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Buddhadharma : Spring 2012
82 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SPRING 2 0 1 2 ➤ continued from page 51 everyone was happy with it,” she said. “There are definitely Tibetans who feel it’s too early.” Kelsang Damdul agreed that although some monks might have reservations about a nun earning the degree, “any- one who wants to preserve Tibetan Bud- dhism should be happy,” and suggested that naysayers would be assuaged when they saw her teach. IT’S A MUGGY May afternoon, the preface to Dharamsala’s torrential mon- soon season. A gray sky dribbles rain outside the group of white buildings that house the Institute of Buddhist Dia- lectics near the town’s main Buddhist temple and the Dalai Lama’s residence. In a large shrine room that doubles as a classroom, Kelsang sits cross-legged on a cushion behind a low table that holds her notes for the day’s lecture on “The Two Truths According to the Four Tenets.” Brightly colored thangkas hang from the walls. Behind her, golden stat- ues of the Buddha and a framed photo of the Dalai Lama sit on an altar illumi- nated by electric candles. I sit in the back of the room on a thin cotton mattress on the hardwood floor, accompanied by a stray dog that has wandered in. About seventy-five students from Europe, North America, Asia, India, and elsewhere are seated behind puja tables for this introduction to Buddhism class. Even without the amplification of the microphone in front of her, Kelsang’s voice has an authoritative, bright tim- bre that is bolder than her easygoing tone in normal conversation. “I don’t like the word ignorance,” she declares. “It implies that we’re stupid. We’re not stupid.” She prefers the word misper- ception. “That is the cause for all our troubles.” She goes on to explain con- ventional truth (the way phenomena appear) and ultimate truth (the way phenomena actually exist). “An elephant on a table does not exist—especially on such a tiny table like this,” she says waving at her puja NOW ON DVD BONUS FEATURETTE The Zen of Dogen WITH Kaz Tanahashi AVAILABLE FOR SCREENINGS — VIEW THE TRAILER ONLINE www.festivalmedia.org