Fall 2019 Newsletter

The Environment Committee at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling

The Environment Committee at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling was founded in 2017. Its main focus is waste management. Since Nepal doesn’t have a well established recycling and waste management system, waste management has to be implemented on an individual and institutional level instead. Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling has a recycling station and a compost station behind the RYI restaurant where anyone can dispose of their recyclable trash. The monastery sells the recyclable waste to Khaalisisi, one of the recycling companies in Nepal which generates some income for the monastery. Last year almost 53,000 rupees in income was generated through recycling efforts.  There are smaller recycling stations in the RYI building as well. The compost operation generates about 400kg per month that is used for the adjacent nursery. The monastery, the RYI restaurant and Shambhala Café, a small café close to RYI, dispose of their compost at this compost station. The Environment Committee also cooperates with Shambhala Café to implement reusable cups that people can make a small donation towards when initially used.

Rachel See, who is doing her RYI work-study with the Environment Committee, identifies one of the main obstacles to recycling as people doubting that anyone can make a significant impact as an individual. To counter this, Rachel tell us: “About 30% of our waste can be recycled and 40% composted, so by taking individual responsibility we can reduce our waste by up to 70%. Additionally we can avoid using unnecessary single-use plastic. These small individual changes have a large impact.”

The ultimate goal of the Environment Committee is to move the whole community towards zero waste. This can only be accomplished if everyone takes individual responsibility, which is why the Committee organizes presentations for RYI students and staff members, and works with the monastic community to raise awareness and understanding. The Environment Committee also publishes an article on its blog (see below) that gives information about the useful practice of vermicomposting on a small scale at home, using earthworms.

In April, a team of volunteers collected 14 sacks of garbage from a small green area within the monastery grounds during a clean-up of the community. In the future, the committee plans to organize more clean-up initiatives on a regular basis with the goal of cleaning up the entire area within and around the monastery. In the meantime, everyone can contribute significantly on an individual basis. Other ideas that the committee supports are establishing green roofs on as many buildings as possible as a way to improve the air-quality in and around the monastery. 

During the spring semester the committee held an event where members of the monastery and RYI gathered to swap plants with each other.  This was an opportunity for people to become more “green” while having some fun in the process. The plants swapped included herb plants, fruit plants, indoor houseplants, coffee bean plants and many more varieties. In the future, the committee aspires to support disadvantaged families to grow their own cash crop plants and to make some income from the sale of these fruit and vegetables.

The Environment Committee of Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling aspires to raise awareness and lead by example, and to work towards a greener and cleaner Boudha. There are many interesting articles on its blog, including an article about permaculture, a very efficient way of planting that avoids exploiting the nutrients of the soil.

For more information on vermicomposting and permaculture, please visit their blog, click here. To follow the activities of the Environment Committee and see how you can help it improve our environment, please follow their facebook-page, click here. 

Donations can be given to the RYI administration office or to Lopon Urgyen Dorje (977) 9841 733 606.


Spring Field Trip to Lumbini

During the reading week in March 2019, Prof. Diane Denis organized a field trip to Lumbini. A group of students, staff members and a few guests spent five days exploring the historical site of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama’s birthplace. The group stayed in the guesthouse of Thrangu Monastery within the main Lumbini complex. Stretched out through the park are about 30 monasteries, temples, stupas and retreat centers. The main site is the Maya Devi Temple which features a stone that is believed to mark the exact place of the Buddha’s birth, the basin where his mother took a bath before she gave birth and where she then gave the Buddha his first bath, and the stone pillar erected later by Emperor Ashoka to commemorate the Buddha’s birth. Buddhist communities from all over the world have built monasteries at Lumbini that are dotted around the area. It is a unique place that connects different Buddhist traditions and different styles of architecture, statuary and mural painting. However, many monasteries there don’t have an active sangha and the feeling is more similar to a museum than a living tradition. In the oldest monastery, the students met with a Theravada monk who gave a short teaching on non-self and the four noble truths. After a short meditation together, the monk took the time to answer some questions and gifted a precious statue to RYI. The students visited the Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery currently being constructed in Lumbini, and took the opportunity to recite some texts in Tibetan, Sanskrit, Pāli and Chinese on the roof of the monastery, making aspirations for it to become an active place of study and practice.

Lumbini has a small museum, and next to it is the Lumbini International Research Institute (LIRI), where the students received an in-depth tour of the extensive library that contains works from many different Buddhist traditions, as well as works from other religions and from fields such as philosophy, art, and archaeology. The institute welcomed the students to conduct research there and offers resources including designated research rooms and research funds, if required. Some students took the opportunity to purchase books published by LIRI for the RYI library.

Apart from the main site of Lumbini, the students visited several other historical places in the vicinity. One of the sites they visited was Kapilavastu, the capital of the ancient Shakya kingdom and the place where the Buddha spent the first 29 years of his life. Some students described how, when walking through the ruins, they experienced how the palace must have looked, including the town and the wall that surrounded it. Excavations of the site were in progress and the students had the chance to see the archaeologists in action, excavating ruins bit by bit, leaving some of them out in the open to see, covering some with foil and burying them again, and even attempting a reconstruction on top of other ruins at one location.

The students also visited Kudan, where stupas were built to mark the reunion of the Buddha with his family after enlightenment, and visited another Ashoka pillar in Nigalihawa that marks the birthplace of one of the previous Buddhas, Kanakmuni. On the last day of the trip, the students went to Devadaha, the capital of the kingdom where the Buddha’s mother and wife were born, and to the stupa of Ramagrama, which contains some of the Buddha Shakyamuni’s relics.

One of RYI’s students, Miriam Meyers, said this about the trip: “Exploring these Buddhist sites with a group of fellow students and getting explanations from our teachers was a unique experience that connected us to the pilgrimage sites and made the Buddha’s life story more directly accessible than our previous theoretical studies.”

Special thanks go to Prof. Diane Denis, Librarian Ishwor Shrestha, and students Sujeet Sharma and Saxon Spillman for organizing the trip.


Field Trip to Kaiser Library and National Archives

On February 2, 2019, a group of 25 RYI students and staff members went on an educational field trip to visit two places in Kathmandu that archive old manuscripts. The aim of the trip was to see some unique ancient manuscripts and to establish better connections with these two institutions, which serve as research sources for RYI students.  

The Kaiser Library was the private collection of Kaiser Shumsher (1892-1964). It was donated to the government by his family in 1968 and has since been run by the Ministry of Education. The library is open to the public, and the students were able to look at several different manuscripts, written in a variety of languages and scripts. Most of those viewed were written on palm leaves, so they are quite fragile. The oldest manuscript in the collection is an Ayurvedic text dating back to 878 CE and written in Kutila script. Unfortunately, the building of Kaiser Library was damaged during the 2015 earthquake and the manuscripts had to be moved from the first to the ground floor, where they are currently being kept in sub-optimal conditions. The manuscripts have been digitized, but neither the manuscripts nor the catalog is accessible online, which makes it difficult for students to find and work with the resources of the Kaiser Library. Over time, we hope this situation will be remedied.

The National Archives were established in 1967 under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, and inaugurated by the late King Mahendra. The Archives now host a collection of more than 35,000 manuscripts. Students were able to look at some palm leaf manuscripts in different scripts and languages, dating back as far as 810 CE. There is an entire room dedicated to Tibetan texts, in which RYI students were given the opportunity to see a manuscript of the Prajñāpāramitā written in golden and silver ink. The catalog of the National Archives is accessible online and the collection is digitized on microfilm, which students can view in a designated room. They can also purchase printouts or digital versions of relevant sections.

The field trip helped develop a more fruitful connection between RYI and the National Archives and has already resulted in students using it for their research.

Photo taken from ecs.com.np


Sanskrit Chanting Club

Reciting texts in Sanskrit is part of RYI’s regular Sanskrit classes, where Sanskrit-speaking Prof. Kashinath Nyaupane teaches verses from the Bodhicaryāvatāra and the Abhidharmakośa to the students. When the group initially formed they met for short sessions during the lunch break, however these short sessions quickly turned into a one-hour session every Tuesday after classes, and the Sanskrit Chanting Club was born. In a relaxed atmosphere, the group practices reading Devanāgarī texts aloud, and tries to learn different meters with the help of Kashinath’s meter handbook and the complementary recordings.

The Chanting Club regularly consists of seven students from different programs at RYI as well as guests from outside. Many more join the group from time to time. Some have studied Sanskrit while others read from transliterated versions of the texts. A group of monks from nearby Shechen Monastery joined the group for a few weeks to chant the Bodhicaryāvatāra. To date, the texts chanted include the Bodhicaryāvatāra, the Heart Sūtra and various aspiration, homage and dedication prayers. In a common effort, the group recently compiled and printed a booklet with these texts printed in Devanāgarī script, Roman transliteration and English translation. There are plans to add further texts and explore Pāli chanting in the future.

While RYI has a strong focus on Tibetan language, many students also appreciate the opportunity to focus on Sanskrit as well. Sameer Dhingra founded the Chanting Club to study the original texts that the Khenpos teach in Tibetan in the Buddhist philosophy classes at RYI.

“It's actually a really embarrassing fact that after about five months of classes with a Khenpo studying the Bodhicaryāvatāra, I didn't even know that a Sanskrit version of the text existed. I have some hope that other first-year students don't make the same mistake that I did.” Sameer Dhingra

At Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche’s request, the group recited the Heart Sūtra during his Annual Fall Seminar, where it was also chanted in Tibetan, Chinese and English. The group also chanted at the Three Yana Gathering on December 1, 2019 in Patan. After that event, they took the opportunity to explore some monasteries in Patan and chanted the sūtra again in a small Vajrayogini-temple at the Mahabodhi Temple. Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche emphasized the importance of reading texts in their original languages and encouraged the group to visit pilgrimage places and chant the Heart Sūtra there. During the field trip to Lumbini in March 2019, the group recited it at the Maya Devi temple, as well as on the roof of Pal Thubten Shedrub Ling monastery, currently in the process of being built.

“Even if one doesn't understand the exact meaning of the words, the way the ślokas, the śabdas and melody intermingle with the mind-stream leads to a temporary cessation of conceptual thought and is a skillful way of practicing the path.” Sameer Dhingra

If you are interested in joining the Sanskrit Chanting Club, please contact Sameer: dhingrasameer3@gmail.com

For information on meters and recordings visit Kashinath’s website, click here. To listen to a public talk by Dr. Mattia Salvini on the benefits of Sanskrit Chanting click here.