In Harmony with Nature
In Accord With the Way Things Truly Are
An Interview with Moondil Jahan
How did you find RYI originally?
I learned about RYI from Prof. John Dunne. I was studying in the U.S. and reached out to many Buddhist Studies professors at various graduate schools in North America as I wanted to study Buddhist Philosophy. I ended up having a phone conversation with Prof. Dunne because of our common connection with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.
What is it that drew you to RYI?
The Khenpo classes! I really appreciate the translated Khenpo classes because these courses allow the beginners to dive into Buddhist Philosophy right away regardless of their language skills in Tibetan and Sanskrit. Of course, it is extremely important to gain proficiency in root languages but as it requires much time, translated Khenpo classes provide an excellent opportunity for the incoming students to be familiar with Buddhist Philosophy texts right from their first year at RYI.
What program did you begin in?
I started with the M.A. Preparatory Program. I completed the M.A. in Buddhist Studies in Fall 2021. It took me about a year to complete the prerequisites before entering the M.A. in Buddhist Studies. It took me two years to complete the Masters program.
Was there a particular class that was important to your path?
I regard my RYI experience as the crown of my academic learning experiences and the Khenpo classes as the precious jewels of that crown.
What is your area of study?
I study and practice Himalayan Buddhist meditative ritual dances which are known as caryā dance and vajra dance in the Newar and Tibetan traditions respectively.
My research method is practice-based, which means that in my academic research I draw insights from my own training in caryānṛtya and vajranṛtya.
Please tell us more about practice-based research method.
Practice-based Research (PbR) is a multidisciplinary research method primarily for creative practitioner-researchers in the fields of arts, music, dance, and so forth. This approach allows one to design a suitable research framework for their creative practices and share new knowledge with the academic community. In my M.A. thesis, I developed a research framework for caryānṛtya and vajranṛtya practices to better understand the training process of these meditative ritual dance practices in the Kathmandu valley.
How do you think RYI prepared you for the future?
Whichever way the future unfolds, whether I end up doing further studies, working, initiating a creative/experimental project, or doing something else, the teachings and training in the Buddhadharma that I received from RYI will continue to contribute to my overall growth as a buddha-to-be sentient being.
How do all those activities you described (study, work, creative project) relate to your academic path and dharma practice – what is the relationship between scholarly practice, work, and creativity for you?
The way I see it, it all comes down to being harmonious with nature, i.e. to be in accord with the way things truly are. All these activities, if done with wisdom and great compassion, will eventually lead to ultimate freedom. As ordinary beings, we are yet to internalize what it means to act in complete harmony with nature, but if we try to do all our activities (academic, creative, dharmic, or otherwise) with a genuine motivation to benefit all beings without any agenda whatsoever, it is an excellent start. Regardless of how diverse and different these activities might look at the surface level, deep down, for the budding buddha-s, I see these as methods to wake us up.