You can’t have too much good karma.
Volunteers from three non-profit organizations: Dharma Publishing, the Yeshe De project and the Tibetan Aid Fund get much good karma by working year-round at Dharma Publishing, at 2910 San Pablo Ave. There they transcribe, preserve and print Buddhist texts, as well as raise funds to help and encourage the progress of Tibetans living in their homeland and in exile.
Saturday, the 29-year-old publisher, founded by Buddhist Llama Tarthang Tulku, opened its doors for an open house tour of the showroom and press, and a taste of the art, tradition and food of the Tibetan culture that the staff works hard to help preserve. “We have about 100 full-time volunteers here and in our other press (Dharmacakra Press) in Sonoma County,” said Erin Clark, who volunteers at the Tibetan Aid Fund. “It’s very meritorious, it’s good charm. We’re making offerings to people and helping ourselves.”
The volunteers, some who come from around the world to study at the Nyingma Institute – also founded by Tulku – at 1815 Highland Place, do everything from stuffing envelopes for Tibetan Aid Fund, to manning a giant printing press for the publishing company.
Those who stayed after the tour and volunteered their Saturday afternoon were treated to a Tibetan vegetarian dinner.
Clark said the ancient texts and prayers that they print – some 60,000 are in the building now – are donated to Tibetan monks, nuns and monasteries. Most will go to the World Peace Ceremony later this year in Bodh Gaya, India. Their goal is to send 150,000 printed prayers to the ceremony, she said.
The texts are typeset, proof-read, printed, folded and cut at the Dharmacakra Press, then they are trucked to Berkeley where the staff at Dharma complete the edge-dying and wrapping.
Clark explained that while the Tibetan Aid Fund’s primary goal is raising money for exiled Tibetans, the Yeshe De project is dedicated to preserving the ancient texts and prayers.
After printing, the sacred Tibetan prayers are cut into 3-foot long strips and are rolled up to be put in hand-held prayer wheels. Monks and nuns chant the prayers and spin the wheel to release the blessing of the prayer.
“If you turn the wheel clockwise it’s said to also have a healing effect,” said Kirk Grissom, tour guide and volunteer for Dharma.
The man behind it all, the Buddhist lama Tarthang Tulku, came to Berkeley in 1969 and established the Nyingma Institute.
The Institute brings students of Buddhism from around the world to hear the teachings of Tulku, known to his students as Rinpoche – a title bestowed to exceptional Tibetan lamas. Many of the students, like Magdalena Duran from Spain, volunteer at Dharma.
Duran said that when she isn’t studying the teachings of Rinpoche, or working a regular job, she volunteers in the showroom at Dharma.
Grissom said the lama began Dharma Publishing to preserve Tibetan texts and art, to publish Buddhist works in Western languages that communicate the meaning and value of the Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha) and to distribute the texts to his fellow monks and scholars in Tibet and India.