Very Very Venerable 9th Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche with VVI staff and students (shedra and young monks)

View of Vajra Vidya Institute
Photo by: Karma Jangchup
Our Tswai Lama Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche with young monks of VVI, at Damekh stupa, Sarnath.
Photo by: Karma Jangchup

About Vajra Vidya Insitute

Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies

Registered: Thrangu Tulku Charitable Trust,
Registered No. 2, Vol.1. Act. 1928 dt: 07.06.1988, Gangtok, Sikkim, INDIA

Located behind Deer Park in Sarnath, India, where Shakyamuni Buddha gave his first teaching, Vajra Vidya Institute is a monastic college offering training in higher Buddhist philosophy. It was established by the Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche to preserve the Karma Kagyu lineage of scripture and realization.
Explaining his aims in establishing Vajra Vidya, Thrangu Rinpoche said, “When the Tibetans had to flee their country, the statues, stupas, and texts were almost all lost. Some Tibetan lamas escaped to India, and among them were quite a few great lamas. Now these great lamas are gradually passing away, and I feel that if we do not train fine people who have good qualities and practice experience, we will lose many of the oral instructions that are so precious. Therefore, the Institute was built to sustain the great tradition of these teachings.”
Vajra Vidya (“Indestructible Knowledge”) is the Sanskrit name of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje.


The foundation stone for Vajra Vidya was laid in 1993 by the Varanasi District Commissioner, and in 1999 the Institute was inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the high lamas of the Kagyu lineage. It was later consecrated by His Holiness Karmapa. In addition to annual visits by His Holiness Karmapa, over the years Vajra Vidya has hosted numerous government ministers, officials, and other prominent Indian visitors who have come on pilgrimage.

The Main Temple and Grounds

Visitors to Vajra Vidya are welcomed by a bas-relief mural of the four great kings, the guardians of the four directions, just inside the monastery gate. The gate itself is designed as a Chakrasamvara mandala. Facing the main temple building are statues of Brahma and Indra, the gods who requested Shakyamuni Buddha to teach the Dharma after his enlightenment.
The main temple building was designed with the intention of preserving traditional Buddhist architecture, incorporating elements from the ancient Nalanda Monastic Institute in India, as well as from Samye, Zhalu Serkhang, Karme Yenmoche, and Gazhi Trulnang monasteries in Tibet. The central statue in the main shrine hall is of Shakyamuni Buddha, depicted in the teaching mudra. On either side of the main shrine are statues of the 35 confession Buddhas. One thousand Buddha statues are displayed in niches on the upper balcony. The murals illustrate the lives of the sixteen arhats. The ceiling is painted with mandalas.
Upstairs are four smaller shrine rooms dedicated to the 21 Taras, the protectors Dorje Drölo and Mahakala, and the texts of the collected teachings of the Buddha. On the top floor are suites for high lamas.
Behind the main temple building are a monks’ hostel and the monastery dining hall. Thrangu Rinpoche’s residence is in a separate building to the east.
On the south side of the compound is the Vajra Vidya Dispensary, staffed by a doctor as well as visiting volunteers, providing free medical care and discounted medicines to the local community. The Vidya Shop sells a variety of books, gifts, and Dharma items, and the Vajra Cafe offers drinks, snacks, and sundries; their profits go to the monks’ welfare committee.

Study and Practice

The monks enrolled in the monastic college (shedra) follow a seven-year traditional program, studying the major texts of the Kagyu lineage on Buddhist philosophy, logic, debate, grammar, and poetry. The shedra students include several lay men and women from around the world. Also studying at Vajra Vidya are a number of young monks who are learning to read, write, and recite Tibetan. In addition to the daily schedule of prayers, the monks gather several times a month to practice pujas according to the Tibetan lunar calendar. Each year they also do extended pujas of Hevajra and Mahakala.

Other Activities

Each winter Thrangu Rinpoche leads the Vajra Vidya Seminar, a two-week program of Dharma teachings for Westerners. Over the years, the Institute has hosted a number of conferences and gatherings of Kagyu lamas, including the Kagyu Gunchö, a month-long annual program of teachings and debate for monks from Kagyu shedras.