Licchavi House, a haven for art, culture and Buddhadharma in Kathmandu

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

The benevolent look of Boudhanath Stupa. Photo by Craig C. Lewis

In August 2022, Licchavi House, an exciting new Dharma initiative by revered Bhutanese lama, filmmaker and author Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, held its inauguration ceremony in the Buddhist enclave of Boudha, on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

The high-profile celebration featured a host of colorful dance and music performances by Bhumisparsha, a Dharma project by Siddhartha's Intent India, as well as a performance by If we don't act like gods, who willa piece written by Rinpoche offering a unique perspective on climate change and spirituality.*

Led by the Kathmandu-based Bhrikuti Devi Trust, a non-profit organization that promotes the spiritual and cultural heritage of the Himalayan regions and addresses social and humanitarian needs, the launch of the Licchavi House represented a new and creative manifestation of the Buddhadharma founded specifically on the spiritual future. and the well-being of young people in mind.

Situated under the benevolent gaze of the venerable Boudhanath Stupa, Licchavi House is considered an integrated center of cultural heritage and arts, dedicated to the study, discussion and practice of the ancient wisdom traditions of Nepal, alongside art, cinema, photography and other creative expressions. And while the Licchavi House campus is still under construction, the work of connecting the project with young people in Nepal and other Himalayan communities is already well underway.

Representation of the inauguration ceremony of Maison Licchavi. Image courtesy of Maison Licchavi
Representation of the inauguration ceremony of Maison Licchavi. Image courtesy of Maison Licchavi

In the words of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche:

First, we hope that Licchavi House represents the remarkable gift that Nepal itself can offer to the world. Even though the Nepalese have no choice but to adapt to this fast-paced 21st century, the country and its people magically keep their ancient spiritual and cultural heritage alive and vibrant. . . .

With Buddhism deeply rooted in its history and culture, Nepal is the place that renowned spiritual masters of all traditions have chosen as their headquarters, and a thousand years ago it was the key crossroads through which some of the greatest saints and scholars of the Himalayas. To this day, this land remains the meeting point of some of Buddhism's most important influences.

And of course, given the current borders, Nepal can proudly boast of being the birthplace of Prince Siddhartha and the nation that gave the world Shakyamuni Buddha. . . .

By promoting the study, discussion and practice of Nepal's ancient wisdom traditions alongside art, film, writing, photography and other creative workshops, Licchavi House aims to celebrate this remarkable ancient heritage in a way that is entirely relevant to our modern world.

To this end, we want Maison Licchavi to be a place where young people in particular – girls and boys of all ages – and also ordinary people, from teachers to entrepreneurs to workers and students, feel at home. comfortable simply being who they are and enjoying the company of others. as they collectively learn, practice and take pride in their splendid heritage.*

Max Dipesh Khatri. Image courtesy of Maison Licchavi

Seeking to better understand the foundations of this unique dharmic enterprise, BDG spoke to Max Dipesh Khatri, filmmaker and entrepreneur and project manager of Licchavi House, Kathmandu, to find out more.

BDG: Could you talk a little about Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s vision for Licchavi House?

Max Dipesh Khatri: I can't help but speak a little poetically about this project. This activity is actually an aspiration in the mind of wisdom bodhisattva Manjushri from the perspective of how we can find ways to truly benefit sentient beings today.

If you look at the Khyentsé lineage, you will notice that these teachers, in addition to being masters in the non-sectarian Rimé movement, were far ahead of their time: they knew very well how to ensure that the next generation had something between hands. which they could use as spiritual tools and from which they could benefit. And always supporting the Buddhist ideal of expounding the Buddhadharma for the benefit of all sentient beings.

So I think, in the same way, Rinpoche, seeing the new generation of young people – you know, what engages them, what interests them, what inspires them, what makes them move – he created this center of Buddhist art. and I chose this very special place near the Boudhanath Stupa. The idea is to allow young people to come and explore aspects of their own creativity, their forms of expression, and in doing so, they also subtly engage in certain aspects of Buddhadharma.

Photo by Craig C. Lewis
Photo by Craig C. Lewis

As you know, all our events are charitable, undertaken through donations and with the motivation of helping people and receiving help from people. Helping is always involved at the beginning and end of the process; we either receive help or we try to help someone. So this alone brings a distinct element to the simple act of creating art.

And because the work we are doing is about Buddha, and because it is with Rinpoche's blessing, there will be many Buddhist teachers, rinpoches, khenpos, and academics who will be willing to come to this place and share. It will be an ideal place for such influences to merge, coexist and inspire. Truly, another approach to helping young people engage with Buddhadharma.

Of course, at the same time, we also present our rich heritage to them. This entire project is aimed at young people in Nepal and young people in the Himalayan region. It represents a focal point of our artistic and cultural heritage that many of us may not even be aware of or aware of.

Rinpoche truly understands that art is a place that can help interact with children who are caught up in the intense distractions of the modern world. And anchoring them in art is the first step: bringing them back to art and living in the present moment. And then I think if the causes and conditions align, and if there's merit, then maybe wisdom will arise and people can benefit from it.

BDG: I had the chance to speak briefly with Rinpoche in 2022, and he emphasized his concern for young people and their connection to the Buddhadharma.

MDK: What Rinpoche gives us here is a kind of medicine; a real therapy for the benefit of sensitive beings. Rinpoche knows this – he is an incarnation of Manjushri – although he is not at all modern; if someone says Rinpoche is modern, that person doesn't know what Rinpoche is!

He is a living teacher, like the Buddha. When Shakyamuni Buddha came to teach 2 years ago, he gave teachings to the people of that time based on their circumstances. He gave the same timeless teachings, but the methods he used, the tools he used were skillful means suited to the people of that time.

In the same way, our children, my brothers and sisters, are trapped by digital technology, media, fashion and a thousand other things. Rinpoche tries to use the creative outlets of this project as a way to return them to their true nature.

And I think Rinpoche believes that art is a very simple and direct medium that will engage and connect with the minds and hearts of all these young people.

A creative workshop for local children. Image courtesy of Maison Licchavi
With Dzongsar Khyentsé Rinpoche in Kathmandu. Image courtesy of Maison Licchavi

BDG: What kinds of things have been planned in the meantime since the ribbon-cutting ceremony and the upcoming opening?

MDK: Well, without wanting to give too much away at this stage of formation, we are looking at having an opening in the near future, very very soon!

Rinpoche emphasized that the building itself is not the most important aspect of Licchavi House; it's what we do there, the events and how we engage with young people. The center is only the means, the vessel. The emphasis is therefore on activities, events, engagement; people touch each other with Dharma.

Rinpoche gave us clear instructions about a year ago when we began the groundbreaking ceremony and cultural events. There was also a teaching associated with it. Rinpoche gives his precious time very kindly and generously. We have since held a second major event, as well as smaller art events we run for local children. We are now planning another major event, hopefully next spring with Rinpoche, combining art and Dharma teachings.

So, until our official opening, we will maintain our practice of organizing artistic events and activities and hopefully grow and progress in this way.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in Kathmandu. Image courtesy of Maison Licchavi

BDG: What facilities are planned for Maison Licchavi when it opens? How should people better understand its role and function?

MDK: Well, it's primarily an arts center, so that will be the heart of it. But to help support the center's activities, we will have ancillary facilities and resources. For example, there will be a small sort of retreat and residence center connected to the exhibition gallery and main sanctuary, and with a restaurant downstairs. There will also be an auditorium for teachings, bids, education, film screenings, dance and theater performances, etc. On the third floor there will be a collaborative workspace and library for young artists, and on the fourth floor we will have a rehearsal space, a yoga studio and a digital audiovisual studio.

But it’s important to remember that this isn’t a money-making business or venture; Rather, it is a non-commercial support system for young people who cannot afford to go to an expensive cafe or studio to discuss or develop their art or meet like-minded people.

After speaking with Rinpoche about Licchavi House, it is very clear that it is about empowering the local population. Nepal is the place that gave the Buddha to the world, and Rinpoche is really trying to bring that home. Young people also need to connect to the true nature of what it means to be from Nepal and have a spiritual heritage that has inspired millions across the world until today. And here we are so close.

This is why we want to keep this spiritual aspiration at the center of our concerns and allow young people to take the reins in this matter, to appropriate their heritage, to benefit from it and to share it with their peers and with the whole world. .

* Live broadcast: Inauguration ceremony of Licchavi House, a new initiative by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, August 27 (BDG)

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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