Sarnath, India

An Index of information on the Institute

General Manager: Khenpo Lobsang Tenzin - Tel: (0091-542) 259-5750
Office Telephone: (0091-542)-259-5744
STD Phone: 259-5745
Fax: 259-5746
Vajra Vidya House (guesthouse) 259-5749

In the fall of 1999, Thrangu Rinpoche completed his project to build an institute of buddhist studies in Sarnath near Varanasi. Sarnath is where the Lord Buddha first turned the wheel of the dharma for sentient beings. It is a very auspicious place for learning. There are many great buddhist universities such as Sanskrit University and Tibetan Vajrayana University located there. His Holiness Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche was working on plans to build his monastery there but passed away before starting construction. Thrangu Rinpoche feels by building his institute, it would please the mind of Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. The institute is to be called the Vajravidya Institute which was the name of the sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa. It means "indestructible knowledge".

At the buddhist pilgrimage site of Sarnath, near Varanasi in India the Buddha gave the first turning of the wheel of dharma when he taught the Four Noble Truths.

This site, also known as "Deer Park" is now a large park held in trust by the Indian government and representatives of different schools of Buddhism. The ancient stupa is in a spacious and beautiful park with the Mahaboudhi Temple, an enormous pen, filled with many different kinds of deer, in a natural setting, a zoo and green lawns, flowers, and trees. In the area are temples of many different schools of Buddhism: Japanese, Tibetan, Korean, Chinese, Sri Lankan, and Burmese.

For the past four years, Thrangu Rinpoche has been building a classic Tibetan monastery called The Vajra Vidya Institute on the backside of the park. The area of the monastery site is now known locally as"Kagyu He" (pronounced "he"). The temple, which will be the biggest in Sarnath, is now about one year from completion.

I asked Thrangu Rinpoche why he chose to build a large monastery in this location. he answered, "Part of the reason is to preserve Tibetan Buddhism and also the architecture which is very special. The style of this type of building came from the ancient Nalanda Monastic Institute near Bodhagaya, India which is now in ruins. These days, people visit Sarnath from many different cultures. They will be able to see this type of building which is a very solid structure. It is beautiful and lasts a very long time. Also this type of monastery actually demonstrates Buddhist principles because it is built like a mandala." These designs are the designs also used in Tibet. Rinpoche has followed the texts which explain in great detail how to make the complete structure including the doors, windows, pillars, beams, shrine, Mahakala's room, terraces and such. The outer form is now completed but there is much interior work for doors, windows and ornamentation which remains to be done. Currently there are 15 monks and 4 nuns in residence studying and helping with the work of the Institute.

I also asked Rinpoche what he hoped would be the activity of the Institute. He said that he would like to have short courses of three or four months for monks of different areas of India and Bhutan. For many of them it is now always possible to study in a monastic college for many years, but those who wish to study can leave their monasteries for a few months to take an extensive course in one subject. There are monasteries in Bhutan, Sikkim, and the Himalayan regions that do not have higher Buddhist studies.

There is a college in Sarnath for full-time higher Buddhist studies known as the Root Institute funded by the Indian government. The teachers are from all four lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. The students who are both monks and lay people are given scholarships to study. Presently, some of Thrangu Rinpoche's monks and nuns are studying there. Rinpoche would like them to be able to stay in his monastery and keep monastic discipline while attending the Root Institute.

Rinpoche will also give courses for Westerners at the Vajra Vidya Institute. There will be a library and other facilities as well as translation projects.

There is a small self-contained suites for visiting Rinpoches and lamas as well as a special suite for the Karmapa which looks out to the stupa. As well there will be monk's quarters and guest rooms. The main shrine room is large and quite impressive.

Sarnath itself being a quiet and peaceful holy place, lends itself well to study and meditation. Barely in Varanasi, once known as Benares, it the sacred Ganges River. Varanasi is the oldest continually inhabited city in the World. Sarnath is close to Varanasi Airport with direct flights daily from kathmandu and Delhi and it is near major bus and train routs.

-by Gloria Jones

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