Namdroling Monastery (Photo courtesy of www.namdroling.org)
Rigpa's Shedra, or study college, has been steadily educating a small group of students in Buddhist philosophy, the art of traditional Tibetan debate and Tibetan language, first in the West, at Dzogchen Beara and Lerab Ling and, since 2006, in Nepal under the guidance of Khenpo Namdrol, one of the most senior Nyingma khenpos.
The curriculum is designed with a view to supporting the needs of the wider Rigpa Sangha, complementing the teachings of Sogyal Rinpoche and also the courses offered in Rigpa centres throughout the world. It is entirely non-sectarian, and features the most important writings of the great Indian and Tibetan masters, including works on both sutra and tantra. The teachers providing commentary on these texts are highly qualified khenpos and acharyas. Additional teachings and guidance are also sought from many of the lamas connected with the Rigpa sangha. In addition to studying the most important classical writings, students have the option to study the Tibetan language, and all the major and minor sciences studied by the panditas of India and Tibet, including the history of Buddhism in India and Tibet, Tibetan medicine, astrology, grammar (according to the main Tibetan grammar treatises), poetry and arts and crafts.
Now the Shedra is offering its own intensive Tibetan translator training programme. The first group of students in the programme started in May at Namdroling Monastery, in the south of India.
Namdroling, the largest Nyingma center in the world, was established by the His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, and is home to over 4,000 monks and nuns and, currently, eight Rigpa students.
Rita Ives, who is one of these students, reports from Namdroling.
Together with our instructor, we are now fully immersing ourselves in Tibetan language. Our daily classes include classical Tibetan, colloquial Tibetan with monks and nuns for tutors, and listening comprehension with a Khenpo.
We also have the chance to participate in some of the life of the monastery, especially the main practice and anniversary days in the Tibetan calendar. Recently, we gathered for the anniversary of Mipham Rinpoche, a great master and writer in the Nyingma tradition.
On this evening, the entire community, monastic and lay, gathered to practice, offer kataks (ceremonial white scarves) under a thangka of Mipham Rinpoche. At the end of the evening, the monks held a traditional debate in honour of Mipham Rinpoche.