By Lyndon Comstock
Having recently returned from Surmang Dutsi Til, I’d like to give you a brief first-hand report. The photographs and videos that accompany this report were taken by Jon Ransohoff, who went with me. Also included below are comments about the shedra by Karma Senge Rinpoche and Surmang Khenpo.
Shedra. The most dramatic moment during our visit was the first use of the shedra, by a group of more than one hundred children. It was most enjoyable for us to see these energetic children entering and using the new building. The Surmang Shedra is principally designed for adults, but will include a substantial children’s educational program. The shedra construction, although by no means completely over, is now starting to fulfill its educational purpose. Please see our short video of the opening day here. The children’s program, in this very poor region, needs our support in order to sustain it. If we can provide the necessary funding, there are at least 150 local children who would like to attend school at the shedra. The school will operate seven days a week, ten months a year.
The shedra is more beautiful than I had realized from earlier photographs. You can get a sense of that from our short video tour of the shedra here, especially the spectacular shrine room in the lhakang. A group of 27 Tibetan painters were doing a wonderful job of bringing to life the ornate decorative masonry work while were there.
Surmang Khenpo reviewed with us the work still to be done on the shedra before it can be consecrated and the shrine room used. In addition to finishing the painting and landscaping, all of the residential areas, the shrine room, and the five classrooms need to be furnished. A number of other small construction details remain, such as the one hundred-plus light fixtures that need to be installed.
$150,000 is needed as soon as possible to finish building the shedra and to help launch the children’s educational program. (This sum doesn’t include the cost of statues for the shrine room or solar hot water collectors, both of which will come later.) If you can help to meet this goal, please visit the donations page [link].
Trungpa XII Rinpoche, who will take his seat as the abbot of Surmang Dutsi Til once the shedra is completed, is presently studying at Serta Monastery in Golok. He graciously granted us his first-ever recorded interview, which we hope to be able to release soon. Konchok Foundation continues to provide support for his living expenses.
Approximately seventy monks or nuns will live in the shedra complex itself, once it is completed. (This report continues below).
Karma Senge Rinpoche comments about the Surmang shedra:
We are now completing the reconstruction of the great shedra at the Surmang Dutsi Til Namgyal Rabten Ling meditation center. The Trungpa lineage have been the holders of the teachings here at the shedra since the first Trungpa, Kunga Gyaltsen, up through the twelfth Trungpa, Chokyi Senge.
We may ask: what is the purpose of a shedra? If you want to practice meditation you first need to understand how to do so. Without study and contemplation there is no way to begin the practice. It would be akin to wandering about aimlessly without using our eyes. In this way study and contemplation are similar to our eyes and practice is similar to our body.
I am very happy and want to thank everyone who has supported the work here on the shedra. Also I am serving here as the representative of Trungpa Chokyi Senge and I want to extend his appreciation and thanks for all the work that is being done on the shedra.
Surmang Khenpo comments:
The purpose of the shedra is for education. Education is most important for human beings. Of course, in this area, mostly we don’t have any education. In this area, to build this kind of shedra is most important.
When Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was here, he started the shedra in this monastery. At that time, he invited a famous khenpo called Khenpo Gangshar (to teach). The shedra…benefited the whole world, you can say that, because Trungpa Rinpoche (then) went to the West and taught lots of students, he benefited thousands and thousands of students.
We believe that we have the blessings from Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche had the hope and the aspiration that this area would have a very good college, a school. So, because of his blessings and also the blessings by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, and the good wishes of Shambhala sangha members and the Konchok Foundation, therefore I believe this shedra will not only benefit the Surmang area. I also hope it will benefit the whole world and all sentient beings.
I hope, in the future, people from Shambhala and from the Western world will come here to study Buddhism or Tibetan culture.
Letter from the Surmang leadership. Trungpa XII Rinpoche, Aten Rinpoche and Surmang Khenpo wrote a letter about the shedra for us to take back with us, which has now been translated and is available [link].
Recalling the Vidyadhara. Since Jon and I were both students of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, it was especially moving for us to tour his terma sites at Kyere Shelkar mountain. In addition to taking video of those sites, narrated by the Vidyadhara’s nephew Karma Senge Rinpoche, we were able to record brief interviews with several people who had known the Vidyadhara in Tibet. We hope to be able to have those translated and ready for release later this fall.
Karma Senge Rinpoche introduced us to the approximately seventy nuns at Wenchen nunnery, where he teaches. They are an entirely delightful group to be around, cheerful as can be at their very rustic, but beautifully located, gonpa.
Kagyu Gurtso. Nine Surmang monks, led by Karma Senge Rinpoche, kindly recorded for us a selection of songs from the Kagyu Gurtso (Rain of Wisdom). We hope to release that later this fall as a CD.
Jyekundo earthquake update. Surmang Khenpo informed us that he, Trungpa XII Rinpoche, and Aten Rinpoche have discussed how to best use the remaining Konchok Foundation earthquake relief funds. They want to distribute high quality blankets to those families living in tents in Jyekundo that are too poor to buy blankets themselves. They also want to provide financial aid to destitute families, particularly those who are taking care of children who were orphaned by the earthquake. No one is living indoors in Jyekundo-the entire population of the city is living in tents. Our understanding is that the start of residential construction in Jyekundo is still more than a year off into the future.
To make a donation to help finish the Surmang Shedra. To make an on-line credit card donation from anywhere, please visit the Konchok Foundation donations page [link]. In the U.S., donation checks can be made out to Konchok Foundation and sent to Ginny Lipson, Shambhala Center, 1345 Spruce St., Boulder, CO 80302. In Canada, please make checks payable to Shambhala International with “Konchok Foundation” in the memo line and mail to: Finance Office, Shambhala International, 1084 Tower Rd, Halifax, NS B3H 2Y5. Please note that there are donation gifts available [link].
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