This is the Institute. I’ve mentioned it before. “New Tibetan-Occidental Library and Research Center.” This is the phrase I’ve coined. But what does it mean? What is the significance of this place?
The Institute is the physical manifestation of 16th Karmapa’s wish to create a place of learning, practice and exchange in the West. Now that it’s here, the 17th Karmapa, his successor and the current head of Karma Kagyu lineage, describes the Institute’s purpose like this:
“The Institute aims to give access to knowledge–sciences of the mind, of the body, of the world.”
I suppose that seems as vague and inspirational as any tagline, but it’s also quite accurate. The Institute currently comprises a teaching hall, a temple, a library, a translation center, a publishing house, and the administrative base of Dhagpo’s functioning.
I’m currently in the office dedicated to the Lama House, IT, the Temple, and Infrastructure, and at this moment, there are two hundred people above my head studying the practice of Chenrezig, the deity of compassion. The Institute is all about getting serious and getting interdisciplinary. During the inauguration, lectures and roundtables covered topics from Tibetology to mindfulness education to “Comparative Research in Modern Sciences and Tibetan Buddhism,” and included people from reincarnate masters to medical doctors.
The Buddha statue in the temple of the Institute holds his hands in the mudra, or gesture, of teaching. The direction that teaching will take is unfolding now that the Institute is established and beginning to develop. There is a genuine interest in discourse between contemporary scientific thought and the teachings of the Buddha, which have been preserved into the modern day. The form of this discourse is a continuing question; current possibilites include short-term forums and conferences, joint research conducted by experts in Western and Tibetan academia, and the establishment of an intensive curriculum combining inquiry into Western and Tibetan philosophy and thought.
Be forewarned; you are hearing a mix of rumors, dinner table chat, and my own personal musings. But in a way, this is appropriate. From all I can gather, the Institute was designed to respond to the needs of its students. We must ask ourselves what knowledge we are seeking, and in this way, we can develop a place to guide us and connect us in our queries. As cheesy as the slogan is, it’s true: The Institute is a place for all, built by all.
If you would like to make a donation toward the funding of the Institute, please visit Dhagpo’s contribution page.