As was the hope/plan, I’ve procured a good deal of information about the tragic fire at the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition’s Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, in Pomaia, Italy. The following, sent by ILTK Director Laura Pellati, includes details on the fire, how to make a donation, links to videos and photos, and a comment from FPMT Spiritual Director Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
On the morning of December 26, 2008, the main gompa, or temple, of ILTK was completely destroyed by fire. Most fortunately no one was hurt.
Being Christmas, there were only a few people in the Institute. Two of the staff, whose room is in the corridor facing the gompa, woke about 7:30 AM to the smell of smoke. Opening the door of their room, they found the corridor filled with dense smoke. They woke up the other people in the building and called the fire department. Several people stood outside the doors of the gompa and were able to contain the fire with fire extinguishers until the fire department arrived.
The windows of the gompa exploded under the pressure caused by the intense heat, allowing the strong wind to enter and continue to feed the fire. When the firemen succeeded in putting out the raging fire, after more than four hours of fighting it with strong jets of water, only charred fragments of the many statues, paintings, and texts remained. Worried about the floor of the gompa collapsing, the fire department closed the entire wing of the building down to the ground floor. Dagri Rinpoche, who arrived the same day to teach a course, told everyone that there is no great monastery that has not had big problems and that the fire should be taken as a sign that it is necessary to go ahead with the building of a new and larger gompa, the need for which had long been felt. The course, with more than 120 participants, began as planned on the evening of the 27th but in the conference room, which had been quickly converted into a temporary gompa. The six-year residential Masters Program of Buddhist Studies will begin its second year, also as planned, on January 12th in the conference room.
After hearing the news of the fire, Lama Zopa Rinpoche wrote to the community “I think what has happened at Lama Tzong Khapa Institute, with the blazing fire destroying the gompa, is an auspicious sign – that you have overcome all the problems by this blazing fire… The burning of it gives us the opportunity to build an enlightened gompa… We definitely need a very beautiful gompa that becomes an encouragement to everyone, to depressed people, to people who believe ‘I am helpless’, something that brings greatest joy and fulfillment in the heart. It is also a teaching to us on impermanence. Do not hold on to things which are impermanent, which are a dependent arising, like a butter lamp that depends on causes and conditions, like lightning, like a water bubble, like clouds, also like a star in the day time, like the defective view of the senses … an illusion, a dream, all that was said by Buddha.”
It is thought that the fire was caused by a short-circuit, perhaps in the Christmas lights that had been hung on the altar for Lama Tzong Khapa day and the Christmas period (there were no candles burning at the time).
To see videos of the fire in progress and the devastation afterward:
On Italian national news:
We ask your help in rebuilding our beautiful temple, the very heart of every Buddhist center. Every donation, no matter how small, is very welcome.
To make a donation using Pay Pal, go to:
To make a donation by bank transfer:
ACCOUNT NAME: Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa
BANK: Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca Pisa Livorno
BRANCH: Rosignano Marittimo
Tel. 0586/799230 – Fax 0586/760995
ACCOUNT: ILTK n. 48
CAUSE: “the new gompa”
To offer other kinds of help, please contact the Institute’s administrators at [email protected].
With heartfelt thanks for any help you can give us.
Laura Pellati, ILTK Director