It has been nineteen years since ground was broken for a shedra (monastic college) at Surmang Dutsi Til monastery in Tibet, and thirteen years since the shedra building complex went into use for children’s programs and other purposes. The lengthy final stage in enabling the building complex to fulfill its purpose as a shedra has awaited the full readiness of the shrine room. This has meant preparation of elaborate furnishings, especially the three very large rupas (statues) which the shrine room was specifically designed to include. Viewed left to right, the rupas are Manjusri, Maitreya Buddha, and Green Tara. With the final work on the rupas now accomplished, the shedra building program is completed.
The shedra building complex is now fully dedicated to its purpose as a monastic college and began classes on November 4. The complex includes residential space for teachers and for monks.
Surmang is the home monastery of the Trungpa lineage of teachers. More than a thousand people from the sangha in the West, including many who were students of Chogyam Trungpa XI Rinpoche, contributed to the shedra construction effort over the years. Some people are continuing their support, helping to fund the ongoing programs. (Visit here if you would like to join in.)
Several dozen monks from Dutsi Til are participating so far in the shedra, studying Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation. The number of monks in attendance is expected to increase to about seventy in the coming months.
A group of children who are apprentice monastics, mostly boys as well as several girls, have been studying reading and writing in Tibetan, and also Buddhism, at the monastery. That has also been with the support of Konchok Foundation. When their introductory studies are completed, they will be eligible to join the shedra.
Starting in 2010, while work on the shrine room furnishings continued, the shedra building complex has been used for various children’s programs, for shedra-type study programs for monks, as the temporary monastery lhakang (shrine hall) when the monastery’s lhakang was being rebuilt, and as a temporary residence for nuns while the Kyelaka nunnery associated with Surmang Dutsi Til was under construction. These were all highly useful purposes but everyone at Surmang is pleased to now have the shedra complex fulfilling its role as a locus for intensive study and practice.
The Surmang Kyelaka nuns have been undertaking the same types of studies, led by khenpos (teachers), as at the Dutsi Til shedra. Recently, they participated in a mahamudra study and practice program. However, it hasn’t been called a shedra since, unlike Dutsi Til, there is no separate building for the programs at Kyelaka, which take place in the main shrine room of the nunnery.
A two-story kitchen for the nunnery is now under construction, with the labor entirely provided by volunteers. A combination of local residents with construction experience, and the nuns themselves, are working on the nunnery kitchen. A local individual donated the building materials. Donors to Konchok Foundation will help pay for the kitchen equipment. The nuns already have a personal kitchen in each of their small houses; this kitchen will be for preparing food and tea for group practices, as well as other uses on the second floor. Construction is about to stop for the winter and will resume in the spring.