India, Where the Magic Still Lives
Returning Buddhism to its historic place
In part two of this New Year’s issue on India, we share a brief report on the Indian Community Health Work project and an update on the Lighting the Mahabodhi project, followed by the life-changing stories told by two Indian sangha members from Deer Park. Finally, there’s news about a short film shot at Deer Park in 2021.
Community Health Work
In August and September of 2021, a team headed by SI India’s medical consultant volunteer, Dr. Sonali Vaid (Public Health, Harvard), travelled in the Himalayan foothills, to Bodh Gaya, Bir, Chauntra, Kalimpong, Kurseong, Darjeeling, and Sikkim. Their goal was to strengthen community awareness and readiness in the face of Covid-19 and to address other health challenges.
This community health effort, supported by SI India, Deer Park Institute, and Buddha Pāda, was undertaken to determine the needs of the communities in anticipation of future Covid surges and to provide overall readiness to address health issues. The team also conducted health awareness sessions and shared updated information on Covid-19 with communities to clear up any doubts and questions.
SI India is now strengthening public health infrastructure facilities in rural areas of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, and West Bengal (Kalimpong). These efforts are undertaken in collaboration with government medical facilities.
SI India would like to thank all the donors for their warm wishes and financial support, facilitated through the KF Indian Relief Fund, which makes this ongoing project possible in these difficult times.
In Aug 2021, Dr. Sonali Vaid (third from left) met with Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro Institute Health Center staff Sister Lhamo (center), accompanied by DKCLI head Khenpo Jamyang Chophel (third from right), Ven. Yosei Nyima (second from left), Secretary Tashi (first from right) and Deer Park Staff Prashant (first from left) and Diwan (second from right).
Dr. Sonali Vaid leading a health awareness workshop in Kalimpong area in Aug 2021.
Update: Lighting the Mahabodhi
Although completion of the project was delayed by unexpected technical challenges and the stagnant global supply chain for electronic chips, 95% of the groundwork was finished by the end of December 2021, reported by the LTM team. Watch for a more detailed report soon.
Lighting offering at the Mahabodhi.
Meet Two Deer Park Friends — Samir K and Pallavi Deshmukh
On a beautiful Sunday morning, KF invited Deer Park friends Samir K and Pallavi Deshmukh to share how Deer Park changed their lives—over a Zoom call, of course. The meeting was warm and cheerful, and we found their personal stories heart-touching and inspiring.
Samir K: Deer Park Is a Magical Place
Samir came to Bir from Delhi in 2017 and has now made Bir his permanent home. He shared his journey as someone who reclaimed his life from drug abuse in his earlier years through the Twelve Steps Programme and later through the equally transformative spiritual path at Deer Park. For the past two and half years, Samir has been facilitating weekly recovery meetings at the venue provided by Deer Park to offer support and guidance to those in the local community who have drug issues.
Samir chilling with Champak, his son’s kitten.
“I heard this being said very often, and I have definitely experienced it, that Deer Park is a blessed and very magical space. What makes it magical? The sunsets, the double rainbows, all those things add to the beauty of the place. But it’s really the community here which makes it magical. I see that Buddhist values are very open, transparent, liberating. In this world, which has a lot of division due to religious or political reasons, Buddhism is about being authentic. It is a program of action that teaches principles to do things to benefit yourself and benefit society. It encourages using your own wisdom to decide what to do, not what the scripture tells you. My family tells me I am a much more pleasant and a nicer person, and I tend to believe them. All credit to Deer Park. It’s a wonderful space.”
Pallavi Deshmukh: Rebirth in the Foothills of the Himalayas
“I was always a sea-level person, but now I am one of the mountain people,” Pallavi told us. With both parents from Maharashtra, Pallavi was born in Goa and was brought up in Bombay, very much at sea level. After a 14-year career in communication, media, and public relations, Pallavi switched to art therapy a few years ago. “I came to Bir in February 2018 with my sister. She showed me Deer Park. I was completely awed.”
One month later, Pallavi met Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche for the first time in the Hinamudra teaching at Deer Park. “Something just shifted. I was hearing the most nondogmatic, liberal thing; it was so wonderful. And at the end of the fourth day, I took refuge. Then the real journey began.” Pallavi dived into all of Rinpoche’s books and teachings and joined programs and retreats at Deer Park to deepen her Buddhist studies and practice. She also actively participates in all of SI India’s practices, including the monthly online Green Tara practice.
During her stay at Deer Park, Pallavi conducted different formats of creative art therapy workshops—drop-in, long, and medium formats—engaging with more than 50 participants across age groups and diverse backgrounds, both personal and professional. “In my workshops, whenever I have a chance, I highlight that Buddha is from India. You better take note as an Indian. And who is Buddha? What are the four noble truths? If you are doing a Buddhist philosophy with expressive arts, the importance of Buddha has to be highlighted. We need to talk about the source, to pay homage.”
Pallavi (front center) leading a workship at Deer Park
In Sep 2021, Pallavi leading a workshop on the introduction to the therapeutic value of creative art therapy series for a group of young girls (age group 18-25) from an NGO in Himachal Pradesh.
A short film, Buddha Path Hostel, was shot at Deer Park in 2020, directed by Dave Stevens from the United States and starring Sheetal Agarwal and Deer Park faculty member Venerable Karma Jinpa. This is not just another story of some city dweller searching for happiness in the mountains, but a real life-changing journey that happened and could be happening to any one of us.
Synopsis: Dissatisfied with the frustrations of urban life, Maya escapes to the Himalayas in the hope of finding peace of mind. Instead, she falls prey to an elaborate catfishing scam and endures heartbreak over the departure of a flighty lover. However, an irreverent monk guides Maya to discover the gems of wisdom hidden within her adversities. Will Maya choose to remain a victim of her circumstances, or will she let go of the conditions that led to her unhappiness?
The purpose of this film is to communicate Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s teachings on the four seals in Buddhism in a manner that is relatable to students and admirers of Buddhadharma, new and old. All participants are members of the Deer Park sangha and brought to the project varying abilities of film crew experience, from beginner to professional. The funds for this film were donated by volunteers and other sangha members. Watch the trailer here.
Buddha Path Hostel film poster.
Revitalizing Buddhist Traditions
In addition to Deer Park Institute and Buddha Pāda, KF supports Pune University and a number of grassroot organizations that aspire to revitalize Buddhadharma in India. Watch for updates in future KF Focus issues.
In Other News
- Watch Bhumisparsha’s 2022 Virtual New Year Concert and Rinpoche’s new year message. Let’s welcome the new year by remembering and honoring the Buddha and touching the earth together.
- Read Rinpoche’s new essay, An Aspiring Tantrika’s Tale.
- Read stories about Buddha’s ten births: Ten Jātakas at Wat Ban Khong, Ratchaburi, by Peter Skilling and Santi Pakdeekham.
- Join the online practices offered by KF and SI India:
– Tri Ratna Anusmrit Sadhana (Remembering the Three Jewels).
– Biweekly Tara practice where a live Green Tara Charya dance is offered in addition to the sadhana practice.