As the New Year opened, over 50 students packed their texts, bookbags and suitcases, boarded taxis, trains and planes, and headed to Mindrolling Monastery in India for the January 4th commencement of the Mindrol Lekshey Intensive Program.
Traveling from places as diverse as Greece, China, Czech Republic, Ireland, Denmark, Poland, Mexico, France, Germany, Norway, Spain, Belgium, and the United States, these students were selected by Her Eminence Mindrolling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche to begin a 10-year intensive program of study and practice of the Mindrolling lineage’s profound Vajrayana ritual traditions, as well as Tibetan language, philosophy and meditation. Rinpoche’s vision for this enormous undertaking is to transmit more thoroughly and completely to westerners the profound and vast Vajrayana teachings and practices, so that the genuine transmission of Vajrayana Buddhism can occur.
For weeks, Rinpoche, Jetsunla and the nuns of Mindrolling Samten Tse had prepared facilities and curricula for this program. Classrooms were cleaned and painted, tables and seats were readied. Texts for saddhanas and Vajrayana study were specially printed for this program, and texts to learn colloquial Tibetan were ordered from Dharamsala and other places. Teachers met and conferred on teaching content and methods, and rooms for every student were organized and made ready.
So it was with a mixture of excitement and great appreciation that students gathered at Mindrolling Monastery on the morning of January 4th. Led by Anila Yonten Zangmo and Anila Tsultrim Dechen, the participants offered khatags at the magnificent monastery and stupa shrines, vividly reminding us of the journey towards enlightenment that is the reason for our presence here. In the afternoon, the students joined Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche, Jetsunla, Jetsün Rinpoche, Dungse Rinpoche, and the teachers of the program, Ven. Uchen Choktrul Jigdral Kuenga Rinpoche, Ven. Khenpo Namdral Gyatso, Ven. Gen Sonam Tobgyal la, and Ven. Gen Namdrol Zangpo la, in the kudung shrine room to offer prayers for the auspicious opening of the program.
The group then proceeded to the upper hall classroom, where Rinpoche described her vision for the Mindrol Lekshey program, and introduced each of the teachers of the program. After students offered mandala and khatags to each of the teachers, they introduced themselves to their teachers, telling them who they were, where they were from and a bit about their study and practice background. Selected students then made presentations on their intent and aspirations for the program, highlighting the historic nature of this endeavor, their gratitude for being included, and their hopes for the transmission of the dharma in the west, to the assembly. At the close of the ceremony, Rinpoche, Jetsunla and the nuns presented each of the participants all items necessary for their study and practice, such as the collection of all texts and instructions books, practice shawls and clothing, and many gift items such as hot water bottles, electric blankets, kettles and dishes and other basic amenities. The day ended joyously with a celebratory dinner.
The first formal day of the Mindrol Lekshey program on January 5th made clear to each student that this was to be no summer camp. The days schedule began at 6.00 am with morning practice session. Classes in textual recitation began promptly at 9 am, followed by Tibetan language instruction. After a brief lunch, students attended teachings on ritual practice and sadhanas, followed by practices in mudras, melody, torma and so forth. Classes on Tibetan grammar followed this. After dinner, various teachings and transmissions or self-study period is scheduled. As Uchen Choktrul Rinpoche said so eloquently in his class on rituals, this is the first time that such a program as Mindrol Lekshey has been held here in India, the place where the Buddha was born and turned the Wheel of Dharma, and in Mindrolling Monastery in particular, the place where the lineage and practices of Terdag Lingpa survive complete, undiluted and unmodified. It is indeed the perfect place for the auspicious commencement of the Mindrol Lekshey program.