Thrangu Rinpoche Speaks on
the Importance of The Vajravidya Institute in Sarnath, India
Among all the Buddha's enlightened activity, the central event was turning the wheel of Dharma in Sarnath very near Varanasi. This makes it a special place, the most important among all the places related to the Buddha. If people can practice in this hub of the world, it will activate the Buddha's blessing and alleviate sickness, famine, and war. On the contrary, if Dharma activity were to decline here, the situation of the world would also deteriorate.
During the time of King Ashoka, the Dharma spread widely in India and in foreign lands and people's lives were happy. With time, the Dharma receded and the situation in India became worse as she came under the control of a foreign power and the situation in the world as well deteriorated with the two World Wars and then the takeover of Tibet.
During the last century, a monk named Dharmapala from Shri Lanka built in Sarnath a large temple, called Mulaghandakirti, and placed Buddha statues inside. Afterwards, India regained her freedom and the world situation began to improve, so I think that if the Dharma flourishes, the whole world is benefited. For this reason, making great efforts, I have built the Vajravidya Institute in Sarnath.
In addition to the temple and living quarters, the new complex has an institute for higher Buddhist studies, which is very important. When the Tibetans had to flee their country, the statues, stupas, and texts were almost all lost. Some Tibetan lamas escaped to India, and among them were quite a few great lamas. So at that time, there were problems, but due to the presence of these highly realized masters, the danger of losing the Dharma was not so great. Now these great lamas are gradually passing away, and in general, I feel that if we did not train fine people who have good qualities and practice experience, we will lose many of the oral instructions that are so precious.
In the past, the people living in the Himalayan region, from Ladakh in the West to Bhutan and Mön in the East, went to Tibet to study and then returned to their homelands to practice and teach the Dharma. In this way the Dharma was maintained and propagated. However, since 1959, it is not possible to go to Tibet to study, and so in India each tradition of Dharma with its particular path of study and practice has built their respective institutes. These institutions are critical for maintaining the Dharma and also give those in Tibet, who wish to study a place to go when they are not allowed to study there.
In terms of maintaining the Karma Kagyu tradition, if things do not turn out well, the continuum of oral instructions, the texts and commentaries of the previous Karmapas would be lost and the lineage would suffer great ruin. Therefore, the Institute in Varanasi, with its two sections of study and practice, was built to sustain the great tradition of these teachings.
It is also possible that in the future, students from abroad will be able to study at Vajravidya Institute. Visas are relatively easy to obtain for India, and there is a tradition of foreigners coming to the Varanasi area to study at its major universities-Hindu University, Sanskrit University and the DM University (for Tibetan Studies). Varanasi is rather like Oxford or Boston with many institutions of higher education constellated in one place.
At Vajravidya, the students focusing on the textual tradition study Madhyamaka philosophy, the Pararmita Sutras, and the Vinaya along with the VIIIth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje's commentaries. Dialectics and logic are studied through The Ocean of Reasoning by the VIIth Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso. From the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, come the Profound Inner Nature, Distinguishing Wisdom and Consciousness, and Revealing the Essence. Also studied are the Supreme Continuum by Arya Maitreya, the two volumes on Hevajra, the Three Vows, and so forth. This deep study of these texts allows their tradition to be maintained within the understanding of the students, who can then pass this on to the next generation.
At the Institute, there are currently seventy-one monks, including those who practice the meditative rituals, those who focus on textual study, and their teachers, and there are plans to eventually increase their number to two hundred. In general their income, if they have one, is very small, and so if anyone could help them, it would be a very beneficial. Six hundred dollars completely supports one monk for one year. It would be a tremendous kindness and great blessing to help in this way.
Next year, the Namo Buddha Seminar will take place at Vajravidya Institute. In this part of India, the weather is fresh in the winter and the blessings are palpable since it is located right near the Deer Park where Shakyamuni Buddha first taught the Dharma. A perfect place for study, it is also easy to travel from Sarnath to Bodhgaya where the Buddha was enlightened and, also, to visit the XVIIth Karmapa, Orgyen Trinle Dorje, who may come to visit the Institute.
(Thrangu Rinpoche issued this statement at The Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen Retreat at Buck Creek Camp in the Cascade Mountains outside of Seattle on June 16, 2000. He gave the statement in Tibetan, at the request of a student, and it was translated into English by Michele Martin.)
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