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RYI: A Place Understood Only Through Direct Experience
There is nothing ordinary about studying at Rangjung Yeshe Institute compared to a typical university anywhere in the world. Even here in Nepal, it’s difficult to explain to other Nepalis that I go to a school connected to a monastery, but am not a monk, and many of the students are not necessarily Buddhist. Needless to say, it is impossible for my friends and family back home to imagine how a fully accredited university can operate within a Tibetan Buddhist monastery.
Since most Americans are geographically challenged, it’s even harder to explain that this “Tibetan” monastery is founded by Tibetan lamas, but not actually in Tibet, though still near the Himalayas. When asked what language they speak, it adds even more confusion to tell them that, while Tibetan is used in classes at the monastery, the local language, Nepali, has virtually nothing to do with Tibetan. Finally, when I’m asked what language my classes are conducted in, I must explain that some classes are taught by monks in Tibetan and translated into English, while other classes are taught by Western academics holding doctorate degrees from prestigious institutions such as Harvard, University of Chicago, and McGill.
By this point, most people are thoroughly at a loss for how to imagine the place. They likely think I’m fabricating the entire thing and am actually just doing yoga on a high mountaintop while reciting OM. In sum, the experience of studying at RYI is unlike any other, and unless you’ve been in the environment, it’s impossible to thoroughly grasp.
~Robert from USA