Brynmawr, which means “big hill” in Welsh, is sometimes cited as being the highest town in Wales at an elevation of 1,250–1,500 feet above sea level. With a population of just 5,530, as of 2011, living amid the bucolic setting of the green Welsh valleys, this small market town in southern Wales holds a surprising secret: since 2009 it has been home to Palpung Changchub Dargyeling, a Tibetan Buddhist Dharma center offering courses in Buddhism, meditation classes, and retreats, as well as a library of Buddhist texts.
“Our teachings are about dealing with emotions and how to keep life going with happiness and understanding,” said Venerable Choje Lama Rabsang, the center’s resident teacher. “We don’t try to convert people here but if people do come and want to know Buddhism at a deeper level then we can talk about that too.” (South Wales Argus)
Venerable Choje Lama Rabsang. From palpung.org.uk
Choje Lama Rabsang was born in a village in eastern Tibet in 1971 and became a monk at the age of 11, initially studying under his uncle and completing his monastic education at Palpung Sherabling Monastery in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, which practices according to the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. There, he studied under the guidance of Tai Situ Rinpoche and Mingyur Rinpoche, and following a three-year retreat, was appointed discipline master, remaining at the monastery for a further four years.
Moving to the UK in 2001, Lama Rabsang was appointed teacher at Palpung Changchub Dargyeling in 2004, when the Dharma center first opened in the town of Llandrindod Wells. In 2007, the center moved to the Welsh capital of Cardiff, before purchasing its current premises in 2009.
Marg Munyard, who lives 65 miles away in Llanidloes, attested to the positive influence of the center, which she visits regularly. A practicing Buddhist for over a decade, she also coordinates meditation classes in Llanidloes with help from the Brynmawr center.
“Developing love, kindness and compassion is important alongside trying to live without aversion or attachment—a state of equanimity,” she said. “As the Lama says the mind’s job is to create thoughts but we can control that by stepping back and not continuously engaging with them. That is the ultimate skill of what meditation is about so that you can eventually feel the centeredness and calmness which means you can avoid knee-jerk reactions.”
Choje Lama Rabsang emphasized the “awareness and beneficial acts” that lie at the heart of the center’s activities. “This moment that we are in, accept it and be happy in it as everything changes every moment and there is no need to hold on to it,” he said. “You don’t know what is going to happen in the future and that is why we feel pain and fear and the past will come back, your upset and anger will come back and it doesn’t help anything.
“This moment you have the opportunity to give love and be kind, compassionate, generous and patient,” he observed. “It is in this moment where we transform this moment into wisdom, pure mind and happiness.” (South Wales Argus)
Meet the Buddhist community nestled among the houses in Brynmawr (South Wales Argus)
Palpung Changchub Dargyeling (Homepage)
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Palpung Web Center