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Jul 10
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Mipham Academy Opens to Sutrayana Seminary Graduates

By Mark Seibold, Dean of Mipham Academy

For the first time since its inception in 2006 the Mipham Academy, to be held at Karme Choling from from September 13 to 26, will be a freestanding program open to all graduates of Sutrayana Seminary.

When the Sakyong announced the creation of the Mipham Academy in 2006 he presented it as a place of deep study within Shambhala. The tradition of contemplative, transformative study is a vital element of our Buddhist heritage. From the earliest days of the Buddha, through the great universities such Nalanda and Vikramashila that embodied the pinnacle of the development of Buddhism in India, up to the institution and development of shedra (commentarial school) in Tibet, Buddhist practitioners have gathered to investigate the nature of reality, analyze their experience, and examine, test, and challenge the treasury of wisdom that is the Buddhadharma. The monastic colleges of Namdroling, Rumtek, and Drepung as well as other Tibetan centers of learning continue to uphold this lineage in the modern era. Drawing inspiration from the traditional shedra within these great monastic universities of India and Tibet, the Mipham Academy aims to extend this tradition within the Shambhala mandala.

The Mipham Academy currently convenes twice a year, once in Europe in Marburg and once in the U.S. at Karme Choling under the gentle and precise direction of Khenpo Gawang who was educated and empowered as a Khenpo at the Ngagyur Nyingma Institute within Namdroling Monastery. As its name suggests, the Academy is dedicated to the study of the traditional Buddhist philosophical canon with a special focus and emphasis on the writings of the great nineteenth century Nyingma scholar, Mipham Rinpoche, Jampel Gyepe Dorje (1846-1912). In consideration of this emphasis, the Sakyong chose as the inaugural text for Mipham Academy at Karme Choling Jamgon Mipham’s subtle and penetrating commentary on Shantarakshita’s classic treatise, the Ornament to the Middle (Madhyamakalamkara). Coming at the end of the florescence of the Mahayana in India, Shantarakshita’s text synthesizes the epistemological tradition of valid cognition (pramana) with the two dominant streams of Mahayana thought, Chittamatra and Madhyamaka, into a single unified tradition. As Khenpo Gawang has often said at past sessions of the Mipham Academy, to understand the view of Madhyamaka is to understand the view of Dzogchen and Mahamudra.

In addition to being open for the first time to graduates of Sutrayana Seminary, the 2010 session of Mipham Academy at Karme Choling also marks a new beginning in terms of our course of study. This year, having completed in 2008 a detailed review of Mipham Rinpoche’s lengthy general introduction to Shantarakshita’s treatise, Khenpo Gawang will begin teaching on the root verses of Shantarakshita’s text, beginning with the first stanza, along with Mipham’s accompanying commentary. The 2010 session of Mipham Academy thus represents a fresh start and offers a unique opportunity for new students to enter the Academy at the beginning of our study of one of the most important texts in the Mahayana canon. In addition, Khenpo Gawang will also be introducing the traditional study of logic and the structure of debate known as Darik (rtags rigs), “signs and reasoning.” If engaging in a close and extended study of a traditional Mahayana text is something you have always longed to do, or is something that simply intrigues you, I invite you please to consider joining the Mipham Academy this year.

Our studies will incorporate contemplative methods of learning that seek to unite understanding with practice and daily life. In addition to Khenpo Gawang’s main lectures we will be working with contemplative meditations and investigations as well as learning the rudiments of debate and memorizing a selection of root verses and key definitions. Each day will include formal sitting practice, body practices such as Lujong and Chigung, and regular study periods.

To conclude, on behalf of Khenpo Gawang and the entire Mipham Academy I would like to extend a warm invitation to join us this summer at Karme Choling for this fabulous feast of dharma.

For more information, visit miphamacademy.org.
Or register for this year’s Mipham Academy at Karme Choling.

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