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Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal

Of the 1,200 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Nepal many were constructed in the latter half of the 20th century when the Chinese army moved into Tibet, the Dalai Lama fled to India, and many reincarnate lamas, called Rinpoches, entered Nepal as refugees.

At the same time, Nepal also became a popular destination for tourists from Europe and North America. Their guides were followers of Tibetan Buddhism. As many people from the West became interested in Tibetan Buddhism, numbers of new monasteries were constructed in the Kathmandu valley. Kathmandu is now one of the best places in the world to study all four sects of Tibetan Buddhism as well as the pre-Buddhist Bon religion.

Where to Study

The best-known monastery for studying the Ningmapa order is Sechen Monastery (also called the Bhutanese Monastery) situated at Bodhnath. It was started by Khyeste Rinpoche, who fled Tibet in the 1950s to Bhutan and received patronage from the royal family. Contact: Shechen Monastery, P.O. Box 136, Kathmandu, Nepal; schechen@wlink.com.np. Reservations for the guest house, where single rooms cost $6 per night, can be made by emailing rabjam@ccsl.com.

A popular place to study the Kagyukpa order is the White Monastery, also called Ka-Nyng. The chief abbot, Choki Nyma Rinpoche, has been teaching a largely Western audience there for several decades. Ranjung Yeshe is affiliated with Kathmandu’s Tribhuwan Univ. A program which combines a study of Tibetan Buddhism with Tibetan language costs $690 for full tuition. Participation in work-study programs may reduce tuition to $300. Contact the Institute at shedra@shedra.com, www.Shedra.com.

The best-known monastery in Nepal for study of Tibetan Buddhism is Kopan, located north of Bodhnath and established in 1970 by Lama Yeshe and a former Russian princess who teaches the Gelukpa branch of Tibetan Buddhism. A 1-month course every fall is attended by more than 300 people, mainly from the West. There are also shorter courses and retreats. The 30-day meditation course will run from November 5-December 5 in 2001 and cost $310 including room and board and course fee. A shorter course will be offered from September 20-27, and October 8-18; the 7-day courses cost $65, the 10-day courses $92. Both are followed by a 3-day guided silent retreat. For more information contact www.kopanmonastery.com or write P.O. Box 817, Kathmandu, Nepal; franz@komonpc.mos.com.np. At Kopan Monastery’s branch in Kathmandu’s city center, called the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Center, 2-day courses are offered to beginners.

All three monasteries have taught Tibetan Buddhism to Westerners for several years. The Bodhnath area is 12 kilometers from Kathmandu.

Taxis from Thamel, the tourist center of Kathmandu, to Bodhnath cost about $3 ($3 extra to Kopan Monastery). Six-seater auto-rixas, which start from the Royal Nepal Airlines Building in Kathmandu’s city center, charge less than 10 cents for a trip to Bodhnath. Rooms in guesthouses at the monasteries at Bodhnath cost $5 to $10 a day.

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