For the last month, and till the end of March, Eric and I have been living and working at the Deer Park Institute in Bir Colony, Himachal Pradesh. Deer Park is a former Tibetan Buddhist monastery that now serves as a centre of traditional Indian knowledge. It was founded in 2006 by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche in order to continue the “Spirit of Nalanda”. Nalanda was an ancient Indian University which taught Buddhism and other traditional Indian wisdoms.
Deer Park offers many different courses on subjects ranging from ancient Tibetan teaching to photography. It regularly offers language classes in Tibetan, Hindi and English. People of all ages and backgrounds travel from all over India and the world to attend classes at Deer Park. The classes are offered free of charge as Deer Park is supported be donations.
In addition to offering classes, Deer Park runs multiple community projects. One of the main community focuses is the ecology project. Garbage disposal is a huge issue in Bir and throughout India. There is a lack of garbage processing and recycling facilities. Garbage is often thrown into the fields and waterways or burned, releasing toxic fumes. Deer Park is trying to tackle this issue by introducing a zero waste initiative. The goal is to get to the point that deer park produces no non-biodegradable waste. This will support the following overarching objectives:
- Raise awareness in the community about the health and environmental impacts of the waste problem
- Introduce mindful waste management techniques in the community
- Facilitate the development of waste management action plans between different community groups and the local Indian and Tibetan administrations
- Promote the local economy, with a focus on traditional crafts and locally grown and processed foods and drinks, packaged in biodegradable alternatives to plastic
Currently, some of the ecology projects that Eric and I are assisting with include, developing natural ecofriendly cleaning products, working in the organic garden, testing different types of organic pesticides, assisting with an eco-camp for children and attending a conference on eco-tourism.
Lucien is interning with GPI Atlantic.