Bhikshuni Lozang Trinlae: Leading Students to do “Real-World” Religion Research for NEPAL

Our Visiting Lecturer in Asian Religions, Bhikshuni Lozang Trinlae (PhD) talks about her current research projects, two of which are related to UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nepal, while a third one focuses on making a database of dharma-related communities in the Estonia region.

My scholarly work has pioneered the use of phenomenological qualitative research methods to empirically discern contemplative and spiritual care characteristics of millennia-old Tibetan and Nepali Buddhist Vajrayāna meditations expressed in the form of religious rituals and group liturgical practices. This work has helped dispel popular prejudices suggesting such religious practices are merely superstitions or a naive form of worship by demonstrating the linguistic and cognitive roles of contemplative symbols in learning Middle Way philosophy through the use of traditional meditation techniques.

Two of my current research projects are related to UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nepal: one related to Namche Gompa (Temple) in Sagarmāthā Mt. Everest National Park, which is several days’ walk from the nearest road, and situated at ~3400m altitude, and the other at the Swayambhunath temple of Kathmandu Valley.

Both projects include transcription, transliteration, and translation of primary Buddhist texts. In the case of the Namche Gompa Dumje Festival project, I am working to preserve 100-year old hand-written scrolls of traditional Buddhist ceremonies of the Sherpa community’ s summer festival.

Namche Gompa is almost in middle of the picture. (Picture c/o Shiva Shrestha Wikimedia Commons.)

 

 

 

 

The part at the top is a two-line, hand-written section of much longer scroll.

 

In my work for the Swayambhunath Temple UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kathmandu Valley, I am leading students in my current class (HVUS.06.008) in doing a similar process, preserving Nepali and Newari Buddhist hymns popularly sung there daily by locals, and which often convey important historical narratives stretching back over millennia! This is really cool because they are mostly undergraduates and also literature majors not religion majors, but this is very special literature!

Before transcription and transliteration:

 

 

After transcription and transliteration – next step will be translation:

 

Besides these two projects, I have another project with my student to make a database of dharma tradition related communities in the Estonia region, for visitors, expats, and locals to more easily find such organizations from a central resource.

 

This is what the project look like:

 

 

Anyone can get a flavor of my course from the description of the assignments here:

HVUS.06.008 Assignments Overview by Bhikshuni L Trinlae on Prezi Next

In spring I invite students to join in learning about traditional classical Indian Buddhist philosophy in my HVUS.06.009-Buddhist Ontology, Epistemology and Phenomenology courses and contemporary Buddhism in HVUS.03.010-Engaged Buddhism course!

My philosophy is pragmatic, so students will have a mix of lectures and projects or papers to work on according to their interests and needs. Usually they need to bring their computers to class, however, and have good attendance. Maybe later I will offer some online classes so students will not need to come to class in person.

For my past research, please see my ETIS file : https://www.etis.ee/CV/Bhikshuni_Lozang_Trinlae/eng and  ORCID profile orcid.org/0000-0001-5053-1027!

 

My publications include:

Trinlae, Bhikshuni Lozang. “How to Communicate Complex Spiritual Care Practices of Religious Minorities Using Empirical, Clinical Language: “Proof of Principle” Field Research from Vajrayāna Buddhism.” In Multifaith Perspectives in Spiritual & Religious Care: Change, Challenge and Transformation. Edited by Mohamed Taher. Change, Challenge and Transformation: Canadian Multifaith Federation, forthcoming 2019/2020.

———. “Buddhist Liturgy as a Transformative Mode of Spiritual Care.” In Pastoral and Spiritual Care Across Religions and Cultures II: Spiritual Care and Migration. Edited by Isabelle Noth and Claudia K. Reichenbach, 95–112. Berlin: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Verlage, 2018. Accessed November 11, 2019.

———. Kun-mKhyen Pad-ma dKar-po’s Amitāyus Tradition of Vajrayāna Buddhist Transformative Care: Contemplative Text, Phenomenological Experience, and Epistemological Process. Zurich: LIT-Verlag, 2017. Also published as in Nepal as Kun-mKhyen Pad-ma dKar-po’s Amitāyus Tradition of Vajrayāna Buddhism: Contemplative Text, Phenomenological Experience, and Epistemological Process. Kathmandu: Vajra Books, 2018.

———. “Is South Asia’s Buddhist Leader the Gyalwang Drukpa an Ecofeminist? Dialectical, Grounded Analysis of Eminent Feminist Theology Illuminates the Foundations for a Vajrayana Buddhist Ecofeminism.” International Journal of Dharma Studies 3 (1): 3, 2015.

———. “Prospects for a Buddhist Practical Theology.” International Journal of Practical Theology 18 (1): 7–22, 2014. doi:10.1515/ijpt-2014-0002.

———. “Fearlessness v. Recklessness: A Refutation of Buddhist Gender Essentialism and Chauvinism: Reconsidering the Marks and Signs of a Buddha.” Exemplar, The Journal of South Asian Studies 2 (1), 2013b.

———. “Leveraging Inter-Religious Dialogue into Transformative Action Using Practical Theology’s Reflexive Frameworks.” Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, 51–60, 2013c.

———. “The Mūlasarvāstivāda Bhikṣuṇī Has the Horns of a Rabbit: Why the Master’s Tools Will Never Reconstruct the Master’s House.” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 17, 2010.

 

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