Circle of Enlightenment: Tibetan Buddhist Sand Mandala
Namgyal Monastery and the
Namgyal Monastery was founded in the sixteenth century by the Second Dalai Lama. From the time of its creation, it has served as the private monastery of each of the successive Dalai Lamas. In Tibet, this prestigious but small monastery was located in the Potala in Lhasa. At present, the monastery is re-established adjacent to His Holiness' residence in Dharamsala, India and has many young monks undergoing the streamlined sutra and tantra curriculum devised by H.H. the present Dalai Lama and the former Abbot, Ven. Lobsang Nyima. The monks of Namgyal also continue the study and practice of sacred arts and engage in the traditional cycle of meditative retreats. In 1992, monks from the monastery traveled from Dharamsala, India to Ithaca, New York to establish a branch of Namgyal Monastery in North America. The monastery's intellectual and sacred arts practices are continued in conjunction with the Institute of Buddhist Studies under the patronage of the Dalai Lama. Using Ithaca as a base, the monks of Namgyal have become cultural ambassadors to the West and continue to be available to create sand mandalas for museums and galleries in America.
Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies
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Venerable Tenzin Yignyen
Ven. Tenzin Yignyen was born in Phari, southern Tibet, and was only six years old when he escaped into India. He was among the first graduating class of the relocated Namgyal Monastery educational program. After 15 years of study and practice, he received the degree of "Master of Sutra and Tantra." He has specialized in the practices of Guhyasamaja, Heruka, Yamantaka, and Kalachakra. He has also studied mandala construction, ritual dance, monastic music, and other religious arts. Ven. Yignyen has traveled as a member of the entourage of His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama on many occasions. Fluent in English, he has worked with many westerners seeking guidance at Namgyal Monastery. He has traveled throughout the world creating exquisite sand mandalas and spent one year translating sacred Kalachakra literature and explaining the philosophical meanings of Kalachakra for the book The Wheel of Time Sand Mandala (Harper Collins, 1992). Ven. Yignyen spent two years in Mongolia in 1993-94 helping to prepare for the Kalachakra initiation and was then assigned to Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, NY in the summer of 1995.
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Venerable Tenzin Gephel
Ven. Tenzin Gephel entered Namgyal Monastery in Dharamsala, India in 1975 and studied the liturgy of various meditational deities and invocation rites of protectors. Having passed the oral exams before His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he took on the study of traditional Buddhist sacred arts, including ritual music, butter sculpture, dance, and the construction of sand mandalas. For thirteen years, from 1977 to 1990, he studied a wide range of Buddhist sciences: logic, epistemology, philosophy, ethics, monastic discipline, hermeneutics, and esoteric tantric systems. In 1991, Ven. Gephel earned the degree and title of "Master of Sutra and Tantra" and has traveled subsequently as a member of the entourage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in India. In July of 1997, he joined the faculty of Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies in Ithaca, NY.
- Sidney Piburn
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