Sunday, 11 July 2010

Grand Opening For Tenzin Gyatso Institute

The Tenzin Gyatso Institute, founded by Sogyal Rinpoche in order to advance, explore and put into action the values and principles that His Holiness the Dalai Lama holds closest to his heart, has entered an exciting new phase in its work.

Last month, about 500 people travelled from across North America, as well as Mexico and Europe, for the opening celebrations at the Institute’s home, Tongnyi Nyingjé Ling—the ‘Center for Wisdom and Compassion’—in upstate New York.

The highlight was the open day on 19 June, when Sogyal Rinpoche was joined by Lodi Gyari Rinpoche, Lobsang Nyandak, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Rinchen Dharlo and Daniel Goleman (all pictured above) in a number of talks and teachings.

Sogyal Rinpoche spoke about Tibet’s Buddhist ‘culture of compassion’ and how its practices can transform our lives. Lodi Gyari Rinpoche (right), HH the Dalai Lama’s Special Envoy and a principal advisor to the Institute, explained ‘why the Tenzin Gyatso Institute matters’; and Lobsang Nyandak, the Dalai Lama’s representative to the Americas, offered support to help the Institute become a place of pilgrimage and a centre of activity for Tibetan and Himalayan people living in North America.

Tsoknyi Rinpoche (right) spoke eloquently about the benefits meditation can bring to our busy lives, and Daniel Goleman shared recent scientific research into the effects of meditation and compassion training on the brain. Rinchen Dharlo, the President of the Tibet Fund, joined the other speakers in paying tribute to the Dalai Lama, and highlighting the importance of the values that he embodies.

The Tenzin Gyatso Institute’s President, Patrick Gaffney, said the Institute would strive to make a real contribution in three fields that reflect HH the Dalai Lama's principal areas of concern: education, religious harmony and compassionate social action. He outlined the scope of the Institute’s programmes, and gave an extremely warm welcome to the Tibetan and Himalayan people present.

The audience included 100 Tibetans and people from the Himalayan region now living in America. Many were moved by the presentations, and the audience roared its appreciation when Tenzin Kunsel, a talented young singer (in the main photo at the top of the page), offered a Tibetan musical presentation. There was also an unveiling of the longest scroll of Tibetan calligraphy in the world.

With the support of local residents, Sogyal Rinpoche and Lodi Gyari Rinpoche opened a public trail that will enable people in the region to enjoy the beauty of the land. In the presence of local dignitaries and officials, Sogyal Rinpoche offered his gratitude for the help and encouragement that the Institute has received from the community.

During the weekend, it was announced that the inaugural class of Tenzin Gyatso Scholars will enrol in American universities in the autumn of 2010. Nine specially chosen Tibetan monastic scholars will journey from India to engage in one or two year-long courses of study in neuroscience, biology, physics, psychology and philosophy.

The aim of the initiative is to help broaden the base of education within the Tibetan Buddhist monastic system, enriching the tradition and shaping the emergence of a group of Tibetan men and women capable of taking on leadership roles in monasteries, in society or in government. At the same time, these scholars will be better equipped to communicate the teaching of Buddha in an accessible, effective and beneficial way in the wider world.

Six scholars, who will attend Emory University in Atlanta, were blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama during a special audience in Dharamsala, India in June. The other scholars, who will attend Hampshire College in Massachusetts, were personally selected by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and Tsoknyi Rinpoche.

Over the coming months and years, the Tenzin Gyatso Institute will aim to provide an environment where Tibetan and Himalayan people can meet and continue their religious and cultural traditions. It will also develop ways to make the Buddhist teachings on ‘training the mind’ in compassion (lojong in Tibetan) available to the widest possible audience, and specifically to leaders from business, government, education, the arts and the helping professions. Tongnyi Nyingjé Ling runs weekly meditation courses, and spiritual care and traditional Buddhist education programmes are being developed.

For more information on the Tenzin Gyatso Institute, click here.

All photographs by Barbara Mullin.

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