Rebuilding Kilung Shedra

What do you do after a catastrophic fire? You build again. Since Kilung Shedra burned to the ground in April of 2016, we have laid plans and sought funding to replace this centerpiece of Buddhist learning at Kilung Monastery. Here now is an explanation for the necessity and urgency of our endeavor.

The Greater Meaning

Shedra is a monastic college for the training of Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns. But its true meaning goes far beyond: A shedra is where the accumulated teachings and wisdom of the Dharma are cultivated and transmitted to students and the world at large. So this core institution is absolutely vital for the continuation of Tibetan Buddhism.

Since Kilung Monastery’s founding in the 18th century, innumerable men and women, enlightened and aspiring, have been drawn to this potent place. The monastery’s shedra thrived with hundreds of students for two centuries. Though torn down during the tumult of the last mid-century, the motivation was so fervent among the lamas, the ordained, and the local lay community, that a new shedra rose up, educating and graduating a nine-year class of monks. Not only was the shedra fulfilling its role for the community, but was also reclaiming its place among the small handful of institutions in Tibet which propagate the Dzogchen Longchen-Nyingtik, the vast body of understanding and practice which provides a basis for all of the Nyingma School.

The Shedra and the Community

Kilung’s shedra also plays a crucial role in the lives of the broader community as an education center. Here are some examples:

  • An adjunct elementary school provides a Tibet-rich education for Kilung children. Here children learn not only the basics, but also their cultural and religious traditions, taught in Tibetan language.
  • Teaching community members to read and write in their native language.
  • Adoption of newly created Tibetan vocabulary for modern items and ideas.
  • Leading the community in environmentalism for issues brought by modern life.
  • Improving health through hygiene and other public health information.
  • Teaching Dharma to the lay community at an annual gathering.
  • Consideration is being given to opening up the nine-year program, or parts of it, to foreign students, and further, may make this available via the web.

In traditional Tibet there has been harmony and mutual support between religious and secular communities. In this unique and inclusive form of Buddhism, practice is available to anyone, whether male or female, monastic or layperson, or householder yogin. At Kilung’s shedra, youth receive an education whether or not they intend to take up monastic robes. Even if they afterwards choose to go back into ordinary life, their knowledge and inner qualities of humility and compassion will go with them, continuously benefitting family and community. Thus, Vajrayana and the shedra are serving the world widely, offering people dynamic possibilities on the path to discovering their own inner peace and happiness.

At the same time, many graduates have excelled, going on to become inspiring Tibetan Buddhist teachers, and in recent decades, branching out to teach in China, other parts of Asia, and in the West.

A Brief History

Kilung Monastery was founded around 1770 by an enlightened yogi, the first Kilung Rinpoche, Jigme Ngotsar Gyatso. Many famous lamas and teachers such as Patrul Rinpoche, Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje, Gyalse Shenpen Thaye, Mura Pema Dechen Zangpo, the Fourth Dzogchen Rinpoche Mingyur Namkhai Dorje, and others studied there. Beginning in the 1950s, the well-known Chinese assault on Tibet left most monasteries in ruins and religious practice was forbidden for 30 years. But even though many Tibetans lost their material belongings, the harsh conditions made them stronger, bringing groups and individuals closer together, fortifying their faith in Buddhism. Then, after a dozen years of liberalization, in 2004, Kilung Rinpoche and the Kilung Foundation, with its generous supporters from around the world, joined to rebuild the Kilung Shedra Monastic College. And with that began its first nine-year traditional program for 45-50 young students.

After the successful completion of the first program, a second was begun in 2015. However, the accidental fire the following year destroyed the entire shedra building, with its 70 rooms—including classrooms, library, offices, students’ housing, and all of their belongings. A devastating and deeply discouraging loss for the entire community, all language studies ceased, and many other services provided to the community by the shedra had to be discontinued. Since then some educational activities have resumed using donated tents, though this has been difficult due to the harsh winter weather.

Present Need

Now we are seeking benefactors and sponsors from around the world, through whose generosity the shedra can be rebuilt. We feel sure that there are donors who share our vision of providing Buddhism, education and cultural preservation for the younger generations in Tibetan nomadic life, and we invite you to join us.

And about this we feel a sense of real urgency. The students’ studies have already been interrupted for a year. If the gap grows large, some may give up altogether. At the least this would mean giving up the precious opportunity for an exceptional education and a life nourished by the Dharma; some may lose their cultural ties and leave the area; for others it could go further: In Tibet young people are susceptible to being drawn into self-destructive activities. And weakening of societal structures tends to multiply this effect.

Additionally, there are a large number of former shedra students and monastics from Dzachuka who have been continuing their studies in two large gars (Buddhist encampments) in East Tibet—Sertha Larung Gar and Yachen Gar. Government forces are in the process of dismantling these gars and many students from Dzachuka will be forced to return, hoping to study at Kilung’s shedra. But unless the shedra is quickly rebuilt, they will have nowhere to go. Also, selected students from other monasteries and communities are expected to attend Kilung Shedra’s unique curriculum.

Benefit Beyond Borders

Tibet to this day remains an important source of the practice and study of Vajrayana Buddhism, a form that has now spread around the world with the sole motivation to benefit all beings. Like a giant tree whose branches embrace all the people of the Earth, the fruits and flowers of this tree are the fragrant essence of wisdom and compassion. But at some point the recipients of this fruit may forget that the roots that bring forth the nourishing Vajrayana teachings come from Tibet—in this case from Dzachuka.

The Buddhist jewel of vast wisdom, along with the benefits of meditation, are among the wealth of gifts that the people of Dzachuka are providing to the rest of the world. At the center of it all is the education provided by the shedra.

Please help us continue this source of great benefit and positivity for our world!

Every water drop can together make a great ocean.

Click HERE to donate.

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