Just north of the ancient Buddhist town of Boudhanath is the Kopan hill (pictured left), rising up out of the terraced fields of the Kathmandu valley and visible for miles. Dominated by a magnificent Bodhi tree, it was once the home of the astrologer to the king of Nepal. It was to this hill that these lamas came with their first Western students in 1969.
Kopan Monastery had its beginnings in the Solu-khumbu region of the Himalayan mountains. In 1971 Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the reincarnation of the Lawudo Lama, a yogi of the tiny hamlet of Lawudo, fulfilled the promise of the previous Lawudo Lama to start a monastic school for the local children. The school was called called it Mount Everest Center. Twenty five monks moved down from the mountain to Kopan in 1971 - prompted by the harsh climate at an altitude of 4000 am, which made study barely possible in winter.
Now Kopan is a thriving monastery of 360 monks, mainly from Nepal and Tibet, and a spiritual oasis for hundreds of visitors yearly from around the world. Nearby is Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery, home to 380 nuns. Both the monastery and the nunnery are under the spiritual guidance of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and the care of the abbot, Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lhundrup Rigsel. And it is the wellspring of the FPMT, a network of some 140 centers and activities world-wide, themselves expressions of the Buddha activity of Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Monastic Life
Monks and nuns from the age of seven come from all over Nepal and the Himalayan countries such as Tibet, India, Bhutan, Sikkim, and even Mongolia to attend this Gelugpa monastery, one of the best in Kathmandu valley, to receive a classical monastic education.
The students receive extensive training traditional philosophical subjects as debate. A small tantric college under the supervision of teacher from Gyumed college in South India was established some years ago, where rituals subjects such as torma making, chanting, and ritual dance are taught and tantric texts are studied. Additionally the monks and nuns assemble twice a day for prayers dedicated to the well-being and happiness of all sentient beings.
A fully fledged geshe study program has been established. This enables the students to complete most of their philosophical studies at Kopan, before moving on the the Monastic Universities in South India for the continuation of their studies, and higher degrees.
The newly established Tantric colleges houses about 60 monks studying tantric rituals such as making sand mandala, making butterscultpure, arranging initiations and prayerceremonies. They also study the tantric texts in details and learn how to assist those wishing to do retreat.
Not all monks are interested in pursuing a scholastic career. After finishing grade ten in the monastery school, some of them continue their monastic life by offering service to the monastery in a variety of ways. Those who wish to dedicate their life to the pursuit of religious activities may do so under the guidance of qualified teachers and meditation masters. Preserving the religious and cultural heritage of Tibet
The yearly cycle of ceremonies and rituals at Kopan includes the observance of the annual rains retreat during the summer months, and the observance of other monastic disciplines and rituals. In this way the tradition of the Buddhas teachings on monastic discipline (Vinaya) are upheld and preserved.
The commemoration of the Buddha's holy deeds through prayers and spiritual practice is performed on the respective days according to Tibetan calendar: The 10 Days of Miracles, Saka Dawa, Chokar Duchen, and Lha Bab Duchen.
Purification rituals mark the end of the Tibetan year, culminating in a day of prayers and ritual dances, while the negative actions of the year are symbolically burned in a huge bonfire. In December the anniversary of Lama Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism is commemorated with a procession of lights. How does the monastery support itself
All facilities, board, and education at the monastery are totally free for all monks and nuns, to give an opportunity to all those who wish to follow the religious life. This is financed through the program of meditation courses for foreign visitors as well as through a sponsorship scheme in which people who are supportive of the goals of the monastery sponsor the living cost of a monk or nun. Khachoe Ghakyil Ling - the Kopan Nunnery
In 1979 Lama Yeshe invited nuns to study at Kopan, an uncommon practice in Tibetan monasteries. There are now 320 nuns, most of whom are Tibetans living in their own monastery nearby, who participate fully with the monks' philosophical studies and debate as well as following their own practices. http://kopanmonastery.com/nunnery.htmlAn International Centre for Study and Meditation
From the very beginning, Kopan was conceived by Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche as a place of study and meditation for both the Himalayan sangha and for their many foreign students. In preserving this tradition to this day, Kopan has become a unique place, a meeting place between East and West, between religious and worldly life.
Kopan has truly been an oasis for the thousands of foreign visitors, who, tired of their materialism and hungry for something more, have made the place their home for weeks, months, even years. Regular meditation courses have been held at Kopan since Lama Zopa Rinpoche, one of the founders, gave his first public teachings at Kopan in 1971 to a group of twelve Westerners. The rest is legend. This intensive one month introduction to Buddhism became the model for the meditation courses now held throughout the year at Kopan.
The first 'One Month Meditation Course' was held at Kopan in 1971 .Since then up to two hundred students come every year to participate in the annual one month meditation course. Many more come for the seven and ten day courses during the rest of the year. These meditation courses throughout the year provide an opportunity to "taste the Dharma" and to facilitate reflection about living a meaningful life.
Kopan offers an extensive library with books in several languages as well as an audio and video library. Tibetan as well as Western sangha (monks and nuns) are available for private talks and advice.
Daily Dharma talks are offered when there are no courses scheduled.
Full board and accommodation is available to visitors throughout the year at a very reasonable cost. The income generated through this form an important part of the income of the monastery, and help in providing free facilities to all the monks and nuns.
From the beginning Kopan has managed to be many things to many people, sometimes uncomfortably for the traditionalists, but it always has been successfully blessed by the practice of the holy and ordinary beings who have lived or visited here. We invite you to come and experience this special place in the foothills of the Himalaya