‘Think that everyone you meet, under any circumstances, is fulfilling all your wishes’ (Lama Zopa Rinpoche)
Pomaia, municipality of Santa Croce. Lama Tzong Khapa Institute rests on a hill, you can see the sea from its top. On your way to the Institute, you pass through ancient Buddha representations, stupas and age-old trees. Once inside, the noise of civilization slowly fades and gives way to birds chirping and monks walking on gravel. Simple activities stress the days – vegetarian meals, long walks, contemplation, meditation and silence. You feel subitaneous quietness and well-being. The Mahayana tradition Tibetan Buddhism centre ‘welcomes everyone, regardless of their race, nationality and background, who wishes to learn how to free the mind from deep-seated harmful conceptions, and to live in harmony with others by putting meditation into practice in daily life’. The centre consists of a monastic sangha (the practising community), a laypersons sangha, a heterogeneous international body of students and visitors, and a staff of residents and volunteers. ‘All the activities we carry out aim at the development of the inborn human qualities of kindness, compassion and wisdom’, says the director Filippo Scianna.
The seat of the Institute is an old country house surrounded by woods and olives. The founders are Lama Thubten Yeshe, known in Italy as Lama Yesce, and his disciple Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Lama Yeshe was born in Tibet. At the age of 6 he entered Sera Je Monastic University in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital. He studied there until 1959, when the Chinese invasion of Tibet forced him to flee to India. Lama Yeshe continued to study and meditate in India until 1967. Lama Zopa Rinpoche was born in Nepal and, at the age of 3, he was recognised as the reincarnation of Sherpa Nyingma yogi Kunsang Yeshe, the Lawudo Lama. The two Lamas met in the refugee camp in Buxa Duar, West Bengal. The Lamas went to Nepal in 1967 and, over the next two years, they founded Kopan and Lawudo Monasteries. In 1974, they began travelling to the West. In 1976, they established the community in Pomaia and named it after Lama Tzong Khapa, a Buddhist scholar and practitioner in Tibet in the 14th Century, renowned for his extraordinary qualities of wisdom and meditation.
Words Meraviglia Paper, photographers Margherita Cirri.