The 22,000-square-foot center nests on ninety acres of hillside in the Hudson Valley.
Dharmakaya, a non-profit Buddhist organization, recently opened the $17 million Dharmakaya Center for Wellbeing in rural Pine Bush, New York.
Trungram Gyalwa Rinpoche — founder of Dharmakaya and head of the Trungram lineage in the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism — established the center as a place where visitors can seek retreats, attend classes, and escape worldly distractions.
“I wanted to make dharma connections with more people,” said Gyalwa, who earned a PhD in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies from Harvard University in 2004. “I was studying at Harvard and I thought New York would be a good place to start a community. Basically, this center is to share buddhadharma with people.”
Gyalwa told the Times Herald Record that the center is about dharma, not dogma. “You have to help lower negative emotions, open people’s hearts, and help them find compassion and enlightenment,” Gyalwa said.
The Dharmakaya Center for Wellbeing also focuses on the importance of physical health. Inspired by Gampopa, 12th-century physician and student of Tibetan yogi Milarepa, Gyalwa decided that physical and mental wellbeing must go hand-in-hand.
“It is very much a center for wellbeing,” said Trevania Henderson, a volunteer. “We do some stretching before meditation. Every morning we start with salutations that give you your twenty minutes of cardio and aerobic exercise.”
Spanning 22,000 square feet, the center includes a main meditation hall with a giant copper Buddha, an extensive library, a reception hall, two dorms with 32 private bedrooms, a dining room, and a kitchen.
The food is prepared by volunteer practitioners, an important aspect of physical wellbeing at the center. Ingredients are locally and organically sourced whenever possible to provide hearty, environmentally-friendly meals.
Since opening in July, the center has welcomed several hundred visitors. That number is expected to rise as warmer weather brings more scheduled programs.
From June 8 to 10, the center is offering a personal retreat built around a talk Gyalwa will give on the meaning of death. From August 31 to September 4, a six-day retreat will explore interconnection, cyclical existence, and emptiness. Throughout the year, there will also be personal retreats, weekly guided meditations, and teachings on core Buddhist concepts.
“Anyone should feel free to come if they’d like to,” said Gyalwa. “Everyone is welcome.”