What’s Life Like For a New Lama?

Tom Broadwater has been a coal miner, a Roman Catholic seminarian and a social worker. On March 18, he added another title: lama.

Lama Tenzin Tom, as he’s affectionately called, was a member of the 2012 three-year retreat class at Karme Ling, the culmination of a long and winding road to and with the dharma.

“I don’t know what you call it,  he said of his choice to follow the dharma path. Maybe a mid-life crisis.”

Lama Tom Broadwater with his family, at his retreat graduation

Lama Tenzin had been a social worker for 40 years in southeastern Ohio.

“By accident I was looking on the internet and up came Columbus KTC. One Sunday I walked in and Lama Kathy Wesley was giving a talk, and I thought that was the person I wanted to be, a combination of Oprah’s warmth, Ellen DeGeneres’  humor and the spirituality of Mother Theresa.”

Within a month, he took refuge with Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche and after years of practice, Lama Tenzin Tom, now retired, entered the three-year retreat program.  It was not an easy decision.

“Eighteen months before I entered, I had stents put in [his coronary arteries] then I had a heart attack and triple bypass surgery. It was a complicated recovery, and I wondered if I could go, because I was more into recovery than I was into Tibetan.”

Still, he finished his ngondro on schedule, completed the entire retreat, and at age 64 emerged from the retreat a newly-minted lama.  And a new grandfather.  His grandson, Oliver Thomas Chastain, was born in Boulder, CO during the retreat. Lama Tenzin Tom and his namesake met for the first time on March 18.

What’s life like for a new lama?

“I asked Rinpoche what he wanted me to do, and he said, ‘Do your practice. That’s the engine.’ And he told me to help Lama Kathy and the [Columbus] center where I can. I’ve taught a couple of classes, and I’d like to continue to do that. But mainly I see myself being a friend to people, and when I can be helpful, I’ll do that, but there’s no job description that comes with this.”

– John Chacona

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