REFLECTIONS ON THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING MENTORS & STUDENTS In The Autumn Buddhist Philosophy Course – Year 1 (of 3)
“I chose to be a mentor this year because I thought it would make me study and it worked! Terror is a much-underrated motivation in the modern day, and the fear of being shown up by my bright, informed students was enough to overcome some of my terrible laziness.
“It has been good for me as I had hoped, but it has also brought some unexpected treats into my life. My students have been both enthusiastic and perceptive. Not only have they kept me on my toes but have also inspired and revived me. It has been a privilege to share their philosophical enquiries, explorations, and personal insights, and I hope we have all felt we have had companions on the road to understanding the teachings of the Buddha and practising those teachings in our daily lives.”
Susanne, one of Penny’s students:
“Learn to meditate – the reason I first came to Kamalashila. I knew nothing about Tibetan Buddhism. Meeting Khenpo la and the lay Sangha was gratifying and has cultivated my life to be much more meaningful.
“Upon reflection, Khenpo la has covered this course in his retreats and weekly teachings, and on Zoom during COVID. I am beginning to understand what he means by the vastness of each topic.
“Every aspect of the Autumn Buddhist Philosophy Course can be applied to our daily lives to benefit ourselves and others. It is exciting to learn about and study the right path to enlightenment, and inspiring that it is possible to eventually attain Buddhahood. Even though it is intellectually demanding and interesting, practical application to daily activities can be challenging again, enlightening, and satisfying.
“Completing this first year of the course has entailed discipline to prioritise lasting spiritual development over recurring worldly and mundane tasks. A requirement that is succinctly condensing copious information into effective written communication. Training for this will be implemented whilst revising notes during semester break.
“I have enjoyed the variety of active learning and assessment methods and appreciate the balance of Dharma teaching followed by contemplation and reflection on practical application. Mentoring sessions have been extremely beneficial – seeing and supporting each other in our studies under the spiritual guidance of our esteemed mentor. At this present moment I am eagerly anticipating The Second Turning of the Wheel.”
“Firstly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Khenpo la for his wonderful, ongoing teaching and guidance, to Venerable Mahinda for his clear and thought-provoking teaching and to Carole and Robert, without whom I can’t quite imagine how this would all work so well and so smoothly – their efforts have been incredible.
“Ever since first meeting Khenpo la, I have been strongly drawn to his thorough, approachable and practical approach to teaching the Dharma.
“I enjoy both the study and practice aspects of the Path and have found that engaging in this course has helped me structure my own study and practice more effectively. I knew that being required to assist others in a mentoring capacity would be both exacting, and at times challenging, but I was not prepared for how profoundly and how positively this would affect me. It has made me study and contemplate the material in a different way.
“I have felt the need to be as clear and straightforward as I could be, to try not to get over-excited and go off on tangents, to be properly prepared and to investigate the points I was struggling with more thoroughly. I note there has been little time for procrastination, so this has been a very useful discipline. I have also felt the need to be transparent about my shortcomings.
“I also feel a genuine wish to be useful to the students – it’s not just for me, and this has been a real blessing. I have found my group to be delightful, eager to learn, thoughtful and insightful. Rather than a distinct mentor/student divide – even though I may be a little more experienced with this material – I have felt a strong sense that we are all Dharma students helping each other.
“I consider the students to be very fortunate to have entered this course and to be under the guidance of a truly authentic teacher and am so looking forward to continuing next year.”
Tracey, one of Jane’s students:
“I was attending a calm-abiding meditation course in my local area with a friend when I heard other members of the sangha mentioning that they had enrolled in and were enjoying the Autumn Buddhist Philosophy Course through the Drogmi Buddhist Institute. After some research I realised the course had started, made an inquiry and found out I could enrol and catch up the month I had missed. I was delighted as I had been dabbling in meditation and done some readings, listened to podcasts not really knowing what was or wasn’t authentic. I really had just scraped the surface and was eager to find out more. The course so far has been very inspiring. The course format has been well paced and easy to navigate using Moodle.
“Khenpo Ngawang Dhamchoe’s teachings have been rich and dense with complex information conveyed in a way that is thought-provoking and sprinkled with a gentle sense of humour. I love having a mentor and Jane is so approachable and thoughtful. Her love of the Dharma is both infectious and inspiring. Having a group response to the teachings enhances your individual level of understanding and feels like a warm and safe way to learn.
“I am in awe of how much others know and understand, for this is just the beginning of a very long journey. I enjoy that everything we do is linked to how we engage with the world that we live in and not just studied as an intellectual and dry study. “The retreat at the conclusion of each semester is perfect as it enables us to meet our fellow participants, mentors and teachers and soak in the atmosphere in the peaceful setting of Kamalashila Tibetan Buddhist Centre nestled at the foot of Mount Gulaga. Our understanding of the coursework is further enhanced, and we can truly experience the Triple Gem the Buddha Dharma and the Sangha.”
Mentor Sue T.:
“I have always valued the concept of mentoring and I’ve been fortunate to experience the benefits that can be gained from it. I was therefore very eager to participate in the mentoring program when the opportunity first arose, however my eagerness soon changed to trepidation.
“I questioned my ability to be able to assist others when my own knowledge and understanding of the dharma is so limited. Carole encouraged me to give it a go and I am so pleased that I did. I was fortunate to have students with a broad range of experiences in my mentor group and the sharing of these personal experiences in relation to the teachings has provided me with added insights into my own practice and understanding. Our mentoring sessions never seemed long enough as we discussed, questioned, and mentored each other. Having access to such valuable teachings from Khenpo la and Venerable Mahinda and the resources that accompanied them has enriched my own knowledge as we examined and discussed some of the fundamental Buddhist teachings.
“Being a mentor, this year has been an absolute privilege and has enriched my own practice. I can only hope the students gained as much from the course as I did.
“Thank you, Khenpo la, Venerable, Carole, Robert and all involved in the implementation of the first year of the Autumn Buddhist Philosophy Course.”
Evelyn (Ev), one of Sue’s students:
“Although I have been involved with Buddhism for many years and had teachings from various masters and lamas, I found this a great opportunity to go back to basics and consolidate all the bits and pieces I’ve heard before, but not fully understood.
“A busy life with rostered work shifts and other volunteer commitments meant that I could rarely attend longer teachings such as Lam Dre, major empowerments and more recently the first Three Years of The Complete Path Teachings.
“Khenpo la has been planning this course for a number of years, and now through modern technology, written texts and retreats we can access these precious teachings. “I have heard teachings on The Four Common Foundations many times, the Noble Eightfold Path and Shamatha practices on Sundays at Kamalashila and our previous centres, but this course gives the opportunity to learn about and understand (eventually) the concepts of Buddhism in the three major traditions.
“It has been great to have teachings from different traditions. The words of the Buddha are the same but explained a bit differently by Venerable Mahindra. I am in awe of Khenpo la’s ability and profound knowledge of the Dharma. How can Khenpo la sit and lecture to us for over an hour without notes, and rarely skipping a beat?
“For those of you who are new to Buddhist teachings, I’m sure you have become aware of the depth and detail. Especially when a topic for example has – six parts, each of these six is divided into more parts, and those parts into more sections, again. Yet Khenpo can deliver this to us succinctly.
“Many thanks also go to those behind the scenes. Mentors working with their groups, those involved in recording and disseminating Khenpo la’s lectures and all the others involved in making this course possible and accessible. And not to forget my fellow students.
“I am looking forward to the next two years. And to be honest, I think I have put more effort into this study than when I did my master’s degree! In the case of the Autumn Buddhist Philosophy course, there is a reward for effort.”