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Jun 26
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The Surmang Shedra Dazzles

This update on the construction of the Surmang Shedra comes from Konchok Foundation board member Holly Gayley, who recently visited the area while traveling in eastern Tibet.

It was nothing short of astonishing to see the Surmang Shedra at long last. The shedra (or school) complex dominates the Surmang valley with its benevolent presence and promise of education for the children of the region. I first visited Surmang monastery in 1997, long before the shedra was conceived, and have served on the Konchok Foundation board since 2006. So I did not expect such a surprise upon my arrival–seeing just how grand and imposing the shedra complex really is.

The shedra rises three stories high at its center, with intricate painting around the doors and windows that give it a certain majesty and splendor. The painting on the exterior shows the great attention to detail in the construction of the complex as a whole. While I was there, a series of golden medallions were added, each bearing one of the eight auspicious symbols. On the day they were added, the shedra dazzled in the sunlight.

The Surmang Shedra with golden medallions being added onto the building's exterior.

The Surmang Shedra with golden medallions being added onto the building's exterior.

The children’s school had a break during my visit in order to gather caterpillar fungus, a medicinal mushroom of sorts, now in season, which provides one of the few sources of disposable income for nomadic families. Otherwise, the school has been up and running since last fall and presently includes about two hundred children, including an offsite location also in the Surmang valley. The children will return to school soon, coinciding with the arrival of two volunteers to teach English and Chinese.

The Twelfth Trungpa and Surmang Khenpo in front of the Shedra.

The Twelfth Trungpa and Surmang Khenpo in front of the Shedra.

The Twelfth Trungpa was at Surmang when I visited and expressed his enthusiasm at the shedra’s progress. For much of the year, he resides at Larung Buddhist Academy in Serta, where he is pursuing his own education before starting to teach at Surmang. Auspiciously, a package arrived while I was there; it was from the children of New York City to the children of Surmang. The package was received on behalf of the children by the Twelfth Trungpa, and the message was read aloud and translated into Tibetan for him. He seemed delighted and touched by this gesture.

The Twelfth Trungpa receives package from New York on behalf of Surmang children.

The Twelfth Trungpa receives package from New York on behalf of Surmang children.

While the children’s school is operating, construction work on the shedra continues. The focus now is squarely on the interior of the building. Apart from the classrooms, most of the furniture has been purchased but not yet installed. There are beds made out of juniper wood for the VIP rooms: two suites for visiting teachers and six bedrooms for the regular teaching staff. These rooms flank the assembly hall and classrooms in the main building.

Surmang Khenpo shows beds from juniper wood in storage in Jyekundo.

Surmang Khenpo shows beds from juniper wood in storage in Jyekundo.

Circling around a main courtyard are the monk’s quarters, 36 rooms to house 72 monks when the shedra commences. Metal beds, good quality mattresses, and desks have been purchased for the monk’s quarters and still need to be shipped from Jyekundo. This is where the materials for the shedra are consolidated before hiring a truck for the 120 kilometer trip to Surmang, which takes three hours along a dirt road and over high mountain passes.

One of the monks rooms that is already inhabited at the shedra.

One of the monks rooms that is already inhabited at the shedra.

In order for the shedra to be functional, the interior needs to be finished. First and foremost is installing lighting fixtures and furniture for the teacher’s rooms, monk’s quarters, and the main assembly hall. Murals, rugs, benches, tables, and lighting for the main assembly hall still need to be purchased. In the coming year, landscaping also needs to be done in the courtyard and front entrance.

One of the decorative embellishments around interior doors.

One of the decorative embellishments around interior doors.

Once the interior is finished, the shedra can officially open in the fall of 2012. At that point, all that will remain is the artwork for the main assembly hall and solar panels to activate the heating system. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche concurred that the formal consecration could happen after the shedra is already up and running. The main point is the education of the monks and children in the region.

Monks debate by the front entrance of the Shedra.

Monks debate by the front entrance of the Shedra.

We should be proud about how far the shedra has come! I met a Tibetan construction worker in the village just below the monastery while taking an evening stroll. We managed to strike up a conversation even though the dialect here is different from the Lhasa and Golok dialects with which I am familiar. He said, “The shedra is ours. We helped to build it.” His voice conveyed a strong sense of local pride in the shedra. As donors to the Konchok Foundation, I think we can share in that pride. The shedra is ours, and it’s almost finished.

Monks debating in the shedra courtyard.

Monks debating in the shedra courtyard.

Already, monks are inhabiting some of the rooms, and a modest curriculum is in place. While I was there, the monks spent the evening in lively debate in the shedra courtyard. They jostled one another and shouted out their points, clearly having a good time while developing insight.

It’s magical to witness the Surmang shedra come to life!

———-

Please help to finish the shedra complex, so that the Surmang Shedra can open next year. Or consider sponsoring a child to attend school at just a dollar a day (or $30 per month), which covers the cost of instruction and meals. Visit the Konchok Foundation website to make a donation: www.konchok.org.

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5 responses to “ The Surmang Shedra Dazzles ”
  1. Very interesting!

  2. Hi Martha,

    So glad you enjoyed the article. No wireless at Surmang; cell phones don’t work there. It’s just the electricity wires for the shedra.

    Cheers, Holly

  3. Martha Roberts
    Jul 1, 2011
    Reply

    Thank you, Holly, for sharing your experiences and photos of Surmang. It’s quite uplifting to see. I’m curious: in the photo showing the Twelfth Trungpa receiving the package from New York, there is a tower in the background, to the left of the Shedra. Is that a transmission tower for wireless communications? Please respond.
    Ki Ki!
    Martha R.

  4. Linda V. Lewis
    Jun 29, 2011
    Reply

    Wonderful! Bravo! How great to see Surmang with your own eyes! Thank you for sharing with photos and text!
    Cheers,
    Linda

  5. Drukmoustache
    Jun 28, 2011
    Reply

    Thanks for the update Holly, the Shedra looks amazing and seems like a very exciting time to have visited.


Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.



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