The Heart Center KTC: A Reminiscence

Michael Erlewine remembers the history of heart Center KTC

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Michael Erlewine , April 2016
Michael Erlewine , April 2016

Where have I been of late? I have been right here, doing this, putting together some 36 boxes of material ready to travel to KTD (Karma Triyana Dharmachakra) our monastery in the mountains above Woodstock, NY. For years we were a publishing arm for KTD, translating and transcribing scores of texts, putting out dozens of Tibetan-style practice sadhanas, beautifully done, with foil-embossed covers. We also supplied books, cushions, statues, incense, etc. and served as a support for practitioners, shipping from here in Michigan, but as part of KTD in New York. In fact, here is a brief history of some of our dharma activity at Heart Center KTC.

The Heart Center KTC was formed in the mid-1980s; I don’t remember exactly when, but Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche agreed for it not to be the “Big Rapids KTC,” but rather Heart Center KTC, because that inspiration came to me along with powerful experience of communication, years before (1972). We were not a normal KTC, but actually functioned as a branch of KTD, producing many things for them that, at the time, they could not afford to do by themselves.

What has the Heart Center KTC done? Well, of course we had classes and sitting meditation for many years. And many of the great lamas have been here, including Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche (many, many times) and the Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche, Ven. Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso, Lama Namse, H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche (visited twice), Ven. Traleg Rinpoche, H.E. Shamar Rinpoche (before the split), and of course translators, including Ngondup Burkhar, Yeshe Gyamptso, Ken McLeod, and many lamas. The Acharya who later became Drupon Khenpo Lodro Namgal came and lived with us for quite a while, during which time he was learning English. Many lamas have been here and lived here, including Ben Bennet (Lama Tsultrim), the retreat master now at Karme Ling, and others. Some stayed for various lengths of time. Of course, Lama Karma is like a son to us.

The Ven. Ponlop Rinpoche came and lived with us for a month or more, while we carved out a curriculum for KTD dharma studies. Sange Wangchuk (from Bhutan) came and lived here for some years, where he learned to computerize his calligraphy and help out at KTD Dharma Goods. Wanghuk also produced the large Sanskrit characters in the main KTD shrine room, as well as the first full-scale model of the KTD monastery.

We also brought Dr. Drupjur, an astrologer from Rumtek and he spent many months with us, while he and I worked on figuring out the Tsurphu Astrological Calendar, whose tables were in danger of running out. I later presented our findings to his Holiness the 17th Karmapa in Tibet at Tsurphu, who then named me Tenzin Nyima (Holder of the Sun).

I have served on a number of boards at KTD, and for a while was even the fundraiser for the Monastery. For many years, the dedicated money for the return of His Holiness, the 17th Karmapa was here with us in a bank account.

We did too many different things to try and list them. Here are a few that I can remember easily. For years, we did many of the various fundraising collaterals (folders, art, etc.) for the monastery. We also did the Refuge Booklets, the Bodhisattva Vow Booklets, KKR’s personal seal, and all kinds of printed work for the monastery. Most are still being used. We designed to logo for Zampa Magazine for the Columbus folks.

In 1989, in the main shrine room, Khenpo Rinpoche expressed passionately his wish to fulfill the 16th Karmapa’s wish that we have a 3-year retreat. There was not a dry eye in the room. As I left the building and was passing under the window going toward the Tara Shrine room, I realized that only someone like me could help, and so I volunteered to Rinpoche. And so Margaret and I became the main fundraisers (along with the Chinese community) for Karme Ling. At that time Rinpoche gave me his own personal mala, which he had before he ever came to this country, and many years after that. Ngodrup (his translator) was shocked. I have it to this day.

Also, KTD could not afford to help students find practice materials, so Margaret and I, along with Ngodup Burkhar and Sange Wangchuk, and later David McCarthy and Bob Martinez (Chicago KTC)…created “KTD Dharma Goods,” which acted as an arm for KTD, as if we were them. We sent Sange Wangchug to Nepal and India, and carried all the rupas, malas, and practice materials that students need. We also published many scores of transcripts, and especially a great many Tibetan practice texts in pecha format, with foil-stamped covers, and so on. David MCarthy was in charge for many years and I consider him one of my best friends. This went on for many years, costing KTD nothing. Margaret and I invested more than $250,000 dollars in this effort.

We also put on the first Family Dharma Weekends here at the center and at a nearby lake. We offered 3-4 of these yearly weekends, where parents, kids, and lamas would come together for a long weekend of togetherness. Empowerments were given, wonderful food, swimming, teachings, and friendship.

Today, the Heart Center KTC has settled into being a KKSG. We still have events, but much of my work is on Facebook, where I have 5000 friends that I blog to, mostly about dharma. Many tell me that what I write is the only dharma that reaches them. I also work with students on a one-to-one basis. I also have free e-books, perhaps 1000 dharma articles, many free videos, etc. My total views, etc. must be over a million at this point.

So, I am forgetting many things, I imagine, but there you have a brief outline of what Heart Center KTC was all about and what we did our best to do. In the lower, left-hand corner of this photo is the logo I designed for the Heart Center in January of 1972.

So, this transfer of material marks the end of an era (since the 1980s) for us, the Heart Center KTC (now a KKSG), where we did our best to help the monastery grow and expand. A few years ago I sent another van with thousands (a whole room full) of recorded teachings that we had been keeping as a duplicate copy of Khenpo Rinpoche’s (and other lamas) teachings.

Our deepest thanks to Marc Ryan for volunteering to drive this material to the KTD monastery near Woodstock, New York.

— Michael Erlewine

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