I last wrote on the Student Blog three years ago.  I wonder what has changed in that time.
I have finished my BA and started the MA program this year.  
Looking back, I can say, to continue was not the easiest decision for me at all.  Studying at the Shedra for last 3 years has given me quite a lot.  Among many benefits, I can name a deeper and more correct understanding of the Buddha’s teachings, the ability to listen to and understand teachings directly in Tibetan, and the opportunity to improve my writing skills in English, and so on.
Anya and fellow student Jade

However, along with that, I gained something which I didn’t expect at all: more doubts.  When I mentioned this to Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, the abbot of the monastery we study at, he said it was a natural part of the process and that many monks and nuns complain about it as well.  I think it comes from the gap that I experience between my examination of the teachings, which the Buddha himself encouraged, and my natural faith, meaning an innate sense of trust in the authenticity of the Dharma.  

Critical thinking, skeptical-rational methods and ways of reading and analyzing texts are taught in our specialized studies classes by visiting Western professors, some of whom are not Buddhists themselves.  It can be very helpful to zoom out and observe the tradition we are following from a totally different perspective.  Nevertheless, it gets more difficult to combine that vision with the approach that is taught in the philosophy classes by our learned lopöns and khenpos.  In the Tibetan tradition, there is not such a significant differentiation between the ordinary and the extraordinary.  We are taught stories and examples of flying yogis, special signs and accomplishments as an absolutely normal part of the path of the luminaries who populate the tradition.  To my western critical or even skeptical mind, it is sometimes difficult to believe.

So, I was faced with the hardship of dealing with two quite different worlds.  The advice given by Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche helped me a lot.  He instructed me and others to continue studying and not to drop our inquiry, otherwise we will be left full of doubt and confusion.  It is important, he said, to carry on this challenging task and to arrive eventually at the point where have genuine faith born of our own experience of the teachings, which results in being more wise and gentle, more calm and kind. Rinpoche said, it is not only naïve to have blind faith, but it is likewise naïve to be one of those scholars who know a great deal about the teachings but never take it to heart.  Rinpoche encourages students to study well and to apply the teachings, so they can see for themselves the truth that is articulated there. For me, this seems to be the only way to go, if someone wants to become a scholar- practitioner and help oneself and others as best as one can.

~Anya from Russia

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