Buddha teaches us to view every meal as if we were reluctant cannibals: Samyukta Agama Sutra 373, the Four Nutriments
Letting Go — letting go of past, letting go of future, letting go is the hardest thing to do: Na Tumhaka Sutta
Becoming Gesar, the fearless Buddhist: How to overcome fear in uncertain times, according to Pali Sutta, Mahayana Sutra and Tantra
The Hand of Buddha defeats the three poisons : Vajrapani (literally, “Vajra Hand”) — Guardian of Shakyamuni Himself; Vajrapani, the power of the mind to overcome obstacles such as pride, anger, hate and jealousy
Tonglen video: Why giving and taking practice is an important kindness meditation and Bodhichitta practice; how to do it: taught by Zasep Rinpoche
Understanding Dependent Co-Arising is critical to Buddhist practice: The Great Causes Discourse Maha-nidana Sutta
Pali Sutta for Our Age: Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Book Review of a Classic
The bridge between science and Buddhism, atoms and no atoms, theism and athiesm; Yidam deity meditation and the Cognitive Science of Tantra
“Every one has Buddha Nature.” A teaching video: Venerable Zasep Rinpoche with mantra chanting by Yoko Dharma
Cankama Sutta: Walking Meditation Sutra: put some mileage on your Buddhist practice with formal mindful walking
Milam Sleep Yoga: lucid dreaming can bring us closer to experiencing non-dualistic “reality” than waking meditation
2017 Tsog Dates: Happy Dakini Day — Introducing the Wisdom of the Female Enlightened Dakinis
Guan Yin and the ten great protections of the Goddess of Mercy: Avalokiteshvara, Bodhisattva of Compassion
The Maha Samaya Sutta: The Great Meeting Sutra: refuge from fear in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
Soma Sutta: Sister Soma gets the better of Mara — what difference does being a woman make in Buddhism? None
Healing video: full Medicine Buddha guided meditation with Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche; with Medicine Buddha Mantra chanting by Yoko Dharma
Phurba or Kila: the most potent of wrathful ritual implements in Vajrayana Buddhism, symbolizes the Karma activity of the Buddhas
Happy Birthday Venerable Zasep Rinpoche: May the pure white light of your peerless wisdom shine undiminished until the end of existence
Buddha: How to protect wealth, associate with virtuous friends and relate to your spouse, employer, children: guidance for lay practitioners in Sigalovada Sutta
“Mind is the creator of our own happiness or suffering”—Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche teaches Lojong  Seven-Point Mind Training
The Path of Purification? No, my friend. Ratha-vinita Sutta (Chariot Relay Sutra) teaches us not to confuse the seven purifications, with the destination, Nirvana
Atisha’s Great Praise: 11th century wisdom.
Why Buddha Nature is one of the most important understandings in Mahayana Buddhism and why Tathagatagarbha Buddha Nature is not the soul
Why do Buddhas and Enlightened Beings need offerings? The simple answer: they don’t. The better answer is…
Book Review: Tara in the Palm of Your Hand: a guide to the practice of the twenty-one Taras in the Surya Gupta lineage
Amitabha Sutra: cutting delusions with one-pointed blissful contemplation of Amitabha Buddha and the Pure Land
Reviving the genuine Dharma ritual art traditions: an interview with Vajra artisan and craftsman Rigdzin Pema Tuthob
Great Compassion Mantra: Purification, healing and protection, the Maha Karuna Dharani Sutra — benefiting all beings
Video: Why is Mantra important to daily practice? For protection: “We are human beings. We have many problems.”
A Sutra for Troubled Times: Usnisa Vijaya Dharani Sutra and Mantra— Purify Karma, Eliminate Illness and Prevent calamities
Naked wisdom for degenerate times: Vajrayogini, enlightened wisdom queen, leads us to bliss, clear light and emptiness, despite modern obstacles
Headed for darkness or light? Of world’s 7.5 billion people, Tamonata Sutta says there are four types of people, two headed to darkness
Interview Lama Dr. Shannon Young: Dzogchen teacher focuses on bringing Dharma practice into daily life and bridging heritage with modern life
H.H. 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje in Canada for one month, arrived in Toronto for teachings
What’s so special about Hayagriva? This wrathful Heruka emanation of Amitabha, with horse head erupting from fiery hair, literally neighs with the Hrih scream of Wisdom
Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta: The Great Discourse on the Establishing of Awareness; mindfulness of body, feelings, mind, mental qualities
BW Interview with Geshe Thubten Sherab: Skillfully Teaching Traditional Tibetan Buddhism for Western Students

BW Interview with Geshe Thubten Sherab: Skillfully Teaching Traditional Tibetan Buddhism for Western Students

Geshe Thubten Sherab, an accomplished and well respected teacher with FPMT,  kindly agreed to a short interview with Buddha Weekly during a teaching visit to Lama Yeshe Ling in Ontario Canada. Although trained rigorously in monasteries, Geshe is known for his skillful approach to teaching in the west, emphasizing “the most important thing is to try to integrate ones study and practice.”[1]

 

Geshe Sherab teaching.

 

Geshe Sherab feels it is important to preserve traditional ways, while skillfully teaching with an understanding of Western Culture:

“We also need to understand Western culture and psychology so that we, as Geshes, can be more effective and bring more benefit. However, we should not take too many liberties in changing the traditional ways of doing things, just because it doesn’t suit the Westerners’ way or because they don’t like it. We should always think of the long-term benefit as opposed to simply short-term results.”

 

Geshe Sherab.

 

Lama Sherab travels widely to teach at FPMT centres , but teaches regularly at Thubten Norbu Ling in Sante Fe, New Mexico. Some of his teaching topics are: “Vajrasattva Practice”, “Enlightened Courage”, and “Seeing Things as They Really Are”.  While at Lama Yeshe Ling, his teaching topics were “Stages of the Path to Enlightenment” and Lama Tsongkhapa. Some of Geshe’s audio teachings can be played here>>

Contents of Feature (click to navigate)

The Rigorous Life of a Monk

Young monks at Sera Je.

Lama Sherab “was born in 1967 in a very small village in the western part of Nepal.” As a young boy, he became a monk at Kopan Monestary — years away from family, and a rigorous study day from 5:30am to 9:30pm. “When I was a teenager, as any normal teenager, I struggled a lot, not knowing whether it was best for me to continue or to disrobe. But then, just before I went to Sera, I made the strong decision that being a monk continuously was how I was going to spend my life.” He went on to even more intense studied at Sera Je.

Geshe Sherab studied with some of the great Geshes and Lamas: “like Geshe Jampa Gyatso and Geshe Doga who came to Kopan to teach, as well as the late Geshe Jampa, and of course Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Lama Lhundrup and Geshe Lama Konchog, as well as H.E. Khensur Rinpoche Losang Tsering, H.E. Jangtse Choje Rinpoche Losang Tenzin and H.E. Khensur Rinpoche Losang Delek.. They are my main root gurus, and I have great respect for them; they were role models for me and inspired me to study.” [1]

In the interview, he kindly shared his experiences with the intense rigor of study at Sera Je— practice, memorization, debate school, meditation, again 5:30am until late at night. He highlighted importance of Lama Tsongkhapa practice and “Stages of the Path to Enlightenment”, the subject of his teaching in March 2017 at Lama Yeshe Ling.

Interview

  1. You taught on Lama Tsongkhapa meditation practice.  Why are Lama Tsongkhapa practices so valued by modern Buddhists?

Geshe Thubten Sherab teaching.

Geshe Sherab: Lama TzongKhapa is known sometimes as the second Buddha and second Nagarjuna. No other Tibetan master or holy being has contributed to dharma as much he did through his writing, example, inspiration and practices. Also Lama TzongKhapa is known as manifestation of Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, and Varjapani. So practicing Lama TzongKhapa Guru Yoga is equivalent to practicing the sadhana or practice of all those three deities.

  1. You also taught the “Stages of the Path to Enlightenment”. What are some of the key stages and methods you covered?

Geshe Sherab: I cover precious human rebirth, death and impermanence, renunciation, bodhichitta and emptiness.

  1. You were accepted as a monk by Lama Yeshe at Kopan Monestary at a very young age. What is life like for the young monk in a monastery?

The life for young monk like any young boy in boarding school. Of course many monks could not see their parents for few years as they live too far away. It is not easy for both parents and the young monk but that is part of training.

Lots of discipline and studies but not much time to relax and enjoy. So, it is tough and many will drop the robe. Starts the day at 5.30am to go to bed at around 9-10pm.

  1. Who were some of your teachers?

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is one of Geshe Sherab’s teachers.

H.H.Dalai Lama, H.E. Jangtse Choje Rinpoche, late H.E. Khensur Losang Tsering,H.E. Khensur Losang Delek, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche are the main teachers.

My other teachers included H.H.Sakya Trizin Rinpoche, late Chodon Rinpoche, late Dema Locho Rinpoche, late Dulgo Khentse Rinpoche, late Paglung Rinpoche, late Ugen Tseten Rinpoche,late Khensur Lama Lhundup, late Geshe Losang Jampa, late Geshe Jampa Gyatso, Geshe Doga.

  1. You studied at Sera Je Monastery for the Geshe degree starting in 1987. Why did you decide to work towards the Geshe degree?

Geshe Sherab: I went to Sera to study further but not necessarily to become a Geshe. But once I was close to finishing my study I thought of taking Geshe exams.

  1. What was a typical day or week like at Sera Je for a student working towards a Geshe degree?

Geshe Sherab: 5.30-7 am puja, 7-9 am memorization, 9-11.30 am debate class, 11.45 am lunch, 12.30-5 pm rest time, receiving teachings from teachers, and self studies, 5 pm dinner, 6-9.30 pm evening debate class, 9.30- 10 or 11 pm to recite and repeat what has been memorized. Every Tuesday is off day.

 

Monks of Sera Je

 

  1. How does teaching to Western students differ from how you might teach both monastics and lay people in Nepal?

Geshe Sherab: Yes, since it is different culture and psychology, the method has to be little different. In essence it is same but we have to present slightly differently.

 

Geshe Sherab teaching video:

 

  1. For Westerners, especially, is it more difficult to teach integration of study and practice, or integration of Dharma with daily life? How do you approach this?

Geshe Sherab.

It is different for different students. Some students are more interested in studies and philosophy but not much interested in practice. Some other are more interested in practice, but not much studies.

So I encourage all students to integrate both studies and practice together. We cannot ignore either of them. Practice means both meditation on cushion as well integrating the Dharma with our every day or daily life.

Life at Sera Je Monastery

Geshe Sherab:  “Within Sera Je Monastery there are two divisions for study. For young monks of age of 7 to 18, they attend the Sera Je School which provides general modern education with subjects such as English, Mathematics, Science and Arts in addition to Tibetan Grammar, Buddhist Philosophy etc. At the moment there are around five to six hundred students in the school from grade 1-12.

Once they have graduated from the school, they proceed to join the Monastery’s main University to study Buddhist Philosophy in more detail. The system of study in Sera Je is similar to that of Nalanda Monastery in ancient India. Nalanda was the largest Monastery and university in India for the study of Buddhism during its peak. The Monastery produced many great masters and practitioners such as Nagarjuna, Shantideva and Dharmakirti, to mention just a few. This system involves debating in order to understand the texts correctly, to dispel any misconceptions or misunderstanding of the subject and particularly to help to understand their essential points.” [2]

There are five great scriptures studied in Monastic University: Abhiddharma Kosha, Parmanavartika, Abhisamaya Aalamkara, Madhyamika, Madhyamika. Gesehe Sherab explains: “It takes at least 16 years of intensive studies to complete these five great scriptures. There are 13 grades within the University. The first seven grades require a year of study in each grade. 2 to 3 years for the eighth grade, 3 to 4 years for the ninth grade, 2 to 4 years for the tenth grade and eleventh grades and several years for the final twelfth and thirteenth grades.” [2]

Daily Schedule of a Typical Monk:

Geshe Sherab described the typical day of a monk at Sera Jay, clearly a life of dedication and hard work:

“A typical daily schedule of a monk in Sera Je:

5.00 am Wake up and wash.
5.30 am Morning prayers. Breakfast will be served during prayer session if there is any sponsor.
7.30 to 9.00 am Memorizing prayers and scriptures.
9.00 to 10.00 am Debating class.
10.00 to 10.30 am Chanting Sutras and reciting prayers as preliminary practices as well as to eliminate obstacles toward one’s study and practices.
10.30 to 11.30 am Debating class.
11.30 to 12.30 pm Lunch with prayers and dedications for sponsors and all sentient beings.
12.30 to 1.00 pm Break time.
1.00 to 2.00 pm Receiving teachings from teachers.
2.00 to 4.00 pm Homework. Reading, reflecting and discussing on the subjects, covered particularly by the teacher on that day.
4.00 to 5.00 pm Receiving teaching from teachers.
5.00 to 5.30 pm Dinner with prayers.
5.30 to 6.00 pm Break time.
6.00 to 7.00 pm Evening debating class.
7.00 to 8.30/9.00 pm Prayers and meditation. Reciting Heart Sutra, 21 Tara praises many times and reciting many other prayers as preliminary practices and to eliminate obstacles toward one’s study and practices.
9.00 to 10/11.00 pm Debating class (Some of the monks will continue until midnight or 1 am).
10/11.00 to 12.00 mn Reciting the prayers and scriptures which have been memorized so that one does not forget.
12.00mn Bed time but many monks will study till 1 or 2 am.” [2]

LINKS

Geshe Thubten Sherab website

Lama Yeshe Ling in Ontario Canada>>

NOTES

[1] Biography on Geshe Sherab website>>

[2] “Life in Sera Je Monastery” from FPMT website>>

Leave a reply

Are you a Sentient Being? *

Awarded Top 50 Buddhist Blog

Copyright Buddha Weekly 2007-2017. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to excerpt stories with full credit and a link to Budddha Weekly. Please do not use more than an excerpt. Subject to terms of use and privacy statement. All information on this site, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote  understanding and knowledge. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, including medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Buddha Weekly does not recommend or endorse any information that may be mentioned on this website. Reliance on any information appearing on this website is solely at your own risk.

Send this to a friend