The lakeside town of Ithaca is best known as a vibrant college town—home to both Cornell University and Ithaca College—backdropped by a beautiful (“gorges” even) natural landscape. It also hides a fascinating cultural gem: a branch of the 14th Dalai Lama’s personal monastery, which will soon be home to the 83-year-old monk’s official library and museum.
The Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies is an educational hub for scholars of Tibetan Buddhism, spread across 28 acres of peaceful woodland in South Hill, a few miles outside Ithaca. It is the only North American branch of the main Namgyal Monastery, which is now located in Dharamsala, India, with the exiled Tibetan government.
The monastery hosts classes, retreats, and daily meditations open to visitors or students of any faith. First established by the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, it has since expanded into the Dü Khor Choe Ling complex (meaning “Land of Kalachakra Study and Practice”), which houses a rotation of monks in residence from India. In 2016, this spiritual sanctuary tucked in the Finger Lakes of New York became even more unique when it was chosen to house the (officially titled) His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s Library and Museum.
The library will be a treasure trove of Buddhist teachings, preserving the many writings of the spiritual leader of Tibet, as well as works from all the Dalai Lamas before him. It’s meant to be a resource for future generations of scholars to study Tibetan Buddhism and its values: the practice of compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, self-discipline, and a culture of nonviolence and peace. The collection will also include the entire volume of Sutras, translations of the Buddha’s teachings.
Know Before You Go
Namgyal Monastery is open to anyone and visitors are welcome to drop in to explore the grounds or attend the evening meditations—see the website for open evening meditation times and be prepared to remove your shoes upon entering. (Don't miss the wonderful Kalachakra sand mandala on display at the complex.) You can check the website to attend weekend classes, summer retreats, or special events. The monastery is currently raising funds to build the library and museum but there is no estimated opening date as of yet. This video shows some concept renderings of the project.