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Nepal – Week 2: Classes Begin

Nepal – Week 2: Classes Begin

June 28, 2009

nepal-week2-zain-with-rinpoche

Dinner and ice cream with the Rinpoche :)

It seems much longer than two weeks have past but I guess there is a lot to take in everyday that makes each day seem so full. The environment still feels new but naturally more familiar than last week, which ended with a nice pool party and dinner. I was fortunate (and hungry) enough to be ahead in line for the dinner and luckily made my way to sit by Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, the abbot at Ranjung Yeshe Instiute. He is a short man with a comical laugh and he always says he has nothing else to talk about except for wisdom and compassion. He asked the students their interest in wanting to study Buddhism and learning Tibetan and he accepted all answers with a humble welcome. I found out that there is a ’satellite’ retreat center from Rangjung Yeshe a few hours north of San Francisco. Definitely something to check out in case I can’t make it back to Kathmandu for a while =)

Meditation class with Lama Gerry

Meditation class with Lama Gerry

Classes started on Monday. 8AM we had our first a meditation class, led by Lama Gerry. He is a wonderful teacher with a jolly energy, always smiling and joking. We began with the Shamatha (calm abiding) style meditation–a concentration practice designed to enhance sustained voluntary attention. For the most part I felt comfortable in this sitting due to similarities in posture from Chan (zen) meditation I had been attending in the last year at Berkeley. Except we were instructed to keep our eyes open looking downwards. This was not something I was used to so it made the meditation more challenging. We used a rock as a point of focus to aid concentration. The following days we switched from Shamatha to guided meditation, also something very new to me. It’s just a matter of habit to become comfortable with different styles–I think there is a good reason as to why its referred to as a practice ;)

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Buddhist Key Points with Khenpo Janpo Dhendon

Buddhist Key Points with Khenpo Janpo Dhendon

Then at 9:15 is the class for Buddhist Philosophy. This is a pretty mellow session following along an in-depth study of the 14th centurey Tibetan classic The Thirty-Seven Practices of a Boddhisatva. The class is instructed in a traditional manner so everything is taught in Tibetan and then translated by James Gentry, who is an amazing translator! We get a break in-between classes to stretch and go to the restroom (south asian squatting style :) Then our final class at 11am is with Khempo Jampa Dhonden. This is much more interactive and we can interrupt to ask questions any time–and there are many questions on our minds! The teacher is basically equivalent of someone with a PhD in Buddhist Studies and is really good at addressing all our western misunderstandings and skepticism. This class focuses on Buddhist key points–we are still just extrapolating the four noble truths. Pretty dense stuff!

Shedra Restaurant

Shedra Restaurant

Then its lunch time at noon! I didn’t know lunch was included as part of my tuition payment. They make the best food at the Shedra restaurant–adjacent to the monastery. Everyday they cook up some yummy vegetarian food. This is also the spot for the best wi-fi access in all of Boudhanath.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays we have a discussion which help clarify points and discuss other important topics with our course translator, James.

Other than the brief update on classes, I checked out the towns of Thamel and Swayambhu, as well as attending a Hip Hop show! =D

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