Friday, August 19, 2016

“With your laughter the whole samsara collapses. With your laughter illusion falls apart.”

This is the chorus of a song that was composed by two special friends, in honor of my first Buddhist master (Lama Padma Samten, the first lama that received ordination by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche in Brazil).

I can say to you all that I have this good fortune to meet many masters endowed with a great power:  the ability of completely to break our rigidity and fear by their compassionate laughter.  The great ability and wisdom to show us that the liberation of the pain and sorrow will not happen by the hardness in our eyes or cold smile.

from left to right: Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo; Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche; Gyalwang Dukpa; Lama Padma Samten and H.H. the Dalai Lama

Usually they are masters with great and daring aspirations. They have strong and inspiring presence. They take care us with profound loving-kindness and compassion. And when it is necessary, they also manifest through firm words that put our motivation in the right direction.    

Here in RYI is not being different. The presence and guidance of Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche is very expressive. He also have this powerful laughter, that dissolves any appearance of solidity that we impute to everything around us.

Usually, just to stay close to these master or even keep them in our mind and heart already bestows many blessings. Through their compassionate presence and bright example, they nourish and irrigate the seeds of virtues that, for many lives, are waiting to be awakened.

Their wise words and delightful smile touches our hearts deeply. Because we know that they direct their love for all living beings without distinction, through their “magic dance of doing good in every way that is possible.”

Thus, I rejoice for all the masters who have shown me the path and inspire me to follow it.

~ Jigme from Brazil


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Namo Buddha

Namo Buddha, one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sides in Nepal, was blessed by the Buddha out of his limitless compassion and generosity for sentient beings.  
Since then the place has become a sanctuary for pilgrims. It is the greatest source of direct blessing from the Buddha, and the 'classroom' where still anyone can learn the prowess of the Buddha in the course of saving countless ignorant beings from suffering. 

Just visiting the cave where the Buddha performed the greatest act of human generosity the area, one is enfolded by the compassion of the Buddha. Spending a few days there, one is removed from afflictive state and levitated in the sphere of blithe. Under the great bless and vision of a Tibetan Bodhisattva, the place’s sanctifying potency has been enhanced, the actual words of the Buddha in thousands volumes are studied with the inspiration that had been planted there by the Buddha. 
The learning center, with such a magnificent temple surrounded by many large structures steep near the peak of the steep mountain symbolizes the ever-inspiring story of the land. 

A week long stay there made me very fortunate to see the show of Buddhas and their embodiments’ dharma activity, and also taste the serenity of mind that is Buddha’s essence. I was infused with a great hope for following generations through seeing the generosity of elder monks and masses of cute and innocent little monks.

 Thus, we are not at all hopeless. We are always protected by the entourages of Buddhas, the deity and dakinis. We are nourished by the compassion of Buddhas and served by the Bodhisattva.   

~Champa from Tibet

Friday, July 22, 2016



‘’Mero gau maa jaane ho?’’ 
The only question I have been asked more times than this is whether my hair is real or not. 
‘’Will you visit my village?’’ everyone asks after a short conversation and getting to know each other. 

Having grown up in Nairobi, the capital city of my country, I had become accustomed to people having rather condescending views of the more rural areas. I and a lot of my friends viewed them as boring places where life was generally harder and, as such, most of my generation born and raised in Nairobi would not enjoy trips to the villages where our respective tribes are concentrated. 

Here in Nepal though, I have encountered that more often than not, people take pride in their homelands and villages, regardless of how simple or humble a background they may come from. It’s quite a refreshing experience to say the least. It makes me wonder how people from the rural areas that have moved to Nairobi feel about their villages. It’s something I had never given thought to before, I only knew how I saw it. 

Though I haven’t yet been able to take anyone up on their offer (mostly due to time constraints), I do intend on doing so one of these days. The scenery in some of these villages that I have been able to witness in pictures and during some of my travels outside of Kathmandu are much too alluring to miss out on. And while my experiences may not accurately represent the situation for the majority in either country, it has still been a rather enlightening experience to encounter attitudes like these.

~ Wesley from Kenia

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Shedra Student

The feeling is indescribable; 
I have never studied in a Shedra before. The atmosphere is so welcoming at the Shedra , it feels like home. 

This is my first formal education in Buddhism and I cannot think of a better place than RYI. The whole Shedra experience has been and is very over whelming. 

Personally, I feel that the classes are not just targeted to readings and writing but on how one must practice the path too. And that totally makes sense. And I remember, Chokyi Nyima Rimpoche mentions that we should be both a practitioner and a scholar. 

The way of the Bodhisattva text is very profound  and I feel everyone must learn this text. The lessons in class help those who practice. As we learn more and more, I am more aware about my intentions and actions. Not that I was not aware of them before, but now I am more aware on the importance of the aspirations, dedications , etc. 

What makes learning more enriching is –being able to clear ones doubts. Not everyone who studies Buddhism is a Buddhist, so the question and answer sessions helps clear our very simple questions, that probably has been bothering the mind. It is said that traditionally, one does not question the teacher. But we are encouraged to think, analyze and to ask, if we don’t agree. And this, for me, makes our sessions so stimulating.

For those who have never studied in a Shedra, the thought of it might make it so hard and not so appealing. I am glad to say that if anyone thinks of it that way, they are wrong. The experience is so fascinating and gives you the opportunity to reflect on so many things.  I am so glad that in all the classes I take – we have our own moment of laughter.

There are students from 30 different nationalities studying in the Shedra, talking to different students and sharing stories. 

Basically, I am trying to say: I am not wasting my time.!

This is only an introduction to my experience in the last 3 months. I have not even gotten into point about the amazing retreats and the amazing opportunities.

~Jigme from Bhutan

Monday, July 4, 2016

Keeping Philosophy Juicy

Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche urges us to become scholar-practitioners. At the same time, Rinpoche and other lamas, khenpos, lopöns and the texts themselves often warn us against becoming merely “dry scholars.” The tri-fold approach to studying philosophy that is urged upon as at RYI—listening, contemplating, and meditating—is precisely a method to bring vitality to study, to make it into lived experience.

One of the texts that we study is Ju Mipham Rinpoche’s Gateway to Knowledge. It is easy enough to imagine that this compendium of abhidharma, tightly packed with taxonomies, categories and lists, would be a dry philosophical text. As a phenomenology of all that appears and all that we experience, however, I find the more I study it, the more I think about it, the more it is on my mind, then the more the text comes alive and presents itself in life, as life, as if I can read it there everyday, everywhere.

For example, suffering—the first noble truth (which Mipham details according to different systems of categorization)—is omnipresent. In New York City, the first noble truth even rides the subway, putting the three types of suffering on vivid display. That homeless man there in the corner, the suffering of suffering; that polished woman, just across the way, shining with the gleam of expensive clothes and make-up, her glow of self-assurance embodies the suffering of change, for even these peak experiences, when all is well, can’t help but ensure decline. And here, as I look around the subway car in wonder, even just shifting in my seat and absentmindedly picking at my fingernails, always reacting, I display the suffering of conditioned things, what Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche calls “basic anxiousness,” which is expressed by “the way we gaze at the wall or the mountains or the sky, the way we scratch, the way we timidly smile, the way we twitch our faces, the way we move unnecessarily—the way we do everything.”

In saṃsāra, the very way I look around the subway car and describe my fellow travelers already reveals conceptual mind, looking to categorize, narrativize, make sense of. The way I react emotionally and intellectually, even the rise and fall of my bodily tension, stillness and jitteriness, all of this dynamic reaction to my environment works together to fabricate the story of who and where I am, and what I am doing, and why, and thus reveals the everyday mechanism of saṃsāra, the kleśas that initiate and support every action, karma, in a cycle without beginning or end. Mipham Rinpoche’s text teaches us to discern and understand samsaric experience and this understanding helps transform perception, and eventually (causes and conditions coming together, of course!) experience itself.

In this way, I understand texts themselves to be the dynamic expression of reality the way it is without the confusion of conceptual grasping. The texts we study not only point the way, but can come alive in the realm of appearances by supporting the transformation of our perception and experience of this world in which we live, both on and off the meditation cushion. I am grateful to be constantly reminded to infuse our learning with the juice of practice—to listen, contemplate, and meditate.

~ Shireen from USA 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Leaving Kathmandu

I had been studying and living in Bodhanath (Kathmandu) for the last 5 years, benefiting from a unique environment to study and practice Buddhism. 
couple of months ago, as my classes were finished and my family was waiting for me in Europe, I had to leave half of my heart in this incredible place and move back to old familiar Europe. 

As I was preparing for this transition, I was so touched by the warmth of the Rangjung Yeshe Institute community – my professors, fellow students and close friends. It is extraordinary to have shared these years with so many brilliant and warm-hearted scholars and practitioners of all origins and ages. In this little neighborhood, it is impossible to walk home without meeting a few friends on the way. In this holy place of Bodhanath, we are constantly suffused with the blessings of the gigantic stupa and the numerous authentic monastic institutions that have developed there. 

In our dear institute, the knowledge and kindness of the monastery’s abbot, monks and teachers is continuously fueling our studies. The last years were also rich in creative exchanges; as there are many poets and artist in the community, we had regular gatherings were the magic of this unpredictable city led us to extraordinary places and precious moments. 

I will miss the the full moon concerts in Pashupatinat, the Jazz Festival in Autumn, getting a glimpse of the sunset in Swayambu, meeting my sweet girlfriends in one of these charming brunch places, being covered with flowers for Newari new year, listening to a latin Jazz guitar player around the stupa, roasted beans from the street sellers, catching sight of the snow mountains after the mansoon, and so many more charming aspects of life in Kathmandu, my second home.

Chloé from Belgium

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Learning Tibetan Strategies

A classmate recently approached me asking about ways to improve her Tibetan. This is something I reflect on a lot (as I’m sure we all do!) and, although there must already be 
many such lists, I thought I might share a few less common approaches in light of the variety individual learning-styles.

1.) Wechat (Tib: skad ‘phrin )

For me, Wechat has been of immense benefit. The walkie-talkie style voice chat allows you to listen to messages as many times as needed until you understand. Once you understand you can response with the possibility of canceling your message before sending in case you make a
mistake. This gives you a little more space to recall grammar, words, pronunciation, etc. than in a real-time conversation. There are also subscription accounts that send you short articles about Tibetan issues in composed in literary Tibetan as well as Tibetan lessons spoken in both Lhasa and Amdo dialects. This is a really great way to continuously immerse yourself in an Tibetan language environment. The one disclaimer is that Wechat is heavily monitored, so if you chat with friends in Tibetan it’s best to keep the conversation to topics like hot thukpa and cold weather.

2.) Get loud! (dpe klog )

This approach would seem to comprise the entirety of Tibetan pedagogy and is surprisingly helpful. Initially, I was skeptical of how volume could improve one’s spoken language. However, I eventually realized that often in social situations a combination of social anxiety and mispronunciation can make one all but incomprehensible. The idea then is that, when you do your reading, whether it being daily recitations or reading from a book, see how loud you can read. It might sound easy but reading like that for a half hour is indeed challenging. Do this a few times a week and you’ll find your Tibetan flowing out with confidence and enunciation.

3.) Umm… Conversation fillers…

There are a few phrases that can help fill the awkward silences inherent in beginner language learners’ speech. Not only will this make your addressee more comfortable when you’re fumbling to recollect words and structures, but it will also buy you time to say whatever you’re trying to express, meanwhile creating an illusion of fluency (i.e., a unbroken stream of language). We use them a lot in English too so it’s only a matter of learning and implementing them in Tibetan. A few high frequency ones are:


A grammatical structure that works in a similar manner is replacing your main object with the pronoun ‘di. For example, someone asks you for the time and you’re very poor with numbers. So you say: ཆུ་ཚོད་་་་་འདི་རེད། ཆུ་ཚོད་ལྔ་དང་ཕྱད་ཀ་རེད་བཞག  

In English it would sound like, “It is ….let me see… oh, five thirty!” This structure is commonly used when the name of something escapes you. Like the movie you went to see  last night: གློག་བརྙན་མིང་ལ་་་་་འདི་ཟེར་་་་་་Spiderman ཟེར་གྱི་འདུག

4.) Enjoy not understanding (mi shes pa yang skyon med )

One of the ills of the modern institution of education is to place too much importance on “understanding” during the learning process. This is particularly true in language classes. Instead, I would encourage you to try to see how much you do know instead of shutting down or being
overwhelmed with how much you are missing. If you focus on what you do understand, you’ll be able to work with it. If you focus on you’re your missing you’ll just stress yourself out.

5.) Make it fun (dga’ spro che ba )

Many second language learners of English learn vast amounts through films, television, and other outlets of popular culture. While the Tibetan movie industry might be lacking compared to Holly/Bolly-wood (although there is a sizeable production coming from A mdo) there are
a few - check out “Richard Gere is My Hero”  “Richardངའི་དཔའ་བོ་ཡིན”. There still are many other comparable channels. Tibetan music is extremely rich and, luckily enough for us, all the music videos have lyric subtitles. A friend and I have been enjoying listening to songs and translating their lyrics. There are also many Chinese comedies and dramas as well as other international films dubbed into Tibetan.

Good luck with your language learning! Bod yig khri lo shog !

~Lowell from USA