Karma Shri Nalanda Institute For Higher Buddhist Studies
|The top two buildings comprise the Institute|
Karma Shri Nalanda Institute (KSNI) is a fully accredited institution for higher buddhist studies. It was founded by His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa and is affiliated with the Sampurnnant Sanskrit University of Varanasi. KSNI and the Sanskrit University offer the Acharya degree (master of buddhist studies) and Ka-rabjampa degree (doctorate of divinity). KSNI is a monastic college and students are mainly young monks between the age of 13 to 35. The Institute faculty are composed of lineage masters—abbots and other qualified monastic and lay teachers. The standard of education is one the best in the Tibetan Buddhist education. Major subjects taught include Buddhist philosophy, psychology and education courses, as well Buddhist history, and Tibetan literature and art and also English, Hindi, Pali, Sanskrit and other Tibetan studies.
Karma Shri Nalanda Institute is located just above the main monastery of Rumtek, in eastern Sikkim, 24 kilometers away from Gangtok, the capital of the Sikkim, India. Rumtek is situated at an altitude of about 5800 ft (1,547 metres); the climate in Summer averages between a maximum of 20.7 and minimum of 13.1 (deg.C°.); in Winter, maximum 14.9 / minimum 7.7. The best season to visit, in terms of weather, is March to late May, or from October to mid-December.
MAJOR EVENTS OF THE YEAR
A good time to visit is during the public events held each year by the monastery. Two of the most festive and important events are held each summer and winter . In the fourth lunar month of the Tsurphu Tibetan calendar either the Guru Rinpoche or the Vajrakilaya Drupchen (great sadhana practice retreat) take place. The practice events lasts for ten days and are followed by the traditional sacred lama dance of the eight manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava (on the 10th day), Yidam dieties, and other protectors. At the end of the lunar year, in the 12th month (usually sometime between February and March), Rumtek holds another festive ten-day practice of the Mahakala Protector. This is followed by the traditional sacred lama dance of Mahakala (on the 29th day). The Tibetan New Year (1st day of the 1st month) celebration of the new year follows, which usually lasts for 3-8 days, with the cultural and spiritual festivities, typically involving many Tibetan opera dance performances. These are some of the most festive and important holidays for Rumtek. These events provide an unique opportunity for both practitioners and the general public to visit and enjoy the traditional sacred lama dance performances, intense week-long practices, and the cultural celebration of the Tibetan New Year.
Air : The nearest airport is Bagdogra (124 kms). Both government and private airlines operate flights to and from New Delhi, Calcutta, Patna, and other cities.
Rail: The nearest railway stations are in Siliguri (114 kms), New Jalpaiguri (NJP) (125 kms). Train service runs to and from New and Old Delhi, Calcutta, Gaya, Varanasi and other cities and towns of India.
Road: Good motor roads connect Gangtok with Siliguri (114 kms), Darjeeling (139 kms), Calcutta (725 kms), and Guwahati (589 kms).
Bus Service: Regular bus services connect Gangtok with Bagdogra, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Siliguri and Calcutta. Sikkim Nationalized Transportation, which is a state government bus service, and other private services operate within Sikkim as well as outside the state.
His Holiness the XVIth Gyalwang Karmapa, the supreme head of the Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism, founded the Karma Shri Nalanda Institute (KSNI), a monastic college, in November 1981. Nalanda, according to Buddhist historical records, was the name of a renowned Buddhist University in ancient India, and was chosen as the name of the contemporary Institute by His Holiness. It has been one of the main visions of His Holiness since he was at Tsurphu in central Tibet to establish and restrengthen the monastic college and the rich educational tradition of the Karma Kagyu lineage.
The construction of Karma Shri Nalanda Institute started in 1980 with the funds raised by His Holiness during His trip to North America in that year. With the blessings of His Holiness the XVIth Gyalwa Karmapa, the Institute was completed in 1982 and inaugurated by the appointed Directors of the Institute, their Eminences Shamar Rinpoche, Situ Rinpoche, Jamgon Rinpoche, and Gyaltsap Rinpoche; and Mr. Dhamchoe Yongdu, the General Secretary of His Holiness the XVIth Karmapa. The first group of students consisted of less than fifty monks. Today there are over one hundred students at the KSNI.
His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche III
As the Institute grew in the early 1980's, it became necessary for more classrooms, students' dormitory, and bigger library space to be built. Under the Directorship of His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, the construction of an annex building began in 1985. Through the tremendous effort of His Eminence, the annex was completed in 1987. This five story annex includes a small library, auditorium, classrooms, and students' quarters. The building is constructed in the traditional Tibetan architectural style, beautifully ornate, painted in bright colors and symbolically significant to Buddhists. Their Eminences Jamgon Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche, the Acting Director of KSNI, inaugurated the annex in 1987 at a ceremony attended by the Chancellor of Sampurnannt Sanskrit University (Varanasi, U.P.), the Secretary of the Ecclesiastical Department of the Government of Sikkim, representatives of various Buddhist Institutes, scholars, teachers and many other friends and supporters.
The students are required to have an eighth grade level or equivalent education for admission to the Institute. After completion of seven years of study, students attain the shastri degree, and with two more years of study, the acharya degree (master of buddhist studies), is awarded from Sanskrit University. After completion of nine years, the ka-rabjampa degree (doctor of divinity) is offered from KSNI.
Two-degree programs of acharya and ka-rabjampa are offered at KSNI:
1) Acharya: Since 1987, KSNI has been officially affiliated with Sampurnannt Sanskrit University, in Varanasi (U.P.), India. Sanskrit University is one of the oldest government-recognized educational institutions in India and is a fully accredited university. The University governs examinations of the KSNI and Acarya (master of buddhist studies) degrees, which are awarded jointly by KSNI and Sampurnannt Sanskrit University.
2) Ka-rabjampa: Karma Shri Nalanda Institute offers the traditional ka-rabjampa degree (doctor of divinity) in accordance with the 800-year-old educational system of the Karma Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.
KSNI's two principal teachers are Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, chief abbot of the Karma Kagyu lineage, and the senior-most Abbot, Khenchen Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. Both were appointed by H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. There are many other faculty members of the Institute over the years, such as Junior Khenpo Chodrak Tenphel, and teachers of debate, Tibetan literature, history, Pali, Sanskrit, Hindi, English, and others. Please check for the latest schedule with the office of KSNI.
Both the abbots, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche and Khenchen Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, have developed new textbooks and commentaries in response to curricular needs, and which are now regularly used at KSNI. Under their guidance, a fundamental curricular structure and teaching methodology have been established at the Institute.
The administration and curriculum for KSNI is governed by "The Constitution, Code of Conduct and Curriculum of Shri Karmae Nalanda Institute for Higher Studies" written by His Holiness during the summer retreat in 1981. Under the Constitution, the Directorship of the Institute is shared among the four regents of the Kagyu order, who, in conjunction with an appointed and qualified abbot, are responsible for overseeing the Institute.
KSNI was initially directed by His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, the Chief Abbot of Kagyu Lineage. Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche worked diligently to execute the vision of His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa. He was assisted on a daily basis by junior Abbot Khenpo Chödrak and some senior students. Through their efforts, the present infrastructure was established. H.E. Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche succeeded H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche as Director in 1986. In 1989, H.E. Shamar Rinpoche succeeded to the Directorship and served until 1993. H.E. Situ Rinpoche, the current Director, assumed his term in 1993. Since 1993, their eminences Tai Situ Rinpoche and Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche directs the Institute under the guidance of His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa, Orgyen Drodul Trinley Dorje.
The required curriculum at KSNI includes a variety of Buddhist philosophy and psychology courses. The elective courses are English, Hindi, Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan and Buddhist history, Tibetan literature, art, Tibetan astrology, and Tibetan medicine. The fundamental training is based on a rigorous, traditional Tibetan course of study with some influence from modern educational systems. In addition to their academic pursuits, the students engage in various meditation practices.
The daily schedule begins at four o'clock in the morning when all the students gather in the main auditorium and chant the Manjushri (bodhisattva of wisdom) prayer to sharpen their wisdom. The classes start as early as six in the morning and finish around eleven-thirty. The elective courses are mainly taught in the afternoons. The students pursue their individual studies and complete their homework in the afternoons and evenings. Also in the evenings, the students gather to practice traditional individual debate, and on every Tuesday night there is a larger gathering for debate among all levels of students.
The following is an example of a daily schedule for those who are in the acharya degree program:
04:00 - 05:00 am Morning Practice Session
05:00 - 06:00 am Break
06:00 - 07:30 am Morning Study Period
07:30 - 08:30 am Breakfast
08:30 - 10:30 am Main Class (major subject)
10:30 - 10:45 am Break
10:45 - 12:00 am Class Discussions and/or
Analytical Meditation (in the classroom)
12:00 - 01:00 pm Lunch break
01:00 - 02:00 pm Language Class
02:30 - 04:00 pm Afternoon Debate Practice Session
04:00 - 05:00 pm Tea break
05:00 - 06:00 pm Class or Study Period
06:00 - 07:00 pm Dinner break
07:00 - 08:00 pm Evening Practice Session
08:00 - 09:00 pm Evening Debate Practice
Session or Other Assignments
09:00 pm End of daily activities.
The students at KSNI come from different ethnic backgrounds and are mainly from the Himalayan regions. Many of them are Tibetan refugees; others are from Bhutan, Nepal, Ladakh, Sikkim, and other parts of India. The Institute relies upon the financial support and assistance from various foundations as well as from private donations. The donations for KSNI provides free education, text books, food and lodging for anyone who wishes to pursue monastic study at KSNI. Most of the faculty members are either volunteers or are paid through philanthropy
In 1982, with the support of some teachers and with the permission of H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, the Students' Welfare Union was founded. The main aim of the Students Welfare Union is to provide help and support to poor and sick students, provide medical aid, and assist in arranging ceremonies at the Institute. The Welfare Union staff is elected by the students every two years.
In 1986, the senior students of KSNI formed a volunteer-based committee to raise funds to publish urgently needed rare texts. The Committee has been responsible for publishing textbooks, sponsoring the creation of woodblock editions, obtaining thangka paintings for the Institute, and the publication of the Nalandakirti Journal.