Applications Accepted for Second Year at Lishu Institute
Lishu Institute near Dehradun, India, will begin the second year of its three-year residential program in Tibetan Bon Buddhism on September 12, 2016. All are welcome to apply! The year will focus on the Ma Gyud teachings, one of the major tantric cycles in the Bon tradition. We interviewed Sangmo Yangri, Lishu teacher and administrator, for an update about this year’s program and plans for the second year.
Q: Sangmo, can you tell us briefly about your connection to Bon and to Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche?
A: I grew up near the Menri monastery in Dolanji (India) and my father was a close friend of His Eminence Yongdzin Rinpoche, so since early childhood I have been immersed in the Bon tradition and culture. The same way, I have known Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche since childhood. Later I studied and got my Ph.D. at the University of Varanasi in Bon and Buddhist Philosophy. [She is the first Tibetan woman to receive this Ph.D.] Tenzin Rinpoche connected me to Lishu the first time in 2008, and in 2011. Then he asked me to join Lishu after the completion of my Ph.D. in 2013.
Q: What have you been doing since you arrived at Lishu?
A: I have been teaching at Lishu since spring 2015, where I taught a six-week intensive Tibetan language course. When the three-year program started in September, I was in charge of all the teachings during the first trimester; namely the first and second sutric vehicles of the Nine Ways of Bon, the first three chapters of the Hagiography of Buddha Tonpa Shenrab, Tibetan language and Bon prayers. During this second trimester, in addition to the lectures (hagiography, Tibetan language), I translate the teachings of Geshe Sherab Lodoe, who joined us from Menri Monastery to teach the third and fourth sutric vehicles. I also am a liaison with Menri and nearby monasteries and a member of the Lishu management, which includes participating in the examination and selection of applicants.
Q: Can you please introduce us to the plan for the second year of the program?
A: Ma Gyud Sangye Gyud Sum is a teaching coming directly from Dharmakaya Kuntu Zangpo, the primordial Buddha. The second year, which starts September 12, 2016, addresses the six great methods of the Path of the Ma Gyud cycle:
- First trimester (September 12–November 18, 2016): Tummo and Dream Yoga.
- Second trimester (January 9– March 17, 2017): Nyen Sa Lam Khyer (related to Chod practice) and Phen Pa Lam Khyer (related to Phowa practice).
- Third trimester (April 3– June 9, 2017): Sleep yoga and Bardo Lam Khyer.
In addition, we will continue the hagiography of Buddha Tonpa Sherab and the Tibetan language. The year will have a strong emphasize on practice. Geshe Sherab Lodoe will teach the Ma Gyud. I will teach Hagiography and Tibetan Language, and will translate Geshe-la’s teachings.
Q: What other staff are there at Lishu?
A: Geshe Thupten Negi is the president of Lishu and takes care of the general administration. We also have a cook and someone to clean the common areas. His Eminence Ponlop Trinley Nyima Rinpoche came during the first trimester to give a teaching on Sherab Chamma and will come again, probably this fall, to give the empowerment. We will invite teachers from Menri Monastery to come to Lishu and teach on specific topics, as needed.
Q: What does a typical day at Lishu look like?
A: During the second trimester this year, the day began at 7 a.m. with tsa lung (Tibetan yoga) and meditation practice, followed by Sherab Chamma and Yeshe Walmo prayers. We have breakfast at 8 a.m. Classes are held from 9 a.m. to noon, with teachings on the greater vehicles of the 9 Ways and the hagiography of Tonpa Shenrab. Following lunch and a short break, Tibetan language classes are held in the afternoons. Mealtimes and tea breaks are opportunities to share and discuss. The students have free time on weekends and can use this time to relax and/or to study and practice. Lishu is located in a quiet area in the countryside, with a small village within walking distance, but it is possible to go the Dehradun or other nearby cities like Rishikesh.
Q: Are there visitors to Lishu, and do students visit other places?
A: We have regular visits of monks from Menri and Za Mongyal Monasteries. We’ve had other visitors for short periods, including two journalists from a Buddhist magazine from Delhi. We had the great fortune to host Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche last September. Then the Lishu sangha went with Rinpoche to Menri Monastery. The young Tulku Pondse Jigme Tenzin (Jorge Rene Valles Sandoval) was among the students. When we were at Menri, one 87-year-old man, who was the disciple of his previous incarnation (the great Bon master Lopon Sangye Tenzin), was very eager to meet the young Tulku and pay respect to him by offering the traditional kata. It was very moving for all the students to see the devotion radiating from this man.
In addition to Menri, students have visited Za Mongyal Monastery (also Bon) and other monasteries in nearby areas.
Q: Can anyone apply for the second year of study, whether or not they attended any of the first year program?
A: Yes. The whole three-year program is designed in a modular and flexible way. Therefore, it is not mandatory to attend the first year to be able to apply for the second year. And students can attend one trimester or all three. Although there will be a strong emphasis on the practice from the second year onward, Tibetan language will continue to be part of the program. The students who have been attending the teachings in Lishu so far have very different backgrounds. Some have followed Bon and/or teachings for decades, some are pretty new. So we have already had to adapt to different levels. The Ma Gyud cycle in the second year and the Zhang Zhung Nyen Gyud in the third year are pretty independent.
Q: What type of applicants are you looking for?
A: We are looking for motivated and determined people to study and practice. New students should have the will to adapt to a new environment. One important requirement is to speak English fluently. Other than that, the admission committee will address each application individually. We invite people who would like to apply to contact us and ask any question they might have.
Q: How do you see the Lishu environment as being beneficial for learning and practice?
A: Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche’s vision for Lishu is a place where Westerners can dedicate themselves to long-term study. It's now embodied, and it is really meant to foster in-depth study and practice. Lishu is located in quiet area, so the facilities enable the students to concentrate on their study and practice. Furthermore, they have closer connection to the Bon tradition by interacting with Bon monasteries.
This is still the first year for the program at Lishu, so many things still need to be built up. For example, we have a project to establish a library, and to improve and develop the gompa. In addition, we need some basic materials such as a printer/copy machine, generator . . . so any support is most welcome! Donations can be made to Lishu through the Ligmincha International donations page. Please specify donation for “Lishu.” To donate equipment please email the director.
Read the full interview plus comments from Lishu students in the upcoming April issue of Voice of Clear Light.