"We think happiness is what we get when attachment gets what it wants. Buddha says happiness is what we get when we give up attachment."
Established by Ven. Robina in 2005 in California, The Bodhichitta Trust’s sole purpose is to support the work of Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Ven. Robina’s heart lamas, and their Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, the international nonprofit organization founded by Lama in 1975.
Ven. Robina has been working for Lama, Rinpoche and their FPMT since she first met the Lamas at Chenrezig Institute, the FPMT center on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, in 1976. “Anything I can do in any of the projects to help Rinpoche, to help Lama, to fulfill their wishes, that is my job,” says Ven. Robina. “And that is the purpose of the trust: to fulfill Lama and Rinpoche’s wishes.”
The name "Bodhichitta Trust" was given by by Rinpoche – "You can't call it anything but The Bodhichitta Trust," Rinpoche said. “Bodhichitta,” a Sanskrit word, refers to altruism. The trust is an ideal structure to support FPMT, insofar as 100% of all donations to non-profits is tax-deductible.
The Bodhichitta Trust has generated funds from property and investments; leading pilgrimages; organizing cocktail party-auctions; the selling of Chasing Buddha, the award-winning documentary about Ven. Robina's life; sales of Devotion CD, a musical collaboration produced by the trust; organizing, since 2017, annual treks to Lawudo Gompa, Lama Zopa Rinpoche's hermitage and retreat center in the Himalayas, which have raised $41,000; and a 2020 cruise circumambulating Australia which will also raise funds to support Rinpoche's Himalayan retreat center.
To date the Bodhichitta Trust has –
• Brought in more than $1.86 million for FPMT’s Liberation Prison Project during Ven. Robina's tenure as executive director from 1996 to 2009;
• Brought in $41,000 to support Lawudo Gompa, Lama Zopa Rinpoche's hermitage and retreat center in the Nepalese Himalayas.
• Supported the refurbishment of the Lama Yeshe Stupa at Tushita Meditation Centre, the FPMT center in Dharamsala; and has pledged support to refurbish the Vajrasattva Gompa;
• Funded the year-long retreat of a nun; and offers monthly support to two FPMT nuns;
• Offers financial support to released and incarcerated prisoners and their families;
• Supports Ven. Robina’s work as an editor for FPMT's Wisdom Publications;
• Sponsors pujas at Kopan, Lama and Rinpoche's monastery in Kathmandu;
• Makes monthly and annual offerings to various FPMT puja funds;
• Has helped sponsor the teachings of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and His Holiness the Dalai Lama;
• Brought in funds to support San Francisco FPMT center Tse Chen Ling;
And striving to do this through commercial investments and activity.
Working for the lamas since 1976, constantly seeking creative means to support FPMT’s ever-growing community of Buddhist centers and projects and inspired by the efforts of her Dharma brothers and sisters who started businesses to support the organization, Ven. Robina came to see the benefit of using commerce to support the nonprofit work. "It seems so clear to me that commerce is something that we know well in the West," she says. "And we’re geniuses at it."
When a kind donor offered $2 million, Ven. Robina founded The Bodhichitta Trust in 2005 with the hope that its commercial investments might in turn bring in countless dollars to support Lama and Rinpoche.
The funds were invested in properties in Australia and Bulgaria, shares in a UK company that mines diamonds, an Indian start-up company that produced digital products, and a company in California that produces and distributes action sports DVDs.
“I pray we will continue to be successful in our endeavors to support FPMT," Ven. Robina says. "Providing more than half of the operating costs incurred by the prison project in 14 years was an amazing feat, supporting thousands of men and women in prison around the world who otherwise would have nothing and no one, supporting them in their Buddhist practice. And by forming the trust – setting up the charitable trust model – we have an excellent system in place in order to continue to offer funds to FPMT projects in the future. And we continue to do other commercial endeavors"
A cocktail-party auction organized by the trust in North Carolina in November brought in $21,000, and it plans to do more of these events in the future.
"We keep moving, keep trying to be creative and 'think big,' as Lama would always say," says Ven. Robina. "And always with the motivation to be of greatest benefit."