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Not Just For Buddhists: The Kurukulla Center

By Pamela Sosnowski

Just minutes from the often-congested Interstate 93 in the Boston-area suburb of Medford sits a house whose wrap-around porch is adorned with colorful flags and flowers. The building is home to the Kurukulla Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies and serves practicing Buddhists, those who wish to learn more about the religion, and visitors seeking a peaceful break from stressful city living.

"People from near and far visit the Center to sit in our beautiful garden, meditate, have tea, chat with others, and relax," says the Center's former director Wendy Cook. "People are even welcome to bring their (leashed) pets to the Center to walk around our Stupa for World Peace statue in our backyard garden for a blessing."

Although the organization purchased its permanent Medford home in 2000, it has operated in the Boston area for a total of 25 years. As part of a global network of Tibetan centers, the Kurukulla Center offers weekly yoga and meditation sessions, monthly prayer rituals, and classes on Buddhism. Open most days from 9AM to 6PM, anyone is welcome to visit and sit in the peaceful shrine room, read in the library, enjoy a cup of tea, or stroll in the backyard garden. The Center also hosts special events, including an annual interfaith service each summer that welcomes clergy and religious leaders of all faiths to attend.

When the Center initially moved to its current location on Magoun Avenue in Medford in 2001, neighbors were suspicious. There were fearful murmurings that a cult had moved into town, but once the Center began reaching out to the local community and government, residents soon realized the positive benefits of having a Tibetan center close to home. "From those days to now the attitude has completely reversed," says Cook. "These days we have a very warm and friendly relationship with the mayor, City Hall and our neighbors and friends throughout the city."

The Center also witnessed the surrounding community's openness when it was honored to host His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet twice. During his first visit in 2003, neighbors were skeptical, but when he returned in 2012, many took down their fences and a large tent was erected so that thousands of people could hear him speak.

An estimated 1,000 Tibetans who have immigrated from Tibet and India to the Boston area visit the Kurukulla Center regularly. It's become a popular place for elders in the Tibetan community to spend time on a weekly basis, praying, meditating, and socializing. "Being at the Center reminds them of their homeland of Tibet from which they had to flee in the 50s and 60s from the Communist Chinese occupation," says Cook.

Of course, the Kurukulla Center will continue to keep its doors open to anyone seeking a respite. "People do come to the Center for different reasons and many have no background in Buddhism or have heard of it and have some general idea of what they think Buddhism is about," explains Lucille Cannava, a regular attendee. "All are welcome to any event, class or other teaching offered at the Center. Some are drawn by curiosity and others seek a spiritual experience and a sense of community."

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