Six years have passed since Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche established Deer Park Institute (DPI) in Bir, India, at the foothills of the Himalayas. Rinpoche’s vision to revive ancient Nalanda University’s international spirit of open and deep inquiry into Buddhadharma and associated arts is unfolding as students from around the world come to DPI to listen, contemplate, meditate and experience the teachings.
Khyentse Foundation has been funding the operation of Deer Park since its inception and is very glad to witness its rapid growth and its gradual path towards financial independence through donation (dana) from participants and grants from various sources, including the Indian government.
In 2012, DPI offered more than 30 programs attended by approximately 1500 students. While so much smaller than the original Nalanda University (5th century -12th century C.E.) with its 9-story library and immense halls walked by Atisha, Padmasambhava and Ashoka, Rinpoche has said that Deer Park, has the potential to benefit beings as much or more.
DPI is a welcoming and personal environment, located on the grounds and in the buildings of what was Dzongsar Chökyi Lodro Institute until 2004, when the monastery relocated to nearby Chauntra. Accommodations include dormitories and rooms with attached or common baths for up to 70 people, a dining area and a kitchen that offers healthy vegetarian food. The institute is committed to ecological sustainability and has organized workshops and conferences on site and in local schools to raise awareness and discuss development strategies. The Himachal Pradesh government has invited DPI to advise on zero waste issues since 2009.
DPI is nonsectarian and offers free courses taught by masters from all Buddhist traditions, including Vajrayana, Mahayana, Zen, and Theravada. Monastics, scholars and lay people attend workshops and some stay for longer programs to study subjects such as philosophical texts and commentaries; classical Pali and Sanskrit; Tibetan language and text translation; arts including music, calligraphy, poetry, dance, film and writing; applied ecology; and meditation.
Buddhist philosophy studies in the Nalanda tradition focus on sutras and shastras. Accordingly, DPI offers a range of courses on these seminal texts, varying in length from a few days to several months. Highly qualified teachers guide students through study, debate and reflection on their deepest meaning. The institute recently began a collaboration with WCCL toward a certificate in Mahayanan Buddhist Psychology and Ethics, and hired two new philosophy and language faculty members, Khenpo Ngawang Ozer and Lopon Pema Longdrol.
Since October, “Jagatoddharini Tara,” 21 forms of Tara painted under the guidance of Ven. Dugu Choegyal Rinpoche, have graced DPI in an ongoing exhibit. The paintings are suffused with devotion, artistry and Tara’s enlightened activity for all sentient beings. They are a perfect match for Rinpoche’s vision for Deer Park.
DPI also has opened its new Audio-Visual facility, a Movie Hall to strengthen its efforts for the Himalayan Film School. Films can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/user/tuningforkfilms.