Supporting the Tibetan College of Traditional Studies of Singhkry Monastery, Tibet

Project location: CHINA, Tongde
Project start date: December 2013 - Project end date: December 2014
Project number: 2013-023
Beneficiary: Associazione Per La Solidarietà Internazionale in Asia

The roots of the present situation in Tibet can be traced back to the changes brought about by the advent of the People's Republic of China in 1951.
Following those events Tibet was dismembered. The central part, that includes the capital Lhasa, is currently an autonomous region (TAR). Vast extensions of the Tibetan territory were administratively annexed to the Chinese regions of Yunnan, Qinghai, Sichuan and Xinjiang.
The period of the so-called proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) entailed an intense process of disarticulation of the traditional Tibetan socio-cultural structure and introduced a series of new economic and social models.
In this context monasteries stand not only as religious but also as political and cultural centres and suffer from the repressive policies of PRC which endanger the survival of Tibetan culture.
The role of Colleges of practice and study of the Tibetan Monasteries play high importance for the local people, who often do not have the means to send their children to school due to the distance and the unaffordable costs.
In the Colleges, boarding services (accommodation, food, etc.) are provided to the students coming from remote areas and education is conveyed in the respect of the values and in accordance with the traditions of the Tibetan culture. Religious teachings such as Sutra, Tanta and the Great Perfection, and Tibetan teachings such as grammar, history, poetry and medicine are taught along with mats and English.
Moreover, the role of these monasteries is very effective to fight the high level of illiteracy and school drop-outs among children, which is due to constraints like: remote area, lack of transport means, strong promotion of mandarin language and Han culture versus weak and insufficient teaching of Tibetan language and culture.
The Sangkhri Monastery Boarding School is part of a programme of action in the region of Tibet outlined by ASIA in 1999 following a specific mission in the region of Kham and central Tibet.
In order to improve the socio-cultural situation of the Tibetan nomadic people in rural areas, in the course of this mission 13 areas were identified to be included in a programme of development that comprises the construction of primary schools, health care facilities, boarding schools of traditional studies and meditation practice, drinking water systems and the training of teachers and village health workers.
Recently ASIA staff based in Xining, capital of Qinghai, carried out missions that led to the launch of other projects in the area, in the fields of women's Micro-enterprise (establishment of 90 micro-enterprises of Tibetan nomadic women), Safeguard of the Cultural Heritage (rehabilitation and construction of monasteries and traditional boarding schools), and Education (construction of primary schools and teacher training).

Sangkhri Monastery

The monastery was established in Qinghai as a place for the propagation and teaching of the Nyingma doctrine of Tibetan Buddhism and the transmission of the knowledge of Dharma.
Some of the most important monks and scholars of Tibeta philosophy have started their studies and practices in this monastery.
During the Cultural Revolution the monastery was completely destroyed and its libraries and books have been lost, while the lamas and monks who survived have been forced to flee to the mountains.
In 1986, when the effects of the Cultural Revolution came to an end and a new stage in Chinese politics started, the new Abbot, Konchok Rechen began the reconstruction of the monastery and of the monks' lodgings. Slowly the monastery resumed its cultural and educational activity and many students began attending classes.
Today there are around 500 students, mainly from the surrounding areas, temporary accommodated in the Monastery premises or by village families. Moreover, the demand of new registrations for students from remote areas is progressively increasing and, as a consequence, the demand of residential accommodations for students.
Financial support from the Dutch Embassy in China gave ASIA the chance to build three new dormitories with 30 lodgings in 2009, to accommodate 90 students from remote and nomadic areas. Further buildings and rehabilitation works are need to answer to the high request of accommodation coming from all the students. In 2012 the Bolzano Province has approved a project which includes the realization of a fourth dormitory of 10 bedrooms, which will be able to host additional 30 students, bringing to 120 the total accommodation capacity of the college. Compared with the number of the attending students, the need for new accommodations is still high and the trend is towards a progressive increase of this number.

Nyingma doctrine

In the frame of the decline of Tibetan culture and the difficulties faced by traditional Monasteries and Colleges to uphold the ancient teachings of Tibetan Buddhist doctrines, Nyingma schools are in need to cope with a serious weakness of their teaching system, represented by the lack of a sufficient availability and distribution of traditional texts of ancient teachings to the main Tibetan colleges. The scarcity of printed copies of the main books of Nyingma doctrine is mainly due to the persistency of oral transmission systems and manuscript transcriptions among monks and, above all, to the damages caused by the Cultural Revolution, with thousands of books destroyed.
Today, among the four Tibetan Buddhist doctrines, the Nyingma is the only one that has not yet benefited from a large distribution of their main traditional texts to the libraries of Nyingma Colleges. Such libraries strongly need those texts to allow students and monks to study. Sometime only manuscripts are available. In 2006 ASIA has developed a project to edit and publish a complete collection of the main texts used in the Nyingmapa Tradition (300.000 volumes has been distributed for free to 15.000 students in 162 Nyngmapa college all over China) and has set up a Nyingma Library in Shangkhri Monastery. The Library has become a referent centre for the distribution of Nyingma texts to all the other Monasteries. To support such role, the Library needs to be empowered both in terms of new availability of texts and of equipment to record all the materials. Due to the incredible success of the publication of the Nyngmapa collection of texts, the heads of the monastery requested to ASIA to publish the “gSung Bum” of Namkhai Norbu Rimpoche, whom is considered one the most famous scholar on the Tibetan old History and one of the most knowledgeable Master on Dzogchen. Namkhai Norbu is a Dzogchen teacher who was born in Derge, eastern Tibet in 1938. When he was two years old, he was recognized as the reincarnation of the great Dzogchen teacher, Adzom Drugpa (1842-1924). From an early age Namkhai Norbu undertook an accelerated course of study, attending monastic college, taking retreats, and studying with renowned teachers, including some of the most important Tibetan masters of his time. Under the tutelage of these teachers, he completed the training required by Buddhist tradition in both Sutrayana and Tantrayana. At the age of sixteen he met master Rigdzin Changchub Dorje (1826-1961/1978), who became his principal Dzogchen teacher.
He is widely recognized as a leading authority on Tibetan culture, particularly in the fields of history, literature, and Traditional Tibetan medicine and astrological sciences.
Namkhai Norbu focused his research mainly on the ancient history of Tibet investigating thoroughly the autochthonous Bön tradition. In fact, the 2 main religious traditions in Tibet are: the Bon religion, which is the indigenous tradition of Tibet, and the Buddhism, which is the foreign religion of Tibet.
His books, which include studies on history, Tibetan medicine, astrology, Bön and folk traditions, are evidence of his profound knowledge of Tibetan culture and his commitment to preserve this ancient cultural heritage. They have been highly appreciated by Tibetans as well as scholars throughout the world.

Relation with the Nando Peretti Foundation’ goals

With the present proposal, ASIA Onlus aims at improving the access to Tibetan traditional education through the empowerment of the Singkhri Monastery College and the printing of the gSung bum of Namkhai Norbu Rimpoche, in order to offer young Tibetan monks and Tibetan students the possibility to learn and practice the traditional knowledge and the original teachings of Tibetan culture.
The protection of the cultural heritage in Tibet is at high risk due to the economic and social influence of the han majority and the strict governmental policies that strongly limit the fundamental rights of the Tibetan population in the western regions of China. Through its projects, ASIA safeguards the rights and the culture of the Tibetan people from the severe menaces of complete extinction.
According to these considerations, the present proposal, directly and indirectly, matches with the Foundation’s goal of:

  • promotion of human and civil rights
  • right to education
  • defense of the oppressed minorities and their right to exist
  • preservation of the autochthon cultures

 

According to the abovementioned need to offer the accommodation opportunities to more students coming from remote areas and temporarily accommodated into the monastery premises or in village families, two buildings composed of 10 new dorm-rooms each will be built. Each building will have a surface of 167 sqm, with 10 rooms of around 16 sqm each. The total surface of the buildings is 334 sqm. The new buildings will reflect the traditional design and colors of Tibetan architecture and will be coherent with the Monastery architecture. The organization of the spaces will be discussed with the College Direction in order to respect local habits and needs of the students and teachers. Construction materials will be purchased on the local market. Bio-architecture principles will be introduced to provide eco-sustainable solutions to save energy and create a more comfortable living environment.
An Expert Architect will follow all the technical aspects of the building works through periodical missions on the fields. The Project Manger will assure a constant monitoring of works and will be in touch with the Architect to have a constant feedback on their development according to the blueprints.
A tender on the basis of three quotations will be organized to award the construction contract. Masons from the surrounding villages will be encouraged to participate to the works. The monks of the Monastery and the people of the surrounding villages will be involved in voluntary works like ground cleaning and transport of building materials.

 

Activity description

Activity 1.1:

Elaboration of architectural drawings of the buildings

Activity 1.2:

Blueprints and bill of quantities of the buildings

Activity 1.3:

Selection of at least 3 construction companies

Activity 1.4:

Signing of the contract and starting of constructions

Activity 1.5:

Building of 334 sqm of dormitories

Activity 1.6:

Quality certification

Activity 1.7:

Handover procedure

 

Expected Result 2                                                                                   

Accommodations fully equipped to host 3 students per bedroom

 

Each dorm-room will be equipped to offer suitable condition of living and study and to host three students.

Each room will be provided with:

-      3 beds (one normal and one bunk)

-      1 wardrobe

-      1 table and chair

-      3 bedding sets (mattress, sheets, pillow, blanket, etc.)

The furniture and equipment will be provided by the Monastery as contribution in kind.

 

Activity description

Activity 2.1:

Market survey and selection of at least 3 shops on the local market

Activity 2.2:

Signing of the contract

Activity 2.3:

Transportation and installation of the equipment

Activity 2.4:

Handover procedure

 

Expected Result 3                                                                                   

Monastery library improved and better organized

 

The Monastery Library has become a referral point for all the monks, scholars or students who wish to deep the study of Nyingmapa doctrine on its traditional texts. Moreover, the Library is also a place where such teachings are held by the abbot or the senior monks to the College students or to external visitors and scholars. In order to improve the resources of the Library to answer to the high demand of consultation of its texts, the present project aims at providing the Library with office equipment (computers, scans, printers, binding machine, etc.) to improve the service of recording of books and documents and printing handouts for students.

 

Activity description

Activity 3.1:

Market survey and selection of at least 3 shops on the local market

Activity 3.2:

Signing of the contract

Activity 3.3:

Transportation and installation of the equipment

Activity 3.4:

Handover procedure

 

Expected Result 4                                                                                   

Important texts on Tibetan Medicine, Yantra Yoga, Shang Shung History, pre - buddhist Culture and Dzogchen spread among schools, universities and monasteries of Qinghai

 

The “gSung Bum” of Namkhai Norbu is composed of the following texts:

  1. Zhung bod lo rgyus ti se 'od: 588 pages. The History of Zhang zhung and Tibet
  2. Nor bu do shal: a book on the History of Tibet 92 pages.
  3. Byang 'brog lam yig : a book about the Nomads life in Dzachuka, 121 pages.
  4. Drung, Deu e Bon Emaho: a book on the Pre Buddhist Culture: 249 pages
  5. gZi yi phreng ba, size: : on the origin of Tibetan Culture 39 pages.
  1. sBas pai gum chung: a commentary on a very old Dzogchen text found in Dung huang 140 pages
  2. rDzogs chen skor gyi dris lan (Questions and answers on Dzogchen), 24 pages.
  3. Tibetan medicine book: 23 pages
  4. Phrul kbor nyi zla kha sbyor, the system of Yantra Yoga transmitted by the Mahasiddha Humkara to the great Master Padmasambhava: 400 pages
  5. Megtsa’I log len nyung bsdus dwangs shel me long: The clear Crystal Mirror : a concise guide to the practise of Moxibustion: 400 pages

Each collection is composed of 4 books. 1.000 copies of the collection will be edited and printed in Qinghai, for a total number of 4.000 books. A tender will be organized to select the best printing house according to the best price/quality ratio. At least three quotations will be asked to three different printing houses and a commission composed by representatives from ASIA and the Monastery will award the contract.

The texts will be distributed by truck and mail shipment to relevant cultural institutions of Qinghai and China: 500 copies to individual monks of 20 Nigmapa monasteries, 100 copies to 10 High and Middle schools of Qinghai, 400 copies to individual students of 5 Universities of China.

In particular the main institutions to which the books will be distributed are:

  1. College for Tibetan Studies, Minzu University of China, Beijing
  2. College of Literature, University of Tibet, Lhasa
  3. Medical University of Tibet, Lhasa
  4. College for Tibetan Studies, Northern-West University of Nationalities, Lanzhou
  5. College for Tibetan Studies, Southern-West University of Nationalities, Chengdu
  6. College for Tibetan Studies, Nationality University of Qinghai, Xining
  7. Teacher Training College, Normal University of Qinghai, Xining
  8. College for Tibetan Medicine, University of Qinghai, Xining
  9. Teacher Training College, Normal University of Gansu, Hezuo (or gTsod, the capital of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture)
  10. Tibetan School of Sichuan, Kangding (or Dartsedo, Capital of Karze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan)
  11. Teacher Training College, Normal University of Sichuan, Kangding
  12. Institute of Tibetan Studies, Nationality University of Yunnan Tibetan Language High School, of Lhasa (1), Lhokha (1), Shikatse (1), Ngaris (1), Nachu (2), Chamdo (1) in TAR; of Tsolho (2), Malho (2), Golok (1), Yushul (1), Hualong (1), Xunhua (1) in Qinghai; of Karze (1), Aba (2) in Sichuan; of Gannan (1), Paris (1) in Gansu; of Gyalthang in Yunnan.

Here below a more detailed description of the textes proposed:

  • Zhung bod lo rgyus ti se 'od: 588 pages. The History of Zhang zhung and Tibet

This book divided into three parts:

First part: history of Zhang zhung

  1. The origin of people of Zhang zhung
  2. the origin of Bon religion in Zhang zhung
  3. the origin of Kingdoms in Zhang zhung
  4. the origin of writing system in Zhang zhung
  5. the origin of civilization of Zhang zhung

Second part: history of Tibet

  1. the origin of Tibetans
  2. the origin of Bon religion in Tibet
  3. the origin of Kingdoms in Tibet
  4. the origin of writing system in Tibet
  5. the origin of civilization in Tibet
  6. Bon priests from Zhang zhung in Tibet

Third part: history of unification of Zhang zhung and Tibet

  1. Identification of ancient Tibetans
  2. Identification of ancient Bon religion
  3. Identification of ancient Tibetan kingdoms
  4. Identification of ancient of Tibetan writing system
  5. Identification of ancient Tibetan civilization
  • Nor bu do shal: a book on the History of Tibet 92 pages.

This book is a discussion on the origin of Tibetan civilization and relation between Bon religion and Buddhism in Tibet. The author followed a new approach to understand the origin of ancient Tibetan civilization and relation between Buddhism. He went through many rare documents of Bon and Buddhist tradition, instead of using only Buddhist texts as usual.

  • Byang 'brog lam yig : a book about the Nomads life in Dzachuka, 121 pages.

Conceived and written at the time of the author's journeys among the nomad population of eastern Tibet in the 1950s, Journey Among the Tibetan Nomads is a precious mirror of the habits of these people, which correspond to the descriptions of the ancient Tibetan epic of Gesar popular justice. Here, all the aspects of the culture and daily life of the nomads are explored by a careful traveler on his way through ancient, far-off lands.

  • Drung, Deu Bon Emaho: a book on the Pre Buddhist Culture: 249 pages

It includes chapters on selected narrations, symbolic languages, the twelve lores (sciences) of Bön, protection rites, rites for prosperity, ransom rites, the Dur rites for the dead, rites for purification, rites that liberate from curses, the Bön of Medicine, the Bön of Astrology, origin myths, rites of the deer, science of divination, and the Bön of magic power.

  • gZi yi phreng ba, size: : on the origin of Tibetan Culture 39 pages.

The Necklace of Zi (gZi yi phreng ba) is the revised and extended text of a lecture given by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu in 1975 to the annual meeting of young Tibetans in Switzerland. Some years later, The Necklace of Zi was published in Dharamsala, both in Tibetan and English, and immediately raised great interest for its new approach to the history and culture of Tibet. With remarkable authority, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu emphasized the originality and specificity of his people's culture. Quoting ancient texts but also using illuminating examples from his education in Tibet, he replied to the almost universally accepted theory of Tibetan civilisation as Himalayan appendage of Indian culture. According to such theory, pre-Buddhist Tibet did not have its own form of writing. Chogyal Namkhai Norbu traces back the origin of his country's culture nearly 4,000 years ago, and identifies the original Tibetan system of writing in the ancient mar (smar) alphabet, from which the present cursive characters (dbu med) have evolved. Besides the analysis of the Tibetan history and language, and a short chronicle of the pre-Buddhist Bon, this text is dealing in a simple but very meaningful way with the crucial topic of the harmonious union of Dharma and politics.

  • sBas pai gum chung: a commentary on a very old Dzogchen text found in Dung huang 140 pages

Regarding the origin of Dzogchen tradition, there are still many discussions and arguments even today. Sbas pa'i sgum chung is very old and rare text that was found in Dunghuang. This document traces back the origin of Dzogchen tradition at least to the ninth century, so that it is considered one of the most important documents of Dzogchen in early period of Tibetan Buddhism.

  • rDzogs chen skor gyi dris lan (Questions and answers on Dzogchen), 24 pages.

Since many discussions on the origin of Dzogchen among the sects of Tibetan Buddhism and between Bon and Buddhism have developed, scholars cannot find an acceptable academic point of view on it. The author, according to his knowledge and research on Dzogchen, answered to important questions on Dzogchen.

  • Tibetan medicine book: 23 pages

This book presents the basic principles of traditional Tibetan medicine that enable the reader to grasp some of the main points regarding birth, life, and death. The first section focuses on birth and touches different related topics, from the causes of conception of life to the behaviours that a pregnant woman should follow.
The second section, on life, starts with an explanation of the so-called 'three doors' of body and explains the way of a healthy life. It presents the causes leading to humour imbalances that provoke the arising of illnesses, the properties of foods and drinks, various types of behaviours to be followed in different circumstances, and so forth. These topics are largely taken from the context of traditional Tibetan medicine. However the last part of this section stresses the importance of maintaining a continuous stream of presence and awareness throughout all aspects of life. The section on death deals with the nature of death and our attitude toward it but most of the discussion deals with the four types of intermediate state: the intermediate state between birth and death, the intermediate state of the moment of dying, the intermediate state of the real condition of existence, and the intermediate state of becoming.

  • Phrul kbor nyi zla kha sbyor, the system of Yantra Yoga transmitted by the Mahasiddha Humkara to the great Master Padmasambhava: 400 pages

Description: Yantra Yoga offers the practitioner a new approach to awareness practice, parallel to the Hatha Yoga of the Hindu tradition. It will serve to enhance one's physical health, energy, and mental balance. Called the Union of Sun and Moon energy, it is a dynamic system of trulkhor (movement) and differs from more widespread yogas. It is done without the holding of the asanas (postures). The progression of postures is done with coordinated breath that helps us to relax and achieve a state that is beyond our normal dualistic concepts. Yantra Yoga is a very rich body of knowledge that includes 4 preliminary series, 75 various asanas, 7 breathing practices, 7 lotuses and the vajra wave-108 aspects in all. Profusely illustrated with drawings and photographs, Yantra Yoga presents Tibet's trulkhor yoga tradition as taught by one if its master exponents, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu. Yantra Yoga's movements, exercises, and methods of concentration are all based on an eighth-century text whose translation is included, illuminated by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu's commentary. Detailed charts for the timing of the breathing exercises are also included.

  • Megtsa’I log len nyung bsdus dwangs shel me long: The clear Crystal Mirror : a concise guide to the practise of Moxibustion: 400 pages

This manual is the first one that focuses on the Tibetan technique of moxibustion, an external therapy that uses the power of heat to stimulate a curative effect. A widespread form of traditional healing in the East, moxibustion is one of the most ancient medical therapies. Known as a branch of Chinese medicine, moxibustion was originally practiced in Shang Shung, a kingdom predating Tibet whose existence can be traced back to four thousand years ago. Healing with Fire is a comprehensive compendium of the five hundred most important and effective moxibustion points in the Tibetan and Shang Shung system, with an emphasis on practical instructions for readers with varying levels of expertise in the healing arts. The book is the culmination of decades of painstaking research by Professor Choegyal Namkhai Norbu, who has gathered knowledge from ancient scriptures ranging from the well-known Four Medical Tantras to recondite manuscripts found in the caves of Tun-Huang. The book features twenty-five original drawings illustrating the positions of the individual points, as well as an index of indications to facilitate the identification of points for the treatment of specific medical conditions. It includes an appendix that discusses arcane astrological factors frequently taken into consideration in Tibetan traditional medicine.

 

Activity description

Activity 4.1:

Editing of the books

Activity 4.2:

Graphic design for the cover

Activity 4.3:

Selection of the pictures and drawings to be included in the texts

Activity 4.4:

Request of three quotations to three different printing houses

Activity 4.5:

Selection of the printing house

Activity 4.6:

Signature of the contract to publish the books

Activity 4.7:

Printing of the books

Activity 4.8:

Transportation of the books to Xining. The texts will be distributed by truck and mail shipment to relevant cultural institutions of Qinghai and ChinaStorage of the books

Activity 4.9:

Selection of the 1000 beneficiaries (Universities, High school, Nyngmapa colleges)

Activity 4.10:

Distribution of the books to beneficiaries and collection of the handover documents

 

The Nando Peretti Foundation has awarded a grant to this project, to achieve the follwing goals.

 

 

Objectively Verifiable Indicators

Specific objective

20% increase of student attendance and visits of scholars to the Monastery College and Library by two years from the ending of the project

Expected Result 1

50% increase of students permanently accommodated in suitable dormitories into the Monastery premises.

20 new dormitory rooms built

Expected Result 2

60 sets of furniture and equipment for the bedrooms:

  • 60 Beds
  • 60 Bedding kits (matress, sheets, pillow, etc.)
  • 20 Wardrobes
  • 20 tables and chairs

Expected Result 3

1 set of equipment for recording and printing library resources, composed of:

  • 3 Computer
  • 2 Multiprinter
  • 1 Scan Machine
  • 1 Binding machine

Expected Result 4

 

20 monasteries and Tibetan Buddisth Centres provided with 500 copies

5 Universities provided with 400 copies

10 schools provided with 100 copies

 

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