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Apr 03
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Remembering the Vidyadhara, Remembering Surmang

article by Lyndon Comstock of the Konchok Foundation

Approximate appearance of Surmang Dutsi Til ruins circa 1978 (re-creation by L. Comstock)

The occasion of the 25th anniversary of the parinirvana of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, XI is an appropriate moment to recall his monastery in Tibet — Surmang Dutsi Til. As he departed Surmang for the last time in 1958, Tibet was descending into the most catastrophic period of its long history. Amongst the many calamities in the horrific era between 1959 – 1977, the practice of Buddhism was punishable by death.

Yet, as soon as it became possible to do so in the late 1970s, large numbers of Tibetans immediately began openly practicing the dharma again. Unbeknownst to us in the West, by the early 1980s, significant rebuilding efforts were already taking place at Surmang.

Chogyam Trungpa XI and his predecessor, the Tenth Trungpa, both felt that a shedra (school) was an especially important component of Surmang. This view is shared by their successor, Choseng Trungpa XII, who is taking time from his studies at Serta monastery to lead a practice period at Surmang this month.

Over the past decade, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has assumed a major responsibility for helping Surmang. After visiting there in 2001 and again in 2004, he created the Konchok Foundation to help channel support to Surmang and the surrounding area. Sakyong Mipham then ran a series of marathons as fundraisers for the re-creation of the Surmang shedra.

Progress in rebuilding: Surmang Dutsi Til at present, photo Martin Bieri

Today, nearly eight years after groundbreaking, the Surmang shedra is structurally complete and 90% of the 25,000 sq.ft. complex is already in use. The beautiful large shrine room is an active place of practice, especially now that the monastery’s main lhakang (shrine hall) is undergoing reconstruction. Of great significance, there is a very large educational program for children that started even before the shedra became usable. The children’s educational program — there were nearly three hundred children participating in February, prior to the break for Tibetan New Year — is thought to be the largest program for children ever held in that area. Because of its size, much of it takes place at additional sites.

As was the case traditionally, the Chakrasamvara dances, a Surmang specialty led by the current Trungpa Rinpoche, were held this year two weeks after Losar (Tibetan New Year). Right now, a closed drupchen retreat is taking place, which is also traditional at this time of year. The younger apprentice monks have been back in their classes at the shedra since early March and the lay children are starting school again after their Losar break.

However, the monastic college for adults at the shedra has not yet commenced. This has awaited sufficient funding such that the remainder of the interior work at the shedra can be completed, the complex consecrated, and additional khenpos brought in to help teach. This could potentially take place by 2013 with enough support from donors.

Apprentice monks in the shedra classroom with their teacher, Photo Martin Bieri

For more information on the Surmang shedra, please visit www.konchok.org. A new donation gift DVD by Konchok Foundation, Glimpses of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s Life and Legacy in Tibet, includes a segment on Surmang Dutsi Til. It is available here.

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2 responses to “ Remembering the Vidyadhara, Remembering Surmang ”
  1. Linda V. Lewis
    Apr 16, 2012

    This is wonderful news! thank you, and may the western sangha’s generosity continue and increase!

  2. Loving the GES in the shedra classroom!

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