Lama Foundation Oral History Project

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In 1967, Steve Durkee (who goes by Sh. Nooruddeen), Barbara Durkee (who goes by Asha Greer) and Jonathan Altman founded the Lama Foundation. Jonathan purchased 100 acres of land adjacent to Carson National Forest in San Cristobal, New Mexico to build the Lama community. They established a spiritual community, "dedicated to the awakening of consciousness, spiritual practice with respect for all traditions, service, and stewardship of the land." At the time of its foundation, Lama was one of approximately thirty communes in Northern New Mexico. What makes Lama unique is its openness to multiple spiritual paths including Hinduism, Sufism, Christianity, Native American spirituality and Judaism. Rather than having a resident spiritual leader, Lama has a group of "residents" that run the day-to-day operations as well as guide the spiritual attunement of the community. The Lama Board of Trustees is an active board, ensuring that traditions are "transmitted." Lama engages in two seasons: summer "open" season and winter "closed" season. In the summer, the community averages about 30 people consisting of residents, summer retreatants and visitors. When summer ends, the community shrinks to 10-15 people who wish to stay for the whole year and serve Lama.In 1970, Ram Dass, a friend of the founders of Lama, engaged in collaboration with Lama to produce the book Be Here Now. Originally titled, From Bindu to Ojas, the manuscript is an account of Ram Dass's conversion to the guru Neem Karoli Baba's teachings in India. The community's residents edited and illustrated the book which ultimately became a commercial hit when published under the name Be Here Now. The book is considered a bible for the hippie era. The book's revenues provided Lama with a small stream of income in the mid-eighties that helped keep the community stable until other income sources were developed. While all the other collectives and communes in northern New Mexico, and all but a very few in other U.S. locations faded from the scene years ago, Lama endures. Its dedication to consensus decision-making, respect for the land and ecology, and spirituality, continues to invite and inspire new generations. Lama even endured after the catastrophic Hondo Fire in 1996, which destroyed 20 out of 23 buildings and some of the surrounding Carson National Forest. The Lama Foundation decided to rebuild and these efforts continue into the present. Lama remains a viable spiritual community.

From the description of Oral history interviews of the Lama Foundation Oral History Project, 1970-2009, bulk 2005-2009. (University of New Mexico-Main Campus). WorldCat record id: 664005201

In 1967, Steve Durkee (who goes by Sh. Nooruddeen), Barbara Durkee (who goes by Asha Greer) and Jonathan Altman founded the Lama Foundation. Jonathan purchased 100 acres of land adjacent to Carson National Forest in San Cristobal, New Mexico to build the Lama community. They established a spiritual community, “dedicated to the awakening of consciousness, spiritual practice with respect for all traditions, service, and stewardship of the land." At the time of its foundation, Lama was one of approximately thirty communes in Northern New Mexico.

What makes Lama unique is its openness to multiple spiritual paths including Hinduism, Sufism, Christianity, Native American spirituality and Judaism. Rather than having a resident spiritual leader, Lama has a group of "residents" that run the day-to-day operations as well as guide the spiritual attunement of the community. The Lama Board of Trustees is an active board, ensuring that traditions are “transmitted." Lama engages in two seasons: summer “open" season and winter “closed" season. In the summer, the community averages about 30 people consisting of residents, summer retreatants and visitors. When summer ends, the community shrinks to 10-15 people who wish to stay for the whole year and serve Lama.

In 1970, Ram Dass, a friend of the founders of Lama, engaged in collaboration with Lama to produce the book Be Here Now. Originally titled, From Bindu to Ojas, the manuscript is an account of Ram Dass’s conversion to the guru Neem Karoli Baba’s teachings in India. The community's residents edited and illustrated the book which ultimately became a commercial hit when published under the name Be Here Now. The book is considered a bible for the hippie era. The book’s revenues provided Lama with a small stream of income in the mid-eighties that helped keep the community stable until other income sources were developed.

While all the other collectives and communes in northern New Mexico, and all but a very few in other U.S. locations faded from the scene years ago, Lama endures. Its dedication to consensus decision-making, respect for the land and ecology, and spirituality, continues to invite and inspire new generations. Lama even endured after the catastrophic Hondo Fire in 1996, which destroyed 20 out of 23 buildings and some of the surrounding Carson National Forest. The Lama Foundation decided to rebuild and these efforts continue into the present. Lama remains a viable spiritual community.

From the guide to the Oral history interviews of the Lama Foundation Oral History Project, 1970-2009, 2005-2009, (University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Hansen, Linda person
associatedWith Hansen, Linda. person
associatedWith Kohn, Ammi. person
associatedWith Lama Foundation corporateBody
associatedWith Ram Dass. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New Mexico
Subject
Spiritual retreat centers--History--Sources
Communal living--History--Sources
Utopias
Communal living--New Mexico--History--Sources
Spiritual retreat centers--New Mexico--History--Sources
Occupation
Function

Corporate Body

Active 1970

Active 2009

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