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Seventh year begins

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?

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12 thoughts on “Seventh year begins

  1. These posts are quite wonderful. Very nice overview in this one. Thanks for finding the time to put them together. They are being read quite assiduously – at least by me 🙂

  2. Hello hello! First of all I love reading your blog, it's like no other. Secondly I've been reading your blog for a little while now and have been kind of…shy I guess? to ask you a question. I have a deep aspiration to do as you have done but I'm not sure how to proceed, how does one enter dharma study in India from Canada? -Jacey

  3. Hello everyone, this is Michaela from Slovakia, currently living in Dubai. I would like to experience two weeks in one of the Indian Monasteries (this is what my job allos me), working, studying and meditating along with the monks and nuns. Would you be able to help me and tell me if there is a place that would accept me and allow me to gain this experience. Thank you very much in advance.

  4. Jacey and Michaela – The way I started was by visiting Dharamsala, in Himachael Pradesh, India, I suggest you do the same. Boudha in Kathmandu is another option. In either place you'll find vibrant Buddhist culture, loads of monks and nuns, and plenty of programs in English teaching meditation, philosophy, etc. You can also meet people who've visited more remote regions and get an idea of the opportunities available in India.In Dharmasala there are some monasteries which run guesthouses – so there would also be an opportunity to live in a monastic environment.

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