BCBS Director of Studies William Edelglass recently returned from leading the Five Colleges Tibetan Studies in India Program. The program is based at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath. Sarnath is a sacred pilgrimage site for Buddhists, as it is the place where the Buddha first turned the wheel of the dharma, teaching the four truths to his former companions. It is also close to Varanasi, the holy city on the Ganges, one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world, with its famous ghats.
The Tibetan Studies in India Program is part of an ongoing academic exchange with the Tibetan universities in exile in India. Each year, the Five Colleges (Smith, Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst) send 15 students to spend interterm studying Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan history and culture, and Tibetan textual analysis in an intensive program taught by the faculty of the Central Institute of Tibetan Studies (CIHTS) in Sarnath, India. In addition to leading the Five Colleges students, William taught a course for Ph.D. students at CIHTS during this time.
The group was able to spend four days in Bodhgaya, sitting at the place where the Buddha awakened. During this trip, they also recited the Heart Sutra at Vulture Peak, where, according to tradition, it was first taught. Fortuitously, the Dalai Lama was also in Bodhgaya, and the group had an unexpected chance to meet and be blessed by His Holiness.
In a message from abroad, the students shared: “Professor Edelglass told us we were going to meet His Holiness two days before; it was such an amazing surprise! Somehow, Professor Edelglass pulled some strings with the help of CIHTS connections. We feel extremely humbled by the privilege of meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”
”We met pilgrims from all around the world who were waiting to meet and receive the Dalai Lama’s blessings. We received a khata [a traditional white ceremonial scarf] and a jendu [a red cord for protection and luck] that will help us commemorate this once-in-a-lifetime encounter.”
William says: “The Dalai Lama was particularly interested in talking about the intersection between Buddhism and psychology, a fertile area where BCBS has been a leader since its beginning.”
You can also sit with William during an upcoming BCBS Retreat, Exploring the Foundations of Buddhist Thought and Practice, on March 15-18, 2024.