School has been in session for just more than a week now. My first subject this year is Luminous Presence (spyi don ‘od gsal snyingpo) – Mipham’s overview of the Guhyagarbha Tantra based on Longchenpa’s Dispelling Darkness in the Ten Directions (phyogs bcu mun sel).
Before I started shedra – I looked at the curriculum and wished that I didn’t have to wait six years to study tantra. Many people I’ve met have expressed similar views. I think this sort of view reflects how very little we know about the causal vehicle of the sutras. Now that I’ve spent the last six years with the Mahayana commentaries I feel like they are dear friends and when it comes to practice – indispensable. Of course I don’t have to stop studying them, ever, but now I’ve been thrust into a new community – the three inner tantras. I’ve only been studying inner tantra for a short time and I cannot imagine trying to study it without a background in Madhyamaka and Uttaratantra (which in fact we see as belonging to the sutra side of things despite having tantra in the name).
This year marks a new phase in my schooling degree wise – the graduate degree. You see, the first four years of study are towards an Associates Degree, the next two towards a Bachelors, and the last three towards a Masters. The graduate of all nine years receives the title of “Lopon”.
What about the title “Khenpo” you ask? Often compared to a Ph.D (perhaps erroneously) Khenpos are selected from within the ranks of Lopons. To become a Khenpo one must fulfill certain criteria: 1. have scored in the first divison on the final exams for fourth, sixth, and ninth years 2. have taught as a kyorpon 3. have taught for at least three years after graduating 4. be a fully ordained monk in good standing.
So there you have it. If anyone is wondering why Namdroling doesn’t have any Khenmos or Ani Khenpos – see point number four. So thus, the reinstatement of the full ordination lineage for nuns in the Tibetan tradition impacts us. In the meantime, we have Ani Lopons, and that is just fine.
Personally, I’m totally satisfied just to receive the teachings, write the exams, and (in just three short years) graduate. Titles are… well… problematic. I am far more concerned with learning the Dharma and practicing it.
This year I have some fun new resources for studying Guhyagarbha. A few bold individuals have written their PhD theses on the Tibetan commentaries to this tantra. These are great to read as they have wonderful back ground information and include full or partial translations of the commentaries. I also have searchable Tibetan versions of both Mipham and Longchenpa’s commentaries which are proving to be useful indeed. I wish I had searchable versions of gsang bdag zhal lung and gsang snying mdzod lde, two other key commentaries to the tantra. So if you have such things, and are reading this- please get in touch. Not that anyone actually reads my blog… but hey, it is worth a try right?