Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö College of Dialectics
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Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö College of Dialectics is a shedra (monastic collage) located in Chauntra, Himachal Pradesh, India. Monks from more than 300 monasteries representing all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism from across the Himalayan region to attend the shedra, where they are taught by highly trained khenpos. DKCLI is considered one of the leaders in higher Buddhist education.
In 1982, during the restoration of the original Dzongsar Monastery, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche set up a small Dzongsar Institute on a misty ridge in Geyshing, Sikkim. It was his first independent initiative. In 1983, Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk arrived from Tibet to teach at the institute. Khenpo, a great scholar from the original Dzongsar Monastery, had been imprisoned under the Chinese regime for 23 years. As principal of the institute, he taught many of today’s great masters.
In 1985, the fledgling Dzongsar Institute moved from Sikkim to a more suitable site in the Tibetan settlement of Bir, Himachal Pradesh, India. Enrollment that year was about 40 students, housed in rundown buildings and simple tents, with a huge old water tank serving as an assembly hall. In 1986 a housing block for 50 students was completed. By 1990, after a vigorous building effort, the institute consisted of a temple, three halls, library, office, and accommodations. In the following years, work continued on the temple and halls, reorganizing existing buildings to increase housing capacity. Even as construction continued, with additional housing and facilities for more students, the institute was bursting at the seams, with a student body of about 450 monks, sometimes living 6 to a room. Rather than turn students away, the institute welcomed them, leading to the need for new facilities. Despite the tough conditions, academic excellence never wavered.
New Institute in Chauntra
In 2000, the Dharma community responded to Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk’s call for support, and construction began on the Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö College of Dialectics (DKCLI) in Chauntra, about 10 minutes’ drive from Bir. DKCLI was inaugurated in November 2004.
Under the guidance and support of Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk, the new monastery comfortably accommodates up to a thousand monks. The compound is staggering in size, with an impressive three-story dormitory encircling a landscaped courtyard and fountain. There are 11 classrooms, a library, computer and reading rooms, a Tara hall, and a temple that can accommodate more than 4,000 people, all constructed and maintained with meticulous care. The institute now has a faculty of highly trained khenpos and hundreds of students enrolled. The old Dzongsar Institute in Bir was transformed into Deer Park Institute, a center for the study of classical Indian wisdom traditions, which was established in March 2006. Deer Park is a project under Siddhartha’s Intent Society and has also received financial support from Khyentse Foundation. Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk passed away in 2008. Khenpo Choying Dorjee is the current abbot of the shedra and an active member of KF’s leadership and development team. He was one of the first khenpos to participate in the UC Berkeley scholar exchange program.
DKCLI has an intensive 13-year study program. Students concentrate on traditional Buddhist philosophy for the first 7 years. Each year the students undertake the study of two major texts or commentaries, together with other subjects such as logic, grammar, monastic discipline, and poetry. In accordance with Rinpoche’s wishes, DKCLI maintains traditional academic excellence while expanding its curricula through innovation. Guest lecturers teach the monks about the global economy, western history, and philosophy, and the foundation also supports language programs, computer courses, and management and leadership programs, with the objective of producing computer-literate Buddhist teacher-scholars who are fluent in both English and Chinese, as well as Tibetan. Exchange programs with selected western universities help khenpos to become familiar with western culture. In addition, new bookkeeping practices in the institutes ensure that all KF funds are properly managed and accounted for.
In March 2006, with Rinpoche’s guidance and encouragement, DKCLI formed a management committee that is responsible for the administration and development of the institute. Khenpo Choying has attended several of KF’s leadership training programs and now leads programs on his own. This is a significant step toward modern management of the institute.
Teachers for the World
During the inauguration of DKCLI in November 2004, Khyentse Rinpoche clearly articulated his wish for the institute “to produce foremost Buddhist scholars and teachers who will make a difference in the world.” The role of Khyentse Foundation is to assist the institute to reach its goal by expanding its curriculum to include languages, computers, and short courses on world economy, history, mathematics, and other important subjects. KF is also committed to establishing the institute as a world-class center of Buddhist studies that will produce the next generation of Buddhist teachers for the world.
Since 2006, KF language programs have offered classes to the senior DKCLI monks. Being able to speak foreign languages gives them the opportunity to bring benefit to a broader population through teaching and translation. The program also helps monks function in practical matters when they travel in India and abroad. In March 2012, the khenpos of the shedra decided to expand the program as part of a series of curriculum changes to bring the monastery fully into the 21st century. Monks in the program receive 2 hours of language instruction every day, plus time in the computer lab. Twice a week, they enjoy an English movie night. The teachers are a mix of local Tibetans, Indians, and westerners from around the world.
“The classes are great, I never feel bored. I like the mix of English and Dharma. Dharma alone makes me feel sleepy, but mixed with the English study, I feel good. I like to learn to talk in English, and to translate using English. Wherever I go, whatever I do, if I can speak English I’ll never have any problems. We need to have this knowledge, this experience of other ways of living.” — Sangay Gaylek, a monk from Bhutan
“As Buddhist teachers, we need to learn English to help the Dharma flourish in the world. If we can’t speak the language of foreigners, we can’t communicate the Dharma.” — Abbot Khenpo Jamyang Lösel
Clinic and Community Outreach
The health clinic at Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö Institute was founded in 2006 with continuing assistance from KF. The free clinic provides essential primary and preventive healthcare for the more than 500 monks at DKCLI.
Starting in 2012, Khyentse Foundation India has organized an annual free medical camp at DKCLI for people from the surrounding villages. Free consultation and medicines are provided to hundreds of patients suffering from ailments such as influenza, colds, diarrhea, and asthma.