Rigpa Shedra Weekly Online course

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Chandrakirti’s Introduction to the Middle Way – Part 1

 “Buddha gave one name to the nature of mind and that name is Shunyata.” – Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

We invite you to take part in a new approach in Rigpa Shedra Studies: a weekly program over 16 weeks (Sept – Dec).

In this program we will study the first five chapters of a classical dharma text on the Ten Paramitas and  the Middle Way View. It is based on (recorded) teachings by Khenpo Tashi Tseten in the Rigpa Shedra in Nepal at the beginning of this year on Chandrakirti’s Introduction to the Middle Way.

The text: The Introduction to the Middle Way is an adventure into the heart of Buddhist wisdom through the Madhyamaka—or Middle Way—teachings. Chandrakirti’s classic commentary on the meaning of Nagarjuna’s Root Verses of the Middle Way has been accepted throughout Tibetan Buddhism as the highest expression of the Buddhist View on the Sutra level. 

The Middle Way View seeks to avoid the extremes of eternalism and nihilism, or existence and non-existence, when investigating the nature of reality. 

With Jamgön Mipham’s commentary, it is a definitive presentation of the Wisdom of Emptiness, a central theme of Buddhist teachings. This book is a core study text for both academic students and practitioners of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Dzongsar Kyentse Rinpoche says:

“This text, the Madhyamakavatara, is an indispensable text that is widely studied both in Buddhist philosophical schools and Buddhist meditative schools, and Chandrakirti’s method of establishing the view in this work has been one of the most venerated throughout the ages. Now that Buddhism is taking root in the West, I feel it is important for at least some of us to pay attention to the study of the view and how it is to be established.”

In this first module we will study Chapters 1-5  covering the homage to compassion and the first five paramitas in the cultivation of Bodhicitta: Generosity, Discipline, Patience, Diligence and ConcentrationThe special approach of Chandrakirti is that he brings in the profound view in each of the paramitas, as a preparation for teaching the main chapter of his text: chapter 6 on the paramita of Wisdom. 

Who can apply: Beginners who have done some foundation courses, as well as more advanced students can take part in this first module.  If you have done courses on compassion/Bodhicitta, such as The Bodhicharyavatara, Seven Points of Mind Training, Essence of the Mahayana, this text will be a wonderful addition/deepening. But also when you haven’t studied anything on the paramitas yet, you are very welcome to join. 

This course is recommended for students who wish to develop their understanding and practice of the Paramitas, and especially how to bring in the Middle Way View. It falls under the category of teachings of the Sutra Mahayana.

It is highly recommended for Rigpa teachers, instructors and practice holders for whom a thorough knowledge and personal experience of Shunyata is essential. 

A correct understanding of the view imparts confidence and independence; it is like creating a suit of armour for oneself. It helps in the development of a clear-sighted, enduring devotion towards the teacher and the teachings, immune to whatever vagaries and difficulties may occur.   Helena Blankleder and Wulstan Fletcher – Translators of Introduction to the Middle Way

This 16 week- program can be done as a stand-alone module, or it can be followed by more online modules (starting next year) that will cover chapter 6 on the paramita of wisdom, and the remaining chapters on the 7th to the 10th paramita, culminating in chapter 11, the Ultimate Ground of Buddhahood.  

It is also a good preparation for anyone who aspires to attend the (intensive) Rigpa Shedra in January – February 2024 (either online or face to face in Nepal) with Khenpo Tashi Tseten who will continue his teachings on Introduction to the Middle Way, Chapters 6-11. 

Why join? The View, as presented in the Madhyamika texts, is the essential foundation of stable spiritual progress. Yet in the study of Madhyamika, the preliminary steps (on relative Bodhicitta) are often passed over too quickly. Khenpo Tashi Tseten clearly explains the meaning of Chapters 1-5 in Chandrakirti’s text, showing how each of the paramitas relate to our life, and giving essential advice on how to put them into action.

It will give you an experience of Shedra-like studies at a gentle pace.

Experience of studying at the Rigpa Shedra:

Sally Burgess, one of the students who has followed the rigpa shedra teachings for the last few years says:

I love the Shedra. For me it has really been like finding a home in Rigpa. I enjoy the friendship, the opportunity to study outside a single national group or mandala. The teaching and learning strategies in the Shedra are great (the review sessions and, yes, the quizzes too) and I’ve found myself  ‘stealing’ ideas for my university teaching and for the Spanish Rigpa sessions I am involved with.

Perhaps most importantly I know that I am following a ‘curriculum’ approved and established by Khenchen Namdrol. I know I am in very safe hands.

The opportunity to study in a structured way in which we are actively involved (not just recipients) is also really important. 

The Teacher Khenpo Tashi Tseten is a brilliant young khenpo from Namdrolling Monastery in South India. He is considered to be one of the most promising Khenpos of his generation and has been teaching at the Rigpa Shedra for many years. Together with the wealth of his knowledge and the clarity of his explanations, he has a rare capacity to tune into students’ understanding and needs, which makes his teachings truly inspiring and illuminating. 

The Translator  Damien Van Effenterre is a Rigpa Senior Teacher. He was the director of the Rigpa Shedra for eight years, while also studying the traditional treatises and translating for shedra classes in Pharping, Nepal.

Review Session Teachers/Instructors:

Europe/US – Chantal Bergers, Rigpa Shedra teacher and director, Rigpa Teacher

Europe/US – Lily Ng, Rigpa teacher, has studied in both the Rigpa Shedra and in the Milinda Programme 

Europe/US – Verena Pfeiffer, Rigpa senior teacher, Rigpa Shedra teacher 

Australia  – Jane Gray, Rigpa Teacher and Rigpa Shedra instructor, President Rigpa Australia’s board 

Supported by other Rigpa Shedra instructors from different countries

Practical Information

Dates: This weekly course will be offered from the week commencing 4 September and conclude in the week commencing 18 December 2023. Days/times to be anounced. 

Schedule for the review sessions:

-Australia: Monday evening from 7.00-8.30 pm AEST 

-Europe:  You can choose between Wednesday evening from 7.30-9 pm CEST, Thursday morning from 10-11.30 CEST or Thursday evening from 7.30-9.00 pm CEST

-US/Canada: You can choose between Wednesday or Thursday  12.30-2.00 pm EDT (together with the European evening group)

Time-investment per week:

-one 1-hour teaching session (recorded in February 2023, video on demand), to be watched by yourself or in a group, and

-one  1,5 hour live review/practice session with a shedra review teacher/instructor.  In the weekly review sessions we will recall the main points together, contemplate on parts of the text and discuss the meaning with our fellow dharma students. We’ll meditate so it becomes a deeper experience, and learn about ways to bring our insights into our daily life and practice. 

-In addition, we recommend you allow study- and contemplation time of about 2 hours during the week  so in total it amounts to 4,5 hours/week. This will allow you to really immerse yourself more deeply into the topic of Shunyata, and make it an integral part of your day. There will be quizzes to help you check your knowledge and understanding as a skillful tool for your studies, as well as contemplation homework and study assignments.

Language: All classes and activities are held in English 

Cost:  Recommended: 350 euro 

Concession (for those with low income, and teachers /instructors/ practice holders): 250 euro 

Sponsors: 500 euro 

For those who have followed this program already and wish to review the teachings: 150 euro

If you can’t afford the fee, please still apply, there may be different possibilities for supporting you in your studies, such as a study grant from the Tertön Sogyal Foundation. 

Application process

Application is closed as per 29 August.