The staff at Deer Park have been busily creating new programs to help share the wisdom traditions of classical Indian philosophy and culture. Check out the new video.
Deer Park Institute, located in Bir, Himachal Pradesh, India, is a centre for the study of classical Indian wisdom traditions. The centre is under the auspices of Siddhartha’s Intent India, a registered educational society that was formed in March 2006 with a distinguished board of directors and advisory board. The society obtained charitable and tax exempt status in September 2006 and was deeply honored to receive the patronage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Khyentse Foundation provided the core financial support for the operation of Deer Park.
Vision: The administrators, teachers, and students at Deer Park Institute are trying to cultivate, in small ways and large, the conditions that prevailed at Nalanda University centuries ago. Nalanda was a place where students came from all traditions of Indian thought to enjoy the opportunity to debate and study philosophy, language, literature, poetry, economics, medicine, and the arts. “Such conditions were favorable to bring about both relative and ultimate realizations of reality,” says Institute Director Prashant Varma. “Similarly, the Rimé tradition, which flourished in Tibet, was a renaissance movement that brought about studies of Buddhism with openness and freshness.” Using these models, the Institute is developing programs that explore all schools of Buddhism with origins in the Pali Canon and the Sanskrit Canon. “It’s important to note,” says Varma, “that the pursuit in Nalanda was not driven much by career-oriented studies. There was an ambition, a pride, yet that came out of a contemplative pursuit.”
Environment: Deer Park is not just rooted in the past; the Institute is making notable progress with its progressive environmental initiatives. Many Western students who have visited Bir are awed by the staggering beauty of the Himalayan foothills and brokenhearted by the garbage-filled streams and fields. Deer Park is taking a leadership role in the community, working to educate people about the environmental impact of their actions. “We feel a great responsibility to both the land and the people,” says Varma. “We are now beginning to develop a number of programs in the areas of ecology, traditional economy, and right livelihood.” For more information, download Deer Park’s Ecology Report.
Exchange: When you sit down at a gathering at Deer Park, you find yourself in the thick of an extraordinary multicultural exchange with students from around the globe. The Institute recently made these exchanges more formal by joining the Fredskorpset Exchange project, a Norwegian government agency that supports exchange and learning across Asia and Africa. Interns have come to the Institute from the Participatory Development Training Centre (PADETC) in Laos and the Khmer Youth Association in Cambodia. The Institute recently arranged an exchange for a student from the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh to PADETC Laos. Another student from Nagaloka-Maharashtra went to the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) in Thailand on a 11-month exchange.
Community: Often settlements like Bir are not integrated with the surrounding communities, but Deer Park is taking steps to bridge the gap so that the benefits of its programs can be shared by all. In addition to the environmental initiatives, the Institute reaches out to its neighbors in a number of ways, both formal and informal. “I think what is really growing is our work with the local communities,” says Varma. “We support the Youth Buddhist Society from Uttar Pradesh by having their three interns work with us on various issues, including teaching meditation to villagers, running workshops for children on domestic violence, and supporting local farmers.”