Shantideva Meditation Center was founded as an FPMT study group in late 2004, when our precious Spiritual Director, Lama Zopa Rinpoche bestowed his blessings to organize and gave the group our name. Venerable Choden Rinpoche inaugurated the group with its first teaching, pujas, and an Amitayus Long Life Blessing at Coordinator Jane Chou’s home in Flushing, Queens.
During 2005, Ven Lhundub Damcho (Diane Finnegan) as well as Ven Tsenla (Thubten Dekyong) gave teachings on Buddhism topics and led sutra recitation, workshops, and pujas. Students traveled to Guhyasamaja Center in Virginia for a teaching with Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Later that year, Yangsi Rinpoche gave a teaching on Practicing the Path and a White Tara Long Life Blessing.
In 2006, the Group moved from Queens to Manhattan and Venerable Fedor Stracke, Jon Landaw, and Venerable Robina Courtin gave teachings at a private residence in Soho.
Later that year, Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave a teaching at a loft near the World Trade Center site and visited the families of monks from Kopan Monastery now living in New York. Lama Zopa Rinpoche returned in September 2007 to give a commentary and partial oral transmission of the first seven chapters of the Golden Light Sutra at New York’s Tibet House.
During 2007-08, Venerable Robina Courtin came to New York regularly and gave teachings at the Jewel Heart Center and at Teachers College at Columbia University. Aliki Nicolaides was Coordinator and Venerable Yangchen Weill and Charlotte Lowson launched the Discovering Buddhism study group series.
Guided by Coordinator Venerable Yangchen in 2009-10, Geshe Thubten Soepa gave over 20 teachings at the Church of St. Andrew & St. Paul during a six-week residency. The group also hosted a 10-day residency with Geshe Thubten Sherab and offered teachings with Venerable Robina Courtin, Venerable Feodor Stracke, and Venerable Amy Miller. Shantideva Meditation continued the Discovering Buddhism Series, and offered pujas, sutra recitation, and hosted film screenings of Unmistaken Child and Mystic Tibet.
In August 2010, Mary Esbjornson became Coordinator of Shantideva Meditation and Charlotte Lowson Coordinator of the Discovering Buddhism series. A proposal was made to FPMT that the study group incorporate as a center and an organizational plan was launched to do so by 2012.
Shantideva Meditation sponsored further teachings with Geshe Thubten Soepa, Venerable Amy Miller, Venerable Fedor Stracke, and Venerable Lhundup Nyingje. In June 2011, the group sponsored the series: Developing the Good Heart: Compassion and Wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism, which included teachings in four venues and culminated in a 10-day residency with Venerable Robina Courtin and attracted over a hundred students; she returned in December for a weekend retreat and talks sponsored in collaboration with other groups in the City. Venerable Rene Feusi lead a residential retreat on calm abiding and emptiness at Menla Mountain Center in Phoenicia, New York.
In 2011, Shantideva Meditation also completed topics from the Discovering Buddhism study group series: Transforming Problems, How to Develop Bodhichitta, and Wisdom of Emptiness. In September, we introduced a regular program of pujas including Tara, Medicine Buddha, and Lama Chopa (Guru Puja). During this time the group also created its first website, developed a management committee and initial Board of Directors.
In 2012, we introduced our first intermediate level retreat with Venerable Fedor Stracke teaching the Heart Sutra, welcomed Yangsi Rinpoche back to New York for a public talk on the Bodhisattva Way of Life in April, and presented a retreat with Venerable Amy Miller. We also began a new 14-part cycle of the FPMT Discovering Buddhism study group series, with Mind and Its Potential, facilitated by Gustavo Cutz, and continued to offer monthly pujas led by Gustavo Cutz, Jennifer Kim, and George Cuesta.
In March 2012, Shantideva Meditation became incorporated as a nonprofit religious organization in New York and in May we completed the process of becoming officially recognized as an affiliate of FPMT and our name was changed to Shantideva Meditation Center. Mary Esbjornson was named Director and George Cuesta was appointed Spiritual Program Coordinator.
In 2013, we welcomed back teachers Venerable Fedor Stracke, who led retreats on mind and mental factors, and Buddha nature; Venerable Amy Miller, who offered a retreat on transforming problems into happiness; and Venerable Lhundup Nyingje, who shared teachings and meditations on retreat, the journey to freedom and developing great compassion. We also welcomed for the first time Geshe Choewang Dakpa Rinpoche, who offered a series of teachings on prayers in the Tibetan language; and Geshe Kelsang Wangmo, who gave teachings on the nature of the self and the Heart Sutra. Our FPMT Discovering Buddhism study group series and regular puja program continued. In September 2013, Jennifer Kim was named Director.
In 2014, we welcomed Venerable Thubten Chodron for the first time, teaching on overcoming obstacles on the path to enlightenment. We also welcomed back teachers Venerable Fedor Stracke, who taught on death, the bardo, and rebirth; Geshe Ngawang Tenley, teaching on peace and enlightenment in daily life and Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend. Professor Paul Hacket gave an introduction to the Buddhist philosophical schools, Don Handrick taught on The Three Principal Aspects of the Path by Lama Tsongkhapa, and we hosted the Maitreya Loving Kindness Tour.
In August 2015 we were honored to have Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche visit New York City. Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave practice advice for Shantideva Meditation students and bestowed several transmissions. To read more about Lama Zopa’s teachings in New York please visit our blog. In April 2016, Desmond Hosford was named Director.