When Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche gave the Kalachakra Empowerment in New York City in 1982, it was the very first Tibetan Buddhist event Lama Karma Chötso ever attended. Following that weekend, she continued to take empowerments and teachings from Kalu Rinpoche at Kagyu Thubten Chöling (KTC) in upstate New York where he was preparing participants for the first three-year, three-month retreat in the USA. The Very Venerable Lama Norlha Rinpoche, Abbot of KTC, continued to guide Lama Karma Chötso and, along with His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, remains her closest teacher.
Lama Karma Chötso was ordained as a novice Buddhist nun by Kalu Rinpoche in 1986 prior to entering the second three-year, three-month retreat at KTC where the retreatants practiced in strict seclusion for almost three and a half years. After Lama completed the retreat, she added to her training by learning Tibetan painting, traveling to India and Sikkim twice on pilgrimage and into Tibet on pilgrimage with Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche in 1993 where she first met the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa. Lama stayed in Nepal to study and practice for a few months before returning to the monastery in America.
In November 1996, Lama Karma Chötso came to South Florida to prepare for Lama Norlha Rinpoche’s first visit. At the end of his teachings, Rinpoche instructed her to stay in Florida and begin a center for the study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism. When he returned in 1997, Lama Rinpoche found a small house in Hollywood, Florida with a small but traditional Tibetan shrine room waiting for him. He then bestowed the name “Kagyu Shedrup Chöling” on the center, which means the “Kagyu Dharma Center of Study and Practice”. Lama Karma Chötso kept the center in Hollywood, FL until she raised enough funds to purchase land for the Lama Residence in El Portal. She has also continued to teach in centers she started in the Florida Keys and in Coconut Grove. Many of her students have been under her guidance for as long as 15 years, doing extraordinarily well with their meditation and study of Buddhadharma.
During her time in South Florida, Lama Karma Chötso has given lectures at the Whole Life Expo in Fort Lauderdale, Sunshine Cathedral, Dania Library, St. Thomas University, Barry University, health centers and many other venues. She has given blessings to the manatees at the Miami Seaquarium and the dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key. After having been a member of the Board of Directors of the Interfaith Council of Greater Hollywood for many years, she was President for one year. She has been a Professional Volunteer Chaplain for Hospice Care of Broward County, assisting in the dying process and performing Buddhist death rituals for the deceased. Lama Karma Chötso taught meditation and Tai Qi to the inmates at Broward Correctional Facility from 1998 until 2004. She co-taught a course in Tibetan Buddhism with Dr. Nathan Katz at FIU and is a Committee member of FAU’s Interfaith group.
In February 2010, Kagyu Shedrup Chöling received a permit to build four Tibetan stupas at the Lama Residence. The stupa blog, southfloridakagyustupas.com, shows the progression of the building on the land Lama Karma Chötso consecrated. She has said, “For anyone to even see a stupa in their lifetime indicates that they have accumulated good merit in past lives. But for an entire sangha to actually participate in building stupas shows that all of them have positive connections with one another, with Tibetan Buddhism, with their Lama, and also have inconceivably great merit. This is very unusual to find at any time anywhere, but especially now, and here in South Florida.”