Padmakara Garden: A Lotus Beginning to Unfold

Padmakara Garden:  A Lotus Beginning to Unfold

November 28, 2020


Dear Community and Friends,

A big thank you for your support and to our dedicated Padmakara Garden team, who have been sheltering-in-place and working safely on site through the turbulent months of 2020.

Since our last update, large decorative boulders have been selected and nudged carefully into place via forklift. The main stairs to the garden have been framed and poured with terracotta colored concrete. A pump and filtration system for the pond and waterfalls has been installed. A crisscross grid of steel rods has been woven into the foundation of the plaza and the walkway around the Prayer Wheel House and covered in concrete. The latest touch has been mortaring stone (Santa Barbara split stone and Mount Moriah wall stone) into place on the fountain wall, a task requiring artistry, a discerning eye, strong arms, and the occasional chiseling. 

Next is the final layer of the plaza itself, which will be laid with Peruvian stone and feature a lotus design at its center.

Our small group of residents, who practice, live, and work together, celebrated the harvest in a spirit of gratitude on November 26, 2020 with a plentiful spread of vegetarian food, and the completion of the fountain wall, which was turned on for the first time that day!

Though we will remain closed to the public until it is safe to reopen, our vision for a beautiful contemplative space is starting to come to life, and we look forward to holding classes in the garden—meditation, Kum Nye Tibetan yoga, and other fields of study—as well as simply offering a space of refuge and beauty to you, our students, and the local community to visit, reflect, and practice in.


Warmest wishes, 

Your friends at the Nyingma Institute

The Garden team:  Yuji, Kris, Katie, and Emily

The completed fountain wall (short video!)

Autumn celebration with residents

From left to right:  New stairs to the garden; the steel rod grid underlaying the plaza; after the concrete pour; affixing stone to the fountain wall. 

Offering the Caring Anthem

Offering the Caring Anthem

We at the Nyingma Institute, dedicated to the Buddhist path of healing the causes of suffering and generating a positive momentum of body, speech and mind offer these words from Tarthang Tulku’s Caring book for all of us, inter-connected and all equally precious:


Caring’s Anthem


Caring knows every place—but caring knows no position.

Caring is not afraid to get its hands dirty, working in the sun.

Caring loves methods, and the joy of broader knowledge.

Caring does not rule or discriminate.

If there is caring, nobody will have to go lower;

nobody will ever get bullied or beaten up.


Caring is wisdom; wise caring prevents problems.

Caring can take care of impatience.

Caring can prevent not-knowing;

This sublime knowing could be knowable because I try

and do not give up.


This is the heart of my caring: what I know, I practice.

I am not ready to give up.


My caring is continuity, wisdom and compassion.

Caring continues, on behalf of body and mind.

Time is precious: I need to take care, constantly.

Caring with consistency is not a concept. Embody it! I will, too.


To promote caring, we need to listen. We need to listen

to what the problem is.

We need to look at why there is trouble:

Trees are falling down. Garbage is not picked up. People

are yelling and screaming, people are in pain.



This is the heart of my caring: what I know, I practice.

I am not ready to give up.


Look: look around. Listen to them, for they are your friends.

Investigate the motivations.

Ask: What are they looking for, what do they want to say?

What is the position they take? What are the claims staked,

and what the consequences?

What is ignorance doing here; what is missing?

And we, when we look at them: what are we missing?

What misinterpretation, what tortured self wastes away in chains?


When we feel sympathy, sorrow, we are beginning to invite caring.


We can be like hunters, searching: what is the problem?

Someone does not know why they are unhappy.

You track it down: it’s because of lack of care,

because of ignorance.


They lost their hearts, their heads, and they don’t even know.

There’s work to do, but we’ll get them back.



This is the heart of my caring: what I know, I practice.

I am not ready to give up.

Tribute to Jack van der Meulen

A Tribute to Jack van der Meulen

On February 12, 2020, at the end of the annual Longchenpa chant, long-time Kum Nye teacher and beloved Nyingma community member Jack van der Meulen died in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after a debilitating disease. Jack taught at the Nyingma Institute for over 25 years.

“Jack’s kind and gentle spirit shone through everything he did,” wrote former Nyingma Institute Dean Sylvia Gretchen, “Deeply devoted to Nyingma, he offered students at the Institute a reliable path to self-awareness and relaxation through Kum Nye. His legacy endures in their lives and in the lives of all of us who knew him.”

“Jack was a loving, kind, open-hearted being who introduced countless people to the treasures of Kum Nye and the spiritual life,” wrote Kum Nye teacher Peggy Kincaid. Peggy recalled that she first got to know Jack when she began teaching at the Institute, more than two decades before:

As a beginning Kum Nye teacher I attended Jack’s classes wanting to learn and understand how he taught Kum Nye.  When Jack walked into the meditation room he was a striking figure, tall, lanky and back then, with a long ponytail.

Jack had a way of contacting space. That was an important aspect of his teaching and what I most remember learning from him. For new students of Kum Nye who were anxious or unfamiliar with meditation and sitting in stillness, Jack was patient and attentive guiding his students inward.

Barry Schieber, another former Dean of the Nyingma Institute, pointed out that Jack “was dedicated and reliable. Small virtues that often go unnoticed.”

Kum Nye teacher Santosh Philip  began taking Kum Nye classes when Jack started teaching at the Nyingma Institute and had Jack as one of his first teachers:

Clearly Jack was doing something right, since I have practiced Kum Nye ever since then and teach Kum Nye. On the first day I remember asking him: “How did people figure out these exercises and how can you come up with a new one?” At that time he told me that he didn’t know. Many years later, as he was teaching I got an insight about how to make new exercises. It came completely from the way Jack was teaching. I told him that he had shown me. I still go up to the Nyingma Institute thinking he will be there and that I can go to his class. When I teach a workshop, I think he will be teaching with me. Maybe he is.

Jack’s impact on his students emerges clearly in this memory by his student Diana Shapiro:

Jack was and is an irreplaceable teacher and an irreplaceable influence in my life for many years.  I started practicing Sunday Kum Nye back in 2000 so I was fortunate enough to have taken countless classes from him.

Jack was a really important teacher to me.  He taught me how to enjoy my human embodiment.  I can never repay that!  I learned from him that the energetic and sensory experiences of my body are a source of great relaxation, joy and even delight.  He taught me about being gentle with myself.  He taught me how to feel like a water plant, both literally and figuratively, deeply grounded and firm but at the same time flexible and open.

Peggy Kincaid also mentioned that she was able “to spend time with Jack and his wife Candace outside the Nyingma Institute and he was as much a devoted husband as he was Kum Nye teacher.”

Nyingma Institute Kum Nye teacher Abbe Blum recalled Jack’s and Candace’s generosity, their combined care and devotion for the Institute itself—from the meditation room, and the upkeep of the building, to concern for the well-being and progress of students. “Chanting during the 2020 Longchenpa Ceremony with Jack in my heart, I would look at the glass table top that he and Candace had had specially cut for the altar with the great wish that he be blessed and protected by the Nyingma lineage, the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas.”

We along with Peggy Kincaid want to “offer gratitude for his dedication to the Dharma. His was a life well-lived.”

Jack at work in the Nyingma Institute kitchen

Jack “flying” in front of the altar at the Nyingma Institute

Jack with Candace

Ways to Help: Seeking a Used Car

April 25, 2020

Hi everyone, 

After 8 years of service our reliable donated car, a grey 2005 Volvo S40, has started having transmission problems and is no longer safe to drive. Unfortunately, the value of the car is less than that of the replacement part needed, so it is time to bid farewell to this trusty steed. 

We rely on this vehicle for all procurement and transportation needs, for everything from picking up weekly groceries and supplies, to retrieving medication for those in our community without transportation, to picking up retreatants and stranded volunteers in emergencies.

As a residential community, one person handles procurement for the entire group. This includes the organization of, ordering, and pickup of items as necessary. We’d like to thank this person (Caz!) for her ongoing support, and also to replace this very necessary tool — a vehicle — as soon as we can. (As context, our culture is one of full-time volunteers who live and work on site as staff. We like to think that living and working together is both a good way to practice and to have a lighter impact on the environment.) 

At the moment, we are sheltering in place and relying heavily on deliveries, however we still need a working vehicle to rely on for emergencies.

We are seeking recommendations for a safe, lightly-used car to purchase, one without major repairs needed, for transporting supplies and people. If you have a friend or trustworthy acquaintance who is selling a car of this description, please put us in touch. 

Thank you for your help and support!

In gratitude, 

NI Residential Staff 

May 29, 2020 

Update:  We have been gifted a well-maintained, lightly-used car! Thank you so much to our dear friend for the donation. 

Return to Blog

Caring: Finding Beauty and Radiance in Difficult Times

Caring: Finding Beauty and Radiance in Difficult Times

The Nyingma Institute often offers Nyingma Psychology classes based on Tarthang Tulku’s newest publications, including Caring. This online class, taught by Pema Gellek and Hugh Joswick, helps students cultivate inner resources to care more fully for themselves and to open to the possibilities of beauty, friendship, and meaningful action even in the most challenging of times. 

April 25, 2020 — 


How would you describe this class?  

Pema:  It’s a practice oriented course with contemplations, practices and discussion on the theme of finding beauty in the midst of a dark, tough time.  The beauty is of any kind – the natural world, human qualities and actions that connect and uplift us, aesthetic, cultural and intellectual inspiration that speak directly to this moment. 

Hugh:  Bringing care to our experience is to make space for beauty. In this class we cultivate opening the heart so as to open our capacity to care. Care operates in both an immediate way, responding to the needs of what is cared for, and a more expansive way connected to the nature of awareness. 

What do you hope that students learn or are able to take into their lives?

Pema:  We want to encourage stillness, resilience, attunement to beauty, and the possibility of caring at all times, especially when we feel the most challenged.  We will be shifting from regime of mind to direct experience of the senses and a knowing that powerfully integrates the head and the heart.  Each moment we can undo the knots of the mind and heart by pressing in deeper on the presentations of mind and taking a stance of questioning, curiosity and gratitude for the miracle of our embodiment. 

Hugh:  By learning to care more directly for our embodiment we begin to explore the shimmering, receptive quality that is present before perceptions crystalize. Through discussion, practice, and development of attention, we encourage the perception of beauty as an element available in every moment. Beauty becomes a guide to the cultivation of care. How often do you notice beauty during a day? What do you notice when you notice something beautiful? 

What types of practices or content will be shared?  

Pema:  We will do breath practices, different practices working with the senses, and weekly “beauty challenges.” We will discover the radical possibility, the daringness of finding beauty that heals and liberates in the thorniest of moments.  We come to realize this is not just relevant to this moment but a life-long practice of how we can accept our pain and our worst fears as teachers that reveal the very nature of our existence, always full of polarities, but offering the possibility of integration through beauty and caring. 

Hugh: It is not exactly a meditation class, but a serious reflection on the nature of caring and the awareness of caring in the act of perception. It will encourage students to practice caring in all aspects of their experience:  Beauty is another way in to the power of caring. 

Letter from Rinpoche