The Essence of Wisdom

A Message from the Executive Director, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

The purpose of Nitartha Institute is to bring the Buddhist tradition of scholarship and study to the West in a genuine and authentic way. The Institute draws its inspiration from Nalanda University, the great educational center whose tradition lies at the heart of the wisdom of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Our intention is not only to transport this discipline to the West, but to transform it into 21st Century wisdom so that students may become thoroughly processed and trained in the view of Buddhadharma. Training in the fundamental view of Buddhism is the backbone of meditative experience and the realization of its teachings.

The Buddha taught three wheels of dharma, which comprise a complete path to enlightenment. The first wheel is study, which begins with learning the general structure of the three yanas and gradually progresses to comprehending their details. This process involves training in the art of listening, in eloquent speech, and in precise thinking. Through studying in this way, we develop the genuine prajna of discrimination, which equips us with the ability to independently analyze what is taught, to understand the scriptures, and to gain certainty from within.

Through study we develop the right view, the most crucial quality to be cultivated on the path to enlightenment. As the Buddha said:

Even if there are millions, when the blind have no guide
They will not reach the city of their destination if they do not know the way.
If one is without prajna, one may have the other five perfections,
But without a guide, one will be incapable of reaching enlightenment.

The second wheel is meditation, which starts with analytical meditation, or contemplation, and leads to resting meditation. At this stage, the prajna of study is further internalized in order to give rise to personal and direct experience of the teachings. This can only be accomplished through precise analytical contemplation and, finally, resting in the true nature of reality, free from concepts.

This prajna of the second wheel of reflection and meditation is indispensable for developing experience and realization on the path. As the Buddha said:

The authentic teachings of the Buddha
Are not accomplished through study alone.
Some who are helplessly carried away
By a raging river
Wind up dying of thirst.
The dharma without meditation is like that.

The third wheel is action. At this stage, the wisdom of study and the experience of meditation are reflected in daily activities. In a sense, action is the product of the prior two wheels. The key training is to act mindfully and compassionately with the right view and with a calm mind. The final goal is to engage in mindful actions with the right view in this dreamlike world. As the Buddha said:

Know the five skandhas are like an illusion.
Don’t separate the illusion from the skandhas.
Free of thinking that anything is real—
This is perfect wisdom’s conduct at its best.

At Nitartha Institute, we train primarily in the wheel of study, focusing on eight principle subjects that cover the major topics of sutra and tantra. We also train in the wheel of meditation, with special emphasis on analytical meditation. Through the union of study and analytical meditation, we aspire to provide the conditions for enlightened action.

The in-depth study of classical Indian texts and Tibetan commentaries requires great labors of translation. Nitartha Institute is dedicated to supporting, training, and working with translators and scholars to make a wide range of Buddhist lineages’ study materials available to 21st Century students. In this way, Nitartha Institute fulfills a key part of the vision of its parent organization, Nitartha International, which was founded to preserve the cultural and educational wisdom of Asian traditions.

Through translation work and through study at Nitartha Institute, we are exploring a new frontier of Buddhist education, one that started at the great university of Nalanda in India, continued in Tibet, and is now being established in the West. The accurate and complete transmission of the authentic tradition of Buddhist studies is a mission of great importance and urgency. It is my aspiration that Nitartha Institute will follow in the footsteps of its forebears, who worked so hard to maintain the integrity and power of the Buddha’s teachings for this culture and time and for future generations to come.

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
Nalanda West
Seattle, Washington
June 1, 2007