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Practice of Vinaya Precepts and Ritual Activities in NNI

The precious vinaya practice for the monks contains precepts to be followed and other to discard. There are seventeen basic precepts to be followed. The three major bases are: Sojong (the Ritual for Mending Vows and Purifying Breaches), Yarney (the Summer Retreat) and Gagye (the Ceremony for Releasing the Summer Retreat Rules). His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche established this practice in 1961 before the construction of the Namdroling Main Temple, as this traditional practice is the root of Buddhism and one of the most important events of the Institute. This was the first ever establishment of Vinaya practice in Nyingma Monastery in India.


Sojong - Ritual for Mending Vows and Purifying Breaches

The Pratimoksha Sutra says: "O Monks, Sojong should be done on every fifteenth day of the half-month." Thus said, on every Sojong day, a bell is rung at 6am and all monks must assemble near the main temple.  The elder bhikshus begin entering the temple after ritually cleaning their mouths with water and asking why the bell is being rung.  They are then followed by the junior bhikshus.  Inside the temple, the elders stay to the right and the younger monks to the left. Only after finishing the specific ritual for mending vows do the novice monks enter the temple and together recite the Gyud-Chag-Sum Pa (The Three Practices of Prostrating, Reciting a Sutra, and a Dedication Prayer) and so on.  Finally the Abbot recites the Pratimoksha Sutra along with the rituals of Sojong.  While exiting the temple, all the monks recite the mantra of pure morality and circumambulate the temple in a queue.  After finishing the circumambulation, all assemble at the doorsteps of the temple and utter the dedication prayer.


Yarney - Summer Retreat

As the Vinaya Text called Garland of Flowers states, "The Earlier Summer Retreat starts from the 15th of the Sixth Tibetan Month and ends on the 30th of the Seventh Month. And the Later Summer Retreat starts from the 15th of the Seventh Tibetan Month and ends on the 30th of the Eighth Month." Thus, at these times, both novice and fully-ordained monks stay in retreat in accordance with the Vinaya tradition and are not allowed to go outside the prescribed boundary.  While remaining in retreat, the sangha community assemble thrice a day; in the morning when Gyud-Chag Sum-Pa is recited, at lunch when prayers such as Remembering the Three Jewels Sutra and dedication prayers are said, and in the evening, root texts of great philosophical works and dedicational prayers are recited. The students also participate actively in seminars, dharma discourses, and debate sessions held during that time.


Gagye - Ceremony for Releasing the Summer Retreat Rules

Seven days before Gagye, when the Summer Retreat Rules are released, this religious event is announced in nearby villages.  On the 28th day of the 7th Tibetan month for the Earlier Yarney, or of the 8th month for the later one, the abbot gives dharma teachings on various topics to assembled Sangha. Students present lectures and debates on Buddhist philosophy until midnight.  This tradition is called Ringjor, Advance Preparation. Immediate Preparation, called Nyejor, begins early in the morning on the 29th when all the monks stay in the retreat exchange Zodsol, clearing up and forgiving any misunderstandings which might have occurred during the retreat period.  This is followed by the actual Gagye ceremony, which is performed by using the straw of dhurva, a kind of grass. Offerings to the Sangha that were received during Yarney are distributed at this time. On the 30th, the monks hike about two miles into the country side beyond the Yarney’s restricted boundaries in order to abandon attachment to their residence.  Following this walk, there is a short ceremony of prayers and debate.


Main Annual Religious Events

This institute opens its session every year on the 3rd day of the Second Tibetan month, and continues for nine months. The students focus primarily on upholding the three precepts of the vinaya tradition while engaging in study through the three traditional practices of giving discourses, practicing debate and writing compositions on the sutras and tantras. The annual cycles of religious rites and rituals are mainly carried out by the monks in the monastery proper.  However, the Nyingma tradition emphasizes the combination of study and practice so students of the institute also participate in the major rituals that are held at Namdroling Monastery.