Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche first gave the Refuge ceremony in Ann Arbor Sunday September 17, 1978. The visit was sponsored by David Mason and Lydia Saltzman.
Rinpoche taught at the Friend’s Center on Hill St. His translator was Ngodup Tsering Burkhar, who was then the only translator at KTD. Rinpoche taught the basics of meditation and gave Refuge and the Chenrezig empowerment.
Several of those who took refuge during that first visit have gone on to contribute to Ann Arbor KTC and the parent monastery Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, including our resident Lama Nancy Burks.
Another person who was there is Eleanor Mannikka, who was responsible for keeping the center going into the late 1990s. She says “The first glimpse of Khenpo Rinpoche that I had in my entire life was a pair of brown shoes, seen as I bent very low with everyone else to welcome him into the room.”
David McCarthy, who now lives near KTD, says “I took Refuge in that first ceremony in 1978, and have never for a moment regretted doing so. I treasure my relationship with Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, all the lamas, the Sangha, and the Dharma itself.”
The group began regular meetings after that first visit, doing Chenrezig Sadhana and other practices. It was during that first visit or at a later date that the group was officially labeled a KTC.
Khenpo Karthar usually came every year in the beginning, and other teachers came as well.
In September 1980, His Holiness the 16th Karmapa came to Ann Arbor along with H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Ven. Ponlop Rinpoche and his father (who was the Karmapa’s general secretary), Khenpo Karthar, Yeshey Namdag, translator Ngodrup Burkhar, and others. The Karmapa and his retinue stayed in David Mason’s parents’ house, a large house in Ann Arbor near the university campus.
HH gave a Black Crown Ceremony at the Michigan Union, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche taught at the Michigan Union and there were other events.
David McCarthy shared this story:
Ann Arbor KTC was I believe the first KTC to purchase its own building. We bought 734 Fountain Street in Ann Arbor in the 1980s. Soon after the purchase Ben Bennett and I were at KTD (maybe for a KTC conference) and Ken Parks had told us that the house needed repairs, specifically the roof. Ben told Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche about this, and when we left to drive back, Rinpoche gave Ben an envelope telling him, “this is money to repair the roof.”
When we got back we set up a work day, which turned out to be a beautiful clear early autumn Saturday. One of those kinda rare days in Ann Arbor. Ben (I’m calling him Ben, but now he is Lama Tsultrim Gyaltsen, the Karme Ling Men’s Retreat Master) had gone to purchase the roofing material early that morning. When he got to the center he told us with amazement that the cost of the roofing materials was almost exactly to the dollar what Rinpoche had given him!
Under the direction of Ken Parks, our work crew of myself, Tim, Ben, and Ken replaced the roof in one day.