*** Warning – the following post contains repetition of my last few posts because, indeed, it has been that long since I’ve worked on this blog. ***
I’m back in Pharping, Nepal, for the third year in a row! This year is a bit different because I’m not translating, I am teaching. Some of my friends have treated it as a forgone conclusion that I should be teaching shedra texts in English, to a class primarily composed of Westerners. I’ve never felt that way. The opportunity to work with Rigpa Shedra East (now Rigpa Shedra College for Buddhist Studies), happened, when suddenly they needed a substitute translator in 2013. I would say it was a happy surprise, but in fact the position only needed filling because someone who has now become my dear friend was unwell. So I was called upon, quite unexpectedly, to come to Nepal immediately after writing my last set of final exams. The Buddhist College is hosted by one of my own teachers, Khen Rinpoche Namdrol. It didn’t take me long to realize this is a very nice group of dharma students and an amazing opportunity to repay the kindness of my teachers.
I’m glad I had something to look towards while I was in Canada later in 2013. Canada, and a few weeks in the U.S. was just so hard, mostly due to my own projections. I had been operating for about a decade under the assumption that I should return to the West to teach after graduating from shedra. It turned out that the retreat centre in Canada wasn’t a good fit for me. It has always mattered a great deal to me to be able to come and go as I pleased. The sense of claustrophobia I felt, being stranded in rural Ontario, was intensely uncomfortable. Unlike India, where rickshaws are never far away and eager to take us into town, in Ontario I was dependant on people who just didn’t seem all that interested in helping me acquire groceries, or just get out and breath some city air.
It was a revelation, to me, to think the thought that my post-shedra life didn’t have to be led entirely in the West. It was a little change in outlook, but it lightened things up considerably. I’d never abandon my homeland completely. I love my family, and my friends, but just to think the thought that ‘I don’t have to be based in the West’ really altered my perspective.
Last year, I translated at Rigpa Shedra and then headed to Namdroling in April. New lopons spend their first three years after graduation serving the lineage, either as teachers or in other positions, all determined by the monastery administration. It was the easiest thing to return back to the mother monastery after having been sent abroad for a year. Many of my classmates were likewise returning from postings in Nepal, Bhutan, and other parts of India.
Back at the nunnery I was asked to tutor a very nice lady from Bhutan. We studied Aryadeva’s 400 Verses on the Middle Way for a few months. In the summer I was assigned to teach Mipham Rinpoche’s commentary to the Uttaratantra to the nuns in the fifth year of shedra. That meant I had to teach entirely in Tibetan! I’d done that once before, when I was a Review Teacher in eighth year — but I’ve never considered myself completely fluent… Which I expressed to one of my fellow Loponmas, who said, irritatedly, “Oh please, you speak Tibetan, okay? Enough already!” So I taught the course, over twenty-four days, and it went well enough.
Now I’m back in Pharping, teaching Uttaratrantra again, in English. Was it a coincidence that I got to teach the same amazing text twice in a row? No, someone knew and arranged it that way, for which I am deeply grateful. Its interesting to teach in English, and the students are so different, and the text is still unutterably profound and inspiring.
There are other things I want to write about, my visit to two Dharma centres in Ohio, Songsten Gampo and Palyul Ohio, as well as K.P.C. in Maryland, and an exciting bit of tourism in Washington, D.C. An account of 2014 also would be incomplete if I didn’t mention my friendship with some amazing LDS Sister Missionaries. This is enough for now, though. I just want to get this posted, and thus initiate, I hope, a great deal more writing in 2015.