Lama Yeshe Ling is a small Dharma Centre in Ontario, Canada with a big heart. We are a multi-location community with programs offered in the cities of Toronto, Kitchener/Waterloo, Oakville, Hamilton, and Burlington, and due to very generous benefactors, for the past year we have rented a home near Lake Ontario which we call The Centre for Compassion & Wisdom. If there is anything different about Lama Yeshe Ling, it is that most of our members, including most of our volunteers, don’t necessarily consider themselves to be Buddhist.
The story of Lama Yeshe Ling begins in 2000 when Lillian Too introduced a friend from Toronto to Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Rinpoche offered her gifts, asked her to start a study group in Toronto, and gave the study group the name Lama Yeshe Ling. Lama Yeshe Ling did appear in Mandala Magazine for a few issues, but not much happened and eventually the study group in Toronto was closed.
Our next chapter begins when Venerable Thubten Wangmo came to live with Lynn Shwadchuck in Kitchener Ontario for several months, attracting a regular group of about 20 people to the teachings she offered while she was there. After Venerable Wangmo’s visit, and after doing the Medicine Buddha retreat with Lama Zopa Rinpoche in 2001, Lynn started a study group in Kitchener with the Discovering Buddhism program. Lama Yeshe Ling took rebirth.
In 2002, Dekyi-Lee Oldershaw moved back to Ontario from the Chenrezig Nunnery in Australia to care for her father and started teaching monthly Dharma classes in Oakville and Healing workshops in Oakville, Burlington and Hamilton. Lamp on the Path, a non-profit organization with a Universal Education and Healing mission arose from Dekyi-Lee’s work. Many people from this fledgling community attended His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Kalachakra teachings and initiation in Toronto in 2004. In 2005, Lamp on the Path hosted the Maitreya Project Heart Shrine Relic Tour in Burlington and this group of friends, with a Universal Education rather than Buddhist orientation, worked together in regular meetings for months planning for the Relic Tour. An important feature of these meetings was the extensive motivations, visualizations and dedications, which provided guidance, energy, and a sense of goodness and purpose. The results of these meetings were close friendships and a strong sense of community.
Directly after the Maitreya Project Relic Tour, Dave Gould started a Discovering Buddhism group in Hamilton and several months later the Oakville and Hamilton classes asked to become a study group. FPMT Centre services (Claire Isitt at that time) asked us to join with Kitchener Waterloo to become Lama Yeshe Ling also, making us a multi-location study group.
Another defining event occurred when Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche accepted Dekyi-Lee’s request to come to Lama Yeshe Ling to teach in the summer of 2006. A similar planning team formed to host Rinpoche’s visit. Ultimately, Kirti Tsenshap Rinpoche transformed into Lama Zopa Rinpoche when Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche became seriously ill shortly before the time he was to arrive in Canada from Israel. What a time that was! Lama Zopa Rinpoche taught for most of the 10 days he stayed here. Several months after that, we again hosted the Maitreya Project Relic Tour. Lama Yeshe Ling graduated from being a Study Group to becoming a Dharma Centre in 2008 in order to welcome Geshe Thubten Sopa of Arya Tara Institute in Germany to come and teach here. Geshe-la stayed with us for five months and then continued his travels.
Because of Dekyi-Lee’s interest and emphasis on Universal Education and healing, we have reached a large number of people in the Oakville-Burlington-Hamilton areas who embrace the values and practices of compassion, wisdom and healing, without considering themselves to be Buddhist. Recognizing the crucial need for being inclusive and the importance of supporting and being supported by so many good hearted people, we created The Centre for Compassion & Wisdom. Among other things, this has given us a Universal Education vehicle for offering the inaugural 16 Guidelines for Life facilitator training in North America. Lama Zopa Rinpoche recommended the 16 Guidelines written by the ancient Tibetan Dharma King Songsten Gampo as one of the first Universal Education projects.
Having a Centre named after Lama Yeshe is special: I recall when Lama Zopa Rinopche visited here, Venerable Tsenla related how Rinpoche was always very pleased to say "Lama Yeshe Ling" – how wonderful! So it may seem curious that we would create an additional name, The Centre for Compassion & Wisdom. Yet as well as traditional Buddha Dharma, we feel connected with Lama Yeshe’s mission for Universal Education: preserving the essence of Buddha's teaching without the barriers of language, culture or tradition, in order to effectively reach and inspire far more people. We are discovering how to be a Universal Education FPMT Centre as we go, with all the usual joys and lessons of any Dharma centre. Interestingly, despite our universal outlook, a popular ongoing program we offer is the weekly puja (alternating between Tara, Chenrezig, Medicine Buddha and Vajrasattva) where friends gather to bask in the glow of the expanding good heart, supported by all the holy beings, and for all of our events we dedicate always to be guided by Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, in accordance with the wishes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Lama Yeshe Ling Tibetan Buddhist Group is an open hearted community that empowers people to discover and develop their inherent potential for compassion, wisdom and inner peace. In fact, that is our mission statement. We offer programs in various sites from Toronto west to Kitchener/Waterloo and south to Hamilton, and maintain The Centre for Compassion & Wisdom in Burlington, Ontario, Canada.
Lama Yeshe Ling is part of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) an international Tibetan Buddhist organization started by two Tibetan masters, Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche in the 1960's. In the early years, FPMT was a tightly-knit family of a handful of students looking for answers and two ground-breaking lamas who had profound answers to give. It grew as students decided to bring back what they had learned to their local communities, and FPMT centres began springing up around the world. We are now an international community of over 150 centres, retreat centres, publishing houses, monasteries, and social service projects, and we are still a family.
The Lama Yeshe Ling community is particulary drawn to His Holiness the Dalai Lama's example of authentic practical compassion and wisdom. Recently His Holiness the Dalai Lama said this about Lama Zopa Rinpoche and the FPMT.
"May whoever comes into contact with this community discover what they are truely seeking; be it healing, friendship, meaning, confidence, an entryway into deeper understanding, a vehicle for kindness, or simple good-hearted fun."