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A Saint in Seattle book. Read 4 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. In , the Tibetan lama Dezhung Rinpoche () arrived in S.
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Photo 1. A prayer ceremony in the tent-monastery of Lhagang monastery in 0. Most are situated in the grasslands above Lhagang. Today, they are mainly occupied during summertime, when pastoralists are moving to their summer pastures situated nearby. When the weather gets cold, in October, and everybody descends to their winter houses lying further down in the mountains, the majority of these monasteries are mostly empty; only a handful of monk guardians are staying for the whole year.

We can also see that some, like Lhagang monastery, are and were central places gathering nomadic people from different locations. Thus Lhagang, which was a loose settlement in the past, has grown into an important rural township Tib. Like Lhagang, it has developed over time to become an important village hosting approximately people in compared to ca.

Although this happened at a later period, and so in a distinct social, economical and political context, the questions I would like to ask are: what could have been the driving forces for both of these places? And what do they tell us about the relationships of Tibetan pastoralists to their monasteries, a fixed point in their lives? In , he decided to enter a retreat accompanied by two of his close disciples, a nun and a monk. These stones are then piled up to form a rectangular structure that local people as well as pilgrims can circumambulate in order to do their religious practice and accumulate merit.

Moreover, at several occasions, Lama Drugdra Gyatso had been invited to give teachings to the nuns and thus already knew the place well. Twice a year, in summer and in winter 30 , he organizes this religious gathering that is attended by several hundred people from near and far In order to cater to the many pilgrims, a shop, a restaurant and a guesthouse were also installed. The lama himself confers teachings and initiations most of the time, but other religious masters have also been invited regularly.

Considered to be of primary importance at a time where violence and quarrels are frequently disturbing society, and in particular pastoralist communities, these teachings have been implemented in a more systematic way in recent years. Many were not in use during summertime, their owners having moved with their animals to their summer pastures. However, during winter, when pastoralists from Goroma used to come to lower pastures, many of these houses were occupied.

Finally, some of the jakhang s belonged to farmers from nearby agricultural or semi-agricultural regions or to people from Lhagang; they are only inhabited occasionally when their owners come for religious gatherings or commercial businesses. The first and probably most important change occurred when electricity was introduced thanks to the financial support provided by the lama.

Not only were nuns eager to install telephone and other facilities necessitating a power supply, but pastoralists also profited from it by improving their daily life with fridges, televisions, radios and so forth, which hardly functioned with the solar energy that was previously used. Furthermore, the lama hired some Chinese workers in to build the first path suitable for jeeps and tractors, up from the junction of the main road to the nunnery. Young nuns were sent to assist them. Lama Drugdra is one of those contemporary Tibetan lamas who know how to run a monastic institution self-sufficiently.

Most of the fund-raising is carried out during religious gatherings, when many devotees join and leave important donations to the lama and the community of nuns and now monks. Part of the money thus collected is reinvested directly in the religious community and the organization of gatherings, but a substantial part has also contributed to improving the living conditions of the local community. In addition to that, the lama raises funds by selling photos and posters of himself, as well as cassettes and VCDs 33 containing recordings of his religious teachings.

Small groups of nuns run all these shops in rotation.

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Furthermore, the lama often confers teachings in other Tibetan places, as well as in Chinese cities, especially in Chengdu, where he also receives important donations from his many disciples. Photo 2. Photo 3. The road has been renewed with asphalt paving. Many pastoralists have extended or rebuilt their houses, contributing to significant growth of the site.

The school, situated formerly at the entrance of the site, lying now in the middle, has also made important progress: a Chinese nun has been hired to teach Chinese language to the children, and several new Tibetan teachers have been employed, making it possible for nomad children to receive a wide range of primary education Photo 4. Shortly after, the construction of a new assembly hall for the nuns was started as well; since more than a decade, the old one had become too small to house the growing number of nuns.

Some already had rudimentary notions of medical plants and medicine making thanks to a nun from a well-known local lineage of traditional medical practitioners who had transmitted her knowledge to several of her companions. After a systematic training course with the monk-doctor, it was decided to build a clinic, partially sponsored by a foreign NGO, Winrock International. Today, 50 trained nun doctors are running the place. With its two floors for consultation, the manufacture and commercialization of its own medicine, it is an impressive enterprise not only for nuns themselves who consider this professional skill as complementary to their religious careers, but also very useful in this remote pastoral land where medical facilities were nearly non-existent before.

Thus pastoralists and monastics no longer need to go as far as Dartsedo to get medical attention. Growing numbers of pastoralists have been dislocated, often to artificially-built villages with poor quality houses, deprived of their pastures and livestock. Rarely well prepared and compensated less than promised according to several studies, they find no way to meet their needs and thus face difficulties in adapting to the imposed lifestyle.

It has been suggested that the lack of religious structures in these villages worsens the situation of Tibetan pastoralists New infrastructure has been created and facilities like electricity, water pumps, shops with daily necessities and a school have been introduced.

Local pastoralists and devotees from far and near are the main financial backing for these developments through their continual donations. History already tells us that pastoralists used to be very generous to lamas and monasteries in the past Today, this seems still to be the case Like taxes that are paid to the state and used partly to finance social projects, the donations circulate through the monastery, before being given back through forms of social service.

The monastery thus functions like an independent local administration, run by Tibetans and for Tibetans. This, in turn, has pushed many pastoralists to build their houses and settle down on this religious territory, not entirely, but to a certain extent; some pastoralist families have split in fact, in order to keep their cattle in the vicinity of their previous winter house situated closer to the pastures The school promises to allow future generations to engage in an even wider range of occupations. According to Jamila Ptackova , p.

Being the third of its kind, its main aim is the relocation of pastoralists from their grasslands.

A Saint in Seattle

But unlike the others, it has a slightly different agenda: it does not require participating pastoralists to abandon the grasslands or to reduce the livestock 42 , a fact that is much appreciated. Photo 5. However, during my visits in and , many of these brand new houses were unoccupied and some even totally empty. Another problem is the distance to the monastery itself: especially the elderly and sick, those who used to stay all around the year in their previous jakhang s, feel that it is too complicated to come and go for their daily religious practices.

Some therefore preferred to stay in their old dwellings. Nonetheless, some pastoralists also say that they are happy to own a residence that will last several years, compared to the makeshift dwellings previously used.

Moreover, by buying these new houses, they secure the ownership of the land attached to it. It is too early to draw any conclusions; only time will tell how these new houses will fit into the pastoral life, and also with the community installed around the monastery. However, during my last stay in , this building was always empty, with the exception of some young artists who occupied a side room for scroll painting. Up to , the lama was the sole leader not only for the monastics, but also more generally for local pastoralists He himself did not feel that this was his role or function.

His objections notwithstanding, pastoralists used to come to his residence daily to consult him on all kind of problems and inquiries related to their lives. The question therefore is whether the government will continue to permit him to represent the community or if they will try to obstruct his authority as a trusted religious leader who assumes social responsibility. Some attempts have already been made to undermine his influence.

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Thus, for example, the government has recently sent a state official from Lhagang to make sure that there are no nuns of minor age. However, being Tibetan, the person in charge of this mission did not dare to report any case It is interesting to note also that shortly after this official control, the lama founded a school for teen girls who wish to become nuns. Although both seem to be exceptions in the Tibetan landscape — further research is needed to confirm the extent of this kind of religious institution — they show that settlement without social disorganization and marginalization is not only desirable, but also possible.

Monasteries as cultural and moral centers have always played an important role in Tibetan community lives, and both monasteries show that they can continue to do so even within a politico-religious framework that has changed considerably. This in turn has encouraged the authorities to sponsor those wishing to rebuild better houses within the frame of its new Nomadic Settlement programme. Although it is too early to draw any conclusions, the situation in seems to indicate an on-going urbanization process without dismantling substantially the basic mobility patterns of pastoralists.

As Jean-Paul Willaime , p.

Furthermore, we can add that in a mobile society, the monastery favors the constitution of a genuine community, as well as provides a basis for the future preservation of the community. Bauer, K. Buffetrille, K. Ramble eds. Learn how to enable JavaScript on your browser. In , the Tibetan lama Dezhung Rinpoche arrived in Seattle after being forced into exile from his native land by the Communist Chinese.

A Saint in Seattle: The Life of the Tibetan Mystic Dezhung Rinpoche

Already a revered master of the teachings of all Tibetan Buddhist schools, he would eventually become a teacher of some of Western Buddhism's most notable scholars. This is the inspiring and unlikely biography of a modern buddha. Jackson received his doctorate in from the University of Washington and studied and translated for many years in Seattle for the polymath Tibetan scholar Dezhung Rinpoche.

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