Another chapter begins at Root Institute:
Notes from the New Director... Ven. Tenzin Paldron
I took over as Director of RI on June 15 from Ven. Trisha Labdron, the only director to serve for two terms at RI, the first term as a lay practitioner and the second as a nun, the first ordained director.
She was the fourth and seventh director in the lineage of directors at RI which was established on October 10, 1984 after Lama Yeshe expressed to Kabir Saxena who was then living in England his wish to start a dharma center in Bodhgaya, “My only wish is Indian people so kind to Tibetan people generation to generation and I want to return kindness to historic Indian people. This is probably your wish too.” The lineage of directors include Kabir Saxena, Gabriel Forrer, Tony Simmons & Debbie Rayfield, Frank Brock and Sally Dudgeon each of whom made tremendous contributions to Root Institute during their tenure in their own unique ways.
It is not easy to have to follow in the line of such an esteemed list of directors in light of all the challenges that they faced and the contributions they made over the years. I took over from Ven. Trisha on the recommendation of our holy and most precious Guru, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche (KLZR) with much trepidation and awe at having to fulfill the mission of RI.
I am delighted, honored and privileged to have a group of diverse, competent and committed staff, workers, sangha and volunteers from around the world to work with. To fulfill the vision of our precious holy Guru there are three main components to our mission: (1) to be part of the preservation of the ancient Nalanda tradition of India through providing the opportunity to engage in the study and practice of Buddhist Meditation and Philosophy thereby helping people’s minds and hearts be transformed into their highest potential for the benefit of others, (2) to provide compassionate service especially to impoverished children, adolescents and adults in neighboring areas; (3) and to create a harmonious and compassionate spiritual environment to live and work together in.
Root Institute has been one of the truly unique FPMT centers in India and across the world in its commitment to delivering the second component of our mission.Through its three main projects Maitreya School Project (MS), the Shakyamuni Buddha Community Health Care Clinic (SBCHCC), and the Tara Children’s Project (TCP), Root Institute provides education, health care and an orphanage for the destitute and the needy in our community. Our present challenge is to continue to extend our outreach to the neighboring villages while deepening the quality of care we provide.
We also wish, however, to further enrich the breadth and quality of our spiritual programs and teachings that we offer at Root Institute to fulfill our first mission.To do so we are delighted to report that our request for a Resident Geshe to assist in developing an in-depth study program such as the FPMT Basic Program (BP) for our residents here has been approved. BP would also give the opportunity to folks from other parts of India and the world to live and study here full time, while being engaged in karma yoga with any of our three projects and the opportunity to do retreat. Alternatively folks could choose to focus more exclusively on either engaging in service or in long-term retreats, which is what our fourth project the Garden of Stupas is being designed to provide, a sacred and safe haven to do individual and group retreats.
To fulfill our third component of establishing and helping us function as a healthy spiritual community we have set up monthly meetings with staff, workers and volunteers to review, discuss and meditate on the 16 guidelines based on the inspirational values put forth by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo in the 7th century A.D. We also invite outside consultants to hold training sessions on other relevant topics that help us to work together harmoniously and to assist in deepening our compassion for each other and the people we serve.
We hope you our readers are as excited about the potential and possibilities of what is unfolding at RI. None of this, however, will be possible without your great generosity, kindness and support. We are deeply grateful to all those who have generously given of their time, money and energy in the past. Over the past years, however, our expenses have far superseded the donations we have received. This is an issue of great concern for us!
So if you would like to “accumulate skies of merit” as our holy Guru Kybaje Lama Zopa Rinpoche likes to say and be a part of the RI family by becoming a monthly short or long term donor for any of our projects or if you wish to make a one time donation offering please do so by clicking on the Donate Button on our website: www.rootinstitute.com and checking the appropriate project. We will be happy to give you periodic updates about each of our projects.
In the last three months we have been mainly preparing and getting reading for our busy season which runs from October through April. The Kalachakra initiations and teachings may have been postponed, however, our talented and creative Spiritual Program Coordinator (SPC) will in the next section introduce you to our upcoming season packed with enriching courses for the mind and body.
We hope you will take the opportunity to attend one of our courses or to visit our growing RI family at any time! We look forward to serving you and getting to know you better! If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me at: email@example.com
REFLECTIONS FROM OUR SPIRITUAL PROGRAM COORDINATOR (SPC)
The current atmosphere of change inspired me to reflect on past program developments and to consider the potential for our future. In the midst of this reflection I found myself looking at the FPMT Wisdom Culture web page. After all, we are Root Institute for Wisdom Culture. The very first paragraph on that page stood out: “Every organization has its own distinctive culture. Around the world, in FPMT Centres, projects and services, in its policies and educational programs, that culture is infused with the wisdom and compassion of our founders, Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche.” Having worked and done retreat in different Centres in Australia, I have come to appreciate the benefits of the infusion of wisdom and compassion present at FPMT Centers, including here at Root Institute.
At RI our volunteers, staff, students and guests have created an environment that focuses entirely on the dharma in a balanced way. I refer not only to those involved in the spiritual program but everyone who has been a part of our many projects. Our spiritual program team consists of volunteers who divide their time equally between interacting with our students and engaging in active service in our local community. Our introductory course and retreat participants regularly visit Tara Children’s Project, Maitreya School and the Shakyamuni Buddha Community Health Care Center to see ‘dharma in action’ and meditate on these real life examples of the Buddha’s teachings.
Most notably we are also located in Bodhgaya, the place where Buddhism began, the holiest of holy sites in the Buddhist world! For participants to receive the immeasurable benefits from our location we have integrated it into our entire program. E.g. Last season our Green Tara retreatants were able to complete many sessions sitting beside the holy Mahabodhi Stupa. During our Bodhicitta Retreat, students took the bodhisattva vows from Geshe Dorje Damdul sitting underneath the Bodhi Tree. Thus listening, reflecting and meditating occurred not only in our gompa but at the very place where Buddha Shakyamuni first realised the Dharma.
With respect to the spiritual program for this upcoming season one of our new additions is our Insight program with Ven. Antonio from Nov 6-December 1. This is a series of three day residential retreats and pilgrimages with opportunities for personal retreat in between, capping off with a course on the Heart Sutra. It is our first program with Ven. Antonio that really takes advantage of our unique proximity to the many holy sites of the Buddha. The Yoga & Meditation Retreat, Path of Peace and Harmony (Dec 19-28) will become a reoccurring retreat throughout each season. We also aim to include 3 day yoga retreats for those who have only a few days available. This is medicine for the mind and the body. Our Extensive Offering Retreat is specifically held during Losar when practitioners can increase their merit over a 100 000 times!
In February Jimi Neal is back to lead our Green Tara Retreat that includes the additional power of Tong-Len and Mahamudra. Geshe Dorje Damdul returns to Root Institute for a ten day retreat on Bodhicitta in April, extending our season and allowing us to take advantage of our idyllic warm weather before the hot summer kicks in! Our foundation program includes Taste of Buddhism and Experience Buddhism at the Root, both of which now include pilgrimage to places like Nalanda University, Ragjir and more.
Our program, however, does not just stop at courses and retreats. You will find us meditating each morning in our gompa or doing gentle yoga on the roof while the sun rises. We regularly recite the Golden Light Sutra and make offerings at the Stupa. Pujas, prayers and painting gold on our many small stupas are just other ways of practicing and relaxing at Root.
Moreover, it appears that our aspiration to begin the first formal FPMT Basic Program in India next September, 2016 may soon become a reality. Our very kind Spiritual Director and Guru, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, is currently looking for a suitable Geshe for Root Institute. It is early days yet and our plans are still being formulated but we invite all students and sangha to consider this incredible opportunity to live and study within sight of the Mahabodhi Stupa!
So for anyone who has not come to Bodhgaya, resided as a student at Root Institute or visited the Mahabodhi Stupa, include it as ‘No 1’ on your bucket list and remember that death could happen at any moment. This is the land where Buddhism began. Here the teachings step off the page and come to life. No one leaves unchanged!
GETTING TO KNOW OUR VOLUNTEERS
The smooth administration and running of RI is the result of the hard work of volunteers from around the world. To help you get to know the richness and diversity they bring to RI we will include a note from them in each newsletter.
“Hi, my name is Lozang, I have been a volunteer here for nearly two years. The role of volunteers at Root Institute as I see it is basically to contribute as much as possible, with positive intentions, to the fulfillment of the mission of Root Institute in accordance with our Guru’s vision. Each volunteer plays a part in actualizing this mission. For example, I am a New Zealander and have been a Buddhist all my life since my parents met Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe in the 70’s. I have done quite a bit of study and practice and to me Dharma practice is the most important thing in life. I enjoy discussing or sharing dharma, as it seems there is usually always new insight to be gained. I am also a registered nurse and my main work here is with the children of Maitreya School and the Tara Children’s Project. I help ensure that their health and physical well-being is closely monitored, problems are quickly seen to and they are kept safe and well educated about health issues. This involves working as a team with other volunteers and staff at Root Institute and so far it has been quite harmonious here. Although it has been tough at times, I have seen my dharma practice improve and also feel I have been beneficial to others, so I feel very fortunate to be able to fulfill my guru’s wish by volunteering here.”
Root Institute provides conducive living conditions for sangha to deepen their spiritual practice through our various daily, monthly practices and personal and group retreats. In addition our resident sangha hold key positions at RI. FPMT visiting sangha typically receive free accommodations for the first two weeks and free food for the duration of their stay here. We encourage all our resident and visiting sangha to help and participate in our monthly puja offerings such as Guru puja, Tara puja, Medicine Buddha puja, Protector prayers, sutra recitations, light offerings, and offering of robes to the Shakyamuni Buddha statue at the Mahabodhi stupa. Daily sur, tea and light offerings are also made by the sangha. In addition the sangha participate in the bi-monthly sojong ceremony held by the monks of Namgyal Monastery in Bodhgaya. The monks also kindly gave our sangha the opportunity to participate in their annual rains retreat. During special Buddha days the monks perform special pujas for and on behalf of Root Institute for the well being of all sentient beings.
This month we feature our longest resident sangha member Ven. Tenzin Dekyong. She was born and brought up in Singapore. She completed her Bacherlor's in Electrical engineering. She took Getsulma ordination from H.H.D.L in 1997. Since 2001 she has been a sangha resident at Root Institute. She has been the librarian since then. Currently she is also in charge of organizing pujas. She dedicates each day to doing various pujas and practices and is very devoted to our holy guru, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
Due to your kindness we are able to support the sangha and all their activities!
GRATITUDE TO OUR INDIAN STAFF
As one of the Indian staff member commented to me recently, "Madam, Directors come and go, volunteers come and go, it is the Indian staff who have constructed and maintained the current infrastructure!" The Indian staff have remained consistent, loyal and faithful to RI over the years. They have been responsible for the construction, repairs and maintenance of all the buildings and rooms, for tendering to our beautiful lush gardens and trees, for providing nourishing, flavorful food to all the residents, for chauffeuring us around town as and when needed and for managing our main office impeccably. Several of their children attend Maitreya School and also receive medical care at our clinic, two of RI’s projects.
As a way of getting to know our staff we will feature one member in each newsletter!
We start with Mr. Arun Kumar Sinha who has been our trusted office clerk at the RI main office since April 2010. He also worked at our clinic for ten years from 1999 – 2007 as a liaison officer. His father was a retired district accounts officer who was well know and greatly respected by high officials in the community. Arun Sinha according to Mr. Richard Fendrick the former Director, Heath Care Services has been an exemplary employee. He is reliable and trustworthy and manages all financial accounts in his domain with 100% accuracy. He uses the limited financial resources of our charitable trust frugally and honestly." Arunji currently continues to be a great asset to RI and without him our office would come to a stand still. He has one son who is twelve years old and is in the 7th standard. He remarks that his major mission “is to serve and benefit others” and that is why he chooses to work at RI.
Your generous donation makes us able to support our Indian staff like Mr. Arun Sinha and their families.
UPDATES ON OUR ANIMAL WELFARE PROJECT
Whenever possible we liberate animals targeted to be killed. We look after the welfare of animals by providing them with clean, spacious housing and nutritious food. As per Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s instruction we also paint the roof of their houses with specific mantras to bless and purify them.
Currently we have 3 dogs, 1 cat, 13 goats and 1 hen. In order to be able to provide fresh milk to the RI community a cow had been purchased. Over the years she gave birth to four bulls and another cow. We were recently blessed by the addition of a newborn female and male calf, named Sangmo and Sangpo into the Root Institute family. Thanks to them we currently have abundant, fresh milk available for all the residents living at RI! You can contribute to our animal welfare projects via our website.
NEXT SCHEDULED FLAM EVENT: Nov 2 – 4, 2015.
LORD BUDDHA'S ACTUAL DESCENT FROM THE GOD OF THE THIRTY-THREE REALM.
“Those who offer one thousand lights will be reborn when Maitreya Buddha shows the deed ofgaining enlightenment and receive his first Dharma teaching.” ~ Arya Maitreya Sutra
FLAM is another opportunity that RI provides to accumulate extensive merits. Our next and last FLAM event for this year falls on November 2 - 4 celebrating the Lord Buddha’s Actual Descent from the God of the thirty-three Realm. Join us as we make thousands of light offerings at the Great Mahabodhi Stupa of Enlightenment and at RI, along with a special light offering prayer composed by Kabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche together with reading the names and dedications of sponsors. We also offer prayer flags and pujas on this special occasion.
Click on the following links to get updates about each of our projects: