Thirteen years ago, Bloomingtonians didn’t know the difference between a monastery and a Mexican restaurant.
Passersby didn’t know what to make of the Dagom Gaden Tensung Ling monastery that Ja Myung Lama and five other monks spent nine months of 12-hour days building.
Now, the saffron-hued monastery is very much a part of the Bloomington scenescape, nestled among the wood on the winding road through Lower Cascades Park.
Though this monastery still stands and is very much in operation today, the leaders of the DGTL are raising funds to begin construction on a new, ecologically sustainable center at 2150 E. Dolan Rd. for learning about and practicing Buddhism.
The first of many fundraising events was a concert by the Barnard Sisters on Aug. 8.
In the monastery’s verdant lawn beneath a canopy of trees, the two sisters from Bloomfield, Ind., entertained a crowd of about 100 people. The suggested donation was $10 per attendee.
“This is something that I just wanted to do,” Kara Barnard said of performing for the fundraiser. “The teaching that goes on here means the world to me. I’ve explored several different traditions over the past few years to decide where I wanted to be, and this is definitely home. (Performing) is my way of doing what I do to give back what I can give back.”
Barnard is the owner of the Weed Patch Music Company in Nashville, Ind., and teaches about 55 students how to play various stringed instruments. At several points in the performance, the Barnards invited guest performers, Kara’s students, to join them on stage, cracking jokes all the while.
The Barnard Sisters captivated the crowd with tunes from six different instruments during the 90-minute show. Younger sister Pam Barnard came on stage to sing and strum along, even breaking out a couple eight-counts of dancing, much to the crowd’s delight.
By the end of the night, about $1000 had been raised.
Through the construction of the more spacious new compound, Ja Myung Lama hopes to enable more people to enjoy services the monastery provides.
One such service is a beginner’s meditation course from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Aug. 22, with a suggested donation price of $35. The event covers lunch, and reservations are required.
“Our main purpose is to serve the community,” Ja Myung Lama said. “What we offer here is a meditative and contemplative space.”
The physical space that will be gained in the new buildings will be beneficial to visitors, Ja Myung Lama said.
“One of the most important things is space,” he said. “To really submerge yourself and understand the teachings, it is very important to have a conducive environment.”
The new monastery will not only be bigger, but will also offer more services, like retreat
cabins and an animal sanctuary.
Today, the 128-acre plot of land sits empty, with just a pre-existing A-frame farmhouse dotting its topography. Utilities have already been installed.
Suzy Fulkerson, president of the board of new monastery Gaden Khachoe Shing, says contributions are expected from private donors in the Bloomington community and beyond. No completion date has been set for the project, as the timeline depends on the acquisition of funds.
The new monastery, just like the original one, will be open to people of all faiths.
“We’ve been able to really help, touch the hearts of and make impact on the lives of many people — people who are seriously practicing (Buddhism), and those who just come for one day,” Ja Myung Lama said.
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