The Boston area is home to nearly 50 colleges and universities, so it’s no surprise that it is also a vibrant hub of Buddhist Studies. Buddhism arrived in Boston in the late 1800s, when Chinese immigrants were hired to take the place of striking factory workers. Around the same time, Buddhist teachings gained traction in Boston’s literary circles after the Transcendentalist magazine The Dial published part of the Lotus Sutra.
Today, Boston supports a thriving scene of dharma practice and study. In addition to temples, bookstores, and museums, it hosts the Buddhist Digital Resource Center, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving Buddhist texts, and Wisdom Publications, a publisher of Buddhist books.
1| Drikung Meditation Center
Formerly located in Arlington, the Drikung Meditation Center is led by the Venerable Lama Konchok Sonam, a Tibetan monk who endured imprisonment and torture before escaping his homeland in 2003. In 2005 Lama Sonam commissioned an exact replica and spiritual emanation of Lhasa’s Jowo Rinpoche statue to benefit the Tibetan community in exile. The DMC is currently between homes, as it is in the process of constructing a new temple. Check the website for current visiting hours.
29 Mohawk Street, Danvers
2| Museum of Fine Arts
Home to the largest collection of Japanese art outside of Japan, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is committed to preserving and exhibiting Buddhist paintings, sculptures, and ritual objects from diverse traditions. Although the Japanese Buddhist Temple Room is currently closed for renovations, you can get a behind-the-scenes look as conservators restore seven Buddhist statues in a four-year exhibition, Conservation in Action: Japanese Buddhist Sculpture in a New Light (open until July 3, 2022). The MFA also boasts an extensive collection of Chinese Buddhist sculptures, shrines, and tombs—stop by the Paul and Helen Bernat Galleries to view the sarcophagus of Zhizhe (538–597 CE), the fourth ancestor of Tiantai Buddhism.
465 Huntington Avenue
Head across the river to Cambridge to visit the Harvard-Yenching Library, which holds the most comprehensive East Asian collection of any American university. Its Special Collections include 450 hanging scrolls and thousands of manuscripts dating back to the 14th century, as well as 17th- and 18th-century editions of the Kanjur and Tanjur, the texts that make up the Tibetan Buddhist canon. Check the Library’s website for upcoming tours, exhibits, and other public events.
2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge
4| Harvard Divinity School
From the Harvard-Yenching Library, walk just 400 feet north to Harvard Divinity School, home to the Buddhist Ministry Initiative and other programs for training Buddhist leaders from around the world. Many of the BMI’s events are free and open to the public, like its annual Buddhism and Race Conference. (Past speakers include Larry Yang, Duncan Ryuken Williams, and Rhonda Magee.) Check online for a full schedule of lectures and workshops.
45 Francis Avenue, Cambridge
5| Rangzen Tibetan Place
For dinner, grab a “Special Gratitude” bowl at Rangzen Tibetan Place, a cozy, family-style restaurant that offers a mix of traditional dishes and modern innovations. Established in 1999 as the first Tibetan restaurant in the Boston area, Rangzen has built its reputation as one of the area’s hidden gems. As each dish is prepared, chefs work to minimize food waste and chant prayers of gratitude for all who have made the meal possible. Rangzen’s signature momos (handcrafted dumplings) are now available to take home frozen in batches of 50.
24 Pearl Street, Cambridge
6| Wat Nawamintara-rachutis
Travel 40 minutes south of Boston to visit Wat Nawamintararachutis, the largest Thai Buddhist temple outside of Thailand and one of only a handful of temples in the U.S. with Thai Buddhist monks in residence. Originally constructed in honor of King Bhumibhol Adulyadej, who was born in Cambridge in 1927, the 55-acre complex sits on a former horse farm and features a 4,000-pound golden Buddha statue. In addition to daily meditation and chanting services, the monks in residence offer lessons in Thai language, music, and dance for children and adults.
382 South St. East, Raynham
7| Barre Center for Buddhist Studies
For a more intensive experience, consider taking a weekend course at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. Founded in 1991 by Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg, BCBS is about 60 miles from Boston in Barre, Massachusetts, just down the hill from the Insight Meditation Society. BCBS retreats integrate silent contemplation and conversation, and participants are encouraged to connect over meals and in small groups as they volunteer in the garden, visit the 8,500-volume library, or meander through the grounds. Check the website for a list of upcoming courses both online and residential.
149 Lockwood Road, Barre
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