Spring 2019 Newsletter

RYI Literary Arts Journal

In December 2018 the Student Society of RYI published the fifth Literary Arts Journal, in which RYI’s students get the opportunity to publish their creative work. It contains 30 works of poetry, translations, drawings, paintings and photographs by 25 students from various different programs. Lowell Cook organized the publication of the first RYI Literary Arts Journal in 2015. The goal was to create a platform for students to share and connect creatively. Maitri Berners started editing the journal last year and took over as chief editor this year, when the previous chief editor, Aaron Basskin, left RYI. What she enjoys the most is uncovering the hidden talents of her fellow students.

“My motivation is to offer a stage for RYI's very own poets, translators, photographers, authors, painters, etc., and to have a medium that lets us see an otherwise hidden part of the people we are surrounded by every day.” Maitri

Maitri and the new editor, Rachel See, spent three months collecting, laying out and finally printing the journal.

“I enjoyed editing the journal because it fosters creativity and I think creativity is an important part of human expression. It has the power to transform something mundane into something very special and is an important addition to academic studies.” Rachel

“At first I was afraid we wouldn't be able to gather enough submissions. But when the deadline was extended, we actually ended up with too much material!” Maitri

Members of the Student Society

The Literary Arts Journal is a great opportunity for students from all study programs to connect and get their creative works published. Many use the language they study at RYI to compose or translate poetry and prayers. The current issue includes original compositions in Tibetan, Chinese, Nepali, Bangla, ‘ōlelo hawai’i and English, as well as translations between these languages. An English translation is provided with all the works that are not composed in English. The Student Society, currently led by Andy Hallahan, printed 200 copies and was able to provide free copies for students of RYI. In addition to the journal, the Student Society also has a Poetry Club, currently run by Tiphaine Lalonde. It organizes Nights of Poetry, where students can present poetry, songs and recitations to their fellow students in a relaxed atmosphere.

“The purpose of RYI Poetry Club is to stimulate creativity among students. In particular, it aims to spread a wave of inspiration for us to dare to compose our own poems in the languages we are learning.” Tiphaine Lalonde

The RYI Literary Arts Journal is available at the RYI Library for a voluntary donation to the RYI Student Society. If you are interested in a digital copy, please email Maitri: maitri_berners@yahoo.com.

Losar Projects

On February 5th, 2019 Tibetans celebrated Losar, the first day of the new year according to the Tibetan lunar calendar. While most students were enjoying a few days without classes and took the chance to attend some of the public celebrations in Boudhanath, the students of “Buddhist Traditions: History and Culture II” taught by Julia Stenzel, set out to investigate the deeper meaning behind the different rituals and traditions. They worked in groups of two on different topics surrounding the Tibetan new year. They conducted research and interviews, and gathered photo and video material. The students then presented their findings in class. There is also a blog page dedicated to the project with pictures and detailed explanations of the results of their research (click here to read more about the study).

The students researched various rituals leading up to Losar, such as Cham dances (ritual masked dance), Gutor (protector practice) and Lhasang (smoke offering), as well as researching the three main days of Losar and the special offerings made on the 15th day of the new year. They discovered the different meanings behind the rituals, symbols, music and offerings and the deities that are invoked. Furthermore, they looked into how the monastic practices differ from those of lay households and how Losar connects lay people with their monasteries and brings the whole community together.

Picture by: Raj Kamal Thokar

All of the students used academic resources, but collected most of their information through interviews. They found Khenpos, Lopöns and monks from the Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling monastery, as well as other monasteries in the surrounding area, who were willing to answer their questions. Depending on their topics, they also interviewed lay people, sometimes even their own classmates. Tsering Dhondup invited his project partner Rachel See to his home village to celebrate Losar with his family and discover the various types of offerings made during that time.

For all of the students the work on these projects offered a welcomed change to the usual emphasis on readings, especially in a class that is largely concerned with history. One of the great advantages of studying in a place like Boudhanath is that students get to experience the culture they are studying directly which adds a practical dimension to their theoretical studies. The projects gave many of the students their first experience conducting fieldwork and interviews. They also served to establish stronger connections between the students of RYI and the surrounding local community, especially the Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling monastery.

The results of the research projects are accessible here. 

New Library Facility

The new Rangjung Yeshe library was inaugurated on October 4, 2018. The original library was situated in the main monastery building. After the earthquake, the library moved temporarily to one of the monks’ buildings. The new and spacious library is situated on the second floor of the new RYI building. Through generous donations, the library has grown into an extensive collection of more than 4,000 books over the years. It contains large sections on the Nyingma and Kagyü tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as sections for all other Tibetan Buddhist schools, and other traditions such as Theravāda and Zen Buddhism. The library also includes works on history, medicine, art and yoga. There is a special bookcase dedicated to works by and about women in Buddhism, and recently a section on Abrahamic religions and Western philosophy has been added, with plans to expand that section  in future. Currently the majority of the books are in English, but an additional research library is planned on a new property that will contain primary literature, mainly in Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese and Pāli.

The library is structured in well-arranged sections that allows students to easily find books on certain topics. In addition, there is also an amazing team of librarians ready to assist. The team is led by Ishwor Shrestha with the support of three students on work-study-scholarships and two volunteers. All of them are continuously working to improve the arrangement of the different sections and create new sections. They work with a digital catalog that allows them to find books quickly, integrate new books and make sure they are well organized. 

Gilad Yakir has been working at the library for almost three years. He says that the new location is ideal as it is in close proximity to the classrooms where it is easily accessible to all students. Josephine Ebner just started working at the library when it moved to the new location. She loves the vast knowledge she acquires effortlessly while working there and she loves seeing the various interests of her fellow students when she helps them find books. Both enjoy the calm and focused atmosphere of their work place, and love being surrounded by Dharma books.

Students of RYI are able to borrow books with the exception of some very rare or valuable volumes, but many prefer to read in the library. It has quickly become the main place for students to spend their free periods, either studying, doing research or writing papers. It offers more than 25 work places, including electricity and WIFI and recently the addition of laptops, which students can use for their study and assignments. It is a cozy and comfortable space that receives a lot of natural light through the large windows, which also offer an inspiring view of the top of the Boudhanath Stupa.

The RYI Library is open to anyone Monday to Friday, 8a.m. to 6p.m. and Sunday 1p.m. to 5p.m.