IMI History

1971

Kopan Monastery becomes the first monastic community established by Lama Thubten Yeshe. It has its beginnings in the Solu Khumbu region of Nepal. Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the reincarnation of the Lawudo Lama, a yogi of the tiny hamlet of Lawudo, fulfilled the promise of the previous Lawudo Lama to start a monastic school for the local children. The school was called Mount Everest Center. The 25 monks spent the winter months at Kopan, located on a hilltop just ouside Kathmandu, Nepal, finally moving down fulltime in 1973.

1974

A group of ten western students take ordination in Bodhgaya, India, in January. These new monastics join the five previously ordained western monks and nuns at Kopan monastery forming the first western community. A program of study and meditation is offered. Lama Yeshe names the community International Mahayana Institute.

1976

An IMI branch is established in Dharamsala, India where monks and nuns undertake study and retreat.

1978

An IMI Council is established to oversee finances, personal records, education, monastic conduct, and membership. IMI monks and nuns continue to study at Kopan Monastery where Geshe Jampa Gyatso is teaching.

Lama Yeshes moves many of his activities to Manjushri Institute in the UK, including IMI. Twenty-five monks and nuns study the Geshe Training Program with a core curriculum on Buddhist philosophy, including Dura, Drubta, Lorig, Tarig, Salam, and Seventy Topics.

Financial assistance to IMI monks and nuns to undertake the study program at Manjushri is offered by IMI. This is the first financial assistance plan offered by IMI. A fund had been established by a small group of Lama’s students.

The first IMI bulletin is produced, in September.

1979

In what is a revolutionary proposal, Lama Yeshe for the first time invites a Tibetan nun to join Kopan monastery and study with the monks, Ven. Tsenla, and instructs her to build a monastery for Tibetan nuns.

1981

Ven. Elizabeth Drukier, director of Institut Vajra Yogini in France, buys an old manor farmhouse in the countryside, in Marzens, near the institute, in response to Lama Yeshe’s appeal for a place for the IMI sangha.

1982

Lama Yeshe establishes Nalanda Monastery as the first western monastery. Initially meant for nuns, Lama decides to offer it to monks.

Lama Yeshe organizes the first Enlightened Experience Celebration in India, with his monks and nuns in mind. Some 130 IMI sangha attended, along with up to 700 laypeople. The five-month series of teachings, initiations and retreats were given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Song Rinpoche, Ling Rinpoche, Serkong Rinpoche, as well Lama and Lama Zopa Rinoche. They were held in Bodhgaya and Dharamsala.

Lama Yeshe invites for the first time His Holiness the Dalai Lama to teach in Europe, where His Holiness visits, among other sites, the FPMT center in the mountains outside Granada, which he names Osel Ling. Also, His Holiness stays at Nalanda for two nights; and teaches to 700 at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa.

1983

Lama Yeshe gives a talk in September to monks at Nalanda Monastery stressing the importance of harmony in the community. He offers advice for dealing with the delusions of mundane life in a monastic setting.

1984

Lama Yeshe passes away in March, in Los Angeles, California. Lama Zopa Rinopche takes on the role of Spiritual Director of FPMT, including IMI.

1986

The growing community of Tibetan nuns now studying at Kopan is named by Lama Zopa Rinoche Kachoe Ghakyil.

1989

At the CPMT meeting in July, the care of IMI sangha at FPMT centers is discussed. On the basis of the discussion, the first sangha policy is established and included in the FPMT Handbook.

1992

The first Sangha Magazine published at Kopan, edited by Ven. Fran.

1994

The eighty nuns of Khachoe Ghakyil move into their own premises in the valley below Kopan.

1995

Ven. Roger Kunsang is appointed Director of IMI by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

1996

The community of nuns at Chenrezig Nuns community officially established as Chenrezig Nuns Community at Chenrezig Insitute.

A three-week nuns training course is organized in February in Bodhgaya entitled “Life as a Western Buddhist Nun” with Vens. Tenzin Palmo and Thubten Chodron, with IMI nuns Vens. Sangye Khadro, Jampa Chokyi and Siliana particitating.

Currently, there are 150 IMI monks and nuns. Since the first ordinations in 1970, of the 225 western men and women who have taken vows, seventy-five have disrobed.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche indicates that he would like newly ordained monks and nuns to commit themselves to living in a sangha community, or similarly conducive environment that supports subduing the mind: five years for a monk and four years for a nun. There needs to be balanced education available, particularly for those first years, Rinpoche said. This education does not just mean philosophical study, but a balanced education to produce good monk and nuns. Rinpoche has said time and again that the main protection for one’s ordination is the study and meditation of lam-rim, to generate some experience.

1997

The FPMT Board of Director, in September, discusses the situation of the IMI sangha at its annual meeting.
Thubten Shedrup Ling monastery, now constructed, is officially opened.

1998

Ven. Chantal Tenzin Dekyi is appointed Director of IMI by Lama Zopa Rinpoche. She encourages communications among the sangha and the coming together of the IMI communities and individuals. A proposal is made to create a position with FPMT International Office to take care of all IMI monastic activities.

1999

In February, IMI monks and nuns in attendance at His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Dharamsala take the opportunity to meet and talk.

The first preordination course, now an annual event, takes place at Tushita Meditation Centre in Dharamsala.

2002

Construction of Sera’s IMI House in India begins.

2004

Ven. Tony Beaumont is appointed Director of IMI by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

2004

During the Mahamudra retreat led by Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Adelaide, South Australia, the IMI monks and nuns gather at a special meeting requested by Rinpoche. Discussions take place on the care of our sangha and the needs of an aging sangha community.

2006

IMI monks and nuns participate in a discussion on ordination policy at the FPMT Geshe Conference held in Sarnath, India, December.

2007

In May, Ven. Losang Monlam is appointed Director of IMI by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

2008

On January 28, IMI was formally registered as a non-profit organization, in San Francisco, California.

2009

In December,  IMI was recognized as a church or religious order by the United States government and granted 501(c)(3) non-profit tax exempt status.

2013

Ven Chantal T. Dekyi from Vajra Yogini Institute again appointed as IMI Director.

2016

Dorje Pamo Nunnery is France is resurrected. Ven Chantal T. Dekyi is appointed the first coordinator.

2017

On October 1st. Ven Losang Tendar from Nalanda Monastery is appointed as new IMI Director.