The Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Sonam, a high lama in Bhutan, wishes to build a traditional Tibetan Buddhist monastery to educate 50 young monks in 4 major areas of study: English, astrology, thangka painting, and Buddhist philosophy – preserving the Tibetan culture that is, sadly, waning in Tibet itself. Students would begin at age 6 and finish at age 25 graduating with the title of “Khenpo” (Abbott) which is equivalent to a PhD in our educational system. This old system of education was proficient in producing lamas with extraordinary attainments, some accomplishing various levels of enlightenment, others mastering yogic abilities. The sole motivation for the monks to traverse this very difficult path is to simply become enlightened in order to benefit all beings. Blueprints are drawn and a detailed cost analysis is available.
The goal for this project is $200,000.
The following is a statement sent from Khenpo Tsewang: “My aim is to establish a monastery in the central part of Bhutan that can cater to novices from both the east and west of Bhutan. Ura has a monastery but without classrooms or living quarters for the monks and nuns”.
This particular monastery will cater only to those who come from a humble background, particularly those who are not able to receive any form of education. The school will have a nine-year course covering four subjects mainly English, Buddhist Astrology, Buddhist paintings and Buddhist Philosophy. The course will be designed to preserve Bhutan’s rich Buddhist traditions and geared towards nurturing an individual’s capacity to find employment or practice Buddhism after completing the nine year course.
Today many villages lack trained Buddhist astrologers, Buddhist painters and people practiced in the Buddhist rituals that are performed when someone falls sick or dies. Some villages do not have Buddhist teachers and astrologers who can perform the final ritual rites of the deceased people. This monastery offers to solve the core suffering of the people who are in most need of trained people as per the precept of the Buddhist philosophy.
In addition, this training will provide a meaningful existence and a purposeful future for the young people who will live there. The members of the Ura monastery hope to preserve the missing link between the modern world and the old traditions for the benefit of the sentient beings.
Ura monastery already has its meditation centre, built higher up on the mountains about 3 hours’ walk away. Currently, there are nine practitioners who will stay for a period of three years.
The temple and meditation centre belong to the people of Ura village. Since the temple and meditation centre would form the core buildings of this new teaching centre, the costs of establishing the centre are already reduced.
Khenpho Tsewang Sonam is a native of Ura and the people of the village have entrusted this project to him. Khenpho Tsewang Sonam has received the highest degree certificate in Buddhist philosophy and astrology from Mindroling Monastery, Mysore. He studied under Penor Rimpoche and has been teaching Buddhist philosophy for the last twenty years. He has also published nine books on Buddhist philosophy which are used for study in both Tibet and India.”