This year, I returned to Charlottesville after 40 years. Kalsang and I lived there two years which turned out to be turning points in our lives. It was from Charlottesville that we decided to go live in India, but it was also where I was most closely introduced to Buddhism, through the studies I made there and the two lamas we both became close to.
In the 70’s Charlottesville, home of Jefferson, UVA and Monticello became the stronghold of Tibetan and Buddhist studies in the South of the USA. Kalsang and I enrolled in the PHD program in Buddhist studies at UVA where Jeffrey Hopkins, who initiated it, invited Tibetan lamas and scholars yearly. We lived there in 1977 and 78, with Kalsang and Lati Rinpoche, from Ganden Shartse then Locho Rinpoche from Drepung Loseling being the only Tibetans in the area. We were often visited by Tibetan friends from New York and my family members, sisters, nanny and my parents, my father meeting Kalsang there for the first time. There were numerous visits to Monticello, the Blue Ridge Mountains and the University grounds.
Genam and I took the train from DC on a cold and snowy February morning. The main campus looked the same, though the shops had a different, more contemporary look and the area beyond the immediate campus was changed beyond recognition. I took Genam to visit Monticello and took him to the main campus, that dates back to Jefferson’s time. We met with the group of Tibetan student entrepreneurs from Tibet, enrolled in a six week program in which Dorje Rinchen, Norlha’s Sales Manager, was a participant. We saw a few professors and attended a Losar party where I met the local Tibetans who numbered over two hundred. My old classmates had all moved on to other Universities, but it was heartening to see that so much had grown and branched out in forty years.