June 7, 2023
Each year, the Rigpa Shedra offers students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the study of classic Buddhist texts in the lineage followed by Rigpa. Students can either join online or join the Shedra in person in Pharping, Nepal. Kay and Debra, two Irish students who joined the Shedra in Nepal between February and April 2023 talk about their Shedra experience.
I had many reasons for not going to Nepal to study at the Shedra last February but then one day, whilst sitting in the Shrine Room in Dzogchen Beara, I had this strong feeling I should go or I would regret it. So, a decision was quickly made, I was going to study The Introduction to the Middle Way by Chandrakriti, in Nepal, with Khenpo Tashi Tseten, an impressive Teacher with improving English.
Being in the Shedra was like being in a “Dharma Bubble” in which to study and practise. The monastic environment, the different culture, the challenge of living closely with about twenty other people and the basic simple routine somehow made it very easy to watch my mind. Without the usual distractions of my daily routine, it was as if everything was laid bare in front of me.
Studying at Shedra is an excellent way to get an education and take a deeper dive into the Teachings. A big support for this is the feeling of being on a Pilgrimage. Nepal has many sacred sites associated with the Buddha and Guru Rinpoche. The Asura Cave in Pharphing is the most profound of all sites connected to the activity of Guru Rinpoche. It was a good start to the day to go up the many steps to the Asura Cave and sit in the atmosphere of Guru Rinpoche, then light butter lamps for friends and family and then on the way back down to stop at “The Hottest New Café” for coffee.
The whole Shedra visited Namobuddha, where the Buddha gave his flesh to a starving tigress so she could feed her cubs. A beautiful spot high up in the mountains with a view of the mighty Himalayas. We practised there, which gives me goosebumps just to remember it. Being in these sacred sites and reading stories of miracles and accomplishment gave me a real suspicion that logic and reason are overrated in our western culture.
I have so many happy memories from the Shedra. Being there for Losar, when all the buildings were covered in twinkling lights, was very special. Practising in the Shitro Temple with Khenchen Namdrol and the monks and nuns was memorable. So was delivering Rigpa Calendars to the monasteries of Mingyur Rinpoche, Trulshyik Rinpoche and Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Only Tsoknyi Rinpoche was in residence but we had a very special audience with him. One thing I learnt was to be prepared, have a kata and an offering in your bag and a question in your heart.
Towards the end of the Shedra I did feel as if I had studied enough as I was finding it harder to recall what we had studied the day before. At this time, we were fortunate to go and meet Ringu Tulku and ask questions if we wished. I asked for tips on how to make studying easier. Rinpoche’s advice was “enjoy it!” the best advice ever.
I have had the great good fortune to be able to return to Pharping in Nepal after the pandemic to participate in the Rigpa Shedra 2023.
It’s just been showers of blessings from studying these sacred texts by some of the greatest buddhist masters like Chandrakirti and Shantideva.
Receiving teachings daily and studying them over a period of three months brought me closer to these great teachers and hence more in touch with my Buddha nature, my heart and mind becoming more spacious and open.
Studying with other dharma students enhanced my learning experience as we support and help each other in very compassionate ways. I am much more enthusiastic about studying the dharma.
Shedra experience is an opportunity to really get to know fellow travellers on the path and to work with one’s habitual patterns of ego. By the end of Shedra we are very much a shedra family.
Pharping is the village where Khenpo Namdrol’s monastery is situated. It is surrounded by many sacred sites and temples. Temples to Tara, Vajrayogini, Asura cave and Yangalshu to name but a few.
The most famous place being Asura cave where Guru Rinpoche practised for long periods. Visiting Asura cave most mornings before class brought me such peace and relaxation. The blessings there are palpable. I feel Nepal is a special place and studying the Dharma there is a very special experience that I feel truly blessed to have had.
I cannot recommend it highly enough.
More information about Rigpa Shedra: www.rigpashedra.org