Paljor Thondup founded Project Tibet in Santa Fe in 1980. Thondup escaped from Eastern Tibet in 1959 at twelve years of age. After living in India and England he received a scholarship to attend the College of Santa Fe. Project Tibet began as Thondup ran an import company that featured Tibetan textiles and rugs. Through the business he was able to support fellow refugees in the U.S. and abroad. In promoting Tibetan culture Thondup continued to preserve Mahayana Buddhism.
Tibetan Association of Santa Fe
In 1990 a group of Tibetans that were part of the international diaspora that year founded the Tibetan Association of Santa Fe on September 2, 1997. The refugees received help through legislation created by the U.S. Congress to address the ongoing plight of the people of Tibet. In 1992 local families in Santa Fe offered to help by hosting twenty-five Tibetan refugees. Their community quickly grew as family members joined them. In adapting to Santa Fe, the refugees kept their language, culture, and religion alive.
Mahayana’s Four Traditions
In 2002 His Holiness the Dalai Lama helped with the foundation and opening of the Phende Rigzod Khan Center on Hickox Street. The Center continues to serve Santa Fe’s Tibetan community and is the basis for the growth of the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism. Santa Fe is home to the four major lineages of this tradition which include: Nyingma on Alta Vista Street, Kagyu on Airport Road, Sakya on Upper Canyon Road, and Gelug on Second Street.
In 1975 under the auspices of His Eminence Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche and a group of students the Kagyu Shenpen Kunchab Center opened. The group welcomed a resident teacher, the Venerable Lama Karma Dorje in 1981. Construction of the Bodhi Stupa at the center began in 1982. The structure is one of the largest stupas in the U.S. The KSK center used a blueprint from India to create the stupa. A crystal that had been recovered from the cremation of Buddha Shakyamuni was placed at the tip of the spire. On November 14, 1986 the KSK stupa was consecrated by His Eminence Kalu Rinpoche.
Tibetan Buddhist Blessings
After construction of the KSK stupa was completed the masters from all four of the major monastic traditions of Tibetan Buddhism blessed the structure. They included: His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Gelug), His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche (Kagyu), V.V. Bokar Rinpoche (Kagyu), Nagpa Yeshe Dorje Rinpoche (Nyingma), and His Holiness Sakya Trizin Rinpoche (Sakya). There is a large Buddha statue that was that sculpted by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche in the shrine. The KSK stupa and Gonpa (meditation hall) on Airport Road are sites of worship for many followers and teachers of Tibetan Buddhism.