April 4, 2006
This article is the first in a feature series about religion at Cornell and the greater Ithaca community.
Ithaca is not only home to families looking to settle in a scenic and peaceful country setting, artists hoping to remove themselves from the fast-paced lifestyle of metropolitan areas and environmental enthusiasts interested in exploring the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. The city also houses one of the first Tibetan resettlement communities in the United States as well as the North American seat of the personal monastery of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
This seat, the Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies, allows students to take classes in Tibetan Buddhism in a monastic setting without having to travel the 7,000 miles to India.
“The Institute’s three-year program takes a 15-year Buddhist education and reduces it to a three-year program for Western students,” said Jenine Rose Mollican, administrator of Namgyal Monastery.
Diane Fox, a student at the Namgyal Institute completing her three-year education, acknowledges the challenge of mastering the extensive amount of material in the Buddhist religion.
“Many monks and Geshes study about 15-20 years to master religion and teach it to new students,” she said. The three year program is fantastic, but is equivalent to having stopped learning after high school.”
So what can students do after having completed the courses of study at Namgyal? “Further education ideas are up to the student,” said Tenzin Thotop, resident teacher at the Institute. “There are infinite ways for students to improve spiritual understanding.”
In addition to offering a diverse array of courses ranging from “Colloquial Tibetan” to “Tonglen Meditation” and “Art and Expression in Tibetan Buddhism,” the Institute organizes a number of religious retreats, both weekend and week-long, throughout the year for students to learn and practice Buddhism in a setting different from the classroom. “While the classes consist mainly of residents of the Ithaca area, people come from all over to participate in our retreats,” said Thotop.
After the 1575 founding of the Namgyal Drastang (Victorious Monastery) by the Third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso, in Tibet, the 14th Dalai Lama and 55 monks from Namgyal fled to India and Nepal, escaping the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959 and relocating the Namgyal Monastery to Dharamsala, India where its traditions are carried on today. In addition to assisting the Dalai Lama with their public religious activities, the Monastery has been a center for the Buddhist education and the teachings of the four main lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.
1992 marked a watershed for Buddhism and Tibetan culture in the United States as monks traveled from Dharamsala, India to Ithaca, to establish a branch of the Namgyal Monastery. Six Namgyal monks, a Geshe (the equivalent of a Ph.D.), and others with Master of Sutra and Tantra degrees were chosen to found the North American seat of the personal monastery of the 14th Dalai Lama.
There are approximately 20-30 Tibetan families living in Ithaca right now, and Mollican expects the population to continue increasing. As a way to keep involved in the Ithaca community, Namgyal has a Tibetan school for children where they can learn the language and keep the Tibetan culture alive.
Namgyal is also preparing to begin fundraising for a new Ithaca center.
“We will have a larger faculty, a few residences and retreat huts for students,” said Mollican.
Buddhism is the fourth largest world religion with roughly 350 million adherents. Tibetan Buddhism, practiced by the Namgyal Monastery, is unique in its observance of such a widespread religion. “Tibetan Buddhism is extremely comprehensive,” said Fox. “The Tibetan Monks collected teachings of Buddhism from around the world, incorporated them into their religion, and embodied them.”
Other distinct characteristics of Tibetan Buddhism are Tantra and Mandala. Fox refers to Tantra as “‘Deity yoga.’ It focuses on transforming the mind by focusing on compassion and wisdom. It is not focused on our physical bodies and their movement, as other types of yoga are.”
“[Tantra] isn’t trying to change anyone,” said Eva Marques, a student at Namgyal Institute and web editor of Snow Lion, an Ithaca-based newspaper about Buddhism. This Tantric path seeks to transform basic human passions of desire and aversion into spiritual growth and development.
Mandala is a specific art form in which compositions are created in sand, paint, or in 3-D as symbols of the pure, perfected universe. They outline feelings of peace, well-being and wholeness.
“Teaching our students about Mandala is an important part of their education,” said Thotop.
“The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to find happiness in life. How this is achieved is up to the individual,” said Thotop, in his address to a small room of Cornell students at the Watermargin Co-op yesterday. In addition to speaking about the basic tenets of Buddhism, students could ask Thopop and his colleague Tenzin Norbu open-ended questions concerning Buddhist ideals and how they can guide students through difficult times during their college experiences.
While one student identified stress as a major problem plaguing many college students, Thotop explained the idea of acceptance as a way to deal with this seemingly inescapable problem.
“We can’t find good everywhere in the world,” he said. “We have to look for good and accept the nature that is given to us. We have to accept pain and sickness, although it is difficult. When they come back, we will be better prepared than if we try to avoid these problems.”
Drawing an analogy to a cake, he said that all beings are involved in our lives. Even though a cake might have been made in our kitchen, ingredients like spices come from all over the world. While it seems as though different countries are not unified and at odds with one another, it is important to recognize the global interdependence of nations that continues to become more prevalent as society progresses today.
Archived article by Sarah Singer Sun Staff Writer
April 4, 2006
The equestrian team galloped into the Zone II Region III championships – held this past Saturday at Skidmore – with 11 of the 66 riders at the event saddling up for the carnelian and white. While the expectations were high for what head coach Chris Mitchell described as his strongest squad in recent years, the standards were even higher, as only four of Cornell’s 11 riders qualified to advance to the Zone II championships.
“We had some high expectations going in, but it was a disappointing day,” Mitchell said. “I’m happy with the four going on [to Zones], but I think we could have gotten six or seven in.”
Cornell opened the day with its three strongest riders competing in the Open Fences division. While freshman Dana Kendrick and senior tri-captain Megan Gates struggled through tough performances, senior Trudy Gulick was spot on in her first run, and was rewarded as she was called back for a second viewing by the judges. Gulick nailed her routine again, capturing the Froehlich-Mitchell first place trophy – donated by the families of Mitchell and his wife-assistant coach, Martha Mitchell.
“It was the first time that we’ve won our trophy,” Mitchell said. “We have to get it engraved.”
The Red carried that momentum in the second event of the championship: the intermediate fences division. Sophomore Samantha Horowitz struggled after missing a change, but junior tri-captain Laura Acker turned in a performance that left Mitchell, his fellow coaches and the judges with an easy pick for the best rider in the division.
“Laura Acker just laid it down,” Mitchell said.
Horowitz was not done for the day, however, as she bounced back to place sixth in what Mitchell described as a very stringently judged intermediate flats division.
“She actually had her personal best flat ride I’ve ever seen her have,” Mitchell said. “She rode extremely well.”
Cornell faltered in the next few events. Junior Liz Kozakiewicz, a heavy favorite coming into the novice fences, couldn’t find her rhythm on her horse – finishing in eighth place.
“Liz got a horse that was tough to find a rhythm on, and when you’re jumping, rhythm’s a lot of it,” Mitchell said.
Kozakiewicz’s struggles, however, did help senior Lydia Shute get a feel for the horse she would be riding in the event. Having scouted her ride, Shute turned in a fast and smooth performance after hitting all eight of her jumps, thus qualifying for Zones with a third place finish in novice fences.
“She was fast but she was in the rhythm of the horse,” Mitchell said.
Kendrick, Gates, and Gulick were back in action again during the open flats division, but none of Cornell’s riders turned in a strong enough performance to earn a ticket to Zones.
Kozakiewicz also returned back to competition for the novice flats, just missing a trip to Zones with a fourth place finish.
Cornell’s sophomore trio of Kendall Banks, Christine Garvey, and Kaitlin Stanymeyer came into regionals with the hopes of sweeping the top-3 qualifying spots for Zones. Instead, only Banks finished in the ribbons, placing seventh.
Freshman Caitlin Caroll was the last Red rider to punch a ticket to Zones, finishing third in a field of five in the walk-trot division.
“It wasn’t a great style ride, but [Caroll] went out there and did her job, didn’t make any mistakes and did enough to get through to the next round,” Mitchell said.
Also heading to Zones will be Kendrick – the Reserve Cacchione Cup Rider for the region – who despite not qualifying individually for a chance to advance to nationals, will head the Centenary College next weekend to compete for a chance to be the Cacchione Rider for Zone II.
Although somewhat disappointed after regionals, Mitchell is excited for his riders chances at Zones.
“I think Trudy and Laura both have excellent chances of moving on. Caitlin Caroll has to really put in a good week of practice and get her mind set, but there’s no reason why she can’t do it,” Mitchell said. “Lydia’s my quiet one. Lydia wants it and she’s got a realistic shot of getting in [to nationals].”
Archived article by Paul Testa Sun Assistant Sports Editor