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Abhidharmakosa : 1st Two Chapters November 27, 2008

Posted by Karen in Courses, International Buddhist Academy, Personal Perspectives, Studies.
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IBA’s two-month course for 2008 brought a dedicated group of students into a concentrated study of the first two chapters of Vasubandhu’s fourth century classic, the Abhidharmakosa-bhasya, his autocommentary on the Abhidharmakosa, an exhaustive analysis of phenomena. The autocommentary critiques and refines the reasoning central to Vasubandhu’s own earlier studies in the light of his later realizations. Vasubandhu’s conversion by his brother Asanga ( who also wrote a valuable study of the Abhidharma ) brought him into the centre of the budding Yogachara-Mahayana school, whose influence eventually spread widely throughout the Buddhist world.

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As Khenpo Jorden explained, the traditional monastic college method of transmitting an in-depth understanding of Buddhist philosophy is accomplished through presenting the views of successive Buddhist schools in the order that each arose. This method increases comprehension of the more subtle and profound later schools through studying each school’s set of tenets sequentially. It also allows the development of an informed appreciation of the earlier schools’ foundational contribution to Buddhist philosophical exploration.

Khenpo Jorden’s clarity and his ability to assist us in tackling the Sanskrit terminology which appeared in almost every line of Vasubandhu’s work, was comforting to those of us who were baffled by the subject matter (and even more baffled to see it expressed in unfamiliar words). Eventually we students were able to let go of trying to find English equivalents for the Sanskrit terms and accepted them as new words with new meanings.

In addition to having the steady leadership and guidance of Khenpo Jorden in each day’s teaching, we had other valuable resources. Firstly, the review class was conducted with admirable skill and intensity by one of IBA’s senior students, Inge Riebe, who translates texts for His Holiness Sakya Trizin.  Review class preparation was very thorough and students’ questions were handled in depth and detail.  Secondly, IBA was fortunate to be hosting Khenpo Akkar, visiting from Samye monastery, Tibet. Khenpo Akkar accepted Khenpo Jorden’s invitation to answer some students’ questions on Abhidharma topics, at several of our open air question sessions in the garden, with Khenpo Jorden translating.

All of us who completed this course were in awe of our teachers, who have studied the entire eight chapters of this challenging book. Many of us will welcome an opportunity to study more of it, and to gain more familiarity with the refined language of Sanskrit, an ancient doorway into many treasures.

10 day retreat 2008 – Triple Vision July 15, 2008

Posted by anandbk in Courses, IBA news.
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We just finished the annual 10-day meditation retreat at the IBA in Kathmandu. In the Buddhist tradition, the complete learning experience begins with teachings, which are then contemplated and finally put into practice. Meditation encompasses the many methods to familiarize oneself with the contemplated topic. As Buddha said, “Do not believe only because I have said it, experience the reality for yourself”. To train the mind we need to learn how to stop it from wandering.

IBA retreat 2008 - group pic

IBA retreat 2008 - group pic

In this 10-day retreat the topic of meditation was the Three Visions, a teaching from the Sakya school of Buddhism which flourished in Tibet. We covered the 1st part or the impure vision which describes our false perception of phenomena and how our afflictions lead us to suffering.
The best thing about this retreat was the varied format which included:

  • Teachings on the given topics
  • Contemplations
  • Question and answer sessions
  • Individual meditations
  • Guided group meditations

This format and the supportive conditions at the IBA offered me a real opportunity to learn, contemplate and meditate. Both teachers, Khenpo Lungrik Senge and Khenpo Ngawang Jorden, were very learned and friendly. The teachings were translated into English and Spanish. A separate retreat was held for Mandarin speakers. People with many different backgrounds from all around the globe attended the retreat making it feel just like a ”global village”. It was nice to see young Nepalis and Indian people in an international institute studying Buddhism. I’m happy the IBA helped make Dharma more accessible by offering discounts to local people.

My job was the gong ringer, waking retreatants at 6 and again throughout the day. A meditation in itself, ringing the gong reigned in my mind and kept all the retreatants on time and in the zone. No retreat would be complete without it.

The facilities and the food were of high standard. The helpful and cheerful staff made this retreat very comfortable. Now the IBA is starting a 2 month teaching on Vasubandhu’s Abhidharma Kosha which is considered an encyclopedia of Buddhism. After an inspiring retreat experience, I am looking forward to joining the next course. What you are doing?

Shantideva’s Classic, Part one! July 2, 2008

Posted by Karen in Blogroll, Courses, International Buddhist Academy, Personal Perspectives.
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Sixty-five students from more than thirty different countries, ( including Russia, Guatemala, Switzerland, Peru, New Zealand, Estonia, South Africa, Belgium, Georgia, The Netherlands, Argentina, Honduras, Brazil and Portugal ) have registered for studies at the International Buddhist Academy in Kathmandu this year. Such a genuinely “International” atmosphere stimulates a great deal of appreciation for what we share in common as practitioners, no matter where we are from.
The great value we have placed on receiving authentic Dharma teachings from highly qualified teachers led many of us to travel half-way across the world to study the Bodhicharyavatara, a renowned classic by one of the greatest realized Buddhist masters and scholars of ancient India, Arya Shantideva. Since this powerful text contains so many direct and vivid reasonings regarding each aspect of practice in the Paramitayana, it has been divided into two parts, the first part taught this year, and the second part, (another month-long course), in 2009.

Khenpo Jamyang Tenzin taught using an English translation of the root text, and consulted a Tibetan commentary.  But additionally, to our great benefit, he also drew deeply from his own experiences of monastic life. The challenges and responsibilities that we imagine to be unique to our “house-holder” existence were revealed by our beloved Khenpo as the ever-present constants of human life everywhere. Our Khenpo’s honesty about his struggles, and his advice to us, was refreshing and generous, and set the tone for our own introspective tasks, guided by Shantideva’s courageous self-examination and rigorous destruction of all excuses for harm and ignorance.

All of us who experienced this course on the Bodhicharyavatara have shared an opportunity to take home something infinitely precious, something to nourish with our growing understanding.

The chapter on Patience (Forbearance) was deeply challenging, a vast and daunting topic, both for contemplation and for practice. I hope that my efforts to better develop Patience over the coming year will bear some fruit, and that through such efforts, I will be more ready to meet the great Arya Shantideva’s presentation on Meditation and Wisdom, for the second part, in summer 2009.  Please join us then!