Surmang shedra. The busiest time of year for the shedra educational program for children takes place from November to February. More than 250 children attended during that period last year and a similar number are expected this year. There are three categories of children. Most numerous are the lay children, both girls and boys, with somewhat more girls. Their curriculum focuses on reading and writing in Tibetan and arithmetic. There has also been some teaching of Chinese. The teenage monks are taught by a khenpo and have a curriculum focused strongly on dharma education. There is also a group of younger apprentice monks, who have the same teachers as the lay children.
The number of children participating in the shedra educational program cycles up and down quite a lot during the course of the year. The two main factors affecting attendance are the government’s educational policies, which affect who is permitted to attend school at the shedra at various times, and the seasonal activities of the children’s families, especially the focus on collection of caterpillar fungus during “bug season” in late spring.
Providing food for the children continues to be the most expensive component of the educational program. All of the programs supported through Konchok Foundation, whether for the education of the Surmang children, the completion of the Surmang shedra, support of monks and nuns on retreat, or other programs, rely entirely on your ongoing generous donations.
The shedra lhakang has been actively used, especially during this time when Surmang Dutsi Til’s main lhakang is being rebuilt. Although the monks are conducing practices at various times during the year, no teaching program for adults, whether monks or lay people, has yet begun at the Surmang shedra.
A relatively small amount of money was spent this year on the ongoing finishing work for the shedra building complex this year. The expenses were for decorative metalwork and furniture. The painting and installation of the metalwork has not yet taken place.
Choseng Trungpa XII Rinpoche. Trungpa Rinpoche, who is now 23, has been at Surmang for much of the year. Most recently, he conducted an Amitabha puja in a village near Dutsi Til. A practice period with the monks at Dutsi Til, led by Trungpa Rinpoche, will begin soon.
Wenchen and Karma Senge Rinpoche. Konchok Foundation continues to provide some support, largely donor-directed, for Wenchen nunnery, which is under the direction of Karma Senge Rinpoche. Please note an excellent new website about the nunnery at www.wenchen.org
Monastery lhakang. The ancient lhakang (shrine room building) at Dutsi Til was destroyed after 1959. Speaking loosely, one would say that it was razed to the ground. Actually, the foundations of the building remained in place and there were portions remaining of all of the walls, several feet in height. About 1978, when it became possible to do so, the local people rebuilt the lhakang, making use of the foundations and wall fragments still existing. The final appearance of the two story structure was quite similar to that seen in old drawings. Indeed, the building still felt ancient when one walked into it.
In the wake of the Jyekundo earthquake, the government has been conducting extensive rebuilding efforts, even at many monasteries in the region that were largely unaffected by the earthquake. Beginning last year, the old Dutsi Til lhakang was razed, new foundations dug and construction on a new lhakang started. The exterior shell of the new lhakang is now complete. This work to this point has been almost entirely funded by the government and has been performed by a government-approved contractor. Painting and decorative work will have to be paid for with funds raised by the monastery.
Konchok Foundation also continues to provide modest amounts of funding, mostly donor designated, for monastics on retreat within the Surmang monasteries and similar purposes.
Photos. All of the photos within this report were taken by Surmang Khenpo.