Gaden Monastery (which includes two colleges, Jangtse and Shartse) was founded by Je Tsongkahapa, Lobsang Drakpa, in the year of 1409 near Lhasa, Tibet. Six thousand monks lived there until the Chinese Communist invasion of 1959. The military occupation and destruction of Tibetan culture forced His Holiness the Dalai Lama and about 100,000 of his followers to flee Tibet for political asylum in India.
By special request from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the government of India, all the monasteries first settled at Buxa; later they were reestablished in South India. The traditional Tibetan culture was largely religious in nature and a proper appreciation of this fact is needed in order to understand Tibet's great civilization. There were 3,700 large monasteries in Tibet with a population of over 200,000 monks and nuns prior to the time of the communist invasion.
In 1969, Gaden Jangtse Monastic College was rebuilt in Mundgod, India. It began with 169 monks, who had originally fled from Tibet at the time of the invasion. Eighty of these pioneer monks have died since 1969, and of those remaining, the average age is over 60. About 1,500 other Gaden Jangtse monks never succeeded in gaining safe haven but fell victim to the Communist invasion or to malnutrition and tropical disease en route to India.
Over the years, the lamas have brought their 107 acres of jungle land under cultivation. Through hard work and with great difficulty, they have managed to complete a Tsokhang (prayer hall) capable of accommodating 3000 people. At present, Gaden Jangtse has more than 1,000 permanent monks in residence, ranging in age from 6 to over 80.
Gaden Jangtse offers its residents free accommodation, food clothing, health care, school supplies and education from the first level up to the equivalent of a Ph.D. in Buddhist studies (the Geshe Lharampa degree). However, the little income from the monastery's agriculture and sale of handicrafts is not enough to meet the increasing expenses due to the constant arrival of new students. Many are orphans, semi-orphans or from destitute families, and a large number are refugees from Tibet who arrived in India with a strong commitment to study Buddhism. External financial support is therefore badly needed by this monastery.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF GADEN JANGTSE TSAWA KHANGTSEN
Gaden is the name of one of the largest and oldest Tibetan Buddhist universities. It was founded by Je Tsong Khapa in 1409. Within this university there are two monasteries, Gaden Jangtse (North College) and Gaden Shartse (East College). Each college is comprised of 12 houses (khangtsen). The monks are assigned to a khangtsen based on which geographical area they come from in Tibet. The khangtsen is used continually by the monks for their daily accommodation. The monks who live in Tsawa Khangtsen at Gaden Jangtse Monastery come from the Himalayan region of Tibet. Today there are over 345 monks who live in Tsawa Khangtsen, 215 of those monks are young monks under the age of 16. The majority of these monks come from very poor families and most are orphaned, semi-orphaned or displaced. The living conditions are horribly overcrowded with 7-10 monks sharing a very small room, most sleeping on the floor. The monks needs are simple but the overcrowded situation urgently calls for more rooms, food, medical care and additional monks robes.
Buddhist Philosophy Debate is a part of a monks curriculum.
EDUCATION OF THE MONKS
Monasteries and nunneries provide the best environment for the study and practice of the Buddha's teaching. The main emphasis is on developing the mind by studying philosophy, debate, and Lam Rim, the graded path to Enlightenment. Language, Tibetan and English are taught along with Buddhist rituals and chanting. Gaden Jangtse offers education for the monks from the first level studies up to the equivalent of a Ph.D. in Buddhist studies (the Geshe Lharampa degree). The monks perform their daily prayers and puja's together, and share everyday tasks such as cleaning and cooking.
photo credit: Janie Dvorak Compton