Thursday, January 4, 2007

Part 4: Root Institute

A Brief History (extracted from
Root Institute for Wisdom Culture came about at the wish of Lama Thubten Yeshe, a highly qualified and respected teacher of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
'Lama' as he was known to his students, passed away in 1984 after having spent the last 15 years of his life tirelessly sharing the Buddha's message of wisdom and compassion with thousands of Western and Indian students. After his passing, his reincarnation was officially recognized by His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama in the form of a young Spanish boy, Tenzin Osel.
Lama Yeshe inspired many centres around the world under the banner of the FPMT, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. This organization now has a membership of over 110 centres with varying purposes such as monasteries, schools, leprosy projects, retreat centres, publishing houses, city centres and hospices. The activity of each centre depends upon the needs of the local community. All of these centres however, are inspired by the universal Buddhist ethic of compassion for other living beings.
It was the intention of Lama Yeshe that Root Institute be a dynamic centre where the Buddhist ideals of universal responsibility and education could be taught and practiced.
Also, due to India's role as the source of the Buddhist teachings, her kindness to the Tibetan people and continued support of Buddhadharma, Lama Yeshe wanted Root Institute to preserve and spread the rich variety of India's ancient wisdom culture in its religious, philosophical, educational and cultural manifestations.
Today, Root Institute is under the spiritual directorship of Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, the heart disciple of Lama Yeshe, who took over the responsibility of the FPMT after Lama Yeshe's passing. The Institute is a multi-faceted Dharma centre providing for the needs of both spiritual seekers and the local community.
His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama visited and kindly blessed Root Institute in 1989 and again in 1998, expressing the opinion that it will be of immense benefit to the numerous people who visit Bodhgaya throughout the year. His Holiness was particularly pleased with our social work projects.

Root Institute was started in the 1980s and Rinpoche remembered very well even the first house that was built by an Indian benefactor. On his last day, he introduced us to the lady and his daughter. RI is indeed guarded by a 10 foot wall all around it. And there were guards outside the gates. Outside on the gates, we written clearly for whosoever steps inside it:

1. No Killing
2. No Stealing
3. No Sexual activity
4. No Lying
5. No taking intoxicants (including tobacco)

It stated that it is a semi-monastic center with monks and nuns living inside, therefore these serve as policies for everyone who steps inside. I have to walk a bit on stony, dusty earth before I saw somebody. I quickly wave to the huge Western lady (compared to me, that is) and she turned and greeted me. She turned out to be Ms Karein, the person I had been corresponding with from RI before I came here. She was very friendly and asked me to put my luggage outside the office because it was lunch time. And because it was Christmas day, a special Christmas luncheon was done. The requested donation was 120 Rps. Well, I put the dishes on the dinner plate and went up at the dining place above the kitchen. It was an open air dining place with no lights. So , in the evenings, we usually eat in the dark, lit only by the dim lights from lights below and the kitchen light.

There I met Chung Han. He was talking to Sally who is the new director of RI. And another girl, Helen who is Karien's assistant. I see a lot of Western volunteers and staffs here. They come from all over the FPMT centers worldwide. An estimate 120-150 participants were expected to this Maitreya Retreat. Out of this total, I would estimate that 90% are Western, the only participants from Asia were from Malaysia, Singapore, India and maybe one or two from taiwan (but I am not sure). By West, I meant those from Spain, France, England, the Netherlands, various parts of USA such as Hawaii, Seattle, Oregon, San Jose, Washington, and others. There were also a number from various parts of Australia, mostly from various FPMT centers there.

The participants were split between those who are experienced practitioners...i.e. already taken Highest Yoga Tantra and those who are only beginners. About 30 students had taken the 3-day Introduction to Buddhism course prior to this Maitreya Retreat. And most of them were Westerners. But yet, I learned that at least one of them was not really new to Buddhism, they took it because Ven. Sangye Kandro was going to teach meditation. And they had never formally learned meditation before, and they didnot want to miss the opportunity to learn from the experience Western nun who wrote "How to Mediate?" I believe there were more of such persons.

Anyway, I was provided a bed in the dormitary that sleeps about 11 persons. It's just above the office. Root institute is just such a wonderful place to practice. The big sitting Maitreya statue and the stupas surrounding it provide such a wonderful place for us to circumambulate on daily basis. And it's also a place for us to do lights and flower offering. My journal would not be complete if I donot mention also the toilets. OK, it's not clean as 5-star hotel standard, but it's livable. Some are "flushable", while some have to pour water to drain our pee and poos. And I kinda have got the habit of not throwing the tissues into the bowl after spenidng one week there. We have to throw them into waste backets provided.

O-yes, the gompa is very beautiful. It is supposedly the only gompa that also houses 4 Kadampa lamas besides Lama Atisha. Rinpoche informed that he had given instructions for the 4 other Kadampa lamas to be there on the altar. Then his disciples had people commissioned to build them. I'll try to post the pictures later.

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