Tibetan Regions of ChinaThe heart of the motherland
Drolma Lhakang Monastery
Drolma Lhakang Monastery is the official seat of Akong Rinpoche and is located in the Chamdo District of East Tibet, at an altitude of about 4.500 meters above sea level.
The living conditions are very harsh with the cold months starting from October and finishing at the end of April or May. Winter is between January and February and the temperature can be as low as minus 30 degrees C.
Currently there are 103 monks in Dolma Lhakang. The monks get up at 6:30 in the morning for a prayer session and then have breakfast before they go to Shedra (college). Most of the monks attend the classes in the shedra, except the very old ones or the ones who might have caretaking duties. Classes are held in the morning, finishing at lunchtime.
After the Shedra each monk returns to his dormitory. The monks cook together in their dormitories with the four to five other monks also living there. The food they cook is very simple and consists of tsampa in the morning, and rice and vegetables at lunchtime.
In the Shedra there are three main teachers for three different subjects. The mind-training teacher is called Karma Drub Chue. The teacher for logic is Karma Choeying. The Teacher for culture is Tenzin Choephel. And then there is also a teacher called Sherab Jurme.
They study many texts and subjects such as logic, Madhyamika, Mahayanauttaratantrashastra, Abhidharma, Vinaya, Profound Inner Topics and many others, as well as Grammar, Synonymy, Poetry and Astrology. These are the ten subjects of classical Tibetan studies.
They study in different classes. The young monks first have to study Tibetan reading and writing for three years before they can go to advanced classes. Later on the students will start reading and studying various texts together. In the higher classes the monks who have already been studying for a long time will then get different texts to read and to study. This they do separately.
The classes and the debating will continue in the afternoon till suppertime, leaving the monks with little spare time. In the evening the monks will eat noodle soup and then will do their homework
After nine they have free time for one hour and a half when they are allowed to do anything except sleeping, but most of them will still be busy doing homework, washing their clothes or cleaning up.
Every ten days the monks have a day off. Some of the monks will go home to see their families, as most of the monks are from nearby.
There are 122 nuns from Dolma Lhakang living in Five different nunneries within a radius of Three to Ten kilometers between each other. Two of the nunneries are very small and Three are a little bit bigger.
The nuns gather together every day to receive teachings from one of the Khenpos of the Shedra in the main temple. Their accommodation is very basic. They live in little houses where four or five nuns stay together in one room. They have to cook, eat, study, practice and sleep in that one room. In the future we hope to be able to build more accommodation and also a separate Shedra building for the nuns.
It costs only £1.40 per day to feed a monk or nun, but for 103 monks and 122 nuns over 365 days it becomes very expensive.
Akong Rinpoche’s Quotes:
“Freedom is not something you look for outside of yourself. Freedom is within you.”
“Reminding ourselves of how others suffer and mentally putting ourselves in their place, will help awaken our compassion.”
After carrying my tenth sheet of plasterboard up to the top of the new monks building Rinpoche said, “Hard work but dharma is harder.”
He told me, “There is nothing better than compassion.” When I was stressed he smiled and said, “better not to take it all too seriously.” ~ Few words. Huge impact.
Once when I told Rinpoche I was afraid, he smiled and said “Don’t worry its just your fear.”
If you forget everything I say, remember never to forget ‘the greatest power is compassion.’
“Strive always to be as kind, gentle and caring as possible towards all forms of sentient life.”
When tidying the chairs in the dining hall and putting them into coloured sets, he said “There is enough chaos in the world, so have organisation where you can.”
“Wherever and whenever we can, we should develop compassion at once.”
“Negativity is always there. Just…Let it go.”