I wrote my last shedra exam on December 26th.
My original plan was to travel to Bodhgaya with my classmates, celebrate our graduation and make prayers for world peace at the Nyingma Monlam Chenmo.
That’s the thing about plans, I guess, sometimes karma takes us in another direction. On December 28th, I was asked to translate for Rigpa Shedra East, which is hosted by Khenchen Namdrol Rinpoche in Pharping, Nepal.
So here I am. For the first three months of this year I translated Khen Rinpoche’s oral teachings on Guhyagarbha once a week, and Khenpo Tashi Tseden’s teachings on Key to the Precious Treasury six times a week. It sounds like a lot, but the written translations of both the root text and the commentary, done by Sangye Khandro and Lama Chonam, were an inestimable help.
What can I say about Rigpa Shedra East? I think it is an excellent program. It gives students from around the world an opportunity to study the dharma for 3 or 4 months a year in a traditional shedra environment. The teachings are translated into English, and there are classes on debate and Tibetan language. There were over forty students participating this year and they impressed me again and again with their respect, diligence, and genuineness.
It has been the third quality which has moved me the most, because, frankly, there are quite a few Dharma students out there who think they need to put on a bit of an act – to speak loudly of the many teachings they have received and act in a way that suggests that they are ‘serious practitioners’. So, to be among so many Western dharma students without a single HUGE DHARMA EGO among them was nothing less than a huge relief. It reminded, actually, of living at the monastery. There is a sense of spaciousness when we support and encourage each other while allowing for the fact that we are still just beginners on the path.
Curently I am teaching a short class on certain topics from Gateway to Knowledge. It is very different to be the teacher after three months as a translator, and nine years as the student. I can tell you honestly that I prepare far more to teach then I ever did in the other two roles. The hours of preparation are very satisfying. It reminds me of studying for exams. I really enjoy researching topics, consulting multiple texts, drawing charts, taking notes and thinking about how it all fits together on the path.
A few people have been asking me “What’s next?” The answer is: More translating and teaching. First, I’m heading to Namdroling in May for the cremation of His Holiness Penor Rinpoche’s remains. In June, I will be off to my ‘overseas assignment’ where I will be serving at Orgyan Osal Cho Dzong in Ontario, Canada. July should find me at Palyul Ling in upstate New York. At least those are the plans…
The other question I’ve been hearing is “How does it feel to be done shedra?” I am glad. Over the past year I have had mixed feeling about finishing my studies. If there had been the option to sign up for a few more years I probably would have taken it. Still, I am happy that an international student has finished shedra at Namdroling. I hope it opens the door for many more international students to do the same.
I also feel grateful. I couldn’t have done this without the vast compassion and blessings of His Holiness Penor Rinpoche. Likewise, the support of my family and my sponsors (all two of you!) has always been the primary factor in being able to study in India for so many years.
I hope that anyone who is happy to know I have graduated will do what they can to support the next generation of international students who which to join shedra programs in the East and West.