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Deer Park Temple

What’s up at DPI

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.