The Year of the Tiger has been true to its name in the Surmang Valley and the whole region that surrounds it. The area was hit by a devastating earthquake almost as soon as the year began. That evoked a tremendous outpouring of concern, practice and financial aid for this spiritual heartland of Shambhala. Working in close cooperation with the leadership and monastics of Surmang Dutsi Til, the Konchok Foundation was able to provide urgently needed support for victims of the quake.
The social and cultural devastation highlighted a key purpose of our long-standing project – the rebuilding of the Surmang Shedra. Providing a good education for the valley’s children has always been the most strongly expressed wish of the local population, and that becomes all the more vital in the post-quake era. It was thus with incredible delight that Konchok Foundation was able to provide film footage of girls and boys streaming into the shedra for their first day of school.
Children going to school at the shedra became possible this year because of outstanding progress on the shedra construction, such that the classrooms in the complex are now usable.
Emphasizing the common dharma heritage between Surmang and the Shambhala sangha and other Buddhists in the West, Konchok Foundation released a CD-DVD set this year of Surmang monks, led by Karma Senge Rinpoche, chanting songs from the Kagyu Gurtso (Rain of Wisdom). More such efforts are planned for the future.
This report presents the main highlights and challenges of this year.
Children’s education underway at the Surmang Shedra
Even though the Surmang Shedra is not yet fully completed, the shedra classrooms went into use this fall for the education of local children. At present, more than one hundred local children and novice monks are attending school seven days per week. The children are receiving lunch and dinner at the shedra and some of the novice monks are now living in the complex. The focus for younger children is on learning to read and write in Tibetan. The curriculum for novice monks emphasizes dharma education. The curriculum for these children will be expanding to include arithmetic and language classes in Chinese and English.
Konchok Foundation and the Gesar Fund partnered to support classes for local children in temporary locations in the Surmang area over the past two years. This collaboration is continuing – the Gesar Fund has just provided a $15,000 grant to Konchok Foundation to help support the start-up of the children’s educational program at the shedra.
Programs for monastic and lay adults at the shedra await further progress on finishing the shedra complex.
Major progress was made on the shedra construction this year, including completion of masonry work and painting. A crew of more than thirty painters did a magnificent job with the highly elaborate paintwork. After years of hard work in design and construction, it is wonderful that a portion of the shedra is now in use! And the remainder could be made ready with just a relatively modest amount of additional funding.
Crucial elements still needed to finish the shedra building project include light fixtures, electrical and plumbing connections, necessary furnishings for the entire complex, and artwork for the shrine room.
$150,000 is needed in order to complete the shedra to the point where it can be consecrated, and also to pay for the coming months of the children’s educational program. Donations of any amount are most welcome. Details on how to make donations, and on donation gifts, are provided below.
Tragedy at Jyekundo
On the morning of April 14, 2010, a massive earthquake struck the city of Jyekundo (Yushu) and the surrounding area, killing several thousand people, injuring many thousands more, and causing massive damage. Jyekundo is the closest city to Surmang and the monastery immediately sent a number of monks to help, led by Trungpa XII Rinpoche, Aten Rinpoche, and Surmang Khenpo. They spent the ensuing days digging for survivors, distributing aid, and providing support for families, including puja ceremonies for the dead.
Due to the generous support of hundreds of donors, Konchok Foundation was able to quickly provide tens of thousands of dollars to the Surmang team to use for emergency financial aid to many hundreds of families and for purchasing tons of food and other supplies. A small portion of these donations has been conserved for ongoing support for destitute earthquake victims, all of whom are living in tents, including those families who are hosting children orphaned by the earthquake. Most recently, the Surmang monastery team purchased nearly one thousand heavy blankets and have been distributing them to families in Jyekundo who are too poor to be able to purchase blankets.
Videos document Surmang
A new video, Introduction to Surmang Dutsi Til, joins three other short videos about Surmang released this fall. These are: Opening Day of the children’s program at the Shedra; the first interview with Trungpa XII Rinpoche; and a tour of the Surmang Shedra.
A Shambhala Times article published on December 10 presents some of the most recent news and photographs from Surmang.
Through November, approximately $190,000 in donations have been received in 2010 from more than one thousand donors. Two-thirds of these gifts were designated for earthquake relief. The great majority of the designated earthquake relief funds have already been disbursed, mostly for emergency aid in the period immediately after the earthquake. Additionally, modest donations were provided to several groups who were also doing earthquake relief in Jyekundo. The remaining earthquake relief funds are being used to provide additional help to some of the low-income families who survived the earthquake.
More than $85,000 was expended on the Surmang Shedra so far this year, including some funds that had been carried over from 2009. Other uses of funds in 2010 included children’s education, support of monks and nuns on retreat, and for living expenses for Trungpa XII Rinpoche and Damcho Tenphel Rinpoche. Expenses in North America represented well under 10% of total Konchok Foundation expenditures.