Announcing Our 2019 Grant Recipients…

Sachen Foundation officially awarded grants to six recipients for the 2019 term: Sakya Centre Education Department, Sakya Academy, Sakya Nunnery, Kalimpong Sakya Monastery, Melody of Dharma magazine, and Tsechen Kunchab Ling. Our inaugural grant cycle began in September 2018 with letters inviting a small group of organizations to apply for a 2019 grant. The grant recipients are clearly aligned with our vision to transform lives and communities through Buddhist education and publication.

Sakya Centre Education Department

Half-yearly exam at Sakya Centre, Dehradun.

Following the 1959 political turmoil in Tibet, Sakya Centre was established in 1964 by His Holiness Sakya Trichen in Dehradun, India, to continue as the main monastic institute preserving the Sakya Order of Tibetan Buddhism. In its early years, Sakya Centre endured many challenges and difficulties. The monks lived in tents, which not only served as their living quarters, but also the prayer hall, dining area, etc.  Even under such meager living conditions, it was not possible to keep Sakya Centre running after some time due to financial hardship. The monks had to leave the provisional establishment. However, under the guidance of His Holiness Sakya Trichen, Sakya Centre was able to resume operating out of an old rented bungalow at 187 Rajpur Road in Dehradun, and the monks once again returned. But to truly fulfill Sakya Centre’s mission and establish a seat for the Sakya Order, funding had to be secured from various aid agencies, individual donors, and even His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to purchase the bungalow and its surrounding land.

Today, Sakya Centre has five other organizations under its administrative oversight, including Sakya Academy and Sakya Nunnery, both of which are also Sachen Foundation grant recipients in 2019. The other organizations are Sakya Hospital, Sakya Institute, and Sakya Retreat Facility.

The 2019 grant from Sachen Foundation will directly support Sakya Centre’s Education Department in its mission to provide a Sakya monastic education to its students regardless of their caste, creed, or color.  Currently, 120 monks ranging in age from 7 to 25 years, reside at the Centre, with the majority of them originally from Nepal, Bhutan, and Mongolia. Sakya Centre’s curriculum is based on the traditional monastic educational system mirroring that of the monasteries in Tibet. At present, the Centre employs 15 instructors who teach basic Buddhist philosophy, rituals, ritual music and dance, art, and other related subjects. After completing their studies at Sakya Centre, monks can attend either Sakya College or Sakya Institute (in Puruwala) to further their education in Buddhist Studies.

Sakya Academy

Sakya Academy senior students presenting their science projects.

“Each one of our children is a success story… the school offers an opportunity that they could never have dreamed of.”       

– Sakya Academy staff member

His Eminence Gyana Vajra Rinpoche’s long-standing vision, to create an institution that provided a modern, academic education merged with the Sakya monastic tradition, was finally realized in April 2016 when Sakya Academy opened its doors to students. Located on a quiet hillside about 12 kilometers from Dehradun, the Academy follows the Indian standard curriculum, including classes on math, social sciences, Tibetan, English, and Hindi, among others. There are also daily classes on traditional Buddhist scripture and prayer recitations. Furthermore, extracurricular activities are an important part of the daily program, such as organized team sports, workshops in art, music and dance, yoga, ritual practice, and meditation. Alongside a religious and academic education, the prevailing ethos is that of helping others. The Academy’s intent is to instill students with skills and knowledge learned at Sakya Academy so that they can eventually give back to the monastic and lay communities at large.

The 2019 Sachen Foundation grant will support a portion of the education for approximately 190 young monks, from 5 to 18 years of age. All of them originally came from poor families in remote villages of India and predominantly Nepal, where their families fell victim to the devastating earthquake in 2015. Many would not have had access to education and healthcare, and be destined to a life of subsistence farming, struggling to help feed their families. Some of the older children transferred from Sakya Centre in Dehradun, where they had an entirely monastic education, emphasizing the memorization of scriptures and only very basic schooling in other subjects like Tibetan, Hindi, English, and math. The newer arrivals, on the other hand, had little or no education at all, and most of them had to be taught how to read and write.

When we asked for a success story from Sakya Academy, one of the staff members summed it up nicely by saying, “Each one of our children is a success story. For those who are old enough to appreciate it, the school offers an opportunity that they could never have dreamed of. They are incredibly grateful and they truly love their school, which they call home. They’re disciplined, polite, and they help each other…Quite a few of them of them aspire to becoming teachers, either at Sakya Academy or back in their villages.”

Sakya Nunnery

Drawing class for young nuns, Sakya Rinchen Choling.

In response to an influx of Sakya nuns into India in the early 1990s, His Eminence Luding Khenchen Rinpoche offered a parcel of land within the Dekyiling Tibetan settlement in Dehradun to His Holiness Sakya Trichen to start a nunnery. Proper facilities to support the nuns had to be constructed from the ground up. In 1997, the main Sakya Nunnery, called Sakya Rinchen Choling, was officially established.

Over the years, Sakya Rinchen Choling expanded to include a main temple and additional dormitories. It now has two other nunneries under its administration: Sakya Thrinley Choling, for young nuns in Leh-Ladakh, India, and Vajrayogini Meditation Centre for nuns in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The grant from Sachen Foundation will be used to support a portion of the 2019 education expenses for 40 nuns currently living at Sakya Rinchen Choling. The nuns range in age from 5 to 40 years old, and generally come from impoverished families with no means of supporting their children’s education. At Sakya Nunnery, the nuns lead a disciplined life of study, contemplation, and work as practice. They begin the day early in the morning by performing the Tara puja, then continue with the learning of Buddhist rituals, scriptures, English, Hindi, and Tibetan. Besides performing pujas during auspicious dates each month, the mainstay of the nuns’ activities is the accumulation of 100,000 recitations of the Twenty-one Praises to Tara. This occurs a few times a year and takes several consecutive days of intensive recitations. With this Sachen Foundation grant, the nuns can continue with their lifelong devotion to the Buddha Dharma, to ensure that the Buddha Dharma continues to remain with us for many generations to come.

Kalimpong Sakya Monastery

Student monks from Kalimpong Sakya Monastery

Kalimpong Sakya Monastery, a project near and dear to His Holiness Ratna Vajra Rinpoche, the 42nd Sakya Trizin’s heart, took many years to come to fruition. It is currently the only Sakya monastery in the Himalayan mountain region of Kalimpong in West Bengal. For many years, the local community of devoted Sakya followers expressed the need for a suitable Sakya spiritual center, where they could properly practice their faith and carry on their spiritual traditions. In response to this, in 2006, the establishment of Kalimpong Sakya Monastery was initiated by HH Ratna Vajra Rinpoche, under the guidance of his holy father, His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trichen Rinpoche. A ceremony was conducted to mark the beginning of the admission of new monks on the auspicious lunar birthday of Guru Padmasambhava (10th day of the 5th lunar month). Before and during construction of the main monastery, the staff and newly admitted monks endured many hardships, living and operating out of an old, rundown building from the previous landlord, which served as their living quarters, shrine hall, as well as classrooms.

Finally, almost a decade later on September 14, 2015, the auspicious lunar birthday of His Holiness the 41st Gongma Trichen Rinpoche (1st day of the 8th lunar month), Kalimpong Sakya Monastery, also known as Tsechen Thinley Dargye Ling, was formally inaugurated with hundreds of devotees in attendance. While the main monastery has been completed, phase 2 is still ongoing with construction of the library underway.

The 2019 grant from Sachen Foundation primarily supports the basic living and education costs for the student monks, and annual wages for the staff. Currently, the monastery has 160 student monks, many who are originally from poor families in remote places in Nepal, Bhutan, India, and Mongolia. There are approximately 26 dedicated teachers and more than 10 other staff members who provide the young monks with education, food, clothing, accommodation, medical care, and also arrange for recreational activities during the holidays. The teachers teach a traditional monastic curriculum, including Buddhist philosophy, ritual studies, the Tibetan and English languages, science, etc.

In addition to their studies, the monks’ day-to-day activities consist of pujas and rituals, starting with Tara recitations each morning. Every Monday, the monks perform the Medicine Buddha ritual, and on other days, the Collection of Dharanis, the Prajnaparamita Sutra, or 400 Tormas ritual. Every Friday morning, they perform the long life ritual of Amitayus, dedicated to the long life of His Holiness the Sakya Trizin and all beings. The Mahakala pujas are conducted four times every month, on designated days of the lunar calendar. On Buddhist auspicious days, students give presentations on Buddhism and the hagiographies of the lineage masters. And on the weekends, in accordance with its charter, the monastery strives to fulfill the spiritual needs of the local community by arranging sessions introducing Buddhism, and sending monks to perform rites at households. The Sachen Foundation grant directly helps the team to educate a new generation of monks, fulfilling the original wish of His Holiness Ratna Vajra Rinpoche, to have a monastery for worship and teachings for the devotees in Kalimpong.

Melody of Dharma

Upcoming issue of Melody of Dharma magazine, sponsored by the Sachen Foundation

Melody of Dharma is a yearly magazine published by the Office of Sakya Dolma Phodrang, and is dedicated to documenting the Dharma activities of His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trichen Rinpoche and of his two sons, His Holiness Ratna Vajra Rinpoche the 42nd Sakya Trizin, and His Eminence Gyana Vajra Rinpoche.

The creation of the publication was brought about to remedy the sense of isolation felt by students who spent long periods of time without being in the presence of their teachers. Since the inception of the magazine in 2010, various social media outlets have appeared that fill this void. However, the magazine still serves the purpose of consolidating our teachers’ activities into one source, bringing a sense of depth and continuity that complements the digital dissemination of updates through social media. Because it is in printed form, the magazines also serves as a commemoration of important Sakya events of the previous year.

In addition to the teachers’ Dharma activities, Melody of Dharma also makes available to readers, the teachings of Sakya Masters throughout the ages: from the Founding Masters down to the current masters of the Sakya Tradition. Also included are the timeless works of the Indian pandits, under whom the Tibetan translators and masters of old studied the Buddha Dharma. These two features of the magazine – presenting updates on the teachers’ activities and providing Dharma teachings – combine the dual aspects of the cultivation of guru devotion and the study of Buddhist scriptures.

The first issue of Melody of Dharma was published in January 2010, on the initiative of His Holiness the 42nd Sakya Trizin and Venerable Ani Jamyang Wangmo. Thousands of copies were printed to be distributed to 250 Buddhist centers, and to keen practitioners in some 25 countries. It began as a quarterly magazine, but gradually skimmed its production, settling at its current status of a yearly publication. Thus far, a total of 19 issues have been published. Despite a monetary cost per issue, the magazine is distributed free-of-charge, with each issue sponsored by a different donor. Some past patrons include H.E. Gyalyum Chenmo, H.E. Dagmo Kalden Dunkyi Sakya and H.E. Dagmo Sonam Palkyi Sakya.

The team at Melody of Dharma consists mostly of dedicated volunteers. Its core staff includes an Executive Director, whose primary function is to ensure sponsorship, and a Managing Director, who mainly serves as editor. In addition, the team relies on the temporary and pro bono collaboration of advisers, photographers, researchers, and proof-readers. Printing takes place in Taiwan, and the office staff at the Vajrayana Sakya Manjushri Center in Taiwan takes care of shipping.

Melody of Dharma is made possible by the kindness of donors who cover costs, the bulk of which come from designing, printing and shipping. The grant from Sachen Foundation will provide for the next several issues, starting with the issue going to press in late June 2019. The magazine has been well received by readers, with plenty of positive feedback, indicating that the aspirations that led to its creation have been fulfilled. The Sachen Foundation grant will ensure that followers can continue reading about important Dharma teachings and maintain a deeper connection to their gurus through their holy activities.

All issues of Melody of Dharma are available online at: http://hhsakyatrizin.net/melody-dharma-magazine/

Tsechen Kunchab Ling

Tsechen Kunchab Ling

Since its establishment in 2001, as the North American seat of His Holiness the 41st Gongma Trichen Rinpoche, Tsechen Kunchab Ling has made it a priority to translate, publish, and distribute the teachings and texts of the Sakya Masters in English. This makes it possible for students in the West to have materials in English while they receive empowerments and undertake meditation and retreat practice. The 2019 Sachen Foundation grant will help Tsechen Kunchab Ling in this effort to expand by funding two projects: an online catalog of children’s Dharma books, and a Dharma text related project with two parts. The first part includes distribution of books by His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trichen Rinpoche, and the second part is the creation of an online repository for Dharma texts. Both of these projects will be implemented with the help of various resources (i.e. other Dharma centers, web developers, etc), and with a targeted completion date of December 31st, 2019.

Online Catalog of Children’s Dharma Books

Although there are a plethora of materials on Buddhism in both print and electronic formats, parents and teachers searching for Buddhist books, videos, and songs have difficulty finding age-appropriate materials for children and youth. The messages contained in these materials not only provide the Buddhist perspective, which can influence a young person’s development, but they also can help children and teens deal with psychological and social problems.

The Sachen Foundation grant will sponsor Tsechen Kunchab Ling in building a separate website that catalogs and indexes English and Chinese Dharma materials for youth and children. This will help families and Dharma centers find and use the Buddhist materials that already exist, including Buddhist books, oral stories, songs, videos, and apps. The targeted age groups are preschoolers, early school years (5-8), older children (9-12), and teens (13+). The prototype website will be tested during the Family Dharma Camp in July 2019, and modifications will be made in accordance with feedback. Afterwards, the focus will be to expand the content of the website and notify Dharma Centers of its launch.

Dharma Text Distribution

As a main figure of the Sakya Order, His Holiness the 41st Sakya Trichen has given numerous Dharma teachings in English, sharing his knowledge and wisdom throughout the world. Very few of these teachings have been printed or published as books. To address this, Tsechen Kunchab Ling has already embarked upon an effort to disseminate these precious teachings to students from around the world.

During the June 2019 Vajrapani and Vajrayogini teachings at Tsechen Kunchab Ling, 14 booklets on various Dharma-related topics by His Holiness were distributed free of charge to approximately 200 attendees, who carried the books back to over 20 different countries. Some examples of the booklet titles include Buddhist Ethics, Finding Happiness in Difficult Times, and Overcoming Anger & Obstacles; all topics that are relevant in today’s society. In addition to distributing booklets, on Vesak Day, Tsechen Kunchab Ling gave out copies of Book 2 of the Freeing the Heart and Mind series, entitled, “Chogyal Phagpa on the Buddhist Path.” This series was specifically designed by His Holiness himself as a curriculum for Western Dharma students.  It was intended to provide students with the opportunity “to study the authentic Dharma from the great masters of Tibet,” and to provide a strong foundation in Buddhism. To further extend the commercial publication of His Holiness’ teachings, Tsechen Kunchab Ling is also preparing a collection of 12 of His Holiness’ Dharma booklets for commercial publication by Wisdom Publications in 2020.

Online Repository of Dharma Texts

Since Sakya Masters and khenpos are bestowing more teachings and empowerments to English-speaking audiences throughout the world, the Dharma Centers have a responsibility to prepare the necessary texts. Because there is no centralized repository of Dharma texts, it is challenging for center directors to obtain translated materials for a variety of reasons. Different versions of the same text are constantly being updated, and other centers are unaware of these latest changes. Also, many of these translations are available only in paper copy, as they were produced from typewriters or very early word processors. Due to the difficulty of knowing which texts have been translated, the few qualified translators and khenpos often spend time duplicating work. Much time and money are spent recreating digital copies of older paper texts, or reproducing and distributing materials with mistakes that teachers have tried to correct on different occasions. The objective of the Dharma text project is to create a secure online document repository of English Dharma materials. This repository will be administered by a librarian at Tsechen Kunchab Ling, who will fully respect and maintain secrecy of Vajrayana materials. This project will also preserve and make available the Dharma text work already done, to support English-speaking Sakya Dharma Centers with texts for future teachings and initiations.

This first phase of the project will entail developing an online prototype to house the repository and entering documents into it. Sakya Centers in English speaking countries will be notified of the secure repository and will be invited to send Dharma texts on hand for contribution. They will also be able to contact the Librarian when they need texts.

Future phases of the Dharma text repository will include enhancing and expanding the document repository, such as adding materials from other translators like Khenpo Migmar, IBA, etc., adding materials in languages other than English, and developing a public-access document repository for non-Vajrayana materials.