of mindfulness. 

Western Buddhists, most of whom are lay practitioners, need homes like this within towns and cities.  We need some sort of outer infrastructure in order to dedicate ourselves fully to the practice of transforming our inner infrastructure.  It is time to create a paradigm that recognizes the particular needs and obligations of being a full-time Buddhist student in the West. Dharmakasas will be energetic sources of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity for the surrounding areas.  They will be models of a slower more mindful life amidst the chaos of modern living.

Suddenly, NOW IS THE TIME.  I am proposing an experiment for such a house, called Dharmakasa SB, to begin in the winter of 2014. 

Mission Statement
“Dharmakasa ~ Come home to your natural state.”
1)       To create a home for female Buddhist practitioners for study, meditation, and embodying the Buddha’s teachings.
2)     To support women on the path to complete liberation for the benefit of all beings.

Vision Statement
“Dharmakasa ~ Living in solitude together.”
The vision of Dharmakasa SB is to unite female sangha members under one roof as an experiment in semi-retreat living.  The house is a place of refuge from the eight worldly concerns, a protected space for discipline and delight.  DKSB members will experience weaving life out in the world with living in a retreat environment.  The vision is to see if this can become a model for the flourishing of Buddhism in the West.  Imagine a home for deep practice, reflection, and study, based on mindfulness, awareness, renunciation and altruism.

Dharmakasa SB Musings by Ani Thupten
In my view, the house will operate as a small democratic Buddhist community – each woman being a leader in her own way and taking part in the functioning and well-being of the house.  All expenses and all chores are shared equally.  The women give their strengths such as cooking, gardening, organizing, etc. 

The parameters to join the house would be:
      Has taken refuge.
      Has a main teacher.
      Has an established daily practice.
      Able to maintain noble silence.
      Has financial resources to pay share of expenses.

The residents will create a set of house agreements and commitments that support practice and study.  For instance…
      Noble silence during certain hours each day, maybe from 4 pm to noon the next day?? Functional talking during other times.
      Commitment to practice a certain amount of hours on cushion each day
      Silent meals
      Karma yoga
      No TV or radio (except in private room with headphones)
      Community meeting once a week; group practice once a week
      Commitment to communicate kindly and honestly
      Honoring the Ten Virtuous Actions
      All organic food; non-toxic cleaning products
      Agreements on how to handle phone calls???
      1-2 hour/week community service outside home for residents not in strict retreat; this could be with an organization or a sick/injured/elder person
      Others to be determined

Dharmakasa is semi-retreat because some residents might need to work or study or have appointments outside the house for periods each day.  This is a wonderful opportunity to weave together practice and daily life and create home as refuge and retreat; an opportunity to keep practice-mind throughout the day, even amid the hustle and bustle of the external world.  All residents are focusing on practice and perhaps dabbling in mundane activities, instead of the other way around!

To that end, this would NOT be a typical shared living situation but a true retreat/renunciation home, full of devotion and dedication to the teachings and practices.  Practical support would be given to any residents who want to be in strict retreat and don’t have to go outside the home.

It would be lovely if the Dharmakasa shared the love of meditation and awareness with the community and offered a once a week sitting practice and/or video dharma talk.  The members, as stated above, would give to the local community by offering service once a week to either an organization or an individual.  Residents of the Dharmakasa could also participate in the various dharma activities in SB, such as the sadhana practices and teachings at Vairotsana with Tulku Phuntsok.  I would like to offer the HeartMind Method courses at the Dharmakasa, if possible.

If the experiment proves to be a success over the first several months, the residents might like to consider ways to bring in a small income, such as renting out a guest room for outside women to do retreats at the Dharmakasa.  Or opening a room as a Buddhist hospice location. 

The Dharmakasa seeks women who are devoted to:
      Experiencing all-pervasive sacredness of life.
      Living simply without entertainment and distraction.
      Daily cushion practice.
      Being happy without reason.
      Cutting through self-cherishing.
      Resting in natural mind.
      The 37 practices of a bodhisattva; 59 lojong slogans.
      Path of complete liberation for the benefit of all beings.
      Deep transformation and emotional fluency.
      Body-based mindfulness practices.
      Compassion and emptiness.
      Accepting limitations and seeing their shadows.
      Taking responsibility for their own body, speech, and mind.
      Purifying karmic habitual patterns.
      Opening their hearts.
      Radiating love.

Soon.  Women who are interested should contact me as soon as possible.  The Dharmakasa could easily become a reality in December 2014 or January 2015.  Regardless of the timing, please contact me if you have any interest at all: 805.698.4712.  

There is no Dharmakasa as such yet…the house, time frame and details will depend on the women.  Ani Thupten will be arriving in SB on October 20, 2014 to start looking for a house.  The Dharmakasa is a co-creation, therefore, if you are interested contact me right away. 
Thank you and may all beings benefit!

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