Reflections on My First Year of Study at RYI

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 we have learned about all four schools of Buddhism. Our teacher is endowed with many great qualities such as kindness, intelligence, and the patience to teach us westerners unfamiliar topics in a clear and simple language. So far, I can only say warm words towards all the people who help with the shedra, the teachers, the students, all who have all become like family to me (especially after having to prepare for exams together!), and to Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, the main abbot of the monastery without whose kindness we would not have such an opportunity to study the Dharma.

It’s not always easy to prepare for all three or four classes. It is quite a challenge actually, and a change from all the leisure time I used to enjoy. But the shedra is teaching me academic discipline. I now spend almost all my free time memorizing words and studying the commentaries of great texts. I find that if I have a serious deep intention to study, I can follow it with enthusiasm.

Of course it is not always easy to live Nepal. It’s a very intense and, at times, a chaotic! Some of the local customs take some getting used to. But I have found a comfortable home with a nice Nepali family near the shedra. It’s a simple lifestyle, but I enjoy it. During the winter holiday I had a great opportunity to stay at Nagi Gompa, which is a nunnery in the mountains overlooking the Kathmandu valley. The vast open sky, clean air and water and warm hearted nuns gave me a nice break from the fast pace of academic studies and city life in Boudha. The nuns were so welcoming to visitors, and most of all they were wonderful friends to practice speaking Tibetan with.

Now I am back in the shedra, let’s see what will come in the new semester here.

Anya, Translator Training Program from Russia

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