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Mar 06
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Update on the Surmang Shedra

Bob King shares this update on the shedra (or school) being built at Surmang Dutsi Til, the home monastery of the Trungpa Tulku lineage in eastern Tibet. The shedra has been under construction since 2004 and will open for classes this fall, prior to its official consecration, while the artwork and other finishing touches are being completed. In the meantime, the monastery school has been operating with approximately 60 young monks, a group that has recently increased to nearly 100.

By Bob King

The last two years were difficult ones for Surmang Dutsi Til and all of Tibet. On top of the general conditions, the Shedra project had the additional challenge of the absence of Khenpo Tsering as he spent the required one year in the US to acquire citizenship. Surprisingly, and most impressively, we find that there was actually a lot of good energy and accomplishment at Surmang during these hard times. This indicates a significant vitality and vibrancy due in large part to the presence of the Shedra.

There are now around 60 new young monks, many of whom took part in the hair cutting ceremonies during Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s visit. Around 20 of them stay at the monastery and others come daily from the nearby villages to study and practice. Although these youngsters have not yet taken formal vows, wearing robes is part of the school program at the monastery. Since it’s establishment in 2008 the school has been flourishing, sometimes having up to 100 boys. When the Shedra opens for classes this fall, girls are being encouraged, and some already intending to enroll. It has not been a custom for girls to attend school in the monastery. Nevertheless, the Shedra will be able to provide education for monastics, both male and female, and for lay people, both young and old.

As the young Trungpa Rinpoche now spends the majority of his time studying at Serta, in his absence, Aten Rinpoche presides over Surmang Dutsi Til and certainly much of the good energy is due to his compassionate and kindly guidance. Trungpa Rinpoche returns to Surmang to preside over many special events, including the Chakrasamvara Dance and the prayers performed during Losar Season. He plans to remain there once the Shedra is completed at Surmang and has inaugurated its full program.

Other Recent Developments

The monastery has built a new two story kitchen building flanking the existing lhakang, or shrine room. This was accomplished in part by volunteer labor from the local lay population.

There is also new building across the main road to serve as a store and restaurant which was built by the monastery. At least 7-8 new houses are under construction by local families for family members planning on attending the Shedra. The Shedra complex is capable of housing about a third of the 200 Shedra students. The rest will be housed in the monastery village.

A wealthy patron, a businesswoman in Jeykundo, loaned her small bulldozer, which took about 16 hours to drive to Surmang. Site grading was done around the outside of the Shedra and a new road was put through the monastery village up to the Kagema, the old castle ruins which was the residence of the Vidyadhara and previous Trungpa Tulkus.

The government built photovoltaic electric plant across the main road is now functional so the monastery village has electricity for the first time in history and will ideally retire many stinky, noisy generators.

Moving Ahead this Summer and Fall

Slowly but surely, the Surmang Shedra is being completed, despite challenging conditions. Khenpo Tsering has recently returned to Surmang, and the pace of construction will pick up significantly and intensify over the summer to get the classrooms ready to be occupied in the fall. The coming fall marks a watershed, as the Shedra will begin to be used for classes, allowing the education project to expand.

Overall, in this next phase of development, the Konchok Foundation will be moving in an ambitious direction to ramp up the education portion of our efforts, while gradually finishing the construction of the Shedra.

To contribute to these efforts, please visit the Konchok Foundation website.

Stay tuned for more updates….
the Konchok Foundation is having an online Art Auction from April 25 to May 9.

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2 responses to “ Update on the Surmang Shedra ”
  1. Linda V. Lewis
    Mar 9, 2010

    It’s so inspiring to see what is happening in the Surmang region. It is wonderful that education will be available to all–monks and nuns, monastics and lay people–in the future. It was also inspiring to hear of the merchant lady lending her bulldozer so that a few more roads could go through! It must feel like a revival of the buddhadharma culture in the area–against so many repressive odds. Bravo!

  2. Charles Marrow
    Mar 7, 2010

    Nice to see the emerging vitality at Surmang Dutsi-til and the confidence the local monastic and lay people are expressing in furthering their dharma and secular education. Thanks to ever faithful Ginny Lipson, I received a 2 hour DVD of the Chakrasamvara dances at Surmang. It was a little bit rustic and home movie style, but the monks did the dancing with great energy. The buildings in the footage (not including the Shedra) showed an unfortunate level of poverty which I hope that the Western sangha can continue to help relieve with financial support. Yes, the buildings were poor but the brocade costumes of the Chakrasamvara dancers were gorgeous! And one little eccentric thing about the DVD is that it was home movie style without any section breaks. So once the film began, I had to watch the whole 2 hour thing! No brakes and No reverse! Yet it was very soothing to watch, and, somehow, the Surmang environment seemed quite familiar to me.

    All the Best, Charles Marrow

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