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Deer Park Temple

By Melitis Kwong

It’s December, the sun is bright but there’s a chill in the air.  The local Indians have finished collecting grass for their cows and fire wood for their home.  Many young local Tibetans have gone for winter trading, leaving the old folks sitting in the sun continuing to swing their Mani wheels.  The Para gliders have packed up their gear for the season.  Nearby Chokling monastery has finished their 10 day drupchen and today, all the Tibetan shops are closed because the shopkeepers have all gone for the Lama dance at Sherab ling Monastery.  Here at DPI, we’re preparing for our 6 week winter closure and the renovation of the temples, laying new tile floors on the top two levels and a wooden floor in the  Buddha Hall located in the ground floor.

We’re also busy planning our Spring program 2012.  We’re happy that two of our regular faculty members, Kurt and Janet both from Friday Harbor, USA, are returning to lead programs at DPI.  Kurt will offer 4 week intensive classical Tibetan language courses and Janet will offer 3 creative writing workshops.  We also have the honor of hosting a few women teachers next Spring, Bhikkinus Dhammanada from Thailand, nun Samani Aagam from the Jain tradition and Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.  Khenpo Choyin Dorjee, one of the leading khenpos from Dzongsar Institute, will also offer 3 series of study on the philosophy of the middle way.


Looking back on 2011, DPI has hosted more than 20 programs.  In the Buddhist tradition, we received teachings from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, OT Rinpoche, Dzigsar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Drupgyud Tenzin Rinpoche and Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.

Participants from Dr. Bettina Baumer’s program on the Hindu Tantra of Kashmir Saivism.

From the Hindu tradition, we had a program offered by Professor Bettina Baumeron a Hindu Tantra and Kristna Chaitanya offered a 5 day Intensive Yoga retreat.  On the creative side, we had a few writing workshops, a photography workshop and, for the first time at DPI, we hosted a film workshop where some short length films (3 mins) were made by the students.

Rinpoche giving out Refuge names at Way of the Bodhisavtta teaching

The highlight of all the programs was DJK Rinpoche’s teaching in May where more than 270 people attended this third series of Way of the Bodhisavtta and at least 100 people took refuge with Rinpoche. A group of young Chinese from China was moved to tears when Rinpoche gave the Bodhisavtta vows.  As a gesture of celebration, different nationalities from the audience offered music and songs at the end of the teaching.  It was a very joyful experience.



DPI also hosted two very interesting conferences on education this year; the Learning societies conference in April and the conference on Indian perspectives on Shiksha (Education) in September.

The Learning societies conference was organized by DPI along with a few India NGOs.  About 250 people from across India attended and the atmosphere was very informal and invocative.  A majority of the participants were University students and from different youth groups.  Movies were shown in the evenings and meals were prepared collectively with other youth groups.  A large tent was set up in the front gardens to accommodate this large gathering and the atmosphere was very mush like a festival.

The Shiksha Conference, on the other hand, was rather different.  This four day conference on Indian perspectives on Education was organized by Deer Park Institute and SIDH (Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas) under the patronage of Samdhong Rinpoche. There were 20 invited educationists and philosophers from different Indian traditions to present their thought and belief systems.  There were also 20 observers who participated in the discussion sessions.  Many invited speakers were highly educated scholars and distinguished  philosophers.

The speaker is the representative from Krishnamurti school, Center is Samdhong Rinpoche, to his left HH Ratna Vajra Rinpoche and Gyana Vajra Rinpoche, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche to the left and facing is Geshe Garwang Samten and Geshe Dorji Damdul.

Among the speakers was the vice chancellor from Jain Vishva Bharati University.  Jain philosophy has a strong emphasis on non-violence to such a degree that we noticed the Jain nuns will always choose to walk on pavement instead of grassy areas so they do not accidentally step on insects.  In Rinpoche’s previous teaching, he often talks favorably about the Jain tradition which is one of the oldest philosophical and religious systems in India though is not very widespread in the modern age.  We were glad to have a chance to meet these Jain nuns and, with Rinpoche’s encouragement, we invited them to come back next year to present Jainism at DPI.
The main purpose of the Shiksha conference was to put together the traditional views on education of the various great Indian traditions as well as current efforts being made by individuals and groups.  The second aim was to find the similarities and dissimilarities among these traditions and, more importantly, which of these are relevant today and how they can  be utilized in the present day education process.
There were many discussions on the concept of Kalayan-mitra or Guru-Chela, the student/teacher relationship which many Indian traditions uphold as valuable.  The concept behind this, as I understood, is the mutual responsibility of the teacher and students where they both need to have certain qualities and qualifications.
The qualities of the teacher are that he or she should come from an authentic source, an unbroken lineage and be verifiable by logic or reason.  Also the teacher must possess the ability to remove fear and help student to overcome obstacles.  And of course having wisdom, compassion and diligence is essential. The student should have faith in the teacher and the teachings, an aspiration and determination to learn and to cultivate purity of mind, concentration and the ability to see phenomenon as it is.  The qualities of wisdom, intelligence, enquiry , without bias , are also mentioned as important.

I think I have found ‘my perfect teacher’ but it might take me many lifetimes of accumulation of merit to become his perfect student.

Deer Park Institute staff with Rinpoche

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We look forward to seeing you in the next season of program.


Saraswati statue in front of the Buddha Hall Temple at Deer Park, Bir.

Deer Park Outreach – A day at a sacred site

Deer Park Outreach

By Shenphen Zangpo – resident monk at Deer Park Thimphu

Sonam serving tea Photo Shenphen Zangpo

The recovering addicts staying at the Thimphu drug rehab centre requested a trip to a sacred site. As it was the middle of the monsoon and many of the guys were not in good physical shape, there was a certain apprehension about the trip. However, the risk seemed worth taking and Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) was chosen as the destination and dakinis’ day as the date.

As always, the Royal Grandmother kindly placed the royal family’s private bus at our disposal, and after an early start we alighted at 10AM at the foot of Taktsang Mountain.

After three days of torrential rain the clouds had parted and the sun shone brightly. We were bathed in a serene dappled light. It was an auspicious start.

Despite living less than a two hour drive from the sacred mountain, many of the recovering addicts had never visited Taktsang before. Days lost in the shadows of the capital had given them little opportunity to explore Bhutan’s stunning heritage and sacred sites.

They were enthusiastic and symbolically the pilgrimage would act as a new beginning.

Depending on the level of fitness, the climb to the monastery takes between one to two hours. The younger guys bounded up the slopes like mountain goats, while the older and physically weak followed at a slow but steady pace. A few drifting clouds brushed the mountain peak, but fortunately the darker monsoon clouds swirled above harmlessly.

Soon we were standing across from the great monastery itself. It is said that in the 8th century Guru Rinpoche flew to this site on the back of his disciple in the form of a pregnant tigress. Ever since, the spot has been revered as one of the most sacred of the sites associated with Guru Rinpoche.

After a pause for photographs, we traversed the final ravine and entered the monastery.  Already inspired by the journey through alpine forests, the recovering addicts were in the mood to open their minds further. They listened eagerly to tales of Guru Rinpoche and of the secret Mahamudra text discovered here by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1968.

A short meditation symbolically connected us to the sacred site and offered us an opportunity to rest in the present moment – to be fully at Taktsang. There are four main shrines at the monastery, and each served as a place for the recovering addicts to make earnest aspirations for a clean and drug-free future.

Near the final shrine, butter lamps were lit and everyone offered prayers for the benefit of all sentient beings – in particular, merit was dedicated to those suffering with the pain of addiction. In a closing prayer everyone vowed to remain clean in order to lead others from the darkness of ignorance to the light of wisdom. The pain in their own lives infused the prayer with a sense of urgency, and their heartfelt aspirations reminded me of a well-known verse in Shantideva’s prayer:

For as long as space remains,
For as long as sentient beings remain,
Until then may I too remain
To dispel the miseries of the world.

Bodies were heavy but hearts were light and the journey down the mountain took less than one hour. At the foot of the mountain we rested over tea and homemade snacks at a house owned by a Deer Park volunteer. It proved a wonderful end to a memorable day.

Shenphen and outreach group at Taksang Photo Shenphen Zangpo

Perhaps it would be appropriate if the final words on the event were expressed by one of the recovering addicts himself.

A visit to Taktsang
My heart deeply touched
What a memorable day!

–       Uday

Deer Park Thimphu operates a regular drug outreach programme in Bhutan. This includes nightly outreach in the bars and clubs of the capital, regular talks on the danger of drugs at schools and colleges and a three times weekly meditation class at the detox centre and rehab facilities. Pilgrimages to sacred sites are organized on average about once every two months.

This pilgrimage was undertaken on 25 July 2011

Deer Park Institute


The Spirit of Nalanda continues…

By Melitis Kwong

Deer Park Institute is a centre for study of classical Indian wisdom traditions. The Institute’s core vision is to re-create the spirit of Nalanda, a great university of ancient India where all traditions of Buddhism were studied and practiced, alongside other schools of classical Indian philosophy, arts and science.

Interfaith Meetings with His Holiness Dalai Lama photo Jennifer Yo

Deer Park Institute’s campus is situated on the former site of Dzongsar Institute, a well respected Tibetan Buddhist college. When Dzongsar Institute moved to its new site in Chauntra, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche transformed the campus into a centre with a new vision.

In remembrance of the Buddha’s first teachings at the historical Deer Park (Mriga Dava) in Sarnath, where the Buddha displayed a spirit of open inquiry into the nature of mind, existence and suffering without any bias, Dzongsar  Khyentse Rinpoche named the new (centre) institute “Deer Park”.

Since opening in March 2006, the Institute has hosted teachings by great masters of all lineages of Tibetan Buddhism including Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Sakya Trizin Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Geshe Lakdor ….  Deer Park in the spirit of inclusiveness also runs courses and retreats in the Zen and Theravada traditions within Buddhism and courses on other classical Indian philosophy such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and Kashmiri Shaivism, which have recently been integrated into the program.  This year (2011) Deer Park launched a series of Tibetan language courses and translation workshops, providing an exciting new dimension to the Institute’s academic curriculum.

The principal vision of Deer Park is to create a welcoming, safe and open-minded place of learning. Students from all over the world visit and attend programs, sharing their knowledge and experience. The atmosphere is intimate and friendly. A youthful kitchen staff prepares simple, healthy, delicious vegetarian food. The office staff includes young interns from different Asian countries.

Clowning in the Himalayas photo Jennifer Yo

Deer Park welcomes students, laypeople and wisdom seekers to attend their programs. Most of the programs are free of charge and the language of instruction is English.The Institute’s programs are not advertised extensively, relying instead on ‘word of mouth’. People, who have come to know about its existence, appreciate its non-sectarian approach as upheld by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. The dining area often becomes the centre for activities with lively discussions and exchanges. The campus has a number of meditation halls that are the venues for different activities, from meditation and ecology workshops to film screenings. The Institute can accommodate up to 65 or 70 people in single rooms with attached bathrooms; double rooms with shared bathrooms and the dormitory.

Communities bond on the steps of Deer Park photo Jennifer Yo

One feature of the Institute’s activities is its commitment to ecological sustainability. Deer Park has organized workshops and conferences on environmental issues, preserving local culture and sustainable livelihoods with courses held in the Institute as well as in local schools. To disseminate awareness of these issues, informative documentaries and printed materials have also been produced. Since 2009, Deer Park Institute has been invited by the Himachal Pradesh (HP) Government (the local state government) to advise on zero waste and has received an Appreciation Award.

Deer Park is located in Himachal Pradesh , within the Bir Tibetan colony at the foothill of the Himalayas.  Set in an idyllic landscape, Deer Park is surrounded by hills, namely the Dhauladhar range, and rice fields. On a sunny day, students and guests can take an hour’s walk to visit Dzongsar Institute in the nearby town of Chauntra, or walk through the rice fields to Sherabling Monastery (Situ Rinpoche’s monastery). In Bir village itself you can visit four other monasteries, all within ten minute’s walk. There are other holy places of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions nearby such as Tso Pema where Guru Rinpoche displayed miracles and practiced in the caves or the ancient temple of Baijnath.  For students keen on outdoor adventure, one can hike up the hill from Deer Park to a waterfall or simply take a thirty-minute stroll to the Upper Bir village.

Lunchtime with Rinpoche at Deer Park Institute photo Jennifer Yo

With Dharamsala becoming more crowded as tourists flock to this famous Tibetan settlement, home of H.H. Dalai Lama, many long-term Dharma students are attracted to the spaciousness and tranquillity of Deer Park and its surroundings.  Although, over the past ten years more hotels and restaurants have been established in Bir, it still retains its charm as a small village with its monasteries against the backdrop of the magnificent Dhauladhar range.

You can travel to Deer Park by air, train or bus from Delhi. It’s a long journey but once you arrive you’ll appreciate the fresh air and the serene countryside. As you walk up the hill towards the Institute, the friendly staff or our friendly dogs, the majestic temple and the clean surroundings of the campus will welcome you. You can then sip a cup of “Chai”, taste homemade cookies from the Deer Park café, visit the temples, browse through the expansive library and sit back and enjoy your stay at Deer Park.

It is through Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s vast vision, and the dedication of the staff and volunteers, that Deer Park Institute came into being. May this endeavour be auspicious and enable the precious Dharma to spread and benefit all beings.

For detailed information on Deer Park programs and other related information, please check the web site

For further inquires on program registration and room booking, please write to:

Welcome to Bir photo Pawo Choyning Dorji