Sunday, 6 February 2011

The way of the lotsawas

Although the monsoon rains have come late this year, it is pouring when in the afternoon of July 29th, the LRZTP students, hidden under their huge umbrellas, make their way through the narrow streets of McLeod Ganj to the Green Hotel, where the holy lama Denma Lochoe Rinpoche resides. Nothing, and definitely not the heavy floods, seems to get them out of their concentration, as they have only one goal in mind: listen to and understand Rinpoche’s talk in Tibetan.

This attitude of concentration and determination has become so characteristic for those ten people of the Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translator Program who have come here with the motivation to train in the Tibetan language until they’re fluent in it and can then move on the become interpreters of the Buddhadharma around the globe. Many have quit their jobs, some have given up their houses and sold their car in order to come to Dharamsala for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of combining a Dharma life with the thorough study of the Tibetan Language under the skilled guidance of their teachers: Gen Sherab Dhargye and Gen Teresa Bianca. And most of them live bottom end.

As the students get into the classroom each morning, one by one, eyes on the ground, the ipod with HH the Dalai Lama’s lectures deep into the ears, they sink down into their chairs and just continue to listen and debate yesterday’s class. They go to sleep with their classnotes and wake up with them. Dear and gentle people, wake up! Where’s your social life? Who wants to join me for pizza tonight? Why don’t we watch a movie? In vain… they don’t listen… No social life these two years, hardly any contact with the far away family… if all goes well they call their mum once or twice a month. Their vajra and bell are an ipod, their classnotes, a mug of coffee and, during monsoon, their umbrella: the ritual implements of the modern Lotsawa. And some even continue their studies during tea breaks! Two years long! Paty, a Mexican student who’s command of English is not excellent, has to study twice as hard, as she needs to translate at night her notes into Spanish again. Yet not once have I seen her bright smile disappear from her face… the mind of a Dharma student, prepared to take the consequences…

Denma Lochoe Rinpoche talks about Rinchen Zangpo and the early lotsawas… about their life, about the hardships they went through in order to accomplish their goals. Rinpoche jokes often and encourages the students not to give up but to be like the lotsawas of old, to be brave of heart and determined of mind. That the modern life has its advantages and its disadvantages. I see how all eagerly nod in unison and are confident about the level they’ve accomplished in not even two years… I sit in a corner, pretending to meditate, but understanding nothing. I admire them in silence.

Khedrup, Dechen, Sangmo, BĂ©atrice, Saza, Matt, Fran, Enrique, Rebeca, Paty: I’m proud of you. LRZTP is the way of the modern lotsawas.

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