The Karmapa International Buddhist Institute and its Buddhist Studies Program, KIBI Part 2

The Buddhist Studies Program of the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute

In my last post, I started to present the Buddhist Studies program at the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute, New Delhi. Having already introduced the institute's history, its location and infrastructure, I will now turn to the academic program itself.
Karmapa International Buddhist Institute
Karma Kagyu headquarter: KIBI, New Delhi (source: www.kibsociety.org)

Academic Program of the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute

Each academic year consists of two semesters: a fall semester from October to December, and a spring semester from January to March. The full diploma program covers a wide range of topics over a three-year period. These include Buddhist languages (e.g. Tibetan and Sanskrit), history and culture, Buddhist religion, meditation and philosophy.

„Way beyond words!“


KIBI’s academic staff combines the expertise of renowned scholars trained in both traditional Tibetan Buddhist monastic institutions and modern universities in India and abroad, representing the state-of-the-art in Buddhist studies. 

Some of the courses, particularly those which cover various Buddhist philosophical treatises, are offered by Tibetan Khenpos (either in English or Tibetan with English interpretation). Intellectually, they can be very demanding as this wonderful illustration by Katja shows.

Karmapa Gompa (Karmapa International Buddhist Institute), New Delhi
A typcial KIBI student?

“This drawing perfectly represents the state of mind I experienced studying Tsema (Buddhist Epistemology) and the Madhyamaka Alankara during my second year in KIBI, when I painted this. Those were indeed ‘Golden Years’.”


Under the guidance of the institute's director Professor Sempa Dorje and the principal, Professor Lara Braitstein, a rich and interesting introduction to Buddhist studies is offered. The curriculum is designed so that students will gain a deep understanding of both Buddhist religious practice and the academic study of Buddhism. The following chart is an overview over the KIBI curriculum of 2013/2014.

Tibetan 1
 Tibetan 2
History/Culture (1st and 2nd year students are in here together)
Buddhism in Tibet 1 OR Buddhism in India 1
Buddhism in Tibet 2 OR Buddhism in India 2
Dwags po thar rgyan
Dwags po thar rgyan 2
Philosophy (1st and 2nd year students are in here together)
Four Siddhāntas 1 or mkhas ‘jug 1
Four Siddhāntas 2 or mkhas ‘jug 2

2nd  YEAR:
Tibetan Reading Class (Tibetan 3)
Tibetan Reading Class (4)
History/Culture (1st and 2nd year
  students are in here together)
Buddhism in Tibet OR Buddhism in India 1
Buddhism in Tibet OR Buddhism in India 2
Dwags po thar rgyan 3
Dwags po thar rgyan 4
Philosophy (1st and 2nd year
  students are in here together)
Four Siddhāntas 1 or mkhas ‘jug 1
Four Siddhāntas 2 or mkhas ‘jug 2

Hindi 1 or Sanskrit 1
Hindi 2 or Sanskrit 2
Advanced Religion
(ch 1-­8)
Bodhicaryāvatāra 2
(ch 1-­8)
 Advanced Philosophy
Dependent Origination 1
Dependent Origination 2 (part 2)
 Advanced History/Culture
Seminar: Tibetan and Buddhist Studies
Seminar: Specialized Studies
Source: www.kibsociety.org

A more detailed description of the diploma program can be found here.
There is a lot I love about KIBI. It was so great to:
- meet so many Dharma friends from all over the world and establish so many connections
- see how seriously people practice and study,
- see how Western minds were crashed by Tsema and Madhyamaka,
- get authentic Dharma teachings from Genla (Prof. Sempa Dorje), our Khenpos, and even from Gylawa Karmapa himself

Apart from that: I loved chai, parantha, and the fun we had.


Important Update:

KIBI and Mewar University have just signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) about their collaboration. Beginning from the academic year 2014/15, KIBI's existing diploma course will therefore be transformed into an internationally recognized degree program in Buddhist Studies (Bachelor or Arts in Buddhist Studies).

Public Courses at the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute

Karmapa International Buddhist Institute
Gyalwa Karmapa and Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche
Throughout the year, KIBI offers additional public teachings and short-term courses on subjects such as meditation, Buddhist philosophy, and languages. Some of these courses are overseen directly by H.H. the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa and/or other high-ranking spiritual masters.

“Yes indeed! KIBI is an incredible place! One year, a friend of mine who isn’t a Buddhist came to visit me during the 5-day teachings by Karmapa, where we had also additional lectures with Khenpo Tsering and Professor Sempa Dorje.
Karmapa International Buddhist Institute
KIBI, Small function with the students in the main temple
While I sometimes skipped some sessions to catch up with my practice and social activities, she would follow all the sessions with an open mouth and very carefully listened to the teachings. After a few days she said: ‘I understood now that Buddhism is for people who are strong enough to take full responsibility for their life.’ That was an amazing teaching for me. I hope that one day I will understand these beneficial teachings in their essence, and I hope we will all reach Enlightenment!”


Karmapa International Buddhist Institute
Gyalwa Karmapa teaching, KIBI 2009

Since H.H. Gyalwa Karmapa spends a large part of the year in Delhi, one can feel his presence at the institute in many ways. For instance, he often engages students directly in Question-and-Answer sessions. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn and practice Buddhism in such an environment.

“For me, KIBI was one of the (actually the) most formative events in my life. I really enjoyed each of the minutes spent there and feel like Khenpo Rinpoche gave us the most precious gift ever: the gift of Dharma of course, but also of the Dharma in a perfect setting, with lots of time and friends to share it with. And of course the proximity of all the great masters of the lineage and the wonders of India just close by. Priceless indeed.”

The Bodhisattva's Way of Life, Teachings by the Gyalwa Karmapa in KIBI, New Delhi
KIBI Public Meditation Course 2014

The four-story main building houses a large shrine hall, an auditorium, lecture halls, a well-equipped Buddhist library, offices for the administration and a lounge. Breakfast and two meals a day are offered to teachers and students in the dining hall at the basement.

“The time at KIBI has been extremely precious for me on many different levels. And what I marvel at is the family feeling I still have with (almost) everyone I studied with at KIBI. For me, KIBI was much more than just Buddhist Studies. Living in the energy field there seemed to speed up everything from purifying old karma up to stiff ideas and wrong views. Especially in my first year, I often felt like being in the middle of an emotional or psychological tornado. All I could do was let go and relax - meditation in action? Once I got past that and the culture shock I got from India, I started to enjoy travelling around: Bodhgaya just a night away on the night train, and Dehradun just a trip on the night bus. What a great opportunity to travel to all the Buddhist places on a weekend or in the vacation.”


KIBI offers boarding for its students. Surrounding the main building in a semicircle are further offices as well as the housing tracts with rooms for teachers, guest lecturers, foreign students and visitors (attached or common bathroom). There is a high chance that your teachers and co-students will feel like family after living and studying so closely with them for a long period of time.

I loved the tea parties and specially the gift party and our capacity to fit more than 20 people in one room.

Can one recommend studying at KIBI?
Personally, I can definitely recommend it, and almost everyone who studied there with me with whom I talked, considers the time at KIBI as something very special. You not only learn many meaningful things, but the experience is very transformative in many ways. It will certainly change you for the better. 

Studying in India is, of course, challenging at times. If you are coming from the West, you are entering a completely different cultural area. If you are open-minded, you will have a very enriching experience. It may also help you to question and view your own culture and life in a completely different way.

Much could be said in this respect here, but I prefer to give you a detailed personal account of my own experiences in an upcoming post. In the meantime, I will leave you with a short summary from one of my friends and co-students:

Being in KIBI was transformative for me. I remember being disappointed realizing that KIBI was located so near the airport when I arrived there. I was kind of imagining some place like Potala, but it was night and in the morning I had a first glimpse of KIBI. I still remember how surreal it felt. It's just a place that grows on you. For me, I felt like the luckiest person in the world, being able to receive teachings from Khenpo Rinpoche.

Coming from Asia, it has been uncommon until recently to get Dharma teachings, not to mention profound ones. Buddhism was mostly about rituals and blind faith for many of us back then. 'Emptiness is not nothingness' were the first words I remember hearing in class. They went off like fireworks in my mind.
Karmapa International Buddhist Institute
Chai @ Thanku's

The amazing thing about being in KIBI wasn't just about the teachings. It's in every experience we had on a daily basis. Things like:
-   having Karmapa with us,
-   surprise visits from Shamar Rinpoche,
-   cultural exchange with friends around the world,
-   trying to memorize Tibetan vocabulary but ending up with funny French and German words in my head,
-   calling our caretaker Nakul every other day,
-   room parties, movie nights, and having tea at the balcony,
-   chasing peacocks in the park and looking-out-for-those-wild-animals-so-you-get-a-National-Geographic-moment,
-   delicious cakes and cheese toast,
-   weekend trips to the markets,
-   typing transcripts,
-   the obligatory walk to Thangku for a chai,
-   and at the same time purifying lots of negative karma, emotionally and physically, during my years in KIBI.

One just had to let things happen naturally. With all of this, it's hard not to develop a degree of attachment to KIBI. It's a little world in itself.”


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