Showing posts from 2008

A Traditional Wedding in Nepal

Saturday morning, at Buddhanilkantha next to the 5m-long Sleeping Vishnu statue in a pond, under a colorful tent, a traditional Nepali wedding took place between my English friend from the summer course and his Nepali sweetheart. We were so excited that we would be invited to witness a traditional wedding ceremony, and I personally was joyful I was finally wearing my sari, which until then had been waiting two and a half years in my closet to be worn (Putting on a sari is hard work!). The mother of the bride welcomed us and we were seated in front of a smoky fire pit along with much burning of incense. The pit was totally encircled by orange flower garlands, and loads of trays with both small and large items that were part of the rituals…plenty of green leafed bowls, filled with different kinds of substances, colored powders, rice, oils, yogurt, flower petals, etc. were completing the altar scene.

In contrast with the weddings in the West, the bride wore a red sari, and was astound…

Ease of Scholarship at RYI

Speaking from my personal perspective, the academic routine of a third-year student of 'Buddhist Studies with Himalayan Language' here in Kathmandu is greatly influenced by the papers that have to be written for the various courses that one is taking. As every subject is related to a classical Buddhist text, the research that has to be undertaken in order to exhaust the profound meanings of the texts, can completely be done on the basis of original Tibetan sources, like explanatory commentaries.

The Institute was recently kindly gifted a digital collection of several thousand classical Tibetan texts by the renowned scholar Gene Smith. Since the texts were scanned and saved on a hard drive, students are now able to conveniently access an overwhelming digital library through an internal network. Time-taking research in several monasteries' libraries can thus be avoided since the new medium includes collections of various Buddhist sects and lineages, all systematically ordered…


Devadatta was tapping his report on the computer, when Mahakashyapa leaned over his cubicle. A half-eaten jam doughnut in one hand, and sugar crumbs all over a grey cardigan. Devadatta shook his head and mumbled, “So where’s mine, Malley?”

“Aaaw. Aahh. It couldn’t wait to be eaten.”

Before Devadatta could reply, his phone rang. “Dave, it’s Nagy. I need you to check out a newbie on the Intertown Express tonight.”

Mahakashyapa was still enjoying his jam doughnut as Devadatta rushed past.
He was looking blankly at the other passengers as the train sped past each stop. Or rather, his eyes were looking but his mind was elsewhere. To his young daughter waiting at home. And to his wife watching the 6:00 news on their kitchen TV. He wondered what’s for dinner tonight. He wondered what he’ll say to them. And he wondered what he’ll do tomorrow – now that the “9-to-5” routine doesn’t apply to him anymore. They have enough savings to live off for the moment, but they’ll have to be careful.

He fe…

Our Third MA Graduate!

Congratulations to Krishna Gopal Singh for successfully defending his
MA thesis on November 5, 2008! Krishna's thesis was entitled: 

"The Mindof Awakening - The Foundation of Mahāyāna Buddhism: An Annotated Translation of the Cittotpāda Chapter of the Bodhisattvabhūmi".

Trip to Namo Buddha

A few weeks ago our first year class took a field trip to Kathmandu University and to Namo Buddha, a holy Buddhist pilgrimage site. They are both about two hours from Boudha. It was my first time to really see Nepal outside of Kathmandu. It is quite ugly and at the same time quite beautiful. 
There is so much poverty but there is also so much beautiful landscape. We passed through so many different environments: small country towns, crowded markets, breathtaking countryside. 
Kathmandu University is interesting because it is so small and modest but at the same time so ambitious, it really took a lot of struggle and work to get it to the modest capacity it is at now. The director gave us a talk and a tour and he seemed very enthusiastic about our program, and very genuine. He was educated partly in a monastery. After going to Kathmandu University we went to Namo Buddha, where there is a monastery and a stupa. It is supposedly the place where in a former life the Buddha came upon…

Living in a Tibetan host family

“This is Dorje. He’s a good friend of mine. He’s gonna be your host father… OK?”
After this short introduction by Gerry, I had to face my host parents for the first time, not speaking one word of Tibetan. To be perfectly honest, I knew the one phrase that everybody knows: Tashi delek!  But it wasn’t really sufficient to interact with them on an everyday basis! Therefore, during the first few weeks, body language and my host sister’s English helped me to get acclimated. 

However, day by day (or maybe I should say month by month) my Tibetan was getting better, and the conversation became a little bit more interesting during dinner. Because I was taking Tibetan language classes at the Shedra all day, dinner was really the main time my host family and I spent together. 
The family consisted of my host father, Dorje, my host mother, Tsering, my host sister, Tenzin, and me. Being able to talk about what I did during the day, or why I was going out, were small victories against this crazy lan…

Congratulations Sophie Greenewalt!

Congratulations to Sophie Greenewalt, who after only two years of Tibetan study is already translating for the Shedra! The she recently translated for a three week short course on The 37 Practices of the Bodhisattva taught by one of our monastery’s newer teachers, Lopon Drupgyu Tendar. In Sophie’s own words:

'I like to listen so I figured I would like translating. In the past three weeks I have learned that translating is more than just listening. I have never had to listen so carefully and I have never been responsible for someone's words in such an immediate way. Nor have I been put on the spot for such an extended period of time. 
It's not easy. But, fortunately, I had this opportunity to practice and am slowly becoming accustomed to awkwardly molding Tibetan sentences into English in front of a room of staring people. One has to start somewhere and translating for a short course was a good place to start. I hope the Shedra will continue to provide opportunities like t…

A visit to Kathmandu University with Pilgrimage to Namo Buddha

The months of March/April are a really nice time to be in Nepal. The temperature in the last weeks has been on average 27 degrees Celsius throughout the day and thus the field trip organized by the shedra was a very much welcomed change of the schedule.

The main destination of the two busses filled with students that left Boudha at 8:00 in the morning, was Namo Buddha. 

This very important Buddhist pilgrimage site is related to one of the marvelous deeds performed by Buddha Shakyamuni in the lifetime directly preceding his enlightenment. It is said that the Buddha, at that time a young prince, after having seen a starving tigress that was unable to provide its cubs enough food, out of pure empathy and altruism, created a wound in his arm from which the tiger could drink to recoup her strength and then gave his entire body to the tigress, and was devoured.

On the way to Namo Buddha one passes the actual campus of the Kathmandu University (KU) in Dulikhel and we used that occasion to visit…

"Time" as a Paper Topic

As part of the second year philosophy class we need to write a term paper. This time our instructor, Khenpo Sherab Dorje, and translator, Catherine Dalton, gave us a wonderful opportunity to choose our topic from the text we are studying, Madhyantavibhanga by Maitraiya, and to analyze it through our own unique perspective and original ideas instead of copycat the ideas of the philosophical texts.
I thought it was a great chance to write about a topic that I am not forced to write about, but to develop my thoughts about a topic that really interests me and that has had an important influence on me through listening and reflecting on it.
Therefore, for my paper topic I choose “time.” In class one day we had a discussion on that topic, and that teaching had a great impact on me. My reflections on time floated in my mind for days, and that is why I would like to share these thoughts with more people.
Through my understanding and what we discussed in class, ‘time’ is totally a mental and a so…

Midterm Exams

Time is running, after few days we will do the middle term exams. We all are ready to do it and this means that we have studied a lot and achieved sufficient understanding in the Khenpo's Buddhist philosophy class and during the lessons of Colloquial Tibetan.
Now we are able to speak Tibetan quite well with local Tibetans in their own language and in class we can speak and ask quesions in Tibetan about the texts that we have studied. It is satisfactory to see how we are growing in knowledge.
At the beginning of the academic year we were completely uncertain about what we were about to learn, but now I can see that the past semester and half were not wasted time since now I am not as I was in the beginning-- I'm better.
In seven months I became able to communicate with people of the Tibetan reality, we are doing a long travel inside something different, it is not our ordinary world in which we lived before, I am experiencing something that is not accessible to the most westeners…

My Parent’s visit to Nepal

It is amazing if you think what big changes time can bring. Three years ago when I announced to my parents that I want to come and study and live in Nepal, they were absolutely negative. Or the word that would describe them better is, TERRIFIED.

So now, three years later, not only have they come for holidays in Nepal but they actually admitted that it was the best trip of their lives, and that even in the next 20 years they would have never experienced back in our country what they experienced here in Nepal!

With the opportunity of the one week break in the middle of the semester, they came to meet me in Nepal, see how my life is here and enjoy unique sightseeing and activities that only Nepal can offer.

We spent most of the time out of Kathmandu city in Chitwan jungle park and Pokhara. Living in Kathmandu I have the opportunity to study the Dharma and be close to Lamas and Teachers, but to be honest, Kathmandu city is so polluted that some times living in this city can be a bit frustrat…

Bodhichitta: Aspiration for Enlightenment

I would like to share in short, few words on Bodhichitta and its benefits which I have understood from Shantideva’s “The Way of the Bodhisattva”. The Sanskrit term chitta means “mind”, “thought”, “attitude”. Bodhi means “enlightenment,” “awakening,” and is cognate with the term Buddha himself. Therefore, it means “mind of enlightenment,” “awakening mind”, the specific characteristic of buddhahood. The Tibetan term is “byang chub kyi sems”.

Shantideva in his “The Way of the Bodhisattva” considered bodhichitta as one of the root aspirations for buddhahood. It has two aspects – absolute and relative. On the relative level, it is great motivation to attain buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings and practice the path of love, compassion, the six transcendent perfections, etc., for achieving that goal. On the absolute level, it is the direct cognizance of reality, the truth of emptiness.

Benefits of Bodhichitta : Bodhichitta brings temporary and ultimate benefits. Temporary bene…

Coming from Brazil to Boudhanath

In 2002 I was living in Chagdud Gonpa Khadro Ling, in Brazil with my Root Lama Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche. During that year I heard of the Shedra by a former student and made aspirations to come and study Tibetan Language and Buddhist Philosophy there. Since I was scheduled to go into long retreat I thought I would have to postpone this plan. With the Paranirvana of my teacher, his son Tulku Jigme Rinpoche, sat with me and said that it would be good for me if I came to Nepal to study, “specially if you go to Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche’s Shedra.”

Following Tulku Jigme’s advice I came to Nepal in 2003 to study under Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. From then until today almost five years have passed, and during that time I had amazing opportunities. Nepal in general and Rangjung Yeshe Institute in particular offer an environment rich in opportunities to each and every individual that wishes to learn Buddhism, Tibetan and Sanskrit.

Here I have met amazing Lamas, learned Tibetan in the classroom, sitting in g…

Visit to Lumbini


the third day of the Tibetan New Year is the date of the annual "Prayer for World Peace" in Lumbini, Southern Nepal. The Shedra Losar (New Year)- holidays enabled me to go there by bus and participate in the beginning of the ceremony. Lumbini is the birth place of Buddha Shakyamuni and the sites that are related to the old Shakyan Kingdom can still be visited. Any time I visited Lumbini I enjoyed the calm and peaceful atmosphere that I experienced as soon as I arrived there. This place is also referred to as the "Fountain of World Peace". The ceremony was opened by a very moving speech of the Lama that hosts this event and addressed the need for our aspirations towards a world of more harmony and less selfishness. Then the actual prayers started and even though the locality of "The Great Lotus Stupa" is affiliated to the Kagyud tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, all the invited monks from the surrounding Chinese, Japanese, Shri Lankan and other monast…

The first year philosophy class at the Shedra

It is 10.30 in the morning, our teacher, Khenpo Jampa Donden sits in front on a throne and we all begin chanting the praises to Mañjushri. After the chanting, the Khenpo starts the class by picking a little piece of paper out of a cup which contains our names, and he goes on by asking that person a question related to the chapter that we are studying.
This is how they proceed in the Tibetan monasteries. The teacher gives a word by word commentary on a specific text, which in our case, is the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra by Shāntideva. Then, at the beginning of each lesson, a student has to answer a question related to the topic.

Usually, our Khenpo gives us the possibility to ask questions in return, which is a great opportunity since he is a very learned monk, who has studied and practiced for many years.
The text we study is a great classic, one of the most important and fundamental Mahayana treatises in Tibetan Buddhism, studied throughout all the sects and monasteries. The Bodhisattvacaryā…

Studying in Nepal

I came to Nepal from Italy in order to study at the Shedra. I was not skilled in English, in fact it is quite poor, but my motivation was stable and complete and now that I completed already one semester I’m feeling enough satisfied. To study in Nepal in our Shedra is for me very useful: I can stay here, the original first Buddhist Place, study the complete Dharma and I can learn and start to use properly Tibetan language with the local people. I am starting to share with them their usage and tradition since in those traditions I’m feeling very comfortable. It is beautiful to interact with the other students and now I have a sufficient number of Tibetan friends so that the every-day life is satisfactory for me. I came here being not sure about the results of my studies because English is not my native language, but now that I can see directly my results, I have no regrets.
Some people in Italy were skeptic about what I was about to do, but now we all are happy.
My understanding of Dhar…

Celebrating Losar with a Tibetan family

The highlight of the Tibetan calendar and also of living in Bouddha is the New Year, Losar, taking place in February. (lo = year, sar = new) Already weeks before the actual date all kind of preparations are going on: People clean up their houses and specially the house-shrines, prepare huge amounts of special biscuits called kabse and give order to make new dresses chupas.

The second last evening before the New Year according to the tradition the family joins together and eats a special type of soup called guthuk. (gu = 9, thuk = soup) Not only does this soup contain nine different ingredients, but also small pieces of paper, covered by bread on which symbolic words are written. Every member of the family will receive one of them and the meaning can be quite auspicious. There are words such as sun, symbolizing a friendly and shiny character, salt which means being lazy, moon for somebody who dispels other peoples obstacles or chilly representing a rather wrathful character.

The actual l…

Rangjung Yeshe Institute- “The right place for me”

I was brought up in Assam, India. I think myself to be very fortunate to be born in a Sherpa community where our religion is Buddhism. But during my stay in India, I never had the opportunity to come in contact with the actual meanings of the teachings of Buddhism. At home, we used to offer water to Buddha and different deties without knowing the exact purpose of it. We were doing it because our grandparents used to, and now so do we. My parents were not much educated and so we never had a discussion on the meaning of Dharma. They only did the rituals that they had learned from their parents.

When I first came to Nepal from India in the year 1994, I came in contact with my cousin brother, Phuri Sherpa, who guided me by providing me books on Buddhism. Slowly I started reading them, then I came to realize that we should give our precious human life for the study of dharma. I also had the opportunity to receive empowerments from different Rinpoches. I joined a school, Shanti Vidyalaya, Bo…

For the sake of the Dharma

Taking the decision to come and live and study in Nepal was the greatest risk I had ever taken in my life. For months my mind was tormented of whether I should dare to do something like that and escape secretly to Nepal for Buddhist studies. I have a wonderful loving family, but they have no understanding of Buddhism. Knowing that I wanted to study Buddhism in Nepal, they forbade me to come. Having no other options, I had to use skillful means in order to come here to study the Dharma. Running away from home and my family secretly to Nepal with the excuse of going on holidays with my boyfriend to Latin America, I just took a plane alone and landed on the other side of the world. It opened a new chapter in my life and has turned out to be the most beneficial …

Different kinds of worries like, am I going to be able to live in a country like Nepal, with so different lifestyle from my homeland? Are these kind of studies going to be what I was looking for? How I am going to deal emotionally…
Rangjung Yeshe 2007-2008 Students

...from Sonam from Germany

Hallo there,
my name is Sonam and I'm from Germany. I started my shedra studies in the fall semester of 2006, mainly with the intention to learn Tibetan. 

Now, one and a half years later, the spring semester of 2008 has just begun. Shedra courses in Buddhist Philosophy as well as in Classical and Colloquial Tibetan enabled me to read original Tibetan texts and to communicate about their contents with the Khenpo (monastic professor). The efficient approaches of the language and philosophy classes that are both, modern and traditional, not only provide thorough preparation for the midterm and final exams, but are also of immediate use for the life in Nepal. Hearing the technical grammatical constructions of the Colloquial class spoken by little monks in the monastery yard or by other Tibetan speaking people here in Kathmandu/Boudha defenitely helps for progressing faster in language skills. 

Throughout the period of my stay here in Boudha this place has always been quiet and conducive …

Anya says

My first visit to Nepal was for a pilgrimage to the Great Stupa of Boudhanath. I like to travel, and spending leisure time exploring all the facets of Nepal was a great experience. This time however, it is different. This time I have met a challenge. I have begun studying at the Rangjung Yeshe Institute.

It happened somewhat spontaneously to me. I was interested in learning Tibetan language, but I didn’t know where and how. I didn’t know much about the shedra my fist time in Kathmandu, but had heard about it in Russia. When I first arrived I didn’t know what to expect about the education system in Nepal. But after studying just one month of classical Tibetan we were translating Tibetan texts. I was very surprised! The method of teaching here is very fast and it takes a lot of studying and effort, but the results have been amazing.

Besides language classes we take philosophy classes taught by khenpos in the traditional Tibetan style. In the text we are reading, The Way of the Bodhisattva…