Awakening Vajra is a new project being spearheaded by students of H.E. Choden Rinpoche. The plan is to build a facility in San Jose, California, where students can go on retreat, receive teachings, and study according to the original format of Nalanda University.
Nalanda, a Great Learning Center
Nalanda was one of the great monastic centers of India, famous for having its scholars stand at the 4 directional gates of the university. These scholars would wait for people to come debate with them. If they lost, the entire region would have to convert to the opposing-debaters religion. If the debater lost, they would become Buddhists. Nalanda lasted for hundred of years, only disappearing after being raided by mauraders. The study in Nalanda was based on the 5 areas of expetise, being: Buddhism, medical healing, linguistics, astrology, and arts/crafts or scriptures. Awakening Vajra plans to model its curriculum on Nalanda’s 5 areas of expertise.
Choden Rinpoche’s Vision
From the Awakening Vajra website:
“The Indian Nalanda University extensively developed these five areas of study. In the Nalanda tradition, those who master all five are called pandita. The center’s goal is to follow in the footsteps of Nalanda. The future goal for the center is to establish a monastery to teach these five areas of study.
About Choden Rinpoche
Choden Rinpoche is most well-known for being a great yogi. When the Chinese invaded Tibet, Choden Rinpoche stayed in a little dark room of the monastery. The room was about the size of a closet. He spent almost 20 years lying down on a bed, laying quietly. The Chinese thought he was an invalid, so they left him alone.
During those years, he was actually using it to go on retreat and practice deep meditation. He had memorized many complicated pujas and ceremonies, but did them without sitting or even moving his lips. I suppose this is part of the lore of Choden Rinpoche, a great yogi that happened to evade the Chinese authorities.
The first time I heard about Rinpoche, I had met a nun who took ordination with him. She had described Rinpoche as almost being un-worldly. She felt that he seemed so ephemeral, that she could take her hand and it would probably pass right through him. When I heard he was 3 hours away from where I lived, I decided to go see him for a week of teachings.
I was sitting in the library of the monastery, waiting for a chance to talk to him. A woman had just come out of the library, and she explained “I felt like I could have just crawled into the room, and he wouldn’t have looked at me differently.” I think that accurately describes Rinpoche. He’s completely renounced in that he cares for all his students, and he’s completely equal to everyone in his concern.
Rinpoche now is in his 80’s, and requires a cane and assistance to get around. He’s one of the last remaining masters that was educated in pre-Chinese invaded Tibet. If you get a get a chance to see him, I would highly recommend it. Hopefully for the sake of his students, the Awakening Vajra project will be completed while he’s still alive. The goal now is to raise a million dollars, and they’ve already accomplished more than 600,000.
What Lama Zopa Say About Choden Rinpoche
“Just seeing Choden Rinpoche, sitting in front of him, is incredible. We see billions of people in New York, but we don’t get that blessing or benefit for the mind as when we see Choden Rinpoche. Seeing him, she gets that benefit, purifying the mind, receiving peace, and that deep feeling. She got that from somebody who not only has the realization of bodhicitta, who is a bodhisattva, which is an incredible blessing, but from a yogi who has the clear light realization, who is a Chakrasamvara practitioner. Even just being in front of this person, she receives blessings and is purified. Also, this person’s neighbors and the insects and people around this yogi receive blessings and are purified. Being in front of Rinpoche is incredible. It is said that if this kind of practitioner crosses over a bridge, then under the bridge the insects, worms, and beings are liberated, their negative karma is purified. This is very fortunate. “