THE GADEN SHARTSE MONASTERY AND THE SACRED EARTH AND HEALING ARTS OF TIBET TOURS
Gaden Shartse Monastic College is situated amid lush green hills and jungle in the remote countryside of southern India. It was founded in 1969 as an effort to reestablish one of the great monastic traditions of Tibet.
A small group of elder monks and fifteen young boys, all of whom had managed to escape the destruction in Tibet, settled on land given to them by the Indian government in Mundgod, Karnataka. Today, it is at the forefront of the revival of Tibetan Monastic education with more than 1600 resident students, teachers, scholars, and spiritual practitioners. Due to the success of the academic program and the quality of the teachers at the monastery, Shartse has established a reputation as being the leader in the field of Buddhist and Tibetan studies. More than 70% of the members are between the ages of 10 and 25 and 80% of these were born in Tibet. To this day, young monks arrive at the Monastery weekly from Tibet seeking shelter and education.
Brief History of Buddhism in Tibet and the Effect of the Chinese Cultural Revolution 7th century Tibet was filled with fragmented, tribal, war‑loving people. When Tsong Tsen Gampo (617‑693AD) became the ruler of Tibet, he imported the philosophical tradition of Buddhism, which had been flourishing in India for centuries. His successor, Trisung Detsen, then made it the official religion.
The once‑violent nation of Tibet became transformed by this new appreciation for the depth and true worth of human life. It was evolutionary.
Tibet became one of the finest civilizations the world has ever seen. It became a nation of people filled with patience, tolerance, generosity, love for learning, and loving‑kindness. Monasteries and learning centers sprang up across the country, and the Buddhist values of compassion and wisdom infused the people of Tibet.
Sadly, this unique, one‑of‑a‑kind, beautiful civilization was destroyed in 1959 by the invasion of China. The Chinese Cultural Revolution took the lives of more than 1.2 million Tibetans between the years of 1959 and 1972. 6000 centers of Tibetan culture and religion were destroyed. As a result, Tibetans continue to this day to seek‑refuge across the globe.
An entire generation has now passed, and sadly the difficulties continue for the people of Tibet. Religious freedom is restrained under Chinese rule, and most of the sacred institutions have been destroyed or shut down.
Families are separated as many seek refuge from the repression and occupation of Chinese rule. The Chinese use Tibet's high altitude for the storage and stockpiling of sensitive armaments, putting Asia and the lives of the Tibetan people (who do not believe in the weapons of destruction) and the rest of the planet at risk.
There continues to be a massive population transfer into Tibet from mainland China. Even the Chinese are resentful as they are unable to acclimatize to the thin air at 15,000 feet. Bigotry and tension are tangible. The suffering thus continues‑ only this time, it is mostly unheard. As Tibetan elders‑ the last to remember the beauty and harmony of a civilization governed by wisdom and ruled by compassion‑ pass away, younger Tibetans watch their dreams of a revival of this culture slip away.
The Tibetan government exiled in Dharamsala, India was headed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, struggled constantly to achieve independence for its people. Maintaining their commitment to non‑violence, the Tibetan government in-exile has been unsuccessful in negotiations with the Chinese who will not meet with His Holiness. Recently however, envoys from the Tibetan Government in Exile have been received in Beijing.
Tibet has had no formal recognition from any government in the world. Their hosts, the Indian government, is cautious about the reaction of their Chinese neighbors, and prefer to dampen the effect of any political action taken by the exiled community.
In order to support the exile government's efforts at the preservation of the cultural legacy of Tibet and its people, the last surviving members of Tibet's former centers of learning have re‑established themselves in India. Focusing upon the survival of a culture and people who face extermination, these monasteries and institutions are the only hope for assuring the continuation of the teachings of this rare and valuable way of existence. One of the first such voluntary centers is the Gaden Shartse Monastic College, which was founded in a Tibetan agricultural settlement in South India.
History of Gaden Sharse Monastic College
Gaden Shartse Monastic College (popularly known as "Shartse") was originally founded in Tibet in the 15th century. After the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese, 48 surviving members of the College fled south across the border into India. There they settled in army tents in a remote jungle area that was about a night's journey from the city of Mysore. Slowly they built a mud and bamboo thatched dwelling in which the monks ate, slept, studied, debated, and prayed together. Many died from sickness and exhaustion; others survived but remained ill and bedridden.
Those who survived became very resourceful, teaching themselves how to farm the land by means of trial and error. In 1972, three years after settling, their fields were green with their first successful crops. 15 Tibetan children from the local Tibetan refugee camp enrolled in the newly founded monastery, funded by the selling of the produce. A simple everyday routine was set up, combining education with physical labor. A rudimentary teaching staff of Tibetans, well‑versed in history and Buddhist teachings, was established.
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