Mary Pipik

I had little interest in Buddhism until I started to practice. My husband had practiced for many years, but it involved travel and time away. It was when he began to come to Gar Drolma and persuaded me to come to the routine meditation that my interest was piqued. I started to attend retreats and the wonderful teachings with Garchen Rinpoche and Khenpo Samdup Rinpoche then I was hooked.

Really the Dharma found me.

Michael Stanek

I first developed an interest in Buddhism and meditation in the early 1980’s, while reading about Zen in college.  I casually dabbled over the years, reading more, and meditating, mainly for stress reduction. In 1990, I had an opportunity to spend a week in Tibet, as part of a family vacation, and this led me to dig deeper into Tibetan Buddhism – after returning from that trip, I was hooked!  Unfortunately, at the time, there was little opportunity to have a direct and consistent connection with a Vajrayana teacher in Dayton, and my enthusiasm was channeled into other pursuits. After continuing to read – and dabble – for many years, I finally did some on-line investigation in 2015 – and found Gar Drolma.  The first time I walked in, I was immediately greeted by warm, friendly, enthusiastic people, who were clearly dedicated to helping me in any way that they could. I was also immersed in a very special space for meditation and study which cannot be adequately described – only experienced. I found a living and authentic connection to Dharma which I could only dream about more than 20 years ago.

Gar Drolma is a hidden jewel in the greater Dayton area, and hosts an astonishing array of world-class teachers every year.  Much like Buddhism itself, it offers a wide-range of “skillful means” to the local and regional community, and can offer something of value to anyone who is lucky enough to visit.  I am very grateful that I have found this center, and I am honored to be able to provide whatever support I can, to help people access meditation, Dharma teachings, and precious sense of community that Gar Drolma provides.

If I can offer one bit of advice, it would be to tell people to come and visit.  Don’t wait – don’t put it off (like I did….). Do it now. It doesn’t matter whether you just discovered the word “Buddhism” yesterday, and are curious, or if you have been practicing for several decades.  It doesn’t matter how much time you have to spend, or if you are just curious about meditation, and want to know what it might do for you. Just drop in – I guarantee you will be glad you did.

– Michael Stanek

Gary Smith

“I awakened my interest in Buddhism while spending time in Japan as a student in the early ’80s. My interest was quite broad but heavily influenced by Zen. I spent many years reading about Buddhism and practiced – off and on – on my own. While living in Geneva, Switzerland my wife and I visited Rabten Choeling which was my first exposure to Tibetan Buddhism. Practice was conducted in 5 languages there and I wasn’t completely sure what was going on most of the time, but I did feel a connection.

Shortly thereafter we moved to Dayton and I remember thinking to myself, ‘There is no way there is a Buddhist temple in Dayton, I’ll probably need to drive to Columbus!’. Surprisingly enough, upon a quick Internet search I found Gar Drolma and was elated to see it was only 4 miles from my house. I came one Sunday morning for practice and everyone was so helpful and welcoming that I decided to come again. I have now been a member here for a few years and am honored to be part of the Sangha. Through my service on the Board I strive to be of service to our teachers, members and visitors alike.”

– Gary Smith

Mel Carmichael – Advisor to the Board

“Gar Drolma has become such and important part of my life over the past 4 years.  I walked in as many do: with no clue what to expect.  I spent my first day at Gar Drolma doing White Tara.  I didn’t know what any of it meant and I didn’t know why people were doing it but I was immediately drawn in.

This was quickly followed by a Guru Rinpoche Empowerment by Bhaku Rinpoche.  I sat in the first row and served tea to him and his attendant.  This was a retreat where no one was to speak except for during the practice and the only meal was a vegetarian lunch.  I did it all and still had no idea why it was so important to me.  Time has passed and I have developed an understanding that is hard to explain.

This temple is so important to my life and its future, I now know, is essential to not only my well being but all members and beyond.  I have always had a special affection for new people that come to this center.  I truly believe that we have something to offer anyone who walks through the doors of Gar Drolma.  I think (after much meditation and practice) that I am meant to help new people find how the Dharma can make anyone’s life of bigger benefit no matter what their cultural or religious background (even it I don’t personally have all the answers).

I wish for others to discover the joy of sharing in this wonderful Sangha. I want to show all that Gar Drolma is a special and important part of this community that is worth supporting.  I look forward to helping make the most of this center so that it can give the same gift to others that it has given to me.”

– Mel Carmichael

Mike Young

“I have been interested in Buddhism since the 70s and was really grateful to discover several years ago that Dayton had a center. Since I have been coming to the cener, I have been amazed at the teachers I have met here, as well as the range of teachings they have offered us. I have also been extremely impressed with the dedication of the Sangha. We are a relatively small group but everyone pitches in, including out-of-towners, to support the center and enable the teachings.

Gar Drolma Choling is a great place to practice and to meet other practitioners. My mind seems to naturally find calmness and mindfulness when I sit in the main meditation room.

In joining the board, I look forward to working on extending the range of teachings that the center offers. I am particularly interested in helping to establish opportunities for newcomers, both those interested in Buddhism and those just interested in learning meditation techniques.”

– Mike Young

Visit Mike’s Site Here

Trey Utacht

“I became interested in Buddhism while in high school. After graduation I moved to Boulder Colorado and practiced for a while in Chogyam Trungpa’s sangha. In 1996 I met and took refuge with Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche. The next year I had the great fortune to receive some teachings from Garchen Rinpoche and have continued to do so as much as possible ever since. Around this time I also received many teachings from His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche and other lamas from his monastery.

I met Gar Drolmaís founding members at some teachings in New York in 1999 and learned that they were moving to Dayton (where I had recently returned to) and wanted to bring Garchen Rinpoche to Ohio for teachings. I have been coming to the center (on and off) from the time it was at its initial location in a second story storefront in Yellow Springs until the present amazing location.

I am excited to be able to serve Rinpoche, the Dharma, and our community by assisting with the work of the board in any way that I am capable.

– Trey Utacht

Debbie Jackson, Center Director

“I was led to Gar Drolma five years ago, seeking to find a teacher and begin studying Buddhism. There really are no words to describe my joy at finding the center and the beauty of meeting with the dharma. It’s like walking in the scorching dessert and being given a cool glass of water to drink – you just can’t seem to get enough.

I knew from that point forward I would devote my life to serving the dharma in any way that would be of benefit. I was very fortunate to spend seven months at Garchen Rinpoche’s center in Arizona where I learned so much about living in community , serving, and engaging in the practice on many levels. I felt very blessed to have this precious time there and hoped it would be of help at Gar Drolma.

It is such an honor to serve on Gar Drolma’s board and be part of such an incredible community. There is such a special group of members here who share their love for Garchen Rinpoche, the center and the dharma. For me, coming to Gar Drolma has been like coming home. Becoming a member of the center brings boundless blessings, for when you connect to the center you connect to Garchen Rinpoche. And when you connect to Garchen Rinpoche, you connect to love – what greater gift could there ever be?”

– Debbie Jackson

Venerable Konchog Thubten Nima

Lama Thubten Nima was born in the Kham (eastern) Region of Tibet in 1965. When he was 14, Lama Thubten Nima had the good fortune to receive instruction on the effects of virtuous and harmful actions by the great Yogi Damga, and he completed the four hundred thousand accumulations of the preliminary practices (Ngondro) according to the Buddhist Yangzab terma.

While at Gar Monastery Lama Thubten Nima studied tantric ritual practices of the Old and New Schools, and engaged in a wide array of other religious trainings. Lama Thubten Nima received special training from the Hlo Lungkar Monastery Chant-master (religious ritual master), Lama Yungthar, including the Eight Heruka Sadhanas, the Embodiment of the Masters’ Realization, Vajrakilaya, and Essence of Great Bliss. He then served as chant master for Gar Monastery and later as the disciplinarian.

In the year 2000 Lama Thubten Nima went to India and received the complete Drikung Kagyu empowerments, transmissions and teachings during the Drikung Snake Year teachings. There he received teachings directly from His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche, His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche, Drubwang Konchok Norbu Rinpoche, and many other high Lamas. Thereafter, Lama Thubten Nima went to Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan. He then came to America to do a Yamantaka Retreat with H.E. Garchen Rinpoche. At present, he serves as a Resident Lama and Chant Master for the Garchen Institute in Arizona, as well as continuing to serve as Resident Lama for the Mercy and Treasure Buddhist Foundation (southern California).

H.E. Garchen Rinpoche has also requested Lama Thubten Nima to serve as Chant Master at all the Garchen Buddhist Dharma centers in the West.

Lama Abao

Lama Abao was born in 1969 to a nomadic family in Tibet. From the age of six until the age of eight he studied the Tibetan language and script. At the age of fourteen he met his Root Lama, His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche, with whom he took refuge at that time. At age fifteen  Lama Abao received his monastic vows and instructions on Mahamudra from the Mahasiddha Karma Norbu. At the age of eighteen he met Khenpo Munsel from Golog for the first time. After having completed the Dzogchen Ngondro he received instructions and transmission on Trekcho and Thogal.

Starting at the age of twenty-two, he served for three years at Gargon monastery, having responsibility for the offerings received by the monastery. In addition to this position, he attended the Lamas in the monastery and practiced Tsok on a regular basis. Also during this time, he gathered accumulations of the mantras of White Tara, Yamantaka, and the root mantras of the four enlightened activities of the deities.

In 1997 Lama Abao traveled with H.E. Garchen Rinpoche to America, and he subsequently became an American citizen. Since 1997 Rinpoche has built many centers around the world, and Lama Abao has been one of Rinpoche’s two attendants on his travels throughout Europe, Asia, and North America.

Khenpo Samdup Rinpoche Director of Gar Drolma Center

Khenpo Samdup Rinpoche, Spiritual Director

Khenpo Samdup Rinpoche was born in Tibet and is a long time student of His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche. He studied the philosophy of the four schools of Tibetian Buddhism under numerous khenpos. He is currently the Dharma teacher at Gar Drolma Choling in Dayton Ohio, USA.