This data was last updated on 3 July 2018.
History: In 1989, the Kurukulla Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies was founded under the umbrella of the Foundation of the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT). Lama Zopa Rinpoche of the FPMT gave the okay to Geshe Losang Jampa to move from the Milarepa Center in Vermont to Boston in order to reach a bigger community. Teachings originally took place at Wisdom Publications on Newbury Street. Unfortunately, Geshe Losang passed away a year later due to stomach cancer. In 1993, Geshe Tsulga filled the open position in Greater Boston after spending three years on the East Coast as a resident teacher at the Milarepa center in Vermont and at Kadampa in North Carolina. Meetings were held in various locations including Geshe Tsulga’s apartments in Brighton, Jamaica Plain, and Friends Meeting House in Cambridge. The Kurukulla Center eventually found a home on Magoun Avenue in Medford in January 2002. Geshe Ngawang Tenley was appointed by Lama Rinpoche to continue Geshe Tsulga’s legacy when he passed away in 2010. According to the Kurukulla Center's website, FPMT is a network that today boasts over 120 Tibetan Buddhist centers, retreat centers, monasteries, nunneries, publishing houses, and other related organizations.
Description: The Kurukulla Center is located on Magoun Avenue in a residential neighborhood in Medford, Massachusetts. The house itself was constructed around the turn of the twentieth century to serve as a nursing home, as evidenced by the wide doorframes for wheelchair convenience and the dining hall, which the Kurukulla Center has adapted as its main meditation room. When Geshe Tsulga arrived to Medford in 2002, he painted the house yellow and with red accents to reflect the Tibetan religious aesthetic. Today, the brightly painted Kurukulla Center, with its ornate welcome sign and colorful prayer flags, stands out among the other houses in the neighborhoods. The main rooms on the first floor are the meditation hall and library. The Center’s library allows students to check out or buy books on Buddhism. The focal point of the meditations room is the altar dedicated to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. A plethora of Buddha statues, flowers, book, and candles surround the red and gold altar. The room is used for all of the weekly lessons including yoga. The Kurukulla Center boasts a spacious backyard due to the fact that the original property owner was able to purchase extra land when the train tracks that ran through the area were decommissioned. This essentially doubled the size of the backyard, which today is home to the Center’s Kalachakra stupa for World Peace. The stupa, completed in Summer 2010, is considered a physical embodiment of the Buddha. In order to protect against negative energy and promote enlightenment, the stupa is filled with sacred text and incense. Artists flown in from Tibet created the symbols that are carved and painted on the exterior of the stupa. In front of the stupa is a smaller statue of the female Buddhist deity, Tara, who sits above a small pond. The Center relied on volunteers to construct the stupa and Tara who sits above a small pond. Red pavement circles the statue and the stupa as well as the entire perimeter of the Center; it serves as the community’s circumambulation path that mimics the journey to enlightenment.
Leadership: As of 2010, Geshe Ngawang Tenley is the Kurukulla Center’s official resident teacher. Geshe Tsulga served as the Center’s resident teacher from 1993 until his passing in November 2010. As an uncle and mentor, Geshe Tsulga guided Geshe Tenley on his path to becoming a monk. In 1998, Geshe Tenley received his gelong ordination vows from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Eighteen years later, in 2008, he achieved his geshe degree at the Sera Je monastery. A geshe degree is equivalent to a PhD and requires years of rigorous studies in Buddhist studies. Geshe Tenley comes from the same gelugpa lineage as the Dalai Lama who has visited the Kurukulla Center twice. In addition to Geshe Tenley who serves as the Kurukulla Center’s spiritual head, there are a handful of other teachers and instructors who lead weekly classes. An administration management group made up of lay people play an important role in running the Center. The current director of the Center is Sean Gonzalez and the treasurer is Ed Pignone. Sarah Frederikson and Devin Jones serve as the Center’s spiritual coordinators and are responsible for scheduling programs and taking care of guest speakers. These, in addition to a seven person Board of Directors, are volunteer positions that play a vital role in the Center’s ability to function as a community-based organization.
Demographics: The majority of those who attend class at the Kurukulla center are American-born although there are some Chinese nationals, Europeans, and Canadians as well. An average student at the center is a working professionals in their thirties or forties. The yoga classes on Tuesday nights tend to attract a different demographic, that is, people who are more interested in mediation than Buddhist teachings. There is large population of Tibetans and Tibetan Americans who live in the area. Geshe Tenley does his best to ensure that these groups feel welcome at the Center and the Kurukulla Center is unique in that there is a strong mix of American students and Tibetan participants in one place. Although the American students are generally separated from the Tibetans on an average schedule, it is common to see both groups interacting at special events at the center. Daily, there are handfuls of the retired Tibetan grandparents who come to socialize, relax, pray, and do their circumambulations around the Center.
Activities and Schedule: The Kurukulla Center has a weekly schedule of classes that are offered to the public free of charge, with donations greatly appreciated. “Buddhism in a Nutshell” courses are held on Monday nights and focus on Buddhist meditation and how it can be utilized in daily life. Wendy Cook teaches a mix-leveled yoga class every Tuesday night and Geshe Tenley is in charge of an intermediate level course titled “The Wheel Of Sharp Weapons.” Each month four services (pujas) are conducted to pay homage to various Buddhas; these include offerings and prayers. Tibetans in the community often seek Geshe Tenley whenever they are in need of individual consultations for personal matters. In June 2014, the Kurukulla Center held their first interfaith service in celebration of Saka Dawa. This dedication to honor the life of Buddha brought over 300 guests from different faiths and sects of Buddhism. Geshe Tenley is a member of Medford’s Interfaith Clergy group and was inspired to host the interfaith Saka Dawa event after listening to a talk given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in which His Holiness stressed the importance of having a pluralistic community in order to achieve peace.