On the eve of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s arrival at the inauguration of Chökyi Lodrö College of Dialectics, artisans were still painting gold leaf on the face of the main temple’s 28-foot Buddha statue. Khyentse Rinpoche was holding a late-night planning session with the Institute’s top students and khenpos who were doubling as event coordinators.
Under buzzing fluorescent lights, Rinpoche grilled the officers in charge. Were they prepared to feed seven thousand guests? How would unexpected high lamas be handled? Was the security team coordinating with His Holiness’s bodyguards and the Indian police? Accommodation lists were shuffled, entire roads were swept, a thousand marigolds were draped over the gate, and the photocopy machine chugged out programmes in Tibetan, Chinese, and English well into the night. We thought that we were as prepared as we could be.
But we were not entirely prepared. We were not prepared for the unimaginable display of devotion, the amazing spectacle of art and culture, the pageantry of the distinguished guests: lamas, dashos, khenpos, royal representatives, ministers, dignitaries, and rinpoches. Forget showers, it was a hurricane of blessings.
The inauguration took place November 19-21, 2004, in Chauntra Tibetan Colony, Himachal Pradesh, India, the new home of what was formerly known as Dzongsar Institute. Now called Chokyi Lodro College of Dialectics (CLCD), it is destined to become a major centre of higher learning. Unprecedented support by the international dharma community enabled the construction of CLCD. Under the guidance and support of the venerable Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk, the new monastery comfortably accommodates up to a thousand monks. The compound is staggering in size, with an impressive three-storey dormitory encircling a landscaped courtyard and fountain. There are eleven classrooms, a library, computer and reading rooms, a Tara hall, and a Guru hall, everything constructed with meticulous care. Even the water tower is beautiful!
Early on the first day, as the air filled with aromatic smoke and jubilant trumpets sang, His Holiness the Dalai Lama snipped the ribbon to officially open the Institute. Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk and Rinpoche took their seats with the other lamas in the main hall, followed by thousands of monks, uniformed schoolchildren, and foreign guests. Representatives from across the Himalayan range–Bhutan, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, and of course Tibet–came to pay their respects, most wearing colourful traditional dress.
The temple is designed to accommodate four thousand people, but many more squeezed in each of the three days to receive teachings, hear speeches by the special guests, and enjoy cultural presentations. Naresh Mathur, a respected barrister from Delhi’s high court, was the English-speaking master of ceremonies, and Khenpo Choying Dorje of the institute did the honours in Tibetan. On day two, His Holiness taught on the Lamp of Enlightenment and awarded khenpo certificates to a select group of new graduates. On the final day he gave a long-life empowerment to the largest crowd of the three-day event.
The entire weekend was subtly infused with the message that Buddha Shakyamuni was an Indian. It was here that Buddhism first took root and where the yogis first wandered. Comparisons between CLCD and the famous Nalanda University were prevalent. Each evening, as the sun set over the purple hills, the guests crowded around the outdoor stage set up by a top Delhi-based professional production company. A perfect half moon rose above the Ashoka pillar (which inspired the Khyentse Foundation lion logo). The pillar, which was stage lit from behind, was a glorious backdrop to the equally glorious music, dance, and theatre. We witnessed Purvadhanashree’s flawless bharatnatyam (classical Indian dance) performance based on Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara. Every expressive gesture of Poorva’s body appeared as a mudra. Vidya Rao, one of the leading exponents of the classical style of Thumri singing, struck heart chords with her enchanting vocal performance based on the Manjushri Namsamgati. His Holiness twice sent his katags to Vidya in praise of her ethereal voice.
The final Indian offering was “A Flowering Tree”, a spectacular original play commissioned by Khyentse Rinpoche, written by Irpinder Bhatia, and directed by Irpinder and Ramesh Batheja. This lively theatre piece was inspired by the Buddha’s Dhammapada and a collection of other stories from the Buddhist, Zen, Sufi, and Upanishad traditions. Tibetan cultural performances by the local Derge community and the Suja Tibetan Children Village School lit up the night with thirty-one dances, two bands, a chorus, and one duet.
This feast for the eyes and ears was well matched by the feasts from the kitchen. The in-house catering was put to the test during the inauguration, feeding thousands of guests, both invited and unexpected. Seventy truckloads of vegetables were consumed. Hidden from view of the guests, a flurry of round-the-clock chopping was taking place. Most astonishing was that every meal was sumptuous and free of charge. A feeling of abundance permeated the dining hall.
After His Holiness took leave on the final day, we had the opportunity to slow down a bit and spend some time with friends, old and new. Khyentse Foundation Executive Director Cangioli Che, Board Members Amelia Chow, Phuntsho Tobgyal, and Pema Wangchuk, and many others involved in KF projects had made the long journey to the inauguration. Hundreds of guests attended the Khyentse Foundation presentation in the main hall. As Cangioli shared the vision of the Foundation, Sherab Dolma translated into Chinese and Rinpoche himself acted as translator for the Tibetans–with hilarious effect.
Although the mood was festive, the message was serious. Here we finally had a chance to impress on people the importance of Khyentse Foundation’s Endowment for Monastic Education. Now that this magnificent monastery has been constructed, a system needs to be in place for it to operate, for the monks to be fed and clothed, for texts to be made available, for the health and hygiene of students to be addressed. A clear message was sent that the Endowment is crucial to the enduring success of this and other Khyentse mandala institutions.
From the time of the Buddha until the present day, an unbroken succession of great beings have achieved enlightenment and continue to teach this path to others. The Dzongsar monasteries and institutes carry on this tradition. Monasteries and shedras provide an invaluable resource for all practitioners, create the basis for continued study and practice, provide extensive training for lamas, and ensure the propagation of these profound teachings worldwide. The Endowment ensures that support for this tradition will continue.
A slide show of images from the inauguration appears on this site in the Five Projects section.