17th Gyalwa Karmapa"Buddhism is a way of life through which we develop the qualities of our mind.
This way of life is very unusual, as it is a means to attain happiness without harming others.


Travel Log—Commemorating Shamarpa's Parinirvana with Karmapa in Kalimpong

See the original in French

Thursday, June 1, 2017


Life at the shedra is the life of a monastic university. The monks can come here starting at fifteen years old to follow a twelve-year long curriculum. After which they can become teachers here at the shedra or elsewhere. Therefore this place is a precious resource for the West as well, as some graduates already teach in Europe and the US.

It is fascinating to see how Shamar Rinpoche thought up the curriculum for the monks from the beginning right up to death, as long as they wish to remain monks.

  • For the youngest, they can attend Tadga or Tilopur School (close to Darjeeling) before the shedra. About two hours away from the shedra, these schools combine studies of basic knowledge, Tibetan, and Buddhist teachings.

The students of Tagda School.

  • At the end of the shedra's curriculum in Kalimpong, students may go to Sharminub Monastery in Nepal to deepen their studies or to carry out retreats or even to find conditions conducive to the taking of fully ordained monastic vows. Shamarpa put everything in place to preserve the monastic sangha. As Karmapa says, “Since the birth of Buddhism more than 2,500 years ago, until today, the Buddha's teaching survived thanks to none other than the qualities of the monastic sangha.” This sentence clearly shows the complementarity of the monastic and lay sanghas.

Two shedra students.

At the shedra, one can feel the ambiance of care and mutual support. The life of this community is inspiring on several levels: the donations that each monk receives go towards supporting the community's need and everyone helps out with community chores.
Kalzang Puntso explains to me that starting between age twenty and twenty-five, the young monks are mature and autonomous (“They can drive themselves”) thanks to the example of their professors. Several months ago, one of the monks explained to me that, of course there are sometimes disputes and naturally there are emotions, but the primary thing for everyone is the awareness of the consequences of his actions. This helps to maintain a good ethic and keep the community going on a daily basis.


Seeing as Dhagpo will soon be building residential lodgings, we can use this as a good source of inspiration. We can't copy-paste the lifestyle in light of the profound differences: monastic/lay, Asian culture/Western culture, Buddhist from birth/converted Buddhist, etc. Despite this, the frame of mind in these different communities founded by the Karmapa is that of ethics and mutual support, whether in India or the States, Nepal or France. This brings us back to the essence of the teaching: accomplish that which is virtuous, abandon that which is harmful, and master your mind.

This morning, I thought of something Jigme Rinpoche said, “As a human, because we are alive, there is something to do. So we might as well do it well.” While talking with Kalzang, he told me, “We try to make it so that each of us is useful. What is the reason for being alive if we are not useful?” (It seems there's an echo!) It is indeed the three trainings of ethics, meditation, and discernment that make us “dharmically autonomous and useful,” that make it so that we are, here and over there, each with our own characteristics, in harmony.

The final preparations before Karmapa arrives.

Lama Puntso


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