Shri Diwakar Vihara
Buddhist Research and Educational Institute
The Shri Diwakar Institute houses about 80 monks aged 14 to 30. Most students are in their twenties and the school, or shedra, offers the equivalent of a combined high school and university education. Under the auspices of HH Karmapa and HH Shamar Rinpoche, the institute teaches the traditional Tibetan monastic curriculum for scholars leading to an advanced degree in Buddhist philosophy.
Students study Tibetan language and literature; logic and debate; and Buddhist doctrine and philosophy as taught by past masters of the Karma Kagyu and other Buddhist schools. Instructors include HH Shamar Rinpoche himself. In Fall 2004, he taught a course in poetics as codified by ancient Indian pandits. HH Karmapa is currently finishing his own studies at the school.
Though the students specialize in philosophy, they are also introduced to ritual practice and perform two daily chanting services. Resident teachers and visiting instructors also teach Hindi and English languages on a regular basis.
Students are primarily ethnic Tibetans who come from four separate nations, China (Tibet), India, Bhutan and Nepal. In addition, there are currently three students at the school from Taiwan. Before coming to Diwakar Institute, students must have completed their primary education at secular or monastic schools in their own countries or at such magnet Buddhist primary schools as the Tilopa Institute in India’s northwestern state of Himachal Pradesh. For entrance to Diwakar Institute, students must also present a strong recommendation from their local lama.
Though students come to the school speaking various languages of the Himalayan area and beyond, the main language of instruction is Tibetan. Only the most gifted graduates of the seven-year program will receive the coveted degree of khenpo—doctor of Buddhist studies—and will be authorized to teach Buddhist philosophy at monastic academies like Diwakar Institute. The khenpo designation is awarded by consensus among HH Shamar Rinpoche, the principal of Diwakar Institute and other high lamas to graduates with the deepest knowledge of Buddhist philosophy.
Many students will return to their home countries and serve their communities as Buddhist teachers. Some hope to bring vital social services to their localities. “My aim is to start an orphanage in Kathmandu, Nepal,” says one student. On graduating, other students will complete the traditional Tibetan three-year retreat before embarking on a teaching career. A few students have the ambition to travel abroad, to East Asia or the West, to spread the Buddha’s teachings further afield. With sufficient English skills, this dream too can become a reality.
Established in the mid 1990s by HH Shamar Rinpoche, Diwakar Institute is located on a hillside tract north of downtown Kalimpong, a town of about 15,000 people perched on a high ridge about 4,000 feet or 1,200 meters above the river Teesta in the temperate Himalayan foothills of northeastern India. The school was built adjacent to the early-twentieth-century-bungalow that currently serves as home to HH Karmapa until he completes his studies.
Kalimpong is located about 40 miles or 60 km. from Rumtek, in the adjacent Indian state of Sikkim. Rumtek is the monastic seat of the Karmapas in exile, established by the late 16th Karmapa in the 1960s and now the subject of litigation. Another nearby point of interest is Kalimpong’s sister town of Darjeeling, an old British hill station located about 35 miles or 50 km. away.
Diwakar Institute provides all instruction as well as room and board to students free of charge. Students are responsible to pay for their own clothes, books and incidental expenses. Many students receive sponsorship support from donors in Europe, East Asia and North America. But there are still opportunities for interested sponsors to support the work of Diwakar Institute and the future of the next generation of Buddhist philosophers in the authentic Tibetan tradition. Please write to the Institute by post or telephone for more information. Also, if you are considering a visit to Kalimpong, please contact the institute directly if you would like to take a tour.