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All the Joy… Studying at RYI
“All the joy the world contains has come through wishing happiness for others. All the misery the world contains has come through wanting pleasure for oneself.”
This is not the typical topic of discussion in any other institution in any part of the world. But it lies at the core of Buddhist practice of Mahayana to develop compassion towards limitless sentient beings. Therefore, at Rangjung Yeshe Institute, which I had the luck of attending this year, the curriculum is focused on cultivating values such as wisdom and compassion rather than simply teaching some skills for competing with others. The cultivation of bodhicitta — mind of enlightenment — is not just a topic, it is the necessary motivation to start a class.
The moment you are inside the white walls of the traditional Tibetan monastery with the sounds of various pujas going around — all surroundings are conducive for study, contemplation, and meditation. This process happens naturally and joyfully thanks to the teachers and staff, well-learned and supportive. The most distinctive class is Khenpo’s philosophy class. This year I have been studying Bodhisattva-caryāvatāra by Śāntideva, a classic Mahāyāna Buddhist text. For me this is the most amazing experience because it gives me the opportunity to immerse myself in the traditional way of studying scriptures. There can be monastics, yogis, lay practitioners, and non-Buddhists in one class, and they all are diligent and enthusiastic. But the heart of this class is Khenpo Tsondru Sangpo. He teaches not only from his traditional education stance but also from personal experience. Nowadays, it is possible to read the text yourself in your own language. However, in the class the oral transmission from Tibetan is combined with Khenpo’s lively commentary which puts the text in the present context. Also, the personal contemplation and implementation are highly encouraged. The translator Oriane delivers Khenpo’s message truthfully and clearly. There is also the great chance to ask any questions in the end of class. Khenpo’s answers are not dry and academic but adorned with his wisdom mind and everyday experience. Often, in the middle of the class Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche comes in and brings his enlightened attitude.
Besides the philosophy class, I was taking Classical and Colloquial Tibetan. The progress you make there can be seen in the mentioned philosophy class. Every day you understand more the root text and Khenpo’s speech even without translation. And the satisfaction from being closer to the classical Buddhist language is immense. This feeling spreads even further when you leave the White Gompa and go for kora around the holiest Boudha stupa. There you can talk to Tibetan amalas and phalas, who are very devotional in their practice and make you catch a bit of this whole-hearted belief in the Three Jewels. You can bargain for necessary goods or for fun. You can easily make new acquaintances and have a cup of tea, poja, amcha, cha narmo or now popular kopi. All this in Tibetan.
There is the last thing left. Being extremely grateful for my year in Rangjung Yeshe and the scholarship that enabled me to continue my studies, I dedicate all the merit, joy and the causes for happiness with all sentient beings so that they attain liberation from all the suffering.