Guru Padmasambhava, above, is lovingly referred to as Guru Rinpoche (precious one). He is a co-founder of the Nyingma. Photo courtesy Buddha Weekly


Cottage Grove is a place that is deceptively deep in hidden treasures. Sure, we are known for our covered bridges, excellent biking trails and historic downtown, but did you know we host not one but two Tibetan Buddhist Centers?
Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world, having approximately 520 million followers across the globe. Buddhism represents quite a variety of beliefs, traditions and spiritual practices.
Despite the various lineages and schools represented in this philosophy, there is much common ground having come from the common source of the Buddha.
Buddhism was introduced into Tibet during the Tibetan Empire period when Sanskrit Buddhist texts were translated into Tibetan during the mid-seventh century reign of Tibetan King Songstan Gampo. King Trisong Detsen declared Buddhism the official state religion during the eighth century CE and also invited Indian scholars including Padmasambhava to his court.
Padmasambhava is revered in Tibetan culture and viewed as the patron saint of Tibet. Lovingly referred to as Guru Rinpoche (precious one), he is considered one of the founders of the Nyingma, the oldest of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
Over the centuries the fate of Buddhism in Tibet rested largely with who had power over the land. That included Mongols, Chinese dynasties and powerful families. The last major event to affect Tibetan Buddhism was the Chinese invasion in 1950.
This led to a diaspora with many teachers and Buddhist leaders heading into exile, and to the spreading of teachings into the West.
In Cottage Grove, the connection dates back to 1980 when some interested parties sent a request to His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche to provide them with a lama (teacher). Dudjom was one of the most respected and famous of the Tibetan scholars who left in 1958 for India. He was a prolific author and composed over 40 volumes in his lifetime.
His response was to send Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche to work in the Eugene area. Chagdud was renowned as a meditation master, but also as an adept at traditional sculpture, painting, medicine; he was also famous for the beauty of his chanting voice.
While looking for the right place to settle in Lane County, Chagdud was invited to Cottage Grove and the environs immediately resonated with him. While he didn't speak English, his open spirit and willingness to teach inspired a dedicated group of students who formed a community around their lama. One of his students offered the down payment on a house on River Road and that is known today as the Dechhen Ling.
There has been continuous practice at this Chagdud Gonpa since its founding. Tibetan families found refuge there as well. When Rinpoche got the call to move his center to the Trinity Alps in California, his followers got a taste of impermanence, but also the need to continue the practice. Chagdud eventually ended up in Brazil, but the River House still reverberates with his energy.
One of the Tibetans who took refuge in the Chagdud Gonpa was Yogini Palmo, lovingly known as Amala (Honored Mother). In contrast to her early life of incredible suffering, her deep inner peace, love and compassion overcame all circumstances. Palmo had two sons, both recognized as incarnates of gifted teachers of Tibetan lineages.
In May of 2013 the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, came to Eugene for a public teaching. It was partly due to Palmo's repeated invitations to him that he should come to Eugene that the visit occurred. This visit provided the inspiration for the formation of the Palmo Center for Peace and Education.
The Palmo Center is named in honor of Yogini Palmo, whose life was one of tireless dedication to peace and the betterment of humankind. Now a nonprofit 501(c)(3), the center is currently housed a 325 I St. in Cottage Grove, but has an eye to grow and would like to be closer to Eugene to be more accessible to a larger number of participants.
Tulku Jigme Rinpoche, founder and director of the Palmo Center, as well as Yogini Palmo's son, will be offering a talk at 6 p.m. this Friday, Nov. 22 in the Friendship Hall of First Presbyterian Church at the corner of 3rd Street and Adams Avenue. His topic will be Gratitude. This will be a wonderful opportunity to hear a world-renowned teacher who combines both Eastern and Western perspectives and teaches with insight, clarity and humor. A suggested donation is asked if you can, but all are welcome.
Come hear a master who teaches all over the world. For more information about the Rinpoche, the Palmo Center and its plans, check their website (www.palmocenter.org) or call 541-335-1225.
Over at the Chagdud Dechhen Ling Gonpa they are preparing for their annual Red Tara Tsog offering practice weekend with empowerments. This practice was introduced by Gonpa founder Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche in the 1980s. In the shrine room is the large, beautiful Red Tara statue constructed by the Rinpoche and is where he began to train a new generation of Dharma practitioners. The Practice will be held over the weekend of Dec. 6-8. For information, call Sharon at 541-942-5258 or email [email protected]
So the Dharma, a word with no easy translation in English, is alive and well here in Cottage Grove. Here is one explanation, by David Rynick that may point to its meaning: ”I have encountered something of unsurpassable value – something I have found to be utterly dependable and infinitely resourceful. In Buddhism, we call it the Dharma, but it could just as easily be called the Tao, or God or the Source of All Things or Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong.”
Consider exploring the Dharma that is available right here at our doorstep.

Dana Merryday may be reached at 541-942-7037 or [email protected]