Learn About Us
“Awam” refers to the union of the male and female principles of compassion and wisdom, leading to enlightenment. We are a Vajrayana Buddhist organization striving to help lay practitioners attain enlightenment in this lifetime. We focus on the Dzogchen practice lineage. To help achieve this, we offer programs of study and practice guided by qualified masters in the tradition and facilitated by ordained Western practitioners. We are committed to the householder tradition that goes back to Shakyamuni Buddha in India and Padmasambhava in Tibet, sometimes referred to as the “white” tradition due to the robes worn by many of the yogis in this tradition. Many of the great Mahasiddhas of India and Tibet practiced as householders. This is particularly appropriate today in the West, where most of us work for a living and may have families and other life commitments.
We are a Rimé organization, honoring the best texts and teachings of the Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Gelug, Jonang and Rimé traditions, as well as scholarly and scientific sources. Our Spiritual Director is Tulku Khenchen Prachhimba Dorjee Rinpoche (Khenchen Lama), who is currently residing in Bangor, Wales, where he runs the Tibetan Yoga Center and teaches at other locations across the globe.
While we are located in Tucson, Arizona, we also offer programs of study and practice via the Internet that are available globally. Our Essentials curriculum consists of eight 6-week classes over two years covering the history of Buddhism in India and Tibet, basic principles, the Path of Individual Liberation, the Path of Altruism, the Path of Tantra, and the Path of Great Perfection. It is a complete series of teachings on the ethics, meditations, and wisdom of each path. The course material is presented on videos for our online students and includes regular practices to be done weekly throughout the course of study.
Our Advanced curriculum is focused on the Path of Great Perfection – Dzogchen. This includes five rigorous college-level classes, 16 weeks each, which require reading, study, homework, and practice. (Students who complete this series of courses may be able to continue on into an online master’s degree in Dzogchen Studies from a European university that is in the proposal stage.)
In addition, we bring master teachers to Tucson to share the dharma and facilitate our study and practice. We provide special events on festival days in the Tibetan Calendar, special workshops to facilitate your practice, and weekly meditations. Other activities are also being planned. You may keep connected and stay informed by signing up for our monthly newsletter via email, our Twitter feed, and by liking our Facebook page.
All of us who work diligently to bring this exciting program to you are strictly volunteers to keep our costs and your fees as low as possible. Your support through regular donations or contributions made specifically for special programs or teachings are deeply appreciated.
Please take the time to look over our website (AwamInstitute.org) and what we have to offer, locally and on the web. We hope you will find this opportunity as exciting as we do and look forward to your participation and/or support!
Sangha is a group of people who support each other on the path to enlightenment. It is a community. We listen, offer suggestions, ask questions, and give whatever support we can to help others.
Our sangha includes all those who choose to participate in our classes, group activities, or support us in other ways. In addition to our basic and advanced curricula, we provide several opportunities for weekly group practices, such as Vajrayogini, Tibetan yoga, and our Sunday Meditation Hour. We also offer special events in conjunction with special days in the Tibetan Buddhist Calendar such as Losar (the Tibetan New Year) or the Four Great Festivals (Duchens). We have a monthly movie and tsok (potluck). We do special practice retreats for one or more days. At times we have also workshops on living the dharma and topics related to practice such as using bells and drums, making tormas, doing hand mudras and so forth.
While all of these are offered in Tucson, we are growing our online sangha and some of our activities may be available online as well. Sign up for our Newsletter to receive email notices, or like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
If there is anything that you would like to suggest that might help yourself or others, we welcome your suggestions. Email us at info@AwamInstitute.org
Our Spiritual Director
Khenchen Parchhimbha Dorjee Rinpoche (Khenchen Lama) - Since very early childhood he displayed unusual compassion and inclination towards meditation. At the age of three, the head of Nyingma lineage – His Holiness Sera Yangtul Rinpoche – recognized Khenchen Rinpoche as a reincarnation of Padma Dagnag Lingpa, a high Rinpoche of Nyingma lineage. Padma Dagnag Lingpa was a reincarnation of Nupchen Sangye Yeshe, one of the five closest disciples of Padmasambhava and the founder of the yogi lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. H.H. Sera Yantul Rinpoche also prophesized, that Khenchen Rinpoche would especially benefit students in Europeand the USA in this lifetime.
Despite the pressures to take over abbot responsibilities at four monasteries at an early age, Khenchen Lama Rinpoche was encouraged by his mother to undergo rigorous study and practice. For 25 years he studied and practiced primarily Buddhist philosophy and meditation, but also logic, medicine, astrology, languages, grammar, lexicography, dance, and drama. During this time his root teacher His Holiness Jigmed Phuntsok Rinpoche provided him with teachings and instructions over a period of ten years at Larung Buddhist University.
While studying, Rinpoche spent two to three months each year in silent solitary retreat summing up to about four years of retreat in total. After receiving his Khenpo and Khenchen titles, Khenchen Lama taught debate, astrology, sutra and tantra at many different monasteries and centers in Tibet, Nepal, India, Malaysia, Singapore, China and the United States. The main focus of his teachings is on Dzogchen and the Six Bardos, especially dream yoga. Besides teaching, his main efforts have concentrated on building and sustaining an orphanage in Tibet that currently provides accommodation, food, clothing and education to 150 children (see www.awamfoundation.org). He would also like to build a retreat center for yogis in Tibet in the future. He authored three books on sutra and tantra, and wrote a book of songs. Rinpoche is the Spiritual Director of the Awam Tibetan Buddhist Institute and head of the Tibetan Yoga Center in Bangor, Wales.
His Eminence Jigme Lodro Rinpoche was born in 1969 in Golok-Dhome, Tibet. Chakshul Tulku Sangye Lodro and Doctor Gyarong Samdup Gyatso recognized him as the reincarnation of Genyen Dharmata, said to be the server of the sixteen principal arhat disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha as well as a realized master from the Alasha Monastery at Five Peaked Mountain in China, only three months after his birth. At age eight he joined Talang, a large monastery in Golok, Gemang Hermitage Place, Larong, the city of Dharma in Sertha, and other Dharma places in Kham. He studied sutras, tantras and Tibetan culture and religion, becoming well-known for his qualities and knowledge.
In 1998 he went to India and became a great editor for both the Tibetan-in-exile government and private centers. More than two hundred of his essays have been published in Tibet and Tibet-in-exile communities. Some of his books have been published by acclaimed publication centers of the Tibet government-in-exile, including the Department of Education, Department of Information, as well as Tibetan cultural and religious publication centers. His writings are well-respected by many great scholars. H.H. the Dalai Lama sent Jigme Rinpoche a letter praising him for his writing.
In January 2005, H.E. Trulshig Rinpoche also recognized and declared that he is indeed the reincarnation of Genyen Dharmata. Accordingly, H.H. Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche, the throne holder of the Nyingma lineage, enthroned Tulku Jigme Rinpoche in Bodhgaya, India. Currently, Jigme Lodro Rinpoche is compiling additional historical accounts of the Nyingma schools and the Tibetan culture and religion. He aspires to establish a research center in India called the Ngayur Nyingma Research Center to begin work on the Chronicle Treatises of the Nyingma lineage, as well as a Nyingma Lineage Comprehensive Dictionary.
Jigme Lodro Rinpoche has been teaching regularly at the Awam Tibetan Buddhist Institute since 2011 at the request of Khenchen Lama.
Khenpo Drimed Dawa (Dr. Dean Pielstick) is an ordained lay practitioner and was conferred the title of “Khenpo” by Tulku Khenchen Paljea Dorjee Rinpoche on Losar, 2009, and President of the Awam Tibetan Buddhist Institute (then Dharmakirti College) on Losar, 2007. He has also studied with HE Garchen Rinpoche, HE Jigme Lodro Rinpoche, Ven. Traga Rinpoche, Ven. Gyalpo Rinpoche, Ven. Ontul Rinpoche, Yogi Lama Gursam and numerous others. He has studied extensively the teachings of HH the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, along with many other contemporary and historical figures. His primary practice is Dzogchen and he has a particular affinity for the Dzogchen teachings of Longchen Rabjam. Although he makes no claims to having great insights or accomplishments, he has agreed to teach at the request of Tulku Khenchen Paljea Dorjee nevertheless. It is in this spirit that he has agreed to share whatever he knows for the benefit of others. Khenpo is the designer of our curriculum and online classes. And he is the author of Innate Happiness: Realizing Compassion-Emptiness (Now in paperback and Amazon Kindle eBook).
Dr. Pielstick is also a professor of management for Northern Arizona University in Tucson. He has extensive professional and college administrative experience in addition to classroom instruction.
Yogi Lama Gursam went to monastery at a very young age, received teachings as a monastic, and studied and practiced as a monastic. Then Lama Gursam went to study in Tibetan University Sarnath, Varanasi, India to get both bachelors and masters degrees in Buddhist Philosophy, History, and languages. Upon graduation he received a special award for scholastic achievement from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
After university Lama Gursam was requested to assist His Holiness the Chetsang Rinpoche. Lama volunteered for five years as an assistant, as a teacher, and helped with many other duties. Lama Gursam then completed the traditional three year retreat. Since then every year Lama has gone on retreat in various mountains, including some of Milarepa's caves. He then returns for six months each year to provide teachings in the West. He also leads pilgrimages to holy places in India, and Nepal. Lama teaches in English, and always tries to focus on the practical application of the Dharma in everyday life. He has been teaching regularly at the Awam Tibetan Buddhist Institute (previously Dharmakirti College and Dharmakirti International) for many years.
Susan Marfield , M.A., took refuge in 1997 after practicing tonglen for two weeks during an illness and finding the power of the practice to be the turning point. She has received teachings and empowerments from Gelug, Kagyu and Nyingma teachers and also spent three years living in Dharamsala, India studying and practicing Dharma. Susan is an advanced student/practitioner with the Awam Tibetan Buddhist Institute, where she has been teaching online classes for several years.
Susan is also currently an RN and was previously a software developer and instructor of computer graphics at the community college level. Susan hopes to be of some help to students despite not considering herself a qualified master of the Dharma.
Jane Stanley has been studying some form of Buddhism or metaphysics since she was in her early twenties. In 2010, knowing that she would be traveling to Tibet she started seriously studying Tibetan Buddhism and realized she had found what she never expected to find – an understanding of life that felt true and genuine. She took refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, and while in Lhasa, Tibet committed her life to the study, practice and teaching of Tibetan Buddhism.
In January of 2012 she came to the Awam Tibetan Buddhist Institute (then Dharmakirti College), completed the Natural Liberation course, enrolled in the Advanced Classes and continues her studies. She has also taken empowerments in Dzogchen, Simhamukha, Vajrayogini, Manjurshi and several others. She has taken the Bodhisattva Vow and pledged her life to serving the Dharma.
Jane is an RN and has a degree in Liberal Arts. Her interests include fine art photography, world travel and doing Social Media for the Awam Tibetan Buddhist Institute. Jane was asked to teach the Essentials of Tibetan Buddhism by Khenpo Drimed Dawa for the Awam Tibetan Buddhist Institute and was honored to accept his offer.
Patrick Flint is a native born Tucsonan. He was first introduced to yoga, both its Hatha practice and its philosophy, at age 13 during a chance encounter at a public party in 1969. Becoming a yogi has been his life's goal ever since. He became exposed to the practice of Taoist Cultivation in 1983, studying Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Kung with Mark Johnson in Taos, NM. Mark was a senior student of master Ni Hua Ching.
Joining the Awam Tibetan Buddhist Institute in 2012 (Dharmakirti College at that time), he has become a serious student of Buddha dharma, especially the Nyingma Lineage where he has learned the 21 Yogas of Longchen Rabjam as a means of furthering the Practice of Khandro Nyingtik and Longchen Nyingtik Dzogchen.
Ri or chok-ri in Tibetan mean “one-sided”, “partisan” or “sectarian,” Me means “no”. So, Rimé means “not taking sides,” “nonpartisan,” or “nonsectarian.” It does not mean “nonconformist” or “noncommittal,” nor does it mean forming a new school or system that is different from the existing ones. Followers of the Rimé approach almost always follow one lineage for their main practices. Although they respect and learn from other traditions, they would not dissociate from the school in which they were raised. One can take, for example, the founders of the Rimé movement, Jamgon Kongtrul and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Kongrtrul was educated in the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions and Khyentse was raised in the Nyingma and Sakya traditions. Although these two scholars and meditation masters received, collected, practiced and transmitted the teachings of all eights practice lineages, they never failed to acknowledge their affiliation to their own schools.
One of the unique features of Buddhism is the acceptance that different paths are appropriate for different types of people. Just as one medicine cannot cure all diseases, so one set of teachings cannot help all beings—this is a basic principle of Buddhism. One chooses the most appropriate sutras and/or tantras from the Buddhist canon and makes them the basis for one’s practice. This is how different schools of Buddhism begin. There are no “sects” in Buddhism because there are no groups that break away from the main school. Different lineages have come into being even among those who practice the same teachings.
In Tibet, like other places, the different schools practiced and studied in rather isolated environments, without much contact with other schools and lineages. A lack of communication breeds misunderstanding. Even where there was no misunderstanding or disrespect to other schools some practitioners, in their enthusiasm to keep their own lineages pure and undiluted, went so far as to refuse teaching from the masters of other lineages and would not study the texts of other schools. Ignorance is the most fertile ground for growing doubts and misconceptions.
The Rimé Philosophy of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great
A Study of the Buddhist Lineages of Tibet
By Ringu Tulku
Our History (link under construction)
May all beings be happy!