Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nepal Adventure: Intentions

A peek inside of my airplane carry on ...
It's been a good few months in the USA, but Buddhism is calling me back east. I leave for Nepal in a few days, followed by a return to India.

I will be living and studying at Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal for at least a month. Kopan is home to 300+ monks from Tibet and Nepal. It is also an international study center that hosts the popular annual November course, first offered by Kopan's founders, Lama Zopa Rinpoche and his teacher Lama Yeshe in 1971. I was very fortunate to secure a spot in this year's November course.

I first learned about the November course this past January, while taking the Mind Training course at one of Kopan's sister centers in India, the Root Institute in Bodhgaya. Some of my fellow students and roommates were close friends who met in last year's November course. I really enjoyed spending time with and getting to know them. They inspired me to look into attending this year's November course.
The five friends to my right took the November course in 2013.
The November course, which begins on November 11 will be taught by Australian monk Venerable Gyatso. We are also scheduled to receive teachings from Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the Spiritual Director of the international nonprofit, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT).

I first met Lama Zopa during His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teachings last December, and then got to spend more time with him at the Root Institute. His organization, FPMT transmits the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values through teaching, meditation, and service. Kopan Monastery, the Root Institute, and Tushita where I also studied earlier this year, are all part of FPMT.

I will not leave Kopan Monastery for the duration of the month-long course, but have made some plans for my time in Nepal before the course begins. I will be volunteering with Street Dog Care in Kathmandu, and am looking forward to visiting my friend Lama Dhundup's young nonprofit, Ca-foundation, which helps children from rural Nepal villages gain an education in Kathmandu. I am also going to check out the Education USA center in Nepal, where Nepali students get help applying to US colleges and universities. I paid memorable visits to similar centers in Kenya and Uganda in 2011.

From Nepal, I will travel to Mundgod, a Tibetan refugee settlement in southwest India, so that I can attend a 7 day teaching with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This teaching will be a continuation of the teaching my mom and I attended last December at Sera Monastery in the Tibetan refugee settlement Bylakuppe. I will be staying in a dormitory during His Holiness' teaching again, with friends I met at last year's teaching.

I am also looking forward to visiting friends, a Bangalore street dog named Leo rescued by CUPA - Compassion Unlimited Plus Action, and Bodhgaya, my favorite city in India, where Buddha attained enlightenment underneath the Bodhi tree. I am also looking forward to taking Beginner's Tibetan Language and Conversation courses at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, located in a beautiful building that is just a steep downhill walk from His Holiness the Dalai Lama's temple. These courses are the first step towards being able to translate Tibetan Buddhist teachings into English. Please wish me luck.

I will continue to blog from Nepal and India, but will be offline for at least the duration of the November course. So I'll say it now ... Happy Thanksgiving, and Let's Go, Lehigh.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Women in Tibetan Buddhism

While in India this year I enjoyed learning about and studying with German nun Geshe Kelsang Wangmo. "In April 2011, Geshe Kelsang Wangmo made history by becoming the first female geshe, signaling a new era for nuns to excel scholastically and to take on important teaching roles that had traditionally been the domain of monks."

Big thanks to one of her students for sharing this recent story with me:

"When His Holiness the Dalai Lama met with the Emory Students & their Institute for Buddhist Dialectics (IBD) / Emory faculty, IBD asked Geshe Kelsang Wangmo to present her Ornament text to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. After looking at it, His Holiness the Dalai Lama told Geshe Kelsang Wangmo that he wanted her to prepare a similar text for Chapter 2 of Dharmakirti's Commentary on [Dignaga's] Compendium on Valid Cognition.

In Germany, His Holiness the Dalai Lama found an occasion to ask Geshe Kelsang Wangmo to join the German translator as an assistant. He then announced to the monks and geshes and general audience that Venerable Kelsang Wangmo was the first female Geshe, that Lord Buddha, himself, had established Bihshuni so surely Geshe Kelsang Wangmo was in accordance with the Buddha's intent, and that soon there would be many more.

On the last day of the teachings, His Holiness just happened to quote Dignaga's opening stanza to his Compendium. As it is a rather obscure citation, Geshe Kelsang Wangmo was called upon, and since she had just been working on the Fall text, she was quite easily able to provide the translation."

Geshe Kelsang Wangmo on stage with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Germany. Photo from dalailama.com.

Geshe Kelsang Wangmo on stage with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Germany. Photo provided by Tica.
For more on this please see article Dalai Lama Urges Introduction of Bhikshuni Vows into Tibetan Tradition.