Three Years in Rangjung Yeshe Institute
The sun, the moon, a lamp, a lightning flash –
They may illuminate, but they hardly clear away the inner murk.
This Bodhichitta is extolled by the holy as completely
Extirpating the darkness of living beings.
– Khunu Rinpoche
It feels like only yesterday when I enrolled myself for the BA program at RYI but three long years have passed. Three long years of rigorous days and nights, tons of assignments and extended deadlines alongside bountiful learning and enriching experiences. The past three years in RYI, being able to study dharma with so many amazing Khenpos, Lopens and professors has been blessings and life changing experience in every way.
One of the many precious classes that I was able to attend at RYI was Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara in the first year. Prior to studying Bodhicharyavatara, I had often heard the word ‘Bodhisattva’ but never have I ever pondered on it. The bodhisattva ideal and Mahayana vehicle was a new field of study for me. Honestly, I was overjoyed with the study material in the first year or just being a student of Buddha dharma for that matter.
During the first year, I often told my friends outside RYI that I was academically studying a text which gives detail instructions on how to transform our ordinary human mind into that of the superhero called Bodhisattvas. Honestly, the goal of achieving Bodhisattva level seemed like an easily doable thing at first. It only required me to transform my ordinary perception of reality into that of the Bodhisattva. In fact, I often boasted around my close friends about Bodhisattva ideal, how we all possess the innate quality of Bodhisattva and encouraged them to pursue studying the text to awaken that innate quality.
Although Bodhisattva ideal seemed like an achievable goal initially, it did not take me long to question my own ability to awaken the Bodhisattva qualities. One of the first doubts that I had was regarding the Precious human life – the 18 freedoms and advantages. I used to think that I did not possess the 18 freedoms and advantages and often delved into attitude of low self- esteem. I categorized my life as not being ‘The Precious Human Life’. I had doubts in my abilities to become a Bodhisattva and a Buddha. I had given it much thought and always concluded myself as not possessing the precious human life. One day I went to a senior monk from Ka-nying Shedrupling monastery and told him about how I felt about the 18 freedoms and advantages. He did not tell me much for my question. Lama la applauded me for having genuinely reflected on the topics of my study and instructed me to reflect more. He also told me that Bodhicharyavata or the way of the Bodhisattva is a subject of life-long study, something that cannot be excelled just by studying BA or MA. Lama la told me that he had studied Bodhicharyavatara 20 years ago and still feels the need to read the text every now and then. With lama la’s instruction that day and more classes with Lopen Drubgyu Sherap and translator Inka, I was able to clear away my doubts concerning the freedoms and advantages – ‘The self-depreciative attitude’ in the language of Bodhicharyavatara. Eventually, I considered my life to be the precious human life.
In a nutshell, three years in Rangjung Yeshe Institute, having studied under the guidance of Khenpos, lopens and Professors, I have understood that Buddhist studies requires much more than just memorizing notes or reading texts. I must make sure to not just study or read during the class time but reflect and contemplate all the time. So, although I will be graduating from the BA program at RYI in a year, I will continue my study, reflection, and contemplation of the dharma for many years to come or life times. That is for sure.
~Tenzin Ghaphel Tamang