By Venerable Tenzin Gache
On August 30th, Ven. Jampa Khedrub became the second member of Sera IMI house to participate in the Rik Chung debates. For this event, Ven. Khedrub had to prepare for three months, memorizing and learning to chant his she-pa (thesis), and reviewing the requisite material for the debate. On the day of, he chanted his she-pa before the entire Sera Jey assembly, and then answered debate for the better part of an hour. We marked the event with an open celebration at Sera IMI House, the second one this year (after Ven. Tenzin Namdak’s geshe celebration this past April).
While neither of these events was “ordinary”—both were extraordinary accomplishments—the fact that celebrations of this nature are becoming commonplace at Sera IMI House indicates that Westerners are becoming an established presence at Sera, and not just a curious anomaly. That change is reflected in the general attitude of the Tibetan monks, who more and more afford us equal status in debate and other monastery activities. We are still a small minority, but other minorities, like Mongolians and Nepalese, have long been a part of Sera’s population, and contributed meaningfully to the tradition. That we have made such significant strides is due not only to the sincere and sustained effort of the seven current members of Sera IMI House, but also thanks to the groundwork laid over many years by past pioneers who joined this challenging environment and integrated themselves as best they could. In that way, Sera IMI House, though itself only 15 years old, represents the culmination of work that started almost 40 years ago.
In other news, members of Sera IMI House continue to make use of their education to benefit others in a variety of meaningful ways. This summer both Venerables Tenzin Namdak and Tenzin Namjong travelled to Tushita Meditation Center in Dharamsala to lead introductory courses for new students of Buddhism. Ven. Namjong stayed an entire month, leading two consecutive courses. These two as well as Ven. Tenzin Legtsok continue to teach at Choe Khor Sum Ling Centre in Bangalore, and also lead meditations in a local prison.
As per a request by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Sera Jey Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Delek entrusted Sera IMI House and the Sera Jey Translation Committee with a joint task of translating Khedrub Je’s important text on valid cognition, Dispelling Mental Darkness Regarding [Dharmakirti’s] Seven Texts on Valid Cognition. Thanks to the guidance of Gen Tenzin Namdak, this project is near fruition, and we hope to publish the book, which includes a partial translation and explanatory commentary by members of Sera IMI House, in the coming year.
Last but not least, Ven. Tenzin Namdak can be heard morning and evening reciting his she-pa to prepare for his geshe examination in May, 2017. For this event, Ven. Namdak will have to recite up to 50 pages of text on Madhyamaka in front of the Sera community, and answer debate. This opportunity has brought him back to his early experiences at Sera of strict daily recitation, and has also has given him a chance to review 20 years of material, helping to consolidate and reinforce his understanding. As a positive sign of the growing legacy of Sera IMI House, some of the younger monks have been helping him to review for subjects that they have studied and debated more recently.