Namgyal Audio-Visual Archive Center
Q: What is the name of the project and what is its purpose?
A: The name of the project is Namgyal Monastery Audio Visual Archive Center. The special purpose of the Center is the recording of His Holiness' teachings, both audio and video. So far, mostly we have done this inside India, sometimes in other places. Namgyal Monastery is the only one that does the video recording of H.H. the Dalai Lama's teachings in India.
Mostly we have done audio, sometimes video. We have been recording the audio since 1980 and the Video we have done from 1987. And we are planning to do more; all over India and internationally.
Q: When was the lab opened at Namgyal Monastery?
A: Actually, it opened in the 1980's. At that time is wasn't run by the Namgyal Monastery. It was run by the Meridian Trust from England. They were recording His Holiness' teachings and other scholars, Nyingma, Kagyu, Geluk even Bonpo. They were recording all the teachings. Meridian Trust had given cameras and tape recorders to all of the monasteries up until 1989. So, I don't know what happened, but they [Meridian Trust] had taken all their equipment back in '89. Then, Namgyal Monastery started to do the recording of His Holiness' teachings. Some of our old staff had made some documentaries as well.
Q: How long have you been in the lab?
A: I joined in 2000 October.
Q: Did you have particular A-V training?
A: Actually, I don't have any special training with audio and video things. We had a television and video deck in the monastery, but I never used to touch on those things. When I finished my graduation in 1998, they gave me this A-V job. The monks who had worked there, they had left the monastery. So they want me to work there. Without any experience, any idea, any knowledge, I took over the job.
Q: At first, were you interested in the work or was it overwhelming?
A: Actually, it's really a hard thing. It's really a stress without having any experience. Even though you have this courage, effort and you want to do it. Without any experience, any job is hard to do.
Since I joined there, I found out that one of the earlier monks organized things very nicely. But the problem is that we don't have a proper storage room. Many tapes had been damaged by fungus. We cleaned up but still there was much damage.
Q: From the time Meridian Group began the lab in the 1980's has there been any outside funding?
A: It wasn't funding from them- they were doing from their own. They were documenting everything, all the master tapes were sent to them. They gave some small salary, the equipment and all the expenses were covered by them, they were also taking everything.
Q: From that time funding came from Namgyal?
A: Since then we started our own recording things. Actually, Harrison Ford donated US $10,000 in 1992. From that money we bought some cameras, VHS, tripods.
Q: Describe the A-V lab as it is now, what is the state of the lab? And what are your present needs?
A: As far as the lab, right now, we have an Apple G4 that was a donation from Apple. Now we have to try to convert VHS in to digital format; CD or DVD. DVDs are so expensive. For example, for one computer to burn a one hour CD it takes 15 to 20 hours to compress and burn the material. With one computer it could take a life, 20 or 30 years, to make all the tapes. And every year the teachings are growing. His Holiness is giving more teachings to different places. If we are planning to do all those things then one computer couldn't manage all those things. If we want to make the teachings available to all the public seems like we need more computers.
Every time we do the recordings we get 30 to 40 hours of teachings both on audio and video. The monastery can't afford all the expense for this project and now this project is growing fast. We need help from outside.
Q: What are your long-term goals for the project?
A: Once we have gotten all the equipment and funding, to make the precious teaching available to all the public; also to make it more easy to listen, for example, to differentiate the chapters. Many people are interested on different chapters, for example the Bodhisattva's Way of Life just the Patience chapter. It seems like people want to learn the technique for patience from the teachings. We can make on DVD different frames, different chapters. These days people are busy, with a cassette tape you have to forward to find out where the chapter is. It takes time and people are too busy on other things. I feel like this is a great service for people.
Q: Do you plan on branching out and doing other projects, another area you would like to cover down the road?
A: Actually, we had an interview with His Holiness. He said he felt some regret that we hadn't recorded the great scholars who have passed away. Seems like everyone is interested in His Holiness' teachings but we must also give interest to ritual chanting for example there is one monastery, Dakpo Monastery in Madhya Pradesh, they have really nice chanting, actually, we have learned some of our chanting from them. So, he said, we should also focus on recording those types of things. And also, Gyutoe and Gyumed have that kind of chanting so we should also focus on recording on them.
And I have also thought we should focus on the teachings of the young scholars. For example, there are the Four Noble Truths. We can video tape many teachers teaching about this topic. We can ask them to explain simply for the general public. Also, the young people can understand these teachings.
Q: So far, have you converted any teachings to DVD?
A: Actually, only we have done the Lam Rim Chenmo. But sometimes it doesn't play on a CD player and I don't know how to fix this. This is one thing I am trying to get help with.
Q: How is it that monks at Namgyal Monastery are able to do a job like yours at the monastery? How are you able to maintain your practice, vows, retreat time, etc...?
A: Doing practice and attending to prayers, I believe we have to sacrifice all these things. Even though I have had many chances to stay in retreat, I haven't gone yet. I have a full-time job at the video lab, I have to forget all these commitments. I can make some small prayers in my room for a few hours. But that is the only thing.
Q: So you believe that any monk working in the video lab should make sacrifices for the recording work. Have you met with resistance from the administration at Namgyal and His Holiness on this point?
A: His Holiness told me to make a better recording program. When I was shooting for the first time (The Lam Rim Chenmo), I was so nervous. When we had an interview with His Holiness, he said to me "you need some training, you were only focusing the camera on me, you need to move it around." He mentioned that, but I haven't had anytime for training. We have been relying on volunteers a lot.
Jhado Rinpoche, our present abbot, makes this point about the A-V project: that if we don't record all the teachings people who attend the teachings may only retain fifty percent of the teaching, then day by day, it is lost. If they want to recover that information, there is no way to do so. And those who cannot attend, they have no way to hear the teachings. Also, the yogi and meditators can have support from these teachings. And finally, those in Tibet they never get the chance to hear the precious teachings. So, later on, we can show the teachings in Tibet.
Q: What are your biggest obstacles, both now and in the future?
A: The biggest difficulty is only the knowledge. Meeting people, so far I have met so many helpful and kind people. When I think about all the kindness of those who are helping me, I can't believe it, like, is this really true?
The Namgyal Monastery AVAC is seeking to raise roughly $28,000.00 for the construction of a modern processing facility and storage room. Included in this amount are new computers, CD burners, salary for new personnel, a generator and recording decks. Any support is greatly appreciated.
For more information, please contact the Namgyal Monastery Audio Visual Archive Center.